Quotulatiousness

December 31, 2016

Signaling

Filed under: Economics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 23 Sep 2015

A signal is an action that reveals information. Let’s look at higher education, for example. A large fraction of the value you receive from your degree comes on the day you earn your diploma. Your expected wages don’t increase with each class you complete along the way; instead, they spike sharply at the end when you receive your diploma. This is often referred to as the “Sheepskin Effect” because diplomas used to be printed on sheepskin.

Nobel Prize winner Michael Spence did research on this subject and found that education is valuable not necessarily because it creates valuable skills, but rather that it signals valuable skills. So how does the signal, represented by a degree, alleviate asymmetric information?

Employers don’t necessarily know how smart or skilled you are. Your degree, however, provides a credible signal of these traits and gives them more information they can use in the hiring process.

What other signals exist? We discuss examples like diamond engagement rings, why criminals tattoo their face, and why a peacock has a colorful tail. Let us know what examples you come up with in the comments.

What I was reading in 2016 (and 2015)

Filed under: Books, Personal — Nicholas @ 03:00

I don’t read as much as I’d like, and time spent blogging or gaming certainly eats into the available time that would otherwise be spent between the covers of yet another book. Here are the books and publications I managed to digest this year (not counting re-reads of old favourites):

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“[Canadian] Republicanism is a pathology, a reflection of insecurity and ignorance”

Filed under: Cancon — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

The polling firm Ipsos did a year-end survey for Global News to find out how Canadians feel about the monarchy. Colby Cosh looks at the weak attraction of the republican option:

If you’re a serious monarchist you are of two minds about this sort of thing. You recognize the necessity of occasionally taking the pulse of the institution, just as a human of great age will have their vital signs measured from time to time. You also know that to present the Canadian monarchy to the public as a free choice, a fashion we can discard when it suits us, has the effect of encouraging republican fantasies.

Republicanism is a pathology, a reflection of insecurity and ignorance. In the past it was fostered by newspapermen who had served for a spell in Washington (or Moscow or Tokyo), and who were used to being asked why the hell we have a “foreign” Queen on our money and whatnot. The educations of these men had often involved nothing more than early saturation in great quantities of ink and booze, and many were incapable of a half-decent answer grounded in global history.

So our press elite consisted of men who had suffered chronic humiliation by their big brothers, the Americans. The psychic dissolution of the Empire in the postwar period left us unable to regard Americans the way we once had as a matter of course — as errant, troubled children. Our journalistic teachers thus embraced, as a defence mechanism, the idea that Canada’s thousand-year-old inner constitution was “immature” or less than “adult.”

[…]

The pathological nature of Canadian republicanism is apparent from the Ipsos poll itself. Respondents were asked to indicate whether they agree or disagree with the statement “When Queen Elizabeth’s reign ends, Canada should end its formal ties to the British monarchy.” Fifty-three percent of the sample agreed; the figure was 73 per cent within Quebec, 46 per cent elsewhere.

But why would the death of the Queen be considered an appropriate moment for constitutional revision? Ipsos’s republican push-pollsters do not even have the guts to say out loud what they are talking about. Even as they contemplate a Canadian republic as something to be perpetrated like a theft, when the right distraction happens along, they instinctively avoid lèse-majesté. They know people like the Queen: their own poll finds that 81 per cent of Canadians think she has done a good job (leaving us to wonder what hallucinated grievances the other 19 per cent might have).

QotD: Political Correctness and “Big Gay”

Filed under: Humour, Media, Quotations, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Well, I can’t speak for the massed ranks of conservatives, but I’m not the least “apoplectic with rage at the idea of a boy in a dress”. In what passed for a talent show in my last year at high school, me and the lads climbed into the fishnets and mini-skirts to do a truly terrible pop song and, as I generally do even in unpromising circumstances, I gave it my best. Afterwards, the ladies in attendance agreed that my legs were better than any of theirs. And they’re still pretty good, as you can see if you pre-order the Mann vs Steyn 2016 nude calendar.

