80/20 Day: July 15, 1848, Vilfredo Pareto joined the human race

July 15, 2014

Happy 80/20 Day!

Italian economist, engineer and political activist Vilfredo Pareto was born on July 15, 1848, in Paris, where his father had fled due to political difficulties.

Pareto should be more famous, for his explanation of the 80/20 rule, and for his contribution to making better things, the Pareto chart.  Many economic texts ignore his work almost completely.  Quality management texts ignore his life, too — generally mentioning the principles they borrow, but offering no explanation.

Vilifred Pareto, Wikipedia image

Vilfredo Pareto, Wikipedia image

His contributions, as accounted at Wikipedia:

A few economic rules are based on his work:

And now you, dear reader, having just skimmed the surface of the pool of information on Vilfredo Pareto, know more about the man than 99.99% of the rest of the people on the planet.  Welcome to the tip-top 0.01%.


Insta-Millard Pundit, economics edition: Adam Smith was a bleeding heart liberal

December 21, 2013

In a new book, author Jack Russell Weinstein argues that we should pay more attention to Adam Smith’s first book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments,  and not allow Smith’s humanitarian pleas for good community be hijacked by libertarians, conservatives or liberals.

Adam Smith’s Pluralism, Jack Russell Weinstein, Yale University Press, 360 pages

Adam Smith, updated. Illustration by Michal Hogue.

Adam Smith, updated. Illustration by Michal Hogue.

A review of the book explains further, at American Conservative, “Adam Smith, Communitarian:

Weinstein builds upon Smithian harmony, explaining that while life is not always commercial, it is always communal. Community, in turn, derives its lifeblood from “imagination,” because imagination creates the capacity for sympathy. Unlike Kant and other Enlightenment thinkers, Smith “presumes human difference” as a necessary and inherent aspect of civilization, rejecting the Kantian ideal of “noncontextual normativity.” Smith recognized that cultural, temporal, and social differences shaped norms and values, making it impossible to create a single, all-inclusive norm of human behavior. This is why sympathy is so important. It offers a means that is natural to the human condition—our desire to commiserate with our fellow man—to bridge the gap between our differences.

Smith believed that “political society is not derived from a social contract,” according to Weinstein. Instead, society is a natural expression of what it means to be human. The state of nature for Smith is one of community, and the ultimate questions related to human society are questions of morality and virtue, not economics and politics. Thus, a broad, morally robust education rooted in a particular community is essential to forming sympathetic individuals. While Smith did not idealize the role of education—it could not completely eliminate human selfishness and vanity—he believed it had the power to “direct vanity to proper objects” and to “convert competing passions into a harmonious character.”

[The blog post’s headline should be read with more than a hint of sarcasm; hate to have to explain that.]


“It’s a Wonderful Life,” Republican edit

December 17, 2013

It's a Wonderful Life

Movie house poster for “It’s a Wonderful Life” (from Wikipedia)

Jimmy Kimmel’s crew put together the trailer for the new, GOP-edition of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Tip of the old scrub brush to Frank Milewski, and the “real communists of Bedford Falls.”

It’s a wonderful life, Christmas, Capitalism, Communism in America Politics.


If Stalin said America is “a healthy body,” why can’t anyone find the source?

March 14, 2012

Joseph Stalin, via Chicago Boyz

Joseph Stalin would have to have been drunk to call the U.S. “healthy,” and to have complimented America’s patriotism, morality and spiritual life. Even then, it would be unlikely. Why does this quote keep circulating?

This has been floating around Tea Party and other shallow venues for a while, but I’ll wager Stalin did not say it:

“America is like a healthy body and its resistance is threefold:  Its patriotism, its morality, and its spiritual life.  If we can undermine these three areas, America will collapse from within.”

I can’t find any source for it; it’s mostly quoted on right-wing sites where people marvel over what a prophet Stalin was.  All requests for a citation in five or six different forums I’ve checked, are unanswered.  Nothing like it appears at the often-checked Wikiquote.  The Stalin Archive holds nothing close to the claimed quote.

Perhaps more telling:  Is it likely that Joe Stalin ever would have called the U.S. “a healthy body?”  Stalin was of a school that claimed capitalism was diseased, and America was infested with a soon-to-be terminal case.  If he called America “diseased” by patriotism and religion, it would be consistent with other statements, but his calling America healthy for patriotism and spiritual life, it’s inconsistent with other claims he made, about America and about capitalism (see Stalin’s 1929 remonstrance to the U.S. Communist Party, for example).

So, Dear Readers, my request to you:  Can you offer the source of this quote, Joseph Stalin or not?

Why would a false claim from Stalin get such a life on the internet?

Update, March 15, 2012:  I’m calling this one:  It’s a bogus quote.  Joseph Stalin didn’t say it.  Not as many comments here as e-mails and comments on other discussion boards and Facebook — no one has come even close to anything like the line above from Stalin.  No source quoting the line even bothers to give a decade, let alone a year, a location, and a citation that would pass muster in a sophomore high school English class.  Tea Partiers, you’ve tried to twist history again — stop it.

