November 17, 2018

What Wofford's Family "Lacked in Money, They Made Up for in Expectations"

(p. A19) Growing up on Buffalo's rough and often neglected East Side, Keith H. Wofford recalled many crisp autumn Sundays spent with his father bonding over the Bills, following the team's losses and wins on the radio.

Tickets to football games were not in the family's budget: His father, John Wofford, worked at the nearby Chevrolet factory for 32 years, and his mother, Ruby, picked up odd jobs in retail to bring in extra income. But what the Woffords lacked in money, they made up for in expectations for their two sons.

"They always had an incredible amount of confidence in us," Mr. Wofford, 49, said in an interview. "They made very clear that they didn't see any limitations."

Mr. Wofford held tight to that ideal as he left high school as a 17-year-old junior to attend Harvard University on a scholarship. Seven years later, he graduated from Harvard Law School. Last year, Mr. Wofford earned at least $4.3 million as a partner overseeing 300 lawyers and 700 employees at the New York office of international law firm Ropes & Gray, LLP, according to financial disclosure forms.

Now he's the Republican nominee for state attorney general in New York, vying to become one of the most powerful law enforcement officials in the country.

"How many guys who work at a white shoe law firm had dads who had a union job?" asked C. Teo Balbach, 50, the chief executive of a software firm who grew up in Buffalo, and played intramural rugby at Harvard with Mr. Wofford.

"He's a real hard worker and grinder, and that comes from that upbringing where you come from a middle-class family in a difficult neighborhood and you don't take anything for granted," Mr. Balbach added.

. . .

. . . issues facing Mr. Wofford should he win are potential conflicts of interest from his law practice.

. . .

Mr. Wofford said the criticism about him is indicative of Ms. James's "hyperpartisan" attitude, and he sought to distinguish himself from her by characterizing himself as an outsider.

"Being on the wrong side of the tracks in Buffalo," Mr. Wofford said, "is about as far from insider as you can get."

His success as a lawyer, however, did allow him one heartfelt opportunity: In his father's last years, Mr. Wofford returned to Buffalo, and during football season, they would bond again over Bills games -- but in person, at the stadium, as a season-ticket holder.

For the full story, see:

Jeffery C. Mays. "Can an Unknown G.O.P. Candidate Become Attorney General?" The New York Times (Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018): A19.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Oct. 12, 2018, and has the title "Can a Black Republican Who Voted for Trump Be New York's Next Attorney General?")

November 16, 2018

High-Tech Toilets Could Reduce Feces in Swimming Pools

If the cringeworthy facts reported below were more widely known, demand would greatly increase for the high-tech toilets common in Japan, that shoot water sprays at human rear ends, to quickly, comfortably, and completely remove fecal residue. Why has no one grasped this entrepreneurial opportunity?

(p. A2) Mrs. [Lindsey] Blackstock and several colleagues tested 31 swimming pools and hot tubs in hotels and recreational facilities in Canada for the presence of acesulfame potassium, an artificial sweetener that is largely undigested and almost entirely excreted in urine.

. . .

Using that information, they deduced that a 110,000-gallon pool they studied contained an estimated eight gallons of urine, while a 220,000-gallon pool contained an estimated 20 gallons. The concentrations represented about 0.01% of the total water volume.

"If your eyes are turning red when you're swimming, or if you're coughing or have a runny nose, it's likely there is at least some urine in the pool," said Michele Hlavsa, chief of the Healthy Swimming Program for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Urine isn't a primary source of germs in pools or hot tubs, but feces that clings to the body is. At any time, Dr. Hlavsa said, adults have about 0.14 grams of poop on their bottoms and children have as much as 10 grams.

"When you're talking about bigger water parks with 1,000 children in a given day, you're now talking about 10 kilograms or 22 pounds of poop," she said.

Feces can contain bacteria, viruses and parasites such as E. coli, norovirus and giardia that can lead to outbreaks of diarrhea, vomiting and other illnesses.

