30 June 2023

Quote Of The Day

[H]e was of an age he had never consciously expected to reach, and was finding it full of unpleasant surprises.

- Charles Stross, "Dark State" (2017).

29 June 2023

Affirmative Action In Higher Education Struck Down. Now What?

The U.S. Supreme Court has held to be illegal discrimination on the basis of race in higher educational college admissions at Harvard and the University of North Carolina, in a decision that effectively ends all race based affirmative action in higher education admissions. The six conservatives on the court were in the majority, the three liberals were in the minority.

In a previous post, I took data from the case to quantify the effect of race based affirmative action at these universities. The money chart was this one:

The undergraduate admissions rate at Harvard University is 4%. The University of North Carolina's admissions rate is 16.8% (8.2% for out of state applicants, 43.1% for in state applicants).

I noted in a previous post that NYT Piece mentions that: 

Harvard’s class of 2021 is 14.6 percent African-American, 22.2 percent Asian-American, 11.6 percent Hispanic and 2.5 percent Native American or Pacific Islander[.]" . . . . In a pending lawsuit: "A Princeton study found that students who identify as Asian need to score 140 points higher on the SAT than whites to have the same chance of admission to private colleges . . . Harvard’s Asian-American enrollment at 18 percent in 2013, and notes very similar numbers ranging from 14 to 18 percent at other Ivy League colleges, like Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Princeton and Yale" suggest a quota. "In contrast, [the lawsuit] says, in the same year, Asian-Americans made up 34.8 percent of the student body at the University of California, Los Angeles, 32.4 percent at Berkeley and 42.5 percent at Caltech. It attributes the higher numbers in the state university system to the fact that California banned racial preferences by popular referendum in 1996, though California also has a large number of Asian-Americans.

This analysis neglects, however, the fact that California has more Asian-Americans (16.1%) than the nation as a whole (6.3%), so its public universities which reflect the local demographic makeup of the state should also have more Asian-Americans. 

The downside of affirmative action mostly comes from Asian American and upper middle class academically strong white students who are denied admission at the expense of black and Hispanic applicants, with the edge given to black applicants being greatest.

The impact is greatest at the most selective institutions and is greatly diminished as you move down the selectivity ladder. Almost no one denied admission at a top school due to affirmative action is prevented from attending another college or university that is somewhat less prestigious but still very solid.

There is a big impact at top law schools that use affirmative action, although it has been gradually falling without much notice over time, after big changes, for example, when UC Berkley's law school ended it under a state mandate.

The larger patterns are also true in medical school, but the magnitude of the affirmative action effects is much smaller, because medical school has requirements that weed out weaker students much more strongly.

In U.S. medical school admissions, controlling for undergraduate grades and MCAT scores, the big losers from affirmative action are Asian Americans, and the winners are black and Hispanic applicants, with black applicants benefitting more.

The impact of affirmative action on white medical school applicants is very modest. The raw numbers of black and Hispanic affirmative action beneficiaries relative to total enrollments aren't huge. The number of white and Asians who suffer from it are smaller, proportionately, since those groups in the student body have larger base numbers.

Nationally, the racial and ethnic breakdown of medical school graduates is as follows: 

The impact at the academic graduate school level is minimal since that process is far more individualized and far less numbers driven.

Essentially, this ruling is more about an appearance of individual fairness than anything else, which isn't an illegitimate issue.

I've been ambivalent about affirmative action, in part, because I think that the costs of it are overstated. I can see legitimate arguments on both sides, and a more moderate solution (which two previous SCOTUS decisions tried to point universities towards) might have been better.

But taking it off the political table will probably help Democrats in the long run by depriving them of an option that is unpopular with many voters (just as Republicans were helped by Roe v. Wade since voters knew that when it was in force they couldn't deliver on their extreme anti-choice agenda, and just as Democrats are helped in Colorado by TABOR since voters know that state legislators can't increase taxes without a vote of the people undermining tax and spend attacks on them).

It is likely that some colleges and universities will try to react to this decision by establishing non-race based priorities with racial impact to mitigate its effects, for example, by (1) favoring first generation college students, (2) favoring students from lower income families or socio-economic status, (3) giving greater weight to class rank than to grades or test scores (which is one thing that was done in Texas when it abolished higher educational affirmative action), (4) addressing the financial need of lower and middle income students more, and (5) giving greater weight to having worked for money in high school.

The difficulty for elite institutions that try to take this path is that the black and Hispanic students with the grades and test scores and curricular rigor closest to the rest of their student body tend at elite colleges and universities to be the most affluent members of their ethnic communities, to have college educated parents, and to have attended schools full of similarly advantaged peers, just like white and Asian American students who get into these elite institutions. 

So, if these elite institutions focus on affirmative action for poor, first generation college students, and students who went to schools with less academically outstanding fellow students, the students who benefit from these admissions programs will need even bigger preferences in admissions than students admitted with a racial preference now, potentially making "mismatch" concerns more serious. I suspect that when push comes to shove, elite colleges and universities won't be willing to do this and will only give lip service to genuine income and social class based affirmative action. 

