Month: July 2017

Friday assorted links

1. Is there such a thing as “the Dirtbag Left”?

2. Is China making the right trade-offs between short- and long-term growthWas French Revolution land redistribution good for ag productivity?  Or is it too soon to tell?

3. Pseudoerasmus on how you get to Denmark.

4. J.M. Coetzee wrote early poetry in 1965 computer code.

5. Claims about grid batteries.

6. Julia Galef on YIMBY vs. NIMBY.

7. Michael Cannon is not enthusiastic about the Cruz amendment.

They can watch your heart now, too

An Ohio judge has ruled that data from a pacemaker can be used in court.

Defendant Ross Compton, who faces aggravated arson charges, claims he was woken by a fire at home, packed a case, broke a window and threw out the bag.

A cardiologist told police his explanation was “highly improbable” based on his heart rate and cardiac rhythms at the time.

Mr Compton’s lawyer said allowing pacemaker evidence expanded government snooping into private data.

Here is the full story, and here is an appalling add-on:

According to local paper Journal News, Judge Charles Pater said: “There is a lot of other information about things that may characterise the inside of my body that I would much prefer to keep private rather than how my heart is beating. It is just not that big of a deal.”

Via Michelle Dawson.  And here is an article about retail interference with brain implants.

A short interview with me about writing

It is with Writing Routines, here is the interview, here is one bit:

When you first sit down to write, how do you start?

The keyboard is the most useful part, though I will check my email and maybe Twitter first, so I don’t miss something big.

What’s your process for editing your own work?

I repeatedly edit it many times, at least ten. I just keep on doing it, until I can’t think of further improvements. I can’t say that is a process in any formal sense, simply a recognition that the “process” to date hasn’t worked very well and so it must continue. I don’t pretend this is efficient.

And this:

For better or worse, I just don’t have that many modes.

The hidden inequality of mosquito bites

Now, a team of public health researchers studying neighborhoods in Baltimore has added one more indignity to that list: poorer neighborhoods also have to deal with more serious mosquito infestations.

The researchers, led by Eliza Little of Columbia University, surveyed Asian tiger mosquito populations in five West Baltimore neighborhoods, spanning the gamut from the impoverished (Harlem Park) to the well-heeled (Bolton Hill).

For three years, they surveyed a number of factors known to influence mosquito populations: abandoned buildings, accumulating trash, sources of standing water and surface vegetation among them. They tallied mosquito larvae and pupae where they found them, and put up periodic traps to catch and count adult female mosquitoes (the ones that do the biting).

It turned out, unsurprisingly, that poor neighborhoods have more abandoned buildings and also have more accumulated trash and more standing pools of water, all conducive to mosquitoes.

Here is the Wonkblog piece by Christopher Ingraham, here is the paper itself, in the Journal of Medical Entomology.

United States v. Nixon

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.

Thursday assorted links

1. Are people more likely to be accurate in providing information about their sex lives than their intelligence?

2. A new metric of sympathy and affection: “do you listen to me at 1.7x or 1.3x?”

3. Gangnam Style is no longer the most played video.

4. Eels.

5. “The consensus in Iqaluit seems to be that everyone with a credit card has an Amazon Prime membership. That’s because people can often find groceries cheaper online than in local stores, despite government food subsidy programs.

“Amazon Prime has done more toward elevating the standard of living of my family than any territorial or federal program. Full stop. Period,” a local principal, who declined to speak further, said on Facebook.” Link here, however they fear a cut-off.

6. “Economists are 37x more likely to have an economist father than a random dad draw would predict. For med doctors it’s 24x. Plumbers 14x.”  From Susan Dynarski.

Not From The Onion: The Stress of Summer Vacation

“We have this mythical belief that everyone will come out of it at the other end OK,” she said. “You don’t end up as a faculty member unless you did survive it. That doesn’t mean that there weren’t people in my generation who got so stressed out that they left. They did leave. We just never talked about them.”

So what is this terrible, stressful problem that not all faculty survive? Summer vacation. No really.

For nine months a year at research universities, instructors and students build communities from a transient group of academics unified by one thing: classes. Professors invest time in students, committees, and teaching; students invest time in their assignments.

