August 2009


Micha Ghertner asked the question when I said that the shrinking proportion of whites makes their reduced support less relevant. I didn’t honestly know, but I suspected something like that. Some googling turned up Gary P. Freeman’s Immigration, Ethnic Differences and Support for the Welfare State (.doc file), which though I haven’t read completely contained the quote “the racial group loyalty effect means that individuals increase their support for welfare spending as the share of local recipients from their own racial group rises.” It also says “If the minority is rich, as were the Walloons in Belgium, then the differences don’t block welfare state development”. That’s what I was thinking of, along the lines of Thomas Sowell’s writings on affirmative action around the world, which is primarily used by poorer majorities to get back politically at an economically dominant minority.

The GSS has a question about welfare spending, and I’m going to examine how attitudes among whites, blacks, hispanics and asians have changed over time. (more…)

I finished Nicholson Baker’s “Human Smoke” without having much to say about it, but thought I should give my opinion before writing about what I’m reading now. It ends too quickly (January 1st 1942) in my opinion. The style of just presenting short paraphrased clippings from contemporary newspapers and diaries is an unusual contrast to the omniscient hindsight of most works of history. Each excerpt notes the date, in a chronological path. The implicit argument on behalf of the ignored pacifists (distinguished from Lindbergh’s America Firsters on the right) is made explicit by Baker in his summation. I would have liked if he had made more of a direct argument for pacifism, and particularly its implications for when the war was at its height. Chip Smith reviewed it here, the New York Review of Books did so here along with Buchanan’s and others. While he doesn’t mention Baker, Matthew Yglesias‘ recent post on “Inglourious Basterds” makes an interesting point on how WW2 has been mythologized by Americans to justify our hegemony.

The book I’ve replaced it with is Yuri Slezkine’s “The Jewish Century”. Despite not having read it, a couple weeks ago I tried to combine its insights with Ed Glaeser’s writings on cities. I’ve only read the first chapter (the shortest of the four, with each subsequent one doubling in size), which contained the more general “outside view” I’m most interested in. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t know nearly as much about Russian history as I’d like, so the later ones might be just as good (If I can find it I might also check out Slezkine’s “Arctic Mirrors: Russia and the Small Peoples of the North”). It has a lot of the same stuff you’ll find in the duly cited Amy Hua and Thomas Sowell (though it does not cite Are Jews Generic?, as Black Rednecks & White Liberals was published a year later) but with a slightly different take. Rather than “market-dominant minorities” and “middlemen minorities” Slezkine divides peoples into “Apollonians”, the (primarily agricultural) producers and their exploiters, and “Mercurians” the minority tribal modernists-before-their-time who get by on their wits. Unlike the aforementioned two writers, he includes groups less adapted for literate modernity like Gypsies and “Travellers”. Using Mencius Moldbug’s typology, Vaisya and Helots are clearly Apollonians while Optimates are the slightly foreign caste of exploiters, who still fall into that category. Brahmins are Mercurians, and in our “Jewish Era” we are all becoming them. So where do Dalits fit in? Slezkine does mention a “Dionysian” type, but he specifies that they are the same people as Apollonians, just while they are being festive. On a somewhat related note, I was in an Bass Pro Shop today and surprised by the number of black and asian families (there were a couple Hispanics as well). Hear that, bobos? Even after you’ve assimilated the old crackers there’ll still be folks who remember that wild animals are good eatin’ if you can get’em.

I’ve also resumed reading Hilaire du Berrier’s “Background to Betrayal” and may actually finish it one of these days. Its an interesting contrast to both standard histories and the pro-Diem and U.S revisionism of Mark Moyal. However, du Berrier does very little to make his account seem credible rather than that of a crank with an axe to grind. I can’t count how many times he says “Nobody asked X about Y” or “Nobody knows such-and-such” which is absolutely fact-free and consists of pure insinuation.

Commenter Mitchell alerted me to Vichy’s abandoning electronic communication for arboreal primitivism. Au revoir!

A little later I found that Ilkka Kokkarinen has ended his year-and-a-couple-months vacation. I haven’t read any of his posts since (who’s in charge of letting us know when absent bloggers return?) and complained about how much better 16 Volts was before he left, but welcome back anyway.

UPDATE: The first thing I have to share with you that I found from one of his new(er) posts is a fisking of Aristotle.

