Remy: People are Outraged!
by ReasonTV on YouTube

Remy is OUTRAGED over outrageous outrage.
A very interesting listen. I look forward to part two. It starts with the provocative idea that "the past" and "history" are not the same thing. Once you stop and think about it, you realize they couldn't possibly be the same thing without an omniscient historian. Even then, two omniscient historians with different biases may have two different versions of history.

Creative Historical Thinking, with Michael Douma, Part One
Michael Douma joins us for the first part of a two-part series to discuss how we see the past as as an interpretative history. He argues that history is a creative discipline because we choose to arrange facts in a certain way.

Douma goes through his new book, Creative Historical Thinking, and how he typically asks his students to draw a timeline of their lives or a timeline of American history. Quite often, each students’ timeline forms differently. Relating that to the study of the past, Douma argues that every timeline a historian draws, is a different interpretation of the past, creating history. Everyone has a different mental model or “timeline” in which they view their lives and that allows history to be a creative endeavor.

Is the past simply what happened? With that in mind, is history our interpretation of the past? Is history how we give meaning to the past? What is the difference between an error in conception and an error in fact? If you had to drawl the timeline of your life how would you draw it?
People refer to the real estate lending that went on prior to the 2008 crash as "predatory". To me, it seems pretty tame compared to student loan lending. The average student loan borrower is more financially clueless than the average home buyer (they probably couldn't even get a mortgage). There is no collateral, so you can't escape by surrendering the collateral. Student loan debt is the only debt that can't be discharged in bankruptcy. And to top it off, it is foisted on today's students by their own government. Student loans are the biggest "asset" owned by the federal government (talk about a toxic asset!).

More than 1 million people default on their student loans each year

More than 1 million student loan borrowers each year go into default.

Outstanding education debt in the U.S. has tripled over the last decade and now exceeds $1.5 trillion, posing a greater burden to Americans than auto or credit card debt.

For many, the payments are proving unmanageable. By 2023, nearly 40 percent of borrowers are expected to default on their student loans. That's when a person has not made a payment toward their education debt in roughly a year, triggering it being sent to a third-party collection agency.
@squozebrain Pursuing collection only helps if you actually collect someday. Maybe they will pass a law someday making descendants liable. Then again, the descendants will already be liable just like all the other taxpayers. Oh, wait, we don't actually pay off the debt this will get added to, do we? Well, I guess we will all pay via inflation or by having the house of debt cards collapse around us.
Debtors who have the means to pay, and who care about their assets, will pay. Debtors who do not have the means to pay often obtain co-signers, who can usually be compelled to pay. I am a co-signer on someone else’s delinquent loan, and my best option is to pay. Those who default with no co-signer can evade paying only if they live a life with no traceable income or assets. The loan servicer has almost unparalleled power to hound you and bleed you until your dying day.
Well, OK, I guess it is only toxic to the borrower, :-)
Defense Authorization Act funds war crimes, increases debt, enriches contractors

The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, which President Donald Trump signed on Aug. 13, authorizes $717 billion in defense spending. That’s $2,194 for every man, woman and child in the United States, just for one year. It’s an increase of $21 billion over last year’s bill.

“This act increases budget deficits,” said Libertarian National Chair Nicholas Sarwark. “We’re spending even more money we do not have, but that’s not the worst part. The bill includes funding to support Saudi Arabia’s use of our munitions to commit war crimes in Yemen, in a war with no discernible U.S. interest. The bill only benefits the defense industry, the military-industrial complex, and the surveillance leviathan. American taxpayers lose. People unfortunate enough to live downrange of U.S. bombs and drones suffer horrendous losses. Meanwhile, the Department of Veterans Affairs is still a mess and continues to fail veterans from the last few ill-advised, undeclared wars.”
The making of war benefits the military-industrial complex!

AP Exclusive: Google tracks your movements, like it or not

Google wants to know where you go so badly that it records your movements even when you explicitly tell it not to.

An Associated Press investigation found that many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store your location data even if you’ve used privacy settings that say they will prevent it from doing so.

Computer-science researchers at Princeton confirmed these findings at the AP’s request.
Silicon Valley Writes a Playbook to Help Avert Ethical Disasters

A new guidebook for tech companies helps them imagine future scenarios where their tech might end up causing societal harm.
Debt and the Marshmallow Experiment -


Learn how our system of money traps your kids in debt, and how to talk them them about it.
Tokyo Medical University admits subtracting points from repeat male applicants' scores and boosting others to secure donations | The Japan Times

Lawyers for the university who conducted the internal investigation into the matter issued a report acknowledging that the school had engaged in systematic discriminatory scoring, possibly as early as a decade ago. They confirmed that the automatic computer scoring system had effectively deducted points from all female applicants since 2006, as well as male applicants who were taking the exam for the fourth time or more. The university also admitted to adding extra points to the scores of 18 students in return for donations to the school.

