Links: MacBook Pros, party censorship, the history of scandal, and more!

* New Macbook Pro review 1; another one; others have been trickling out. Consensus is “expensive, but also amazing.”

* “At Yale Law School, a party invitation ignites a firestorm.” Law students are typically age 22 and up, and law school administrators are typically older still. One has to wonder not only what is wrong with these people, but what is wrong with the institution they inhabit, and the institutional incentives of the bureaucrats involved.

* On the Fatty Arbuckle scandal and how it presages modern scandals or pseudo-scandals; notice this: “The next day, Universal wrote a morality clause into its contracts, mandating nonpayment to performers who ‘forfeit the respect of the public,’ and other studios followed. (Morality clauses have made a comeback in recent years.)” That which is old is new again, or, alternately, that which is new has older roots.

* Francis Fukuyama’s Defense of Liberalism.

* Efforts by an Australian mining and minerals baron to go green(er). Detailed.

* “‘I Don’t Know That I Would Even Call It Meth Anymore’: Different chemically than it was a decade ago, the drug is creating a wave of severe mental illness and worsening America’s homelessness problem.” Also detailed, although I can’t tell how much of it may be a scare story. Still, the war on drugs continues to fail, and we continue to collectively fail to try different approaches.

* “Beware shoveling money at overpriced service industries.” A reasonable point, which means that politicians (and by extension the voters electing them) will likely mostly ignore it.

* What to learn. Don’t be dissuaded by the title.

* “How Alan Sokal Won the Battle but Lost the ‘Science Wars:’ A brilliant parody was the harbinger of a dreadful future.” On the other hand, the total number of humanities majors has fallen substantially: a lot of people presumably see through the nonsense and respond accordingly. Sokal may have “won” in some sense.

* “What Could Drive China to War?

Links: California’s housing reform, surprising pleas, some China things, energy, and more!

* “Where the Suburbs End,” regarding California’s efforts to increase the supply of housing. California is moving, albeit with agonizing slowness, on this front.

* “We Are Republicans With a Plea: Elect Democrats in 2022

* “Washington Is Getting China Wrong: A crisis at a property company exposes deep, dangerous, and often unrecognized weaknesses in the Chinese economy.” Part of the answer too may be that no one knows what the future holds, and thus: “Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”

* “Credit-card firms are becoming reluctant regulators of the web.” This is bad and, also, I’m not sure the word “reluctant” belongs in the title.

* “Please Don’t Give Up On Having Kids Because Of Climate Change,” a more detailed version of what I’d say. The level of innumeracy required for that fundamental belief is striking, and the kinds of people likely to be persuaded by such an argument are also likely the kinds of people who’d have kids who’d make fundamental breakthroughs in energy and chemistry. Note too:

So 20 tons of near-term carbon offset at $500/ton, plus 350 tons of long-term carbon offset at $50/ton = $10000 + $17500. Round up for uncertainty, and my guess is you can offset your child’s lifetime carbon emissions for about $30,000.

This is a lot of money, but most of the people considering not having children for climate reasons are pretty well-off. Most privileged parents are already resigned to having to pay $100,000 – $200,000 to get their kid into the best college; surely they should also be willing to pay $30,000 to let their kid exist at all.

A person sufficiently worried about CO2 emissions right now can do a lot about it, given sufficient money.

* “In Global Energy Crisis, Anti-Nuclear Chickens Come Home to Roost.” The metaphor and imagery may be confused, but the point is well taken.

* “That One Side Would Like to Utterly Destroy the Other Side Seems Significant, To Me: Democratic messaging debates are bizarre because one group has been empowered to terrorize those they disagree with.” Fairly accurate. I like his description of the left’s ecology, including: “There’s an island of misfit toys of left and leftish critics of social justice politics like me.”

* The great feminization of the larger society?

* “The Triumph and Terror of Wang Huning.” If you’re like me, you thought: “Huning who?” But the essay turns out to be about China, yes, but also about the rest of the world and the United States. If you want to skip to the U.S.-centric parts, search for the phrase “A Dark Vision,” and read from there, about Wang’s experiences in the United States. Allan Bloom appears as a key influence.

