Tuesday, August 19, 2014

More choice versus better choice

From Facts about food by Tyler Cowen.
Stanford’s Dan Jurafsky has written a book doing just that. In The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads the Menu, Jurafsky describes how he and some colleagues analyzed a database of 6,500 restaurant menus describing 650,000 dishes from across the U.S. Among their findings: fancy restaurants, not surprisingly, use fancier—and longer—words than cheaper restaurants do (think accompaniments and decaffeinated coffee, not sides and decaf). Jurafsky writes that “every increase of one letter in the average length of words describing a dish is associated with an increase of 69 cents in the price of that dish.” Compared with inexpensive restaurants, the expensive ones are “three times less likely to talk about the diner’s choice” (your way, etc.) and “seven times more likely to talk about the chef’s choice.”
I love it when people measure things and turn up unexpected relationships.

In this instance, I am particularly intrigued by the trade-off implied in terms of choices. Making the personal choice versus choosing to let the chef make the choice. You technically have less freedom in the second scenario but by essentially outsourcing the decision to an experienced expert, perhaps the utility of reduced choice is more than compensated for by better choices.

Vacations, we don't need no stinking vacations.

From The decline of the week-long vacation (America fact of the day) by Tyler Cowen.
Nine million Americans took a week off in July 1976, the peak month each year for summer travel. Yet in July 2014, just seven million did. Keeping in mind that 60 million more Americans have jobs today than in 1976, that adds up to a huge decline in the share of workers taking vacations.

Some rough calculations show, in fact, that about 80 percent of workers once took an annual weeklong vacation — and now, just 56 percent do.
This ties in with a report I heard the other day on NPR, possibly from the same source research, lamenting the rise of number of people who take no vacation in a year.

My analysis. Post World War II we had a command and control economy on a war footing with allocations, pricing, capital controls, and other centralized decision-making. In the forty years to circa 1985 there was a slow loosening of the centralized aspects of control and a shift to more rule-based regulations. It is hard now to imagine that price controls were still seen as a legitimate and effective policy tool as late as the eighties, that the airline, rail, trucking, telecommunications, banking and other industries were in many respects not just regulated but controlled. The long prevailing policy heuristic assuming that all people lived in families and that there had to be a "living wage" was a part of the larger mental mind set of centralized control and standardization - part of the legibility which James C. Scott describes in his Seeing Like a State.

The gradual loosening of central control caused continuing improvements in efficiency and resource allocation that helped fuel one of the longest cycles of increased productivity and prosperity. Similarly, the abandonment of the living wage heuristic, in part as a result of the atomization of society arising from the broad range of civil rights legislation of the sixties, in particular freeing up labor force participation for all citizens, likewise helped fuel rising prosperity.

The stereotype of all women at home back in the fifties and all men at work earning a living wage that was broadly equal is substantially a myth and a product of the imagination of the privileged elite. The stereotype might have been true for educated professionals but educated professionals were an insignificant slice of the populace.

But the decentralizing of the economy married with technology enablement has led to an unexpected emergent order. For those who do work, they are able and willing to work voluminously and continuously with immense remuneration in historical terms. Everyone else is much more marginalized, pursuing a range of activities, but again, pursuing them necessarily on a continuous basis. Laid of professionals, former manufacturing workers, new participants in the labor force, everyone is seeking safe sustainable full time work and that is simply much less available than in the old centralized economy. Those who are secure run fast and continuously to stay secure. Those who seek full time employment run fast and continuously to catch that train.

The paradox is that the enormous increases in systemic efficiency achieved allows much greater material prosperity for much lower incomes than in the past but at the cost of greater effort and insecurity.

Vacations, we don't need no stinking vacations.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Brazil and China - Reputations and Reality

From Brazil on the short end of a 7-1 score by Scott Sumner. An interesting and constructive conversation in the comments section. Sumner is trying to identify what are the variables that explain the persistent difference in economic performance between China and Brazil as well as determine why there is a perception of Brazil doing so well.
Remember that Brazil is a sophisticated country that has been exporting products like commuter airliners to the US for many years. They have a huge internal market and a fabulous agricultural sector. Waterpower and lots of resources. Modern big cities. We aren’t talking about Lesotho or Laos.

