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July 12, 2011


I'm sorry to see that Brendan takes seriously Chris Mooney's discussion of Kahan's study of climate change. Brendan had a previous post about Mooney's discussion. I thought we had disposed of Mooney, but, Judith Curry's blog, which Brendan links to, really tears Mooney to bits.

Prof. Curry is a noted physicist and an expert on climate change. Many of her commenters appear to be scientists who are knowledgable about climate research. So the discussion is at a high level. Read the whole thing.

The bottom line is that climate skepticism is a reasonable scientific position. That's why skeptics are more scientifically sophisticated than warmists. To look for a psychological explanation for climate skepticism is like looking for a psychological explanation for Galileo's heliocentrism. (For a convenient summary of why skepticism is reasonable, see )

Political scientists are trained to require a sample of adequate size before drawing any general conclusion. However, when the general conclusion is a politically correct piety, that rule goes out the window.

Based on a single event, Jonathan Chait concludes that black construction workers have worse legal and employment protections than white workers. That may be the case, but one anecdote hardly proves it. Nor did Chait provide any comparison of unfair treatment of white workers to see whether blacks are actually treated worse.

Later in the article, Chait has a flat-out incorrect statement (for which he offers no evidence at all):

In the real world, class is very sticky. You have to be very smart, hard-working, and/or lucky to move from the bottom to the top, and very dumb, lazy, and/or unlucky to fall out of the upper tier if you've arrived or even been born there.

Economist Thomas Sowell has studied this matter. Unlike Chait, Dr. Sowell bases his conclusions on actual data. Sowell has observed that it's the rule, not the exception, for people to move between income quintiles during their lifetimes:

Although such discussions have been phrased in terms of people, the actual empirical evidence cited has been about what has been happening over time to statistical categories — and that turns out to be the direct opposite of what has happened over time to flesh-and-blood human beings, most of whom move from one category to another over time.

In terms of statistical categories, it is indeed true that both the amount of income and the proportion of all income received by those in the top 20% bracket have risen over the years, widening the gap between the top and bottom quintiles.

But Internal Revenue Service data following specific individuals over time show that, in terms of people, the incomes of those particular taxpayers who were in the bottom 20% in income in 1996 rose 91% by 2005, while the incomes of those particular taxpayers who were in the top 20% in 1996 rose by only 10% by 2005 — and those in the top 5% and top 1% actually declined.

While it might seem as if both these radically different sets of statistics cannot be true at the same time, what makes them mutually compatible is that flesh-and-blood human beings move from one statistical category to another over time.

When those taxpayers who were initially in the lowest income bracket had their incomes nearly double in a decade, that moved many of them up and out of the bottom quintile — and when those in the top 1% had their incomes cut by about one-fourth, that may well have dropped them out of the top 1%.

Internal Revenue Service data can follow particular individuals over time from their tax returns, which have individual Social Security numbers as identification, while data from the Census Bureau and most other sources follow what happens to statistical categories over time, even though it is not the same individuals in the same categories over the years.


Kevin Drum's chart shows that Democrats strongly prefer Congressmen who compromise; Republicans, just as strongly, prefer Congressmen who don't. IMHO the reason is that the so-called "compromise" position is pretty much the Democratic position.

If asked, I think the typical Republican would say to cut spending by the full amount of the current deficit, which is around $1.6 trillion. That would get spending down to around $3 trillion/year, where it was in 1999.

By comparison, Obama's "compromise" has talked about (but not specifically offered) cuts of around $3 or $4 trillion over 10 years. That's only 20% to 25% of the deficit. This "compromise" position would maintain federal spending at $4 to $5 trillion/year -- a level that Republicans consider excessive.

In short, "compromise" means maintaining a level of federal spending that Dems approve of and Reps don't. That's why Dems like "compromise" and Reps don't.

The flaw in that study of student attitudes toward gay professors is pointed out in the comments following. Perhaps gay professors are more politically liberal than straight professors., If so, then it wouldn't be bias for students to make that assumption. The authors should have included in their study a comparison of actual gay and straight political attitudes.

However, I think such a comparison would violate a taboo. PC rules say that one is not allowed to question whether gays are the same as straights in any respect.

I think Abramowitz missed discussing a point about why closet partisans refer to themselves as independents. Labels help us identify and understand people/things in general, but to do so carries a stigma. Along with the good comes the bad.

I.e., you're a Republican/conservative, therefore you're this, this, and that, but the reality most conservatives or liberals are not 100% conservative all the time. Thus, giving a label about someone gives us blanket assumptions about who they are, when really there's depth and nuance that isn't immediately looked at.

RE: All of Modern Politics in One Chart

As this not a rather embarrassing finding for Democrats?


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