Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Different but Equal?

Here’s a fascinating recent article with the forbidding title of The landscape of sex-differential transcriptome and its consequent selection in human adults.  I’ll provide the abstract, and then a translation into English.  Here’s the abstract:

Background
The prevalence of several human morbid phenotypes is sometimes much higher than intuitively expected. This can directly arise from the presence of two sexes, male and female, in one species. Men and women have almost identical genomes but are distinctly dimorphic, with dissimilar disease susceptibilities. Sexually dimorphic traits mainly result from differential expression of genes present in both sexes. Such genes can be subject to different, and even opposing, selection constraints in the two sexes. This can impact human evolution by differential selection on mutations with dissimilar effects on the two sexes.

Results
We comprehensively mapped human sex-differential genetic architecture across 53 tissues. Analyzing available RNA-sequencing data from 544 adults revealed thousands of genes differentially expressed in the reproductive tracts and tissues common to both sexes. Sex-differential genes are related to various biological systems, and suggest new insights into the pathophysiology of diverse human diseases. We also identified a significant association between sex-specific gene transcription and reduced selection efficiency and accumulation of deleterious mutations, which might affect the prevalence of different traits and diseases. Interestingly, many of the sex-specific genes that also undergo reduced selection efficiency are essential for successful reproduction in men or women. This seeming paradox might partially explain the high incidence of human infertility.

Conclusions
This work provides a comprehensive overview of the sex-differential transcriptome and its importance to human evolution and human physiology in health and in disease.

The article was interesting, but a slog given my lack of knowledge of the field.  I don’t mind admitting I couldn’t follow it in its entirety, though  I did manage to acquire a feeling of inadequacy and the start of a headache. So for a translation, I will rely on distinguished geneticist Jenny Graves who just wrote a piece about the article that is quite accessible and from which I will quote below. Graves starts with the punchline:

Most of us are familiar with the genetic differences between men and women.

Men have X and Y sex chromosomes, and women have two X chromosomes. We know that genes on these chromosomes may act differently in men and women.

But a recent paper claims that beyond just genes on X and Y, a full third of our genome is behaving very differently in men and women.

These new data pose challenges for science, medicine and maybe even gender equity.

Here’s a more extensive summary:

In their new paper, the authors Gershoni and Pietrokovsk looked at how active the same genes are in men and women. They measured the RNA produced by 18,670 genes in 53 different tissues (45 common to both sexes) in 544 adult post mortem donors (357 men and 187 women).

They found that about one third of these genes (more than 6,500) had very different activities in men and women. Some genes were active in men only or women only. Many genes were far more active in one sex or the other.

A few of these genes showed sex biased activity in every tissue of the body. More commonly, the difference was seen in one or a few tissues.

Most of these genes were not on sex chromosomes: only a few lay on the Y or the X.

How could a third of our genes be differently controlled in men and women?

We now understand that proteins work in extensive networks. Change the amount of one protein produced by one gene, and you change the amounts of all the proteins produced by many genes in a long chain of command.

We also know that hormones have powerful influences on gene activity. For instance, testosterone and estrogen dial up or down many genes in reproductive and body tissues.

Here is how Graves’ piece ends:

What do these new insights mean for our progress toward gender equity? A bad outcome could be appeals to return to outdated sexual stereotypes. A good outcome will be recognition of sex differences in medicine and treatment.

I think what Graves is after can be characterized as “different but equal.” And though it makes perfect sense given the current state of genetics and biology (to say nothing of common sense), such a philosophy would be quite unwelcome in certain parts these days.

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Not With a Bang, but a Whimper… Democratic Party Edition. An Op Ed.

A presidential candidate like Donald Trump should not be viable. Candidates he supports should not be viable. The existence of Donald Trump should be a boon for the Democrats. And, in fact, it has been.

But it hasn’t been enough. Perhaps four (or eight?) years worth of results will tip the balance for Democrats, but it is reasonable to ask: why have Democrats been coming up short against Trump, both in the Presidential election and in special elections since?

The reason is that the Democrats have abandoned their traditional base (i.e., the working class). So why the change?

I would suggest it is because the middle class intelligentsia from which most leaders and volunteers of the Party spring is increasingly reliant on people who have believe in nonsense.

Consider a paper entitled Evolution is Not Relevant to Sex Differences in Humans Because I Want it That Way! Evidence for the Politicization of Human Evolutionary Psychology published in EvoS Journal: The Journal of the Evolutionary Studies Consortium.

