Sunday, March 31, 2019

It's Not Unusual by Tom Jones

Double click to enlarge.

It's Not Unusual
by Tom Jones

It's not unusual to be loved by anyone
It's not unusual to have fun with anyone
But when I see you hanging about with anyone
It's not unusual to see me cry, I wanna die

It's not unusual to go out at any time
But when I see you out and about it's such a crime
If you should ever want to be loved by anyone
It's not unusual it happens every day no matter what you say

You'll find it happens all the time
Love will never do what you want it to
Why can't this crazy love be mine?

It's not unusual to be mad with anyone
It's not unusual to be sad with anyone
But if I ever find that you've changed at anytime
It's not unusual to find out I'm in love with you

Another potential cause of confusion is the misidentification of cause and consequence.

From Doing Bad by Doing Good: Why Humanitarian Action Fails by Christopher J. Coyne. Page 83.
Another potential cause of confusion is the misidentification of cause and consequence. All too often, certain conditions are viewed as causes of economic progress when they just as easily could be the consequence of economic progress. Here is how this confusion emerges. In the absence of economic calculation to guide them, planners look to the existing conditions in developed countries and assume those conditions must be the cause of the economic progress they observe. They therefore attempt to replicate these conditions in poorer countries under the assumption that like conditions will cause similar progress there as well. The planner may be correct in drawing this causal inference, but even if true, there is a difference between identifying causes and successfully replicating them. However, it is also possible that the planner is confusing cause and consequence.

Consider the case of education. While education may contribute to economic progress, it is also possible that the demand for education is a consequence of previous economic progress. Under such a scenario, economic progress raises the rate of return for obtaining an education, which in turn increases the demand for education. This same logic can be applied to a host of other factors typically viewed as causal drivers of growth.

Lilacs by Amy Lowell

by Amy Lowell

False blue,
Color of lilac,
Your great puffs of flowers
Are everywhere in this my New England.
Among your heart-shaped leaves
Orange orioles hop like music-box birds and sing
Their little weak soft songs;
In the crooks of your branches
The bright eyes of song sparrows sitting on spotted eggs
Peer restlessly through the light and shadow
Of all Springs.
Lilacs in dooryards
Holding quiet conversations with an early moon;
Lilacs watching a deserted house
Settling sideways into the grass of an old road;
Lilacs, wind-beaten, staggering under a lopsided shock of bloom
Above a cellar dug into a hill.
You are everywhere.
You were everywhere.
You tapped the window when the preacher preached his sermon,
And ran along the road beside the boy going to school.
You stood by the pasture-bars to give the cows good milking,
You persuaded the housewife that her dishpan was of silver.
And her husband an image of pure gold.
You flaunted the fragrance of your blossoms
Through the wide doors of Custom Houses—
You, and sandal-wood, and tea,
Charging the noses of quill-driving clerks
When a ship was in from China.
You called to them: “Goose-quill men, goose-quill men,
May is a month for flitting.”
Until they writhed on their high stools
And wrote poetry on their letter-sheets behind the propped-up ledgers.
Paradoxical New England clerks,
Writing inventories in ledgers, reading the “Song of Solomon” at night,
So many verses before bed-time,
Because it was the Bible.
The dead fed you
Amid the slant stones of graveyards.
Pale ghosts who planted you
Came in the nighttime
And let their thin hair blow through your clustered stems.
You are of the green sea,
And of the stone hills which reach a long distance.
You are of elm-shaded streets with little shops where they sell kites and marbles,
You are of great parks where every one walks and nobody is at home.
You cover the blind sides of greenhouses
And lean over the top to say a hurry-word through the glass
To your friends, the grapes, inside.

False blue,
Color of lilac,
You have forgotten your Eastern origin,
The veiled women with eyes like panthers,
The swollen, aggressive turbans of jeweled pashas.
Now you are a very decent flower,
A reticent flower,
A curiously clear-cut, candid flower,
Standing beside clean doorways,
Friendly to a house-cat and a pair of spectacles,
Making poetry out of a bit of moonlight
And a hundred or two sharp blossoms.
Maine knows you,
Has for years and years;
New Hampshire knows you,
And Massachusetts
And Vermont.
Cape Cod starts you along the beaches to Rhode Island;
Connecticut takes you from a river to the sea.
You are brighter than apples,
Sweeter than tulips,
You are the great flood of our souls
Bursting above the leaf-shapes of our hearts,
You are the smell of all Summers,
The love of wives and children,
The recollection of gardens of little children,
You are State Houses and Charters
And the familiar treading of the foot to and fro on a road it knows.
May is lilac here in New England,
May is a thrush singing “Sun up!” on a tip-top ash tree,
May is white clouds behind pine-trees
Puffed out and marching upon a blue sky.
May is a green as no other,
May is much sun through small leaves,
May is soft earth,
And apple-blossoms,
And windows open to a South Wind.
May is full light wind of lilac
From Canada to Narragansett Bay.

False blue,
Color of lilac.
Heart-leaves of lilac all over New England,
Roots of lilac under all the soil of New England,
Lilac in me because I am New England,
Because my roots are in it,
Because my leaves are of it,
Because my flowers are for it,
Because it is my country
And I speak to it of itself
And sing of it with my own voice
Since certainly it is mine.

The Press, 1934 by Paul Landacre

The Press, 1934 by Paul Landacre

Click to enlarge.

Well, there was no harm in trying

From Small Wars, Faraway Places by Michael Burleigh. Page 266.
“Failing to sway Mossadeq, Harriman turned to the Shah, who was terrified of the mob, and then to Ayatollah Kashani, the leading clerical member of the National Front. When Kashani pointedly brought up the subject of an American oil man who had been murdered in Iran before the First World War, Harriman calmly replied: ‘Eminence, you must understand that I have been in many dangerous situations in my life and I do not frighten easily.’ ‘Well, there was no harm in trying,’ shrugged the cleric.

When the Swedes could no longer secure a supply of ministers from their own country, they decided to enter into full communion and fellowship with the Anglican Church

I am researching George Boone III, ancestral immigrant of a family whose descendants include Daniel Boone. George Boone III, a Quaker, arrives in Philadelphia in 1717 and he and his large family settle in the area. His son Benjamin, seventh in a family of eight, settles in Morlatton Village, two thirds of the way between Philadelphia and Reading, Pennsylvania.

Morlatton was a Swedish settlement from 1701. Morlatton later became known as Douglasville.

What is fascinating is the religious history in the region. We know America as a refuge for the religious of all stripes and a rich breeding ground of sects and schisms. And yet, in the early centuries, the infrastructure in terms of available ministers as well as churches, were thin on the ground. Before the days of cars and roads, religion was a matter of practice and belief rather than attendance at church. And while the skeins of particular belief systems were many and tangled, they appear to, in some places, given way to the simpler need of ecumenical religious community given the parsity of ministers and churches.

Such appears to be the case of Benjamin Boone. His younger children were baptized in St. Gabriel's Episcopal Church. I look to see whether it is still extant and find a rich history. The current St. Gabriel's Episcopal Church is a stone church built in 1801 and so the immediate answer is no. But their website has the religious history of this frontier village.
St. Gabriel's church, founded in the year 1720 by the Swedish Lutherans, is the oldest congregation in Berks County. Located in Douglassville, Pennsylvania, formerly known as Morlatton, services were first held in 1708 by the Reverend Andrew Sandel. When the Swedes could no longer secure a supply of ministers from their own country, they decided to enter into full communion and fellowship with the Anglican Church rather than keep up a separate organization. This they accordingly did and were henceforth provided with priests of the Church of England.

Except for the years 1752-1755 when John A. Lidenius was resident here, no priest was available to serve the congregation full time. (The oldest records present at St. Gabriel's were kept by this pastor.) Because of the distance from Wicaco (present day Gloria Dei Church in Philadelphia), it was difficult for priests to visit the congregation on a regular basis and the church was often supplied by the German Lutheran Pastor, Henry Melchior Mulhenberg, from Trappe, Pennsylvania.

For some years there was no other English service held within a circuit of eight miles except for the meetings of the Society of Friends (Quakers) in Exeter and Pottstown. Hence, English-speaking people from neighboring places and the surrounding country attended divine service at Morlatton. Worshippers came from the townships of Amity, Exeter, Robeson, and Union. By the 1760's the congregation listed 17 households with 45 members, only 27 of who could understand Swedish.

