Tuesday assorted links

by on March 22, 2016 at 11:57 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1 dearieme March 22, 2016 at 12:03 pm

Thank God it won’t be Boaty MacBoatface. That would be just embarrassing. Or Boaty Mcboatface. Too, too dreary.

2 Peter Schaeffer March 22, 2016 at 4:24 pm

OT, But perhaps 3/22 should be the official Open Borders day. Of course, 1/7, 7/7, 9/11, 11/13 would be other good possibilities.

3 Anon March 22, 2016 at 5:27 pm

Why not 7/4 , as a symbolic representation of the Open Borders that populated the US of A

4 Peter Schaeffer March 22, 2016 at 7:08 pm


The early history of the United States was one of highly restrictive immigration. The main restriction was cost. Only highly skilled immigrants could generally afford to emigrate. Of course, after 1808 the importation of slaves was banned (the penalty was death). See “International Migration in the Long-Run: Positive Selection, Negative Selection and Policy”. The abstract reads.

“Most labor scarce overseas countries moved decisively to restrict their immigration during the first third of the 20th century. This autarchic retreat from unrestricted and even publicly-subsidized immigration in the first global century before World War I to the quotas and bans introduced afterwards was the result of a combination of factors: public hostility towards new immigrants of lower quality public assessment of the impact of those immigrants on a deteriorating labor market, political participation of those impacted, and, as a triggering mechanism, the sudden shocks to the labor market delivered by the 1890s depression, the Great War, postwar adjustment and the great depression. The paper documents the secular drift from very positive to much more negative immigrant selection which took place in the first global century after 1820 and in the second global century after 1950, and seeks explanations for it. It then explores the political economy of immigrant restriction in the past and seeks historical lessons for the present. “

5 Anon2 March 22, 2016 at 7:49 pm

From the perspective of the Native Americans, don’t you think things would have been a lot better had they enforced their borders?

6 ladderff March 22, 2016 at 8:32 pm

Nicely done MR.

7 chuck martel March 22, 2016 at 9:06 pm

That’s true. People filled with bullet holes whose land has been stolen have a minimal GDP per capita.

8 Peter Schaeffer March 23, 2016 at 2:20 pm


“From the perspective of the Native Americans, don’t you think things would have been a lot better had they enforced their borders?”

Of course, see “The New York Review of Books: Who Should Get In?” (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/14868)

“Large-scale immigration seldom leaves a region’s native population untouched. Soon after the first Indians’ arrival, most large North American mammals, including mammoths, saber-toothed tigers, and camels, disappeared. Some experts blame these extinctions on climatic change. Others blame the Indians, who are said to have engaged in overhunting. Shepard Krech, an anthropologist at Brown University, assesses this long-running controversy in The Ecological Indian. Krech thinks that climatic change is a somewhat more plausible culprit than overhunting, but the issue is far from settled and new evidence keeps emerging.[2] In any event, even those who blame the extinctions on climatic change agree that hunting reduced the life expec-tancy of many North American mammals. Given a choice, these mammals would surely have voted to send Homo sapiens back to Siberia.

Immigration from Europe clearly had catastrophic effects on the Indians. In 1492 the Indian population of today’s United States numbered at least two million. Krech guesses that the number was probably more like six million, and some writers propose even higher figures. By 1910, when the US Bureau of the Census made its first serious effort to count the Indians, it found only 266,000. This demographic disaster appears to have been caused mainly by the introduction of European diseases, although war, malnutrition, and marriage with whites also had a part.”

9 Nathan W March 24, 2016 at 8:58 am

Peter – on mass extinctiion and arrival of human populations to the Americas: I recall this debate being covered in an ecology class I took. The piece of evidence considered as the nail in the coffin was that extinction of large animals in Caribbean islands basically coincided with the arrival of humans. There wasn’t the confounding issue of climate change because it occurred about 10,000 years later. I’m sure this is roughly searchable online if you’re curious for the evidence.

It is interesting that bison populations survived (too bad bison couldn’t be trained for farm work…). As a side note, while I wouldn’t ascribe such intentions to the American population as a whole at the time, apparently there were some fairly explicit efforts to kill all the bison in an effort to destroy native Americans. Well, things are a lot nicer these days … it seems to me that this storyline suggests that owning up to history is a good way of letting bygones be bygones and working towards a better future. It doesn’t go over well when the historically offending party tries to sell the storyline that none of it ever happened or that even if it happened it is some inconsequential detail.

10 ed March 22, 2016 at 7:05 pm

Perhaps get your own blog? Then you can sputter on about your bugbear whenever and wherever you like.

11 So Much For Subtlety March 22, 2016 at 6:07 pm

Yes. After all I hear Boaty MacBoatface is the new doctor on Grey’s Anatomy.

OK. I am moderately ashamed I have even heard of GA. They need to add a Russian invasion sub-plot to give credible cover for their viewers who can claim they only watch it for the geo-politics.

12 anon March 22, 2016 at 12:06 pm

Boaty McBoatface. Ah, remember when (in the early days of the Internet) folk dreamed of online voting? That dream died rapidly, with Internet reality.

Perhaps we will have in-app voting for Presidents at some point, but there is some “choice architecture” to work out first.

13 Mark Thorson March 22, 2016 at 12:26 pm

And if the FBI/NSA has a backdoor into your smartphone, they’ll control the elections. In the interest of National Security, of course.

14 anon March 22, 2016 at 12:32 pm

I do not subscribe to conspiracy theories about existing voting machines, but I do think they were slow to be secured and validated the right way. (If you can’t use your token to go online and see your votes, there is no audit trail from vote to totals.)

Certainly similar validation (yes, I see my vote, and I see it on the server, someone can confirm the server totals) is necessary.