For the full commentary, see:

Jo Craven McGinty. "THE NUMBERS; A Sanitary Pool Requires Proper Behavior." The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, July 21, 2017): A2.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed name, added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date July 21, 2017, and has the title "THE NUMBERS; Is That Pool Really Sanitary? New Chemical Approach Has Answers.")

Blackstock's research, described above, was published in:

Jmaiff Blackstock, Lindsay K., Wei Wang, Sai Vemula, Benjamin T. Jaeger, and Xing-Fang Li. "Sweetened Swimming Pools and Hot Tubs." Environmental Science & Technology Letters 4, no. 4 (April 2017): 149-53.

November 15, 2018

Tusk Helped Startups Enter by Mobilizing Consumers Who Would Benefit

(p. C6) In August [2018], Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a package of bills capping the number of cars driving in New York City for companies like Uber and Lyft and setting minimum pay for drivers. The mayor had long wanted such restrictions, but for years Uber had successfully pushed back, thanks in large part to strategist and venture capitalist Bradley Tusk.

"The problem is not only did this happen in New York, but now it's going to happen everywhere," laments Mr. Tusk, who worked as a consultant for Uber Technologies from 2010 to 2015, earning equity that was eventually worth around $100 million. Under his guidance, Uber mobilized its users to lobby against the legislation and made the case that its service provided transportation to people in the outer boroughs and jobs to immigrants and minorities.

. . .

Since working for Uber, Mr. Tusk has helped other tech companies in similar political battles. As he sees it, politicians too often sacrifice their constituents' economic interests for their own political gain. "What's good for politician X isn't necessarily good for the businesses in his or her district," he says. "Without at least some people like us, innovation gets crushed by politics and corruption and that's really bad for the economy and for society."

. . .

After serving as campaign manager of Mr. Bloomberg's reelection effort, in 2010 Mr. Tusk founded Tusk Strategies with the goal of running campaigns for companies and institutions rather than politicians. At the time, Walmart was looking for a way to enter markets without pushback from powerful unions. Mr. Tusk urged city councils, including New York's, to stop blocking its entry by polling customers, launching television ads and mobilizing constituents who wanted the choice of shopping at Walmart.

Then one of Mr. Bloomberg's former deputy mayors called him with a proposition: "There's this guy with a small transportation startup. He's having some regulatory problems. Would you mind talking to him?" It was Uber. The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission had sent Uber a cease and desist letter, and its then-CEO Travis Kalanick needed someone who understood New York politics. Mr. Tusk mounted successful campaigns on behalf of the company in New York and other cities, including Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.

. . .

Does he see himself as an example of the revolving door between politics and business? "I'm absolutely using the savvy I learned in the political world--just in a different way than most," he says. But he has no intentions of ever returning to government. "I felt like I could force more change on the system from the outside," he says. "Not only am I not doing politics, but most of my work is making politicians crazy."

For the full interview, see:

Alexandra Wolfe, interviewer. ""WEEKEND CONFIDENTIAL; Bradley Tusk from Political Insider to 'Fixer' for Tech." The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018): C6.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the interview has the date Aug. 31, 2018, and the title "WEEKEND CONFIDENTIAL; How Bradley Tusk Went from Political Insider to 'Making Politicians Crazy'.")

The book under discussion above, is:

Tusk, Bradley. The Fixer: My Adventures Saving Startups from Death by Politics. New York: Portfolio, 2018.

November 14, 2018

Exposing the Failure of Peer Review

(p. A15) The existence of a monthly journal focused on "feminist geography" is a sign of something gone awry in academia. The journal in question--Gender, Place & Culture--published a paper online in May whose author claimed to have spent a year observing canine sexual misconduct in Portland, Ore., parks.

The author admits that "my own anthropocentric frame" makes it difficult to judge animal consent. Still, the paper claims dog parks are "petri dishes for canine 'rape culture' " and issues "a call for awareness into the different ways dogs are treated on the basis of their gender and queering behaviors, and the chronic and perennial rape emergency dog parks pose to female dogs."

