Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Best of the Bee

The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner by Randall Jarrell

The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner
by Randall Jarrell

From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

Pumpkin, 1995 by Yayoi Kusama

Pumpkin, 1995 by Yayoi Kusama

Click to enlarge.

In a life’s work there must always be a share for the ephemeral

This is related to my thoughts about the importance of social norms and customs as the buffer between individual actions and the law. In other words, law cannot cover the full range of possible individual actions (too onerous and unenforceable) and there is a necessary buffer of indeterminacy between action and legality which is covered through the flexibility of social norms and customs. Things which are not either legal or illegal, but which need to be strongly encouraged or discouraged.

The more effective the social norms and customs the less the burden needed of laws.

Click on the tweet to see the thread.

Asked and answered

They don't do any research before they make their claims. They don't even check their own archives. What a disgrace.

The right to property has almost disappeared today from the Bill of Rights.

Looks Interesting. A new book out on the Constitution and Property.

Locke, the Declaration of Independence, Madison, and the Challenge of the Administrative State. by Edward J. Erler.

From the introduction.
The right to property has almost disappeared today from the Bill of Rights. It is the only “fundamental right” in the pantheon of rights that does not receive strict judicial scrutiny against legislative and executive encroachment. This development came about as the result of the advent of the administrative state and what has been called post-constitutionalism. The private right to property stands as a barrier to the developing doctrine that all property is held in public trust and that the rightful owner, to be chosen by government, is the one who can best serve a “public purpose.” Once the Supreme Court amended the original language of the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause from “public use” to the more expansive “public purpose,” constitutionalists should have taken alarm at this first innovation on the right to property. The right to property was always regarded as the “fence to liberty,” and once that fence was breached, liberty would be in danger. The fence to liberty has in fact been breached, and the right to property, as I argue, has been restored to something like a feudal basis where government has become the “universal landlord.” Liberty is indeed under attack by an administrative state that is fast evolving into a post-constitutional state, where administration is deemed to have replaced the Constitution and politics.
It resonates.

I usually summarize the unique American experiment in freedom as a rich tapestry of humanism, universal inherent natural rights, consent of the governed, rule of law, equality before the law, individual sovereignty, individual agency, government constrained through checks and balances, enumerated freedoms (speech, assembly, religion, self-defense, etc.), free markets, openness, tolerance, due process, logic and rationalism, universal suffrage, accountability, empiricism, defense of minorities (broadly defined), authority delegated by individuals, pluralism, property rights, etc.

But of these, and through no intended slight, I rarely emphasize property rights though it is among the most important. Erler's books sounds like it might be a useful reminder of the centrality of property rights in our unique experiment in freedom.

Inadvertent confirmation

From The hipster effect: Why anti-conformists always end up looking the same by Emerging Technology from the arXiv. Marginally interesting. The effect has long been known, but now we are trying to model the causal mechanisms. Power laws and tipping points are unaddressed in the article but likely to be significant elements.
This is the hipster effect—the counterintuitive phenomenon in which people who oppose mainstream culture all end up looking the same. Similar effects occur among investors and in other areas of the social sciences.

How does this kind of synchronization occur? Is it inevitable in modern society, and are there ways for people to be genuinely different from the masses?

Today we get some answers thanks to the work of Jonathan Touboul at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. Touboul is a mathematician who studies the way the transmission of information through society influences the behavior of people within it. He focuses in particular on a society composed of conformists who copy the majority and anticonformists, or hipsters, who do the opposite.

And his conclusion is that in a vast range of scenarios, the hipster population always undergoes a kind of phase transition in which members become synchronized with each other in opposing the mainstream. In other words, the hipster effect is the inevitable outcome of the behavior of large numbers of people.

Crucially, Toubol’s model takes into account the time needed for each individual to detect changes in society and to react accordingly. This delay is important. People do not react instantly when a new, highly fashionable pair of shoes becomes available. Instead, the information spreads slowly via fashion websites, word of mouth, and so on. This propagation delay is different for individuals, some of whom may follow fashion blogs religiously while others have no access to them and have to rely on word of mouth.

The question that Touboul investigates is under what circumstances hipsters become synchronized and how this varies as the propagation delay and the proportion of hipsters both change. He does this by creating a computer model that simulates how agents interact when some follow the majority and the rest oppose it.
As I say, somewhat interesting, but early days yet.

What is fun, however, is the meta-irony.

Click to see the thread.


Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Best of the Bee

"Are you the new person drawn toward me?" by Walt Whitman

"Are you the new person drawn toward me?"
by Walt Whitman

Are you the new person drawn toward me?
To begin with, take warning, I am surely far different from what you suppose;
Do you suppose you will find in me your ideal?
Do you think it so easy to have me become your lover?
Do you think the friendship of me would be unalloy'd satisfaction?
Do you think I am trusty and faithful?
Do you see no further than this facade, this smooth and tolerant manner of me?
Do you suppose yourself advancing on real ground toward a real heroic man?
Have you no thought, O dreamer, that it may be all maya, illusion?

Self Portrait in a Straw Hat, 1782 by Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun

Self Portrait in a Straw Hat, 1782 by Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun

Click to enlarge.

Optimal levels of cooperation are achieved at intermediate levels of change in social ties.

Interesting, if early, research. From Quality versus quantity of social ties in experimental cooperative networks by Hirokazu Shirado, Feng Fu, James H. Fowler & Nicholas A. Christakis.

Goes to an issue I have assumed to be true for a long time.

In complex systems, introducing increasing levels of change puts the system under stress and risks dissolution. Too little diversity in the system and it becomes fragile and unadaptive. There is a sweet spot between too much and too little.

Similarly, I have hypothesized, in terms of immigration, that there is a sweet spot in the middle. Too little immigration (and therefore variety/diversity) and the existing system becomes staid and sclerotic. Too much immigration and it overwhelms traditional societally adaptive mechanisms. My guess is that, at least for the US, the range is somewhere bounded by 5 and 15% foreign born.

From the Abstract.
Recent studies suggest that allowing individuals to choose their partners can help to maintain cooperation in human social networks; this behaviour can supplement behavioural reciprocity, whereby humans are influenced to cooperate by peer pressure. However, it is unknown how the rate of forming and breaking social ties affects our capacity to cooperate. Here we use a series of online experiments involving 1,529 unique participants embedded in 90 experimental networks, to show that there is a ‘Goldilocks’ effect of network dynamism on cooperation. When the rate of change in social ties is too low, subjects choose to have many ties, even if they attach to defectors. When the rate is too high, cooperators cannot detach from defectors as much as defectors re-attach and, hence, subjects resort to behavioural reciprocity and switch their behaviour to defection. Optimal levels of cooperation are achieved at intermediate levels of change in social ties.

The Greeks and their golden mean.

Reality is created out of confusion and contradiction

H/T Althouse

From Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche by Haruki Murakami.
Reality is created out of confusion and contradiction, and if you exclude those elements, you’re no longer talking about reality. You might think that—by following language and a logic that appears consistent—you’re able to exclude that aspect of reality, but it will always be lying in wait for you, ready to take its revenge.
Appeals to me. I am doing a fair amount of work right now around the theory and practice of forecasting. One of the key issues is handling the implications of probabilistic events that are known will happen but in an unknowable time frame or in a time frame much longer than can be normally accommodated.

You can model and you can be logical and consistent but reality is always lying in wait to subvert the forecast. Confusion and contradiction always our clean, sterile and unreal modeled assumptions.

