Alex Epstein's Pinnacle

Alex Epstein sent out a Center for Industrial Progress newsletter today. Unfortunately there's no web version of the newsletter to link to. When trying to spread ideas online and market them, it's important to have links people can share. I consider this careless and/or incompetent.

One reason this sucks is I can't quote part of the newsletter and give a link for anyone who wants to read the rest. If I just quote the important parts, most of my audience won't have access to the rest.

Epstein says, in full:

I’m testifying before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Wednesday at 9:30 am ET. You can view it live here.

Here’s more info about the hearing, which is called Examining the Role of Environmental Policies on Access to Energy and Economic Opportunity.

I will have five minutes to speak, followed by questions from Senators. Note that several of the Senators expected to be present, including Senators Whitehouse and Markey, are not only anti-fossil fuel but anti-free speech, calling for the criminal prosecution of those who challenge climate catastrophism.

I can promise you I will bring a case for energy freedom, including fossil fuel freedom, that has never been heard in a Congressional hearing. I very much hope that the Senators do their best--or their worst--to see how it holds up to scrutiny.

Please spread the word. And if you watch it, let me know what you think.

The anti-free speech link goes to an article which does not mention Whitehouse or Markey by name (it does name and discuss lots of other people). That's really bad and unreasonable of Epstein. He's making a major accusation, and giving a source, except the source doesn't say anything about the accused.

Big picture, Epstein is happy and sharing his success with his newsletter audience. He's reached a pinnacle. This is a high point for him. He wants to be influential. He wants to do activities like testify to the senate. No doubt he hopes in retrospect this will look small, and that he'll surpass it, but today it's big for him. He's achieving his goals!

And Epstein is, for those who don't know, an Objectivist. He used to work for the Ayn Rand Institute. Objectivist organizations write puff pieces for Epstein.

So: Epstein's big achievement consists of the privilege of speaking for five minutes to people who think he should be in jail for speaking his message.

(Or at least Epstein believes the jail thing. I didn't research it beyond seeing that his source was bogus.)

I think Ayn Rand would have mocked Epstein for this. Epstein is proud to participate in (what he himself believes is) a farce where anti-free speech people pretend to discuss and think. He's helping them pretend to be rational while knowing they aren't really listening (and, worse, they'll sit there wanting to use force against him, rather than merely tuning him out).

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (5)

Cold Hands

A question was posted to FI about having unpleasantly cold hands when walking to the car in the morning to go to work. Here are some thoughts about how to think about problem solving in a TCS way. With approaches like these, all problems are soluble and no one need ever suffer.

people bothered by cold hands imagine alternatives like warm hands. they have had warm hands. they know of summer and gloves and heaters.

if the laws of physics didn't allow for other temperatures, most people wouldn't be sad about their cold hands. they couldn't imagine any different, so they wouldn't see a problem.

suppose they were somehow bothered by cold hands that were IMPOSSIBLE to change. a rational person would then go "well i can't change my hand temperature, but i can change my attitude to it." they'd focus their problem solving on their interpretation so the cold feels neutral or good to them.

suppose i had an issue with cold hands in the real world. i don't wanna go to my car to go to work b/c my hands will be too cold. i don't own any gloves or hand warmers. ( )

i also don't want to miss work.

i had bad foresight.

what do i do?

i come up with a plan for how to proceed from here that sounds good to me. it will involve getting gloves (maybe 2 pairs to layer) and HotHands, and perhaps some other things (like a warmer jacket, or a car with a stronger heater, or a portable heater that can be used in a car).

if i really don't wanna have cold hands, i'll call in sick, get the solutions, and go to work tomorrow.

or maybe i'll decide i don't wanna miss work and i can deal with cold hands one more time, given that i'll make sure it doesn't happen again.

i won't want the impossible like that i had better foresight in the past. i'll focus on productive ways forward and come up with a plan that i have no criticisms of. my poor foresight in the past isn't a criticism of my plan since no plan can change it. the poor past foresight could be used to criticize plans that don't correct it. repeating that mistake would be bad. but plans which deal with stuff well going forward won't necessarily have any criticism of them.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (16)

Heroes of the Storm Beginner Hero Recommendations

heroes of the storm is a free to play 5v5 team hero brawler game. fairly similar to league of legends and dota.

i like it and would play some games with blog readers if they are interested and will play on the North America server. (you're allowed to play on NA from elsewhere, but you could lag). if you play with me you could get some insight into how i think about things, and get some criticism on a topic where you might find it easier to listen to than philosophy criticism.

i have some hero recommendations for new players and some reasoning.

i think it's important to pick a small number of heroes to get good with, rather than just playing everyone.

