aphar: (Default)
2017-08-22 09:28 am

Good-bye EFF

Treason convict Manning was named an Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award Winner.
I am stopping all support of the EFF.
It's a sad day.
aphar: (Default)
2017-08-21 04:42 pm

Social Networks and Counterterrorism

The standard counterterrorism strategy is based on intelligence: find terrorists, infiltrate, then catch them red-handed with a dud they think is a real thing.

Social Networks dramatically simplify discovery (the first step).

However, instead of creating a conveniently monitored sandbox, the powers that be purge them (deleting domains, closing FB and Twitter accounts) in the name of preventing radicalization.

This kills early detection and closes an excellent counter-propaganda venues.

So sad...
aphar: (Default)
2017-08-16 03:04 pm

Unintended consequences, again

Amanda Agan, Sonja Starr; Ban the Box, Criminal Records, and Racial Discrimination: A Field Experiment, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, , qjx028, https://doi.org/10.1093/qje/qjx028

BtB: ban employers from asking job applicants for their criminal record.
Before BTB, white applicants to employers with the box received 7% more callbacks than similar black applicants, but BTB increased this gap to 43%. We believe that the best interpretation of these results is that employers are relying on exaggerated impressions of real-world racial differences in felony conviction rates.

IOW, BtB hurts the blacks.
aphar: (Default)
2017-08-16 11:58 am

Monument removal

The best summary I have seen so far is Ok folks, here’s what REALLY happened in Charlottesville – and what everyone is missing.

On a more "removed" level (i.e., leaving aside the media frenzy, disgusting slogans and violence from both sides &c), I think there are two things to contemplate.

First, who are the people commemorated in the monuments? Confederate generals, like Lee and Jackson were exceptional warriors and generals, children of their times, and, probably, no more reprehensibly racist than their Northern or Southern contemporaries. Removing their monuments because they were racists is absurd - like removing Aristotle's statues because most of his Physics was nonsense.

Second, what do the monuments represent? Most were constructed in the early 20th century in an attempt to reconcile with the past within the flawed Lost Cause framework. If today they insult the sensibilities of most people, they could be moved to museums.

Note that there are no monuments to Hitler's Field Marshals in Germany. Neither to Rommel (who was, allegedly, a decent person, although, apparently, not such a great general), nor to Manstein (who was a Nazi and a brilliant strategist). Moreover, personally, I am quite disgusted that Manstein was "buried with full military honours".
aphar: (Default)
2017-08-08 04:13 pm

Why is there no free health care in the US?

  1. The US pays for Pax Americana.

  2. The US pays for drug discovery.

  3. The US does have a very limited free health care via emergency rooms.

However, we still could do something...
aphar: (Default)
2017-08-08 10:36 am

расизм, дарвинизм, и биология в советской школе.

Евгеника была вполне уважаемой дисциплиной пока её не дискредитировал Гитлер.
Социальный дарвинизм тоже был в чести, и левые с ним всячески боролись.
Советская школьная биология, учившая дарвинизму, должна была, разумеется, объяснить, почему расисты неправы.
Объяснение было такое: ни одна из рас не может претендовать на то, что она "выше", потому что у каждой есть признак, по которому она ближе к обезьянам, чем другие расы:
1. У европеоидов это оволосение.
2. У негроидов это цвет кожи.
3. У монголоидов это ЧТО??? Не помню. Может кто напомнит?!
aphar: (lambda)
2017-07-28 10:05 am

Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens

Gilens, M., & Page, B. (2014). Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens Perspectives on Politics, 12(3), 564-581
doi:10.1017/S1537592714001595 PDF

An interesting study with a pessimistic conclusion:
...policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans...

prompted morons to claim
American democracy is a sham... basically similar to Russia or most other dubious 'electoral' 'democratic' countries.

