Shutting Off Feedback or How We Got Into This Fine Mess


One of the things I loved about biology was the concept of feedback.  If you get too much inventivium in your blood system, your science fictioning gland shuts down so you don’t get too far from reality.  (What, you don’t have those? Really?)

Anyway I don’t love feedback in electronics.  In the bad old days (yes, kids, pre-history) when we had a house phone (landline) with a mobile receiver, and Dan and I were one on each receiver, if we got too close it started to whine.  You know, you’re discussing a party invitation and you want to see the other’s face to find out if he’s saying “We’ll try but” because he doesn’t want to go, or whether “we’ll try, but”  and suddenly the phone is screaming in your ear.

I suppose it had a useful side, because I suspect you got other interference when too close, but it was annoying.

Well, now I think about it, most feedback is annoying.

Economics is full of it — as are other economic systems — and humans find it so annoying they have devised various means of shutting it down, and then become puzzled and do crazy stuff when the system goes out of control.

Take price controls. They deliberately shut down feedback.  The idea is “people need to eat and the essentials should be cheap.” We went tons of rounds on this in the seventies in Portugal. It was FUN — not — and responsible for empty grocery shelves and problems getting the essentials.  Because when cooking oil was dirty cheap by price control, everyone who had ridden this pony before (with bread, with toilet paper, with…) would buy everything in the grocery shelves. Meanwhile, because it was impossible for merchants to make a profit on the thing, they didn’t stock it. Which was okay, because the factories that made it couldn’t afford to at that price, so they stopped. And all the way down the line.

This is because what the idiot politicians were shutting down was the feedback. Prices are many things — and sometimes annoying when you really want a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones but your bank account is crying, to use a totally random example — but MOSTLY? They’re information.  They’re feedback.

Because, yes, people work for profit, and profit — things that Warren and Sanders will never get — is not dirty, it’s what people live on, when prices go up — meaning there’s more demand than supply — people go “hey, you can make a profit in this” and start making more, until the supply and demand match, and you can’t make as much money, so people wander off to do other stuff.

You shut down the signal, and things go insane.  You keep it shut down long enough while handing down lists of things that the government wants you to make, and vast famines sweep the land but you have a surplus of size 35 shoes for the left foot only. Because the directive handed the factory made that the easiest thing to do.

But it is not just in economics (though eh, everything is a branch of economics, as my reading in my 30s informed me. Which means that’s probably when I started going insane) that humans love shutting down feedback.

The truth is we don’t like reality very much, and are more or less perpetually at war with it.

We have this image of how things should be, and because we imagine it so clearly we think it’s a moral imperative.

Which brings us to how we got into a fine mess, in publishing, in universities, in… everything affected by the long march.

The long march looks cunning, and it was. And for some people it was a conscious plan. But here’s the thing, it’s also a process that goes automatically when a large enough group of humans in a nation or a field share an image of what’s “ideal”.  In other words, in theocracies, the shut down of feedback from reality, and the ramping up of bringing in other true believers is standard, and intensifies as it goes.

This is not a thing of the left, btw. Every human institution, given the power to do it, shuts off feedback they don’t like.

This is why large corporations who can do so buy monopolistic status from governments (in various ways) and then stop heeding reality and go insane.  Which is why large and powerful enough corporations become indistinguishable from totalitarian states.  And also why, no matter how much influence they have on government, they eventually crumble and fall apart.

It’s also why publishing came up with “ordering by computer” and “ordering to the net” which allowed the houses to determine who stayed in and who got kicked out, all the while claiming they were being responsible and following the “numbers” — except that the numbers were vitiated by factors in their control — like the original laydown. Or how much push a book got. Or how willing they were to reprint. And none of this was taken in account in the “ordering to the net” thing, which ultimately reinforced the publishers’ ideas of what should sell. IOW it was a lie, but it was a lie that accorded with their idea of the perfect reality. Which is why it didn’t work. None of this worked.

And the problem is that as gatekeepers they were inclined to pick things that reinforced their biases — not even just political, their lifestyle biases, and age biases. One of the biggest arguments I had with a publisher was for having Dyce not follow her crazy parents’ dreams, because the boomer publisher identified with her parents, so… — and disliked feedback that told them this stuff didn’t sell.  So they came up with a way to make the stuff they disliked (and they bought some, though not a ton, and yes, usually tried to pick not so good stuff) sell even worse. That way they could “prove” that the stuff they liked was the stuff the “few smart people who still read” liked. And most people were “too dumb to read” thereby explaining the cratering print runs.

They’re still doing this, btw. In their circles, the fact that indie exposed their lies and that genres they declared dead, like the cozy or mil sf or clean romances are doing amazingly well is obscured by “games with statistics.”  They routinely say “ebooks don’t sell” meaning their own (well, duh, priced not to sell) and therefore trad pub is in control again.

It’s as big a fantasy as the USSR leading the world in steel production and it ends the same way: in massive destruction of wealth, lives, and good will.

But the market will go on, and find a path.

The thing is that once you shut off feed back, the insanity is self-feeding.  And if you’re invested in it, you can’t admit it.

Also that once you shut off feed back pushing your favorite view becomes THE thing. Hence not just publishing going hard left, but the universities following, and the utter crazy of corporations (I’m looking at you Gillette) rolling left to die is all part of “there are no other standards, everyone agrees with us. We must preach the truth(y) word from on high, because we’re doing good in the world, and it shows how good we are” missionary effort of a religion without an afterlife and with no concept of forgiveness.  Oh, and no contact with reality.

Sooner or later, feedback wins.

You see, it’s there to give you signals that things are going to be in serious trouble and soon. If you shut it off, it doesn’t stop happening. You just can’t hear it.

If you shut off the feedback signaling that the pressure is too high, all you’re doing is ensuring things blow up.

Build under, build around.  Because sure as the sun rises in the morning, there she blows.

Our job is to ensure when the lefty dream society goes sky high, it doesn’t take Western Civ with it.

254 thoughts on “Shutting Off Feedback or How We Got Into This Fine Mess

      1. BTW – isn’t that a new picture of Sarah? Get bored with the old one?

        I thought I noticed it the other day but, well, WP, right?

        1. Yep, the silly girl updated her default picture icon, I’m sure just to taunt us with her fantastic good looks.

        2. Hmmm. I think this new one makes her look more “earnest” and “connected”. Comparably, the old one looks like she’s a little out there. Of course, aren’t all good SF writers supposed to be “a little out there” anyway?

            1. I like it. This one looks a lot more like the “you” that I saw in person than the other one did.

            2. It’s really the eye contact. The old one makes you look like you’re staring at something over the viewer’s right shoulder. This one you’re actually looking at the camera. Hence, the connectedness look.

  1. Facebook started it with “likes” and “blocking”. Most people now “block” those they disagree with and that’s just not now real life works…

    1. Living in an echo chamber is a problem vastly exacerbated by denying you’re in one. I recognize that by ignoring Gaslight Media and staying with FNC, Instapundit, PJM and other “extremist right wing” sources I am dwelling inside a bubble — but the broader bubble is visible from my front porch and is primarily a source of mis-information, so I accept and recognize the limits on what I receive.

      This is made possible by the loss of credibility of competing sources, all of whom seem utterly dedicated to pushing their agenda in spite of any feedback. When you meet a native in the [rain forest] and know him a member of either a tribe that always lies or one which lies about half the time, the safe bet is to do the opposite of whatever you’re told.

      1. I wander past Politico and some of the other center-left (as in, they left the center a while ago) news sites in part because of work, and in part to see what the Pravda of the day will be.

      2. Studies have shown, and in my own experience, that conservatives rarely defriend liberals, and are willing to read and engage their arguments. Liberals, OTOH, block out opposing viewpoints. I have one liberal poster left on my Facebook friends list. The fact he’s there means he reading and responding to my posts. Maybe someday they’ll make sense to him….

          1. And that is why conservatives are not inclined to shut-out liberals: since we cannot mute Society there’s no benefit to muting individuals.