And their per capita income is $12,200 and going nowhere. It’s a mystery to me. And it’s also a mystery as to why they get such a good press. Why aren’t they expected to grow like China? The soft bigotry of low expectations? Is the mental image of Brazil the beach life in Rio, whereas the mental image of China is hard-charging, sharp-elbowed businessmen in Shanghai and Shenzhen? What do you think?
But.
I checked online and it looks like Brazil has averaged 1.5% RGDP growth over the past 3 years. In contrast, RGDP in China has been rising at about 7.5% per year. In per capita terms that’s a roughly 7-1 advantage to China. Ouch. (Sorry to my Brazilian readers for mentioning 7-1, but I just couldn’t resist.) What could explain such a vast difference?
I hadn't looked at comparative per capita GDP numbers in a good while and was surprised by this.
Perhaps it’s because Brazil is about 20% to 25% richer, and richer countries tend to grow more slowly. But that would explain only a slight difference. Both are solidly middle income countries, thus the two growth rates should not differ that much.
I would have estimated that China had passed Brazil some years ago.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

It is weak, ultimately, because its own intellectuals no longer truly believe in it

A very erudite and insightful essay. From Liberalism’s Beleaguered Victory by Abram N. Shulsky.

A very interesting point which I rarely see mentioned when discussions center on the causes of strife around the world.
Liberalism meets with further opposition when the stresses and strains of the transition to modernity are particularly difficult. In the later developing countries, this transition is likely to occur at a faster rate. In the case of England, development of a modern liberal society didn’t occur faster than the rate at which various discoveries enabled industrialization and urbanization. For later adopters, the paradigm of what a developed society looks like already exists, as does the necessary technology, and foreign investment can expedite the transition. Hence, societal change is likely to be more rapid for late adopters than for early ones, creating greater social tension and disorganization, which further erodes liberalism’s popularity and credibility.
And then there is this observation.
Other difficulties stem from more inherent problems or weaknesses of liberalism. Its origins lie in certain philosophic premises, concisely and memorably spelled out in the truths of the Declaration of Independence, concerning the rights with which all men are endowed and the establishment of governments by consent of the governed to protect those rights. As the document says, these truths were then regarded as self-evident; it is reasonable to say they are now hotly contested.

