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A Swede in Germany

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Mistaken plausibilities

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In the past, I have written about topics like how some jump to conclusions about sexism or racism (e.g. [1], [2]) as causes for some certain event where a neutral and reasonable third party would, in most cases, suggest other causes.* This up to and including the systematic application of distorting gender-glasses** or their equivalent for e.g. race and/or systematic interpretation within a detached-from-reality framework like CRT. In light of later thoughts, I want to point to the possibility of an explanation that is (a) applicable to much more general situations, (b) is partially*** less incriminating when applied to allegations of sexism, racism, whatnot: mistaken plausibilities.

*Consider e.g. a woman being fired. The explanation for this might be sexism, but a more likely explanation is that she under- or outright mis-performed. Another explanation is a personal antipathy from a higher up—unrelated to her being a woman, maybe even involving a female higher up. Other explanations yet are possible that do not involve sexism.

**Yes, this is a thing and a thing that some Feminists, at least in Sweden, deliberately push.

***The jumped-to conclusions remain incorrect and there is an overlap in that e.g. PC propaganda might have brought on mistaken plausibilities that, in turn, led to a false conclusion of e.g. “sexism”.

To illustrate the general idea: When I was very, very young, I and my sister had been jumping on a bed. Mother was angry, as the previously well-made bed was now unmade. I tried to blame Martians, believing that this was sufficiently plausible to create reasonable doubt* (not that I knew the term at the time). Mother concluded that I was/we were still guilty and just trying to escape an “earful”. I, in turn, was honestly surprised that she was not open to my explanation.

*Indeed, I have long considered writing something about specifically the varying plausibility of reasonable doubt to various parties based on this event. For now, I just note that different levels (sometimes, areas) of knowledge, understanding, experience, intelligence, whatnot can lead to different positions on what doubt is reasonable.

I encountered Martians and other extraterrestrials, ghosts, witches, time travel, whatnot on a near daily basis—and I more-or-less took for granted, e.g., that there were Martians and that they often visited Earth. These encounters, true, had yet to manifest in my own life, but TV and my comics were full of them. My exposure to science and other aspects of a more adult worldview was much more limited, and my critical thinking was still that of a very, very young child.

My mother, on the other hand, had some* understanding that not everything on TV and whatnot** was to be trusted, she had lived a much longer life without a personal encounter with Martians, and she might have had the insight that children (and, sadly, adults) often lie to escape culpability.*** (She might also have considered factors that I had not, say, the relative likelihoods that Martians, should they exist and visit Earth, had and had not made their way into the house without her noticing.)

*Although, an imperfect one, as she was more culpable with regard to e.g. the news. A major point of this text is that adults often fall victim to similar errors, just in a more subtle manner. Witness e.g. the many true believers in the COVID-propaganda.

**Not limited to comics, of course, but also including novels (note e.g. how many historical inaccuracies the typical historical novel has), newspapers, works of non-fiction, etc. Their standard is usually higher or much higher than that of (children’s) comics, but most of them contain at least some amount of error and taking them too much at face value, as many adults do, is a mistake. Note, in parallel, how much of modern fiction engages in what appears to be deliberate reality distortion regarding e.g. crime rates in various racial groups, rates of domestic violence for the respective sexes, frequencies of clear cases of race- or sex-based discrimination, etc.; and the damage that this does to the worldview of the unwary. Ditto misleading journalism.

***Here she might have been well ahead of me at the same age. As an adult, I hardly ever lie, and I have often failed to consider the possibility that others could be lying, unless I either knew the truth to be something different or the lie was too obviously implausible.

Here we see how different persons can give a certain explanation drastically different plausibilities, which plays in to which explanations they prefer respectively reject.

We can apply the same thinking to e.g. a Catholic medieval village. Let us say that a statue in the church appears to be crying. The villagers have been raised to believe in miracles, saints, omens, whatnot, and would likely consider a miraculous* explanation highly plausible. Many might not even bother to consider other explanations, like a natural phenomenon, maybe relating to condensation or a previous rainfall.** From my point of view, however, a miraculous explanation is highly unlikely, as I have seen precious little evidence*** of miracles (and, as an atheist, would find them highly unexpected). At the same time, I have seen a great many cases of condensation, I know that a stony and/or unheated church might be prone to condensation, I have heard of alleged miracles that have turned out to have a scientific explanation, etc., and would be quite likely to consider natural causes. I have also encountered a great many hoaxes of various kinds, and would certainly not rule that option out.

*With reservations for terminology. My intent should be clear.

**This especially if a “I want to believe” factor plays in. Keeping such factors in mind when looking at other cases can be worthwhile.

***Strictly speaking, neither would the villagers have. However, they would have heard plausible-to-them claims from far away, they would have read/listened to stories, backed by higher authority, of saints performing miracles, they would know stories from the infallible-to-them Bible, etc. Compare this with the often too trusting attitude towards science, main-stream media, and the government today. (Also see excursion.)

Excursion on trusting science:
Many trust science in a highly naive manner, or, worse, trust others when they claim-that-science-claims. (Note e.g. [3], [4].) However, even highly critical thinkers, those who think for themselves, who are aware that even natural science sometimes gets things wrong, and who deeply mistrust the social “sciences”, usually take much on faith—and might not be that different from a medieval Catholic who trusted the Pope and the Bible. For instance, I know a fair bit about Relativity Theory, including being aware experimental evidence*, e.g. measurements involving atomic clocks that have remained still (relative the Earth) respectively traveled by airplane that show the time difference predicted by theory. Or do I? Strictly speaking, I have read accounts that claim that such experiments have taken place and have delivered certain results.

*Arguably, failed attempts at falsification.

Do I doubt these claims? No: physicists are (or have historically been) less likely to lie and distort than members of softer and/or more ideologically driven fields; plenty of physicists would have had much to gain by falsifying Relativity (so why have we seen so little contradictory evidence?); it would take a massive effort to keep such a big lie going for well over a hundred years; and the plausibilities are one-sided. Still, I am open to the theoretical-but-highly-unlikely possibility of fraud—just like I am open to the theoretical-but-highly-unlikely possibility that God does exist, after all.

In the softer fields, sadly, similarly large-scale fraud does take place, as with e.g. the common IQ-denialism and, more generally, the “nature only” claims. However, there are many voices that point out the faults of this denialism, and both the experimental evidence and everyday observations* are strongly in favor of IQ—not of the IQ-deniers.

*Everyday observations are, for natural reasons, not something that applies to Relativity (more correctly: to the differences between it and classical physics).

Written by michaeleriksson

September 24, 2022 at 6:25 pm

The Left, COVID, and absurd disappointment

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On quite a few occasions,* I have seen complaints along the line that “I can’t understand that the Left did this!” or “I can’t understand that the Left didn’t resist this!” in reference to COVID-countermeasures (be it in general or with some specific example). This often with a rider of “We are supposed to be the good guys!”, “We are supposed to be the ones who stand up for freedom!”, or similar.

*Including several times on the otherwise usually excellent Brownstone, including, today and as a borderline case, Why did the Left Fail the Covid Test So Badly?. (The title does not fully match the contents of the article, but it was the final straw for me to write this text.)