The paper was ridiculous enough to pique my interest--and rouse my skepticism, which grew in July with a report in Campus Reform by Toni Airaksinen. Author Helen Wilson had claimed to have a doctorate in feminist studies, but "none of the institutions that offers such a degree could confirm that she had graduated from their program," Ms. Airaksinen wrote. In August Gender, Place & Culture issued an "expression of concern" admitting it couldn't verify Ms. Wilson's identity, though it kept the paper on its website.

All of this prompted me to ask my own questions. My email to "Helen Wilson" was answered by James Lindsay, a math doctorate and one of the real co-authors of the dog-park study. Gender, Place & Culture had been duped, he admitted. So had half a dozen other prominent journals that accepted fake papers by Mr. Lindsay and his collaborators--Peter Boghossian, an assistant professor of philosophy at Portland State University, and Helen Pluckrose, a London-based scholar of English literature and history and editor of

The three academics call themselves "left-leaning liberals." Yet they're dismayed by what they describe as a "grievance studies" takeover of academia, especially its encroachment into the sciences. "I think that certain aspects of knowledge production in the United States have been corrupted," Mr. Boghossian says. Anyone who questions research on identity, privilege and oppression risks accusations of bigotry.

. . .

The trio say the bias in favor of grievance-focused research was so strong that their hoax papers sailed through peer review, acceptance and publication despite obvious problems. The data for the dog-park study, Mr. Lindsay says, "was constructed to look outlandish on purpose. So asking us for the data would not have been out of sorts. It would have been appropriate, and we would have been exposed immediately."

One hoax paper, submitted to Hypatia, proposed a teaching method centered on "experiential reparations." It suggested that professors rate students' levels of oppression based on race, gender, class and other identity categories. Students deemed "privileged" would be kept from commenting in class, interrupted when they did speak, and "invited" to "sit on the floor" or "to wear (light) chains around their shoulders, wrists or ankles for the duration of the course." Students who complained would be told that this "educational tool" helps them confront "privileged fragility."

Hypatia's two unnamed peer reviewers did not object that the proposed teaching method was abusive. . . . Hypatia didn't accept the paper but said it would consider a revised version.

. . .

Mr. Boghossian doesn't have tenure and expects the university will fire or otherwise punish him. Ms. Pluckrose predicts she'll have a hard time getting accepted to a doctoral program. Mr. Lindsay said he expects to become "an academic pariah," barred from professorships or publications.

Yet Mr. Lindsay says the project is worth it: "For us, the risk of letting biased research continue to influence education, media, policy and culture is far greater than anything that will happen to us for having done this."

For the full commentary, see:

Jillian Kay Melchior. "Fake News Comes to Academia; How three scholars gulled academic journals to publish hoax papers on 'grievance studies'." The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Oct. 5, 2018.)

November 13, 2018

Birds Adapt to Global Warming with "Overlooked Flexibility"

(p. D3) More than a century ago, zoologist Joseph Grinnell launched a pioneering survey of animal life in California, a decades-long quest -- at first by Model T or, failing that, mule -- to all corners and habitats of the state, from Death Valley to the High Sierra.

. . .

In 2003, museum scientists decided to retrace Grinnell's steps throughout the state to learn what changes a century had wrought. And that's why Morgan Tingley, then an ecology graduate student at the university, found himself trekking through the Sierra for four summers.

Dr. Tingley wanted to know how birds had fared since Grinnell last took a census. Years later, the answer turned out to be a bit of a shock.

Of 32,000 birds recorded in California mountain ranges in the old and new surveys -- from thumb-sized Calliope hummingbirds to the spectacular pileated woodpecker -- Dr. Tingley and his colleagues discovered that most species now nest about a week earlier than they did 70 to 100 years ago.

That slight advance in timing translates into nesting temperatures about two degrees Fahrenheit cooler than the birds would encounter had they not moved up their breeding time -- almost exactly counterbalancing the two-degree rise in average temperatures recorded over the last century.

The scientists' analysis, published last fall in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that the birds' temperature-rebalancing act could limit the exposure of eggs and fragile nestlings to dangerous overheating.

. . .

The study of 202 species showed that most of them are adapting to rising temperatures with "overlooked flexibility," the scientists reported -- unexpected hope for wildlife in an uncertain time.

