Assorted links

by on January 3, 2013 at 2:58 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Jackson Lears reviews Jared Diamond (some parts of the review are quite good, other parts quite bad).

2. Great Stagnation, iPhone edition.

3. Some weird parts of the fiscal cliff bill.

4. Why don’t more pitchers learn the knuckleball?

5. Michael Blowhard defends the U.S. Constitution.

6. A social club for dogs (“toy aggression” is supposedly a deal breaker).

Blowhard, Esq. January 3, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Hey Tyler, thanks for the link, but I wrote the Constitution piece, not MB. (Of course, I’m assuming you’re linking to it b/c you like it. If you’re doing one of your “Get a load of this shit” things, please continue to blame it on him.)

Horvath January 3, 2013 at 4:06 pm

The Washington Senators had 4 knuckleballers in their starting rotation at some point in the 1940′s, and finished second in the league that year: would have been enough for a playoff berth under current rules, but not then.

Ray Lopez January 3, 2013 at 4:29 pm

It might be hard to learn the knuckleball–not for knuckleheads with heat (i.e., young pitchers) but oldsters who must learn it or retire.

Steko January 3, 2013 at 5:46 pm

Not only young pitchers but you’d think every utility infielder or marginal minor league position player would put in a couple weeks of work every offseason at throwing a decent knuckleball. Tim Wakefield parleyed it into 20 year ML career.

Simone Simonini January 3, 2013 at 4:10 pm

What part of that Jackson Lears review was anything but garbage? All he does is lambaste Diamond for not paying adequate homage to his victim-cult.

Peter Schaeffer January 3, 2013 at 6:35 pm

@SS,

“What part of that Jackson Lears review was anything but garbage? All he does is lambaste Diamond for not paying adequate homage to his victim-cult.”

So true. He repeats all of the discredited nonsense about Haiti being crippled by foreign debt repayments. Here are the facts from a prior comment (of mine).

“France originally demanded 150 million francs from Haiti. In 1838, the debt was reduced to 60 million francs payable over 30 years. 60 million francs was the equivalent of $11,250,000. Haiti had a population of around 2 million in the 1830-1840 period (see http://www.populstat.info/). That’s around $5-6 person. Haiti’s per-capita GDP might have been $50 back then. Over a 30 year period, that 3 billion dollars versus a debt of $11.25 million.”

Note that prior to 1838 Haiti may have paid 30 million francs.

Todd January 3, 2013 at 4:15 pm

The fact that Diamond pisses off so many cookie-cutter history teachers like Prof. Lears is reason enough to read his work.

His primary critique of G,G&S seems to be that, in discussing the relative geographical and ecological advantages of certain parts of the world many thousands of years ago, Diamond did not place the blame for modern eco-geo-political disparities on some sort of nebulous concept of imperialism.

I wonder what sort of grade Lears would give a student for that sort of misplaced misreading?

Peter Schaeffer January 3, 2013 at 7:47 pm

A+ no doubt

Ray Lopez January 3, 2013 at 4:33 pm

@1: incoherent review of Diamond:”The most rickety framework is the concept of “the modern,” which Diamond sees as both the product of irresistible forces and the outcome of our choices. This is the contradiction at the core of neoliberal culture. It pervades the deterministic fantasies of freedom peddled by the likes of Bill Gates and Tom Friedman, who tell us that we will all choose to do what we will have to do anyway. Diamond has heard this music, and he is still playing in tune with it.” – fact: the Papua New Guineans who practiced cannibalism that produced kuru (“mad cow”), actually only started doing this (eating their enemies brains) in the last 150 years or so. Hence these primitive tribes actually change over time and some of them try new things all the time. Even more shockingly, evolution has been found to occur over mere generations (with birds, with guppies, with humans, see: http://en.mercopress.com/2009/11/20/papua-new-guinea-cannibal-tribe-could-hold-clue-to-mad-cow-disease) Point being: unlike the reviewer’s assumption, there is no ‘old’ or ‘new’ –it’s all a continuum.

