Assorted quotations

1. “Only a few authors have bothered to approach the disintegration of America in an innovative way.”

2. “They estimated that without antibiotics, one out of every six recipients of new hip joints would die.”

3. “The urban refugees come from all walks of life — businesspeople and artists, teachers and chefs — though there is no reliable estimate of their numbers. They have staked out greener lives in small enclaves, from central Anhui Province to remote Tibet. Many are Chinese bobos, or bourgeois bohemians, and they say that besides escaping pollution and filth, they want to be unshackled from the material drives of the cities — what Ms. Lin derided as a focus on “what you’re wearing, where you’re eating, comparing yourself with others.”  The link is here.

4. “It is the first time that the West has lost a soft power contest with Russia.”

5. “I do take painting seriously,” he said. “It’s changed my life.”


Nye wouldn't have called threats to withhold natural gas "soft power".

“In the end, this came down to money. And not money for Ukraine itself. Money for particular groups in Ukraine.” That's really terribly funny. How in God's name did he think political decisions are made?

I really like this format of posting links.

I agree. I like to tweet excerpts of stuff I link to on Twitter ... it's a hook and a fun challenge to distill a piece down. Of course, any format of links works well on MR given the content.

#1 could be summarized as "I like this book because it comports with my politics" without losing any substance. Of course, it mentions Tyler Cowen, so I understand the linkage.

The author of the review, by the way, is the same Thomas Frank who has a genocidal hatred of Americans who disagree with him, masked in concern trolling.


The story on antibiotics was very frightening. I'm pretty free market, but what we are doing isn't working.

"In countries such as as Denmark, Norway, and the Netherlands, government regulation of medical and agricultural antibiotic use has helped curb bacteria’s rapid evolution toward untreatability. But the U.S. has never been willing to institute such controls, and the free-market alternative of asking physicians and consumers to use antibiotics conservatively has been tried for decades without much success. As has the long effort to reduce farm antibiotic use; the FDA will soon issue new rules for agriculture, but they will be contained in a voluntary “guidance to industry,” not a regulation with the force of law."

Restricting antibiotics comports with free market libertarianism.

The story about antibiotics is pure propaganda. You can recognize all the elements if you look.

Doesn't mean the point of view that antibiotics resistance is a problem is not valid, means it's impossible to evaluate the validity from this story.

Marie is a winner! Most idiotic comment of 2013.

I thought I'd made two decent points, but you have taken me apart with such precision I can only slink away in shame.

I'm a little sad, too, because I was pretty sure some of my other comments were more idiotic. Oh, well.

Actually she is is on target, if just a bit hyperbolic. The article is chock full of BS and presents at best a truly flawed view of the problem. The article implies that bacteria "develop" resistance to antibiotics. This is untrue, what happens is the misuse of antibiotics exerts evolutionary pressure and selects for those those bacteria that have an inherent resistance. It does not mean that those bacteria will suddenly dominate, they must still compete with other bacteria, find stable environments, and a overcome host of other circumstances. That antibiotic resistance may mean they have a smaller/larger mitosis cycle, may inhibit their ability to colonize all but the most ideal environments, and on and on.

Want to avoid antibiotic resistant germs? Wash your f-ing hands idiot! Which brings us to the most important point, that this problem is not solved solely through regulation of antibiotics (although that clearly needs to be done) nor through development of next generation antibiotics (it also is necessary) but by employing the first line of defense and the most effective one: plain simple hygiene.

Will you blame me if the germs become resistant to hand washing?

No, I won't blame you, but I'm pretty sure the guys in Stockholm will give a prize for overturning a well-established principle in medicine. Unfortunately I suspect that you'll be ineligible as they require you to be living to accept it.

Bacteria use mitosis?

inhibit their ability to colonize all but the most ideal environments

This is the dominant effect. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria don't thrive outside hospitals that cram people with compromised immune systems together. It's this kind of hospital practice that is the problem, not the general public use of antibiotics.

#1: Tyler must have cracked up at this: "and Tyler Cowen’s The Great Stagnation, which should probably be included despite the author’s ultimate optimism."

