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Messages - Greg Davidson

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As much as I'm a fan of astrophysics we need to be fair about how much we really "know". What we seem to be good at is developing trees of inference based on some axioms that fit the data, and we can get a good amount of details into those inferential trees. But if the axioms prove to be wrong then it's all bogus and whatever new paradigm takes over scraps the old thing. In physics we can do many tests that give a fair amount of rigor to the basic assumptions, but with astrophysics and cosmology we really are grasping at faint bits of data to make huge conclusions.

Fenring, I'd like to push back on your assertion about astrophysics.  Take a look at the Atsrophysics community's Decadal Survey back from when I was at NASA in 1991 ( - at that time big questions included did black holes actually exist? were there planets around other stars? gravity waves were hypothesized by some but not measured, etc. Not all the secrets of the universe have been revealed, but there has been real progress, and even where final answers have not been established there still have been observations that have constrained the set of viable theories.

How many hundreds of billions of dollars has the United States and Europe directly spent on AGW mitigation to date?
How much "opportunity cost" did they also end up paying due to said measures being implemented? I'm sure that number is going to enter into the Trillions soon enough.

I would be surprised by any expenditures to-date at that scale solely addressed at climate change. What are you thinking of?

I think we all realize with Astronomy that we don't have any way to directly prove or test many of the theories, and that something that "doesn't fit with our current understanding" is always cropping up and causing us to rethink what we think we know to our benefit.

Modern astronomy is built on direct tests that substantiate a vast majority of current theory. Of course, the excitement is always on the scientific frontier beyond what is readily testable, but there is an incredible amount of our knowledge of the universe that is substantiated by data that supports theory. As one example, there is an extraordinary amount of insight into the first three minutes after the creation of the universe based on theory substantiated by measurements of cosmic background radiation from the Big Bang

the point is that peer review of climate science, is peer review of a computer climate model.  There's no actual experiment, what there is, is a simulated experiment based on algorithms designed or cribbed by the climate scientist.

There's no experimentation in astronomy or evolutionary biology either. Would you accept astrologers or creationists with their non peer reviewed materials as being of similar value to that of actual scientists in those fields?

Sorry I am missing much of this discussion - distracted by real life and will continue to be for the rest of the week. First, let me make a more clear concession - there are few rigorous analytic studies addressing peer review itself (such as The main issue I would be interested in (filtering out really flawed stuff so it doesn't drown the marketplace of ideas in distracting BS) is not the primary focus of the study.  Historically, the system of peer reviewed articles in journals (combined with the efforts within the science community to reproduce results) has been the dominant system worldwide, so the only alternatives are a few like Lysenkoism in the Soviet Union, not a good basis for comparison. My own experience with peer review comes from a decade or so at NASA, where I saw peer review both for basic science grants as well as for larger experimental missions (I was not an astrophysicist myself, but I saw how the process mediated the normal quirks of human behavior). My father edited an economics journal for 40+ years, he was an iconoclast, and so I grew up with a good understanding of the constraints driven by a mainstream conventional wisdom via peer review. But Seriati, I actually thought your question was a good one because I don't have a comprehensive, analytical response that proves peer review + reproducibility is better than a hypothesized alternative.

That's how I agree with one of your points. Let's see if you can do th same:

Do you mean the micro level studies, some of which are experimental but few actually test the climate in any way, which are data points for the macro level studies or do you mean the macro level studies, which are all modeled computer science and not experimental?

What knowledge do you have about macro level studies? Most climate studies are based on a vast number of experimentally collected data points - since you seem to think Big Data is a panacea, how many data points have to go into a study before it counts as Big Data?

Seriati, you also made some hyperbolic claim about how you didn't like climate policies. I am in a rush, but tell me how you feel abut the Montreal Protocol during the Clinton Administration that banned chemicals that depleted the ozone hole. Seemed to have been developed in the same way as all those other policies that you detest.

Sorry for the short answer, already late for work.

Seriati, it's actually a good question - how to prove the merits of the system of science built on peer review and reproducible results to someone who doesn't want to believe them. Because there are human weaknesses embedded in processes that are executed by humans. Peer review attempts to address this by multiple, independent reviewers. Independence reduces conflicts of interest that may sway an outcome, while the culture of science that Wayward was describing means that one of the main assets of a professional scientist is reputation, and therefore approving research papers that are not reproducible due to methodological failures exacts a relatively higher cost on peer reviewers.

