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The Law of Leaky Abstractions – Joel on Software
[TCP/IP example]

All non-trivial abstractions, to some degree, are leaky.

...

- Something as simple as iterating over a large two-dimensional array can have radically different performance if you do it horizontally rather than vertically, depending on the “grain of the wood” — one direction may result in vastly more page faults than the other direction, and page faults are slow. Even assembly programmers are supposed to be allowed to pretend that they have a big flat address space, but virtual memory means it’s really just an abstraction, which leaks when there’s a page fault and certain memory fetches take way more nanoseconds than other memory fetches.

- The SQL language is meant to abstract away the procedural steps that are needed to query a database, instead allowing you to define merely what you want and let the database figure out the procedural steps to query it. But in some cases, certain SQL queries are thousands of times slower than other logically equivalent queries. A famous example of this is that some SQL servers are dramatically faster if you specify “where a=b and b=c and a=c” than if you only specify “where a=b and b=c” even though the result set is the same. You’re not supposed to have to care about the procedure, only the specification. But sometimes the abstraction leaks and causes horrible performance and you have to break out the query plan analyzer and study what it did wrong, and figure out how to make your query run faster.

...

- C++ string classes are supposed to let you pretend that strings are first-class data. They try to abstract away the fact that strings are hard and let you act as if they were as easy as integers. Almost all C++ string classes overload the + operator so you can write s + “bar” to concatenate. But you know what? No matter how hard they try, there is no C++ string class on Earth that will let you type “foo” + “bar”, because string literals in C++ are always char*’s, never strings. The abstraction has sprung a leak that the language doesn’t let you plug. (Amusingly, the history of the evolution of C++ over time can be described as a history of trying to plug the leaks in the string abstraction. Why they couldn’t just add a native string class to the language itself eludes me at the moment.)

- And you can’t drive as fast when it’s raining, even though your car has windshield wipers and headlights and a roof and a heater, all of which protect you from caring about the fact that it’s raining (they abstract away the weather), but lo, you have to worry about hydroplaning (or aquaplaning in England) and sometimes the rain is so strong you can’t see very far ahead so you go slower in the rain, because the weather can never be completely abstracted away, because of the law of leaky abstractions.

One reason the law of leaky abstractions is problematic is that it means that abstractions do not really simplify our lives as much as they were meant to. When I’m training someone to be a C++ programmer, it would be nice if I never had to teach them about char*’s and pointer arithmetic. It would be nice if I could go straight to STL strings. But one day they’ll write the code “foo” + “bar”, and truly bizarre things will happen, and then I’ll have to stop and teach them all about char*’s anyway.

...

The law of leaky abstractions means that whenever somebody comes up with a wizzy new code-generation tool that is supposed to make us all ever-so-efficient, you hear a lot of people saying “learn how to do it manually first, then use the wizzy tool to save time.” Code generation tools which pretend to abstract out something, like all abstractions, leak, and the only way to deal with the leaks competently is to learn about how the abstractions work and what they are abstracting. So the abstractions save us time working, but they don’t save us time learning.
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18 days ago by nhaliday
Books 2017 | West Hunter
Arabian Sands
The Aryans
The Big Show
The Camel and the Wheel
Civil War on Western Waters
Company Commander
Double-edged Secrets
The Forgotten Soldier
Genes in Conflict
Hive Mind
The horse, the wheel, and language
The Penguin Atlas of Medieval History
Habitable Planets for Man
The genetical theory of natural selection
The Rise of the Greeks
To Lose a Battle
The Jewish War
Tropical Gangsters
The Forgotten Revolution
Egil’s Saga
Shapers
Time Patrol

Russo: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/12/14/books-2017/#comment-98568
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december 2017 by nhaliday
Information Processing: Remarks on the Decline of American Empire
1. US foreign policy over the last decades has been disastrous -- trillions of dollars and thousands of lives expended on Middle Eastern wars, culminating in utter defeat. This defeat is still not acknowledged among most of the media or what passes for intelligentsia in academia and policy circles, but defeat it is. Iran now exerts significant control over Iraq and a swath of land running from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean. None of the goals of our costly intervention have been achieved. We are exhausted morally, financially, and militarily, and still have not fully extricated ourselves from a useless morass. George W. Bush should go down in history as the worst US President of the modern era.

2. We are fortunate that the fracking revolution may lead to US independence from Middle Eastern energy. But policy elites have to fully recognize this possibility and pivot our strategy to reflect the decreased importance of the region. The fracking revolution is a consequence of basic research from decades ago (including investment from the Department of Energy) and the work of private sector innovators and risk-takers.

3. US budget deficits are a ticking time bomb, which cripple investment in basic infrastructure and also in research that creates strategically important new technologies like AI. US research spending has been roughly flat in inflation adjusted dollars over the last 20 years, declining as a fraction of GDP.

4. Divisive identity politics and demographic trends in the US will continue to undermine political cohesion and overall effectiveness of our institutions. ("Civilizational decline," as one leading theoretical physicist observed to me recently, remarking on our current inability to take on big science projects.)

5. The Chinese have almost entirely closed the technology gap with the West, and dominate important areas of manufacturing. It seems very likely that their economy will eventually become significantly larger than the US economy. This is the world that strategists have to prepare for. Wars involving religious fanatics in unimportant regions of the world should not distract us from a possible future conflict with a peer competitor that threatens to match or exceed our economic, technological, and even military capability.

However, I'm not sure that OBOR (One Belt One Road) and a focus on the "world island" of Eurasia will be a winning strategy for China. Mackinder's dream of a unified or even fully economically integrated world island will have to overcome the limitations (in human capital, institutions, culture, etc.) of the under-developed middle...

