Links: News about the news, criticism about criticism, and more!

* “I stopped reading the news. Is the problem me — or the product?” “The product,” mostly, although a lot of scientific and technical news is interesting. It’s possible to construct a mostly useful and interesting information universe, but it’s hard, and RSS feeds help. The most interesting stuff is rarely in the big publications, except Bloomberg and one or two others.

* We’re going to need a lot of solar panels.

* “How a Public School in Florida Built America’s Greatest Math Team.” Notice: “It turned out there was value in putting a bunch of smart kids in the same room: They feel empowered to make each other smarter.” Peer effects matter.

* “Criticism of criticism of criticism.” Read it carefully and think about it and it does make sense.

* The four quadrants of conformism.

* “Democrats in America are realising they must moderate or die: The prospect of defeat in the mid-terms and beyond is moving many away from their most radical ideas.” It seems obvious, and yet is somehow missed.

* Why we ignore thousands of daily car crashes.

* Things about peer review, and a history of it. Consistent at least with my comments about peer review run amok.

* “How we will fight climate change.” “Technology” is the only feasible answer.

* The Framework modular laptop appears to be good.

Links: Geothermal energy, the fate of legacy publishing, and more!

* Geothermal energy update. I’ve worked on geothermal projects; they’re fun. Apparently, many fracking techniques are being productively applied to geothermal projects.

* If you, like me, have wondered why legacy publishing seems to be dying, and why fiction seems to be so anemic right now, this article, if true, shows why. Everything about it, from its implicit (or maybe explicit?) racism to its smarmy, dismissive assertions, demonstrates what I wrote about in “The death of literary culture.”

* “Professors Need the Power to Fire Diversity Bureaucrats: Scholars should drive out overzealous administrators, not vice versa.” Good luck. College accreditors also inhibit the entry of new competitors, which may explain some of the challenges seen in higher education. In many sclerotic parts of the economy, regulators are at work, maintaining sclerosis.

* “A Berkeley professor’s Senate testimony didn’t go how the left thinks it did.”

* “‘A Real Chilling Effect’: A Lefty Scholar is Dumping the Center for American Progress (CAP).” On Ruy Teixeira, and the author says:

Teixeira’s bill of complaints will be a familiar one for many who have followed the internal battles of the left over the past half-decade, or spent an afternoon on left-wing Twitter. Politically, as a strategist, he thinks the Democrats need to win culturally moderate voters if they’re going to ever create the kind of coalition that can get their policies enacted. And personally, as an employee, he’s none too fond of the institutional dynamics that he says are driven by younger staff but embraced by higher-ups afraid of a public blow-up.

* Will Russian logistics stall completely?

* “Build a Charter School, Get Sued by the Teachers Union: Vertex Academies is set to open next month on the old Blessed Sacrament campus in the Bronx. Its founders, Ian Rowe and Joyanet Mangual, are confident they’ll beat back the legal challenge.” Maybe.

Links: The need for universal COVID vaccines, the polarization spiral, and more!

* “We could have universal COVID vaccines very soon — if we urgently reform the process.” Extremely important and urgent, and yet very little discussed.

* “The Polarization Spiral: How the right’s monomania and the left’s Great Awokening feed each other.” It’s possible to not succumb to either. “I choose not to” is underrated.

* “American Factories Are Making Stuff Again as CEOs Take Production Out of China.”

* “June Huh, High School Dropout, Wins the Fields Medal.” Beautiful and charming.

* “Make Birth Free.” Things are different when your side wins, than when your side is merely delivering “criticism.”

* “The Outlier:” a surprisingly interesting review-essay on Jimmy Carter and his presidency; the most arresting part may be the counterfactual around the ’76 election:

Reading this book, I kept imagining the alternate history in which Reagan succeeds in his 1976 primary challenge to Gerald Ford, which he lost narrowly in real life. Since Reagan is a much more talented politician than Ford, and isn’t tainted by Ford’s association with Nixon, he almost certainly picks up a couple points of the vote and beats Carter. Then he ends up presiding over stagflation and takes the blame for the poor economy. He loses in 1980 to Ted Kennedy, who ushers in a decade of liberal dominance until his presidency implodes in scandal amidst the revelation of his many drunken affairs.