There is some recent research on the  effectiveness of peer review, but it is limited. In this paper there are two posited effects, quality (screening out the methodologically flawed) and impact (predicting which will be the highly cited papers).  For my argument here, the first is the more important effect, because once the flawed papers are screened out I do believe the community (and that all-important reproducibility of results) will do the rest.

But I suspect that this will not be satisfying to someone who believes the following, which is why this is an interesting question to continue to think about:

We are no longer in an age where information is slow or constrained.  We now have access directly to the knowledge, and to the experts an their opinions on the research and we can search with powerful tools to get to it almost immediately.  We are no longer stuck with the stark choice of believing what is presented or rejecting it without knowing anything more, we can now learn as much or as little as we want to make a judgement.  It's not an era where we have to rely on a handful of first lookers to tell us that a paper is real or not, we're able to the limits of our ability, to verify or falsify it ourselves.

This is, in a sense, part of the problem - people who lack the expertise to catch manipulations that can be uncovered by those with professional training (or self-taught but disciplined expertise) still believe in the superiority of their own expertise. Even this might be correctable if they would be capable of listening and understanding when a methodological error underlying their argument is pointed out to them.  But that rarely happens in the current information age. Without the context of a science community, people are free to throw out arguments that are shown to be flawed and yet not take personal accountability for their errors (there are a few other places where the BS is forced to the surface, for example, the Kansas Court where those with methodologically flawed research about voter fraud are being forced to confront their dubious arguments).

Maybe that's why this is so meaningful to me - the fundamentals of good science are the same as the fundamentals of good public policy discussion. And in both cases, those discussions need to be built on a foundation that rewards integrity and accountability. 


General Comments / Re: Another one bites the Dust
« on: March 25, 2018, 09:29:53 PM »
Honestly, Greg, I couldn't find any study that showed increased poverty increased terrorism risk on an individual basis.  There seems to be a link on an aggregate basis, but once you dig into it the aggregation the link reverses.  Did you find something different?  I don't get why a claim that doesn't seem to have any evidence is even being argued.  It's one of those "soft facts" that "everyone knows."
My education taught me to be skeptical of conventional wisdom regarding how the world works. Events in the world are often the results of complex systems (and sometimes random events). Our perception of the world is filtered by imperfect exposure to data (for example, we have all experienced vastly more stories and visual images of Muslims killing Muslims in the Middle East since the Iraq War than we have seen of Christians killing Christians in the Congo, even though in raw numbers there has been far more killing in the latter region). I believe that the Middle East/Congo disparity is primarily due to the fact that it is hard to get media to the Congo, and that there is much less familiarity among the US population with that region of Africa. 

And there is the intentional work of advocates for one side in an argument to make assertions that are false or misleading in order to bring about outcomes that they desire. There is a considerable industry in Islamophobia that we have discussed in the past.

With respect to the specific case we are discussing, I am truly uncertain about the relationship between changes in wealth levels and the propensity for terrorism. I am asking you to see data, Seriati, because to me the argument echoes a little bit of past colonialism (sort of a "give those damn savages a little civilization and they will cut our throats...").

That being said, it might be true that increases in wealth are correlated with an increase propensity to commit terrorist actions, and if there were compelling data, it would turn out that those old colonialists might have been right about this. But until I see compelling data I will remain skeptical.

I think it's pretty clearly a more defining characteristic of the left at *present*.

I recognize that you believe that, but can you point to evidence that supports your claim?  When you look at national politicians on the right and left, I believe that you will find more Republican assertions that those that disagree are illegitimate than the reverse.  For example, that those with opposing views on gun control are paid actors.  Or for another example, that those who voted in the plurality against President Trump not even citizens (which echoes the false assertion believed by roughly half of Republicans regarding the citizenship of the last Democratic President).

So in order to substantiate your belief that it is predominantly those on the left who do not respect the legitimacy of opposing views, please provide enough countervailing data to not only match what I have shown above, but to substantiate your case in the opposite direction.

I think there's a lot more room than people will accept for others to truly disagree in good faith. It's a weakness in 'liberal' ideology at present, for instance, that many left-leaning people honestly believe that there's no legitimate way anyone could ever disagree with them, and that therefore disagreement must be a result of deception or stupidity.