Conservatives might welcome those approaches, as they would help working class white students who have no shot at making it into these colleges, just as it would help working class black and Hispanic students who are also (less obviously) not in the running at these colleges in the current status quo. But, I doubt that they will get their wish.

Affirmative action has salience in conservative circles because conservatives think that people on the losing end of affirmative action are working class whites, such as culturally Appalachian men like J.D. Vance. And, there are a few people in that situation, but mostly, their wrong. The people affected by affirmative action are upper middle class white and Asian American high school seniors with excellent test scores, excellent grades, demanding classes, and "boring" non-academic lives. Those kids, incidentally, very disproportionately, come from families that vote Democratic and not Republican.

The aftermath of this decision will leave Republicans with a "moral victory" but few genuine benefits for the high school senior children of their rank and file voters.

The clean conservative-liberal break of the decision also means that less favorable results for African-American and Hispanic high school students from families that also overwhelmingly vote Democratic, will be blamed on conservatives and Republicans, so it will do little internal damage to the Democratic party coalition's unity, despite the fact that in substance, affirmative action pits on Democratic party constituency against another.

Campuses at elite colleges and law schools will have a lot less black students and a discernibly smaller share of Hispanic students, and a very noticeably larger contingent of Asian American students. 

At colleges any less selective than flagship state universities, the differences will be practically invisible, and med school and academic graduate schools, the differences will also be slight and not very noticeable.

The source of these ethnic differences in grades and tests scores also deserves a little attention. It has little to do with anything inherent in race, and a lot to do with recent immigration history. Recent Hispanic immigration to the U.S. has been predominantly driven by laborers and less skilled working class workers. Recent Asian American immigration has been predominantly driven by high end medical and tech industry professionals which as imposed brain drain on their homelands (this is also true of many recent African immigrants who often end up in elite institutions in slots envisioned as benefitting their long time Americans with significant African descent). Ancestors of African Americans were brought to the U.S. as slaves, remained slaves for a couple of centuries, and entered free life after the Civil War from a position below the bottom of the existing social class system with zero wealth into a Jim Crow segregated world that persisted for another century after that - but climbing the social class ladder is a matter of many generations. The nearly invisible ancestral divides between whites of different ancestral origins aren't quite as sharp, but are still very much there. Elite colleges have lots of white students with upper class New England and Mid-Atlantic ancestors, and few from Appalachia or the deep South. Elite institutions have few white, U.S. born, Evangelicals, and lots of secular and high caste Protestant students.

Some notes on the Colorado impact:
The court’s majority opinion did include an exception though: Military academies funded by the federal government are exempt from the ban and can continue using race-conscious admissions, such as the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. . . .

CU Boulder as a “moderately-selective institution,” a public university that could be at least partially impacted by the decision in the UNC case — the university’s acceptance rate in 2021 was almost 80%. . . .

In Colorado, private schools would be affected by the Harvard case, such as Colorado College — which had a 14.3% acceptance rate in 2021 — and even the University of Denver — which had a 63.6% acceptance rate — preventing them from using race as a factor in the process. . . .

MSU Denver is the only institution of higher education in the state that admits any prospective student that applies who is 20 years old or older and has a GED or high school diploma. Of its student body of nearly 5,500, 54% of the students identify as people of color and nearly 60% as first-generation students.

In Fort Collins where Colorado State University’s main campus is located, the court’s decision will not affect the undergraduate admissions process, according to President Amy Parsons. CSU had a nearly 90% acceptance rate in 2021, and Parsons said in a statement that the university will continue its commitment of admitting all qualified students from all backgrounds. Of the 5,700 students admitted last fall, 28% are from diverse backgrounds and 25% are first-generation students.

Other notable admissions statistics are from the Colorado School of Mines (56.9%), the University of Colorado Law School (29.9%), the University of Colorado Medical School (1.29% - not a typo - 180 new students per year), and the University of Denver Law School (46% admissions rate).

Colorado College, the University of Colorado Medical School, the University of Colorado Law School, and the University of Denver Law School are really the only Colorado institutions whose admissions are likely to be significantly affected by this ruling. 

Colorado College might have significant impact due to its selectivity, but its student demographics don't suggest all that strong an affirmative action program. Colorado College has 2.9% black students, 6.1% Hispanic students, 7.8% Asian American students, 6% international students, 1.2% Native American students, and 0.5% Native Hawaiian and Pacific islanders students. 

This may be a product of the fact that Colorado College is not known for its generous financial aid packages which gives it one of the most affluent student bodies in the nation. 

Colorado College's low percentage of Asian Americans for such a selective college may reflect the college's perceived weakness in STEM due to its block program which squeezes a full semester long class worth of material into a month, which can be good in some subjects, but is too intense for many advanced math and science classes - calculus and freshman college chemistry already have 50% fail rates nationwide at the usual pace - since Asian Americans are more likely than average to major in STEM fields.

28 June 2023

Who Abuses Children?

Hint: It's not drag queens. This week:
it's time for us to look through the headlines for just the past week and find all the stories of trusted pastors, priests and youth group leaders sexually abusing kids. Let's see how many we find! As usual, many thanks to JoeMyGod for so meticulously aggregating these stories.