UPDATE 2: For a while I had wanted to fit this from the Economist on how superior math courses are into a post, but wanted more to go with it. Ilkka provides. I probably do read and enjoy a lot of unmathed writers, but its suspicious that even a number-light one like Unqualified Offerings/Highclearing is written by two physics professors. I broke out some of my rusty discrete math (ick) and maxima-finding (hooray!) tools here.

The US is in many ways a dork paradise.

File under “Intra-Left Strife.”

Old school rationalist Edmund Standing of Butterflies and Wheels has a piece up lambasting the “far-left” (notably the Marxist left) for attempting to silence (through moral one-upmanship) critics of Islam. There’s some good stuff in there about the laziness with which many on the left equate racism with secular social democracy’s discontent with (illiberal) religion. But I’m generally at odds with the mission statement, if you will, over at B&W. They can be placed under the “militant atheist” umbrella, and most certainly gliding on the “rationalist” wing of the rationalist-pluralist liberal ornithopter (heh). B&W has endorsed Maryam Namazie’s “One Law for All” campaign, which seeks to outlaw Sharia courts – and all other religious courts, regardless of their level of social liberalism – in Britain. Namazie, not coincidentally, is a central committee member of the Worker Communist Party of Iran.

Anyway, this quote by Marxist John Molyneux caught my attention:

To put the matter as starkly as possible: from the standpoint of Marxism and international socialism an illiterate, conservative, superstitious Muslim peasant who supports Hamas is more progressive than an educated liberal atheist Israeli who supports Zionism (even critically).

Certainly a different sort of Marxist than Namazie! I’m always pleased to hear the implications of a political stance potentially too refined and obscure to be understood put clearly and unequivocally. It’s on par with “No, black people cannot be racist because racism equals power plus prejudice. They haven’t got power.” (That quote, heard so long ago, has stuck with me.)

I wonder, does Molyneux’s view find a corollary in hardcore Pluralist Libertarianism? The latter’s version might read something like this:

To put the matter as starkly as possible: from the standpoint of Pluralist Libertarianism and its universal application an illiterate, conservative, superstitious Muslim peasant who supports Hamas is more appealing than an educated liberal atheist Israeli who supports Zionism (even critically).

As you can read, the “translation” is a bit tortured. First, a Pluralist Libertarian would not attribute any kind of pluralist-minded libertarianism to the Muslim peasant himself, which is the reason for the insertion of the word “appealing.” Second, as Molyneux writes it, an educated liberal atheist Israeli who supports Zionism need not be necessarily less appealing. Though two reasons come to mind as to why they are likely to be: (1) Zionism is colonialism, and (2) the Israeli state’s relationship with the U.S. make said Israeli objectively less conducive to the aims of a Pluralist Libertarian…especially one based in the U.S. itself.

I’m curious if a Marxist of Molyneux’s stripe would extend the same sympathy and label of “progressive” to the superstitious, illiterate and conservative enclaves within the western world. I’m guessing not, but then that’s not surprising given neo-Marxism’s hierarchy of the oppressed. One is more likely to find leftish sympathy for those groups on the part of scholars of religion or cultural anthropologists. Though in their case an appreciation of the worth of religious belief itself (and diversity, to which I’m partial if it be this or equality), as opposed to its instrumental value in achieving a worker’s state, is paramount.

Ancient and modern.

A post at Andrew Gelman’s was turning into a conversation between me and Hopefully Anonymous. Rather than completely hijack the thread, H.A suggested that we continue it elsewhere. The topic turned into something of a free-associational brain-dump, which is hardly something H.A can complain about. At least not hypocritically. It started with Gelman complaining about Mankiw being too lazy to ask people down the hall about health policy rather than linking to a few newspaper op-eds. H.A wanted Gelman to go into broader theorizing about the behavior of experts and pundits, which is the topic of this post. My tile may make you think of Philip Tetlock, but his work is on the predictions of individual experts, rather than how experts relate to one another, take sides and so on. I think there might be an earlier book on group-think centering on the Bay of Pigs, but I can’t remember an author or title. (more…)

I was tardy in rejoining the conversation for this GNXP post and wrote a long comment in notepad, but when I got to the bottom I found it had been closed. Rather than letting it go to waste, I’m posting it here. I wish wordpress.com gave a show/hide option, like at Volokh (though otherwise Powerblogs seem shitty), in which case I’d use that and also copy all the preceding comments. Unfortunately, all I have is the “more” tag. (more…)

When I first saw the title I expected a different punchline. But now I’ll have to steal the joke for my own purposes someday. That also reminded me of a reminder-to-myself from years back to check out the Electro Hippies (that was before youtube). Now that that’s over with, I see no reason to do so again.