The belt-and-road express: China faces resistance to a cherished theme of its foreign policy: http://www.economist.com/news/china/21721678-silk-routes-are-not-always-appealing-they-sound-china-faces-resistance-cherished-theme

The staggering scale of China's Belt and Road initiative: https://www.axios.com/staggering-scale-china-infrastructure-142f3b1d-82b5-47b8-8ca9-57beb306f7df.html
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november 2017 by nhaliday
GOP tax plan would provide major gains for richest 1%, uneven benefits for the middle class, report says - The Washington Post
https://twitter.com/ianbremmer/status/913863513038311426
https://archive.is/PYRx9
Trump tweets: For his voters.
Tax plan: Something else entirely.
https://twitter.com/tcjfs/status/913864779256692737
https://archive.is/5bzQz
This is appallingly stupid if accurate

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/11/28/upshot/what-the-tax-bill-would-look-like-for-25000-middle-class-families.html
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/11/30/us/politics/tax-cuts-increases-for-your-income.html

Treasury Removes Paper at Odds With Mnuchin’s Take on Corporate-Tax Cut’s Winners: https://www.wsj.com/articles/treasury-removes-paper-at-odds-with-mnuchins-take-on-corporate-tax-cuts-winners-1506638463

Tax changes for graduate students under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: https://bcide.gitlab.io/post/gop-tax-plan/
H.R.1 – 155th Congress (Tax Cuts and Jobs Act) 1 proposes changes to the US Tax Code that threatens to destroy the finances of STEM graduate students nationwide. The offending provision, 1204(a)(3), strikes section 117(d) 2 of the US Tax Code. This means that under the proposal, tuition waivers are considered taxable income.

For graduate students, this means an increase of thousands of dollars in owed federal taxes. Below I show a calculation for my own situation. The short of it is this: My federal taxes increase from ~7.5% of my income to ~31%. I will owe about $6300 more in federal taxes under this legislation. Like many other STEM students, my choices would be limited to taking on significant debt or quitting my program entirely.

The Republican War on College: https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/11/republican-college/546308/

Trump's plan to tax colleges will harm higher education — but it's still a good idea: http://www.businessinsider.com/trump-tax-plan-taxing-colleges-is-a-good-idea-2017-11
- James Miller

The Republican Tax Plan Is a Disaster for Families With Children: http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/11/the-republican-tax-plan-is-a-disaster-for-families-with-children/
- Kevin Drum

The gains from cutting corporate tax rates: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/11/corporate-taxes-2.html
I’ve been reading in this area on and off since the 1980s, and I really don’t think these are phony results.

Entrepreneurship and State Taxation: https://www.federalreserve.gov/econres/feds/files/2018003pap.pdf
We find that new firm employment is negatively—and disproportionately—affected by corporate tax rates. We find little evidence of an effect of personal and sales taxes on entrepreneurial outcomes.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/26/us/politics/johnson-amendment-churches-taxes-politics.html
nobody in the comments section seems to have even considered the comparison with universities

The GOP Tax Bills Are Infrastructure Bills Too. Here’s Why.: http://www.governing.com/topics/transportation-infrastructure/gov-republican-tax-bills-impact-infrastructure.html
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Beijing’s uneasy deals with overseas car groups under strain
The new EV joint ventures are part of a Chinese effort to master the technology for electric vehicles — and rely on a tried and tested model of working with the global car industry since the 1980s. In a nutshell, joint ventures are the only way for foreign groups to access the world’s largest and most lucrative market. China gives the overseas companies the right to sell cars in exchange for their technology, management expertise and a share of their profits. 

“China’s central planners said ‘how can we basically force global automakers to participate and bring their very best electric vehicle technology to China?’” says Michael Dunne, president of Dunne Automotive, a Hong Kong-based car consultancy. 

Since 1984, starting with Jeeps, foreign carmakers have been allowed to produce cars in China — but only in concert with a local partner holding at least 50 per cent of the venture. In practice, this is almost always one of six anointed state companies. 

While widely criticised as a trade barrier, the JV law managed to survive China’s entry into the World Trade Organisation in 2001 — testament to Beijing’s bargaining power. Now China is using an updated version of the JV law to once again dangle access to its car market in exchange for technology — this time for new electric vehicles. 

The results of the three-decade-old policy have been mixed. Rather than transforming Chinese car companies into technology giants, the joint venture companies have arguably made Chinese carmakers complacent, according to Chinese policymakers. He Guangyang, a former minister of industry, controversially described the JVs as “like opium” in an interview five years ago.

...

This has created fears that their proprietary technology could be stolen. Over the past two decades, foreign makers of everything from high-speed trains to fighter planes have licensed the technology to local Chinese partners only to find a few years later that their partner is a major international competitor. 

In order to keep this from happening, foreign carmakers are trying to give away as little as possible — and keep sensitive items, such as software codes, outside of China. In the past, foreign companies have managed to evade similar requirements simply by bringing in outdated technology, which has angered Chinese policymakers. 

...

