Sunday, February 19, 2017

Nothing says AMERICA like an eagle on your shoulder.

Donald Trump has a cologne called Success? Who knew.

I love the customer Q&A.

Click to enlarge.

Kids just don't have the gumption they used to . . .




Saturday, February 18, 2017

Inhabited by a rude description of people

Various accounts by and about Hanno the Navigator. Hanno lived around the fifth century BC.

From the periplus of Hanno describing the terminus of their voyage along the coast of West Africa.
In its inmost recess was an island similar to that formerly described, which contained in like manner a lake with another island, inhabited by a rude description of people. The females were much more numerous than the males, and had rough skins: our interpreters called them Gorillae. We pursued but could take none of the males; they all escaped to the top of precipices, which they mounted with ease, and threw down stones; we took three of the females, but they made such violent struggles, biting and tearing their captors, that we killed them, and stripped off the skins, which we carried to Carthage: being out of provisions we could go no further.
An unknown world way back in the days before National Geographic.

Wikipedia notes:
When the American physician and missionary Thomas Staughton Savage and naturalist Jeffries Wyman first described the gorillas in the 19th century, the apes were named Troglodytes gorilla after the description in Hanno.
Herodotus, that collector of tales, relates that:
The Carthaginians tell us that they trade with a race of men who live in a part of Libya beyond the Pillars of Herakles. On reaching this country, they unload their goods, arrange them tidily along the beach, and then, returning to their boats, raise a smoke. Seeing the smoke, the natives come down to the beach, place on the ground a certain quantity of gold in exchange for the goods, and go off again to a distance. The Carthaginians then come ashore and take a look at the gold; and if they think it presents a fair price for their wares, they collect it and go away; if, on the other hand, it seems too little, they go back aboard and wait, and the natives come and add to the gold until they are satisfied. There is perfect honesty on both sides; the Carthaginians never touch the gold until it equals in value what they have offered for sale, and the natives never touch the goods until the gold has been taken away.

Liberty and responsibility are inseparable

From The Constitution of Liberty by Friedrich A. Hayek.
Liberty not only means that the individual has both the opportunity and the burden of choice; it also means that he must bear the consequences of his actions and will receive praise or blame for them. Liberty and responsibility are inseparable. A free society will not function or maintain itself unless its members regard it as right that each individual occupy the position that results from his action and accept that it is due to his own action. Though it can offer to the individual only chances and though the outcome of his efforts will depend on innumerable accidents, it forcefully directs his attention to those circumstances that he can control as if they were the only ones that mattered. Since the individual is to be given the opportunity to make use of circumstances that may be known only to him and since, as a rule, nobody else can know whether he has made the best use of them or not, the presumption is that the outcome of his actions is determined by them, unless the contrary is quite obvious.

This belief in individual responsibility, which has always been strong when people firmly believed in individual freedom, has markedly declined, together with the esteem for freedom. Responsibility has become an unpopular concept, a word that experienced speakers or writers avoid because of the obvious boredom or animosity with which it is received by a generation that dislikes all moralizing. It often evokes the outright hostility of men who have been taught that it is nothing but circumstances over which they have no control that has determined their position in life or even their actions. This denial of responsibility is, however, commonly due to a fear of responsibility, a fear that necessarily becomes also a fear of freedom. It is doubtless because the opportunity to build one's own life also means an unceasing task, a discipline that man must impose upon himself if he is to achieve his aims, that many people are afraid of liberty.
Seems like this passage has some passing consistency with Jonathan Haidt's discussions about the developing culture of victimhood.

Jefferson on the Media - "it's abandoned prostitution to falsehood"

Two views of the press from that great Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson.

From a Letter to Colonel Edward Carrington (16 January 1787):
The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.
Also gave us this Document 29, letter from Thomas Jefferson to John Norvell, 14 June 1807.
To your request of my opinion of the manner in which a newspaper should be conducted, so as to be most useful, I should answer, "by restraining it to true facts & sound principles only." Yet I fear such a paper would find few subscribers. It is a melancholy truth, that a suppression of the press could not more compleatly deprive the nation of it's benefits, than is done by it's abandoned prostitution to falsehood. Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle. The real extent of this state of misinformation is known only to those who are in situations to confront facts within their knolege with the lies of the day. I really look with commiseration over the great body of my fellow citizens, who, reading newspapers, live & die in the belief, that they have known something of what has been passing in the world in their time; whereas the accounts they have read in newspapers are just as true a history of any other period of the world as of the present, except that the real names of the day are affixed to their fables. General facts may indeed be collected from them, such as that Europe is now at war, that Bonaparte has been a successful warrior, that he has subjected a great portion of Europe to his will, &c., &c.; but no details can be relied on. I will add, that the man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them; inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors. He who reads nothing will still learn the great facts, and the details are all false.
Some things are the same as they ever were.

Chevron and detrimental emergent order

From Gorsuch’s Opposition to Chevron Speaks Well of Trump and Is a Dilemma for Democrats by John O. McGinnis.

