Friday assorted links

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#1 A communist regime could provide it at a much lower price at the box office.
#2 Yet Brazilians gave millions and millions to help re-build Notre Dame. No one talks about it.
#5 No.

basically, 1) Akin to a range of prices 2) sure list another fact 5) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tam_o%27_Shanter_(poem)#/media/File:Tam_o%27_Shanter_and_Souter_Johnny_at_Kirkton_Jean%27s.png

They ought to donate to the poor (Will Always Be With You) the money they raise by raffling a one-way ticket to Venezuela.

Life in Trump's America: Imbeciles with sufficient disposable income to pay $2,000 to have their stupidity validated. .

Communism doesn't hurt the (right) people at the top. The Communist Party elites live large, it's the everyone who suffers. These people are pure evil.

2. I am glad to see that people are thinking about which kinds of charitable donations will have the greatest impact on alleviating human suffering. Donating to help rebuild Notre Dame is certainly not "bad", but there may be more effective charities from a "return on investment" perspective:

https://www.givewell.org/charities/top-charities

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effective_altruism

Excellent. The Church's list of "corporal works of mercy" does not contain a line-item for donating to rebuild a cathedral, western civilization icon or otherwise.

Then, I can not get indulgence for donating to Notre Dame? I have already sinned in advance.

How many sins can you really commit in small town Ohio?

Many, I guess, even pretending to have invented the airplane. But I live in Brazil, where life is like a hurricane. There are many adventures and too much excitement.

You can also pretend to invent the airplane in Brazil:
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alberto_Santos-Dumont

You and I are members of the biggest club on Earth.

I'm not an expert. I think "indulgences" are not operative. You don't need one.

You need to repent, go to confession (it's time to do your Easter Duty) and receive absolution, do penance, amend your life, and glorify God through prayer and good works.

But I wanted to buy indulgences to lessen my penance.

In my parish, Father Christopher only gives one "Hail Mary" no matter what your sins.

Then he is soft. Also, I spent the whole night at church in vigil. Meanwhile, born-again Catholics and Protestants have all sort of freebies.

Did you ask him to autograph his book, The Aeneid?

I really hate this line of thinking. What makes it worse is that I genuinely cannot find the research to establish firm numbers for my own opinion.

Here's what we know:
-At Mass there is an offering before Eucharist. The Catholic Church is the most charitable entity in the world. This is a proven fact. You should do the research. The numbers dwarf everyone/everywhere else.
-30,000 people walked the halls of Notre Dame everyday. It assumed that the majority of them attended Mass, and we know that Mass has an offering.

How much money do you think the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris put into charities every year?

I think it's fair to say that we're looking at a $1 BB in the last decade.

This says nothing about the countless charities the Church of Notre Dame was supporting with that money, and their suddenly significantly less funding.

The point remains that the times they are a-changing. Protestants have supported Prezident Captain Bolsonaro at a much higher proportion than Catholics. It is Protestants who are supporting meaningful economical reforms and fighting to ban Darwinism and homosexuality from Brazilian schools. The Catholic Church must understand the new times and the challanges it poses. It can not hide anymore. We need real change, we need a church who understands the plight of the common man and is ready to act for its benefit. As American journalist Rush Limbaugh pointed out, communism is swalling the Catholic Church whole. Once, the Catholic Church supported the Brazilian throne when Brazil fought for survival against the Paraguayan invader. Once again, our culture is fighting for survival. Just organizing Eucharistic vigils won't be nearly enough.

I don't think charitable giving is effective at any scale beyond, say, a business owner giving an aging family member a job, or giving a homeless guy a few bucks to pick up trash. Charitable giving and institutions are contaminated by perverse incentives.

At this point I think Andrew Yang has the right idea.

I definitely agree with you that many instances of charitable giving have minimal benefit, and may in fact be harmful. But it seems like a pretty strong claim to say that is true of nearly all charities?

My read of the evidence suggests that many of the most effective charities focus their efforts on international public health, such as the attempts to prevent and eradicate malaria in Africa (my own charitable donations mostly go towards this goal). I view malaria prevention as an effort that may greatly increase human capital in the long run. But I will freely admit that the long run effects cannot be known for certain!

After billions of charitable dollars and volunteers tripping over each other, has anybody ever even got a modern sewer and stormwater system up and running in Haiti?

