Monday assorted links


"3. Amazon forest fire revisionism? "

Just another case of people seizing on a "fact" to advance a narrative.

From the paper:

>We do not know with confidence how the area of fire compares with previous years.

Oh. Well then.

From our best data, which isn’t of the highest quality, this burning is, in the worst case, within three norms of a few years ago.

Also from our best data, 100% of liberals do not like Bolsonaro and due to their deeply undemocratic leanings they will outright lie in attempts to discredit him and reverse the election.

Exactly. As a Brazilian, I support the leadership of Brazil's President Captain Bolsonaro. He acted in a very decisive way. He is doing everything he can to make sure the fires will be defeated. Federal troops have already rolled in. There is no paniking on Brazilian streets whatsoever. Quite the opposite, the Brazilian peopIe in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory thanks to President Captain Bolsonaro's Leadership.

Ten thousand years, ten thousand years, ten thousand of ten thousand years!

"4. Driverless cars and industrial policy."

The author compares all the current crop of autonomous cars to Mr. Magoo, and then near the end of the article points out that his company has bet a lot of money on a company that produces Lidar.

"Our biggest investment is in Luminar Technologies, a company making a perception system using a wholly unique lidar. Instead of only giving self-driving cars a brain, Luminar wants to give them better-than-human eyes, too."

Yeah, he probably should have led with that massive conflict of interest angle.

How do you have a conflict of interest in a opinion editorial? That's senseless.

It’s jumping the barrier. If the articles are marked SPONSORED CONTENT, then sure.

If not, they sure as hell should be.

Last I checked, Lincoln picked a pretty good driverless car winner back in 1862 which is still moving cargo to/from the Pacific coast and a few passengers.

And last I checked, from free market, individuals, have failed to do for Africa, South America, and other places, with China going to some of those places to build rail lines for driverless cars to be pulled on.

Bet the author expects government to pick the winner if someone builds a solution using Lidar that competes with the firm's he invests in, as long as the government picks his favored winner.

3a. I'm skeptical of the claim the Amazon is oxygen-neutral, but apparently the oceans produce the majority of our free o2. Also, he says 80% of the Amazon remains as if that's good news. So losing 20% of the Earth's biggest rainforest (and counting...) is no big deal?

That's the issue. A contrarian misses the proverbial forest for a tree that blocks the view.

I think there are many trees where those who berned came from. I don't see what the issue is.

Why are you skeptical that the Amazon is Oxygen-neutral ? It must be, roughly, so, because of the conservation of matter (of each type of atoms)
in chemical reaction.

If you believe Amazon releases more O2 than it takes from the atmosphere, where do the oxygen atomes come from? They have to come from atmospheric CO2, right? But then, what happens to the carbon atoms in the CO2. Well, of course, it becomes part of the organic molecules (sugars, proteins, etc) that the Amazon produces, and those molecules make the Amazon grow (except if they are burned by fire, or by animals eating them, or if they decompose, in which case their C becomes part of CO2 again, cancelling the creation of O2). So is the Amazon growing? I don't know; this is not what I hear these days. And if it is not, the Amazon forest cannot be, mathematically, a net producer of O2 for the planet.

Claiming both that the Amazon is experiencing massive deforestation and that it is a net producer of O2 is absurd. But "... the God themselves ..."

It is well understood that mature forests are net 0 contributors of oxygen, for the reasons you cited. Forests do store quite a lot of carbon, but burning down a forest will not produce any less oxygen. The lungs of the planet analogy is foolish. No scientist has every stated that we are in danger of a reduction in the amount of oxygen in our atmosphere.

The test is whether carbon is being deposited in the forest (or elsewhere.) If it is a steady state situation with trees growing then rotting the answer is no. During the last century or two we have mined like a significant chuck of the last 500 million years of accumulated carbon deposits and converted them to atmospheric CO2. AFAIK these deposits came from swamps and peat bogs, not forests, and the reason bogs lay carbon is the lack of oxygen below the surface so conversion to CO2 can't occur.