Apparently, the Japan Times cannot bring itself to mention the across-the-board discrimination against female applicants in its headline.
When there is money.....
In some sense, I suppose it is no different than what happens in the US. They were trying to achieve target demographic ratios different from what would happen without interference. The same thing happens here. Their targets were less politically correct than ours and their interference was secret, not public.
Peak ProsperityPeak Prosperity wrote the following post Fri, 10 Aug 2018 19:35:08 -0400
Home Fire-Safe Checklist
Home Fire-Safe Checklist


[NOTE: This article is adapted from When Disaster Strikes: A Comprehensive Guide for Emergency Planning and Crisis Survival]

Fire Statistics

The following statistics from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) are for fires in the USA in 2016:
  • there were 1,342,000 fires reported in the United States. These fires caused 3,390 civilian deaths, 14,650 civilian injuries, and $10.6 billion in property damage.    
  • 475,500 were structure fires, causing 2,950 civilian deaths, 12,775 civilian injuries, and $7.9 billion in property damage.    
  • 173,000 were vehicle fires, causing 280 civilian fire deaths, 1,075 civilian fire injuries, and $933 million in property damage.    
  • 662,500 were outside and other fires, causing 85 civilian fire deaths, 650 civilian fire injuries, and $1.4 billion in property damage.
In general, fires cause more loss of life and property in America than all natural disasters combined! Every year, fires are responsible for more loss of life, limb, and property in the USA than either hurricane Katrina or the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11!  Statistically speaking, the easiest and most cost effective way to reduce the chances that you, your home, or your family might suffer great loss in a future event, is to improve the fire safety of your home, and the fire awareness of your loved ones.

Join the conversation »

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How to end Japan's deflation? Abolish cash | The Japan Times

A state-backed digital currency would make it easier for the BOJ and the finance ministry to run “helicopter money” experiments. The BOJ would create new electronic money and give it to the government against a perpetual bond sold by the finance ministry to the monetary authority. The ministry would then credit the electronic money to people’s bank accounts with the proviso that every month that the gift is saved — and not spent — its value will go down by, say, one-twelfth of 1 percent.

It's like I know what all the words mean, but the sentences make no sense. I grew up in the 70's when inflation was a bad thing. They want to throw money at people and encourage them to spend it to stimulate inflation. I guess a perpetual bond means the government never has to pay it back. They just borrow more of it forever!

When I was a kid, we had the "new math." I guess i need to learn the "new, new, new math" that is taught today for this to all make sense to me.
  last edited: Thu, 09 Aug 2018 12:32:10 -0400  
Peak ProsperityPeak Prosperity wrote the following post Mon, 06 Aug 2018 17:52:40 -0400
Joel Salatin: The Rise Of Rogue Food
Joel Salatin: The Rise Of Rogue Food


This week, we welcome back Joel Salatin to the podcast. Labeled by The Washington Post as "the most famous farmer in America", Joel has spent his career advocating for sustainable farming practices and pioneering models that show how food can be grown and raised in ways that are regenerative to our topsoils, more humane to livestock, produce much healthier & tastier food, and contribute profitably to the local economy.

Who wouldn't want that?

Well, the government and Big Ag for starters. Joel refers to himself as a 'lunatic farmer' because so many of the changes he thinks our food system needs are either illegal under the current law or mightily resisted by the deep-pocketed corporations controlling production and distribution.

And this anti-competitive restriction and stifling of small sustainable food producers is only getting worse. While dismayed at this, Salatin finds hope in the burgeoning rebellion of the "rogue food" resistence breaking out.

Join the conversation »

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Fat HeadFat Head wrote the following post Tue, 07 Aug 2018 19:31:55 -0400
From The News …
Interesting items from my inbox and elsewhere: Kiwi cows are changing color for the butter … er, better How’s this for a sign that sanity about fats is finally prevailing?... Read more »
View article
Chilling precedent? InfoWars block exposes Big Tech as no friend of free speech
The US Constitution explicitly forbids government censorship. So Silicon Valley big-tech companies made themselves the gatekeepers of 'goodthink,' de-platforming anyone who runs afoul of their arbitrary ‘community standards.’
I agree, but I'm pretty sure that a very large percentage of those who are suddenly whole-heartedly embracing this free-market concept would be screaming bloody murder if it was happening to someone on their "team".
Absolutely. I call them “libertarians of convenience.”
I think the result will be more publicity, more sympathy from his intended audience (he will play the victim card big-time), and more traffic going to his site, as that is where people will have to go now to find his materiel.
I've heard a bit about the "Cultural Revolution" and not so much about the "Great Leap Forward". This is about the latter. Simple statistics about how many millions starved don't convey the same horror as "sold their child for 2 kilos of unshelled peanuts" or "the thatch from the roof tasted so good".

