Getting it so wrong

Paul Krugman continues his quixotic campaign to be the first so-called economist to be stripped of a Nobel Prize:

It’s not just that many Americans don’t understand what President Obama is proposing; many people don’t understand the way American health care works right now. They don’t understand, in particular, that getting the government involved in health care wouldn’t be a radical step: the government is already deeply involved, even in private insurance.

And that government involvement is the only reason our system works at all.

Yes, that’s why it’s necessary for the federal and state governments to pass scads of laws granting various partial monopolies throughout every aspect of the system. Because if they didn’t prevent the free market from operating, everything would collapse overnight. Krugman not only doesn’t understand economics, he doesn’t even understand what “insurance” is; it’s not supposed to be a financial vehicle for having someone else pay for all of your medical care.

Krugman actually cites “satisfaction with Medicare” as if it is somehow relevant. Wow, people enjoy receiving subsidized goods and services paid for by other people? Do I detect a sign of Nobel Prize No. 2 on the horizon?

It’s Christmas in July!

I know that you, like me, are probably excited about the National Income and Product Accounts release of the first Comprehensive Revision since 2004: “1929 Through First Quarter 2009“. Here’s the most interesting part:

“For 1929-2008, the average annual growth rate of real GDP is 3.4 percent, 0.1 percentage point higher than in the previously published estimates.”

That doesn’t sound like much, about as small as a meaningful modification as an economic statistician could possibly make. I didn’t understand how this worked, so I called up the BEA and one of their statisticians helpfully explained that I was coming at the problem backwards. I don’t think I could explain it in a manner that makes sense yet, but the short answer is that compounding the 0.1 percent average increase as if it were interest isn’t applicable here. Which makes sense, because GDP is still being reported around $14.1 trillion rather than $15.4 trillion.

In other news, the economy only contracted by one percent in Q2 2009, while the Q1 Revised figure was downgraded to -6.4 percent from the Final number of -5.5. Calculated Risk points out: “This is the fourth consecutive quarterly decline in GDP; the first time that has happened since the government started keeping quarterly records in 1947.”

Certificate and Certification

NRO Contributing Editor Andy McCarthy corrects National Review’s error regarding the Obama birth certificate:

The relevance of information related to the birth of our 44th president is not limited to his eligibility to be our 44th president. On this issue, NRO’s editorial has come in for some blistering criticism. The editorial argues:

The fundamental fiction is that Obama has refused to release his “real” birth certificate. This is untrue. The document that Obama has made available is the document that Hawaiian authorities issue when they are asked for a birth certificate. There is no secondary document cloaked in darkness, only the state records that are used to generate birth certificates when they are requested.

On reflection, I think this was an ill-considered assertion…. To summarize: What Obama has made available is a Hawaiian “certification of live birth” (emphasis added), not a birth certificate (or what the state calls a “certificate of live birth”). The certification form provides a short, very general attestation of a few facts about the person’s birth: name and sex of the newborn; date and time of birth; city or town of birth, along with the name of the Hawaiian island and the county; the mother’s maiden name and race; the father’s name and race; and the date the certification was filed. This certification is not the same thing as the certificate, which is what I believe we were referring to in the editorial as “the state records that are used to generate birth certificates [sic] when they are requested.”

To the contrary, “the state records” are the certificate. They are used to generate the more limited birth certifications on request. As the Jeffers post shows, these state records are far more detailed. They include, for example, the name of the hospital, institution, or street address where the birth occurred; the full name, age, birthplace, race, and occupation of each parent; the mother’s residential address (and whether that address is within the city or town of birth); the signature of at least one parent (or “informant”) attesting to the accuracy of the information provided; the identity and signature of an attending physician (or other “attendant”) who certifies the occurrence of a live birth at the time and place specified; and the identity and signature of the local registrar who filed the birth record.

It’s good to see someone at NRO setting the matter straight. As for Certifigate, it just keeps getting curiouser and curiouser….

Put up or shut up

Since some of you appear to wish to grace everyone with your knowledge of various subjects from time to time, I think the time has come to revive the old concept of the guest blog, albeit with a new and competitive spin.

I’m contemplating a new feature called Put Up or Shut Up. I will put out a call for volunteers once every two weeks, those who are interested in writing on a specific topic can throw their name and subject in the ring, and everyone can vote on which one is posted. The post should be between 500 and 5,000 words and will be rated and criticized by everyone.

Here’s the benefit to contributing. If you write a post that is given a rating of 7 or better by both me and the blog voters, you will have the right to call “put up or shut up” on an interlocutor. At that point, the individual called upon to make his case can either present his case in his own writing within two weeks or be henceforth mocked as a coward and an incompetent incapable of defending his own ideas. Since it’s the mutinous YECers who are so interested in being able to present their case for their favorite theory of origins, I invite them to either settle on a champion and have him present the first one or collaborate on a piece and present it together. If it’s longer than 5,000 words, PDF it and upload it. We’ll post an excerpt here with a link to the full text.