The loss of belief in these principles is reflected, for example, in the works of Comte and his assertion that mankind’s thinking proceeds from a theological stage, via a metaphysical one, to a mature, positive one. In this mature stage, man no longer believes he understands the essence of things, but contents himself with knowledge on the model of modern natural science—knowledge of the “how” but not of the “why” or the “wherefore.” The philosophic bases of liberalism fall within the “metaphysical” period; as the social sciences evolve into a “positive” phase, they concern themselves not with rights or any other kind of self-evident truths that relate to the fundamental character of society (more generally, values), but only with the knowable, objective relationships among variables. The switch to a more “positive” social science holds out the possibility of a more efficient and effective management of society, such as was promised by the Progressive movement of the early 20th century. But it does so at the cost of potentially weakening the hold of core liberal beliefs on society at large.
I think that last point is important. It seems like a lot of discussion are over-focused on how do we solve this preferred problem at all rather than figuring how to do so within the context of core liberal beliefs. In other words, the problem takes precedence over the principles. In the short term, most problems are more easily solved by working outside of constraining principles than within them. In the long term, not so much.
Modern politics, and the modern natural science that developed along with it, depend crucially on de-emphasizing certain human concerns, especially the concern with the afterlife and immortality (a concern at the center of the Christianity that dominated Europe for centuries). Politically, this meant that opinions about salvation had to be regulated either by the political authority (as in Hobbes) or relegated to the private sphere (as in Locke). In either case, the individual’s passionate concern for the fate of his immortal soul had to be tamed or contained; it was no longer to affect actions he might take in the public sphere, at least none that could not be sufficiently motivated and defended on a non-religious basis.
You can look at deemphasizing "the concern with the afterlife and immortality" as a philosophical or psychological or religious issue. Alternately, you can look at as an increase is the time discounting rate. If you are concerned with the far distant future, you have a low discount rate. If you are concerned only with the here and now you have a very high time discount rate. The accumulation of capital is critically dependent on both a high degree of self-control and postponement of gratification as well as a low discount rate on the future. You have to believe that the capital saved through postponed current gratification will be rewarded in the future. Religion tends to both encourage self-control and encourages a low time discount rate. I think Shulsky is right that there is an unintended consequence occurring. By discounting religion in order to foster individualism, there is an inadvertent subversion of progress because the discounting of religion also leads to less self-control and a higher time discount rate.
Shulsky summarizes his argument thus.
So to assess the health of liberal democracy, we must keep in mind two opposing thoughts: It is strong because it opens the way to the satisfaction of the real needs and desires of most people, most of the time; and it is weak, ultimately, because its own intellectuals no longer truly believe in it and because there are seemingly ineradicable longings of the human soul that it ignores or pretends do not exist—and, indeed, that its own liberality encourages into expression.
I think Shulsky is right. Our greatest threat is not from exernal sources or constraints. It is from the abandonment of our core classical liberal principles by our intellectuals. Fortunately, the broad public of our nation are, to a much greater degree than the intellectuals, still wedded to classical liberal ideals. Cycles and cycles. Sometimes intellectuals are the vanguard, sometimes it is the despised bourgeoisie.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Oft reported, never actually seen.

Two articles on the radar screen this morning, Women's Studies Departments Are Failing Feminism by Elizabeth Segran and then Princeton and Wellesley May Re-inflate Grades by Paul Caron.

From Segran's article.
For three years, I taught feminist theory to undergraduates while working on my Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley. There was a time when Berkeley was the epicenter of radical feminism: In the 1970s, women’s rights activists regularly stormed campus buildings, demanding birth control, abortion, self-defense classes, and childcare. But when I started teaching in 2007, nothing particularly radical was happening anymore.

Far from being sites of activism and empowerment, Berkeley’s Women’s Studies classes were weighed down by theory and jargon. Using departmental guidelines, I crafted a syllabus that was meant to help my students think critically about gender, but what that really meant is that we spent our days wrestling with dense and difficult texts, parsing the works of Gayatri Spivak, Monique Wittig, and Judith Butler. We devoted inordinate amounts of time to asking whether gender and sexuality were social constructs, rather than biological facts. We casually threw around words like “subalterneity,” “essentialism,” and “phallogocentrism” as if they really meant something.
When talking with people from Studies programs, it has been my experience that they are often passionate about the ideas, and naive beyond comprehension in terms of trying to relate those ideas to the real world in which everyone else operates. The jargon and theory are abstractions that they use as barriers to comprehension. When you start drilling down into specific definitions and logical consistency, it quickly emerges that there has been little critical thinking or comprehension of what they have been studying for four years. I don't think it is the student's fault. They have been hoodwinked. They have been sold a bill of goods. Boldness in imaginary theory has been presented as critical thinking.

In Segran's article the real value is in the discussion going on in the comments. I don't have the impression of New Republic being a particular hotbed of conservativism but the commenters are certainly taking Segran to task for the weak argument.

Caron's link might have part of the explanation for this paradox of a field of study claiming to be based on bold critical thinking but actually being a cacophony of discordant ideas. Granted this data is from a single university, but it does not contradict other evidence I have seen.


There is the traditional and common divide between the objective fields of study (sciences, maths, et al) and the more subjective fields such as the humanities. But even within the humanities, there is a material range. Women's Studies is the field of study with the second largest grade inflation. Apparently, you have to work hard to get something less than an A-.

