Monday Reads: Oh, I wish I was in the land of data …

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Good Morning!

I’m forever aghast at the number of folks that prefer tropes and memes to actually investigating what works and doesn’t work for the economy.  It’s a bit like watching people rush to that wagon where the snake oil salesman promises a miracle cure.  Meanwhile, back here in the land of data, we use the scientific method.  Wishful thinking just doesn’t cure math deficiency.

Of all the myths and falsehoods that Republicans have spread about President Obama, the most pernicious and long-lasting is that the $832 billion stimulus package did not work. Since 2009, Republican lawmakers have inextricably linked the words “failed” and “stimulus,” and last week, five years after passage of the Recovery Act, they dusted off their old playbook again.

“The ‘stimulus’ has turned out to be a classic case of big promises and big spending with little results,” wrote Speaker John Boehner. “Five years and hundreds of billions of dollars later, millions of families are still asking, ‘where are the jobs?’ ”

The stimulus could have done more good had it been bigger and more carefully constructed. But put simply, it prevented a second recession that could have turned into a depression. It created or saved an average of 1.6 million jobs a year for four years. (There are the jobs, Mr. Boehner.) It raised the nation’s economic output by 2 to 3 percent from 2009 to 2011. It prevented a significant increase in poverty — without it, 5.3 million additional people would have become poor in 2010.

And yet Republicans were successful in discrediting the very idea that federal spending can boost the economy and raise employment. They made the argument that the stimulus was a failure not just to ensure that Mr. Obama would get no credit for the recovery that did occur, but to justify their obstruction of all further attempts at stimulus.

So the American Jobs Act was killed, and so was the infrastructure bank and any number of other spending proposals that might have helped the country. The president’s plan to spend another $56 billion on job training, education and energy efficiency, to be unveiled in his budget next month, will almost certainly suffer a similar fate.

This may be the singular tragedy of the Obama administration. Five years later, it is clear to all fair-minded economists that the stimulus did work, and that it did enormous good for the economy and for tens of millions of people. But because it fell short of its goals, and was roundly ridiculed by Republicans and inadequately defended by Democrats, who should have trumpeted its success, the president’s stimulus plan is now widely considered a stumble.

There are so many people that would rather look at what’s in front of their nose rather than examine information over time and look for trend and random events.  Did you know that  January 2014 was the 4th warmest on record for our world?

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But it turns out that according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), this January was the warmest since 2007 and the fourth warmest January on record. It was also the 38th January in a row that boasted temperatures above the average for the 20th century: temperatures were 1.17 degrees above average globally.

You have to go all the way back to 1976 – the year Paul McCartney and Wings made it to #1 with “Silly Love Songs” and Elton John and Kiki Dee followed close on their heels with #2′s Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, to find a below average temperature for January.

Think about it: If February’s temperatures are also above average, we will have seen 29 years since the last month of below average temperatures.
And global warming deniers never once mentioned California’s drought. It was as though it was not even happening. But these extremes of weather are predicted by the scientific model. Instead of intelligent discourse, we had Todd Akin (R-MO) claiming back in 2009that regulating CO2 will make the seasons stop,” showing he knows no more about climate science than he does about biology. That same year we saw Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) say that because CO2 is in Coca Cola that it is safe and should not be regulated. More recently, we getTony Perkins asserting there is more evidence that God is behind “hurricanes and storms” than there is for climate change. We get David Barton saying last October that abortion is really to blame for climate change. And we get Glenn Beck claiming those who deny climate change will shortly be sent to internment camps.
In other words, you are not going to get an intelligent debate on climate change from Republicans. And Beck, who is a genre unto himself? Nice a fantasy as this is, it’s not going to happen.

What is going to happen to everyone is going to be much worse than internment if something isn’t done. The melting of the Antarctic ice sheet would mean sea levels rising more than 200 feet. If you want to know what the world will look like then, go to National Geographic and take a look.

Keith Brekhus reported here in January that “the Australian based Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science has released a new study arguing that climate models have underestimated the extent to which the doubling of carbon dioxide will affect global surface temperatures.” What we get in response is the Exxon-funded Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change telling us that CO2 is actually good for us, and that global warming will be beneficial, and that anyway, the fact that the planet is warming and that CO2 emissions are increasing, is not evidence of causation.

When Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), vice chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, says that CO2 is good for plants it is because that is what Exxon and other fossil fuel giants are paying her to say.

trappedIt’s equally interesting that a law denying rights to GLBTs  boils down to a few crazy businesses that don’t want to send wedding accouterments  to gay couples because OMG! Have any of these folks ever read about the abuses that lead to our Constitutional concept of religious liberty? Do they think really think that selling a wedding cake is the same as subjecting oneself to the Inquisition?

The Arizona law seems to apply to services beyond those tied to weddings, but same-sex weddings are the impetus for these bills. Specifically, they are in response to lawsuits against three different Christians who refused to photograph, bake a cake, and sell flowers for same-sex weddings. The backers of these laws claim that a Christian cannot, in good conscience, provide a good or service for a same-sex wedding because it violates the teachings of Christianity.

