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Hometown: Ann Arbor, Michigan
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Member since: Thu Sep 25, 2003, 01:04 PM
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Weekend Economists Simplify Everything! October 25-27, 2013

Last Weekend, we danced around the issue of simplicity, literally.

The truth is, it takes a lot of intelligence, creativity, experience and some very complex reasoning to get to simplicity, or as scientists and engineers would call it, the Elegant Solution:

elegant solution:

The word elegant, in general, is an adjective meaning of fine quality. Refinement and simplicity are implied, rather than fussiness, or ostentation. An elegant solution, often referred to in relation to problems in disciplines such as mathematics, engineering, and programming, is one in which the maximum desired effect is achieved with the smallest, or simplest effort. Engineers, for example, seek the elegant solution as a means of solving a problem with the least possible waste of materials and effort. The elegant solution is also likely to be accomplished with appropriate methods and materials - according to the Elegant Solution Organization, duct tape is not likely to be part of an elegant solution, unless, of course, the problem involves taping ducts.


Well, maybe not. I used duct tape to mend a vacuum cleaner hose cheaply, quickly and effectively. Not "elegant" in the artistic meaning of the word, but it got the job done, and will keep doing so, indefinitely.

Perhaps we shall reserve "elegance" for the original design, which ought to be simple and effective enough to NOT need repair by something as tawdry as duct tape. A vacuum cleaner, of course, is a kind of kludge....nothing like a simple, elegant solution.

kludge (informal or slang word)
alternate spelling: kluge

1. an ill-assorted collection of parts assembled to fulfill a particular purpose.
In Computing: a machine, system, or program that has been badly put together.


1. use ill-assorted parts to make (something).
"Hugh had to kludge something together"

However, duct tape itself is a supremely elegant design...

Elegance is a synonym for beautiful that has come to acquire the additional connotations of unusual effectiveness and simplicity. It is frequently used as a standard of tastefulness particularly in the areas of visual design, decoration, the sciences, and the esthetics of mathematics. Elegant things exhibit refined grace and dignified propriety.... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elegance

Did you know duct tape comes in high-fashion colors for crafts? And people have made prom dresses and other clothing out of duct tape? (and at a cost comparable to the real thing, at today's prices for duct tape).

Duct tape prom dress could win Kansas teen $5,000


How did I get off on this tangent?

Well, it wasn't simple, that's for sure. But that's what you get, from a Generalist's brain....

How bad is it? Read this and weep: Scott Adams couldn't even do it justice

Assessing the Exchanges By Yuval Levin


Why a four year old child could understand this.
Run out and get me a four year old child,
I can't make head or tail out of it.

Groucho in Duck Soup (movie)

....The tone of the CMS officials who spoke with me was a kind of restrained panic. Among the insurance company officials (who, I should stress again, work in the Washington offices of some large insurers, and so are basically policy people and lobbyists), there was much less restraint. The insurers are very, very worried about the viability of the exchange system—especially but not exclusively at the federal level....


...For me, and for other critics of Obamacare, the problem with the law was never about these technical matters. I didn’t think the system wouldn’t work because the government couldn’t build a website, but because the basic health economics involved is deeply misguided and would take the (badly inadequate) American health-financing system in the wrong direction. So these problems only seem like a prelude to other, larger problems. But Obamacare was also always going to be a test of the sheer capacity of the administrative state to actually do what it claims the authority and ability to do. At this point, it looks as though we may be witnessing a failure of the administrative state on a level unimagined even by its staunchest critics. We may be. But we’ll have to see.

Snowden Offers to Fix Healthcare.gov by Andy Borowitz


The N.S.A. leaker Edward Snowden today reached out to the United States government, offering to fix its troubled healthcare.gov Web site in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Speaking from an undisclosed location in Russia, Mr. Snowden said he hacked the Web site over the weekend and thinks he is “pretty sure what the problem is.”

“Look, this thing was built terribly,” he said. “It’s a government Web site, O.K.?”

Mr. Snowden said that if an immunity deal can be worked out, “I can get to work on this thing right away—I don’t need a password.”

In addition to full immunity, Mr. Snowden said he is requesting that he be allowed to work from home.