Establishing good government from reflection and choice

Alexander Hamilton, writing as Publius, in Federalist Paper No. 11 on November 24, 1787. We had won our independence but had not yet figured out how to structure a government to fulfill our Classical Liberal aspirations. The Federalist Papers were the product of John Jay, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton writing collectively as Publius. They were talking through, among themselves and in the national discourse, the ideas of the time - consent of the governed, rule of law, universal rights, universal suffrage, equality before the law and other matters we still dwell upon today. With a clarity of thought and language that is remarkable.

As they put it:
It has been frequently remarked, that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not, of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend, for their political constitutions, on accident and force.
What they produced was an entirely new model on a scale never envisaged before. It was flawed with squalid compromises and defects arising from their inherent circumstances, but it was, compared to all before, far closer to ideal. Not everyone could vote. Not everyone was free. But everyone had a vision of how that might be achieved.

In Federalist 11, Hamilton opens with a discussion about international relations and commerce - how should the weak and divided American colonies work together to establish a system of trade when their counterparts were powerful, wealthy, and established empires? In a few brief paragraphs, he lays out the challenge and proposes some solutions.

But then he beautifully transitions to the inspiring message of human universalism.
I shall briefly observe that our situation invites and our interests prompt us to aim at an ascendant in the system of American affairs. The world may politically, as well as geographically, be divided into four parts, each having a distinct set of interests. Unhappily for the other three, Europe, by her arms and by her negotiations, by force and by fraud, has in different degrees extended her dominion over them all. Africa, Asia, and America have successively felt her domination. The superiority she has long maintained has tempted her to plume herself as the mistress of the world, and to consider the rest of mankind as created for her benefit. Men admired as profound philosophers have in direct terms attributed to her inhabitants a physical superiority and have gravely asserted that all animals, and with them the human species, degenerate in America-that even dogs cease to bark after having breathed awhile in our atmosphere. Facts have too long supported these arrogant pretensions of the Europeans. It belongs to us to vindicate the honor of the human race, and to teach that assuming brother moderation.
Yes, Europe reached incipient modernity first, but the ideals of human universalism have moved us past that historical fact.

The idea of human universalism is as radical today as in Hamilton's time. Establishment interests want people and peoples to stay in their places. Throw-backs want to keep fighting wars of the past. Racists want to insist that people should be treated as groups rather than as individuals and by their actions plume themselves as superior to others.

Enough with the anarchistic postmodernist social justice craven moral cripples of our punditry in pursuit of power over others. Far better to reread Jay, Adams, Hamilton and those clarion voices of our founding when the world was new and we were inspired to freedom of a new way of thinking and behaving towards one another. When we believed in consent and equality and respect.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Best of the Bee

I Don't Have a Pill for That by Deborah Landau

I Don't Have a Pill for That
by Deborah Landau

It scares me to watch
a woman hobble along
the sidewalk, hunched adagio

leaning on -
there's so much fear
I could draw you a diagram

of the great reduction
all of us will soon
be way-back-when.

The wedding is over.
Summer is over.
Life please explain.

The book is nearly halfway read.
I don't have a pill for that,
the doctor said.

2.2% of the population generates 80% of the noise on Twitter.

From You’re probably making incorrect assumptions about your opposing political party by Arthur C. Brooks.

I think he is directionally right but overstates the real polarization. The polarization is at the extremes of each party, not so much in the center and certainly not for the great majority who, when they think of politics at all, think "A pox on both their houses."

But lots of interesting insights and data.
Let’s start with how much Republicans and Democrats actually know about the lives of people on the other side. The authors of a 2017 study in the Journal of Politics revealed that the average Democrat believes that more than 40 percent of Republicans earn more than $250,000 per year. Meanwhile, Republicans believe that nearly 40 percent of Democrats are LGBTQ. How close are these estimates to reality? Not very. Just 2 percent of Republicans are doing that well financially, and just 6 percent of Democrats are LGBTQ.
This I found especially interesting as it reinforces my long held position that most the perception of polarization and discord actually arises from a small margin of people, most of whom are inconsequential themselves.
Heavy social-media use has the same negative effect on viewpoint accuracy. The perception gap is about 10 percentage points higher for those who have shared political content on social media in the past year than those who haven’t. That isn’t much of a shock. Consider, for example, that only about 22 percent of U.S. adults are on Twitter, and 80 percent of the tweets come from 10 percent of users. If you rely on Twitter for political information, you are being informed by ersatz pundits (and propaganda bots) residing within 2.2 percent of the population.

No, we aren't biased. We are just picking from a biased pool.

A great example of designed systemic biases which are not inherently obvious. From Analyzing Google News: Introduction by Greg Coppola.

The Big Social Media/Tech companies such as Amazon, Facebook, and Google have since circa 2010-12 begun investing more in lobbying and taking increasingly strong stances on controlling what speech they will permit in their platforms. Were this limited to criminal matters, there would still be a debate but less concern. Regrettably though, the Tech companies are not viewpoint neutral, nor are they diverse in their views, and nor are they representative of the viewpoints of Americans. Hence an increasing concern about their sway in the economy, in society, and in politics.

Google executives in press releases and Congressional testimony under oath, have stated unequivocally that Google does not shade their results in order to advance a viewpoint or a political agenda. Well . . . maybe. Or maybe not. Here is a list of some past blog posts exploring the issue. It sure looks like there is some fire to go along with the smoke.

Coppola is a Google employee, recently suspended for discussing Google's active intervention in politics to advance their own commercial agenda as well as their own world view, to the detriment of the average citizen.

In this example, he illustrates how to bias results without being seen to bias results.
We begin by replicating and extending an experiment run originally by Paula Boylard. I scraped Google News, searching for the query “donald trump”, once a minute, 5000 times. A scrape had 105 stories on average.

Power-Law Distribution Over Sites

We begin by looking at the distribution of publications (or web-sites) that make up our new Google/Trump corpus. In particular, we look at the probability that a randomly selected story comes from each given news site. The results are depicted here:

Click to enlarge.

Note the use of a power-law (or 80/20, or rich-get-richer) distribution. The most-used site, CNN, is selected in 20% of all articles! In other words, even with the millions of sites on the Internet, 1 out of every 5 stories about “donald trump” from Google News is from CNN.
Woof. Look at the mainstream media sites. Not only are they famously anti-Trump but they are also materially unrepresentative of the average American new reader or viewer.

Why would Google need to do anything do create negative content about Trump if all they are doing is pulling from sites that are a priori against Trump.

This issue is even more clear if you look at the cumulative distribution.

Click to enlarge.

As Coppola says:
In power-law style, 50% of all stories come from the top 5 sites (CNN, USA Today, NYT, Politico, Guardian), and 83% of all stories come from the top 20.
All these media vehicles have richly documented anti-Trump, anti-Republican, biases - documented in terms of sentiment analysis of their coverage (93% negative) and documented in terms of who among their employees contributes how much to which party.

By drawing their news reporting solely from sources with a strong documentation of bias, Google is able to ensure that their own collation of news results will be biased, without ever having to write a single line of biased code which might betray their actions.

USS Missouri

From Dan Cosgrove.

Click to enlarge.

I have a lot of ideas and throw away the bad ones.

