What I’m Reading (June 20)

By Chuck Dinerstein, MD, MBA — Jun 20, 2024
Congestion pricing a troubled dream. Congress, in its gridlock, stands, laws abandoned to executive hands. The machines don't believe or see, AI’s errors, seen anew. BLM and lockdown protestors go hand in hand.
Summer Reading

Elasticity is one of those economic terms that concerns how willing you are to spend more for a given product. It is a significant concern regarding taxes and congestion pricing and many of the economic behavioral nudges legislation tries to inflict upon us. 

“Raising the alcohol tax will generate additional tax revenue and also cause people to drink less. But those two goals are somewhat at odds with each other. If the elasticity is high, the tax will have a large public health impact (people drink less) but not raise that much revenue (people are abstaining rather than paying the tax). If the elasticity is low, you have a really good source of tax revenue but only a marginal public health benefit.”

Matthew Yglesias has a great take on elasticity and NY’s congestion pricing, among other taxes in Slow Boring’s New York's congestion pricing disaster


The do-nothing Congress has abrogated many of its legislative responsibilities, leaving it to the executive branch to govern by fiat, which is taken before the judicial branch for reconsideration. Everything, therefore, becomes clogged up. 

“The problem with the contemporary Congress is not so much that it isn’t passing bills as that it is failing to facilitate cross-partisan bargaining and accommodation. Building and broadening coalitions is the purpose of the national legislature—a purpose that is particularly crucial in a divided time like ours.”

We must fix the problem, but the solution, at least according to this, is a bit counterintuitive. From the Atlantic. What’s Wrong With Congress (And How to Fix It)


When AI systems begin to deviate from the truth, researchers describe this as hallucinations. I was taken aback by that word choice until, with further reflection, I thought that if the AI was looking for statistical patterns, then hallucination for a visual image or pattern might make sense. Others have had the same concern but have come to a harsher conclusion. 

"The machines are not trying to communicate something they believe or perceive," the paper reads. "Their inaccuracy is not due to misperception or hallucination. As we have pointed out, they are not trying to convey information at all. They are bullshitting."

From The Byte, Researchers Say There’s A Vulgar But More Accurate Term For AI Hallucinations


We have so many things we fight over, none less divisive than the BLM protests and the protests of COVID lockdowns. But when you look into the details and not the gist, there is this.

“There has been this notion of, Maybe it’s just fun. Protesting is the new brunch was one of the things that came out,” Papageorge said. “And I think that was one part of the caricaturization, right? That there are these gun-toting vigilantes protesting. And then there were these privileged leftist extremists going to these BLM protests. And that just wasn’t in line with what we were finding. The median protester was not an extremist. …

Much to Papageorge’s surprise, his findings revealed significant overlap between the BLM and anti-lockdown protest movements. And—on some metrics—the paper reveals that the protesters were not out of touch with the majority of Americans. Rather, they were more representative of the country than even the 2020 electorate.”

From The Atlantic, one of their new podcasts, Good on Paper. This episode is Who Really Protests, and Why?



Chuck Dinerstein, MD, MBA

Director of Medicine

Dr. Charles Dinerstein, M.D., MBA, FACS is Director of Medicine at the American Council on Science and Health. He has over 25 years of experience as a vascular surgeon.

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