28 February, 2022

‘Yes, He Would’: Fiona Hill on Putin and Nukes


“Sadly, we are treading back through old historical patterns that we said that we would never permit to happen again,” Hill told me.

Those old historical patterns include Western businesses who fail to see how they help build a tyrant’s war chest, admirers enamored of an autocrat’s “strength” and politicians’ tendency to point fingers inward for political gain instead of working together for their nation’s security.

But at the same time, Hill says it’s not too late to turn Putin back, and it’s a job not just for the Ukrainians or for NATO — it’s a job that ordinary Westerners and companies can assist in important ways once they grasp what’s at stake.

“Ukraine has become the front line in a struggle, not just between democracies and autocracies but in a struggle for maintaining a rules-based system in which the things that countries want are not taken by force,” Hill said. “Every country in the world should be paying close attention to this.”

26 February, 2022

25 Differences Between Private Sector and Government Managers


  1. There is very little personal gain in the government for taking risks on policy or programs and being successful in achieving the goals more effectively. However, there is potential for substantial criticism and other personal loss if the innovative attempt fails.
  2. The key reality to the private sector is market-driven competition, whereas the same in the government is almost always a legislated monopoly.
  3. Private sector managers worry about creating added value, that is, a product or service that can be sold competitively to the public. This requires the ability and skill to change, evolve, adapt, and improve constantly. Government is frequently quite different. Managers in the government often know what needs to be done and desire to do it but are facing restrictions of laws, regulations, and policies—often made years earlier for other circumstances—that prevent prompt action.
  4. Authority and responsibility in the government tends to be asymmetric while authority and responsibility in the private sector are more clearly balanced. Responsibility in the government can be enormous while authority is frequently quite limited.
  5. Authority in government may be ambiguous and unclear in some circumstances. In other cases, it is very clear and tightly restricted through laws, regulations, policies, and directives that leave little, if any, room for individual initiative.

24 February, 2022


To poor kids today, we present a no-win scenario. We shout shrilly that they must get a college degree, because without one they can’t hope to compete in the globalized economy, but even as we say it, we doubt our own advice. We know that we are asking them to bury themselves in debt at a moment when it is very uncertain what kind of job they will be able to get or how long it will take them to repay the loans. We know it, and they know it. For them, the American dream has become a taunt. Perhaps my story is proof not of the persistence of the American dream but of its precarity, even its absence.

The solutions are multitude. We could restore funding to public universities and insist that they operate as public utilities, rather than as strictly profit-driven businesses. We could increase Pell grants and reform student debt. If we were more ambitious, we could tackle the supreme inequality that, in recent decades, has disfigured every fact and facet of social and political life.

22 February, 2022

How to Fix Social Media


The amateurs — adolescent boys, many of them — played a crucial role in the development of radio technology, and most used their sets responsibly. But some, in another foreshadowing of the net, were bent on mischief and mayhem. Shielded by anonymity, they would transmit rumors and lies, slurs and slanders. The U.S. Navy, which relied on radio to manage its fleet, was a prime target. Officers “complained bitterly,” Slotten reports, “about amateurs sending out fake distress calls or posing as naval commanders and sending ships on fraudulent missions.”

The nuisance became a crisis in the early morning hours of April 15, 1912, when the Titanic sank after its fateful collision with an iceberg. Efforts to rescue the passengers were hindered by a barrage of amateur radio messages. The messages clogged the airwaves, making it hard for official transmissions to get through. Worse, some of the amateurs sent out what we would today call fake news, including a widely circulated rumor that the Titanic remained seaworthy and was being towed to a nearby port for repairs.

13 February, 2022

Opinion: Restoring our troubled Republic


What is now being exposed ought to chill every citizen to their core and move them to engage in the affairs of the nation. We now have ample evidence that all of us, whether we voted for Trump or not, by our actions and choices, through our protests, and through our personal social and network media accounts, helped create and drive a situation in which our democracy was defiled, and the public was confused, indoctrinated and incited to violence and riot -- even killing and injuring those sworn to protect it. No person, no media personality or outlet and no political party who supports such conduct contrary to the law and the Constitution deserves our attention, much less our support. Indeed, they demand our condemnation.

As Lincoln observed in the same speech quoted above: “Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well-wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.”