This well illustrates the difference between those who understand the Left and those who do not, especially between those who look at the actual actions of the Left and those who only listen to the self-portrayal (and portrayal of the “enemy”) spouted by the Left:

None of this “did” and “didn’t” is the least bit surprising, except maybe in that the Leftists got away with it so brazenly and with so little protest from the non(!)-Left. The exact character of the Left does vary from country to country, time to time, and faction to faction (even within one country), but most of what we have seen is typical Leftist behaviors and attitudes applied to a new situation. Disregard for the individual in face of a claimed greater good? Check! Massive reality distortion to reach political or ideological goals? Check! Censorship? Check! Defamation and maligning of opponents and dissenters? Check! Forcing compliance by whatever means necessary? Check! Wanting demonstrations of said compliance? Check! Complete disregard for Economics, side-effects, incentives, whatnot? Check! Pursuing a once stated goal religiously, even when that goal has been proved harmful or pointless? Check! Pushing power from the citizens to the government? Check! Pushing power from local governments to central government? Check! Pushing power from elected officials to bureaucrats? Check! Demanding a uniform support from news organizations and other media? Check! (Etc.)

No, the Leftist behavior is not the least bit surprising—and neither is the fact that the greatest COVID-sinners tendentially were Leftist governments. Truly surprising, on the contrary, was that the Swedish Social-Democrats, the historical main proponents of the nanny state, proved to have one of the most reasonable (least unreasonable?) attitudes with an eye at e.g. the economy, civic rights, and medical “conventional wisdom”*. Similarly, if anything, it is the many (if usually lesser) failures of non-Leftist parties, e.g. in Germany and the U.K., that are surprising.**

*One meta-reason why there were so many governmental failures, is that old and reasonably proven approaches and old and reasonably proven knowledge were rejected in favor of experimentation and speculation, possibly in the misguided belief that COVID was something truly new, instead of a variation of an old theme.

**But, in all fairness, it does fit into a larger pattern both of politicians growing ever more self-absorbed and of “RINOs” (resp. the local equivalent) being ever present. In Germany, the Merkel-run CDU, the allegedly Conservative “Christian Democratic Union”, had increasingly and long before COVID betrayed its voters and its natural values, be they Conservative, Christian, or democratic, in favor of populism-to-stay-in-power, of implementation of Leftist ideas, and of letting Leftists into power unnecessarily. (Note e.g. how Merkel repeatedly preferred to form coalition governments with the Social-Democrats over more natural coalitions and/or minority governments.) On the other hand, the new, post-Merkel, Social-Democrat government has so far been even worse COVID-wise, after adjusting for the lower infection rates. If the Social-Democrats had it entirely their way, there would, among other things, be forced vaccinations.

Written by michaeleriksson

September 22, 2022 at 5:07 pm

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Ending my readings on Ender before the ending

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As I noted recently ([1]), I was in the process of reading Orson Scott Card’s “Ender” saga. Half-way through the third book, I have given up on it, in the wake of the big family fight. There are simply too many too self-righteous characters, too much pontificating, too large swaths of that annoying attempted analytical inner monologue that plague many poor writers. At the same time, the limits of the author’s thoughts appear, as he tries to write the thoughts of great geniuses.

*As when character A internally analyses the exact motivations of character B or the exact implications of situation C, in a detail which borders on the laughable, because it takes one set of possibilities and turns them into (misperceived) certainties—and often a set of possibilities that is not even the single most likely set.

Looking at the first book (“Ender’s Game”) as a standalone effort, it had an interesting, original, and well-executed main storyline, excepting the limited plausibility of young children being the best choices for the task at hand. However, the Locke/Peter and Demosthenes/Valentine storyline did more to detract than to enrich, the discovery of a surviving queen-to-be-saved was cheesy and detracted further, and the level of character-genius involved might simply have been too high. Even the six-year old version of Ender might have moved at or above the level of the average adult in terms of intelligence, which might then have implied an (age-peer) I.Q. approaching 300. His siblings certainly reached the genius standard for adults even at ten and twelve (or thereabouts), which, again, likely brings us to an (age-peer) I.Q. above 200, maybe in the direction of 300. Such creatures would ultimately be so beyond comprehension by even regular geniuses that fiction about them borders on the pointless. (Indeed, writing about alien species makes much more sense, as the author can create these freely, without the restrictions of reality that writing about humans pose. There might even be room to discuss how well Card writes non-genius characters.)

The second (“Speaker for the Dead”) is very different, taking off thousands of years later, but also quite interesting in some aspects, especially relating to how different various life-forms and cultures can be.* Both Demosthenes/Valentine and the queen-to-be-saved play a larger part, and do add more value than in book one, raising the question of how much the author might have planned in advance. (Locke/Peter was long dead.) The supposed great revelations** about the “murders” and the piggie-to-tree transition fall flat, however. I contemplated similar ideas at a comparatively early stage, and it strikes me as ridiculous that several highly intelligent scientists, who spent years or decades living with these events, would have failed to even consider the possibility throughout that time. (See [1] for some minor additional information on the book.)

*However, I do not necessarily consider these parts biologically realistic.

**I am often annoyed by authors putting in supposedly great revelations that are far from it. In some cases, if not here, this includes things that are obvious to the thinking reader, at least as a possibility. This is particularly annoying when a character supposedly of great mental powers fails to see something over a prolonged period of time. (Another possible case in this book series is the “not a simulation” revelation from the first book. Unfortunately, I already knew this from the movie and cannot judge the book fairly, but I do know that I caught on faster than Ender did in the movie.)

The first half of the third (“Xenocide”) had some points of interest in the “godspoken”, OCD sufferers construed as influenced by the gods, but otherwise was lacking in something worthwhile and new relative the second book. (A standalone book focusing on the world of Path and the godspoken might have been a better investment of both the author’s and the readers’ time.) Meanwhile, the flaws discussed in the first paragraph grew out of hand.

Excursion on plausibilities:
In a work of science fiction, some suspension of disbelief is natural, e.g. in that it is accepted as “within the rules” that someone can go from point A to point B faster than a light beam could.* However, this suspension should be limited to areas where it makes sense, not extended to any and all aspects, and there must be some degree of consistency. Here, Card repeatedly strikes me as weak. Consider the idea** of ansibles, which allow instantaneous communication—even between ansibles in radically different co-moving frames. These, however, will not agree on what events are simultaneous, making the idea of instantaneous communication nonsensical and/or a source of paradox (within an even approximately Einsteinian universe). It does not help that the attempted explanation for how they work makes quantum entanglement seem like a triviality.

*Assuming that a sufficiently consistent and plausible solution is available (cf. the rest of the excursion). For instance, some type of wormhole-based portal might achieve this without exceeding the speed of light, thereby avoiding the complications predicted by current physics. Creating such a portal might put a heavy stress on the “fiction” part of “science fiction” and might even be a source of causality complications, but it is not something that is obviously and manifestly out of bounds. (In comparison with ansibles above, note that “instantaneous” and “ridiculously fast” are not the same thing.)

**Not his idea originally, but he makes very ample use of it, and the ansibles are crucial to several important aspects of and developments in the books.

Written by michaeleriksson

September 20, 2022 at 7:14 pm

Inflation hitting harder than it officially should

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During the days of comparatively low inflation, before the COVID-countermeasure and Russia-boycott era[s] took over, I repeatedly saw claims that inflation numbers were highly misleading and that the “true” inflation rate was higher than officially indicated.* While I never looked into this in detail, it does seem to hold in the current world, where price hikes on at least food** have often been far larger than the alleged, already high, inflation rate.

*Including some interesting side-claims, e.g. that governmental dietary recommendations were less aimed at improving health and more at shifting consumption to cheaper foodstuffs, e.g. from meat to bread. (I make no statement about the correctness of this claim, but I note that the recommendations that I remember from school were quite heavy in carbohydrates, which are often viewed less positively today, and easy on proteins, in general, and non-dairy animal products, in particular.)

