Friday assorted links

1. Pee-Wee Herman comeback in the works.  And building a modern Congressional Technology Assessment Office.

2. Keeping a business running during a pandemic.

3. NBA loses possibly $100 million or more in China revenue.  And: “Our findings suggest that nationalist propaganda can manipulate emotions and anti-foreign sentiment, but does not necessarily divert attention from domestic political grievances.

4. 25 greatest classical pianists of all time?  A good list, except for Rachmaninov at #1, and I am pleased to have heard virtually all of the moderns in concert.  I would add Leif Andsnes and take off Lang Lang and Clara Haskil. And come on people — Pollini has to be top ten (he is not on the list at all), in spite of his recent age-related decline.  And Grosvenor is a fine pianist, but I wouldn’t quite put him in this exalted territory, replace with Rudolf or even Peter Serkin?  And if you are looking for peaks, Michelangeli surely belongs as well.  Solomon?

5. Ryan Bourne on state capacity libertarianism.  I will note that a possible coronavirus pandemic would likely boost the plausibility of state capacity libertarianism.

6. “…we construct counterfactual growth paths of Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Philippines and Greenland in the scenario where they joined the USA at times in history where this might have been a (remote) possibility.

7. John Cochrane on woke academia, recommended, and horrifying.


4. At the link, it's Horowitz playing Rachmaninov not Rachmaninov playing Rachmaninov. Is Cowen questioning Rachmaninov as the best pianist or Horowitz? Horowitz playing Rachmaninov (The Golden Jubilee Concert) is ecstasy.

Whoops. It is Rachmaninov playing Rachmaninov at no. 1, and Horowitz playing Liszt et al. at no. 2.

If I'm not being too saucy, what are Tyler's (and anyone's) qualifications and criteria for evaluating classical pianists?
One would like this information in order to evaluate the evaluations.
Somehow it strike me that almost everyone feels they are qualified to evaluate musicians. The main exceptions are other musicians, who
tend to emphasize who they like, who influenced them, who they listen to, who is enviably successful in some way or another, and so on.
Despite myself having a musical education and extensive performance experience, I don't feel qualified to evaluate classical pianists. Of course not, I'm not a classical pianist. But why are economists and lawyers qualified? Just wondering, with all due respect.

And, I read the link and it's not without merit. Just saying is all.

I think those are Deutsche Grammophon’s 25 best, isn’t it ? So the list is hardly exhaustive.
As for Tyler’s qualifications, people who listen to music a lot have some expertise, even if only in expressing their own preferences.

Other than that, all the right notes in the right order ?

5. I'm not so sure: those attacking American scientists for collaborating with China haven't offered an exception for a pandemic. Does this mean American scientists can collaborate with our government but not China's. That seems stupid.

7. All the more legitimate reason for jettisoning the dread MFA as decreed and preferred "credential and networking certificate" for American writers of poetry and verse, fiction of whatever length, essays, drama, and literary criticism (as opposed to "publication review").

As conferred, MFA degrees today seem built to produce writing that only exhibits the aggrandized theories of literary theorists.

MFA-credentialed "literature" is thus expressive of overwrought, overintellectualized THEORY, not any dependable representation of "life lived".

Fresh death to the MFA.

Fresh death to the academic captivity of American letters.

--or, for any allusion to George Orwell that might be deemed obligatory:



This has been a long time in the making. Around 1982 the Chancellor of UCSC - the distinguished scientist Robert Sinsheimer - denied tenure to a feminist activist whose work was no better than "a newspaper reporter". The woke mobilized and overturned the decision. The lesbian/feminist/activist left nothing for us to evaluate, but professor Sinsheimer accomplished much. I first heard the term "politically incorrect" in 1984 on that campus. Yes, 1984.

For the woke, it's "mission accomplished".

My experience of interviewing for tenure-track positions was that over the years the credentials of the candidates improved and their calibre declined. How could it be otherwise? What spirited, intelligent person would agree to work subject to such constraints? What we need is another Dissolution of the Monasteries.

+1 to both of you. (So, uh... +2?)

You slander the monasteries.

7. The diversity statement seems more like an affirmation that the one making the statement professes not to be a racist ("Demonstrating Interest in and Ability to Advance Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion"). I think it's stupid, and akin to the old days when a applicant had to affirm "I am not now nor have I ever been a member of the Communist Party". One unwilling to make that statement not only didn't get the job, she lost her job if she already had it and risked going to jail. What's Cochrane's opinion about that bit of America's sordid history. Woke, indeed!