in order to play in hero league you need to be able to play every role: damage dealer, tank, and healer. there's a hero pick system where you won't always get what you want and may have to play the role your team needs.

and a hero can only be picked once, so someone else could take your hero first. they are also adding bans to remove some heroes during the hero choosing process.

so you need more than one hero for each role, in case you can't get your first choice.

the more popular the heroes you pick are, the less chance of getting them. my favorite hero right now is Li-Ming. but she's the most popular hero in the game. she's one of the 10 heroes played in around 85% of games. there's around 50 heroes and the next most popular hero sees 50% usage, and it drops a lot from there since the average popularity of heroes has to be around 20%. see

so if you play Li-Ming, it pretty much increases the number of heroes you need to be comfortable with, since getting to use her is really unreliable. in order to have a damage dealer you play available, you need just about as many with or without Li-Ming.

heroes of the storm is also a hard game, so i recommend starting with easier heroes. many people overreach and say "i'll learn it" but they'd have a better time, and learn more, if they started with something more approachable. (similar to people trying to start with Fox in SSBM, then quitting before getting any good. that's dumb. they should have started with a hero they could get halfway decent with faster.)

the hardest heroes to play are the melee damage dealers, abathur, and the lost vikings.

my recommendations:


1) lili (22.3% popularity). she's one of the easier heroes to use effectively.

2) malfurion (25.3% popularity) can be your backup if lili is taken. his healing is somewhat similar to lili (big aoe team heal as his ultimate, and you can stay in back).


1) leoric (9.8% popularity). if you die, he comes back to life faster than regular heroes. that makes mistakes less punishing. he clears lanes well.

2) chen (8.4% popularity) can be your backup. he's hard to kill and doesn't have to worry about running out of mana. he's a good laner.


1) raynor (34.7% popularity). he has extra range and a low amount of button pressing. one of the easier heroes to control. he's fragile and doesn't have great area of effect damage.

2) kaelthas (23.9% popularity). chainbomb can do a ton of damage to the other team, especially at lower player skill levels, without much effort. lots of area of effect damage. fragile but you can stay in back.

3) nazeebo (11.4% popularity). another fragile ranged damage dealer. a typical team has 1 tank, 1 healer, and 3 damage dealers, so that's why we're doing another backup damage dealer. nazeebo's attacks are reasonably easy to use while staying to the back, and he's unpopular.

with these 7 heroes, you'd have a pretty good chance of being able to play whatever role is needed. this would let you learn some of the easier heroes to be effective with, not learn too many at once, and get off to a good start.

(you need 10 heroes minimum unlocked to play hero league currently. this will be raised to 14 soon when they add 2 bans per side. however, being ready to play only these 7 will usually be fine.)

heroes of the storm receives frequent patches which improve some heroes and weaken others. at the time of writing, all of the heroes i suggested are pretty good. not necessarily the best, but plenty good enough. some heroes are actually bad enough to be a problem, so i avoided them.

i'd also recommend you pick two roles to focus on more, and one less, in order to better concentrate your learning on fewer heroes. if you prioritize two of the roles over the other one, you'll usually be able to play one of those two.

extra ideas:

- Gall. Gall is one head of a two-headed ogre, Cho'Gall. you have to play him with a friend. what's good about Gall is you don't have to do movement. you just shoot stuff while your friend controls moving around. so he's probably the easiest hero in the game. but you can't play him by yourself.

- Murky. places an egg where he can respawn in a few seconds if you die. not being punished much for deaths is really nice when you're new. he has an unusual playstyle.

- if you like a particular hero, you could ask about him/her. some of the heroes are a bad idea to start with, but a lot would be fine.

this list is very different from McIntyre's:

he's a pro player. his list revolves around heroes that can win games even if your team is bad, assuming you play really well.

when you play a hero, don't just pick random talents. google a guide or use hotslogs by clicking on the hero, e.g.:

at the bottom you can see which talent builds people actually use and get the best win percentage with. those are a great place to get started. you can adjust your talent choices more after you know what you're doing.

Edit: Kaelthas was nerfed in a patch. You could get Valla instead. See the comments.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (7)

AIPAC Helps Evil

This is a reply to a tweet. I needed more than 140 characters. DD finds it worrying that Bernie Sanders skipped AIPAC. Lulie defended his vague, bad comments with the bizarre suggestion that self-destructive Jews are a new, notable thing that's particularly worthy of being worried about:
@curi42 @DavidDeutschOxf @RutiRegan B/c it's self-destructive for a Jew not to be in favour of Israel, and sad for US that B sucks so much?
You know what's way sadder for the US? That Hillary and Obama want to destroy Israel. They're way more important.