    2. No, it isn’t… but I waste less time getting into arguments with people I used to think better of this way.

    3. No, ‘blocking’ is an attempt to recreate what was destroyed when the Rules for Radicals folks applied their “I get to be rude, you have to be polite” thing in an area that folks can’t just avoid them.

      When the folks who have spent the last half a century being aggressive and confrontational in person, then denying they’d said (whatever) or insisting that the target had “misunderstood” suddenly had to face their behavior being right there in black and white… either there’s going to be platform destroying drama as everybody’s That One Uncle is rampaging through every gathering, without anybody being able to avoid him, or there’s going to need to be blocking.

      We’ve had a “bubble” for ages, that’s what the media monopoly amounted to; folks still survived, because people can and will go beyond their ‘bubble’ for information.
      The reason that echo chambers became such a hysteria is because folks were suddenly able to escape the approved echo chambers.

    4. Real life works exactly that way when you can accuse someone you don’t like of harassment, or being “alt-right”, or “raaaaacist”, and get them fired, thrown out of school, etc.

      Our legal system has been weaponized to make that possible.

      1. Yes, unfortunately. I just had to explain to someone the real life consequences of re-starting SP for fun, and how that would end up involving me, and given my auto immune, the stress MIGHT kill me.

        1. Restarting Sad Puppies for fun ?!??!! Wouldn’t it be safer to juggle blocks of C4 coated with NI3?

          And people call me a bull in a china shop…

          1. Well, I was wasn’t worried till you mentioned that touchy purple stuff.

            (And just to show I get the main point, I don’t think Sad Puppies was really fun for those involved.)

        2. Why? The Puppies work is done. The masses have been red-pilled in the past decade that the elite are living a lie, and selling another. Now we just grind through the Crazy Years…

            1. Perhaps a different approach is in order. We could recognize two works of “mainstream” SF/F annually: one for its turgid literary-ness, the other for its (inadvertent) absurd ludicrousness. Call them the “Shits & Giggles” Awards. The statuette and book cover seal would seem obviousness itself.

        3. And you’re working at a career where you, personally, are relatively immune to the effect. I mean, you can still write and publish and get paid indie. A lot of us aren’t, and even then there are friends and family members (what are the odds that your husband has been denied IT opportunities simply because he hasn’t divorced the “racist” he’s married to?) who can be tarred the same way.

          The other thing to point out is that this is older than most people realize; look at what happened to our friend Kim du Toit over a decade ago, being driven from regular employment for being a gun blogger.

            1. I’m so old, I remember when Liberals denounced blacklisting.

              Of course, even the I suspected they mostly just objected to them being blacklisted.

    5. Facebook and Twitter make sure you see paid/sponsored posts. YouTube feeds you adds. Television, books, “news media” mass print media. And then there’s the massive bureaucrat / regulatory state that even folks living in a cabin off the grid must deal with.

      With the best will in the world, I cannot live in a lefty-rubbish free bubble. This is a very one-sided issue.

    6. And then they announce the block, often in with verbiage to make it sound like it’s something they do to the person blocked, not themselves.

      I once literally saw a leftist claim that being blocked by him made right-wingers’ heads explode.

      1. It bugs them when they can’t talk to someone, especially if the person is a heretic.

        Generally speaking, if you are going to drop someone, it is polite to let them know why. Of course, it may not have the desired effect…. (It’s feedback. /shrug)

    7. Facebook and their “blocking” (of which I just added an oak leaf cluster to my 3 day ban medal last night) function serves a purpose. And yes it get’s abused by those who don’t want to hear an opposing point of view. Hell, I have a long list of blocked names/pages mainly because I do not suffer fools gladly, less so obnoxious, abusive fools. But I don’t just shut someone off because I disagree with them….I’ll argue at the drop of a hat…Just don’t be an Ahole about it…

  2. The shrieking is, as you almost certainly know, the problem of “positive’ (reinforcing) feedback. That way lies oscillation (*SHREEEEEE*) if not destruction. NEGATIVE (cancelling) feedback can be source of stability – properly working electronic amplifiers, with decent fidelity.

    Once upon a time, Dr. Demento played two version of the same tune back-to-back. SAME TUNE. One was recorded in early 1927 or in 1926. Before the fellows at Bell Labs invented the negative feedback electronic* amplifier. And the other in later 1927, after. Both sounded ‘old’ but the later 1927, electronic, recording sounded FAR more ‘modern’.

    * One might argue, particularly if one is willing to ignore the array of things Edwin Armstrong did in radio, this might mark the birth of ‘electronics’ and the leap from simple ‘electrics’.

  3. As an engineer I will tell you that we mostly love feedback, specifically we love ‘Negative’ feedback, cause that is what can be used to settle down a system. ‘Positive’ feedback on the other hand causes systems to go boom, and messily so. Guess which feedback system the lefties are always wanting to promote?

    1. I never could get the NFB working on my tube amp… then again, it’s a frankencircuit made up of a bunch of different schematics- Marshall, Fender, Orange, Sunn…

    2. Positive feedback is also very necessary – it’s why people eat, and have sex, and work. Money is a positive feedback mechanism. The Left would abolish all forms of feedback. Instead everything is to be directed by pure intellectual wizardry (or feelingz).

      1. And thus we have the fear of losing western civilization if the left were to actually take over since a socialist tyranny would cut off ALL feedback, but it would also take much time for the inevitable collapse which by then (having taken several generations of brainwashed ‘proles who have forgotten what personal freedom is all about) much of what we call “western civilization” will have been forgotten…thrown down the memory hole….and then we would hopefully climb back up the slope to where we were in 1776 and begin the experiment all over again.

  4. But feedback tells us our dreams are not real, and what kind of deplorable person likes that sort of thing?

    1. Incorrect…feedback tells us what is possible NOW. Feedback also shows us that dreams CAN be real, given the time and effort to make them real…Success in any endeavor is feedback…

  5. Where I used to live there were some radio operators who seemed to insist on monitoring their own signal (though FM repeater) with a scanner, with the attendant annoying positive feedback whine. How they put with it, I do not pretend to know – but they did. When a delay-line setup was added to one system (unsure if analog ‘bucket brigade’ or ‘ring shift’ style digital) the slight delay caused a nasty MENTAL feedback loop that annoyed even them enough to turn the scanner volume down. They found it annoying and complained. Everyone else found it effective and felt relief.

    1. When I was working as a Security Communications Supervisor I had a few intense conversations with people that insisted on not turning their radios down when entering the Comm Center due to the inevitable audio feedback. It was disruptive of operations and physically painful to me.

  6. The Gods of the Copybook Headings

    AS I PASS through my incarnations in every age and race,
    I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
    Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

    We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
    That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
    But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
    So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

    We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
    Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
    But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
    That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

    With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
    They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
    They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
    So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

    When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
    They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
    But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “Stick to the Devil you know.”

    On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
    (Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
    Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”

    In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
    By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
    But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”

    Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
    And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
    That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

    As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
    There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
    That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
    And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

    And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
    When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
    As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
    The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

  7. Turning off the warning light and the safety interlocks on high powered x-ray machines is bad; really bad for the poor tech who had his hand in the beam while working on it. You see, if the warning light (yellow incandescent bulb) burned out, the x-ray machine wouldn’t work, but (as the story goes) “they” worked around that.

      1. Hmmph. For some reason I cannot see this avatar, new or old. [goes off, uses different browser] Oh! Lookin’ good!

        But I =love= the portrait in the righthand stack, with the light coming from behind, sparkling in that gorgeous rich brown hair. That’s one of my fave author portraits *ever*.

  8. … people work for profit, and profit — things that Warren and Sanders will never get — is not dirty

    Warren and Sanders have spent nearly all of their working lives in environments insulated against feedback: academia and government.

    Our Mainstream Media is similarly insulated against feedback, having concluded the problem with their dog food is in the packaging.

    Wells’ Martian invaders were similarly invulnerable to feedback … until they weren’t.