. . .

Ecologists generally believe that birds adapt to rising temperatures by moving to higher elevations or heading north. They shift their nesting time for a different reason: to sync with food availability, like an early appearance of plump caterpillars or swarms of insects.

But in 2012, researchers found that about half of the bird species in certain regions of the Sierra essentially stayed put over the past century, not significantly extending their ranges to cooler elevations even though the climate was warming.

The new study offers a plausible explanation. If the birds lay their eggs earlier, they can stay in their centuries-old range, with no need to migrate to higher altitudes.

"Ecologists have really kept range shifts like migrating upslope separate in their minds from phenological shifts, such as nesting earlier," said Peter Dunn, an ecologist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, who was not involved in the new analysis.

"The research makes you realize that birds can manipulate all sorts of things, not only spatially by migrating upslope but also temporally -- shifting their nesting time in response to rising temperatures."

For the full story, see:

Wallace Ravven. "Survival of the Shrewdest." The New York Times (Tuesday, July 31, 2018): D3.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date July 30, 2018, and has the title "'California's Birds Are Testing New Survival Tactics on a Vast Scale.")

November 12, 2018

Buddhist Monks Fear Death

(p. C4) A recent paper in the journal Cognitive Science has an unusual combination of authors. A philosopher, a scholar of Buddhism, a social psychologist and a practicing Tibetan Buddhist tried to find out whether believing in Buddhism really does change how you feel about your self--and about death.

The philosopher Shaun Nichols of the University of Arizona and his fellow authors studied Christian and nonreligious Americans, Hindus and both everyday Tibetan Buddhists and Tibetan Buddhist monks.

. . .

The results were very surprising. Most participants reported about the same degree of fear, whether or not they believed in an afterlife. But the monks said that they were much more afraid of death than any other group did.

Why would this be? The Buddhist scholars themselves say that merely knowing there is no self isn't enough to get rid of the feeling that the self is there. Neuroscience supports this idea.

. . .

Another factor in explaining why these monks were more afraid of death might be that they were trained to think constantly about mortality. The Buddha, perhaps apocryphally, once said that his followers should think about death with every breath. Maybe just ignoring death is a better strategy.

For the full commentary, see:

Alison Gopnik. "Who's Most Afraid to Die? A Surprise." The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, June 9, 2018): C4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date June 6, 2018.)

The print version of the Cognitive Science article discussed above, is:

Nichols, Shaun, Nina Strohminger, Arun Rai, and Jay Garfield. "Death and the Self." Cognitive Science 42, no. S1 (May 2018): 314-32.

November 11, 2018

New York Critic: "I Simply Don't Care a Damn What Happens in Nebraska"

(p. C14) 'I simply don't care a damn what happens in Nebraska," ranted a New York critic, "no matter who writes about it."

Or so Willa Cather claimed. In the long leisure of the grave, the alleged scoffer may ponder how it is that a century after its September 1918 publication, Cather's "My √Āntonia," its every page rooted in Nebraska, remains very much alive and in print--while he is neither.

For the full review, see:

Robert Garnett. "MASTERPIECE; Rooted in America's Heartland." The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018): C14.

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Sept. 14, 2018.)

The book mentioned above, is:

Cather, Willa. My Antonia. New York: Collins Classics, 2019 [1st published 1918].

November 10, 2018

More Boys Choose Math Fields Due to Their Weaker Verbal Skills

(p. C2) A key tenet of modern feminism is that women will have achieved equity only when they fill at least 50% of the positions once filled by men. In some fields, women have already surpassed that target--now comprising, for example, 50.7% of new American medical students, up from just 9% in 1965, and 80% of veterinary students. But the needle has hardly moved in many STEM fields--such as the physical sciences, technology, engineering and math, in which barely 20% of the students are female.

A new study suggests some surprising reasons for this enduring gap. Published last month in the journal Psychological Science, the study looked at nearly a half million adolescents from 67 countries who participated in the Program for International Student Assessment, the world's largest educational survey. Every three years, PISA gauges the skills of 15-year-olds in science, reading and math reasoning. In each testing year, the survey focuses in depth on one of those categories.