On an unrelated note, Keith Preston just alerted me to Ethel of the Lioness’ Den, which focuses on anarcho-pluralism. I like the emphasis on Sealand-esqe “micronation”, helping to head off the objection that national-anarchism is oxymoronic. Going further than Michael Hart’s multiracialist-friendly racial separatism, the paradigm could also handle Vichy’s objection on perceived kinship with others by including scope for “micronations” of anti-nationalist egoists. Stirner sort of alluded to that sort of thing with his Union of Egoists (which does not seem to run afoul of Bob Black’s (and my own) anarchy problem). Stirner seemed to envision something more temporary to serve the temporary interests of the individuals entering into it, but even that can have a physical/geographic governance analogue.

Someone (I think a sometime-commenter here) has a blog which linked to me in their post Religion is Beta. In the comments there, Whiskey said “young women HATE Christianity with its limits on female sexuality and alpha males”. That didn’t sound right to me, I googled for age, gender and religiosity. A first-page result was for the book “Adventures in social research”. Sounds fun! On page 309 they have a big complicated table I can’t read well, summarized with a more readable one.

Percentage Who Attend Worship Services About Weekly

Age vs Gender Under 21 21-39 40-64 65 and older
Men 21 32 49
Women 38 36 37 45

I guess relative to those 65 and older, but I don’t know under what other standard young women could be said to hate Christianity. I might check this out in the GSS or WVS later, but that should do for now. (more…)

I didn’t have access to the NYT article which sparked Orin Kerr’s post, but it reminded me enough of some favorite themes of the returned-to-blogging Hopefully Anonymous that I felt it merited a post here. Charlie Nesson is a prestigious expert in the field of law by virtue of his position at Harvard. There is widespread agreement that he just did a poor job as a trial lawyer, and that for many of the same reasons he does a poor job of preparing students to be lawyers. Harvard Law is where the best lawyers are supposed to come from, there is immense competition to get in, and Harvard’s reputation has brought in vast amounts of money. Something just doesn’t seem right here, although there are also other Harvard professors who are really brand names who do little of the work credited to them. Is this the case for other fields? I read more about economics, and there it seems that while lefties might think Mankiw hackish and disingenuous, they still consider him smart and his textbook good (although his students have reported that his lectures aren’t great). Similarly, strident libertarians consider Dani Rodrik a good economist despite his anti-Washington Consensus approval of industrial policy (and most congratulated Krugman’s Nobel as deserved). A commenter at a different Volokh thread on how Duncan Kennedy got tenure at Harvard law said “publication requirements for tenure in the legal academy are appallingly low in comparison to other disciplines”. It is also only recently that the first peer-reviewed law journal which is not specialized by methodology or subject matter appeared (usually students edit law review journals). (more…)

I recall hearing about the overall numbers of the poll before, but I was surprised by those results. Hat tip to Keith Preston. I actually did expect that the south would be the region most supportive, but those other factors surprised me.

I couldn’t help but steal Jim Henley’s title, even if “The Myth of the Alpha Wolf” might have been nice as well. Anyway, David Mech helped create the concept of the “alpha” among wolves with his book published in 1970 titled, “The Wolf: Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species”. Turns out it was just based on observations of unrelated wolves put together in captivity. In the years past we’ve found that wolves in the wild are different. Question: what impact will and/or should this news have on the amateur sociobiologists so frequent on the internet?

My previous post on the canidae family here.

