Wednesday, August 28, 2019

New York City may eliminate gifted student programs out of concern for poor test scores for PoC

A task force in New York City formed by Mayor Bill de Blasio has proposed eliminating the current programs for gifted students in the City.  There are several New York Times articles and the details seem confusing, but here is the best account by Vivan Wang et al.  

The plan would presumably eliminate “screened admissions” to special public schools and would offer in-classroom enrichment. 

The proposal seems to be a reaction to the huge gap in performance between White and Asian students, and black and (non-European) Latino.
Left wing advocates sometimes refuse to call Asians POC, a point Tim Pool has sometimes discussed.
The whole discussion reminds me of the old CW show "Gossip Girl" about a blogger describing lives of upper class students in a Manhattan prep school -- privileged indeed. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The SMART Act: Senator Hawley takes aim at social media companies for creating addiction to their product

I am surprised I had missed this, but Sen. Joseph Hawley  (R-MO) has introduced a “SMART Act” (S 2314), which would force social media companies to build in tools to limit Internet use, and ban some features that are addictive by design.

Govtrack describes it here

Will Chamberlain describes it as a “good start” on Human Events and compares social media companies to tobacco companies.

John Fish weighed in on this in April in a video about Casey Neostat where he also talks about his (John’s) proposed book “Intentional Attention”.  Is this what he is doing with his gap year from Harvard in Montreal (look at his more recent videos)?  This 19-year-old seems to have an answer to Hawley, but how many people have the intellect to follow his advice? David Pakman, Tim Pool, etc. should look at this.
This is a dicey topic that will become more critical soon. It's pretty obvious that "social media addiction" interferes with healthy social capital in other ways, and even can hollow out the political process.  Maybe the Left has a point in saying more people should protest rather than watching and filming. The First Amendment, properly understood, may imply that. 

Friday, August 23, 2019

Trump's wild tweets about increased tariffs and autarky: can he really "order" that all trade with China stop if he wants to, just to get his way?

I have to express some personal dismay, the country seems to be falling into instability because of president Trump’s erratic and unpredictable behavior, saying some things that are plain silly (the Greenland stuff), or dangerous economically, like the escalation of the trade war today.
Trump today raised some tariffs from 10 to 15% and from 23% to 30%, to go into effect September 1, 2019, after China escalated the trade war this morning.  It does not appear that the delayed tariffs on some electronics and computer products (Apple) were affected.

But Trump “ordered” companies to being to prepare for the possibility of cutting off all business with China, and to prepare apparently to move all manufacturing out. Is this autarky?  CNN says this has no legal authority (presumably any such executive order, possibly a "national emergency", would not survive in court).  I haven’t heard out Fox on this.  Possibly this could hurt American individuals and businesses very badly, for the sake of some imaginary benefit from “self sufficiency” that doesn’t work in a real world.

It is true that cheap labor overseas by regimented workers who live in dormitories is not something to depend on.  I thought Apple was looking after this problem.
A WSJ story by Josh Zumbrum and Chao Zeng explains the schedule for tariffs to go into effect as of right now. 

Update:  Aug. 24 

Important Washington Post story Saturday on "can he do this? Should American consumers make "wartime sacrifices"?? Hopefully no.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Trump wants to undo Flores settlement, even end birthright citizenship, and even the most conservative judges will probably stop him

President Trump is trying to use administrative law procedures go get around the 1997 Flores Settlement and to keep families in detention indefinitely (although maybe together), rather than send children to shelters if parents are held separately.  CNN’s Veronica Rocha et al explain on CNN (video in article).
The rule would require approval of a federal judge, which might not be easy for the administration (Washington Post, Maria Sachetti )
This discussion again begs the question, can, or should, private citizens step up and offer to become foster parents for undocumented immigrant children who would otherwise be held in institutional shelters managed by DHS or Border Patrol. The answer is, yes and no.  The climate is not as favorable as, say, Canada’s. Large social service organizations, contracted by DHS, do have (largely faith-based) programs for families and possibly individuals.  For example the United States Conference for Catholic Bishops has an overview description starting here.   But of course there would be a chance that religious doctrine (as for gay couples) could matter.

