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A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
February 19, 2017 • 10 Comments

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdOGPBnfoKE

The brand new earthen Teton Dam in Eastern Idaho collapsed on June 5, 1976 at 11:57 am. The entire reservoir of about 288,000 acre feet (or about one-twelfth of the Oroville Reservoir’s capacity), roared down upon two towns in the flood plain, demolishing them.

The human death toll was remarkably low, either 11 or 14 according to various sources, but about 13,000 cows were killed.

The Oroville reservoir is now down almost 48 feet below its brim to 853′ elevation. The goal is to lower the water level to 850′, which is what they were holding it at when it suddenly shot up earlier this month to 902′.

Outflow down the damaged main spillway has been cut from 100,000 cubic feet per second down to about 55,000 cfs, while the inflow from the moderate rains a few days ago is up to around 40,000 cfs. So the drop in the lake’s elevation is down to just over 1 inch per hour.

It hasn’t started raining again yet in Oroville, but a fairly big storm is expected from Sunday through Tuesday. The small town of Feather Falls up in the reservoir’s watershed is expecting about 6.5 inches of rain, which would be about 75 or 80 feet of incremental elevation, all other things being equal (which they never are). Fortunately, the week after this onrushing storm is expected have less than one inch of precipitation, with fairly cool temperatures to retard snowmelt.

The official reason for cutting the main spillway’s outflow so far back is to allow the power station to be restarted, which could add 13,000 cfs to outflow.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Interestingly, there’s a fourth outlet, the “river valves,” that used to have 5,400 cfs capacity, but were cut to 2,000 after an accident, and apparently haven’t been used in this emergency.

Here’s a curious headline:

5 Oroville Dam workers fired after posting pictures on social media
By Allison Weeks, KRON and Clemence...

February 19, 2017 • 29 Comments

Personally, I prefer the United States Constitution and the rule of law, even (or especially) if it comes to it.

But then, unlike Bill Kristol, I’m a notorious extremist, so I would, wouldn’t I?

February 18, 2017 • 41 Comments

One reason that there is so much competition on campus these days to be the Single Most Offended Student is that that seems like a way to try out for one of the growing, but still limited, number of paying gigs as Social Justice Jihadis. From the Chicago Tribune:

Publishers are hiring ‘sensitivity readers’ to flag potentially offensive content

Recently, author Veronica Roth – of “Divergent” fame – came under fire for her new novel, “Carve the Mark.” In addition to being called racist, the book was criticized for its portrayal of chronic pain in its main character.

Before a book is published and released to the public, it’s passed through the hands (and eyes) of many people: an author’s friends and family, an agent and, of course, an editor.

These days, though, a book may get an additional check from an unusual source: a sensitivity reader, a person who, for a nominal fee, will scan the book for racist, sexist or otherwise offensive content. These readers give feedback based on self-ascribed areas of expertise such as “dealing with terminal illness,” “racial dynamics in Muslim communities within families” or “transgender issues.”

Big budget movies have been doing this for a few years. George Miller supposedly paid Eve “Vagina Monologues” Ensler $100k to certify Mad Max: Fury Road as officially Feminist Woke. And then of course Miller just went ahead and spent the other 99.9% of his budget to make the same blue collar heavy metal lunacy as he did in his Mel Gibson days.

For their hit animated musical Moana, veteran Disney film-makers Clement & Musker refined this process one step further. Rather than just pay off a potential critic, they hired amenable folks from the relevant minority who might actually contribute here and there. They toured Pacific Islands and put on their advisory board local old-timers with an interest in island legends with whom they...

February 18, 2017 • 50 Comments

California’s 770-foot tall Oroville Dam is a magnificent structure, except that it’s kind of like a 770-foot skyscraper with a fine primary fire escape, plus a door that says “Auxiliary Fire Escape” on it, but 50 years later when the building’s on fire and the main stairwell is broken and you’re trapped on the top floor, you finally open the door marked “Auxiliary Fire Escape” … and there’s just a big ball of twine for you to lower yourself out the window with.

Historian Marc Reisner’s witty 1986 book Cadillac Desert is a screed against expensive water projects (and against the general existence of Los Angeles). Here’s his version of how Jerry Brown’s dad, Governor Pat Brown, sold his State Water Project, of which the Oroville Dam is the centerpiece, to voters in a 1960 referendum.

February 17, 2017 • 141 Comments

From the New York Times:

Even When White Men Can Jump …

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz FEB. 17, 2017

… For years, [NBA] owners were accused of padding their benches with white players to increase a team’s fan base. The implicit assumption: If you are white, you will have more fans.

