2015 December 31 Thursday
Hillary Clinton Wants To Create Lake Woebegone America

All chidren must be above average: "Now, I wouldn’t keep any school open that wasn’t doing a better than average job." That's the word from Hillary Clinton speaking on the campaign trail in Keota, Iowa.

This would of course lead to a rather rapid rate of close closings and new school openings. Would we need to build new school buildings to replace about half the schools that get closed every year? Or just fire all the teachers and hire new people into the teaching profession to replace them? Or just fire the administrators and open new schools in the same buildings but with new school names? Perhaps everyone would take a turn teaching or administrating 1 year in a new school before it got shut down for being below average.

We live in an age of denial. The evidence about child development is clear. The behavioral geneticists and psychometricians have shown us compelling evidence. But the Left can't handle it. Over the next 10 years the consequences of these advances will yield evidence down at the level of thousands of genetic variants for why some kids are below average. Will the denial continue unabated even in the year 2025? I'd like a time machine so I could look ahead and find out. I'm getting bored by the never ending stream of nonsense spewing from elite mouths.

By Randall Parker 2015 December 31 10:39 AM 
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2015 December 24 Thursday
Issues With Muslim Immigration

"Lorenzo from Oz" makes a number of points about Islamic sensibilities, its reaction to modernity, and immigration.

Of the existing civilisations sharing this planet, only one is prominently having an extended temper tantrum about modernity; an extended temper tantrum with a distinctly homicidal edge.

He goes on to contrast Islam's reaction with that of Japan, China, and Latin America. He says Salafism is a revolt against modernity. That sounds about right. Then he gets into immigration.

Once Muslim minorities start heading towards 10% of the population, then enclave problems are much more likely to develop and cooperation with security forces is likely to be much patchier and resistance to the agents of the state is likely to develop. Accepting a Muslim minority of that sort of size is also, effectively, a decision to export one's Jews.

Will American Jews eventually become concerned about their co-religionists in Europe?

Differences in values and priors matter.

The notion that there are no issues specific to Muslim migration is nonsense on stilts. Of course there are: it is very different, religiously-defined civilisation with very different presumptions and framings. Yelling "racism" does not change that, although it does close down debate: so is precisely the sort of shouting polarising that is not in any way helpful.

The whole post is quite long and nuanced. Have a read.

Quite a few on the Left are somewhat blind to certain forms of opposition to their vision because their mental framework precludes serious opposition stemming from something other than the culture and religion found on the American Right (or what's left of it). Surely they think Muslims must be reacting to Western oppression. What else could possibly get them so worked up? The deep rooted assumption of Liberal Manifest Destiny (that the whole world will inevitably see the wisdom of The New Yorker or The New York Times) makes them discount the threat from their real enemies. So we go barreling along into greater folly.

By Randall Parker 2015 December 24 12:10 PM 
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2015 December 23 Wednesday
2 Order Of Magnitude Murder Rate Range For American Cities

Crime dangers are highly local. St. Louis Missouri has a murder rate over 2 orders of magnitude higher than Chandler Arizona: 49.9 vs 0.4 per 100k population.

Most of the worst cities (St. Louis, Detroit, New Orleans, Baltimore, Newark NJ) are not a surprise. Next worse is Buffalo and then Pittsburgh. I'm surprised by Pittsburgh. My impression was that it was greatly recovered from its worst rust belt days. But Pittsburgh at 22.4 is substantially worse than Philly at 15.9. I would not live in any place with a murder rate above 10 per 100k and really would avoid 5 per 100k.

What else is weird: Seattle and NYC tie at 3.9. I would have thought Seattle was lower crime than the Big Apple. But gentrification and aggressive policing have worked wonders. Los Angeles is at 6.7 and San Francisco is at 5.3. Big favored liberal professional destination SF isn't as safe as NYC? But Chicago at 15.1 is far worse, though not quite as bad as Philly. Indianapolis at 15.8 is worse than Chicago. I would not have expected that either.


Portland Oregon is at 4.2. Not bad by American city standards. But I expected an even lower number. Its become an iconic urbanist knowledge worker town like SF.

Of course, larger cities are big places and there are much more safe areas and much more dangerous areas. But I'm not keen on living in a safer part of Chicago or a safer part of Philly. I wonder which of the higher crime cities have big gradients of crime rates across their cities and which have more evenly distributed crime.

What else is interesting: the relative rankings of cities differs quite a bit by crime type. Oakland California comes up worst for robbery and auto theft. Anchorage Alaska is worst for rape (admittedly a highly inconsistently reported crime). Tucson AZ is worst for overall property crime. That's surprising to me. Cincinnati is worst for arson.

The take-away from all this: It matters where you live. It also matters where you vacation and where you or your kids go to college.

