African farmers’ kids conquer the marshmallow test

Friday, June 30th, 2017

The first study to administer the marshmallow test to non-Western kids has demonstrated that African farmers’ kids can wait patiently:

Of 76 Nso 4-year-olds, 53, or nearly 70 percent, waited 10 minutes for a second treat — a small local pastry called a puff-puff — without eating the puff-puff placed on a table in front of them, say psychologist Bettina Lamm of Osnabrück University in Germany and colleagues.

Only 35 of 125 German 4-year-olds, or 28 percent, successfully waited for their choice of a second lollipop or chocolate bar.

Nso Farmboy

Among 63 of the German youngsters videotaped in play sessions with their mothers at age 9 months, those whose mothers were most lenient in letting them determine what to do displayed the least patience on the marshmallow test at age 4, the researchers say.

Researchers have long argued that “authoritative parenting,” marked by giving children freedom within specific limits, fosters self-control needed for academic and social success (SN: 8/19/89, p. 117). German kids who waited for a second treat had mothers who dealt with them authoritatively as 9-month-olds, Lamm says.

Nso mothers typically had an authoritative parenting style, keeping their kids close and training them to keep emotions in check and respect their elders, especially those high in a community’s pecking order. For 57 Nso kids recorded in play with their mothers at age 9 months, mothers consistently took the lead in organizing play activities.

Nso children’s self-control grew out of their mothers’ authoritarian, controlling parenting style, Lamm suspects.

Children also displayed cultural differences in how they tried to resist temptation during the marshmallow test. German kids tried to distract themselves while waiting for a second treat by moving about, turning around, singing, talking and even leaving the room. Nso youngsters waiting for a second treat exhibited little emotion and remained largely still. Eight of them fell asleep in their chairs.

Some previously tested Western children have rested their heads on the table and taken naps as a tactic to ignore available treats. But Nso kids appeared to zonk out spontaneously, slumping over in their chairs, Lamm says.

As a result of authoritarian parenting practices, Nso kids either squelch negative emotions or experience negative emotions in a different, more controllable way than Western peers do, she proposes.

Ayduk notes that it’s not clear whether Nso youngsters truly had greater self-control or if, true to farming community standards, they simply obeyed adults who asked them to wait for a second puff-puff, Ayduk adds.

My first thought is that African children probably don’t snack all day. Modern American kids don’t wait to eat.

One should pack the lunchbox with quinoa crackers and organic fruit

Thursday, June 29th, 2017

Thorstein Veblen’s conspicuous consumption has evolved into conspicuously inconspicuous consumption:

Eschewing an overt materialism, the rich are investing significantly more in education, retirement and health – all of which are immaterial, yet cost many times more than any handbag a middle-income consumer might buy. The top 1% now devote the greatest share of their expenditures to inconspicuous consumption, with education forming a significant portion of this spend (accounting for almost 6% of top 1% household expenditures, compared with just over 1% of middle-income spending). In fact, top 1% spending on education has increased 3.5 times since 1996, while middle-income spending on education has remained flat over the same time period.


While much inconspicuous consumption is extremely expensive, it shows itself through less expensive but equally pronounced signalling – from reading The Economist to buying pasture-raised eggs. Inconspicuous consumption in other words, has become a shorthand through which the new elite signal their cultural capital to one another. In lockstep with the invoice for private preschool comes the knowledge that one should pack the lunchbox with quinoa crackers and organic fruit.

One might think these culinary practices are a commonplace example of modern-day motherhood, but one only needs to step outside the upper-middle-class bubbles of the coastal cities of the US to observe very different lunch-bag norms, consisting of processed snacks and practically no fruit. Similarly, while time in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City might make one think that every American mother breastfeeds her child for a year, national statistics report that only 27% of mothers fulfil this American Academy of Pediatrics goal (in Alabama, that figure hovers at 11%).


Perhaps most importantly, the new investment in inconspicuous consumption reproduces privilege in a way that previous conspicuous consumption could not. Knowing which New Yorker articles to reference or what small talk to engage in at the local farmers’ market enables and displays the acquisition of cultural capital, thereby providing entry into social networks that, in turn, help to pave the way to elite jobs, key social and professional contacts, and private schools. In short, inconspicuous consumption confers social mobility.

Chimps are not superhumanly strong

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

Chimps are not as superhumanly strong as we thought they were:

“There’s this idea out there that chimpanzees are superhuman strong,” says Matthew O’Neill at the University of Arizona in Phoenix. Yet his team’s experiments and computer models show that a chimpanzee muscle is only about a third stronger than a human one of the same size.