… But we now have probably the best data set ever accumulated on the fandom of N.B.A. players: Facebook likes.

I downloaded information on the likes of 215 N.B.A. players who have fan pages on Facebook.

… While Facebook does not ask users to denote their race, it uses a variety of information to identify someone’s ethnic affinity, which can be useful for targeting ads. My research suggests that this ethnic affinity measure correlates strongly with race.

Barea is a white Puerto Rican who has played important roles in the successes of the Puerto Rican national team in international play. (Puerto Rico, by the way, is officially a separate nation for the purposes of the Olympics and other sports).

Cody Zeller is pretty much the 1983 movie Hoosiers come to life. He was the state of Indiana’s Mr. Basketball in high school and played for the Indiana Hoosiers in college.

Raymond Felton is a journeyman point guard. I don’t know why he is so much more popular with blacks than with everybody else. It’s perhaps less that he’s super popular with blacks as he’s less popular with everybody else. He’s been arrested for carrying an illegal gun and he’s been benched for being overweight.

Jeremy Lin is of course Mr. Linsanity, a Taiwanese-American Harvard grad who had a famous seven-game hot hand streak in 2012.

Overall, I estimate that the average white player in the N.B.A. has a fan base that is 56.7 percent white and 22.7 percent black. The average black player has a fan base that is 46.7 percent white and 32 percent black, a significant difference.

… Do white fans give an edge to white players or black fans give an edge to black...

February 17, 2017 • 119 Comments

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4qvpHZzZGI

In general, our concepts of things like 100 Year Floods and 1000 Year Floods are based on what we have measurements for, which is usually roughly the 20th Century. But it’s quite possible that the 20th Century wasn’t all that representative. Perhaps the 21st Century will be quite a bit more extreme in one way or another.

For example, one commenter has pointed out that Los Angeles, which averaged 15 inches of rain per year in the 20th Century, received 66 inches in 1861-62.

Here’s another Old Weird California weather fact. Richard Henry Dana visited California on a sailing ship out of Boston in the mid-1830s and came back to write an 1840 bestseller about it, Two Years Before the Mast.

One of the themes of his book was the trouble caused by a routine cold wind out of the east which blew his ship away from the California coast almost to Hawaii. Back then, it had a name and was considered by Californios to be a common pest.

But we don’t have it today. We have a warm wind out of the southeast, the notorious Santa Ana made famous by Raymond Chandler:

“There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.”

Here’s an insane tribute to the Santa Ana winds by the Philip Marlowe/Frankie Valli/Phil Spector/Pee Wee Herman narrator of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend:”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4qvpHZzZGI

But, apparently, there used to be a cold wind from the East in Southern California. Yet, when Dana revisited California just before the Civil War, he mentioned that the cold East wind had stopped, which had made life much more pleasant in California.

That’s we...

February 18, 2017 • 3 Comments

Cold Winters Theory applies to birds:

Last week during skiing holidays I saw a popular scientific program on animal intelligence in the evening, and they presented something like the Lynn-Miller-Rushton cold winter theory! Birds (chickadees) living in Alaska have bigger brains and are more intelligent than birds living in Kansas! This is an independent very valuable support for the cold winter theory on intelligence.

Links to the relevant papers in Emil Kirkegaard’s post.

In general, therefore, it seems best to focus on animals that tackle the cold winter problem head-on instead of avoiding it somehow (migrate, hibernate, or single-year lifespans). Among birds, the smartest birds are of the Corvidae family — in particular crows, ravens and magpies — and they generally don’t migrate in the winter. Of the non-Corvidae, I think the smartest birds are some of the parrot species. These also often don’t migrate.

As Lazy Glossophiliac points out, yet another bullseye for folk stereotypes: “Fascinating that Corvidae would be the smartest birds because stereotypically it’s ravens. Well, and owls.

Someone should do a meta-study of IQ or r/K-selection differences across the animal kingdom for suitable species – span many latitudes; don’t sidestep the cold winters problem; haven’t been artificially selected by humans – to ascertain whether CWT really is universal.

Step one: “Does someone know a good way to get habitat location information for a large number of species automatically? Preferably numeric information.

February 16, 2017 • 4 Comments

Gallup:

The proportion of residents of Ukraine — a potential NATO member state until a few years ago — who view NATO as a threat has increased in recent years after years of steady decline between 2008 and 2014. In 2014, after NATO sanctioned Russia after it annexed Crimea, Ukrainians for the first time were more likely to see NATO as protection (36%) than a threat (20%). However, the percentage viewing it as a threat shot back up to 35% in 2016 as the Ukrainian population has grown tired of the ongoing conflict between its military and Russian-backed separatists, as well as a poor economy and rising crime rates. Without a clear end in sight to the conflict, Ukrainians may be losing confidence in NATO’s ability to help them in this crisis.

