Thursday, July 19, 2018

Big parts of Italy, Greece, Spain are quite like wide areas in China: Silent contempt for the existing rules within China is due to people not respecting the method for creating and establishing those rules

This post's title is mine.

The original post I based my comment on is a post about China and the US by Christopher Balding in Balding's World: Global Finance and Economics. July 17 2018.


I have been in a fair number of countries and China still remains the more foreign place that I continually have to figure out every day.  Other countries have been to in Asia, developed and developing, and even Africa seem less disorienting and culturally dissimilar.  This is both exhilarating, exciting, frustrating, amusing and tiring.  My wife and I would frequently joke that every day you lived in China you would see something you had never seen before.

One of the most interesting thing to me was to see how my thinking evolved over time in China.  Prior to coming, I was and still am a libertarian leaning professor.  I had not given a lot of thought to human rights either in the United States or in  China.  While many are aware of a variety of the cases that receive attention, I think what struck me is how this filters down into the culture.  There is a complete and utter lack of respect for the individual or person in China.  People do not have innate value as people simply because they exist.

This leads most directly to a lack of respect for the law/rules/norms.  One thing I began to realize over time is, while not German, how law, rule, and norm abiding Americans are with minimal fear of enforcement.  Cutting in line is considered extremely rude because there is a sense of fairness and that people have equal rights.  In China, line cutting is considered nearly standard operating procedure. There is a common and accepted respect for others even if just it is as simple as standing in line.

In a way, I sympathize with Chairman Xi’s emphasis on rule of law because in my experience laws/rules/norms are simply ignored.  They are ignored quietly so as not to embarrass the enforcer, however, frequently, the enforcer knows rules or laws are being ignored but so long as the breaker is not egregious, both parties continue to exist in a state of blissful ignorance.  Honesty without force is not normal but an outlier.  Lying is utterly common, but telling the truth revolutionary.

I rationalize the silent contempt for the existing rules and laws within China as people not respecting the method for creating and establishing the rules and laws.  Rather than confronting the system, a superior, or try good faith attempts to change something, they choose a type of quiet subversion by just ignoring the rule or law.  This quickly spreads to virtually every facet of behavior as everything can be rationalized in a myriad of ways.  Before coming to China, I had this idea that China was rigid which in some ways it is, but in reality it is brutally chaotic because there are no rules it is the pure rule of the jungle with unconstrained might imposing their will and all others ignoring laws to behave as they see fit with no sense of morality or respect for right.

I had a lawyer tell me about the corruption crackdown, and even most convicted of crimes, that people referred to them as “unlucky”.  As he noted, there was almost no concept of justice even if people recognized the person had done what they were accused of having done.  The discipline stemmed not from their behavior but they were cannon fodder for some game chosen by a higher authority.

China wrestles with these issues like clockwork every few years after a tragic incident goes viral.  A common one is when someone is run over by a car and pedestrians just step over the body until a family member finds the body.  The video goes viral, prompts a week of hand wringing, and then censors step in to talk about Confucianism and how the economy is growing.  There is no innate value given to human life as precious.

A friend of mine in China who is a Christian missionary, told me a story about a time he was invited to speak at the local English corner they had in the apartment development where locals would get together hopefully with foreigners and practice English. He was asked to speak on what is the meaning of life, perfect for a part time missionary. He said he knew what people would say having lived in China for sometime but even so was stunned at how deeply and rigidly held the belief that making money was the entire meaning of life. There was no value system.  There was no exogenously held right or wrong, only whether you made money.  With apologies to a bastardized Dostoevsky, with money as God, all is permissible.

I could talk at length about that what I have observed, but I am not a human rights expert and what type of cultural changes or evolution it engenders.  However, while the well known cases draw attention, these attitudes and responses set the tone for a culture where individuals, respect, and truth mean nothing.

This has impacted my broader thinking in that executive space (thinking of the United States but also applicable elsewhere) is that laws need to be enforced consistently not at the whim of the superior.  If the law exists it should be enforced and consistent, otherwise it should be removed.  Currently, the United States is going further and further in a direction where laws are applied inconsistently shifting from varying enforcement regimes under different executives.  Law is not law if the government can choose whether to enforce it. Law has become the whimsy of sovereigns prone to political fancy.