**My consumption of other things than food and energy tends to be small and irregular, making changes hard to judge. (There are books and the like, but I buy a book once, and a difference in price between two different books tells me little about inflation.) Moreover, I do not pay attention to my own energy prices unless my supplier sends me a letter; and the price increases on energy are complicated through government interventions, and correspondingly hard to judge relative inflation when we look at the direct consumption. (But it is a major driver of inflation through indirect consumption, as electricity goes into virtually everything else that we buy.)

Some examples that have particularly annoyed me,* typically** with a price change taking place in 2022 alone:

*Especially in light of their being unnecessary, being largely caused by flawed government interventions of various types, notably regarding COVID and energy.

**As I have not kept actual notes, I cannot be more specific than that.

Milk: Used to be 60-something cents for a liter.* Is now at 99 cents, for an increase of around 50 (!) percent.**

*Here and elsewhere, I go by the brands that I usually buy. Note that I tend to buy cheaper brands, including store brands. (Germans might recognize “Ja!” as a good example.)

**I will use rough approximations throughout, as I do not usually know the exact old and/or the exact new price. Here, as a lower limit based on an original price of 69 cents, we have 43 percent. With lower original prices, the percentage increases.

Meals for frying: The local Aldi has a range of ready meals that just need a few minutes in a frying pan.* The one that I bought most often, a great personal favorite, was at 1.80-something. A few months ago, it was raised to 2.20-something, and then, again, to 2.60-something—40 percent or more.

*There is almost certainly a good English word for such, but I have no idea what it might be.

(Various other frozen meals? In a very rough guesstimate, the average price increase has been in excess of 20 percent on e.g. frozen pizzas, frozen lasagnas, and whatnots, with a variation from product to product.)

Sausages: The type and package of sausage that I have bought most frequently over the last few years, used to be at (likely) 1.99 Euro. The last time around, it was at 2.39 (?), for around 20 percent.

Coffee: I used to be able to buy the “good” brands for around 2.50 Euro per 500g package at ever recurring* sales, with a regular price of around 5 Euro. Today, the rebated price tends to be above 5 Euro and the regular price at 7-something Euro. Moreover, there are fewer sales. From my point of view, the prices have roughly doubled. (However, coffee often underlies price fluctuations based on e.g. how successful harvests have been. The overall change might reflect more than just inflation.)

*For a long stretch, the brands took turns with sales in a near continuous manner.

Rote Grütze:* Aldi used to sell this in 1kg buckets (handle and all). By now, the buckets are gone and 0.5kg containers have come instead. The buckets used to sell for around 2.50 Euro; the cones are at around 1.50 Euro, for a price/kg of around 3 Euro and, again, an increase of roughly 20 percent.

*There appears to be no good English name, but compote seems to be something slightly similar.

An interesting “maybe” is a great deterioration in the quality of my (previously) favorite brand* of muesli: For a period of maybe six months, every new package that I bought contained less and less nuts and more and more raisins. While I have nothing against raisins, this has shifted both the taste- and the health-profiles in a negative direction: The taste is by now over-powered by the raisins, the benefits of the nuts are gone, and the fast sugars of the raisins are likely to screw with how the body reacts.** The last time around, I actually found myself manually picking out as many raisins as I (with a reasonable effort) could. This was a few months ago and I have no intention of revisiting the brand.

*One of the two versions of the Rewe store-brand to be specific.

**Indeed, one of the reasons that I preferred this brand was that is was, originally, lower in fast sugars than many others. Notably, as great as good muesli is, it is very energy rich. Combine this energy richness with fast sugars and the associated ups-and-downs in blood sugar level, and I suspect bad things to be the result.

Excursion on shrinkflation:
With some reservations for rote Grütze above, I am not aware of any case of shrinkflation, but as the intent of shrinkflation is typically subterfuge, there might well be such cases that I simply have missed.

Excursion on low-end products being hit harder:
I would speculate that low-end products are more sensitive to the current problems, which might make me more affected by price increases, as the margins are lower. Higher-end products tend to have higher margins, which could mean that the seller and/or producer are willing to swallow more of a cost increase and/or to delay the price increase for some time—especially, when a portion of the cost increase is believed to be temporary. (Then again, maybe it is the other way around, as they might consider their customers less price sensitive.) An interesting potential example of this is coffee (cf. above): not only have the rebated prices taken a proportionally worse hit than the “full” prices, but capsules for Dolce Gusto* have taken a smaller hit still, at maybe 20 percent. A regular carton of 16 capsules used to be almost as expensive as a 0.5kg package of plain ground coffee, but, obviously, only gives 16 cups, which is far less than the 0.5kg package used for drip brews,** and the margins were correspondingly much larger. (I would not be surprised if most of the price was markup.) Correspondingly, the sellers might prefer to reduce the margin a bit and keep the customers, over keeping the margin and potentially losing customers.

*I buy these once in a blue moon, as the speed and convenience can be pleasant, but I taste-wise (and price-wise…) prefer regular drip brews.

**I have never kept tabs on the number of cups, especially as I make smaller cups when brewing; however, going by weight, my recently purchased “Grande” appears to have “16 x 8g = 128g” according to the carton. This is marginally more than a quarter of the regular coffee; most other types of “black coffee” Dolce Gusto use less or considerably less coffee; and the various cappuccinos, lattes, and whatnot only have 8 doses of coffee (and 8 doses of e.g. milk), making their coffee content correspondingly smaller. (However, they sell at the same price, regardless of coffee content.)

Excursion on inflation vs. deflation vs. fix value:
Even in the glorious days of 2-percent inflation, I was highly skeptical to the approach taken by various governments, central banks, and whatnots. I am not convinced that even this level of inflation was justified by sound Economics, but suspect that it was a matter of governmental convenience at the cost of the people.* Would not a zero inflation be fairer and better for everyone? Alternatively, like in some stretches of “yore”, that prices may have risen one year, sunk the next, and averaged out to near constancy over a longer stretch of time.**

*This might include aspects like a lower debt burden, exchange rates that do not grow too high (by some standard), an implicit shifting of tax brackets to put more and more of the people in higher brackets, and similar. For Leftist governments, we have the added “advantage” of existing fortunes being undermined; and, maybe even for non-Leftist governments, that there is a greater incentive to work, as saving up for the future and living on money already earned is harder.

**Notably, for countries on a gold or silver standard when the amount of available gold resp. silver was approximately constant or grew approximately in proportion to the overall economy.

Take it one step further: Would not deflation (i.e. “negative inflation”) be the way to go to increase the wealth of the people? Keep your salary and your bank account at the same level—and ten years down the line you will still earn more and be wealthier (in real terms). Let better production methods and other developments drive prices down, even if slowly, and everyone might be better off. Ditto if product quantity and/or quality improves at a fix price.

There are claims that a little inflation would be a good thing, and that deflation would be bad; however, these claims have so far left me unconvinced as their are too many conditions applied and/or too much speculation.* For instance, with a deflation of 2 percent a year (compare the longstanding inflation goals of 2 percent a year), why would anyone be deterred from consumption? A similar** effect has not prevented e.g. the computer industry from flourishing and leaving products like food for next year, when they will be cheaper, is either silly or suicidal. Inflation allows (real) wages to go down? Only very temporarily, as the unions will factor in the inflation in the next round of increases. There might be less incentives to borrow money, but I do not see that as a bad thing. Etc.

