Tuesday, April 30, 2019

This did not augur well

From Small Wars, Faraway Places by Michael Burleigh. Page 310.
“Before Nehru embarked on his first visit to the US in the autumn of 1949, Henderson advised Washington that the Indian leader was a ‘vain, sensitive, emotional and complicated person’. For an agnostic he talked a lot about spirituality. Many of his less attractive characteristics stemmed from an America-hating English nanny and his education at Harrow, where ‘he consorted with and cultivated a group of rather supercilious upper middle class young men who fancied themselves rather precious . . . He acquired some of their manners and ways of thinking.’ Unlike them, being just a drunk or deeply stupid did not mitigate Nehru’s snobbery, for he was neither. Prolonged exposure to the fashionably ‘progressive’ Mountbattens, including an intimate – although perhaps non-sexual – relationship with the promiscuous Edwina, had coloured his view of Americans as ‘a vulgar, pushy, lot, lacking in fine feeling’ with a culture ‘dominated by the dollar’. Although the Americans were anxious to make the visit a success, they contrived to send a plane known as The Sacred Cow to convey Nehru from London to Washington. This did not augur well.

It’s Not Unusual

Double click to enlarge.

It’s Not Unusual
sung by Tom Jones
written by Gordon Mills and Les Reed

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

An appreciation by Mark Steyn.

Good reporting or competitive positioning? Does it matter?

This is both quite compelling and quite interesting. From The Mueller Report Indicts the Trump-Russia Conspiracy Theory
The real Russiagate scandal is the damage it has done to our democratic system and media.
by By Aaron Maté.

The article is well written and clearly argued but of greater import is who published it; The Nation, a pillar of the left for more than a century.

This is the second break in the left wall. First Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone (here and here) acknowledged that the whole Russian Conspiracy Theory was a sustained political exercise with little to no evidentiary base and now Aaron Maté and The Nation.

These are credible reporters bringing a truth long argued on the right to those on the left who have been primarily exposed only to the misreporting of the past couple of years. Both are concerned for the institutional integrity of America as well as the institutional integrity of the press.

I do not intend to undermine the courage and integrity of either of these reporters but it does force to the surface a different thought.

All complex, dynamic evolving systems have wheels within wheels. The Mueller Report can be viewed solely as a phenomenon related to the truth or untruth of a theory (Russian-Trump Collusion). That is certainly true as far as it goes.

However, there is a second circle turning. As both Maté and Taibbi both note, the Trump-Russia Conspiracy Theory has done a lot of damage to the mainstream media but it has done differential damage within the left leaning media (granted, that being the majority). The point is that the media is not only a purveyor of news (the Trump-Russia Conspiracy) but they are also competitors with one another and we cannot lose sight of that.

Anyone on the left, whether media platform or reporter, who can point to some sort of track record of independence and/or factual reporting over the past couple of years, has an opportunity to steal a march on their competitors. MSNBC, one of the most dedicated and unrelenting promoters of the Trump-Russia Collusion Theory, has seen a plunge in their viewership. Of course some of that decline is simply because the hope is gone, but almost certainly some of the decline is a result of viewers saying "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me." CNN similarly has seen a sharp decline in viewership.

Is there a realignment of competitive positioning in the left side of the MSM? Too soon to tell but some of the surprising acknowledgements might be related to that dynamic.

Painter in his Studio, 1647 by Gerrit Dou

Painter in his Studio, 1647 by Gerrit Dou

Click to enlarge.

The cost of zero quality control

According to sources within the cable news network, a recently hired intern at CNN has been tasked with resetting the station's "Days Without A Fake News Story" counter, prominently displayed on the newsroom wall, each and every morning.

The intern, Jacob Lentils, is asked to switch the counter back to "0" after having briefly turned it to "1" in the few fleeting moments before the station inevitably pushes a fake news story to kick off the day.

"One of these days, we'll manage to break our record and get to 2," Lentils said. "That'll be a lot of fun."
Heh. I no longer listen to NPR as reliably as I once did but I will turn them on when I am out running errands or commuting. They occasionally still do interesting and accurate reporting but it is pretty thin epistemic gruel. I no longer listen to learn because they don't have much from which to learn, but it can still be fun entertainment.

Part of the entertainment is to see how long I can go before I hit a news report that does not focus on race victims, women victims, inequality, food, whatever is the hot news of the day, spiritualism (distinct from religion), first world problems, or a blatant misstatement of facts. In other words, how long do I have to wait for a straight news story that is factually accurate, potentially interesting to everyone, and is not reported in a fashion requiring acceptance of postmodernist beliefs.

Perhaps your station is different but in Atlanta it is pretty bleak. One station is owned by the city government and the other by one of the local universities. You might think it should be otherwise but I have travelled between distant cities and not broken the chain of bad reporting.

Idea: To The Reader of these Sonnets by Michael Drayton

Idea: To The Reader of these Sonnets
by Michael Drayton

Into these loves, who but for passion looks,
At this first sight here let him lay them by
And seek elsewhere in turning other books,
Which better may his labour satisfy.
No far-fetch'd sigh shall ever wound my breast;
Love from mine eye a tear shall never wring;
Nor in "Ah me's!" my whining sonnets drest:
A libertine, fantasticly I sing.
My verse is the true image of my mind,
Ever in motion, still desiring change;
And as thus to variety inclin'd,
So in all humours sportively I range:
My Muse is rightly of the English strain,
That cannot long one fashion entertain.

Report from the Subtropics by Billy Collins

Report from the Subtropics
by Billy Collins

For one thing, there's no more snow
to watch from an evening window,
and no armfuls of logs to carry into the house
so cumbersome you have to touch the latch with an elbow,

and once inside, no iron stove waiting like an old woman
for her early dinner of wood.

No hexagrams of frost to study carefully
on the cold glass pages of the bathroom.

And there's no black sweater to pull over my head
while I wait for the coffee to brew.

Instead, I walk around in children's clothes-
shorts and a T-shirt with the name of a band
lettered on the front, announcing me to nobody.

The sun never fails to arrive early
and refuses to leave the party
even after I go from room to room,
turning out all the lights, and making a face.

And the birds with those long white necks?
All they do is swivel their heads
to look at me as I walk past
as if they all knew my password
and the name of the city where I was born.

Monday, April 29, 2019

The antipope Gregory VIII was led into Rome sitting backward on a camel

It is nice when a non-fiction book starts off with a strong first paragraph. This, from Power and Imagination: City-States in Renaissance Italy by Lauro Martines, I think, counts.
It is hard to summarize chaos, yet the narrative history of Italy in the eleventh and early twelfth centuries is a story of political wreckage and confused authority. An image for the age is from the spring of 1121, when the antipope Gregory VIII was led into Rome sitting backward on a camel - a gesture of disgrace and howling derision; fitting too, in view of the preeminence of violence. For eleventh-century kings and popes were deposed, physically assaulted, or driven into flight as if no better than small game. Bishops and feudal lords were scattered like leaves; some were murdered, maimed, or merely brushed aside, while others, such as Alrico, bishop of Asti, were cut down in full battle gear (1035). Authority had been laid low.

India, reliant on US aid to embark on a London School of Economics-inspired bureaucratic socialist economic model that proved no less stultifying in India than in Britain

From Small Wars, Faraway Places by Michael Burleigh. Page 309.
Relations with India were personalized to an unfortunate degree, chiefly because Prime Minister Nehru thought that his cosmopolitan background uniquely equipped him to act as minister for external affairs. As such he did not deign to consult the cabinet on foreign policy or world affairs, about which (from memory) he had written a remarkable epistolary history while in British captivity in the early 1930s called Glimpses of World History. Here one might learn that the empire of Genghiz Khan was more significant than that of Julius Caesar. Nehru’s colleagues were content to leave world affairs to him since they were much more interested in domestic portfolios, which brought real powers of patronage and self-enrichment. Snobbish attitudes and poses Nehru had acquired from the British also combined with Gandhian moralism to conceal a conventional ambition for India to be recognized as a great power. Every conversation with him felt like a lecture, in which his Fabian socialist self-righteousness grated on American nerves. He fashioned an ideology of non-alignment, based, he claimed, on recognizing what was worth while in the rival Cold War social systems. It was a poor choice to adopt the standard Western leftist’s pose of moral equivalence between the two systems when, in the absence of any alternative, India would be reliant on US aid to embark on a London School of Economics-inspired bureaucratic socialist economic model that proved no less stultifying in India than in Britain and, indeed, anywhere else it was adopted.

Cognitive and non-cognitive mismatch double whammy?

