Tortured Data

“Beware of testing too many hypotheses; the more you torture the data, the more likely they are to confesss, but confession obtained under duress may not be admissible in the court of scientific opinion. ”
—Stephen M. Stigler, “Testing Hypotheses or Fitting Models?” (1987)

That is useful advice for everyone, but even moreso a warning to those seeking to massage cherrypicked data to tell just-so stories. In particular, a few HBDers (human biodversity advocates) can be quite brilliant in their ability to speculate and gather data to support their speculations, while ignoring data that contradicts them. This is seen in the defense of race realism, a popular ideology among HBDers.

Some HBDers and other race realists are so talented at speculating that they come to treat their ideologically-driven interpretations as factual statements of truth, even when they deny this is the case. Just as they deny the consequences of such ideologies being enforced for centuries through social control, political oppression, and economic inequality. A result can be misinterpreted as cause, an easy error to make when evidence for direction of causation is lacking. It leaves the field open to self-serving bias.

When one starts with a hypothesis that one assumes is true, it’s easy to look for evidence to support what one already wants to believe. There are few people in the world who couldn’t offer what they consider evidence in support of their beliefs, no matter how weak and grasping it might appear to others. This is even easier to accomplish when looking for correlations, as anything can be correlated with many other things without ever having to prove a causal connection, and it’s easy to ignore the fact that most correlations are spurious.

None of that matters to the true believer, though. Torturing the data until it confesses is the whole point. As in real world incidents of torture, the validity of the confession is irrelevant.

Alt-Facts of Employment

 

Here is a topic I return every so often. It’s the related nexus of unemployment, permanent unemployment, and underemployment along with how it relates the larger economy, the black market, inequality, opportunity, welfare, poverty, homelessness, desperation, etc. I don’t have any new thoughts, but I was looking at a lot of articles and decided to share them.

There is so much disagreement over the data, what exactly is the data and what it means or doesn’t mean. The reason for this is that there is so little useful data. I’ve always been concerned not just about what the data includes but also what it excludes… and so who is excluded and for what or whose purpose. Still, much can be ascertained from what data is available, if one is willing to consider it honestly. The number appears to be shockingly low for adults working “good jobs” who potentially could work, if full employment was available (not to mention if full opportunity and economic mobility was available). So many Americans have given up on looking for work or the kind of work and many others, for various reasons, are simply not seen in the data.

So much of human potential goes wasted. This kind of data isn’t just numbers. It’s people stuck in place or running place, too often falling through the cracks. It’s people struggling and suffering, working hard and not being counted or else wanting to get ahead but feeling blocked. These people are frustrated and ever more outraged or else resigned. Many others are simply tired and just doing what they can, what they must to get by.

The poorest of communities, in a large number of cases, have the majority of their residents unemployed and the majority of their men caught up in the legal system. The main economy in these communities it the black market of drugs, prostitution, and other basic work paid under the counter.

The problems we face are far worse than gets typically recorded in the data and reported in the media. Some of these problems have been developing for decades, such as stagnating/dropping wages and the shrinking middle class. And they are inseparable from the problems of worsening corporatism, failed governance, lost public trust, growing national debt, crumbling infrastructure, externalized costs, and much else.

These problems are real and urgent for those who are most harmed by them. Data on such things as unemployment, however it is measured, is just the tip of an iceberg that sits teetering atop the tip of a vast oceanic mountain range.

* * *

Nearly Half of Millennials Say the American Dream Is Dead. Here’s Why.
by Natalie Johnson, The Daily Signal

One in five suicides is associated with unemployment
Science Daily

The Opioid Epidemic and the Face of Long-Term Unemployment
by Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism

Lack of jobs linked to gun violence at schools
by Megan Fellman, Futurity

Alternate Unemployment Charts
ShadoStats.com

The Invisible American
by Jim Clifton, Gallup

The Big Lie: 5.6% Unemployment
by Jim Clifton, Gallup

Gallup Is Right: The Unemployment Rate Is A Big Lie
by John Manfreda, Seeking Alpha

Only 44 Percent Of U.S. Adults Are Employed For 30 Or More Hours Per Week
by Michael Snyder, The Economic Collapse

Neither Employed, Nor Unemployed
by Bud Meyers, The Economic Populist
comment by Bud Meyers

Gallup CEO Blasts Press’s Complacency in Covering Unemployment and Underemployment
by Tom Blumer, NewsBusters

The Low Unemployment Rate Is A Momentary Calm Before The Coming Economic Storm
by Drew Hansen, Forbes

Long-term Unemployed Struggle as Economy Improves, Rutgers Study Finds
Rutgers Today

47% of Unemployed Americans Have Just Stopped Looking for Work
by Dan Kedmey, Time

US unemployed have quit looking for jobs at a ‘frightening’ level: Survey
by Jeff Cox, CNBC

In U.S., One in Four Unemployed Adults in Financial Distress
by Lydia Saad, Gallup

Nearly half of U.S. workers consider themselves underemployed, report says
bAlexia Elejalde-Ruiz, Chicago Tribune

Despite Reports, Unemployment Is Still A Major Issue For Veterans
by Dan Goldenberg, Task & Force

Unemployment rates are higher for young people, minorities
PBS NewsHour

UIC Study Shows High Unemployment Among Black, Hispanic Youth In Chicago
CBS Chicago

Nearly half of young black men in Chicago are neither in school nor working
by Rob Wile, Fusion

One in four black, Hispanic workers is underemployed
by Andrea Orr, Economic Policy Institute

Stuck: Young America’s Persistent Job Crisis
by Catherine Ruetschlin and Tamara Drau, Demos

Nearly Half Of Unemployed Americans Are Under 34 Years Old: Study
Huffington Post

Fed: Nearly half of recent college grads struggling
by Irina Ivanova, Crain’s

Untapped Talent: The Costs of Brain Waste among Highly Skilled Immigrants in the United States
New American Economy