*Including assumptions about an otherwise fixed economy, without productivity improvements; use of severe deflation (e.g. 20 percent a year) instead of mild (e.g. 2 percent a year); and application of short-term thinking on the agents within the economy in that deflation is a rare abnormality that causes unusual concerns and behaviors. (The latter does match the current situation, but not the situation suggested by me.) Indeed, I suspect that the point of various claims is less to give a fair analysis and more to “prove” that “deflation is bad; ergo, we must have inflation”.

**Here we have a deflationary effect specific to the product group, as opposed to an economy-wide one.

Excursion on “mis-yearing” price increases:
A confounding factor is that businesses do not necessarily increase prices immediately in reaction to various events. The reasons for this can be manifold, including e.g. a wish to wait until the competition raises prices, a wish to avoid unnecessary up-and-down fluctuations, a fear that raising too many prices at once (in e.g. a grocery store) can put off too many customers. Then there is the wish to keep those annoying “x.99” prices. For instance, if a certain product sells at 0.99* and a 10-percent increase is called for (according to some set of criteria), then this would result in a price of 1.09. If the margins are large enough and the fear present that the leading “1” will be a greater deterrent than the leading “0”, it might make sense to wait. A year later, another 10-percent increase is called for, or a “real” price of 1.19**. Foregoing 10 cent is one thing, 20 another, and now the price is raised by the full amount. The impression of the customers might then be misleading, because they are not aware that they had been given an implicit 10-cent rebate in the past. It is certainly possible that the strong price increases in 2022 go back partially to such delays in the increases.

*Here and below, I will leave out the currency units. They would add nothing to the illustration. Note, however, that I implicitly assume an x.yz system in both currency units and notation, which does not apply to all currencies.

**Strictly speaking, 1.20, but that would violate the prices-must-always-end-with-a-9 rule.

Excursion on multiplicative rates and underestimating inflation:
One reason that many underestimate inflation is that they fail to consider its multiplicative nature. For instance, to repeat and extend the above calculations with a more sensible 1 as a basis:

Iteration/Year True value* Naive value**
0 1.00 1.00
1 1.10 1.10
2 1.21 1.20
3 1.33 1.30
4 1.46 1.40
10 2.59 2.00
20 6.73 3.00

*Value achieved by multiplying with a factor of 1.1 for each iteration. Rounded and/or padded to fit the normal price format.

**Value achieved by just adding 10 percent of the original price per iteration. Padded to fit the normal price format.

As we can see, the difference between the true and the naive value is small for the first few years, although a difference is notable already in iteration/year 3 and certainly 4.* However, as time passes, it explodes upwards.

*The naivety of the naive estimate might be increased, should typical pricing be used, as we might then have e.g. 1.29 instead of 1.33 for the third iteration/year—but we might see an apparent explosion to 1.49 for the fourth. (The same phenomenon as discussed in the previous excursion.)

Excursion on other attempts to mislead customers:
Attempts at e.g. “shrinkflation” are not the only problems. For instance, I have recently bought quite a few semi-ready meals from Knorr, where a ready-made mix of pasta, cheese, and various other ingredients are heated in water for a few minutes—convenient, tastes well, and very filling if enough water is used to create something closer to soup than a “dry” meal. (Healthy? More dubious.) However, the misleading claims about energy are definitely problematic. For instance, the package that I am looking at right now makes three claims about energy content: (a) 397 kJ per 100 g of cooked (“zubereitet”) product. A careless customer will now look at the 100 g and the overall raw weight of 153 g and assume roughly an overall of 600 kJ—which borders on diet food. The true value is 2598 kJ, or well above four times as much. The more pleasant value is an illusion created by counting the water. (b) 1294 kJ per alleged serving* (“Portion”). The careless customer would now naturally assume that this is the result of cooking the overall, but he is still off by a factor of two—allegedly, two servings result from a single package. To this, I note that cooking just half the contents while keeping an even distribution of various ingredients would be tricky, that the dish is not suitable for a keep-and-reheat scenario, and that only half would be too little for a full meal for one person. (Half might or might not do as a snack or as a part of a multi-course meal.) (c) 15 % of the energy needed per day.* This, again, per alleged serving and with the same misunderstanding likely to arise. (But, oddly, the value is kept high by using a reference person at 8400 kJ per day, which, I suspect, is on the low side for men and growing teenagers of either sex.)

*Both servings and energy-per-day measures are next to useless, as they vary much too much from person to person. The former does more harm-than-good and should be banned, as they are often outright abused. (I recall seeing bags of potato chips that used servings of 20 g, or well below an ounce. Does not sound like a typical serving to me.) The latter likely do more harm-than-good, and it would be better for the individuals to learn what fits them on an individual basis.

The two values that would have made the most sense, energy per uncooked weight (kJ/100g) and energy per entire package, are very, very absent.

Written by michaeleriksson

September 19, 2022 at 5:57 pm

Governments and energy

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The energy policy of many current governments is puzzling, to say the least. Looking at developments over time, it is as if they deliberately wanted to ruin the energy supply and/or drive up energy prices.* A great example is the German “Energiewende”, which over the last fifteen-or-so years has driven up energy prices artificially in order to finance “green” energy sources like solar panels and wind turbines. So far, so good. (Well, excepting that these “green” energy sources are now known to be far from ideal.) The gains in energy production, however, were not spent where it made sense, namely to reduce the use of fossil fuels—no, they were focused on diminishing the use of nuclear power! Nuclear power, which should, almost must, be the backbone of any environmentally friendly energy supply, instead became the first sacrifice.**/***

*Indeed, some debaters on the Internet have suggested this very thing, e.g. as part of some WEF scheme. I do not say that they are correct, but the suspicion is, at a minimum, very understandable.

**One of the reasons that I cannot take the environmentalist movements seriously is their absurd hatred of and propaganda against nuclear power, which demonstrates a great ignorance of the relative costs, risks, pros, cons, and whatnots of various energy forms. Also see excursion.

***At least for the foreseeable future. A few decades from now, this might or might not be different, but today nuclear power is a near-necessity.

This is the more absurd as cheap and plentiful energy is the key to a blossoming modern society. Not only are and were energy costs, even before the current, politician created, energy crisis, a major factor in household budgets,* but energy enables us to do almost anything in the long term: The mixture of new technologies and energy can move mountains—if the energy actually is available. If the energy is too scarce or too expensive, well, then we have a problem. (Also see excursion.)

*Directly, in an obvious manner; indirectly, through how energy costs affect the prices of other products.

One of the highest priorities of any serious government should correspondingly be to make energy as cheap and plentiful as possible. (Within some reasonable parameters, e.g. that the long term use of fossil fuels is reduced; and in as far as the government involves it self at all.*) Actual governments? They do the exact opposite.

*Government involvement tends to be for the worse. If a sound policy of cheap and plentiful energy is followed, this might or might not be different, but current involvement has definitely made matters worse even in the energy field (cf. above and below).

In fact, to do the exact opposite of what a rational and well-informed government would do seems to be the guiding star of actual governments. Consider the abolishment of nuclear power; the entire German “Energiewende”;* the creation of dependencies on Russia (and OPEC) followed by sanctions against and boycotts of Russia and Russian energy; Biden’s arbitrary block of the Alaskan pipeline; attempts to force the Brits onto heat pumps that are too expensive and often require even more expensive alterations of buildings, or Californians (and many others) onto electric cars that are too expensive, too impractical, and come with a too large hidden** environmental impact. (Bans on fracking might be another example. Here I would need to do more research to say for certain with regard to the overall effects, but the effects on prices and the dependency on Russia are certainly negatives.)