. . .

Some fascinating gender differences surfaced. Girls were at least as strong in science and math as boys in 60% of the PISA countries, and they were capable of college-level STEM studies nearly everywhere the researchers looked. But when they examined individual students' strengths more closely, they found that the girls, though successful in STEM, had even higher scores in reading. The boys' strengths were more likely to be in STEM areas. The skills of the boys, in other words, were more lopsided--a finding that confirms several previous studies.

For the full commentary, see:

Susan Pinker. "Why Don't More Women Choose STEM Careers?" The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, March 3, 2018): C2.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date March 1, 2018, and has the title "Why Aren't There More Women in Science and Technology?")

The print version of the Psychological Science article discussed above, is:

Stoet, Gijsbert, and David C. Geary. "The Gender-Equality Paradox in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education." Psychological Science 29, no. 4 (April 2018): 581-93.

November 9, 2018

Cuomo's Buffalo Billion Fails to Cure Buffalo Blight

(p. A18) BUFFALO -- More than six years ago, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced his bold vision for New York's second largest and perhaps longest-suffering city.

"We believe in Buffalo. Let's put our money where our mouth is," Mr. Cuomo said, announcing an economic development package of $1 billion. "That is a big 'B' -- standing for Buffalo and standing for billion."

. . .

"I think the Buffalo Billion sounds better than it probably turned out to be," said Isaac Ehrlich, a SUNY distinguished professor of economics at the University at Buffalo.

Indeed, while construction work blossomed in early years, economists note broader employment growth in the city and region has consistently lagged behind the nation as a whole, as well as behind other Rust Belt cities, despite gains during the nation's nine-year recovery. Perhaps more troubling, recent reports suggest that the job market essentially slowed to a crawl last year, as activity in manufacturing, retail and business services sectors flagged.

. . .

George Palumbo, an economics professor at Canisius College in Buffalo, said that the gleaming new buildings at the medical campus "take nice pictures," but said the development was also illusory.

"You don't have to go very far from that neighborhood to see Buffalo blight," he said, "not Buffalo billion."

For the full story, see:

Jesse McKinley. "Six Years Later, Cuomo's 'Buffalo Billion' Project Yields Uneven Results." The New York Times (Tuesday, July 3, 2018): A18.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date July 2, 2018, and has the title "'Cuomo's 'Buffalo Billion': Is New York Getting Its Money's Worth?")

November 8, 2018

Only Presidents with Their Names on Patents Are Lincoln and Trump

(p. A15) Fostering patentable innovation should appeal to President Trump. He is the only U.S. president other than Abraham Lincoln to have his name on a U.S. patent header. Though he wasn't the inventor, Trump Taj Mahal Associates' 1996 patent for a "Proportional payout method for progressive linked gaming machines" makes Mr. Trump, at least indirectly, the second presidential patenter.

But unlike Lincoln's invention, a method of lifting boats over shoals that was cited only 10 times as prior art by subsequent inventors, the Trump Taj Mahal patent has accrued an incredible 1,066 citations. These citations are a key metric for judging economic significance and downstream impact. For someone who loves ratings, Mr. Trump must surely be pleased that his patent topped the charts.

For the full commentary, see:

Mike Kalutkiewicz and Richard L. Ehman. "A Government Agency That Produces Real Innovation; What does Trump have in common with the National Institutes of Health? Patents." The Wall Street Journal (Friday, June 23, 2017): A15.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date June 22, 2017.)

Eight Most Recent Comments:

PaulS said:

The "Machines Are Not Capable of Creativity" argument and the no-human-obsolescence argument seem to talk directly past each other. After all, the present-day world is stuffed to the brim (and well beyond) with government and other regulations expressly designed to suppress "creativity" at all cost, in the name of "safety". That is, in a context of irrationally radical risk aversion - the quest for absolutely zero risk - the societal "we" often seek to rid ourselves of "creativity".

