Hacking the High School Grading System

Interesting New York Times article about high-school students hacking the grading system.

What’s not helping? The policies many school districts are adopting that make it nearly impossible for low-performing students to fail—they have a grading floor under them, they know it, and that allows them to game the system.

Several teachers whom I spoke with or who responded to my questionnaire mentioned policies stating that students cannot get lower than a 50 percent on any assignment, even if the work was never done, in some cases. A teacher from Chapel Hill, N.C., who filled in the questionnaire’s “name” field with “No, no, no,” said the 50 percent floor and “NO attendance enforcement” leads to a scenario where “we get students who skip over 100 days, have a 50 percent, complete a couple of assignments to tip over into 59.5 percent and then pass.”

It’s a basic math hack. If a student needs two-thirds of the points—over 65%—to pass, then they have to do two-thirds of the work. But if doing zero work results in a 50% grade, then they only have to do a little bit of work to get over the pass line.

I know this is a minor thing in the universe of problems with secondary education and grading, but I found the hack interesting. (And this is exactly the sort of thing I explore in my latest book: A Hacker’s Mind.

Posted on October 13, 2023 at 7:12 AM101 Comments


Doug October 13, 2023 7:28 AM

You’d think that anyone developing some policy would send it off to white hat hackers to poke holes in the implementation. It would probably take less time to find the holes than it was to develop the policy in the first place.

Hans October 13, 2023 8:07 AM

What is the reasoning behind such a policy?
A high school is not primary there to make the studends “feel good”. But I can not think of anything else this system does. So obviously I am missing something?

Winter October 13, 2023 8:25 AM


A high school is not primary there to make the studends “feel good”

I read somewhere that US High Schools are adolescent daycare institutes. Their primary aim and use is to keep students in care during working hours. Teaching is nothing but a pretext to keep them indoors.

It seems they are failing even in this respect when students are absent more than half the time.

Ricky October 13, 2023 8:48 AM

@Hans Probably funding. It’s likely they have to maintain a certain passing rate in order to qualify for a piece of whatever federal funds are given to the state for education. This is what happens when our Government prioritizes spending on the military and foreign interests instead of its own people.

Clive Robinson October 13, 2023 9:02 AM

@ Hans,

‘A high school is not primary there to make the studends “feel good”’

Effective teaching is expensive. Search for “US School Boards” to get up a whole list of financial and political issues along with religious ones as well.

The results of “Reaganomics” and later “Free-Market” neo-con policy mantras that defy logic, reason, and sense, that are still in place and acromoniously fought for in every spending round have turned US high school education not into just a lottery but an active war zone.

“But I can not think of anything else this system does”

Well it does move the “results” distribution curve in a direction Politicians –and worse– want to lie to you with.

After all, how can “Education be failing” if the results say “Nobody is failing” to pass…

Uthor October 13, 2023 9:47 AM

I had like the opposite of this in a college class. We had a small weekly assignment worth ten points. But, points were taken off for: not having a full name, not writing down which class it was, not writing those things in pen, not drawing a line under all that information, not writing out the question, etc, etc.

I could lose like 80% of the grade before even attempting to solve the problem.

Pent October 13, 2023 10:23 AM

Its may be the diversity movement.

No matter what is done, equal outcomes cannot be gotten from different. Economic, etc, reasons.

This dumbing down is an attempt to at least attempt equal outcomes when it comes to pass/fail statistics. Lowering standards to the point of being almost meaningless.

I know a NYC public school algebra teacher. A hard task master, the result that his students do very in the Algebra Regents exam, way above average. However, he was not commended but instead excoriated because one ethnic groups averaged below his two other groups. The question then asked was how can we lower outcomes to a level whereupon we get equitable results?

JonKnowsNothing October 13, 2023 10:46 AM


re: A basic math hack: the points needed to pass

RL: tl;dr (long ago)

I don’t recall ever paying attention to a high school grading curve, just to the periodic scores that were sent home for “review”. As if, a poor or failing maths algebra grade could be corrected by the average parent.

I do recall at the college level that every class had a syllabus that stated exactly what you needed to obtain to pass or get a particular grade slot. Some graded on the curve and some graded on a points earned level. It comes out pretty much the same. If you want an “A” or 4.0 in the USA you need 90-100% of the available scoring points.

It was shocking to me that when I was at University in France, they graded on a different 20 points scale; no one ever got a score of 20. The highest was around 17 points. So the grades were always compressed no matter how much effort you did or didn’t do. It was a grading cliff.

Then there are the confusing syllabus games professors played to check if you could read. There were some that were up front and straight forward about the scores but others had good games playing misdirection.

In one class, there was the list of standard items: quizzes, tests, midterms, reports, essays and daily turn ins. The scores were large for each of these, with lots of digits for each of them.

Then there was this odd phrasing (iirc badly)

  • you must have X points to be considered for an A

It was a odd phrase so I don’t remember exactly how it was set, but the first impression was that you only needed 50% of the total number of points available to turn in and you would get an A.

It struck me as an odd grading threshold, so I pondered a great deal on how much I needed to do to get Top Scores. It then struck me

  • That this level was not the level to get an A but the level above which you had to get before you could get any grade at all

To get Top Scores you still had to have 90%+ of the available points.

I did endeavor to explain this to my classmates but they just threw spit wads at me.

You can imagine what happened when end of term grades came out…

Uthor October 13, 2023 10:57 AM


One thing my AP chemistry teacher did, just like the AP tests did, was collect data on all her students over the years. She picked random questions from a list for all our tests and knew what an average student got on each of those questions, so she could scale the test grades according to how difficult the random questions ended up being.

Honestly, thinking back, it was a lot of work for a public school teacher to put themselves through. I don’t know if they’d be “allowed” to do that these days. But she was grading us on how good we did compared to how well other people in our situation did over the years. (though, this being an AP class, the people we were compared to were smart!)

I’ve had other teachers do that, mostly in college, but only within the one class, not over time. You get a random class of poor students, you didn’t have to work too hard. You get a random class of good students, you had to work your butt off!

Tom Hoffman October 13, 2023 11:09 AM

Actual public high school teacher here. One way of thinking about it is to ask what the average of an “A” and an “F” (for not completing the assignment) should be. Most people — especially including kids — would say “C,” but if it is the average of 0 and 100, of course it is still 50, an “F.” Indeed, then two “A”‘s and an “F” (if a 0) is still a “D.” Or 3 “A”‘s and one “F” can still be a “C.”

You might think that is correct, but it really comes down to just how much you want to negatively weigh a missing or almost completely undone assignment or test score. Neither is really more correct than the other ultimately, and there is shockingly little theory underpinning the traditional grading system anyhow. Really, I did a paper on the topic of traditional grading in grad school at Brown 25 years ago and there was virtually nothing of importance on the theory of traditional grading (that’s why all the action is in standards/outcomes/competencies, not traditional letter grading).

Perhaps the biggest reason is that the flip side of this hack is the problem of kids who buried themselves so deeply in the first half of a class that they made it mathematically impossible to pass no matter what they did. In a college, it is tough luck, but in high school, we’re legally required to keep those kids in some class, and if they have already failed, there is no leverage at all to get those kids to do anything (or behave) for as much as an entire semester.

Also there is always pressure to keep the pass rates up, etc.

Finally, if a student is really just shooting for the lowest possible passing grade, there are going to be hacks, especially if that bottom grade is a “D-.” You’ll pass, but anyone looking at the transcript or GPA will see what kind of student you were.

P Coffman October 13, 2023 11:58 AM

Exonerating the parents is no answer. If both work, what are they working for? So the children can never get a job?

dbCooper October 13, 2023 12:38 PM

Back in the 1970’s I was expelled from high school for cutting classes. Let that sink in, kid doesn’t want to come to school, what should we do? We won’t let him come.

Then, as now, the problem and solution resides with the parents.

Matt October 13, 2023 12:55 PM

Anyone who has ever done the math to average grades understands this. The standard grade values are not a bell curve with C at the middle. A 0 is 60 points below a D. There is no 160 grade that is 60 points above an A to balance it.

A single 0 can tank an entire class with no ability to recover.

Winter October 13, 2023 12:59 PM

In all this discussion about the “average” student results and points etc, I am missing the most important consideration:
What are the students supposed to learn in a course?

The grades should reflect to what extent the student mastered the skills and knowledge they were supposed to master. A failure to master these skills and knowledge in this course will hamper their performance in subsequent courses that require these skills and knowledge.

Much of the discussions I have seen tell me no one seems to care whether or not these children actually learn something. They just want to make them feel good.

Evil whispered rumors have reached that students do not make an effort in highschool because they already are convinced it will be useless and they expect that their school will not teach them anything useful. And students most certainly know about the university recruitment scandal and college recruiting preferences.[1]

[1] ‘https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/04/13/opinion/college-recruitment-rich-white.html

bl5q sw5N October 13, 2023 3:41 PM

In New York City in the 1920s the public school system even in the poorest parts of the city provided at least as good an education as that in its most exclusive private schools. Education in principle has little to do with economics or “class”, and there is no real reason this couldn’t be so today 100 years later.

If one reads the news over the last 70 years on the public system one can see that left progressive pseudo-humanist theory and formational goals coupled with management careerism in the administration contribute decisively to the destruction of education, at all levels, including the university. The destruction amounts to a deliberate policy furthering an agenda that has somehow become so ingrained that it is invisible.

