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Links for December

One of the most robust and interesting findings in education research has been that whether you have a good or bad teacher matters. A lot. Now a new study finds that it matters not just for your test scores, but can make students “earn higher salaries, live in higher SES neighborhoods, and have higher savings rates”.

There have been countless stupid bad-intentioned efforts to argue that IQ tests don’t really measure intelligence, but here’s one that seems pretty legit (popular, academic): students paid for performance on IQ tests will perform better. Depending on the size of the monetary reward, the effect can be up to +20 IQ points. The theory is that most people are poorly motivated to do well on IQ points, and that maybe some of what we view as difference in IQ is difference in how much kids accept that standardized tests is important and they need to work on it. They then go on to prove that IQ tests still measure intelligence but not as thoroughly as has been previously believed, and that the construct accurately measured by IQ tests (some sort of intelligence + test-taking skill + motivation) is in fact Super Important for life outcomes. Still, probably best to replicate all important previous IQ research with monetary incentives to see what happens.

The UK is planning to ban all “rape porn”, including porn made by consenting actors in which rape is a plot point, despite good evidence that such porn does not increase and may decrease rape.

Sam Harris explains why having a fireplace is about as bad for your health as smoking, and takes some stabs at why people refuse to believe it. The atheism connection is a little forced, but it’s important information I’d never heard about before.

LA recently passed a law saying that all porn companies in the city had to use condoms for their videos. As a result, 95% of porn companies left the city, the city lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue, and the porn companies just made condom-free videos somewhre else. This reminds me of Item 12 on the Evil Overlord List: “One of my advisors will be an average five-year-old child. Any flaws in my plan that he is able to spot will be corrected before implementation.”

The Upworthy Generator (h/t Chris Hallquist) creates random headlines in the style of Upworthy. I didn’t even know what the style of Upworthy was until I started playing with this, at which point it became extremely obvious. Three random clicks give me “What Happens When One Transgender Oscar Winner Gets Real About The Biggest Problem In America”, “You Don’t Want To Hear The Sobering Five Words This Disgraced Actor Created”, and “You Will Let Your Jaw Hit The Floor When You See What A Famous Converted Racist Wrote”. Touche.

I find this article to be an interesting journalistic experiment. Imagine the prompt: Nice people are living quietly with other nice people and bothering nobody. How can you make your readers hate them with the burning fury of a thousand suns? This ties into my theory that segments of the population who would strenuously deny something as pigheaded as making fun of nerds actually do exactly that using code words and a veneer of social responsibility (and surprise, surprise – it comes from Gawker)

I haven’t gotten to read this very long research paper yet, but it seems to be part of the previously-missing rebuttal to Nurture Assumption. Key quote: “Evidence suggests that as much as 26% of the variability of children’s psychological adjustment can be accounted for by the degree to which they perceive themselves to be accepted or rejected by their major caregivers.

List of Animals That Have Been Accused For Spying For Israel. Although the listed cases are clearly just misunderstandings of normal animal tagging, given projects like Acoustic Kitty and the Pentagon’s cyborg sharks, eventually this stopped clock is going to end up being right.

“The heart is one of the easiest organs to bioprint”, says an extremely optimistic engineer who has never bioprinted a heart. Still, pretty useful if you can manage it.

Bryan Caplan confirms a mysterious trend I talked about a few months ago: America is much more against gun control now than in the past. Lots of good discussion on why that might be in comments.

Also related to our discussion of trends in social movements: Epigone conjectures that feminism is on the decline because Google Books lists a decreasing percentage of books containing the word “feminist”. Aurini adds that there are also a decreasing percentage of books containing words like “sexist” and “misogynist” that are associated with feminism. Not sure whether this methodology is generally useless, whether it can’t distinguish between success and failure (eg “abolitionism” is rarely used today because abolitionism was successful), or whether I should take it at face value. In any case, I highly appreciate the creativity involved in using Google Books to more objectively measure the strength of social movements.

Oh, this is clever. Personal trainer takes impressive “before” versus “after” weight loss pictures – fifteen minutes apart. I always knew that those were mostly fake, but it’s nice to have the entire process spelled out for me.