This applies as well to how everyone is treated.  From a President we may have reason to suspect of illegal activity to an immigrant fighting for asylum, all are innocent until proven guilty and treated humanely.  I see this pernicious cycle taking place from China in the United States where decency and humanity on all sides (I am not going to apportion blame here) is swallowed by shrill invectives that people then use to justify their own lack of decency in pursuit of whatever they believe to be right.  America will not return to its principles by partisans justifying increasingly coarse behavior and rhetoric.


One of the reasons principles matter is that each side feels locked in a death struggle. Principles are unwelcome to many because there are times we do not like those principles or where our side will lose if we abide by that principle. The principle matters more than the short term win or loss. All powers we demand can be used against us at some point. America needs to return to seeking to uphold the highest of principles knowing there will be times our side loses because we chose to uphold a principle.  In a democracy, you are going to lose based upon historical precedent, probably about 50% of the time. That is the point of democracy.  Rather than delusionaly believing in vast mandates, candidates should recognize that in recent history they have been elected on narrow margins and hew a more moderate path.

I think one of the great things about America that people forget is that it is an experiment.  It is an experiment like none other that is truly unique for any major country. There is no country in the world that is in such a state of constant flux and change from a macro-historical perspective. Wave after wave over the past few hundred years of immigrants that drive ambition and innovation are hallmarks.

Any large American city will have a higher foreign born population than the entirety of China.  America has one of the highest net migration rates of any major economy and accepts more immigrants than any other country.  Of major economies, only Canada and Germany are higher as a percentage of foreign born population share.  It is easy to focus on specific incidents that make the situation seem dire, but in reality America remains an enormously welcoming country to immigrants.

I think of an area where I know well academia and start ups.  The ability of foreign born academics to rise to a position of prominence or create a start up in China is virtually zero.  In the United States, Silicon Valley is rich with a foreign born population or the children of immigrants and the professor and deans ranks are filled with foreign born population.  The United States is in a continual state of its own internal flux but that is what the experiment is: a country not founded on blood or ideology but a shared destiny of values and principles that all men are created equal.

The United States has repeatedly failed and continues to fall short of its ideals but has shown a greater sense of self correction than almost any other.  In China you cannot talk about most of history, while in the United States there are constant reminders about failures and how to apply those lessons.  We must remember that it is an ongoing experiment of values we hold to be self evident, not an already attained ideal but a continual working out of what we believe.


In China, there are very few people who I witness live a testament of their belief.  Who knows if the Party member is a member because he believes in Marxism, Communism, Xi-ism, or simply wants a better apartment? Who knows if the person who claims to be a believer in democracy but complies with the Party actually believes that or just tells the foreigner?  Foreigners in China in positions of influence who claim to believe in human rights but collaborate with the Party to deny Chinese citizens rights need to answer for their actions. I have little idea what people in China believe but I know that if the Party ever falls, there will be more than a billion more people claiming they were closet democracy advocates.

We should never wish adversity upon ourselves, but recognize that US ideals and values are being tested. I have every confidence that American ideals will come out stronger but make no mistake, it is a trying time.  Sometimes you need to be tested in your beliefs to know those convictions hold beyond convenience or benefit.

One of my biggest fears living in China has always been that I would be detained.  Though I happily pointed out the absurdity of the rapidly encroaching authoritarianism, a fact which continues to elude so many experts not living in China, I tried to make sure I knew where the line was and did not cross it. There is a profound sense of relief to be leaving safely knowing others, Chinese or foreigners, who have had significantly greater difficulties than myself.  There are many cases which resulted in significantly more problems for them. I know I am blessed to make it out.

I leave China profoundly worried about the future of China and US China relations.  Most attention here has focused on the Thucydides Trap where conflict results from an established and a rising power.  This leaves out probably the most important variable not just the distinction between an established and a rising power but the values inherent within each state and the system they want to project defining relations between states and the citizenry to the state.

The United States under Trump and the GOP is facing a significant test and re-evaluation of its principles. However, I remain decidedly confident in the US to handle those tests.  The self correction nature of democracy is on clear display.  The best case scenario for the Trump administration is to minimize congressional losses with the very real possibility of losing control of the house. President Trump has lost more in the courts than he has won and is under investigations by law enforcement headed by registered Republicans. His own party has been unable to pass consequential legislation except for a tax cut.  While none of this confronts the international challenges facing the United States, it speaks to the evolutionary, self corrective nature of US democracy.