I agree that there are many liberals like this, but it is also clear that there are many conservatives with the same pattern of behavior. I won't accept the premise that this is primarily a liberal characteristic without data. And I have several reasons that make me believe that the association may be the opposite way (with conservatives less likely to believe that there is a legitimate basis for disagreeing with them than liberals).  I am not at all certain, but here is a semi-related argument that leans against your point

Liberal Aaron Sorkin wrote a speech in the climax of A Few Good Men that both embodies a critique while simultaneously capturing the essence of what is noble about a conservative viewpoint.
You can't handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lieutenant Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know, that Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives! You don't want the truth, because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall. We use words like "honor", "code", "loyalty". We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it! I would rather you just said "thank you", and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to!
In the argument over whether liberals or conservatives better understand the viewpoints of those who disagree with them, can you point to any critic of liberalism who better captures the positive aspect of the opposite position than this?

Fenring I agree with your caveats about peer review, we probably need a term to describe the system of which peer review is a key element, but it needs to be combined with the reproducibility of research results. That's what I generally mean by "science", but that word alone does not seem to be enough to convey these fundamentals.

I do believe that there are appropriate contexts in which one makes arguments that you don't necessarily believe. My son participated in parliamentary debate competitions - that is a competition over shaping arguments and not truth. And I follow (read but rarely post) a sports team's blog where there are heated discussions about aspects of the team's play, and I personally don't see the same moral requirement for dedication to truth about something that is primarily recreational.


You have characterized peer reviewed research in a tribal way that proved my point, sort of like science is a kind of magic with the tribe of Athena using peer review and the tribe of Hermes using some other method to see the way of the gods ("Greg's preference coincides with ideology")

Peer review is imperfect, but it is better than any other approach yet invented to consistently pursue scientific truth at the frontier of human knowledge. You get multiple, independent experts who are conversant with first principles and what has been empirically demonstrated previously. The peer reviewers are also familiar with potential flaws of different analytical methodologies. And the larger process not only applies this validation process to the first time a paper is reviewed, but there is the expectation that the research should be repeatable by different groups testing the same hypothesis in order to solidly establish what is true.

I think you may have mis-characterized peer review as an "unassailable gold standard" - specific peer reviewed papers can and should be challenged, but only by data subjected to valid analytical approaches. I have worked directly with peer review in the scientific community and with industry-based technology and product research. There are brilliant people involved in each endeavor, and certainly there can be much utility in non-peer reviewed research. But when it comes to establishing what is most likely to be true, scientific peer review is a fundamental principle that should be a "gold standard"
was pointing out the absurdity of his claim that the "right" is somehow anti-science, it's one of those soft discriminatory lies the left tells itself to pretend it's morally superior.

The position of national politicians on the right in the United States with regard to climate change is anti-science. Period. While you can fantasize about some strange world-wide conspiracy that has both the right and the left agreeing on the validity of climate science in virtually every other country in the world, a simpler explanation is that the right in the US is anti-science. That's why the head of a Congressional science committee can bring a snowball in while speaking on the floor of the House and assert that it is proof that climate change is not happening.

That's why for decades (only changed in the Omnibus bill signed yesterday) the Republicans have actually forbidden the CDC to fund certain types of peer reviewed research into the root causes of gun violence. 

That's why you youself Seriati have referred to "peer review" as if it were an ideological preference of the left.

If peer reviewed research said that we would be safer all owning guns, I would buy a gun. If peer reviewed research indicated that climate change was not a major issue, then I would be fine with not taking significant action. I can't think of a single policy position that I hold that I would not reverse if there were solid peer reviewed research pointing in the other direction (obviously, this does not mean a single peer reviewed paper, because the nature of science is that there will be valid opposing positions, but instead enough repeatable research that not only validates the primary hypothesis but also shows valid results that refute the alternate hypotheses).

I believe that we are all morally obligated to pursue the truth as we best know it, and to act in accordance with what we believe is true rather than what is ideologically comfortable. And I welcome all who act in accordance with those principles. And from this standard, if you are not pursuing truth to the best of your abilities (or you are allowing yourself to knowingly repeat falsehoods), then that behavior is morally inferior.

The one caveat I do understand is that some people are just playing debate games. And in the political sphere, some people believe that the rules are just like those for lawyers in an adversarial court room, where you don't have to believe the arguments that you make are true. I recognize the difference, and it is not specifically evil to argue that way, but on the spectrum of morality it is better if people feel a moral obligation to the truth.


You prove my point.

"Peer review" is not the only method for validating research, in fact far more research is created for commercial purposes where the validation comes from its effectiveness in generating a product or result than comes from the peer review process. 

Or as this worked out in the past, listen to your doctor and have another cigarette

If more people on the right made all of their medical choices by ignoring peer reviewed science and instead choosing research by corporations, there would be fewer people on the right. 

