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August 19, 2021

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Well, the whole act of categorization is violence, stuffing things into little hidey holes until they burst...

It's interesting, I have friends like GftNC (and it is hard for me to imagine having a friend who couldn't make me laugh to be honest, even if the laughter is only born of exasperation), and it would never occur to me to call them comedians as well. It has something to do with intention, a person coming out to make you laugh is a comedian, but your friends, while they might make you laugh, aren't really existing for the purpose of making you laugh.

Are there data to support this proposition? The data in the Cato paper you cited do not.

Another article from Cato. It seems reasonable to expect that, as restrictions to prescription opioids increase, drug addicts and pain sufferers will switch to riskier illegal drugs resulting in greater overdose death rates.


"There is now indisputable evidence showing the absence of any correlation between the number of opioid prescriptions and opioid abuse and addiction. Yet policymakers and legislators persist in tightening controls over the production and prescribing of opioids. They also appear oblivious to the fact that prescription painkillers have for years been involved in an ever‐​decreasing share of overdose deaths.

If overdose deaths continued to soar despite a reduction in prescribing, there must be a reason. Of course, it’s illicit fentanyl and its analogs, but the story doesn’t end there. The result of the crackdown on prescription opioids has been even more insidious; it has created what can more accurately be termed a “street drug epidemic” because, by any measure, it is illegal drug use, not legally prescribed opioids, that continues to drive the death toll up."
Misplaced Blame for Opioid Epidemic Harms Pain Patients: Unlike the COVID-19 pandemic, the overdose epidemic can’t be stopped with a vaccine.

Oh you know, it has just occurred to me that despite you all having such encyclopaedic knowledge of UK comedies, some of you may (some years ago) have missed Green Wing. There were two series, and everybody I knew loved it. It was also fairly surrealistic, and the actors were so excellent that I find that one watches most new things any of them are in, out of residual affection. I hope if you don't know it you can find it.

let the goalposts move!

It's just so obvious. This is another ploy by the deep state to con us into using the vaccine. But we weren't born yesterday -- we know a con when we see one.

Brief response to CharlesWT's Macbeth article, I think the reason why the number crunching quant side of literary analysis meets resistance is mostly because the data results can sometimes point to interesting observations, but the unpacking of that data sticks too closely to the immediate observation and does not dig deeply enough into context or method to find a reason *why* or *how* the text was shaped in that particular way.

It's the same difficulty I have with a lot of academic assessment work. The quantitative measures, being quantifiable, begin quickly to become the focus because they provide a degree of apparent objectivity in an otherwise subjective and ambiguous process of collective meaning-making. What gets neglected when this happens, though, is a deeper interrogation of the qualitative differences.

Writer's generally do not think in terms of word distribution, so the vocabulary of the work is driven by other priorities. The question to be asked here seems to me to be "what narrative logic is at work in MacBeth such that Shakespeare deployed definite articles to support that logic?" Which, then, seems to me to warrant some careful comparative work across similar plays.

Which is to say that the analysis is interesting, but it seems to stop short of being revealing or productive of deeper insights into the work or to the world through the work.

In more general assessment work, I think the search for unambiguous measures and outcomes works against good teaching because deep learning comes from struggling to overcome ambiguities. It's often the process, not the specific knowledge acquired in the process, that matters. Information is cheap. Discernment is priceless.

The question to be asked here seems to me to be "what narrative logic is at work in MacBeth such that Shakespeare deployed definite articles to support that logic?" Which, then, seems to me to warrant some careful comparative work across similar plays.

This is, you'll pardon me, the essence of the scientific method. You analyze something, and come up with a theory to explain what you see. But then, and this critical, you look at other cases. You look at apparently similar cases, to see if the same characteristics are present. And you look at apparently different cases, to see if they also have the supposedly predictive characteristics.

If other scary Shakespeare plays don't have the same feature, then it probably isn't the cause in Macbeth. More significantly, if non-scary Shakespeare plays also have the feature, it definitely isn't causal in Macbeth -- more likely, just a feature of the language.

It seems reasonable to expect that, …

The list of things that can reasonably be deduced from a limited set of facts, and which are nonetheless not so, is very very long.