In terms of choice architecture, maybe make people vote every day for 30 days? Would enough people stick with the Boaty joke, or would it die down?

15 Nathan W March 22, 2016 at 2:08 pm

I’m inclined to think that it should actually be at least a little difficult to vote, for example having to walk your butt down to the polling station, which ensures that people who vote will have at least given some passing thought to the options in front of them. Why would you want to give the vote to people who would be willing to vote if it took them 2 minutes online, but would not be willing to go down to the polling station in person? Such people clearly do not actually care enough one way or the other to vote. Their right to vote should be protected at heavy costs, and technical barriers to voting should absolutely be minimized as much as possible, but if it’s not worth more than 2 minutes of your time, then what worth can such an opinion have?

Since voters don’t have time to educate themselves on all the issues, direct democracy does not seem wise. It could be possible to overcome this though. Say, a) having to answer skill testing questions on a variety of basic factoids relating to a policy, b) being able to answer multiple choice questions in a manner which demonstrates roughly the ability to pass an Ideological Turning Test on the main different positions relating to the policy, and c) correctly answer questions relating to the most likely effects on a variety of different groups in society. For those concerend about excluding the dumb, or whatever, you could allow infinite retries and access to easily digested information to be able to any and all who were dedicated to voting. (ensuring equal representation of all major political groups in the formulation of related questions and information, and requiring majority support on a line by line basis by members of EACH party on such a committee, could protect against manipulation).

Among other things, it could help to prevent omnibuss pork-filled legislation from coming to pass, and each policy could be considered on the basis of its individual merits.

I support the right of dumb people to vote unquestiongly, but if they cannot be bothered to inform themselves on the issues, then what value could they be of in a direct democracy scenario? At least when they cast their vote every few years and put their faith in whichever leader appeals to them most, the final decision makers are subject to much information (and misinformation) enroute to the final decision, leaving many avenues to (often unsuccessfully) disrupt patently retarded policies from coming to pass.

Direct democracy requires an educated populace who understands their political system. I think the Swiss have a passable model (legislature formulates and passes laws, and each item is approved/disapproved by universal referendum). The most common counterargument, that the Swiss can do it because they’re small but other countries cannot because they are large, just defies logic. If you can send out 5 million pamphlets, you can send out 300 million pamphlets. The second is no more logistically difficult than the first.

When half of Republicans believe that Obama is a Muslim, however, this is not indicative of a country that will be ready for direct democracy any time soon.

16 lemmy caution March 22, 2016 at 2:34 pm

low information independent voters suck, but low information democratic and republican voters generally end up with their party affiliation in a manner that roughly tracks their personal interests. Roughly speaking, republicans will help republicans and democrats will help democrats.

17 Peter Schaeffer March 22, 2016 at 7:17 pm


A more serious point is that “alternative” voting systems are open to coercion and corruption in a way that the secret ballot (at a polling place) is not. No one is allowed to look over your shoulder when you cast a secret ballot. The same can not be said for postal ballots (or online voting). Type ‘UK vote postal ballots corruption’ into Google for some problems that have arisen in the UK.

18 Nathan W March 23, 2016 at 12:45 am

I had not considered that at all. That’s a big deal. The ability to vote your conscience and then lie to friends is hugely important, and never mind the more nefarious things failing to protect the secret vote could lead to.

19 Peter Schaeffer March 23, 2016 at 2:32 pm


The secret ballot was introduced to avoid/diminish/eliminate voter intimidation. It was a problem 100/150 years ago. Back then the issues were intimidation by landlords, land owners, husbands, wives, political bosses, employers, etc. These days the list of possible sources of voter intimidation would include all of the above plus neighbors, coreligionists, coworkers, union bosses, etc.

20 Nathan W March 24, 2016 at 9:06 am

I’m nitpicking a little, but it seems to me that wives trying to influence the vote of their husband would be quite legitimate in an era where women themselves did not have the right to vote.

21 dearieme March 23, 2016 at 7:58 am

“some problems that have arisen in the UK”: they didn’t passively “arise”. They were deliberately introduced by Blair on the cheerfully racist assumption that they would make it easier for Pakistani and Bangladeshi Moslems to corruptly vote for Labour. Then he launched wars on Moslem countries; nobody ever supposed him to have much intelligence eh?

22 Peter Schaeffer March 22, 2016 at 7:42 pm


Barack Obama may not be a Muslim, but he was a Muslim at one time. See “Was Barack Obama a Muslim?” over at the Daniel Pipes blog for the detailed history. Obama has always denied his Muslim background and conversely his critics have accused him of having one. The reality is that Obama went to Catholic Indonesian schools when his mother lived there, and was registered as a Muslim. The irony is that Lolo Soetoro (his stepfather in Indonesia) was the best father Obama ever had and was very far from radical. Obama’s critics imply that he was/is a radical Islamist based on his background. The truth is that his (non-devout) Muslim stepfather was probably the most positive influence of his childhood and yet Obama apparently was/is more devoted to his (genuinely bad) biological father.

As for partisan ignorance, see “More than half of Democrats believed Bush knew” in Politico. For some real fun, take a look at the European GMO polling data.

23 Nathan W March 23, 2016 at 1:13 am

Consider that Islamophobia was not a feature of American politics in the era where he became engaged in Christianity – why would he have lied about such a thing for so long? .

A tickbox on a school form? It could easily mean so much as “he’s daddy’s son, and absentee dad was a Muslim”. Consider that he was in fact raised by his mother, who was not Muslim. For practical purposes, that tickbox couldn’t have meant anything for a child raised by a non-Muslim who attended a Catholic school.

