Monday, November 5, 2018

November 5th Links

  • All government, in its essence, is a conspiracy against the superior man: its one permanent object is to oppress him and cripple him. If it be aristocratic in organization, then it seeks to protect the man who is superior only in law against the man who is superior in fact; if it be democratic, then it seeks to protect the man who is inferior in every way against both. One of its primary functions is to regiment men by force, to make them as much alike as possible and as dependent upon one another as possible, to search out and combat originality among them. All it can see in an original idea is potential change, and hence an invasion of its prerogatives. The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, and intolerable. [H.L. Mencken]
  • In 2016, TSLA thought its Fremont plant could make 5,000, 10,000 and 20,000 vehicles a week in late 2017, 2018 and 2020, respectively. This can't happen at people speed. Consequently, the cost structure of the Model 3 is much higher than Elon Musk expected when he took deposits from hundreds of thousands of people for a $35,000 car. It's a promise he can't keep. UBS did a teardown analysis and estimated that the cost to make a stripped down version of the Model 3 is $41,000. That's a long way from $35,000, let alone $26,250 – the level needed for TSLA to make a 25% margin. In May, Elon Musk tweeted that the $35,000 version would be launched 3-6 months after the company achieved 5,000 cars a week. That milestone was hit with great fanfare in June. However, investor relations has leaked that the company now expects the $35,000 version in the second quarter of next year. Tellingly, TSLA has stopped taking orders for the $35,000 version, as it may already know that it won't be releasing a $35,000 version anytime soon or ever. The company has changed its policy on refunding deposits so that customers who are tired of hoping TSLA makes a car that doesn't exist and want their money back have to wait 45 days. It reminds us of Jane and Michael Banks in Mary Poppins. We think this may explain Mr. Musk's erratic behavior. He can't make the car without losing too much money and he can't bring himself to cancel the program and refund everyone's deposits. His conduct suggests that he is doing his best to be relieved of his position as CEO to avoid accountability. Quitting isn't an option because it prevents Mr. Musk from claiming he could have fixed the problem had he stayed. [ZH]
  • Several mechanisms can explain the association between visceral fat accumulation and increased risk of prostate cancer. Adipose tissue is a source of specific substances, including adiponectin, resistin, leptin, and adipsin, and secretes a variety of other cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor‐α and interleukin‐6. There is ample evidence that VF and SF cells differ metabolically. The metabolic products of VF, namely free fatty acids, are delivered directly into the portal circulation to the liver, inducing a significant metabolic disturbance. It is well established that VF accumulation is associated with insulin resistance, resulting in hyperinsulinemia. Insulin can promote the growth of several different cell lines, including prostate tumors, and high plasma insulin levels have been related to prostate cancer risk and stage. In a case‐control study, men in the highest tertiles of waist/hip ratio and serum insulin levels had an 8.55‐fold increased risk of prostate cancer compared with men in the lowest turtles. [link]
  • I reached Sunbury, where the West Branch of the Susquehanna joins the main. About here, I judged, was the limit of Colonial era settlement. Thereafter the infrastructure and artifacts appeared to be Jacksonian era or later. The West Branch arcs northwesterly. The population of the state is concentrated in the east, along the Delaware River valley, and in the west around Pittsburgh, the Ohio River and Lake Erie areas. The central, which is hills or mountains, is less populated, especially north of the West Branch. Here the Alleghenies run southwest-northeast, up from West Virginia and into New York. Mountains are as powerful a metaphor and symbol as they are a physical obstacle. [link]
  • Could the next Senate confirmation hearing of a Supreme Court nominee be worse than the Kavanaugh-Ford hearing? Who would have thought that a hearing could be worse than Chappaquiddick Teddy Kennedy's attack on Judge Bork, or the "high tech lynching" of Clarence Thomas? [Federalist]
  • In 20 years of covering New Hampshire primaries, I crossed paths with candidates who almost immediately revealed their fallibilities. Call it intuition, but when Ernest "Fritz" Hollings, a silver-haired South Carolina senator with a stentorian voice and Dixie accent, strolled into the newsroom at the Monadnock Ledger in Peterborough and requested directions to the restroom by inquiring with all the authority of a world statesman, "Where's your little boys' room?," I sensed his quest for the 1984 Democratic nomination was doomed. [Boston Globe]
  • Norwegian Karl Ove Knausgaard, author of six volumes of autobiographical musings entitled My Struggle, is likely the most celebrated literary writer of the current decade. He's a leading light of the Hapless White Guy literary genre perhaps founded by the late David Foster Wallace. [Sailer]
