My podcast with Darren Lipomi

He is a well-known chemist (and more) at UC San Diego. We started with classic Star Trek and then moved into textiles, chemistry, music vs. sound, nanobots against Covid, how to interview, traveling during a pandemic, art collecting and voodoo flags, the importance of materials science, and much more.  Mostly he interviewed me, though it […]

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Tuesday assorted links

1. What Vietnam has been like.  And the Katya Simon recommendations. 2. Leopold Aschenbrenner is now blogging. 3. Don Boudreaux on “Tyler vs. Tyler.”  (Usually a rich topic, I might add.)  In my view, the mobility data and cross-comparative data show that most of the real resource costs have come from fear and risk avoidance, […]

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Why is bitcoin at $18,000?

We can all admit now that it isn’t a bubble, right?  Of course you still might think the current price is too high, as returns are a (near) random walk. This WSJ article ably surveys the current landscape.  I put the least stock on “inflation hedge” arguments, and the most on ordinary factors such as […]

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The case for geographically concentrated vaccine doses

Here goes: A central yet neglected point is that vaccines should not be sent to each and every part of the U.S. Instead, it would be better to concentrate distribution in a small number of places where the vaccines can have a greater impact. Say, for the purposes of argument, that you had 20,000 vaccine […]

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Monday assorted links

1. Short video, Beijing residents on Biden and Trump.  They are better thinkers than the lot of you. 2. Worthwhile Canadian moose car-licking warnings.  And new Jordan Peterson book coming in March. 3. Other coronavirus variants found in frozen bats outside of China. 4. Tanner on Substack. 5. Rolf is wrong again.  And yet another […]

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Externalities and Covid

I am getting a little ornery with all of the people citing Covid externalities, and then not going a step deeper.  To be clear, I agree we should subsidize preventive measures (most of all vaccines and testing, but more too), and close down high-risk indoor gatherings in many locales.  No more Democratic Party fundraisers in […]

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Favorite books by female authors

Elena Ferrante named her top forty, and I am not sure I approve of the exercise at all.  Still, here are my top twenty, in no particular order, fiction only, not counting poetry: 1.Lady Murasaki, Tale of Genji. 2. Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights. 3. Alice Munro, any and all. 4. Elena Ferrante, the Neapolitan quadrology. […]

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The relationship between identity and politics is complicated

Back in 1976, I drove from Wisconsin to the Canadian Rockies. In North Dakota I drove past endless miles of wheat farms, with some sunflower farms thrown in. The countryside looked much the same after crossing the border into Saskatchewan, Canada.

But one thing changes dramatically at the border. Just south of the border the farmers tend to vote for right wing candidates that are strongly opposed to Obamacare. To the north, the farmers vote for candidates that support Medicare for all. A system that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would love.

A person’s political views can never be understood in isolation, only in the context of the broader society in which they are embedded. Based on numerous comments that I’ve seen in the press, I don’t believe that either party understands the role of “identity” in politics. Republicans sometimes suggest that their party would have won states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan if not for the votes of cities with large black populations, such as Detroit, Philadelphia or Milwaukee. Democrats suggest that America will gradually become a country where a majority of the population is “people of color” and that this will help their party in the long run. Both are wrong.

If having lots of black voters made a country more left wing, then you’d expect America to be more left wing than Canada, and you’d expect the Deep South to be the most left wing part of America. What both parties miss is that the existence of racial minorities changes the voting behavior of white voters.

There’s very little evidence that a majority of the population will ever become non-white, because the category “white” is so fluid. Watching the NBA draft on Wednesday, I was struck by how many of the first round draft picks came from bi-racial families. Admittedly this is a skewed sample that is not representative of the broader population. But both Hispanics and Asians intermarry at a surprisingly high rate. My Asian wife gave birth to a daughter that our society views as white.

Race won’t go away, but there is no realistic prospect of whites becoming a minority in the US in the foreseeable future. Reason magazine reports that one Washington school district has already declared that Asian-Americans are white:

One school district in Washington state has evidently decided that Asians no longer qualify as persons of color.

In their latest equity report, administrators at North Thurston Public Schools—which oversees some 16,000 students—lumped Asians in with whites and measured their academic achievements against “students of color,” a category that includes “Black, Latinx, Native American, Pacific Islander, and Multi-Racial Students” who have experienced “persistent opportunity gaps.”

Expect much more of this in the future.

Then there is the “Latino” population:

Though not everyone in the Rio Grande Valley self-identifies as Tejano, the descriptor captures a distinct Latino community—culturally and politically—cultivated over centuries of both Mexican and Texan influences and geographic isolation. Nearly everyone speaks Spanish, but many regard themselves as red-blooded Americans above anything else. And exceedingly few identify as people of color. (Even while 94 percent of Zapata residents count their ethnicity as Hispanic/Latino on the census, 98 percent of the population marks their race as white.) Their Hispanicness is almost beside the point to their daily lives.

It is foolish to use ethnic identity to predict the future course of politics.

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