Nor do I think it fair to take refuge in the old saw that conservatives are “terrified of their own sexuality”. Mine doesn’t scare me in the least, although it’s sent a date or two screaming for the exits. What “terrified” me and others about Caitlyn and her débutante’s balls was the ruthlessly enforced celebratory tone. When the Queen marks her Diamond Jubilee or the Duchess of Cambridge has a baby, you’re allowed to roll your eyes and say “God, aren’t you sick of these bloody royal parasites?” or “Who cares about one more sponger in the palace?” Even “state” media like the BBC and CBC accept that there are a wide range of views on the head of state. But if you watched the coverage of Caitlyn on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN et al you would have had no idea that there are people out there for whom this was not cause for joyous celebration. There was something not “terrifying” — not yet — but coercive and authoritarian in the uniformity of the mandatory jubilation. Even Fox News seemed to intuit that this was something that they had no choice but to cover in a life-affirming way.

I found that disturbing — because, at a stroke, everyone who matters from the Obamas to Hollywood seemed to have decided that this is one more area of discussion it’s safe to shut down, permanently. And there’s way too much of that. Look at it from your average imam’s point of view: Mike Huckabee is persona non grata because Big Gay didn’t like his dissing of Caitlyn, but when the Prophet Mo (PBUH) gets dissed Muslims are told tough, you gotta suck it up.

Mark Steyn, “The Moronization of the Republic”, SteynOnline, 2015-06-18.

December 30, 2016

Thanks to stealth regulations, your shower sucks

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Environment, Government, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Jeffrey Tucker on why it’s not just your imagination — showers really were better in the old days:

Even I, who have been writing about terrible American showers for 10 years, was shocked with delight at the shower in Brazil. Now, here we have a socialist country and an entire population that grouses about how hard it is to get ahead. And yet, step into the shower and you have a glorious capitalist experience. Hot water, really hot, pours down on you like a mighty and unending waterfall, sort of like it used to sea to shining sea.

At least the socialists in Brazil knew better than to destroy such an essential of civilized life.

But here we’ve forgotten. We have long lived with regulated showers, plugged up with a stopper imposed by government controls imposed in 1992. There was no public announcement. It just happened gradually. After a few years, you couldn’t buy a decent shower head. They called it a flow restrictor and said it would increase efficiency. By efficiency, the government means “doesn’t work as well as it used to.”

We’ve been acculturated to lame showers, but that’s just the start of it. Anything in your home that involves water has been made pathetic, thanks to government controls.

You can see the evidence of the bureaucrat in your shower if you pull off the showerhead and look inside. It has all this complicated stuff inside, whereas it should just be an open hole, you know, so the water could get through. The flow stopper is mandated by the federal government.

To be sure, the regulations apply only on a per-showerhead basis, so if you are rich, you can install a super fancy stall with spray coming at you from all directions. Yes, the market invented this brilliant but expensive workaround. As for the rest of the population, we have to live with a pathetic trickle.

It’s a pretty astonishing fact, if you think about it. The government ruined our showers by truncating our personal rights to have a great shower even when we are willing to pay for one. Sure, you can hack your showerhead but each year this gets more difficult to do. Today it requires drills and hammers, whereas it used to just require a screwdriver.

While the details are American, the Canadian market generally operates in lockstep with theirs, so when Tucker talks about the regulated reduction in both water heater maximum temperature and available water pressure, it’s probably the same here in Canada (and possibly worse, given our longer history of regulatory interference).

Turmoil in Russia – The Assassination of Rasputin I THE GREAT WAR Week 127

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, Russia, WW1 — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 29 Dec 2016

The chaos within Russia, especially Petrograd, is getting more and more severe. In the centre of much controversy is the Tsarina herself and her trusted mystic and healer Grigori Rasputin. His influence over the Tsar and his wife are actively frowned upon and this week 100 yeas ago he is assassinated. At the same the Russians are facing the German Army on the Romanian Front.