I tend to be more concerned about the “Obama’s a Muslim” thing because for practical purposes it fuels conspiracies which deligitimize his patently careful and non-antagonistic approaches to terrorism, which are unlikely to stoke remotely as much blowback as those who have positioned themselves in contradistinction to him.

“Bush knew” may have political costs, but indeed, they never did share much information (e.g., never denied any of the innuendo of Farenheit 9-11). Realistically, it almost certainly wasn’t an “inside job”, although almost equally certainly, there were a few insider plants, and it is a guessing game as to what their ultimate motives could have been (CIA wants to legitimize expansion of the police state, radical Christians want to bring on the Armageddon by triggering cycles of over-response, something something about oil/Jews/bankers …). It was politically damaging, to be sure, but a) people will think what they want to think, and instead of opening up cans of worms GWB never addressed any of these claims head on, and b) I cannot imagine how “Bush knew” kind of thinking could have contributed to a greater possibility of really bad policy with potential for much blockback.

On GMO – yeah, I think this is not rational. I support labelling since if it’s so safe, then food producers should have to make their case – consumers should have a right to know what their buying even if the fears of 20-30% or more of the population is not scientifically sound. The fact that there is no labelling, I think tends to fuel these fears. Non-disclosure tends to stoke the imagination – e.g., just what DID Clinton say at those Goldman luncheons? We know it’s bad enough that she doesn’t want to disclose, and can theorize as wildly as we want from there on.

Am I making excuses? Perhaps ever so slightly so, but the other two forms of ignorance you referred to are rather more benign than the “Obama’s a Muslim” stream of thinking, and that’s my main point. Among other things, it helps to delegitimize less radicalization-prone strategies and messaging about terrorism, and contributes to legitmizing the contrasting side, which now endores highly radicalization-prone responses. The best response to terrorism should be more focused on radicalization prevention, and strategies which are contrasted against “Muslim Obama’s” strategies and messaging are virtually guaranteed to play right into terrorist hands, forcing moderates into their extremist arms.

24 Peter Schaeffer March 23, 2016 at 4:19 pm


I just picked “Bush knew” and GMOs because they were obvious. How about, “Bush lied about WMDs”? I don’t have any polling data, but it was/is an article of faith among Democrats/Liberals for some time (probably still is). How about “Bush outed Valerie”? Once again an article of faith among Democrats/Liberals for some time (probably still is).

You can debate the significance of these two commonplace left-wing / liberal delusions. However, here is one with deep, profound, and serious implications. Apparently, around half of the black community thinks that AIDS/HIV was invented to kill them. No less than Barack Obama’s “former” pastor Jeremiah Wright has spread this lie. Has this lie contributed to racial alienation / polarization in the U.S.? Of course, it has.

25 Nathan W March 24, 2016 at 9:21 am

Yeah, Obama’s former pastor seems to have said a lot of things that would make him certifiable were he to walk into a psychiatrist’s office in homeless attire …

I’m not sure it’s quite correct to say “GWB lied about WMDs”. A more realistic interpretation is that the “evidence” was of extremely low credibility, and was used to justify what was perhaps the largest military activity in the decade. “GWB lied” is not strictly true, but not at all far off the mark. Looking back on some of the evidence, I feel persuaded that the fault lies more with Cheney than GWB, and that GWB was in fact much more of a pragmatist than the left gives him credit for. (But, then, might we call him weak for being bullied into HUGE decisions that seem inconsistent with many of his other apparent preferences and outlooks? I don’t think it’s constructive to highlight this in any particular way, but that’s how it comes across to me). On reflection, over the years, the “finishing daddy’s war” storyline seems to be one of the less credible and less constructive views on the Iraq invasion.

26 Peter Schaeffer March 24, 2016 at 11:02 am


Apparently, every intelligence agency in the world believed that Saddam had chemical weapons. Indeed, reports indicate that all of Saddam’s generals believed the same thing (the next guy has chemicals, I don’t). The real story seems to be that Saddam ordered the destruction of his inventory of chemical weapons after the first Gulf War, but kept the decision completely secret to retain the illusion of chemical weapons as a bargaining chip / intimidation device. Clearly, not actually having chemical weapons, but maintaining the pretense of having them didn’t work out well for Saddam.

As for Bush’s motivations, finishing his father’s war may have been one of them. However, Bush by all accounts believed that “(a) lack of democracy causes terrorism” (supposedly he was heaving influenced by a book written by an Israeli author). The (absurd) idea was to convert Iraq into some Middle-Eastern bastion of democracy, liberalism (social and economic), women’s rights, capitalism, personal freedom, peace with Israel, etc. Once transformed Iraq would inspire a Democratic transformation of the Middle-East. Of course, the new western-oriented Iraq would have several very large U.S. military bases that could be used to project power throughout the region (and intimidate Iran).

It was all crazy from the getgo. Bush though he could create a Middle-Eastern Kansas. We got ISIS. it should be noted that Bush’s madness was rooted in a model of thinking (the Blank Slate) that still completely dominates the elite media, universities, the economic elite (in Europe and the U.S.), etc. Merkel may not have supported Bush’s invasion of Iraq, but her model of human nature is identical.

27 Ethan Bernard March 22, 2016 at 3:49 pm

Internet voting peaked when Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf won People Magazine’s “most beautiful person” poll.

28 Mark Thorson March 22, 2016 at 11:30 pm

Huh, he was a real person. And dwarf.


29 Norman Pfyster March 22, 2016 at 12:07 pm

#6 You mean there’s 19 more besides “There’s a sucker born every minute”?

30 anon March 22, 2016 at 12:21 pm

Sad that “sucker” is the one that people remembered, because the full advice is much more sensible and even (shocker) compassionate.