Scott Adams: I Hope My Father Dies Soon. “I don’t want anyone to misconstrue this post as satire or exaggeration. So I’ll reiterate. If you have acted, or plan to act, in a way that keeps doctor-assisted suicide illegal, I see you as an accomplice in torturing my father, and perhaps me as well someday. I want you to die a painful death, and soon. And I’d be happy to tell you the same thing to your face.” I have only engaged with this issue in an impersonal way so I have trouble going quite that far, but whatever the nice, nonconfrontational version of wanting people to die a painful death is, that kind of is how I feel about people who oppose doctor-assisted suicide.

You knew Mohammed moved a mountain, but did you know he also split the moon?

Coca-Cola in the Philippines cancels its advertising campaign to donate the money to typhoon relief. Is it a ploy to gain even more publicity/advertising? Probably. But I’m linking them anyway in the hopes the ploy works and other companies are encouraged to try similar “ploys”.

I’ve said in a couple of places I am about ten times more skeptical of multiple sclerosis research/”cures” than I am of research or “cures” found in other diseases, because its relapsing/remitting nature makes it very easy to get strong placebo and expectancy effects. Nevertheless, with thirteen years of research behind it this multiple sclerosis cure seems unusually promising. Shame about the five percent chance of death and necessity of completely destroying the immune system.

You remember that “Why I Make Terrible Decisions” article that went around a little while ago by a poor person talking about how rich people could never understand her suffering and why she made the choices she did? Turns out it was written by an upper-middle class person as part of a scam to get money from people (and surprise, surprise – it comes from Gawker). When combined with that waitress n-word flap and the other lesbian waitress flap it kind of makes you wonder – in a country full of poverty, hatred, and oppression, how come the examples of such that go viral on the blogosphere are so consistently lies? Is it because real oppression doesn’t always come with a flashing sign that says “OPPRESSION” perfectly tailored to incite your hatred and outrage?

A very similar article that has not yet been proven a lie: The Logic Of Stupid Poor People. As best I can tell, it is both true and important, yet it also means that anyone who ever criticizes a poor person for making an unwise purchase will be bludgeoned by thousands of angry netizens wielding this article until they beg for mercy.

Oh man, is there anything the implicit association test can’t do? Along with detecting racism and predicting suicide, now it can predict the success or failure of a marriage. Just do an IAT asking someone to associate their partner with good or bad adjectives, and it will reveal a subconscious bias for or against them which seems to predict future divorce rates.

This is something I’d been hearing hushed rumors about for a long time, so I’m glad it’s finally out in the open: Mice Inherit Specific Memories. If scientists teach a mouse to fear a certain odor (because it is associated with electric shock), that mouse’s children will fear that same odor – even when those children are produced through in vitro fertilization and have no contact with their parents. The stated reason is “epigenetics”, which sounds plausible, except that there are only ~25,000 coding genes in a mouse. Now, smells are actually coded pretty specifically in the genome, but let’s take another example from that same article – Pavlov’s claim that his mice inherited memories of associating food with the sound of a bell. There’s no way that’s genetically coded. Also, how do these things reach from the brain to the sperm/egg? Either these results are very very false, or something really spooky is going on here.

John Rawls’ A Theory Of Justice: The Musical

Just a reminder that I STILL don’t have anywhere to stay in New York this December better than Raemon’s crowded attic. If you live in NYC and are willing to let me stay with you, please send me an email at scott[at]shireroth[dot]org.

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65 Responses to Links for December

  1. Intrism says:

    Do you remember when people said with a straight face that liberals were against government interference in social matters?

    According to the article, this scheme is being proposed by the current UK prime minister David Cameron, of the Conservative Party. Given this, I shouldn’t really have to explain why the quote here is silly.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I interpreted the proposal as coming from feminism, as I’ve seen feminists push for this elsewhere, regardless of Mr. Cameron’s personal philosophy. Nevertheless, I’ve changed the text.

      • @johnwbh says:

        In the UK political context its a pretty transparent attempt to appeal to social conservatives in his party, who have moved away after his effort to move them to the centre ground, supporting gay marriage etc.