Trump is also talking about issuing an executive order to end “birthright citizenship”.  This sounds blatantly unconstitutional, because of the 14th Amendment, set up after the Civil War to ensure that the children of former slaves were citizens. Huffington Post notes that there are about 30 countries in the world that confer automatic citizenship to children of immigrants born on their sovereign soil. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

How black farmers had land stolen from them in the South, for the past 160 years

The Atlantic for Sept. 2019, on p. 74 (I subscribe to the print version) has a very disturbing long article essentially about land theft from black families in the south, particularly the Mississippi delta.

The article is “This Was our Land”, by Vann R. Newkirk II, with the tagline “How nearly 1 million black farmers were robbed of their livelihood”. 

Land was indeed a big deal for freed slaves during Reconstruction, but it was gradually taken away from them by millions of small legal tricks, through the 1950s.  All of this followed a WWII in which blacks had served as part of the greatest generation in a segregated Army.  Some of the most recent trickery involves manipulation by pension funds. 

But the article certainly seems to add fuel for the reparations debate.

And it reminds one of the recent controversy over land expropriation in South Africa (international issues, Aug. 19).

Monday, August 19, 2019

Small political candidate donations wind up on public websites and have even gotten people fired from jobs

Federal election law presumably encourages small donations from lots of people for candidates. ActBlue is one organization that facilitates this for Democrats.

Yet an op-ed by David M. Primo in the New York Times indicates that donations sent through them goes through the Federal Election Commission and winds up on the public Internet.  And people have lost their jobs as a result sometimes – an extension of the “conflict of interest” narratives I have supplied in several blogs.

Indeed, companies do have PAC’s and sometimes encourage employees to support them, or to support certain explicit charities.
I am sharing a video from the David Pakman Show where David explains that he does not object to capitalism itself or does not subscribe to the far Left idea that all businesses must be worker owned.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Patients have trouble avoiding out-of-network bills because of lack of transparency by hospitals

NBC News reports on patients being given coverage from out-of-network providers without being informed first. 

The video from August 15 Nightly News reports a young woman getting treatment for spinal pain being billed $94000 for neuro monitoring from an out-of-network company and that she was not informed before treatment.

In the past NBC has reported that surprised medical bills have resulted in liens on homes. 
Patients in medical emergencies often are given out-of-network care without being able to make a decision.

JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) has two recent reports, “Ending Surprise Medical Bills” (Aug. 12) and “Assessment of Out-of-Network Billing for Privately Insured PatientsReceiving Care in In-Network Hospitals”.  

Update:  Aug. 8

Rural hospitals are losing money for unpaid bills for emergency room visits, a topic I worked on at least tangentially when I worked for Lewin 1988-1989. Washington Post story

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Is the "inverted yield curve" a "skin in the game" problem?

The “inverted yield curve” caused a stock market crash Wednesday (while I was “away” for the day).  It essentially means that a treasury note (or other similar security) held for a long time (maybe ten years) until maturity pays lower interest than a short term note.  That means investors want stability and are afraid to take risks.

Is that why Fisher Investments kept calling my cell phone recently?

The Washington Post, in a technical article by Jonnelle Marte, looks at “Recession watch: What is an ‘inverted yield curve’ and why does it matter?” 

The concept has predicted every US recession since 1955 (when I entered seventh grade). In a complicated way, it predicted 2008.

There is also a problem of negative interest rates, where savers basically are penalized for holding cash and not investing or spending it.  That gets back to Taleb’s “skin in the game” problem, about people not sharing exposure to risk equitably. In Denmark and a couple other countries, people now have “negative mortgages.”  The Fed can’t fix this. In fact, the Washington Post has another companion article, that the banks are paying people to borrow money -- alarming!
David Pakman has a good explanation, and notes consumer debt (people not making car payments on time) is a sign of big problems – middle class wages just aren’t high enough.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Extreme climate change already affects northern US, even New Jersey; Newark's lead problem

Steven Mufson et al warned (Washington Post) that extreme climate change has already come to America, especially in the northeast, in the northern plains, and some Rocky Mountain and SW areas. 

New Jersey is interesting, with a 3.6 D Fahrenheit rise since 1895, which means lakes in NW NJ don’t remain frozen.

Northern areas are seeing milder winters.