EconTalkEconTalk wrote the following post Mon, 06 Aug 2018 06:30:18 -0400
Frank Dikotter on Mao’s Great Famine
Historian Frank Dikötter of the University of Hong Kong and author of Mao’s Great Famine talks about the book with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Dikötter chronicles the strategies Mao and the Chinese leadership implemented to increase grain and steel production in the late 1950s leading to a collapse in agricultural output and the deaths of millions by starvation.

This week's guest:This week's focus:Additional ideas and people mentioned in this podcast episode:A few more readings and background resources:A few more EconTalk podcast episodes:
TimePodcast Episode Highlights
Intro. [Recording date: July 24, 2018.]Russ Roberts: My guest is historian Frank Dikötter,.... He's written numerous books on China, including Mao's Great Famine: The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-1962. It won the 2011 Samuel Johnson prize for nonfiction, and it is the subject of today's episode.... This is a very depressing book about an extraordinarily tragic topic. But it's a topic that I think everyone should know something about and that few do, which is the famine in China from 1958, roughly, to 1962, that resulted incredibly in the deaths of tens of millions of people. So, let's begin with some background. What were the origins of what is called the Great Leap Forward? What was Mao [Mao Tse-tung, alternately spelled Mao Zedong --Econlib Ed.] trying to do? And how did that lead toward the famine?

Frank Dikötter: Well, in a nutshell, what is the Great Leap Forward--what does it leap into, so to speak? It leaps from socialism into communism. It's a utopia, the idea being that--this is Mao Tse-tung's idea--that if you can somehow use those hundreds of millions of people in the countryside and turn every man, every woman, into a foot soldier in a giant army that you can then deploy and make them work--till the fields, produce iron in the evening--deploy them like an army, you can somehow catapult your country past your competitors. You can have that Great Leap Forward.

Russ Roberts: And at this point in Chinese history, it's important to remember--we're in the mid-1950s, towards the late 1950s. The Chinese Revolution, Mao's ascent to power, had only been 1949.

Frank Dikötter: Yes.

Russ Roberts: And the Soviet Union was the long-standing communist success story--at least people thought so. And Mao had an ego, desire to best the Soviet Union as well as the capitalistic countries.

Frank Dikötter: Yes. Dictators always want to best each other. 1949 is the date that the red flag goes up over the Forbidden City in Beijing--Beijing becomes the capital of the People's Republic of China. And from the beginning, Mao is very keen to transform his country into a mirror image of the Soviet Union: literally thousands of Soviet advisers come in. But, oddly enough, the one man who restrains the Stalinization of China is Stalin himself. Stalin is the one who views Mao as a potential competitor. He's had Yugoslavia and Tito, with all the issues that that entailed. He's obviously not that keen on having a very great power right next door to his own empire. So, on the one hand, he supports China and Mao's revolution; on the other hand, he tries to rein it in. So, he is the one who advises Mao to slow down the pace of collectivization. Stalin dies in 1953, and this truly is Mao's liberation. For the first time, there is no one to restrain him. The first thing Mao does is accelerate the pace of the collectivization. By the end of 1953, he imposes a monopoly on the grain. This sounds complicated; but in effect, ordinary villages in the countryside have to sell the grain they produce to the state at state-mandated prices. In other words, they are no longer masters of what they produce. A few years later, 1955, 1956, comes the first wave of collectivization, as state farms copied from the Soviet Union are set up. None of this is quite enough. Mao wishes to go much further. And, his really challenge here in the wake of Stalin's death is, of course, not only to carry out collectivization in China and transform that country from a relatively backward power into a world power, but also to become the leader of the socialist camp. Stalin is dead. Who becomes the leader? Of course, it's not Mao; it's Khrushchev, as we all know. So, the real challenge here is to somehow best Khrushchev--

Russ Roberts: Khrush'chev [American pronunciation as opposed to Dikötter's British pronunciation--Econlib Ed.], to you American listeners. Go ahead.