Everyone would be better served by what amounts to a classical liberal arts curriculum, followed usually by apprenticeship in an industry, trade or the professions, with graduate specialties for those who feel themselves called to the intellectual life.

Steve October 13, 2023 4:16 PM

Though my high school days were definitely decades ago, I still do not recall them with any particular fondness. Those years were largely subsumed by an adversarial atmosphere devoted to endless drudgery and meaningless busy work intermingled with jockeying in the social pecking order.

Had I been smart enough, or at least devious enough, I probably would have “gamed” the system, too, since I certainly didn’t learn much other than to avoid the “jocks” and the snooty rich kids and hate all organized activities, particularly sports, with a white-hot passion.

JonKnowsNothing October 13, 2023 5:18 PM


re: They just want to make them feel good.

Maybe that is all we should hope for in those age brackets below “thinking adult”. Those ages are tough on everyone: kids, parents, teachers and society. We expect kids to be other than what they are with “YOU MUST LEARN” attitudes.

It IS better than Victorian Education systems and other rote learning systems; methods of memorize and recite which are popular with a number of religious oriented groups.

Even on the level of “making them feel good”, we Fail with a BIG FAT F.

Such as the awards medals going to the girls gymnastics team where the dude giving out the medals to everyone did not give it to one girl in the middle of the line…

I am sure, from the images as she peered at her team mates all waving their medals around that she did not feel good.

In case you don’t think gymnastics has any STEM value, try calculating the spin off the high bars or power curve acceleration on the vault.


Search Terms

Gymnastics Ireland
girl passed over for a medal

Anonymous October 13, 2023 5:21 PM

ITT: Right wingers pretending that half a century of starving our public infrastructure and institutions hasn’t had an impact and skirting the edge of blaming “woke.”

Wannabe techguy October 13, 2023 6:48 PM


Well Left winger, I don’t know about where you live, but here in Western,NY the city I live near has some of the worst school results in the nation and also has some of the most spending. They get more tax dollars every year and the results get worse. About three decades(or more) of pretending more money is the answer hasn’t helped.

Sean October 14, 2023 1:39 AM

Well, locally by me they solved that problem. They changed the pass mark to 30%, and will give 30% even if you only show up to school one day in the year.

Leads to high school graduates who are functionally illiterate, barely able to write their own name, and unable to add up 2 single digit numbers without using a calculator, and even then the answer will be wrong at least half the time.

ResearcherZero October 14, 2023 2:36 AM

@bl5q sw5N

Both sides of politics have enforced mandatory education subjects which are poorly taught, due to the lack of educational content, which contribute little to a students education.

Political “point scoring” based around controversy is an old tactic, with a negative effect, that defeats the purpose of education and informing the work force.

Wealthy industrialists are not so much interested in who you vote for, just that you can meet the minimum requirements to execute a task. Mega-donors back bills and policy, along with the government representatives who will pass or block legislation in the relevant states. There are various means that they use to nudge you in either direction.

“Nearly every state prohibits the use or transfer of the lists for commercial purposes, while several confine access to political candidates, parties for campaign purposes and some government activities. ”

“District regulations require other voter data — birthdays, contact information, where they registered, and full or partial Social Security numbers — to remain confidential.”


Organizations are being sued…



…and people are landing themselves in prison.


ResearcherZero October 14, 2023 3:03 AM

@bl5q sw5N

Many people do not understand how the electoral system, or the government process works.

Even if schools improved how governance, it’s structure, electoral processes, and jurisdictions are taught, it’s clear a lack of understanding is already widespread.

“Nine states have removed themselves from the Electronic Registration Information Center, which was designed to ensure the accuracy of voter rolls.”

ERIC is currently the only system that can catch if someone votes in more than one state, which is illegal. And election officials widely agree it helps to identify dead people on voting lists.

A rare bipartisan success story, the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC, quietly helped to clean up voter rolls and catch fraud for nearly a decade —


Record requests made to election offices

“one man’s weaponization is the other man’s legitimate request, but certainly from my standpoint, many of these are not with a productive end in mind.”


ResearcherZero October 14, 2023 3:35 AM

@bl5q sw5N

I used to sneak out of my class, and go and sit up the back of classes at the high school when I was in Year 1. They booted me out of school, which I was happy with, as I had private tutors. Eventually they made me go back to school, and it was still crap.

They taught absolutely nothing about Neils Bohr, James Clerk Maxwell, or anything about physics, even from the 1930’s! F’ing waste of my time, to put it bluntly.

The Bohr model of the atom was the first that incorporated quantum theory and was the predecessor of wholly quantum-mechanical models.

Now that it’s on the bloody internet, you can just look up old lectures…

Maxwell and Modern Theoretical Physics ~ By Prof. NIELS BoHR


Meanwhile in Year 1, they were teaching how to write the alphabet. Over and over, for days on end…

Winter October 14, 2023 5:28 AM


They taught absolutely nothing about Neils Bohr, James Clerk Maxwell, or anything about physics, even from the 1930’s! F’ing waste of my time, to put it bluntly.

It is half a century ago, but I got taught the Bohr model of Hydrogen in highschool. Maxwell required more calculus than we got in highschool.

ResearcherZero October 14, 2023 5:37 AM

The U.S. has a Bill of Rights…

“When the Australian Constitution’s framers were drafting its text in the late 1800s, they thought certain things went without saying, given the way the system was designed.”

“…the rights of individuals are sufficiently secured by ensuring, as far as possible, to each a share, and an equal share, in political power.”

Unlike laws, constitutional conventions cannot be enforced in the courts.

There’s no reference at all to the prime minister in the document. And although the Constitution requires ministers to be members of parliament, there’s no mention of terms such as “responsible government” or “ministerial responsibility”.


“…federal government is held responsible to both the House of Representatives and the Senate.”


Information Asymmetry

In particular, applicants must present the court with probative evidence to show that the relevant officer acted in bad faith—mere speculation as to the officer’s state of mind will not suffice.

The Court acknowledged that the applicants may have faced an “information asymmetry”, which arguably meant they could only make their case by pleading facts they did not know.

It has long been noted that the tort is both peculiar, in so far as it is one of our few ‘public law’ torts; and that it is very difficult to prove in practice.

“Whilst it provides a historic mechanism via which citizens harmed by abuses of public power can obtain compensation and perhaps also play a personal role in holding State actors to account, it has yielded very few victories for plaintiffs since its revival in the second half of the 20th century.”


And it is not too much better for private outfits…

The publications of official agencies demonstrates that malfeasance by the private
sector is widespread in Australia.

The effect of that clause is that the Manager will not be liable unless it has at least been grossly negligent. “Gross negligence” is not a term with a precise meaning…


ResearcherZero October 14, 2023 5:44 AM

Basically if one is an idiot, there is little in the way of legal recourse to address the situation. At least in my case. 😉

Ron Helwig October 14, 2023 7:57 AM

The core of the problem, of course, is politics. A public education system might start out doing well but over time it is certainly going to deteriorate as politicians have to mess with it.
The answer is to create a wall of separation between education and state. We need it not only to get better education for the children, but also for the same reason we need a wall of separation between religion and state: the state cannot help but use the tools it is given to bend minds in its favor, and that is far too dangerous.
Sure, a few kids might fall through the cracks, but that’s got to be a lot better than the current system that fails most of them.

bl5q sw5N October 14, 2023 11:31 AM

@ Winter @ Ron Helwig

Re: The situation in the USA is particular

A helpful book is Dennis Mahoney “Politics and Progress.”

The USA originally trusted its government of the people, by the people, for the people, and its educational policies, e.g. President John Adams “the whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people …“ . There was consensus as to the good.

In the latter part of the 19th century, the utopian ideology of “progress”, essentially an expression of dialectical materialism, became the social template of the expert class, abandoning any notion of society as an outgrowth of a fixed human nature, and destroying consensus and dividing society.

JonKnowsNothing October 14, 2023 12:08 PM

@Winter, All


the civil war, the KKK terror and death squads after the abolition of slavery, the genocide on native populations, and the war against “Communism” and Unions after WW I

fwiw, nearly none of that would be taught in USA grade schools (younger folks) or high schools (teenage years) or even basic University (18-20) classes.


You might get a bit of some of them in upper level specialty elective courses or special lectures or honors courses but not much, if any, below “thinking adult” level.

That information can be found in books that are not part of any curriculum. (1)

That is not to say the topics are not important but you have to get there by other means.

Also you might want to take note, that Americans do not know what the words “Communism, Socialism, and Progressive” mean. They only know that those words are assigned like Scarlet Letters to anyone or any group that thinks

  • Rich People Should Pay More Taxes so Poor People Can Afford to Eat, Have Housing and the Basic Needs of Life

They are the f-bombs applied to concepts.


1) There are some books aimed at younger people attempting to engage in the topics but the push back is great and the over view applied is a tiny window.

ht tps://en.wikipedia. o r g/wiki/Maus

Clive Robinson October 14, 2023 12:34 PM

@ ALL,

You need to realise that there is,

“A tension in the system of evolution.”

It is between the individual and the group.

What may be good for an individual, is at somepoint divergant from what is good for the larger society. Likewise what might be benificial for larger society now, may be bad for the individual, then later bad for society or both.

