Cathedral Round Up #3

stanford cover

From Stanford Magazine’s feature article, A Hard Look at How We See Race:

“Jennifer Eberhardt’s research shows subconscious connections in people’s minds between black faces and crime, and how those links may pervert justice. Law enforcement officers across the country are taking note.

The first time Jennifer Eberhardt presented her research at a law enforcement conference, she braced for a cold shoulder. How much would streetwise cops care what a social psychology professor had to say about the hidden reaches of racial bias?

Instead, she heard gasps, the loudest after she described an experiment that showed how quickly people link black faces with crime or danger at a subconscious level. In the experiment, students looking at a screen were exposed to a subliminal flurry of black or white faces. The subjects were then asked to identify blurry images as they came into focus frame by frame.

The makeup of the facial prompts had little effect on how quickly people recognized mundane items like staplers or books. But with images of weapons, the difference was stark—subjects who had unknowingly seen black faces needed far fewer frames to identify a gun or a knife than those who had been shown white faces. For a profession dealing in split-second decisions, the implications were powerful. … “

This is actually quite interesting research, but it does not investigate why people might have become hyper-vigilant about danger around black people to start with. Given that crime victimization surveys consistently show that blacks actually commit crimes at rates similar to their rates of incarceration, Professor Eberhardt is capturing, at best, a miniscule effect. The effect of black people actually committing real crimes explains the vast, vast majority of black incarceration, and any research on the subject that doesn’t take this into account is ignorant at best.

Keep in mind:


The police disproportionately shoot whites and Hispanics, not blacks, and even when they do shoot at blacks, they are mysteriously less likely to kill them. Police officers are actually less likely to use force against black suspects because they fear backlash:

Pistol-whipped detective says he didn’t shoot attacker because of headlines (article NOT from a university):

“A Birmingham, Alabama, police detective who was pistol-whipped unconscious said Friday that he hesitated to use force because he didn’t want to be accused of needlessly killing an unarmed man. …

“”We don’t want to be in the media,” he said. “It’s hard times right now for us.” …

“Adding insult to injury: several bystanders, instead of helping, took pictures of the bloodied officer as he was facedown on the concrete and posted the images on social media, where the officer was mocked. …

“”Pistol whipped his ass to sleep,” one user wrote, employing the hashtag #FckDaPolice. Another mockingly offered the officer milk and cookies for his “nap time.””

And it’s not just anecdote–here’s a study: Cops hesitate more, err less when shooting black suspects.

• Officers were less likely to erroneously shoot unarmed black suspects than they were unarmed whites — 25 times less likely, in fact
• And officers hesitated significantly longer before shooting armed suspects who were black, compared to armed subjects who were white or Hispanic

“In sum,” writes Dr. Lois James, a research assistant professor with the university’s Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology who headed the study, “this research found that participants displayed significant bias favoring Black suspects” in their shooting decisions.

Stanford Magazine closes with Ghosts of Mascots Past: Respect should transcend nostalgia:

“… I, too, am a Stanford Indian. I’m a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and a proud Stanford alumna. But nothing about the caricature on that shirt represents me, my family, my community, or the hundreds of other Native students and alumni of the university.

Whenever the Stanford Indian resurfaces, I’m reminded that the Native members of the Stanford community still aren’t viewed as equals. …

Adrienne Keene, ’07, is a postdoctoral fellow in Native American studies at Brown University. She writes about Native representations on her blog, Native Appropriations.

If Indians don’t like being used as mascots, politeness dictates not using them as mascots.

However, the idea that you aren’t viewed as an equal at a university that is at least 50% non-white is really quite a stretch; the idea that the mascot has anything to do with it makes about as much sense as saying that the Irish aren’t viewed as equals at Notre Dame.


If anything, I’d think that attending a place like Stanford is rather akin to having the world handed to you on a big silver platter, and so maybe it looks bad to complain too much that your platter isn’t shiny enough or it wasn’t handed over with sufficient deference.