I had not realized this about Supreme Court nominee, Gorsuch.
Judge Neil Gorsuch is worthy successor to Justice Antonin Scalia. He is an advocate of originalism who writes well enough to persuade the public and has the intellectual heft to engage the academy. But there is one way in which he differs sharply from Scalia. He is no fan of the Chevron doctrine, which directs judges to defer to agency interpretations of statutes so long as they are reasonable even if the interpretations are not the best. Given that much of modern law is administrative law and so much of our current democratic deficit is due to the administrative state, this is an important difference.
Well, good.

It has seemed to me that one of the more unremarked evolutions in recent decades has been the full chain of consequence related to delegated governance. Specifically, Congress has become increasingly deferential to the Executive. The Executive has delegated more authority to agencies and bureaucrats. And with the Chevron doctrine, the Courts have deferred to the Administrative state.

There are logical reasons for each link in this chain but the net effect is the evisceration of accountability and transparency.

Bureaucratic administrators, the so-called Deep State, are beyond accountability. A democracy works primarily on a combination of trust and accountability to earn the consent of the governed. If the citizenry are unable to exert pressure on bad laws by voting out the Legislature originating the law or the Executive enforcing the law or the Justice system interpreting the law, then the Law itself is suspect and you end up losing the consent of the governed.

This is not a Democrat or Republican issue, this is the governance elite versus the citizenry. Republican and Democrat establishments have both deferred to the Executive. This frees them up from focusing on crafting good and effective laws and allows them to indulge in the Kabuki Theater of legislation - all show and no reality. The Executive (Republican or Democrat) similarly benefits from the concentration of power but given the breadth and depth of government, it is too much for a unitary command. Power is delegated to the Administrative State giving the Executive plausible deniability when there are bad consequences. And Justice? They can avoid making hard decisions by deferring to the bureaucrats.

Everyone gains except the citizenry.

The best solution is for Congress to take back its delegated authority and actually serve their function of representing the interests of the citizenry through crafted law and policy. The second best solution is for the Executive to take responsibility back from the Administrative State, either directly or via cabinet members.

Overturning the deference embedded in the Chevron decision is the least direct way of resolving the problem, but it is at least a step in the right direction of bringing the system back into balance and restoring some modicum of transparency and accountability.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Like a parson’s damn

From The Hand of Ethelberta by Thomas Hardy
Ethelberta breathed a sort of exclamation, not right out, but stealthily, like a parson’s damn.

Comparing the incidence of terrorism with that of common accidents is an incompetent and irresponsible use of statistics

From Stop Telling Me How Dangerous My Bathtub Is by Justin Fox.

Fox is dealing with a common non sequitur used by the press to impugn those who fear terrorism, i.e. the trope that more people die from slips and falls in the bathroom than from terrorist attacks. Fox explores why it is a non sequitur.
First is that terrorism is designed to, you know, sow terror. As Ganesh writes,
most people can intuit the difference between domestic misfortune and political violence. The latter is an assault on the system: the rules and institutions that distinguish society from the state of nature. Bathroom deaths could multiply by 50 without a threat to civil order. The incidence of terror could not.
Second is that ladders, stairs and bathtubs are undeniably useful. Terrorists, not so much. (I’ll get back to usefulness in a moment.)
Finally, comparing the incidence of terrorism with that of common accidents is an incompetent and irresponsible use of statistics. Household accidents are lots and lots of small, unrelated events. As a result, while individual accidents can’t be predicted, the overall risk is easy to quantify and is pretty stable from year to year.

Terrorism is different. There are small incidents, but there are also huge ones in which hundreds or thousands of people die. It’s a fat-tailed distribution, in which outliers are really important. It also isn’t stable: Five or 10 or even 50 years of data isn’t necessarily enough to allow one to predict with confidence what’s going to happen next year. It’s a little like housing prices -- the fact that they hadn’t declined on the national level for more than 50 years before 2006 didn’t mean they couldn’t decline. Meanwhile, the widespread belief that they wouldn’t decline made the housing collapse more likely and more costly.

65% of lawful immigrants live in top 20 cities

Interesting. From Pew Research, 20 metro areas are home to six-in-ten unauthorized immigrants in U.S. by Jeffrey S. Passel and D'Vera Cohn.

What actually got my attention was this:
By contrast, only 36% of the total U.S. population lived in those metro areas.

But the analysis also shows that unauthorized immigrants tend to live where other immigrants live. Among lawful immigrants – including naturalized citizens and noncitizens – 65% lived in those top metros.
Much has been made about the City:Rest of Country distinction in voting patterns. As I have noted in other posts, there is both more and less than meets the eye in this distinction.

What much of the data supports is that cities (city proper, not the larger geographical metropolitan) tend to have more inequality, more college educated, more productivity (maybe), higher violent crime, etc. You can now add, more foreign-born to the list of ways in which cities are unrepresentative of the larger electorate.

Neither good nor bad - simply different.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

James Madison and Nate Silver

In Federalist Paper 55, James Madison wasn't talking about the 2016 election, but, taken out of context, it does seem sort of a warning against polling and statistical models.
Nothing can be more fallacious than to found our political calculations on arithmetical principles.