ILO: Only one in four workers has a stable job
DW Akademie

New Study Predicts Nearly Half of All Work Will Be Automated
by Patrick Caughill, Futurism

* * *

A Sense of Urgency
America Is Not Great For Most Americans

Common Sense of the Common People
We’ve Been Here Before
Inequality Divides, Privilege Disconnects
On Welfare: Poverty, Unemployment, Health, Etc
Minimum Wage, Wage Suppression, Welfare State, etc
Invisible Problems of Invisible People
Invisible Men: Mass Incarceration, Race, & Data
Worthless Non-Workers
Whose Work Counts? Who Gets Counted?
Working Hard, But For What?
To Be Poor, To Be Black, To Be Poor and Black
Structural Racism and Personal Responsibility
Race & Wealth Gap
Our Bleak Future: Robots and Mass Incarceration
End of Work as Endtimes
American Winter and Liberal Failure
Conservatives Pretending to Care About Economic Problems
Conservative Moral Order & the Lazy Unemployed
Conservatism, Murders & Suicides
Republicans: Party of Despair
Rate And Duration of Despair
Poor & Rich Better Off With Democrats
Unequal Democracy, Parties, and Class
‘Capitalist’ US vs ‘Socialist’ Germany

‘Capitalist’ US vs ‘Socialist’ Finland
Problems of Income Inequality

Immobility Of Economic Mobility; Or Running To Stay In Place
Not Funny At All

Mean Bosses & Inequality
The United States of Inequality
Economic Inequality: A Book List
The Unimagined: Capitalism and Crappiness
The Desperate Acting Desperately
Trends in Depression and Suicide Rates
From Bad to Worse: Trends Across Generations
Costs Must Be Paid: Social Darwinism As Public Good

Data and More Data

Here is some data and analysis that caught my attention. It’s about demographics, class identity, social views, and party politics. One set of data is actually from the UK. It likely is similar to US data.

If I was feeling inspired, I’d look for some patterns across it all. But I’m not sure what to make of it. There is so much intriguing data I’ve come across lately. It makes me endlessly curious. It’s a lot of work sifting through it all looking for connections and patterns.

I figured I’d just throw it out there for now. Maybe later on I’ll have some commentary about it. But let me make one point while I’m thinking about it.

It particularly stands out that Clinton’s supporters are a bit more racist than Sanders’ supporters. It’s still not a majority, but the difference needs to be explained. It doesn’t make sense according to mainstream views.

Clinton is claimed to be the minority candidate, ignoring that Sanders won the majority of young non-whites. More importantly, Sanders has won the strongest support from the lower income demographic, including the infamous and supposedly racist white working class.

Yet “while Clinton’s supporters are less racist than Trump’s — no surprise — they are, on some measures, as racist (and in once instance, more racist) as supporters of Kasich and Cruz.” How does one make sense of that? Republicans are regularly stated as being racist.

Maybe Clinton’s having called certain people ‘superpredators’ wasn’t a mere gaffe. And maybe a significant number of her supporters agree with that assessment. But let’s be clear: This can’t be blamed on poor whites, a population that has no particular love for Clinton.

By the way, how did FDR’s party of the working class become the New Democrats, the party of the neoliberal professional class? On top of that, what does class mean these days, whether in terms of actual economics or social identity?

* * *

The Parties Invert
by Ronald Brownstein

In the history of modern polling dating back to 1952, no Democratic presidential candidate has ever carried most college-educated whites; even Lyndon Johnson fell slightly short during his 1964 landslide. (This analysis uses the American National Election Studies, a poll conducted immediately after the vote, for the elections from 1952 to 1976, and the exit polls conducted by a consortium of media organizations for the elections since.)

From 1952 through 1980, in fact, no Democratic nominee reached even 40 percent with college-educated whites, except Johnson. During that same period, no Democratic nominee failed to reach 40 percent of the vote with non-college whites, except George McGovern in 1972 and Jimmy Carter in 1980. Over these eight elections, every Democratic nominee except McGovern ran better, usually significantly better, among non-college-educated whites than among their college-educated peers. This was a world in which Democrats were the party of people who worked with their hands, and Republicans represented those who wore suits and worked behind desks.

But the period since 1984 has seen an accelerating reversal of that historic pattern. During his landslide defeat to Ronald Reagan in 1984, Walter Mondale ran slightly better among college-educated than non-college-educated whites. In the next three elections, Michael Dukakis and Bill Clinton ran almost exactly as well with both groups.

Since then, every Democratic presidential nominee has run better with college-educated than working-class whites. From Al Gore in 2000 through Barack Obama in 2012, the share of the vote won by the past four Democratic nominees among college-educated whites has exceeded their performance among non-college-educated whites by four to seven percentage points.

White Violence, White Data

Here is my response to those who like to argue that blacks commit a higher percentage of violent crime. Such data simply shows the how many blacks were convicted, and not the actual racial rates of criminal activity. Besides, we know many other things as well.

We know that blacks are disproportionately targeted and profiled, stopped and frisked by the police. We know that blacks are more likely to be arrested more often and convicted more harshly than whites for the exact same crimes. We know blacks are more likely to be charged, convicted, and incarcerated for gun-related crimes and drug-related crimes, despite the fact that whites are more likely to carry illegal guns, to carry illegal drugs, and to use illegal drugs. We know that, when convicted, blacks are sent to prison for longer sentences, even for the exact same crimes. We know this was even institutionalized with drug laws which made the sentencing longer for drugs commonly used by blacks than drugs commonly used by whites.

The police focus most of their time in poor minority communities. It is unsurprising that they find more poor minority criminals. We tend to find what we look for. The data makes it obvious that many whites disproportionately get away with crimes because the police are mostly concentrated in the poor minority communities. A white person can shoplift and walk out of a store at the same time as a black person, and yet the black person will more likely get stopped when the alarm goes off. Whites have the privilege to more often get away with crimes.

