08 Aug 2016


Contra Krugman, Potpourri 36 Comments

==> Yikes, I think I might be two Contra Krugman episodes behind. Here’s the live broadcast from Mises U, and here’s the latest episode where we discuss Krugman’s slogan for Hillary: “She probably won’t be a disaster.”

==> Lucas Engelhardt gives a nice review for my book *Choice*.

==> Steve Patterson argues that modern set theory is built on quicksand.

==> As it was intended, the Democratic clips of Donald Trump talking about a disabled reporter made me think he was mocking someone’s disability. That may not be true. (To be sure, I think the guy is still a jerk, but the single worst thing I thought I knew about his behavior was this clip–which now appears to be out of context. HT2 David R. Henderson who also is not pro-Trump, but is just clarifying the record.)

==> I haven’t read this yet, but there’s a naughty post-9/11 Seinfeld script running around…

36 Responses to “Potpourri”

  1. Harold says:

    Steve Patterson must of course be wrong. Or at least very likely to be. But where is the error? His view seems the opposite of Steve Landsburg’s. SL claims that the universe is a mathematical object. SP says that numbers are an abstraction and only the physical universe exists. SP’s frequent references to fruit in a bowl simply has it all the wrong way round.

    He says “The correction is obvious: sets are generated by the human mind and are therefore finite. They are only as large as they’ve been created. By putting three periods together, one has not created an infinite anything. One has stopped thinking. Wherever the numbers stop, the numbers stop.” He seems to ignore the possibility of a concept of infinite sets, even if no set we actually construct can be infinite.

    I am not sure about this. Cantor’s demonstration of different infinities is a wonderfully elegant demonstration that you don’t need to be a mathematician to understand, and math seems to work pretty well using it. If we were to use SP’s definitions, where there appears to be no different sized infinities, I presume maths would cease to map so unerringly onto what we call the real world, but a succinct summary of where he goes wrong would be welcome.

    • Will says:

      Patterson doesn’t seem to understand how math works, I think. He correctly lays out that mathematicians start with axioms and then prove things, which is absolutely correct. But the axioms aren’t derived from the physical world at all, math is a game where you play with formal systems. Set theory includes infinite sets by definition. It’s also superuseful to be able to say that any set of integers is a subset of some “set of all integers” and obviously useful formalisms/sets-of-axioms are better than ones that aren’t.

      If Patterson wants to create a new formal system that doesn’t include infinite sets, he can, but many have tried. Lots of people objected to Cantor’s idea of infinite sets at the time (you can find some history in wikipedia’s finitism article), but none managed to make an alternate system that works well.

    • Goose says:

      Patterson has taken a highly contentious issue in the philosophy of mathematics – nominalism vs platonism (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/nominalism-mathematics/#TwoVieAboMatNomPla) – decided that a very stripped down version of nominalism is correct (with no justification), and then went off the rails from there.

      • Toby says:

        Exactly. I read it expecting to read more than “I am not a platonist” but couldn’t find it.

  2. Goose says:

    I was always a little bit skeptical of the “Trump mocks disabled reporter” narrative – seemed to good to be true, even for his standards. But that article leaves out his original remarks at a rally in Birmingham AL when he claimed that “thousands” cheered, then plays semantics with the term “swarm” when only 8 people were detained/investigated.

    • guest says:

      Huh? Isn’t there an “UPDATED on 7/28/16” part that specifically gets into that?

      • Goose says:

        Right, but they never quoted Trump himself using the “thousands” figure. And again, their contention is that an unverified “swarm” of people automatically = “thousands”. The only “proof” linked is a breitbart listicle that does a very poor job of “proving” that anything more than 20-30 people were celebrating, at most.

  3. RPLong says:

    I tried to make this point elsewhere, to no avail, so let me try one more time:

    Trump engaged in a set of gestures that is commonly understood to be mimickery of certain kinds of mental, and certain kinds of physical, handicaps.

    Trump was accused of using these gestures to mock someone who actually had one of these physical handicaps.