University – now “a regular source for ‘What wacky stuff are they up to on campus?’ articles”

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Will universities continue their decades-long flight from relevance to become the next decade’s equivalent of “Florida Man”?

My academic field, American Studies, is the interdisciplinary study of American cultures, past and present. Once it was a vibrant and useful discipline. Today, I’m sad to report, it is a regular source for “What wacky stuff are they up to on campus?” articles and blogs.

These days, when American Studies captures any attention, it’s usually for unfortunate reasons.

Sometimes, a jargon-y article wins an ironic bad writing award. Consider, for example this excerpt from a paper in the Australasian Journal of American Studies:

    Natural history museums, like the American Museum, constitute one decisive means for power to de-privatize and re-publicize, if only ever so slightly, the realms of death by putting dead remains into public service as social tokens of collective life, rereading dead fossils as chronicles of life’s everlasting quest for survival, and canonizing now dead individuals as nomological emblems of still living collectives in Nature and History. An anatomo-politics of human and non-human bodies is sustained by accumulating and classifying such necroliths in the museum’s observational/expositional performances.

Sometimes a pop culture class becomes an extramural joke, such as the “Zombie Studies” courses that were all the rage a few years ago. And sometimes an American Studies professor decides to use the classroom for “social activism” where the idea is to substitute studying with protesting.

I might chuckle if I weren’t employed and mentally invested in the field, and if I did not have residual respect for the open-minded, pragmatic approaches which marked American Studies for the first decades of its existence. But sadly, for the last generation, American Studies — beset by a nagging awareness that making interdisciplinarity the norm when studying culture became mission accomplished at least 20 years ago — has scooted pell-mell towards politicization in a misbegotten effort to remain relevant.

The result today is an academic sub-specialty wedded to a tightly-corseted belief that the United States represents the locus of sin (racism, sexism, colonialism, and the like) in the modern world, and that any study of America should restrict itself to call-outs and condemnations. American Studies now serves chiefly as validation system for academicians who know their findings in advance: racism, sexism, and imperialism.

Increasingly, the field is hostile to scholars who don’t want to use it just to berate American traditions and signal their imagined virtue.

QotD: Marijuana prohibition

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Now here’s somebody who wants to smoke a marijuana cigarette. If he’s caught, he goes to jail. Now is that moral? Is that proper? I think it’s absolutely disgraceful that our government, supposed to be our government, should be in the position of converting people who are not harming others into criminals, of destroying their lives, putting them in jail. That’s the issue to me. The economic issue comes in only for explaining why it has those effects. But the economic reasons are not the reasons.

Milton Friedman

December 29, 2016

Another ongoing NFL problem

Filed under: Football, Media, Sports — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Colby Cosh asks why the NFL puts up with field-invading streakers (even if the TV cameras avoid showing the incidents):

I don’t have hard data, but the TV policy does not seem to be diminishing the number of field invasions in NFL and college football games. In our social-media panopticon world, this was foreseeable. The remarkable part is that the instant justice almost always dealt by the security guards does not seem to be discouraging the practice either.

Field invasions are a serious matter, because you never know when someone might be carrying a knife and a grudge. The idiots who run out onto the field don’t think of themselves as inadvertently rehearsing the possible murder of an athlete. But they all have to know by now that they are inviting a hard tackle, experienced without padding, from a beefy, motivated stranger.

If you have ever been a 22-year-old male, you understand that this may easily be part of the fun. It is the nature of a dare to be more impressive when the stakes are higher. I don’t know that all NFL streakers are actually drunk, but I am certain that nobody ever runs onto the field during a game without first having had a conversation with his friends — one usually involving the words “Hold my beer.”

So why are spectacular tackles of narcissistic morons by security guards tolerated by the teams that employ them? The apparatus of the NFL does not seem to have developed a nonviolent cordon approach to field invaders. If it has one, it is obviously not very consistent about applying it league-wide. As often as not, the security guards seem to be showing off their special-teams gunner skills for the audience.

