Tuesday, April 25, 2017

But journalistic groupthink is a symptom, not a cause.

From The Media Bubble Is Worse Than You Think by Jack Shafer and Tucker Doherty

This article provides some empirical underpinnings of my thesis that the mainstream media is so biased to the left because the media is located in large urban locations where the dominant ethos is left. I discuss the idea and some of its broader implications in The effect size from their perspective is that much smaller than from yours.

Shafer and Doherty:
The answer to the press’ myopia lies elsewhere, and nobody has produced a better argument for how the national media missed the Trump story than FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver, who pointed out that the ideological clustering in top newsrooms led to groupthink. “As of 2013, only 7 percent of [journalists] identified as Republicans,” Silver wrote in March, chiding the press for its political homogeneity. Just after the election, presidential strategist Steve Bannon savaged the press on the same point but with a heartier vocabulary. “The media bubble is the ultimate symbol of what’s wrong with this country,” Bannon said. “It’s just a circle of people talking to themselves who have no fucking idea what’s going on.”

The map at the top of this piece shows how concentrated media jobs have become in the nation’s most Democratic-leaning counties. Counties that voted for Donald Trump in 2016 are in red, and Hillary Clinton counties are in blue, with darker colors signifying higher vote margins. The bubbles represent the 150 counties with the most newspaper and internet publishing jobs. Not only do most of the bubbles fall in blue counties, chiefly on the coasts, but an outright majority of the jobs are in the deepest-blue counties, where Clinton won by 30 points or more.

But journalistic groupthink is a symptom, not a cause. And when it comes to the cause, there’s another, blunter way to think about the question than screaming “bias” and “conspiracy,” or counting D’s and R’s. That’s to ask a simple question about the map. Where do journalists work, and how much has that changed in recent years? To determine this, my colleague Tucker Doherty excavated labor statistics and cross-referenced them against voting patterns and Census data to figure out just what the American media landscape looks like, and how much it has changed.

The results read like a revelation. The national media really does work in a bubble, something that wasn’t true as recently as 2008. And the bubble is growing more extreme. Concentrated heavily along the coasts, the bubble is both geographic and political. If you’re a working journalist, odds aren’t just that you work in a pro-Clinton county—odds are that you reside in one of the nation’s most pro-Clinton counties. And you’ve got company: If you’re a typical reader of Politico, chances are you’re a citizen of bubbleville, too.


The result? If you look at the maps on the next page, you don’t need to be a Republican campaign strategist to grasp just how far the “media bubble” has drifted from the average American experience. Newspaper jobs are far more evenly scattered across the country, including the deep red parts. But as those vanish, it’s internet jobs that are driving whatever growth there is in media—and those fall almost entirely in places that are dense, blue and right in the bubble.


In a sense, the media bubble reflects an established truth about America: The places with money get served better than the places without. People in big media cities aren’t just more liberal, they’re also richer: Half of all newspaper and internet publishing employees work in counties where the median household income is greater than $61,000—$7,000 more than the national median. Commercial media tend to cluster where most of the GDP is created, and that’s the coasts. Perhaps this is what Bannon is hollering about when he denounces the “corporatist, global media,” as he did in February at the Conservative Political Action Conference. If current trends continue—and it’s safe to predict they will—national media will continue to expand and concentrate on the coasts, while local and regional media contract.
The maps are striking, especially the one for internet media:

Click to enlarge.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Referring to their invasion as an "incident"

From The Burma Road by Donovan Webster. From page 23.

In America, when we think about World War II and our engagement with Japan, we think of a three-and-a-half year war, from December 7, 1941 to August 15, 1945. And that is indeed correct from the American vantage point. What we often overlook is that Japan was continuously at war from the time of their invasion of Manchuria on September 18, 1931. From their perspective, their war lasted 14 years.

Most of that time their focus was centered on lands in China. I knew that the tracts of conquered territory were vast and that the great bulk of their Army and Air Force were anchored in that quagmire but I had never appreciated how many Japanese civilians were involved as well. Nearly 1.5% of Japan's civilian population were relocated to China.
Still, China and its largest trade partner, the United States, weren't having it. When both nations (along with Britain) complained about the Manchurian occupation to the League of Nations, Japan responded by withdrawing from the League. Adding a semantic twist to the discussion, the Japanese continued to deny they were making war on the Chinese, referring to their invasion as an "incident" instead of an official act of war. The League did little to object.

