January 6, 2018

Free speech absolutists needed for Milo ?

Why do free speech absolutists scurry out of the woodwork to defend Milo Yiannopoulos, Richard Spencer, and Ann Coulter, but not Linda Sarsour, George Ciccariello-Maher, or Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor?

Have we made up our mind on whose "opposing views" are okay for college students to hear ?

-- Joshua Adams is a writer, journalist, and adjunct instructor at DePaul University. He holds a B.A. in African American Studies from the University of Virginia and a Journalism M.A. from the University of Southern California.

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January 3, 2018

Onward white evangelical Protestants

Self-identified, self-reported, but doubted:

Indeed it's hard to know who we do feel pity toward, except ourselves -- for we believe that we are the real victims in today's world. Those among us who are evangelical Christians are especially paranoid: While Americans overall are twice as likely to say there is more discrimination against Muslims than against Christians, the numbers are almost reversed for white evangelical Protestants.
And apparently things are getting worse: the percentage of evangelicals who said that religious freedom in the U.S. declined over the past decade rose from 60 percent in 2012 to 77 percent in 2015.

-- Charles Mathewes is a professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia, and a senior fellow at UVA's Miller Center.

October 22, 2017

GoogleBro James Damore, via Joe Rogan

1 - "No, you're wrong. You just have white male privilege."

2 - "People feel that they have to walk on eggshells otherwise they'll get reported to HR by some random activist within the company."

3 - "There's some underground efforts within Google to at least document some of this."
"...and they even have these automated scripts to try to find these negative things on people that they don't like."

4 - "We're going to sabotage their work."

5 - "Now they are trying to get into de-biased machine learning."

-- Via Joe Rogan.

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October 16, 2017

Facebook, Google, and Twitter function as a distribution mechanism, a platform for circulating false information and helping find receptive audiences,

The psychology behind social media platforms -- the dynamics that make them such powerful vectors of misinformation in the first place -- is at least as important, experts say, especially for those who think they're immune to being duped. For all the suspicions about social media companies' motives and ethics, it is the interaction of the technology with our common, often subconscious psychological biases that makes so many of us vulnerable to misinformation, and this has largely escaped notice.

Skepticism of online "news" serves as a decent filter much of the time, but our innate biases allow it to be bypassed, researchers have found -- especially when presented with the right kind of algorithmically selected "meme."

At a time when political misinformation is in ready supply, and in demand, "Facebook, Google, and Twitter function as a distribution mechanism, a platform for circulating false information and helping find receptive audiences," said Brendan Nyhan, a professor of government at Dartmouth College (and occasional contributor to The Times's Upshot column).

Authors Eytan Bakshy, Solomon Messing, Lada A. Adamic (Exposure to ideologically diverse
news and opinion on Facebook)
analyzed the news feeds of some 10 million users in the United States who posted their political views, and concluded that "individuals' choices played a stronger role in limiting exposure" to contrary news and commentary than Facebook's own algorithmic ranking -- which gauges how interesting stories are likely to be to individual users, based on data they have provided.

Continue reading "Facebook, Google, and Twitter function as a distribution mechanism, a platform for circulating false information and helping find receptive audiences," »

September 6, 2017

Big data machine learning insight: pick up trucks voted Bush/Trump, sedans voted Kerry/Hillary

Confirmed by Google Street View.

July 10, 2017

Correctness of Yale

The offensive online posts of June Chu, Dean of Yale University's Pierson College. This morning, Pierson Head Stephen Davis sent the following email to students and faculty:

Dear Pierson community,
I am writing to let you know that Dean Chu has been placed on leave and will not be participating in Commencement activities or working with students through the end of this academic year. In the meantime, Elaine Lincoln will be coordinating with Dean Mark Schenker in the Yale College Dean's Office to make sure that your academic needs are properly addressed.

On paper, Ms. Chu might appear to be among the most culturally sensitive people on the planet. She holds a Ph.D. in social psychology and previously directed the Pan Asian American Community House at the University of Pennsylvania. And according to Yale she's not just deeply concerned about particular groups of students. Her bio reports that she's also an "animal loving pescatarian."

Over the last year, Pierson College Dean June Chu published controversial reviews of local businesses on her personal Yelp account, on one occasion referring to clientele of a restaurant as "white trash" and "low class folks," and on another praising a movie theater for its lack of "sketchy crowds" despite being located in New Haven.

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June 22, 2017

Piketty's book, and to the growing salience of inequality

It's a testament to the power of Piketty's book, and to the growing salience of inequality as a political issue, that people like Jason Furman are giving Piketty's book respectful attention. The issue has gained enough traction that political elites now feel that they have to pay it lip service.

Still, their message is clear: minor reforms might be grudgingly allowed, but policies that threaten the wealth and power of the elite class are strictly out of bounds.

June 14, 2017

Zuckerberg for President, 2020

The baffler on Citizen Zuckerberg.

May 1, 2017

Not subtle attempt to troll

As an able-bodied white Protestant who was once thrown out of the Junior Republicans for being "above the threshold of racism we tolerate," I know a lot about what it's like to be persecuted.

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March 28, 2017

Projecting Trump

Projecting what you don't like about Trump, onto Trump supporters, a masterclass of normalization by Chris Brecheen, writer about writing.

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January 19, 2017

Hacking the news is social engineering: Clint Watts

The media is getting played, too

"The American press has focused a disproportionate amount of attention on Russian hacking and cyberattacks, and the reporting itself has only muddied the truth for most in the audience:

-- says Clint Watts, a former FBI special agent and Executive Officer of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, in an interview with CJR. Watts is now a senior fellow at the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security at George Washington University, where he analyzes social bots, trolls, and websites that intelligence agencies say are the foot soldiers of Russia's information war.

"The hacking generates information, which promotes Russia's influence campaign, but the end objective is to convince people to choose a candidate based on Russia's preference. This is getting confused, because people hear 'hack' and they think their votes are being changed."

It's a classic page from the Cold War playbook, says Watts, adding that Putin has brought new meaning to the Soviet-Era doctrine of using "the force of politics" rather than "the politics of force."

"The main success of this campaign is not that it took place, but the panic we are in now," Meister adds. "We've lost our self-confidence in our system, in our democracy, in our elections and in our media. That's the biggest success of the Russian campaign."

Continue reading "Hacking the news is social engineering: Clint Watts" »

January 11, 2017

Times up rides

Times-up organized some bike rides in NYC.

July 12, 2016

Nature Facebook experiment boosted USA voter turnout in 2010

Social pressure:

The experiment assigned all US Facebook users who were over 18 and accessed the website on the 2 November 2010 -- the day of the elections -- to one of three groups.

Social science: Poked to vote
Computational social science: Making the links Facebook 'likes' the scientific method

About 611,000 users (1%) received an 'informational message' at the top of their news feeds, which encouraged them to vote, provided a link to information on local polling places and included a clickable 'I voted' button and a counter of Facebook users who had clicked it. About 60 million users (98%) received a 'social message', which included the same elements but also showed the profile pictures of up to six randomly selected Facebook friends who had clicked the 'I voted' button. The remaining 1% of users were assigned to a control group that received no message.

The researchers then compared the groups' online behaviours, and matched 6.3 million users with publicly available voting records to see which group was actually most likely to vote in real life.

The results showed that those who got the informational message voted at the same rate as those who saw no message at all. But those who saw the social message were 2% more likely to click the 'I voted' button and 0.3% more likely to seek information about a polling place than those who received the informational message, and 0.4% more likely to head to the polls than either other group.

The social message, the researchers estimate, directly increased turnout by about 60,000 votes. But a further 280,000 people were indirectly nudged to the polls by seeing messages in their news feeds, for example, telling them that their friends had clicked the 'I voted' button. "The online social network helps to quadruple the effect of the message," says Fowler.

Nature's Facebook experiment boosts US voter turnout.

June 20, 2016

Krugman on Brexit / Remain: the credibility of pro-E.U. experts is so low

You can argue that the problems caused by, say, Romanians using the National Health Service are exaggerated, and that the benefits of immigration greatly outweigh these costs. But that's a hard argument to make to a public frustrated by cuts in public services -- especially when the credibility of pro-E.U. experts is so low.

For that is the most frustrating thing about the E.U.: Nobody ever seems to acknowledge or learn from mistakes. If there's any soul-searching in Brussels or Berlin about Europe's terrible economic performance since 2008, it's very hard to find. And I feel some sympathy with Britons who just don't want to be tied to a system that offers so little accountability, even if leaving is economically costly.

An adviser (Dan Davies) for Frontline Analysts, a global research outsourcing firm, supports Remain.

February 19, 2016

Delegate math vs Cruz 16 or Hillary 08

Leading proportional states but trailing in winner-take-all states does not add up to victory.

delegate allocation matrix puts Cruz's campaign at a serious disadvantage. For example, if Cruz wins the primary in his home state of Texas by one vote, he'll probably win a handful more delegates than his nearest competitor. By contrast, if Marco Rubio or Trump win Florida by one vote, either would win a whopping 99 more delegates than his nearest competitor

-- David Wasserman, U.S. House editor for the Cook Political Report, via 538.

