ustoo Dead

Sites to see:

Almost Essential
From the Left
From the Right
Magazines and Journals
Various Weblogs and Pundits
Think Tanks
Vast Right Wing Conspiracy
Shrill Leftist Garbage


Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Do you have values? 

Michael Kinsley does, and he is sick of them.

Great editorial. Check it out.

Here's the money shot:
Values have a wonderful quality not shared by other political issues that are more reality-based, such as the war in Iraq or the growing national debt: They can be nearly cost-free. This is often true in the simple economic sense that practical problems cost money whereas spiritual problems, even if real, usually don't. It's also true in the political sense that value-based issues usually don't require much of a tradeoff on the part of the voters. You can be as pro-family as you want, without concern that you're giving up valuable anti-family values.

-Ben  23:30 EST | |

Science and you 

Here's some disturbing tidbits:

Only 35% of those surveyed believe that evolution is "a scientific theory well supported by evidence"

45% believe that "God created humans just as they are 10,000 years ago."

25% believe that the sun revolves around the earth.

6% do not believe that cigarette smoking causes cancer.

14% believe that sound travels faster than light.

46% believe it takes either a day or a month for the earth to travel around the sun.

This is absolutely baffling. To it's credit, the first two are questions that will be answered based on opinion or belief. But the NSF quiz? It's general science knowledge. You can find it in the introduction to your 3rd grade chemistry book. Hell, this is shit you could learn just by watching TV, which is probably what most of these people do all day.

The whole mess comes to us via Kevin Drum

-Ben  20:27 EST | |

Conservative and Liberal views on the use of force 

Juan Cole writes convincingly about the macro differences between conservative and liberal views on the use force, especially in Fallujah. And, more worrisomely, why the military doesn't seem to get what liberals get... check it out.

Personal note: exams are coming up so I've promised myself that I'm going to read fewer blogs. Consequentially, no more posts here. But I think my New Year's resolution will be, in part, to blog more substantively about stuff I know more about. Yeah, exciting for all I'm sure.

-Ziggy Stardust  13:10 EST | |

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Economic benefits of humane social policies 

I think the government ought to provide the means (maybe not provide directly, but provide the means) for everyone to receive healthcare and to ensure that children are adequately nourished. Unfortunately, I don't think that appeals to compassion alone will ever sell these ideas to Americans. Because of this, quantifying the positive economic impacts--the return on investment if you will--of humane soical policies is something I've been intersted in (at least reading about) for a while.

This article is about a forty year study of children who grew up in "poor families" in "rundown public housing" with "high crime rates", some of whom were randomly assigned to an intensive pre-school program. The benefits the children in the program derived manifest themseleves in increased positives and drecreased negatives: students who were in the program make $5,500 more per year and they are half as likely to have gone to jail. Random assignment eliminated selection bias and the longevity of thge study conclusively shows that the benefits aren't transient.

I don't know how they computed this number, but the article quotes:
Economists estimate that the return to society is more than $250,000 (calculated in 2000 dollars) on an investment of just $15,166 -- that's 17 dollars for every dollar invested.
In addition to being the Christian thing to do, according to my calculations, that's a 7.3% return on investment, every year, for forty years. If these results can be replicated, moral imperatives aside, programs like these are good uses of monies raised by government bond issues.

Post publication edit: I meant that from the perspective of someone standing forty years on, the program provided a return equivalent to that of 7.3% per year. Of course, the program required a large upfront investment and then started paying for itself after 20 some years. Presumably the benefits continue in perpetuity and in fact compound, as people who are more productive and law abiding remain that way, and their children are more likley to do productive work. Assuming this, the return is even better than 7.3%.

Effective early education programs would've been great policy ten years ago as the need arose to save for the retirement of the Baby-Boomers. What better way to do that than to shore up the tax base by making tomorrow's workers more productive?

