Glass made headlines in 1998 when he was fired by the New Republic for inventing characters, scenes, and entire articles for that magazine and several others. The tale of his downfall became a Hollywood film called Shattered Glass, which is largely accurate but still contains fabricated scenes about a fabricator. Glass’s notoriety peaked in 2003 when the film was released and he published The Fabulist, a fictionalized account of his saga that was widely panned. […]
When I looked into Glass after I got to Duke, I found he hadn’t said much publicly since then. He had moved to Los Angeles and become a legal assistant for a personal-injury firm. In 2013, he was briefly in the headlines again because he was seeking admission to the California bar, which opposed his application. Lawyers didn’t like the idea of a liar in their midst.
It took me a couple of years, but I eventually connected with Glass and he agreed to come to Duke and talk with students in my ethics class in the spring of 2016. I first met him for breakfast at a coffee shop near campus, where he insisted on paying for his oatmeal just as he had paid for his flight and hotel. He said he did not want to profit from his lies in any way. I had seen old photos of the twentysomething Glass and was surprised how he looked in his late 40s: a high forehead, thin dark hair, and taller than I expected. (Maybe I thought fabulists were short people?)
I had assigned my ethics students to watch the film, and then surprised them by bringing him to class. “I’d like you to meet Stephen Glass,” I said as we walked in. For an hour he answered their questions about his motivations for lying, the impact of the movie, and his efforts to redeem himself. […]
Glass didn’t win over the crowd. The students later said they were impressed to meet him and glad to hear about the payments, but they felt he came off as introspective and a little meek. When I asked them in a survey if they would consider hiring him as a political fact-checker, most said they would not.
That day he told me about his wife, Julie Hilden, who had early onset Alzheimer’s disease. He didn’t mention that he was engaged in a new lie, one that he would later describe as “the biggest lie of all.”
He was born on New Year’s Day, the year 2000. I got pregnant with him when I was 19, a month before I graduated from college. I was a brain; that was my identity. I was headed to Yale Divinity School, where I would study for a master’s in religion and literature. Those were my interests: religion, literature, study. I had not thought about having children or being a wife. I hadn’t thought I wouldn’t do those things, but if I thought about them, they existed in the vague haze of my distant future.
I wasn’t really dating his father. His father was only the second person I’d had sex with, and I had a crush on his good friend. The friend wasn’t interested in me romantically, but the three of us hung out together. I would be winsome and flirt with the friend, and we all had a nice time. Sometimes I would read to them. Isak Dinesen: “Anecdotes of Destiny and Ehrengard.” The friend would go back to his dorm on the campus of the small Christian university we attended, and my son’s father would linger at my apartment. I was a little younger than the two of them but two years ahead in school, so I lived off campus. My son’s father is kind, gentle, handsome, friendly, warm and funny. We kept having sex, and we kept praying for the strength to stop having sex. I kept saying I didn’t want to be with him. He kept trying to accept that.
When we had sex, we couldn’t use condoms, because having them around would have been admitting an intent to sin or an expectation of fallibility. For the same reasons, I couldn’t take birth-control pills or use any other form of contraception. To prepare to sin would be worse than to break in a moment of irresistible desire. To acknowledge a pattern of repeatedly breaking, of in fact never failing to break, would have meant acknowledging our powerlessness, admitting we could never act righteously. Our faith trapped us: We needed to believe we could be good more than we needed to protect ourselves. As long as I didn’t take the birth-control pill, I could believe I wouldn’t sin again. His father always pulled out, which works until it doesn’t.
I remember the moment I learned of the pregnancy so clearly — as if it has always been happening and will continue to be happening until the end of my life, as if it rang a heavy bell and the deafening note reverberates still.
Tom Whitwell with his annual unmissable list:
1. Every day, one million people upload pictures of their coffee grinds to the Turkish app Faladdin and get a personalised fortune reading back in 15 minutes. […]
4. 10% of US electricity is generated from old Russian nuclear warheads. […]
7. The world’s second most popular electric car (after the Tesla Model 3) is the Wuling HongGuang Mini, which costs $5,000 and outsells vehicles from Renault, Hyundai, VW and Nissan.