31 Cliff March 22, 2016 at 12:54 pm

He never said that

32 Maurice de Sully March 22, 2016 at 2:02 pm

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the claim is that we don’t have any record of him saying that.

Of course, given that he was a pretty savvy businessman, even had he believed it (and shared it with those closest to him) he probably would not have gone on the record with it.

I’m not really arguing that he did say it- the existing record would certainly support your claim- so much as suggesting this piece of history might be tougher to clear up then simply reviewing a person’s public remarks.

Is that an unreasonable way to look at Mr. Barnum’s alleged remark?

33 Cliff March 22, 2016 at 2:25 pm

I guess it’s not possible to prove someone never said something.


34 Norman Pfyster March 22, 2016 at 5:51 pm

I realize that (with acknowledgment of the careful skepticism of MdS below); the saying is attributed to Barnum, though. It was a joke.

35 Chris Rowles March 22, 2016 at 12:18 pm
36 inertial March 22, 2016 at 12:28 pm

Re #2. For some reason this reminded me of a Russian review of the Benghazi movie I read recently. The author of that review called the movie “a military comedy” that was about “two gangs of terrorists duking it out.” The author of the review cheered when Americans killed Arabs and he equally cheered when Arab killed Americans.

…And so the world slouches on.

37 Axa March 22, 2016 at 12:50 pm

#6: never imagined the self-help book genre was that old. Is this one of the first self-help books or the topic is even older?

38 Cyrus March 22, 2016 at 1:09 pm

The Book of Proverbs and its non-canonical contemporaries. Or further east, the Analects. “How to win friends and influence people” surely has its parallels in any literate monarch’s court.

39 rayward March 22, 2016 at 1:06 pm

1. Of course, what Roberts proves is that success (in this case success in promoting an ideology) is mostly about marketing. For whatever reason, conservatives are much better at marketing than liberals. In our media driven society, marketing is business and business is marketing; indeed, Facebook and many other highly successful “businesses” are nothing more than marketing platforms. Roberts no doubt would argue that what he is marketing is knowledge, knowledge with a slant, the slant he supports (which he acknowledges is based on priors). My observation is that marketing works all too well, while markets sometimes don’t.

40 Urstoff March 22, 2016 at 1:30 pm

If success is mostly about marketing, and conservatives are better than liberals at marketing, why has culture and governance been moving in a liberal direction for awhile?

41 Heorogar March 22, 2016 at 1:38 pm

Maybe the media actually is the message. The media is 99% leftwing, as are the public schools and higher academic brainwashing/indoctrination empires.

42 Nathan W March 22, 2016 at 2:29 pm

“The media is 99% leftwing”

Only someone on the 1% extreme right could believe that. I challenge you to visit the homepage of any major media outlet, skim it for articles likely to contain “left wing bias”, and quote us a line or two which demonstrates their bias.

Fox and WSJ alone are significant shares of the media market. Or, are you so far right that you consider Fox and WSJ to be cucked left wing outlets too?

I’m also curious to understand this perspective that public schools and academia are brainwashing centres. Not asking for detailed specifics on the methods, etc. Just, what exactly are they brainwashing into people according to your view? In this sense, it would be nice if you could be rather specific.

43 JWatts March 22, 2016 at 2:53 pm

99% is high. Here’s some actual statistics:

“Just 7 percent of journalists are Republicans. That’s far fewer than even a decade ago.

A majority of American journalists identify themselves as political independents although among those who choose a side Democrats outnumber Republicans four to one.


28% identify as Democrat, 7% identify as Republican. If you assumed that Independent/Others follow the same pattern, then reporters lean to the Left on a 4 to 1 ratio. However, there is evidence that the ratio is actually less balanced in the larger national news organizations.

“In May 2004, the Pew Research Center for The People and The Press (in association with the Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Committee of Concerned Journalists) surveyed 547 journalists and media executives, including 247 at national-level media outlets.

Five times more national journalists identify themselves as “liberal” (34 percent) than “conservative” (just 7 percent). In contrast, a survey of the public taken in May 2004 found 20 percent saying they were liberal, and 33 percent saying they were conservative.”


44 Nathan W March 22, 2016 at 6:01 pm

Good to be moving towards facts 🙂

A few points:

Maybe there is higher demand for liberal media, rather than reflecting any sort of outsized effort to skew the media through biased reporting?

I wonder what would happen if they weighted for the circulation of the media outlets these journalists work for. I skimmed the report and there is no such data, so it’s essentially impossible to know what the statistics you highlighted actually imply for the influence/reach of these reporters. In case the point is not obvious, consider that a reporter who reaches 1 million readers daily has more influence than a reporter who reaches 5000 readers weekly. Any better method to evaluate the influence would be to check the Wiki for top 20 circulation papers and subjectively evaluate as left/right/moderate and multiply by circulation.

Also, I wonder whether there are more conservatives or liberals who engage in various forms of news media dissemination but are not registered as “journalists”. For example, I’m loosely aware that there is a rather large amount of right wing talk radio going on, and I doubt many of these are registered as journalists. The same may be said of TV (not specified in the methods of the study).

I easily believe that a larger number of journalists an aggregate are liberal compared to conservative. I imagine that a lot of people self select into journalism out of a desire to report on social justice issues, or are interested in cultural phenomena which I would not tend to associate with the right. But it’s not clear what it all means without counting for circulation and the presence of non-“journalist” news media.

45 Cliff March 22, 2016 at 8:39 pm


There are plenty of studies on the topic if you care to educate yourself instead of inventing your own reality. Journalism majors and journalists are highly skewed to the left, especially at mainstream outlets.

