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Peter Dorman



Articles by Peter Dorman

One Dose or Two?

March 11, 2021

One Dose or Two?

There are two theories out there about how to vaccinate.  One says, look, we have data only on the protocols that were adopted in the trials.  The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were administered in two doses, three to four weeks apart.  We know that works.  Don’t mess with it.  Stick to the protocol and make sure everyone getting these vaccines gets both doses in the proper time frame.

The other says, our goal should be to get basic protection for as many people as possible as quickly as possible, especially since ominous variants are spreading.  We are in a race, and when time matters as much as it does now you cut a few corners.  Since it looks like vaccine effectiveness is pretty strong two weeks after the first dose, make sure

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One Dose or Two?

March 9, 2021

There are two theories out there about how to vaccinate.  One says, look, we have data only on the protocols that were adopted in the trials.  The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were administered in two doses, three to four weeks apart.  We know that works.  Don’t mess with it.  Stick to the protocol and make sure everyone getting these vaccines gets both doses in the proper time frame.The other says, our goal should be to get basic protection for as many people as possible as quickly as possible, especially since ominous variants are spreading.  We are in a race, and when time matters as much as it does now you cut a few corners.  Since it looks like vaccine effectiveness is pretty strong two weeks after the first dose, make sure we get that dose out there and then go back, when there’s

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We Need a Plan for Militias

February 20, 2021

We Need a Plan for Militias

 A social trend can lie dormant for years, gradually expand and then suddenly explode as if following a hidden exponential growth curve.  Revolutions work this way, and so do religious cults.  Most of the time the curve is nipped in its early phase, but not always.  It isn’t a good idea to assume a fringe movement will always remain fringe.

This brings us to the topic of right-wing militias, people who carry assault rifles, study military tactics, go target-shooting in the woods and live in an end-times epistemological bubble.  They’ve been around for decades, occasionally getting in the news, and gradually getting more numerous and influential.  Read this recent report in the New York Times, which documents the

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We Need a Plan for Militias

February 18, 2021

A social trend can lie dormant for years, gradually expand and then suddenly explode as if following a hidden exponential growth curve.  Revolutions work this way, and so do religious cults.  Most of the time the curve is nipped in its early phase, but not always.  It isn’t a good idea to assume a fringe movement will always remain fringe.Which brings us to the topic of right wing militias, people who carry assault rifles, study military tactics, go target-shooting in the woods and live in an end times epistemological bubble.  They’ve been around for decades, occasionally getting in the news, and gradually getting more numerous and influential.  Read this recent report in the New York Times, which documents the mainstreaming of armed freelancers aligned with the Michigan Republican

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Impeachment: What’s the Message?

February 15, 2021

Impeachment: What’s the Message?

The mantra of the moment is that impeachment is not a trial and shouldn’t be governed by the same rules that apply to a court of law.  True, but that means it’s really a political event, where the verdict matters less than the message.

What’s coming through the media reporting is “Trump incited a riot.”  Well, he did, more or less, but that just means he’s a bad person.  It’s not news that Trump is a pretty nasty role model, and I fear the reaction of many people will be that the campaign to impeach him for it is just more of the same.

I would have preferred a different message: America needs to protect its democracy from the refusal of political leaders to accept defeat.  Around the world we see many

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Impeachment: What’s the Message?

February 12, 2021

The mantra of the moment is that impeachment is not a trial and shouldn’t be governed by the same rules that apply to a court of law.  True, but that means it’s really a political event, where the verdict matters less than the message.What’s coming through the media reporting is “Trump incited a riot.”  Well, he did, more or less, but that just means he’s a bad person.  It’s not news that Trump is a pretty nasty role model, and I fear the reaction of many people will be that the campaign to impeach him for it is just more of the same.I would have preferred a different message: America needs to protect its democracy from the refusal of political leaders to accept defeat.  Around the world we see many countries where elections settle nothing.  Defeated parties routinely claim the election

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Impeachment: What’s the Message?

February 10, 2021

Impeachment: What’s the Message?

The mantra of the moment is that impeachment is not a trial and shouldn’t be governed by the same rules that apply to a court of law.  True, but that means it’s really a political event, where the verdict matters less than the message.

What’s coming through the media reporting is “Trump incited a riot.”  Well, he did, more or less, but that just means he’s a bad person.  It’s not news that Trump is a pretty nasty role model, and I fear the reaction of many people will be that the campaign to impeach him for it is just more of the same.

