Sunday, March 28, 2010

Wear the sentry's uniform, and...

In a post where he attempts to rally the troops, OneSTDV highlights cynicism on the part of some of the Steveosphere's best. HBD social reformer need not necessarily be an oxymoron, but there are inherently opposing forces operating. In OneSTDV's words:

[HBDers] consider themselves the ultimate skeptics, willing to discard the noble lies of race and gender.
We strive to see things as they are, and realize our ability to affect meaningful change by proposition is extremely limited. Demographics are destiny, but despite doing what we are able to do on that front, each day we cede a little more ground.

From my vantage point, the best thing for the West is for guys like me to snag the right woman and let the procreation commence. But the solipsist in me scoffs at the idea of shackling myself to all the accompanying responsibilities. Arguments that I'd be happier and more satisfied in so doing are unconvincing--I'm exceedingly pleased with all aspects of my life and the way I currently go about living it. Other than somehow finding a way to cram a few extra hours into each day, there's nothing I'd like to change. It is only out of a feeling of duty, perpetually threatened by a creeping sense that it has no foundation in concerns over my subjective well being, that I hold out plans of getting to "work" sometime in the vague future. These two aspects of my existence present quite the contrasting dichotomy, but I suspect my sentiments are not unique among readers.

There are the little things, though. One tactic I've found to be efficacious in spreading the HBDer worldview is to initially tie everything to Darwin. This observation could easily be made into a Christian Lander post about how to talk about evolutionary psychology with white people. There is scarcely a scientific figure SWPLs claim more intellectual affiliation with than The Beagle traveller. The comparison with Christians vis-a-vis Jesus is not unwarranted. An atheist who knows what books the synoptic gospels refer to, is able to name ten Old Testament prophets, and can drop lines verbatim from the Beatitudes--all with genial, if only putative, sincerity--is a long way toward planting seeds of doubt in the mind of a true but ignorant believer. In contrast, if the atheist takes the aggressive, condescending tact of a Richard Dawkins, he's probably only going to intensify the believer's faith.

Anyhow, for SWPLs, Darwinian credentials preclude one from being identified as a creationist of the 'religious right', with all the accompanying social positions that insinuates, and they won't want to be called out on what they don't know. Don't say outright that human populations are different (that's racist!); start by talking about how a hobby horse of yours is appreciating biodiversity, and how On the Origin of Species: By Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life and Descent of Man (no need to commit the full title to memory, since most people are not even aware of Darwin's latter work) are among your favorite books. Remark how the increasing emphasis Darwin put on sexual selection as he got older really fascinates you. Parenthetically, DavidB's posts at GNXP are great refreshers if it's been awhile.

You've now hopelessly outgunned the middling SWPL, who will be apprehensive about challenging your motivations going forward out of fear of being exposed as much less familiar with Darwin's actual work than you are. Since HBD observations generally agree with personal experience, the SWPL isn't going to be fighting much cognitive dissonance, either. With Darwin providing cover, you are free to converse (relatively) honestly.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Top ten creatures in Standard

The following post contains a discussion relating to the competitive M:TG standard format. For the vast majority of readers it will consequently be of no interest, so if you are among them, please don't waste your time.

1) Bloodbraid Elf -- Jund is built around her. Anyone who has played in the current standard environment has suffered the emasculation of a turn 4 bloodbraid into Blightning and the resulting 6 points of damage, two cards dropped, and a 3/2 on the board for a mere 4cc. Barring exceptionally poor play, BBE virtually always results in card advantage.

2) Baneslayer Angel -- As a veteran player, I can remember when Serra Angel was one of the game's best creatures. Yes, the same Serra Angel that is currently legal in the standard environment. Since it does not see play, you're forgiven for having to look up what it is. Baneslayer is an order of magnitude better. Her only drawback is that, despite being excessively overpowered, she is still a vanilla card, creating no card advantage and being a magnet for the opposing player's removal arsenal immediately upon hitting the board.

