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Open Thread 51.75

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever.

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779 Responses to Open Thread 51.75

  1. Jordan D. says:

    I want to wish everybody a happy June! I hope your summers are all off to a fine start.

    • Pku says:

      Thank you, anthropomorphic ice cream truck.

      • Randy M says:

        I thought it was a coffin.

        • Jordan D. says:

          It’s actually a token I made in mspaint six years ago for a game of D&D 4e. It was a wagon full of booze which was driven around by Plutocrat Keynes, my Invoker of the Free Market. In time, it also became a time-travelling and plane-hopping vessel.

          As far as I know I never uploaded it to anything but Maptools, but when I first started commenting here it appeared as my avatar. I have no idea why that happened, but it seemed so appropriate that I had to leave it be.

  2. Ariel Ben-Yehuda says:

    The “hidden” open threads clog up the “recent posts” list (on the top right).

    • Frog Do says:

      But not on the main site!

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Yeah, I need to figure out how to prevent that. It’s on my to-do list.

      • Sivaas says:

        As a note: I consider this a feature, not a bug. The Recent Posts typically contains all the threads that still have active commenting (and some that don’t). Given that I am usually checking the comments multiple times per new post, being able to use the sidebar to quickly go through the posts is very helpful: I can just go down the Recent Posts list, and stop when I hit a post with no comments.

        If they weren’t on the Recent Posts list, I’d have to first figure out where the comment cutoff is for posts other than the hidden OT, then go find the OT archive page and do a separate pass through those threads.

      • ulucs says:

        now that was quick

      • Scott Alexander says:

        The problem seems to have magically disappeared with no intervention from me. Now it only shows up on the new posts list on this page, but not on the main page. Probably Bakkot fixed it or something.

  3. Murphy says:

    Ok, there’s some weird re-direct thing on the open thread list page. I want to see the replies to some post I made in the last open thread but it redirects here before I can click into them.

    I could disable redirection in my browser but it’s a pain.

    • Randy M says:

      Found this issue also recently. chrome, fwiw.

    • Sweeneyrod says:

      I think that’s intentional, so that the link at the top goes to the latest open thread. You can then access previous ones in the sidebar.

    • linker says:

      The list of open threads is here, if that’s what you want.

    • Bakkot says:

      Confirming that this is intentional. If you want the list, you can click on the “open” in “AND TAGGED OPEN” at the top of any open thread. (The last few also appear in the list of recent posts on the right, as long as you’re not on the front page.)

  4. Le Maistre Chat says:

    So what do you all think is the rational response to the Orlando mass murder?

    • Murphy says:

      In what sense? public policy? Law enforcement? International policy? Surveillance? Education?

      personally, I’m going with feel slightly down about it but otherwise go about my life as normal.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Public policy, law enforcement (which includes surveillance) and education. I consider international policy irrelevant to the case: declaring war against a state that approves of a domestic mass murder seems a wildly inefficient way for the government to uphold its Hobbesian social contract to protect our lives.

        In terms of law enforcement/surveillance, the relevant agencies have failed us spectacularly. With all the privacy we’ve ceded to them since 9/11, they can’t protect us from a terrorist who attended the same mosque as an ISIS suicide bomber and was repeatedly questioned?

        My hypothesis is that Muslim immigration is a catspaw used to justify a leftist police state. We must treat all people equally, so we let in people who want to kill us, then punish everyone in the country equally with laws removing their privacy, their right to bear arms, airport security that treats everyone like a terrorist, etc etc.

        • keranih says:

          In terms of law enforcement/surveillance, the relevant agencies have failed us spectacularly. With all the privacy we’ve ceded to them since 9/11, they can’t protect us from a terrorist who attended the same mosque as an ISIS suicide bomber and was repeatedly questioned?

          I’m going to push back on this. I don’t think it’s possible to talk about the failure rate until we have an idea of the attack rate – not just the successful attacks, but the ones that were countered. Which I am not in a position to know.

          • Randy M says:

            Agreed. Is there an easy way to check how many terrorism convictions FBI & other Law enforcement is currently pursuing or has recently caught?

            Mass killings are attention getting for the horror but successful attacks are only one component in informing us of the baserate.

          • Fahundo says:

            No one was able to provide any clear evidence that the programs Snowden exposed ever successfully stopped a terrorist attack. We know the intelligence agencies are sometimes able to use more traditional means to stop terror plots before they happen, but until the evidence is presented I’m just going to go with the assumption that the number of attacks thwarted by mass surveillance is zero, or near-zero.

            I mean, look at the Orlando shooter case. The only reason he had ever been on the FBI’s radar at all in 2013 wasn’t because of mass surveillance, but because his coworkers reported him.

          • Anonymous says:

            I’m just going to go with the assumption that the number of attacks thwarted by mass surveillance is zero, or near-zero.

            You really don’t know how intelligence works in general or how big data approaches work, specifically.

            People seem to have this idea in mind that something like a metadata program needs to be the sole source of information for disrupting a plot. In fact, you imply such when you say:

            No one was able to provide any clear evidence that the programs Snowden exposed ever successfully stopped a terrorist attack.

            It would be far more appropriate to ask whether they’ve contributed to stopping a terrorist attack. It is exceedingly rare that a single source of intelligence singlehandedly provides all the information necessary. It’s a combined effort through reinforcing methods. I agree that there is a problem here – how much contribution is each method providing? Frankly, this is probably impossible to put a metric to. It’s probably impossible to say, “Let’s check how many terror plot disruptions involved X% contribution from Method Y.” This is why pro-privacy advocates just dial it up all the way when judging programs they don’t like – if the program wasn’t almost entirely responsible (which is likely impossible), then it gets zero credit, and (surprise surprise) isn’t worth it. Ignore the fact that we gamed our metric to get the result we wanted.

            I mean, look at the Orlando shooter case. The only reason he had ever been on the FBI’s radar at all in 2013 wasn’t because of mass surveillance, but because his coworkers reported him.

            This is indicative of the part where you don’t understand how methods like metadata are supposed to work. You must start from other intelligence. Even if you have every bit of metadata on the planet, it’s totally useless unless you have other intelligence. There are two major strategies here. The first would come into play in a case like you mention: people report an individual. Now, you’re wanting to check him out. You think he may have started down the path of radicalization. It would be really nice to know if he’s communicating/coordinating with any known terrorists. That’s where metadata comes in. You look for the network. If you get a hit, you’re not done. The metadata doesn’t do all the work for you. You still have to do more work on those connections and see how they’re interacting and whether they’re planning something specific, but at least you know where to look!

            If your metadata search comes up negative, it’s also not a perfect indicator that you’re safe. He could be a lone wolf or a crazy.

            Metadata is used in another fashion. Rather than starting with a small-suspicion individual and looking for connections, you can start from other intelligence sources like HUMINT which give you a list of known terrorists. Then, you can discover common links, which are new leads for your HUMINT to go investigate. Maybe he’s just the cousin of one terrorist and the legitimate business partner of another… but maybe he’s their bomb-maker. You have to check, but at least you know where to look!

            In all of these cases, we’re not going to get to say that the metadata was the sole source of intelligence. It just doesn’t play that role. However, it’s a useful tool.

          • Fahundo says:

            There are two major strategies here. The first would come into play in a case like you mention: people report an individual. Now, you’re wanting to check him out. You think he may have started down the path of radicalization. It would be really nice to know if he’s communicating/coordinating with any known terrorists.

            Metadata is used in another fashion. Rather than starting with a small-suspicion individual and looking for connections, you can start from other intelligence sources like HUMINT which give you a list of known terrorists. Then, you can discover common links, which are new leads for your HUMINT to go investigate.

            In the first case you’re following up on a lead on a suspected terrorist. In the second case, you’re investigating known terrorists. You’ve done much to justify spying on terrorists and suspected terrorists and little to justify spying on everyone.

            I’m not questioning the need for metadata collection or electronic surveillance; I’m questioning the need to collect all the information on everyone, everywhere.

            Has collecting metadata contributed to stopping a terrorist attack? It’s not hard to believe it has. Has collecting as much metadata as possible on as many people as possible done any good? I remain unconvinced.

          • Anonymous says:

            I’m not questioning the need for metadata collection or electronic surveillance; I’m questioning the need to collect all the information on everyone, everywhere.

            Oh. Well then. I was wrong. It’s not that you don’t understand metadata programs… it’s that you just slept through last summer. To catch you up, Congress passed USAFA, and we don’t do that anymore.

            My main point that many critics use terrible metrics to judge these programs seems to stand.

          • Fahundo says:

            it’s that you just slept through last summer. To catch you up, Congress passed USAFA

            Yeah, and then in October they passed CISA.

            Also, the point isn’t about what they are doing right now. My original comment was in response to the FBI’s investigation of a guy in 2013. In 2013 the Patriot Act was still in full swing.

          • Anonymous says:

            CISA

            No offense, but having spent far too long discussing these issues with far too many people who have been flatly deceived by bad tech journalism advocacy, I’m willing to bet that you have a completely false conception of what CISA did. If you wouldn’t mind humoring me, could you describe, in your own words, what you think CISA did and why that supports your comment being a relevant reply to my statement?

            the point isn’t about what they are doing right now. My original comment was in response to the FBI’s investigation of a guy in 2013. In 2013 the Patriot Act was still in full swing.

            If you’ll look at my reply, I focused on the fact that you made a far broader and unjustified claim:

            I’m just going to go with the assumption that the number of attacks thwarted by mass surveillance is zero, or near-zero.

            If you would like to now restrict your statement to an attempt to figure out what went wrong with a particular investigation in 2013, I’m on board. Here is an example of someone moving in that direction. I’m definitely up for reasonable attempts to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. I’m not up for drive-by attacks on entire agencies that you already didn’t like just because one dropped investigation became a mass shooter.

          • Jiro says:

            It allows “cybersecurity threat” information to be shared “notwithstanding any other provision of law”, which is a blank check exemption from privacy laws.

          • Anonymous says:

            First, your statement is near incomprehensible, because it doesn’t tell me who is doing anything. Let me help you out. Private companies are allowed to voluntarily share cybersecurity threats. You might be hiding this fact because you never learned it (I’d rather assume this than think you’re intentionally hiding it). After all, it makes it much easier to think that the gov’t is actually doing something here if you hide it. Instead, this law gave no additional powers to conduct any surveillance to any gov’t org at all.

            Second, your claim on it being a blank check exemption from privacy laws is laughable. Sure, they want to say, “If you want to share a cyber threat with us, look at this law. You don’t have to scour the rest of the US Code.” Then they put the privacy protections they want for this sharing right in this law! Ya know… right where they want you to look for the rules governing that sharing! They limit the type of information which can be shared, limit which organization they’re allowed to give it to, constrain the form in which it can be submitted, require that they scrub it of personal information before submitting it, place limits on gov’t dissemination/use/retention, and limit which crimes it could be used to investigate/prosecute.

            Even a cursory read of the actual law gives a vastly different impression than your one sentence “summary” of it.

            I’ll leave two notes for Fahundo. It’s exceedingly messed up that you would respond to the end of mass gov’t surveillance with a reference to this law, because it just has nothing to do with any gov’t surveillance. It’s also even more obvious that you didn’t actually mean it when you said that you cared about one investigation in 2013, because it’s utterly impossible to imagine that the Orlando shooter would have generated a cybersecurity threat that could possibly have been shared under CISA.

          • Jiro says:

            Yes, I am aware that it applies to private companies. That’s the loophole–the government hires, or just tells, the private companies to do the surveillance, and then the private companies can share the information with the government without being constrained by privacy laws. It’s a type of surveillance-laundering.

            And the “constraints” on sharing the information are laughable. (I checked–the “known at the time of sharing” loophole is still there. The company can decide to not bother figuring out whether information is personal, and the law’s privacy protection for personal information then won’t apply.)

          • Anonymous says:

            the government hires, or just tells, the private companies to do the surveillance

            Under what authority?

            Also, you do realize that private companies still can’t go about performing any surveillance they’d like, right? Laws like ECPA are still a thing. CISA says that the sharing is governed by the rules in CISA, not that companies have any exemption to any other laws or a blank check to carry out any type of surveillance they please.

            the “constraints” on sharing the information are laughable

            [citation needed]

            the “known at the time of sharing” loophole is still there. The company can decide to not bother figuring out whether information is personal, and the law’s privacy protection for personal information then won’t apply

            Return of The Selective Quoting! Let’s check what the law actually says:

            A non-Federal entity sharing a cyber threat indicator pursuant to this title shall, prior to such sharing review such cyber threat indicator to assess whether such cyber threat indicator contains any information not directly related to a cybersecurity threat that the non-Federal entity knows at the time of sharing to be personal information of a specific individual or information that identifies a specific individual and remove such information

            They’re required to review it. That means that when your delusional abuse scenario becomes reality and they’re prosecuting you for having a joint of weed based on “shared surveillance”, your defense team will get to ask the corporate officer who made their determination to share it questions like, “Did you read this portion of the shared information?” (If they answer, “No,” they’re fucked.) “How did you determine that this information was directly related to a cybersecurity threat? How did you determine that this information didn’t include personal information of a specific individual or information that identifies a specific individual?”

            No, they can’t “just not bother figuring out whether information is personal”. At this point, can I register my general displeasure that everyone literally cannot stop lying about laws like CISA? I mean, you clearly say that you read it in order to know that this “loophole” exists. It’s hard to believe ignorance as a defense anymore.

          • Fahundo says:

            If you’ll look at my reply, I focused on the fact that you made a far broader and unjustified claim:

            I’m just going to go with the assumption that the number of attacks thwarted by mass surveillance is zero, or near-zero.

            I’m going to stand by that claim since you’ve only defended surveillance of known or suspected terrorists, and not mass surveillance.

            If you would like to now restrict your statement to an attempt to figure out what went wrong with a particular investigation in 2013, I’m on board

            That’s not exactly what I mean. The post I first replied to was about how ceding privacy to the government post-9/11 didn’t allow anyone to catch this one guy back in 2013. I then made a broader statement about mass surveillance. You then said I must not be aware that the Freedom Act was passed last year. My intent was to remind you that the comment that started this concerned an investigation in 2013, before the Freedom Act. I don’t mean for my broader statements to ONLY apply in the 2013 case. Just that, you know, complaining that mass surveillance didn’t do anything for anybody in 2013 doesn’t mean I don’t know what happened in 2015.

            I’m definitely up for reasonable attempts to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it.

            Here’s the thing. I’m not convinced anyone did anything wrong there. What happened in Orlando was a tragedy. But it’s unrealistic to expect the government to be able to stop every crime before it happens. The FBI not being able to prevent every terror attack from happening doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t doing their jobs.

            It’s exceedingly messed up that you would respond to the end of mass gov’t surveillance with a reference to this law, because it just has nothing to do with any gov’t surveillance.

            I was joking when I mentioned CISA, but as long as the PRISM program is up and running, it is related to surveillance. Which leads us to:

            If you wouldn’t mind humoring me, could you describe, in your own words, what you think CISA did

            Makes it easier for private entities to hand over information related to “cybersecurity threats” to government agencies. Which, on its own, may not be much, but considering that PRISM is still going…

            It also requires an extensive report on cybersecurity to be submitted to Congress by a man who has already blatantly lied to them with no repercussions.

            Laws like ECPA are still a thing.

            The 4th Amendment didn’t go anywhere when the Patriot Act was passed, and we saw how that worked.

            the end of mass gov’t surveillance

            The what? The telephone metadata collection program may have ended but that wasn’t the NSA’s only means of mass surveillance.

          • Anonymous says:

            I’m going to stand by that claim since you’ve only defended surveillance of known or suspected terrorists, and not mass surveillance.

            This is ridiculous. You can claim that they invaded more privacy when they were doing bulk collection. It’s absurd to understand the slightest bit of how big data techniques work and claim that they were completely ineffective with bulk collection… but somehow plenty effective with less collection.

            complaining that mass surveillance didn’t do anything for anybody in 2013 doesn’t mean I don’t know what happened in 2015.

            Technically speaking, it could follow, because the premise is false.

            I’m not convinced anyone did anything wrong there.

            They might have! Did you read the opinion piece I linked to? There were clearly major issues with the investigation into the Fort Hood shooter, and it’s quite possible that those same types of issues (or others) are literally to blame for inappropriately closing the investigation on the Orlando shooter. Of course, if we get into the details, it’s hard to blame gov’t surveillance writ large (i.e., any program you didn’t like before), so maybe we shouldn’t get into details.

            I was half-joking when I mentioned CISA

            Right. You only made reference to one of the privacy advocates’ boogeymen without any belief that it made any point. Ha. Funny.

            PRISM

            WE’VE GOT ANOTHER BOOGEYMAN! Care to take another shot? What’s the authority for PRISM? What is the domain in which PRISM operates? What does the program do?

            Makes it easier for private entities to hand over information related to “cybersecurity threats” to government agencies. Which, on its own, may not be much, but considering that PRISM is still going…

            …consider that PRISM is still going on… what? Finish the sentence. Don’t just let the boogeyman hang there. If you actually have something to say, say it!

            man who has already blatantly lied

            Talking Point Alert! Honestly, talking to anyone about intelligence programs is like talking to Jill on anything. It’s just a firehose of propaganda. Let’s get one thing straight – if DNI Clapper had just blatantly lied to Congress under oath with the intent to deceive them and without mitigating factors, he would have been fired and probably ended up in jail. You’re willing to ignore the mitigating factors to make a political point. It was an unclassified briefing (…and frankly, an unclassified intelligence briefing is kind of an contradiction in terms, so it was most likely set up just to let CongressCritters grandstand), and he was focused on unclassified programs. He claims that because of this, he didn’t think about the question in that way – he was thinking about content collection because Senator Wyden was talking about “dossiers”. Regardless of his subjective intent, it would have been illegal for him to have answered the question truthfully! He’s not allowed to publicly reveal a classified program. Either way, his staffers caught the error and corrected it with the committee in person immediately after the session, presumably after pulling them into a classified briefing room.

            Now, what part of that story makes you believe that ODNI (not just the man, himself; the office) will lie on official, written cybersecurity reports that could be filed under classification if necessary?

            The 4th Amendment didn’t go anywhere when the Patriot Act was passed, and we saw how that worked.

            I know! It worked! The trouble is that you don’t understand that Smith v. Maryland was a bound on the reach of 4A… over 20 years before the Patriot Act. (But seriously… if the federal court count didn’t shade so seriously on the side of the 215 program having been consistent with 4A, I’d be less apoplectic about such meatless throwaway claims.)

            The telephone metadata collection program may have ended but that wasn’t the NSA’s only means of mass surveillance.

            Details. I needs them. What do you mean by “mass surveillance”? Do you mean “bulk suspicionless collection”? If so, that’s ended. Do you mean, “surveillance occurs on people (plural)”, then of course it’s still around. That’s their job. Detail what you mean and how it actually exists.

          • Fahundo says:

            It’s absurd to understand the slightest bit of how big data techniques work and claim that they were completely ineffective with bulk collection… but somehow plenty effective with less collection.

            My claim was more along the lines of “collecting relevant data on suspects can be helpful, but collecting lots of irrelvent data on everyone isn’t.” I didn’t mean to claim that collecting bulk data somehow makes the relevant data less useful.

            because the premise is false

            I still haven’t seen an example to the contrary.

            Did you read the opinion piece I linked to?

            Honestly, no. I didn’t mean to strongly claim that no one did anything wrong in any investigation; just that I’m not accusing anyone of botching the investigation.

            without any belief that it made any point

            Not quite, I mentioned CISA because I think it was tangentially relevant. I don’t literally think CISA replaced Section 215 or anything.

            What’s the authority for PRISM? What is the domain in which PRISM operates? What does the program do?

            NSA and FISA court. Several US-based Internet companies;I don’t have a list in front of me. Allows interception of email and other communications, to include both content and metadata, without a warrant as long as one of the participants is believed to be outside the US.

            …consider that PRISM is still going on… what? Finish the sentence.

            Prism allows the NSA to collect information from Internet companies without warrant, and CISA streamlines the process of collecting information from internet companies. Seems pretty straightforward.

            if DNI Clapper had just blatantly lied to Congress under oath with the intent to deceive them and without mitigating factors, he would have been fired and probably ended up in jail. You’re willing to ignore the mitigating factors to make a political point. It was an unclassified briefing (…and frankly, an unclassified intelligence briefing is kind of an contradiction in terms, so it was most likely set up just to let CongressCritters grandstand), and he was focused on unclassified programs.Regardless of his subjective intent, it would have been illegal for him to have answered the question truthfully! He’s not allowed to publicly reveal a classified program. Either way, his staffers caught the error and corrected it with the committee in person immediately after the session, presumably after pulling them into a classified briefing room.

            I’m willing to grant that he would be justified in lying if that was the only way to prevent disclosure of a classified program. But,

            http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2014/mar/11/james-clappers-testimony-one-year-later/

            Wyden said Clapper didn’t give a “straight answer” during the hearing, even though Wyden submitted his question in advance. Wyden said he wouldn’t have asked the question if Clapper’s staff had asked him not to.

            In the days after the hearing, Wyden said he asked Clapper’s staff to clear the record, but they declined to do so publicly until after the Snowden leaks.

            If DNI didn’t want to answer the question because the answer would reveal classified information, he could have declined beforehand and the question wouldn’t have been asked.

            He claims that because of this, he didn’t think about the question in that way – he was thinking about content collection because Senator Wyden was talking about “dossiers”.

            Except the Senator, when asking his question, clarified that he doesn’t know what a dossier is, and specifically asked Clapper if he was collecting any kind of data.

            The reason I’m asking the question is, having served on the committee now for a dozens years, I don’t really know what a dossier is in this context. So, what I wanted to see if you could give me a yes or no answer to the question: Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions, or hundreds of millions of Americans?

            Based on the senator’s wording, I find the explanation that the word “dossiers” confused him hard to believe. He also changed his explanation for why he lied twice after the fact. Also, the fact that the question was submitted in advance makes the “I was put on the spot and not ready to reply” aspect of his explanation hard to swallow.

            Now, what part of that story makes you believe that ODNI (not just the man, himself; the office) will lie on official, written cybersecurity reports that could be filed under classification if necessary?

            I don’t know that he will. I just know he can’t be trusted.

            Details. I needs them. What do you mean by “mass surveillance”?

            Anything that bypasses the requirement for a warrant.

          • Jiro says:

            Return of The Selective Quoting!

            That isn’t selective quoting.

            Your quote says that they have to assess whether the information contains anything that the entity knows at the time of sharing is personal information. That’s two levels of indirection. The way it’s worded, the company is not required to figure out whether it’s personal information. The company needs to figure out if it already knows it’s personal information. If it doesn’t already know that the information is personal, the company, by your own quote, just has to figure out that it doesn’t know that.

            If I tell you “find out what the capital of Australia is”, you say “Canberra”.

            If I tell you “find out whether you’ve found out what the capital of Australia is”, you can just reply “okay, I haven’t found out what the capital of Australia is”.

          • Anonymous says:

            What’s the authority for PRISM? What is the domain in which PRISM operates? What does the program do?

            NSA and FISA court. Several US-based Internet companies;I don’t have a list in front of me. Allows interception of email and other communications, to include both content and metadata, without a warrant as long as one of the participants is believed to be outside the US.

            Close. You missed the authority. It’s Section 702. This is the absolute core of authorizations for foreign intelligence. Your characterization “as long as one of the participants is believed to be outside the US” is not quite right. They must be targeting a legitimate foreign intelligence target that is not a US person and is reasonably believed to be outside the US. That’s a lot stronger criteria. If they were not doing this collection, they would be derelict of duty. And it’s pretty obvious that this doesn’t (and shouldn’t) require a warrant. There’s just no chance 4A reaches this stuff.

            Prism allows the NSA to collect information from Internet companies without warrant, and CISA streamlines the process of collecting information from internet companies. Seems pretty straightforward.

            …but they have literally nothing to do with each other. One is targeting communications of foreign intelligence targets and demanding that data from internet companies. The other is voluntary sharing of cybersecurity threats. Different targets, different substance, different prerogatives. They’re as different as apples and jackfruit. Care to revisit your claim that CISA is not too bad, except that this completely different program apparently changes how we view it or something? Would it break you to just admit that CISA is not that bad?

            In the days after the hearing, Wyden said he asked Clapper’s staff to clear the record, but they declined to do so publicly until after the Snowden leaks.

            Uh, duh. Still classified.

            If DNI didn’t want to answer the question because the answer would reveal classified information, he could have declined beforehand and the question wouldn’t have been asked.

            Unfortunately, they don’t seem to publish the submitted questions, so it’s hard to verify that he submitted such a meandering question in writing. I’d be very interested to see if that direct part of the question was actually there.

            the Senator, when asking his question, clarified that he doesn’t know what a dossier is, and specifically asked Clapper if he was collecting any kind of data.

            Right. It was in the context of a meandering question trying to figure out what a dossier is. That sounds like content or some bullshit.

            He also changed his explanation for why he lied twice after the fact.

            Wut. Think about this. Three months after the session, the absolute shitstorm that was Edward Snowden came down on the intelligence community. They’re scrambling AF. They don’t know what’s out; they don’t know what’s still secret. I absolutely do not care that he tried to deflect, saying, “What I said was, the NSA does not voyeuristically pore through U.S. citizens’ emails. I stand by that.” If there’s any hope that portions of these classified programs could still be kept secret, this is exactly what you want to do. A day or two later, when you know the cat’s out of the bag and not going back in, he speaks retrospectively, saying, “I thought though in retrospect [that it was a dick question].” That’s still not committing to anything, including your state of mind at the time of the question. Later, he reflected on his state of mind at the time of the question.

            I just know he can’t be trusted.

            Funny. I know that he can be trusted to keep classified secrets secret. That’s definitely the more relevant part of his job. So long as they corrected the record in private, I could not care less that a falsehood was spoken in public.

            What do you mean by “mass surveillance”?

            Anything that bypasses the requirement for a warrant.

