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December 05, 2017

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The father of my kids (who is now my neighbor), and my kids, and my daughter's boyfriend -- in various formations -- play whist for hours when the younger generation is around and we can muster a foursome.

I've never played bridge, but as a kid who grew up not playing cards much (my mother was a Baptist, and she grew up in a tradition where, as she said, to merely touch a deck of cards was a "sin"), I never knew what a trick or a trump was until I was in college. These days I am quite pissed off that a word I like has become so...contaminated...with other referents.

More seriously -- congrats, Sebastian! Sounds like that was the thrill of a lifetime.

The only thing that comes close is tournament chess. While you may never get to play against the absolute best, if you enter any of the big Open Championships, There's a good chance you may get paired against a strong Grandmaster. It's a once in a lifetime experience, although mostly you just find out how damned good those guys are. I have also played in a few Bridge tournaments. Those guys can be damn good too!

Congratulations. That must have been amazing.
I'm so glad to see you post, and about your delight.

God knows we could all use a little delight just about now.

At least with bridge, you can be up against a great player and just have the cards fall your way. You will most likely lose anyway, but at least you can have a sense of being in the game. With chess, a Grandmaster is just going to walk over you without breaking stride.

It definitely sounds like a wonderful week!

Not only Byomtov - I was at the NABC in Toronto in the summer, my first time playing in North America.

Some events went better than others, and my partner and I found ourselves on the final weekend playing with a pair we'd just met in a two-day sixteen-team knockout. In the second round we were drawn against most of the French national team which very nearly won the Bermuda Bowl (world championship) a few weeks later, but didn't reach the semi-finals of that (inconsequential to them) knockout.

lovely post, Sebastian

Had a girlfriend in Spain who was crazy about bridge, and I was willing to learn, but we couldn't find 2 other people. Had we found two, who knows...

Probably blasphemous to bring up golf right now, but your point about playing the best is one of the things about golf: During the game, there is the possibility of hitting a shot just like a pro does. Your jump shot in basketball may go in and may even swish, but it is fundamentally different from Kobe's. A 20 foot putt, a chip from the fringe, a middle iron that you just know you hit well. Of course, the difference between you and the pros is that the pro does it consistently.

We have a good friend who is a bridge master. She and her mom (also a bridge master) run a kind of bridge class / bridge night out at a local community center. They get 15 or 20 tables going, once a week.

She's parlayed this into an extremely sweet cruise ship gig. About six months out of the year, she's on a ship somewhere. Runs a bridge class for two hours a day, when the ship is not in port. I think she gets a modest stipend, and her travel to and from the points of departure are paid. Her husband gets to tag along for free.

They're basically retired, so they're free to come and go as they wish. They've been pretty much everywhere in the world.

Not a bad way to go.

I would never play a gentleman's/lady's game of Bridge of any other game of cards with Trump, unless I could hold a gun in my lap.

Don't allow posting of this comment if you wish, but I couldn't resist finding a way to violate the prohibition.

✌.
Great to see Sebastian posting. I miss Slarti too, but I take his absence since November 9, 2016 as evidence of a profound and intelligent sanity on his part.

That I could be so wise and grounded.

So Count, do you always bid "no trump" these days? Inquiring minds want to know....

(Feeling smug about asking the question while conforming to the letter, if not the spirit, of the prohibition. l-)

I kinda thought that the current grave state of our politics would be crisis enough that hilzoy might join us again.

So this is the most recent open thread. I, for one, will now abandon the previous open thread, at least as it concerns putting up something new, if not responding within an established and on-going discussion.

With that, this is an article worth reading:

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-easiest-way-to-dismiss-good-science-demand-sound-science/

It's not just science, either. It's expertise, in general, that is particularly under attack in recent years. Critical thinking is in short enough supply that it's largely effective. It's worrisome.

From hsh's link:

In a move ostensibly meant to reduce conflicts of interest, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has removed a number of scientists from advisory panels and replaced some of them with representatives from industries that the agency regulates.
Because industry representatives have so many fewer conflicts of interest. Got it!

I think it is a difficult dynamic for a few reasons. I don't have answers but here are the problems I see.

1. 'Experts' get lumped together. Sometimes this provides bad experts with unearned credibility, and sometimes this provides good experts with unearned shame.

2.'Experts' in softer sciences have tried to assume the authoritativeness of experts in the harder sciences. This trades on my first point above but makes it worse because of my next point.

3. In at least a few areas 'experts' (often in the social sciences) have been spectacularly wrong. The key recent case I would say is the conventional wisdom on globalism say 1980-2005. The conventional wisdom among 'experts' was that globalism would cause some initial adjustments, but that it would help 'the country as a whole' enough that everyone would be better off. This turned out to be spectacularly untrue. The adjustments never helped a large swath of the people who got left behind.

4. 'Experts' are people too, and they are slow to admit that they were wrong, and often like to couch it in softer terms so they can claim they weren't really wrong. So many of the consensus experts on globalism now say things like: well I always mentioned that transition problems had to be dealt with. Ok, fine. But at the time when people wanted to raise the concrete transition steps that they thought weren't being made, they were brushed aside.

5. If people's lived experience suggests that you are wrong, when you persist in it despite objections, eventually they are going to start believing that you aren't merely wrong. They will believe that you are lying to them and manipulating them.

Which feeds back to 1.

I tend to look sideways at most economists. The formula seems to be, at least on bigger questions approaching the scale of "this is how the world works," of the form: questionable/bad assumption + a bunch of mathy stuff = wrong but smart-sounding answer (possibly leading to a Nobel prize).

The conventional wisdom among 'experts' was that globalism would cause some initial adjustments, but that it would help 'the country as a whole' enough that everyone would be better off.

I wonder if this isn't a little unfair. Though, I suppose it sort of depends on how you define experts.

My own perception is that if you look at how actual economists, for example, would talk about this, it would be carefully qualified. Probably in some kind of Pareto-type terms: international trade will make everyone will be better off IF the gains are distributed equitably.

And AFAICT, that's not actually incorrect, so far as it goes. The problem is obviously just that when this academically true statement intersects the political sphere, the last clause is very difficult to guarantee or work out the particulars of in practice.

You might argue that this is a predictable outcome which the experts should bake into their predictions up-front, but depending on how specialized the expertise is, that really might be an unreasonable ask.

To make an analogy, this is a bit like a solar energy engineer pointing out that all our power needs could be met by installing so many solar power fields, IF provision is made for batteries or other systems in the grid to buffer temporal mismatches between light availability and energy demand.