Maybe guinea worm eradication is a success, but when the filters run out the disease is probably coming back. Again, billions of dollars in aid and nobody can figure out a municipal water supply.

Malaria used to be a terrible problem in the Americas and Mediterranean and it's now disappeared. Just do that, right?

^ Good point.

I've never been to Haiti, but I will say this: The all-inclusive-resort industry has been great for bringing potable water and transportation infrastructure to many similar places. Seems like a missed opportunity here, perhaps one of many.

Bringing more Africans in the world is negative ROI for humanity.

You should donate all of your money into research for embryo selection or CRISPR. If we don't fix these peoples genes they will be negative assets forever.

But you know what will happen, right? They won’t build better (more virtuous conscientious etc) human beings. No, they will build a faster, stronger warrior with more stamina.

I am confused by your comment. If someone wishes their philanthropic dollars to go to cultural or environmental use, how or why would the metric of their efficacy be "relief of human suffering"? If you are only interested in the latter, then wouldn't donating to Notre Dame be not so much "bad" as beside the point? Maybe I am an unusual dunce today.

The purpose of the donations is not to relieve suffering. It's to rebuild the cathedral. It's tiresome that it's so common to criticize people today for failing to live up with goals and values that weren't their's to begin with. It's nothing more than costless virtue signaling.

Right, and this nonsense: "“In just a few hours today, 650 million euros was donated to rebuild Notre Dame,” South Africa-based journalist Simon Allison tweeted. “In six months, just 15 million euros has been pledged to restore Brazil’s National Museum. I think this is what they call white privilege.”" - is balderdash by an ignorant reporter. Brazil gets 7M tourists a year, while France gets 90M, 13x more, not to mention there's probably more to see that's culturally significant in Paris than Rio de Janeiro (which I think is a South American sex tourism site I would imagine, like Pattaya, TH). It's not "white privilege" but more like the gravity equation of trade and follow the money.

There is too many things to see in Rio de Janeiro. The Military Engineering Institute, the Military Club, tge Ruy Barbosa House, the Benjamin Constant House, the Rio Btanco Avenue, the Pure and Apllied Mathematics Institute, the Guanabara Palace, the Brazilian Literary Academy, the National Library, the Metropolitan Cathedral, the ocean and many, many other things. As we use to say, when a man is tired of Rio de Janeiro City, he is tired of life.

@TR - that's plagiarism: "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life- Samuel Johnson". I think seeing a girl's bikini bottom is why most men go to Copacabana beach. From what I hear the beach is full of crime however. The photos of the surf don't look that inviting. I think Ocean City, MD, or Virginia Beach, VA, Myrtle Beach, SC, USA here are probably better, and parts of Florida, for just beach life. Miami beach might be an equal or even better for pretty girl looks. Discover America PR!

Effective Altruism is a fine way to spend the marginal charitable dollar, but a horrible way to manage your total charitable contributions.

When I see someone or something I want to help, I give. That's it. I don't pause to maybe talk myself out of it because it's not maximally effective. If I did that, I'd hardly give anything to charity.

I could automate the process, and make an auto-contribution every time I get paid; but then whenever I saw something right in front of my face that warranted my charity, I might stop and say, "No, I've automated this. Giving to this other person is sub-optimal."

None of that is particularly generous or effective. What makes society thrive is individual generocity paired with a genuine community spirit. You know, people helping each other face-to-face to make each other's lives better. The power of an interactive community like that is worth many times the initial dollars raised. The more some people give, the more other people want to give. It's a virtuous circle.

There is no virtuous circle in effective altruism.

I think those are good criticisms of EA as an all-encompassing mindset!

#2 From the Post article:
“In just a few hours today, 650 million euros was donated to rebuild Notre Dame,”

France has a population of just about 65 million. I don't see how a one-time gift of ten euros per person helps very much.

The idea that large donations from the rich are all that is needed to eradicate poverty is terribly mistaken. But the idea that some charitable donations may be more effective and higher impact than others certainly seems true, and also generally underrated by the public.

Some people may consider it "cold" and "calculating" to view charitable donations through the lens of trying to maximize one's return on investment. But if that return on investment is the concrete reduction of human suffering, it seems quite important to try and maximize those gains...

Bringing more Africans into the world increases human suffering. There is nothing "calculating" about it. It's a total absence of calculation that leads one to think it's a smart idea.

