Stefan Molyneux Discussion

Having a Twitter discussion about how I don't believe almost the same things as Stefan Molyneux.

But Twitter length limits are super annoying, and he didn't want to use FI list, so I wanted to move to blog comments here.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (19)

Free Speech Takes Thought and Effort

Open Oxford (OO) is a Facebook discussion group (with some IRL elements) which claims or aspires to be a free speech zone, but there have been some large discrepancies and problems. There are many other groups with some pretense at liberalism which have similar issues, so I think this is worthwhile even if you don't care about OO.

Here is a representative example of what Open Oxford falsely thinks of itself:
... no one is made to feel unwelcome for their opinions, and every viewpoint, no matter how controversial, can be expressed freely and without fear ... value the free exchange of ideas, and not to restrict on the basis of the opinions ... to create and nurture a culture of open debate and pluralism.

... If all ideas cannot be debated, without fear ... how is our society supposed to be organised by reason and understanding rather than groupthink and prejudice?

Admin_1 deleted 5 posts which he claims were "spam". They were not in the category of things everyone agrees is spam, like links posted by a bot advertising viagra, online poker, etc.

Rather, what Admin_1 deleted was a different style of discussion than he's accustomed to and prefers. He reinterpreted a disagreement of ideas (about how to discuss, writing styles, etc) as something else other than a disagreement of ideas (in this case "spam". In other cases various other things considered illegitimate are used like "trolling" or "harassment".)

A major tactic against free speech is portray it as something else. E.g., reinterpreting speech as trolling, spam, hate, obscenity or profanity, as an excuse to censor it. In the same way that unwanted/dislike (by the parent) behavior of children must be seen as disagreement (not misbehavior, sin, willful troublemaking, etc), so too must unwanted/disliked speech be seen as disagreement (not misbehavior, sin, willful troublemaking, etc)

Admin_2 and Admin_3 don't understand free speech either, see (7) and (8) below.


A poster was doxed and consequently left (preventing his free speech, because Open Oxford is not a safe space).

Doxing like seen at Open Oxford is initiation of force. The standard purpose of doxing is:

A) IRL violence, harassment, intimidation or other force


B) Threat of (A), making people feel unsafe or threatened


C) Incitement or aid for others to do (A) or (B)

Doxing can also violate property rights over the information in question.

Force like this is or should be a serious crime. It is incompatible with a free society and free speech. Initiation of force – via intimidation tactics involving harassment or threat of harassment – must not be allowed in a discussion.

There is no outcry, nothing is being done to prevent it from reoccurring and make people feel safe from force at Open Oxford. The doxer wasn't banned, and rules about doxing were not clarified. In fact, the doxing was openly supported by many posters, including an admin. Open Oxford has a dangerous mob atmosphere which is actively suppressing discussion.

(FYI, the dox comment was deleted.)


Admin_2 admitted he deleted a comment because he didn't like it ("For the record, I deleted that comment because it was borderline abusive."). Here is the comment:

Context, discussing dating ideas: "Eww, fuck this shit."

Reply that Admin_2 deleted: "You sound cute, what's your number?"

That is speech. That is a discussion style – responding to hostility with a joke. It's super mild, but it shouldn't really even matter what it is. Shouldn't Admin_2 be the one explaining himself? Why hasn't he posted full written documentation of all his moderator activity – including his reasoning – like some other Facebook groups do?

Flaming someone's comment as abusive is low quality discussion, not justification of censorship.

But Open Oxford doesn't even have clear and accurate written documentation of what the moderator policies are in the first place. The result is as expected: arbitrary rule of man, rather than predictable rule of law. That isn't free speech or open discussion, it's unpredictable and unaccountable censorship.

To make matters much worse, the comment Admin_2 deleted was the very same comment the doxer had targeted. So Admin_2 sided with a thug and censored the exact thing the thug didn't like, giving the thug what he wanted.


Admin_2 threatens to ban people from the discussion merely for posting ideas Admin_2 doesn't like. Admin_2 feels no need to give clear reasons for his threats, or clear criteria for what would constitute adequate obedience not to be censored.

Demands like to stop being "needlessly obnoxious" or stop making "offensive personal remarks" are hopelessly vague. That's arbitrary power.


Open Oxford lacks intellectual leadership. No one is setting a good example and leading the way. No one is teaching new members how to participate more productively. No one is making essays or videos explaining how to have a productive intellectual discussion. Without teaching, demonstrations or leadership, how will the community improve and grow?

And Open Oxford's goals are vague. Is there any intention of creating new knowledge? Is this about objective truth-seeking? Is anyone expecting to actually resolve any issues? Or is it just joking around and feeling better about ourselves because we're associated with something that partially pretends to be intellectual?


Open Oxford's missing moderation rules are replaced by the unpredictable oppression of vague social conventions and pressures. Where you don't have clear rules, people mostly do what feels right to them, rather than actually tolerating everything. Without clear distinctions about what crosses a line, you have everyone (including admins) making up their own lines about what is open discussion and what is somehow line-crossing. This has worked out, as should be expected, largely along conventional mob-mentality lines.


OO admin Admin_3 repeatedly demanded the dox victim be banned from the group, because he interprets speech he disagrees with as abuse. People writing ideas he doesn't like, he writes, "literally just abused the policy" – referring to OO's policy of free speech. He added that he felt people were being "needlessly stubborn" about the issue of whether to ban anyone who expressed an opinion he doesn't like.


Admin_2 posted, "if you make any more offensive personal remarks I'll remove you from the group. Even if you don't, you're causing people completely needless upset by arguing in this deliberately offensive way. It would also be nice if we could all try to engage with the actual ideas in this thread. Why don't you restate your argument in non personal, non emotive language?"

Let's go into detail on this. There are important misconceptions about free speech and reason here:

What's "needless" is a matter of ideas people can disagree about, not a fact.

Being deliberately offensive is a style choice that some people actually consider a moral duty. Again, there are ideas in dispute.

The demand for non-emotive language (also called "tone policing") is a requirement to write in Admin_2's style, or a range of styles that seem OK to Admin_2. But don't use other more different styles! This is a way of suppressing certain types of speech (emotive language) without realizing there is a disagreement of ideas involved, and that it's suppressing ideas. (When people write emotive language, they frequently believe that's good and right and proper – they have different ideas about how to think and discuss and communicate than Admin_2 does. Which is completely fine until someone starts demanding that other people conform to his discussion standards without understanding that he's suppressing ideas.)