A couple decades later, let's say the solar farms have been installed - but no batteries. I guess you could blame the engineer for the brownouts that happen whenever there's a cloudy day in Arizona, but at the same time, you can't say he didn't try to warn us.

I doubt that any economist has said that globalization would make everyone better off. Because there are losers in almost any change. And it's not the fault of economists that US politics are too broken to suggest any response but protectionism.

And I tend to look sideways at anyone who says "these experts don't know what they're talking about". On the other hand, it's often right to say "these politicians don't know what they're talking about." Because politicians are usually not experts.

But I'm a bridge player not an economist.

jack lecou's comment reminds me of the quants who were partly blamed for the financial crisis. It's not that I would say they didn't share in the blame at all, but I think too much of the blame was put on them.

They came up with risk-diversification methods that were only partially understood by the people engineering and directing the investments. Those people happily perverted and misapplied what the quants developed so they could justify all sorts of ill-advised financial shenanigans.

"You might argue that this is a predictable outcome which the experts should bake into their predictions up-front, but depending on how specialized the expertise is, that really might be an unreasonable ask."

I don't really think it is an unreasonable ask to the extent that the advice was being given in a "therefore we should go forward with globalism" frame.

I'm not intending to pick on Krugman in the "he's so awful" sense--more in the he was typical for the time sense. If Krugman had been saying "we shouldn't go forward with globalism unless we have strong transition plans in place" that would have been a completely different kind of expert recommendation.

Similarly I would say if the solar engineer did not say "hey these plans don't have any batteries, therefore you shouldn't go forward until the plans include batteries" he wasn't really focusing very well on the batteries.

One of the big problems is that politics is about priorities, but lots of people act as if gesturing at something counts as making it a priority. If both political parties choose 'deeper globalization' every time the question comes up between prioritizing further globalization and working on mitigating the harms of globalization, it becomes obvious to the people harmed that they aren't a high priority. If that is followed by 20-30 years of "you'll be fine after the adjustment period" and they aren't ever fine because the adjustment period never helps them, they are eventually going to see you as a liar.

You won't see yourself as a liar, because you'll just think "I mentioned that problem". But from that doesn't change how you end up being seen if the priority never comes.

And I tend to look sideways at anyone who says "these experts don't know what they're talking about".

Economists (generally, not universally) are particularly good at not appreciating the lack of certainty they should have about their conclusions, IMO.

I don't really think it is an unreasonable ask to the extent that the advice was being given in a "therefore we should go forward with globalism" frame.

1) Your original statement was "experts were spectacularly wrong." If you want to revise that to "experts were more or less right, but failed to communicate important nuances of their policy recommendations forcefully enough," I might be more apt to agree. But it's also a very different statement.

2) It still seems like that would be shifting the blame a bit off target: I think politicians selectively listening to only the convenient parts of expert advice is closer to the real problem.

If Krugman had been saying "we shouldn't go forward with globalism unless we have strong transition plans in place" that would have been a completely different kind of expert recommendation.

I'd really need to see some specific examples before I'd believe that Krugman and others weren't saying, all things considered, exactly that.

I don't know if I'm familiar with what Krugman in particular was saying back then, but I recall that discussion of NAFTA in the 90s, for example, was peppered with calls for job retraining programs at minimum, if not transfer payments. nd Krugman at least is strongly in favor of measures such as a Tobin-style financial tax. It's not as if policy makers can claim ignorance of these proposals, or the problems they're intended to solve.

Similarly I would say if the solar engineer did not say "hey these plans don't have any batteries, therefore you shouldn't go forward until the plans include batteries" he wasn't really focusing very well on the batteries.

Not to belabor this, but that's exactly what he said. Saying "this plan will work if we have batteries" is pretty much exactly the same as saying, "this will not work properly without batteries". And if you ask him, he'll probably be happy to tell you exactly what parts can't be expected to work. What more could you ask for?

You seem to want to fault the experts for not talking to policymakers as if they're small children, but there are real practical limits to how to actually pull that off, and a real question in my mind as to whether it would have any effect. Clearly the larger fault is still with policymakers and their priorities.

A note from an angry lefty critic of Krugman on the trade issue--

https://www.thenation.com/article/paul-krugman-raises-the-white-flag-on-trade/

You can also read Krugman's post (linked in the link). Krugman doesn't admit any error himself, I don't think. I think he did admit some error in a different column many years ago about the Washington Consensus, but I am not sure I could find the right words to google and locate it if I am right.

One of the big problems is that politics is about priorities

When the sausage is finally made, politics is about the allocation of scarce resources, just like, and perhaps even more so, than economics.

Everybody is in favor of "globalism", but the question is who gets what when and how.

In fact, globalization, and the associated (underlying?) blind faith in so-called free markets was and/or is still a priority.

International trade has been going on since Egyptian Old Kingdom times if not before. Humans would have abandoned it a while ago if there wasn't some good in it. Economists would have figured out that it's bad long ago.

Does anyone here drink coffee? If so, would you like to see America's coffee supply restricted to what can be produced domestically?

Now imagine that the coffee import trade is monopolized by a single corporation. Even imagine that it attained its monopoly status honestly -- no royal charter, no lobbying, no mafia tactics, just commercial efficiency. It will surely amass huge wealth at the expense of both its customers at home and its suppliers abroad. It will surely cost all American coffee-growers their jobs. Many bad consequences there. So: should we make laws regulating coffee importation, or monopoly power, or concentrated wealth, or what?

That international trade has the potential to "make everyone better off" is dead obvious. That distribution of the benefits should be left entirely to The Free Market, in a democratic society, is idiocy.

--TP

A note from an angry lefty critic of Krugman on the trade issue--

In which the examples of Krugman supposed wrongness do not appear to me to be wrong? Am I missing something?

And in the linked piece, Krugman criticizes not the experts, but the pop-elite view. Of the expert view, he says:

Yet what the models of international trade used by real experts say is that, in general, agreements that lead to more trade neither create nor destroy jobs; that they usually make countries more efficient and richer, but that the numbers aren’t huge; and that they can easily produce losers as well as winners. In principle the overall gains mean that the winners could compensate the losers, so that everyone gains. In practice, especially given the scorched-earth obstructionism of the G.O.P., that’s not going to happen.

Which is presumably pretty close to what he - or any expert worth the label - was saying all along. It's certainly exactly what I would have told you 20 years ago.

As I recall, one of the attributes of the standard trade model is "full employment".

I'll just let that lie there for now.