Farther south, the changes are less noticeable, as in Washington DC.  Although average temperatures have risen, total snow is comparable to the past, because brief extreme cold snaps still happen, as do intense late winter noreasters.  The winter of 2009-2010 had three really big snows, and 2016 had one. 

Southern New Jersey, along the coast, has some “ghost forests” from salt water incursion.

Update:  Aug 15

New Jersey has another new problem -- lead in the drinking water in Newark.  Huffington Post story here

Update:  Aug. 16

Second Thoughts has a scathing video, regarding the rich and the poor.  An individual in a rich country emits 175 times as much carbon as a poor country person, he says. 

Monday, August 12, 2019

Trump administration will limit legal immigration and green cards to those already job-ready

The Trump administration has promulgated a new rule limiting green cards for new immigrants.  This is a matter that affects how long people can stay (without overstaying visas) than who can enter.  It also affects the citizenship process and might interact with the DACA problem. 
CNN has a typical news story. The rationale is that the administration wants to limit legal immigration to immigrants with skills who will not demand services or public benefits (become "public charges").  That’s not necessary “racist”;  plenty of people from India, China, other Asian countries, and some Muslim countries have needed skills.  But POC from Central America or much of Africa are much less likely to.

It gets back to the problem, if you want to provide humanitarian help through immigration, you need to ask the private sector (faith communities and individuals, and sometimes existing relatives) to make this a priority. You need to be willing to think more about ideas like Canada’s sponsorship model.  You can’t just turn people loose with no support.

Louise Radnofsky et al have a similar story in the Wall Street Journal. Even being eligible for public benefits could preclude getting a green card. 

I can see how this could play into eldercare issues, as I had a decade ago. 

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Americans generally want "reasonable" gun control and accept the idea of secondary responsibility for the acts of others; there is a "David Hogg 2" joining the debate

Anna Greenberg and David Walker have an important op-ed in the Washington Post, “America Is Turning Against Guns”. 

It’s pretty certain that most Americans want consistent background checks, to close loopholes, assault weapons bans, and red flag rules. The public would probably support mandatory insurance, licensing and safety training,  and sometimes buybacks (of at least assault weapons). 

The NRA keeps on raising objections and I keep losing track of the red herrings the NRA claims to exist.

There is a philosophical question about when a person or company is responsible for enabling the acts of others it can reasonably expect to behave badly (the stochastic terrorism idea). 
Some more extreme Second Amendment defendants say they need a more absolute to defend themselves in extreme circumstances or else they become victims and losers themselves.
Generally citizen rights stop where there is actual “warfare”.  El Paso is getting close to that.
There is also the philosophical question as to whether social media users are indirectly becoming “enablers”.  I can only say that words are still not the same things as bullets.

David Hogg is going to take a little time from Harvard and conduct his own "candidates forum" of the presidential candidates in Las Vegas in October to hammer down some policy proposals. 

By the way there is a college student "Real David Hogg" in North Carolina who has an interesting take on conservatism on Twitter.  I don't think Jordan Peterson would quarrel with it. 

Saturday, August 10, 2019

PragerU looks at slavery reparations, and Will Witt uses his looks

Will Witt, the college age video personality of PragerU, asks people on the street of downtown Denver about slavery reparations.

A majority of random people bought the superficial idea that people are systematically oppressed by their looks;  Witt (himself Irish descent) was not entitled to any group protections but others were.
Toward the end Witt finds some PoC who do take on the more libertarian idea of personal responsibility today and not based on ancestors.

Wikipedia picture: 
By Hogs555 - my album, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link   This looks like the view of Denver I had from a hotel in 1973; also visited in 1994 (saw the Rockies in the old stadium one week before the baseball strike.) 

Friday, August 09, 2019

In Mississippi, it appears that neighbors of arrested immigrants' children had to take them in

Massive ICE raids yesterday in Mississippi have reportedly abandoned small children while their parents are detained, and some of the parents deported, as reported by a Jackson MS tv station Apparently neighbors or strangers, non-relatives or childless, wound up taking care of them.
This ironically would follow up on my comments on Lauren Chen’s post yesterday about “OPC” (other people’s children).