Frank Dikötter: I remember this vaguely from my lessons in Russian at university--it's pronounced Khrushchev [Russian pronunciation--Econlib Ed.]. Best remembered of course for the man who used his shoe to bang on the podium at a session of the United Nations in New York. Anyway, in October 1957, to mark the 40th Anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, 1917, all the leaders of the socialist camp are invited to Moscow, and there Khrushchev announces that he will overtake your country, the United States, in the production of dairy products. Mao doesn't miss a beat: he says, without even standing up, 'If you wish to overtake the United States, we will beat England--the United Kingdom--in the production of steel within 15 years.' That's the start of the Great Leap Forward. In a nutshell, while the Great Leap Forward is an attempt to overtake capitalist countries, in effect, it's rivalry between Beijing and Moscow--between Mao Tse-tung and Nikita Khrushchev.
6:40Russ Roberts:
And so, besides this grandiose and grossly unattained goal of passing the United Kingdom in steel in 15 years--and I remember in your book, they soon make it 5 years, because 15 is not bold enough--they are very ambitious on how they change agricultural practice. So, besides the selling of the grain to the state, in addition--well, the phrase 'collectivization' doesn't really cover the range of stuff that they try, because they also want to catapult their grain production: they want to increase it dramatically. And so they launch a massive set of top-down, both technique changes and allocation of labor to agriculture. It's quite complicated--we can't--we could spend the whole hour just on this; but we won't. So just give us a summary of some of the practices that were put in place at this time to try to increase grain production.

Frank Dikötter: Yes. When we talked, before our talk, about the specific practices: when we talk about collectivization, some listeners might not quite understand what that really means. Collectivization is, in effect, in particular with the Great Leap Forward, the abolition of private property. I re-explain that by the end of 1953, the state imposes a monopoly on the grain, meaning that in effect the grain no longer belongs to the farmer. But, the soil, the land is taken back by the state. And then in 1958, hundreds of millions of villagers in China are herded into giant collectives called People's Communes. So, in effect, a Chinese villager no longer has any property that is his own. The land belongs to the state; his schedule is determined by a local party official, a cadre--cadre, sometimes pronounced as 'ca-dray'. His pots and pans have been taken away. Sometimes his house has been destroyed and he lives in a collective dormitory; children sent to collective kindergartens. People work in collective units--brigades--outside, at the beck and call of these political cadres.

Russ Roberts: But, what proportion would you say--and of course it's crude because it's not easily measured. But, what proportion of farmers at this point are literally mobilized for what I would call military agriculture?

Frank Dikötter: You might say that collectivization is based on the military model. In other words, the vision here is that if you turn men, women, children into foot soldiers, if you have them work along military lines, it would be much more effective. So there's this vision of freedom and liberty which is highly negative. Somehow, a villager who decides to plant watermelons is not contributing grain to the state; and the state needs the grain to sell it on the international market, to buy massive turnkey projects, which will fuel this Great Leap Forward. The same model as Stalin: Stalin wants the grain to go straight from the field into the granaries so he can sell it on the international market and fuel his own modernization from 1929 to 1934 with the famine that ensued [?] 10 million people in the Ukraine. Mao is very much doing the same thing. There's deeply ingrained resistance against anything that smacks of private enterprise. Private enterprise is generally described as 'speculation'--as something--

Russ Roberts: That's a nasty term, obviously.

Frank Dikötter: It's a nasty term, as 'bourgeois liberalism', as 'capitalist', as: all the terms are highly negative. So, if you can run your country like a giant army, if you can run the countryside as if these people are foot soldiers, it would be much more effective. The vocabulary comes straight from the army: the brigades are units.

Russ Roberts: So, they take, in addition to this mobilization, they impose a whole set of practices that weren't in place previously for agriculture. They plant seeds closer together; they have massive irrigation projects. They try to reroute the Yellow River, clear out the Yellow River--I forget what--they have all these grandiose schemes. And, who is in charge? Is there a meaningful sense in which Mao is steering this from the top in any actual way? Or is it--the impression I get from reading your book is there's almost this set of, I would call them, political entrepreneurs, between Mao and the people who are 'letting a thousand flowers bloom,' which of course they are not blooming. But, they are trying a bunch of trial and error things--in total ignorance, because they know nothing about agriculture relative to people on the ground they are in. But they are trying a bunch of stuff that ultimately fails horribly, in terms of output.

Frank Dikötter: Yes. So, it's based on only a very negative vision of private enterprise and freedom, but also to some extent, you might say, based on a very negative vision of these villagers, rather than listen to them and have them tell you what works best. After all, they've been working the soil for hundreds of years, and you might think they would know how to do it. But, instead, everything comes from the top: grandiose plans. People are deployed in units, brigades sent to countryside to work on water conservancy plans, or, for instance, do close cropping or deep plowing. These are two of the schemes that are advanced by Beijing: close cropping means that you are going to really plant these seedlings close together.

Russ Roberts: Get more per acre.

Frank Dikötter: Far more per acre than you would normally get. Deep plowing, meaning that you are going to go 30 centimeters deep, possibly up to 1 meter or even 3 meters. But, of course, what is so important here, is that reason has been abolished some time ago. This is all guided by political imperatives. So, if the Chairman from Beijing tells you that deep plowing is good, then you, as a political commissar, in charge of your brigade, you will try to outdo the next-door village by plowing even deeper. So, at some point you have people who go 3 meters deep with [?] lights in the middle of the night to out-do each other.