46 Nathan W March 23, 2016 at 1:32 am

Cliff – considering that establishment Democrats are not exactly left wing, it’s hard to portray self identified Democrats among journalists as “heavily skewed left”.

In fact, if you double check the final paragraph of what I said, I’m actually more open to this line of thinking (skewed left) than the evidence suggests. My point is that a) this doesn’t weight for audience size and b) it doesn’t count other politically-driven media outlets. Neither of these is reflected at all in any of the data you two are pointing towards, and so I think it is leigtimate to look beyond the headline statistics in trying to see what this means.

Of the top 20 newspapers by circulation in the USA (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_newspapers_in_the_United_States_by_circulation), indeed there are many which are demonstrably more sympathetic to Democrats than Republicans, but has a single one of them run even a single demonstrably pro-Sanders piece during the entire season to date? My VPN isn’t working right now and almost all of these papers is blocked from China so I can’t check, but one of the main things you hear from Sanders people is “why does the entire MSM pretend that we don’t even exist, or when they do, write us off as a bunch of unicorns and rainbows types for wanting things that have worked OK in many other countries?”

The only demonstrably left-wing politician in the field receives essentially no favourable coverage in any major outlet. That does not suggest left-wing bias, no matter that many papers are demonstrably more favourable to Democrats than Republicans (maybe difficult to identify right now, because it’s pretty hard to give favourable coverage of the current Republican lineup, but you can look for issue-specific articles and get a picture of the editorial bent).

47 Nathan W March 22, 2016 at 2:39 pm

Here’s an example of right wing media bias today at Faux News. To start with, they have an agenda against the UN, which they portray as an incompetent world organization (which, by the way, takes on the most difficult of challenges with little support of member states, so it’s not surprising that they don’t solve every problem) with an internationalist socialist agenda. http://www.foxnews.com/world/2016/03/21/uns-syria-relief-effort-internally-divided-intimidated-by-assad-study-says.html

They point out that the UN has very poor certainty in their data on humanitarian needs, and that they are reaching less than 20% of people that need humanitarian aid. While the seeds of information are there to see that the actual story is that Assad is both preventing them from collecting this data and preventing them from delivering humanitarian aid, Faux News portrays this all in a way that puts all of the blame on the UN, whereas the real blame lies with Assad.

Consider the title: “UN’s Syria relief effort internally divided, intimidated by Assad, study says”

a) “study says” – actually, the “study” says neither of those things.
b) “relief effort internally divided” – they do not demonstrate that the relief effort is “internally divided”, rather, they show that different NGOs have different approach
c) “intimidated by Assad” – actually, the UN is not an organization designed to facilitate or support revolutions, rather, it is a system designed to uphold the existing international order. Therefore, they naturally have an obligation to do the best they can in working with the existing leadership, no matter how vile they might be. If you read the article, it should be patently clear that the “intimidated by Assad” line is completely fabricated by Faux News and has nothing to do with the “study” they refer to.

Can you provide similarly such detailed evidence of bias in any mass media outlets which you perceive to be “left wing”?

48 JWatts March 22, 2016 at 2:54 pm

“Here’s an example of right wing media bias today at Faux News. ”

Really? You undermine your entire post in the very first sentence.

49 (Not That) Bill O'Reilly March 22, 2016 at 3:46 pm

I’m not particularly inclined to defend Fox News, which I readily admit is a biased news outlet, but did you even read your own link all the way through? The discussion of the “Study” cited in the title doesn’t even begin until the 10th paragraph, immediately following the chart–and after the article discusses the “different NGOs” section you seem to think the article referred to, and goes on to say quite explicitly “Along with the clashes over how to proceed inside Syria, the evaluation notes that there have also been sharp internal U.N. turf disputes.”

Whether this is a fair characterization of the study, I can’t say since I’m not going to read a 62-page document right now. But I did perform a brief text search to see if any keywords popped up, and came across the following passage on page 40: “An environment of harassment and intimidation has reinforced this. Security services routinely monitor all movements of UN personnel, and individuals are often made aware of this scrutiny.”

Perhaps you should avoid misrepresenting articles when arguing that a particular news outlet engages in misrepresentation. Or do you work for a news outlet?

50 Bob from Ohio March 22, 2016 at 5:12 pm

“which they portray as an incompetent world organization”

They are not wrong.

That right wing rag, the New York Times, ran an op-ed this Sunday from the former UN head of “peacekeeping” detailing the “competency” of the UN.

51 Nathan W March 22, 2016 at 5:26 pm

JWatts – if you have to remind viewers 10 times an hour that you are the “unbiased news source”, then clearly it is a biased news source. Actually, I’ve only watched Fox News once, for about an hour, and the repetitions of “unbiased news … unbiased news…” was the main thing I took from the experience. I mostly just check the Fox homepage to see what’s being emphasized in the not-too-whacky segments of the American right wing.

Credible news outlets, as opposed to Fox, are unabashed in stating their editorial positions explicitly. For example, The Economist regularly says things like “this paper has long had the editorial positions of ABCDEFG, and this is following with the tradition, although slightly modified compared to the 1850s because the world has undergone such and such change”. It’s pretty unbiased in a lot of ways, but when their portrayal of the situation is driven by the editorial bent, they are usually clear in saying so and if you regularly read it it is exceedingly easy to understand how their editorial bents influence the portrayal of the news and anlaysis.