Sebastian,

Thank you and congratulations. The Reisinger is considered by some to be the toughest bridge tournament in the world. Partly this is because the form of scoring is extremely demanding. Everything counts, and even a small error - easy to make - will hurt your score dramatically. It is hard to think of a good analogy in other games. Partly it is because, like other major North American tournaments, it attracts the absolute best players from around the globe.

I was in San Diego myself. Sorry we didn't run into one another. I dodged the Reisinger and played in the Jacoby Swiss that ran concurrently, managing a 16th place finish, which compensated for disastrous performances in earlier events.

Like Sebastian, I think the opportunity to play against the very best competition is an extremely attractive feature of the game, but it has its downside. Some players prefer to avoid the experience. Tell me, Count, whether you would enjoy batting against Corey Kluber.

It is unfortunate that bridge in the US has the image of being a sedate game for old people, rather than the intense intellectual challenge it is. It's true that the population of players in North America is quite old, mostly, IMO, because of promotional ineptness on the part of the ACBL, the organization that runs the tournaments.

Not so elsewhere, I gather, and there are many excellent young European and Asian players who show up at the the NA championships. Maybe pro bono can explain why there is such a difference.

More fun with trade.

I think jack lecou largely gets it right.

Greider seems to be making claims about his own expertise, which I doubt are justified, without much support.

Krugman is hardly the sort of fanatic Greider makes him out to be. I have on my shelf (near some bridge books) his Pop Internationalism, a collection of essays on the subjects the title suggests. As an example, one of the essays, written in 1993, deals with NAFTA, and plainly says it will hurt some low-wage American workers while providing a small overall benefit to the economy. On employment he says, correctly, that what will matter is the response of the Fed to any effect on jobs.

Hardly the raving of an ideologue.

More fun with trade.

I hadn't seen Theroux's piece before, thank you for sharing this.

Theroux ends with this:

It seems obvious that executives of American companies should invest in the Deep South as they did in China. If this modest proposal seems an outrageous suggestion, to make products for Nike, Apple, Microsoft and others in the South, it is only because the American workers would have to be paid fairly. Perhaps some chief executives won’t end up multibillionaires as a result, but neither will they have to provide charity to lift Americans out of poverty.

The only thing I have to add to it is that the phenomena Theroux talks about aren't just found in the Deep South.

It's not as bad as it used to be, but 35 or 40 years ago the area I live in was full of derelict manufacturing buildings. Nowadays they've mostly been turned into offices for tech companies, or medical companies, or medical tech companies, or else turned into condos for the folks who work for those companies.

Lucky us.

Get away from the Boston/Cambridge orbit, and it ain't so great, even here in liberal elite New England.

People don't want welfare. They're happy to have it if it means not starving, but mostly they'd rather have a job. A job that doesn't suck, where they aren't treated like labor fodder, and where they make enough money to live decently.

When Folks Like Me go on about inequalities in wealth and income, folks who Aren't Like Me often wonder why we hate rich people, or are envious of them.

I don't hate rich people. I'm not envious of them. I have enough money. I have a good job, and a good career. I'm fine.

I'm deeply concerned about where the country I live in is headed. Amazingly enough, a stable and healthy society requires that folks who are capable of providing for themselves be able to do so. And that folks who aren't capable of that not get thrown under the bus.

Increasingly, those basic things are not available here. It's a problem, and will be a worse problem the longer it is not addressed.

This is how things fall apart. It's not a mystery, and there are only a million examples from history to demonstrate it.

Thank you byomtov. It was amazing fun.

I think the problem is of emphasis. If you are a trade economist who wants to promote NAFTA while it was being negotiated in the late 1980s, promoting the benefits of globalism while mentioning mitigation merely as an aside is fine. In the 1990s, an attentive economist should have noticed the problems and started playing up the mitigation side more. Krugman didn't really own up to the need to focus more on the mitigation side until post crash (I can't look it up now but I think in the 2009 zone). That's really pretty late.

I want to be clear that I'm talking about how 'expertise' plays out *in politics*. I'm not so interested in how Krugman's purely academic concept played out (and again I'm really just using him as shorthand for the general economic expert consensus). I'm interested in how the idea of economic expert opinions has played out politically and how it has been used to contribute to an environment where expert opinions are devalued.

The broad consensus of politicians and trade experts (both Republicans and Democrats) who worked together to give us NAFTA didn't provide a picture to the public where trade losers would be taken care of. They responded (politically) as if that wasn't going to be a big deal--that it would all sort itself out. If experts like Krugman thought that it wouldn't sort itself out, they needed to make it clear that politicians who were using their expert authority to support things like NAFTA weren't really showing us the whole picture.

The message actually transmitted by the broad economic/political consensus was that America would be better off. It wasn't that America (as whole if measured by GDP but probably not you, you're a loser so your life and lives of most of the people in your families are going to get worse unless we take steps that we probably aren't going to bother with) will do better.

So the 'expert' message as transmitted to a large swath of the US population ended up looking like either a false promise, or a deliberate and self serving lie.

If a politician misuses or simplifies your expert message once, I won't fault you for that. Politicians do that. But at some point, after many years of misuse, if you don't very loudly speak up, I sort of feel like you are participating in the misuse or you think the general message is good enough. If you think that serious caveats need to be introduced--things like "hey globalization is going to really suck unless we take lots of serious steps to mitigate it" you need to be the one loudly introducing that. The expert consensus (even the liberal side like the Krugman or Delongs of the world) did not do so.

When Folks Like Me go on about inequalities in wealth and income, folks who Aren't Like Me often wonder why we hate rich people, or are envious of them.

I think it may help to recognize that there are (at least) two very different kinds of rich people. On one hand, you have those who got rich because they love doing, and are good at, something that is very valuable. They aren't doing it to make money particularly, although that's nice of course. Mostly, they are doing it because they enjoy it -- which is why they often keep doing long past what is otherwise considered "retirement age." Think of Warren Buffett as an example. My sense is nobody much hates those folks.

Then there are the folks who get rich for the sake of being rich. These are the guys (mostly guys) who slash wages so they can make an extra billion. Or lobby like mad to get rich of the estate tax, so they can inherit an extra billion. Their defining characteristic, I think, is that they have no concept of "enough."**

You can get a lot of populist hate going towards the later group. Which is a big part of why arguments for cutting taxes on the rich, or cutting the estate tax, put so much emphasis on how much it will (supposedly) do for everybody else in the economy. If you can convince the general public that the members of group two are actually part of group one, the hate -- and therefore the push to tax or something worse -- fades away.

