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Andreas Schou
Works at Snake Parliament
Attended Awesome Skeleton Hell College
Lives in Mountain View, California
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On Moderation: An Ass-Backward Guide to Managing a Community Which Extends From Revolutionary Socialists to Anarcho-Capitalists

(1) When responding as editor, always assume that you are talking to a reasonable person making the most reasonable possible version of their argument. This is not always true in the real world, but this sort of bad-faith good-faith heads off any risk of escalating, tit-for-tat misinterpretation of the other person's argument.

(2) A new member of the community, especially a dissenting member, will often appear to be a troll. Dissenting members who have been socialized to dissent helpfully eventually become valuable members of the community.

(3) Use soft power until you have reached its limits. If the community has a disruptive member who disagrees with you, see if you can get someone who agrees with the disruptive person to intervene on your behalf. It will seem less like you're punishing dissent.

(4) There is no reason to be rude or cruel to someone whom you will not have a continuing relationship with. If you need to exercise hard power -- banning, reporting, excluding -- decide that that's what you need to do, do it, and don't comment on the subject.

(5) Try to be epistemically multilingual. If you can explain a position using only assumptions that you and the other person share, don't try to force a new set of assumptions down their throat. More than likely, they'll just reject your position outright, and you will no longer have anything interesting to talk about.

(6) The most difficult problem an ideological diverse community faces is not antisocial disagreement, but antisocial agreement. It is difficult to convince people that any such thing exists, but community punishment of people who operate outside the editorial consensus can stifle dissent and cause the community to go wildly awry.

(7) Hard apriorists are not a useful part of most conversations. If someone believes he can determine the appropriate federal funds rate from I Think, Therefore I Am, you will probably not have a productive conversation with him, and it is best to politely tell him that he is being ignored.

(8) Biographical details are important. They are anecdotal, but not peripheral. If someone believes they have insights into their own region, ethnicity, profession, gender, government, family, or life experiences, this is likely to be true. What's more, people demand more respect for their own lived experiences than for beliefs which they hold for other reasons.

It is fair to demand that people tread carefully around biographical details and lived experience.

(9) People overgeneralize from their own biographies. Anecdotal experience derived from lived experience is important. It is, however, still anecdotal. If you are inclined to make a strident point based on a biographical argument, it would help if you also went and found some data to support it rather than simply demanding concession from the person you're arguing with.

If you see someone genuinely trying to make a fair argument against your biographical details and lived experience, try to assume that it was made in good faith. 

(10) If you find yourself looking at a Wikipedia page to construct an argument against someone whom you believe to be better-informed on a subject than you, stop. At best, you are denying yourself the opportunity to learn something from a subject matter expert -- even one who turns out to be wrong. At worst, you are about to embarrass yourself. 

(11) Argument about rules of evidence, especially in the middle of another argument,  is seldom productive. If you are aware of the rules of evidence generally adhered to by the people you're arguing with, try to produce evidence which at least meets that standard, and table the argument about evidentiary rules until it can be addressed separately.

(Note: If you have seen this before, and you are seeing it again now, it's because I've pinned the rules for my space to the top of my profile.)
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I like this quite a bit, thanks +Eric Christopher for pointing it out to me.  It jibes quite well with my experiences.  All I'd add is that if the community is managed by multiple people then the dynamics get trickier and having good groundwork -- good initial conditions or rules -- matters a lot.  It's poisonous, for example, if one of the main people on a project does not operate by #1, or #4, or even #5.
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Capsule Review, Mad Max: Fury Road: George Miller triumphantly returns to the post-apocalyptic universe he popularized with Babe: Pig in the City, with this feminist story of driving a long way into the desert, then turning around and coming back.
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What +Chris Lentini said. It's made clear that Immortan Joe has captured a prime site: all the surface water is contaminated, but he's pumping it from a deep aquifer. He controls a nearby oil well and refinery. He strictly controls who gets any of either.

He has the power, and the waterfall and a flamethrowing guitar just emphasise that he has what you need, enough to waste some, and he controls whether or not you get any.
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For me? It's the fact that they're absolutely counterindicated by the research into the conditions they're designed to help.

For most people, under most conditions, post-traumatic stress disorder is a transient condition. Most people who undergo serious trauma never develop post-traumatic stress disorder. Half of diagnosed PTSD cases remit within 36 months. This is true of across traumatic causes and across cultures. 

The one thing that most chronic PTSD cases have in common? Avoidance as a trauma management strategy. If you've adopted an active management strategy which involves controlled exposure to triggers, your PTSD will often go away. If you've adopted an avoidant management strategy, it probably won't.