Over the next six years — and employing similarly flimsy rationales — Japan gobbled up many of China's major cities and seaports, moving one million Japanese citizens and three hundred thousand soldiers into Japanese-occupied China. By 1937, Peking, Tientsin, and the seaports of Tsingtao, Amoy, and Swatow were under Japanese control, as was much of central China's "Iron Ricebowl," as its fertile Yellow River Valley is known.

101 Things All Young Adults Should Know

There is a new book out which I have not read and it is in a genre - self-help - which I don't usually read. But as the parent of three young adults, it has at least some marginal salience: 101 Things All Young Adults Should Know by John Hawkins.

Enough salience that I searched out the list of 101 things. I don't see anything particularly objectionable and it is broadly all good advice. Like many such lists, much rides on interpretation. I must admit, though, I especially enjoyed the contemporaneousness of "23. Don’t take naked pictures of yourself." I am a big fan of traditional wisdom via the classics, but that is not a admonition likely to show up in writings of Cicero, Aurelius, Thucydides, Herodotus or among any other classical writers with whom I am familiar, no matter how vernacular the translation. But it is good advice none-the-less.
Chapter 1 Friendship

1. Be the one who moves first in social situations.
2. Set hard boundaries in your personal life.
3. You will become like the people you spend the most time with.
4. Don’t loan money to your friends.
5. “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.” Use that to your advantage when you can.
6. Think twice before telling anyone to end a relationship.

Chapter 2 Love

7. There’s a right time, a right place, and a right person to have sex with.
8. Make yourself happy first.
9. Women and men are looking for different reactions when they tell you their problems.
10. People are what they are and are probably not going to change much once they’ve reached adulthood.
11. Here’s how to tell if someone is flirting with you.
12. Take enough time to get to know a person before committing to them.
13. Men should embrace their masculinity, and women should embrace their femininity.
14. Learn to say, “I love you,” “I was wrong,” and “I apologize.”
15. The mother test.

Chapter 3 Social Situations

16. Be nice until it’s time to not be nice.
17. If you want to know what a person really believes, look to their actions.
18. Learning to really listen to people will change your relationships for the better.
19. If you have trouble telling people “no,” the broken record technique comes in handy.
20. This is how to deal with the police.
21. Right or wrong, good or bad, the more you achieve, the more criticism you’ll receive.
22. You must learn the art of ignoring.

Chapter 4 No Regrets

23. Don’t take naked pictures of yourself.
24. Don’t put anything on social media that you would be uncomfortable with the whole world seeing.
25. It’s best to avoid temptation.
26. There are some things you shouldn’t do because you might enjoy them too much.
27. Avoid the big mistake!
28. Don’t stay in a bad situation because you are afraid of change.
29. Avoid writing emails, letters, blog posts, or even having conversations with someone if you are upset with them.
30. Be cautious about putting anything in an email that you wouldn’t want to become public.
31. Focus on the positive.
32. Don’t ever forget you’re going to die someday.

Chapter 5 Money Matters

33. The keys to long-term finances are your house and your car.
34. How do you decide whether to spend money?
35. If you can, bargain.
36. In a business deal, make sure you have an ironclad contract.
37. Compound interest is your friend.
38. For something you will use for a long time, spend a little more money and get something that is high quality.
39. Protect your downside.
40. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Chapter 6 Adulting

41. Chart it.
42. Keep a clean house.
43. When you move, sell, throw away, and give away as much as possible.
44. Dogs are fantastic animals, but they are much more expensive and time consuming than you’d think.
45. Lefty is loosey. Righty is tighty.
46. It’s worth your time to take a typing class.
47. Don’t underestimate the impact of sleep on the quality of your life.
48. Cars do require maintenance to function properly.
49. If you are cutting something, make sure you are cutting away from your body, not toward it.
50. Here’s how and when to tip.
51. Prepare in case it all goes wrong.

Chapter 7 Health

52. Take care of your body for the first forty years of your life, and it’ll take care of you for the next forty years.
53. If you think a doctor is wrong, don’t hesitate to ask for a second opinion.
54. Take care of your physical frame.
55. Test yourself.
56. Pornography is physiologically bad for you.