It is common to chalk up America's failures in Afghanistan to incompetence, ignorance, or stupidity. Yet The Afghanistan Papers, by The Washington Post's Craig Whitlock, shows an American government that, although it had no idea what it was doing when it came to building a democracy in Afghanistan, did an excellent job manipulating the public, avoiding any consequences for its failures, and protecting its bureaucratic and financial interests. The problem was a broken system, not a generalized incompetence. […]
Each part of the American war machine had its own mission, and was going to do what it did regardless of the facts on the ground. The DEA wanted to destroy opium, the human rights bureaucracy pushed women's rights, and the military wanted to keep the war going. Nobody was there to force these disparate parts to work towards a common goal in a way that made sense. Theoretically, the president should have done so, but the American system clearly rewards political competence more than it does the ability to build stable democracies on the other side of the world. Often extremely self-aware, American officials were not as stupid or incompetent as they were self-interested cogs in a system filled with misaligned incentives. […]
The transition from Barack Obama to Donald Trump shows how flexible the Pentagon could be to keep the war going. When working for the former law professor, the generals used more rhetoric about human rights and became experts at manipulating statistics to show how they supposedly were making people's lives better. Under Trump, they realized that they could maintain his support for the war by talking of victory and killing bad guys. In both cases, the generals successfully resisted a president who was skeptical about their mission. The military seemed relatively indifferent to whether it was spending its time building girls' schools or undertaking a more expansive bombing campaign, as long as it could keep the war going. Joe Biden watched the generals box in Obama, and he came into the White House determined not to be similarly manipulated. […]
Whitlock attributes such waste to carelessness and to the nature of the mission; he does not consider American corruption as a possible explanation of how $1.4 billion disappeared. All the while, as the CIA bought off warlords and parliamentarians, Americans lectured Afghans leaders that their corruption was undermining the government.
Andrew Sullivan articulates what I’ve always thought was the most likely explanation…but that nobody seemed inclined to push, since it didn’t help anyone’s agenda:
There is no question that Trump had countless conflicts of interest in Russia, with his Moscow hotel plans high among them, and had been money laundering for Russian oligarchs for years. No question that he was absolutely willing to accept Russia’s — or any country’s — illicit support, and no doubt he actually asked for it. I saw him do it, on national television, in the campaign. We all did.
The Russians also tried to corrupt the election through online shenanigans; and Manafort’s delivery of polling data to Moscow was deeply shifty. And everyone lied about almost everything. There’s equally no doubt that Trump obstructed justice in trying to stymie the Russia investigation. Again, he told us so on television. More pertinently, people have been prosecuted and gone to jail for their misdeeds in this whole miasma of near-treasonous sleaze.
But this was not what the MSM tried to sell us from the get-go. What they and the Democrats argued — with endless, breathless, high-drama reporting — was that there was some kind of plot between Trump and Russia to rig the election and it had succeeded. Investigating this was hugely important because it could expose near-treason and instantly remove Trump from power via impeachment. This was the dream to cope with the nightmare.
So we were always on the brink of discovering some document, or phone call, or testimony that would represent the equivalent of the Nixon tapes, and prove that Clinton was cheated of her rightful destiny, and erase 2016 in a flash. Night after night after night, cable news was obsessed with what they hoped would be their Watergate moment. Some cable stars — Rachel Maddow prime among them — pushed this high drama, with ever more thunderous melodrama and ever more pathetic evidence, speculating and assuming that the president of the United States was secretly controlled by the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin.
This. Was. Bullshit.
More interesting stuff from Cedric Chin (borrowing from Ray Dalio):
The actual technique that Dalio proposed is really simple:
‘Believable’ people are people who have 1) a record of at least three relevant successes and 2) have great explanations of their approach when probed.
You may evaluate a person's believability on a particular subject by applying this heuristic. Then, when you’re interacting with them:
If you’re talking to a more believable person, suppress your instinct to debate and instead ask questions to understand their approach. This is far more effective in getting to the truth than wasting time debating.
You’re only allowed to debate someone who has roughly equal believability compared to you.
