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Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on Choice Writings of Dominic Cummings · 2021-10-15T00:24:53.172Z · LW · GW

And more:
Kuenssberg challenged him on Vote Leave’s central promise – a £350m Brexit dividend for the NHS. “You knew very well then, and you know very well now, that that figure didn’t include the so-called rebate, the money that the UK got to keep,” she said. “Yes,” Cummings replied.

He explained that he used the figure to focus the debate on the “balance sheet” of Britain’s EU membership, and to “drive the Remain campaign and the people running it crazy”.

“So it was a deliberate trap for the other side?” asked Kuenssberg. 

“Yeah,” Cummings replied. 

https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2021/07/dominic-cummings-has-admitted-leave-campaign-won-lying-we-should-never-forgive-him  

Looks to me like your average political animal, focussed mainly on winning rather than truth.

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on Choice Writings of Dominic Cummings · 2021-10-14T19:18:11.914Z · LW · GW

In a press conference, he claims. "Last year I wrote about the possible threat of coronaviruses and the urgent need for planning," I am failing to find mention of coronavirus in that original. I also note https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/may/26/dominic-cummings-says-he-did-not-tell-whole-truth-about-journeys-to-durham-barnard-castle.

I remain unconvinced that he is "extremely committed to truth-seeking".

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on Choice Writings of Dominic Cummings · 2021-10-14T01:17:19.666Z · LW · GW

"Extremely committed to truth-seeking". Hmm. https://fullfact.org/health/cummings-blog-coronavirus/ and  https://www.wired.co.uk/article/dominic-cummings-blog-pandemic would suggest that he has a penchant for telling fibs. 

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on The Best Software For Every Need · 2021-09-19T23:17:59.593Z · LW · GW

Would be more useful if included OS and free/paid/subscription with the program name.

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on Covid 7/22: Error Correction · 2021-07-24T21:25:16.457Z · LW · GW

I think it is civil proceedings just like defamation. The defense against "making stuff" up obviously is your source.

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on Covid 7/22: Error Correction · 2021-07-23T01:25:54.773Z · LW · GW

There is a tricky free speech issue around deliberately lying. At the moment, you can construct a major lie and publish as widely as you like without consequence provided it is not defamation. Note that I am not talking about propogating someone elses lie that you believe to be true. If I look at Fact checkers, I see some monstrous stuff that is plainly a deliberate creation. Someone's belief that vaccines are bad, means they feel at liberty to make up crap to support their viewpoint (for instance). I'd like to see a consequence very much like defamation laws that could be applied to malicious lies that demonstably inflict harm (with the same kind of levels of proof that apply to defamation). Deliberate lies are risk to intelligent public discourse.

The essence of free speech is the ability to criticize government members and policy without fear of reprisal. It does not give the right to defame government members (at least here in NZ). Nor should making up lies about government policy be allowed as free speech.

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on Covid 7/8: Delta Takes Over · 2021-07-09T01:22:46.884Z · LW · GW

NSW should have gone into hard lockdown (NZ style) as soon as the superspreader event was discovered. Qld, Vic and WA went early and eliminated quickly. Delaying lockdowns and doing them half-heartedly just means they gone on for longer and longer, doing far more economic damage than a short, sharp lockdown. It is very depressing to hear that large nos of new cases have been out and about community while infectious. 

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on It’s not economically inefficient for a UBI to reduce recipient’s employment · 2021-07-08T22:18:20.623Z · LW · GW

Learning a lot from this discussion, thank you. I am in agreement with idea that viability of UBI depends on people who are currently working more or less continuing to work. If everyone stopped working, then obviously UBI (and civilization) fails. In fact, you need a large proportion (dependent on level of UBI) to keep working and paying taxes, otherwise UBI consumption simply fires inflation. On the other hand, everyone who does work has more spending power than those who don't so it seems to me there is powerful incentive to work. I can see that people might use it to reduce work hours, but given experiments on 4 day week, I dont think that would necessarily reduce productivity in many industries.

I cant see a way to determine by reason alone that UBI will be successful without actually running trials over long period to assess response.

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on How can there be a godless moral world ? · 2021-06-28T21:28:31.188Z · LW · GW

So consider other social animals, eg rats, apes, wolves. All clearly exhibit pro-social behaviours ("nice"). They are not being "nice" because of believe in God. Their "should" comes from inherited genetic tendencies - an evolution adaptation because cooperators produced more breeding offspring.  Do you think those genes are missing in humans - or has self-awareness allowed us to make some calculus on not being "nice"?