It would appear that Women's Studies is highly subjective, has little objective information, is riddled by theory and jargon, has no standards of rigorous performance, and therefore likely has little empirical or logically rigorous discussion of ideas and applications. Perhaps this breeds a high degree of confidence (see all these high grades) with a low capacity to argue (jargon laden field irrelevant to outsiders and unaccepting of exogenous information).

It is easy to look at the long running myths constantly propagated by advocates as a function of ideological purity, as proto-religious belief systems: War on Women, Rape Culture, Gender Wage Gap, Patriarchal discrimination, etc. All these are mainstays of media discussion despite repeated debunking by multiple sources here and abroad.

But perhaps there is more than just ideological conviction. Perhaps there is actually an incapacity to actually argue a point or to accept confounding data. I suspect insularity, failure to deal with empirical information and absence of reasoned and logical arguments all contribute to a state of mind incapable of perceiving the reality in which everyone else lives.

Peter Wood in Campus Activism: The Fight for Imaginary Victories has a good summary of this curious state of affairs.
Campus activism is, by and large, the world of make-believe. Whenever students occupy a president’s office, Tinkerbell is not far away. Whenever faculty demand a boycott, Professor Dumbledore winks at Professor Snape.

The premise behind campus activism is always the same. The college campus is a microcosm of the larger world. What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but what happens at Oberlin or Sweet Briar is imagined to rock the foundations of the old order. Patriarchy trembles. The Zionist Entity is called to account. The coal-breathing capitalist Earth warmers feel the chill of a generation walking on their graves.

That premise, of course, is always mistaken. It matters not a whit to the energy producers that Pitzer College chose to divest from fossil fuel companies, or even that Stanford, with its much larger endowment, decided to pull out of coal company investments. Israel will do what it needs to do to defend itself against its enemies, regardless of what resolutions the American Studies Association passes. “Patriarchy” stalks the American college campus the way the plesiosaur stalks Loch Ness: oft reported, never actually seen.

A mistaken premise, however, is still a premise, and we anthropologists have written many books about the way people organize their lives around interesting misconceptions. If you believe that witchcraft causes unfortunate events, protecting yourself from witches becomes a significant preoccupation. This is especially so if everyone else in your village is worried about witches too. From such preoccupations arise communities that appear to outsiders to be dominated by irrational fears and sometimes destructive obsessions. The classic anthropological text, Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande (1937) by the great British investigator, E. E. Evans-Pritchard, deals with a central African tribe. Evans-Pritchard neatly showed that given the Azande premise of invisible, malevolent witches, the anti-witch precautions made perfect sense. And there is no way to prove that when a termite-ridden granary falls over and kills someone, a witch didn’t arrange it. The Azande had developed what today’s climate activists call the “precautionary principle.” In the absence of evidence, better to assume the witches are at work.

Indeed, when I go through the list of things campus activists are now focused on, it is hard not to think of the Azande. Our college campuses are busy fretting over numerous imaginary dangers, which of course forestalls them from thinking seriously about some real problems.
All of this ties in to this noxious article in The Atlantic. The premises behind the article are both racist and misandrist. Tallying Female Workers Isn't Enough to Make Tech More Diverse by Adrienne Lafrance. Again, the commenters rescue an otherwise execrable article by logical and reasoned arguments pointing out both the flawed premises and the confounding evidence in the article itself. Lafrance is irked that only 30% of the workforce in technology companies are women.

Lafrance wants to accuse the tech companies of both racism and misogyny. Her approach prompts the biblical admonishment "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?"

Lafrance wants to believe that all roles ought to be in proportion to demographic representation. If 50% of the population is female, then 50% of the workers ought to be female. She strips away all diversity of individual opinion, culture and decision-making.

