April 2010

I just received Andy Nowicki‘s “Considering Suicide” and Jim Crawford‘s “Confessions of an Antinatalist“, both available from Ninebanded Books. I had read the latter in advance, all I know about the former comes second-hand. In spite of my ignorance, I thought I’d talk about the connection between the two. (more…)

Really, anyone focused on maximizing their expected lifespan should be interested. A while back at LessWrong someone came up some rough figures for how many years of life you lose from sleeping little (as I do). Their point was that it was a worthwhile tradeoff, but some might disagree. Second, in response to an appreciation of survivalism as hedging, a commenter linked to an Argentinean’s lessons for surviving collapse based on what he actually lived through.

Radley Balko’s post on L.A.P.D chief Daryl Gates got me thinking about this first, and then Steve’s recent essay nudged me into making this post. Back in the 90s as a schoolboy I was vaguely aware that there was some crop-picker named Cesar Chavez that proggles were trying to push as a mini-MLK figure, but it completely failed as Americans find Hispanics & the labor movement less interesting than blacks & the civil rights movement. Later on I heard that SWAT was originally formed in response to Chavez’ UFW, which surprised me. I hadn’t heard of them engaging in any activities that would inspire the use of SWAT (just the grape/raising boycott, I suppose because middle class white people could participate in solidarity). I’ve tried googling for accounts of what was going on back then, but haven’t found anything. So does anyone know what actual operations that original SWAT team undertook with regard to the UFW?

In a completely unrelated bleg, before my hard-drive failed I had a very long (I think more than half an hour) live version of Mountain’s “Nantucket Sleighride” on it. I can’t remember what album it was from. If it’s any help (since there are apparently a ton of them), I remember Leslie West(?) loudly sayig “Corky Laing” before the long drum solo. That makes me assume it wasn’t “Twin Peaks” or any other album from when Laing was gone, but maybe I’m wrong. Also, as an almost OCD tick, I decided I should have one song from each of the three famous lead guitarists in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. I’ve got “Hideaway” featuring Eric Clapton & “The Supernatural” with Peter Green, but don’t know which to choose with Mick Taylor. Recommendations welcome.

Evaluating teachers based on the performance of their students was in vogue for a little while before people got disillusioned with No Child Left Behind. The trouble with it is that a huge amount of the variance is due to the students the teacher is assigned rather than any attributes of the teachers themselves (I suppose the “fundamental attribution error” causes people to overlook that, at least when focusing on teachers). One way of getting around that is to not use absolute scores as the metric for a teacher, but their value-added. The trouble with that is that regression to the mean will reward teachers lucky enough to get students who happened to perform unusually badly the previous year and vice versa. That seemed to me a tough problem, but Robyn Dawes explained what to do in his “Rational Choice in an Uncertain World” from 1988. “The rational way of dealing with regression effects is to regress when making predictions. Then, if there is some need or desire to evaluate discrepancy (e.g., to give awards for “overachievement” or therapy for “underachievement”) compare the actual value to the predicted value – not to the actual value of the variable used to make the prediction.” I was planning on writing this post before I saw Steve’s follow-up on teacher quality, it’s just a coincidence.

A few pages later (though not in the same chapter) Dawes discusses the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill and homelessness. Interesting to me since I’m a Szaszian libertarian and even the latter is often sufficient to get flack from both left & right for that event. He mocks people for overlooking the fact that the vast majority of homeless people are “poor, just plain poor” rather than “mentally ill” (quotes in the original), but gives little mention of the rate of homelessness among the deinstitutionalized, tossing off “My own observation is that “success” for all of us is a “sometimes” thing”. I found that disappointing.

Not good. The sauce was the worst part. After eating a bit over three-quarters of it I decided to just extract the remainder of the beef patty and throw the rest away. I think I’ll stick with chicken.