I appreciate that you are willing to go to the trouble of linking to pieces from Cato and Reason etc. Unfortunately, I won’t read them. They assume that regulation is always bad, and then marshal whatever facts they have at hand to prove that.

It’s intellectually dishonest, and requires the disinterested reader to fact-check every point made and walk every conclusion back to its first principles to try to scratch out whatever bits of actually useful information might be hiding in there.

That’s not unique to ideological libertarian voices, every point of view has its true believers. But it basically makes the level of effort needed to engage not worth my time.

I could probably write for Cato or Reason. Just assume that government in general and regulation in particular is the root of all evil, and construct your argument from there. It’s like a high school debating society exercise.

A lot of people are freaking dead because pharma companies flooded the world with opioids and encouraged their use beyond what was healthy for the patient. Regulation didn’t make them do that, they thought of it all by themselves.

The fact that people found ways around the regulation to feed their addiction is not evidence that the regulation was illegitimate.

I’m sure there are people in extreme pain for whom the process of getting the medication they need has been complicated by regulations put in place to keep people from getting themselves f’ed up on opioids. That sucks.

When considering where the blame for that lies, consider root causes as well as proximate ones.

Quite apart from every other aspect, bravo to russell for (an increasingly rare) correct use of the word "disinterested"!

Adding to WRS, it's not surprising that the proportion of ODs from prescribed opioids went down along with the number of opioid prescriptions written. The question remains, how many more people would have become addicted had the prescriptions continued as before? The existing army of addicts created will do what it can to feed its addictions, but there's no need to contribute to the growth in its ranks by prescribing opioids with insufficient consideration of their addictiveness.

This is, you'll pardon me, the essence of the scientific method. You analyze something, and come up with a theory to explain what you see. But then, and this critical, you look at other cases. You look at apparently similar cases, to see if the same characteristics are present. And you look at apparently different cases, to see if they also have the supposedly predictive characteristics.

Yes. But also, on a deeper philosophical level, there is the question of qualitative vs quantitative differences. The difference between a Ptolemaic and Galilean model of the solar system can be seen entirely as a problem of math, but the resistance to the paradigm change was not prompted by quantitative disagreement, but by what it all meant for how we viewed ourselves within the world qualitatively.

I'm probably doing a bit of violence to qualitative/quantitative in this, but I'm on break from an all-day training session on Zoom, so this is the best I can do on a short leash.

The various social problems in Appalachia, Gloucester, may be similar to those of inner-city ghettos - with loss of employment opportunities being the major cause.

William Julius Wilson addressed this, wrt to ghettos, in When Work Disappears.

As to Fleabag, am I the only person who found it unwatchable?

byomtov: that's very interesting. You are the only person I've heard of, but there are various grounds on which I can imagine some people might have been alienated (e.g. extreme sexual frankness, particularly by a woman; breaking of the fourth wall; even blasphemy). Are you at all able, or willing, to expand or analyse?

William Julius Wilson addressed this, wrt to ghettos, in When Work Disappears.

The book was published the same year welfare reform was passed. Up until then a lot of women were being paid to be unemployed single mothers. They would take a big economic hit with any change in that status.

Plus the wage floor discouraged the creation of jobs and left many people unqualified for jobs that did exist.

“ As to Fleabag, am I the only person who found it unwatchable?”

I haven’t yet tried.

Up until then a lot of women were being paid to be unemployed single mothers. They would take a big economic hit with any change in that status.

This makes sense only if you think that those women had employment options available which would pay them enough to survive on. (And pay more per child than it cost to provide for said child.) Which makes sense . . . provided you have never tried to live on something resembling what welfare pays per month.

I think the reason why the number crunching quant side of literary analysis meets resistance is mostly because the data results can sometimes point to interesting observations, but the unpacking of that data sticks too closely to the immediate observation and does not dig deeply enough into context or method to find a reason *why* or *how* the text was shaped in that particular way.

I'm not a corpus linguist, where the quant side mentioned by nous is found (though that is just one small part), but it's hard not to be a linguist today and be shaped by that. The points that nous brings up are very true, and any conference will bring up papers by well meaning researchers where they crawl out on a limb and then proceed to saw it off behind them. And education, which often gets these ideas downstream, tends to use them to 'sex up' their findings. This tendency is pushed when wants to have numbers to justify expenditures.

