31 May 2019

Daily Life In China Is Weird

In China, witch hunting starts in kindergarten. Here is an excerpt from a recent Chinese government report:



Having carried out a close investigation of the 35 young children in this class, we have not discovered evidence that any of them were involved in blackness or evil. 
Chinese tax dollars at work.

Wave after wave of campaigns like this one to "sweep away blackness and eliminate evil", that come and go the way fads and Internet challenges do in the U.S. are just one of many mays in which daily life in China is really weird, often with ominous undercurrents that can destroy the lives of a few chosen scapegoats or whole communities of people. Some of the other ways that China is weird include the following:

* Its social credit system that systemically harasses people for offenses as minor as not sending your mother a birthday card.

* Its tortuously circuitous press that offers almost only propaganda, where no one can afford to be honest with anyone but their closest family and friends in securely private settings.

* Its massively censored internet that is always inventing new bizarre euphemisms to evade censors.

* It excess supply of urban men who are spoiled only children (not uncommonly a second generation of only children), whose struggle to find spouses leads poor rural farmers to procure mail order brides from Southeast Asia and India, and leaves the nation tempted to start a war so it can find something for them to do.

* Its routine use of abortions pretty much as birth control with little or no stigma attached.

* Its legions of thirty-somethings making decisions that in the U.S. would be reserved for septuagenarians with decades of seniority in business or politics.

* Its business deals awash with corruption and sex parties.

* Its rural areas with poverty and grass roots legitimate non-partisan local government democracy juxtaposed against sprawling cities with endless wavs of rural migrants swept their by economic circumstances juxtaposed against an ultra-wealthy class that is fused with the political leadership and makes its fortunes with bold corruption and government abuse fueled business deals.

* Its huge expanses of high speed rail lines that run half empty because few people can afford tickets.

* Its seizures of homes and businesses with almost no notice and no compensation to build railways or high rises.

* Its high rise apartment and office buildings that go up in a week or two with whole massive cities with millions of people rising from almost nothing in a matter of a few years. 

* The common practice of kidnapping foreign executives with impunity as a means of debt collection and contract negotiation, almost like the vestigial practice of debt collection via "body execution" in the common law tradition, or practices similar to China's by labor unions in France.

* Its sudden secretive executions of business people for alleged corruption.

* Its spooky totalitarian campaigns to force ethnic minorities in its inland hinterlands like Tibetans and Uyghurs to assimilate into the Han Chinese majority with colonization campaigns designed to destroy their ethnicities, bans on speaking their own languages, and unannounced and unacknowledged seizures of people who are taken to "reeducation and labor camps" when there is the slightest hint or suspicion that a person might not be fully assimilating.

* This is a country that persecutes pretty much harmless, slightly heterodox minority spiritual movements like the Falun Gong.

The thing is, this isn't pre-Cold War Albania or today's North Korea or Uzbekistan or Brunei. It isn't a bizarre little enclave removed from the larger world. 

This is the world's most populous nation, with more than a billion people (although India is catching up fast and will surpass it soon). 

This is a nation that has seen year after year after year of economic growth of 10% or more that is no longer a poor third-world nation. 

This is the place where a huge share of the world's manufactured goods, from party dresses than can be purchased direct from China in the U.S. for $6, to processed chickens, to smart phones, to most of the inventory at Wal-Mart is made.

This is the country which has purchased more U.S. Treasury bonds than any other single bond owner in the world which is at this moment lending money to the U.S. so that its deficit spending can provide relief to U.S. farmers who are being put out of business by Chinese tariffs on their soybeans and other products in retaliation for multiple rounds of U.S. tariffs (paid for almost entirely by Americans, both formally and in terms of economic incidence) on their goods.

It isn't clear how much of this madness facilitates its breakneck economic development, and how much is merely a hinderance that is overcome, as a reasonably socially cohesive society with hundreds of millions of well educated and/or managerially skilled people who a reaping the benefits of being able to borrow technology that already exists instead of inventing it from scratch are using to the fullest.

This is a country that in making huge foreign investments in Central Asia and Africa.

Once upon a time, in the mid-20th century, its political and social system was vaguely modeled upon that of the Soviet Union. But, those days are long gone. China's unique economic, legal, political and social system bears only a remote relation to the Soviet and civil law and traditional Chinese monarchy's traits that it has synthesized into a novel authoritarian capitalist state. It does business with many countries organized on a culturally and politically Western model with mixed economies that have unapologetically capitalist roots tamed by democratic socialist institutions, and has adjusted its own practices enough to be compatible with these economies at a business level, but very little about it is Western, and even the Western business practices that it has submitted to have something lost in translation in a Chinese context.

30 May 2019

The Death Penalty Divide Continues

New Hampshire has overridden the veto of its Republican Governor to become the 21st U.S. state to repeal the death penalty.

Alabama has carried out another execution, a ritual described in great deal at the link. Four justices had voted to grant certiorari in the case, which was what is necessary to grant it. But, the other five refused to stay the execution, in a gross defiance of U.S. Supreme Court tradition. So, the man was executed and the case became moot.

Quote of the Day

The best part of going to a therapist is when you finally break down and say "Doc, I never sleep properly. I wake up feeling uneasy, weary, disoriented and unbalanced. I spend my days in a mild, apprehensive haze, and for that pedestrian anxiety I'd otherwise be grateful, except for the fact that at certain moments I am gripped with the certainty that the universe is not simply chaotic and random, but actively hostile to consciousness, and may perhaps feed on and delight in our suffering", and she says "Yeah, that's a pretty normal feeling."
- Alex Fenaughty (April 11, 2019 Facebook post).

29 May 2019

An Ordinary Felony Case

Usually, I write about unusual or exceptional criminal cases when I write about the criminal justice system. This post recounts the course of an utterly pedestrian and typical, albeit more serious than average, felony case in the Colorado courts.
On April 28 of [2018], Lakewood police responded to the 5400 block of W. 3rd Avenue after receiving a report of a structure fire. When they arrived, they found a large barn and tons of hay were on fire. Lakewood police, with the help of the Denver Police Department, were able to get a handful of horses out of the barn while West Metro Fire worked to extinguish the blaze. In total, seven horses were killed. 
At the same time, seven other locations around the neighborhood were set ablaze, including: two dumpsters, a car, a motorcycle and the space under the stairs of an apartment where 20 people lived and were asleep. 
[Earnest Sunday Maynes, 38] was arrested in May 2018 and charged with first-degree arson, second-degree arson and animal cruelty. 
On April 4, 2019, he pleaded guilty to two counts of arson, eight counts of aggravated animal cruelty and one count of criminal mischief. He had five prior felony convictions.
He was sentenced Friday to 25 years in prison.
From 7 News.

Note Re The Sentence: 

A 25 year sentence for a violent felony like this one in Colorado, entered following about one year of pre-trial incarceration, is likely to result in about 18 more years of incarceration (75% of of the sentence for good behavior while in prison, with credit for time served so far), making him about 56 years old when he is released, followed by 5 years of parole, making him 61 years old when his sentence is completely served if he successfully completes his parole sentence (something that is not at all a sure thing).