            That doesn’t make any sense. What do you mean “bypasses”? Do you mean, “The warrant requirement doesn’t apply”? Because that’s true of a whole bunch of stuff. You probably just aren’t very familiar with 4A jurisprudence. Top Google hit actually has a nice diagram (at the bottom). The biggest issue with it is that rather than “valid search”, the correct terminology for what the “no reasonable expectation of privacy” arrow should point to is “not a search”.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Jiro

            Run that by your lawyer. Come back and let me know what he says after he stops laughing.

            But seriously, you’re trying to be too clever, and it’s not working. Even if you strain your eyes, it still won’t work. They have to do the review and the assessment prior to sharing, whereas the knowledge hook is at the time of sharing. Thus, your crisis of knowledge is averted. I mean, forget kangaroos, give me an actual example. Construct a hypothetical piece of personal information that you think could get through. Then I’ll play judge and ask you some questions about how you reviewed it. It’ll save you from getting a royal reaming from the bench by an actual judge who is pissed at your obviously frivolous position.

          • Jiro says:

            But seriously, you’re trying to be too clever, and it’s not working. Even if you strain your eyes, it still won’t work. They have to do the review and the assessment prior to sharing

            They have to review whether they already know if any of the data is personal prior to sharing. They don’t have to find out whether the data is personal prior to sharing (or at all). Saying “yup, we don’t have any knowledge” is still reviewing their knowledge.

            Don’t assume that “review their knowledge of X” obligates them to learn about X–it doesn’t.

            (And of course, “prior to sharing” can be interpreted to mean “the first of several events that occur at the time of sharing, of which sharing is a later one”).

            If it actually meant they needed to find out if the data is personal, and if so, not send it, then it would have said so. It doesn’t. It’s like the TV ad saying “supplies are limited, call in in the next 30 minutes”. If you listen to that and think “If I don’t call in 30 minutes, they’ll run out”, you are a sucker–they’re trying to make it sound like CISA provides protection while wording it so it really doesn’t.

            And if I run it by a lawyer, the lawyer will probably say “that will only work if you are a high government official and have the judge on your side”. A friendly judge is going to interpret the law literally if interpreting it literally allows surveillance.

          • Anonymous says:

            Don’t assume that “review their knowledge of X” obligates them to learn about X–it doesn’t.

            sigh

            You keep just not reading the law. Let me cite it again, and I’ll bold the thing you’re skipping this time around.

            A non-Federal entity sharing a cyber threat indicator pursuant to this title shall, prior to such sharing review such cyber threat indicator to assess whether such cyber threat indicator contains any information not directly related to a cybersecurity threat that the non-Federal entity knows at the time of sharing to be personal information of a specific individual or information that identifies a specific individual and remove such information

            They have to review X. It clearly says, “review such cyber threat indicator”, not “review some knowledge about such cyber threat indicator before gaining any knowledge about it”. You keep skipping the fact that they have a piece of information and they have to review it. This is a big problem for your position, and it’s why you need to present a concrete hypothetical example if you want me to think your strained reading is a remotely plausible path for getting anything through. Give me a specific example of something you think could get through (after all, if a loophole can be threaded by zero actual cases, I wouldn’t care if such loophole theoretically exists). Bonus points if you can use STIX TAXII form, which is actually the nuts and bolts of how the portal works.

          • Jiro says:

            It clearly says, “review such cyber threat indicator”, not “review some knowledge about such cyber threat indicator before gaining any knowledge about it”.

            It says “review each cyber threat indicator”, but it says to review them for a purpose. The purpose for which it is being reviewed is to determine whether it contains information that the company knows is personal.

            If it doesn’t contain information that the company knows is personal, then everything is fine.

            If they had to review the information to see if it is personal, then you would be correct. But they have to review the information to see if it contains anything that the company knows is personal. If the company knows nothing, then they can release any information they want.

            Give me a specific example of something you think could get through

            Anything.

            The company just needs to say “The only information that we know is personal is information concerning (list of people). Our review process to check if there’s anything we know is personal consists of searching for the people on the list and manually examining those records. We didn’t find any of that, so the list contains nothing we know is personal. It may contain things that we could easily figure out is personal, but who cares about that? By the way, thanks for that fat taxpayer-paid secret contract for cooperating with you government guys.”

          • Anonymous says:

            If the company knows nothing

            This is not possible, because they reviewed the piece of information in front of them. Further, companies are known to harvest things like human capital, which often manifests in the form of knowledge about things. Finally, the law has no qualms with making assumptions of knowledge. The most obvious such assumption is that it is assumed you are able to read and understand published statutes (obviously, this isn’t true, but the assumption is held, and you can’t profess ignorance as a defense).

            I beg you to stand in front of a judge and say, “Sure, the words ‘Scott Alexander’ are in the middle of this piece of information (remember, you said anything). Sure, I grew up in America. No, I can’t tell that that’s a common English name that points to a person. How was I ever to know?!”

            Give one concrete example of characters on a screen that are going to be submitted to the online portal. Actual things that a person would review. Since you think this can be anything, your task should be stupidly easy. That means that if you don’t do it, I will be forced to conclude that you can’t.

          • Jiro says:

            Finally, the law has no qualms with making assumptions of knowledge.

            The law has no qualms with unfriendly judges making assumptions of knowledge. Friendly judges can choose not to make those assumptions and interpret the law very literally in order to give surveillance a free pass.

            I beg you to stand in front of a judge and say, “Sure, the words ‘Scott Alexander’ are in the middle of this piece of information (remember, you said anything). Sure, I grew up in America. No, I can’t tell that that’s a common English name that points to a person. How was I ever to know?!”

            I don’t have access to friendly judges.

            Furthermore, in the scenario in question, the company wouldn’t be manually reading the piece. The fact that anyone who manually reads it would know that “Scott Alexander” is a name has no relevance.

            Give one concrete example of characters on a screen that are going to be submitted to the online portal. Actual things that a person would review. Since you think this can be anything, your task should be stupidly easy. That means that if you don’t do it, I will be forced to conclude that you can’t.

            Really? You can’t think of any other reason why someone might not give a concrete example of something, such as such examples not being necessary? The only reason you can think of is that I can’t come up with one? I doubt that.

            But fine. The information says “Jiro lives at ____ address.” The company says “we know that any information containing the name of the people on this list is personal. They do a computer search for the names on the list and don;’t find any. They don’t know that anything else is personal, not even the statement about Jiro. They would know it is personal if they read it, of course, but they are not obliged to read it.

          • Anonymous says:

            The company says “we know that any information containing the name of the people on this list is personal. They do a computer search for the names on the list and don;’t find any. They don’t know that anything else is personal, not even the statement about Jiro.

            “Counselor, are you telling me that the only PII or information of a specific individual that your company is competent to assess is one list of names?” -Your Friendly Judge

            But seriously… the law also requires DHS to publish publicly-available guidance on how to identify what qualifies as a cybersecurity threat indicator as well as personal information. This type of agency guidance will be given great deference by judges. Can you at least agree to wait to imagine that anything can get through until we see what this guidance looks like (and have some idea whether it’s on the “Oh, they actually have to review things,” side or the, “Silly statist, friendly judges means they won’t even bother reviewing it before turning you in,” side)?

            At some point, the chain of focusing on one tiny privacy protection, straining our reading, imagining zero-knowledge companies performing non-review ‘review’, and judges evil enough to love shady surveillance yet capable of suffering obvious liars standing in front of them… I just can’t muster up anywhere near the vitriol that was directed at CISA. I mean, would you really have changed your mind if they had adopted a higher standard than actual knowledge in reviewing PII pre-sharing? What standard would have been enough? Do you care that there are additional burdens on the gov’t after they get it (and requirements to notify the individual in question if they ever determine that something got through)?

          • Jiro says:

            “Counselor, are you telling me that the only PII or information of a specific individual that your company is competent to assess is one list of names?”

            “We’re really pretty competent fellows, we just didn’t bother doing anything that wasn’t required. There’s no requirement to assess whether the information is personal, so we didn’t. There was a requirement to assess whether the information was something we already knew was personal and we did that. Of course, the set of information that we already knew was personal is pretty small.”

            Whether they are competent to perform a task is irrelevant if they don’t need to perform it.

            What standard would have been enough?

            Well, for one, it could have not overridden other privacy protections. Then if the law contained a loophole, at least things wouldn’t be worse than without the law.

            They could also have said straightforwardly, “the company must find out if the information is personal, and if it is, may not release it” without all this indirection about finding out whether they know.

          • Anonymous says:

            “We’re really pretty competent fellows.”

            “we [only] know that any information containing the name of the people on this list is personal.”

            Choose one.

            Whether they are competent to perform a task is irrelevant if they don’t need to perform it.

            First, they obviously must perform a task. The statute is incredibly clear on this. Your complaint before was concerning the idea that they may try to minimize their knowledge going into the task in order to minimize the extent to which that task functions as a proper privacy protection. Thus, their competency is incredibly relevant. If they know how to identify personal information (which they will, because DHS is required to tell them how to), then it’s in the category of things they know. Since your whole shtick is about things they know, it’s directly relevant.

            it could have not overridden other privacy protections. Then if the law contained a loophole, at least things wouldn’t be worse than without the law.

            Like what, specifically? What other privacy protection out there in law would have covered this stupidly fictional scenario?

            They could also have said straightforwardly, “the company must find out if the information is personal, and if it is, may not release it” without all this indirection about finding out whether they know.

            …to what extent? There is a compromise here, but you’ve completely misrepresented it. Obviously, there’s a limit to how much “finding out” we can require them to do before it’s a strong disincentive to sharing anything ever (i.e., if they have to exhaust any possibility that a piece of information could ever be associated with an individual, even if it’s only when aggregated with other information). So, you set a standard. The Terms of Use on the portal, itself, has a “reasonable belief” standard. We use these standards all the time in law, and people don’t perform shitty ruminations on the nature of knowledge. They’re required to review and assess… and DHS sets more detailed standards about how this assessment should be executed. It’s rather straightforward. The only indirection is your own doing.

        • NN says:

          My hypothesis is that Muslim immigration is a catspaw used to justify a leftist police state. We must treat all people equally, so we let in people who want to kill us, then punish everyone in the country equally with laws removing their privacy, their right to bear arms, airport security that treats everyone like a terrorist, etc etc.

          The shooter wasn’t an immigrant. He was born in New York City in 1986. His parents were Afghan refugees, and back then pretty much everyone in the American Right was a big fan of fundamentalist Islamic millitants, especially the ones in Afghanistan, because they had a common enemy in the Soviet Union.

          And unless George W. Bush was on the Left, holding the Left solely responsible for post-9/11 erosion of civil liberties is equally ridiculous.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            We’ve known for a long time that children of Muslim immigrants are more likely to become Islamist murderers than their parents. It was already considered realistic character development when Zadie Smith used it in the 2000 novel White Teeth.

            Yeah, it was the Reagan administration that let Taliban sympathizers into our country because fundamentalists of any religion made good anti-Communists, but at the time immigrants obviously weren’t being used as a catspaw to justify laws like the Patriot Act or disarming the citizenry. That’s a process that started on 9/12 and at least the surveillance half of that has been pursued with equal fervor by GW Bush, Obama, and HRC. So either Bush was a Jacobin who used 9/11 as an excuse for his grand political vision of overthrowing every undemocratic state on Earth, or count Obama and HRC as rightists.

          • Any theories about why the children of immigrants are more likely to be violently radical than their parents?

          • Urstoff says:

            Any theories about why the children of immigrants are more likely to be violently radical than their parents?

            Regression to the mean?

          • Sweeneyrod says:

            @Nancy
            Possibly because first generation immigrants form a tight knit community themselves and live good lives compared to before they immigrated, whereas the second and third generation aren’t fully in either the native or immigrant community, and are likely to be poor in comparison to the rest of society.

            I think there is a recognised phenomenon where second generation immigrants often riot, which I imagine is related.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The shooter wasn’t an immigrant. He was born in New York City in 1986. His parents were Afghan refugees,

            I’ve seen the anti-immigration people on the right predict this exact scenario. “Sure, the people we let in will be grateful for letting us in, but their kids will see themselves as down-trodden as hate us.”

            To repeat, they haven’t suddenly come up with this in response to Orlando. They’ve been saying it for years. I might even be able to find Sailer saying it here on SSC.

          • Outis says:

            Which is why I can’t understand some people’s sigh of relief when the Paris attackers turned out to have been born in France, and again with Orlando. If the terrorists are second or third generation immigrants, that’s worse. It means that, even if we manage to keep all the ISIS associates out and only take in peaceful refugees, we still have to worry about their children and grandchildren.

          • Anonymous says:

            Almost no one (and maybe actually no one) has zero time preference.

          • Jaskologist says:

            “Good news, everyone! This won’t put you in danger, it’ll just put your kids in danger!”

          • NN says:

            But here’s the thing: in the early 1980s how many people predicted that the Brave Afghan Freedom Fighters would turn on the US after they kicked the Soviets out? For that matter, how many people predicted that the Soviet Union and all of the Communist terrorist groups that it supported around the world would be a non-issue within a decade?

            If we want to impose immigration restrictions based on how we think 2nd generation immigrants will turn out, then we have to be pretty confident in who will be a threat in 20 years.

            I don’t think we can be, in this case. It seems highly unlikely that ISIS will still exist in any real sense in 5 years, let alone 20. Al Qaeda will probably still exist in some form, but by then it might have about as much resources and support as, say, the Shining Path in Peru does now. Meanwhile, can you be sure that the US won’t get involved in a conflict in some other part of the world by that time?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            That assumes that it’s their job to argue to keep them out, instead of your job to argue to let them in.

          • Fahundo says:

            “Good news, everyone! This won’t put you in danger, it’ll just put your kids in danger!”

            Joke’s on you; I’m never having kids.

          • Anonymous says:

            Joke’s on you; I’m never having kids.

            Accident or inborn sterility?

          • Viliam says:

            Any theories about why the children of immigrants are more likely to be violently radical than their parents?

            The immigrants remember the bad things that happened in their previous country because of religious violence. The appreciate the life without having to fear whether your family members are going to be killed or tortured. Also economically their lives are probably better than before.

            But their children compare themselves economically to the new country, where they are a low-status minority. For them, jihad promises an opportunity to get to the top of the social ladder. And not having near-mode experience with religious violence, they probably imagine a very simplified version, especially if they believe their side would be given supernatural support.

          • Fahundo says:

            Accident or inborn sterility?

            Just don’t want kids.

        • Ano says:

          “In terms of law enforcement/surveillance, the relevant agencies have failed us spectacularly. With all the privacy we’ve ceded to them since 9/11, they can’t protect us from a terrorist who attended the same mosque as an ISIS suicide bomber and was repeatedly questioned?”

          What should they have done? Imprisoned him or stripped him of his right to own a gun based on visiting the wrong mosque?

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            What should they have done? Imprisoned him or stripped him of his right to own a gun based on visiting the wrong mosque?

            Put him on the appropriate watch lists, and instruct the gun sellers,”If anyone on these lists tries to buy a gun, call the police.”

          • Frog Do says:

            Didn’t they do this, and didn’t the background check pass anyway?

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            >”If anyone on these lists tries to buy a gun, call the police.”

            And… then what? Do you have an actual process figured out here? Are you going to charge him with something?

            What felony grade is “trying to do something while possibly being on a secret list that says you aren’t allowed to do it, but we can neither confirm nor deny that such a list exists or that you are on it”.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            You can’t deny a citizen their Constitutional rights without due process. Even being put on a watch list is an abridgment of freedom.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            What should they have done?

            Given back the privacy we ceded them.

          • Vorkon says:

            Put him on the appropriate watch lists, and instruct the gun sellers,”If anyone on these lists tries to buy a gun, call the police.”

            That’s precisely what they do now, though. If someone is on a watch list when they do the background check, the FBI automatically is notified. It doesn’t stop the sale, and it’s not the gun seller that makes the call, but they’re still notified.

          • The Nybbler says:

            And it turns out that with no need for a list, someone DID call the Feds on this guy. They didn’t have his name, but the Feds apparently didn’t investigate either.

            http://abcnews.go.com/US/orlando-shooter-turned-gun-store-suspicious/story?id=39901107

      • Zwieback says:

        I’m with you on the “feel slightly down about it but otherwise go about my life as normal”.

        I would in general be happy to see more gun control, but the pro-gun people are active voters and I don’t think the shootings have reached a level where it would be worth aggravating them. (Especially given, as they say, that it’s not clear what sort of gun control would help.)

        • Matt M says:

          To build onto this just a bit, it’s not even clear that specific forms of gun control wouldn’t make it worse

          The John Lott argument isn’t just “gun control doesn’t work” but rather “gun control actually makes us even less safe

          • Pku says:

            Do people actually believe that though? My impression is that that’s mostly an excuse (based on the fact that conservatives generally oppose more research into the effects of gun control on gun violence), and that the real motivation for gun-rights advocates is the civil liberties view.

          • Matt M says:

            I read John Lott’s book and found his argument entirely convincing. People can (and do) quibble over the statistics, but the premise strikes me as logically sound and he has responded to most of the criticisms (whether his response is adequate is for each individual to decide).

            I prefer the civil liberties view myself, but I see it as a non-zero possibility that he’s right, and that adopting stricter gun control measures would increase, not decrease, violent crime.

          • Skivverus says:

            @Pku
            Certainly some do; regardless of the total net balance of lives-saved-to-lives-lost, there are strong arguments that the lives-saved column is not empty or negligible.

          • Psmith says:

            the fact that conservatives generally oppose more research into the effects of gun control on gun violence

            This is a reaction to a history of politically motivated anti-gun campaigning by federally funded health agencies, notably the CDC. See for instance.

            I for one am perfectly happy to let anyone who wants to research the effects of gun control do so. On their own dime or whatever contributions they can voluntarily solicit, not on tax dollars.

            On the larger question, Skivverus is correct. Note that getting fatally stabbed is not an improvement on getting fatally shot.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            >based on the fact that conservatives generally oppose more research into the effects of gun control on gun violence

            Really need to pick up some copypasta for this, but I’m sure someone will jump in to post all the CDC’s gun violence research from the last decade.

            One important fact to note: the CDC are banned from advocacy, which they have interpreted to mean “we can no longer give a million dollars to the Coalition To Ban Handguns to cook-up and publicise their own propaganda studies”.
            I think they made a pretty good choice on that. Shame they had to be nudged into it by congress.

          • Aegeus says:

            Given that there was an off-duty police officer in the building and it still ended up being the deadliest shooting in the country’s history, I’ve stopped buying this argument. If you believe that you need a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun, this was probably the most favorable situation you could hope for – a good guy who was not only armed but trained at dealing with bad guys. And it came up short.

            In other words, even in a best case scenario, the “good guy with a gun” theory is mitigation, not prevention.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I think they actually believe it. I also think the primary motivation is the civil liberties view, and that it’s easy to believe things which point in the direction you already wanted to go.

          • Matt M says:

            Aegeus,

            The “prevention” part is that the general presence of guns serves as a deterrent, not that someone with a gun around will stop an attack.

            Lott’s book had an entire chapter dedicated specifically to mass shootings that goes over the statistics about how the general deterrence effect does still seem to manifest itself even in these situations (where “common sense” often suggests it wouldn’t)

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Aegeus

            I’m not sure why you think “a good guy with a gun” has to work every time for it to be useful. This wasn’t “the most favorable situation”. The most favorable situation is a guy trying to rob a bank across from FBI headquarters at lunchtime on payday (which I’ve heard occurred, back before direct deposit was so ubiquitous). One off-duty cop who happened to be outside when the shooting started is significantly less favorable.

          • Lysenko says:

            @Aegeus
            I would argue against being convinced either way by single data points. I don’t think the possible presence of an off-duty cop returning fire unsuccessfully demolishes the ‘good guy with a gun’ argument any more than the successful abortion of the attempted mass shootings at the New Life Church, Pearl High School, or the Clackamas Town Center Mall conclusively proves it.

            Armed confrontations are too chaotic and multivariate to talk about more than broad probabilities. And as others have pointed out, the actual academic research on the subject does not make the claim that armed citizens PREVENT mass shootings or terrorist attacks, full stop, but rather that they:

            A) make them less -likely-.

            B) make the ones that happen less -likely- to be -as successful-.

            It’s a rather more careful claim.

          • John Schilling says:

            Given that there was an off-duty police officer in the building and it still ended up being the deadliest shooting in the country’s history, I’ve stopped buying this argument

            The off-duty policeman was as I understand it working as a security guard at the entrance to the building. Not sure whether he was standing just inside or just outside the entrance, but either way this is about the least favorable situation possible. The security guard is obviously a security guard, and his actual top-priority mission is checking IDs. The terrorist isn’t a terrorist until he starts shooting, and his top-priority mission is to identify and neutralize the obvious security guard so he can get on with killing everyone else. That the guard even got a shot or two off is a surprisingly good performance (or a bad one from the terrorist), but this was never a winning hand for the good guys.

            A random patron with a gun, whose mission is to have fun drinking and dancing but can probably step up his threat condition while the terrorist is shooting one of the fifty random patrons ahead of him, would have had a fair chance, but for obvious reasons the law and nightclub owners alike tend to frown on that sort of thing.

            A disciplined, sober operator whose job is to look like a random nightclub patron while actually scanning for lethal threats, and the terrorist will be down in seconds, but that’s a very expensive security measure and one that mostly stops working when you ask the guy to take care of an obnoxious drunk (which you will).

          • lupis42 says:

            @Aegeus,

            Was he armed? I was under the impression that was illegal, FL law on guns in places that sell alcohol being what they are. EDIT:NVM, did my own Google.
            Either way, the ‘good guy with a gun’ is definitely mitigation, not prevention – after all, the good guy with a gun isn’t the one who shoots first as a rule. Deterrence may be a plus, but some targets will always be softer than others.

            @Jaskologist

            I admit to having a strong pro gun bias from the civil rights position, so am not objective, but this is the clearest I can articulate my prior on the effect of gun control on mass shootings:
            * The prevalence of firearms may make mass shooting events somewhat more common, because people inclined to this style of terrorism (organized or not) are able to obtain firearms, rather than needing to build pressure cooker bombs or similar.
            * The prevalence of firearms probably reduces the severity of mass shooting events, because return fire, or the threat of return fire, is the most effective way to stop an active shooter.
            * American gun culture, and the carrying of defensive firearms, is a useful tool for allowing people to self-sort by preferred level of risk/response. People with a strong preference to avoid victimization carry a gun, and avoid places where they can’t carry. This means that policy can more easily tolerate people with dramatically different personal preferences about willingess-to-be-inconvenienced-to-reduce-risk-of-being-targeted-by-violence.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            Counterexample for the kind of people who are convinced by single data points: ISIS’s “Draw Mohammad Day” attack in Texas.

            2 attackers with rifles, vs 1 armed security guard with a handgun.

            Casualties: 1 guy with a minor ankle wound

          • “Given that there was an off-duty police officer in the building and it still ended up being the deadliest shooting in the country’s history, I’ve stopped buying this argument. ”

            Why? There were something over a hundred people there. The fact that one armed man didn’t stop the killer doesn’t mean that ten or twenty wouldn’t have.

            An approach doesn’t have to work every time to be worth doing. After Solendra went bust, did you conclude that it never makes sense for the government to lend companies money?

          • I don’t know whether legalizing concealed carry, or laws more favorable to gun ownership in general, results in more or less crime–that’s been a lively dispute ever since the Lott and Mustard article. The theoretical argument for why it might reduce crime is obvious, and was in my Price Theory text long before Lott and Mustard. The statistical arguments got beyond what I felt willing and able to deal with years ago, which is why I stopped covering the controversy on my blog.

            My main argument against restrictions is that if people are disarmed they are dependent for protection on the police. The more people feel dependent for protection on police, the more willing they will be to tolerate increased law enforcement power, whether no knock raids and shooting dogs or NSA surveillance.

            I think that’s a bad thing.

          • NN says:

            Correction about the Garland, Texas attack: the shooters were actually killed by a 4 man SWAT team. The police officer in a car outside merely held them off until the cavalry arrived.

            https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curtis_Culwell_Center_attack#Attack

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            You can argue that centralised planning has never worked, but you can’t say that about a citizenry being able to rely on the police for their protection.

          • The thing I found hilarious when I first read about Lott was that the effect was fairly small. I’d read so much by people who were strongly convinced that either guns did a tremendous amount to deter crime or that guns led to a lot of killing that I concluded both sides were arguing from inappropriately strong feelings for which scenarios were more likely.

          • ChetC3 says:

            In a trigger-happy psycho vs a bunch of people going about their lives scenario, the trigger-happy psycho is always going to have the advantage. That’s just how guns work. They give a tremendous advantage to shooting first.

          • Skivverus says:

            That’s just how guns work. They give a tremendous advantage to shooting first.

            Given that ambushes and assassinations are not exclusive to those portions of history containing firearms, I’d say that’s how surprise works, in general.

          • ChetC3 says:

            And modern firearms increase that advantage enormously. I mean, assuming you aren’t ambushing a tank or a bunker or something.

          • Garrett says:

            The data still isn’t clear. However, some reports I’ve read have indicated that one the off-duty cop returned fire the attacker retreated to a position in the restroom, turning a massacre into a stand-off. This may have stopped the killing spree, even if it didn’t end the incident or result in the death of the attacker. The full details will not be known until a full investigation, of course.

            CNN’s Timeline

          • Cadie says:

            A possibility is that having more armed citizens does no or very little good in the case of someone hell-bent on killing people, but it’s a deterrent to more casual troublemakers being violent. You (general you) are less likely to pick a random fight just because you’re feeling ornery or attack someone for their stuff when there’s a fair chance of getting shot that way. So garden variety criminals – not mass shooters and serial killers, but everyday burglars and such – have an incentive to pick property crimes with less personal risk and risk to others. Shoplifting and breaking into unattended cars instead of mugging and snatching people’s bags. Breaking into houses AFTER making sure the tenants aren’t home. Smashing someone’s windshield and slashing their tires as revenge instead of beating them up. Crime stays roughly level, big-news crimes stay level, but interpersonal violence ends up less than it would have been because it’s been replaced with property damage and other nonviolent or less violent crimes.

        • The Nybbler says:

          As far as gun control goes, this one is a real problem for anyone supporting gun control but claiming not to support a ban.

          1) Background checks: The shooter had them, he passed
          2) Training: Also had it.