Improving their lives may be the route to both ends. Wealthier communities have fewer children.

This will sound harsh, but perhaps we should try to painlessly reduce the number of Africans, with a 'medical' intervention' of some kind. The world will be better off.

If you study United States history you will see southern plantation owners always described their slaves as happy. So clearly Africans have the ability to be happy even when living under terrible circumstances and so increasing their numbers relative to other populations should increase average human happiness.

Donations from the rich are all that's needed to eliminate the worst poverty. The cost of eliminating absolute poverty -- living off less than $2 a day -- should be less than $200 billion a year. That's 55 cents a day from the world's richest billion people or $55 a day from the world's richest million people.

You're assuming this massive wealth transfer is completely frictionless. In fact, it will cost a great deal to get all this money into the hands of so many people in ways they can make use of that money.

I'm not talking about ephemeral "societal" costs, I mean literally it isn't free to accomplish such a massive wealth transfer to so many people in a way that they can keep and use it.

The challenge of getting $15/month to people who live in mud huts is very real.

Yes, getting the worlds 700 million plus poorest a bank account so they can receive their $15 a month will be a huge effort -- see India's biometrics program for an example -- but it's a very worthwhile bit of infrastructure that would a great deal of benefit. So the money would be collected and then invested in distribution infrastructure so people could collect it. This would result in a delay as it's rolled out.

Of course, if people are starving in some isolated area a drone could air drop dollar bills. Even in the unlikely event no one knows what they are, they'll soon figure it out.

2. Not just the rich, of course. The attention paid by regular people around the world to Notre Dame being damaged compared to the indifference towards people being starved and oppressed elsewhere in the world was jarring from day one.

It'd be nice if people would recognize the problem of efficacy, when they get all indignant. A pledge of one million is pretty likely to help rebuild a cathedral in Paris. It is almost a certainty, actualy. It is far less likely to have any real effect in say, liberating North Koreans or the Sudanese.

Well, Notre Dame has received $650 million in donations, not $1 million. That amount of money could make a huge difference for impoverished Sudanese or oppressed North Koreans—a cash transfer would double the yearly incomes of a million Sudanese, and that amount of money would probably be enough to smuggle tens or hundreds of thousands of North Koreans out of the country.

People don’t have an obligation to be charitable, of course, and if you want to be charitable you don’t have an obligation to be maximally effective.

My larger point is that we are all guilty of not being good utilitarians. People who feel resentment at why the rich are giving money to Notre Dame and not them should also question why they care more about Notre Dame and yellow vests than poverty in Sudan.

In that case, I would like to make myself a candidate to receive charitable funds, as well.

The criticism is that it's being used as an opportunity for tax evasion and public relations; demands that the people pay their taxes, not demands for their charity.

A Saudi pledged $450 million for the ownership of "Salvatore Mundi." Was that jarring? A whole lot of people have used their discretionary dollars to buy Hamilton tickets, to the tune of a half-billion dollars. Jarring? Or only jarring when it's the public spending money on publicly-owned cultural treasures?

I think people reacted so strongly in part because old buildings like that are the legacy of people that died hundreds of years ago. They give us a sense of continuity with people in the past and future. thus when they are damaged we get reminded of our mortality. If what the people in the past left behind fades away, then so will what we leave behind. So we feel less like part of some continuous project of civilization. See comments referring to the church as "part of us", the us being a continuous chain of people past and present and future, with the building uniting us over time. Without that continuity, death seems more final.

+1! I do think it is important and meaningful to rebuild Notre Dame.

Only if you are a crass materialist who thinks of human suffering in strictly bodily terms.

"...compared to the indifference towards people being starved and oppressed elsewhere in the world was jarring from day one"

Which means each and every day on this planet, so, in light of that, what did you do to alleviate world suffering the day before the fire? Nothing I'd wager. What a lot of empty talk.

4a. One can't help but be impressed by Cowen's immediate and confident response to every question he is asked. Or is it: One can't help but be unimpressed by Cowen's immediate and confident response to every question he is asked.

what difference could it possibly make?

#1 The "champagne" socialist set.

2. Intersectionality! You get the cultural angle with the Harvard architecture professor calling the fire an "act of liberation" for the evil oppression of the past that the building symbolized (the Committee on Public Safety would be proud!) and the class angle with people complaining about some billionaires spending money to help rebuild it.