In 1762, Rev. Doctor Alexander Murray, a missionary of the venerable society "for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts" (which society is connected with the Church of England and is the oldest missionary body in the Protestant World), began his ministry at St. Gabriel's. Dr. Murray stabilized the congregation and assured those who wanted Swedish services that the Pastors of Gloria Dei could still serve them when available. During the Revolution, however, his usefulness was much impaired because of his supposed sympathy with the British Government. He petitioned the Executive Council of the State for permission to retire to Britain during the war and returned home upon the approval of his petition.

He returned to the United States in 1790, after the war, and brought with him from England a small but valuable library of theological works as a gift from the Propagation Society to the Church for use by the minister. Each book had an engraving of the Society's seal on the inside cover. He died of yellow fever in 1793. Dr. Murray's services were of great importance to the Church, as is witnessed by the many entries of baptisms, marriages, and burials carefully recorded in the Register.

St. Gabriel's Church was one of the eight founding parishes for the Diocese of Pennsylvania. It had deputies at the convention that elected Dr. William White to be the first Bishop of Pennsylvania and it helped to form the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America.

The ancient Swedish church, which stood near the east center of the cemetery, was built in 1736 from logs hewn from the neighboring woods. It contained an iron stove and seating for 120 people. It continued in use as a house of prayer for 65 years until 1801 when a new stone edifice was erected, which is known today as St. Gabriel's 1801 Chapel. The old log church continued to serve as a school until the winter of 1831-1832 when it was destroyed by fire.
Multiple peoples with different cultural traditions, different languages, different religions, merging together in pragmatic ways to serve their religious needs on the frontier of emerging America. Fascinating.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Which variables are correlated in what ways with economic development?

From Handbook of Economic Growth Volume 1A Edited by Aghion and Durlauf

There is a table of 145 variables which developmental economists have sought to correlate with economic development. The variable with a + indicates that it is positively correlated with economic development. If it is a negative, then is negatively correlated. If there is no clear correlation it is NA and if different studies show different results then it is MIXED.

Appendix B: Variables in cross-country growth regressions Page 652
Capitalism +
Capital account liberalization +
Corruption -

Minimum levels +
. . . Higher levels -

Demographic characteristics
Share of population 15 or below -
Share of population 65 or over NA
Growth of 15–65 population share +

College level -
Female (level) -
Female (growth) -
Male (level) +
Male (growth) +
Overall (level) +

Primary level +
Secondary level +
Initial income ∗ male schooling -
Proportion of engineering students +
Proportion of law students -

Ethnicity and language
Ethno-linguistic fractionalization -
Language diversity -

Fertility -

Stock markets +
Banks +
Dollarization +
Depth +
Competition ∗ development +
Repression -
Sophistication +
Credit +
Volatility +
Foreign direct investment +
Fraction of mining in GDP +

Absolute latitude +
Disease ecology +
Land locked -
Coastline (length) +
Arable land +
Rainfall +
Variance of rainfall -
Maximum temperature -

Consumption (growth) +
Consumption (level) -
Deficits -
Investment +
Various expenditures -
Military expenditures -
Military expenditures under threat +
Various taxes NA

Growth rate
of the G-7 countries +
in the previous period +

Life expectancy +
Change in malaria infection rate
Adult survival rate

Industrial structure
% Small and medium enterprises +
Ease of entry and exit +

Democratic countries -
Non-democratic countries +
Overall -

Growth -
Level -
Variability -

Infrastructure proxies +

Initial income -

Investment ratio +

Investment type
Equipment or fixed capital +
Non-equipment +

Productivity growth +
Productivity quality +
Labor force part. rate +

External debt dummy -
External transfers NA
Improvement in terms of trade +

Money growth +

Neighboring countries’ education proxies, initial
incomes, investment ratios and population growth
rates +

Political instability proxies -

Political rights and civil liberties indices
Civil liberties Mixed
Overall +
Political rights +

Political institutions
Constraints on executive +
Judicial independence +

Property rights
ICRG index Knack (+
Expropriation risk +

Density +
Growth -

Price distortions
Consumption price Mixed
Investment price -

Price levels
Consumption price +
Investment price -

Real exchange rate
Black market premium -
Distortions Dollar -
Variability Dollar -

Regional effects
Absolute latitude +
East Asia +
Former Spanish colonies -
Latin America -
Sub-Saharan Africa -

Buddhist +
Catholic Mixed
Confucian Barro +
Muslim +
Protestant +
Religious belief +
Attendance -

Rule of law indices +

Scale effects
Total area NA
Total labor force NA

Social capital and related
Social “infrastructure” +
Citizen satisfaction with government + (Italy)
Civic participation Mixed (Asia)
Groups – as defined by Keefer and Knack Mixed

Institutional performance +

Civic community (index of
participation, newspaper readership,
political behavior) +

Social development index NA
Extent of mass communication NA
Kinship NA
Mobility NA
Middle class NA
Outlook NA
Social capital (WVS) +
Social achievement norm +
Capability +

Trade policy indices
Import penetration NA
Leamer’s intervention index -
Years open 1950–1990 +
Openness indices (growth) +
Openness indices (level) +
Outward orientation Mixed
Liberalization NA

Trade statistics
Fraction of export/import/total trade in GDP +
Fraction of primary products in total exports -
Growth in export–GDP ratio +
FDI inflows relative to GDP NA
Machinery and equipment imports +

Volatility of shocks
Growth innovations -

Casualties per capita -

Dafna was advocating for me to not do something on behalf of a political party.

Hmmm, that's interesting. It is a widely assumed truth on the right that the mainstream media in general, and MSNBC in particular, are in bed with the Democratic Party. There is a marginal difference between being in bed with and aligned with. I think it is indisputably obvious that MSNBC and the Democratic Party share many similar or even identical goals. However, it is logically possible that they are not coordinating with the Democratic Party, that it just appears so because they share similar goals and they tolerate similar behaviors.

There are reasons to believe that they are in bed with the party based on the JournoList scandal from a few years ago when it was revealed that several hundred mainstream media journalists were coordinating with one another to advance the interests of the DNC. Did the mainstream journalists see the ethical light and mend their ways or have they simply gotten that much better at hiding the fact they are "DNC members with bylines?"

Apparently we have an answer. Possibly the answer. It appears that at least MSNBC is indeed a member of the DNC based on this rather startling reporting.

Click to see the thread.

The political editor for NBC and MSNBC called a rival journalist to try and squash a scoop through brow-beating, intimidation and threats. The problem was that she was calling on behalf of the DNC because the scoop would be embarrassing and inconvenient for the DNC. A mainstream journalist! The claim that MSM journalists are simply DNC members with bylines has always been a bit tongue-in-cheek but, at least in this instance, it sounds like it actually might be true.

Kudos to Yashar Ali for having the courage to reveal gross journalistic malpractice.

Autumn by Amy Lowell

by Amy Lowell

All day I have watched the purple vine leaves
Fall into the water.
And now in the moonlight they still fall,
But each leaf is fringed with silver.

Who Will He Ask? by Amos Sewell

Who Will He Ask? by Amos Sewell (Saturday Evening Post cover, January 30, 1960)

Click to enlarge.

Mossadeq was – to put it kindly – elliptical in his approach to negotiations.

From Small Wars, Faraway Places by Michael Burleigh. Page 266.
“Accompanied by oil-industry experts and with the future CIA Director Vernon Walters acting as his interpreter, Harriman sought to defuse the situation by concentrating on the technical difficulties thrown up by precipitate nationalization: how would the Iranians make up for their lack of expertise, where were their oil tankers? But Mossadeq, who when he met Harriman’s wife kissed her hand as far as her elbow, was – to put it kindly – elliptical in his approach to negotiations. When Harriman spoke of oil prices, Mossadeq mused that ‘it all started with that Greek Alexander’ who had burned ancient Persian Persepolis 2,000 years before. Nor was Harriman prepared for the depth of Mossadeq’s resentment towards the British. ‘You do not know how crafty they are,’ he raged. ‘You do not know how evil they are. You do not know how they sully everything they touch.

A fundamental difference between knowing how best to obtain or produce a predetermined output and ensuring that the output produced represents the welfare-maximizing use of scarce resources.

