Thursday assorted links


6b. As I've said, I have a darker interpretation. I don't think Trump reads. TV is where he is getting these people.

It's not a matter of conjecture, Trump does not read. TV and asking around are how he's getting his team assembled. To be fair, asking around is how almost everyone does that.

Except Reagan, who had read Jeanne Kirkpatrick's well-known essay in Commentary.

Do you think Trump reads the instructions he gets from Putin?

He gets those via tiny holograms, like in Star Wars.

Maybe not quite holograms.

Check out this on Magnetophosphenes (first written about sicentifically in 1896):

There are also some studies which read EEG patterns of cats exposed to visual stimulus, and then replaying effects in a manner which they manner to find could achieve some degree of similar response to the original stimulus, but by eletromagnetic stimulation (microwave pulse influences on neural activity).

But probably the Annals of the New York Academy of Science is just full of 50 years of scientific disinformation to help us lock up the crazy people who threaten our safety with their beliefs in alien reptilian overlords and the like. The other dozens of science journals full of studies (relating to bio and neuro effects of microwave pulses) from lots of researchers at highly ranked academic institutions are similarly part of this campaign to prevent the public from accessing knowledge on related matters.

Anyways, Trump's gesticulations in recent appearances seem less controlled and less conducive to neurolinguistic programming principles being applied in conjunction with other stuff. So ... maybe he'll just treat the hologram as anti-false flag disinformation. But the Rambo appointment to the arts position ... I dunno, maybe not strange because of his WWF ties, but I'm not sure that many external audiences will think that one through.


I think Trump is probably more intelligent than any president in my lifetime (73 years). What most people are doing is either listening and believing the radical left wing propaganda about him and/or misinterpreting his style.

First and foremost he is a New Yorker and if you aren't familiar with New Yorkers you will be suprised at their bluntness, combatitiveness and verbosity. Don't be fooled, Trump is playing you. This is his shtick; he overwhelms you, tricks you into misunderestimating him talks big and in the end gets more than you thought he would.

I think this is mostly true, but not sure if the word 'intelligent' describes it.

Explain the brilliance behind today's tweet on nuclear arms:

Russia claims they need to increase their arsenal, so Trumps counters that we will too - until they come to their senses. Message seems to tell Russia not to bother, it'll be useless. Makes sense.

Ha, that came in while I was typing. Russia has said they would expand? I thought this was about proliferation, little guys.


Geez, "near simultaneous calls?"

That is not good. It is not good if Putin is answering Trump's tweet, and it is not good if a President-Elect is answering a foreign leader in a tweet.

Not good.

Is ~3 hours enough?

I would say that if this seemingly random and stupid comment cannot be decoded, "don't worry, Trump is just playing N-dimensional chess" might just be wishful thinking.

I have never really believed the "N-dimensional chess" thing. I tend to believe the Occam's Razor explanation that Trump is just undisciplined and tweets stupid stuff. I'm a Republican, but I didn't vote for Trump because I don't think he is fit to be president.

However, my stance is challenged by the fact that what he does seems to work out a surprising amount of the time. This tweet is a case in point.

Trump wants to project American strength.

A promise to increase our nuclear arsenal seems to straightforwardly do that.

Making the promise in a haphazard way, via a tweet seems crazy...but actually, fear that Trump is crazy probably strengthens our negotiating position with other nations. Fears of "Who knows what Trump might do?" seem likely to bring people to the negotiating table to make deals.

It also may address concerns that Trump is too soft on Russia.

I'm not saying I'm a fan of this tweet (Because what if Trump really is crazy? And in practical terms what he is proposing makes little sense) but it does seem to fit the "Trump as brilliant tactician" narrative rather easily.

The developing story is that Trump ran ahead of his staff with "let there be an arms race."

Very dangerous.

Of course if we take the "Putin is playing N-dimensional chess" line, he just gave Trump a way to bash Russia and reduce concern that he is too friendly.

All in all, global news I'd rather not have or worry about decoding.

Getting a bunch of real estate investors to take on all the risk while Trump enjoys any tax liability benefits in terms of writeoffs from downside risks is one of many example of things that helped to get Trump rich but which are not at all useful, and in fact probably highly counterproductive, on the world stage.

But, as you say, he's not dumb. He will probably understand this.

