Thursday assorted links


On 4b, let me save you the click: A Salon article about Star Wars and morality is exactly what you think it is.


Moreover the author actually liked the Rey and Finn characters.

What's wrong with girl Luke? Her character is a power fantasy, but so are most space opera heroes. Like, relevantly enough, Luke Skywalker.

And Luke was a very weak character himself.

Yep, an almost universally horrible article, other than noting that the movie was, somehow, emotionally vacuous, which is entirely true.

It is amazing that the movie has gotten such strong reviews from the media. It is interesting that the movie goers score it substantially lower than the SJW media.

1) if that result holds up it will put an enormous hole in the argument that the Flynn effect shows that IQ tests measure something other than what people normally associate with 'intelligence'. Stay tuned, this will likely get nasty. I foresee many people bringing up Gould (and in the wrong way).

#7: Familiar story. Patriotic party disrupts a power grab by handmaidens of the usual suspects, ergo their allies abroad plant crappy little stories in the newspaper. No crisis, just propaganda.

True dat. Korea's current regression would probably be bigger news if we let it be, than Poland's small-time clash with the Commission. A bigger story's probably about the Commission trying to dictate Polish domestic politics. Even then, there are not many other countries which even bother. They are wrong in my view. More EU members probably should stand with Poland in this matter, since the Commission is clearly showing dictatorial tendencies lately.

I dont know anything about Polish politics, but had the same feeling reading that story. When good-for-the-courts = good-for-democracy I get skeptical. America did that to me.

meant as a reply to Art Deco

#7 ("...perhaps the most important story of the last month or so.")

Seems unimportant in the general news flow, but has some niche interest.

New Polish government is trying to reduce the unilateral power of the national judicial branch to overturn laws enacted by the national legislature. A two-thirds judicial vote would be required to declare a law unconstitutionally, versus the current requirement of a mere majority vote. Appears very reasonable.

That's a good idea for the U.S. to adopt. Judicial negation of specific formal legislation is a very big deal and should require a two-thirds SCOTUS vote, as a minimum. Same for legislative-rulings from SCOTUS that effectively create new laws for the nation from the bench. If SCOTUS wants to blatantly usurp the power of Congress and the President, it should at least muster the fig leaf of a two-thirds consent (unanimous much preferred).

Of course under the text of the U.S. Constitution, SCOTUS has no specific authority at all to declare a Congressional law unconstitutional. SCOTUS has equal (not ultimate) authority to discern Constitutionality along with Congress and the President. The present custom of imposing SCOTUS ultimate authority on all matters of national law was a power SCOTUS granted itself from thin air (Marbury vs Madison). If SCOTUS doesn't like specific laws, it should decline to enforce them in Federal Courts; that is a very powerful tool, similar to Presidential veto power.

"Equal authority" makes no sense. When a court "overturns" a law, that is usually the result of an existing court case being litigated where the question arises as to whether a negative outcome for one party violates the constitution. If that is a legitimate question for the Supreme Court and federal courts in general to interpret, then they should do so just as they do under the status quo. And if that is not a legitimate question, then the courts don't have any authority at all to interpret the Constitution.

To put in concrete terms, if you say something insulting about President Obama and he sues you for defamation, where do you go to get that lawsuit dismissed and on what grounds? Congress can't interfere with individual civil suits and can only pass general laws (often vaguely worded) determining the scope of what is or is not defamation. Since you've insulted the President, you aren't getting any redress from the Executive branch. It looks like you are going to have ask the court to dismiss the lawsuit on First Amendment grounds. Which means the court gets to interpret the First Amendment and use that to decide on when a defamation lawsuit is or is not permissible in light of the First Amendment. Other countries without a First Amendment or without an independent judiciary tasked with protecting the rights of private citizens often wind up with this scenario quite a bit.

#7...Maybe I'm missing something, but it reads as if the ruling party currently has enough power to pass its agenda, based upon a majority, and also plans to change the constitution to ensure that laws that might someday be reviewed as to their constitutionality that they pass can only be ruled unconstitutional by a super majority. How can that be fair or good?

The ruling party was in power before - and their SJWs used the Constitutional Court to strike down all the laws they tried to pass.

So the out-going government attempts to rig the Constitutional Court so they can so it again. The ruling government is disinclined to let them - and as far as I can see they have a strong legal case for doing so.

Although ultimately this issue is not about the Court. The present Polish government rejects the compromise with the Communists that produced the present Polish state. A compromise that meant most Communists got off scot-free for their crimes and even were allowed to keep most secret police file secret. This republic was born in sin and if it ended, with real justice being given to the victims of Communism, that would be a benefit to all mankind.