At the White House, President Obama offered a muted response to Mr. Snowden’s proposal: “Edward Snowden is a traitor who has compromised our national security. Having said that, if he knows why we keep getting those error messages, that could be a conversation.”


Simple "Weekend Economists" October 18-20, 2013

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free

'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,

And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain'd,

To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,

To turn, turn will be our delight,

Till by turning, turning we come 'round right.

Portrait of Elder Joseph Brackett Jr,

The Aletheia:Spirit of Truth
by Aurelia G. Mace.
Farmington, Maine:
Press of the Knowlton & McLeary Co., 1907

"Simple Gifts" was written by Elder Joseph Brackett while he was at the Shaker community in Alfred, Maine. These are the lyrics to his one-verse song. Several Shaker manuscripts indicate that this is a "Dancing Song" or a "Quick Dance." "Turning" is a common theme in Christian theology, but the references to "turning" in the last two lines have also been identified as dance instructions. A manuscript of Mary Hazzard of the New Lebanon, New York, Shaker community records this original version of the melody:

Among other uses and adaptations, the Shaker's "Simple Gifts" melody shows up as a part of Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring Suite, choreographed by Martha Graham 1944. (I don't think Martha had a clue about the Shakers...especially their tendency to eschew marriage and reproduction, hence the title "Appalachian Spring".

This is the movement based on the Shaker tune

Two additional, later non-Shaker verses exist for the song, as follows:

'Tis the gift to be loved and that love to return,
'Tis the gift to be taught and a richer gift to learn,
And when we expect of others what we try to live each day,
Then we'll all live together and we'll all learn to say,
'Tis the gift to have friends and a true friend to be,
'Tis the gift to think of others not to only think of "me",
And when we hear what others really think and really feel,
Then we'll all live together with a love that is real.[9]
Tis the gift to be loving, tis the best gift of all
Like a quiet rain it blesses where it falls
And with it we will truly believe
Tis better to give than it is to receive

And an additional alternative:

The Earth is our mother and the fullness thereof,
Her streets, her slums, as well as stars above.
Salvation is here where we laugh, where we cry,
Where we seek and love, where we live and die.

When true liberty is found,
By fear and by hate we will no more be bound.
In love and in light we will find our new birth
And in peace and freedom, redeem the Earth.[10]

Another alternate verse:

'tis a gift to be simple, 'tis a gift to be fair
'tis a gift to wake and breathe the morning air
and each day we walk on the path that we choose
'tis a gift we pray we never shall lose

"Lord Of The Dance" is another hymn, with words written by English songwriter Sydney Carter in 1963, that uses the melody of the "Simple Gifts" hymn..

I danced in the morning when the world was begun
I danced in the Moon & the Stars & the Sun
I came down from Heaven & I danced on Earth
At Bethlehem I had my birth:

Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said He!
(...lead you all in the Dance, said He!)

I danced for the scribe & the pharisee
But they would not dance & they wouldn't follow me
I danced for fishermen, for James & John
They came with me & the Dance went on:

Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said He!
(...lead you all in the Dance, said He!)

I danced on the Sabbath & I cured the lame
The holy people said it was a shame!
They whipped & they stripped & they hung me high
And they left me there on a cross to die!

Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said He!
(...lead you all in the Dance, said He!)

I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black
It's hard to dance with the devil on your back
They buried my body & they thought I'd gone
But I am the Dance & I still go on!

Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said He!
(...lead you all in the Dance, said He!)

They cut me down and I leapt up high
I am the Life that'll never, never die!
I'll live in you if you'll live in Me -
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!

Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said He!

And of course, Michael Flatley took it from there:

Human beings don't do simple very well....certainly not this one! Nor the Congresscritters, as evidenced by their antics this month and last...

2500+ Killed by Drones in Pakistan, Names of Victims Now Available

Medea Benjamin ALSO discusses protecting the US public from drones at home

The Calvinistic Elite Rejoices at such news

It is exactly what they wished for.

Whereas, we would prefer to shut down the Military Occupations and Corporate Subsidies, including Energy and Agribusiness and the abusers of comsumers, wherever they may operate...

