Go Big or Go Home

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

Go big or go home!

Firestone in Liberia

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

Last month, Firestone’s rubber plantation in Liberia made the news, because it stopped ebola in its tracks:

The case was detected on a Sunday. Garcia and a medical team from the company hospital spent Monday setting up an Ebola ward. Tuesday the woman was placed in isolation.

“None of us had any Ebola experience,” he says. They scoured the Internet for information about how to treat Ebola. They cleared out a building on the hospital grounds and set up an isolation ward. They grabbed a bunch of hazmat suits for dealing with chemical spills at the rubber factory and gave them to the hospital staff. The suits worked just as well for Ebola cases.

Firestone immediately quarantined the woman’s family. Like so many Ebola patients, she died soon after being admitted to the ward. But no one else at Firestone got infected: not her family and not the workers who transported, treated and cared for her.

The Firestone managers had the benefit of backing and resources of a major corporation — something the communities around them did not.

Notice how NPR emphasizes that Firestone managers had the benefit of backing and resources of a major corporation, when, really, Firestone had managers who simply instituted a quarantine and made it stick.

Now that same Firestone plantation is getting a different kind of media attention. The latest Frontline, Firestone and the Warlord, looks at Firestone’s actions during the Liberian civil war. As The Vice Guide to Liberia makes abundantly clear, Liberia is a messed up place today, but when the incompetent gunmen were running the show, it got really bad.

What is the right course of action for the ex-pat managers of an enormous, immobile asset, in a country embroiled in civil war? They were apparently wrong for leaving and wrong for coming back.

Denigration of the Great Revolution

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

The latest Assassin’s Creed video game takes place in Paris during the French Revolution, and French leftists are appalled that the heroes of the People are depicted as bloodthirsty savages:

The former leftist French presidential candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, called it “propaganda against the people, the people who are [portrayed as] barbarians, bloodthirsty savages,” while the “cretin” that is Marie-Antoinette and the “treacherous” Louis XVI are portrayed as noble victims. “The denigration of the great Revolution is a dirty job to instill more self-loathing and déclinisme in the French,” he told Le Figaro (link in French). The secretary general of the Left Front, Alexis Corbière, said on his blog (link in French):

To all those who will buy Assassin’s Creed: Unity, I wish them a good time, but I also tell them that the pleasure of playing does not stop you from thinking. Play, yes, but do not let yourself be manipulated by those who make propaganda.

Ubisoft, the maker of the Assassin’s Creed series of video games, which has been going since 2007 and has sold more than 70 million copies, is in fact French. One of the makers of the game replied (link in French) that Assassin’s Creed: Unity is a “consumer video game, not a history lesson” but did say that his team hired a historian and specialists on the Terror and other aspects of the Revolution. Le Monde lays out seven errors in the game here (in French).

Shirtgate and Common Decency

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

What should have been the best week of Dr. Matt Taylor’s professional life ended with him weeping on TV as he apologized for his alleged crime — wearing a racy shirt:

Many of my friends and colleagues on the anti-PC right have responded with understandable outrage. And it’s true: Taylor’s confession of wrongdoing did feel forced — awfully North Korean.

Still, the feminists have a point. Although I like the shirt (which is now selling like hotcakes), I would never wear it to a nice restaurant, never mind on a globally broadcast TV interview. The reason I wouldn’t wear it has very little to do with my fear of offending feminists. It’s simply unsuitable professional attire. I’d ask critics of the feminist backlash, would you wear it on a job interview? How about to church or synagogue?

Where feminists seem remarkably self-absorbed is in their assumption that only their sensibilities matter. It is hardly as if feminist-friendly career women in STEM professions (science, technology, engineering, and math) are the only people who might reasonably dislike the shirt. But here’s astrophysicist Katie Mack tweeting: “I don’t care what scientists wear. But a shirt featuring women in lingerie isn’t appropriate for a broadcast if you care about women in STEM.”

Okay, maybe. But why are feminist motives so special? What if you’re a devout Christian, Muslim, or Jew working in the humanities? What if you like cartoonishly sexy ladies, but you hate guns? What if you’re simply the kind of person who thinks male professionals should wear a jacket and tie on TV?