12 February, 2022

The Intellectual Incoherence of Cryptoassets


Setting all these models aside, there are two far more coherent perspectives on the crypto assets that have far more explanatory power for the behavior we see. Crypto assets are the synthesis of a speculative mania and a financial scam built around an opaque technology, phoney populism, with a tolerance for intellectual incoherence at its core. And it is a novel type of a scam, one that we don’t have a precise term of art for. They share the obscured and circular payouts of Ponzi schemes, the cult-like recruiting of multilevel marketing schemes, the ephemeral nature of high-yield investment fraud, and payout mechanics of pyramid schemes but strictly speaking they aren’t exactly like any of the classical scams. They’re something entirely new that we don’t have a word for yet. Some people have cleverly suggested we adapt the German compound word schneeballsystem or snowball scheme to refer to this new type of scam.

However there is a simple inescapable truth behind these schemes. These schemes around crypto tokens cannot create or destroy actual dollars, they can only shift them around. If you sell your crypto and make a profit in dollars, it’s only because someone else bought it at a higher price than you did. And then they expect to do the same and so on and so on ad infinitum. Every dollar that comes out of cryptocurrency needs to come from a later investor putting a dollar in. Crypto investments cannot be anything but a zero sum game, and many are actually massively negative sum. In order to presume a crypto investments functions as a store of value we simultaneously need to suppose an infinite chain of greater fools who keep buying these assets at any irrational price and into the future forever.

The moral calculations of a billionaire


They’d given away $150 million to a hospital in New Jersey, $50 million for college scholarships to Newark high school students, $40 million to Columbia Business School, $40 million to Hunter College, $30 million to performing arts, $25 million to the Jewish Family Fund, $20 million to skilled nursing, $15 million to food banks, and on and on it went. But no matter how much they gave away, their money continued to make more money even as wages for the middle class remained essentially flat. In the past 50 years, the gap between poor families and the top 0.1 percent had increased more than tenfold. Children now had only a 43 percent chance of out-earning their parents.

u/zornthewise on Joscha Bach


  • Another example of an organism/agent would be a modern corporation. They are sentient - they understand themselves as distinct entities and their relation to the wider world, they are intelligent - they create models of the world they exist in and I guess I am not sure if they are conscious. They are instantiated on the humans and computers/software that make up the corporation and their goals often change over time. For example, when Google was founded, it probably did have aspirational and altruistic goals and was succesful in realizing many of these goals (google books/scholar etc) but over time as it's leadership changed, it's primary purpose seems to have become a perpetuation of it's own existence. Advertising was initially only a way to achieve it's other goals but over time it seems to have taken over all of Google.

  • On a personal note, he explains that there are two goals people might have in a conversation. Somewhat pithily, he refers to "nerds as people for whom the primary goal of conversation is to submit their thoughts to peer review while for most other people, the primary goal of conversation is to negotiate value alignment".



The 1970s ended postwar, bipartisan, middle-class America, and with it the two relatively stable narratives of getting ahead and the fair shake. In their place, four rival narratives have emerged, four accounts of America’s moral identity. They have roots in history, but they are shaped by new ways of thinking and living. They reflect schisms on both sides of the divide that has made us two countries, extending and deepening the lines of fracture. Over the past four decades, the four narratives have taken turns exercising influence. They overlap, morph into one another, attract and repel one another. None can be understood apart from the others, because all four emerge from the same whole.

06 February, 2022

Reflecting on a Career in Product Management


The “art” of product management matters more than the “science” over the long term. In product management, there’s an art and a science. The science is all of the stuff you read about: managing a backlog, writing a PRD, KPIs, marketplace dynamics, growth metrics, analytical thinking, the latest agile whatever. The “art” gets dismissed as soft skills: communicating, empathy, leading without authority, having difficult conversations, storytelling, making decisions when you don’t have all the information, dealing with ambiguity, inspiring others, and connecting deeply to customers and their problems. The thing is, science gets more attention because it’s easier to understand, and therefore better for hustling boot camps and selling software tools. This trend is troublesome because it implies there’s one “right way” to do product management, and all you need to do is learn the technique or buy the right tool, and you can pass the interview, get the job, and win. If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written, you know I’m far more interested in the art than the science. When PMs fail, it’s usually because of the art. The most important thing you can do early in your career is grow these skills. Don’t let them be dismissed as “soft skills,” don’t get lured by the promise of tactics and techniques: they’re essential, but the craft depends more on the art over the long term.