The United States continues to take the largest number of immigrants and rank as one of the most open economies and investment markets in the world, even for Chinese immigrants and businesses. [...]

Conversely, China is a rising power but probably more importantly is a deeply illiberal, expansionist, authoritarian, police state opposed to human rights, democracy, free trade, and rule of law.  Just as we need to consider the state, speed, and direction of change in the United States, China has been deeply illiberal authoritarian for many years, is becoming increasingly illiberal, and is accelerating the pace of change towards greater control.  It both puzzles and concerns me having lived in China for nearly a decade as a public employee to hear Polyanna statements from China “experts” in the United States who talk about the opening and reform of China or refuse to consider the values being promoted. [...]

The rise of China represents a clear and explicit threat not to the United States but to the entirety of liberal democracy, human rights, and open international markets.  We see the world slowly being divided into China supported authoritarian regimes of various stripes that support its creeping illiberalism across a range of areas.  The tragedy of modern American foreign policy is the history of active ignorance and refusal to actively confront the Chinese norm or legal violations. The Trump administration is utterly incapable of defending the values and assembling the coalition that would respond to American leadership as they face even greater threats from China.

The concern is not over Chinese access to technology to facilitate economic development for a liberal open state. The concern is over the use of technology to facilitate human rights violations and further cement closed markets.  That is a threat for which neither the United States or any other democracy loving country should apologize for.

I should note that I like many other am concerned about the level of government surveillance on citizenry.  However, equating Beijing to Washington in many of these specific issues is simply non-sensical authoritarian apologetics.  Let me just briefly run through some of the enormous differences. First, some have argued tech firms gather data which is true but does not distinguish what happens to the data. Unlike China, the US government does not have free access to all electronic data.  Second, China uses control over electronic communication in vastly draconian cyber dystopia ways compared to the wide range of opinions that are allowed online in the rest of the world.  By simple comparison, Winnie the Pooh is censored in China while in the United States the debate is over whether some information should be restricted that is deemed inaccurate. It is nothing less than authoritarian apologetics to attempt to equate the two in any serious manner.

It is profoundly misguided and short sighted to view the rise of China as tension arising either purely from rising economic development in a major state or as a bilateral conflict with the United States.  China represents a clear and present threat to liberal democracies, open markets, and international system nor do they even now attempt to hide this policy.  These tensions for the foreseeable future will only increase. I do not like the way Trump has handled his approach to China and the very valid concerns he raises about their practices, but I find it even more troubling the near total lack of any attempt to deal with these issue previous administrations and the surrogates have displayed for many years and continue to display. [...]

Stronger intellectual abilities are associated with greater cortical thickness (CT) and cortical volume (CV); in relation to measured intelligence, CT and CV are more relevant measures than cortical surface area or cortical gyrification

The Relationship Between General Intelligence and Cortical Structure in Healthy Individuals. Sahil Bajaj et al. Neuroscience,

•    Stronger intellectual abilities are associated with greater cortical thickness (CT) and cortical volume (CV).
•    The neural basis of intellectual abilities extends beyond fronto-parietal brain regions.
•    In relation to measured intelligence, CT and CV are more relevant measures than cortical surface area or cortical gyrification.

Abstract: Considerable work in recent years has examined the relationship between cortical thickness (CT) and general intelligence (IQ) in healthy individuals. It is not known whether specific IQ variables (i.e., perceptual reasoning [PIQ], verbal comprehension IQ [VIQ], and full-scale IQ [FSIQ]) are associated with multiple cortical measures (i.e., CT, cortical volume (CV), cortical surface area (CSA) and cortical gyrification (CG)) within the same individuals. Here we examined the association between these neuroimaging metrics and IQ in 56 healthy adults. At a cluster-forming threshold (CFT) of p < 0.05, we observed significant positive relationships between CT and all three IQ variables in regions within the posterior frontal and superior parietal lobes. Regions within the temporal and posterior frontal lobes exhibited positive relationships between CV and two IQ variables (PIQ and FSIQ) and regions within the inferior parietal lobe exhibited positive relationships between CV and PIQ. Additionally, CV was positively associated with VIQ in the left insula and with FSIQ within the inferior frontal gyrus. At a more stringent CFT (p < 0.01), the CT–PIQ, CT–VIQ, CT–FSIQ, and CV–PIQ relationships remained significant within the posterior frontal lobe, as did the CV–PIQ relationship within the temporal and inferior parietal lobes. We did not observe statistically significant relationships between IQ and either CSA or CG. Our findings suggest that the neural basis of IQ extends beyond previously observed relationships with fronto-parietal regions. We also conclude that CT and CV may be more useful metrics than CSA or CG in the study of intellectual abilities.