By Randall Parker 2015 December 23 06:10 PM 
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Donald Trump Second Least Hawkish GOP POTUS Candidate

The man most popular among the supporters of The Great Republican Revolt, Donald Trump, is sane on foreign policy compared to mainstream (i.e. supported by elites) Republican presidential candidates. Only Rand Paul is less hawkish. Surely Hillary Clinton is more hawkish than Trump as well. Look at her policies toward overthrowing the Libyan government - which let open the gates of hell into that country and now ISIS controls a substantial chunk of Libya. Yet the press tries to portray Trump as extreme and rash.

I've steadily lost respect for the reasoning ability of our elites and the elites in Western Europe. They've made a series of bad decisions and show no signs of getting back to reality.

Curiously, the Trump Revolt is strongest among less educated voters. I suspect that smarter people are most heavily targeted by elite propaganda and so more likely to drink the Kool-Aid.

From David Frum's The Great Republican Revolt:

These populists seek to defend what the French call “acquired rights”—health care, pensions, and other programs that benefit older people—against bankers and technocrats who endlessly demand austerity; against migrants who make new claims and challenge accustomed ways; against a globalized market that depresses wages and benefits. In the United States, they lean Republican because they fear the Democrats want to take from them and redistribute to Americans who are newer, poorer, and in their view less deserving—to “spread the wealth around,” in candidate Barack Obama’s words to “Joe the Plumber” back in 2008. Yet they have come to fear more and more strongly that their party does not have their best interests at heart.

Really, they do not have their own party. The Democrat elites abandoned them in favor of a permanent majority of Hispanic voters. The Republican elites pretended to embrace them but elite interests are increasingly diverging from those of the middle class.

Will the Republican Party fork? Will the Democratic Party eventually fork as well? It is also made up of a coalition of increasingly diverging interests.

The divergences of interests on the Left will grow for multiple reasons. The Democrats have multiple growing divisions: black vs Hispanic interests; classical liberal rights supporters vs illiberal #SafeSpace identity warriors; upper class cognitive elites vs lower class; tech industry management that wants to hire only cognitive elites vs racial preferences warriors. The list goes on. Can the Democrats manage all that? Seems like the divergences of interests will grow too large for them to reconcile.

The divergences of interests on the Right are growing as well. Downwardly mobile white middle class aspirations are likely to be frustrated (albeit to a lesser extent) if Trump wins. Automation is going to continue to kick the high school drop-outs and high school grads down to lower rungs on the economic ladder. Taxi drivers, bus drivers, truck drivers, short order cooks and many other occupations are going to get automated out of existence by 2030. Ditto most remaining factory jobs.

Wal-Mart is a big source of employment for lower class whites. Wal-Mart is the biggest employer in 20 states. But Wal-Mart will automate and people will continue to shift more of their buying online. Robots will take over all the work in order fulfillment warehouses. Wal-Mart is losing marketshare to Amazon. In 20 years time it seems very unlikely that Wal-Mart will be the biggest employer in America. I expect its staffing to drop in half or more.

The bitterness of American politics is going to grow. Trump's rhetoric a symptom, not a cause. What we are really seeing with Trump's rhetoric is a challenge to elite marginalization of anyone who opposes their will.

By Randall Parker 2015 December 23 10:29 AM 
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2015 December 22 Tuesday
Vladimir Putin Says Use Islamic Caliphate For Target Practice

Scott Adams adds walls and finds this idea appealing:

Once we get the Caliphate walled-up, we can dump the Guantanamo Bay leftovers there too. Compare that to Plan A, in which we release them and they kill us.

Walls: Is there anything they can’t do?

Adams advocates for renaming ISIS to Virgin Zombie Target Practice.

Will advances in robotics eventually doom all insurgent movements? Will the biggest capital owners be able to devastate any insurgency? Is ISIS going to accelerate the development of robotic ground forces that will make human labor ineffective in fighting for a religious or political sect?

By Randall Parker 2015 December 22 09:47 PM 
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Children In China's Cancer Slums

Parents and grandparents in China impoverish themselves to afford anti-cancer drugs for young children. They live in very small and crude apartments to save money for drugs. It is a sad story.

China has limited medical insurance. The cost of the drugs is driven up by multiple layres of distributors. People do not trust cheaper generics.

Again, it is a sad story.

By Randall Parker 2015 December 22 06:05 PM 
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2015 December 13 Sunday
Trump Does Not Need Media Support Or Help

David Roberts says the media don't like Trump because he does not need them.