Here’s is the article’s abstract:

This research explored political motivations underlying resistance to evolutionary psychology. Data were collected from 268 adults who varied in terms of academic employment and parental status. Dependent variables represented whether participants believed that several attributes are primarily the result of biological evolution versus socialization. Variables addressed attitudes about: (a) sex differences in adults, (b) sex differences in children, (c) sex differences in chickens, (d) human universals, and (e) differences between dogs and cats. Using a Likert-scale, participants were asked to rate the degree to which they believed items were due to “nature” versus “nurture.” For instance, one of the items from the cat/dog subscale was “Dogs are more pack-oriented than cats.” Independent variables included political orientation, parental status, and academic employment status. Political liberalism corresponded to endorsing “nurture” as influential – but primarily for the two human sex-difference variables. Academic employment status was independently predictive of the belief that sex differences are the result of “nurture.” This effect was exacerbated for academics who came from sociology or women’s studies backgrounds. The effect of academic employment status also corresponded to seeing behavioral differences between roosters and hens as caused by “nurture.” Further, parents were more likely than non-parents to endorse “nature” for the sex-difference variables. Beliefs about differences between cats and dogs and beliefs about causes of human universals (that are not tied to sex differences) were not related to these independent variables, suggesting that the political resistance to evolutionary psychology is specifically targeted at work on sex differences.

While the paper deserves its own post, for our purposes, a quick summary is this: a person’s tendency to attribute differences between the behavior of roosters and hens to nurture rather than biology increases if the person is either an academic or not a parent. The paper also notes that this effect seems especially pronounced among Gender Studies scholars. The sample size is a bit small, but meshes with what can be observed on the evening news or twitter.

Conservatives have more children than liberals, and academics tend to lean left, so the particular brand of crazy discussed in the paper above is a Democrat rather than a Republican phenomenon. More than that – the childless and academics have the time to set the agenda for causes and organizations in which they get involved.

The adoption of the an anti-Biology stance (and yes, the Republicans have their own, different and long-standing anti-Biology stance… and it has them cost them) comes at the same time as the Democrats have been jettisoning Labor as their cause. This is not a coincidence. The historical image of Labor is of men trudging off to work every day at the crack of dawn to support their nuclear family. In today’s lexicon, those are oppressors who maintain the toxic male patriarchy.

Once you identify the problem, the solution is easy: toss those fat cats who lord their privilege with sweat stained undershirts and grime under their finger nails under the bus. And don’ t stop there. Oppose their elitist attitude by finding common cause with other ideas that are anathema to them. Labor worries about unrestricted unskilled immigration, fearing it will lower wages, cost jobs, and making the country less safe? The obvious solution is to bring in Sayfullo Saipov and pretty much anyone for whom Saipov cares to vouch. The US taxpayer will be happy to spring for the bill.

And after all of this, the misogynist racist pigs prove their perfidy by refusing to give their votes to the Democrats who despise them and want them dead. They begin voting Republican. Sure, Republican economic policies not only don’t work, the benefits they do manage to generate don’t trickle down to the working class. But at least Republicans aren’t purposely screwing them over, and the Republican Party is willing to give them some hope along with the bad economic policy. Hope is free, after all.

The good news is that insanity isn’t completely entrenched in the Democratic Party. It hasn’t had control long – less than a decade, in fact. It can be reversed. I’m just afraid that it isn’t going to happen.

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Donna Brazile’s Trash Talking HRC

Nancy LeTourneau at Washington Monthly has an article up on HRC and her running for the presidency. It is a worthy read as it refutes Donna Brazile and Elizabeth Warrens accusations using Open Secrets (Hillary Victory Fund) on HRC funding the DNC and the states in addition to when she took control.

Here is what is in question as written by Nancy Letourneau:

“So it is not unusual for a nominee to exert control over the DNC once they have been chosen. As CNN reported, that transition began in June 2016, when Clinton had secured enough votes to win the nomination. Brazile’s own account of her conversation with Gary Gensler, the chief financial officer of Hillary’s campaign, happened after the Democratic Convention—meaning that the transition had already taken place.

Brazile does, however, suggest that the agreement she reviewed in August 2016 had been signed in August 2015. It has now become apparent that she needs to share what she saw with the public, because in releasing John Podesta’s hacked emails, Wikileaks provided the final template for the 2015 agreement between the Clinton campaign, the DNC and state parties. The emails to which the document were attached include talking points to share with state parties encouraging them to sign up. Nowhere in the text of the agreement is there any reference to the kind of control of the DNC by the Clinton campaign that Brazile wrote about.

As Nancy said, it is time for Donna to release the document she is claiming gives the control in 2015.