I would say that you would be "nice" even if you never heard of God, in part because that it is the ways are humans are wired - it feels right, and partly because societies that work as iterated prisoner dilemma need to sanction free-loaders. If you are not nice, you tend get excluded from societies benefits (including breeding) by rest of society.

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on How can there be a godless moral world ? · 2021-06-27T21:43:41.364Z · LW · GW

From that, I would say that both you and priest have formed a morality that it is independent of the text and is then reflected that back on the text. Ie read one passage (my favorite would instructions to Joshua to commit genocide against the Canaanites) and say "Oh, that one needs to be read in context", whereas read other eg "Love your neighbour" and say, "yes, that is where I derive my morality". Ie it seems to be starting with a sense of what is moral and projecting it back onto a concept of God.

Take another step - did say the Ancient Greeks or say the Masai have a concept of morality? What formed their moral world? And as others have said, you can derive a morality from game theory for social animals via evolution (eg see work of Martin Nowak at Harvard). Or simply, that well-being of the tribe is utility function. A behaviour that would damage that well-being if EVERYONE did it, is labelled evil. A behaviour that enhances the tribal well-being if everyone did it, is labelled good. 

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on A Reason to Expect Republics to Perform Better than Absolute Monarchies in the Long-Term · 2021-06-23T04:48:30.229Z · LW · GW

I think you should be looking more at question of dilution of power. Concentrating power is hands of a one or handful of people makes the system very dependent on the person holding that power. I would propose republics/nominal monarchies with head of state only having reserve powers, are more stable and produce better government than hands-on head-of-states. 

Just because a country has been under a monarchy for a very long time, doesnt mean that it was "stable". Look for "dynastic change" in the line. Often rather violent, but one way to get rid of a bad/unpopular ruler. Republics makes it easier to dump the head of state without violence so that is improvement.

I value the diluted power of parlimentary democracies, with the select committees and multiple reading of bills, but I would struggle to find empirical data to support that. How do you define "politcal performance" or "leader competence" in measurable ways? How do you evaluate the quality of political decisions? How a country performs economically or militarily is dependent of a myriad of factors (including luck), many outside the control of the government. Governments will claim credit for whatever went well, and drop shoulders on anything that didnt - how do you objectivity assess those claims?  Eg how much of the USA current position due to good governance or how much due to being a resource-rich country colonised at time when industrial revolution was able to exploit those resources?

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on Would you like me to debug your math? · 2021-06-15T21:02:24.431Z · LW · GW

I had similar thought, but then most of the languages I use don't support matrix operations directly in the language anyway. Great believer in "tried and true" numerical analysis libraries though.

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on A systematic error that lead to a bad policy response to COVID-19 · 2021-06-13T23:41:14.335Z · LW · GW

One more primary failure: Containment.
Thesis: Preventing travel (get the planes out of the air) from infected areas would contain the virus. Individual countries (including China), showed that virus could be controlled eliminated, if infections were not imported.

Antithesis: It costs too much, kills the tourist/travel industry; I want to travel; Restrictions on freedom are evil..

Well once it took hold, the restrictions happened anyway. Doing it early would dramatically reduced cost. If the symptoms had been as alarming as say Ebola, then I think early action would have been easier. "Coronavirus = cold" was all too common - maybe it should have been called SARS immediately? 

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on What are the gears of gluten sensitivity? · 2021-06-11T02:52:45.524Z · LW · GW

If you google "what can legally be called a sourdough bread", then I think you might see that this can be a problem. 

But anyway, I think we can safely say that sourdough is probably a good way to test whether the issues are really gluten sensitivity, (because it certainly has some), or with other components of wheat.

 Also, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chorleywood_bread_process. This is surely producing a bread with a rather different chemistry to more traditional processes.

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on What are the gears of gluten sensitivity? · 2021-06-11T01:34:33.026Z · LW · GW

ok, ferment does degrade gluten but very slowly. Once the levels of lactic acid build up sufficiently, then the acid hits the gluten, but that is rather longer than 12hour. If the gluten is destroyed, then so is your dough structure - it loses the ability to trap air and steam. People struggling with ordinary bread but able to eat sourdough I think is rather common.  Based on Monash publications, I would say the highly fermentable fructans in wheat are converted to easier to digest forms (mannitols??). Pretty testable for an individual. If you struggle with high fructan foods (wheat, onions, garlic) but happy with high mannitol foods, (sweet potatoes, mushrooms, melon), then I would predict you will be ok with sourdough (assuming my memory of what fructans convert to during ferment is correct). Sourdoughs with lots of low fructan flours such as oat and spelt should be even better.

