Wednesday assorted links

1. MIE: “Travel to the summit of Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, where Three Twins Ice Cream’s founder will hand-churn a batch of ice cream with glacial ice from the mountain’s summit. The mountain’s glaciers are predicted to disappear within the next 10-15 years due to climate change – and your purchase helps raise awareness of this fact with a five-figure contribution to an African environmental non-profit. The sundae’s price also includes first class airfare to Tanzania, five-star accommodations, a guided climb, as much ice cream as you can eat and a souvenir t-shirt made from organic cotton.”

2. New South Wales town mobbed by thirsty emus.

3. Cowen’s Second Law there is a literature on everything including autistic zebrafish (110 papers).

4. It matters how seriously students take PISA testing.

5. Superb Samuel Hammond piece on codetermination.

6. Annie Lowrey on is pot too strong?

7. My Farnham Street podcast, mostly about how to reason, came out very well I thought.  And you can buy a transcript at the link.


Dr. Cowen,

Thought I would share this rebuttal to the Lowrey piece from my colleague Russ Bellville:[0]=68.ARA8ZcXZX-m9Naiay47W7irwKqfjyIuKmS5W028cXJU2eM4irVEyixgvOndiS5_Yh7baUbI7Hp6UmZtlz-Z3XBgZlZdZ260bVRPlpsNb2Rstb6J-gJLKfREhN0cyYXr3ZAlaf6EJnGq8&__tn__=H-R

1. . . . I'd do it, if I had the money. That sounds awesome.

5. This would be a stronger argument if innovation really was stronger right now than it had been in the past, with high productivity gains and much greater investment. But that doesn't appear to be the case - giving all the power to shareholders just seems to result in greater short-term payouts to shareholders. Firms like Apple (and Amazon, and their ilk) are very much the exceptions.

Moreover, German co-determination is far more aggressive than the Warren proposal. It's 50% of board seats, meaning that they effectively have a veto on board operations. 40% means they'd have to form a board coalition with some of the shareholders to wield power over the CEO.

I'd also add that the main obstacle for startups going big in Europe (not so bad as it used to be) was and is financing. Venture capital was much more thin on the ground until recently, and bankruptcy laws less favorable.

re: #1. A good example where the carbon-intensive jet travel, etc. used to raise awareness about climate change will itself contribute to climate change.

That... and the irony of raising awareness of the glacier's depletion by incrementally speeding up the depletion of the glacier by... you know... eating it.

I am totally going to hold a rare Cetacean Sushi evening to raise awareness of the plight of the whales now...

The man-made climate change at Kilimanjaro is the result of local conditions, not global ones. Long story short, the area was once covered with forests that pumped large amount of ground water into the atmosphere, some of which ended up as snow on Kilimanjaro. But the trees were cut down, replaced by farms (which failed) and grazing land and the ground water was depleted, so there's much less moisture in the air. Flying there won't make that any worse.

Flying there will make it worse.

Like Glen Reynolds says "When the elites start behaving like it's a crisis then I'll believe it's a crisis"

The pitchforks and torches are coming - it's just a matter of when.

Good point. Worth noting too that Al Gore’s claim that global warming was shrinking Kilimanjaro’s ice cap was one of the claims that a UK court ordered withdrawn because it was unproven. Reduced precipitation due to deforestation was cited as a cause.

If you want temperature history for Kilimanjaro over the last four years, you can see that they are falling.

Is there no appreciation of the irony of offering air travel as a benefit in a campaign to raise climate change awareness?

Well, if you really think that stunt is about climate change awareness and not selling ice cream...

Re #4: "This paper provides a method to identify and account for non-serious behavior by leveraging information in computer-based assessments in PISA 2015. We show that this bias is large: a country can rise up to 15 places in rankings if its students took the exam seriously."

Have the authors yet tested the method?

If so, are US students sérieux when it comes to PISA?

An ungated version of the paper is available at: Before and after national rankings are shown in table 4 on page 36. When all nation' scores adjusted for "seriousness" (basically an adjustment based on how many students don't bother to answer difficult questions) for the US as a whole the ranking goes from 27 to 31, Massachusetts stays steady at 7, and North Carolina goes from 22 to 23. There does not seem to be any basic control for literacy though. The US education system is notorious for social promotion and awarding diplomas to illiterates. It is not at all clear reading their methodology that the skipping questions that they have controlled for illiteracy.

Of course, the reason the study is getting play is to try to cover for the US's poor overall performance. Yet, dumping on PISA shouldn't really give the US any assurance that everything here is OK.