    1. Ah yes, the old – ‘But the dogs don’t like it’ story.
      I wrote about this last year, at Chicagoboyz.

      “This is the point that I believe has been reached with regard to the establishment news and entertainment media with regard to a major segment of the American public: the final consumer is pushing the plate away and saying, essentially, “I don’t like it.” This is not going down well with the major purveyors of the news dog-food … The last two years have seen the establishment news hounds (and their fellow-travelers in government, entertainment and academia) go completely bug-nuts with fury. How dare those – those – those deplorables in Flyoverlandia, those ignorant, racist hicks vote for that – that – reality TV star!?”

      1. Amazingly, they even refuse it when served by Norah O’Donnell, and she’s cute as a button!

        Reports of her being called “toxic” and “difficult to work with” as recently as May of this year aside, it is obvious that the free-falling ratings for her CBS Evening News broadcasts are a consequence of Trump’s racism and refusal to address Global Climate Change. After all, she’s paid a reported $7 million to host the news while her predecessor was merely paid $2 million, so the accelerating ratings fall can’t have anything to do with her.

      2. I don’t watch the news. Gave it up years ago. Used to subscribe to the state-wide paper, and watched it get thinner and thinner and thinner. Local rag…gave up on it, too. Only look at it if I find one lying around. Takes ~ maybe 3 minutes.

        1. We’re down to one local newspaper here.

          It’s in Spanish.

          And thin enough that even my faltering high-school Spanish only needs a few minutes to read it…

        2. $SPOUSE watches local news so I don’t have to. There are a very few reporters/local(ish) stations that have usable information, though the biases appear occasionally. She’s given up on Fox News barring Tucker Carlson and the morning show. The local newspaper was a joke, and the price keeps going up as the content becomes more sparse. They bought the free advertising weekly, which is also going the way of the dodo.

          I used to read Drudge first thing, until it became clear that the Never Trumper attitude was a lasting phase. I’m trying out Gab Trends now; as I understand it, the headlines are crowd-selected. Between them and PJ Media (Insty, Morning Briefing, and some of TownHall, I get enough general news.

            1. I’m actually quite impressed with Gab Trends. OTOH, I don’t recall trying Whatfinger. Have to try it. It’s the specialty news that’s the timesink…

          1. regarding Fox News, I understand that for at least this week they have Brit Hume filling the three pm show, an undeniable upgrade over Shep Smith.

            National news is well-served at Real Clear Politics, with a selection of opinions Left & Right. A little poking about in the corners might provide some useful things on topics other than politics (there are topics other than Politics, although their number is diminishing under the Left’s pressure.)

          1. Yes, but think of the business opportunities.

            Mike’s Rent-a-Guillotine. “A basket for every budget.”

    2. Being in local government and Congress can be viewed as an exercise in selective feedback management: Obviously that voting thing happens periodically and is a very strong binary feedback along the lines of hired/fired, but other forms of feedback outside of monetary contributions are, rather than fodder for decisionmaking as in the commercial world, instead items to be publicized or suppressed in order to manage that voting thing to select “hired” one more time.

      When they can’t suppress feedback we achieve the much sought after ex-politicianing, as for the idiot “comic” ex-Senator from Minnesota, or the “I-don’t-have-a-drinking-problem sleep-with-them-all-and-smile-for-the-photos” ex-Congressfemale from SoCal.

      When feedback is not used to inform decisionmaking but only as input for publicity, the only remaining corrective force is that money thing, which makes clear why the Supremes said political contributions are speech and thus protected, but also raises the question as to how much speech individual voters can afford.

      1. > that voting thing happens periodically and is a very strong binary feedback

        “I don’t care who does the voting as long as I do the counting.”

        See also: Hugo Awards

  9. humans love shutting down feedback.

    Shutting down certain kinds if feedback is how you get harassment and rape, so the Left is not altogether against feedback. It all depends on who’s providing feedback and to whom.

    1. Gavin Nuisance’s response to Trump’s criticism of Cali’s forest mis-management is prime feedback-blocking. The sheer arrogance:

      “You don’t believe in climate change. You are excused from this conversation.”

      Of course, one suspects the response is going to be on the order of: “You don’t believe in reality. You are refused emergency money for the duration.”

      Waiting on crys of “That’s not fair” in 3, 2, 1…

      1. Heh — when I heard that gubernatorial quote it reminded me of nothing so much as a seventeen-year-old gal informing Dad that, as he isn’t wearing the prom dress he’s excused from the conversation of what to buy.

        Any chance we can get Calexit restarted? Maybe if Trump offered them the same deal Boris Johnson wrong from the EU? (I cannot describe the pleasure it gives me to pronounce that term referencing the European Union; Ewww, indeed.)

        1. I was asking $SPOUSE if there were some way for the rest of the country to expel California. (Narrator voice: not that we know of.) She was lamenting that her brother and his son still are (legally) resident in Cali, though the son is on a corporate assignment in a semi-safe locale in Europe. $BIL can and should leave, but I fear it’s going to be awfully late in the decline before he gets the hell out (or tries to, see the Calexit stories).

  10. hopefully we can keep Bloomberg’s ~$2.6 million per candidate from flipping the VA assembly tomorrow… :S

  11. Micro-management and denouncing any feedback as “racist” can have its … difficulties.

    [NY City Schools Chancellor] Carranza’s school misrule has city principals furious
    … Chancellor Richard Carranza, recall, added a whole new level of bureaucracy. And those busy beavers are justifying their existence with make-work mandates and other micromanagement — making it harder for principals to do their real jobs.

    Previous chancellors gave principals wide discretion over their budgets, hiring, space allocation, tenure decisions and student discipline. Not Carranza.

    Once-simple tasks — replacing retired assistant principals, hiring school aides and allocating space — now involve new hurdles. Plus, principals have lost nearly all ability to suspend even serious troublemakers — who, [Council of Supervisors and Administrators union] members say, are getting bolder.


    Focused on district-level racial reengineering schemes, “culturally responsive” curricula and similar social-justice issues, Carranza’s team has yet to offer ideas (or help) on core educational issues.

    Expect Carranza and de Blasio to pick a single grievance and address it by throwing more money at the schools, which already run $34 billion a year, to add new Restorative Justice counselors in hopes that solves the discipline issue.

    That’s the only issue they can address without admitting their own mistakes.

    1. “Focused on district-level racial reengineering schemes, “culturally responsive” curricula and similar social-justice issues…”

      And similar drivel. Gods below, but we really need to tell the ‘educators’ and adminweenies that FIRST they have to get kids mostly on track to graduate literate and numerate. THEN they can climb on their godsdamned hobby horses .

      1. FIRST they have to get kids mostly on track to graduate literate and numerate.

        Nyah, that’s a problem for somebody else. If we start holding “educators” responsible for that sort of thing they’ll all be out of business and our poor children will be dependent on (ack! phooey!) Charter schools, or worse!

        Even more, if they are literate and numerate they might recognize the other stuff public schools are peddling as the garbage it is.

        You can have an educated public or a socialist public, but you cannot have both.

          1. Nah, “Common Core” is what you get when you try to mass produce something that was crafted by skilled artisans using good quality material and decent quality control, but you’re using workmen whose understanding comes strictly from an instruction book written by those craftsmen and then edited to try to make it flow better, using whatever material is on hand and they have no quality control.

            I’ve actually managed to get some decent pointers out of the common core standards. I found them because I was trying to figure out what on earth the worksheet my daughter was using was trying to convey.
            It was “person who loves and understands math wrote down what people need to be good at math” which was translated by someone who did not speak math and but was good at writing instructions, which was then used to make a work-sheet.

            Original concept: make sure kids are exposed to a bunch of different ways of doing math, one of them is likely to click better than the rest.

            What resulted:
            a worksheet that told her that to solve 16+15 you add the 10s first, and then you see if there are any fives you can combine to make more tens, and then you add the ones.
            So it would look like 10+10+(5+5)+1 on paper.

            After I found the explanation, I realized they were using mental math. You know, where you go “oh, six and five, that makes a ten with one left over, so those two tens plus that is thirty, that one makes it thirty one.” But you don’t really do that all worked out, it’s from being comfortable with the numbers and you just KNOW it.