    As it turns out, Trump was simply making these gestures to indicate general mockery, and it was not targeted at someone who specifically possessed any of the handicaps in question. Also, as it turns out, Trump does this often.

    So now Bob (and others) are saying that the media is being unfair because instead of viciously mocking a specific handicapped individual, Trump was instead using an obscene gesture that offends all people who suffer from a certain list of handicaps, plus anyone with any sympathy toward them, plus anyone with a modicum of common decency.

    And this, THIS, is supposed to be why the media was unfair to Trump.

    I just don’t get it.

    • Andrew Keen says:

      Man, you are good at being offended.

      • RPLong says:

        Andrew, I know absolutely nothing about you, but I’m going to be charitable and assume that you are not old enough to have lived through the age in which these gestures were so common that they appeared as punchlines on TV sitcoms and movies. People would make those gestures, make a vocal sound consistent with some forms of low-functioning autism, and then call someone a “retard.”

        I lived through this, and so did Trump. If you never experienced seeing this in your lifetime, consider yourself fortunate. But people my age and older know exactly what these gestures mean.

        • Mike says:

          Having been to middle school myself, I am a fellow expert on how to mock someone as a “spaz,” and that’s clearly not what Trump was doing in that video. He moved both hands through a wide range of motion, and a small portion of that, taken out of context, looks almost like what you’re talking about.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      RPLong, I’d tell you take a chill pill, but that might offend people on prescription medications.

      Point to one sentence from my post that you disagree with. I even went out of my way to say I think he’s a jerk.

      You are wrong. If someone says generically, “Man, that proposal is retarded,” and then someone else plays that clip and says, “This guy was making fun of a mentally handicapped person!!” when the guy really wasn’t, then the second person is way way worse than the first.

      FWIW I used to say “retarded” like that, and now I don’t because I don’t want to bother people who have or are related to people with mental handicaps. But I still say “nutjob” even though somebody told me that too is offensive.

      • RPLong says:

        I’m just saying that it’s offensive to the disabled whether or not that one specific journalist was the specific target. So if we were “fact-checking” this, we’d have to rate it more true than false, if our standard of truth involves whether or not the gesture means what we all know it means. I’m not saying you’re wrong, I’m saying it’s a meaningless technicality, like arguing over whether X called Y a “poopy head” or a “doo-doo head.”

        Also, I presume it’s more important for professional diplomats to exercise tact when dealing with the public than for joe blow blogger (even Awesome Joe Blow Blogger, like you).

        • Bob Murphy says:

          RPLong I understood what you were saying, and I profoundly disagree. It is a HUGE difference if someone is using a generic insult that might be offensive to a certain group of people, versus literally mocking someone for being disabled.

          If you wanted to argue, “I think Trump is a boor so whether he did this particular thing, eh I don’t care,” then I would totally be fine with that position. But if you are saying (which it seems you are) that “Yeah Trump basically was mocking this guy for being disabled,” then no I think that’s craz–I mean, I think that is not correct…

          • RPLong says:

            Oh, I guess that’s our disagreement then. I believe that someone who uses that gesture is mocking that reporter, whether or not the reporter is the direct recipient, whereas you believe there are two different levels of wrong: a minor one involving generalizations, and a major one involving specificity.

            I won’t belabor the point, but I really think you ought to reconsider your position. Replacing the gesture with something like the n-word or the c-word helps clarify how little daylight there is between general vs specific use when it comes to the question of whether A is mocking B. For me, the daylight – if it exists at all – shrinks to the point of insignificance.

            • Bob Murphy says:

              RPLong one more time: Let’s say a person on Twitter named “Ben Smith” said, “Murphy I wish you wouldn’t defend Trump so much” and I said, “Ben stop being such a little bi***,” and it turned out it was short for Benji and she was a woman, you think it would be fair to say, “Bob Murphy called a woman a bi***!!” ?

              • RPLong says:

                Yes, Bob, IMO it would be fair to say you called a woman a b—, and especially fair to say that you had used a gendered term in a way that any woman would find offensive, even if they weren’t the direct recipient.

                If I understand it correctly, then I think that example does a good job of highlighting where we disagree, right?