Weeks later Miao Wei, minister of industry and information technology, told a press conference that the notion foreign companies would have to transfer technology to Chinese companies was a “misunderstanding”. 
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Windward and leeward - Wikipedia
Windward (pronounced /ˈwɪndwərd/) is the direction upwind (toward where the wind is coming from) from the point of reference. Leeward (pronounced /ˈliːwərd/) is the direction downwind (or downward) from the point of reference. The side of a ship that is towards the leeward is its lee side. If the vessel is heeling under the pressure of the wind, this will be the "lower side". During the age of sail, the term weather was used as a synonym for windward in some contexts, as in the weather gage.
jargon  age-of-discovery  history  early-modern  navigation  transportation  oceans  wiki  reference  sky  atmosphere 
august 2017 by nhaliday
Why were Europeans so slow to adopt fore-and-aft rigging? : AskHistorians
Square rig has a number of advantages over fore and aft rig, and the advantages increase as the size of the ship increases.
In general, the fore and aft rig has only one advantage. It can point higher into the wind. This is considerably more apparent on modern yachts with very taught, stainless steel rigging, than it was in earlier times when rigging was hemp rope, and could not be set up so tightly.
If you sail a gaff rigged schooner, especially one still rigged with hemp rigging and canvas sails, I don't think you will be exceedingly impressed with the windward ability.
Even so, square sails are quite effective to windward. The lack of ability to point up high was more often a function of how hard the yards could be braced around (before coming up against the standing rigging) rather than any particular inefficiency in the shape of the sail (although it is probably also possible to get a tighter luff from a taught headstay than from the unstayed luff between two yards, especially if the rigging is steel wire and the hull is stiff enough to set it up tight).
On all points of sailing except to windward, the square rig was more efficient and stable than a fore and aft rig (fore and aft rigged yachts use spinnakers, jennakers and drifters to add power when off the wind, and these are very unstable, difficult, and dangerous sails).
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Galleon - Wikipedia
Galleons were large, multi-decked sailing ships used as armed cargo carriers primarily by European states from the 16th to 18th centuries during the age of sail and were the principal fleet units drafted for use as warships until the Anglo-Dutch wars of the mid-1600s. Galleons generally carried three or more masts with a lateen fore-and-aft rig on the rear masts, were carvel built with a prominent squared off raised stern, and used square-rigged sail plans on their fore-mast and main-masts.

Such ships were the mainstay of maritime commerce into the early 19th century, and were often drafted into use as auxiliary naval war vessels—indeed, were the mainstay of contending fleets through most of the 150 years of the Age of Exploration — before the Anglo-Dutch wars begat purpose-built ship-rigged warships that thereafter dominated war at sea during the remainder of the Age of Sail.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Does European development have Roman roots? Evidence from the German Limes
The results indicate that economic development—as mea-sured by luminosity—is indeed significantly and robustly larger in the formerly Roman part of Germany. The study identifies the persistence of the Roman road network until the present an important factor causing this developmental advantage of the formerly Roman part ofGermany both by fostering city growth and by allowing for a denser road network.

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/888521595416793089
https://archive.is/ozKku
CC: @GarettJones this puts a new spin on deep history! Hard to explain...
I've got a theory, have a partial model but need some time to formalize it. I've called it the Radio Brain Hypothesis...
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Elon Musk’ Boring Company plans underground Hyperloop for New York-DC in ’29 mins’ | Electrek
For sure. First set of tunnels are to alleviate greater LA urban congestion. Will start NY-DC in parallel. Then prob LA-SF and a TX loop.
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Does Management Matter? Evidence from India
We have shown that management matters, with improvements in management practices improving plant-level outcomes. One response from economists might then be to argue that poor management can at most be a short-run problem, since in the long run better managed firms should take over the market. Yet many of our firms have been in business for 20 years and more.

One reason why better run firms do not dominate the market is constraints on growth derived from limited managerial span of control. In every firm in our sample only members of the owning family have positions with major decision-making power over finance, purchasing, operations or employment. Non-family members are given only lower-level managerial positions with authority only over basic day-to-day activities. The principal reason is that family members do not trust non-family members. For example, they are concerned if they let their plant managers procure yarn they may do so at inflated rates from friends and receive kick-backs.

A key reason for this inability to decentralize is the poor rule of law in India. Even if directors found managers stealing, their ability to successfully prosecute them and recover the assets is minimal because of the inefficiency of Indian civil courts. A compounding reason for the inability to decentralize in Indian firms is bad management practices, as this means the owners cannot keep good track of materials and finance, so may not even able to identify mismanagement or theft within their firms.30

As a result of this inability to delegate, firms can expand beyond the size that can be managed by a single director only if other family members are available to share directorial duties. Thus, an important predictor of firm size was the number of male family members of the owners. In particular, the number of brothers and sons of the leading director has a correlation of 0.689 with the total employment of the firm, compared to a correlation between employment and the average management score of 0.223. In fact the best managed firm in our sample had only one (large) production plant, in large part because the owner had no brothers or sons to help run a larger organization. This matches the ideas of the Lucas (1978) span of control model, that there are diminishing returns to how much additional productivity better management technology can generate from a single manager. In the Lucas model, the limits to firm growth restrict the ability of highly productive firms to drive lower productivity ones from the market. In our Indian firms, this span of control restriction is definitely binding, so unproductive firms are able to survive because more productive firms cannot expand.

https://twitter.com/pseudoerasmus/status/885915088951095296

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/03/india-much-entrepreneurial-society-united-states-thats-problem.html
However, when we reverse the employment statistic–only ~15% of Indians work for a firm compared to approximately 90% of US workers we see the problem. Entrepreneurship in India isn’t a choice, it’s a requirement. Indian entrepreneurship is a consequence of India’s failed economy. As a I wrote in my Cato paper with Goldschlag, less developed countries in general, not just India, have more entrepreneurs.

...

The modal size of an Indian firm is 1 employee and the mean is just over 2. The mean number of employees in a US firm is closer to 20 but even though that is ten times the Indian number it obscures the real difference. The US has many small firms but what makes it different is that it also has large firms that employ lots of people. In fact, over half of all US workers are employed by the tiny minority (0.3%) of firms with over 500 employees.

blames colonialism, idk, might have contributed

Dishonesty and Selection into Public Service: Evidence from India: https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/pol.20150029
Students in India who cheat on a simple laboratory task are more likely to prefer public sector jobs. This paper shows that cheating on this task predicts corrupt behavior by civil servants, implying that it is a meaningful predictor of future corruption. Students who demonstrate pro-social preferences are less likely to prefer government jobs, while outcomes on an explicit game and attitudinal measures to measure corruption do not systematically predict job preferences. _A screening process that chooses high-ability applicants would not alter the average propensity for corruption._ The findings imply that differential selection into government may contribute, in part, to corruption.