I would have preferred a different message: America needs to protect its democracy from the refusal of political leaders to accept defeat.  Around the world we see many

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The Oregon Republican Party Issues a Condemnation

January 27, 2021

The Oregon Republican Party Issues a Condemnation

 You have to read it to believe it.  An excerpt:

Whereas history tells us that after George Washington appointed Major General Benedict Arnold to command West Point, Arnold conspired to surrender the fort to the British; andWhereas the ten Republican House members, by voting to impeach President Trump, repeated history by conspiring to surrender our nation to Leftist forces seeking to establish a dictatorship void of all cherished freedoms and liberties….Whereas there is growing evidence that the violence at the capitol was a “false flag” operation designed to discredit President Trump, his supporters, and all conservative Republicans; this provided the sham motivation to impeach President Trump

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The Oregon Republican Party Issues a Condemnation

January 27, 2021

The Oregon Republican Party Issues a Condemnation

 You have to read it to believe it.  An excerpt:

Whereas history tells us that after George Washington appointed Major General Benedict Arnold to command West Point, Arnold conspired to surrender the fort to the British; andWhereas the ten Republican House members, by voting to impeach President Trump, repeated history by conspiring to surrender our nation to Leftist forces seeking to establish a dictatorship void of all cherished freedoms and liberties….Whereas there is growing evidence that the violence at the capitol was a “false flag” operation designed to discredit President Trump, his supporters, and all conservative Republicans; this provided the sham motivation to impeach President Trump

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The Oregon Republican Party Issues a Condemnation

January 27, 2021

You have to read it to believe it.  An excerpt:Whereas history tells us that after George Washington appointed Major General Benedict Arnold to command West Point, Arnold conspired to surrender the fort to the British; andWhereas the ten Republican House members, by voting to impeach President Trump, repeated history by conspiring to surrender our nation to Leftist forces seeking to establish a dictatorship void of all cherished freedoms and liberties….Whereas there is growing evidence that the violence at the capitol was a “false flag” operation designed to discredit President Trump, his supporters, and all conservative Republicans; this provided the sham motivation to impeach President Trump in order to advance the Democrat goal of seizing total power, in a frightening parallel to

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The Weirdest Thing about Claims of Electoral Fraud

January 11, 2021

Imagine that, on the eve of a national election, a candidate is far ahead in all the polls and seems to be cruising to victory.  Then the results come in, and the unthinkable has happened: the candidate has lost handily.  Your first instinct would be to take a look at how the election was carried out and the votes tabulated to see if everything was kosher.But that’s not what happened in November 2020.  In case you forgot, here’s 538’s final forecast from November 3.  The actual results were a big setback for the Democrats on all fronts, House, Senate and President.That’s what’s so bizarre about the claims of Trump, Hawley, Cruz et al.  They did way better than the polls said they would.  It’s as if the Democratic bust of 11-3-20 disappeared down a memory hole.

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Getting the Shakespearean Part Right

January 11, 2021

Getting the Shakespearean Part Right

 At his rally before the invasion of the Capitol, Trump said to his minions:

And after this, we’re going to walk down and I’ll be there with you. We’re going to walk down–We’re going to walk down. Anyone you want, but I think right here, we’re going to walk down to the Capitol.

But then he ducked back into the White House to watch the whole thing on TV.  That’s how you know he’s Richard III and not Henry V.

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Exploiting the Stupids: The Intellectual Foundation of Movement Conservatism

January 10, 2021

From about the age of 8-12 I read a lot of sci-fi.  Along the way I stumbled across Robert Heinlein, in particular his novel The Day After Tomorrow, initially published as The Sixth Column.  It was so crudely racist I avoided from then on anything with Heinlein’s name on it.The plot went like this: The evil PanAsians have conquered America and set up a vicious tyranny.  A few scientists, holed up in a secret lab in the mountains of Colorado, have discovered a powerful weapon that can turn the tide.  They’ve tweaked it so it can kill only “Asians”, leaving white people unaffected.  How to organize a nationwide resistance that can take advantage of it?The PanAsians, to pacify their subjects, have permitted religious activity to continue, so the scientists organize a new religion.  They use

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Post-Putsch: Why There Should Be Consequences for Enablers of the Capitol Invasion

January 10, 2021

Post-Putsch: Why There Should Be Consequences for Enablers of the Capitol Invasion

 I usually find myself agreeing with Glenn Greenwald, but not today.  GG has posted a heartfelt warning against overreaction to the attempted fur-and-horn putsch at the Capitol Building Wednesday.  He says the mob trampled on symbols of state power but otherwise did little of consequence, and vilifying them and their supporters will lead to repressive overreach, just like we saw after 9/11.  Cool it, says Glen.