The funding as can be found in Open Secrets:

“Amount raised – $529,943,912

Beneficiaries:

Clinton campaign – $158,200,000
DNC – $107,533,318
State parties – 38 states each received between $2,494,000 and $3,423,484”

“Brazile also recounts the concerns raised about the Hillary Victory Fund by Politico in May 2016 about money from the fund not getting to the states that had signed the agreement.” It looks like HRC shared the funding to me.

Again Democrats as led this time by Donna Brazile are investing in self destruction for 2018. During the Kerry campaign I had asked a few “why” questions of Donna via email. Rather than answer the questions, she just resorted to accusations of harassment which was completely off base. Having done the same with Senators and Congressmen, I am used to blunt replies; but, they were in answer to a question. She chose not to answer. I do not find Donna to be genuine.

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The Long Run and International Economics

(/Dan here…lifted from Robert’s Stochastic Thoughts)

The Long Run and International Economics

I am still thinking about Krugman and the Gravelle GeardownDo click the link if you are interested in understanding what I am typing about. Very briefly the question is: what effect would cutting the tax on profits have on the _US capital stock ? The particular issue is what difference does it make that most of US production is production of non traded goods and services. Gravelle claims that this implies a lower long run effect of the tax cut on US capital stock than would occur if all goods and services were traded (or that’s what I think based on Krugman’s explanation).

Here the key words are “long run” and, I think, an important issue is long run mysticism. This post is getting long. I will put the conclusion here. It seems to me that standard assumptions about the long run make even less sense in open than in closed economies and I think that is the key issue here. Macroeconomists have the most consensus and confidence about the long run. The reason is that it is all handled by simple assumptions made for convenience. In particular, it is standard to assume that there is a unique long run steady state determined by tastes and technology. This doesn’t follow from other core assumptions. I think this is a terrible problem, because politicians think it is honorable to focus on the long run and that means they make policy influenced by the assumptions we make for convenience (austerity, the EU stability and growth pact, and European Single Bank single mandate). Over in the USA they talk about the effect of tax cuts assuming the government intertemporal budget constraint will be satisfied with equality — this when commenting on GOP policy proposals which would violate it.

I will hint at a model used (by Krugman say) to assess the effects of a profit tax cut. It starts with two strong assumptions. First prduction is determined by technology and accumulated capital — the model is solved as if there were full employment. This makes (some) sense if one assumes the unemployment rate is detrmined by monetary policy. Second it is assumed that consumption is not affected by interest rates. This assumption is based on the evidence — it is radically different from the standard assumption made in theoretical macroeconomics. Finally Government consumption plus investment is taken as given.

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The Virginia Governor’s Race

The Virginia Governor’s Race

 I rarely talk directly about specific political races, but I live in Virginia where in less than a week there will be the most closely watched election in the nation for governor.  It is very close, and the Republican, Ed Gillespie, might well win, even though his Dem opponent, Ralph Northam, leads by narrow margins in most polls.  Sound familiar?  Sure, but why am I going on about this?

It is because even the pro-Dem national media seems to have bought into inaccurate characterizations of Northam’s positions.  Most specifically, Chris Matthews on Hardball just had a guest on and they both were repeating the false claim that Northam supports taking down all Confederate monuments in the state, although accurately noting that this is a tough issue in the Commonwealth that Gillespie has been using to effect against Northam.  If Gillespie wins, this issue will be part of it.

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A Comment on Krugman on Gravelle

Paul Krugman finds intuition for the calculations of Jennifer Gravelle difficult. Now even more than usually, you really have to click this link to know what I am typing about.

My comment.

yes that intuition is difficult. I have an attempt. So 1% of GDP is tradable. Also consumption and total production fixed. Mars cuts tax from t to 0. So to invest more Mars runs a current account deficit — all cyberservice provided by earlhlings & martian cyberworkers go build capital. Note all the extra capital belongs to earthlings (I assumed martian savings are fixed).

In the long run, there will be current account balance. This means Mars will have a trade surplus required to pay the return on earthling owned capital on Mars. They owe us delta(k)r per year. They can run a trade surplus of only 1% of GDP so delta(k) less than or equal to 0.01 GDP/r

It seems to me the long run effect is entirely due to the fact that the tax cutting planet has to pay more capital income to the other one. This places a limit on the sum of their trade deficits and extra capital accumulation

I think the limit on long run capital inflow is that hypothetical Mars (or the US in the real Solar system) can only owe the rest of the solar system liabilities which it can service. This is a long run limit — a statement about the new steady state.

