Ivy League Undergrads

They’re apparently not selected for high quality:

I am interested in Roman history, and had a discussion with someone with a background in classics and history at one of the Ivies. They kept quoting garbled and watered down versions of Peter Brown, rather than expressing their own original thoughts and ideas, in relation to the concept of material decline (a la Bryan Ward-Perkins). My impression was that this individual was somewhat taken aback that someone with a science background from a state school wasn’t impressed by the bluffing, and actually knew some of the literature in this area. They didn’t seem to comprehend that my goal wasn’t to seem smart, but to mine them for more information and insight. I came back empty in that regard.

The purpose of an Ivy League education is less about knowledge, and more about credentialing and building networks.

Here‘s Pinker’s TNR piece, which prompted Razib’s blog post.

[Update a few minutes later]

Definitely read the Pinker piece:

…why are elite universities, of all institutions, perpetuating the destructive stereotype that smart people are one-dimensional dweebs? It would be an occasion for hilarity if anyone suggested that Harvard pick its graduate students, faculty, or president for their prowess in athletics or music, yet these people are certainly no shallower than our undergraduates. In any case, the stereotype is provably false. Camilla Benbow and David Lubinski have tracked a large sample of precocious teenagers identified solely by high performance on the SAT, and found that when they grew up, they not only excelled in academia, technology, medicine, and business, but won outsize recognition for their novels, plays, poems, paintings, sculptures, and productions in dance, music, and theater. A comparison to a Harvard freshman class would be like a match between the Harlem Globetrotters and the Washington Generals.

What about the rationalization that charitable extracurricular activities teach kids important lessons of moral engagement? There are reasons to be skeptical. A skilled professional I know had to turn down an important freelance assignment because of a recurring commitment to chauffeur her son to a resumé-building “social action” assignment required by his high school. This involved driving the boy for 45 minutes to a community center, cooling her heels while he sorted used clothing for charity, and driving him back—forgoing income which, judiciously donated, could have fed, clothed, and inoculated an African village. The dubious “lessons” of this forced labor as an overqualified ragpicker are that children are entitled to treat their mothers’ time as worth nothing, that you can make the world a better place by destroying economic value, and that the moral worth of an action should be measured by the conspicuousness of the sacrifice rather than the gain to the beneficiary.

Yes. It’s quite insidious, really.

Will Orange Be The New Black For Lois Lerner?

It should be. A pattern of racketeering:

So yet again, the IRS simply creates more questions and at least five more reasons for Judge Sullivan to name a special prosecutor. When did each of the now more than 20 computer crashes occur—by date and time? How could that possibly happen? Why did the IRS prematurely cancel its longstanding contract for backup? Why did it take this long to find out that 5 more had “crashed?” Where is the Blackberry or other device for each of the persons whose computer crashed? What servers are implicated? Whose resignations are forthcoming? Why is Koskinen still there? Who is on Emmet Sullivan’s short list to be the special prosecutor?

Evidence is mounting by the day that Lois Lerner and her co-conspirators abused the power of the sovereign, violated the trust of the people, lied to Congress, destroyed documents and evidence of their wrongdoing, and violated multiple criminal statutes.

At least we have one judge who isn’t buying this.

[Update mid-afternoon]

Some at the IRS was very impressed with Lerner’s strategy:

“This is a brilliant pre-emptive strike by the IRS,” wrote David Holmgren, the deputy inspector general for Inspections and Evaluations. “When we release next week, it will be old news.”

If this is what’s in the emails we can see, imagine what’s in the ones they’re hiding.

Grievance Studies Departments

Just how bad is the “scholarship” there?

Because searches are perhaps the most opaque aspect of the academic process, the only way that the public will learn the identities of the other semi-finalists and finalists for the Illinois job is if the applicants themselves reveal it publicly. (The chances of that occurring are about zero: who would want to admit they were beaten out for a job by someone like Salaita?) But defenders of academic freedom should be as critical of the Indian Studies program as they are of the Illinois chancellor.

As Glenn notes, the primary function of such departments is as sinecures for otherwise talentless leftists. It’s all part and parcel of the huge publicly financed scam that much of academia has become.