Whites commit most of the white collar crimes. These crimes cost untold millions of dollars of damage every year.  They destroy lives and sometimes entire communities when untold numbers of people lose their life savings. Yet these crimes are the least likely to go to court or to lead to conviction and incarceration.

Whites also have a long history of mass violence that dwarfs all the individual violence of blacks combined. Most large-scale wars, wars of aggression, and world wars are started by majority white countries with white-dominated governments. The largest genocides were committed by whites. Most school shooters and serial killers are whites. Most of these acts of violence by whites rarely lead to trial, much less conviction, for the simple reason that much of this is state-sanctioned violence. The government doesn’t even keep good data about police corruption and police brutality. When police kill innocent people who were a threat to no one, typically the officer gets paid leave. Even when whites commit war crimes, there are rarely any consequences, except in the most extreme cases such as the Nazis. As long as they were on the winning side, they get accolades, parades, and medals.

Nonetheless, even ignoring the racial prejudice, in terms of raw numbers most homicides and other violent crimes are committed by white Americans. So, numerically speaking, an American is on average far more likely to be harmed by a white than by a black. This is even more true for anyone living in a white majority community for most crime against whites is committed by whites, and most communities in this country are white majority. Of course, most whites live in white majority communities. This is the very reason most crime in this country, violent and otherwise, is committed by whites. If racial prejudice in policing and the courts were ever to end, if we were to ever know the real number of white crime, it would be even higher still.

Racists have no response to all of this overwhelming proof of widespread racism. There can be no response to such political evil except to either demand justice or remain in silent shame.

* * * *

This has been on my mind for a long time. I want to write a detailed post about this one day. The data used by racists (or racialists or race realists or whatever, same difference) is frustrating because it isn’t honest data being used to make an honest argument.

There is one telling detail that I decided to leave out of the above summary.

White Southerners show the strongest support, of any demographic, for illegal wars of aggression and illegal torture. White Southerners, especially in the poor rural South, are among the most violent and crime-ridden in the country. They also are the most supportive of state violence used in policing, in the War on Drugs, and through mass incarceration. Whites in general and white Southerners in particular are strongly supportive of the harsh racial prejudice used against minorities by police and the courts. Most of the police, judges, and jurors convicting minorities harshly are white.

None of this gets included in rates of violence. Support of state violence is considered normal and acceptable, at least by whites who are disproportionately less likely to be the victims of it. When the victimizers keep the data, it is unsurprising what kind of official data is kept and shown to the public. And it is unsurprising what gets ignored and whitewashed. Most of the data is kept by whites for the purposes of a white majority society.

We need to be more careful and more honest about what data we use and for what purpose we use it. Data never speaks for itself. Instead, data speaks for those who control how the data is gathered, measured, and used. We need to keep that in mind, if we care about morality and justice, if we hope to ever create a free and fair society.

Looking the Other way: Willful Ignorance and Intentional Blindness

Ignorant. There is no word like it. Calling someone ‘uninformed’ or ‘misinformed’ doesn’t have the same force nor even the exact same meaning. No word can take the place of ‘ignorant’.

Yet it is politically incorrect to call someone ignorant. I’ve had comments deleted on Amazon reviews because I called someone ignorant when I meant it as a literal statement in that person was, as defined by the dictionary, “lacking knowledge, information, or awareness about something in particular.” It is considered mean-spirited to point out that someone is ignorant, even when or especially when it is true.

This just makes it all the more frustrating. Our society has a taboo about facing ignorance. We wouldn’t know how to function as a society without such ignorance. It can feel like it goes beyond even just ignorance. Along with an unwillingness to talk about ignorance, there is an ignorance of ignorance. It is the default position for nearly all social interactions and public discourses.

It can seem pointless even trying to blame anyone for being ignorant. The seeming unconscious obliviousness is immense. People are just ignorant. They don’t know any better, so the story goes.

My focus has been mostly on racism as of late. The ignorance in this area is more frustrating still. It is a systemic and institutional ignorance that makes possible the systemic and institutional racism.

Why are so many people ignorant about the continuing reality of racism?

“It can be tempting to think that today most white people are racist primarily because of an inadvertent lack of knowledge about the cultures and lives of people of color. Many white people in the United States and other white privileged countries do not often personally interact with people of color, and when they do, such interactions often are of the trivial sort found in consumer exchanges. Given the de facto but persistent racial segregation of many cities, neighborhoods, and schools and the paucity of non-stereotypical portrayals of people of color on television and in Hollywood movies, white solipsism is a real problem.”
~ Shannon Sullivan, Revealing Whiteness, Kindle Locations 219-223

But is ignorance reality a default state? How can an unintentional passivity toward racism cause it to be to remain so stubbornly in place?

There is a study that was about attentional focus. It measured this by eye gaze. As I recall, it had to do with differences between liberals and conservatives. There was something that either conservatives don’t appreciate or doesn’t fit into their worldview. They put an image of this thing or something like that in their visual field. What the researchers found was that the people who had a vested interest in not seeing something intentionally didn’t look in the direction of what they didn’t want to see. At some level, they had seen it, even though in questions they acknowledged no awareness of it being there.

These people went to great effort to maintain their experiential blindness. This is how willful ignorance operates. There is an intention behind the behavior, even if it isn’t fully conscious.