      • Ben says:

        The proposed rape porn law has been accompanied by proposals for opt-out filtering of internet connections, and an empty token gesture of getting Google and Bing to put warning notices when you search for certain terms (for example, I got one when I googled “google conservatives child pornography” to find the story in the preceding link).

        It’s not justified by appeals to feminism, so much as reactionary, right-wing arguments (“think of the children”). That’s not to say that Tory (and Labour) female politicians haven’t presented such measures as feminist, and some feminists do probably support it, but in fact I’ve seen many British feminist leftists opposing these measures (because being sexually permissive degenerates, they understand that the vast majority of the material being criminalised will be consensual enactment of BDSM fantasy scenarios).

        The real motivation is that making a fuss about porn, and enacting some empty gestures, is a useful distraction from the Conservative neoliberal agenda of dismantling the welfare state and the NHS. The more awful elements of the right-wing press like to campaign about porn, because it’s titillating, so this move gives them the ability to claim victory alongside Cameron, and of course large sections of the moronic British public lap this kind of shit up.

      • Johannes D says:

        It appears to be partly an attempt to appeal to the conservatives and partly the well-known first step of The Oldest Trick In The Book For Introducing Arbitrary Internet Filtering And Monitoring.

    • Cyan says:

      I assume you’re North American. Across the pond the term “liberal” can refer to social liberalism or economic liberalism, which basically means laissez faire capitalism. Under this definition the Conservative Party can fairly be characterized as economically liberal; for example, the UK enacted a program of “economic liberalization” under the PM-ship of the Conservative Party’s Maggie Thatcher.

      I assume that by “liberals” Scott means economic liberals; otherwise, the complaint makes no sense.

  2. Cyan says:

    I anticipated (wrongly) that the personal trainer link would go here.

  3. B.B. says:

    Scott Alexander said:
    Bryan Caplan confirms a mysterious trend I talked about a few months ago: America is much more against gun control now than in the past. Lots of good discussion on why that might be in comments.

    On a related note, Brian Anse Patrick has written an interesting book on The National Rifle Association and the Media. One of the more interesting findings is that NRA membership growth seems to be driven primarily by negative media coverage. The white nationalist publication Occidental Observer has a decent review article summarizing the book.

  4. Watercressed says:

    There’s a typo in the Gawker commune link:
    > do exactly that using code works and a veneer of social responsibility

  5. Sniffnoy says:

    Immediate thought on reading the MS thing: Is there any reason this shouldn’t work for other autoimmune diseases?

    • Error says:

      Alternately: Could less-destructive treatments used for other autoimmune diseases be modified to work for this?

      (not an academic question for me either way — I have an immune disease of my own)

      • Sniffnoy says:

        Well, I suppose that’s the more sensible thing to do, yes.

        But I’m assuming that’s something that people are already trying. Whereas this — though not something you’d want to use if you can avoid it — does seem like a general purpose bulldozer for this sort of problem, so it’s just sort of puzzling why they’d only talk about it for MS in particular.

        Really I guess my point is, my motivation is less “Hey let’s cure these diseases” and more “Hey there’s an obvious implication here you forgot to address”. 😛

  6. Douglas Knight says:

    “google engrams” — awesome!

    No, I didn’t know that Mohammed moved a mountain. And after googling for it, I still don’t. I have learned that “If Mohammed won’t go to the mountain, then the mountain must come to Mohammed” is not the original: Francis Bacon said “If the hill will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet will go to the hill,” but there is no trace of this in Islam. Well, the Hadith of Mubahala says that a Christian thought that Mohammed could make a mountain come to him, but no miracle and no saying.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      I was getting suspicious that this detail was inserted into the English wikipedia article because of the proverb and I found a couple of versions that lack it, but I found a couple more that do have it, so I think it’s original. Also, (not) moving mountains in war.

  7. lmm says:

    in a country full of poverty, hatred, and oppression, how come the examples of such that go viral on the blogosphere are so consistently lies? Is it because real oppression doesn’t always come with a flashing sign that says “OPPRESSION” perfectly tailored to incite your hatred and outrage?

