In the place of U.S. support, Japan has offered to step in.

“Japan is the only state willing to help India in its Indian Ocean project to develop islands there,” said Abhijit Singh, head of the Maritime Policy Initiative at the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi think tank. The reason, he added, is that other nations—notably the U.S.—consider offering such help too provocative to China.

Here is the full WSJ story.

Here is the government’s own answer:

No.  The President’s clemency power is conferred by Article II, Section 2, Clause 1 of the Constitution of the United States, which provides:  “The President . . . shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.”  Thus, the President’s authority to grant clemency is limited to federal offenses and offenses prosecuted by the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia in the name of the United States in the D.C. Superior Court.  An offense that violates a state law is not an offense against the United States.  A person who wishes to seek a pardon or a commutation of sentence for a state offense should contact the authorities of the state in which the conviction occurred.  Such state authorities are typically the Governor or a state board of pardons and/or paroles, if the state government has created such a board.

Solve for the equilibrium!

I thank J. for a relevant pointer.

I am in Delaware only briefly.  I have not covered the state before, so here are some of my picks:

1. Chemicals manufacturer: I think that one has to go to the Duponts, I enjoyed the Gerard Zilg biography of the Dupont family and history.

2. Economic historian: Alfred Chandler.

3. Monetarist who studied policy instruments and uncertainty: William Poole.

4. Semi-libertarian journalist: Dave Weigel.

Hmm…music?  I don’t like George Thorogood.  A quality novelist?  How about a painter or sculptor?  Some big time NBA star?  Biden is my favorite of Obama’s VPs.  It is claimed that the movie Fight Club is set in Delaware.  So many special dishes too, in the local cuisine.

The bottom line: Small wonder it is!

Here is the abstract of a new paper by Davide Cantoni, Jeremiah Dittmar, and Noam Yuchtman:

The Protestant Reformation, beginning in 1517, was both a shock to the market for religion and a first-order economic shock. We study its impact on the allocation of resources between the religious and secular sectors in Germany, collecting data on the allocation of human and physical capital. While Protestant reformers aimed to elevate the role of religion, we find that the Reformation produced rapid economic secularization. The interaction between religious competition and political economy explains the shift in investments in human and fixed capital away from the religious sector. Large numbers of monasteries were expropriated during the Reformation, particularly in Protestant regions. This transfer of resources shifted the demand for labor between religious and secular sectors: graduates from Protestant universities increasingly entered secular occupations. Consistent with forward-looking behavior, students at Protestant universities shifted from the study of theology toward secular degrees. The appropriation of resources by secular rulers is also reflected in construction: during the Reformation, religious construction declined, particularly in Protestant regions, while secular construction increased,especially for administrative purposes. Reallocation was not driven by pre-existing economic or cultural differences.

For the pointer I thank the excellent Kevin Lewis.

I will be having a Conversation with him on Sept.6, locale and time to be announced.  In the meantime, what should I ask him?

I thank you all in advance for your sage and balanced judgments.

The widths of the Pacific continued unaltered for millions of years.  Temperatures scarcely dropped there in the Ice Ages.  Generation after generation of Pacific birds were able to evolve in an almost completely stable world.  Birds which somehow or other had arrived on remote islands branched into different species.  In the Atlantic, there was hardly time to do that between the Ice Ages…in the Atlantic endemics — species confined to particular places — only rarely evolved.

What you see when the puffins arrive in the spring is a product of this history.  The Atlantic, for the past 2.74 million years has been a place of coming and going, unsettled at the deepest of levels, a system always ready to flip from relatively beneficent to deeply unaccommodating.  Life does not have the time here to develop the mass of differentiated variety it has within the security of the Pacific.

…The result is that now in the North Atlantic there is relatively little local variation.  Species have evolved to cope with the variability and have wide ranges across the latitudes.  The Pacific is a mosaic of local land-based varieties; the Atlantic the exclusive realm of the ocean travellers, birds which have distance embedded in their way of being.

That is from the new and excellent The Seabird’s Cry: The Lives and Loves of Puffins, Gannets and Other Ocean Voyagers, by Adam Nicholson.  Whether it is covering the sex lives of guillemots or how gannets abuse their children, this book is first-rate.

The puffin chapter closes with this:

Next time you sit among the puffins on a summer evening, looking at their elegance and anxiety, that is what to hold in mind: not clowns but beauties, Ice Age survivors, scholar-gypsies of the Atlantic, their minds on an everlasting swing between island and sea, burrow and voyage, parent and child, the oscillating nomad masters of an unpacific ocean.