Megan McArdle’s interview with Paul Campos and related posts have gotten others talking about obesity. There are some common not-too-flattering stereotypes about the demographics of fat people, and I decided to look up which were most important. The GSS has a variable, INTRWGHT, which is the subjective weight of the respondent as judged by the interviewer. It goes from below average, to average, to somewhat above to considerably above average. Admittedly very subjective. And I’m not even going to give you the full tables like before, as most are too wide to fit and I don’t feel like breaking them up. You’re just getting big-picture stats. I didn’t want weight differences in race and year of interview confounding things, so its all white people from 2008.
WORDSUM (how many vocab words they got right, basically an IQ test):

Eta* = .10 Gamma = -.03 Chisq(P) = 31.94 (p= 0.37)
R = -.02 Tau-b = -.02 Chisq(LR) = 32.83 (p= 0.33)
Somers’ d* = -.02 Tau-c = -.02 df = 30

EDUC (highest year of school completed):

Eta* = .15 Gamma = -.14 Chisq(P) = 92.40 (p= 0.00)
R = -.10 Tau-b = -.09 Chisq(LR) = 83.62 (p= 0.01)
Somers’ d* = -.07 Tau-c = -.08 df = 57

PASEI (father’s socioeconomic index):

Eta* = .38 Gamma = -.14 Chisq(P) = 623.36 (p= 0.40)
R = -.11 Tau-b = -.09 Chisq(LR) = 546.54 (p= 0.98)
Somers’ d* = -.06 Tau-c = -.08 df = 615

RINCOME  (respondent’s income):

Eta* = .12 Gamma = .07 Chisq(P) = 60.21 (p= 0.01)
R = .04 Tau-b = .04 Chisq(LR) = 58.51 (p= 0.01)
Somers’ d* = .03 Tau-c = .03 df = 36

Father’s status seems to be the most negatively correlated, followed by education and then vocab score. Income is actually positively associated with perceived fattitude, as I assumed had been the case throughout most of human history but not in the present day. I still don’t actually know much about statistics, so those who see anything else relevant should feel free to chime in. I didn’t examine region, since it doesn’t have a monotonic scale, but Razib has some scatterplots and a table here.

Summary Statistics for RACE = 1(WHITE)
Eta* = .10 Gamma = -.03 Chisq(P) = 31.94 (p= 0.37)
R = -.02 Tau-b = -.02 Chisq(LR) = 32.83 (p= 0.33)
Somers’ d* = -.02 Tau-c = -.02 df = 30

I’ve been reading Radley Balko for a while and have gotten especially incensed at the ridiculous “expertise” of bite-mark expert Michael West and uncertified forensic pathologist Steven Hayne (who claimed to be able to tell from a bullet’s trajectory that two people were simultaneously holding the same gun), and I also remember reading a bit from Roger Koppl on forensics, but it wasn’t until this recent post directing readers to a very good Popular Mechanics article that it sunk in that most forensics in practice could be pseudoscience. Bite marks, footprints, tire tracks, handwriting, fibers and bloodstain patterns could all be pretty much worthless while fingerprint and ballistics* analysts could often have no idea what the probability of a false positive is and fail to replicate results. But most jurors have no idea how accurate any of it is and just assume that experts must know what they’re talking about. We might later look back on much of it as we do Freudian analysis, or perhaps more relevant, recovered memories and facilitated communication. Now consider Robin Hanson’s take on the value of insight in psychotherapists and medical doctors. It is even harder for laymen to challenge their expertise if they possess genuine knowledge others don’t.

The past couple of posts have pointed out errors in Benson Bobrick’s East of the Sun. On the whole I still like the book and would recommend it to others. The errors have all been in asides about events outside the scope of the book which I assume he didn’t put much research into (the book does have endnotes, but infuriatingly no superscript in the main text indicating that a footnote exists for a particular passage). I have often heard elsewhere that people often trust certain sources (newspapers, for instance) until they cover an area in which the listener has domain-competence (to use a favorite term of Hopefully Anonymous). I don’t have any expertise when it comes to native americans, yet I am still assuming that Bobrick is giving me accurate information when it comes to Russia. It just so happens that I’m an american and have read enough about american history that I recall things contradicting what I’m reading. Unfortunately, I have read a lot less about Russia and cannot do the same here. It was over a year ago that I asked for recommended books on the topic and I reiterated that request a number of times elsewhere before finding this book. Now consider all the innumerable topics for which you don’t have time to read a whole book (I usually don’t, and it’s not like I have anything better to do than read) but will consume samples of in this new (kilo)byte-sized economy Tyler Cowen and Chris Anderson are telling us about.

*I should note that a ballistics expert shows up as the second commenter here disputing P.M’s reporting. I’d also like to note that I previously did not know red blood cells lacked nuclei.

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