A result of which we tend to see trends in society swing around a point that it’s self moves. For the majority they would like the movment of that point to be generally favourable for not just them but others as well. Some however take a rather different and generally detrimental view, even for themselves.

In more the “political” view after stripping off the rhetoric, mantras and other verbiage, you end up with,

“Rights of the individual -v- Responsability to society”

Which covers a part of the stressor, but even with this some will always take the view they have no responsability to society, which is unfortunate.

As an observer looking in, the US appears to emphasise the “Individual Rights” via “Might is Right” over the “Social Responsibilities” that “like a rising tide lift all well found boats”.

It’s funny in a sad way, because the US has moved well beyond the point an individual can exist outside of society of some form.

It’s something all people should think about because nature is replete with examples of what happens when things go to far, and none have outcomes that are favourable to the participants.

Anon October 14, 2023 2:40 PM

Re: “I think the civil war, the KKK terror and death squads after the abolition of slavery, the genocide on native populations, and the war against “Communism” and Unions after WW I are more relevant.”

Winter does not like bigotry and hate. What a relief.

bl5q sw5N October 14, 2023 3:37 PM

@ Winter @ Clive Robinson

I think the civil war …

“Rights of the individual -v- Responsability to society”

The evils you cite are failures of the USA to live up to its own principles enumerated in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. They are real evils but the remedy is at hand in those founding documents.

The progressive shift removes those principles and prevents any remedy Woodrow Wilson was explicit about this, and so have been many politicians and jurists since him. It is a recipe for a drive to totalitarianism and evils on a much greater scale.

Clive Robinson October 14, 2023 3:57 PM

@ Winter, ALL,

Re : Healthcare for all.


blockquote>”a most funny episode is Bernie Sanders asking a crowd at Fox News whether they want medicare for all”



The question that almost never comes up even after C19 is,

“Do you want to die because someone near you in your community is sick?”

It’s disease transmission 101 if the population is healthy they are less prone to disease, and if some one gets sick and they are treated promptly then infection generally does not spread and get out of control.

However have a population where even a very few do not have prompt access to healthcare then,

“It’s the rotten apple that spoils the whole barrel.”

The effect comes galloping in on one of the four horses (war, famine, pestilence, death).

Over four thousand years of recorded history tells us this, yet for some reason many in the US either do not know this or believe they are somehow above/immune to this.

It’s like a game of “rock paper scissors” with “war, famine, pestilence” historically you get dealt one and the other two follow, with death always,being the card that makes the trick.

It can be shown that if you stop war then society can progress to better things, the same is true for famine and pestilence. Put simply if you have a healthy population they can develop and death gets pushed further away.

But if you have an unhealthy population then death comes sooner. Of most Western nations the average age of death is increasing, but in the US… What does that tell people about,

1, The health of US society?
2, When a US resident is going to die?

So when you realise you are actually pointing a gun at your own head with the current system you have and spining the chamber every year or less and squeasing the trigger…

The famous Clint Eastward Dirty Harry question comes to mind…


Clive Robinson October 14, 2023 5:20 PM

@ ALL,

Deity curse the autocorrection spell checker…

Some of the less than tender years here will note it should be “Eastwood” not “Eastward”…

@ bl5q sw5N, Winter, ALL,

“The progressive shift removes those principles and prevents any remedy Woodrow Wilson was explicit about this, and so have been many politicians and jurists since him. It is a recipe for a drive to totalitarianism and evils on a much greater scale.”

I’m not even sure “Woodrow Wilson”[1] gets a look in on the “approved curricula” these days in some places…

[1] 28th US President, Thomas’s parents were a Presbyterian minister and daughter of a Presbyterian minister of a predominantly Scottish heritage. Born in Staunton, Virginia, he had a strict and academic upbringing. He is known for breaking the US “issolationist policy” and taking the US into “The Great War” and perhaps more importantly the driving force behind the formation of the League of Nations (which unfortunately fsilrd for political reasons which is why we ended up with WWII and the almost usless United Nations).

He was a marked “Progressive Democrat” who strongly believed in using the power of the federal government to expose and root-out corruption, and eliminate unethical business practices. Along with stronger regulate the US economy, and thereby improve the general condition of all the citizens of US society. Which might account for why he is not at all popular with some.

Sadly he had a parylitic stroke which blighted his second Presedential term, which caused issues that some chose to remembered him for.

Winter October 15, 2023 3:45 AM

@bl5q sw5N

It is a recipe for a drive to totalitarianism and evils on a much greater scale.

You mean like in, eg, Canada, Sweden, or France?

Or do you have any real examples?

Both Russia and China, the customary bogeymen, let poor people simply starve before their revolutions that installed tyranny from the very start.

So, which examples do you have for your assertion?

JonKnowsNothing October 15, 2023 11:39 AM

@Winter, All

re: [Fill in the blank] let poor people simply starve …

Rather an over broad and not a terribly accurate description and attribution of events.

It is not all that simple that A->B especially when it comes to change of regime.

Historically there is always a catalyst and event that marks a pivot point from which no regime survives. From ancient times through modern times the pivot point only becomes recognized after the fact. In fact, if the point was recognized prior to the tip over, the entire historical chain would change.

There are a lot of fun fiction of alternate histories and it is popular theme in science fiction/fantasy of What Ifs.

There are perhaps only a few ruling dynasties that recognized their dependence on popular support and even within those dynasties there are more than a few OH SHYTE events triggered because of the normal disconnect between the Rich and the Poor.

  • Rich people do not think anything needs to be changed because they are doing all right
  • Poor people just want the base level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (1)

When those views are coupled with climate change or agricultural disasters and people run out of the very basics of life, things change. It isn’t linear change.

Today we see the continuation of Thousand Year Wars and new eruptions of Generational Wars, effects of climate changes around the world with crop failures, poor harvests and economic deprivations.

Any of those, in some future historical analysis, may be given as attribution and tipping point to changes from one ruling set to another ruling set.

  • Pharaoh dreamt of seven lean cows which devoured seven fat cows; and of seven withered ears of grain which devoured seven fat ears.

Today a MSM report of settlement of a case against the State of Florida under Governor Ron DeSantis who withheld SARS-CoV-2 data from Florida citizens. (2) Part of the information was the unpublished data that 23,000 Florida residents died of COVID during that period.

  • Would 23,000 deaths be a tipping point? 230,000 deaths? 2,300,000 deaths? 23,000,000?

It is hard to know when you are approaching a tipping point, much less that you are at one, until the consequences of ignorance are revealed.

All those ancient monuments, deserted cities, and the rubble under the base-ment floor, attest to just how hard it is.


1) htt ps://en.wikipedia.o r g/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs

2) HAIL Warning

ht tps://www.theguardian.c o m/us-news/2023/oct/15/ron-desantis-republican-presidential-campaign-covid-data-florida-deaths

  • Twenty-three thousand Floridians died during the Delta surge, and not only did the DeSantis administration restrict information on Covid during that time, they repeatedly downplayed the severity of the outbreak

Clive Robinson October 15, 2023 12:22 PM

@ JonKnowsNothing,

With regards,

“Twenty-three thousand Floridians died during the Delta surge, and not only did the DeSantis administration restrict information on Covid during that time, they repeatedly downplayed the severity of the outbreak”

Almost the first question that arises is,


But when you look at other “Southern States” you start to realise there is a pattern of such behaviours. Texas and it’s “grid” issues with fossil fuel supply, even food and very especially water.

History tells us about “Water Wars” and it’s clear to see the modern equivalent is “Energy Wars” as well as the ever present but recently highlighted “Food Wars” via what is happening at the East of Europe[1].

Some will say,

“The lunatics have taken over the asylum.”

Others who perhaps take a more historical view will say,

“Why did we let them?”

I think in the past I’ve revealed some of my thinking, as always some will agree and others not, some violently so.

I urge people to think carefully about those who behave violently, especially when “they wear a shirt” or “colours” such people tend to be not the best of us for many reasons, yet others far worse are happy to use them.

The faux-mantra of “For the common good” via “Might is Right” is not the way a society should function, but all to often it is the way it becomes…

[1] If we think of them as “Resource Control Wars” we can see that they are occuring from the tred of an ever faster turning wheel. To see but one recent one, think of what is happening with AI and ML in the form of LLM’s.

TeachersLeaveOurKidsAlone October 15, 2023 5:59 PM


Back in the 1970’s I was expelled from high school for cutting classes. Let that sink in

In University I was cutting classes all the time. I did attend all the exams nevertheless and would actually get results above the average. All my grades were suddenly nullified when a ruling was made into place that every student had a minimum threshold of attendance. I had to redo all the mid-term exams as a final exam (more difficult since you had more material to get into your head) for all the single classes to survive. I had teachers saying to me that it was unfair what was being done to me. I did manage to qualify.

ResearcherZero October 16, 2023 12:03 AM

“Cognitive scientists had settled the question of how kids learn to read back in the 1990s. For lots of kids, direct instruction in linking letters and letter combinations to sound matters, and a lot. Teacher training programs, like the one Calkins founded, ignored that memo.


Winter October 16, 2023 1:26 AM


Rather an over broad and not a terribly accurate description and attribution of events.

Lack of government welfare was not a cause of revolutions in Russia or China (or anywhere else). My point was exactly that social welfare was not an issue in the revolution nor was social welfare an issue in the rise of tyranny.

