My second post ever on this blog was titled with the internet-age utopian phrase Information Wants To Be Free. Even at that time one of my blog-inspirations (which I cited there) had been shuttered, I think after the professor behind it was found and “cancelled” (before that was a common term, and before the same thing happened to the next anonymous blog he started). Another variant of that phrase was fond of was “information wants to be indestructible“, which might be true in the sense that once loose it’s hard to hunt down every copy, but isn’t quite so true in terms of easy availability.

The most citeable blog to end last year was Scott Alexander’s, and I’ve been rethinking his post Freedom on the Centralized Web. I’m less optimistic now than I used to be now that not only social media companies, but also smartphone companies and AWS hosting have banded together against a politically disfavored app (even though by magnitude the total amount of “harm” done by Facebook by those standards is far greater), well after Cloudflare dropped an even more politically disfavored site in a way even their own CEO was uncomfortable with (which, given how easily DDOS attacks can be mobilized, is equivalent to being kicked off the internet). Karl Kasarda (who had a similarly pessimistic take on the state of computer security in light of SolarWinds) gives the run down on this incident and all the ways in which a similar upstart could be restricted in his mockingly titled The Free Market Solution. He advocates there an internet version of the Bill of Rights for platforms, something I’m still not entirely comfortable with (perhaps we could have a low-rent public option, analogous to the Post Office, required not to engage in content-based discrimination).

You might note there that I linked to Kasarda’s videos on BitChute, rather than Youtube where I first watched them. That was deliberate. I was long a pro-Google anti-Apple partisan because the former didn’t try to lock down their phones as much and I found their numerous free products useful rather than overpriced conspicuous consumption. But I’ve been unable to root my most recent phone from them (meaning I couldn’t download an app they banned from their app store if I actually wanted to), and I’ve lost enough confidence in their original product that I’m now using DuckDuckGo for search instead (unless I’m disappointed in the paltry results, so I do still sometimes use it as a backup). I know some of you might think I’m still under the thumb of software megacorps because the email on my about page here is hosted by Microsoft, but they haven’t been acting like the Evil Empire nearly as much recently. It’s nice to imagine being as idealist as Richard Stallman and refusing to use anything closed-source, but I got my most recent phone because my job required a specific app (I normally try to install as few as possible, using it more like a feature phone except with email alerts), and even Stallman was cancelled recently (while Linus Torvalds had an apology extracted but continued in his same position).

I’ve resisted linking to twitter (where I unfortunately have been having more conversations than on blogs recently) up until now, but Alexey Navalny’s thread (all threads should be posts!) complaining about twitter’s ban though a dissident political lens is worth linking to. I am still refusing to automatically publish my posts here as tweets because I dislike social media and would prefer for people to use RSS. I suppose I nevertheless ought to make an exception by cross-posting this one.

On the topic of tolerating even disfavored speech, I’ve long linked to Scott Alexander’s The Spirit of the First Amendment (along with Be Nice, At Least Until You Can Coordinate Meanness). To that I should now add Vitalik Buterin’s Credible Neutrality As A Guiding Principle, which generalizes beyond the obviously “political” to the idea of good mechanism design, as does his post linked from there on “central planning” in design.

I haven’t heard any Christmas music this season.

I often point people to William Stuntz’ “The Collapse of American Criminal Justice” via my review. There are a lot of details in that book I regret not being able to include, but I just found this review (which pre-dates mine by years) from Handle (who I mostly remember as a commenter years ago rather than a blogger) which makes up for my deficiencies. He also has his own perspective as a lawyer who once freed a flagrantly guilty person as part of his work via an “Innocence Project” type organization. I had some criticism of Stuntz in my review, while Handle’s review is oriented more as a critique of Stuntz’ project, and I thought I’d note how our views differ. (more…)

Bryan Caplan has been blogging the recent book “Escaping Paternalism” and noted that he wished they had discussed opioids in detail. Jubal Harshaw of the blog GrokInFullness sent him a response, noting a number of posts in which he critiqued “the usual view” that Caplan brought up to contrast with the book. I myself have noted (while reviewing Dreamland) that the scale of deaths due to opioids in recent years has been something of a challenge to a libertarian perspective, which I previously leaned more toward vs consequentialism (I recalled reading Radley Balko railing against the restrictions faced by chronic pain patients), even if I still shy from paternalism. Among the four posts Jubal linked Caplan to, one is this take on Dreamland.