AIPAC betrayed Israel on the Iran deal. AIPAC continues to work to help the left, not Israel. And they still get snubbed by Bernie anyway.

You know what's really worrying? That a supposedly pro-Israel group won't call out and condemn Bernie, Hillary or Obama. What's worrying is AIPAC being thought by most people to actually be pro-Israel. With "friends" like AIPAC and ADL, we're in big trouble.

What's worrying is the Democrat who is actually going to win the nomination is extremely anti-semitic – and merely going and giving a speech at AIPAC has DD off her back and focusing on the wrong issue.

Reality: Obama, Hillary and Bernie all want to destroy Israel. Everyone willing to know this kind of thing has known it since, say, 2009. Bernie skipping AIPAC is a minor non-event that makes no difference to the overall dynamics.

You know what's more worrying that Bernie skipping? Type AIPAC in google and the top hit right now for me is: "AIPAC condemns Trump attack on Obama".

That's a much bigger problem than Bernie. But everyone should have already known AIPAC is part of the problem.

You know what actually kinda worries me? That not even Cruz, who is by FAR the best on Israel of the candidates (including all the ones who dropped out already), would boycott AIPAC for its treachery. When the best politicians we have won't stand up to AIPAC, that's kinda scary. (When the worst won't stand up to AIPAC for the OPPOSITE REASONS... who cares?)

DD and Woty think it's worrying that an anti-semite skipped a lefty event for not being far enough to the left. They are painting a false picture of reality in which AIPAC isn't lefty. They are part of the problem. What AIPAC does is give cover to bad people. Yet DD and Woty are pressuring AIPAC to appease the left even more – to somehow be more inclusive – when AIPAC ought to go the other direction and start having some standards. DD and Woty are missing or denying the reality that AIPAC has already gone waaaaaaay too far left – well into the territory of routinely aiding evil.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (10)

Don't Trust Trump, He's Not a Conservative

How Not To Fight Our Enemies by David Horowitz:

The mob that came to disrupt the Trump rally in Chicago was neither spontaneous nor innocent, nor new. It was a mob that has been forming ever since the Seattle riots against the World Trade Organization in 1999, whose target was global capitalism. The Seattle rioters repeated their outrages for the next two years and then transformed itself into the so-called “anti-war” movement to save the Saddam dictatorship in Iraq. Same leaders, funders and troops. The enemy was always America and its Republican defenders. When Obama invaded countries and blew up families in Muslim countries, there was no anti-war movement because Obama was one of them, and they didn’t want to divide their support. In 2012 the so-called “anti-war” movement reformed as “Occupy Wall Street.” They went on a rampage creating cross-country riots to protesting the One Percent and provided a whipping boy for Obama’s re-election campaign. Same leaders, same funders and troops. In 2015 the same leftwing forces created and funded Black Lives Matter and lynch mobs in Ferguson and Baltimore who targeted “white supremacists” and police.

Behind all the mobs was the organized left –, the public sector unions run by Sixties leftovers, and the cabal of anti-American billionaires led by George Soros. The mobs themselves were composed of the hate-filled foot soldiers of the political left. [...] The plan is defeat Republicans in November so that the destructive forces they have set in motion in the Democratic Party can finish the wrecking job that Obama started.


And what has been the reaction of the presidential candidates, particularly those who propose to save the country? It is to blame Trump as though he and not the left had instigated the riot. If you play with matches like Trump did, opined Hillary Clinton, you’re likely to start a fire. [...]

According to the proudly positive John Kasich, it was Trump who created the “toxic environment” that led to the riot – not the fascist movement that has been metastasizing in our universities and streets for more than a decade.

Great stuff. I agree.

Cruz and Rubio also said bad stuff about this like Kasich.

He is often guilty of over-reach – “punch him in the nose” directed at one disrupter, but this is hardly the sin his detractors suggest in comparing him to Mussolini. That is a much great violence to the man who is its target. Aside from Trump’s compulsive over-reach what is wrong with anger in the current political context?

An aside: it's not a compulsion. It's bad ideas. Those bad ideas have consequences. It's not an isolated mental illness to treat as a singular quirk and ignore. It matters. It doesn't matter that much relative to a lot of the other election issues. But one should argue that Trump is mistaken rather than dehumanize him as sick (a human being that is, in this aspect, broken) because he thinks differently than you do.

as someone who until very recently held high opinions of Rubio and Cruz

But why have a high opinion of Rubio? Rubio has been such a lying amnesty-pusher for years. Cruz went to the senate and actually stood up for good ideas. Rubio, like most politicians, isn't willing to fight for good ideas and actually get things done. Instead, he betrayed his campaign promises and worked with the Democrats to advance their agenda.