It might be news to you that NATO was ever expected to help Ukraine with its… crisis, but for many svidomy Ukrainians it is a long-running delusion.

One way that vatniks like to make fun of svidomy is by referencing the TyaschaVDen’ meme (One Thousand Grivnas per Day), based on Poroshenko’s promise in 2014 to pay that amount to every contract soldier. Incidentally, it wasn’t fulfilled, and of course couldn’t be fulfilled; even at current exchange rates, that is $1,000 per month, whereas the Ukraine is now competing with Moldova for having Europe’s lowest average wage at around $200 per month.

That meme is noteable in that it perhaps best of all represents the cargo cultish attitudes of many svidomy Ukrainians towards the West in general. All they would have to do is sign up to the Religion of Reform, topple the Lenin statues, and proclaim their allegiance to the EU and NATO, and very soon they would all have their own TyaschaVDen’ (not to mention visa-free travel with the EU, with the ironic shorthand for that holy grail of Euromaidan, eternally just out of reach, having long become its own meme: Bezviz).

Unfortunately for the svidomy, reality isn’t biased in...

February 7, 2017 • 183 Comments

The reason I don’t write much about Russia’s demographics nowadays is that there isn’t much point to it.

Up until the early 2010s, the Western media was brimming with misinformation about the subject – what we now call #fakenews – so refuting it was both profitable and easy. Incredibly easy. You didn’t really have to do anything much more complicated than taking a few minutes to browse through Russia’s national statistics database, but apparently that was beyond the capabilities of most Russia journalists.

However, by now a critical number of Western pundits have apparently acquainted themselves with at least the Wikipedia article on Russia’s demographics. In the longterm, reality wins out, and so with a lag time of about a decade, references to Russia’s “plummeting population” and “sixth wave of emigration” have steadily petered out (the last major holdouts of Russia demographic doomerism was Barack Obama in this 2014 interview with The Economist, and Michael Rubin for Commentary in 2015,).

We can now finally say that the “Dying Bear” meme has fulfilled lived up to its own name.

***

Anyhow, preliminary demographic results for 2016 are in.

Births remained marginally ahead of deaths, both at around 12.9/1,000 people, though the usual ~300,000 annual net immigrants (almost half of them from Ukraine) will ensure that overall population growth remains decidedly positive.

Births decreased by 2.6%. The full impact of the small 1990s cohort is now being felt, so this was always inevitable. Deaths also declined by 1.2%, despite the ongoing aging of the population. This pretty much completes what I termed The Russian Hexagon, the successor to the so-called “Russian Cross” in the early 1990s when the births and deaths graphs intersected; in the past decade, birth and death rates once again converged, but from the opposite direction, forming a sort of hexagon.

February 6, 2017 • 15 Comments

In my 2017 predictions, I wrote:

Russians have a more positive view of the US than of the EU as of the last Levada poll in that year: 60%.

Latest polls:

The gap is only 2 points now.

Republicans, at least are returning the favor.

The New Cold War might well be petering out in a premature end.

The Germans are far less happy with Trump, though.

Feel free to spy on their Chancellor to your heart’s content, but don’t you dare refuse to accept Infinity Moslems into your country.

January 28, 2017 • 28 Comments

PAPER REVIEW

Ritchie, Stuart – 2017 – Review of The Rationality Quotient by Stanovich et al.


From Stuart Ritchie’s review of “The Rationality Quotient” by Keith Stanovich et al.:

But it was the reported correlation of the [Comprehensive Assessment of Rational Thinking] with IQ-type tests that was really unexpected, given the authors’ argument that they measure very different constructs. A cognitive composite—made up of tests of analogies, antonyms, and a word checklist (Table 13.11)—was found to have a correlation with the full-scale CART of 0.695. 0.695!

That’s the extent to which actual IQ tests typically load on the g factor and each other. One might even go so far as to propose that rationality is intelligence.

The notion that intelligent people are more prone to irrationality is a cognitive bias, though a very understandable one. The Newton who obsesses over the occult is just considerably more noticeable than some nutter ranting about the End Times.

Greg Cochran counters that Western intellectuals were more likely to fall for “destructive nonsense” than plumbers during the 20th century. I suspect that was more due to intellectuals not understanding plumbers, neither then nor now, rather than any failure of rationality per se. In everyday life, people tend to associate with people of similar intelligence, and have a social circle of about 150 friends and acquaintances.

And guess what? Communism works great within monasteries and universities.