Where Does the Good Shepherd Go? Civic Virtue and Sorting into Public Sector Employment: http://repec.business.uzh.ch/RePEc/iso/leadinghouse/0134_lhwpaper.pdf
Our study extends the understanding of the motivational basis of public sector employment by considering civic virtue in addition to altruism and risk aversion and by investigating selection and socialization. Using a largely representative, longitudinal data set of employees in Germany including 63,101 observations of 13,673 different individuals, we find that civic virtue relates positively to public sector employment beyond altruism and risk aversion. We find evidence on selection and no evidence on socialization as an explanation for this result.

http://www.economist.com/news/books-and-arts/21716019-penchant-criminality-electoral-asset-india-worlds-biggest
Sadly, this is not a book about some small, shady corner of Indian politics: 34% of the members of parliament (MPs) in the Lok Sabha (lower house) have criminal charges filed against them; and the figure is rising (see chart). Some of the raps are peccadillos, such as rioting or unlawful assembly—par for the course in India’s raucous local politics. But over a fifth of MPs are in the dock for serious crimes, often facing reams of charges for anything from theft to intimidation and worse. (Because the Indian judicial system has a backlog of 31m cases, even serious crimes can take a decade or more to try, so few politicians have been convicted.) One can walk just about the whole way from Mumbai to Kolkata without stepping foot outside a constituency whose MP isn’t facing a charge.

...

What is more surprising is that the supply of willing criminals-cum-politicians was met with eager demand from voters. Over the past three general elections, a candidate with a rap sheet of serious charges has had an 18% chance of winning his or her race, compared with 6% for a “clean” rival. Mr Vaishnav dispels the conventional wisdom that crooks win because they can get voters to focus on caste or some other sectarian allegiance, thus overlooking their criminality. If anything, the more serious the charge, the bigger the electoral boost, as politicians well know.

As so often happens in India, poverty plays a part. India is almost unique in having adopted universal suffrage while it was still very poor. The upshot has been that underdeveloped institutions fail to deliver what citizens vote for. Getting the state to perform its most basic functions—building a school, disbursing a subsidy, repaving a road—is a job that can require banging a few heads together. Sometimes literally. Who better to represent needy constituents in these tricky situations than someone who “knows how to get things done”? If the system doesn’t work for you, a thuggish MP can be a powerful ally.

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-36446652
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Interview: Mostly Sealing Wax | West Hunter
https://soundcloud.com/user-519115521/greg-cochran-part-2
https://medium.com/@houstoneuler/annotating-part-2-of-the-greg-cochran-interview-with-james-miller-678ba33f74fc

- conformity and Google, defense and spying (China knows prob almost all our "secrets")
- in the past you could just find new things faster than people could reverse-engineer. part of the problem is that innovation is slowing down today (part of the reason for convergence by China/developing world).
- introgression from archaics of various kinds
- mutational load and IQ, wrath of khan neanderthal
- trade and antiquity (not that useful besides ideas tbh), Roman empire, disease, smallpox
- spices needed to be grown elsewhere, but besides that...
- analogy: caste system in India (why no Brahmin car repairmen?), slavery in Greco-Roman times, more water mills in medieval times (rivers better in north, but still could have done it), new elite not liking getting hands dirty, low status of engineers, rise of finance
- crookery in finance, hedge fund edge might be substantially insider trading
- long-term wisdom of moving all manufacturing to China...?
- economic myopia: British financialization before WW1 vis-a-vis Germany. North vs. South and cotton/industry, camels in Middle East vs. wagons in Europe
- Western medicine easier to convert to science than Eastern, pseudoscience and wrong theories better than bag of recipes
- Greeks definitely knew some things that were lost (eg, line in Pliny makes reference to combinatorics calculation rediscovered by German dude much later. think he's referring to Catalan numbers?), Lucio Russo book
- Indo-Europeans, Western Europe, Amerindians, India, British Isles, gender, disease, and conquest
- no farming (Dark Age), then why were people still farming on Shetland Islands north of Scotland?
- "symbolic" walls, bodies with arrows
- family stuff, children learning, talking dog, memory and aging
- Chinese/Japanese writing difficulty and children learning to read
- Hatfield-McCoy feud: the McCoy family was actually a case study in a neurological journal. they had anger management issues because of cancers of their adrenal gland (!!).

the Chinese know...: https://macropolo.org/casting-off-real-beijings-cryptic-warnings-finance-taking-economy/
Over the last couple of years, a cryptic idiom has crept into the way China’s top leaders talk about risks in the country’s financial system: tuo shi xiang xu (脱实向虚), which loosely translates as “casting off the real for the empty.” Premier Li Keqiang warned against it at his press conference at the end of the 2016 National People’s Congress (NPC). At this year’s NPC, Li inserted this very expression into his annual work report. And in April, while on an inspection tour of Guangxi, President Xi Jinping used the term, saying that China must “unceasingly promote industrial modernization, raise the level of manufacturing, and not allow the real to be cast off for the empty.”

Such an odd turn of phrase is easy to overlook, but it belies concerns about a significant shift in the way that China’s economy works. What Xi and Li were warning against is typically called financialization in developed economies. It’s when “real” companies—industrial firms, manufacturers, utility companies, property developers, and anyone else that produces a tangible product or service—take their money and, rather than put it back into their businesses, invest it in “empty”, or speculative, assets. It occurs when the returns on financial investments outstrip those in the real economy, leading to a disproportionate amount of money being routed into the financial system.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
One more time | West Hunter
One of our local error sources suggested that it would be impossible to rebuild technical civilization, once fallen. Now if every human were dead I’d agree, but in most other scenarios it wouldn’t be particularly difficult, assuming that the survivors were no more silly and fractious than people are today.  So assume a mild disaster, something like the effect of myxomatosis on the rabbits of Australia, or perhaps toe-to-toe nuclear combat with the Russkis – ~90%  casualties worldwide.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/one-more-time/#comment-69221
Books are everywhere. In the type of scenario I sketched out, almost no knowledge would be lost – so Neolithic tech is irrelevant. Look, if a single copy of the 1911 Britannica survived, all would be well.