And as to Cruz, yes he's getting the mob "protestors" issue wrong. But he's still the best candidate by far. Trump has said much worse, as Horowitz must know. See:


Trump: I'm All For Free Speech, But Anti-Islam Cartoon Contest Was 'DUMB!'

Geller works with Horowitz, so he's definitely familiar with this.

Geller wrote a new piece about this yesterday, making the connection between Trump's attack on her free speech and then complaining about having his own speech at a rally shut down:

Trump Decries Attack on His Free Speech – What About Garland, Donald?

Flashback: Donald Trump said, “I watched Pam earlier, and it really looks like she’s just taunting everybody. What is she doing drawing Muhammad? I mean it’s disgusting. Isn’t there something else they could be doing? Drawing Muhammad?…They can’t do something else? They have to be in the middle of Texas doing something on Muhammad and insulting everybody? What is she doing? Why is she doing it? It’s probably very risky for her — I don’t know, maybe she likes risk? But what the hell is she doing?”

Cruz got Garland right. Trump got it horribly wrong. Trump's mistake on Garland is worse than Cruz's current mistake. Yet Horowitz is writing like Cruz is somehow now not as good as Trump. None of the candidates are perfect – not even close – but Cruz is much better overall.

Trump isn’t the enemy. Like you he is opposed to the Iran deal, supports a secure border, recognizes the Islamist threat, wants to reduce taxes and make the country solvent, and is greatly expanding the Republican base.

This is the most interesting part of Horowitz's article to me, because it gets to the heart of Trump. If only Trump was actually like this I'd be pretty happy with him as a second choice. If Trump actually was like the people voting for him believe, he'd be a pretty good candidate.

The problem is he's not.

Trump is squishy on the Iran deal, as Cruz revealed at the last debate. Trump won't rip it to shreds immediately, like Cruz. Instead, Trump plans to try to renegotiate a better deal. As if Iran could be a negotiation partner. Iran doesn't want a deal and doesn't want peace, they want to kill us – the "Great Satan" – as they frequently say in public.

Trump doesn't recognize the Islamist threat correctly, as revealed with his Garland comments and his "neutral" position on Israel and the Palestinians. Cruz is a great friend of Israel. Trump absolutely isn't. Trump thinks that the Palestinians, like the Iranians, can be partners in peace to negotiate with.

Is a guy who dislikes Israel, and dislikes Pamela Geller, going to be all that good on Muslim issues generally? That doesn't make sense.

Trump has made it clear he can change his mind to whatever he wants. He's malleable. Will he really go through with the moratorium on Muslim immigration? I doubt it. Trump reportedly told the New York Times, off the record, that he doesn't mean all of what he's been saying about immigration. And then he told Ben Carson that he doesn't believe all the outlandish stuff he's been saying.

The problem with Trump is he's a leftist at heart and if he's President we're going to get little if any of the hard-right policy-making we want. Trump will make deals, make compromises, and actively pursue a variety of leftwing agendas from funding Planned Parenthood with taxpayer dollars to having the taxpayer take care of everyone's healthcare to preventing any cuts to entitlements to generally refusing to cut down the government at all. Trump only wants to remove waste, fraud and abuse, not actually have a smaller government. Trump wants the government to be better run and make better deals, but he doesn't want to fundamentally change it much. That won't make our country solvent.

And Trump easily caves in to pressure and whims – and lifelong New York values – because he lacks strong classical liberal principles. Hence he called Scalia a racist. And Trump was in favor of letting in Syrian refugees before he was against it.

Will Trump be good on capitalism? No, he's a protectionist. Will Trump even be good on immigration? He gave two pro-amnesty CPAC speeches. One of the few areas Trump might actually be good – which no one is talking about – is energy.

Trump funded and praised the likes of Hillary Clinton and Harry Reid. And he praised Obama in 2009. Is this a guy who is really going to reverse Obama's policies and fight for Republican ideas?

Trump has spent a lifetime being a leftist participating in crony capitalism. He doesn't know how to confront and flush out the administrative state. He's going to get to DC and be surrounded by the fourth branch of government – unelected leftists who run everything – and he's going to start making deals and getting along with everyone instead of fighting them and burning it down. He won't take no prisoners.

Ted Cruz has a track record of standing up to the establishment Washington Cartel. Trump has no credibility that he will do that, and actually has repeatedly said he won't. Trump says he'll get along with people like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, and even the Democrats who Trump mistakenly believes are reasonable people that you can work with.