Actually, I agree with one piece of this, the use of the “t” word, terrorism.  No the mob was not a terrorist brigade; it was mostly unarmed and did not commit mass or random violence to induce passive cowering from the rest of us.  There was minimal effort

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Getting the Shakespearean Part Right

January 9, 2021

At his rally before the invasion of the Capitol, Trump said to his minions:And after this, we’re going to walk down and I’ll be there with you. We’re going to walk down–We’re going to walk down. Anyone you want, but I think right here, we’re going to walk down to the Capitol.But then he ducked back into the White House to watch the whole thing on TV.  That’s how you know he’s Richard III and not Henry V.

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Post-Putsch: Why There Should Be Consequences for Enablers of the Capitol Invasion

January 9, 2021

I usually find myself agreeing with Glenn Greenwald, but not today.  GG has posted a heartfelt warning against overreaction to the attempted fur-and-horn putsch at the Capitol Building Wednesday.  He says the mob trampled on symbols of state power but otherwise did little of consequence, and vilifying them and their supporters will lead to repressive overreach, just like we saw after 9/11.  Cool it, says Glen.Actually, I agree with one piece of this, the use of the “t” word, terrorism.  No the mob was not a terrorist brigade; it was mostly unarmed and did not commit mass or random violence to induce passive cowering from the rest of us.  There was minimal effort to locate and assault politicians; the intent was mostly to physically prevent the certification of the electoral college votes

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Thoughts on the Invasion of the US Capitol

January 7, 2021

Thoughts on the Invasion of the US Capitol

 It’s all happening as I write, but here are a few reactions:

1. Fortunately we see Q-Anonics, Loud Boys and other right wing crazies invading the Capitol Building and not Black Lives Matter or the Left.  Think how many lives would have been lost if it had been the other way around.

2. It will be interesting to see how deeply investigators will delve into the lax security preparations for today’s senate meeting.

3. In the end, it all comes down to one question: where do the loyalties of the police and armed forces lie?  That is always the bottom line, but we can go for decades without confronting it directly.  When the left challenges state authority the issue is never in doubt, at least in the

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Thoughts on the Invasion of the US Capitol

January 6, 2021

It’s all happening as I write, but here are a few reactions:1. Fortunately we see Q-Anonics, Loud Boys and other right wing crazies invading the Capitol Building and not Black Lives Matter or the Left.  Think how many lives would have been lost if it had been the other way around.2. It will be interesting to see how deeply investigators will delve into the lax security preparations for today’s senate meeting.3. In the end, it all comes down to one question: where do the loyalties of the police and armed forces lie?  That is always the bottom line, but we can go for decades without confronting it directly.  When the left challenges state authority the issue is never in doubt, at least in the U.S.  When the challenge comes from the right we have to hold our breath.  There were video images

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Zooming in on the Defects of PowerPoint

January 6, 2021

Zooming in on the Defects of PowerPoint

 I’ve just finished several days of staring, hour after hour, at the year’s economics meetings via Zoom.  What really struck me, beyond the content of the talks, was the way Zoom exacerbates “death by bullet point”.

PowerPoint’s capabilities encourage speakers to load up their slides with lots of text and graphics, which then leads the audience to glue their eyeballs to the slides and not the speaker.  This defeats the core purpose of public speaking in the post-Gutenberg era, which is to use the audience’s engagement with the speaker as a vehicle for communicating thoughts and feelings that the written word, even accompanied by pictures, can’t express.  The worst scenario, which all of us have experienced

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Zooming in on the Defects of PowerPoint

January 6, 2021

I’ve just finished several days of staring, hour after hour, at the year’s economics meetings via Zoom.  What really struck me, beyond the content of the talks, was the way Zoom exacerbates “death by bullet point”.PowerPoint’s capabilities encourage speakers to load up their slides with lots of text and graphics, which then leads the audience to glue their eyeballs to the slides and not the speaker.  This defeats the core purpose of public speaking in the post-Gutenberg era, which is to use the audience’s engagement with the speaker as a vehicle for communicating thoughts and feelings that the written word, even accompanied by pictures, can’t express.  The worst scenario, which all of us have experienced way too often, is when a speaker crams lots of text in tiny fonts into each slide

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The “it” Pronoun

January 4, 2021

The pronoun wars show no sign of abating.  How to replace the use of “him” and “his” to refer to people who are not male or whose gender is unknown?  For a while I used “him and her” or “his and hers”, but it is much too clunky, especially if repeated over the course of several sentences.  Then I switched to alternating genders, first using her/hers and then when the next opportunity arose him/his and so on.  But this is unsatisfactory as well, since it doesn’t distinguish clearly between instances where you know the gender (and can use the appropriate pronoun) and those where you don’t and are just throwing one out there.  Finally I gravitated to they/theirs, despite the deep belief, inculcated through decades of indoctrination, that it is a crime to mixed up singular and plural

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Rolling Out the Vaccine

December 26, 2020

Rolling Out the Vaccine

 This morning’s (Dec. 25) New York Times offers a panel discussion on the question of who should get vaccinated against Covid first.  Broadly speaking, they take a utilitarian position: it’s interesting that none disagreed with the positions taken by panelist Peter Singer, the world’s most prominent utilitarian philosopher.  And I wouldn’t either, except for one thing.