3) Lotus Cobra -- After a six-year hiatus, I've only been back in the game for several months, so I am unable to offer an assessment of value in anything but the standard environment. Consequently, I'm unsure if cobra is as stellar in extended as he is in standard. That said, with the near-ubiquity of sac lands in competitive standard play, cobra leads to absurd acceleration. Turn 3 Baneslayer is brutal.

4) Knight of the Reliquary -- The synergy with sac lands is obvious, but Tectonic Edge and the manlands brought in with Worldwake make her not only a potent kill condition for 3cc, but also an engine for control and support. If you're unfamiliar with Conflux, note that her activation allows a player to fetch any land, not just a basic.

5) Dauntless Escort -- Protection from mass removal with a body capable of throwing its weight around, too. Only recently have I begun to see boss naya and lightsaber running day of judgment, but in concert they provide a novablast wurm for 4cc.

6) Gatekeeper of Malakir -- When I played mono black HD/LD back in the early part of the previous decade, Diabolic Edict was rightly hailed as one of the best removal spells in the game, especially against control. Now edict comes with a 2/2 vampire attached to it. Shroud that!

7) Siege-Gang Commander -- Four guys for 5cc, each of whom can be thrown for two damage at instant speed (and all other goblins, too, if that is the deck's theme). SGC can take down a BSA and still leave his controller with a Mogg fanatic on steroids on the board.

8) Ranger of Eos -- A recurring theme among those making the list of top-tier creatures is that of card advantage. Ranger provides that, and the guys he finds are those who, despite their low casting costs, are actually better mid-game than they are early on, like Wild Nacatl and Scute Mob. Ranger hasn't had the monumental impact another certain 3/2 for 4cc has had, but he's still great.

9) Iona, Shield of Emeria -- If she hits the board against a mono-colored deck, the game's over. Naming white against bant or naya and black against jund similarly puts the opposing player out of commission. When esper control was viable, Rise from the Grave got around the hefty 9cc. Polymorph still does. With manlands inflating total land counts and the introduction of everflowing chalice, RWU and WU control are both able to simply hard-cast her as well.

10) Kor Firewalker -- Red deck wins has essentially been shut down by a single 2/2 for 2cc (although by splashing black or white, the decktype is still viable). He's also terrific against jund, especially builds that forego Putrid Leech.

Honorable mentions: Great Sable Stag; Sprouting Thrinax; Sphinx of Jwar Isle; Ob Nixilis, The Fallen; Goblin Ruinblaster; Putrid Leech; and Vampire Nighthawk.

A list based on competitive presence can be found here. It's not satisfying as a measure of individual utility, however, as jund continues to have the largest presence among deck tops and consequently its roster occupies all of the top slots. Putrid Leech is a worthy aggressive, fast drop, but it's not better than Baneslayer even though it's currently seeing more play than she is.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Infidelity rates by ethnicity

++Addition++Commenter Steve astutely pointed out that I forgot to include Italians. The sample size is more than sufficient, I just missed it. The table has been updated appropriately.

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The re-posting at R/H/E Notes of a paper on the putative lasciviousness of Swedish women made me wonder about the relationship between ancestry and philandering in the US. The following table, constructed from GSS data, shows self-admitted cheating rates among those who were married when they were fooling around, sorted in descending order by female creeping:

Ethnicity*WomenMenn
Black18.333.6884
Scotish16.427.8521

French

16.322.0263
"American"15.528.2270
Native American15.327.3681
Irish13.621.51676
Eastern European12.517.9729
Mexican12.419.6493
German12.320.02319
Scandinavian12.122.8565
Dutch12.013.9220
English/Welsh11.919.61704
Italian11.317.8732
Iberian10.938.5220
Central European8.812.2275
Asian5.118.3339

* "American" refers to those who claim the same and nothing else as their ethnicity. Many of these folks trace their ancestry in the US back several centuries. They are concentrated in the South.
"Eastern European" includes those of Polish, Romanian, Russian, Hungarian, and Lithuanian descent, as well as those who trace their ancestry back to somewhere in the former Yugoslavia.
"Scandinavian" includes those of Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish descent.
"Iberian" includes those of Spanish and Portuguese descent.
"Central European" includes those of Austrian, Czechoslavakian, and Swiss descent.
"Asian" includes those of Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and Indian descent.