** "Enough," as I see it, goes like this:
At some point, you have sufficient income to cover necessities. You have put aside adequate reserves for emergencies, and are making provision (sufficient, based on your age, etc.) to cover a comfortable retirement. On top of which, you are making money basically as fast as you can spend it.

At that point, you are making "enough." There is absolutely no economic reason for you to make more; it's not like you can spend it. The only thing that more income does is (you hope) impress some other people, who have no clue about what you actually do, with how great you are. In short (deliberate), it's just a dick-measuring contest. Remind you of any billionaires you've heard of?

If a politician misuses or simplifies your expert message once, I won't fault you for that. Politicians do that. But at some point, after many years of misuse, if you don't very loudly speak up, I sort of feel like you are participating in the misuse or you think the general message is good enough.

Sebastian, you might consider that different groups have different kinds of expertise. And the core expertise of politicians is, at its base, messaging. That is not, however, the expertise of most other groups, including economists. Which is going to mean that whose message gets out, no matter how hard they may try, is quite likely not going to be the non-politicians. They simply don't tend to know how to message better than the politicians.

Franken's departure now seems inevitable:
https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2017/12/al-franken-calls-to-resign-senate.html

I have no more use for the Democratic Party if it forces Al Franken out of the Senate before it forces He Who Shall Not Be Named In This Thread out of the White House.

My fond wish is that Franken will announce something like:

"I hereby resign from the Democratic Party. I will remain in the Senate as an independent, unaffiliated Senator from Minnesota. I will cooperate with any Senate Ethics Committee investigation, but will insist that it be conducted in public. I will not deprive the voters of Minnesota, men and women both, of the opportunity to vote me out of office if they so decide. And Rush Limbaugh is still a Big, Fat, Idiot."

--TP

....there are many excellent young European and Asian players who show up at the the NA championships. Maybe pro bono can explain why there is such a difference.

There are many excellent young American players who show up at NABCs also.

I suspect it's true everywhere that most players are retired, because who else has got the time. But the further you travel to play, the more expert you're likely to be, to make it worth your while going. And the demographics of the expert community, especially the pros, are different.

Having said that, competitive bridge in the USA below the top level does seem designed to encourage mediocrity. Perhaps the ACBL is just giving its members what they want, which is lots of masterpoints in various colors, and titles to go with them.

But it also runs the NABCs, which are wonderful events. I'll play again the next time I can reasonably bring my children along.

Tony P,

I'm with you in spirit, but I won't give up on Democrats. This is a weird time. Apparently posing for a picture with one's arm around the other's waist, and giving it (the waist) a squeeze, is a crime against the squeezee's dignity. Okay, some of us aren't into any touching, and that's fine - explain first before the camera huddle.

I'm theoretically in favor of the metoo movement, because women need to be comfortable speaking up, and people need to take women seriously. Also (and this would solve a lot of things), women need to be paid equally and have equal representation in business and politics.

That said, what the f*? He squeezed her waist flesh? If it had happened to me, and I had remembered it at all, I would have done so fondly.

jack lecou's comment reminds me of the quants who were partly blamed for the financial crisis. It's not that I would say they didn't share in the blame at all, but I think too much of the blame was put on them.

As a retired quant (but not in mortgage derivatives) I'm not sure quants got more blame than they deserved. Quants are supposed to understand the limitations of their models, and stop the traders over-relying on them.

However, the quants couldn't be expected to know how much mortgages had been missold, or how overexposed the banks were. There were a lot of people who should have been finding out those things but didn't.

No one seems to have blamed Bush much. Why not? Was it that phrase he had, "the soft bigotry of low expectations"?

Since it's an open thread, let me note some good news. Phil Bredesen is going to run for Corker's seat in the Senate.

Bredesen is deservedly popular in TN, having done a good job as mayor of Nashville and later governor of the state. He has a legitimate chance to beat whoever the GOP nominates, which is not unlikely to be the idiot Marsha Blackburn.

TN is far from being as deep red state as some other southern states, and Bredesen has a, IMO, a good chance to win.

Oh, and if it matters, he's actually a very smart, decent, guy who would be an asset in the Senate.

Hello and best wishes, Sebastian and byomtov [ & russell & wj & & &]! It's a pleasure to read this post.

I still subscribe to the Bridge World although I haven't played in years.

I know russell has brought this up before, but another misapplication of expertise (or insight/genius) would be Adam Smith’s writings. I happened to be at a bookstore tonight for my son’s preschool’s book fair and grabbed an edition of The Wealth of Nations to pass a bit of time.

The introduction pointed out the tendency many modern-day “Smithists” to cherrypick those parts that, taken out of context, support near-absolute faith in the free market as the solution just about any problem on an economic scale, while ignoring the many qualifications, cautions, and compensating factors (mostly involving government action!) Smith presented.

Naturally, as a result, hilarity ensues. Yuck it up, folks!

So at what point does habitual groping become unacceptable, as opposed to so,etching you believe ought to be 'remembered fondly' sapient ?

>so,etching<
something.

Dahlia Lithwick has an interesting article on the Francine/Conyers imbroglio. The dynamic she sets out is persuasive, but I'm not sure I can see that she proposes any useful solution, or even tactic, for the Democrats:
http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2017/12/the_republicans_have_built_an_uneven_playing_field_of_morality.html

Hi ral,

Good to hear from you.

When is the concert tour?

misapplication of expertise

pretty much all most people see of economists is misapplication of expertise. seems like any time an economist shows up on TV it's in service of pushing a particular political agenda.

kindof makes the whole discipline seem a little dishonest.

byomtov, maybe some day but not soon. After 14 years I'm just starting to improvise over 12-bar blues. At least I have come to believe it's possible, but I'm still crawling. Alas, work interferes with practice time.

Good to see you, too.

If not the concert tour, ral, at least give a heads up when you are appearing close to home. Just for those of us who could make a day-trip of it.

pretty much all most people see of economists is misapplication of expertise. seems like any time an economist shows up on TV it's in service of pushing a particular political agenda.

That seems to be the crux of the matter, because, with very few exceptions, I suspect "expert who appears on TV" is an oxymoron. Not just in economics, but almost any field.

The people yammering on TV (or to a slightly lesser extent, even in op-eds and the like) are not necessarily experts -- i.e., not knowledgeable researchers faithfully relating a professional consensus -- but are instead 'experts'. They're made up of various species of wonk, partisan and professional populizer. This is particularly true (echoing wj's point above) of the ones with the loudest, most effective voices.

I think it's a very important distinction to make, because it does explain how the public has lost faith in 'elite consensus', but also stops short of the sort of intellectual nihilism implied if we start to broadly claim 'the experts were wrong'. Most of the genuine ones probably weren't -- we just weren't really listening to them.