I think the left's idea that shutting down pollution in the US at great economic cost will "help" the global climate is wrong and short sighted.  There should be a real balance between development and environment, our problems come when we swing the pendulum too far to one side or the other.

I disagree with that characterization. The largest difference between the American left and the right with regard to pollution in the modern era is that the left focuses on peer reviewed science (and evidence-based solutions) and the right rejects science and instead goes for he said/she said ideological argument.

The knee-jerk reaction of the right to regulation of pollution usually is that those damn leftists are imposing too high an economic cost. But somehow we got rid of CFC's and the ozone hole is a few decades into its 50-70 year path to closure. Lead has been removed from gasoline fumes and chipping house paint. 

And those on the "left" have even shown the ideological flexibility to accept the anti-pollution measures  that were pushed for decades by those on the right. The carbon tax was originally a right-wing think tank idea to use market forces instead of pure regulation to reduce pollution. If the right had ideological integrity, they would have been pleased when those on the left adopted their policy idea. But instead, as with healthcare, when the left was willing to be open to policies pushed by the right, those on the right demonstrated that they were being insincere from the start and really preferred no policy to address the problem, whether it be pollution or healthcare.

General Comments / Re: Another one bites the Dust
« on: March 21, 2018, 11:54:35 PM »

That is a clever article by the guy who went through tweets, and Facebook posts, and it does say something about that subset of terrorists in Europe who tweet and post on Facebook. I don't necessarily disagree with the demographic picture, but I also recognized that is probably a biased sample (assuming that not all terrorists are from Europe, on Facebook, and tweet, I suspect the remainder might have a lower economic standard). 

I reject much of this characterization of Democrats or liberals. I do agree that some liberals are fanatically anti-growth, but they are a vastly smaller fraction of the liberal population than fanatically anti-government Republicans. 

As for you, Ron, you cannot (and do not) defend the action you took in starting this thread by quoting an article which I showed to contain a major material falsehood. If you really were on the correct side of the argument, why would it be necessary to assert falsehoods as the Breitbart article clearly does? 

General Comments / Re: The new Cold War
« on: March 19, 2018, 01:36:55 AM »
The context I have heard asserted is that Putin wanted to credibly convey that he personally had the capability to commit targeted assassinations. I am not sure I believe this assertion, but it is at least plausible.  And if you follow that scenario further, the implication would be that to betray Putin in any capacity could be a death penalty, even for a civilian in a foreign country.  Which (and again, I am raising this hypothesis but unlike much of what I post, I have no evidence to validate this theory) would be an effective tool for coercing anyone currently under investigation who might have been working with the Russians but are not yet cooperating witnesses. 

Hey Ronald Lambert,

Long time since I responded to you.

I actually found the Scientific American article to be reasonable - but the Breitbart article that you posted is dishonest.

Here's a big lie - the claim that Scientific American has made a "startling reversal": 

Human greenhouse emissions will warm the planet, raise the seas and derange the weather, and the resulting heat, flood and drought will be cataclysmic. Cataclysmic—but not apocalyptic.

Of course, Scientific American never took the formal position that climate change would definitely be apocalyptic (and not merely cataclysmic), so there is no reversal. And even some of the examples in the Scientific American article are predicated on governments taking actions that people like you Ronald strongly oppose:

“Since 1970, when the Environmental Protection Agency was established, the United States has slashed its emissions of five air pollutants by almost two-thirds. Over the same period, the population grew by more than 40 percent, and those people drove twice as many miles and became two and a half times richer. Energy use has leveled off, and even carbon dioxide emissions have turned a corner. ”

That happened through government regulation. We have made great progress against environmental threats, when good government is paired with good science. Another example not mentioned in the article is the discovery of CFCs destroying ozone in the upper atmosphere, and the effective action of the Clinton Administration to get a worldwide ban on CFCs. This stopped a deadly problem in its tracks and put us on a course for the upper atmosphere to recover over the subsequent ~50 years.

And this is the kind of  effective, evidence-based government action that President Trump and the Republican Party are opposed to on an intstinctive, ideological level.


General Comments / Re: Another one bites the Dust
« on: March 17, 2018, 06:03:22 PM »

I agree that a number of terrorists are disaffected young men drawn from a background that is non-poor, not-particularly-religious. What's the linkage to rising living standards? Is your premise that freezing living standards where they are now would reduce terrorism? I think an equally plausible hypothesis is that some of the terrorists emerge from a context where there is inadequate growth in living standards available to them. And I agree that some extremely wealthy Gulf State Muslims have been funding terrorism, but I believe that is in part to create a distraction from the gigantic wealth imbalance by redirecting the fury of the disaffected in another direction.

