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A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
September 21, 2018 • 19 Comments

From Tom Wolfe’s 1987 classic The Bonfire of the Vanities:

An assistant D.A. in Major Offenses has started calling Abe Weiss “Captain Ahab,” and now they all did. Weiss was notorious in his obsession for publicity, even among a breed, the district attorney, that was publicity-mad by nature. …

Every assistant D.A. in the Bronx … shared Captain Ahab’s mania for the Great White Defendant. For a start, it was not pleasant to go through life telling yourself, “What I do for a living is, I pack blacks and Latins off to jail.” It wasn’t that it was morally wrong … It was that it was in bad taste. So it made the boys uneasy, this eternal prosecution of the blacks and Latins.

… The press couldn’t even see these cases. It was just poor people killing poor people. To prosecute such cases was to be part of the garbage collection service, necessary and honorable, plodding and anonymous.

Captain Ahab wasn’t so ridiculous, after all. Press coverage! Ray and Jimmy could laugh all they wanted, but Weiss had made sure the entire city knew his name. Weiss had an election coming up, and the Bronx was 70 percent black and Latin, and he was going to make sure the name Abe Weiss was pumped out to them on every channel that existed. He might not do much else, but he was going to do that.

September 20, 2018 • 52 Comments

Below are the highly rated movies that differ the most between the sexes in Internet Movie DataBase rankings.

Earlier this year, commenter Lex posted some tables from Reddit of movies female vs. male taste differences in movies, based on Internet Movie DataBase rankings on a 10 point scale.

IMDB ratings are based on up two million votes each, and they are reasonably reliable: e.g., to pick two neo-sword & sandal movies, Ridley Scott’s Gladiator is an 8.5 overall (both sexes) while Oliver Stone’s Alexander is only a 5.6. I would guess that over 95% of viewers of both would say that the former is objectively a movie that works better than the latter.

Men and women mostly are pretty much in agreement on IMDB ratings (e.g., The Shawshank Redemption is #1 with both sexes, which I don’t really get, but whatever). But when you look at where they disagree most, it’s hardly surprising.

The male vs. female difference results are quite plausible, although I don’t quite understand how the ranks and scores line up. Also, I have various various quibbles about the methodology:

- Far more males than females rate movies on IMDB; ranking cultural products is just kind of a guy thing to do (e.g., High Fidelity).

- Presumably, women who go on IMDB to share their movie ratings have tastes more like men who go on IMDB to share their movie rating than to the women who don’t see much of point in doing this.

- The methodology of looking at size of differences in ratings selects for mid-ranked movies, whereas movies near the top are less likely to show up and consensus bad movies are considered at all. For example, to take two David Lean war epics that appeal more to men than to women, The Bridge on the River Kwai was ranked the 581st best movie of all time by IMDB women and the 180th best movie of all time by men, for a difference of 401. In contrast, Lawrence of Arabia was rated 396th and 105th for a difference of 291. Does this really mean that...

September 20, 2018 • 52 Comments

From WRAL, reprinting from the New York Times:

From the Anonymity of Academia to the Center of a Supreme Court Confirmation
Posted 8:40 p.m. yesterday

By Elizabeth Williamson, Rebecca R. Ruiz, Emily Steel, Grace Ashford and Steve Eder, New York Times

The text message from Christine Blasey Ford this summer worried her college best friend, Catherine Piwowarski.

Over their years of friendship — as roommates, bridesmaids and parents on opposite coasts — Dr. Blasey wanted to know, had she ever confided that she had been sexually assaulted in high school?

No, Piwowarski said she texted back, she would have remembered that, and was everything OK? Blasey didn’t want to speak in detail quite yet, her friend recalled her responding. “I don’t know why she was asking that or what it ultimately meant or didn’t mean,” Piwowarski said in an interview, but she remembers thinking that the question betrayed deep turmoil.

That was about a month before Blasey, a research psychologist, came forward with her allegation that Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, sexually assaulted her more than three decades ago when they were high school students in the Washington suburbs.

