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Crisis

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.16.16

I probably got this from one of you guys, but I don't actually remember.

Replication%20crisis.png

Seems reasonable. It goes without saying which field has the least crisis in reproducibility. And I don't mean Hitler.

(Although, I do think it's interesting that it can be hard for the smartest mathematicians anywhere to determine the validity of a proof. Nevertheless, everyone agrees that you must reproduce the proof for yourself - essentially rerun the experiment for yourself - in order to believe it.)


 

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Oh sugar sugar

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.15.16

By now, everyone here agrees that excess sugar has major health consequences. I am still, however, fascinated by the history of how the country got to the spot in the 80s and 90s, where sugar was essentially considered a freebie as long as there was no fat in the foodstuff:

In this issue of JAMA Internal Medicine, Kearns and colleagues report on having found a smoking gun. From a deep dive into archival documents from the 1950s and 1960s, they have produced compelling evidence that a sugar trade association not only paid for but also initiated and influenced research expressly to exonerate sugar as a major risk factor for coronary heart disease (CHD). Although studies at that time indicated a relationship between high-sugar diets and CHD risk, the sugar association preferred scientists and policymakers to focus on the role of dietary fat and cholesterol. The association paid the equivalent of more than $48 000 in today's dollars to 3 nutrition professors--at Harvard no less--to publish a research review that would refute evidence linking sugars to CHD.

Oh, that's how. This is pretty consistent with the story Taube and others have been telling, but it's still interesting to me.


 

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Deluge: Chapters 25 and 26

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.15.16

Thorn writes: For verisimilitude (and lack of any alternative option) I'm writing this while heavily medicated and unable to walk properly, not to mention locked into an ugly game of financial chicken with an enemy I can't stand but still have to deal with in at least superficially civil ways way too often. So all mistakes and omissions here are probably operator error, but that's what you get when I step in to finish out the main text to leave next week's conclusion for our fearless leader, Mossy Character.

25. The New Politics of War and Peace

First, both of these chapters seem long and infodumpy. What's been going on in the lives of everyone we met in the first 460 pages since we last heard from them? Glad you asked!! Anyway, my recaps are going to do more to pull out what I find interesting or amusing than get anywhere near a comprehensive summary of all of this.

We start with the Nobel Peace Prize for 1926, shared by France and Germany's foreign ministers for their work on the Locarno treaties, so the year before the award went to France and Germany's foremost pacifist-activist professors. The world was in the mood for "a vital spirit with strives for peace in accordance with the philosophies of Kant and Fichte," as laureate Stresemann put it. Even the countries that had decidedly won the war had then faced complications that kept them from turning this into power they'd use elsewhere. The only exception was the United States, which was huge and rich and powerful enough that suddenly all the other countries realized peace necessarily meant playing along with its rules. And how better to show off and clarify this than settling on the gold standard, however much in-country deflation and austerity it might require to get there?