I am more aware of a stereotype concerning the of promiscuity of French women than I am of one regarding Swedish girls. The sample sizes for Denmark and Finland are too small to consider individually with any statistical confidence, so I included them in a broader Scandinavian category, but of the 120 women of Swedish ancestry surveyed, 15% of them claimed to have cheated on their husbands. That puts them near the top of their sex, with higher infidelity rates than the other three Scandinavian women exhibit. So this reputation does not appear to be baseless.

Black women occupying the top spot among their sex is of little surprise. That black men are second to those from Iberia is unexpected, however. The self-reported cheating rate among Spanish men is peculiarly high, to such an extent that I wonder if it is not a fluke or even the result of a coding error. The correlation between cheating rates among men and women of the same ethnic group is a middling .49 (p=.03), but removing Iberians (four-fifths of whom are Spanish) from the calculations sends it soaring to .76 (p=0). Because of the strong similarities among men and women of the same ethnic grouping (relatively, that is--just as men consistently reporting having a greater number of sexual partners in the course of their lifetimes than women do, men are also consistently more likely to claim they have cheated on their spouses than women are), I'm encouraged as to the amount of value in the data.

Despite having an Irish grandparent, I tend to associate uncouthness with the ruddy "Scotch-Irish" term that many people use as an ethnic identifier. Well, those of Scotish, Irish, and "American" (ie, largely Scotish, Irish, or Scotch-Irish who constitute the McCain Belt) ancestry are all clustered at the top among groups of European descent.

Non-black NAMs come next, followed by Eastern Europeans, Western Europeans, and finally Asians, who are once again reliably found performing with much probity on a measure of social behavior.

GSS variables used: EVSTRAY, ETHNIC, SEX

Friday, March 19, 2010

Why does it seem natural to feel cold toward those who've acquired wealth?

In an Econ Talk podcast a few years back, host Russ Roberts summarizes one of Walter Williams' putatively great economic insights (begins 41:15):

Through most of human history, you got rich stealing from your neighbor; through plunder, taking something that belonged to somebody else by knocking him over the head and grabbing his stuff. But it's only recently that you can get rich by serving your fellow man.
I would be interested in hearing arguments concerning how far this goes in explaining the human evolutionary predisposition toward despising those who have more than one has himself. In pre-agricultural societies, which were far more egalitarian than anything in the contemporary developed world, could this go hand-in-hand with desire to censure cheaters and hoarders? Is there even a difference before agrarian existence begins?

Or might the evolutionary basis for disdain of those who have more have arisen with the onset of settled societies capable of producing and storing excess wealth, and thus allowing for social stratification to occur? Once settled, agricultural societies began coming into existence in the Fertile Crescent 10,000 years ago, those who didn't directly produce began living off the fruits of those who did, often (though not always) against the latters' will, as in the cases of military conquest or taxation. Following the onset of the Industrial Revolution, it is easy to see how Henry Ford's acquisition of wealth improved the lives of the vast majority of the people touched by the cars his company manufactured in the process. It is more difficult to see how ancient and medieval rulers (or any other persons of high social status and great affluence at during this time range) could be perceived in the same glowing light by the commoners of their societies.

For some (especially among those on the political left), acquirers of wealth are presumed to have gained such vast affluence through immoral (or at least ammoral) exploitation or downright theft. I hear Dave Matthews singing:
Caught for stealing somebody's riches? Oh no, no, no, no. But wouldn't you like to retire, with a million bucks? Um, yeah.
Stories that fit this narrative (ie Ken Lay, Bernie Madoff) garner enormous public attention, and the tabloid market thrives off the public's desire to see those at the top fall from grace.

