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Who to trust in a world or experts, pundits and bloggers?

26 Mar

ask_an_expert

The answer:  no one!  A study described in the NYT today, says that “expert” predictions, although they do have a slight impact on public opinion are no better than random guesses. The best part too is that the better name recognition with this expert, the more likely they were to be wrong!  Sigh…who can we trust nowadays.  Is Krugman wrong too!?

The expert on experts is Philip Tetlock, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. His 2005 book, “Expert Political Judgment,” is based on two decades of tracking some 82,000 predictions by 284 experts. The experts’ forecasts were tracked both on the subjects of their specialties and on subjects that they knew little about.

The result? The predictions of experts were, on average, only a tiny bit better than random guesses — the equivalent of a chimpanzee throwing darts at a board.

“It made virtually no difference whether participants had doctorates, whether they were economists, political scientists, journalists or historians, whether they had policy experience or access to classified information, or whether they had logged many or few years of experience,” Mr. Tetlock wrote.

Indeed, the only consistent predictor was fame — and it was an inverse relationship. The more famous experts did worse than unknown ones. That had to do with a fault in the media. Talent bookers for television shows and reporters tended to call up experts who provided strong, coherent points of view, who saw things in blacks and whites. People who shouted — like, yes, Jim Cramer!

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Weed is the big issues even with 465,476 votes on 13,725 questions from 28,425 people.

26 Mar

top-ten1

Obama held an online forum today.  As if Leno, 60 minutes, his public press conference etc weren’t enough exposure already (I’m not complaining).  And these were the top questions from each category – taken from the Open for Questions forum at WhiteHouse.gov.  The most notable questions are from Financial Stability and Budget — both about marijuana legalization.  Hot topic right now.  A bill to legalize marijuana is coming up across state legislatures as well, like in Mass.  (Thanks for the heads up JS).

Some media outlets are saying that Norml pulled a fast one on the voting by rallying all their members.  Either way, the President brushed the question off with a grin and possibly some inner-monologue reminiscing.  His response was (USA Today),

“I don’t know what that says about the online audience,” the president says with chuckle.  “The answer is no, I don’t think that is a good strategy to grow our economy.”

You can watch the whole question session here.

Education:  “The Founding Fathers believed that there is no difference between a free society and an educated society. Our educational system, however, is woefully inadequate. How do you plan to restore education as a right and core cultural value in America?”

Home Ownership:  “President Obama: What benefits from the stimulus plan are there to those of us who are paying our mortgages, but living paycheck to paycheck?”

Health Care Reform:  “Why can we not have a universal health care system like many European countries, where people are treated based on needs, rather than financial resources?”

Veterans:  “The unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is higher than the national unemployment rate. Our veterans are a national treasure. How can you, the VA and I ensure our veterans are successfully transitioning into civilian life?”

Small Business:  “what specifically can the federal govt do to lower the cost of providing quality health coverage for small business owners”

Auto Industry:  “What steps are being taken to ensure that the auto industry uses the bailout money it gets responsibly, so that we don’t end up in this same situation in a few years?”

Retirement Security:  “Will you require Congress to pay into social security like the rest of us?”

Green Jobs and Energy:  “”Will you consider decriminalizing the recreational/medical use of marijuana(hemp) so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and a multi-billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?””

Financial Stability:  “Would you support the bill currently going through the California legislation to legalize and tax marijuana, boosting the economy and reducing drug cartel related violence?”

Jobs:  “What are your plans for the failing, “War on Drugs”, thats sucking money from tax payers and putting non-violent people in prison longer than the violent criminals?”

Budget:  “With over 1 out of 30 Americans controlled by the penal system, why not legalize, control, and tax marijuana to change the failed war on drugs into a money making, money saving boost to the economy? Do we really need that many victimless criminals?”

The beastly, the brash, the big word, globalization.

26 Mar

globalizationI was hoping that this recession would do away with all the free market talk, get rid of the Chicago boys rhetoric once and for all and help build a globalized economy that protects the little guy.  While it hasn’t done all that, it has taken the stigma from “regulation” and spread it around to some other words like…Wall Street and securitization.  In hopes of permanent regulation we need to think big.  Damon Silvers, associate general counsel for the AFL-CIO, is looking to change the world market, not just the US.  What he says is sound thinking, we are more connected than ever and might as well fix all the holes at once.  Let’s see how the G8 countries feel about all this.  More importantly now though, how do American taxpayers feel about this.  As reported on AFL-CIO Now Blog, if they don’t feel taken…then they aren’t paying attention.

Silvers, associate general counsel for the AFL-CIO, says taxpayers are being asked to givie away too much to hedge funds and private equity in President Obama’s financial rescue package. The plan for public-private partnerships announced by the Treasury Department on Monday gives taxpayers 95 percent of the risk with only 50 percent of the benefits in buying the toxic assets.

Those are not the kind of odds I’m looking to play (or pay).

Obama, from “Socialist” to Populist

18 Mar

populism_-coverBoth words sounds almost dirty…but why?  Socialism I get — history marred the image of socialism forever probably.  But why are people afraid of populism?  It seems logical to believe that populism and democracy are one in the same.  Even wikipedia supports this assertion,

Populism is a discourse which claims to support “the people” versus “the elites”. Populism may comprise an ideology urging social and political system changes and/or a rhetorical style deployed by members of political or social movements. Generally, populism invokes an idea of democracy as being solely the expression of the people’s will.

But in the few years I’ve followed Presidential politics, it has become clear that Populism and Democracy are not one in the same.  Democracy means that you have a vote — if you’re a citizen, well-off enough to not have to work on voting day, or educated enough to know how to use absentee ballots.  A vote doesn’t really mean ‘power.’  In fact, it means you only have power so long as you have not yet cast your vote.  After that the power is put back into the hands of the few (the few who have lots of $$), not the many.