Next up, Harvard:


The text says, “From the Ground Up: Doing Business at the base of the pyramid

Let’s take a moment to look at these two covers. Stanford recently had a “Protest” cover, showing Stanford students shutting down a highway in support of Black Lives Matter; today’s cover is even starker.

Harvard’s cover also features black people, but more subtly, and these are black people who actually live in Africa, rather than America. The overall feeling I get when reading official (non-student run) Harvard publications is one of internationalism–here are pictures of our Ugandan law students, here’s what up with our European investments, here a story about a professor in China–while Stanford’s publications feels decidedly mired in common American problems.

This is not to say that Harvard students aren’t protesting in favor of Black Lives Matter–they definitely are. But the university’s official publications chose not to highlight this the way Stanford’s do. Harvard’s vision of itself is global; Standford’s is national.

Anyway, back to the article, a discussion of how difficult it is to be economically successful in Africa, because even though food grows perfectly well there, people haven’t figured out how to get it all to market before it rots. A country like Nigeria, therefore, is reduced to importing tomato paste while millions of tomatoes rot in the countryside. So some Harvard guys are trying to teach Nigerians how to efficiently preserve their tomatoes so they can actually get them to market before they rot. (Wouldn’t the most efficient solution be sun-dried tomatoes? I know plenty of African fishermen sun-dry their catches because it’s an easy and free way to preserve food in their environment.)

Unfortunately the whole process is impeded by Fulani tribesmen who like to herd their cattle through the tomato fields.

Open borders rule!

Then we get to the meat of the article:

Imagine a simple triangle diagram of the planet’s population. A fortunate couple of billion upper-income people—in the United States and Canada, much of Europe, Japan, Australia, and prospering urban centers in parts of Asia and Latin America—occupy the apex. The invisible hand of market capitalism supplies this prominent minority with bountiful goods and services. But that leaves a lot of people out. At the very bottom of the pyramid, a billion or more humans live in poverty (on less than $1.25 per person per day), often depending on government programs and charitable aid to subsist.

” … In a conversation, he compared the lives of these people, the base of the pyramid, with those at the top. Because they likely do not own property, and lack rent or tax receipts, they are not bankable, so they turn to exploitative money lenders for credit to stock a shop or start a small business. For medical care, they choose among local healers, vendors of patent nostrums, or queues at public clinics (where it may take a bribe to advance in line). Their labor, often interrupted by those queues or long bus trips to remit cash to a rural family, may be seasonal, itinerant, and legally unprotected. Functioning markets, he noted, imply a level playing field between consumers and producers, but most of these people aren’t getting a remotely fair deal. It is as if the broad base of the pyramid were an alternate universe where familiar rules don’t apply.

“Rangan quickly credited the late corporate strategist C.K. Prahalad, D.B.A. ’75, of the University of Michigan, for saying (most prominently in The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty through Profits, published in 2004) that the same rules ought to apply.”

As I have said over and over, societies are built by the people in them. At this point, invoking the Invisible Hand is tantamount to invoking Voodoo or the influence of Mercury retrograde in Taurus.

Countries where the people have high levels of trust, low levels of aggression, and low time-discounting end up with efficient, complex markets where they can do business with strangers without fear of being cheated or killed. In nice countries, like Japan, Finland, and even the US, the people depending on government aid and charitable programs to subsist do not have to bribe their way into medical care because people in those countries believe that bribery and line-jumping are immoral.

Nice countries are places where everyone agrees to cooperate in the Prisoner’s Dilemma. Shitty ones are places where everyone is looking for a chance to defect–say, by running their cattle through a neighbor’s tomato fields.

“Philanthropic and development agencies tend not to scale or sustain themselves, he found, and public entities often fail to assure efficacy and efficiency. In contrast, “Through the ages, one actor has proven consistently able” to satisfy these criteria: competitive private industries.

