Dynamism (part 2)

A reader points out that the Axis powers suffered an oil embargo during WWII, forcing Japan and Italy to develop fuel-efficient vehicles. (Meanwhile, the Nazis figured out synthetic fuel.) The technologies that enable fuel efficiency lend well to high performance race bikes and sports cars, where power-to-weight ratio determines cornering speed. Hence the overrepresentation of Axis powers on Superbike and F1 podiums.

On the other hand, NASCAR has long been dominated by US auto manufacturers, with Chevy, Ford, and Dodge racking up the most historical wins. See, American engineers can build fine cars if they put their minds to it! Lol just kidding: NASCAR members banned foreign vehicles from participation to avoid competing with superior cars. Toyota was finally allowed to race in 2004, after complaining that all the “American” cars were made in Mexico anyway.


During WWII, Japanese fighters and bombers were manufactured by Mitsubishi, including the A6M Zero, the meatball plane that attacked Pearl Harbor. Propellers and fuel tanks were made by Yamaha.

After the war, Japan was forced to demilitarize. Mitsubishi shifted its manufacturing capabilities to making cars. Yamaha switched to motorcycles.

So here’s Sharp, known for its LCD TVs, announcing that it will repurpose its clean rooms to mass-produce face masks.

A clean room is a pressurized facility used for semiconductor fabrication. Because a speck of dust is enough to short out submicron circuitry, everything has to be super sterile. Perfect for producing N95 face masks. Supply chains are too messed up to manufacture TV sets anyway.

Could we do that here? What if the Cold War ended, and instead of lobbying for continued expansion of national defense, companies like Lockheed and Raytheon shifted to a more socially redeeming line of work?

The F-35 Lightning II cost $407 billion to develop. Who is this for, anyway? What third world country are we going to sic this on?

Lockheed Martin could be making motorcycles! Let’s get an American manufacturer into World Superbike for once. Why should the Japanese and Italians have all the fun?

Fun fact: Ducati, which holds the most race wins in all of World Superbike history, was founded as a radio company in Marconi’s hometown of Bologna. During WWII, they made military radios and machine gun parts for the Fascists.

We’re about to face massive medical supply shortages because all our stuff comes from China. What about all those abandoned manufacturing facilities in the US? Could Intel repurpose its decommissioned clean rooms in Santa Clara (where I used to work!) and start making face masks? Or would they be hamstrung by FDA regulations?

Bernie 2020!

I retreated from Twitter because all the people I follow for crypto stuff are now tweeting nonstop about coronavirus. (Armchair epidemiologists, the lot of you!) Rather than do something productive with my new-found time, I decided to take up Facebook. I hate myself.

As it turns out, all my college friends are now Bernie Bros.

A recent poll found that 50% of millennials have a negative view of capitalism, and 70% say they would vote for a socialist.

Millennials are the most highly-educated generation in all of history — 70% of them can’t be wrong! …can they?

Kidding, sort of.

John Oliver has a good segment on Medicare For All. If you weren’t in favor of free healthcare before, you will be after watching the clip. About 90 seconds in, a Fox News person is quoted saying that single payer healthcare would cause 90% of hospitals to literally go under tomorrow.

GOOD. If a hospital can’t stay in business without obscene billing practices, it doesn’t deserve to exist. Clear the way for new upstarts. China is cranking out a new hospital every 10 days while the US struggles to run basic tests. Are we really gonna sit back and let Communist China take us to school?

We’ve been approaching communism the wrong way. If you think of communism as a political-economic alternative to Western Democracy, then it’s the dumbest idea since radium water. But if you think of communism as a way to burn down extractive institutions, then it’s suddenly quite sensible.

In The Rise and Decline of Nations, Mancur Olson describes how long periods of political stability allow special-interest groups to assemble and amass influence. Instead of creating wealth through strategic risk-taking, these cartels go for easier extractive gains. Protectionism, collusion, regulatory capture. Economic stagnation ensues.

Democracy doesn’t fix this. Look at San Francisco, the most democratic city in the world. After decades of prosperity, the city is hamstrung by lobbyists and NIMBYists and literally covered in shit. No incremental bill or measure can solve the housing crisis; the best solution is a repeat of the 1906 earthquake that leveled the city. Shake the ant farm upside down and start over. No offense to my friends who live there, but you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.

