Wednesday, November 30, 2016

One of the perennial barriers to storytelling

From I’m Glad That Happened to You by Andrew Schenker.
Personal history has an ugly myopic side: details that mean everything to you mean nothing to others.

The long arc of education

I just posted Trump, our new FDR?

In the early 1970's I was a student at the Anglo-American School in Stockholm, Sweden. My father's career in the international oil industry took us many places and we were in Sweden for several years. A wonderful country.

I can clearly recall my American social studies teacher instructing us in 8th or 9th grade about various aspects of American history. It was in that class where I first learned to be cautious about the authority of the printed text. One textbook we were using erroneously referred to John F. Kennedy as having been a governor of Massachusetts early in his political career. A fellow student from the northeast caught that one. It made a strong impression on my mind that a textbook could have let slip such a fundamental factual error.

I can call to my mind's eye the classroom scene where we discussed FDR's fireside chats. The classroom was on the fourth or fifth flour. Late fall and already the perpetual gloom of winter was on us. Between the sun not rising much in those northern latitudes and the frequency of heavy overcast clouds, it seemed often to be a near eternal gloaming. In contrast, the classroom was typical institutional bright florescent lights, linoleum floors, seats and desks in a U-shape around the teacher's desk at the front.

It was in that setting that Mr. B. told us about FDR's fireside chats, among much else. Of course I have seen reference to fireside chats since then but Mr. B's thumbnail sketch was the foundation and not much that I learned later did more than provide greater context. That nugget sat there, dormant and unused, for near forty years before seeing Trump's twitter announcements in the news, allowing me to make the connection.

I consider the long arc of education to be one of the magical implications of teaching. Whatever other issues might attach to the profession, you never know what knowledge sticks nor how and when it might ever be used. There is something existentially wonderful about that.

Trump, our new FDR?

From this morning.

It occurs to me that Donald Trump's twitter account is the contemporary equivalent of FDR's radio fireside chats. A means for a president to directly connect with the American people while circumventing the media. In the 1930's according to Wikipedia:
Roosevelt understood that his administration's success depended upon a favorable dialogue with the electorate — possible only through methods of mass communication — and that the true power of the presidency was the ability to take the initiative. The use of radio for direct appeals was perhaps the most important of FDR's innovations in political communication. Roosevelt's opponents had control of most newspapers in the 1930s and press reports were under their control and involved their editorial commentary. Historian Betty Houchin Winfield says, "He and his advisers worried that newspapers' biases would affect the news columns and rightly so." Historian Douglas B. Craig says that he "offered voters a chance to receive information unadulterated by newspaper proprietors' bias" through the new medium of radio.
FDR faced a biased conservative press while DJT faces a biased liberal press - nothing new under the sun. All that has changed is the direction of the bias and the mechanism for circumventing the entrenched interests.

Just as with FDR, Trump is circumventing the entrenched media and setting his own agenda with the American people and driving his own news cycle. In some ways, it is masterful. Twitter is free, it is nearly universally accessible, and it is asynchronous (i.e. the public does not have to rearrange their schedule to watch the news or buy a paper; they can access his twitter account whenever it is convenient for them).

But why announce this two weeks in advance? Here is my guess. Given the extent and complexity of his business interests, it is almost certain that there is no real solution to the possible appearance of his potential conflicts of interest short of selling everything. In an ideal world, that might conceivably be the desired action but in this world I doubt that anyone would expect him to extinguish his life's work. The electorate elected him knowing he was a billionaire with complex business interests. All he has to do is show a good faith gesture in the direction of solving the problem. For the partisan media, whatever he does will fall short, regardless of what he proposes.

I am guessing that Trump, by making his announcement in advance, is defanging the established mainstream media. Without any plan details, the media will work themselves into a frenzy about how unworkable any announced plan will be and will do so in such a partisan and emotive way that they will discredit themselves. They can't help themselves. Its the news cycle.

In two weeks Trump will announce some anodyne plan that goes some ways towards addressing the potential conflict of interest without actually fully solving that potential conflict of interest. Any criticism that the mainstream media then makes based on the specifics of his plan at that time will be discounted by the public because the media will have already shown themselves to be simply opposed to Trump in all things, not opposed to anything specific in the plan.

Trump, our new FDR? In forty years, will historians be referring to Trump's Twitter account as we now refer to FDR's fireside chats? Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock

This was a favorite poem when the kids were young. Sitting here, looking out the office window into the woods with their damp, falling leaves, Riley's poem comes to mind.
When the Frost is on the Punkin
by James Whitcomb Riley

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock,
And the clackin’ of the guineys, and the cluckin’ of the hens,
And the rooster’s hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it’s then’s the times a feller is a-feelin’ at his best,
With the risin’ sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here—
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin’-birds and buzzin’ of the bees;
But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin’ of the tangled leaves, as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries—kindo’ lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin’ sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below—the clover over-head!—
O, it sets my hart a-clickin’ like the tickin’ of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!

Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the celler-floor in red and yeller heaps;
And your cider-makin’ ’s over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With their mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and saussage, too! ...
I don’t know how to tell it—but ef sich a thing could be
As the Angels wantin’ boardin’, and they’d call around on me
I’d want to ’commodate ’em—all the whole-indurin’ flock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!

Interesting comparison of NYT's view of Pinochet and Castro

An interesting contrast. Both were dictators but one left the foundations for a functioning economy and a democratic system whereas the other established a repressive family dynasty over an impoverished people. Castro was responsible for the deaths of 10-50 times as many more people as Pinochet. Castro was also responsible for the mass migration and periodic immigration of hundreds of thousands more.

Castro had by far the worst human rights record but was supported by the Soviet Union and favored communism whereas Pinochet was sponsored (at least to some degree) by the US and favored somewhat free markets. Among all these factors, which one(s) caused the New York Times to treat Castro more favorably than Pinochet?

Click to see the comparisons

Monday, November 28, 2016

Ignorant or ideological - You decide

Yet another example of why the public distrusts the mainstream media to report the news accurately. In this instance, the reporter either does not understand maths or they are committed to misinterpreting the data in order to support their preferred narrative.

It has gotten to the point where, if anything in the reporting relies on data, I want to see the actual data rather than the reporter's interpretation of the data.

UPDATE: And almost immediately afterwards, I came across this example as well. See the discussion in the responses to the original post in which people correct two critical factually false statements that occur in the article's first few sentences.

Click to enlarge and see the commentary trail for the factual errors (and the reluctance to acknowledge them.)

Sunday, November 27, 2016

An unending dialogue between the past and the present

From E.H. Carr in What is History? His answer:
It is a continuous process of interaction between the historian and his facts, an unending dialogue between the past and the present.
Also, this observation -
Change is certain. Progress is not.
That is from Napoleon to Stalin and Other Essays.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Parable of the Monkeys

Maybe I don't read broadly enough but in the tens of thousands of words consumed since the election, representing insightful and oblivious, smart and ill-informed, wise and foolish, I have not come across this clever summary. Once seen, it seems an obvious play on tropes and words but somehow this is the first.

This is from the comments section of The Democrats can’t stop digging by Ed Rogers.

Click to enlarge.

I am not focused on the humor or the political slant. It is the idea that an obvious pun can lie latent so long before surfacing. Of course, this might simply be the fact that what I read is not statistically representative and that this pun is already well circulated but beyond the boundaries of my awareness.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Another "standing miracle"

A very interesting passage from American Creation by John Ellis (page 114). There is a tendency, fanned by the media interested in selling papers and attracting viewers, to cast each election as something momentous and consequential beyond expectations. And indeed, they have the potential of being so in the future. But the election itself is simply a pulse check of the nation, not in itself inherently interesting, and indeed, something of a nuisance to everyone but politicians and the media.

