Month: July 2021
According to Jonathan Martinis, the senior director for law and policy at a center for disability rights at Syracuse University, one of the most dangerous aspects of guardianships is the way that they prevent people from getting their own legal counsel. “The rights at stake in guardianship are analogous to the rights at stake in criminal cases,” Martinis said. “Britney could have been found holding an axe and a severed head, saying ‘I did it,’ and she still would’ve had the right to an attorney. So, under guardianship, you don’t have the same rights as an axe murderer.”
…there is also a wide range of alternatives to conservatorship that are less strict than what Spears has experienced, such as conditional powers of attorney or formal shared control of finances. As conservatorship law is written, the court is required to determine that a conservatorship is—and remains—necessary. “In practice,” Zoë Brennan-Krohn, a disability-rights attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, said, “this is absolutely not the case. What should be happening is that a judge at a reëvaluation hearing would ask, ‘What else have you tried? Why isn’t anything else working?’ And, if the conservator hasn’t shown that they’ve tried less restrictive options, the conservatorship should be suspended. But I’ve never heard of a judge asking that in any situation.”
Here is the full New Yorker story by Ronan Farrow and Jia Tolentino, focusing on Britney Spears.
6. Columbus vs. Columbo (what!!??). That’s the TV character, not Sri Lanka.
7. “Farmbake biscuits are smashed into crumbs, combined with milk and thrown in the microwave to create fluffy chocolate “jail cake”.” Not the only thing they make in NZ prison, a new home for yogurt entrepreneurship.
By Martin Harry Turpin, et.al.:
Navigating social systems efficiently is critical to our species. Humans appear endowed with a cognitive system that has formed to meet the unique challenges that emerge for highly social species. Bullshitting, communication characterised by an intent to be convincing or impressive without concern for truth, is ubiquitous within human societies. Across two studies (N = 1,017), we assess participants’ ability to produce satisfying and seemingly accurate bullshit as an honest signal of their intelligence. We find that bullshit ability is associated with an individual’s intelligence and individuals capable of producing more satisfying bullshit are judged by second-hand observers to be more intelligent. We interpret these results as adding evidence for intelligence being geared towards the navigation of social systems. The ability to produce satisfying bullshit may serve to assist individuals in negotiating their social world, both as an energetically efficient strategy for impressing others and as an honest signal of intelligence.
That is the theme of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:
Revisionist history serves many useful purposes, and for the most part it should be encouraged — even though many particular revisionist claims turn out to be wrong. The natural human state of affairs is a kind of complacency and acceptance of the status quo. If historians sometimes write a bit too sharply or speculatively to capture the audience’s attention, it is a price worth paying. At any rate, the audience tends not to take them literally or to pay close attention to their more detailed claims.
The problem is that the revisionism isn’t diverse enough. A few issues — most of all those raised by Critical Race Theory — get caught up in the culture wars and are debated above all others. I agree that we should devote more time and attention to America’s disgraceful history of slavery and race relations, and I have incorporated that into my own teaching.
Still, other matters are being neglected. The longer trajectory of U.S. foreign policy is hardly debated, or what that history should mean for current decisions. There is plenty of carping about “the deep state,” but actual history has fallen down a memory hole, including the history of U.S. intelligence agencies.
It gets worse yet. According to one recent survey, 63% of the American public is not aware that six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. Ten percent had not heard of the Holocaust at all. Or consider the treatment of Native Americans, which was terrible and produced few heroes. Yet American soul-searching on this history seems to be minimal.
America needs revisionism, more of it please, and on timely and controversial topics. But it also needs less politicized and more intellectually diverse interpretations of its history. On this Fourth of July, what America needs is not the promotion of some particular claim of historical hypocrisy, but the elevation of the historical itself.
Recommended, and have a happy Fourth!
Here is one sample question:
Which of the following states seceded during the Civil War?
The choices are Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware, Florida.
Or try this one:
What evidence is required for a citizen to be convicted of treason?
The options are:
— It varies by state
— Nothing beyond what is needed to convict an ordinary crime
— The testimony of two eyewitnesses or a open confession in court
— The testimony of two eyewitnesses and an open confession in court
Here is the full Bloomberg piece by David Shipley. There are many more questions — how many would you get?
6. Louis Andriessen, RIP (NYT): “Mr. Andriessen wrote that in Mr. Greenaway’s films, “I recognize something of my own work, namely the combination of intellectual material and vulgar directness.””
A new NBER paper by Allcott, Kim, Taubinsky and Zinman takes a close look at the behavioral economics of payday loans and finds that most common regulations make borrowers worse off.
Critics argue that payday loans are predatory, trapping consumers in cycles of repeated high interest borrowing. A typical payday loan incurs $15 interest per $100 borrowed over two weeks, implying an annual percentage rate (APR) of 391 percent, and more than 80 percent of payday loans nationwide in 2011-2012 were reborrowed within 30 days (CFPB 2016). As a result of these concerns, 18 states now effectively ban payday lending (CFA 2019), and in 2017, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) finalized a set of nationwide regulations. The CFPB’s then director argued that \the CFPB’s new rule puts a stop to the payday debt traps that have plagued communities across the country. Too often, borrowers who need quick cash end up trapped in loans they can’t afford” (CFPB 2017).