Emotive language is important. In Cohen v. California, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of a man who had a jacket that said "Fuck the Draft". That's a good reminder of what free speech means – it includes emotive and offensive speech.

It's unclear what Admin_2 thinks constitutes a personal remark. But it is nevertheless clear, in general principle, that people may disagree about what remarks are personal, and that Admin_2 is threatening to ban people who have and follow certain ideas about that topic. Again the theme is Admin_2 does not seem to be aware that it's a topic where people have ideas which disagree with his. He doesn't seem to recognize many topics as potential areas for debate and open discussion.

It's unclear what Admin_2 considers offensive. Trying to disallow offensive speech is a particularly well known and egregious way of suppressing free speech. People routinely find the ideas of their debate opponents offensive. So what? If we can't post unpopular, offensive things here, then Open Oxford is a joke.

Admin_2's concept of how to engage with ideas in discussion is another view he's trying to impose on others, without seeming to recognize it's a controversial topic. When Admin_2 demands people "try to engage with the actual ideas", it's a demand they do it in such a way that Admin_2 would agree that's what they've done – he's demanding actions fitting his own ideas about discussions.

To sum up, Admin_2 has many ideas about how to have a discussion. That's fine. Rather than explain them and try to persuade others of why they are wise, Admin_2 takes them for granted as facts of reality, and threatens to remove people from the group if they think differently than he does.

Admin_2 is blind to many opportunities for critical discussion. That wouldn't be a big deal if this was a free speech zone, because then people could point it out. Everyone has flaws. But it becomes a big deal when Admin_2 is an admin with blindspots that lead to ban threats and deleting comments.

A free speech zone – like Open Oxford aspires to be – needs admins that understand the principles of free speech. It needs leadership that defends the expression of unpopular views, instead of joining the angry mob.

I hope people will find this criticism helpful and use it as an opportunity to improve.

[Disclosure: I wrote the "spam" comments and I was the dox victim. Also worth noting: I reported the dox to Facebook which found that it was harassment which violated Facebook rules. Facebook (redundantly) removed it.]

[Note: The 3 admins discussed were anonymized as a personal favor to a friend. Normally I would have included their names.]

[Note: The Open Oxford rule (that contradicts open discussion) not to repost text anywhere else did not exist at the time I had these discussions, it was created later and doesn't apply.]

Update: Open Oxford removed me from the group, no reason given.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (45)

Trump Praised Obama in 2009

Donald Trump was a big Obama fan. I found a shockingly bad quote. Guess where? In his book from April 2009! Think Like a Champion: An Informal Education in Business and Life by Donald Trump:
Barack Obama Election Ushers in a Different World

After the election in November of 2008, I was interviewed by Dominic Carter of New York 1 (who has recently, as of late 2009, gone through a great deal with spousal abuse) on his program called “Inside City Hall.” New York 1 is an all-news program that is popular in New York City, and Dominic has a dynamic television presence. He describes me as “a man not known for keeping his opinions to himself,” and we covered some interesting topics. Dominic asked about the election and I was honest about it. McCain was in an almost impossible situation. Bush had been so incompetent that any Republican would have a hard time unless they could bring back Eisenhower. Bush was a disaster for the country as well as for the Republican Party. Then he asked me about Barack Obama. I told him that Barack will need to be a great president because we’re in serious trouble as a country. It hasn’t been this way since 1929. So he doesn’t have much choice—he will simply have to be great, which he has a very good chance of being. What he has done is amazing. The fact that he accomplished what he has—in one year and against great odds—is truly phenomenal. If someone had asked me if a black man or woman could become president, I would have said yes, but not yet. Barack Obama proved that determination combined with opportunity and intelligence can make things happen—and in an exceptional way. He is not walking into an easy or enviable situation. As of October of 2008, the U.S. government reported a $237 billion deficit. The good news is that Obama seems to be well aware of the situation. His comments have led me to believe that he understands how the economy works on a comprehensive level. He has also surrounded himself with very competent people, and that’s the mark of a strong leader. I have confidence he will do his best, and we have someone who is serious about resolving the problems we have and will be facing in the future. To me that is very good news. After 9/11, this country received a lot of compassion from countries and people around the world. Within a short amount of time, however, we were hated. How did that happen? We had no dialogue with other countries because they just plain hated us. What’s different today is that we have a new chance, a new beginning. The world is excited about Barack Obama and the new United States. Let’s keep it that way. [Emphasis added in this paragraph.]
I don't think any political opponent of Trump has tried to draw attention to this quote yet. Why not?

I don't expect a perfect president, but I do think flaws like this are important and worth knowing. Trump is still worlds better than any of the Democrats, and worlds better than Republicans like Jeb Bush. Trump may well be good enough to make things significantly better.

My favorite Presidential candidate has been Ted Cruz the whole time. He'd never say something like that Obama "understands how the economy works on a comprehensive level". Anyone with good judgement, good thinking and one day of research to spare could have known Obama was a clueless anti-capitalist (and anti-American anti-semite) since before he was elected. I did.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (4)

Actually Changing Your Mind

(I wrote this Feb, 2005.)

People often say things like, "I don't want to do X if you don't," and don't really mean it. They mean they want to, but they are willing to do what the other person wants. This is not ideal; it's not coming to agree. So how should it work?

Jack: Jill, I don't want sex if you don't.
Jill: Are you not attracted to me?
Jack: That's not it. You are attractive. But look, there are thousands of attractive girls out there who I don't want to have sex with. I think it's a bad idea. Most of them are total strangers. In each case I could be persuaded otherwise, if we met, got along, discussed it, and so on. But right now, I don't want sex with all those people. Nor with you. You could persuade me otherwise, by explaining why I'm wrong not to want it, and then I would change to want it, but presently I don't.
Jill: Why don't you?
Jack: I know it's important to you not to.

Why important? Well, one possible reason is: Jill is considering becoming a Nun, and they won't take her if she's not a virgin, and she wants to keep that option open at the moment.

Another possible reason is that Jill is confused about abortions, and scared of birth control failing (she had a scare with a late period last year), and feels she can't have sex again until she works that stuff out, but is really stuck on those issues and doesn't know when they will get better.

