Archive for August, 2009

Europeans Have More Babies – Well, Europe, Anyway

Now that Elden has finally finished a room – my office – things should start to move faster. Certainly my Internet connection will move faster.

Fast enough to catch this item from the Washington Post, marveling how the birth rates in Europe seem to be on the rebound. The researchers used the relationship between something called HDI, or Human Development Index, and the Total Fertility Rate (TFR). Keep an eye on that latter measure, because it’s going to become very important.

According to the researchers, once a society reaches a certain HDI, its fertility increases. Not only is this true statically – countries past the magic 0.86 mark in 2005 show higher birth rates – but it’s true dynamically. Countries which moved past the 0.86 score almost all increase their fertility compared to 1975.

So Mark Steyn is wrong, right? Europe’s declining fertility has been reversed through the magic of the progressive welfare state, and perhaps this will give them the leeway to commandeer ever-larger portions of future generations’ wealth! The only mystery is why this miracle is occurring, which of course provides the paper’s obligatory plea for more funds for further research.

The flaw in the analysis is the sort that could only be made by researchers trained to ignore the most obvious reasons. Remember that “T” and that stands for “Total?” Right. The study makes absolutely no effort to determine who is having all these kids. I know this because I actually went to the library and read both the paper and the accompanying “Demography” note by Stanford researcher Shripad Tuljapurkar.  Because it insists on treating all residents of a country the same, it flails about, looking for the magical mystery pill that’s causing some countries but not others to abide by the trend.  They finally settle on some vague sense that maybe it has to do with how easy it is for women to earn a living and re-enter the workforce.  The problem, as the Tuljapurkar admits, is that HDI doesn’t make any distinctions between the sexes:

…in some countries, including Japan, South Korea, and Canada, the TFR continued to decline…These puzzling findings may instead due to the use of the HDI, which does not directly tell us which aspects of human development affect women rather than men.

The authors themselves list a litany of statistical relationships they’d like to examine for correlations:

labour-market flexibility, social security and individual welfare, gender and economic inequality, human capital and social/family policies…

Hmmm, what’s missing here?

Basically, the authors just pull this idea out of thin air, with nothing in their research pointing to it.  They do so because they don’t admit – can’t admit – that it’s the immigrants who are having the kids.  Everyone knows this, apparently, except the three authors of this paper, because they didn’t bother to look.  Fertility didn’t increase in Japan and South Korea because they have virtually no immigrant population to speak of.  The reversal in Israel began in 1992 because that’s when the walls came down and Jews were finally free to get the hell out of the formerly Communist country.  Even if I grant that you can call a reversal year of 1976 on a data set that begins in 1975, fertility increases level off in the USA, even as HDI marches on.  Hispanic women have, according to the Census Bureau, the distinction of being the only ethnic group reproducing above replacement rate.

In fact, this paper tells us nothing new. It actually reconfirms the societal trends that are killing the liberal West. And it reconfirms the evergreen that social science researchers find what they were looking for in the first place.

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Elden Moves to Denver

OK, so he’s not painting the Sistine Chapel on the ceiling.  But after a week’s worth of painting, we almost have one room done.  Closets, bits of ceiling, and one room, except for the baseboard, which naturally continues to render the room unusable.  All of this means that we’re still living out of boxes.  The most commonly-heard reply to the oft-asked question,” do we have…?” is, “yes, it’s in a box somewhere.”  Less would be in boxes somewhere if we could actually get a room – any room – where we could move the furniture up against the walls, take off the tarps, and start actually using the room.

This isn’t the first painter we’ve retained.  The first painter we retained walked off with over $700 in money that was intended for paint, and pre-payments of various yard chores.  This painter isn’t dishonest at all, just painfully slow.

That’s also the reason why we’re painting after having redone the long-suffering floors, a high-risk operation if every there was one.  Initially, we had everything timed so that the painting would be done just before I left to go drive truck 1800 miles from NY, the floors would be done during the drive, and we would arrive home to a new house.

Instead, it’s camping out indoors with the Sharfs.  But the dogs find the various floor-level permutations endlessly fascinating.

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Predictable Response

I’m getting ready to hit the road here in Hazleton, Penn.  This morning’s news is full of angry reactions over the health care bill at Senators’ and Representatives’ townhall meetings.

Come late August, maybe a week before Congress reconvenes, expect a speech from Obama explaining how, “we heard from you.  Boy, did we hear from you.  And we listened.”  Obama will then go on to explain how the bill’s revisions that he is proposing will meet these complaints.  It’s unlikely that the bill will actually contain much retreat from the President’s goals of socializing the system.  In fact, he may use the break as an opportunity to re-insert some of the bolder proposals in the initial bill, and sell them as meeting people’s demands.

Why so late?  Well, it will give resentment a chance to build.  Scared Democrats may be looking for a political victory (i.e., as bill passed) and at the same time be looking to make use of Obama’s personal (although not policy) popularity.  And of course, the less time people have to actually look at the thing, the more likely Congress will be to pass it.

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Never the Twine Shall Meet

You know, twine.  Heavier than string, lighter than rope.  Twine.  No fewer than three different workers at the Oceanside Walgreen’s had no idea what twine was.  Maybe they thought I was doing my Eliza Doolittle impersonation, and knew that they didn’t carry Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn.

I hate to say this, but flying United last time reminded me of what a class experience Jet Blue is.  Last night, though, the TV stations worked fine, but the music stations had no sound, which is a problem for radio.  What I wanted to do was go to sleep for a few hours.  What I did was work on the new County Party website.  So I arrived in NY in the midst of my own personal, if significantly more low-key and low-stakes, version of 24.

Do you know long it takes to pack a 26-foot truck?  I mean, pack it so that ants couldn’t find space in there?  About 7 hours, is how long.   Which means that the beagle is 7 hours closer to a nervous breakdown, and I was yet another 7 hours further away from sleep.  I wish I could report that a truck packed the gills dampened the reverb from the beautifully maintained Pennsylvania Interstate system, but there’s absolutely nothing about that statement that’s correct.

Now the last time I did the first portion of this trip, I-80 through Pennslvania and New Jersey, and I-95 from Jersey through the gloriously-named Throgs Neck Bridge, it was in the reverse direction, at about midnight, and I had no idea where I was, or really where I was headed, only that I really didn’t have any good options for changing routes.  This time, I got to see what I missed.  If I ever saw the view of  Manhattan from the GW Bridge, I had certainly forgotten it.  And the sheer complexity of the New York highway system is awe-inspiring, although even that’s not quite enough to let you forgive Robert Moses for what he did to the place with his roads.

What’s interesting is how even the Interstates need to bow to the dictates of geology.  Pennsylvania has these great folds of mountains that cut from southwest to northeast, and the only roads that try to cross against them are the Turnpike, and to a lesser extent, US-322 to State College.  Even I-80 skirts the top of them without really challenging, and US-30, the old Lincoln Highway, mostly follows them until they curve south near Pittsburgh.

Tomorrow, I’m hoping to try US-11 and US-322.  Until then, that’s all from Hazleton, PA.

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