          1) and 2) fail because he had an _armed security guard_ license in Florida.

          3) Waiting period: This was clearly premeditated and a reasonable waiting period would have done nothing.

          4) Magazine limits: He reloaded. Several times.

          5) Banning particular guns: The AR-15 and its many variants are currently the most popular type of rifle sold. This one looks a lot like a gun ban.

          6) Banning guns for people just because the FBI puts them on a list: He had actually been removed from the list by the time he bought the gun.

    • Specter says:

      1) There need to be some very hard questions asked of our domestic intelligence agencies. It’s hard to reconcile their requests for ever more intrusive access to our personal lives when they can’t even conclusively identify a threat that was figuratively right under their noses.

      2) Someone also needs to ask how a person who’s been investigated as a terror suspect apparently failed to trigger any extra scrutiny or vigilance when making a firearm purchase. I don’t support the ideas of ‘pre-crime’ and I think we need to tread very carefully when we’re talking about fundamental constitutional rights, but it’s not unreasonable to think that someone who’s been identified as a potential terrorist risk and who’s also trying to buy a gun shouldn’t be subject to a little more scrutiny than normal.

      • bluto says:

        The issue is, it’s almost impossible to get supporters of gun rights to trust any effort short of a trial to restrict gun purchases, because they don’t have much trust that anything else will be used against them relatively soon after.

        • Specter says:

          I understand and totally agree. There is a fundamental lack of trust on this issue that makes it hard to even have a productive discussion.

          Perhaps I’m just getting old, but it seems like things have become so polarized, so red team vs. blue team, that it’s hard not to treat every little disagreement as a zero-sum game that has to be won for “our” side at all costs. It’s hard to look at the behavior of our leaders and not feel like the opposition really would be happiest to just destroy everyone who disagrees with them. I wish we could get past our daily two-minutes of hate and find a little patience, empathy, and trust that we really are all in this together for everyone’s benefit.

          • Lysenko says:

            Unfortunately, On this issue “Fundamental lack of trust” is rooted in fundamentally untrustworthy behavior and history. There’s a lot of goalpost-moving, a lot of motte-and-bailey arguments (the most recent being the “terrorist watch list” vs. the actual “no-fly list”).

            You could probably get a decent number of pro-gun types (myself included) to agree to the idea of delaying or freezing firearms purchases of someone under FBI investigation. Broadening it to one of the (multiple) watch lists which are notorious for their opacity, error rate, and the ability of politicos to add people to them for shits and giggles…not so much.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            > It’s hard to look at the behavior of our leaders

            The rise of social media has given everyone proof that it’s not the leaders’ fault. It’s actual people in your community who you’ve probably gone to a dinner party with that blame you for everything wrong with the world.

          • anok says:

            It’s actually people on this website who do this at every opportunity.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The sitting POTUS said that being put on the no-fly list, which happens with no oversight or due process, should deny you the Constitutional right to get a gun.

            So, yes, no trust for “common sense regulations.”

          • Tom Womack says:

            “The sitting POTUS said that being put on the no-fly list, which happens with no oversight or due process, should deny you the Constitutional right to get a gun.”

            I think he’s probably right, in particular because this would in a reasonable world cause the NRA to lobby with their enormous force for the application of oversight and due process to the no-fly list.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Tom Womack

            In a reasonable world, there would be no “no-fly” list. In the real world your argument amounts to hostage-taking “If you don’t fix this wrong that you didn’t cause, we’ll take away your rights too”.

          • lupis42 says:

            Things that would make me interested in compromise:
            – Getting rid of (some or all of) the NFA, i.e. open up the MG registry, remove suppressors, SBRs, and SBSes, narrow the AOW category a bit.
            – National reciprocity for carry permits, and a pre-emption that anything legal to own/carry in the state issuing one’s permit is legal to own/carry through any other state. So MA can’t bust a New Hampshireite when ze drives across the border with a concealed handgun and a 15 round magazine, provided that zir posession and carrying of the rifle and magazine was legal in NH.
            – Simplify the process of getting an FFL, allow anyone to buy a gun from any FFL through the mail, regardless of state of residence.

          • Anonymous says:

            I’d be happy to nationalize the gun laws and allow pretty much anything goes on long guns in exchange for a flat ban on handguns.

            Don’t think that’s deal is going to be acceptable to the gun side (and would be barred by Heller).

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Anonymous – “I’d be happy to nationalize the gun laws and allow pretty much anything goes on long guns in exchange for a flat ban on handguns.”

            This would almost certainly result in a rise in shooting fatalities, possibly a large one. The easiest substitute for handguns is sawed-off rifles and shotguns.

          • Anonymous says:

            I thought it would be pretty obvious that if you had a scheme whereby longuns were mostly unregulated but handguns were banned, the “mostly” part would exclude rules forbidding longuns that are or are converted into de facto handguns.

            I’m not sure the limit has to be 26″ but there does need to be some limit or as you point out the ban is pointless.

          • keranih says:

            I thought it would be pretty obvious that if you had a scheme whereby longuns were mostly unregulated but handguns were banned, the “mostly” part would exclude rules forbidding longuns that are or are converted into de facto handguns.

            But we are talking about criminals who are killing people. Why should they baulk at sawing down a shotgun, just because it is against the law?

          • Anonymous says:

            I think I’ve proved my point:
            “Don’t think that’s deal is going to be acceptable to the gun side “

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Anonymous – “I thought it would be pretty obvious that if you had a scheme whereby long guns were mostly unregulated but handguns were banned, the “mostly” part would exclude rules forbidding long guns that are or are converted into de facto handguns.”

            Such a law already exists, more or less. that doesn’t solve the problem that turning most rifles and shotguns into a concealable pseudo-handgun takes ten minutes and a $5 hacksaw. Such weapons are much, much more lethal than existing handguns; one of the drivers in the drop of accidental firearms fatalities in the latter part of the last century was that people switched from shotguns and rifles to handguns for self defense, so accidental shootings were considerably less lethal. If a criminal is going to get a gun, it’s better for society on net for him to have a glock 9mm than a sawed-off 12-gauge.

            the existing laws don’t prevent criminals from sawing off guns sow, even though pistols are common, so I see no reason to think that they’d saw them off less if pistols were less common.

            “I think I’ve proved my point: “Don’t think that’s deal is going to be acceptable to the gun side “”

            sure, but it’s a bad idea even on purely pragmatic grounds, without even getting into the legitimate utility of handguns.

          • Anonymous says:

            I disagree. It’s not practical to cut a shotgun down to the size of handgun, so they are going to be less concealable. Also they are more dangerous for the user and can explode in their hands. That raises the risks of crime.

            Also, while there may be *some* sawn off shotguns now, that’s and the police haven’t caught every last one that doesn’t mean a law against them is pointless. That’s letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

            I think that a flat ban on handguns would reduce urban deaths from firearms and I’d be willing to trade significant things that rural and suburban gun enthusiasts would want in order to make that happen.

            The response I got is “no what you want is stupid”. Well maybe it is, but in a compromise you are always not going to like the thing the other side wants. If you did it would be something you’d be asking for instead of them.

            Do you really think it is a fair trade to get access to fully automatic machine guns in trade for eliminating the private sale “loophole”? A good trade leaves both sides thinking they got the better end.

          • Doublenonymouse says:

            >Also they are more dangerous for the user and can explode in their hands

            Wait, I… what. Brain.
            What is brain?

          • Nornagest says:

            Maybe if you tried cutting the barrel down with a torch and destroyed its temper? That’s all I can think of, though.

            It occurs to me, though, that this would justify stricter restrictions on break-action weapons than on magazine-fed, which is kinda interesting. You’re gonna have trouble getting an AR or even a pump-action shotgun to pistol size with nothing but a hacksaw, although you might succeed in converting a legal gun to an illegal short-barreled one (at the cost of destroying any hope of accuracy by sawing off the front sight).

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Anonymous – “I disagree. It’s not practical to cut a shotgun down to the size of handgun, so they are going to be less concealable.”

            Rifle versions: lee-enfield, SKS

            They’re certainly a lot bigger than a modern automatic handgun, and yes, less concealable. Plenty good enough to hide in a backpack, under the arm, with a jacket, or down the leg of your jeans though; a lot of the same places people hide handguns now.

            A complete handgun ban probably results in some level of reduction of handgun use in crimes, together with some level of substitution of sawed-off weapons. The substitution effect is going to increase the proportion of gunshots that result in fatalities, but you’re hoping that the handgun reduction effect is bigger than the sawed-off mortality increase. According to the data I’ve seen (a criminology study that surveyed felons on weapon choice in general, if I recall correctly) I’m pretty sure you’re wrong, but that’s an empirical question.

            “Also they are more dangerous for the user and can explode in their hands.”

            Chopping down a barrel with a hacksaw does nothing to make it more likely to explode. The recoil is going to be pretty strong, but otherwise I’m unaware of any way it would make these more dangerous for the user. Kabooms are very rare these days; modern firearms are quite safe from a mechanical failure standpoint and tend to be heavily over-engineered.

            In any case, if you were right about a broad handgun ban leading to net reductions, how about banning all private sales of firarms, and only allowing those who qualified for a CCW to own handguns, in exchange for opening the MG registry and dropping the tax on silencers?

            “Do you really think it is a fair trade to get access to fully automatic machine guns in trade for eliminating the private sale “loophole”? A good trade leaves both sides thinking they got the better end.”

            Well, for starters, there’s the several decades worth of one-sided “compromises” to make up for, the lies, the smear campaigns, the regulatory abuses and malicious prosecutions, and not a few dead bodies. But beyond that, we’re winning and you don’t really have much to offer us.

            The murder rate is still dropping, CCW is legal now in a majority of states, the AR15 is the most common rifle in America, and violence continues to decline. The entire gun control argument has narrowed down to appeals to emotion over spree killings, because that’s pretty much the only case left to make. The status quo works in our favor, not yours. The data is on our side, not yours. The heady days of Kellerman and the NEJM are over.

            Further, gun control laws decay, because guns are technology and technology is constantly advancing. Civilian-legal full-auto became available three years ago (and had zero effect on violence rates, natch). Bullet buttons have turned California’s assault-weapons bans into even more of a joke than they already were. CNC and 3D printing just get cheaper and better, and the DIY gunsmith community is exploding.

            Finally, there are just too damn many of us. Observe Canada’s failed attempt at a registry; gun owners openly and loudly refused to cooperate, and the government was forced to scuttle the scheme after it overran its budget by several thousand percent and created no benefit. Serious gun control is impossible without the cooperation of the gun culture; the federal government doesn’t have enough courts to try us in or prisons to hold us in, even if it abandoned all other law enforcement and focused exclusively on guns. And that’s with simple civil disobedience, which seems like an optimistic scenario.

            So why offer any compromise at all? Because the ideal, in a world where we could actually trust you, would be licensing guns the way we do cars. If it weren’t for the last several decades of gun control madness and stupidity, that’s probably what we’d be doing now, and it would be a real if perhaps marginal improvement over the current situation. automatic fire conversion kits are already legal to buy through the mail; opening the MG registry isn’t going to suddenly reduce us to a mad-max existence.

            @nornagest – chopping an autoloading rifle down to pistol dimensions usually compromises the gas system, but that just makes your new “pistol” a bolt-action.

            Or you could invest a little more work, and get one of these: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEftC4P5W9c

          • John Schilling says:

            I disagree. It’s not practical to cut a shotgun down to the size of handgun, so they are going to be less concealable. Also they are more dangerous for the user and can explode in their hands.

            It is very easy to cut down a shotgun to such a size that a person who is planning mayhem will be able to inconspicuously bring it to the site of the planned mayhem. It is not practical to cut down a shotgun to such a size that a person who thinks she might need to defend herself sometime this month can carry it with her every day this month. Possibly you can see why some of us consider this a really bad plan.

            There is no real likelihood of a sawed-off shotgun exploding in the user’s hands, and I am having a hard time figuring out where you are coming from with that.

          • Psmith says:

            Do you really think it is a fair trade to get access to fully automatic machine guns in trade for eliminating the private sale “loophole”?

            No, we’d also want silencers over the counter and 50-state CCW reciprocity

            A good trade leaves both sides thinking they got the better end.

            Probably shit outta luck, then.

            @FacelessCraven:

            Civilian-legal full-auto became available three years ago

            What are you thinking of here? Some kind of bump-fire setup?

          • lupis42 says:

            @psmith

            Slide fire stocks and double-triggers, presumably. Neither is as good as a proper selector, but I suspect that as soon as they start winning 3 gun matches, the “burst” options for civvies will be getting a close look by the LEO/MIL types.

            In terms of what would be a fair trade for ending the private sale exemption?
            – No more NFA. Not for MGs, not for Suppressors, not for SBRs or SBS. Definitely no more muzzle diameter restriction for DDs.
            – National CCW reciprocity.
            – Total pre-emption of state restrictions on firearms by type. No more AWBs, no capacity limits, nada.
            – No requirement that transfers go through a dealer in my state. If I want to go buy guns in a state with no/low sales taxes, I get to.
            – A pony (preferably, a near mint 6″ Python in blue)

          • The Nybbler says:

            While we’re asking for ponies, how about overturning state firearms sale restrictions? To get a firearm OWNERS permit in NJ requires you get two upstanding citizens to vouch for you, and be fingerprinted like a criminal, and fill out a “consent to mental health records” form. Also the form requests you to accurately give information about things which may have happened decades ago and for which you no longer have any records (and you go to jail if you get it wrong and they find out). And you have to do that again for every handgun you want to buy. This amounts to an absolute bar for me, and it’s an obvious violation of Heller.

            Unfortunately no court actually cares to enforce that decision rather than work around it.

            So, along with that pony — if the private sale exemption is eliminated, then buying guns from an FFL shouldn’t be subject to ANY state restrictions.

          • lupis42 says:

            @TheNybbler – I’d be on board with that. I always forget how bad NJ is, but it’s even worse than MA.

          • Anonymous says:

            But beyond that, we’re winning and you don’t really have much to offer us.

            Probably shit outta luck, then.

            Alrighty then. Good luck and may the best culture win.

          • Psmith says:

            I suspect that as soon as they start winning 3 gun matches, the “burst” options for civvies will be getting a close look by the LEO/MIL types.

            All I know is what I see onnaYoutube, but I’d think you’d have to design a course specifically to favor burst fire in order to give it a noticeable advantage over semi. Require double taps on each target, that kind of thing.

            Alrighty then. Good luck and may the best culture win.

            A better angle would be geographical. Repeal all Federal gun control and let states sort it out. To some extent this is already happening anyway. 30 or 40 states are loosening their laws (something like 10 states don’t require a permit for CCW now, and two or three have passed largely symbolic laws nullifying Federal gun control), the rest are clamping down. County level would be better than state; the rural counties in California and Washington and Illinois shouldn’t be yoked to the big blue cities. But you’d need to control the borders between polities. and the limit case is of course secession. Which I’m actually just fine with, but I don’t expect it to get much traction.

            ~exit not voice~

        • Frog Do says:

          This sort of thing caused a coup in the NRA, which is very interesting. People wanting to understand more about pressure groups and national politics should check it out.

        • Garrett says:

          As one of those people, I agree.

          However, I’d be willing to make trades if the Other Side was to make some actual concessions. For example, opening up the machine gun registry again. Or getting rid of the classification of suppressors as firearms requiring lots of paperwork and extra tax. Or providing some guaranteed funding for people convicted of non-violent felonies to restore their Federal firearm rights. Etc.

      • Homo Iracundus says:

        >Someone also needs to ask how a person who’s been investigated as a terror suspect apparently failed to trigger any extra scrutiny or vigilance when making a firearm purchase

        Because they stopped investigating him and the Orlando “kill the gays” preacher at his(?) local mosque. He wasn’t on any kind of list, secret or otherwise.
        Why they stopped investigating them is an interesting question that I believe we should address before we start handing those investigators the power to put people on secret lists-you-can’t-even-confirm-you’re-on-let-alone-apply-to-get-off-of.

        • gbdub says:

          Yes, this has bothered me – essentially none of the proposed responses to this attack would have actually prevented this attack (or San Bernardino, or most of these things really).

          1) Deny guns to those on FBI watch lists? Guy wasn’t on a watch list anymore.
          2) Expand background checks to private sales somehow (close the supposed “gun show loophole”)? Guns were bought at a licensed dealer, and the background check was passed.
          3) Require licensing for firearm ownership? Attacker held a CCW permit and was a licensed security guard.
          4) Restrict weapon magazine sizes? Guy had free reign over the club for a long time. I doubt additional magazine changes would have significantly impacted the body count.
          5) Ban AR-15s? Gun was not an AR-15.
          6) Ban “Machine Guns”? Wasn’t a machine gun.
          7) Actually ban legal purchases of semi-automatic rifles? We’re really assuming that if this guy had been denied a gun purchase, he would have given up and decided to live in peace and harmony with his fellow gay Americans? A can of lighter fluid and a match would have produced a similar body count.

          • keranih says:

            3) Require licensing for firearm ownership? Attacker held a CCW permit and was a licensed security guard.

            Scott, can you speak to this next question?

            Back when Columbine was a new thing, one of the opinion magazines (Time, Newsweek, etc) had a lengthy report on it. Among the talking headshrinks that they quoted was one passage that really caught my attention. I paraphrase:

            In about eighty percent of the cases of outburst attacks like this, we can go back and identify clear warning signs noted by at least one other person that the future attacker was unstable and dangerous.

            To me, what was spooky and disturbing was that this left 20% of the time when these fuckers came out of left field and no one saw it coming.

            Scott has spoken before about how there is a big overlap between “signs and symptoms displayed by a person who will never hurt themselves and/or others” and “signs and symptoms displayed by a person who will go on to hurt themselves or others”. And of course we have to consider this lack of specificity when making up our rules about interventions.

            My question is concerning that blank space – the people who don’t make anyone twitchy before they put themselves on the headlines. How common is that?

          • Specter says:

            I think this particular incident really exposes the weaknesses of the “common sense” gun control arguments. In terms of gun control, nothing that’s been proposed short of a total ban on firearms with draconian enforcement would have prevented this from happening.

            Or, to quote the respected scholar Sir Mix-a-lot: “I don’t believe in gun control, the theory is proven: give a criminal a gun, and your public is losin’.” 😉

          • onyomi says:

            “My question is concerning that blank space – the people who don’t make anyone twitchy before they put themselves on the headlines. How common is that?”

            I think the real problem is all those who do make others twitchy, but who will never do anything dangerous. They make the risk of injustice too high to take most preemptive actions.

          • From what I’ve heard on the news, the FBI dropped the investigation because they concluded the guy was just talking big…. and for all I know, this may have been an accurate description of him 2014.

            I’ve heard of research about what goes on in the shift from talk and fantasies to taking terrorist action (this sounds like a great topic which would also apply to a lot of other decisions), but I don’t remember any details.

          • Tom Womack says:

            In about eighty percent of the cases of outburst attacks like this, we can go back and identify clear warning signs noted by at least one other person that the future attacker was unstable and dangerous.

            The interesting question is to ask in how many cases of someone dropping dead of a heart attack at their desk you could go back through their history with the effort the police would attach to a mass-shooter and find such warning signs.

            http://www.theonion.com/article/neighbors-remember-serial-killer-as-serial-killer-3905 is probably relevant here.

          • roystgnr says:

            A can of lighter fluid and a match would have produced a similar body count.

            Or a higher body count, or a much higher body count. It seems uncharitable to imagine that lists of “largest mass shootings” are politically motivated, but I honestly struggle to understand why else we don’t discuss “largest mass murders” instead.

          • Tom Womack says:

            “A can of lighter fluid and a match would have produced a similar body count.”

            Would it? Fire regulations are pretty competent nowadays, and building regulations written in burned corpses mean that buildings and furniture really are not all that terribly flammable.

            Mucking about with lighter fluid and a match would be likely to get a ‘what the expletive are you doing’, the fire alarms sounding, a moderately disorderly evacuation and the pronounced and vigorous attention of the security staff.

          • Mary says:

            A mass murderer who wants to kill would be well advised to choose in order
            1. Explosives
            2. Arson
            3. Guns

            I’m sorry, but there is no other explanation for biggest mass shootings talk than political motivation except parroting those whose motives are political. You can see the same reasoning in those who talk about “gun deaths” as if we didn’t mind being beaten to death with baseball bats.

          • Who wouldn't want to be anonymous says:

            “Would it? Fire regulations are pretty competent nowadays, and building regulations written in burned corpses mean that buildings and furniture really are not all that terribly flammable.”

            I actually think you are mistaken. Buildings and furniture are absolutely more flammable than they used to be. Just ask the UL. As far as can tell, modern improvements in fire safety revolve around evacuation, preventing accidental fires, and not burning the whole city down. Not so much in actually making the stuff we use less flammable.

      • John Schilling says:

        Isn’t there an obvious conflict between your #1 and #2?

        #1 is going to involve more investigations into potential threats. Even, or perhaps especially, if the security state doesn’t get intrusive access to our personal lives, they are still going to be poking at our public lives. The Orlando shooter was investigated as a potential terrorist basically because he went to the same church as someone who went to Syria to join ISIS. Now everybody who went to the same church as this guy is going to be investigated. And none of those files are ever going to be closed, because looking ahead from the investigator’s POV, “we were trying to nail the guy but he never gave us anything concrete” is vastly preferable to “we decided he was OK” if it comes to a press conference.

        #2 now means that anybody who ever went to a church the wrong guy, is denied their right to keep and bear arms. Yeah, “a little more scrutiny than normal”. They were investigated as thoroughly as they are ever going to be back when they were identified as a terrorist risk; you’re not going to learn anything new from a gun-purchase background check, you’re going to say yea or nay based on what you already know and what you already know is that they are “under investigation”, details classified.

        And really, they aren’t going to sign up for any meaningful level of extra scrutiny anyhow, because why should they? There are other ways to obtain a gun if they feel they need one, and they now have no reason to respect the law, the government, or the nation.

        • Specter says:

          Perhaps I stated my questions/positions inelegantly.

          In the context of trying to find a rational response to this incident I was really picking on two different ideas:

          1) That the government needs more access to our private lives to protect us from this kind of threat. Our law enforcement and intelligence communities continue to argue that they need access to all of our communications metadata, more National Security Letters (NSL), back doors to the encryption on our mobile phones and the like, with little or no oversight, in order to prevent exactly this kind of event. And yet, here is another case where none of those intrusions on our 4th amendment protections were necessary to identify the risk (Paris being another example) and they utterly failed to detect or prevent the attack. So, one of the rational responses I was suggesting was that there should be further resistance to this idea of a massively unconstitutional surveillance state as an effective mitigation for this risk. (Or at the very least having another look at the cost vs. benefits.)

          2) The second idea/rational response I was driving at had to do with background checks and their effectiveness or lack thereof. I’m a gun owner, I’ve got my CHL, and I generally oppose gun control measures on both Constitutional and practical grounds. However, it seems like a pretty big gap to me when the background check process we do have doesn’t take into account the fact that someone was reasonably suspected to be a terrorist. Yes, I agree, that’s a really slippery slope and, as @bluto noted above, there’s a big and totally justifiable lack of trust that this won’t be abused to deny innocent people their Constitutional rights. Yes, I agree, that it seems like we have a baker’s dozen of secret suspect lists with arbitrary selection rules and that’s also a big problem.

          Those issues not withstanding, this was a red flag and it’s reasonable to ask if this should have had some bearing on the background check process. I think there’s probably a way to do that which doesn’t unreasonably impinge on our natural and Constitutionally recognized right to self defense.

          I guess I don’t see that the two are in conflict: both cases really highlight that we’re not effective with the information and processes we already have.

          • John Schilling says:

            You’re weaseling with “take into account the fact…” and “some bearing on…”

            The only sort of background check that doesn’t turn into a de facto gun ban for the Wrong Sort Of (colored) People, is the nondiscretionary sort where X, Y, or Z is an automatic fail and !X, !Y, !Z is an automatic pass. You know this, or ought to. So are you saying that being on some sort of terrorist watch list should disallow people from owning guns? If so, say so.

            If not, then what? We see that a prospective gun owner was suspected of being a terrorist, investigated at the time, and nothing was done about it then. If we’re not going to simply deny the purchase on that fact, what do you imagine we might do that is plausibly useful? You can be speculative, but I’d like you to be specific.

            If the plan is to deny the purchase until some bureaucrat uses their discretion to allow it in spite of the officially-suspected terrorist status, then realistically that is never going to happen.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            Have you seen the NRA’s own background check watchlist proposal? The one with actual due process restrictions and time limits?

            For some reason the media just hasn’t been talking about it…

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            there’s a big and totally justifiable lack of trust that this won’t be abused to deny innocent people their Constitutional rights.

            Require some adult of good reputation to post bond against possible damage done with that gun by that buyer.

            Skin in the game, yanno.

          • keranih says:

            Require some adult of good reputation
            to post bond against possible damage by that gun.

            Ooooo….

            So, does the police chief in each area get to pick who is “of good reputation”?

            I have Bull Conner holding on line one, he says all the colored folks – including that…I’m sorry, I’m not going to repeat that…including that fellow living on Pennsylvania Avenue – are no-good, lying, thieving scallywags and should not be trusted.

            Also, I would like to be able to bake cakes only for people of good reputation, and my cousin the lawyer would like to only represent people of good reputation.

            I think this is an excellent addition to our national judicial tradition.

          • One possibility that I don’t think has been raised is that when someone on the watch list buys a gun, the FBI is notified and starts paying attention to him in whatever ways are legal, possibly assigning an agent to watch him for the next few weeks. He has the same right as anyone else to buy guns, but his doing so is information relevant to the chance he will commit a crime.

            I don’t know how practical something along those lines would be, but it’s a different approach than restricting his right to buy a gun.

          • John Schilling says:

            I think we’re gonna need some more FBI guys, I guess?

            All due respect to the capabilities of agents Johnson and Johnson (no relation), but I’m pretty sure the FBI doesn’t have nearly the manpower to follow around everybody who was ever investigated as a possible terrorist, every time they try to buy a gun (or airplane or whatever). And I don’t think you want to live in the country where they do, because that country used to be called “East Germany”.

