Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

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Dan is a student at Georgetown University. He is currently trying to think of a new biography for this space.

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This blog translated:


Two wrongs don't make a right, but three lefts do.

"There are three types of lies - lies, damn lies, and statistics." - Variously attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, Alfred Marshall, Mark Twain and many other dead people.

Currently reading:

Songbook by Nick Hornby

The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost

White Teeth by Zadie Smith

You should read:

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby

Bobos In Paradise by David Brooks

Madam Secretary: A Memoir by Madeleine Albright

Damned Lies and Statistics by Joel Best

Books written or edited by my professors (well, only the good ones)

Nick Barr

The Economics of the Welfare State

The Welfare State As Piggy Bank

Chris Dougherty

Introduction to Econometrics

David Gewanter

The Collected Poems of Robert Lowell (ed. with Frank Bidart)

In the Belly

The Sleep of Reason

Meredith McKittrick

To Dwell Secure

John McNeill

The Human Web (with William H. McNeill)

Something New Under the Sun

Max-Stephan Schulze

Western Europe: Economic and Social Change Since 1945

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Abu Aardvark
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The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell

"One Plus One Is One" by Badly Drawn Boy

"Sultans of Swing" by the Dire Straits

"Best of the Talking Heads" by the Talking Heads

How Shareholder Reforms Can Pay Foreign Policy Dividends, James Shinn, ed.

Weaving the Net, James Shinn, ed.

Fires Across the Water, James Shinn, ed.

Panasonic ES8017SC Men's Triple Blade Pro Curve Rechargeable Linear Shaver

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Tuesday, December 30, 2003
A bunch of really minor changes have been made to the template in the last day or two. It still looks pretty much the same, though. I just thought you'd like to know.

Kevin Drum is making complete sense in calling for the minimum wage to be indexed to congressional salaries. In fact, it sounds like such a good idea that I doubt it'll ever happen. Things that make this much sense never actually happen in real life.

So John Ashcroft has recused himself from the Plame investigation.

The question continually running through my mind, though, is ... why?

It's not a question of whether he should or should not have done it. It's pretty clear that he should do so - given the large role that the Attorney General plays in generally dealing with the CIA and other security organizations (not to mention political relations with those who are likely being scrutinized within the White House and VP's office), the Attorney General clearly faces a broad conflict of interest in the Plame investigation. (truthfully, the Justice Department encompasses such a wide variety of agencies that conflicts of interests in dealing with legal violations by other agencies under the umbrella are all but inevitable).

It's a question of why the Attorney General would actually see fit to recuse himself. It's hardly as if he's been the type to worry about such a thing until now.

Mark Kleiman and Josh Marshall both have a couple of ideas, mostly centering on the probability that this indicates that the ongoing investigation has made rapid progress and is pointing at the White House. Still, it seems a little early and the evidence a little shaky to clearly say that this is true.

So, basically, what the hell is going on here?

Monday, December 29, 2003
OK, so I took a bit more than a week off from here. Exams took a bit longer than I expected (more precisely, I had a paper that took a while longer than expected to finish) along with a couple of unexpected and mindlessly boring albeit large tasks that had to be done when I arrived home (including organizing my multi-thousand large baseball card collection for the first time in about a decade) haven't left me with much time to write here. Probably just as well, really, given a feeling of discontent with the whole of the political sphere right now flooding through me.

Anyhow, I came across this ...

Richard Arum's argument in the WaPo is basically that the school system is increasingly failing and increasingly seeing student violence at the same time as students have been given increased legal rights. Therefore, to rebuild public schools and curtail violence, we must roll back the legal rights accorded to minors.

Well, yes, there has been a correlation. But that by no means indicates that there has been any causative relationship. That the purchases of CDs have also increased astronomically over recent decades (from nothing, admittedly), does not mean that we ought to therefore ban CDs in order to deal with violence among young people.

Moreover, many of the problems cited by the author have nothing to deal with the extension of civil liberties to minors. That "Students and their parents have also challenged even minor school discipline, such as after-school "double detention," in-class "time outs," lowered grades and exclusion from weekend basketball or football games" is far more indicative of problems within the general legal system in allowing idiotic lawsuits to proceed than a problem resulting from the fact that due process and free speech have been allowed to students in a limited manner. Moreover, there is little that would logically indicate that greater civil liberties inherently make it difficult for school administrators to govern. Rather, these issues would seem far more likely to result from social issues in surrounding neighborhoods as well as chronic underfunding of schools and their infrastructures. Allowing students to speak out hardly means that they'll do it with a gun.

Sunday, December 14, 2003
Unequivocally Good News

Saddam Hussein has been captured.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003
Ah, yes, it's that time of year again ... exams.

Barring something massive, I'll be back here in a week.

Friday, December 05, 2003
Y'know, I think it might be time to revoke Dr. Krauthammer's medical license. He's diagnosing Howard Dean with "Bush Derangement Syndrome" for referring to the Bush administration's blockading of the 9/11 report ... while answering a question from Diane Rehm during an interview. Mind you, Dean said nothing remotely false in his response, simply offering up a couple hypothetical possibilities.

What a putzhead.

UPDATE: And even the quotes were taken out of context ...

Tuesday, December 02, 2003
The last post inspired some responses that were far more thoughtful than what I initially put into it.

As far as the commenters ... the problem I have with Dodd and Durbin - particularly with Durbin - is not that that they have a problem with showing up for votes but that they don't show up in the press nearly enough. Basically, they need to do a much better job prostituting themselves to the media. They need to work at being a little controversial and learning how to piss the right (or, more specifically, wrong) people off. As far as Leahy, his skeleton is - depending on who you ask - either resigning or being forced off of the Senate Intelligence Committee in the late 1980's over either accidentally allowing a reporter access to a draft of the Iran/Contra Investigation Report or leaking it. In a day and age where politicians need to come across as strong on national security as possible, Leahy would be a sitting target as Minority Leader.

As far as Matt Singer's backing John Kerry ... I think having Kerry as Minority Leader would be a good idea, but he won't be available until February or March in all likelihood (then again, the Senate really won't be in session much between now and then, so Daschle's ability to do any damage is limited).

As far as Ezra Klein's backing Hillary Clinton ... Hillary is an incredibly polarizing figure, as we all know by now. On one hand, she would certainly bring out the first in the right-wing wing-nuts, making them look like paranoid nutjobs. On the other hand, that also runs the risk of her getting tarred and feathered by a media that is all too pliant to perpetuating smears at times. The second problem is her lack of experience. I'm not trying to argue that we should limit the Minority Leader position to old men, but getting re-elected once should probably be something of a pre-requisite. Finally, as the health care fiasco showed - see Brad DeLong for a little history - Hillary's not really a great manager of people. While the Minority Leader position probably does require someone capable of being a jackass when needed - especially right now - that sort of a record worries me. That said, she is incredibly well-known, far more than all but one or two other Democratic senators (if any) and is a great fundraiser. Those elements, however, would be good reasons to suggest her as a possible Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chair.*

*The position is currently held by Jon Corzine, no slouch at fundraising either.

UPDATE: There's also this dKos post/thread on replacing Daschle.