Charles Krauthammer Doesn’t Know Science

Charles KrauthammerGoing back briefly to the Jonathan Chait article I mentioned earlier, there is one thing that Charles Krauthammer said that really bugged me. It’s been quoted various places but no one seems to have noticed the contradiction, so I figured that I should point it out.

The thing is that Krauthammer wants it both ways. Pure science that has no political implications is just fine, but applied science that indicates something that conservatives don’t want to do must be held to an impossibly high standard. He wrote:

99 percent of physicists convinced that space and time were fixed until Einstein working in a patent office wrote a paper in which he showed that they are not. I’m not impressed by numbers. I’m not impressed by consensus.

He is arguing that since Einstein changed physics, we can’t know that global warming is true. The problem with this is that there was this thing called the ultraviolet catastrophe. The entire physics community was worried about it. There was also the Michelson–Morley experiment. The entire physics community was worried about it. In the decades leading up to Einstein, physics was in crisis. It wasn’t the case that that physicists were sitting around thinking that they had it all figured out. It was quite the opposite.

On the other hand, now there is a consensus on relativity and quantum mechanics. But why should Kruthammer accept that consensus? After all, he just disregarded the consensus that he made up about late 19th century physics. Why is the new consensus any more believable than the old consensus? Scientists can’t be trusted!

His argument is very simple if we assume that his historical examples are correct (which they aren’t). There was a wrong scientific consensus about relativity before Einstein. Then the scientific community learned the truth and developed a new consensus, which is the truth. Thus, the consensus on global warming is wrong because the consensus in the past was wrong (even though it wasn’t).

What Kruthammer’s argument comes down to is that he doesn’t want to accept global warming as a fact because it will hurt the oil companies and others who he works for. Thus, he will say anything at all to avoid admitting the truth. And in 20 years, if he’s still alive, no one will treat him as the evil lobbyist who helped to stop the world from addressing its most pressing problem.

Chazz Darling Vampire Cop

Chazz Darling Vampire Cop

This is from yesterday’s The Colbert Report. Jake Rush is a Tea Party candidate running for Florida’s 3rd District House seat. He is an idiot, but not of the frothing at the mouth variety. He also does role playing as a vampire. That is, by far, the coolest thing about him. And that doesn’t really say anything about him. If I dressed up as a vampire, that would be the coolest thing about me. Of course, maybe that doesn’t say much about Rush given my coolness bonafides. But I love the image above. I would totally watch that show.

Here is the segment:

And here his interview with with the very good natured Jake Rush:

Will the Real Frank Conniff…

South by South SatanIn 1955, Frank Conniff went to the Soviet Union to interview Nikita Khrushchev and other communist leaders. This led the following year to his winning the Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting. At that same time he was a minor celebrity—frequently appearing on Who Said That?—a game show developed by Fred Friendly, who was later closely associated with Edward R Murrow. Later in his life, Conniff became TV’s Frank on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Wait! That’s can’t be right. The MST3K Frank Conniff was only born on the year that Frank Conniff won the Pulitzer. What’s going on, of course, is that TV’s Frank is actually Frank Conniff Jr. But given that his journalist father died when he was only 14 years old, he didn’t feel the need to distinguish. But it’s very confusing. What’s more, if you look at his Wikipedia page, there is no mention of his father except the usual warning, “For the Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, see Frank Conniff (journalist).” And on that page, the only mention of the younger Conniff is under “children” in the boxed information. (Actually, I just noticed that Frank Conniff the Younger has the same information in his box.)

It’s kind of weird because normally there would be some information like, “Frank Conniff was born on 30 August 1956 in New York City, the son of Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Frank Conniff…” The only reason I found out about Conniff’s famous father was that he sent out a tweet yesterday:

In related Frank Conniff news, I finally got around to listening to the newest Podhouse 90 (almost a year old at this point), “South by South Satan.” His first episode was “The Wonderful Pundits of Oz,” which I quite enjoyed, even though I thought it could have been tighter. In most ways, “South by South Satan” is as good. But it is primarily a single joke: Satan is responsible for all the terrible anemic songs you hate. It also lampoons the sell-out mentality of modern America and doesn’t have very nice things to say about Christians either. It’s more snark than anything, so if you like that and really dislike Michael Buble, check it out!

I’m just glad I got the Frank Conniffs sorted out.

Pro-Business Policies Don’t Help Economy

Menzie ChinnMenzie Chinn has been doing some amazing work over at Econbrowser about the effects of “pro-business” policies on economic growth in the states. In two articles, he compares payroll levels with the ALEC-Laffer Economic Outlook Rankings. He finds that states that don’t have the supposedly pro-business policies actually do better than those that do.

Of course, the truth is that the ALEC-Laffer rankings have pretty much nothing to do with economic growth. Chinn explains, “The ALEC-Laffer methodology equally weights 15 measures: Top Marginal Personal Income Tax Rate, Top Marginal Corporate Income Tax Rate, Personal Income Tax Progressivity, Property Tax Burden, Sales Tax Burden, Remaining Tax Burden, Estate/Inheritance Tax Levied, Recently Legislated Tax Changes, Debt Service as a Share of Tax Revenue, Public Employees Per 10,000 of Population (full-time equivalent), State Liability System Survey (tort litigation treatment, judicial impartiality, etc), State Minimum Wage, Average Workers’ Compensation Costs (per $100 of payroll), Right-to-Work State (option to join or support a union), and Number of Tax Expenditure Limits.” In other words, it’s just a conservative wish list. It’s a bunch of stuff meant to enrich and rich, and through the use of the job creator myth, they claim it is good for the economy.