A May 28, 2018 news report linked above notes that:
A West Metro Fire spokesperson confirmed that Maynes was arrested Sunday night, though he has had a warrant for his arrest since early May. . . .  Court records indicate Maynes remains held on a $500,000 bond. He has two prior convictions on felony menacing charges and convictions on destruction of private property and petty theft, according to court records.
An April 8, 2019 news report discussed the potential sentence he faced after his plea bargain:
He . . .  could face anywhere from eight to 34 years in prison. Because of his prior felony convictions, he is not eligible for probation.
What is typical about it?

* The crimes involve an overall pattern conduct that has been uncontroversially consider criminal for as long as there has been an organized criminal justice system in common law countries, although the exact charges did not have exactly that form at common law.

* The charges bear a reasonable resemblance to the conduct and include most of the most serious charges that could have been brought, but not every conceivable charge that could have been filed under the circumstances.

* The arrest was made by local government employed police officers not long after the crime was committed. A warrant was issued for his arrest within a week or two of the crime (possibly within a matter of days) and he was arrested within a month of the time that the crime was committed.

* The charges were filed by a local district attorney in a state court.

* The defendant was an adult male under the age of 40 (he was 38 years old) with a long prior felony record (five prior felony convictions in the twenty years since he was 18 years old, some of which were, no doubt, spent in jails and prisons).

* The defendant in this crime committed in a predominantly Anglo white suburb of Denver was himself white Anglo man.

* No death penalty charges were filed.

* He was not charged with or sentenced based upon habitual offender sentence enhancing provision of Colorado's sentencing laws, even though he was probably eligible for a sentence under those provisions which would have been a de facto life sentence without a possibility of parole.

* No serious concerns that he did not actually commit the crime have been raised in the case.

* The case was resolved with a guilty plea after a lengthy period of pre-trial incarceration.

* The sentence imposed was not particularly close to either the low end or the high end of the sentence authorized for the crimes to which he pleaded guilty, even though they were not exactly in the middle of the range of the permitted sentences either.

* The sentence imposed for these serious felonies with typical of sentences imposed for that kind of conduct and those offenses in the United States, in general, and in Colorado, in particular, and as is typical, the sentence for these serious felonies was much longer than it would have been in most our jurisdictions in the world.

Quite A Few People Have Serious Genetic Risk Factors But Most Don't Know It

Universal genome testing for health purposes could lead to early diagnosis of serious conditions and more targeted treatments when risk factors produce the expected problems.
In an unselected population of 23,713 participants who underwent clinical exome sequencing as a part of the Healthy Nevada Project (HNP) in Northern Nevada (Renown Health, Reno, Nevada) from March 15, 2018, to Sept 30, 2018 (Table S1) we find a 1.26% carrier rate for expected pathogenic and likely pathogenic genetic variants in (FH: LDLR, PCSK9, APOB), Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer (HBOC: BRCA1, BRCA2) and Lynch Syndrome (LS: MLH1, MSH2, MSH6, PSM2) with over 90% of carriers undetected under current medical practice. 26% of carriers were found to have advanced disease with 70% first diagnosed before the age of 65. Less than 20% of all carriers had any documented suspicion for inherited genetic disease in the medical record and upon direct follow-up survey under 40% of carriers had family history of relevant disease. A population preventative genetic screening approach for patients under 45 may improve outcomes.
From here.

Quote of the Day

It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.
- Unknown, via Candace Ellman. 

Will GM Merge With Ford?

Apparently, the optimal number of major U.S. automakers is one. GM and Ford are might need to merge, which would make it the largest in the world and the dominant U.S. automaker. Actually, this is purely speculation with no actual rumors from either company based on what seems to make sense. The article portrays GM as the stronger company and Ford as very troubled.

Alternative History: What If The U.S. Accidentally Nuked NC In 1961?

An alternative history story exploring this little "what if" could be quite interesting.


26 May 2019

A New Plan For Oberlin College's Future

Why Was Change Needed?

My alma mater, Oberlin College, has been having trouble fulfilling its budget needs and has been sagging in academic ranking. A major initiative has looked at solutions summed up in a final "One Oberlin" report.

What was the bad news that motivated these big changes (sources omitted, not in quite the same order and categories as in the original)?
Key facts about Oberlin’s budget: 
o Without change, Oberlin’s cumulative deficit would have reached $162 million in 10 years beginning in FY2018 Note: This projection has already been mitigated by cost reductions underway during FY2019. 
o Reductions of $11.1 million in the baseline budget are planned from FY2020 to FY2024 across the institution through the regular budget process — including the equivalent of 25 faculty FTE through attrition. Yet these reductions alone will not balance our budget. For this purpose, attrition includes both the decision to not replace some faculty members who leave Oberlin or retire, as well as the elimination of some vacant visiting professor lines. Cutting through attrition does not mean that all faculty hiring or replacement will end; similarly, the normal channels of faculty hiring and alignment will allow reallocation of replacement positions as needed. 
o 83% of annual operating revenue comes from student tuition and fees. 
o In 2016-17, Arts & Sciences realized net revenues of $23.9 million after direct and indirect costs, while the Conservatory lost $11.1 million.   
o Arts & Sciences students bring in, on average, $10,000 more in tuition revenue per year than Conservatory students. Note: The Conservatory provides more financial aid per student in order to effectively compete for students with other top conservatories.  
o Revenue loss based on lower costs of OSCA model yields a negative financial impact to Oberlin of $1.9 million per year. Note: Includes foregone student revenue, less program management costs if they reverted to the College. 
Key facts about employee costs: 
o Employee compensation — all faculty and staff — makes up 63% of Oberlin’s budget. 
o The average salary for Oberlin’s Arts & Sciences faculty is 11.3% less than peers with whom we compete in recruitment, the Sweet 16. 
o Adjusted for inflation, faculty and A&PS have forgone $5.5 million in total compensation since 2017 through salary freezes and benefits cuts. Note: Difference is based on projections of budgetary impact if there had been typical raises and no change in benefits during those two years.  
o Oberlin’s average hourly staff wage is 34% higher than the average of four other Northeast Ohio liberal arts colleges (Kenyon, Dennison, Ohio Wesleyan, and Wooster). Note: These colleges represent similar institutions within the same region. 
o Health care benefits cost $9,849 per year for each faculty and A&PS employee; health care benefits cost $16,984 per year for each hourly employee. 
Key facts about students: 
o In 2018, almost 80% of students admitted to Arts & Sciences who listed music performance as their primary interest enrolled somewhere else. 
o 38% of our prospective students showed a strong interest in business. 
o 42% of returning students have a strong interest in global public health.  
o 91% of students admitted to the Conservatory listed career preparation as very or extremely important. 
o Oberlin Arts & Sciences students secure career-related jobs by graduation at roughly half the rate of their liberal arts college COHFE peers. 
What Will Change?