This whole “social welfare is the root of Stalist/Maoists tyranny” is a Conservative just so story to scare children. They want to retroactively discredit Roosevelt’s New
Deal because it was widely succesvol.

In my opinion the fear for successful government programs was also a big factor behind the opposition against policies to protect the population against the last epidemic. Rather kill a million Americans than let them be saved by big government.

bl5q sw5N October 16, 2023 6:15 AM

@ Winter

which examples do you have

All the ones you list, plus the USA, the UK, and nearly every European country, each at various points along the way to the total enslavement and annihilation of humankind under complete statist rule, which will probably be “comfortable” and “reasonable” in its day to day workings provided persons meet state mandated criteria. As an example, more and more widely accepted “medical” practices have within them the principle that the state may arbitrarily (ie without reference to the implications of human nature) set limits on the terminal points of human life.

bl5q sw5N October 16, 2023 6:27 AM

@ Winter


See Aurel Kolnai, Three Riders of the Apocalypse: Communism, Nazism and Progressive Democracy (1950)

“… Progressive Democracy represent[s] the maimed forms of normal human society, not integrally suppressed but, respectively, overlaid with a fiendish tyranny totalitarian in temper, and infiltrated by the virus of subversive utopia bound for a totalitarian goa. … Notwithstanding the subtle expansion of the old concept of political liberty into that of “Freedom from Want” and the surreptitious displacement of citizens’ rights by the changeling idol of a “right to security,” the elements of the “rights of man” and “the dignity of the individual” cannot be wholly ousted from Progressive Democracy short of a radical overthrow of the system: until that, the bar to keep out tyranny proper continues acting, though there is no denying that the inward logic of the system makes it wear ever thinner and threatens to eat it away altogether.”

(Reprinted in Privilege and Liberty and Other Essays in Political Philosophy, ed. Daniel J. Mahoney)

Winter October 16, 2023 6:59 AM


All the ones you list, plus the USA, the UK, and nearly every European country, each at various points along the way to the total enslavement and annihilation of humankind under complete statist rule,

So true, but none of these states had anything remotely resembling “welfare” in any form when they went on tho annihilate humankind. State intervention went little further than making people die for their country. Also, many of these states, eg, the UK, did the enslavement and annihilation outside of their borders. The UK attempted genocide in Ireland and Bengal, but not so much in the UK (after 1800).

So, I still see no link between “welfare” and “social support” and tyranny. I see al lot of that in Free Enterprise and enslavement, eg, the North Atlantic slave trade was all based on free enterprise.

Winter October 16, 2023 7:10 AM

@bl5q sw5N

Progressive Democracy represent[s] the maimed forms of normal human society, not integrally suppressed but, respectively, overlaid with a fiendish tyranny totalitarian in temper, and infiltrated by the virus of subversive utopia bound for a totalitarian goa.

Just writing that some of the worst tyrannies must be like progressive Democracy does not make it so.

Russia and China have never been democracies before their mid-20th century tyrannies. Germany and Italy were a democracy for 20 odd years before this was cut short. Cuba and Cambodia pre-revolution could be called many things, but never ever a progressive democracy.

Now, lets look at France and the Netherlands, these countries have been stable states since the early 19th century, after Napoleon. They have existed as countries for centuries, and were able to rebound gracefully after foreign occupation.

In the 2 centuries since Napoleon, where did the tyranny emerge? And in Scandinavia? Sweden has been a sovereign country from before the US. Where did the tyranny emerge?

So, where are the examples of “progressive democracies” descending into the Apocalypse? I see only name-calling and just-so stories.

Anon October 16, 2023 8:01 AM


Winter’s comments pertaining to Americans can appear menacing. Like this one:


“Winter • September 9, 2023 3:34 AM

Where I live, you cannot have a visible clothes line, you cannot hang your clothes outside, and you cannot set out wet bathing suits, swim towels etc to dry in the sun.

Land of the Free! Live Free Or Die!

Sorry, could not resist”

So when he uses phrases like this today – even within a different context – they can also feel menacing.

Rather kill a million Americans than let them be saved by big government.

Clive Robinson October 16, 2023 8:35 AM

@ Anon,

“So when he uses phrases like this today – even within a different context – they can also feel menacing.”

So what?

Life is neither fair or fun, and “menacing” is unfortunately part of life due to the way your brain works.

It’s why adults shout warnings at children about to put their hands in a fire or get to close to some other hazard the child does not yet comprehend (but will if they survive long enough do so).

Unfortunately it is what those behind the likes of “Political Correctness” and more recently “Cancel Culture” rely on to get their unwaranted and often abused power over others.

Personally I find such dishonest behaviours to be of a very significant and real threat way beyond what you might think of as “menacing”.

That “Land of the Free! Live Free Or Die!” is clearly not menacing by a primary dictionary meaning, but it is both satire and sarcasm to make a point.

So I suspect you have “altetnative” motives that are actually “Cancel Culture” or equivalent that are a menace to both society and “Free Speech”.

So perhaps I should ask,

“If you are an American Citizen are you trying to deny a non American Citizen a right you claim to have?”

Because there are several dictionary words for such behaviours, and many are not nice.

bl5q sw5N October 16, 2023 12:35 PM

@ Winter

I personally certainly want to decide

Except one doesn’t have that moral right. Additionally, any argument that an individual has such a right would contain a principle that would allow society to make that same choice for them. This inner logic would then qiite quickly establish itself as practice.

JonKnowsNothing October 16, 2023 10:05 PM

@Winter, @bl5q sw5N, All


The Dutch healthcare budget is closing in on $100B/year. State pensions are closing in on $50B/year.

Why are you thinking that a few thousand “good ends” of dying people will make a dent in these numbers?

Regarding the value of “early ends”, you might want to check the archives here for my posts on “The Bank of Mom and Dad”, both here and maybe on the wayback machine.

These posts from 2019+ detail the cost savings to governments of excess deaths from SARS-CoV-2. They use Government provided numbers and cover a number of scenarios. One important aspect of those numbers is that they calculate The Value of Excess Deaths .

That value was a major aspect between different government responses to the pandemic and death toll. Those values have not changed a lot (2023) but the impacts are now well incorporated into future and ongoing responses.

Excess Deaths are not that much different than Deaths of Despair aka deaths occurring earlier than mortality and longevity tables predict.

You might be able to extrapolate from those numbers without having a supercomputer to do the full modeling.

As an adjunct I can recommend the following book

Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism.

Case, Anne; Deaton, Angus (2020). Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0691190785.

* Life expectancy in the United States has recently fallen for three years in a row—a reversal not seen since 1918 or in any other wealthy nation in modern times. In the past two decades, deaths of despair from suicide, drug overdose, and alcoholism have risen dramatically, and now claim hundreds of thousands of American lives each year—and they’re still rising. Anne Case and Angus Deaton, known for first sounding the alarm about deaths of despair, explain the overwhelming surge in these deaths and shed light on the social and economic forces that are making life harder for the working class. They demonstrate why, for those who used to prosper in America, capitalism is no longer delivering.

ht tps://press.princeton.edu/books/hardcover/9780691190785/deaths-of-despair-and-the-future-of-capitalism

ht tps://en.wikipedia.o r g/wiki/Angus_Deaton

* In 2015, he was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his analysis of consumption, poverty, and welfare

ht tps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Case

* an American economist who is currently the Alexander Stewart 1886 Professor of Economics and Public Affairs, emeritus, at Princeton University.

JonKnowsNothing October 17, 2023 2:36 AM


re: For euthanasia, the numbers do not add up.

Well, actually they do add up and for the same reasons as we discovered in the public sphere what was going on in the behind the scenes modeling.

There are 2 numbers to note in general

  • Mortality = the date was which your cohort is expected to die
  • Longevity = how long a person is expected to live

Per the book I referenced, every major country except the USA has seen their population get older and die later than previous generations.

Starting circa 1970 in the USA the numbers went the other direction. People die sooner and they don’t live as long. A significant difference.

When calculating the value from the Excess Death Savings, it shows that even a small number of “early” deaths make a big difference in the government coffers. Not just in direct savings (pensions paid) but indirect savings (medical care, housing, food). For every aspect of modern life from shoes to hair cuts, to bus fare and cookware, and aging population is a drag on the entire system.

It’s one of the reasons countries that focused their economies on “All Work Because It’s My Dime” of their workforce, left not much over for families and refill workers. Those countries are now Top Heavy with Old People needing more care than previously and all the daily activities to go with it.

There are at least 3 aspects to consider how governments plan to deal with the top heavy population

1) Natural aging and dying – reserved for wealth and able to pay full costs on their own. In the USA this is more than $15,000 per month for ambulatory people with no serious health conditions other than age. If they need extra care or assistance or have difficulty navigating on their own, the price rises significantly. You can plan on 3 full time care givers 24/7 until death, plus medical care, medicines, durable medical equipment, transportation adjustments (car and wheelchairs). A motorized wheelchair will cost $20,000 or more and a motorized hospital bed is $30,000+.

2) Do Nothing Medical Care, comes under a variety of names, but it refers to the costs of the last 2 years of life requiring extensive and expensive medical care in return for a few months, days of extra life. At some point you will run into SOFA Scoring and Age Determined Do Nothing Medical Care. In the USA it starts at age 60-65yo. As you get older to 70+ do not expect any significant medical expenditures to happen. Unless you are in group 1 and can pay out of pocket.