Former Bishop Luers teacher charged with child seduction (Catholic school teacher, Fort Wayne, Indiana)

Former Clackamas pastor sentenced to 160 months for sex abuse (That's Oregon, and it was seven young girls.)

As usual we only went back seven days.

Via WonketteAnother random week in January of this year:

State College man convicted of child rape sentenced to at least 20 years in prison (he was a pastor and a children's minister, and the victim was a year old)

Chesterfield County CA says new info received in John Blanchard case, will bring in special prosecutor (the megachurch pastor was previously charged with child sex solicitation)

Today is January 25. Those stories take us back to January 18.

The State Role In Singapore's Economy Is Huge

The government of the city-state of Singapore plays a large role in the economy. 
The government (through holding company Temasek) has a minority stake in DBS Bank which is the largest company on the Singapore Exchange. The government has a majority stake in the two largest telecom companies: Singtel and Starhub, it has a majority stake in the flag carrier Singapore Airlines and it is the owner of CapitaLand (the largest real estate company in Singapore).

Out of the 25 largest companies listed on the Singapore Exchange (as of 26th June 2023, excluding real estate investment trusts) 9 companies were started by the government. It still maintains at least a minority stake in all of them and a majority stake in Singapore Airlines and ST Engineering. For most of them, it is still the largest shareholder.

Singapore’s Government Linked Companies do not appear to get any special advantages according to this 2003 study, and some of them – like SIA, Singtel, DBS and Keppel – have achieved success out of the home market.

Along with this, the government of Singapore owns the vast majority of land in Singapore. I’m not sure of the exact number (this 2021 article says over 80% while this OECD site says 90% without citing it), but it is likely to be above 80 or 90%. Nearly 80% of Singaporeans live in government built housing.
From here.

26 June 2023


The third most popular given name in the world, after Mohammed and Maria, is Nushi, which is a common girl's name among Hindi and Bengali speakers in India.

Stupid DOD Tricks

The U.S. Department of Defense insists that the "M10 Booker, formerly known as Mobile Protected Firepower, is not a light tank" for some inexplicable reason (perhaps to distract people from the fact that the U.S. military doesn't really need it). From the link:
It has full tracks. So do tanks.

It has a 105mm main gun intended for direct-fire engagements. So do tanks, and the original M1 Abrams had a similar cannon.

ts turret can traverse 360 degrees. So can those of tanks.

Its controls mimic those of the M1 Abrams main battle tank.

It doesn’t carry infantry into battle. Neither do tanks.

It’s protected enough to withstand attacks from enemy armored vehicles. So are tanks.

Even Dean, a prominent Booker tank denier, confessed that it “looks like, smells like [and] feels like” a tank.

. . .

Stop gaslighting us. It’s a damn tank.

The DOD is right on one point. It isn't really a "light tank", at 42 tons, it's a "medium tank". It's about the same size as main battle tanks in Russia, Japan, and many other world military forces.


It's hot, which is normal for June, but true anyway.

The street in front of my house is closed because they're tearing it out and replacing it. Ditto one of my two cross-streets. This is compounded by the fact that my kitchen is torn to bits, walled off with plastic, and dripping drywall from structural repairs, and the construction workers are having a hard time getting to the house because the alley is also in disarray because the recycling trucks didn't come this week so the bins are still everywhere. Of course, like all major projects, there are hiccups along the way that have to be dealt with as they arise. There is also construction everywhere else I go from work to the grocery store, etc. 

I go to get a haircut, and my usual place is closed for good without notice. I drop by the bank to make a deposit, and the branch is closed for good without notice, and I have to find a new one to use. 

Several of the places I often go to write and work in peace in the mornings when the house isn't that chill for some reason, are closed on Mondays. And, Sunday was a bit off because I undercooked some of the meat I was grilling in lieu of using the kitchen on Sunday and got a little sick. All gone now, I'm all better, but it detracts from your flow.

Add in a staffing curveball at work, and a couple of mildly unexpected new matters to deal with.

All very minor glitches standing alone. It all adds up to a lot of noise filling up limited "bandwidth" in my brain to deal optimally with things as they come up.

Lots of people who do dumb things or make mistakes are in this state when that happens. I'm not saying that I'm doing either of these things, but I can sympathize.

23 June 2023

COVID Vaccines Were Safe

A potential side effect risk for teens taking COVID vaccines was shown not to have actually been a problem.

None of the incidences of myopericarditis pooled in the current study were higher than those after smallpox vaccinations and non-COVID-19 vaccinations, and all of them were significantly lower than those in adolescents aged 12–17 years after COVID-19 infection.
From here.

21 June 2023

Generational Transmission Of Religious Views In The U.S.