So this isn’t promising for the Democrats: the woman whom the NYT calls the accuser’s “college best friend” did not have an inkling about any sexual assault in high school, much less that the purported perp was a possible GOP Supreme Court nominee until she got a text message from her friend of 30+ years a few months ago.

So far, nobody credible has come forward to offer any supporting validation. The woman who did go on NPR to talk about how she had heard all about it back in high school immediately collapsed in a heap, probably worried about getting a subpoena.

That lack of evidence is especially striking considering how favorable the political climate is for this kind of accusation. From the same article:

Twenty-three members of Blasey’s...

September 20, 2018 • 131 Comments

The elite nervous breakdown accelerates. From NBC News:

Yale Law dean: Reports that professor groomed female clerks for Kavanaugh ‘of enormous concern’

Yale Law School Dean Heather Gerken wrote that she wanted to “address the press reports today regarding allegations of faculty misconduct.”

by Adam Edelman and Kasie Hunt / Sep.20.2018 / 3:06 PM PDT

The dean of Yale Law School on Thursday responded to reports that a prominent professor at the school had advised students seeking judicial clerkships with Brett Kavanaugh on their physical looks, saying the reported allegations of faculty misconduct are “of enormous concern” and calling on anyone affected to come forward.

According to reports in The Guardian, the Huffington Post and Above the Law, Amy Chua, a professor at the law school, would advise students on their physical appearance if they wanted to seek a clerkship for Kavanaugh. Specifically, Chua would help potential applicants to have a “model-like” appearance. …

Yale has not specified what the misconduct might be. …

Chua, who is perhaps best known for being the author of a 2011 book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” wrote a July op-ed for The Wall Street Journal titled “Kavanaugh Is a Mentor To Women.”

In it, she wrote that she’d helped place 10 Yale Law School students — eight of them women — as clerks with Kavanaugh, including her own daughter, whose clerkship had been set to begin in August. “I can’t think of a better judge for my own daughter’s clerkship,” she wrote.

Clearly, Professor Chua is pimping out her own daughter! There’s some kind of rightwing satanic sex cult at Yale Law School. How did they miss this back in the 1980s? It is as bad as McMartin Preschool and Pizzagate!

The White House had no immediate comment on the Yale dean’s letter.

In an emailed statement to NBC News, Chua said: “For the more than 10...

September 20, 2018 • 55 Comments

Oh, yes he does. It’s a not very well known true fact that little Paulie Krugman, from the wrong side of the tracks in Long Island, had to work his way through Yale by caddying for the rich kids twosome of Brett Kavanaugh and Haven Monahan. Monsters in their personal lives, they forced little Paulie to kick their golf balls out from behind trees.

If you don’t believe me, just ask the Glass Brothers.

September 20, 2018 • 65 Comments

It appears that an unfolding GOP strategy in the Kavanaugh Kase is to blame by name a specific guy who looks much like Kavanaugh. Rather than use his name at present, I will call him, uh, … Haven Monahan Sr.

That would let the GOP sort of get around the problem of Not Believing the Woman in the #MeToo Era, while also getting Kavanaugh off.

But, uh, aren’t there potential downsides to dragging Haven Monahan’s name into this? Has the statute of limitations run out in Maryland? Doesn’t this give Haven much motivation to dish dirt on his old buddy Brett? Or is Haven all set and onboard with this strategy?

(But perhaps Democrats will go for this idea of a multigenerational Monahan family nefariously causing all the scandals: It’s in the tainted Monahan blood. Look at who is trying to take down the saintly Keith Ellison!)

In late breaking news, another suspect has been identified: George Glass. If you spot Mr. Glass, please notify Senator Diane Feinstein immediately.

Perhaps not coincidentally, George Glass is the older brother of Stephen Glass, who mentored Sabrina Rubin Erdely at the U. of Pennsylvania student newspaper before enjoying a spectacular career at The New Republic in the 1990s.

If you don’t believe me, just ask the Glass Brothers: they’ll tell you.