Russ Roberts: To show their devotion to the wisdom of--

Frank Dikötter: To show their devotion. Fertilizer becomes important--which it of course is. But if all of a sudden there is a competition to get more fertilizer, and hence a greater crop per acre, then it will lead to the most absurd schemes--where one foreigner passes through fields in North China and sees that some of them are covered in sugar. Where houses have been torn down in the belief that somehow these mud huts contain organic matter and will contribute to a better crop.

Russ Roberts: Which, of course, it doesn't.
14:42Russ Roberts: So, at this point--there's two things, as I understand it, going on at this point. The actual output goes down: we have loss of incentives; people are basically being treated as close to slaves. They are being pushed out into the fields, like, you say, at night sometimes under lights. Beaten, if they show insufficient zeal and work effort. So, it moved to almost, it seemed like, a slave economy. Plus, the know-how that was, as you say, present in these villages for centuries, was thrown out. And, at the same time, China is selling a lot of grain that it does have on the international market. But the bottom line is: The crop goes down dramatically. And the part of that crop that's available for domestic consumption also goes down. Is that accurate? Frank Dikötter: Not entirely. You say that they are treated almost like slaves. They are treated like. They are serfs. This is treated[?] in Hayek's book, The Road to Serfdom. Russ Roberts: Yeah. It's crazy. Frank Dikötter: This road, in the People's Republic is covered from 1949 to 1958. By 1958, farmers have lost every incentive to work. The land is not theirs. The tools are not theirs. The schedule is not theirs. Nothing is theirs. So, how do you get a man or a woman to work when there is no incentive to do so. If they work, of course they can go to the canteen; and they earn work points. The work points entitle them to a meal, which will be extremely frugal and in the event frequently not enough to sustain somebody who works all day long. Because, of course, all of this is being cut, since so much has to be delivered to the state. Russ Roberts: And people have made forecasts, projections, promises. Frank Dikötter: Absolutely. These local officials are keen to show that they are the ones who really know how to carry out the Great Leap Forward. And they make promises. They promise higher and higher quotas, deliveries of grains, steel, you name it--cotton--to the state. So, all of this has to be taken away from the very people who produce it. But, the key question still is: How do you motivate a man or a woman to work when there is no incentive? At some point you have to [?] it's fear. Russ Roberts: Fear of violence. Frank Dikötter: Fear of violence. Not only that, but you can beat them--which they do. You can cover them in urine and excrement. You can make them work naked outside in the middle of the winter. All of this will incite them to work. But, ultimately, your best weapon is food. In other words, food becomes a weapon. If you do not work hard enough, you will not be fed in the public canteen. Or, you will banned from the canteen. It goes back to Lenin. He put it in a nutshell: He who does not work shall not eat. That principle is applied literally. In other words, a great many people do not simply starve because there is no food. They are being starved by the regime. People who do not work hard enough because they are sick, women who are pregnant, children, elderly people--those who simply can't produce enough are being cut off from the food chain.
18:10Russ Roberts: So, we'll talk in a little bit about the toll this takes, but before we do that, I want to talk about some of the other things that are going on in the economy. So, steel was a big focus. I just want to mention this, because it's one of my pet peeves: the focus on a particular industry as the road to prosperity. There's a certain romance about steel. It's a sign of modernization; obviously primitive economies import steel if they have any at all. So, there was, again, a matter of national pride here, an ego, I think, for Mao. And, I've known about this for a long time, but your book describes it in more detail than I've understood it: He actually encourages people to build steel furnaces in their backyard, and to devote all kinds of metal from their household--pots and pans, etc., doorknobs, to these foundries of ridiculous, inefficient scale. But, the tragedy of this isn't that--to me, the tragedy isn't that they devoted too many resources to steel. The tragedy is: they didn't get much steel for it. It was a total and utter failure in terms of quality and output. Frank Dikötter: Yes. You take a good tool; you melt it down in a backyard furnace--a backyard furnace being some improvised, small furnace set up in the village--and what comes out is pig iron which is of such poor quality that you can't make the very tool that you used in the first place to produce it. It's absurd. But there is something almost magical about steel in the socialist universe. Steel is the marker of progress. I mean, Stalin means steel. And not just because Stalin is a hard man, tempered by the revolution and unafraid of smashing all enemies who stand in the way of the revolution, but also because steel is a sign of progress. That's what you want. So, there's an obsession around the production of steel. And, of course, grain. These countries--not just China, but others as well who go through collectivization--become monocultures: they produce one or two things. You know, grain on the one hand, steel on the other. Russ Roberts: Oil, in some countries. Yeah.
20:46Russ Roberts: So, this goes terribly. Although, it's not exactly publicized how badly it's going. You can actually, online, watch videos of cheerful Chinese peasants lining up to bring their woks and other household utensils to dump into the furnaces. It raises the question of: What was the person on the ground thinking? You know, there are different levels; and you actually capture quite a few of them in the book. You have some of the internal discussions of the Chinese leadership where they are optimistic and doing their best, and hopeful of achieving these goals like passing Britain in 15 years. Then you have the person on the ground, which of course we don't have as much knowledge about. These people were ultimately fighting for their lives. Did they resist this from the beginning intellectually? Did they see this as patriotic? In the Ukraine they saw it for what it was: They knew it was war, effectively. But, here, how much of this, the response of the person in the street, if we know it at all, was just optimistic patriotism versus just fear?