That is not what it is. In fact they are very clear, if you’d read the post you’d see, that professing not to be racist will not get you a ‘passing score.’ You have to approve of affirmative action and have participated in activities promoting it in order to get a score that will get you past the screening.

It would be more like if they had asked in the 50s, “have you actively worked to suppress communism in your personal and professional life and been active in anti-communist organizations? Which anti-communist groups do you hope to join on campus?”

Also, it was ignored early on and then challenged by some professors (U of Buffalo?). But rayward has his hobby horses. And objectivity isn’t of interest to him.

3. An easy explanation for this discrepancy at least in the case of China is that pro-regime propaganda tends to be based on lies, but anti-foreign propaganda tends to be based on truth (with perhaps some exaggerations or selective emphasis). The Chinese government’s statements about its own past atrocities such as the Tiananmen Square Massacre and the Great Leap Forward are false, people know that they are false many having lived through it or accessed outside information about it, so people don’t believe that propaganda. On the other hand, you don’t need the Chinese government to tell you how badly Chinese people were screwed by foreign powers from 1840-1950, you can read all about that on Wikipedia, and people’s grandparents can tell them about how miserable things were during that period. So it is probably quite easy for the Chinese government to create believable anti-foreign propaganda just by reminding people of things that actually happened.

"4. 25 greatest classical pianists of all time?" Don't be daft - at most they can be the best since recording began. And "best" might be what they are - "greatest" is childish.

7. So, an institution run by and for professional racists. It’s little wonder the general public is losing its enthusiasm to fund this insanity.

Insanity, yes, but not at the institution level. If you follow Tyler's link to Cochrane's link to Coyne's link to the actual UC document, this is a woke hiring/promotion directive by just 6 "life sciences" departments at Berkeley. The College of Letters and Science itself has 60 departments, so at least for now the idiocy is fairly localized.

What concerns me more from the UC document is the mention of Associate Deans for Diversity at Berkeley. Oh gawd, once you create a position like that, the person holding it has to justify their existence somehow, and the result will inevitably be steaming piles of silly woke directives.

"the idiocy is fairly localized."
In the sense that a melanoma starts out localized, sure.
The 'Associate Deans for Diversity' at Berkeley will have a goal to install people at the remaining 54 departments, each of which will have a goal of implementing a woke hiring/promotion directive.

If this is not killed with fire right now, it's over.

I can imagine that many academics will be upset about this but actually do very little. They will rely on the great unwashed to help them by re-electing Donald Trump while they tut-tut about it to each other.

According to my former advisor, all administrators below the Dean are properly addressed as Deanlet, as in there goes Dean Smith and a horde of Deanlets.

According to my former advisor, all administrators below the Dean are properly addressed as Deanlet.

This began several years ago at San Diego State, and nobody thought it would spread. Now it's in the U.C system.

To me it's clearly a way to justify not hiring white men. They know that nobody who doesn't already buy into this stuff could possibly fake it 24/7. You'd have to performatively and proactively play a role fundamentally different from your real personality.

It's important to note that this is all happening against the backdrop of a generalized accelerationist trend in the Bay Area, e.g. the election of Chesa Boudin in San Francisco and continuation/intensification of the homelessness crisis. For those who don't know, Chesa is SF's new district attorney, the child of Weather Underground terrorists and a former advisor to Hugo Chavez (you can't make this up). He's already acting in an entirely predictable fashion, firing prosecutors who are 'too aggressive' and generally giving criminals in the city free reign. I'm not predicting it, but SF could see a preference falsification unwinding cascade over the next decade and look very different as a result (sort of like NYC before and after Giuliani). I expect that this would have cultural ripple effects on Berkeley's culture as well, and make things like diversity tzars seem ridiculous, even to the credulous leftists that inhabit the UC system.

Another thing to note is that numerous tech workers are slowly becoming 'fashy,' and many of the top VCs and Silicon Valley thought leaders secretly already are. A smart guy like Paul Graham will never forget the horror of an SJW Twitter mob hounding him for writing an essay saying that it might be harder to raise money if you have a super thick accent and potential investors can't understand you. Rome is not as far gone as it appears.

So when is the Professor going to comment on Brexit?

When the cat is finally out the door.

Probably after the Scots are forced to take down the EU flag flying over Holyrood.

No rhyme or reason to what gets deleted.

Cheers and beers. Wee heavy in Scotland.

1. I half agree with Cowen on this one: Pee-Wee deserves a comeback, but the OTA does not.

Somehow I'd been unaware that the OTA had been shuttered. But I was always fuzzy on what they did anyway.