This result matches well with the few tests that have been done, which suggest that when it comes to pulling and jumping, chimps are about 1.5 times as strong as humans relative to their body mass. But because they are lighter than the average person, humans can actually outperform them in absolute terms, say O’Neill.

His findings suggest that other apes have similar muscle strength to chimpanzees. “Humans are the odd ones,” he says.

O’Neill’s team has been studying the evolution of upright walking. To create an accurate computer model of how chimps walk, the researchers needed to find out whether their muscles really are exceptionally strong. So they removed small samples of leg muscle from three chimps under general anaesthetic and measured the strength of individual fibres.

The same procedure is used to study human muscles. Comparing the results with the many studies on those revealed that, contrary to the claims of several other studies, there is nothing special about chimp muscle. “Chimpanzee muscle is really no different than human muscle in terms of the force that individual fibres exert,” says O’Neill.

So why, on a pound-for-pound basis, are chimps slightly stronger than humans? The team went on to look at the muscle of chimps that had died of natural causes, which revealed that two-thirds of their muscle consists of fast-twitch fibres, whereas more than half of human fibres are slow-twitch.


Quite how the myth that chimps are incredibly strong came about is not clear, says O’Neill. But it may have been fuelled by a 1923 study that claimed one chimp could pull nine times its own body weight. Later studies suggested they could only pull two to four times their weight.

A quick stroll through grocery-store history

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

Gary Hoover takes us on a quick stroll through grocery-store history:

By 1912, America’s first great retail chain, the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (“The A&P”) had 480 stores spread across many states. The founder’s son John Augustine Hartford thought the highly successful company could do better if they lowered prices, but his father and conservative brother would not hear of it. Finally, he wore them down and they said, “Ok, you can open one of your cheap store ideas a few blocks from an A&P. But you cannot call it A&P and you can only have $3,000 with which to open the store.” They figured this would prove the stupidity of his “Economy Store” concept. Within months, the regular A&P around the corner had to close as customers loved the new concept. By 1927, only fifteen years later, A&P had opened 15,671 of these little stores, sometimes just a block apart in major urban centers. By 1929, the A&P had become one of America’s first companies to achieve $1 billion in annual revenue. The largest retailer in the land, these revenues were greater than those of #2 Sears, Roebuck and #3 FW Woolworth combined.

Despite this huge success, the A&P was not without competition. In 1929, Kroger of Cincinnati, Safeway of San Francisco, American Stores of Philadelphia, National Tea of Chicago, and First National of Boston operated an additional 14,188 stores. Grocery chains represented 4 of the 10 largest retail companies in America.

Then, on August 4, 1930, Michael J. Cullen opened his King Kullen store in Jamaica, Queens, New York, generally accepted as the first true supermarket. Cullen, a veteran of A&P and Kroger, had tried to convince the leaders of Kroger to try his new idea, described as “a new type of food store with a focus on low prices, cash sales, and without delivery service, in larger stores (at low rents) with ample parking.” These were to be “monstrous” stores, about forty feet wide and hundred and thirty to a hundred and sixty feet deep, located one to three blocks off the high rent district with plenty of parking space, to be operated as a semi-self-service store — twenty percent service and eighty percent self-service. Cullen suggested that this new type of store could achieve 10 times the volume and profits of the average Kroger or A&P. But his letter never even made it to the head of Kroger, as the chief’s lieutenants knew the idea was crazy.

But it wasn’t crazy. King Kullen and others around the nation added meat and produce to the standard mix of “dry groceries,” added parking, but most of all deep discounts. Others followed Cullen: two years later, Big Bear opened in New Jersey in the former Durant auto factory, its single store doing the revenue of 100 A&P’s.

Within a few years, the industry leaders woke up to the new concept. In 1937 A&P, ever ready to evolve under the same brilliant John Hartford, began closing its tiny stores and replacing them with the new “giant” supermarkets. In just thirteen years, by 1950 A&P had dropped from more than 14,000 stores to just over 4,000, but their revenues rose from $800 million to $3 billion. In 1955, 11 of the 25 largest American retailers were grocery store chains.

During the 1960s, the new concept of the discount store — general merchandise but no food — spread across America. Over time, many retailers attempted to integrate general merchandise with food: Walgreen’s and St. Louis’s Schnuck’s grocery chain, Skaggs/Albertson’s from the western US, Kmart and Detroit’s Allied Supermarkets, and others tried to make it work, with mixed success at best. Weekly “convenience goods” shopping for low margin groceries did not fit with the less frequent and more leisurely “shopping goods” trips for clothing, home furnishings, hardware, and other categories. The industry mentalities and restocking processes were radically different. A few regional firms made it work — Schwegmann’s in New Orleans, Meijer’s Thrifty Acres in Michigan, and Fred Meyer in Oregon. But none of the industry giants could figure it out.