Are these inclinations instinctive due to general mammalian competitiveness, or can they be defined more narrowly as an evolutionary vestiges (at least in the developed world) of a functional disdain for those of great wealth at a time when such was wealth was almost exclusively acquired through value transfer rather than value creation?

If memory serves (although I'm having trouble finding where, specifically), Razib has asserted that humanity is in some ways swinging back toward the dispositions of hunter and gatherer societies. Those of sedentary societies gained after the onset of agriculture but have since peaked and are now in decline, to be replaced by those existing previously. Is this a potential illustration of that phenomenon, or merely an example of someone with no scientific training spinning evolutionary theories to explain why humans act the way they do?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A diamond saved, a (lot of) penn(ies) earned

Gents, before you pop the question, netflix Blood Diamond and make it a date night at home on the couch. It might just save you three months' salary and net you a small SWPL status boost to boot. "T. I. A."

Saturday, March 13, 2010

IQ is relevant; it should not be invisible

A recent Econ Talk podcast with Katherine Newman of Princeton featured her work on low wage workers in Harlem during the nineties. I find it worth noting because it serves as a great example of why discussing socio-economic outcomes without taking IQ into account is a fruitless excercise. Roberts never broaches the subject and Newman never mentions it, either:
NEWMAN: I broke the findings or the patterns into three groups [of roughly equal size]. There was a group we just finished talking about. I call them the "high flyers"--the people who did very well--and did better than they expected or I would've ever expected.

ROBERTS: Some making $50,000-$70,000 a year because they got that certificate or they switched jobs.

NEWMAN: They got that job with FedEx, etc ... Then you have this middle group that I would describe as people who had made headway, who were ahead of inflation, but not by much. They weren't really very secure, but they were better off. They had better jobs. They moved into retail from fast food for example, so they had jobs that were less dirty and despised.

ROBERTS: A little bit more prestigious.

NEWMAN: Yeah, a little bit more prestigious. ... Their wages didn't shift that much. They didn't fall behind, but they didn't shift up much. They didn't fall behind, and they moved up a little in prestige, but they weren't earning a lot more and they certainly weren't going to be able to, by themselves, make a huge difference in their standard of living.

And then there was a group at the bottom, that really was in trouble. They really were skidding along the bottom, in and out of the labor force.
Newman was focusing only on those who were counted as part of the workforce (ie, those who are either employed or trying to become employed). Roberts goes on to observe that the success of that upper third demonstrates that the assertion that urban underclass culture is virtually impossible to escape from is false--a significant number to attain some upperward mobility. Newman agrees with this but neither she nor Roberts takes a stab at definitively explaining why some make it, some exist on the cusp, and some remain steadily on the bottom. Newman ends up recommending more financial aid to allow low-wage earners to pursue higher education as a way of increasing the percentage of those who pull themselves out of impoverished urban environment.

I am not asserting that IQ alone explains why those included in the study of several years duration ended up where they did, or even that it is the most important variable to consider. But in studies like these, some variant of an IQ test, like the wonderlic, initially administered to those monitored, would be of enormous value. When it is lacking, it's hard to draw much of anything meaningful from the subsequent discussions, and the resulting "policy solutions" pursued to ameliorate things are hopelessly incomplete. (I am hardly making a novel observation, I know).

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Culling marginal workers during recession leads to greater per capita productivity?

In a recent Econ Talk podcast, host Russ Roberts and guest Garett Jones discussed the relationship between an economy's health and worker productivity, pointing to the real business cycle theory introduced in the early eighties by Edward Prescott and Finn Kydland. RBC theory predicts that during economic slowdowns, productivity will drop because innovation is sparse (it is this real lack of innovation and of attractive investment opportunities that is said to be the cause of the recession, rather than monetary policy). In the last three major recessions, though, productivity has increased during recessions and dropped during booms. The latter pattern seems commonsensical to me, and I was unaware that in previous recessions the reverse had been observed. Jones goes about describing the putatively conventional explanation for why productivity (at least over the last couple of decades) goes up during downturns:

During a recession is when the boss comes and tells all the workers, "Hey, I'm going to make you work harder." ... There's certainly some of that going on, on some level--bosses do love to squeeze the last bit of blood out of a stone. ... There's this point that even Marx made about the army of the unemployed: The boss can point to all the people out on the street and say, "Hey, those people want your job, so you better work harder for less money."
He and Roberts also point to substantial reductions in R&D and marketing spending by companies during slow periods, while budgets for physical production tend to be reduced more modestly, as another reason for increased productivity. Since productivity is measured by dividing worker hours by actual production, the relative reduction of indirect support functions bolsters productivity numbers.

What the two George Mason economists didn't discuss, and I also did not hear mentioned last week when labor productivity figures were released, were any effects resulting from the culling of marginal employees. If the number of consulting slots stagnate and then begin to decline, either per capita workloads are reduced, or the number of employees is reduced. To the extent that anti-merit obstacles like tenure or demographic considerations can be circumvented, the latter provides an opportunity to increase productivity (either out of genuine necessity, or by providing cover for what needed to occur anyway).

I am not aware of any hard numbers on the various elements of productivity changes during the current recession--it may loom large in my eyes because I've experienced it on multiple occasions in the last two years (on the delivering end--my plate is still full, although it is a wrenching process to go through even when you are giving the boot), and because I'm not in the manufacturing sector, where an individual employee's performance is less determinative of his fate. Or it could be the strong strain of HBDism in my blood that is skeptical of the emphasis placed on the value of motivating and driving people to be better performers at the expense of focusing on finding the most capable people in the first place (that is, who you are is the most relevant question an employer should be seeking the answer to, not what ways to squeeze the most blood out of the stones they've already collected).

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Tracking political orientation by age group over time

Last week, NPR ran a story on a Pew Research report on the millennial generation, highlighting the age group's political liberalism. There is little in the report that is surprising, though I found this remark by the president of Pew Research to be prognostic value:

Mr. KOHUT: Many people, not just whites, I think only 60 percent of this generation is white. They have a positive view of government - a more positive view of government, at least, than other generations. And they even supported higher rates, relatively higher rates, such things as affirmative action with preferential treatment for minorities.
Looking down the road, when the up-and-coming generation is 40% white, what will the support-preferential-treatment-for-minorities numbers look like? Will the term "minority" continue to be translated as "non-white", or will it fall out of use as everyone becomes a statistical minority based on their racial compositions?

I wondered more generally whether or not the contemporary political liberalism of those under age 30 is an exception in recent history or a continuation of past trends. Over the last several decades, have young adults been as liberal relative to other age groups as they are today, or are those designated by demographers as millennials especially leftist in their outlooks?

Turning to the GSS, I used Pew's generational conventions for age groupings. Millenials are 18-29, Xers 30-44, baby boomers 45-63, and silents 64-81. Because I was looking back in time, the age groupings do not correspond to static generational labels, of course--the intention is to see if the political orientations of young people have become especially liberal in the last few years. Higher values indicate political conservatism and lower values indicate political liberalism, with 4 representing perfect moderation. The graph shows the mean for people in each age grouping by year of survey.


Still presumably riding the wave of the 60s, young adults tended to describe themselves as considerably more liberal than older generations did through the 70s, at which point the average response became moderate. Since the turn of the millennium, it looks as though those under 30 have remained noticeably more liberal than those over 30 (although only by about one-fourth of a standard deviation). So the Pew report appears to be capturing something not entirely predictable.

As time goes on, the under 30 cohort continues to become less and less European by ancestry. Looking only at whites, there does not appear to have been any detectable shifting over the last three decades, the apparent noise in 1998 and 2002 notwithstanding.


I suspect much of the liberal skew of young adults today stems in large part from the fact that they are, as a group, less white than older generations are. Neither whites nor non-whites are becoming more liberal or conservative than before. Instead, non-whites are more liberal than whites are, and they're coming to represent a growing percentage of the young adult aggregate.