Another is that Jill is currently in a monogamous relationship with someone else, and doesn't want to cheat.

So anyway, how do we know that Jack is serious that he doesn't want to while Jill doesn't? How do we know he isn't just saying it? Here is a test:

Jill: Oh baby! Let's fuck!
Jack: Umm, Jill, you're drunk.
Jill: Nah, I'm fine. But I changed my mind. Let's have sex now.
Jack: No. You're drunk. I don't want to right now. If you really changed your mind, we can do it later, when I feel better about it.
Jill: Screw you. Aren't you attracted to me?
Jack: Yeah, but I'm not comfortable with this. Why did you change your mind, anyway?
Jill: I just did. And I'm in the mood now. I may not be in the mood again for a long time if we don't do it now. C'mon.
Jack: Please don't try to threaten me to have sex. I don't want to without understanding why it wasn't a good idea yesterday but is today.

And so on. Jack passes the test by avoiding sex even though Jill is willing, because he cares about her in general, and not just about what she will agree to do tonight. But this is a commonly known situation, that many people would get right. Let's try a harsher test:

Jill goes on a vacation for a month, to relax and stuff. Jack wants to stay home and pursue some hobby Jill doesn't share. They are both happy with this. Jill returns, and that night they go out to a romantic dinner, and have a moonlit walk on the beach. Or pick whatever romantic stereotypes you prefer. Or even imagine they do their own thing that they like, but you wouldn't. The point is it's nice.

Jill: *whispers* Jack, I think I'm ready to have sex.
Jack: Really? Why?
Jill: I thought through some things, and I think it's a good idea now. *kisses Jack* (They've already kissed before lots, say.)
Jack: *breaks kiss after a few moments* Jill, I'm happy about this, but I need to understand why.
Jill: It's fine. Let's not ruin the mood. *runs hand along Jack's chest*
Jack: But my best understanding is that this is a bad idea. I need to be told why to change that and want to.
Jill: That's sweet of you, I'm glad you're thinking of me, but this is what I want, and you shouldn't say no to me to protect me. It's my decision, alright? *smiles seductively*
Jack: But *I* am not comfortable with this. Why aren't you telling me what changed so that it's a good idea now?
Jill: Alright, sorry, I will.

This was a much better test. I believe many people would pass the first test, but fail the second. They don't want to feel guilty about taking advantage of a drunk person. But in the second scene, Jill has thought out what she wants, and as she points out, Jack shouldn't decline just to protect her. Here, he has to actually not like the idea himself, because he's internalized some of Jill's old reasons, and now he himself cares about them, and he needs to see the solution to them to feel good about sex, exactly like Jill must see the solution to them to want sex.

If Jack hadn't acted the way he did in the dialog, and had agreed to sex, we would know when he originally said he didn't want to if Jill didn't, he wasn't doing it right. If Jack will have sex when Jill says she wants to, then it shows he didn't value the same things Jill did, that made her not want sex, he only valued not hurting her, fighting with her, etc. Which means he didn't really agree with her the whole time, and it was a problem. It might be expressed as Jack saying, "I do want to have sex with you, but even more than that I don't want to hurt you." This is much better than nothing, but if Jill cares about what Jack wants, then she will feel pressured.

Hi guys, 2015 Elliot here to add a few comments:

The big thing here is, if you genuinely change your mind, the new opinion is now part of you, alone, by yourself. Real mind changing means you're now a true believer who'd advance the cause for your own reasons. The reasons that used to be someone else's arguments to you, are now part of you, and you'd carry on even if they fell over dead. (For personal issues it might become irrelevant if they died, but the concept applies to persuasion about anything.)

A good test of whether you believe something yourself is whether you'll still argue for it when the person who was persuading you changes their mind. Were you just trying to be on the same side as them and will be happy to drop it now? Or will you be curious what more they learned and unable to change your mind further without new information?

People understand this better with impersonal topics. If you persuade me of socialism, you'd expect me to still be a socialist when you leave the room, and to argue for it with others. If I'm not going to advocate socialism on my own, I'm not really persuaded that it's true and important. But with personal topics, people often mix up deferring on an issue with actual persuasion.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

John Galt Should Not Have Been A Track Laborer

It would have been better if John Galt didn't take a job as a track laborer.

I respect the principle not to spend wealth from Galt's Gulch outside the valley. Don't create value there then bring it back to the regular world to aid non-members.

But Galt had better things to do with his time, like work in his lab, and I see a simple solution. Francisco could have simply given Galt a million dollars. Galt could pay him back in some way in the Gulch, or not, I don't think it matters too much. Francisco already had plenty of outside world money and wouldn't be harmed by giving some to Galt (he was in the process of destroying his outside wealth anyway).

Consider the effect on the outside world. In the one case, Galt does some minimally productive work, then spends money on food. In the other case, Galt doesn't do that work, then spends money on food. In both cases, the grocery store gets some dollar bills for their food, and Galt eats the same thing. In one case, an outside world company gets some extra help, though not of a kind or amount that made any fundamental difference.

If Galt just wanted to observe Dagny and chat with Eddie, he could have found another way to visit that was less time consuming than a full time job.

I don't see how Galt doing track laborer work was a good idea. I think it was a real shame he didn't spend most of that time doing physics, reading, thinking about how to recruit Rearden, etc, rather than doing manual labor. And I think the manual labor was unnecessary.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (36)

Steiger's Law

Steiger's Law:
People involved in a structure spend more time and energy maintaining that structure than in working toward its goals.
The intended context is stuff like government agencies, businesses, non-profits, unions, guilds (like the people in charge of letting you be a doctor or lawyer). That's the kind of stuff the rest of the post discusses. No applications to other areas are mentioned.

The page also suggests that, if it's a good, efficient structure, then it's 85% energy for maintenance and 15% for progress.

My first thought when reading the law was: marriage, dating relationships, friendships, families.

How much work do people put into staying friends, compared with benefitting joint activities they like? I can certainly see married people putting most of their effort into keeping the marriage together, with only a little left to accomplish anything.

In a good friendship, at first glance, it appears the majority of the effort is productive, not maintenance. Like people might go to 10 baseball games together, or have 10 BBQs, or 10 beer nights, or 10 video game playing sessions, for every time they discuss their friendship or have any kind of fight. I don't think that's rare, especially for children. So it seems a good friendship is more than 90% productive.