It doesn't seem like anyone in government is trying really hard to address childhood poverty and education issues. People on the Left are scared to death because they'll be called big government liberals if they advocate anything like this. These issues should most certainly be the province of American Christians (unless you're a disciple of Creflo Dollar), but Republcans sew up their votes with anti-gay and pro-life rhetoric, and thus don't have to do much else.

-Daddy Brooklyn  17:35 EST | |

Immigrant Stories 

From the Times:
Here are the stories of 10 transplanted New Yorkers, all under 40, told from their own personal, often poignant, perspectives, as well as voices culled from a dozen immigrant gathering places around the city. When this modern surge of immigrants reinvents New York, as did their Irish, Jewish and Italian forebears a century ago, it is words like these that will be their Hester Street, their Lower East Side, their history, their myths.
This is from a lesbian Jamaican writer who moved to Brooklyn:
After a week in Johannesburg making metaphors into theater, or 10 days in Sydney teaching the poetics of writing the self, I can't wait to get back to Brooklyn.

-Daddy Brooklyn  15:54 EST | |

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Something we do know about the economy 

Greenspan forecasts an ever falling dollar and widening current-account deficit.

-Ben  14:09 EST | |

It begins 

From the WaPo:
Nine female senators, including one Republican, Olympia J. Snowe (Maine), demanded yesterday that negotiators drop House-backed language that they contended allows health care plans and hospitals to refuse to comply with federal and state laws pertaining to abortion services.

Under the provision, sponsored by Rep. David Joseph Weldon (R-Fla.), state governments could lose federal funds if they were found to discriminate against any "health care entity" that opts not to provide abortion services or referrals. Supporters of the change say it would protect Catholic hospitals and health insurers from "harassment" by state officials. In a letter yesterday, the nine senators said it would expose abortion providers to more intimidation by antiabortion groups.

They're cutting the NSF's budget too. Now there's even less room for economics to be a science.

-Daddy Brooklyn  08:42 EST | |

Friday, November 19, 2004

Economics is hard 

Ziggy linked to an interesting post below. It's probably better to read the post that Marcus Stanley linked to first. They pillory the field of economics for its poor predictive track reading, and since apparently predictive power lets you lay claim to being sciencey, economics must not be much of a science.

Weather prediction involves lots of science, fancy inter-disciplinary science, and expensive scientific instruments that the science guys use. But its predictive track record beyond a few days is quite poor. And, as the critics observe about economcis, the march of time isn't helping the success of weather prediction very much. The trouble with trying to predict the weather is that the weatehr is intrinsically chaotic, meaning that small measurement errors and errors induced by idealized mathematical approximations quickly blow up and drastically affect the forecast--so much that predicting weather precisely, even modestly far into the future is impossible in principle. The same problems plague economic predictions.

As I understand it, weather people can do a reasonably good job at predicting long term macro properties of the weather. Now econcomics also does a decent job at predicting the macro properties of the economy (e.g., average GDP growth rates over ten year periods). Economics theory obviously isn't exact, but nobody says that things like the equation for the velocity of money are exact. However, this equation gives a relationship between economic variables that policymakers would like to control, and it suggests a means for controlling them. The authors of the posts are fond of dismissing the predictive success of economics as "common-sense", but I don't think that the implications of the aforementioned equation are common-sense at all (like so much else in economics).

It's true that physics can very successfully predict how long it will take a brick to hit the ground when it's dropped in a vacuum at some distance r from the center of the earth. That's great. Forget the falling bricks. Physics hasn't made much progress when it comes to the non-linear stuff--how air flows around a damn golf ball is still a mystery--but it's not fair to dismiss physics as unscientific because it's not very good at predicting the weather. Economics attempts to answer really hard questions and it's not surprising that it comes up short.

-Daddy Brooklyn  01:24 EST | |

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Is economics a science? 