September 20, 2018 • 53 Comments

From NPR:

Kavanaugh Accuser’s Classmate: ‘That It Happened Or Not, I Have No Idea’
September 20, 2018 7:57 AM ET
Domenico Montanaro – 2015

A former classmate of Christine Blasey Ford tells NPR that she does not know if an alleged sexual assault by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh took place as she first suggested on social media.

“That it happened or not, I have no idea,” Cristina King Miranda told NPR’s Nina Totenberg. “I can’t say that it did or didn’t.”

That’s different from what Miranda wrote Wednesday in a now-deleted Facebook post that stated definitively, “The incident DID happen, many of us heard about it in school.”…

“In my [Facebook] post, I was empowered and I was sure it probably did [happen],” Miranda told NPR. “I had no idea that I would now have to go to the specifics and defend it before 50 cable channels and have my face spread all over MSNBC news and Twitter.”

Miranda noted on Twitter that she did not have “first hand knowledge” of the incident.

To all media, I will not be doing anymore interviews. No more circus. To clarify my post: I do not have first hand knowledge of the incident that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford mentions, and I stand by my support for Christine. That’s it. I don’t have more to say on the subject.

— Cristina King Miranda (@reinabori) September 19, 2018

Miranda said staff from the Senate Judiciary Committee had reached out to her, something she was not expecting. She said she will not go through with a committee interview if asked.

Miranda says she played soccer with Ford — whom she refers to as Chrissy — in high school and that she continues to support her. Miranda added that despite not knowing specifics of what went on at the party three decades ago, she remembers that there was a “buzz” that went around possibly on a weekend about the party where an alleged incident...

September 20, 2018 • 111 Comments

From the NYT:

How Connected Is Your Community to Everywhere Else in America?
By EMILY BADGER and QUOCTRUNG BUI SEPT. 19, 2018

America is often described as a place of great divides — between red and blue, big cities and rural towns, the coasts and the heartland. But our social lives are shaped by a much stronger force that ignores many of these lines: distance.

In the millions of ties on Facebook that connect relatives, co-workers, classmates and friends, Americans are far more likely to know people nearby than in distant communities that share their politics or mirror their demographics. The dominant picture in data analyzed by economists at Facebook, Harvard, Princeton and New York University is not that like-minded places are linked; rather, people in counties close to one another are.

Here’s the academic paper.

Even in the age of the internet, distance matters immensely in determining whom — and, as a result, what — we know.

So, what happens is that there aren’t all that many interesting findings of cross-country links. Here’s one: People in Cook County (Chicago), IL have a lot of Facebook ties to relatives in the Mississippi Delta, due to the Great Migration of Mississippi blacks up the Illinois Central Railroad to Chicago. (There also a Milwaukee-Mississippi connection.)

A commenter with excellent eye-hand coordination got his cursor on tiny New York County (i.e., Manhattan):

Lots of connections to Fr. Lauderdale, Rocky Mountain ski towns, midwestern college towns like Ann Arbor and Madison, plus Atlanta, Austin, LA, the Bay Area, and Seattle. A broad connection to the coastal Carolinas: I wonder whether that is people in Manhattan having come from there or going there?

A few other connections are that college towns are connected to each other and so are American Indians:

September 19, 2018 • 203 Comments

My remont is approaching its long-awaited end – and its most intensive and costly period. To compound matters, I have also been rather under the weather these past few days. Nothing serious, but in between that and shopping all day, that has left little energy for blogging.

This will soon pass, but for now, here’s a fresh new open thread.

***

Thankfully there’s not much in the way of Big News. These Syria events are going to happen from time to time anyway, so I don’t know if it’s worth getting too worked up over them. Putin sure isn’t. In any case, I have said more or less all that I have to say about the Syrian conflict. I lukewarmly support Russia’s intervention there, but this is tempered by my perception that Russia is ultimately only there at the sufferance of Israel, Turkey, and the US. They set the ultimate rules of the game there. There is only so much (which is not a lot) that Russia can do to push them around. And Syria’s 85 average national IQ isn’t going anywhere. Fuck ups every now and then are inevitable. Some of them will kill Russians. But that’s the price of placing your training arena in the middle of a real conflict. Russia would be stupid to forget that Syria is anything more than a training arena. Fortunately, Putin is a bit smarter than certain commenters.