In short, feminists want a monopoly on when everyone must be outraged or offended. A few weeks ago, feminist idiots rolled out a video of little girls dressed as princesses, cursing like foul-mouthed comedian Andrew Dice Clay. Unlike Taylor, they set out to offend. But that was in support of feminism, so it was okay. (I’d like to see the parents of those kids tearfully apologizing for exploiting their kids as cheap propaganda props.)

[...]

For millennia, good manners were understood as the means by which strangers showed each other respect. Now, too many people demand respect but have lost the ability, or desire, to show it in return.

(Hat tip to Charles Murray.)

Republicans Are Douchebags

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

Scott Alexander found a couple online lists of “biggest douchebag names” and ran them against Clarity Campaigns‘ database of names and political affiliations — and found that Republicans are douchebags:

I can think of two three hypotheses.

First, douchebags are disproportionately Republican.

Second, the parents who name kids douchebag names are disproportionately Republican, and Republicanism is partly hereditary (I almost missed this one, but JayMan reads this blog and I know he would call me on it if I forgot).

Third, “douchebag” is a tribally-coded slur. If someone asks “Have you ever noticed that all assholes are named things like ‘Moishe’ or ‘Avram’ or ‘Menachem’?” – then they’re telling you a lot more about the way they use the word ‘asshole’ than about the Moishes and Menachems of the world.

Female Secret Service Bodyguards

Saturday, November 15th, 2014

Female Secret Service bodyguards are not as awesome at hand-to-hand combat as you might expect from watching TV, Steve Sailer notes, citing this New York Times account of the White House intrusion a few weeks ago:

As the officer stationed there tried to lock the doors, Mr. Gonzalez “barged through them and knocked her backward.” She told him to stop but he continued on to the East Room.

“After attempting twice to physically take Gonzalez down but failing to do so because of the size disparity between the two, the officer then attempted to draw her baton but accidentally grabbed her flashlight instead,” the report said. “The officer threw down her flashlight, drew her firearm, and continued to give Gonzalez commands that he ignored.”

Mr. Gonzalez entered the East Room, but then exited, heading down the hallway. Two officers stationed in the White House, assisted by two plainclothes agents who had just finished their shifts, tackled him.

Ten Hours of Princess Leia Walking in NYC

Friday, November 14th, 2014

Ten Hours of Princess Leia Walking in NYC:

Lagoon and Spray

Sunday, November 9th, 2014

Until recently, hogs roamed in outdoor pens or fields, where their droppings fertilized crops, but now hog-farming has gone big, and not everything scales well:

Most of the farms that survived did so by going big—raising thousands of animals that spend their entire lives inside barns. Today, Duplin County, North Carolina, the top swine producer in the country, is home to 530 hog operations with a collective capacity of 2.35 million animals. According to a 2008 GAO estimate, hogs in five eastern North Carolina counties produced 15.5 million tons of manure in one year.

To handle all that waste, farmers in North Carolina use a standard practice called the lagoon and spray field system. They flush feces and urine from barns into open-air pits called lagoons, which turn the color of Pepto-Bismol when pink-colored bacteria colonize the waste. To keep the lagoons from overflowing, farmers spray liquid manure on their fields nearby.

The result, says Steve Wing, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is this: “The eastern part of North Carolina is covered with shit.”

In Gurgaon, India, Dynamism Meets Dysfunction

Saturday, November 8th, 2014

Gurgaon was widely regarded as an economic wasteland:

In 1979, the state of Haryana created Gurgaon by dividing a longstanding political district on the outskirts of New Delhi. One half would revolve around the city of Faridabad, which had an active municipal government, direct rail access to the capital, fertile farmland and a strong industrial base. The other half, Gurgaon, had rocky soil, no local government, no railway link and almost no industrial base.

As an economic competition, it seemed an unfair fight. And it has been: Gurgaon has won, easily. Faridabad has struggled to catch India’s modernization wave, while Gurgaon’s disadvantages turned out to be advantages, none more important, initially, than the absence of a districtwide government, which meant less red tape capable of choking development.

[...]

Ordinarily, such a wild building boom would have had to hew to a local government master plan. But Gurgaon did not yet have such a plan, nor did it yet have a districtwide municipal government. Instead, Gurgaon was mostly under state control. Developers built the infrastructure inside their projects, while a state agency, the Haryana Urban Development Authority, or HUDA, was supposed to build the infrastructure binding together the city.