Chapter 8 Career

57. There’s no shame in taking an honest job.
58. Getting fired or laid off isn’t the end of the world; sometimes it’s a blessing.
59. Start looking for a new job before you quit your old job.
60. Look for something you love doing so much that you’d do it for free, and find a way to make it into a career.
61. Don’t take any job that only pays commission unless you’re an expert salesman.
62. Most businesses will see you as disposable.
63. If you don’t feel like you’re being treated fairly as a consumer, don’t hesitate to ask for a manager.

Chapter 9 Success

64. You beat 50% of the people by just showing up, another
40% by working hard, and the last 10% is a dogfight.
65. You’re going to have to prove yourself.
66. Most happy and successful people persistently and consistently work hard, work smart, and do the right thing.
67. Ironically, successful people tend to fail a lot more and ask more questions than unsuccessful people.
68. Pick the brains of people who know more than you do.
69. If you want something, ask for it.
70. When it comes to life, your attitude should be, “If I didn’t earn it, I don’t deserve it.”
71. Here’s how to become a success at anything.
72. First impressions are much more important than most people realize.
73. Make your habits, and your habits will make you.
74. Know when to hire outside help.
75. Learn to love problems.
76. Almost everything is going to be harder than you think.
77. Losers make excuses for why they failed. Winners find ways to get the job done.

Chapter 10 Be Responsible

78. Nobody owes you a living.
79. If you can’t support yourself, you shouldn’t have a child or get married.
80. Don’t risk killing yourself by driving when you’re so tired you can barely hold your eyes open; take a cat nap.
81. If you buy a gun, learn to use it.
82. Prepare a will, a medical directive, and a listing of what sort of arrangements you want made if you die.
83. At a minimum, keep a basic to-do list.
84. There is safety in numbers.

Chapter 11 Self-Awareness

85. You are not a victim.
86. Ask yourself if it’s the right thing to do.
87. Here’s how to make a decision.
88. Trust your instincts.
89. You will likely find that your parents are right about a lot more than you think.
90. Push yourself harder than anyone else does, but also forgive yourself.
91. Few things in life have any intrinsic meaning.

Chapter 12 Live Life to the Fullest

92. Get out there and live!
93. When in doubt, act!
94. Keep balance in these six key areas of your life: health, career, romantic, social, money, and religion.
95. Don’t major in minor things.
96. The quality of your life can be greatly increased by cutting things away from it.
97. If you’re not going to remember it in five years, it doesn’t matter.
98. Continue learning.
99. Fame, money, and being remembered are less important than people.
100. You’re better off spending your money on experiences than things.
101. Enjoy the moment, because nothing in life is permanent.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Vote - Other

The French round-one election results are coming in and The Atlantic Magazine has an article sub-titled - For the first time in modern French history, neither candidate is from a major party.

At the same time, the Tory British Prime Minister, Theresa May, has called a new election which is highlighting the fading relevance of the British Labour Party. Labour, after a successful run in the 90s under Blair and a less successful run in the aughts under Brown has essentially imploded as they advance old style soviet Marxism spiced with anti-semitism. The British Labour Party is vestigial and fighting a brutal ideological civil war within itself.

The Democrats in the US are still shellshocked from their recent presidential loss and wondering how to address a decade long run of losses at the Federal, state and local levels of government and with essentially no non-antiquarian leaders. Establishment Democrats sotto voce want to move to the center, the ideological base wants to move to the postmodernist, deconstuctionist, critical theory left, and the only crowd puller is a septuagenarian who isn't even a member of the party but a self-proclaimed Socialist.

Scandinavia countries moved to the right some years ago (owing to budget realities), and are no longer the socialist paradise of yore, but much more an example of a market-based communalism.

Everywhere the old left, whether Labour, Socialist, Social Democrat, or Democrat, all seem in retreat.

So is the developed world jettisoning the failures of socialism? Or is it that socialists/left leaning parties were in power so long that this is really simply a revolt against the establishment and it just happens that the establishment was socialist? I think there is plenty of evidence for both propositions and also some significant confounds for each proposition.

But the statist spirit that animated the socialists of my youth - Olof Palme, Tony Benn, Arthur Scargill, Fran├žois Mitterrand, Gamal Nasser, Ralph Nader - not just those individuals but those strident statist voices, all seem to have been sidelined and silenced. You only hear such voices on university campuses anymore.

I'm not complaining. Static statism is one of the worst conditions afflicting humanity. Still, it is striking how the terms of the public debate have changed and changed so dramatically.