Update March 1, 2013: If you’re checking in here studying for a DBQ for an AP class, please tell us in comments, which AP class, and what city you’re in.  Thanks.

How deep is the stupid in Tea Party and among their fellow travelers?

August 28, 2011

Barack Obama has managed to tack on a bit over a trillion dollars to the national debt, mostly in a successful effort to keep the U.S. and the world from plunging into a Greater Depression.  We haven’t shaken off the harmful effects of the Republican assault on capitalism during the previous years’ assaults on the Constitution, science, education and other American institutions.

But in the alternate universe of conservative thought, Obama’s put $15 trillion in new debts on the books.  Being off by a factor of 10 to 15 is an accomplishment worthy of someone wholly unconnected with reality.  That would be Victor Davis Hanson in this case.  Not sure why, but some search took me to a blog called The Clue Batting Cage — batting away clues to reality is a sport to them, I suppose.  There I found this post:

Here’s some excellent wording from Victor Davis Hanson.

Despite nearly $15 trillion in federal debt, the administration apparently wants to defy the rules of logic and do more of what made things worse in the first place, under the euphemism of “investments.” American popular culture has coined all sorts of proverbial warnings about such mindless devotion to destructive rote: “Don’t flog a dead horse,” “If you are in a hole, stop digging,” and “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

No matter: The administration still adheres to the logical fallacy that the toxic medicine cannot be proven to be useless or harmful, because there was supposedly never enough of it given. And the proof is that the worsening patient is still not quite dead.
That there is never enough spending is a seductive fallacy because it never requires any empirical proof: If millions of those supported by the state have lost their self-reliance and self-initiative, perhaps it is because millions supported by the state were not supported well enough, and so in response, some resorted to stealing things they could not afford.

How many others could possibly be with these yahoos, looking through the telescope backwards?

Looking through a telescope the wrong way

Looking through a telescope the wrong way

Here’s what I posted in comments:

It’s difficult to reconcile the idea of someone who recommends Bob Park’s blog, and approves of Victor Hanson’s blather at the same time.

But then I look closer. You missed the boat completely. You didn’t even recommend the right Bob Park, but some imposter named Parks. You missed reality by one letter.

Reality is not an opinion, not that I expect you’ll ever change your opinion on that.

Lay off of Morgan’s blog for a while, maybe read some science or something. You may not feel better in the morning, but soon, and for the rest of your life.

9:38 PM


The author complains that my comments are too acid, and that the National Science Foundation is a “government site.”

If you call a private foundation the government supports, independent from the government by design to keep its advice unbiased, does that make it a government site?

Or is it still a four-legged calf?

A wise person said that you can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t get to by reason in the first place.  That’s the problem with the Tea Party in the first place.  It’s also the problem in the second place, and the third place, and on all issues.

To the Tea Party mindset, they are all five-legged dogs.

Tea Party's five-legged dog, by Esther Derby.com

Tea Party's five-legged dog, by Esther Derby.com

Cracks appear in Rick Santorum’s personal constitution

August 6, 2011

Rick Santorum in Iowa, Huffington Post image

Rick Santorum in Iowa, Huffington Post image

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s reluctant grip on reality appeared to be vanishing fast in a stop in Iowa, Thursday.  He said America’s schools are for indoctrination of students, and he doesn’t like the current round of indoctrination.

Geeze, this ought to be in The Onion.  Is Santorum really this disconnected from America and life?  Are there actually people out there who don’t look around for the guys in the white clothes with straight jackets and nets when they hear him say this stuff?

I don’t generally cite to The Huffington Post, but when the warning claxons go off, you ought to see if there’s danger before dismissing them as error:

Rick Santorum woose voters in Orange City, Iowa - Des Moines Register photo

Rick Santorum woos voters in Orange City, Iowa - Des Moines Register photo

During a stop in Iowa on Thursday, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said that “schools indoctrinate our children,” the Des Moines Register reports.

“You wonder why young people can vote and flock for a guy like Barack Obama and say, if you look at the surveys, that socialism is better than capitalism — well, that’s because they don’t understand America,” he explained, according to the Register. “I said ‘indoctrination’ and I meant it,” he said.

What survey does he have that claims any group in America, other than the Tea Party or the American Communist Party, say socialism is better than capitalism?  Since curricula in every state teach the opposite, the existence of such a poll would be powerful evidence of critical thinking powers in students that most teachers would not attest to.

Maybe more important, perhaps we should  worry about just what all those thousands of nice Baptist ladies are teaching our kids in Texas, eh?  Not to mention the Lutheran ladies in Iowa.  Santorum is sniping at teachers, but if you look at the demographics, it makes little sense.  Teachers are, like the rest of America, about 90% Christian, God-fearing, flag-waving American patriots.

Well, nothing Santorum says makes much sense, does it?  Santorum lent support to the War on Education.

Santorum argued that the country’s education system is leaving students with an insufficient grasp of history. His remarks come with the widely-anticipated Ames Straw poll — a table-setter event for next year’s Iowa caucuses — less than two weeks away.

What in the hell do the schools in Ames, Iowa, look like, that Santorum can say that stuff about them?

