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A Man Needs A Fish Like A Woman Needs a Bicycle
Monday, October 24, 2005
AND THIS IS THE GUY WITH HIS FINGER ON THE BUTTON?: I was reading Atrios, got sent to Americablog which then sent me to the The NY Daily News where the President was complaining about how everyone is to blame for the pickle he currently finds himself in, except for himself: "The President is just unhappy in general and casting blame all about," said one Bush insider."

Well, if I was getting as hammered as the President is curremtly getting by fortune, I think I would be casting around for blame as well.

However, Americablog's pronouncement at the end is a little understated, I think:

"And, the worst is yet to come. If the pressure is getting to him now, the next few weeks and months are going to get really interesting."

Well, "interesting" is not the word I have in mind: "frightening" might be right up there. After all, this is the man with his finger on the button. What if God tells him that the earth needs to be cleansed?

Just thinking out loud...
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Sunday, October 16, 2005
WHY ARE CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICANS, WHO CONTROL THE EXECUTIVE AND LEGISLATIVE BRANCHES OF GOVERNMENT FOR THE FIRST TIME IN LIVING MEMORY, SO VULNERABLE TO THE PHENOMENON OF CRIMINALIZATION?
I dropped by The Weekly Standard, to read the above, agonizing question proposed by Messers Kristol and Bell. Their answer: We just don't know!

"Is it simple payback for the impeachment of Bill Clinton? Or is it a reflection of some deep malady at the heart of American politics? If criminalization is seen to loom ahead for every conservative who begins successfully to act out his or her beliefs in government or politics, is the project of conservative reform sustainable?
We don't pretend to have all the answers, or a solid answer even to one of these questions. But it's a reasonable bet that the fall of 2005 will be remembered as a time when it became clear that a comprehensive strategy of criminalization had been implemented to inflict defeat on conservatives who seek to govern as conservatives.
"

For the life of me, I had this bizarre notion that it was because there have been, you know, crimes committed (Gasp! Shock! Horror!) . Most likely by folks who happen to be, you know, conservative Republicans who abused their positions of authority to either pig out at the trough or get back of those who disagreed with them in petty and vindictive ways. Its just a coincidence, I know! And that it might be a partisan vendetta, wail the authors? Well, I wonder about this partisanship. Who started it? As Edgar Allen Poe wrote: " cui bono are rendered "to what purpose?" or, (as if quo bono,) "to what good." Their true meaning, nevertheless, is "for whose advantage." Cui, to whom; bono, is it for a benefit." Who benefited from this partisan atmosphere. Could it have been the ruling party? After all, they have remained in power, and have fought what have been described as partisan and divisive campaigns themselves through each of the post 9-11 federal elections to keep that power (the treatment of Max Clelland, anyone?).

I shake my head in admiration. It takes a big pair (or two) to publish this lamentation.

A final observation: We see the outline of the (not so) new conservative talking point: We failed because we didn't have a compliant media that reported what we told them in glowing terms--its the SCLM's fault! That's the Dolchstoss of the conservative class. We only had the executive and the legislative (and a big chunk of the top judicial) branches. We needed more--we needed the lower courts as well. And clearly, we could have made it if the damn media hadn't stabbed us in the back!

Are these folks part of the reality based community?
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Sunday, October 09, 2005
HOARDING JUNK: HOARDING AS NON-EVOLUTIONARY, OR, WHY EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGISTS ARE NOT ECONOMISTS: Just read an interesting article in Times On-Line. The bottom line is that hoarding is hard-wired into our brains, because valuing the things we have more than what others offer us for it menas that we will tend to stay alive longer:

"“From an evolutionary viewpoint, if you can get more of something that’s good for you, such as food, you will be healthier and better off and have more children,” Professor Huck said.

In a hunter-gatherer environment, where people have to swap meat against, say, berries to get a balanced diet, it is advantageous to like the food to which one has immediate access more than what might be reasonable from a purely nutritional view. This is because a preference for the food we already have strengthens our resolve when we are bargaining for other goods, enabling us, on average, to make better deals."

Now this all makes sense, except for one tiny little problem. If this were true, why would anyone trade? After all, according to the theory provided, I will not trade at anything other than a very high valuation. But, on this argument, those I trade with must feel the exact same way, and so they also want a truly high valuation--a high price. So, where does trade come in? Economists say that trade aoccurs because those who value what they have trade it for higher valued items.

So, the evolutionary explanation leaves me unconvinced. This little morsel though sheds some more light:

“An alternative evolutionary explanation for the endowment effect is that if one learns to like what one has, one may spend less costly resources to acquire other goods.”

So, its about habit and preferences now. And this makes more sense. We get used to holding things that we own.

Or, helping out the evolutionary biologists, we could say: Even if we value what we have more than it is worth, the fact is that we usually have more than one of it. The mug experiment is not very helpful--it assumes one unit of consumption, only. We usually have more than one unit to consume, so that diminishing marginal valuation kicks in. We usually have more than enough, and so, we value it less highly than otherwise might if we have only one. After all, we love variety in consumption. So, we are willing to trade some of it--but then, this stops being an explanation of the economic viability of hoarding, and rather just one more factor to be considered. Our love of uniqueness becomes a more useful explanator--fitting hoarding into that framework becomes more useful.
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