From a couple of years ago, Bourgeois values restoration as a public policy. I came across this while searching my archives for some other, related, data.
But in thinking about the folderol it did prompt a thought. It seems to me that there is an interaction and graduation between, to use James Heckman's terminology, cognitive and noncognitive skills.

Cognitive skills are those associated with thinking - IQ of course but some of the finer subsidiary components such as maths, verbal, spatial, memory, etc. Noncognitive skills are those associated with motivation, integrity, futurity, work ethic, disposition towards saving, conscientiousness, etc.

In the past fifty years we have become exceptionally good at identifying and channeling people with high cognitive skills through SAT, ACT and college admissions. We find them and then channel them into flagship state universities or into private elite universities. We have also, as an unintended side effect, facilitated a couple of generations of assortative mating, creating a new, partially heritable elite. We then channel them into a handful of hothouse, dynamic cities. No wonder so many become somewhat divorced from the lives and concerns of the other 85% of the population. The cognitive elite are on a fairly remorseless and inexorable conveyor belt of talent.

As Heckman points out, however, it is not only cognitive skills which create value. The noncognitive skills mostly associated with bourgeois values (motivation, integrity, futurity, work ethic, disposition towards saving, conscientiousness, etc.) also are sources of productivity and value.

If you think about it, there is a natural matrix to be derived from these skills. A first attempt to begin to explore those trade-off gradations is below.

Click to enlarge.

Happy are those blessed with both high IQ and high non-cognitive skills. Their lives, absent exogenous tragedies, are golden. The world is their oyster. Really bright and really diligent, persevering, sociable, reliable, future-oriented, etc. In virtually any economy anywhere, anytime, they land on their feet.

Then there is everyone else with all sorts of variation and balance between cognitive and noncognitive skills. I have attempted to capture some of those recognizable stereotypes that you find in any large organization or society.

In addition to Cognitive skills and non-cognitive skills, there is a third important dimension not captured in this matrix and that is "Acquired Skills."
Looking at this, it seems relevant to a phenomenon I have noted in recent years.

The field of academic mismatch is hotly contested, to some small degree around the data, to a much larger degree because of its inconvenience to postmodernist and critical theory; the received dogma in academic administrations.

In striving for "diversity" the most prestigious and competitive universities, think they are being good administrators, seek to achieve at least a minimal racial representation by reducing minimum required SAT scores by some hundreds of points.

The outcomes is predictable, despite the good intentions. Academically unprepared students struggle and perform poorly.

The result in many universities is all sorts of protests, concerned that poor performance is a result of some unperceived bias rather than simple academic mismatch.

Looking at the videos of the protests over the years; Dartmouth, Yale, Mizzou, Evergreen, Oberlin, etc., it is hard not to note that the student protest groups are dominated by racial minorities and otherwise societally marginalized groups (the morbidly obese, the neon hair, the tattoos, the metallically pierced and ringed, etc.). On the one hand, that makes logical sense given their own perceived victimization - if their hypothesis is true that the most liberal universities are also the most likely to be discriminating against them, then the video evidence makes sense.

But the alternative view, that the most academically mismatched are those most likely to do poorly and yet see their personal performance as a function of systemic bias is equally valid from a different perspective.

Click to enlarge.

From this model perspective, there is an additional factor in play. Not only are the protesting students (green circle) protesting the natural outcomes from academic mismatch, i.e. that their academic capability is lower than those with whom they are competing, they also have another deficit.

Where do you go if you are trying to keep your academic head above water? You might have entered wanting to be pre-med, but you end up in academically undemanding fields which have a sympathetic message which takes the onus for outcomes off of you. Gender theory, Social Justice Theory, Postmodernism, etc. What else characterizes those fields? Intolerance, anger, speech suppression, righteousness, violence, etc. I.e. low non-cognitive capabilities.

Even if they did not enter university with low non-cognitive skills, those low non-cognitive skills are rewarded and cultivated.

Hence the double whammy. They get in by slipping cognitive standards and then suffering academic mismatch. That is then compounded by low non-cognitive skills where they are encouraged to believe that the norms to which everyone else must adhere, do not apply to them. They end up as the green dot, low cognitive and low non-cognitive capabilities in comparison to their peers admitted under the common standards.

No wonder they are angry. Through the best of intentions they are placed in the worst of positions.

Force and Reason, 1934 by John Duncan (1866-1945)

Force and Reason, 1934 by John Duncan (1866-1945)

Click to enlarge.

Observed irony

If your argument requires full acceptance of a long list of prior assumptions, it won't fly with a heterodox audience. It doesn't even rise to the minimum of being an argument. It is merely a claim or opinion.

But this does spark a thought.

While the press was largely collusive with the prior administration, sycophantically admiring of set piece speeches by President Obama, and were largely silent on instances when the administration banned reporters from public conferences, spied on journalists and monitored their communications, failed to respond as required to FOIA orders, ruthlessly squelched White House leaks, etc., they did have some quibbles.

They acknowledged that without a script and teleprompter, the President's public speaking skills were rudimentary.

But their biggest beef was the relative scarcity of opportunities when the press could have access to the President. He rarely held White House briefings, interviews were carefully scripted and choreographed, and we could go months between events when the press might query him.

It is ironical that at the core of much of the current press complaint is that the new President communicates too much. He tweets directly to the American people all the time, he holds lots of events where he takes questions from the press, on innumerable occasions he informally takes time out of some other scheduled activity to have an impromptu interaction with the press.

Two ironies then.

Under one presidency the press loved the President even though he rarely interacted with them, stopped all the leaks, and took numerous actions to go after journalists with whom he disagreed. The least accessible President was the most popular with the press.

Under the other presidency, the press hates the President who is almost continuously available to them, has continuing impromptu press conferences, runs a White House which leaks like a sieve, and who has not jailed or surveilled a single journalist or press outlet.

UPDATE: Ed Krayewski provides the historical rebuttal to Chernow's assertion.

Click on the thread for the other Mount Rushmore figures and their views of the mainstream media.

They covered one another and corralled children toward exits.

I love reporting which focuses on the unacknowledged heroes rather than the deranged lunatic. From Synagogue Congregants Tell of Quick Action to Save Children Amid Chaos of Attack by Ian Lovett and Esther Fung.
Oscar Stewart was sitting in the back of the Chabad of Poway synagogue when he heard the gunshots, some 20 minutes after 11 a.m. services began on Saturday. He said his first reaction was to run and he sprinted out into the entryway—where he saw the gunman, firing an AR-style rifle down the hallway.

Mr. Stewart, 51 years old, said he shouted and charged at the shooter.

“As he saw me, he dropped his weapon, turned and ran,” Mr. Stewart said. “He may have been trying to change a magazine, or he just panicked.”

On Sunday, details of the shooting—which left one dead and three injured at a worship service on the last day of Passover—were beginning to emerge.

The suspect—19-year-old John Earnest—was in custody on charges of first-degree murder and attempted murder. Police said the shooting was being investigated as a hate crime after authorities found an online message in his name, in which he espouses anti-Semitism and allegedly claims to have set a fire at a mosque last month.


Interviews with congregants and others among the approximately 100 people who were in the synagogue portrayed a chaotic yet short-lived incident in which people recognized quickly that a shooter was in their midst and took action. They covered one another and corralled children toward exits.


“I see a sight that—undescribable. Here is a young man standing with a rifle, pointing right at me,” the rabbi said. “He had sunglasses on. I couldn’t see his eyes. I couldn’t see his soul.”

More shots were fired, and the rabbi lifted his hands up. He lost the index finger on his right hand; doctors performed surgery Saturday to save the left index finger.

Rabbi Goldstein ran back into the banquet hall, hoping to get the children who were playing there to safety.


Almog Peretz, 34, was visiting from Israel and came to Chabad of Poway with his sister and her family on Saturday. About an hour into prayers, he said, he was taking one of his nieces to play outside. Suddenly, behind him, he heard something that sounded like a bomb.

Mr. Peretz turned around and saw the gunman, standing near the front door of the synagogue with his gun pointed in his direction. He was hit a moment later—the bullet passed through his lower leg. His 8-year-old niece, Noya, was also hit.

He grabbed Noya and a younger child, and ran out a back door. At least a dozen children were playing outside, and he yelled at them to run.

“I tell them, ‘Come this way!’” he said. He said he led the children down a hill to a house where the rabbi’s son lives. Both Mr. Peretz and Noya have been released from the hospital.


Meanwhile, both Mr. Stewart and a Border Patrol agent who is a member of the congregation were pursuing the shooter, Rabbi Goldstein said.

As the gunman got into his car, Mr. Stewart heard the agent shout for everyone to clear away. Mr. Stewart backed off, and the agent fired five shots at the car, hitting it four times.