If you’re dealing with someone with lower believability, spend the minimum amount of time to see if they have objections that you’d not considered before. Otherwise, don’t spend that much time on them.
The technique mostly works as a filter for actionable truths. It’s particularly handy if you want to get good at things like writing or marketing, org design or investing, hiring or sales — that is, things that you can do. It’s less useful for getting at more other kinds of truth.
I think I starting putting believability to practice around 2017, but I think I only really internalised it around 2018 or so. The concept has been remarkably useful over the past four years; I’ve used it as a way to get better advice from better-selected people, as well as to identify books that are more likely to help me acquire the skills I need. (Another way of saying this is that it allowed me to ignore advice and dismiss books, which is just as important when your goal is to get good at something in a hurry.)
I attribute much of my effectiveness to it.
I’m starting to realise, though, that some of the nuances in this technique are perhaps not obvious — I learnt this when I started sending my summary of believability to folks, who grokked the concept but then didn’t seem to apply it the way I thought they would. This essay is about some of these second-order implications when you’ve put the idea to practice for a longer period of time.
The basic innovation of crypto is the production of artificial scarcity. The original Bitcoin white paper addresses the problem: Sure, anyone can type numbers on their computer, but is there a way for a community to allocate numbers on your computer in a way that makes them demonstrably scarce? If there is, then you can call those numbers “money” and they can be valuable. I am being a little annoying, but this was obviously a real innovation and did in fact help make Bitcoin very valuable.
The rest of the crypto world continued applying that same process. Most non-fungible token projects address the problem: Sure, anyone can limitlessly reproduce JPEGs on the internet, but is there a way for a community to allocate ownership claims to JPEGs in a way that makes them scarce? The answer is … not really, no, in the sense that anyone can still right-click and save the JPEGs underlying most of the popular NFT projects. And yet the answer is also “sort of,” in the sense that NFT communities tend to respect the allocations of ownership claims; they act like the JPEGs are scarce — the NFTs, the ownership claims, are scarce — and so they have value. And so some NFTs sell for lots of money. […]
On the other hand, because crypto gives you the tools to create artificial scarcity, you could easily make a scarce class of “omicrons.” Create a new crypto token on some blockchain. “Only 10,000 of this Omicron Coin will ever be minted,” or whatever. Now you have a scarce version of the word omicron, and you can start ascribing value to it. The more people say “omicron,” the more people will look to buy Omicron Coin, and the more valuable it will be.
You probably hate me for typing that, but I promise that you don’t hate me as much as I hate myself. I know that it makes no sense! It’s just true, is all!
David Sinclair - Harvard professor, celebrity biologist, and author of Lifespan - thinks solving aging will be easy. “Aging is going to be remarkably easy to tackle. Easier than cancer” are his exact words, which is maybe less encouraging than he thinks.
What makes Twitter such a baffling company to analyze is that the company’s cultural impact so dramatically outweighs its financial results; last quarter Twitter’s $1.3 billion in revenue amounted to 4.4% of Facebook’s $29.0 billion, and yet you can make the case — and I believe it — that Twitter’s overall impact on the world is just as big, if not larger than its drastically larger peer. Facebook hollowed out the gatekeeper position of the media, but that void was filled by Twitter, both in terms of news being made, and just as critically, elite opinion and narrative being shaped.
Given that impact, I can see why Elliott Management would look at Twitter and wonder why it is that the company can’t manage to make more money, but the fact that Twitter is the nexus of online information flow reflects the reality of information on the Internet: massively impactful and economically worthless, particularly when ads — which themselves are digital information — can easily be bought elsewhere.
So to really execute a popularist strategy, you have to figure out what people will both agree with you and care about a lot. And that’s not easy. David Shor (the political analyst who’s name is typically associated with popularism) thinks Dems should emphasize bread-and-butter economic issues while downplaying their elite cultural values. That might not be a bad strategy, but I think Americans take social and cultural issues very seriously — as evidence by Glenn Youngkin’s recent win in the Virginia gubernatorial race on a platform of opposing critical race theory. The fact is, this is a very rich country, and though people certainly have their economic problems, we care a lot about the upper rungs of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Who gets acceptance, respect, and status in our society is of great importance to us.