Which implies that we shouldn't be too worked up about saving the rain forest (from a global warming POV). Instead, we should be trying to restore millions of acres of temperate swamps here in the U.S.

True from a physics/biology POV, but reverting significant acreages of farmland (or suburbs) to bogs is not going to happen. Land cost, water usage, mosquitoes, etc.

Obviously *something* is a net producer of O2 or else our atmosphere wouldn't have any. I had thought in general forests were net producers, hence my skepticism of the claim the Amazon is oxygen-neutral. I'm open to being persuaded on that topic, but logic like "Claiming both the Amazon is experiencing massive deforestation and that it is a net producer of O2 is absurd" doesn't impress me. Sure, if you destroy a net-producer, it is no longer so. But that doesn't change the fact that it was a net producer.

Here's something sensible:

Individual organisms are net producers or consumers of oxygen. Whether a forest (or any ecosystem) is or not depends on the growth of the plants vs growth of the animals and decay of organic matter.

Chances are good that they are roughly equal for any large ecosystem because any oxygen not consumed by animal / insect / microbial respiration would drive the decay of organic matter in proportion to the available oxygen.

Al, I think I understand what you think : since we humans are using O2 and producing CO2, at the equilibrium something must be producing our O2 and taking away our CO2.

That's right, but it is not "Amazon". Consider this:

(1) Living plants, when practicing photosynthesis, product O2 and carbonated organic molecules, and destroy CO2.

(2) Living plants respirating, dead plants decomposing, animals (including humans) respirating after having eaten plants (or other animals), dead animals decomposing, and all this living things burning (this process in a sense encompasses all the preceding ones, since respirating is "burning" organic molecules) are all "destroying" O2 and producing CO2.

At the equilibrium (where we are not, obviously, due to our use of fissile fuels from out-of-the-sytem, but let's forget that for a moment),
emissions of O2 (1) must compensate destruction of O2 (2). One can say, if we wish, that (1) is a net emitter of O2 and (2) the opposite.

But what about "Amazon"? If by "Amazon" you mean the living plants of Amazon doing photosynthesis during daylight, then "Amazon" would be a net producer of O2. But that's a rather restrictive definition of Amazon.
In the Amazon, there are also, naturally, plants dying (plants are mortal),
animal eating them, respirating, and dying. All this destructs O2.

We can still ask whether, in the geographic area called Amazon, the process (1) is stronger than process (2) at equilibrium -- even though, at the equilibrium and over all of earth, the two must compensate.
"At equilibrium" (or more properly, "at a steady state") means that we are not destroying the Amazon to replace it with fields or parking lots (so you were right to cry fool when I argued
that we are currently destroying Amazon, so it is not a net producer of O2). But it also means that Amazon is not growing, either in surface or vertically. If we assume, as a thought experiment, that this is the case, then for the Amazon to be a net emitter of O2 it would need to be a net producer of carbonated organic molecules, and since by assumption it can't stock them, it would mean that we would be taking them out of Amazon -- e.g. taking wood from Amazon for building our houses.
In this, imaginary, steady state, Amazon would indeed be a net producer of O2 -- but only very marginally, thanks to us humans exploiting it and helping it "outsourcing" part of its process (2). This is certainly not what people mean when they call "Amazon" the "lung of the earth". And if we imagine our steady state to be an Amazon left alone, a closed system, then its net emission of O2 would be zero.

All this is academic, because we are definitely not in a steady state, but it is still good method to understand clearly the steady state case before trying to assess the dynamical system we are in.

So here's a new Atlantic article:

And that seems to kill the "Lungs of the Earth" meme pretty thoroughly. I think, however, after reading the Atlantic article I'm going to argue the Amazon actually *is* a net 02 producer, or most probably's just that the process is only visible if you look at a long enough timescale (I think that's what you're getting at in your comment above).