Some of the most notable changes proposed (as paraphrased by me) are as follows:

1.  Reduce the size of the music conservatory by 100 students and increase the size of the arts and science division by 100 students (since arts and sciences students generate much more revenue per student). This would also increase the competitiveness of the conservatory program, potentially making it more prestigious. The Conservatory is currently operating at a big, per student, deficit.

2. Hire some post-graduate fellows from top institutions to teach in the conservatory, because they can be quite good but are cheaper than tenure track faculty.

3. Increase music offerings for arts & sciences students (and remaining conservatory students) to make that more of a draw with resources freed up from reduced conservatory enrollment.

4. Add concentrations in business and in global health that would be more of a draw to potential students.

5. Increase interdisciplinary activities as a draw to potential students and faculty, and a way to react more quickly to a changing environment within academia.

6. Improve career services offerings, and the orientation of the college towards helping graduates develop careers as a draw to potential students. Ultimately, the implied hope is also that more students will "do well" instead of only "doing good" and that this will increase future donations to the endowment.

7. Improve winter term offerings so that 25%-30% of students stay on campus, some of which would involve ExCo (i.e. student taught class options, expanding an existing program in the college while keeping costs down). This would be accomplished, in part, by offering two credits of regular college credit for some options and, in part, by providing better options. This would be in part a draw for new students, in part a community building effort, and in part a way to utilize campus infrastructure resources and teaching capacity more efficiently.

8. Consolidate administrative functions currently incurred at the department level into multi-department divisions within the Arts & Science division in order to reduce administrative expenses.

9. Improved winter term offerings, reduced department level administration, and an increased arts and sciences enrollment, and increase music offerings for arts and sciences students, is intended to demand more teaching capacity from existing faculty than they currently provide (in lieu of laying off faculty). Professors will be expected to work harder, but they will stay employed.

10. Significantly reduce the amount of administrative and hourly staff (almost everywhere but career services) while integrating them with each other better, and significantly reduce the above market compensation paid to hourly staff right now. Compensation for faculty would probably be increased somewhat.

11. Reduce the amount of building space used by 20% by utilizing the rest more efficiently (especially by reducing boundaries between departments and departmental administrative space) and phasing out the least desirable buildings that drain the college's resources.

12. Increase the amount charged as rent to student co-ops so that there is not a net financial subsidy of them. The increase would be about $3,220 per 590 students who dine in co-ops, with a somewhat smaller increase for those who dine in co-ops but don't live there, and a somewhat larger increase for the 180 who both live and dine in co-ops. The data indicate, contrary to conventional wisdom, that co-op students are, on average, are more affluent than the average Oberlin student. Co-ops are significantly less expensive than ordinary dorm and dining service options: "In 2018-2019, to dine in a co-op costs $3,900 a year ($4,330 less than campus dining service). Living in a co-op double and dining in a co-op costs $8,730 ($7,608 less than living in a campus dorm and dining in campus dining service); living in a co-op single and dining in a co-op costs $9,900 for the year ($6,438 less)." Some of this savings arises from the labor provided by co-op students, but quite a bit of the savings, it turns out, comes from subsidies from the institution via below cost rents for the spaces used by the co-ops.

Analysis

Of Oberlin's nearly 3,000 students, nearly 2,400 are enrolled in the College of Arts & Sciences, a little over 400 in the Conservatory of Music, and the remaining 180 or so are enrolled in both College and Conservatory under the five-year Double-Degree program. Allocating double degree students 50% to each division, the planned cut in the size of the Conservatory's student body is about 20%. The increase in the size of the College's student body is about 4%. The targeted total enrollment would remain unchanged.

Admission to the Conservatory will become much more selective almost immediately, the student to faculty ratio in the Conservatory will fall, and career services will improve, as the changes are phased in over four years. Oberlin is currently ranked 7th in the nation for its music program (ahead of John Hopkins, the University of Southern California, Yale, Northwestern University, Carnegie Mellon, Indiana University, Bard College, Shenandoah University, and UCLA). The only institution which is not purely a music program (and the only institution which is not in a major coastal city) that is ranked higher is the University of Rochester (which is ranked 5th). It isn't unthinkable that Oberlin could rise to the number five spot with this change.

The increase in arts and sciences enrollment risks lowering admissions standards, but the clear intent of the plan is to mitigate that risk by upping the college's game in terms of new draws to the college that address several of the biggest factors that data shows has been causing prospective students to choose other schools instead of Oberlin in terms of curricular options. A 4% increase in comparable quality admissions yields is not unrealistic with some significant data driven changes in the college's offerings. Ideally, the changes will strengthen the attractiveness of the college even more and will allow it to become more selective again, something that has been slowly declining over the last couple of decades.

The plan has earned wide consensus support from faculty and other interested constituencies, and I am inclined to agree that this is a solid plan for dealing pro-actively with a gradual but serious crisis facing the college in a way that builds on the institution's strengths without compromising its core values, and with only completely unavoidable pain. (I am also struck, as someone who was highly involved in the student-faculty governance system while I was at Oberlin at how similar that system is now to what it was then.)

This is a better plan than what would have been the easiest and less thoughtful option - to decrease enrollment across the board to make it possible to lay off more faculty and increase endowment funds per student, continue to cap faculty pay, and to reduce financial aid in the college of arts and sciences (increasing tuition in either the college or the conservatory, and reducing financial aid in the conservatory, is largely foreclosed by market forces).

Some Automobile Industry Predictions

* I predict that within ten years, the automobile manufacturing company Tesla, will offer a plug in electric vehicle which, like the Chevy Volt, has a fossil fuel powered back up generator to charge batteries when charging stations are unavailable.

* I predict that within ten years there will be very strong regional differences between countries, states, and smaller the country or state sized regions, in rates of electric vehicle utilization, because some areas will develop a robust networks of electric vehicle charging that makes electric vehicles more attractive creating a "virtuous cycle" of increased electric vehicles use, while other areas will have only anemic networks of electric vehicle charging facilities which will lead to a "vicious cycle" of little investment in vehicle charging facility networks because there is little demand for them.

* Currently, the market share of the U.S. automobile companies for cars and light trucks (GM 17.1% (Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Holden, Jiefang, OnStar, Wuling, Baojun), Ford 14.4% (including Lincoln) and Tesla 0.7%) is 32.2% of the market as of 2018. A list of world automobile manufacturers current and defunct is here.