You could of course harvest metals from the old cities. But even if if you didn’t, the idea that there is no more copper or zinc or tin in the ground is just silly. “recoverable ore” is mostly an economic concept.

Moreover, if we’re talking wiring and electrical uses, one can use aluminum, which makes up 8% of the Earth’s crust.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/one-more-time/#comment-69368
Some of those book tell you how to win.

Look, assume that some communities strive to relearn how to make automatic weapons and some don’t. How does that story end? Do I have to explain everything?

I guess so!

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/one-more-time/#comment-69334
Well, perhaps having a zillion times more books around would make a difference. That and all the “X for Dummies” books, which I think the Romans didn’t have.

A lot of Classical civ wasn’t very useful: on the whole they didn’t invent much. On the whole, technology advanced quite a bit more rapidly in Medieval times.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/one-more-time/#comment-69225
How much coal and oil are in the ground that can still be extracted with 19th century tech? Honest question; I don’t know.
--
Lots of coal left. Not so much oil (using simple methods), but one could make it from low-grade coal, with the Fischer-Tropsch process. Sasol does this.

Then again, a recovering society wouldn’t need much at first.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/one-more-time/#comment-69223
reply to: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/one-more-time/#comment-69220
That’s more like it.

#1. Consider Grand Coulee Dam. Gigawatts. Feeling of power!
#2. Of course.
#3. Might be easier to make superconducting logic circuits with MgB2, starting over.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/one-more-time/#comment-69325
Your typical biker guy is more mechanically minded than the average Joe. Welding, electrical stuff, this and that.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/one-more-time/#comment-69260
If fossil fuels were unavailable -or just uneconomical at first- we’d be back to charcoal for our Stanley Steamers and railroads. We’d still have both.

The French, and others, used wood-gasifier trucks during WWII.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/one-more-time/#comment-69407
Teslas are of course a joke.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Growing Collectivism: Irrigation, Group Conformity and Technological Divergence
This paper examines the origins of collectivist cultures that emphasize group conformity over individual autonomy. In line with the hypothesis that collaboration within groups in pre-industrial agriculture favored the emergence of collectivism, I find that societies whose ancestors jointly practiced irrigation agriculture have stronger collectivist norms today. The positive effect of irrigation on contemporary collectivism holds across countries, subnational districts within countries, and migrants. For causal identification, I instrument the historical adoption of irrigation by its geographic suitability. Furthermore, this paper establishes that, by favoring conformity, irrigation agriculture has contributed to the global divergence of technology. I document (i) a negative effect of traditional irrigation agriculture on contemporary innovativeness of countries, cities, and migrants; (ii) a positive effect on selection into routine-intensive occupations; and (iii) that the initial technological advantage of irrigation societies was reversed after 1500.

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2016/09/varying-rainfall-make-people-collectivists.html
This kind of investigation is always going to be fraught with uncertainty and also controversy, given imperfections of data and methods. Nonetheless I find this one of the more plausible macro-historical hypotheses, perhaps because of my own experience in central Mexico, where varying rainfall still is the most important economic event of the year, though it is rapidly being supplanted by the variability of tourist demand for arts and crafts. And yes, they are largely collectivist, at least at the clan level, with extensive systems of informal social insurance and very high implicit social marginal tax rates on accumulated wealth.

Have you noticed it rains a lot in England?

(lol)

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/05/chinese-wheat-eaters-vs-rice-eaters-speculative.html
http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1508726/why-chinas-wheat-growing-north-produces-individualists-and-its-rice
https://gnxp.nofe.me/2008/08/31/the-wealth-of-communities/

Irrigation and Autocracy: http://www.econ.ku.dk/bentzen/Irrigation_and_Autocracy.pdf
http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2012/08/in-defense-of-the-wittvogel-thesis.html
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Why isn't ethanol used more widely as an automobile fuel? - Quora
Some of these are straightforward engineering challenges, but others are fundamental and insurmountable flaws.

Simply put, corn-based ethanol is bad energy policy. We're already at the maximum blending level in the US (10%) where any further increases will likely harm consumers. There's little environmental OR energy security benefit to ethanol, because it takes about a gallon worth of fossil fuels to produce a gallon of ethanol. (Studies vary on the exact number, ranging from an EROI of 0.8 to 1.3, but the average is zero net gain.)

Basically US ethanol blending is an enormous make-work scheme for big corporate farm interests and Iowa co-ops. It is an enormous sop to the key farm lobby in early Presidential Primary states. That's the only real reason we make vast quantities of corn-based ethanol and mandate its use in the US. Nobody would want to buy the stuff if it weren't for legal blending requirements imposed on refiners and fuel distributors.

Again, some countries can do ethanol better. Climate is important to biofuels. But it is not a good fuel choice for most nations.

- Ryan Carlyle
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may 2017 by nhaliday
What is the likelihood we run out of fossil fuels before we can switch to renewable energy sources? - Quora
1) Can we de-carbon our primary energy production before global warming severely damages human civilization? In the short term this means switching from coal to natural gas, and in the long term replacing both coal and gas generation with carbon-neutral sources such as renewables or nuclear. The developed world cannot accomplish this alone -- it requires worldwide action, and most of the pain will be felt by large developing nations such as India and China. Ultimately this is a political and economic problem. The technology to eliminate most carbon from electricity generation exists today at fairly reasonable cost.