The rabbi said he had previously asked the agent, Jonathan Morales, to bring his weapon to worship, in case they needed it. He also said he and some members of the synagogue had previously attended a conference held by the city of Poway about how to deal with active shooters, and that helped them evacuate quickly.
Brave people in a dreadful situation doing wonderful things for one another - and great reporting.

News from Babylon Bee

Amid criticism that Joe Biden is too white to win the Democratic nomination, the former vice president turned presidential candidate is insisting that he has one black friend.

Many in the Democratic Party aren't sure if Biden is "woke" enough. He's an old, establishment white man. He's not black. He's not even a minority. He's not gay, insisting on only whispering into the ears of cis females.

But Biden was able to produce some evidence that he knows at least one black man.

"He's a good friend of mine, Barry," he said. "We would sometimes hang out when he wasn't too busy. We're good pals. We had a lot of good times. Sometimes I would make a joke and he would laugh. Sometimes we'd bomb foreign countries together just for fun. We were a pair of inseparable hooligans, I tell you what."

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Meat-eaters also smelled bad to vegetarian Hindu visitors

From Small Wars, Faraway Places by Michael Burleigh. Page 307.
“The Americans underestimated the physical and cultural shock they would encounter in the sub-continent. During the Raj, the long sea voyage had given the British a gradual induction into the heat and the pervasive smell, with the shift to the exotic starting at Suez. Air travel meant travellers were hit in the face as they disembarked. Visiting US dignitaries blanched as they progressed through fetid slums from the airport to their sweltering quarters. The crush of people overwhelmed them, as did the ordure in the streets and the stray cows. Everywhere dusty heaps of rags stretched out begging bowls. Naked, wild-looking holy men went about with painted faces, and sepulchral Hindu temples, teeming with lascivious sculpted idols, were another shock to anyone disposed to moral outrage. The New York Times correspondent Cyrus Sulzberger wrote of a major place of worship in Old Delhi as being ‘hideously ugly’. Visiting academics spoke of ‘the dysentery circuit’. When John and Robert Kennedy visited in 1951 they both succumbed to ‘Delhi belly’, hiding curried chicken under lettuce leaves to avoid the perils of eating it.

The cultural gulf yawned even wider for the few Indians who visited the US, with the requirement of demonstrating an income of $12 per diem in order to obtain a visa proving a challenge even for junior diplomats. Although the Indian caste system, with light-skinned Brahmins and dark-skinned Untouchables, was self-evidently racist, Indian visitors purported to be outraged by white American attitudes to African-Americans. Meat-eaters also smelled bad to vegetarian Hindu visitors, despite the obsessive American concern with hygiene, while they loftily judged that cities filled with cars betokened an anomic absence of human solidarity that was no more evident in Brahmins outraged whenever an Untouchable Dalit crossed their cast shadow.

Editorial errors, social media mistakes, factual misrepresentations, and framing confusion

Kind of an interesting conundrum here. From The New York Times - As glaciers shrink, the melting is disrupting habitats for everything from bacteria to fish. by Henry Fountain. It is too easy to ignore suspiciously framed information, become exasperated or get shirty without understanding what your mental calculations are. The confusion and errors in this piece are an intriguing case study in epistemic communication.

On Twitter the NYT framing is within the context of climate in general and global warming in particular.

However, when you dig into the details, almost nothing is as it appears. The editors have gotten all tangled up in their facts, in the graphical presentation, and in the wording, causing the reader to work hard to distinguish what they are intending to communicate.

For example, looking at the Twitter framing, you have an immediate cognitive reflex away from the piece because of what appears to be blatant misstatement of facts. North America has a population of only 580 million people. So no, billions of people are not affected. If the NYT is going to be that casual with obvious facts, why read?

As it turns out, that issue is simply a matter of bad editing. The NYT issued a correction indicating that while the tweet referred to glaciers in North America, the billions referred to the impact of glaciers worldwide.

That takes you into the wording of the tweet. The NYT editors have compounded bad factual reporting with bad English. What is the subject and object of this sentence?
Along with losing water that billions of people drink, the crops they grow and the energy they need, the great melting of North America's glaciers will affect ecosystems and the creatures within them, like the salmon that spawn in meltwater streams.
It is pretty clear that "The melting of North America's glaciers" is the subject but what about the object? Certainly salmon and spawn are the object. "The great melting of North America's glaciers will affect ecosystems and the creatures within them, like the salmon that spawn in meltwater streams" is a reasonably coherent sentence.

But what are we to make of "Along with losing water that billions of people drink, the crops they grow and the energy they need"? That doesn't fit anywhere. I think a fair reading might be:
The great melting of North America's glaciers will affect ecosystems and the creatures within them, like the salmon that spawn in meltwater streams. The glacial melting will also cause a loss of drinking water, crops, and energy which people depend on.
Assuming that the reader gets through that tossed salad of words, we now have some claims to assess.

Do melting glaciers cause a loss in energy production? Presumably that must mean hydroelectric production. But there is no direct connection between glaciers and hydroelectric production. Hydro is affected by seasonal snowmelt but not by glacier retreat per se. It appears that somehow the editors are confusing cold glaciers with cold snowmelt. No, retreating glaciers do not affect energy production. When you go to the article and do a word search on "energy", there is absolutely no claim in the article about glaciers and energy production. All there is this statement about the ecosystem:
J. Ryan Bellmore, a biologist with the United States Forest Service in Juneau, studies freshwater food webs, the complex what-eats-what relationships that show, in effect, how energy moves through an ecosystem.
No - glacial retreat does not directly affect energy production. The editors appear to have again become confused between two different issues: hydroelectric energy production and biological energy production within ecosystems.

Drinking water? I am unaware of any major water system anywhere in the world which relies on glacial melt for their water supply. I could be wrong. Googling "does anyone rely on glacial melt for water supply" returns no science papers and indeed not much of anything before 2010. This is a recent talking point with little science behind it.

This report, 200 Million Depend on Melting Glaciers for Water, seems a fairly representative example of the sloppy logic and casual evidence for an argument that retreating glaciers threaten the world's drinking water supplies. 200 million? 3% of the world's population but it is not nothing.

When you dig into the details though, there is no calculation of that 200 million. They are using loose proxies of people in the Andes and the Himalayas, and people who use rivers fed by snowmelt. The increment of glacial melt on broader snowmelt is minuscule. If indeed, the climate is warming (regardless of reason) and there is lower snowmelt, that is a serious problem. The glacial component is not material in the human scale time frame.

It is not pedantic to make the distinction. If the NYT were making the argument that we are experiencing lower snow falls and therefore have lower snow melt and that causes a problem, then we need slightly different information to resolve that argument. But that is not what they are claiming. It would be nice for them to be consistent across their argument as to what they mean.

The claim about lost crops? Same thing. They are eliding glacial melt and annual snow melt into an issue of potential loss of riverine flow and therefore irrigation and therefore crop loss. Again, snow melt and glacial melt are not synonymous. We have to either remake their argument for them or hold them consistent to their words and if we hold them consistent, then the loss of crops due to glacial retreat is close to baseless.

And that is just the confusion in the tweet.

There is also a framing issue. This particular article is in the Climate section of the NYT and therefore it is easy to leap to the conclusion that it is an argument that AGW is causing glaciers to shrink - a highly debated proposition within the scientific community. Part of the challenge for that argument is that glaciers have been shrinking since the beginning of the Holocene some 10,000 years ago.

Glaciers ebb and flow with the geological epochs and for other reasons having nothing to do with AGW.

The glaciers are only relevant to the AGW debate to the extent that glaciers might be retreating at an accelerating rate above what might be expected. But even there, the argument is messy. Within-epoch events are influenced by a range of things such as El Niño cycles, the solar cycle, etc. So while on average, within the past ten thousand years, glaciers have been shrinking, within those ten thousand years there are periods when they expand rapidly, shrink rapidly, and everything in between.

At a given moment in time, or even within a decade or century, glacier activity tells you very little about the underlying argument - whether the level of Co2 in the atmosphere is accelerating global warming above that which might be expected given the cyclicality of global temperature within the Holocene.

Anybody who advances the simplistic argument that shrinking glaciers are evidence for global warming is either ignorant or a charlatan.

But is that what the NYT is doing? This article is one of their experiments in trying to present news in a novel fashion. In this instance there is traditional text which you scroll through and as you scroll the background wallpaper of the screen shifts to related aesthetic photographs.

When you read the article, there is nothing about global warming in the article except the word in a subheading:
This glacier on Mount Rainier is far shorter than it was a century ago. It is one of thousands in North America that are losing ice as the world warms.
It is not even clear that this is intended as a subheading in the article. Given that it is a mixed media format, those words might be intended as notes to the underlying photographs.