How dare you, Tyler!

Man, these people do project. I hope the desperation of the Thomas Frank set is a sign of their increasing irrelevance.

The excerpt about the truck stop owner was absolutely delicious. Thomas wonders, why in the world do society's losers refuse to see themselves in these accounts?! I mean Barbara Ehrenreich even slummed it for a few months for solidarity! What do they have to do to get you to join the revolution?! Don't you people know how much you secretly hate your working class lives?! George can taste your hatred of your lives in the chickens you fry at Bojangles, you poor saps.

They can't be too desperate yet if all they're doing is questioning "the utility of journalism and argument and maybe even prose itself". We'll know their souls are at the end of their tethers when they resort to the really crazy desperate stuff, like questioning whether their own journalism, argument, and prose are really as convincing as they've always assumed. (On that last count: does Packer actually believe that chickens used to walk to the slaughterhouse under their own power before all the hormones, or is that just how the sentence came out somehow?)

Thomas Frank is part of the elite that is losing influence and power.

See this YouTube with Louis Rossetto for some relevant discussion:

It is a formidable echo chamber though. The things these people 'know' that are incorrect, (sigh):

"There are the “Greats”: Paul Krugman’s The Great Unraveling, David Stockman’s The Great Deformation, Niall Ferguson’s The Great Degeneration, Timothy Noah’s The Great Divergence, Robert Scheer’s The Great American Stickup, and Tyler Cowen’s The Great Stagnation, which should probably be included despite the author’s ultimate optimism."

"There are the “Ages,” such as Jeff Madrick’s Age of Greed, Thomas Edsall’s The Age of Austerity, Sean Wilentz’s The Age of Reagan, and The Age of Turbulence...[by] Alan Greenspan"

"There are the “American” tragedies: The Betrayal of the American Dream, The Looting of America, Third World America, and Why America Failed. There are nightmares of falling, like Freefall and Falling Behind. There are weird echoes from one title to another, for example from James K. Galbraith’s The Predator State to Charles Ferguson’s Predator Nation; from Donald Barlett and James Steele’s America: Who Stole the Dream? to Hedrick Smith’s Who Stole the American Dream?; and (please note that I am not complaining here) from my own What’s the Matter With Kansas? to Joan Walsh’s What’s the Matter With White People?"

"There is the scream-therapy approach—Beyond Outrage, Greedy Bastards. There is the voice of cool reason: The Shock Doctrine, Winner-Take-All Politics. There are the clever titles—Down the Up Escalator—and the genius titles, like Matt Taibbi’s Griftopia. And there are, finally, the classics of the genre, like Tom Geoghegan’s Which Side Are You On? (from 1991) or Christopher Lasch’s Revolt of the Elites (from 1995) or the granddaddy of all inequality reporting, the New York Times’ Downsizing of America (a high-profile series that ran in the paper of record in 1996)."

Not easy to predict how Thomas Frank would evaluate a book by George Packer, is it? The schtick of both of these neo-Leninists is to moan and groan over the inequities visited upon the lower classes under the free market while they gaily cash royalty checks and gather in speaking fees.
"a beautifully written, clinically observed story of the slow-rolling economic transformation that has, over the last 30-odd years, made vast parts of America into a destitute wasteland while lifting a fortunate few to a kind of heaven on earth."
No hyperbole there. In a country that has its share of problems, one more that's not needed is poor exposition of shallow thinking.

I can only think that Tyler is linking to this piece in attempt to restore his establishment cred after linking to Steve Sailer a few weeks ago.

#2. Yes a *huge* issue. Global warming has got nothing on this. I'll take a rise in sea level any day compared to inability to perform surgery. The overuse of antibiotics in livestock and overuse in usual fever ("oh little Todd got cold, better get antibiotics"). As much as I think libertarians, conservatives etc. get a lot of pointless crap thrown (hey I was a libertarian as a teenager) at them, they are completely missing this issue. Group loyalties and signaling-game-theoretic-problems means it will take *forever* before right-wing will start take this public good issue seriously. Left-wing is not without blame either, government has over-regulated and made the research very expensive.