Another problem is that the software has become so easy to use, it is relatively simple to drop some data into a program, and out comes a number. But then you start poking at where that data came from and you realize it is all a wil o wisp.

I don't know if that splits the difference between nous and wj. I find that corpus linguistics can provide some astonishing counter-intuitive ideas that, when explored, can really expand the boundaries of the field. However, it can also be horrifically narrow minded, assuming that all the data gathered is all the data, because that is all that could be gathered. At that time.

Have a Marxism and Asia thread coming up soon, so I should go for the trifecta and mention Chomsky here. I'm a person who likes his political stuff, but thinks that his linguistics is severely flawed and there is a relationship between his rhetoric in linguistic arguments and his rhetoric in political ones that makes me a bit squeamish about fully embracing it. Chomsky famously rejected sociolinguistics because of the way it approached evidence and he's not taken to corpus linguistics in any sort of way (as a side note, he is also resistant to any evolutionary explanation to language). When you refuse to consider what large sets of data can tell us, you are just blinding yourself. But if you think that large sets of data are the only thing that tells us anything, you are doing the same. Unfortunately, you have to look at each set of data, case by case, and interrogate it to make sure that bias isn't there and it is far to easy to insert bias. If it is innocently done, you can work thru it and get a better understanding. If it is done a la Cato or Reason, it just becomes a moat to prevent actual discussion. Russell's point about it being like a high school debate club and considering root and proximate causes are two more of for the WRS collection.

Up until then a lot of women were being paid to be unemployed single mothers. They would take a big economic hit with any change in that status.

I'm not going to break this down, but the number of elisions and questionable assumptions packed into those two sentences is really astonishing.

They also appear oblivious to the fact that prescription painkillers have for years been involved in an ever‐​decreasing share of overdose deaths.

"share", you notice, not "number". That is, non-prescription opioid deaths are going up faster than prescription opioid deaths.

the crackdown on prescription opioids has ... created what can more accurately be termed a “street drug epidemic”

Again, no evidence is offered for this claim.

I read some studies that were done in the years following Welfare Reform in Wisconsin.

In Milwaukee before Workfare, many low-income black families used to choose who would go on welfare strategically so that one single mother could watch other mothers' (usually family members) children while those siblings went off to work. The one providing day care got insurance and enough money to keep her family. The others got their daycare subsidized by taxes. The ones who were having their children cared for would build work experience or take courses at local CCs to improve their situation and use that to improve the extended family's situation.

After workfare, all of the women had to be employed or in training to receive the government subsidy. The women who had been employed lost their daycare and had to start paying for it themselves, which meant taking on another job to pay for that new expense. The one who had been providing daycare had to go find a job or enroll in training *and* now had to pay for daycare. All of them had to get more work, then, to pay for insurance, since none of their jobs came with full benefits.

Horrible policy.

Gftnc,

Are you at all able, or willing, to expand or analyse?

I am willing, but not able. I watched an episode or two, decided I really didn't like it, and stopped.
It's been a while, so I can't provide any more information. Sorry.

A friend of mine, a field linguist whose politics are left of center, once commented that the reason Chomsky wrote well about totalitarianism was he understood it well, being himself a totalitarian in linguistics, at least with respect to syntax, innateness, and so on.

JakeB, lol, your friend sounds like someone after my own heart. Pullum sarcastically observed that Chomsky's constructs often have names (binding, government, c-command) that reflect that as well.

Related to the discussion on public assistance, the decision of largely Republican states to end pandemic related unemployment benefits early has created a unique opportunity to test some assumptions regarding the impact of assistance on the willingness to work. The early results show that ending assistance generated only a marginal increase in employment over those states that continued assistance:

In our data through August 6, we find that ending pandemic UI increased employment by 4.4 percentage points while reducing UI recipiency by 35 percentage points among workers who were unemployed and receiving UI at the end of April 2021. Through the first week of August, average UI benefits for these workers fell by $278 per week and earnings rose by $14 per week, offsetting only 5% of the loss in income. Spending fell by $145 per week, as the loss of benefits led to a large immediate decline in consumption.

https://files.michaelstepner.com/pandemicUIexpiration-paper.pdf

This tracks the preliminary data on payrolls that indicated better results in states that continued benefits:

UKG, a payroll and time-management firm, found that shifts among hourly workers in those states [that cancelled UI benefits] grew at about half the rate as states that continued the benefit — the opposite trend of what one might expect.