I was more aware of PeeWee Herman's hiatus, even though I never watched his show or movies. His national tour is coming to town soon, I am thinking of going to see it. I'm not sure that I'll find him interesting or amusing, but one does have to give him points for originality and imagination.

#2 I was in China and Asia doing business when SARs hit and frankly I don't recall it being this bad...what with the massive ghost towns and fear. I can recall going in to one shop in particular and you could tell they were going about business as usual albeit with several more cautious/conscious steps put in place, something everyone including myself was doing. But the 'slowdown' was marginal.

Novel Coronavirus IS NOT the same thing. I'm not in country right now but from what I'm seeing, this is way way scarier than SARs.

#7 Peak institutional rot. Peoples' exhibit A.

" But the 'slowdown' was marginal."

Interesting. There is an economist at the U of Pittsburgh who says China's growth during that half a year was about zero based on a few variables but can't remember what those were.

nCov 2019 is not nearly as deadly as SARs on a percentage basis,2% compared to 10%. However, it's far more infectious. So, it could end up causing many more casualties.

If current trends hold nCOV will have caused more deaths in China by the middle of next week than SARs caused across the globe. The big question is does it spread widely outside of China and more importantly does the casualty rate remain at the relatively high 2% or does it drop down closer to the flu rate of 0.15%.

I probably shouldn't have posted this. I don't want to blow up this thread with CoronaVirus gossip. Maybe, Tyler will another post just for it.

I agree in not turning this into a conspiracy thread, suffice to say I'm 99% sure we're not getting the whole story out of China.

From what I can tell, the following is occurring now that didn't occur to my recollection with SARs:

1) Virtual shut-down of international transport (they had scanners, but things didn't stop)
2) Massive municipal quarantine
3) Virtual shut-down of inter-country transport
4) PLA & PLAN mobilization
5) Widespread anecdotal evidence of people desperate to leave PRC

It could just be a 'then' vs. 'now' issue created by communication (soc. med) difference between the two outbreaks, but I was going about my business during SARs and washing my hands extra while wearing a mask, but I and almost everyone I knew still 'went about their business'. That doesn't appear to be happening here. Business has stopped for half - or more - of the country.

"Business has stopped for half - or more - of the country."

Not being snarky, is this really the case?

No one could know without being there, and I was unable to find what I saw yesterday indicating their economy could be losing as much as $4 billion/day right now. If that number is correct, then I think that number is plausible.

The 2% number is wrong. The correct number would be total deaths divided by numbers at the time the dead were infected. Since that is still somewhat unknown you can see that just be going back 5-7 days that the percentage shows up as much higher. At the very least on the order of 5-10% and possibly more. SARS rates were calculated after the epidemic was over and you were adding up all deaths and all infected. So, no, we don't yet know if this virus is worse than SARS. And since it is growing much faster (at this stage SARS saw only a few hundred infected) we have good reason to worry.

It's possible that the current crisis seems more serious to you because instead of experiencing it firsthand, you're seeing it through sensationalist media coverage. (On the other hand, it's possible that the Chinese government is minimizing the problem, and in reality it's even worse than the media is able to report, but time will tell. Personally I am not panicking yet.)

#. The time is ripe for another country to create world class universities that will attract top talent.

Are you so pessimistic about Brexit ruining Oxford and Cambridge?

4. Generally no objections except some of them are very specialized in the sense that they're really only good at playing one style, but as you get cIoser to the top those are all well rounded pianists. Some additional thoughts:

Rachmaninoff at #1 is the right call.
Yuja Wang and Murray Perahia shouldn't make the list.
Cziffra and Ashkenazy should.

Ashkenazy, yes.

Young Danil Trifonov will rank much higher some day. He is a magnificent artist and performer, a lousy composer (so far, based on having heard his concerto at its premiere) and a grand eccentric in the 19th century fashion.

Watch this interview of Trifonov with Zsolt Bognar on "Living the Classical Life". The kid practices lying down.

Trifonov and his teacher <a href=""Sergei Babayan are playing a concert together in Cleveland on February 18th. Regular price tickets are $1000 apiece. Scalpers are already at work.

No Claudio Arrau ?

#4 - I am no expert, but Horowitz playing Beethoven's Emperor Concerto (Piano Concerto #5) is my all time favorite - whenever I'm having a blah day, I put it on. Both the work and the performance remind me of what people are capable of creating. (I've also seen #22 Trifonov perform it live (among several others - I search it out), and thought he was great, but again, I'm not fit to judge a list like this.)

Neither of the authors of the CTAO study has any experience working in technology, just experience working in technology policy.