2. Maybe the quick thermometer has to be digital to be a gift, but I find the simple food service type incredibly useful, whether for the tri-tip on the barbecue or the bread in the oven.

$3.52, free shipping, it's all you need.

Agreed. Seems to work just fine.

"2. Megan McArdle’s annual kitchen gift guide."

I really hope my wife doesn't see that column.

McArdle does the world a service with this guide.

It would be nice to get it earlier in the month, though...

Buy them in the January sales. Actually, do those still exist?

Not to worry, most of McArdle's suggestions are less than optimal and you can get buy quite well without most of the stuff she recommends. In particular, the silicon baking mats really don't work very well at all one can buy parchment paper if you feel you need it; otherwise regular baking sheets are just fine. the KitchenAid mixer she notes is about the only one of the suggestions that I support. I have one of those and use it for my twice weekly bread baking; it's durable and has the right capacity for the home baker. Stainless steel mixing bowls cost about the same as Pyrex bowls and they won't break. Don't waste money on any non-stick pan, you cannot sufficiently brown anything which is a key to cooking. $8 for an egg separator when you can do this just as easy for free?

Non-stick pans are horrible, I agree. Besides their cooking deficiencies and the fact that they wear out in a year, they also mean you have to use awful plastic or silicon utensils.

I use a cast iron pan constantly. The two things McArdle mentions needing a non-stick for (cooking eggs and toasting cheese) can be done quite well in cast iron.

Having read some recent policy pieces by Navarro, he strikes me as a complete toady for Trump.

He must know better than the BS he writes, mustn't he? Or maybe not.

4. I think the "trashy" claim is usually made of the trailer-dwellers rather than the trailer itself.

Those are quite gaudy. My mother-in-law would love them.

if they were built to residential construction standards we'd call them modular homes. But they're not. They look, feel, and even smell like trailers.

#2 - Loved the column, but of all the suggestions, I'm most drawn to the the Moccamaster coffee maker, even at that price. Coffee is one of those essential things, and I can't say how many times I've lucked into brewing a good cup of coffee and it has literally made my Saturday morning. This will probably be my gift to myself in the early part of 2017. And I love the different color options (orange looks amazing), though it's kinda sad that the carafe versions only seem to come in brushed silver or black.

We have a way of making a marvellous mug of coffee, but the description is too big to fit into the margin.

For over 10 years I've been roasting my own coffee from green beans. I currently use an antique drum roaster over a gas flame for my roasting. What do I use to brew my artisenally roasted coffee? I use a rubber band to attach a large paper filter across the mouth of an old pickle jar. I put the ground coffee in that, and pour hot water over the coffee. Makes as good coffee as I've ever gotten by any other method.

An error in my description. I put the ground coffee in my coffee mug, pour the hot water in that, stir, then pour that into the coffee filter. I've tried steeping the coffee and it dosn't seem to make a bit of difference, so after I stir it goes into the filter without delay.

It's a decent list but Megan is way too much into gadgets. Who needs an egg separator?

@#5 - IM Regan's chess musings - very deep article. Lots of little gems here that only fans of chess programs and chess will enjoy. Apparently in other works Regan has calibrated chess players skill not just based on crude won/loss/draw ratios, but things like how close to the best move they can pay (best move determined by the strongest chess engine, lol I recall a few years ago whether this was even possible was hotly debated by ignorant folk who thought engines cannot find the best move).

And this sentence rings true: "This is one of several reasons why my main training set controls by limiting to games between evenly-rated players" - yes, I play my PC to determine my playing strength (about Class A), and what I find it helps to calibrate your strength playing a PC better than you but not radically better. 100-150 points is good, 200-300 is stretching it, and if you try for 500 or more points what will happen is your strength will fluctuate too much. It's the same for chess engines, you cannot get an really accurate Elo unless the engines are roughly equal to each other. Since chess is hard, anybody can beat anybody at any time, just by 'blundering into a won position' so a big Elo difference is tricky when figuring out the true strength of each player.

The big takeaway from the Regan post for me is that chess Elos can be predicted better by a logistic function ("S-shaped") rather than a Gaussian distribution, which is the traditional way. I've seen this speculation before from Jeff Sonas' blog but never so explicit.