However, people put a lot of generic effort into learning how to get along with people. They make an effort to fit into social groups when they are alone. And while they are at a baseball game, they spend part of their time wondering about how loudly to cheer and how drunk to get. They don't want to be boring and unenthusiastic, and they don't want to be disruptive either, so they modulate their behavior. Children are still learning how to do these things and have lower expectations about their peers. Adult friends expect everything to go real smoothly since everyone should have already learned how to hang out, how to handle the situations they do together, and how to pay attention all the time.

Typical adults know how to watch for when someone else wants something but isn't saying it. They know how to offer hospitality, turn hospitality down, reoffer it, etc. They know when and how to bring a gift like wine, and how much to spend on it. They even sometimes go find a boyfriend/girlfriend so they can be invited to a couples event.

Typical adults know how to come off as normal, not weird, in the eyes of strangers, so they don't embarrass their group. They know how compromise and, often, hide the fact that they compromised so no one feels bad. They know how to have low standards – if the friend group proposes an activity, they accept unless they have a big problem with it, rather than looking for the most optimized activity. These low standards reduce conflict, which is necessary because they have very limited ability to negotiate more productive ways to spend their time.

So, yes, friend groups go do stuff most of the time. But the whole time everyone is devoting a lot of their attention to making sure things go smoothly. And when they have a meal and chat, they may well discuss any maintenance issues that have come up, such as someone being a little annoying, and maybe they shouldn't invite him next time. (Leaving someone out often seems easier to people than doing problem solving. Which is one reason people try so damn hard to fit in and not cause any problems in the first place, because if a problem does come up, they may well be fucked.)

Schools are another interesting case. How much effort goes into keeping the kids quiet and orderly, and getting them to show up to their classes on time, and getting them to do their homework, and pressuring them to learn the curriculum, and school spirit events, and administration overhead, and deciding what classes you'll take, and so on, vs. actual learning? I think the ratio is grim.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (7)

Banned from Ayn Rand Facebook Group

There is a Facebook group about Ayn Rand with 7000 members. I just got banned (I saw this coming and it wasn't valuable anyway). I was trying to post about how Reason is Urgent; Now or Never, which has four Ayn Rand quotes and discusses Objectivist ideas like how big a problem contradictions are, which the moderator deleted, twice. You can see what happened next in the screenshots below (comments are unmoderated).

Michael Brown is very irrational. It's interesting that he controls what might be the largest Objectivist group in the world. I suspect the way he accomplished it was by filling it up with thousands of non-Objectivists (a little like Wynand's large readership):

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (5)

Reason is Urgent; Now or Never

Imagine a person finds Fallible Ideas (FI) philosophy and they agree with 20% initially and contradict 80%. And they are excited and think FI's amazing. Sounds like a really good start, right? I think it is. That's a lot more than you could really expect at the start. Most promising newcomers will have less pre-existing knowledge and compatibility.

(FI is the best, purest advocacy of reason. But if you disagree with that, no problem, just substitute in Objectivism, Critical Rationalism, or something else. The points I'm making here do not depend on which philosophy of reason you think is best.)

(The percentages are a loose approximation to let me write this point in a simpler way. If you don't like them, consider what's going on when someone partly agrees and post a comment explaining how you think that works, and how you think I should have written this without percents. I'm trying to discuss the case of a new person who agrees with some stuff, disagrees or doesn't know a lot more, and learns a bit more over time.)

Now, imagine over the next 5 years they increase their agreement to 30%. Is that good progress? A nice achievement? A proper application of gradualism?

No, I think that's a disaster.

In that scenario, they just lived for 5 years while contradicting at least 70% of FI. How can they do that? Why don't they complete hate themselves? Here they are finding out about reason, and then living a 70% anti-reason lifestyle. How do they live with that?

The answer is: they deny that 70% of FI is good. They oppose it. To not hate themselves, they have to hate most of FI instead. They have to come up with a bunch of evasions and rationalizations, and they have 5 years to entrench those.

The moment you find out about reason, there is a ticking clock, because it's so very hard to live with contradictions. It's not viable to just live for 5 years half liking reason and half hating it. You'd tear yourself apart. You have to do something about this tension. FI offers ways to deal with it, but to use those you'd have to learn more about FI and embrace it more thoroughly. And irrationality offers ways to deal with it – rationalizations, evasions, self-lies, etc...

The middle, caught in between reason and unreason, is not a viable long term place to be. It doesn't work. It's not just a mess of contradictions like many people's lives, it's more like the strongest contradiction there is. And who could live with that? The only person who perhaps could, like John Galt, would be a better person and wouldn't even be in that situation, since he'd embrace reason more.

So at the same time this person learned 10% more about reason in 5 years, they also figured out how to rationalize not learning the rest, and be OK with that. They made up stories about how they will learn it one day, later, but not now. They backed off from feeling like reason is truly sacred in order to to reduce the contradictions in their life. They lost their sense of urgency and excitement about new possibilities, most of which they've now put off for 5 years. Most of which they still don't plan to start learning for years.

When there's a contradiction, something has to give. When you have such a strong major contradiction that's so hard to ignore – like life vs. death, reason vs. unreason, thinking vs. unthinking, open society vs. closed society, problem solving vs. destruction, initiative vs. passivity, independence vs. obedience, infinity vs. finite limits – then something has to and will change pretty quickly. And if they don't embrace reason in a big way, then it's clear enough what happened: while making their bits and pieces of supposed progress, they actually managed to find a way to either deny all these major contradictions exist or take the wrong side of them and be OK with that. There's no other way.

Once someone finds out about an idea and finds it notable and important, they have to take a position.
E.g. that it's good in theory but not very practical to use in life all the time. That's an example of a well known evasion. Or they think it's pretty good, but it's for geniuses. Or they think it'd be nice to learn it and they will work on it, later, but they are busy right now. There's many other evasions possible, many ways to rationalize why they aren't acting on the idea. Or they could believe it's really urgent and serious and try their best to learn and use it, which would be a good attitude, but is very rare. People always take some kind of position on ideas once they find out about them and acknowledge those ideas matter.

So the scenario I talked about, which I think lots of people see as an ideal to strive for, is actually really bad, and helps explain why the people pursing that plan seem to be stuck indefinitely and never become amazing.

