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The · Psychohistorian


Warren J. Dew

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It's clear that the Tsarnaevs are jihadist terrorists, and we can stop dancing around that fact.

A week ago, no one knew what a pressure cooker bomb was. Now, everyone does. But where does the idea come from?

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Yesterday Margaret wanted Redbones barbeque for dinner. We told her we couldn't afford restaurant food every day, but we could do it if we didn't go to the Dimsum restaurant today, which we often do on Saturdays. She agreed. My wife thought she would forget by today and throw a tantrum anyway when we refused to go to the Dimsum restaurant, but I thought she would remember.

Well, today she asked if we could go to Dimsum. We reminded her that she had agreed to skip it today. She didn't throw a tantrum; instead, after some minutes of thought, she said, "can we go to Mary Chung's" - a different kind of Chinese restaurant - "instead?"

I think I should have her handle all my negotiations from now on.
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Last week I discussed Japan's lost decades, and how the underlying cause of their recession is that a larger proportion of economic output is being taken by retirees, leaving less to be provided as pay and thus as incentives for those not yet retired to work.

This effect hit Japan starting in 1990 because they had substantial population increases before and to some extent during World War II, unlike the U.S. The U.S. did, however, have a "baby boom" following World War II. Those baby boomers are just starting to retire now, and will continue to do so through 2030.

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The ongoing Japanese recession has puzzled economists for decades. Here's the explanation. Part 1 of 2.

The 1990s were the "lost decade" in Japan. The country went into recession, unemployment reached unheard of highs by Japanese standards, especially among youth, and deflation set in. This did not end with the end of the 1990s, however - the 2000s were another lost decade, and Japan has yet to pull out.

It is becoming more and more clear that the lost decades have to do with the inversion of the population pyramid, with more retirees leaving the work force than young people entering it. However, the exact relationship is unclear. In a free market, a shrinking work force should decrease unemployment as labor becomes more valuable, rather than increasing unemployment as has been observed.



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Since our daughter will be kindergarten age in the fall, Elizabeth and I have been spending a lot of time researching public schools in the area. Our primary figure of merit has been Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System - MCAS - test distributions as adjusted for ethnic composition, not because we think that's a great way of grading schools, but because it's the only data we have and we think it's more accurate than nothing.

It turns out that all but one of the schools in our town are well below average for the state, and probably for the country. What was interesting was to contrast the approach of the one school that has good test scores with one of the schools with poor test scores.

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In my last article, I pointed out that successful bystander intervention against a spree shooter reduces the average number of fatalities from about 14 to about 2. Here is a first hand account by a survivor of a spree shooting that killed 23, including both her parents, describing how gun control laws prevented her from intervening:



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With the recent Connecticut school shooting, the debate is on with regard to whether the solution is more guns or fewer guns. One of the issues in that debate is whether legitimate firearms in the hands of private citizens would reduce the number of deaths by stopping mass shootings earlier. I wasn't able to find any peer reviewed articles on the issue, but I did find an analysis that is of comparable quality.

The analysis, of 100 mass shootings, looked at those that were stopped before they were voluntarily ended by the shooter. Out of 100 incidents, 15 were stopped by police arrival or action with an average of 14.29 killed per incident. 6 were stopped by armed civilians with an average of 1.8 killed per incident. Looks like a strong argument in favor of the "more guns" argument, right?

But wait! There were also 11 incidents stopped by unarmed civilians, with an average of 2.6 killed per incident - nearly as low as the ones stopped by armed civilians. If guns help - which they appear to - they may help more by increasing the frequency with which a civilian bystander feels empowered to stop the incident than by reducing the number of casualties relative to situations where civilians stop the incident without a gun.

In any event, the most important factor is whether civilian bystanders act to stop the incident, whether or not they have a gun.

Analysis, including a summary of all 32 incidents stopped by police or civilians:
http://dailyanarchist.com/2012/07/31/auditing-shooting-rampage-statistics/
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The general trend in crime rates for the past half century has been a general increase from the low levels of 1960 to a peak in 1980, followed by a general decline to fairly low levels today:

U.S. crime rate 1960-2008



It's difficult to find a single factor that would explain this trend. However, there are two factors that, when added together, do have a strong negative correlation with the crime trend, with their sum showing a high levels in 1960, with a general decline until 1980, and a gradual rise after that time. Read more...Collapse )
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Early this year, when Margaret was still three, on one of those nights when Margaret was up later than Elizabeth, I taught her the game of Fox and Hounds. At the time, I had to point out the legal options on every move, and often had to move for her. I also had to go out of my way to make blunders to give her a chance to win.

Yesterday, after not playing with her for a while, I played five games with her. I started out playing sloppily, and she won easily. Then I started paying attention - and she still won! Finally, when I really concentrated, I won a game, and then I eased off for the last game to keep it a good experience for her. Elizabeth reports that Margaret has also been willing to switch sides and take the hounds - she usually prefers the fox - when playing with Duncan.

It looks like we have another gamer in the family. Next step: get hamaguri go stones and introduce her to a game where computers are not yet as good as humans.
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The Republican steering committee recently removed and replaced four Republican members of policy making committees. Since this action is extremely rare - the last time it happened was decades ago - it has raised some controversy, and of course objections from the removed members, who claim that conservatives are being removed from leadership positions. That may, however, be a simplistic claim.

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