2015 March 30 Monday
American Support In Middle East Produces Failed States

Hayat Alvi points out the pattern. So is US support just a signal of imminent state failure or a cause?

Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the 2011 “Arab Spring,” every regime that the United States has supported in Iraq, Yemen and Libya — including Saleh’s — has resulted in a failed state, with no rule of law and a collapsed economy.

I have to say in Yemen I'm rooting for the Houthi fighters. Since they are a variant of Shia they aren't going to ally with either the Islamic Caliphate or Saudi Arabia. So they can't be all bad.

By Randall Parker 2015 March 30 09:03 PM 
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2015 March 29 Sunday
Don't Give Us Your Tired And Your Poor Any More

Steven Camarota on whether "give me your tired and your poor" still makes sense in the early 21st century. The answer is clearly "No!".

It’s also worth adding that, in addition to a long-term decline or stagnation in wages for most American workers, the share of working-age natives who are actually working shows a long-term decline that began well before the Great Recession. As recently as January of 2000, 52 percent of native-born Americans ages 18 to 65 without a high-school education had a job. Today it’s 40 percent. For natives with only high-school education, it was 74 percent in 2000; today it’s 65 percent.

See my post Employment-Population Ratio By Education Level. The 30 point gap in employment rate between high school dropouts and those with at least bachelors degree strongly argues that the economy no longer has a use for most lower IQ people. I expect this problem to grow in the future at automated taxis and trucks and automated restaurants remove some of the remaining work for people with lower levels of ability.

A major trend in economic history of the last 35 years is that less educated and less skilled workers are doing worse. Another major trend: a huge surge in low skilled workers, especially from south of the border. Immigration advocates ignore this.

The fact that workers in general and less-educated natives in particular have not fared well in the last 35 years is not what we would expect if immigration improved the employment prospects and wages of natives across the board. After all, the immigrant share of the work force roughly tripled after 1980, so if Davidson is right, this should have been a boom time for wages and employment. In fact, the opposite happened.

Generals are known for trying to fight the last war in a new war. Immigration advocates are doing the same thing. We no longer have huge factories with growing demand for unskilled workers to do repetitive simple tasks. Robotic manufacturing equipment does that. Other jobs for the least skilled are getting demolished by automation as well.

By Randall Parker 2015 March 29 11:22 AM 
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2015 March 24 Tuesday
America's Allies In Iraq Very Poor Fighters?

Shiite Militias and the Iraqi Army have had a hard time just clearing Tikrit of ISIS.

The pro-government force of more than 30,000 is struggling to clear a midsize city in a province never believed to have had more than 1,000 Islamic State fighters.

Iraqis would rather fight in ethnic/religious militias than for the state.

But recruiting and retraining efforts for the Iraqi Army have not produced as many fighters as the parallel efforts by Shiite militias.

I'd like to know the total casualties of the Iraqi Army, Shiite militias, and ISIS/Daesh in the battle for Tikrit. My guess is that ISIS had far fewer casualties. I say this because the death rate of the Iraqi Army plus the Shiite militias was running at least 60 per day and possibly 100 or more per day. For how long? For how many dead total? If someone comes across a source then post in the comments.

A measure of the relative casualty rates of the two sides would give us an idea of the relative efficacy of the fighters on the two sides.

By Randall Parker 2015 March 24 07:45 PM 
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Universal Suffrage Violates Right To Have Competent Government

From an essay by GMU economist Garrett Jones: 10% Less Democracy: How Less Voting Could Mean Better Governance

“Citizens have a right that any political power held over them should be exercised by competent people in a competent way. Universal suffrage violates this right.”

-Philosopher Jason Brennan

Our rights are degrading because the quality of the electorate is degrading. Good to see some academics agree with a view you will find among non-mainstream thinkers on the Right.

A similar view:

Do we have a right to be ruled by the informed?

“Three uncontroversial points sum to a paradox:

  1. Almost every democratic theorist or democratic political actor sees an informed electorate as essential to good democratic practice….
  2. In most if not all democratic polities, the proportion of the population granted the suffrage has consistently expanded, and seldom contracted, over the past two centuries….
  3. Most expansions of the suffrage bring in, on average, people who are less politically informed or less broadly educated than those already eligible to vote….
Putting these three uncontroversial points together leads to the conclusion that as democracies become more democratic, their decision-making processes become of lower quality in terms of cognitive processing of issues and candidate choice.

Jennifer Hochschild, Professor of Government and of African and African-American Studies at Harvard (emphasis added)

A stunning statement coming from a Harvard prof.

Can we partially role back democracy and impose competency requirements (or perhaps responsibility requirements) on voters?