A while back I wrote out my thoughts on immigration in a more thorough manner than I have before or since. However, this was at Scott Sumner’s blog and I often have trouble finding that old post (though I have linked to it before). I decided I should put it here so I can find it more easily. (more…)

At his blog Steve Walt echoed one of William Easterly’s gripes: international organizations don’t work very well in part because there are too many of them. He asked “do we really need NATO, the EU, the WEU, the OSCE, the G20, the and the entire alphabet soup of existing international organizations?” Then a commenter got all huffy at him for being a non-European saying such a thing about the European Union, and he immediately backed off. Pssh, for a guy who postures about standing up to critics and bucking conventional wisdom he folds like a chair. Try being more arrogant, Euro-weenies can’t bite. Ecrasez l’infame! E.U delenda est!

A little while back Tyler Cowen introduced us (or at least me) to the Bohlen-Pierce scale of music. Looking more into it I came across this series of videos explaining the history of the scale and exhibiting some examples of music made with it. Along the way there is the joy of meeting (with a sidetrack into chaos theory), and the heart wrenching failure to reconcile two microwave engineers before the more dickish one died. With such geekery you might expect someone to have an appearance which closes off more popular interests, but she’s quite easy on the eyes. I forgot about it for a while, but then decided to check out what other playlists were on her user page and saw the image of Thomas Freaking Sowell! Plus, in the user description there’s talk of futurism & cryonics. It’s almost as if I made someone up, but if I had done that there wouldn’t have been a cat.

As long as we’re on the subject, the Hanson-recommended “Werckmeister Harmonies” is named after a music theorist that one character blames for ruining all music since. Andreas Werckmeister coined the term “well-temperament”. Jan Swaffer of Slate gives a tour of equal temperament and its discontents here, with some examples to hear contrasting tunings of the same piece. If you like that, you may also enjoy her earlier piece on old-timey pianos.

UPDATE: On a final musical note, I should have used the opportunity yesterday to give a hat-tip to Fabio Rojas for pointing out an online guitar-hero substitute for those of us to cheap to buy the actual game and too snobby to play anything other than songs personally uploaded.

Justin Raimondo contrasts the tea party’s populism with the decadent elites of the welfare-warfare state:

The rise of an often militant right-wing populist movement – the tea partiers, the Ron Paulistas, the tenth amendment restorationists and the regionalists – has the powers-that-be in a tizzy….

Just as war is the ultimate expression of government power, so opposition to war is the ultimate expression of “antigovernment” sentiment.

Our elites hate populism in all its forms simply because it threatens their power, their privileges, their pelf and their prestige: populism is by definition a revolt against the elites, in government and society. Worst of all, from a ruling class perspective, is populism of the “antigovernment” variety, because it threatens the source and symbol of their power: what Murray Rothbard called the Welfare-Warfare State.

One problem: The current outburst of anti-establishment right-wing sentiment is not even close to being anti-war or anti-empire.  Here is CODEPINK’s Medea Benjamin’s report from a tax day Tea Party protest in D.C.:

In our very small, unscientific sample, the hawks–many of whom were retired military or have close family in the military–outweighed the doves. Take the first question about the 800-plus bases the U.S. military maintains at a cost of over $100 billion a year. Thirty-five of the 50 respondents wanted to keep the bases.

On Iraq and Afghanistan, most of the people we interviewed were not disturbed by our statistic that every taxpayer had already paid over $7,000 for the wars–and that’s before Obama’s latest escalation. Seventy percent did not want a quick withdrawal, saying that we had to “finish the job first.”

You would think that aid would be particularly unpopular within the Tea Party. That was true in the case of Egypt, where 45 out of 50 interviewees preferred cutting aid[....]But when it came to Israel, 80 percent wanted to keep up our $3 billion in aid, even though we pointed out that Israel is a wealthy country.

And though Raimondo would like to think that the corporatist fusion of state and private sector power is hated by tea parties – perhaps through conjecture given their opposition to the bailouts – not-even-remotely-libertarian leftists are, by default, relatively more “left libertarian” in their view of the military’s use of private contractors:

On the question of supporting high-paid private security contractors like Blackwater (Xe) that take jobs from the military, the group was split down the middle. Half agreed that unaccountable contractors sullied our country’s reputation and those jobs should be returned to the military. The other half said that as long as we don’t have a draft [emphasis mine], we need private contractors.

So does the half that doesn’t support the use of companies like Blackwater support a draft? Difficult to know, but if they were against the warfare state one would think they’d suggest ending the use of contractors by ending the military engagements that employ them.  The questioning methodology may not have been open-ended, however. Indeed the answers presented here appear binary.