In some ways, Germany was better off than the countries that had defeated it because while it owed reparations, its war debts had been wiped out. The Weimar Republic was counting on being too big to fail, so that any disruption of the economy would be so devastating for American investments that it couldn't be allowed to happen. By the mid-1920s Britain was deep into a Red scare, buoyed by a new Conservative majority that pegged its currency to gold, when a general strike supporting striking miners briefly looked like it could exert the sort of pressure labor activism had in the decade prior before fizzling out within a week because the government had already prepared to fight, the masses who'd faced major unemployment didn't back the work stoppage strongly enough, and there was now plentiful coal from other parts of postwar Europe. Italy hadn't chosen to pursue deflation in 1920 (nor had Japan or France) but now under Mussolini officially locked in its currency to the gold-linked pound without any fear of populist uprising because much of the point of going fascist is getting that sort of thing under control, which also made creating and enforcing a 20% wage hike something that the government could do and receive American support for doing. Japan's early experiments with deflation (which Tooze describes as being three years from 1920-1923 despite saying on the page before that Japan hadn't gone for deflation in 1920, so I'm leaving this here because I can blame this one on him even if I'm just missing the nuance of what counts as deflation) had gotten them almost to the prewar yen-to-dollar exchange rate when a devastating earthquake destroyed just about everything. J.P. Morgan (the bank, not the actual dude back from the dead) brokered what Japan considered a "national humiliation loan" that was presumably intended to be just that but was the best Japan could get under these emergency circumstances. When Japan seemed close to restoring the gold standard three years later, an internal banking crisis made further progress impossible. Rather than focus on gold and peace, the decision was made to focus on national development to be able to stand up against the communist threat in China. For some mysterious reason, J.P. Morgan found this Asian focus appealing enough to be willing to restructure the loan on terms more favorable to Japan. France, though, wasn't allowed to consolidate its debts as it and J.P. Morgan wanted because Coolidge's government froze all lending to France until France's debts to its allies were paid. It only took a few months of this to destabilize France's government to the point that new prime minister (and soon-to-be 1926 Nobel laureate) Aristide Briand's immediate priority was to come to an agreement on debt concessions through the Mellon-Berenger accord. The French people, though, were not willing to accept debt, debt, and now more debt. Veterans marched, Mussolini-inspired protests began, and the government quietly reassembled itself into a coalition with Poincaré back in control, Briand as foreign secretary, and now a public debt agency to control and assure repayment. The franc's exchange rate made exports and purchase of French assets very favorable so that gold and foreign exchange reserves gave France a certain independence from direct Anglo-Saxon control.

Simultaneously (although really this chapter covers most of the 1920s, so that's a dubious term to begin with) there was a push to stop the arms race with a series of, I don't know, eleven-dimensional domino mazes. No one could agree on everything, but with enough pressure and official agreements in enough places, you could set things up so that no one could upset the status quo too much without seriously injuring themselves in the process, although it also meant they generally couldn't quite do what they wanted to either. This culminated at the end of the decade in the Kellogg-Briand pact renouncing war. (And I just looked up Frank Kellogg to see if he was one of the first politicians to go by a nickname but nope, he was Frank by name and possibly frank by nature but it's not as if I'm going to read the whole wikipedia entry to be sure. You'll also learn that only Kellogg got the 1929 Nobel Peace Prize for this because Briand had gotten his three years before and two paragraphs ago.) By a decade later, there were 60 signatories committed to peace, many of whom of course transitioned from that goal into world war again. But the Kellogg-Briand agreement was still there when that war ended and offenses against peace under its terms created opportunities for convictions in Nuremberg.

Much of that domino pact work semi-deliberately focused on the early Pacific treaties and then painstaking ongoing negotiations over Western Europe, in both cases with significant US involvement, at the expense of ignoring the bulk of Eurasia and the Soviet Union as much as possible. Poland was able to play Germany and the Soviet Union against each other to protect its borders when individual treaties didn't really do the trick. Turmoil in China was fine with Western powers as long as their spheres of influence were safe and their economic interests profitable, but the more the Soviets got involved there and the more Chinese nationalism took hold among the populace, the less stable this setup seemed. "Stable" is not really the right word for a shifting set of alliances between the Guomindang and official Chinese Communist Party, their overlap and the various Chinese warlords (which sounds kind of racist; were there European warlords in the 20th century?), and the different Soviet powers supporting certain groups or movements within the subset's' leadership, not to mention all the actual regular Chinese citizens getting involved. Just at the moment when nationalist success seemed assured but with Britain and the US ready to intervene and escalate the conflict, General Chiang decided to stop the Communists from ousting him by purging the Guomindang of Communists. By the time a new Chinese nationalist government was settled in Nanjing in 1928, the Soviet Union no longer had a foothold. Stalin was focused on keeping his own nation together and fed through intense industrialization, believing his own best bet to do this was to avoid expansion or involvement in other countries' struggles, ignore Trotsky's goading, and be the first nation to sign onto the Kellogg-Briand peace accord. And then there was Japan, whose control of Manchuria was slipping by the late 1920s, leaving Japan's hopes of greater influence in China largely set aside after its fight against the Chinese nationalists was too little too late. With Stalin and Chiang Kai-shek consolidating power, Japan elected a more moderate reformist government that committed to plans for naval disarmament and joined the cool kids in the Kellogg-Briand group.