The paper is relatively short - 18 pages, please read it!
They start with honestly admitting that their work is tentative and preliminary.
They consider 1779 policy issues for which they have national surveys with income breakdowns for respondents and build a model predicting legislative response to the issues from 4 attributes:
  1. opinion of the general population

  2. opinion of the "affluent" respondents (top decile, household income above $146k in 2012 dollars)

  3. organized interest groups
    1. mass-based
    2. business-oriented

What they discover is:

  1. Individually each variable has a high statistically significant effect on the legislative outcome

  2. Correlation of the first and second variables is 78%

  3. Other correlations are negligible

  4. All but the first variable have a significant effect on outcome

  5. R2 is 0.074 when all interest groups are combined into a single variable (i.e., 3 variables are used for modeling) and 0.07 (smaller!) when all 4 variables are used.

My conclusions:

  1. The extremely low predictive power of the models casts a huge shadow of doubt on any possible practical conclusion

  2. The high correlation of popular and affluent opinion means that

    1. the methodology is unsound: instead of these two variables, one should use the sum and difference (i.e., orthogonolize them)

    2. the conclusion made by morons that "the poor don't matter" is unfounded

  3. the research is very interesting and should be continued:

    1. I would try adding a variable which indicates whether the outcome is policy change or continuation (the authors mention strong status quo bias themselves)

    2. I would love to see something similar done for other countries

    3. I think the definition of "affluent" is too inclusive (2% is more reasonable than 10%), but I am afraid it is impossible to get the survey data for the truly affluent

  4. The best counterargument to the alleged irrelevance of "common man" to the American polity is the election of Trump: he was opposed by everyone: all business groups, all elites - political, intellectual, scholarly, but he still won. Admittedly, this is just one example, and, alas, it is a high price to pay (4 years of incompetent erratic egomaniac in the white house), but it does debunk the claim that the US is an "oligarchy".

PS. Comment here or on fb.
aphar: (Default)
2017-07-26 04:09 pm

Как бороться с Ангелом Смерти.

Как известно, изучающий Тору неуязвим для Ангела Смерти (например ему пришлось сломать ветку дерева чтобы отвлечь Рава Хисду от Торы и забрать его на небо).

В России роль лимуда играет пьянство: мужик пьянствовал с ножевым ранением в живот 2 дня(!) и умер когда пошёл в магазин за добавкой.
aphar: (Default)
2017-07-26 10:29 am


A problem with wills is that they is relatively hard to change as the circumstances evolve:
--- How does your family like you new hearing aid?
--- I didn't tell them yet. I have been changing my will twice a week since I got it!

The halachic solution is that there is no such thing as a "will": one cannot circumvent the laws of inheritance.
Almost. There are two ways one can dispose of one's property:

  1. Gift: one can always give away whatever one owns, effective immediately.

  2. Shechiv M'ra: a person on a deathbed, fearing imminent death, can order how their property is distributed (with some minor limitations). The instructions are null and void if the person recovers.

This way the situation when one's property is inherited by an erstwhile friend is avoided.
aphar: (Default)
2017-07-14 12:46 pm

talmud and life

Shabbos discusses כירה (stove) and תנור‎ (oven).
Turns out the latter is actually still in use.
What about the former?
aphar: (Default)
2017-07-13 03:33 pm


It will happen today.
In the evening.
Specifically, 2017-07-13 22:40:00.
Unix timestamp 1500000000.
aphar: (nil)
2017-06-20 11:24 am

Welfare reform proposal

The biggest fiscal danger the US is facing is the skyrocketing cost of health care and welfare.

Health Care:

  • Replace medicaid and medicare with a single payer system, available to all legal residents.

  • Commercial entities can provide secondary insurance.

  • Only palliative methods are paid for when the remaining life expectancy is low (most medicare costs are incurred during the last year of life, when the invasive methods no longer extend the life of the patient anyway).


  • UBI is given to all adult (21+yo) citizens(green card is not enough).

  • All other programs (SSI, food stamps, rent control, public housing) are discontinued. Current recipients who prefer it over UBI, can refuse UBI and stay on their current programs for up to 3 years.

