Assorted links


Average is such a fascinating word.

#4 what a terribly designed website.

#3. Let a thousand Solyndras bloom.

@#3 - CNTRL + F + "patents" yields no hits. Typical of these so-called experts on technology, very common. They have really no clue about what motivates businesses to invest in new technology (hint: patents, monopoly rents). And that holds true for governments too: you can publish research to avoid others getting a patent (which many research outfits do not) or patent it so you can dedicate your invention to the public. I'm surrounded by morons. Thank God I'm in the 1% and really could care less if the rest go to ell in a handbasket, they deserve it. I've got mine and I intend to keep it, God willing. G'nite!

#3. Let a thousand Solyndras bloom.


You would have thought that every grown up with an IQ above room temperature would have noticed that the State is very poor at allocating research funding much less VC. You would think that would be a thousand times more true for an economist. And a thousand times more true again for someone who is hanging out with the smart people.

But not even a hint about how it is going to be different this time and the American government will avoid the mistakes of IBM/the Soviet Union/the French Ancient Regime etc etc etc.

IBM is a private public corporation, not government. Government did invent penicillin (the method of making it in quantity), did invent the M-16 (still trade secret, the method of making it), and did land a man on the moon, and as any VC will tell you, most funded projects are flops, but one in dozen or so make it. BTW I do like AlexT's suggestion of a prize fund for it, and they will build it.

#2. Shorter version: "We have it coming"

I have rarely read anything outside of the Guardian's comments section that is as simplistic and tendentious as #2.

The horrible Syrian conflagration is summed up as: We Westerners have used Syrians as cannon fodder for our proxy wars against Russia and Iran. Really? That's it?

"Blowback" is a simplistic notion at the best of times; here it is insultingly so.

is this scooter libby...aren't you supposed to be in jail?....nice strawman.

I read it more as "French cartoonists murdered by Muslim fanatics; US foreign policy to blame."

The phrase used several times apparently was: "We have avenged Mohammed!"

Mariana Mazzucato's work on the government's historical role in innovation seems relevant.

Til Hazel agrees with Prof. Cowen -

Not that GMU's good ole boy cares about Prof. Cowen's opinion, admittedly.

And dutifully, it should be pointed out that someone like Til Hazel is always a step ahead of a minor figure like Prof. Cowen - after all, one has a GMU building named after himself, while the other sits in it.

(And there is a fascinating story connected to how GMU managed to soak the American taxpayer so that Prof. Cowen could sit in that Arlington office -

'On November 28, 1978 the George Mason University Foundation acquired eleven acres of land and a single building: the twenty-five year-old former department store belonging to the International School of Law in the Virginia Square section of Arlington. The two institutions expected that they would merge the next year to form a new law school. Indeed, they did. The Virginia General Assembly approved George Mason’s union with the International School of Law in March of 1979 creating the George Mason University School of Law, while simultaneously recognizing the university as a doctoral institution.[2] This ended the university’s difficult struggle with state authorities and gave Mason a distinctive program to feature at Arlington, beginning July 1, 1979. The George Mason University Foundation later sold approximately half of the land on the western side of the parcel to the Federal Government for nearly five times the amount it paid for the entire property.’ )

Well done, you have exposed the conspiracy whereby an organisation made money on a land transaction. Our generation's Edward Snowden. Tomorrow, we discover that money was exchanged for goods and services: what The Man doesn't want you to know.

Sachs: "The fact that jihadist terrorist attacks in the West are relatively new, occurring only in the last generation or so, indicates that they are a blowback – or at least an extension – of the Middle East wars." He's right, but he's referring to the wrong war. Sachs blames wars fought in the middle east by western powers for the blowback. I will suggest he's looking in all the wrong places. At the heart of Muslim outrage everywhere is the sectarian war that is raging in the middle east, the ongoing but undeclared war between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia. While it was Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini, a Shiite Muslim, who issued his infamous fatwa to avenge the publication of The Satanic Verses, the acts of terrorism in America, Europe, and the middle east (including killing and maiming thousands of American soldiers in Iraq) have been perpetrated by Sunni Muslims not Shia Muslims, terrorism funded primarily by our friends the Saudis. The sectarian division in Islam is usually ignored by American media. Yet, the sectarian division is at the heart of the conflict in the middle east and the violence that is perpetrated by extremist Sunni Muslims everywhere. Acts of terrorism, in America and in Europe, are proxies for the on-going sectarian war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the victims of terrorism are casualties of that war.

Does anyone value Muslim lives as cheaply as other Muslims?

Yes, Americans.