From Doing Bad by Doing Good: Why Humanitarian Action Fails by Christopher J. Coyne. Page 83.
Trial and error is not a substitute for economic calculation because outside of the market, planners lack the crucial knowledge and feedback that the process of economic calculation facilitates. It is not simply a matter of speed, of markets adapting faster than a trial-and-error process under planning outside of markets. It is a fundamental issue of the planner’s problem whereby decision makers have no means of discovering a solution to the economic problem in order to achieve economic progress. Of course, adjustments can be made in future periods if output targets either are exceeded or fail to be met, but this does not mean that those determining the output targets have transcended the planner’s problem.

This is an important consideration in the context of proposed innovations in the delivery of humanitarian assistance intended to foster adaptability through trial and error (for example, RCTs). These strategies are fundamentally different from solving the planner’s problem through economic calculation. These methods potentially can contribute to humanitarian assistance better meeting predetermined outputs, but they cannot provide a solution to the economic problem because the planner must still predetermine what ultimate outputs should be supplied. There is a fundamental difference between knowing how best to obtain or produce a predetermined output and ensuring that the output produced represents the welfare-maximizing use of scarce resources.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Elegy for Blue

Elegy for Blue
by J. T. Ledbetter

Someone must have seen an old dog
dragging its broken body through
the wet grass;
someone should have known it was lost,
drinking from the old well, then lifting
its head to the wind off the bottoms,
and someone might have wanted that dog
trailing its legs along the ground
like vines sliding up the creek
searching for the sun;
but they were not there when the dog
wandered through Turley's Woods looking
for food and stopped beneath the thorn trees
and wrapped its tail around its nose
until it was covered by falling leaves
that piled up and up
until there was no lost dog at all
to hear the distant voice calling
through the timber,
only a tired heart breathing slower,
and breath, soft as mist, above the leaves.

Desert Rider by Ruins on the Nile Augustus Osborne Lamplough 1877-1930

Desert Rider by Ruins on the Nile Augustus Osborne Lamplough 1877-1930

Click to enlarge.

Dulles is said to be irritated by the “imprecision” of A.E.’s mind

From Small Wars, Faraway Places by Michael Burleigh. Page 261.
Given Britain’s abrupt decline, relations between any foreign secretary and the US secretary of state were bound to be delicate. Eden passionately believed that the British Commonwealth should play an autonomous role in world affairs, which entitled the British to be treated as equal partners by the Americans. Washington’s traditional anti-colonialism and its attempts to direct British policy in the Middle East towards accommodation with Arab nationalism were constant irritants. Eden was also indifferent to Europe and resented US pressure for Britain to participate in tentative schemes for enhanced European economic and defence co-operation. What with one thing and another, Eden had a growing chip on his shoulder about US power, though his class tended only to see chips on those of others.

In the first year of the new administration relations with Dulles were a considerable improvement, despite Eden’s attempt in May 1952 to dissuade Ike from appointing him. Dulles may have been deliberate and ponderous in manner, but he was also an experienced and highly professional operator.46 Churchill detested on sight the Secretary’s ‘great slab of a face’, ever after lisping his name as ‘Dullith’ or punning ‘Dull, duller, Dulles’. On learning that a brother, Allen, was the new head of CIA, Churchill commented: ‘They tell me that there is another Dullith. Is that possible?’

The first indication that all was not smooth sailing between Dulles and Eden was evident when the former claimed to have been ‘double-crossed’ and ‘lied to’, as Eden subverted Dulles’s attempts to establish SEATO before the convening of the Geneva peace conference on Indochina.48 The mood at Geneva in 1954 was not good: ‘A.E. is fed up with Dulles, refuses to make concessions to his feelings, and almost resents seeing him . . . A.E. is now hoping Dulles will go away as soon as possible . . . there is no doubt that Dulles and A.E. have got thoroughly on each other’s nerves, and are both behaving like prima donnas. Dulles is said to be irritated by the “imprecision” of A.E.’s mind . . . A.E had a terrible dinner with Dulles last night.'

CAPITALISM: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.

From Political Philosophy 101, The Two Cows Example. Someone has been busy building on an old joke.
The Two Cows Example of Political Philosophy begins with two cows.

You have two cows. Your lord takes some of the milk.

You have two cows. The government takes them and puts them in a barn with everyone else's cows. You have to take care of all the cows. The government gives you as much milk as you need.

You have two cows. The government takes them and puts them in a barn with everyone else's cows. They are cared for by ex-chicken farmers. You have to take care of the chickens the government took from the chicken farmers. The government gives you as much milk and as many eggs as the regulations say you should need.

You have two cows. The government takes both, hires you to take care of them, and sells you the milk.

You have two cows. At first the government regulates what you can feed them and when you can milk them. Then it pays you not to milk them. After that it takes both, shoots one, milks the other and pours the milk down the drain. Then it requires you to fill out forms accounting for the missing cows.

You have two cows. Your neighbors help you take care of them, and you all share the milk.

You have two cows. You have to take care of them, but the government takes all the milk.

You have two cows. The government takes both and shoots you.

You have two cows. The government takes both and drafts you.

You have two cows. Your neighbors decide who gets the milk.

You have two cows. Your neighbors pick someone to tell you who gets the milk.

The government promises to give you two cows if you vote for it. After the election, the president is impeached for speculating in cow futures. The press dubs the affair "Cowgate".

You have two cows. You feed them sheeps' brains and they go mad. The government doesn't do anything.

You have two cows. The government fines you for keeping two unlicensed farm animals in an apartment.

You have two cows. Either you sell the milk at a fair price or your neighbors try to kill you and take the cows.

You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.

You have two cows. You sell three of them to your publicly-listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt / equity swap with associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax deduction for keeping five cows. The milk rights of six cows are transferred via a Panamanian intermediary to a Cayman Islands company secretly owned by the majority shareholder, who sells the rights to all seven cows' milk back to the listed company. The annual report says that the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more. Meanwhile, you kill the two cows because the fung shui is bad.

You have two cows. The government bans you from milking or killing them.

You have two cows. The government takes them and denies they ever existed. Milk is banned.

You are associated with (the concept of "ownership" is a symbol of the phallocentric, warmongering, intolerant past) two differently-aged (but no less valuable to society) bovines of nonspecified gender.

Wow, dude, there's like... these two cows, man. You have *got* to have some of this milk. I mean totally.

You have two giraffes. The government requires you to take harmonica lessons.

You have two cows. One is a metaphor for your inner child. The other is the manifestation of anger toward a parental figure. You take one of the cows on walks through grassy fields by the gentle ocean waves. The other you beat with an anger bat.

You have twelve cows ... and a sponsor.

You have two cows. The Federal regulator requires you to hold one cow in reserve because they predict a shortage of milk. The Provincial/State regulator requires you to drop the price of milk because they predict a surplus of milk. The courts deem your cows inherently dangerous and order you to provide free milk to anyone who has ever been frightened by a farm animal. The marketing people are promising chocolate milk at an enhanced commission and you discover your own actuaries have been building pricing models assuming goats instead to save on the expense line.

People have pertinent knowledge not necessarily academic knowledge

I really like the point made here and wish it were made more often. From Americans Are Smart About Science
And educating them won’t solve political problems
by Maggie Koerth-Baker.
Hey, didja hear about those scientifically illiterate Americans? People so dumb, they think the sun revolves around the Earth? People who can’t pass a quiz of basic science facts? People who are getting dumber and whose lack of knowledge leads them to have misguided opinions about science policy?

If you’ve somehow missed those stories, you’re likely to see some similar to them Thursday, as journalists and scientists react to the latest Pew Research survey on Americans’ general scientific knowledge. At a quick glance, the data appear to show that this country has, at best, a so-so relationship with science facts.

But the researchers who conducted that survey, as well as outside scientists who study American scientific knowledge, say that’s not the right takeaway. In reality, Americans have pretty decent scientific literacy. What’s more, even if more of us did score better on quizzes of science facts, that wouldn’t necessarily result in any changes in our beliefs about science.

The Pew results show that a majority of Americans can correctly answer 10 of 11 specific questions about science, some of which require using charts or employing an understanding of the scientific process. The only question a majority of Americans answered incorrectly: only 39 percent of Americans knew antacids were made up of bases. When 60 percent of Americans can correctly identify the need for a control group in drug development research, I can’t consider my compatriots a group that’s scientifically illiterate.


Pew isn’t the only organization that does these kinds of surveys. University of Michigan political scientist Jon Miller and the National Science Foundation have, separately, run similar polls going back decades. And all three sets of data — Pew’s, Miller’s and NSF — suggest that our national grasp of scientific fact isn’t too shabby.