I’m reminded of the 2004 election: although Democrats considered losing it to be bad at the time—few partisans like losing elections—the lead-up to the 2008 election included near-economic collapse. And 2004-8 wasn’t a high mark of American foreign policy, either, with Iraq a fiasco and Afghanistan worse in some ways. Republicans got to eat all of that and lose in 2008. Oddly, to my eye, everyone seems to have forgotten about the 2002-2008 period, when Iraq and other aspects of foreign policy dominated much of political discourse. Yet that period is notable in “‘The Internationalists’ and making war illegal,” a recent essay I wrote.

* “The American Political Science Review Goes Woke.” Maybe.

* “Stunned by UFOs, ‘exasperated’ fighter pilots get little help from Pentagon.” I see two major possibilities: we’re either seeing evidence of aliens (defined broadly), or we’re seeing some kind of information battle playing out, perhaps through some kind of projection that shows up on radar and visually.

* “Labor Unions Reduce Product Quality,” it seems.

* We need regulatory speed-ups and reform, not only R&D, if we’re going to move to cleaner energy.

* “The New Founders America Needs: What I told the first students at The University of Austin.” On the commitment to free speech and thought.

* “The Rise of Bad Art and the Decline of Political Candor.” Not quite my views, but entertaining.

Links: Pre- and post-social-media culture, powering the mind, powering the grid, and more!

* “Homelessness is a Housing Problem”: When cities build more housing, homelessness goes down. Essential reading given the quantity of incorrect statements about this issue one sees online.

* “Nuclear power can help the democratic world achieve energy independence.” Pretty obvious, but here we are. What’s Germany doing, besides restarting dirty coal plants? Relatedly, some encouragement to “Stop Being Surprised by Germany,” which covers the country’s poor showing around Ukraine, and its penchant for funding Russian militarism. I’m not sure how much its recent behavior can be blamed on World War II and its aftermath, though.

* Johann Hari’s experiment with smart drugs, and in particular modafinil (which is the common name for “Provigil”). Modafinil can be bought online from Indian sources.

* The growth of silicon carbide electronics.

* The FDA is still bad and wasteful. It’s still unable to do basic cost-benefit analysis, or implement that analysis if it does conduct it.

* “The Vanishing Moderate Democrat:” which is in-depth and not the usual. Relatedly: “Democrats Are Having a Purity-Test Problem at Exactly the Wrong Time.” It’s admittedly funny to read these pieces in a venue that has discouraged moderation and encouraged purity tests for the last five or more years, and is now reaping the fruits of those labors.

* “Energy Superabundance: How Cheap, Abundant Energy Will Shape Our Future.” “Will” seems a bit too definitive.

* A good Marc Andreessen interview.

* On the secrets of “covid fog.” Knowing what causes it is, obviously, key to being able to treat it.

* “Why go to space?” Yes, the pragmatic reasons are valid, but the fundamental reason is because it’s the final frontier. “Why defeat complacency?” might be another title.

* Actors are getting older. I theorize that there’s a fundamental break between the pre-social-media world and the post-social-media world; the latter can include video streaming, YouTube, and other things that may not in a strict sense be “social media.” The cultural world of the latter is eating the cultural world of the former in ways that we’re only beginning to appreciate. I don’t hear students talk about favorite actors any more; I hear them talk about favorite YouTubers. Also, a lot of famous pre-social-media cultural products aren’t actually very good: a few months ago, for example, I tried watching Interview With a Vampire: to put it lightly, it doesn’t hold up. We’re adjusting from a world of relative cultural scarcity to a world of total cultural abundance.

Links: Crypto for what?, building the future, UFOs, and more

* “Why America can’t build.” Important, for both human flourish and climate change goals.

* “My awakening moment about how smartphones fragment our attention span.”

* “Whatever happened to the Bee Apocalypse?” It’s ongoing, but not in the news.

* “The intellectual mistake of once-and-for-allism.” An excellent point and yet simultaneously I think that shunting an issue to the side leaves more room for other issues, particularly if the issue seems un-decidable—like “whether we are living in a simulation.” Are we living in a simulation? The question is interesting but, if there is any way for us to find evidence one way or the other, I’m not aware of it.

* Book review of The Dawn of Everything. The most interesting parts concern the “gossip trap;” search for the word “gossip” and read those parts, if no others.

* “George Orwell outside the whale.” A vital essay on the freedom of imagination.