CFT cluster-forming threshold
CG cortical gyrification
CSA cortical surface area
CT cortical thickness
CV cortical volume
FSIQ full-scale IQ
IQ intelligence
PIQ perceptual reasoning
VIQ verbal comprehension IQ

Sunk costs are irrecoverable investments that should not influence decisions; decisions should be made on the basis of expected future consequences; but mice, rats, and humans show similar sensitivities to sunk costs in their decision-making, a vulnerability distinct from deliberation processes

Sensitivity to “sunk costs” in mice, rats, and humans. Brian M. Sweis et al. Science Jul 13 2018, Vol. 361, Issue 6398, pp. 178-181. DOI: 10.1126/science.aar8644

The impact of time wasted: The amount of time already spent on a task influences human choice about whether to continue. This dedicated time, known as the “sunk cost,” reduces the likelihood of giving up the pursuit of a reward, even when there is no indication of likely success. Sweis et al. show that this sensitivity to time invested occurs similarly in mice, rats, and humans (see the Perspective by Brosnan). All three display a resistance to giving up their pursuit of a reward in a foraging context, but only after they have made the decision to pursue the reward.

Abstract: Sunk costs are irrecoverable investments that should not influence decisions, because decisions should be made on the basis of expected future consequences. Both human and nonhuman animals can show sensitivity to sunk costs, but reports from across species are inconsistent. In a temporal context, a sensitivity to sunk costs arises when an individual resists ending an activity, even if it seems unproductive, because of the time already invested. In two parallel foraging tasks that we designed, we found that mice, rats, and humans show similar sensitivities to sunk costs in their decision-making. Unexpectedly, sensitivity to time invested accrued only after an initial decision had been made. These findings suggest that sensitivity to temporal sunk costs lies in a vulnerability distinct from deliberation processes and that this distinction is present across species.

Check also: The sunk-cost fallacy—pursuing an inferior alternative merely because we have previously invested significant, but nonrecoverable, resources in it—, a striking violation of rational decision making, can appear when costs are borne by someone other than the decision maker.

Dopamine: Its reward related function regulates the processes of energy consumption and acquisition in the body; thenergy-related book-keeping of the body at the physiological level is the common motif that links the many facets of dopamine and its functions

The many facets of dopamine: Toward an integrative theory of the role of dopamine in managing the body's energy resources. Srinivasa Chakravarthy et al. Physiology & Behavior,

•    We seek to present a conceptual synthesis of the manifold physiological functions of dopamine, and the reward system of the brain with which the molecule is closely associated.
•    We review the diverse role of dopamine as a reward signal, in regulation of appetite, circulation and energy management.
•    We propose a theoretical frame work that the functions of dopamine in neural and physiological domains can be linked through its actions vis a vis the reward system of the brain, as a part of an extensive energy management system of the body

Abstract: In neue roscience literature, dopamine is often considered as a pleasure chemical of the brain. Dopaminergic neurons respond to rewarding stimuli which include primary rewards like opioids or food, or more abstract forms of reward like cash rewards or pictures of pretty faces. It is this reward-related aspect of dopamine, particularly its association with reward prediction error, that is highlighted by a large class of computational models of dopamine signaling. Dopamine is also a neuromodulator, controlling synaptic plasticity in several cortical and subcortical areas. But dopamine's influence is not limited to the nervous system; its effects are also found in other physiological systems, particularly the circulatory system. Importantly, dopamine agonists have been used as a drug to control blood pressure. Is there a theoretical, conceptual connection that reconciles dopamine's effects in the nervous system with those in the circulatory system? This perspective article integrates the diverse physiological roles of dopamine and provides a simple theoretical framework arguing that its reward related function regulates the processes of energy consumption and acquisition in the body. We conclude by suggesting that energy-related book-keeping of the body at the physiological level is the common motif that links the many facets of dopamine and its functions.