* “A Yale Law Student Sent a Lighthearted Email Inviting Classmates to His ‘Trap House.’ The School Is Now Calling Him To Account.” Yes, it’s an outrage story, and you might’ve read enough of those already, but the article also seems like part of a larger trend, and one consistent with Haidt and Lukianoff’s book The Coddling of the American Mind.

Links: Ghostwriters, the social order in local terms, the seduction of Silicon Valley, and more!

* Jonathan Kay’s life as a ghostwriter, with lots of entertaining bits. The celebrity memoirs and business how-tos that make up much of the publishing industry are mostly written by ghostwriters: you’ve likely interacted with their work, without necessarily realizing it.

* Free parking is killing cities, and driving up the costs of housing.

* “American Gentry: Local Power and the Social Order.”

* “The Economic Mistake Democrats Are Finally Confronting,” an important piece that covers how attempting to increase demand with extra funding won’t work if supply doesn’t concomitantly increase. Housing is the star of this story but education is similarly strangled.

* “Head Start grant writers and early childhood education program staffing woes:” a grant-related post, but one that may be of general interest.

* “China Is a Declining Power—and That’s the Problem: The United States needs to prepare for a major war, not because its rival is rising but because of the opposite.” An alternate theory to the ones you’ve read around here before.

* “So You’re About To Be Cancelled: A group called Counterweight assists people whose bosses and co-workers are forcing them to endorse ‘social-justice’ beliefs.”

* How Miami seduced Silicon Valley.

* “The White Backlash That Wasn’t: Opposition to critical race theory is broad and bipartisan.” Don’t like the overly divisive framing of the headline, but there is some substance within.

* “‘Don’t leave campus’: Parents are now using tracking apps to watch their kids at college.” This seems insane to me, and one has to hope it’s not real, or rarely real.

* “On American campuses, students are biting their tongues: Students of all kinds are self-censoring, especially if they don’t agree with the perceived campus wisdom about race and criminal justice.”

* On the roots of progress and how to achieve greater technological progress now.

* Good New Yorker report on the state and history of nuclear fusion. Proof-of-concept is conceivable by 2025, with actual contributions to the power grid conceivable by 2030.

* Twitter thread from a former marine about what the Taliban knew about us, versus what we knew about them, along with cultural mismatch and many other topics.

* “At the heart of Shor’s frenzied work is the fear that Democrats are sleepwalking into catastrophe.” Not just the usual political bs. Note: “Senate Democrats could win 51 percent of the two-party vote in the next two elections and end up with only 43 seats in the Senate.” About David Shor and many other topics.

Links: Housing shortages, Hollywood sells out to China, merit and schools, John Updike, and more!

* “The housing theory of everything: Western housing shortages do not just prevent many from ever affording their own home. They also drive inequality, climate change, low productivity growth, obesity, and even falling fertility rates.” Housing shortages are entirely self-imposed, too.

* “How Hollywood Sold Out to China: A culture of acquiescing to Beijing’s censors is now the norm, and there’s little sign of it changing.”

* “As US Schools Prioritize Diversity Over Merit, China Is Becoming the World’s STEM Leader.”

* “The future of weight loss,” which concerns the new drug semaglutide, as well as setpoint theories of weight. I’ve seen claims that sugar consumption, particularly via liquid, explains almost all the weight gain of the last forty years.

* Sports writing is not fun. One could likely generalize this to many if not most forms of journalism.

* Book Review: The Revolt Of The Public. I also read The Revolt of the Public and agree that it’s good, prophetic, and already seemingly close to common wisdom.

* “Can We Have Sex Back?” A bit too culture war, but, also, that first sentence!

* “Starlink and the possible future of a free, uncensored Internet.”

* “John Updike and the Politics of Literary Reputation:” there’s much here, but I have a slightly different theory, having started many if not most of Updike’s novels: they’ve got little or no plot. Many individual sentences are good, but they’re boring. Tedium is, to my eye, is the biggest modern challenge to Updike, Philip Roth, and Saul Bellow. Someone like Tom Wolfe holds up well in his top books, Bonfire of the Vanities and A Man in Full, because both are driven by plot.

Links: New cities, healthcare pricing, walking & thinking, and more!

* “The [Very Bad] Two-Decade Delay in Lyme-Disease Vaccines.”