“… Rangan applied his scholarly perspective to suggest inverting the telescope through which companies view prospective lower-income markets. “Typical marketing sells the organization to the customer,” he and research associate Arthur McCaffrey wrote a decade ago. (Need a car? We at GM/Mercedes/Toyota make good ones.) Within the base of the pyramid—devoid as it is of cash, roads, and gas stations—there are no such customers. But enormous demand exists for carts to ease the burden of hauling loads along muddy paths or cheap pumps to irrigate fields. Here, the proper paradigm is to “sell the customer to the organization.”

Long-term, I think making the opportunities to become successful available to people is actually a good strategy. The article is too long to continue quoting, but you can read it there if you’re interested in the opportunities/difficulties of investing in developing markets.

In Shedding Light through Social Science, Harvard’s President Faust, rated by Forbes as the 33rd most powerful woman in the world, descendant of Puritans, IVY league grads, Senators, and thoroughbred horse breeders, talks about the opportunities for Harvard to use its computing power to comb through Big Data in pursuit of the Great Informationing (my term, not hers):

“The nature of censorship in China, to give just one example, can be explored by monitoring the types of communication suppressed by the government, a project that relies on sifting through millions of social media posts.

“At the same time, real-world experiments can inform economic, political, and social theory. Are people more likely to save for retirement with the help of targeted brain stimulation? Can gender bias in hiring, promotions, and work assignments be overcome by evaluating candidates jointly rather than individually? How do malnutrition and sleep deprivation among low-income individuals influence economic outcomes? Faculty supported by cross-school research programs such as the Behavioral Insights Group and the Foundations of Human Behavior Initiative are answering these and other questions by undertaking discipline-spanning research that can shape everything from the decisions we make at the grocery store to the votes we cast in the ballot box.”

Personally, I think trying to electrocute people into having lower time preference is really scraping the bottom of the idea barrel; you might as well just throw in the towel and say that some people just aren’t very good at delaying gratification and there’s not much you can do about it. Faust continues:

“This is a time of remarkable promise for the social sciences. Yet short-sighted federal funding cuts are threatening our ability to answer questions that have the potential to inform and shape all of our lives. The last 51 of the United States’ recipients of the Nobel Prize in Economics were supported by the research divisions of the National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences, which may soon face a more than 50 percent reduction from current federal funding. If we hope to address complex and consequential issues such as climate change, global pandemics, and inequality and human rights, we cannot ignore unique insights into the human and behavioral that the social sciences alone can provide.”

Harvard has more money than god and could send a mission to Mars if it felt like, but more taxpayer dollars to investigate whether or not we can alter people’s brains to get them to save money is critical.

Harvard then turns to women’s issues, with a spotlight portrait of history Professor Catherine Brekus:

Catherine Brekus ’85 specializes in hearing the voices of America’s early female religious leaders, nearly lost to history …

” “I did not like studying history in high school,” the Warren professor of the history of religion at Harvard Divinity School confesses, smiling. “I was always good at it…but the idea is that you memorize a lot of facts, mostly about political history, and what happened when.” When she taught the subject to high-school students for two years, Brekus noticed that textbooks “have this narrative of political events…and then you have this little human-interest thing in a box. That was where the women would appear. My goal as a historian,” she adds, “is to get women out of those boxes and into the main texts.””

And she’s going to fix this by studying the lives of women whom no one cares about?

If you want more women in the history books, do (or encourage them to do) something worth recording in a history book.

In A Case for Women:

“When Nitin Nohria became Harvard Business School (HBS) dean in mid 2010, he detailed five priorities, ranging from innovation in education and internationalization to inclusion. In setting out the latter goal, he said in a recent conversation, he aimed not at numerical diversity, but at a broader objective: that every HBS student and teacher be enabled to thrive within the community.”

If you can’t “thrive” at HBS without the faculty making special sure to pander to your needs, you do not belong in business. The idea that women are special little wilting flowers who have to be coddled at every turn because they can’t take care of themselves, even at the highest levels of intelligence and achievement, is absolutely repulsive.