  • Even with a new year, the pattern of en route delays to the airport at SeaTac [KSEA] continues. A particularly galling aspect of this is that both FAA and the management at this airport have expended a huge effort promoting these so-called 'NextGen improvements', even going so far as to over-use a 'Greener Skies' eco-moniker. To help reveal this propaganda, an analysis was recently done, looking closely at 25 arrivals during a half-hour-long push on the late evening of Thursday, January 14, 2016. [link]
  • This urgent pulling forward of buying has happened before on a large scale in the U.S. in 1999.  The year 2000 fear that software would not be able to handle the switch from 1999 to 2000 due to program limitations triggered both corporate buyers and consumers to purchase new hardware and software that would fix the bug. Sales were pulled forward into 1998 and 1999 then in 2000, sales dropped fast 'like the lights were turned out' the CEO of HP, Carly Fiorina said. [link]
  • Wallace Stegner has published thirteen novels, three short-story collections, sixteen nonfiction titles, and has edited eighteen works in the fifty-three years he has been publishing books. His first novella, Remembering Laughter, won a Little, Brown Prize in 1937, and in 1990 Random House published Stegner’s collected stories. [Paris Review]
  • "Oplan Fracture Jaw has been approved by me," General Westmoreland wrote to Adm. Ulysses S. Grant Sharp Jr., the American commander in the Pacific, on Feb. 10, 1968. (The admiral was named for the Civil War general and president, who was married to an ancestor.) [NY Times]
  • In one of the celebrated scenes of the 1997 movie  Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon's title character gets into a battle of wits with a student from Harvard University, whom he accuses of uncritically parroting the views of the authors on his reading list as a first-year graduate student. He goes on to predict that a little later in his curriculum, he would simply be "regurgitating Gordon Wood." The student begins to respond with a critique of Wood, which Hunting interrupts, completes, and notes is plagiarized from Daniel Vickers' Farmers and Fishermen: Two Centuries of Work in Essex County. [Wiki]
  • The text covers four years of the Kulturkampf - 1936, 1937, 1938 and 1939. Like modern bloggers, the authors wrote more newsletters in the early years,than the later, perhaps because of losing interest, perhaps because everything had already been said, perhaps because of life interfering, or perhaps because of the Gestapo. [Amazon]
  • The civil war has been talked about quite a bit. Some foolishly believe it will follow the template of the previous two, which was largely geographically based because both side fundamentally had the same culture. This won't happen. I live in a so-called "deep blue" state. Does anyone think that if the balloon goes up, I'm going to run out with my AR-15 and join the "Washington State Progressive Stormtrooper Brigade" just because I live here? No, what is going to happen is much more complex and simple at the same time. [American Digest]
  • Given that the brain consists in a mass of connections, whose power depends on the number and complexity of those connections, why is it divided? Or is that just random, and we should give up trying to find a pattern which make sense in terms of evolutionary advantage? [Kenan Malik]
  • Split-brain structure (with the different hemispheres having very distinct structures and morphologies) is common to all higher organisms (as far as I know). Is this structure just an accident of evolution? Or does the (putative) split between a systematizing core and a big-picture intuitive core play an important role in higher cognition? AGI optimists sometimes claim that deep learning and existing neural net structures are capable of taking us all the way to AGI (human-like cognition and beyond). I think there is a significant chance that neural-architectural structures necessary for, e.g., recurrent memory, meta-reasoning, theory of mind, creative generation of ideas, integration of inferences developed from observation into more general hypotheses/models, etc. still need to be developed. Any step requiring development of novel neural architecture could easily take researchers a decade to accomplish. So a timescale greater than 30-50 years for AGI, even in highly optimistic scenarios, seems quite possible to me. [Steve Hsu]
  • Cannabis use is a heritable trait that has been associated with adverse mental health outcomes. In the largest genome-wide association study (GWAS) for lifetime cannabis use to date (N = 184,765), we identified eight genome-wide significant independent single nucleotide polymorphisms in six regions. All measured genetic variants combined explained 11% of the variance. Gene-based tests revealed 35 significant genes in 16 regions, and S-PrediXcan analyses showed that 21 genes had different expression levels for cannabis users versus nonusers. The strongest finding across the different analyses was CADM2, which has been associated with substance use and risk-taking. Significant genetic correlations were found with 14 of 25 tested substance use and mental health–related traits, including smoking, alcohol use, schizophrenia and risk-taking. [Nature]