* “Hospitals and Insurers Didn’t Want You to See These Prices. Here’s Why.” One of these very important points that will probably make most people’s attention wander elsewhere, unless they’ve recently had to deal with a mammoth medical bill.

* “On the Link Between Great Thinking and Obsessive Walking.”

* “Is the Conventional Wisdom on Educational Spending All Wrong?” Again, Substack: where the interesting writing is happening.

* “For First Time, Half of Americans Favor Defending Taiwan If China Invades.”

* Kids don’t like school when it’s boring and they have no friends there. This may also explain why online education hasn’t really taken off: for most people, hanging out with other people is, if not the point, then at least a large part of the point. Take away the other people and there goes the interest.

* “The Dream of Carbon Air Capture Edges Toward Reality.” An important update on the CO2 capture efforts. More on Climeworks’ effort. Climeworks also offers CO2 removal subscriptions to persons who’d like to contribute directly.

* “Press Box vs. the Bleachers:” a very culture-war essay, but one that comes at it from an unusual angle, or set of angles.

* The New Puritans, a fine and detailed story that almost entirely concerns schools and journalism/media. Relatedly: “How did American ‘wokeness’ jump from elite schools to everyday life?

* “Want to Solve the Housing Crisis? Build More, and Build Higher.” Familiar points to readers around here.

* “Plans for Telosa, a $400-billion new city in the American desert, unveiled.” I’d move there: Phoenix, but with better urban design and transit. Sounds great! See also another story on the same subject: “The Guy Wants to Build a Utopian Megalopolis.” Is it likely to work? No. But wouldn’t it be great if it did?

Links: Software and productivity, Austin’s influx, some book review things, and more!

* “Climate change: IPCC report is ‘code red for humanity.’” Similarly: “Global Temperature Over My Lifetime,” which is presented in cartoon format: notice that Exxon’s 1982 estimation is extremely close to actual temperature levels in 2020.

* “Why Doesn’t Software Show Up in Productivity?” A deep and subtle post, although the title may not intrigue you.

* “How Austin Has Undergone a Pandemic Influx From Hollywood: ‘Growth on a Turbocharger.’

* The Creativity Vacuum, which is too nakedly culture war in some ways, but it also says: “if you want to understand the culture — which is how you win the culture war — one has to muck around with those in the down and dirty trenches of the seedy side of American life, which is where most ideas that drive the spirit of the country are brewed.”

* “How cancel culture hurts the Left,” which has some optimism embedded in it.

* Why book reviews and reviewing work poorly.

* “Andrew Sullivan on Braving New Intellectual Journeys,” and many other topics.

* “Higher Ed Has a Credibility Problem: Do academics share one worldview? People tend to think so, and you can’t blame them, says Jonathan Rauch.” It could be that “journalists and academics [have] become modern-day clerics.”

* We need to build our way out of this mess, and in particular build housing—lots of housing.

* “Ryan Holiday on America’s missing Statue of Responsibility.” An important idea wildly missing from the discourse. Holiday’s book Trust Me, I’m Lying is excellent.

* “Flying X-Wings into the Death Star: Andreesen on Investing and Tech.”

* “What I Learned While Eavesdropping on the Taliban: I spent 600 hours listening in on the people who now run Afghanistan. It wasn’t until the end of my tour that I understood what they were telling me.” Among the few things I’ve seen on this topic that is worth reading.

Links: The perils of the shouting class, more from Balaji S., tunnels and the transit future, and more!

* “The Shouting Class,” on the errors generated by listening too much to Twitter and its ilk, which favor a certain kind of person and personality.

* “ Law School Loses Luster as Debts Mount and Salaries Stagnate: With high-paying jobs out of reach for most, graduates of the University of Miami and other well-regarded programs routinely carry six-figure student loans for years.” Law school lost its “luster” more than a decade ago—I wrote about Paul Campos’s Don’t Go to Law School (Unless) in 2012, and the main thing that’s changed between now and then is that tuition has gotten even more outrageous—but the numbers reinforce how insane law school is for most people: “Recent graduates of the University of Miami School of Law who used federal loans borrowed a median of $163,000. Two years later, half were earning $59,000 or less.” That student debt can’t be discharged in bankruptcy, and that no mechanism incentivizes predatory schools, keeps the system functioning.

