Friday assorted links


For 20+ years, I read The Economist religiously. It shaped my worldview more than I realized.

It seemed like it got dumber about 10 years ago and I drifted away. Then I picked up a copy of this issue in the airport yesterday and read through all the inequality stuff and was struck by how well-written and well-thought out it was compared to most forums of discourse on the subject.

Either the Economist has gotten less dumb or the rest of the world has gotten a lot dumber in the last decade. Maybe both.

I didn't really notice The Economist getting dumber. I noticed it moving away from capitalism and free markets. It was just a shift from the center Right to the center Left in focus. But there's always been an enormous amount of content from the center Left, so the shift made the magazine far less interesting.

Now Popular Science, there's a magazine that got way dumber.

'The Economist' is trending towards the specifically "London based aspiring middle class graduate" iteration of "Centre-Left", namely:

"Governments should take advantage of ability borrowing at historic lows to 'invest' in "student debt relief", affordable urban housing and lots of expense saving infrastructure for businesses that employ London based grads (and just about every sort of 'free', subsidized nationalized service for such people)... but 'Austerity' policies for the country outside the metropole, benefits claimants and the White Working Class in general are not so bad and probably necessary to reduce debt (or at least, we certainly we won't propose much of a reverse on this anyway)."

That is, what the Labour Party more or less espouses in its current manifesto. Pro-business, anti-market, but only really those businesses that tend to vote left and are urban, within that.

I’ve read the Economist rather religiously for almost two decades and I have two gripes. These are so serious that I’m going to let my subscription lapse. One, the book review section has been severely truncated to the extent that sometimes only one or two serious nonfiction books get reviewed per issue.

Two is the paper’s movement to a left of centre ideological position. The formerly fairly robust defence of markets is now rare and tepid when it occurs. I don’t care about minor things like gay marriage and will respect a robustly argued defence of marijuana legalization, but markets matter! I hope the Economist rues it’s abandonment of the centre right terrain.

Scientific American and Nat. Geo. declined precipitously in that period, so much that they can only have improved again, I would guess. Discover is still pretty good.

I don't have cable TV so I watch it only once in a while. So I don't know if National Geographic TV had a period of high quality but I'm guessing it did. It's current quality level is abysmal, junk TV similar to how the History Channel rarely shows legitimate history and the Discovery Channel rarely shows legitimate science and discoveries.

At the mention of Discover magazine I suddenly wondered if it had a connection to the Discovery Channel but they seem to be different entities.

The magazine that really went downhill was Science Digest in the 1970s. They went from being a low level but legit science magazine to pseudo-scientific trash. The low point was their cover article on Spontaneous Human Combustion.

Assuming that income inequality is bad, what legal and moral solutions would you suggest. Taxing hard working people to give their money to non-working people is immoral.

Only to sociopaths and autists.

Yeah I noticed that too. I would not agree that there was an ideology behind it. Except maybe a course correction from following neocons over a cliff. But definitely a sense that there was less continuity and relaxed standards. Probably just a codgy old periodical trying to act younger.

Does it even matter? The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls.

I think it has gotten more Centrist (moderate Democrat) in the US sense. Always staking out the safe neoliberal and somewhat neocon milquetoast positions.

Another formally interesting publication that has objectively dumbed down, primarily due to its TDS editorialists, is FT.

#1 Is it a dung-beetle? World's best recyclers par excellence.

#4 "Sex in a tub. That doesn't work!" - Elaine Benes

Can confirm it most definitely does not. The article is correct about tubs being "lonely".

Comes with a dance: Let's all do the gretabug!

The tub needs to be heart-shaped

Sad. In less than 10 years, the gretabug and the rest of us will be killed by climate.

Our plastic dildo collection will survive. At least we have that!!

I hadn't even posted on this thread yet. YOU HONOR ME.

3. “Taken together, the evidence suggests that digitization occurs in prediction because it circumvents processing bottlenecks surrounding people’s ability to simulate outcomes in hypothetical worlds.”
Nah. We equilibriate around a common agreement on uncertainty. In any constrained channel, thus, wee will agglomerate hypothesis that tend toward similar outcomes.
The deja vu effect is one of these cases. Once we see two peaks occurring, like oil prices, we have a common measure of uncertainty in oil prices. Therefore we can agglomerate events in between and estimate their arrivals, relative to the true cost of gas.

When I play bridge I have to guess which opponents have which missing cards of interest. I can assign probabilities but I have to choose so I choose the most likely distribution. And then the probability wave (admittedly subjective probability) collapses. So in some cases there's nothing strange about this paper's result.

1. The beetle is small, flightless, and blind. Quite appropriate.

She's not flightless unfortunately. She gets around quite well. Small and blind though for sure.

Doesn't seem fair, really. Even beetles don't exploit their young for profit from the gullible.

Greta: We pity you. We really do.

The people who say this are the ones who hide from competition in the University, in the government bureaucracy, behind the professional organization, behind the licencing regime, and in the good old boy clubs. The auto mechanic and the industrial worker do not have the luxury of hiding from foreign competition.

Yet, we try to coerce the Chinese and the Brazilians into allowing our products in. But, when their products are competitive, we try to cut them out. How can we be so hypocritical?! Will our politicians keep appealing to the lowest common denominator, to thugs?

Thiago strikes again

I don't know what you mean. Do you think our regime should keep preying on the innocent so politicians can woo yokels?!

What do you mean? There is plenty of foreign competition in the universities and most professions. The percentage of people in medicine, engineering, and tech in the US who are foreigners is probably far higher than the percentage of auto mechanics and industrial workers who are.

#3 Very interesting, if the multiple simulations needed for Bayesian inference are indeed the bottleneck, perhaps the mind doesn't have sophisticated quantum mechanisms as some have speculated.