Proponents argue that payday loans serve a critical need: people are willing to pay high interest rates because they very much need credit. For example, Knight (2017) wrote that the CFPB regulation \will significantly reduce consumers’ access to credit at the exact moments they need it most.” Under new leadership, the CFPB rescinded part of its 2017 regulation on the grounds that it would reduce credit access.
At the core of this debate is the question of whether borrowers act in their own best interest. If borrowers successfully maximize their utility, then restricting choice reduces welfare. However, if borrowers have self-control problems (“present focus,” in the language of Ericson and Laibson 2019), then they may borrow more to finance present consumption than they would like to in the long run. Furthermore, if borrowers are “naive” about their present focus, overoptimistic about their future financial situation, or for some other reason do not anticipate their high likelihood of repeat borrowing, they could underestimate the costs of repaying a loan. In this case, restricting credit access might make borrowers better off.
First, the authors find that borrowers clearly understand their own behavior. When asked, borrowers predict that they have a 70% probability of borrowing again in the next eight weeks which is almost exactly (74%) the actual borrowing probability. Experienced borrowers are better at predicting their own probabilities of borrowing again so learning also takes place.
Just because they can predict their own behavior doesn’t meant that borrowers like their own behavior (a drunk might predict they will get drunk again without “desiring” to get drunk again) and indeed the authors show with a clever experiment that many borrowers are willing to pay to modestly constrain their own choices. Overall, however, borrowers gain from payday lending so when the authors model payday loan regulations with borrower preferences (their “best”, long-run preferences) regulation reduces welfare:
Payday loan bans and tighter loan size caps both reduce welfare in our model. By contrast, 18 states have banned payday lending, and some states have particularly stringent loan size caps, such as the $300 limit in California.
The best regulation in the model is a rollover restriction which prevents borrowers from borrowing again and again and again. Rather than a blanket regulation, however, I’d prefer a self-exclusion option which would allow people to ban themselves from borrowing in much the same way that people with gambling problems can ban themselves from gambling establishments.
The bottom line is that payday lenders are serving a need and benefiting their customers. Preventing people from accessing payday lenders typically makes them worse off but that doesn’t mean that the customers are entirely sensible or without problems both internal and external. The most revealing statistic in the paper is one the authors mention only in passing:
although our participants are liquidity constrained and we sent two reminder emails, our gift card vendor reports that only 44 percent of the $100 gift cards were claimed
It’s no surprise that people who leave free money on the table have planning problems and need to borrow, it’s just that preventing them from borrowing doesn’t make them better off.
Democratic governance is eroding in Haiti, but through an unusual mechanism — an ongoing diminution [The Economist] in the number of federally elected officials:
Today there are only 11 nationally-elected officials, including him [Jovenel Moïse].
A parliamentary election had been scheduled for October 2019, but it was never held. The current president refers to himself as “Après Dieu” [second only to God], and also “Banana Man,” as he is a former plantation manager. Solve for the equilibrium.
We model a simple market setting in which fragmentation of trade of the same asset across multiple exchanges improves allocative efficiency. Fragmentation reduces the inhibiting effect of price-impact avoidance on order submission. Although fragmentation reduces market depth on each exchange, it also isolates cross-exchange price impacts, leading to more aggressive overall order submission and better rebalancing of unwanted positions across traders. Fragmentation also has implications for the extent to which prices reveal traders’ private information. While a given exchange price is less informative in more fragmented markets, all exchange prices taken together are more informative.
That is a new American Economic Review piece by Daniel Chen and Darrell Duffie. My slight rewording of their argument is this: with market fragmentation, you can split up your order across exchanges and thus submit more total orders, with less fear of the prices moving against you. Fair enough, but what does this mean for the supposed greater efficiency of a single medium of exchange? Might there be reasons why a multitude of exchange/payment media, including foreign currencies and crypto, could give you further liquidity?
By Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, this film pushes the idea that modernity is the truly strange phenomenon, not ancient religion or what we like to call pre-modern times. The pre-modern is represented by the two monks in their orange robes, and their direct, down-to-earth manner. The supposedly modern is represented by various doctors in their white suit coats, which look suspiciously like the robes of the monks. Only that the orange is much more pleasant. The monks are repeatedly puzzled by their interactions with the modernized Thai medical establishment, which, as it turns out, has taken ritual to new and unprecedentedly baroque and artificial heights.
The contemporary world is shown in ever stranger terms, from a variety of perspectives, whether the subject be power plants or artificial limbs, monks flying a toy spaceship, or a pipe sucking in steam, shaped suspiciously like an elephant’s trunk, albeit without the dignity. The ritual dance closing the film — held in park with a boom box and people in shorts — seems senseless and without meaning.