*A topic worthy of its own analysis, but I have too little time for the research needed. (I did skim a few pages on German Wikipedia, but the editors seemed hellbent on giving a one-sided “green” propaganda view of the matters.) I note, however and for example, that enormous amounts of money were spent on supporting the German solar panel industry, which is now borderline bankrupt after being exposed to cheaper Chinese competitors.

**It is not just a matter of how much or little pollution is caused while driving. There is also the matter of the overall life cycle impact of the vehicles, batteries, and infrastructure needed. Moreover, the charge of the batteries has to come from somewhere, and this “somewhere” will often amount to something causing pollution.

Excursion on the benefits of energy:
To take just one example of what can be done with enough energy and good enough technology, consider growing food. There are already small-scale examples of food grown on shelves under artificial lights, instead of under the sun. Get the lights (and, m.m., other conditions) sufficiently close to sunlight in its characteristics and a large enough supply of energy could make the supply of food almost arbitrarily large. (We need more soil to grow the food in? More energy and better technology can solve that. We need robots to handle plant care, harvest, whatnot? More energy and better technology can solve that. We need large buildings or underground halls to house the shelves? More energy and better technology can solve that. Etc.)

From another angle, major historical developments in productivity, living standards, whatnot usually resulted from some combination of better technology, more energy, better or different energy use, or similar. Consider the steam engine and its enormous effects or electricity and its even larger effects.

Excursion on nuclear power:
This is not the place for an in-depth discussion, but I do note that the main argument against nuclear power, the risk of accidents and associated damage, is ridiculously overblown. The Chernobyl accident took place in an already outdated and known-to-be-risky design type (and we are closing onto forty years on top of that) and included gross human negligence—and it was still massively outweighed by the environmental and health damage, including premature deaths, caused by fossil fuels in a single year. The Fukushima event only happened due to an enormous natural disaster that caused far more damage than the nuclear event. Some say that the ensuing evacuation caused more deaths than the Fukushima event would have, had the evacuation not taken place; and that the ensuing, very expensive, clean-ups were mostly unnecessary. At any rate, the Fukushima event was much smaller than the Chernobyl accident and even the sum of the two remains dwarfed by the yearly damage done by fossil fuels.

As a personal example: When I was 4–6 years old, my family lived near* one of Sweden’s nuclear plants. My mother worried about this and explained her worries to me by how a nuclear accident would mean death to us all with no chance of escape. Experiences from Chernobyl prove this claim to be ridiculously wrong (as would some informed thought have), but it is very possible that large swaths of the population still hold similarly incorrect beliefs. (And more than forty years later, this accident of my mother’s fears has still not taken place.)

*I do not know how near, but probably no more than a few miles.

Excursion on doing the opposite:
Unfortunately, the world is full of other examples of governments doing the exact opposite of what they should. For instance, any educated and reasoning person should know that current taxes are too high; that current government is too big; that the key to good schooling* is individualization; that incentives matter for the economy; that we need equal opportunity, not outcome; that we need better protection of rights like free speech; and that own IQ and other largely inborn characteristics matter more than e.g. “parental SES” for life outcomes. (In all cases with some reservations for the country at hand. However, this matches the situation in e.g. Germany, Sweden, and the U.S.) What do governments almost invariably do? They raise taxes even higher; they make government even bigger; they force an increasingly uniform and one-size-fits-all schooling in the name of “social justice”; they kill incentives and/or create perverse incentives; they scream for equality of outcome; they try to reduce the rights of the individual, in particular free speech, in favor of governmental control; and they subscribe to absurd and outdated “tabula rasa” thinking, and put all credit of success and blame for failure to levels of “privilege”, claimed “structural racism” or “sexism”, “structures”, and whatnot.

*Education is what truly matters and schooling is not a good way to get an education. This, too, the educated and reasoning person should know; however, replacing schooling with something better would be a long-term project. But, true, here too governments fail by insisting on more and more schooling, while leaving actual education a mere nice to have.

Oh, and then there is the entire COVID thing, where most governments did virtually everything wrong that they could do wrong.

Written by michaeleriksson

September 19, 2022 at 5:55 pm

A confluence of ideas

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As I have noted in [1], it is often when two or more ideas come together that the most interesting texts arise. (Albeit sometimes at a cost to the textual quality.)

For instance, recently I have written texts on Trotsky ([2]) and turning the world upside down ([3]) that are still fresh in my mind. (I recommend a reading for optimal understanding of the below.)

Then, earlier today, I re-watched “Life of Brian”, and after that I began to read “Speaker for the Dead”, the second book of the “Ender” saga for the first time. (Yes, it is a few decades overdue.) In the conjuncture, I was soon struck with the three-fold quasi-religious role of Ender as, respectively, the hated Xenocide;* the admired original Speaker for the Dead (and the author of two quasi-religious works using that pseudonym); and one of the many secondary Speakers of the Dead that follow in the original’s footsteps.** This with repeated salvatorical*** aspects.

*Based on being the main (but unwitting) tool in the (presumed) extermination of an alien race. The word is likely patterned on “genocide” and matches the “xeno-” in many real-life names for branches of (real, pseudo-, or proto-) science dealing with extraterrestrials. This is an interesting reversal compared to the first book, where he, in this role, is hailed as the savior of mankind—and a reversal, at least partially, brought about by his second role. (That the three roles are filled by the same person is known only to a very small group.)

**Here it helps to know that roughly three millennia have passed since the events of the first book, where the first role was established, and the few decades that followed, where the pseudonymous second role followed. Ender’s continued existence is caused by extensive space travel at relativistic speeds.

***I am at loss for a better word, especially as the nature of the first role in the original interpretation was different from the later two roles. With some over-simplification: In the first, we had someone who combined being a war hero and the Chosen One, someone who might have fit in a non-monotheistic mythology or religion; in the second, someone maybe more compatible with the Buddha or one of the Christian philosophers; in the third, an active worker in the field, who might combine aspects of a (non-supernatural) Christ or one of his disciples during the Acts-era. In all roles there is an aspect of salvation, but it differs in nature, and formulations like e.g. “Messianic” would be too specific or otherwise more misleading.

I am again brought to the temptation mentioned in [3], the (almost bound to be futile) attempt to turn the world on its head through e.g. a Grand Unified Vision. I can easily see how someone more naive would read “Speaker for the Dead” and actually fall for the temptation.

This brings us to religion—are there not a great many religious leaders who have changed the world for the better, exactly by means of propagating some set of ideas and principles? There might be, but not many, and even the likes of Jesus (if interpreted as a sect leader, rather than as a divine something-or-other), with a message of peace, might have done the world a great deal of harm for a long time.* Certainly, remarks from [3] apply on how things turn out differently than intended, how large the costs might be, etc.

*To judge when the net-effects of this-or-that religion turned positive, if ever and at all, is quite tricky, and it is quite possible that something that once was positive then turned negative again. I will not make the attempt, but I do note that the time scales can be very long. (For instance, Islam is almost certainly still a net drain on the world—a millennium and a half after its founding.)

Here we have an intersection with Martin Luther and another theme: only yesterday, I was contemplating how the current decay and distortion of e.g. U.S. colleges resemble the decay and distortion of the Catholic Church that once brought Luther to write his 95 theses—and how someone* really needs to write the equivalent theses for the modern world and to nail them on the doors of each and every college, university, and whatnot.

