Nigeria and other Japan-Congo facts of the day

In 2018, the Nigerian government spent more on subsidies for petrol than on health, education, or defence.


CD sales still make up 78% of music revenue in Japan (compared with less than 30% in the UK).


80% of prisoners released late 2018 in a presidential pardon have opted to return to Kinshasa’s infamous Makala jail due to lack of means to live.


Some blind people can understand speech that is almost three times faster than the fastest speech sighted people can understand. They can use speech synthesisers set at at 800 words per minute (conversational speech is 120–150 wpm). Research suggests that a section of the brain that normally responds to light is re-mapped in blind people to process sound.

That is all from 52 things Tom Whitwell learned this year.  Hat tip goes to The Browser — do subscribe!


Nobody spends more on education, health, and defense than the US. Nobody.

USA number 1 indeed.

Shame about that continuing pesky decline in life expectancy though.

The US is number 1 indeed.

It's a shame about the sellouts.

(On the life expectancy, we should stop accepting the "revealed preference" that so many want to be obese and die young. As the guy said, it's all about obesity.)

People like Tucker Carlson, Trump, Giuliani, Scott Alexander and other malarkey peddlers make feel ashamed of being American.


It is not that simple. First, the Prime Minister must call a referendum, be defeated and resign in disgrace. Then, the new Prime Minister needs to call an election and get a bare, useless majority. Parliament must reject a deal, and the new Prime Minister needs to resign in disgrace. The new, new Prime Minister needs to close Parliament, and the supreme Court must say the United Kingdom is not Haiti. The new, new Prime Minister must, then, present a crazy proposal. Parliament must reject the proposal. The new, new Prime Minister then has to ask the EU an extension denying having doing so. Finally, the country must decide between Corbyn and Johnson because no sane person wants to manage the whole Brexit debacle.


The weird thing is, in defense we spend top dollar but we get cutting edge military technology. We probably overpay for it, but still, we have the best military hardware around.

By contrast, in healthcare and education, we overpay and get pretty mediocre results.

Actually America has the best health care in the world. Not exactly mediocre results.

Education is more complicated. First our diversity (which is our strength) hurts education. Most students from most minority groups do not want education, don't want to be in school and want to disrupt the education opportunities for others. So most big city school under perform because they are full of under performing students. Schools without the problem students do pretty well.

...which is our strength...

Tongue in cheek?

The revealed preference is not that they want to be obese and die young.

The revealed preference is that they prefer eating junk food/soda and not exercising, even at the cost of obesity and not living to 80.

I suppose you could make food stamps only cover chicken and vegetables, but that’s a political nonstarter.

Or you could put 50% tax on all food except vegetables and lean protein. Which is also a political nonstarter.

Aside from “obesity is bad” what’s your actual point?

I thought it was accidents and murder:

From Avik Roy:

A few years back, Robert Ohsfeldt of Texas A&M and John Schneider of the University of Iowa asked the obvious question: what happens if you remove deaths from fatal injuries from the life expectancy tables? Among the 29 members of the OECD, the U.S. vaults from 19th place to…you guessed it…first. Japan, on the same adjustment, drops from first to ninth.

Here is more. Arnold Kling comments.


From the update: "I asked Robert Ohsfeldt about this, who responded that the adjustment factor was based on fatal injury rates relative to the average. Hence, the adjusted numbers shouldn’t be seen as hard numerical estimates of life expectancy, but rather as a way of understanding the true relative ranking of the various countries on life expectancy excluding fatal injuries."

So we might wonder about confidence in the adjustment factor. And we might wonder about the coincidence of effects. e.g. how does an extra fifty pounds in body weight affect survival in auto crashes ..

The US figures can be explained by Americans' dislike of Americans being so great that they routinely visit lethal violence on each other. Is that the argument?

But why cherry-pick violence? Wouldn't you have to re-analyse every other category before you could claim to have explained, rather than explained away, the phenomenon?

Homicide and suicide.

My two cents: it's alcohol abuse, dangerous dietary habits, drug abuse, obesity/sedentary lifestyles, loss of faith and family.

Recent years' US violent crime is down. Cigarette smoking rates are down. Suicides and opioid OD rates seem up.

Note: I found the "Regional disaggregation" section at the first link most convincing.

It's possible that accident rates (rates of incidence or even passenger miles?) could correspond to obesity in the some way, but it seems unlikely to me.

More likely the more detailed data is showing more of a pattern than adjusted national figures.

If you do enough of these, the results end up at well over 100% of the life expectancy gap compared to the rest of the world.

Which is likely true.

For a given disease diagnosis at a given stage, I know of none which have inferior outcomes in the US against matched controls elsewhere.

The average Asian American female will live to be 88.9. The average Asian American male will live to 84.1. Combined we get 86.7, higher than the life expectancy for any Asian country.