Toyota is 14.0% (Japanese) (also Lexus)
Chrysler-Fiat 12.9% (Italian) (also Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Jeep, Dodge, Ram, Maserati and Lancia)
Honda is 9.3% (Japanese) (also Acura)
Nissan is 8.6% (Japanese) (also Infiniti)
Hyundai-Kia is 7.3% [1] (South Korean)
Subaru a.k.a. Fuji Heavy Industries 4.0% (Japanese)
Volkswagen Group 3.3% (German) (also Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini, Seat and Cupra)
Daimler a.k.a Mercedes 2.1% [2] (German) (also Smart and Maybach)
BMW 2.1% (German) (also Mini and Rolls-Royce)
Mazda 1.7% (Japanese)
Jaguar Land Rover 0.7% [3] (Indian)
Mitsubishi 0.7% (Japanese)
Volvo 0.6% [4] (China) (also Lotus)
Porshe 0.3% (German)
Other 0.1%

Market Share Percentage By Region

Japanese 38.3%
U.S. 32.2%
Italian 12.9%
German 7.6%
South Korean 7.3%
Indian 0.7%
China 0.6%

Total sales: 17,274,250

Even treating Chrysler-Fiat as American, the U.S. market share would be 45.1%.

Of course, these statistics conceal as much as they reveal. Many "foreign cars" are mostly made in the U.S., Canada and/or Mexico. Likewise, each of these companies generate profits for shareholders from myriad nations. And, essentially all of the employment generated from selling and maintaining "foreign vehicles" in the U.S. is U.S. based. In the case of Chrysler-Fiat, unlike the other companies, a lot of the design and upper management employment is also U.S. based.

[1] Hyundai Motor Company was founded in 1967 and it, along with its 32.8% owned subsidiary, Kia Motors, and its 100% owned luxury subsidiary Genesis Motor, altogether comprise the Hyundai Motor Group. Kia in turn is a minority owner of more than twenty Hyundai subsidiaries ranging from 4.9% up to 45.37%.

[2] Daimler has small percentage ownerships by Chinese car market Geely 9.7%, French car maker Renault 1.54% and Japanese car maker Nissan 1.54%.

[3] Formerly U.K. owned Jaguar Land Rover and formerly South Korean Daewoo are subsidiaries of Indian car maker Tata.

[4] Swedish firm Volvo is a subsidiary of Chinese car market Geely.

There are a number of companies which sell only luxury cars or sports cars often including a small number in the U.S. market such as Ferrari (Italian), Pagani (Italian), Aston-Martin (U.K.), McLaren (U.K.), and Koenigsegg (Sweden).

French car maker PSA (with the Citro├źn, Peugeot, DS, Opel and Vauxhall brands) and Renault, Japanese car maker Suzuki, and Czech car maker Skoda are almost entirely absent from the U.S. market.

Bugatti, which was French, went out of business in 1963. Saab, which was Swedish, went out of business in 2012.

I don't have a good prediction regarding how this market share will change over time, as I can see forced working in the direction of greater than lesser U.S. market share. I do predict, however, that at least one additional country other than Japan, Italy, South Korea and Germany will export a greater than 1% share of U.S. cars and light truck within ten years.

Twelve Sins Of Economics As A Discipline

What does economics as a discipline do poorly?

1. Fails to make clear that maximizing efficiency and aggregate output are not the only or most important goals for economic policy.

2. Fails to clarify the extent to which there are important differences between GDP and aggregate well being.

3. Fails to clarify the extent to which different components of economic theory are more or less strongly validated empirically (e.g., to explain the high levels of inaccuracy involved in macroeconomic models).

4. It overemphasizes the importance of monetary policy.

5. It overemphasizes the value of mathematical models (especially in macroeconomics).

6. Fails explore the pervasiveness of price discrimination in a laissez faire economic system and the implications of this realty.

7. Focuses too much on theory and too little on a descriptive account of how the economy, in general, works in reality. This has many dimensions to it.

8. It fails to develop a sound understanding of how important classes of business transactions are conducted in reality.

9.  It underemphasizes economic history and comparative economics.

10. Fails to adequately develop the interplay between culture, technology, policy and access to resources in economic development.

11. It underemphasizes the importance of economic decision making not made in markets conducted in price denominated transactions; in particular underemphasizing decisions made within households and families, within large firms, and between firms acting in an oligopoly context.

12. Fails to sufficiently explore the ways in which a rational actor model of economic decision making is flawed in systemic ways, and the implications of these facts.

There are some people who are economists who don't fall prey to any one of these particular shortcomings, but the discipline as a whole has these biases and introductory economics instruction has these flaws.

21 May 2019

Four Years Of Juke

I purchased my car, a Nissan Juke, four years ago today. In that time, I've driven an average of 19.40 miles per day. It is probably the favorite car I've had of all of the cars that I've owned or driven, and I like it for the same reasons I bought it.

* It uses literally half as much gas per mile as the Hyundai Sante Fe I was driving before I bought it. In practice, I get 26 mpg in the city, 40 mpg on  the highway, and a couple miles per gallon more in "economy" mode. I like the CVT transmission, which also helps with fuel economy while being functionally an automatic transmission. When I bought it, I reconciled sticker price and lifetime gasoline costs, by assuming that I'd have it for ten years and that gas would have an average price of $4 per gallon over that time period. So far, that estimate looks low, but with six years left, who knows? To some extent, the overly conservative assumption about gas prices in the future was a hedge against an unlikely, but possible, future anyway, rather than a purely realistic prediction. Even with those generous assumptions, however, none of the hybrids on the market except the Prius C were competitive with it in terms of combined fuel cost and sticker price in the market segment that I was looking at. 

* The only electric vehicle options at the time were the Nissan Leaf, which had an advertised range of 80 miles from a full charge, and the first couple of models of Tesla, which were $100,000+ and out of my price range even with the tax credits. A Leaf would have been comparable in price after tax credits, but the range just didn't cut it. While its range would have been fine for driving to work and the grocery store an so on, I make enough trips a year from Denver to places like Pueblo, Fort Collins and Cheyenne, Frisco and Vail, Akron and Sterling, Loveland, Estes Park, and Nederland that I would have needed an alternative car on a regular basis, and the only places I've gone on a regular basis that have chargers available are close enough to home that I wouldn't have actually needed them (e.g. there are several near Civic Center in Denver, less than five miles from my home). Apart from the price, I could have made a Tesla work, although it would have taken considerably more thought. I could have chosen the "usually electric" Chevy Volt (which under the hood is an impressive engineering accomplishment and would have met my needs in terms of range), but it was ugly, it was too big, it wasn't easy to switch from cargo mode to passenger mode, it didn't have all wheel drive, and the tax incentives weren't as good.

* It was the smallest all wheel drive vehicle you could buy at the time. And, while I value having an all wheel drive vehicle (I woke up to lots of snow today in Denver, Colorado on May 21, 2019). The all wheel drive feature sets it apart from alternatives that I considered like the Prius C, the Mazda 2 (I also couldn't find any dealer that had them on the lot), the Hyundai Veloster, the Smart Car, the Fiat 500, the Mini Cooper, and the VW New Beetle (the fact that most of the models for sale were diesel and that its fuel economy ratings were fraudulent just after the fact schadenfreude).

* I also appreciate having a small vehicle which makes it easy to park in the city. Just today alone I've parked in two places where I wouldn't have been able to with a full sized sedan, let alone a hulking SUV. Three hundred and sixty degree "backing" cameras have also been great. I can even (barely) fit it in my garage which was designed in the Model T days for much smaller vehicles.