Jeff Amy et al have a similar AP story here
There are more companies who may have hired undocumented workers in the deep south than in other areas.  The companies claim that they used e-verify or third party contractors to verify ID.  But persons who live in communities with these companies may be asked to “volunteer” for these efforts.  For me, this is like a storm threatening to come onshore.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Conservative youtuber looks at the moral questions when "stuck raising someone else's children" -- but there is one more twist to cover

Lauren Chen (Blaze TV) has an interesting segment, “Stuck raising someone else’s children? Am I the a** hole”?

The segment deals with a situation of dating a single parent or divorced parent, finding that the child bonds with you, and then wondering if you should have responsibility for the child if your new relationship breaks up.

Lauren (and the male co-host) discuss the situation as more common today as people have found it “acceptable” to have children outside of marriage.  Yet other people have deliberately remained childless, which some on the right say leads to a demographics problem.

I think there is another angle to this: childness people in some families often wind up raising siblings’ children after family tragedies. This situation has been covered in some independent films, like “Raising Helen” (2004) and “Saving Sarah Cain” (2007, Fox Faith).  Maybe this is something everyone should be expected to grow up competent to do.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

National Review writer descries a personal incident, and a twist in the gun control debate; my own unpredictable incident during a weekend in Canada

David French has a particularly disturbing article chain on National Review, “My family has been threatened by racists. Why should they outgun me?”, link. The byline is “the right to effective self-defense has never been more important.”

French claims, in a link, that he was trolled on Twitter for criticizing Ann Coulter and actually feels threatened by white nationalists.

He also claims that he needs a more powerful weapon to protect his family at home from a determined attacker.

The implication of his argument would be to follow something like Switzerland’s example: that qualified adults should be expected to be trained in weapons and be expected to be able to protect others in some cases.
I had a situation recently.  I stopped in a small franchised sports bar/restaurant in Toronto about 12 miles north of the lake shore and way from the main entertainment area. A man, POC with poor English, begged me for money for weed and started harassing the female bartender.  She asked him to leave. He broke a glass flash and some beer splashed on me.  He left the bar carrying the broken glass.  She called police. Nothing happened as far as I know.  But what if he had attacked someone (me) with the glass.  I don’t know the details, but gun control in stronger in Canada, and I don’t have one anyway.  But this could have been the kind of stochastic, black Swan that French is talking about. There is an issue with balancing unpredictable risks to individuals (who want to protect themselves and others, esp. family) and a supposed “common good”.  There is a moral debate on enabling.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

New York Times goes over the top with editorial on right extremist terrorism, which some people thought was fake

Two quick postings to make this morning, on two different blogs.
I’ll follow up on Sunday’s mini-manifesto of my own (with the videos) about radicalization with a link to the New York Times editorial Aug. 5, by the editorial board, “We Have a White Nationalist Terrorist Problem: Mass shootings like the one in El Paso should be condemned by America’s leaders as terrorism”.

Ford Fischer (of News2Share) had tweeted a screenshot of the editorial that he thought had been sent to him last night, and he had thought it was fake.  It popped onto my smartphone just as I was about to check the Nats’ late baseball game score.

But the tone of the editorial is quite alarming and suggests that banks or payment processers should terminate accounts of suspected white supremacists.  And that is the problem. No due process.  People are accused of being white supremacists based on innuendo when they are not.  Milo Yiannopoulos may have offended certain groups or persons by his remarks, but he has not advocated anything close to white supremacy. Neither has Tucker Carlson.  This is all factually untrue.  That is why I refuse to "join in" with a tribe and call "enemies" names. 

I’ll help Tim Pool recover some coverage (partly lost because of algorithmic demonetization) with one of his videos.

Remember how the debate on gays in the military had gone in the 1990s.  Randy Shilts had written that people could be thrown out of the military for “associating with homosexuals”.  Could people be thrown out of the financial system for “associating” with suspected supremacists?   "Homosexual" was an unmentionable idea in 1960;  now it is "white nationalist".
The tone of this editorial is too alarmist.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Radicalization (mostly on the Right) leading to political violence; is this a national emergency, maybe?

I wanted to do a post quickly summarizing what politicians (Congress and the president) can do relatively quickly, or at least ponder, if the shootings are seen as a national emergency placing some vulnerable groups in unusual peril – that is more because of the startlingly quick radicalization of some extremists online, as much as it is about guns. Dylan Matthews does have a sobering assessment of the gun issue today on Vox, and he talks about confiscation frankly. 