Their trepidation has less to do with the fact of Trump lying than with the way he lies. They don't mind being properly lied to; it's all part of the game. What they cannot countenance is being rendered irrelevant. Trump is not kissing the ring. He barely bothers to spin the media. He does not need them, or give two shits what centrist pundits think. Their disapproval only strengthens him. Media gatekeepers are in danger of being exposed as impotent bystanders.

This is an article written from the Left. Roberts goes on to argue there is more lying emanating from the Right than the Left. That's hard to tell. Why: It is hard to tell whether tabula rasa Leftists believe what they say. Maybe they do. In that case they aren't lying but spew out a very high mix of inaccuracies. The Left is, relatively speaking, more detached from reality At least on the Right some dissident factions are clearly truth seekers and discussing reality. But the Left promotes a secular religion based on a mythology about human nature that is divorced from what we know about real humans.

Parenthetically, I am very curious to see how the Left handles the discoveries that are coming about human nature over the next 10 years. Some really big discoveries are in store because the cost of DNA sequencing has plunged orders of magnitude, putting a great many discoveries about cogntive function and genes within reach. What Judith Rich Harris explains in The Nurture Assumption will be demonstrated at the level of DNA sequences.

Another analysis of Trump from the Left by Jay Rosen. Along the way Rosen offers an explanation for why the press and campaign advisers all think the same way: “Institutional isomorphism”. They want to be able to move around to different organizations in their careers and so they all say similar things. Of course this makes the MSM and even Republican campaign consultants left-thinkers. What's great about Trump is that he doesn't need to make a career in politics or to hire mainstream campaign consultants or former reporters. If we had another dozen people in public life who were independent of the group think of the press our public debates would be a lot more real and we'd get a lot less group think propaganda.

If you are trying to figure out how Trump is managing to do so well then Dilbert creator Scott Adams has written some great stuff on the man Adams calls the Master Wizard and Master Persuader.

My sense of it is that the left-leaning media are now all in a big group think trying to figure out how to stop Trump. They would love to stick us with Hillary Rodham Clinton. Can a few of them get clever enough to find ways to neutralize his strengths? That's the thing to watch in the coming innings of this game.

By Randall Parker 2015 December 13 11:52 AM 
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2015 December 12 Saturday
Pay Diffs have grown Inter-firm, not Intra-firm

Some economists think that claimed growing wage differences between top executives and lower ranks are a myth. Within each firm wage differences haven't grown. The big growth in wage differences has happened between firms.

There are several potential explanations for these findings. One possibility is increased sorting: that is, perhaps, in the 1980s firms were employing workers from a broader set of skill levels but have become increasingly specialized over time, so that now firms employ workers from narrower skills groups. Therefore, some firms pay much higher average wages than before because their average worker quality has increased. And vice versa for firms that are now paying lower than before.2

A second potential explanation (which is not necessarily mutually exclusive with the first one) is growing productivity differentials across firms

My guess is there is much more cognitive sorting between firms. The smartest are getting concentrated into firms that do not hire so many people at lower cognitive levels. Look at the decrease in manual labor at manufacturing firms. Robots do more of the manufacturing and other work is done in less developed countries.

Even more, look at the software firms. They have much higher salaries for most of their workers and very few lower skilled workers. They outsource janitorial, building maintenance, and kitchen work. Also, the ranks of secretaries have been decimated by computer word processors, email, and other office automation software.

Is this useful knowledge? I suspect so. What to do about it? Switch to firms that pay more. Develop skills that will get you in the door at higher paying firms. Apply for jobs at places far from you if the local firms do not pay well.

By Randall Parker 2015 December 12 07:25 PM 
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Turkey Set Up Ambush For Russian Bombers?

Defense analyst Pierre Sprey, who was on the team which originally designed the F-16, lays out his reasoning for why he thinks the Turkish government plotted to take down a Russian bomber.

What is Erdogan's motive? Did Erdogan do this to shore up popular support by whipping up nationalist sentiment? That's probably part of it.

But another reason could be that Russia's bombers are disrupting supplies to ISIS that flow across the Turkish border with Syria in the area where the bomber was shot down. Read claims that Turkey allows supplies to flow to ISIS. Here is a fairly detailed list of allegations of different ways Turkey supplies ISIS (same here).

I still do not see an end game for the war in Syria. The Kurds are the most competent opposition to ISIS. But the Kurds are not eager to fight ISIS on territory which does not contain Kurdish villages. So the Kurds will advance only so far and stop. The Kurds won't try to close all Syrian border crossings with Turkey because Turks threaten to step in and stop them if they try.

Within the US many commentators about the Syria conflict quoted in the mass media have financial (and ethnic) interest that do not get reported along with their commentary. The various nations intervening in Syria also have a large assortment of interests in the Syria conflict. Turkey's interests are most complex with financial, religious, and ethnic interests at stake.