* It is still roomy enough to comfortably seat me at 6' 1" and obese in the front seats. Some Toyota Scion models and the Mazda Miata weren't.

* It can seat four with very little cargo space, three with more cargo space, and two with almost as much cargo space as a small SUV. I've used it in all three configurations. With the back seats down to use as cargo space and "sport" mode engaged, it's almost like a little Jeep or a sports car with more cargo space. If I had planned on doing a lot of driving with two late teenaged passengers or adult clients, I would have gotten something larger. But, I knew that with one kid getting her driver's license and a car of her own (which is why I got a new car) and due to move out in two years, and another kid two years behind her, that I would be using it very much that way, and usually for small trips. The backup plan of having the Hyundai Sante Fe (a medium sized all wheel drive SUV) on hand for the rare times when we'd need it for two years (it became my daughter's car which she often uses to carry many friends or go camping in dirt road land) also made the smaller capacity more manageable psychologically.

* It is peppy (especially in "sport" mode) and has a tight turning circle. A sports car would be faster (although far less fuel efficient and with less cargo/passenger space), but honestly, I can push the limits of what is legal and feasible in urban and highway driving as it is, simply by being willing to hit the accelerator when I want acceleration and speed. With the moon roof open and the windows down, it's almost a convertible, without the maintenance and temperature control issues of a soft top.

* It's distinctive looking which makes it easy to pick out of the mass of vehicles in a parking lot or driving up to pick someone up. I also just like how it looks. My kids both think Subarus look good but I just don't get that.

* I enjoy satellite TV and the best available off-the-shelf sound system, the Bluetooth phone and music connections to smart phones, the keyless entry and start, and the heated seats. I even use the GPS sometimes, although I call it Loki because it is a trickster that often deceives me. Hands free phone use (not just to answer but for voice activated calling) is pretty neat.

This said, nothing is perfect, and the Juke is no exception:

* It has a rear window wiper, but would really use a rear window wash.

* The sight lines to the rear are poor (but better than the Veloster), and a blind spot warning light which is popular on many new cars now would have been nice.

* It is hard to see the speed and other indicators through the steering wheel, and the gas tank release is in an awkward place where it is easy to accidentally open the hood instead.

* The Bluetooth connection can be a bit fussy at times.

* The GPS database is far too expensive to update when Google Maps via Bluetooth does the same thing for free.

* It has had some minor maintenance issues (e.g. the volume control dial doesn't work reliably).

* I would have preferred a car that was a couple of inches narrower (the Fiat 500 is the narrowest on the market).

Still, on the whole, it has been a great car and with the Juke now replaced by the Nissan Kona in its lineup (a far inferior vehicle in every way), there's really nothing else in the market that I'd be inclined to replace it with today.

Six to ten years from now, when I get my next car, I strongly suspect that it will be an electric one. I suspect that this will be the last fossil fuel powered car that I ever own.


17 May 2019

Do We Need A Center Party?


Many red states are basically lost causes for Democrats. But, it ought to be possible to flip Ohio and Florida at least, and probably Iowa and Missouri too.

The U.S. could use viable third parties (when and if the election laws were redesigned to require a majority of the vote to win in single district races without a runoff - Georgia, Florida and Louisiana, for example, already do).

But, the greatest need for one isn't a need for a progressive third-parties to the left of the Democratic party.

Instead, more than anything, the U.S. needs a centrist third parties (tailored on a state by state basis to the local political environment) contesting state and local elections in red states. In those states, Anglo white voters overwhelmingly reject the Democratic party because it is liberal, but also aren't necessarily fond of the craziness and extremism in the Republican party.

What Would A Center Party Look Like?

A "center" party is, almost by definition, defined by not sharing positions in the political parties to its left and to its right that it views as too liberal and too conservative. (To be clear, I wouldn't be a member of such a party).

Some of the things that a center party might stand for might include:

Culture Wars

* Support encouraging, but not requiring, recital of the Pledge of Allegiance.
* Oppose teaching creationism and religion in schools.
* Oppose efforts to treat the United States as a "Christian nation."
* Oppose Confederate symbolism.
* Support anti-discrimination laws and some affirmative action.
* Support fighting bias against poor whites (e.g. Appalachians)
* Provide non-English government documents only on request when feasible.

Sex and Abortion and Families

* Oppose abstinence only sex education.
* Oppose laws that would potentially criminalize hormonal birth control and IUDs.
* Support free access to long term birth control for low income women and teen parents.
* Support pretty much the status quo on abortion (legal in most cases with considerable regulation).
* Support medical stem cell research.
* Favor having children while married as a matter of public policy.
* Subsidize marriage counseling.

Criminal Justice and Gun Control

* Support reasonable, targeted gun regulations, while supporting a right to private gun ownership.
* Support the death penalty in exceptional cases, but with adequate funding for defense counsel.
* Support mandatory minimum sentences for serious violent crimes and sex offenses.
* Support removing mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses.
* Support fully legalizing medical marijuana and decriminalizing possession of small amounts of pot.
* Support harm reduction programs related to drug use, and medicine based drug treatment.
* Oppose drug legalization.
* Strong legislation and actions to discourage political corruption.
* Support making it easier to fire law enforcement officers who engage in improper conduct.
* Support shorter sentences for non-violent offenders.
* Better fund re-entry programs for newly released prisoners.

 Social Safety Net and Public Spending

* Support raising sufficient revenues to adequately maintain roads and bridges.
* Support more generous and easy to obtain unemployment insurance.
* Prefer categorical welfare programs (e.g. Social Security and Medicare) to means tested ones.
* Reduce incentives not to marry in connection with means tested welfare.
* Support universal health care coverage, but not a single payer healthcare system.
* Support non-profit charter schools, but not private school vouchers or for profit institutions.
* Support funding to pay national average compensation to teachers.
* Support and promote apprenticeships and trade schools.
* Increase need based scholarship funding for higher education, but not free tuition.

Business Regulation and Environment

* Support cost-benefit analysis of regulations.
* Support improving funding of agencies where "red tape" is a barrier to businesses.
* Support more funding for judges and the courts to speed up civil litigation.
* Create incentives to favor, but don't mandate renewable energy production.
* Actively work to reduce excessive provider prices for publicly funded health care programs.
* Allow fracking in rural areas but not urban areas.
* Relax legal restrictions on crowd funding for businesses.
* Reduce paper privacy paperwork that no one ever reads.
* Reduce paper securities disclosures that no one ever reads.
* Oppose rent control.

Immigration

* Favor more work related legal immigration and less remote family relation legal immigration.
* Favor humane treatment of asylum seekers.
* Enact a statute of limitations from entry on deportations.

International Relations

* Oppose tariffs.
* Oppose war with Iran.
* Oppose boycotting Israel.
* Reduce foreign aid to Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
* Oppose a "Muslim ban".

15 May 2019

Overrated And Underrated Countries

The ratings here are relative to "conventional wisdom" about how good a place to live or bad a place to live a country actually is.

