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Peter Dorman



Articles by Peter Dorman

Norway’s Climate Dilemma

September 13, 2021

Norway’s Climate Dilemma

Carlos Joly, a finance-and-climate consultant, has a piece today on the upcoming election in Norway, one of the world’s major exporters of oil and gas.  To its credit, Norway puts its earnings in a fund to support future generations after its deposits are exhausted, known to economists as the Hartwick Rule.  That’s great for economic sustainability in Norway, but what about the threat its fossil fuel industry poses to the entire world?

Joly notes that the mainstream parties consider only domestic fossil fuel consumption, with the Labor Party proposing to go “carbon neutral” on that front by 2050.  (The neutral qualifier is highly problematic, as I show in my forthcoming book, Alligators in the Arctic and How to Avoid

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Norway’s Climate Dilemma

September 10, 2021

Carlos Joly, a finance-and-climate consultant, has a piece today on the upcoming election in Norway, one of the world’s major exporters of oil and gas.  To its credit, Norway puts its earnings in a fund to support future generations after its deposits are exhausted, known to economists as the Hartwick Rule.  That’s great for economic sustainability in Norway, but what about the threat its fossil fuel industry poses to the entire world?Joly notes that the mainstream parties consider only domestic fossil fuel consumption, with the Labor Party proposing to go “carbon neutral” on that front by 2050.  (The neutral qualifier is highly problematic, as I show in my forthcoming book, Alligators in the Arctic and How to Avoid Them: Science, Economics and the Challenge of Catastrophic Climate

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Spending and Producing

September 7, 2021

Spending and Producing

When a framing becomes ubiquitous you forget it’s a framing.  This is what popped into my head when I read a headline this morning about the infrastructure bills pending in Congress: Democrats Hit the Road to Sell Big Spending Bills as Republicans Attack.

Yes, they are proposals to spend money; that’s one way to look at it.  But they are also proposals to produce infrastructure and social services—the spending is for something.  Opponents have every reason to emphasize the spending side, as in the phrase “tax and spend liberals”.  If you were thinking of buying a new car and I wanted to dissuade you, I would probably make a big deal out of how much money you would be putting out.  If I were on the other side and wanted to

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Spending and Producing

September 5, 2021

When a framing becomes ubiquitous you forget it’s a framing.  This is what popped into my head when I read a headline this morning about the infrastructure bills pending in Congress: Democrats Hit the Road to Sell Big Spending Bills as Republicans Attack.Yes, they are proposals to spend money; that’s one way to look at it.  But they are also proposals to produce infrastructure and social services—the spending is for something.  Opponents have every reason emphasize the spending side, as in the phrase “tax and spend liberals”.  If you were thinking of buying a new car and I wanted to dissuade you, I would probably make a big deal out of how much money you would be putting out.  If I were on the other side and wanted to convince you to do it, however, I would talk about what the car could

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Analytical Bias

September 5, 2021

Analytical Bias

The world is made up of systems.  Our body is a system, or in fact a system of systems.  What we call “society” is another system of systems, as is the natural environment.  And all these meta-systems are themselves elements in even more encompassing systems that interconnect them.  

But these systems are very complex, difficult to explain or predict.  One successful strategy, which has had a revolutionary impact on how we live, is analysis.  This approach segments complex entities into smaller parts in order to study them individually.  Medical researchers don’t study the body as such, but perhaps kidney function or particular blood cells.  Social scientists may specialize in the effect of lobbyists on legislation, labor market

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Analytical Bias

September 4, 2021

The world is made up of systems.  Our body is a system, or in fact a system of systems.  What we call “society” is another system of systems, as is the natural environment.  And all these meta-systems are themselves elements in even more encompassing systems that interconnect them.  But these systems are very complex, difficult to explain or predict.  One successful strategy, which has had a revolutionary impact on how we live, is analysis.  This approach segments complex entities into smaller parts in order to study them individually.  Medical researchers don’t study the body as such, but perhaps kidney function or particular blood cells.  Social scientists may specialize in the effect of lobbyists on legislation, labor market patterns among immigrant communities or changing

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“Do Your Research”

August 23, 2021

“Do Your Research”

Is it my imagination, or do vax- and mask-hesitant people, reported in news stories about the Covid Divide, almost always say they “have done their research” or something like that?  The medical people and public health advocates that get interviewed rarely seem to use this phrase, at least not in the first person.  More research, more unhinged beliefs—how does that happen?