"Dogmatic" sects and firmly secular worldviews persist from generation to generation more strongly than "moderate" religious denominations.
“[D]echurching” is particularly prevalent among Buddhists and Jews, with nearly half not attending worship services regularly, and around 30 percent of most Christian denominations and around 20 percent of Mormons and Orthodox Christians. (There weren’t enough Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs in the sample for statistical certainty.) . . . self-described atheists and agnostics . . . had the highest rate of dechurching of all: 94 percent for atheists and 88 percent for agnostics. . . . 
One of the main qualifications readers seem to be looking for in their new spiritual communities is something that is less exclusionary than the denominations they were raised in. But it’s precisely the more “dogmatic” denominations and religious sects that are better able to keep adherents, according to Merril Silverstein, a sociologist at Syracuse University who has studied five generations of the same Southern California families since 1971. 
Mormons and evangelical Christians were able to recreate themselves more strongly across generations in their sample than Jews, mainline Protestants and Catholics, Silverstein said. Meanwhile, “the secular, the anti-religious or nonreligious people are producing nonreligious, anti-religious children,” Silverstein told me. It’s creating a new and more polarized religious landscape in our country than what we’ve had before.
Graham, a co-author of “The Great Dechurching” and a program director for the Keller Center, used the analogy of a wall: If you have a “high wall” tradition, it’s a higher barrier to entry, but also a higher barrier to leave. He thinks the religions with clear visions of the kinds of ethics they expect, clarity of doctrine and strongly encouraged in-person worship will be stickier.

I asked whether he thought the trend of falling away from regular attendance at traditional houses of worship would continue at its rapid clip. He said he thinks it eventually has to slow down, because so many people will become dechurched that there won’t be enough traditionally observant Americans left to keep up the pace. And he agreed with Silverstein that dechurched Americans will have “unchurched” or fully irreligious children. He summed it up this way: “I think the religious disaffiliation as a cultural phenomenon will continue.
From the New York Times.

This analysis misses some key points, however. The ranks of the non-religious are growing rapidly, especially from the ranks of mainline Christians, Jews, and Catholics. 

But even Mormons and Evangelical Christians are, at best, holding steady, with Evangelical Christian congregations, in particular, losing ground over the last half of a century and rising in average age. As I noted in a previous post:
In 2006, 23 percent of Americans were white evangelical Protestants, according to the Public Religion Research Institute. By 2020, that share was down to 14.5 percent. 
In 2020, 22 percent of Americans 65 and older were white evangelical Protestants. Among adults 18 to 29, only 7 percent were.

About 1% of Americans are Mormons. 

Furthermore, on a variety of issues from the environment, to feminism, to interracial tolerance, to LGBT tolerance, to cultural affinities in music and formality of personal appearance, the youngest generation of Evangelical Christians and Mormons are much more liberal than the previous generation. They are culturally more in tune with the elite establishment culture of the United States than the older generation within these faiths.

In another post, I noted that:
the religious breakdown of Biden voters (using the Votecast numbers) is:

White Evangelical 8%
Mormon <1%
Catholic 22%
Other Christian 26%
Non-Christian 45%

The religious breakdown of Trump voters (using Votecast numbers) is:

White Evangelical 39%
Mormon 2%
Catholic 23%
Other Christian 16%
Non-Christian 20%

See also here (from 2019) which includes this image:


Anti-Submarine Warfare Is Hard

The U.S. Coast Guard has spent several days searching for a missing submarine after an unfortunate mishap on a small Titanic wreck tourist submarine that has left the vessel missing with its air supplies running low and the five people on board (four passengers and one crew person) in peril. So far, the search has been fruitless. It has a 96 hour air supply and has been missing for almost four days (since early Sunday).

There has been no official mention of military anti-submarine warfare resources being used to locate it, but I would be surprised if this is not being done covertly. At least ten surface ships, two remotely operated vehicles, two C-130 aircraft, and two P-3 maritime patrol aircraft (designed for anti-submarine warfare) have been involved in the search with more assets on the way to a location about 900 miles from Cape Cod in a joint U.S.-Canadian search and rescue effort.

The incident is an unintended reminder, with military implications, that finding submarines deep in the ocean is very hard, even if the submarine isn't designed for stealth, isn't trying to hide, can't move very fast, and has a well established late known location. Smaller submarines are even harder to find than larger ones.

Submarines are profoundly more difficult to find and destroy than surface ships, even when they get quite close to a target. But, they can carry roughly comparable armaments to a surface combatant.

Brain Injury May Be A Factor In Soldier Suicides

Once again, because it is invisible, brain injury is underestimated as a serious source of harm.
A far-reaching study by Navy researchers has found that exposure to munitions blast waves from combat and training may be causing brain injuries the aggregation of which is resulting serious and often deadly ailments such as depression, PTSD and suicide.
From here.

Is Illegal Immigration A Terrorism Threat?

Vanishingly few individuals who pose a terrorism threat to the United States are caught by U.S. Border Patrol agents. 

Those individuals who are arrested while on the list are overwhelmingly there simply because the U.S. government hasn't updated its terrorist watchlist database to reflect new diplomatic developments.

The conservative Washington Examiner notes that about seven out of each 10,000 people arrested by the border patrol agency for illegally entering the U.S. are on a terrorism watch list:
Border Patrol agents on the Canadian and Mexican borders have caught 127 noncitizens listed on the FBI's terror watchlist who tried to enter the United States illegally since the start of fiscal 2023, according to newly released federal data.