This was the surprising thing to me. Given the climate framing, the article is not about global warming or climate change at all. It is a reporting from a number of research teams on the habitats and ecosystems associated with glaciers and how the retreat of those glaciers change those ecosystems and habitats.

I am interested in those topics and enjoyed the article. It is high level, almost superficial but I see no glaring errors or unsupported arguments. Micro-climates and niche ecosystems can be very interesting.

So what has happened here? How did an innocuous environmental article get framed within the AGW climate change argument?

My suspicion is that this an instance which happens with some frequency where the reporting staff and editorial staff are not communicating with one another. Headline writers (and associated social media editors) don't understand what is actually being reported and end up misrepresenting it in the headline.

This traditional problem is then compounded by the editors inaccurately shoe horning an ecosystem article into the tropes of AGW debate. And then further compounded by bad headline writing where not only do the editors fail to reflect the underlying article but they also get tangled up in simple Subject Object confusion. And the last compounding occurs when, experimentally, they try and meld this dog's breakfast or errors into an innovative social media formatting.

Editorial errors, social media mistakes, factual misrepresentations, and framing confusion - the NYT is making a lot of hard work for their readers and doing their professional reputation no favors along the way.

Hmm. I’d probably just try not to think about that.

From The Data All Guilt-Ridden Parents Need by Emily Oster.

An interesting enough article and discussion about information and evidence as it pertains to some key family and child rearing questions. Oster is an economist and a good writer.
When my daughter, Penelope, was an infant, she was typically inconsolable between 5 and 8 p.m. I’d walk her up and down the hall, sometimes just crying (me crying, that is — obviously she was crying). I once did this in a hotel — up and down, up and down, Penelope screaming at the top of her lungs. I hope no one else was staying there. I tried everything — bouncing her more, bouncing her less, bouncing with swinging, bouncing with nursing (difficult). Nothing worked; she would eventually just exhaust herself.

I wondered whether this was normal. I’m an economist, someone who works with data. I wrote a book on using data to make better choices during pregnancy; it was natural for me to turn to the data again once the baby arrived.

And here, faced with crying, I found that the data was helpful. We often say babies are “colicky,” but researchers have an actual definition of colic (three hours of crying, more than three days a week, for more than three weeks) and some estimates of what share of babies fit this description (about 2 percent). But the same data can also tell us that many babies cry just a bit less than that, and almost 20 percent of parents report their baby “cries a lot.” So I was not alone. The data also told me the crying would get better, which it eventually did.

But I also found, more so than in pregnancy, that there are limits to the utility of general information. Parenting is full of decisions, nearly all of which can be agonized over. You can and should learn about the risks and benefits of your parenting choices, but in the end you have to also think about your family preferences — about what works for you.
She goes through a breast-feeding example. Is it good for the child? Sure, it has to be. Its natural isn't it? Well . . . That's where the devil is in the epistemic details. We no longer live on the plains of Africa. The fact that it is "natural" has less relevance given the actual environment in which we live.

The best point of the article is that even on topics which affect most people in reasonably consequential ways, we have little reliable and unassailable information with which to make informed decisions.
Let’s return from the land of magical breast milk to reality. Even in the most optimistic view about breast-feeding, the impact on I.Q. is small. Breast-feeding isn’t going to increase your child’s I.Q. by 20 points. How do we know? Because if it did, it would be really obvious in the data and in everyday life.

The question, really, is whether breast-feeding gives children some small leg up in intelligence. If you believe studies that just compare kids who are breast-fed to those who are not, you’ll find that it does. There is a clear correlation here — breast-fed kids do seem to have higher I.Q.s.

But again, this isn’t the same as saying that breast-feeding causes the higher I.Q. One study of Scandinavian 5-year-olds found that children who nursed longer had cognitive scores that were nearly 8 points higher on average. But their mothers were also richer, had more education and had higher I.Q. scores. Once the authors adjusted for even a few of these variables, the effects were much smaller.

In fact, the most compelling studies on this compare siblings, one of whom was breast-fed and the other not; these find no significant differences in I.Q. This same type of sibling study has also looked at obesity and, again, found little to no impact.
With complex, dynamic, evolving human systems (which definitely fits family formation and child rearing), useful information is hard to obtain, is often highly context specific, and often based on weaker than desired studies. We need to make decisions based on the available information but often the available information is of limited reliability and/or utility. That's when we fall back on folkways and heuristics. They may be crude but they frequently have utility.

Oster finishes with an example of pragmatism that breaks the ideal of fact-based decision-making.
I’m not trying to give advice. I’m just arguing that in many cases the data can be helpful. But if the data falls short and you still want advice, let me pass along something our pediatrician once told me. It was our 2-year-old’s checkup, and I had my usual list of neuroses.

“We are going on this vacation, and there are bees,” I said. “It’s kind of isolated. What if Penelope is stung? She’s never been stung before. What if she’s allergic? How will I get her to a doctor in time? Should I bring something to be prepared for this? Should we test her in advance? Do I need an EpiPen?”

In other words, I had built up this elaborate and incredibly unlikely scenario in my head. I needed someone to remind me that yes, this could happen. But so could a million other things. Parenting is not actually about planning for every possible disaster.

The doctor paused. And then she said, very calmly:

“Hmm. I’d probably just try not to think about that.”

Girl with Jewels (also known as The Blue Beads) by Richard Edward Miller

Girl with Jewels (also known as The Blue Beads) by Richard Edward Miller

Click to enlarge.

The Day Collusion Died, Parody of American Pie by Don Caron

Found via the new neo. The Day Collusion Died, Parody of American Pie by Don Caron.

Double click to enlarge.

Linguistically very clever.

The Day Collusion Died
by Don Caron

Two long years ago
the probe began and many thought
that someday it would make them smile.
And those who said it had no chance
were scowled upon and seen askance
so desperate was the hope to see a trial.

But February made them shiver
as it came clear he’d not deliver.
The news that they desired
was not to be acquired.

I know that many people cried
when they read the news, it hurt their pride,
so deeply in the pipe dream mired
the day collusion died.

So bye, bye to the collusion lie,
Russian Agents, Putin’s Puppet and a plot to deny.
From each new event how the conjecture would fly.
Can they let it go and just let it die?
Let it go and just let it die.

We all know that he’s corrupt
and his list of crimes is building up
so I’ll just list them down below.
While emoluments could’ve kicked the goal
collusion was their chosen roll
investigating all of it real slow.

Well, the Media then lost their mind
as they blundered backward fully blind.
Collusion became news,
evidence not vital for clues.

The other news stories all were then chucked
while collusion filled every news truck
But I knew they ran out of luck
the day collusion died.

But they kept singing
Bye, bye he’s a Russian ally
Putin Puppet, Russian agent and a treasonous spy
and every day, more wacky theories would fly.
Time to let it go and just let it to die.
Let it go and just let it die.

Now when Mueller issued his report
the media could not contort it
to save face though they did try.
They lost all credibility.
Embarrassed is what they should be,
and the damage done they cannot deny.

They gave victory to the president,
validation as if heaven sent.
The courtroom was adjourned,
no verdict was returned.
And now when he screams about fake news
he’ll be correct thanks to their ruse.
The “Witch Hunt” he’ll rightfully accuse
the day collusion died.

‘cause they were singing
Bye, bye he’s a Russian ally
Putin Puppet, Russian agent and a treasonous spy
And every day, more crazy theories would fly
time to let it go and just let it to die.
let it go and just let it die.

I met a girl who sang the blues.
She she asked me for some happy news.
I offered but she just turned away.
Those who followed actual facts
instead of “liberal media” hacks
would know that Mueller knew the only way.

He farmed out criminal indictments
to seven districts, there’s excitement,
all of them pardon-proof,
not like the collusion spoof.
So carefully he did anoint
a prosecution starting point
the outcome couldn’t disappoint
the day collusion died.

Yet they’re still singing
Bye, bye he’s a Russian ally
Putin Puppet, Russian agent and a treasonous spy.
The Russian hysteria was misplaced outcry.
Time to let it go and just let it die.
Let it go and just let it die.

So, bye, bye to the collusion lie,
Collusion obsession-gave the press a black eye.
And if they persist the damage will amplify
Time to let it go and just let it die.