Why use the artless "state capacity libertarianism" when it's basically the same as traditional conservatism and neoliberalism?

#1. With President Porn, whatever Paul Reubens did is laughably tame by comparison.

You just made me want to see a show of PeeWee reading Trump tweets

7. John Cochrane on woke academia, recommended, and horrifying.
Can I still be a UC janitor>

#7 -- The really funny (the only funny?) thing about those statements is when you're living in a foreign country and people applying to US jobs come to you as the only American wanting an explanation of what the heck a college is looking for with this statement.

The simplest explanation is basically "Why don't you just tell us all the things we aren't legally allowed to ask you?"

The only comparable statement I ever ran across was when an explicitly religious college would ask for a statement on your personal faith. The (huge) difference being that an explicitly religious organization asking for a personal faith statement is a specific carve out in the law.

Needless to say, it's a very bad sign when an organization asks about or hints about asking illegal questions during the application process.

Though there are no recordings to prove the case, it would be hard not to include Liszt as the greatest pianist ever.

#4. Such a list with Rudolf Serkin and Richard Goode? To my hearing, a few on the list can be removed. I'd be more interested in hearing from professional musicians including conductors which would likely require off the record interviews to protect the musically insensitive pianists on the list.

#4: I’m skeptical of any list of pianists that places Horowitz above Richter. It’s a sign that the author places technical prowess (incredible as that may be Horowitz's case) above musical instincts.

It also seems unfair and silly to rank pianists early in the career against long-dead legends. I wouldn’t be surprised if twenty years from now Yuja Wang or Daniil Trifonov are generally recognized as artistically superior to Horowitz and Rubinstein. Given that, it would make more sense to bracket the list temporally or generationally.

Here is how I would do it, FWIW:

HISTORICAL (no or very few recordings)
Ludwig van Beethoven
Franz Liszt
Frédéric Chopin
Clara Schumann
Sergei Rachmaninoff

20th CENTURY, 1st HALF
Sviatoslav Richter
Artur Schnabel
Claudio Arrau
Rudolf Serkin
Myra Hess

20th CENTURY, 2nd HALF
Martha Argerich
Radu Lupu
Mitsuko Uchida
Murray Perahia
Richard Goode

Igor Levit
Daniil Trifonov
Yuja Wang
Lang Lang
Evgeny Kissin

Jan Lisiecki
Víkingur Ólafsson
Boris Giltburg
Jean-Paul Gasparian
Isata Kanneh-Mason

No Liberace? No John Tesh?

#4. One other observation, how many have listened to Schnabel recording? I've played through a complete set of Beethoven Sonatas more than once and (aside from recording quality) most listeners would find some difficult to recognize because of his interpretation. The same can be said for selected recordings of a few other listed pianists. Is interpretation part of the analysis?

"25 Greatest Pianists" is similar clickbait to a "100 Greatest Rock Guitarists" countdown by some fool who barely gets Alan Holdsworth onto the list at all.

But I'll bite ... just to say I especially enjoy the soft liquidy touch of Maria Joao Pires

Weird thing about that list is they way they keep saying "X is one of the greatest classical pianists..." YES WE KNOW YOU THINK THAT, THAT'S WHY THEY'RE ON YOUR LIST. Brendel should be higher.

... Which is not to say this writer is foolish or uninformed, or that the list is uninformative, just that these best of and worst of lists often glibly try to bite off way more than the writer can chew. Like 50 Worst US Cities, when it's clear the authors have not ventured anywhere near a single one of them.

At least the guy who ranked all 180 Mission Impossible episodes has actually watched them all umpteen times

"Like 50 Worst US Cities, "

Or when key metrics are things most people could care less about. Most bike paths, size of the local opera, etc.

I am in Orange County California and coughing a bit today, ask me anything!

I'm fine with Rachmaninoff as greatest pianist of all time, because he was indeed a legendary pianist while simultaneously being a great composer of piano music. However due to old recording sonics I appreciate but don't really enjoy listening to his recorded performances, and the breadth of his recordings is thin compared to some of the pure (non-composer) pianists. But yes this must be only a list of greatest pianists in recording history, because otherwise Liszt would have to be at or near the top of the list, renowned as he was for his technique and performances.

In regard to ideological litmus tests in academia..

You are an academic. Stop whining and tell us what exactly are you going to do to stop the takeover of academia.

Suppose there were no tenure, and all academic jobs were up for grabs.

How many economists who have won the Nobel Prize would be fired by being unable to measure up by the standards of the loyalty oaths?