There are many parts to this story, but one is summed up in the word “research” itself.  In high school, students are taught to use the internet or general bibliographic indexes to find articles about their topic, take notes, and use them to “support” their thesis by showing that there are others, prominent enough to get published, who agree with them.  If

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“Do Your Research”

August 22, 2021

Is it my imagination, or do vax- and mask-hesitant people, reported in news stories about the Covid Divide, almost always say they “have done their research” or something like that?  The medical people and public health advocates that get interviewed rarely seem to use this phrase, at least not in the first person.  More research, more unhinged beliefs—how does that happen?There are many parts to this story, but one is summed up in the word “research” itself.  In high school, students are taught to use the internet or general bibliographic indexes to find articles about their topic, take notes, and use them to “support” their thesis by showing that there are others, prominent enough to get published, who agree with them.  If they’re lucky, these students will go on to college and come

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Politics and the Pandemic: Why I Think Paul Krugman Is Wrong

August 13, 2021

Politics and the Pandemic: Why I Think Paul Krugman Is Wrong

 Krugman has a piece in the New York Times today that offers an explanation for why Republicans oppose every measure—vaccination, masking, limits on indoor gathering—that could reverse the pandemic.  He says it’s because the Democrats support them and that Biden would take credit for reduced caseloads, hospitalizations and deaths.  Since owning the libs is the guiding philosophy of Republican politicians and their minions, such actions have to be fought at all costs.

The problem is that pandemic denial is a feature of the far right worldwide.  You can find it in England, France, Germany, Poland, Brazil and points between.  Explanations based on US political dynamics are insufficient

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Politics and the Pandemic: Why I Think Paul Krugman Is Wrong

August 10, 2021

Krugman has a piece in the New York Times today that offers an explanation for why Republicans oppose every measure—vaccination, masking, limits on indoor gathering—that could reverse the pandemic.  He says it’s because the Democrats support them and that Biden would take credit for reduced caseloads, hospitalizations and deaths.  Since owning the libs is the guiding philosophy of Republican politicians and their minions, such actions have to be fought at all costs.The problem is that pandemic denial is a feature of the far right worldwide.  You can find it in England, France, Germany, Poland, Brazil and points between.  Explanations based on US political dynamics are insufficient (although they might be correct in a more limited way).Here is my candidate: The pandemic gives the lie to

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Antivax Memes

August 10, 2021

Antivax Memes

 Based on various sources, including the recent NY Times podcast with interviews of vaccine resisters/hesitant, here’s my list of common elements.

1. Assuming the sole criterion for whether to take the vaccine is its effect on your own health—not taking into account whether you may infect someone else.  Antivax people nearly always justify their choice in terms of their perceived risk of getting Covid and the personal risk posed by the vaccine and not in terms of the vaccine’s potential role (or lack of it) in reducing the extent and duration of the pandemic.

2. Bodily violation: resistance to accepting a foreign substance into their body.  Also resistant to pressure from others, such as employers and government, to allow this

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Antivax Memes

August 9, 2021

Based on various sources, including the recent NY Times podcast with interviews of vaccine resisters/hesitants, here’s my list of common elements.1. Assuming the sole criterion for whether to take the vaccine is its effect on your own health—not taking into account whether you may infect someone else.  Antivax people nearly always justify their choice in terms of their perceived risk of getting Covid and the personal risk posed by the vaccine and not in terms of the vaccine’s potential role (or lack of it) in reducing the extent and duration of the pandemic.2. Bodily violation: resistance to accepting a foreign substance into their body.  Also resistant to pressure from others, such as employers and government, to allow this substance to cross the “skin line”.3. Personal responsibility

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What Does Vaccine Effectiveness Mean?

August 5, 2021

[unable to retrieve full-text content]What Does Vaccine Effectiveness Mean? by Peter Dorman  When technical specialists adopt an everyday word, they often give it a meaning that differs from its everyday use.  This can be misleading for nonspecialists, especially when little effort is made to explain the difference.  A well-known example is “significance”, which means one thing when used in […]
The post What Does Vaccine Effectiveness Mean? appeared first on Angry Bear.

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What Does Vaccine Effectiveness Mean?

August 4, 2021

When technical specialists adopt an everyday word, they often give it a meaning that differs from its everyday use.  This can be misleading for nonspecialists, especially when little effort is made to explain the difference.  A well known example is “significance”, which means one thing when used in statistical work and another when it just denotes whether something is important.Let’s look at another example, vaccine “effectiveness”.  What do people most want to know about the coronavirus vaccines?  How much protection they give you against the risk of getting infected with the virus, right?  And how much protection they give against more severe symptoms, such as those requiring hospitalization or resulting in long Covid.  When public health authorities throw out numbers about vaccine

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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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