Marcus Stanley, a guest blogger at the Leiter Reports, has an interesting post on how scientific economics really is. It is much richer than the normal discourse (Is not! Is too!) that happens in bar conversation. Yes, I have these kind of bar conversations.

If anyone can explain to me why Popperian falsibility isn't any longer accepted, I'd really appreciate it. A very smart friend of mine once tried to tell me, but we'd had far too many cocktails for the explanation to sink in... and these kind of bar conversations.

-Ziggy Stardust  11:18 EST | |

Monday, November 15, 2004

Barbara Erhenreich is better than anybody on the NYT's Op-ed page 

Unfortunately, she had to publish this in the Nation. It is an article about the social support structures being developed in evangelical churches. The money quote: "The closest analogy to America's bureaucratized evangelical movement is Hamas, which draws in poverty-stricken Palestinians through its own miniature welfare state."

Via Brian Leiter.

-Ziggy Stardust  13:47 EST | |

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Reminder for God 

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Interpreting Art 

I'm too stupid to figure out what many artists are trying to express. Thank god we have the Secret Service (not to mention jackass students and parents) to interpret. Via BoingBoing (read this one too to make it easier to see what all the fuss is about).

-Matt  23:41 EST | |

Does anyone like beer? 

What the hell is hoppy beer? Beer lovers want to know.

You gotta love a Colorado politics blog that also does beer so well: Colorado Luis.

-Ziggy Stardust  17:29 EST | |

Spelling errors, grammar mistakes and typos 

Matt Yglesias wrote a post about his frequent spelling errors and Kevin Drum replied. The comments to both posts are interesting insofar as they can be divided readers who do and don't notice minor errors and then further divided between the noticers who mind or not.

I very rarely notice non-substantive errors in email, blog-posts or casebooks (law textbooks are frequently riddled with typos--so I hear) and don't think it's a big deal, although when I hear errors it grates much more.

Any explanations for the differences?

-Ziggy Stardust  14:43 EST | |

Voting Righteously 

Brad Carson writes in TNR about why he lost his Senate race in Oklahoma.

I'm not sure if this is limited to TNR's digital subscribers or not, so let me know and maybe I'll violate some copyright law and post the text of the article.

-Ziggy Stardust  14:27 EST | |

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


Suicide is painless 

Some folks think the unlikely solution to the systemic problems with the DNC is to make Howard "You-Think-I-Won't-Do-It" Dean party chairman.

-paul  21:06 EST | |

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Got little problems?`` 

Don't waste the 911 dispatcher's time. Call 311 instead. New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has a fascinating system in place to provide people with access to city services. See this side bar in Wired for more.

-Ben  23:53 EST | |

Finally a conservative conclusion I can agree with 

Read this column (via Josh Marshall) all the way through. Sure, the author may be one of the stupidest you've ever read, but hear him out. He's got a damn fine point, even if you don't exactly buy his logic.

-Ziggy Stardust  21:54 EST | |

Feeling depressed... 

...about election results maps that look like this?

Then take a look at this map of all US counties, size adjusted for population and shaded according to voting results.

Shows that the country is not as red ad it seems and gives me hope.

Find the whole mess here.

-Ben  19:27 EST | |

Sorry guys... 

I think we can all find a few of our sentiments reflected here.

-Lucky  17:19 EST | |

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Has Democracy Jumped the Shark? 

From Mark Kleinman:

The commitment of a small-d democrat is to respect the authority of the majority, not to pretend to respect its wisdom or virtue.

If, for example, you think that the Bush regime has made the United States both a user of torture and an active accomplice in the use of torture by others, and if you think that is wrong, an electoral defeat shouldn't change those opinions.

And if you think that, then what are you supposed to feel about the majority that either (1) didn't believe the facts; (2) didn't think that torture is wrong; or (3) didn't think it was important enough to vote on? I'd think "scorn" a relatively mild word to use.