“I think we actually do really well,” Miller said about Americans’ science knowledge. His surveys, which aim to assess how many Americans can easily read and understand public science communication of the sort found in the New York Times or PBS documentaries, have found that scientific literacy actually increased in this country over the last 30 years. Granted, that means we’ve gone from about 10 percent of Americans passing Miller’s tests to 28 percent. But, he said, most people don’t delve into the subtleties of scientific facts and concepts in their daily lives.
Why do the popular surveys show Americans ignorant as dirt and the more sophisticated surveys show that Americans are actually reasonably well informed?

The easy answer is that the mainstream media thrives on attention grabbing headlines. The contrast between most of these survey results (Americans know virtually nothing) and the fact that we spend billions on education is newsworthy. So they keep commissioning such surveys because they are reliable attention getters. And as soon as you have grabbed attention, then you are in the middle of advocacy conflict - raise taxes for more education; no, hire better teachers; no, keep schools open longer hours, etc. All because there is an impression that education is not working because Americans are so uninformed as revealed by the surveys.

That is all at least partly true - the impression of ignorance is fostered by the press for its own commercial benefit.

However, I have always thought there were at least a couple of other dynamics in play.

One is class. Or more accurately, educational status. Only 30% or so of Americans complete college and college is where you tend to round out a reasonably wide awareness of many fields of knowledge. You may not know a lot about a particular field but at least you are aware of the 3-5 key elements of a wide range of fields.

And virtually a hundred percent of journalists complete college. I suspect that there is a subtle social climbing and status seeking behind these "Americans are ignorant" surveys. Journalists are college educated; they live in concentrated urban centers where large majorities are college educated (and successful); they deal primarily with other professionals. Journalists live in bubbles and demonstrating that the great unwashed are actually ignorant both sets journalists (with their general range of knowledge arising from college educations) apart from the unwashed and justifies intervening in the lives of the ignorant (another ideological orientation shared by most journalists). Surveys demonstrating ignorance are a common "othering" technique. It appeals to the vanity of journalists and to their authoritarian tendencies (left leaning ideologies).

I think, though, that there is yet another dynamic in play and that is based on the profound ignorance of the average journalist. In general, journalists, based on their reporting, are relatively unversed in logic or numeracy. While they know about a wider range of things, they know relatively little. They have breadth and not depth of knowledge. In addition, they appear to have relatively meager capacity to integrate disparate bodies of knowledge. They are linear story tellers at best, not integrators of disparate knowledge.

Most these "Americans are ignorant" surveys tend to be very badly designed. They are purpose-driven to find ignorance and they do so by asking questions about a sample of domains of knowledge that are covered in college but not necessarily relevant to personal productivity.

That these surveys are clearly missing something is suggested by the fact that while the surveys show great ignorance, the national GDP suggests extraordinary sophistication. The American economy is the most complex, sophisticated, and productive economy in the world. It challenges belief that that can be achieved with the most ignorant workforce in the world.

And of course, it is not true. The American economy is so sophisticated and productive because it has one of the most adaptive, knowledgeable and sophisticated workforces in the world.

The resolution to the conundrum is that workers have deep pertinent knowledge, not broad academic knowledge. They have deep knowledge in narrow domains. They know what they need to know in order to be productive and they do not invest time and money on knowledge domains which are, in the pejorative sense, academic.

When the mainstream media runs these type of broad knowledge domain tests in order to demonstrate ignorance, all they are actually doing is establishing the contrast between people who have narrower but deeper applied knowledge and those who have had the luxury of indulging a wider but shallower and more theoretical knowledge. They are doing a lot of unconscious social signaling.

You can look at the BLS income statistics and see that in fact the most highly compensated jobs are those which require broad and deep knowledge across many domains of knowledge, or are very deep in a narrow specialty. It has nothing to do with broad and shallow knowledge.

The Pew research is actually trying to tackle something different from the fact that the 30% college educated people have a broad but often shallow knowledge base compared to the 70%.
That’s because these surveys aren’t elaborate pub trivia. Instead, both Pew and NSF conduct them partly as a way of learning more about how differing levels of scientific knowledge correlate with attitudes and beliefs about science. They want to find out whether people like Neil DeGrasse Tyson are right when they blame scientific illiteracy for problems like disbelief in climate change.

“And interesting thing about that,” Besley said. “Turns out the relationship between what people know about science and their attitudes about science … is pretty small.” That is to say, Americans who know more science facts don’t necessarily hold the science policy beliefs actual scientists would prefer, nor do Americans who know the least have the least trust in science. And despite very different ideologies on a number of scientific issues, Republicans and Democrats score about the same on the Pew survey. What’s more, Besley said, experiments that tried to change a belief about a science topic by increasing people’s science education have largely failed.

“Scientists buy heavily into this argument that to know us is to love us,” said Sharon Dunwoody, professor of mass communications at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. But that just isn’t backed up by empirical evidence. The problem with scientific literacy surveys, she and Besley told me, is that they’re often being interpreted by people who are starting from a couple of inaccurate premises: That everyone ought to know a wide variety of science facts, even if those facts don’t affect everyday life; and that the more science facts people know, the friendlier they’ll be toward science. Neither are true, they said. And, ironically, pushing those incorrect beliefs — and the resulting conclusion that Americans are scientifically illiterate — could actually make people less science friendly.
This goes to Philip Tetlock's work such as Expert Political Judgment demonstrating that "experts" have no better forecasting capacity than informed general public.

If you want good outcomes, you need a mix of accomplished people in the relevant field (who may or may not be viewed as experts, its the accomplishment which is important) along with accomplished people from other fields who bring a more integrative perspective in order to counter tunnel vision.

Too narrow experts miss context, people with broad but shallow knowledge miss detail.

The economic figures of the national economy speak to a pretty decent mass utilization of useful knowledge and expertise as opposed to tests of theoretical shallow knowledge.

The indulgence in such tests of theoretical shallow knowledge speaks to their economic usefulness to mainstream media commercial interests, to the class bias of journalists othering non-college graduates, and is an indictment of journalists incapacity to think broadly and deeply. It reveals their hidden ignorance and bias. In general. Obviously 538 is a different kettle of fish; at least in this instance.

But there is a whole different ideological dimension to this as well. If you hold the simplistic view that humans are blank slates to be fixed by the state with an infusion of knowledge, it leads to dramatically different policies than if you accept human variability, universal rights, individual accomplishments and accountability and the unpredictable outcomes and emergent order of free markets and free people.

Increasing economic output is not the same as increasing economic productivity

From Doing Bad by Doing Good: Why Humanitarian Action Fails by Christopher J. Coyne. Page 72.
Economic progress requires adapting to changing conditions: innovation in the form of new products or improved existing products, including production and organizational techniques, and anticipating and responding to the changing demands of consumers and the availability of inputs. This process can take place only through markets, wherein economic
calculation provides feedback regarding changing conditions and the lure of profit provides the incentive for people to adapt in response to that feedback. Indeed, the market process of adaptation is the essence of society-wide economic progress and expanding wealth. Continual innovation and resource reallocation results in greater productivity, that is, more production using fewer resources, and the saved resources can then be redirected to produce additional goods and services that people value. The result is higher standards of living, as people are able to accumulate a widening array of tangible and intangible goods they value.

So, while economic progress entails increasing output in terms of the production of a widening array of goods and services that people value, improving standards of living through wealth creation is fundamentally different than simply expanding the amount of output. This is because producing things that people do not value does increase overall output, but it does not contribute to a society’s economic development, precisely because scarce resources are wasted in producing more goods or services that no one wants. Producing more typewriters increases the output of typewriters, but this larger output does not make people better off if they actually prefer computers. This important distinction between output and economic progress often gets forgotten in discussions of humanitarian assistance and economic development. As economists David Skarbek and Peter Leeson write, “Solving the economic problem determines whether a country’s economy develops. It is strange, then, that professional economists have had trouble distinguishing the positive relationship between inputs and outputs from solving the economic problem when it comes to evaluating foreign aid.” Indeed, foreign assistance is often presented in terms of contributing to countrywide economic progress (as the title from Jeffrey Sachs’s well-known book, The End of Poverty, suggests), but in reality the best it can accomplish, owing to the planner’s problem, is to increase certain predetermined outputs.