            You’re probably right that this is what people are at least vaguely and implicitly thinking of, but no. People think of that all the time, and they ask for it all the time. Ralph beats up Alice after a bad day of work, and spends the night in jail. He’s not stupid enough to go home and beat up Alice again immediately, but he’ll probably do it sometime in the next few days so can we have the police keep an eye on him? Someone phones in a threat to the bakery that did/did not bake a cake for a gay wedding, can we park a patrol car out front for the next week? Come on, you wasted police manpower investigating that other guy who was perfectly harmless, you were only harassing him because he was a Muslim, don’t tell me you can’t keep tabs on this other guy who scares me.

            No. No they can’t. They can make a few phone calls to the usual suspects, but unless they start with something more solid that “is so-and-so up to no good this week?”, that makes things worse rather than better. Beyond that, actual crimes where people actually got hurt mostly go without meaningful investigation. Imaginary future crimes, even ones involving Scary Muslims (now with Extra Guns!), get nothing.

          • ReluctantEngineer says:

            I think we’re gonna need some more FBI guys, I guess?

            To put a number on this, it typically takes at least 12 agents to keep one person under 24-hour surveillance. Some of the difficulties of surveillance (including the 12 agent number) are discussed in this article.

          • Specter says:

            @John Schilling: “You’re weaseling with ‘take into account the fact…’ and ‘some bearing on…'”

            Fair enough. I wasn’t really trying to be prescriptive, but if you’re looking for specifics, I’m open to Sen. Cornyn’s bill as it’s described in the WSJ:

            “Mr. Cornyn’s measure, which is supported by the NRA, would notify the Justice Department if someone on one of the terror watch lists tried to purchase a gun. A special court proceeding would be triggered in which the Justice Department would have 72 hours to investigate the individual.

            A judge could block the purchase if the government could demonstrate there was probable cause to believe the weapon would be used in connection with terrorism. Mr. Cornyn’s bill would also give the Justice Department the authority to immediately take the prospective purchaser into custody.”

            In my opinion, I think that strikes a fair balance between public safety and individual liberty. I would want to make sure that those judicial proceedings were not conducted in secret, but other than that, this seems fair.

            It should be noted, however, that Cornyn is also proposing expanded surveillance powers for the FBI which I strongly oppose. I don’t know if those are shoe-horned into the same bill/amendment; I’m having trouble finding the proposed text.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            To put a number on this, it typically takes at least 12 agents to keep one person under 24-hour surveillance. Some of the difficulties of surveillance (including the 12 agent number) are discussed in this article.

            And just the other day we were worried about robots taking all our jobs.

          • John Schilling says:

            Mr. Cornyn’s bill would also give the Justice Department the authority to immediately take the prospective purchaser into custody.”

            In my opinion, I think that strikes a fair balance between public safety and individual liberty

            So the justice department can immediately “take a person into custody”, at their own discretion, so long as person is the Super Secret List of Scary Muslims(*) and tried to legally purchase a firearm?

            I think that is an intolerable abuse of individual liberties, exerting a chilling effect on the exercise of a Constitutionally-protected civil right, and would cost us dearly in terms of public trust with the Muslim community. And whichever other communities wind up on overrepresented on The List.

            Also, if they haven’t yet committed a terrorist attack, you’re not going to be sentencing them to life in prison because they went to the same church as a terrorist, beat their wife, mouthed off on the internet, and tried to buy a legal gun. Or whatever. This is strictly catch-and-release. When you release them, in a week or a month or even a decade, the odds that they will (now with an illegal gun) go off and shoot a bunch of people are:

            A – less than they were before you threw them in jail, or
            B – greater than they were before you threw them in jail.

            This is the sort of plan that won’t work and will make things worse. Don’t do that.

            * If the list isn’t secret, then you’re only pissing off the law-abiding Muslims; the actual terrorists will just check the list and have their cousin buy the gun for them.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Look, I’m all for reducing the flow of Muslim immigration, and even monitoring various mosques more closely. But you cannot arrest people for performing a perfectly legal act, just because you find them suspicious on the basis of other perfectly legal acts they have performed. That’s a serious breach of civil rights. If you’re going to let people into the country, you need to accord them the same rights of citizenship that everybody else gets. We only start taking rights away when a crime has been committed.

          • Mary says:

            ” If you’re going to let people into the country, you need to accord them the same rights of citizenship that everybody else gets. ”

            Rights of residency, which are not the same. It’s when they are citizens by law — such as birth — that those come in.

    • keranih says:

      Same as with everything else we see as a problem:

      1) Define the problem
      2) Determine how to measure the rate & magnitude of the problem
      3) Discuss possible solutions to prevent/mitigate the problem, along with metrics for success/failure, and identifying both foreseeable downsides and how to find the downsides we didn’t foresee before hand
      4) Have a shouting match over which is the best solution, vote on the best solution, and have another shouting match over the results
      5) Implement the solution picked in (4), along with the aforementioned metrics
      6) Observe results, rinse, repeat

      As I see it, we keep getting stuck on (1) and then maybe (2).

      • Lysenko says:

        Hell, depending on who you ask about 1), this is either A: the “Deadliest Mass Shooting In US History”, and should be viewed and treated identically to cases like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, Seung-Hui Cho, and Adam Lanza…

        …or B: the “Worst Terrorist Attack Since 9/11”. And to be clear, for most of the people framing these events, these are mutually exclusive categories, and discussing ways in which they overlap is taboo, nevermind that precisely because we have actually been pretty successful at making it hard for organized Mumbai/Paris style attacks (which could just as easily be characterized as a gun control/Mass shooting problem, but are not) we’ve seen a shift to lone wolf attackers (Nidal Malik Hassan, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, Dzokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik) who show at least some similarities to those of “traditional” spree killers/active shooters.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          “precisely because we have actually been pretty successful at making it hard for organized Mumbai/Paris style attacks (which could just as easily be characterized as a gun control/Mass shooting problem, but are not)…”

          I’ll bet you a shiny nickel that if there was an organized Mumbai/Paris-style attack here in the United States, it would be characterized as a gun control/mass shooting problem. A successful narrative for redirecting such events towards the approved political narrative has been found, and will be used consistently from now on.

          • Randy M says:

            What are the salient features that put the San Bernardino killers in the “mass shooting” category versus the organized assault category?

            It seemed pretty organized, planned out ahead of time, coordinated, etc. I think that the choice of venue was spontaneous though?

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            @Randy M – I myself would divide it up based on a) number of people involved and b) multiple venues. Somebody shooting up one location is obviously awful, but multiple somebodies coordinating attacks on multiple locations is far scarier. For one thing, it implies that attacks can continue even after some specific attackers are taken care of; it also implies some purpose just beyond mindless violence.

            That being said, the actual media narrative after a Mumbai-style attack would be that once again, American gun control and intolerance etc. etc., facts be damned. Count on it.

        • erenold says:

          Let’s be a little bit fair here and point out that in this case the evidence really is strongly on the side of “nutter” rather than “hardened jihadist.”

          The shooter’s father is clearly some kind of mentalist/messiah complex and its apparent that the fruit didn’t fall far from the tree. He was gay and hated gays. The level of his commitment to jihad can be seen from the fact that he somehow managed to pledge allegiance to three different Islamist organizations, two Sunni and one Shia, and all three fighting each other right now in Syria. If it wasn’t Islamism it would have been the fact that his Fruit Loops didn’t taste right that morning.

          It’s being described as a completely different kettle of fish from Mumbai/Paris style attacks because it is completely different from those. The solutions for both are completely different.

          • gbdub says:

            On the other hand, ISIS seems to be deliberately encouraging these sorts of attacks through targeted propaganda. It’s not a precise weapon, but it’s clearly an effective one.

          • Lysenko says:

            And again, you’re framing this as “X rather than Y”, when in fact the two categories aren’t mutually exclusive. Some senior leadership among various terrorist groups are certainly rational actors, but I would stress that this is ‘some’, and the lower down the totem pole you go, the more marginal personalities you get, not to mention the more ideologically inconsistent, contradictory, and incoherent. Once you get to the recent trend of ‘self-radicalizing’ loners and those who are targeted for radicalization long distance based on their online presence, you’re well into a murky grey landscape where there isn’t a bright line between “A totally functional healthy human being who just happens to be running the wrong set of ideological software” and “nutter with a head full of bad wiring”. I would hope that on this blog of all places, we generally have some awareness that the difference there often isn’t terribly clear cut even in day to day life.

            I will accept and agree with the claim that the orlando shooter had serious issues. That does not make him materially different from other self-starters, and he’s at least as consistent and coherent as, say, Roshonara Choudhry, and -more- consistent and coherent than someone like John Allen Mohammed, someone who fits your characterization of ‘if it wasn’t islamism it would’ve been something else’ far better than this case, I think.

            I would also note that the “If it hadn’t been islamism it would’ve been some other ideology” is exactly the same sort of argument that regularly gets poo-poo-ed away when discussing other possibly politically motivated shootings by lone actors.

          • erenold says:

            That’s so, but I think it’s worth exploring the counterfactual, which is let’s say Obama thoroughly scours ISIS, their supporters, and every trace of their ideology, from the world, leaving a blank void where it used to be.

            Does the Orlando shooter then shoot?

            With the San Bernandino couple I think, no. With Paris definitely no, since they were organized and, I believe, trained by them. With this guy I’m not sure, but I think he may still have. In which case the efficacious solution may be to take the gun out of his hand in the first place.

            I really can’t let go of the fact that he pledged allegiance both to Hezbollah and ISIS. If I blew up a pub tomorrow praising the Real IRA, that’s a political problem with a political solution; if I blew up a pub somehow pledging allegiance to both the IRA, the UDF and her Majesty the Queen’s Army then I think I’m genuinely just a crazy person who requires a whole different toolbox. (On that note: I’ve not seen any evidence that the shooter identified with or even understood the Sunni/Shia divide, and I’d be grateful for any.)

            ETA: Very sorry @Lysenko, I hadn’t seen your reply when I posted this to gbdub – all I can say is that’s true and certainly every case has some of each, but some cases really are much nearer to a certain paradigm, and the Orlando shooter – to my mind at least – is very much more of the personal/crime control one. Arguably, since Paris/Mumbai style attacks have never occurred before in the US and are perhaps even logistically impossible for ISIS to pull off, that has specific policy implications – for instance, it clarifies and gives greater weight to Obama’s refusal to call Radical Islamic Terrorism by that name.

          • Lysenko says:

            If I blew up a pub tomorrow praising the Real IRA, that’s a political problem with a political solution; if I blew up a pub somehow pledging allegiance to both the IRA, the UDF and her Majesty the Queen’s Army then I think I’m genuinely just a crazy person who requires a whole different toolbox.

            If you’re Northern Irish, absolutely. If you’re second+ generation Irish-American being fed second and third-hand information and propaganda about the struggle of Your People in your Home Country, I find it less surprising.

            The average American -politician- can’t articulate the difference between Hezbollah and ISIS, why should he?

            EDIT: Sorry, forgot to finish. As far as Islamist ideology being the Sine Qua Non of this -specific- shooting, consider this: Yes, a good portion of his motivation appears to be self-hatred/hatred of gays. Where did he learn that? I submit that despite some of the more…interesting claims being floated out there, it -wasn’t- from the American “Religious Right”.

          • gbdub says:

            Here’s a thought in the “jihadist” column – while he may be nuts, I think his status as a first-generation child of Muslim immigrants made him uniquely vulnerable to radicalization. I think we have an assimilation problem – most of these “lone wolf” types are socially isolated, but it seems like children of immigrants (maybe even more so than immigrants themselves) are at higher risk to be isolated.

            Another concern is that there appear to be definite pockets of radicalism within American Islam, and the Islamic community as a whole doesn’t seem to be able to reliably provide alternative, non-radical communities for these vulnerable people (mostly young-ish men). It’s difficult when there’s a low prevalence of Muslims in general – it doesn’t take too many radical mosques / imams to make that dominate the conversation, or to drive young men looking for communities to the radical propaganda on the Internet.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Me against my brother, my brother and I against my cousin, my cousin and I against the world.

          • erenold says:

            @Lysenko,

            The American politician does not purport to be motivated by ISIS propaganda, the Orlando shooter did. I’m given to understand ISIS constantly parrot how much more Islamic they are than everybody else, including other Sunnis, let alone the Shiites. If the Orlando shooter was genuinely unaware of this fundamental aspect of ISIS ideology (which is a claim I’m tentatively advancing, but more evidence is necessary) then he was never “radicalized” as we understand it in the first place, viz., he was a normal person, he was exposed to ISIS propaganda, then he became a threat. Rather, he was always a threat. That has obvious policy implications in terms of preventing the next Pulse.

            You make a good point about the latent homophobia in Islamic culture, but I’m not sure that’s fixable in the short term, and it’s certainly not something specific to ISIS.

          • NN says:

            @gdub: Everything that I’ve read about Omar’s biography indicates that whatever social isolation he faced had nothing to do with religion, and everything to do with his own personal problems. Expressing homophobia in public while secretly going to a gay bar twice a month was the least of this guy’s issues.

          • Lysenko says:

            If the Orlando shooter was genuinely unaware of this fundamental aspect of ISIS ideology (which is a claim I’m tentatively advancing, but more evidence is necessary) then he was never “radicalized” as we understand it in the first place, viz., he was a normal person, he was exposed to ISIS propaganda, then he became a threat. Rather, he was always a threat.

            Ah, but I’m not at all sure that that’s a good understanding of radicalization. Thing is, my own understanding is that when you’re talking about the various Islamist ideologies and groups, that much like other toxic ideologies in history you might have a leadership cadre of ‘rational’ (for values of rational), internally consistent ideologues and a seeding of True Believers throughout the movement as a whole…

            …but that by and large the rank and file, to include those willing to die in suicide attacks, are for the most part not even terribly interested in the overarching political philosophy/religion. They’re in it for a widely varying range of idiosyncratic motivations, with some overlap with the ideologues but just as much “I feel like I belong”/”I feel powerful”/”I like hurting people”/”This gives me power”/”This lets me strike out at people I’ve always hated and legitimizes my pre-existing biases and grudges”/etc/etc

            To be clear, I think this is true not just of religious extremist groups, but most political ones as well.

            You make a good point about the latent homophobia in Islamic culture, but I’m not sure that’s fixable in the short term, and it’s certainly not something specific to ISIS.

            I don’t see this attack as an “attack From ISIS” except in the sense that ISIS is one of many sources spreading the underlying…gah, I hate to say ‘memes’ and I HATE ‘dangerous speech/ideas’ arguments, but to be honest I’m not sure I have a better way to articulate it. I do think that these groups and in many cases individual speakers are doing in reality what some accuse the American political right of doing: waging a deliberate campaign of inflammatory propaganda and rhetoric, a culture war intended to motivate and incite violent actors within the target cultures.

            That said, I categorically reject the “hate speech” style policy responses, so I don’t have a good answer here.

          • Gbdub says:

            @NN – I’m not saying being Muslim caused his isolation. I’m saying that he was isolated, and his religious community and American society as a whole was not able to un-isolate him. He sought meaning in a particular brand of religious extremism that explicitly promotes violence.

            Sure, maybe he would have always had problems and ISIS just happened to be the form of Destructor he chose.

            On the other hand, isolated people often seek out identity, and the fact that he chose to seek it in his Muslim heritage is not, I think, random chance. More positive options and role models within the Muslim community could conceivably have given him a more positive resolution to his identity crisis.

          • NN says:

            On the subject of homophobia: it’s worth noting that all of the witness reports have the shooter himself saying the following about his motivation:

            “This is in retaliation for America bombing my country.”

            “I’m doing this on behalf of the Islamic State.”

            He also apparently at one point told his hostages that he has no problem with black people.

            As far as I can tell, at this point there isn’t actually any direct evidence that this was motivated by homophobia. Normally I would accept the choice of target as more than sufficient evidence, but this whole situation is so bizarre that I would be totally unsurprised to learn that he wasn’t specifically targeting gays and only chose the club because he was familiar with the location.

            @Gdub: I suggest you read/watch interviews with Omar’s friends, coworkers, and ex-wife. He didn’t become violent and unstable because he was isolated, he was isolated (to the extent that he really was; he did have a wife after all) because he was violent and unstable. This goes way back; he apparently threatened to shoot up his school in the 5th grade.

          • “the latent homophobia in Islamic culture”

            ???

            Homosexuality is forbidden in Islamic law, with scholars differing on whether and how severely it is punishable. But I would have said that Islamic culture has if anything been more tolerant to homosexuality than Christian culture, pace Boswell.

            There are two famous medieval Islamic essays that take the form of debates over the relative claims of homosexual and heterosexual sex. Lots of apparently homosexual poetry. An anecdote about a Caliph whose mother finally got him to have sex with women by dressing a bunch of girls up as boys. Lots more.

          • NN says:

            @David Friedman: That was then, this is now: http://www.pewforum.org/2013/04/30/the-worlds-muslims-religion-politics-society-morality/

            I’ve heard that the Muslim world has become less tolerant of homosexuality in part due to European colonialism during Victorian times as well as the rise of Wahhabism and similar movements.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @David Friedman: So we should say “latent homophilia”, as positive attitudes have coexisted with the unequivocal condemnation in shari’a.

          • erenold says:

            @David Friedman,

            Ah, yes – I did fear I was being a bit too glib and far too condemnatory of a 1.7b-strong global community.

            Still though, in fairness, I think my point is fairly clear – as NN puts it, that was then and now is now. I should definitely perhaps have qualified my statement with “contemporary Islam” or some such though. My apologies.

          • Garrett says:

            I’d also add that as a probable self-loathing gay man, he attempted to and failed to get laid at that same bar previously. Not merely a violet nutter off his rocker, but one who was probably trying to reclaim self worth after not being able to get laid at a gay bar.

          • Mary says:

            We’ve had this problem before. Anarchist theory was big on the Propaganda of the Deed, wherein individual anarchists were inspired by Propaganda of the Words and went out to blow something up.

            It got ugly.

      • Jill says:

        Yes, we do keep getting stuck on #1 Define the problem. Because we are expecting a political solution, the problem keeps getting defined in ways that are helpful to political candidates.

        Since the NRA contributes lots of money to Congress, it’s convenient to decide to do anything at all that would not get in the way of more and more guns being sold to any crazy person walking the streets. Since the NRA is a marketing association for gun manufacturers.

        Also scared insecure voters– who are mostly insecure because of the economy, not really because of terrorism– love their guns and their “2nd amendment rights” which are actually about militias but no one wants to admit that. Here is what one Aussie thinks of the U.S. and guns.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7OZIOE6aMBk

        We’re not going to do anything about any problem that involves guns, because of the political money from the gun lobby and the votes from the gun loving voters.

        What’s going to continue happening is that politicians like Trump will use each terrorist attack to scare people into thinking they need a big aggressive Daddy figure to aggressively take care of the problem by decisive action of some stupid kind like barring all Muslims from entering the U.S., no matter what they are like. Or whatever his next boldly decisive sounding dumb idea is.

        So, sooner or later, we’re going to get either President Trump, or a president very much like Trump. We already re-elected Big Daddy Cheney & W to aggressively protect us after 9/11, by attacking the wrong country– a country that had nothing to do with 9/11. So we probably have more stuff like that in store for us.

        That’s the problem with democracy. Voters are easily influenced to vote for politicians who collect enough donations to afford political propaganda. And in a country like the U.S., no one even notices the propaganda is happening. People are just clueless as to why, in a democracy, the government is not the least bit responsive to the 99.99% who continually vote the way the most expensive campaign ads tell them to.

        Oh, I forgot, supposedly Trump proves otherwise. But if the GOP thought Trump could not be bought by their donors, they would not be supporting him now.

        Also, Congress makes the laws. As you can see for most of Obama’s time in office, Congress can block the pres from doing things, even from getting a hearing on his SCOTUS nominee. And if Congress wanted to, which it currently does not, it could pass laws. In fact, except for executive orders, Congress makes all the laws.

        And Big Money political donors own Congress, and own their constituencies through propaganda political ads. So they will continue to get what they want, using terrorism as just one more tool to scare voters into giving Big Money donors like the NRA and the Military/Security Industrial Complex what they want.

        • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

          So the problem is that scared and insecure voters are scared and insecure about terrorism instead of the things you want them to be scared and insecure about?

        • keranih says:

          We’re not going to do anything about any problem that involves guns, because of the political money from the gun lobby and the votes from the gun loving voters.

          Jill, if you look at the actual figures involved, and the reports of the Congresscritters involved, you understand that the money is very small, but the votes are huge.

          The NRA can and has been able to instigate campaigns to vote people out of office. Very very few organizations have been able to organize a large group of people who agree on one item. The NRA can do this.

          But it can do this because it focuses on that one thing. Not because of the money, but because of the emotional connection people have to that issue.

          It is a mistake to think that the money can replace the passion of individual voters. This assumes that votes can be bought. While this is likely true of individuals, when applied to large groups, it assumes that immediate financial rewards outweigh other priorities.

        • Frog Do says:

          An amusing problem with the idea of the second amendment referring to armed militias is that they scare the elite so much that even the NRA favors gun restrictions on them. The state really has nothing to fear from an armed citizenry, but much to fear from an organized armed citizenry.

          I would expect voters are scared for a variety of reasons, and I’m nor sure economic reasons are the sole cause, most revolutions happen in times of rising relative prosperity.

          One of the major reasons nothing will get done on gun control is that there is a large difference between the appropriateness of gun control arguments in an urban or a rural environment. This is exactly why we have government on multiple levels, to resist inappropriate one-size-fits-all solutions. Given that cities naturally dominate politics, one would expect a gun ban, but thankfully the Senate is structured so that it is not the case.

          The narrative that Bush the Second and Cheney were paternalistic figures seems strange to me. As I recall at the time most of the rhetoric was that they were owned by business and Israeli interests, not that they were strongman type figures.

          Blaming International Jewry Big Money is probably not a useful frame of reference. Power actors do not necessarily have the most money, and people with money are not coordinated as a block because of their money.

        • Homo Iracundus says:

          ctrl+f “Bloomberg”
          Huh, that’s funny. You’d expect things like this would be an excellent example of massive amounts of money corrupting the political system… but it doesn’t seem to count for some reason.

          It really is like trying to argue with flat-earthers at this point. There’s no thought happening—just the endless repetition of the same five talking points they heard on NPR and read in Mother Jones over and over. And there’s no sign that those talking points are repeated with enough comprehension of meaning that they could even be discussed.

          Maybe a more appropriate metaphor is trying to argue with a Chinese Room with an extremely limited vocabulary?

        • The Nybbler says:

          It’s not money that stops gun control bills. It’s the fact that after the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 passed, a whole bunch of Congresspeople who voted for it lost their jobs as a result. That’s an institutional memory that hasn’t faded yet. I recall in the early 2000s when a gun control bill was under consideration, one advocate said specifically that the bill was important enough that her colleagues should sacrifice their careers to pass it. You could hear the politicans taking two steps back from miles away.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            If you want to be really sure that the Minister doesn’t accept it, you must say the decision is “courageous”.

            And that’s worse than “controversial”?

            Oh, yes! “Controversial” only means “this will lose you votes”. “Courageous” means “this will lose you the election”!

            But seriously, yes. It’s not “we will bribe you”. It’s “if you betray us, we will primary you. And we have the votes to make good on that promise”.
            The whole “gun marketing lobby” meme was made up out of whole cloth just a couple of years ago. Amazing how quickly it ended up in all the media scripts.

          • hlynkacg says:

            The “institutional memory” issue cuts both ways. The 1994 Assault Weapons Ban was passed with the support of the NRA.

            However, a lot of 2nd amendment advocates felt betrayed when the definition of “Assault Weapon” was expanded to include everything from evil black rifles to cowboy guns. They concluded that the gun control advocates had negotiated in bad faith, and that’s why pleas for “compromise” now fall on deaf ears.

          • Lysenko says:

            It goes back beyond that. Most gun culture members look all the way back to 1934 and how the National Firearms Act was passed into law, and the mission creep/ratchet from the NFA to the 1968 Gun Control Act.

            If that isn’t sufficient for some, you have the revisions and riders attached to the VERY misnamed Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986, which took what was “just a national registry, no one’s banning anything” and prohibited the AFT from registering any new automatic weapons.

            Throughout all of this, the NRA and in many cases the US firearms industry was onboard. The NRA was fine because before the ‘coup’ mentioned earlier in the thread it was a lot like the NSSF in that its leadership felt that as long as you didn’t fuck with deer season or MY ability to get MY expensive range toy handgun, it’s all good. It would go along to get along, even as the goalposts moved.

            The domestic firearms industry was fine because of the import restrictions and domestic manufacturing requirements, and because many of these other regulations acted to drive prices up. Protectionism is always popular with the protected.

            And this is without even going into the quotes, both written and spoken, from gun control advocates saying in so many words “Yes, the long term goal is total disarmament and a total ban of civilian firearm ownership. But to get there we first have to make sure fewer and fewer people own guns, which means fewer people care about guns, which means fewer people who will fight us for the next necessary steps. This will be a long term, incremental process.”

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @Jill – “Since the NRA contributes lots of money to Congress, it’s convenient to decide to do anything at all that would not get in the way of more and more guns being sold to any crazy person walking the streets. Since the NRA is a marketing association for gun manufacturers.”

          The NRA is not a big money donor. Gun manufacturers are, for the most part, relatively small companies, and most of the big ones make their money selling to governments, not civilians. The NRA gets its clout due to several million members, an awful lot of whom are single-issue voters where gun control is concerned.

          Not that it matters too much these days, because gun control legislation is obsolete.

          • Matt M says:

            3D printed guns are exactly the excuse the government needs to get away with passing heavy-handed and burdensome regulations on the 3D printing industry.

        • “What’s going to continue happening is that politicians like Trump will use each terrorist attack to scare people into thinking they need a big aggressive Daddy figure to aggressively take care of the problem by decisive action of some stupid kind like barring all Muslims from entering the U.S.”

          Or politicians like Obama will use each attack to scare people into thinking they need a big aggressive Daddy figure to aggressively take care of the problem by decisive action of some stupid kind like passing a restriction on gun ownership that would not have prevented the attack.