Life is now. Reason is urgent. These things get much worse over time unless you're making rapid progress and pursuing reason with the utmost seriousness and vigor. There can be no compromises where you work on rational philosophy a little bit here and there in your spare time. It can't wait. Nothing's more important than your mind. Prioritize your mind now or, by betraying it, you will destroy it and never again want to prioritize it.

As always with these things, there are rare heroic exceptions which no one knows how to duplicate on purpose, or predict, or how it works, etc. The human spirit, or something, is very hard to crush with literally-exactly 100% reliability, and there's billions of people. Here's a few quotes about that from The Return of the Primitive, by Ayn Rand:
“Give me a child for the first seven years,” says a famous maxim attributed to the Jesuits, “and you may do what you like with him afterwards.” This is true of most children, with rare, heroically independent exceptions.
With very rare exceptions, [young men with independent minds dedicated to the supremacy of truth] are perishing in silence, unknown and unnoticed.
There are exceptions who will hold out, no matter what the circumstances. But these are exceptions that mankind has no right to expect.
Finally I'll leave you with one of my favorite Ayn Rand quotes about urgency, about now, not later:

The Virtue of Selfishness, Doesn’t Life Require Compromise?:
The excuse, given in all such cases, is that the “compromise” is only temporary and that one will reclaim one’s integrity at some indeterminate future date. But one cannot correct a husband’s or wife’s irrationality by giving in to it and encouraging it to grow. One cannot achieve the victory of one’s ideas by helping to propagate their opposite. One cannot offer a literary masterpiece, “when one has become rich and famous,” to a following one has acquired by writing trash. If one found it difficult to maintain one’s loyalty to one’s own convictions at the start, a succession of betrayals—which helped to augment the power of the evil one lacked the courage to fight—will not make it easier at a later date, but will make it virtually impossible.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (20)

Peikoff: Children Are Property–-6142010/

in the podcast, Peikoff says 10 year olds are property. jesus fucking christ.

my loose notes on what podcast said:

shud biz be allowed to sell alcohol and tobacco to 10 year olds?

peikoff: no cuz they are the property of their parents

it is self-evident that a 10 year old is not a self-sufficient independent entity

you don't have to go investigating this stuff, but if something is visibly someone else's property and has no authority to make a purchase, you have to act accordingly

what do you even say back to that? he didn't argue, he said it's self-evident. i don't find it self-evident and don't know his reasons.

i do know that lots 10 year olds are smarter and more competent than the average adult in lots of ways. i know that in the past, it wasn't that rare for 10 year olds to be taking care of themselves without parents. i know that 10 year olds have clearly demonstrated a capacity to think and learn many years prior (icnluding especially, as Ayn Rand discusses in The Comprachichos, in their first few years of life). and i believe that if you can learn and think (universally, the same as any adult), you are a person, not property.

also from the same podcast he discusses swinging (in the sense like sexual promiscuity). he mentions common motivation being thrill of rebellion against morality and also feeling free from morality. i roughly agree but i think it's more rebellion against society, against social norms, against society's rules. and feeling free from all that stuff, like feeling you can do what you want instead of obey your culture's rules. i think it's less philosophical than Peikoff said, more about other people than moral principles.

Update: I transcribed the text about children being property. It's from 5:45 to 6:50.
Q: Should businesses be allowed to sell tobacco and alcohol products to people of whatever age they wish, for example a ten year old?

A: No. Because these are the property of their parents, legally and recognizably, objectively by anyone. It is self-evident that they are not, a ten year old is not, a self-sufficient entity and is under the control of someone else. And you must respect that as an issue of respecting someone else's property.

Now this does not mean a businessman has to inquire into the moral status of everybody he deals with. You don't have to find out if you're selling bread, is this customer a communist or an Objectivist? You're selling a product. But if something is visibly somebody else's property and has no authority to make a purchase, then you have to act accordingly.
(That's the full text. Then he moves on to the next question.)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (9)

Facebook's Website Design Sucks

Look how much vertical space is wasted by the pinned post, every single time I visit the Ayn Rand group.

Keep in mind I'm using a larger screen and larger browser window than most people. You're seeing this zoomed in. Most people would see less. The content starts where it says "Recent Activity", so lots of people wouldn't see any content at all without scrolling down.

Some of the best space on the screen is being used for information people only need to read once, and maybe refer to again rarely.

I blame Facebook. The group owner, quite reasonably, wanted all members to read some information. He used one of the few features Facebook made available to him.

Part of the problem is he has a large signature. What should he do, get rid of it? It's Facebook's fault again. Why can't they hide the signature (and the "Add Friend" button) on the Pinned Post that people see all the time?

Look how much vertical space is wasted by the picture at the top. Again that's Facebook's choice. Facebook is the one who should make it easy to get a good looking group page. Facebook presented the guy with a place to put a picture. He put a picture. The results are bad. That is not his fault, he just followed along with what Facebook told him to do.

Look how the "Like, Comment, Share" buttons and the "27 Likes, 7 Comments" could fit together on one line, but are taking up extra vertical space by being separate. Look how the text "Pinned Post" and "Recent Activity" take up crucial vertical space. There's got to be a better way. Look how Michael Brown's profile picture appears twice on one post, wasting pixels. (And, by the way, I'm not even a web designer. I just dabble.)

Let's look lower down on the page now:

Count how many times my profile picture (the white C on a red background) is visible. Six! And all I did is post two links. What a waste of pixels!

Look how little content fits on the screen, even once we're scrolled down. My two posts have one sentence and a link. Then there's a post with two sentences. Then three comments, none with very much text (considering that Facebook hides long comment text behind a "See More" link.) And that's all you can see with a large browser window. That's so little!

Facebook has like a billion monthly active users. That's way more than enough to hire some good web designers. Facebook could spend a lot of money on good design for their major groups feature and it'd pay off.

I think Facebook does spend lots of money on this. Maybe they should spend more, but money isn't the primary problem. One big problem is Facebook doesn't know how to buy good design. There are lots of people offering to sell good design, and some of them are good designers, and some of them are bad designers. I figure Zuckerberg doesn't know what good design is, and his close friends and top executives don't know, and they doesn't know who to trust. They don't know which designers to believe. They don't know how to judge who really is an expert.