Trump fundamentally doesn't understand our adversaries. You can't make a deal without common ground and some shared values. You can only work together when you share some goals. Either Trump shares a lot of values with the left, or he's naive and misunderstand how thoroughly evil the left is. Or, I think, both. As Daniel Horowitz put it:

Trump keeps saying we need to make deals just like Reagan did with Tip O’Neill. What he needs to understand is that Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and the entire modern Democrat Party are nothing like O’Neill. You can’t work with them and he needs to learn that.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (14)

Excellence Takes Effort

Someone posted this to FI list today:
pretty sure being great at playing games comes naturally for elliot
You're totally wrong about me.

Studying hundreds of chess diagrams is not natural talent.

See the cover picture? The entire book is filled with diagrams like those, each one a puzzle to solve. And that's it. No badges, no congratulations, no praise, no funny stories, no fluff, just diagram after diagram after diagram. You do one. Then you do another. And, eventually, you turn the page. And after you study hundreds of them, you get faster at it and you find more similar stuff in your own games. Chess skills like looking ahead and visualizing positions are a skill you develop.

Reading books and taking tons of lessons is not natural talent.

Going over your games with others to find mistakes and get tips is not automatic. It doesn't just happen. It's not natural.

These are the kinds of things I did large amounts of, intentionally, to improve at chess. For years and years.

(The people who fail at FI and give up and leave usually never put in 1% the work I put into chess. Literally. And FI is harder than chess.)

I've been bad at a wide variety of other games, too. All of them...

I did not start out good at RPGs. I worked at it. I read tons of guides, forum discussion, etc. I watched video of how others play. I thought about how to do better. I practiced. I took action to improve over the course of well over 10 years.

I was not a natural at Hearthstone. First I played Magic the Gathering. I started out terrible. I read tons about it, looked into how pros played, practiced, etc. I got OK, not that good. That laid some groundwork for Hearthstone which is a similar kind of game. Regardless, I started out bad at Hearthstone. When I was trying to be good at Hearthstone, I put lots of time and effort into it. And not just messing around and playing naturally. I studied stuff. I did math. I recruited good players to collaborate with. I wrote articles with my ideas. I tested strategies in a methodical way. I tried to figure out what skills and knowledge I needed to win and focussed on getting that. Rather than playing whatever I found most natural to my personal style (typically mages across many games, and typically somewhat defensive longterm play), I played whatever I thought was good and would help me do well (like a lot of aggressive Warlock). I make an effort not to have a personal style when it matters. Play to win. Learn to be flexible and learn how to play every style. This isn't automatic but it's doable.

I was not a natural at Duet or Infinity Blade. I practiced the dexterity. I am no natural at Super Smash Brothers Melee. That takes a learning process:

Do you think I'm a natural at Exile? That speed run involved rather non-natural steps such as downloading and reading source code in C, and finding info from dead forums with

It's always like that – being good takes intentional effort applied strategically. And after you get good at dozens of things, yes you can learn faster. There's some carryover. You can re-use some skills from some previous games on a new game. And you can re-use the methods of learning themselves on new games.

And it's not just new games that require learning. McIntyre, a top Heroes of the Storm players, struggled with Greymane, a new hero. He was already good at the game but had to put in a bunch of thought and practice to figure out how to play Greymane well. And it wasn't love at first sight. His initial impression of Greymane was negative.

There's a common misconception among bad players that games are easy for good players, that good players have (natural) "talent", etc. And there is a common belief by many good players that it didn't come automatically to them at all, they sucked at first and put in tons of work. The good players frequently actually remember sucking and struggling to get better. They're right.

It is possible to practice wrong. Some people put a lot of time into something and still suck. You can spend time on a game without learning much. But no one gets really good without working at it. Effort is necessary but not sufficient. It takes rationally-directed effort to get good. LOTS of it. Tons of bad players just massively underestimate how much effort being good is, and kinda give up early and don't really play to win and learn even if they do keep playing. And tons of people think if they play a lot they will get good automatically, whereas good players often did some more organized forms of practice and did more thinking about the game instead of just playing. And people who get good more often make spreadsheets, do math, do in-game experiments to test things, etc, etc. Top players usually put effort into learning the game, rather than just playing a bunch and hoping they'll naturally get better somehow.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (34)

Starting Fights

lots of people think "i don't start fights, but i do fight back".

but there are lots of fights between people who BOTH think like that. so who started it? a misunderstanding started the fight, then someone started fighting "back" in response to a misunderstanding.

the "fight back" type people FREQUENTLY end up being the first one to be mean and fighty. cuz they routinely think the other guy already started a fight, when he hadn't. so they end up initiating pretty often, sorta by accident, but they deserve a lot of blame here.

people also misunderstand how severe an attack was. like it could be someone really was attacking you, but only weakly, and you misunderstand it as strongly. the misunderstandings can be about degree of attacking, not just whether or not they were attacking.