Statement on DeFi Risks, Regulations, and Opportunities (aka blockchain, crypto)


DeFi presents a panoply of opportunities.  However, it also poses important risks and challenges for regulators, investors, and the financial markets.  While the potential for profits attracts attention, sometimes overwhelming attention, there is also confusion, often significant, regarding important aspects of this emerging market.  Social media questions like “who in the U.S. regulates the DeFi market?” and “Why are regulators involved at all?” abound.  These are crucial questions, and the answers are important to lawyers and non-lawyers alike. This article attempts to provide a short background on the current regulatory landscape for DeFi, the role of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”), and highlights two important hurdles that the community should address.[3]  

How to Mislead with Facts


Verified facts can be used to support erroneous conclusions. Here is how we can put an end to that.

Fact-checking has become popularized as the definitive process for certifying truth in the media. This has occurred in response to the proliferation of a wide variety of internet subcultures, often based largely upon misinformation. Propaganda and bad faith communication are all too common, making the checking of facts an important part of sensemaking.

While fact-checking is necessary, it is often not enough to provide the whole picture. Under current conditions of escalating culture and information war, facts themselves have become weapons.[1] Neither propaganda nor bad faith communication require the speaking of falsehoods.[2] It is often more effective to mislead and misinform through a strategic use of verified facts. The ability to critique and correct for the misuse of facts in public culture is an essential component of the democratic way of life.

Unfortunately, today it is standard practice for both institutions and individuals from all sectors of society to offer strategically cherry-picked and decontextualized facts,[3] set within a predetermined emotional or ethical frame.[4] This way of using facts is an effective tool to bring some people towards previously unappealing conclusions. It also provides rhetorical ammunition to those already predisposed to drawing these conclusions. While honestly passing the scrutiny of the fact-checkers, such an approach is nevertheless far from entirely truthful.

03 February, 2022

A Fox News ‘Defector’ on How the Network ‘Played Footsie’ With Trump


And I think that one of the key indicators about whether or not you were going to flip is to look at people and institutions that were dependent upon mass audiences. If you were talk radio, which depended on maintaining your audience, those were the first gatekeepers, as it were, who flipped. And you could hear this on the “Rush Limbaugh Show.” I mean, you really could. In the early parts, he would criticize Trump and then he would catch hell from his listeners. And by the end of it, he saw his role as defending Trump, rather than actually keeping a Republican president honest.

And we got this dysfunctional, sociological phenomenon that said any criticism of Trump was joining the libs, blah, blah, blah, all that nonsense, but also that Trump himself was utterly immune to constructive criticism. And the way you would get praise from him is only by compliments. And we saw this with people like Lindsey Graham. If you can only influence someone through compliments, you get sucked into the logic of that, and everything that they do is great.

And on the intellectual side, you know, there was a real attempt— and some people are still trying, I think in vain— to create a coherent intellectual construct called Trumpism. And the problem with that is that Trump has no core principles. So if you are in a situation where you have a president who, as a matter of pride, boasts that he will change his mind on a dime, where he says, I go by my instincts and I’m not bound by any ideology and all this kind of stuff, the only safe harbor is cult of personality. And that cult of personality thing spread.

Uyghur kids recall physical and mental torment at Chinese boarding schools in Xinjiang


ISTANBUL — In quiet, polite voices, Aysu and Lütfullah Kuçar describe the nearly 20 months they spent in state boarding schools in China's western region of Xinjiang, forcibly separated from their family.

Under the watchful gaze of their father, the two ethnically Uyghur children say that their heads were shaved and that class monitors and teachers frequently hit them, locked them in dark rooms and forced them to hold stress positions as punishment for perceived transgressions.

By the time they were able to return home to Turkey in December 2019, they had become malnourished and traumatized. They had also forgotten how to speak their mother tongues, Uyghur and Turkish. (The children were being raised in Turkey but got forcibly sent to boarding school during a family visit to China.)

"That was the heaviest moment in my life. Standing in front of my two Chinese-speaking children, I felt as if they had killed me," says Abdüllatif Kuçar, their father. 