    I think a simpler explanation is that the better-off a) have more time to write these articles b) are better at getting them published c) are more skilled writers, or at least better at appealing to people like them.

    • Viliam Búr says:

      Another reason could be that people usually don’t see their real lives as completely horrible. Nice things happen to them, too. They have friends. Sometimes a stranger helps them. They would probably mention one of those things in an article about themselves. (Or at least something relatively good, such as: Monday was completely horrible, but luckily Tuesday was just an average day.)

      In an article optimized for outrage, no good thing happens, ever. It’s all just horrible, horrible, horrible. But real human beings find something positive even in the most horrible situations. (Unless they also suffer from depression, I guess.)

      Also, a real person in a bad situation would spend some time thinking about how to improve their life. Even if they didn’t have the luxury of free time to spend thinking; then their ideas would simply be unreasonable (e.g. win a lottery), but they would exist. I guess reading a few texts written by genuinely poor people would make these differences more obvious (but I don’t have a good example in English).

  8. Jack says:

    Most of the controversy I saw was that existing actors all said “the current practice of rigorous STD-testing is a lot, lot safer than wearing condoms, which are actually less safe when worn for two hours consecutively”.

    And no-one connected to the law actually rebutted that in any way, they just said “AGH! PORN BAD! Lalalalalala! We know more than the people with any actual experience of the problem and refuse to listen until they’ve all unilaterally capitulated”.

    So, I don’t know, is the porn industry response just flannel? Because to me with no medical experience, they sounded like they knew what they were talking about and the law sounded more like one of the “made up by legislators to sound good” ones, not one of the “driven by actual public health metrics” ones.

    Conversely, it seems it would be good if more porn SHOWED people using condoms, rather than having everyone grow up having hard-core porn as the only model of sex to copy.

    • Army1987 says:

      it seems it would be good if more porn SHOWED people using condoms

      I assumed that was the intended point of the law.

    • nydwracu says:

      Conversely, it seems it would be good if more porn SHOWED people using condoms, rather than having everyone grow up having hard-core porn as the only model of sex to copy.

      It seems it would be good if everyone didn’t grow up having hardcore porn as the only model of sex to copy whether or not the people in it wear condoms.

  9. Vaniver says:

    I haven’t read the paper either, but:

    Evidence suggests that as much as 26% of the variability of children’s psychological adjustment can be accounted for by the degree to which they perceive themselves to be accepted or rejected by their major caregivers.

    Is this assuming that parental acceptance is a leading indicator, or can it tell the difference between it being a leading indicator and it being a lagging indicator?

  10. I think the shift in attitudes toward gun control is a result of many gun-owners realizing it doesn’t mean “take bad people’s guns away” but “take *my* guns away.” The habit of many gun controllers to view any passed law as the starting point toward another compromise between that and complete confiscation has changed many minds.

  11. Oligopsony says:

    I will happily admit to making fun of nerds, both because it’s easy and because I genuinely do despise most of us.

    • Brian says:

      I don’t disagree, but the article Scott’s pointing to still irritates the heck out of me.

      There is a trope in Bay Area opinion journalism that centers around painting the tech scene as a bourgeois waste of space that drives up housing prices and commute times and contributes nothing. The Gawker piece hits most of the usual dog-whistle notes for it: lots of rich-people keywords, dark hints of violating local law, just-short-of-naked accusations of elitism, and a general tone of dismissive condescension.

      Now, as it happens, I do think this sort of thing is revealing of some pretty ugly class undertones. I just don’t think techies are responsible for most of the ugliness.

      • nydwracu says:

        Gawker is thoroughly, unambiguously vile.

        If you want ugly class undertones, just look at how quickly it politicized—after beginning as a celebrity gossip blog. Communism got pwned, and its pwning made it worse. Christopher Lasch’s Culture of Narcissism theory explains it perfectly: the widespread occurrence of a very weak sense of self requiring constant external validation (which he calls pathological narcissism) leads to political engagement for the purpose of obtaining that validation, acquiring status, and identifying with charismatic political figures—so the convergence of the New Left with celebrity culture (which is easily demonstrated on Tumblr, where the SJ types go on about ’empowerment’ and ‘feeling powerful’ and so on, and are often obsessed with celebrities like Kanye and Nicki Minaj—except the ones holy enough to say they’re ~problematic~) is just the convergence of two behavior patterns caused by pathological narcissism. (Though there’s an obvious parallel to celebrity culture in the political realm: identification with high-status figures to get secondhand status from them—so ‘two’ may be overstating their difference.)