And when it comes to sociocultural issues, one thing that Americans very consistently seem to love is patriotism. That’s something neither of the two main political movements in this country seem to understand. […]
You find this same patriotic sentiment in poll after poll; I won’t go through a whole exhaustive list. Everywhere the same result obtains — though the current bitter era of unrest has damaged Americans’ love of their country to a moderate extent, that love is still very robust. […]
Progressives get very touchy if you tell them they’re anti-patriotic. But the reason they get touchy is that they remember (or instinctively realize) how devastating that image was for them in previous eras. Yet although it’s painful to hear, ultimately the progressive movement will be stronger if it realizes how deeply anti-patriotic it has become in the last decade. […]
If this were the 70s again, the conservative movement could capitalize on the progressive movement’s paroxysm of anti-patriotism by waving the flag and singing the praise of ‘Murica. But this is not the 70s, and the Right has been captured by its own form of anti-Americanism — one that’s actually far more dangerous to the country than anything the Left has planned.
The Trumpist conservatives of 2021 don’t hate the idea of America — they hate the America that actually exists.
For centuries, indigenous groups in north-east India have crafted intricate bridges from living fig trees. Now this ancient skill is making its way to European cities.
As many people including Zvi, Alex, and Kelsey have noted, it’s pretty weird that the FDA agrees Paxlovid is so great that it’s unethical to study it further because it would be unconscionable to design a study with a no-Paxlovid control group - but also, the FDA has not approved Paxlovid, it remains illegal, and nobody is allowed to use it.
One would hope this is because the FDA plans to approve Paxlovid immediately. But the prediction market expects it to take six weeks - during which time we expect about 50,000 more Americans to die of COVID.
Perhaps there’s not enough evidence for the FDA to be sure Paxlovid works yet? But then why did they agree to stop the trial that was gathering the evidence? Or perhaps there’s enough evidence, but it takes a long time to process it? But then how come the prediction markets are already 90% sure what decision they’ll make?
One word I don't see mentioned anywhere is "manufacturing." It's one thing to make enough drug for a clinical trial, it's another to make millions of commercial doses reliably. FDA approval requires inspection of and confidence in these commercial-scale manufacturing processes.
To expand on this more: the clinical trials only show that *that one particular batch* was safe and efficacious (the FDA thinks this, since they agreed to terminate the trial early). Pfizer must then show that the commercial batches will be identical in every relevant way to the clinical trial batches, so that they will have the same safety and efficacy. What are the relevant ways? Pfizer must decide that, and justify their decisions to the FDA with supporting evidence.
How do you steer a bike? You turn the handlebars to the left to go left, correct? Actually, you don’t: you turn the handlebars to the right to go left…at least at first. And also? Bikes don’t even need riders to remain upright…they are designed to steer themselves.
More realistically, if the Green Revolution had been delayed by ten years incomes in the developing world would be 17% lower today. In terms of cumulative GDP what this means is that the investments which made the Green Revolution possible were responsible for some US $83 trillion in benefits.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Green Revolution simultaneously prevented many people from starving but also reduced total population because of reduced fertility. The Green Revolution also meant that less land was used for farming not more.
Jon Foreman neatly arranges rocks into colorful sculptures.
We all have pet peeves, even though there’s a lot going on in the world that makes them pretty insignificant. While acknowledging that there are many more important things in life, I write this post about my own personal illustration pet peeve in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, it’ll make a little teeny difference. Here goes:
I love butterflies. They’re one of my favorite subjects to illustrate and one of my favorite sights in nature. To me, they’re a symbol of hope, an embodiment of beauty, and a sign of what’s right in the world. I think that’s why it bothers me when depictions of butterflies often fail to do them justice, whether they are in a work of art, a website, a product, an animation, or in print.
Scott Davenport -- head coach of Bellarmine basketball -- has arguably the most unique offensive scheme in the country. His program's combination of passing and off-ball motion has produced some of the most efficient offenses over the past decade. In this video, we look at the stats and X's and O's behind the Bellarmine scheme.