It isn't that trigger warnings coddle people with PTSD. It's that they actively facilitate a coping strategy which prolongs the condition.
For a certain kind of centrist liberal who is hypervigilant about the re-emergence of ’90s-era “political correctness,” the phrase trigger warning can be a little triggering. In theory, trigger warnings are merely little content notes for those who need a little more mental preparation for emotionally taxing material. But for...
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+Jay Gischer oh sorry. Now I see it. For some reason my brain skipped that sentence when I first read your post. My bad 
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So, let's say you're Greenpeace. You discover that there's been a huge drop in greenhouse gas emissions and coal usage in China. Mysteriously, there's been no new deployment of cleaner power plants. Do you attribute this to:

(a) A worrying collapse of the Chinese economy, or;
(b) Sudden success of liberal environmental policy despite dire enforcement and institutional constraints.

Oh. You picked (b)? That's... uh... an interesting choice.
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+Andreas Schou I'd misread the Greenpeace pie chart as giving nameplate capacity values rather than total generation. Actual change is closer to an increase of 4.8%, not 17.2% as stated earlier. Most of which is hydro capacity and conditions growth.

(And yes, Greenpeace's presentation of data are confusing: this information should be immediately apparent, it's not. While not absolving them, they're hardly the only source, ranging from major research organizations to media outlets, to fail in clearly communicating quantitative messages on energy, conservation, and renewables.)

So, still: no, wind and solar's contributions aren't huge. But the drop was effected by a considerable increase in renewable energy growth. So both your initial claims are false.

And yes, truth is that the bulk of renewables contribution was 1) increased hydro capacity, a permanent boost, but with limited further upside as China's all but tapped out its hydro potential, and 2) a fortuitous one-time favorable set of conditions for hydro overall.

What is relevant is that there is considerable upside potential for both wind and solar growth in China, and that total contribution from both is becoming more-than-incidental. How much further they can be scaled is a real concern, and I've no illusions that that won't be hard, but I don't see a whole lot of choice.

There is nuclear, and that's another option for growth, but given numerous concerns (fuel, waste, proliferation, advanced technologies), my strong sense is that it's at best a helper / bridge option.

China have been making increasingly loud noises about taking environmental issues seriously (far more than India's much more disappointing behavior). And it's possible that they're serious. For all our sakes, and our descendants, if any, they'd better be.

Further discussion on +John Baez 's post of this item:
https://plus.google.com/u/0/117663015413546257905/posts/9AjTTbh9gyA
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Okay. So.

Let's say we didn't make any reforms at all, environmental or otherwise, and just bought out alfalfa producers by paying them their median profit-per-acre, then banning production of alfalfa for the season. That's a total expenditure of $860m.

The California government then resells the water it just bought at $162 per acre-foot on the open market. Right now, the market price per acre-foot throughout most of California is between $1,000 and $2,000. It turns a tidy profit, then goes home. 

What baffles me is why alfalfa farmers are not already doing this.

61% of alfalfa production is in the San Joaquin Valley, where prices per acre-foot of water are literally 13x the value of the alfalfa that water will produce. Even if you're stuck in an outputs contract with feedlots, that's enough of a differential to make efficient breach a really compelling option -- you can pay your lawyer, pay your counterparty for breach of contract, and still walk away with huge windfall profits.

Anyone have any idea?
[Epistemic status: Low confidence. I have found numbers and stared at them until they made sense to me, but I have no education in this area. Tell me if I'm wrong.] I. There has recently been a lot...
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+Alex Schleber Agreed that California may well not be returning to historically typical precipitation and water availability trends. My point is that even if it were the consequences of idling alfalfa could have significant further effects.

It may well be that California's got to accept those consequences one way or the other. Or decide between being America's vegetable garden or its most populous state.
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Sy Hersh's Account of the Bin Laden Raid Doesn't Make Any Sense: Five Reasons and a Link

In the official story of the Bin Laden raid, what happened was relatively simple: we went looking for OBL, failed to find him, caught a lead, and then we shot him. Simple. 

In Sy Hersh's telling, we conspired with Pakistan to murder someone who was already in Pakistani custody, screwed up up landing a helicopter that we didn't even have to send, then screwed up getting Pakistan what it wanted. This is, to be frank, not really Occam-compliant. Knowing nothing but the complexity of the two stories, there's no reason to decide for Hersh over Obama. 

It gets even worse once you look at the facts that have been established independently. Briefly, a sampler of facts which Hersh's account doesn't account for: 

(1) Why the hell was this the plan? In Hersh's telling, Pakistan could have simply walked in and shot OBL. Or we could have just walked in and shot him.