3) The desire of some people to by pass the complex process of dying that can take a long time before terminal death happens. There’s a huge list of conditions that can fall into this category. Some conditions may take decades before things get unpleasant or painful. Other conditions are sudden onset and the Quality of Life falls off the graph. When coupled with group 2, the last 2 years are not going to get much improvement. There are a number of programs that promote various paths for and against this concept but one thing that is sure:

  • (USA) No one from the health care system is going to come to your home 24×7 to help you care for a terminally ill person who may die tomorrow, 2 years from now or 10 years from now, unless you have other means to get and pay for it.

There are programs that may help but few actually qualify for them. (a)

So, while considering a few cases in group 3, be mindful that group 1 and group 2 are the real drivers and the savings are enormous.

a) RL tl;dr (USA) This week the local County offered COVID and Flu vaccinations at a walk-in clinic. I went to get a COVID shot (ahem). I was asked to provide ID, which I did. I was asked if I had another health plan. I told them I did and I would like a shot as I am immune compromised. I was refused the vaccination.

It is perhaps a different post to explain why a “free shot clinic” would not give me a shot because I had a basic senior health plan. In summary it has to do with

  • Who is paying $98 per dose for each vaccine

Which changed ~Aug 2023. I was going to cost the County $98 dollars that they cannot re-bill to my basic senior health plan. I was not worth $98 from the County’s POV.

Clive Robinson October 17, 2023 4:15 AM

@ Winter, JonKnowsNothing,

Re : Japan -v- America longevity.

“And they do not need to kill old people like the US is doing. So why can the US not do so?”

Different people doing the killing…

It’s not realy talked about as much as it should be but you set your likely age of death in your teenage years due to what you eat.

If you have a low energy density diet with a low ratio of protien you just don’t grow as physically large.

The result of this is you do not put anything like the strain on your body that you do if you do grow large in stature (even if you stay very lean).

The areas the strain shows up in the population is cardio-vascular and joints, especially in the lower spine and legs.

Both of which contribute to an early demise directly, but also to chronic –rather than acute– systemic organ failure.

They say there are three basic ways to die,

1, By insult (accident, infection etc)
2, Live long and well die fast.
3, Live unwell and die young and slow.

Japan tends to 2, America 3 and 1.

Corn syrup might be nice in everything and bacon go with everything… Including an early and chronic death of you and via epi-genetics your grand children as well…

It was actually known before we got into our teens, but it was suppressed by Ancel Keys and the food industry via “Big Agro” in America and else where. Then “Big Phama” got in on the act, with drugs that don’t cure or stop the damage, just relieve the symptoms you feel in your head (CNS suppressants).

The important thing to note is that excess calories and poisonous organic waste repurposed into food along with nitrates found originally in dung heaps then used as poisons so food like meat does not rot, certain sugars to likewise stop fruit and vegtables rotting and neuro-toxins like acid alcohols are realy not what nature designed us to survive on.

Whilst I don’t exactly agree with the premise behind this,


It’s got a lot of factual information and time points correct.

Winter October 17, 2023 5:49 AM


It was actually known before we got into our teens, but it was suppressed by Ancel Keys and the food industry via “Big Agro” in America and else where.

The root causes of current US problems are pretty obvious (already in 2017):


In December, the National Bureau of Economic Research published a new analysis, by the economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman, which found that half of American adults have been “completely shut off from economic growth since the 1970s.” Approximately a hundred and seventeen million people earn, on average, the same income that they did in 1980, while the typical income for the top one per cent has nearly tripled. That gap is comparable to the gap between average incomes in the U.S. and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the authors wrote.

JonKnowsNothing October 17, 2023 1:18 PM

@Winter, @Clive, All

A recent MSM article on the age demographics of homeless persons in LA County had a rather stunning statistic: (1)

  • 44% of homeless in Los Angeles County, California are over 55yo and living in their cars (a)

California is about to be hit by an aging population wave

In California, older adults have been among the fastest-growing
segments of the homeless population. In Los Angeles County, the
latest count showed an 11% increase in homeless people 65 and
older. And roughly 14,000 people of all ages are living in cars, vans
and RVs.

In the latest census, about 44% were 55 and older, while 21% were 62 and older.

[comment from an interview]

“I think what happens is … you’re on a war footing. You start to
identify with it. When you’re homeless, money is relatively free and
you don’t have rent or dry cleaning. I wonder, if you go back to an
apartment … and sink a lot of money into it … and every year they
raise your rent, could you be wiped out again?”

So here is another segment that goes under the radar. Older persons that fall off the statistical charts and below public awareness. They belong in the same cohort as people with wealth and those with marginal or minimal wealth (such as housing), their medical issues are already on the downside of SOFA Scores.

Japan has a lock on the “Dying for the Economy” title. They even have a word for dropping dead at the office: Karoshi. (2)


1) HAIL Warning

htt ps://www.latimes. c o m/california/story/2023-10-14/column-almost-70-unemployed-worried-about-his-health-and-living-in-his-car

a) The statistic is not clear if it is based over the entire homeless population or only over the total of homeless living in vehicles. Not everyone has a car, van, RV.

2) ht tps://en.wikipedia. o rg/wiki/Karoshi

  • Karoshi which can be translated into “overwork death”, is a Japanese term relating to occupation-related sudden death.
  • Karoshi is also widespread in other parts of Asia. Generally, deaths from overwork are a worldwide occurrence. For example, over 770 wage labourers die of overwork annually in Sweden, a country with robust labour regulations. The death toll is, however, expected to increase in the future.

Joulu October 17, 2023 1:46 PM


Winter’s been a staple on this forum for yonks, I don’t think your bs reports’ll do anything

Anon October 17, 2023 2:51 PM


Bruce writes in major publications about democracy. If he wants to delete my comments or share his thoughts I’m sure he could or would.

Clive Robinson October 17, 2023 7:30 PM

@ Anon,

Re : Threats…

“Bruce writes in major publications about democracy.”

That sounds a lot like a,

“I know where you live!”

Style threat, it’s certainly menacing…

So if you don’t get your way then what?

You will try stiring up preasure from a different direction?

Send out “poison missives” to “the editor” and “to those whom it may concern”?

What coloured ink will you write in?

Winter October 18, 2023 1:01 AM


44% of homeless in Los Angeles County, California are over 55yo and living in their cars (a)

It is sad. This is the other side of “the country’s three richest individuals—Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Jeff Bezos—collectively hold more wealth than the bottom 50%“. [1]

I have read stories about people with jobs living in cars in California for two decades. I always worry what happens when their car brakes down?

[1] ‘https://www.forbes.com/sites/noahkirsch/2017/11/09/the-3-richest-americans-hold-more-wealth-than-bottom-50-of-country-study-finds/

JonKnowsNothing October 18, 2023 2:21 AM


re: what happens when their car brakes down?

The outcome depends on what savings a person has or if they have no savings at all.

In California some years ago, the old “Big Fin Wing” cars from the 1950-1960s were required by law to be junked. There are some old cars registered as antiques and some are used in the movie industry for period movies but the simple car with spark plugs and carburetor that could be fixed by any shade-tree mechanic were removed.

So people had to buy newer cars, which appeared nicer but came with a lot more headaches with computer circuitry and No Right To Repair outside of an authorized dealer.

Cars that once were cheap enough to repair by yourself were replaced by cars that are almost impossible to repair.

It is a personal catastrophe.

When the cost of repair is so great or the car,van has so much wrong with it that the repairs just start mounting up; the alternative is another used vehicle. The cost of used cars is also astronomical and there is no guarantee that it is any more serviceable than the previous car.

  • A 5 year old used car can cost $30,000 USD. No one is even thinking Tesla.

In California, one of back flows of government changes starting ~1970, was the consolidation of government facilities into a central hub. Like network systems that expand or shrink depending on configurations, the decision was to remove all distant offices and form one big service center. Those centers are in the down towns of many cities.

We are also a State that is highly urbanized. Without a car you cannot go very many places. Public transportation systems are designed to be failures because they do not take people where they need to go. They end short of the needed destination. Without a car you cannot get to the end points.

People without cars, camp on the street. People with cars that are not operating or determined to be in violation of 24-48-72 stationary rules, have them towed and impounded. Cost to get a car out of impound can run thousands of dollars in fees, fines, storage charges. Many times the car is legally taken by the city and impound lot to pay for the fines.

There are groups that specialize in helping people live in their cars. They cover the gamut of campers, RVers, Off Roaders, Off Griders, to Nomads and the Houseless. If you are in reasonable health you can do OK if you have enough money to pay for repairs and maintenance. These organizations have suggestions on how to save enough money to pay for such expenses.

  • A set of 4 basic tires costs $600-1,000 USD.
  • If your RV is dually rear axle you need 2 tires on each side = 4 tires for the rear.
  • Error Code Check $95-$250 USD to hook up the code reader per code check.

Eventually though, age and illness catch up. The cold, the heat, the discomfort, the cramped positions, the lack of age or illness mitigations (toilets, grab bars, steps) and being sick in a car, where your option is roll down the window or open the door, force people into living in tents closer to the services hub.

Once foot-bound, you are at the mercy of the police, politicians, citizens who dislike looking at you and the lack of medical care needed for a large portion of the homeless population.