#6 When are "very serious people" going to understand the tarrifs were meant to be permanent?

#4 Freestanding tubs disadvantage over built-ins is the floor underneath them: it needs to be cleaned, and who wants to get down on the floor and do it? And someday that flooring will need to be replaced, but to do so you'll have to at least disconnect that free-standing tub and lift it up to get the new flooring under it.

“A freestanding tub is a monetary symbol for a lot of people. It’s like getting a nice car." Oh. I had to get 80% through the article before you tell me it doesn't have to be practical anyway because it's Veblen goods?

#2: 'While working on “Star Trek,” she said, she did not realize that she had gone where no woman had gone before.'

Amusing, but I recently saw (but didn't read) an article about how women had prominent roles in the very early days of filmmaking, only to get pushed out by men after several years. So maybe there were women who wrote for the action movies of that era.

Anita Loos has about 140 screenwriter credits on IMDB, most from the silent era and on into the 40s.

She was only "best" if Tyler meant the regular writers. After all, Harlan Ellison among other notables penned a number of famous scripts including City on the Edge of Forever.

Ellison only wrote one Star Trek script. It's a common misconception that he was a regular contributor.

#1. It doesn't have her charm.

It's not nice to refer to Greta as "it".

Might be a chosen pronoun. Don't judge.

re: #5, I feel like a broken record, but why do people fight over different ways of measuring income or wealth inequality? Why not just measure consumption inequality, which I assume is much easier to measure? (via sales data?)

"Why not just measure consumption inequality"

Political reasons of course. The differences between classes of American's are much less if you measure consumption versus income/wealth. If you want to push for political change, you pick the metric that makes the current situation look worst.

#6 I would rather die than support our regime's foreign policy?

The world owes us nothing, but once governments decided to subsidize businesses and bend policy to the desires of select cronies, then the government indeed owed the "yokels" something.

With driends like those who needs enemies?

Americans can't trust Brazilians. They are deceitful and untrustworthy. Often pretending to be someone they are not.

Well since you are obviously a red blooded, Patriotic American, I feel compelled to take you at your word.

I'm cool with Brazil, as long as they aren't inspecting my ground beef.

Hell, I thought that Michael Palin movie was excellent.

#4. You know, I am finally old enough to not be impressed when I am told this or that is out of style. In fact, I only wish I was smart enough to rush out as soon as the post mortems are written and invest in all the overstock i can lay my hands on.

#4. Some of these bathtub photos look frankly ridiculous. You know what happens to wood when it gets a lot of water splashed on it? Yeah, that's right, there's a reason bathrooms tend to be tiled.
Similarly, there's a reason bathtubs are generally caulked right in to the wall - to keep the water from getting onto the floor, where it will proceed to seep into cracks and ruin the drywall and get water stains on the ceiling of the room below. And who has room to have a tub and a shower in the same room?

Fashion is an idiot.

I would think the freestanding tub will lose heat quickly if it's not made of cast-iron.

Here the capacious new houses often place the tub in the center of a huge bathroom, with plenty of space all around, though I don't think anybody has a valet or chambermaid anymore, who needs the room to maneuver.

"Fashion is an idiot." Yes it is. We have both a tub and shower because we want a walk in shower and a bathroom looks dumb without a tub. We've washed the dog in it about 4 times in the past 10 years.

3. People are not quantum computers. Not even Roger Penrose.

Some of these, embarrassed by the question, ‘What further is to be done with them?’ join themselves in opposition with those who are actuated by sordid avarice only. -- DW

#3: Decisions are often discrete. Fight or flight. Turn left or right at the T intersection. Accept or reject an offer. People make the choice they believe to be the “right” one, given the information they have. Semantically, this is equivalent to a making a discrete truth statement. That’s perfectly consistent with Bayesian reasoning.

BTW, the authors’ use of the sexy “digital” instead of the more prosaic “discrete” is a sufficient statistic for the quality of their analysis.

It’s long been known from brain studies that many discrete decisions are made according to a kind of neural democracy, with a preponderance of signals tipping the discrete choice one way or the other. It wouldn’t be at all surprising to find that the extreme evolutionary pressures our hominin ancestors faced resulted in a neural structure similar to the efficiency of Bayesian reasoning.

TC, any insight on another Saudi national killing US citizens in the US?

How would the MSM would react if it was a Russian or Chinese guy?

Tally up the number of people killed on US soil by Saudi nationals versus Iranian and Russian and Syrian and Yemeni and Chinese nationals sometime, you might be surprised at what you find! You also might be surprised to find out how many Iranians the US has killed too.
Please tell your Neocon friends.

TC, any insight if this is an outright attack on US sovereignty, US citizens, and the US democratic process?

"Israeli-based group uses Facebook to spread disinformation to more than a million followers around the world, singling out [Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib]"

6. Zoellick's remarks about Sino-American cooperation were excellent, but I wonder if we have passed a point of no return with the election of Trump?

The election of Trump or the ascension of Xi? They happened at the same time, so it's hard to say.

Belief digitization: (for me) this is a new name to describe the certainty of some that Clinton would beat Trump — 80/20 externally meant 100/0 inside their heads.

4. The historical aspects of the bathtub article are basically fiction. The real story was told by H.L. Mencken in 1917.


"the international system that America had designed and led"
"the US-led system"
"the system that America constructed"
"the system America designed"
"the US-order"
"the US-guided system"

"my call... with the implicit signal that the United States would be the umpire of China’s choices"
"two ways the United States could discipline China’s state capitalism"
"...that the United States can shape China’s international behavior"

Surely the paternalistic tone on display here rankles China more than all of Trump's bombast. Trump at least views China as a formidable rival. Zoellick's mentality is from some bygone era.

Solid point, +5 internet points

4. As people age, they like to soak. Helps with callouses too.

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