The South is holding America hostage: The Tea Party's not crazy -- they had a plan. Now liberals and progressives need one, too By Michael Lind


When I have described the well-considered, coherent political and economic strategies of the conservative white South, as I have done here, here and here, I am sometimes been accused of being a “conspiracy theorist.” But one need not believe that white-hooded Dragons and Wizards are secretly coordinating the actions of Southern conservative politicians from a bunker underneath Stone Mountain in Georgia to believe that a number of contemporary policies — from race-to-the-bottom economic policies to voter disfranchisement and attempts to decentralize or privatize federal social insurance entitlements — serve the interests of those who promote them, who tend to be white Southern conservatives.

Just as a strategy is not a conspiracy, so it is not insanity. Ironically, American progressives, centrists and some Northern conservatives are only deluding themselves, when they insist that the kind of right-wing Southerners behind the government shutdown are “crazy.” Crazy, yes — crazy like a fox.

Another mistake is the failure to recognize that the Southern elite strategy, though bound up with white supremacy throughout history, is primarily about cheap and powerless labor, not about race. If the South and the U.S. as a whole through some magical transformation became racially homogeneous tomorrow, there is no reason to believe that the Southern business and political class would suddenly embrace a new model of political economy based on high wages, high taxes and centralized government, rather than pursue its historical model of a low-wage, low-tax, decentralized system, even though all workers, employers and investors now shared a common skin color.

So the struggle is not one to convert Southern Baptists to Darwinism or to get racists to celebrate diversity. The on-going power struggle between the local elites of the former Confederacy and their allies in other regions and the rest of the United States is not primarily about personal attitudes. It is about power and wealth.

For some time, the initiative has rested with the Southern power elite, which knows what it wants and has a plan to get it. The strategy of the conservative South, as a nation-within-a nation and in the global economy, combines an economic strategy and a political strategy....


G.O.P.’s Hopes to Take Senate Are Dimming By JEREMY W. PETERS


Next year was supposed to be a prime opportunity for Republicans to retake the Senate. And for a while, everything seemed to be breaking their way: a wave of Democratic retirements, a fluke in the electoral map that put a large number of races in states that President Obama lost, a strong farm team of conservative Senate hopefuls from the House.

Then the government shut down. Now, instead of sharpening their attacks on Democrats, Republicans on Capitol Hill are being forced to explain why they are not to blame and why Americans should trust them to govern both houses of Congress when the one they do run is in such disarray. Complicating the prospects, the grass-roots political force that has provided so much of the energy for conservative victories over the last four years — the Tea Party — is aggressively working against Republicans it considers not conservative enough.

As a result, many Republicans are openly worrying that the fallout from the fiscal battles paralyzing the capital will hit hardest not in the House, which seems safely in Republican hands thanks to carefully redrawn districts, but in the Senate. Republican infighting, they say, has given Democrats the cover they need to deflect blame and keep their majority...With the elections still a year away, it is impossible to tell what other factors might alter the field. But Republicans, Democrats and independent experts all agree that the government shutdown has added one more cross for Republicans to bear...The Republicans have little margin of error. A new analysis by Cook Political showed how difficult the math was. The party would need to win five of the six Senate seats considered most competitive to recapture a majority. All six of those seats are in states that Mitt Romney won in 2012, but as Mr. Cook put it, “The path is very, very, very narrow.”


For their part, the incumbent Democrats who will face off against the Republicans who have embraced the shutdown strategy seem to feel that they have caught a lucky break. When told the other day that Republicans were hopeful they could topple her by attacking her insistence that Democrats not give in on the health law or the debt ceiling, Senator Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana was incredulous. “Oh, really?” she said. “Oh, really?”

Salmonella and Hepatitis Outbreaks Start Up as Government Shuts Down


Food-borne pathogens are not cooperating with the Republican shutdown of the US government.

In fact, they are busy sickening and killing Americans in more than 18 states, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are scrambling to recall furloughed employees to deal with a dangerous food-borne salmonella outbreak and a lethal Hepatitis outbreak in Hawaii.