And yes, the contemporary world is more rationalistic in a variety of ways, but why not look at the true human fundamentals — life and death — as represented by the world of medicine, to see if that rationalism holds up? Alas.
Is there any director better at making you rethink the modern world and see its fundamental strangeness than Apichatpong Weerasethakul? You need to try Uncle Boonmee too.
2. New youngest chess grandmaster in history is 12 years old and lives in New Jersey. Father is a software engineer, Indian background.
5. Forthcoming book: We Have Never Been Woke, looks great, sign up to receive notification of pre-order!
7. ““You’re never going to beat a kid’s adrenaline rush off a riot. You’re not going to stop them,” says Michael Logan, an 18-year-old who works part-time at Townsend Outreach Centre, a youth centre off the loyalist stronghold of the Shankill Road.” (FT link)
I am told:
“Those of you who receive Feedburner email notifications may cease receiving them in the next few days. If you would like to continue receiving these email notifications, please sign up for our new service here, which will be up and running in the next few days.”
All other RSS stays the same. There you go!
A good post at the Effective Altruism Forum on all the stuff we could have done to stop the pandemic but didn’t:
Probably the biggest mistake was not intentionally infecting vaccinated volunteers. This could be done in 1 month, vs 6.5 months for the ecological trials that the entire world did out of misguided PR ethics. (2.5 is probably more realistic given signups, approvals, and big pharma’s slow data analysis and reporting. That’s still hundreds of thousands of lives.)
1DaySooner wrote a letter. The world’s foremost consequentialist signed. The world’s foremost deontologist signed. Two of the most prominent bioethicists in the world signed. 15 Nobelists signed. Dozens of philosophers who otherwise agree on extremely little signed. But they’re unethical.
Rarely do I so strongly feel the boot of others on my neck, and humanity’s neck.
I am extremely puzzled why China or one of the other ahem non-individualist governments didn’t do these.
Lots more at the link.
We find a significant, sharp, and timely decline of insurgent violence in the initial phase: the security transfer to Afghan forces. We find that this is followed by a significant surge in violence in the second phase: the actual physical withdrawal of foreign troops. We argue that this pattern is consistent with a signaling model, in which the insurgents reduce violence strategically to facilitate the foreign military withdrawal to capitalize on the reduced foreign military presence afterward.
Here is the full research article by Thiemo Fetzer, et.al.
The Beatles 1965 song “We Can Work It Out” typically is taken as a tale of harmonious cooperation, a kind of precursor to “All You Need is Love,” but expressing the ability of the Beatles to work together toward productive outcomes and furthermore to stay united as friends. (All before the bitter split of course.) Well, if you know a bit about the Beatles (and Strauss) that isn’t exactly how it is presented in the actual tune. There are plenty of esoteric references in Beatle songs and solo Beatle songs, and I don’t just mean drug lingo or “Paul is dead” clues.
As background, you do need to know that Paul was the group’s workaholic, and John, while an immense talent, was, um…not the group’s workaholic. Paul also was renowned as a master of passive-aggressive threats, all the way keeping up the smile and charm and the perfect demeanor. The song reflects this dynamic. It is basically Paul singing that we really have to do things his way, and John singing back “complaints of surrender.” Let’s now turn to the song, with my annotations throughout in brackets:
Paul singing cheerily:
Try to see it my way
Do I have to keep on talking ’til I can’t go on? [I’m going to keep on bugging you until you give in]
While you see it your way
Run the risk of knowing that our love may soon be gone [Escalation: I am willing to threaten you over this one and go to the mat]
We can work it out [You’re going to give in to me]
We can work it out [You really are going to give in, believe me on this one]
Think of what you’re saying
You can get it wrong and still you think that it’s alright [You don’t know what you are doing in the studio the way I do]
Think of what I’m saying
We can work it out and get it straight, or say good night [we really do need to put more time in on this one]
We can work it out
We can work it out [my way]
John singing in plaintive minor key:
Life is very short, and there’s no time [Can we just go home now?]
For fussing and fighting, my friend [I’m tired of all this, aren’t you supposed to be on my side?]
I have always thought that it’s a crime [The bickering is mainly your fault, and yes it is really terrible]
So, I will ask you once again…
Paul interrupts, again singing cheerily:
Try to see it my way [I’m really not giving up on this one]
Only time will tell if I am right or I am wrong [Last time you did it my way the song was a big hit, in fact every time…]
While you see it your way
There’s a chance that we might fall apart before too long [more passive-aggressive threats]
We can work it out
We can work it out
An excellent song, both musically and lyrically, but not always appreciated for its full subtleties. It is clear that Paul ends up getting his way, and that is how they “work it out.” Paul increasingly exerted his will in the studio, leading the Beatles to produce such classics as Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road, whereas John had been the more dominant influence on earlier albums such as Hard Day’s Night. The Beatles, of course, split up five years later and were in tatters well before that.