For all the anguish in some quarters, this election was held in a period of (angsty) peace and at least marginal economic stability (if not yet prosperity). It is nothing to the first election when we were still unclear as to whether the President was first among equal citizens or a dictator with term limits, the election of 1860 when the unresolved issue of freedom for all led almost to the dissolution of the union, the election of 1876 when vested interests abandoned Reconstruction in return for political and commercial advantage, the election of 1916 which seemed to promise the possibility of avoiding a world war consuming all other leading nations, the election of 1960 when the prospect of a Cold War becoming a Hot War was real, or the election of 1976 as we recovered from an imperial presidency gone rogue. It might be emotionally consoling to believe this was a momentous election, but in many ways we have seen many where much more was more clearly at stake. From Ellis, discussing that period after the first Articles of Confederation (which had clearly failed) and before the new Constitution was ratified. Now that was a consequential vote.
During the ten months after the Constitutional Convention the most far-ranging and consequential political debate in American history raged throughout every state in the union. As it was nearing conclusion, Washington described the fullness and openness of the debate as another "standing miracle," equivalent to the victory over the British army. "We exhibit at present the novel & astounding spectacle of a whole people deliberating calmly on what form of government will be most conducive to their happiness, and deciding with an unexpected degree of unanimity in favour of a system which they conceive calculated to answer the purpose." In truth, there was nothing like unanimity in the final verdict, which remained in doubt until the very end, and the votes in the three most crucial states - Massachusetts, Virginia, and New York - were extremely close.


All attempts to explain the debates in primarily or exclusively economic terms have been discredited by modern scholars. The messy truth is that there was a maddening variety of voting patterns from state to state, and within states from county to county, that defied any single explanation, economic or otherwise. The labels affixed to the two sides also defied logic, for both sides were federalists, meaning that they advocated a confederated republic, but disagreed over the relative power of the states and the central government in the confederation.
While the stakes were not near as high Tuesday evening November 8th, there was a whispered echo of that earlier, existential vote. There was the angst and the hope, there was the concern evolving into disbelief. Taking the place of Massachusetts, Virginia, and New York, there was Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. By the end of the evening there was an outcome asterisked by some with a hesitant hope that late vote counting might mean a different result.

But in the history of a great republic, it was just another election.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

WWII trolling


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

By the patrons we fawn upon, we are known

An interesting perspective. One with which I agree but I have not seen aired elsewhere. From Another View of Hamilton's "Politics" by Paul Horwitz.
What I find slightly more interesting and, given what I know about the political self-satisfaction of the class of people that can afford tickets to Hamilton, less likely to be noted outside of actual left or right circles, is what the decision to speak once necessarily implies about all the decisions not to speak. Every day, especially given both ticket prices and the nature of its audience and cultural appeal, Hamilton plays to an audience of neoliberals, militarists, wielders of economic power, beneficiaries of massive corporate corruption and economic and political inequality, people who exploit connections in a relatively closed circle of the rich and powerful, etc. And those are just the nights when Hillary Clinton catches the show! A substantial part of its consumer base and business model is brokers, corporate lawyers, legacy admits to the Ivy League, executives, managers, investors, media elites, and so on. Its audience base is people who can afford to complain about the help, or praise their nannies (who they may or may not pay well or legally), not the nannies themselves. No doubt the regular audience could do with a pointed extra-script lecture or two as well! But that would be bad for business, and disturb the audience-validating, as opposed to audience-challenging, function that is the essence of musical theater. None of this yet reaches Hamilton Inc.'s cozy relationship to President Obama, and the mutual benefits and ego-stroking that were involved in it. Maybe the PBS documentary cut this part out, but I don't recall the actors at the White House performance of Hamilton breaking script to say, "Mr. President, we, sir--we--can't help but notice that you have raided and deported the hell out of undocumented immigrants in record numbers. Also, what the [deleted] is up with the drones, or Syria, or...." I suppose that actually would have been seen as rude in people's eyes. But once you start picking and choosing your exceptions and special occasions, of course you are making a political statement, conscious or not, about all the morally complicit and dubious audiences you are happy to flatter, the number of questionable actions--deportations, assassinations, killings, etc.--you are willing to "normalize," and so on.

Liberalism and crime

From Political ideology predicts involvement in crime by John Paul Wright, et al. I can't get around the paywall so I take this as a data point at best. But even if only that it illustrates a couple of points.

Here is the abstract.
Political ideology represents an imperfect yet important indicator of a host of personality traits and cognitive preferences. These preferences, in turn, seemingly propel liberals and conservatives towards divergent life-course experiences. Criminal behavior represents one particular domain of conduct where differences rooted in political ideology may exist. Using a national dataset, we test whether and to what extent political ideology is predictive of self-reported criminal behavior. Our results show that self-identified political ideology is monotonically related to criminal conduct cross-sectionally and prospectively and that liberals self-report more criminal conduct than do conservatives. We discuss potential causal mechanisms relating political ideology to individual conduct.
Kind of hard to discern their findings from that. The finding was:
Liberal political ideology was significantly associated with crime cross-sectionally and longitudinally.
As I say, I'd take that with a pinch of salt. Till details are accessible, it falls into that expansive literature where the proponents of one political party, usually conservatives, are "proved" to be less intelligent, less educated, more hateful, ad infinitum. The only difference in this case being that they accidentally found that liberals are more criminal than conservatives.

The first point that it illustrates is that, since the finding is against liberals, it will not be taken up by the press. Had it found that conservatives were more criminal, it almost certainly would have gotten a lot of play.

The second point is that the finding might be true but that it is substantially a spurious correlation. I.e. it might be technically accurate but not meaningfully accurate.

So we know that something like 60% of crimes are committed in city limits (as opposed to suburbs, exurbs, smaller towns and country). We know that city limits contain only something like 20% of the country's population. We also know that the Democratic Party is made up primarily of those who self-identify as Liberal. We also know that the Democratic Party is increasingly isolated in a handful of states on the West Coast and the far Northeast and in cities. Without knowing any of the methodological details, population size studied, randomization, etc. we can conclude simply from the above mentioned facts that there will be a strong correlation between liberals and crime. Liberals live in cities and cities have a disproportionate share of crime.

It is not Liberalism per se that causes criminality. It is the conjunction of crime in cities that is the causal relation. Whether Liberalism causes cities to become more criminal is a different issue. It is quite possible that Liberals end up pursuing public policies which do in turn encourage criminality. For example, if Liberals, in pursuit of caring and mercy, were to implement a very forgiving policing and sentencing system, that likely would encourage increased criminality (see the Ferguson Effect).

My points are that 1) liberal press won't give this prominence because it goes against their preferred narrative, 2) it is likely that there is no causal relationship between ideology and crime, and 3) it misdirects attention from policies to ideology.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The media should wait for something to actually happen before it declares the end of the world.

From my youth in Britain, I have something of an ingrained disdain for tabloids as a form of journalism. Outre of course. Bombastic, certainly. Outrage over nuance. But they play an important role in knowledge dissemination and as many a politician has learned, can only be ignored at cost.

And of course, they do sometimes have good material. Such as Keep crying wolf about Trump, and no one will listen when there’s a real crisis by Kyle Smith. The argument is sound but the rendering of it is good as well.

Starting with some basic home truths.
Nevertheless, a word of neighborly advice to our more genteel media friends, the ones who sit at the high table in their pristine white dinner jackets and ball gowns. You’ve been barfing all over yourselves for a week and a half, and it’s revolting to watch.