Those Americans who do not engage in typical American have truly phenomenal longevity.

But the vices add up for the rest. Healthcare, at best, controls about 25% of longevity. So we need healthcare that is 4 times better than our average deficiency in the other determinants of health.

If put two patients in front of me; one with a bullet hole in him and one without, I would be a lunatic to expect my skills to give them both the same life expectancy. Infection risks, shock, PE risk … there is only so much I can do to repair a problem the other guy has. And it is the same for folks in car accidents or who are diabetic.

Yet when we generalize to large populations, people somehow expect to get the same outcomes for the people who are shot verses those who are not. Though some surgeons might disagree, we are doctors and not gods. At best we can mitigate the damage caused. It will leave its mark on the death rate and other truly insane differences in medical efficacy could possibly offset it.

American healthcare is better, once we touch the patient, than anywhere else. We just are starting with a significant handicap and not catching all the way back up.

Healthcare, at best, controls about 25% of longevity.

And ... "preventive medicine" means good genes, exercise, diet, no smoking and moderate alcohol if at all.

After you lay hands on them American healthcare may be awesome, no doubt. Another indicator is how many you lay hands on (other things being equal, of course). Or rather, how many who need it can get it. (I don't have an opinion on that.)

You get what you pay for.

"Shame about that continuing pesky decline in life expectancy though."

From what I read a few days ago, preliminary estimates show that U.S. life expectancy increased this year to the extent that previous small declines have been erased.

Well, that sounds conclusive - why would anyone ever believe the JAMA?

At least come up with some plausible excuses to explain away the numbers. The numbers exist, after all. But please, do provide a link. The JAMA one seems to be

That article only includes U.S. longevity through 2018. Here is what I read a few days ago and there should be a report this month to confirm or change this:

The current life expectancy for U.S. in 2019 is 78.87 years, a 0.08% increase from 2018.

The life expectancy for U.S. in 2018 was 78.81 years, a 0.03% decline from 2017.

The life expectancy for U.S. in 2017 was 78.84 years, a 0.03% decline from 2016.

The life expectancy for U.S. in 2016 was 78.86 years, a 0.03% decline from 2015.

It is telling for the state of the world that even so, there is no realistic contender on the horizon. China is still half of US GDP only, and in a bad fertility outlook, and Europe divided as ever... On the other hand World GDP was never as high as now, and is forecast to grow healthily.

re: "Some blind people can understand speech that is almost three times faster than the fastest speech sighted people can understand."

I suspect this effect might be exaggerated - I listen to Conversations with Tyler (and a huge volume of other podcasts and audio books) at 3x speed, and my vision is just fine. I am at "only" 3x (and no faster) since my podcast player doesn't go any faster, and certainly don't think I'm anything special on this issue.

In controlled/quiet environments, I imagine I could listen much faster - part of the benefit of slower speech is that less voice "signal" is lost to random noises in the environment (car passing, etc.etc.)

I think that all humans can listen, understand and comprehend speech much faster than humans can move their vocal chords to create it.

The point is it’s 3x faster than the *fastest* speech that sighted people can understand. This is listening to speech synthesisers - really old school ones, not quite Stephen Hawking but close - at 800 wpm which sounds not far from glitchy white noise to me. One guy (a blind developer who codes using a speech synth) got to 1200-something WPM with a lot of effort and training, which he said didn’t last when he stopped training.

How does this compare with receiving the same information via reading (for a sighted person obviously)? I think I can read much much faster than I can listen to stuff - podcasts can be quite frustrating for me for that reason.

Let us pause for a moment in hushed reverence of the intellectual badassery of anyone who codes that way.

Also, Japan still does tons of business by paper fax, which is absurd.

It is not the Word e think they have done.

Good point. I have decided I will never read SSC again and have asked all my friends to do likewise.

Stanislas Dehaene, in Reading in the Brain: The New Science of How We Read, provides evidence that reading is largely processed in parts of the brain that would otherwise be used for close visual perception. As indeed they probably were for most of human existence. "Listening and talking are natural. Reading and writing are not."

"Listening and talking are natural. Reading and writing are not."

I think I may not be alone among the commenters - that assertion is strange to me. The minute a phone call begins I am thinking how to wrap it up, even with people I like. I am a good listener only when I sense, greedily, that there's some nugget of information for me to glean (fortunately, I feel this way often enough to pass for friendly; a strict accounting might demonstrate I have troubled to know my foreign neighbors, and my elderly neighbors, but most others not at all). Back when we had newspapers in the house, my mother would call long-distance and talk, and after awhile she would say, you're reading the paper, aren't you? Reading was the activity that came most naturally to me as a child. It feels like it takes zero energy, less even than watching TV. In fact, I associate it with laziness on my part, so that I feel guilty I'm not doing something "real" and effortful (not to mention minimally productive :-)). I then envy someone like our host who can spend what must be great blocks of time reading without self-recrimination, because his livelihood depends on it.