May 26, 2015

-Shire vs -ton

The Tories are the party of shires and fords, and to a slightly lesser extent of woodland clearings (-ley, -leigh) and woods. Labour meanwhile are the party of -hams (as in, a farm or homestead), of -tons (or towns), and of fields.


Via KH.

January 31, 2015


The last century of The New Republic has bestowed a rich legacy of lessons, both positive and negative, on race. At its best moments, the magazine has been a beacon of fact-based reporting and a forum for rich debate over racial issues. At its worst, the magazine has fallen under the sway of racial theorizing and crackpot racial lore. Moving forward, any reformation program should start by honestly acknowledging the past. The range of non-white voices in the magazine needs to expand, not just by having more nonwhite writers, but by having writers who aren't just talking to an imaginary white audience but are addressing readers who look like the world. The magazine has to avoid the temptation to be an insular insider journal for the elite and recognize that its finest moments are when analytical intelligence is joined with grassroots reporting. The magazine's well-stocked and complex legacy shouldn't be jettisoned, but it can be reformed, built on, and made new.

-- Jeet Heer on TNR

Likewise, before his fabrication of articles was revealed in 1998, Stephen Glass penned a 1996 piece about the Washington, D.C. taxi cab industry that seemed to cater to Peretz's appetite for melodramas illustrating black cultural pathology. The article drew an invidious contrast between hard-working, uncomplaining immigrants who believed in the American dream versus entitled black Americans who spurned honest work (and chased after white women). The piece included imaginary details such as, "Four months ago, a 17-year-old held a gun to Eswan's head while his girlfriend performed oral sex on the gunman." Glass also claimed to be in a cab when a young African American man mugged the driver, and celebrated the exploits of a fictional Kae Bang, the "Korean cab-driver- turned-vigilante" who used martial arts to beat up black teenagers who tried to rob his cab. It's fair to say that Glass's fabrications in this piece and others did more damage to The New Republic than any event in its history. And it's hard to accept a piece like the above would have been published in a magazine which wasn't already inclined toward a pernicious view of African Americans.

Continue reading "On TNR" »

January 28, 2015

Heinlein's great talent for extrapolation

Heinlein's books in his right-wing phase hardly add up to a logical worldview. How do we reconcile the savage authoritarianism of Starship Troopers with the peace-and-love mysticism of Stranger in a Strange Land? For that matter, how do those two books jibe to the nearly anarchist libertarianism of the Moon Is a Harsh Mistress? On a more practical plain, how could Heinlein have called for both limited government and a NASA committed to colonizing space (surely a big government program if there ever was one)? TANSTAAFL went out the window when a space or military program caught Heinlein's fancy.

But all these books share one trait: They ignore the consequences of people's actions. Starship Troopers gives us war without PTSD and guilt over slaughter (the aliens are Bugs, so can be exterminated without remorse) just as Stranger in a Strange Land is a vision of sex without strings ("grokking" means never having to say sorry). In other books, Heinlein gave us incest without trauma.

December 14, 2013

Skew as a normative descriptor

Among the significant problems that aren't getting resolved is the site's skewed coverage: its entries on Pokemon and female porn stars are comprehensive, but its pages on female novelists or places in sub-Saharan Africa are sketchy. Authoritative entries remain elusive.

Of the 1,000 articles that the project's own volunteers have tagged as forming the core of a good encyclopedia, most don't earn even Wikipedia's own middle-­ranking quality scores.

December 8, 2013

discomfort, actionable

A white student may feel discomfort when it's pointed out to him how he has benefited from structural racism, but to compare that discomfort to discrimination is a false equivalency. Hurt feelings hurt, but it is not oppression.

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November 26, 2013

Technology industry shamed for one technologist's field report

A start-up founder named Peter Shih, listed 10 things he hated about San Francisco. Homeless people, for example. And the "constantly PMSing" weather. And "girls who are obviously 4s and behave like they're 9s."

April 9, 2013

Big data to win elections

"The trickiest problem, the one that will take the longest time to solve, is the creation of a culture of data and analytics, including training operatives to understand what data is," Lundry said. And the collaborative nature of "data ecosystems," he suggested, do not play to Republican strengths.

The Priebus report surveyed 227 Republican campaign managers, field staff, consultants, vendors and other political professionals, asking them to rank the Democrat and Republican advantages on 24 different measures using a scale ranging from plus 5 (decisive Republican edge) to minus 5 (solid Democratic advantage). "Democrats," the report noted, "were seen as having the advantage on all but one." As the graph on Page 28 of the report illustrates, most of the largest Democratic advantages relate directly to the integration of technology with "ground war" campaign activities like person-to-person voter contact, election-day turnout and demographic analysis:

The premier pro-Democratic quantitatively oriented organizations -- both for-profit and nonprofit -- have become crucial sources of data, voter contact and nanotargeting innovation for Democrats and liberal organizations. These include:

• Catalist, which maintains a "comprehensive database of voting-age Americans" for progressive organizations;

• The Analyst Institute, "a clearinghouse for evidence-based best practices in progressive voter contact," which conducts experimental, randomized testing of voter persuasion and voter mobilization programs;

• TargetSmart Communications, which develops political and technology strategies;

• American Bridge 21st Century, which conducts year-round opposition research on Republicans and conservative groups;

• The Atlas Project, which provides clients with online access to detailed political history from national to local races, including media buys and campaign finance data and a host of other politically relevant data;

• Blue State Digital, a commercial firm founded by operatives in Howard Dean's 2004 campaign that now provides digital services to clients ranging from the Obama campaign to Ford Motor Company to Google.

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March 8, 2013

Those who pay into Social Security

First, on Jan. 1 the tax wasn't hiked; it was restored to its 2010 level, after a two-year "holiday" that reduced the withholding to 4.2% of employees wages (up to wages of $101,800 in 2011 and $110,100 last year) from the 6.2% level in effect since 1990.

The idea was to deliver stimulus dollars to middle- and working-class families. But the holiday was always a wretched idea, in part because of what everyone knew would happen when the old rate reappeared --people treated it as a pay cut.

The worse flaw was that it was a lousy way to deliver targeted working-class relief. The change replaced the Obama administration's previous Making Work Pay tax credit, which delivered up to $800 to families earning $12,900 to $150,000.

The payroll tax break, by contrast, went only to those who pay into Social Security. So it left out 5.7 million state and local workers (mostly teachers). On the plus side, it fattened the paychecks even of the nation's top earners by a much-needed $2,100 or so.

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February 23, 2013

Earned-income tax credit and Minimum Wage: double or nothing ?

Finally, it's important to understand how the minimum wage interacts with other policies aimed at helping lower-paid workers, in particular the earned-income tax credit, which helps low-income families who help themselves. The tax credit -- which has traditionally had bipartisan support, although that may be ending -- is also good policy. But it has a well-known defect: Some of its benefits end up flowing not to workers but to employers, in the form of lower wages. And guess what? An increase in the minimum wage helps correct this defect. It turns out that the tax credit and the minimum wage aren't competing policies, they're complementary policies that work best in tandem.

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February 16, 2013

Buzzfed Ben Smith, too un-snobby for Brooklyn's Park Slope

Of the many things he learned from his grandfather, snobbery was not one of them. "He said to me at one point, 'I wrote for my friends, and my friends aren't intellectuals,' " Mr. Ben Smith, 36, editor in chief of BuzzFeed, said. "I kind of worshiped him growing up." He and his wife, Liena Zagare, cite a distaste for elitism as the prime reason they fled Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood for the less trendy Ditmas Park. "We got tired of being criticized for keeping our kid on a leash," Ms. Zagare, the publisher of Corner News Media, a local news site, said at the Hastings book party.

Mr. Smith is less a political enthusiast than a product of his upbringing. As a child, he was exposed to years of political debate between his father, a conservative Republican who was a partner at Paul Weiss, and his mother, a liberal Democrat who tutors learning-disabled children. "It's a good background for somebody who's not going to have incredibly strong political opinions," he said, refuting the pro-liberal bias he is sometimes accused of.

His grandfather was Robert Smith, a novelist in the 1940s who later turned to writing books about baseball, including "Baseball: A Historical Narrative of the Game, the Men Who Played It, and Its Place in American Life." His grandmother was Janet Smith, a Mark Twain scholar and editor of a 1962 collection called "Mark Twain on the Damned Human Race."

November 2, 2012

BREAKING (Cleveland): The Jews are good at disputation

Mandel has also been playing the Israel card in pursuit of the Jewish vote, despite the fact his opponent, the Democrat incumbent Sherrod Brown, co-sponsored the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012, legislation that deepens defense cooperation.

Among those troubled by Mandel's campaign is Austin Ratner, a novelist and the son of James Ratner. Mandel is related by marriage to the Ratner family. Austin Ratner wrote a piece this month in the Jewish Daily Forward arguing that family and tribal Jewish loyalty were misplaced in the political sphere, where reason must prevail.

He quoted his aunt, Deborah Ratner, a major Democratic fund-raiser, telling Mandel at a family gathering: "I don't want this to be awkward, but you represent everything I've spent my life working against." He also said some Democrat relatives "have supported Mandel's campaign out of family loyalty" -- a form of loyalty, he suggested, that "leads deeper into the darkness."