if you wanna be a better, nicer person, you gotta at least REALLY check for misunderstandings and make sure things are REALLY REALLY EXTRA SUPER CLEAR before you think someone is attacking you and fight back.

also, even if you were correct that someone is attacking you, it's often best not to fight back anyway. lots of attacks can be ignored, like if someone insults you what are you going to gain by fighting back? it'd usually be better to drop the matter.

note i'm not talking about like a guy coming at you with a knife. if he's shooting a gun at you, go ahead and fight back!

but if you think someone insults you, then it could easily be a misunderstanding. same with mean jokes, social slights & snubbing, voice tones, facial expressions, and "unconstructive" criticism. this stuff is more subtle and much easier to misunderstand than physical violence.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (6)

Reddit Censorship

I tried to participate in a reddit AMA ("ask me anything") for Ann Coulter. I was immediately banned:

That's everything I said. Then:

A few minutes later the moderators changed their mind and made it a permanent ban because, apparently, I'm a "moron". (I had said nothing further.) What's moronic about doing fact checking and research regarding Ann's writing? I found a clear error in Adios America which should be fixed. Instead I get banned:

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (10)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (29)

H1B Visas

H1B visas allow immigrants for filling high tech jobs. They're getting attention currently from anti-immigration presidential candidates like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.

Some right wing people like the idea of H1B visas, contrary to the Republican presidential candidates. H1B visas sound compatible with the free market. What's wrong with educated immigrants coming here to work? Isn't that part of free trade? Doesn't capitalism mean competing in a global marketplace?

A fired Disney employee gave emotional testimony about the H1B program recently. He said Disney workers were forced to train foreigners to replace them at their jobs with threats of withholding their severance pay if they didn't do it. And they were lied to about the availability of other Disney jobs to transfer to.

A lot of people are upset. Some libertarians don't care. They say, "Too bad, anyone should be able to be fired for no reason at any time".

I looked at how H1B visas work. To bring in foreign workers, you have to agree to pay them market wages and you aren't allowed to displace American workers from their jobs.

Disney brought in foreign labor as a cost cutting measure. They wanted to fire Americans and pay the new workers less money. This is a blatant abuse of the H1B program. Whatever you think immigration policy should be, it's bad when companies break the law.

The H1B visa program is only meant to bring in workers for tech jobs that a company couldn't find an American to do. The point is not to get cheaper labor, it's to get labor at all when there's a shortage. Disney is abusing the spirit of the program and violating the clearly written terms of how this law works.

None of this is ambiguous. Let me show you some of the conditions involved with bringing in H1B workers:

Labor Condition Application for Nonimmigrant Workers ETA Form 9035 & 9035E

Wages: Pay nonimmigrants at least the local prevailing wage or the employer’s actual wage, whichever is higher, and pay for non-productive time. Offer nonimmigrants benefits on the same basis as offered to U.S. workers.

Displacement: Non-displacement of the U.S. workers in the employer’s workforce
Secondary Displacement: Non-displacement of U.S. workers in another employer’s workforce

Recruitment and Hiring: Recruitment of U.S. workers and hiring of U.S. workers applicant(s) who are equally or better qualified

If you want more of the fine print, look here.

Finally, I want to explain, from a free market capitalist perspective, why the H1B visa program is crony capitalism, not free market competition.

Capitalists might think, "if the foreigners will work for lower wages, that's a good thing and they should be hired".

But, workers who come here with the H1B program can't really change jobs. They are stuck with the company sponsoring their H1B visa. So they don't get to freely compete on the market, and therefore they get underpaid.

US citizenship has value. The H1B program lets some government-favored companies hand out valuable US citizenships – which the company is given for free – and then pocket that value in lower wages paid to the immigrants. And that's in addition to the lower wages they can pay to people for the several years where firing them would mean they get deported.

American workers cannot compete on wages with workers who are underpaid because they can't change jobs, and who take lower pay in return for immigrating. That isn't an ideal of capitalism, it's government distorting market wages. And it's a way for companies with friends in the government to get ahead – crony capitalism.

Edit: My mistake: H1B is a temporary work permit. It can last for 3-10 years but they don't get citizenship. Consequently it's called a non-immigrant visa. Thanks Justin.

This doesn't substantially change any of my arguments. A permit for staying in the US has value, just as handing out a citizenship would. And with the H4 visa, they can bring in their wife and kids, who may be able to work or go to school in the US too, while the H1B visa lasts.

H1B workers still have less job mobility than domestic workers.