This is a dysfunction of, as usual, the press, with its perennial inability to convey actual knowledge rather than horserace scores and talking head squabbles, and politicians, who are failing to cut through either that noise or their own prejudice in order to listen and act on the more sober, genuinely expert advice available to them.

Obviously that desperately needs to get fixed somehow, but I don't think experts could or should do it on their own. We're all involved.

ral, you playing out? what instrument?

Piano. 7 years of classical lessons and now jazz lessons. I wish I had started as a child, but I am living proof that an adult can learn.

I'm looking for a thumbs-up emoji...... :)

Nigel: So at what point does habitual groping become unacceptable, as opposed to something you believe ought to be 'remembered fondly' sapient?

Give it another year or two of Democratic prissiness in response to Republican ratfucking, and you, too, Nigel, will come to believe that "habitual groping" ought to be "remembered fondly".

Nixon feared a challenge from Muskie in 1972, and some of the same ratfuckers operating today made gullible Democrats reject him. He, Trump and his cabal of granny-starving, pussy-grabbing, god-bothering plutocrats feared Al Franken as a danger to their alliance with Putin if not an actual challenger in 2018, and they made the Democrats dive for the fainting couch with ridiculous ease.

I am indescribably pissed off AT THE DEMOCRATS. As for the Republicans, I can't really blame them on this one. Ratfuckers will fuck rats. It's what they do. It would be a waste of good invective to say more about them.

--TP

Rod Dreher, who would have denied cake to Leonardo da Vinci, even if the latter wanted his own Last Supper masterpiece copied in icing on his wedding cake, on Garrison Keillor, on whom the former is right.

Something stinks, and I smell koch, who is a board member of NPR now.

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/garrison-keillor-who-he/

I agree with Dahlia Lithwick's appraisal as well in Nigel's link.

I agree with Tony P. now.

I'd like to hear what the women here at OBWI think about Lithwick's thoughts on the matter.

Yes, the boorish Franken should resign. But, not now, in this pre-Civil War failing country.

Jewish professors and local Jewish office holders in 1934 Germany should have resigned too if they committed sexual harassment against their female Jewish students and Jewish colleagues.

That would have been normal .. in a normal time.

Unfortunately, all of the them, the alleged harassers, for the purposes of this diatribe, and their students and colleagues ended up sharing accommodations on trains heading East.

You can't out rat fuck a republican and their shameless dupes.

You can poison them in the midst of their fucking.


Not only Adam Smith. de Toqueville as well, cherry-picked by the politically correct conservative movement.

And now of supreme importance, this question from Bernard Yomtov:

"Tell me, Count, whether you would enjoy batting against Corey Kluber."

Enjoy?

I love baseball so much that I could play the game while having a hacksaw blade shoved up one nostril, through my sinuses, and protruding from the opposite nostril.

I could say that if I knew when I was, say, 26, what I know NOW, forty years later, about what stepping into the batter's box is all about, combined with the surely better eyesight and superior reflexes I had then, I might "enjoy" hitting against Kluber at his current age and achievement level.

But, still, I would strike out on four pitches, unless I managed to dip my front shoulder into his 94-mph inside fastball, in which case the pain would take my mind off the hacksaw blade.

If he was 60 facing me now, I might go one for four against him with a walk to boot and probably a couple of strikeouts.

Still, I think the only "enjoyment" to be had would be walking back to the dugout after being made to look ridiculous swinging two days early on that slurvy/slider thing he throws after a couple of fastballs and having my teammates ask: "What did you think was going to happen?"

Regardless of how or when we might meet on the field, I suspect he would be justified in saying, as Bob Gibson did once: "The only thing you know about pitching is that you can't hit it."

He'd be playing Bridge while I'd be picking up the cards and fastening them with clothespins to the spokes on my bicycle with training wheels.



How many republican thugs does it take to steam a despot's trousers?

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/lewandowski-says-everyone-steamed-trumps-trousers

How many republican thugs does it take to steam a despot's trousers?

all must serve the leader.

the GOP is a cult.

I agree with Lithwick, although I also agree with Nigel that her assessment isn't that helpful in what exactly we should be doing. I also agree with Tony P.

As to your question, Nigel, So at what point does habitual groping become unacceptable, as opposed to so,etching you believe ought to be 'remembered fondly' sapient ? you're asking someone who doesn't think waist pinching is a grope. Is that part of the "habitual groping" situation you are referring to?

I'd like to see a bit more context. My social circle is platonic but affectionate, people greeting with hugs (sometimes bear hugs) and kisses, and having parties with cozy chats on the couch. That style of interacting might me less likely to flinch if someone is more physical during a photo shoot. It might make me less cognizant of other people's boundaries.

The same with humor. That Franken might have, in the moment, thought the groping photo was funny might have a lot to do with the kind of humor that was being shared with Tweeden on stage. The fact that he acknowledged his error, and apologized for it showed an element of learning, and remorse.

Sometimes people can be in the wrong without having their behavior be a firing offense. Perfect people don't exist. Franken was an excellent Senator and did a huge amount of needed work for the people, including his examinations of Jeff Sessions, which is probably why this has happened to him. We will pay for this misstep.

Jack--I don't particularly want to argue with you about Krugman, so I won't. I vaguely remember his arrogance on free trade back in the 90's, but it would be a lot of work digging up examples if I could succeed at all. And no, I don't expect you to take my word for it. My own memory is fuzzy. I just remember being disgusted and then pleasantly surprised when Bush radicalized him.

Regarding Franken and Keillor, what I think we are seeing is a rather common phenomena. When cultural standards are changing, especially when (as in this case) they are changing rather abruptly, there is a tendency for things to oscillate back and forth before they settle to the new norm. That is, you get some what, from the perspective of where we end up, are over-reactions.

Is it fair? Nope. Neither is it fair that some individuals are punished (at least socially, sometimes career wise and economically) for behavior which, at the time, was not considered particularly noxious. That's considered by the culture -- whether it was objectively noxious, and so regarded by those on the receiving end, is not quite the same thing.

I can see getting worked up if someone who has learned better, and attempted to amend his behavior, is still punished for things he (foolishly, perhaps) did decades ago. Someone who has only now picked up on the fact that he screwed up and should change? Not so much.

It's been the sort of day (week) where it's after lunch on Thursday when I get around to reading xkcd from Wednesday. Sigh.