  • In a TV Series with Miriam Margolyes is traveling around Australia (1), meeting people from different parts of the country. There is one encounter where MM is parked at a camp ground. She meets a nice woman and they hang about the campfire in front of the lady’s RV. MM asks the woman where does she live, and the women points to her RV. MM says she means where is her house when she is not camping. The woman says: This is my house.

Composting Toilets are both a necessity and a luxury. (2)


ht tps://en.wikipedia.o r g/wiki/Miriam_Margolyes

Miriam Margolyes: Almost Australian

ht tps://en.wikipedia.o rg/wiki/Composting_toilet

Winter October 18, 2023 2:41 AM


Eventually though, age and illness catch up.

In the Netherlands they say that after 10 years on the streets, you end up with bronchitis. The time might depend on the weather, though.

So yeah, living on the street kills.

Reminds me of the “Grapes of Wrath”
(saw the movie long ago, never read the book).

bl5q sw5N October 18, 2023 10:59 AM

@ Winter

Re: wake up and smell the coffee

just- so stories

Professor Peter Singer urges a lot of them on everyone in his “Practical Ethics”. See [1] –

“Human babies are not born self-aware, or capable of grasping that they exist over time. They are not persons.” But animals are self-aware, and therefore, “the life of a newborn is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog, or a chimpanzee.

The article points out that Singer’s view that there is a practical-ethics right of society to judge anyone’s quality of life and to end lives whose scorecard result is too low is gaining support from “decent people”.

The article is from 1999, and today political figures in the USA openy espouse Singer’s ideas as policy.

  1. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/opinions/1999/09/11/a-professor-who-argues-for-infanticide/cce7dc81-3775-4ef6-bfea-74cd795fc43f/

Winter October 18, 2023 11:25 AM

@bl5q sw5N

Professor Peter Singer urges a lot of them on everyone in his “Practical Ethics”.

Ethics is a branch of Philosophy that is good at asking questions, but less good at giving answers.

We can indeed argue about the ethics of our treatment of animals. But that question is irrelevant for the ethics of self-determination and the right to choose your own end. Maybe Prof Singer has thoughts about the ethics of animals chosing to terminate their own life, but I have not seen them yet.

PS: I seriously doubt whether Prof Singer really advocated infanticide.

PPS: Infanticide was widely practiced before the invention of safe abortions and anti-conception. Read, eg, Goethe’s Faust.

Bl5q sw5N October 18, 2023 11:49 AM

@ Winter


It is obvious treatment of animals is not the focus here.

As for Singer not advocating infanticide, he does by arguing the utilitarian case for it.

“a period of 28 days after birth might be allowed before an infant is accepted as having the same right to live as others.” [1].

  1. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Should_the_Baby_Live%3F

To your postscript, biology shows after conception there is only growth, so at any stage it is infanticide.

JonKnowsNothing October 18, 2023 12:16 PM


re: John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath, Cannery Row


The Grapes of Wrath was heavily sanitized in the movie. At that time, any controversial items in cinema were subject to censorship. The real impact is in the books.

The real life values from the books comes from watching streams of refugees carrying their few possessions, dropping them one by one along their paths, as exhaustion over takes them, until they have only themselves and rags of clothes to wear. In the books the lucky ones made it to California. In real life, the lucky ones are the ones that do not drown.

Excerpt of the book (from WikiP)

This is the beginning—from “I” to “we”. If you who own the things people must have could understand this, you might preserve yourself. If you could separate causes from results, if you could know that Paine, Marx, Jefferson, Lenin were results, not causes, you might survive. But that you cannot know. For the quality of owning freezes you forever into “I”, and cuts you off forever from the “we”.

— Chapter 14

A better sense comes from his book Cannery Row. It is often taught in US High Schools as a book of humor from a great author. It is indeed funny, the escapades of the people who live on cannery row, written as “theater of the absurd”.

However, if you re-read it, it is also a devastating indictment of the way people are treated and forced to carry out their lives in poverty, destitution, and hunger. The humor barely covers the naked desperation of people living out their lives with no hope, no future, who have nothing.

If you read it, you might find nothing has changed in the USA since 1945. In Cannery Row people live in old discarded sardine factory boiler tanks. Today they live in junk-heap cars.

fwiw: I live in the areas covered by these stories. The attitudes described then, are not much different to attitudes towards migrant workers today.


h ttps://en.wikipedia. o rg/wiki/John_Steinbeck

ht tps://en.wikipedia. or g/wiki/Grapes_of_wrath

http s://en.wikipedia. o r g/wiki/Cannery_Row_(novel)

(url fractured)

Winter October 18, 2023 1:14 PM

@Bl5q sw5N

As for Singer not advocating infanticide, he does by arguing the utilitarian case for it.

I have not read that book. I know about the contemporary discussions about severely (congenital) sick babies that will die in great pain a few months after birth. These conditions are incurable and the pain cannot be medicated. Parents and medical staff find the suffering of these babies unbearable.

To your postscript, biology shows after conception there is only growth, so at any stage it is infanticide.

My PPS was a fact of history showing that people did things differently in earlier times.[1] Your position is a religious one, developed during the first millenium CA.

Growth is irrelevant to the medical question which is only about the ability of the fetus ability to survive outside of its mother.

[1] For the old testament, see

Winter October 18, 2023 1:19 PM


The Grapes of Wrath was heavily sanitized in the movie.

I thought as much. I had enough books to read about the misery dolled out in Europe to leave those in the US alone.

Winter October 18, 2023 1:55 PM

Back on topic:

@bl5q sw5N

It is a recipe for a drive to totalitarianism and evils on a much greater scale.

What your diversions into pro-life religion [1] shows is that your concerns are about people being free to decide about their own body and fate. You want the right to deny them a say in their own fate. And indeed, progressive democracies give people the freedom to decide their own fate.

[1] Curiously, not into capital punishment.

Winter October 18, 2023 3:04 PM

@bl5q sw5N

At no point was religion mentioned.

But your positions and arguments are directly from Sunday school and pro-life pamflets

Anonymous October 19, 2023 12:07 AM

students often make mistakes and struggle academically during their early high school years. Implementing a policy that supports and helps them to improve their grades can potentially be beneficial.

bl5q sw5N October 19, 2023 1:29 PM


these arguments rest on nothing but a very specific interpretation of some sacred scriptures

It’s an ad hominem because you attribute a motive (in this case religious adherence simply) which is nowhere expressed. The arguments expressed are qua human nature. That their conclusion might coincide with that of a religious position is irrelevant here.

It’s a petitio principii because you say the argument is dismissible if one is not of that religion. But that implicitly assumes religious statements never convey truths that are also knowable by unaided reason, and are therefore negligible.

Winter October 19, 2023 2:01 PM

@bl5q sw5N

It’s an ad hominem because you attribute a motive (in this case religious adherence simply) which is nowhere expressed.

I am guilty of drawing conclusions along the lines of if it walks like a duck…. You are right, it does not have to be a duck if it walks, quacks, swims, and looks like a duck.

But that implicitly assumes religious statements never convey truths that are also knowable by unaided reason, and are therefore negligible.

If they are specific for that religion then it probably not knowable by unaided reason. Especially when they have to be implemented by force against the will of the victims.

bl5q sw5N October 19, 2023 3:59 PM

@ Winter

if it walks like a duck….

I agree that if something displays all the characteristics of a duck, then it’s most probably a duck.

But your position seems to be even if something is said to have all the characteristics of a duck, then it’s probably not a duck if the person relating the information is wearing clerical garb.

If they are specific for that religion

Again, nothing intrinsically specific to a religion was ever stated.

Winter October 20, 2023 3:08 AM

@bl5q sw5N

then it’s probably not a duck if the person relating the information is wearing clerical garb.

Clergy have been known to be unreliable in matters that do not square with church policies, irrespective of their factual truth (eg, Galileo, biology and physics in the US). So clergy calling something a duck still demands a duck test.

Again, nothing intrinsically specific to a religion was ever stated.

The discussion was about progressive democracy being a recipe for a drive to totalitarianism and evils on a much greater scale. When asked for examples you came up with euthanasia and abortion based on the principle that a free person cannot decide over their own body and fate.

The idea that a free person cannot decide about their own body and fate is a 1st millennium Christian invention. The Christian churches have hold for the longest time that humans are not free, and never should be.

In the rest of the world and history, only slaves and serfs were unable to decide on their own body and fate, with women oftentimes having no more rights than slaves. Free men and women had and have no such limitations.

Hence my reference to religion. Also, you have not yet supplied any argument that people should be “free” in the US political sense but not free in the personal, bodily, sense. What arguments were given were not consistent and perfectly in line with the religious doctrines of US conservatives.

But I am open to discuss rational arguments that tell me political freedom is good, personal, bodily, freedom is not.

bl5q sw5N October 20, 2023 5:55 AM

@ Winter

the principle that a free person cannot decide over their own body and fate.

You acknowledged earlier that the freedom of the “free person” is subject to certain limits (fists and noses). Why are those limits acceptable to a “free person” ? A complete answer would involve extended philosophical investigation, but clearly somehow arises from human nature. Since the self and the infant are also just as human, it’s hard to see why thise same limits don’t apply to them. So euthanasia and abortion are going to be off the table, even for you.

Winter October 20, 2023 7:37 AM

@bl5q sw5N

You acknowledged earlier that the freedom of the “free person” is subject to certain limits (fists and noses).