The Jews of Cleveland are arguing at high volume. They are good at disputation. In this case the argument could change the course of things far beyond Cleveland.

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October 27, 2012

Party for your right to not vote

Before asking why they will vote, I asked why most young people won't. They told me that many of the issues they care about -- climate change, civil rights, the war on drugs, immigration, prison reform -- are not discussed by Democrats or Republicans. That there is such a gulf between what candidates say they will do, and what they do, that it's impossible to trust anyone. That apathy is actually supported by the evidence.

October 26, 2012

Clinton, authentic

if you're Bill Clinton, you have to look at it this way: for your entire career as a candidate, other politicians tried to paint you as waffling and slippery, and not once did it actually work. (Well, there was that gubernatorial defeat in 1980, but that had more to do with Jimmy Carter and a bunch of Cuban refugees than anything else.)

Meanwhile, you won a couple of national elections by positioning yourself as the pragmatic bulwark against conservative extremism on one side and liberal excess on the other. So it would be natural to have learned that it makes more sense to exploit your opponent's rigid ideology than his general squishiness.

But Mr. Clinton's situation was different from either Mr. Romney's or Mr. Obama's. For one thing, Mr. Clinton's brand of centrism -- which Republicans, and a lot of Democrats, tried to portray as expedient -- actually sprang from a coherent worldview. The charges of inauthenticity never seriously wounded Mr. Clinton because, unlike Mr. Romney, he had been remarkably consistent throughout his political life, and where there was inconsistency, Mr. Clinton had a singular ability to argue his way out of it.

October 10, 2012

Trust the government in Washington to do what's right ?

The American National Election Study has long included a question about how much people "trust the government in Washington to do what's right," with the possible answers being "just about always," "most of the time," or "only some of the time." In the third graph we plot the responses to this question from 1964 on, when the A.N.E.S. first started to ask the question regularly. The graph shows three major features.


The graph shows that Republicans don't trust government less than Democrats do, historically. The real difference is that Republicans are more sensitive to who controls the White House. When their man is in, they trust government more than Democrats do. When their man is out, they trust it less. Democrats hold steadier; they seem to identify "government" less with the presidency than Republicans do.

Jonathan Haidt is a professor of business ethics at the NYU-Stern School of Business and the author of "The Righteous Mind." Marc J. Hetherington is a professor of political science at Vanderbilt University and the author of "Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics." They both write for Civil

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October 9, 2012

the 47 percent

Here's what Obama said:

"...our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there's no evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, a lot -- like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they've gone through the Clinton administration and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are going to regenerate, and they have not. It's not surprising, then, that they get bitter, and they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations. At least in some communities, anyway."

Here's Romney:

"All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what...These are people who pay no income tax."

Continue reading "the 47 percent" »

October 8, 2012

Democrats and Republicans speak up to their donorbase

For rich Republicans, the stereotype is all about the money: They have it, other Americans don't, and those resentful, entitled others might just have enough votes to wage class warfare and redistribute the donors' hard-earned millions to the indolent and irresponsible.

For rich Democrats, the stereotype is all about the culture wars: They think they've built an enlightened society, liberated from archaic beliefs and antique hang-ups, and yet these Jesus freaks in flyover country are mobilizing to restore the patriarchy.

Both groups of donors seem to be haunted by dystopian scenarios in which the masses rise up and tear down everything the upper class has built. For Republicans, the dystopia is (inevitably) "Atlas Shrugged." For liberals, it's one part "Turner Diaries," one part "Handmaid's Tale."

Both the right and left have provocative intellectual takes on how this new world came to be: Charles Murray's "Coming Apart" and Chris Hayes's "Twilight of the Elites," respectively, are this year's prime examples. But both takes are longer on description than prescription, and neither has much purchase on our politics.

--- Ross Douthat, the NY Times' abortion columnist tag teams Lord Saletan.

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September 20, 2012

Breaking: Krugman opposes Republican economic plan

Mr. Ryan, as you may recall, has positioned himself as an icon of truth-telling and fiscal responsibility, while offering policy proposals that are neither honest nor responsible. He calls for huge tax cuts, while proposing specific spending cuts that, while inflicting immense hardship on our most vulnerable citizens, would fall far short of making up for the revenue loss. His claims to reduce the deficit therefore rely on assertions that he would make up for the lost revenue by closing loopholes that he refuses to specify, and achieve further huge spending cuts in ways that he also refuses to specify.

But didn't the Congressional Budget Office evaluate Mr. Ryan's plan and conclude that it would indeed reduce the deficit? I'm glad you asked that. You see, the budget office didn't actually evaluate his plan, because there weren't enough details. Instead, it let Mr. Ryan specify paths for future spending and revenue, while noting -- in what sounds to me like a hint of snark -- that "No proposals were specified that would generate that path."

So Mr. Ryan basically told the budget office to assume that his plan would slash the deficit, then claimed the resulting report as vindication of his deficit-slashing claims. Sorry, but that's the policy equivalent of sneaking into a marathon near the finish line, then claiming victory.

-- Krugman

September 18, 2012

Scaling campaign contributors on a "liberal-conservative"

Stanford political scientist Adam Bonica has done terrific work mining public campaign donation records for insights into the behavior of campaign contributors. Using a scaling algorithm similar in flavor to those often applied to congressional roll call votes, he has mapped more than 50,000 candidates for federal and state offices and more than 11 million distinct campaign contributors on a "liberal-conservative" dimension.

September 14, 2012

Finish line equality: veil of opulence; Starting line equality: veil of ignorance

Nowadays, the veil of ignorance is challenged by a powerful but ancient contender: the veil of opulence. While no serious political philosopher actually defends such a device -- the term is my own -- the veil of opulence runs thick in our political discourse. Where the veil of ignorance offers a test for fairness from an impersonal, universal point of view -- "What system would I want if I had no idea who I was going to be, or what talents and resources I was going to have?" -- the veil of opulence offers a test for fairness from the first-person, partial point of view: "What system would I want if I were so-and-so?" These two doctrines of fairness -- the universal view and the first-person view -- are both compelling in their own way, but only one of them offers moral clarity impartial enough to guide our policy decisions.

Those who don the veil of opulence may imagine themselves to be fantastically wealthy movie stars or extremely successful business entrepreneurs. They vote and set policies according to this fantasy. "If I were such and such a wealthy person," they ask, "how would I feel about giving X percentage of my income, or Y real dollars per year, to pay for services that I will never see nor use?" We see this repeatedly in our tax policy discussions, and we have just seen the latest instance of it in the Tax Policy Center's comparison of President Obama's tax plan versus Mitt Romney's tax plan.

Benjamin Hale, assistant professor of philosophy and environmental studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a co-editor of the journal Ethics, Policy & Environment

Continue reading "Finish line equality: veil of opulence; Starting line equality: veil of ignorance" »

August 21, 2012

To argue that taxes on the working middle class must continue even as incomes contracted is to virtually guarantee a revival of conservatism and anti-government sentiments of the kind that now characterize our politics.

To argue that taxes on the working middle class must continue even as incomes contracted is to virtually guarantee a revival of conservatism and anti-government sentiments of the kind that now characterize our politics.

-- Gary Hart

Continue reading "To argue that taxes on the working middle class must continue even as incomes contracted is to virtually guarantee a revival of conservatism and anti-government sentiments of the kind that now characterize our politics." »

August 16, 2012

A brief "golden age" of Mormonism's positive image

The brief "golden age" of Mormonism's positive image -- roughly 1935 to 1965, according to Jan Shipps, perhaps the leading non-Mormon scholar of the Latter-day Saints -- coincided with a period of conservative Protestant retreat. Embarrassed after their fight with modernists in the mid-1920s, evangelical Protestants withdrew from public engagement, built their own impressive church and educational networks, and re-emerged in the 1970s as a formidable force on the political right. The subsequent "countercult" movement within evangelicalism targeted Mormonism with gusto.

Anti-Mormon attacks by evangelicals have betrayed anxiety over the divisions in their movement and their slipping cultural authority as arbiters of religious authenticity. Some big-hearted evangelicals have recently reached out to Mormons with genuine understanding, but they must now fend off charges of getting too cozy with Satan's minions. Because evangelicals are hard pressed for unity to begin with, and because they have defined themselves less and less in terms of historic Christian creeds, their objections to Mormonism might carry less and less cultural weight.

J. Spencer Fluhman, assistant professor of history at Brigham Young University and author of t" 'A Peculiar People': Anti-Mormonism and the Making of Religion in 19th-Century America."

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August 12, 2012

Katie Roiphe reproduces

All of the liberal concern about single motherhood might more usefully be channeled into protecting single mothers, rather than the elaborate clucking and exquisite condescension that get us nowhere. Attention should be paid to the serious underlying economic inequities, without the colorful surface distraction of concerned or judgmental prurience. Let's abandon the fundamentally frothy question of who is wearing a ring.

-- Katie Roiphe

To support the basic notion that single mothers are irresponsible and dangerous to the general order of things, people often refer vaguely to "studies." I am not a huge believer in studies because they tend to collapse the complexities and nuance of actual lived experience and because people lie to themselves and others. (One of these studies, for instance, in order to measure emotional distress asks teenagers to record how many times in a week "you felt lonely." Is there a teenager on earth who is a reliable narrator of her inner life? Can anyone of any age quantify how many times in a week they have felt lonely?) But since these studies provide fodder for those who want to blast single mothers, it's worth addressing what they actually say.