What appears to be net zero in human time scales really means a teeny tiny bit of carbon gets captured every year, which adds up over millions of years to a large amount of oxygen being added to the atmosphere.

I'm not particularly comfortable with large-scale ecosystem alterations, but over human timescales, it does appear we can burn the Amazon to the ground, and Earth's O2 concentration won't be meaningfully impacted. Go figure.

4. It's true that government support of an industry poses a risk for all of us. Just consider: tech success is primarily a product of federal government funding, mostly by the Department of Defense, and look where that got us: the surveillance state. As for the " colossal miscalculation" of private equity investment in self-driving cars (that's what the author in the article in the National Review at the link says), the author is only partly correct, the partly being that driverless cars could indeed work extremely well but only if someone builds a separate right of way for them. What investors in driverless cars count on is for the government (i.e., us) to build the separate right of way. That way the taxpayers pay the costs for this new technology and the investors collect the revenues. Some things never change.

DARPA, which is basically the ne plus ultra of US industrial policy, is the kind of government agency that an old school Republican would come up with....

Limited bureaucracy
Heavy mixture of academia, government and industry
Time limits on timed served within the agency
Heavy heavy oversight on ROI and progress towards goals
Very very limited influence of electoral politics

In short, it is everything that modern day politicians could never ever deliver. And the idea that modern democrats could produce an agency so competent is laughable in the extreme.

It still ain't happening, and it's getting now that anyone still treating "no operator" cars seriously is only demonstrating technological incompetence.

Maybe this was the better story:

"But do note that they have two human drivers onboard. And the humans do the three point turns to turn them around at the end of the route each time. The humans also operate the turn signals. “Driverless” now means two human supervisors on board rather than the old fashioned one."

I don't know, both are good.

There are two realistic scenarios for self-driving cars in the next ten years.
1. Limited access highways that have been augmented to make it easy for cars to know where they are and what is around them.
2. Slow speed urban settings with no human piloted vehicles. You could pull off a taxi service at 15-20 mph and no traffic but other driverless cars.

It makes more sense to put at least half of the sensors in the road infrastructure rather than in each vehicle. The hard thing is to capture the context in which the car is operating. That is much easier to do if the sensors are static within the context watching it slowly change, rather than if the sensors are moving through the context, and having to discover new context which is arriving at driving speed every second.

Hi Tom. Fancy meeting you here lol. Haven’t given a lot of thought to self-driving cars but what you say makes sense.

Those are two scenarios that autonomous vehicles could handle NOW. Ten years is an eternity in terms of technology development.

It's not the technology, it's the humans. As you say, the technology is already adequate for those two specialized scenarios. And maybe we as a society will decide to build or devote some of our roadspace to be used only by self-driven vehicles.

But outside of those two specialized scenarios, 10 years is not going to help. Because it's not the technology, it's the humans. Drivers and pedestrians both. Who will take advantage of the driver-less cars to their advantage: cutting them off, jaywalking, running red lights, etc. Because the driverless car will have to come to a screeching stop to avoid the collision.

Gathering the millions or billions of data points described in the article will not help. Because those data points are describing human road behavior in 2019. If driverless cars start hitting uncontrolled roads in large numbers, I guarantee this: humans will change their behavior. To help themselves and to the detriment of the driverless cars. And all those data points will be near worthless because they cover the old behavior and not the new.

This is why social science is so much more difficult than natural science. Molecules continue to obey the same laws of nature. Whereas people change their behavior, and not in random ways but in ways to help themselves.

It looks like a whole industry is trying to improve the car with self-driving technology. It would be like improving horses with steroids. Why keeping on using cars if a piece of software assures you 100% travel safety in all circumstances with no involvement what so ever. The heavy metal shield would be useless. It would be faster to use motorbikes or fly with drones or small planes. If the whole industry is just investing to keep drivers a bit safer, a 50% car accident reduction would only save 30-40% of car insurance premium and there is no chance they would capture a large chunk of it. I would bet hospitals would be the largest winners.