““I have launched an initiative that will focus…on the challenges facing women at the school,” Nohria wrote. He created an institutional home for the work—a senior associate deanship for culture and community—and appointed Wilson professor of business administration Robin J. Ely to the post: a logical choice, given her research on race and gender relations in organizations. …

“Just as M.B.A. cases have become increasingly global in the past decade, he aims for at least 20 percent to “feature a female” leader within the next three years. (And because HBS sells cases to schools worldwide, that shift will radiate far beyond Allston.) …

Ely recently recalled the concerns that prompted Nohria’s initial interest, including persistent underrepresentation of women among M.B.A. students earning highest academic honors.”

In other words, Nohria is making pity-jobs for women because they can’t hack it at HBS. Next time you look at the skyrocketing cost of college tuition, remember that college is now a make-work program for unemployable women.

Continuing the theme, “Not Holding out for a Hero” features an interview with the Asian Man now drawing Wonder Woman.

In Empathy and Imagination, author Ceridwen Dovey (now there’ a British name for you!) talks about how guilty she feels over apartheid in her childhood home of South Africa, a place she doesn’t actually bother to live in anymore, now that her political activist parents’ goal of racial harmony and integration have been achieved.

“Motherhood also played a role [in the writing of her new novel]: “It made me more grateful for the time I have to write,” she adds—and ultimately more creative, especially while finishing Only the Animals in 2013. The nature of pregnancy, nursing, and caring for a newborn intensified her kinship with “the whole family of mammals.”

“… Like Coetzee, Sax, an author and academic best known for his writings on animal-human relations, has influenced Dovey, who also admits to feeling “bewildered to the point of inaction in terms of the ethical responsibilities we have toward animals and the obligations we owe them as the dominant species on earth. We treat animals in the most appalling ways right now.” …

““I am very aware that we are all creatures who suffer together, and that existence is hard for us all,” Dovey reflects. “There is something, also, about the bond we have with animals, the care and connection that we don’t appreciate or see the magic in as much as we should.””

As Staffan points out, vegetarianism and Englishness (in this case, perhaps Welshness) are extremely correlated:

Map of self-reported English ancestry
Map of self-reported English ancestry (green)
Map showing the per capita distribution of vegetarian restaurants
Map of per capita distribution of vegetarian restaurants (green)
Graph of the correlation between vegetarianism and English ancestry
Graph of the correlation between vegetarianism and English ancestry

The English and their near kin are probably unique in the world in their ability to consistently extend their circle of concern not only to non-tribally related humans, but even to animals–even other whites do not share this trait:

Graph showing the much lower correlation between
Graph showing the much lower correlation between “whites” and vegetarianism

Since the English are included in whites, removing them from the graph would result in an even lower correlation.

Off-topic, here is a quick excerpt from an interesting letter to the editor:

“In those distant days, every Harvard and Radcliffe first- and second-year student was required to complete one full Gen Ed course in each of three broad areas: only 18 (not 574) two-semester courses qualified for “Humanities,” “Social Science,” or “Natural Science” credit, plus a two-semester Gen Ed A writing course required of virtually all entering freshmen.”

Hopefully I can get back to this in more depth later, but I suspect the massive increase in the sheer amount of media (books, movies, TV shows, etc.,) available to everyone over the past hundred years, while in many ways quite wonderful, has contributed to an intellectual fracturing where we no longer have a common set of ideas and metaphors at our disposal with which to communicate with others.

I was going to do Princeton and Yale, but Harvard gave me so much material that I’m just going to save them for next month.


5 thoughts on “Cathedral Round Up #3

  1. Jesus this shit is triggering. I know that NRx is growing and regular people are questioning the lies (just look at any comments section on yahoo) but how can you possibly compete with smart people holding stupid ideas in the highest levels of influence?


    • I don’t know, but I do my best.

      Ironically, stupid ideas are a smart people thing. Like a Mandarin whose excessive fingernails display just how little he works with his hands, so our elites bandy about ideas that show just how little they have to deal with real-world concerns.


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