Fast forward to 1987. Booming discount chain Walmart — still smaller than Sears or Kmart — opened an experimental store combining the general merchandise (non-food) that it knew well with groceries, a new category in an already fiercely competitive field. The store was called Hypermart USA, modeled on the “hypermarches” which were sweeping through Europe, led by France’s Carrefour. The store did not work and was soon closed.

Nevertheless, ever-experimenting Walmart opened its first “Supercenter” the next year (1988) in Washington, Missouri. This time it worked. For the next several years, the company gradually replaced most of its discount stores with the new food and general merchandise combination stores. As of January 31, 2017, there were 3,522 Walmart Supercenters in 49 of the 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Everywhere but Hawaii. Walmart is by far the largest food retailer in the world, with revenues almost twice those of runner-ups France’s Carrefour and Britain’s Tesco combined. Kroger remains the largest pure food chain in the US, and the only company to finish among America’s top ten retailers ever since 1929, a remarkable record in itself.

Yet another breakout of the 1970s and 1980s was the invention of the warehouse club with Sol Price’s Price Club in San Diego. Costco and Walmart’s Sam’s Club came along soon after. Costco later acquired the original Price Club organization. No retailer in American history has lived with such low profit margins as these stores, relying on membership fees for profitability (not unlike Amazon). Between 2000 and 2016, Amazon grew its North American revenue by $76 Billion, while Costco added $63 Billion.

Step ahead another 30 years to today. Convenience stores are getting a rising share of the food dollar, led by Sheetz, Wawa, 7-Eleven, and many smaller firms. Walgreen’s, in the 1970s a sleeping giant, and CVS, back then a small division of shoe giant Melville Corporation, are now adding more food on virtually every good street corner in America, often facing each other. Family Dollar, Dollar General, and DollarTree are adding stores and expanding in food. Aldi and Lidl are invading in spades. Those in the traditional supermarket industry in the “know” consider privately owned Publix, HEB, and Wegman’s as among the best in class — conclusions supported by surveys of customer loyalty and satisfaction.

According to Statista, in 2016 Walmart sold 17.3% of the food sold in America (excluding restaurants), followed by Kroger at 8.9%, Albertson’s/Safeway at 5.6%, Costco at 5.1%, Ahold Delhaize at 4.2%, Sam’s Club and Publix tied at 3.4%, HEB at 1.9%, Whole Foods and ShopRite at 1.7%, Target at 1.5%, Meijer at 1.4%, and Aldi at 1.3%. Further down the list were Trader Joe’s at 1.1%, and Wegman’s and Amazon tied at 0.8%. That is a LOT of upside for Amazon and the other tiny players, just as Whole Foods’ leaders realized 35 years ago.

The Pashtun culture may be the world’s most dysfunctional

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

Steve Sailer takes the release of Brad Pitt’s new movie, War Machine, on Netflix as a jumping-off point for discussing Afghanistan, then and now:

Just as Serbia resembles an outpost of Russian culture in southern Europe, Afghanistan is culturally similar to Arabia, if the Arabs were all smoking meth. The Pashtun culture, centered in eastern Afghanistan and western Pakistan, may be the world’s most dysfunctional. Here are some of their proverbs:

The Pukhtun is never at peace, except when he is at war.

One’s own mother and sister are disgusting.

When the floodwaters reach your chin, put your son beneath your feet.

The horribleness of indigenous Pashtun culture might explain why the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban are seen by locals not as savages but, due to their strict obedience to the Koran, as moral exemplars. Muhammad might have married a 9-year-old, but at least she was a girl. For example, pederasty, or bacha bazi (“dancing boys), is so common among the Pashtuns that American troops were told they had to ignore sex abuse of minors for the good of the alliance. In contrast, one of the precipitating events of the Taliban’s rise to power in the mid-1990s was a small civil war between two non-Taliban warlords over a boy they both fancied. A Taliban squad under Mullah Omar rescued the boy, which raised their reputation.

Many education interventions are either harmful or costly

Monday, June 26th, 2017

Education Realist notes some harmful interventions and costly interventions in education:

Harmful interventions:

  1. Ending tracking
  2. De-emphasizing demonstrated test scores on difficult tests in favor of grades.
  3. Increased legal protections for discipline disasters.

Of the first two, neither have done anything to improve achievement or access. Both have done tremendous damage to high achievers. Caveat: most people think of helping high achievers via coverage (learning faster) but in fact, this has been the most damaging aspect of the changes. Kids are only able to demonstrate ability by the age at which they take a particular math course, and so you have sophomores taking 1st year calculus classes and memorizing enough to pass an AP test without particularly understanding the underlying math.

