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The Ebola epidemic, which I personally have been tracking for quite a while, has begun reaching scary-to-the-masses proportions. Indeed, it’s probably only a matter of time before it goes airborne, makes its way to a major airport hub, and gets to the US or wherever you happen to live. It will be a disaster the likes of which has probably not been seen since (and may well be worse than) the bubonic plague. It is a true black swan event, in progress, and the unpredictability will not scale linearly.

When this occurs, you can bet on one thing:

Government response will be massive and overreaching, disrupting the lives of millions.

Needlessly or not, there will be travel controls and restrictions; public advisories and ordinances resulting in involuntary confinement; public appropriation/confiscation of private property; and perhaps most scary of all, the justification for martial law and an incredible, far-reaching and irreversible (although ostensibly “emergency only”) expansion of the already formidable (some would say all-encroaching and inescapable) surveillance state apparatus, in the name — of course–of the “public good.”

To be sure, there may be some definite public good involved. Nobody wants a 50-70% mortality airborne contagious virus on the loose, particularly when combined with a 20+ day incubation period and idiots who don’t follow directions. This could well lead to months and months of continuing outbreaks of a disease; mass panic; economic recession or depression (remember the flight industry after 9/11? This would be an order of magnitude worse); breakdown of civil order; y’know, all that stuff.

But that is temporary. Reasonable confinement of the disease and public awareness will lead to a shortened epidemic curve. After which, and a few more flare-ups along with some technological solutions, we will be left with whatever legal structure (or lack thereof) the government has seen fit to erect during the crisis period. And the government is a ratchet – it giveth plenty, but rarely takes away. So in the fit of public panic and media-fanned opinionate flames, if there are martial controls; if there are more taxes; if there are expansions of the NSA’s already somewhat hazy borders of propriety; or any of a number of other unforeseen things (I’m not too creative, so my range here is limited);  those things will stay after the Stand-ish viral outbreak.

I don’t have an answer to this; it’ll be governed by the tide of public opinion, opportunistic yet hopefully opposed politicians, and media machinery. But it could well be the trigger for a ‘historical transformation’ of the US of A.

Paranoid? Maybe. Almost certainly so. But, being a fan of Bayesian logic, I’m inclined to think the worst of our Fearless Leaders, and this would certainly lead to the type of public outcry and justification for action that would be ripe for easy exploitation by… well, our current leadership, for example. In a rational world, the administration (read: President) would have been helping contain this instead of golfing, or, frankly, even in place of his half-assed belated response to ISIS, because this could well be – even at a few percent of probability – an existential threat to the US.

What can you do? Say something. Blog about it when you see it happening. Perceived isolation is one of the biggest causes of silence; be assured other people are seeing the same thing happen, and they probably don’t like it. Let your congressional reps know that they need a plan before the SHTF, or else panic mode will take over.

In the meantime, make sure you have enough to live more-or-less isolated for at least a few weeks, or preferably months:

o Something to charge your phone with

o Extra water, nonperishable food, some basic medicines, batteries, nonperishable supplies (toilet paper, looking at you)

o Some good books

o Cash

o Glock & ammo

o Mostly, just a list of disaster prep stuff.

The Army will send women to Ranger School:

The Army is looking for female soldiers who want to volunteer to attend Ranger school.

The call-out is part of the Army’s ongoing effort to determine whether and how to open combat arms military occupational specialties to women.

Senior Army leaders are expected to decide in January if they want to move forward with this one-time, integrated Ranger school assessment. If the assessment moves forward, it likely will take place in the spring, and the Army will need volunteers already in place and ready to go, officials said Friday.

If the assessment takes place, it will be a first for the storied Ranger school, which until now has been open only to men.

I have yet to see any compelling argument for why adding women to combat arms increases military efficacy.

Adding women to non-combat arms may to some extent have net benefits. For example, Intelligence, as a branch, can benefit from smart people, and there are smart women, possibly to the extent that their contributions counterbalance the negative cultural influences their integration presents.