Stick Shifts

What are they worth?

If and when we ever sell our (silver) 2000 BMW, I suspect we’ll be happy that it’s got a clutch in it.

Which is another peeve. Almost every car now (including our new RAV-4) comes with a “manual” option for the transmission, but there’s no shift pattern. It’s like a motorcycle — you have to go through the gears sequentially. And the lack of clutch really defeats most of the purpose.

One other related gripe:

Since dealers are ninety-nine percent of the customer base at an auction, dealer preferences dictate what sells for good money. Fast-turning automobiles in high demand sell for good money, period point blank. No dealer wants to take a risk on an odd color or an unusual equipment group (think: Sebring convertibles with the expensive folding hardtop, stripped-out Explorer XL trims from the Nineties, loaded short-wheelbase S-Classes) or manual transmissions. They’d rather buy what sells easily and go home. Therefore, auction prices reflect dealer desires, not customer desires.

This disconnect between dealer and customer desires punishes the customer at every turn. It’s why Honda and Acura make you take a non-color with a stick-shift Accord or TSX: the dealers don’t want to stock a brown Accord V6 six-speed even if there’s a guy (YO!) willing to buy it. It’s why you see interesting combinations of colors and options in the order brochure but never at the dealers. It’s why the flotilla of individual options that marked the Detroit era of new cars has become a maze of packages and mandatory tie-ins, even when the car in question is manufactured in the same state as the selling dealers.

The dealers want the stuff that turns quickly. That means silver Camrys and red Ferraris and automatic convertible Corvettes and all-wheel-drive S-Classes. Your desires have nothing to do with it. They aren’t listening to you. They don’t care. While you’re busy displaying your autism spectrum disorder by lecturing the salesman about the actual cam lobe profile on a car you’re thinking about buying two jobs from now and for which you expect to pay invoice minus holdback, three families in used SUVs have come in and bought new SUVs and the store has grossed them front, back, used, and F&I. You mean nothing to a dealer. Period.

It drives me nuts that I can’t get a clutch in a car with horsepower, at least with the Japanese. For example, Honda won’t give you a manual transmission unless it’s mated to a four cylinder engine. If you want it on the six you’re out of luck. The only reason I can think of for them to do this is that they don’t want to have to have a beefy enough gearbox to handle the extra power, but I’m not sure that’s the reason.

The “97%” Nonsensus

As I noted on Twitter:

Judith Curry explains:

I think we need to declare the idea of a 97% consensus among climate scientists on the issue of climate change attribution to be dead. Verheggen’s 82-90% number is more defensible, but I’ve argued that this analysis needs to be refined.

Climate science needs to be evaluated by people outside the climate community, and this is one reason why I found Kahan’s analysis to be interesting of people who scored high on the science intelligence test. And why the perspectives of scientists and engineers from other fields are important.

As I’ve argued in my paper No consensus on consensus, a manufactured consensus serves no scientific purpose and can in fact torque the science in unfortunate ways.

And José Duarte is appropriately brutal:

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The Problem With “Fierce Minimalism”

Thoughts on crises, and urgency:

One of the implicit assumptions of “fierce minimalism” is that action fuels the flames. Obama argued as much at an American Legion speech. He said, ”the answer is not to send in large scale military deployments that over stretch our military, and lead for us occupying countries for a long period of time and end up feeding extremism.” An alternative point of view using almost an identical metaphor was articulated by Franklin Roosevelt. “Suppose my neighbor’s home catches fire, and I have a length of garden hose four or five hundred feet away. If he can take my garden hose and connect it up with his hydrant, I may help him to put out his fire.”

The difference in the two presidential fire examples is the element of urgency. Roosevelt was aware that the fireman’s enemy is time and one of the points of the hose story, which everyone in that era understood, was the importance of dousing the fire while it was still small. Obama, by contrast, lacks the dimension of time. His approach implicitly assumes he has the leisure to add an ounce here and an ounce there to achieve a nuanced outcome. Roosevelt understood that a crisis was urgent. In the current case, Obama is busy calibrating, thinking and golfing like he had all the time in the world.

What happens when a fierce minimalist meets a fierce fire?

Things can get out of control very quickly.