But I was particularly taken by this line, talking about recently achieved or pending milestones for self-driving cars:

Cars that read other cars' bumper stickers before deciding whether to cut them off.
Ah, science!

"Regarding Franken and Keillor, what I think we are seeing is a rather common phenomena. When cultural standards are changing, especially when (as in this case) they are changing rather abruptly, there is a tendency for things to oscillate back and forth before they settle to the new norm."

Right, I'm medium level certain that we won't confusing Weinstein level offenses and Franken level offenses even five years from now. And if we are, it will unfortunately be to the benefit of Weinstein level offenses.

I'm really torn. I think it is good that FINALLY we are dealing with the real evils of the casting couch and other sexual pressure, but I'm also seeing signs of a full blown sex panic--which traditionally chews up and spits out gay people and other 'deviants', so I'm not behind that at all.

sapient: ...Franken might have, in the moment while posing for it, thought the groping pretend-groping photo was funny ...

FTFY, because I think we're on the same page in general.

For a couple of weeks now, I've been wondering what should happen to a Boy Scout with an elbow fetish who is proved, after being elected a Senator, to have helped little old ladies across streets in his youth. Should the Senate Ethics Committee investigate his state of tumescence at the time? Should women's elbows be redefined as "sexual" bits of anatomy? Retroactively?

It was a ratfuck. Our Democratic Senators cravenly yielded to it. They may think that this will help them in 2018. I say they're playing Charlie Brown to the GOP's Lucy, and need to be slapped upside the head with a brick. Unless the side of the head is "sexual" now, of course.

I can hope (against experience) that sacrificing Al Franken to Republican ratfuckers and the Broderist media will persuade every woman in America (who is not a god-bothering racist fan of plutocracy) to vote Republicans out of office in 2018 and 2020. I'd like to think that well of women as a group. I really would.

--TP

I'm with Lithwick too. Franken has been a good senator, and done important work, and it will be a damn shame to lose him while scum like the orange creature in the White House (obeying the rules of the thread) and Moore strut their stuff (assuming Moore wins - here's hoping against hope he doesn't). I agree with sapient too: in an ideal world nobody would feel somebody up or kiss them without knowing it's welcome, but every woman I know has survived that level of interference without damage. Weinstein-level activity is obviously in a completely different category, even absent rapes, and the problem with what's going on at the moment, while I rejoice in the possible change of culture for the future, is the lack of distinction between heinous acts and boorish, unwelcome ones.

I vaguely remember his arrogance on free trade back in the 90's,

Yeah, it's not a very productive thing to argue about. Maybe he was, maybe he wasn't.

I think it's quite secondary to my point, which is just that a statement like "experts were wrong" paints with far too broad a brush. At least as I'm reading it, it's very much akin to saying that, e.g., the experts didn't know much about climate change in the 1970s because Time magazine had a cover story about the coming ice age or whatever.

In both cases, the actual disciplines in question -- the experts -- did and does in fact have a fairly good general grasp of the dynamics of those situations.

The real problem lies, as it usually does, with the fragile communications pipeline that carries knowledge from the ivory tower all the way down to Joe Sixpack and Bob Lawmaker. Very possibly Krugman and other specialists -- in their secondary role as communicators and populizers -- have fallen down on that job and contributed to the dysfunction on occasion, but it would only be a very small part of a much larger problem. Willful ignorance would persist regardless of whether Krugman had always expressed himself and the state of knowledge perfectly.


Another dynamic is that experts who take on these roles as communicators don't necessarily have perfect knowledge of which fights to pick. This plays out all the time with issues like, e.g., healthcare. Is it better to support an incremental but imperfect policy change, or hold out for a perfect one? It's usually difficult to make an objective choice from the trenches. Doubly so if the opposition is fundamentally misrepresenting the change -- that's going to draw some fire regardless.

I'm medium level certain that we won't confusing Weinstein level offenses and Franken level offenses even five years from now...

Who is confusing them now ?
Weinstein, if the allegations against him are true, belongs in prison.

Sure, there is a question of where you draw the line - and of course there remains an open question of whether Franken's or his several accusers' accounts are accurate - in his resignation statement he still flatly denies much of what is claimed.
But the idea that anyone is suggesting an equivalence between behaviour that might render you unqualified for the highest public office, and that which should send you to jail is simply foolish hyperbole.

Sebastian wrote:

"I think it is good that FINALLY we are dealing with the real evils of the casting couch and other sexual pressure, but I'm also seeing signs of a full blown sex panic--which traditionally chews up and spits out gay people and other 'deviants', so I'm not behind that at all."

This is precisely on point. The underdogs and outcasts going in always get the worst of the punishment, because power can turn anything around to escape responsibility and turn the guns on their enemies and victims to effect.

Just so:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/sheryl-sandberg-sexual-harassment-backlash_us_5a22c2a5e4b03350e0b710eb

We have Franken gone who believed in supporting women's progressive ascension to equality in the workplace, despite being 13 years old in the synapses connected to his idiot hands.

We have Moore about to be elected, and who doesn't believe women should be permitted to run for office and we've heard enough out of the mouths of the republican edifice, political, media, and academic, for decades to know he has plenty of fellow travelers in that movement.

Hang Clinton for the Juanita Broderick assault, fine.

But build a statue of him for appointing Ruth Bader Ginsberg to the Supreme Court while white supremacist evangelical filth and their scum misogynistic hitmen in Congress and the White House pray for her death each day because she is a liberal women, so they can replace her with a white supremacist Neil Gorsuch clone.

The GOP sure makes this distinction: if you can get enough yahoos to vote for you, no behavior disqualifies you for office; if you can't, you should be locked up.

I repeat: I eagerly await proof that women, as a voting bloc, prefer Democratic prissiness to Republican ratfucking. I won't call for repeal of the 19th Amendment before the evidence is in.

--TP

But I agree with Tony P., too.

The rats need a MeToo Movement as well, because the ratfuckers are having a high old time and are winning.

The alt-Right soon will begin rolling out sexual harassment accusations against highly placed female Democratic officeholders.

Meanwhile, the callow disgusting twerp who tried to rat fuck the Washington Post mere weeks ago over the Moore situation just received an award from the wife of Supreme Court Injustice Clarence Thomas, who was successfully courted for marriage by pubic hairs on Coke cans and romantic Long Dong Silver reruns.

Off-subject only slightly. I'm betting the White House's and Niki Haley's threats to disallow American participation in the Olympics to be held in South Korea is direct retaliation on the leadership of the Olympic Committee which recently ousted Russia from the next Olympics over their doping scandals.

Putin is a free-floating ump Cabinet member with a broad portfolio.