        • Brian says:

          I’m (obviously) no great fan of the entitled aging hippie demographic, nor or Tumblr-style social justice culture, but identifying political alignments with mental health problems is the sort of thing we probably ought to be cautious about.

    • Anonymous says:

      “because I genuinely do despise most of us”


      • Oligopsony says:

        I dunno; ask a shrink. Earnest hypotheses: familiarity, my own barely-externalized self-loathing, the fact that nerds don’t optimize for likability and/or fail when we try, reciprocal indexically evil politics (predicable in aggregate from demographics alone), the combination of high intellectual self-assessment with low cultural capital, persecution complexes, &c. &c.

        • a person says:

          I like most nerds in the sense of “people who are slightly awkward and are high achievers academically”, but I almost always (at least immediately) dislike nerds in the sense of “people who vocally identify with nerd culture”.

  12. Athrelon says:

    “in a country full of poverty, hatred, and oppression, how come the examples of such that go viral on the blogosphere are so consistently lies? Is it because real oppression doesn’t always come with a flashing sign that says “OPPRESSION” perfectly tailored to incite your hatred and outrage?”

    Indeed! This argument is a good reason to distrust the individuals who are best at writing articles about their oppression – the Gawkers of the world are likely to be systematically epistemically compromised, producing emotionally salient OPPRESSION signs for exactly the rhetorically skillful, networked, and not-totally-exhausted folks who don’t need your sympathy.

    “Those who are truly weak aren’t good at PR; those who are good at PR aren’t truly weak.” And what if you generalized that a little further, to consider that entire groups’ narratives and political ambitions are likely to be effective at pulling heartstrings if they are already strong, and that truly neglected groups are too busy trying to get by to cohere into influential groups, let alone with allies? Then you’d start considering our entire oppression-detection heuristic as pretty untrustworthy, which is a pretty good argument for being skeptical of social justice warrioring. We touched on similar issues at MoreRight a few months back:

    • ozymandias says:

      Except that being oppressed is non-trivially correlated with being able to make a good case that you’re oppressed. For instance, if you are oppressed, you may be able to point to heath disparities, wage gaps, laws that disadvantage your group, increased risk of violence or murder, etc. While non-oppressed groups may have these traits too, they are much more likely to occur among oppressed people than non-oppressed people.

      In addition, it is a very rare group that has no members or former members who have some power.

      • Athrelon says:

        Excellent point. The question is: if the goal is broadcasting oppressed status, is it cheaper to achieve this by actually being oppressed, or by using various rhetorical/political tactics to fake it? In the case of an unknown internet writer, I think we both agree it’s the latter. The real question is, what’s the balance of power when we’re looking at persistent groups competing against each other?

        Note that power includes the ability to frame the discourse to make particular categories of oppression more or less salient. The metrics you mentioned there didn’t become the major ones by accident. They were raised to your conscious awareness at the expense of other metrics (say, income adjusted for test scores or other productivity metrics, criminality aggressor-victim ratio, self-esteem and self-reported happiness). Note also that there *are* groups where it’s virtually impossible for a member or former member to become powerful; in many cases that’s what being powerless *means*.

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          I’d be very interested to read a blog written by you – you are the only reactionary (do you identify as such?) whose comments I always make sure to read twice (as opposed to say Jim whose comments I skip over for the sake of my sanity).

          Back to topic, this bit interested me:
          “Those who are truly weak aren’t good at PR; those who are good at PR aren’t truly weak.”
          Who do you think are some of the truly weak in society right now?