"The present Polish government rejects the compromise with the Communists that produced the present Polish state"

Then why do they appoint former party members like Piotrowicz?

"The ruling government is disinclined to let them – and as far as I can see they have a strong legal case for doing so"

Only if you believe in retro-active legislation and think that rule by party should supplant rule of law.

Essentially the ruling party wants to rule by decree which is a strategy that does not generally bring optimal results.

Cliff Arroyo December 25, 2015 at 1:44 am

Only if you believe in retro-active legislation and think that rule by party should supplant rule of law.

Neither of those claims fits this situation. The out-going government tried to foist five of its placemen in the Constitutional Court. The Courts struck down the appoint of two. I assume we all agree that was right and proper? The other three were not confirmed and the present government declines to do so. If the Constitution says they must, then they would be in the wrong legally speaking. But I don't think it does. It looks to me as if they are within their rights not to confirm people they did not pick.

Either way nothing here is retrospective.

Essentially the ruling party wants to rule by decree which is a strategy that does not generally bring optimal results.

The Court will still sit. It will still pass judgement on the government. It will just need more votes to do so. There is nothing like rule by decree here.

There is nothing here to complain about - except the fact that the Polish people have not voted the way that the deracinated cosmopolitan elites think they should have. So they must be punished.

My point had nothing to do with particular parties. The added judges is meant to make it harder to strike down legislation the ruling party intends to pass, as I read the story. By your logic, FDR's court packing plan was fair because there would still be a Supreme Court. Hugo Chavez changed the Constitution in Venezuela to make it easier for him to pass his agenda and favor him in future elections. But there was still a constitution, so that was fair. Huh

Let me be clear...When a particular party changes a constitution in order to promote its own agenda, this is neither good nor fair. Changes in the constitution should be a national issue.

"The other three were not confirmed and the present government declines to do so. If the Constitution says they must, then they would be in the wrong legally speaking. But I don’t think it does"

Once the decision by the TK is published then the president is legally bound to confirm them (the president accepts their oaths). The president has so far declined to do so in clear violation of the current constitution. At least two Colleges of Law have written open letters to him urging him to follow the law. His academic mentor has publicly distanced himself from him.

The present strategy seems to be to change the constitution to make the president's action retroactively legal.

" the Polish people have not voted the way that the deracinated cosmopolitan elites think they should have. So they must be punished"

I live in Poland and talk to people on the ground. The ruling party ran a very effective campaign that promised a change of generational power within the party. They quickly reneged on that by dragging out all the old fossils that are voter poison as soon as they won (they vetted the idea of appointing one as PM instead of the candidate who ran as the prospective PM but public reaction was very, very negative.

There is no private property in China. Everything is leased. After 70 years, all property in China reverts to the state. Isn't that, like, a 100% property tax? Every single cent of added value to a piece of property will eventually return to the state.

How can it be much higher?

I was thinking something kind of like that.

But when you rent/lease in China, most often it's not directly from the government, but rather from developers or other third parties after markups in the market. So I'm not sure what that does to the idea that it's a 100% property tax. Perhaps not 100%, but surely way higher than zero.

However, this is quite different from the idea that if people are paying a monthly/annual property tax a) they will more likely rent and less likely sit on idle capital, and b) will be better advocates for urban infrastructure needs.

Well if you compound/capitalize over 70 years in a DCF model with Chinese-style WACC rates (7% growth so I'd say at least 10%) the terminal value will probably be less than 1% of total value.

Isn't it just the land that returns to the state (which will, presumably, lease it again at a new price)? Don't the buildings belong to whoever bought them?

They do this in much of England and it isn't problem. And, while this practice sounds weird to American ears, in most locations we tax property heavily so you never own real estate, you just rent it from the government, as in China and England.

4: People are fleeing blue states for red states, and darn it, Bloomberg just can't nail down the reason why!

The weather, apparently? That's gotta be it. The weather in Texas just paradise year-round, I hear.

They seem to mostly be fleeing New York. Another 600k+ in only the last 5 years.

5, small-government Progressives aren't *that* unusual. They're still Progressives, fundamentally.

Can capitalists really be small government?

Can you build a housing development or factory or office park without big government?

Without big government, the capitalist must build everything a society needs starting with roads, water, sewer, housing for workers, schools for workers and future workers, the legal system to protect their property.

Capitalists must be progressives if one expects gdp growth.