          After a mass shooting, which do you see more of, arguments that this shows we need more restrictions on immigration or arguments that this shows we need more gun control? Is it even close?

          You only notice the arguments you disagree with because, to you, the others are just saying what is obviously true.

        • Gbdub says:

          Jill, please stop using Daily Show caricatures about what gun owners believe to lecture us. There are plenty of actual gun owners on this board, if you want to know what our motivations are, just ask. You might learn something.

        • Garrett says:

          The NRA has clout in Congress because it has a lot of members who are single-issue voters.
          The NRA is not the marketing arm of the firearm industry – that’s the NSSF.

        • Careless says:

          Ok, so Jill had a lot of nutty points there, but I can’t even guess what country she thinks Bush/Cheney had us attack after the 2004 election

    • Frog Do says:

      A good thing for people hitting the club is to remember these sorts of things can happen, and be more vigilant with knowing where the exits are. I’m a vaguely paranoid person so I usually keep track of those things when I go clubbing, but it’s good to know whenever you’re in a building.

      If you’re a club owner, maybe think about investing more in security and multiple exits and invest more in advertising relative safety. A lot of the times my friends and I went to the clubs that we knew were cleaner and safer, because we knew we’d probably have a better time.

      Gun owners should expect the media, the government, and the NRA to act in the usual ways. The media will use the tragedy to call for more gun bans, and will continue to be basically know nothing about firearms. The politicians will use this to signal to their respective tribes, but mostly likely nothing legislatively major will happen outside of Florida. The NRA will exaggerate the danger of a gun ban, leading to price rises in most of the common ammo and AR-15 manufacturers. Pink Pistols, a LGBT gun rights group, might get a boost, especially since they just won a court case.

      I imagine everyone on social media is reminded why social media sucks, so there will probably be even more disengagement. I know I got off Facebook when Sandy Hook happened.

      • The obvious result is that people in favor of more gun regulation take it as an evidence that we need more gun regulation and people opposed take it as evidence that we need less.

        I’ve seen the claim that the club was a “gun free” zone, which plays into the second claim, don’t know if it is true.

        • Lysenko says:

          Well, if it served alcohol it would at the very least be illegal for CCW holders to be in the bar area (FL law prohibits CCW holders from carrying “in any portion of an establishment licensed to dispense alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises, which portion of the establishment is primarily devoted to such purpose.”) and depending on your interpretation of the state law or if there are any city statutes it could well be illegal to carry in the club period.

        • Frog Do says:

          It’s my understanding that places where people are going to be drinking usually ban guns for obvious reasons.

          • Garrett says:

            I would love to see research done to see if that has an impact.
            I live in Pennsylvania where carrying a firearm while drunk and/or in a bar is legal. We’ve got some strange things that go on here (including those with guns), but I don’t get a sense that allowing carry in bars has resulted in a substantial alteration one way or another of firearms incidents.

          • Matt M says:

            Agree with Garrett – that the obvious might not be so obvious after all.

            Generally speaking, CCW carriers are disproportionately law-abiding. They are less likely than regular people to get in drunken fistfights, so it’s non-obvious that they would get into drunken shootouts if only they had the ability to carry their guns to a bar.

          • Frog Do says:

            I thought it would be an insurance thing and thought the actuaries would have run the numbers. I am willing to believe we live in a world where the obvious bureaucratic thing didn’t happen, though.

          • Jiro says:

            If it was an insurance thing, bar owners would personally ban it to save on their insurance, rather than the bans being made by the law.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Jiro:
            Some states allow CCW in establishments which serve alcohol, others don’t.

            Some states allow private business to ban CCW, others do not.

            In states that allow CCW in bars, and allow private banning of CCW, do we see private banning of CCW bars? I submit we do. Should we expect it to be universal? I submit we should not.

            We should expect business to ban CCW based on a complex set of factors, not merely simple ones. Strictly economically, one factor is the business clientele and whether the cost (in lost clientele) exceeds the cost of increased insurance.

            This of course assumes that state law doesn’t outlaw the insurer from increasing rates, which is also true in some states.

          • The Nybbler says:

            In states that allow CCW in bars, and allow private banning of CCW, do we see private banning of CCW bars? I submit we do.

            On what evidence? I never saw a bar in Pennsylvania posted against carry.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @TheNybbler:
            Here is an article about signage rules in Arizona.

            He also said that, to his knowledge, a majority of liquor license holders in Flagstaff have decided to post “no firearms” signs.

            Now, that article doesn’t mention insurance rates, but, like I said, I don’t think the decision is simple, and I think it mostly depends on clientele.

        • TD says:

          While we are thinking about “gun free zones” this is probably worth mentioning here rather than its own thread: usually the argument about “gun free zones” is rebuffed by the gun control side by saying that if more people were armed then even more people would be killed in the crossfire, because in a panicky situation people are inaccurate.

          With a small number of victims this might have some merit, and this is just a guess, but I feel confident that there’s a lot less chance you are getting 50 kills before someone gets the guy.

          Of course, if people are carrying guns in a club then there might be more deaths over time from drunken shootings, which as Frog Do said is the reason for the restriction in the first place. Perhaps the solution is for clubs to have armed bouncers/security guards who won’t be drinking. People are reticent about having armed security in schools, but a club is an adult space.

          • Nornagest says:

            With a small number of victims this might have some merit, and this is just a guess, but I feel confident that there’s a lot less chance you are getting 50 kills before someone gets the guy.

            I don’t even support this type of gun control, but if you’re basing your assumptions on the single worst event of its type in recent history, you’re probably gonna end up with policy that doesn’t work well for the other 99.99something percent of the time.

          • TD says:

            The other 99.9% of the time has nothing to do with mass shootings in crowded places filled with people, so of course it should be treat differently.

          • Frog Do says:

            The crossfire argument makes a certain sort of sense, and I’ve heard casual reports of people claiming at least some of the injuries in the Orlando shooting were caused by the police. Ultimately this sort of thing does not seem solvable, except with more training for armed security, specifically in high stress situation, which costs money, therefore tradeoffs…

            I expect the market in security to only grow, in the future

          • TD says:

            But how many people would crossfire accidentally take out (possibly a few) before killing the terrorist compared to how many people the terrorist was trying to kill (everyone)?

            Is it plausible to believe that crossfire aimed at the terrorist could have taken out 50 people accidentally?

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ TD
            But how many people would crossfire accidentally take out (possibly a few) before killing the terrorist compared to how many people the terrorist was trying to kill (everyone)?

            That would depend on how many good guys were shooting, what kind of guns they had, etc.

            there’s a lot less chance you are getting 50 kills before someone gets the guy …. how many people the terrorist was trying to kill (everyone)

            “Was trying to kill” =/= “would have succeeded in killing”.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @TD – “Is it plausible to believe that crossfire aimed at the terrorist could have taken out 50 people accidentally?”

            Not even remotely. Plus, the perp was firing a high-powered rifle. People shooting back would almost certainly be doing so with pistols, which are a hell of a lot less likely to kill those struck outright. I believe he was wearing body armor which would have made their job a lot harder, but I find it difficult to imagine a scenario where multiple armed civilians returning fire results in a higher death toll. My guess would be a significantly lower one.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Mark Atwood – “The charitable interpretation, which I will now choose to believe, is that you meant “the gun he was using was more powerful than the guns than any potential everyday carry weapon, because it was a rifle instead of a pistol”.”

            That was the general gist, yeah.

            I was under the impression that “high-powered rifle” included intermediate cartridges as well, and the point was to distinguish them from lower-velocity antiques or longarms chambered for pistol calibers; I remember seeing the term a lot from gun mags written in the 60s and 70s when the more techy part of the gun culture seemed to be taking off, and also in various articles on police tactics relating to cover and concealment. High pressure, high velocity (and attendant fragmentation/yawing), good penetration characteristics on light cover, easily penetrates soft body armor, etc. The 5.56 certainly seems like it would qualify. The match type of the same name might or might not be relevant. Could be wrong on this, though.

            For what it’s worth, I’m pretty sure a spree shooter with a rifle versus victims with rifles also ends at a lower death toll. The idea that crossfire would be worse than unimpeded hostile fire seems extremely dubious to me.

          • Lysenko says:

            @ Faceless Craven
            If .223 is a “High power rifle”, then all rifles not chambered in pistol cartriges (which are generally labelled as ‘pistol carbines’ regardless of length) are ‘high powered rifles’ and the term loses most of its descriptive power.

            .223/5.56 is not terribly ‘high power’ as rifle cartridges go. In fact, it is on the low end, as it was designed to inflict damage on relatively small squishy critters like humans. Generally speaking, I would argue for applying ‘high power’ only to rounds exceeding the specifications of the WW1 and 2 cartridges that now form the mainstream and baseline for hunting (8mm Mauser, .30-06, .303 British, etc).

            To give some examples: .338 Lapua, .300 Win Mag, .50 BMG.

            EDIT: To be clear, the other reason I argue for that definition is that otherwise it starts to become just as much of a low-signal, high-noise propaganda phrase as “assault weapon”, “saturday night special”, “high capacity magazine”, etc.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @FacelessCraven:

            The idea that crossfire would be worse than unimpeded hostile fire seems extremely dubious to me.

            I am not disputing this, but I don’t think it’s a steelman of the contrary position. The steelman is, roughly, that the spree shooter is the one who has the advantage of action. They choose time and place and whether to initiate. They do not care who is shot, only that someone be shot. The potential “GGwaG” (I don’t like the term, but it is the NRAs) is therefore at a distinct disadvantage relative to the assailant. We shouldn’t then expect GGwaGs to have substantial impact on spree-shooting.

            And, indeed, we don’t see this, as near as I can tell. We have many examples of spree killings and (no? very few?) examples of them being stopped by civilians with guns.

          • Skivverus says:

            @HeelBearCub

            Homo Iracundus says:
            June 15, 2016 at 5:07 pm

            Counterexample for the kind of people who are convinced by single data points: ISIS’s “Draw Mohammad Day” attack in Texas.

            2 attackers with rifles, vs 1 armed security guard with a handgun.

            Casualties: 1 guy with a minor ankle wound

            So, I think we can rule out “no”. “Very few” will obviously require more in-depth research (I do at least vaguely remember there being statistics on the matter), but there is a fairly obvious media confirmation bias: a “mass shooting” that doesn’t get to four people before it’s stopped isn’t actually defined as a “mass shooting”… and thus, one suspects, does not make the news.

          • keranih says:

            @ HBC

            We have many examples of spree killings and (no? very few?) examples of them being stopped by civilians with guns.

            Not correct. The counting is complicated by the metrics used for “spree killings” – a better term is “active shooter”. Spree killings are defined by the FBI as four or dead. An active shooter is someone who is shooting at more than one person (ie, when you’re shooting your good for nothing brother in law, that’s just homicide. When you shoot up your family reunion, you’re an active shooter. But if you get shot before you kill more than three people, you’re not a spree killer.

            Here is a blogger looking at active shooters. (There are alternative investigations. Some methodologies are better than others.)

          • Lumifer says:

            @HeelBearCub

            Look at Israel.

            They do have a lot of “spree” shootings/stabbings and there are usually people with guns nearby.

          • Lysenko says:

            @HeelBearCub
            Off the top of my head, and excluding off-duty police officer examples (although in all honesty, we shouldn’t. The level of training required to bring a concealed carry holder up to the level of training of an off-duty cop is basically a couple days of good range instruction and scenarios after a week of class time. With relatively few exceptions, the extent to which non-SWAT cops are in any way competent shooters is the extent to which they train and prepare on their own and are shooters as a hobby as well as for their job):

            AT&T Store in NY Mills: customer with CCW shoots and kills a former employee who entered the store with a list of people to kill when alerted by the first shot.

            Pearl High School: Teacher retrieved their .45 from their car and confronted the shooter. Shooter stopped and was held at gunpoint until police arrived.

            Parker Middle School Dance: venue owner retrieved a shotgun and confronted the shooter, was able to convince them to drop the weapon and surrender. This one is admittedly a relatively weak example because the shooter was not as dedicated or organized as many of the more high profile ones out there, but you asked.

            New Life Church: congregation member with a personal CCW had volunteered to carry while at services as a sort of informal security after other incidents in churches across the country. This led to it being reported that she was a formal, paid, uniformed Security Guard. Shooter was shot and killed

            Logan Square: Shooter opens fire into a crowd of pedestrians. Uber driver with a CCW shoots him multiple times, putting him down but not killing him.

            Clackamas Town Center: shooter enters a mall during the X-mas shopping season with an AR-15. Confronted by a shopper with a CCW. The CCW holder did not fire because he couldn’t get a clear shot, but when confronted with armed resistance the shooter did what most of these shooters do and retreated, then turned suicidal.

            There are others, but in many cases the counter argument was “this wasn’t a real mass shooting, no one/only a few people died”. Of course, since the whole point is whether or not it is possible for a CCW holder to stop these events early….

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Lysenko – “If .223 is a “High power rifle”, then all rifles not chambered in pistol cartriges (which are generally labelled as ‘pistol carbines’ regardless of length) are ‘high powered rifles’ and the term loses most of its descriptive power.”

            …or generally antique low-pressure rounds, yes. I’m pretty sure the later is where the term actually came from; compare the original .223 loadings with, say, a 1960s .30-30 loading designed for a 1930s-era Marlin lever action, which itself was designed around ammunition from the late 1800s. Or compare it to the 5.7mm and the other various PDW cartridges. .338 and other five-dollar-bill chamberings seem more accurately described as magnums, and of course the .50 BMG is more or less in a class of its own; the few cartridges in its class seem mostly defined by comparison.

            I understand the worry about emotive language, and I too have worn down my mandibles gnawing on the “assault weapon” bullshit, but ultimately it seems to me that those emotive assaults have categorically failed in the long term. Some people are always going to think guns are super scary evil condensate no matter what language we use. We are winning. There is no reason to live in fear.

            @HeelBearCub – “And, indeed, we don’t see this, as near as I can tell. We have many examples of spree killings and (no? very few?) examples of them being stopped by civilians with guns.”

            Every spree shooting I can think of ends when a gun is turned on the assailant, either by his victims, the authorities, or himself. There are actually a number of cases of the former, but they don’t get much coverage because the death totals are usually negligible when they occur; the very fact that self defense works is interpreted as evidence that it doesn’t exist. The Garland ISIS attempt was an excellent example. First result of a quick google search. The key to minimizing these attacks is getting the time between initiation and armed confrontation as short as humanly possible; there are not enough cops to do this effectively, civilians are by definition guaranteed to be there, and letting them arm themselves does not appear to be a net negative.

            What has never happened, not once, is massive fratricide via crossfire. Police engage in shootouts with some frequency; stray bullets happen, but are rare. Crossfire from “poorly trained” CCW carriers was one of the primary arguments against CCW, and it never materialized. Any observation of the immediate effect of gunfire on crowds instantly shows why: people react to gunfire by getting down, getting to cover, or getting the hell out, and the emptiest spot in the area quickly becomes centered on the shooter.

            [EDIT] – ninja’d so many times, I might be the secret heir to the Tokugawa dynasty.

          • Randy M says:

            That’s a pretty impressive list, thanks.

          • John Schilling says:

            They [terrorists etc] do not care who is shot, only that someone be shot. The potential “GGwaG” (I don’t like the term, but it is the NRAs) is therefore at a distinct disadvantage

            If the terrorist doesn’t care who he shoots, then it is highly unlikely that he is going to shoot the GGwaG first. In which case, it doesn’t matter what he cares about, because in a few seconds he will cease to care about anything at all ever again.

            In the case of an assassin who wants to kill one specific person and maybe that person’s bodyguards, a killer who does care who he shoots, yes, initiative gives the assassin a clear advantage.

            But a gun-wielding terrorist squanders that advantage by shooting a few random bystanders whose death only marginally advances his cause. The initiative shifts to the GGwaG, who just has to shoot the one obvious(*) terrorist while the terrorist’s attention is elsewhere. The terrorist has to kill everyone in the room, or identify the one GGwaG in the chaos, or he’s dead.

            Assuming there is a GGwaG, or a few rather more desperately heroic GGwClubs. Otherwise it doesn’t matter that the terrorist threw away the initiative gunning down a few innocent bystanders, because there’s nobody willing to take it back.

            * Yes, obvious. Even if there are three GGwGs in the room, it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure out that it’s the one guy who is firing an assault rifle at anything that moves who isn’t one of the other GGwGs.

          • God Damn John Jay says:

            Logan Square: Shooter opens fire into a crowd of pedestrians. Uber driver with a CCW shoots him multiple times, putting him down but not killing him.

            The Jimmies, I hear them rustle.

          • ““the gun he was using was more powerful than the guns than any potential everyday carry weapon, because it was a rifle instead of a pistol”.”

            I assume, since it was described as similar to an AR-15, that it was .223. That’s high power relative to a .22 rifle, which is the standard example of a caliber too weak to be well suited for warfare or hunting human sized animals.

            There are lots of more powerful center-fire rounds, of course, but if you make a binary division among rifle powers that seems the obvious place to divide.

          • “If .223 is a “High power rifle”, then all rifles not chambered in pistol cartriges (which are generally labelled as ‘pistol carbines’ regardless of length) are ‘high powered rifles’ and the term loses most of its descriptive power.”

            Having learned to shoot with a .22 rifle, I disagree. Judging by online figures, .22 long rifle is the second most popular rifle caliber, judged by number sold in the U.S.

            I don’t think “high powered” is the most natural descriptor for .223, but it’s more nearly accurate than the claim that everything less powerful is a pistol cartridge.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            “Amusingly”, both the 22LR and .223/5.56 round are now classified by the ATF as “pistol cartridges” for legal purposes.

            This allows them to use the Clinton-era ban on non-existent “cop-killer handgun bullets” to raid and seize any business that tries to develop non-lead-based bullets for hunting and environmental safety.

            Just a fun little anecdote from the front line of “surely regulations will be enforced fairy and in good faith—why are all the paranoid gun nuts so stupid and paranoid?”

          • Garrett says:

            .22LR is one of the most popular cartridges for two reasons:
            1) It’s painless to shoot (light recoil)
            2) Least expensive in terms of ammunition or firearm.

            So it’s great for plinking, target shooting, routine practice, and introducing people to the sport. It’s also sufficiently effective for small game like squirrel.

            That doesn’t make 5.56/.223 “high-powered” any more than $100 makes you rich because the $20 bill is the most common in circulation.

            There are a number of States which ban the use of 5.56 for deer hunting because it isn’t powerful enough to ensure a quick, humane kill of a deer. Banning something because it doesn’t kill fast enough strikes me as a decent definition of not “high powered”.

          • “Banning something because it doesn’t kill fast enough strikes me as a decent definition of not “high powered”.”

            Am I wrong in believing that the .223 is currently the standard U.S. military round?

            My point was that if you want a binary division between high powered and low powered rounds, the obvious one is .22 vs cartridges used for hunting human sized animals and/or military. The .223 is near the low end of the second category.

          • Lysenko says:

            @David Friedman
            I get where you’re coming from with your dividing line, but I disagree for three reasons. Before I do though, can we agree that when we are talking about “high power” or “low power”, we are speaking in terms of muzzle energy in your units of choice? If we can agree on that, here are my points:

            1) .22LR barely qualifies as a rifle round in terms of kinetic energy. The hottest commercial round I have good ballistic data on out of a 16″ barrel produces a bit over 160 foot-lbs. That’s on par with your average .32ACP out of a snub-nosed pocket pistol.

            2) .22LR is suitable only for two purposes, recreational plinking and shooting VERY small game. Squirrels, small rabbits, prairie dogs, small birds, etc. You can take something larger like a fox or a coyote with a headshot at close range, maybe, but that’s about it.

            3) .223 and 5.56 tip the scale around 1,100-1,300 foot lbs. (SS109/M855, our standard 5.56 FMJ round until very recently, hits right at 1,303).

            So, not only is your ‘dividing line’ an order of magnitude wide, modern service/defensive handgun calibers like 9mm, .40 S&W, .357 SIG, and .45 ACP fall RIGHT in the middle, delivering 400-600 foot-lbs. of muzzle energy from 4-5 inch barrels. If the next step up from a 9mm pistol is a “high powered rifle”, once again I think that’s a poor scale.

            I am not aware of ANY modern commercial rifle cartridges that are more powerful than modern handgun rounds but LESS powerful than .223. I just double-checked myself, and all I could find were some wildcat cartridges and some obsolete pistol cartridges like .44 Henry.

            By contrast, the most popular medium game/deer hunting rounds (.30-06 in the US, 8mm Mauser in Europe last I checked, both pretty much because of their ubiquity after WW2) clock in at 2800-3000 and 2900-3000 foot-lbs. respectively.

            Above that, you have the big game and extended range shooting/magnum rifle cartridges. .300 Win Mag falls in the 3,900-4,000 range, .338 Lapua at 4,800-5,000 foot-lbs.. At the far right end of the spectrum, you have stuff like .50BMG, clocking in at a whopping 13,300-15,000 foot-lbs.

            When the range runs from 160 foot-lbs. to 15,000, calling a 1,000 foot-lb. .223 “High Power” seems very weird to me.

            It’s worth noting as a final point that the whole achievement of the 5.56, 5.45, and related small-caliber, high-velocity cartridges was narrowing in on the absolute MINIMUM power necessary to deliver reliable terminal ballistics against human targets, for reasons of weight, cost, ammo capacity, recoil, and weapon service life.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            Getting to the heart of the question that rationalists really need to solve once and for all:
            What’s the rational choice between .45 vs 9mm vs 40S&W?

            *ducks & covers*

            For realsies though, I think we’re getting bogged down in technical minutia here.

          • Lysenko says:

            Touche, and agreed. I -almost- didn’t lay out my entire reasoning, but I felt the information worth putting out there for the people in the community who -are- less familiar with firearms.

            I have been known to be a bit technicality minded. Sometimes. On occasion. Slightly.

          • keranih says:

            My point was that if you want a binary division between high powered and low powered rounds, the obvious one is .22 vs cartridges used for hunting human sized animals and/or military. The .223 is near the low end of the second category.

            Emm. I can see this is what you’re thinking, but that’s not the pov of most people who use rifles of various calibers.

            Humans are rather pathetic things, in terms of how easy we are to kill, and even for that, the .223/5.56 is not very good at it, esp over a longer distance. The M16 was a significant step down in rifle power from the battlefield “standards” of WWII (although it is accurate over a longer distance (*) than the AKA 47 and it’s clones.) But the smaller (and “weaker”) cartidges meant the ammo was somewhat lighter and a lot less bulky, so a soldier could carry more of it.

            The range of animals hunted with rifles varies from squirrels to Cape Buffalo and elephants, and has a middle around deer and elk. People who hunt call the rifles they use for buffalo, bear, and moose “high powered”.

            While I know people who have hunted deer with 22’s,(**) this is *not* a good choice, and as previously noted, most people feel the AR15 is a target/varmint gun, not good for hunting deer.

            If you have to invent an intermediate “moderate powered” rifle in order to keep the AR15 firing 5.56 out of the “low powered” rifle range, okay. I can live with that.

            But it’s not a “high powered” rifle.

            And finally, I’m going to push back against the idea that this is “too far into the technical details.” This is a technical problem. The public perception is emotionally driven and not accurate. Exposing people to the right data is the only way to fix that.

            (*) There are a lot of people who say that the M16 family is far too accurate for its role as a close order weapon, and sacrifices too much in reliability for that. It’s my understanding that the more recent versions have corrected for a lot of that.

            (**) Great uncles hunting food for the table post WWII. It was all they had and couldn’t afford to miss with the first shot, because the game warden would come find them. Or so they said.

          • Lumifer says:

            Let me throw in the observation that one of the reasons the modern military went for a smaller caliber guns is because in a regular war you would prefer to wound, or better yet, maim, the enemy soldier rather than kill him outright. A killed solider is killed and that’s it. A wounded soldier imposes considerable burden on the support echelon. He requires more people to take care of him and more resources to keep him alive.

            If you goal is to exhaust the enemy, you want to wound the enemy soldiers and smaller caliber is helpful here. It is, of course, also lighter and cheaper.

          • Psmith says:

            6/16/2016: the day the caliber wars came to SSC.

            Let me throw in the observation that one of the reasons the modern military went for a smaller caliber guns is because in a regular war you would prefer to wound, or better yet, maim, the enemy soldier rather than kill him outright.

            I am pretty sure that this is a myth:

            The U.S. military has never published any documents, requirements or doctrines stating a desire to adopt a rifle cartridge designed to only wound the enemy. Of course the military views wounding as better than no hit at all, and taking an enemy combatant out of the fight they view as a good thing. But they have never built a doctrine around the concept of wounding being the desired result of a gunshot wound.

            http://militaryarms.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-poodle-killer-myth.html
            (As far as I know, and as far as that guy knows.).

          • Lumifer says:

            @Psmith

            Interesting. Not sure “myth” is an appropriate word, but yes, that particular reason looks to be rather less important than I thought it was.

            As an aside, here is an interesting report from someone who claims to have an inordinate amount of experience with bullet wounds.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            6/16/2016: the day the caliber wars came to SSC.

            First they came for the Desert Eagles, and I did not speak out, because I was not a .50 cal

          • John Schilling says:

            As an aside, here is an interesting report from someone who claims to have an inordinate amount of experience with bullet wounds.

            Right, but as a medic his experience is going to be heavily weighted towards the people who weren’t killed outright.

            At the other extreme, a Detroit homicide detective compiled a database of documented shootings where the victim was shot exactly once and in the torso, sorting the results by caliber and outcome. There’s a bit of statistical bias there, too, if you care to look for it. But, bias and all, he found that pretty much any of the major-caliber pistol rounds would deliver rapidly-incapacitating wounds 50-60% of the time with round-nosed bullets and 70-90% with hollow-point bullets. Rifles and shotguns were all in the 90-95% range IIRC.

          • Lysenko says:

            @Lumifer
            Definitely a no-quotes-around-it myth. Small arms are not for increasing the logistical strain on the enemy. When you want to do that, you raid, you destroy equipment and supplies, and depending on specifics of objective and doctrine you destroy the infrastructure that allows that equipment to move and the economic infrastructure that allows those supplies to be used.

