Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Attention markets

From Do the media unintentionally make mass killers into celebrities? An assessment of free advertising and earned media value by Adam Lankford. From the abstract.
In recent years, some critics have suggested that the media make mass killers into celebrities by giving them too much attention. However, whether the media coverage these offenders receive actually approaches the amounts given to celebrities has never been tested. This study compared perpetrators of seven mass killings during 2013–2017 with more than 600 celebrities over the same time period. Findings indicate that the mass killers received approximately $75 million in media coverage value, and that for extended periods following their attacks they received more coverage than professional athletes and only slightly less than television and film stars. In addition, during their attack months, some mass killers received more highly valued coverage than some of the most famous American celebrities, including Kim Kardashian, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, and Jennifer Aniston. Finally, most mass killers received more coverage from newspapers and broadcast/cable news than the public interest they generated through online searches and Twitter seems to warrant. Unfortunately, this media attention constitutes free advertising for mass killers that may increase the likelihood of copycats.

Pleadings

From The New Yorker.

Click to enlarge.

42 Rules of Life

An interesting interview of Jordan B. Peterson on the BBC. The catalyst is his new book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. The interview begins at 1:10.

Peterson has emerged in the past few years as an articulate defender of basic freedoms and western values (rule of law, consent of the governed, natural rights, universalism, inf=divudualism, etc.). He is anathema to most members of the media, generally dyed-in-the-wool postmodernists deeply imbued with the ethos of social justice and authoritarianism. These BBC interviewers do a better job than most of keeping their priors under control, though they do veer into the jungle a couple of times.

In addition to Peterson's new book, they allude to a list of 42 Rules of Life. Not a bad list.
Tell the truth.

Do not do things that you hate.

Act so that you can tell the truth about how you act.

Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient.

If you have to choose, be the one who does things, instead of the one who is seen to do things.

Pay attention.

Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you need to know. Listen to them hard enough so that they will share it with you.

Plan and work diligently to maintain the romance in your relationships.

Be careful who you share good news with.

Be careful who you share bad news with.

Make at least one thing better every single place you go.

Imagine who you could be, and then aim single-mindedly at that.

Do not allow yourself to become arrogant or resentful.

Try to make one room in your house as beautiful as possible.

Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.

Work as hard as you possibly can on at least one thing and see what happens.

If old memories still make you cry, write them down carefully and completely.

Maintain your connections with people.

Do not carelessly denigrate social institutions or artistic achievement.

Treat yourself as if you were someone that you are responsible for helping.

Ask someone to do you a small favour, so that he or she can ask you to do one in the future.

Make friends with people who want the best for you.

Do not try to rescue someone who does not want to be rescued, and be very careful about rescuing someone who does.

Nothing well done is insignificant.

Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world.

Dress like the person you want to be.

Be precise in your speech.

Stand up straight with your shoulders back.

Don't avoid something frightening if it stands in your way -- and don't do unnecessarily dangerous things.

Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.

Do not transform your wife into a maid.

Do not hide unwanted things in the fog.

Notice that opportunity lurks where responsibility has been abdicated.

Read something written by someone great.

Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street.

Do not bother children when they are skateboarding.

Don't let bullies get away with it.

Write a letter to the government if you see something that needs fixing -- and propose a solution.

Remember that what you do not yet know is more important than what you already know.

Be grateful in spite of your suffering.

Yankee Clipper, 1939 by Charles Sheeler

Yankee Clipper, 1939 by Charles Sheeler (1883-1965)

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Occam's the man

Heh. From 7% of Households Do Not Have a Bank Account. Why? by Cheryl Russell.

The food desert fad was a temporary speculation, fueled by misdirected do-goodism among the self-anointed chattering classes who, incorrectly, speculated that populations demonstrating high rates of obesity must be fat owing to an absence of grocery stores (particularly those selling fresh produce.) The argument was that these people lived in food deserts.

Wrong on two accounts. It took the better part of a decade and some hundreds of millions of wasted federal dollars before it as discovered that people were obese because of their own bad eating habits and poor lifestyle choices in terms of exercise. In addition, it was discovered that the early maps showing swathes of urban food deserts were simply incorrect. There were grocery stories everywhere.