*Why not do it myself? I might in due time, but my backlog keeps growing and adding such a monumental (if done properly) task might be futile. Moreover, if I did, I might cross over the border of temptation in the sense of [3]. I did have a look at the originals, but they would make a poor template, as they deal too heavily with the specific topic of indulgences and the correct theological stance on related issues. There is a somewhat interesting parallel, however, in the idea of being told that we can buy that which cannot actually be bought, and how the Church resp. colleges peddle this something. Paying a large sum to the Catholic Church will not send you straight to heaven; paying a large sum to a college will not, e.g., give you a good brain.

Now, Luther and the other reformers had real and genuine complaints, while the Catholic Church had real and genuine problems.* Things did still not turn out very well. Luther, in my understanding, had expected his theses to lead to a scholarly (if, likely, heated) debate, bring the attention of ranking clergy to problems, whatnot, which would lead to a more-or-less peaceful reformation. Instead, he was excommunicated, at the center of immense controversy, maybe in personal danger, and the cause** of a pan-European war. Even today, residual animosity between Catholics and Protestants occasionally causes problems. Yes, new Churches arose, the Catholic Church was reformed, and the indulgence sales disappeared. No, things did not go as planned and the costs were outright horrifying.

*I make no statement on who has or had the sounder position from a strictly theological point of view.

**Although, he might have been more the matchstick than the dynamite—as is so often the case in situations like these.

But then we have poor Brian and how small the difference between obscurity and prominence can be. Assume, for instance, that Brian had dishonestly affirmed being the Messiah and proceeded to take advantage of his followers. What might the consequences of that have been?* Or assume that he had not been crucified and had instead continued his work with the People’s Front of Judea (or whatever it was called); and vice versa that someone like Stalin, Lenin, Trotsky had suffered a far earlier death. Then we have the Brian–Jesus contrast. The exact scenario from the movie is not that good an illustration, as Jesus was depicted as the real supernatural deal, while Brian was a regular human; however, with slight modifications we can have scenarios, including in real life, where who ends up on the top can depend on luck, of having been at the right place at the right time, maybe even having received the metaphorical gold, frankincense, and myrrh intended for someone more deserving.** This especially in politics, where a very small margin in support, be it among voters or Politburo members, can make the difference between success and failure. (Another reason why attempts at turning the world on its head might easily fail.)

*Yes, the exact fictional scenario is not very realistic; however, similar-but-more-realistic things can happen in real life. Consider e.g an early 20th-century Marxist theorist who has a small temporary impact and who is asked to join an important Committee, write for an important paper, whatnot—and who then accepts or rejects the offer. In the first case, he might ascend to be of historical importance; in the second, he might descend into obscurity, as a minor footnote.

**An interesting fictional example is seen on “Friends”, when Chandler and Monica go on their honeymoon: They are repeatedly one position in the queue behind another honeymooning couple. The other couple sees first-class upgrades of tickets and various other benefits. Chandler and Monica? No, sorry, those were our last seats in first class.

Moving back a step to that temptation: in parallel, I have contemplated the likelihood that there is a great similar temptation among the potential readers too, especially among the readers who are weak critical thinkers, try in vain to make sense of the world, and/or have a religious hole* that they are looking to fill. Here we have a book, a charismatic speaker, a Marxist theory, whatnot that seems to explain that incomprehensible world—and they grab at it. Indeed, this idea might go some way to solve the paradox that even some otherwise intelligent and seemingly well-informed individuals fall prey to Leftist thinking:** Various natural sciences have done great things in analyzing, explaining, predicting, controlling, using, whatnot various natural phenomena. Why should not the same be possible in this-or-that social science? And, lo and behold, here is a book with a Great Unified Vision—what is not to like? Well, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, not the recipe, and those who bother to actually eat are disappointed; however, I could easily see how a scientific mind, with some naivety outside known fields, would be a possible victim, maybe even an easier victim than those used to less abstract and systematic thinking, someone too impressed with the recipe on paper to actually try the pudding—or someone who ascribes a failed pudding to some unfortunate detail, e.g. a slightly too long stay in the oven, and is convinced that everything will be alright the next time around, no matter how often the recipe has already failed.

*A pet hypothesis of mine is that most humans have a strong urge for something akin to religion. When the urge is not fulfilled by an actual religion, they grasp at what they can find. For most Atheists, the use of a religion is ruled out in advance, and they are at an increased risk of being swept up by e.g. Marxism, CRT, (Gender-)Feminism, or some similar Leftist quasi-religion. Similarly, they might become fanatical believers in, say, Psychoanalysis or Homeopathy. For that matter, look at how attitudes around COVID have often been quasi-religious among many politicians and among the easily manipulated in the broad masses. Maybe, we should stipulate the existence of Faucism or COVIDianism.

**Other explanations are present, however; notably that too many do not consider the possibility that the newspapers might be filled with misinformation or lack sufficient own knowledge on topics outside their area of expertise. A mathematician, for instance, might be used to math papers and textbooks making thoroughly proved and correct claims, and never have really bothered to dig deep into history. Even the mathematician might then fall prey to someone who makes superficially plausible, but ultimately incorrect, claims.

Now, as can be seen from this discussion of writing and the confluence of ideas, there is a very interesting text to write on Ender, Brian, religion, politics, tomes, temptations, and whatnot. That text is left as an exercise to the reader.

Excursion on “Life of Brian”:
The movie is in many ways a brilliant (if likely only partially intentional) parody of various Leftist movements. This includes the issue of whether a man can declare himself a woman and have babies—many decades before such issues overtook mainstream politics. Other issues include the great amounts of infighting and fractioning that often plague Leftist movements, the willingness to use violence, and the blind faith and how facts that do not fit the preconceptions are ignored. (Here it is important to keep in mind the great similarities between religions and some, especially Leftist, ideologies.)

A particularly interesting scene is the “What have the Romans ever done for us?” discussion, which in its early phases matches the attitudes of some Feminist groupings, Black agitators, whatnot—what have White men ever done for us? Quite a lot, in turns out, when we look at the facts, which the characters in the movie did, but their modern counterparts refuse to do. (Potentially with similar claims applying to some other groupings, e.g. Post-Modernists rejecting scientists or members of the Old Left rejecting the markets.)

I also find myself asking whether John Cleese’s priest (or whatnot) was truly stoned because he said “Jehova”—or because he abused “they” as a generic singular.

Excursion on the temptation of Christ:
Jesus (if we interpret the Bible literally) was also famously tempted, and famously rejected the temptation. Maybe he could have made himself emperor of the world, dictated to humans how they must behave, or whatnot. He rejected this in favor of peaceful conversion with the help of words. In this, he might be an interesting role-model with an eye at [3]. Then again, things likely worked out very differently than intended, even with the chosen approach.

Written by michaeleriksson

September 16, 2022 at 1:14 pm

Democrat abuse of the justice system / Fascist is as Fascist does

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Over the last five-or-so years, I have heard of a great many abuses of the U.S. justice system to harass Trump, Republicans, MAGA-supporters, and similar in an unconscionable manner—even leaving the J6 farce aside. This is a matter of a political persecution. Moreover, it is not, as someone like Joe Biden might want to paint it, the good guys going after a Nazi-like movement—it is, by any reasonable standard, a Nazi-like movement going after the good guys. If in doubt, Fascist is as Fascist does.

Visiting just one site, earlier today, I found the following recent articles in just a few minutes:

[1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7].

Now, I am not saying that these are all quality texts, nor do I deny a certain overlap, but the mere existence is a disturbing sign of how far the U.S. has fallen—and there are a great many other texts and cases out there, going back these five-or-so years.