If customers preferred cars that reduced their insurance premiums and kept them out of hospitals, then companies that sold the most of that type of car would benefit.

Yes, there is no panicking whatsoever. As a Brazilian, I support how President Captain Bolsonaro is handling the forest fires issue. The environmental incident, as sad as it may be, is under control. It is not America's Three Mile Island or the New York 1977 Blackout, when a desperate populace resorted to widespreat looting. We, Brazilians, believe in our leaders and are keeping calm and carrying one. That's our finest hour.

1. It may come as a shock, but spouse's divorce dying spouses. Sure, they have other reasons ("we don't communicate anymore" or "we don't have the same interests anymore"), but those are just rationalizations. Some may remember the Cheers episode when a customer at the bar fell for Karla. She did all her due diligence to find a reason for not getting involved with him, but couldn't find one. At the end of the episode, coach discloses to Sam and Diane that the man has a terminal heart condition. So Sam and Diane rush over to stop the two from having sex, where the guy would most likely die in the saddle. Sam and Dianne arrive just in time, they tell Karla about the man's heart condition, and Karla says goodbye to her new fella. Art imitating life.

We certainly hope she beats the rap and lives a long, happy life -- long enough to enjoy the movie offers that are sure to roll in thanks to this piece.

The NYT meanwhile continues its transformation into the Oprah Channel

5. Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) may be nuts, but so is Market Monetarism (MM); yet, nobody treats advocates of MM as though they are nuts. And they are nuts.

Son, I don't tell you how to understand the law.

Hee Hee

MMT Already Exists In Prisons.

It requires state force: total command and control over all aspects of the economy.

Market capitalism is the only economic system which is not based force.

Compared to (some call it heterodox) MMT theories, MM (briefly CB's set GDP growth goals rather than inflation targeting with the purpose of achieving healthy economic growth) is weak tea. FYI - the Fed's Humphrey-Hawkins mandates include "Conducting the nation's monetary policy by influencing money and credit conditions in the economy in pursuit of full employment and stable prices." How has that worked out, Sheila?

MM may be wrong; I think it is. But one can debate whether it's right or wrong, and accumulate evidence on one side or the other of the argument.

MMT is so wrong it isn't even wrong. It's like debating why the sea is boiling hot or whether pigs have wings.

Tyler got a shout-out on last week's Chapo Trap House. Apparently Tyler was the one who wrote the paper which inspired President Trump to put the offer for Greenland on the table. Not sure if that was just a joke but that's what they're giving you credit for Tyler.

Finally, you decide to do something constructive for this administration rather than sulking.

Not to crap on Tyler's pantsuit, but a Republican Senator has already revealed that it's been a topic of conversation for months, especially since the Chinese started trying to build bases there... efforts that were stopped by the Bad Orange Man.

lol, no.

"The Greenlandic government has decided to build three big international airports capable of taking large passenger jets.

China is bidding for the contracts."

I guess that's the state of the MAGA. Building, and not even owning, public airports is "building bases" now.

This is why Trump support splits on education.

This fundamentally displays a woefully stupid understanding of the belt and road initiative. And the debt leverage diplomacy that follows.

And the rare earth mineral deposits. And the intelligence and early warning systems vulnerability of a large Chinese State Owned Enterprise in the vicinity.

But par for the course. Not to worry, keep refreshing your twitter feed.

Nice way to move the goalposts somewhere else completely, while punting on international airport construction as "bases."

Dumb and dumber.

“why were digital computers developed only during the second half of the twentieth century even though their basic principles were understood more than a hundred years earlier?”


Good luck on the job search.

Yes, that does seem to be a remarkably dumb comment that ignores the entire history of the development of computers.

Next up in exciting what ifs:

"“why were cell phones developed only during the second half of the twentieth century even though their basic principles were understood more than a hundred years earlier?”"