Places Perceived As Bad That Are Much Worse Than Most People Realize

* North Korea

* Saudi Arabia

* The West Bank and Gaza in Israel (a.k.a. Palestine)

* Pakistan

* Belarus

* Papua New Guinea

* Venezuela

* South Sudan

* Yemen

* Central African Republic

Places That Are Bad But Are Perceived As Worse Than They Actually Are.

* Lebanon

* Iran

* Cuba

* Columbia

* Cambodia

* Vietnam

* Bangladesh

* Ethiopia

* Eritrea

* Uruguay

Places That Are Better In Some Respects But Worse In Others Than They Are Perceived

Mexico (more educated with better healthcare; but also more corrupt and violent)

* India (more economically developed in some places, but more fanatical, with more profound poverty and with a serious underuse of toilets)

* Portugal (more progressive in some ways, more economically backward and authoritarian in others)

* Egypt (safer but less free)

* Singapore (more developed but less free)

* China (more developed but less free and more corrupt)

Places That Are Perceived To Be Better Than They Actually Are

Greece

* Italy

* Spain

* Hungary

* Much of the United States of America

Learning About Relationships And Other Non-Academic Aspects Of Life

One thing that almost everyone needs to learn about in life is how to function well in a variety of relationships. Parent and child. Brother and sister. Teacher and student. Boss and employee. Advisor and advisee. Leader and follower. Friend. Boyfriend or girlfriend. Spouse. Customer and salesperson. And more relationships that are often less central.

Now, one of the things we as a society, especially in the United States, can be a bit naive about is that just because people need to learn about something, doesn't mean that doing so as part of the conventional classroom curriculum is the right way to go about doing it. Indeed, frequently, it is an inferior way to help people learn something. For the most part, however, we aren't intuitively tuned into the learning that goes on outside of the traditional classroom instruction format from teacher to student.

Socialization is critical and unlike many things that are important in life, not very hereditary at all. But, often, it is mostly learned through osmosis, by observing others, by example, by trial and error, by instinct. This doesn't mean that there aren't better and worse ways to socialize people. But, it does mean that it is more about mindfulness in how the larger social context is structured and interpersonal relationships are formed, and less about instructing someone and expecting them to learn something that way.

Sure, the traditional classroom instruction model can be a good way to teach a lot of traditional academic subjects. But, there is much ore to learn than what one learns in the classroom. And, even then, some subjects are horrible to try to teach that way, first and foremost among them being foreign languages. A month immersed in a culture in which you have a boyfriend or girlfriend who doesn't speak your own language very well will teach you for more (at the right age anyway) than a year of classroom instruction and diligent attention to homework assignments.

For example, consider college. Certainly, traditional academic instruction is an important part of that experience. But, so are the relationships that you form with equally talented peers (crassly called networking), and the experience is living in a somewhat utopian and well functioning community for a few years in order to understand how an institution that is well run and successful operates before heading back out into a work where most organizations are grossly mismanaged and don't run well. What one learns by example in situations like this is part of what makes graduates of these institutions naturals for management consulting positions.

In the same way, you often hear about people urging decision makers to make "life skills" a part of the curriculum. And, I'll be the first to tell you that "life skills" from doing your taxes to cooking and doing laundry to changing diapers to changing a car tire are important things to learn in life. But, again, the fact that they are important to learn doesn't mean that a traditional classroom instruction setting is the right way to teach them.

Academia has know this for a long time. PhD programs train the educators who are at the very top of the educational pyramid. And, almost all PhDs who stay in their field will spend many years of their lives primarily employed in classroom instruction. Yet, it is rare for a PhD program to offer even a single course on how to teach. This probably goes too far. But, the typical secondary school education program, which may include two or three full semesters worth of instruction in how to teach is grossly overbalanced in the other direction. There is good teaching and there is bad teaching, but teaching, ironically, is not something that is usually best learned in a traditional classroom instruction model.

This doesn't mean we should just abandon classroom instruction. There is still a big and important role for that in education and socialization. But, we would do well to look at education as a broader program of socialization and to recognize that not everything that is worth learning should be taught in a direct and straightforward instructional manner.

Offshoring Drove A Lot Of U.S. Deindustrialization

A new article quantifies the U.S. manufacturing job losses caused by offshoring by multinational companies.

Multinationals, Offshoring and the Decline of U.S. Manufacturing

Christoph E. BoehmAaron FlaaenNitya Pandalai-Nayar

NBER Working Paper No. 25824
Issued in May 2019
NBER Program(s):Economic Fluctuations and GrowthInternational Finance and MacroeconomicsInternational Trade and Investment 
We provide new facts about the role of multinationals in the decline in U.S. manufacturing employment between 1993-2011, using a novel microdata panel with firm-level ownership and trade information. Multinational-owned establishments displayed lower employment growth than a narrow control group and accounted for 41% of the aggregate manufacturing employment decline. Further, newly multinational establishments in the U.S. experienced job losses, while their parent firms increased input imports from abroad. We develop a model that rationalizes this behavior and bound a key elasticity with our microdata. The estimates imply that a reduction in the costs of foreign sourcing leads firms to increase imports of intermediates and to reduce U.S. manufacturing employment. Our findings suggest that offshoring by multinationals was a key driver of the observed decline in manufacturing employment.

13 May 2019

Autism Diagnosis Stable By Fourteen Months Of Age

The findings suggest that an ASD diagnosis becomes stable starting at 14 months of age and overall is more stable than other diagnostic categories, including language or developmental delay.
From here (citing this article in JAMA Pediatrics). The abstract from the referenced article is as follows:
Importance Universal early screening for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in primary care is becoming increasingly common and is believed to be a pivotal step toward early treatment. However, the diagnostic stability of ASD in large cohorts from the general population, particularly in those younger than 18 months, is unknown. Changes in the phenotypic expression of ASD across early development compared with toddlers with other delays are also unknown. 
Objectives To examine the diagnostic stability of ASD in a large cohort of toddlers starting at 12 months of age and to compare this stability with that of toddlers with other disorders, such as developmental delay. 
Design, Setting, and Participants In this prospective cohort study performed from January 1, 2006, to December 31, 2018, a total of 2241 toddlers were referred from the general population through a universal screening program in primary care or community referral. Eligible toddlers received their first diagnostic evaluation between 12 and 36 months of age and had at least 1 subsequent evaluation. 
Exposures Diagnosis was denoted after each evaluation visit as ASD, ASD features, language delay, developmental delay, other developmental issue, typical sibling of an ASD proband, or typical development. 
Main Outcomes and Measures Diagnostic stability coefficients were calculated within 2-month age bands, and logistic regression models were used to explore the associations of sex, age, diagnosis at first visit, and interval between first and last diagnosis with stability. Toddlers with a non-ASD diagnosis at their first visit diagnosed with ASD at their last were designated as having late-identified ASD. 
Results Among the 1269 toddlers included in the study (918 [72.3%] male; median age at first evaluation, 17.6 months [interquartile range, 14.0-24.4 months]; median age at final evaluation, 36.2 months [interquartile range, 33.4-40.9 months]), the overall diagnostic stability for ASD was 0.84 (95% CI, 0.80-0.87), which was higher than any other diagnostic group. Only 7 toddlers (1.8%) initially considered to have ASD transitioned into a final diagnosis of typical development. Diagnostic stability of ASD within the youngest age band (12-13 months) was lowest at 0.50 (95% CI, 0.32-0.69) but increased to 0.79 by 14 months and 0.83 by 16 months (age bands of 12 vs 14 and 16 years; odds ratio, 4.25; 95% CI, 1.59-11.74). A total of 105 toddlers (23.8%) were not designated as having ASD at their first visit but were identified at a later visit. 
Conclusions and Relevance The findings suggest that an ASD diagnosis becomes stable starting at 14 months of age and overall is more stable than other diagnostic categories, including language or developmental delay. After a toddler is identified as having ASD, there may be a low chance that he or she will test within typical levels at 3 years of age. This finding opens the opportunity to test the impact of very early-age treatment of ASD.
There is no rigorously evidence validated treatment of autism at any age, although there are approaches which are used to manage the symptoms. Also, it is worth noting that autism is a syndrome of similar symptoms that tend to appear together but almost certainly has multiple distinct causes (mostly de novo genetic mutations) that all affect the same neurological sub-systems of the body in similar ways. 