Not at all. The Iraq war would have been much different without the kid gloves.

"terrorism funded primarily by our friends the Saudis"

tail wags dog

Iranian backed (Shia) groups were also responsible for bombings against America/international soldiers and against Sunni people/places and likely against Christians as well. Hezbollah helped pioneer suicide bombings and has carried out attacks all over the world. In the western world we have yet to see (and may never) "lone wolf" or semi independent attacks by Shia groups however most of the immigrant pool from which terrorists are drawn is Sunni. The recent attack in Australia was carried out by an immigrant from Iran, although I think he claimed to have converted to Sunni Islam.

Are terrorist attacks are relatively new ? There was an attack in 1915 in Broken Hill.

Oh Dear! If the age of oil is coming to end (????), what is going to happen to Saudia Arabia? I hate to think what might happen there in terms of an economic bust. That country has so much black gold that it is impossible not to be rich.

In all reality though, there was a lot of regional wars and violence before the West showed up. We were too stupid to realize that our interference could fix that.

Saudi Arabia can produce at a profit at a price lower than anyone else can go. They can always make money from oil, even if it means bankrupting oil producers in Russia and the U.S.

In the long run, that might be a good strategy. A few years of low prices to bankrupt higher-cost producers, then tighten supply and raise prices. When high prices revive production among the higher-cost producers, crash the price again. A small population sitting on a giant pool of oil can afford to play games like that.

Good point. This is a tricky strategy to get right, but it could be done. The energy industry is fascinating right now.

Particularly in Germany, where in December 2014, the electicity produced by wind turbines exceeded that produced by nuclear power - (German only)

Though possibly, the cost of getting rid of all those turbine blades far outwieghs the cost of decomissioning a power plant and its fuel - well, at least in the fantasy world which any number of Mercatus Center donors would prefer to live in.

But then, who would trust German engineers with a technical solution to burning fossil fuel. After all, the Britsh blockade of German supplies of amonia turned out to work so well in WWI - 'Ammonia was first manufactured using the Haber process on an industrial scale in 1913 in BASF's Oppau plant in Germany, production reaching 20 tonnes/day the following year.[11] During World War I, the synthetic ammonia was used for the production of nitric acid, a precursor to munitions. The Allies had access to large amounts of sodium nitrate deposits in Chile (so called "Chile saltpetre") that belonged almost totally to British industries. As Germany lacked access to such readily available natural resources, the Haber process proved important to the German war effort.'

For how many seconds did wind turbines exceed nuclear? Almost there, eh?

"For how many seconds did wind turbines exceed nuclear? Almost there, eh?"

And how many nuclear power plants did they have to shut down to get there?

Oh dear. The lignite emissions seem to have gone to p_a's head. "new figures show that coal power output in 2013 reached its highest level in more than 20 years."

They may cause near-term disruptions, but they can't uninvent fracking.

The age of conventional oil may be drawing to a close, but the age of unconventional oil is just beginning.

Saudi Arabia can delay the shift from conventional to unconventional oil but they can't actually prevent it, as even Saudi reserves are not unlimited.

But we don't know how big the Saudi reserves are. There's large areas of Saudi Arabia where nobody is allowed to explore for oil because they don't want everybody to know how much is out there.

The actual cost of producing fracked oil will always be higher than Saudi oil, which enables Saudi Arabia to undercut the price of fracked oil. Once you frack a formation, you have to keep pumping the oil, even if you aren't getting a price that pays for fracking it. Do that enough times, and people won't want to invest in these ventures -- which plays right into the hands of the Saudis.

The question isn't just how big the reserves are, but also how much they can produce. And also, how much their neighbors will tolerate the devaluing of their oil sales. Iran, for one, is not happy about the current price of oil and they don't like the US/Saudi alliance, so they might well decide to act aggressively if they feel that the price to their income has become critical.

They produce enough to control the price of oil. That's enough.

If Iran makes a move against Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia can count on the U.S. to back them up.

Saudi Arabia is using fracking technology in its legacy wells.

'Once you frack a formation, you have to keep pumping the oil, even if you aren’t getting a price that pays for fracking it"

Things that make you go, 'hmmmm…..

Why did you post #5? What do you mean by the question about the Pareto principle???

The connection between this and "80% of the results come from 20% of the causes" is not at all clear.

Maybe it's an error and he meant Pareto efficiency? As in, these people are optimally in this situation, but maybe we'd all be better off if they were in slightly less optimal situations that were less icky?

Yes, I'm pretty sure it is a typo and he meant Pareto efficiency. If you ignore other-regarding preferences, anything that two people mutually agree to that doesn't harm others is an improvement under the Pareto criterion. Of course, people do have other-regarding preferences, and particularly strong ones disapproving of incest.