Studies like those done by the Princeton sociologist Sara S. McLanahan, who is one of the foremost authorities on single motherhood and its impact on children, show that conditions like poverty and instability, which frequently accompany single-mother households, increase the chances that the children involved will experience alcoholism, mental illness, academic failure and other troubles. But there is no conclusive evidence that, absent those conditions, the pure, pared-down state of single motherhood is itself dangerous to children.

PROFESSOR McLANAHAN'S studies over the years, and many others like them, show that the primary risks associated with single motherhood arise from financial insecurity. They also offer evidence that, to a lesser extent, particular romantic patterns of the mother -- namely introducing lots of boyfriends into children's lives -- contribute to the risk. What the studies don't show is that longing for a married father at the breakfast table injures children.

And Professor McLanahan's findings suggest that a two-parent, financially stable home with stress and conflict would be more destructive to children than a one-parent, financially stable home without stress and conflict.

There is no doubt, however, that single motherhood can be more difficult than other kinds of motherhood. In France, the response to the added difficulty is to give single mothers preferential access to excellent day care. Here the response is moralism disguised as concern and, at other times, simply moralism.

The idea of "single mothers" may itself be the convenient fiction of a fundamentally conservative society. In fact women move in and out of singleness, married parents break apart, men and women live together without marrying, spouses or partners die, romantic attachments form and dissolve. Those who brandish research like Professor McLanahan's ongoing Fragile Families study and Paul R. Amato's 2005 paper on changing family structures to critique "single mothers" conveniently ignore the fact that such investigations rely on shifting, differing and extremely complex definitions of the households involved.

July 28, 2012

NY Times' Keller: the entitled generation

NY Times' opinion keller: the entitled generation

We seem to have entered one of our periodic seasons of boomer-bashing. In rapid Op-Ed succession, we children of the postwar demographic bulge have been blamed for turning religion into an indulgent free-for-all, for giving elites a bad name and for making greed respectable, or at least acceptable. That's just this month, and just on this page. And it's not only conservatives beating us with the Woodstock whip. Kurt Andersen, a confessed liberal and one of our more prolific cultural omnivores, started the latest thumping July 4 with an argument that amoral self-gratification is just the flip side of social liberation: "Thanks to the '60s, we are all shamelessly selfish."

The notion that our generation has been spoiled rotten is not a terribly new thought. A dozen years ago Paul Begala (of Bill Clinton and CNN fame) published in Esquire the classic of boomer-loathing, "The Worst Generation." "The Baby Boomers are the most self-centered, self-seeking, self-interested, self-absorbed, self-indulgent, self-aggrandizing generation in American history," he declared. It's a sturdy genre. Perhaps while Googling yourself you have come across the blog Boomer Deathwatch ("Because one day, they'll all be dead"), a checklist of famous boomers who hit their actuarial sell-by dates. Even Barack Obama, who styles himself post-boomer though he was born in 1961, complained in "The Audacity of Hope" that today's hyperpolarized political discourse began with the "psychodrama of the baby boom generation."

July 27, 2012

Maddow's talent is explication

Rachel Maddow's show - no less partisan or liberal than Olbermann's, but marked by less conflict and more explication, less righteous fury and more policy wonkery - has become a prototype for MSNBC, a new idea for how liberal anger might play on TV, and the network has added shows by hosts who think very much like she does: Chris Hayes, Melissa Harris-Perry. "She's a model for everyone at this channel," says Phil Griffin, the head of MSNBC. "They look at her and, in their own ways, they want to be like her."

Maddow's talent is explication, of rendering complex topics clearly, and so her show, uniquely for cable news, reserves the first 18 minutes of airtime for a lengthy essay, a deconstruction of a single political topic, usually some obscure conservative shift in a state legislature, or some ripple in the foreign-policy universe that has gone unnoticed. Most political talk shows are filmed so tightly that the heads of their hosts fill the screen, so that the host's personality is front and center. The Rachel Maddow Show uses a far wider shot, so that Maddow herself occupies a smaller part of the screen, off to the side. The shift is subtle, but the message is starkly different. Bill O'Reilly, on Fox News, is a combatant and a champion. Maddow is a guide. O'Reilly's show says, Look at me. Maddow's says, Picture this.

Continue reading "Maddow's talent is explication" »

July 4, 2012

New Brooklyn of Hakeem S. Jeffries (vs Charles Barron)

The district, newly configured and renamed as a result of the 2010 Census, stretches through the spine of Brooklyn and spills over into Queens. It takes in the poor and working-class housing projects of Brownsville, East New York, Canarsie and Coney Island but also middle-class and increasingly affluent brownstone areas like Clinton Hill, Fort Greene and Prospect Heights, as well as the stouter homes of Manhattan Beach, Marine Park and Howard Beach. Both candidates are African-American in a district that is 53 percent black, but the outcome of the primary may hinge on the reality that the recent redistricting has introduced large pockets of white voters (22.4 percent) and Hispanic voters (18 percent). The district also includes large Jewish enclaves.

-- Hakeem S. Jeffries vs Charles Barron

June 28, 2012

More right than left: UK newspapers

Looking at the three left of centre dailies: The Guardian sold 367,000 copies a day five years ago, it now stands at 214,128; The Independent 249,536 versus 98,636 today; the Daily Mirror 1,537,243 versus 1,084,355.

Collectively that is a sales decline of 35 per cent.

Looking at the main right of centre dailies, the Daily Mail was selling 2,300,420 copies a day five years ago versus 1,991,275 today; the Daily Express 760,086 versus 568,628; the Daily Telegraph 898,817 versus 576,790; The Times 629,157 versus 393, 187 and The Sun 3,047,527 versus 2,624,008.

Conclusion: tech-savy young lefties don't buy print.

April 22, 2012

Top ten shows by party affiliation

The top-ten Republican-tilted shows are "The Office," "Rules of Engagement," "The Mentalist," "New Yankee Workshop," "The Big Bang Theory," "Castle," "Desperate Housewives," "Dancing With The Stars," "The Biggest Loser," and "Grey's Anatomy."

The top ten most Democratic-leaning shows are "Washington Week," "Tavis Smiley," "Late Show with David Letterman," "The View," "PBS NewsHour," "NOW" on PBS, "House of Payne," "ABC World News Now," "60 Minutes" and "Insider Weekend."

These patterns are demonstrated in a fascinating paper, "Separation by Television Program: Understanding the Targeting of Political Advertising in Presidential Elections," by Travis N. Ridout, Michael Franz, Kenneth M. Goldstein and Feltus, which was published earlier this year in the journal Political Communication.

-- Thomas B. Edsall, a professor of journalism at Columbia University, author of "The Age of Austerity: How Scarcity Will Remake American Politics".

Continue reading "Top ten shows by party affiliation" »

April 21, 2012

Essence of unfogged

Possibly over the weekend I will write something long about Jonathan Haidt and (a) how his now six-axis system of morality is still missing something (something like honesty, integrity, or intellectual coherence) (b) how he's irritating the crap out of me (c) why conservatives generally are bad people along this missing axis (and how this explains Republican hostility to science); and (d) why this explains Graeber's hissy-fit, and arguments about 'tone' generally.

Posted by: LizardBreath | 04- 5-12 9:17 AM

Continue reading "Essence of unfogged" »

April 9, 2012

The optimality of the national health insurance 'must purchase' mandate

The health care mandate was defended as a kind of technocratic marvel -- the only policy capable of preventing the complex machinery of reform from leaking smoke and spitting lug nuts.

But the mandate is actually a more political sort of marvel. In the negotiations over health care reform, it protected the Democratic bill on two fronts at once: buying off some of the most influential interest groups even as it hid the true cost of universal coverage.

The mandate offered the interest groups what all entrenched industries desire: a fresh and captive market for their products. For the insurance companies, it promised enough new business to offset the cost of covering Americans with pre-existing conditions. For the health care sector as a whole, it guaranteed that disposable income currently being spent on other goods and services would be spent on its instead.

This explains why the health care bill was ultimately backed by so many industry lobbying groups, from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America to the American Medical Association. It explains why the big insurers, while opposing the final legislation, never attacked it as vigorously as they did Bill Clinton's ill-fated reform effort.

At the same time, by requiring the private purchase of insurance, the mandate kept the true cost of the health care expansion off the government's books, and largely out of the Congressional debate. As the Cato Institute's Michael Cannon has noted, during the Clinton era the Congressional Budget Office scored an individual mandate as a form of government spending, which pushed the official cost of the Clinton bill into the trillions. But the Obama White House was savvier in its mandate design, and the C.B.O. was more compliant in its scoring. As a result, a bill that might require over $2 trillion in new health care spending -- private as well as public -- over its first decade was sold with a $900 billion price tag.

So the mandate was politically brilliant, in a sense.

April 29, 2011

Cult of rationality

Let me be clear: Trump's little game doesn't reflect American ideology as much as it exposes the flaws within it.