* “Embrace the Arms Race in Asia.” Maybe.

* “Stanford Professor Garry Nolan Is Analyzing Anomalous Materials From UFO Crashes.” Oddly, though, there appears to be almost no follow-up, despite this piece coming out in December 2021. The parts about peculiar magnesium isotopes stand out, though I’m not knowledgeable enough to judge the claims, but I’d like a lot more detail—about the chain of custody, for example.

* “Georgetown Varsity Blues Dad Wins by Revealing Rich Kid Perks.” “Varsity Blues” was the “scandal” in which parents were bribing their kids’ way into some colleges. I put the word “scandal” in quotes because it seems like an open secret, not a scandal, though the parents were particularly brazen. It seems that “Khoury rolled the dice [by insisting on a trial]—and won—in part by presenting evidence that wealthy parents whose children apply to elite colleges often receive breaks in admissions’ processes.”

* “Rebuilding my conception of the academic life.” From a psychologist who is joining the University of Austin.

* Skepticism around web3 and crypto, apart from currency uses.

Links: Inflation possibilities, cancel culture, Austin, and more!

* Supply, demand, and stagflation. It may be that “Reg Q” caused much of the harm in the ’70s: “Reg Q was a limit on the deposit rates which banks could offer. Before Money Market Mutual funds and other shadow banking institutions, this became a binding constraint on the interest rates people received. So as inflation got high, and the Federal funds rate rose, deposit rates could not keep up. And we see deposits fleeing the system whenever these rates get really binding.” That caused “deposit flight,” such that “bank credit dried up, generating a negative supply shock, and tough financial conditions.” Price controls don’t work, but, in the ’70s, politicians were still trying to use them.

* “The Supreme Court rulings represent the tyranny of the minority.”

* “Canceled at 17:” a story that indirectly and probably inadvertently argues for home schooling, or home-schooling hybrids. Social media’s second-, third-, and fourth-order effects are hard to predict. Another headline for it is “Teenage Justice A list of boys ‘to look out for’ appeared on a high-school bathroom wall last fall. The story of one of them.”

* What’s Up with Austin?

* “Ah, Carceral Liberalism.” On some peculiarities in the discourse.

* The best parenting advice Ryan Holiday remembers.

* “Why the web is (maybe) turning away from WordPress.” Lack of detailed data, but not impossible.

* Book Review: San Fransicko.” This is the review I’d write if I had more knowledge of the relevant data.

* “The Crypto Plan for World Domination. An Interview with Balaji Srinivasan.”

* On the writer Dominick Dunne.

* Does Elvis Presley Still Matter?

* “How universities were corrupted.” Maybe.

* What happened in Kuwait in Gulf War I.

Links: The joy of novelty, why people become censors, ability rules, and more!

* “Construction is life.” Sentiments too infrequently heard in this age of stasis and complacency.

* Legalize housing, not tent encampments: consistent with many pieces you’ve read around here, and I have a review of Homelessness is a Housing Problem coming up too.

* “Meltdowns Have Brought Progressive Advocacy Groups to a Standstill at a Critical Moment in World History.” An amazing, and depressing, story. It’s also consistent with me writing about institutions in 2020.

* What kind of people want to become censors? It seems that the urge to censor will never go away.

* What happens to landfills over time.

* “Sooner or Later, Ability Rules:” a rant about efforts to remove standardized testing and other forms of rigor from the education system, and the peculiar stated reasons for those attempts.

* “The complexity of knowledge and skill transfer.”

* On fusion energy.

* Vitalik’s guide to living out of a 40L backpack.

* Why America Will Lose Semiconductors. Notice:

The US national, state, and local governments have created tax and regulatory policy that makes investing in new manufacturing capacity for semiconductors incredibly difficult. It takes mountains of money and many years to even get through the process of permitting and approval to being a project in the US. Furthermore, while these policies intend to protect the environment, they actually don’t. They simply slow down the process and increase costs.

The regulatory environment, which makes building anything hard, including housing, is important. Eric Schmidt sounds similar notes in another venue.

* “Affordable housing in California now routinely tops $1 million per apartment to build.” That may have something to with its deficit, and with California’s high homelessness rate.