Numbers published by U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Tuesday showed terror watchlist apprehensions between the eight months of October 2022 and May 2023 were higher than last year's 98 arrests over 12 months, which until now was the highest level in at least the last four years when comparable data are available.

The 98 in 2022 and 127 thus far this year represent major spikes from zero in 2019 when the U.S. border faced a smaller-scale humanitarian and national security crisis.

The nearly two dozen people stopped in May alone were among more than 170,000 people arrested by Border Patrol for entering the country illegally by going around the ports of entry.
But, deeper into the story it notes that about 93% of them were Columbians who should have been removed from the watch list if Border Patrol records were up to date:
That data revealed that in the first six months of 2022, 25 of the 27 known or suspected terrorists arrested by Border Patrol were citizens of Colombia, not countries in the Eastern Hemisphere, where terrorist groups al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and others are based.

Immigration analyst Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute in Washington noted at the time that some Colombians on the watchlist might not be true terror threats.

“It’s ... possible that the individual Colombians apprehended were affiliated with FARC or the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia, which have since been delisted as Foreign Terrorist Organizations by the State Department, but their individual names are still in the TSDS and haven’t been purged,” Nowrasteh said.

The State Department lists two Colombian groups as foreign terrorist organizations: the Segunda Marquetalia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army, or FARC-EP.

These groups were on one side of a civil war in Colombia that has basically been resolved now. There has never been a terrorist incident in the U.S. committed by a Columbian terrorism group.

Less than one in 20,000 people who are arrested for illegally entering the country by Border Patrol agents are people on a terrorism watch list who are not Columbian, and it isn't clear that any of them are from groups that actually pose a threat when in the U.S.

Any terrorist organization serious about their task, such as the 9-11 terrorists, would have someone who is not on a terrorism watch list enter the U.S. on a legal visa, for example, for tourism or on a student visa, rather than illegally crossing the border.

Border patrol arrests provide no meaningful barrier preventing terrorists from entering the United States, and U.S. border patrol policies should not be justified on that basis.

20 June 2023

Second Quote Of The Day

[O]ne thing that I think is so important, but so under-appreciated in media coverage is what weak, conflicting, and sometimes downright non-sensical attitudes people have on abortion. People who pay attention to politics have strong opinions on abortion, but most people don’t pay a lot of attention to politics and for many of them, I think their opinion on abortion can best be summed up by some version of: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Or, “ehhh, I don’t love it, but I think it should probably be legal and if you are going to ask me about specific policy proposals, I will show little thought or coherence.”
- Steven Greene, at his blog Fully Myelinated, on June 20, 2023. 

This isn't the only issue where this is the case either.

Quote Of The Day

Distinguishing between untrustworthy hearsay and really untrustworthy hearsay would be akin to distinguishing between objecting and strenuously objecting. See A Few Good Men (Columbia Pictures 1992) (After her objection is overruled, Lieutenant Commander Joanne Galloway persists by “strenuously” objecting. The judge overrules her objection again, this time more emphatically. During the next recess, Lieutenant Sam Weinberg, Galloway’s co-counsel, remarks to Galloway, “‘I strenuously object?’ Is that how it works Hm? ‘Objection.’ ‘Overruled.’ ‘No, no, no, no, I strenuously object.’‘Oh, well, if you strenuously object, then I should take some time to reconsider.’”).

People v. Jacob Vanderpauye2023 CO 42, Footnote 1.

Crazy Smart Computers

Computers can do things somewhat akin to fantasy level martial arts, in that they are in principle possible, but no living person has the ability to do them, because the precision and computation required to do so is so great.

Arthur C. Clarke said that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Here’s an example. You know those ubiquitous little LEDs on devices like speakers, card readers, microphones etc. that simply indicate that the device has power? The authors show that these LEDs can bleed information about power consumption that can be used to deduce when and for how long a computer is computing cryptographic keys and that can be used to deduce the keys. For example, using a “hijacked” security camera the author’s were able to film the power LED on a smart card reader from 16 meters away and from that able to deduce the keys. Paper here. . . .

Now some people will say, well all you have to do is make sure the LEDs are properly insulated from the main power and adjust the cryptographic algorithms to not take some shortcuts and your systems will be safe. Uh huh.

Eliezer Yudkowsky has a more realistic perspective. Although this is not about AI per se, he notes this is a good example of the kind of thing that a superintelligence could do that would not have been predicted in advance and would seem to require magical powers.