As Hersh tells it, we found out about the Pakistani prison compound through an ISI walk-in. We then managed to negotiate an execution with the Pakistani government by offering them additional aid. All easy!

Except instead of just having Pakistan shoot him and hand us the body, or having our special forces guys walk in and shoot Bin Laden, we build a model of the compound in the desert, spend several months training Seal Team Six, and then try to land an untested helicopter in the middle of a city without informing the Pakistani Air Force? And we crash it? 

If that's what we did, why did we do that instead of the easy thing? 

(2) Who were the other three bodies? Who altered the title records to show that the compound was owned by OBL's alleged courier? Why were there signs of a gunfight? Why were there contemporaneous eyewitness accounts of a gunfight?

In the immediate aftermath of the gunfight, Pakistani law enforcement leaked pictures of al-Kuwaiti, his brother, and his brother's wife, all of whom are alleged to have died at the same time as Bin Laden. Those pictures also show bullet holes and multiple bloodstains, and line up with the eyewitness account of Peter Bergen, who managed to take a tour of the compound before it was demolished. 

It's still technically possible that the bodies were just there to provide verisimilitude -- except that property records that date back to 2004 show that al-Kuwaiti owned the property which Hersh alleges to have been an ISI safehouse. Is he claiming that Bin Laden's courier didn't exist? Is he claiming that the courier was working for the ISI all along? 

There's also contemporaneous live-tweeting by a software engineer who lived near the Abbottabad compound, discussing the sound of gunfire and explosions. This account is confirmed by al-Jazeera reporting shortly after the raid. What explains that testimony? 

(3) If Pakistan just wanted increased aid in exchange for OBL, why didn't it get what it wanted? Why was Pakistan willing to endure a serious diplomatic incident in order to kill a person who was in their custody? Why were Obama administration officials willing to lie under oath to harm Pakistan's interests?

This is a relatively simple question with no real answer. Hersh presents this as a simple quid pro quo: they give us OBL, and we give them additional aid and free reign in Afghanistan. But that didn't actually happen! In the following years, both foreign aid and Pakistani autonomy in Afghanistan decreased significantly. 

In addition, this was a profoundly embarrassing diplomatic incident for Pakistan. They could have moved OBL further away from their military academy before letting us murder him, or we could have told a story which downplayed Pakistani duplicitousness. But neither happened, and Pakistan didn't turn on us once its government realized that we weren't going to come through on our side of the deal.

(4) What the hell was al-Qaida doing? Did they not know where OBL was? Why didn't they blow the story when they had the chance?

In Hersh's account, OBL is captured relatively early by the Pakistanis. Al-Qaida, for no discernible reason, is completely silent about this. Okay, fine -- maybe they didn't want to take the propaganda hit that would result from OBL's capture. 

Unless we assume that Ayman al-Zawahiri didn't actually know that OBL was in someone's custody, their behavior in the aftermath of the raid was inexplicable. In Hersh's telling, the previously compliant Pakistani government had turned on them, entered into a conspiracy with the US government, and killed their leader. And they somehow end up complicit in their enemy's plot? Why?

This goes double for bin Laden's widow, who was never charged with a crime, was clearly living with Osama, has been interviewed by the press and law enforcement, and is currently living with her half-brother in Saudi Arabia. If she was really in Pakistani custody for six years, why hasn't she told Hersh's story to the press or to law enforcement? Surely, someone must be interested.

(5) Why did Hersh find his sources reliable? Who's been shopping this story around since 2011?

We know one of Hersh's two sources: Asad Durrani, who was head of Pakistani military intelligence during the Russo-Afghan war, and head of the ISI shortly thereafter. Among other things, he is notable for (a) having started Pakistan's policy of funding foreign Islamic radicals to fight proxy wars in Afghanistan and Kashmir, and (b) having a longstanding feud with Pakistan's military establishment, especially Pervez Musharraf. 

His information may be old, but his support of foreign-led jihad and opposition to Musharraf's power base are still current. As late as 2008, he was demonstrating in support of jihad to retake Kashmir, and against Musharraf's controversial decision to unseat Pakistani judges that were making inroads against his emergency powers. He is, in other words, someone with a dog in this fight.

As for the second source: we don't know who it is, but we do know that that source has been shopping this story around for quite some time. RJ Hillhouse was told a substantially similar story four years ago, and published it on her blog to very little fanfare.  
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+Ray Cromwell I don't have enough reliable information to speculate reasonably.

