Hey, it’s what they do

What is applied atheism about anyway, if not eliminating freedoms and killing communities? History teaches quite clearly that this is what atheists do best.

“Congratulations, you killed the forum.

Not just the forum, but the community as well. I’ll stay on until the new site and continue with my mod duties. But not with the format you propose. What you have proposed is going to kill the community, and many people will leave. Opening threads and speaking our mind freely is why we are here. Not being able to do that, not being able to talk about different things, not being able to debunk bad ideas, and more… those are some of the things that we are here for….

“The secretive way this has been handled and the exclusion of the hard working staff is an insult. We were promised input into the new site and to be able to test its functionality. We were led to believe that we were going to be included in the process and aid in the transition.

Now it’s presented as a done deal, and we’re condescendingly told to shut up about it and not cause trouble? To not dare contact Richard Dawkins about it?

It’s a familiar pattern. The upset forum moderators should be happy that it’s only a virtual community. And there are few things more amusing than Richard Dawkins’s belated discovery that his biggest fans are socially maladjusted pricks given to “splenetic hysteria”, “remarkable bile” and “ludicrously hyperbolic animosity”. Dickie dear, don’t you know that they’re just following your lead?

Married to the model

Lest you think I exaggerated how little the mainstream economists are aware of the increasingly tenuous link between their Neo-Keynesian economic model and the way the economy actually operates in RGD:

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has produced a new report estimating that the $862 billion stimulus has thus far saved or created 1.5 million jobs. Yet the CBO’s calculations are not based on actually observing the economy’s recent performance. Rather, they used an economic model that was programmed to assume that stimulus spending automatically creates jobs — thus guaranteeing their result.

Logicians call this the begging-the-question fallacy. Mathematicians call it assuming what you are trying to prove. The CBO model started by automatically assuming that government spending increases GDP by pre-set multipliers, such as:

* Every $1 of government spending that directly purchases goods and services ultimately raises the GDP by $1.75;

* Every $1 of government spending sent to state and local governments for infrastructure ultimately raises GDP by $1.75;

* Every $1 of government spending sent to state and local governments for non-infrastructure spending ultimately raises GDP by $1.25; and

* Every $1 of government spending sent to an individual as a transfer payment ultimately raises GDP by $1.45.

Then CBO plugged the stimulus provisions into the multipliers above, came up with a total increase in gross domestic product (GDP) of 2.6 percent, and then converted that added GDP into 1.5 million jobs.

The problem here is obvious. Once CBO decided to assume that every dollar of government spending increased GDP by the multipliers above, its conclusion that the stimulus saved jobs was pre-ordained. The economy could have lost 10 million jobs and the model still would have said that without the stimulus it would have lost 11.5 million jobs.

The present state of economics is very, very bad. The fact that mainstream economists not only can’t recognize that the economy is in a depression, probably a Great Depression, but think it’s in the midst of a genuine recovery is powerful evidence that their theories and models need to be completely junked.

The idol crumbles

From a review of Fodor and Piatelli-Palmarini’s new book, What Darwin Got Wrong:

I really enjoyed this book; however, it may only appeal to a very small audience – those who believe in a thoroughly natural evolutionary process, but are also unhappy with the current state of evolutionary theory (the Modern Synthesis). I happen to fall into this category so I appreciated Fodor and Palmarini’s book, but I can also understand why this book may receive negative reviews. The gist of the book is this: “…we will run a line of argument that goes like this: there is at the heart of adaptationist theories of evolution, a confusion between (1) the claim that evolution is a process in which creatures with adaptive traits are selected and (2) the claim that evolution is a process in which creatures are selected for their adaptive traits. We will argue that: Darwinism is committed to inferring (2) from (1); that this inference is invalid (in fact it’s what philosophers call an `intensional fallacy’); and that there is no way to repair the damage consonant with commitment to naturalism, which we take to be common ground. Getting clear on all this will be a main goal of the book.”