I repeat: I eagerly await proof that women, as a voting bloc, prefer Democratic prissiness to Republican ratfucking. I won't call for repeal of the 19th Amendment before the evidence is in.

Seems like kind of a double standard to me, TP.

Or are you proposing that men "as a voting bloc" have to prove something or be subject to the enactment of the 28th, banning *them* from voting?

I would rather not be lumped for any purpose whatsoever with Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Theresa May, Margaret Thatcher, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman, and their ilk.

But the idea that anyone is suggesting an equivalence between behaviour that might render you unqualified for the highest public office,

versus

The GOP sure makes this distinction: if you can get enough yahoos to vote for you, no behavior disqualifies you for office; if you can't, you should be locked up.

Nigel, read Dahlia Lithwick again. Now is not the moment to determine what "behaviour ... might render you unqualified for the highest public office". That's just laughable at the moment. Of course we want people of the highest integrity, whatever that means in whatever aspects of life that refers to.

Lying? Cheating? Stealing? Treason? Sexual abuse? Racism? Enslavement? Oligarchy? The voters spoke in November of 2016. Yes, let's be better than that. Perfect? Not so much. If Franken's resignation works to bring about a Democratic majority in 2018, and Presidency in 2020, I'll be fine with it. I have serious doubts.

Again concerning women as a voting bloc:

This happened thirteen months ago.

Women are no less fncked up than the rest of the human race.

(All-time favorite book title: Gender Outlaw: Men, Women, and the Rest of Us -- maybe a hint as to why I object to the "women as a voting bloc" framing in the first place.)

Right-winger Trent Franks is out, after years of rumors about his tacky ways.

He was radically against abortion and a whackadoodle on much else which is why he had his female staff and women at large practice his chosen method of birth control: the blowjob.

He was a homophobe.

His fellow Republicans gathered around him on the floor of the House for prayer and to download the phone numbers of his conquests on to their phones.

I'm betting the White House's and Niki Haley's threats to disallow American participation in the Olympics to be held in South Korea is direct retaliation on the leadership of the Olympic Committee which recently ousted Russia from the next Olympics over their doping scandals.

And here I was thinking I was a bit odd because that was exactly my first thought when I heard it.

I suppose I can see the idea that successfully exacerbating tensions with North Korea could make participation more risky for American athletes. As could stoking anti-Americanism in the Middle East by moving our embassy to Jerusalem. But I still incline to the Support Russia explanation.

kindof makes the whole discipline seem a little dishonest.

In the olden days it was called 'political economy'. Make of that what you will.

The voters spoke in November of 2016.

Yes. And what they said was, "We prefer Hilary Clinton to Donald Trump."

Regrettably, our foolish system for choosing Presidents made Trump the winner regardless.

10 million more people voted against Trump than voted for him. And his support has dropped since then.

Folks seem to forget that.

I consider that I'm putting up with it, out of respect for the institutions that we all agree to live by. But that's about it.

The man is a freaking crook, and the folks he surrounds himself with are likewise crooks. If we get out of this without doing lasting damage to the nation I'll be grateful.

Another (not necessarily exclusive) thought on why US athletes might be held out of the Winter Olympics in South Korea. How humiliating would it be to have a bunch of Gold Medal winners decline to show up and be seen with you? But being the first President not to hold a congratulatory photo-op? Not good either. But if thete are no Gold Medal winners....

Janie,

I suspect you appreciate that my 19thA remark was a throw-away bit of sarcasm.

Men as a voting bloc have been a lost cause for Democrats since at least when Archie Bunker was on TV. Our current crop of Democratic officeholders can't be stupid enough (I say hopefully) to be angling for men's votes with their preemptive-retroactive zero-tolerance stand against "sexual harassment".

Now, maybe the Democrats don't give a damn about the electoral politics of "sexual harassment". If so, they ought to take up a different line of work. If, OTOH, they are fishing for votes, it had better be in the pool I call "women, as a voting bloc". Or find another line of work. "Men", I repeat, are a lost cause.

Individual men and women vary wildly, of course. I would never confuse you with Susan Collins. (Please imagine me saying that with the cadence, tone, and self-assurance of Marissa Tomei scoffing at the notion that anybody could confuse a Chevrolet Corvette with a Buick Skylark.) But in one statistical sense, you are in the same voting bloc as Collins, just like I am in the same bloc as Paul LePage.

In a different statistical sense, you and I are both in the "baby-boomer" voting bloc. And the "non-Hispanic white" voting bloc. And the "middle class" voting bloc. There are infinitely many ways to slice the electorate. "Men or women" is merely one of the simplest ones.

Politicians worth their salt try to appeal to voting blocs, not individual voters. Sometimes there's a statistical sweet spot -- a posture or a policy that sways many blocs in your direction. Sometimes, the message ends up swaying the intersection, rather than the union, of certain voting blocs. (The Capitol Steps in 2004 joked that Howard Dean had sewn up the vote of every gun-toting lesbian nurse in Vermont.) Smart politicians look for the first kind of ground to stand on. It remains to be seen, especially in light of your 7:00PM link, how smart the Senate Democrats have been.

BTW, if I absolutely had to choose between repealing the 19th or adopting your suggested 28th, I'd go with the 28th. I'm perfectly content to let women screw up the world for a while.

--TP

It was always there, but relistening to both Alanis and Sarah McClachlin is different post #metoo.

Our current crop of Democratic officeholders can't be stupid enough (I say hopefully) to be angling for men's votes with their preemptive-retroactive zero-tolerance stand against "sexual harassment"....

I don't see that they have any other option. You can't triangulate policy against a party that openly tolerates sexual offenders, and any attempt to parse what level of sexual harassment is just about acceptable isn't going to fly, either.

The only way Democrats are likely to see the electoral benefit of making a stand on principle is to actually make that stand. And I have not heard very many women sounding off about 'sexual panic'...

from my FB feed:

If baking a cake for a gay wedding is endorsing homosexuality, then voting for a pedophile is endorsing pedophilia.

what is interesting to me in the SCOTUS gay wedding cake case is that they're pursuing a freedom of expression angle rather than religious freedom.

does anyone know if the exercise of religion thing has proved to be insufficiently useful for this stuff?

also, apologies to Sebastian for bringing up the name he didn't want brought up.

Strictly speaking, Moore appears to be a hebephile:
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebephilia

As well as a vile human being.

Nigel: ...any attempt to parse what level of sexual harassment is just about acceptable isn't going to fly, either.