From Marginal Revolution

19 June 2023

The Root Cause Of The Sahel Wars In A Nutshell

There are Muslim-Christian/Animist wars across the Sahel reason of Africa. This is why.
We consider the effects of climate change on seasonally migrant populations that herd livestock – i.e., transhumant pastoralists – in Africa. Traditionally, transhumant pastoralists benefit from a cooperative relationship with sedentary agriculturalists whereby arable land is used for crop farming in the wet season and animal grazing in the dry season. 
Droughts can disrupt this arrangement by inducing pastoral groups to migrate to agricultural lands before the harvest, causing conflict to emerge. 
We examine this hypothesis by combining ethnographic information on the traditional locations of transhumant pastoralists and sedentary agriculturalists with high-resolution data on the location and timing of rainfall and violent conflict events in Africa from 1989–2018. We find that droughts in the territory of transhumant pastoralists lead to conflict in neighboring areas. 
Consistent with the proposed mechanism, the effects are concentrated in agricultural areas; they occur during the wet season and not the dry season; and they are due to rainfall’s impact on plant biomass growth. Since pastoralists tend to be Muslim and agriculturalists Christian, this mechanism accounts for a sizable proportion of the rapid rise in religious conflict observed in recent decades. 
Turning to policy responses, we find that development aid projects tend not to mitigate the effects that we document. By contrast, the effects are closer to zero when transhumant pastoralists have greater power in national government, suggesting that more equal political representation is conducive to peace.
McGuirk E, Nunn N. Transhumant Pastoralism, Climate Change, and Conflict in Africa. Working Paper. https://scholar.harvard.edu/nunn/publications/nomadic-pastoralism-climate-change-and-conflict-africa

Home Ownership Reduces Crime In The U.K.

Increased home ownership reduces property crime.
“Right to Buy” (RTB), a large-scale natural experiment whereby incumbent tenants in public housing could buy properties at heavily-subsidised prices, increased the UK homeownership rate by over 10 percentage points between its 1980 introduction and the 1990s. This paper studies the impact of this reform on crime by leveraging exogenous variation in eligibility for the policy. Results show that RTB generated significant property crime reductions. Behavioural changes of incumbent tenants and renovation of public properties were the main drivers of this crime reduction. This is evidence of a novel means by which subsidised homeownership and housing policy can reduce criminality.
Richard Disney, John Gathergood, Stephen Machin, Matteo Sandi, "Does Homeownership Reduce Crime? A Radical Housing Reform from the UK" The Economic Journal uead040 (June 5, 2023) https://doi.org/10.1093/ej/uead040

14 June 2023

Unsolved Murders

There are about 10,000 unsolved murders in the United States every year. They are disproportionately Hispanic and even more disproportionately black victims, who disproportionately live in poverty-stricken, "disorganized" neighborhoods.

I suspect, but do not know, that most of these murders involve young men in gangs as both perpetrators and victims, with an occasional bystander killed in a gang shooting as well. These murders are predominantly, but not entirely, carried out with guns.

The proportion of murders that are unsolved has grown to record highs, but some of this is due to the falling number of total murders, with the unsolved part remaining relatively steady, while the more easily "solvable" murders have grown far less common.

Still, one quite plausible, potentially effective national crime strategy could be to devote far more resources to solving murders and other unsolved serious violent crimes. Incarcerating violent offenders for long periods of time (up to a point) definitely works to reduce crime.

The examples of very high clearance rates of mass shootings and for murders of law enforcement officers, and isolated case studies of communities reorganizing and changing the funding of their police departments also suggests that it is indeed possible to increase clearance rates for murders relative to the status quo, even in the "hard" cases that are going unsolved now.

It might be expensive to do this, but the returns from an investment in solving more murders with a very modest percentage of the defense budget could be quite impressive.

Also, since deterrence is driven more by the likelihood of being caught than by the severity of the sentence imposed, a modest increase in clearance rates for murders could lead to a virtuous circle of positive reinforcement, reducing the likelihood that crimes will be committed, in a way that tougher sentencing, or greater use of the death penalty, would not. Indeed, the return on shortening the longest sentences for violent offenders and using the money saved by doing so to increase the number of violent crimes that are solved, would itself probably provide positive returns.

Steps short of gun control, like mandating traceable bullets with serial numbers that can be linked to people who bought and sold that ammunition, which would increase the likelihood that murders are solved, could also help. Incidentally, this would also help in distinguishing whether law enforcement or criminals caused deaths in complicated shootouts, with after the fact forensics that are often inconclusive on that point.

13 June 2023

Who Stops A Bad Guy With A Gun

Only about 3% of active shootings are stopped by an ordinary citizen with a gun.

From the New York Times.

IQ Predicts Academic Performance Better Than Parental SES

Honestly, I'm not surprised at all by these results, although it is tricky to study because IQ is heavily hereditary within a broad "normal" range of nurture conditions, so distinguishing parental socio-economic status (SES) effects from IQ is challenging, methodologically.
In this post, I will review studies comparing the predictive validity of cognitive ability and parental socioeconomic status (SES) on academic achievement. I’ll start with some important statistical background that is necessary to understand the studies cited in this post. After those preliminaries, I start by reviewing meta-analyses reporting the correlations between parental SES and achievement and between cognitive ability and academic achievement. Next, I review individual studies investigating the relative predictive validity of ability and parental SES on grades. The final section will review individual studies investigating the relative predictive validity of ability and parental SES on test scores. A clear picture emerges from each study cited in this post: cognitive ability is a far better predictor of academic achievement than is parental SES.
From “Parental SES vs cognitive ability as predictors of academic achievement”