Thus, "creativity" has become largely restricted to a minuscule minority (further shrunken by metastasizing copyright and patent regulations that concentrate funds ever more narrowly), and/or, sometimes, to tasks that matter little, such as entertainment. Most "jobs" or "gigs" are left as tightly controlled drone work. "True" artificial intelligence is thus utterly unnecessary to obsolete most of the humans performing them. "Big Data" and "Big Software" will completely suffice. (The last thing you want in a self-driving taxi, or even in a political-correctness-driven professorship, is "true" AI: at least for now, it would be a lawsuit magnet, far too unpredictable.)

With the definition of "safety" steadily metastasizing to include even the most utterly trivial discomforts (viz. the campus 'snowflakes'), the only excuse left for most jobs to exist might be a desire for "the human touch". Indeed, the lack of said touch is one complaint about kiosks that replace restaurant counter clerks or waiters.

But once the primary justification for jobs to exist is to enable the most affluent to go on receiving "the human touch" - i.e. to enable them to pull rank - the process will not end well. People hate to be on the receiving end of rank-pulling. We will become stuck with either a guaranteed-income approach, or else a widespread, intensely Luddite reaction.

This is all destined to become "interesting" - but likely, alas, mainly in the accursed sense.

PaulS said:

Probably this should be unsurprising for a number of reasons, even going beyond the article.

Today's zeitgeist, of course, tells us that everyone should become a Web designer living four to a tiny dorm room in a skyscraper in grossly overpopulated urban California. As if most tech products haven't been fully mature for years or even decades, with updates mainly confined to befuddling customers with never-ending capricious changes to the functions of device or software controls (e.g. quick, how exactly do you summon up the "home screen" this week? Or is said screen now a wholly inscrutable tri-level icon-menu?)

So, what use are more techies? But even if there are better things to do, many such things "don't get no respect" amidst the STEM panic.

Then there's the seasonal aspect. The great majority of construction - homes and otherwise - seems to be done, these days, in the torrid (and ever-rising, especially in paved-over urban areas) heat of high summer. This is not completely new, but, well, air-conditioning has been widespread for decades now. There's no longer much need or desire to go outside to escape the even worse heat inside buildings and houses. Even poor-ish countries like China are rapidly acquiring A/C.

Now, once central heat became widespread, people stayed inside to escape the freezing, dark depths of winter. That is a trope, for example, with Christie's Hercule Poirot, derided as a "dandy" by his presumably more manly fictional contemporaries, for disliking cold, chilly old English houses lacking proper heat. And indeed, rather little outdoor construction goes on in the north in January.

Given that, why wouldn't sensible people now also want to stay inside during the blistering heat of high summer? Certainly, there are many ways to earn a living without torturing oneself in a furnace. (And, ignore all the caterwauling, why wouldn't sensible kids want to play video games in a nice comfortable living room instead of parboiling miserably outside?)

At the end of the day, construction - i.e. working under awful conditions few humans wish to tolerate any longer - seems like a great opportunity for robotics. Alas, what is hyped as "artificial intelligence" (AI) is usually nothing of the kind, or else is so ultra-narrowly specialized (think chess or go) as to be of little or no broad use. Nonetheless, a great deal of robotics can be built already without true AI, and such AI will eventually arrive too.

So why isn't more robotics used? Why isn't more outdoor construction shifted away from high summer, as it is from the worst of winter, i.e. to spring and fall? Why isn't there tremendously more factory prefabrication? Why do so many construction sites - buildings and highways - still look, despite the use of diesel engines and such, so very nineteenth-century?

PaulS said:

Wonderful. Let's go for strict temporal gating as well as spatial gating. Exile everyone not made of money to the anti-social hours of the clock as well as the monster commutes of the far reaches of Queens and Staten Island. How about fixing the subways, and abolishing the nonsense that makes it take 90 years to build one small 2nd Ave line? How about dispersing the overconcentration of people a bit? It's a huge country and modern communication exists. How about paying for same by taxing the living daylights out of the billionaire rentier class who create the problem by forcing ever more people to cram into highly dysfunctional megacities as the price of having any income at all? You gotta love the nexus between airheaded liberals who want to pile everyone on Earth with a sob story into a few US-ian megacities (rather than fix their own governments and problems), and economics types who then want to punish the very same folks by blocking off absolutely everything with an extortionate toll gate. Not.