Note that even when these abuses do not actually reach prosecution, the damage can be very considerable through waste of time, expenditures on lawyers, reputation damage, and, not to forget, the psychological effects. These are things that can prevent, for instance, a Republican politician from carrying a close election. They are also things that can have a strong deterring effect on those considering politics, be it as politicians or as support staff, on lawyers receiving requests to represent Republican politicians, on ordinary citizens wanting to make their voices heard, etc.

In many cases, cell phones and other electronic equipment have been confiscated, which implies a reduction in the victims ability to work, the risk that confidential material (including material underlying client–attorney privilege) becomes known to those without a right to know,* the risk that materials of a strictly private and entirely irrelevant nature become known,* as well as complications like loss of data (e.g. that phone number that has not yet been backed-up). Etc. Then there is the risk of “evidence” being planted. (I am on record as claiming that digital evidence must normally not be allowed, for the simple reason that the ease of manipulation is far too large and the ability to detect and prove this manipulation far too small.)

*This includes not just the perpetrating agency, but also those to whom the agency or its individual employees might chose to leak and those who might hack the systems of the agency.

More generally, there is a strong drive towards the “over-broad”, as with the recent, unprecedented, raid on Trump, where, among other things, his passports (!!!) were temporarily confiscated.

In many cases, as with e.g. the Trump raid, a request for cooperation is not even tried—instead, agents move in with an enormous overkill, even absent any legitimate and plausible belief that this overkill is needed resp. that cooperation would not be forth-coming.

When it comes to persons of some importance, these events often hit the news in a manner that seem to imply guilt to the unwary, naive, and/or prejudiced—why would they raid Trump (arrest X, take Y’s cell phone, whatnot) unless he was guilty? To too many, especially on the Left, suspicion equals guilt. That various partial news sources append claims that have no foundation in reality (e.g. that “X is an extremist”, “X is racist”) does not make matters better. I note, in particular, that such reports from U.S. sources are often taken over uncritically by e.g. Swedish and German news, in a manner that creates a further international distortion.*

*Even I had a very incorrect view of Trump in his early days, because I had not bothered sufficiently to look at primary sources, and was hit more by U.S. and German (mis-)reporting on Trump. The reverse applies to e.g. Obama.

These Nazi-methods must not be tolerated. I sincerely ask the readers to never, ever vote for someone who was involved with the perpetration, to demand that the likes of Biden and Garland are held accountable, and to clearly distance themselves from both the Democrats and the methods used by the Democrats.

Fascist is as Fascist does.

Excursion on similar problems:
A wide range of similar problems exist, including selective censorship on social media, undue harshness in prosecution and sentencing towards Republicans and/or Whites, undue lenience towards Democrats and/or Blacks, general persecution of those who disagree with Official Truths* in public (including on COVID), attempts at entrapment, hate hoaxes, etc. A particular interesting contrast is how the affairs around Hunter Biden were hushed up, while Trump had to sit through accusations that we now know were (no pun intended) trumped up, notably the Russian-collaboration hoax.

*These Official Truths are, of course, often very far from being actual truths, as with many claims around COVID, allegations of “systemic racism”, and various Feminist clap-trap, which fall apart when we actually look at the underlying facts (and/or, as with some COVID issues, scientific knowledge catches up).

Written by michaeleriksson

September 14, 2022 at 12:58 pm

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Turning the world upside down—or not / Follow-up: Trotsky

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Over the last two or three years, in the mixture of COVID-mania, various claims by or about the WEF, and my readings on various political topics, I have often been tempted by the idea of a remake of society in a drastic manner.* My recent watching of “Trotsky” (cf. [1]) brings this to mind again—and provides an excellent demonstration of why I have rejected such thoughts: Actual drastic remakes never seem to end well and always turn out differently than intended. Consider e.g. Cromwell, who was a space filler between Charles I and Charles II;** the French revolutionaries that proved that the revolution eats its children and saw a king replaced by an emperor; said emperor, who ended up exiled in the middle of the Atlantic; the Russian revolutionaries, who again were eaten, and saw decades of mediocrity before the Soviet Union collapsed; Hitler, who saw Germany destroyed and who committed suicide to avoid capture; or, on a lesser scale, the likes of Venezuela and Zimbabwe, where the remade societies descended into economic ruin. Then there are the costs that the changes incur, be it upon the changers or, more often, upon the rest of society. Going through the same set of examples, were the costs even remotely worth the result? Would they have been worth even the intended result?

*For obvious reasons, more on the level of theorizing on paper and propagandizing to followers than on the level of actual change, as getting into a sufficient position of power for a practical implementation would be easier said than done. Also obviously in the opposite direction of what someone like Klaus Schwab might suggest.

**It might be a bad omen for the British monarchy that they currently have Charles III…

More generally, paper constructs often land wide off the mark, and the wider the more complex the area is—and areas likes society, governance, and economics can be extremely complex.

Yes, I do want society to change in certain manners; no, I am not going to write a large tome detailing how my Utopia would look and how to create it, nor am I going to create and expound a Grand Unified Vision of history, society, or whatnot.

To work well (often: at all) deliberate societal change has to be sufficiently slow and controlled, moderating idealism with sufficient pragmatism, and adapting to reality as reality presents it self. Grand Unified Visions and large tomes are for the naive—or, on the outside, the power hungry who trust in the naivety of others. Then there are pesky issues like ethics and the consent of the governed—they might not matter much to the Left, but they do matter to me.

Excursion on “systems”:
Overlapping, I have the impression that whenever someone tries to force something into a system of thoughts or principles, the result is weaker than if the thing had been investigated more open-mindedly and more in it self. Note e.g. my criticisms of The Hero with a Thousand Faces and (with reservations for how much I left unread) Der Untergang des Abendlandes; how Marxism, Critical Theory, whatnot, are counterproductive dead-ends; and how fields like Gender Studies have delegitimized themselves and removed the possibility of any serious study of whatever might actually be worth studying around gender (or whatnot) by forcing preconceived ideas and perspectives onto observations.

Excursion on the American Revolution, etc.:
Does not the American Revolution, the later Constitution, and similar provide a counterexample? Well, they are the closest that I can think of, off the top of my head. However: (a) It was a rebellion, not a revolution; a smaller group breaking free from a larger group, not an overturning of the overall system. (b) The Constitution was based on the prior works and thoughts of many minds. It was preceded by the lesser Articles of Confederation, thereby being a second attempt. It still needed ten amendments to truly stand out; and it has seen a number of later amendments, some considered very valuable, e.g. 13/14, some less so, e.g. 18. (c) Even so, a great many problems were present in the young republic, culminating with the disastrous Civil War.* (d) There has been a continual drift away from the ideals of the early U.S. and the Constitution. The Constitution lost most of its teeth during the 20th century, and some Democrats have outright claimed that they want to get rid of it. Simultaneously, the U.S. has changed in a disastrous manner.

*Where the position of the North was radically different from the colonial position during the misnamed Revolution. Moreover, the existence of the Civil War might rhyme poorly with the argumentation of the “Federalist Papers”, which (a) strongly influenced the Constitution, (b) come closer to the “large tome” above than does the Constitution, be it in size or approach.

Written by michaeleriksson

September 13, 2022 at 3:55 pm


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There are many complaints (some by me) about the low quality of recent TV series, how infected with wokeness they are, whatnot. Well, maybe we should make that recent English-language* TV series: I have just finished watching an 8-part Russian Trotsky biopic, which is absolutely brilliant in terms of acting, cinematography, scripting, whatnot. There is some gratuitous sex, but nothing is perfect. There is no Leftist agenda pushing, no horrendous miscasting, no bullshit—except maybe the surprisingly strong Russian of various Mexicans and other non-Russians. Well, there was an epidemic and some minor mask-wearing, but as this, the Spanish Flu, was something real both in terms of historicity and of threat level, there is no reason to be critical.