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T. Greer of Scholars Stage, whose writing about the unfortunate decline of the blogosphere in the face of social media I have linked before, notes a reaction to the Harper’s letter which grants no credence to the idea of “good faith debate”. Greer calls this The World That Twitter Made, giving the reasons why it caused that shift vs blogs.

In the same post where I previously linked to him, I also linked to Andrew Gelman on the relative merits of the two mediums, and he’s got his own reaction, but this time to an actual column rather than a tweetstorm. Gerlman often returns to certain “zombies” on his blog who retain their positions despite publishing falsehoods, but he’s not entirely satisfied when someone like Marc Hauser loses their job either as long as other prominent people stick up for them in their other endeavors. For my own part I agree with commenter “gap”, who notes that whatever Brooks’ demerits in not responding to criticism, he hasn’t tried to quash it either, so there’s nothing wrong with him adding his signature. I also think Gelman’s irritation at Pinker overlooks the “social media” part of Pinker’s objection to “social media pileons”, since, as even Gelman himself noted, blogs like Gelman’s are very different from social media.

I’m sure you’ve already heard about this, since he’s a pretty big deal in any online circles I travel in. Regardless of what Education Realist thinks, Scott really is one of the best thinkers and writers online and basically everybody stood to benefit from him. I personally met him briefly once, and while that doesn’t actually affect my opinion of what happened, I feel obligated to note that he’s perfectly nice in person. I’m late in blogging this because so many other people have already covered this (many of them linked in the Reddit thread Scott links from his post), but since I recently blogged the end of The Reality Based Community and considered but neglected to note the end of Bleeding Heart Libertarians (admittedly less important as its main contributor immediately launched a new group blog)*, but the main thing I wanted to note here was the earlier (and undiscussed, as far as I know) deletion of Gabriel Rossman’s twitter account.

I had previously linked to other things by him, and his author page at Code and Culture is still up, but he was far more active on Twitter (which has largely displaced blogging, and I suppose I’m in denial about that applying to me even as I hold out as the last blogger who hasn’t connected their blog to their Twitter account) for better or worse. I won’t link to his handle, because someone else seems to have snatched it up after he deleted it. I know some people periodically delete their accounts to force themselves off of that hellsite, but given how unusually crazy things have gotten and the context in which he works, I worry that he deleted his account out of fear. Gabriel, if you’re doing alright and care what rando bloggers think, you can comment without a Twitter account here, or more privately send a message to the email listed on the about page.

 

* Update 07/02/2020: Since I discussed the end of BHL above, I should note that other contributors (including at least one also at 200 Proof Liberals) have started the group blog Radical Classical Liberals. Via Ilya Somin at the Volokh Conspiracy.

UPDATE 07/25/2020: I suppose I ought to have updated this post three days ago when I read (via MR) that Scott has unhid his old posts (although the blog still has the old look and doesn’t display the number of comments for each post).

Shortly before he removed his blog I’d made a comment on another post which got caught in the spam filter. I used to frequently use this blog to host comments of mine which got removed or were too link-filled for other sites. Since I kept the contents of that comment on my computer, I might as well post it here now:

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Regular readers, if there are any, will recall that I discussed Robin Hanson’s proposal of using variolation in response to the coronavirus in anticipation of a debate with Greg Cochran (who was more hawkish on containment) that wound up being less of a debate than expected early in April. As time has gone on Hanson has come to regard containment as having less time remaining during which the public will be willing to accept its costs (Henry Farrell responded to that here and here, and Hanson responded to that in turn). Tomas Pueyo will likely be a less familiar name, but I expect anyone who followed online discussion of the pandemic will have heard of his “Hammer and the Dance“. Hanson has an opening statement here, and the actual livestreamed “debate” can be viewed here, but again it was in many ways more of a discussion (Pueyo thinks the focus should now be on HOW we re-open).