Another big problem is bureaucracy. I bet Facebook has some good designers, but then they get ordered to go do some specific stuff, rather than go around and take the initiative to fix whatever problems they can find. I bet Facebook has some capable employees who'd like to fix this, but their boss tells them to do something else.

And Facebook is a big company. Lots of different internal parts of Facebook have their own priorities and goals. So they all fight over screen space, each wanting their stuff, and that can make a mess. Good design requires saying "no" to a lot of requests, and that can be tough. You need to find designers who are actually good and then also empower them to stand up to the rest of the company and say "no" to most demands.

It's a hard problem to buy talent if you don't know how to think for yourself, so you aren't able to judge talent well. The only solution is philosophy. Zuckerberg and the rest of the top people at Facebook have to learn how to think well. Then they could detect a lot of phonies and fakers, and figure out which designers are good thinkers, even without learning design. With philosophy, they could tell which designers have the right sorts of methods of thinking, and make design arguments in ways and forms that could be correct. They'd be able to see if someone was the right kind of person doing the right kind of thinking about design, even if they couldn't judge all the details. And they could easily learn and go through a few basic examples. With good philosophy, this wouldn't be too much of a problem.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (2)

Induction is Authoritarian

Induction is about authority.

You come up with an idea. And someone asks, "How do you know that's right?"

And what do you say? How do you answer that.

Induction is one of many attempts to answer that question. It's a positive way to know you're right, to build up your idea. You say, "My idea is good because I induced it."

Another tempting answer is, "Because Einstein said so." An appeal to authority is a natural answer to how you know an idea is right. Ultimately that is what the question seeks – some kind of authority, above your judgment, which you can appeal to. By it Einstein or induction, no authority is necessary.

What they want, the motivation behind the question, is a guarantee that'll hold into the future. A defense against the uncertainty of new ideas and new thinking.

The question, "How do you know that's right?" is a bad question. It's inherently bad. It begs for an authoritarian answer. And, worse, it drops the proper context.

(A little like how "Who should rule?" begs for an authoritarian answer, like Karl Popper explains. Questions can be bad and designed to prompt bad answers. Sometimes you have to dispute the question itself.)

A good reply is, "You got a better idea?"

The only context in which it's proper to dispute an idea is if you have an alternative idea, or you see something wrong with the idea (a criticism).

Offer a rival idea, or criticism, or stop complaining. If you can't point out any problem with an idea, and no one knows any alternative, you should be accepting the idea, not raising meaningless, nonsense doubts (which is what "How do you know that's right?" does).

The question, "How do you know that's right?" offers neither a rival nor a criticism. It doesn't provide the appropriate context to defend an idea. An idea can be defended against a criticism. And it can be argued against a rival. But an idea cannot be defended against NOTHING, against arbitrary contextless demands that your idea be better, somehow, and justify itself in a vacuum.

How do I know it's right? Well, how do you know it's wrong?

I'm not omniscient. I don't know it's right in that sense. What I know is it doesn't contradict any of my observations, it doesn't come into conflict with my other knowledge, it's not refuted by any criticism I know of. And what I know is, it's useful, it solves some problem, that's why I made the idea and what it's for.

If an idea solves a problem, and no one knows anything wrong with it (the idea or the problem) or any alternatives, then that's the highest standard of knowledge possible to man (who is fallible and non-omniscient, which is fine, that's not a bad thing). By asking for more, the questioner tries to hold knowledge to an impossible standard. That is a generic tactic he could use to attack any and all knowledge, and is therefore a recipe for complete skepticism. It should be rejected out of hand.

I know it's right – in the fallible, contextual way – because I thought about it. I judged it. I exposed it to criticism, I sought out rivals, I used the methods of reasoning proper to man. I did what I could. What'd you do, Mr. Generic Doubter? These actions I took do not ensure it's right, but they are actually useful things to do, so that's good, not bad.

If you come up with a criticism or an alternative, none of that stuff I did is any protection for my idea. I can't refer to it to win the debate. My idea is on its own, left to its merits, to be judged by its content and nothing else.

What people want to do is set up positive authorities so they can stop worrying about their ideas. They know it's right, so they don't have to fear criticism or alternatives, since they already have the answer. They are trying to close the book on the issue, permanently. They want an out-of-context way to positively support an idea so that it will apply to all future contexts, so they'll never have to think again.

That is what the tradition of positive justification of ideas – the "justification" found in the ubiquitous "knowledge is justified true belief" – is all about. It's about out-of-context authority to preemptively defend against unknown future criticisms and new alternative ideas. It's about setting up an authority for all to bow down to, and ending progress there. So that when rebellious thinkers dare to criticize the status quo, instead of addressing the criticism, they can simply give their generic (contextless) answer to how they know they are right, the same one they've always given, and always will give.

No matter how much support, authority, justification, or positive validation an idea has, that is no defense against criticism. If there is a reason your idea is false, then it's false, too bad about all the authority you made up for it. It's not relevant, it's useless, it shouldn't be part of the discussion, it's just a bunch of nonsense with no functional purpose in a debate. You can never answer a reason your idea is false by saying how much evidence supports it. So what? An idea with a bunch of evidential support can still be false, can't it? No matter how much authority of any kind is behind your idea, it can still be false, can't it? So what good is that authority? What's it for? (Disclaimer: I do not accept that evidential support is a meaningful concept. But I think those that do accept it, also accept that it doesn't guarantee against falseness.)

Do you intend deal with alternative, rival ideas by adding up the positive authority for each and seeing which gets a higher score. That method is terrible. One problem is there's no way to do the scoring objectively. What you should do is point out something wrong with the rival idea – a criticism. If you can't do that, why are you opposing it anyway?

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Ayn Rand Quotes Discussion

The Return of the Primitive, The “Inexplicable Personal Alchemy”:
Who can take any values seriously if he is offered, for moral inspiration, a choice between two images of youth: an unshaved, barefooted Harvard graduate, throwing bottles and bombs at policemen—or a prim, sun-helmeted, frustrated little autocrat of the Peace Corps, spoon-feeding babies in a jungle clinic?

No, these are not representative of America’s youth—they are, in fact, a very small minority with a very loud group of unpaid p.r. [agents] on university faculties and among the press—but where are its representatives? Where are America’s young fighters for ideas, the rebels against conformity to the gutter—the young men of “inexplicable personal alchemy,” the independent minds dedicated to the supremacy of truth?