And that is where the problems arose. HUDA and other state agencies could not keep up with the pace of construction. The absence of a local government had helped Gurgaon become a leader of India’s growth boom. But that absence had also created a dysfunctional city. No one was planning at a macro level; every developer pursued his own agenda as more islands sprouted and state agencies struggled to keep pace with growth.

The solution isn’t that complicated, as Alex Tabarrok points out:

If the rights to develop Gurgaon had originally been sold in very large packages, some five to seven proprietary but competitive cities could have been created in that region. Within this system the role of the state is to make it possible to auction large parcels of land. Once such parcels and associated rights to develop the land are created, private developers will provision public goods and services up to the edge of their property.

Catcall Experiment in Auckland

Friday, November 7th, 2014

The New Zealand Herald decided to replicate Shoshana Roberts’ catcall experiment in Auckland, rather than New York City:

A New Caste Society

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

Little has changed in the 42 years Steve Sailer has been reading social scientists:

As I’ve joked before, when I became interested in the quantitative literature on educational achievement in ninth grade in 1972, the racial rankings went:

  1. Orientals
  2. Caucasians
  3. Chicanos
  4. Blacks

Today, the order is:

  1. Asians
  2. Whites
  3. Hispanics
  4. African-Americans

How Much Does Control of the Senate Matter?

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

How much does control of the Senate matter? Not much, David Friedman notes:

Nothing can get passed if either party is solidly opposed to it.

Which brings me back to my theory of why people vote. It isn’t to change the political outcome, since any reasonable person know that, in a large population polity, his vote has virtually no chance of doing that. It’s for the same reason people go to football games—to cheer for their side.

In order to have a game you need some definition of winning and losing. In order for it to be interesting, the definition has to leave the outcome in doubt. If winning the midterm elections was defined by whether or not the Republicans retained their majority in the House or by whether they gained enough seats in both houses to override a presidential veto, it would have been a very boring contest, since the answer to both questions was known long in advance.

Viewing it as a contest over who ended up in control of the Senate, on the other hand, made it a game worth watching.

Each party is worse than the other

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

“The more you read and observe about this Politics thing, you got to admit that each party is worse than the other. The one that’s out always looks the best.”

Will Rogers

Gordon Tullock on Voting

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

Gordon Tullock just passed away, and Don Boudreax quips that it’s appropriate that his old colleague died during election week:

Liberals deny science, too

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

Liberals deny science, too, Chris Mooney reports:

The new study, by University of Texas-Brownville sociologist Mark Horowitz and two colleagues, surveyed 155 academic sociologists. 56.7 percent of the sample was liberal, another 28.6 percent was identified as radical, and only 4.8 percent were conservative.  Horowitz, who describes himself as a politically radical, social-justice oriented researcher, said he wanted to probe their views of the possible evolutionary underpinnings of various human behaviors. “I wanted to get at the really ideological blank slate view, it’s sort of a preemptive assumption that everything is taught, everything is learned,” he explained.

Sure enough, the study found that these liberal academics showed a pretty high level of resistance to evolutionary explanations for phenomena ranging from sexual jealousy to male promiscuity.

In fairness, the sociologists were willing to credit some evolutionary-style explanations. Eight-one percent found it either plausible or highly plausible that “some people are born genetically with more intellectual potential than others,” and 70 percent ascribed sexual orientation to “biological roots.” Meanwhile, nearly 60 percent of sociologists in the sample considered it “plausible” that human beings have a “hardwired” taste preference for foods that are full of fat and sugar, and just under 50 percent thought it plausible that we have an innate fear of snakes and spiders (for very sound, survival-focused reasons).

Yet the study also found that these scholars were less willing to consider evolutionary explanations for other aspects of human behavior, especially those relating to male-female differences. Less than 50 percent considered it plausible that that “feelings of sexual jealousy have a significant evolutionary biological component,” for instance, and just 36.4 percent considered it plausible that men “have a greater tendency towards promiscuity than women due to an evolved reproductive strategy.” While it is hard to be absolutely definitive on either of these issues (we weren’t there to observe evolution happen), evolutionary psychologists have certainly argued in published studies that people exhibit jealousy in sexual relationships in order to ensure reproductive fidelity and preserve the resources that come from a partner, and that men are more promiscuous because they are not constrained in how often they can attempt to reproduce.