This is only the first step in the eventual abandonment of Darwinism and evolution by natural selection that has been inevitable since Mendel, but it’s an interesting one. It should eventually make clear what a religion Darwinism actually is, as atheist and agnostic materialists begin moving away from the Darwinian model for very different reasons than most Creationist theists. I’m looking forward to reading this book because I believe that unlike the intelligent design people, Fodor and Piatelli-Palmarini are looking in the correct place for proving the model incorrect in a scientific manner, assuming that it is actually incorrect. As I have pointed out on numerous occasions, the natural selection component of TENS is a logical and philosophical hypothesis, not a scientific one. Even Richard Dawkins has reluctantly admitted in his latest book that it is entirely plausible natural selection is not the mechanism by which evolution operates, and since after 150 years there is still no significant scientific evidence that Darwinian natural selection takes place, I expect that it will not be too terribly long before Darwinism takes its rightful place with phrenology, astrology, and other pseudo-sciences. And in the meantime, it is always amusing to see not-very-bright biologists shrieking about how their intellectual superiors don’t understand the tremendously complicated concepts to which they are so emotionally attached.

Since we’re on the subject of evolution, I would be remiss if I did not mention that Scott Hatfield has concluded that the Pagel paper about which I posted back in December apparently does not call natural selection’s time scale into question in quite the manner that the Physorg.com article to which I linked had claimed. Scott says: “It turns out that Pagel’s group actually endorses the Red Queen hypothesis of constant speciation rates, but proposes a novel reinterpretation of the data uncoupling the former from phyletic gradualism.”

It would seem that physicists can be trusted to write accurately about evolution as biologists write about military history, theology, and pretty much anything outside of biology. And yet, the point I made in the original post stands regardless, especially in light of the recent range reduction in the hunt for the Higgs boson.

“Now, this research deals with the matter of natural selection’s time scale rather than its existence, but nevertheless underlines my point that the natural selection hypothesis has always been logic, not science. The fact that it is difficult and dangerous to paint grizzly bears pink in order to see if they breed less successfully doesn’t change the fact that no one has ever tested the widespread assumption of why polar bears are white. And while the jury is still out on both matters, the exposed cracks in the major theories naturally leads to a philosophical question: since the foundations of both modern physics and modern Darwinism appear to be wobbling, what is the basis for considering materialism to be rational given such demonstrably flawed understandings of what the material happens to be?”

Killing the corpse of Keynes

The UK is doing its best to do so through its Keynesian response to the Great Depression 2.0:

The U.K. has produced notable economists over the years, but John Maynard Keynes, the guru of government intervention, was one of truly global significance.

So it may be fitting that the U.K. will also become the deathbed of Keynesian economics.

Britain has been following the mainstream prescriptions of his followers more than any developed nation. It has cut interest rates, pumped up government spending, printed money like crazy, and nationalized almost half the banking industry.

Short of digging Karl Marx out of his London grave, and putting him in charge, it is hard to see how the state could get more involved in the economy.

The results will be dire. The economy is flat on its back, unemployment is rising, the pound is sinking, and the bond markets are bracketing the country with Greece and Portugal in the category marked “bankruptcy imminent.” At some point soon, even the most loyal disciples of Keynes will have to admit defeat, and accept that a radical change of direction is needed.

The usual Keynesian defense of “well, it just wasn’t enough stimulus isn’t going to wash this time, no matter how often that Paul Krugman complains that a bigger stimulus plan than the one he prescribed himself was too small. Their myopic cluelessness simply knows no bounds; reading Brad DeLong’s attempt to school Brian Riedl is like watching two little girls in a slapfight where neither of them knows how to fight.

“When–in conditions in which there are masses of unemployed–the government spends money to hire people who were previously among the involuntarily unemployed, their productivity increases. It goes from zero to whatever the value of what the government hires them to do is. This increases income and demand, all in tandem.”

No, you blithering idiot with a PhD, it doesn’t necessarily do anything of the sort. The number of incorrect assumptions contained in those three paragraphs are remarkable. These cretins babble on and on about irrelevant factors while constantly ignoring the elephant in the room, namely, the debt-imposed limits of demand. Aside from the obvious fact that there is a high probability that there will be no productivity gain whatsoever from the nonexistent demand being “met” by the government employment and the fact that unemployed people do not immediately go into a frozen stasis where they do absolutely nothing economically productive, the mere fact of providing employment and income to a worker does not create demand.

Keynesians simply don’t understand debt or demand, at either the micro or macro levels. They’re not equipped to do so because of the structural flaws of their conceptual models. And that is one of the primary reasons why the various economies around the world are not only in terrible shape, but are going to get worse.