Years ago I blogged some commentary on war from Randall Collins’ “Violence: A Micro-sociological Theory”. Since Agnostic recently wrote a post on music being inextricably linked to dance (Kevin Simler postulated an evolutionary origin of that, which I blogged here), it seemed like a good time to quote from a section near the end of chapter 7 (“Violence as Fun and Entertainment”) which followed a discussion of slam-dancing. (more…)

Not precisely, since Jones blames Jews working under FDR for “ethnically cleansing” Jews from cities by moving southern blacks up north, while Bernstein is focused on things advocated by FDR himself and views blacks as victims of FDR’s high-wage policies for destroying their jobs. I had linked to similar info on FDR’s stance toward Jews from Tablet when discussing The Plot Against America, whose premise I found implausible because it had Lindbergh winning the Solid South despite FDR winning his most overwhelming victories there. I haven’t read the book or watched David Simon’s recent adaptation both because of my skepticism of its premise (shared by historians Slate asked to comment on it) as well as because I thought I ought to start with the works that Roth built his reputation on (which Jones would still consider “acts of cultural terrorism“) rather than something known mostly because it was written by the already famous Roth.

As for Jones, he has a much longer review of Roth’s “Plot”, going about as far as possible to blame Jews for anti-semitism without actually endorsing the persecution of Jews. He’s a self-appointed champion of the Catholic “ethnics” in northern cities, so he doesn’t say as much about the south (though I did learn from him that the Klan burned a cross on the lawn of Father Coughlin’s church). It also reminds me that one of these days I should read Albert Lindemann’s “Esau’s Tears”. I briefly subscribed to The American Conservative specifically to read his review of Yuri Slezkine’s “The Jewish Century”, although I can’t remember the details of said review now. I don’t know if I’m interested enough in Soviet history specifically to read Slezkine’s follow-up, “The House of Government”, which Spotted Toad reviews here.

Speaking of books and Jews, Andrew Gelman has a short post reacting to Leah Garret’s “Young Lions: How Jewish Authors Reinvented the American War Novel”. Roth is not referenced, though his frequent point of comparison, Saul Bellow, is. The one short story I’ve read by Roth, “Defender of the Faith“, was inspired by his brief post-war military service.

Reading Tyler Cowen’s interview with Tooze (Marginal Revolution post here) I was surprised to see him cite both Broadberry and the better known Angus Maddison on the relative underdevelopment of 1930s Germany. The discussion between Tooze and Cowen does make it somewhat ambiguous whether Germany is supposed to have been undeveloped merely relative to the U.S and even Great Britain but also to continental European countries like France. Because if that was not the case, then it’s less surprising both that Germany quickly defeated France and that they decided to launch such a war in the first place. After all, Germany had fought France in the previous World War under a different government and presumably different ideology (the goal of “lebensraum” in the east, discussed in said interview, seems to have had less importance then).

Regular readers (if I have any) might recall that I have previously blogged about about Broadberry’s critique of Acemoglu & Johnson’s “Why Nations Fail”, from some basic slides that I copied to a more formal paper. I personally found it quite compelling even in the former case, but haven’t previously come across many people citing him, while Acemoglu remains a huge deal (whose work I recommended to Mencius Moldbug over a decade ago).

On a completely unrelated note, Dischord Records just put all their catalog free on Bandcamp. Tooze’s “Wages of Destruction” would be a good album/song title, if not necessarily a band name.

I blogged here the death of its founder, Mark Kleiman. Now the blog itself is a a couple days from ending. Keith Humphreys gives an obituary for blogging generally here. I agree with Andrew Gelman that blogs > Twitter. If you want more nostalgia for blogs, T. Greer of Scholars Stage has some specific to “strategy” here.

People who didn’t watch it live after I linked to it can now see it here.