It further exacerbates a corrosive culture on the right that now celebrates the Cult of Idiocy -- from Glenn Beck to Michele Bachmann -- where riling liberals is more valuable than reason and logic, and where intellectualism and even basic learnedness are viewed with suspicion and contempt.

Of Donald, Dunces and Dogma
Published: April 22, 2011
The destructive game Donald Trump is playing, and its welcome on the right, only exposes the flaws in American ideology and further corrodes the Republican brand.

April 24, 2011

Americans do not want to be involved in politics

"Governing isn't, and shouldn't be, about party loyalty. It's about what's best for America."
Isn't this the mantra of Village thinking? Oh politics, when will you ever grow up?

Americans often complain about the operation of their government, but scholars have never developed a complete picture of people's preferred type of government. In this provocative and timely book, Hibbing and Theiss-Morse, employing an original national survey and focus groups, report the governmental procedures Americans desire. Contrary to the prevailing view that people want greater involvement in politics, most citizens do not care about most policies and therefore are content to turn over decision-making authority to someone else. People's wish for the political system is that decision makers be empathetic and, especially, non-self-interested, not that they be responsive and accountable to the people's largely nonexistent policy preferences or, even worse, that the people be obligated to participate directly in decision making.

Stealth democracy: Americans' beliefs about how government should work
John R. Hibbing, Elizabeth Theiss-Morse

Continue reading "Americans do not want to be involved in politics" »

February 19, 2011

Economists vs know-nothings

The great battles of the future in all likelihood will continue to have their origins in technical economics. That is, after all, where the brains are.

-- David Walsh

From where I sit, it looks as if the ascendant doctrines in our policy/political debate are coming precisely from people who don't know and don't care about technical economics. The revival of goldbuggy sentiment, the fear of hyperinflation in the face of high unemployment, the continuing force of the notion that tax cuts don't increase the deficit, aren't coming from some subtle battle among mathematical modelers; they're coming from the same people who reject evolution, climate science, and more. They don't need no stinking technical analysis. The truth is that the economics profession is proving far less relevant to public debate, even in the face of economic crisis, than was dreamed of in our philosophy.

-- Krugman

December 12, 2010

Middle class under $250k, Democrat messaging gone wrong

Yes, Democrats are fools to tear their hair out over this deal, which gives them most of what they wanted: the middle-class tax rates, unemployment benefit extension, payroll-tax cut, and so on. They compound the idiocy by advertising higher taxes on the rich as their core objective. Forget relieving poverty, widening access to health care, improving opportunities for the disadvantaged. What matters more than any of that is sticking it to "millionaires and billionaires" (two-earner households making more than $250,000). You bet, the Democrats are acting like fools.

-- Clive Crook

May 21, 2010

Cass Sunstein, blog leader

Junior Minister for 4Chan ?

Sunstein had, during his academic career, a penchant for publishing trial balloons -- they were a necessary part of his inquiry, a perpetual what if? Now, with their author a government official, some of these conjectures seem more worrisome. Sunstein has, for example, written often about the corrosive effects of rumors and falsehoods on democratic discourse (it is the subject of one of the two books that were published while he was waiting to be confirmed last year), and in a 2008 paper, he proposed that government agents "cognitively infiltrate" chat rooms and message boards to try to debunk conspiracy theories before they spread. The paper was narrowly concerned with terrorism, but to some, these were dark musings. The liberal essayist Glenn Greenwald, writing in Salon, called the proposal "spine-chilling."

Continue reading "Cass Sunstein, blog leader" »

March 15, 2010

New FCC Puts Performance Before Prudishness

The blueprint reflects the government's view that broadband Internet is becoming the common medium of the United States, gradually displacing the telephone and broadcast television industries. It also signals a shift at the F.C.C., which under the administration of President George W. Bush gained more attention for policing indecency on the television airwaves than for promoting Internet access.

In a move that could affect policy decisions years from now, the F.C.C. will begin assessing the speeds and costs of consumer broadband service. Until then, consumers can take matters into their own hands with a new suite of online and mobile phone applications released by the F.C.C. that will allow them to test the speed of their home Internet and see if they're paying for data speeds as advertised.

"Once again, the F.C.C. is putting service providers on the spot," said Julien Blin, a telecommunications consultant at JBB Research.

Continue reading "New FCC Puts Performance Before Prudishness" »

December 26, 2009

How to argue 6: not 'connecting the dots', by Hoekstra

Language skill of the day: Accuse your opponent of not 'connecting the dots':

Speculation about terrorist plots based on limited information is a fool's game. We know very little about Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab's attempts on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 yesterday, though there are some pretty obvious questions about how he got materials on board, how dangerous they were, and what his associations may be.

Responsible federal officials will wait to get a more detailed picture before popping off in the media, making reckless accusations. Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R) of Michigan, inexplicably the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, has not yet been briefed on yesterday's incident, but that hasn't stopped him from trying to exploit the Abdulmutallab matter to score some cheap partisan points.

"It's not surprising," U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, a Holland Republican, said of the alleged terrorist attempt to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight in Detroit. ... "People have got to start connecting the dots here and maybe this is the thing that will connect the dots for the Obama administration," Hoekstra said.

#6 in the language series, How to argue (when facts and logic are against you)

Continue reading "How to argue 6: not 'connecting the dots', by Hoekstra" »

December 13, 2009

How to argue: deny anticipation or expectation

Might people start bracing or fleeing from dreaded future changes ? No according to washingtonmonthly / Steve Benen.

But Boehner nevertheless hasn't lost his unmitigated gall confidence, and has an op-ed in the Washington Post today about how right he is about the economy.

I was actually curious to see what he'd come up with. After all, just over the last two weeks, Boehner has blamed job losses on policies that don't exist yet, and rejected the idea of a jobs bill as "repulsive." Boehner hosted an "economic roundtable" last week with a bunch of former Bush aides, so maybe he's come up with something specific to offer by now.

While the Republican from Ohio says the decrease in the unemployment rate is encouraging, he says "anyone who views today's report as cause for celebration is out of touch with the American people, especially when Washington Democrats' policies -- whether it's a government takeover of health care, a national energy tax, or 'card check' -- are already costing jobs and will pile even more debt on our kids and grandkids."

How to argue, the series, in Language.

December 8, 2009

Progressive polemics take on the 'he'-cession

hecession: recession where male incident unemployment overhsaddows female unemployment.

Progressive take and spin on the econonomic scene:

As women's job losses mount, some women--especially unmarried women--are facing an increasingly grim job market. Unmarried women have much higher unemployment than married women. In October, 10.3 percent of unmarried women age 20 and over (3.3 million) and 5.7 percent of married women (2.1 million) were unemployed (see figure below; all data by marital status is not seasonally adjusted). Although unmarried women represent less than half (46.5 percent) of all women workers, they account for 6 in 10 (60.8 percent) of women workers who are unemployed. The situation is worse for unmarried women who head families, most of whom are single mothers, who now have an unemployment rate of 12.6 percent, 2.4 percentage points above the national average.

Question not asked: are married women more likely to drift into and out of the laborforce, given job prospects or lack thereof ?

Continue reading "Progressive polemics take on the 'he'-cession" »

October 11, 2009

Buycott ?

One set are free-enterprise champions who argue that politicizing consumption distorts prices and spurs overproduction while imposing arbitrary conditions on producers -- like insisting that developing-world farmers enroll their children in school -- that might sound good to Westerners but ignore complex local realities.

Insisting on the noblest production methods conflicts, these critics say, with the very function of markets: to bring the most goods to the most people as cheaply as possible.

Another group of critics doesn't deny political consumption's power. Rather, they bemoan that citizenship has come to this.

Citizenship, for them, is about voting, marching, writing -- about being involved. In the modern age, they say, we have begun to turn inward, bowl alone, shirk our public duties. And now comes this cheap (in the moral, if not economic, sense) way to participate just a little, assuage guilt just a little, involve ourselves just a little in AIDS and trade, feel just a little of activism's thrill.

In an article last year in The Lancet, the British medical journal, the scholars Colleen O'Manique and Ronald Labonte strongly condemned RED, the marketing campaign for iPods and other products whose purchase helps to finance the battle against H.I.V./AIDS in Africa.

"Be wary of the 21st century's new noblesse oblige that replaces the efficiency of tax-funded programs and transfers in improving health equity with a consumption-driven 'charitainment' model," they wrote.

September 4, 2009

Democrat plan to stop private health insurance companies from providing benefits ?

After years of complaining about private health insurers denying care, the democrat plan
is now to penalize insurers who do provide full coverage.

Mr. Baucus's plan, expected to cost $850 billion to $900 billion over 10 years, would tax insurance companies on their most expensive health care policies. The hope is that employers would buy cheaper, less generous coverage for employees, thereby reducing the overuse of medical services.

The separate new fee on insurance companies would help raise money to pay for the plan. The fee would raise $6 billion a year starting in 2010, and it would be allocated among insurance companies according to their market shares.

The fees were first proposed by Senators Charles E. Schumer of New York, John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan. Until now, Mr. Baucus had not shown interest in the idea.

Mr. Schumer said, "The health insurance industry should pay its fair share of the cost because it stands to gain over 40 million new consumers under health care reform legislation."

Mr. Rockefeller said the fees were justified because insurance companies were "rapaciously, greedily and unstoppably making money by underpaying the patient, by underpaying the provider and by overpaying themselves."