For an investigative reporter, she is curiously innumerate. She thinks she has a damning point when she observes:
Company-wide representation of women might be 30 percent, but the percentage of women in tech and engineering roles at Google and Yahoo, for instance, was about half that.
So women are about 15% of the tech and engineering roles in tech companies. And what percentage of technical and engineering degrees (the pathways into technical roles) are earned by women? 15%! Apparently Google and Yahoo are admirably hiring people in a gender and color blind fashion. Lafrance's beef is actually with all those women, such as herself (Journalism major) who chose not to pursue technical studies.

But making the argument that women, against their wishes, should be taking more technical and engineering degrees, is not the argument that Lafrance wants to make. Perhaps it is too boring. Much more rewarding and entertaining to make baseless accusations against successful companies.

But the most egregious violence against reason, evidence and logic is the assertion:
This drumbeat of diversity data has been anticlimactic, not least because it shows what most people already expected: that leaders in technology are overwhelmingly hiring white men.
The data in her own article show that males are about 70% of the workforce and that about 40% of the workforce are people of color (primarily Asian). That means that about 28% of the workforce are white men. I don't think there is anyone outside of the academy, and apparently MSM, who would equate 28% of the workforce as being overwhelming.

So really, what is it that allows apparent misandry and racism in a mainstream publication to be acceptable, as long as it is aimed solely at white men?

I am guessing that the answer lies in the academy and its abandonment of reason and evidence in popular fields and its unwillingness to debate protected ideologies.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Something that few people would ever post so starkly on their Facebook feeds

Heh. From Only Stupid People Call People Stupid by Megan McArdle.
I’m always fascinated by the number of people who proudly build columns, tweets, blog posts or Facebook posts around the same core statement: “I don’t understand how anyone could (oppose legal abortion/support a carbon tax/sympathize with the Palestinians over the Israelis/want to privatize Social Security/insert your pet issue here)." It’s such an interesting statement, because it has three layers of meaning.

The first layer is the literal meaning of the words: I lack the knowledge and understanding to figure this out. But the second, intended meaning is the opposite: I am such a superior moral being that I cannot even imagine the cognitive errors or moral turpitude that could lead someone to such obviously wrong conclusions. And yet, the third, true meaning is actually more like the first: I lack the empathy, moral imagination or analytical skills to attempt even a basic understanding of the people who disagree with me.

In short, “I’m stupid.” Something that few people would ever post so starkly on their Facebook feeds.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A political Bizarro World

Yet another example of the Political Party reversal I discussed in Success? Serving Others. I said:
I think I have mentioned it in the past in the context of foreign affairs and international relations but I am struck by the reversal of the stereotypes I carry from my youth (and which to some extent you still see today) between Democrats and Republicans.

In my youth I had the impression of Democrats being the party for global engagement, trade and exchange and the Republicans being isolationist and xenophobic. Today it is, in terms of policy, largely the reverse. When exactly did that happen?

Likewise with the stereotypes around interpersonal relations. Democrats were the ones who were about individualism, community involvement, serving others, giving more than receiving and Republicans were supposed to be about greed and self-interest and subjugation of individual to national interests. Today, in terms of policy and measured evidence, it seems again like the roles have been reversed.
James Taranto points out a new example of Political Party Reversals in Loyalty Oafs. Back in the 1950's and McCarthyism, Loyalty Oaths were administered by government and private parties to ensure that Communists were not employed by the government or industry. G.K. Chesterton had a humorous comment on the touching American faith in asking straight questions and expecting straight answers. From G.K. Chesterton's What I Saw in America. He is relating to the different practices and how "A man is perfectly entitled to laugh at a thing because he happens to find it incomprehensible. What he has no right to do is to laugh at it as incomprehensible, and then criticise it as if he comprehended it. To illustrate his point he describes his visit to the American Embassy for his visas.
The officials I interviewed were very American, especially in being very polite; for whatever may have been the mood or meaning of Martin Chuzzlewit, I have always found Americans by far the politest people in the world. They put in my hands a form to be filled up, to all appearance like other forms I had filled up in other passport offices. But in reality it was very different from any form I had ever filled up in my life. At least it was a little like a freer form of the game called 'Confessions' which my friends and I invented in our youth; an examination paper containing questions like, 'If you saw a rhinoceros in the front garden, what would you do?' One of my friends, I remember, wrote, 'Take the pledge.' But that is another story, and might bring Mr. Pussyfoot Johnson on the scene before his time.