But there are no net military advantages to putting women in the Infantry or Armor branches. None whatsoever. The issue is not whether Ranger School produces better leaders, but whether putting women in class slots in place of men will improve upon– not equal– the final, net outcome over what would have happened had men only been selected. Doing that is purely a move to further the cultural narrative of YouGoGirl and equalism, and any argument to the contrary is ridiculous.

A while ago I wrote

It occurred to me today that I didn’t go nearly far enough, so here’s a thought experiment: Per the concept of Black Knighting, the correct course would be – and for everyone, at this point — to come out as officially Gay.

and earlier

When they are allowed by federal regulations (i.e Gay Marriage is legal, as is being Openly Gay in the Military) to marry each other, they can then do two things: Move off post (since they now have dependents) and collect BAH.  This is not different than current regulations, which allows married servicemembers (e.g. two married officers) to each be entitled to BAH at their posts.

So, now we have a majority of (presumably male) heterosexual-yet-opportunistic servicemembers who can and probably will be getting “married” for the allowance and to get out of the barracks.  This is an extra $10-12k per year per servicemember in pay. This is a strong incentive to sign a piece of paper. If I were a soldier, I’d do this in a heartbeat with a number of my buddies in order to go rent a house or 3- or 4- bedroom apartment and make some bank.

But while I was prescient, I overthought it and overlooked the simple utility of getting married to your buddy to piss off activists and earn vacation trips:

McIntosh said they were still to decide if they would a hyphenated surname but thought their marriage would last at least two years.

“Matt and Travis, or Mattress as I have affectionately named them, are great guys. They are excited about next year’s trip to London but are just as pumped about their big day. It’s not going to be your traditional wedding. In fact, this may be the first wedding in history where the newlyweds will try to crack onto the guests,” said Dom Harvey from The Edge Breakfast Show.

Heh. “Mattress.” Brangelina, eat your heart out.

From the activists:

Same-sex marriage became legal in New Zealand in August last year, yet gay groups have condemned the marriage of McIntosh and McCormick.

Otago University Students’ Association Queer Support co-ordinator Neill Ballantyne told the Otago Daily Times that the wedding was an “insult” as marriage equality was a “hard fought” battle for gay people.

“Something like this trivialises what we fought for,” he said.

The competition promoted the marriage of two men as something negative, “as something outrageous that you’d never consider”, Ballantyne said.

Wellington co-chairman Joseph Habgood told the Otago Daily Times that the competition attacked the legitimacy of same-sex marriages.

Something outrageous? A “hard fought battle” for tax and visitation rights and the cultural blessing to have an expensive photo-op?

Mock them. Force-feed them the idiocy of all the arguments for gay marriage. After all, if two people deeply in eros can get married, why not storge or philia? Why not for money or a trip? After all, “equality”!

Thesis:

Liberal do-gooding has horrendously damaged whole generations of American men and women by messing with, among other things, their diets.

Evidence:

Gary Taubes says that (paraphrased) we get fat because we eat carbs, and we eat carbs because a bunch of scientists and governmental liberal do-gooders ignore the facts of biochemistry in favor of lobbyists, feel-good pablum, and the allure of regulatory power.

Exhibits

o The food pyramid, in which USDA recommended 50+% of daily calories come from carbohydrates.

Taubes doesn’t point too many fingers, but it doesn’t take a genius to make some connections:

o Farm Lobbyists for Big Wheat, Sugar, and etc

o $112 Billion in regulatory budget

o Paternalistic (if you’re an optimist) / socialist (slightly more cynical) / fascist (realist) government bent on controlling its citizens’ daily lives

Logic: 

Years and years of pushing a nutritional model based on shitty science with government-funded propaganda PR and farm subsidies led to massively imbalanced caloric intake for the citizenry and a common misunderstanding of the cause.

This in turn led to massive (heh) and chronic obesity.

Chronic obesity in turn contributes greatly to an extremely unfavorable sex ratio, rendering at least 30% of American women unmarriageable, and many more undesirable as mates. This obviously affects mens’ attractiveness too, but not in the same way or to the same degree as women.

Marriage is plummeting.

Family formation is plummeting.