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/08/04/early-end-to-federal-unemployment-pay-in-26-states-not-getting-people-to-work.html

So much of libertarian and Republican policy on employment and welfare is based on an assumption that people who are not working are simply lazy leading to policies that are needlessly punitive and even counterproductive.

byomtov: thank you.

In answer to your original question, then, FWIW one of my closest friends felt exactly as you did. But after all her friends raved about it, she tried again and ended up loving it. No reason to think you'd feel the same, of course.

Related to the discussion on public assistance, ...

Dueling statistics. For July, the ten states with the lowest unemployment rates have Republican governors. With the exceptions of Alaska and Arizona, the ten states with the highest unemployment rates have Democratic governors.

Unemployment Rates for States - July, 2021

How many Americans are unemployed? It’s likely a lot more than 10 million
The United States has not had reliable data during the pandemic to answer a very basic question: How many Americans are out of work?

In normal times, this monthly survey works pretty well, but these are not normal times. Response rates to this survey have fallen during the pandemic, and low-income families that have been hit hardest by the pandemic and job losses have been the least likely to respond, census researchers found.

Another unusual challenge of this pandemic is a lot of people aren’t sure if they are truly unemployed or just on an extended absence from work. The Labor Department has been open about a “misclassification error” in which some people who should have been marked as “temporarily unemployed” were instead classified as employed but “absent” from work for “other reasons.” This issue makes the unemployment figures look better than they are.

The last big issue is a lot of people have simply stopped looking for work during the pandemic. To be counted as unemployed, a person has to have actively searched for a job in the past month. About 5 million people have ceased looking, including many mothers who had to quit work or stop hunting for jobs to care for children learning from home, while schools are closed. That’s why a lot of economists say the 10.1 million figure probably underestimates the true number of people who are unemployed in this pandemic.

This is why you have to look behind stats.

what were/are the covid lockdown measures for states like NY, CA, NJ vs those in SD, ID and OK ?

covid also impacts tourism. so states like HI, NV (CA & NY) are likely to be harder hit.

FL has a lower unemployment rate than the other tourist states, but is also near the top of the per-capita covid cases. trade-offs.

Nuance!!!

To be counted as unemployed, a person has to have actively searched for a job in the past month.

If you stop UI payments, it's likely some people will move statistically to no longer being in the work force rather than being unemployed (U-3).

Places like NY are not only hit by tourism, but heavy reliance on public transportation and other factors related to population density.

Then there's the higher percentages of people employed by federal, state, or local governments in certain states. Those people would be less likely to have lost their jobs.

1. Add Maine as a state profoundly dependent on tourism. Also a state where "employment" can be complicated. One of those things they tell you when you move here: "The further north you go, the more jobs you need to survive." "Jobs" being an elastic word that includes things like fir-tipping, selling eggs from the chickens in your back yard, a bit of logging, etc. etc.

2. Open thread: the way I spend most of my time these days. Since Clickbait, words fail (a lot of the time). Pictures don't.

Thank you, Janie. I feel like my blood pressure was lower after just a minute of looking at your photos.

In the 'ideal' conservative society unemployment would never fall below 50% since
a) only paid work counts as such
b) no female would be in the paid workforce
(everyone else would work from the age of 5 till death).

Also, if people don't go back to work when their benefits get cut/ended, it just means that they
a) obviously did not need the benefits in the first place
b) are REALLY lazy (and thus undeserving of any benefits).

For July, the ten states with the lowest unemployment rates have Republican governors. With the exceptions of Alaska and Arizona, the ten states with the highest unemployment rates have Democratic governors.

How did those numbers shift (if at all) in response to changes in UI policy?

Do those numbers correlate with any factors other than / in addition to the party affiliation of the governor? Population density, most common industries, etc.?