The Earl and the Duck Hunter

From The Burma Road by Donovan Webster. From page 287. Describing the interactions between the Allied leaders, front and rear-echelons. Joseph Stilwell was the American commander of the Burmese theater, tasked with managing the Alliance with both Imperial Britain and China, and with carrying the war to the Japanese with the barest of resources.
Stilwell, however, had grown tired of Mountbatten's show. (Though, in truth, Stilwell the Yankee blueblood also took great pains in managing his image as a straight-talking, rough-and-ready ground soldier.) When Stilwell arrived by air transport at Kandy, he was not wearing the formal and pressed uniform of the SEAC deputy, but his own unadorned battle fatigues. As usual, Stilwell's clothes were devoid of all general's stars, insignias, medals, and ribbons, which often left Vinegar Joe, in William Slim's assessment, looking "like a duck hunter." After being met at the "Kandy Kids" airfield by Mountbatten's black Cadillac - which was festooned with official pennants - Stilwell took one look at the car, shook his head, and said: "Get me a jeep." Then he stowed his bags in the Cadillac and drove himself up the mountain toward Kandy and headquarters, his left leg hanging out of the jeep as it followed the state car to Mountbatten's residence at the king's pavilion.

For a week, Stilwell sat in on SEAC meetings and took meals at Mountbatten's table. ("I've got to quit eating with Louis," he wrote. "I actually like those rum cocktails.") More often at Kandy, Stilwell made a point of being bored by the crisp and on-date international newspapers flown in from around the world, the leather club chairs, the platoons of barefoot servants, the grand library, and the constant motion of a staff of three thousand, which — much to Stilwell's displeasure —included numerous British female officers. (The women's staff at Kandy actually included a young American OSS worker named Julia McWilliams, who would later marry and become famous as television's "The French Chef," Julia Child.)

Stilwell, though, never was comfortable at SEAC HQ: "Something wrong with Headquarters at Kandy ..." he later wrote in his diary. "I al-ways felt half asleep."

While visiting Ceylon, Stilwell made no secret of his indifference at every afternoon's full-dress meeting, where long-range staff planning and the tiresome bookkeeping of rear-echelon logistics left him blank. To spice up the days, as he was effectively the military governor of Burma, Stilwell took devilish pleasure in loudly contemplating orders designed to upset the country's former colonizers, such as "freeing the Kachins, etc."

High in Erin sang the sword

From Njal's Saga, one of the greatest sagas of Iceland, usually dealing with epic feuds across the vast tracts of Nordic North Atlantic expansion including Ireland, Scotland, Shetland and lands west.
I have been where warriors wrestled,
High in Erin sang the sword,
Boss to boss met many bucklers.
Steel rung sharp on rattling helm;
I can tell of all their struggle;
Sigurd fell in flight of spears;
Brian fell, but kept his kingdom
Ere he lost one drop of blood.

In the levity of his tongue and the foolishness of his heart

From English history, from 1235 to 1273 by Matthew Paris. Summary - an Englishman in the 1250s or so gets in trouble in England and is banished. He flees to the Middle East where he loses all his money gambling. Being able to write and fluent in several languages, the Tatars make him a proposition he cannot refuse. A happy-go-lucky English ne'er-do-well who ends up in service to the Tatar as a translator and emissary.

An amazing tale, fortuitously related by Paris.
The prince of Dalmatia took prisoners eight of the fugitives, one of whom was known by the duke of Austria to be an Englishman, who, for certain crimes, had been banished for ever from the kingdom of England. This man had twice come as an envoy and interpreter from the king of the Tattars to the king of Hungary, and plainly threatened and warned them of the evils which afterwards happened, unless he should give up himself and his kingdom to be subject to the Tattars. The princes persuaded him to speak the truth about the Tattars, and he, without hesitation, under every form of oath, made his statements so strongly that the devil himself might have been believed. First, he told about himself, that immediately after his banishment, that is, before he was thirty years old, he lost all he had at gambling, in the city of Acre; and in the winter-time had nothing but a shirt of sackcloth, shoes of ox's skin, and a cape made of horsehair. In this shameful state of want, and in an enfeebled state of body, with his hair cropped as if he were a buffoon, and uttering inarticulate cries like a dumb man, he passed over many countries, and met with great kindness from his entertainers, wearing out his life somehow or other, though he daily, in the levity of his tongue and the foolishness of his heart, had wished himself at the devil. At length, from excessive toil, and continual change of air and diet, he was seized with a severe illness, among the Chaldees, and became weary of his life. Not able to go farther, or to come back, he stopped where he was, breathing with difficulty, and, being somewhat acquainted with letters, he began to put down in writing the words which were there spoken, and afterwards pronounced them so correctly that he was taken for a native, and he learnt several languages with the same facility. The Tattars heard of him through their spies, and drew him over to their interests: when they had got an answer about their claim of subjugating the whole world, they bound him to be loyal in their service, by bestowing on him many gifts; for they were in much need of persons to be their interpreters.