Capitalists who do not seek growth are likely rent seekers, but often they seek growth in rents, but without reinvesting the rents to progressively improve their capital assets which would reduce their return on investment from rents.


definitely Yes

No, as mall gov't can provide basic needs.

No, quite the opposite.

Capitalists who do not seek growth are likely not capitalists.

You have to have some government, to enforce property rights, adjudicate disputes, build roads, feed the starving, and (they don't do this now) house the homeless and insane.

I think I can do that for less than 41% of GDP - don't you?

1) While I easily believe that improving nutrition to a certain standard is key for brain development of young children, one might simply argue that education has gotten better since 1900 and that this is more relevant for the results obtained on a standardized test rather than nutrition.

E.g., improved nutrition might increase brain size up to a certain point, but improved access to education might be more relevant in explaining improvements in a standardized test.

Nathan - the improvements in IQ have also observed when the testing is measured using entirely "non-cultural" tests like Raven's Matrices, so better education seems unlikely to be the reason for the Flynn effect. (Note these tests were introduced in the 1930's so not a recent phenomenon). Perhaps familiarity with test taking in general is part of the reason, but testing taking is not the same as education.

I tend to assume that familiarity with test taking (part of education) is a pretty big part of the story.

These Raven's Matrices (hadn't hard of them before) seem pretty good for not having cultural bias, but it seems like an exceedingly narrow definition of intelligence.

I like the ideas of "multiple intelligences" (, but since they are quite broad presumably it gets difficult to test. For example, motivating an "unbiased" test of "moral intelligence" might seem like an oxymoron. As a relatively new idea, and with little data, however, it's not going to give much for historical analysis along the lines presented in the article.

No offence, but if you had not heard of Raven's Matrices before and the g-factor, then probably you should do some basic research on intelligence and IQ testing before you comment further. For instance the "multiple-intelligence" theory, as the Wiki article says, is fairly well debunked. IQ testing however, using "narrow" methods like Raven's Matrices is probably the most robust predictive tool in psychology, capable of predicting pretty how successful people will be in life, and even their health and longevity.

+1000. The first comment of the day should simply repeat this statement.
No offence, but if you had not heard of "X" and "Y" then probably you should do some basic research on Z before you comment further.

The article does not say it's been debunked. You could equally conclude that it's harder to empirically demonstrate complex ideas than simple ones.

It is not hard to create some cover of empirical "proof" for a one-dimensional concept, and Raven's Matrices are pretty one-dimensional when it comes to intelligence. What, for example, does it have to say about wit, or good story telling, both of which are key for marketing and entertainment - both of which critical components of market activities?

An important point is this: definitions of intelligence are always found wanting, depending on who you talk to.

And the political views of Matthew Belmonte,

I am genuinely puzzled. Why would anyone link to this collection of unexamined prejudices except to mock? I don't want to be mean on Christmas and all, but why would anyone link to this unless they really hated Matt Belmonte?

My political views aren’t easily pigeonholed.

See? This is a problem from the start. As his views are easily pigeonholed. He is the standard over-educated upper middle class Leftist. Note that although he claims some affinity to libertarianism, in fact nothing he says suggests he in any way opposes a bigger state.

If you go through the pages and pages of letters he is proud of having written, maybe three of them could be described as anything other than boilerplate Leftism. He supports some limited use of Great Apes for medical testing, he wrote one letter supporting concealed carry permit holders passing through the People's Republic of Massachusetts and he wrote one letter supporting Lee Teng-hui visiting America.

Pretty much everything else is in support of a more powerful state.

I’m as petrified of big, overbearing companies as I am of big, overbearing governments..... I suppose this view explains why a lot of my friends are socialists. We share a far-off goal: a society built on genuine respect and trust instead of on violence and threats.

Yeah. GE got where they are based on violence and threats. Maybe most of his friends are socialists because he is a socialist? He just likes to claim otherwise. A society built on genuine respect and trust would have large corporations. How can you stop people being successful? Socialism, on the other hand, requires violence and threats. Customers buy GE's products because they like them. They pay taxes because large men with guns will come and introduce them to prison rape if they don't. This is libertarianism 101.

The United States has a long, episodic history of trampling on individual rights in the name of fighting communists, terrorists, druggies, or whoever the current bogeymen happen to be.

Compared to who? Name three people whose rights were trampled on fighting Communism. This is just standard Leftist boiler plate. He says he prefers India. Which is true for a lot of people if they have a passport and a ticket home. India tortures. India has used death squads. India encourages land lords to form local gangs for keeping order in the countryside People disappear. How is this preferable?