          Also I realize this is kind of obvious but who is weak/oppressed is situation dependent. Almost always a group that claims to be oppressed consists of some people who are not oppressed and some people who are oppressed. For example the LGBT community: a fairly large chunk of the LGB community has not had to deal with much oppression whereas life is still very difficult for the T community and the LG community living in say rural Arkansas. We shouldn’t throw out LGBT activism because not every member claiming to be oppresed is truly being oppresed.

      • This is why I have trouble taking seriously the arguments that BDSM should be included in the LGBTQOPIA whatever other letters have been added since noon yesterday spectrum. If you look at things like violence, suicide, and poverty, they are all included in the spectrum mentioned. I have yet to see evidence of this for BDSM. The counter-argument that I would imagine would involve BDSM practitioners being disproportionately drawn from groups where you wouldn’t expect poverty or violence (the highly educated is one stereotype that I have heard.) However, if that is the case, that implies some non-trivial correlation (I am thrilled to find out that other people use that phrase) between doing BDSM and factors that shouldn’t correlate with an innate identity, unless it is something like “high levels of creativity”, “desire to explore the boundaries(never cross them, but understand them)”, “desire to try new things” or “willingness to break the mold”. However, I still think that if that is true there is something that feels not quite right about trying to fit BDSM in the broader “sexual orientations qua SJ issues” group. “Sexual orientations qua things about sexuality that don’t seem to change” I am fine with, but I don’t think that the members of the latter are necessarily members of the former.
        Note: Yes, there are laws that disadvantage people who do S&M, and to a much lesser extent bondage, but those laws are rarely enforced, and as stop & frisk shows, enforcement is much more important than code.

  13. Alejandro says:

    Off-topic piece of information for Scott, probably utility-decreasing but you are bound to find out: your love life is being object of discussion and speculation at Marginal Revolution.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Thanks. I’m going to to avoid reading whatever comments are going on there for the sake of my sanity, but this is a good reminder to totally lock my old blog.

    • Athrelon says:

      Not surprised that Cowen went on a Scott Alexander binge, but I am surprised that he chose to focus on that piece, and had an apparently negative assessment of it.

  14. John Faben says:

    Fourth link most leaves me wondering what sort of people Sam Harris mixes with. I expect the reaction of most of my friends to “fireplaces are dangerous” would be “oh, are they?”.

    • Alexander Stanislaw says:

      Yeah it was over the top. I do expect maybe a few people to respond with “well I’ve been using a fireplace for X years and I haven’t had any problems” but not a lot of people.

  15. Nitin Roper says:

    My Take

    A Closer Look At The Example of the BRCA Gene and Why @23andMe Shouldn’t be in the Business of Medical Genetic Tests.

  16. Leonard says:

    in a country full of poverty, hatred, and oppression, how come the examples of such that go viral on the blogosphere are so consistently lies?

    Perhaps because the country is not actually full of poverty, hatred, and oppression, but rather “poverty”, “hatred”, and “oppression”. (For example, “poverty” is officially defined by having a dollar income below a certain amount; our anti-“poverty” programs give people non-cash benefits, which are not included. Therefore they cannot solve “poverty”, even though they do fight poverty.)

    When you redefine words to evoke politically useful ape-responses, don’t be surprised to find a few people take the spirit of your action (namely, lying for what you see as a noble public purpose) and privatize it.

  17. Sparkwitch says:

    On mice and memories, I’d be willing to bet that this ultimately links to the famous t-shirt experiment. Because both relate to smell, but specifically because both relate to the immune system… which receives a major, nongenetic jumpstart while we share a bloodstream with our mother. In which case it wouldn’t be a memory, exactly, so much as an immune response that activates in anticipation of trauma.

  18. David Barry says:

    I’m a bit late to this, but on the feminism/N-grams thing: the idea of studying cultural trends by frequency of published words was actually the motivating reason for the construction of the N-grams widget in the first place. The paper “Quantitative Analysis of Culture Using Millions of Digitized Books” published in Science in 2011 is basically a collection of N-gram graphs with commentary. (The paper’s gated, but easily Google-able.) They coined the term “culturomics” for what they were doing, though the Google trends graph suggests that it hasn’t really caught on.

    There are a couple of important caveats when using N-grams to study society. One is that there’s a discontinuity sometime around or after the year 2000 because of changes in Google’s book collection. Most of the time, trends should only be studied up till 2000.