General Comments / Re: Another one bites the Dust
« on: March 16, 2018, 10:20:03 AM »
There's far more evidence that raising the living standards in certain countries funds millions of angry young men in their path to extremism than the inverse.

Can you provide that evidence? And remember, the plural of anecdote is not data.

The Constitution hold supreme, until or unless the points brought forward in the DoI become relevant, at which point those that rebel are the ones "in the right" from the perspective of the Founders.

Nope. The DoI may be a cherished part of our history, but there's no magic wand anyone can waive and claim that suddenly "the DoI is relevant" and therefore you can overturn the legal foundations of the United States, which are built on the Constitution.

I am suprised at the level of debate on this topic. Does anyone on this loop who has ever called themselves a Constitutional originalist want to chime in?

I am familiar with that quote from Jefferson. But a quote from Jefferson does not provide any form of waiver to the Constitution of the United States. And this regard there is no ambiguity to the Constitution. 

The recourse for American citizens is supposed to be their votes. The greatest vulnerability of the Constitution is when one faction implements laws to disenfranchise other American citizens - in the post-Reconstruction South, the Democratic Party at the time created obstacles to Black citizens voting, and those very exclusions enabled them to keep that monopoly on power under federal regulation re-emerged in the 1960's.

The system of laws that are based on the Constitution do not provide any legitimacy for individuals or groups who choose to use firearms to overthrow the Constitution.

The Constitution is the basis for government in the United States - the Oath of Office is to the Constitution, not to some apocalyptic Hollywood notion of an America that is independent of the rule of law or the Constitution. To think otherwise is an extremist fantasy and about as profoundly anti-American as you can get.

The Constitution is crystal clear that if you take up arms against the government of the United States of America, you are committing treason.  There is no special clause that permits this whenever someone feels that the government is tyrannical.

Seriati, I didn't intendn to derail the whole conversation, I was just countering one argument in favor of gun ownership that I disagreed with:

I did see the one rationale for limiting gun regulation that I believe should be objected to everywhere and always regarding the United States: "Being armed is sometimes considered an auxiliary right, supporting the natural rights of self-defense and resistance to oppression"  I consider taking up arms against the United States to be treason, because someone who is using firearms to go after officers of the federal government pretty much fits within the category of "all enemies, foreign and domestic"

Would you charge the Mayor of San Francisco with Treason for issuing a warning of ICE raids that actively put the lives of Federal agents at risk by warning the criminals they were coming to arrest?
Actually, a good question. I totally oppose such behavior, and if the intention were to be able to kill federal agents, that is pretty serious. I am not sure that treason fits if the plan is not to overthrow the government, just as I am not sure that a bunch of survivalists exchanging gunfire with government agents is precisely the crime of treason (it is a crime, and a serious one, but the intent may not be to overthrow the federal government)

are you one of those in the camp that thinks that hate speech is not free speech?
Nope, I don't like the hate speech differentiation from free speech - it's all speech. Much more so than unlimited, unregulated campaign spending.

So if they kill an FBI agent or a US marshall it's treason in your book, but a cop, it's just murder?  It's simplistic test you're advocating there.
  If there's not a treason law in your state or locality, that does not exist as a criminal charge for attacks on your state and locality. In our lives as citizens of the United States under the Constitution, there is a crime known as treason.

Is it treason to create a sanctuary city?  Would it be to direct your police force to interfere with ICE operations?

Is it treason for Antifa protesters to take up arms and harm government agents trying to protect another group's right to peaceably assemble?  Is it treason if Antifa "fights back" after the police use force to disburse them?

Is it treason for BLM members to shoot police officers or advocate it?  Or is it just murder?

Failure to provide the additional assistance to the federal government as with a "Sanctuary City" is not treason. BLM members (or anyone else) advocating the shooting of police officers are horrible people but they are using their right to free speech.

Treason is an offense against the federal government.  If Antifa (or any other group) uses firearms to attack agents of the federal government, it is treason. If BLM or any group actually shoot police officers, the specific crime depends on the laws of the state or local government, but usually it is murder.

Do you consider "resistance" to be treason?  Antifa?  What about sanctuary cities?  What about shooting "racist" cops?

Is it still treason to take up arms, if say, Trump sends federal troops into CA to secure their borders and to take control of sanctuary cities?

If people take up arms against he federal government and say it is because of resistance, antifa, sanctuary cities, or shooting racist cops, that's treason. Same if it is due to Trump sending federal troops in. The appropriate response to the latter is to take it to court, not armed resistance.