As to adding flour later, then I was told by a baker that what is sold as white-flour sourdough breads can be made commercially by taking starter, maybe added to flour/water and partly  fermented, but then add bakers yeast and rest of flour and process from there "normally". The process is much faster, more mechanised and,  importantly, predictable - ie cheaper. The ferment still gives a sourdough "tang" to the product to keep customer happy.

My son went to a bakery in a holiday town to get sourdough loaf for his IBS sister and quizzed baker on their process to ensure he was getting real thing. She offered him a job immediately (not that he wanted one).

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on What are the gears of gluten sensitivity? · 2021-06-09T02:50:01.016Z · LW · GW

From my daughters journey with IBS, I'd be looking at whether it is "gluten" or other components of flour. One thing to try is whether your body tolerates sour dough bread (eliminate other sources of flour). And that is a real sour dough - fermented at least 12 hours with no post-ferment flour added. There are "cheats" way to make "sour dough", giving it sour dough flavour without the long ferment. Why? Well Monash uni in Oz has published a lot of research around FODMAP components in diet. The ferment process alters a lot of carbohydrate components (but not gluten) making them more digestible. Might help. If it does, then consider whether issues  might improved by altering gut biota.

If you look this up, you will quickly run into their low FODMAP diet. I would be extremely wary of using long term, especially if you have any family history of autoimmune disease (eg and especially rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis).

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on Core Pathways of Aging · 2021-06-01T02:08:12.522Z · LW · GW

Comment on "paper x" to my mind is the usual vehicle for complaining about faulty methods and poor statistical analysis. Since journals that accept comments tend to give a right of reply, review can be pretty light.

I would agree though that commenting on flaws like this is not as satisfying (mostly) as proper paper where an alternative hypothesis is promoted and opponents flaws lightly commented on. It is still a lot of work to comment and not a lot of point unless driving new science other than ego-tripping.

However, my original point remains - I don't think researchers are remotely shy about criticizing the work of their peers.

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on Core Pathways of Aging · 2021-05-30T20:59:06.409Z · LW · GW

This was a fascinating post, but I found a surprising statement in the introduction:

 "who are shy about telling us when their peers’ work is completely wrong."

This runs deeply against my experience. I would say writing a paper gleefully proving your peers wrong is second only to  writing a paper with an important new discovery in terms of academic satisfaction. In the middle of one controversy a colleague claimed (or maybe quoted) "Every paper published is a shot fired in a war". 

This is obviously running counter to your experience and I wonder how you came to that conclusion? Are we talking about well-cited papers that are "completely wrong" - or just that newer papers have effectively replaced them in the corpus.

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on What's your peace plan? · 2021-05-27T21:42:41.736Z · LW · GW

I suspect that is asking too much of the religiously zealous. A Buddist country with oversight of an internationalised quarter seems more likely to fly.

After reading Amos Elon's "Jerusalem - City of Mirror" (good book for anyone wondering why this is so hard), I thought the best we could hope for would be a meteor strike cratering the whole of the temple mount for starters. 

To understand the danger, think of the geopolitical implications of 4th temple nutters blowing up everything in the Al-Aqsa compound ( a serious proposition).

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on What's your peace plan? · 2021-05-27T04:03:37.985Z · LW · GW

Perhaps I am too cynical here, but the first step towards a peace plan has to be desire for peace. It seems to me that Netanyahu needs arab aggression to stay in power (and stay out of jail), while Hamas needs Israeli aggression to retain support for violent resistance. Until that changes, well good luck. There is an old comment about the prayer for the "Peace of Jerusalem" by Meron Benverish, "You can have peace or you can have Jerusalem." I dont see that changing in my lifetime.

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on How refined is your art of note-taking? · 2021-05-21T01:56:40.508Z · LW · GW

For me, I thought printed notes were usually (not always) a hinderance to learning. And copying down teacher notes as the absolute pits. Writing things down myself seems to be a great memory aid, but to work that way,  the notes had to be my work, that I thought about as I composed them.  (or "what the.. consult the textbook, relevant paper cos I didnt get it"). Learning content is what textbooks are for - a spoken content should be exposition and for that you need concentrate not copy. 