Now you act obtuse. Beating each other on the nose is a Might is Right ethics and has nothing to do with Freedom. We cannot all be Free when we cannot decide ourselves what happens to our body.

Why are those limits acceptable to a “free person” ?

Because they are a prerequisite for not being beaten up themselves. We need others to respect our boundaries to live free. If we do not respect the boundaries of others, they will not respect ours.

Freedom is when you can decide about yourself without interference from others. If we do not grant to others the freedom we ourselves expect, we are just hypocrites.

Your other points are just excuses to deny others their freedom to decide over their own life and body. And to get to “philosophy”, all of the ethics, morals and laws of history outside Christianity let people end their own life and let parents decide over the lives of their (young) children. We can disagree with them, but that is not “logical” or “philosophical” but just our morals and ethics.

Just deciding that something is legally a human individual has been done before. For instance, many people have granted citizenship to dead people, ancestors, and totems. You do it in ways to force labor onto women. It is a well known way to deny women freedom and bind them into serfdom.

Clive Robinson October 20, 2023 7:51 AM

@ bl5q sw5N, Winter,

Re : Harm to self, Harm to other.

‘You acknowledged earlier that the freedom of the “free person” is subject to certain limits (fists and noses). Why are those limits acceptable to a “free person” ?’

Your argument can not be resolved, because neither of you is considering that every individual lives in an environment. Which by definifion of being the sum of it’s parts, can not be issolated from any of them. Thus the environment is dependent on ALL that is in it and ALL that is in it is dependent on it thus,

“ALL are dependent on ALL.”

If I “hit someone on the nose” I do not just harm to them but others in the environment due to the dependencies involved. Likewise if I “run into a wall” I do not just harm to myself but others,in the environment due to the dependencies involved.

Arguably, nobody is actually free because of those dependencies. That is we are more like the cells in a complex organism we gave up our right to total freedom to gain the considerable benifits of collective action.

As I’ve pointed out before it’s

“Individual Rights -v- Societal Responsability.”

You have to have a point between the two extreams to minimise harm to ALL, but as the environment changrs as it has to by both entropy and evolution that point moves by the mores, morals and ethics of society that go to form the basis of legislation and regulation, that generally lags around a generation (~20years) behind the leading edge of society.

It does not matter if you call it “Religion” or “Politics” the aim of such systems is to form a “control hierarchy”. This comes about arguably due to,

1, Laziness
2, Greed
3, Complexity
4, Trust

That is the general populous not taking sufficient responsability whilst others use that to unfairly push what they see as their rights for their gain onto others in the general populous who lose some or all of their rights.

The solution would appear to be that individuals take more responsability and behave in a more collective way.

However to take responsability requires not just information but the ability to process it. There is a limit on everyones abilities, which means understanding takes work and time, both of which go up by some power as complexity rises. Therefore we end up with a few “specialists” working in the given domains as they arise. The rest of us then rely on the specialists via “trust”. Trust unfortunately gets abused by those who see their rights as more important than responsability to others, which exhibits as some form of greed and all the harms it causes to others in not just society but the environment.

Winter October 20, 2023 8:13 AM

@bl5q sw5N, Clive
Re: Freedom in the presence of others

I think the linked article sums it up quite nicely.

It’s all about you and everyone around you

While the debate over freedom is a long and very old one, some new arguments have surfaced since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic that just don’t make sense. That somehow getting vaccinated or simply wearing a face covering is a matter of individual choice.

We won’t even begin to get into the irony of that statement from those who also share anti-abortion views — but getting the vaccine and wearing a mask is not a personal decision.

bl5q sw5N October 20, 2023 10:16 AM

@ Winter @Clive Robinson

Because they are a prerequisite for not being beaten up themselves. We need others to respect our boundaries to live free. If we do not respect the boundaries of others, they will not respect ours.

In other words, freedom is the state of a negotiated “Might makes Right”. So far, so Hobbes, next stop GULAG.

Individual Rights -v- Societal Responsability.

I don’t think there is in principle a “-vs-“ . The same human nature is the subject of individual rights and social responsibility. The human being only has rights at all because the human nature imposes the human good and hence human responsibilities, whose obligation to fulfill then authorizes “rights.” But as you say in any context, understanding is hard.

JonKnowsNothing October 20, 2023 11:48 AM

@Winter,@bl5q sw5N, @Clive, All

Just to throw some more wood on:

The USA is predominantly a country of Individual Rights. Individual Rights override Group Rights for the majority of instances.

Lumping everyone else into a bucket, other countries are based on Group Rights and Individual Rights are less important or non-existent.

When you look around the globe at different methods of governance and different social organizations, the predominant view is group rights. It can be said that in some cases those group rights are defined by patriarch definitions or by oligarch definitions but the organization of society is group oriented.

As someone already threw religion into a pot, consider:

  • In Western Societies, Sunday was the great group gathering. It did vary some by which religious view, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, but the important social aspect was that it was a mass group gathering.
  • In other parts of the world a huge social gathering happens 5 times a day. Everyone in that mass group participates. An amazing feat of organization.

Humans normally go with Group over Individual. It is also a function that a group can overpower an individual easily. It doesn’t have to be by direct force, but it is done every day and in every way. What we see, who we interact with, close ties, distant interactions, declarations by people with more “power” than the individual, age defined dominance and a host of indirect influences.

Having Individual Rights doesn’t last long. It erodes, little by little, law by law, justification by justification.

  • That we must be saved from Our Own Person because (fill in the blank)

Relevant means All, Enhanced Interrogation is Harmless, Gitmo doesn’t exist, Declarations of “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” (1) and LEAs do not shoot people unless they are The Bad Guys thereby saving the Public Purse the cost of a trial

Individual Rights is a rare thing in human societies and having it last more than one lifetime is even rarer.

Consider this part of the Gettysburg Address (1) by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln November 19, 1863

  • that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

In American English, “people” is both singular and plural.


ht tps://en.wikipedia . o rg/wiki/Will_no_one_rid_me_of_this_turbulent_priest%3F

  • a quote attributed to Henry II of England preceding the death of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1170. While the quote was not expressed as an order, it prompted four knights to travel from Normandy to Canterbury, where they killed Becket.
  • The phrase is commonly used in modern-day contexts to express that a ruler’s wish may be interpreted as a command by his or her subordinates.

  • It is also commonly understood as shorthand for any rhetorical device allowing leaders to organise or exhort violence among their followers, either directly or indirectly, while retaining a respectable distance for political, legal, or other reasons.

ht tps://en.wikipedia. o r g /wiki/Gettysburg_address

Winter October 20, 2023 1:21 PM

@bl5q sw5N

In other words, freedom is the state of a negotiated “Might makes Right”. So far, so Hobbes, next stop GULAG.

You almost made me think you were reasonable.

There is a reason you call it the “Gulag”. It happened in Russia. Many countries had such camps, the US for Indians (natives, reservations), Japanese Americans in WWII, and Gitmo. The UK had them in Australia and South Africa during the boer wars, Germany obviously too. The list is endless .These were all transient affairs. All these countries closed them after some time and went on.

Russia is the exception as the prison hard labor camps have been instrumental in colonizing and exploiting Siberia. Siberian hard labor camps already exist since 1754 and are still in active use.[1] But claiming Russia was a “progressive democracy” during any time since 1754 cannot be done with dry eyes.

So, explain to us how all those libertarian US and UK governments build labor camps. And why none of them continued to use them nowadays?

[1] The Gulag archipel camps were just one extreme set of such camps used by the Soviets during the Lenin and Stalin eras.

bl5q sw5N October 20, 2023 6:05 PM

@ Winter

governments build labor camps

My point was that progressive politics and utilitarian ethics are in their essence arrogant will to mastery. They intrinsically do not respect human nature. Without the assertion of a countervailing principle, they will end in their own gulag.

As Kolnai points out in the 1950 essay, the decencies and social habits that still exist in progressive democracies are ever being weakened towards this end.

A hundred years ago those decencies made society recoil at a formula calling for infanticide “without apology” or imposing death on those lacking the capacity to understand how poor the quality of their lives are.

Today, politicians can urge this on the voting public as law, and top ranked universities can give chairs to professors espousing these ideas.

Winter October 21, 2023 5:00 AM

@bl5q sw5N

They intrinsically do not respect human nature.

They adhere quite strongly to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The highest court of the EU uses it as their constitution. For instance, they forbid the death penalty as a matter of principle. None of the societies you point out as “good” examples did twitch an eye with executing people. Letting people starve also was never a problem for them.

As Kolnai points out in the 1950 essay, the decencies and social habits that still exist in progressive democracies are ever being weakened towards this end.

We are now 70 odd years on and North and Western Europe has still not become closer to North Korea.

A hundred years ago those decencies made society recoil at a formula calling for infanticide “without apology” or imposing death on those lacking the capacity to understand how poor the quality of their lives are.

Freedom of Speech? Expressing an opinion about certain matters is often allowed even when the acts themselves are not. That is something they did not like a hundred years ago.

But a hundred years ago people did not recoil at killing children at all. In Canada, the US, and Ireland they are still digging up thousands of nameless remains of indigenous children and children born out of wedlock who were forcefully taken from their mothers and then withered away in what can only be called prisons.

Charles Dickens became famous by writing about the horrors of, eg, British orphanages.

Today, politicians can urge this on the voting public as law, and top ranked universities can give chairs to professors espousing these ideas.