I think this is right. I've argued, to much derision from several friends, that those who voted for President Bush were either intellectually or morally bankrupt. That is, there was no way to be both knowledgeable and good while voting for Bush. This is certainly elitist both intellectually and ethically, but I don't see any other way of putting it.

If you don't think gays should have the same marriage rights as straight, then you're a bigot. If you think that Bush has competently administered his office, you're an idiot. If you voted for Bush because he's a good man, I think scorn is the perfect sentiment for you.

Surely this isn't sound political strategy as long as we need to kowtow to median voters in a democratically-deficient system, but that doesn't mean my anger and disappointment isn't justified both by reality and morality.

-Ziggy Stardust  17:03 EST | |


Great. Now we got freakin' robots with shotguns. 

Darren writes "The US Army is testing robots armed with shotguns. The robots are called Packbots and have already seen some action in Iraq. It also has chemical sensors that detect nuclear, biological, and chemical contaminants. Maybe I've seen a few too many bad sci-fi movies, but robots with shotguns scare me." From Slashdot.

-paul  13:43 EST | |

Not yet ready to talk about it, but now reading... 

Friday, November 05, 2004

The 600th Post  

The election has come and gone, and the outcome is not what most of the country or most of the world wanted. The question now is how to go forward.

If everyone truely believed the sense of urgency that preceded the campaign and gave the grassroots support that gave the it's continued strength narrow loss, despite several notable nation missteps, then its time to dig in for the house race of 2006.

Giving up the fight against the Neocons is the worst thing we could do.

-paul  11:38 EST | |

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Here we go... 

Four more years of this. Can we stand it?

-Ben  20:37 EST | |

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

So nervous I could puke 

Is anyone else?

At this point, I don't rely on the polls to tell me anything but that it's going to be a really, really close election. gives Kerry 298:Bush 231, while Electoral Vote Meta Analysis has a final prediction of Kerry 311:Bush 227. Both sites five Oh, Pa and Fl to Kerry! So that's kind of nice, I guess. Also, if you really, want to play the electoral vote parlor game with Mark, check out this site (via ms. Cox). Good stuff.

But what about the weather?

Rain in Oh, Pa, Or, Wa. Snow in NM. Shit. Bad weather reduces voter turnout, and dems tend to do better when there is high turnout.

Also, bizarrely, China came out against president Bush tonight (thanks, Political Animal).

Anyways, what are YOU doing to help Democrats win? I haven't done much, but I am helping with the GOTV effort in sunny Arvada, Colorado. There's sill time. Call your local DNC hq and ask how you can help. Call in sick to work, make a few phone calls, knock on some doors, whatever, just do something!

Let's win this one (but not for the Gipper)!

-Ben  01:10 EST | |

Monday, November 01, 2004


1)Not qualified in legal terms: a defendant who was incompetent to stand trial.
2)Inadequate for or unsuited to a particular purpose or application.
3)Devoid of those qualities requisite for effective conduct or action.

-Ben  21:11 EST | |


About us:

This weblog is an ongoing, if periodic, effort by several friends to stay in touch, in reading material, and in ideas.

Lucky Luciano is a former Italian Stallion real estate hustler and Benedict Arnold CEO turned shady lawyer-to-be. He lives in Denver.

Ben is a Paramedic and would-be philantropist who lives in Denver. He knows everything about nothing.

Fuzzy Dunlop lives in Manhattan. He is more than capable of standing up to the stresses of a high crime urban environment.

Jess is a teacher. But have YOU given her an apple? No, you haven't. You should be ashamed of yourself. This crazy feminist currently rests her copy of Awakening in Jersey City.

Matt is a pariah, iconoclast, and professor of gambling living in Oakland.

Miguel Sanchez is not Lionel Hutz.

Daddy Brooklyn lives in Brooklyn. He hates Republicans, though he wouldn't mind being ensconced in the landed elite of New York City.

Paul just smoked my eyelids and punched my cigarette.

Ziggy Stardust has no past.

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