No, the cost to high achievers is that we aren’t pushing them hard because we can’t, because GPA means so much that teachers can’t create a proper leveling schema. I taught trig. Five kids never showed up regularly, so they got Fs. Other kids worked hard despite having no understanding of the concept in a class they had no choice but to take, so they got Ds. Others had some limited understanding and could successfully do about half the work, so there’s your C. And so on.

And that’s in math. Things are far worse in literature and history, so that even top students are often terrible writers and teachers can’t even begin to address it in classes where the bottom students can’t even read and everyone’s using Schmoop or Sparcnotes to get the short version. We can’t have classes just for bright kids and give hard workers of merely adequate performance in a tough class a C for trying, because that C will do tremendous damage to those kids without the context of a test score.

The third is causing tremendous damage in low income schools, as well as creating more segregation as parents who can leave do. (I get annoyed at people who blame teachers for reduced discipline. It’s a specific policy demand forced on us by the state.)

Costly interventions:

Special education now gives additional money to 1 out of 8 kids and we see nothing for it. Special ed means different things. (1) The severely retarded, who cost hundreds of thousands to educate and should not be part of public school. It’s free childcare service for 16 years, at which point we then dump the kid over to a different state budget. (2)Then there’s the low IQ kids, what we always meant by special ed, who get relatively little in services. (3) Then there’s the emotionally damaged kids who can’t function in regular classes despite no IQ problems. (4) Then there’s the kids with a real disability (blind, wheelchair bound) who get access and aids. (5) Then there’s everyone with a “learning disability” — the fastest growing group. Only 2 and 4 were originally intended by the special ed category. We should dump 5 entirely, create centralized institutions for 1 and 3. 2 and 4 would still cost a lot, but at least they were intended to be addressed by K-12 ed.

We spend billions on “English language instruction,” which hasn’t one meaning. In schools like mine, it means free English lessons for immigrant kids who just got here — mandatory lessons that are often frustrating to bright kids whose English is adequate to work in academic courses (and far better than the bottom third in each course) but aren’t allowed because the “get me out of ELL” score is ridiculously high. In more homogenous schools, it means running half the classes in (usually) Spanish, because ELL from the 60s on was designed on the expectation that ELL kids would be illegal immigrants from across the border.

So the things that do actual harm aren’t extremely expensive, and the things that are a waste of time don’t so much do harm as create hugely expensive systems to support kids that aren’t improving their education and often given tremendous support to kids who just got here while not offering that service (enrichment) to citizens who might benefit from it.

A couple years ago he put forward five education policy proposals for 2016 presidential politics.

Outer appearance simply can’t imply anything about inner character

Monday, June 26th, 2017

Blaise Aguera y Arcas leads Google’s Machine Intelligence group in Seattle, and he has written a remarkably unscientific piece decrying physiognomy’s new clothes:

The practice of using people’s outer appearance to infer inner character is called physiognomy. While today it is understood to be pseudoscience, the folk belief that there are inferior “types” of people, identifiable by their facial features and body measurements, has at various times been codified into country-wide law, providing a basis to acquire land, block immigration, justify slavery, and permit genocide. When put into practice, the pseudoscience of physiognomy becomes the pseudoscience of scientific racism.

Rapid developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning have enabled scientific racism to enter a new era, in which machine-learned models embed biases present in the human behavior used for model development. Whether intentional or not, this “laundering” of human prejudice through computer algorithms can make those biases appear to be justified objectively.

Outer appearance simply can’t imply anything about inner character. That would be wrong.

He goes on to cite a Chinese study that sounds (literally) incredible, but the case that machine-learning is being used to “launder” human biases is rather weak.

Wu and Zhang’s criminal images (top) and non-criminal images (bottom)

Ceremony is central to the creation of civilization

Sunday, June 25th, 2017

Longtime friend of the blog Aretae has another book out. It’s called Ceremony: A Profound New Method for Achieving Successful and Sustainable Change:

Secreted away inside of weddings, graduations, religious services, and sporting events are powerful ceremonial techniques for dramatically increasing human performance — ways to increase productivity, strengthen relationships, and effectively manage change.

Ceremony is central to the creation of civilization. It is an intrinsic tool in religions, militaries, schools, and governments. Yet executives, entrepreneurs, and front-line managers cannot formally describe what it is, how it works, or how to leverage it in their organizations.

Surprisingly, ceremony as a conscious organizing strategy remains almost unknown in the business world. It has been ignored by an entire generation of business consultants. But there is hope. For two decades, the agile software development community has been quietly demonstrating the power of directed ceremony. In this book, we share insights gathered over the last two decades, first on agile software teams and later across entire organizations.