“A similar temptation is to think that white people are racist because they lack accurate knowledge about the (alleged) scientific, biological basis for racial categories. This view of racism holds that many people fail to understand that there are no necessary and sufficient biological or genetic conditions for dividing the human population into distinct races. Because of this failure, they mistakenly think that race and racial hierarchies are real. Demonstrate the lack of scientific basis for race, so says this eliminativist view, and racism will disappear because the categories on which it is based-white, black, and so on-will have disappeared. Racial categories and the racism they support are like the emperor who wears no clothes. All one need do is honestly point out the emperor’s nakedness, and the illusion of his clothing will disappear. Dismantling the biological theories of race upon which racism rests likewise requires merely the same straightforward good will to acknowledge the obvious: the lack of the scientific data to support racial categorization.’
~ Shannon Sullivan, Revealing Whiteness, Kindle Locations 227-232

I’m a lover of knowledge. I want to believe that knowledge matters. The issue isn’t really about knowledge, but about ignorance and the two aren’t necessarily oppositional. People know and don’t know things all the time. People are fully capable of dividing their minds and their lives, never making the connections that would cause them to see the full picture.

Knowledge isn’t just about facts, but more importantly about comprehension, about a visceral and emotional sense of really getting what something means and why it matters. Knowledge isn’t an abstract intellectual exercise. Truth is a moral force or it is nothing at all.

Pointing out data without a way of conveying meaning won’t undo ignorance. List the numbers of dead in the recent genocide against Palestinians won’t have an impact. But if you forced someone to spend a week having Israeli bombs falling all around them with dead bodies and destruction that couldn’t be ignored, all of a sudden that list of numbers would be viscerally real and would have an emotional impact. Mere knowledge that could be easily dismissed would become a truth with moral force.

Westerners can be told the data that objectively proves genocide. But data is just data. There is great power of the mind to not really see or comprehend the data, to dismiss it, ignore it and rationalize it away. It isn’t unintentional.

The oppression of dark-skinned people in Palestine follows the same basic pattern of the oppression of dark-skinned people in America. The mechanisms are the same. The details really don’t matter in defense of the social order and in upholding the status quo. Much has changed in the US over the centuries. Racism morphs to fit the times and yet basically continues on.

I sometimes try to make sense of this as mere inertia. But that doesn’t really explain anything at all. That is just an avoidance of responsibility and an avoidance of the despair that would accompany taking responsibility.

“Rather than an innocuous oversight, it was an active, deliberate achievement that was carefully (though not necessarily consciously) constructed, maintained, and protected. Du Bois eventually saw that to understand the white ignorance of non-white people, one has to hear the active verb “to ignore” at the root of the noun.”

We are ignorant because we ignore. This is willful ignorance. It isn’t just racial bias in institutions, residue of past racism. No, racism is alive and well, in the minds of all of us. We are afraid to call a spade a spade. It is politically incorrect to point out that our society is still racist.

The Midwest, Is It Great?

I’m a big fan of the view that regions in the U.S. are more or less culturally distinct, although with plenty of overlap at the borders. As a Midweseterner, I have pride in my region, along with significant criticisms, but for the moment I’ll focus on the positives.

I’m not offering a serious analysis here. I just came across an article about the Midwest that offered some data and so I thought I’d share it. The article is This Is Why It’s So Great To Be A Midwesterner, According To Science by Sara Boboltz. It is a HuffPo fluff piece, but some of the data is nonetheless interesting.

Regional Differences In Personalities Confirmed In New Study

“Their findings: Friendly and conventional were the most common traits among people living in the South and north-central Great Plains region, while relaxed and creative were the most common traits for those in the Western and Eastern seaboard areas. New Englanders, on the other hand, were most likely to possess the traits of uninhibited and temperamental.”

Yeah, friendly and conventional. That sounds about right. This might seem strange in some ways, though, for these same parts of the Midwest are also historically known for their progressive and socialist politics. So, it is conventional in its own way, but not in the way the MSM media portrays what is conventional in the US.

By the way, there appears to be one state that is a good balance between Midwestern and West Coastal predispositions. That state is Wyoming. It rates moderately high on friendly and conventional while it also rates moderately high on relaxed and creative. Colorado also looks fairly balanced between the two.

Volunteering in America: Research Highlights

“Highest volunteer rate: Since 1989, the Midwest region of the United States has had the highest volunteer rate among U.S. regions for all adults, with a rate of 23.9 percent in 1989, and 30.2 in 2008. This is a shift from 1974 when the West had the highest volunteer rate.

“Largest number of volunteers: Since 1974, the number of volunteers in the South has almost doubled from 10.5 to 20.7 million, giving the South the largest number of volunteers of all the regions. Just between 2006 and 2008, the South has gained almost 300,000 volunteers. The Midwest comes in at a distant second in volunteer numbers at about 15.6 million.”

Two other regions need to be given credit. The West region doesn’t have the highest rate of volunteers, but apparently those who do volunteer make up the difference for they win the award for most volunteer hours on average. In the Northeast region, they are dedicated to fundraising and so at least they put their money where their mouth is. As for specific states, Utah and Alaska deserve respect in their volunteer activities.

Route 66, Midwest culture charm international tourists, study finds

““When Europeans travel on Route 66, most of their feedback is that it’s a very different experience from the big cities like Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C., which can all seem very much alike,” Huang said. “Route 66 reveals the inner beauty of the U.S. Midwesterners are friendly, easygoing and enthusiastic. They’re proud to tell you what they have in their community and are willing to share their heritage, their history and their stories. A lot of tourists enjoy that.””

I’m not so sure about this study. It seemed rather limited and self-serving. Route 66 extends way beyond the Midwest.

Montanans, Alaskans Say States Among Top Places to Live

“Residents of Western and Midwestern states are generally more positive about their states as places to live. With the exception of the New England states of New Hampshire and Vermont, all of the top 10 rated states are west of the Mississippi River. In addition to Montana and Alaska, Utah (70%), Wyoming (69%), and Colorado (65%) are among the 10 states that residents are most likely to say their state is among the best places to reside. Most of these states have relatively low populations, including Wyoming, Vermont, North Dakota, and Alaska — the four states with the smallest populations in the nation. Texas, the second most populated state, is the major exception to this population relationship. Although it is difficult to discern what the causal relationship is between terrain and climate and positive attitudes, many of the top 10 states are mountainous with cold winters. In fact, the two states most highly rated by their residents — Montana and Alaska — are among not only the nation’s coldest states but also both border Canada.

