Tuesday assorted links

by on May 2, 2017 at 11:56 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. “Cumulating across the six years from 1934 to 1939, our results indicate an excess of 13,665 infant deaths that could be attributable to the repeal of federal prohibition in 1933.

2. There is no great stagnation: “McDonald’s Invents a ‘Frork’ Utensil Made of French Fries“.  Furthermore:

A limited supply of Frorks will be available with the purchase of a Signature Crafted Recipes sandwich on May 5 at participating restaurants. These sandwiches sell for between $4.99 and $5.19.

In true infomercial style, the ad features a toll-free number that gives callers a chance to get a free Frork or a coupon for a free Signature Crafted Recipes sandwich.

3. How many of the greatest philosophers had philosophy degrees?

4. Sent to jail by a software program? (NYT)

5. The Chinese factory workers who write poems on their phones.  Recommended.

6. Foreign migrants and terror.

1 Thiago Ribeiro May 2, 2017 at 12:03 pm

#1 How many people more will have to die?
#2 You mean freedom fries.
#3 “I believe some of my colleagues in other departments teach ethics courses, but not just anyone is qualified to teach ethics.”
You know, those who know do, those who don’t… teach in America.


2 Mark Thorson May 2, 2017 at 6:57 pm

This is an argument for both Prohibition and making Mormonism the state religion. Mormons go far beyond not drinking — they are also moderate in eating meat, which is a proven risk factor for cardiovascular disease. They also have a social network which may have protective effects (as long as you’re not gay).

On the other hand, the equation needs something on the other side to reflect happiness. I’m okay with a few kids dying if we’re all happier (on average).


3 Thiago Ribeiro May 2, 2017 at 7:24 pm

Well, not state religion, I think, but it should much more promoted by the people in charge in America. It is an American religion and it is adapted to the American character and may help many Americans live good, productive, happy lives. I have seen some Mormons in Brazil. It is clearly they have been brainwashed in a way, but they do not drink, they do nit drink coffee, they work hard, their children behave well and study hard. Even if it being a false religion – there is no planet Kolob -, it changes lives for better. Isn’t it whzt a religion is supposed to do? I think Americans would be much better off if they adopted Mormonism.

As for Prohibition, I am for a total and complete ban of alcohol except for religious services.


4 Jason Bayz May 2, 2017 at 12:05 pm

6. Why is Tyler linking to such a stupid paper?


5 The Anti-Gnostic May 2, 2017 at 12:08 pm

#2 – I’m not worried about Stagnation. I’m worried about Satiety.


6 Floccina May 2, 2017 at 12:09 pm

#1 I am against prohibition but acknowledge that is helped in certain areas. Same with Recreational drug prohibition, I am for legalization but admit that keeping Recreational drugs illegal might be do some good for some people.


7 mulp May 2, 2017 at 4:24 pm

The authors argue that ending prohibition reduced the rate of decline in the rate of infant mortality so the from 1928, alway dry areas ended up higher than always wet areas at the end of 1939 after starting much higher in 1928 for all types of counties with the differences in rates being less.

Ie., from graphs fig 2 and 5, the “wet” counties had rates of
1928 68
1932 57
1933 56
1934 56
1939 47
While the “dry” counties had rates of
1928 70
1932 55
1933 57
1934 67
1939 52

Why the two graphs is a puzzle, perhaps to hide the problems with their datasets???

But fig 5 shows mortality rates started going up before FDR took office, so neither Volstead act nor ratification itself could be the cause for increased mortality IN THE FOREVER DRY counties.

I would use the “dry” status as a proxy for political culture, ie, government control of how people act.

That means the politics of trying to control how people act results in higher infant mortality rates compared to the “wet” individual responsibility States.

Note the wet are the north and coastal States while the dry are what is currently strong Trump States.

But again, infant mortality dropped during every year from 1928 to 1939 in the “wet” counties.


8 Mark Thorson May 2, 2017 at 7:01 pm

One way to normalize the effect would be to require marijuana dispenseries to enforce a rule that everyone must do 15 minutes on the treadmill or elliptical machine before every purchase — longer for any big purchase. Say, one minute for every dollar spent.