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on How refined is your art of note-taking? · 2021-05-20T21:09:30.703Z · LW · GW

When I was young (high school, uni), then didnt really bother. I had excellent memory for anything that engaged me. I would note on paper things to look further into because I didnt immediately understand or wanted to further reference (still do this) but not much else. With textbooks, it would be turn straight to problems section and work backwards. This approach did not age well. 

I heard about MindMap methods at a DEC user group conference and I started using those. I found drawing them was an excellent way to get stuff into my memory but that I seldom referenced them. (Seldom kept them even). Best of all though, the practice of using them helped me notice what was important to note (as it triggered other memories etc). 

 Memory now isn't what it used to be and I find notes very important. Writing on paper seems to be good for committing to memory but terrible for retrieval (cant remember where I put that piece of paper.  :-)  and my handwriting is terrible and getting worse). For quite a while, I used a hardback note book and put everything in it. I now transfer smartly to Google Keep as can search easily and it is available on phone or main computer. What is actually on those notes though is pretty cryptic to put it mildly. I stick to noting the "nodes" that I would use in mindmap. So far works well enough (started using Keep in earnest 5 years ago) but we will see how it goes as age  continues to degrade memory.

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on What weird beliefs do you have? · 2021-05-19T23:12:44.344Z · LW · GW

Should add that constraints on d13C of source for PETM are getting better. eg https://www.pnas.org/content/117/39/24088 - favouring volcanic (-6) rather than coal (-25) or gas (-60).

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on What weird beliefs do you have? · 2021-05-19T22:01:49.746Z · LW · GW

Well Australia is right beside Antarctica at that time. Its coal deposits are Permian/Jurassic and the continent has hardly changed geologically. Would seem like an obvious place to mine. A civilization mining and burning coal on large enough scale to impact climate is also going to have to manage quick a bit of other tech (esp metallurgy) as well, with the evidence also conveniently hidden. So from Baysian perspective we have quite a number of competing hypotheses for PETM founded on evidence but hard to constrain as to relative effect. The "ancient civilization" hypothesis has no evidence supporting it that I can see. I would of course shift my beliefs rapidly if evidence of past civilization appeared.  Calculating sedimentary flux (proxy for erosion rate) through time is routine input into basin modelling. I would guess data exists for practically all sedimentary basins with any potential for hydrocarbons. (And paleogene flux from Australia is really low). Can you be more specific about what carbon deposit you are talking about. (Erosion rates are also estimated from fission-track dating and similar techniques but this is really only relevent to high erosion rate features  ie mountain chains). I should say that I am deep in accumulating this kind of data for whole of NZ as it is input into models for surface heat flow that I am helping out with.

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on Meaningful Rest · 2021-05-18T22:17:25.153Z · LW · GW

"feel rejuvenated after having done"?? About the only thing that I can of is "sleep". Is that my advancing years?

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on What are your favorite examples of adults in and around this community publicly changing their minds? · 2021-05-11T02:23:57.214Z · LW · GW

One quickly. http://www.ask-force.org/web/Global-Warming/moerner-comment-on-comment-2008.pdf is comment on comment. Read the Nerem et al comment http://www.aari.ru/docs/pub/070119/ner07.pdf which is fun. Some commentary here: https://skepticalscience.com/news.php?n=691#47808 

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on What are your favorite examples of adults in and around this community publicly changing their minds? · 2021-05-11T02:11:25.785Z · LW · GW

I would have to do a fair bit of work to find them - for obvious reasons, they dont need to be added to any Endnote collection. A lot are, "yes, you found a error with our methods but when we fix it, it doesnt change the conclusions" - trans "bite your bum". 
https://retractionwatch.com/ can be a place to find the really bad stuff. (oh and I see a full blown public change of mind right now - https://retractionwatch.com/2021/05/06/rejection-overruled-retraction-ensues-when-annoyed-reviewer-does-deep-dive-into-data/ )
 

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on What are your favorite examples of adults in and around this community publicly changing their minds? · 2021-05-10T04:17:42.986Z · LW · GW

I suspect (for reasons of seeing a back down as humiliating), that is more often that a change of mind happens when other researchers produce confounding evidence, (that is how science works), and you then just quietly accept it and move on. Citing papers supporting the alternative hypothesis in a later paper is a quieter way to signal that you have changed your mind. "Comment on comment" papers can be entertaining. Everything from howling outrage to excuses to commendable withdrawals.