With very rare exceptions, they are perishing in silence, unknown and unnoticed. Consciously or subconsciously, philosophically and psychologically, it is against them that the cult of irrationality—i.e., our entire academic and cultural Establishment—is directed.

They perish gradually, giving up, extinguishing their minds before they have a chance to grasp the nature of the evil they are facing. In lonely agony, they go from confident eagerness to bewilderment to indignation to resignation—to obscurity. And while their elders putter about, conserving redwood forests and building sanctuaries for mallard ducks, nobody notices those youths as they drop out of sight one by one, like sparks vanishing in limitless black space; nobody builds sanctuaries for the best of the human species.

So will the young Russian rebels perish spiritually—if they survive their jail terms physically. How long can a man preserve his sacred fire if he knows that jail is the reward for loyalty to reason? No longer than he can preserve it if he is taught that that loyalty is irrelevant—as he is taught both in the East and in the West. There are exceptions who will hold out, no matter what the circumstances. But these are exceptions that mankind has no right to expect.
This is about Western culture (it's 45 years old, but still applies). Few people care about truth and reason. There are some loud people who claim to be free thinkers, but actually conform to gutter standards.

The people who care about ideas are discouraged because, wherever they look, it's hard to find anyone else who does. So they are isolated, and surrounded by a culture of irrationality. It wears them down and beats them up, and eventually they lose some of their confident eagerness, and start to see the evil in the world, and find it confusing and awful, and eventually they give up, alone. That's the standard story that happens to most of the best of the human species.

And (almost) no one cares. These bright young minds are not an object of sympathy and charity. Far more help goes to trees and ducks than to men with intellectual integrity. Isn't that awful?

Ayn Rand tried to help these people. I try, too. I pursue ideas publicly and offer the Fallible Ideas Discussion Group. There, people can experience rational discussion in an atmosphere that puts truth before conformity. They can see that some people take ideas seriously, and are eager for criticism and bold thinking. That can be part of their life. And they can learn about and ask questions about philosophy, liberalism, and any other topics.

A few men can hold purely to reason without help, alone, in a world that punishes them for it. But we must not rely on heroes like that for the future of humanity. We should lead the way and offer some better voices into the public discussion. There are people out there to hear reason, and appreciate it, and they could really use the help.

The Virtue of Selfishness, Doesn’t Life Require Compromise?:
The excuse, given in all such cases, is that the “compromise” is only temporary and that one will reclaim one’s integrity at some indeterminate future date. But one cannot correct a husband’s or wife’s irrationality by giving in to it and encouraging it to grow. One cannot achieve the victory of one’s ideas by helping to propagate their opposite. One cannot offer a literary masterpiece, “when one has become rich and famous,” to a following one has acquired by writing trash. If one found it difficult to maintain one’s loyalty to one’s own convictions at the start, a succession of betrayals—which helped to augment the power of the evil one lacked the courage to fight—will not make it easier at a later date, but will make it virtually impossible.
If you aren't taking reason seriously NOW, when will you? How will waiting help? When will things be easier? Never. If you can't stick to principles now, spending a year compromising them won't help. If purity is tough now, how much harder will it be after you spend more time learning to live in a less pure way?

Lowering your standards temporarily is not how you get high standards. Your standards are never going to go back up. You'll get used to living with lower standards. You'll do more things which violate the higher standards. So, later, the higher standards will be more inaccessible than they were before.

Taking life seriously, and really insisting on the best right now, is the only way to live. Pursuing the truth with no boundaries is completely urgent. Do it now, or you never will.

Philosophy: Who Needs It, An Untitled Letter:
Like any overt school of mysticism, a movement seeking to achieve a vicious goal has to invoke the higher mysteries of an incomprehensible authority. An unread and unreadable book serves this purpose. It does not count on men’s intelligence, but on their weaknesses, pretensions and fears. It is not a tool of enlightenment, but of intellectual intimidation. It is not aimed at the reader’s understanding, but at his inferiority complex.

An intelligent man will reject such a book [like Rawl's A Theory of Justice or Kant's Critique of Pure Reason] with contemptuous indignation, refusing to waste his time on untangling what he perceives to be gibberish—which is part of the book’s technique: the man able to refute its arguments will not (unless he has the endurance of an elephant and the patience of a martyr). A young man of average intelligence—particularly a student of philosophy or of political science—under a barrage of authoritative pronouncements acclaiming the book as “scholarly,” “significant,” “profound,” will take the blame for his failure to understand. More often than not, he will assume that the book’s theory has been scientifically proved and that he alone is unable to grasp it; anxious, above all, to hide his inability, he will profess agreement, and the less his understanding, the louder his agreement—while the rest of the class are going through the same mental process. Most of them will accept the book’s doctrine, reluctantly and uneasily, and lose their intellectual integrity, condemning themselves to a chronic fog of approximation, uncertainty, self doubt. Some will give up the intellect (particularly philosophy) and turn belligerently into “pragmatic,” anti-intellectual Babbitts. A few will see through the game and scramble eagerly for the driver’s seat on the bandwagon, grasping the possibilities of a road to the mentally unearned.
It's so hard to stand up to authority after an entire childhood being bullied by your parents and teachers, and taught to obey authority, and punished for disobedience.

Every "Because I said so" from a parent teaches the child to do things because the government said so, too. Or to believe things because Kant or Rawls said so.

Parents are so shortsighted. They are in a position of temporary power over their kid. To make the most of it, they demand universal obedience to authority from their kid. He ends up obeying many other authorities too, some of which they parents don't even like. And once the kid can read books and get access to ideas his parents don't control, he may well find some greater authority than his parents, so they begin losing control.

One of the saddest things is I have refuted a lot of awful ideas, carefully in writing which is publicly available. And what are the results? Hardly anyone wants it. I don't have Kant's authority. They go by authority, not understanding. So it doesn't matter if my arguments are better than Kant, they aren't thinking through the ideas. If it was effective, I'd be happy to untangle more gibberish. I still do it sometimes, but a man has to have some merit to seek out and benefit from the untangling. And it's hard to find many people with merit. Their parents and teachers attack their minds, and their culture tells them that's life and offers rolemodels who no man of intellectual integrity could seek to emulate.