Something unnatural can be more pleasurable than something natural.

What I was trying to say is that people have been listening and talking since way back in prehistory. Children learn to understand a language and express themselves in it incredibly well without needing to be taught. Writing, on the other hand, did not begin until a few thousand years ago. Until recently, most people could not read or write. Though some people pick it up quickly (e.g., my daughter) most everybody has to be taught to read, and taught to write.

Every society has a language. Until recently, very few had a written language.

Pure anecdote, but I process written English (my native language) much faster than spoken English. On the other hand, I process spoken Spanish (my second language, acquired as an adult) faster than written Spanish. I have no idea why it worked out this way....

Of course; still I remain unconvinced - admittedly biased by an experience of public education that seemed to leave me mainly with deficits, and overall a deficit of sense - that reading and writing are so wholly and distinctly artificial an extension of communication that they should eat up so much of the school day as a "subject." But at least it's less misconceived than the idea that children need to "learn" computer use.

The first two are acquired by all normal humans as a part of development, the second only by teaching and learning.

I'm the same way. I don't retain much from instructional videos. I much prefer going back and forth from the manual to the task or equipment at hand.

I remember reading some online comment by someone saying that his company had talked with Google about getting their Glass adapted for this kind of usage for things like instructions, parts, specs, etc., but Google had no interest in it.

Something I learned about Japan this year. They still like to use cash for most purchases. Someone told me that 70% of transactions are still done in cash. Not sure if that is accurate, but it felt about right when I visit.

When I lived in Japan, a friend told me in 2012 that she just bought a very nice house for $225,000 - in cash. I was stunned and asked if she rode to the realtor on her bicycle with that much money in her basket to which she replied: "Of course not! I took it by car."

It strikes me that this is partly a reflection of Japan being an extremely low-crime country. I would be utterly terrified to walk around with $225K in cash--I'd worry that somehow someone involved in the transaction would have told a friend, and I'd get robbed for the money. Plenty of people in the world are willing to do serious crimes for a lot less money than that!

Tyler opines on the circumstances of Cebu, Philippines. Alex cites optometric opportunity in Lithuania. Tyler continues here with fresh reflections on Nigeria, Japan, and Congo.

Not that these items must be taken as such, but consider for the class of the global jet-setting public and for the separate class of non-flyers considering their citations and reports:

could these be signs (as stark and ample as anything else appearing on any blog site on the planet today) that our planet becomes a very boring place once it becomes so familiar to so many? All the cellphone pictures begin to look a lot alike, and the contempt they may well breed is only enhanced with refinements in pixilation and display.

How widespread do we know contemporary states of taedium vitae to be? Metrics and analysis of suicide data alone could not dependably tell us, surely: astronomy, astrophysics, and cosmology for their parts do fine jobs of reminding us today how remote and relatively insignificant our locale. (Mysteries of the inaccessible universe not only enchant and reward curiosity: they also confound many if not most conjecturing animals on the planet.)

Granted: any familiarity breeding tedium with the meager locales this planet confines us to may only be superficial, but superficial analysis does go a long long way for many many people.

Of course it is, which is why 99% of immigration is purely economic and results in a harmful brain drain. Hopefully the global elites start figuring out that the Open Borders project is a farce and do some actual good by deposing the stupid, corrupt governments of places like Honduras, Haiti, Nigeria, etc. and make them into great places to live.

This is why "global elites" shouldn't talk about "open borders" as a theoretical exercise. Average punters will think it's real, or even in progress.

I don't care if it's real or not. And with Merkel's Marching Million and a million a year influx to the US (nobody really knows) and estimates of illegals in the US from 10 to 20 million (again, nobody really knows) it's more real than not.

My point is for a lot of places, living standards and consumption are regularizing, which means immigration is less a humanitarian necessity and more a socio-economic weapon wielded by political rivals. Examples are the Lebanese Muslims cynically promoting Palestinian and Syrian immigration to complete the transformation of Lebanon from a Maronite Catholic country to a Muslim one. Or the Iberian elites in Central America, happily waving goodbye to mestizos and indigenous to go be somebody else's problem.

I should get in on this game, actually. I'm going to start promoting the immigration of South African and Zimbabwean whites. Korean Evangelicals are reliably conservative too. Polish and Hungarian Catholics and Serbian Orthodox would also be good picks.

So many facts, so little context. It's infoporn for infovores.

Recommend he read "There was a country" by Achebe..

I wonder how much the US spends on subsidies to extraction of fossil fuels and other kinds f extraction by allowing percentage "depletion" instead of ordinary depreciation of investment.

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