And people here on an H1B visa are allowed to seek a green card and try to stay permanently. It can be a step which helps them immigrate. Wikipedia says:

Even though the H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa, it is one of the few visa categories recognized as dual intent, meaning an H-1B holder can have legal immigration intent (apply for and obtain the green card) while still a holder of the visa. In the past the employment-based green card process used to take only a few years, less than the duration of the H-1B visa itself. However, in recent times the legal employment-based immigration process has backlogged and retrogressed to the extent that it now takes many years for guest-work visa holders from certain countries to obtain green cards. Since the duration of the H-1B visa hasn't changed, this has meant that many more H-1B visa holders must renew their visas in one or three-year increments for continued legal status while their green card application is in process.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (3)

Having Reasons

People on FI were discussing having reasons for things and saying it was justificationist and you should only worry about whether there is a negative problem with something, not a positive reason for something.

If someone asks why you're doing something, that isn't bad. It's good to have some concept of what you're doing, and why. What problem are you trying to solve and how will this solve it?

If you can't answer – if you can't say any reasons for what you're doing – prima facie there is a criticism there. Why don't you know in words what's going on? Why are you choosing to do it?

This is not unanswerable. But you should have an answer. If you can't say any reasons for what you're doing and you also don't have an answer to why you're doing it anyway (to address the kinda default well known criticism that knowing what problem you're trying to solve and how this will solve it is generally a pretty good idea), then that's bad. You should either have a reason you can say, or a reason to do it without a reason you can say.

If you can't say a reason to do it without a reason which you can say, what about a reason for doing it without that? Whatever you don't have, you could have a reason for doing it despite not having that.

The point is, you ought to be able to say something of some sort. If you can't, there is a criticism – that you have no idea what you're doing. (If you can argue against that – if you do have some idea what you're doing – then you could have said that info in the first place when questioned.)

I'm not convinced the quotes are substantively justificationist. And I'm really not convinced by like, "Don't ask reasons for doing stuff, only point out criticisms." Doing stuff for no reason is a criticism. In general people ought to do stuff to solve problems, and have some concept of how doing this will solve a problem they want to solve. If they aren't doing that, that isn't necessarily bad but they should have some idea of why it makes sense to do something else in this case.

You can't even criticize stuff in the usual way if you don't know what their goal is. You normally criticize stuff by whether it solves the problem it's aiming to. But if you don't know what they are aiming for, then you can't criticize in the normal way of pointing out a difference between the results you think they'll get and the results they are aiming for.

And if they can tell you a goal, or a problem they want to solve, then they do have a reason for doing it. They are doing it to accomplish that goal / solve that problem.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (4)


Objectivism discusses automizing the use of your ideas. For example, you automized walking. You can walk without consciously thinking about it. Walking works automatically. Walking is actually pretty complex and involves moving multiple muscles and balancing, but you can do all that automatically. Pretty cool!

Some people think automizing sounds mindless and are wary of it. What if I automate how I handle a situation and then I keep doing the same actions over and over without thinking? How do you automatize anything without losing control over your life?

Let's step back. There's a simple concept here. You do some stuff and the first time it takes time, effort, attention, work. But if you do it often, you learn how to do it easier. This frees up effort for other stuff. Learning better ways to do things, that consume less resources, isn't bad. That isn't losing control over your life.

You need to make good choices about what to use when. If you have a method of doing something without thinking about it consciously, that's a good tool. You can still choose when to use this method, or not. If you know how to clean your house without thinking about it (letting you focus on listening to audiobooks), that doesn't make you clean your house. You still get to control your life and choose if and when to clean.

People's methods of doing something – automatic or not – can be used as building blocks. You use the walking method while doing cleaning. The cleaning method involves doing multiple simpler methods together. (If you're a programmer, think of these as functions. You can build a cleaning function out of a walking function, a looking around function, an identifying dirt from visual data function, and so on. You would not want to write a cleaning function only in terms of basic actions like moving individual muscles.)

People build up many layers of complexity. They automate things like a life schedule, and routine cleaning, and routine cooking and eating for mealtimes, and so on. Those automizations threaten their control over their life. They get so set in their ways, they have trouble choosing whether to keep doing that. The problem here isn't automization itself. It's having a bland repetitive life and basically habitually not thinking. That's a totally different sort of thing than creating building block methods – like walking, or cleaning – to use in your life or in other methods. And figuring out how to do them better, faster, easier.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (2)


A lot of pragmatism is because people lose arguments but still disagree. They don't know how to deny the truth of an idea, but they still don't want to do it.

There is a gap between the knowledge they live by and the knowledge they use in debates. The knowledge applied to debates is what they call ivory tower abstractions, and the knowledge applied to life they call pragmatic.

This gap is a very very bad thing.