9 Jason Bayz May 2, 2017 at 12:10 pm

4. “Mr. Schimel echoed that point and added that Mr. Loomis knew everything the court knew. Judges do not have access to the algorithm, either, he wrote.”



10 Thiago Ribeiro May 2, 2017 at 12:20 pm

The court of the future will have only two workers: a man and a dog. The man will feed the dog, and the dog will prevent the judge from interfering with the electronic judge.


11 The Centrist May 2, 2017 at 1:44 pm

That is three. Man, dog and human (non-electronic) judge.

Perhaps mandatory sentencing was a small small step towards electronic sentencing.


12 Thiago Ribeiro May 2, 2017 at 1:58 pm

The non-electronic judge is neither a person nor a cute animal, therefore it is not a worker. A robot has no self-determination or rights, it is a machine. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A real person can injure a human being.


13 XVO May 2, 2017 at 3:09 pm

Real robots have machine guns mounted to them.

14 Thiago Ribeiro May 2, 2017 at 3:13 pm

Not all, some are made intelligence, so we can outsource our intellectual tasks to them.

15 Ricardo May 2, 2017 at 12:43 pm

#4 shows a truly bizarre aspect to the legal system. All sorts of people have to make sacrifices in a criminal trial: witnesses have to testify and endure potentially hostile cross-examination in open court, jurors have to miss work, suspects and even innocent third parties might have to have their property seized and held in police custody until the trial is over, etc. But the one group of people we apparently cannot ask to make sacrifices are companies that develop proprietary algorithms used in investigations that they then get to charge the government for the privilege of using.


16 aMichael May 2, 2017 at 1:09 pm

I can sympathize with Mr. Loomis, but you have to consider the counterfactual world, one in which parole decisions are left completely to discretionary human judgment, which evidence suggests is affected by whether the judge is hungry or not — http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2011/04/11/justice-is-served-but-more-so-after-lunch-how-food-breaks-sway-the-decisions-of-judges/#.WQi8o1UrKCo.

There’s still an algorithm. At least this statistically based one isn’t swayed by a judge’s or panel’s emotional state at the moment. Also, it’s a bit different when the decision is about granting parole based on a prisoner’s behavior in prison than when it’s about deciding whether someone is guilty to begin with.


17 Amigo May 2, 2017 at 1:35 pm

It doesn’t sound like the headline is accurate. From what I can tell, the software did not convict and send anyone to jail, but was used as a data point on risk.

It is surprising to me that the factors utilized to assess risk are not public though. If it’s going to be used to assess risk, a defendant should be able to examine it. If posted as a paper here, it’d likely get chewed to pieces based on this site’s comments, although many would not be as critical if it seemed obvious and supported their prior.


18 aMichael May 2, 2017 at 2:07 pm

You’re right that the algorithm and what it gives weight to should be public knowledge, and that was Jason Bayz’s original point. If I’m a judge and am supposed to use the algorithm’s predictions in my decision-making, then I should know how the algorithm works.

19 Ricardo May 2, 2017 at 2:49 pm

My understanding is that this case involved a sentence determination, not parole. In the federal system, the concern you raised is addressed by sentencing guidelines which are developed by a public body called the Sentencing Commission and whose formulas are open to the general public. That system has its own problems but I think it should be an uncontroversial view that any such formulas or algorithms should be open to the public or at the very least open to the defense team. Anyone who is involved in technology, computer programming or statistics knows that people who gather, clean and analyze data are not perfect and can make mistakes.

Real scientists open their work up to peer review. The idea that people can develop algorithms like this that have real world consequences and not be subject to checking or scrutiny by their peers is outrageous and flies in the face of what science is and what the court system should be.


20 Daniel Weber May 3, 2017 at 11:01 am

I feel there’s something missing because this just seems egregious. What’s the best defense that the algorithm maker has?

If I invent an algorithm that decides who is likely to be a risk, well, what’s the feedback on me? Am I selling public surety bonds on who is likely to re-offend? Am I selling this data to employers deciding which felons it is safe to hire? Or am I just an arbitrary shmoe that has been given petty power?

21 rayward May 2, 2017 at 12:27 pm

1. But think of all the mobsters and G-men who weren’t killed after repeal of prohibition and how many children they produced. And think of the bootleggers who became respectable citizens after repeal of prohibition and whose descendants went on to successful political and legitimate business careers.


