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Del.



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In case there were Cornerites driving in Delaware, soon to write in that I lied, I lied about the traffic thing. But the G-File really is up. REALLY!

G-File



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Belated news: The G-FILE is up. Jonah just stopped all the traffic in the entire state of Deleware to tell me to tell you that.

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Re: Income Inequality



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I can’t resist the opportunity to explain the Gini coefficient, which is the
usual measure of equality of income (or any other individual attribute) in a
population. Ready? Here goes. Take the entire population and make them
stand in a line, equally spaced apart. They must stand by increasing order
of income (or whatever), with those persons having least at the far left,
those having the most at far right. Now take a walk along the line from
left to right, carrying a clipboard, pencil, and pocket calculator. Keep
adding up the income of the people you pass. When you have traveled
one-hundredth of the way along the line, write down the total so far.
Repeat at two one-hundredths, three one-hundredths,… all the way to the
end. The last number you write, at 100 one-hundredths (i.e. the rightmost
end of the line) will be the grand total income for the population. Now
plot an x-y graph, with the x’s being 1/100, 2/100, 3/100,… and the y’s
being the corresponding totals from your clipboard AS A PERCENTAGE OF THE
GRAND TOTAL. If there is perfect income equality, the graph will be a
straight line going from bottom left to top right. Halfway along the line,
you would have tallied half the grand total income, and so on. Perfect
INequality–the situation where one person has all the income and no-one
else has anything–will be a flat horizontal line along the x-axis doing an
instantaneous vertical rise at the far right. The area between these two
extremes is an isosceles right-angled triangle. Any actual graph will be a
concave-downward curve inside this triangle, moored at bottom left and top
right. The area between this curve and the hypoteneuse, as a percentage of
the total area of the triangle, measures inequality. Total equality: zero.
Total inequality: 100. The USA was running a Gini of about 40 on income
distribution last time I looked, which is highish for OECD countries. The
Scandinvians are down in the 20s, places like Brazil up in the 60s.

Web Briefing: July 26, 2014

Siskberg and Ebertshire



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Jonah: You wanna talk movies? OK: I saw Nemo at the weekend. It was
dull, sappy and uninventive. Not a patch on Toy Story. I welcome the
Pixar revolution–live actors are insufferable–but they can surely do
better than this. Lamest animated movie since Dinosaur. Even the feeble
Ice Age was better.

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Re: Gay Marriage



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Stanley: Thanks for that reminder. I have just read (actually, in all but
a couple of cases, re-read–”Men more often need to be reminded than
instructed”) those 2001 posts with profit. They leave little unsaid.
Except, perhaps this meta-observation: That as the same-sex marriage debate
takes off and issues like those in the 2001 posts begin to get people’s
attention, the age-old and (so far as I know) universal social disapproval
of homosexuality will come to seem more, not less, reasonable. The
homosexual-rights activists are in a period of overshoot. They have
banished the old regime of illegality, persecution and blackmail, and a good
thing too. Now, however, they are trying to effect radical changes in
society, changes which huge numbers of people will not stomach. As I have
said before:
“Homosexuals would, I believe, be wise to lower the volume, cherish their
private lives, withdraw the more contentious litigation, and stop ‘pushing
the envelope.’ Envelopes can break.”

Re Income Inequality



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I agree with Ramesh, obviously. But I think someone who understands the economics of all this — like Ramesh — could do a really good piece on how income inequality is something of a myth. Oh, I guess the numbers are right generally speaking. But the numbers tell less and less of the story. One hundred years ago, or even fifty, monetary wealth was a huge indicator of physical well-being. Removed from farms and rural life, the ability to feed yourself depended largely, if not entirely, on the money in your pocket. Major tools for improving or sustaining your life — education, transportation, comfortable housing, clean water, etc — cost a great deal of money. Today, very little of this is true. Food is astoundingly cheap and obesity, not hunger, is the chief nutritional problem for the poor. The typical “poor” American, according to the government’s numbers, has a car, air conditioning, a refridgerator, a stove, a VCR and a color TV. Here’s how Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation summarized the situation for NR a few years ago:

“These facts are gleaned from the government’s own surveys of the living conditions of the poor. The surveys indicate that most poor Americans today are better housed, better fed, and own more property than average Americans throughout most of the century. Today, expenditures per person among the poorest fifth of households equal those of the average household in the early 1970s (adjusted for inflation).”