  • The seven main bearing straight six. The straight axles. The locking diffs. The Biggie interior. Not that Toyota didn’t also build these with cloth interiors, stripped down to the bare necessities of what one would need to drive, say, from here to Uzbekistan. This is the last bridge between the Unkillable Warlord SUV Era and the Maximum Cup Holder Comfy SUV Era. [Jalopnik]
  • Global logistics sites depend on what Jake called "just in time," where ideally the goods don't spend any time sitting around. Ultimately that's the source of this competitive advantage. Time is what potentially gives workers in this industry a lot of power. If you're able to disrupt an industry that is absolutely dependent on moving things quickly there are huge potential losses for the employers. [Jacobin]
  • A lot of commonly-accepted social norms (especially among Blue Tribe, but also in religious Red Tribe settings) have to do with safeguarding against flagrant assholes and sociopaths, but catch overthinking nerd types in the net. [SSC]
  • Short answer: no. It doesn't matter what embryo selection does, it's weak and even what I call "massive embryo selection" (using stem cells for generating hundreds of embryos) will be obsoleted within a generation by iterated embryo selection/genome synthesis/some sort of super-CRISPR. Goodhart's Law in all its forms is irrelevant because so little can be done. More in-depth answer: human traits turn out to be very convenient, and the usual animal breeding solution (selecting on an index of trait PGSes weighted by value) will probably work fine and is already what GenPred would like to do. Doing embryo selection on a single trait would be dumb and inefficient and unnecessary anyway. [Gwern]
  • The Consumer Price Index for Rent in this town is up 30% since I moved here 4 years ago. Nice. In all transparency, my rent only went up 8% this year, which doesn't sound quite so bad. Until I do the math on another 4 years of 8% rent increases (100 * 1.08^4 = 136%) — and realize that I need a 36% increase in income over that same period just to stay flat on nominal take-home savings. Per my first point on Cost Disease, real median household income in the US has only just clawed its way back to what it was in 1999. Certainly it hasn't grown 36% in the last 4 years. But maybe there's some way I can get ahead of the median? Maybe there's some way I can keep my income going up more than 36% every 4 years and actually build wealth too? How much was that MBA, again? [link]
  • Eventually, the US is going to break apart in much the same way as the Soviet Union. I have no doubt of that, although I may not live to see it. But the idea of the 50 individual States being independent nations makes little sense practically or politically. I'm guessing there will be from four to six or seven nations formed out of the current Continental US, with lines sometimes but not always following the current state lines, and some present states being broken into two or more parts. California and Texas are unlikely to stay whole, several New England states unlikely to stay separate, and many arbitrary or geographically odd boundries will be eliminated, such as Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Chunks of Western Canada and Baja California may be part of the new nations as well. Mexico's military is utterly impotent and would not last a week against the California National Guard alone. Canada's is more serious, but even a semiserious revolt against rule by Ottawa and Frogs would succeed in the long run. Big question is: Who gets the nukes and why? [Sailer]
  • What they have in common is that they aren't 19th century river cities. The old-line river cities boomed and became very wealthy hubs for industry. When river/water transport became less labor intensive, they couldn't retool b/c their local economies were built around the rivers. St. Louis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, New Orleans, Louisville, Evansville -- all of these saw population declines. In some cases, populations were cut in half. Memphis is one of the few big river cities that never saw meaningful population decline. Its business leaders actually deserve some credit for reinventing the city as a logistics hub. Air cargo, trucking, rail -- Memphis escaped the river city curse by adapting. [link]
  • If you're manufacturing car parts or providing landscaping services or running a restaurant, how is it useful to hear from the CEO of a company that has had, essentially, a monopoly for 5-15 years? The regulated Bell System monopoly had its drawbacks, but at least Americans were spared from having to purchase and read books by its managers offering purported secrets of their success. Nobody who ran a business exposed to competition was forced to watch a Bell System executive being interviewed on TV with fawning questions about how he or she had made the company so profitable. [Phil G]
  • Anyone who is on the West Coast can basically attest Asian women are displacing White women as partners for upwardly mobile White guys. The guys like the low drama, femininity, and intelligence. [Sailer]