22 Thomas May 2, 2017 at 12:46 pm



23 widmerpool May 2, 2017 at 7:55 pm

Think of all the additional children conceived due to to alcohol facilitated copulation.


24 B.Reynolds May 2, 2017 at 12:27 pm

#3 – This problem shows why universities are terrible institutions for learning. The assumption is that an advanced credential makes one a qualified teacher. In obtaining my degree, I discovered quickly that the professors with the most impressive credentials were often the most incompetent teachers. Yet, it is the impressive CV that universities value.


25 Thomas May 2, 2017 at 1:05 pm

I only read books written by holders of the finest MFA programs. Clinton/Beyonce 2036.


26 msgkings May 2, 2017 at 1:22 pm

LOL, but you guys need to worry about Winfrey/Newsom 2020


27 Thomas May 2, 2017 at 2:38 pm

Im voting for The Rock


28 Art Deco May 2, 2017 at 1:27 pm

I never noticed that as a student. I did notice that the relationship between academic rank and teaching performance was scattershot. The most capable instructor I ever had published three articles between 1977 and 1990 and retired as an associate professor. (The least capable was a man it’s a reasonable inference was an affirmative action hire). I also had a good instructor who was sitting on an endowed chair, a wretched instructor who was contract researcher, and a graduate student TA who was head and shoulders above the professor for whom he was working. That man, and another capable instructor I had at a different institution (visiting faculty), were lost to academe. Last I heard, both worked for the Federal Reserve.

The thing is, about 70% of the instructors you have are satisfactory and it is difficult to differentiate them in terms of their quality. About a quarter have performance problems to varying degrees and a few are exceptional. The two most common features of problem teachers are bad attitude, social awkwardness, and scatterbrain, and it’s a reasonable wager that only the last of these is a problem for a researcher.

There actually are not better institutions for learning than colleges and universities. The problem with colleges and universities is that they are what Fr. Paul Shaughnessy, SJ calls ‘sociologically corrupt’, and unable to reform themselves with their own resources.


29 Art Deco May 2, 2017 at 1:28 pm

The three most common problems.


30 Amigo May 2, 2017 at 1:49 pm

My experience is that it’s fairly easy to learn who the good professors are on campus just by asking around. The problem is that the best instructors are often also the most difficult, so you had to assess if you were “that interested” in the topic to devote extra work. I liked interesting class instruction and discussion, and generally did well in school, so it was never much of a disincentive for me, however I could completely understand those who just weren’t all that into a topic and just wanted to get through the class without much fuss so they could focus on other things. To a degree(!), I think the students help create demand for the types of teachers by this type of class selection.


31 Pshrnk May 2, 2017 at 6:56 pm

#3 Higher Learning Commission = HLC = Huge Load of Crap I just did logic and am a qualified philosopher.


32 Daniel Weber May 3, 2017 at 11:09 am

As small children, we need much guidance in learning things.

By the time you are at college, you are supposed to be mostly to the point of self-learning, with guides that help you out.

That said, I had a Nobel Laureate teaching me biology and he really sucked at it.


33 Axa May 2, 2017 at 1:05 pm

#1: Correlation does not ensures causation. From the article:

” we turn to a substantial medical literature linking maternal alcohol consumption and both compromised infant immune systems and reduced birth weight—two key determinants of subsequent infant death. ….Unfortunately, we lack any information of maternal alcohol consumption at the individual or aggregate level for this period. Having no other more plausible prior, our proposed causal mechanism for this paper runs from the repeal of federal prohibition to potential maternal alcohol consumption and from there to infant mortality.”

The authors read a bunch of articles that found low weight babies are the result of women drinking while pregnant. They don’t have any data on maternal alcohol consumption before and after the Prohibition ended, thus they decided to explain causality by stating child mortality is caused by drinking pregnant women………beautiful 😉


34 Bob from Ohio May 2, 2017 at 1:42 pm

“we lack any information of maternal alcohol consumption at the individual or aggregate level for this period”

We have no data whatsoever but will write a paper anyways.