              • Bob Murphy says:

                Yes, RP, I am totally fine with using that as an example.

              • Bob Murphy says:

                And I hope RP you see I wasn’t trying to weasel out of it. Obviously someone who calls even guys “little bit**” is going to offend some people and not be Public Hero #1. But I think it was a good example, that if he thought he was talking to a guy that is totally different from him calling a woman a bi*** to her face.

              • RPLong says:

                haha, yeah Bob it is a really good example because from the looks of it we both feel like it demonstrates our point perfectly.

              • Bob Murphy says:

                Yes! I am happy to go “all in” on that one. I think there is a sizable group of readers who would say, “Yeah, I totally get Bob’s point, duh” and presumably you feel the same. 🙂

          • Harold says:

            I think Trump could be mocking this particular disabled person by making generic “disabled mocking movements” even if these movements did not match those of the individual. Everyone understands (I would hope) that being called a “spastic” is not necessarily less hurtful if you do not suffer from Cerebral Palsy, but a paralysis of the arm or epilepsy.*

            Whether Trump was actually doing this is open to question, but the fact that his movements did not match those of the journalist seems to me to be irrelevant.

            Your example: “If someone says generically, “Man, that proposal is retarded,” and then someone else plays that clip and says, “This guy was making fun of a mentally handicapped person!!” when the guy really wasn’t, then the second person is way way worse than the first.”

            Lets bring it closer to the actual events. If person A had said “Person B proposed this? Well he is retarded”, said with a head wobble and funny face. It turns out that person B suffered from, say epilepsy. It could be taken that person A was having a go at person B’s disability, especially if there were grounds to think that person A may have known about the condition of B. It would not be a defense really to say that person B is not retarded, he suffers from epilepsy, so A could not possibly have been mocking him.

            So whilst will not say that Trump was mocking the disabled person, it remains a reasonable scenario, and certainly not craz- I mean, it may be correct.

            Incidentally, I think Trump is a boor so whether he did this particular thing, eh I don’t care.

            *Just looked it up and Spastic is apparently much more derogatory in the UK than the US. Substitute appropriate term for your locality.

  4. Bharat says:

    I was surprised — that Trump piece was very convincing.

  5. harold says:

    Re Trump, from the comments the author says:
    “Trump is moving his arms. What about the guy he is impersonating? Does his condition make him spastic? No. That’s the point. It’s the entire point of the article.”
    Then the entire article is pointless. The “spastic” movements can mock all disabled people, even those whose symptoms do not exactly match those demonstrated.

    What happens here?

    1) Trump lies about seeing video of 1000’s dancing in the streets in celebration of 9/11. The most likely explanation is Trump saw footage of it in other countries, maybe heard about the Washington Post article and conflated the two, but we will never know for sure.

    2) When someone points out the error, he finds the WP article to falsely justify his claims. The journalist points out correctly that neither the article nor his recollection justifies Trump’s claim. Trump falsely accused the journalist of back-tracking.

    3) When falsely accusing the journalist he makes movements that are often used to mock the disabled. It matters not a jot that Kowalski’s disability is not one that is precisely mimicked by the movements. That is totally beside the point.

    4) Trump has a defense – that the movements were not mocking the disabled but were intended to illustrate someone being flustered and under pressure. He even made somewhat similar- but much less pronounced-movements when describing Cruz under pressure. Now you can look at the footage and make your own mind up. Trumps excuse is plausible. However the article makes stupid points that in no way “prove” that Trump was not mocking the disabled.

    I can’t argue with the “may not be true” that Bob says, but we can say that about most things. The article certainly does not vindicate him.

    • Harold says:

      The main point I meant to make that whatever Trump’s behavior on mocking the disabled, he is still lying about footage of celebrations in New Jersey streets. Just one more easily checked lie among a great many. Even when proved wrong he clings to the lie. There categorically was not “well covered at the time” TV footage of thousands of people dancing in the streets anywhere in the USA. That is a lie or a mistake. Refusal to accept it may have been a mistake makes it a lie. This guy lies like it is going out of fashion.