* “The most pressing diversity issue in publishing? Groupthink. The industry has a responsibility to platform all kinds of views—not just politically fashionable ones.” Many forms of art go through strong periods and weak periods, and, in publishing, we seem to be going through a weaker period, apart from Substack.

Links: An Agatha Christie resurgence, luxury beliefs, sleep, and more!

* Agatha Christie is hot?

* Luxury beliefs as status symbols, and the struggle for recognition and distinction.

* California will let teens sleep in later. Good.

* Less parking could mean more housing. Good, too.

* How San Francisco became a failed city.

* “Children are a Necessity, Marriage is a Luxury: The Psychology of the Poor Single Mom.” Perspectives rarely see, which doesn’t mean they’re correct. .

* “What Princeton Did to My Husband.” On the subject of mobs, and also why an academic career may not be ideal. AstralCodexTen also has “Advice For Unwoke Academic?“, which is not “more of the usual.”

* UkraineX: How Elon Musk’s space satellites changed the war on the ground.” Worldwide, always-on Internet is a big deal.

* “Chesa Boudin and the Debacle of Urban Left-wing Politics.” First, be effective.

* On running General Assembly, a coding bootcamp.

* “Installing Rooftop Solar Can Be a Breeze. Just Look at Australia.” Regulatory barriers to installing more wind, solar, and transmission lines are becoming a central problem.

* Finland ends homelessness and provides shelter by pursuing a “housing first” model. A large chunk of homelessness really is a housing problem.

* “The Moral Desolation of the GOP.” Seem obvious.

Links: The perils of literary “success,” taking a corporation to arbitration, and some other things

* On Colette, the French writer and provocateur of her day. Today, there are maybe no taboos left in that domain, and thus a figure like Colette can’t exist.

* A depressing profile showing how bad literary “success” can be—never mind literary failure; one should read it as a warning against pursuing a literary life, particularly because a sense of lifelessness pervades. The winners of the literary marketplace aren’t doing so well, examined along many metrics. The books they’re writing don’t seem to matter; statements like “Gessen described him as ‘probably the most eloquent expositor of Marxian economics currently writing in the English language’” have to be read as comedy. That, or “They worked on novels and Ph.D.’s., and, in 2004, along with Marco Roth and Allison Lorentzen, started n+1. The journal was wildly successful[…]” “Wildly successful?” If this is the literary scene, it’s dead, deader than a corpse in an emergency room. After reading a novel like Lonesome Dove, all of the book described in the article seem tiny. You can predict what the tone will be, how narrow the comfort zone will be, and that there will be no contrarian surprises or revelations: that may explain why so many readers turn to wilder online writing.

* There are too many scams in higher education. A similar topic: “How to really fix higher ed.” Solutions are towards the bottom, but note: “Make higher-ed institutions put more skin in the game.”

* Arguments that we’re not going to get commercial fusion in the next decade, or realistically the next two decades. Either the writer, or Helion Fusion, will be proven right.

* Guy takes a massive corporation to arbitration.

* “Amazon and the Dystopian Future of Book Censorship.”

* CO2 levels are the highest in human history.

* Good interview with VC Katherine Boyle about the need to build things. And another article on the need to be able to build things, quickly. The status quo isn’t optimal in many domains.

Links: The dynamist, love, effectiveness, and more!

* The case for the sexual revolution.

* “Much philanthropy is a routinized exchange between salaried bureaucrats.” The quote here is fairly accurate, although much of the rest of the article is not.

* “Why Do I Hate Pronouns More Than Genocide? Self-reflection on what drives moral outrage and why I am not an effective altruist.”

* Elon Musk is, politically, a dynamist.

* We Aren’t Raising Adults. We Are Breeding Very Excellent Sheep.

* “If Politics is Your Hobby Horse, You’re Riding to Nowhere.” On what might work, and what is almost certainly signaling.

* “Would the World Be Better Off Without Philanthropists?” Skepticism towards the nonprofit sector, which is warranted, but the particulars are here way off base. There is no use of the term “effective altruism,” which is a clown sign. Or, rather, its lack is a clown sign.

* Could we get drone deliveries?

* Doctors on guns as a public health problem.

* Academia then; compare as you will to academia now.

* “Feeling like a victim is a perfectly disastrous way to go through life.” Seems obvious, but is apparently not.

* Epic story about a professor and his students’ cheating.

* There are too many scams in higher education.

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