Sunday, February 14, 2021

I Hate the Cable Company II: Final Farewell.

I fired my cable company. Not just the television portion, mind you; I cut that back in 2015. No, this time I cancelled the whole smack: phone and internet both.

It wasn't exactly what I had intended. Over the last three years, Time Warner, a.k.a. Spectrum, had again ratcheted up my rates, until the last bill (for only two services) was $95/month. Thinking I knew the drill for getting another discounted rate, I took the modem down to their offices and dropped it on the desk. To which the underpaid customer service rep said: okay.

The first problem I had to solve was getting back on the internet. Spectrum bought AT&T, so there aren't really any bargains on DSL anymore. Fortunately, we have unlimited data through our cell phone provider. Unfortunately, this plan does not include tethering, which costs an additional $10/15GB/phone. I initially avoided this fee and cap with PdaNet, a program that, once installed on a PC and phone, allows tethering over USB. The free tier of PdaNet has its own data limit, but I went ahead and bought the $8 "full version" without a limit. I wasn't sure how much this tethering aggravates the cell phone provider, so I also acquired a VPN service to mask my usage.

PdaNet has its own set of limitations:

  • USB tethering requires the "developer options" and "USB debugging" to both be active on the phone. This worked on my daughter's and my Samsung phones, but not on my wife's LG phone. Not sure why.

  • The paid version is supports "WiFi Direct Hotspot" from the phone to one or more PCs. Note, however, that the wifi connection must be established to the phones from within the PCs' PdaNet application (Settings-->WiFi Pairing), not as you would connect to a standard hotspot.

  • The desktop app is supposed to support "WiFi Share (beta)" from the desktop's wifi as an ad hoc network; however, this apparently only works from computers running Windows 7, not from Windows 10. I guess this is consistent with the ad hoc capability being generally disabled on Windows 10. Supposedly this can be overcome by changing the wifi card driver, but I couldn't make that work either.

  • I was able to connect every PC I own, and an old Nokia phone without cell service, but I failed to connect a Samsung tablet. I didn't have a C2C USB cable, but none of the "WiFi Direct Hotspot", "WiFi Share (beta)", and "legacy bluetooth mode" would allow me to access the internet through the connections. Also not sure why, but connecting to ad hoc networks is generally a problem for tablets, unless one is willing to perform some serious hacks on the OS, and I was not. I may update this post when/if I get a C2C.

So I wound up having to buy the cell company mobile hotspot anyway to run our tablet collection, but I anticipate keeping this below the 15GB monthly, and even if we don't, our plan let's us to exceed the limits at throttled speeds.

The next problem I had to solve was replacing my wife's email account, which had been provided by the cable company, and to which she unceremoniously lost access. For my non-blogging life, I've been happy with Microsoft, but in the interest of giving the finger to Big Tech, she chose Protonmail. Protonmail offers end-to-end encryption within it subscriber base, but not outside of it. The free tier get you very basic webmail, the paid tier ($4/month if you buy a year's worth) gets you MS Outlook integration (and other programs) and the ability to create additional online mail folders. Unfortunately, Protonmail does NOT allow contact synchronization, nor does it offer any calendar support at all.

A couple of interesting experiences with our VPN:

  • My ability to access a website can depend on the server to which I connect. Last evening, I suddenly stopped connecting to a number of sites, one of which was DuckDuckGo. (Facebook was not affected.) Changing servers fixed the problem, but I'll be disappointed if this gets to be typical.

  • The VPN interferes with my voicemail reception. Voicemail recordings would normally download directly to my phone automatically, but the VPN prevents this, probably by cell company policy to prevent voicemail hacking. I can still access voicemails on the cell carrier's server (*86), but I don't have much confidence that I haven't lost any of them.