From Sudden Genius by Andrew Robinson.
One of the most admired scientists of the last century, Linus Pauling, was once asked by a student: ‘Dr Pauling, how do you have so many good ideas?’ This was back in the 1930s, two or three decades before Pauling would win two Nobel Prizes, one for chemistry, the other for peace. Pauling thought for a moment and replied: ‘Well, David, I have a lot of ideas and throw away the bad ones.’

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Best of the Bee

A Pact by Ezra Pound

A Pact
by Ezra Pound

I make a pact with you, Walt Whitman -
I have detested you long enough.
I come to you as a grown child
Who has had a pig-headed father;
I am old enough now to make friends.
It was you that broke the new wood,
Now is a time for carving.
We have one sap and one root -
Let there be commerce between us.

The Blue tit, 1925 by Henrik Grönvold (1858 – 1940)

The Blue tit, 1925 by Henrik Grönvold (1858 – 1940)

Click to enlarge.

Livery of seisin

From Genealogy of the Higbe family by Patterson, D. Williams.
"At ye Reguest of Edward Higby, the Eighteenth of April 1534 Thomas Whitson and Martha his wife doth declare yt John Finch Sener did some time in October last, gve into his lot then sold unto Edward Higby;. and gave the sd Edward Higby possession by breaking a twig and digging a turfe and delivered ye turfe and twig to ye sd Higby and sd by vartue of this I give you possession of this my lot and all ye meadow and out land belonging to it.

"John Joery Clark."
This occurred in England.

It is known as a livery of seisin.
Livery of seisin (/ˈseɪzɪn/) is an archaic legal conveyancing ceremony, formerly practised in feudal England and in other countries following English common law, used to convey holdings in property. The term livery is closely related to if not synonymous with delivery used in some jurisdictions in contract law or the related law of deeds. The oldest forms of common law provided that a valid conveyance of a feudal tenure in land required physical transfer by the transferor to the transferee in the presence of witnesses of a piece of the ground itself, in the literal sense of a hand-to-hand passing of an amount of soil, a twig, key to a building on that land, or other token.

Many institutions that are making the most noise have had some of the worst progress. Make of that what you will.

I attach little inherent value to a person's skin color and philosophically oppose racist programs where people are rewarded or punished based on race.

In addition to the philosophical reasons, I have also been deeply skeptical about the purported benefits of programs based on race. There is great value in assembling teams who have a common commitment with one another but have variable life experiences, skills, and knowledge. But that is never what diversity programs pursue. Theirs is a straight racist program of racial preferences, implying that there are viewpoint positions inherent by race. An absurdity.

Those two layers of skepticism, philosophical and epistemic, dominate other considerations. But other considerations there are, as indicated in Faculty diversity at near stand-still despite MILLIONS spent by universities by Ethan Cai. He is asking whether diversity recruitment programs even work at the most basic level of increasing racial diversity.

The research seems to indicate that millions of dollars are not effective at moving the diversity dial all that much.
A new study found that universities have not made much progress on faculty diversity initiatives, despite more attention and money being given to race and inclusivity issues.

The study, published by South Texas College of Law’s Hispanic Journal of Law and Policy, concluded that colleges have not seen substantial growth in the diversity of faculty between 2013 and 2017, according to Inside Higher Ed.

“We wanted to test this hypothesis -- whether we in higher ed were improving diversity in those particular areas,” Julian Vasquez Heilig, one of the study’s authors and the incoming education dean at the University of Kentucky, said, Inside Higher Ed reported. “A lot of times faculty, when we have these discussions, talk like we’re reinventing the wheel. We have these ideas and these gut feelings of what might work. But I think we need to be more empirical and data-driven on diversity.”

Overall, research-intensive schools offering doctorates showed the least progress. From 2013 to 2017 at such institutions, tenured faculty who were Hispanic and Latino only grew 0.65 percent, while African American tenured faculty increased by only 0.1 percent during the study’s time frame. Asian Americans saw only a 1.94 percent increase.

Graduate schools saw similar results, with tenured Hispanic and Latino faculty rising 0.64 percent and African American tenured faculty increasing just 0.07 percent.

During the four-year period, tenured male faculty decreased at doctoral and graduate schools by 1.99 and 1.76 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, tenured female faculty at these institutions respectively increased by 1.99 and 1.76 percent.

“Despite concerted efforts, we really haven’t moved the needle that much in terms of ethno-racial and gender diversity,” Vasquez Heilig said, according to Inside Higher Ed. “Especially when you consider the growing population of communities of color in the United States, you haven’t resultantly seen the growth in faculty especially at the doctoral levels. Many institutions that are making the most noise -- the brand-name institutions -- have had some of the worst progress.”

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Best of the Bee

Regrettably close to actual reporting.

Winter Trees by William Carlos Williams

Winter Trees
by William Carlos Williams

All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

The Lighthouse at Two Lights, 1929 by Edward Hopper

The Lighthouse at Two Lights, 1929 by Edward Hopper

Click to enlarge.

Univariate Fallacy and the Monocausal Fallacy

A fruitful and extended discussion of the Univariate Fallacy. The Univariate Fallacy:
The claim that if there is no single, defining trait that can be used to separate two or more categories, then those categories do not exist.

Click for the thread.

Lots and lots of examples in the mainstream media and even in science publications who ought to know better.

The Univariate Fallacy is a parallel to the Monocausal Fallacy. In much of everyday conversation, people usually speak and behave as if there is a single cause for some single manifestation of a problem. "What is the root cause?"

Which is fine if you are dealing with monocausal, deterministic systems. Which is rarely the case with human related (or natural) systems. The Monocausal Fallacy leads to all sorts of bad policy.
Home ownership low? Make it easier to borrow.

Local schools reflecting local populations are insufficiently diverse? Introduce busing.

There are disparate impacts from school discipline? Get rid of discipline.

A residential road has too much speeding? Reduce the speed limit.
In all these instances, there is a logical connection between the proposed solution and the manifested issue. But in almost all cases, the proposed solution does not actually fix the manifested issue. There are more causal elements than are being acknowledged.

Complex, dynamic, chaotic, power law affected and loosely coupled systems always have multiple causes which are rarely obvious and produce a range of negative trade-offs in addition to the desired outcome. Tugging on any single cause upsets the apple cart. There are too many moving pieces for any single cause to deterministically drive single outcomes. You have to focus at the system level and focus on incentive structures, experiment, and iterate. And maintain humility in the face of uncertainty.

Civic conversations today

Double click to enlarge.

Theodore Roosevelt's diary the day his wife and mother died, 1884

From Rare Historical Photos.

Click to enlarge.
On February 14, 1884, Theodore Roosevelt received a terrible news, his wife and mother died within hours of one another in the Roosevelt house in New York City. His mother, age 50, succumbed to typhus, and his wife Alice died at the age of 22 giving birth to her namesake. The following diary entries lovingly describe his courtship, wedding, happiness in marriage, and his grief over the death of his wife Alice. In his ever-present pocket diary on February 14, 1884, Theodore Roosevelt simply wrote an “X” above one striking sentence: “The light has gone out of my life“.