On the Grasshopper and Cricket by John Keats

On the Grasshopper and Cricket
by John Keats

The Poetry of earth is never dead:
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
And hide in cooling trees, a vice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;
That is the Grasshopper's - he takes the lead
In summer luxury, - he has never done
With his delights; for when tired out with fun
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.
The poetry of earth is ceasing never:
On a lone winter evening, when the frost
Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills
The Cricket's song, in warmth increasing ever,
And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,
The Grasshopper's among some grassy hills.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Milton by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

O mighty-mouth'd inventor of harmonies,
O skill'd to sing of Time or Eternity,
God-gifted organ-voice of England,
Milton, a name to resound for ages;
Whose Titan angels, Gabriel, Abdiel,
Starr'd from Jehovah's gorgeous armouries,
Tower, as the deep-domed empyrean
Rings to the roar of an angel onset-
Me rather all that bowery loneliness,
The brooks of Eden mazily murmuring,
And bloom profuse and cedar arches
Charm, as a wanderer out in ocean,
Where some refulgent sunset of India
Streams o'er a rich ambrosial ocean isle,
And crimson-hued the stately palm-woods
Whisper in odorous heights of even.

Exhibit 3 - The Great Revealing

They are getting so close to understanding but their prior assumptions are still clouding their understanding. From Women Did Everything Right. Then Work Got ‘Greedy.’ by Claire Cain Miller. Miller actually is a pretty good writer on this topic. She keeps inching to a better understanding but doesn't quite get there.

In old feminist circles, it has long been an article of faith that
Women are precluded from educational achievement.

Good old boy networks keep women out of top levels of achievement.

Women do not earn the same amount of income for the same amount of work.

This income inequality is a consequence of primarily unconscious bias and discrimination.

The Europeans do a markedly better job of helping women achieve their full potential.

Women are precluded from STEM fields because of cultures of toxic masculinity.
Seven years ago Anne-Marie Slaughter wrote Why Women Still Can't Have It All decrying why she as Ivy League professor, with a fully supportive husband, fully supportive employer (Princeton) and a dream opportunity creating foreign policy in Washington, D.C. and working for a woman, still couldn't make it all work due to her having children.
Eighteen months into my job as the first woman director of policy planning at the State Department, a foreign-policy dream job that traces its origins back to George Kennan, I found myself in New York, at the United Nations’ annual assemblage of every foreign minister and head of state in the world. On a Wednesday evening, President and Mrs. Obama hosted a glamorous reception at the American Museum of Natural History. I sipped champagne, greeted foreign dignitaries, and mingled. But I could not stop thinking about my 14-year-old son, who had started eighth grade three weeks earlier and was already resuming what had become his pattern of skipping homework, disrupting classes, failing math, and tuning out any adult who tried to reach him. Over the summer, we had barely spoken to each other—or, more accurately, he had barely spoken to me. And the previous spring I had received several urgent phone calls—invariably on the day of an important meeting—that required me to take the first train from Washington, D.C., where I worked, back to Princeton, New Jersey, where he lived. My husband, who has always done everything possible to support my career, took care of him and his 12-year-old brother during the week; outside of those midweek emergencies, I came home only on weekends.
Most of the old hypothesized issues from feminist theory were alluded to in the article but Slaughter was beginning to see that the theory and reality were not aligned.

We now know all these old feminist theory premises to be false.
Women have been better and more educated than men as measured by HS completion and college completion since 1900 (HS degrees) and since circa 1970 (college degrees).

There are beneficial affiliative networks that are both intra and intersex. Good Old Boys, Good Old Gals, Mixed Networks.
They can be net beneficial, they can be net negative, it all depends on the circumstance. There is no secret cabal.

Women earn the same amount of money for the same work.

Europeans do a much worse job at opening up work opportunities for women with far fewer women in the upper echelons of achievement in any field in Europe.

Women are systemically encouraged, recruited, and passed for employment over men in STEM.
Miller's article actually accepts most this evidence. Still, she can't quite shake herself free from the comforting old assumptions.
There are many causes of the gap, like discrimination and a lack of family-friendly policies.
But as she progresses through the article, she constantly introduces and accepts evidence which shows that the gap has nothing to do with discrimination or the absence of family friendly policies.
There’s no gender gap in the financial rewards for working extra long hours. For the most part, women who work extreme hours get paid as much as men who do.


In European countries, with more family-friendly policies, women are likelier to work than they are in the United States — but they’re even less likely to reach senior levels.
And by a fair amount it is worth noting. In the US, in virtually every field of endeavor, women are 15-30% of the top performers in the field. Law partners, judges, accounting partners, doctors, literary prize winners, etc. In Europe, more women work, but they rarely appear among the top performers in any field. In a few fields they might be as many as 5-10% of performers, but that's it. More American women climb higher in far more fields than their European sisters.

Miller does quote Claudia Goldin a fair amount, a rigorous researcher in this area.

I have been writing on this issue for a number of years (here, here, and here.)

What Miller, and Slaughter, and Goldin fail to do is free themselves from the old assumptions, accept the evidence and reframe the issue. The do not focus on risk, risk mitigation, uncertainty, and most especially, PRODUCTIVITY. What researchers have been finding is that sustained and reliable productivity is what garners the greatest compensation.

Miller, and Slaughter, and Goldin instinctively frame this as a male versus female issue whereas the data says that men and women are being treated equally and are earning the same money for the same work. The differentials occur because of different life choices.

I prefer to reframe the issues as that of familial structure. The competition is between different family structures, not between men and women. There is a clear hierarchy of economic productivity as measured in terms of income between different familial structures. I explore these issues of family structure competition here and here and here.

I think the hierarchy is something like this (I will use the traditional sex roles to simplify the language but it does not matter which sex plays which role. It is the structure not the sex.):
Golden Model - Husband works full-time and is fully-committed to work and is married to a wife who is an occasional and part-time worker with full-time focus on raising children and managing the home.

Modified Golden Model - Husband works full-time and is fully-committed to work and is married to a wife who focuses solely on raising children and managing the home.

Single Elite - Either sex, works full-time and is fully-committed to work with no family commitments whatsoever.

Modern Model - Husband and wife both try and maintain full-time work commitment while trying to simultaneously raise a family.

Single Parent Functional Model - Parent works full-time but not fully committed. Maintains schedule structure to support child(ren).

Single Parent Dysfunctional model - Parent does not work but focuses on raising children.
What Miller, Slaughter and Goldin are lamenting is that Golden Model on average is more productive than the Modern Model to which they are committed. They want all the benefits which come with the productivity of the Golden Model without any of the downsides.

Wanting something for nothing is no sin but is also not a compelling moral case.

The analogy might to a differentiated and undifferentiated business partnerships. In the differentiated business partnership, both partners make the same commitment to the partnership but each makes their contribution on their differentiated capabilities. One focuses on selling work and one focuses on delivering that work profitably. They make more profit (they are more productive) than the undifferentiated partnership because they are leveraging their respective specializations.

In the undifferentiated partnership, both partners make the same commitment to the partnership and both do the same work equally divided. But because they do not specialize their labor, their model is less efficient and therefore less productive.

Miller, and Slaughter, and Goldin want the productivity of the specialized model but are only willing to commit to the activities and work of the unspecialized (and therefore lower productivity) model.

Claudia Goldin a number of years ago began advocating for a change in business structure and focus in order to reduce the premium arising from dedicated, flexible and high volume work.
The most effective way to do that, Ms. Goldin’s research has found, is for employers to give workers more predictable hours and flexibility on where and when work gets done. One way that happens is when it becomes easier for workers to substitute for one another.

Conventional wisdom, especially in the greedy occupations, is that this is impossible — certain people are too valuable and need to be available to clients anytime. But some professions have successfully challenged that notion.
It is regrettable that Miller introduces the putative moral condemnation inherent in "greedy occupations." 1) It basically turns this into a Marxist critique which is not especially productive, and 2) It is an unworthily clumsy attempt to tilt the scales based on emotion rather than reason.

More to the point, Goldin's recommendation is self-defeating. When you make workers fungible you both make it more likely that they will be replaced with automation and you also reduce income. Fungible labor pools are larger labor pools. Larger supply for fixed demand drives down costs (wages.) Goldin's recommendation is an example of the sociology getting ahead of the economics.
“It may mean rearranging jobs, but you’d think there’d be a lot of money in it,” said Nicholas Bloom, an economist at Stanford who studies companies’ management practices. “Firms have enormous incentive to really design jobs so they can access these highly educated people who want to work 40 hours a week and not 80.”
And there you have ideological desire outstripping observed reality. It is also an example of revealed preference.

You ask anyone working 80 hours a week and almost uniformly the answer will be "Yes, I want to work only 40 hours and have a life with my family." But the statement is incomplete. What they are really saying is "Yes, I want to work only 40 hours and have a life with my family AND I want to still earn as much as I do working 80 hours." No one is forcing them to work the long hours, especially in a hot market. They are working those hours because it yields an outcome they want to achieve given a range of complex trade-offs for themselves as individuals as well as for the family unit.