The vaccines approved by the FDA, along with those approved by other countries like China and Russia, have gone through the fastest possible testing.  Tens of thousands of individuals have been placed in control and treatment groups in order to determine two things: to what extent do the vaccines reduce the likelihood of getting infected (efficiency) and

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Rolling Out the Vaccine

December 25, 2020

This morning’s New York Times offers a panel discussion on the question of who should get vaccinated against Covid first.  Broadly speaking, they take a utilitarian position: it’s interesting that none disagreed with the positions taken by panelist Peter Singer, the world’s most prominent utilitarian philosopher.  And I wouldn’t either, except for one thing.The vaccines approved by the FDA, along with those approved by other countries like China and Russia, have gone through the fastest possible testing.  Tens of thousands of individuals have been placed in control and treatment groups in order to determine two things: to what extent do the vaccines reduce the likelihood of getting infected (efficiency) and how common and severe are the side effects (safety)?  Meeting both criteria is

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The Failure of the Public Health Establishment

December 12, 2020

Prof. Peter Dorman of Evergreen College writes at EconoSpeak and portrays Matt Yglesias’s retrospective on how the healthcare establishment failed the public when passing information on facemasks, hand-washing, distancing, etc., and how Covid is transmitted.

The direct result of not following these practices or casting doubt upon them is an elevation of Covid cases which strains the capacity and logistics of healthcare facilities, the equipment used on patients, and the supply of medicines.

Matt Yglesias has an excellent retrospective on the absurd reversals over mask usage that arose in the early stages of the pandemic.  You will recall that the public health establishment, amplified by mainstream media outlets like the New York Times, told us

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The Failure of the Public Health Establishment

December 10, 2020

Matt Yglesias has an excellent retrospective on the absurd reversals over mask usage that arose in the early stages of the pandemic.  You will recall that the public health establishment, amplified by mainstream media outlets like the New York Times, told us all to ditch our masks and concentrate instead on frequent, vigorous hand-washing.  This was transparently absurd at the time, since from the beginning it appeared that coronavirus transmission had something to do with airborne virus exposure.We were told masking didn’t protect us.We were told only N95 masks worked, and only if they were taken on and off just so, in a complex procedure us untrained mortals could never execute.And we were told we had to save these precious masks so health care workers could protect themselves, even

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The Language of Slavery

November 10, 2020

Peter Dorman, Economics professor at Evergreen State College has been posting at Angry Bear blog from time to time. His latest “The Language of Slavery” was published at Econospeak, November 9, 2020. Peter’s commentary draws from a NYT  article – “Alexander Hamilton, Enslaver?”  which differentiates between slave owner and enslaver as a “part of the larger movement to make politics a matter of individual responsibility.  Slavery was a horror, and this horror, we are to believe, was the product of the individual consciousness and behavior—personal racism—on the part of each person who participated in it.”
The question is asked; “Is slavery just an accretion of individual choices by enslavers or an institution with legal, economic and social underpinnings?”

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The Language of Slavery

November 10, 2020

The New York Times today has a story about a new study that claims Alexander Hamilton owned slaves right up to the end of his life.  There doesn’t seem to be new evidence but a new, more assertive interpretation of it.  I know little about the period or Hamilton in particular, so my opinion doesn’t mean much, but the argument struck me as persuasive.  I would be surprised to find out that Hamilton wasn’t a slave owner.But here’s the thing: the article’s writing endorses the new language around slavery.  We no longer have slaves but enslaved people, not slave owners but enslavers.  It is an attempt to personalize the issue.  The word “slave” is said to carry a connotation that the individual in question was somehow different by virtue of their status; instead we want to convey the idea

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Two Questions about the Election (from last night)

November 5, 2020

Two Questions about the Election

 I am about to turn in and let the vote-counting continue without me.  It will be a troubled sleep since the election was mostly a disaster.  (Universal preschool won in Oregon, and if everywhere were like here I would be happier.)
Meanwhile two questions:
1. What went wrong with the polls?  They didn’t do too badly in 2016; the popular vote was close to the consensus prediction, and the electoral college was a squeaker within the margin of error.  This time though the polls were apparently way off.  Yes, the votes are not all in, but it doesn’t look like we’ll see the massive popular victory for Biden they foretold.  In fact, as I fade away tonight, it’s still possible that Trump could pull out a legitimate electoral

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