It's very tempting to tell easy stories how government is evil, instead of recognizing that real world doesn't follow a simple narrative, and there're people who know a lot more as about these things as you do and in Bayesian sense, you should especially be skeptical of disagremeents with them.

Lack of exercise, lack of healthy food habits and western people turning into fat and lazy might also be contributing factor to medicine (and thus antibiotics) overuse, although that's just a vague guess.

I wouldn't mind if I was living on a different planet than the people overusing antibiotics (or defending their use thereof).

I think when your doctor tells you that common infection that was treatable 10 years ago is going to kill you or someone close to you, you will pay more attention.

Maybe this rant is a bit misdirected as most readers here are relatively smart, and not hugely emotionally invested in their political beliefs, but I know conservatives (and also liberals) are reading this and the change has to come within.

100% of the time, people who state "that real world doesn't follow a simple narrative" are in the process of trying to sell you a simple narrative

Well if you guys prefer a science article:

Yes, I think Max Tegmark said the same point previously about existential threats but in different fashion. To catch people's attention you need marketing, and marketing needs narrative unfortunately. Boring statements like "well antibiotics seems to be a problem" just don't catch public's attention.

Well, ok then.

Here's another simple narrative for you: I have a friend who had his leg removed due to MRSA.

uhm ok I'm sorry, bad things happen to good people sometimes and as strongly as you might feel about it it's not a good reason to reorder society


Our actions created MRSA. If we don't do anything to stop creating more antibiotic resistant bacteria, we may end up with an even more reordered society than what you are afraid of. Besides no one is talking about re-ordering society, just being a lot more careful with our use of antibiotics. Antibiotics are wonder drugs. It would be tragic for everyone, if they stopped working.

Blah blah blah blah, it's mostly India and Mexico that are fucking up antibiotics - you are too stupid to realize this, but third world shitholes abusing antibiotics is the real cause of this problem and "reforms" in the USA won't change their practices. I haven't used antibiotics for anything in the past 20 years, but at least I'm smart enough to recognize that our mentally retarded sub-80 IQ neighbors are the problem, not us.

Antibiotic resistance is caused by people who have children, big ag, and fat people. The usual "they are destroying our planet" suspects.

Hey, I'm not a fan of one of the three, but that's a hallmark of propaganda, you use whatever issue in order to hate the people you wanted to hate anyway. When you see an article that blames only groups you aren't a member of for some out of this world evil, that should send off alarm bells.

You can forget children, big ag and fat people. Still medical profession believes that antibiotic overuse is a problem. I'm sure that is because medical researches hate big agriculture and whatever just want to pay extra money for their food bill? They go even to extra lengths in their hate to release papers in scientific journals about it.

Laziness and what Tyler said "nothing is supposed to hurt" -attitude is probably a factor here. Sure because I used word "fat" it's easy to use that as a straw man instead of arguing if antibiotics is an issue or not or what ought to be done about it, and just label to whole post as "hate", and move on. Nothing to see here.

Nobody is saying fat people or big ag are evil. That's you putting words into my mouths. What I'm saying though agriculture doesn't pay the costs of causing antibacterial resistance, and thus can seek rent. People who think its okay to demand antibiotics for common cold (when doctor doesn't see it appropriate) lack ability to take some short-term pain. Maybe it has do with how they were brought up as children. It doesn't make them evil or bad human beings, but when enough people do that there're bigger problems in society. Here asking for antibiotics for common cold etc. is not socially acceptable. I don't know, is it in US?

I don't hate anyone. Life is too short to hate anyone, and hating is a huge waste of time.

Both, Tyler and Alex have linked numerous times about this issue and I'm 100% sure there is no hate about behind it.

You do not understand economics or speak English as well as you seem to think you do.

#4. I thought that happened before in chess.

New antibiotics seems like an area where it'd be worth testing out large prizes instead of IP as rewards for innovation. $1 billion if you achieve X, with all information released into the public domain.


All Government medical funding should be by prizes. In fact all government funded research. And concerned individuals should work to raise private funding to increase the prize if they don't think it is enough. March of dimes for new antibiotics anyone? At the very least we would know where the money is going. Of course it would mean that highly influential and connected people would lose power, so this would never happen.