For all I know anything might have happened ... by accident or intentionally ... 

And when the US intelligence/military machine eliminates one of its former allies, who turned against them, we can't expect a lot of transparency and honesty in the PR aftermath.
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I'll hand it to Rick Santorum: this is one area where Republican policies have been a remarkable success. Over the past fifteen years, we've almost manged to bomb Islamic radicals back to the 7th century.

In the 7th Century, Islamic militants defeated the superpowers of both the East and West, then seized Mesopotamia and the Levant and implemented a maximally austere version of Islamic law. The destabilizing effects of that massive military intervention led to a generations-long civil war between Sunni and Shi'a in Iraq and to the systematic persecution of non-Abrahamic religious minorities. It would take 200 years for the Middle East to recover -- and the superpowers that challenged Mohammad would never recover their pre-Islamic status.

Oh.

Wait. 

Is that not what he meant?

My bad.
Declared and potential GOP presidential candidates competed Saturday to sound the toughest warning to Islamic terrorists -- with one vowing to bomb them back to the 7th Century and another invoking Liam Neeson's threat from the film, Taken -- in the latest forum underscoring how national security has returned as a dominant campaign theme.
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Oh the iran-y.... Sorry, but that could not be helped
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Mike Travers:

There՚s a certain quality that unites libertarianism, rationalism, and neoreaction, and helps to explain my somewhat conflicted attitude towards all of them. They are all in their own way antipolitical, and for roughly the same underlying reason. To put it crudely, nerds don՚t like politics, perhaps because they are generally no good at it. These ideologies are all, in different ways, trying to replace politics with something more tractable to the nerdish brain – something with neat well-defined rules. These formal systems are obviously better than the messy and violent reality of actual politics in every respect but the most important one – they don՚t engage with the actuality of power

[...]

To be a bit more concrete: libertarians fetishize individual property rights and the marketplace, rationalists fetishize objectivity, and neoreactionaries fetishize centralized power. Note that these things are not really very compatible with each other, yet these groupings are quite socially close and people drift from one camp to the other rather easily. Which is evidence for my thesis that it is a certain kind of intellectual fetishization of simple rule systems that unites them, even if the rule systems themselves vary widely.

[...]

Rationalism defines itself around figuring out what is true. Having interests, especially political interests, interferes with this. And indeed, politics is not about what is true so much is it is about what people want, and how they collectively go about getting it.

[...]

Moldbug basically was a libertarian who was too smart to accept the fantasies of the market worshipers, so rather than giving up he doubled down and advocated rule by an absolute monarch. 

[...]

Yes indeed, politics sucks, but no, it cannot be avoided, to try to do so is to simply give yourself over to the manipulations of others. And, while revolutions do happen and replace one political order with another, I am skeptical that you can replace politics with a well-engineered formal system.

I could be wrong, and it could also be that the effort to do so results in valuable insights and ideas. So I don't consider these movements to be valueless by any means. Spinning fanciful political utopias and working to realize them is obviously a broader phenomenon, so why shouldn't nerds do it? Political fantasy can be dangerous but it is also the source of change, and god knows we need some changes.

http://omniorthogonal.blogspot.com/2015/05/three-forms-of-antipolitics.html
There՚s a certain quality that unites libertarianism, rationalism, and neoreaction, and helps to explain my somewhat conflicted attitude towards all of them. They are all in their own way antipolitical, and for roughly the sa...
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+Ken Heronheart They're also uncomfortable with the fact that their ideology bears no relation to reality.
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So. It turns out that al-Qaida has a job application form.
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The "Society of the Spectacle"?
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The Talmud has a surprisingly long section about kaiju. A sample: 

Rabba b. b. Hana said again: I have seen an alligator as large as the city of Hagrunia, which contained sixty houses. A snake came and swallowed it, and a large-tailed raven came and swallowed the snake, and then the raven sat on a tree. Come and see how strong was that tree!

R. Papa b. Samuel said: If I had not been there, I should not have believed it.

Rabba said again: At one time when on board of a ship I saw a fish into whose gills a reptile crept from which it died, the sea throwing it out on land. And sixty streets were destroyed by its fall, and sixty streets consumed its flesh, and sixty other streets salted the flesh that was left; and from one eye they filled three hundred measures of oil; and when I returned thither after twelve months, I saw its bones being sawed to restore the streets that were destroyed by it.

I am not sure what the theological reason for this discussion is? But it sure is awesome.
Babylonian Talmud, Book 7, tr. Rodkinson: Tract Baba Bathra (Last Gate), full text etext at sacred-texts.com
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+Boris Borcic the source isn't a particularly reliable translation anyway, though it is in the public domain, hence is available a lot less expensively than a good one.
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So, the TPP. Why is Obama pushing it so hard?