The dual outbreaks have been linked to contaminated Foster Farms chicken products and the Dallas-based USPLabs LLC dietary supplement, OxyElite Pro. The outbreaks have sickened more than 300 people so far, killed one and hospitalized 87, with reports of antibiotic resistance for the precipitating strain of salmonella Heidelberg. No recall is currently in effect for Foster Farms chicken, but USPLabs LLC has ceased distributing the supplement until the FDA investigation is complete.

US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) inspectors have not been affected by the ongoing government shutdown as many meat and poultry facilities cannot legally operate without a USDA inspector on site. But more than 45 percent of all FDA employees have been furloughed, leaving daily operations such as crucial inspections of food imports on hiatus until the government reopens. The CDC, which functions as the detective agency for the FDA and FSIS, was down to a skeleton crew of just 10 employees in its food-borne illness division when the latest outbreaks occurred. Since the government shutdown began 11 days ago, these 10 employees have been struggling to maintain the constant updates required by the CDC's nationwide PulseNet database for tracking food-borne pathogens and outbreaks. All federal and state agencies across the United States rely on this database for their work on food safety....

Weekend Economists Shake the Foundation October 11-13, 2013

These are earth-shattering, world-quaking times we endure, in the nicest Autumn since 1975...
but I'm thinking specifically of Isaac Asimov, who founded several alternate worlds of wonder and adventure, while simultaneously exploring this one.

I first met Asimov through his science fiction, which led to his non-fiction, then his "other" fiction, which led to his appearance at the NYC AG. I was a fan girl before the term existed. We were soul mates.

People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.
Isaac Asimov

The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.
Isaac Asimov

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny...'
Isaac Asimov

Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It's the transition that's troublesome.
Isaac Asimov

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.
Isaac Asimov


I don't think we'll run out of topic, this weekend...(but first, I must run off to lose money at Euchre...)

Have at it, Weekenders!

Shutdown: Conservatives’ Revenge Against the “47 Percent”, Pt.1


During the first days of the government shutdown, conservatives were beside themselves with joy. Michele Bachmann (R, MN) told the Washington Post, “It’s exactly what we wanted, and we got it.” Conservative media figures looked forward to “a long siege” that would “ideally” keep the government closed through the 2014 election. It was as if Republicans were relishing revenge against the “47 percent” that Mitt Romney disdained during the 2012 election, and the rest of the American electorate for rejecting the GOP’s agenda.

But conservatives aren’t just rejoicing over the success of their plan to shut down the government. Conservatives are also celebrating the consequences of the shutdown for those hit hardest by it: government workers, and those who rely on the services government agencies and workers provide. Conservatives believe shutting down the government is the right thing to do for the same reason they believed sequestration was the right thing to do. To understand this, one must first understand the conservative worldview as explained by George Lakoff.

Competition is necessary for a moral world; without it, people would not have to develop discipline and so would not become moral beings. Worldly success is an indicator of sufficient moral strength; lack of success suggests lack of sufficient discipline. Dependency is immoral. The undisciplined will be weak and poor, and deservedly so.

In this worldview, the purpose of government is to protect the country by “maximizing military and political strength,” and “promote unimpeded economic activity” so that the “disciplined moral people” and “undisciplined immoral people” get what they deserve. You can tell who the “disciplined moral people are” by their “worldly success.” You can tell who the “undisciplined immoral people” are by their “lack of success.” Basically, the better off are better off because they are better people. The poor are poor because of their poor character. Promoting “unimpeded economic activity” means favoring the “best people” — those who control wealth and power — over those who are unsuccessful because they are morally weak.

Any government which “impedes” economic activity by the “best people,” through regulations designed to protect the consumers, workers, communities, etc., penalizes morality and discipline. Any government activity which protects the “immoral undisciplined people” from the economic consequences of their poor character rewards immorality and discipline. To conservatives, sequestration was a good start, but shutting down the government is even better. Sending government workers home without pay, and cutting off services to low-income Americans is the right thing to do. Plus, it means conservatives can force the country to conform to their worldview, without even having to win an election.


Terrance Heath is the Online Producer at Campaign for America's Future. He has consulted on blogging and social media consultant for a number of organizations and agencies. He is a prominent activist on LGBT and HIV/AIDS issues.

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