True, Raimondo mentions more than just  Tea Party activity.  But it’s the Tea Party protests that have attracted the lion’s share of media attention and invited conflation of their activity with the more radical anti-state fringe in the “liberal imagination,” ala Trilling. One could gather from Raimondo and the elite media that Paulistas and the main of the Tea Party as somewhat interchangeable; the difference being, of course, that Raimondo has a positive view of this big tent.

As far as I know there’s been little demographic analysis of the more radical element within the Tea Party, those that come down squarely against foreign intervention, emphasize civil liberties (and the “prison-industrial complex”), etc. On average, however, the idea that they are populist is questionable at best.  Tea Partiers are too Republican (or at the very least Republican leaning) to be broad based,  have a somewhat higher level of education, and are disproportionately white and Protestant. It would be more correct to identify the Tea Parties as an expression of identity politics for white folks, as Pat Buchanan does via Obama. (Suggesting that identity politics is at play even for those that don’t officially subscribe to it is to come awfully close to agreeing with Critical Race Theory, but so be it, that’s a discussion for another day – or the comment thread.)

Maybe what really seals the deal for the anti-populist argument is the fact that Tea Partiers are just too ideological. What’s popular is being ideologically clueless and not voting. (True, the turnout for presidential elections often crosses the 50% mark, but when congressional, senatorial, and state and local elections are included, this is not the case.) The Tea Partiers are far too consistent across issue positions to be in the dark ideologically, and they are overwhelmingly (97%) registered to vote, against 67% of the nation at large (though the latter link covers the November 2006 election – the historic election of 2008 probably brought that up).

Show me  a group described as populist, and I’ll show you an ideologue projecting a fantasy.

Hopefully Anonymous (I hope he does not rest in peace) used to recommend I preserve comments made elsewhere. But usually they don’t seem worth the effort. However, recently at Attack the System I started spitting out too many associated ideas that I thought I might have to lay back on the links for fear of tripping a spam filter. So here goes below:

David, part of the problem is, as Bob Black explained in My Anarchism Problem, anarchy itself is rather poorly defined. As Black notes, Kropotkin seemed to think the medieval towns were anarchic. From the other end of the spectrum, Hans Herman Hoppe seems to have a fondness for that era, Spencer Heath’s vertically integrated proprietary communities (”Georgism turned on its head”) are something like it, and your son Patri’s Seasteads are similar. This is also why left-wing critics often deride plumb-line or right-libertarians as feudalists or royalists.

Nick Szabo, who is somewhat libertarian but not an anarchist, has written a lot about feudalism and property rights in jurisdiction. He is quite critical of your use of the Coase theorem in discussions of anarcho-capitalism. I’d be interested to hear your response to him.

keith, your note about anarchy being possible within similar communities seems sort of supported by Elinor Ostrom’s work on self-governing commons. David himself made a similar point in his video/lecture on market failure/public goods. I haven’t read it yet, but Ellickson’s “Order Without Law” gives examples of that happening among neighboring farmers in California (though this is an example of people already living under a state). Will Wilkinson did a diavlog a while back with the author of a book criticizing economics called “The Dismal Science”. His main counter-example is the Amish, who are of course a small likeminded religious group who don’t find a state necessary. I apologize if I’m throwing out to many references, but Jane Jacobs’ “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” says one of the major differences between cities & suburbs (or small towns) is the presence of strangers. The mechanisms that smaller communities rely on break down with strangers, whereas cities rely on their heavy presence (yet also having some long-established local figures to play key roles). Cities need to rely more on impersonal interaction and institutions which support them. This helps to explain why, as Ed Glaeser has pointed out, urbanization leads to liberalism.

It wasn’t that good.