Now, do you agree with me that if you use the rationale for gun ownership that it is to attack the federal government, that's rationale would be treasonous if you actually followed through

Thanks for all of you who understood I was not advocating for this extreme approach, just exploring whether there is a feasible path to a non-government regulated system of ownership.

I did see the one rationale for limiting gun regulation that I believe should be objected to everywhere and always regarding the United States: "Being armed is sometimes considered an auxiliary right, supporting the natural rights of self-defense and resistance to oppression"  I consider taking up arms against the United States to be treason, because someone who is using firearms to go after officers of the federal government pretty much fits within the category of "all enemies, foreign and domestic"

General Comments / How would you answer his SAT-style question?
« on: March 05, 2018, 01:13:12 AM »
I am in an extended debate elsewhere with a very intelligent friend of mine (he was the systems engineering lead on the LCROSS mission and for a few years on the James Webb Space Telescope). But we are at an impasse at a pretty basic level on how to interpret this paragraph from a 2013 government study. I'd like you to read it, then tell me which of two statements best summarize this paragraph:

"Defensive use of guns by crime victims is a common occurrence, although the exact number remains disputed (Cook and Ludwig, 1996; Kleck, 2001a). Almost all national survey estimates indicate that defensive gun uses by victims are at least as common as offensive uses by criminals, with estimates of annual uses ranging from about 500,000 to more than 3 million (Kleck, 2001a), in the context of about 300,000 violent crimes involving firearms in 2008 (BJS, 2010). On the other hand, some scholars point to a radically lower estimate of only 108,000 annual defensive uses based on the National Crime Victimization Survey (Cook et al., 1997). The variation in these numbers remains a controversy in the field."

  • the estimated number of defensive uses of guns ranges "from about 500,000 to more than 3 million per year."
  • the estimated number of defensive uses of guns ranges from 108,000 to more than 3 million per year.

The difference with cars is that driving is a privilege, a driver's license comes only with passing a written test, and then passing a behind-the-wheel test. 

I was trying a thought experiment to explore the other extreme, what if we didn't impose requirements that regulated the safety of a dangerous product, but instead tried to protect society solely through a chain of liability.

But the people in question are not complete innocents, Crunch. I am trying to put this in a framework that is free from government limitations, a conservative-side solution instead of a liberal one.

Surely you would agree that if a person were to produce a deadly neuro-toxin or genetically modified virus that was capable of doing harm, they would have some responsibility if that escaped their lab and actually killed people. And if they were to sell that neuro-toxin to someone else, and that second person used the neuro-toxin to kill people, there would be some liability for the original creator. My suggestion on guns is an exaggerated extrapolation on this premise, and if it helps you answer the question, we could limit this to guns whose primary design is to kill large numbers of human beings (rather than a shotgun or hunting rifle). 

I would like to hear a pro-gun advocate describe the principle that makes this approach wrong, because if you reject strict liability then you are left with (a) the necessity of government regulation, or (b) a society in which there is no way of limiting a harmful externality.

This is more a thought experiment than a serious policy.  It is an attempt both not to limit the freedom to own guns in any way whatsoever, but also be hyper-vigilant about responsibility. If you cause a gun to be manufactured, or if you choose not to destroy a gun that you own, then you share some of the responsibility if that gun is ever used in a murder. Theoretically, if you were a gun owner, that would make you as careful with that gun as if your own life depended on it. 

From some of the arguments I have heard about the 2nd Amendment, it's really about the freedom to own, and there isn't any part of the 2nd Amendment that limits your responsibility for potential murders later committed with a gun that you currently own.  So this seems like a policy that fully addresses the 2nd Amendment concerns, and therefore I am wondering what are the residual concerns that pro-gun-freedom people would have if we came up with a policy that addressed the 2nd Amendment, but still put a huge amount of pressure to prevent gun murders.

Here's a wild idea, may be a bad one, it's almost definitely not feasible, but I would be interested in feedback from strong 2nd Amendment supporters. 

What if there was no limit whatsoever on who could buy a gun. Zero. But we do add steps so that every time a person is murdered with a gun, we could impose a liability penalty on those who had custody at some point over the murder weapon.  Those steps may be expensive and annoying bureaucracy, they may even be draconian, they may create paranoia in the minds of those who believe they are justified in using hidden weapons against the US government, but would this approach address all of the issues associated specifically with the Second Amendment? Assuming you would not agree with this approach, why not?