It's mildly inconvenient not receiving internet service through our home router, to which we have ethernet connections to a printer and a shared drive, plus a couple of "smart" home devices. This doesn't matter much when we are USB tethering, but my a computer can only connect to one hotspot at a time; if we're tethering to the phone's "direct hotspot", we have to disconnect to connect to the home router to access files or run the printer. Likewise, I have to unplug the ethernet cable from a computer to connect it to the direct hotspot.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Crime Victimization Survey, 2019

Last September, Steve Sailer examined the 2018 Crime Victimization Survey published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the Department of Justice. In November, the 2019 CVS was published, so I'm going to duplicate his results for interracial violent crime.

Here is the original data from table 15:

The "Asian" category has been eliminated entirely as a victim category; according to the notes, the "Other" victim category "includes Asians, Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders, American Indians and Alaska Natives, persons of two or more races, and multiple offenders of various races". I see from the "Highlights" section that Asians were 1% of perpetrators and 2.3% of victims; according to the text next to Table 9, the rate of Asian victimization fell by 50% from 2018 to 2019.

Here I multiplied out the percentages to get the raw numbers in each category, summed them by offender, and calculated the percent of the total for each offender category. Note that the percentage of violent crimes committed by blacks and Hispanics rose substantially. Blacks, at 12% of the population, committed 20% of the violent crimes in 2018 and 26% in 2019. Hispanics at 17% of the population, committed 15% of violent crimes in 2018 and 20% in 2019. The white rate declined slightly and the "Other" rate declined dramatically.

In this table, I have calculated the percentages by offender. For instance, 86.8% of the victims of white criminals are fellow whites, 4.5% are black, and 8.6% are Hispanic. Meanwhile, 44.2% of the victims of black criminals are white, 32.4% are fellow blacks, and 23.3% are Hispanic.

It's important to understand that the greater percentage of white victims of blacks offenders compared to black victims of white offenders does not mean that blacks are targeting whites. In a world where offenders were selecting their victims without regard to race, the percentage of victims for all perpetrators would be exactly that victim's percentage of the population. In other words, 62% of the victims of white offenders would be white, 12% would be black, etc. Likewise, 62% of the victims of black offenders would also be white, and 12% would be black, because that's who makes up the population of victims. And these percentages would apply irrespective of differential rates of crimality.

As it happens, the data show the preference* of all offenders for committing violence against members of their own race. As Steve has pointed out, this is good for social peace. But it's not the end of the story.

I obtained these ratios by conditioning the interracial crime raw numbers on the offenders percentage of the population, and then taking the ratio. For instance, I divided the number of black-on-white crimes from two slides ago (472,644) by the percentage of blacks in the population (12%). Likewise, I divided the number of white-on-black crimes (90,019) by the percentage of whites in the population (62%). I then divided the first ratio by the second to get what I will call an Individual Danger Ratio of 27.13. This is basically saying that a randomly selected black person is 27 times more likely to commit a crime against a randomly selected white person than that white person is to commit the same crime against the black person.

* Preference, that is, in a model of crime where criminals had criminal access to all races equally. Of course, that's not true: our communities are highly segregated by race, and this data mainly show the criminal preference for committing crimes close to home. To show actual racial preferences in victims, we would need to restrict the interracial crime numbers to people living in the same community, but I'm not sure that data exist.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

On Multiracial Whiteness

Via iSteve, a WaPo op-ed on "Multiracial Whiteness".

Of course, it's easy to make fun of the obvious oxymoron, but let's admit this is a step up for us from the usual accusation of "racist" or "white supremacist". It's still terrible branding, which is why Cristina Beltrán uses it, given her intent to impugn. I prefer the name "American" without hyphens or qualification. But I'm not here to quibble over naming.

Rather, I want to counter her accusations of "agression, domination, and exclusion" with a definition of my own. What I call American and what Cristina calls "Whiteness" lies at the intersection of:

  • Identity. Who are you? Whither lie your loyalties? Do you look upon the faces of Mount Rushmore and say, "that's my heritage"? Do you read the stories of Jamestown and Plymouth Rock and say, "these are my people"?