The cougars strike back

Since no one wants to marry forty-something women, a solution has been provided. Ban the competition!

How far out of touch with reality are women legislators anyway? That’s exactly the question being asked by citizens (women and men) regarding a proposed bill in the Maryland General Assembly, that would restrict men’s rights to use dating sites to meet foreign women and will likely spur copycat legislation in other states.

Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, Vice President of the women’s caucus is leading 35 other delegates (all women) on a campaign for passage of HB 65, that would shockingly require Maryland men to submit their fingerprints and other background information before they can initiate communication with a foreign woman if they use an “International Marriage Broker”.

Frankly, I don’t see why they’re starting with what can’t even reasonably be described as half-measures. This is pathetically insufficient! What is the point of only making it vaguely difficult for Maryland men to talk to foreign women? Obviously the law should forbid men to date or even talk to any woman without a license specifying what strata of women is permissible for them to have contact. These strata would be set on an annual basis by a panel of women and each community would have its own panel of judges who would interview every male individual over the age of 16 decide what license would be assigned to him. Licenses would require renewal every five years, they would be color coded, and the licensed man would be required to produce it upon the request of any adult woman. And no contact of any kind with foreign women will be permitted at any time; a first violation will result in a fine, the second in the loss of a man’s license.*

The insane thing is that at least half the women who will read this will find themselves thinking, “you know, a system like that really would make society a much better place.” But they’re not fascists. No, not even a little bit. They’re just strong, independent, beautiful, intelligent snowflakes who care too much about the planet to permit those bestial American men to oppress and abuse foreign women too.

* Yes, there is an obvious logical flaw in this plan. But keep in mind that it wouldn’t be proper central planning if the legislation didn’t autodefeat its primary justification.

A big fat idiot after all?

As much as it pains me to say it, it appears that Al Franken may have actually been correct about Rush Limbaugh:

“The Republican Party has — because of you, because you let them hear from you — not gone bipartisan. They have not joined this failure. In fact, there are people in the House (from John Boehner to Mike Pence, to Eric Cantor, to Paul Ryan) who are doing everything that they can. Jim DeMint over in the Senate, Tom Coburn over in the Senate, these people, especially now don’t deserve to be bashed or lumped in a generalized way with all the bad apples in Washington because all of them there are not bad apples.” . . .

“The point at this stage is to support the conservatives in and outside public office. I certainly would not have ignored the other team on the field, the Democrats. They’re the only reason we’re in this mess. The Democrat Party is the only reason we are threatened with the things we’re threatened with. The Democrat Party. Solely. They own it. There’s no evidence I see of anybody colluding with the Democrats on this health care business. There’s not one Republican vote in the Senate for it.

Right, because it’s HEALTH CARE that people are upset about. And the Tea Party movement is all about the need to invade Iran and Obama is the most evilist president ever except we have to support him abroad because otherwise Goldman Sachs will fall to the Taleban, too few Mexicans will enter the country to pay for another AIG bailout and the terrorists will win. The fact is that with the exception of a very few principled men, such as the winner of the recent CPAC straw poll, they’re pretty much all bad apples in Washington, Democrats and Republicans alike. A Republican administration pushed through TARP. A Republican administration bailed out the banks. A Republican presidential candidate put Wall Street’s interests ahead of the American people and his own presidential campaign! A Republican-appointed central banker created the housing boom, the housing bust, and the global financial crisis.

The DEMOCRATS are the only reason the USA is in this mess? Limbaugh must be a complete economic illiterate because that is nothing less than a monstrous lie. The Democrats surely haven’t helped one iota, but the destruction of the American economy was a distinctly bipartisan effort. Abandon Rush Limbaugh, abandon the Republican Party, and abandon the so-called conservatives. They have the same relationship to the Democrats and liberals that a high-class escort does to a street hooker. They may look prettier and speak a little more pleasantly, but they’re still nothing more than whores for the State.

Arrest the banksters

At this point in the depressionary spiral, I’d just about be willing to settle for the “stop” sense of the word. Karl Denninger correctly points out that the American people absolutely will not accept another AIG bailout, this time of sovereign debt of European countries:

Yes, I know all about the stock market rally from last March. I know all about the claimed GDP “improvement.” But I also know that we got both by adding more than $2 trillion in debt to the United States – or roughly 14% of GDP – over the space of the last 18 months. That’s about 10% of GDP annualized, and incidentally, a 10% GDP contraction is the common economist’s definition of an Economic Depression.