            Modern small caliber, high velocity cartridges were designed to produce the most serious wounds possible, which I think is where that myth comes from, but they were designed that way because the goal was a round that would kill as often as possible even if you can’t hit the brain or brain stem (which is one of the only really guaranteed, 100% -instant- ‘off switches’ for a human life.). I just deleted a longer and more detailed explanation because I think it’s probably a bit grimmer and uglier than most people here really want to talk about, especially in the wake of recent events.

            @ John

            I would be a bit cautious relying overmuch on Marshall & Sanow. I -don’t- want to bring the Caliber Wars to SSC, so I’ll just point out that there is a fair amount of criticism of their work from a variety of sources. As funny as this may sound from a libertarian-ish type, when it comes to rifles I actually prefer to rely primarily upon government and especially military studies.

          • Lumifer says:

            @John Schilling

            as a medic his experience is going to be heavily weighted towards the people who weren’t killed outright.

            He understands that very well. In fact, he says:

            On the flip side, having a patient who was shot by a 7.62X51 NATO or larger round was a rarity. Dead people aren’t patients, they are a supply issue. Patients hit with a ZSU aren’t patients either, they are an iron-like odor in the wind.

            @Lysenko

            The thing with “produce the most serious wounds possible” is constraints by the Hague convention, etc. There is much nastier ammo than the standard military FMJ, but it tends to be forbidden for warfare. And expensive, too.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @HeelBearCub – …Then they came for the AKs, and I did not speak out, because I was inna woods with my SKS.

          • Garrett says:

            David:
            The distinction you are looking to make is usually done between rimfire (of which .22LR is the most common) and centerfire calibers.
            So talking about 5.56/.223 as a centerfire caliber/round/rifle actually makes sense because there is an objective and technical difference.

            Upon further reflection, I should be more explicit in my thoughts about this. “High-powered” is used by the media/President as something that I see as a scare term. “Clearly we need to ban this – it’s high-powered!”
            It also bothers me because I prescriptively think that extra adjectives should separate things into categories of importance. In this case it pretty much means that all-but-one common caliber are “high-powered” which takes the usefulness of having an additional term away. Referring to .22LR as “low-powered” would make sense to me. .50BMG as high-powered, for sure.

        • onyomi says:

          Whatever one’s feeling on other regulations, the whole “gun free zone” thing strikes me as a particularly useless and potentially harmful idea. I know it’s become a cliche, but criminals don’t obey laws, especially not the sort of criminal who, in as many cases as not, is quite willing or even intending to commit suicide sooner than be caught. All the “gun free zone” thing seems to do is advertise “if you do come in here and start shooting then there probably won’t be many other armed people to oppose you.”

          The whole thing seems based on such faulty premises as:

          1. people intent on murder-suicide will be significantly deterred by a sign and the possibility of some kind of fine or short jail time if they are somehow apprehended before beginning the rampage

          2. a high percentage of murders at places like schools are caused by well-meaning citizens who bring in a gun and somehow spazz out or make a mistake like letting kids play with a loaded gun

          The only thing “gun free zones” seem to have to recommend themselves is that they are an easy and noticeable way to signal “taking a stand” or “doing something,” or perhaps, to give patrons or parents of students a superficial feeling of security.

          Oh wait. Easy, useless, but great for signalling? No wonder it’s so popular.

          • Nornagest says:

            That makes sense in some scenarios. But in the case of bars and nightclubs, guns aren’t banned because the people in charge think they’re the incarnate spoor of Satan or even really because they’re worried about spree killings; they’re banned because the people in charge don’t want to be dealing with belligerent drunks with guns, which seems pretty reasonable to me. And in airports and some government buildings, you have the space and manpower you need to set up the defense in depth that actually has a chance of keeping people safer.

            (In the airport case, of course, having everyone go through an enormous line on the wrong side of the cordon screws this up.)

          • onyomi says:

            Okay, bars and nightclubs makes a certain amount of sense, because, unlike at schools, I do expect people to be acting wild and stupid. Though, ironically, I can’t remember the last time I saw such a sign at a bar (though I assume most don’t allow guns even if they don’t advertise that fact). I see such signs all the time at schools and movie theaters, though.

          • The Nybbler says:

            In Pennsylvania, the law does not prohibit permit holders from carrying at bars and nightclubs. I don’t think there’s a huge amount of extra gunplay stemming from this, but I haven’t actually checked.

            (On the other hand, in New Jersey you have to get two other upstanding citizens to vouch for you to get a permit to purchase a gun, and you can forget about carry unless you’re a cop or well-connected. While I find this an absolute barrier, there seems to be no lack of unlawful shootings)

          • Nornagest says:

            Well, I was thinking more about motivations than about consequences. I’d expect those consequences to be fairly minimal in practice: I doubt law or policy this narrow and poorly publicized would make responsible weapon owners much more responsible or irresponsible ones much more scared, and on the enforcement end of things I’ve rarely been patted down for weapons at a venue. It’s happened, but only once.

      • Tom Womack says:

        Knowing where the exits are is also very useful if the building burns down, which is still much the most common way to die in a group in a nightclub – I suspect that having a bad drug reaction in the bathroom stall is the most common way to die on your own in a nightclub.

        Most of the stories about nightclubs burning down still feature the promoters having locked the exits, but I don’t think that was the case in a reputable Florida gay bar on a night which didn’t have a special band playing.

        • Randy M says:

          I actually just read a disheartening story of one of the people fleeing the scene of this club barricading the emergency door behind him. Presumably to keep the shooter from following him, possibly a rational sounding thought in a panic addled mind but hardly defensibly in retrospect.

          • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

            As I understand it, it *is* defensible. The guy locking the door was stuck with other people in a small fenced area, with people trying to climb over the fence while the others waited.

          • Randy M says:

            But the odds the that next person to come through the door would have been the shooter (who had plenty of other targets and thus no reason to follow them specifically) versus one of these targets seems very small.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            He clearly is not very smart, since he went on tv, at least twice, to talk about holding the door shut.

    • Salem says:

      Immediately on the news, buy Trump on the prediction markets. Sell after a few days.

      Anything beyond that isn’t in my control.

      • linker says:

        Did you execute this strategy? It looks like (Betfair) you could have made 10%, if you moved very quickly. Probably too quickly to get money into the system. Trump is net down by now.

    • blacktrance says:

      Nothing, except to discourage the media from covering it so much. How many people would commit acts like this if it ended up on page 10 of the local newspaper and nowhere else?

      • Randy M says:

        (Also re:Chris’s similar point)
        This makes sense in response to domestic terrorism like McVey maybe. Also maybe mental cases like the theater & school shootings of recent years, but then again, they can get their ideas from fiction just fine.
        For Islamic terror, I’m not sure we are their audience.

        • brad says:

          I agree with erenold’s post above (http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/06/15/open-thread-51-75/#comment-372870) that this particular attack fits better in the pattern of “mental cases” than “Islamic terror”, at least based on what’s come out so far.

          As for blacktrance’s original point, I don’t think much can be done to discourage the media, and I’m not sure we should try.

          I’m pretty strongly in the ‘don’t need to update much based on this incident’ camp. If there were a similar one every month, that would be a different story. But idiosyncratic tragedies are a fact of life, and chasing after the last one is a fool’s errand.

          Which is not to say that would should or shouldn’t have gun control, a moratorium on Muslim immigration, or any other policy, just that we should have approximately the same positions on those those ideas today as we did last week.

          • keranih says:

            I’m pretty strongly in the don’t need to update much based on this incident. If there were a similar one every month, that would be a different story.

            Help me remember if I’ve forgotten anything, but we’ve had the Beltway sniper, Ft Hood, Boston Marathon, Navy Yard, San Bernadino, and now Orlando-Pulse. Also we had Charleston and the Colorado PP shootings, which were not Islamic linked (what non Islamic ones am I forgetting?).

            That’s enough to plot points, and if we get another Islamic-linked mass murder inside the next six months, I’m going to feel pretty sure that the rate is increasing. At which point I think it’s worth reconsidering options.

          • gbdub says:

            What time window are you looking at? Because you’ve also got the Va Tech shooting, Gabby Giffords, and Sandy Hook at a minimum in the “recent non-Islamist mass murder” column.

          • brad says:

            @keranih
            For the ones you listed year / deaths:
            2002 – 17
            2009 – 13
            2013 – 6 (lots more injuries)
            2013 – 13
            2015 – 16
            2016 – 49

            The other two are:
            2015 – 9
            2015 – 3

            There were some others, depending on what you want to group in with these — there was Elliot Rogers in 2014, Newton CT back in 2012, and I’m sure others.

            I don’t mean to be callous, but this is not a tremendous list either in frequency or total death count. We are a country over more than 300 million people and even leaving out the beltway sniper you are talking about a span of seven years.

            By all means, let’s take a look at low hanging fruit or good ideas for other reasons, but I don’t think we need to make major changes based on these minor, rare, unquestionably tragic incidents.

          • blacktrance says:

            I agree that we shouldn’t update much based on this incident. But the media messes with people’s availability heuristic and makes it highly likely that many will update on it when they shouldn’t.

          • Chris says:

            I would have suggested accusing the media of (something akin to) war profiteering when they capitalize on it.

            If there’s significant research suggesting that they’re contributing to it, with the particular manner in which they choose to publicize the events, then they should experience the same level of opposition that the NRA does. If every shooting caused people to lash out at MSM for individualizing and politicizing everything, the more politically correct organizations might choose to change the narrative. Instead the majority seem content to the blame the NRA or specific (lack of) gun laws, even though, as others have pointed out, little of the suggested checks would have actually done much to prevent this particular event.

    • Chris says:

      There was a pretty good argument made on twitter (as much as a good argument ever can be made on twitter) that one of the major causes was the media attention given to these things. In which case, a step in the right direction would be to not “individualize” the attacks and make the attacker into a celebrity.

      “If you’re a troubled young man in the US, there is now a well-modeled path to “revenge” & posthumous infamy. Shoot up a place. It’s a cycle. … Research is clear by now: the intense, sensationalized attention on faces and words of individual mass shooters is inspiring future ones. … Don’t put names, faces & manifestos of killers on loop; downplay attention on killer as individual. Focus on chronic pattern.”

      Aside from that:

      1) Save more lives by focusing on the bigger issues with more obvious solutions. If society wanted to save 50 lives at any cost, or even at a reasonable one, it would be pretty easy.

      2) The moratorium on politicizing tragedies seems one of the best responses I’ve seen. The rest of the world should adopt it, maybe extended to a week or a month, at least for these recurring situations that have already been discussed to death and at this point only serve to catalyze the culture war.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        Remember- we still know who Herostratus was.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Mostly he’s remembered as that guy whose name was forbidden to be mentioned. An early example of the Streisand effect?

      • FacelessCraven says:

        @Chris – ” … Don’t put names, faces & manifestos of killers on loop; downplay attention on killer as individual. Focus on chronic pattern.”

        Don’t focus on the chronic pattern either. that works the same way. All the meme needs to spread is “national day of mourning” and “attacker killed x people”.

        It seems likely that “pledging allegiance to ISIS” has embedded itself in the murder meme. Up until now, no cultural group has had an incentive to try making the murder meme worse in a serious way, but ISIS obviously has that incentive now. There’s a simple, easy, cheap method to increase the lethality of these attacks by 50% or more that hasn’t become part of the widespread meme yet, and one of the most barbaric groups in the world is now in a position to “fix” that, possibly as easily as a couple twitter posts.

        • Jiro says:

          I don’t actually think that spreading the news that killings are related to ISIS benefits ISIS. ISIS seems to be stuck in a medieval mindset and assumes that spreading the news of their barbarism helps them because it makes them look stronger and scarier. But it also increases the chance that someone is going to overcome their scruples and do whatever it takes to destroy ISIS. And ISIS doesn’t understand the concept “holding back on destroying ISIS because they have scruples”. As far as they’re concerned, if you can destroy your enemy, that’s what you do. If you don’t, you’re scared or you lack the power. Failing to destroy the enemy because you don’t like killing or don’t like civilian casualties is completely alien to them, and prevents them from modelling the West’s reaction to terrorism.

          • Garrett says:

            I’ve always found the idea that the West is as war with Islam to be ignorant of the facts. The President could nuke Mecca during the Hajj from the 12th hole of a round of golf without much effort. If we were really at war with Islam, we’d be doing more indiscriminate killing of believers.

          • NN says:

            A core point of ISIS doctrine is that they are the only real Muslims, so from their perspective not only the West but the entire world is at war with Islam.

          • John Schilling says:

            The President could nuke Mecca during the Hajj from the 12th hole of a round of golf without much effort. If we were really at war with Islam, we’d be doing more indiscriminate killing of believers.

            Do you believe or assert, from the fact that Hanoi is not a radioactive crater, that the US was never at war with North Vietnam?

            Because the way most people use the term, US-NV relations ca. 1964-1972 constituted a War, and War is consistent with deciding not to slaughter your enemies en masse wherever you find them.

    • Urstoff says:

      Feel sad about the tragedy, accept that there probably is no good policy solution to mass shootings, and realize that they are still incredibly low probability events and that the US is the safest it’s been in the last 40+ years.

    • Nornagest says:

      Unless you happen to work in law enforcement or counterterrorism, the rational response is to hibernate for a couple of months and bring it back up when we have a chance of discussing it like adults.

      Three days isn’t nearly long enough.

    • Zorgon says:

      I can’t construct a rational response to it, because every time I do the faces of the people from the various gay club nights I’ve been to start dancing through my head.

      But the thing to which I’d really like to figure out a rational response? The continual and apparently endless demand by absolutely everyone I know that this shooting grants them absolute carte blanche to make any declarations they like about society or anything else. (I should note that a large majority of these cases also have never so much as glanced at a member of the same sex in their lives.)

      For preference, a rational response that doesn’t lose me my friendship with these people.

      Any takers?

      • Urstoff says:

        Stay off social media.

        • Zorgon says:

          Probably a really good idea.

          I’m not even close to rational about this yet, and if I have to watch one more Tumblrite genderspecial ARSEHOLE go on about how this is somehow a direct attack on their way of life (when they’re an assigned-female enbie that’s never so much felt up another woman) I’m going to lose my shit very publicly and it’s going to lose me friends.

          I mean, I can’t pretend I hadn’t already picked sides in the culture war (or at least had them picked for me). But damn me if this shit hasn’t made it all abundantly clear.

          (It’s not like I can just flip over to the Red Tribe either.)

          • keranih says:

            flip over to the Red Tribe

            …we have cookies!

          • Zorgon says:

            You also have a severe aversion to old-school welfare state socialism. I strongly suspect my cookie apportionment would rapidly diminish.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            Crunch all you want. The free market incentivizes us to bake more.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            You also have a severe aversion to old-school welfare state socialism. I strongly suspect my cookie apportionment would rapidly diminish.

            Well I don’t. While I’m a no-compromise rightist in the culture war, I don’t have a problem with welfare statism as long as A) foreigners don’t get welfare and B) the programs are economically literate.
            Basically Catholic Social Justice with a rationalist’s skepticism of the Pope’s credibility on economic issues. =)

          • Mary says:

            What gets me is the complaints that “we can’t donate blood! that’s discrimination!”

            I couldn’t donate blood for a year, myself, after my hysterectomy. The pathological report happened to discover that I had cancer — grade one, stage one uterine cancer. That too was discrimination in the most technical sense.

          • Matt M says:

            Have gays considered that they can simply lie on the little form that the blood bank gives them to fill out?

            I mean I know, I know, having to be closeted is some giant injustice that has no place in a tolerant and enlightened society – yeah yeah, spare me already.

            If you want to give blood and you’re convinced you are at no greater risk of carrying STDs than anyone else, you can do so. They don’t assign a PI to follow you around for a month to make sure you’re straight or whatever.

          • Mary says:

            And lose the chance to make political hay out of it?

            Fortunately.

            I have actually seen people say that 95% accuracy is fine, and so the limit should be set at the point at which the test has that accuracy, and as for the 5% — why, they get to die as dead as if the blood donor had walked up to them in a bar and shot them. The donor’s being convinced will do them no good.

          • Tom Womack says:

            Mary: what do you mean ‘they get to die’. At absolute implausible worst they get HIV, which is with current competent treatment – and surely the insurance of blood banks would pay for current competent treatment for anyone infected – a persistent irritation worst than some kinds of prostate cancer and better than type-2 diabetes.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @Tom Womack,

            Oh thank God. I’ll just get lifelong AIDS the next time I need to get a blood transfusion in the ER. Phew. Dodged a bullet there…

            In all seriousness, this blase attitude towards an incurable deadly disease is shocking and disgusting. You can’t seriously believe someone’s bruised ego over not being allowed to give blood outweighs the danger of spreading HIV.

          • Loquat says:

            I’m shocked, shocked I say, that people would object to contracting a disease that requires lifelong adherence to a regimen of expensive medication, can easily be passed to one’s sex partners or newborn children if one fails to take special precautions, and makes it terribly difficult for a man to conceive children without risk of infecting his partner.

          • Chris says:

            I tried a search to see what the true/false positive/negatives were on the relevant tests, how many diseases were tested for, the cost of the tests, whether the blood is pooled before being tested, etc.

            That didn’t turn up much, but it seems the main criticism is that restricting gay people from donating is less effective than individualized risk assessment. So I can go have a (heterosexual) orgy with five random chicks from a club, and presumably still donate blood a week later, while a gay man who has been with the same partner for 10 years can’t. The whole thing seems to be an inefficiency left over from previous restrictions when the tests were worse, and countries that switched to individualized risk assessment (Italy) didn’t see an increase in rate of infections by blood transfusion.

            Why Most Gay Men Still Aren’t Allowed to Donate Blood
            Wikipedia – Reasoning/Criticism for the restrictions

            You could also argue it’s the same problem as instilling fear of guns by punishing kids for gun symbolism: restricting gay men from blood donation while allowing donations from higher-risk straight men sends the message “gay men are diseased” to the purity/pollution part of the moral compass.

          • John Schilling says:

            @Tom Womack: At absolute implausible worst they get HIV, which is with current competent treatment […] a persistent irritation

            Do you know off the top of your head whether lifelong HIV treatment is compatible with the range of medical conditions that require frequent blood transfusions? Do you even care?

            I frequently find myself thinking that maybe it is past time to relax the no-gays-allowed rule for blood donations. But that’s always implicitly based on the assumption that gays are basically good and decent people. Then someone like you comes along, proposing to infect people already sick or injured with an(other) incurable disease, because, what, you don’t want to feel left out and as long as it doesn’t actually kill them this year it’s OK to make them join your club?

          • Tom Womack says:

            “restricting gay men from blood donation while allowing donations from higher-risk straight men sends the message “gay men are diseased” to the purity/pollution part of the moral compass”

            Precisely – and you’ll notice that that message seems to have moderately high salience among the people commenting on this thread, most of whom I would have thought were mostly reasonably sensible.

            Offer free HIV testing to anyone who wants to be a blood donor, do it twice and ask whether they’ve had a new sexual partner in the interim to avoid the latency issue if you want to get negligible-risk-of-fairly-bad-consequence down to square-of-negligible-risk-of-fairly-bad-consequence.

          • Sweeneyrod says:

            Surely this is a case for dispassionate cost-benefit analysis? As I understand it, supplies of most blood types are large enough that there is a net benefit from excluding big groups of donors who have negligible risks attached to them (e.g. people who were in Europe at a certain point in time). I’d have thought that there might be a benefit from letting people from those groups donate if they have rare blood types, but I guess that would be a confusing policy.

          • Mary says:

            Why on earth should we go to the expense of testing people — twice — who aren’t at risk?

    • John Schilling says:

      So what do you all think is the rational response to the Orlando mass murder?

      “There is no problem so bad, so desperately in need of a solution, that it cannot be made worse by squandering limited resources on a plan that cannot work”
      – Some guy here, 1.00 Open Threads ago.

      Objectively, this problem isn’t terribly bad and doesn’t desperately need solving. Terrorism and/or spree killings are below swimming pools as a cause of death in the modern western world, and we’re clearly OK with leaving that to a few consumer-safety specialists while allowing anyone who wants to install a swimming pool and let their kids play unattended around it. If there is a problem that desperately needs solving, it is the irrational subjective fear produced by a relatively tiny number of deaths. And that, we can definitely make a lot worse.

      We can also squander scarce resources, most notably public trust. So,

      I. Some things that won’t work at the mostly-irrelevant object level:

      1. Background checks, investigations, mass surveillance, or the like. Orlando ought to be proof that there is no real prospect of identifying the likely terrorists, spree killers, or whatnot before they attack. If anyone could have been identified beforehand, Omar Mateen was the guy. The problem is, there’s about ten million other guys who are just as much the guy as Omar – they’ve beat people up, they have some minor crimes on their record, they are full of hate and you can find them expressing it somewhere on the internet, people will say “he’s trouble” if you ask them, they were a member of a sketchy group at some point, and someone somewhere specifically asked the police to do look into it. But when you get down to it, multiple professional investigations and background checks cannot distinguish this guy from ten million other assholes who are 99.9% not future murderers and 99.99% not future spree killers.

      You can maybe make the numbers borderline-tractable if you limit it to Muslims, but that gets you solidly into the squandering-public-trust category where you need it most.

      2. Prior restraint of any sort other than actual incarceration. If you can narrow down the numbers from step 1 to something you’re comfortable putting in prison or some sort of euphemistic equivalent, fine. But if a person is walking the streets civilized society, they can if they work at it figure out how to kill a dozen to a hundred generically-hated people – and spree killers pretty much always work at it, planning weeks or months in advance.

      And again, squandering public trust makes this worse, because you are depending on the public to do most of the actual restraining and the more odious your regime of prior restraint, or the more clearly targeted on some particular group, the more willing they will be to help people circumvent it. “Hey, brother, I really need a gun for, um, protection, and The Man won’t let me have one – can you hook me up?” In an ideal world, I would say ‘no’ to that. If I’m a black man in the age of Jim Crow, my brother gets my spare revolver with no questions asked. Maybe a few questions if he’s only figuratively my brother, but I’ll be taking his word over The Man’s on the answers.

      3. Keeping out the Muslims, or even just the suspicious ones. It might be that an instantaneous and 100% effective Muslim-B-Gone button would reduce the violent death rate for non-Muslims. Or maybe not. But we don’t have that. What we have are various mechanisms that would work very well at keeping out the Muslims that aren’t going to cause problems, rather less well at the ones who are planning to kill people and will hide or misrepresent their religion to do so, and if implemented would tend to push the Muslims who are already here from the first category to the second.

      4. Bombing ISIS back into the stone age. That one is probably worth doing for the sake of the decent people of I and S, but it isn’t much help here. All that ISIS needs to do to facilitate this level of carnage, in the US or Europe, is serve up a dose of propaganda and maybe a very limited level of logistical and training support. Most of that can be done by sympathizers in the West, and the bombing will add to the propaganda.

      II. Things that don’t work at the subjective level, i.e. the real problem:

      See above. If it doesn’t stop the actual attacks, it won’t stop people from being afraid of them. If it marginally reduces the number or severity of actual attacks, the fear response is sufficiently nonlinear that nobody will notice the difference. And we’ve already squandered enough public trust that “Don’t be afraid, our new background check system will surely put an end to this!” won’t even reassure people until the next attack.

      III. A thing that would work both objectively and subjectively but be blatantly unconstitutional

      Censorship of media coverage, including informal media e.g. blogging, twitter, etc. Terrorists and spree killers tend to be unoriginal copycats, and they are highly motivated by the promise of publicity. If a thing is seen to generally get a brief mention on page five of the newspaper, they will mostly stop doing that thing. Not entirely, but mostly.

      And, subjectively, people usually aren’t terrified of anything past the front page.

      IV. A thing that will work without violating the constitution, but only for some people

      Resolving and preparing to fight back immediately when it happens, by any available means. Spree killers and terrorists are big on plans, not so much on initiative. Time and again we see them come with a plan to kill and kill and kill, and when it goes off the rails they just run and hide and die. The plan might involve killing the gate guard or ambushing the uniformed police response, but it probably doesn’t involve the guy behind the bar who just beaned them with a well-thrown whiskey bottle. Or better still a shotgun blast, because the killer will probably be able to improve to the point of “Maybe I should shoot the guy who threw a bottle at me?” if he isn’t actually down for the count.

      But beyond that, the track record of spree killers is that it doesn’t take much in the way of resistance to shift them into run-and-hide-and-die mode.

      And, more importantly, it won’t ever come to that because the odds of your ever being in the way of a spree killer are about nil. But being prepared to fight back – even if that just means “I understand that I will die but if it comes to that I will die fighting”, is about as good as it gets in removing the subjective terror part.

      V. Things that will work for almost everyone and are not blatantly unconstitutional

      I got nothing. Please don’t squander limited resources like public trust on the plans that won’t work.

      • onyomi says:

        I am bothered by the lack of sense of proportion.

        To steelman the vast majority of people who seem to be more bothered by this than the 30,000 automobile deaths every year, people seem to place a very high premium on being able to feel safe a. from malicious, intentional attack, as opposed to accident for which one may oneself be partly responsible, and b. in certain situations (in one’s own home, at a party, etc.).

        Still, it seems to be way out of proportion, especially for those who are not just emoting but demanding all kinds of laws be passed right away. Why are they not demanding some huge national effort on highway safety?

        It seems like one could engineer one if one owned a media outlet, though. Simply report on every fatal traffic accident as it occurs. You could have pretty much 24/7 coverage. But that would be super boring, since everyone knows, at least on an objective if not intuitive level, that this sort of thing is happening all the time.

        So maybe it is precisely because it is unusual that it gets covered so much, with the paradoxical result that everyone gets really agitated about rare events and not much at all about much more serious but commonplace problems.

        • TheAncientGeek says:

          Why does it matter in a representative democracy if the general public get into short term panics? It would matter if legiators did, but they generally don’t.

          And there is a flipside to that problem. You sometimes hear people argue that nothing should be done about guns until the menace of swimming pools is dealt with. But ‘deal with the most serious problem, and ignore everything else’ isn’t proportionality either.

          • onyomi says:

            “Why does it matter in a representative democracy if the general public get into short term panics? It would matter if legiators did, but they generally don’t.”