35 Lord Action May 2, 2017 at 1:48 pm

1934-1939 has other interesting features. Pregnant women who were teenagers during the Great Depression. Rapidly rising smoking rates.


36 derek May 2, 2017 at 1:07 pm

1. Another reason to rejoice that Hillary lost. Women got the vote, we got prohibition.

The deplorables comment was very similar to the attitudes that led to prohibition.


37 Benny Lava May 2, 2017 at 1:24 pm

Prohibition passed before women got the vote.


38 Benny Lava May 2, 2017 at 1:24 pm

Also ironic given that Trump is a teetotaler.


39 Anon7 May 2, 2017 at 11:38 pm

Henpecking women were the major force behind Prohibition, which is why brewery companies were anti-suffragette.


40 Art Deco May 2, 2017 at 1:31 pm

Instituting prohibition required a large supermajority, as does any constitutional amendment.


41 Edgar May 2, 2017 at 1:08 pm

William Sullivan at American Thinker does a good job of unpacking these “incident” based studies: http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2017/05/lies_damn_lies_and_islamic_terrorism_statistics.html
Lumping together “incidents” in which multiple people die with those in which no one is killed, while simultaneously excluding others on an arbitrary basis seems to be the mode of operation.


42 Bryan Willman May 2, 2017 at 1:10 pm

#1 – and do you suppose that another event, say, the Great Depression, might have contributed to these effects?

That said, the repeal of prohibition is a great example of the disconnect between “scientific” and “social wide” policies and the policies that people actually support and insist on. It is why drug prohibition in general


43 Bryan Willman May 2, 2017 at 1:12 pm

#1 – and do you suppose that another event, say, the Great Depression, might have contributed to these effects?

That said, the repeal of prohibition is a great example of the disconnect between “scientific” and “social wide” policies and the policies that people actually support and insist on. It is why drug prohibition via force of law is doomed. It is why things like carbon taxes are unlikely to have the intended effects. It is the real obstacle that global warming activists face – even *if* their claims are right, the revealed preference of society may well be “we don’t care”. It is a very important part of why various kinds of assortative behavoirs, segregationist behavoirs, hostility to immigrants, and so forth will continue, forever.


44 Art Deco May 2, 2017 at 1:30 pm

It is why drug prohibition via force of law is doomed.

Your ‘doomed’ policy has been in effect since 1914.


45 Bryan Willman May 2, 2017 at 2:34 pm

Yes, and how well has it worked? Are the number of deaths caused by drugs and the violence associated with the drug trade less than would have been caused without it? Hard to know, isn’t it?

Oh, and in spite of that same law, we are now having an epidemic of deaths caused by opoid overdoses, using a legal perscription drug.

The law may not be repealed, but it seems to me that any hope of it actually curing the problem is, well, nil.


46 Milo Fan May 2, 2017 at 6:48 pm

Not have we managed to cure problems like murder, theft, or fraud. The quasi legal status of opioids ought to tell you something.


47 Stumped May 2, 2017 at 1:19 pm

#3. When googling Phd, it came back with Doctor of Philosophy. Am I missing something here?


48 Tom T. May 2, 2017 at 1:29 pm

It’s interesting that “migrant” has become the euphemism of choice for “immigrant.” I suppose it’s meant to leave the reader with an impression that they’re not intending to stay permanently.


49 Ricardo May 2, 2017 at 3:10 pm

It’s not a “euphamism.” As you note, they are two words with two different meanings. Someone on a student visa who intends to move back home or to a third country after graduating is, by definition, not an immigrant. Since we don’t have data on someone’s intent, it is more accurate to use a term like “migrant” or (the authors use it repeatedly in the abstract) “foreigner.”


50 Anon7 May 2, 2017 at 11:28 pm

Alien is the more accurate term.


51 GU May 2, 2017 at 1:54 pm

RE: #1

How many people’s lives were saved from bootlegger/gang/mob violence due to the end of Prohibition? How many were saved from police/federal agent violence enforcing Prohibition? How many people’s lives were saved from not having to drink bathtub gin or other liquors of dubious origin? Etc. That paper is amateur hour.