So, in other words, income inequality defined as the relative proportion of disposable income as distributed among the population may be increasing, but equality of well-being is increasing even more quickly.

Let me put it this way: In a world where the poorest people live like millionaires, would it really be so terrible if the richest people were trillionaires? We ain’t there yet obviously, but I sometime suspect those who denounce income inequality today would still be denouncing it under those circumstances too.

More Straussian Folly



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That the administration is guided by Leo Strauss is now one of those things that significant sections of the press take as a given. Here’s Jonathan Kaplan in The Hill: “Each presidency has its intellectual darlings. Keynesian economists dominated the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations; Reagan sought out economists Milton Friedman and Martin Feldstein; and Clinton sought out such civic-minded professors as Harvard’s Robert Putnam (author of Bowling Alone) and Henry Louis ‘Skip’ Gates Jr. The Bush White House, however, is partial to followers of the late Leo Strauss, a political philosopher at the University of Chicago who is Putnam’s alter ego, said Harvey Mansfield, a Harvard philosopher who follows Strauss’s philosophy.”

I think Mansfield is having fun, speaking between the lines, with Kaplan. “The clearest proof of Straussian thought in the Bush lexicon is the use of the words ‘regime’ and ‘regime change,’ said Mansfield. ‘Those are big words, a concept you get in Plato and Aristotle … use the word in that meaning that getting rid of Saddam … [means] getting rid of all accompaniments to his regime and gives you the ability to introduce a democratic way of life, a wholesale change,’ Mansfield added” (ellipses and brackets in original). Three observations here: 1) Lots and lots and lots of non-Straussians use the words “regime” and “change,” sometimes in combination; 2) I would wager that there are more people in the Bush administration who are familiar with the works of Friedman that there are who are familiar with Strauss; and 3) It was charitable of Kaplan to pass over the topic of the first Bush administration’s favored intellectuals in silence.

What a Pair



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Rand Beers, who had a job fighting terrorism at the NSC, quit over his disagreements with the Bush administration and went to work for John Kerry. A Washington Post profile today leaves you thinking that this action was admirable, in its way. But it also leaves you guessing about the substance of his disagreements.

Reporter Lauren Blumenfeld writes: “The focus on Iraq has robbed domestic security of manpower, brainpower and money, he said. The Iraq war created fissures in the United States’ counterterrorism alliances, he said, and could breed a new generation of al Qaeda recruits. Many of his government colleagues, he said, thought Iraq was an ‘ill-conceived and poorly executed strategy.’”

But in the very next line, we learn that Beers “did not oppose the war but thought it should have been fought with a broader coalition.” So if we had France on board, nobody would be moved to join al Qaeda? If we had France on board, we would have freed up tons of manpower and brainpower to fight al Qaeda? It would have made an ill-conceived strategy smart? It sounds like Beers is trying to have it every which way. He’s certainly found the right candidate.

Income Inequality



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Like a lot of conservatives, I’ve never really understood why it matters. But even assuming that it does, I don’t quite get why increasing inequality is supposed to matter, or how much of an increase constitutes a crisis. Here’s Steven Rattner in today’s Washington Post: “In 1971 the top 5 percent of Americans made about 6.3 times what the bottom 20 percent made. In 2001, after 30 years of relentless widening, that same group made 8.4 times what the bottom 20 percent did.” Granted, that’s a 33 percent increase once you do the math. But on its face, what’s so terrible about going from 6.3 to 8.4? I suppose I can see being concerned if we’d gone from 2.2 to 6.3, or from 4 to 12. But this change just doesn’t seem like that big a deal.

A Question of Qualifications



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Cosmo....



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Will not be coming to NYC. He will remain in the DC metro area in an undiclosed location.