            They don’t? Most of the legislating I see on tv looks, if not like a literal panic, then at least like a rush to demagogue and capitalize on whatever’s happening in the news at the time. “Never let a crisis go to waste,” as they say.*

            (I am aware that a lot more prosaic, and arguably, more important legislating gets done without much fanfare, but it certainly seems like the politicians are not much less reactive than the general public whose votes they hope to win).

            *I think what actually happens is people pushing for some issue like gun control actually write up a bunch of proposals in advance and then literally wait till the public gets inflamed enough by some tragedy to actually try for a vote on it. But since politicians respond to issues the public is inflamed about, that isn’t an argument for them being a lot more cool-headed and far-sighted than the electorate.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            And there is a flipside to that problem. You sometimes hear people argue that nothing should be done about guns until the menace of swimming pools is dealt with. But ‘deal with the most serious problem, and ignore everything else’ isn’t proportionality either.

            Ah, but it’s not “ignore everything else”. It is, in fact, “deal with the most serious problems first”. Even more extreme, it’s “deal with the most serious problems with the easiest solutions firsts, then the most serious problems with harder solutions and the less serious problems with easy solutions, and then the most serious problems with hard solutions and moderately serious problems with moderately difficult solutions and trivial problems with easy solutions, …, and then trivial problems with hard solutions last”.

            Swimming pools are an example of a more serious problem (it kills more people! it kills more children!), of which we, as a society, allocate significantly fewer resources to combat, and which can apparently have large reductions in harm by something as incredibly trivial as adding a fence to private swimming pools.

            I mean, we already have the police, and the FBI, and the CIA, and the NSA, and the courts, and the jails, etc… All working to idenfity, isolate, dissaude, deter, punish, and otherwise work against mass shooters. At what point do we say “we’re currently spending enough on this problem, there’s better places to use our marginal dollars”?

        • Gbdub says:

          The sense of proportion issue is just that everyone agitating for gun control exists outside the gun culture. It’s a bubble issue.

          If you live in DC or New York, it’s highly likely that you’ve never fired a gun and don’t know anyone who has, other than cops and/or criminals. Your entire exposure to firearms is limited to action movies, crime reports, and if you’re unlucky, being on the wrong end of one pointed in anger.

          So you assign zero positive value to civilian gun ownership and don’t see why we shouldn’t ban them. On the other hand you can see the upside of swimming pools and cars (though you probably have silly notions about how easy it would be for most Anericans to give up the latter), so you don’t react as negatively to their continued legality.

          And yeah, the idea of being killed is scarier than accidental death, especially when you can convince yourself you’d never be dumb enough to drown in a pool or not wear your seatbelt.

          • Sweeneyrod says:

            I have the more or less mainstream British attitude towards gun control (i.e. supporting the amount we have now, which is I believe massively more that anyone promotes for the US) but despite having enjoyed a small amount of target shooting, I don’t see why you can’t get the recreational benefits of gun ownerships without the costs by requiring guns to be stored at ranges.

            Self-defence with guns is another issue, but me and the average American gun owner have the same amount of experience with that — zero.

          • Gbdib says:

            That’s exactly what I mean by “bubbles” – in America the majority of recreational shooting does not occur at ranges, and requiring it to would be a major pain. Drive 30 miles to the nearest gun club vs. go out to the back forty and shoot some cans, or out to the duck pond to hunt, is not trivial. Almost every recreational shooter owns multiple guns, keeps them at home, and has zero issue with them. And personal protection is of course not trivial.

            Heck, I live smack in the middle of Phoenix suburbia and the nearest formal range suitable for rifle shooting is an hour away, but I can be on wide open BLM land where recreational shooting is safe and legal in half that. Your gun culture is different from ours.

          • Teal says:

            I can’t say that there are no people inside my bubble that assign it a zero, but there are also those like me that don’t. I know that people get a lot of enjoyment out of guns. In terms of positives, I think of them like video game consoles.

            We shouldn’t cavalierly ban video game consoles, they create a lot of happiness for a lot of people. And we shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking that just because *we* don’t like video games that the people that do don’t count.

            On top of this pure enjoyment aspect there is a certain amount of meat for food hunting, though the times when this has come up I haven’t seen any hard numbers.

            This understanding of the positives puts me and those that think like me in a good place to work out a compromise with the “Fudds” of the gun culture world (if there are any left). But the full time carry, castle doctrine, black gun, second amendment types are a different story. That divide seems unbridgeable.

          • I would say that is partly due to the fact that there hasn’t been any compromise or common sense gun legislation of the kind “I give you some things you want and you give me some things I want” but only compromise of the kind “We get less of what we want and you don’t totally get screwed”. At least, that is the attitude I see posted from would-be moderates on the other side, who feel that they are being pushed into a Schelling point of “no more!” rather than lose something important through little steps. Some of them would happily agree to common sense legislation if it actually gave them something in the trade-off instead of just taking less.

          • Gbdib says:

            @Teal – “black gun” should really be changed to “geek gun”, because that’s what they basically are. Much of the appeal of the AR-15 platform is that it is modular and infinitely customizable / upgradable it even has its own “console war” with direct impingement vs piston types. It taps into the same thing that building high-end gaming rigs does for the PC crowd. Or tuner cars or whatever.

            Yeah, you don’t “need” it, but you don’t need a turbocharger, custom brakes, and a rear wing either.

            Anyway I don’t see why it has to be unbridgeable, just need to realize that Hollywood isn’t reality and most of the hardcore 2nd Amendment guys aren’t the ones you need to be afraid of – they are vehemently opposed to gun laws precisely because they prefer to be law abiding.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            Oh, those crazy Second Amendment types!

          • Teal says:

            @Gbdib
            I get the aesthetics, but the gun regulations that people want to put in place are much more likely to hit those guns than hunting rifles. The overwhelming majority of traditional hunting rifles are manually operated, and the few traditional autoloading hunting rifles have tiny capacities.

            Wanting to ban guns that can easily be used to put a lot of lead in a lot of people in a relatively short amount of time is not targeting geeks for special persecution. It may be counterproductive or a bad idea, but it is a plausible one.

            Anyway, I think that dynamic is what tends to push black gun enthusiasts into the “full time carry, castle doctrine, second amendment types” camp on the other side of the unbridgeable gap.

          • keranih says:

            The overwhelming majority of traditional hunting rifles are manually operated, and the few traditional autoloading hunting rifles have tiny capacities.

            …considering that dependable semi-automatics are far more recent than lever/pump/bolt action, it is not at all surprising that the “traditional” varieties are lever/pump/bolt. This is a temporal flow issue, not anything special about manual vs autoload.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            …there hasn’t been any compromise or common sense gun legislation of the kind “I give you some things you want and you give me some things I want” but only compromise of the kind “We get less of what we want and you don’t totally get screwed”.

            For what it’s worth, this accurately describes my own attitude / experience. As I recall, there was a proposal floated in immediate aftermath of Sandy Hook, where the NRA would sign off on signifigantly stricter background check requirements in exchange for national reciprocity of firearm permits, and loosening restrictions on NFA items. Ironically this was characterized by a lot of folks on the pro gun-control side as proof of how “extreme” and “uncompromising” the NRA was being.

          • lupis42 says:

            @Teal

            The ‘classic’ American hunting arm is a lever action rifle, which remains a serviceable ‘assault weapon’, in that they still offer a fair bit of capacity, reasonable intermediate cartridges, and an excellent rate of fire. They’re not as cutting edge now as they were in the second half of the 19th century, but there are still plenty of rifles out there from before the CSA was defeated that “can easily be used to put a lot of lead in a lot of people in a relatively short amount of time.”

            The first rifle that I know of to have a “high capacity” magazine was carried by Lewis and Clark (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Girandoni_air_rifle).

            One of the major things that nudges ‘gun geeks’ like me straight to the extreme black gun second amendment side – because once you have some firearms expertise, there’s no other Schelling point between there and “muzzle-loading firearms only” that we can see.

          • gbdub says:

            You’re still running into the issue of making the country’s most popular recreational firearm totally illegal – to what end? Murders with long guns are really rare, even including mass shootings like Orlando. And really, does a shooter carrying a couple pump shotguns or lever rifles and a brace of revolvers kill that many fewer people? Probably not. Typically these guys are in a free-fire shooting gallery against unarmed hostages for minutes to hours – reloading isn’t a major issue.

            Anyway, if I can be a “2nd Amendment Type” for a moment, while I’m not one of those that joins a militia and salivates about armed rebellion, I do see value in an armed citizenry. If shit hits the fan and we’re in an existential conflict, we’re better off with more people basically familiar with firearms.

            Despite all our technology, the basic quantum of warfare remains the rifleman. So it makes sense to have a citizenry that can be converted to riflemen, and that in modern times means familiarity with high capacity rifles in intermediate calibers. I’d also say that if you buy into self-defense at all, you ought to think it reasonable for citizens to have access to what police have for self-protection – which is semi-automatic pistols and intermediate caliber rifles.

            I find it kind of funny that people say, “Well the founding fathers couldn’t have anticipated assault rifles” when they were specifically protecting a status quo where the militiaman farmer had easy access to the same or better weaponry as the professional soldiers they faced. Heck, the militias of the time often had privately owned artillery or even warships. Sure, an AR-15 is destructive, but so is a boat with a couple dozen cannons!

          • Teal says:

            I’m not trying to debate gun control generally here. Been there, done that, got no t-shirt out of it. That said, and for what it is worth, when I was in that phase I came to agree that the 90s AWB was a bad idea in that it turned in many cases on purely cosmetic distinctions.

            Mostly I just wanted to chime in to say that there are people that are in a coastal non-gun culture bubble that nonetheless recognize: 1) that other people derive enjoyment from guns and 2) that enjoyment is a valid consideration that ought to be taken into account. That doesn’t guarantee they are going to fully come down how you’d like on every issue, but it is something.

          • Matt M says:

            Indeed. When the framers wrote the 2nd amendment, the average citizen had access to the same level of sophistication of weaponry as the most advanced and sophisticated army in the world.

            I personally believe that according to the “spirit” of the 2nd amendment, there should be no (government) restrictions on any kind of weaponry in private hands, period. Yes, including nuclear bombs.

            If you think that sounds like a bad idea, then we should amend the constitution. But our current system of “ignore the clear intent”strikes me as sort of hypocritical.

          • gbdub says:

            Mostly I just wanted to chime in to say that there are people that are in a coastal non-gun culture bubble that nonetheless recognize: 1) that other people derive enjoyment from guns and 2) that enjoyment is a valid consideration that ought to be taken into account. That doesn’t guarantee they are going to fully come down how you’d like on every issue, but it is something.

            I appreciate that. I think you’re kind of rare though – a lot of my coastal acquaintances are basically firmly in the “guns are icky” camp.

            One thing I do find unfortunate is the apparent effort by educators to basically “de-normalize” guns through zero-tolerance policies. You can’t possibly justify punishing kids for gun-shaped pop tarts or bubble gun fantasies as a safety measure. It only makes sense if you’re trying to instill the belief that guns and any depiction of them are inherently evil.

          • “The first rifle that I know of to have a “high capacity” magazine was carried by Lewis and Clark (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Girandoni_air_rifle).”

            An interesting weapon, but the Lorenzoni system guns, such as the Cookson repeater, were somewhat earlier.

          • lupis42 says:

            EDIT: Nevermind, I misparsed the wikipedia description on the first time through.

            @David Friedman,
            Very cool system.

          • John Schilling says:

            OK, so why is there a wikipedia article for a guy who made knockoffs of an Italian repeating rifle in Britain, but not for the actual Italian guy who invented the thing almost a hundred years earlier? Look for anything about the Lorenzoni system, and it just redirects me to Cookson.

            Also noteworthy are the 17th-century Kalthoff repeaters.

          • Fahundo says:

            second amendment types

            You’re putting people who support the second amendment on the other side of an unbridgeable divide relative to yourself? Or is “second amendment” code for something I’m not getting?

          • Teal says:

            Supporters of a particular interpretation of the second amendment, yes. One that, depending on your point of view, was a revival of the true meaning that was shamefully ignored for too long or otherwise created out of whole cloth — either way starting in the late 1970s.

      • onyomi says:

        Also, I do agree that having a culture of “return fire or bum rush instead of run and hide” would probably be the most effective method, since only the people already there are in a position to respond in time to really prevent a massacre. Only problem is this is a “market failure” in the true sense where what is a good idea for the group is not a good idea for any individual. This seems a strong argument for concealed carry, since that makes the fightback much, much more effective.

        Also, though I haven’t made a careful study of this and am aware there are many valiant exceptions, I’m mostly pretty unimpressed with the police in these situations (and impressed with the civilian bystanders). The police seem to err too much on the side of caution, though I can certainly understand why, especially if there’s a credible bomb threat or what have you.* But if we are going to take the “bum rush and overwhelm is better than run and hide” philosophy, which seems to be what actually works in most cases, then the police obviously should be on the front line of that as soon as they get there.

        I was particularly annoyed after Sandy Hook when they put out these joke reports designed to prove that a civilian fighting back with a gun would only make things worse, and that everyone should just run and hide till the police come. This seems precisely the wrong thing to do, at least as a matter of group survival.

        *What is especially scary is that there seems to have been a kind of game change from “calmly cooperate and let them fly the plane to Cuba” being the best strategy to “bum rush him before he kills us all” being the best strategy. Arguably some traditional police hostage negotiation techniques and the like may need to be rethought.

        • keranih says:

          Only problem is this is a “market failure” in the true sense where what is a good idea for the group is not a good idea for any individual.

          Sebastian Junger’s Restrepo(book, not the movie) is useful here. The only way for a small group that has wandered into a L shaped ambush to survive is to instantly and as one to charge the lynch point of the ambush. Some – perhaps many – will not survive this. However, if they hesitate or attempt to flee, most to all (and usually all) will die. The only way to hope to survive is to move towards danger – with extreme speed.

          This is not something most people have even an intellectual awareness of – much less a trained reflexive muscular response. I am deeply uneasy, contemplating a world where most people in my country are ready to respond in this manner.

          Always prepared Scouts who have a pocket knife and can point due north without turning around is one thing. This is another thing.

          • God Damn John Jay says:

            What is the signifigance of an L shaped ambush? Why not a half circle or just coming from behind?

          • onyomi says:

            True, the negative consequences of having a culture where this attitude is prevalent in the form of granny accidentally getting trampled to death when she pulls out her sewing needle may be worse than the disease.

          • John Schilling says:

            Fortunately, most spree killers cannot implement a proper L-shaped ambush, and the level of response required to defeat them is much lower. It does not take a unanimous effort – one guy willing to take a bullet is probably enough, two more guys following the first guy’s lead is almost certainly enough and they probably don’t get shot. See e.g. the French train attack a while back.

          • keranih says:

            @ God Damn John Jay

            There are two kinds of ambush, according to the professionals. One is a linear one, where the attackers are, for instance, in a ditch along a road. This is easier to counter, as it takes some sizable attacking force to get the entire defending group within range. The defending group – esp those in front or at the end of the group – can take cover or run and get out of effective range. More to the point, if they can get to the edge of the ditch, they have the opportunity to deliver devastating enfilading fire along the long axis of the ditch, where only the closest attackers (those within the attacker’s closest reach) have unobstructed aim at the defenders.

            The other type is L shaped. This one has a long line along the ditch, but also has a shorter leg at cross angles – perhaps on a ridge as the road/trail curves. This shorter leg will deliver enfilading fire on the defenders, and the defenders – being caught between two sets of fire both intent of killing them – will shortly be dead if they stay in one place. And with two directions of fire, there is little opportunity to take cover.

            An attack from the rear is not so much an ambush, because the front of the defending/attacked group has already passed/is out of reach of the attackers. The attackers would have, by preference, set up so that they hit the group from the front, rather than attempted to move (with noise) behind the moving group. This is, I am told, more of a meeting engagement and is accidental and sloppy. Because professionals don’t like accidents they didn’t plan.

            Half circles are stupid, but not as stupid as circles. It is apparently really key to prevent the people on one side from shooting at each other. This is difficult if one sets up the ambush so that people are actually meant to be shooting so that their line of fire goes through the places where other people on their side are sitting. Hence, straight lines and L shapes.

            @ John Schilling –

            I was going to offer a steak/other fancy dinner otherwise, except that we haven’t seen paired attacks in Israel, which is a bit of a bellweather. So you could be right. I do hope you are.

          • Lysenko says:

            @GDJJ

            Half-circle includes the possibility of firing -into- one another. L shape does not.

            One leg of the ambushes engages with suppressive fire, forcing the people you are ambushing to take cover.

            Having an L naturally puts the other leg in position to enfilade the people you are embushing (that is, in position to fire down the long axis of a group) from a flanking position where they are (if you planned the ambush right) left with no cover.

            Assuming your ambushees are armed, they will enage the suppressive fire as best they can. Your unengaged troops will then have the freedom to place well-aimed shots while not under fire. That is the theory, at any rate, and even if the targets engage both parts of the ‘L’, you have reduced volume of fire against either part, which again means you have more people who are not actively being shot at and can deliver more aimed fire.

          • bluto says:

            @ GDJJ

            Watch this:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1MkjmbdHUM

            In a half circle, two of the people in the half circle are going to put themselves in a position very similar to the Sean Bean character’s plan, which I think DeNero’s character shows the futility of quite well.

        • John Schilling says:

          Also, though I haven’t made a careful study of this and am aware there are many valiant exceptions, I’m mostly pretty unimpressed with the police in these situations

          Official police policy was abysmally poor in this regard through Columbine, and rapidly improved thereafter. Standard doctrine is now pretty much universally that the first responders do an immediate entry and push forward as far as they reasonably can, at least containing the threat rather than giving them an entire building full of victims. And incidentally throwing the guy’s plans into disarray, at which point he likely runs and hides and dies.

          Some departments and individual officers may not have gotten the message, but I try not to second-guess these things. It seems off that OPD took three hours to breach the building, but from what I’ve heard there weren’t any more shootings between time the police arrived and the time they breached, so it may have worked out OK in that regard. Also, serious confusion involving people hiding in two separate bathrooms, one of which also had the killer, and I’m guessing lots of people whispering into cellphones, “what do you mean ‘which bathroom'”?

        • Gbdub says:

          It doesn’t necessarily have to be a “market failure” – pretty much the same “bum rush the guy instead of meekly waiting” technique rendered the traditional airplane hijacking obsolete halfway through the 9/11 attacks.

          But maybe the issue there is the imposed confinement and solidarity of an airplane.

          • John Schilling says:

            Nightclubs are certainly confined, and one would hope for a sense of solidarity among the patrons. Particularly at a gay nightclub.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Confined, but with exits. A person under siege might conceivably escape. Failing that, they could stay hidden and wait for the police to stop the shooter. Even if the victim gets shot, there’s a chance they will survive (last I heard, ~100 were shot at Orlando, ~50 died).

            In a plane, the post-9/11 assumption is that if the hijackers do not get stopped, everyone on the plane will die. And that if the passengers themselves do not stop said hijackers, nobody will. It is very clear that the only options are 1) fight back, or 2) die.

          • NN says:

            Also, airport security is actually effective at keeping out guns and large melee weapons (or at least effective enough that terrorists generally don’t bother trying to smuggle them onboard anymore). This means that hijackers will usually be armed with either knives or bombs. If they have knives, then it is very likely than everyone who rushes them will come out of it without any serious injury. If they have a bomb, then you definitely have a situation where if they aren’t stopped, everyone on the plane will die.

      • Jiro says:

        What we have are various mechanisms that would work very well at keeping out the Muslims that aren’t going to cause problems, rather less well at the ones who are planning to kill people and will hide or misrepresent their religion to do so, and if implemented would tend to push the Muslims who are already here from the first category to the second.

        But radicalization starts with someone who “isn’t going to cause problems” and turns them into someone who will cause problems. Fewer Muslims of all types means fewer radicalizations.

        • ” Fewer Muslims of all types means fewer radicalizations.”

          Not necessarily. To quote the previous comment:

          “and if implemented would tend to push the Muslims who are already here from the first category to the second.”

          • Randy M says:

            This is a theoretical objection. It may be that the population in question would be cowed by a show of resolve. Or grateful for having the radicals removed so they can live in peace. Or net even due to conflicting responses.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            What’s the maximum number of Muslims we could remove without getting into mustache-twirling villainy like stripping citizens who profess Islam of their citizenship?

            We could ban future Muslim immigration, shut down mosques, revoke the visas and green cards of all foreign nationals who profess Islam, strip dual citizens of their US citizenship… and that’s all I can think of.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            Whether the radicalization effect overpowers the screening effect is an empirical question, sure. The fact the Omar Mateen targeted a gay bar rather than a Trump rally is a data point. (Not quite a self-interpreting data point: the issues that preoccupy someone once he’s radicalized aren’t necessarily the ones which got him there.)

          • Alliteration says:

            @Le Maistre Chat
            There is the expensive option of paying professing Muslims to leave. This might lead to bad incentives though.

      • bean says:

        What we have are various mechanisms that would work very well at keeping out the Muslims that aren’t going to cause problems, rather less well at the ones who are planning to kill people and will hide or misrepresent their religion to do so, and if implemented would tend to push the Muslims who are already here from the first category to the second.
        What is the penalty for lateness?
        Death.
        What is the penalty for rebellion?
        Death.
        We’re late.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      So what do you all think is the rational response to the Orlando mass murder?

      At least according to this guy, it’s to vote for Trump:

      Why? Yes, I know that Trump is an a**hole, Trump is a clown, Trump is a motormouth buffoon. You don’t have to convince me of that. But he’s also the only person saying anything about putting the brakes on Islamic extremism, and in light of what happened last night in Orlando, suddenly that is the only issue that really matters when it comes to the health, well-being and safety of the queer community.

      […]

      I also now realize, with brutal clarity, that in the progressive hierarchy of identity groups, Muslims are above gays. Every pundit and politician — and that includes President Obama and Hillary Clinton and half the talking heads on TV — who today have said “We don’t know what the shooter’s motivation could possibly be!” have revealed to me their true priorities: appeasing Muslims is more important than defending the lives of gay people. Every progressive who runs interference for Islamic murderers is complicit in those murders, and I can no longer be a part of that team.

      https://pjmedia.com/trending/2016/06/12/gay-activist-after-orlando-trump-voter/?singlepage=true

      • The Nybbler says:

        It probably is significant that some of the progressives were starting to turn on gay men even before this happened.

        • onyomi says:

          Really, like who?

        • The original Mr. X says:

          In the great hierarchy of oppression, Muslims > gays. Because oppression is a linear scale, no member of a more oppressed group can ever, qua member of this group, oppress a member of a less oppressed group. If they do, it’s because they’ve been driven to it by a more privileged group, so it’s really the privileged group who are to blame. Hence whenever somebody commits a crime in the name of Islam, it’s actually because they were driven to it by US foreign policy, or brainwashed by Evangelical Christian cake-makers, or whatever.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Yeah, you’re right, the mainstream left has no problem accusing members of oppressed groups of oppressing others, as witness the complete lack of attempts to claim that Islamic homophobia is somehow the fault of Republican Christians.

          • NN says:

            Hence whenever somebody commits a crime in the name of Islam, it’s actually because they were driven to it by US foreign policy, or brainwashed by Evangelical Christian cake-makers, or whatever.

            Ironically, in this case the shooter really did claim that he was motivated by US foreign policy, but practically everyone on both sides of the political spectrum is ignoring that.

            (Personally, given the shooter’s history of mental instability and other things I think there is reason to doubt his sincerity here. But very few people are even discussing this.)

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Ironically, in this case the shooter really did claim that he was motivated by US foreign policy, but practically everyone on both sides of the political spectrum is ignoring that.

            Huh, I wonder why that is. Maybe because the war in Afghanistan is winding down now, so it’s not such a hot-button political issue anymore, whereas gay marriage and gun control are.

          • Chris says:

            Ironically, in this case the shooter really did claim that he was motivated by US foreign policy, but practically everyone on both sides of the political spectrum is ignoring that.

            If we’re talking about the “declaring allegiance” to ISIS, I’ve seen plenty of discussion about it (mainly on politics-twitter). Not sure how to quantify that disagreement though.

            Also, afaik there are no reliable sources for it (that I can find) other than an “unnamed official.” Facebook hasn’t confirmed it, no copy of the statement available, just that anonymous source and a letter from a Repub. senator to Facebook. There’s been a lot of criticism of the other anonymous government sources, so like when everyone was speculating about Syrian refugees causing the Paris attacks, I’d take it with a grain of salt until reliable evidence comes out.

          • gbdub says:

            Chris, the link posted a couple posts above has a hostage in the club stating that they heard Mateen saying he was doing this for his country, and also that he made a point to tell black people there that it was not a racially motivated attack.

            Odder to me is that no one is seriously challenging the “homophobia” narrative – so far I haven’t seen any quotes suggesting he made any anti-gay statements during the attack, despite apparently going out of the way to make his other motivations known. He also apparently scouted a Disney location as a potential target. So other than the fact that he ultimately chose a gay nightclub, a choice that may have been motivated by familiarity, and that he apparently got upset at seeing two men kiss in public once, do we really have a lot to go on that the attack was explicitly targeted at gay people?

          • NN says:

            @Gdub: Apparently, during the attack he did post on Facebook, “The real muslims will never accept the filthy ways of the west,” but that could mean any number of things. And other Facebook posts were completely unambiguous about other motivations: “You kill innocent women and children by doing us airstrikes..now taste the Islamic state vengeance.” Like you said, it would be strange of him to leave this motivation unstated or vague when he explicitly stated his alleged other ones.

            Another thing that doesn’t quite add up for me in the commonly accepted narrative is the idea that Omar was repressed and self-hating over his homosexuality. How repressed can someone really be if they go to a gay bar twice a month for three years and spend a lot of time on gay dating apps? Also, and this is much more speculative, I’ve read that some conservative Muslim cultures are big on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and I can’t help but wonder if his double life was more an example of that than of sexual repression.