            A lot of the dumb stuff is trying to teach folks who ARE NOT GOOD WITH MATH how people who are good with math do stuff in their head.

            1. Yep, they’re teaching the shortcuts used by people who’ve been doing math for 40 years, instead of starting with the basic principles.

              And the abomination that is ‘new reading’ (or whatever they call it) — it’s like they don’t know how an alphabet works, and are trying to teach words as if they were Egyptian pictograms.

              When they turn out high school graduates who can neither read nor do math, they blame ‘conservatives’ for ‘cutting school budgets’ even though they ran all the conservatives out of the school systems decades ago.

              Jimmy Carter’s Department Of Education has spent 40 years and almost TWO TRILLION DOLLARS and accomplished less than nothing.
              How can politicians call their runaway government spending ‘investment’? Is it because ‘flushing your tax money down a rat-hole’ wouldn’t go over well?

            2. Same as whole word took what people who read a lot do — I mean, I haven’t sounded out words in… 50 years? In fact the hard part is to keep from reading a sentence at a go when I see it. (Yes, there are situations I’m trying not to read it. Like, when you come up behind your kid to tell him something and he has an email up, and you don’t want to read it, because he’s 20 something and entitled to privacy) — but you have to have years of practice reading to do that. You can’t just TEACH it that way.
              Or teaching languages without translating anything to the original language. This works great after the third year in the foreign language. You have enough vocabulary to think in the language and have new words either assumed by context or explained in the language.
              Before that? You’re creating parrots.
              Or, like my kids’ French teachers, you give people tons of fun magazines and songs in the original language. Since they don’t know the language they emerge completely confused and not even parroting anything.

              1. This is why I recommend Fluenz over Rosetta Stone. The former leverages your knowledge of your OWN language to learn the new one. The latter…leaves you guessing why you were wrong.

              2. Yeah, this. Like those ‘Learn to Speak a New Language in Six Weeks’ courses – you may be able to parrot some Useful Words and Phrases, but you won’t *know* the language.

                1. But sometimes knowing even just a few words in a foreign language can save you several minutes of otherwise unproductive punching and finger-breaking.

    2. Billion as in one times ten**9? Dollars? American dollars? For how many students? And how many administrators? Sure you gotta pay New York City wages, but still…!?!?

  12. Sometimes, possible feedback is just noise– that’s why we have feedback canceling tech on speakers, for example, and why the word “feedback” is usually used to mean stuff that is believed to be directly related to what is going on– so we humans have a reason to try to blot out the noise.

    When we mistake “lion coming at me through the grass” for “it’s just the wind” is when it gets painful……

    1. With audio, positive feedback gives you that howl, while negative feedback can give you noise-cancelling headphones. It’s tricky, but fun…

      Aside: Feedback cancelling speakers: Isn’t that what rotten tomatoes are for? (Deploys carp-resistant shelter.)

  13. One thing about government feedback is it sends false signals. If a department doesn’t spend it’s whole budget, it isn’t rewarded for thrift – it’s punished with a smaller budget. If it needs supplemental budget add ons before the end of the year because of waste or mismanagement, it’s rewarded with a bigger budget for the next year.It’s why at the end of every fiscal year there’s a flurry of spending on things that are nice to have that the regular budget didn’t allow for. Can’t turn any money back in because of the punishment of a smaller budget…

    1. That’s such slide-rule rough approximation of how to do a budget, and I ordered $2000 worth of shop rags one year to spend the rest of the unit’s money; but that was because the LT and I could find what we wanted in FedLog (weapons racks for inside the vehicles. Yes, it just now dawn on me we wanted gun racks. Probably not the in the back glass of your pick up kind. We kept thinking something vertical.)

    2. One of the reasons that if I were the Pharaoh, I’d want a loyal cadre of priests (or software) that would review all departments and subdepartments to identify the ones with spikes in expenditure in the last fiscal month to find the first places to slash the budget.

      Then announce that you’re putting together a cross functional team with strong rumors that it will be THE HOT TICKET to a quick rise up the bureaucracy. Managers asked to supply a warm body for the team will usually pick the deadwood they can most afford to be without. Schemers wanting high positions will manage to twist arms to get on it. Then just seal the whole giant cross-functional team inside a pyramid.

  14. Without reliable feedback you are at risk of saying and doing stupid things:

    What Western imperialism, Ilhan Omar?
    Yes, Ilhan Omar sometimes gets unfair criticism. Still, her comments on Western imperialism are absurd.

    Standing alongside Bernie Sanders this weekend, Omar observed, “I am beyond honored and excited for a president who will fight against Western imperialism and fight for a just world.”

    What on Earth is Omar talking about? Western imperialism is dead and buried in 2019, and it has been so since the Suez Crisis of 1956.

    Whatever you think about the rights and wrongs of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, or the retention of U.S. forces in eastern Syria, those actions did not involve the theft of resources, nor impose viceroys on oppressed peoples. Indeed, as evidenced by ongoing protests in Iraq and Lebanon, the only imperialists on the march right now are the Iranian imperialists, the ones primarily responsible for those nations’ present misery.

    My gripe with Omar, here, goes beyond questions of history. In linking opposition to Western foreign policy to the arrival of “a just world,” Omar suggests that the West is the central obstacle to a better world. This laughable idea is central to a broader philosophy of the Western far-left, which sees Western foreign policy as something centered in the theft of resources and rights from foreigners.

    This idea of a new Western “imperialism” and “colonialism,” assumes Westerners are taking what is not ours and using it for ourselves. British far-left writer George Monbiot recently described how western “colonialism is a great big vacuum cleaner which sucks wealth out of other parts of the world and concentrates it in the imperial center.”


    Put simply, the Western order is just, and it has demonstrably improved the lives of peoples across the world. Here, at least, Ilhan Omar has got it totally wrong.

    1. Admittedly, the preceding was primarily posted in order to justify this response concerning feedback we ought have heeded, about the understanding of gratitude.

      Of course, being Progressive means never having to express gratitude.

    2. Well, to be fair, given Omar’s ideology one can assume that “western imperialism” means “anything that maintains or expands Dar al Harb instead of shrinking it to make way for Dar al Islam”

      1. Bingo!!

        But until Omar’s rapture comes, the least we could do is pay the jizya (welfare) and feel ourselves subdued (silenced).

        1. And once again we’re back to the final result…the destruction of western civilization.

  15. Wait… your editor wanted Dyce to be running the used book store? But but… in the books her parents already fill that role. They already represented all the old boomer ladies who dreamed of living in a book store surrounded by books and a book store cat. I know that I loved them, I did, even while laughing about what the reality of it actually would have been. Having Dyce eagerly follow in their footsteps would have been redundant. Besides, she clearly came by her “crazy” in a legitimate, genetic fashion, so she’s still taking after her folks, apples not too far from trees and all that. Having her interests elsewhere broadens the number of things that potential readers can identify with as they read.

    1. But just think of the emotional death Dyce’s tales would have gained had her parents been slain, with her inheriting the bookstore! Talk about mo-tivation! Maybe Sarah could have given her a drug or liquor problem, or even both! Now there’d have been something the publisher’s sales force could have sunk their teeth into!

        1. She was being DISRESPECTFUL to her parents. She should at least take their wishes into account, instead of flippantly dismissing them. 😛 I swear I’m not making this up. Amanda Green read that editorial letter, because I couldn’t believe it, myself.

          1. Because if there was one thing that Baby Boomers were known for, it was always being respectful to their parents…

            1. You want epic saucing of the gander, checkout the “OK, Boomer” thread on Insty.

              Looooots of folks complaining about the folks they want to blame for the actions of some members of their demographic whining about people doing it to them. ^>^

              1. My immediate response, from my position along with Sarah as a member of the Cleanup Cohort who does not consider myself a Boomer at all, is to start using “OK, ‘llennial.”

                1. F**k, me too. I feel like I have spend my entire adult life cleaning up the (explicative deleted) after the Boomers…
                  Starting with resettling Vietnamese refugees in 1975…

                  1. Dealing with the mess, *and* getting blamed for messes existing, *and* of course we’re all guilty of whatever the scolding twits are upset about their kids doing this week– which is of course a result of Kids These Days, not a reflection of their parenting skills.

