Odds and ends

1. Commenter Floccina directed me to a video showing Matt Yglesias’s ideal city.

2. A back issue of Harpers had an article discussing the possibility of legalizing drugs. This comment caught my eye:

At the time, I was writing a book about the politics of drug prohibition. I started to ask [former Nixon aide] Ehrlichman a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away. “You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

Update: There is some question as to whether the quote is accurate.

3. AP has an interesting story on the origins of Covid. Here’s one tidbit:

Governments in Asia are pressuring scientists not to look for the virus for fear it could be traced inside their borders.

And this is even more interesting:

The first publicly known search for the virus took place on Dec. 31, 2019, when Chinese Center for Disease Control scientists visited the Wuhan market where many early COVID-19 cases surfaced.

However, WHO officials heard of an earlier inspection of the market on Dec. 25, 2019, according to a recording of a confidential WHO meeting provided to AP by an attendee. Such a probe has never been mentioned publicly by either Chinese authorities or WHO.

In the recording, WHO’s top animal virus expert, Peter Ben Embarek, mentioned the earlier date, describing it as “an interesting detail.” He told colleagues that officials were “looking at what was on sale in the market, whether all the vendors have licenses (and) if there was any illegal (wildlife) trade happening in the market.”

A colleague asked Ben Embarek, who is no longer with WHO, if that seemed unusual. He responded that “it was not routine,” and that the Chinese “must have had some reason” to investigate the market. “We’ll try to figure out what happened and why they did that.”

4. According to the FT, English speaking countries seem to attract the best people, according to a wide range of metrics including being law abiding:

International comparisons find that people with immigrant backgrounds are generally imprisoned at similar or higher rates to the native-born, except in the US, UK, New Zealand and Australia where they are under-represented in the prison population, a sign of successful integration.

However, these are relative crime rates. Recall that the absolute rate of imprisonment in the US is higher than for most other countries. The following graph is interesting:

I’m actually surprised that the immigrant situation in Sweden isn’t much worse. Given the stories I’ve read about immigrant crime in Sweden, I didn’t expect to see that country so close to the 45 degree line.

5. Chinese audiences used to go for dramas with rich, successful, and arrogant leads. Now beta males are in fashion:

They might work in an office setting in which they are treated as nobodies, but at home and in front of women, they show their husbandly charm. Far from undermining their manliness, the loser label highlights not merely their “worthlessness” but also their willingness to sacrifice. Under enormous professional and personal pressures, young people have no choice but to endure and compromise — to be “losers” — in order to make ends meet. Audiences, able to empathize, are falling hard for men who reflect this reality.

Also from China, cities are starting to ban facial recognition.

6. Dumb and dumber. The exceedingly dumb Donald Trump is seeking a VP that’s even dumber, who will not overshadow him. Apparently Elise Stefanik is among the finalists. She certainly seem to fit the bill:

Job opening: Vice President of the United States of America (serving behind a nearly 80 year old man). Only complete morons need apply.

7. Nate Silver has a good piece on the ways that people form political opinions. This nugget caught my eye:

And sometimes the desire for social signaling can lead people to confused positions. Here, for instance, was a statement made by a protester at a “Queers for Palestine” rally in January.

“Palestine could be the most homophobic place in the world—which it’s not, it’s literally better than here—but it could be, and does that mean all these people need to be killed?” Yaffa asked. “A third of those are children. The children are the homophobes?”

Emphasis mine. The protestor was claiming that Palestine — where same-sex sexual activity is illegal and has sometimes been subject to execution — was literally less homophobic than the place where the rally was held. The punchline is that the rally took place in Northampton, Massachusetts, which is sometimes considered the lesbian capital of the world. You have to be engaged in an extraordinary degree of motivated reasoning to think that Northampton is literally more homophobic than Gaza. The sort of motivated reasoning that comes when there are social rewards both for being pro-Palestine and for being pro-LGBTQ+, enough that nobody in your bubble is really pressing you on the details.

One area where the horseshoe theory applies is that the extreme left and the extreme right are both dumb as rocks.



16 Responses to “Odds and ends”

  1. Gravatar of just_curious just_curious
    3. May 2024 at 13:14

    > Recall that the absolute rate of imprisonment in the US is higher than for most other countries

    That chart would look a lot different for the US if you only looked at the crime rates of White and Asian Americans.

    Another related fact: more than half of prisoners in Czech Republic are of Roma roots. But only 2% of the country is Roma.

  2. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    3. May 2024 at 17:18

    Just curious, Yeah, because blacks and Hispanics obviously are not real Americans, and hence should be excluded from these comparisons. Do you stop to think before typing?

    “Another related fact:”

    Actually, that’s not a related fact. The Roma are mostly not immigrants.