Bill – The implied suggestion is that unarmed UN personnel should ignore security risks in order to collect data. The completely ignore the fact that there is no authority for these people to enjoy any security whatsoever. The storyline isn’t “intimidated by Assad”, the story is “they have no security and trying to walk the fine line in any war zone whatsoever.” If you feel it’s worth your time to check more closely, it might be clear to you that the source cited by Fox is supporting the notion that the UN should take sides in a civil war – check the UN charter: respect for state sovereignty is built into the DNA of the UN and this is utterly antitehtical to its institutional design. No matter what you think about Assad, in the absence of a Security Council resolution, the UN is explicitly designed to respect the sovereignty of any dictator and is not empowered to enjoy any military protection in their operations. Intimidated by Assad? No (well, yes, but no). Rather, business as usual in a warzone. Data quality is poor, aid is not reaching everyone it needs to. The UN openly admitted to their data problems and challenges in reaching those who need aid. This type of frank reporting should be encouraged, not attacked as being spineless.

Also, on the “internal disputes”. If this is a problem, the normal way or arguing about it, if you do not have an anti-UN agenda, is to advocate for a united operation. For example, this is what happend with the Ebola virus – due to national teams not being coordinated across borders, they created a special united operation to coordinate across many areas of “turf”. It is part and parcel with UN operations that there is much operational independence in diverse missions. This has costs, in terms of overlap and coordination problems, but many benefits, in the ability to respond to differential situations on the ground. Are the costs outweighing the benefits? If so, they could make the case. This would be like saying that New York and New Jersey police have an “internal dispute” over turf in a situation where the correct analysis is that either a) increased coordination is needed or b) the problem is too big and you need to bring them together under a single authority.

Short: the title “UN’s Syria relief effort internally divided, intimidated by Assad” could alternatively have read “UN’s Syria relief requires improved coordination and security concerns are interfering with their operations.” But I think it would be difficult to unpack the full relevance of that without an understanding for why/how the UN works, as per the perspective outlined above.

(disclosure: I sometimes edit and translate independent consulting reports which critically assess transparency, accountability and management/coordination issues in the UNDP. Speaking openly about faults is VERY actively encouraged, but the report cited by Fox demonstrates either poor awareness of the basic institutional design of the UN and the reasons for this design, or an anti-UN agenda.)

52 (Not That) Bill O'Reilly March 22, 2016 at 5:48 pm

You’re (unsurprisingly) moving the goalposts.

You claimed, and I quote, “the ‘study’ says neither of those things [mentioned in the title].” I pointed out that the study does, in fact, say both of those things. Whether you agree or disagree with the conclusions of the study–which I’ll point out was commissioned and published by the United Nations itself–is immaterial to whether Fox has accurately reported those conclusions accurately.

53 Nathan W March 22, 2016 at 6:28 pm

Bob – there’s a big difference between openly discussing challenges in the UN and an agenda to paint it in a certain light.

Bill – I must have skimmed too quckly. I absolutely accept your criticism and you are obviously correct – the Fox headline in fact selected specific words from the article. However, I fully stick by the point that running with that headline shows strong anti-UN sentiment, for the fact of holding the UN responsible for things which are not normally within its scope of control. I hope you can refer to the cause of my original response “99% of media is left wing”, and view my error in tolerant light.

Yes, the UN comissions people who can credibly demonstrate the ability to report negative findings. My specific criticism is perhaps better directed at the report because Fox routinely demonstrates that it has little interest in understanding anything about the UN – the only interest Fox has in reporting on the UN is to paint them in a negative light. THAT was the point. There is never ever any spirit of “here’s a problem, but here are some proposals and some solutions on the way, hopefully … can we take them credibly?”, (good reporting), rather, it’s always “problems problems problems … ” (an agenda).

Anyways, all this business of changing goalposts can be annoying sometimes. Like, yeah, in the course of a conversation, you refine in response to what someone says. Having picked out the single incorrect detail (not inconsequential here), it is not inconsistent for me to continue on in defending the main point (the presence of bias). I’m sticking with the main point, not getting tied up in the incorrect detail.

54 Cliff March 22, 2016 at 8:47 pm


You are a complete idiot. You think Fox news accurately reporting a study using quotes from the study itself as its headline is so biased that no left-wing media organization would ever do something similar? How about the way most media outlets report EVERY STUDY EVER. Almost every scientific study is reported in a way that is not remotely related to what the study actually says, and is typically slanted in a left-wing direction.

For one tiny, tiny example of this see http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/02/12/before-you-get-too-excited-about-that-github-study/

55 Nathan W March 23, 2016 at 1:50 am

Cliff – I’m responding to the claim that “99% of media is left wing”. I do not deny that other media outlets also have an editorial bent. The single counterexample of Fox sufficies to show that “99% left wing” is not remotely reflective of reality.

And, scouring a 60-page document for a few cherrypicked words is hardly “accurately reporting a study”. Indeed, this is precisely why, when editing papers on politically charged issues, I’m always on the lookout for quotable quotes, even at the level of 2-3 words at a time, to help minimize the possibility of research being mischievously misportrayed. The Fox headline draws 2 words from here, 2 words from there, and then quotes them as the general conclusions. They could have said “because there’s a war going on, unarmed and unprotected civilians with the UN struggle to get quality data and reach all who need humanitarian aid.” But no, they call them pussies. That’s not quality journalism, and it’s perfect consistent with a patently obvious editorial agenda to smear the UN without any constuctive criticism whatsoever in any and all reporting related to the UN. Other media outlets openly draw attention to problems in the UN, but then also report on effots to fix problems and offer constructive analysis on whether these measures may be sufficient – that’s good journalism.

I cannot believe that we’re even debating whether journalism at Fox is good quality or not. They don’t even spellcheck or proofread a lot of their articles before posting – and we think they’re engaging in due diligence about the rest of it when there are cheap points to score?

56 chuck martel March 22, 2016 at 9:18 pm

This is the kind of thing that public schools address: http://nailheadtom.blogspot.com/2014/07/leaders-of-what.html

57 jb March 22, 2016 at 1:40 pm

Business success = identifying an underserved market and designing a product/service, and associated message, that will take more of their money than it costs you to provide.