The confusion between production and economic progress is evident throughout humanitarian action, the proponents of which typically employ rhetoric about ending a country’s poverty while relying on output measures (infrastructure built, healthcare or food delivered, money spent, children enrolled in schools, and so on) as evidence of success. The implicit, yet incorrect, assumption is that these increases in output are the same thing as economic progress. A review of almost any report or assessment of humanitarian action illustrates this point.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Hard to discern the implication


Click for the thread.

This tweet in particular raises a question I am not sure I have ever considered.

If, in ancient times, half or more children died near birth, it introduces the idea of disjoint populations.

Today we expect, in developed nations, less than one in a hundred children born to die soon afterwards.

In Classical Greece, taking Aristotle at face value, 50 of one hundred die.

So my question is whether there is some systemic variance between those who die and those who survive? Or is it close to random selection?

More a thought exercise than anything else. It is hard to discern the implication, especially since the transition to low child mortality is so recent.

Father and Daughter

Father and Daughter
by Amanda Strand

The wedding ring I took off myself,
his wife wasn't up to it.
I brought the nurse into the room
in case he jumped or anything.
"Can we turn his head?
He looks so uncomfortable."
She looked straight at me,
patiently waiting for it to sink in.

The snow fell.
His truck in the barn,
his boots by the door,
flagpoles empty.
It took a long time for the taxi to come.
"Where to?" he said.
"My father just died," I said.
As if it were a destination.

Fenced-in Pastures by a Farm with a Stork’s Nest on the Roof, 1903 by Laurits Andersen Ring

Fenced-in Pastures by a Farm with a Stork’s Nest on the Roof, 1903 by Laurits Andersen Ring

Click to enlarge.

Soviet technology vs the Presbyterian Church

From Small Wars, Faraway Places by Michael Burleigh. Page 251.
“Although Dulles was the more cerebral of the two, Ike had the edge in a key respect, for as a former general he was calmer in the face of major setbacks, never allowing the detail to obscure the big picture. Religious faith was important in cementing their relationship. A day before his inauguration, Eisenhower was baptized into the National Presbyterian Church by a pastor, Edward Elson, who had served as a military chaplain in occupied Germany. Ike personally insisted on prefacing his inauguration speech with a prayer of his own devising. He opened his first cabinet session with a prayer, and the practice was institutionalized at the urging of his Mormon Secretary for Agriculture. The President also held regular National Prayer Breakfasts, where religious leaders mingled with the powerful, as well as, from 1954 onwards, a National Day of Prayer. ‘In God We Trust’ became the national motto and henceforth appeared on US banknotes. The Pledge of Allegiance was emended to include the phrase ‘one nation under God’.

The symbolic elaboration of an older civic religion was important to a nation whose global enemy marched under the banner of materialistic atheism. America of the 1950s may have been ‘about McDonald hamburgers, Holiday Inns, Levittown suburbs, Lucille Ball, Elvis, Marlon, Marilyn and James Dean, but it also witnessed an astonishing religious revival. ‘I believe fanatically in the American form of democracy, a system . . . that ascribes to the individual a dignity accruing to him because of his creation in the image of the supreme being,’ wrote Ike to a friend in 1947. The US may have been a deeply consumerist society itself, but Ike deprecated the Soviets’ obsession with technology, secure in the knowledge that the US was, and would remain, far ahead without having to make the sacrifices that the Soviet leadership imposed on their people. When the Soviets scored a major propaganda coup on launching the first space satellite in October 1957, which did little more than emit beeps to radio hams, Ike responded by helping raise $20 million to build a new National Presbyterian Church in Washington, while continuing to invest quietly in Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) and in the long-term development of a spy satellite system to replace the interim U-2 spy plane.

Deceit in support of deception

On Monday I posted They are still scrabbling around the monkey cage hurling feces commenting on the mainstream media's failure to address their tarnished reputation post-Mueller Report.

As part of that post, I had a number of screen captures of the New York Times' front page, one of which shows an editorial, Trump’s Shamelessness Was Outside Mueller’s Jurisdiction by Bob Bauer.

Powerline reinforces my argument in Less Than Full Disclosure from the New York Times by Paul Mirengoff by pointing out something I did not recall.

Look at the author of the NYT opinion. Bob Bauer - Ring any bells? It did not for me until it was pointed out.
What’s notable about the article is how the New York Times identifies Bauer. The Times states:
Mr. Bauer is a professor of practice and distinguished scholar in residence at New York University School of Law.
That’s true as far as it goes. But for purposes of an op-ed about the Mueller investigation of alleged collusion with Russia, it doesn’t go very far.
Mirengoff has that right. It does not go near far enough.
Until May 2018, Bauer was a partner at the Perkins Coie law firm. Moreover, when Bauer left the firm, it announced that he “will maintain his representation of a number of key clients in an individual, solo capacity and will co-counsel with Perkins Coie on a number of those representations.”

At Perkins Coie, Bauer headed the firm’s “political law practice” — the largest in the country. It became the go-to practice for prominent Democrats trying to use lawyers to win elections.

During the 2016 presidential race, Perkins Coie served as the private lawyers for the Democratic National Committee. According to The Hill, both the DNC and the Clinton campaign used Perkins Coie secretly to pay Fusion GPS and Christopher Steele to compile a dossier of uncorroborated raw intelligence alleging Trump and Moscow were colluding to hijack the presidential election.

Fake intelligence in that dossier was then used by the FBI as the main basis for seeking a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant targeting the Trump campaign in the final days of the campaign. After the election, the dossier continued to be used by those pushing claims of collusion.
This op-ed was written by the partner in the law firm which was integral to the development and pushing of the Steele dossier as the basis for the claim of collusion and therefore the genesis of the Mueller investigation.

This is the Mandarin Class news channel (NYT) providing space for a key Mandarin Class agent responsible for ginning up the false collusion charge to substantiate a use of Federal resources for a partisan investigation by partisan deep state sympathizers against a duly elected President.

Without mentioning any of that background. That would be like giving Bernie Madoff space to argue the benefits of Ponzi Schemes without mentioning his history or conviction.

"Double down on fake news" or "Work hard to redeem our reputation as a reliable news source" - it appears that the NYT is still inclined towards the wrong answer.

Love Me I'm A Liberal

Love Me I'm A Liberal by Phil Ochs. I have never heard of him even though he was a folk singer, one of my favorite genres. Old tropes but oddly timely.

Double click to enlarge.

Love Me I'm A Liberal
by Phil Ochs

In every American community, you have varying shades of political opinion. One of the shadiest of these is the liberals. An outspoken group on many subjects. 10 degrees to the left of center in good times, 10 degrees to the right of center if it affects them personally. So here, then, is a lesson in safe logic

I cried when they shot Medgar Evers
Tears ran down my spine
And I cried when they shot Mr. Kennedy
As though I'd lost a father of mine
But Malcolm X got what was coming
He got what he asked for this time
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal
Get it?

I go to civil rights rallies
And I put down the old D.A.R (D.A.R., that's the Dykes of the American Revolution)
I love Harry and Sidney and Sammy
I hope every colored boy becomes a star
But don't talk about revolution
That's going a little bit too far
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I cheered when Humphrey was chosen
My faith in the system restored
I'm glad that the Commies were thrown out
Of the A.F.L. C.I.O. board
And I love Puerto Ricans and Negros
As long as they don't move next door
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

Ah, the people of old Mississippi
Should all hang their heads in shame
Now, I can't understand how their minds work
What's the matter don't they watch Les Crane?
But if you ask me to bus my children
I hope the cops take down your name
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

Yes, I read New Republic and Nation
I've learned to take every view
You know, I've memorized Lerner and Golden
I feel like I'm almost a Jew
But when it comes to times like Korea
There's no one more red, white and blue
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I vote for the democratic party
They want the U.N. to be strong
I attend all the Pete Seeger concerts
He sure gets me singing those songs
And I'll send all the money you ask for
But don't ask me to come on along
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

Once I was young and impulsive
I wore every conceivable pin
Even went to the socialist meetings
Learned all the old Union hymns
But I've grown older and wiser
And that's why I'm turning you in
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

It is precisely the fact that no one is “in charge” that makes markets so adaptable

From Doing Bad by Doing Good: Why Humanitarian Action Fails by Christopher J. Coyne. Page 70.
Further adding to the sheer complexity of advanced economies is the importance of what economists call complementary goods, goods and services that are consumed together. For example, cars require gasoline, spare parts, repair equipment, and trained mechanics in order to operate. Just as with the construction of a basic toaster, most people living in relatively wealthy societies take the wide array of available complementary goods for granted, but when one considers the level of coordination required for each of these various complementary goods not only to be produced but to be available and waiting when needed by consumers, these goods and services are truly amazing phenomena. Someone, somewhere, has to anticipate the need for these complementary goods and services and make them available to consumers on demand.

