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Two for Friday

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.25.18

1. Apparently the science over whether or not being bilingual confers a cognitive advantage is far from settled. Given that this would be a mind-bogglingly complex thing to establish cause-and-effect, and given the giant reproducibility crisis and shitty studies that became click-bait, "up in the air" is probably the right place for this to be.

That said! It is such an obvious advantage to know two languages because you know two languages, regardless if it also helps your executive brain function in unrelated bonus domains.

2. This doofus who is getting evicted from his parents' house is amusing me. Partly because the photo of the house reveals it to be the most sweetest mundane place, and the parents and everyone seem so mundane and reasonable:

Christina and Mark Rotondo resorted to legal action after a series of notes to their son (starting on Feb. 2) failed to get him to move out of their home in Camillus, N.Y., a town west of Syracuse. Those notes followed discussions that began last October.
The notes to Michael Rotondo ranged from orders to leave and encouragement to get a job, to offers of more than $1,000 and help in finding a place. One also includes a list of things to do, from organizing his move to a suggestion to sell things.
"This is especially true for any weapons you may have," the note reads, according to Syracuse.com. "You need the money and will have no place for the stuff."
The notes escalated into a formally worded notice for Rotondo to leave that set a 30-day deadline -- which lapsed on March 15. Another message urged him to either fix his car, a Volkswagen Passat, or take it down off of the "ramps" that it was on at the Rotondos' house.

And the 30 year old goober is just so passive and unconcerned and ridiculous about the whole thing:

When Rotondo spoke to the media outside the courtroom, he was asked where he would be going to live.
"Honestly, I'm not sure exactly how it ended. I mean, it seems to me like I should be provided with like 30 days or so, because generally you get 30 days ... to vacate the premises," Rotondo said. "So I'm expecting something like that."
As he spoke, Rotondo flipped his long hair behind his head and worked it up into a ponytail. A reporter told him that it sounded like he had "to vacate today."
"It sounded kind of like that [to me], too," Rotondo said. "But that's just so ridiculous."

 

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Graeber on Salaries

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.24.18

This seems tailor-made for us. First, it's Dave Graeber. Let's just reminisce how he's the guy that seemed pretty solid when we read Debt, but then LB pointed out that pretty much every word of this sentence was wrong:

Apple Computers is a famous example: it was founded by (mostly Republican) computer engineers who broke from IBM in Silicon Valley in the 1980s, forming little democratic circles of twenty to forty people with their laptops in each other's garages...

and then the internet ran with it and Graeber became unhinged and shrill and attacked everyone (besides us). I think I mostly typed all that out to convince myself that I had my facts in order.

But, like Debt, this article seems to have a solid foundation: The more valuable your work is to society, the less you'll be paid for it. (Also like Debt, I'm probably not going to read it very carefully.) It's building on his Bullshit Jobs book and earlier work, but this article describes attempts to quantify the inverse relationship:

In a 2017 paper, US economists Benjamin B. Lockwood, Charles G. Nathanson, and E. Glen Weyl combed through the existing literature on the "externalities" (social costs) and "spillover effects" (social benefits) associated with a variety of highly paid professions, to see if it were possible to calculate how much each adds to or subtracts from the economy overall. They concluded that while in some cases--notably anything associated with creative industries--the values involved were just too subjective to measure, in other cases, a rough approximation was possible. Their conclusion: the most socially valuable workers whose contributions could be calculated are medical researchers, who add $9 of overall value to society for every $1 they are paid. The least valuable were those who worked in the financial sector, who, on average, subtract a net $1.80 in value from society for every $1 of compensation. (And, of course, workers in the financial sector are often compensated extremely well.)

It's basically not surprising at all. The people who just want to maximize salaries are going to have runaway selective evolution in bizarre ways. The people who are motivated by multiple factors in choosing their career are not going to have bandwidth leftover to dedicate to salary maximization. And the people who get stuck doing the jobs that no one loves very much don't have any leverage or resources to maximize their salaries. (I should probably note this article about how unions stabilized the economy from 1940-1980, via JRoth elsewhere.)

(Also, I didn't realize until now that the Bullshit Jobs author was the Disastrous Apple Quote author.)(Or maybe I did. Who knows.)


 

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Guest Post - More of the Worst

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.23.18

Mossy Character writes: This linked by Barry deserves more attention.

In return for pushing anti-Qatar policies at the highest levels of America's government, Broidy and Nader expected huge consulting contracts from Saudi Arabia and the UAE
[...]
Neither Broidy nor Nader registered with the U.S. government under the Foreign Agents Registration Act [...] Violating the federal law carries a maximum $10,000 fine or up to five years in prison.
Meanwhile, an Israeli intelligence firm apparently sought to smear Obama officials associated with the Iran deal, for purposes and clients not yet clear.
"The idea was that people acting for Trump would discredit those who were pivotal in selling the deal, making it easier to pull out of it," a source told the Observer. One of the sources familiar with the effort told me that it was, in fact, part of Black Cube's work for a private-sector client pursuing commercial interests related to sanctions on Iran.

Heebie's take: It's the same thing as always - keep half yourself shocked and appalled, and half of yourself recognizing business as usual in a shocking and appalling admininstration. Or better: keep half of yourself nonplussed, but the other half of yourself nonplussed.

Also remember that time that boy-Clinton greeted Loretta Lynch on a tarmac and it was scandalous?

If I may mush international events again (always), let's have a slow clap for Trump's commemorative coin of his hypothetically-historic summit with Kim.


 

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Guest Post - Cosmopolitan covers the NY AGs office

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.22.18

LW writes: Meet the Women Taking Over for Eric Schneiderman. Here's an interesting perspective from an unexpected (to me obvs) source. Nice photography as well.

I really enjoyed Cosmo's personality quizzes in grad school (so the nineties). They were uneven and frustratingly not bylined. One or maybe two writers was considerably better than the others. Currently, it looks like Julia Pugachevsky is good, and they are satisfyingly now bylined, at least online.

One last link.

Heebie's take: I'm not sure what there was exactly to like about Cosmo's quizzes, but it's pretty adorable that LW did. (I mean, I certainly had an age when I liked that kind of thing, and then aged out, but I don't think of them fondly.)


 

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Guest Post - GDP and lights

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.21.18

Minivet writes: What do people think of this study connecting satellite light level with GDP? The conclusion, that authoritarian countries lie about GDP, is completely plausible, but it also has the whiff of one of those "cool novel method" papers which later break down under closer inspection. N is presumably low, and freedom rankings are perforce qualitative. (Actual paper if you can get past the paywall.)

Heebie's take: I'll buy it!


 

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