There are simply not enough marriageable women for men. The other side of the coin, discussed in many other places, is that the post-feminization of America has rendered many of the men unmarriageable for women.

Conclusion:

A large part (though not nearly all – the divorce of childbearing from sex and welfare programs are the other top 2 offenders) of this is due simply to the fact that people largely aren’t attracted to each other anymore, and that particular buck stops at BMI, which is largely a creation of liberal paternalist policy.

So at the end of the day, we have a confluence of short-sighted and paternalistic progressive BS that has resulted over time in a social environment toxic to health and healthy relationships. It’s the third-order effect of government overreach – unintended effects – and will, a la Hayek’s argument,  lead not to a regression of governmental influence or authority but to more and more and increasingly robust government efforts efforts in terms of time and money and opportunity cost to fix the problem that it created in the first place.

It’s like ethanol subsidies. Or taxes. Or engine efficiency mandates. Or financial regulation. Or any governmental policy. It’s another entry in the ledger of socialist horrors wrought throughout history in the name of good intentions. Government distorts markets, and sometimes in ways that have effects that happen long after the politicians are out of office, and long beyond the conceivable time horizon of anybody involved. In ways that are too big and unconnected to the original action for anyone to foresee. Asking someone to specifically predict in the 70s or 80s that the government would have a strong hand to play in promoting a massive obesity epidemic that would jeopardize the ability of Americans to find satisfying relationships would be like asking that person to.. well, to see the future in wide, unconnected ways.

This is why government departments, initiatives, ideas, policies, should be kept to an absolute minimum needed for essential functions. The unforeseen effects are by nature unpredictable and with non-linear consequences, like wrecking the lives of generations of people a generation hence.

California droughting is making a lot of news again.

Here:

For example, since 1914, the SWRCB has had the same maximum amount of water to be allocated per year: 370 million acre-feet. (For reference, approximately one acre-foot of water is consumed by two households annually.) But currently, the average annual surface water flow is only 70 million acre-feet, and it will be even less than that if droughts continue to plague the state.

Here (link) 

 

And best of all, here:

THE first rule for staying alive in a desert is not to pour the contents of your water flask into the sand. Yet that, bizarrely, is what the government has encouraged farmers to do in the drought-afflicted south-west. Agriculture accounts for 80% of water consumption in California, for example, but only 2% of economic activity. Farmers flood the land to grow rice, alfalfa and other thirsty crops. By one account, over the years they have paid just 15% of the capital costs of the federal system that delivers much of their irrigation water. If water were priced properly, it is a safe bet that they would waste far less of it, and the effects of California’s drought—its worst in recorded history—would not be so severe.

This is yet another indicator that California, a blue state over the hill and lost in ideonostalgic navel-gazing, overrun by do-gooders and un-realists, will continue to decay. Whether you’re looking at (summary here) governance, political pandering, law enforcement, demographics, taxes and taxes, traffic, economics, ease of doing business, legal restrictions, infrastructure, cost of living, or virtually any other real metric, California’s a shitty place to live and work and better left for visiting.

And on top of it, state subsidies and cartels for water wreck the economy and lead to massive droughts and further water rationing by the idiots responsible for the shortage in the first place. This is what happens when the pointy-heads mess with price signals by enacting subsidies – you end up with market distortions, which is exactly what this drought is symptomatic of. 

The problem (or one of them) is that people don’t perceive it as an economic problem or a governance problem – they perceive it as a water shortage problem. It’s another case of politicians being insulated from the effects and consequences of their ignorance and ill-conceived policies.

The only reason to live there is if you absolutely need  the network effects or talent pool of population density in specific industries like  industries in Tech or Oil or Transportation or Agriculture. It might be worth going to school there in a couple places, as well. If you’re self-sufficient or mobile, there’s no reason to kick yourself in the shins by moving to CA.

 

The problems that today’s young dating-minded women are facing can be summed up thusly: A smorgasbord of cock. It’s too hard to keep track of all the available men to make a decent choice and stick with it.