Anonymous said...

"There is no denying that Unz bases his arguments on interesting information. It is interesting, for example, that the wealthy Jewish banker Jacob Schiff strongly supported Russian revolutionaries in Tsarist Russia. Appalled by the violent anti-Semitism under the Tsar's rule he recklessly fomented revolution. This is a sobering fact but leads Unz to jump to the grand conclusion that 'the notion that the international Jewish bankers created the worldwide communist movement... appears to be more or less true.' He ignores the evidence in Anthony C. Sutton's Wall Street and the Russian Revolution that many Jewish and non-Jewish bankers and politicians were integral to the success of Bolshevism. He ignores the evidence in Sutton's book and Priscilla Roberts' paper 'Jewish Bankers, Russia and the Soviet Union' that while Schiff admired Kerenksy, he not only intellectually but materially opposed the Bolsheviks. The relationship between Jews and communism is an interesting one, but leaving no room for nuance in one's discussion of it is in keeping with that of a different but no less infamous propaganda rag to Pravda."

Anonymous said...

Trump has never been an organizer, despite his claims to the contrary. Coming from a family business, he never learned the key aspect of organizational longevity is keeping a stable of young, motivated true believers. His name was always on the side of the building, so he figured he would recruit family. When elected, he was likely overwhelmed with isolation, so went with whoever seemed moderately competent and loyal.

Obama, despite overwhelming faults, was able to recruit true believers. Same can be said for Dems as a whole. The Repubs are terrible in this regard.

A quick, hard rule for Trump’s new picks — AG or not — should be to enforce a hard age-limit of 55.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Sherrod Brown won reelection, which shows the enduring appeal of his rumpled brand of economic populism. (Though his flawed opponent got almost 48% despite getting relatively little party/outside backing.)

But overall 2018 was brutal for OH Dems. They lost every other statewide race—guv, AG, etc. They didn’t pick up 1 US House seat—they hold 4/16. And they netted only four state reps and LOST a state sen seat in ex-Dem stronghold of Mahoning Valley, preserving GOP supermajorities.

Obama won the state twice, albeit narrowly. And past big Dem years produced major gains in Ohio, like winning governor in 2006. This year, MI and WI saw big Dem successes, despite also contending with gerrymandering. Not Ohio.

There’s also a case to be made that Ohio was simply never as blue as Dems liked to imagine in the late aughts. Fact is, Obama’s margins in the state were a lot smaller than in MI and WI. And Ohio is more Southern-inflected than the Upper Midwest.

But then there’s a more foreboding possibility for Dems, that there’s a transformation underway in Ohio that is going to put the state ever further out of reach. To put it bluntly, that is going to make the state closer to IN and MO politically than MI, PA and WI.

What could be driving such a transformation? Well, for one thing, demographics. As the share of white non-college voters drops nationwide, it’s holding strong in Ohio. The state is 82 percent white and only 28 percent of Ohioans have completed some higher ed.

These facts may seem at odds with all the buzz around Columbus. But Columbus stands in stark contrast to midsize cities like Akron, Toledo and Dayton, and esp to small cities like Mansfield, Lancaster, Zanesville, Portsmouth, Springfield, Middletown, Chillicothe, Lorain, etc.

Beyond Columbus, the state has been HAMMERED by manufacturing losses since 2000. “The trajectory of Columbus diverged dramatically. Its economic & population growth masked some of the challenges facing much of the state when looking at state-level trends.”

Ohio has an astonishing array of these small cities and towns—all with handsome old courthouses, coherent downtowns and grand Victorians, and almost all of them in a condition that breaks your heart. And that’s not to mention the truly desperate rural areas of southern & SE Ohio.

I was in rural SE Ohio Tuesday and the monolithic Republican support was palpable. In 2012, Obama won almost 40 percent in Meigs County. But Hillary got only 23 percent in 2016. Cordray brought that up to only 29 percent this week.

So how should Dems think about all this? It’s tempting to cut the state out of 2020 plans—after all, Trump won it by 8, and Dems don’t really need it to win. But it seems hard to imagine how Dems could ever hold Senate and House majorities without still being competitive in Ohio.

Addendum: it's worth noting that the rise of Trumpism in Ohio is especially striking in light of the state's past as a beacon of northern progressivism: ALL BUT ONE of Ohio's 24 members of Congress voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.