    The other big caveat, though not one that’s relevant to studying trends of a single word or phrase, is that Google’s corpus is wildly, wildly skewed towards academia. Lacan is allegedly more popular than the Beatles, and about on par with Elvis; Derrida is much more popular than either.

    For recent trends more reflective of broader society, I’d use the Google Trends rather than Google N-grams.

  19. >One of the most robust and interesting findings in education research has been that whether you have a good or bad teacher matters. A lot. Now a new study finds that it matters not just for your test scores, but can make students “earn higher salaries, live in higher SES neighborhoods, and have higher savings rates”.

    Is this controlled for the obvious? I see no mention of control in the abstract. Could just be the usual correlations.

  20. Doug S. says:

    Regarding the MS “cure”: it didn’t reverse existing damage, it just prevented any new damage from occurring. Which is pretty good, but if MS has already put you in a wheelchair, this treatment won’t let you walk again.

    • Doug S. says:

      Er, maybe that’s not correct…

      “All participants showed dramatic improvement, and none reported relapses, according to a study on the Freedman-Atkins treatment by a team of MS researchers at the Neuro and the Université de Montréal… For Normandin, he’s now a family physician in private practice on the West Island and no longer takes medication for the illness. His fatigue and balance problems continue to diminish daily.”

  21. Pingback: What Does IQ Really Measure?

  22. US says:

    Re. Scott Adams/the assisted suicide discussion, I really liked this Richard Dimbleby lecture by Terry Pratchett (/Tony Robinson) given a few years ago (it’s less data driven than I’d have liked, but given his situation I don’t really feel like I can blame him for being a bit emotional about the whole thing):

  23. Michal Polák says:

    I find it interesting that you would decide that the poverty article (‘Why I Make Terrible Decisions’) was ‘written by an upper-middle class person as part of a scam to get money from people’ based on a single source, without checking for possible informed dissenting views.

    True, the single source you’ve referred to does provide a plethora of links – interestingly enough though, none of those actually demonstrate that Linda Walther Tirado is an ‘upper middle class person’, much less that she was scamming people for money.

    What the Houston Press blogpost shows is that LWT has had a very good education, speaks several languages, worked as a political operative for the Democratic Party, and thanks to her parents, owns her own house. None of which is inconsistent with what she actually said in her own article: that she works two jobs (one of which is cooking) while doing college courses, sleeping 3-6 hours a day, smokes to get some stimulation to keep her going through the day, and makes poor financial decisions because ‘I will never not be poor, so what does it matter’.

    If one finds it hard to believe these claims are not inconsistent, one could simply look at the introductory statement of her GoFundMe page – the alleged ‘scam to get money from people’:

    “At this point, enough people are asking that I will tell you about myself, because I am getting a lot of the same questions. I was raised middle class, by a factory worker and a teacher. They are my grandparents, and they are Mom and Dad. But I was given to them after I had lived with an overwhelmed mother and a father away in the Navy, and Mom has always been convinced that I suffered terrible emotional issues because of my very early years. And so we embarked on a lifetime of therapy, which is where I picked up my knack for introspection. I was literally raised to it. … During the course of therapy, they tested my IQ. You have to understand that it isn’t actually terribly impressive. It is higher than average, to be sure. But my mother grew up quite poor in Detroit and she is very impressed by these things and so she decided that I was a genius. And she nurtured it. She is a teacher. I was given music lessons and she learned languages with me. … [My parents] gave up much to send me to private schools. Not expensive ones, I went to a small religious elementary. … [Later, Mom had been accused of attempting to harm children in her care.] And what you have to realize is that I was very young and my world was spinning too. I could not understand that she was overwhelmed. I only saw her battening the hatches and driving me into perfection and going ballistic if I fucked the slightest thing up with the best of intentions. I was a teenager, but one dealing with parents who were barely holding themselves together. It was hell for everybody involved. And so I worked very hard at excelling and I graduated highschool when I was sixteen and I went away, as far away as I could get, to college. That is how I know how to make it on my own.