By the way, if people learned history accurately in high school, Rick Santorum wouldn’t stand a chance in any election today.  But I digress.

The Des Moines Register article adds the details that Santorum made note of recent testing that shows American kids don’t know enough about American history — always the case, by the way — and that a college prof from Kansas said he gives his students the test required of immigrants applying for citizenship, and most can’t pass the test.

I’m game:  Let’s give the test to Santorum.  If he doesn’t pass, though, we can’t deport him.  We have no vehicles capable of getting to Mars.

HP offers information that may explain Santorum’s insanity:  The same article notes he’s touring Iowa in two vans with his seven children.  In this heat?

Does the Iowa division of child protective services know about this?  How about the division that worries about children torturing their parents?

Obama’s cabinet: Neal Boortz spreads hoax smear, months after debunking

July 23, 2010

Neal Boortz, the Georgia-based radio broadcaster, goes beyond irresponsible journalism.  After we caught Boortz spreading false tales about Hilary Clinton last year, I proceeded to ignore him.

Traffic links pointed to Boortz this morning — now we find he’s spreading a hoax about Obama’s cabinet’s qualifications, months after the guy who started the false story caught his error and retracted it.  [July 4, 2011 – If that link doesn’t work, try this link to Boortz’s archive.]

That’s not just irresponsible and sloppy:  Boortz clearly has a grudge and will tell any falsehood to push his agenda of hatred.

Birds of a feather:  Texas deficit champion Rick Perry with Neil Boortz, who tells whoppers about Clinton and Obama

Birds of a feather: Texas deficit champion Rick Perry, who refused to talk about his $18 billion deficit in Texas, with Neil Boortz, who spread a hoax about Hillary Clinton in 2008, and now spreads old hoaxes about President Obama.

Boortz posts this at his site, probably as a warning for what his philosophy of reporting is:

“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that justifies it.”

Frederic Bastiat

Just before Thanksgiving last year, a J. P. Morgan official wrote a humorous piece of conjecture for his weekly newsletter — a week when most of the markets in the U.S. were closed, and so there was little news.  Michael Cembalest, the chief investment officer for J. P. Morgan, without serious research wrote a piece wondering about what he saw as a lack of private sector experience in Obama’s cabinet in those positions in Cembalest’s view that are concerned most with job creation.

The spin meisters at American Enterprise Institute abused Cembalest’s rank conjectures as a “research report,” created a hoax saying Obama’s cabinet is the least qualified in history, and the thing went viral among otherwise ungainfully-employed bloggers (a lot like Neil Boortz).

Cembalest retracted his piece when he saw, in horror, what had happened (but not before I was too rough on him in poking much-deserved holes in the AEI claim).

Cembalest called me before the end of that week, noting that he’d retracted the piece.

Nearly eight months later, full of vituperation but bereft of information, today Neil Boortz resurrected the hoax story on his blog (on his radio program, too? I’ll wager Boortz is double dipping with his false-tale telling . . .).

Here’s a series of falsehoods Boortz told:

Last year J.P. Morgan thought it might be interesting to look into the private sector experience of Obama’s Cabinet. America, after all, was in the middle of an economic disaster and the thought was that the president might actually look to some people with a record of success in the private sector for advice. So a study is done comparing Obama’s Cabinet to the cabinets of presidents going back to 1900. secretaries of State, Commerce, Treasury, Agriculture, Interior, Labor, Transportation, Energy and Housing and Urban Development were included. The J.P Morgan study looked at the percentages of cabinet members with prior private sector experience, and the results were amazing.

The presidential cabinet with the highest percentage of private sector experience was that of Dwight Eisenhower at around 58%. The lowest — until Obama — was Kennedy at about 28%. The average ran between 35% and 40% … until, as I said, Obama. Care to guess what percentage of Obama’s cabinet has prior private sector experience? Try 7%.

Here’s a start at the truth — try 11 times the experience Boortz credits:

All totaled, Obama’s cabinet is one of the certifiably most brainy, most successful and most decorated of any president at any time.  His cabinet brings extensive and extremely successful private sector experience coupled with outstanding and considerable successful experience in government and elective politics.

AEI’s claim that the cabinet lacks private sector experience is astoundingly in error, with 77% of the 22 members showing private sector experience — according to the [standards of the] bizarre chart [from AEI], putting Obama’s cabinet in the premiere levels of private sector experience.  The chart looks more and more like a hoax that AEI fell sucker to — and so did others.

Boortz is eight months late, and the whole truth short.  Shame on him.

Not just false stuff — old, moldy false stuff.   Atlantans, and all Americans, deserve better reporting, even from hack commentators.


Coda:  Sage advice, but . . .

Boortz includes this warning on his website:

Don’t believe anything you read on this web page, or, for that matter, anything you hear on The Neal Boortz Show, unless it is consistent with what you already know to be true, or unless you have taken the time to research the matter to prove its accuracy to your satisfaction. This is known as “doing your homework.”

Great advice — but no excuse for sloppy reporting.  He should follow his own rule.  On this piece, Boortz didn’t do his homework in any fashion.  He’s turning in somebody else’s crap, without reading it in advance, it appears.


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