2) Can we develop a better transportation energy storage technology than oil, before market forces drive prices to levels that severely damage the global economy? Fossil fuels are a source of energy, but primarily we use oil in vehicles because it is an exceptional energy TRANSPORT medium. Renewables cannot meet this need because battery technology is completely uncompetitive for most fuel consumers -- prices are an order of magnitude too high and energy density is an order of magnitude too low for adoption of all-electric vehicles outside developed-world urban centers. (Heavy trucking, cargo ships, airplanes, etc will never be all-electric with chemical batteries. There are hard physical limits to the energy density of electrochemical reactions. I'm not convinced passenger vehicles will go all-electric in our lifetimes either.) There are many important technologies in existence that will gain increasing traction in the next 50 years such as natural gas automobiles and improved gas/electric hybrids, but ultimately we need a better way to store power than fossil fuels. _This is a deep technological problem that will not be solved by incremental improvements in battery chemistry or any process currently in the R&D pipeline_.

Based on these two unresolved issues, _I place the odds of us avoiding fossil-fuel-related energy issues (major climate or economic damage) at less than 10%_. The impetus for the major changes required will not be sufficiently urgent until the world is seeing severe and undeniable impacts. Civilization will certainly survive -- but there will be no small amount of human suffering during the transition to whatever comes next.

- Ryan Carlyle
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Gauge Transformation | West Hunter
Modern armies require enormous amounts of supply, mostly gas and ammo. In those days, supply mainly meant railroads. In Germany, and in most of Europe, the separation between the rails, the rail gauge,  was 1,435 mm (4ft 8 1/2 in).   So when the Germans invaded France, they could immediately make use of the French railnet.  In Russia, the Germans faced a problem: the gauge was different, 1528 mm (5 ft).  German locomotives could not use those tracks until they had been converted.  As Pravda used to say, this was no coincidence:  it is thought that the Czarist government made this choice for defensive reasons.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Educational Romanticism & Economic Development | pseudoerasmus
https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/852339296358940672
deleeted

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/943238170312929280
https://archive.is/p5hRA

Did Nations that Boosted Education Grow Faster?: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2012/10/did_nations_tha.html
On average, no relationship. The trendline points down slightly, but for the time being let's just call it a draw. It's a well-known fact that countries that started the 1960's with high education levels grew faster (example), but this graph is about something different. This graph shows that countries that increased their education levels did not grow faster.

Where has all the education gone?: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.1016.2704&rep=rep1&type=pdf

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/948052794681966593
https://archive.is/kjxqp

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/950952412503822337
https://archive.is/3YPic

https://twitter.com/pseudoerasmus/status/862961420065001472
http://hanushek.stanford.edu/publications/schooling-educational-achievement-and-latin-american-growth-puzzle

The Case Against Education: What's Taking So Long, Bryan Caplan: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2015/03/the_case_agains_9.html

The World Might Be Better Off Without College for Everyone: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/01/whats-college-good-for/546590/
Students don't seem to be getting much out of higher education.
- Bryan Caplan

College: Capital or Signal?: http://www.economicmanblog.com/2017/02/25/college-capital-or-signal/
After his review of the literature, Caplan concludes that roughly 80% of the earnings effect from college comes from signalling, with only 20% the result of skill building. Put this together with his earlier observations about the private returns to college education, along with its exploding cost, and Caplan thinks that the social returns are negative. The policy implications of this will come as very bitter medicine for friends of Bernie Sanders.

Doubting the Null Hypothesis: http://www.arnoldkling.com/blog/doubting-the-null-hypothesis/

Is higher education/college in the US more about skill-building or about signaling?: https://www.quora.com/Is-higher-education-college-in-the-US-more-about-skill-building-or-about-signaling
ballpark: 50% signaling, 30% selection, 20% addition to human capital
more signaling in art history, more human capital in engineering, more selection in philosophy

Econ Duel! Is Education Signaling or Skill Building?: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2016/03/econ-duel-is-education-signaling-or-skill-building.html
Marginal Revolution University has a brand new feature, Econ Duel! Our first Econ Duel features Tyler and me debating the question, Is education more about signaling or skill building?

Against Tulip Subsidies: https://slatestarcodex.com/2015/06/06/against-tulip-subsidies/

https://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/01/read-the-case-against-education.html

https://nintil.com/2018/02/05/notes-on-the-case-against-education/

https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2018-02-19-0000/bryan-caplan-case-against-education-review

https://spottedtoad.wordpress.com/2018/02/12/the-case-against-education/
Most American public school kids are low-income; about half are non-white; most are fairly low skilled academically. For most American kids, the majority of the waking hours they spend not engaged with electronic media are at school; the majority of their in-person relationships are at school; the most important relationships they have with an adult who is not their parent is with their teacher. For their parents, the most important in-person source of community is also their kids’ school. Young people need adult mirrors, models, mentors, and in an earlier era these might have been provided by extended families, but in our own era this all falls upon schools.

Caplan gestures towards work and earlier labor force participation as alternatives to school for many if not all kids. And I empathize: the years that I would point to as making me who I am were ones where I was working, not studying. But they were years spent working in schools, as a teacher or assistant. If schools did not exist, is there an alternative that we genuinely believe would arise to draw young people into the life of their community?

...

It is not an accident that the state that spends the least on education is Utah, where the LDS church can take up some of the slack for schools, while next door Wyoming spends almost the most of any state at $16,000 per student. Education is now the one surviving binding principle of the society as a whole, the one black box everyone will agree to, and so while you can press for less subsidization of education by government, and for privatization of costs, as Caplan does, there’s really nothing people can substitute for it. This is partially about signaling, sure, but it’s also because outside of schools and a few religious enclaves our society is but a darkling plain beset by winds.

This doesn’t mean that we should leave Caplan’s critique on the shelf. Much of education is focused on an insane, zero-sum race for finite rewards. Much of schooling does push kids, parents, schools, and school systems towards a solution ad absurdum, where anything less than 100 percent of kids headed to a doctorate and the big coding job in the sky is a sign of failure of everyone concerned.