By Randall Parker 2015 March 24 04:38 PM 
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2015 March 22 Sunday
Safe Rooms At College Include Play-Doh And Coloring Books

At Brown University a debate about "rape culture" was considered to be threatening because of a speaker who could "invalidate people’s experiences". What to do? Create a safe room:

The room was equipped with cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members trained to deal with trauma.

They do not mention Crayola crayons. But surely there were crayons, right? I hope so.

Children in college aren't ready to grow up and face the mean world of ugly and evil facts. They want to only get exposed to social truths which social justice warriors have agreed to, not real factual truths and not disagreements.

This is pathetic modern childish feminism. The right of certain groups to not have their feelings hurt has become paramount. American society is sick.

By Randall Parker 2015 March 22 08:30 PM 
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2015 March 21 Saturday
Migrating Millionaires And The Automated Society

Once the upper classes no longer need large numbers of service workers to wait on them the world's migrating millionaires are going to find some low population nations to take over and dominate.

Automation will be the big enabler. If robots can clean house, cook, do deliveries, do gardening, and many kinds of repair then the service class can be very small. Many services could be provided remotely.

The problem is that almost all the world's land is under control of existing local populations. How to create a millionaire's island sovereignty? Imagine a large group of millionaires buying influence and extensive holdings in a couple of Caribbean islands. They could pay the population of one island to move to the other island. Then the first island could become a millionaire's island. It would offer a very convenient location, nice weather, and escape from masses of proletarian voters.

Parts of the upper class are going to want their own sovereign state. If their state can be fully automated then it won't need a poor local populace that expects the right to vote. Given a group of people with collective wealth in the tens of billions where could they take over? How and where to create this sovereign state?

By Randall Parker 2015 March 21 12:02 PM 
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2015 March 14 Saturday
$15 Per Hour Minimum Wage Closing Restaurants In Seattle

$15 per hour minimum wage will reduce the demand for less skilled labor in Seattle. What will happen as a result? Less skilled people will find reasons to move somewhere else. So the city will more rapidly gentrify. Any desirable city that sets a high minimum wage will accelerate automation and drive up the average skill level of the citizenry. The latter will be accomplished by migrations in and out of the city.

A writer gets the obvious: technology will replace labor.

Bigger companies who can absorb the financial hit from implementing new technology have already been preparing for these changes. McDonald’s has been experimenting with point of sale automation for taking orders and Applebee’s rolled out smart tablets at tables in multiple locations last year.

Ordering and payment automation are coming to Chili’s, Applebee’s, Abuelos, Red Robin, T.G.I. Fridays, and Panera among others. Some of these restaurants are letting you order online so you can walk in and immediately get your order. That's an improvement in quality of service. Automated food ordering is going to become as common as ATMs and self-serve gas stations.

That leaves the kitchen still in need of automation. Well, a robot burger maker could be in the offing. Make the cost of labor high enough and restaurants will become highly automated.

In the longer run automated cooking robots will be able to handle so much complexity in food preparations that we'll see restaurants able to offer much greater selection.

What about unemployment? Yes, certainly. Far less low skilled immigration too.

By Randall Parker 2015 March 14 08:19 PM 
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Dalai Lama Threatening China With No Reincarnation

This is fun: Spiritual hard ball over Tibetan nationalism.

HONG KONG — Chinese Communist Party leaders are afraid that the Dalai Lama will not have an afterlife. Worried enough that this week, officials repeatedly warned that he must reincarnate, and on their terms.

This could work to China's advantage. Suppose the Chinese government launches a crash program to develop the technology needed to grab spirits from the spirit world. THen the Dalai Lama dies. If he decides to stay in the spirit world then the Chinese could reach over, grab his spirit, and put it in a Han baby. Then the Dalai Lama will be reborn Chinese and raised to have Chinese values and loyalties. So much for Tibetan nationalism.

Of course, what if the Dalai Lama is just pretending and he really intends to secretly reincarnate as the son of a top Chinese official. Then he could rise to the top, become President of China, and free Tibet. A long term plan. But his soul must be centuries old by now and used to pursuing long term strategies.

The Lama will know how to fit in at the top of Chinese society.

By Randall Parker 2015 March 14 06:10 PM 
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2015 March 11 Wednesday
Teach For America Idealism Does Not Help

A result sure to be thoroughly ignored due to confirmation bias: Ivy League students are not God's gift to schools full of low-performing students.

What happens to student test scores when super-high-achieving college graduates spend a couple of years teaching in low-income schools? Well, not a whole lot, according to a new random-assignment study from the policy-research group Mathematica.

On the bright side: college grads with just 5 weeks of teacher training in a cram course were able to teach just as well as experienced teachers who attended education schools. This is another finding that is sure to be ignored due to vested interests and confirmation bias. What, the value of professional training in college ed departments is close to worthless?