Indeed, one of the subjects of the article says as much.
“I think I’d be happier in life if I was home more with my children and if I didn’t have the same stress at work,” he said, “but I think this was the best decision for our family.”
Miller ends her article with a First World Problem.
Ms. Jampel feels angry that the time she spends caregiving isn’t valued the way paid work is. “No one explains this to you when you’re 21, but in retrospect, it was not a smart decision” to go into debt for law school, she said.

She said she feels lucky that she’s found substantive, interesting part-time work. He feels lucky that he found a firm that doesn’t require him to do all his hours at the office. But if they could rewrite their lives? They wish they could have had better options.
They wish they could have had better options. They wish they could make a lot more money with a lot less effort. But don't we all?

What they appear to have done is make a range of choices given the circumstances they face and given the limits they have. And it appears that they have made a reasonable set of choices for themselves.

Miller is basically acknowledging that the traditional feminist diagnosis is incorrect. This is not about bias or prejudice or discrimination. This is about people making informed choices regarding the various balances of risk, uncertainty, and obligations and anticipated outcomes.

The irony here is that, based on the best information, the best solution, on average, for most people, given their typical choices, is the very Ozzy and Harriet nuclear family of the 1950s with fully committed dad in the workplace and mom raising the children with part-time work on the side. The Golden model. It increases the upside productivity potential, mitigates the downside risks, and establishes a harmonious blend of fulfilling multiple, sometimes conflicting, goals.

One of the problems with these kind of articles, at least to me, is that they come off as classist, entitled, arrogant, and frankly kind of appallingly privileged. This was especially the case with Slaughter's Atlantic article. Not only do the subjects have more income, more wealth, and more security than 95% of other Americans, but they have more choices. Their complaints come across as special pleading by the most privileged for better treatment by all the rest of the 95% who bear so much greater a burden.

It comes across as unseemly privilege.

One last thing. Miller tries to frame her criticism as a critique of the winner-take-all sweepstakes. The problem is that virtually all sectors are winner-take-all in nature. Rather than trying to understand what is causing the problem, Miller leans on the pejorative "greedy professions" slander.

Miller and Goldin are hypothesizing that with the right business strategy and the right national policies, we can circumvent the winner-take-all phenomenon. They hope then, Modern Model women will reap the rewards of the women in the Golden Model.

I agree that winner-take-all is a harsh dynamic. It is also clear that as business sectors were freed from war-time control (WWII), a process which continued into the 1970s, then deregulated, then globalized, the natural consequence was an increase in productivity and an increase in inequality.

But is that the entire reason for the increasing dominance of the winner-take-all phenomenon? I don't think so.

I suspect that a further, and perhaps primary, driver is the steepening of the innovation S-curve post-WWII.

Click to enlarge.

As you can see, innovation S-curves used to be perhaps 45-years. They are now down to 10-15 years.

Competition at the top of the S-curve is brutal, being in a commodity market.

Risk and uncertainty are painful at the bottom of the S-curve when it is unclear whether there is in fact a market for the innovation.

The great money to be made is in that middle area where the product has hit the market and been accepted and there are not yet competitors. If that period lasts for thirty-five years, there is reasonable opportunity to spread the wealth around among all the participants. If the window of opportunity is steeper, five or ten years, then the early innovators have to carpe diem and hoard the excess productivity of that middle period.

People have to decide fast, act fast, and implement fast. There is no time for job-sharing, limiting hours etc. Miller and Goldin are chasing a chimera. The big money is in fast action based on good decision-making and admits to no interference, distraction or anything short of total focus. Hoping that there is a possibility of redesigning the middle most productive period into an easy-going, limited hours employment environment is like hoping for a snow cone in the desert. It simply isn't there.

Political science theorists whose well-meaning suggestions prioritized the optimum over the workable

From Small Wars, Faraway Places by Michael Burleigh. Page 306.
There was nothing akin to the Congress party in Pakistan and unlike India, which broadly made do with the governing structure it had inherited from the Raj, the tribalist political factions in Pakistan could not even agree how the country should be governed. It took almost a decade to devise a constitution, perhaps because they sought the advice of American political science theorists from the Dearborn Foundation, whose well-meaning suggestions prioritized the optimum over the workable. Although Pakistan was technically a democracy, elections were rare and political legitimacy elusive. Its corrupt civilian politicians were despised by an efficient army, whose rituals and uniforms would not have seemed alien in Surrey or Wiltshire. The fundamental problem was that Pakistan came into existence as an Islamic state and the vast majority of the people were conservative and religious – yet the Western-educated feudal elite was secular, as it remains today.

Exhibit 2 of The Great Revealing

From the initiating post, The Great Reveal.
I am mulling the idea that we are now in a time of The Great Reveal - a period when, nationally and internationally, what was thought to be known is turned on its head. A realigning of expectations.
From Has the Recession Been Cancelled? by James Freeman.

For context, here is an article from early (May 19, 2017) in Trump's presidency expressing a widely held sentiment amongst the Mandarin Class. If Trump thinks he can get more than 3% economic growth, he's dreaming by Michael Hiltzik.
With the political world deeply focused on the question of whether the Trump administration comprises a gang of Russian pawns, less attention has been devoted to more mundane questions, such as what ever happened to Trump's economic policy?

As it happens, economists are keeping their eye on that ball, and their conclusion is that it's in a bad way. More specifically, they recognize that Trump's policy is aimed heavily at achieving annual economic growth of more than 3%.

During the presidential campaign, Trump promised growth of 3.5% a year, and sometimes even 4%. There's no disagreement that a sustained growth rate of this magnitude would be a significant achievement. Over the past decade, the economy has grown at an average of about 2% a year. The Congressional Budget Office forecasts an annual average of about 1.9% well into the next decade.

The U.S. hasn't had sustained real annual growth (that is, over inflation) of better than 3% since the 1990s, with a brief spurt in 2004 and 2005. Making up the difference from 2% to more than 3% looks like a pipe dream.

This sentiment crosses ideological lines. It's shared by Jason Furman, formerly the chief economist for the Obama White House ("it would require everything to go right … in ways that are either historically unparalleled or toward the upper end of the historical range") and Edward Lazear, who served the same role for George W. Bush ("pray for luck," he advises).

Then there are the nonpolitical observers, such as bond guru Bill Gross, who says: "High rates of growth, and the productivity that drives it, are likely distant memories from a bygone era." And academic economists such as Northwestern's Robert J. Gordon, who states bluntly in his pessimistic book "The Rise and Fall of American Growth" that U.S. GDP's best years are behind it.
Obviously, with this week's announcement of Q1 2019 growth of 3.2%, that did not age well. But Hiltzick is just a Pulitzer winning journalist for the LA Times. He's not an expert in economics. What about an Economics Nobel Prize winner? From Paul Krugman on election night, his whole world view upended.
It really does now look like President Donald J. Trump, and markets are plunging. When might we expect them to recover?

Frankly, I find it hard to care much, even though this is my specialty. The disaster for America and the world has so many aspects that the economic ramifications are way down my list of things to fear.

Still, I guess people want an answer: If the question is when markets will recover, a first-pass answer is never.

Under any circumstances, putting an irresponsible, ignorant man who takes his advice from all the wrong people in charge of the nation with the world’s most important economy would be very bad news. What makes it especially bad right now, however, is the fundamentally fragile state much of the world is still in, eight years after the great financial crisis.
It is worth remembering that Krugman and his ilk were at the center of government decision-making and influence in Europe and the US over the entire period leading up to and responding to the Great Recession of 2007. Those experts were the architects of a twenty or thirty year period when when everyone below the top quintile took in the neck in terms of job losses, low return on savings, higher uncertainty, more meager job prospects, static salary increases, etc.

Our Mandarin Class experts, the self-regarding best and brightest, were wrong about the economy and wrong about the markets. Why should we listen to them at all if they are so dramatically wrong?

To be fair, I have a softly skeptical view of the 3.2% number. It is preliminary. In a few months it will be refined but it might as easily move north as south. I am deeply concerned about the underlying national debt the deficit spending. On the other hand, during 2008-16 we had a lot of deficit spending, nearly comparable at the beginning but we had no economic recovery. We accrued the debt and saved no jobs and drove no growth.

If, because no one else cares about deficits, I can only choose between deficits with growth and deficits without growth, then I'll happily take deficits with growth.

I suspect Trump sees something protean which the Mandarin Class economists in all their educational refinement fail to grasp. GDP is a crude measure of national productivity and everything depends on productivity. No productivity growth, no good things (see 2008-2016). GDP is a crude gauge but the underlying system is so complex that there is no room for trifling refinement.

