Linkfest 2017-06-16

Is Islam the rock on which the liberal order broke?

Razib Khan's Brown Pundits post on whether liberalism broadly construed can stand against the intransigence of Islam.

Think wine connoisseurship is nonsense? Blind-tasting data suggest otherwise

It is easy to make fun of the expensive culture of wine tasting, but I'm always willing to follow the data.

John Betjeman on Greece (but really on England)

A beautiful poem about the Church.

We Could Have Had Cellphones Four Decades Earlier

I like to poke fun at libertarianism, but this seems like an example where a libertarian critique is warranted. A variety of vested interests created by law defended their prerogatives to the detriment of the public interest. In this case, rather than anti-competitive practices by AT&T, we seem to have a case of neglect.

The Best Movies of the 21st Century

Ross Douthat ponders what movies deserve attention since 2001. Also see Steve Sailer's response.

How Pasteur’s Artistic Insight Changed Chemistry

Arguing that Louis Pasteur's abortive art career helped him discover chirality.

Status in the Iliad

Gabriel Rossman does a network analysis of battles in the Iliad.

That Time an Algorithm Whisperer Took Me to the Heart of Darkness

Joel Stein is a funny, funny guy.


Linkfest 2017-04-21

Why is this so funny?

Why is this so funny?

Depending on you do the accounting, emergency rooms aren't the most expensive way to get care.

If you combine this essay from 2016 by Rusty Reno, editor of First Things, with this 2017 article by Steve Sailer, you can get a sense of just how weird American elite universities have gotten.

Another Rusty Reno / Steve Sailer pairing, this time on how corporate and political diversity initiatives are used to shore up the status quo.

Tyler Cowen points out that stats wise, West Virginia isn't so bad. This is an interesting article on its own merits, but it also makes me wonder whether standard economic metrics are all they are cracked up to be.

Bryan Caplan points out that talking about IQ doesn't have to make a monster, but in his experience it often does. Since I follow a lot of IQ/psychology/genetics researchers on Twitter, I got to see many of them questioning Caplan about this in real time.

This story is almost ten years old now, but I didn't know that the monasteries at Mt. Athos still run under their Byzantine grant.

A number of my favorites made this list: Gattaca, Screamers, and Event Horizon.

H. P. Lovecraft is a favorite author of mine. I think these are indeed good places to start.

This title is horribly misleading. This is really an article about intellectual property law, and how a clever strategy almost allowed Google to publish orphaned books.


Linkfest 2017-04-07

A really fun map, and as the article reluctantly notes, not especially credulous about the tall tales travelers shared.

I've linked stories on Uber's evil genius before. This seems to be their attempt to make Hari Seldon real. The New York Times article includes spiffy simulations.

An intriguing look at what kept the Romans, so very advanced in some ways, from an industrial revolution.

Father Matthew Schneider defends oil pipelines from a Catholic point of view.

I'm not surprised, but I've also known some truly gifted scam artists.

A fun interactive map that lets you see where people live.

A labor union associated think tank argues that free trade lowered wages in Mexico.

Noah Smith defends Case and Deaton.

James Miller interviews Greg Cochran, part 1. A wide-ranging conversation, covering Less Wrong, microbiology, federal funding, and free speech. Well worth a listen. [I helped fund this.]

Greg Cochran points out the flaws and misunderstandings in Cordelia Fine's new book. [I also helped fund this.]

Hollywood accounting is pretty shady. I wish Shearer the best of luck.

Damon Linker points out that about as many people die from alcohol overdose as heroin overdose in the US, and the overall rate of alcohol problems mirrors the rate of things like depression: about 1 in 3 over a lifetime.

Kevin Drum has a chart of the rates of death by drug overdose from selected periods and causes that dovetails nicely with Linker.

Ireland's population still hasn't recovered from the combination of famine and mass emigration in the mid-nineteenth century.

  • Crime rate in the US

This chart comes from US Census Bureau data, and the paper containing it seems to be this: J. A. Miron, 1999. "Violence and the U.S. prohibitions of drugs and alcohol," American Law and Economics Association, vol 1(1), pages 78-114. I am intensely curious about the very low homicide rate at the beginning of the twentieth century. Particularly since it differs from other charts of the same thing, for example this one from Steven Pinker's Better Angels.

The solution seems to be that a 1995 article in Demography contains a model of homicide data that has been widely used to estimate missing data. Why do we need a model you ask? Because the data from the period didn't include everywhere in the United States. Not being an expert, the model seems reasonable, but don't forget it is a model.

Eckberg, D. L.  1995. “Estimates of Early 20th-Century U.S. Homicide Rates,” Demography.

I've stumbled on the same dataset twice now. The Tuskegee Institute started keeping track of lynchings in 1892. The data only goes back to 1882, which is the year the Chicago Tribune started keeping numbers. The NAACP also started collecting numbers in 1912. You can see in the chart the point when lynching stopped being just a kind of frontier justice, and started being a way to terrorize black Americans. If data existed for the entire 19th century, I think this trend would be even more clear. Data in EXCEL here.

A post on the reddit for Slatestarcodex questioning the qualifications of Emil Kirkegaard, whom I'm linked several times. I think most of the points made by the anonymous poster are reasonable, and also wrong in Kirkegaard's case.

Emil Kirkegaard's response.