…That changes in the summer. The fixed schedule disappears, the community disperses, and the work that has been building up over the school year can loom dangerously close to deadline.

…It’s in that solitude that professors and students say they experience what some call a “summer slump,” a period of isolation that can heighten symptoms of depression or anxiety for those susceptible to such disorders.

To cope with that slump, Ms. Hagen read personal testimonies and learned that the separation she feels is widespread, even normal. But her university never addressed it. “As wonderful as my adviser is, that’s not a conversation that was ever shared,” Ms. Hagen said. “We never talked about what’s important to your mental health.”

I think the conservative critique of higher education is overblown. But with articles like this in the Chronicle of Higher Education it’s no wonder that much of America is angry and dismissive of a coddled intellectual class that is utterly divorced from their own, normal life experiences. (I too am a coddled member of that class but I know how fortunate and privileged I am to have a job in academia.)

The correction only widens the gap:

Corrections (6/16/2017, 10:43 a.m.): A previous version of this article mistakenly referred to Dafina-Lazarus Stewart as “she.” Mx. Stewart uses the pronouns ze, zim, and zir.

The Golden Age of Conservative Intellectuals

When was the Golden Age of Conservative Intellectuals? It is easy to say when the Golden Age began; April 1947 at the first meeting of the Mont Pelerin society. Among those in attendance were:

  • Maurice Allais, Paris
  • Aaron Director, Chicago
  • Walter Eucken, Freiburg
  • Milton Friedman, Chicago
  • F. A. Harper, Irvington-on-Hudson, New York
  • F. A. Hayek, London
  • Henry Hazlitt, New York
  • Bertrand de Jouvenel, Chexbres, Vaud
  • F. H. Knight, Chicago
  • Fritz Machlup, Buffalo
  • Ludwig von Mises, New York
  • Felix Morley, Washington, D.C.
  • Michael Polanyi, Manchester]
  • Karl R. Popper, London
  • William E. Rappard, Geneva
  • Leonard E. Read, Irvington-on-Hudson, New York
  • Lionel Robbins, London
  • Wilhelm Ropke, Geneva
  • George J. Stigler, Providence, Rhode Island
  • C. V. Wedgwood, London

(Full list here). It’s more difficult to say when the Golden Age ended. If I had to pick a date I’d say at a moment of triumph, November 9, 1989.

Is Dali, Yunnan the very best place in the world to visit right now?

It has just that right mix of exotic and comfort, and is mostly unfrequented by Western tourists.  You can spend a day in the center of town and not see ten of them.  Here are a few points:

1. Except for the rainy season, the weather is perfect pretty much every day, all year round.  Unlike much of China, there is virtually no air pollution.

2. The town is set on a gorgeous lake, backed by lovely green mountains.  Dali has about one million people, and so it feels very manageable.  Yet it offers virtually every amenity and convenience.

3. Driving to the local villages around the lake is highly worthwhile.  Track down the local ceremonies and rituals.

4. The town and the surrounding region is full of ethnic minority groups, most prominently the Bai.  You can eat their food and buy their crafts.  There are other minority groups too, including various kinds of Muslims.  This is where Han Chinese and southeast Asian and Tibetan influences intersect.

5. The local cuisine features fish soups, cured ham, flowers, lotus root, and mushrooms mushrooms mushrooms.  For breakfast, bread is served with honey.  You can’t get these dishes anywhere else, not even in other parts of China, and yet none of this food is expensive.

6. You can stay at a luxurious five-star Hilton for $130 a night, or spend less and still do well.

7. The old town has crafts and curios and clothes shopping at very good prices.

8. The level of crime and other mishaps is extremely low.

For a good treatment of all of Yunnan, I recommend Jim Goodman, The Exploration of Yunnan.  Here is Wikitravel on Dali.

Malcolm Gladwell at Behavioral Scientist on race and the courts

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.

