Briefly Noted for 2021-02-17
BRIEFLY NOTED: for 2021-02-23 Tu

BRIEFLY NOTED: for 2021-02-22 Mo

Things that went whizzing by, but that I want to remember...



This is, I think, by far the most important thing today. It would be one thing if Facebook has not yet figured out how to create frameworks and algorithms in which people are their better selves as they decide what to engage with and what to look at next.

It is quite another thing that Facebook’s highest executives are in there actively cheering and creating space for people who deny that mass child murders ever actually happened. Zuckerberg needs to go. Or Facebook needs to go. And maybe, by this point, it needs to be not “or” but “and”:

Ryan Mac & Craig Silverman: “Mark [Zuckerberg] Changed The Rules”: How Facebook Went Easy On Alex Jones And Other Right-Wing Figures: ‘Joel Kaplan’s Policy Team Sways Big Facebook Decisions Like Alex Jones Ban: Facebook’s rules to combat misinformation and hate speech are subject to the whims and political considerations of its CEO and his policy team leader: In April 2019, Facebook was preparing to ban one of the internet’s most notorious spreaders of misinformation and hate, Infowars founder Alex Jones. Then CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally intervened. Jones had gained infamy for claiming that the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school massacre was a “giant hoax,” and that the teenage survivors of the 2018 Parkland shooting were “crisis actors.” But Facebook had found that he was also relentlessly spreading hate against various groups, including Muslims and trans people. That behavior qualified him for expulsion from the social network under the company’s policies for “dangerous individuals and organizations,” which required Facebook to also remove any content that expressed “praise or support” for them. But Zuckerberg didn’t consider the Infowars founder to be a hate figure… LINK: <>


Very Briefly Noted:

One Chart:

What was the Trumpist goal, aim, and point in not following the New Zealand or the Australia or the Taiwan or the South Korea strategy—lock down, scotch the virus, vigilantly shut down again at signs of trouble, and then reopen so we can have a somewhat-normal 2020? What was the gain? What was the win? What did they think the win would be?

Youyang Gu’The strongest single variable I’ve seen in being able to explain the severity of this most recent wave in each state. Not past infections/existing immunity, population density, racial makeup, latitude/weather/humidity, etc. But political lean… LINK: <>

Next: A Video Well Worth Your Watching:

New HistoriaWhat Did Ancient Rome Really Look Like? <>

Share Grasping Reality Newsletter, by Brad DeLong

Five Paragraphs:

1) Between 1425 and 1525, if you had to bet on which civilization would lead humanity’s progressive way forward over the next half-millennium, you might well have been strongly tempted to be on the Islamic ekumene. It was technologically on par with the others. When Mehmet II “the Conquerer” Osmanli—Sultan of what Europeans called the Ottoman Empire, or, more usually, “the Grand Turk”—besieged Constantinople in 1453, he did so with the most modern artillery park in the world. And Islamic civilization was much better organized. Mehmet’s military establishment—the galleys and the cannon and the janissaries and the sipahis—was unequalled anywhere in the world.

60 years later, at the other end of the Islamic ekumene, a prince, Babur, who has lost his wars to become Emir of Samarkand has to settle for becoming Emperor of India as a consolation prize. And he wins much as the British were to conquer India 300 years later: with massively inferior forces but massively superior discipline and coordination:

Kallie SzczepanskiOverview of the First Battle of Panipat: ‘Babur’s Mughal forces consisted of between 13,000 and 15,000 men, mostly horse cavalry. His secret weapon was 20 to 24 pieces of field artillery, a relatively recent innovation in warfare. Arrayed against the Mughals were Ibrahim Lodi’s 30,000 to 40,000 soldiers… war elephants… from 100 to 1,000 trained and battle-hardened pachyderms…. His army simply marched out in a disorganized block…. Babur… employed two tactics unfamiliar to Lodi… tulughma, dividing a smaller force into forward left, rear left, forward right, rear right, and center divisions. The highly mobile right and left divisions peeled out and surrounded the larger enemy force, driving them towards the center. At the center, Babur arrayed his cannons. The second tactical innovation was Babur’s use of carts, called araba. His artillery forces were shielded behind a row of carts which were tied together with leather ropes, to prevent the enemy from getting between them and attacking the artillerymen. This tactic was borrowed from the Ottoman Turks…

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2) Would there have been a Rush Limbaugh—and the descent of the Republicans of America into neofascist idiocy—without Reagan’s repeal of the Fairness Doctrine? Perhaps yes. But perhaps not:

Erik LoomisThe Gasbag of Fascism: ‘This often drug-addled hypocrite dedicated his entire life to destroying American democracy, to promoting the power of the rich and the racist, to dividing Americans against each other, to ginning up hate and violence. Limbaugh is truly one of the worst Americans to ever pollute this nation…. What made Rush Limbaugh the era-changing blowhard he became was Ronald Reagan’s Federal Communications Commission repeal of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987…. The country has never recovered from this horrible event since, as we’ve been flooded with ever more extreme right-wing propaganda that has moved us increasingly down the road toward fascism, culminating with the election on Donald Trump. Limbaugh was perhaps the first major beneficiary of the Fairness Doctrine’s repeal and he holds more responsibility than anyone else except perhaps Rupert Murdoch in what the hellscape this nation has become…