    And I promptly made the sorts of decisions you would expect out of a kid that age with low self-esteem and no social skills and access to what I saw as the cool kids who saw me as an intelligent kid sister and were willing to include me in things. I didn’t make it long.

    I spent some time bouncing in and out of school and joined my first political campaign. It was amazing. And so I went for it. I moved all over the country and chased jobs and found that I was never quite a good fit, because I never have fit in anywhere entirely. And when it wasn’t campaign season I worked pretty much whatever I could find. It’s not high pay compared to relative expense until you’re pretty well-established, particularly if you are not good with money. I was poor in the way that most people who do not have resources are when they are young and idealistic. I didn’t mind it much. I thought it would end when I was ready. … Most people who are poor have not gotten there faultless. I didn’t. And so I am talking about the people who are of average moral character, not the ones who have a clearly obvious leaning toward evil or good. … I have spent my life on the margins due to my own actions and an equal amount of things that I cannot control. One does not negate the other, but if you are looking for a paragon of virtue you will not find many among the people who have had to decide whether to work in a morally dubious establishment or not work at all.” ( – it’s really worth reading the whole thing)

    Now, this was written on November 14th 2003. Fifteen days before the Houston Press blogpost (29th November). And seventeen days before your own post above.

    My point is not that LWT is not lying. I have no idea whether she is telling the truth, or who she really is. What I am saying is that none of what the HP blogpost said in any way contradicted what she had already said herself, and in no way does it imply that she *was* lying. In other words, the claim that her original essay was full of lies is simply unmotivated. While it’s certainly true that she *may* be misrepresenting herself, there are no actual grounds to believe that in the link you’ve shared.

    I leave aside a couple of, shall we say, inaccuracies in the HP blogpost itself, such as the claim that LWT’s husband is „a Marine“; he’s actually a Marine veteran, which surely makes a little bit of a difference – LWT actually describes some of the consequences at one point in her life in quite some detail in the GoFundMe essay above. However, I can’t resist a quote from the very same political blog that the HP blogpost points to as damning evidence that LWT is a fraud (posted on July 7th, 2011, i. e. two years before ‘Why I Make Terrible Decisions’):

    “Now, I am not what one would consider high-class. It’s one of my major selling points, actually, because voters are comfortable with me. They’re not intimidated by me like they are of the people who always wear suits and gesticulate wildly in the parking lot while on their Bluetooth.

    I’m the kind of person that’s likely to be offered a Bud Light by a voter at a door, but rarely am I offered Scotch in the high-dollar areas. I think I’ve had three manicures in my life. I do not know what it is to have a lot of money, and I probably never will. I’ve accepted that about myself, but it’s offputting to a lot of people who are more interested in knowing the right sorts. I am patently the wrong sort of person nine times out of ten.” (

    Again, it’s worth reading the entire post – it’s actually quite funny. And the reason is that it includes an interview with a prospective intern who exhibits the exact same class prejudice as many of the people attacking LWT – namely, that a poor, lower class person cannot possibly be at the same time also a politically sophisticated, intelligent, well-educated and articulate person (and vice versa).

    The quote is also quite consistent with other bits and pieces that LWT, under the nickname ‘KillerMartinis’, seems to have written as a commenter over the past couple of years of interacting with other users at a particular Gawker forum. Of course, that doesn’t imply anything about who she is in the real life. It’s still logically possible that she wrote her poverty piece in order to scam people for money. It’s just that the sequence of events that would have to have unfolded in order to make that true is, well, somewhat implausible:

    ‘Man that would be an amazing long con. Entrench yourself as a commenter on a random internet site before a forum even exists for writing your own pieces. Drop bread crumbs about your life, gaining peoples’ trust. Luck you, Kinja is launched and we can all blog (with logos!) Write a few random pieces so that you have a following of people who support you. Completely fabricate a story, based on aforementioned bread crumbs. Wait for post to go viral. Get well meaning people to donate money (you know, as usually happens when you write a random post on the forum of an internet site). Laugh gleefully to yourself at the success of said con. (

    P. S. The HuffPo live interview ( – 25th November) is also quite interesting – right from the answer to the question of why she wrote the piece.