I have heard it said that you can't get just a little pregnant, and always understood it to mean that some things can't be "parsed". (Not in popular discourse, anyhow; don't know about technical discourse among biologists.) But life is full to overflowing with things that must be "parsed". Shoplifting and murder are both "crime". Would it be politically smart to NOT "parse" between them?

If I ever meet Senator Gillibrand, I will harass her with questions about what "sexual" means. Also whether "harassment" is like "pregnant".

--TP

I repeat, you can't out rat fuck the republican party and their shameless dupes.

http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/12/fox-news-men-are-all-at-the-mercy-of-anonymous-accusers-now/

Here's something that describes another example of unfair criticism of the experts:

http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-jobs-report-is-overhyped-heres-why-thats-a-problem/

McDonald said there is no reason to believe the BLS’s results are manipulated for political purposes. Less-than-perfect figures are inevitable when attempting to make a monthly estimate of hiring and firing among a population of 326 million people.

(...)

Even so, conspiracy theories about how the numbers are rigged have continued. Until recently, Trump himself was among the champions of those notions. In March, The Washington Post recounted 19 examples of the president dismissing the jobs data as fake before he took office. Example: “The unemployment number, as you know, is totally fiction,” Trump told an audience in Des Moines, Iowa, on Dec. 8, 2016.

(...)

A little secret of the economics trade is that the jobs data is the statistical equivalent of a best guess. The 150,000 non-farm companies that are surveyed is an acceptable sample size from a statistical perspective, but it’s capable of providing only an approximation of reality. According to the BLS, the actual monthly change in the number of jobs likely falls somewhere in the range of 120,000 more or 120,000 less than its estimate.

(...)

To be extra clear: None of this is meant to suggest that the BLS is guilty of bad statistics, only that there are limits to a methodology designed to deliver monthly snapshots of a massive, diverse economy. “They are the best numbers we have,” McDonald said.

http://www.newsweek.com/trump-jewish-democrats-not-invited-hanukkah-party-742142

The Hanukkah party was also held days before the holiday begins on Tuesday night, something Trump criticized former President Obama for having done years earlier.

I'm really surprised that Dear Leader would engage in such hypocrisy.

Cleek, love that line from your FB feed!

“If baking a cake for a gay wedding is endorsing homosexuality, then voting for a pedophile is endorsing pedophilia.”

The funny thing is that is supposed to be a line about voting against Roy Moore, but I think it is equally valid in explaining why we need to think about having a better accommodation stance in the wedding cake case.

This should put him over the top for a win:

http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2017/12/family-values-3

Tony P., thanks for the memory -- Mona Lisa Vito, now there is an expert.

I think it is equally valid in explaining why we need to think about having a better accommodation stance in the wedding cake case.

maybe.

i think the line shows how transparent phony the whole "deeply held religious belief" scam really is.

a movement that claims a corporation must follow the religion of its shareholders, and that a bakery that serves the public should be allowed to discriminate against anyone it wants to based on religion is one thing. but that the same movement also supports a man who sexually assaulted a 14 girl, and also supports another man who made sexual comments about his own daughter and who bilked people out of millions of dollars?

that movement is lying to us.

Tony P., thanks for the memory -- Mona Lisa Vito, now there is an expert.

Seconded. Also a hysterically funny movie, remembered (at least by me) with great fondness.

why we need to think about having a better accommodation stance in the wedding cake case.

How would that work?

The only plan I've read or heard that seems reasonable was Aurelia's. If you don't want to serve some demographic, for whatever reason of conscience or religious faith, you have to advertise that. So that folks don't have to go through the humiliation of having you tell them how abhorrent they are.

If you don't want to serve gays, you have to have some kind of public indication that you don't serve gays. Or, whoever.

And that has to be available for everyone, for whatever religious affiliation they might have. Including atheism, agnosticism, and plain old non-religious humanism.

It'll make life really complicated in some cases, but at least it would be fair.

What I would really like are:

1. A clean definition of what the law means by "exercise of religion"
2. Protected class status for gay people

And that has to be available for everyone, for whatever religious affiliation they might have. Including atheism, agnosticism, and plain old non-religious humanism.

Yes. Religion should not be privileged over lack religion. Otherwise non-believers become second-class citizens, because someone like me (as a non-believer) can be penalized in the public square for not sharing someone else's religious beliefs, obeying their rules etc.

I suppose protected class status would take care of the counter to "it's okay to say 'we won't serve gays'" that goes something like this: "If it's okay to say you won't serve gays, why isn't it okay to say you won't serve blacks?"

I am under the impression that the Supreme Court is highly unlikely ever to create any new protected classes. That impression is some years old, and IANAL, so on the one hand it might be out of date, but on the other hand, given the composition of the court -- ha ha.

I’m fine with protected status for gay people. I am one. I just think protected status shouldn’t mean the right to have non essential services performed if you don’t like each other. It should mean that if you want a hotel or food or ER services you can get them, but that if someone doesn’t want to make a cake for your wedding that’s ok to. Being in a pluralistic society means not forcing people to do things that they strongly oppose except in really important cases.

Gay Wedding cakes just aren’t really important cases therefore if someone (no matter how idiotically) is strongly opposed to making them we shouldn’t make it illegal for them to bow out.

Similarly if a gay wedding cake maker doesn’t want to make one for a Dominionist wedding, I’m fine with that *even though religion is a protected class*. If a black photographer doesn’t want to shoot for a white power rally he should be able to say no *even though race is a protected class*.

There is a huge class issue here too. If a lawyer or accountant or psychiatrist doesn’t want to be associated with someone it is easy for them to pretend their practice area isn’t quite the perfect fit. And because they are better educated they discriminate freely but don’t have to say anything.

P.S. russell's idea that if you're going to discriminate based on something-or-other you have to advertise it would solve the problem of letting me know who I was going to turn away from my place of business. If you want the right to serve gays (or blacks, or whomever your bigoted a$$ doesn't like), then I expect the right to choose not to serve you.

Even with all this, cakes don't make me nearly as furious as pharmacists who want the right not to dispense birth control pills. You don't want to dispense perfectly legal drugs prescribed in a perfectly legal way to people who need or want them, find another damned job. It's as if one of my mother's childhood Freewill Baptist friends applied for a job in a liquor store and then said that since drinking the devil gin is against their religion, they won't sell it, even to people who don't share their beliefs. What kind of sense does it make to "accommodate" that kind of thing?

And to make the analogy with the black photographer clearer in case people don’t know the facts of the case, the cake maker makes birthday cakes for gay people. It isn’t that he won’t work with gay people. He won’t work with gay weddings.

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