Hi, Ray, and thanks. I'll answer just about Elo and the logistic curve here. Arpad Elo did indeed originally base Elo on Gaussian distribution---actually, on the difference between two samples from one. But Elo was later re-based on a logistic curve. This changed the theoretical 75% expectation for a 200-point higher rated player to about 76%---while in practice, Mark Glickman has shown that greater skewness in the uncertainty "glob" for the higher player explains observed results in the 72-73% range.

Your point however certainly does hover over my model's equations. I don't use those logistic curves expressly. If I did, I'd have issues like this: Consider one mistake m1 that drops your expectation from 0.4 to 0.2, and (in a different position) another mistake that drops you from 0.6 to 0.4. Then:

(a) The two mistakes should be charged the same "error" value e, since they both lost 0.2 points of expectation.
(b) The former mistake should count more, because it cut your chances in half whereas the other cut them by only 1/3.
(c) The latter mistake should count more, because it gave away the advantage and fell thru the thickest part of the curve.

Which would you vote for? Well, when I try any of these I do not get fits anywhere near as good as this for 2800.

Instead I use an inverse exponential curve 1/exp(x^c) where x = (diff in value)/s. If c were near 2 this would be a Gaussian curve, but in fact c is mostly in the 0.4--0.6 range. That is, before it gets disturbed by further issues in my expanded model which I described on Election Day before thr returns started coming in...

#3 hammers on the contradiction:: "conservatives happy they have destroyed the establishment."

' ' Bannon put the party on notice in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter. “We’re going to build an entirely new political movement,” he boasted. “The conservatives are going to go crazy. I’m the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. With negative interest rates throughout the world, it’s the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything. Ship yards, iron works, get them all jacked up. We’re just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution — conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement.” ' '

As a liberal, I'd love to see Bannon-Trump succeed wildly. That would clear the way for a return to bipartisan big government liberalism like the 50s and 60s.

3. I've always voted for Democrats and in Democrat primaries. I may not fully appreciate the dynamics of the other party. What I never understood is why anyone thinks Ryan is good at anything. He's a complete wimp and he has a face you want to smash into a wall. Politicians should be likable and he is not likable. At least with Trump I can disagree without thinking the guy hates me. Ryan walks around like he is too good for the rest of us. That and he says very stupid things a lot.

As an aside, does anyone read National Review anymore? I used to get links sent to me by conservative friends, but that does not happen anymore. It's been a long time since I had any reason to go to that site.

"What I never understood is why anyone thinks Ryan is good at anything. "

I think there are always different dynamics at play when you are talking about Speaker of the House. It's someone who was elected first by a small regional electorate and then was later elected or selected by their parties House members.

"He’s a complete wimp and he has a face you want to smash into a wall. Politicians should be likable and he is not likable."

Compare Paul Ryan to Nancy Pelosi. Surely neither is the most likable member of their caucus. I think the slot generally goes to an aggressive personality who is good at back room politics.

Pelosi is the choice of the geographically smallest district in the country. She essentially represents the San Francisco Castro Street population. She's not even a genuine Californian, if there is such a thing, being part of the Baltimore political machine.

Maybe it's not a bad thing to have a house leader from an area which is at the cutting edge of many of the newest areas of technology, as opposed to, say, someone who is presiding over the collapse of long decline of manual labour-driven industries.

Her only significant connection with that technology would appear to be holding $1,000,000 in Apple stock.

Tip O'Neill was the last great Speaker of the House.

For me, some have been better than others, but Sam Rayburn was the last great one.

When I hear Pelosi say something semi-intelligent it will be the first time. Ryan? I always suspected that Obama had some dirt on him. Trump seems to have reenergized him. I think McConnell needs to be threatened with loss of his position in the Senate, to bring him into line. Unfortunately, he isn't up for reelection until 2020.

National Review took a fairly strong anti-Trump stance, and that alienated many of his supporters (perhaps your friends among them?).

I wonder what the overall impact on their readership was (and whether it will be permanent).

On the Navarro nomination and in general on Trump mercantilistic approach.

I think that too much of the discussion on free-trade has been focused on an utilitaristic approach, i.e. : is free-trade good for America? Apart from the fact that "America" is a rather nebulous concept (there are 300 millions of Americans, each with his own preference scales and opportunity costs), the question evades the ethical question, i.e.: should the State have the right to put tariffs in order to manage the economy? And the answer is a resounding no, in my view.