It might be expensive to develop and practice a formal method of peacefully capturing rowdies who elude security and reach the field of play. (I suppose a lasso would be too theatrical?) But lawsuits are expensive, too, and we cannot be too far from the day when a security guard breaks some cretin’s neck at a game.

QotD: Not Homeschooled

Filed under: Education, Humour, Media, Quotations, Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Tell me that one about how my home schooled kids aren’t going to be socialized again. I love that one. It’s a hardy perennial. Love that shite. Tell me again about how screwed my kids are because they’re not pressing meaningless buttons 24/7 on an iSlab on their Jitter stream or their FriendFace page.Tell me about how they’ll never be popular enough to be bullied if I’m not careful. They won’t even be eligible to get whooping cough.

Tell me the one about how my kids won’t be able to go on field trips to the museum if they’re not enrolled in school. I love that one, too. It’s totes adorb. It’s my favorite, except for my other favorites, which are my favorite favorites. My children never get the opportunity to be chaperoned by someone on the sex offender registry. Of course that’s better than being left at the museum like the other kid in the same story. I think. Pretty sure. Maybe the kid they left behind actually looked at something on the wall in the museum after the batteries in his iBrick ran out. Hey, could happen.

I’m with you, though; I doubt it. We all know if a school-age child’s iBinky battery runs out of electricity, they immediately lie down on the floor and die.

“Not Homeschooled”, Sippican Cottage, 2015-06-15.

December 28, 2016

QotD: The importance of fabric as a technological driver

Filed under: History, Quotations, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The ancient Greeks worshiped Athena as the goddess of technē, the artifice of civilisation. She was the giver and protector of olive trees, of ships and of weaving (without which there would be no sails). When she and Odysseus scheme, they ‘weave a plan’. To weave is to devise, to invent – to contrive function and beauty from the simplest of elements. Fabric and fabricate share a common Latin root, fabrica: ‘something skillfully produced’. Text and textile are similarly related, from the verb texere, to weave. Cloth-making is a creative act, analogous to other creative acts. To spin tales (or yarns) is to exercise imagination. Even more than weaving, spinning mounds of tiny fibres into usable threads turns nothing into something, chaos into order.

‘The spindle was the first wheel,’ explains Elizabeth Barber, professor emerita of linguistics and archeology at Occidental College in Los Angeles, gesturing to demonstrate. ‘It wasn’t yet load-bearing, but the principle of rotation is there.’ In the 1970s, Barber started noticing footnotes about textiles scattered through the archaeological literature. She thought she’d spend nine months pulling together what was known. Her little project became a decades-long exploration that turned textile archaeology into a full-blown field. Textile production, Barber writes in Prehistoric Textiles (1991), ‘is older than pottery or metallurgy and perhaps even than agriculture and stock-breeding’.

Of course, pottery and metal artifacts survived the centuries much better than cloth, which is rarely found in more than tiny fragments. That’s one reason we tend to forget how important textiles were in the earliest economic production. We envision an ancient world of hard surfaces much as we imagine the First World War in black and white.

But before there was gold or silver currency, traders used cloth. In the 20th century BC, the Minoan kingdom on resource-poor Crete swapped wool and linen for the metals that its famed craftsmen, represented by the mythical Daedalus, used to create their wares. In the pre-monetary trade of the ancient Aegean and Anatolia, writes the archaeologist Brendan Burke in From Minos to Midas (2010), textile production was of ‘greater value and importance … than the production of painted clay pots, metal tools, and objects carved from precious metals: everyone depended on cloth’.

Archaeologists often track fabric production by what is left behind. Huge numbers of spindle whorls (usually of clay) survive, as do the clay loom weights that held vertically hung warp threads in tension. By counting the clay weights left from his workshops’ looms, writes Barber, ‘we can calculate that King Midas of Gordion could have kept over 100 women busy weaving for him, which makes him more than twice as rich as Homer’s fabulous King Alkinnoos [Alcinous, from the Odyssey], who had 50. No wonder the Greeks viewed Midas as synonymous with gold!’