26. The Great Depression

Oh, spoiler alert about that peace and stability stuff from last chapter! It turns out austerity, the gold standard, deflation, promises of peace, and a nickel will buy you whatever you can get for a nickel plus maybe some effective war crimes tribunals down the line. Tooze's claim is that most of the theories of what led to the Depression underestimate the ways these sort of utopian commitments were golden handcuffs driving hopeful countries "toward the insurgent nationalist camp," he says. (I'm going to probably mostly focus on historical figures he quotes because there are some good quotes in this chapter, so this is your setup for that and also saved me having to think of my own wording because I'm feeling foggy and blanking right now.)

Ooh, let's start with a date because it's my birthday minus only 51 years, which is weird because I don't feel 51 years younger than 1929. Huh. Anyway, a recession was clearly beginning but at me-minus-51-years, a mere 10 years plus change after the end of the war, it was time for another round of reparations negotiations, this time in Paris and this time spurred by the Americans, who were afraid that any changes in payment schedules or Germany's war debts would damage the US economy. In 1919, there was a 3:1 ratio between reparations claims against Germany to war debts owed to the US. A decade later, the negotiations that led to the Young Plan finalized reparations to France at 40% of what was owed, Britain at 22%, with the remainder going to the US to wipe out war debt. Trotsky, who gets to be kind of the Greek chorus of sick burns for these chapters, went with the explanation that "From the financial shackles on Germany's feet, there extend solid chains which encumber the hands of France, the feet of Italy, and the neck of Britain. [Ramsay] MacDonald, who nowadays fulfills the duties of keeper to the British lion, points with pride to this dog collar, calling it the best instrument of peace." Making these connections clear was sort of the point of the Young Plan and while young upstart Adolf Hitler tried to rally his fans to vote to oppose it, Germany ratified the plan and as a result saw Allied troops withdraw five years ahead of plan.

Germany got to focus on paying off debts and reparations while elsewhere disarmament was on the table. Japan, the US, and Britain were agreeing to limit their navies. One quick way to budget cuts was to slash naval spending, though in the US this meant a drop in the income made from all the shipbuilding that had been going on for the prior decade. France was also involved, but with a navy already dwarfed by the other three it wasn't as interested in limiting itself further and wanted to make sure it would have Britain's Royal Navy ready to protect and enforce blockades in the case of attack. Britain wasn't going to agree to this unless the plan was backed by the Americans, who had not historically been interested in any security plans with explicit enforcement mechanisms. As talks risked falling apart, US secretary of state Henry Stimson went rogue and offered that if France would agree to disarmament the US would be willing to go for a "consultative pact" that would allow it to weigh in with a commitment on how it would respond before any French and/or British blockade. This kept France at the bargaining table, though not in good spirits. Instead France and other European nations were starting to look away from the United States to discuss what a unified Europe might mean. Our first-cited Nobelists, Stresemann and Briand, thought an official European bloc could counterbalance America's protectionist tendencies and suggested tariff reductions between European states, which was soundly opposed by those European states. But in 1930 the idea of a political federation of European nations gained more traction than calls for economic unity had.

But times were changing. By 1930 Stresemann was dead and Briand expected to be so soon. Germany had elected a right-wing chancellor. Britain, a major importer with its commonwealth/vestiges-of-empire connections and a naval superpower, could have thrown its weight behind a united Europe and shifted the balance away from the US, but apparently that didn't seem like a good idea at the time. Without that support for unity, Germany looked elsewhere, strengthening connections with Mussolini's Italy and with the Soviet Union. As the last French troops moved out, Germany secretly negotiated with Austria to create a customs union. Chancellor Brüning wasn't a fascist sympathizer himself and in fact fled the country after the Nazi rise to power, but he was a nationalist who wanted to see Germany prosper financially through trade to offset its debt burden even if that meant secretly violating a few peace treaties to do so. Neither Britain nor America seemed inclined to crack down on this as long as money was moving out of Germany and into their coffers as agreed on, but poor France was not amused and had unexpected power to do something about that. Because it had spent the 1920s buying up gold as more and more countries tied their currencies to the gold standard, France now held about a quarter of the world's gold reserves, second only to the United States. While conspiracy theorists accused France of deliberately encouraging financial speculation in Austria and Germany, really that was just the natural outcome of the new economic setup and the deflation that had been building there for years. Germany's banks became unstable and Brüning didn't seem inclined to fix the problem. Gold and foreign money flowed out of Germany quickly, leading to the moment of international financial confrontation Germany had been building for years in linking itself so tightly to Wall Street banks. Now US banking was in crisis, but President Hoover saw that as an excuse to sort of stick it to them to play to his Midwestern base. Eventually he bowed to international political pressure, but by freezing all political debt, both German reparations and the inter-Allied war debt.