If there’s enough interest and this works out well, we may eventually expand the concept to incorporate written debates scored by a panel of respected judges of varying creeds and ideologies. But, we’ll see if anyone is actually interested in attempting to present a coherent case or if everyone is all talk.

Mailvox: JB offers a second defense

Let me get this straight… I am arguing for the falsifiability of evolution? Well, all right, then:

Vox’s line of attack against evolution is to force it to demonstrate extant ecosystems actually exert DNSP (dynamic natural selection pressure). My model argues present day DNSP may fail to speciate due to late-stage competitive ossification. It avoids falsification even if EVERY extant ecosystem is now incapable of DNSP.

Vox claims my admission of rare DNSP predicts abundant proto forms. I reply that DNSP in proto environments isn’t as rare. Large environments can only become static and unselective after genetic ossification occurs, and improved organisms cease to upset the equilibrium. The remaining dead-end proto forms are then extinguished by more efficient late-stage organisms, sometimes by their own gradually refined descendants. “Living fossils”, so labeled because they are the last surviving examples of obsoleted morphologies, will nevertheless become ossified by minor intertwining adaptations. Thus we see my model predicts NO extant proto forms, because they are inherently inefficient, like unoptimized code.

First, requiring scientific evidence that an ecosystem demonstrate DNSP isn’t so much my line of attack on evolution as it is an obvious requirement for the theory of evolution by natural selection, being only one of the various necessary components of TENS. (We shall set aside, with some amusement, Renee’s insistence that a complete lack of change is evidence of natural selection; the amount of not only groundless assumptions, but intrinsically conflicting assumptions makes it one of my favorite assertions by an evolutionist I’ve heard to date.)

However, Richard Dawkins should find JB’s concept to be very exciting in one respect, as it offers an explanation for those vanished magic replicators for which there is no evidence, scientific, historical, archeological, or documentary, whatsoever, and of whom he speaks so highly. The obvious flaw, however, is that the theory is still perfectly falsifiable. One need only find a few extant DNSP environments to explode it at its weak point, which rests upon the presumed rarity of such non-beasts. (Remember, the ability of an environment to exert pressure on fitness doesn’t mean that natural selection is actually taking place there, it’s merely a required factor.)

The arguably more serious flaw in JB’s argument is that he is conflating environments and organisms. The fact that an organism could – theoretically – become resistant to natural selection is less radical than it sounds; man, extinct species, and domesticated animals are all at the very least resistant to it at this point in time. But it would be very, very difficult to demonstrate that all modern species, including the supposedly ancient ones, have now reached evolutionary stasis. Furthermore, this flies straight into the face of most evolutionist assumptions since it tends to imply an amount of “progress” which I understand to be considered rather gauche in certain circles. If TENS enthusiasts are ever forced to fall back on trying to explain away the complete lack of demonstrable DNSP ecosystems, the theory will be dead and buried.

Is this correct?

The US national debt is 11 trillion. But the outstanding credit market debt for the federal government is only 6.8 trillion. Does the 4.2 trillion in U.S. treasuries held by federal agencies account for the difference? It adds up, but I’d like confirmation.

UPDATE: yes, that was it. Although the tautological debt is now $4.6 trillion. If we apply Socrates’s reasoning evinced in Euthyphro to it, we can therefore conclude it does not, in fact, exist.

Break up the Fed: the Wall Street Journal

Well, I didn’t expect to see this already… especially not there!

Broadening the Fed’s responsibilities won’t help. Instead, we should think of how best to dismantle an overextended Fed…. What we need now is a debate about how to break up the Fed—and some of the sprawling financial institutions it supervises—in order to make both the regulator and the regulated more manageable and accountable.

Too big to not fail… it’s certainly an interesting case for breaking up the Fed. But it is also somewhat beside the point. There is a genuine problem stemming from mission creep, but the core of the issue is that the central mission is a deleterious one.

Mailvox: justifying punctuated equilibrium

JB suggests a Sim Earth defense of an evolutionary theory:

Sim Earth has inspired an argument that I think that gives evolution a lot more space to dodge falsifiability on natural selection. Let’s say the point of punctuated equilibrium is that a dynamically selective environment is extremely rare. By dynamically selective I mean consistent gentle pressure to develop a trait.

Perhaps there’s an interplay between DNA’s potential development paths and the rarity of dynamically selective environments, so that their overlap is even rarer. And perhaps proto-organisms in early low-competition ecosystems have far more open development trees, while specialized organisms in high competition late ecosystems are locked in. E.g., it’s much easier for proto-weasel to become meerkat and hyena, than for hyena to become meerkat. Let’s say the latter is impossible.

