Month: December 2018
Michael Rappaport at Law and Liberty:
…if the FBI believes that an interviewee has lied during the interview, he or she can be prosecuted for false statements to the government. The penalty for this is quite serious. Under 18 U.S.C. 1001, making a false statement to the federal government in any matter within its jurisdiction is subject to a penalty of 5 years imprisonment. That is a long time.
How does the FBI prove the false statement? One might think that they would make a videotape of the interview, which would provide the best evidence of whether the interviewee made a false statement. But if one thought this, one would be wrong, very wrong.
The FBI does not make videotapes of interviews. Apparently, there are FBI guidelines that prohibit recordings of interviews. Instead, the FBI has a second agent listen to the interview and take notes on it. Then, the agent files a form—a 302 form—with his or her notes from the interview.
What is going on here? Why would the FBI prohibit videotaping the interviews and instead rely on summaries? The most obvious explanations do not cast a favorable light on the Bureau. If they don’t tape the interview, then the FBI agents can provide their own interpretation of what was said to argue that the interviewee made a false statement. Since the FBI agent is likely to be believed more than the defendant (assuming he even testifies), this provides an advantage to the FBI. By contrast, if there is a videotape, the judge and jury can decide for themselves.
…One might even argue this is unconstitutional under existing law. Under the Mathews v. Eldridge interpretation of the Due Process Clause, a procedure is unconstitutional if another procedure would yield more accurate decisions and is worth the added costs. Given the low costs of videotaping, it seems obvious that the benefits of such videotaping for accuracy outweigh the costs.
See also this excellent piece by Harvey Silverglate.
St. Nicholas “Lipensky” (Russian icon from Lipnya Church of St. Nicholas in Novgorod. From Wikipedia.
Are majority-Muslim countries laggards when it comes to developing liberal economic institutions? Using an Index of Economic Freedom and its component parts, this study finds that Muslim-dominant countries (>50% of the population) are positively associated with free-market capitalism. Protestant dominance is also positively correlated, but the association stems from just two components of the index, mainly “legal security and property rights protection.” Surprisingly, Protestant countries correlate negatively with “small government” and “freedom to trade,” two critical components of free-market capitalism. Muslim dominance shows positive correlations with all areas except for “legal security and property rights.” The results are consistent when assessing similar variables measuring property rights and government ownership of the economy collected by the Varieties of Democracy Project. Capitalistic policies and institutions, it seems, may travel across religions more easily than culturalists claim.
As recently as 2013, New York had more people than Florida. Now Florida has 1.75 million more than New York. Indeed 35% of US population growth now occurs in Florida and Texas.
That is from Scott Sumner. And here is Scott’s post on how the United States is becoming more like Europe:
The US population has gone from growing about one percentage point faster than the EU in the 1990s, to perhaps a third of a point faster today.
So what other ways is the US becoming more like Europe?
1. The percentage of Americans who are not religious has been rising dramatically.
2. Our health care system is increasingly socialized.
3. Our politics increasingly resembles the populism of places like Hungary and Italy. The political polarization resembles the Brexit split in the UK. Anti-immigration nationalism came on the scene in Europe before it hit the US.
4. The recent criminal justice reform bill slightly (and I emphasize slightly) moves us in the European direction of lower rates of incarceration. We are also slightly softening the war on drugs.
5. Walkable shopping areas are increasingly popular. Some cities are moving to allow dense townhouses in areas previously reserved for single-family homes.
After years of rapid growth, China’s investment in the US is dropping rapidly. From $56bn in 2016, it has fallen to less than a quarter of that in 2018.
That is from Ed Luce at the FT.
5. What Dan Wang learned in 2018. Recommended.
6. Lottery-like prizes to induce savings (NYT).
Curry and James are both taking four pull-up threes per game this season. Curry is making 45% of them. James is making 40% of them.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. James made 30% of his two pull-up threes per game in 2016. His shooting percentage ranked 19th of the 21 players who took as many of these shots as he did. He was closer to Kobe Bryant and Russell Westbrook than Curry.