So let’s cut the crap – we are in a Depression right now. We are pretending we are not, just like you can pretend you didn’t really lose your job so long as your credit card does not reach its limit. We have been in that depression for about 18 months and there is no evidence that we will exit it, as we have yet to find a way to pull back the deficit spending without an instantaneous collapse in the economy.

Yet at some point we must and will stop. We will either do so of our own volition, or we will do so when the cost of borrowing skyrockets, as others get tired of funding our profligacy. If we attempt to “print” our way out of it the cost of petroleum products will shoot the moon and destroy our economy anyway.

You haven’t seen the half of what happened though – not yet. It appears that AIG – the company we have bailed out (thus far) to the tune of some $100 billion plus, in fact isn’t done. It appears they may have written credit protection on Greece. If this allegation by the German equivalent to The New York Times is true Americans are going to be asked to pay billions of dollars – or more likely, hundreds of billions (since Greece is almost certainly not the only place – try Spain, Portugal, Ireland, etc) to bail out a bunch of FOREIGN NATIONS.

Do you both think Americans can and will pay that bill? A bill that has been forced on us, and yet benefits not The United States economy, but foreigners?

Wars – big wars – start over much less, my friends.

It’s time for the federal government to start arresting and jailing the banksters, now, because I suspect the alternative to being prosecuted for their criminal financial rape of America is going to be even less pleasant . The sense of popular fury is palpably building even though Washington is still managing to hold things together through this last-ditch gigantic spending spree. Once it becomes obvious that it has failed – just to give one example, the FDIC reported today that in Q409 it managed to lose nearly half the $45 billion in three years of pre-paid fees it collected – it is likely to get very ugly indeed.

This isn’t rocket science. It really isn’t. Because it is simply not possible to shift from a manufacturing economy to a “service” economy wherein the services consist of little more than gambling with imaginary numbers and still expect a society to remain stable. The apparent failure to understand that bread and circuses requires not screwing around with the reliable delivery of bread and circuses is really astonishing. The Romans understood this; the one place they didn’t let the provincial governors use as a tool for personal enrichment was Egypt, for the very good reason was that it was Rome’s granary.

I’m not a fan of unaccountable ruling elites, but as long as we’re stuck with one, is it really too much to expect them to be at least a somewhat competent?

Lomborg returns fire

Bjorn Lomborg responds to what appears to be an incompetent, would-be hatchet job on his climate books:

Howard Friel’s book The Lomborg Deception (LD) focuses on two of my books, The Skeptical Environmentalist (TSE) and the U.S. edition of Cool It (CIUS). It is heartening to write books that engage others, and I welcome his critique.
Unfortunately, it is obvious that Friel has no interest in fair-minded criticism or honest disagreement. Rather, he seems determined to portray me as devious, deceptive, and intellectually dishonest. Ironically, in his zeal to do so, he repeatedly commits the very sins he accuses me of – selective or incomplete quotation, misrepresentation of source material, and even outright fabrication. Rather than engaging with my books on their own terms, he caricatures my work and then attacks it.

Friel makes his intent clear in an author’s note at the beginning of his book, in which he identifies what he calls “Lomborg’s Theorem”: the idea that “global warming is no catastrophe” (p. xi).1 His aim, he says, is to discredit this idea—“to show that Lomborg’s Theorem is grounded in highly questionable data and analysis, and that there is little if any factual or analytic basis for the theorem” (p. xi). Fair enough. This is the stuff of academic debate: are my data accurate and is my analysis valid? I have no problem with anyone questioning the basis of my work, provided the questions are honest and fair-minded. But as I will document below, what Friel does in The Lomborg Deception is something else entirely. In his attempt to prove that my data and analysis are misleading and/or dishonest, he quotes source material out of context, mangles source figures and tables, misrepresents my text and source material, relies more on news reports than on peer-reviewed research, and consistently avoids engaging with the central arguments of my work.