***

* ABC: Leave no dark corner.

I’ll admit when I first heard of early Chinese “social credit” c.2014 I thought it was just another Sinophobic fantasy. The initial scheme by Sesame Credit seemed in line with what American banks practiced as a matter of course.

But now it really does seem like it was the prelude to a hitherto unseen kind of digital totalitarianism.

You have some Chinese people saying that this will be good at tackling the problems of low trust in Chinese society, but it strikes me as a sovok maozuo solution to maozuo problems.

Anyhow, their country – their choice… at least for now. Something...

September 18, 2018 • 290 Comments

The Russian MOD seems to have agreed with the Americans that it was Syrian friendly fire. Probably this wouldn’t have happened but for the recent Israeli bombings of Syria.

Elijah Magnier says it was to Syria’s and Iran’s advantage. Glad to hear that! /s

PS. In other news, the long-assault on Idlib has been indefinitely postponed. Following talks between Putin and Erdogan, there will instead be a DMZ separating Syria proper from Idlib, jointly patrolled by Turkish and Russian troops. The Turks have also reinforced their presence within Idlib itself.

September 17, 2018 • 36 Comments

Electoral fraud in Russia exists, and is quite prevalent, tilting Putin’s and United Russia’s results upwards of where “they should up” by up to 10% points since the mid-2000s.

That said, Russian electoral fraud has generally not been banana republic tier for a couple of reasons:

  1. Electoral fraud usually happens in the counting stages, instead of the naked ballot stuffing that is often associated with fraud in the popular imagination (indeed, the latter is rather hard to do these, with cameras in the vast majority of voting stations). This fraud can generally only be detected through complicated statistical methods involving Gaussian curves and “nice fractions” that are rather beyond the comprehension of average laypersons.
  2. Electoral fraud generally happens at the local level, as opposed to being ordered from “on high”, as suggested by the fact that there are good correlations between electoral fraud and the level of corruption within the Russian regions). Although the incentives in play – lack of punishment for electoral fraud, rewards for regional bigwigs where United Russia and Putin get good results – strongly favor it. Nonetheless, this still distinguishes Russia from Belorussia and Central Asia, where elections the results really are written out in advance.

But these two mitigating patterns were not in display during the gubernatorial elections in Vladivostok.

At one point, the KPRF candidate Andrey Ishchenko was leading the Putin-endorsed United Russia candidate Andrey Tarasenko by 245,095 (49.9%) votes to 233,801 (47.6%), with victory assured. But when turnout reached 99.03, Tarasenko had surged to 247,396 (49.0) to the hapless Ishchenko’s 245,090 (48.6). Then one more voting station reported its results, and Tarasenko jumped up to 253,082 votes to Ishchenko’s 245,438 – even though no known electoral station in Russia has more than one thousand registered voters.

Consequences:

1....

September 15, 2018 • 32 Comments

The previous post featured a map of Russian IQ based on an online survey (n=238,619) for Russian men interested in serving as contract soldiers run by the Ministry of Defense.

The data has recently been released by Konstantin Sugonyaev (see PDF).

However, as was suggested by Sugonyaev at the start, it is also possible to calculate a proxy of “patriotism” based on the percentage of each region’s population that took the test during the 2012-2017 period that his paper covers.

Results

Along with the Altai Republic, the city of Sevastopol (5.4/1,000 took the test) is Russia’s most patriotic region; Crimea as a whole (2.2/1,000) is also well above the Russian average of 1.6/1,000.

This is bearing in mind that they only joined the “experiment” midway through. Adjust for that, and Crimea as a whole becomes one of Russia’s top 5 most patriotic regions at the very least.