Frank Dikötter: It's war on them. On the countryside, on their livelihood, on their tradition. And they know that perfectly well. Perfectly well. You see these propaganda posters. And, it's a good question. I had an eminent professor in Sinology who was somehow upset--

Russ Roberts: That's the study of China--sinology.

Frank Dikötter: --sinology, the study of China--at Columbia, somehow upset at the conclusions I had drawn from my research on the Great Leap Forward, and told me that surely some of those villagers would have been enthusiastic, because you can see it from the photos. But all these photos are staged. This is state propaganda. People smile. They are condemned to perpetual enthusiasm. They must embrace the state, and embrace every decision made by a superior. So, people smile when they have to hand over their property to the state. There are images in 1955, 1956, just before the start of the Great Leap Forward of shopkeepers who have had their shop for a generation and are happy to hand it over to the state when all industry becomes a function of the state and is nationalized. Of course, I wondered myself: Why would you be smiling when you hand over your assets to the state? Well, there are two very simple reasons. First, if you don't, you get beaten up. If you are lucky. In the worst case scenario, you get labeled a rightist or a counter-revolutionary, which is very much the end of any likelihood of you being able to survive in this regime. It basically means you will be sent to a camp. Whereas another reason: As your shop becomes the property of the state--in other words, property of the Party--as the industry that had built up over several generations becomes property of the state, as the field you used to till for many generations in the countryside becomes property of the state, you need a job. So, you had better job. You've become an employee of the state: you'd better smile.

Russ Roberts: So, I just want to remind listeners: In a few weeks, probably about a month, when this episode airs on China, we're going to have the first of what I hope will be at least two episodes on In the First Circle--Solzhenitsyn's masterpiece, his novel about the sharashka--a particular kind of prison camp in the Soviet Union. And, in that book there is a character, Lev Rubin, who stands in--it's actually based on a friend of Solzhenitsyn's during his time in the camps--who is a very devoted Marxist, and is clearly torn by the fact that the regime that he respects intellectually has put him in prison for something that he probably either didn't do or something that he did that wasn't particularly bad. And, it certainly was the case in the Soviet Union, in the worst of the purges, that the loyal Party members--you know, someone like Bukharin, who is basically murdered by Stalin and forced to confess beforehand, and does confess; and potentially even sees himself as a counter-revolutionary, sees himself as the equivalent of a rightist in the Soviet system. So, the Soviet Union has this great intellectual Marxism among its intellectual class that is troubled by Stalinism deeply when they are forced to be ground under its gears, its wheels. Was that there in China? So, I'll kind of take your sinologist professor's viewpoint here for a minute. Were there people who saw Mao either as, you know, either an incredible exemplar who served the people, or as espousing a theory that, okay, so maybe it didn't work but they wanted it to? Which I think is true in the Soviet Union--not all of them, of course, but most of them saw it for what it was. But in China I don't have that feeling. Is that--am I missing something? Is there something there?

Frank Dikötter: There is. I think the operative term there is the one you used to describe one of the protagonists in Solzhenitsyn's book: namely, an intellectual. And there is no lack of intellectuals--other than in the West or inside China--who embrace the Communist cause, and are devoted Maoists. And many members[?] in the Communist Party in China who are absolutely convinced that this is the thing to do: Collectivization is the way to go. Abolition of private property is a basic fundamental principle of Communism. But, these are intellectuals. And what is an intellectual? An intellectual is a person who works with ideas. One might say, an idealist if not an ideologue. But I can assure you that your farmer in the North, the Middle, or the Southeast or West whose livelihood depends on their ability to cultivate the soil is not one of them. They no perfectly well what happens when you start close cropping, deep plowing, smothering your crop with fertilizer or carrying out collectivization.