In 2013, the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics released the results from the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC). The PIACC provided an overview of proficiency in adult literacy, numeracy and problem-solving. In literacy, people born after 1980 in the U.S. scored lower than 15 of the 22 participating countries. Overall, U.S. adults aged 15-65 scored below the international average in all three categories— ranking near the very bottom in numeracy.

The US has a very authoritarian educational system compared with the rest of the world. Many other countries have constitutions that state that educational freedom is a basic human right. Not surprisingly, those countries perform much better than the US when it comes to educational outcomes.


Not a lot of change in the rankings after estimating how serious the test-takers were. Portugal looks like it has fairly smart slacker students, but not too much change.

Another issue with PISA is what % of eligible test-takers do the authorities round up and have take the test. Vietnam had less than half its eligible 15 year olds take the test so its score was inflated. Costa Rica and Mexico were pretty shoddy too. Argentina complained that its low score was in part due to it being more diligent than some other Latin countries about rounding up 15 year olds and having them take the test.

USA was missing about 9% of its students, Finland only about 3% and Netherland had 1% more turnout than anticipated.

Yes pot is stronger than it used to be. This means that if smoking is your method of use you can smoke less to achieve the same effect.

sorta begs the question of why according to the data a lotta people appear to be smoking a lot more pot rather than a lot less?

according to what data published by whom?

lazy americans.
we Russians have to miss hopak lessons and subverting facebook on Wednesday night from 11pm to 12 pm to cite your own research to you. tonight we were to work on the prisyadka

we will never perfect our prisyadka if we have to do your research

Теперь мы опаздываем на козьей йоги

A pint of beer, a glass of wine, a shot of scotch. How can I keep my drinks straight ?

re, how can you,rich berger, keep your drinks straight?
help john lee hooker help you;

can't help noticing you didn't address the question which is
if you can smoke less pot to get the same effect
why are a lotta people smoking more pot?

1 all you can eat ice cream at 19,300 asl is probly gonna be more ice cream than than a fella/o can keep down at 19,300ft asl

Thus the need for the free organic cotton tshirt

>a five-figure contribution to an African environmental non-profit.

And as we know, all non-profits are the Purest Form of Goodness!

We should tax the sh*t out of 'em.

Fuck yeah! Charity my ass.

5. Hammond identifies Apple as the model firm, outperforming others in both earnings and capitalization, and Steve Jobs as the model CEO, even though he could be ruthless. Of course, Apple shifted most of its production to China and employs relatively few employees here in America and avoids U.S. tax on most of its earnings by shifting income to tax havens through creative schemes. I type this comment on my MacBook, so I must like Apple's products. I do, but that doesn't mean Apple is the model firm or that Jobs was the model CEO, not if by model one means shared prosperity as compared to prosperity mostly for the investor class. Rising asset prices is not the path for sustainable economic growth; rather, it's the path for financial instability. Not to worry, as the Fed will always come to the rescue when asset prices are collapsing, even Mr. Piketty believes that to be the case. Good luck!

Apple employs 80,000 people in the US alone. Why do you do this to yourself? Surely you know something about something, why do you post about things you know nothing about?

Foxconn, which makes the iphone for Apple, has 1.2 million employees, of the roughly 4.4 million jobs Apple has created in China.

You think it would be good to have a million Americans snapping pieces of plastic together for 6 days a week, and driving many of them to suicide like Foxconn does? Of course you do, you're rayward.

Please, for your own sake, just stop.

So it's okay for Apple to drive Chinese to suicide, but not Americans? For your own sake, just stop.

Actually ray, you drove them to suicide with your MacBook purchase.

"I shouted out: who killed the Kennedys? After all, it was you and me."

And here I assumed he typed out his responses on a public library computer in a small town in Florida, during the nursing home daily library visits.

Color me shocked.


look, probably none of us are Napoleons, we are not going to change the world much, for the most part (if you are the exception God bless you).

If Ray has something to say let him say it. Ray, like you and me, is either (a) the descendant, in a godless world, of about two billion generations of living creatures, every single one of which - all two billion of them - have succeeded at reproducing. which is sort of impressive, I guess, when you look at the actual timeline, or

(b) Ray is, like me, a child of God, specifically created by God, for the kind of reason that God understands and that we understand when we care (cor ad cor loquitur) about the real reason sunsets and sunrises and the days in between, and the nights with their stars, are heartbreakingly beautiful: and when we care enough to ponder, for even a single moment, about why we are loved by God. Math is easy, creativity is hard. When you are created by God, you are someone who has benefited from divine creativity. I mean, total props to my man Ramanujan and that goofy genius Terry Tao, but on the one hand there is divine creativity, on the other hand there is being a little better at acing a funny and creative calculus test than the next guy.