After The Civil War, Deplorable Confederates Infected Other Places

The Union should have done more to crush the Confederacy than it did during Reconstruction.
This paper shows how white migration out of the postbellum South diffused and entrenched Confederate culture across the United States at a critical juncture of westward expansion and postwar reconciliation. These migrants laid the groundwork for Confederate symbols and racial norms to become pervasive nationally in the early 20th century. Occupying positions of authority, former slaveholders played an outsized role in this process. Beyond memorializing the Confederacy, migrants exacerbated racial violence, boosted novel forms of exclusion, and compounded Black disadvantage outside the South. Moving West, former Confederates had larger effects in frontier communities lacking established culture and institutions. Over time, they continued to transmit norms to their children and non-Southern neighbors. The diaspora legacy persists over the long run, shaping racial inequities in labor, housing, and policing. Together, our findings offer a new perspective on migration, elite influence, and the interplay between culture and institutions in the nation-building process.
Samuel Bazzi, Andreas Ferrar, Martin Fiszbein, Thomas P. Pearson, and Patrick A. Testa, a new NBER working paper.

For example, in the post-Civil War era, Colorado politics were dominated by the KKK.

Good Job Denver Nuggets!

The NBA pro basketball team, the Denver Nuggets, my hometown team, is the best pro basketball team in the U.S. after winning the NBA finals yesterday. Good for them, I guess. This is the first time it has made it to the finals at all in the history of the franchise.

In 2022, our pro hockey team, the Colorado Avalanche won the Stanley Cup (also in finals against a Florida team). It also won two previous Stanley Cups.

Our football team, the Denver Broncos, has won the Super Bowl three times.

Our baseball team, the Colorado Rockies, made it to the World Series once, but has never won.

Our pro-soccer team, the Colorado Rapids, and our pro-lacrosse team, the Colorado Mammoth, have, as far as I know, never made it to a national final.

09 June 2023

Federalism And The Death Penalty

In 2021 there were 22,900 reported non-negligent murders in the United States. Of those murders, 54.4% (12,478) of them were solved, predominantly through state court criminal prosecutions, and secondarily through the death of a few hundred murders a year in the course of the offense, an attempted arrest, or by suicide shortly after committing the murder. (About 10,442 murders per year are not solved.)

But, there were only 311 federal non-negligent homicide prosecutions in that year. Thus, only about 3-4% of all homicide prosecutions are brought under federal criminal statutes, and the balance are brought under state criminal statutes.

Territorial v. Subject-Matter Federal Homicide Prosecutions

Moreover, a large share of the federal criminal homicide prosecutions (probably at least a majority of them) involve murders on Indian Reservations or in some other circumstance where the justification for federal involvement is territorial, rather than under federal laws that are generally applicable throughout the United States.

Only about 1-2% of homicide prosecutions in the U.S. (outside of places where the federal government's authority over murder charges is territorial) are prosecuted in federal court, under federal laws without territorial limitations.

Federal Death Penalty Prosecutions Are Rare

Incidentally, the federal government has brought about 1% of death penalty homicide prosecutions. You can count on your fingers the number of federal death penalty prosecutions committed in states without a death penalty, since the death penalty was reinstated, post-Furman in about 1976.

From 1976 to 8 December 2016, there were 1,533 executions. . . . The South had the great majority of these executions, with 1,249; there were 190 in the Midwest, 86 in the West, and only 4 in the Northeast. No state in the Northeast has conducted an execution since Connecticut, now abolitionist, in 2005. The state of Texas alone conducted 571 executions, over 1/3 of the total; the states of Texas, Virginia (now abolitionist), and Oklahoma combined make up over half the total, with 802 executions between them.

16 executions have been conducted by the federal government since 1963.

Of the 16 federal executions took place since 1976, 13 took place during the last six months of the Trump Administration. Specifically:
The last pre-Furman federal execution took place on March 15, 1963, when Victor Feguer was executed for kidnapping and murder, after President John F. Kennedy denied clemency. . .

From 1988 to October 2019, federal juries gave death sentences to eight convicts in places without a state death penalty when the crime was committed and tried. . . .

No federal executions occurred between 1972 and 2001. From 2001 to 2003, three people were executed by the federal government. No further federal executions occurred from March 18, 2003, up to July 14, 2020, when they resumed under President Donald Trump, during which 13 death row inmates were executed in the last 6 months of his presidency. Since January 16, 2021 no further executions have been performed. . . . There are 43 offenders remaining on federal death row. . . .

The most recent person to be executed by the military is U.S. Army Private John A. Bennett, executed on April 13, 1961, for child rape and attempted murder.
The only executions by the federal government committed in states where the death penalty was abolished in the last sixty years were Dustin Lee Honken (Iowa, executed in 2020), Corey Johnson (Virginia, executed in 2021), and Dustin John Higgs (Maryland, executed in 2021). Five other defendants were sentenced to death but died in prison or have not been executed yet, most notoriously the Boston Marathon bomber.

Pro-death penalty conservatives could have used broader federal homicide legislation to expand the death penalty widely into states that have abolished the death penalty, but neither Republican nor Democratic Presidential administrations have chosen to do so, and legislators have not passed budgets or new federal criminal homicide statutes to facilitate this possibility.