“With the exception of New Mexico, all of the bottom 10 states are either east of the Mississippi River or border it (Louisiana and Missouri). New Jersey (28%), Maryland (29%), and Connecticut (31%) join Rhode Island among the bottom 10.”

This seems less about the Midwest. It is only parts of the Midwest that show this pattern. What this actually shows is that the Midwest is split between Eastern and Western Midwest and between Lower and Upper Midwest. This corresponds to the parts of the Midwest that were settled earlier and those settled later, which corresponds to the concentration of populations in rural areas and big cities.

Pinterest Hits 10 Million U.S. Monthly Uniques Faster Than Any Standalone Site Ever -comScore

The popularity of Pinterest in the Midwest isn’t necessarily a good thing. I don’t have any strong opinion about Pinterest, but I’m not sure what value Pinterest adds to the Midwestern quality of life.

America’s Most Affordable Cities

“But the Midwest dominates when it comes to affordability, with 11 metro areas making the list, including five in the state of Ohio alone: Cincinnati (No. 3), Dayton (No. 4), Akron (No. 6), Toledo (No. 11), and Columbus (No. 20). Michigan landed three cities on the ranks: Grand Rapids, Detroit, and Warren. Even as Detroit languishes in the wake of banruptcy, the suburban hub of Warren, half an hour away, is experiencing an auto manufacturing renaissance of its own.”

The real story in the data is that it is extremely expensive to live in the West. That probably has to do with the combination of large populations and low availability of water. Many Western states are dependent on immense government funding to maintain their massive infrastructures.

Air Quality Better in Northeast, Midwest

“While a decade of efforts to reduce air pollution in the United States has improved air quality in many cities in the Northeast and Midwest, 175 million people are still exposed to dangerous levels of smog and soot, a new report reveals.”

Once again, the real story is that it sucks to live in other places. Having clean air shouldn’t be something that gets praise. Rather, clean air should be seen as a basic human right. The Midwest simply has less polluted air, relatively speaking. But we all share the same freakin atmosphere and so we all end up breathing the pollution, just that some get more of it than others.

Utahans Least Satisfied With Air Quality

“Meanwhile, residents of the northern Midwest are the most likely to be satisfied. South Dakota, North Dakota, and Wyoming top the list, with 96% satisfied in each state. Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, and Wisconsin are also among this group, as are far away New Hampshire and Vermont. These regional similarities may be related to the climate or geography in these disparate parts of the country, or a matter of population density, or some combination of the three, as in Utah.”

Of course, it is nice living in low population states so that you aren’t constantly sucking on heavily polluted air. This is probably a large reason for why people living there love their states so much. However, those people in those states indirectly contribute to the pollution in the rest of the states by products they buy that are made and transported from elsewhere. It’s the old problem of costs being externalized onto others.

It is strange, though, that Utahans complain about their air quality. I wouldn’t think that Utah has higher rates of pollution than the coastal states. Maybe they are a sensitive group of people. The article blames it on a weather phenomenon that traps the smog where most of the residents live. Could that possibly be worse than some of the bigger cities famous for their smog? Maybe so.

Want a three-car garage? You’re more likely to find it in the Midwest

“For one, housing hasn’t grown evenly in all regions of the country. New homes are largest in the South, where the median floor area last year was 2,469 square feet; they’re smallest in the Midwest, at a median 2,177 square feet. (The median for the whole country is 2,384 square feet.) But over the past four decades, home size has grown the most in the Northeast: The median floor area of a new home there was 61% above the corresponding median in 1973. [ . . . ]

“Midwesterners, by contrast, appear more interested in garage space than living space: 38% of new homes in that region have garages built for three or more cars, well above all other regions. (Perhaps they need the room for their snowblowers and other winter gear?)”

I’m not sure why Midwestern homes would have less floor area. But it is understandable that Midwestern homes have larger garages.

Midwesterners do need more winter equipment. Plus, in my experience, Midwesterners simply love to do manual labor, such as doing their own yardwork or building things. Midwesterners love to have equipment that can be used to accomplish things, whether blowing snow or sawing wood. There is a self-reliant streak, which seems to make Midwesterners reluctant to hire out work, even among those with the money to afford it.

That is just a hypothesis. But I would like to see data about it.

States in West and Midwest Lead Nation in Teacher Respect

“Residents living in several states in the West and Midwest lead the nation in saying teachers in their communities are well-respected. Nevadans and Louisianans are among the least likely to say this about their local teachers — slightly more than six in 10 residents in each state say their teachers are well-respected.”

The differences are worthy of note. In some states, it is nearly 9 in 10 residents who say teachers are well-respected. But pointing that out misses the fact that the majority of all Americans say teachers are well-respected. But you wouldn’t know that by paying attention to right-wing media or listening to conservative politicians.

Buying lunch out? Survey shows Midwesterners spend less than others

“The credit card company found that Americans typically buy lunch out almost twice a week and spend about $10 each time. Specifically, average national spending was $18 per week, or $936 per year.

“But spending patterns varied by region, and Midwest diners spend less on lunches out than people in any other part of the country, the results showed. They went out 1.7 times per week and spent only $8.90 each time, for a weekly average of $15.13.

“Southerners led per-week spending, going out twice a week and spending $10 each time, or $20 a week. Westerners spend $10 per lunch 1.8 times a week for a total of $18.

“Northeasterners lunched out the least, but spent the most when they did, dining out for their midday meal 1.5 times a week but dropping $11.40 each time, for a weekly total of $17.10.”