Therapsid January 4, 2013 at 1:20 am

Current research suggests that Papuans, Aboriginals, and Melanesians are, unlike the rest of humanity, significantly interbred with the so-called Denisovans, a pre Homo sapiens lineage of mankind different from our own species and from Neanderthals.

Now it may be that geneticists and anthropologists will overturn this interpretation. It’s quite possible or even likely. But as it stands, New Guineans and their kindred are quite unique indeed. HBD types will interpret this to mean = inferior. But Papuans practiced agriculture and horticulture and had modestly advanced chiefdom level societies. If they’re part Denisovan, well perhaps that species was rather advanced.

prior_approval January 4, 2013 at 2:00 am

I hesitate to ask, but as a good faith question, what does ‘HBD’ mean?

JL January 4, 2013 at 3:57 am

From Urban Dictionary:

HBD

An acronym that stands for human biodiversity. It is the acknowledgement and study of how humans differ from each other on both the individual and group levels because of differences in genotype. Differences include, but are not limited to, personality traits, athletic ability, intelligence, height, health, and physical appearance.

“What are some things that HBD informs us on?”

“Why professional sports leagues like the NBA and NFL are dominated by people of West African descent, why blacks and Hispanics consistently perform more poorly on all forms of cognitive testing than whites and Asians do, and why the Amerindian immigrants mowing lawns in the suburbs are so much shorter than the residents of those suburbs, just to name a few.”

musa January 4, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Er…that’s precisely the reviewer’s point. What was yours again?

roystgnr January 3, 2013 at 4:36 pm

I’ve never noticed before that the phrase “good review” is ambiguous. Presumably the intended meaning here matches the common usage to mean “a review which deems its subject to be good” rather than the literal meaning of “a review which is itself good”.

Givco January 3, 2013 at 5:19 pm

#3 The preamble might be the weirdest part:

H.R.8 To extend certain tax relief provisions enacted in 2001 and 2003, and to provide for expedited consideration of a bill providing for comprehensive tax reform, and for other purposes.

Ordered to lie on the table and to be printed:

John January 3, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Re 2, incremental improvement is not the same as stagnation. Even though it was heralded as revolutionary, the iPad was basically a big iPod touch. The iPhone was widely mocked when it was released for its lack of features. Despite all that, Apple is clearly leading the “mobile revolution” in computing. They’re evolving the iPhone just like they evolved the iPod. That makes perfect business sense, and over time these incremental improvements give consumers radically improved products. In three years, Apple will be selling a much, much better phone than they are now, even if the year over year improvements aren’t *that* mind-blowing.

JWatts January 3, 2013 at 7:10 pm

I may be wrong, but I don’t think Tyler Cowen is indicating that the changes in the iPhone are necessarily indications of the Great Stagnation.

He posts links to articles that provide evidence in favor of the Great Stagnation theory and to articles that provide evidence against it. Often, whether any given article supports it or refutes it is a manner of opinion. This is the type of article that some will point to as evidence in favor (changing the phones color?) and evidence against (rapidly evolving personal computing and communication improves).

prior_approval January 4, 2013 at 2:03 am

And all of which refer to ‘Great Stagnation’ – I would comment further on what that means in terms of search engine placement and ‘influence,’ but such posts, along with their supporting links, tend to get deleted quickly. Though by now, that particular link may have been added to the automatic filter list.

anon January 3, 2013 at 5:38 pm

3. Some weird parts of the fiscal cliff bill.

Count on the WaPo to characterize crony capitalism as “the 10 weirdest parts of the ‘fiscal cliff’ bill” and “all sorts of corporate tax breaks and other arcane provisions into the final bill” and “curious tax provisions in the fiscal cliff bill—it offers some insight into how messy the tax code is”.

Yes, crony capitalism is weird, and messy, and curious, but the poor old WaPo just can’t call it what it is, corrupt, undemocratic, and elitist.

mike January 3, 2013 at 8:00 pm

And yawn-inducingly predictable.