Having written a book that is a response to the arguments of other individuals, I can testify that it is vitally important to attack the target’s strongest arguments rather than sniping away at the trivial and peripheral issues and attempting to portray them in a false light. The fact that I directly addressed the New Atheists’ most important arguments – Harris’s Extinction Equation, Dawkins’s Ultimate 747, and Dennett’s Division of Doxastic Labor – meant that it was impossible for their defenders to get away with their false accusations of strawmen construction. Not that that prevented a few of the less intelligent ones from trying, of course….

Another reason that it is always a mistake to address the side issues in lieu of the central ones and fail to give your target a reasonable benefit of the doubt is that even when you have correctly addressed the relative trivialities, it is usually possible for people to play the interpretation game in an attempt to circumvent a solid rebuttal. For example, it was only because I directly corresponded with Sam Harris that I was able to explode several excuses manufactured for him by his defenders. In this case, after reading Lombjorg’s response, it would appear that Friel chose rather poorly in selecting a target who is clearly not afraid to stand by his works and present a detailed defense of them.

Just to be clear, I read Cool It and was unimpressed by it, albeit not for the reasons that Friel manufactures. I was unimpressed mostly because it is obvious that global warming is not taking place, therefore Man is not causing it, and I have little interest in the alternative “save people from themselves” schemes which Lomborg would prefer to tax people in order to fund.

For excellence in paying attention

After bestowing a well-deserved Dynamite Prize to Alan Greenspan for being the economist “most responsible for blowing up the global economy”, the Real-World Economics Blog is now accepting nominations for the Revere Award:

The Revere Award in Economics

The economics establishment has attempted to evade responsibility for the Global Financial Collapse by calling it an unpredictable, “Black Swan” event. But in fact some non-neoclassical economists foresaw the crisis and warned the public of its approach. The Revere Award aims to give these economists the professional and public recognition that they deserve, to encourage others to utilize their methods, and to increase the likelihood that, for the benefit of humankind, empirically responsible economists will be listened to in the future

You may nominate up to three candidates by leaving a comment below. They must be economists, and we are looking for the three who first and most cogently warned of the coming calamity.

Nominations are to be made in the comments. While I seem to recall that I may have made a few predictions related to the matter, here are the three candidates I believe to best merit the award:

Ludwig von Mises. He long preceded Hyman Minsky in describing the nature of the boom-bust cycle and assigning responsibility for it to the expansion of bank credit. He provided the best conceptual model for anticipating and recognizing both the housing bubble and its consequences for the financial system. Granted, he didn’t predict this specific boom-and-bust due to the obvious disadvantage of his having been long deceased, so he may not be eligible.

Edward Gramlich. RGD readers will recall him as the Federal Reserve governor who told Alan Greenspan that making home mortgages available to low-income borrowers would lead to widespread loan defaults having extremely negative effects on the national economy. And he did this in 2000! Greenspan blew him off because – seriously – he was afraid of undermining the availability of subprime credit.

Robert Prechter. He forecast both the housing bubble and the threat to the global financial system very early on. Some will complain that he did so too early, but Prechter, by his own admission, usually gets it too early. The much more important point is that he usually also gets it right.

Consequential consequences

Fred Reed muses upon a familiar pattern:

Recently I saw an interview with General McChrystal, head butcher of the the Pentagon’s Democracy Implantation Force in Afghanistan. The General was explaining our ongoing victory. Yes, victory. We were making progress. It was only a matter of time. He could see the light at the end of the tunnel. He didn’t explain what were doing in a tunnel in the first place….

What McMoreland doesn’t get is that people just don’t like being invaded. Yes, yes, it’s for their own good. We, of course, will determine what constitutes their own good. Such is the ingratitude of these people, and their lack of respect for borders, that we find ourselves forced to expand the war into Cambod—Pakistan, I meant. Pakistan. And so the Predators fly, Predating, killing the wrong people because that’s what there are more of. That doing this might produce animosity is irrelevant to soldiers. The Mision is sacred. Our intentions are good.

The consequences of not understanding what you are doing can be consequential.

It is truly remarkable how most self-styled conservatives resolutely refuse to recall the lessons of military history. The failing occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq will hardly mark the first time that a once-wealthy, but still-powerful society in decline has bankrupted itself while haplessly engaging in pointless military overstretch.

I find myself wondering how many pro-occupation “conservatives” have lost their jobs yet? And I wonder how many of them will still believe in the absolute priority of occupying third-world countries on the other side of the planet once they find themselves out on the street and collecting unemployment?