So much for muh Russian occupation. (Isn’t it cool how entirely unrelated research demolishes Western propaganda?).

The more patriotic regions tend to be frontier areas with a heavy military presence (e.g. Kaliningrad, Primorye, Murmansk) and the Far Eastern region (e.g. Zabaikalye, Amur). The latter regions also vote relatively more for the LDPR.

Amongst Russia’s ethnic minorities, the Tuvans and Buryats stand out in particular for their patriotism.

Saint-Petersburg (1.8/1,000) is more patriotic than the Russian average, while Moscow (1.2/1,000) is considerably less patriotic.

The least patriotic Russian regions tend to be regions with large oil and extraction industries, such as Khanty-Mansiysk, the Yamalo-Nenets AO, the Sakha Republic, and Tyumen oblast. I assume this is because the men have much better financial prospects working in the local economy.

The least patriotic regions are Ingushetia (0.3/1,000) and Chechnya (0.2/1,000).

As I pointed out, when you adjust for near endemic electoral fraud, Chechnya becomes Russia’s most oppositionist p...

September 14, 2018 • 61 Comments

Konstantin Sugonyaev, Andrei Grigoriev and Richard Lynn (2018): A New Study of Differences in Intelligence in the Provinces and Regions of the Russian Federation and Their Demographic and Geographical Correlates [PDF]

This is by far the largest survey of Russian IQ ever undertaken (n=238,619). The test was designed by the Ministry of Defense and is aimed at aspiring contract soldiers, consisting of 30 questions testing verbal, numerical, and logical skills. The data used in the paper (and in my map) was based on results from September 2012-December 2017.

If you understand Russian, you can try the test yourself here: https://recrut.mil.ru/career/soldiering/test.htm

There are excellent correlations with my data on regional Russian PISA-equivalent IQs.

I blogged about Sugonyev’s work about a year ago, when he presented the preliminary results at the Institute of Psychology Russian Academy of Sciences.

A recap of some highlights:

1. Geography of Russian IQ: Despite individually small samples, even Russia’s regional PISA results showed a recognizable gradient of increasing IQ as you go north.

In Sugonyev’s data, it becomes even more distinct, with IQ rising in the areas of Finno-Ugric admixture, and falling as one goes south and east.

There is perfect and unsurprising agreement on the brightest regions (the two capitals), the dullest ethnic Russian regions (Zabaikalye, Stavropol), and the dullest ones overall (DICh, Tyva).

There is excellent agreement between these results and both statistical assessments and stereotypes about individual regions (e.g. recent story about a criminal band of alcoholics attacking a military formation in Zabaikalye).

While absent from PISA, Yaroslavl oblast performed as well as the two capitals. As I have pointed out, this has “deep historical” antecedents: Yaroslavl gubernia was the most developed ethnic Russian region in the late Russian Empire outside Moscow and Saint-Petersburg.

2. Flynn Effect: While...

September 14, 2018 • 253 Comments

I have more chilli peppers than I know what to do with (about 20 kg worth of it). Any ideas?

My “Stupid People” post has been phenomenally successful, generating almost 1,000 comments and more visits than other post of mine at the UR since The Road to World War III this April. It also generated a large discussion on /r/slatestarcodex: https://www.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/9dj642/the_idiocy_of_the_average_and_why_it_matters/

This September is set to become a record breaking month, in an already record breaking year. Less than halfway through, I already have 26,000 visits (normal month of late: 30,000) and 80,000 pageviews (normal month of late: 120,000). Total pageview for 2018 now total a round 1,000,000. That’s 2.5x the rate of the entire of 2015, 2x the rate of 2016, and more than the 790,000 of the entirety of 2017.

***

Featured News

* SYRIA: Long awaited assault on Idlib is still up in the air. The Turks are digging their heels in, so perhaps the operation will end up limited to just taking the areas east of the M5 motorway? Anyhow, as I pointed out, it’s a tense situation – Russia is the midst of the massive Vostok-2018 (in which China is also involved); its armada is still of the Syrian coast; the US now has moved naval assets with a total of 200 Tomahawk missiles to the East Mediterranean. Intermittent reports from RT/Sputnik about an imminent gas attack false flag by the rebels and White Helmets. The Western propaganda wheels are also in motion.