So if populism puts the power in the people, not in the hands of a the elites than it can not be equal to democracy.  But on the contrary, good democratic governance should be one informed and motivated by the populace.  President Obama is doing just this, letting public opinion sway his agenda — just as it should.  Some in the highest echelons of government think that this is a “dangerous” road.  David Sirota, on OpenLeft, elegantly points out why this is hooey,

There’s been a lot of silly talk in Washington about the “dangers” of political populism. The storyline goes that Congress is prone to overreact in a populist manner to economic crises. Of course, nobody making these claims has a single example of that happening. It’s just standard fact-free Beltway bromide – a narrative that sounds plausible, even if there’s actually no evidence that it’s true.

However, I do believe that if today’s burgeoning populism in our politics is going to be driven by public “anger” (another word the Beltway media likes to use to denigrate the public when the public demands something), that anger will come from a public that sees the Establishment go on television and tell the country that AIG executives taking home taxpayer-financed million-dollar bonuses are actually “middle class.”

My only issue with President Obama being so populist, is that he is pretending like his agenda is his own and that he would have tried to roll back the bonuses on his own.  But Larry Summers came out just a few days ago and said that they were not planning on abrogating any contracts.  As the point has been well made in the media, there would be not bonuses if the US Treasury hadn’t have stepped in.  So, no company, no bonuses — new owner, new contract.

Steele makes it so easy…another ‘gotcha’ moment.

16 Mar

resignIn an hard hitting interview in GQ magazine (the political powerhouse that they are) Michael Steele stole the maverick label from Gov. Palin by asserting that abortion rights are an individual choice.  As reported by Reuters,

In an interview with GQ magazine, the Republican National Committee chairman described abortion as an “individual choice” and said individual states should decide its legality.  Those comments, predictably, have drawn a sharp rebuke from other Republican leaders who say he should stick to the party’s core position that abortion should be outlawed nationwide.

Unfortunately for Steele, that single moment of honesty and logic might as well be the final nail in his coffin.  As Ezra Klein says,

Steele’s sound and solid reasoning would be unremarkable coming from almost any other American. But coming from the head of a party that in modern times has had at its very core a strident opposition to abortion, it is a heresy and will be received as such. Steele will be hounded from his job. It is hard to envision any explanation that would save him from the wrath of the extreme right.

Since then, Steele has come out with a statement he clearly was politically forced to put out.  $100 he didn’t write it.

I am pro-life, always have been, always will be.

I tried to present why I am pro life while recognizing that my mother had a “choice” before deciding to put me up for adoption. I thank her every day for supporting life. The strength of the pro life movement lies in choosing life and sharing the wisdom of that choice with those who face difficult circumstances. They did that for my mother and I am here today because they did. In my view Roe vs. Wade was wrongly decided and should be repealed. I realize that there are good people in our party who disagree with me on this issue.

But the Republican Party is and will continue to be the party of life. I support our platform and its call for a Human Life Amendment. It is important that we stand up for the defenseless and that we continue to work to change the hearts and minds of our fellow countrymen so that we can welcome all children and protect them under the law.

I’m taking bets of when Steele will be forced to resign.  I’d put $50 bucks on before June 1st.

Stop wasting time and start making progress

3 Mar

Can't we all just get along?  Like the colors in a rainbow!Some would say, how isn’t the government wasting time?  But as someone who’s seen public officials at work, I believe that the government is working a lot harder then we think.  Recently though, the younger generation has noticed a great deal of wasted time spent on either side of a very immature battle.  The battle is one we all know too well by now, the fight over gay marriage.  We have reason to hope for new progress again today, and as per usual the news is from Massachusetts.  The Globe reports ,

Fifteen gay and lesbian residents from Massachusetts who wed after this state legalized same-sex marriages filed a discrimination suit today, challenging a federal law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

For the last 8 years, I’ve seen myself on one side of this debate and seen others (mainly from the GOP)  opposing me and other pro-civil rights young people.  Now, in the Obama-era I have been naively pretending as if we are all on the same side of a battle.  But there are still sides in this battle and the youth, who are some of the most responsible for Pres. Obama’s recent success, are tired of this issue.

Young people overwhelming grew up in a world with a “sexual spectrum.”  We don’t care who you’re dating, as long as we don’t want to date them too ;)!  But somehow, someone got us into this mess by playing into the petty demands of rich, social conservatives who probably themselves have ‘sinned’ a time or two.  Who could have gotten us into this legal mess?

The suit, which legal specialists described as the first serious challenge to the federal law signed by President Bill Clinton, contends that the statute has deprived the plaintiffs of benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples.

Those benefits include health insurance for spouses of federal employees, tax deductions for couples who jointly file federal income tax returns, and the ability to use a spouse’s last name on a passport.

Wait a second, Pres. Clinton wasn’t the messiah?  With the last 8 years of horrible policy and discriminatory practices it is easy to look back at ’92-’00 as a time of hope and progressive policy.  But that isn’t exactly what happened.  Clinton was a centrist, he loved being loved — and still does.  It is just unfortunate that now, instead of respect, gays and lesbians have to fight for common human rights.  The right to prosper is our nation and receive health care that their partner is paying for.

This issue is tired, and we are tired of it.  Why do social conservatives spend their time on this instead of on social programs?  Can they ever speak to why they really care?  In their eyes won’t God take care of everything?  I hope Obama takes a moment to speak out about this issue — so we can stop running in circles.

I hate hearing about this issue because I keep hoping we are better than this.  But we aren’t…yet.