Hoover's move seemed to stabilize the situation for a few days until France decided not to play along. I'll quote Tooze's quotes of Ramsay MacDonald's classy take, that "France has been playing its usual small-minded and selfish game over the Hoover proposals. Its methods are those of the worst Jews.... Germany cracks while France bargains." Hoover suggested Anglo-German alliance as the obvious next step to move around(/against?) France, implying the United States might also be interested. He argued that the US was taking the biggest financial hit in this freeze, but the French wanted recognition of all the financial concessions they had made over the years of reparations negotiations that the US never had, not to mention time and time again stepping back from their desire for an enforceable international security and defense system to allow US-led consensus in disarmament and peace talks. The French were mad as hell and etc., and no one was really sure how to deal with that. France eventually agreed to Hoover's moratorium, but not until after the collapse of the whole German financial system. Germany agreed to suspend all military spending through the moratorium and then Brüning made more cuts in prices and wages to try to drive the economy back into line with the international order. It was becoming clear, though, that this international order was precarious and there didn't seem to be room for the liberal economics it required as well as for appropriate nationalism.

And then there's Japan, where for real after the prime minister was assassinated and so were his finance minister and the head of the Mitsui business conglomerate, all of them international-minded fellows, Japanese nationalists assassinated a Chinese warlord in hopes of triggering war in defense of Manchuria and then when that didn't work staged an attack on a Japanese railway line that they could pretend was Chinese sabotage. Within a day, a rogue branch of the Japanese army took the Manchurian capital Mukden and from there conquered three more provinces in the next few weeks. But Japanese political parties weren't ready for bloodthirsty expansion and neither were the voters, so neither the plan to take all the territory north of the Great Wall nor to overthrow the system at home met their goals. The Japanese government reasserted control and the Western powers basically shrugged and figured as long as Manchuria wasn't full of Soviet power they didn't really care who was there instead. In 1930, Japan left the gold standard and immediately faced a push to spend on military defense and chose to do just that, eventually giving up on arms-limiting treaties.

France and Italy stayed on the gold standard, which limited their military expansion. Britain decoupled from the gold standard and managed to keep a functional economy with free-floating currency after some initial bumps including spurring bank failures in other countries. After the first rocky year, Britain stabilized with low interest rates and an economic stimulus, supported by newly protectionist trade agreements. Germany couldn't take either of those options, because its debts were dollar-denominated and because it had no reserves to handle the interim period of float after leaving the gold standard. Deflation continued, unemployment spiraled out of control, and the country was in crisis. While trade unions tried to rally popular support for their agenda, National Socialism was able gain increasing traction on the other side of the political spectrum. German big business wasn't ready to give up on international consensus and connection completely, but the stage was set for change.

In the United States, things were falling apart. The federal government was too small for its spending to have a big enough impact to influence the economy. The Smoot-Hawley tariff threw international trade out of control. The Fed decided to pursue deflation rather than stabilize the banks. When Britain left the gold standard, over 500 American banks failed. And then in the runup to Roosevelt's inauguration, the run on the banks began. He was able to announce that it was time for a New Deal, but really that time had long passed. America would be led by democracy rather than by the gold standard, which needed to happen because there were plenty of people and not enough gold to keep the old system going. This set the stage for recovery, but only by siphoning money out of the rest of the world to prop up the dollar, which was understandably unpopular everywhere else. When the US in 1933 refused to suspend the German repayment terms under the Young Plan, Germany backed out of the next set of planned international meetings, the World Economic Conference. Could Britain, France, and the US agree to a currency stabilization agreement? They were getting close when Roosevelt stated that it didn't matter whether they could because the dollar was going to float to whatever level the US economy needed regardless of international implications.