I see some interesting lessons from the Syria conflict:

  • Russia is the biggest (only?) defender of Christians in the Middle East. The United States shows no interest in their plight and US policies make Christians in the Middle East far worse off.
  • Kurdish nationalism is getting strengthened by events in Syria even more strongly than by events in Iraq. The Kurds have come back from near defeat in Kobani to carve out the Rojava region and have created a somewhat secular society, quite modern by Middle Eastern standards. Unfortunately, the Kurds aren't sufficiently numerous and able to make this into a large shift in the nature of Middle Eastern societies. Good for them but so what.
  • Angela Merkel really is bat shit crazy. Just from her response to the immigration surge from the Middle East and Africa that's obvious. But Merkel picks now to restart Turkey EU membership talks. Considering Turkey's role in Syria that's way crazy.
  • There are many conflicting interests in the Middle East and lots of countries are willing to use one country as a battle ground to fight over their conflicting interests.
  • Nothing is learned because faith in the West's secular religion among its elites is still unquestioned. Elites of Western countries have learned nothing so far about the threats to the sustainability of liberalism in Western countries, let alone learn why global liberal manifest destiny isn't in the cards.

Since moderate opposition continues to be an oxymoron in the Middle East and the West's elites are still in thrall to their secular religion the West lacks a coherent policy for the region.

By Randall Parker 2015 December 12 09:15 AM 
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2015 December 09 Wednesday
American Middle Class No Longer Majority

Upper and lower classes are growing. The center is shrinking. Naturally I think of William Butler Yeats and The Second Coming.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

What, me worry?

Many analysts and policymakers regard the continued hollowing of the middle class as worrisome for economic and social stability.

Eras come to an end. The era of the great American middle class has certainly come and gone. I do not see how a recovery of its fortunes is possible. Technological trends are boosting the value of a higher IQ. Computer and communication advances are cutting the need for middle managers of moderate ability. There is less need for managers who just accumulate and funnel reports to the top. Computers are collecting the data in real time.

My advice to you: get yourself skills that make you worth more. Be willing to move to where your work will have the greatest synergy with more able people. Go to where the money is. You are either going up or going down. It is hard to stay still.

By Randall Parker 2015 December 09 07:25 PM 
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2015 December 06 Sunday
Change Student Loan Program To Restrain College Spending

US government lending to students enables colleges to raise tuition and boost spending. Costs have been rising faster than the rate of inflation for decades. Time to put an end to it. Steve Cohen says make colleges the conduit for lending.

Instead of lending money to students and their families, Congress should lend money to colleges and universities. In turn, the schools would lend it to students and parents, with repayment going back to the school. In this way, colleges would have an incentive to limit tuition hikes—and thus how much students needed to borrow. Colleges might think twice before increasing tuition with this debt overhang and its credit-rating implications.

Imagine what this would do to colleges with low quality students who drop out at low rates and pursue economically useless majors. The colleges would have high default rates and go bankrupt. That market discipline would work wonders. Sure, the US government would lose some money. But the financial losses would decline with time as more low ranked colleges go out of business and other colleges raise their admissions criteria, steer their students into more useful courses of study, and cut back lending to unpromising students.

The fraction of students finishing their college courses is shrinking year after year. The colleges are recruiting lower quality students while charging them more money. A rising number of colleges are in a death spiral of shrinking enrollments and rising deficits.

The college market bubble has popped. Time to make colleges much more cost effective and more efficient.

By Randall Parker 2015 December 06 12:17 PM 
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2015 December 05 Saturday
Mistake To Overthrow Saddam Hussein, Moammar Gadhafi

I think the next president of the United States should be someone who realizes that the Iraq invasion and the Libya bombing to overthrow the Libyan government of Qaddafi/Gadhafi/Gaddafi/Qadhafi. Mike Flynn is unusual among military leaders in bluntly describing the scale of these mistakes.

Without the Iraq war, Islamic State wouldn't exist today, former US special forces chief Mike Flynn openly admits. In an interview, he explains IS' rise to become a professional force and how the Americans allowed its future leader to slip out of their hands.

A huge error.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: ... the Iraq war?

Flynn: It was huge error. As brutal as Saddam Hussein was, it was a mistake to just eliminate him. The same is true for Moammar Gadhafi and for Libya, which is now a failed state. The historic lesson is that it was a strategic failure to go into Iraq. History will not be and should not be kind with that decision.

One of the presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton, played an active role in favor of doin the Libyan mistake. Doing this after the Iraq mistake is a bigger mistake than the Iraq mistake because it was done with knowledge of many bad outcomes of the Iraq mistake. US support for the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad is a mistake in the same vein.

By Randall Parker 2015 December 05 09:34 AM 
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