27 October, 2017

Notes From All Over: Communists, Partisans, and P-Values

Notes From All Over: A collection of recently published articles, essays, reports, or blog posts of merit.


"This Is What A 21st-Century Police State Really Looks Like"
Megha Rajagopalan. Buzzfeed (18 October 2017).

In the countryside, if you get even one call from abroad, they will know. It’s obvious,” said R., who agreed to meet me in the back of a trusted restaurant only after all the other patrons had gone home for the night. He was so nervous as he spoke that he couldn’t touch the lamb-stuffed pastries on his plate. 
In March, R. told me, he found out that his mother had disappeared into a political education center. His father was running the farm alone, and no one in the family could reach her. R. felt desperate. 
Two months later, he finally heard from his mother. In a clipped phone call, she told him how grateful she was to the Chinese Communist Party, and how good she felt about the government. 
“I know she didn’t want to say it. She would never talk like that,” R. said. “It felt like a police officer was standing next to her.”
Since that call, his parents’ phones have been turned off. He hasn’t heard from them since May.
"How China Shapes the World: An Introduction to United Front Work"
 Peter Mattis. Linkedin (22 September 2017).

"Should We Redefine Statistical Significance? A Brains Blog Roundtable"
John Schwenker. Brains Blog (2 October 2017).
What should be the scholarly response to the growing sense, among scientific researchers and the lay public alike, that scientific publications are not trustworthy — that is, that the report of a statistically significant finding in a reputable scientific journal does not in general warrant drawing any meaningful conclusions? 
A new paper in the journal Nature Human Behavior proposes a simple but radical solution: the default P-value threshold for statistical significance should be changed from 0.05 to 0.005 for claims of new discoveries. 
The paper has dozens of co-authors, many of them quite distinguished. Given both the importance of the topic and the attention that the paper has already generated, it seemed worth organizing a discussion of the paper here at Brains.....

"Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Severe Anxiety?"
Benoit Denizet-Lewis. New York Times Magazine (11 October 2017).

Selina Zito. New York Post (30 September 2017).

"Nothing Divides Voters Like Owning a Gun"
Nate Cohn and Kevin Quealy. New York Times (5 October 2017).

If you want to know who an American citizen voted for, ask them this question: does knowing that people around are armed make you feel more or less safe? This issue is so divisive because both sides of the question are convinced that the other side is trying to make them less safe. 
Related: "The Partisan Divide on Political Values Grows Even Larger," Pew Research Center (5 October 2017)


There is a lot of analysis coming out of the big Beijing hoopala this week, but I have not had time to separate out the wheat from the chaff yet. Those will appear in next month's "Notes."

"The Resistible Rise of Xi Jinping"
"Special Correspondent." Foreign Policy (26 October 2017).

Related: Joseph Torigiani,"The Shadow of Deng Xiaoping on Chinese Elite Politics," War on the Rocks (20 January 2017).

"The Kowtow"
Michael Reddell. Croaking Cassandra (5 October 2017).

This is a good follow up on the New Zealand fracas discussed at the Stage last month.
Related: Jichang Lulu, "New Zealand: United Frontlings," Jichang Lulu (21 September 2017).

Ideas and Ideologies Competing for China's Political Future
 Kristin Shi-Kupfer, Mareike Ohlben, Simon Lang and Bertram Lang. MERICS report no. 5 (October 2017).

This deserves to be read carefully. There are many hidden nuggets inside it!

"Book Review: Taming the Dragon"
Jaideep Prabhu. Chatarunga (1 October 2017).

"How People Across Asia View China"
Laura Silver. Pew Research Center (16 October 2017).

South Korean public opinion has seen sharps swings against China since the last time these questions were polled in 2016. Then much smaller number of respondents believe that the People's Republic of China was a military threat to their nation, or that China's rise was bad for their country. Now a commanding majority affirms the first contention; a smaller, but still substantial, majority affirms the second.

Savant level insight is not needed to guess the source of this change.


"Europe Slams Its Gates: A Foreign Policy Investigative Report"
Foreign Policy (4 October 2017).

Especially interesting was Part I, Ty McCormick's "The Paradox of Prosperity":
....a false but largely ignored assumption upon which the EU’s entire plan to use development to fight migration is premised: Better jobs and more income, at least in the short and medium term, don’t typically relieve migratory pressures in desperately poor countries; they increase them, a fact that is well-documented by economists..... The notion that someday there might be a well-paying job for him right here in Mali — the kind of job envisioned by EU policymakers — struck him as unlikely. If one suddenly appeared, though, Traoré knew exactly what he would do: “I would save money and go to Europe.”
"This Tiny Country Feeds the World"
Frank Vivanio. national Geographic. Sep 2017.
The Netherlands is a small, densely populated country, with more than 1,300 inhabitants per square mile. It’s bereft of almost every resource long thought to be necessary for large-scale agriculture. Yet it’s the globe’s number two exporter of food as measured by value, second only to the United States, which has 270 times its landmass. How on Earth have the Dutch done it?