So, a cure to one cause of autism wouldn't necessarily be a cure to most cases of autism. 

Quote of the Day

What is seen cannot be unseen. I'm planting seeds, not cutting down forests.
- Razib Khan (on Twitter on May 13, 2019).

12 May 2019

Quote of the Day

There is nothing more attractive than loyalty.
- Unknown (seen on Pinterest).

11 May 2019

Cops Suck At Responding To Domestic Violence

This is what a domestic violence victim has to say. Click the link and read the comments.
My advice to abused women: never ever ever call the police. Do not report the crime no matter what anyone says.
From here.

09 May 2019

Noah Smith On The Future Of Race In America

Noah Smith explores different possible futures for race in the United States in light of recent statistics showing dramatic increases in the rates at which interracial marriages take place. I don't necessarily endorse or oppose his ideas, but they are thoughtful and I think that they are worth mentioning. The original is a series of tweets, but I have reformatted it and culled metadata for readability.
Even if intermarriage rates stop rising, this means that within two generations, America will have an absolutely ENORMOUS number of mixed-race kids. A substantial fraction of the U.S. population. It will probably force our whole conception of race to change. 
That raises the question of what America's conception of race will be. One oft-cited possibility is the reestablishment of a "biracial hierarchy", with whites + Asians + some Hispanics replacing whites as the dominant group, and blacks + other Hispanics as a racial underclass. 
Another possibility that seems more remote, but which deserves a mention, is a biracial hierarchy with whites - or a subset of whites, roughly corresponding to current Trump/GOP stalwarts in rural/small-town/exurban areas - as the new racial underclass. 
A third possibility - obviously the optimal one, but which sadly seems even more remote - is for "American" itself to become an ethnic identifier that includes all current racial groups. 
But if I *had* to bet, I'd place my money on a fourth outcome - a Trinidad-style outcome, where "mixed" (or some similar term) becomes effectively a third racial group. In practice, "mixed" would include disproportionate amounts of Hispanic, Asian, and Middle Eastern ancestry. 
In this possible future, America would be: 1) Black people 2) White people with strong white consciousness, mostly living in rural/exurban segregated areas 3) A suburban/urban mixed group forged from all the various races in varying proportions 4) Some small remnant groups 
But I have no real idea what will happen, so this is all just wild speculation. Meanwhile, the intermarriage numbers are the hard data.
One important foundational concept he accepts which I definitely agree with is that the way that society conceptualizes race is dynamic and is prone to change over time that is influenced by social realities. I fully agree that widespread intermarriage will change how Americans conceptualize racial categories in the near future (within a generation or two).

I've done some back of napkin Markov chain style projections based upon intermarriage rates further informed by some assumptions about what kind of thinking influences how racial categories are described and conceived. Based upon that, and global examples of how racial categories have changed over time and differ from one place to another, I think Noah Smith's fourth outcome is indeed closer to the likely future than the other possibilities.

But, this is with the caveat that I think that the remnant groups may not be all that small. This is because the descendants of people who have not intermarried for multiple generations are probably less likely to do so than previous generations and are likely to have a great ideological commitment to endogamy. Also, I think that there will be more than four pretty distinct categories that emerge, although not all of the categories will be present in appreciable proportions in every locality.

For example, it is not at all obvious to me that recent immigrants with substantial African origins will assimilate into the community of black Americans whose ancestors were slaves at some point in the pre-Civil War United States.

Another result of that kind of simulation is that the larger a racial or ethnic group is, the less likely it is that people who end up being endogamous are doing so out of an ideological commitment to endogamy. Thus, Jews with only Jewish ancestors, Chinese people with only Chinese ancestors, and Pakistanis with only Pakistani ancestors are very likely to have practiced endogamy as an intentional objective. This is still likely, but less likely among larger racial an ethnic groups such as African-Americans with only African-American ancestors who are not recent immigrants, and Mexicans with only Mexican ancestors. It is least likely that non-Hispanic whites with only non-Hispanic white ancestors have practiced endogamy as an intentional objective, because this is the most likely type of endogamous marriage that can happen randomly.

Fictionally, Richelle Mead's two science fiction novels in her Age of X series (which has been discontinued by her publisher): Gameboard of the Gods (June 4, 2013) and The Immortal Crown (May 29, 2014) are probably closest, in broad outline of the results, to the likely future (although the means by which they get there in the books is highly implausible, as to a lesser extent, is the future of religion in the United States portrayed in the books). In her world, most people are complete "mutts" but there are many enclaves of "pure bred" communities with very specific racial and ethnic origins who resisted the forces that led everyone else to intermarry.

Other discussion in the same thread and similar discussions I've seen in the past also make some important observations.

U.S. born people in the U.S. are more likely to be exogamous than first generation immigrants. Third-generation or more Americans are even more likely to be exogamous.

In many immigrant ethnicities, women are more likely to be exogamous than men. Immigrant men often remain endogamous by recruiting spouses from abroad. But, the disparity declines as descendants of immigrants are more removed from the first generation. Even "1.5 generation" Americans who immigrated at a young age are much more likely to be exogamous than Americans who immigrated as adults or nearly adults. 

People in more urban areas are more likely, on a population density continuum, to be exogamous than people in more rural areas (in part, ideologically, and in part, because there is greater opportunity to meet someone of a different ethnicity).