Ross Douthat argues that we should just go all the way to true Imperialism. A position that I endorse. S. M. Stirling gives a notable fictional example of how an actual empire, a universal state, can be genuinely multicultural. Also, the Hapsburgs.

LinkFest 2016-11-06

This LinkFest has been delayed three weeks. I had better publish it before the election and everything gets falsified!

Divided by meaning

A great piece on how Americans are divided by their attachments to hearth and home, or the lack thereof. Fascinating to me, since by education and career, I ought to be a member of what the author calls "the front row kids" who run the country, but I have chosen to live and work in the same small town I grew up in, much like Steve Jobs.

Is there a dietary treatment for multiple sclerosis?

It wouldn't be that hard to design a double-blind RCT on this if you wanted to. You could put everyone on the vegan+fish diet and then supplement animal fats in pill form. If the IRB balked, you might then suspect they secretly believed it might work.

The Crony Economy

Everyone agrees they don't like it, but no one has produced a lasting reform.

How Half Of America Lost Its F**king Mind 

Cracked continues to impress me. Companion piece: Divided by meaning

Is there a dietary treatment for multiple sclerosis?

A really good look at the incentives that push medicine towards pharmaceuticals and away from other kinds of therapies. Related reading: Lions, Tigers, and Bears. Is the placebo powerless?

Revealed: Nearly Half The Adults In Britain And Europe Hold Extremist Views

There is no end to the humor in this, but I find the commitment to democracy kind of sweet and endearing in people who are otherwise horrified when they find out what average people really think. Can you imagine the headline if one were able to conduct the same survey world-wide?

Why Tokyo is the land of rising home construction but not rising prices

Because they almost always tear down old houses and build new ones instead of just moving into them. There are a variety of interesting cultural and practical reasons for this, but one that doesn't appear in the article is the way the Yakuza use construction as their legitimate front. A lot of blue collar work in NYC works much the same way.

How Democrats killed their populist soul

Part of my on-going series of how the Economic Right and the Cultural Left are currently dominant in the West. Until I read this, I hadn't appreciated how the economic theories of Right and Left alike had turned against trust-busting and monopoly prevention.

Estates of Mind

A bit more about anti-trust laws as applied to intellectual property.

Mergers raise prices not efficiency

Since I have worked in manufacturing for my entire career, I don't find this surprising at all. The idea that mergers allow for standardization looks a lot easier on paper than in reality. Supply chains and manufacturing lines can't change with a memo.

The Rise of the alt-Right

Definitely one of the best things I have read about the alt-right. What is going on in the US has a lot of ties to what is going on in Europe.

On the reality of race and the abhorrence of racism

Bo Winegard, Ben Winegard, and Brian Boutwell point out that studying race doesn't make you deplorable.

The ruthlessly effective rebranding of Europe's new far-Right

I said what I read above from Scott McConnell was the best thing about the alt-right, but you really need this one as background.

The election that forgot about the future

In John's review of The Fourth Turning, one of the things that Strauss and Howe said made the Civil War worse than it could have been was the failure of the aging Transcendentalists to step aside and let someone else solve new problems. According to Strauss and Howe's model, the Baby Boomers are currently filling the same role in the United States. And you might note, one of two aging Baby Boomers is about to win the Presidency in a bitterly contested election.

Hacksaw Ridge

Mel Gibson makes another great war movie, about a guy who would not carry a gun.

Railside Report and Publicly Funded Research

I read an interesting riposte to a popular but controversial education research report known as the Railside Report, after the pseudonym of one of the schools. [courtesy of the Education Realist]

Following on the heels of Aaron Schwartz's suicide after his pillorying by the Justice Department, I thought again: why is so much publicly funded research in the US is not readily available to the public? I agree with Jerry Pournelle, I like intellectual property, since that is how I make my living, but it also seems to me that the public owns what the public pays for, and most research in the US is at least partly funded by the government. 

I am not a lawyer, so I don't know all the relevant legal principles at work. I do know that work produced by employees of the federal government cannot be copyrighted, and also that university researchers would not be considered employees of the federal government, because they work independently, hire their own, assistants, etc. I clearly see that the law as it stands would not require that publicly funded work belong to the public. However, as a matter of public policy, why not? For working scientists, normally paying journal access fees is just a cost of doing business, er... science. However, exceptions are not unknown.

Overly honest methods

Climate researchers often find themselves bombarded with requests for their data from climate cranks, to which the usual response is scorn and stonewalling. Yet for all that, I think the climatologists should cough up their data if it was paid for by the public. If you take the King's coin, you also get to be accountable to the King's nutty subjects. I understand the annoyance of the scientists, who feel their time is wasted by such things. However, I cannot see the benefit to the public or to science in general by acting as if publicly funded research, often done at a public university or research institution, belongs to the researcher alone. Especially when the research is claimed to be important, as climate scientists are wont to do. 

This is especially true since scientists don't make money off of journal articles. The point is fame. I can see a slightly different argument in the distinct, but related subject of patents at public institutions. The point of a patent is to encourage investment in a new technology, and the term is pretty short. This process seems to work pretty well at helping take ideas out of the lab and into the marketplace, and many researchers stand to gain handsomely from patents. The term on copyright is much, much longer, and at least in the case of journal articles, it seems less and less critical to enforce that copyright as the science ages. 50 years in, most of those articles will be completely unknown, and not really relevant to the progress of science.