PaulS said:

"when the alternative is to have $10 and go thirsty"

In the real world, the politics will get "interesting" with respect to folks who *don't* have $10 to pay for what normally costs $1 or $0.10, and will therefore go thirsty, or be stranded, or worse. Then, also be aware of simple resentment. Then, aggravate the anger with runaway inequality so extreme that the elites running the show will not be inconvenienced in the slightest by any likely level of 'gouging'. Then brace for a social explosion.

All told, it seems fatuous to expect very many people to be happy about being charged, say, an entire car payment just to get home across town from the holiday party. (It seems even more fatuous to expect happiness when the 'gouging' comes as an ongoing life-upending surprise, as with I-66 in Virginia.)

It helps to instead ground oneself in reality. After doing so, it's ridiculously easy to imagine the relevant government and/or employer simply declaring, for example: "If you wish to be allowed to drive a taxi at all, then you will make yourself available, to some specified extent, even at times that may be inconvenient for you."

Indeed, such rules and regulations are utterly banal and commonplace. Nary a soul would weep for Uber if it and its drivers were regulated - even rather harshly - in such a manner. Of course, some souls would become exercised over the minor economic inefficiency of such regulation, but they would number far too few to matter.

PaulS said:

"Dr. Gray was skeptical about the causes of climate change, prompting vitriolic exchanges with other scientists. Judith A. Curry, who was chairwoman of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, accused him of 'brain fossilization.'"

I had no idea. These days, after all, Curry is very much in the doghouse as a "climate denier". Wow. What, then, can we deduce about the typical (or merely politically-correct?) level of hysteria in the "climate community"? Of course, many in said "community" would force most of us back into the Stone Age while they themselves continue to jet across the world at whim to attend "conventions" in order to signal virtue by delivering half-hour diatribes on saving the "planet" from impending doom.

Maybe, then, The Donald is right (???!) that it is fairly safe to behave just as the doomers do, and ignore the threat - and their own diatribes - as a practical matter? Wouldn't that be weird?

PaulS said:

Another case in point: between them, Google, Tesla, and others have spent countless billions on mapping the USA, enough for at least $1000/mile including every last obscure Forest Service track. That should be more than enough to catalog everything down to the embossing style on every manhole cover. And yet a person can find their way to Grandma's new house with vague turn-by-turn directions or a vague line-sketch that shows no details whatsoever about the road surface or the sidewalks or the crosswalks. And a person will manage the task without needing, in advance, a finely detailed map of the current construction projects, including lane changes etc. But that severe incompleteness won't stop morally-posturing politicians from forcing autonomous cars onto the populace years or even decades before they are actually ready for unsupervised consumer use. That is the essentially only kind of use they will get in the real world. After all, politicians love to posture, they love to toady up to rent-seeking billionaires, and they love photo-ops of themselves gawking at shiny new tech gadgets. Note that when signals were first installed on the Chicago El, the accident rate went up for a time, as trained motormen became careless about watching where they were going. Not-so-trained consumers will be far too busy fiddling with their phones to be ready to take over on a split-second's notice.

PaulS said:

And there will be unicorns. So we'll have some remote working, but we'll be jailing ever more techies in a few obscenely overcrowded, otherworldly-expensive megacities. Just as Microsofties once told us wasting two days on the now-infamously godawful airlines just to physically attend an hour meeting was going away, but both the meetings and the airlines only got worse and worse.

So not really a big deal, just another stylistic business fad. Those come and go like mayflies - while being crammed, confined, and nailed down, remains eternally.

rjs said:

there's a lot GDP doesnt capture, but i'm not sure where Feldstein is coming from about statins...the consumption of drugs is included in the non-durable goods component of PCE, consumption of health care services by themselves account for 12% of GDP, and R & D would be included in investment in intellectual property products.. the problem is that everyone is trying to make GDP into something it's's a measure of goods and services produced by the economy, full stop. it's not intended to measure increases in life expectancy or well being, or any other intangibles..



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