Proverbs 8 ... Mock me if you want, but for the love of God, if you want to mock me, memorize Proverbs 8, and then, a year from now, mock people like me, if you still want to .... you won't want to. God loves you.

Wow, awesome post EP.

>a five-figure contribution to an African environmental non-profit.

Come to think of it: I've been assured by all of the Very Woke People that referring to Africa as if it were a single place -- as if all of its nations and peoples and cultures were an interchangeable blob -- is very extremely racist.

Would this guy ever refer to a "European non-profit"? Of course not.

What's with all the hate?

5. I don't care for Warren plans of co-determination as it is clunky but I am left wondering how the US economy is going to survive with the new normal of lower labor supply.

1) We are in a grumpy 4% unemployment economy where nobody seems happy.
2) Wages have non-managerial workers has been stagnant since 1974.
3) We are hearing many companies can't find good workers and giving upfront bonuses.
4) US vocational training/apprenterships programs are poor at best and way behind Germany work experience.
5) Why would anybody hard working and slightly ambitious want to work a blue collar job in the US? Wages are low and your voice is not heard a lot at the company.
6) I do believe these realities are slowing US family formation and the birth rates will remain low for the next several years.


1) needs evidence, nobody is happy? Citation please

2) the cost of employment has obviously gone up since 1974. This is just stupid. Also, you’re complaining that the labor market is tight while simultaneously complaining that wages have not risen as fast as you would like. Choose one.

3) yeah employers complain when the labor market tightens. Obviously.

4) not sure what your point is here. Our vocational training services do exactly what they are designed to do, which is shuffle federal dollars to vocational training service providers. Go team ‘Murica!

5) not sure what you mean by blue collar. Obviously blue collar Americans earn more income than German blue collar workers. So...what are you trying to say? You would trade lots of money for a “voice” on the board? Ok...

6) lower fertility rate in then US is just simply catching up to the long term trends among educated western countries. Revealed preferences say many educated women prefer to have zero to one child max. Good for them, I’m pro choice. We should be celebrating their freedom to choose the life they want.

Bloomberg TV had a piece about stagnant wages for truck drivers, construction workers and child care workers during a labor shortage for all three. The fact is that the new employees in these fields are moving in from businesses where they're paid even less. They're getting raises when they go from stocking at Walmart to driving a truck or from flipping burgers to changing diapers. It's the very lowest rung of the employment ladder that's liable to see a small increase, if any, in wages.

Additionally, we must realized that plumbers, carpenters and block layers are an inferior form of humanity and simply do not deserve the wages and working conditions of white collar folk:

Working conditions? Er, are you proposing we somehow make home building and plumbing sites into well-lit clean offices?

There's no reason, except for expense, that construction work areas can't be as well lit as any other place. Sanitary portable toilet facilities with running water already exist, as do clean, comfortable portable eating places. It's just way too expensive to provide them for the neanderthals that put buildings together.

There's no reason, except for expense, that everyone's home can't be as well-stocked as any other home. VIking refrigerators and 72" TVs already exist, as do 10,000 thread count bedsheets. It's just way to expensive to provide them for neanderthals that make a median wage.

Too bad Trump hasn't done a darn thing to fix blue collar work except get their jobs shipped to Asia. Harley Davidson, anyone?

#5...I’d be more impressed if the author had looked at the favours these large corporations have received from government to retain their gargantuan status, and how many small businesses have been hurt by such largesse. File this piece under “poodle talk.”

The sad little troll is still aping me, I see. ;)

Why do you think he is sad? I'm happy when someone imitates other posters. Its fun and fun is happy :-)

1. Glacial ice is effective at preserving bacteria and other delights. Yuck.

My recollection from having made homemade ice cream some years ago is that the ice is used to freeze the ice cream. It's not one of the ingredients. Thus, you're not eating the ice.

using zebra fish as an animal model to study autism is not the same
thing as diagnosing zebra fish with autism.

Good point, but the real concern here is that someone might be using state funding to train up their own swarm of methed-up zebrafish. World domination can be but a few steps away after that.