It’s known that having too many choices can lead to a sort of decision paralysis:

In a California gourmet market, Professor Iyengar and her research assistants set up a booth of samples of Wilkin & Sons jams. Every few hours, they switched from offering a selection of 24 jams to a group of six jams. On average, customers tasted two jams, regardless of the size of the assortment, and each one received a coupon good for $1 off one Wilkin & Sons jam.

 

Here’s the interesting part. Sixty percent of customers were drawn to the large assortment, while only 40 percent stopped by the small one. But 30 percent of the people who had sampled from the small assortment decided to buy jam, while only 3 percent of those confronted with the two dozen jams purchased a jar.

 

That study “raised the hypothesis that the presence of choice might be appealing as a theory,” Professor Iyengar said last year, “but in reality, people might find more and more choice to actually be debilitating.”

In the case above, the number of those who purchased in the choice-rich and choice-poor outcomes differed by roughly an order of magnitude:

choice outcomesThis suggests that people who are confronted with choice end up with markedly sub-optimal outcomes – they’d have more chances to get it “right” but the sheer availability of what “right” might be is too overwhelming.

Similarly, in today’s dating market, using Tinder leads to decidedly indecisive and suboptimal outcomes. Tinder is fascinating because it’s a mass sorting mechanism, but it also introduces an incredible amount of choice in the dating market – much more than anyone would encounter in the course of an average day. Even after separating the chaff out, the dating options are still more than anyone has time for or can really cogitate through.

And as noted before, the chaff present a significant game-changing variable here: when the effective sex ratio is 1.3, attractive women are in hot demand. They are selected more often than any other group and have the most options. Naturally, even in ordinary conditions (school, work etc) they are the flakiest, hardest to keep hold of, and in most need of game to keep on the hook. I’d expect this is compounded hugely on Tinder, as shown in the jam experiment – imagine the jam experiment with hundreds of options instead of 24, always available, always changing. Flakiness would go through the roof; girls wouldn’t know how to cope in a rational manner, resulting in lots of irrational coping and largely feels-driven decision-making (but I repeat myself).

I have no hard data on this, but some experiences: This has led to first dates with even moderately attractive women, but little follow-up afterwards despite employing all manner of game and approaches. The most common pattern is a meeting for drinks, bounce to a couple locations, making out to various degrees, an enthusiastic parting, and female flaking on the next meeting for all varieties of excuses.

One gal let slip that she was going out so much that she couldn’t keep track of all the guys she was going out with. That was the smoking gun… too much choice, hitherto unexperienced by none but the hottest women throughout history, but now available to the remaining 6s for the price of a download on a phone.

What’s a guy to do? This isn’t a unique experience to your humble author. Women are shooting way out of their league, incentivized by a genuinely new socio-sexual geography. After all, if very sharp, good-looking, well-incomed, educated, experienced, provisioned, moderately game-able men can’t get a 6 or 7 or 8 local 2nd-tier babe to go out for a 2nd date by this method, what’s left?

The response, should you choose to continue with Tinder, is to always go for first-date bangs. Statistically, any other approach is likely to lead to lack of further contact – at least sex is worth something as an indicator of investment leading to an ongoing concern, while a wasted evening and subsequent flakes is worthless.

Alternately, the answer is to accept that although Tinder and its ilk are tantalizing for the opportunity they offer, like the jam experiment, if you want to walk away with something, find a smaller venue and get off of the winner-takes-all social-media facilitated dating carousel. Don’t waste the time and effort.*

This if implemented widely of course leads to a last-man-standing effect where only the ‘best’ men left will get the ladies – but who cares? Get yours somewhere else.

 

 

* Before the “you just need to learn game / improve yourself / get used to the people / quit being a schlub” notes, keep in mind that the author just actually be writing from the vantage point of someone who has gamed and caught and kept some attractive gals and has a good point of reference

William Deresiewicz writes in the New Republic that you shouldn’t send your kids to Ivy League schools.