Continue reading "Democrat plan to stop private health insurance companies from providing benefits ?" »

August 1, 2009

The utility of Joe Biden

The addition of Mr. Biden was interesting, for a number of reasons. Mr. Biden was able to draw on his credibility with blue-collar, labor union America and his roots in Scranton, Pa., to add balance to the photo op that the White House presented: two black guys, two white guys, sitting around a table.

The four drank out of beer mugs. Mr. Obama had a Bud Lite, Sergeant Crowley had Blue Moon, Professor Gates drank Sam Adams Light and Mr. Biden, who does not drink, had a Buckler nonalcoholic beer. (Mr. Biden put a lime slice in his beer. Sergeant Crowley, for his part, kept with Blue Moon tradition and had a slice of orange in his drink.)

Officer Crowley is said (Carney @Clusterstock) to be a fan of Blue Moon, the faux Belgian Wheat Ale that is actually made by Canada's Molson. According to the Boston Globe, Gates likes Red Stripe and Beck's.
See also BagNews' take.

Continue reading "The utility of Joe Biden" »

June 3, 2009

Health Care: Coverage vs Cost

During the campaign, Obama talked about the need to control medical costs and mentioned a few ideas for doing so, but he rarely lingered on the topic. He spent more time talking about expanding health-insurance coverage, which would raise the government's bill. After the election, however, when time came to name a budget director, Obama sent a different message. He appointed Peter Orszag, who over the last two years has become one of the country's leading experts on the looming budget mess that is health care.

Their argument happens to be supported by a rich body of economic literature that didn't even make it into the book. More-educated people are healthier, live longer and, of course, make more money. Countries that educate more of their citizens tend to grow faster than similar countries that do not. The same is true of states and regions within this country. Crucially, the income gains tend to come after the education gains. What distinguishes thriving Boston from the other struggling cities of New England? Part of the answer is the relative share of children who graduate from college. The two most affluent immigrant groups in modern America -- Asian-Americans and Jews -- are also the most educated. In recent decades, as the educational attainment of men has stagnated, so have their wages. The median male worker is roughly as educated as he was 30 years ago and makes roughly the same in hourly pay. The median female worker is far more educated than she was 30 years ago and makes 30 percent more than she did then.

Continue reading "Health Care: Coverage vs Cost" »

April 1, 2009

Middle class, social security, FICA taxes

A hypothetical on the middle class tax cut, or tax hike ?

You favor eliminating the cap on earnings subject to the 12.4 percent Social Security tax, which now covers only the first $102,000. A Chicago police officer married to a Chicago public-school teacher, each with 20 years on the job, have a household income of $147,501, so you would take another $5,642 from them. Are they undertaxed? Are they rich?

March 26, 2009

Armies of the homeless as political props

"If George W. Bush becomes president, the armies of the homeless, hundreds of thousands strong, will once again be used to illustrate the opposition's arguments about welfare, the economy, and taxation."

-- Mark Helprin, Oct. 31, 2000

In Obama's 2009, Calculated Risk is nostalgic for Reagantowns of the 1980s.

February 3, 2009

Stimulus scuffle -- jobs, earmarks, pork, stimulus, or what.

Stimulus scuffle -- it will be really difficult to re-contextualize such discussions by year 2020.

But with public opinion quickly turning against the bill, and the House Republicans claiming the moral high ground as they held formation to oppose him, how could Obama be distanced from responsibility for elements of the bill under GOP attack and remain above the fray? That seemed to be the locus of White House concern, and according to those familiar with what happened, the "polarizing" Nancy Pelosi was designated to take the fall.

Rather than define the bill by its substance and make its opponents attack jobs creation, the strategy was to talk about process -- how everyone's ideas on both sides of the aisle would be welcome and that this bill would represent the best bipartisan thinking about how to face the current economic crisis. That left the door wide open for Republicans to step through and caterwaul that their ideas weren't being respected in this new halcyon world of bipartisanship, and somebody had to take the blame. Nancy Pelosi, come on down!

-- Jane Hamsher @ FDL

February 2, 2009

Krugman and Clinton: middle class up to $250,000 in 1993

Middle class faded out above $140,000 to $250,000 per year, back in 1993.

Paul Krugman, 1993 on Bill 'Middle Class Tax Cut' Clinton's tax plan:

Bill Clinton's economic program: higher income taxes for wealthy Americans. Families with taxable incomes above $ 140,000 currently pay a tax rate of 31 percent. The Clinton plan will raise that rate to 36 percent, and families with taxable income over $ 250,000 will pay 39.6 percent.

Suppose a couple earning $ 200,000 a year has a $ 600,000 mortgage, two children in expensive colleges, large car payments and lavish tastes.

Continue reading "Krugman and Clinton: middle class up to $250,000 in 1993" »

February 1, 2009

Stimulus Prototype: walking around money

The stimulus efforts could focus on public goods and durable infrastructure, taking advantage of a lull in private investment to deploy underutilized resources without
crowding out much private investment.

Or, the stimulus could just be a lot of walking around money.

Some street money comes from party fundraisers, like the Philadelphia Democratic Party's biannual Jefferson-Jackson dinner. But most of it comes directly from the candidates. Everyone from the presidential nominee to congressmen and state representatives are expected to chip in. (The top of the ticket usually contributes the most.) In Philadelphia, the candidate sends a check to the chairman of the city's Democratic Party, who then divides the money up among the 69 ward leaders, who in turn divvy up their cash among the 50 or so committee people in each ward. In 2004, John Kerry spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Philadelphia street money, and ward leaders received checks for as much as $8,000. Individual volunteers can generally expect anywhe
re from $10 to $200, depending on the location and the type of work they're doing.

January 16, 2009

So sorry

So sorry ?

Are you as sorry as you were four years ago ?

January 12, 2009

The public good of local trains

Public goods are a great outlet for soveriegn spending. But are new projects really shovel-ready ?

Commuter trains are topping the charts at

NIMBYs are organizing.

Supporters of trains are lining up.

January 8, 2009

America's middle class is motorized mobilized

Is ever increasing car ownership a healthly goal. Or is mobility a healthier goal ?

I worry that the avalanche of troubles already ongoing will overwhelm Mr. Obama and his people. It's also well worth worrying whether they will pursue policies similar in kind to the ones pursued by Bush, namely throwing money at everything and anything, and it sure looks like they are planning to do just that. I am especially concerned about an "infrastructure stimulus" project aimed at highway improvement at the expense of public transit. This would be the epitome of a campaign to sustain the unsustainable middle class. We need to begin planning right away for a transition away from automobiles, not in order to be good socialists but because Happy Motoring is at the core of our unsustainability trap.

Continue reading "America's middle class is motorized mobilized" »

December 24, 2008

Mathew Yglesias

Mathew Yglesias gets some attention this week.

What makes Matt worth noting ?

He's mildly ingratiating, sometimes merely diplomatic; and he shows the education and writing ability to articulate the practical consensus of his readers.

On the downside, he moves is blog every six months, to the American Prospect, Tapped, Atlantic, to ThinkProgress; maybe he should just park it on Xanga.

Continue reading "Mathew Yglesias" »

November 3, 2008

Socially conscious /ethical investing

Ahead of the Crisis

Social conscious investing did will in 2008.

Amy O'Brien, part of the social and community investing department at TIAA-CREF, says that Social Choice Equity screens financial-services companies based on factors that include corporate governance, predatory-lending practices, transparency and executive pay.

"The themes that underpin the current crisis are themes that the socially responsible investing community and corporate-governance people have been talking about for a number of years," Ms. O'Brien says.

Matt Zuck, part of a five-person management team of AHA Socially Responsible Equity Fund, says that while screens can sift out some bad stocks, the discipline of tighter screening requires a manager to dig deeper. "It forces you to ask more questions about a company. It's valuable as an analytical tool," he says.

See also Vice stocks down in recession.

Continue reading "Socially conscious /ethical investing" »

October 31, 2008

Under $250,000 is middle class: Obama

A show of hands at an Obama rally Thursday after the candidate asked who made less than $250,000. Senator Barack Obama says those middle class audience members would benefit from his plan.


Mr. Obama opposes extending President Bush's tax cuts. Instead, he proposes various tax breaks, including a $500 tax credit for each person in a household who works, a larger child care tax credit, a $4,000 tax credit each year for the first two years of college, and eliminating all income taxes for those over 65 with income less than $50,000 a year.

To reduce the deficit and inequality, he would raise the tax rate for single households with incomes of $200,000 or more and for families with incomes over $250,000. He would also raise taxes on capital gains and dividends.

For married couples with incomes of $500,000 with two children and both parents working, the Tax Policy Center found that Mr. Obama would raise income taxes by $3,363, from $110,955 now, while Mr. McCain's plans would leave taxes unchanged. Deloitte found that a $500,000-a-year couple would pay $3,100 more under Mr. Obama, with no change under Mr. McCain.

Mr. McCain also proposes giving many households a $5,000 tax credit when they buy family health insurance, which costs $12,000 nationwide on average.

Previously: Charles Gibson of ABC: $200,000 a year was a middle-class income.