Political success = identifying a product/service, and associated message, that will get you 51% market share.

Conservatives have developed a heck of an underserved market, and a heck of a lot of money is being made from it, but it doesn’t add up to 51%.

58 MKBARCH March 22, 2016 at 2:03 pm

But the medium is the message, or in this case the business. That business is very profitable, and the counter-revolutionary message sells much better in an environment that fosters the perception of “losing”.


Fox News is the most profitable unit in the Murdoch empire, and Rush Limbaugh is yuge, even without counting the millions per year he gets under the table from Heritage (or is it AEI ?).

“It is “in times of crisis,” the British conservative Roger Scruton once observed, that “conservatism does its best.”


Plus, as Eric Hoffer said: ” ‘Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.'” Are we there yet? Certain segments certainly are.

59 jb March 22, 2016 at 3:32 pm

I agree with every word in your comment except the first.

60 John March 23, 2016 at 12:30 pm

Ignoring the problem of equating markets and politics I’d dispute your number. Politics isn’t about getting 51% of the “market share” but about getting some majority of who showed up to vote, which is typically about half the number your 51% represents (basing that on the fact that the policies implemented then impact everyone and not just those voting to a representative pushing the policy).

61 Mail March 22, 2016 at 1:25 pm

#5 a version of Jed Martin from The Map and the Territory?

62 JWatts March 22, 2016 at 1:43 pm

“2. The Russian occupation of Norway.”

The contrast between the Finnish and Norwegian views is interesting. Finland, maintaining a quasi-independence during the Cold War, is much less likely to criticize Russian policy than just about any other border country.

63 Nathan W March 22, 2016 at 2:46 pm

Would you criticize Russia if you were a small non-NATO Russian neighbour?

I’ve only gotten to know one Finn on a pretty decent level, and he definitely gravitated towards martial knowledge. On this subject, he tended to highlight the high level of military preparedness and abilities among the general population, following military training as youth. It is not necessary that Finland can win a war against Russia, just that it is clear that it cannot be worth Russia’s effort to try – day to day life passes on as a very normal and peaceful place normally would, but vitrually the entire population has it in the back of their heads that the country could be 100% mobilized in virtually no time.

They are eternally ready to die for their country, so that they will never have to die for their country (and so, realistically, they really don’t have to think about it much at all). That’s what I gather of the matter.

64 JWatts March 22, 2016 at 3:00 pm

“Would you criticize Russia if you were a small non-NATO Russian neighbour?”

Yes, Poland does quite frequently. Obviously so does the Ukraine, however a good chunk of their country is currently under Russian occupation, so they don’t have a lot to lose.

But you do make a good point. It’s highly costly to criticize Russia, they have a recent history of violent reaction. But a small country bordering the US can make plenty of critical comments about the US without invoking any kind of governmental reaction.

65 (Not That) Bill O'Reilly March 22, 2016 at 3:50 pm

Erm–Poland is a NATO member, and Ukraine was on track for accession to NATO before the invasion (which is, of course, an object lesson in why Finland hasn’t been chomping at the bit to get that target on its back).

66 Nathan W March 22, 2016 at 6:36 pm

Yes, I would much rather be a neighbour of the US. I’m pretty familiar with that situation.

However, it is much more dangerous to be anti-American on the other side of the planet than to be anti-Russian on the other side of the planet.

67 Cliff March 22, 2016 at 8:48 pm

You mean to be a terrorist?

68 Nathan W March 23, 2016 at 5:36 am

Cliff – Well, if opposing the American-led international order defines one as a terrorist, then it would appear that way. However, it is worth keeping in mind that no small number of people consider America to be the terrorists (you won’t get much coverage of this in US media of course) and the terrrorists to be an entirely predictable response to history and conditions – it doesn’t seem that the Gandhi’s of Islam, for example, tend to make it very far up the theocratic order (and in hotbeds of extremism are rather likely to end up dead).

That having been said, it is hard to imagine that a similarly powerful alternative to America would be anything but worse – there are a lot of constitutionally and socially entrenched norms which place powerful restrictions on the extent to which America could go off the deep end. It’s sort of a requisite part of studying international relations to imagine a world where America retrenched and to imagine who might fill the power vaccum. I’ve never come across a remotely convincing argument that any plausible alternative would be better. However, that should not stop people from seeking to uphold those legal and social norms which restrict the potential for going off the deep end.

69 JWatts March 22, 2016 at 3:03 pm

From the article:

“The Soviet Union exercised what was essentially a veto over the composition of Finnish governments, relying on its ally, President Urho Kekkonen, to shut out parties critical of Moscow’s influence. Kekkonen, whose fruitful relationship with the KGB may have included a pecuniary component, served as a quasi-monarchical president for 26 years. Soviet defectors who escaped to Finland were regularly repatriated, and the Finnish media accepted a de facto culture of censorship regarding its oppressive neighbor.”

That’s not independence.

70 So Much For Subtlety March 22, 2016 at 5:48 pm

The contrast between the Finnish and Norwegian views is interesting.

Norway was willing to fight for its independence. Finland, after 1945, was not. What is interesting is the resulting attitudes. Finland does not feel any need to apologize. For Communist crimes as a whole there has never been any sort of accountability. Presumably because so many of our elite shared in those crimes or at least tacitly approved of them. So Finland handed over people the Soviets wanted even though the Soviets would execute them. They do not seem to think this was not a nice thing to do. I guess it is a good thing the Soviet Union didn’t have Apartheid or something.

While the Norwegians worry about Quisling, the Finns simply all “Quisled”.