And then there’s this additional comment:

Any return to the Middle East will be as a salvage party re-entering the smoking hulk of a ship looking for survivors. And whoever reboards that derelict in the future had better be alert. In the glare of their flashlights they’ll glimpse strange, furtive forms.

“Was that a man I saw Captain?”, one boarder will ask. “It looked funny but I only saw it for an instant.”

“That’s because he was carrying a head.”

“Oh. What’s through this door Captain?”

“It used to be Lebanon. Ok men, form a stack. On my count …”

There is no way back to the status quo ante. The Iraq legacy, for good or ill, is gone. The Cold War victory of 1989 is gone. What Kissinger called “a brief moment in human history when one could speak of an incipient global world order” is gone. Maybe for the best.

Obama will be remembered as an extremely consequential president. He did “fundamentally change” the world but not in the way he can understand. I almost wish he did by design. But I have a feeling the verdict of history will be that he pushed the wrong buttons by accident, simply because they had bright colors and made beeping sounds.

Frighteningly true.

Another Close Approach

An asteroid will pass us on Sunday at about a tenth of the distance to the moon.

There are a lot of natural disasters we won’t be able to prevent (e.g., supervolcano explosions, or a nearby gamma-ray burst). But this is something that we could, if we were willing to devote more resources to it. And it wouldn’t take a lot more. In fact, it could be done for a lot less than we’re wasting on SLS/Orion.

The Democrats In 2016

History is not on their side:

…any intelligent discussion of 2016 must begin with the fact that history is very strongly against the Democrats in 2016. In the modern two-party era (beginning with the first Republican Party presidential campaign in 1856), there have been 16 elections following the re-election of an incumbent president; in 11 of those races, there was no incumbent on the ballot. An analysis of those elections shows a startlingly uniform pattern over time: the incumbent party (i.e., the party that won the last election) consistently lost ground relative to the challenger party (the party out of power), especially when running without an incumbent on the ballot. And in nearly every such election, that loss of popular support was evident in closely-divided battleground states, rather than confined to uncompetitive states. The trend has persisted in winning and losing elections, in elections with and without third-party challengers, in times of war and peace, booms and depressions. It has become more, rather than less, pronounced in the years since World War II, and at all times has been more pronounced when the incumbent party is the Democrats.

Given the narrow margin for error enjoyed by President Obama in 2012, a swing of a little less than 3 points in the two-party vote would hand the White House to the Republicans—and swings of that size are far more the rule than the exception. In fact, looking at the two-party vote, no non-incumbent since Ulysses S. Grant in 1868 has lost less than 3 points off the prior re-elected incumbent’s showing. If Hillary Clinton wins the presidency in 2016, it will be a historically unprecedented event in more ways than just her gender.

Let’s hope.

Geert Wilders

says “I told you so” and enough is enough:

In all naivety, Deputy Prime Minister Asscher states that there is an “urgent demand” from Muslims to “crack down” on this phenomenon. Last Friday, in its letter to Parliament, the Cabinet wrote that jihadists are hardly significant. They are called a “sect”, and a “small” group.

This is what those who look away wish, these deniers of the painful truth for ten years and two days, the ostrich brigade Rutte 2.

But the reality is different. According to a study, 73% of all Moroccans and Turks in the Netherlands are of the opinion that those who go to Syria to fight in the jihad are “heroes.” People whom they admire.

And this is not a new phenomenon. Thirteen years ago, 3,000 people died in the attacks of 9/11. We remember the images of burning people jumping from the twin towers. Then, also, three-quarters of the Muslims in the Netherlands condoned this atrocity. That is not a few Muslims, but hundreds of thousands of Muslims in the Netherlands condoning terrorism and saying jihadists are heroes. I do not make this up. It has been investigated. It is a ticking time bomb.

Madam Speaker, is it a coincidence that for centuries Muslims were involved in all these atrocities? No, it is not a coincidence. They simply act according to their ideology. According to Islam, Allah dictated the truth to Muhammad, “the perfect man.” Hence, whoever denies the Koran, denies Allah. And Allah leaves no ambiguity about what he wants.

I think we’re reaching a tipping point.