                  2. Might I remind all and sundry that not all people born between ’45 and ’65 were of the same ilk…I come under that heading and would remind folks here that such things as the Vietnam war was started and ended by leftists (the beginning being the faked Tonkin Gulf attack and ending by a leftist controlled House cutting off all aid to the S. Vietnamese government..which resulted in all of those Vietnamese refugees in ’75).

                    1. Might I remind all and sundry that not all people born between ’45 and ’65 were of the same ilk.

                      *grin* Only if you don’t mind being reminded right back that the same applies between 1980 and 2000.

                  1. Being solidly in the Boomer timeframe, I shrug my shoulders. I seldom was in a position to vote for/force the things my generation managed to inflict on the country. I’m not taking the onus of the horrible things done by other Boomers but I’m not going to defend them, either.

                    I’ve seen some websites (He who must not be named for one) that combine disdain for Boomers with contempt for Millennials. This might get interesting in a few years…

                    1. Now imagine you had a cool generation name that accurately described your generation, and it got hijacked for folks who were waaaaay too young to have “come of age” at the Turn of the Millennium.

                      And when they’re being stupid kids, suddenly it is the responsibility of the 35 year olds who aren’t even related to them.


                    2. I read a millennial blogger at [redacted]. He’s grumpy at Boomers who do stupid stuff. I look at the relevant bits, and yes, they’re cringeworthy. Not me, didn’t do it. (Lurk moar, post not at all….)

                    3. Previous comment got redacted: try #2.

                      I read a millennial blogger at [redacted]. He’s grumpy at Boomers who do stupid stuff. I look at the relevant bits, and yes, they’re cringeworthy. Not me, didn’t do it. (Lurk moar, post not at all….)

                    4. Heh — I confess to sniggering at most complaints about Boomers as, while technically a Boomer myself, I cannot ever recall being “in step” with the Demographic and have plenty of my own complaints about my cohort.

                      But Millennial complaints about Boomers tend to speak far, far more clearly about the complainants and their ignorance, indolence, puerileness, banality and sheer lack of intellectual depth.

                    5. But Millennial complaints about Boomers tend to speak far, far more clearly about the complainants and their ignorance, indolence, puerileness, banality and sheer lack of intellectual depth.

                      As do the Boomer complaints about Millennials.

                      It’s a side-effect of the way the person is acting like everybody born in multiple decades are the same, which SHOULD be obvious nonsense on stilts, buuuuuut…..

                    6. The funny thing is that much of what is blamed on the “boomers” such as the Vietnam War were actually thrust upon us by people who didn’t qualify as baby boomers…Many were the result of those who lived through WWII…Boomers were in many ways the ones who got caught up in these insane leftist problems and tried to make the best of it.

                    7. I recently realized that a great deal of LBJ’s “strategy” in Vietnam made more sense if viewed through the lens of our experience in Korea: push too far into enemy territory and beware the Chinese Hordes.

                      Almost all the problems of the Boomer years were initiated by the “Greatest Generation” — Cuba and Vietnam bequests of Ike, JFK and LBJ, WWII veterans all (as were many of the Congressional leaders and the SCOTUS.) The Civil Rights issue was a remnant of the Jim Crow regime. There wasn’t a passing of the torch to Boomer president until Bill Clinton in 1992 (Carter was an Annapolis middie in WWII and served in the Korean War) and we all can see how well that worked out.

                      I’m not saying the Boomers were not the stupidest American generation … at least, at the time they came of age; each subsequent generation seems to be demanding their elders “Hold our beer and watch this!” but rather that blaming the Boomers for today’s problems ignores the generations of accumulated combustible material leading up to us.

              2. First time ah evah ran into that there term. ‘course I’m ah tail end Charlie boomer mahself.

                1. Same here, and I find it excessively flip– but I’m still laughing like a loon about the folks who usually are complaining out their ears about a generation getting all huffy about being dismissed with a lack of respect for THEIR generation.

            2. Hey! I always listened respectfully to my parents!

              Then I went ahead and did what I had in mind all along.

              But I always listened respectfully to my parents.

              1. I understood it to be widely recognized — especially in the enlightened world that is the publishing industry — that a real woman can fix that orientation.

          2. OMG.

            Well, I’m not going to be sorry for reading that wrong and misunderstanding because who on earth would ever expect that!

            And Dyce clearly loves her parents.

  16. The reason SF bay area housing prices are so high is a perfect example. The supply of buildable land is limited by “environmentalists”.
    The cost of land goes up. The supply of housing is reduced. The price of housing goes up.

    People move to Texas.

    1. The land is pretty limited no matter what you do out there but the City won’t let you build upward. The neighbors have fits because you’ll cast shade with your high rise apartment building.

      Spreading outward doesn’t seem like the best solution. People already commute for an hour or two each way.

      1. Like California, much of Texas is desert. Not that the denizens of the subdivisions have a clue.

    2. Well, to be a little bit fair, actual SF is full and has been for a long time, but the policies requiring eternal preservation of everything currently in existence including 400 sf temporary shacks built right after the 1906 earthquake as historical gems, along with the vast and crazy set of ancillary requirements the City and County of San Francisco imposes on contractors working in The City, the corrupt zoning system, and the whole rent-control rules that prevent rental property owners from turning their rentals into condos, drive up both the square foot building cost and the price of the dirt it’s being built upon.

      Outside of SF the forward march of Open Space Districts and land preservation trusts, combined with high municipal hurdles for development project approval and the mandatory rabid environmentalist court challenges leveraging the environmental impact statement process manages to delay or defer almost everything that would build what buyers actually want: Single-family detached homes. The only projects being built these days are the multistory-condos-near-rail-lines, which skip some of the watermelon vitriol as part of their effort to eliminate privately owned cars.

      So, as a result, the single-family homes here are priced crazy: 1,200sf tract homes on 6ksf lots regularly sell above $1m, with price escalators dependant on how close (in commute time) they are to the Alphabet/Apple/Zuckerbook geocentroid.

      There’s also an impact of overseas money parking in Silicon Valley real estate as safe haven – my early-1960s-tract-house neighborhood has a number empty well-kept houses that real estate agent rumor indicates were bought with full cash offers that took into account exchange rates from Yuan Renminbi to USD.

      Given the constraints on places available to build, constraints on what can be approved to be built, constraints on the builders and developers, and constraints on infrastructure, the only thing that will really change things is if those major tech employers (and major tech-startup funding sources) move elsewhere due to, say, to pick a random crazy hypothetical, unreliable electric power.

      If the jobs go away, it’ll be Katy-bar-the-door.

      1. Another factor:

        My sister is an architect (partner in a big firm) in the Bay area. About ten years ago I was griping about the cost of building permits in Los Angeles County (then $38k for a house and $18k for a barn — the permit for my neighbor’s new barn cost more than the barn itself!) and she says — that’s nothing. Up here it’ll cost you $125k in permits before you can even break ground, and that’s for a single-family house.

        And now we have all the smart Chinese businessmen trying to get their money out of China before the oncoming crash, and the easy way is to buy (and bid up) metro real estate in a stable country, say the U.S. or Canada (Vancouver has the same problem).

        Did I mention the Newt’s World podcast re the fact that most of these Chinese industries the west is investing in… don’t actually exist??

        1. Ironically, overinvestment in the ‘stable’ US real estate market was one of the factors in the Japanese crash way back when.

            1. Well, yeah – the new guy is both cracking down and loosening up. And U.S. fracking has changed the entire political power equation. If any of them are old enough to recall what that combination did for the Shah right across that body of snake-filled warm saltwater back when President Jimmeh was leading the fight against the USSR (snort), they can’t be blamed for moving liquid assets out.

              1. Clarifying: In the decade leading up to the President Peanut Interregnum, the power structure shifted to the middle eastern oil supplier countries, which they exercised as the various oil embargoes, causing major economic and political impacts in the West.

                The fracking revolution has ended that power relationship, shifting power away from the middle eastern oil exporters and back to the US.