Steko January 3, 2013 at 5:54 pm

re: 3

See you guys tomorrow, shooting a $15 million dollar movie about my cat. You’ll be happy to know that 100% of the production will be in the US.

Larry January 4, 2013 at 1:13 am

Stagnation? What, you don’t have your ECG or wallet app yet?

charles January 4, 2013 at 2:47 am

I’d have thought you’d have put this in your Assorted links today?
http://thebrowser.com/interviews/tyler-cowen-on-information?page=1

Ted Craig January 4, 2013 at 10:24 am

4. Only gets half the equation. Even if more pitchers were willing to throw a knuckler, few catchers are willing to be on the receiving end.

TallDave January 4, 2013 at 3:57 pm

1. The comments there seem to have it right, Lears’ piece is vituperative and oddly personal. His view of history seems a sort of “victor’s guilt” in ignoring that indigenous people treated each other no better than the West, and that Westerners raised indigenous living standards unimaginably. Historical analysis that holds the West to some Platonic ideal that no civilization has ever achieved amounts to little more than oikophobia.

(I mean, come on, Haiti isn’t wretchedly poor today because of payments to the French that ended 70 years ago, they’re just a low-trust culture.)

The most valid criticism of Diamond is that while his thesis holds together fairly well in the pre-state era, he misses the unique advantages of Western culture (see Victor Davis Hanson).

Peter Schaeffer January 4, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Here are the facts from a prior comment (of mine).

“France originally demanded 150 million francs from Haiti. In 1838, the debt was reduced to 60 million francs payable over 30 years. 60 million francs was the equivalent of $11,250,000. Haiti had a population of around 2 million in the 1830-1840 period (see http://www.populstat.info/). That’s around $5-6 person. Haiti’s per-capita GDP might have been $50 back then. Over a 30 year period, that 3 billion dollars in GDP versus a debt of $11.25 million.”

Note that prior to 1838 Haiti may have paid 30 million francs.

The real story is that after the Haitian war of independence, Haiti’s money economy (export oriented plantations) simply evaporated. It was replaced by subsistence agriculture that generated no export revenues to speak of.

So Much for Subtlety January 4, 2013 at 6:24 pm

The real story is that after the Haitian war of independence, Haiti’s money economy (export oriented plantations) simply evaporated. It was replaced by subsistence agriculture that generated no export revenues to speak of.

Well that wasn’t immediately true as the first generation of leaders forced Haitians back on to the plantations to produce sugar for the world market. It took a while for subsistence agriculture to take over.

Note that prior to 1838 Haiti may have paid 30 million francs.

So the Haitians had slightly over 100 years to produce the other $2-3 per person? I don’t see how that could be crippling.

Peter Schaeffer January 6, 2013 at 1:41 pm

SMFS,

There are claims that Haiti actually paid 30 million francs before 1838. That would be $2-3 dollars per person. At that point, Haiti’s remaining debt was reduced to 60 million francs, or $5-6 person.

These were very small number even for the period. U.S. per-capita GDP in 1838 was $97.53 (in nominal dollars). Of course, the U.S. was richer than Haiti. However, even if the U.S. was 2/3 times richer than Haiti back then, the burden on Haiti wasn’t large.

Thorstein Veblen January 4, 2013 at 8:14 pm

Couldn’t make it through Jackson Lear’s review of Diamond. His denunciation of Diamond as an apologist for imperialism is just baffling… It’s well known the “Guns, Germs, and Steel” argument answers the question “Why Eurasia” but not “Why Europe”, but that doesn’t ruin the book or mean that the core insight is wrong.

Phil January 5, 2013 at 2:27 am

My 15 y/o niece throws a good knuckleball. She pitches for the high school boys team and already has interest from several small colleges.

Her dad who was a junk throwing pitcher, so she was taught the knuckler at a young age. It isn’t easy to hit when she is on.

TGGP January 6, 2013 at 2:51 pm

A better critique of “Guns, Germs and Steel” is Michael H. Hart’s “Understanding Human History” which you can download for free.

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