"“why were airplanes developed only during the first half of the twentieth century even though their basic principles were understood more than a hundred years earlier?”"


"“why were trains developed only during the first half of the nineteenth century even though their basic principles were understood more than a hundred years earlier?”"

#3: According to the data we do have (which is not great) these fires have been going on for at least 20 years. Is that good? Well, unlikely. However, the noise being created right now is clearly motivated by something else. Brazilians in general were very surprised by macron's reaction, until it was clear that this is just a populist ploy to get some (well needed) brownie points at home. The funny thing though, is that Macron's response is so "undemocratic" (he basically says that Amazon might need to be "globalized") that even the left in Brazil is quickly turning against him. Of course, Macron does not care for the left in Brazil, so all is good. Fires continue, Europe continues a mess, and CNN gets a few more hits.

"According to the data we do have (which is not great) these fires have been going on for at least 20 years. Is that good? Well, unlikely."

Have they harmed you in any way? I know no one who has been harmed in any way by the fires. No one is using those forests, and the situation is, all things consudered, under control. The situation thereis probably lesse severe than the 1977 New York Blackout was. As opposed to looting Americans, Brazilians are showing remarkabke gallantry. We could learn a lot from the Brazilian people and its leader, President Captain Bolsonaro.

I think it is important to make sure people do not believe in the lies being told about the Brazilian people and its leader.

Exactly! I hope someone will discuss Brazil in every post here, every day. Eventually the world will have to learn the truth aboyt Brazil. The Prophet Bandarra has written that Brazil will crush the serpent with its heel.

Do you know the teachings of Prophet Bandarra?

Of courze! Almost everyone who I know in Spartanburg, SC where I am from in the Southern part of the United States knows about trhe Prophet. He is very importabnt.

I didn't know Americans were so wellversed in the teachings of the prophet.

Shame on you then! The Prophet Bandarra's teachings are a blessing to all mankind, and Americans are humans too...even our President Donald J. Trump is known to be a big believer of the Prophet.

Yer, I never heard Mr. Trump mentioning Prophet Bandarra.

That's because you are exposed to biased media outlets only. Most of the left-wing media in the USA wants you to think that Trump is an ignorant buffoon. But we, followers of the prophet Bandarra, know better. We know who to listen to.

I read the Wall Street Journal, which supports President Captain Bolsonaro, and, yet, I have never seen any mention to mention. Trump's Twitter posts, his main means of communication, say nothing about it!!!!!

That's because Trump has so much respect for the Prophet that he will not sully his teachings by discussing them on that awful Twitter medium.

Everyone in America knows this.

In their search for knowledge and truth Spartanburgers became sapient in arcane religions.

I see.

I think this is Thiagos finest work yet....

I don't think Mr. Ribeiro has commented here yet.

It is clear that 'Thiago' the 'Brazilian' is mentally ill. Because his game here can only have two possibilities.

1. He is genuinely a Brazilian who posts here every day in some strange compulsive fever dream. He is incapable of understanding the teasing responses to his obsessive commentary. He cannot let responses go unanswered, and his answers are insipid and lack understanding. This is not a mentally healthy person.

2. He is in on the joke, playing a character, trolling us all. This too shows mental defects, as he has been running this troll for years, in post after post, day after day, endlessly. Even if that's part of the troll, it's not the behavior of a mentally healthy person.

Call an ambulance!

I can't breathe!

They said we only had eight months until The End.

5. Krugman ought to be embarrassed. Not that I'm surprised that he isn't. The renowned economist on MMT:

“What most concerns me is I can’t actually quite figure out what it is,” Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist and Times columnist, told me. Krugman is a political progressive, and he agrees with many of the spending programs that M.M.T. proponents support."

MMT already exists in prison and, in part, in mainland China. Womb to tomb. Cradle to grave.

I don't 'get' MMT, either.