Our society has lost a ton of knowledge about human nature that is going to require decades of research to claw back.

By Randall Parker 2015 March 11 05:39 PM 
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2015 March 10 Tuesday
Jeb Bush Charter School Success Really Failed

What you need to know about Jeb Bush: Charter School in Miami Hailed by Bush Ended in Ruin.

A school that Jeb Bush co-founded in 1996 has been a rallying point as he considers running for president. But when he tells his tale of achievement, he avoids the school’s name and unhappy closing in 2008.

Jeb Bush has unsound judgment. This seems to run in his family.

Charter schools, like school vouchers, are part of a long line educational innovations that were oversold. Jeb continues to support No Child Left Behind which his brother signed into law and which did not make much of a dent on school outcomes. Jeb is also a supporter of Common Core, yet another great hope in American education. Common Core will fail.

Education is a field with lots of quack ideas and low research standards. Almost all education research does not try to measure results controlled by IQ. But unless student IQ is controlled for it is hard to measure the relative effectiveness different teaching techniques. Random assignment of students to get different treatments would also work but costs a lot and is rarely done. Common Core has not been rigorously tested but is being touted as the next great hope in American education.

By Randall Parker 2015 March 10 09:02 PM 
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Venezuela Declared US National Security Threat

Since Venezuela has been declared a US national security threat things are looking brighter in Caracas. Are we going to invade?

I say bravo Venezuela! Think of the hurdles the Venezuelan government had to overcome to make it into the elite ranks of US national security threats. Few nations hear the call. Fewer still succeed. For a small, corrupt petro-state with chronic shortages of most products the only things it had going for it was a anti-Yankee tradition of screwing Western oil companies and an alliance with the vibrant communist state of Cuba. But apparently that was enough. Even as its economy implodes in moronically state-imposed hyperinflation, socialism, and plummeting oil revenues Venezuela has been able to get itself classified as a first class global player!

So Venezuelans, you might not have enough toilet paper, meat, rice, bread, soup, diapers, toys, clothes, furniture, drugs, surgical supplies, car parts, toothpaste, soap, shoe laces, and other items too numerous to list. Your leaders are very irresponsible and you are yourselves even more irresponsible for voting for them. And of course your international influence has obviously shrunk along with the price of oil. But hold your heads high. The US government has awarded you with a rarely granted honor: US National Security Threat!

By Randall Parker 2015 March 10 02:10 PM 
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2015 March 08 Sunday
Audrey Kurth Cronin: ISIS Is Not a Terrorist Group

Audrey Kurth Cronin argues in Foreign Affairs that ISIS/ISIL/Daesh/IC is not a terrorist group because they hold territory and field a conventional army. See her piece: ISIS Is Not a Terrorist Group: Why Counterterrorism Won’t Stop the Latest Jihadist Threat

In a nationally televised speech last September explaining his plan to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS, U.S. President Barack Obama drew a straight line between the group and al Qaeda and claimed that ISIS is “a terrorist organization, pure and simple.” This was mistaken; ISIS hardly fits that description, and indeed, although it uses terrorism as a tactic, it is not really a terrorist organization at all. Terrorist networks, such as al Qaeda, generally have only dozens or hundreds of members, attack civilians, do not hold territory, and cannot directly confront military forces. ISIS, on the other hand, boasts some 30,000 fighters, holds territory in both Iraq and Syria, maintains extensive military capabilities, controls lines of communication, commands infrastructure, funds itself, and engages in sophisticated military operations. If ISIS is purely and simply anything, it is a pseudo-state led by a conventional army. And that is why the counterterrorism and counterinsurgency strategies that greatly diminished the threat from al Qaeda will not work against ISIS. 

Cronin makes many great points and gives a pretty developed and nuanced picture of what is ISIS. Part of the pitch to recruits is 50 Shades Of Grey:

The group also procures sexual partners for its male recruits; some of these women volunteer for this role, but most of them are coerced or even enslaved. The group barely bothers to justify this behavior in religious terms; its sales pitch is conquest in all its forms, including the sexual kind.

What should we do about ISIS? Help radical Muslims from Western countries go to join it. Get radicals out of the West. Stop letting them come in. Then we should arm any of its enemies that show a willingness to effectively use guns against it. This means at least the Kurds and Assyrian Christians who are fighting ISIS in Syria. The Assyrian Christians are crowd-funding the Nineveh Protection Unit and are getting trained by American veterans.

ISIS does raids on Assyrian Christian communities to do kidnapping. Ransoms are a major source of funding for ISIS. These people are just evil. We should help the decent people who are trying to defend themselves against ISIS.

By Randall Parker 2015 March 08 11:59 AM 
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