71 Barkley Rosser March 22, 2016 at 11:27 pm

Two things nobody has mentioned of relevance. Unlike Norway, Finland was ruled by Russia for a century up until the Bolshevik Revolution. Its independence from Russia has always been a dicey matter. The two of them also fought a war at the beginning of WW II, the Russo-Finnish War, which the Russians (Soviets then actually) won despite a lot of heroics and skiing and use of Molotov cocktails by the Finns (it was this conflict that saw the invention of the M. cocktail). As a result of the war, the Soviets took territory from Finland, especially Karelia, long considered the ultimate Finnish homeland. So they hate the Russians, but they have also been defeated and ruled by the Russians.

There were Soviet troops in Norway in late WW II, coming in from their small border in the far north, and they got pretty far south. But they were in there to defeat the Germans and they left without much fuss at the end of the war without conquering or holding territory. So there is a very different attitude in Norway, which joined NATO, from Finland.

72 MKBARCH March 22, 2016 at 2:06 pm

Really entertaining, if transparently tendentious, collection of links today.
I like Russ Roberts’ products.
But the burning question remains: “Is Ke$ha a good critic”?. What does Ted Gioia think?

73 Ray Lopez March 22, 2016 at 9:59 pm

“The show is not successful because of its high production values. The interviews are about an hour long and unstructured, and Roberts airs them without much editing. ” – it shows. I emailed Roberts about his ‘ah ah’ , hemming and hawing. He was nice enough to email me back and promise to improve (this was several years ago).

Ke$ha strikes me as a liar. A district judge in NY (which probably is biased in favor of her corporate defendants it must be admitted) agrees. The judge says Ke$ha is making up stuff to get out of her contract, though she does have the ear of her peers including Taylor Swift who donated $250k to her cause. I do like her song “Tic Tok” however, written by the guy she is suing to get out from under her contract.

I will say that in law school it was taught a ‘personal services contract’ can be easily broken since you can’t force somebody to perform for somebody they don’t like, and the NY judge did give that option to Ke$ha by offering she work for another person in the same Sony organization, but she refused.

74 Ben Schenker March 22, 2016 at 2:55 pm
75 AIG March 22, 2016 at 5:46 pm

#2. Haven’t seen the show, but from the description of the plot, it makes little sense. Why would Russia…want…Norway to produce oil and gas? Why would EU want Russians to take over production, when the EU is trying its best to reduce its dependence on Russian gas?

And a Green Party candidate would be more likely to hand over Norway to the Kremlin on a silver platter, than somehow be bullied into it. Green parties are funded hugely by the Kremlin precisely because they are its useful idiots.

This plot reflects more of how little clue Norwegians must have about the geo-political situation they are in, than anything else. Global warming? Yawn.

76 So Much For Subtlety March 22, 2016 at 6:14 pm

Oh come on. You are too harsh on them. This sounds like they have plagiarized that piece of great 80s television: V. Or is it [V]. Except the Russians probably don’t eat live rats.

The rest is distraction.

Of course the Left will embrace this one because Putin doesn’t like Gays (no doubt there is or soon will be a Gay persecution sub-plot) and because any old piece of garbage sounds so much better in a cute foreign accent than in a mid-Western one. There is a reason one of Denmark’s famous exports is sperm.

I plan to watch it just to see how they deal with Islamophobia. I would guess, the evil Collaborators evilly fake evil suicide terrorist attacks or something. Which is, at least, plausible.

77 AIG March 22, 2016 at 7:04 pm

The main character that saves Norway is probably a gay Muslim from Somalia.

78 Nathan W March 22, 2016 at 6:48 pm

I also heard that it was the Saudis who were funding all the environmentalists. But no one ever seems to show the pipeline of money.

Doesn’t Norway have some pretty credible campaign financing and transparency rules? This might seem credible to an American where dark money can play outsized influence in politics, but this is not how most of the rest of the democratic world operates.

79 AIG March 22, 2016 at 7:02 pm

Right right bud. As if the Soviet Union wasn’t financing the Greens in the 1970s-80s, or Putin isn’t financing the ultra-right and the ultra-left in Europe today. http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21643222-who-backs-putin-and-why-kremlins-pocket

80 Nathan W March 23, 2016 at 6:24 am

Well, you’re redirected the conversation in several ways, but anyways ….

Here’s an article detailing how Russia made large loans to the far-right Front National in France: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/dec/08/russia-europe-right-putin-front-national-eu. It strikes me as potentially dodgy because if Le Pen cannot get her hands on 10 million euros today, what makes anyone think they have a reasonable prospect of paying back the loans tomorrow? I’m not well versed in French campaign financing rules, but it strikes me that if Front National fails to pay back those loans that some people could be criminally liable for breaking campaign financing rules.

It seems that these loans which circumvent normal financing rules are largely directed to anti-Europe parties – it stuns me that anyone imagines that Russia’s end game in any such project would imply greater freedom in Europe, even for the far right, and at best this stretches credulity that they could possibly be so naive in doing so, at worst, a desire to reorient Europe into Russian spheres of influence – it is difficult to imagine how this could ultimately be consistent with any dedication to upholding key aspects of democracy such as free speech, independent courts, etc.

Also, I’m not sure how it could possible make sense for oil producers to be allied with Greens in the present day – while they tend to oppose oil development, they also aim for transitioning into a fossil-free renewables-drive future sooner rather than later. Not sure about whatever might have happened in the 1970s, when Greens were utterly inconsequential in elections, but I can’t find anything that suggests that anything of the sort is happening in the present day.

81 Michael March 22, 2016 at 6:49 pm

+1 These are my thoughts, exactly. Somebody hasn’t thought through the implications of the setup.

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