In other words, to restart the race of life you have to clear out a huge chunk of the ecosystem to let vague blobbies float about figuring out what they want to be. Like the big comet did to the dinosaurs, to pave the mammalian way. To me, that makes punctuated equilibrium sound plausible again. The windows are tiny and rarely encountered even on a planetary scale.

So how do you experimentally replicate the type of evolution described above, when all you’ve got to work with are late stage highly competitive organisms and ecosystems? This argument creates a LOT more space for evolution to defer falsifiability than I thought it had.

Well, it’s certainly a creative approch, but it doesn’t serve well to defer falsifiability because it requires an amount of begging the question. First, there is no evidence that EVERY extant ecosystem is capable of creating the pressure required for natural selection, in fact, the idea of living fossils or ancient species suggests that this is not the case. And if, as JB suggests himself, dynamically selective environments are rare anyhow, then there will be no shortage of proto-organisms with open development trees to be found in the majority of environments which are static and unselective. If this cannot be observed to be the case, then the whole structure collapses.

Needless to say, there’s also no science supporting any of this; from the scientific perspective, we might as legitimately be discussing the theoretical limitations pin heads must place on the potential size of angel feet. However, his argument is at least within the right orbit in that it recognizes the significance of environmental differences with regards to potential natural selection pressures necessary to theoretical evolution taking place.

"Conservatives" and Certifigate

It is truly amazing how many nominally “conservative” media figures are running interference for Barrack Obama, especially considering how many of them demonstrably don’t know what they’re talking about. And Joseph Farah would surely have added National Review to the list had they published their editorial before he wrote his column on the non-issue that everyone is talking about today:

Have you noticed the way the rest of the media discusses the Barack Obama eligibility story? Everyone from Ann Coulter and Michael Medved and Neal Boortz on the right to Geraldo Rivera and Chris Matthews and CNN’s heretofore unknown president want you to know there’s nothing to talk about here.

But yet they keep on talking about it. And they never really explain why they are talking about it and why it’s not worth talking about – other than the fact that it’s all been researched before and Barack Obama really is a “natural born citizen.”

This is why I love writing for WND. They may be a little crazy at times, and their site isn’t exactly a paragon of beautiful design, but I very much admire the way they absolutely refuse to kiss the posteriors of those in power. WND’s reporters continue to uncover more and more details that show the official Obama story to be increasingly improbable.

And much respect for Lou Dobbs, too, who told not only his fellow Democrats, but even his boss at CNN, that he has no intention of backing off until Obama shows his birth certificate, by which he means the LONG-FORM CERTIFICATE of live birth, complete with the name of the hospital, the name of the attending physician, name and address of the parents, the race of the parents and the race of the baby. And speaking of which, yet another anomaly has surfaced, this time the fact that two children born at Kapi’olani after Obama was supposedly born have a lower number on their birth certificates from the state registrar than he does on his birth certification. This proves nothing – yet – but raises further questions.

And how astonishingly stupid does CNN’s Jon Klein have to be to insist that all the original Hawaiian records were destroyed? It probably took WND about two minutes to have a Hawaiian go and request their own documents from the state in order to prove him wrong. Speaking of stupid, those media “conservatives” would do well to look at how Brave Sir Bill’s assertion that the birth certificate issue is “bogus” is going over with readers from their primary market.

And for those moronic Democrats who feign to be happy that this “distraction” is somehow helping Mr. Soetoro, (seriously, when has that sad excuse for a tactic EVER worked), I would encourage you to look at the way his approval ratings have changed since WND kicked its “Where’s the Birth Certificate” campaign into high gear on June 12th. If the campaign is really helping him, then you had better beg Mr. Farah to continue it, because at this precipitous decline, he’ll be driven from office if it stops.

Obamacare and divorce restrictions

The idea that nationalized health care will lead to divorce restrictions sounds absurd. Of course, less than 20 years ago, the idea that smoking might be banned in public sounded equally absurd. Arguably more so, in fact, since there wasn’t a clear line of precedent for it, while there now appears to be a genuine scientific case for restricting or banning divorce in the interest of reducing health care costs:

The end of a marriage means the end of good health for many people, a new study finds. Researchers discovered that people who lost a spouse, whether through divorce or death, were roughly 20% more likely to suffer chronic health problems even if they later remarried, HealthDay reports. The scientists believe the stress of loss causes lasting physical and emotional damage.

I’m assuming, of course, that the government health czars will be reasonable enough to permit marriages to end in the event of one party’s death. I also find it amusing to read the quoted expert’s non sequitur in which it is declared that these results “certainly don’t mean people should stay in high-conflict or abusive marriages for the sake of their health” even though that’s EXACTLY the conclusion that logic dictates.

Interestingly, that 20 percent figure happens to be exactly the same risk that is reported to be the “statistically significant and consistent association between lung cancer risk in spouses of smokers and exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke from the spouse who smokes” for women. One wonders if that same expert would so confidently declare that this certainly doesn’t mean women should object to their husbands smoking for the sake of their health.