                As with President Peanut, even under President Barry that power shift still made a difference. With successors being from a quite different mold in both cases, there’s a lot of shifting sand for the present day House of Saud to navigate.

                No wonder some are moving assets out.

                1. But when the Democrats outlaw fracking, the House of Saud will be back in the drivers seat.

        2. And another factor:
          The big success of California’s initiative system, was the populace capping property taxes at 1% of the price the property was purchased for.
          Which was *great* if you owned a home and were locked in.
          Less great if you needed a place to live in an area with little turnover, and perverse incentives to limit any more construction.

          1. See the thing is, Prop13 tax assessment reset when a Glorious Peoples Bear Flag Republic house is sold, so over time property tax assessments basically level up towards market.
            The real impact is it centralized property taxes under the control of Sacramento, so they could redistribute that money (after a small administrative and management set aside) according to the principles of Guido Marx, the lost Marx brother who went into organized crime, who famously said “From each according to…oh heck, just give me all your money”.

              1. They keep sending good people there, so it must be something about that city turns ’em rotten.

                1. The rest of the state thinks of politics when they think of Sacramento, while the natives are enjoying the outdoors and the food.

                  Mmm, good tomatoes.

        3. most of these Chinese industries the west is investing in… don’t actually exist

          Ph heck, we in the West have been doing that for decades; remember the Clinton-era Internet boom? Vaporware, Ponzi-schemes, renewable solar energy — you name it, we’ve sunk money into it!

          On the plus side, National Review is reporting the Chinese have found a (partial) solution to their problem of too many males for the supply of females:

          Chinese Government Assigning Han Men to Live and Sleep with Uighur Women Whose Husbands Have Been Detained: Report
          The Chinese government assigns men as “relatives” to monitor the families of detained Muslim Uighur men in China’s Xinjiang province in order to “promote ethnic unity,” according to a report from Radio Free Asia.

          Titled the “Pair up and Become Family” program, the initiative involves Uighurs opening their homes for weeks at a time to Communist officials, who work, eat, and even sleep with the family.

          “They help [the families] with their ideology, bringing new ideas. They talk to them about life, during which time they develop feelings for one another,” a government source with intimate knowledge of the program told Radio Free Asia.

          “We also try to help them to make proper [sleeping] arrangements . . . it is now considered normal for females to sleep on the same platform with their paired male ‘relatives.’”


          U.S. corporations have been mostly silent on the treatment of the Uighurs. The NBA, which was at the center of a major controversy over U.S.-China relations last month, recently removed details from its website of an NBA development academy which is housed in Xinjiang, but has not commented publicly as to whether the site is closed.

          In October, Disney CEO Robert Iger told the Wall Street Journal’s Tech Live conference that “to take a position [on China] that could harm our company in some form would be a big mistake.”

          1. So evidently the ploy being used by izlamists in Europe and North America of “we’ll out breed you and take over” isn’t quite working in China? Wouldn’t be surprised if there was a bit of “forced impregnation” was going on there along with the “re-education” of the males (who will probably not come back anyway).

      2. I still think the city of San Francisco ought to allow squatters to crash in public buildings. After all, they’re residents and taxpayers, aren’t they? And City Hall, the schools, and other buildings are just sitting there empty nights and weekends.

        Nobody should object to the occasional suspicious puddle or mount of feces when they come back to work; that’s the same stuff they walk through to work anyway.

        1. Well, they were talking about that last year in San Jose, but they decided to demolish the building instead

      3. I’m sure North Korea would gladly clear the refuse out of San Francisco for themselves. Assuming they can get an ICBM there with a working nuclear warhead.

        Be one heck of a conundrum. We can’t let the NKs nuke America! But it would be oh so tempting to let them clear out the progressive idiots if we did.

        1. That would just encourage more of Cali to move to other states instead of fixin’ their own problems.

      4. My first place (a townhouse in a decidedly horrible neighborhood; it was the first one targeted for Project Crackdown when crack cocaine was becoming a major problem) is now estimated to run for $550,000. I paid $35,000 for it in 1977.

        The place I bought in San Jose (much better neighborhood) in ’87 for $185K and sold in ’03 for $500K is now guesstimated at $1.2M. It’s handy to eBay, if that’s worth anything any more.

        We think our place in Deepest Oregon is worth 50% more than we paid for it, at least partially because we’ve put a boatload of capital improvements into it.

  17. “Crunchiness”, by Nico Colchester

    Crunchiness brings wealth. Wealth leads to sogginess. Sogginess brings poverty. Poverty creates crunchiness. From this immutable cycle we know that to hang on to wealth, you must keep things crunchy. Crunchy systems are those in which small changes have big effects leaving those affected by them in no doubt whether they are up or down, rich or broke, winning or losing, dead or alive. The going was crunchy for Captain Scott as he plodded southwards across the sastrugi. He was either on top of the snow-crust and smiling, or floundering thigh-deep. The farther south he marched the crunchier his predicament became.Sogginess is comfortable uncertainty. The modern Scott is unsure how deeply he is in it. He can radio for an airlift, or drop in on an American early-warning station for a hot toddy. The richer a society becomes, the soggier its systems get. Light-switches no longer turn on or off: they dim.

    (More at link)
    Written in 1987, some of the details are dated, but the point remains.

  18. My theory is that the leftward roll of big corporations has a lot to do with hiring The Right People With the Right Degree From The Right Schools- and are inexperienced dingbats. Coming from Cutting Edge Intersectionalist Thought in academia, it’s no wonder that they would think that the Future Is Woke, and they better get with it.

    And then there’s the boardroom problem. Too many useless politicians spawn are given sinecures with big business, for the usual I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Corruption reasons, and those nitwits tend to also have nitwit woke ideals as well.

    1. there’s the boardroom problem. Too many useless politicians spawn

      Not useless – they’re the Danegeld corporations pay to avoid limit regulation.

      Stupid Trump deregulatory regime is screwing all the “right” people.

      1. “Stupid Trump deregulatory regime is screwing all the “right” people.”

        Plus taking away The Power from the bureaucracy leaching bribes, er applying fines, er I mean, uh fees to administer by regulatory statue …

    2. There are exceptions.
      Often, they are worse.
      Gillette was a card-carrying communist seeking to exploit the capitalist system to fund the revolution.
      That the company he founded is still full of militant leftists should surprise no one.

    3. You’re being far too kind.
      The deal the corps are making with the cultural left is simple: we will endorse everything you say about social issues. In exchange, you will say nothing about our business practices.
      It’s also a good way to get rid of dissenters within the corporations, as well, something management likes.

      1. If that’s the deal, then it’s foolish, as the Left still goes after even the most woke of companies all the time.
        I tend to lean towards blaming incompetence over malicious intent*, and we see it here too. They honestly don’t know anyone outside the Left bubble, and honesty think that Wokeness is what’s happening today with the kids.
        And this is a good thing, as it allows these companies to die as part of a natural process, and be replaced by others.

        *Even their malicious intent tends to be incompetent- see also Hillary 2016.

        1. Thing is, take note of which leftists are going after the corps. It’s not the big boys, but the small fry, who got cut out of the deal and aren’t particularly effectual.

          1. Small fry eventually become big- note AOC and Amazon in NYC.
            It’s having an interesting effect- the rumor that Wall Street is going to chop off Dem Senate campaign funding due to Warren’s wild talk for instance.

      2. The corporation’s only goal is to stave off the inevitable, logical conclusion of the march toward pure communism, which means the corporations are eliminated and absorbed by the all wise, all caring government. We’re seeing a tiny example of that possibility in Kalifonia with “governor” Neusom threatening to take over Pacific Gas and Electric if they can’t get things under control (a situation caused by the government)….A state government such as Kalifonia taking control of the power supply guarantees eventual loss of power statewide.

      1. Right, but the image is a bit date – it still shows Theresa May as UK PM. But compare that to North America. President Donald Trump has five kids, AMLO down in Mexio has four, and even Justin Trudeau has three.