By the way, that is a UK Amazon link above, so they had to ship my copy across the Atlantic.

United States v. Nixon

by on July 13, 2017 at 1:54 pm in History, Law | Permalink

A quick history lesson for those of you not familiar with that landmark decision:

United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683 (1974), was a landmark United States Supreme Court decision which resulted in a unanimous 8–0 ruling against President Richard Nixon, ordering him to deliver presidential tape recordings and other subpoenaed materials to the District Court. Issued on July 24, 1974, the ruling was important to the late stages of the Watergate scandal, when there was an ongoing impeachment process against Richard Nixon. United States v. Nixon is considered a crucial precedent limiting the power of any U.S. president to claim executive privilege.

Here is the rest of the Wikipedia entry.

Here is a new interview with Gladwell, much of it focusing on the Brown vs. Board of Education decision.  Here is one excerpt:

I was more than interested to discover how much of the work on these effects—which in education they call “same race effects”—has been done by economists. If I’m a social psychologist, the economists are eating my lunch. They’re doing very persuasive, very elegant studies using these data sets that come out of the education reform movement. The economists are the first to jump on it. I feel like that is rich hunting ground for social psychologists as well, and they can bring a perspective to the analysis of that data that the economist can’t.

I’m not criticizing the work that’s been done by economists, but if you read it, you will notice that there is a beat that’s missing—they’re economists, so they come at it from a different perspective. I would love to see social psychologists go over that same data and interpret it their way. And that again would be something that would be insanely useful to the conversation we have in this country about how to make schools better.

And here is Malcom on his next book:

MG: Yes. I’ve started a new book, and it very explicitly comes out of the world of psychology. There was a paper that Lee Ross wrote 50 years ago, maybe 45 years ago, called “Shortcomings of the Intuitive Psychologist.” It’s a famous paper, and I’m tearing off a little, tiny piece of that argument and having fun with it.

DN: And what piece is that?

MG: I’m interested in how we deal with strangers. How good are our intuitive ideas about dealing with strangers? I haven’t thought it through entirely, but I’m fascinated by what it means to deal with someone who you don’t know and, most importantly, whose credibility you cannot assess easily. Strikes me as a very contemporary problem, and from a psychological perspective, super interesting. There’s just so much fantastic psychology on that question.

The brief discussion on rock and roll vs. country music was interesting as well.

Here is the Behavioral Scientist web site, it looks interesting.  Here are their most popular articles.

Probably not, or so I argue in my latest Bloomberg column.  Here is the closing bit:

It is again time for the West to learn from China. The emotional force of nationalism is stronger than we had thought, stability is not guaranteed, and the Western democratic status quo ex ante is less of a strong attractor than many of us had believed or at least hoped for.

In other words, we have our work cut out for us.

As I point out in the column, the world is getting richer but the number of democracies is shrinking.

Here is a good Tobin Harshaw interview with Jeffrey Lewis, here is one good bit, scary in more than one regard:

Nuclear-armed missiles are a 1950s-era technology.


Well, there is a difference between the range the missile demonstrated last week, which was about 4,000 miles, and what the simulations we do at the Middlebury Institute suggest the missile may be capable of. My colleages, along with David Wright at the Union of Concerned Scientists, looked very closely at the launch of a new intermediate-range missile in May, as well as this one, trying to measure the missile and model its performance. It seems to me the North Korea cut the engines a bit early here, possibly so they did not overfly Japan. But they have been very clear their targets are in the continental U.S. — the Pacific Fleet in San Diego, Washington, and lately New York City — not Alaska. And our initial modeling of this missile suggests that it should be able to deliver a nuclear-weapon sized payload to most, if not all, those places. We’re still modeling away though.


I don’t think the North Koreans are going to deliberately start a nuclear war, but I think they might use those weapons if they thought a war was coming and they needed to get a jump on the U.S. and South Korea. And, despite the poor track record of decapitation strikes, the idea really frightens the North Koreans. But instead of making them behave, I suspect it will lead them to do things that I really don’t like, such as releasing nuclear weapons to lower level missile units.

Food for thought, the interview is interesting throughout.

A zoo in eastern China has erected a monument to the donkey that was pushed into a tiger enclosure and eaten alive.

A statue of the beast, titled “A Donkey’s Monument”, stands on a plinth in a corner of Yancheng Zoo in Changzhou, Jiangsu province. The inscription below, written in both English and Chinese, tells the sad tale of how the animal lost its life. There’s even a QR code for those who want to find out more.

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:

When an empire is crumbling, and the rulers are very bad, the libertarian approach to secession makes good sense. That said, it’s not a fully general principle.