Tariffs have been in place since the beginning of the Republic, in theory to finance the federal government activities, given that there were not other forms to tax allowed to it. As a matter of fact, this was already a mercantilistic coup d'etat compared to the Articles of Confederation (coup organized by Hamilton and Madison, using flimsy excuses like the Shay rebellion, and with Jefferson conveniently in France) where the Federal government did not have any power to tax at all. However, almost immediately, tariffs were used not only to find the little resources needed to run a Fed government that had expenses of maybe1% of GDP, but to protect the nascent manufacturing industries in the North. The impact on internal politics has been destructive since the beginning, culminating in the drastic reduction of tariffs of the Secessionist States that made the North to start the Civil War.

However, the moral case against tariffs is not only based on the damage done to the Republic, but to the fact that even for proponents of the State as based on a (fictitious) social contract, the role should be circumscribed to the protection of individuals from violence, theft and fraud. There is no way to justify both in terms of natural rights or in terms of the State as a social contract, a wealth redistribution scheme like putting tariffs to protect a segment of people (in this case, "low-skilled workers") at the expenses of the general population. This is simply immoral. So immoral, that it was at the base of the Revolution. John Hancock was only the largest smuggler in a country of smugglers. To think that a nation whose birth has been based on a rejection of regulation on trade to become ashamedly mercantilistic is tragic irony.

I would suggest that a neutral tariff is not zero, it is equal to the burden on a domestic producer.

That is, a Costa Rican coffee grower wants to participate in the US market, as does a Hawaiian grower. You've balanced their "user fee" on the US economy when the tax burden per pound of coffee is about the same. If the Hawaiian grower pays (a variety of) tax, and the Costa Rican coffee shows up US-tax-free, it is free riding on the Hawaiian grower (and other domestic tax payers of all kinds).

(This idea of balancing tariffs is the no-mans-land between free trade and protectionism.)

Well, the Costarican grower also pays taxes in Costa Rica. Would your approach create a matrix of product/country to put a specific tariff equal to the difference of taxation in the US vs other countries, for each specific industry? Apart the practical impossibility of doing that, what about countries that have a higher level of taxation than the US? Would you introduce a subsidy to imports to balance it?

But in more general terms, why do you think it is necessary? Assuming a theoretical economy without comparative advantages between countries, a country with lower taxes would have a cost advantage, that might be higher than the logistic costs to ship the goods to the US. In this case, all the clients in the US should be buying the imported product. This would decrease the value of the dollar until the local industries are competitive again. Of course the type of tax itself would create comparative advantages. Taxes on labour, for example, would make labour-intensive industries less competitive. And, in reality, comparative advantages between countries of course abound. Tariffs are the most distortive type of taxes because they tend to dampen the price signaling of comparative advantages and killing trade, which is the way both countries enjoy them. But we are back on a utilitarian instead of moral discussion.

In a free world, where human beings are not serfs of the State that has the monopoly of violence on the land where they happened to be born, there would be no taxes at all, all the services (awfully) today provided by the State would transform into fees paid by private agents in competition, but anarchist proposals seems to have little space in this blog. I would then say that, if the cancer that is the State must be part of the equation, the less distortive tax should be chosen. This is probably a consumption tax, or a poll tax, or maybe a tax on land as in the Georgian model.

Most libertarians keep a short list of government services they would keep. Only a few ditch public education entirely. And so every actor, human and economic, should share the cost.

I am fine with Costa Rica charging similar balancing tariffs on Brazilian coffee.

If this lead to every nation having their own small tariff, this would be fair and economically efficient. It would not be protectionist.

If the state does not have the right to charge or not charge a tax at its border, can you even say it is a state?

There is a reason that they call many exports/imports "zero rated" for sales/customs tax purposes. As in, it is still taxable, but the rate just happens to be zero right now.

There are a ridiculous number of ways to argue against Trump's policy without having to reach to debating the fundamental legitimacy of a customs tariff. It has perhaps the second longest history among taxation methods, after mandatory quotas or shares of peasants, etc.

So, maybe they are dumb taxes, but they are not illegitimate.