Continue reading "Under $250,000 is middle class: Obama" »

October 19, 2008

John Cleese on Sarah Palin

Funnier than Michael Palin.

July 9, 2008

SUV culture

Have you ever tried to talk someone out of a bad idea?

Some people are going to be open-minded and listen to your objections,
and if you're actually right, they'll consider the evidence and take
your advice. Some people will get defensive, however, and refuse to listen.

Some people will get so defensive that they'll actually double down to
prove the nay-sayers wrong--they'll marry that bad boyfriend or put more
money into the bad investment. They will, rather than risk the chance that
they might get proven wrong and open themselves to a chorus of
"I told you sos", will live in denial about their bad decisions until the last
possible moment when it's becoming clear that they cannot sustain this
bad decision any longer.

Having framed the question, the fact that America's reaction to
increasing evidence of both peak oil and global warming would be to
reduce our average gas mileage was entirely predictable.


it was inevitable that a high percentage of people would like SUVs not in spite of their low mileage, but because of the low mileage. Instead of wishing human nature to change, then, I'm going to suggest that the people who exploited this rationalization tendency hold the lion's share of the blame. For people who wanted to engage in wishful thinking about the relationship between oil and environmental problems, right wing pundits, car companies, and oil companies did all the hard psychological rationalizing work for people. They painted critics as effeminate hippies that are just trying to tell you what to do because they're sanctimonious and nosy. (That some really are sanctimonious only made the situation worse.) They gave people pseudo-scientific explanations they could latch onto.


June 22, 2008

How to argue part 3: complaining means losing

"When you are crying foul in a presidential campaign, it usually
means you are losing."

-- Mr. Chris Lehane, the Democratic operative, pronounced himself
that the McCain campaign was feeling victimized.

How to argue (without facts or logic), the series.

May 12, 2008

How to argue, part 8

Yglesias' argument is emphatically about a practical,
politically feasible Democratic foreign policy, and not
about seizing the quasi-pacifist moral high ground.

-- CC@unfogged.

March 3, 2007

How to argue, part 2: My view

You are doing what you accuse older feminists of doing
-- declaring your views unassailable simply because you
have them.

They say,"You weren't there,"
You say, "You aren't here."

Okay, but you still have to make your case -- plenty of
young women, including young feminists, don't share
your POV. Your real beef with Ariel Levy, for example,
is not that she's too old and out of it to understand
young women (she's only in her early thirties).

It's that you don't agree with her view that today's
sexual culture (girls gone wild, hooking up etc) is
basically exploitation and exhibitionism packaged
as feminism. I'm not saying she's right or wrong,
I'm just saying that "Female Chauvinist Pigs" presents
an actual argument, not a mindless ignorant diss
of young women by some old fussbudget who
knows little about them.

Katha Pollitt, in response to The Feminist Sorority.

How to argue (without facts or logic), the series.

February 22, 2007


We moved to Canada, by former Americans.

February 1, 2007

The Tyee Vancouverite proleview culture zone cannot be elitist.

January 30, 2007

Dean Baker on economic news

Dean Baker: business reporting is not not leftish enough.

January 20, 2007

Atrios's bookshelf

Atrios's bookshelf.
A former economist, indeed.


December 5, 2006

Sex-positive ?

Do they need to be feminists who like porn or can
they be porny types who are also feminists?

-- MeFi

December 3, 2006

Stephane Dion takes Canada's Liberal leadership / Stéphane Dion - Parti libéral du Canada


Science, research and education powerhouse

Record: The Budget-maximizing Bureaucrat,
Explaining Quebec Nationalism,
The Collapse of Canada
Parties and the Size of Government in Liberal Democracies

Fans and endorsers:

Rob Edger
Westmount Liberal
Calgary Grit
The Tyee - Laura

Accepted by:
Fuddle Duddle (formerly fuddle-duddle)
dynamiteonline (but Dion needs to learn to speak English)

Bob Rae-supporting RedTory says 'Dion was, um, clumsy at best and his English, quite atrocious and haphazard'.

Continue reading "Stephane Dion takes Canada's Liberal leadership / Stéphane Dion - Parti libéral du Canada " »

November 4, 2006

Squabbling vs assessing the alternatives

We, we are assessing the alternatives. The other guys,
they are divided and squabbling.

Continue reading "Squabbling vs assessing the alternatives" »

October 8, 2006

Glenn Greenwald / Unclaimed Territory

Glenn Greenwald, litigator, (vs W) passes the hat.

Unclaimed Territory on W, again. An appreciation.

September 24, 2006

Side Show UK

SideShow UK, left news summary and blog survey.

September 20, 2006

Credit Slips

CreditSlips covers consumer lending from an
aspiring consumer protectionist regulator perspective.

Generally well informed and level headed:
debt trading,

Consuming is where consumers feel in control
(compare to John Fiske, "Shopping for Pleasure: Malls, Power & Resistance").

Innumerate: one number represents the whole population ?

September 19, 2006

City on a Hill

On how Freedom became central to the Republican party's
campaign for word domination.

Nunberg notes there are lots of metaphors for the state
—a ship adrift, an actor on the world stage, a city on a
hill, a house with crumbling foundations—and there is
simply no reason to think one of them structures our
political thought. We should all thank Nunberg for
suggesting that there is no thread, metaphorical or
logical, that runs through the contingently evolving
packages of partisan commitment.

-- WW

August 10, 2006

What democrats must do

We must talk about good stuff to get elected.
Here is he good stuff we will do.

Now, when you preface your policy proposals by indicating that said
proposals are intended to win elections and unite your party, you have
already pretty much ended any chance that people will think you
making said proposals because you believe in those proposals.

This is because, well, you just said that the purpose of these
proposals was to win elections. Americans love it when politicians
admit in public that their legislative proposals are designed to win

Meme democratic leadership.

July 21, 2006

Jane and her poodles

Mickey and Mallory ?
Jane Hamsher of Fire Dog Lake in New Haven, feeling the Joementum.

Continue reading "Jane and her poodles" »

July 9, 2006

Inconvienient for free

See Al Gore's movie for free.

Update 2006 July: Now the 12th bigge$t movie of the week,
and the 4th bigge$t documentary of all time.

June 7, 2006

Fire Dog Lake / Jane Hamsher

Fire Dog Lake / Jane Hamsher. Example . With Christy Hardin Smith.

May 13, 2006

Governance: Gore 2008 ?

Governance could be worse. Draft Gore 2008.
Also: Ozone Man's Climate Crisis and SNL address
-- YouTube (Flash), C & L (QuickTime).

As for immigration, solving that came at a heavy cost, and I
personally regret the loss of California.

Previously: Al Gore's heart and soul, protecting our children
from the dangers of smoking.

May 8, 2006

For money

Dilbert's war for money.

April 17, 2006

Bull Moose / Marshall Wittman

Bull Moose aka Marshall Wittman is a fair handed Democrat.

April 1, 2006

Love Makes a Family in Connecticut

Love Makes a Family's cable guy Ned Lamont (opponent of legitimate
Joe Leiberman) events in Connecticut.

March 30, 2006

Danbury, hatcityblog

Hatcityblog watches Danbury, CT.

March 12, 2006

Bang me silly, Claude Allen

When all else fails, the Administration has simply preached:
In February, a hundred CDC researchers on sexually transmitted
diseases were summoned to Washington by HHS deputy secretary
Claude Allen for a daylong affair consisting entirely of speakers
extolling abstinence until marriage. There were no panels or
workshops, just endless testimonials, including one by a
young woman calling herself "a born-again virgin."

-- "Bootylicious" Brock.

Continue reading "Bang me silly, Claude Allen" »

March 4, 2006

George W Bush, comforter.

George W Bush, comforter.

BUSH: When I saw TV reporters interviewing people
who were screaming for help. It looked the scenes
looked chaotic and desperate. And I realized that our
government was could have done a better job of
comforting people.

Americans should find comfort in knowing that millions
of their fellow citizens are working every day to ensure
our security at every level -- federal, state, county, municipal.

The more people learn about the port deal and the
government's scrutiny of it, the more they'll be comforted.

February 7, 2006

genx40 / Alan McLeod

Generation X at 40 attracts civil thoughtful comments.
How Canadian.

Highlights: Friday chat.

Down with pervasive remote-sensing automated computerized
biometric surveillance - Up With Hats !

February 2, 2006

Blue Grit / Ryan Ringer

bluegrit epitomizes level headed Liberals. Example:

is the tendency for leftists to ally themselves with brutal enemies of
western civilization. There were many leftists during the Cold War
who empathized with the Soviet Union. In the same vein, today,
there are many who try to make excuses for the Islamists.

-- 2006 Feb.

January 2, 2006

D-Squared digest

d-squared digest; jump into threads late.
Lefty English snark.

December 28, 2005

Traditional values

For all their crowing about traditional values, it's the right that
has embraced decadence, sadism, vice and corruption.

A very revealing portrait of what's happening in America explains
some things about why the right is so successful. And it's the
opposite of what everybody says it is. It isn't because they've
become more moral and religious. It's because they've fostered
and exploited extremism, nihilism and cruelty.

After all, if it was the libertine culture of "Brokeback Mountain" or
"unwed motherhood" or (gasp) abortion that was creating this
shift, you'd think we would have benefitted, not them. For all
their crowing about traditional values, it's the right that has
embraced decadence, sadism, vice and corruption.