After having talked to some people doing TPP negotiations (not at Google!), the general consensus is that the Obama administration is generally unenthusiastic about the specifics, but considers it necessary nonetheless. In other words, it's a shit sandwich being offered as a slightly desperate alternative to a much larger shit sandwich that China has been shopping around to Southeast Asia. 

In their view, with the TPP, Asia ends up paying licensing fees and enforcing copyrights, and labor and environmental practices are locked in at "slightly less intolerable smokestacks and sweatshops." The negotiators consider the BATNA to be "rampant IP theft and mercury-belching factories where workers are perpetually trapped in all-but-slavery."

This is probably wrong.

The US government has a strong bias toward framing issues as contests between great powers, ignoring the autonomy of non-hegemonic actors. Considering China's motives, of course they'd push for a regional trade deal. But considering the smaller counterparties' incentives, there's no good reason to capitulate and take whatever China offers. 

As it stands, the TPP seems likely to medianize labor and environmental practices rather than strictly improving them. In other words, it would raise the floor while simultaneously lowering the ceiling. The Chinese deal, whatever it might be, would likely lower standards, keeping sweatshops open and abusive while Chinese manufacturing transitions to automated and finishing labor. 

Waiting longer to close out a trade agreement is probably best for everyone. As China runs out of peasant farmers to mill into factory workers, there will likely be room to raise labor standards in places like Cambodia and Bangladesh. Simultaneously, Chinese firms will be looking for new places to site the labor-intensive, low-cost, low-productivity work that had previously been done by former subsistence farmers.

With each passing month that goes by without a trade deal, the negotiating position of the smaller economies in the TPP becomes stronger, and the negotiating position of the hegemons becomes weaker. Passing the TPP would probably be good for US corporations. Failing to pass it now, however, seems much better for the developing world as a whole: a couple years from now, poor Asian countries will be able to claim the pound of flesh they're presently being denied.
There’s plenty to oppose President Obama on. This just so happens to be the wrong issue and moment.
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+Andreas Schou writes: As China runs out of peasant farmers to mill into factory workers, there will likely be room to raise labor standards in places like Cambodia and Bangladesh. I don't get it.  I actually don't know if this is the trend---as more and more of manual assembly work is automated, factory employment in China might decline, rather than rising.  But, even if it is the trend, and even if that leads to increased factory employment in southeast Asia, why would that represent higher labor standards in those places?  Chinese manufacturers expanding into those countries seem likely to lower labor standards and workforce protections---that's what we've seen of Chinese economic influence in other countries (including Cambodian agriculture).
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In light of his new "revelations" about the Bin Laden raid, brief reminder about Sy Hersh: if he isn't being followed closely by a fact checker, he isn't reliable.

And in this case, he isn't. If he's publishing in the LRB -- a publication not primarily known for investigative journalism -- then that means that the New Yorker took a pass on this story. As, presumably, did others. As they should have: if this story is true, then in it raises more questions than it answers. 

Who are the dead bodies whose pictures were taken in the aftermath of the raid?

If the Pakistani army was involved in turning over Bin Laden, why did he need to be exfiltrated by helicopter?

If we knew precisely where Bin Laden was, and his courier wasn't being tracked, why did we need to confirm his location by conducting a fake polio vaccination campaign?

If we didn't actually run a fake polio vaccination campaign, who is the doctor that was involved and why is Pakistan persecuting him?

If this was approved by Pakistan, why was there a diplomatic incident over the Pakistani Army's seizure of the custom Blackhawk?

If the Seal Team 6 raid didn't occur approximately as publicly discussed, why was the pseudonymous author of No Easy Day, which repeats the official line, sued for publishing it? 

If the official line was a simple fabrication, why were there leaks correcting material misstatements by the Obama Administration? Who was responsible for those? Why?

And that's just off the top of my head. It is not impossible that Hersh's story is true. And it is certainly not impossible that the Abbottabad raid went down differently than official sources say. But more than likely, Hersh took a story that was too good to be true, stovepiped it through a review process substantially easier than the one he normally has to deal with, and here's the result.
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+Jay Gordon I'll get into it in more detail tomorrow, but I'd strongly peg Hersh's two sources as being Russ Tice and Asad Durrani. 

Durrani is a ... really interesting character.
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Dilettante. Incapable of boredom. Diverse interests. If you'd like a distilled stream of my best posts, try here: http://goo.gl/CEAuD.
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