Friday, July 26, 2019

The accumulating evidence shows impressive stability in personality differences

From The Hierarchy of Consistency Revisited.
Science can be hard. Astronomy required telescopes to study the universe. Psychologists need longitudinal studies to examine stability of personality and personality development. The first telescopes were imperfect and led to false beliefs about canals and life on Mars. Similarly, longitudinal data are messy and provide imperfect glimpses into the stability of personality. However, the accumulating evidence shows impressive stability in personality differences. Many psychologists are dismayed by this finding because they have a fixation on disorders and negative traits. However, the Big Five traits are not disorders or undesirable traits. They are part of human diversity. When it comes to normal diversity, stability is actually desirable. Imagine you train for a job and after ten years of training you don’t like it anymore. Imagine you marry a quiet introvert and five year later, he is a wild party animal. Imagine, you never know who you are because your personality is constantly changing. The grass on the other side of the fence is often greener, but self-acceptance and building on one’s true strength may be a better way to live a happy life than to try to change your personality to fit cultural norms or parental expectations. Maybe stability and predictability aren’t so bad after all.

The results also have implications for research on personality change and development. If natural variation in factors that influence personality produces only very small changes over periods of a few years, it will be difficult to study personality change. Moreover, small real changes will be contaminated with relatively large amounts of random measurement error. Good measurement models that can separate real change from noise are needed to do so.
One of the Utopian dreams is that man can be reeducated into New Man.

That dream is slowly being undermined. We are discovering that IQ is substantially determined by genes and is stable over adult life. You have the hand you are dealt.

Similarly with all sorts of other physical and behavioral traits. Similarly, as mentioned above, with psychological traits (the Big Five).

You are who you are and not easily susceptible to change to make you a better model. If you are a Utopian statist, that's pretty disappointing. If you glory in the rich diversity of humanity, there is nothing to be concerned about, at least philosophically.

Best of the Bee

The vocabulary of U.S. college graduates was lower in the 2010s vs. the late 1970s.

From Declines in vocabulary among American adults within levels of educational attainment, 1974–2016 by Jean M. Twenge, W. Keith Campbell, Ryne A.Sherman. From the Abstract.
• When controlled for educational attainment, adults' vocabulary skills have declined.

• The vocabulary of U.S. college graduates was lower in the 2010s vs. the late 1970s.

• Vocabulary declined across all levels of educational attainment.

• The decline in vocabulary is primarily a time period effect.
We examined trends over time in vocabulary, a key component of verbal intelligence, in the nationally representative General Social Survey of U.S. adults (n = 29,912). Participants answered multiple-choice questions about the definitions of 10 specific words. When controlled for educational attainment, the vocabulary of the average U.S. adult declined between the mid-1970s and the 2010s. Vocabulary declined across all levels of educational attainment (less than high school, high school or 2-year college graduate, bachelor's or graduate degree), with the largest declines among those with a bachelor's or graduate degree. Hierarchical linear modeling analyses separating the effects of age, time period, and cohort suggest that the decline is primarily a time period effect. Increasing educational attainment has apparently not improved verbal ability among Americans. Instead, as educational attainment has increased, those at each educational level are less verbally skilled even though the vocabulary skills of the whole population are unchanged.
We are paying more and more for education. People are spending more and more time being educated. And we are getting more stupid? At least in vocabulary?

Perhaps. Wish I could see the detail and whether the effect size is material.

Perhaps it reflects the increase of foreign born population (and non-English speakers) which was something like 4.7% in 1975 and is approaching 15% today.

Truant by Margaret Hasse

by Margaret Hasse

Our high school principal wagged his finger
over two manila folders
lying on his desk, labeled with our names -
my boyfriend and me -
called to his office for skipping school.

The day before, we ditched Latin and world history
to chase shadows of clouds on a motorcycle.
We roared down rolling asphalt roads
through the Missouri River bottoms
beyond town, our heads emptied
of review tests and future plans.

We stopped on a dirt lane to hear
a meadowlark's liquid song, smell
heart-break blossom of wild plum.
Beyond leaning fence posts and barbwire,
a tractor drew straight lines across the field
unfurling its cape of blackbirds.

Now forty years after that geography lesson
in spring, I remember the principal's words.
How right he was in saying:
This will be part of
your permanent record

Canada by Rail

From Dan Cosgrove.

Click to enlarge.

Gentrify - It's for the children

Interesting new data from the Federal Reserve, Philadelphia. From Gentrification for Social Justice?, A new Federal Reserve report casts doubt on the conventional wisdom that neighborhood improvement hurts poor urban residents. by Kay S. Hymowitz.
For many on the Left, gentrification remains a dirty word, synonymous—or at least closely associated—with racism, oligarchic developers, neoliberalism, and even genocide. Fortunately, not all gentrification-watchers are so dystopic. Less excitable observers harbor reasonable concerns about poor residents forced to resettle in blighted areas, unscrupulous landlords, and the disruption of familiar neighborhoods.

A just-released working paper from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve could shake up the conversation. Several previous studies have already cast doubt on the conventional wisdom that gentrification causes widespread displacement of poor, longtime residents. “The Effects of Gentrification on Well Being and Opportunity of Original Resident Adults and Their Children” goes further by recasting gentrification as a potential force for income integration and social mobility.

Unlike many previous studies, the paper, by Quentin Brummet of the National Opinion Research Center and Davin Reed at the Fed, is longitudinal, giving not just a snapshot of neighborhood residents but a picture over time—comparing education, income, and employment outcomes for residents who stayed in the changing neighborhood and those who moved. The authors were able to do this by compiling census data on the residents of low-income, central-city neighborhoods of the 100 largest metro areas in the U.S. in 2000 and comparing findings for the same people in the 2010-2014 American Community Survey.

The first surprise? Gentrification displaces very few people. An influx of college-educated residents into formerly lower-income neighborhoods—the accepted definition of gentrification—increases the probability that vulnerable, less-educated renters move to another neighborhood by about 3 percentage points. The effect on resident moves to a neighborhood at least one mile away is higher, at about 5 percentage points.


The paper’s most intriguing finding concerns gentrification’s effect on children. Kids living in gentrified neighborhoods see less poverty and more educated neighbors, and they develop more advantageous networks. Most strikingly, gentrification increases the probability that children of less educated homeowners will attend and graduate college. One of the most popular ideas for improving poor kids’ life chances is to move them into better neighborhoods. A well-known HUD policy experiment called “Moving to Opportunity” focused on doing just that. It didn’t change adults or children’s earnings or employment, but a more recent analysis by Harvard economist Raj Chetty found small, but significant, improvement in incomes, marriage rates, and education achievement for those who had moved at a young age. What this suggests is that gentrification is allowing less advantaged families to “move to opportunity”—without even moving.
Just one study but I suspect much more realistic than most the stuff I see.

Blundering Ben Rhodes journalism

More from the Ben Rhodes Journalists ("The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”)

In this instance from the young adult news site, Vox. From Trump and the dead end of conservative nationalism by Zack Beauchamp.

Whether worth noting or not - Beauchamp is perhaps 30. A geriatric Ben Rhodes Journalist perhaps. And a product of Georgetown Day High School, Brown University, and London School of Economics. No excuse for ignorance.

He starts out.
President Trump’s vicious attacks on four House Democrats this week — telling four American women of color to “go back” to their own countries — was a testament to the racism at the heart of his brand of nationalism.
It is worth pointing out. If you are the one always hearing the racist dog whistle, it is not more than reasonable odds that you are the racist. Especially in this instance where no names were named and no racial terms were used and no allusion to race made.

I noted the article earlier in the week but did not go beyond that first paragraph.

Today, however, I see from this tweet that there was even greater vindictive ignorance further on.