Virginia Postrel, “Losing the Thread: Older than bronze and as new as nanowires, textiles are technology — and they have remade our world time and again”, Aeon, 2015-06-05.

December 27, 2016

Rasputin – The Man Behind The Tsarina I WHO DID WHAT IN WW1?

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, Russia, WW1 — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 26 Dec 2016

Grigori Rasputin is as much a man as he is a legend. The mystic behind the Tsar and the Tsarina who apparently made no decision without consulting him. The healer that could perform miracles. The man who was killed for his influence in a time ripe for revolution.

“Lingayat is an independent religion based on its own world view”

Filed under: India, Religion — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

I’m not well-versed in the various religious groups in India, so I’m afraid I’d never even heard of Lingayat until today:

Two Lingayat community outfits, Basava Samithi and Vishwa Lingayat Mahasabha, have urged the Union government to grant their community the status of independent religion. Addressing a press conference here on Monday, Sanjay Makal, Vlasavathi Khuba, Asha Khuba Manjunath Kale, Chandrashekhar Tallali and other leaders associated with the outfits argued that their community had never been part of Hinduism.

“Lingayat is an independent religion based on its own world view. After Independence, Sikh, Jain, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism faiths were declared as religions. But, Lingayat was perceived as a caste within Hinduism. The efforts, both legal and social, to get an independent religion for Lingayat have been on since 1940,” Mr. Makal said.

[…]

To a question, Mr. Makal said his outfit had taken special drive among community members for recording their religion as Lingayat in Socio-educational Economic Survey conducted by Karnataka State Backward Classes Commission last year.

“Many community people did not mention their religion name as Lingayat as they were afraid of losing reservation allocated for their sub-caste. Mentioning their religion as Lingayat would in no way affect the reservation benefits. We have taken up a prolonged campaign to educate the members so that they would correctly mention their religion in 2021 census,” he said.

H/T to Colby Cosh for the link.

When New York Times articles “switch to passive voice, they are covering up a lie”

Filed under: Media, Russia — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Robert Graham has a handy tip for understanding newspaper stories, the New York Times in particular:

Here’s a trick when reading New York Times articles: when they switch to passive voice, they are covering up a lie. An example is this paragraph from the above story [*]:

    The Russians were also quicker to turn their attacks to political purposes. A 2007 cyberattack on Estonia, a former Soviet republic that had joined NATO, sent a message that Russia could paralyze the country without invading it. The next year cyberattacks were used during Russia’s war with Georgia.

Normally, editors would switch this to the active voice, or:

    The next year, Russia used cyberattacks in their war against Georgia.

But that would be factually wrong. Yes, cyberattacks happened during the conflicts with Estonia and Georgia, but the evidence in both cases points to targets and tools going viral on social media and web forums. It was the people who conducted the attacks, not the government. Whether it was the government who encouraged the people is the big question — to which we have no answer. Since the NYTimes has no evidence pointing to the Russian government, they switch to the passive voice, hoping you’ll assume they meant the government was to blame.

It’s a clear demonstration that the NYTimes is pushing a narrative, rather than reporting just the facts allowing you to decide for yourself.

QotD: The economics of price gouging

Filed under: Business, Economics, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Soaring prices after a natural disaster or during extreme weather are simply, economists would say, the market’s response to changing supply and demand, as disruptions make it harder to get some things just as demand spikes (for instance, for generators, gasoline, bottled water, first aid supplies). The price increase helps cut down on marginal uses (taking a bath with your bottled water), while drawing new supply in from unaffected regions, because people there now have a strong incentive to load up supplies and go sell them in the affected area — quickly. The market is working. But the optics are terrible. Humans intuitively see price gougers as bad agents, exploiting the suffering of others. So even in the absence of price-gouging laws, businesses try to avoid raising prices under extreme conditions. Whatever they could gain in immediate revenue, they would lose more in future sales as disgusted customers walk away.

Megan McArdle, “The Price Is Right, or Uber Will Raise It”, Bloomberg View, 2015-05-19.

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