But let’s approach this with an eye towards the limits of the possible and the reality of diminishing returns.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/27/poison-ivy-halls/
https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/27/poison-ivy-halls/#comment-101293
The real reason the left would support Moander: the usual reason. because he’s an enemy.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/02/01/bright-college-days-part-i/
I have a problem in thinking about education, since my preferences and personal educational experience are atypical, so I can’t just gut it out. On the other hand, knowing that puts me ahead of a lot of people that seem convinced that all real people, including all Arab cabdrivers, think and feel just as they do.

One important fact, relevant to this review. I don’t like Caplan. I think he doesn’t understand – can’t understand – human nature, and although that sometimes confers a different and interesting perspective, it’s not a royal road to truth. Nor would I want to share a foxhole with him: I don’t trust him. So if I say that I agree with some parts of this book, you should believe me.

...

Caplan doesn’t talk about possible ways of improving knowledge acquisition and retention. Maybe he thinks that’s impossible, and he may be right, at least within a conventional universe of possibilities. That’s a bit outside of his thesis, anyhow. Me it interests.

He dismisses objections from educational psychologists who claim that studying a subject improves you in subtle ways even after you forget all of it. I too find that hard to believe. On the other hand, it looks to me as if poorly-digested fragments of information picked up in college have some effect on public policy later in life: it is no coincidence that most prominent people in public life (at a given moment) share a lot of the same ideas. People are vaguely remembering the same crap from the same sources, or related sources. It’s correlated crap, which has a much stronger effect than random crap.

These widespread new ideas are usually wrong. They come from somewhere – in part, from higher education. Along this line, Caplan thinks that college has only a weak ideological effect on students. I don’t believe he is correct. In part, this is because most people use a shifting standard: what’s liberal or conservative gets redefined over time. At any given time a population is roughly half left and half right – but the content of those labels changes a lot. There’s a shift.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/02/01/bright-college-days-part-i/#comment-101492
I put it this way, a while ago: “When you think about it, falsehoods, stupid crap, make the best group identifiers, because anyone might agree with you when you’re obviously right. Signing up to clear nonsense is a better test of group loyalty. A true friend is with you when you’re wrong. Ideally, not just wrong, but barking mad, rolling around in your own vomit wrong.”
--
You just explained the Credo quia absurdum doctrine. I always wondered if it was nonsense. It is not.
--
Someone on twitter caught it first – got all the way to “sliding down the razor blade of life”. Which I explained is now called “transitioning”

What Catholics believe: https://theweek.com/articles/781925/what-catholics-believe
We believe all of these things, fantastical as they may sound, and we believe them for what we consider good reasons, well attested by history, consistent with the most exacting standards of logic. We will profess them in this place of wrath and tears until the extraordinary event referenced above, for which men and women have hoped and prayed for nearly 2,000 years, comes to pass.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/02/05/bright-college-days-part-ii/
According to Caplan, employers are looking for conformity, conscientiousness, and intelligence. They use completion of high school, or completion of college as a sign of conformity and conscientiousness. College certainly looks as if it’s mostly signaling, and it’s hugely expensive signaling, in terms of college costs and foregone earnings.

But inserting conformity into the merit function is tricky: things become important signals… because they’re important signals. Otherwise useful actions are contraindicated because they’re “not done”. For example, test scores convey useful information. They could help show that an applicant is smart even though he attended a mediocre school – the same role they play in college admissions. But employers seldom request test scores, and although applicants may provide them, few do. Caplan says ” The word on the street… [more]
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Futuristic Physicists? | Do the Math
interesting comment: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/03/05/outliers/#comment-23087
referring to timelines? or maybe also the jetpack+flying car (doesn't seem physically impossible; at most impossible for useful trip lengths)?

Topic Mean % pessim. median disposition
1. Autopilot Cars 1.4 (125 yr) 4 likely within 50 years
15. Real Robots 2.2 (800 yr) 10 likely within 500 years
13. Fusion Power 2.4 (1300 yr) 8 likely within 500 years
10. Lunar Colony 3.2 18 likely within 5000 years
16. Cloaking Devices 3.5 32 likely within 5000 years
20. 200 Year Lifetime 3.3 16 maybe within 5000 years
11. Martian Colony 3.4 22 probably eventually (>5000 yr)
12. Terraforming 4.1 40 probably eventually (> 5000 yr)
18. Alien Dialog 4.2 42 probably eventually (> 5000 yr)
19. Alien Visit 4.3 50 on the fence
2. Jetpack 4.1 64 unlikely ever
14. Synthesized Food 4.2 52 unlikely ever
8. Roving Astrophysics 4.6 64 unlikely ever
3. Flying “Cars” 3.9 60 unlikely ever
7. Visit Black Hole 5.1 74 forget about it
9. Artificial Gravity 5.3 84 forget about it
4. Teleportation 5.3 85 forget about it
5. Warp Drive 5.5 92 forget about it
6. Wormhole Travel 5.5 96 forget about it
17. Time Travel 5.7 92 forget about it
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march 2017 by nhaliday
Pre-industrial travel would take weeks to get anywhere. What did people do during that time? : AskHistorians
How did travellers travel the world in the 16th century? Was there visas?: https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/5659ig/how_did_travellers_travel_the_world_in_the_16th/
How far from home would a typical Europeanin the 1600s travel in their life?: https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/5gsgn7/how_far_from_home_would_a_typical_europeanin_the/
I just read an article about how I can travel across country for $213 on Amtrak. How much would the trip have cost me in, say, the mid-1800s: https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/3poen3/i_just_read_an_article_about_how_i_can_travel/
Ridiculously subjective but I'm curious anyways: What traveling distance was considered beyond the hopes and even imagination of a common person during your specialty?: https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/13zlsg/ridiculously_subjective_but_im_curious_anyways/
How fast could you travel across the U.S. in the 1800s?: https://www.mnn.com/green-tech/transportation/stories/how-fast-could-you-travel-across-the-us-in-the-1800s
What would be the earliest known example(s) of travel that could be thought of as "tourism"?: https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/2uqxk9/what_would_be_the_earliest_known_examples_of/
https://twitter.com/conradhackett/status/944382041566654464
https://archive.is/9GWdK
This map shows travel time from London in 1881
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february 2017 by nhaliday
Evo and Proud: Genetic pacification in medieval Europe
resulting paper:
Western Europe, State Formation, and Genetic Pacification: http://evp.sagepub.com/content/13/1/147470491501300114.full.pdf
- Henry Harpending
Genetics and the Historical Decline of Violence?: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2012/11/25/genetics-and-the-historical-decline-of-violence/
In the present case we need a response of 1/28 of a standard deviation per generation. Assuming an additive heritability of 0.5 (the true value is probably 0.8 or so from literature on the heritability of aggressive behavior in children) the selective differential must be about 1/14 or .07 standard deviations per generation. In terms of IQ this would correspond to a one point IQ advantage of parents over the population average and in terms of stature parents with a mean stature 0.2 inches greater than the population average. This would occur if the most homicidal 1.5% of the population were to fail to reproduce each generation.