  • Values. What do you uphold? Do you believe in limited government? Self-reliance? RKBA? Do you respect the principles, both in law and in practice, contained in the Bill of Rights?

  • Social Competence. Do you, on balance, generate positive rather than negative externalities? Do you earn your own living and pay your own way? Do you adhere to Commandments VI - X?

Not all of us sit perfectly at this intersection, and not all the time. But the further we stray from it, the further we stray from being American.

This is not to be naive about the correlation between this intersection and being racially white. It is not to deny that the process by which non-whites are assimilated into this intersection has broken down under the weight of the rapidly rising percentage of non-whites. And it is not to pretend that the official culture is not now actively hostile to that assimilation and doesn't disincentivize it in various ways.

It is only to say that the intersection itself doesn't require one to be "White" in its strict biological sense of having the majority of one's recent ancestors descend from the European peoples, but only requires something like what Ruth, the Moabite immigrant and ancestor to King David and Jesus, said to her mother-in-law Naomi:

Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God."

Likewise, as God through Christ can graft we Gentiles onto the Tree of Life*, so have we gun-toting**, MAGA cap-wearing***, Republican-voting**** Americans grafted non-whites into the tree of Multiracial Whiteness.

* The metaphor is made stronger by my observation that the most of the graftees come to the American intersection by way of Evangelical Christianity.

** Only metaphorically. I lost all my guns in a boating accident last Tuesday in the Gulf, never to be seen again.

*** Also metaphorical. I've never actually worn one of those.

**** Since it looks like such voting is on its way to being a firing offense, I should probably abjure on this one as well.

Scott Alexander is Back!

In a new substack blog and under his real name. Welcome, and best wishes.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Whither Singles Ministries?

In my last post, I wrote:

the social space in which a non-college-educated woman (for instance) can be courted by a college-educated professional man is much smaller than it perhaps once was.

I started to add that one such social space remaining would be church singles ministries. These usually take the form of age-bracketed Sunday school classes, often specifically advertised as catering to unmarried people. I met my own wife in one such class at a large mainline church in a city Out West and have no regrets.

But I noted some time ago that this church no longer offers such classes. I did a quick check among the larger local Protestant Evangelical churches I knew about (at least one of which is famous enough that you, too, have heard of it), yet found only one that advertised a singles ministry (for 30- and 40-somethings). My RC friends have reported a similar decline in single's ministries for Roman Catholics. What's going on?

Has online dating really sucked dry the market for IRL social spaces? Perhaps all single people today believe the advantages of online dating (large pool of participants, limited personal exposure prior to date commitment) outweigh the costs (Tinder screening factors, date commitment necessary to meet and interact).

Perhaps it reflects the desires of women, or at least of those with the loudest voices. Putting single men and women together inevitably means the former will approach the latter. No doubt some women want to be approached, but it may be difficult for those women to express this against women who do not want to be approached, or for whom being approached by the wrong men or in the wrong way is an intolerable social cost. I expect their complaints would find a receptive ear among the church leaders, older men who met and married their wives in a different age, men who accpet uncritically the claim that today's low marriage rates are wholly the fault of men for their failure to meet women's expectations.

Monday, November 23, 2020

The Bad Decision Handbook

I finished reading Privilege Lost: Who Leaves the Upper Middle Class and How They Fall, Jessi Streib's qualitative study of how children enter downwardly mobile econimic trajectories. It is based on in-depth interviews conducted as part of the "National Survey of Youth and Religion".

The book is badly written, and it's analytical framework is weak and repetitive. Streib wants to explain downward mobility as a function of two factors:

  • Weakness in "inherited resources", here listed as money and academic and institutional knowledge.

  • Identity, falling into one of seven categories, and itself often a function of resource weakness.