Russ Roberts: So, let's shift--and by the way, I brought up the Solzhenitsyn because I encourage listeners to read the book in advance and follow along. We managed, after I tweeted on it, to sell it out at Amazon; but I hope by the time this episode airs there's a few more left. And I strongly encourage people to read it in the paperback or hardcover rather than the Kindle version. I read it myself in the Kindle version recently: It's a little hard to keep up with the characters. I think the paperback is a little easier. So, I'm just recommending that, if you want to follow along. You will be able to enjoy the episodes without reading the book, as well.
28:45Russ Roberts: Okay. So one other thing I want to talk about, which is, just, you couldn't make it up. This is such an extraordinary thing that, even though I find it deeply confirming of all my strongest biases and priors, I find it hard to believe it actually happened. Because, it's too good, as an example of my worldview. Which is: At some point in the middle--I think at the beginning of this or maybe the middle, you'll tell me--Mao starts a campaign against the Four Pests, or the Four Vermin, which are: flies, mosquitoes, rats, and sparrows. And encourages people to kill them en masse--because, there are a lot of reasons but which, for the sparrows, which are what I want to focus on, they eat grain and seeds, obviously. So, the idea is: If we can get rid of the sparrows, we'll have more grain. And, talk about that campaign and how it was carried out and what happened. I mean, it's--we have some video footage of that we'll put up on the page for the episode. But, Frank, tell us what happened.

Frank Dikötter: Well, as you said, there's a war against Nature. Mao says it very clearly: We are in a war against Nature. You have to tame Nature. And, one of the biggest thieves, besides locusts and insects, are of course sparrows. They steal grain. So, what do you do? You get rid of them. And, how? Well, you have an entire nation, in lockstep, so to speak, where it's timed in such a way that every village comes out at the same time making as much noise as possible--banging on Chinese gongs, [?]--

Russ Roberts: pots and pans--

Frank Dikötter: pots, pans--if they still have them before these backyard furnaces--you know, because much more it is possible to wave these big, white sheets, you make as much noise as is possible and you wave big white sheets to make sure that these sparrows are so afraid they never have a moment where they can have a rest.

Russ Roberts: And there's video footage of peasants with long flags, long sticks with flags on the end which are maybe, I don't know, 30 or 40 feet, 10 to 15 meters long; and they are waving them in the air near trees to discourage the sparrows from landing. And the claim is: Sparrows, literally--some are shot: some are shot with guns, some are shot with slingshots--but many of them fall dead out of the sky, because they are so harassed. Now, I find that a little hard to believe. But, there's footage--again, I don't know how representative it is--there's footage online of people with truckloads of dead sparrows. And children parading around a string of dead sparrows in triumph: They've climbed into the trees; they've crushed the eggs. So, the claim is: A billion sparrows are killed. I don't know if--do we have any idea if that's true?

Frank Dikötter: Well, it's surreal, if it's--

Russ Roberts: It is surreal. It is. It's a big number. But there are probably a billion sparrows in China. In the 1950s.

Frank Dikötter: Well, the numbers are surreal. When you say 'a billion' that might almost be plausible. But, the most surprising thing is the sense of specious precision, false precision, that is used in reporting some of these figures. So, here I have one for the city of Shanghai, where they claim that they have eliminated 1,367, 440 sparrows. You think, 'Really, was there somebody counting these sparrows?' I doubt that very much.

Russ Roberts: Yeah. Well, it was probably 443 at the end. But, yeah, there's a terrible rounding and inaccuracy. I'm sure long-time listeners will remember my joke about macroeconomics: 'How do you know an economist has a sense of humor? They use decimal points.' So, here's the same kind of ridiculous--tragic, really. There's a comic element to it. But it's tragicomic. Because, what happens?

Frank Dikötter: Well, of course, once you get rid of birds, your insects have a field day. So, here we are, a few months later--

Russ Roberts: What year are we in, roughly?

Frank Dikötter: 1958. You see the sky darken as this swarm of grasshoppers--

Russ Roberts: locusts--

Frank Dikötter: approach. And they cover the fields, in a bristling blanket; eat everything. And it isn't just locusts. There are all sorts of insects that thrive. Some of them, I had never heard of. There's one call the Red Spider, for instance. There's a whole series of insects that are there to profit from this whole campaign against sparrows.

Russ Roberts: So, defeat[?]. And, I heard this on a--I don't think it's in your book, but I saw this on a video online that they had to--they did realize that it was a mistake. That, they imported sparrows from the Soviet Union in the aftermath of this to try to reduce the locust crop.

Frank Dikötter: I didn't know. It's perfectly plausible. I was a student in China in the middle of the 1980s. We're talking several decades, a quarter of a century after this disaster. A bird was a rare sight. A bird was a rare sight.

