Jack’s Links

Links from the last quarter of 2016:

The US has been running large current account deficits for many decades. Commenters often suggest that this means we are becoming a debtor nation, living beyond our means. This is not true.

  • The economics of France: France’s problems seem to be a lot more about inability to fire people than government spending per se (though I bet they are related).

As a result, France’s higher productivity is in part because a substantial share of those who would tend be the lower-productivity workers (like young workers, for example) just aren’t working at all.


  • White supremacists make up effectively none of Trump’s supporters: “The left” has been handling itself extremely poorly throughout this entire election cycle, and things haven’t changed post-election. Trump might be a pathological narcissist with no qualifications, but if you cry “Hitler” enough times, don’t be surprised when nobody hears you.

7. What about the border wall? Doesn’t that mean Trump must hate Mexicans?

As multiplesources point out, both Hillary and Obama voted for the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which put up a 700 mile fence along the US-Mexican border. Politifact says that Hillary and Obama wanted a 700 mile fence but Trump wants a 1000 mile wall, so these are totally different. But really? Support a 700 mile fence, and you’re the champion of diversity and all that is right in the world; support a 1000 mile wall and there’s no possible explanation besides white nationalism?

The AI vastly outperformed a professional lip-reader who attempted to decipher 200 randomly selected clips from the data set.

The professional annotated just 12.4 per cent of words without any error. But the AI annotated 46.8 per cent of all words in the March to September data set without any error. And many of its mistakes were small slips, like missing an ‘s’ at the end of a word. With these results, the system also outperforms all other automatic lip-reading systems.

  • Xenophobia vs. Racism: I didn’t think of it until now, but it’s obvious that acceptable xenophobia is often spun into unacceptable racism depending on what a journalist or pitchfork carrier is going for.

But aren’t people in every country – Canada included – similarly unreasonable and unfair?  Sure.  Xenophobia – not racism – is the unrepentant bigotry that rules the world.  People in every country on Earth take it for granted.  But as we teach our children, “Everyone else is doing it” is no excuse for bad behavior.  Almost everyone is is extremely xenophobic.  And everyone should stop.  Starting with you.

  • School Vouchers: This is one of those areas where pretty much everybody who I think is smart agrees that giving people choice in where to send their kids will have more good outcomes than bad, but the US is such a huge country that it is overwhelming to think about where to start. The link here is a rebuttal to one of the most common arguments against vouchers, which is that the profit motive would naturally cause shareholders to gain at the expense of the yutes.

The third theory is Wilde’s Law: “The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy.”

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