What is it you are trying to prove with your comment, and how does the evidence you present prove it?

Still an open thread, so I toss this in here

https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2021/08/24/1030151330/a-unicorn-startup-is-turning-houses-into-corporations

For July, the ten states with the lowest unemployment rates have Republican governors. With the exceptions of Alaska and Arizona, the ten states with the highest unemployment rates have Democratic governors.

Charles, wouldn't it make more sense to look at stats on states which have, or have not, cut the unemployment benefit? Rather than just looking at which party their governor belongs to.

And then there is the detail that, for a valid evaluation one would want to compare to unemployment rates before the pandemic. Just to be comparing apples to apples.

Crossposted with russell.

hsh -- glad to hear it; taking pictures does that for me. :-)

I have a post of my own coming, probably next week. I will try to remember to link to it here. That topic is covered in my blurb, indirectly anyhow.

This is just way cool
https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap210824.html

Not only the image of a planet-forming disk around a star. Not just an image of a (Jupiter-sized) planet around that star. But a picture of the satellite-forming disk around that planet. Or, depending on how you see it, maybe even of the moons themselves.

that is indeed way cool

While not shared ownership corporations, I've read that incorporating houses has been a thing for some time in California. The idea is that if a corporation is being sold instead of the house, the property taxes don't go up if the value of the house increases.

russell and wi, I did say, "dueling statistics." Unemployment rates by states are admittedly a bit too crude to prove much. Here are the 2019 unemployment rates.

Unemployment Rates for States - 2019

It backs up the dependency of some states on tourism.

On a sadder note - R.I.P. Charlie Watts, drummer for The Rolling Stones and probably the best dressed man on the planet.

People put Charlie down because of his technical limitations as a drummer, but he sure put the snap crackle and pop in a lot of Stones tunes.

I’m tired of posting about people dying.

R.I.P. Charlie Watts

Aw, sh*t...

Agree wholeheartedly with hsh, Janie. Wonderful pictures. I love them all, but the trees! Very very beautiful.

Charlie Watts, what a total drag to hear (although I had heard he was ill years ago). My late husband (quite a dandy himself) once reported seeing him not far from my place in London, wearing a particularly beautiful tweed coat with a velvet collar.

I had not thought death had undone so many.

Sigh.

Thanks russell.

Steve and I joke about naming my pictures: Tree #1, Tree #17a, etc.

I love having BJ as a platform for everyone's photos, but their software degrades the images badly. We're working on a website where we can display better versions.

Sorry, that thank you belonged to GftNC. Humidity has melted my brain. Along with news of another sad loss.

RIP Charlie Watts. I have given up posting these, Frank Beard was last week or whatever. I just can't emotionally keep up with the losses.

I am starting to dread the next wave Willie, Kris, James, Crosby,Stills, Carole, Joan, Judy, Neil, then Dylan. And those are just songwriters. The Bands just about gone, Robbie and Garth. Joe Walsh, Ozzie, Michael, Keith, Paul and Ringo. That list is really long I had just looked up how old the Stones were just last week because they were coming to Tampa.

The day the music died, one cut at a time.

Now. I'm depressed, luckily I can go listen to them which always lifts me up.


For July, the ten states with the lowest unemployment rates have Republican governors.

With one exception, they are also all small-population states. A couple of them I recognize as states that had very low UI rates pre-pandemic. I was looking at those pre-pandemic for other reasons, and they were examples of states with a relatively very few booming blue-voting more-urban counties that were hoovering up all the rural labor they could get.

Related to that subject, I am taken by the second map in this Guardian piece showing huge swaths of rural America shedding population in absolute terms while urban/suburban areas grew.

RIP Charlie Watts. I have given up posting these, Frank Beard was last week or whatever. I just can't emotionally keep up with the losses.

A disturbing number of them were born less than a decade before me. Although I expect Keith Richards to outlive us all. Almost all -- I recall someone once saying, "Do you suppose Keith Richards worries about what sort of world he's going to leave for Betty White?"

I expect Keith Richards to outlive us all.

Same. And if it isn't true, it ought to be.