One of the questions on the paper was, 'Are you an anarchist?' To which a detached philosopher would naturally feel inclined to answer, 'What the devil has that to do with you? Are you an atheist?' along with some playful efforts to cross-examine the official about what constitutes an [Greek: arche]. Then there was the question, 'Are you in favour of subverting the government of the United States by force?' Against this I should write, 'I prefer to answer that question at the end of my tour and not the beginning.' The inquisitor, in his more than morbid curiosity, had then written down, 'Are you a polygamist?' The answer to this is, 'No such luck' or 'Not such a fool,' according to our experience of the other sex. But perhaps a better answer would be that given to W. T. Stead when he circulated the rhetorical question, 'Shall I slay my brother Boer?'--the answer that ran, 'Never interfere in family matters.' But among many things that amused me almost to the point of treating the form thus disrespectfully, the most amusing was the thought of the ruthless outlaw who should feel compelled to treat it respectfully. I like to think of the foreign desperado, seeking to slip into America with official papers under official protection, and sitting down to write with a beautiful gravity, 'I am an anarchist. I hate you all and wish to destroy you.' Or, 'I intend to subvert by force the government of the United States as soon as possible, sticking the long sheath-knife in my left trouser-pocket into Mr. Harding at the earliest opportunity.' Or again, 'Yes, I am a polygamist all right, and my forty-seven wives are accompanying me on the voyage disguised as secretaries.' There seems to be a certain simplicity of mind about these answers; and it is reassuring to know that anarchists and polygamists are so pure and good that the police have only to ask them questions and they are certain to tell no lies.
But back to the topic of Loyalty Oaths. Republicans used to be fans of Loyalty Oaths back in the 1950's. "Are you now or have you ever been . . ." etc. But as Republicans have become (or returned to) their Classical Liberal roots (Adam Smith, David Hume, Locke, et al.), they moved away from that statist nonsense.

So who is calling for loyalty oaths now? Democrats! Or at least a Democrat pundit, Jonathan Alter in The United States Needs Corporate "Loyalty Oaths". There could be all sorts of discussion about the specifics of the proposal. What strikes me though, is the Political Party Reversal. It is as if we are occupying a political Bizarro World (of the Superman comics of my youth).

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Six generations

I have often wondered what is the fewest number of generations of selective evolutionary pressure before you can see a clear bifurcation between the current and the ancestral generation. The context was the discovery a few years ago that both lactose tolerance and blue eyes only emerged in Europeans within the past seven thousand years. Both those traits spread very rapidly in the scheme of things. But how fast can a trait spread?

This article, Scientists turn a brown butterfly purple—in just six generations by John Timmer, answers that question. Six Generations is the answer.
The researchers started by checking the absorption spectrum of their existing lab strain of butterflies. This showed a peak of reflection at 300nm wavelengths, well within the UV range of the spectrum. But the peak was broad and varied from individual to individual, so the researchers selected the males and females that had the peak shifted closer to the visible spectrum, then mated them to produce the next generation. They repeated the process of mating and measuring reflection for five additional generations.

After six generations of selective breeding, the peak reflection had shifted well into the purple at 400nm.

(Six generations in this species take less than a year. The experiment actually involved eight generations total, though, because two generations saw low numbers of offspring and were simply allowed to mate randomly to build up the numbers again.)
Obviously the determinants of attribute plasticity are the nature of the trait, the species involved, etc. Still. Six generations is a lot fewer than I would have expected.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

None of it is bad but all of it is change

Hans Rosling does some really interesting work with global measures of well-being, both past, present and projected into the future.