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on What are your favorite examples of adults in and around this community publicly changing their minds? · 2021-05-10T01:45:05.621Z · LW · GW

If you cant change your mind, then I struggle to see how you could practice science. You do have some very good scientists "go emeritus" (have stuck priors) late in life,  and I wonder whether this is a trap for very good thinkers who have been mostly right all their careers and forget how to be properly skeptical. Is a paper being withdrawn by its authors count as a public change of mind?

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on We need a career path for invention · 2021-04-30T03:04:11.600Z · LW · GW

I would say our engineering workshop is staffed by inventors. We need people to invent solutions to problems - they do it, usually in collaboration with the scientist that has a problem. I think this is a pretty common setup although not the model for lone inventor producing killer product that is patented and sold. I rather liked their solution for remote camera lens cleaner - (drone with super soaker. No public video sorry).

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on Modern Monetary Theory for Dummies · 2021-04-29T02:05:06.860Z · LW · GW

Those reviews are very helpful, but looking at "Derek" comments in the Cochrane blog, it is not at all clear whether these are critiques of MMT or critiques of Kelton ( or more specifically what Kelton believes that governments can do given that MMT is an accurate representation).

I am also very suspicious of how this would work within a democratic system. Many countries do not let governments set interest rates - that is the role of the independent central bank to control inflation. I would feel happier about governments printing money if the central bank was also dictating the level of taxation (the amount of money to be destroyed but not how that tax is distributed).

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on Can you improve IQ by practicing IQ tests? · 2021-04-28T02:40:33.728Z · LW · GW

Just stick "heritability of intelligence" in scholar.google.com. I have only had experience of intelligence tests on 4-6 six year olds. Quite a few dimensions to the test - but nothing that would have been practiced at home. A very limited sample, but the resultant ranking fitted my pre-determinations in terms of general problem solving abilities.

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on [Letter] Advice for High School #1 · 2021-04-21T03:00:26.813Z · LW · GW

Fascinating question as what advice I would give my high school self if I could. "Dont be such a prat" would be good start. Listen much more than talk, figure out how people work without trying to change them. Try lots of things (safely) and have fun. Be an agent for good things. Read everything (not advice I needed). Dont wait till uni before trying to change the world. Dont be afraid to fail, just learn from it. Master calculus as fast as you can and then learn the science properly instead of way curriculum prescribes. Master some form of coding. Find some physical activity that you really like (with the old dictum of "if you cant do it well, learn to enjoy doing it badly"). 

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on What weird beliefs do you have? · 2021-04-16T05:00:16.868Z · LW · GW

Ok, that does sound wierd. Do I understand correctly, that you postulate a PETM civilization that had developed sufficient technology to extract fossil fuels (as source of negative D13 carbon) to explain the observed carbon and climate? What population and per capita energy extraction rates did you factor? And if they let no trace, presumably they somehow found all this FF very close to Antarctica? If so, I think I would struggle to assign even 0.1% weight to this hypothesis compared to competing hypotheses. It has the feel of an invisible dragon in the garage to me.

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on What weird beliefs do you have? · 2021-04-16T00:20:37.031Z · LW · GW

I wouldnt pretend NZ is fiscal utopia by a long way, but actually pretty weak provisions have resulted in quite strong fiscal discipline. https://econpapers.repec.org/paper/risnzierw/2018_5f001.htm for a review. Governments may have to act faster than a referendum can be organized but so long as there is then a realistic plan to return to a budget surplus, I dont think you need one.

But your comments  have reinforced my view that my beliefs are not weird. 

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on What weird beliefs do you have? · 2021-04-15T03:37:18.727Z · LW · GW

Which I guess is why we have Fiscal Responsibility Act to enforce it on politiicians. However, running large government surplusses seem to be regarded as fine (ie consequence free) by pollies of many nations, provided you can pay the interest. If they are correct, then my belief is indeed weird (and incorrect). The MMT argument made my head hurt.