No. They couldn't be that ignorant, trying to push National Socialism. This must be one of those mean-spirited over-reachings so frequent on twitter. I go to the article. Yikes!
Nationalism, by its nature, excludes people. Raising one’s nation above others begins with defining what that nation is — and who belongs in it.

It’s theoretically possible to have a liberal nationalism, even a socialist nationalism, that welcomes foreigners interested in joining the nation’s ranks.
Socialist nationalism? National Socialism? No big deal.

Well, only if you have no knowledge of history perhaps.

I think Beauchamp's parents ought to ask for the $500,000 back that they spent on his education.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Best of the Bee

The Ocean by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Ocean
by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Ocean has its silent caves,
Deep, quiet, and alone;
Though there be fury on the waves,
Beneath them there is none.
The awful spirits of the deep
Hold their communion there;
And there are those for whom we weep,
The young, the bright, the fair.

Calmly the wearied seamen rest
Beneath their own blue sea.
The ocean solitudes are blest,
For there is purity.
The earth has guilt, the earth has care,
Unquiet are its graves;
But peaceful sleep is ever there,
Beneath the dark blue waves.

They care about who sits at which cafeteria table in the vast junior high school of American popular culture

From ‘Silenced’ by Kevin D. Williamson. Heh
Which brings us to the problem of trying to have a productive conversation with people who are caught up in the vast sprawling electronic apparatus of self-moronization. It does not matter what anybody actually has said or written. The rage-monkeys have an idea about what it is they want you to have said, or what people like you are supposed to think about x or y. I cannot count how many times I have had some person respond to something critical I’ve written about some lefty fruitcake with “What about Trump, huh?” When I point out that, among other things, I wrote a little book called The Case against Trump, the response is: “Well, Republicans . . .” And then when I point out that I am not one of those, either, the retreat into ever-vaguer generality continues incrementally. The fundamental problem is that what’s going on in “conversations” such as these is not conversation at all but a juvenile status-adjustment ritual. These people do not care about ideas — they care about who sits at which cafeteria table in the vast junior high school of American popular culture.

Mont St. Michel in France.

Mont St. Michel in France.

CLick to enlarge.

The differences between parenting of boys versus girls are minimal

As an aside - I am not sure that Twitter understands the effect of all its tweaking on what is revealed in users timelines and what is suppressed.

When I first started with Twitter, I followed everyone who seemed interesting, based on what they were tweeting. I quickly discovered that some people might have an occasional insight but most of their tweets were crud. I also found myself following someone in a field in which I am interested, say archaeology, who then let political venting dominate their tweets.

I cleaned out the noisemakers and the press and got to a tweet feed dominated by history, economics, art, science reporting, reading, and other interests. It was great for a year or more. Then, without my changing the people I followed, for the past year or so, I have begun getting more and more political hackery again. I was using twitter less and less because 1) it seemed they were untrustworthy, and 2) I am not interested in emotional opinions which is what Twitter seemed to want me to be seeing.

This morning, I check in and the Twitter format is different. OK. More change.

But interestingly, the content in my feed seems to have reverted to what it looked like a year or so ago. Interesting original materials and much less bloviating. Odd, but thank goodness.

And this is one of the interesting items. Gender-Differentiated Parenting Revisited: Meta-Analysis Reveals Very Few Differences in Parental Control of Boys and Girls by Joyce J. Endendijk, Marleen G. Groeneveld, Marian J. Bakermans-Kranenburg, and Judi Mesman.

For postmodernists, social justice ideologues, and victimhood addicts, there has long been a strong desire to find that parents treat their boys preferentially to their daughters. While possible, this always struck me as improbable except under very specified circumstances. In addition, much of the research claiming to have found such son-preferentialism were laughably weak in their designs.

Endendijk et al are doing an update with a meta-analysis of all the available studies. I have significant concerns about meta-analyses so I treat this with some skepticism, but it is interesting that they find negligible differentiation between how parents treat their sons and daughters. From the Abstract:
Although various theories describe mechanisms leading to differential parenting of boys and girls, there is no consensus about the extent to which parents do treat their sons and daughters differently. The last meta-analyses on the subject were conducted more than fifteen years ago, and changes in gender-specific child rearing in the past decade are quite plausible. In the current set of meta-analyses, based on 126 observational studies (15,034 families), we examined mothers’ and fathers’ differential use of autonomy-supportive and controlling strategies with boys and girls, and the role of moderators related to the decade in which the study was conducted, the observational context, and sample characteristics. Databases of Web of Science, ERIC, PsychInfo, Online Contents, Picarta, and Proquest were searched for studies examining differences in observed parental control of boys and girls between the ages of 0 and 18 years. Few differences were found in parents’ use of control with boys and girls. Parents were slightly more controlling with boys than with girls, but the effect size was negligible (d = 0.08). The effect was larger, but still small, in normative groups and in samples with younger children. No overall effect for gender-differentiated autonomy-supportive strategies was found (d = 0.03). A significant effect of time emerged: studies published in the 1970s and 1980s reported more autonomy-supportive strategies with boys than toward girls, but from 1990 onwards parents showed somewhat more autonomy-supportive strategies with girls than toward boys. Taking into account parents’ gender stereotypes might uncover subgroups of families where gender-differentiated control is salient, but based on our systematic review of the currently available large data base we conclude that in general the differences between parenting of boys versus girls are minimal.

It is weak-ass guestimation often tarred by motivated research objectives

From Nutrition Science Is Broken. This New Egg Study Shows Why. by Timothy F. Kirn.
It's been a tortuous path for the humble egg. For much of our history, it was a staple of the American breakfast — as in, bacon and eggs. Then, starting in the late 1970s and early 1980s, it began to be disparaged as a dangerous source of artery-clogging cholesterol, a probable culprit behind Americans’ exceptionally high rates of heart attack and stroke. Then, in the past few years, the chicken egg was redeemed and once again touted as an excellent source of protein, unique antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin, and many vitamins and minerals, including riboflavin and selenium, all in a fairly low-calorie package.

This March, a study published in JAMA put the egg back on the hot seat. It found that the amount of cholesterol in a bit less than two large eggs a day was associated with an increase in a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease and death by 17 percent and 18 percent, respectively. The risks grow with every additional half egg. It was a really large study, too — with nearly 30,000 participants — which suggests it should be fairly reliable.

So which is it? Is the egg good or bad? And, while we are on the subject, when so much of what we are told about diet, health, and weight loss is inconsistent and contradictory, can we believe any of it?

Quite frankly, probably not. Nutrition research tends to be unreliable because nearly all of it is based on observational studies, which are imprecise, have no controls, and don’t follow an experimental method. As nutrition-research critics Edward Archer and Carl Lavie have put it, “’Nutrition’ is now a degenerating research paradigm in which scientifically illiterate methods, meaningless data, and consensus-driven censorship dominate the empirical landscape.”

Other nutrition research critics, such as John Ioannidis of Stanford University, have been similarly scathing in their commentary. They point out that observational nutrition studies are essentially just surveys: Researchers ask a group of study participants — a cohort — what they eat and how often, then they track the cohort over time to see what, if any, health conditions the study participants develop.

The trouble with the approach is that no one really remembers what they ate. You might remember today’s breakfast in some detail. But, breakfast three days ago, in precise amounts? Even the unadventurous creature of habit would probably get it wrong. That tends to make these surveys inaccurate, especially when researchers try to drill down to specific foods.

Then, that initial inaccuracy is compounded when scientists use those guesses about eating habits to calculate the precise amounts of specific proteins and nutrients that a person consumed. The errors add up, and they can lead to seriously dubious conclusions.