I don’t know what could possibly explain this. Maybe this relates to the Midwest being a more affordable place to live. So maybe it is also a more affordable place to operate a restaurant, and so cheaper prices for meals served. But it is hard to say. There could be many factors involved.

Anyway, I’m not sure this is evidence for Midwesterners being cheap or thrifty.

The Midwest Accent

“The examples of the cot/caught merger and the Northern Cities Shift serve to contradict the perception that Midwestern speech lacks any distinguishing characteristics. However, both of these developments have been in operation for several decades at least. Why haven’t they entered into popular perceptions about Midwestern speech? Perhaps they will come to be recognized as features of the dialect in the same way that dropping of /r/ serves to mark Boston speech or ungliding of long i (‘hahd’ or hide) marks Southern speech. But, considering the general stereotypes of the Midwest, it seems more likely that they might never be recognized. One thing about linguistic stereotypes is certain: they have less to do with the actual speech of a region than with popular perceptions of the region’s people. As long as Midwesterners are viewed as average, boring or otherwise nondescript, their speech will be seen through the same prism.”

This article is about a shift that is occurring in the Midwestern dialect, a shift that few seem to be noticing at present. It is a change that may lead to larger changes in American English. The Midwest has for a long time been a source of what is considered Standard American English. As Standard American English changes in the Midwest, it likely will shift across the nation.

I don’t know why this matters all that much. It does imply something culturally important about the Midwest. This is the Heartland and it is called that for a good reason. The Midwest has always been central. It is central in terms of geography, in terms of population concentration, and in terms of infrastructure. It is the crossroads of the country.

Who Moves? Who Stays Put? Where’s Home?

“Both the survey and Census data indicate that the biggest differences in the characteristics of movers and stayers revolve around geography and education. In the Midwest, nearly half of adult residents say they have spent their entire lives in their hometown. That compares with fewer than a third of those who live in Western states. Cities, suburbs and small towns have more movers than stayers, while rural areas are more evenly split. Three-quarters of college graduates have moved at least once, compared with just over half of Americans with no more than a high school diploma. College graduates also move longer distances — and move more often — than Americans with a high school diploma or less, and employment plays a greater role in their decisions about where to live. By income group, the most affluent Americans are the most likely to have moved.”

That is interesting in a number of ways.

There are differences between more rural and more urban states. But many of the farming states still have most of their populations concentrated in urban areas. So, a rural state isn’t necessarily the same as having a majority rural population.

Something else that came to mind is that the Midwest tends to highly value education. But maybe the Midwesterners who get the most education tend to move away from the Midwest. I don’t know. There are a ton of college towns all over the Midwest, although I’m sure they don’t represent most of the population.

Anyway, it does fit the stereotype of the Midwest. One thinks of the region as a settled place with relatively stable communities. This would follow the aspect of the friendly and conventional Midwestern personality.

 

Maps of the World: What Unites & Divides

There has been a set of amusing and edifying maps that have received some attention on the web:

40 Maps They Didn’t Teach You In School

Some I had seen before, but many were new to me. The one that caught my attention was about freedom of press. It is the type of thing that gets me thinking.

The US just gets a satisfactory rating, along with Australia, much of Europe, four countries in South America (including the large Argentina), six countries in Africa, and some of the island countries off the coast of China. Satisfactory isn’t bad, but it certainly isn’t great. A rather sad state of affairs for supposedly freedom-loving Americans.

What is more predictable are the countries that get a good rating, although not entirely predictable. Canada, of course, gets a better rating than the good ol’ US of A. Also, a large section of Northern Europe predictably rates well. Among the British Isles, it appears only Ireland has a good rating. What is mind-blowing is that Nambia in Southern Africa rates good as well.

Sadly, America is less than great. More like middling, if anything. But anyone paying attention already knew that.

In response to that map, the Washington Post put out its own sampling of maps:

40 maps that explain the world

What stands out to me is how similar the US is to many countries Americans wouldn’t identify with.

The US is a majority Christian country, like the rest of the Americas and also like the entirety of Southern Africa (the majority of the African continent, in fact). More interestingly, the US has about the same number of atheists as Argentina and Saudi Arabia.

Canada and Europe follow the typical pattern in having more gay rights than the US, but the protected freedom for gays is also higher in South America and South Africa. South America even has high rates of tolerance for gays, although less so in South Africa. The US has moderate tolerance for gays, but we just don’t believe in protecting their rights like other Americans. This tolerance rating doesn’t seem to have anything to do with religion since, for example, Canada has the same atheist rating as the US.

One would suspect that tolerance correlates to diversity. Familiarity and empathy tend to go hand in hand.

Despite being an immigrant nation, the US is only average on the ethnic diversity scale. South America and Africa are more diverse. It says a lot too that Canada is more diverse, as Canada rates better than the US on most measurements (either the American Dream emigrated North or always was there). Europe is shown as the least ethnically diverse region in the world, although Spain a country with millennia of multicultural history is more middling like the US (maybe unsurprising as more than half of the US used to be part of the Spanish Empire; then again, Hispanic Mexico is more ethnically diverse than both the US and Spain).

I must admit I feel suspicious about the ethnic diversity map because I don’t know how ethnic diversity is being defined and measured. The US might be middling simply because the population is so mixed up with ethnic intermarriages. Reading the related article, it sounds more like the researchers were measuring ethnic perception which I’m not sure is the best method. I’m thinking that what is being measured is more about whether people identify more with their nation or with their ethnic group (tribe, clan, etc). Developed countries have show more ethnic homogeneity because more people simply identify with their country.

Racial tolerance is a good measure for comparison. In this, the US and Canada are the same (and also Australia, the other British-founded country). So is most of the rest of the Americas, Central and South. Europe is a mixed bag. Spain has a fair amount of racial tolerance. The most tolerant in Europe are Britain and most northern countries. Interestingly, once again South Africa fits in here as well. Pakistan for some reason also rates well in racial tolerance.