*The Brits are even worse than the Yankees. I would not be the slightest bit surprised to see a biopic of the recently dead QE II have her portrayed by someone Black, transgender, or otherwise utterly inappropriate for the part. (Writing “inappropriate”, I suddenly see Sacha Baron Cohen as a drag-queen Queen flash before my eyes. The image is very disturbing.)

While I am not well-read enough on Trotsky to judge the historical accuracy in detail, the series does provide a portrait of the disturbing evils of the Russian Communist/Bolshevik movement that is certainly accurate in the main. (Cf. e.g. “The Black Book of Communism”.) Here it poses a great learning opportunity for many modern Westerners, who fail to understand that Communism is as bad as or worse than Nazism was. Here we see the true face of Communism, maybe Leftism in general.

Trotsky, himself, is depicted as a monster—evil in a manner far more scary than, say, Darth Vader. More importantly, the series shows how evil wins when evil acts are done in the name of good, when the end is allowed to justify the means, and when individuals are denied any value in their own right, being reduced to tools for the Cause or, as so often today, to mere pawns for a chess-playing pseudo-elite—all problems that are ever recurring with the Left and all problems that I have written about in the past.*

*A particularly interesting example is the death penalty, used by the Tsars, abolished by the revolution (which was claimed as “a triumph of the revolution”, or similar, by one speaker), and then re-instated on the instigation of Trotsky in order, at least ostensibly, to protect the same revolution. (Notably, a death penalty intended less for true criminals and more for political enemies. Kangaroo courts and summary executions followed in the same episode.) The pigs do walk on two legs.

Then we have the issue that merely winning is not enough: The Bolsheviks might have won (over the Mensheviks, over the “Whites”, over the Tsar, over the whatnot), but they were unable to actually build the paradise that they had promised. From another point of view, Trotsky (at least as depicted here) might have temporarily won over Lenin and Stalin, but he was not able to hang on to his victory.

Particularly interesting are the strong signs of anti-Semitism* shown even by many Communists. As I have noted repeatedly in my texts on Nazis, e.g. in [1], there is nothing specifically Nazi, let alone Rightwing,** about anti-Semitism.

*Trotsky, originally Bronstein, was a Jew. Anti-Semitic sentiment is also displayed against his father (severely beaten) and children.

**But the Nazis, of course, were Leftwing.

However, the series is not limited to political aspects. Issues around family, how high or low family is prioritized, and how different opinions and whatnots within families are handled are particularly important. A symbolic scene shows Trotsky returning home in triumph after the successful revolution, which he prioritized above an early return to visit his son, who was severely ill with the Spanish Flu. He approaches a bedroom filled with family—and his other son closes the doors in his face, literally and metaphorically excluding him from the family union. Similar issues apply to friendships and other relationships within the series.

As an aside, I recently wrote:

Do not be fooled by the apparent “for children” nature of “Animal Farm”, however, as its main benefits come from allegory that few children can understand. Indeed, I remember being disappointed by the lack of a happy ending after my own first reading, as a child—why did not Snowball come back and right all wrongs? (As an adult, I see how a happy ending would have ruined the point of the book; and I realize that, while Napoleon was a proven bad guy, Snowball had never truly proven himself to be a good guy, implying that the effects of his hypothetical comeback were uncertain.)

Snowball corresponds to Trotsky, in the typical interpretation of “Animal Farm”, and if the real life Trotsky was anything like the screen version, then it might have been for the best that Snowball did not come back.

Written by michaeleriksson

September 13, 2022 at 2:46 pm

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Follow-up II: Djokovic as GOAT? (III) and COVID distortions

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Disclaimer: Proof-reading the below, I realize that I have neglected to give the other players their lost Wimbledon points in the comparison—the text was simply thrown together a little too haphazardly. I will not redo the text, but I note that Alcaraz, per Wikipedia, went out in the fourth round, which is peanuts, comparatively speaking. Runner-Up, Nick Kyrgios, is too far down on the ranking to make a difference. Etc. The details of the below change a little to Djokovic’s disadvantage, but the main idea holds. (The overall comparison is also complicated by some opting not to participate in the Wimbledon to begin with, or being banned from doing so, like Medvedev. This could conceivably have had a larger pro-Djokovic effect.)

In a recent text, I discussed the artificial handicap given to Djokovic compared to e.g. Nadal in GOAT discussions through political meddling. The corresponding distortion through this year’s U.S. Open was lesser than I had feared, as Nadal neither won nor managed to get back to number one on the ranking. However, there is still a severe ranking effect:

The official ATP ranking currently* has a top-7 of:

*Note that this page is regularly updated. Data used represent the current state.

1 Carlos Alcaraz 6,740
2 Casper Ruud 5,850
3 Rafael Nadal 5,810
4 Daniil Medvedev 5,065
5 Alexander Zverev 5,040
6 Stefanos Tsitsipas 4,810
7 Novak Djokovic 3,570

Djokovic a lowly 7, even worse than before? Give Djokovic his 2,000 points for winning the Wimbledon, as he is already at 4, needing only 280 points to tie for second. What are the chances that he would have failed to gain more than 280 points combined over the Australian Open and the U.S. Open? Slim indeed. Getting to 1 is harder, as he would be missing 1,170 points. However, this could be achieved just by reaching the final (1,200 points) in one of the two majors, or by reaching the semi-final in both (2 x 720 points)—and we are talking about a man who won the one last year and reached the final in the other. (And this not counting any other tournaments in which he might have been disadvantaged, be it directly or through an artificially worsened seeding, cf. below.)

Of course, this ranking disadvantage does not just prevent him from improving his “days at number 1” statistic, it also implies a handicap in future tournaments, as he will be seeded worse than if he had been at 1 or 2. Then, again, we have the issue of the ATP Finals: his margin to remain in the top-8 is small indeed—and that is if he is even allowed to play, should he qualify.*

*I have not looked into details, but I would suspect that Djokovic has a larger number of points to defend during the autumn than most of the competition, which makes his chances even smaller.

All in all, this is just bullshit.

Looking at the current actual/official/whatnot number 1, Carlos Alcaraz: At 19, he is apparently the youngest in history and has, at least to me, come up out of nowhere.* In contrast, Félix Auger-Aliassime, who was hailed as a new superstar since his mid-teens, is old enough, at 22, to be at or shortly before his prime by historical standards, but he has achieved less, and appears to have just dropped from 8th to 13th on the ranking. The new number 2, Casper Ruud, is 23 and has also torn ahead relative Auger-Aliassime. Using the likes of the Big-3 as a comparison for Auger-Aliassime shows that he could have a great many years to prove himself; however, he is slowly reaching an age at which only a minority of the best-of-the-best, the Big-3 included, has failed to have a larger or considerably larger success. (Ages and ranking-drop according to the above rankings page.)

*But note that I have not followed tennis particularly closely the last few years.

Interestingly, members of the Big-3 have won three out of four majors this year, but we might still have seen the end of the Big-3 era. Federer is unlikely to ever make it back to the top and even Djokovic and Nadal must be approaching a day when age and accumulated wear-and-tear prove problematic. Going down the list, the next player of the same or higher age relative Djokovic/Nadal is a mere 32nd (Gael Monfils, at age 36).

Written by michaeleriksson

September 12, 2022 at 1:47 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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