The commonly accepted definition of State is the Weberian definition of an entity that has the monopoly of violence on a specific geographic area. This does not say anything about the scope of the attributions of the state, it could range from a minarchist state a la Rand or Mises, whose scope is limited to the protection of individuals from violence, theft or fraud from other individuals (which implies exclusively police, judiciary and national defense) to states that controls every aspect of the private property of the individual, either excluding it (communism) or regulating it so much that it loses its meaning (fascism).

The Us federal State was born in 1787, the Articles of Confederation of ten years earlier did not really create a state, because the central authority had no power of taxation whatsoever, all the money and military means had to come from the states that composed the US. The legal framework of the US Republic is indisputably in the framework of the Enlightenment, where the powers of the State are the product of the delegation of the natural rights of the individuals (the negative rights, not the bullshit positive rights that are fashionable now). Obviously, no individual has the natural right of regulating the commerce of other individuals to force a redistribution of wealth from a segment of some individuals (the consumers of a product) to another segment (in the current case, "low-skilled" manufacturing workers). So, yes, tariffs to punish certain industries to favor others are illegal, no doubt.

Let's see how the tariffs have been included in the Constitution. You have to go back to the debates during the ratification between Federalists (that wanted to ratify the new Constitution) and the Anti-federalists, who were fine with the Articles. Madison really worked out a magnificent coup with the Constitution. He paid lip services to the idea of an Enlightenment Republic, while leaving open the door for the Hamiltonian agenda of a centralized state with power of taxation, protectionism, a central bank and a standing army. Tariffs in particular were theoretically introduced as the only taxation available for the central government, and specifically only to raise the amount of money needed for its functioning, in no way to "manage" the economy. If he stated that the central State would have used it to protect the nascent manufacturing industries in the North, the Southern States (and many Northern too) would have never ratified it.

Continues... At face value, there are clear safeguards in the Constitution (especially in the Bill of Rights) to stop the central State to overstep its boundaries, most notably the 10nth. But in practice, the language in the Constitution proper is so vague (the commerce clause only one example) to allow for the State the appropriation of virtually any function, provided the connivance of the Supreme Court. This is not the result of Madison sloppy work, it was clearly intentional, and reading the correspondence between the main people involved makes is abundantly clear, as it does the enthusiastic support of Hamilton to the ratification efforts.

With that vague language, tariffs were of course (politicians being politicians) used immediately for protectionism, and they were the most important bone of contention (together with "internal improvements", or infrastructure, to which they were intimately linked) of all the administrations until the Civil War, that settled the issue for good with the killing of 600.000 people. So, it is true, today protectionist tariffs are considered normal and legal, but this is only the result of deceitful maneuvering, violence at umprecedented scale and the coopting of the fictitious checks and balances. But just as might doesn't make right, protectionist tariffs remain illegal in substance.

#4: The single-wides here remind me of
Cheap buildings no one particularly cares about have the advantage that one can customize to taste. Sometime that works out really well.

It's difficult to understand the thinking that leads to this. These sort of structures are commonplace in Alaska. People live in a trailer while constructing a building that encapsulates it. A more sensible option would be to live in the trailer while building a more permanent home adjacent to it, removing the trailer when the home is completed.

@1...I hate to tell you this, but, eventually, the drones will be barking out ads as they go about delivering goods.

Current delivery vehicles don't bark out ads as they drive by. Drones won't either. They may well trail banner ads.

+1 and current delivery vehicles are a much better platform for ads than drones are, too.

Why don't they display ads? I suppose they probably value the advertisement of their own brand more.

Good points.

I agree about banner ads. In some places, trucks are used to bark out political ads, but, in general, barking in traffic isn't effective. OTOH, barking from the sky might well be effective. Like dirigibles, you're going to see drones hovering above outside sporting events and such. If you're wealthy enough, you can expect drones equipped with facial recognition software to target you with targeted advertising as you walk about the city. "Hey, Joe X. Have you seen the new Italian suits at Mario's? There a special deal waiting for you at the shop."

Advertising doesn't work when people find it too annoying or intrusive, because it causes a negative impression rather than the desired positive response. It tends to be self-limiting, to a certain extent.

#4...I was dying to know who said that, but I don't think the article addressed it.

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