"Interview with Professor Sir Michael Howard"
Michael Howard. Institute of Historical Research (5 June 2008).

A fascinating set of observations from the late Michael Howard, ranging from the differences between British and American academia, the intellectual history of "war studies," and how the discipline of history changed from the days when he first began (in the 1930s) to the decade that he was interviewed in.

"Labour repression & the Indo-Japanese divergence"
"Pseudoerasmus." Pseudoerasmus. (2 October 2017).

This essay pops all sorts of historical myths, reaching far beyond what its title may suggest. Economic and comparative history at its best.

"World Economic History: Syllabus (Fall 2017)"
Anton Howes, Medium (27 September 2017)

Related: Antone Howes, "Why Study Economic History?," Medium (27 September 2017); Melanie Meng Xue, "Topics in Economic History: Chinese Economic History (Fall 2017)."

"From Wannabe Redcoat to Rebel: George Washington's Journey to Revolution"

Geoff Smock, Journal of the American Revolution (16 October 2017).


"The Costs of Suppression"
Stumbling and Mumbling (11 October 2017).

"Command of the Littorals—Insights from Mahan"
B.A. Friedman, Strategy Bridge (10 October 2017).

"Anatomy of a Moral Panic"
Maciej Cegłowski. Idle Words (21 September 2017).


"Why fake islands might be a real boon for science"
Emma Marris. Nature. (4 October 2017).

The sea steaders have already accomplished much more than I thought they ever would.

"New Evidence for How Birds Took to the Air"
Helen Briggs. BBC (10 October 2017).

Alternate title: "New Evidence for How Dinosaurs Took to the Air."

Science and Chinese Somatization."
Shayla Love. Undark (10 October 2017)


Moni Mohsin. Economist: 1848 (October/November 2017).

Moni Mohsin asks: what contemporary society most resembles the world of Jane Austen's novels? The answer, she says, is clear. Pakistan.

"At the End of the Quest, Victory"
W.H. Auden. New York Times (22 January 1956).

Literary giant W.H. Auden pens a remarkable review of J.R.R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings. 

Related: Daniel Nexon, "Tolkein's Map," Lawyers, Guns, and Money (20 October 2017).

This is easily the best Intelligence Squared debate I have ever seen.


"A Generic College Term Paper"
Jon Wu. McSweeneys. (October 2014).

10 October, 2017

The Decline of American Democracy (in one Infographic!)

No definition for the word "democracy" has ever made sense to me but this one: a society of self-governing men and women banded together in self-governing communities--in other words, free citizens that possess the autonomy and power to govern themselves.

I have friends that dwell in some of the earth's most despotic domains. They are often curious about the workings of America's republic. I tell them that the genius of American democracy is not to be found in Washington. To see democracy at work, I suggest, they should attend a meeting of an American school board. Nowhere are the duties and virtues of participatory democracy more powerfully expressed than in these small assemblies. What Americans know of self governance, they learned here.  The school boards are the measure of our republic.

We have not been measuring well of late:

Figure 3 in Educational Policy Institute, "The Landscape of Public Education: 

Much of what Frank Bryan had to say almost two decades ago about the declining participation in New England town meetings applies equally here: 

Citizens are not born. They are raised. The single most recurrent theme in the literature on the town meeting in the 19th Century—when town meetings were much stronger than they are now—was the notion that town meetings are schoolhouses of citizenship. It is not a coincidence that Vermont, the place where my work takes place, often leads in measures of civic capital and is also the state that has the strongest town meeting tradition. Meanwhile America's greatest enterprise—our glorious national Republic—is withering away. We ask our citizens to participate in the selection of our president only once every four years at the cost of less than an hour's time out of their lives. Despite our best efforts it is difficult to get even half of them to do so. It is time to resuscitate real democracy—that unique blending of conflict and decision at the human scale—in the heartland. I see thick, local democracies—real democracies—as pasture springs in the high hills of the American homeland. From these pasture springs of politics will flow the waters that refresh our national reservoirs of citizenship. We have long known that the nation's parts cannot survive without the nation's whole. It is time to recognize that at the most fundamental level the reverse is equally so. [1] (emphasis added).

See Also:

T. Greer, "Economies of Scale Killed the American Dream," Scholar's Stage (1 July 2013).

T. Greer, "Honor, Dignity, and Victimhood: A Tour Through Three Centuries of American Political Culture," Scholar's Stage (16 September 2015).


[1] Frank M. Bryan, "An interview with Frank M. Bryan, author of Real Democracy: The New England Town Meeting and How It Works," University of Chicago Press website (April 2003).