(Note to the evil eye: it's a joke.)

https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2021/08/charlie-watts

Eric Wagner, vocalist for seminal doom metal band Trouble, died of COVID related pneumonia a couple days ago at the age of 62, so...

His band The Skull had done a couple live shows in preparation for the Psycho Las Vegas festival and Wagner came down with COVID following that.

A friend of mine gave me a cassette dub of Trouble's The Skull back in 1986. Was probably the first album I had and listened to that was unequivocally a metal album. I'd never heard anything so heavy in my young life.

In a time when speed ruled the young world of metal, those guys (along with Candlemass, Pentagram, and Saint Vitus) channeled the slow and heavy side of Sabbath and built the foundation for doom.

What a bloody shame.

I watched him play in London once at Ronnie Scott's. It wasn't really my type of Jazz but they were good - unfortunately I had to leave early to catch the last tube (Sunday...).

Still an open thread, so an interview in the Guardian yesterday with Laura Bates, the founder of Everyday Sexism, on her new book and the connections between online radicalisation of youth and white supremacy, incel propaganda, and anti-feminism.

And this world of extreme misogyny is chillingly intertwined with the neo-Nazi one. “The journey of many men who are groomed and radicalised online towards white supremacy starts in anti-feminist forums,” Bates says. “You can see it in the overlap of the lexicon – the entire dense, complex language they’ve created for themselves [red pills, blue pills as in The Matrix, black pills to denote suicidal certainty] – is very similar across both groups. A lot of white supremacy is predicated on this obsession with birth rates and replacement theory, the idea that white women need to be forced into sexual servitude and raped, in order to bear white, pure babies. The incel movement is obsessed with sterilising or forcing abortions on black women. And some groups explicitly say – they call it ‘adding cherry flavour to children’s medicine’ – that you target kids of 11-up with anti-feminist memes and jokes, and that’s the gateway to white nationalism.”

She first noticed it when, doing her work in schools, boys from all parts of the country all started quoting the same, weird, incorrect statistics.

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/aug/27/laura-bates-on-the-men-who-hate-women-idolise-murderers

I hope you will forgive me if I occasionally comment on this thread, in order to keep the comment above (@11.53) noticeable, so that it doesn't just sink into obscurity while most people argue about Marxism and the economics of the market. This is in case some people who have not seen it (because it disappears so fast from "recent comments") would be interested in it. I have to assume (and hope) that the sort of people who participate in ObWi are the sort of people who will be interested in this analysis and these phenomena.

Another penny drops:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/federal-judge-in-michigan-orders-pro-trump-lawyers-disciplined-over-lawsuit-seeking-to-overturn-2020-election/2021/08/25/16bbe7b2-05f0-11ec-a654-900a78538242_story.html

A federal judge in Michigan has ordered that Sidney Powell, L. Lin Wood and seven other attorneys who filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the state’s 2020 presidential election be disciplined, calling the suit “a historic and profound abuse of the judicial process.”

In a scathing 110-page opinion, Federal District Judge Linda V. Parker wrote that the lawyers had made assertions in court that were not backed by evidence and had failed to do the due diligence required by legal rules before alleging mass fraud in the Michigan vote.

“This case was never about fraud,” she wrote. “It was about undermining the People’s faith in our democracy and debasing the judicial process to do so.”

If nothing else, in future Trump and company may have more difficulty finding lawyers willing to represent them with baldfaced lying when they will trash their careers doing so.

"If nothing else, in future Trump and company may have more difficulty finding lawyers willing to represent them with baldfaced lying when they will trash their careers doing so."

That very much depends on how those grifting shysters do in the Wingnut Welfare circuit.

or how many [blank]s have been put into judgeships

https://www.vox.com/2021/8/24/22637775/supreme-court-texas-biden-remain-in-mexico-trump

That very much depends on how those grifting shysters do in the Wingnut Welfare circuit.

Yeah, but they've got that anyway. For the moment -- on that circuit there's constant turnover. Always a new grifter coming along to vacuum up the marks.

An update to lj's 11:05PM
https://www.vox.com/2021/8/24/22640424/supreme-court-remain-in-mexico-trump-biden-samuel-alito-immigration

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