UPDATE: Presans has a recap here, although they often misspell Cochran as “Cochrane”. Less Wrong also also has a transcript of his earlier debate with Zvi here.

Two people I’ve been reading for years and have been recently cited by Scott Aaronson as the most worthwhile writers on COVID-19 are Greg Cochran and Robin Hanson. Interestingly, the two of them have not seen eye-to-eye on this very issue. Since both of them have been on Bloggingheads in years past, I suggested the two discuss it there both in the comments at Overcoming Bias and in a twitter thread both were participating in. Both ultimately agreed to some sort of debate, although with the opposite of enthusiasm on Greg’s part.

Hanson himself had a livestreamed debate with Zvi Mowshowitz for Less Wrong on his proposal, as well as an even more recent discussion of his proposal for a group I hadn’t heard of before called The Stoa. News has been changing rapidly with time, and Hanson’s own focus in his proposal has shifted to the impact of small-dose variolation rather than merely shifting infection temporally to better fit our medical resources, with the dosage effect being something Cochran has acknowledged as a real possibility in his most recent podcast with James Miller.

I usually put up a blog post after every one of those podcasts, but recently they’ve been coming so quickly that I always figure there would be another one, and had actually thought I’d wait for the promised debate before making this post. They’ve had five podcasts dedicated to COVID-19 so far, on February 09, February 23, March 15, March 21 and March 29. His first blog post on it was February 06, and his blog has basically been dedicated to the topic ever since. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a single post summing up his thinking from a sequence of prior posts like Hanson’s most recent. As Cochran himself would tell you, his predictions have been rather accurate while people who thought he was overly pessimistic were contradicted by events, even if they later pretended they hadn’t actually made such incorrect predictions. For a point of comparison, Hanson’s first post suggesting controlled infection (without his later insight on dosage/variolation, which turned out to swamp the availability of ventilators) was on February 14.

UPDATE APRIL 01: The debate is set for tomorrow, April 02, hosted by Presans, here. Zvi also has a post on the topic, reflecting on his earlier debate with Hanson.
UPDATE APRIL 02: The “debate” featured a surprising amount of agreement, perhaps because Hanson had shifted his focus to the large benefits of variolation compared to infection “in the wild”, which helped further distinguish his proposal from other plans to permit “herd immunity” (though most of those don’t so tightly link infection to isolation). It wasn’t a complete consensus, as Cochran recalls too many medical hopes not panning out and instead of having variolation as the “Plan B” thinks we should be pursuing backup plans for every letter of the alphabet simultaneously. Presans has indicated that their recording will be available on the internet at some point, and I’ll link to that when I can.
UPDATE APRIL 06: It’s now on youtube.

Miller actually uploaded this nine days ago, but I only just found out about it now. I’ll update this when Greg puts his own post up.

I’ve blogged previous such interviews here, here and here.

The paper is here, via Brandom Warmke. It cites Glenn Loury’s “Self-Censorship in Political Discourse” (which I previously blogged here) along with Timur Kuran’s book “Private Truths, Public Lies” (which I blogged here) containing his theory of “preference falsification”. More than a decade ago I wrote about what it actually means to be politically correct vs incorrect, and liked Hopefully Anonymous’ very generic definition, which would fit with Loury and Kuran’s framework. Moller’s explicitly rejects Loury’s generic version in favor of one that is explicitly describing efforts from the left-wing, defined in terms of “marginalized” groups being protected from insult/offense. I still prefer a general theory to a specific one, but Moller’s take could be helpful in detailing the phenomena as it tends to occur on contemporary college campuses. He uses The Bell Curve as an example (which I previously discussed in relation to Loury), specifically the very heated objections to discussions of groups with lower average IQs than whites compared to the lack of reaction to discussion of groups with higher than average IQs. I found that notable because Steve Sailer has written that much of the objection to IQ is a triple-bank-shot from Jewish intellectuals worried about people noticing their higher average IQ. I never found that convincing, so in that respect at least I’ll side with Moller.

UPDATE: Sailer recently repeated his theory that Jewish IQ is a more taboo subject, and I objected in his comments citing Moller.