The Mandarin Class are always trying to fine tune the economic engine so that we have enough growth but not too much. They try and achieve healthy growth while reducing inequality. They try and get growth without that growth having disparate impact on anyone. They impose regulations to achieve that refinement. They trade-out American economic well-being for deals on climate change or Iran.

They fail to comprehend that at best the economy might be steered at the margins, it cannot be controlled and managed. You have to do all the hard things to fuel growth and then deal with the consequences rather than routinely starving the goose which lays the golden eggs. Starving through taxes and regulations and bad trade-offs.

The Great Reveal - Mandarin Class economists are often dreadfully, maybe even disproportionately, wrong in their forecasts and they overestimate their capacity to manage the economy. They are shocked when a crude businessman pursues Adam Smith's policies (low taxes, reduced regulation, good law and peace) and then sits back and watches the economy roar.

The last paragraph is magnificent

Just finished The House Sitter by Peter Lovesey. An English murder mystery, selected almost at random. Once I began reading, I realized I had read another of his books somewhat later in the series. The first book I read was alright, but this one I quite enjoyed. The last paragraph is magnificent.

Woman before a Mirror, 1918 by Louis Ritman

Woman before a Mirror, 1918 by Louis Ritman

Click to enlarge.

For three days detained, in a very uncomfortable inn, ill accommodated and worse provided, myself and my son, without society and without books

A fascinating account John Adams provided to the Boston Patriot, printed 17 February 1812, covering his activities from November 1783 to January 1784 in Britain and Holland. Interesting for the travel log, interesting as an insight to the man, and interesting regard the mechanics of supporting the American Revolution, not in the fields of battle or the halls of diplomacy but in the corridors of finance.
“To the Printers of the Boston Patriot

I was not long at the Adelphi, but soon removed to private lodgings, which by the way were ten times more public, and took apartments at Mr. Stokdale's, in Piccadilly [29 Oct.], where Mr. Laurens had lately lodged before me.— Here I had a great opportunity of learning, for Dr. Bret [typographical error for John Debrett, London bookseller] was at the next door, the state of the current literature of London. I will not enlarge upon this subject at present, if ever...

Curiosity prompted me to trot about London as fast as good horses in a decent carriage could carry me. I was introduced by Mr. Hartley, on a merely ceremonious visit [15 Nov.], to the Duke of Portland, Mr. Burke, and Mr. Fox; but finding nothing but ceremony there, I did not ask favours or receive any thing but cold formalities from ministers of state or ambassadors. I found that our American painters had more influence at court to procure all the favors I wanted, than all of them. Mr. West asked of their majesties permission to shew me and Mr. Jay, the originals of the great productions of his pencil, such as Wolf, Bayard, Epaminondas, Regulus, &c. &c. &c. which were all displayed in the Queen's Palace, called Buckingham House. The gracious answer of the king and queen was, that he might shew us ‘the whole house.' Accordingly, in the absence of the royal family at Windsor, we had an opportunity at leisure [8 Nov.], to see all the apartments, even to the queen's bedchamber, with all its furniture, even to her majesty's German bible, which attracted my attention as much as any thing else. The king's library struck me with admiration; I wished for a weeks time, but had but a few hours. The books were in perfect order, elegant in their editions, paper, binding, &c. but gaudy and extrava[ga]nt in nothing. They were chosen with perfect taste and judgment; every book that a king ought to have always at hand, and as far as I could examine, and could be supposed capable of judging, none other. Maps, charts, &c. of all his dominions in the four quarters of the world, and models of every fortress in his empire.

Artist Benjamin West who arranged for John Adams to tour Buckignham Palace

In every apartment of the whole house, the same taste, the same judgment, the same elegance, the same simplicity, without the smallest affectation, ostentation, profusion or meanness. I could not but compare it, in my own mind, with Versailles, and not at all to the advantage of the latter. I could not help comparing it with many of the gentlemen's seats which I had seen in France, England, and even Holland. The interior of this palace was perfect; the exterior, both in extent, cost and appearance, was far inferior not only to Versailles, and the seats of the princes in France, but to the country houses of many of the nobility and gentry of Great Britain. The truth is, a minister can at any time obtain from parliament an hundred millions to support any war, just or unjust, in which he chooses to involve the nation, much more easily than he can procure one million for the decent accommodation of the court. We gazed at the great original paintings of our immortal countryman, West, with more delight than on the very celebrated pieces of Vandyke and Reubens; and with admiration not less than that inspired by the cartoons of Raphaeel.

Mr. Copely, another of my countrymen, with whom I had been much longer acquainted, and who had obtained without so much royal protection, a reputation not less glorious; and that by studies and labours not less masterly in his art, procured me, and that from the great Lord Mansfield, a place in the house of lords, to hear the king's speech at the opening of parliament [11 Nov.], and to witness the introduction of the Prince of Wales, then arrived at the age of twenty one. One circumstance, a striking example of the vicissitudes of life, and the whimsical antithesis of politics, is too precious for its moral, to be forgotten. Standing in the lobby of the house of lords, surrounded by a hundred of the first people of the kingdom, Sir Francis Molineux, the gentlemen usher of the black rod, appeared suddenly in the room with his long staff, and roared out with a very loud voice—'Where is Mr. Adams, Lord Mansfield's friend!' I frankly avowed myself Lord Mansfield's friend, and was politely conducted by Sir Francis to my place. A gentleman said to me the next day, ‘how short a time has passed, since I heard that same Lord Mansfield say in that same house of lords, “My Lords, if you do not kill him, he will kill you.”' Mr. West said to me, that this was one of the finest finishings in the picture of American Independence.

John Singelton Copley

Pope had given me, when a boy, an affection for Murray. When in the study and practice of the law, my admiration of the learning, talents and eloquence of Mansfield had been constantly increasing, though some of his opinions I could not approve. His politics in American affairs I had always detested. — But now I found more politeness and good humor in him than in Richmond, Cambden, Burke or Fox.

If my business had been travels I might write a book. But I must be as brief as possible.

I visited Sir Ashton Lever's museum [4 Nov.], where was a wonderful collection of natural and artificial curiosities from all parts and quarters of the globe. Here I saw again that collection of American birds, insects and other rarities, which I had so often seen before at Norwalk, in Connecticut, collected and preserved by Mr. Arnold, and sold by him to Governor Tryon for Sir Ashton. See JA to Waterhouse, 7 Aug. 1805 (MHi: Adams-Waterhouse Coll.; Ford, ed., Statesman and Friend , p. 22–29). Here also I saw Sir Ashton and some other knights, his friends, practising the ancient but as I thought long forgotten art of archery. In his garden, with their bows and arrows, they hit as small a mark and at as great a distance as any of our sharpshooters could have done with their rifles.

I visited also Mr. Wedgwood's manufactory, and was not less delighted with the elegance of his substitute for porcelain, than with his rich collection of utensils and furniture from the ruins of Herculaneum, bearing incontestible evidence in their forms and figures of the taste of the Greeks, a nation that seems to have existed for the purpose of teaching the arts and furnishing models to all mankind of grace and beauty, in the mechanic arts no less than in statuary, architecture, history, oratory and poetry.

Josiah Wedgwood

The manufactory of cut glass, to which some gentlemen introduced me, did as much honor to the English as the mirrors, the seve China, or the gobeline tapestry of France. It seemed to be the art of transmitting glass into diamonds.

Westminster Abbey, St. Pauls, the Exchange and other public buildings, did not escape my attention. I made an excursion to Richmond Hill [29 Nov.] to visit Gov. Pownal and Mr. Penn, but had not time to visit Twickenham. The grotto and the quin cunce [quincunx], the rendezvous of Swift, Bolinbroke, Arbuthnot, Gay, Prior, and even the surly Johnson and the haughty Warburton, will never be seen by me, though I ardently desired it.

I went to Windsor and saw the castle and its apartments, and enjoyed its vast prospect. I was anxiously shewn the boasted chambers where Count Tallard, the captive of the Duke of Marlborough, had been confined. I visited the terrace and the environs, and what is of more importance I visited the Eaton school; and if I had been prudent enough to negotiate with my friend West, I doubt not I might have obtained permission to see the queen's lodge. But as the solicitation of these little favors requires a great deal of delicacy and many prudent precautions, I did not think it proper to ask the favor of any body. I must confess that all the pomps and pride of Windsor did not occupy my thoughts so much as the forest, and comparing it with what I remembered of Pope's Windsor forest.