#5 "We have no idea what the Warren bill will look like, but here's what the Germans do..." Good take down of the German Mittelstand, but ultimately this article is a spippery slope argument. I don't think marginal shifts in corporate behavior is going to push America to the extreme positions you see in Europe.

Also, couldn't you argue that the government mandated, social conscious boardrooms are also the norm in SK and China?

What might be happening is the pendulum is swinging back to the post WWII through 1970s model of the corporation as more than just a profit maximizing force. The libertarian stockholders-over-all model was needed but has perhaps gone too far the other way, and now a corrective is coming.

As you say SK and China and Germany (and Japan) have more of this mindset. It's less efficient but perhaps more socially optimal. Anything with the word 'social' in it gives libertarians hives but most of the world is ok trading off some efficiency for social harmony.

That ship sailed decades ago.

It presupposes a noncoercive economic nationalism that is centered on ethnocentrism and monoculturalism

We should celebrate neither, and aspire to neither. This is not communism, this is the French burning cars, the Germans protesting Muslim immigrants, the Danes choosing to force Muslim immigrants to celebrate Christmas....

You can’t have one without the other, unless it’s coercive and then it’s called tariffs.

Think to the last time you were in Germany. How many non German cars did you see on the roads during your visit ? Gross.

Think to the last time you were in Japan, how many non Japanese cars did you see on the roads? Gross.

Politics is downstream of culture. We should celebrate a culture that does not care whether it is giving jobs to Chinese, immigrants from Honduras, Swiss bankers, or ‘Muricans.

-10. This post lacks coherency and most relevant of all, a point.

Not really, his point is pretty clear I think.

The point his clear. He'd rather an American style melting pot / multi-cultural society rather than a cultural / economic nationalist style society.

6. Utterly and Entirely the Wrong Question (scribes and editors with The Atlantic are justly notorious for seldom asking proper and informed [or even vaguely relevant] questions).

An informed question for any celebrity journalist to ask would be: "how can it be that cannabis remains listed by the Feds as a Schedule I Controlled Substance?"

#7 I particularly liked this excerpt:

This is Farnam, not Farnham!

5. Really liked Matt Yglesias on this as well.

7. There's something interesting happening in the discussion of meta-reasoning. The thought leaders/ public intellectuals need to signal sophistication to potential followers, which I worry minimizes risk taking and incentivizes focused messaging. Then again, everyone needs to parse those signals to find trustworthy voices. How? I find twitter pretty useless and I'm mostly over TED at this point. I miss Google Reader and the thriving blogosphere. Can we all put our hope in pods? There's something in them that, like blogs, feels like a more genuine "mentorship." I suppose this is a long way of saying I've yet to solve this one.

#4 The authors assumed that increasing seriousness will improve the PISA scores. The authors also assumed that the amount of skipping or spending too little time on particular questions as being not serious, ignorant about some students' exam strategies were to answer the easiest questions first which would gain some marks with some certainty before tacking the harder questions which might not yield any solutions, or vice versa tackling the harder questions first while the mind is still fresh.

The OECD PISA project had previously concurrently surveyed the well being of the participating students (over 500K ?), one factor of which was determining the percentage of students who wanted to be the best. If the students did not care (not serious) about the results of the PISA test, they would not care if they were the best. The authors raised the notion of exam fatigue as the reasons for non-seriousness. However that might also explain the amount of skipping or spending too little time on some questions even when the students were serious.

The authors referenced a few citations on motivation and test results. However the PISA project with large sample size also measured motivation and the result showed that it was statistically significant that higher motivation tended to decrease the PISA score. Further data from PISA showed that higher motivation might increase the anxiety which had borderline statistical significantly degraded the performance. The empirical data are from the PISA project.

The performance vs anxiety ambiquity can be explained more cleary with the result that seriousness/competitiveness/WantToBeTheBest had complex pitchfork relationship with performance. The students of some countries (about 25%) performed better under pressure while the majority crumpled under competitive pressure. USA having diverse demographics was situated between the two extreme.

Incidentally from the PISA data the percentage of Dominican students who wanted to be the best came out at 90.4%, c.f. USA 85.4%, Singapore 82.3%, China 81.1%, Japan 32.9% (the Japanese angst).

Dear Tyler,
#7. Thank you. Really enjoyed the podcast. I am however surprised by your answer to one of Shane's question (written below). This is because you have been exposed to many highly intelligent people. Please elaborate.

Shane: ..What would you say is the way to think well?
Tyler: I don’t know anyone who thinks well.

Thank you very much.

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