In the really real world, I think current US current account surplues are not sustainable forever, so the sum over the next century can’t increase (or stay the same). So the long run effect of a profit tax cut is zero. But that’s just a guess.

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Barzani Out, Puigdemont In Belgium

Barzani Out, Puigdemont In Belgium

It seems that the two recent independence referenda have largely collapsed.  One was in Iraqi Kurdistan, with President Massound Barzani having it done with the eye that it would give him leverage in negotiations with the Iraqi central government.  That did not work, with the referendum triggering the central government to move to seize control of the oil producing areas the Kurds had controlled and quite a bit of other territory they had controlled, especially Kirkuk.  Barzani had not stepped down two years ago when he was supposed to.  Two days ago he announced he will step down from his position.  Looks like this is basically over.

Then we have Puigdemont, the prime minister of Catalunya/Catalonia.  He also put in place a probably badly timed and unwise independence referendum.  This was followed up on the weekend by the Catalan parliament voting for independence, even though many polls suggest a majority do not support independence (although a solid majority voted for the independence referendum, with a a low turnout).  Now the central government has cancelled the Catalan government and imposed direct central rule.  Puigdemont has fled to the Flemish part of Belgium where he has been given asylum.  So, it looks like this independence referendum has also ended up as a disaster.

I note that in my earlier posts I expressed more sympathy with the Kurdish declaration, even as it looked like very bad timing for it.  I had and have much less sympathy with the Catalan one given the level of autonomy they have over so many areas, with the main effect being a selfish economic result that would have them no longer sending money to poorer parts of Spain. The amount of self-righteousness on their part in regard to this I find pretty indefensible. The Kurds have suffered far more at the hands of those who rule them than have the Catalans, even accounting for the old Franco period when indeed the Catalans did suffer vicious repression, although I do not support violence on the part of the Spanish central government to impose their direct control.

Barkley Rosser

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Well, it’s not just power that women like Clinton are asking for; it is responsibility

This is just a conversation between two people of a similar age, looking at what happened, and what changed. Worthy of posting.

esmensetoo: There are women who fear a loss of privilege and an increase in expectations, and economic responsibility, for women from “feminist” striving. “If she can do that maybe I’ll be asked and expected to do it too.”

Plus, “working class,” as defined in many polls and studies does not necessarily mean “working women.”
Trump’s support, including his support among white “working class” women, was older and more affluent. These are women less likely to have “had” to work — who, because of the economic realities of their younger adulthood, and the greater ability to maintain a middle class life and even gain affluence on one salary — the husband’s — experienced more economic flexibility to stay home with children and, if and when they did choose to work, it truly was a matter of choice in which adequate, fair pay wasn’t essential. Older, white women are less likely to have a college education than younger women, which defines them as “working class.” But that doesn’t mean their households are less affluent.

They are the women more likely to see the demands of feminism and ambitions for power of women like Clinton as a loss; a loss of the protection of male earnings, with an increase in economic expectation for women like themselves.

In my generation — the eldest cohort of the Baby Boom — even in working class households white women were brought up with the expectation that they wouldn’t work outside the home, at least once their children were born. Even if they trained in traditional occupations, teaching and nursing, they expected that they would take years off to raise children — and outside of those occupations there really wasn’t anything else for women that would provide a lifetime “career.”

Of course, many of us found that expectation was unrealistic; and younger women even more so. We took on more economic responsibility both because we had to and wanted to — and started demanding more rights and resources and opportunities to go along with it.

( I went to an excellent public high school in a New Jersey community that was basically a bedroom community for professors from Rutgers and Princeton, and professionals from surrounding think tanks and research centers — a very highly educated population — in the early 60s. Although the importance of education was stressed for everyone in that community and college admission was a goal for almost everyone, girls were told that their education would be important for their FAMILIES; their children. And, of lesser importance, their communities. Education for women was couched in the language of service, NEVER ambition or earnings.)

Me: We pulled that off with the advent of children. We already had the house, dog, fenced yard, etc. Smaller home but very affordable on a heavily treed lot.

My wife was a Patent and Trademark Paralegal and she made more money than I did initially even though I had the BA, etc. She stayed home with our first and the others. Did all of the school things moms did when they were growing up. We agreed to do it this way. We did not have new cars and stuff and we had our funding issues.

You are right and we were very lucky to have done it the old way. Elizabeth Warren was right, the one income family became extinct unless you were fortunate enough to have money in the beginning. New and young families could not afford what we were able to do on one income. Eventually, she did go back to work and we fund a lot of those things for the offspring.

esmensetoo: That’s pretty typical, and was much more possible, in earlier post-war boom times. And still true for a lot of early Boomers when they entered the work force. Living on one income might require some belt tightening in the beginning but it was doable and as time went on economic prospects improved. And, often, once children were older, women went back to work, or school and work (my mom went to college at 50).