Much of public discussion is informed by junk science of exactly this sort. It looks like science, it smacks of science, it is said to be science, but it is weak-ass guestimation often tarred by motivated research objectives.

Yet anyone questioning the received wisdom of these travesties of science is then assailed as a science denier. We need to clean up our discourse, not just making it more civil but also returning to the hard facts of science and the humility to know that there are many important things that stubbornly remain beyond our knowledge frontier.

AGW, suicide, economic forecasting, much of psychology and sociology, political science, all political polling, drug policy, etc. are dominated by cognitive pollution of the worst sort. We want to fix real problems but the fact that real knowledge is hard to find, expensive to generate, nuanced and particular drives us to the fake satisfaction of observational studies.

Related: The Fundamental Problem with Most Nutrition Research by Chris Kresser and Observational nutritional studies: garbage in, garbage out by Neo.

A meme for all seasons

Double click to expand.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Best of the Bee

Measured but not reported

From Michael Rushford.
MS13 Killers Charged in LA: A federal grand jury indicted 22 members of the notorious MS 13 gang with murder last week. CBS News reports that most of the members of the Fulton Clique chapter of the gang were teenagers who face charges of murdering seven people, some of whom were hacked to death with machetes. Police report that MS 13 members are responsible for 24 murders in the Los Angeles area over the past two years. While CBS somehow missed this, the LA Times reports that 19 of the 22 gang members were illegal aliens.
86% of the arrestees for a violent felony were illegal immigrants. That seems pertinent.

Of course such information flows into and colors the immigration debate. It should not be determinative but it is pertinent.

It is hard to get a read on the degree to which illegal immigrants drive crime. Some claim little or no impact, others says the same as native born, others indicate they are a material influencer.

I have no real idea. Most crime is local and yet that is where the data is the haziest. We know at the Federal level there is a measurable issue with illegal immigrants accounting for 20-30% all federal arrests for crime. But federal numbers, while more accurate are minuscule compared to local numbers. Illegal immigrants are estimated to be about 3% of the total population suggesting that they have an outsized impact on crime if we compare only to federal numbers. However, given that most imprisonments for crime are at the state, county, municipal level, those are the numbers we really need and don't have.

But that is a separate and long running issue. It is shameful that CBS, being charitable, missed that 86% of the arrestees were illegal.

The Snow-Storm by Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Snow-Storm
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.

The burnished-buff tanager

The burnished-buff tanager (Tangara cayana), 1834 by Jean Théodore Descourtilz for "Oiseaux brillans et remarquables du Brésil.

Click to enlarge.

Rectify the names

An intersting point. From The Rectification of Names of Armed and Dangerous
The sage Confucius was once asked what he would do if he was a governor. He said he would “rectify the names” to make words correspond to reality. He understood what General Semantics teaches; if your linguistic map is sufficiently confused, you will misunderstand the territory. And be readily outmaneuvered by those who are less confused.
Indeed. We live in a world where our public discourse is dominated by shouting voices who practice deliberate ambiguity, obfuscation, bad metaphors, misdirection and Orwellian Newspeak.


Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Best of the Bee

To call this shoddy journalism would be an understatement. It doesn't even rise to the level of shoddy.

Megan McArdle, while respecting the desire that there be mercy in the judicial system, frequently points out that there are just not that many people in Federal prison who have long sentences and non-violent convictions. With greater variance by state, the same is generally true for states. Non-violent prisoners with long sentences are certainly candidates for review as to whether some shortening of sentences might be warranted. There just aren't that many of them.

A position somewhat reinforced in this piece from A Poster Boy for the Long-Sentenced, Non-Violent Drug Offender? by Kent Scheidegger. NBC News (and MSNBC) made the claim by reporter Leigh Ann Caldwell that:
"William Underwood, now 65 years old, was sentenced to life in prison without parole for a nonviolent drug-related crime. It was his first felony, but in the middle of the tough-on-crime era, the judge showed no leniency. With no hope of ever walking free again, Underwood has made the best of his time in prison, mentoring others and staying devoted to his children and grandchildren, as (his daughter) Ebony fights for his release."
Is Mr. Underwood one of those unicorns who have a long sentence and no violence.

Scheidegger investigates and discovers quickly that Leigh Ann Caldwell, whether by ignorance, accident or malicious intent, left out most of the relevant details from her description.
So let's compare what we know (and NBC could have known with minimal effort) with Ms. Caldwell's description of the case: " a nonviolent drug-related crime ... his first felony ...."

"Nonviolent"? The racketeering and continuing criminal enterprise crimes are not inherently violent or nonviolent. They could be either, depending on the predicate acts. The court of appeals says the operation was "extremely violent." False.

"Drug-related"? Yes, but so what? His drug offenses were accompanied by violent offenses. Calling the convictions "drug-related" in conjunction with the false "nonviolent" gives the reader a very wrong impression. Literally true but misleading in context.

"A ... crime"? Singular. He was convicted of multiple crimes. False.

"His first felony"? The singular again is false. "First felon[ies]" would be literally true if it referred to his first felony convictions and completely false if it referred to the first felonies he committed. The predicate acts establish a long string of felonies. Ambiguous, with the false meaning being the one the viewer is most likely to take.

"But in the middle of the tough-on-crime era, the judge showed no leniency"? Given the judge's finding of fact that Underwood's continuing crimes extended past the Guideline's effective date, the life sentence was mandatory under the then-binding Guidelines. The implication that the judge had discretion under the law but chose not to use it because of the "tough-on-crime" zeitgeist is false.

To call this shoddy journalism would be an understatement. What will NBC and its affiliate MSNBC do? Issue a retraction and apology? Pull the segment off the website? Fire the reporter? All of the above? None of the above?
He has all the documentation in his post.

Reporters appear to be increasingly writing what they wish were true and nobody in the MSM seems to be checking whether it actually is true. As Pete Seeger might have said:
Where have all the editors gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the editors gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the editors gone?
MSM have nixed them every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence by Edward Bairstow

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
by Edward Bairstow (adapted from Habakkuk 2:20)

Let all mortal flesh keep silence
and stand with fear and trembling,
and lift itself above all earthly thought.

For the King of kings and Lord of lords, Christ our God,
cometh forth to be our oblation,
and to be given for Food to the faithful.

Before Him come the choirs of angels
with every principality and power;
the Cherubim with many eyes, and winged Seraphim,
who veil their faces as they shout exultingly the hymn:

Childless cities and the Mandarin Class

From The Future of the City Is Childless by Derek Thompson. A thought-provoking piece, as much because of what he gets wrong as what he gets right.
Last year, for the first time in four decades, something strange happened in New York City. In a non-recession year, it shrank.

We are supposedly living in the golden age of the American metropolis, with the same story playing out across the country. Dirty and violent downtowns typified by the “mean streets” of the 1970s became clean and safe in the 1990s. Young college graduates flocked to brunchable neighborhoods in the 2000s, and rich companies followed them with downtown offices.

New York is the poster child of this urban renaissance. But as the city has attracted more wealth, housing prices have soared alongside the skyscrapers, and young families have found staying put with school-age children more difficult. Since 2011, the number of babies born in New York has declined 9 percent in the five boroughs and 15 percent in Manhattan. (At this rate, Manhattan’s infant population will halve in 30 years.) In that same period, the net number of New York residents leaving the city has more than doubled. There are many reasons New York might be shrinking, but most of them come down to the same unavoidable fact: Raising a family in the city is just too hard. And the same could be said of pretty much every other dense and expensive urban area in the country.