Does your staff come to work because they love what they do, or simply because they are paid? Ceremony builds a workplace people love.

Do people look forward to attending meetings, or do they sneak out of them at the first opportunity? Ceremony creates productive gatherings people want to attend.

Are you able to implement significant change rapidly, or do a whole generation of employees need to retire before real change succeeds? Ceremony enables quick, painless, and effective change.

Do you need to raise productivity, improve quality, and reduce costs, all at the same time? Ceremony is a strategy for doing all three. And it can be implemented in tiny, incremental, low-risk steps.

Ceremonial systems are humanity’s true heritage; rediscover their power.

Why were there so many Jews in SDS?

Sunday, June 25th, 2017

Mark Rudd explains why there were so many Jews in Students for a Democratic Society:

I got to Columbia University as a freshman, age 18, in September, 1965, a few months after the United States attacked Vietnam with main force troops. There I found a small but vibrant anti-war movement. In my first semester I was recruited by David Gilbert, a senior who had written a pamphlet on imperialism for national SDS, Students for a Democratic Society. David was one of the founders of the Columbia SDS chapter, along with John Fuerst, the chapter Chairman. Both were Jewish, of course, as were my mentors and friends, Michael Josefowicz, Harvey Blume, Michael Neumann, and John Jacobs. Ted Kaptchuk and Ted Gold were Chairman and Vice-Chairman of Columbia SDS the year before I was elected Chairman, along with my Vice-Chairman, Nick Freudenberg. All of us were Jewish. It’s hard to remember the names of non-Jewish Columbia SDS’ers; it was as much a Jewish fraternity as Sammie. There were probably a greater proportion of gentile women than guys in SDS, and of course I got to know them.

Out of all the uncountable hours of discussion in SDS meetings, at the West End Bar over beer, and in our dorm rooms and apartments over joints, I don’t remember one single conversation in which we discussed the fact that so many of us were Jewish. This glaring lack alone might serve as a clue to what we were up to: by being radicals we thought we could escape our Jewishness. Left-wing radicalism was internationalist, not narrow nationalist; it favored the oppressed and the workers, not the privileged and elites, which our families were striving toward. Moreover, we were New Leftists, having rejected the sectarianism and cant of the Old Left, which, of course was dominated by Jews.

My friends in SDS taught me, quite correctly, that the world was in revolt against U.S. domination. That was why the Vietnamese were fighting so hard. I learned to admire the Vietnamese and the Cubans and the Chinese and the Russian peasants who had stood up to make a new society. Identifying with the oppressed seemed to me at Columbia and since a natural Jewish value, though one we never spoke of as being Jewish. We were socialists and internationalists first. I myself joined the cult of Che Guevara, putting posters of him on my apartment wall and aching to be a revolutionary hero like him. He wasn’t very Jewish, incidentally.

But World War II and the holocaust were our fixed reference points. This was only twenty years after the end of the war. We often talked about the moral imperative to not be Good Germans. Many of my older comrades had mobilized for the civil rights movement; we were all anti-racists. We saw American racism as akin to German racism toward the Jews. As we learned more about the war, we discovered that killing Vietnamese en masse was of no moral consequence to American war planners. So we started describing the war as racist genocide, reflecting the genocide of the holocaust. American imperialist goals around the world were to us little different from the Nazi goal of global conquest. If you really didn’t like somebody — and we loathed President Lyndon B. Johnson — you might call him a fascist.

Columbia SDS adopted an intelligent strategy of protesting the war by opposing the university’s involvement with it. Over a three year period we exposed the University’s claims of being “value-neutral” by pointing to Columbia’s Naval ROTC program, its allowing Marine and CIA and Dow Chemical recruiting, and, finally, the defense-oriented research work of the Institute for Defense Analysis consortium, of which Columbia was a leading — and secret — member. Support for the anti-war position among students and faculty gradually grew as the war escalated and as the SDS chapter engaged in continual educational activities and confrontations. The conflict with the university over the war and racism came to a head in the massive rebellion and strike of April-May, 1968.

What outraged me and my comrades so much about Columbia, along with its hypocrisy, was the air of genteel civility. Or should I say gentile? Despite the presence of so many Jews in the faculty and among the students — geographical distribution in the admissions process had not been effective at filtering us out, our SAT’s and class-rank being so high — the place was dripping with goyishness. When I got there freshmen still wore blue blazers and ties and drank sherry at afternoon socials with the deans. At the top of the Columbia heap sat President Grayson Kirk and Vice-President David Truman, two consummate liberal WASP’s who privately claimed to oppose the war but maintained the institution’s support of it.