If these bills become law, we could see same-sex couples being denied service not just by photographers and florists, but also restaurants and hotels and pretty much anyone else who can tie their discrimination to a religious belief.

Many on the left and right can agree that nobody should be unnecessarily forced to violate their conscience. But in order to violate a Christian’s conscience, the government would have to force them to affirm something in which they don’t believe. This is why the first line of analysis here has to be whether society really believes that baking a wedding cake or arranging flowers or taking pictures (or providing any other service) is an affirmation. This case simply has not been made, nor can it be, because it defies logic.  If you lined up 100 married couples and asked them if their florist “affirmed” their wedding, they would be baffled by the question.

Strangely, conservative Christians seem to have little interest in this level of analysis and jump right to complaints about their legal and constitutional rights. It’s not that these rights don’t matter. Rather, they should be a secondary issue for Christians. Before considering legal rights, Christians wrestling with this issue must first resolve the primary issue of whether the Bible calls Christians to deny services to people who are engaging in behavior they believe violates the teachings of Christianity regarding marriage. The answer is, it does not.

Nor does the Bible teach that providing such a service should be construed as participation or affirmation. Yet Christian conservatives continue to claim that it does.

Okay, and now for something about True Detective.  It’s my latest addiction and I fully confess  that I passed it on to BostonBoomer, my sister, and Doctor Daughter. (MAJOR SPOILER ALERT)Screen-Shot-2014-02-21-at-12.00.26-AM

David Haglund: This show gets into your head something fierce. About halfway through this episode, called “Haunted Houses,” Rust’s commanding officer chews out his subordinate for bothering people about the long-since-closed Dora Lange case. My eye flashed to the officer’s nameplate: Leroy Salter (played by Paul Ben-Victor, by the way, also known as Vondas from The Wire). Leroy … that derives from French for “the king.” As in the Yellow King? And what could “salter” mean?

Before I could start Googling surname origins, Rust began spouting his theories about a high-reaching murderous conspiracy and, for the first time (in my book, anyway), they sounded like the mad ravings of a paranoid. I recalled that Satan-themed T-shirt on one of the jailed boys who had sex with Marty’s daughter—a shirt that sported a black star or two—and thought about how sometimes the signifiers of devil worship are just for show. The ground beneath me started to shift.

Bring me back from the brink, Willa.

I haven’t had this much fun since Twin Peaks.

I’ve been haunted by this song since I started watching the series.  The music track is as haunting as the imagery and the story line.  It’s chosen by T Bone Burnett who is an artist I’ve had the pleasure to mic and mix.  I love the Train Song By Vashti Bunyan and it’s perfectly placed in the series.

BTW, do you watch “Big Bang Theory”?  I hope you know that  Mayim Bialik who plays Amy Farrah Fowler actually has a doctorate in neuroscience.  You can’t do many advanced degrees without a lot of calculus. I actually started to like math when I went into the part that wasn’t bounded as finite.  Most folks may remember her as Blossom but …

During a red carpet interview at the SAG awards this January, the actress was forced into an awkward situation after Bono’s doppelganger tried to asked her if people assume that she can do advanced math because she plays a smart character on TV. As it turns out, she can do calculus in her sleep because she’s secretly a neuroscientist. And by secretly, I mean she publicly taught for several years, wrote a book about the science of hormones for parenting and has given several public (and very recent) lectures about the importance of investing in STEM careers and research. Oh and she’s also the official spokesperson for Texas Instruments graphing calculators.

She’s a scientist and an actress.

Just one more thing …

I know my fiction from my fact. I’m not so sure that’s true about a lot of policy makers these days of the Republican Persuasion.


35 Comments on “Monday Reads: Oh, I wish I was in the land of data …”

  1. RalphB says:

    grantland: Her Looming Shadow Grows: The Complex Women of ‘True Detective’

    Spoilers galore here but it’s a good read. If True Detective has an MVP award, T-Bone Burnett should get it. Without his music, it’s mostly an overwrought cop show but with it wow.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Great post, Dak.

    I just spent the morning reading all the reviews of True Detective. I can’t stop myself. Only two more episodes. I wonder what they’ll do next year as an encore.

    The good news is this show is taking my mind off the *news* for awhile.

  3. dakinikat says:

    http://www.mediaite.com/tv/harold-ramis-of-ghostbusters-and-groundhog-day-fame-dies-at-69/

    Harold Ramis, of Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day Fame, Dies at 69

    Venerated comedic actor and film director Harold Ramis passed away at the age of 69, when he succumbed to complications of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis. He was surrounded by his family at the time of death

  4. RalphB says:

    NYT: WhatsApp to Start Offering Internet Phone Calls

    BARCELONA – Major announcements from WhatsApp, the Internet messaging services, are like city buses: You can wait a long time for one, then two show up at once.

    On the heels of its $16 billion deal to be bought by Facebook, WhatsApp announced on Monday that it would start offering free voice services later this year — diversifying beyond its main messaging service into phone calls.