My health was very little improved by the exercise I had taken in and about London; nor did the entertainments and delights assist me much more. The change of air and of diet from which I had entertained some hopes, had produced little effect. I continued feeble, low and drooping. The waters of Bath were still represented to me as an almost certain resource. I shall take no notice of men nor things on the road. I had not been twenty minutes at the hotel in Bath [24 Dec]. before my ancient friend and relation, Mr. John Boylston called upon me and dined with me. After dinner he was polite enough to walk with me, about the town, shewed me the crescent, the public buildings, the card rooms, the assembly rooms, the dancing rooms, &c. objects about which I had little more curiosity than about the bricks and pavements. The baths and the accommodations for using the waters were reserved for another day. But before that day arrived, I received dispatches from America, from London, and from Amsterdam, informing me that the drafts of congress by Mr. Morris, for money to be transmitted, in silver, through the house of Le Couteux, at Paris, and through the Havana to Philadelphia; together with the bills drawn in favor of individuals in France, England and Holland, had exhausted all my loan of the last summer which had cost me so much fatigue and ill health; and that an immense flock of new bills had arrived, drawn in favour of Sir George Baring, or Sir Francis Baring, I forget which, of London, and many other persons; that these bills had been already presented, and protested for non-acceptance; and that they must be protested in their time for non-payment, unless I returned immediately to Amsterdam, and could be fortunate enough to obtain a new loan, of which my bankers gave me very faint hopes. See Willinks, Van Staphorsts, and De la Lande & Fynje to JA, 2, 23 Dec. (Adams Papers; JA, Works , 8:161–164, 166–168), and JA's reply, 29 Dec. 1783 (LbC, Adams Papers). It was winter; my health was very delicate, a journey and voyage to Holland at that season would very probably put an end to my labours. I scarcely saw a possibility of surviving it. Nevertheless no man knows what he can bear till he tries. A few moments reflection determined me, for although I had little hope of getting the money, having experienced so many difficulties before, yet making the attempt and doing all in my power would discharge my own conscience, and ought to satisfy my responsibility to the public. I returned to London [28 Dec], and from thence repaired to Harwich [3 Jan. 1784]. Here we found the packet detained by contrary winds and a violent storm. For three days detained, in a very uncomfortable inn, ill accommodated and worse provided, myself and my son, without society and without books, wore away three days of ennui, not a little chagrined with the unexpected interruption of our visit to England, and the disappointment of our journey to Bath; and not less anxious on account of our gloomy prospects for the future.

Passengers preparing to board a packet for a cross Channel voyage. A painting by J.M. Turner.

On the fourth day [5 Jan.] the wind having veered a little, we were summoned on board the packet. With great difficulty she turned the point and gained the open sea. In this channel, on both sides the island of Great-Britain, there is in bad weather a tremulous, undulating, turbulent kind of irregular tumbling sea that disposes men more to the mal de mer than even the surges of the gulph stream, which are more majestic. The passengers were all at extremities for almost the whole of the three days that we were struggling with stormy weather and beating against contrary winds. The captain and his men, worn out with fatigue and want of sleep, despaired of reaching Helvoet Sluice, and determined to land us on the island of Goree [Goeree, Province of Zeeland]. We found ourselves, upon landing [8 Jan.], on a desolate shore, we knew not where. A fisherman's hut was all the building we could see. There we were told it was five or six miles from the town of Goree. The man was not certain of the distance; but it was not less than four miles nor more than six. No kind of conveyance could be had. In my weak state of health, rendered more impotent by bad nourishment, want of sleep, and wasting sickness on board the packet, I thought it almost impossible, that in that severe weather, I could walk through ice and snow, four miles before I could find rest. As has been said before, human nature never knows what it can endure before it tries the experiment. My young companion was in fine spirits; his gaiety, activity, and attention to me encreased as difficulties multiplied, and I was determined not to despair. I walked on, with caution and moderation, and survived much better than could have been expected, till we reached the town of Goree. When we had rested and refreshed ourselves at the inn, we made enquiries concerning our future rout. It was pointed out to us, and we found we must cross over the whole island of Goree, then cross the arm of the sea to the island of Over Flackee, and run the whole length of that island to the point from whence the boats pass a very wide arm of the sea, to the continent, five or six miles from Helvoet Sluice. But we were told that the rivers and arms of the sea were all frozen over, so that we could not pass them but upon the ice, or in ice boats. Inquiring for a carriage of some kind or other, we were told that the place afforded none better, and indeed none other than boor's waggons. That this word boor may not give offence to any one, it is necessary to say, that it signifies no more in Dutch, than peasant in France, or countryman, husbandman or farmer in America. Finding no easier vehicle, we ordered a waggon, horses and driver to be engaged for us, and departed on our journey. Our carriage had no springs to support, nor cushions to soften the seats. On hard benches, in a waggon fixed to the axle-tree, we were trotted and jolted over the roughest road you can well imagine. The soil upon these islands is a stiff clay, and in rainy weather becomes as soft and miry as mortar. In this state they have been trodden by horses, and cut into deep rutts by waggon wheels, when a sudden change of the weather had frozen them as hard as rocks. Over this bowling green, we rolled, or rather hopped and skipped, twelve miles in the island of Goree, and I know not how many more in Over-flackee, till we arrived at the inn at the ferry, where we again put up. Here we were obliged to wait several days, because the boats were all on the other side. The pains of waiting for a passage were much alleviated here by the inexpressible delight of rest after such violent agitations by sea and land, by good fires, warm rooms, comfortable beds, and wholesome Dutch cheer. And all these were made more agreeable by the society of a young English gentleman, not more than twenty, who happening to come to the inn, and finding we had the best room and the best fire, came in, and very modestly and respectfully requested to sit with us. We readily consented and soon found ourselves very happy in his company. He was cheerful, gay, witty, perfectly well bred, and the best acquainted with English literature of any youth of his age I ever knew. The English classics, English history, and all the English poets were familiar to him. He breakfasted, dined, supped, and in short lived with us, and we could not be dull, and never wanted conversation while we staid. As I never asked his name, or his history, I cannot mention either.

We were obliged to bid high for a passage, and promise them whatever they demanded. Signals were made and at last an ice-boat appeared. An ice-boat is a large ferry boat placed and fastened on runners. We embarked early in the morning. The passage is very wide over this arm of the sea. We were rowed in the water till we came to the ice, when the skipper and his men, to the number of eight or ten perhaps, leaped out upon the ice and hauled the boat up after them, when the passengers were required to get out of the boat and walk upon the ice, while the boatmen dragged the boat upon her runners. Presently they would come to a spot where the ice was thin and brittle, when all would give way and down went the boat into the water. The men were so habituated to this service that they very dexterously laid hold of the sides and leaped into the boat—then they broke away the thin ice till the boat came to a part thick enough for the passengers to leap in, when the men broke away the thin ice forward and rowed the boat in the water till she came to a place again strong enough to bear, when all must disembark again and march men and boat upon the ice. How many times we were obliged to embark and disembark in the course of the voyage I know not, but we were all day and till quite night in making the passage. The weather was cold—we were all frequently wet—I was chilled to the heart, and looked I suppose, as I felt, like a withered old worn out carcase. Our polite skipper frequently eyed me and said he pitied the old man. When we got ashore he said he must come and take the old man by the hand and wish him a safe journey to the Hague. He was sorry to see that I was in such bad health and suffered so much as he had observed upon the passage. He had done every thing in his power and so had his men, to make it easy and expeditious; but they could do no better. This I knew to be true. We parted very good friends, well satisfied with each other. I had given them what they very well loved and they had done their best for me.

I am weary of my journey and shall hasten to its close. No carriage was to be had and no person to be seen; but by accident a boor came along with an empty waggon. We offered him any thing he would ask to take us to the Briel. Arrived there [10 Jan.] we obtained a more convenient carriage; but the weather was so severe and the roads so rough that we had a very uncomfortable journey to the Hague. Here [12 Jan.] I was at home in the Hotel Des Etats Unis, but could not indulge myself. My duty lay at Amsterdam among undertakers and brokers, with very faint hopes of success. I was however successful beyond my most sanguine expectations, and obtained a loan of millions enough to prevent all the bills of congress from being protested for non-payment and to preserve our credit in Europe for two or three years longer, after which another desperate draft of bills from congress obliged me once more to go over from England to Holland to borrow money. I succeeded also in that which preserved our credit till my return to America, in 1788, and till the new government came into operation and found itself rich enough.

In the course of my correspondence with you I might have related many anecdotes and made many sketches of characters and drawn many portraits at full length, but I have avoided such things as much as I could. I was never a traveller, nor a book-maker, by profession, and shall never be likely to make profit by making a book.

Here ends the very rough and uncouth detail of my voyages, journies, labors, perils and sufferings under my commissions for making peace with Great-Britain” (Boston Patriot, 9, 13, 16 May 1812).