I had missed it but apparently there is a parallel line of anemic thinking in financial circles - the unbanked, people without an account at a bank, must be living in a banking desert. From Russell.
Seven percent of U.S. households are "unbanked," meaning they have no bank or credit union account. Researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York examined the geography of the unbanked to determine the reason why—in particular, they wanted to know whether households lack bank accounts because they live in a "banking desert." Similar to food deserts (neighborhoods without grocery stores), banking deserts are neighborhoods without physical banks. In the study, the researchers defined a neighborhood as a census tract and the area within 10 miles of the census tract's center.

Several interesting findings emerged from the study. 1) Most banking deserts are in actual deserts. "Our map of U.S. banking deserts reveals that most are not in urban areas, where financial exclusion may be endemic, but in actual deserts—largely in the sparsely populated rural West," explain the researchers. 2) There is no correlation between the percentage of a state's population that lives in a banking desert and the share of the population that is unbanked. The physical location of banks, then, does not explain the unbanked. The results of a 2015 FDIC survey, cited by the researchers, also suggests physical location of banks has little to do with the unbanked. In the survey, the unbanked were asked why they did not have a bank account. Only 2 percent said it was because of "inconvenient location." More important reasons were "not enough money," "don't trust banks," and "account fees too high."
This is not a new issue. My wife did her dissertation on unbanked communities in Philadelphia in the mid-1980s. Why were they unbanked? Because the banking services did not meet their needs in terms of cost and confidence. Not because there were too few banks.

But I love that line from Russell - "Most banking deserts are in actual deserts."

She was the Dorothy Parker of provincial England

From Niall Ferguson: By the Book, in the New York Times.
What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you most?

I read a lot and quite systematically. Once I had identified an author I liked, I read everything by that person the library possessed. I vividly recall devouring the complete works of Arthur Conan Doyle and P. G. Wodehouse in this way. I have tried (and continue to try) as a father to impart my love of reading to my children, so the books I loved as a boy — Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” for example, or Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” — are books I have reread multiple times. The greatest works of literature benefit from being read aloud. A wonderful example are the “Just William” stories by Richmal Crompton, which deserve to be much better known in the United States. She was the Dorothy Parker of provincial England.
Wonderful to see such an overlap with an historian whom I greatly admire.

Boyish Sleep by Hamlin Garland

Boyish Sleep
by Hamlin Garland

AND all night long we lie in sleep,
Too sweet to sigh in, or to dream,
Unnoting how the wild winds sweep,
Or snow clouds through the darkness stream
Above the trees that moan and sign
And clutch with naked hands the sky.
Beneath the checkered counterpane
We rest the soundlier for the storm;
Its wrath is only lullaby,
A far off, vast and dim refrain.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Bewilderingly erudite and prolific, passionate in his enthusiasms and armed with the complete contents of the thesaurus

From Niall Ferguson: By the Book, in the New York Times.

I love his description of Simon Schama.
Which historians and biographers do you most admire?

Amongst those currently writing, Simon Schama stands out as the Dickens of modern historiography: bewilderingly erudite and prolific, passionate in his enthusiasms and armed with the complete contents of the thesaurus. We agree to disagree about politics. I have also hugely admired Anne Applebaum for her trilogy on the Gulag, the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe (“Iron Curtain”) and, most recently, the Ukrainian famine (“Red Famine”). Walter Isaacson has established himself as the great American biographer of our time. “Leonardo da Vinci” is his best book, I think. Whereas the earlier books were pure journalism, he is now showing academic scholars how to write accessibly about subtle and even recondite subject matter. I read quite a number of biographies while researching “The Square and the Tower.” My favorite was probably Michael Ignatieff’s on Isaiah Berlin, which led me into the vast, delightful rabbit warren of Berlin’s correspondence.

Ambiguity

From The New Yorker.

Click to enlarge.

The White Beach (La grève blanche, Vasouy), 1913 by Félix Valloton

The White Beach (La grève blanche, Vasouy), 1913 by Félix Valloton

Click to enlarge.