So you oppose freedom of speech?

bl5q sw5N October 21, 2023 8:49 AM

@ Winter

now 70 odd years on

The comments here on changes seem to reflect our different starting points in different understanding of human nature and its good.

Freedom of Speech

The comments from this point are a non sequitur.

Winter October 21, 2023 9:55 AM

@bl5q sw5N

The comments from this point are a non sequitur.

You complain that people are “allowed” to talk about ideas you abhor. You literally write decencies made society recoil at a formula. They not only recoiled, they censored everyone who said anything about this subject.

Discussing a subject is not the same as doing it. That time and world was very good at not discussing problems.

So, yes Free Speech is very much part of progressive democracies and very much not so in their enemies.

Winter October 21, 2023 11:03 AM

@bl5q sw5N

Without the assertion of a countervailing principle, they will end in their own gulag.

I am very curious. What is your “countervailing principle”?

And why would missing it leads to a Soviet Russian Penal Colony.

Russian Penal colonies have existed for two and a half centuries. And Russia built and ran them for two centuries with full support of their Christian Church.

bl5q sw5N October 21, 2023 11:17 AM

@ Winter

Free Speech is very much part of progressive democracies

As a holdover from the past and an historical exception, but not intrinsically.

Progress is a utopian ideal, a idea that humankind and society are perfectible by some “if only we do this” (progressive note to self: will need experts!). The only realistic and sane approach to society’s ills, namely plurality and partiality, working to ameliorate while tolerating imperfections – that is, conservativism – has no place in this scheme, and it will not tolerate freedom of thought much less freedom of speech.

“According to its dominant signature, its characteristic edge, the mechanism of its march and the appetite of its idols, Progressive Democracy is indeed the Rider of the modem Apocalypse rather than merely one among the others [Nazism and Communism], seeing that has sired the rest.”

Two signs of this have been mentioned but you and many dismiss these horrors as being in fact quite acceptable, even positive goods.

Clive Robinson October 22, 2023 6:37 AM

@ Winter,

“It is conservatives that deny progress as they believe the past was better than the present and the future will be even worse.”

And the funny thing in a sad way is they are for them correct…

Their viewpoint is based on a form of “status gap” that is they do not care how bad it is for them as long as others have it worse.

The problem for conservatives with “progress” especially in society is it tends to be an equaliser and close status gaps.

You can see in strongly conservatively controled areas things like pay, gender, health and even voting gaps are quite deliberately enlarged and enforced.

You will also find strongly hierarchical social control mechanisms in all areas of life with education and religion effectively mandatory and controled as well as being used as a “taxing system” (the old 1/10th or tithing rules).

As you and I both know strongly hierarchical systems are actually quite a bad idea for a large number of reasons, not least is they are the default for “guard labour” and similar where independent action is not tolerated and paternalism is often enforced by both emotional and physical oppression. A consequence of which is coruption of all forms tends to be not just rife but increasingly pervasive as you look up the hierarchy.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paternalism

Winter October 22, 2023 11:56 AM


And the funny thing in a sad way is they are for them correct…

I think I could not agree more.

We seem to see a rise of conservatism whenever the disadvantaged get less disenvantaged, be it women getting the rights of men or minorities getting the same rights of the majority.

But the situation seems to be a little more complicated:

Does Your Neighbor’s Income Affect Your Happiness?

Using data from the American National Election Study linked to income data from the U.S. census, the authors find that Americans tend to be happier when they reside in richer neighborhoods (consistent with neighborhood studies) in poorer counties (as predicted by the relative income hypothesis). Thus it appears that individuals in fact are happier when they live among the poor, as long as the poor do not live too close.

(Accentuation by me)

Clive Robinson October 22, 2023 1:04 PM

@ Winter,

“But the situation seems to be a little more complicated”

Hmm to feel happy they have to live in an enclave of rich equals surounded by vast swaths of poor.

Sounds like “Lording it over” to me. The old “landlord in his manor or castle surrounded by villages of villains or serfs” model.

But there is something you have to be cautious of and we’ve seen it in the UK.

Conservatives will vote to make things worse for everyone, provided it makes it much worse for those they see as “others” or “beneath them”.

If you realy want to scare conservatives propose basic income, or an increace to the general basic tax alowance.

Both provably benift everyone to the same amount, say 1000USD but… conservatives will see it as a percentage of total and argue it disproportionately favours those they see as beneath them, because they get a 5% improvment whilst the richer conservitives only get a 0.02% or less improvment (yup the earnings gap in the US has recently been quoted as 250:1 between “worker” and “C-suit”).

JonKnowsNothing October 22, 2023 1:25 PM

@Winter, @Clive

re: Does Your Neighbor’s Income Affect Your Happiness?

It certainly does. It’s quite across the board really. As long as you have “as much stuff” as most and “better stuff” than the some, things seems pretty good.

  • You have a powered lawn mower, the neighbors have a push one
  • You have a 2nd car, the neighbors have none or one
  • Your home has a good paint job (10yrs or less), the neighbors homes are peeling

But there is a downside to having too much stuff which is a type of jealousy takes root. If you flaunt your wealth or “good fortune” too much, get too much attention, things can get nasty.

In general, in the US we have an idiom for this

  • Keeping up with the Joneses

The corollary is

  • Social Climber

This is a person who is able to change their social status but is denigrated by new neighbors for doing so. They may also be ostracized by their former neighbors.

Rich people know about rich people’s problems

Poor people know about poor people’s problems

Poor people do not know about rich people’s problems, so when they suddenly have a great change in status, they are often left open to exploitation.

How would you handle the recent Powerball lottery jackpot of $1.73 billion?

Hint: US Banks FDIC bank insolvency insurance covers $250k per account.

  • $1,730,000,000 / 250,000 = 6,920 Accounts

For people who do not even have 1 bank account that is a big change.


ht tps://en.wikipedia .o r g/wiki/Keeping_up_with_the_Joneses

  • Keeping up with the Joneses is an idiom in many parts of the English-speaking world referring to the comparison to one’s neighbor as a benchmark for social class or the accumulation of material goods. To fail to “keep up with the Joneses” is perceived as demonstrating socio-economic or cultural inferiority.

ht tps://en.wikipedia.o r g /wiki/Social_climber

  • A parvenu is a person who is a relative newcomer to a high-ranking socioeconomic class.
  • A person from a humble background who has rapidly gained wealth or an influential social position; a nouveau riche; an upstart, a social climber. Also in extended use. Generally used with the implication that the person concerned is unsuited to the new social position, esp. through lacking the necessary manners or accomplishments.”

ht tps://www.fdic. g ov /resources/deposit-insurance/brochures/insured-deposits/

  • The standard deposit insurance amount is $250,000 per depositor, per insured bank, for each account ownership category.

Winter October 22, 2023 3:03 PM


How would you handle the recent Powerball lottery jackpot of $1.73 billion?

I would not put more than $1B in a bank account. It is also more than a single person can manage. It requires a team of dedicated people.

But indeed, where do you go with $1B?

Clive Robinson October 22, 2023 5:37 PM

@ JonKnowsNothing, Winter,

Re : Keeping up with the Jones

“It’s quite across the board really. As long as you have “as much stuff” as most and “better stuff” than the some, things seems pretty good.”

For many perhaps, but not all.

I’m one of those who does not do the “Keeping up…” nonsense, for a few reasons.

1, Firstly I give not a stuff about my neighbours or their neighbours possessions and never have done.

2, I once got into debt because I was “encoraged to social climb” and switched jobs when I should not have.

3, If I decide I want something I save up for it, sometimes by the time I’ve saved up I find I’m not as desiring as I was so don’t buy.

The only money I’ve ever borrowed from a bank etc was to aquire property to live in and when I got into debt due to switching jobs “to climb”. I learned a series of lessons then and still stick with it fourty years later, which kind of came in usefull when “lockdown” happened as I was already effectively in a prepared state.

Whilst the “economy” may grow on consumer debt, I see no reason why I should pay twice or more, or worse be in “forever debt” by borrowing from banks and the like.

Especially for things that have no real or lasting value (even the boat I owned and did up I sold for rather more than I paid for it).

Over the years I’ve had many hobbies and yes they can and have in some cases been expensive. However I used to have the bad habit of turning them into alternative careers which whilst fun had the downside of having to find new hobbies.

So I’ve kind of gone back in time and do things like charcuterie, making of preserves and pickles and similar[1]. Stuff my parents knew how to do and showed me when I was very young but I’d kind of forgotton. The advantage of it is it easily alows you to store away a year or more in food “ready to eat”, without having to use the electricity you need for freezers (probably the biggest continuous use of power in many homes in the UK).

A friend has shown me the finer elements of brewing your own beer, mead, cider and making wine from less traditional fruit. Whilst I could make a living selling such produce, I’d rather keep it as a hobby.

Though in deference to my neighbours sensibilities, I’m not going back to keeping chickens, ducks, geese and rabbits for eggs and meat as I used to.

[1] Oh and I’ve discovered a few tricks that are new along the way, one being the making of oats into a milk substitute not just for hot drinks but in cooking, also how to do substitutes for eggs as well and the fun one, replacing flour with cooked potato for baking cakes etc.

Winter October 23, 2023 1:55 AM

@Jon, Clive
Re: Keeping up with the Jones

The Joneses is a funny movie


relict0000 October 25, 2023 9:57 AM

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