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on What weird beliefs do you have? · 2021-04-14T21:33:05.100Z · LW · GW

That governments should, over the long term, run balanced budgets. ie there are many good reasons for a short term budget deficit (global crisis, natural disaster) but governments should budget to return to government surplus as soon as possible and pay down debt (eg to something like 20% GDP).
This obviously doesnt seem weird to me, but people from MMT theorists to heads of world major economies think it is.
Why do I believe that? Well we (New Zealand) had major reforms of economy and government in 1980-90s. At time, (showing my age) I thought it is was madness and seriously, morally bad. However, once the pragmatists replaced the ideologues, it now seems to me that the residuals of the reforms (including the balanced budget requirement) has delivered a strong and resilient economy. Various crises have been managed well because the government has been in a strong fiscal position to start with.

Have I really examined or tested this belief? Nope. I find many things more interesting than economics and whether the belief is right or wrong doesnt impact on anything I do, including voting. The policy has cross-party support so unless I vote for a fringe party, then I am voting for this anyway. 

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on How You Can Gain Self Control Without "Self-Control" · 2021-03-26T01:28:28.340Z · LW · GW

Thanks for this (and love the cards - a brake on just skimming it). So I am goofing off reading LessWrong when I should be working. Furthermore, completing the current job will make it possible to do more exciting things and please my colleagues. Why am I goofing off and reading an article on self-control of all things? I got a useful insight though. The priority one job is QC of a dataset. It is intense, boring, but too complex, too important to delegate. I diagnose Depletion of Energy and thus deserve a break! Nice rationalisation. Thanks very much. Now back to work...

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on A voting theory primer for rationalists · 2021-03-25T20:29:22.014Z · LW · GW

Just found this and I have question and comment.

Q. Here (NZ), local body elections are usually STV for both mayor and councillors. It was seen as a way to get around vote-splitting leading to an unfavoured winner largely. There is always idle tea-time discussions about strategic voting without anyone getting sufficient interested to really analyse it. Your comment about it strategic voting in preference system revived my curiousity. How do you game an STV system? The best we could manage is that it seem best to rank all the candidates, rather than just ranking the ones you want to win.

And comment on how to get away from FPTP. NZ moved to MMP in mid 90s. It happened via two referenda. The first was simple question about retain FPTP or change system, and a second question asking for preference among various proportial systems. There was overwhelming support for change and MMP won the preference. A second referendum was stark choice between MMP (with all the parameters defined) and FPTP. 

Doing the move this way, allowed for a vote for change away from FPTP BEFORE having to make decision on what to change to, with option of changing your mind at second referendum if you hated the proposed replacement. Those fighting for reform are not splitting their vote around different systems until a decision to ditch FPTP is made. It should be said that public had appetite for change but neither major party did. 

I think MMP won the proportional preference because people wanted local representation. I believe the change achieved it's goal but strategic voting in almost the norm and we occasionally have the tail wagging the dog (which usually results in electoral punishment for offender but some parties are slow learners - well one in particular). With no upper house and only the Queen's representative with reserve powers, MMP has worked a brake on parlimentary power.

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on Where do (did?) stable, cooperative institutions come from? · 2021-03-22T20:27:28.212Z · LW · GW

Can you clarify which "The Dictators Handbook" you mean? I suspect you mean the Mesquita and Smith version, though the Randall Wood one looks more fun.

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on On LessWrong/Rationality and Political Debates · 2021-03-22T01:37:24.801Z · LW · GW

I think the worst way to have a political discussion is to discuss the actions or proposed actions of any political actor. Politics exists because we need collective solutions to particular problems, so I think the best way to approach politics is discuss a particular problem that needs a political solution. As always, best to discuss the nature of the problem in detail before thinking about an solutions and gentling re-routing any solution-type discussion back to the problem. Solutions need discussion of consequences first and foremost. Pushing discussions towards those in the best way to get any value at all out of your time. We recently had referendums on legalising dope and euthanasia and I thought some of the material presented for discussion by electoral commission was exemplary. 

Inevitably though, peoples judgement on the pros and cons of various consequences is going to be based on their values. I've seen some evidence that this might be partly genetic. I seriously doubt any discussion will change a persons internal value system (what they would instinctively  judge good/bad before any reason cut in), but discussion can/will shape how a law is framed. Ie, don't even bother trying to change someone from Right to Left or vice-versa, focus on effective solution for a problem that doesn't offend their values or yours instead.

It would be a pretty quiet house here if we couldn't discuss politics. I should admit that I am in part of world where I think political tribal divisions are still not too bad - in a small country, it is hard for media to survive at all, so outlets do not want to alienate audience by showing any obvious political bias. Global media however is having an unwelcome influence.