In an infamous rabble-rousing speech I made in the course of one the confrontations on campus, I referred to President Grayson Kirk as “that shithead.” Certainly I reveled in my role of head barbarian within the gates. But also I wanted to de-throne the President of Columbia University in the minds of my fellow students. It worked.

More than twenty years ago I read a book called, “The Ordeal of Civility: Freud, Marx, Levi-Strauss and the Jewish Struggle With Modernity.” The author, an Irish-American sociologist named John Murray Cuddihy, advances a fascinating theory on the origins of Marxism and Freudianism. Jews were newly emancipated, that is, given legal and political rights, in Western Europe in the mid to late nineteenth century. But even bourgeois Jews were still excluded from civil society by customs and especially by manners. As Jewish (or formerly Jewish) outsiders ostensibly allowed in, but not really, Marx and Freud brought critical eyes to European bourgeois society. Marx said, in effect, “You think you’ve got yourself a fine little democracy here, well let me tell you about the class exploitation and misery that’s underlying it.” Similarly, Freud exposed the seamy, sexuality-driven motives, the up-raised penises controlling the unconscious minds of civilized, well-mannered bourgeois society.

We Jews at Columbia — and I would guess at colleges throughout the country — brought the same outsider view to the campuses we had been allowed into. We were peasant children right out of the shtetls of New Jersey and Queens screaming, “You want to know the truth about Columbia University, they’re a bunch of liberal imperialists! They claim to be value-neutral but when we asked them to stop their research for the Vietnam War and their racist expansion into the Harlem community, they not only ignored us, but they called out the cops to beat us up and arrest us. Up against the wall, motherfucker, this is a stickup!” Morally and emotionally we could not fit into the civilized world of the racist, defense-oriented modern university. Such was our ordeal of civility.

Canadian sniper makes record-breaking kill shot in Iraq

Saturday, June 24th, 2017

A sniper with Canada’s elite Joint Task Force 2 shot and killed an Islamic State insurgent in Iraq from a record-breaking distance of 3,540 metres:

The kill was independently verified by video camera and other data, The Globe and Mail has learned.

“Hard data on this. It isn’t an opinion. It isn’t an approximation. There is a second location with eyes on with all the right equipment to capture exactly what the shot was,” another military source said.

A military insider told The Globe: “This is an incredible feat. It is a world record that might never be equalled.”

The world record was previously held by British sniper Craig Harrison, who shot a Taliban gunner with a 338 Lapua Magnum rifle from 2,475 metres away in 2009.

Previously, Canadian Corporal Rob Furlong had set the world record in 2002 at 2,430 metres when he gunned down an Afghan insurgent carrying an RPK machine gun during Operation Anaconda.

Weeks before, Canadian Master Cpl. Arron Perry briefly held the world’s best sniper record after he fatally shot an insurgent at 2,310 metres during the same operation. Both soldiers were members of the 3rd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.

He was using a McMillan TAC-50 sniper rifle while firing from a high-rise.

Political violence is a game the Right can’t win

Saturday, June 24th, 2017

If there’s one thing righties believe, it’s that they could beat lefties in a fight, David Hines says, yet political violence is a game the Right can’t win:

The first thing righties have to understand about Lefties is that lefties have a lot more practice building their own institutions, and assuming control of existing institutions, than their counterparts on the right do, and they share their practical experience with each other. Righties who like to build churches will build a church and worship in it. Lefties who like to build churches will build a church, write a book telling people how to build churches, go out and convince people church-building is the thing to do, run workshops on how to finance, build, and register churches, and then they’ll offer to arrange church guest speakers who’ll come preach the Lefty line.

Righties need to do a better job of teaching each other. And not just teaching the right-winger closest to them. The most organized groups on the Right are the pro-life and RKBA activists; everybody else on the Right should be learning from them.

The second thing to understand about Lefties is how they actually function. There’s a lot of independence involved. Righties like hierarchy, so often think of the Lefties as taking marching orders from George Soros or whoever in a very hierarchical fashion. Not so much. A lot of left-wing organization is very decentralized, and they negotiate with other lefty groups as to exactly how they’ll do things and time things to not hurt each others’ work, so the labor movement’s march is not derailed by black-bloc window-smashing (see, for example, DIRECT ACTION, L.A. Kauffman’s excellent history of the Left from the 60s on).

The Lefties call that approach “embracing a diversity of tactics,” which, taken to its logical extent, is a weasel-worded way of saying that the lefty mainstream is comfortable with radical leftist violence. People don’t like to talk about this much. But while it’s impossible to imagine, say, an abortion clinic bomber getting a cushy job at an elite university, that’s exactly what happened to a number of alumni of the 1970s leftist terror group known as the Weather Underground. As fugitives, they were financially and operationally supported by members of the National Lawyers’ Guild; afterward, they were so normalized that the 9/11 issue of The New York Times infamously ran a profile lauding Weatherman alumnus Bill Ayres. By contrast, right-wing terrorist Eric Rudolph’s fugitive days were spent hiding in the wilderness because no one would help him. He was caught literally dumpster-diving for food. Potential right-wing extremists face opportunity costs that their left-wing counterparts do not.