I know that the interwar Polish government was an authoritarian military junta. I’ve occasionally heard it described as fascist, although due more to surface characteristics than an explicit adherence to fascist ideology. In Pat Buchanan’s book on the “unnecessary war” he alternates between bashing the Polish government and praising them for their (foolish, in my view) decision never to surrender, and when doing the former certainly portrays them as bigoted & fascistic. Believe it or not, the Nazis actually used the mistreatment of ethnic minorities as a stick to beat both the Czechoslovakian & Polish governments under the disguise of a sort of “humanitarian intervention”. So that was my state of knowledge when I read (via the Monkeycage) this article on the recent plane crash which removed a large chunk of the current Polish leadership. A quote from there: “Poland faced a similar tragedy during the interwar period: the assassination of President Gabriel Narutowicz in 1922. His murder was the culmination of extensive right-wing propaganda against the president—and resulted indirectly in the military coup of 1926 and the rule of the colonels that ended Polish democracy.” Yes, the same sort of story we’ve heard about Allende or perhaps Rathenau and Erzberger. But then I read the wikipedia article on Narutowicz and found that it was his ally on the left, Marshal Józef Piłsudski, who was behind the May 1926 coup with the support of the Polish Socialist Party. Apparently things got worse after he died in 1935, but they say the same of Lenin.

Aschwin de Wolf approvingly quoted Jonathan Bowden writing “Those who don’t lie down and die soon discover that happiness and intellect are at opposite sides of the pole.” I thought I heard someone debunk that with the GSS before, and set about googling. I replied by linking a comment from Secular Right that I hadn’t actually read before, but I figured I should present the actual results of a GSS analysis. (more…)

Because whirled peas have less complexity (in Gell-Man’s sense of the term).

I originally wanted to make a post giving the Tea Party data Tom Schaller didn’t. But then I found that lack (but not his overinterpretation) must be blamed on the source, so the missing data will stay missed. Fortunately, Steve Sailer referenced a press release containing voting frequency and partisan preference for sports & general television watchers. He only presented the one for sports, so I present the general television one below. I hope I didn’t screw it up too much in MS Paint.Voters by program
Wordpress only lets me make the image so large when viewed from the post (at 175% it disappears), so you’ll have to click on it in order to read the (blurry) text in the even more scaled-up version.
UPDATE: Sailer is now showing a sweet graph by network. I notice that Spike TV is just barely right of center, which is interesting since it once had some crappy conservative comedy cartoon.
Voters by network

This book is crap. I had it on hand as a back-up book for the train-ride when I finished another and hadn’t had the chance to check something else out. It’s fairly slim, but not nearly slim enough. There’s basically no structure to it and the same basic schtick just gets repeated over and over again, so you could pick it up anywhere and not be able to distinguish that section from the rest (Jane Jacobs considers that a big defect in urban geography). He constantly follows up with a “but” or “however” framed sentence, but no real contradictory points ever get made since it’s basically the same idea (if one chooses to dignify it with such a word) thrown in your face over and over. Half the sentences aren’t even sentences. Phrases that aggravate. Emote rather than explain. I diagnose Bowden with too much continental philosophy. Underneath the mass of metaphors there’s barely anything left. Civilization rests on implicit threats of violence to maintain order. We are mortal and will die one day. There, I just saved you a lot of time.

After finishing that I went to pick up Schumpeter’s “Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy”, but like Goffman’s book it wasn’t where it was supposed to be (other than in the reference section). The shelf was full of books on socialism, so I picked up Arthur Lipow’s “Authoritarian Socialism in America”, recommended by you-know-who. From my initial impression, Bellamy sounds like he’d be right up Mencius’ alley! There’s the condemnation of universal suffrage, and even democracy generally, the upholding of the military as ideal, the idea of thinking of the government as a business, along with fear of socialist labor union rabble engaging in riots or other unrest. There are even comparisons to Carlyle as a similarly anti-democratic authoritarian who rejected capitalist individualism. The book also undercuts Mencius view that America is the source of all that is wrong with the world, Bellamy spent time in Germany before writing his book and paid great attention to the reformist undercurrents there. Rather than communism being “American as apple pie” in Mencius words, it was widely thought of as suspiciously European in Bellamy’s time and he just happened to put it in more palatable packaging. For more of the American-apologism I promote see Daniel Flynn’s Conservative History of the American Left. I haven’t actually read that, nor do I intend to finish Lipow’s book. I am just not that interested in some book by Arthur Bellamy to read an extended analysis and contextualization of it.

In more positive Ninebanded news, MRDA reviews Andy Nowicki’s “Considering Suicide”.

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