Unlike market monetarism or the current over-burdened Fed, which target either GDP growth or inflation or both, MMT sets its sights on full employment (paying only enough for a "minimum acceptable living standard " at a fixed pay rate) based on a government monopolies on force, taxation, force, debt, force, currency supply, complete command/control over all aspects of the economy. It's not like Lenin and Stalin didn't try, they simply failed to do it right.

Either, MMT is one huge "Monopoly Game" with academics (Never let anybody that never did anything tell you what to do.) and the state rolling the dice, printing (at will) currency, controlling all wages and prices, etc. Or, it's The Wizard of Oz behind the Green Curtain feverishly pulling ten million levers controlling money supply, debt, jobs, wages, prices, rates, rationing, etc. for an enslaved population.

Imagine if you will an omnipotent, omniscient government that can save the Planet, eliminate unemployment, control inflation, end poverty, cure halitosis and psoriasis, . . . ; and it refuses to act out of ignorance or malice. That is the political/economic pathology behind MMT, the new green deal, proposals that the federal government can give full-time jobs to anybody already here and the ones that swim across the Rio Grande.

#5...A guaranteed job? Why do we so many undocumented workers? What people are saying is that they want a guaranteed job that they like for a wage they demand. So, if an area has unfilled private sector jobs, we're going to offer public sector jobs?

#5...Something is wrong with this picture. People who want to guarantee US citizens jobs should be a the forefront in demanding less immigration and no illegal immigration. Period.

If they were logical, yes that would be true.

3. Amazon forest fire revisionism? And from an expert on the Amazon.
From the expert's paragraph one:

The fires now burning in Brazil’s Amazon, which have prompted international outcry, are a classic example of a “chronic emergency”. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, after casting blame for the fires on international NGO’s, acknowledged his administration is ill-equipped to battle the flames and soon after called in Brazil’s armed services to assist in that fight. But to truly address the situation, what is needed is a systemic, long-term strategy for prevention that feeds into a broader regional development plan. The current focus on Amazon fire —within Brazil and internationally—opens an opportunity to make that shift and to postpone or even avoid what scientists refer to as the Amazon forest “tipping point”, whereby the forest is no longer able to sustain itself.


Translation. We need a long term strategy which can be started up when faced with short term crisis.

So, it sounds like we need a bit of both, if you ask me.


I am oretty sure Brazil's Armed Forces can easily handle the situation at hand. The surgival strikes are being successful

TC, do you have any neocon takes on how US may have set a precedent for Israel and how Israel just violated Iraqi sovereignty with impunity and freely bombs within Iraq and other MENAs? Imagine if other countries bombed Israel freely?

Yet people are still baffled by regional anti-Americanism and "good natured" American interventions?

It is not that zi ple.

2. Jasmine Wang on Progress Studies.

I had a flash of Asimov's Foundation series reading this!

#3. For some reason the formatting on the second link makes it unreadable. Re the first link: interesting, but I mistrust that Forbes will supply an equitable treatment of the facts. We reached the point of bigger and smaller lies I’m afraid.

#4: I think a lot of people had this idea that making a driverless car is a lot easier than it actually is. You need a tremendous amount of onboard image capturing and processing power (substantially more than Tesla has today), the equipment needs to be clean-room assembled, the car needs to have the sensor mounting points to be absurdly accurate (FAR more than standard manufacturing tolerances), the list goes on.

On top of all of this, it's really important to note that the sensors you need to make a self-driving car are necessarily very sensitive and accurate. So accurate that they are very ITAR restricted, and you're working around a lot of laws to make the darn things work. (I've been told the current Wiimote is only slightly less capable than the original Sidewinder's guidance package, for example)

There's no ultimate technical hurdle. This will all be beaten back in time, and we'll wonder in 100 years what all the fuss was about, but there is an absolute mountain range to climb before then. And that's the type of range that you need a multi-billion dollar wallet to climb, not a few hundred million dollar runway and a prayer.

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