52 Ron Jeremias May 2, 2017 at 2:30 pm

RE: #3 So someone like Gordon Tullock would not be permitted to teach economics? Gordon had a law degree and I think took only one course in economics.


53 William Sjostrom May 2, 2017 at 5:00 pm

Neither the economist Gordon Tullock or the sociologist Edward Shils ever spent a day in graduate school. David Friedman teaches economics and law, but his PhD is in physics. The economist William Landes had a PhD in economics, but he also taught law classes at Chicago. Gary Becker was a professor of economics and sociology at Chicago, but his PhD was in economics only. A.K. Sen’s PhD is in economics, but he is a professor of philosophy as well as economics, and Roland Fryer’s PhD is in economics, but he is a professor of education as well as a professor of economics.

Accreditors are stupid.


54 alz9794 May 2, 2017 at 6:16 pm

While I have no love for the Empire, it is really, really easy to justify someone like Roland Fryer as a Professor of Education. All one has to do is look at his academic record, which has plenty of publications involving education research. The same with the rest of the people mentioned – they demonstrated intellectual knowledge in the field. Just looking at their CVs I could write a letter justifying why each person should be permitted to teach in the fields you mention, and the accrediting body allows for those exceptions. I have written memos for people who clearly have the required background, if not the particular degree, to teach courses in an area, and none have ever been turned down. And I’m not at Harvard or Chicago.

It’s easy to justify why Gary Becker should be able to teach sociology. While I have a reasonable academic record in economics, no one should be writing a letter justifying why I was teaching in a sociology program, unless perhaps it was some type of interdisciplinary methods course open to social science students in general.


55 Anon May 2, 2017 at 5:26 pm
56 Troll Me May 2, 2017 at 5:37 pm

1) I theorize that the largest economic recession of the 20th century was more relevant than the end of prohibition.

If the data were on FAS cases, I’d maybe be more convinced.


57 Pshrnk May 2, 2017 at 6:54 pm

#3 Higher Learning Commission = HLC = Huge Load of Crap I just did logic and am a qualified philosopher.


58 li/arlington May 5, 2017 at 2:05 am

3#. Probably the only “philosopher who many people have heard of in many countries” who was “not all that bright” was Wittgenstein. Hard worker and an intense little guy – and less amoral than several philosophers more famous than him – but it is likely he had no idea at all about how an intelligent person arrives at the truth. Hume was fairly thick-headed, too. Both of them were funny, though, so it is possible they saw themselves as entertainers rather than philosophers, in which case I am the one who is not “all that bright” for broadcasting my opinion that they (Hume and Wittgenstein) were not “all that bright” (although I would have hired Hume, but not Wittgenstein, as a personal assistant, if I were a billionaire or even just a centi-millionaire). Lots of countries besides England hosted not-too-bright philosophers, too, of course: “foreign” postage stamps with their pictures are often given out free at “stamp shows”; that being said …. On to America: One of the saddest facts about David Foster Wallace (there are lots of non-sad facts about him too, just like about you (probably) and about me (maybe, or, to tell the truth – tenuously – maybe not)), is that, after he had established he could make a living as a genre writer (the genre being something generally called “serious contemporary fiction”, but a gig is a gig) he actually seriously considered enrolling in a philosophy program to “earn” an “advanced” “degree” in philosophy. Sad! (Artie Shaw decided, late in life, to study quantum physics… vanity? delusion? or just simple natural interest in a challenging subject?) To be fair – nearly everybody who has earned a PhD in philosophy in the last 50 years who one might find oneself sitting next to on a long bus ride or a long airplane ride is an above average temporary companion, assuming they have decent personal hygiene (and even sometimes if they don’t). To change the subject from that — “After all, the accomplishment of [The uncriticizable] finite life … neither requires interruption of … (Son temps eternel) … nor occurs outside of it; rather, it unfolds precisely within it.” (quoted from Balthasar’s essay “Endliche Zeit in ewiger Zeit” – Son temps eternel is a better translation that one can achieve in English, where the phrase is “his eternal life” in the most obvious translation). {{{the word uncriticizable is self-recommending, if within even the very very broad limits of the subject matter, it is generously understood}).


59 li/arlington May 5, 2017 at 10:58 pm

second to last line: “a better translation thaN one can achieve in English”


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