Arnold Kling says economics is on the road to sociology. So it is. And entrenched mediocrity also. I am glad I am in the private sector.

The UC system once had fine academic departments. Solve for the equilibrium. What will UC look like in 20 years?

Cheer up, US Santa Cruz has Angela Davis on its faculty. Don't you feel better already?

UC Berkeley has a row of parking spots near the physics building designated "Nobel Laureate Only". They are almost always entirely empty.

"Free Angela with fill-up."

You had to be there.

#4...Michelangeli is clearly the GOAT. The list is an embarrassment for the compiler. I, too, have seen many of the listed pianists in live performances. In person, Gilels was the one who blew me away. Sadly, I'm no expert, but my comment sounds better when I pretend to be one.

#7...if you don't believe in diversity, you can hardly complain that there are too many or too few of any particular view. You can't care. It's like the nihilists in The Big Lebowski complaining about fairness. If there are 99% Marxists in the school you should still be indifferent. You shouldn't even be paying attention.

That wasn't the complaint.

I was trying to mock everyone's use of diversity, but missed I guess.

Let me try an anecdote. When I was in college, UC Berkeley had one professor dealing with Continental philosophy. His name was Hubert Dreyfus. Prof Dreyfus didn't teach Sartre, Camus, and a number of other philosophers. So, I suggested to the department that it hire one more Continental expert, instead of adding another expert on logic, of which we had about six. I was advocating diversity. One professor asked me to transfer to another university before the department took me seriously. I was advocating for a diversity of specialists, to no avail. There's obviously a benefit in diversity, but how much has always been a contentious issue, and it will always remain so. I think that's good.

Replace Lang Lang, Wang and Grosvenor with Mark-Andre Hamelin, Arrau and Pollini. No pianist today can touch Hamelin's range and technique.

Honorable mention to Angela Hewitt, Solomon, Edwin Fischer, R.Serkin and Richard Goode.

Saw Hamelin twice at Cornell about 15 years ago. Mind-blowing.

"I will note that a possible coronavirus pandemic would likely boost the plausibility of state capacity libertarianism."

If you mean 'brutal crackdown is possible because a police state already existed' then, sure.

Several years ago there was one of these lists of pianists supposedly based on a poll of professional pianists, and Rachmaninov came out on top, which led me to react like you did to this, Tyler (heck, I think I saw that list here). Anyway, after seeing that I checked it out more and have come to have a much higher view of Rachmaninov than I previously had. I now take such a rating as much more credible.

Obviously one can fuss about this and that, and I have some disagreements, but overall think this is a fairly credible list, including on that top call.

Those who dislike Rachmaninoff atop the list are probably biased against his composing. As a pianist he also had a style not everyone favors. But he was a great composer and acclaimed performer, much like Liszt. I personally wish he had had the money to compose more and perform less, leaving more compositions for posterity. Another permanent loss for humanity due to communism.

6) Filipino statehood would have meant forcibly assimilating the Muslims of the south, who had been fighting Christians of one kind or another for the previous 400 years. What we did over there was ugly enough as it was.

#7 Probably a good thing that this is out in the open as something like it has probably been beneath the surface for a long time.

#6: Interesting as a contribution to the Caplan/Jones debate I guess, on Open Borders.

#4 A lot of those on that list don't belong there, not just Lang Lang (Haskil is not as easy to dismiss, IMHO). And Pollini "has to be" top 10? Not if the top 25 list doesn't even include Gulda or Arrau he doesn't. And no Edwin Fischer, no Friedman, no Hofamann?

It's a list. It ain't so good, however.

#7, clearly a racist practice. clearly the left has become totalitarian (wants one party state so they can oppress certain people).

#7 OK. From my reading of Grumpy's column, UC is looking for applicants who actively support non-discriminatory policies and act to support such policies.

Isn't that what the highest aspirations of America are?

So what's the problem?

It's not as if other alternatives are not allowed. After all the Mercatus Center which Tyler Cowen heads is funded by the Kochs. Is it possible for a liberal economist to get a job there?????

Another example: Richard Muller of the Berkeley Earth Study was initially funded by the Kochs until Richard Muller confirmed that the earth was indeed warming. At that point the Kochs stopped funding his organization.

What the hell's the difference?

And who is worse??????

At least the UC standards are for good standards.

I always like being the last to comment

Martha Argerich, hello?! Horowitz has to be top 1 but top 10 list without Mrs. Argerich is not a list at all. This is not even a gender quota thing. Also Michelangeli. Walter Gieseking did probably the finest Debussy inteprerations of all time! The Pierre-Laurent Aimard perhaps.

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