The welcoming to foreigners map offers a different perspective. Racial tolerance may only apply to races within one’s country. Canada seems to be the only country in the world, as far as I can tell from the maps, that rates highly both on racially tolerance and welcoming to foreigners. Canada is beginning to sound like utopia. That said, countries like Mexico, Brazil and South Africa also rate fairly well on both. The US, like Spain, is only middling on this measure. Argentina is one of those countries that, while racially tolerant, isn’t friendly to strangers. The map shows some surprising locations that apparently would be good places to travel in or move to: Turkey, Yemen, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Thailand, and a few others.

Some other maps are truly bizarre in their implications.

Why the heck do all the countries in the Americas rate highly emotional?

The US and Canada are one big mass of emotional expressiveness. Another blot of emotion is found down in South America with El Salvador being the second most emotional country in the world. All the countries in the Americas are just plain emotional. Most of the rest of the world is emotionally frigid in comparison. There are some exceptions, though. Like always, Africa is a mix with Angola being highly emotional. The Arab United Emirates and Oman pop up again, along with somewhat higher ratings for many Middle Eastern countries. The Phillipines, former colony of Spain and the US, also rates high (the most emotional country in the world) along with relatively high ratings for the other nearby island countries and Australia (plus, the nearby Southern Asian countries). In Europe, the countries that stand out for their emotionality are France, Spain and Ireland (it’s hard to tell from the map, but it looks like Belgium also rates high).

There are two patterns here that interest me. First, Spanish and English speaking countries tend to be highly emotional. The US gets a double dose on this account. Canada similarly gets a double dose with British and French influence. Second, post-Soviet countries are among the most emotionally stoic. Emotion in Europe appears to generally increase as you move West. The reason for these patterns is not entirely clear to me. Why would the English language correlate to emotionality? The English people aren’t known for emotional effusiveness. On the scale, the English are just moderately emotional. Maybe there is something about the Celtic influence as Ireland rates highly. English-speaking countries like the US do have large amounts of Irish ancestry. Ireland would also relate to France and Spain for the Irish originate from the Basque who live in the border region of those two countries. This might explain an element of the low ratings of the post-Soviet countries for the Celtic populations were most concentrated in Western Europe.

The other odd map is that of feeling loved or not. It seems to fit almost perfectly to the emotional map. The countries that tend to have high rates of emotional expressiveness also tend to have high rates of feeling loved. Maybe that isn’t so odd, after all. How can you know that you’re loved if no one expresses love to you? Anyway, the Americas are one big love-fest.

I purposely saved the Muslim maps for last.

Some Muslim countries want democracy and others less so. Quite a few of the Muslim countries in Africa say they prefer democracy to a strong leader. The same is found with Turkey and Tajikistan along with the Southeast Asian islands and peninsula. However, on either side of Tajikistan are two countries (Kyrgizstan and Pakistan) that are unfriendly to democracy. The Middle East overall is mostly averaging in its support or lack thereof for democracy.

The map of perceived religious conflict within a country is almost a mirror opposite of the pro-democracy map. Does the perceived religious conflict cause a lack of support for democracy? Or vice versa?

The third and final Muslim map shows why generalizing about all Muslims is problematic. It is a map about honor killings, specifically whether they are never justified over female sexual offenses. A few Muslim countries are apparently evenly split between those who say it is never justified and those who disagree. It looks like there are only five Muslim countries with a clear majority who think such vigilante justice is sometimes or always justified. However, most of the Muslim countries rated here have a majority supporting the view that is never justified.

Checking the Facts

Debunkers of Fictions Sift the Net
By Brian Stelter

David and Barbara Mikkelson are among those trying to clean the cesspool. The unassuming California couple run Snopes, one of the most popular fact-checking destinations on the Web.

[…] Snopes is one of a small handful of sites in the fact-checking business. Brooks Jackson, the director of one of the others, the politically oriented FactCheck.org, believes news organizations should be doing more of it.

“The ‘news’ that is not fit to print gets through to people anyway these days, through 24-hour cable gasbags, partisan talk radio hosts and chain e-mails, blogs and Web sites such as WorldNetDaily or Daily Kos,” he said in an e-mail message. “What readers need now, we find, are honest referees who can help ordinary readers sort out fact from fiction.”

Even the White House now cites fact-checking sites: it has circulated links and explanations by PolitiFact.com, a project of The St. Petersburg Times that won a Pulitzer Prize last year for national reporting.

Media bias in the United States
(Wikipedia)

Organizations monitoring bias

Non-partisan

Liberal

Conservative

Interesting Stuff on the Web: 11/30/09

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/30/science/earth/30agency.html?th&emc=th

A government agency that is either corrupt or ineffective.  Doesn’t that describe most of the government?  The only good thing about government is that it occasionally protects us from the even greater danger of big business… that is when it’s not in bec with big business.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703499404574557583017194444.html?mod=djemEditorialPage#articleTabs%3Darticle

Here is another depressing article.  It’s criticizing global warming science.  There might be some truth to what the article claims, but I have my doubts.  It comes off sounding like conspiracy theorizing and political spin.  Republicans have been attacking science for years.  Given a choice between the GOP and scientists, I’d trust the latter any day.  Yes, corruption and bias can be found in all organizations, but at least science has a methodology of weeding it out over time.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/29/AR2009112902014.html

On a slightly happier note, here is a criticism of the constant bickering and polemics of conservatives (for example, see previous article).  The Republican Jim Leach (from Iowa) makes a stand against the divisive factors influencing the Republican party during a time when other Republican politicians are afraid to demand intelligent and fair discussion of real issues.  Most Republicans seem to think that attacking others with embittered rants and name-calling will somehow distract the public from the failure of Republican policies and the party’s lack of vision.  Sadly, they’re wrong and in all honesty there are probably other Republicans like Leach who know the GOP has lost its way.