Places that are economically prosperous or experiencing economic growth tend to attract people from everywhere causing them to become more multi-ethnic, which in turn causes exogamy to become more common in those places, while places that are economically struggling or experiencing economic decline tend to stay mono-ethnic. But, sometimes immigrants and domestic migrants start to replace departing native born populations, en masse, in economically declining areas, because it is still more economically favorable than their place of origin and these places are cheap to live in, defying this general rule. It isn't entirely clear why this happens in some places (both urban and rural) and not others. I suppose that demographic change is least likely in places that have been stagnant and stable, rather than experiencing great growth (that attracts new people) or a great decline (that creates a vacuum that can be filled). Immigration founder effects and chain migration may also play a part.

People who are similarly situated in the same mixed gender and mixed ethnicity institution (e.g. a college or the military) are more likely to be exogamous than in situations where an ethnic divide is closely aligned with a social class divide and those people are not similarly situated within the same institution.

People who are part of a predominantly mono-ethnic religious community who are part of the primary ethnicity of that community are more likely to be endogamous than people who are not part of such a community. (On the other hand, minority ethnicity members of a predominantly mono-ethnic religious community are particularly likely to be ethnically exogamous.) 

People are more likely to be exogamous when they live outside a predominantly mono-ethnic community of their own ethnicity than when they do not, but are more likely to be exogamous when they are minorities in a predominantly mono-ethnic community. This also means that minority ethnicity individuals in less urban areas are more likely to be exogamous than minority ethnicity individuals in more urban areas where there are enough members of a given minority ethnicity for large mono-ethnic enclaves to form. 

The way that race is understood changes significantly when there are enough people who do not fit into two primary racial or ethnic categories, and when this happens, it tends to favor exogamy, especially between members of one of two larger categories and members of the other categories.

There is a strong historical trend, seen in Latin America and the Caribbean, in French Louisiana, and in South Africa, for example, for mixed race individuals to be seen as a separate racial category of their own rather than as parts of two or more other categories.

There is little historical precedent for "biracial hierarchy" to emerge when there are multiple meaningful racial or ethnic subcategories that are still salient. But, there is strong historical precedent for races or ethnicities that were once considered distinct to start to be seen as part of a single ethnicity. 

For example, people in the U.S. once tended to think of Catholic immigrants from places like Southern Europe and Ireland and Poland, and Jewish immigrants to belong to a very distinct and separate places in an ethnic hierarchy from WASPs (white Anglo-Saxon Protestants). But, a four to six generations or so later, all people with predominantly European ancestry were seen merely as "white" and the intra-white ethnic distinctions had faded in importance (in part, because by then many "white" people had a mixture of European ancestries). People with mixed European ancestries came to all be conceived as "white", rather than as people who were mixed Northern European and Southern European, for example. 

A related trend is for immigrant religious institutions to initially be greatly divided on the basis of place of national origin, but to start to merge as generation after generation is born in America after an initial wave of immigration. 

For example, there used to be separate denominations of Lutherans for Swedish Lutherans and German Lutherans, but about sixty to ninety years after the main waves of immigration from those countries, those denominations merged (having already lost much of their ethnic identity as Swedes attended German Lutheran churches and Germans attended Swedish Lutheran churches). Similarly, the Orthodox Church in America has arisen from the merger of more assimilated Orthodox Christians from different countries that were initially distinct denominations but merged as their parishioners became more assimilated.

On the other hand, it is possible for new ethnicities to emerge within existing ethnicities. 

For example, there were once several distinct waves of European (and more specifically, United Kingdom) immigrants in the U.S., all distinct from each other, but all part of a WASP ethnicity. But, over time, the waves that migrated to the American South and Appalachia have merged into a "country-western" and "Southern" and "red state" ethnicity, and the waves that migrated to New England and the Mid-Atlantic have merged into a "Northern" or "Yankee" or "blue state" ethnicity. Those ethnicities became so distinct that religious denominations that once had members of both of these white ethnicities almost all experienced schism into Northern and Southern branches. Arguably, Roman Catholics have stayed united and above this divide under the unifying influence of the Pope.

The members of the Church of Latter Day Saints (i.e. Mormons) are another example. These people, originally almost all from white mono-ethnic New England, migrated in several stages to the west, eventually ending up in Utah, and have pretty much formed a new white ethnicity of their own.

Finding My Office With what3words

The address of the front door of my office using the app what3words is ///:headed.rating.locate which refers not just to my street address of 1756 Gilpin Street, Denver, Colorado 80218, but to the actual three meter by three meter box location within that parcel of real estate where the front door of the building is located.

The app makers assigned every single three meter by three meter square in the world an address consisting of three English words. This is a precision roughly equivalent to a GPS coordinate with degrees, minutes, seconds and tenths of seconds of latitude and longitude, which is especially useful for large industrial, academic or medical campuses, parks or open space, and large buildings. In some circumstances, you would also need to know the floor of the multi-story building in question. 

This is also roughly the precision of GPS systems that have been scrambled for civilian purposes, and is about the accuracy of GPS guided artillery, guided missiles and smart bombs. 

The use of English words is desirable because people remember words better (and can communicate them orally better) than they can remember GPS coordinates and communicate them orally, a key insight into how a user interface should work. The what3words address of my office, despite being more specific, is probably easier to remember or take down over the phone, than even the full street address, although the what3words address can't be applied on the ground without the app.

The app translates the words into GPS locations using a key. More obscure words are used to describe less high interest locations like locations in the middle of an Antarctic or Arctic ice fields, oceans and deserts. More common words are used to describe locations in highly populated areas that are developed enough to be likely to have lots of users (as of the time that the name were assigned on a permanent basis a few years ago).


07 May 2019

When Did Key World Cities Develop Economically?

London and Amsterdam were already well ahead of their peers in 1738. Leipzig started to break away from Beijing and Milan around 1815. Amsterdam dropped from being a peer of London to a peer of Leipzig around 1839. Beijing and Milan had comparable levels of prosperity and development from 1738 until at least 1913, on the eve of World War I.


Via Jared Rubin on Twitter.

06 May 2019

Welfare: Perception And Reality

Walmart employees receive $6.2 billion in means tested public assistance each year, because they aren't paid enough. This is a very direct subsidy of a highly profitable corporation's bad labor practices. (For what it is worth, Walmart is not, however, among the big U.S. businesses that pay only a small share of its profits in corporate income taxes, although it received a huge tax cut when corporate tax rates were dramatically lowered starting in the 2018 calendar year that almost entirely benefitted shareholders and senior executives of the corporations receiving tax cuts.)

In contrast, undocumented immigrants have been repeatedly shown to pay far more in taxes (including taxes such as sales taxes, property taxes and withholding taxes) than they receive in government benefits. The only significant form of means tested assistance received by undocumented immigrants is Medicaid assistance with paying for the births of their U.S. citizen children.

Anti-SLAPP and Internal Affairs Investigation Records Access Laws Passed

Colorado's General Assembly has passed an anti-SLAPP bill that is likely to be signed by Governor Polis. House Bill 19-1324, which targets strategic lawsuits against public participation, also known as SLAPP suits.

It has also clarified that law enforcement internal affairs investigation reports are public records which may be obtained in Colorado Open Records Act enforcement actions.