An important moral concept will be where you divide responsibility between the perpetrators and “enablers” – the latter comprising gun manufacturers and their advocacy groups (NRA – all of David Hogg’s advocacy) and the Internet companies, most of all “underground” sites like 8chan and also the large social media platforms like YouTube and Facebook, which have already created considerable controversy.

On the radicalization (mostly on the Right but not entirely) matter, I am beginning to understand why authoritarian countries like China believe they have to control speech broadcast to maintain social stability, and why a notion like social credit score appeals to them. The radicalization is becoming much more dangerous than I would have expected, as in the past my main concerns have been radical Islam, North Korea, and the security of the power grid(s) -- and these still are concerns. 
I’ve discussed my thoughts in three videos, totaling about 9 minutes.  I’ll embed the first one.

The second video is this, and the third is this.

My speech is a little ragged; I tried to do this from notes I wrote in one a "Growth Book" I bought from John Fish's video channel. 

There is talk that it is fairly easy for Congress to amend the Patriot Act to incorporate supporting domestic terrorism, although it isn’t clear if ideology alone (as opposed to actual technical direction of plans) would count (First Amendment).  But it is also true that white supremacy has had an international component since the 1980s (explained on AC360 on CNN Sunday night) so existing law may be stronger than we think.

The media has talked about 8chan, regulating it or shutting it down, a dangerous precedent.  CNN discusses it here: Washington Post's Drew Harrel covers it here and refers to earlier long articles as by Craig Timberg, and Deadline covers the shutdown calls.  (Note: late Sunday night Cloudflare pulled its service on 8chan as "lawless by design" and wrote about "rule of law" on its blogpost.)
In my second and third videos I discuss an idea that most Internet content be required to “pay its own way” with paywalls and subscriptions (which could be bundled) to stay up. This may sound like Jonathan Swift's "modest proposal" but I am afraid it is all too logical.  We have taken our "right" to talk to the entire world without gatekeepers for granted far too long. (see Books blog Aug 2 about recent Reason article about "free Internet" coming to an end). 
I had speculated on this idea on April 1, 2018 in the third video on this Wordpress post. 

There are other ideas.  Without net neutrality now, telecoms could refuse to connect to "unsafe" sites and set up a rating system and consider a number of factors (like financial transparency, security, and the reputation of the owner). 
The president declared a National Emergency at the southern border on Feb. 15, 2019.  Could he declare an emergency over the radicalization (however unlikely this sounds to some people 
politically), as when he speaks Monday at 10 AM?  My post about the power of the president with an emergency declaration as discussed in an Atlantic article (Books blog, Jan. 5, 2019) could suddenly become relevant.

Update:  Aug 7

The owner of 8chan (Jim Watkins) says that a different anonymous user uploaded the "manifesto" and that Cloudflare's cuttof was politically motivated, WSJ story by Sarah Needleman here.

Update: Aug. 9

Erin Ailworth et al discusses in detail in the WSJ how young men are radicalized online, with El Paso as a prime example. 

Saturday, August 03, 2019

Mother Jones looks at how climate change scientists talk to the public about a new moral paradigm

The August 1, 2019 issue of “Mother Jones” has a catchy cover titled “The Climate Syndrome” (not China) and contains a terse article by David Corn (photos by Devin Yalkin), “Weight of the World: When you can see disasters unfolding and nobody listens”, link.  (Or, “it’s the end of the world as they know it”).

The story starts out talking about remote Christmas island and coral reef atolls in jeopardy, but soon gets into the meat: how does a scientist get beyond the “I have to tell somebody” (like the song “He’s Alive” which I remember so well from a 1979 MCC healing service in Dallas) – and talk to a non-scientist, who may understand her responsibility for her own family, but in the context of a gradual, visible change.

Getting people to take moral responsibility for future generations – not simply the unborn but the unconceived, those who literally don’t exist yet – is indeed a moral novel challenge.  Politically, we have to do with populist movements which see climate change in terms of elitist intellectualism.
The narrative focuses on Kim Cobb (Georgia Tech) and Peter Kalmus (Harvard and Columbia).
But today’s most gifted young adults, some of whom I have blogged about, know they will live through this and be part of the solutions.  But what about the people of my generation who won’t be around?