For your own sake, and that of the republic for which you allegedly work, wipe off your chins and regain your composure. I didn’t vote for him either, but Trump won. Pull yourselves together and deal with it, if you ever want to be taken seriously again.
Then there's this.
What kind of president will Trump be? It’s a tad too early to say, isn’t it? The media are supposed to tell us what happened, not speculate on the future. But its incessant scaremongering, the utter lack of proportionality and the shameless use of double standards are an embarrassment, one that is demeaning the value of the institution. The press’ frantic need to keep the outrage meter dialed up to 11 at all times creates the risk that a desensitized populace will simply shrug off any genuine White House scandals that may lie in the future (or may not).
Since an election in which the mainstream news media functioned as operatives with by-lines for the losing candidate, the newspapers have continued their approach to every Trump action since then, cementing their degraded reputation as carnival barkers for the corruption and vested interests. Every action he takes has been heralded as the end of civilization as we know it. Every inaction as augers of paralysis, indecision and dysfunction. All forecasts of things to come delivered, of course, as truth from on high.
What kind of president will Trump be? It’s a tad too early to say, isn’t it? The media are supposed to tell us what happened, not speculate on the future. But its incessant scaremongering, the utter lack of proportionality and the shameless use of double standards are an embarrassment, one that is demeaning the value of the institution. The press’ frantic need to keep the outrage meter dialed up to 11 at all times creates the risk that a desensitized populace will simply shrug off any genuine White House scandals that may lie in the future (or may not).


Look at the bonkers reaction to every move made by Trump’s transition team. “Firings and Discord Put Trump Team in a State of Disarray,” ran a shrill New York Times headline, though it took President-elect Obama three weeks to name his first Cabinet pick. “Trump Transition Shakeup Part of ‘Stalinesque Purge’ of Christie Loyalists,” screamed NBC News.

The Huffington Post noted “Donald Trump’s Transition Team, Or Lack Thereof, Is Causing Real Panic.” “ ‘Knife Fight’ as Trump Builds an Unconventional National Security Cabinet,” said CNN. “Trump Transition: ‘Stalled . . . Scrambling . . . On Pause,’ ” said CBS News.


After reports of discord and disarray dominated the news for a day, later stories suggested that disgruntled lobbyists who couldn’t get past the doorman at Trump Tower were leaking the information, meaning that, as Trump tried to drain the swamp in Washington, the media were taking the side of the swamp. (Note that reporters swooned when President Obama promised to bar lobbyists from his circle, then shrugged when Obama reneged.)

After Trump gave the media the slip Tuesday night and went out for a steak, NBC harrumphed, “With his Tuesday night actions, the Trump administration is shaping up to be the least accessible to the public and the press in modern history.” Quite a leap there, especially considering the wall of opacity erected by the current administration, which has been stonewalling Freedom Of Information Act requests for years.

Once, hard-nosed city editors told cub reporters, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” Nowadays, all that really matters is whether your mother advances what longtime New York Times editor Michael Cieply, a 12-year veteran of that institution, called “the narrative” — the predetermined party line that Times reporters are expected to rigorously adhere to and find evidence for. It’s what social scientists call “confirmation bias,” and if the Times actually cared about being seen as impartial, it would have fired executive editor Dean Baquet in the wake of Cieply’s revelations on Nov. 10. It didn’t.
And ignorance on the part of the media is no defense. They know exactly what they are doing, shilling for the establishment; shilling for the vested interests and yet greater inequality.
In November 2008, Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell said readers who complained about shallow coverage and pro-Obama bias were “right on both counts,” publishing tallies that proved the paper had been far more critical of Obama’s opponent Sen. John McCain than of Obama. A few weeks later, “Game Change” co-author Mark Halperin said the media showed “extreme pro-Obama coverage” in a “disgusting failure.”

In 2012, The New York Times’ public editor Arthur Brisbane said the paper “basked a bit in the warm glow of Mr. Obama’s election in 2008” and cited a study that showed the Times’ coverage had been far more approving of Obama than it had been of President Reagan and both Presidents Bush.

In January 2008, NBC’s Brian Williams was honest enough to point out that the network’s reporter covering Obama had said, “It’s hard to be objective covering this guy.” Williams immediately demanded the reporter be fired for admitting to being unable to do his job.

Just kidding: Williams praised the reporter, calling him “courageous.”
What was assumed to be true by many, that they were DNC operatives with bylines, was finally proven true beyond a doubt.
This fall WikiLeaks confirmed everything conservatives have been saying about the media for more than 20 years. CNN, you have been busted. You allowed Democratic Party operative Donna Brazile to get hold of town-hall questions in advance and help Hillary Clinton prep with them.

Note that this is not a Donna Brazile scandal. Brazile did what every party hack is paid to do: She tried to help her side win. This is all on you, CNN. You should have fired yourselves, not Brazile.

John Harwood, New York Times/CNBC reporter and Republican debate moderator, you have been busted. You asked John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chair, for questions you could pose to Jeb Bush in an interview.

Dana Milbank, Washington Post columnist and longtime phony “nonpartisan” political reporter, you have been busted. You reached out to DNC flack Eric Walker and asked for help putting together a “Passover-themed 10 plagues of Trump” story.

Not only are you evidently an undercover Democratic Party operative who should be drawing checks from the DNC instead of from The WaPo, you’re a tired hack who can’t even come up with his own column ideas without assistance.
The American public has an expectation that the media will be independent, will speak truth to power, will stand up for the little guy, will demonstrate courage in its reporting without fear or favor and will exhibit the highest standards in protecting our Republic through the disinfecting light of exposure. Those are high standards and can only be delivered upon with some modicum of balance and disinterest. Functioning as a partisan operative simply spoils the industry's reputation further and subverts the Republic.
Should the media be antagonistic to Trump? Yes, they should be antagonistic to all public officials. Their job is to expose bad judgment and wrongdoing, not to fawn and mewl.

That the media chose to be blasé about Obama overriding the Constitution and making law via fiat was reprehensible. It doesn’t mean the media are under any obligation whatsoever to show deference to Trump should he do the same.

For the good of us all, though, and in the interest of rebuilding the wreckage of its reputation, the media should go back to having gradations of outrage. Switching transition chairmen isn’t the Saturday Night Massacre, and going out for a steak without telling the hacks isn’t on a par with, say, deleting 33,000 e-mails.

The Trump Era hasn’t even started yet. The media should wait for something to actually happen before it declares the end of the world.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Nothing in his term became him like the leaving of it.

Never enthused about the prospect of Obama presidency, my low expectations were marginally met. Neither the best and by no means the worst presidency, there were some modest accomplishments and many predictable failures. The handful of areas where I had had some hopes (the closing of the revolving door between government, business, and advocacy; the balancing of the branches of government, a greater respect for rule of law) were all dashed.

That said, this report reminds me of King Duncan's comments on the death of the Thane of Cawdor. My paraphrase: Nothing in his term became him like the leaving of it.

From Obama Reckons With a Trump Presidency by David Remnick. It is only a gloss, but a nice one.
I was standing to the side of the stage. Nearby, a stout older man appeared in the aisle, dressed in a worn, beribboned military uniform and holding a Trump sign. People spotted him quickly and the jeering began. Then came the chant “Hil-la-ry! Hil-la-ry!”

Obama picked up the curdled vibe and located its source. “Hold up!” he said. “Hold up!”

The crowd would not quiet down. He repeated the phrase—“Hold up!”—sixteen more times, and still nothing. It took a long, disturbing while before he could recapture the crowd’s attention and get people to lay off the old man. What followed was a lecture in political civility.

“I’m serious, listen up,” he said. “You’ve got an older gentleman who is supporting his candidate. . . . You don’t have to worry about him. This is what I mean about folks not being focussed. First of all, we live in a country that respects free speech. Second of all, it looks like maybe he might have served in our military, and we’ve got to respect that. Third of all, he was elderly, and we’ve got to respect our elders. . . . Now, I want you to pay attention. Because if we don’t, if we lose focus, we could have problems.”

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The second is pleasant and highly paid

From In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays (1935) by Bertrand Russell. Ch. 1: In Praise of Idleness
First of all: what is work? Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth's surface relatively to other such matter; second, telling other people to do so. The first kind is unpleasant and ill paid; the second is pleasant and highly paid.
Not necessarily true but perhaps generally true. Certainly a reflection of the migration from a manufacturing and agriculture economy to a services economy.

Reflections on decision making processes, personal interests, and disregarding the interests of others

So much of the news reporting and opinions after the election seem predicated on the assumption that there was a RIGHT answer and that we failed to arrive at the RIGHT answer. Often, this is recast in the form that there was a better answer and that the system failed us by giving us such poor choices of candidates.

One could remark that the vested interests who write such columns ("fake news" anyone?) might be right that there was a wrong answer for THEIR interests but that they are exercising the same form of fallacious logic as that in the historically derided Charles Wilson's "What's good for GM is good for America" type of thinking.

Our form of government with its mix of direct democracy (with its threat to minority interests) and republican democracy (with its threat to majority interests) is not, I don't think, a problem. In fact, I think it is a magnificent effort to square a circle that can't be squared. The problem is not in the system but in the logical fallacies of those who think there is a RIGHT answer to a complex, dynamic, chaotic, self-regulating, tipping-point sensitive system. Life, and politics, is not a mechanistically determinable system with RIGHT answers. It is a system for aggregating contending realities and desires which are in constant flux.

We have some three hundred million opinions of 1) what are the facts, 2) what are the important issues, 3) the rank ordering of those issues, 4) the nature of the weighting of those issues in trade-off decisions, 5) the inference of the alignment of a candidate's identification, ranking and weighting of issues against our own, 6) the accuracy of estimation of a candidate's real likelihood of fighting political battles according to that identifications, rankings, and weightings, and 7) the accuracy of one's own estimation of the likely effectiveness of the candidate in achieving the desired outcomes according to those identifications, rankings and weightings.

This strikes me as analogous to Hayek's Local Knowledge Problem. Just as the economy is too complex for a central authority to accurately predict equilibriums of quantities, qualities, supply and demand without a pricing mechanism, the political system is too complex to accurately assess the balance of choices given the plurality of fact estimations, goal identifications, rankings and weightings.

In other words, there is no "RIGHT" answer. There is simply a given answer at a given point in time under given circumstances. The results of November 8th don't represent a better or worse answer or whether there was a better or worse choice. The results are simply what they were given three hundred million identifications of facts, issues, rankings and weightings. That some coalition of interests among the public elites, in cities, in Media and Universities had formed the opinion that one outcome was RIGHT (for them) and that any other outcome was WRONG (for them) seems to me to be a reflection of either their miscomprehension about the nature of our democratic system or their miscomprehension of the interests of others.

Our system revealed what the "price" was, i.e. revealed what the averaged sum of assessed facts, issue identifications, rankings and weightings and assumptions were on the day of the election. That does not mean that that outcome was wrong. The wailings and gnashing of teeth among elements of the electorate with vested interests simply means that the outcome was different than what those vested interests expected. Just as a price for something on any given day may be lower or higher than what we wish to pay, that does not make that price right or wrong, it makes it different from what we want or expect.

So the election of a Donald Trump (or Barrack Obama in his time) was not BAD or WRONG. They were a reflection of the aggregation of fact assessments, issue identifications, rankings and weightings and assumptions. To cast either outcome as BAD or WRONG is to identify that the outcome was different from your expectation or a reflection of your ignorance of the magnificent process designed by the Founding Fathers and refined by their philosophical descendants.

Obama's presidency ended up disappointing many of his supporters just as Reagan's ended up being better than his opponents had anticipated. But those outcomes can only be known after the fact. Right now, there are simply three hundred million expectations, some of which are bound to be fulfilled and some disappointed. All the current editorial noise simply reflects that a vocal set of minority interests had their expectations disappointed. We are at the beginning and there is nothing either good or bad about the future prospects.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

General Factor of Personality is the same as Emotional Intelligence

Hmm. Interesting. The question is whether there is something independent called Emotion Quotient that has strong or better forecasting capability, independent of the more traditional general factor of personality (GFP). GFP is the measured aspect of the Big Five model which proposes that there are five basic personality traits: Extraversion, Neuroticism, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness and Openness to Experience.

Claims about EQ have been a common claim for some time and it makes intuitive sense. There is a population who philosophically oppose the implications of IQ and dispute its reliability as a forecaster of outcomes despite the robustness of that data. As a corollary to their IQ opposition, it seems as if they have conjured the idea of Emotion Quotient (EQ). You may be smart but do you have the emotional attributes that allows you to generate benefits from that smartness. The vernacular trope might be captured as "He's book smart but not street smart." This line of thought argues that you have to look at both IQ and EQ. Fair enough.

However, psychologists and others have countered that EQ is simply a reformulation of GFP, that EQ has no independent forecasting capacity above that which is already available via GFP.

From Overlap Between the General Factor of Personality and Emotional Intelligence: A Meta-Analysis by van der Linden, Dimitri, et al.
We examine the relationship between the general factor of personality (GFP) and emotional intelligence (EI) and specifically test the hypothesis that the GFP is a social effectiveness factor overlapping conceptually with EI. Presented is an extensive meta-analysis in which the associations between the GFP, extracted from the Big Five dimensions, with various EI measures is examined. Based on a total sample of k = 142 data sources (N = 36,268) the 2 major findings from the meta-analysis were (a) a large overlap between the GFP and trait EI (r ≈ .85); and (b) a positive, but more moderate, correlation with ability EI (r ≈ .28). These findings show that high-GFP individuals score higher on trait and ability EI, supporting the notion that the GFP is a social effectiveness factor. The findings also suggest that the GFP is very similar, perhaps even synonymous, to trait EI. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)
It's meta-analysis which I think always requires special caution not to overweight validity. None-the-less, interesting.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Thus, in the New World began the struggle for freedom of information

From Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman. Publick Occurrences was the first newspaper published in what became the USA. It came out September 25, 1690 in Boston published by Benjamin Harris. With all the voices calling for suppression of "fake news," this is a suitable reminder that freedom of the speech and freedom of the press have always had to struggle. Established powers always want to suppress diversity of thought which might threaten their interests.
Before he came to America, Harris had played a role in “exposing” a nonexistent conspiracy of Catholics to slaughter Protestants and burn London. His London newspaper, Domestick Intelligence, revealed the “Popish plot,” with the result that Catholics were harshly persecuted. Harris, no stranger to mendacity, indicated in his prospectus for Publick Occurrences that a newspaper was necessary to combat the spirit of lying which then prevailed in Boston and, I am told, still does. He concluded his prospectus with the following sentence: “It is supposed that none will dislike this Proposal but such as intend to be guilty of so villainous a crime.” Harris was right about who would dislike his proposal. The second issue of Publick Occurrences never appeared. The Governor and Council suppressed it, complaining that Harris had printed “reflections of a very high nature,” by which they meant that they had no intention of admitting any impediments to whatever villainy they wished to pursue. Thus, in the New World began the struggle for freedom of information which, in the Old, had begun a century before.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

A really futile and stupid gesture

All the protests by BLM, MoveOn, OWS, splinter groups from Acorn and all the other paid anarchists remind me of the character Otter in Animal House
I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part! We’re just the guys to do it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Who knew that as recently as 2012, Slate was the paper of record for white supremacists and sexists.

If your support for a principle depends on whether it benefits your goals, it makes it hard to claim that support as principled.

Who knew that as recently as 2012, Slate was the party organ for white supremacists and sexists.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

All great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice

From The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte by Karl Marx 1852. I never knew he was the source of this reasonably famous quotation.
Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

Monday, November 14, 2016

In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake.

A line of questions led to a series of somewhat related laws.

Parkinson's law of triviality - The time spent on any item of the agenda will be in inverse proportion to the sum involved. Wikipedia elaborates.
In the third chapter, "High Finance, or the Point of Vanishing Interest", Parkinson writes about a fictional finance committee meeting with a three-item agenda:[1] The first is the signing of a £10 million contract to build a reactor, the second a proposal to build a £350 bicycle shed for the clerical staff, and the third proposes £21 a year to supply refreshments for the Joint Welfare Committee.
The £10 million number is too big and too technical, and it passes in two and a half minutes. One committee member proposes a completely different plan, which nobody is willing to accept as planning is advanced, and another who understands the topic has concerns, but does not feel that he can explain his concerns to the others on the committee.

The bicycle shed is a subject understood by the board, and the amount within their life experience, so committee member Mr Softleigh says that an aluminium roof is too expensive and they should use asbestos. Mr Holdfast wants galvanised iron. Mr Daring questions the need for the shed at all. Holdfast disagrees. Parkinson then writes: "The debate is fairly launched. A sum of £350 is well within everybody's comprehension. Everyone can visualise a bicycle shed. Discussion goes on, therefore, for forty-five minutes, with the possible result of saving some £50. Members at length sit back with a feeling of accomplishment."

Parkinson then described the third agenda item, writing: "There may be members of the committee who might fail to distinguish between asbestos and galvanised iron, but every man there knows about coffee – what it is, how it should be made, where it should be bought – and whether indeed it should be bought at all. This item on the agenda will occupy the members for an hour and a quarter, and they will end by asking the secretary to procure further information, leaving the matter to be decided at the next meeting."

A more general version of Parkinson's Law of Triviality is Sayre's Law.
In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake.
A couple of other adages from Sayre:
Generally speaking, the benefits of administrative reorganization are immediate, but the costs are cumulative.

Business and public administration are alike only in all unimportant respects.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Doubtless there are other roads.

The Wayfarer in War Is Kind and Other Lines by Stephen Crane
The wayfarer,
Perceiving the pathway to truth,
Was struck with astonishment.
It was thickly grown with weeds.
"Ha," he said,
"I see that none has passed here
In a long time."
Later he saw that each weed
Was a singular knife.
"Well," he mumbled at last,
"Doubtless there are other roads."

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The seethings of the centuries which have gone by

This passage from The Aesthetic Attitude by Simone de Beauvoir. Many friends are grieving the results of the election with statements such as "My vote didn't count." There is a bit of an internecine war. Those friends affiliated with the political left are attacking those fellow travelers who did not bother to vote.

de Beauvoir's comments seems strangely pertinent in that context.
One can imagine an intellectual Florentine being skeptical about the great uncertain movements which are stirring up his country and which will die out as did the seethings of the centuries which have gone by: as he sees it, the important thing is merely to understand the temporary events and through them to cultivate that beauty which perishes not. Many Frenchmen also sought relief in this thought in 1940 and the years which followed. “Let’s try to take the point of view of history,” they said upon learning that the Germans had entered Paris. And during the whole occupation certain intellectuals sought to keep “aloof from the fray” and to consider impartially contingent facts which did not concern them.

But we note at once that such an attitude appears in moments of discouragement and confusion; in fact, it is a position of withdrawal, a way of fleeing the truth of the present. As concerns the past, this eclecticism is legitimate; we are no longer in a live situation in regard to Athens, Sparta, or Alexandria, and the very idea of a choice has no meaning. But the present is not a potential past; it is the moment of choice and action; we can not avoid living it through a project; and there is no project which is purely contemplative since one always projects himself toward something, toward the future; to put oneself “outside” is still a way of living the inescapable fact that one is inside; those French intellectuals who, in the name of history, poetry, or art, sought to rise above the drama of the age, were willy-nilly its actors more or less explicitly, they were playing the occupier’s game. Likewise, the Italian aesthete, occupied in caressing the marbles and bronzes of Florence, is playing a political role in the life of his country by his very inertia. One can not justify all that is by asserting that everything may equally be the object of contemplation, since man never contemplates: he does.

Intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education

From August 1914 by Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
It’s a universal law — intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education. An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility.

Friday, November 11, 2016

At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.

Ode of Remembrance
by Laurence Binyon

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal,
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation,
And a glory that shines upon her tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables at home;
They have no lot in our labour of the daytime;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known,
As the stars are known to the night.

As the stars will be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

As the number of charities grows, so does the percentage of charity scams

Interesting. From Information, competition, and the quality of charities by Silvana Krasteva and Huseyin Yildirim. Relates to Doing Bad by Doing Good: Why Humanitarian Action Fails by Christopher J. Coyne.
Drawing upon the all-pay auction literature, we propose a model of charity competition in which informed giving alone can account for the significant quality heterogeneity across similar charities. Our analysis identifies a negative effect of competition and a positive effect of informed giving on the equilibrium quality of charity. In particular, we show that as the number of charities grows, so does the percentage of charity scams, approaching one in the limit. In light of this and other results, we discuss the need for regulating nonprofit entry and conduct as well as promoting informed giving.

Attempting to reconcile facts and narratives.

It has taken a while to begin to get some of the actual breakdown of voting numbers from the election to test the narratives that are floating around. Broadly, the story has been that Trump is anathema to women and minorities and that his support is primarily white non-college educated males. Mathematically that has always been incorrect in the sense that that demographic is at most 25% of the voting population. Clearly there is more going on than the narrative allows.

Correspondingly, the story has been that Clinton would triumph due to minorities, women, the poor and the wealthy. Again, it is hard to make those numbers quite work.

So what was the reality? Of course there are elements of truth to each story. From Pew:
Trump’s margin among whites without a college degree is the largest among any candidate in exit polls since 1980. Two-thirds (67%) of non-college whites backed Trump, compared with just 28% who supported Clinton, resulting in a 39-point advantage for Trump among this group.
Similarly for Clinton, part of the story is true:
Women supported Clinton over Trump by 54% to 42%. This is about the same as the Democratic advantage among women in 2012 (55% Obama vs. 44% Romney) and 2008 (56% Obama vs. 43% McCain).
So the macro stereotypes are supportable. But the interesting thing is what is going on in the details.

The media wishes to present Trump as the candidate of the uneducated. There is some evidence to support that.
College graduates backed Clinton by a 9-point margin (52%-43%), while those without a college degree backed Trump 52%-44%. This is by far the widest gap in support among college graduates and non-college graduates in exit polls dating back to 1980. For example, in 2012, there was hardly any difference between the two groups: College graduates backed Obama over Romney by 50%-48%, and those without a college degree also supported Obama 51%-47%.
But that is not the full story. It is not quite true. Indeed, not fully true at all. Sotto voce it is revealed that
Trump won whites with a college degree 49% to 45%.
So among college educated whites, Trump beat Clinton by 4%. Bet you didn't know that from the MSM. You don't hear much of Clinton being the candidate of uneducated whites. But apparently that's what the numbers are saying.

What about the gender trope? Again, there is a basis for the stereotypical claim.
Women supported Clinton over Trump by 54% to 42%. This is about the same as the Democratic advantage among women in 2012 (55% Obama vs. 44% Romney) and 2008 (56% Obama vs. 43% McCain).
But again, nuance raises its ugly head. From CNN Exit Polls, white women went for Trump by a margin of 53% to Clinton's 43%. Again, did you know from the MSM that Clinton only got 43% of the white female vote?

Finally, it has been a mainstay that Trump is a racist enemy of people of color. But did you know that Trump increased Republican share among people of color? Again, not widely reported. Trump increased Republican share of the Hispanic vote from 27% to 29% (a 7% increase) and African-American vote from 7% to 8% (a nearly 14% increase). Of course, the base remains depressingly low but those numbers once more contradict the MSM narrative.

Since white voters remain the single largest voting demographic (70%), what happens there is significant. How can there be such a disconnect between the white voting patterns and the MSM narrative? Of course, part of it is simply different voting patterns among people of color. But it is hard to make those numbers work. How can Clinton take only 43% of white women and yet get 56% of women overall?

I don't really know.

They only thing I can hypothesize is an untested observation. My impression is that African American women invest heavily in education. They are disproportionately represented in occupations that financially reward advanced education such as Government and Education (teachers). My guess is that African American women are disproportionately represented in the people of color vote and that they also have a disproportionate degree of college education for the entire people of color population. I suspect that is part of the discrepancy, but only a part.

So we are left with the dichotomy. The press maintains that Trump is supported primarily by uneducated white males whereas the numbers say he took the white educated vote and he took the white female vote.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

We were taught to work jolly hard

Margaret Thatcher in an interview April 15, 1983 in the Evening Standard.
We were taught to work jolly hard. We were taught to prove yourself; we were taught self-reliance; we were taught to live within our income. You were taught that cleanliness is next to godliness. You were taught self-respect. You were taught always to give a hand to your neighbour. You were taught tremendous pride in your country. All of these things are Victorian values. They are also perennial values.

Corruption and economic development - a negative relationship

I have mentioned many times that there is a strong correlation between degree of honesty and trust in a national culture and the level of economic development and that that correlation is likely causative. Whether it is bi-directional I do not know. I suspect that high levels of trust enable cultural and communication interactions that facilitate refined levels of production and productivity. My hypothesis is that honesty and trust are predicates to sustained development. I believe that it is unlikely that honesty and trust will arise independently from simply development, though China might end up being an interesting case study against my theory. But not yet, so far.

From Corruption by Esteban Ortiz-Ospina and Max Roser.

Almost a perfect correlation between low perception of corruption and high levels of development.

UPDATE: This post by Pseudoerasmus, Where do pro-social institutions come from?, does not directly answer the question but has a discussion that covers common ground. Pseudoerasmus's conclusion is that a country develops owing to an interaction of high IQ and high future orientation. He correlates high IQ with high cooperation and high reciprocity which militates against high corruption. The implication is that corruption is a symptom of an underlying inability that in turn precludes development.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Inheritances reduce wealth inequality

I note as an aside that Sweden, in the field of socioeconomics, seems to be taking a similar role as that of Iceland in genetics. Iceland has a small population (300,000 or so) with reasonably well documented family genealogies of several generations length, and a national medical health care system which makes it much easier to link genetic cause to health outcome than in virtually any other population. For these reasons, Icelanders have been the source of much research.

Similarly, Sweden has a smallish population (some 9.5 million) with a long history of economic and social population measurement (legibility in James C. Scott's terminology in Seeing Like a State). I see more and more research out of Sweden answering sociological questions based on rigorous measurement. Examples: An amazing amount of assortative mating within psychiatric disorders, Deinstitutionalization, Sweden edition, Feminists and unexpected field experiments, and Behaviors and well-being.

In that pattern of research there is Inheritance and wealth inequality: Evidence from population registers by Mikael Elinder, Oscar Erixson and Daniel Waldenström. From the abstract:
This study estimates the effect of inheriting wealth on inequality and mobility in the wealth distribution. Using new population-wide register data on inheritances in Sweden, we find that inheritances reduce inequality and increase mobility among heirs. Richer heirs indeed inherit larger amounts, but less affluent heirs receive substantially larger inheritances relative to their pre-inheritance wealth than do richer heirs. The Swedish inheritance tax had a small overall impact but appears to have mitigated the equalizing effect of inheritances. We also investigate the potentially confounding role of pre-inheritance gifts and behavioral responses to expectations about future inheritances, but neither of them change the main finding that inheritances reduce wealth inequality.
If true, and if true in countries other than Sweden, this is a quite interesting caution agaiinst following logical assumptions without checking against actual demonstrated facts. It is logical to assume that inheritances would increase income inequality in a population. It makes so much sense. And if it were the case, then that in turn provides an excellent rationale for increasing inheritance taxes. High inheritance taxes could be assumed to reduce inequality, an emotionally appealing idea.

But emotions should be held in check by evidence. The Swedish evidence suggests that if income inequality is your main concern, then removing inheritance taxes is a good public policy approach.

There is a jaundiced view that inheritance taxes are actually a scheme by the established elite to bar the middle class from entering the elite class and that reducing inequality was never the objective in the first place. The argument is that the established elite are in a position, having sponsored the policies in the first place, to find the loopholes to protect their favored status while the actual burden falls most heavily on the middle class. Under this scenario, you keep out the hoi polloi and raise money on someone else's labor at the same time. A win-win for the the vested interests.

Regardless for the original justification, the actual data from Sweden suggests that high death taxes do not facilitate reduced income inequality.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

If only it were all so simple!

From The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956 by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

Organic life beneath the shoreless waves

From The Temple of Nature, Canto 1 by Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles Darwin. Published in 1802. I think it detracts nothing from Charles Darwin's brilliance and insight to observe that there were, apparently, cognitive precursors within his family environment.
Organic life beneath the shoreless waves
Was born and nurs'd in Ocean's pearly caves;
First forms minute, unseen by spheric glass,
Move on the mud, or pierce the watery mass;
These, as successive generations bloom
New powers acquire, and larger limbs assume;
Whence countless groups of vegetation spring,
And breathing realms of fin, and feet, and wing.

Monday, November 7, 2016

If you pay people to work less, they work less.

Well this is interesting. By no means the end of the debate but an additive data point. The debate is whether the benefits of guaranteed minimum income maintenance (healthy sustainable life) are outweighed by the costs (disincentive of the recipients to work and disengagement of those being asked to support others). From The Long-Term Effects of Cash Assistance by David J. Price and Jae Song. The abstract.
We investigate the long-term effect of cash assistance for beneficiaries and their children by following up, after four decades, with participants in the Seattle-Denver Income Maintenance Experiment. Treated families in this randomized experiment received thousands of dollars per year in extra government benefits for three or five years in the 1970s. Using administrative data from the Social Security Administration and the Washington State Department of Health, we find that treatment caused adults to earn an average of $1,800 less per year after the experiment ended. Most of this effect on earned income is concentrated between ages 50 and 60, suggesting that it is related to retirement. Treated adults were also 6.3 percentage points more likely to apply for disability benefits, but were not significantly more likely to receive them, or to have died. These effects on parents, however, do not appear to be passed down to their children: children in treated families experienced no significant effects in any of the main variables studied. These results for children are estimated precisely enough to rule out effects found in other contexts and inform the literature on intergenerational mobility. Taken as a whole, these results suggest that policymakers should consider the long-term effects of cash assistance as they formulate policies to combat poverty.
Kudos for actually doing a follow-up.

Further details on the original program:
We are able to identify these effects by following up, after four decades, with participants in the Seattle-Denver Income Maintenance Experiment (SIME/DIME), which began in 1970. This experiment, described in more detail in Section 2, guaranteed a minimum annual income of up to $25,9008 to about half of the 4,800 low- to middle-income families enrolled. Treated families, randomly chosen from among all enrolled families, received the full guaranteed income if they earned no outside income; they then faced taxes of 50% to 80% on outside income, up to the point where the program no longer benefited them. Treated families received this financial guarantee for three or five years, and treatment enabled an individual to receive, on average, $2,400 extra annually in government benefits during the experiment, compared to control individuals who did not receive any SIME/DIME guarantee.
Short answer - guaranteed minimum income seems to create a disincentive to work, a disincentive to life planning, and a proclivity to claim further public funds even when not warranted. In the short term, people worked fewer hours when they had assistance. Once they lost assistance, they worked as much as others in the experiment who had not received supplemental income but were less prepared for retirement.

Actually, the results are worse than they seem. It is not only that the program did not work. It is that the program had detrimental life outcomes:
These effects for adults, described in more detail in Section 4, are large relative to the cash assistance received: for every $1 in additional government transfers, we find that individuals earn discounted lifetime earnings that are $4.50 lower.
That's a very high negative multiplier. Giving people more money for guaranteed income means that over their lifetime, they are nearly five times the amount you give them worse off than if you had left them alone. For every $1,000 of assistance, they earn, over their lifetime, $4,500 less. That is bad for them as individuals and even worse for society. From a societal perspective, the $1,000 of assistance might have gone to road building, or education, or security - things that could have produced multiplier benefit effects. So from a society perspective, you give up the benefits the money might have bought as well as make the individual recipients worse off. Finally, to make it even worse - most governments operate at a deficit. The $1,000 was borrowed against the future. You have to factor in the interest over forty years as well. All-in-all, this well intended effort had dramatically bad outcomes.

This does not put the issue to bed. The program was a long time ago and only lasted 3-5 years. Perhaps that was not long enough a span to have beneficial impact. Perhaps the guaranteed income of $25,000 was too low. All are real possibilities.

None-the-less, the results are consistent with what economic theory suggests. People respond to incentives and if you reduce the cost of not working, people will work less.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Signals and incentives

Crony capitalism, when it doesn't involve direct or indirect bribing, is manifested through regulatory capture and rent-seeking.

New services like Uber and Air BNB are challenging existing entrenched interests who are desperate to maintain the lucrative status quo. In states with a high propensity to regulate such as New York, Illinois, and California, there is a lot of money at stake and a lot of votes to be purchased one way or another.

The fact that these distributed type services tend to be almost consistently beneficial to the populace at large just makes the vested interests more intense in their efforts to regulate away the competition. Economists point out that such regulations make services more expensive and are a disservice to consumers but those arguments fall on deaf regulatory ears, clogged as they are by insider counsel, advice and lucre.

Economists point out that restricting supply increases costs. Regulators, who have expense reelection campaign to run, are deaf to the counsel.

All is illustrated in this Washington Post article, Hotel CEO openly celebrates higher prices after anti-Airbnb law passes by Elizabeth Dwoskin.
A hotel executive said a recently-passed New York law cracking down on Airbnb hosts will enable the company to raise prices for New York City hotel rooms, according to the transcript of the executive's words on a call with shareholders last week.

The law, signed by New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday, slaps anyone who lists their apartment on a short-term rental site with a fine up to $7,500. It "should be a big boost in the arm for the business," Mike Barnello, chief executive of the hotel chain LaSalle Hotel Properties, said of the law last Thursday, "certainly in terms of the pricing.”

Barnello's comment adds fuel the argument, made repeatedly by Airbnb and its proponents, that a law that was passed in the name of affordable housing also allows established hotels to raises prices for consumers. It was included in a memo written by Airbnb's head of global policy, Chris Lehane, to the Internet Association, a tech trade group, reviewed by the Washington Post. LaSalle, a Bethesda, MD-based chain, owns hotels around the country, including New York City.

LaSalle did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

"They say a gaffe is unintentionally saying what you really believe - and the latest gaffe from the hotel cartel makes it clear that the New York bill was all about protecting the hotel industry's bottom line,” said Airbnb’s public affairs director, Nick Papas. "Albany back-room dealing rewarded the price-gouging hotel industry and middle class families will pay the price."
In the words of Lord Melbourne in 1878,
What all the wise men promised has not happened, and what all the damned fools said would happen has come to pass.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Women predominated among high school graduates in 1900, earning 60 percent of the diplomas issued that year

This is interesting. From PBS, Education. Interesting in that it substantially re-calibrates the common narrative of female education in the US. That narrative is, in broad terms, that women used to not be educated at all and that it has been improving since WWII and certainly since the 1960s. There are elements that are of course true and other parts are essentially wrong.

We are used now to women earning the majority of HS and college degrees. But apparently that has long been the case, at least for high school.
Women predominated among high school graduates in 1900, earning 60 percent of the diplomas issued that year. Men were less likely to graduate from high school because so many of them entered the full-time labor force before or during their early teens. As the chart at the upper left indicates, the proportion of high school diplomas awarded to women declined to about half by the end of the century. While women received a majority of high school diplomas in 1900, postsecondary education was still reserved primarily for men. Women earned only 19 percent of bachelor’s degrees in 1900, but their share doubled to 40 percent by 1930 and remained at about that level in 1940. After World War II, however, the female share of bachelor’s degrees dropped sharply as male veterans flooded into colleges and universities under the G.I. Bill. Not until 1970 did women’s share of college degrees surpass the pre-World War II level. After 1970, however, women’s percentage of college degrees rose briskly, reaching parity in the early 1980s. As the chart at the upper right indicates, women received more than half of all bachelor’s and first professional degrees by 1990.
I was unaware that they earned 60% of high school diplomas in 1900 and I was also unaware that they received 40% of bachelors diplomas in 1930.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Sabotage or standard operating procedure?

From The 16 best ways to sabotage your organization's productivity, from a CIA manual published in 1944 by Richard Feloni. Reads a lot like Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals.

As summarized by Feloni, the OSS recommended:

Organizations and Conferences

Insist on doing everything through "channels." Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.

Make "speeches." Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your "points" by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences.

When possible, refer all matters to committees, for "further study and consideration." Attempt to make the committee as large as possible — never less than five.

Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.

Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.

Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.

Advocate "caution." Be "reasonable" and urge your fellow-conferees to be "reasonable"and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.


In making work assignments, always sign out the unimportant jobs first. See that important jobs are assigned to inefficient workers.

Insist on perfect work in relatively unimportant products; send back for refinishing those which have the least flaw.

To lower morale and with it, production, be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions.

Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.

Multiply the procedures and clearances involved in issuing instructions, pay checks, and so on. See that three people have to approve everything where one would do.


Work slowly.

Contrive as many interruptions to your work as you can.

Do your work poorly and blame it on bad tools, machinery, or equipment. Complain that these things are preventing you from doing your job right.

Never pass on your skill and experience to a new or less skillful worker.
How do these sabotage techniques differ from standard operating procedure in most larger enterprises? It is not entirely clear to me that they do.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the most bigoted of us all?

Hmmm. From It’s harder for Clinton supporters to respect Trump backers than vice versa by John Gramlich. The findings represent something of a challenge to Althouse's Rule:
I've said it before, and I must repeat, the rule is: If you do scientific research into the differences between men and women, you must portray whatever you find to be true of women as superior. And when you read reports about scientific research into the differences between men and women, use the hypothesis that the scientists are following that rule.
Pew finds that Trump supporters find it easier to respect their opponents than do Clinton supporters. Very consistent with Jonathan Haidt's Moral Foundations Theory.
Progressives are particularly sensitive to the Care foundation, libertarians to the Liberty foundation, and conservatives roughly equally sensitive to all six foundations. According to Haidt, this has significant implications for political discourse and relations. Because members of two political camps are to a degree blind to one or more of the moral foundations of the others, they may perceive morally-driven words or behavior as having another basis—at best self-interested, at worst evil, and thus demonize one another. Further research has shown that while members of all ideological camps have difficulty understanding others, conservatives are measurably better at understanding the point of view of progressives than vice versa, presumably because conservatives operate in a six-dimensional moral matrix that contains all of the progressives’ dimensions.
What Pew is finding is that indeed Liberals are more intolerant than Conservatives.

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Which demographic is by far the most intolerant of those with whom they disagree? College educated white women.

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Just anecdotally, that seems to match with the demographics which I see in news clips of campus protests, disruptors at speaking events, letters to the editor, etc. Interesting to see it born out in data.

UPDATE: Reminds me of this earlier post, It's just this war and that lying son of a bitch Johnson

Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem, voting and the inevitability of occasional suboptimal outcomes

This is a very good explanatory video on a topical subject:Voting Paradoxes.

Most people grasp that a straightforward direct democracy has the advantage that the majority always wins, but it also has the disadvantage of the minority always losing – referred to by the founding fathers in the Federalist papers as the tyranny of the majority. It is an important defect which the founding fathers addressed through the combination of a republican structure (National, State, Local) and the divided branches (Executive, Legislative, Judicial) with the hope that the resulting divisions would facilitate compromise among groups.

It has broadly been a successful model but people are always frustrated that it is 1) slow, and 2) produces less than optimal outcomes under particular (usually transient) circumstances. Fair enough criticisms until you begin to examine what are the alternative mechanisms. That is what the video highlights. Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem dictates that there is no ranked ordering system that makes logical sense. What you gain in one arena of perceived fairness, you lose as much or more in another.

Our political system is not broken. It is merely demonstrating the strains arising from the reality that if there are multiple choices and everyone’s vote counts, then there is no optimum outcome that always maximizes the greater utility of everyone. All models fail under particular circumstances.

The good thing we have is that our model fails less often than most which sounds like damning with faint praise, but is pretty accurate.

All alternatives that get proposed yield a better outcome for particular circumstances but worse outcomes overall.

Epistemological closure - Atlantic edition

Regardless of your view of the respective candidates, this has to be one of the more spectacular examples of epistemological closure I have seen. Scroll down the responses to see what an opportunity this presented to GIF artists everywhere.

Click on tweet to see responses.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The association between childhood violence victimization and later cognition is largely noncausal

From The Origins of Cognitive Deficits in Victimized Children: Implications for Neuroscientists and Clinicians by Andrea Danese, et al.

Interesting as a strike against post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning.
Individuals reporting a history of childhood violence victimization have impaired brain function. However, the clinical significance, reproducibility, and causality of these findings are disputed. The authors used data from two large cohort studies to address these research questions directly.

The authors tested the association between prospectively collected measures of childhood violence victimization and cognitive functions in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood among 2,232 members of the U.K. E-Risk Study and 1,037 members of the New Zealand Dunedin Study who were followed up from birth until ages 18 and 38 years, respectively. Multiple measures of victimization and cognition were used, and comparisons were made of cognitive scores for twins discordant for victimization.

Individuals exposed to childhood victimization had pervasive impairments in clinically relevant cognitive functions, including general intelligence, executive function, processing speed, memory, perceptual reasoning, and verbal comprehension in adolescence and adulthood. However, the observed cognitive deficits in victimized individuals were largely explained by cognitive deficits that predated childhood victimization and by confounding genetic and environmental risks.

Findings from two population-representative birth cohorts totaling more than 3,000 individuals and born 20 years and 20,000 km apart suggest that the association between childhood violence victimization and later cognition is largely noncausal, in contrast to conventional interpretations. These findings support the adoption of a more circumspect approach to causal inference in the neuroscience of stress. Clinically, cognitive deficits should be conceptualized as individual risk factors for victimization as well as potential complicating features during treatment.
The weakest and least capable among us need the most protection and assistance.

I am interested in the description of the biologically gifted, those having "general intelligence, executive function, processing speed, memory, perceptual reasoning, and verbal comprehension." It answers a need in my model of Knowledge, Experience, Skills, Values, Behaviors, Capability and Motivation as the causal ingredient of outcomes. For Capability, I have been using IQ as a broad proxy but general intelligence, executive function, processing speed, memory, perceptual reasoning, and verbal comprehension is much closer to what I am after.

The Donkey

The Donkey
BY G. K. Chesterton

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

I heard the thin gnat-voices cry, Star to faint star, across the sky.

Thank you internet and Wikipedia. From fifteen or so to perhaps twenty-five, I read all or most of the work of John Wyndham, most famous for his science fiction novel, Day of the Triffids.

Among his books is The Outward Urge. Good enough, but it was not a particular favorite of mine. Most of his work was more a fusion of science fiction and speculation in the realms of sociology and psychology. The Outward Urge was more traditional hard science sci-fi.

However, there was a short introductory couplet or dedication of some sort which stuck with me for years. I did not have a copy of the book and it is relatively hard to find. All I was left with was something to do with small gnat voices calling from star to star. I have searched a number of times in the past fifteen years but for the longest time, I came up empty-handed despite the realm of internet data ever expanding. It has, till now, been still too obscure.

However, I just did a search and now have the answer. In fact a couple of answers.

The couplet was:
I heard the thin gnat-voices cry,
Star to faint star, across the sky.

I am not sure I ever knew at the time but it is from a Rupert Brooke (another favorite of mine) poem, The Jolly Company.
The Jolly Company
Rupert Brooke

THE stars, a jolly company,
I envied, straying late and lonely;
And cried upon their revelry:
"O white companionship! You only
In love, in faith unbroken dwell,
Friends radiant and inseparable!"
Light-heart and glad they seemed to me
And merry comrades (even so
God out of heaven may laugh to see
The happy crowds; and never know
That in his lone obscure distress
Each walketh in a wilderness).
But I, remembering, pitied well
And loved them, who, with lonely light,
In empty infinite spaces dwell,
Disconsolate. For, all the night,
I heard the thin gnat-voices cry,
Star to faint star, across the sky.

The tunics, they are a-changin'

From Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century: The structure of everyday life by Fernand Braudel.
The really big change came in about 1350 with the sudden shortening of men’s costume, which was viewed as scandalous by the old, the prudent, and the defenders of tradition. 'Around that year,' writes the continuer of Guillaume de Nangis's chronicle, "men, in particular noblemen and their squires, and a few bourgeois and their servants, took to wearing tunics so short and tight that they revealed what modesty bids us hide. This was a most astonishing thing for the people.' This figure-hugging costume was to last, and men never went back to wearing long robes. As for women, their bodices too became more close-fitting, and were cut with a large décolleté - another cause for censure.
Shades of the Bob Dylan song which ends with:
Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin'
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin'
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Throughout the 1860s and 1870s railways found it impossible to compete not only with bullock carts

The Chaos of Empire: The British Raj and the Conquest of India by Jon Wilson. Technology and transportation are critical to progress but have evolved on independent paths in different places at different times. An insight:
…the most important technological change for the transportation of heavy goods in nineteenth-century India was not the arrival of the quick, expensive railway: it was the move from pack animals to carts pulled by two or four beasts in the first half of the century. This was the process historian Amalendu Guha calls ‘the bullock cart revolution’. Throughout the 1860s and 1870s railways found it impossible to compete not only with bullock carts, but also with human-powered river transport. Rowing boats along the Ganges and Jamuna won a price war with the railways over the cost of transporting heavy goods. Vessels powered by human beings were able to undercut steam vessels elsewhere.