The work virtually ignores any consideration of individual intelligence or those qualities of the Five Factor Model that most predict academic and professional success: emotional stability and contientiousness. Instead, Streib relies entirely on the interviewees' own account of their backgrounds and interior lives. This leads to some pretty hilarious incongruities. My personal favorite is the account of "Virginia", introduced in the chapter on the "stay-at-home mother" identity:

Virginia was raised in such a family [that emphasized traditional gender roles] and in a conservative space -- in a variety of red states and by secular parents who spent their formative years as members of conservative religions. Her father earned a high income, but from Virginia's perspective, he was rarely home. When he was home, Virginia tried to learn about the workforce from him, but he did not engage. Virginia explained: "I really wish that he was more vocal, that he would talk about more things . . . ." Virginia was much closer to her mothther, but she could not play this role in Virginia's life. Having dropped out of college to beocme a stay-at-home mom, Virginia's mother never entered the professional workforce or gained the knowledge associated with it.

We then read about Virginia's efforts to navigate the course of her teenage years:

Virginia . . . did not use school to prepare for college and work. Instead, she considered school a holding zone and a romantic zone. Regarding the former, she saw school as the process of "sitting in a classroom learning stuff I don't care about." At the same time, she met her first boyfiriend in high school and enjoyed speding time with him at school. Yet, after Virginia's boyfriend slept with her best friend while Virginia was passed out, drunk, on the other side of the room, Virginia returned to seeing school as a holding zone.

So . . . it's pretty clear there are other problems here than just Virginia's stay-at-home mother identity.

To give Streib some partial credit, I will allow that, however worthwhile being a stay-at-home mother is as a lifestyle choice for those women to whom the opportunity is offered, as a career plan it may be poorly suited as a method of "class reproduction". As Streib points out, most professional class people marry other professional class people, and the social space in which a non-college-educated woman (for instance) can be courted by a college-educated professional man is much smaller than it perhaps once was.

But it might also be true that stay-at-home mother is defined by more than just resource weaknesses. It may be that the track requires its own set of resource strengths. For instance, it may mean not getting blind drunk at parties, not having slutty girlfriends, not dating men living the kind of lives -- or living such a life yourself -- where no-strings-attached sex is A Thing. There may be something about Virginia's background -- having adopted a "conservative" life-goal without having herself internalized any of the conservative values that would support such an ambition -- that is especially likely to end poorly.

Virginia's were not the only bad decisions made by Streib's collection of interviewees, perhaps not even the worst. The subjects adopting the "rebel" identify, and those described as "explorers", by which Streib means those who maintain several competing identities, often including "rebel", were especially self-destructive in their choices. Others' were merely sad: for instance, the decision by a perfectly capable and energetic young woman to try to become a writer for television shows without deep family connections in that industry. It is the counter-example of these stories, and not Streib's analysis, in which the real strength of the book lies.

Sunday, October 04, 2020

The Ethics of Salesmanship

In yesterday's post I compared Stefan Molyneux's ethical worldview (hereafter simply philosophy), as expressed in his novel The God of Atheists, to the Old Testament Law. On reflection, this isn't really fair to the Old Testament. Whatever its demands, the Old Testament provided a set of bright-line rules such that you could be pretty sure whether or not you had broken one. But it was often difficult for me to predict which of the characters would be judged guilty of ethical lapses by philosophy. (Short answer: most of them.) Spoilers follow.

The early pleasure in reading TGoA was the depth of Molyneux's entry into the interior lives of his characters, the rich detail with which he describes both their internal motivations and the complexity of the personal and professional situations in which they live and work. His description of Middle School politics was spot-on, for instance, his revelation of the utter cynicism with which the project of starting a "boy band" is undertaken was laugh-out-loud funny, and his characterization of the upper-middle-class economy was biting and incisive. Molyneux writes with real insight, I believe, into the ways people behave and then deceive themselves about it. More prosaically, I learned a lot from him about the mundane worlds he writes about, such as investing, finance and commercial software development. Even the sex scene, which I earlier described as paint-by-numbers, had I will freely admit those numbers exactly right. This, for once, is in favorable contrast to Ayn Rand, whose novels I have been informed are populated by caricatures.