Minimum Wage and Restaurant Hygiene Violations

This is evidence from Seattle, from a new paper by Subir K. Chakrabarti, Srikant Devaraj, and Pankaj C. Patel.  Here is the abstract:

We assess the effects of rise in minimum wages on hygiene violation scores in food service establishments. Using a difference-in-difference analysis on hygiene rating of food establishments in Seattle [where minimum wage increased annually between 2010 and 2013] as the treated group and from New York City [minimum wage was constant] as the control group, we find an increase in real minimum wage by $0.10 increased total hygiene violation scores by 11.45 percent. Consistent with our theoretical model, an increase in minimum wage in Seattle has no influence in more severe (red) violations, and a significant increase in less severe (blue) violations. Our findings are consistent while using an alternate control group – Bellevue City, King County, located near Seattle.

Of course this makes perfect sense.  Even when minimum wages do not much decrease employment, they are not a free lunch, so to speak.  “There ain’t no such thing as a healthy free lunch” [TANSTAAHFL, the pronunciation differs only slightly] could be the new catchphrase.

For the pointer I thank the excellent Kevin Lewis.

10 Chinese Megacities to See Before You Die

That is the title of my latest Bloomberg column; I love Chinese megacities, don’t you?  Here is the first and most general point:

Chinese megacities are associated with the greatest migration in human history, namely the movement of several hundred million people from the countryside into urban areas. This has created over 100 cities with a population of more than one million. And while Westerners tend to see only the harmful effects of that transformation, it’s gone fairly smoothly. Wages and living standards have risen to create the biggest rapid boost in prosperity the world has seen, ever. Surely it’s worth taking a closer look at that.

Here is the most important point:

If you spend a few days in these places, they will stand out as quite distinct. To suggest otherwise is actually to repeat a common Western imperialist meme about the Chinese, namely that they “are all the same” in some underlying manner. Observing and understanding diversity is a skill, and the Chinese megacities are one of the best places for cultivating this capacity.

By the way, the cameo appearance in the opening bit is Dan Wang.

DARE to Look at the Evidence!

We must have Drug Abuse Resistance Education…I am proud of your work. It has played a key role in saving thousands of lives and futures.

Speaking at the 30th DARE Training Conference, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was enthusiastic and strongly supportive of DARE, the program started in Los Angeles in 1983 that uses police officers to give young children messages about staying drug free and resisting peer pressure.

And what do our excellent colleagues at GMU’s Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy say about DARE?

D.A.R.E. is listed under “What doesn’t work?” on our Review of the Research Evidence. 

Rosenbaum summarized the research evidence on D.A.R.E. by titling his 2007 Criminology and Public Policy article “Just say no to D.A.R.E.” As Rosenbaum describes, the program receives over $200 million in annual funding, despite little or no research evidence that D.A.R.E. has been successful in reducing adolescent drug or alcohol use. As Rosenbaum (2007: 815) concludes “In light of consistent evidence of ineffectiveness from multiple studies with high validity, public funding of the core D.A.R.E. program should be eliminated or greatly reduced. These monies should be used to fund drug prevention programs that, based on rigorous evaluations, are shown to be effective in preventing drug use.”

A systematic review by West and O’Neal (2004) examined 11 published studies of D.A.R.E. and reached similar conclusions. D.A.R.E. has little or no impact on drug use, alcohol use, or tobacco use. They concluded that ““Given the tremendous expenditures in time and money involved with D.A.R.E., it would appear that continued efforts should focus on other techniques and programs that might produce more substantial effects” (West & O’Neal, 2004: 1028).

Recent reformulations of the D.A.R.E. program have not shown successful results either. For example, the Take Charge of your Life program, delivered by D.A.R.E. officers was associated with significant increases in alcohol and cigarette use by program participants compared to a control group (Sloboda et al., 2009).

Wednesday assorted links

1. Lessons from German labor market reforms.

2. Some of the recent attacks on David Brooks indicate a) the current Left doesn’t understand its own intellectual history very well, and b) many of the attackers are part of the problem and cannot stand being told so.  Here is a Rod Dreher response.  Here is Monkey Cage.

3. Chinese researchers teleport a Gobi desert photon to a satellite orbiting the earth.

4. Science writers on the books that inspired them.

5. Scott Sumner argues China will democratize with p = 0.95.

6. Milton Friedman circa 1946.  And the economics of why the NBA West is so much better than the NBA East.

7. Amartya Sen not allowed to utter the word “cow” in a movie, rules India’s film censor.