In markets, consumers don’t submit a master wish list to a central planner who then allocates resources accordingly. Instead, prices and profit-and-loss accounting guide entrepreneurs in discovering a (new) solution to the economic problem by producing and innovating existing and new goods and services that consumers value. This process is the essence of broader economic progress, because resources are reallocated, on an ongoing basis, to their highest-valued, welfare-maximizing use. It is precisely the fact that no one is “in charge” that makes markets so adaptable. Each individual who possesses unique skills and knowledge is able to engage in experimentation and discovery that benefit not only himself or herself but others as well.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

He watches himself as if he were an enemy and lying in an ambush

From The Enchiridion by Marcus Aurelius
The condition and characteristic of an uninstructed person is this: he never expects from himself profit, or advantage, nor harm, but from externals.

The condition of a philosopher is this: he expects all advantage and all harm from himself. The signs of one who is making progress are these: he censures no man, he praises no man, he says nothing about himself as if he were somebody or knew something. When he is impeded or hindered, he blames himself. If a man praises him he ridicules the praiser to himself and if a man censures him, he makes no defence. He removes desires from himself, and transfers aversion to those things which are contrary to nature. He employs a moderate attitude towards everything; whether he is considered fooling or ignorant he cares not.

In a word, he watches himself as if he were an enemy and lying in an ambush.
Makes sense, since we are usually our own worst enemy.

Green Green Grass Of Home by Tom Jones

Double click to enlarge.

Green Green Grass Of Home
by Tom Jones

The old home town looks the same
As I step down from the train,
And there to meet me is my Mama and Papa.

Down the road I look and there runs Mary,
Hair of gold and lips like cherries.
It's good to touch the green, green grass of home.

Yes, they'll all come to meet me,
Arms reaching, smiling sweetly.
It's good to touch the green, green, grass of home.

The old house is still standing,
Though the paint is cracked and dry,
And there's that old oak tree that I used to play on.

Down the lane I walk with my sweet Mary,
Hair of gold and lips like cherries.
It's good to touch the green, green grass of home.

Then I awake and look around me
At four grey walls that surround me,
And I realize: yes, I was only dreaming.

For there's a guard and there's a sad old padre.
On in on we'll walk at daybreak.
Then again I'll touch the green, green grass of home.

Yes, they'll all come to see me
In the shade of that old oak tree
As they lay me neath the green, green grass of home.

The Maldive Shark

The Maldive Shark
by Herman Melville

About the Shark, phlegmatical one,
Pale sot of the Maldive sea,
The sleek little pilot-fish, azure and slim,
How alert in attendance be.
From his saw-pit of mouth, from his charnel of maw
They have nothing of harm to dread,
But liquidly glide on his ghastly flnak
Or before his Gorgonian head;
Or lurk in the port of serrated teeth
In white triple tiers of glittering gates,
And there find a haven when peril's abroad,
An asylum in jaws of the Fates!
They are friends; and friendly they guide him to prey,
Yet never partake of the treat-
Eyes and brains to the dotard lethargic and dull,
Pale ravener of horrible meat.

Let Freedom Ring by Amos Sewell

Let Freedom Ring by Amos Sewell

Click to enlarge.

Dulles’s greatest failing as a statesman was that he thought and spoke like a lawyer

From Small Wars, Faraway Places by Michael Burleigh. Page 250.
Ever more outrageous claims by Senator McCarthy were failing to maintain the red scare, and with Ike and Dulles in power and the compromised Democrats out, much of the heat went out of the domestic foreign policy debate. Although the competition is fierce, John Foster Dulles may be the American statesman most tendentiously vilified and misrepresented by leftists on both sides of the Atlantic. The reason is not hard to identify: he had strong Christian views and uncompromisingly condemned Communism as evil. A bit like Marxists, Dulles believed ‘there is a moral law which, no less than physical law, undergirds our world’. This was not exclusive to Christianity but common to many religions, as he had found when dealing with people of other faiths. Nonetheless, he believed that with its God-given form of government, the US had a unique mission to extend the values it incarnated to the rest of the world. A spiritually robust America would operate as a moral force, breathing life into such international organizations as the United Nations, through overseas aid and by the promotion of individual freedom and human rights.

Dulles had strong ethical objections to the survival of Woodrow Wilson’s progressive spin on ‘racial segregation’, if only because it undermined the US case in the struggle with Soviet anti-imperialists. He discussed the difficult ethical choices he had to make with his high-level contacts in the American Churches, to which he also appealed to mobilize popular support for the administration’s foreign policy. He recruited the evangelist Billy Graham, a confidant and supporter of the President, as a roving US ambassador, notably to darkest Britain. Dulles’s relations with Church leaders were not without frictions, particularly over the issue of nuclear weapons, with the religious supporting disarmament and Dulles insisting on the necessity of maintaining a massive nuclear deterrent. The Time-Life journalist and presidential speechwriter Emmet Hughes judged that Dulles’s greatest failing as a statesman was that he thought and spoke like a lawyer, engaged in prosecuting the Soviet Union in a long-drawn-out case in the court of history. He was absolutely invested in his case, ‘quickly excited by small gains, suddenly shaken by minor reverses, and ever prone to contemplating the drastic remedy of the massive retort.'

Not only not ready for prime time but not ready for reality.

The Senate chamber has had its surprising events over the years. Among the most notorious:
On May 22, 1856, the "world's greatest deliberative body" became a combat zone. In one of the most dramatic and deeply ominous moments in the Senate's entire history, a member of the House of Representatives entered the Senate Chamber and savagely beat a senator into unconsciousness.

The inspiration for this clash came three days earlier when Senator Charles Sumner, a Massachusetts antislavery Republican, addressed the Senate on the explosive issue of whether Kansas should be admitted to the Union as a slave state or a free state. In his "Crime Against Kansas" speech, Sumner identified two Democratic senators as the principal culprits in this crime—Stephen Douglas of Illinois and Andrew Butler of South Carolina. He characterized Douglas to his face as a "noise-some, squat, and nameless animal . . . not a proper model for an American senator." Andrew Butler, who was not present, received more elaborate treatment. Mocking the South Carolina senator's stance as a man of chivalry, the Massachusetts senator charged him with taking "a mistress . . . who, though ugly to others, is always lovely to him; though polluted in the sight of the world, is chaste in his sight—I mean," added Sumner, "the harlot, Slavery."

Representative Preston Brooks was Butler's South Carolina kinsman. If he had believed Sumner to be a gentleman, he might have challenged him to a duel. Instead, he chose a light cane of the type used to discipline unruly dogs. Shortly after the Senate had adjourned for the day, Brooks entered the old chamber, where he found Sumner busily attaching his postal frank to copies of his "Crime Against Kansas" speech.

Moving quickly, Brooks slammed his metal-topped cane onto the unsuspecting Sumner's head. As Brooks struck again and again, Sumner rose and lurched blindly about the chamber, futilely attempting to protect himself. After a very long minute, it ended.

Bleeding profusely, Sumner was carried away. Brooks walked calmly out of the chamber without being detained by the stunned onlookers. Overnight, both men became heroes in their respective regions.

Surviving a House censure resolution, Brooks resigned, was immediately reelected, and soon thereafter died at age 37.
But in general the Senate Chamber veers between boring, solemn, and august. Rare are the occasions when it might pass for a high school standup comedy night. But in these exciting times of fringe voices shouting out for extremist ideas, mockery is coming back. In fact, Sumner's description is a pretty good one for the fobbish Green New Deal (a "noise-some, squat, and nameless animal") put forward by the socialist wing of the Democratic party and debated yesterday in the Senate before being resoundingly rejected with not a single vote of support. Not only not ready for prime time but not ready for reality.

Senator Mike Lee took the opportunity to have some fun.

Double click to enlarge.

I think we can all agree that, despite all the wailings and gnashing of teeth and incontinent worries about a coming civil war arising from incipient socialism, that despite all that, if we can have the following picture as an integral part of a Senate debate, then we have a strong, robust and vibrant democracy still capable of having fun while making important points.

Click to enlarge.