* DONBASS: Assassinated Zakharchenko has been replaced by Denis Pushilin, with elections scheduled for November. Possible candidates include Pavel Gubarev and Khodakovsky. But Pushilin, a gray non-entity who promoted MMM pyramid schemes before the war, seems to be the Kremlin’s favored candidate. In other news, long-time informed DNR observer Alexander Zhuchkovsky reports that Prilepin’s battalion has been disbanded. Prilepin himself, a popular novelist, Donbass...

September 13, 2018 • 217 Comments

Transcript here.

On a more serious note, this is a PR disaster. Even Margarita Simonyan herself visibly realizes as the interview goes on. Their tourism story reaches levels of implausibility that should not even be possible: We are just heterosexual business partners – but no, we won’t go into any details; our first sightseeing tour was cut short by snow, we live in the tropical part of Russia so we’re not used to it; we visited Salsbury twice just to confirm that yes, it has the highest spire of any English cathedral – no need to make a correction to Wikipedia!

Anyhow, I am not going to insult my readers’ intelligence by trying to fit their story into something consistent. In any case, since even the people who are generously compensated by Russian taxpayers don’t see it fit to do so, why should anyone else?

The only remaining question is:

  • The lingering one of whether this GRU hit was a “private” criminal one, or ordered by Putin. (In all fairness, this is now of largely academic interest. The Kremlin have just painted a bulls-eye on themselves).
  • Whether this PR travesty was a result of incompetence, sabotage, or an elaborate FU to the Britbongs. (Also largely irrelevant except insofar as it reveals something about the sustainability of the Putinist state; if the first option is correct, then with cadres like these, it needs no enemies).

Meanwhile, I expect this to lead to real world repercussions:

  • From now on, Britain has no out to quietly bury this affair, even if it wanted to. Further sanctions from the British are guaranteed.
  • Also I wonder if this is what finally gets RT booted off the British airways. If so – lame hill to die on.
  • It puts Germany, which has to date been courteously skeptical towards the Brits, in an impossible position. Had they kept that hapless duo off the airwaves, this is how it would have remained. But no longer.
  • Consequently, I would guess that further serious EU sanctions are...

September 12, 2018 • 918 Comments

Wei Geisheing (2013). Aerial Shanghai by Crane Operator 2.

Let’s take the standard assumption that national power consists of three main elements: Economic, military, and cultural (“soft”).

Why can we be confident that China is on its way to superpowerdom?

Economic Power

China has already overtaken the US in terms of GDP (PPP) in the mid-2010s at the latest {here’s my 2012 article on this}, and will almost certainly repeat that in nominal terms by the early 2020s.

Chinese development is extremely similar to South Korea’s but with a lag of 20 years {East Asia’s Twenty Year Rule}. Consequently, a China that converges to South Korean development levels in relative terms – something that we can expect to see by 2040 – will automatically be three times the size of the US economy just by dint of its demographic preponderance. This is furthermore assuming that there is no serious US economic crisis during this period (e.g. there are estimates that US GDP is 5-10% more than it “should be” thanks to the USD’s status as the global reserve currency – what happens if/when that ends?).

There is absolutely no reason why this process of convergence must stall at any point, since average IQ explains almost all economic success, and Chinese IQ is comparable to those of the most developed OECD nations. To be sure, as I pointed out, developed East Asian nations tend to underperform their IQ; they are only as rich as European countries about 5 IQ points below them, such as France (in contrast, the Americans over perform their average IQ, probably thanks to their smart fractions, the USD’s status, and economies of scale). Nonetheless, this does mean that the average EU level is eminently reachable. And it is even possible that China will eventually do relatively better than Japan or Korea because of the unparalleled economies of scale opened up to it by its 1.4 billion population.

As China continues to develop,...