• skeptonomist commented on the blog post The Undying Filibuster Myth

    2014-07-22 14:57:42View | Delete

    Senate Democrats didn’t particularly think they owed their seats to Obama’s coattails – insofar as they didn’t think they earned them on their own merits they realized that it was because of the financial crash and Bush’s other failures and general dissatisfaction with Republicans. And they want to keep their own privileges, including being able to filibuster when Republicans take the majority, which may be this year. Probably the country would be better off without the filibuster – or having just a real talking one – but individual senators have their own priorities. Anyway senators are not going to change their own rules at the behest of a new president – or scarcely ever as it appears.

  • skeptonomist commented on the blog post Piketty and His Critics Chapter 4: Netroots Nation

    2014-07-20 15:45:51View | Delete

    Ruml’s paper is mostly about the “evils” of taxes on corporations. He does not explain exactly how governments would pay for things – would they just print up paper money (seignorage) or would the central bank do it through lending? I suspect the latter but he does not explain exactly how a central bank would create money in a constructive way. The fact is that central banks as presently constituted do not control the money supply – they were unable to prevent inflation and expansion of the money supply in the 70′s nor are they able now to expand the money supply. Central banks don’t distribute money to the people who really need it and would use it. People who think that current central banks can control money are delusional.

    Ruml hardly gives a blueprint for how governments could finance themselves without taxation, and if tax money is not used to finance the expenses of government, what would be done with the tax collections – just evaporate or burn them? I agree that much higher taxes are probably necessary, but this is not a simple problem.

  • The exchanges are actually a huge improvement over the previous system (or non-system). Then, you had to go around personally to all the companies, or put yourself in the hands of an insurance agent, who may sell you the policy which gives him/her the highest commission. The ACA sets rules for the policies so the choice is actually very much more restricted than it was before – most of the worst plans are supposed to be gone.

    Of course it’s still something that many people will not be able to handle – choosing the best insurance or the best doctor, hospital, etc. are just not things that are best left up to the “free market”.

  • skeptonomist commented on the diary post Executed But Innocent: New Book Details Harrowing Case of Carlos DeLuna by Jose Cornejo.

    2014-07-15 16:25:15View | Delete

    One eyewitness ID is not sufficient in any case unless the person ID’d is well known to the witness. The error rate is very high – this is something that can easily be proven scientifically (it has been). One ID just does not constitute evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. There is no reason this could [...]

  • skeptonomist commented on the blog post A Lack of Alternatives Makes Choices Easy

    2014-07-01 14:02:45View | Delete

    So how did Obama do it? As other commenters have said, he overcame the same advantages that Hillary is supposed to have now. Did he have some magical arguments or personal qualities that enabled him to steal the big donors away from Hillary? Someone who wants to discuss this subject seriously should know exactly when and how Obama got his support.

  • skeptonomist commented on the blog post Piketty and His Critics Chapter 3: Galbraith

    2014-06-22 11:39:33View | Delete

    “Capitalists” are not particularly interested in using capital in ways that are useful to society – they just want to maximize their own wealth and power. It is more efficient for them to buy politicians and board members and siphon off money directly than to worry about marginal returns on their “hard” capital. Thus the rate of return on capital is not necessarily determined by “free market” processes.

    Too bad economists have such contempt for actual data and historical evidence – this frequently prevents them from doing much real science. Again, at least in the US high marginal tax rates have correlated fairly closely with income inequality, which obviously correlates with wealth inequality (regardless of the nonsense from the Financial Times).


    The experiment of low tax rates on the rich has been tried now, and it should be obvious that it hasn’t worked even to boost production much less prevent inequality. The political resistance to higher marginal tax rates might be less if US economists – such as Galbraith, Baker and Krugman – weren’t so fond of the idea that high tax rates are bad.

  • The general public opinion on the important aspects of immigration seems pretty clear, at least from polls: most people favor eventual citizenship for those already here, but they want a more secure border. These things are what the main bill does, and it is being held up by House leaders. What is Obama supposed to do, go against the will of the people on border enforcement? Are deportations really a problem for him? Of course they won’t buy approval from the right.

  • skeptonomist commented on the blog post Politifact Blows Call On AFRICOM

    2014-06-17 16:10:34View | Delete

    Except for Djibouti, the numbers of US troops in these African countries seem to be all less than 100, sometimes just 10 or 20. The base in Djibouti is obviously for supporting drone actions in the Middle East, not Africa.

    Whether Clinton’s claim is technically “true” or not, it is obvious that the US is not sending forces into Africa to establish profitable colonies, as European countries did in the 19th century – most of these countries have no oil, so we have no major interest. Given the supposed dedication of the US to “human rights” it would actually make sense to have intervened in some of these places (and others such as Liberia) rather than Iraq or Libya.

  • skeptonomist commented on the blog post Where was the NSA before the Isla Vista Mass Shooting?

    2014-05-27 15:32:58View | Delete

    Eliot Rodger was not a national security threat, so the NSA had no business monitoring him. Actually, even the Boston Marathon Bombers were not such a threat, although their very small conspiracy is the sort of thing that the NSA has some justification monitoring, in case it does turn into a national security threat.