Chinn’s first paper was, State Employment Trends: Does a Low Tax/Right-to-Work/Low Minimum Wage Regime Correlate to Growth? In it, he looks at four states that all got new governors in 2010: California, Minnesota, Kansas, and Wisconsin. The first two with Democratic governors got ALEC-Laffer ratings of 47 and 46—at the bottom of the list. The last two with Republican governors got ratings of 15 and 17. Yet over the last four years, the states with the supposedly bad economic policies have seen their economies grow more than the nation as a whole and those with the supposedly good economic policies have seen their economies grow less than the nation as a whole.

Of course, this raises the obvious question, “What about the other states?” So Chinn wrote, State Employment Trends: Does a Low Tax/Right-to-Work/Low Minimum Wage Regime Correlate to Growth—An Econometric Addendum. What he found was that there really isn’t any correlation, but as much as there is one it is that the “pro-business” policies actually hurt the economy.

Let’s think about that for a moment. If we had a really equitable economy, allowing people to keep more of what they make might actually improve economic growth. But our economy is already so out of kilter that we aren’t going to see improvements from policies that allow the rich to keep yet more of their money. In fact, the opposite case makes more sense: funneling more money to the poorer classes is going to be a better way to stimulate the economy.

I find myself being very frustrated with most political issues these days. In this case, it is clear what ALEC and Art Laffer are doing: they are lobbying for the rich. No one should take them seriously. The economics of this stuff is very clear. But this kind of determined ignorance seems to be all that the conservative movement is these days. Today, Jonathan Chait takes George Will and Charles Krauthammer to task over their comments about global warming. In addition to everything else, these guys push the idea that the scientific community has a vested interest in global warming being true. But they make absolutely no mention of the fact that the the rich people Will and Krauthammer represent have far greater interests in denying global warming.

This is why our civilization is dying. Hopefully another civilization will rise up after us. And if it does, books will be written about the rise and fall of the American Empire. And they will conclude that what went wrong was that we turned into an oligarchy that was focused on protecting the interests of the rich. As a result, the society ossified and slowly died. And people like ALEC and Laffer and Will and Krauthammer will be a big part of the story. Thanks guys!


H/T: Michael Hiltzik

John Brown Marches On

John BrownJohn Brown was born on this day in 1800. He was not a crazy man. He was not like the people today who think that abortion is such a terrible thing that they must murder doctors and others in the name of their cause. For one thing, these people rarely have much of clue what they believe. Other than being told by other believers, they have no idea why they believe that a 16-cell zygote is a human being. As I note all the time, Thomas Aquinas didn’t believe that. If a man of his great brilliance and erudition came to a different conclusion, it can’t be that obvious.

Brown thought about the issue of slavery carefully. And his idea was never to murder all the slave owners. His attack on Harpers Ferry was strategic. He thought that he could make a quick strike, cause a slave rebellion, and that slavery would quickly be ended. He was wrong about that—and deeply naive. But it was a reasonable thing to think at that time. While awaiting his death, he wrote, “I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood. I had, as I now think, vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed it might be done.”

On that point, he nailed it. American slavery was a very well designed system. It didn’t start out as racist. The problem that the ownership class had was that the working, indentured, and slave classes had this nasty habit of binding together and demanding things like money and dignity. So the ownership class invented racism. Thus, they made sure that whites would not get together with the blacks. It’s brilliant, because the whites were not getting anything. But by taking freedom away from the blacks, it made the whites feel like did get something. It’s like that great line from Mississippi Burning, “If you ain’t any better than a nigger, son, who are you better than?”

You see from this that “What’s the matter with Kansas?” is not new. The rich have always been able to divide the poor. In fact, that’s what they had to do. Otherwise, the people would never put up with something like royalty or, as we call them in this country, “job creators.” See all the jobs that the slave owners created?! That’s what capitalists want today. But they don’t want to call it slavery. But I don’t see much difference between slavery and someone working three jobs who also has to worry about the authorities arresting him (for any of thousands of laws that are not normally enforced) just because he steps out of line. With the way that many state prisons are now run, you can’t even say that at least we don’t torture the poor today.

Brown was right that it would take a lot of blood to wash away the sin of slavery. There are still apologists today who argue that it didn’t need to be that way. They say that slavery was a dying institution. But that’s not true. As soon as it could, the southern states enacted Jim Crow. It was less horrible than slavery, but only marginally so. And the truth is that if the federal government hadn’t stopped them, after the Civil War, they would have reinstituted slavery. Too much money was involved. The only thing that might have finally killed off slavery is if other countries stopped buying cotton from slavery states.

Today, John Brown is thought to have caused the Civil War to come about earlier than it would have because his raid on Harpers Ferry made the southern states paranoid. So his work was not in vain. But let’s never forget what slavery was all about: profits for a tiny slice of the people. And today, poor people are being held down, and in some cases even being tortured in jail, in the name of profits for another tiny slice of the people. Yet we people of the poorer classes go at each other, allowing the rich to gobble up more and more of our shared resources.

Happy birthday John Brown!

Afterword

Check out this great segment by Sarah Vowell from This American Life about John Brown and the song: