To a Post-Office Inkwell
by Christopher Morley
How many humble hearts have dipped
In you, and scrawled their manuscript!
Have shared their secrets, told their cares,
Their curious and quaint affairs!
Your pool of ink, your scratchy pen,
Have moved the lives of unborn men,
And watched young people, breathing hard,
Put Heaven on a postal card.
Tuesday, December 31, 2019
From Wikipedia, The Ankerwycke Yew.
From the article.
As the world celebrates the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, a document that laid the foundation for modern liberties and law, it's worth remembering that one silent witness to that historical event remains alive and well.
According to some historians, King John signed the Magna Carta beneath the Ankerwycke yew, a 30-foot-wide behemoth, which in June 1215 was already a well-known ancient landmark. Estimates of its age today range from 2,000-2,500 years — making it one of oldest trees in the United Kingdom and the world.
The famous yew is located along the banks of the River Thames on grounds previously occupied by a 12th-century nunnery called St. Mary's Priory. Historians point to a 19th-century reference to the nunnery, now in ruins, that hints at its importance in the signing of the Magna Carta.
"Here the confederate Barons met King John, and having forced him to yield to the demands of his subjects they, under the pretext of securing the person of the King from the fury of the multitude, conveyed him to a small island belonging to the nuns of Ankerwyke [the island], where he signed the Magna Carta," wrote J.J. Sheahen in 1822.
History credits the yew as playing host to several other important meetings, from a place of council for Saxon kings to secret meetings between Henry VIII and a young Anne Boleyn. Earlier this year, saplings grown from the cuttings of famous yews from all over the U.K., including the Ankerwycke, were planted in a hedge in Edinburgh’s Botanic Gardens.
Monday, December 30, 2019
by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow, and, driving o'er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air
Hides hills and woods, the river, and the heaven,
And veils the farm-house at the garden's end.
The sled and traveller stopped, the courier's feet
Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed
In a tumultuous privacy of storm.
Come see the north wind's masonry.
Out of an unseen quarry evermore
Furnished with tile, the fierce artificer
Curves his white bastions with projected roof
Round every windward stake, or tree, or door.
Speeding, the myriad-handed, his wild work
So fanciful, so savage, nought cares he
For number or proportion. Mockingly,
On coop or kennel he hangs Parian wreaths;
A swan-like form invests the hidden thorn;
Fills up the farmer's lane from wall to wall,
Maugre the farmer's sighs; and, at the gate,
A tapering turret overtops the work.
And when his hours are numbered, and the world
Is all his own, retiring, as he were not,
Leaves, when the sun appears, astonished Art
To mimic in slow structures, stone by stone,
Built in an age, the mad wind's night-work,
The frolic architecture of the snow.
Socioeconomic position (SEP) is a multi-dimensional construct reflecting (and influencing) multiple socio-cultural, physical, and environmental factors. In a sample of 286,301 participants from UK Biobank, we identify 30 (29 previously unreported) independent-loci associated with income. Using a method to meta-analyze data from genetically-correlated traits, we identify an additional 120 income-associated loci. These loci show clear evidence of functionality, with transcriptional differences identified across multiple cortical tissues, and links to GABAergic and serotonergic neurotransmission. By combining our genome wide association study on income with data from eQTL studies and chromatin interactions, 24 genes are prioritized for follow up, 18 of which were previously associated with intelligence. We identify intelligence as one of the likely causal, partly-heritable phenotypes that might bridge the gap between molecular genetic inheritance and phenotypic consequence in terms of income differences. These results indicate that, in modern era Great Britain, genetic effects contribute towards some of the observed socioeconomic inequalities.Well, yes. But how much? Embedded in the text, they reveal that the identified genes might explain as much as 7% of the variance in income.
And holding aside income as an appropriate measure of "success."
I am generally skeptical of the pursuit of singular genetic causes of complex outcomes - IQ being one example and Income being another. It is not an unreasonable pursuit but complex outcomes tend to have multi-causal origins. As indicated in this research by the fact that the 24 identified genes only explain possibly 7% of variance.
There is unavoidably a whiff of eugenics in such research but I think the wonder of complexity will almost always thwart whatever pre-existing assumptions there might be and will frustrate the eugenicist fantasy of engineered humans.
Circumstances and choices are always real factors, usually with greater effect sizes.
We the willing,A little googling indicates it seems to be commonly attributed to Mother Teresa but with no attribution or sourcing.
led by the unknowing,
are doing the impossible
for the ungrateful.
We have done so much,
with so little,
for so long,
we are now qualified to do anything,
Quote Investigator notes
This expression is difficult to trace because it is highly malleable.However, they trace its likely origins back to the US military, likely in World War II. It has continued to circulate in various formulations and with innumerable murky attributions for the decade since.
It has a vague echo of the old World War adage describing the British enlisted as "Lions led by donkeys." An adage with its own history.
In the past decade, the demographic balance has turned. Moving further out entails such long drives that people are beginning to move back in. The city is densifying. The population numbers are inching up. The corruption and incompetence remain inured but there is central city economic dynamism once again. Which of course attracts more crime.
Our property crime commission (theft of mail, theft of deliveries from porches, theft from cars, theft of cars) are all up 20-40% over the past couple of years, as is the population of homeless and urban campers. Staid neighborhoods where cut-through speeders and loose dogs used to be the mainstay of civic complaint now have weekly or monthly incidents of mass theft. More and more armed robberies.
The police are understaffed and overwhelmed. Even when they do catch someone, they inevitably end up being someone with 20 or more earlier run-ins with the law who are immediately released back into the community by the court-system. Everyone is trying to do their job as they understand it and the result is near anarchy as seen through the eyes of citizens.
And of course there are ethnic patterns to this which are incendiary on their own. Violent crime is down in all parts of the City of Atlanta but it is still highest in the African-American locations. It is next highest in immigrant Hispanic and Asian neighborhoods. It is lowest in upper middle class and white neighborhoods. Much, but by no means all, of the property crime is being committed by African-American gangs against the upper middle class and white neighborhoods and Hispanic immigrants.
There is a degree of tragic inevitability to this. We know, as seen in New Orleans ten years ago and in other locales since, that there will be an incident in which an Asian, Hispanic, or White home owner will shoot an African-American intruder. There will be hysteria and all sorts of calls for a national conversation on race and stereotypes, etc. And it will be all much ado about nothing. Because it is not about race. It is about crime, policing and justice and the failure of the state to protect is citizens from the former through the latter.
As with the national numbers, violent crime is way down from the peaks of the seventies through the nineties. That should not be discounted as an achievement. But people quickly adjust to pleasant new normals and then turn their aspirations towards the next tier of improvement. Fixed violent crime. Now let's focus on property crime is the natural evolution.
In response to the earlier violent crime wave of the 1970s-1990s, James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling came up with the Broken Windows Theory, explaining crime as a product of norms and signals.
In an anonymous urban environment, with few or no other people around, social norms and monitoring are not clearly known. Individuals thus look for signals within the environment as to the social norms in the setting and the risk of getting caught violating those norms; one of the signals is the area's general appearance.While hotly debated and vilified on the left, sophisticated Broken Windows policing has been effective across diverse environments in the US for over thirty years. Just how effective was illustrated post Ferguson when many cities backed away from active policing and immediately saw a spike in violent crime.
Under the broken windows theory, an ordered and clean environment, one that is maintained, sends the signal that the area is monitored and that criminal behavior is not tolerated. Conversely, a disordered environment, one that is not maintained (broken windows, graffiti, excessive litter), sends the signal that the area is not monitored and that criminal behavior has little risk of detection.
We have not, so far, had an equally effective breakthrough on the social dynamics of property crime. But some of the same dynamics are likely at issue.
But whether property crime or violent crime, both are marks that the State is unable to perform its fundamental role of policing and criminal justice. Both signal to citizens that they cannot rely on the State to perform its function. Both are signals that citizens need to self-organize to provide the core services which the State should be but is not providing.
This Christmas, or more pertinently, Hanukah, has seen a rash of violent crimes in the New York area by African-Americans against Hasidic Jews. By its very particularity though, there are reasons to question how much can be generalized from these attacks.
Locally, there are weak signals about this erosion of State integrity and trust. I wake up this morning and do my news scan. On NextDoor there is a long thread of comments and discussions about the newest fashion in crime. For the past couple of years, the City has displayed its incompetence and corruption around electronic scooters - Bird, Lime, Lyft, etc. People are waking to find scooters in their front lawns, blocking their sidewalk, cluttering the streets. There have been multiple deaths from scooter involved traffic accidents. The City is still trying to figure out which way is up.
Showing the natural human capacity for innovation, it was probably inevitable that crime and technology would piggyback. There are now a couple of reports of industrial-style car break-ins. Instead of walking down a street between 8pm and 6am, peering in cars, riffling through the open ones and window-breaking the locked ones, instead of wandering up driveways to find what is parked in the back of homes, the new criminal approach is far more efficient.
They get a scooter and drive down a street breaking all the windows of cars parked there. They are followed by a vehicle with a riffling man. He runs from car to car whose windows have already been broken and quickly does a visual check for contents and tries the glove compartment. They can do twenty cars on a street in less than five minutes and be on their way long before the police arrive.
The scarce police resources are appropriately allocated to those neighborhoods where there are still high levels of violent crime. Their capacity and ability to deal with non-violent property crime is limited. Especially faced with scooter-enabled industrial-scale thievery.
And the citizen's regard for and trust in the State declines further. And we get closer to that moment when it will take a tragic turn.
Also this morning, in Texas we see the next iteration of citizenry response to declining State capability. Details are not all in but it appears some homeless person brought a shotgun to church and killed two parishioners before being in turn shot by armed congregants. A video of the event is here.
The New York Times's account is here.
Mr. Cummings said the gunman was “acting suspiciously” before the shooting and drew the attention of the church’s security team. The team, he said, has existed for at least 10 years and is made up of members of the church’s congregation who are licensed to carry firearms and practice shooting regularly.Why on earth did a church have an armed congregation? Because most mass shootings occur at places which restrict firearms. Schools, churches, public spaces. There has been a movement in many states to rectify this.
“They saved a lot of lives today,” Mr. Cummings said. “Because this thing would have been a massacre otherwise.”
A member of the security team was killed in the attack, he said.
Mike Tinius, an elder at the church, said he had known that victim for more than 20 years. “He was trying to do what he needed to do to protect the rest of us,” Mr. Tinius said, adding, “It’s extremely upsetting to see anyone committing violence.”
The shooting, which the authorities said lasted six seconds, was captured on video because the church regularly posts its services online.
In the video, the gunman stands up during a quiet moment and briefly talks with someone standing against a wall. He then begins firing. Congregants crouch down in their pews. After a third loud bang, the gunman slumps to the ground as people scream.
“He was immediately hit by one of our marksmen,” Mr. Cummings said. “The next thing I know, he was lying on the floor.”
A Texas bill that took effect in September allows licensed handgun owners to carry those weapons in churches, synagogues and other places of worship.No single event is representative of all but this tragic shooting does have at least one common element.
The gunman had a previous arrest record but was not on a watch list, said Mr. DeSarno, who declined to elaborate on the nature of the arrests.There are a couple of things striking to me.
This all occurred in the space of six seconds.
The shooting, which the authorities said lasted six seconds, was captured on video because the church regularly posts its services online.Even a fully staffed police department would have been unlikely to be able to protect the parishioners without prior knowledge. The people were their only resource. And as almost always happens, selfless and courageous citizens stepped forwards to defend their family, friends and community at the very real threat to their own lives.
In the video, the gunman stands up during a quiet moment and briefly talks with someone standing against a wall. He then begins firing. Congregants crouch down in their pews. After a third loud bang, the gunman slumps to the ground as people scream.
This picture from the first article is what is most striking. Maybe two or three seconds into the shooting there are at least six trained parishioners (marked with yellow arrows) immediately and effectively responding.
This is impressive, alarming, heartening, striking, and concerning. It is impressive training. It is alarming that the congregation felt they needed to prepare themselves. It is heartening to see the self-reliance and resolution which has always been an American trait. It is striking to see emergent order in action. Ultimately it is concerning.
In this particular circumstance, the police were not at any fault. It was over in six seconds. But that groups of citizens are taking on the role and function of the State? We need that. But we also need reliable and competent State services so that citizens do not feel the need to take on these roles themselves.
Sunday, December 29, 2019
Ever wondered what kind of weasel would vandalize a perfectly good car left outside at night?
Germany has the answer: Its technical name is the stone marten. This sharp-toothed critter has a habit of squeezing into the innards of parked cars and feasting on plastic hoses and tubes. And Germany’s marten population is exploding.
Weasel damage is the fourth most frequent cause for non-collision auto insurance claims in Germany. Last year, drivers here filed 198,000 claims for weasel-inflicted damage, a 42% increase since 2005. And that probably underestimates the carnage.
“We only have data from those insurers that offer a weasel policy,” said Henning Engelage, a spokesman for the insurers’ federation.
Epitaph for A Cat
by Margaret E. Bruner
If in some far-off, future day,
A stranger's feet should pass this way,
And if his gaze should seek the ground,
Wondering what lies beneath the mound:
Know that a cat of humble birth
Claims this small portion of the earth.
But I thought not of pedigree,
When, like a child, he came to me,_
A lonely waif, whose piteous cries
Were mirrored in his frightened eyes.
And so I beg that you will not
Defame or desecrate this spot
By ruthless act or idle jeer,
Though but a cat lies buried here.
Saturday, December 28, 2019
It is a tale of English adventurers who fled a king’s tyranny, crossed oceans and built a version of their homeland on distant shores, naming towns after those they left behind.Bridge acknowledges that the tale is likely embellished but then goes on to elaborate on the facts and circumstances which support the idea. In the process, he shares other information which I either did not know or had forgotten. For example:
These were not the Pilgrim Fathers, however, but little-known fugitives from the Norman Conquest who created their own New England on the Black Sea more than 500 years earlier.
Late-medieval accounts of English exiles rewarded for derring-do on behalf of the eastern Roman, or Byzantine, emperor read like a film script but a historian has claimed that there is evidence for significant aspects of the story. Caitlin Green, a medieval historian and archaeologist, has published the first account of this eastern “Nova Anglia” in BBC History Magazine.
A colourful telling of the purported exodus comes from the 14th-century Icelandic saga of Edward the Confessor, which relays how, after the defeat at Hastings in 1066, English chiefs appealed to the Danes to help them to oust William the Bastard. “When the English chiefs were sure that the Danes would not help them . . . then they left their estates and fled away from the land with a great host.”
It says the force travelled in 350 ships and was led by one Siward, earl of Gloucester. After a series of adventures, including raiding Ceuta, north Africa, where they slaughtered a host of heathens and were paid off in treasure, the saga says the exiles heard of great strife out of Micklegarth (then Constantinople, now Istanbul), which was under siege by land and sea. They made haste and took the enemy ships, causing such a rout that the foe on land also “sprang up and fled”.
The saga says that the emperor “took wonderfully well” to his guests. It says that he offered the English places in his bodyguard unit, the Varangians, but some asked for land instead. Unwilling to risk depriving local notables of their estates, the emperor said there was former Roman territory lying six days and nights’ sail across the sea “in the east and northeast from Micklegarth” that was theirs if they could take it from the heathens.
After many battles, the saga relates, they duly won the land and called it England. “To the towns that were in the land and to those which they built they gave the names of the towns in England. They called them both London and York, and by the names of other great towns.”
In her book The Alexiad, written in about 1148, the Byzantine princess Anna Comnena mentions the presence in the imperial service of Varangians from “the island of Thule”, which is often taken to be Britain. She described how these “axe-bearing barbarians” ... “regarded their loyalty to the emperors and their protection of the imperial persons as a pledge and ancestral tradition, handed down from father to son”.
Historians agree that the Varangian guard went from being dominated by Scandinavians for the 10th and much of the 11th centuries to being a primarily English unit. Englishmen travelling to Constantinople after the Norman Conquest could have heard of the wealth and opportunities of “Micklegarth” due to the large Danish influence at home.
Judged by the Company One Keeps
One night in late October,
When I was far from sober,
Returning with my load with manly pride,
My feet began to stutter,
So I lay down in the gutter,
And a pig came near and lay down by my side;
A lady passing by was heard to say:
"You can tell a man who boozes,
By the company he chooses,"
And the pig got up and slowly walked away.
"Social Justice" isn't a war in the simplistic sense. It's a colonizing crusade https://t.co/5WQ7fzqijr— James Lindsay, big hunk (@ConceptualJames) December 27, 2019
But in amongst the words is this:
All in all, I think this theory is one of those self-pleasuring exercises to which our media is prone. If you look at the coverage given any campaign by the media, you will actually find next to no coverage of any significant issue. If you’re getting your economic commentary from any outlet that employs Paul Krugman, you’re really doing it all wrong. Quite honestly, the media are not at all reticent about pushing outlandish ideas when their reporters are sympathetic to the cause. If you’re trying to tell me the media did not push homosexual marriage and are not agitating for a pride of place for transgenderism now, you’re nuts.The idea this sparks is that each politician has perhaps 3-5 markers which end up branding them in the popular mind. Not everyone will ascribe the same 3-5 markers to a given politician, but among the population, there will be 3-5 most popular markers which everyone will recognize. They become the emergent brand of the individual politician.
Neither Warren nor Sanders failing to excite the masses is a mystery. Everyone knows Warren is a fraud and a liar. Even if you think President Trump is also a fraud and a liar you are forced to admit that Trump is, at least, an entertaining one who doesn’t care how you spend your money or how many sheets of toilet paper you use per bowel movement. Sanders is a communist. He’s a guy who honeymooned in the USSR while it was aiming nuclear missiles at the United States. No number of position papers and supporting experts is going to get that past a majority of Americans.
As to some of the other specifics. Americans aren’t, at least for another few decades, going to support a “wealth tax” because most Americans hate the IRS much more than they hate rich people. And a lot of us have a sneaking desire to be wealthy one day. Americans aren’t going to support Medicare for All because we saw how the government’s ability to make a soup sandwich out of a functioning program by the Obamacare debacle. Seniors don’t want the system changed. People who have other means don’t want to be a part of it.
The markers may be more or less grounded in reality, but that does not obviate their relevance as markers. I presume they are not immutable but, as products of emergent order, they are also not easily changed.
The media bury themselves in the quotidian effluvia of a campaign, in the policy details, in the scandals, in the perceived claims of facts, in the debates. While that drives clicks, it is noise on top of the basics. Each voter, by a process of accretion, has created a 3-5 point brand for each politician and all the media attention gets filtered through those markers.
As an example, one of Trump's brand markers is almost certainly Successful Businessman. Now whether or not he is a successful businessman or whether he is the most successful businessman among his opponents is not especially germane. What is germane is that is his brand marker.
Trump is not the only businessman in the field. John Delaney, Michael Bloomberg, and Tom Steyer all have at least as good claim to the brand marker of Successful Businessman. Delaney and Bloomberg perhaps a better claim. But for reasons of timing and circumstance, my sense is that they don't have the marker Successful Businessman but the marker of Billionaire, a much more ambiguous brand. Oddly, the current candidate with the next closest brand to Successful Businessman is Andrew Yang who is frequently paired with the marker Successful Entrepreneur even though his ventures have been far less consequential than the three billionaires and the centimillionaire.
Left leaning journalists are inclined to argue that Trump is the beneficiary of a major inheritance and therefore more dilettante than businessman. They argue that he was only actually an adequate businessman, his fortune increasing with the market. They argue that he has had business failures in addition to his successes. Fair arguments but not pertinent. The more they talk about Trump as a businessman, the more they reinforce the brand element Successful Businessman.
How do brands get created? Well, who controls the narrative? Trump has been, explicitly or intuitively, defining his public brand for decades. For many of the others, it is more of an afterthought. For some, their brand is pretty close to just who they are. Bernie Sanders probably does not think a lot about branding and positioning. He is a Committed Socialist and therefore that is the brand marker which has emerged.
The individual contributes to their own brand by their own decisions and actions. They can invest, through advertising, in buying a brand, though that is usually not particularly successful. The media, of course, and often inadvertently, contributes to a candidate's brand by focusing on particular aspects of the candidate's persona.
Another thing to note about brand markers is that they say nothing about the comparative reality. If Candidate A is perceived as corrupt by more people than Candidate B, but Corruption is not one of the 3-5 markers for Candidate A, but is for Candidate B, then discussing corruption will always be damaging to B rather than A, regardless of the facts.
I think this is part of why the Russia Collusion campaign by Democrats and the MSM failed. In part it failed because there was no collusion, but that is just the factual aspect of the issue. Even if the accusation is false, it can still do damage. It is not that Trump couldn't have colluded. But his entire brand is so anchored in the US and on other markers that trying to introduce International Corruption or Russian Allegiance just did not easily fit. Ironically, it fit a lot more closely with Biden both because there was actual corruption but also because it was far more of a fit to his brand of Wise Older Statesman.
How might one determine a given politician's brand markers? There are actually four elements. What are the markers? How commonly are they held? How strongly are the held? And what is the relative prioritization of those markers (ordinal ranking)?
Extensive focus group testing and surveying would be one way, though terribly expensive and easily manipulated. Nexus has a feature which allows you to find conjoins which would be helpful - what are the adjectives and adverbs which are most often associated in print and media with a particular name.
The reality is that there is no quick and easy way to do so. Or not an obvious one.
Here is my top of mind, fact-free, stream-of-conscious, association for some of the major names. These are the attributes I think many/most might associate with each of these names regardless of whether they are actually true.
Trump - Successful Businessman, Gauche, Good Times, Street Fighter, MAGAI don't know whether these are indeed the most commonly held markers (on average), whether they are in the right order, how widely they are held, or how strongly they are held. But they might be in the ballpark.
Clinton - Tired, Sleazy, Health, Corrupt, Passive Aggressive
Warren - Fresh Faced, Academic, Works the System for Her Own Advantage, Naive Technocrat, Fake
Sanders - Genuine Conviction, Angry, Socialist, Enduring
Harris - Insular, Narrow Focus, Insider, Racist, Incompetent
Biden - Good Old Joe, Creepy Uncle, Corrupt, Wise Older Statesman, Old Ways
Buttigieg - Youth, Accomplishment, Smart, Wide Experience, Shallow Experience
And of course you have to apply all of this to the simple name recognition in the first place. For people who are paying close attention, the above markers for Buttigieg might be more or less accurate. However, probably 70% of the voting population could not at this point yet identify Buttigieg by name or picture.
None of this was the point of Streiff in his article but this is where his article drove my thoughts.
I think it is an interesting model. What are the candidate's brands and how does the noisy MSM coverage reinforce or degrade those brand markers?
Instead of competing on policies, perhaps the competition is on brands.
Friday, December 27, 2019
A Cat's Conscience
A dog will often steal a bone,
But conscience lets him not alone,
And by his tail his guilt is known.
But cats consider theft a game,
And, howsoever you may blame,
Refuse the slightest sign of shame.
When food mysteriously goes,
The chances are that Kitty knows
More than she leads you to suppose.
And hence there is no need for you,
If puss declines a meal or two,
To feel her pulse and make ado!
This is an astoundingly good summary by @dylanmatt of excellent left wing academic research. I wonder if the massive quantity of high quality research means that none of it gets absorbed by the general public. https://t.co/mRNQ4S49Ds— David Brooks (@nytdavidbrooks) December 26, 2019
The original Vox article is The 2010s featured a lot of great social science. Here are my 12 favorite studies. What economists, political scientists, sociologists, and philosophers taught me about the world in the 2010s. by Dylan Matthews.
In the first place, sociology and psychology are fields riddled with studies which fail to replicate. Not just occasionally, but most of the time. If it is an exciting and significant discovery being reported, you can bet that it is a small sample size, small effect size, non-random population, and will fail to replicate.
Now exciting sociology and psychology are the sandpits Brooks dabbles in and are the source of most his ponderous musings and books. The fact that he is writing in an ephemeral fashion on ephemeral findings is sort of ironic but not an uncommon irony.
The striking thing about his tweet is its heavy-handedness, almost smacking of desperation. "Astoundingly good", "excellent left wing research", "massive quantity", "high quality research" - Put your thumb a bit heavier on the scale David. Brooks defies Betteridge's Law. Brooks wants you to believe the answer to his question is yes. Brooks is so deep into the left worldview that he wants to argue that the more something is true, the less likely people are to believe it.
But Betteridge has the last laugh. The answer is no. The public does not absorb the left wing research because it is weak and faulty research. Not because it is so awesomely, massively, compellingly true. It isn't.
Is this research all that good given what we have seen in terms of the replication crisis? A crisis which became far better quantified in this past decade? I don't usually read the young adult news site Vox owing to its own high error rates of reporting.
But if David Brooks thinks it so massive, astoundingly, excellent, high quality reporting, perhaps it is worth checking.
Saved you a click. No.
I am familiar with much of the research and most of it suffers from the same common issues. Not so much in these instances of small and non-random samples (though that remains true for some of them.) Rather, the weakness is that the methods are not rigorous or robust, the research effect sizes are small, the findings are contested by other, more robust research.
They may be the best of the left wing lot but that doesn't make them good. No matter how much they are puffed up by name media celebrities. Oddly, Matthews has the same tick as Brooks, compensating for small effect sizes by large claims. An example (emphasis added):
So Meager uses techniques from Bayesian statistics to measure how much the results of a specific intervention — microcredit or microfinance programs for the global poor, of the kind offered by groups like Grameen or Kiva — vary from study to study. She doesn’t have a huge number of studies to go on (only seven) but she’s able to use this method to find that the effectiveness of microcredit varies a bit, but not a huge amount, from place to place. That suggests our evidence on microcredit is reasonably externally valid: The results in a new location are likely to resemble the results in past locations pretty closely, if hardly perfectly.So a review of a tiny number of studies (hopefully not cherry-picked) reveals there is variance in outcomes (unspecified), such that the forecasts are hardly perfect. And this is considered HUGELY PROMISING.
Overall, this is a hugely promising new way to synthesize evidence in emerging social science literature. Meager’s research along with the work of David Roodman synthesizing evidence on issues like incarceration and immigration, gives me hope that we’re getting better at blending knowledge across studies to come to a more complete understanding of the world.
Well, to quote Betteridge, No.
If this one-sided, cherry-picked smattering of a dozen left wing studies across the decade is the best the left has, then they don't have much fuel for their arguments. Not only are the studies cherry-picked, some of them are already broadly refuted. That would have been useful knowledge to add.
Instead, as is often the case with Vox, they are much better at telling you what they wish you would believe to be true but not especially good, despite Brooks's admiration, at telling you what is true. Certainly not this dozen of anemic studies.
In a world of masks and façades, it is hard to convey the truth.
And this is how I ended up offering a sandwich to a man with hundreds of millions in a foreign bank account.
But are the bizarre effects of distorted wealth signaling all that bad? Society is complicated, and there is miscommunication in every interaction. Being vague about your social class, and assuming other people are also being vague, can be useful—just as white lies, and sometimes actual lies, can be useful.
On the surface, there is nothing wrong with haphazard and sometimes warped class signaling. But if you put on a façade for long enough, you end up forgetting that it is a façade. The rich and powerful actually start believing that they are neither of those things. They actually start believing that there is not much difference in status and resources between themselves and the upper-middle class, the middle class—and eventually, between themselves and the actual poor. They forget that they have certain privileges and duties that others do not. They forget that the inside joke was just a joke all along.
lol. 4th most read op-ed at USA Today in 2019: pic.twitter.com/bbiXrMNpVK— Tom Bevan (@TomBevanRCP) December 27, 2019
For twelve months, the mainstream media and Establishment figures have been assuring us that Nunes et al were out of their minds; that there was no Deep State opposition to Trump; that there was no spying on the Trump campaign by the former administration; that the Steele Dossier was substantially true; that there was a high probability that Trump was some sort of Russian agent; that the Mueller Report would provide convincing proof of collusion between Trump and Russia; that the FBI acted with integrity and due diligence; that the FISA courts were a solid wall protecting citizen rights from illegal government intrusion; that the Steele Dossier (payed for by the Democratic National Committee) played no role in justifying spying on the Trump campaign; that the intelligence agencies were scrupulous in their attention to their duties, protocols, and their prohibitions; that there were good grounds for impeaching the president; that there was no Deep State conspiracy; that the experts knew what they were talking about; that Establishment dynastic political families were not deriving money from their political positions.
Twelve months of confident and declarative reporting.
For those of us who read widely from many sources, none of this seemed convincing but there was always the prospect that some aspects of it might be true.
And I still do not believe that there was a Deep State conspiracy. But the distinction between large numbers of Deep State actors independently sharing a common but unstated goal which coincidentally shaped their actions towards a common end versus large numbers of Deep State actors actively and explicitly coordinating with one another to bring down a president and overturn a popular election result becomes more and more fine.
All the rest of the mainstream media claims? Dust in the Wind.
Mueller, Horowitz, and even the House Impeachment proceedings brought all the mainstream media assertions to nought. If the mainstream media was not deliberately lying, they were either self-deluding on a grand scale or simply massively incompetent in their reporting.
As the year closes, we don't have all the answers but the accusatory tide has ebbed uncovering some troubling truths which are indicative of institutional corruption in Federal agencies which needs to be addressed and reveals journalistic practices in the mainstream media which undermine their independence and professionalism (above and beyond the sexual predator ethos which has also been revealed through the year.)
As the dark days of winter close the year, we now know with significant degrees of confidence and documentation that:
The main points made in the Nunes Memo have been substantiated.The only thing that the mainstream media has proven this year is that they are not to be trusted. The most recent measures from Gallup are from September. The percentage of people with a Great Deal of confidence in the mainstream media is down to 13% from 14% a year ago. Perhaps even more significantly, the percent of respondents indicating that they had No Trust At All in the mainstream media rose from 24% a year ago to 28% in September.
There was clearly a wide network of Federal employees deeply committed to the defeat of candidate Trump or the bringing down of the elected president.
There was baseless signal and human agent spying on members of the Trump campaign and therefore on the candidate himself. The former administration was briefed on this spying.
The Steele Dossier has been shown to be an aggregation of rumor and fringe speculation with virtually no evidentiary basis.
Trump has proven, through the arming of the Ukraine and ever-tightening sanctions on Russia, to be perhaps the most active president in constraining Russian ambitions in the past twenty years or more.
The Mueller Report failed to find any evidence of collusion between Trump and Russia.
The FBI was at best consistently incompetent and more likely criminally corrupt in their political investigations.
The FISA court was never a safeguard against FBI abuse, rubber-stamping requests even after multiple warnings were raised about possible FBI abuse.
The Steele Dossier was the primary and substantially only basis for FBI investigations of the Trump campaign and administration.
We now know (and knew even before this year) that the NSA and CIA played active roles in supporting the FBI in their illegal activities, in addition to conducting their own illegal surveillance activities.
We know from House investigations that the accusations against the president are insubstantial and amount to pique over policy differences. No crimes have been uncovered. There is no imminent danger. There is no bi-partisan support for impeachment but there is bi-partisan support opposing impeachment.
The "experts" called before the House committees have demonstrated small-scale thinking, shown track records of error and failure, and displayed a marked reluctance to perform their duties as required by law and instructed by their supervisors.
The only thing the House investigations brought clarity to is that the political dynasties of Pelosi, Clinton, Obama, Gore, Biden, Warren, Kerry, etc. have all demonstrated extraordinary capacity to convert their political positions into tens and hundreds of millions of dollars of personal wealth. The House has clarified that what is shocking are not the crimes committed. What is shocking is the unethical activities which are legal.
It appears that the mainstream media got virtually all the political news wrong in 2019. Combine this with the not unrelated changing culture of journalism as document in Journalists Against Free Speech by John Tierney, and combine that with the disappearance of news monopolies, and the news of yet another year of journalist job losses in the thousands and you can't help but conclude that the future of the Fourth Estate is dire and that their bad circumstances are substantially self-created.
Thursday, December 26, 2019
Now and Afterwards
by Dinah Maria Mulock Craik
“Two hands upon the breast, and labor is past.”
“TWO hands upon the breast,
And labor’s done;
Two pale feet crossed in rest,—
The race is won;
Two eyes with coin-weights shut,
And all tears cease;
Two lips where grief is mute,
Anger at peace:”
So pray we oftentimes, mourning our lot;
God in his kindness answereth not.
“TWO hands to work addressed
Aye for his praise;
Two feet that never rest
Walking his ways;
Two eyes that look above
Through all their tears;
Two lips still breathing love,
Not wrath, nor fears:”
So pray we afterwards, low on our knees.
Pardon those erring prayers; Father, hear these!
America’s surging politics of victimhood and identitarian division did not emerge organically or inevitably
My different friends from Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Philippines, Spain, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, etc. did not see themselves as a collective group. Quite the opposite. They saw themselves as distinct and, as so often happens, each subjectively cultivated hierarchies of cultural valuation, with their own nationality at or towards the top.
So why on earth were they being lumped together in the US? Their immigrant histories and experiences were distinctly different. Their language traditions were different. Their class and social conditions were different. Their religious traditions were different.
But academic racism was of little interest to me and I parked it to the side as a puzzling topic.
Over the years, a number of experiences provided more depth and context to the perplexity.
One engineering professional I knew well moved to Los Angeles in the early 1990s or so. She was three or four generations from German immigrant farmers who had immigrated from czarist Russia in order to open up the Great Plains to cultivation. She was raised, I think I recall, in Oklahoma in a middle class agricultural family. Los Angeles was unknown territory to her.
She joined groups to integrate into the community, including some professional business women networking and support groups.
She relayed the experience of attending a meeting of one such women's business group and hearing a presentation from an Hispanic woman which focused on the various EEOC opportunities, set asides, government programs etc. for Hispanic business owners and professionals. Interlaced was a diatribe on ethnic subjugation.
My friend was puzzled in a quintessentially pragmatic engineering way. Her comment was something along the lines of "Maria (or whatever the woman's name was) is from a prominent land-owning family who trace their roots back nine generations in New Mexico, and have been long involved as leaders in the business community there as well as in State politics. She got her MBA from Harvard. Why on earth is the federal government creating preferential programs for her?"
Why indeed? How did such a privileged person, through identity sleight-of-hand become a protected minority? My friend was not so focused on the racial aspect of the talk as she was simply outraged that a privileged class individual was feathering her own nest by exploiting programs which were intended for the truly suffering. And yes, there was a lot of that going around in the early 1990s, including at Harvard Law.
Another experience was closer to home. My niece and nephews were born in England, raised in England and fit without distinction of appearance into the English population. But their father is from Gibraltar and they have a traditional Spanish last name. If they were to come to the US, would they be considered Hispanic? When they were younger, I wondered if they might wish to do part of their studies in the US and I wondered whether they would be counted as Hispanic.
The answered would have been yes, but only if they chose to so self-identify. They could be identified as White or Hispanic based solely on their own choice. From Who is Hispanic? by Mark Hugo Lopez, Jens Manuel Krogstad, and Jeffrey S. Passel at Pew.
So, who is considered Hispanic in the United States? And how are they counted in public opinion surveys, voter exit polls and government surveys like the upcoming 2020 census?The third piece came from when one of my sons was working in the construction industry and working with hispanic crews in the field. It was great for bringing his schoolboy Spanish into the real world. But one of the things he discovered was that a sizable number of "Hispanic" workers from Mexico were Amerindian. Spanish was a second language for them as well.
The most common approach to answering these questions is straightforward: Who is Hispanic? Anyone who says they are. And nobody who says they aren’t.
The U.S. Census Bureau uses this approach, as does Pew Research Center and most other research organizations that conduct public opinion surveys. By this way of counting, the Census Bureau estimates there were roughly 59.9 million Hispanics in the United States as of July 1, 2018, making up 18% of the total national population.
Hispanic self-identification varies across immigrant generations. Among the foreign born from Latin America, nearly all self-identify as Hispanic. But by the fourth generation, only half of people with Hispanic heritage in the U.S. self-identify as Hispanic.
In 1976, the U.S. Congress passed the only law in this country’s history that mandated the collection and analysis of data for a specific ethnic group: “Americans of Spanish origin or descent.” The language of that legislation described this group as “Americans who identify themselves as being of Spanish-speaking background and trace their origin or descent from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Central and South America, and other Spanish-speaking countries.” This includes 20 Spanish-speaking nations from Latin America and Spain itself, but not Portugal or Portuguese-speaking Brazil. Standards for collecting data on Hispanics were developed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in 1977 and revised in 1997. Using these standards, schools, public health facilities and other government entities and agencies keep track of how many Hispanics they serve – the primary goal of the 1976 law.
However, the Census Bureau does not apply this definition when counting Hispanics. Rather, it relies entirely on self-reporting and lets each person identify as Hispanic or not.
Q. What about Brazilians, Portuguese and Filipinos? Are they Hispanic?
A. They are in the eyes of the Census Bureau if they say they are, even though these countries do not fit the federal government’s official definition of “Hispanic” because they are not Spanish-speaking. For the most part, people who trace their ancestry to these countries do not self-identify as Hispanic when they fill out their census forms. Only about 2% of immigrants from Brazil do so, as do 2% of immigrants from Portugal and 1% from the Philippines, according to Pew Research Center tabulations of the 2017 American Community Survey.
Were they born in the US, they would have been considered Native American, as they ethnically were. But being here illegally, for government counting purposes, they would be counted as Hispanic even though Spanish was not their native language.
This is about as quixotic a bureaucratic kluge as one can imagine. And for what purpose? We have created a racial classification system with a non-racial category and then created positive inducements for people to self-identify as part of that category and then have created a non-definition definition which entirely self-determined.
Only a Soviet bureaucrat could be happy with that sort of nonsense. And yet it is now our common, and divisive, framing.
How did this come about? The Invention of Hispanics: What It Says About the Politics of Race by Mike Gonzalez. For such a misbegotten concept, it is, unsurprisingly, the product of ideology and political exploitation. Gonzalez begins:
America’s surging politics of victimhood and identitarian division did not emerge organically or inevitably, as many believe. Nor are these practices the result of irrepressible demands by minorities for recognition, or for redress of past wrongs, as we are constantly told. Those explanations are myths, spread by the activists, intellectuals, and philanthropists who set out deliberately, beginning at mid-century, to redefine our country. Their goal was mass mobilization for political ends, and one of their earliest targets was the Mexican-American community. These activists strived purposefully to turn Americans of this community (who mostly resided in the Southwestern states) against their countrymen, teaching them first to see themselves as a racial minority and then to think of themselves as the core of a pan-ethnic victim group of “Hispanics”—a fabricated term with no basis in ethnicity, culture, or race.And he ends with:
This transformation took effort—because many Mexican Americans had traditionally seen themselves as white. When the 1930 Census classified “Mexican American” as a race, leaders of the community protested vehemently and had the classification changed back to white in the very next census. The most prominent Mexican-American organization at the time—the patriotic, pro-assimilationist League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)—complained that declassifying Mexicans as white had been an attempt to “discriminate between the Mexicans themselves and other members of the white race, when in truth and fact we are not only a part and parcel but as well the sum and substance of the white race.” Tracing their ancestry in part to the Spanish who conquered South and Central America, they regarded themselves as offshoots of white Europeans.
Grievance-mongering created for a vast array of American institutions what sociologists Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning call Victimhood Culture—the title of their 2018 book on America’s current oppression fetish. Victimization, they write, becomes “a way of attracting sympathy, so rather than emphasize either their strength or inner worth, the aggrieved emphasize their oppression and social marginalization…. People increasingly demand help from others, and advertise their oppression as evidence that they deserve respect and assistance.”Those bookends are a little incendiary but between those end points there is a lot of solidly researched history. Fundamentally, much of the perceived racial tensions have been manufactured out of thin air and for transparently destructive ideological purposes by academics, ideological activists, and a wannabe moral progressive mainstream media: all advancing their own self-interests at the expense of everyone else and helping virtually no one.
This paradigm is predicated on a collectivist understanding of society, rather than the individualist striving that Alexis de Tocqueville identified as the hallmark of early America. Had these groupthink tactics not been so effective, we might not have identity politics today. There was a different path available, and Mexican Americans seemed eager to follow it. As Mora stresses: “It did not have to happen.”
Those of us who believe that individual responsibility is a far better route to success than racialization can still reverse what Ylvisaker, Samora, Alinsky, and the rest have wrought. Our first enemy is ignorance. The radicals who victimized America have done their best to cover their tracks: general unawareness of how, and why, the U.S. today is mired in identity politics makes the victimhood narrative harder to defeat. That is the reason the myths still exist, and why we must dismantle them.
It is a chimerical effort to divide and distress and has no beneficial purpose.
Wednesday, December 25, 2019
Nearer to Thee
by Sarah Flower Adams
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee!
E'en though it be a cross
That raiseth me:
Still all my song shall be
Nearer, my God! to Thee,
Nearer to Thee.
Though, like the wanderer,
The sun gone down,
Darkness be over me,
My rest a stone;
Yet in my dreams I'd be
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee.
Then let the way appear
Steps unto heaven;
All that Thou sendest me
In mercy given:
Angels to beckon me
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee.
Then with my waking thoughts
Bright with Thy praise,
Out of my stony griefs
Bethel I'll raise;
So by my woes to be
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee.
Or if on joyful wing,
Cleaving the sky,
Sun, moon, and stars forgot,
Upward I fly:
Still all my song shall be,
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee.
Tuesday, December 24, 2019
So That's Who I Remind Me Of
by Ogden Nash
When I consider men of golden talents,
I'm delighted, in my introverted way,
To discover, as I'm drawing up the balance,
How much we have in common, I and they.
Like Burns, I have a weakness for the bottle,
Like Shakespeare, little Latin and less Greek;
I bite my fingernails like Aristotle;
Like Thackeray, I have a snobbish streak.
I'm afflicted with the vanity of Byron,
I've inherited the spitefulness of Pope;
Like Petrarch, I'm a sucker for a siren,
Like Milton, I've a tendency to mope.
My spelling is suggestive of a Chaucer;
Like Johnson, well, I do not wish to die
(I also drink my coffee from the saucer);
And if Goldsmith was a parrot, so am I.
Like Villon, I have debits by the carload,
Like Swinburne, I'm afraid I need a nurse;
By my dicing is Christopher out-Marlowed,
And I dream as much as Coleridge, only worse.
In comparison with men of golden talents,
I am all a man of talent ought to be;
I resemble every genius in his vice, however heinous-
Yet I write so much like me.
Monday, December 23, 2019
How Doth the Little Crocodile
by Lewis Carroll
How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail;
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!
How cheerfully he seems to grin,
How neatly spreads his claws,
And welcomes little fishes in,
With gently smiling jaws!
Sunday, December 22, 2019
The Fool's Prayer
by Edward Rowland Sill
The royal feast was done; the King
Sought some new sport to banish care,
And to his jester cried: "Sir Fool,
Kneel now, and make for us a prayer!"
The jester doffed his cap and bells,
And stood the mocking court before;
They could not see the bitter smile
Behind the painted grin he wore.
He bowed his head, and bent his knee
Upon the Monarch's silken stool;
His pleading voice arose: "O Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!
"No pity, Lord, could change the heart
From red with wrong to white as wool;
The rod must heal the sin: but Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!
"'T is not by guilt the onward sweep
Of truth and right, O Lord, we stay;
'T is by our follies that so long
We hold the earth from heaven away.
"These clumsy feet, still in the mire,
Go crushing blossoms without end;
These hard, well-meaning hands we thrust
Among the heart-strings of a friend.
"The ill-timed truth we might have kept--
Who knows how sharp it pierced and stung?
The word we had not sense to say--
Who knows how grandly it had rung!
"Our faults no tenderness should ask.
The chastening stripes must cleanse them all;
But for our blunders -- oh, in shame
Before the eyes of heaven we fall.
"Earth bears no balsam for mistakes;
Men crown the knave, and scourge the tool
That did his will; but Thou, O Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!"
The room was hushed; in silence rose
The King, and sought his gardens cool,
And walked apart, and murmured low,
"Be merciful to me, a fool!"
Saturday, December 21, 2019
by Judd Mortimer Lewis
If you see a tall fellow ahead of a crowd,
A leader of men, marching fearless and proud,
And you know of a tale whose mere telling aloud
Would cause his proud head in anguish be bowed,
It's a pretty good plan to forget It.
If you know of a skeleton hidden away
In a closet, and guarded, and kept from the day
In the dark, and whose showing, whose sudden display
Would cause grief and sorrow and pain and dismay
It's a pretty good plan to forget It.
If you know of a spot in the life of a friend
(We all have spots concealed, world without end)
Whose touching his heartstrings would sadden or rend,
Till the shame of its showing no grieving could mend,
It's a pretty good plan to forget it.
If you know of a tale that will darken the joy
Of a man or a woman, a girl or a boy,
That will wipe out a smile or the least bit annoy
A fellow, or cause any gladness to cloy,
It's a pretty good plan to forget It.
Double Click to enlarge.
I've Got a Girl in Kalamazoo
by Glenn Miller
A B C D E F G H, I got a gal in Kalamazoo
Don’t want to boast but I know she’s the toast of Kalamazoo
Zoo, zoo, zoo, zoo, zoo
Years have gone by, my my how she grew
I liked her looks when I carried her books in Kalamazoo
Zoo, zoo, zoo, zoo, zoo
I’m gonna send away, hoppin’ on a plane, leavin’ today
Am I dreamin’? I can hear her screamin’
"Hiya, Mr. Jackson"
Everything’s O K A L A M A Z O O
Oh, what a gal, a real pipperoo
I’ll make my bid for that freckle-faced kid, I’m hurryin’ to
I’m goin’ to Michigan to see the sweetest gal in Kalamazoo
Zoo, zoo, zoo, zoo, zoo, Kalamazoo
K A L A M A Z O O, oh oh oh
Oh what a gal, a real pipperoo
We’re goin’ to Michigan to see the sweetest gal in Kalamazoo
Zoo, zoo, zoo, zoo, zoo, zoo, zoo, zoo, zoo
Friday, December 20, 2019
A Little Work
by George du Maurier
A little work, a little gay
To keep us going—and so good-day!
A little warmth, a little light
Of love’s bestowing—and so, good-night.
A little fun, to match the sorrow
Of each day’s growing—and so, good-morrow!
A little trust that when we die
We reap our sowing—and so—good-bye!
Wokeness isn't some abstract social ethos, untethered from political economy. It's an ideology of the professional classes, it assists them to discipline and manage the subaltern ones, ie helps elites maintain the status quo.— Aimee Terese (@aimeeterese) December 19, 2019
It is a class politics—ruling class politics.
Ignoring the official optimism of the Chinese government, a growing number of Chinese government and business leaders believe China is headed for the same fate as Japan in the 1990s, when a real estate bubble triggered a violent and continuing halt in economic growth. The Japanese had allowed a huge real estate bubble to develop and, when economic growth stalled for a bit, a lot of the real estate loans became bad debt and that created an economic crisis Japan is still dealing with. Japanese were angry and being a democracy they elected new politicians. China is not a democracy and a banking crisis like the Japanese went through in the 1990s will create a lot of angry Chinese who cannot, as the saying goes, “vote the rascals out (of office)”. In China that degree of public anger means revolution, or at least a lot more disorder. China also has a huge real estate bubble, very inefficient (compared to most Western nations) government spending policies and rapidly escalating labor shortages plus deficits in social spending (like taking care of the impoverished elderly). Chinese problems, in addition to being similar to those of Japan, are also considerably worse because of greater corruption, pollution and political oppression. Japan is a democracy while China is still a communist police state and that means the crises in China will not be handled peacefully as it was in Japan.I have long argued that at some point there would be a reckoning on China's approach to development. They chose to liberalize their market system before they liberalized their political system. The hope of outsiders was that the prosperity arising from liberalized markets would make it easier to later loosen up controls over the political system.
For a variety of reasons, it now appears that China wants all the benefits of open markets without any of the costs of open politics. That is likely unsustainable and Bay's observation is pertinent to the timing of the reckoning.