Russ Roberts: It's hard to believe. But, there was just--as you say, it was a war against nature. I don't know how effective or ineffective it actually was. But the whole idea of it is just a perfect metaphor for my favorite Hayek quote: 'The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.' Here, you think you are increasing the grain crop, but you are actually destroying it. So, there's--at this point--and you can all drink now. I know some of you have a drinking game for when I say that quote. So, I know you are excited when I brought up the sparrows because you saw it coming.
35:22Russ Roberts: So, there's, at this point--by 1958, 1959, the grain crop is down. The amount that's available is down to the people. And, a set of horrific things takes place that it's almost--it's difficult to read about. And I'm sure it was difficult for you to research. But, people are eating mud. They are stripping trees of bark; there's bark stripped everywhere in villages. People are selling their children for food. They are being buried alive, because just the dealing with corpses is a problem. And there's cannibalism. Those are the worst of it. But otherwise, people are dropping dead from disease, weakened by malnutrition, and dropping dead from hunger. How widespread were the worst of these? Are these a tragedy here and there of this kind of grotesque destruction of human dignity? Or, is this widespread throughout the country? Do we have any idea--how much cannibalism there was, for example? Or, whether people--I mean, it's horrifying that one person would sell a child. But, was it common? Do we know? And how would you know, as the historian?

Frank Dikötter: Well, you don't know. There is--it's very ironic, but in a Socialist country, and all the collectivization when private property is abolished, everything can be traded. Because, of course that's what people do. They must survive at all cost. So, they open black markets. They have a parallel economy. They will sell whatever bricks they still have in their homes. They will sell the clothes they have on their back--literally, you see, you have descriptions in Party archives of throngs of people who, a bedraggled humanity who walk naked in the countryside to actually escape from the famine. And, of course, they sell their own children. Not in order to make a gain, but because they believe--rightly, possibly--that by selling their child, their child will at least have some sort of future. There's one man who sells their--a woman--a woman and a man, a couple that sell their child for, I believe, 2 kilos of unshelled peanuts. That's what they sell their child for.

Russ Roberts: So, in the face of this kind of apocalyptic catastrophe, why don't more people head to the city? Why don't they try to get somewhere where there is food? [More to come, 38:22]
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I just finished listening and, near the end, they talk about the death toll. Of course, no one knows for sure, but the estimates range from 12 million to 55 million over those 4 years. That is out of a population at the time in the 600 millions.
I Gave Up AC To Live Within My Means. America Should Try That


Going without air conditioning is my choice to live within my means without whining or demanding that other people pay my bills.
..instead we use windows and fans and evaporative cooling

why not use an actual evaporative cooler?
why not use an actual evaporative cooler?

my wages (about the same as a burger flipper in the states).
I was going to make an evaporative cooler with 12 volt motors for running from a solar-panel but it was just cheaper/easier to buy a used one from Craigslist. But I understand that they are probably not as readily availble in your neck of the woods

Those people that go to Burning Man have come up with some very creative solutions for making evaporate-coolers
BlogBlog wrote the following post Fri, 03 Aug 2018 12:35:23 -0400
Time For Some Climate Honesty
Time For Some Climate Honesty


Let’s assume that you had doubts about global warming.  Some people do and, truthfully, we utterly lack the ability to accurately model how much warming will happen, where and by when.  Emphasis on accurately.  The reason is not for lack of trying or continual learning and model refinement, but centers on the complexity of the task.

Even seemingly simple systems that are actually complex are impossible to predictively model.  An example is a pile of sand growing grain by grain that will finally slump at some unpredictable time and in an unpredictable way.  You would think that such a simple system could be accurately modeled, but that’s not the case.  Exactly when the pile will finally slump is unpredictable.  Exactly how large the resulting slump will be is also unpredictable.  The “when” and the “how much” are unknowable (using current modeling techniques).

All that can be calculated for certain is that a higher pile with steeper sides/areas (a.k.a. “fingers of instability”) is more likely to slump sooner and more catastrophically.

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Meet the Anarchists Making Their Own Medicine


The pharmaceutical industry is valued at $446 billion in the US and its walls are tightly policed by regulatory agencies like the FDA and Drug Enforcement Administration. By freely distributing plans for medical devices and pharmaceuticals, a loose collective of anarchists and hackers is threatening to pull the rug out from under one of the most regulated and profitable industries in the world. And they’re just getting started.
!Hubzilla Support Forum
Is it just my hub, or have the tabs on the Activity/Network page gone away? (Posted order vs commented order vs whatever else)
Settings -> Additional Features -> Network and Stream Filtering

enable 'Alternate Stream Order' and review the settings with 'Filter' in the name as these are used to populate the new Activity Filter widget.
Wow, look at all the options!
I’ve been eating 3 eggs with cheese for breakfast pretty much every weekday for years. I just had a physical this week and my doctor declared that the numbers on my lipid panel were the best in the building.

Fat HeadFat Head wrote the following post Fri, 03 Aug 2018 13:56:45 -0400
Fat In Your Diet vs. Fat In Your Blood
I received this email from a reader: Hey Boss! I hope things are well on the farm. I wrote you several years ago letting you know Fat Head was my... Read more »
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