Focusing on time (vs. money) increases happiness; having too little or too much time is linked to less happiness; to be happier, people should spend the time they have deliberately

It’s time for happiness. Cassie Mogilner. Current Opinion in Psychology,

•    Focusing on time (vs. money) increases happiness.
•    Having too little time is linked to less happiness.
•    Having too much time is also linked to less happiness.
•    To be happier, people should spend the time they have deliberately.

Abstract: Spotlighting the logistically and existentially foundational resource of time, this review identifies that the extent to which people focus on time, the amount of time people have, and the ways people spend their time all have a significant impact on happiness. This synthesis of the past decade of research on time and happiness advises that people should (1) focus on time (not money), (2) have neither too little nor too much time, and (3) spend the time they have deliberately.

Men displaying faster articulation rate and louder voices reported significantly more sexual partners; women who displayed relatively less breathy voices and shorter speech duration reported significantly fewer sexual partners

Human vocal behavior within competitive and courtship contexts and its relation to mating success. Alexandre Suire, Michel Raymond, Melissa Barkat-Defradas. Evolution and Human Behavior,

Abstract: Beyond the linguistic content of their speech, speakers of both sexes convey diverse biological and psychosocial information through their voices, which are important when assessing potential mates and competitors. However, studies investigating the relationships between mating success and acoustic inter-individual differences are scarce. In this study, we investigated such relationships in both sexes in courtship and competitive interactions—as they correspond to the two different types of sexual selection—using an experimental design based on a simulated dating game. We assessed which type of sexual selection best predicted mating success, here defined as the self-reported number of sexual partners within the past year. Our results show that only acoustic inter-individual differences in the courtship context for both men and women predicted their mating success. Men displaying faster articulation rate and louder voices reported significantly more sexual partners; in contrast, men displaying higher intonation reported a greater negative effect of roughness and breathiness on their mating success. Women who displayed relatively less breathy voices and shorter speech duration reported significantly fewer sexual partners. These novel findings are discussed in light of the mate choice context and the relative contribution of both types of sexual selection shaping acoustic features of speech.

Firearm-related violence are highly increasing in Sweden, mostly due togang-related crimes; knife/sharp weapon still most common Modus Operandi in homicides/attempted homicides; Gun Shot Wound to the head and thorax are most fatal

Firearm-related violence in Sweden – A systematic review. Ardavan Khoshnood. Aggression and Violent Behavior,

•    Firearm-related violence are highly increasing in Sweden.
•    Most firearm-related violence is contributed to gang-related crimes.
•    Knife/Sharp weapon still most common Modus Operandi in homicides/attempted homicides.
•    Gun Shot Wound to the head and thorax are most fatal.
•    Cause of Death in firearm-related violence are intracranial injuries and hypovolemia.

Abstract: Recent reports state that firearm-related violence is increasing in Sweden. In order to understand the trend of firearm-related violence in Sweden with regard to rate, modus operandi (MO) and homicide typology, and for which injuries and causes of death firearm-related violence is responsible, a systematic literature review was conducted. After a thorough search in different databases, a total of 25 studies published in Swedish and English peer-review journals were identified and thus analyzed. The results show that even though knives/sharp weapons continue to be the most common MO in a violent crime in Sweden, firearm-related violence is significantly increasing in the country and foremost when discussing gang-related crimes. Moreover, firearm-related homicides and attempted homicides are increasing in the country. The studies also show that a firearm is much more lethal than a knife/sharp weapon, and that the head, thorax and the abdomen are the most lethal and serious anatomical locations in which to be hit. It is principally the three largest cities of Sweden which are affected by the many shootings in recent years. The police have severe difficulties in solving firearm-related crimes such as homicide and attempted homicide, which is why the confidence and trust for the Swedish judicial system may be decreasing among the citizens. Several reforms have taken place in Sweden in the last few years, but their effect on firearm-related violence remains to be studied.