        1. ….am I the only one who felt the urge to say “with a woman?!?” to that last one?

          I have way, way too many memes stuck in my head.

        2. My theory is that electing Trudeau was Canada’s attempt to out do the US in electing Obama.

          1. They succeeded beyond their wildest nightmares….If Jaime Ibson is disillusioned with Trudeau, I KNOW things have gone too far..

    1. Oh.

      The thing about kids is that you can’t control them. They grow up and get their own ideas.

      It might be profoundly meaningful that all of these “leaders” don’t have children and have never learned those lessons.

  19. There are two kinds of feedback: positive and negative. Negative feedback reduces the impetus that caused it, leading toward some stable condition. Positive feedback increases the impetus that caused it, leading either to wild oscillations, or an ever-accelerating race toward some extreme condition, which usually ends when it slams into some sort of limit.

    Neither one is necessarily good or bad. A stable condition may be one you don’t want to stay in, like stagnation or depression. Positive feedback can lead to rapid growth and technological advancement.

    An economy is full of positive feedbacks, making it highly unstable. Most of what the liberals and socialists want the government to ‘fix’ are the few negative feedbacks that prevent it from going completely off the rails. When it does, they want the government to ‘fix’ it some more, making it worse…wow, it’s another positive-feedback loop!

    The liberals have blocked out any negative feedback from outside their little ‘safe spaces’ while turning the positive feedback within them up to 11. As we can see, liberals become increasingly unstable under those conditions.
    There is no shortage of people convinced they can create the perfect world. Trouble is, they always start out by fucking up this one.

    1. However, as an engineer, I tell you — positive feedback causes systems to oscillate out of control!

      1. Well, either that, or causes them to become inextricably stuck in some extreme condition. Like an op-amp lacking in negative feedback will output either the positive or negative supply voltage.

    2. As with anything in the ‘verse, there must be balance…it’s the lack of that balance which causes the problem…Conservatives tend to let nature take it’s course and find a natural balance. Socialists believe in their belief that they can control the balance because they know better…thus the problems.

    1. I don’t know about anybody else, but there came a point in my life when I realized I had never, ever, corrected a mistake I didn’t know I’d made. After that I take every error pointed out as opportunity to improve.

      It doesn’t mean I like having made a mistake, just that I recognize the problem is not in having it pointed out but in having made it.

      Of course, that does not mean I accept everything pointed out as a mistake just because somebody thinks it was. Nor that the mistake I recognise is the one pointed out … sometimes it is clear that the mistake was my not perceiving the other person was a [sphincter].

  20. This is why large corporations who can do so buy monopolistic status from governments (in various ways) and then stop heeding reality and go insane.

    Buying barriers to entry for any future competitors in your market, up to and including monopoly status, is only effective is those barriers can be enforced. It’s not worthwhile, for example, for SpaceX to buy sole landing rights to all of Mars simply because there’s no one who could enforce those rights. Thus the issue is that government has aggregated sufficient power to grant varying degrees of monopoly status.

    And the old arguments that it’s economically unfeasible to do anything other than grant monopolies are put to the lie by the cell phone market: Lots and lots of cell phone companies put up their own towers to serve exactly the same territory that other cell phone carriers serve. As I understand it, some towers are not owned by individual carriers, leasing antenna space to whoever wants to pay. Certainly tall buildings lease antenna space to whoever can pay.

    But what the .gov giveth, the .gov can take away – see our Glorious Peoples Bear Flag Most Beloved Democratic Governor Newsom threatening to nationalize PG&E because for his past 30 years in government he never tried to get one single mile of power line put underground, and the whole thing just burst into flames and rolling outages on his watch.

    In retrospect, the whole government-regulated monopoly utility thing might have been a mistake.

    1. There is an interesting theory going about that the blackouts may have actually been driven by the dependence on wind turbines. Apparently a very large part of California’s power is from wind turbines, and they do not handle high wind speeds well at all. To keep them from getting damaged, that have to shut them down during high winds.

      So, the suspicion is PG&E had to shut down the windmills when the heavy winds blew, and excused them as fire prevention to minimize the backlash.

      1. I thought wind and solar were just cosmetic, in that if you run them for baseline power, you have about the same capacity in natural gas or something to run when the wind and solar don’t?

        1. True that; which is why Germany has horrible carbon footprints, since they’d rather use coal than nukes.

          OTOH, California would rather get power from other states than build any of those dirty baseline power plants themselves. (Still grousing that south central Oregon was cut off from cheap Bonneville power due to a judge’s ruling.)

          1. ” (Still grousing that south central Oregon was cut off from cheap Bonneville power due to a judge’s ruling.)”


            No wonder the Solar project. Is your more isolated location part of it too?

            I know it can cost bundles to run a line to and into a property … why you see a lot of more recent ranch houses close to main high speed highways, etc., when there is a lot of the property behind the house. Now if you already have lines running to the property, forcing the power company pay YOU for excess power …

            1. Yeah, we got cut off from Bonneville power some time in the Aughts (I’d have to look it up), roughly the same time that the push to eliminate the hydropower dams on the Klamath River started to get traction. Pac Power gets out of having to build 3 fish ladders, so they’re all for taking the dams out. Arggh.

              We have a few of the big solar project arrays in the county. Last I heard, there were three, totaling about 30 MW. We go by one as we drive to town, and they’re big mechanical tracking arrays. Interestingly enough, they don’t bother to cut (or suppress) the grass and weeds under the panels very often. Grass fires aren’t a problem, amirite? One also notes that a) we’re on the path of one of the larger natural gas pipelines, and b) the area taken up by one of the 10 MW solar arrays would comfortably fit a much bigger plant, say in the 1000 MW range. But that’s just crazy talk.

              Yeah, the ranchers went all in for solar arrays when their power costs tripled (see Bonneville). Most of the county is built out, though there are very few non-gridtie systems being commercially installed. I asked the sole solar contractor in the county, and all he was doing last year was rooftop grid-tie. My ground-mount offgrid system wasn’t of interest.

              1. Locally some new builds are adding solar roof panels (not enough room for ground builds) on South & West facing. EWEB/EPUD/SPUD (Eugene, Emerald, Springfield) entities then have to buy excess power back. Know one who’s bragged his EWEB (Power, Water, Sewer) bill runs $5 – 10/month when they get paid for their power … nothing about wet/cloudy months when solar is less effective. We’ve discussed it; if we ever build our dream home, maybe then. Especially since we don’t heat with electric (anymore), went gas 11 years ago when it became available thanks to a neighbor pushing for it (they put in 4 or 5 appliances). At that my EWEB bill runs $250 to $400 depending on time of the year. About 1/2 to 1/3 what it was (would have been) with heating with ceiling heat … Honestly hard to pin down. We had ceiling heat set on lowest setting and used wood stove heat. Gas runs < $65 at worse, without using the wood stove.

                Dams locally aren't going anywhere. They may have hydro power ability, but they were primarily built for flood control. No way even our local extremely left green eco politicians will allow that.

                1. IIRC, Kate pulled a “law” out of her fundament and mandated at least the ability to do rooftop solar. (Another mandates the potential for coal-fired car recharging.)

                  The Klamath river has been a target for the anti-dammers. The tribes near the mouth blame everything on hot water in the Klamath. No comment from them about the California dams on the Trinity that would have fed the K; it has to be the Oregonians. (Also, the local tribes would rather there not be any water storage; water’s for fightin’.)

                  Since ’03, we’re running between $105 and $308 for electricity. Forced air heat, electric hot water, no air conditioning. No grid-tie solar, either.

            2. WordPress ate my longer reply, so:

              Yeah, we’re on the solar project, with (AFAIK) 30MW worth of panels in three sites in the county. Of course, a 1000MW natural gas plant would fit on one of the sites, and we have a shiny new pipeline in the area, but no.

              The ranchers went all-in on grid tie solar when their power bills tripled due to the Bonneville decision. In dry years, they can probably stay solvent by selling power rather than hay. Cattle are a sometimes thing, now.

              There’s a very small market for battery-storage solar around here, so the installations tend to be DIY. I subbed out part of the array construction since I couldn’t dig deep enough with what I own or am willing to rent, but the rest was all me.