    Does the NSA or any organization, national or local, really have the authority to monitor everybody’s communications in order to prevent mass murders? Should the Fourth Amendment be completely disregarded to prevent all such crimes?

  • skeptonomist commented on the blog post No Improvement in Public’s Opinion of Health Care Law

    2014-05-27 10:41:41View | Delete

    There are much more comprehensive measures of the level of coverage than this poll, and they indicate a few percent decrease in uninsured. Again, a real change but not something that is going to cause a massive change in overall public opinion.

  • skeptonomist commented on the blog post No Improvement in Public’s Opinion of Health Care Law

    2014-05-27 10:38:34View | Delete

    No, the botched launch did not change opinions much, nor did the ultimate fulfillment of targets or the failure of the conservative predictions of “disaster” or “death spiral”. Some people benefit from the ACA, but those people had their minds made up from the beginning. The majority who do not directly benefit one way or another made up their minds on partisan or ideological grounds, not on how the program was going at any particular moment. The media get excited about the ups and downs, but most people who are not political junkies are not that involved. It is just not a law which benefits a great mass of people.

  • skeptonomist commented on the blog post Piketty and His Critics Chapter 1

    2014-05-25 16:59:59View | Delete

    I haven’t read Piketty’s book, and have been somewhat mystified by the media frenzy – why would anyone assume that capitalism leads to equality, either empirically or theoretically? Apparently it’s big news to some people that capitalists can make huge fortunes, and that they can be very successful in keeping worker’s income down, whatever the “natural” returns are.

    But the idea that taxation may be critical is the most reasonable I have seen. The highest tax rates in the US are closely anticorrelated with income inequality:


    The time when income inequality decreased in the US was in fact the time when marginal rates were high – is this just a weird accident?

  • Has Hillary arrived at some highly principled and inflexible stance on marijuana (or drugs in general)? Or something based on scientific research? Would such a stand win her votes? The attitude of the public is apparently changing rapidly. Check back with Hillary in 2016 and see if she doesn’t agree with the polls – polls of Democratic primary voters early in 2016, and then national polls if she is nominated.

  • Any political system depends on having parties or some coalitions that are willing to compromise and work together for the benefit of the country. Having multiple parties does not really change this. If a small party holds the balance it can bring things to a halt – that’s no improvement. In fact multi-party systems are subject to frequent changes and disruption unless one party has an unbeatable majority. What makes two-party systems more stable is that the parties are not bound by rigid ideology, and will always be trying to expand to cover the middle, which leads in practice to alternation of power.

    In principle if one party gets too obstructive power should shift to the other. But because the two parties currently split the government, it’s hard for people to assign blame. It may be the system of sharing power among two legislatures and a President that is currently the problem.

  • skeptonomist commented on the diary post Honestly, War Is Over by David Swanson.

    2014-05-11 09:29:49View | Delete

    I agree that the money spent on the military would be better spent on other things, but the numbers in this post are nonsensical. The US now spends about $80 billion on SNAP (food stamps), and this is not eliminating food need. Water is in short supply in many places – including in the US [...]

  • Changing the length of term would require a Constitutional amendment. Changing the number of justices does not, and the number has not been constant, varying from 7 to 10 (I think). Roosevelt’s attempt to increase the number failed despite a Democratic Congress, but it does seem to have had some effect on the Court itself. Going back up to ten would obviously change the entire cast of the Court.

  • skeptonomist commented on the blog post The Short-Sighted Rational Agent

    2014-05-04 11:44:13View | Delete

    It’s not clear to me what Sanderson’s point is, or even that it has anything to do with rationality. But one thing is pretty clear to me, which is that a consumer, especially a low-income one who is likely to be eating fast food, is not going to be able to properly weigh all the factors that Sanderson mentions. Most of the decisions, especially those involving externalities, have to be made at a societal level, not at the point of sale of a Big Mac. Whatever Sanderson intended, he is demonstrating the limits of “free-market” economies.

  • skeptonomist commented on the diary post Atheists Caught on Film by David Swanson.

    2014-05-04 07:25:57View | Delete

    Wisdom and kindness and love are not going to increase. Jesus preached love and forgiveness, but his followers en masse have no more of these qualities than anybody else. Knowledge however is increasing, so if there is hope for ending or slowing the things that humans do to each other and to the planet it [...]

  • Whatever the Navy is going to do with seawater, it is not going to extract energy from the CO2 in it, and this is not an alternative-energy project (at least none is mentioned in this post). The author should just leave these things alone as she obviously has no clue as to what is going on.

    By the way, if somebody really needs CO2 there are much better places to find it in high concentration, such as the exhaust of coal-fired power plants.

  • At an income of 100% of poverty level ($15,730 for two) premium is about zero for actual Obamacare. If tjbs is legit, he’s at less than 100% poverty level and would be getting Medicaid, not Obamacare. If he’s not getting Medicaid, it’s the state’s decision.

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