#1. Stuff like this used to bother me, but now I kind of thinks its really more of an offshoot of a healthy instinct to critique the people and norms that rule us. Would we want a society where rich people sat around congratulating themselves on their own awesomeness and nobody questioned the inherent justness of market outcomes? It's much better that the wealthy and powerful are constantly subjected to criticism to keep their egos in check, and that they pay hefty sums to watch such critiques as a form of entertainment.
I would like to see more arts critiquing the justness of federal government regulation and the news media, though. The problem isn't that artists critique capitalism, but that they focus on it to the exclusion of other things.

The problem isn't that artists critique capitalism, but that they focus on it to the exclusion of other things.

All you say here is true and just. Criticism is healthy. The Lehman show sounds like it might be interesting, but usually the theater's criticism of capitalism is so knuckleheaded that it's exasperating (I'm talking to you, Bertolt Brecht).

6. I don't find Oster a credible source for providing good analysis on evidence-based practices regarding pregnancy children. TC may appreciate this because it involves a bias toward alcohol, IMO.

The overwhelming consensus on drinking alcohol during pregnancy is to entirely avoid it.

This is position taken by the CDC, the American Pregnancy Association, the World Health Organization, National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, the March of Dimes, the UK Health Ministry, and many others.

Oster, amazingly in her "evidence-based" book Expecting Better, disagrees and says it is fine to drink a certain amount of alcohol during pregnancy. Of course, she is not the only person who goes outside of their field and uses their PhD to tell people something they really want to hear but that goes against the scientific consensus, and sells a lot of books with that popular message. There are MDs who do the same thing appealing to anti-vaxxers.

And fetal alcohol syndrome is not some one-in-a-million risk that parents shouldn't really worry about. A recent study showed 1% to 5% of kids studied had fetal alcohol syndrome disorder, and it was being chronically under-diagnosed.

Oster has had the chance to change her position in recent interviews as more evidence has come out, but she hasn't. Does she take a similar stance on cigarettes, and say since there are limited studies available on very light tobacco use, that one or two or three cigarettes is okay? Nope - she admits she enjoys drinking and is presumably not a smoker, so she applies a double standard and advises quitting smoking entirely while pregnant but not doing the same for alcohol.

You think as an economist she would be able to think about risk and reward in a clearer manner. The benefits of having a glass of wine versus the risk of hurting your baby aren’t certain, because the risk isn’t certain. But the benefit to having a glass of wine is so small, I would imagine that only someone who has a drinking problem is going to genuinely want to have a drink while pregnant, and will have “just one” and cite someone like Oster to justify their drinking.

2. “Pledges to Notre Dame by rich stir resentment…”

How does the New France build a Notre Dame spire for the equal but separate religious identities, possibly including athiests? I can see three years of comedy as they figure this one.

Endocrine system meet neurons by Wiki:

Each neuron in the nucleus has one long axon that projects to the posterior pituitary gland, where it gives rise to about 10,000 neurosecretory nerve terminals. The magnocellular neurons are electrically excitable: In response to afferent stimuli from other neurons, they generate action potentials, which propagate down the axons. When an action potential invades a neurosecretory terminal, the terminal is depolarised, and calcium enters the terminal through voltage-gated channels. The calcium entry triggers the secretion of some of the vesicles by a process known as exocytosis. The vesicle contents are released into the extracellular space, from where they diffuse into the bloodstream.[1]

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Happens at the brain base, early in evolution. Abstract thought is pretending to speak, but not really; the same region must be making that possible.

#5..".The finding could lead to better drugs capable of putting people to sleep with fewer side effects."

Until I had major surgery, I hadn't imagined how real illusions could be. I hope this helps because I don't look forward to the side-effects of major surgery drugs again.

#5. "conditional ablation or inhibition of AANs led to diminished slow-wave oscillation, significant loss of sleep, and shortened durations of GA." Turning these neurons off doesn't stop GA, just makes the animals wake up faster after you stop the drugs. Turning them on doesn't trigger GA, just make the animals wake up slower after stopping the drugs. Activation of sleep pathways for some anesthetics has been known for a long time.

The beauty of Twitter is that now you can find someone who resents anything. Journalism has gotten a lot easier.

#5 "induces unconsciousness by hijacking the neural circuitry that makes us fall sleep."

This was a classic Star Trek/Borg episode.

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