In high-density cities like San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., no group is growing faster than rich college-educated whites without children, according to Census analysis by the economist Jed Kolko. By contrast, families with children older than 6 are in outright decline in these places. In the biggest picture, it turns out that America’s urban rebirth is missing a key element: births.

Click to enlarge.

Cities were once a place for families of all classes. The “basic custom” of the American city, wrote the urbanist Sam Bass Warner, was a “commitment to familialism.” Today’s cities, however, are decidedly not for children, or for families who want children. As the sociologists Richard Lloyd and Terry Nichols Clark put it, they are “entertainment machines” for the young, rich, and mostly childless. And this development has crucial implications—not only for the future of American cities, but also for the future of the U.S. economy and American politics.
Well . . .

This is something I have been talking about for some years now. It is a category error. Because people live in cities, live in suburbs, live in exurbs, towns, and country, we treat them as one category, and for some narrow purposes they are.

Another way to think of constructed spaces is as Production versus Residence. We use some places for Production, we use some for Residence, and in some configurations we conjoin them. Services, Agriculture, Extraction, and Manufacturing are the traditional segments of the Production economy.

We used to have manufacturing cities, but that has basically disappeared. Manufacturing, a particular type of Production has moved out into the suburbs and substantially out into the country. At most, and it is a lot, Production in cities is now primarily Services.

In most our major cities, they are Services Production zones with some Residence while everywhere else (suburbs, exurbs, towns, country) is heterogenous Production (agriculture, extraction, manufacturing and services) heavily mixed with Residence. Large Services Production/Small Area Dense Residence are a different category than the Heterogeneous Production/Large Area Heterogeneous Residence category.

Our pundits, being primarily Urban/Services/Deep Density residents are reporting from that singular perspective without acknowledging the spectacular diversity and productivity elsewhere.

Throughout history cities have been characterized by deep density, high productivity, and being demographic sink holes. People live check-by-jowl, they are enormously productive, and cities are not demographically self-sustaining and rarely have been. They rarely produce enough children to sustain their population, depending on injections of people from suburbs and country or from immigration to sustain their population levels or to grow.

It is not a recent phenomenon and it is not an American phenomenon.
The counties that make up Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City, and Philadelphia shed a combined 2 million domestic residents from 2010 to 2018. For many years, these cities’ main source of population growth hasn’t been babies or even college graduates; it’s been immigrants. But like an archipelago of Ellis Islands, Manhattan and other wealthy downtown areas have become mere gateways into America and the labor force—“a temporary portal,” in the words of E. J. McMahon, the founder of the Empire Center for Public Policy. “The woman from Slovakia comes to Queens, lives in her second cousin’s basement, gets her feet on the ground, and gets a better apartment in West Orange, New Jersey,” he said. Or a 20-something from North Dakota moves to Chicago after school, works at a consultancy for a few years, finds a partner, and moves to Missoula.

But if big cities are shedding people, they’re growing in other ways—specifically, in wealth and workism. The richest 25 metro areas now account for more than half of the U.S. economy, according to an Axios analysis of government data. Rich cities particularly specialize in the new tech economy: Just five counties account for about half of the nation’s internet and web-portal jobs. Toiling to build this metropolitan wealth are young college graduates, many of them childless or without school-age children; that is, workers who are sufficiently unattached to family life that they can pour their lives into their careers.
Cities are becoming more productive, they are growing whiter and more Asian, they are growing more immigrant diverse, they are becoming more childless, they are becoming more temporary (average life duration in a city), they are becoming more expensive, they are becoming more economically unequal, they are notoriously young, they have higher levels of education attainment.

All these things are true. All these things have long been true. All these things are occurring in cities around the world. And there is nothing inherently alarming about any of that.
Cities have effectively traded away their children, swapping capital for kids. College graduates descend into cities, inhale fast-casual meals, emit the fumes of overwork, get washed, and bounce to smaller cities or the suburbs by the time their kids are old enough to spell. It’s a coast-to-coast trend: In Washington, D.C., the overall population has grown more than 20 percent this century, but the number of children under the age of 18 has declined. Meanwhile, San Francisco has the lowest share of children of any of the largest 100 cities in the U.S.
High productivity zones are not necessarily child-friendly zones. That is why people have always fled cities when their careers were established or when they could afford to.

Thompson then goes on to narrow his focus to establish that childless cities are a problem and that there is something we can and should do about that. Because Thompson fails to recognize the category error he is committing, his assertion that there is a problem and his belief that it might be solved are both questionable.

What is missing? Think about the measures. What is the average duration in a city? Of all the residents, how many have lived in the city for how long? As Thompson notes, people move to cities for careers and move to suburbs for families. Think of cities as career machines.

In the eighteen hundreds when transportation was expensive, when you moved to a city, that is where you tended to stay for generations. You were trading higher productivity (income) for dirt, crime, disease, density, etc. The continuing flow of populations to cities is a testament of just how great is that productivity boost. The average urban resident duration from the eighteen hundreds onwards has been very high, only beginning to decline post-WWII when transportation costs began to fall and systemic productivity rose high enough for people began to have choices about where to live.

As everyone becomes wealthier and has higher incomes (a feature of the modern world), the supply and demand lines keep shifting. The most capable and productive are still drawn to cities because the boost to productivity that comes from densifying talent is still so great. But as the economy becomes more winner-take-all and as the high base level of income rises, the preference rates for city living change. It becomes more and more compelling for those in the broad middle to exit a city, leaving only the most productive and the young chancers at the beginning of their careers. Unless cities explicitly set out to remain residential and to control the average cost of living, it is unlikely for residents to remain.

Another interesting measure would be to look at the average number of years there is of urban living per person by death. And by urban, I mean urban center, not suburbs, exurbs, etc. That has almost certainly been falling. An ad executive who moves to a city to be part of the services economy and whose career at mid-level plateaus, might easily continue to live in a city in 1950 or 1960 even though there is little more career advance to achieve. In 2010, they will almost certainly move out because of the continuing rise of cost of city living.

If I look at my own life I can see 60 years in 14 locations and among those:
Rural - 4 separate occasions for a total of 8 years

Town - 1 occasion for one year

Exurb - No occasions

Suburb - 5 occasions for a total of 17 years

Metropolitan - 4 occasions for a total of 34 years
(center city)
Thats a lot of churn (14 locations) and a lot more metropolitan living than most of my family and most of my colleagues.

All this is an obvious and inherent consequence of the traditional laws of supply and demand, comparative productivity, etc. There is nothing that government needs to do about it.

The only downside I see to city centers becoming more clearly Services Productivity centers is my oft-repeated concern.

Media communication are concentrated in those handful of cities. They project a reality of concerns and issues and conditions which are urban center centric. Worse than that, they are unaware of how life is actually lived in more heterogeneous categories of Mixed Economy Sectors and Mixed Density Residence. The problem is the isolation of the Mandarin Class and their mouthpieces within the urban bubble, not with the condition of High Services Productivity/High Density itself.

Windsor Hotel

From Dan Cosgrove.

Click to enlarge.

I think his data supports the latter.