The problem is that all the richness of his characters starts to recede as they turn to philosophy. The three children -- Stephen, Sarah, and Alice -- the description of whose peer culture and their roles within it had me nodding in recognition, slowly become something with which I completely lost any identification. Stephen, the professor's son, begins his descent into philosophy by asking, "Are my parents happy?" What child does this? I didn't. I don't even do it now, not in any existential sense; I am content to accept everyone's presentation at face value. Come to think of it, I don't really stop to ask myself whether I am happy, only thanking God every day for such blessings I have. That is enough. Similarly, all the children demand to know why their mothers stay married to their fathers. Short of what must be an extremely high threshold of domestic violence, what child sniffs at her parents' marriage, "not ethical", and believe divorce would improve anyone's happiness?

As I mentioned in the last post, it was Stephen's father's crime, undertaken with malice aforethought, of driving Gordon to drop out of college and then writing up Gordon's thesis proposal as his own, that struck me as the most obvious. But the second most obvious crime was when Justin, the elder son of another of the families, willfully destroys the prospects of his incipient boy band with a profanity-laced tirade during its first live television appearance. This occurs in the middle of what the reader will recognize as a bout of depression, but which Molyneux attributes to a troubled conscience.* Fair enough. But the consequences were devastating, taking with them the fortunes of the third family, whose elder son Ian was also a member of the band and whose father Al was its producer and agent. Justin is the one character in the novel given something of a redemption arc by his embrace of philosophy, yet in the final chapter, while he admits to Ian that Ian may be justified in hating him, Justin never actually repents, nor even apologizes. It is not at all clear that Molyneux even recognizes Justin's action, betraying the trust and hope of everyone who had invested their money, time, and energy into the project, as even wrong.

At the other extreme, Molyneux presents Terry, the lead programmer hired fresh-out-of-college by Dave, a tech entrepreneur and Justin's father. Terry labors heroically at low pay** to meet the commitments his boss makes to their customers. He's the one character who presents as fundamentally decent, yet even he comes under the children's judgment for (and I'm half-guessing here) learning on the job? Not knowing that most of Dave's previous ventures had failed? Not quitting when a parent company bungled the stock options? Not appreciating the extent to which that stock was overvalued? That's a lot of expectation to lay at the feet of any one person, as he himself says when the children confront him. Like I said, Molyneux doesn't straw-man his counter-arguments.

Dave and Al represent middle cases. Dave is guilty of a range of petty graft as he struggles to maintain his family's upper-middle-class facade, but his primary failure is being out of his management depth, making promises to investors and clients both that, while not bald-faced lies exactly, are backed up more by hope and wishful thinking than experienced, hard-headed realism. Al, the talent agent for musical groups, seldom shepherds them to wild success. Both of them are in a sense salesmen whose primary product is neither music nor software but risk. They offer investors/musicians the opportunity of wealth/fame at the risk of loss. Both of them share in that risk (in Dave's case, more than he knew), but that is not enough. Molyneux to his credit, is trying to make a valid ethical point about how such opportunities should be offered appropriately, but on the strength of the novel I can't say I know where the ethical line actually is. Dave is clearly over it, but Al? His son Ian says at the end, "My dad f*cks people for a living." I read nothing that justifies that assessment. I expect most musicians are eager for any shot they might have to get paid for doing what they love. Al provides them that shot.

Professional ethics are a serious subject, and most professions take it seriously. The engineering department at which I taught covered it, as does the FE exam. But I'm not sure that philosophy is any help. Towards the end, Gordon-the-sock-puppet sneers at the prospect of developing an "Ethics in Accounting" course: "the basics", he calls it, "what people should already know." Maybe. But maybe not.

* I think. There were a few passages that, while I admired them for their florid prose style, were substantively incomprehensible. Justin's depression was described for an entire chapter in clinical detail, yet at the end I still couldn't summarize what it was all about.

** I'm not sure when the novel is set, but it was published in 2007. Justin's salary is given at $40K, which hasn't been the median starting salary for a tech professional since the mid-nineties.