I worked through school and in the years before my son was born, but, while I was doing things I enjoyed, I didn’t really think of it as a “career.” I stayed home with my son for the first two and a half years of his life. But then BOTH my parents became terminally ill. My Mom was only 56 — years away from Medicare. Their illnesses were galloping through the lifetime limits on my father’s good union health insurance, which would not be available to her if he died first anyway, and neither would any accumulated pension. Plus inflation and recession were both raging and negatively affecting my husband’s business. And housing and health care costs were going through the roof. Faced with a lot of conflicting needs — from all the people I loved and cared about — I decided that I could best meet them by going back to work to provide some additional stability, and extra economic resources that might end up being crucial to my Mom’s care.

I always say I didn’t get ambition until AFTER I had a child — but it was really not just about wanting to help secure his future; my parent’s challenges, and the fragility of the “stagflation” economy, made me realize I had to be prepared to provide serious economic support when needed. And that made me much more willing to confront the inequalities that could limit my ability to do so. I was newly ambitious in this sense; I wanted the work I did to PAY, and I wanted the people I did work for to take me and my work as seriously as I took them and the work they needed done. I was empowered to speak up.

I still feel lucky that I had the “choice” to spend those early years with my son — years when he got my entire attention. But I also feel lucky that I had the opportunity and ability to contribute to my parent’s needs and peace of mind at the end of their lives, to our family business, and provide resources for my son’s future.

Being economic providers as well as caretakers got even more important for women younger than me. Inflation meant a second income became essential for just qualifying for a mortgage; but their paychecks often covered the house payment and day care, and little more. But those paychecks didn’t come with benefits like family leave.

I was inspired as a feminist in my early years in the workplace by older women; working or once middle class white women who returned to the workplace as widows, or with ill and disabled husbands whose needs had devastated family income and resources, or with elders or children with serious needs that demanded their support, or after divorce, or after freeing themselves and their children from abuse; and minority women who had always worked and expected to work to help stabilize and support families challenged by the instability, lesser wages and lesser opportunity that challenged their community and their partner’s work lives — women with big responsibilities, for themselves and others, in an economy and work places that offered them little pay and benefit, and, even less respect.

When I returned to work my feminism was further inspired by women younger than me — whose gains were not yet adequate to their needs, and yet were being constantly undermined by on-going economic weakness. Both young men and young women needed full-time work to afford to buy homes and have children — for instance — but the expectations and demands of the workplace, losses in worker protections and rights, growing job insecurity and economic instability, constant inflation in the basics of housing, education and healthcare, were all undermining all their gains. Leaving them further behind, rather than ahead.

In the early 90s I attended a retirement party for a woman who had worked in the advertising department of a large retailer since she was a young student at the University of Washington. She recounted her more than 30 year career, with gratitude, to the mostly much younger women who were there to honor her. She had worked for the company to help pay for her education in the summers and on special projects. Had joined the staff full time after graduation; working to help her husband finish his schooling and get established in his career, to help them save for house, etc. She left when her first child was born and returned, part time, when her youngest child started school. And then, as they grew older and more independent, she came back to work full time; to help provide resources for their education and help enhance their opportunities in other ways, and to contribute to her and her husbands’ retirements, and out of the pure satisfaction of work she loved and was good doing it.

She had “had it all.” It was such a contrast to what the young women in that room, doing the same work she had always done, pursuing the same careers, were struggling with and could expect. Was this progress, or were we going backward?

I’ve read that studies have shown that women’s economic progress peaked in the early 80s and they’ve been losing ground ever since.

That certainly feels true.

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Halloween potpouri

Halloween potpouri

Some comments on the economic data from yesterday and this morning…
1. Personal income and spending.
Real, inflation adjusted income was flat, while real spending was up +0.6%. Which means the personal saving rate declined to a new expansion low:

We’ve had a steep decline in the savings rate in the past year.  That is something that, as the above graph shows, tends to happen in mid- to late expansion. The upshot is that consumers have less room in their budgets to absorb a future negative shock.

2. The employment cost index.

This is some good news. The employment cost index is a median measure, and it tracks payment for the same job over time, and it improved 0.7% q/q, and the longer term trend is positive:
YoY growth of wages, at 2.5%, is just below the expansion peak of 2.6%. At least in terms of measuring payment for the same job, there actually is some improving wage growth.
3. Apartment rents.

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