I saw this.

and went to Boston Has Become New York: The reality of global warming by David Leonhardt to check and see whether his claim was being misrepresented. It isn't. From Leonhardt.
The temperature in Washington has topped 90 degrees for 12 straight days. While I was sitting inside during one of those days trying to avoid the heat, I spent some time making a chart. You can see it above.

It shows the average number of days per year when the temperature cracked 90 degrees in various cities, during the first eight decades of the 20th century (before global warming became more severe), and then in the past 10 years.

I chose 15 major cities from the National Weather Service’s database, without knowing exactly what I’d find. In four of the cities, mostly in the Midwest, the numbers are virtually unchanged. But in the other 11, there has been a substantial increase. Houston, for example, used to have 89 days above 90 degrees in a typical year; it now has 115. Atlanta has gone from 36 to 56, and Denver from 27 to 48.

By this measure, the Boston of today feels like the New York of the 20th century. Washington is on its way to resembling the Memphis of old. And Miami is more like Dallas used to be. (To see a larger version of the chart, click here.)

And the planet is only going to keep getting hotter until our political leaders — that is, Republican leaders, who are the obstacle to action on climate change — do something about it.
Without checking, I am happy to stipulate that the chart reflects the data.

There are at least four things wrong with his approach however. He is offering this data to illustrate the validity of the hypothesis that increasing CO2 concentrations are driving higher global temperatures.

His first error is pretty basic. His chosen sample does not represent the universe of the claim. What is happening in the US does not tell us anything about what is happening globally.

The global surface area is 510m square kilometers. The surface area of the US is 9.5 million square kilometers. In other words, the US is 1.8% of the global surface area. Leonhardt is assuming that anything happening in the US must be representative of what is happening globally. It is not.

That is bad framing of the problem, flying in the face of everything we know. Some areas experience prolonged periods of warming while other areas simultaneously experience long periods of cooling. You have to have comprehensive measurements of all locales to be able to determine whether there is net cooling or warming. As an example, this summer has been about normal for the UK, sweltering in continental Europe and below average in the extended landmass of Russia. You cannot take the measure from a single area and know anything about the whole.

The second error is that there is no rationale for his time-frame choice. When you look at time-series data, you can make it show anything you want to by choosing the start and stop dates. You have to have a reason for the chosen start date and the chosen stop date and Leonhardt does not provide a reason. That is at best sloppy thinking or lazy practice.

The issue of stop and start dates is especially important when you are looking at short time-frames for long time-frame events. Climate change is measured in multi-decades not years. A major volcano, a particular point in the solar-cycle, El-nino, can all affect climate temperatures for years at a time. You only see the long run change in multi-decadal averages. Comparing last week's stock market average against last month's stock market average is a similar error, given that the stock market tends to move over a 66 month business cycle.

The third error is Leonhardt's choice of measurement. Is number of days above 90 a good proxy for increasing AGW temperatures? No. Clearly no.

To see why, think about flu season. We hypothesize that there is a new flu strain and that this will be a worse flew season than last year. Which is the better measure, the total number of flu cases or the number of days when new flu diagnoses exceed a standard deviation above the long run norm, say 1,000 new cases a day? Clearly it is total number of flu cases. The flu season may last longer (which would drive up number of cases but never exceed the strike point) or shorter. It might be significantly below average for most the season but then have a couple of weeks sharply above. Alternatively, it might run close to the average all season and with only a normal number of above 1,000 new cases a day but the excess above 1,000 new cases a day might be so high as to push the total number of cases for the season well above norms even though the number of 1,000 new cases a day was normal.

Leonhardt has chosen a crude proxy which is dramatic (people notice really hot days) but which is not itself predicative of the overall heat trend lines.

The fourth error, and probably most profound, is that Leonhardt is conducting motivated research. He wants to find support for a given hypothesis rather than consider which hypothesis actually fits the data best.

In this instance, there are easily advanced alternative hypotheses for the data he presents which are a much better fit.

Click to enlarge.

Leonhardt attaches significance to the fact that in eleven of fifteen cities, the number of days above 90 increased in the past decade compared to the average for the eighty years prior. However, that of course prompts the question, if there is a global rise in temperatures why are the four cities in the midwest exempt. Which ought to refocus the mind on the issue of the sample not representing the whole.

But there is something even more obvious when you look at the cities. Where is there the largest rise in number of days above 90? Miami, Houston, Memphis, Denver, Atlanta, Dallas, etc. Which cities have grown the most in the past decade? Miami, Houston, Memphis, Denver, Atlanta, Dallas. What goes with urban growth? Increased impermeability, decreased vegetative cover, increased dense infrastructure (highways, buildings, etc.) - i.e. all the ingredients of urban heat island effect. Of course they are warmer.

My city of Atlanta has gone from 1.5 million in 1985 to 6.5 million in 2019 with all the attendant deforestation, housing and highway infrastructure, etc. Of course it is warmer in the city.

Interestingly, four or five years ago, someone did a review of the past century's temperature data for all measurement locations in the US. If you took the average of all locations, there was a very low, but steady, increase in temperature. However, if you separated urban from rural measurement locations and looked only at the rural data - flat line. All the heat rise was associated with urban heat island effects.

And as a counter test of Leonhardt's data, which cities have declined in population or only held their own? Chicago, New York, Minneapolis, San Francisco. The cities with little or no increase in degree days over 90.

Leonhardt isn't measuring AGW. He is measuring the urban heat island effect.

I have been arguing for the past couple of decades that we don't know, and frankly, might not be able to know, whether there is AGW. We have insufficient measurement coverage, there are inconsistencies with our means of measurement (land surface, satellite, tree ring, etc.), we don't have enough data, there are large areas of the globe which are effectively unmeasured, etc. All the concern about AGW is based on forecasting models of a complex system (climate) which are notoriously sensitive to quality of data, completeness of data, assumptions, and initiating assumptions.

Even if we had confidence in the models (which have consistently overestimated since they first came to prominence in the nineties), given the noise in the climate system, we won't actually know if the models are reasonably correct until a century or two from now. Probably long past the point where we can do anything about it.

My perspective is that we ought to be seeking to minimize all externalities such as CO2 as simply a matter of good stewardship but that there is yet insufficient data to shape long term policy with confidence. And simply doing something enthusiastically without being confident that it is effective is just as likely to make things worse. See the theory and practice of economic development for the past fifty years as an illustration of the negative impact of well-intentioned and enthusiastically implemented bad policy.

There is, however, a very clear aspect of climate change which is measurably real. Micro-climates, almost always based on local externalities (pollution) and land use. We know if we dam up rivers, creating lakes, we are going to change the ecology, the humidity, and the heat of the region. We know if we change farming practices, we will affect temperatures and riverine conditions. We know if we build a lot of impermeable surfaces and concrete buildings and highways, we will increase temperatures.

The forecast accuracy of all these activities are reasonable well observed, the mechanisms are reasonably well known as are the means to mitigate.

We could significantly improve the environment and living conditions by focusing on land use and pollution rather than on an as yet unproven model-generated forecast about the hypothesized role of CO2.

Why don't we do that? It forces hard trade-off decisions, it generates democratic engagement in decision-making and it reduces the money and power of the technocratic center.

Raising taxes and regulations for everyone else based on the choices of a backroom few is the solution for the AGW enthusiasts.

Making people make the best choices they can with the information they have given the things they want is the solution for addressing micro-climate change.

It is a choice between a determinist statism and a free, engaged citizenry making local choices.

Leonhardt is effectively arguing for the former. I think his data supports the latter.