A healthy society does not randomly get a wild hair up its ass and embrace communism. China’s Communist Revolution was bad, but the leadup to 1949 wasn’t exactly sunshine and freedom either. Three centuries of Qing Dynasty rule led to the concentration of wealth and farmland in the hands of feudal lords, then the British and Japanese ransacked the rest. Regime change wasn’t enough, they needed a thorough BITFD. Apparently one family had a monopoly on all the eggs in the country?

Anti-commies fixate on the initial death and destruction, but zoom out. In 1947, China and India were neck-and-neck in terms of life expectancy and wealth per capita. Over the next three decades, India’s free market democracy resulted in an excess mortality of 100 million deaths over China, even accounting for the 30 million killed in Mao’s famine. Today the average life expectancy is 68.6 years in India, 76.3 in China. That’s the difference industrialization makes.

Under the Medicare For All bill that I wrote, Premiums are GONE. Copayments, are gone. Deductibles, are gone. All out-of-pocket expenses are GONE! –-Bernie

The problem with Bernie isn’t that he’s too radical; it’s that he’s not radical enough. Free health care and education should apply retroactively: Medical debt is gone. Student loans, are GONE. The mortgage you took out to pay for chemo, is GONE!

Ron Paul kept saying he would End the Fed, but how would he do that, realistically? Write a bill and put it through Congress? Good luck with that.

What would Bernie do? Declare a jubilee! The Fed is literally a bank cartel; put the banks out of business and the Fed will go away. Consumer debt, is gone. Treasury Bills, are GONE. Municipal bonds, GONE!

    Step 1. Burn it all down
    Step 2. ???
    Step 3. Peace and Prosperity

Or maybe instead of a cleansing Bern, coronavirus will sweep through the land and destroy extractive institutions the same way Bubonic Plague destroyed feudalism in Europe.

Why is Tech Journalism Such Shit?

They hate you, that’s why.

Imagine you’re a tech writer for Vox, NYTimes, or some other mainstream outlet. You probably have a fancy Ivy League education. You’re smart, woke, and as well-connected as any of the tech bros you write about. Yet you’re earning chump change in a dying industry while Silicon Valley steals both your revenue and your relevance.

Resentment ensues.

There’s only one possible explanation: You’re poor because you’re righteous; they’re rich because they have no scruples.

Adam Johnson’s North Korea Law of Journalism dictates that a paper’s editorial standards are inversely proportional to a country’s enemy status. The more hostile the enemy, the more inclination for a journalist to simply make shit up as they go along.

The Law applies to domestic enemies too — Just look at how Trump supporters are portrayed in the media.

Now, I don’t know a lot about North Korea, but I do know a thing or two about China. Media coverage follows a basic formula:

  • Take a single image or event and ascribe the most uncharitable interpretation possible.
  • Generalize it to the entire population.
  • Hit up random Weibo users until you get enough quotes to support your narrative.
  • Sit back and wait for the clicks to roll in.

    For example, Winnie the Pooh. Five years ago, Weibo removed a number of posts where people used Winnie the Pooh to mock Xi Jinping. The cartoon character alone was fine, but a few innocuous posts got caught in the dragnet. Outlets like the New York Times ran with this story: Winnie the Pooh is banned across China because Xi Jinping is a thin-skinned ninny!

    Obviously Winnie the Pooh isn’t banned. The article above literally features a photo of Pooh dolls at a Disney store in Shanghai. But we hate China, so we suspend all incredulity when it comes to negative news.

    It’d be like, if Xinhua published a story about Twitter censoring the phrase “Learn to Code” last year, when some people were using it to troll unemployed journalists. Learning to Code is Banned in the USA because America hates education, Xinhua might say.

    And that’s what a lot of tech journalism looks like. Shitty journalism is not a conscious decision so much as a desire for confirmation bias. It’s hard to empathize with our enemies, and the media industry has good reason to see Silicon Valley as an enemy. Fixate on the negatives, ignore nuance, and turn the subjects into uncanny Others.

    Statistics for journalists: One is an outlier, two is a coincidence, three is a trend.

    The biggest mistake made within the tech industry is caring what media outlets have to say. Journalists aren’t writing for you; they’re writing for each other. Their bosses are journalists, their friends are journalists, the Pulitzer Prize Committee is made up of journalists. They don’t care what you think. If you find their coverage biased or unfair, they’ll blame your inability to take critical feedback (always impute bad intentions on your enemies).