Sometimes a region wants to leave a country because of differences of ethnicity, religion, language or background culture, as is the case with the Scottish independence movement and the Catalonian secessionists. In those instances, it’s not obvious whether a unified or a newly independent government would result in greater liberty and prosperity. And for all the strong feelings you will find, I am not sure there is an objectively correct moral answer as to whether there should be one nation or two.

We do know, however, that political tensions rise and emotions tend to flare as such secessions approach the realm of possibility. For instance, there is a chance the government of Spain would react aggressively to what it perceives as an unconstitutional Catalonian secessionist attempt. Madrid might institute legal sanctions against Catalonian leaders or, in an extreme case, send in troops. The final result could be no independence and less liberty in all parts of Spain.

The problem is that people are often overly passionate about political boundaries, and an extra dose of irrationality isn’t exactly what the world needs right now. To cite another example of this problem, the Brexit referendum seems to have lowered the quality of debate and governance within the U.K.

There is much more at the link, including a discussion of why the American Revolution might have nonetheless been a good idea, and also why the libertarian approach needs to be supplemented with conservative ideas.

Here is a new revision of a paper by Sebastian Galiani and Gustavo Torrens:

Why did the most prosperous colonies in the British Empire mount a rebellion? Even more puzzling, why didn’t the British agree to have American representation in Parliament and quickly settle the dispute peacefully? At first glance, it would appear that a deal could have been reached to share the costs of the global public goods provided by the Empire in exchange for political power and representation for the colonies. (At least, this was the view of men of the time such as Lord Chapman, Thomas Pownall and Adam Smith). We argue, however, that the incumbent government in Great Britain, controlled by the landed gentry, feared that allowing Americans to be represented in Parliament would undermine the position of the dominant coalition, strengthen the incipient democratic movement, and intensify social pressures for the reform of a political system based on land ownership. Since American elites could not credibly commit to refuse to form a coalition with the British opposition, the only realistic options were to maintain the original colonial status or fight a full-scale war of independence.

Happy Fourth of July!

p.s. they are not going to make Puerto Rico a state either.

Overall the argument is that point estimates should not be shoved into a Drake equation and then multiplied by each, as that requires excess certainty and masks much of the ambiguity of our knowledge about the distributions.  Instead, a Bayesian approach should be used, after which the fate of humanity looks much better.  Here is one part of the presentation:

Conclusion 2: the great filter is likely in the past

Given the priors and the Fermi observation, the default guess should be that the low -probability term(s) are in the past.

The conclusion can be changed if:

We reduce the uncertainty of past terms to less than 7 orders of magnitude

The distributions have weird shapes

Note that a past great filter does not imply our safety

(The stars just don’t foretell our doom)


Life only actually occurs 8% of the time

It is also noteworthy that most life on earth shares the same genetic system, implying it takes a long time for a particular kind of life, and also intelligence, to evolve.

Those slides are by Anders Sandberg, Eric Drexler & Toby Ord, “Dissolving the Fermi Paradox,” and the pointer is from Patrick Collison.

Whew!  That said, your rate of savings now ought to go up just a wee amount.

…based on comparisons with its more developed neighbours, Mr Lueth argues it is “a myth that the growth of China’s Asian peers slowed when they were at China’s level of development, as measured by GDP [gross domestic product] per capita”.

Taiwan managed to sustain growth rates of around 7 per cent a year for a decade after reaching China’s current level of GDP per head at purchasing power parity, around $11,000, in 1992. South Korea even managed 8 per growth for a period, having reached China’s current level in 1989.

“Taiwan and Korea still had a lot of growth left [at China’s current] level of development,” Mr Lueth says.

Singapore, however, soon trended down to growth of around 5 per cent (from 1979 onwards), while Japan plunged precipitously to 3 per cent (from 1969).

This analysis, then, would seem to suggest that, while a continuation of robust Chinese growth is far from guaranteed, it is not inevitable that it has to slow from here.

An alternative way of looking at the same data would be to analyse Asian growth with respect to what Mr Lueth calls the “technological frontier”. For instance, while China has reached the level of GDP per capita enjoyed by South Korea in 1989 (in PPP terms), it is further behind the US (the embodiment of the technological frontier) than Korea was in 1989 because the US economy has continued to expand in the past 28 years.

On a PPP basis, China’s GDP per capita was only 21.2 per cent of that of the US in 2014, according to LGIM.

Using this as the reference point, China could expect to see robust growth for the next 15-20 years if it followed the trail blazed by its neighbours…

That is from Steve Johnson at the FT.  Please note I am presenting this material, not endorsing it.