* “If Einstein Had The Internet: An Interview With Balaji Srinivasan.” Balaji may be the most sophisticated and foresighted thinker today.

* “How the Bobos Broke America: The creative class was supposed to foster progressive values and economic growth. Instead we got resentment, alienation, and endless political dysfunction.” Too much good to excerpt, but the mea culpa is rare: “‘The educated class is in no danger of becoming a self-contained caste,’ I wrote in 2000. ‘Anybody with the right degree, job, and cultural competencies can join.’ That turned out to be one of the most naive sentences I have ever written.” And accurate. Like Brooks, I think I underestimated the degree to which people are motivated by status and exclusionary practices; amusingly, it’s the people who are most busily talking about inclusion who are usually the most exclusionary.

* “Tunnels are our Transportation Future.” Many points not commonly made elsewhere.

* The Real Story of “The Central Park Karen.” Note: “To tell this story is to address a different set of problems. Among them: our collective intoxication with public shaming. Our willingness to dispense with due process when we think we ‘know’ the truth in the absence of evidence. The media’s complicity in perpetuating public judgments, even when the facts directly contradict those judgments.”

* “How I joined the literary prostitutes club, writing erotica for cash.” It’s from Aeon and thus presumably safe for work, depending, anyway, on one’s work: it’s text, and no one fears text any more.

* “Climate crisis: Scientists spot warning signs of Gulf Stream collapse.”

* How ‘Heaven’s Gate’ Killed 1970s Hollywood.

* “Chasing Nabokov.”

* “Does America really lose all its wars?” Probably not: but most wars are also not so obvious as WWII—but they are also not as big, which is very good.

* Is Taiwan next?

* “How Austin Has Undergone a Pandemic Influx From Hollywood: ‘Growth on a Turbocharger.’

Links: Noticing, trade-offs, freedom, epistemology, and more!

* “Criticism is being good at noticing things.”

* “Many people around the world have always resisted America’s self-appointed role as democracy’s champion. But they have also been rightly appalled when America sits back and allows genocide to engulf places like Rwanda or allows dangerous regimes to threaten the world order.” Compatible with “Where are the woke on Disney and China?

* “Saving the liberal arts,” by David Perrell and Jeremy Giffon. A good essay but one that should spend more time on epistemology.

* “The Looming Stagflationary Debt Crisis.” Maybe: plausible enough to repeat. Roubini, however, has predicted something like seven of the last two recessions. I wonder what’s in his portfolio. Ethereum, probably, for someone worried about stagflation.

* “Obama wins by reflecting people’s views:” not the actual headline—the headline is overly inflammatory, but it is from the article. Some politicians today are ignoring the strategy, currently being pursued by the executive branch, of simply saying one thing but doing something else. This line is also key: “while there’s more to politics than winning elections, there’s literally nothing you can achieve unless you win elections first.”

* “The Radical Women Who Paved the Way for Free Speech and Free Love:” but, more than that, a history about how control of telecommunication infrastructure—then, the mail—can be used to exert control over what people think. It’s useful to consider who controls what infrastructure today.

* “People are more than capable of believing things that are obviously not true and abandoning principles they’ve held their entire life.” Also: “there is an economy of attention and unclaimed attention is like a pile of money in the middle of the street.” And many other quotable moments.

* Don’t Take It Personally: “Since academic criticism has long since abandoned disinterested literary analysis, general-interest publications are really the only venues available (aside from personal blogs) for critics who favor this approach. Without it, we could ask whether literary criticism still exists.”

* How many American children have cut contact with their parents?

* Did Groupies Originate in the Time of Haydn & Mozart?

* A review of Nightmare Scenario, on the institutional failures revealed by COVID.

* The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss and The Children of Húrin by J.R.R. Tolkien, although it’s about the larger questions of what fantasy literature is doing today.

* “China’s Sputnik Moment? How Washington Boosted Beijing’s Quest for Tech Dominance.”

Links: Freedom of speech and thought, hospital prices, the “climate left,” and more!

* “How I Liberated My College Classroom: I created a special seminar to discuss controversial issues freely, and the results were eye-opening.” I think this kind of environment used to be a normal seminar, not a “special” one.