This separation results in lots of bad intellectual ideas that contradict reality. And lots of bad life choices that contradict principles and logic, e.g. by being superstitious.

Being able to speak intelligently about your life knowledge allows for getting advice and learning from criticism. Being able to apply abstract knowledge to life allows for using the scientific method, free trade, or successfully finding a book in a Dewey Decimal organized library.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (7)

Watching The World Burn

While watching men burn the world, sometimes i wonder why they do that and if there's some way to persuade them to change. I wrote a dialog about it:

curi: doesn't that hurt?
Mark: what?
curi: the fire
Mark: what fire?
curi: you're burning off your legs
Mark: no i'm not
curi: you can't walk anymore
Mark: sure i can
curi: then walk 10 feet, show me
Mark: later, i'm tired
curi: [astonished] you lie so much!
Mark: why are you so mean and critical and negative?
curi: such a better life is possible. you could walk and produce instead of putting all your effort into destroying yourself and your children
Mark: i'm happy, my life is pretty great, go bother someone else
curi: you burned off your legs!
Mark: so what? it's a sexy new look
curi: that's not a pretty great life. that's not happiness
Mark: i think i know more about my feelings than you do
curi: can i help? would you like some medicine?
Mark: no
curi: why not?
Mark: i have my own vision and goals. go live your own life and stop trying to control me. and what do you have against fire or pain anyway? my kids LOVE them, which proves how rational fire and pain are, since kids are born without all the hangups adults like you have.
curi: would you be willing to read a book and reconsider?
Mark: [doesn't reply]

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (5)

Ann Coulter's Bad Scholarship

Ann Coulter tweeted:

Professor whose statistical model predicted every election since 1912: Odds Of President Trump Range Btwn 97% & 99%-

After my previous positive reviews of her book scholarship, I wanted to highlight how atrocious this is. Let's look over the article:

Political Science Professor: Odds Of President Trump Range BETWEEN 97% AND 99%

The model has been correct for every election since 1912 except for the 1960 election

Ann said "every election". Did she even read the article? What a travesty.

Specifically, Norpoth predicts that Trump has a 97 percent chance of beating Hillary Clinton and a 99 percent chance of beating Bernie Sanders.

The predictions assume Trump will actually become the 2016 presidential nominee of the Republican Party.

So it doesn't predict either primary. It only predicts Trump is 97-99% to become president if you throw in the big assumption that he's literally 100% likely to win the Republican primary.

So that's two major factual errors in Ann's tweet.

Besides getting the basic facts wrong, twice, there's also the issue that the article and prediction model are utter crap.

“When I started out with this kind of display a few months ago, I thought it was sort of a joke,” the professor told the alumni audience

You know what would have been impressive? If the prediction model was published in 1911.

Instead it was worked out a few months ago and has never actually predicted anything? It's really easy to "predict" past data. It's called back-fitting and it's well known. Making a formula to fit past data is completely different than making successful predictions about the future.

(That it was back-fitting, not prediction, was predictable to me before I even clicked the article. Ann should have known better even if she literally didn't read a single word of the article.)

Norpoth, a 1974 University of Michigan Ph.D. recipient who specializes in electoral behavior alignment, said his crystal ball also shows a 61-percent chance that the Republican nominee — Trump or not — will win the 2016 presidential election.

Wait what? This is pretty incoherent. These numbers do not make sense. For this math to add up – around 98% chance for Trump to win if he's the nominee, and 61% chance for any Republican to win – requires Trump to have only around a 60% chance to be the nominee (if the other Republican candidates are somehow all around 0% likely to win the general election) or less.

I also checked out the Daily Caller's source:

Political science professor forecasts Trump as general election winner

“You think ‘This is crazy. How can anything come up with something like that?’ ” Norpoth said “But that’s exactly the kind of equation I used to predict Bill Clinton winning in ‘96, that I used to predict that George Bush would win in 2004, and, as you remember four years ago, that Obama would win in 2012.”

Note the wording, "the kind of equation". So he made up a new equation just now. He's made up other equations in the past. He keeps changing them each time, rather than re-using an equation that's ever predicted anything.

In contrast, Norpoth forecasted that a hypothetical presidential race with Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio on the Republican ticket would be a much closer race. The results showed Clinton with a 55 percent chance of winning the race against Cruz or Rubio with a 0.3 percent lead in the popular vote.

So Trump needs to have a very low chance to win the GOP primary for the math to work out. Meanwhile the prediction model saying he'll win the general election is based on him doing so well in the primaries! This is all a bunch of contradictory nonsense.

And Ann Coulter is promoting this utter nonsense on Twitter while making factual errors. This fits her recent pattern of saying anything – even stupid and dishonest things – that are on Trump's side. :(

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (2)