#2 is appropriately numbered. I saw Jeffrey Sachs speak once, and I can tell you he is even worse in person.

terrorist attacks kill other muslims too:

#2: I can keep two thoughts in my head simultaneously:

a. Interference in Near Eastern affairs---including but not limited to attempts at regime change from without---has caused much more trouble than it's worth to the developed world. High time to cut our losses.

Military aid to governments in the region (that includes Israel, who can take care of herself, and whose nuclear deterrent has been effective since 1973) should be wound down sooner rather than later.

b. Don't expect that to satisfy the next criminally disturbed young man (of any of a number of family backgrounds) tempted to use a homemade bomb to get, if not 72 virgins in the next world, then at least the 15 minutes of fame in this one they were never likely to get any other way. Get used to lunatics using Islam For Dummies as an excuse to kill people. No government is much more likely to win the war against "terror" as it is to win a war against sin. Even cutting the money off from dodgy "charities" will only do so much to stop it.

By way of analogy: loss of income from dodgy "charities" drove Provisional Sinn Fein to sue for peace. Today the Northern Ireland question is as settled as it's ever likely to be, with support for a united Ireland at record lows even among people of Catholic background. That doesn't keep the Real IRA or the Continuity IRA from finding recruits.

Interference by the US causing terrorism is the go-to for the sort of mental masochists that populate the stupider sections of the left these days.

Denmark do a lot of colonization around the middle east? Lot of Danish coups in Yemen? Belgium have a lot of fingers in that pie?

Islamic terrorism is the lashing out of a culture eclipsed by every other major civilization. Everyone else on earth sees the progress of the west and wants to emulate it, though perhaps with a local flavor (ala India, China, etc.). Islam sees the progress of the west and wants to murder civilians. Starting with their own, moving to ours. It is cultural nihilism of the most basic sort. If they can't rule the world and be the top dog, they'll just murder everyone until the world is worse off than they are.

Yup you're right. They're just evil. Nothing complex to think about here at all. All phenomena have a single cause.

Some times "root causes" arguments are just appeasement. Some times the answer really is simple. Some times people who rape and murder and enslave really are evil.

So yes, nothing complex here at all.

It's possible to see an attack like Charlie Hebdo as having multiple causes, EG
1) the "evilness" of the perpetrators
2) the Islamist ideology that motivates them
3) the social and political injustices that make 2 seem attractive to 1

Pointing out the existence of any of these causal factors detracts nothing from the reality of the others.

It can be profitable to address 3 without denying 1 and 2.

It is possible to see it as being the fault of the Jews as well. As in fact the President of Turkey has just done.

Doesn't make it right. Doesn't make it sensible. Doesn't make it any better than the "nuance" that the Faculty Tea Room brings to its usual self-regarding preening about their superiority to the herd who believes things like patriotism and decency.

And I do notice you have no done anything except preen. You have not tried to show, much less explain, any complexity. You just insist that it must exist. Because, you know, only yokels think Che wasn't cool or something.

Richard Besserer January 16, 2015 at 4:48 pm

I don't see any evidence that interference in the Middle East causes much problems at all. If you think that Jews are to blame for all evil in the world, it doesn't much matter if you live in the middle of North Dakota and have never seen one, or you live in Brooklyn Heights and got screwed by six of them last week.

I like the idea that giving aid to people is the problem. But by all means, let us cut our losses. We can continue to fund Israel but the rest ought to be left on their own.

We do not need to get used to lunatics using Islam as an excuse to murder. We simply need to reduce the number of Muslims to very low figures. Or at least stop taking in more of them. Some percentage of Muslims support terrorism and some smaller number of them carry it out. The way to solve this problem is to encourage them to become Christians and to stop Muslims coming to the West. Even as tourists. Then we would win the war on terror. We need to build walls and make sure as many of them are on the right side of that wall as possible.

There is no evidence that loss of income bothered the PIRA. On the other hand there is some evidence that unleashing the Paras on their active service units did a world of good. But on the third hand, the people of Northern Ireland turned away from the SDLP and elected the PIRA. So it is not as if their terrorism did not work.

The solution there is simple too - plantation. Encourage Catholics to leave and Scottish people to move in. Works every time. Germany and Poland no longer fight over Pomerania.

One thing that was quite effective in encouraging in encouraging PIRA to sue for peace was the loyalist practice of slaughtering random unarmed catholics. We should probably create some paramilitary groups to do the same to muslims. Isn't this fun? Have we taken the trolling too far yet?