3. “The urban refugees come from all walks of life

I guess in China a city of more than 600,000 people (Dali, China, great name) is a destination for urban refugees.

In the US, I have met several youngish people (under 35) who left good jobs in NYC for small towns (pop under 30,000). Two were teleworkers, but several others just wanted out of big city life.

Since "Average is Over", maybe most of us better start brushing up on our farming and ag skills and considering ways to make it in smaller and less expensive places, such as running hotels, restaurants, blacksmithing, etc.

I'm under 30 and with a good job, but in Boston rather than NYC. I want out, but am still a little too much of a coward.

Lots of turkey vultures out here in the middle of nowhere, probably a good habitat for you.

I find your hipster anecdotes unpersuasive. Or would it be anecdotal hipsters?

I didn't use the word "hipsters".

And I have no clue what that word even means.

Does it mean all people under 35?

No, it means all people under 35 you dislike.

The Chinese "shi" administrative unit, which is usually translated as "city", typically covers far more than just the urban area of the city - a "shi" may contain several "xian" (Chinese counties). Many "shi" have what seem to be big populations, but are actually rather small urban areas with rather thickly-settled agricultural belts surrounding them for dozens of miles that are included in the population of the "shi". We saw this when we went to Yunnan last year: Lijiang "shi" claims to have a population of 1.2M, but the "shi" itself covers 8,000 square miles! The actual built up "urban core" has maybe 75K people. (Lijiang "Gu Cheng" or old city has 140K people in the district, but that area itself includes a big farm belt)

We were in Dali last year (which is about 50 miles from Lijiang), and it isn't a huge city; its downtown area can be crossed on foot in a day. It does have some amount of what would be called suburban sprawl in the US - including on an island in Erhai Lake - but the lake and nearby quite rugged mountains will restrict sprawl.

Both cities have a lot of vacation homes, and are developing fairly big "bohemian belts" of the urban escapees mentioned in the article. They also have fairly large groups of Westerners who've moved to the area.

One huge advantage is western Yunnan has vastly better weather than eastern China. Dali feels more like Lake Tahoe in the summer, but with only a bit of change in the winter, with none of the oppressive humidity that makes Beijing and Shanghai so awful from June through August. Both cities are in mountainous areas, but they're far enough south that there isn't a dramatic difference between summer and winter temperatures.

5. “I do take painting seriously,” he said. “It’s changed my life.”

If only all of our former presidents would take up painting.

Here's a YouTube video where GWB talks about painting and presents a portrait to Leno.

Thomas Frank ignores the deep irony within his own and Packer's decline and fall thinking. He even has a quote in the end talking about how American Democracy is dead (again). There is within their thoughts the same characteristic longing for a previous era that never existed. The same critique applies to them that they have leveled at numerous conservatives. The argument between these Utopian revisionists devolves into a religious war arguing what said nows The Truth of what the past was like. So neither side can listen to the other because it is all useless posturing and empty rhetoric about sins of heracy. In effect they are both conservative forces through a liberal worldview.

I never understood this type of criticism. Was the past exactly like the present? Is there no use at all in comparing historical periods? Perhaps the past was worse than today. Perhaps it was better. Fine. But argue for one of those two instead of just saying that we should just give up. If that's all there is left why even bother to read history.

"Soft power" contest for Mr. Yanukovich's favor? Marvelous definition of "soft power"...

The evidence that CAFOs are the cause of the increase in antibiotic resistance is tenuous at best. If they were the cause of the problem there should be a trace back of the DNA sequence of the antibiotic resistant bacteria from the patient to the CAFO and I don't think such evidence exists.

The increasing antibiotic resistance of tuberculosis also supports the idea that antibiotic resistance is not driven by CAFOs. Different disease, different transmission mechanism, and a tremendous increase in antibiotic resistance.

The problem with the ongoing attempt to blame CAFOs for the problem of antibiotic resistance is that it distracts focus from and correction of one of the real causes of increased antibiotic resistance which is misuse of antibiotics in the human population.

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