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2015/03/politically-incorrect-paper-of-the-day-death-penalty-eugenics.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Maid_Freed_from_the_Gallows

Spoiling for a fight: https://aeon.co/essays/why-has-england-lost-its-medieval-taste-for-violence
https://twitter.com/whyvert/status/914315865109041154
The author of this article seems unaware of the possibility that there could be selection for less violent traits in a population

Behavioral genetics and the judicial system: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/10/22/behavioral-genetics-and-the-judicial-system/
I have no reason to believe that this was planned. If you look at the trend today, you might get the impression that the powers that be are actively trying to increase the fitness of assholes, but I doubt if that is the case. Sure, that’s the effect, but they don’t know enough to do it on purpose.

For example, when the Supremes decided that being sufficiently stupid is a get-out-of-execution card, they weren’t thinking about long-term biological implications. I doubt if they ever do, or can.

A thought experiment: in the light of behavioral genetics, what should you do when it’s clear that one of a pair of identical twins has committed a truly heinous crime – but you don’t know which one?

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/10/22/behavioral-genetics-and-the-judicial-system/#comment-96980
Even modern societies need violent men. Who is going to wage war if soldiers going to refuse to shoot and/or quickly develop PTSD?
--
I can think of people that might describe: people like Paddy Mayne, perhaps. But in general, it is possible to find whole countries that produce excellent soldiers and are at the same time internally very peaceful and orderly.

As for PTSD, funny how there used to be high-intensity wars where it wasn’t much of a problem.

Criminal offending as part of an alternative reproductive strategy: Investigating evolutionary hypotheses using Swedish total population data: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/263281358_Criminal_offending_as_part_of_an_alternative_reproductive_strategy_Investigating_evolutionary_hypotheses_using_Swedish_total_population_data
- criminals have higher reproductive fitness in Sweden
- not limited to men, so maybe just stems from impulsiveness

Exploring the genetic correlations of antisocial behavior and life history traits: https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2018/08/23/247411
Our genetic correlation analyses demonstrate that alleles associated with higher reproductive output (number of children ever born, rg=0.50, p=.0065) were positively correlated with alleles associated with antisocial behavior, whereas alleles associated with more delayed reproductive onset (age of first birth, rg=-.64, p=.0008) were negatively associated with alleles linked to antisocial behavior.

https://www.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/5tlovw/criminal_offending_as_part_of_an_alternative/
nice: http://www.newschannel5.com/news/inmates-given-reduced-jail-time-if-they-get-a-vasectomy
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buck_v._Bell

Are per-incident rape-pregnancy rates higher than per-incident consensual pregnancy rates?: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12110-003-1014-0
Our analysis suggests that per-incident rape-pregnancy rates exceed per-incident consensual pregnancy rates by a sizable margin, even before adjusting for the use of relevant forms of birth control. Possible explanations for this phenomenon are discussed, as are its implications to ongoing debates over the ultimate causes of rape.

https://twitter.com/Neoabsolutism/status/877188094201548801
High-low versus the middle is so pervasive, and so explanatory, it is astounding. We have a genuine law of social organisation.
https://twitter.com/ad_captandum/status/854724390763626496
Solzhenitsyn on the Gulags and the lumpenproletariat: https://twitter.com/TheIllegit/status/883797665128919040
https://archive.is/QoZKC

Raise the Crime Rate: https://nplusonemag.com/issue-13/politics/raise-the-crime-rate/

turnstile jumping/fair cheating in DC Metro:
https://www.nbcwashington.com/investigations/Metro-Fare-Evasion-Could-Be-Decriminalized-Under-New-DC-Council-Bill-433855543.html
http://baconsrebellion.com/thats-end-donald-trump-turnstile-jumping-edition/

https://medium.com/@icelevel/whos-left-mariame-26ed2237ada6
"What about bad people? What about racists?"
I don't answer those questions anymore.
https://twitter.com/NoamJStein/status/946422138231185408
https://archive.is/dm4mV

People who want to do anything except confront evil men: http://www.isegoria.net/2018/03/people-who-want-to-do-anything-except-confront-evil-men/
This really is a matter of chickens coming home to roost. There has been a tension since the 60’s about what we want police to do. We no longer have fit men with a strong capacity for violence occupying the majority of patrol cars in this country. What we have been slipping towards for decades are a mass of armed social workers with a small force of violent proficient SWAT guys who are supposed to save the day when bad things really, really need to happen but are never there when you really need them.

...

Finally, our society needs to adjust its attitudes towards violence. There is the recently coined term “pro-social violence” which is used to describe “lawful, moral violence in the service of good.” We need to restore the idea that when violent things happen to bad people, it’s OK and society is better as a whole.
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september 2016 by nhaliday

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