France and Britain had agreed to an end of Germany's reparations with the understanding that inter-Allied debt repayments would end too. But American lawmakers decided that even though Hoover had been trying to save Wall Street during the German collapse by putting the moratorium in place, Congress wasn't going to sign off on that and Hoover didn't have the right to do so and money needed to start flowing back in. Hitler withdrew from the League of Nations disarmament agreements and announced that Germany would go into default on all war debt and obligations. Even Britain and France decided that they were going to suspend payment to the United States, though they upheld other obligations. Only Finland kept on paying its US obligations in full, but it would, wouldn't it? Britain's ambassador to the US saw this move by Congress as an "exhibition of irresponsibility, buffonery, and ineptitude that could hardly be paralleled by the Haitian legislature." Ramsay MacDonald called it "treason to the whole world." And thus my summary concludes with all of us non-Finns at least having a moment or two at least of Are we the baddies? before Mossy Character summarizes either the last eight pages or the whole entire book, whatever, and puts all this war and peace and gold and threats behind us.


 

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Sports

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.14.16

Paralympians are faster than Olympians. Maybe they should compete at the Olympics.

Paralympics generally gets erased from discourse.

Both links via E. Messily.

While we're at it, you can discuss that Colin Kapaernick fellow. He seems pretty cool.


 

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When Limey Eyes Start Eyeing a Prize Some People Call Manly Footwear...

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.13.16

I really thought the Brits were tougher than Texans, but if this is all it takes to impress them...also the last sentence of the article is wrong.


 

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Itch

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.13.16

I was musing to my School Board Friend that the lice epidemic really needs to be handled on a public policy level - I don't know exactly what, but the shampoos don't work, and the solutions are either time-intensive or money-intensive, and you have a collective action problem where one negligent family can re-poison the well indefinitely, and therefore the solution needs to be community-wide.

Her response was that nationwide, everyone has given up on lice. Just resigned ourselves to life with lice. Oh, and bedbugs too, she added.

WHY? WHY WOULD WE DO THIS? Why can't we just cooperate for once in our lives instead of regressing to medieval times? (I suppose if I had to pick one problem for us to cooperate towards a solution, I'd go with climate change over lice and bedbugs, but it's not an easy call.)


 

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My New Favorite Phrase

Posted by Ogged
on 09.13.16
he claims that he's only "gay in bed"

Third letter down.


 

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Timeline

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.12.16

E. Messily asks: Are we allowed to link to xkcd on unfogged, or does everyone there hate it? I liked looking at today's.

I mean I didn't LIKE it. It's scary and depressing. But a useful visualization, or something.

Heebie's take: Just don't read the bottom two inches and it's really interesting.


 

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Werner Forssmann

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.12.16

This is a good story:

[Werner Forssmann] hypothesized that a catheter could be inserted directly into the heart, for such applications as directly delivering drugs, injecting radiopaque dyes, or measuring blood pressure. The fear at the time was that such an intrusion into the heart would be fatal.[2] To prove his point, he decided to try the experiment on himself.
In 1929, while working in Eberswalde, he performed the first human cardiac catheterization. He ignored his department chief and persuaded the operating-room nurse in charge of the sterile supplies, Gerda Ditzen, to assist him. She agreed, but only on the promise that he would do it on her rather than on himself. However, Forssmann tricked her by restraining her to the operating table and pretending to locally anaesthetise and cut her arm whilst actually doing it on himself.[3] He anesthetized his own lower arm in the cubital region and inserted a uretic catheter into his antecubital vein, threading it partly along before releasing Ditzen (who at this point realised the catheter was not in her arm) and telling her to call the X-ray department. They walked some distance to the X-ray department on the floor below where under the guidance of a fluoroscope he advanced the catheter the full 60 cm into his right ventricular cavity. This was then recorded on X-Ray film showing the catheter lying in his right atrium.[3]

Nerves of steel!


 

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Oy Vey

Posted by Ogged
on 09.11.16

Being a presidential candidate is exhausting, and lots of people feel faint when standing around too long, but when you're being swiftboated with claims about your frail health, this scene is really not helpful.


 

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