What bothers me most about the United States is the doublethink. The United States trumpets democracy, yet only two political parties rule by demagoguery over its well trained but (for the most part) poorly educated populace.

More socialism - False consciousness rears its head. If he thinks the voters are so stupid, how can he have any faith in democracy at all? Perhaps he could ask his "socialist" friends?

The United States rightly criticises the human rights abuses of other governments, yet asserts the right to torture its enemies, to kill its criminals, and to administer prisons as instruments of vengeance rather than rehabilitation.

If only prisons were run as instruments of vengeance. That would be an improvement. They cannot be run for rehabilitation as rehabilitation does not exist. It is a fantasy.

Its government is explicitly separated from religion, yet its culture (which inevitably spills over into its political discourse) is one of the most fanatically religious in the West.

Really? Compared to where? Ireland perhaps? Notice the inconsistency - in his other blog he says he loves India because .... "its wealth of peoples, languages and cultures, the sincerity of its many devotees of many faiths, the omnipresence of its mythic narratives and their instantiations in daily life".

That is, American religion bad, Indian religion good.

The United States regards itself as the epitome of freedom, yet its security culture abhors even harmless deviance, and the entire place often seems a self-absorbed contest as to who can be (or become) the most stereotypically American. Flags hang numbly from houses, schools, even petrol stations.

White people suck don't they? Imagine it - patriotism. Vile.

This is just an rather insecure member of the Upper Middle class marking himself off from the proles. Again, it is so predictable it is boring.

By 2002 this culture of flag-waving conformism had got so bad that I couldn’t take any more of it. Every morning I awoke angry at the contradictions, and finally I decided that the only way to stay sane was to leave. I wrote a letter to the MIT campus newspaper that briefly states my thoughts on the situation, and that probably summarises my position as well as anything will.

Of course he announces he is leaving by writing to a student newspaper.

At long last, I reckoned, the United States would have a chance too repudiate the policies that had uprooted it from its principles and squandered the world’s goodwill.

What goodwill? But if W's policies were so stupid, how is Obama doing? How is that great reset with the Middle East working out?

Though there were many questions of tactics, the election was lost because of one fundamental reason: Americans don’t value education.

Stupid proles and their false consciousness again. Libertarianism is based on the idea that people are adults and can look after themselves. They make choices and live with the consequences. There is an ideology on the Left that strongly believes the workers are fooled and need an elite to take care of them. That is not libertarianism.

Education is what allows one to think for oneself; training is what allows one to think for the Man.

More marking himself off from the proles again.

But the Man hates true education

That is why Harvard is funded by poor White trash. Obviously.

Although ‘education’ in Britain is in general a great deal less flexible than ‘education’ in the United States, at least school leavers in Britain are provided with a fundamental knowledge of the political system and an opportunity to appreciate their stake in it.

I doubt British school children could name either House of Parliament and they probably think Katie Price is the Queen's daughter-in-law. Again he has a choice of opting for America's more libertarian, local, decentralized education system or Britain's centralized quasi-Stalinist system. Not really a choice is it?

the ruin to which they and the rest of the world are being led by the Bush government’s liberal policies (‘liberal’ in the denotational sense of intrusiveness and expansion of power).

On what planet can "liberal" be applied to anything W did? Seriously.

I realised that my most effective weapon was education: whereas fighting the Americans head-on would only reinforce their resolve, the American ideology might yet be dismantled from within.

So basically Gramsci. Again, not a libertarian.

Is this man famous for something? Is there any reason to link to the sort of ideas you can find in any student newspaper? I am genuinely puzzled. This is the sort of thing most people regret writing, you know, later in life. Someone tell me that MR is trolling their readership?

Also he does not appear to be at Churchill College any more.

Oh myyyyy, you must have grown up in 1960s America and bought every last piece of Red Scare propaganda you ever heard, and then held on to it for dear life in any case of the remotest possible analogy.

We know now that every last piece of the Red Scare propaganda was true.

"Red scare propaganda" was current around about 1952. It was treated in magazine literature as a species of madness by 1970. Sen. McCarthy traded in a certain amount of rubbish, but the basic narrative was true: extensive infiltration of the film business, certain unions, the publishing business, and public agencies including several subcabinet officers of the Roosevelt and Truman administrations.

Would another 100 million killed convince you?

It's curious that the moderator linked to it. That web page looks like it was put together in 1998. It hasn't been updated at all in 4 or 5 years and the political statement was written in 2005.

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