Here's how it would work:
Every gun had to have a ballistics fingerprint in a national database (like a DNA database), every gun had to have a registered owner (would need a gun census only performed once), every gun sale (and re-sale) had to be registered, and if a gun was used in a murder then each person in the chain of custody would be liable for a sizable fine, say $1 million. The liability would be the same even if the gun were stolen.  And failure to register a gun would similarly carry a high fine (say, $100K per unregistered gun).

General Comments / Re: Trump just won the 2020 election
« on: March 03, 2018, 05:31:32 PM »
I think someone was talking to Trump about the special election for the Congressional seat near Pittsburgh, and claiming an intention to impose a tariff is his idea to move votes to favor the Republican.  The election is 10 days off, I suspect when that's done he will drop this idea and it never happens.

You have me there - the other name stuck in my mind...

“Let’s play Alternate Universe,” he wrote on Twitter. “It’s 2017, and President Hillary Clinton is facing charges that Chelsea met with Russians who offered oppo on Trump. Chelsea didn’t call the FBI; and Clinton nat sec adviser Jake Sullivan lied to the FBI about talking to the Russians.”

Nichols laid out the unfolding drama over a series of tweets. President Clinton fires the F.B.I. director after he declines her request to “let it go” on Sullivan. “Then, at least three other Clinton campaign officials end up indicted. All of them are tied in some way to a hostile foreign power.” Later, she threatens to “yank FOX’s license” because she didn’t like its critical coverage.

“I’m sure … totally sure …” Nichols added with no little irony, “that stalwarts of the G.O.P. would say: Look, this is a nothingburger, you can’t define ‘collusion,’ it’s just ‘the coffee boy,’ and on and on.”

General Comments / Re: President Trump Passes Standard Mental Exam
« on: February 26, 2018, 01:04:20 AM »
I am glad that he passed the mental fitness examination, That means that he will be treated as mentally competent as Bill Clinton when President Trump testifies for the FBI investigation, and will be held legally responsible for any potential perjury.

General Comments / Re: Comrade Trump and Russian insurgent hackers
« on: February 24, 2018, 01:35:16 AM »
With many fewer investigations and much less time than was spent investigating the Obama Administration, we now have far more examples of criminal behavior in the Trump Administration being so obvious that multiple people are confessing their guilt.

My question: what are all the ways that Republican apologists will try to dodge the clear reality that their conspiracy theories about crime in the Obama Administration were bogus and that their votes have brought in a far more corrupt and law-breaking Administration?

General Comments / Re: Comrade Trump and Russian insurgent hackers
« on: February 24, 2018, 01:19:32 AM »
Sources in the FBI were saying that Comey was being given the cold shoulder by the entire Bureau, with people walking past him in the hallway declining to even greet him. I've read accounts from at least a few agents saying that in their opinion he disgraced the Bureau.

Of course I don't work there so I can only go by what I've read, but if these accounts are accurate then his firing was an utter necessity.

Think about those sources - and then look at some actual data.

At the bottom of this article are all 100+ pages of FOIA'd emails showing exactly how those in the FBI reacted to the firing of Comey

You can either believe that there is an incredible conspiracy going on at every level, or that the President and his Republican shills told some outrageous lies that your sources have picked up and presented as if it were the truth

General Comments / Re: What's your 2017 tax bill (by percentage)?
« on: February 24, 2018, 01:08:39 AM »
Updated with correction dropped a decimal place on the last two (should not have tried to perform calculation while drinking plenty of wine and preparing for dinner)

24%  Federal income tax
8%    California state income tax
5% Total combined % paid for Social Security and Medicare (both my wife and myself)
1% Property Tax (on a 2400 sq-ft home with a shared garage with another home; roughly $1M value)

General Comments / What's your 2017 tax bill (by percentage)?
« on: February 23, 2018, 08:17:12 PM »
Just finished with Turbotax, the last filing of taxes prior to the massive shift of tax cuts to the wealthy that will be in place for 2018.  We had a good year for family income, with some stock option equivalents coming in that won't be here in 2018, and so this illustrates the current tax burden for families within the top  1%:

24%  Federal income tax
8%    California state income tax
0.5% Total combined % paid for Social Security and Medicare (both my wife and myself)
0.1% Property Tax (on a 2400 sq-ft home with a shared garage with another home; roughly $1M value)

And 99% of our income is from the wages/salaries/tips category - the tax rates would be even lower if more of our income came from investment (you know, the money that comes because you own stuff, not because you performed tasks in exchange for money).

So what percentages do you pay? And looking at the data, do you believe that the most important change in our tax structure was to cut rates so that 80% of the savings went to people in my income level or those who are wealthier?