The Mandarin Class and their members seem like an ever-renewing source of material crying out for mockery

Who would have ever thought that one of the best sources for laugh-out-loud humor would be a Christian News Satire site; the Babylon Bee.

This morning's snort of laughter - Republicans Accused Of Colluding With Reality To Defeat Green New Deal

Click to enlarge.

Of course, they are the beneficiary of some of the craziest of times. The Mandarin Class and their members seem like an ever-renewing source of material crying out for mockery.

The economic problem of society is the utilization of knowledge which is not given to anyone in its totality

From Doing Bad by Doing Good: Why Humanitarian Action Fails by Christopher J. Coyne. Page 66.
One of the crucial contributions of Nobel Laureate economist F. A. Hayek was his clarification of the exact nature of the economic problem laid out in the preceding section. He noted, “The economic problem of society is . . . not merely a problem of how to allocate ‘given’ resources—if ‘given’ is taken to mean given to a single mind which deliberately solves the problem set by these ‘data.’ It is rather a problem of . . . the utilization of knowledge which is not given to anyone in its totality.” Hayek’s point is that economic interactions rely on dispersed knowledge, some of which exists for all to grasp but much of which is inarticulate, tacit knowledge that is difficult to make explicit and is not available to everyone. Such knowledge must be discovered through experience and experimentation. Because tacit knowledge cannot be expressed in an objective manner, it is not “out there” for others to obtain as they could articulated knowledge written in the books lining library shelves. We now have the beginnings of an understanding of why markets are so adaptable—they allow dispersed individuals to take advantage of the knowledge possessed by others to discover a solution to the economic problem. But how do markets do this?

At the core of the adaptability of markets is the notion of “economic calculation,” which refers to the decision-making process of how to best allocate scarce resources among the array of feasible alternatives. Economic calculation refers to the determination of the expected value-added of a potential course of action. By comparing the relative expected value added across feasible alternatives, decision makers are able to choose the course of action with the highest expected social return. Crucial to this decision-making process are money prices and profit-and-loss accounting.

Money prices, which serve as a common unit of calculation, capture the relative scarcity of different goods based on context-specific conditions and communicate this information to others in the economy. This is powerful precisely because people are able to act on the context-specific knowledge reflected in prices without needing to actually possess any specific insight into the actual local conditions. The economist Thomas Sowell effectively makes this point when he writes, “Prices are important not because money is considered paramount but because prices are a fast and effective conveyor of information through a vast society in which fragmented knowledge must be coordinated.” This information is crucial because it allows people to compare the prices of inputs, which reflect underlying scarcity conditions, to the expected profitability of numerous alternatives, all of which are technologically feasible. The resulting profit or loss provides feedback as to whether this estimate was accurate or not. A profit indicates that resources have been combined in a manner that generates value to others while a loss signals the opposite—that resources could have been allocated to a higher-valued use that would increase welfare.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

37% of elite university professors are atheist compared to 7% of the population

Another area in which the Mandarin Class do not reflect America and therefore one further filter which prevents them from understanding America.

Click to see thread.

A Thanksgiving to God, for his House

A Thanksgiving to God, for his House
by Robert Herrick

Lord, Thou hast given me a cell
Wherein to dwell,
A little house, whose humble roof
Is weather-proof:
Under the spars of which I lie
Both soft and dry;
Where Thou my chamber for to ward
Hast set a guard
Of harmless thoughts, to watch and keep
Me, while I sleep.
Low is my porch, as is my fate,
Both void of state;
And yet the threshold of my door
Is worn by th' poor,
Who thither come and freely get
Good words, or meat.
Like as my parlour, so my hall
And kitchen's small;
A little buttery, and therein
A little bin,
Which keeps my little loaf of bread
Unchipp'd, unflead;
Some brittle sticks of thorn or briar
Make me a fire,
Close by whose living coal I sit,
And glow like it.
Lord, I confess too, when I dine,
The pulse is Thine,
And all those others bits, that be
There plac'd by Thee;
The worts, the purslain, and the mess
Of water-cress,
Which of Thy kindness Thou hast sent;
And my content
Makes those, and my beloved beet,
To be more sweet.
'Tis Thou that crown'st my glittering hearth
With guiltless mirth;
And giv'st me wassail-bowls to drink,
Spic'd to the brink.
Lord, 'tis Thy plenty-dropping hand
That soils my land;
And giv'st me, for my bushel sown,
Twice ten for one;
Thou mak'st my teeming hen to lay
Her egg each day;
Besides my healthful ewes to bear
Me twins each year;
The while the conduits of my kine
Run cream, for wine.
All these, and better, Thou dost send
Me, to this end,
That I should render, for my part,
A thankful heart,
Which, fir'd with incense, I resign,
As wholly Thine;
But the acceptance, that must be,
My Christ, by Thee.

It does not bode well for the reconstitution of the mainstream media's reputation.

David Brooks is supposed to be an intelligent and balanced man but this is kind of breathtaking. From We’ve All Just Made Fools of Ourselves — Again by David Brooks. As James Taranto responds:

But what caught my eye was this paragraph.
Republicans and the Sean Hannity-style Trumpians might also approach this moment with an attitude of humility and honest self-examination. For two years they’ve been calling the Mueller investigation a witch hunt. For two years they’ve been spreading the libel that there are no honest brokers in Washington. It’s all a deep-state conspiracy, a swamp. They should apologize for peddling the sort of deep cynicism that undermines our country’s institutions.
I sort of understand the instinct to try and appear balanced by whipping both sides to an argument that has gone pear-shaped. Sort of.

The mainstream media, of which Brooks is an integral member, just got caught by the American public with their hand in the cookie jar. And Brooks turns to the public and chides us for noticing that he and his brethren have been stealing from the cookie jar for years?

It seems almost incomprehensible that he could write this. It is the better part of three years, not two years. It was a manufactured witch hunt, conjured under the most unseemly circumstances by the deepest of deep state players (McCabe, Comey, Brennan, Clapper, Power, Rice, Podesta, etc.) That is entirely why this is a big deal in the first place. The Mueller report shows that there was no underlying crime. It was all manufactured. Of course it prompts cynicism.

If you don't want to undermine this country's institutions, don't be part of the narrative which undermines this country's institutions. For Brooks to blame those who pointed out the charade and calling on them to apologize for pointing out that Brooks and his brethren were indeed partisan panderers of fake news takes some gall.

There was a small window at the very beginning, perhaps a few months, when the accusation of collusion was a hypothesis that was at least possible, even though not plausible. It didn't take very long, across the many leaks and revelations of FISA unmasking, and authorized spying on American citizens, and demonstrated attempts at entrapment, and the revelations about the Steele Report and who paid for it, the litany of process crimes rather than real crimes, the total absence of any collusion indictments, to quickly glean that the theoretically possible hypothesis was extremely unlikely. Carl Sagan's admonishment that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence was well worth heeding. But they never did. In fact, Sagan's entire quote is worth recalling.
What counts is not what sounds plausible, not what we would like to believe, not what one or two witnesses claim, but only what is supported by hard evidence rigorously and skeptically examined. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
But collusion sounded plausible to the left and to the never-trumpers. It is what they wanted to believe. But they never had anything but the most vestigial of evidence and even that evidence could not withstand scrutiny. They, including Brooks, made an extraordinary claim and they never had even the barest of evidence.

And now Brooks wants rational empiricists and Republicans to apologize for pointing out their failure. Chutzpah of massive dimensions, profound TDS, or or almost inconceivable insularity. How else to understand this extraordinary assertion. It does not bode well for the reconstitution of the mainstream media's reputation.

Sapling Slim and Shadow Naked, 1928.

Sapling Slim and Shadow Naked, 1928.

Click to enlarge.

Pro-social behavior of a sort

He was a difficult man to like: big face, big ears, big glasses and a mouth like a shark

From Small Wars, Faraway Places by Michael Burleigh. Page 248.
The millionaire lawyer John Foster Dulles was appointed secretary of state. He was a difficult man to like: big face, big ears, big glasses and a mouth like a shark. There was something relentless about him, as symbolized by the 559,688 miles of diplomatic travel he clocked up while in office. A shy man, Dulles appeared to lack social graces. Arguably the most knowledgeable Secretary of State in recent US history and certainly the most hard working, he would spend between twelve and fifteen hours preparing a thirty-minute speech, using the process to think through each problem. His favourite word was ‘moral’, which State Department officials tried regularly but unsuccessfully to remove from his draft speeches.

Ballot harvesting - the lure of corruption which is too compelling.