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on Tap Water and Filtration · 2021-03-03T21:41:53.995Z · LW · GW

Well my wife is water chemist and has been known to identify water from different treatment regimes by their taste. There are a lot of possibilities here. Bore water is highly variable depending on the aquifer geology. Where groundwater goes through peat, it can be quite acidic (sometimes treated with caustic soda in town supplies) and this seems to appeal to our taste buds. Dissolved minerals obviously also affect taste (for good or bad - I dont like water with lime). By contrast city water supplies would struggle to get enough water from bores and often rely on river or lake sources. Unlike many types of borewater, this is not safe unless treated, generally by chlorination. Tastes terrible in my opinion and reactions between chlorine and organic material can create truly foul flavours and smells. 

The good news is that you can remove the flavour/smell of chlorine with cheap, under sink carbon filters. Just be sure to replace filter regularly.

I would be very surprized if you cant get results of regular city water tests from local authority. If not, then I would make stink as should be public information. I would bet on city water being safe from pathogens (but not necessarily from heavy metals) - it is some peoples job to ensure that with massive consequences for getting it wrong. So much so, that all too common for authorities to just chlorinate even when primary source is safe to protect against possible contimination in the distribution network.

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on What's your best alternate history utopia? · 2021-02-22T20:44:04.030Z · LW · GW

Hmm. I am not convinced that safety issue is only drag on nuclear power. They have a significant cost-competitive issues when there is low-cost gas or coal available as an alternative. Even in 1990 (when we were pretty sure there was climate problem), LCOE of nuclear doesnt look good against FF. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1465-7287.1990.tb00654.x (fig 1)

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on Second Citizenships, Residencies, and/or Temporary Relocation · 2021-02-17T22:28:03.685Z · LW · GW

As far as know, you are correct. You need to live or work here. The millions of spare dollars option has become politically more difficult after Thiel got citizenship. I would also say that mostly law applies  in-country but various tax, finance provisions etc apply to permanent residents even if not resident. Similar provision apply in UK so I suspect these are pretty common.

It is possible for employers here to make a case to bring in essential workers from overseas, but the bar is very high. While the isolation facilities are being besieged by citizens trying to return, I doubt there will be any change. 

 

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on Second Citizenships, Residencies, and/or Temporary Relocation · 2021-02-17T20:51:29.470Z · LW · GW

Writing from NZ. We have friends from US who worked here for 10 years (got permanent residency) before returning to the US in 2018. Because the husband has a significant respiratory complaint, he was very vunerable to Covid, but thanks to permanent residency, they were able to return here, do their 2 weeks in managed isolation facility and are staying here till safe. 

I would note that permanent residency makes you subject to local laws as well, at least here. A colleague from US who now has NZ partner was surprized to discover that the law here would regard them as married as far as the Marital Property act. Not a problem for her but not hard to imagine situations where that might be a nasty shock. On the plus side, permanent residents get full voting rights. NZ is cool with dual citizenship which our Iranian neighbours are thankful for. Much easier to travel on a NZ passport.

Of course, no chance of getting into NZ nor I suspect Australia at the moment. Even citizens in long queue with Managed Isolation booked out till June. 

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on Libertarianism, Neoliberalism and Medicare for All? · 2020-11-20T00:14:17.854Z · LW · GW

I dont suppose that would have anything to do with donations from Pharma by any chance? When the TPP free trade agreement was being negotiated, one of the concerns here was that US would insist on Pharmac being demolished

Comment by Phil Scadden (phil-scadden) on Libertarianism, Neoliberalism and Medicare for All? · 2020-11-19T00:27:57.563Z · LW · GW

I am unfamiliar with Medicare or in fact the US health system, but an example of "By negotiating 'on behalf of us' the government has the most negotiating power possible and hence should be able to get the best prices." would perhaps be the Pharmac scheme operated here in NZ? Basically, the government assigns $x to Pharmac who negotiate deals with pharma providers. The drugs bought by Pharmac are available to public at considerable subsidy. The losers can still attempt to sell their drug (not excluded from market) but will have to convince the public their version of the drug is "better" (and do so without breaking advertizing laws on false claims). Obviously what get subsidized is supposedly based on maximum QALYs for $$, but a there is a lot of lobbying which I hope is unsuccessful. 

Maybe I am being naive, but surely it should be possible to quantify a countries health outcomes and costs and empirically determine what policies work best (health outcomes/$$) rather than deciding on ideological grounds.