    Speaking at the Mobile World Congress conference in Barcelona, the tech company’s chief executive, Jan Koum, said users in the second quarter would be able to make Internet calls through their smartphones similar to services that are already available on rival Internet messaging offerings like Kakao of South Korea and Viber of Cyprus. …

    Anything to expand competition can’t be all bad.

  5. dakinikat says:

    O.M.G,

    The two investors who brought the suit are a former classmate of Brannon’s from medical school, Larry Piazza, and the husband of one of Brannon’s patients, Sam Lampuri. In court, Lampuri, a Raleigh plumber who gave Brannon $100,000, testified that Brannon “pretty much spoke about Neogence every time my wife was in stirrups.” Brannon must now repay Piazza and Lampuri a total of $250,000 plus interest.

    http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/02/jury-greg-brannon-tea-party-senate-candidate-misled-investors

  6. RalphB says:

    WaPo: In Kentucky Senate race, Bill Clinton plays a starring role

    During Bill Clinton’s first-inaugural festivities, a 14-year-old girl from Kentucky presented the new president with an honorary bouquet of red roses at the base of the Lincoln Memorial.

    Two decades later, that girl, Alison Lundergan Grimes, is a candidate to become Kentucky’s first female senator. And Clinton — an uncle figure whom Grimes counts as a friend, mentor and adviser — is playing a starring role in her campaign and will appear at a sold-out Grimes fundraiser Tuesday. …

    Good piece about the consumate politician.

  7. bostonboomer says:

    Mark Ames:

    Everything you know about Ukraine is wrong.

    http://pando.com/2014/02/24/everything-you-know-about-ukraine-is-wrong/

  8. dakinikat says:

    MSNBC is reporting that Arizona Senator John McCain has called on Governor Jan Brewer to veto SB 1062, the “turn away the gays” bill.

      • dakinikat says:

        Yeah. He is awful. He’s representing for the party of stupid now. He’s got his eye on the Iowa Caucuses.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Connecticut Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy took over the microphone from Jindal and responded sharply, “Wait a second, until a few moments ago we were going down a pretty cooperative road. So let me just say that we don’t all agree that moving Canadian oil through the United States is necessarily the best thing for the United States economy.”

        Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican who chairs the National Governors Association and supports Keystone, earlier said she asked Obama when the administration would decide whether to allow it and he told her there would be an answer in the next couple months.

        Malloy said Jindal’s “white flag statement” was the most partisan of their weekend conference and that many governors support a minimum wage increase.

        “I don’t know what the heck was a reference to white flag when it comes to people making $404 a week,” Malloy snapped. “I mean that’s the most insane statement I’ve ever heard.”

  9. bostonboomer says:

    Mexican drug kingpin was caught by signals intelligence (NSA).

    It began with a meeting a few weeks ago. The D.E.A. presented a body of intelligence information to Mexican navy officials, including calls and contacts from cellphones used over the last few months. The Americans had worked closely before with the marines on successful operations but were not certain that their counterparts would take on the mission.

    I’ll bet Glenn Greenwald thinks this is terrible. Spying on people’s phone calls?

    • RalphB says:

      That’s a great story and some great work by Mexican and American authorities. I don’t see how anyone can have an issue with using SIGINT to get that guy or others like him.

    • RalphB says:

      Raw Story: Hundreds detained as Russia sends anti-Putin activists to prison

      A Russian court on Monday sentenced seven activists to prison terms of up to four years over a protest against President Vladimir Putin as police detained hundreds of supporters outside.

      A Moscow district court sentenced seven defendants to penal colony terms of between two-and-a-half and four years for what the judge ruled to be “mass riots” during a 2012 demonstration. …

      I’m sure he;ll see nothing wrong with this.

  10. RalphB says:

    Raw Story: Doctors puzzled by polio-like illness crippling California kids: ‘What we’re seeing now is bad’

    As many as 25 children in California have been afflicted with a rare polio-like illness leaving them with paralyzed limbs and respiratory problems, USA Today reports.

    While testing has shown that none of the children have polio, the new illness has much in common with the infectious viral disease which was all but eliminated following the introduction of a vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk in 1954.

    “What we’re seeing now is bad. The best-case scenario is complete loss of one limb, the worst is all four limbs, with respiratory insufficiency, as well,” said Keith Van Haren, a pediatric neurologist at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, Calif. “It’s like the old polio.” …

    TBogg writing under his real name. This is really scary. First case was reported in 2012.

    • NW Luna says:

      The symptoms sound like one of the demyelinating diseases, but the pattern of spinal cord damage on MRI is more similar to polio. From the age distribution it looks like older kids and adults have already developed immunity. It is concerning, and there is no definite identified pathogen yet, but it’s extremely rare. Hope it stays that way.

  11. NW Luna says:

    “Wishful thinking just doesn’t cure math deficiency.” Hah! So true. Or cure any other deficiency of thinking.

    There must be some neuro-biochemistry process to explain this. How can people be OK with ignoring evidence? It would gnaw away at me….

    And great article discussing the BS behind “affirmation” of non-Biblical principles argument. Of course, that kind of rationale analysis just goes clean over their heads.