    • Andrew Keen says:

      The entire media narrative is: “Donald Trump met this guy. He knows what his condition looks like and he mocked it at a campaign rally.”

      In your post, you acknowledge that this narrative is most likely not true: “symptoms do not exactly match those demonstrated”

      The rest of your post explains why this new information does not completely exonerate Trump in your mind. Good to know. Just realize that it is beside Bob’s point.

    • Tel says:

      That narrative is just totally dishonest, the media tried to pretend that no such thing ever happened. Here’s the quote directly out of the Washington Post


      The Facts

      This is a bit like writing about the hole in the doughnut — how can you write about nothing?

      Trump says that he saw this with his own eyes on television and that it was well covered. But an extensive examination of news clips from that period turns up nothing. There were some reports of celebrations overseas, in Muslim countries, but nothing that we can find involving the Arab populations of New Jersey except for unconfirmed reports. (Some conspiracy Web sites cite a column by controversial blogger and commentator Debbie Schlussel, who is highly critical of Muslims, that makes a reference to an MTV broadcast of protests and riots in Paterson, N.J.; this claim has never been authenticated.) As the Newark Star-Ledger put it in an article on Sept. 18, 2001, “rumors of rooftop celebrations of the attack by Muslims here proved unfounded.”

      They actually used the word “nothing”, and they also quote: STEPHANOPOULOS: “As I said, the police have said it didn’t happen.”

      NOTE: not “oh you got the numbers wrong” that’s NOT what they said at first, they attempted to claim that nothing happened, nada, zip, big empty doghnut hole, zero.

      So who is lying here? This I might point out was after they had plenty of time to research it. That’s why they were embarrassed later on when various reports pointed out that it did happen (including police reports), and no one for sure can tell you exactly how many people were involved. Trump may have got the numbers wrong but his guess was as good as any… which is a totally different thing to pretending that there never was any such event, it just never happened.

      I’m really over the media being able to dishonestly memory hole stuff, and I’m very glad we have ways to catch them out on it these days.

      Then sometime later on, after they got called out, the narrative changed to “oh you got the numbers wrong,” which has been their cover up story ever since.

  6. Harold says:

    “Just realize that it is beside Bob’s point.” I agreed with some of Bob’s point when I said I could not disagree that it “may not be true”

    I also feel that Bob saying “which now appears to be out of context” is too strong, and I explain why. What it does offer is a plausible alternative explanation to the also plausible one that Trump was mocking the disabled. I do not see this as beside Bob’s point, but an important qualification of it, that you may or may not agree with.

    I also indirectly commented on another of Bobs points “but the single worst thing I thought I knew about his behavior was this clip–” by pointing out Trumps appalling and almost continuous lying. Even if true, mocking the disabled is not the single worst thing I know about Trump, it would be just one thing among many.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Harold wrote:

      I also indirectly commented on another of Bobs points “but the single worst thing I thought I knew about his behavior was this clip–” by pointing out Trumps appalling and almost continuous lying.

      This is the kind of stuff I don’t get. You don’t think Hillary Clinton has engaged in appalling and almost continuous lying? We literally have the the FBI director showing us all the ways she lied, and not even in “oh come one everyone does that” campaign promises lying, but “oh man I got caught breaking the law so let me lie my way out of” lying.

      • Bob Murphy says:

        Just to be clear: So the fact that he lies and changes his position doesn’t make Trump a superlatively bad candidate, to me, it makes him like the others.

        In contrast, if he actually had been mocking a guy for being disabled at the podium, then that would be a new low.

        • Harold says:

          I think it is not just the lying, it is the apparent inability to know the difference between truth and lies. He lies with apparent total conviction even when his lie can easily be found out. I find that disturbing.

          All candidates lie, but I don’t think anyone else does so any where near the same extent as Trump. I think “almost continuous” can only be applied to Trump.

          • Andrew Keen says:

            That’s quite a stretch. I can’t tell if you are lying or if you are unable to know the difference between truth and lies.

  7. Major.Freedom says:

    I’m not voting, but I think Gary Johnson is the least worst out of all candidates (candidates meaning over 10% support).

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