I really loved this comment to the article because it concisely states many facts.  This commenter is apparently very informed as she even mentions the “crush of people pounding on the glass walls of an office where votes were being counted, all identified as tax paid republican congressional staffers, brought down to pretend to be Florida citizens”.  American democracy was nearly dealt a death blow the day Bush jr was “elected”.

dutchess2 wrote:
It didn’t happen overnight.

I remember when Ronald Reagan made the centerpiece of his campaign one of hatred for other Americans, his war on poor black women he called welfare queens…AND GOT ELECTED FOR IT!

I can remember when this country financed its own wars, a super highway system, and its own Great Society with safety nets for its citizens because people paid a fair share of taxes.

I can remember when republicans mounted hate campaigns for people who were not as religious as they, veterans, women who wanted equal rights, Native Americans to get Thune elected, Hispanics, blacks, whole administrations when the POTUS would not even meet with leaders of black organizations. I can remember when Ohio’s Bush Partner was also the Secretary of State, people in black precincts waiting 8 hours to vote, some had to give up and pick up the kids or get to work, denied their vote. I can remember the felon’s list in Florida. I can remember the whole of a state government turned to denying its people’s vote because the republican candidate was his brother; I can remember a crush of people pounding on the glass walls of an office where votes were being counted, all identified as tax paid republican congressional staffers, brought down to pretend to be Florida citizens; I can remember when the supreme court decided that George Bush would be ‘irreparably harmed’ if the votes were counted….because as appointees of his father, they knew he would lose. I can remember a terrible scathing report that John McCain fathered a black child, that his wife was a druggy, and that he was damaged goods for his five years in captivity – a whispering campaign from George Bush and the so called men of God who used their phone banks to spread rumors behind McCain’s back.

No, several generations of republicans have turned their backs on the voters, subscribed to the fringe elements, and spewed hate.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/29/AR2009112902935.html?wpisrc=newsletter&wpisrc=newsletter&wpisrc=newsletter

The only thing that Republicans like to attack more than Democrats is other Republicans.  At least, the Republicans are amusing in their paranoid demand for “purity”.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/30/opinion/30douthat.html?th&emc=th

Generational cohorts respond differently to economic hard times.  It’s interesting the reasons for why generations respond conservatively or liberally.

http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1245/gen-next-squeezed-recession-most-see-better-times-ahead

The young generation have been hit the hardest by economic difficulties.  For this reason and others, they’re very liberal on most issues.  However, it’s hard to determine the overall view.  The younger generation isn’t more liberal on the issue of social safety nets which is quite telling as that is a rather central issue which personally impacts them (or will in their immediate future).  Also, they strongly believe the government is effective in regulating (and surprisingly GenX strongly believes this as well as compared to the older generations).  But even so they’re the least Republican of the present generational cohorts.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/generation-next/demographic/climate_09-18.html

The younger generation is more convinced of global warming.  That is important to keep in mind.  As they inherit the older generations problems, the younger generation is the only demographic that has a vested interest in caring about the future of the evironment.  Also, I always wonder about the young generations optimism.  Will it hold up as they age?  Growing up as a cynical GenXer, I have a hard time relating to such hopefulness about the future.

http://people-press.org/report/300/a-portrait-of-generation-next

This is an overview of the young generation.  The following quote stood out to me.

More than two-thirds see their generation as unique and distinct, yet not all self-evaluations are positive. A majority says that “getting rich” is the main goal of most people in their age group, and large majorities believe that casual sex, binge drinking, illegal drug use and violence are more prevalent among young people today than was the case 20 years ago.

The negative self-evaluation doesn’t sound correct.  As far as I know, the statistics are actually very low for these kinds of behaviors.  I do specifically remember that teen sex rates are lowest they’ve been in a while, and I do recall seeing data about this generation being non-violent.  I also remember an article discussing how this generation has accepted their parents assessment of them that they’re self-centered, but the actual data show that they’re more focused on others than their parents.  They value family more, they value their peers more, they value cooperation and egalitarianism, they’re politically active, and they volunteer at high rates.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/patchworknation/#

The PBS Patchwork Nation is an insightful way to look at US demographics. 

I live in Johnson county, IA which PBS labels as Campus and Careers.  This type of community is more liberal and secular than most of the country.  Such communities are scattershot across the nation, only found in around half of the states, and they don’t represent too many large areas of population.  Highly educated populations aren’t the norm in America.  Johnson County has a population that is almost entirely highschool graduates with half of the population as college graduates.  I’ve read in the past that this community is the highest educated per capita in the US. 

Johnson County is a cluster of similar communities in Eastern Iowa, Southern Wisconsin, and Western Indiana which all are clustered around many such communities in Illinois.  Illinois has more such communities than any other state.  We Midwesterners are the hub of America’s liberal education.  Actually, the whole NorthWestern sector of the US has the highest concentration of these secular and liberal communities and for whatever reason. 

The Evangelical South (including many of the Bible Belt strongholds) is largely lacking in these communities (I went to highscholl in SC and they have none).  There is a large swath West of central US that is almost entirely empty of secular liberalism (and I presume this correlates with these areas being largely rural with low levels of higher education).  This wasteland (of rural religious right?) starts with many of the Southern states (most obviously Texas and it’s neighbors) curves up through Mormon territory and ends with many of the states bordering Canada.

Another interesting thing the map shows is that the West coast has few of these liberal and secular communities, but the ones they have are very large communities.  The West Coast intelligentsia prefer to group together in high concentrations whereas the Midwestern/Northeastern intelligentsia prefers to be spread out in smaller communities.  I wonder if that implies that the smaller scattered communities are more integrated with the populations that they’re a part of.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/indepth_coverage/science/dna/timeline_flash.html

This last link has no relation to the other topics I was reading about, but it intrigued me.  I like this map showing the migration of the human species.