  • UBI is used to pay child support when a parent does not do so on their own

UBI should encourage recipients to seek employment.
It is not supposed to ensure "care-free" existence.
A child is a luxury, not an income source.
aphar: (Default)
2017-06-15 12:08 pm

Culture differences and Marxism

ivanov-petrov posted several scans from memoirs of Russian immigrants in the USA in 1920-ies.
One note that caught my fancy was the recurring complaint that while "things" (food, cars &c) are relatively cheap, "people" (domestic help - cleaning, cooking, driving) are relatively expensive:
Car driver is more expensive than the car itself, so the happy car owner has to wash, oil and service it oneself. Ladies have to do it too. One lady admitted to me that she has two cars but no household help. (translation is mine)
This is actually a direct contradiction to Marx's prediction that "haves" and "have nots" will drift further apart and that the "have nots" will be paid exactly the minimum cost of their food, cloth and shelter.
In fact the virtual disappearance of permanent domestic help (as opposed to, say, a weekly cleaner) indicates a reduction in economic inequality (as computed by, say, Gini coefficient).

PS. The domestic help issue for the immigrants is also related to the reduction of their status from "rich" in Russia to "middle class" in the US.
aphar: (nil)
2017-06-13 01:18 pm

(no subject)

- What do you get when you cross a Kangaroo and an Elephant?
- A letter from the Scientific Ethics Committee and a withdrawal of your grant money.
aphar: (Default)
2017-06-08 05:06 pm

farewell to LJ

Меня, похоже, забанил idelsong.livejournal.com (интересно, почему?)
Пропал последний стимул ходить в жж.
Через несколько месяцев aphar.livejournal.com исчезнет (я не согласился с их новыми правилами после переезда серверов в Россию).
aphar: (nil)
2017-05-19 01:04 pm

IQ still rulez

The Illusory Theory of Multiple Intelligences: basically, when you try to measure something which has to do with cognition, you get either IQ or nothing (either your tests' results will be highly correlated with the standard IQ tests, or they will not measure anything robust).
IOW, intelligence is, essentially, one-dimensional (plus noise).
It makes The Bell Curve still relevant (summary: Part 1, Part 2).
aphar: (lambda)
2017-05-18 02:30 pm

How to Lie with Statistics - revisited

even a smart and rigorous scientist could cart himself to crazyland, just by following the rules of the road:
  • ESP ("precognition") is real
  • Listening to Beatles makes you younger

By following the accepted practice of experimental psychology research one can raise the false positive rate to 60%.
aphar: (nil)
2017-05-17 11:32 am

I have no words - Слов нет

Николай Николаевич Никулин, "Воспоминания о войне":
Однажды я случайно подслушал разговор комиссара и командира стрелкового батальона, находившегося в бою. В этом разговоре выражалась суть происходящего: «Еще денька два повоюем, добьем оставшихся и поедем в тыл на переформировку. Вот тогда-то погуляем!»
(добьем оставшихся - это они про своих подчинённых).
Once I accidentally overheard a conversation between the political officer and the commander of a infantry battalion that was in combat at that moment. The conversation reflected the essence of the proceedings: "We will fight for a couple more days, kill off the remainder, and go to the rear for fresh reinforcements. That's when we will have some fun!"
(kill off the remainder - they are talking about their own subordinates).

1942, Погостье, 311 сд, пропустившая через себя за годы войны 200,000 человек (по словам последнего начальника стройчасти Неретина) (примерно 30 штатных составов).
aphar: (nil)
2017-05-16 04:11 pm

IQ vs SES vs Genes

Genetic and Environmental Influences on Cognition Across Development and Context (DOI: 10.1177/0963721413485087).

The current consensus is that
Genes account for between approximately 50% and 70% of the variation in cognition at the population level.

Moreover, the genes explain more variance for older people (20% for newborns, 70% for 18yo).

However, the explanatory power of genes depends on the SES:
For children in low-SES contexts, the heritability of cognition approaches zero, whereas for children in advantaged contexts, genes account for as much as 80% of individual differences in cognition.
...genetic influences on cognition are maximized by environmental opportunity...
... a poverty intervention changed parenting behaviors indirectly through effects on child behaviors; there was no immediate, direct effect of the intervention on parenting behaviors. In other words, the intervention was unable to directly influence parents to provide higher quality care but was able to change child behaviors to evoke more effective care from their parents...

So, it's not all gloom and doom.
Providing a better environment for low-SES kids may increase their cognitive attainment significantly.