Gambling ain't what it used to be

From Las Vegas average is over no arbitrage condition by Tyler Cowen.
Casinos on the Strip now derive a smaller share of revenue from gambling. In 1996, more than half of annual casino revenue on the Strip came from gambling. Last year, the share was down to about a third, according to the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. More of the revenue comes from hotels, restaurants and bars.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Deep peace of the gentle night to you.

From A Gaelic Blessing.
Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the gentle night to you.
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you.
Deep peace of Christ,
of Christ the light of the world to you.
Deep peace of Christ to you.

We are choosing not to discuss some of the most important issues

From IQ and The Job Market by Jordan Peterson. I knew all the elements of what he is presenting in this video but had not considered it from the perspective he is advancing. It crystalizes several problems and represents a dramatic challenge to our complacencies.

The aspect I want to call out is his matching of complexity, IQ, and jobs. He presents data on the levels of IQ representative of each profession. From the job types, this is clearly Canadian data, and perhaps dated but it broadly aligns with similar data sets I have seen in the past based on more contemporary US job categories.
People in these professions are in the 85th - 96th percentile of cognitive ability (IQ of 116-130):
Attorney, Research analyst
Editor, Advertising
Chemist, Engineer, Executive
Manager, Trainee
Systems Analyst, Auditor
People in the following jobs are in the 73rd - 85th percentile of cognitive ability (IQ of 110-115)
Copywriter, Accountant
Manager, Supervisor
Sales Manager
Sales, Programmer
Teacher, Analyst, Adjuster
General Manager
Purchasing Agent
Registered Nurse
Sales Account Executive
People in the following jobs are in the 60th - 70th percentile of cognitive ability (IQ of 103-108)
Administrative Assistant
Store Manager, Bookkeeper
Credit Clerk, Drafter, Designer
Lab Tester/Tech, Assistant Manager
General Sales, Telephone Sales
Secretary, Accounting Clerk
Medical Debt Collection
Computer Operator
Customer Service Representative
Technician, Automotive Salesman
Clerk, Typist
People in the following jobs are in the 50th - 55th percentile of cognitive ability (IQ of 100-102)
Dispatcher, General Office
Police Patrol Officer,
Receptionist, Cashier
General Clerical
Inside sales Clerk, Meter Reader
Printer, Teller, Data Entry
Electrical Helper
People in the following jobs are in the 42nd - 45th percentile of cognitive ability (IQ of 95-98)
Machinist, Food Department Manager
Quality Control Checker
Claims Clerk, Driver, Deliveryman
Security Guard, Unskilled Labor
Maintenance, Machine Operator
Arc Welder, Die Setter, Mechanic
Medical/Dental Assistant
People in the following jobs are in the 21st - 37th percentile of cognitive ability (IQ of 87-93)
Messenger, Factory Production
Assembly, Food Service Worker
Nurse's Aid, Warehouseman
Material Handler
Peterson makes the claim that jobs for people with an IQ of less than 85 are very, very rare. I do not know about the validity of that but of course there is some point on the continuum it must be true. But Peterson makes the equally critical point that 15% of the population has an IQ of less than 85. Basically, there will always be people whose capabilities are less than the minimum required for functioning in a modern economy. What do we do about that?

We have not had good answers to that unasked question to date, a fact that is exacerbated by past policies of open-borders (increasing the competition for those at the lowest end of the capability pyramid), then exacerbated by global trade, and now exacerbated by automation. Especially automation.

As I said, I knew all these constituent facts but Peterson forces a stark question which makes much clearer how important is the issue. It also highlights just how inconsequential are most of our political discussions (and really, almost more importantly, our non-discussions) around these topics.

Here is the lecture:

Double click to enlarge.