Righties frequently make allegations of paid protestors when Lefties get a bunch of people together. Again, that’s not how it works. Think of Lefty protests as being like a Grateful Dead concert. People absolutely got paid at a Grateful Dead concert: the band got paid, and the roadies got paid. But the Deadheads who followed the band around didn’t get paid. They weren’t roadies, they weren’t the band; they were there because they loved the music.

Lefties are excellent at protests, not because they pay seat-fillers, but because they’ve professionalized organizing them, as you’ll discover if you read any of their books. The protestors aren’t paid. The organizers are paid. The people who train the organizers and protestors are paid. Basically, the way the Lefty protest movement works is sort of like if the Koch brothers subsidized prepping and firearms classes.

Left-wingers have a combination of centralized and decentralized infrastructure, because they have different kinds of groups. Some groups use centralized organization: they’ll go out tabling, recruit people, trying to grow big. Other groups, particularly anarchists, favor a decentralized approach, where actions are performed by the collaborative actions of multiple small cells called affinity groups.

The affinity group structure began in Spain: anarchists there organized themselves into small groups of very close friends who knew each other very well, because such small groups were difficult to infiltrate. Even if they were infiltrated, exposing one group wouldn’t blow the whole organization.

The American Left picked up on affinity groups in the late 1960s. They started as a means for organizing protests and turned into a means of organizing movements. To coordinate, they send members back and forth to spokescouncils. The idea is to create a very collaborative discussion. This is partly due to the influence on the modern hard Left by Quaker organizers — if you remember those lengthy Occupy meetings that just went on and on and on, it’s because that’s how decision-making is done in Quaker meetings, and Quaker organizers taught the technique to Lefties in the ’70s anti-nuclear movement. And it spread, because lefties in different movements talk to each other and work together all the time.

By contrast, righty organizations have historically been slow to organize. When they do, right-wing activists tend to stay in their own lanes and not work together, share notes, or reach out to one another’s followers. Think about the mishmash of signs you typically see at a Lefty protest, and then try to remember the last time you saw, say, an RKBA sign at a pro-life rally. More unfortunately, when righties do become active, they tend to do something like start a blog. Or make a YouTube channel. Or write a magazine article. In short, they become street-corner evangelists. They tend not to do things in meatspace.

Lefties do the work in the real world. Guess who wins?

The recent Battles of Berkeley have shown that right-wing defense groups can acquit themselves admirably in street-fights, but hard experience has taught Lefties that an all-one-tactic mentality is a good way to give your opponents time to figure out how to counter you. If righties going to build things, they need to look at how the lefties are doing it, because they’ve been working on it for forty years. To paraphrase Trotsky, you may not be interested in politics, but politics are interested in you — and you can learn a lot from the people who’ve been working them to their advantage.

The null hypothesis is not an iron law

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

Statistically, educational interventions tend to affect resource allocation much more than outcomes, Arnold Kling reminds us, so, for educational interventions within roughly the current institutional setting, the null hypothesis is not an iron law, but it is an empirical regularity. This led me to add:

What stands out to me is just how little variation we see between schooling options. Public schools are all run on the same basic plan. Catholic schools are too, but with stricter discipline. Private schools aren’t much different, but with a wealthier clientele.

Only a few niche alternatives, such as Montessori and Waldorf, offer something truly different, and they obviously attract unusual families.

He has fangs and the capacity for violence

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

Josh Eells has written a rather unflattering piece on Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, the “Killologist” training America’s cops, for Men’s Journal:

After his talk, Grossman and I went for dinner at a nearby sports bar, where he told me about his life. He lives with his wife, Jeanne — his high school sweetheart — and their two dogs in a small town outside St. Louis, Missouri (as it happens, 45 minutes from Ferguson). He spends almost 300 days a year on the road, usually coming home one night a week for what he jokingly calls “a conjugal visit and clean underwear” before heading out again. His oldest son, Jon, runs a family-owned gunsmithing company; his youngest, Joe, helps manage the speaking business. His middle son, Eric, is an Air Force combat controller with nine combat tours and three Bronze Stars.