I watched this video of his Dr. Hans Rosling: Facts and Fiction on Global Health NMD 2014 which is, as usual, both entertaining and enlightening. I was struck by the importance and materiality of his work in terms of demographics in comparison with the triviality of some similar themes that are bandied about in the US in highly irresponsible ways.

There are groups in the US that are particularly interested in fostering division by race, and income, and gender. You can speculate as to their motives but it is not hard to judge them as irresponsibly fostering divisiveness that is unlikely to have a happy outcome.

You hear in many forums arguments that are often grounded on the assertion that the face of America is changing and we need to do X because of that. In a country founded on the idea of natural rights and the equality of man, it is a little hard to see the philosophical connection between race and policy. But it is a given in many corners.

What is ironic is the logical inconsistency of many of the arguments. Many attempt to use scare tactics such as "People of Color are growing fast and will at some time in the nearer future be the majority population". That argument is not much more than racial fear-mongering of the worst sort and oddly has the embedded assumption of negative and positive race attributes. Yuck.

It is indisputably true that the face of America is changing. It has always been changing. It likely will always be changing. It is a beacon of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I suspect it will always exert an attraction.

So how is the changing face a threat? The only significant challenge is the danger that we import the divisiveness of other cultures and that we admit new people faster than they can be acculturalized and assimilated.

And is it really changing all that much. African-Americans are basically at steady-state as are Native Americans. The only growth areas are among Asian Americans and Hispanics. Asian Americans are proving both hugely successful (on average) and with an enormous capacity to acculturalize and assimilate. I don't think there is anyone particularly concerned about those sets of changes. Hispanics in turn are a somewhat different circumstance in that it is not a race at all but a geographic construct. Yes there are assimilation issues but likely not unachievable. In terms of race, if you accept the self-identification of Hispanics, the overall race distribution in the US, for all the global admissions since the 1965 reforms, is a remarkably stable 80% white, 13% Black, 6% Asian and 1% Native American. Everyone fears change but there are some who are trying to stoke that fear in the basest of terms.

There have been a couple of articles recently that have sought to deflate the paranoia and fear these advocate groups seek to foster. Why Hispanics Don’t Have a Larger Political Voice by Nate Cohn is one and Republicans’ increasing reliance on white voters may not spell electoral doom just yet by Chris Cillizza is another. Cillizza is right, I think, to call into question whether a strategy of race based electioneering is in the interests of the commonweal.

What does this have to do with Hans Rosling? Watch the video. He debunks a lot of false information and he sheds light on where the real demographic changes are known to be occurring. What's going on in the US is small, small potatoes compared to what is happening at the global level. None of it is bad but all of it is change and change is what we all tend to most fear.


"I’m not going to call it a ‘sketchy’ neighborhood" - but evidence suggests that it is.

Sometimes, you just cannot credibly make up what actually does occur. DC news crew robbed while reporting on app that identifies ‘sketchy’ neighborhoods by Scott Kaufman. This sounded so pat that I couldn't believe it. However, googling around, it does appear to be a legitimate story.
A District of Columbia news crew reporting on an app that identifies “sketchy” neighborhoods had their van burglarized while they were interviewing individuals who lived in a neighborhood the app identified as “sketchy.”

WUSA9 reporter Mola Lenghi said that he, photographer James Hash, and intern Taylor Bisciotti were in the Petworth area interviewing residents who lived there.

“We were doing a story on an app that describes ‘sketchy’ neighborhoods,” Lenghi said. “It led us to the Petworth neighborhood of Northwest, and I’m not going to call it a ‘sketchy’ neighborhood, but as folks were telling us that it was a good neighborhood, and that not much activity happens around there — as that was being told to us, our van was being robbed.”

“We got back to the news van,” he continued, “and noticed that the lock was popped out. Got in there, and noticed that all of our stuff was gone. I had a backpack full of electronics.”
Sounds like the politically correct/excessively polite journalist might have benefited from reading some Shakespeare during college.
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
Alternatively - sketchy is as sketchy does.