  3. Gravatar of Peter Peter
    3. May 2024 at 17:18

    #2: Thanks on that, that really should be more well known

    #6: Trump’s not going to but I keep holding out hope he picks Tulsi Gabbard

  4. Gravatar of Peter Peter
    3. May 2024 at 21:44

    Second generation immigrants seem to do more crime, at least in Sweden.

    Government data in Swedish from 2021 (pdf):


  5. Gravatar of Peter Peter
    3. May 2024 at 21:47

    Got the wrong link. Here’s the correct one:


  6. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    4. May 2024 at 08:26

    Peter, Good point. That may be because they are less afraid of being expelled?

  7. Gravatar of Peter Peter
    4. May 2024 at 09:49

    In Sweden it has been extremely easy to become a citizen. But not everyone does that of course. So fear of expulsion could be one reason. Although it has been a very low risk of getting expelled but that has become a bit easier recently.

    Another might be that the immigrants are thankful, while 2:nd generation are not.

    Also, a 1:st generation immigrant will be older than a 2:nd generation. And older people commit fewer crimes.

    If there are more or fewer males coming as immigrants that could also affect it. We have had a lot more males coming as immigrants lately. So that would skew the figures in the opposite direction.

    Another possible problem with data from Sweden is that the country of origin has changed a lot over time. So 2:nd generation immigrants will have different ethnicities compared to 1:st. I think the current ethnicities for 1:st gen have higher crime rates than for 2:nd gen.

  8. Gravatar of Eharding Eharding
    4. May 2024 at 15:17

    “One area where the horseshoe theory applies is that the extreme left and the extreme right are both dumb as rocks.”

    Sumner, do you have the slightest evidence for this? If anything, the low IQ tend toward political moderation (e.g., South Carolina Blacks and rural Tennessee Whites for Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton). The average far leftist is almost certainly higher IQ than the median voter. The average far rightist may be dumber, but there are plenty of high IQ far rightists.

    Also, Stefanik went to Harvard; she is a moderate Republican.

  9. Gravatar of agrippa postumus agrippa postumus
    5. May 2024 at 04:01

    sumner never has evidence. he is all polemics and poetry, and occasionally a pity movie review. all the rest is ready for freshkills on publication.

  10. Gravatar of DBrooks DBrooks
    5. May 2024 at 07:16

    The irony of you denigrating Trump as ‘exceedingly dumb,’ and claiming only a moron need apply as his VP, while vigorously supporting a man with advancing dementia and his intellectually compromised VP says more about you than it does about any of them.

  11. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. May 2024 at 08:45

    EHarding, You said:

    “she is a moderate Republican”

    She’s a Trump supporter.

    DBrooks, You said:

    “vigorously supporting a man with advancing dementia”

    Vigorously supporting? I guess you are also dumb as a rock. I’ve called Biden a senile old fool.

  12. Gravatar of sara sara
    5. May 2024 at 22:07

    Gabbard is also a finalist.

  13. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    6. May 2024 at 08:50

    I did a quick check of the immigrant statistics to the EU and the US and expected to find that the EU immigrant population was more male. That doesn’t seem to be the case, although there are significant differences in the percentage of male immigrants that come from different countries (https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2016/08/02/4-asylum-seeker-demography-young-and-male/). This article from infomigrants.com makes this note about Syrian immigrants in Germany along with a number of other interesting observations on why crime rates differ among immigrant communities(https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/51931/germany-crime-statistics-and-migration):

    We have already established that, according to the statistics, the majority of crime suspects (86.4%) are men. However, Syrian migrants are underrepresented in Germany’s crime statistics. This could be due to the fact that the majority of Syrians were granted protection status in Germany and were then eligible for the possibility of family reunification. That means that many women and children were also able to join their male family members. This changes the demographics of an immigrant group significantly.

  14. Gravatar of Tom M Tom M
    7. May 2024 at 09:52

    @ Scott

    “Job opening: Vice President of the United States of America (serving behind a nearly 80 year old man). Only complete morons need apply.”

    Typically, the office of the VP is viewed as a complete joke. But with two elderly men, both clearly out of shape, as the two top presidential candidates… it might be a job I’d sign up for? I mean, what are the odds they make it through the 4 year term?

    On top of that, you could also run for president for ANOTHER two terms if they kicked the bucket during those 4 years.

    Just saying, could be interesting 😀

  15. Gravatar of bb bb
    10. May 2024 at 10:06

    I a previous post you referred to Switzerland as a nation without identity politics. Does seeing that they prison polulation is 70% immigrant call that into question?

  16. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    10. May 2024 at 17:23

    bb, You said:

    “you referred to Switzerland as a nation without identity politics.”

    No I didn’t. And even if I had, the prison figures would have no bearing on that claim. Totally irrelevant.

Leave a Reply