January 28, 2017 • 12 Comments

PAPER REVIEW

Whitley, Elise et al. – 2016 – Variations in cognitive abilities across the life course


New paper by Elise Whitley et al. on age and sex differences in IQ for n=~40,000 British sample.

  • Five tests: Word recall, verbal fluency, and subtraction (loading ~0.5 on g), and number sequence and numerical problem solving (loading ~0.7 on g).
  • Males score about 4 IQ points more on the derived g-factor of cognitive ability.
  • … though this result should be treated with caution on account of: (a) g having different structure across the sexes; (b) it is not an exception to a common problem in IQ and sex studies, namely, the undersampling of men with lower cognitive ability.
  • Better subjective health was associated with higher IQ.
  • The overall pattern across age was a plateau from the late teens to age 65, then a steep fall soon thereafter.

I would say that the ultimate and really the only reason we have mandatory retirement policies are cognitive ones.

EDIT: Emil Kirkegaard had a closer look at the results, including a nicer graph of the age/sex results:

My guess is that the intercept bias/invariance has to do with the composition of the battery. There were only 5 tests, and their breakdown was: 3 math, 1 verbal, 1 memory. Women had better memory but there was no difference in verbal fluency (this is a common finding despite what you have been told). So, the problem likely is that the g factor is colored because 60% of the tests were about math, and that men have an advantage on the math group factor.

January 27, 2017 • 7 Comments

Yet another tired meme of the Lamestream Media is biting the dust.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ID223ToMVxM

Tulsi Gabbard is a Democrat who is on good terms with Trump – indeed, she was once viewed as a feasible if highly unlikely candidate for Secretary of State. She has gone to Syria, talked with the people, and confirmed that the “moderate rebels” are anything but, and has since proceeded to castigate CNN on their fake news (her interviewer wasn’t happy about that).

Incidentally, as Alexander Mercouris points out, it is most curious that the most fervent proponents of that meme never seemed to want to spend much time with the objects of their veneration:

A key point to make about Tulsi Gabbard is that she has made these comments after actually visiting Syria, and going to places like Damascus and Aleppo.

As I have previously pointed out, since the end of the fighting in Aleppo, the city is now safe to visit by Western journalists, which is why Tulsi Gabbard has been able to go there, and has been able to speak to people there. By contrast the Western media, which throughout the autumn was full of lurid reports of atrocities supposedly committed in Aleppo during the fighting there by the Syrian army and the Russians, is staying away.

Here is Gabbard’s official statement:

“I return to Washington, DC with even greater resolve to end our illegal war to overthrow the Syrian government. I call upon Congress and the new Administration to answer the pleas of the Syrian people immediately and support the Stop Arming Terrorists Act. We must stop directly and indirectly supporting terrorists—directly by providing weapons, training and logistical support to rebel groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and ISIS; and indirectly through Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and Turkey, who, in turn, support these terrorist groups. We must end our war to overthrow the Syrian government and focus our attention on defeating al-Qaeda and ISIS.

“From...

January 27, 2017 • 16 Comments

I was privileged to meet one of the columnists at The Unz Review. Feel free to guess who.

Ironically, we met up at Jean-Jacques cafe on Nikitsky Boulevard, the favorite watering hole of the rukopozhatnaya kreakl crowd (handshake-worthy/”respectable” “creative” hipsters). It’s a solid enough place, though – slightly pretentious French style lunch with wine for 1,000 rubles.

Finally got Twenty Years to the Great War, a massive tome on the late Tsarist industrialization by HSE professor Mikhail Davydov.

A taste of some of what it covers in the intro to an an interview with the author:

The development of Magnitogorsk? Planned by the State Council of the Russian Empire in 1915. The irrigation of Central Asia? Started in 1901, by 1912 there were working excavators… About the poverty of the people: In 1906-1913 credit cooperatives gave farmers loans totalling 2.5 billion rubles (equivalent to six naval modernization programs). In 1913, 30% of families in the country possessed savings books.

People lived considerably better than Soviet propaganda would later claim, and in fact many of the big “signature” Soviet modernization projects were first planned out and initiated in the waning days of the Empire (even including electrification).

But there’s really a lot more to it. One thousand pages, many of which are devoted to statistical tables. Looking forwards to reading it and reviewing it properly.

A mundane example of how Moscow has really been spruced up in the past couple of years.

Some more culinary notes, since we haven’t had those for a while:

At around the time of the New Year, I tried out a nutria burger at the Krasnodar Bistro, thanks to a “recommendation” of sorts from The Guardian’s Shaun Walker (“Hot rat is so hot right now: Moscow falls for the rodent b