My suspicion is that ballot harvesting is going to be an important point of discussion over the next few years. It appears to me to be the most insidious form of voting suppression and corruption and while it is being discussed in some quarters, there does not appear to be much of a national conversation.

From On Ballot Harvesting, GOP May Have to Push Back by Susan Crabtree.
The ballot-harvesting practice has faced new scrutiny in recent months after Republican candidates in California saw their Election Day leads disintegrate as later-arriving Democratic votes were counted in the weeks following the 2018 midterms. Republicans across the country, including then-Speaker Paul Ryan, raised the specter that California’s expanded ballot-harvesting law was responsible. Ryan called the Golden State’s vote tallying system “bizarre” and something that “defies logic.”

In the North Carolina case, the roles were reversed. Harris, a Republican congressional candidate, used a political operative who was known for his illegal get-out-the-vote methods -- including collecting ballots from certain areas and discarding them -- to narrowly defeat Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pointed out the Democrats’ situational outrage over the practice.

“For years and years, every Republican who dared to call for common-sense safeguards for Americans’ ballots was demonized by Democrats and their allies,” he said. “We were hit with left-wing talking points insisting that voter fraud wasn’t real. That fraud just didn’t happen.”

“But I have noticed with interest that Democrats’ new focus on this practice has yet to extend to California – where it is a completely legal, common practice,” added McConnell, a Kentucky Republican.
Both parties practice ballot harvesting to some degree in some places. And both ought, on sound principle, to be entirely against the practice.

There are several reasons for the reliance on central planning when it comes to humanitarian action

From Doing Bad by Doing Good: Why Humanitarian Action Fails by Christopher J. Coyne. Page 65.
The central planning of humanitarian action takes place through numerous, and oftentimes overlapping, layers of bureaucracy, ranging from national governments to local governments to NGOs, often connected to governments through funding. In each instance, humanitarian action takes place outside the market context. Goods and services are not priced for sale, and the final supplier operates as a nonprofit entity. In other words, humanitarianism is characterized by a unilateral transfer from donors to humanitarians to those in need with no exchange of money between the supplier of humanitarian assistance and the recipient.

There are several reasons for the reliance on central planning when it comes to humanitarian action. For one, in the minds of many, the notion of humanitarianism is seen as the very antithesis of markets and the profits and losses associated with market activity. Many view the selling of a service to, let alone profiting from, someone’s suffering to be morally wrong. From this standpoint humanitarianism is viewed as “selfless” as compared to the “greed” and “selfishness” associated with markets.

Second, policymakers and humanitarian practitioners often lack a basic understanding of how markets operate to coordinate activities and generate mutually beneficial outcomes to improve human welfare. In many cases, the result of this ignorance is that interventions intended to help people in the wake of crises actually end up hurting those most in need. One example of this is price-gouging laws intended to protect those already suffering from being exploited by sellers who charge a supposed “unconscionable” or “obscene” price. While the rhetoric of these laws is politically appealing, in reality they reduce the amount of goods and services available to those who are most in need because the inability to charge a higher price provides a disincentive for entrepreneurs to adapt and redirect goods to the crisis-stricken area.

Third, as noted in Part I, the state has assumed an ever-expanding role in humanitarian action. Government agencies are organized as nonprofit command-and-control bureaucracies, which means that state-led humanitarian action must be centrally planned outside of markets since this is the way that governments are designed to operate in all contexts.

Finally, a reliance on central planning in humanitarianism can be explained, in some instances, by the absence of the conditions necessary for the operation of markets. For example, large-scale above-ground markets largely were absent in Haiti even before the 2010 earthquake because the predatory government squashed the incentives for productive entrepreneurship and exchange. The result was that, in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, the existence of markets to deliver goods and services was severely limited if not altogether missing.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Gun control has no impact on gun deaths.

From California's comprehensive background check and misdemeanor violence prohibition policies and firearm mortality by Alvaro Castillo-Carniglia, et al. From the Abstract:

In 1991, California implemented a law that mandated a background check for all firearm purchases with limited exceptions (comprehensive background check or CBC policy) and prohibited firearm purchase and possession for persons convicted within the past 10 years of certain violent crimes classified as misdemeanors (MVP policy). We evaluated the population effect of the simultaneous implementation of CBC and MVP policies in California on firearm homicide and suicide.


Quasi-experimental ecological study using the synthetic control group methodology. We included annual firearm and nonfirearm mortality data for California and 32 control states for 1981–2000, with secondary analyses up to 2005.


The simultaneous implementation of CBC and MVP policies was not associated with a net change in the firearm homicide rate over the ensuing 10 years in California. The decrease in firearm suicides in California was similar to the decrease in nonfirearm suicides in that state. Results were robust across multiple model specifications and methods.


CBC and MVP policies were not associated with changes in firearm suicide or homicide. Incomplete and missing records for background checks, incomplete compliance and enforcement, and narrowly constructed prohibitions may be among the reasons for these null findings.
Just another study among thousands, but interesting none-the-less. I frequently observe that the suggested gun control policies shrilly advocated for after some tragedy almost never are pertinent to the tragedy itself. In other words, even had the recommended policies been in place, the facts of the case are such that the tragedy would have happened anyway.

That California has among the most stringent restrictions in the nation makes this a notable study. One can conjure all sorts of scenarios why that might be, but it is interesting that that is the fact.

UPDATE: On reflection, I wonder if there might not be a further point of interest to be teased out from this study. America has a higher murder rate than most of our OECD counterparts. However, complicating the analysis, it is also true that the US has the most heterogeneous population compared to all our OECD counterparts. Given America's sheer size, in population and geography, there are simply no real benchmarks with whom to compare.

From other studies, it is observable that America tends to be average when you compare it to individual other countries but when you make the comparison based on culture of origin, the US tends to come out way ahead. Education is the one with which I am most familiar. White Americans outscore all European countries, (usually significantly), on PISA scores other than the Finns on reading. Asian Americans outscore all Asian countries on PISA scores. African Americans outscore all majority black countries on PISA scores.

The same is true of productivity and income.

So while there are differences within America between culture-of-origin groups, all people in America from every other culture do better than their home counterparts when they move to America.

My suspicion is that the same is likely true for the violence. We know that, in rounded numbers, 50% of all murders are committed by African Americans, 25% by Hispanics and 25% by European culture origin Americans despite their corresponding presence in the population of 15%, 15% and 70% respectively. My suspicion is that were you to do a rigorous comparison, one might find that the murder rate for white Americans to be near or lower than that of their European counterparts and the same for African Americans (for majority black countries) and Hispanics (for Hispanic countries of origin).

I have never seen such a rigorous study done but there are all sorts of intriguing snippets that are at least suggestive. While we are rightly dismayed in America about rare but tragic mass school shootings, it is easy to neglect that three or four of the top five global school shootings have occurred in Europe where gun rights are generally much, much more tightly circumscribed.

The overall point is that there are good reasons to believe that cultural dispositions are likely a far greater driver of base rate outcomes than are particular policies. Returning to education as an example, the broad outlines of public school education among the 50 states are reasonably similar. There are always many policy trials and experiments going on in the different states, some small number of which occasionally demonstrate effectiveness and then become widely adopted. That said, there is insufficient variance in policy to explain the consistent differentials in cultural origin differences consistent across the nation.

What we don't know, and would be useful to know, is whether America is inherently violent because of its inherent heterogeneity, because of its Second Amendment, or because of the particular, and evolving, mix of cultural origin disposition towards violence. Were we to conduct such a rigorous study, my suspicion is that we might find that the Second Amendment is far less of a driver of violent death than we have all along assumed.

So if results are driven much more by culture than by policy, it is reasonable to speculate about its impact on the propensity to violence in a state such as California which has long had a strong orientation towards limiting Second Amendment rights. Especially given that California is also the state with the greatest increase in Hispanic emigration (legal and otherwise). In an arena where there is both an increasing constriction on gun rights but also an increasing share of the population with a cultural origin in a culture with a dramatically higher manifestation of violence, perhaps the two are operating at cross-purposes to one another.

A further complicating factor is that California is also the state with among the worst school systems, worst income inequality and the highest rate of population in poverty.

Specifically, in the forty year time frame Castillo-Carniglia, et al are examining, it is conceivable that in fact the gun control laws are in fact effective but that their effect is being swamped by the increase in violent country-of-origin culture, and inequality, and poverty.

All interesting but speculative questions.