There are 12 players this season with similar numbers to his. Curry is still No. 1 in terms of shooting percentage. James is now No. 2.
…James now relies on threes for nearly 30% of his shots. That percentage is by far the highest of his career. It’s also higher than Kevin Durant’s this season.
He’s not only taking more 3-pointers. He’s also taking longer 3-pointers.
Pando Pooling is a startup headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif. The company’s founders, Charlie Olson and Eric Lax, met in 2015 at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business where they dreamed up an endeavor that would support people in high-volatility careers—entrepreneurs, primarily. (Pando is Latin for “I spread out,” and also refers to a colony of aspen trees, whose roots intertwine to make a massive underground network.) What if, they wondered, a large enough group of entrepreneurs pooled shares of their earnings, ensuring that each entrepreneur stood less chance of going bust? In theory this would allow entrepreneurs to take more risks in pursuing their ideas.
Olson and Lax didn’t start with entrepreneurs, though. They took their idea to a different field—literally. Just as MLB teams pool a third of their revenue to support smaller-market teams, Olson and Lax saw an opportunity to give young baseball players more security. As with entrepreneurs, only a small set of players go on to earn fortunes; many talented, driven players leave with little. (Less than 25% of first-round draft picks play more than three years in the majors.) Unlike tech founders, though, players are paid at regular intervals.
Here’s Pando’s pitch: A young player contributes a fixed share of his salary to his pool after he receives at least $1.6 million in MLB earnings. There is more than one pool, but every member in each pool must agree on every other poolmate, and Pando takes 10% of each pool. Pando recruits players through agents, financial advisers and players who have already signed with the company; Olson says he has 150 members so far. Once a player is on board, Pando then tries to match him with a handful of similar players to form a pool.
Here is the full Sports Illustrated article. It is a longstanding puzzle why such arrangements never have taken off. Is it some mix of adverse selection, excess optimism, too high resulting marginal tax rates, and bad PR because it is vaguely reminiscent of slavery? Still, just think — if this could work the incentive to invest in the talent of other people would be so much higher.
Via Conor Durkin.
4. Bikini litigation (NYT, interesting but long-winded).
6. The new Robert Alter bible translation (NYT).
The new American law, enacted on Wednesday and called the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, says the secretary of state, who is now Mike Pompeo, must within 90 days give Congress a report that lays out the level of access to Tibetan areas that Chinese officials grant Americans.
The secretary is then supposed to determine which Chinese officials are responsible for placing limits on foreigners traveling to Tibet and bar them from getting visas to the United States or revoke any active visas they have. The secretary must make this assessment annually for five years.
The goal of the law is to force Chinese officials to relent on the limits they impose on travel to Tibetan areas.
Here is more from Edward Wong at the NYT. It is unlikely that this is a good idea.
Reviving classical attention to gathering times as sites of transformation and building on more recent microsociological work, this paper uses qualitative data to show how social occasions open up unexpected bursts of change in the lives of those attending. They do this by pulling people into a special realm apart from normal life, generating collective effervescence and emotional energy, bringing usually disparate people together, forcing public rankings, and requiring complex choreography, all of which combine to make occasions sites of inspiration and connection as well as sites of offense and violation. Rather than a time out from “real” life, social occasions hold an outsized potential to unexpectedly shift the course that real life takes. Implications for microsociology, social inequality, and the life course are considered.
That is from the excellent Alice Goffman. And “from the credits,” here is the really big news:
Alice Goffman is assistant professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin Madison and McConnell Visiting Assistant Professor at Pomona College. She is finishing a book titled Fateful: Where and When Life Changes Unexpectedly, with University of Chicago Press.
Via Kevin Lewis.