9000 Posts

I haven't done a meta post for a while, but this threshold is worth mentioning. 

This is post number 9,000 on the Wash Park Prophet blog, exclusive of its sister blogs. This blog started on July 3, 2005, so it has been going for just under eighteen years at an average pace of just over 500 posts per year. 

I have made another 2,455 posts at sister blog Dispatches From Turtle Island, which split off from this one on May 22, 2011, just over twelve years ago, for an average of a bit more than 200 posts per year.

Between the two blogs, I've made 11,455 posts over just under eighteen years for an average of about 636 posts per year.

So far this year I have averaged one post per day on this blog, and I have been posting at the same pace as last year at Dispatches From Turtle Island (i.e. a 225 post per year pace). This is a pace of about 590 posts per year. Diversion of posting to Facebook accounts and other online forums accounts for most of the slump in my blog posting here.

A U.S. Nuclear Power Milestone

This is a long overdue and welcome development.
The first new nuclear reactor built in the United States in more than 40 years is now up and running in Waynesboro, Georgia.
From here.

The Entire GOP Is Rotten

The utterly lawless and unprincipled character of the Republican Party is no longer surprising but is still extremely disheartening. 

In the hours after Trump himself announced his own indictment, his GOP defenders rushed to tear down the criminal justice system by sheer invective. The GOP speaker of the House, GOP senators and representatives, the leading GOP candidates for president, and the whole right-wing Wurlitzer launched a furious attack on the rule of law.
From TPM.

05 June 2023

Processed Foods In Northern Europe v. Southern Europe

 From here.

When Do People In Different Countries Start Having Sex?

Interesting statistics that I don't have a ready explanation for. 

Average age people lose their virginity:
🇲🇾 Malaysia: 23
🇮🇳 India: 22.9
🇸🇬 Singapore: 22.8
🇨🇳 China: 22.1
🇹🇭 Thailand: 20.5
🇭🇰 Hong Kong: 20.2
🇻🇳 Vietnam: 19.7
🇳🇬 Nigeria: 19.7
🇯🇵 Japan: 19.4
🇪🇸 Spain: 19.2
🇮🇩 Indonesia: 19.1
🇵🇱 Poland: 19
🇮🇹 Italy: 18.9
🇹🇼 Taiwan: 18.9
🇷🇺 Russia: 18.7
🇲🇽 Mexico: 18.7
🇿🇦 South Africa: 18.7
🇫🇷 France: 18.5
🇬🇧 United Kingdom: 18.3
🇨🇭 Switzerland: 18.2
🇨🇦 Canada: 18.1
🇳🇱 Netherlands: 18.1
🇬🇷 Greece: 18.1
🇺🇸 United States: 18
🇦🇺 Australia: 17.9
🇹🇷 Turkey: 17.8
🇳🇿 New Zealand: 17.8
🇸🇰 Slovakia: 17.8
🇩🇪 Germany: 17.6
🇧🇷 Brazil: 17.4
🇮🇪 Ireland: 17.3
🇭🇷 Croatia: 17.3
🇦🇹 Austria: 17.3
🇨🇿 Czech Republic: 17.2
🇨🇱 Chile: 17.2
🇧🇪 Belgium: 17.2
🇵🇹 Portugal: 16.9
🇧🇬 Bulgaria: 16.9
🇮🇱 Israel: 16.7
🇫🇮 Finland: 16.5
🇳🇴 Norway: 16.5
🇸🇪 Sweden: 16.2
🇩🇰 Denmark: 16.1
🇮🇸 Iceland: 15.6
Average number of sexual partners:
Turkey 🇹🇷: 14.5
Australia 🇦🇺: 13.3
New Zealand 🇳🇿: 13.2
Iceland 🇮🇸: 13
South Africa 🇿🇦: 12.5
Finland 🇫🇮: 12.4
Norway 🇳🇴: 12.1
Italy 🇮🇹: 11.8
Sweden 🇸🇪: 11.8
Switzerland 🇨🇭: 11.1
Ireland 🇮🇪: 11.1
USA 🇺🇸: 10.7
Canada 🇨🇦: 10.7
Japan 🇯🇵: 10.2
UK 🇬🇧: 9.8
Denmark 🇩🇰: 9.3
Brazil 🇧🇷: 9
Russia 🇷🇺: 9
Mexico 🇲🇽: 9
Netherlands 🇳🇱: 7
Germany 🇩🇪: 5.8
China 🇨🇳: 3.1
India 🇮🇳: 3
% of Births Outside of Registered Marriage in Europe, 2022
🇮🇸Iceland: 69.4
🇫🇷France: 62.2
🇧🇬Bulgaria: 59.6
🇳🇴Norway: 58.5
🇵🇹Portugal: 57.9
🇸🇮Slovenia: 56.5
🇸🇪Sweden: 55.2
🇩🇰Denmark: 54.2
🇪🇪Estonia: 53.7
🇳🇱Netherlands: 53.5
🇨🇿Czechia: 48.45
🇪🇸Spain: 47.6
🇫🇮Finland: 46.1 (Europa)