    There are two ways to respond to a reporter. First, the Nassim Nicholas Taleb way:

    Or, have some fun with it. They’re gonna say bad things about you no matter what, might as well do your part to accelerate mainstream media’s spiral into irrelevance:

      Q: Hi, I’m a reporter for Recode. We’re doing a story about concerns about coronavirus in Silicon Valley. Care to comment?

      A: Yes, super terrified of coronavirus. All stocked up on hazmat suits and gas masks. I also have a freezer full of spare organs, since severe COVID-19 infections can lead to kidney and liver failure. My colleagues in China shipped them to me; I think they were harvested from kids caught posting Winnie the Pooh on Weibo.

    Silicon Valley spans a diverse population of 4 million people, but Marc Andreessen speaks for us all!

    See Also:

    Death and Taxes

    If the government uses my tax dollars to perform extrajudicial executions, can I sue the president for Tax Fraud? I never agreed to fund unconstitutional assassinations. And seeing as how the US is the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism, does that mean the IRS is in the business of laundering money for terrorists?

    Our Founding Fathers understood that this is a nation of diversity, and no central government could possibly legislate in a way that makes sense for every community. That’s why the Fifth Amendment authorizes citizens to protect themselves against governmental abuse — through the use of grand jury indictments.

    Grand juries are citizen assemblies empowered to try, convict, and sentence suspected criminals; thereby preserving the sovereignty of a local community. Judge Learned Hand called grand juries “the voice of the community.”

    Back in the olden days, crime was limited to simple things like theft and murder. Now the legal code has grown too complicated for commoners to comprehend, and citizen grand juries have fallen to disuse.

    In 1996, a group of concerned citizens (including cypherpunk Jim Bell) formed a common law court called the Multnomah County Common Law Court and empaneled themselves as grand jury. They tried and convicted IRS employees in absentia and issued judgments against government officials.

    Unfortunately, Multnomah County Common Law Court was infiltrated by federal agents, and Jim Bell was sent to prison for obstructing the IRS.

    Bell is best known for his essay on Assassination Politics, a prediction market where participants could anonymously contribute digital cash to bounty funds designated for the death of government officials. Each bounty would accept anonymous predictions on the politician’s date of death, and upon the target’s demise, the reward fund would be transferred to anyone who correctly predicted the date. The idea was that only the assassin would have known the date ahead of time.

    Bell’s prosecutors were disturbed by the idea of an assassination market, but they mistakenly assumed that the market would be applied in the US. In fact, the assassination market was intended for bad guys — Like Saddam Hussein, who was still alive at the time. It took two separate wars and over half a million dead children to finally depose Saddam Hussein, when a modest bounty could have done the job more neatly.

    The Nobel Peace Prize committee should have been all over this.

    Appendix. Who is funding our wars?

    We’ve spent over $6.4 trillion on our War on Terror. I wanted to know just how heavy my moral burden should be, so I got in touch with an accountant to help me out with some #Math.

    The total tax revenue for 2020 is estimated at $3.643 trillion. The Congressional budget estimates total spending to be $4.746 trillion. $1.295 trillion of the tax revenue comes from payroll taxes, which goes straight to funding Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment. That leaves $2.348 trillion (from income taxes, corporate taxes, and tariffs) to pay for $3.451 trillion worth of stuff. There’s another $1.546 trillion worth of mandatory spending (stuff like Medicaid and welfare), and authorization laws mandate that Congress must appropriate whatever funds to fulfill this spending.

    Subtract $479 billion to make interest payments on the national debt (important to avoid US debt default!) and that leaves $323 billion to pay for $1.426 trillion worth of discretionary spending. Military spending is the biggest part of discretionary spending, with a total budget of $989 billion.

    At this point, we have 12 cents on the income tax dollar going towards military spending.

    That’s not a lot. But $323 billion doesn’t cover $1.426 trillion worth of spending, which means we will have a $1.106 trillion deficit.

    The deficit is funded by the Treasury, which auctions off securities like T-bills to cover the budget. (See also: How Treasury Issues Debt)

    And the biggest buyer of this debt is…not China, but the Social Security Trust Fund! Then China. Then Japan. But for the most part we’re funding wars by borrowing from our retirement savings.