Philip sent me this email, and very generously allowed me to reproduce it:
Tyler,I know you’ve been going back and forth recently on travel writing. I don’t read a ton of travel writing, but I could totally see why it has limitations, like all genres. I say this after studying Graham Greene a favorite writer of mine. He crossed over successfully into many genres of writing. Travel writing being one of them.Here’s my point. Rolf Potts interviews Pico Iyer on a book he wrote about Graham Greene and Pott’s asks this questions below:
One interesting contradiction you raise in your book is how Greene was better at evoking the humanity of faraway places in his fiction than in his nonfiction travel books. You even go so far as to say that “his travel books were a near-perfect example of how not to write or think about travel.” Why do you think this is the case, and what does it say about Greene’s way of seeing the world?
We are never less forthright than when writing of ourselves; that’s one of the lessons I feel I share with Greene (or maybe partly learned from him). Memoir to me is a kind of fiction, and the most striking autobiographical works I know—whether Philip Roth’s The Facts or W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn or V.S. Naipaul’s The Enigma of Arrival—all present themselves as novels. So it’s always seemed perfect to me that in his two quasi-memoirs, Greene uses charm and anecdote and childhood memory to avoid really telling us anything about himself, his loves or his beliefs; yet in his novels, given a mask or cover, he’s as naked and unguarded as any author I know. Give yourself an alias or call your work fiction and you can say things you might not say to your closest friends.
In his travel-writing, likewise, Greene was always on the outside of what he was observing, ever more English, seated in a corner, pouring abuse and scorn on the alien scene around him. Yet as soon as he worked up the material he’d seen in Mexico into a novel—The Power and the Glory—he was so deeply inside his characters, both the whisky priest protagonist and even the lieutenant in pursuit of him, that he wrote perhaps his most affecting and compassionate novel, and the one, liberatingly, without a single English character in it.
He might be almost offering us—inadvertently—a lesson on the limitations of travel-writing, much as Naipaul or Theroux or Maugham also do in novels that are far more compassionate and sympathetic than the travel-books that gave rise to them. In writing a non-fictional book about travel, you usually have to create a fictional persona of sorts, some convenient version of the self that will make the narrative work. But that front is almost never as rich or deep or conflicted as the self we allow ourselves to entertain in fiction; it can’t be. Very often the travel-writers we enjoy are engaging or buoyant or splenetic on the page, but all those are really just useful props, tiny fragments of the self, and don’t always take us very deep.
The problem with this paper is that it excludes, entirely, individuals and businesses who use Facebook as a (or The) e-commerce channel for their commercial activities. That’s a common mistake, especially in the US and Europe, where the platform is widely viewed as a means for non-commercial social interaction. But elsewhere in the world – especially Africa and India – it’s also viewed as a crucial commercial and trading platform (that Facebook is trying to leverage). Ask a Nigerian secondhand goods trader how much he’d accept to give up his account, and I’m pretty sure it’ll be more than $1k! Anyway, I touched on some of this back in April, here: https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2018-04-19/emerging-markets-can-t-quit-facebook
That is from Adam Minter.
3. The culture that is Finland: anonymized recruitment in academia. Cuts down on bias.
4. Thomas Edsall presents data (NYT).
The respect that Aisha and Zara [who belonged to Boko Harum] commanded contrasts with the situation of most women in northern Nigeria. The region is one of the nation’s poorest. In Borno state, according to the United Nations Population Fund, nearly sixty per cent of girls between the ages of fifteen and nineteen are married, and many have begun bearing children. Wives typically require permission from their husbands to leave the house, and they have little say in family decisions or public life. “People often don’t realize how much choice Boko Haram gave women,” Fatima Akilu, a psychologist who runs the Neem Foundation—which operated a deradicalization program for female former captives of Boko Haram—told me. The wives of commanders, and also women who joined the group voluntarily, were extended greater freedoms than are typical for women in the region. “We usually dismiss Boko Haram as anti-women and anti-girls, but they knew that a powerful recruitment strategy was to tell women that, ‘If you join our group, you can have whatever role you want,’ ” she said. “ ‘Even if you want to be a combatant, we will train you to be a combatant.’ ”
That is by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani in The New Yorker, and there is much more at the link. I have no opinion on those claims, but I pass them along in the interests of providing an alternative perspective.