Is there anything that I can do, a lot of young people have written to ask me, to avoid becoming an out-of-touch, entitled little shit? I don’t have a satisfying answer, short of telling them to transfer to a public university. [Ed: Heh, the irony] You cannot cogitate your way to sympathy with people of different backgrounds, still less to knowledge of them. You need to interact with them directly, and it has to be on an equal footing: not in the context of “service,” and not in the spirit of “making an effort,” eitherswooping down on a member of the college support staff and offering to “buy them a coffee,” as a former Yalie once suggested, in order to “ask them about themselves.”

Instead of service, how about service work? That’ll really give you insight into other people. How about waiting tables so that you can see how hard it is, physically and mentally? You really aren’t as smart as everyone has been telling you; you’re only smarter in a certain way. There are smart people who do not go to a prestigious college, or to any collegeoften precisely for reasons of class. There are smart people who are not “smart.”

I am under no illusion that it doesn’t matter where you go to college. But there are options. There are still very good public universities in every region of the country. The education is often impersonal, but the student body is usually genuinely diverse in terms of socioeconomic background, with all of the invaluable experiential learning that implies.

If there is anywhere that college is still collegeanywhere that teaching and the humanities are still accorded pride of placeit is the liberal arts college. Such places are small, which is not for everyone, and they’re often fairly isolated, which is also not for everyone. The best option of all may be the second-tiernot second-ratecolleges, like Reed, Kenyon, Wesleyan, Sewanee, Mount Holyoke, and others. Instead of trying to compete with Harvard and Yale, these schools have retained their allegiance to real educational values.

I believe him – he’s spent his entire life in the Ivy League and hasn’t yet learned how to really think.

He’s telling other people to do what he thinks they should do to fix society – Thomas Sowell’s “We”  is on full display here.

Although the funny rejoinder is a bit facetious, Mr Deresiewicz is quite wrong. In fact, if your kids are going to college, you should send them to the best school they can get into, given that that school meets some minimum performance bars for cost and graduation employment rates in the chosen program.

If he’d read my article about sources of value in education, he’d have realized that all his BS about privilege and self-development and “learning to think” is a bunch of crock. To recap – There are 3, and only 3, sources of value in a college education:

1) Actual skills learned

2) The brand or credential

3) The network

Ivies tend to offer a good blend of all of the above. They in effect guarantee that the attendee will be accorded an assumption of a certain level of intelligence and aptitude, and be able to reach out to people in industries. Many other schools offer an Ivy-price tag, but not the benefits.

But what about “learning to think”? Isn’t that valuable?

Let’s turn that around. I’ve named 3 definite, quantifiable metrics that a college experience can be graded on (even discounting the many degree-ROI studies that have been done, which are a subset of “skills learned” + brand). Can anyone who advocates “learning to think” as a benefit of college explain exactly what that means and how to measure it? If they can’t do that, can they really seriously advocate taking on the huge opportunity cost of money and time that college requires?

Telling parents not to send their kids to Ivies (assuming they have the option, which is a bad assumption for a large portion of the population) smacks of this counter-intuitive self-serving (but funny) mindset, except that Mr D appears to be in earnest.

He voices the common lament of old people regarding young people in education, which is chiefly that

There are exceptions, kids who insist, against all odds, on trying to get a real education…

The first thing that college is for is to teach you to think. That doesn’t simply mean developing the mental skills particular to individual disciplines. College is an opportunity to stand outside the world for a few years, between the orthodoxy of your family and the exigencies of career, and contemplate things from a distance.

This is nostalgic idiocy from someone who’s past the point where he to actually make a living after graduating. College, despite the brochures, is not some idyllic place where people sit around and read Ovid and Homer in the original Greek for edification and go on to live a full and rich life.

That perception is manifestly a crock of self-defeating horse-hockey for anyone growing up today, when student debt is non-dischargeable and credential inflation is rampant. Much has been said on this already.

When you’re a kid and you take time to “find yourself” and “get a real education” and “learn how to think”, you’re going to end up with a liberal arts major, debt, and no job. On balance, at that point, you’d rather have the brand of an Ivy behind you than State U, because you’re going to be competing with the Ivy grad, and the Ivy grad goes into the interview with the hiring manager assuming he’s smart – you have to earn it.

 

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