Continue reading "Traditional values" »

December 14, 2005

Feel like a player, be a Republican supporter

The Republican Party doesn't offer to validate your identity.
It offers to give you an identity....The identity it offers you
is that of a player.

-- Garret Keizer,
Crap Shoot: Everyone Loses When Politics Is a Game,

December 7, 2005

Upscale Feminism in NY

Shorter NYT. Feminism as upscale as our advertizers.

December 1, 2005

log base 2

logbase2 is mostly biostatistics and visualization,
with a blast of r.

Bonus (detritus ?): And compliant lefty Canadian commentary.

October 30, 2005

Who needs Prop 79 for drugs in California ?

Proposition 79 would use the purchasing power of the State of
California to negotiate the best price for up to ten million
Californians, who now pay more than anybody else in the world
for prescription drugs.

* Prop. 78 is completely voluntary for drug companies: they
are free to choose whether or not to offer discounts.

* Prop. 79 has an enforcement mechanism. If a drug company
refuses to provide discounts, the state can shift business away
from that company and buy more from other drug companies that
offer discounts.

Above is from the so-called Better California campaign site for
Prop 79 *.

Klingian Question of the Day:
What is preventing buyers from comparison shopping
between drug companies, either now or under Prop 78 ?

October 25, 2005

Legislating from the bench

* Any judicial ruling overturning a law is in wrong, that judges
can only decide what a law means not whether or not it is
Constitutional, so that any ruling overturning a previous ruling
that made new law is simply restoring order to the land. That
negating something doesn't bring anything else into existence.

* State legislatures and Congress are the only ones with the
authority to intepret the Constitution and that they also have the
power to change it whenever they choose, without having to resort
to a Constitutional amedment.


Continue reading "Legislating from the bench" »

October 20, 2005

Daily Howler

Daily Howler chronicles the errors and omissions of beat reporters.
It should run as as series of footnotes below the broad pages of
the main stream media, as law review footnotes run below the
simplified article text, or better, as mash up with a Joel, Tom,
and Crow providing counter-commentary below the official

Example: Chief Justice Robert's proletarian roots vs Vice-President
Gore's agrarian roots.

October 7, 2005

Decembrist: fear of a coherent vision

Decembrist (Mark Schmitt) offers essay-length laments.

Examples: The confessional, Fear of a coherent Democrat vision;
video game paradigm and no fan of Italian beastiality.

September 24, 2005

Chief Justice Roberts

Roberts purports to rock: offers lawyer jokes
and doubts Michael Jackson.

August 12, 2005

Matthew Yglesias

Washington DC -centric well written worldly views at
typepad: example; and at tpmcafe: example.

August 9, 2005


Without parental consent, BitchPhD overcomes depression.

July 5, 2005

Don't Need Your Gheto Scenes

Bush on Canada.

May 30, 2005

British Columbia election roundup

The Liberals will form the next government after this month's
provincial election (2005 May 17) in British Columbia. Exactly who
will be sitting in the House isn't certain yet in at least two
ridings after initial counts ended in razor-thin margins.


Right: Fraser Institute

The Liberals have almost nothing to gain by placating the demands of
union leaders. They may further recognize that introducing flexible
and balanced labour laws would result in a better functioning labour
market for B.C. workers, one characterized by higher rates of job
creation, lower unemployment, and higher wages. Finally, they may also
realize that, by introducing measures of flexibility into the
province’s labour laws, they will indirectly weaken the powers
afforded union leaders.

Contrary to the posturing of many union leaders, B.C. still maintains
relatively rigid and biased labour laws. A recent evaluation of
provincial and state labour relations laws found that B.C. ranked 57th
out of the 60 jurisdictions in terms of flexibility and balance.

Lorne Gunter


Antonia Zerbisias

Politics in BC


Even bear604 is no fan of Jenny Kwan

Continue reading "British Columbia election roundup" »

May 23, 2005

The Washington Note

The Washington Note: opposition viewpoint from close up on Capitol Hill,
by Steve Clemons.

April 12, 2005

Germans poke their eyes out and see America

Red states, blue states, as seen from Germany.

Continue reading "Germans poke their eyes out and see America" »

April 11, 2005

Bibamus: left democrat but fair

Bibamus' economic punditry is left democrat partisan but fair. A notch less shrill than
Economist's View.

April 8, 2005

Economist's View / Mark Thoma

Economistsview offers leftist hardcore partisan commentary, often Oregon-centric, posing as economic analysis. (archives).

Update 2006 May: value added.
Update 2005 October: Offers pointers to academic papers and Fed speeches.

Update 2010 Jan:
at CBS MoneyWatch. They named it named Maximum Utility 1,

April 1, 2005

Busy Busy Busy

busybusybusy is a great leftish summary the
day's talking heads' punditry.

December 10, 2004

Political Animal / Kevin Drum

Kevin Drum is Political Animal, the in-house blogger of
The Washington Monthly and something of a clearinghouse
for smart liberals.

Update Dec 2008: Moved to Mother Jones. as Kevin Drum.

November 26, 2004

Liberal Oasis

Liberal Oasis is a hand-edited (not an RSS automaton) portal of what's hot and
recent in the liberal - left - democrat websphere.

November 19, 2004

The American Prospect & Matthew Yglesias's Tapped.

The American Prospect (mostly Matthew Yglesias)'s Tapped.
Leftish news and mostly logical commentary.


November 18, 2004

The Left Coaster

The Left Coaster. A liberal blog
with more thinking than linking.

November 17, 2004

Blue state Sprocketers dream of seceding.

When not dreaming of fleeing to Canada, Blue State Sprocketers dream of seceding.

November 2, 2004

Averaged Poll predicts undecideds for Kerry

election.princeton by Sam Wang averages all polls, fits a trend, and
predicts Kerry will win.

Monday, 2004 November 01, 12:00PM noon Eastern time

Median outcome, decided voters:
Kerry 252 EV, Bush 286 EV (±40 EV MoE)

Popular Meta-Margin among decided voters:
Bush leads Kerry by 0.9%

Predicted median with undecideds:
Kerry 280 EV, Bush 258 EV

Electoral prediction with undecideds and turnout:
Kerry 323 EV, Bush 215 EV

Popular vote prediction with undecideds and turnout:
Kerry 50%, Bush 48%, Nader/other 2%

October 26, 2004


Newdonkey, well produced and reasonable democrats.

October 22, 2004

Atrios Eschaton / Duncan Black

Atrios Eschaton, aka Duncan Black's late breaking partisan
democrat news and spite, punctuated by occasional thoughtful commentary
about Ricardian equivalence. ('Eschatology' is a long word
for end game.)

Update 2008 August:twittering


On ABC's The Note:

I've been reading the Note since the middle of the 2004
presidential campaign, and I must say it's one of the funniest
things I've ever encountered. It's the perfect parody of the
insular, snobbish, in-crowd mindset of Washington journalism.

You've captured everything: the craven subservience to power,
the swooning over empty Republican chest-beating, the total
ignorance of issues that matter to non-millionaires, the snide
sidelong shots at people who understand those issues, and -
particularly when you talk about Howard Dean - the pissiness of
people who believe themselves elite and can't quite understand
why nobody else is listening to their pearls of wisdom.

It's like a transcript of a cocktail party attended exclusively
by ultra-rich child molesters and whores. Congratulations on
the brilliant work, and remember the words of satirist Michael
O'Donoghue: "Making people laugh is the lowest form of comedy."

More like this: Archives.

Atrios' bookshelf. shows some economics.
Unaffiliated with Immanentize the eschaton.

Continue reading "Atrios Eschaton / Duncan Black" »

October 21, 2004


Dailykos, frequently updated democrat group blog.

Also publishes Dkosopedia, WiKi for lefty democrats.

October 19, 2004

James Wolcott

James Wolcott, well written punditry and spinsterism.

October 4, 2004

Talking Points Memo / Joshua Micah Marshall

Talking Points Memo, Joshua Micah Marshall.

Update: On the presentation skills of George W. Bush, 43.

Update 2007 Sept.: Fawning CJR profile.

October 3, 2004

MyDD :: Due Diligence of Politics / Chris Bowers

MyDD :: Due Diligence of Politics -- Chris Bowers.

April 18, 2003

Speak no evil

One Sunday I was driving through Missouri on Interstate 70, letting the
radio scan through the frequencies, and pausing on each station for a
minute. I heard a country station, a news talk station, another country
station, and a religious service. The commentator on the news talk station
was horrified that a grant for AIDS awareness was being used to
talk about sex (in San Francisco). His view now enjoys national influnece.

Speak No Evil

Scientists who study AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases say they
have been warned by federal health officials that their research may come
under unusual scrutiny by the Department of Health and Human Services or by
members of Congress, because the topics are politically controversial.

The scientists, who spoke on condition they not be identified, say they have
been advised they can avoid unfavorable attention by keeping certain "key
words" out of their applications for grants from the National Institutes of Health
or the Centers for Disease Control and Prion. Those words include sex
, men who sleep with men, anal sex and needle exchange, the
scientists said.

[Full story below]

Continue reading "Speak no evil" »