It was at Arkansas State that Grossman published On Killing, in 1995, to much acclaim. The Washington Post called it “an illuminating account of how soldiers learn to kill and how they live with the experience of having killed”; the New York Times called it “powerfully argued” and “full of arresting observations and insights.” The book even made fans in Hollywood: While promoting his World War II movie Fury a few years back, Brad Pitt told an interviewer, “If you want to better understand the accumulative psychic trauma incurred by our soldiers, read On Killing by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman.”

Though Grossman calls himself a behavioral scientist, he is not a researcher in the traditional academic sense. He wrote On Combat, a study on how soldiers and police officers cope with the stress associated with deadly conflict, using what he calls an “interactive feedback loop” — gathering stories from combat veterans, then presenting the information to people he trains. He’s more of a Malcolm Gladwell type, compiling anecdotes and fashioning them into a digestible narrative. As his chief qualifications, Grossman cites the “body of information I’ve crafted over the years” and his ability to “speak from the heart.” “I truly am one of the best people on the planet in a couple of areas,” he told me. “Whether it’s preparation for a life-or-death event or walking the sheepdog path, I really feel like I’m the preeminent authority.”


In his famous sheepdog essay, Grossman talked about how sheepdogs can sometimes accidentally scare the sheep. The sheepdog “looks a lot like the wolf,” he wrote. “He has fangs and the capacity for violence. The difference, though, is that the sheepdog must not, cannot, and will not ever harm the sheep. Any sheepdog who intentionally harms the lowliest little lamb will be punished and removed.”

Death by whipped cream dispenser

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

Instagram fitness model Rebecca Burger was just killed by a faulty whipped cream dispenser.

Rebecca Burger at Santoo Villa in Bali

The top blew off, under pressure, and hit her in the chest hard enough to kill her. Yeesh. This is a recurring problem:

One French consumer group has warned readers for years about faulty connectors on the gas capsules, causing them to break and expel at high speed.

The injuries caused range from broken teeth and tinnitus to multiple fractures and, in one case, the loss of an eye, consumer magazine 60 Millions said. But the magazine says new dispensers made since 2015 appear to be safe.

In 2013, one victim of an exploding cream dispenser told RTL radio: “I had six broken ribs, and my sternum was broken.

“At the hospital, I was told that if the shock and blast had been facing the heart, I would be dead now.”

The number of accidents prompted the government office for consumers to issue a warning, saying the accidents stretch back as far as 2010, and can occur at any time — even after years of use.

At least one manufacturer issued a product recall — but a year after that recall, only 25,000 were returned out of 160,000 sold, Le Parisien reported.

Riot police embrace bicycles

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

American protest is changing in the digital age, and in response riot police have enthusiastically embraced a surprisingly low-tech mobility solution, the bicycle:

It was here in Seattle back in 1999 that Dyment himself first pressed bicycles into use for “crowd management”, when 50,000 people showed up to protest at a meeting of the World Trade Organisation. Their numbers overwhelmed the city’s mid-size police department – but this was also a more sophisticated group of protesters than Seattle had ever seen. They were highly mobile, and they used new technologies to coordinate their actions.

“They had great command and control,” says Dyment. “They used blogs and Nextels [a cellular phone with a “push to talk” function like a walkie-talkie]. Out of necessity, we used the bikes.”


“It allows you to be mobile as a group,” says Dyment. “Bikes also allow you to have constant presence with the group.”

This mobility is useful both in ordinary patrol and in first responder situations. In June 2014, when a shooter opened fire at Seattle Pacific University, “bike officers were one of the first ones there. They were the only ones who could make it through the downtown traffic.”

The bikes also turned out to be a highly effective – and cheap – tool for crowd control, allowing relatively few officers to form a relatively long line. “They provide a natural barrier,” Dyment says. “The European model is more on foot. The London Met or the NYPD can just throw resources at situations like that. For mid-majors like Seattle, this is a way of controlling large crowds with minimal resources.” (Historically, horses have played an analogous role, Vitale notes.)

A 2002 article written by the late Mike Goetz, a Seattle bike squad officer, describes manoeuvres including “the crossbow” and “the barrier technique”.

In the first, “the bike squad forms a double column behind the line, far enough behind so they can get a little speed up,” Goetz wrote. “On command, the line makes a gap in the center and the bikes ride through this gap.” In the second, officers focus on “lining the bikes, front wheel to rear wheel, across the area to be blocked or protected”.

Dyment also believes bike squads strike a less confrontational pose than massed platoons of officers in riot gear.

Seattle Bike Squad

There is certainly a Robocop feel to the outfits Seattle’s bike squad wear: despite the polo shirts and (optional) shorts, the officers wear Bell Super 3R helmets and body armour. Nor are the bikes themselves your casual BMX. They have a custom-built hardtail mountain bike frame from Volcanic, a company in Bellingham, Washington that specialises in catering to law enforcement.