02 February, 2022

Dalia Mogahed on raising kids


I often get asked for advice about how to parent rebellious teenagers by struggling parents. I’m usually like, “please let me know when you find out.”  

So what I’m about to share is from the deepest part of humility. It’s hard as hell. But here are a few thoughts on the matter, things that have helped me and that I’ve observed in the lives of others. 

1.  Know this: your kids are separate human beings, not a reflection of you. They are not trophies. They cannot be extensions of your ambitions, unfulfilled dreams or to make up for what you failed to achieve. They don’t exist to be your fulfillment. They are servants of God. Allow them their individual dreams, personalities, goals. 

2.  Even if they don’t tell you, you are still their first and biggest example. Be a person they can respect and admire without being shamed into doing so. Work on yourself so that the kind of man or woman you wish them to grow up to be would look up to someone like you. Be a role model. Be kind, generous and patient if that’s what you’d like for them. Call your parents. Cook for your sick friend. They will do what you do, not what you say. 

3.  Humans have at least three essential needs: security, belonging and purpose. They will find and fulfill these needs, or numb the unfulfillment of them, one way or another. If the home doesn’t provide a safe space to be who they are and be loved, they will find that elsewhere. If the home and the mosque isn’t a place of belonging, they will find that elsewhere. If they have no sense of purpose other than avoiding punishment, they will search for it elsewhere or numb it’s absence. 

4.  Your kids will likely disappoint you on occasion, or a lot. Refer to point number one. You can do everything perfectly and you still won’t have perfect kids. It’s not your fault. Prophets had kids who rebelled. It doesn’t mean you failed. They are not an extension of you. They have agency. We are only accountable for our actions and intentions, not the way others behave, even our kids. Don’t indulge in self flagellation. 

5.  If your kids are perfect, praise the Lord, not yourself. Don’t take credit. Children are a gift, like health or wealth. Those who say “it’s because of my own effort” weren’t dealt with kindly in the Quran. Don’t feel superior to another parent who is struggling anymore than you should look down on a person with less money than you. God gives to whom He pleases. It’s not a sign of your awesomeness. It’s a sign of His generosity. 

Are Jews a Race? (by Yair Rosenberg)


Goldberg is not an anti-Semite, but she was confused—and understandably so. In my experience, mistakes like hers often happen because well-meaning people have trouble fitting Jews into their usual boxes. They don’t know how to define Jews, and so they resort to their own frames of reference, like “race” or “religion,” and project them onto the Jewish experience. But Jewish identity doesn’t conform to Western categories, despite centuries of attempts by society to shoehorn it in. This makes sense, because Judaism predates Western categories. It’s not quite a religion, because one can be Jewish regardless of observance or specific belief. (Einstein, for example, was proudly Jewish but not religiously observant.) But it’s also not quite a race, because people can convert in! It’s not merely a culture or an ethnicity, because that leaves out all the religious components. And it’s not simply a nationality, because although Jews do have a homeland and many identify as part of a nation, others do not.

Instead, Judaism is an amalgam of all these things—more like a family (into which one can be adopted) than a sectarian Western faith tradition—and so there’s no great way to classify it in English. A lot of confusion results from attempts to reduce this complexity to something more palatable for contemporary conceptions.

01 February, 2022

Mel Mermelstein, Auschwitz survivor who challenged Holocaust deniers, dies at 95


Mr. Mermelstein, however, considered himself “duty-bound” to challenge the group and the ideology it represented.

“I watched my mother and sisters being led to the gas chambers, and they tell me it was a hoax,” he said. “They are hate-mongers, Jew-haters. I’m going to get them if I have to spend the rest of my life doing it.”

With the counsel of William John Cox, a public-interest lawyer who took the case on a pro-bono basis, Mr. Mermelstein charted a strategy that ultimately led them to court. Mr. Mermelstein accepted the institute’s challenge, submitting for the contest an account of his experience at Auschwitz, a copy of his 1979 memoir, “By Bread Alone: The Story of A-4685″ — and a claim for the $50,000.

When the institute failed to pay, Mr. Mermelstein sued the group and related defendants for the $50,000 in prize money and $17 million in damages, alleging libel, breach of contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress and — perhaps most consequential — “injurious denial of established fact.”