Matrix Clarification



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I am posting this in the hope that it will discourage more email making this same point:

I’m sure you’ve received quite a few replies on this, but one more couldn’t hurt.

At the end of Reloaded, the Architect reveals to Neo that Zion has been destroyed six separate times. Due to the systemic anomaly (Neo is the anomaly), human are gradually freed from the Matrix. At first, only a few are freed, but eventually there is a snowball effect as more and more humans free themselves from the Matrix.

The Machines feel there is a “critical mass” which, when reached, action must be taken. Once 250,000 humans are freed of the Matrix, they destroy Zion in order to halt the snowball effect.

Because the Matrix is not mathematically perfect and humans are inherently flawed creatures, he implies that some humans will always be trying to wake up from it, and a tiny minority succeed. Zion seems to be the method of controlling those humans who are awakened from the Matrix.

Whether or not Zion is simply a matrix within a matrix is a matter of debate. But the solid point is that 250,000 humans are the most the Machines allow to be freed at one time. Once that number is reached, they wipe them out and start again. So, every hundred years or so, 250,000 humans are killed while tens of millions continue to live unaffected and unaware of the Matrix.

Hope that helps.

Al-Douri



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The former Iraqi Representative to the UN now believes the Iraqi people should have toppled Saddam and that he’s always been against mass-murder. Isn’t that special.

So That’s My Excuse



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Where everyone else is, remains a mystery.

Out of Pocket



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FYI: I’m going to be around intermittently over the next day or two. I’m heading to NYC with the rugrat to visit the grandparents and to attend a meeting at NRHQ (Zion for you Matrix-deluded NRO fans). (Strange) G-File is coming and I’ll be poking my head into the Corner when I can.

William Marshall, Rip



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Actor who played Othello and Blacula (but not the Blunch Black of Blotre Blame) has died.

Matrix



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Since I’m on an air-my-movie-grievances kick, there’s are a few things that’ve been bothering me about the Matrix Reloaded. I figure anyone who hasn’t seen it by now doesn’t care that much about spoilers. But if you do, skip this post.

Now, we’re told by the old dude (the Keeper of the Matrix or whatever his official title is) that humanity has been destroyed a number of times. And at each renewal, a small handful of breeding stock is preserved to repopulate the ranks of humanity. Fine, fine. But how is it that after every regeneration of humanity there are still black people and Asian people and white people? If you’re going to breed a population of hundreds of thousands or millions from a base of a couple dozen people, isn’t that going to be impossible?

Oh, and by the way, I’ve always thought the using humans as energy thing was absurd logically which is why I think the apocalyptic world of Zion is just as fake as the Matrix itself and the series will end with them discovering the real world still exists and is pretty nice (kind of like Logan’s Run). They dropped a hint along these lines when Neo stopped those robot killer things toward the end of Reloaded.

Meet The Parents



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I can remain silent no longer. I watched Meet the Parents for the umpteenth time last night. It’s a great movie, even though it still gives me the willies (I first saw it right before I met my prospective father-in-law for the first time).

Anyway, can we all now admit that Ben Stiller’s girlfriend behaved terribly throughout the movie? I mean she kept getting him into terrible situations and then expected him to lighten up and relax. She told him to go borrow her brother’s underwear, to find Jinxie the cat, etc. She never told him she was engaged and then acted as if it was no big deal. Not to use technical jargon, but she was way uncool.

Romenesko



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It wasn’t until Andrew Sullivan pointed it out a while ago, that I learned media blogger Jim Romenesko seems to be blind to conservative media criticism. It’ll be interesting to see if he thinks my Alterman review is worth linking since he believes Alterman is so worthy of his attention.

Weekend Gay-Marriage Debate



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John and Andrew, I’ve been tied up and only just got to your weekend gay-marriage exchange on The Corner. I’ll be writing much more on all these questions after Massachusetts acts. In the meantime, if you’re interested, you might want to catch our old “gay-marriage debate” from the summer of 2001. It reads from the bottom up. I address some of your questions, particularly in the “Point of No Return” and “Code of Honor” pieces from that debate, but the whole debate is relevant.

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