LINK: <>

3) It would be nice to be able to believe this. But, alas!, I cannot:

David FrumImpeachment Did Not Prevail, But Trump Still Lost: ‘The 57–43 margin wasn’t enough to convict under the Constitution. It wasn’t enough to formally disqualify Trump from ever again seeking office in the United States. But practically? It will do as a solemn and eternal public repudiation of Trump’s betrayal of his oath of office…. The 57–43 margin in the Senate flashes a green light to federal and state prosecutors…. The Senate minority leader condemned Trump’s actions as a “disgraceful, disgraceful dereliction of duty” and said he held Trump “practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day”…. His own damning assessment did not suffice to persuade McConnell to convict Trump of impeachable offenses. That abdication will weigh on McConnell’s conscience and historical reputation…

4) Pretending that you speak for a movement while you look for a grift. Making your living out of steel manning racism and sexism. Et cetera. God! I am cranky this morning! But Conor Friedersdorf certainly gives us all cause:

Scott LemieuxHe Just Wasn’t a True Scotsman: ‘Conor is this close to getting it: “As a proponent of conservatism in America, Limbaugh was a failure… culminating in his alignment with the vulgar style and populist anti-leftism of Donald Trump. Character no longer mattered. Budget deficits no longer mattered. Free trade no longer mattered. Nepotism no longer mattered. Lavishing praise on foreign dictators no longer mattered. All that mattered was owning the libs in the culture war, in part to avenge a deeply felt sense of aggrievement…” When oh when did conservatism become about what 99% of conservatives want rather than the priorities of 20 libertarian journalists?…

LINK: <>

5) SAS knows more about how macroeconomics should think about the world than any economist from the so-called “freshwater” school I have ever heard or read:

Scott Alexander SimkinsComplicated Dynamical Systems: ‘Imagine some benevolent aliens surveilling Earth from orbit. They don’t understand our languages, and their own culture is so exotic that even basic ideas like “money” or “war” are hard for them to understand. Still, they have good telescopes, and they’re able to measure things like how much light our cities have, how much traffic is on our roads and sea-lanes, and how much smoke our industries emit…. There are some years (for example late 1929 and the early 1930s) when city lighting, smoke emissions, and traffic all stagnate. In other years (like the late 1990s), all these things grow even faster than usual. After analyzing word frequency in human communications, they hypothesize that the former type of period corresponds to English “recession” and the latter period to “boom”. By performing sentiment analysis of human faces in the media during these periods, they hypothesize that we dislike recessions.

These are benevolent aliens, and they want us to be happy, so they wonder how to prevent recessions. Sometime during the 1970s, they notice that during a recession, there are fewer oil tankers leaving the Middle East, and longer lines at First World gas stations. They know enough chemistry to realize that oil is a pretty useful fuel at our stage of technological development, so they deduce that the recession is caused by an oil shortage. This seems solveable! Using their Materialization Ray, they cause one billion barrels of crude oil to appear on the White House lawn. This actually helps a lot! Light, traffic, and industrial emissions all return to normal. Sentiment analysis of human faces reveal a brief period of extreme confusion, followed by happiness. The aliens have successfully solved the recession. In 2020, they notice another profound decrease in lighting, traffic, and factory smoke; looks like another recession. The aliens, still wanting to help and now confident they know how, materialize another billion barrels of crude oil on the White House lawn. The Earthlings continue sheltering in place from the coronavirus, but now they also have to deal with a billion random barrels of oil tumbling around Washington DC. The aliens have solved nothing….

The global economy behaves like a huge dynamical system. Everything affects everything else in so many different ways that it’s hard to keep track of. If aliens tried to model the economy the same way Borsboom et al are modeling the mind, they’d fail. They could pick ten important economic indicators—maybe employment rate, the S&P 500, inflation, and a few other things—and track how they co-evolved over time. This would probably be illuminating—for all I know some economist in our world is doing it already and learning a lot. But it wouldn’t be enough. They would never be able to predict a recession caused by conflict in the Middle East causing an oil embargo causing an energy shortage. Or a recession caused by deregulation of banks causing them to offer too many subprime loans causing all of them to go belly-up at once…. At best they… could understand that recessions (and booms) are attractor states in a massively complex dynamical system, and come up with vague principles about how that system responds to certain shocks (eg “large stimulus packages can sometimes shift the system from recession to normal growth”)…

LINK: <>

Hoisted from the Archives

2016Regional Policy and Distributional Policy in a World Where People Want to Ignore the Value and Contribution of Knowledge—and Network-Based Increasing Returns: Pascal Lamy: “When the wise man points at the moon, the fool looks at the finger…” Perhaps in the end the problem is that people want more than anything else to pretend that they are filling a valuable role in the societal division of labor, and are receiving no more than they earn—than they contribute. But that is not the case.

The value—the societal dividend—is in the accumulated knowledge of humanity and in the painfully constructed networks that make up our value chains, not in any of our individual contributions. A “contribution” theory of what a proper distribution of income might be can only be made coherent if there are constant returns to scale in the scarce, priced, owned factors of production. Only then can you divide the pile of resources by giving to each the marginal societal product of their work and of the resources that they own.

That, however, is not the world we live in… 

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