Most of academia is like Rand describes, but on a smaller scale. Not many read it, but fewer will stand up to it. Most of it isn't as confusing as Kant's writing, but it's still awful and littered with gross errors. And when you try to tell people not to believe some "scientific" conclusion which they read second hand in a magazine, because the actual paper is crap, they don't want to think through the issues themselves and they don't want to take your word for it, they just want to accept the authority of academia and magazine writers.

See also my searches for other people discussing this stuff online. In summary, no one else cares.

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Trump, How To Get Rich

Comments on Donald Trump's book, How To Get Rich:

One thing I wondered is: is he a good candidate to learn philosophy or a bad one? He's smarter than most people (that's not saying much). He has lots of money and attention. He could have a ton of free time if he wanted to. He reads, he said he particularly likes biographies and mentioned reading about philosophers like Socrates. On the other hand, he's really busy with what he's doing, and he's already good at what he does. Most people could switch to philosophy without giving up anything very important.

I think the answer is: if he learned philosophy, he'd basically find himself in Gail Wynand's position. Rand covered this.

A couple days ago, an anonymous Fallible Ideas was especially impressed with Trump. I think he overestimates. Here's some of his flaws that Trump intentionally chose to share in a public book (he's hiding anything he considers a significant flaw! in fact he made a comment in the book about how people should hide their weaknesses in general.):

Trump at least somewhat believes in star signs. He's a Gemini and thinks that may help explain or determine his personality (like work ethic).

A visitor said Trump and his employees act like a family ... *having a fight*. Trump repeated that like it isn't terrible.

Trump didn't fire a bad employee for 2 years cuz he kept getting fooled by the guy's bullshit ("i'm about to get a deal done! almost there!")

Due to big mistakes, Trump used to have a net worth of more than 9 billion NEGATIVE dollars.

Trump thinks it's important to dress conventionally to please people. He talked about this a fair amount – he pays attention to it – and he said something like: don't give people extra reasons to reject you. (why would you want to deal with such bad people?)

Trump has conventional problems with diet and weight.

Trump was cowardly in the face of a friend making a huge mistake – didn't speak his mind. The disaster Trump saw coming then happened to his friend. (It was about a guy with 4 failed marriages getting a pre-nup this time. Trump is pro pre-nups in general. That was one of the many good points in the book.)

Trump doesn't like shaking hands (because germs) and wishes people would bow like in Japan instead. He shakes people's hands anyway out of fear that, if he doesn't appease them, they will dislike him. He said this clearly with an anecdote where he did it for that reason even though he had reason to be especially doubtful of the other guy's hand cleanliness at that moment. It wasn't even someone super important, just some kinda writer I think, maybe a journalist.

Trump's had significant book-mentionable issues with conventional ideas about revenge and payback. (He vaguely indicated improving somewhat and made some bland suggestions about focusing on more positive stuff when you can let problems go. He was very vague about when you can and can't just let a problem go. He told a story about spending more money on lawyers than was at stake in business to get back at people who screwed him. He didn't regret that, he presented that as a good thing. Maybe it's to teach people not to fuck him? But he didn't say that. He's not that great at explaining what he means. He tries to let examples speak for themselves way too much.)

Trump is into prestige. He likes to play golf with Bill Clinton and maintain lots of relationships with fancy people and brag about it. Trump doesn't seem to care that Clinton is a Democrat, and Trump is a Republican, and there's a big incompatibility there. No comment about that. Why would anyone want to be around Bill Clinton? What an awful guy. Fuck him. Trump with all his friends and stuff can't find anyone better than fucking Bill Clinton to play golf with? He's doing something wrong.

The book has a bunch of good stuff too (nothing GREAT or super notable though). It's a decent read, and quick. I think in general the lives of the rich and famous are really overestimated. This is just a sample of major flaws and problems Trump revealed about himself in one book containing only what he chose to reveal. This is what comes out when Trump does his best to present himself positively and seem great. That says a lot.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comment (1)

"Zero" Calorie Lies

i tried a new drink (Sparkling Ice Peach Nectarine) which was good. i saw it said both:

1) 0 calories

2) 3% fruit juice

(no i don't look for zero calorie or diet foods. i think those are dumb. but i like nectarines!)

fruit juice contains calories, so that's weird. so i looked it up:


...(b)Calorie content claims. (1) The terms "calorie free," "free of calories," "no calories," "zero calories," "without calories," "trivial source of calories," "negligible source of calories," or "dietarily insignificant source of calories" may be used on the label or in the labeling of foods, provided that:

(i) The food contains less than 5 calories per reference amount customarily consumed and per labeled serving.
4.9 calories PER SERVING (servings are usually kept small to make the amount of calories and fat seem small. like a bag of chips might be 10 servings. this drink is counted as 2 servings in a bottle). so a food with 30 calories could easily be labeled "0 calories".

and it's not even just advertising like "free of calories". they actually write the number 0 in a nutrition info chart like it's a real number. wouldn't it make more sense to put the real number in that chart? why not write 4 instead of 0 there? how is this helping anything?

our government at work.

this is stupid.

i wonder if they would have put a little more juice in the drink and made it better, but had to stop at just under 5 calories per serving for marketing. maybe the optimal amount to make the best drink would be a little more juice and 7 calories per serving. :/
(ii) As required in 101.13(e)(2), if the food meets this condition without the benefit of special processing, alteration, formulation, or reformulation to lower the caloric content, it is labeled to disclose that calories are not usually present in the food (e.g., "cider vinegar, a calorie free food").

(2) The terms "low calorie," "few calories," "contains a small amount of calories," "low source of calories," or "low in calories" may be used on the label or in labeling of foods, except meal products as defined in 101.13(l) and main dish products as defined in 101.13(m), provided that:

(i)(A) The food has a reference amount customarily consumed greater than 30 grams (g) or greater than 2 tablespoons and does not provide more than 40 calories per reference amount customarily consumed; or

(B) The food has a reference amount customarily consumed of 30 g or less or 2 tablespoons or less and does not provide more than 40 calories per reference amount customarily consumed and, except for sugar substitutes, per 50 g (for dehydrated foods that must be reconstituted before typical consumption with water or a diluent containing an insignificant amount, as defined in 101.9(f)(1), of all nutrients per reference amount customarily consumed, the per 50 g criterion refers to the "as prepared" form).
abolish the FDA!!!!!!!! it's not busy keeping us safe!!! it's busy making medicine more expensive and making up a bunch of dumb rules.

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