Those groups will emerge in time without intervention.

4. Such typical academic hackwork: (i) "A" correlates with "B"'; (ii) there are a number of different causal mechanisms that could produce this result; (iii) let's choose the one that all bien-pensant academics find most congenial; and (iv) let's defend our choice by pointing out that no alternative explanation has been conclusively proven by our fellow academic groupthinkers (we'll ignore the fact that they haven't tried). You can save a lot of money on subscriptions to academic journals by just applying this syllogism to whatever fancied social injustice currently exercises you.

The article suggests that women are successful in psychology and neuroscience, fields which require maths, so therefore their lack of success in mathematics itself must be the result of discrimination. My favourite lecturer used to say that applied maths was for people who couldn't understand pure maths, I have mixed feelings about that but it true that the M ability require to be a psychologist/neuroscientist etc is not equal to that required of M itself. It is also generally true that people who are excellent by the standard of the general public, but only average by the standard of the excellent, drop out of pure maths courses and transfer into one of the many fields which require applied maths. This doesn't prove or disprove her theory, which as wm13 points out doesn't offer any evidence.

Hackwork indeed. This sentence from the first link rather sums the whole thing up:
"Might it be that natural brilliance is indeed more important in certain disciplines than in others? The authors write: 'The data presented here are silent on this question.'"

I.e. Beliefs differ by field, from practitioners within fields, on the importance of raw ability in terms of succeeding in the respective fields. These beliefs could affect who chooses to undertake PhD study, and thus the composition of cohorts, through:
a) The beliefs being correlated with true difficulty, leading to self-selection.
b) The beliefs being random noise, but nonetheless lead to self-selection due to incorrect perceptions, and the pressures created by these perceptions, and other convulted processes, then affect certain demographic groups more sharply than others.

By admission, they can't identify between these two possibilities - yet a) is relegated to an afterthought while they wax lyrically about their priors on b). Ex ante though, how could b) possibly be the sensible null hypothesis if you don't stop to look at why ability perceptions differ?

It's not as though it would have been that hard to get data on average latent ability levels by field (technically different from "high ability is very important", but likely closely related); average GRE scores by PhD field wouldn't be a bad place to start looking. ETS makes the data on this publicly available. Not a perfect measure of ability, but a decent proxy (at least presumably in the minds of admissions committees who make taking it compulsory for many programs).

No need to just theorize about what the GRE average admittance levels might be when the data is a Google search away!

The fields with higher GRE requirements are also largely the fields with more "emphasis on brilliance" (though by this measure philosophy is a bit full of itself) and with lower numbers of females in the field. This information doesn't prove that people in these fields are right or wrong about the kind of intellectual talent needed, but it does hurt the hypothesis of women showing up on the high end of the intelligence spectrum as equal rates to men. After all, if women were producing high GRE scorers at the same rate as men and but being discouraged from entering into those male dominated fields regardless, then the female dominated fields would have equally high GRE scores.

This does not completely remove the possibility that stereotype threat is at play, nor that high GRE score fields are sexist/racist. However, it does imply that if sexism and racism are holding back women and blacks that's happening at least before GREs are taken (and given SAT results, particular SAT Math results for the genders at least) this is happening at least as early as high school

So essentially even if racism/sexism is a problem at the PhD level, changing that would still have little effect. If people in those fields are simply wrong about the relative importance of brilliance however for success in their fields, then de-emphasizing that quality could make up much of the gender and part of the race gap (since the race gap is wider in terms of overall PhD achievement to begin with no amount of being welcoming to non-whites and non-Asians relative to other fields will raise the percentage of blacks/Hispanics to parity with the population).

The Achilles heel of WDC area is transportation. We need investments in mass transit and pricing policies for road and street use that pit needs of reducing congestion against the veto of suburban politicians. Heretofore they could be bought off with Federal dollars, but that probably will not be possible going forward. Still the city could do more on its own with more density favorable land use and parking polices.

#4 Just commenting on the abstract and headlines: A greater emphasis on brilliance doesn't mean that hard work isn't also required. I doubt many physicists sit around and wait for lightning to strike. Aside from Benjamin Franklin. Who's key experiment was a very 'male' thing to do, I will add.

2. I think that our actions in the ME are insane but if Sachs is right why the attacks in Nigeria?

#4 "Are women and African Americans less likely to have the natural brilliance that some fields believe is required for top-level success? Although some have argued that this is so, our assessment of the literature is that the case has not been made that either group is less likely to possess innate intellectual talent (as opposed to facing stereotype threat, discrimination, and other such obstacles)"

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