But on the other hand I also think she knew she had classified information on that server and simply didn't care

Can you provide any evidence for that belief? What specifically did she say?

(and do you differentiate by type of "classified" information? I might imagine that she didn't care much about having the cell phone number for Boutros Boutros-Ghali in an email - which is classified at the "Confidential" level, but might have had concern about something more serious).

I'd like to see you establish that she has been held to a higher standard.  Please cite to any convictions record you wish to demonstrate that no one was convicted on a lower standard than what Hillary did.  We both know you are engaging in willful blindness as to the actual history of the standards that have been applied to others.

If having inadvertent classified information on an unclassified email was a real concern, why is there not an investigation of all the emails being sent on unclassified email now? Why wasn't there a concerted effort to root out the behavior of everyone who sent Clinton an email that included classified information - after all, this could well have come from career State Department employees who are still working for the government. Why not run an equal level of scrutiny on the private email server being used by the Trump White House - if we were to use the same level of skepticism that conservatives applied to everything ever done by Hillary Clinton, how can we believe that the current private server used by the Trump White House is not being used to conduct government business and does not contain classified information to the same degree as Clinton's server?

There is at least as much reason today to check the White House private server emails than there was to check the Hillary Clinton emails (remember, the private server was discovered by one of the eight Congressional investigations of Benghazi that produced not evidence of wrong-doing, but did succeed at its real goal as confessed on videotape by Republican Kevin McCarthy of driving down Hillary Clinton's favorability rating). So the same standard of justice would have the same level of scrutiny, and the same standards for what is legal and what is illegal.

Except it's not an assumption.  Recovered emails of hers that were not turned over were in fact government records. 

Can you show m the link that established this?

you were the one that a required policy was somehow the same thing as Hillary's unique idea to redirect all government communications that she received as Secretary of State outside of government control.  You should apologize for that one.
I can't respond to this because I am not quite sure what action of mine you are referring to

But that doesn't translate - to me - to an argument that we should apply a different and lower standard to Hillary than we do to others.

My argument is that Hillary Clinton is being held to a different and higher standard than any other government official. Can you name any other government official who had a team of dozens of government investigators go through every email they have ever received or sent while in office and looked for inadvertent disclosure of classified information, including retro-actively classified information? Can you name any other government official who had the level same effort applied to verifying compliance across tens of thousands of emails with government record keeping regulations?

Seriously, the only way to refute that point is to name all of those being held to a standard at least as high.

And then I'd like to see you defend the standard to which you hold President Trump relative to Hillary Clinton with respect to the use of personal (as opposed to government) communications technology and with respect to protection of classified information.

Yossarian, some of the cdos were leveraged between 10 and 20 times.

I fully understand risk pools, and the whole notion that in an orderly market with many independent actors, even if some behave irrationally there should be others who recognize the irrationality and self-optimize by betting the other way. Michael Lewis's The Big Short was about a few individuals who just did that, but the problem was that so many many others all bet the wrong way. This was specifically what Alan Greenspan confessed as a "fundamental flaw" in free market economic theory - in a functioning market, enough people are supposed to recognize irrationality and in their own self-interest pursue an arbitrage that richly rewards them by providing a market correction. It is a beautiful and elegant system, and it often works - but liberal economics (Post Keynsian and others) recognizes that it does not always work, and that vulnerability to catastrophic failure legitimizes some level of government regulation

You also seem to have an assumption that there is no inadvertent classified information in the 22 million Bush Administration emails or any of the Trump White House private server emails, but seeing as some of the "classified" emails were as simple as phone numbers for foreign leaders, and other may have been as unsubtle as lower level government employees accidentally making  references to news articles on Snowden or drone strikes (both of which may have information which is both widely available and get still restricted).


I read your two links. The first depends on an assumption that she deleted public records when she only turned over some of her emails. But for record keeping rules government employees are given that exact same flexibility with respect to paper records. If you followed the implied standard, you would have every government employee committing a crime if they did not turn over every piece of paper they had written in while in office. Because maybe they were destroying a government record if they didn't. But of course we never use that as a standard for anyone else in government because... Well, why not?

Seriati, how do you know that the Bush or Trump White Houses did not use their private servers for governmental business? Because they claimed that, and you believe everything they say? How about big we get over 100 investigators to go through tend of thousands of emails - might we find something?  We do know that President Trump was using his private cell phone for calls with world leaders early on, which is worse because those phone calls are actually classified at least at the confidential level.

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