              1. And WordPress is queuing long replies to show up long after shorter ones post. WordPress delenda est.

            3. WordPress is eating long replies:

              We’re on the solar project, 30MW total in three sites. Wish we could have a 1000MW natural gas power plant from our new pipeline…

            4. When the Bonneville decision cut us off from cheap power, the ranchers went all-in on grid tie. In dry years, I suspect they can stay solvent by selling power rather than hay. Cattle are optional at times.

          1. As I gathered from a recent Wall Street Journal Editorial Board episode, a big part of the problem facing PG&E is that they’ve spent money on the “renewable” energy projects which might have been better spent burying transmission lines so that they’d be less prone to spark conflagrations.

            They might also not be experiencing commercial electricity rates* that are “32.9% greater than the national average commercial rate” … but that’s just crazy talk.

            *Residential rates are a mere “29.12% greater than the national average residential rate,” so there is that.

            1. What size or voltage lines can be buried? In N.C. it’s just the 110/220 lines to the customers that are buried, as far as I know. Can you bury 7,000 volt ordinary lines? That’s a huge number of miles.

              1. The 12.5kV distribution lines can be buried, and that tends to happen in newer developments around here.

            2. Sounds like it wasn’t just burying long lines, but replacing old lines/insulators/equipment in danger of falling apart. I gather a lot of the renewable support expenditures was forced on PG&E, and after they spent the money on that, they had to pay their executives…

              Warren Buffett owns Pac Power, and it’s sort of competent. Newsom tried to get WB to purchase PG&E, but that wasn’t going to float, much less fly.

  21. I’m fond of the “penny in the fusebox” analogy. (Fuse: an obsolescent electrical device that was used, and is sometime still used, to perform the function now mostly performed by circuit breakers) When a fuse blew and there was no replacement around, idiots would solve the problem by sticking a penny in the fuse receptacle. This might keep the lights burning or the toaster toasting for a while, but also would quite possibly burn down the house.

    Political, social, and educational equivalents are easily identified.

  22. It’s interesting that the new CEO of Barnes and Noble is encouraging some feedback in the publishing world by letting local and regional managers and employees suggest and promote their favorite books.
    Quite a few years ago, when I was managing an independent music shop, much like publishing the big labels would heavily promote their picks and what they felt would be the next “Beatles” or whatever. One day a little lady came in with a promo album for an artist we had never heard of. It was a mixture of jazz, soul and something else. We weren’t sure what it was exactly but we gave it a “spin” and thought, “what the heck, let’s try it in our shop”. Actually, the lady’s enthusiasm was as infectious as was the music. Apparently she did this promoting throughout the Metro NYC and New England area to independent music shops because the “Big Boys” wouldn’t give her the time of day. That artist was Isaac Hayes and the album was “Hot Buttered Soul”. The rest is history.
    Thank goodness for independent, genuine “feedback”. I hope Barnes and Noble is successful in this effort.

    1. Alan Bourgeois The guy who founded the Texas Association of Authors, had a session with the then-CEO of Barnes & Noble a year or so ago. Alan has been working for at least a decade now, to get indy Texas authors some (among other goals) flipping respect among big retailers – make it easier for Texas authors and small publishers to deal with local large and small retail vendors. He had high hopes for the meet with the B&N top people. Came to nothing – Alan was quite disappointed: B&N wanted to basically keep on doing business the same way.

      1. They might want to keep doing business the same way, but when that way is losing money, they won’t get to much longer.

      2. B&N’s stance makes sense. Their business is doing swell as is, and what reason could there be for Texas readers to want to read Texas authors writing about Texas topics? If Texans had any brains they’d want to read what their intellectual superiors in New York, Boston and California are reading, and if they don’t understand that they probably oughtn’t be reading grown-up books.

  23. Our job is to ensure when the lefty dream society goes sky high, it doesn’t take Western Civ with it.

    I’m going to be contrarian and say our job is “to preserve those parts of Western Civ that should inform its successor.” Lefty dreams are a product of Western Civ and thus show its take a wrong (left?) turn. We should preserve the parts up to that turn and maybe some from after and let the civilization die, but make sure we seed its successor well.

    1. I have in mind a civilization that goes back to the Victorians, then adds modern technology. Definitely pre-1915, with a clearer understanding of just how dangerous Communism and Lower Class Dysfunctionality are.

  24. Sarah, this is one of your best pieces in some time. Not only is the basic principle sound, but the applications are interesting and clearly thought out.

    I’ve thought for a long time that the real reason many people, including businesses, dislike markets and prices and try to disable them is that markets impose a harsher discipline than most of them want to endure. Give them a nice set of controls and a friendly regulatory agency and they can slack off. Markets work on the old principle of “the king must die,” as quite a few corporations learned when the Internet was young and not tame.

  25. Every time laws are passed that exempt the lawmakers necessary feedback disappears. Assuming success those same lawmakers do it again. It’s a vicious cycle.

  26. Feedback…

    I’m in the beta phase of my novel, and I suspect that I need to be buying the good whiskey for my beta readers. (Seriously, I know it isn’t that bad, but work with me here…) But, every time the notification comes that there’s a criticism…I have to remember that I chose this.

    Too much of our feedback isn’t that voluntary. Or done by people that don’t want to provide useful information, or use the feedback as another way to beat on us. So, we don’t go looking for feedback, because to admit error is to become vulnerable. And that’s among the Odds. Considering the world that most of our opponents live in? They will rip their own apart for perceived mistakes…and we’re talking the sort of ripping that leaves blood and major organs on the pavement. So, why would they even allow criticism?

    1. Few in our modern world seem to understand the benefit of well-constructed criticism. We see this on Amazon where the majority of reviews are five-star and offer little useful information or one-star and offer even less valid content. The fact is that most books merit three-stars: a highly readable, enjoyable book. Five-stars ought be reserved for “desert island” books, while four-star would be awarded a book that was better than average. Two-stars would be books that were in some way deficient but yet readable (e.g., “popcorn” reading) and one-star largely distinguishing books with serious flaws.

      But that will never happen, no more than reviewers will learn to distinguish between “not to my tastes” from “not any good.”

        1. So does Uber, btw. In most areas, Uber requires you to maintain a rating higher than 4 stars (4.66 here)

          1. In Uber’s case that may be a means to churn drivers, inducing people to either reduce their workload or quit before the chore becomes tedious.

            They don’t require passengers to maintain a high rating, after all.

  27. Markets are so important that even those countries which have no official markets develop them clandestinely – the Black Market (for whatever shade of Black is required).

  28. Feedback comes in many forms. There is price where the people but or don’t buy. Then there are words. Reviews, likes, dislikes, etc. Then there are peaceful actions. Protests, boycotts, marches, etc.. Finally there is violence. This normally happens when all the other types of feedback have not worked and the people are so frustrated that nothing can be done to stop or reverse what they want changed.
    It becomes more extreme when the power structure tries to suppress, ignore and vilify the feedback. We are seeing examples in France the yellow jackets, England Brexit, Hong Kong, and the US TDS. By suppressing, ignoring and vilifying this feedback all have turned off the pressure relief valve. They are ALL increasing the pressure and the rhetoric against this feedback. The power structure is enflaming their own supporters against the others believing that this will help suppress the feedback. It just increases the pressure. at some point the explosion will happen. The power structure or their supporters will go to far or the people will have had ENOUGH and will see no option but violence, real violence, possibly French Revolution level violence. Republics allow for peaceful feedback, but the Progressives have used Government, media, and the police to suppress this feedback. If they continue this will not end well and any of the places.

  29. NaNo — not quite.

    200 words on the novel I’m trying to complete last night. Then 600 words on another story (As soon as I published Ripening Gold, the muse cheerfully said, that short story cycle you vaguely thought might be in the works when you finished that? Here you go!)

    So, 600 words on the novel I’m trying to complete, tonight.

  30. Another example: high fidelity music depends on electronic feedback. (But don’t ask me to draw or analyze one anymore.)

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