* “Get Lucky:” “Ours is not the first society to plunge into a completely moronic frenzy of witch hunts and moral purity tests in an effort to vanquish some non-existent foe or avenge some imagined victim.”

* The least-interesting generation?

* Social Media Is Killing Discourse Because It’s Too Much Like TV. An important point that, because it’s not a quick video, will probably be missed.

* “April Powers Condemned Jew-Hate. Then She Lost Her Job.” As a “diversity officer,” at that!

* “Education and Masculinity—An Interview with Will Knowland:” Ideas rarely today encountered.

* “Hospitals Have Started Posting Their Prices Online. Here’s What They Reveal.” “Not yet as much as they should” is one answer.

* “‘Financially Hobbled for Life’: The Elite Master’s Degrees That Don’t Pay Off. Columbia and other top universities push master’s programs that fail to generate enough income for graduates to keep up with six-figure federal loans.” Schools should have skin in the game, yes, but also, masters degrees in film? Publishing? Come on. An IPO requires a prospectus, which warns investors about investment risks. Investors who invest poorly lose their money. Should the same be true of schools?

* “The West’s cultural revolution is over: The return of censorship, speech codes and taboos suggests society returning to normal.” I’m not so sure the analogies are apt, especially with regards to censorship—the crypto revolution is arguably weakening censorship and censoriousness—but the argument interests:

Those who grew up in the late 20th century were living in a highly unusual time, one that could never be sustained, a sexual and cultural revolution that began in 1963 or 1968. But it has ended and, as all revolutionaries must do after storming the Bastille, they have built Bastilles of their own. The new order has brought in numerous methods used by the old order to exert control — not just censorship, but word taboo and rituals which everyone is forced to go along with, or at least not openly criticise. You might call it the new intolerance, or woke extremism, but all societies need the policing of social norms.

* “Doing Away with College: Will society kill higher education before higher education kills society?” An essay linked to the two links immediately above.

* “What is the climate left doing?” The best analysis of the issue I’ve seen, and it regards the confusion between signaling tribal identity versus getting things done.

* “The Failures That Made Ian Fleming.” On the new biography of the author of James Bond.

* Interview with Matt Yglesias, by Noah Smith, highly substantive.

* “Book review: Crazy Like Us.”

* A listing of Xinjiang camp, rape, and murder victims.

Links: China’s iron grip on Hollywood, the sociobiology debate, carbontech, and more!

* “China’s iron grip on Hollywood began in 1998 with a Martin Scorsese movie and a groveling apology from Disney.” This is one of these big stories that’s not being told much, and it’s important because the people who tell many of the biggest and most important stories in our society are in effect subject to the censorship of the Chinese government. Weirdly, at least to me, many of the people who profess to be against oppression and such are silent on this issue, which seems proportionally more important than many issues of great media and social media prominence.

* “The high cost of divorce.” That is, literal, legal costs.

* “Rereading Defenders of the Truth: The Sociobiology Debate.” I read Defenders of the Truth a few years ago, and it is a good but very thorough book. Very, very thorough. Few will want to follow all of its twists and turns, I think.

* “Education Week: Educational Assessments are Valid, Reliable, and Remarkably Predictive,” yet extremely politically suspect in some precincts. There is also a great podcast with Marc Andreessen in which he talks about this and related matters.

* Bad apple: the cancelled writer and programmer who was supposed to work at Apple is back.

* “The man whose software ate the world.” Same author as above: worth subscribing to.

* “Where Did the Coronavirus Come From? What We Already Know Is Troubling.” Long, impressive, detailed, and consistent with the “lab leak” hypothesis.

* “Has the Carbontech Revolution Begun?” One hopes so.

* “Mate Selection for Modernity.” Depressing, maybe, but knowledge is also power, I’ve been told.

* “Culture Wars are Long Wars.” Perspective counts.

* “Sixty years of climate change warnings.”

* “Why a Chinese invasion of Taiwan would be a catastrophe for China and the world.” A catastrophic miscalculation, or series of them, have led to a number of catastrophic wars: just because something will be catastrophic, doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

* “The plants that change our consciousness: How three plant-derived drugs – caffeine, opium and mescaline – shape society.”

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