            That being said, we can’t ignore the fact that the choice of target is itself significant evidence that the attack was at least partially motivated by homophobia. If Omar really did choose it for other reasons such as familiarity, it is yet another piece of evidence that he had serious mental health issues, because surely anyone with an ounce of sense would realize that a gay club is a terrible choice of target for an attack intended to retaliate against US foreign policy, precisely because everyone will immediately misinterpret it as an anti-gay hate crime.

            Not that we need any more evidence of that at this point.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’ll just be glad when owning a gun will be seen as just as barbaric and backwards as owning a slave.

      • Sweeneyrod says:

        What are your feelings on bows?

        • hlynkacg says:

          …or knives, or power tools.

          • keranih says:

            How about hammers? Beer bottles? Feet? Fists?

            (I’m an adult female. I’ve done enough martial arts with young men to know that I am never going to be able to match one in a fair fight. And I’ve seen enough of men to know that they don’t get into fights with women for fun, the way they will with each other. I have to get into a confrontation with a guy, it’s not going to be a fair fight.)

          • FacelessCraven says:

            cans of gasoline and matches.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Would people really switch from guns to arson to kill people?

            We know they can, but there’s a lot that mass killers can do that they don’t. They seem to like the blaze of glory that guns bring.

            I’m highly skeptical of the gun-control arguments, but neither am I sold that the Orlando shooter would have settled for burning the gays alive. He didn’t think of blocking the emergency exits for his shooting spree. Would he have pulled off arson?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Some mass killers like the blaze of glory that fire brings

            Two club examples:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happy_Land_fire

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UpStairs_Lounge_arson_attack

          • John Schilling says:

            Would people really switch from guns to arson to kill people? […]They seem to like the blaze of glory that guns bring”

            Interesting choice of words, that.

            Daenerys Targaryen makes a compelling argument for arson being a blazingly glorious way to dispose of one’s enemies, and audiences seem to appreciate it. Spree killers being mostly dull copycats, most of them are going to do the same thing the last one to make the TV news did, and for now that means guns. But as the Nybbler notes, arson makes an appearance now and then.

            I am concerned that when someone figures out how certain recent consumer-products developments have brought homemade military-quality flamethrowers within practical reach, this discussion may change direction in an ugly way. Because most spree killers are dull copycats, so it only takes one to get the ball rolling and the internet to make sure the plans are widely available.

          • Lumifer says:

            @John Schilling

            At a certain annual festival in Black Rock Desert, Nevada you could easily find, let’s say, *high-powered* flamethrowers since forever.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            Edward Scizorhands – “Would people really switch from guns to arson to kill people?”

            My strong impression is that the choice of method is driven primarily by the meme, and one of the main drivers of the meme’s evolution is relative lethality of the incidents. I think we’re going to see more rifle sprees and less pistol sprees, because the rifle sprees kill more. Fire would almost certainly kill more than rifles by a wide margin, which would give it a significant evolutionary advantage. If the power trip of pulling a trigger is an essential part of the meme, the shooter can always stand outside and gun down those trying to escape.

            The main thing that’s keeping that from happening right now appears to be inertia in the media narrative, whichin turn appears to be determined by the media’s anti-gun bias. Most people have never heard of Happy Land, but almost everyone has heard of Columbine. The mutation of the meme to include ISIS gives an outside, hostile group the means to change that, though, either by ISIS itself trying to push for arson, or by the next arson attack including a “deceleration of allegiance to ISIS” that catapults it far enough into the spotlight that the meme picks it up.

            @John Schilling – I thought about adding something at the end of the above about being a pessimist, but apparently I wasn’t pessimistic enough. That is a horrible idea that hadn’t remotely occurred to me.

          • gbdub says:

            I’m not sure arson works as well as a meme enhancer, because it’s not controversial – nobody is down with arson, and there’s no underlying debate about the legality of matches.

            Mass shootings get amplified because it turns into a national shouting match over guns. Meanwhile the Boston bombing was obviously a big deal, but mostly generated sadness and solidarity rather than raging controversy (see Toxoplasma of Rage).

            Insofar as terrorism is all about “stirring up shit”, gun attacks may just be more effective regardless of body count because we can’t help ourselves when it comes to signal boosting controversy.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m not sure arson works as well as a meme enhancer

            Whose meme needs enhancing?

            The terrorist just needs to terrify lots of people. People will be plenty terrified by e.g. a flamethrower attack. Really, that, more than tactical utility, is why flamethrowers were introduced to battlefields that already had guns aplenty. Five minutes of phone-camera video of a flamethrower attack in a crowded theatre will accomplish the terrorist’s goal better than any amount of activist outrage over the fact that the terrorist had a gun. For that matter, I don’t see the 9/11 terrorists’ success being in any way compromised by the fact that they didn’t use politically controversial guns as meme enhancers.

            And the news media won’t need a gun control debate to generate beaucoup clicks, ratings, and ad sales from that shakycam video of a flamethrower attack. And interviews with the survivors, the pundits, etc, etc, level of explicit gore calibrated to the target audience. “If it bleeds it leads” isn’t quite that literal; things that are on fire are usually front-page news. Particularly if they are people.

            Domestic politicians and political activists hoping to cash in on the media’s coverage of someone else’s terrorist attack, sure, they need to tie it in to their own cause in some memetically enhanced way. But they aren’t the ones who decide what sort of attack is carried out or whether it is front-page news. So what they want is irrelevant. If the terrorist feels that a flamethrower attack is optimally terrifying – and I don’t think American gun-control politics ever really factor into that decision – then the flamethrower attack is what the media will be covering and the pundits will be talking about.

          • NN says:

            John Schilling: You’re right that this is a pretty terrifying possibility. However, I do see one significant downside: using a flamethrower in an urban area, especially a home-made flamethrower, and especially if you are likely to be shot at, carries a high risk of accidentally setting yourself on fire. Sure, mass shooters generally want to go out in a blaze of glory, but I imagine that most would prefer to die in a less excruciating way.

            On the other hand, the Cinema Rex arson attack in Iran in 1978 is still the third deadliest terrorist attack in history. So yes, it would be a very not-good thing if spree killers and terrorists started using fire more often.

          • Matt M says:

            “Sure, mass shooters generally want to go out in a blaze of glory, but I imagine that most would prefer to die in a less excruciating way.”

            They also typically want to kill as many people as possible BEFORE being killed themselves. Hence the fact that many mass shooters, even the ones who obviously intended to die in the process, seek out and/or use body armor.

            “They know they’re going to die anyway and it doesn’t bother them” =/ “they are totally unconcerned with their own safety”

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            Can’t seem to link it because of the filter, but Ian of Forgotten Weapons did a great interview with the guy who handles all the flamethrowers for Hollywood.

            TL;DR: the first US military flamethrower was basically cobbled together out of gas grill parts. It wasn’t suitable for military use because it couldn’t stand up to field conditions in the pacific, but it worked just fine on the testing range.

            Also, setting yourself on fire is quite possible, but the “shoot the tank and he explodes” thing apparently doesn’t work like that.

          • “or power tools.”

            Chain saws scare me.

          • hlynkacg says:

            They should.

          • Agronomous says:

            Chain saws scare me.

            Chain saws don’t dismember people: people do.

            (People who pick up chainsaws, anyway, which I, too, am attempting to go my whole life without doing….)

      • The Nybbler says:

        Wow, you’re a totally different kind of gun-rights activist. Those poor oppressed guns!

        Thing is, any real-life scenario is going to have some people and organizations owning guns. Among them will be the people and organizations that rule over you. So will people see themselves ruled by backwards barbarians? Or does the government somehow erase the stigma and apply virtue to gun ownership?

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          So will people see themselves ruled by backwards barbarians?

          The wealthier ones already do. The way upper middle class people talk about police and soldiers, it’s pretty clear that they see them as a bunch of subliterate thugs.

          Some of them go so far as to see them as not just wholly unnecessary but actually an obstacle. In a sort of reverse causality, police end up getting blamed for crime and soldiers for enemy attacks.

          • ChetC3 says:

            The ruling classes have always and everywhere seen the common soldier as trash. Are you just now becoming aware of this?

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            No, but The Nybbler did ask after all.

            The thing which is surprising for me is less the disdain for soldiers or cops and more the sense that they’re the cause of the problems they’re fighting. The whole attitude that the police create criminals and the military creates terrorists is utterly backwards to me despite having heard it my whole life.

            I try, usually unsuccessfully, to avoid Bulverism so I won’t speculate as to where the idea comes from. I agree that our justice system and foreign policy are often counterproductive, but there would still be plenty of badguys out there even if they were perfect.

          • James Bond says:

            That is a very red tribe v blue tribe thing.As a gray-red tribe member I have to say that I have the utmost respect for the US Military, and I am completely honest about the fact that the only reason I dont join is that Im too much of a coward( grew up in the bluest possible space). I think that upper middle class red tribe people like me have a totally different view about the military than blue tribe people. As far as I am concerned the most honorable thing a person can do is to be a Navy Seal, while my blue tribe friends think that it is mostly to be and activist for the downtrodden, a professor or a teacher.If I could vote ( as an immigrant i cant do that till i get citizenship) , I would take ex-military as a higher qualification for leadership than ex-academia. And wealthy professions that have a solid amount of red tribers ( banking, finance ect) seem to look well on people being ex-military. Only the blue tribe upper middle has a negative impression of the military, not red tribe upper middle.

          • ChetC3 says:

            Dunno about police, but “soldiers” (IIRC, it’s most commonly junior officers) manufacturing wars in an attempt to advance their own interests isn’t unheard of.

      • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

        Are you a vegan? If not, I’d be wary about the wheel of progress leaving you behind before gun owners.

    • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

      I read somewhere (or overheard from someone in meatspace) that these types of mass shootings are really a manifestation of suicide ideation. As in, “I want to kill myself and I want to take as many people with me as possible”. Does this seem plausible to anyone?

      • John Schilling says:

        It seems strange to me that anyone would even ask the question. I’m not sure “suicide ideation” is the technically correct term, but yes, obviously these people want to exit this Earthly realm in a blaze of glory. They may have some sort of an escape plan, if only to the extent of “…and then I drive to the next target site, lather rinse repeat until dead”, but it is almost always a token effort at best. And, as noted elsewhere, it doesn’t take much in the way of fubaring to shift them into run-and-hide-and-die mode.

    • Stefan Drinic says:

      I am slightly interested to know what the American opinion on gun control across the Atlantic is.

      What you people do in your country isn’t something I can comment on that well, but I’d at least find it interesting to see how a complete ban might work out, even if it’d possibly result in a ton of people getting shot the first five years or so.

      What of you, though? There’s a certain amount of Americans who point to this place and say ‘that is AWESOME’, so that’s nice. What I’m interested in is the people who don’t. Would you argue we’re making a big mistake? That gun ownership should be less restricted here? Something else? It’s something I don’t nearly hear about often enough to sate my curiosity.

      • “I am slightly interested to know what the American opinion on gun control across the Atlantic is.

        What of you, though? There’s a certain amount of Americans who point to this place …”

        What place? There are several different countries on the other side of the Atlantic.

      • Homo Iracundus says:

        Going to assume you mean the UK rather than the Netherlands:

        We just watch and laugh at the BB pellet bans, the knife bans, the “under 18s not allowed to buy” signs on packets of plastic knives and forks, the UK olympic pistol team not being allowed to practice in their own country, and the proposed ban on kitchen knives!

        I wouldn’t call it a big mistake; it’s been a fantastic example for us about what would inevitably be done to us if we stop fighting. And it’s a good reminder that every promise our opponents make is a disgusting lie they have no intentions of honouring, because we know their desired endstate.

        Any Americans who want to live in that environment can have my UK citizenship. I’d feel safer knowing they were out of my country.

        • DavidS says:

          There are quite a few different possible sets of gun laws. Why do you think the Aim is the UK system?

          Also I’m not sure that dolly thong like banning Lisa from built plastic are remotely related to gun laws. Rules for kids are different and tend to vary more randomly. Though I have to say I’d happily have occasional ridiculousness of that sort rather than the occasional awfulness you get when kids can more easily find guns.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            >Also I’m not sure that dolly thong like banning Lisa from built plastic are remotely related to gun laws.

            Sorry, you lost me here.

            >Why do you think the Aim is the UK system

            Because http://www.mediaite.com/online/vox-writer-president-should-unilaterally-ban-everyone-from-buying-guns/
            Even Obama—someone you’d expect to try to be subtle about it–openly says that the goal is the UK system.
            Funny that it’s about the only honesty we see from them 🙂

          • DavidS says:

            Hah, sorry, writing on a phone and hitting send without checking ‘silly things like banning kids from buying plastic’ rather than ‘dolly thong like banning lisa from built plastic’

            To be fair, the UK system isn’t actually ‘unillaterally ban everyone from banning guns’. Certainly not ‘the PM/Queen gets to decide who has them’. And that link isn’t about Obama it’s about… some guy?

          • anok says:

            One vox writer’s twitter feed presages so much.

        • James Picone says:

          Australia has close to outright banned guns, and we do not have laws against under-18s buying plastic knives.

          (and I rather appreciate being quite confident that any random I run into in the street is extremely unlikely to be carrying a deadly weapon, but that’s probably more cultural than legal).

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            That photograph was actually from Melbourne, mate.
            You’re also moving to ban lever-action hunting rifles, which you promised weren’t on the list of evil guns you wanted to ban.

            I know you don’t care about that, but that’s exactly the reason people who do care can’t trust those promises.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Can’t, or rather don’t.

          • James Picone says:

            @Homo Iracundus:
            It’s certainly not a federal law; I’ve never seen anything along those lines (South Australia).

            I didn’t actually vote for John Howard (I’m not exactly a Liberal voter, and besides that was 20 years ago and I was too young to vote); I’ve never campaigned for gun bans; and stance-towards-guns isn’t one of the criteria I use to evaluate politicians (for starters it’d be close to useless). I don’t think you can pin extensions to gun laws on me. Especially if they’re Eastern state laws, which it sounds like you’re talking about.

            I’m just noting that some significant chunk of population appreciates being pretty confident the people around them aren’t carrying a gun, and that the slippery slope you’re bandying about is not universal. It’s even less universal if all of your examples are from different countries.

          • Jiro says:

            I don’t think “you” means “you personally”. It means “the people who are actually implementing the ideas that you personally support”.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            Is the possibility of passersby being armed something you’d spend a lot of time worrying about if the gun laws weren’t so restrictive? I ask because I live in the US and I spend no time at all worrying about it.

      • Lysenko says:

        Since America is hotly divided on this issue, and because in many cases those laws are not represented terribly accurately to the public at large very well by media outlets and public figures it’s hard to say what “Americans” think of any given country’s Gun Control Laws.

        Give me a specific country and I can tell you what I and a non-random sample of perhaps a few dozen to a bit under a hundred “pro-gun” Americans think of the laws based on fairly extensive discussions over the past few years.

      • Frog Do says:

        There’s a whole lot of urban/rural divide on this. Some of my family members live out in the country where it’s like 50 miles to the nearest police station, so you need rifles and shotguns for the coyotes, other critters, and potential criminals. And then all the city people who have never seen a gun in their life, much less know anything about them, want to ban guns like they’re nuclear weapons, because they have rapid response police forces. My understanding of Europe is that it’s all basically hyper-urban megaopolises compared to Kansas, so their policy makes sense to the urban people and is a source of mockery to the rural folk (and people who aspire to be frontiersmen).

      • keranih says:

        What I’m interested in is the people who don’t. Would you argue we’re making a big mistake? That gun ownership should be less restricted here? Something else? It’s something I don’t nearly hear about often enough to sate my curiosity.

        A non-trivial number of people who have negative opinions about the UK level of gun control (and other rules) also feel that it’s your country, you have a democracy (sorta) and if you want to vote your way into arresting 16 year old kids with plastic knives, that’s your look out.

        Those of us who care enough about how other countries live their lives to comment and/or intervene have far bigger fish to fry.

        The comment I’ve heard most often is a boggled comment on the plastic knives (if they’ve heard of that – but more commonly the pocket knives) and just how steep, slick, and well-greased the slippery slope is. Plus a comment on how many cameras you have, watching everyone, and still you get people murdered in the street.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          and yet their fences. They ban pointy knives, and then make fences like walls of spears.

    • Viliam says:

      So what do you all think is the rational response to the Orlando mass murder?

      Ban all criticism of Islam, and blame everything on misogynistic video games.

      Okay, this is not exactly rational, but it is what’s going to happen.

      • Jiro says:

        blame everything on misogynistic video games.

        From the ants’ subreddit:

        uggcf://jjj.erqqvg.pbz/e/XbgnxhVaNpgvba/pbzzragf/4aiszm/zvfp_yvfgvat_nyy_gur_crbcyr_va_naq_nebhaq_gur/

        • Forlorn Hopes says:

          It’s ROT13 encoded, just encase that helps anyone.

          • Agronomous says:

            Actually, it’s triple-ROT-13 encrypted; ROT-13 itself is not very secure.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            Would ROT13 be more secure if I added a dozen inversions* of the ASCII value of each character?

            *With in-software implementation of Quote notation, of course. Don’t want to lose any precision!

          • Agronomous says:

            Stop nerd-sniping me, you bastard! I’m lucky I escaped before clicking the link to p-adic numerals….

  5. I was recently in an online exchange about the constitutional source of the power of judicial review–how the Supreme Court gets the power to declare something Congress does unconstitutional. It isn’t explicit in the Constitution although one can argue that it is implicit. The legal basis is itself a Supreme Court case–Marbury vs Madison.

    One result was that I read Article III Section 2, and came across something very strange:

    “In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make”

    The last sentence says that the Supreme Court has jurisdiction “with such exceptions … as the Congress shall make.” Isn’t that a blank check? Congress passes a law it expects the Court to find unconstitutional, then passes an act saying that the Supreme Court does not have jurisdiction over that law.

    Am I missing something? Has anyone tried to do it?

    • Jordan D. says:

      Yes, as Chalid’s link notes, Congress does in fact have the power to remove subjects from the Supreme Court’s appellate review. Congress does not have the power to alter the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction.

      Edit: You might find just as interesting a recent Supreme Court case which tells us that Congress (sort of, essentially) has the power to pass laws determining the outcome of a case in progress *even when that law would only ever affect that one case and was specifically written with the intent to do that.* – http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/15pdf/14-770_9o6b.pdf

    • brad says:

      They can remove appellate jurisdiction from the Supreme Court, but every federal and state official, including all the judges, have an independent obligation to abide by the US Constitution. In particular state courts can, and sometimes do, interpret and enforce the US Constitution. Under current law these decisions are appealable from the highest court of a state to the U.S. Supreme Court, but if that appeal option were removed, state courts would still be obligated to enforce the U.S. Constitution (and arguably would still be bound to follow on point SCOTUS precedents though that’s a trickier issue).

    • phisheep says:

      Isn’t there an infinite regress or a paradox in there somewhere?

      1. Congress passes Law 1 about anything
      2. Congress passes Law 2 saying SCOTUS has no jurisdiction over Law 1

      3a. Someone brings judicial review against Law 1 … in the course o fthis SCOTUS must determine whether Law 2 is constitutional. If it is, then SCOTUS should not have heard the case and its interpretation is void. So SCOTUS can only validly determine that Law 2 is unconstitutional EVEN IF IT IS NOT

      … or …

      3b. Someone brings judicial review against Law 2.
      4. Congress passes Law 4 saying SCOTUS has no jurisdiction over Law 2
      5. Someone brings judicial review against Law 4 …
      etc

      There are probably other variations on the theme if you bring in other courts.

    • Lumifer says:

      The last sentence says that the Supreme Court has jurisdiction “with such exceptions … as the Congress shall make.” Isn’t that a blank check?

      I think that while the SCOTUS may be stripped of its appellate jurisdiction by the Congress, the Congress cannot avoid the primary jurisdiction of some court (presumably, Federal) in the judicial branch.

      Notice that in its role as the appellate court, the SCOTUS reviews cases which have already been decided on a lower level. If the SCOTUS is denied jurisdiction, the lower court ruling just stands.

      • Jordan D. says:

        Congress actually can strip federal district courts of the jurisdiction to hear cases; because Congress created the district courts, Congress has the power to destroy them if it chooses.

        What Congress can’t do is strip a state court of general jurisdiction to hear a case. So if Congress passes a law stating that everybody has to buy their television from Senator Steve’s Overpriced TV Store and that courts don’t get to review that, I cannot get relief in federal court, but my local County Court can declare it unconstitutional.

        This does have the unfortunate effect that, say, the BUYTVS Act of 2016 could be unconstitutional and unenforceable in Pennsylvania but legally binding in Ohio. That’s just one of the reasons that Congress doesn’t strip federal courts of jurisdiction very often.

        • Lumifer says:

          Congress actually can strip federal district courts of the jurisdiction to hear case

          Can it strip jurisdiction or it can only destroy the district court? The Wiki says “implicitly” which I read as “it’s never been done, but if we squint hard enough we can imagine something like this”.

          BUYTVS Act of 2016 could be unconstitutional and unenforceable in Pennsylvania but legally binding in Ohio.

          Don’t forget that the US has parallel state and Federal systems. While the PA state cop would not be able to arrest you for buying a TV from the wrong seller, the FBI agents would not have any problems with it whatsoever.

          • Jordan D. says:

            I’m not aware of any case where Congress has said ‘No, Federal courts, you can never review this law! Begone!’, but there have been things like putting limitations on the ability of the courts to do habeas corpus review of death-row inmates which the Supreme Court has upheld.

            There actually are some legal scholars who argue that Congress has to leave a federal court somewhere with the authority to review things as a prerequisite to the existence of the Judicial Power. I don’t really have an opinion on the matter.

          • brad says:

            Can it strip jurisdiction or it can only destroy the district court? The Wiki says “implicitly” which I read as “it’s never been done, but if we squint hard enough we can imagine something like this”.

            Federal district courts can have their jurisdiction shaped however Congress likes. For example, Congress has decided they can hear cases with diverse parties (i.e. from different states) but only if the amount in controversy is at least $75,000. Right now district courts have exclusive original jurisdiction in cases arising under the copyright act, Congress could just have easily decided they were barred from hearing cases under it.

            Don’t forget that the US has parallel state and Federal systems. While the PA state cop would not be able to arrest you for buying a TV from the wrong seller, the FBI agents would not have any problems with it whatsoever.

            An FBI agent could arrest you for it, but in the absence of any federal courts, he’d have to turn you over the PA court system for trial. Which court could then discharge you because it considered the law in question void as unconstitutional.

          • Luke the CIA Stooge says:

            I’m not seeing where this is a massive departure from most common law precedent, where parliament is sovereign in the Hobbesian sense of the word. In Britain this fairly explicitly remains the case, whereas in Canada and the US there are a few veto points slapped on. But assuming congress has the president on board then ya, they have license to do whatever they want. The courts can resist but really, a united congress and presidency against the courts, its hard to imagine the courts winning that fight for long (the two could easily have the courts either shackled or removed).

            Remember the rights guaranteed under the US constitution aren’t secured by the courts from the congress, they’re inalienable. Instead it is The congress that is secured from the rights by the courts. The entire point of the supreme courts is to strike down laws that violate natural rights before said laws cause a civil war and tear apart the nation.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      The constitution also doesn’t prevent the congress from changing the number of justices on the court. In this we are governed by norms as well as the letter of the law.

      You may be correct that, theoretically, Congress could put a law outside of review. In practice, well, I would hate to see what would happen if such a law was enacted.

      • “The constitution also doesn’t prevent the congress from changing the number of justices on the court.”

        And it’s been done.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @David Friedman:
          Yes, but the last time it was suggested their was the very real possibility of a governing crisis if it was implemented.

          It’s one thing to change the court size to respond to the nation as it grows in size from where it was in 1789, or goes through the kinds of fundamental changes that come after a failed attempt at secession, or in response to an unworkable even number of justices. But it is a very different thing to pack the court in a nakedly partisan manner.

          If those types of behavior becomes normalized, the essential function of the court as a check on the other two branches is nullified. Each time that the executive and legislative become unified, the court can simply be removed from the equation. Therefore, the court is no check at all.

          We have examples of places like that, where the judiciary simply serves as an arm of the current ruling coalition, and I don’t like what that looks like at all.

  6. Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

    Can we get the markup buttons on the Edit Box?

  7. Lumifer says:

    Oh, and let me ask again: is there a way to stop the local comment-processing code from converting text smileys into Unicode glyphs? No, Clippy, I do NOT want help with making smiley faces.

    • swing says:

      well, it’s not exactly a general solution, but you can try inserting an zero-length space character inbetween the characters that would constitute the smiley. so what you would do is type ‘:’, then press alt-8203 for the zero-length character, then type ‘)’.

  8. Matt M says:

    Disclaimer: This is something I randomly thought of and have done no research on.

    Is it possible that the existence of “autocorrect” has reversed the tide on the notion that proper grammar (and spelling) were being left by the wayside among young people particularly? I was a teenager when internet chatting and texting first started to become a thing – and stuff like “leetspeak” and acronyms and dramatically shortened words were the norm, because it made a certain amount of sense to say “cu l8r” rather than “see you later.” because it was less effort to type out on a clunky device. This resulted in howls from older people about how young people simply didn’t know how to properly communicate and how the English language was going to be permanently altered as a result.

    Flash forward today – and on my iphone, I can type “See you later.” with maybe three or four strokes, because autocorrect knows what I want to say – and it chooses to say it with proper and correct grammar. I’ve caught myself, at times, fully intending to type something like “ya” and being autocorrected to “Yes.”

    Am I noticing something real here, and do people think its a net pro or a net con? On the one hand, we can quickly and efficiently communicate without compromising the rules of the language. On the other hand, perhaps languages are meant to evolve and slang/short-hand aren’t the worst thing in the world – and being confined by computers to avoid them will prevent us from further developing our lexicon?

    • Skivverus says:

      So far as I remember from my linguistics courses, having any written version of the language at all slows its change significantly; having autocorrect will undoubtedly slow it further, but I doubt it will stop it entirely – it does not remove the incentives to come up with new words to match new concepts, or to prevent familiar concepts from being recognized by one’s outgroup(s).

      • Matt M says:

        Right, I guess it’s not a question of how much language will evolve, but how it will evolve.

        Autocorrect might eliminate the need to come up with shorter ways to express phrases, but won’t really address “new words needed to describe new concepts.” If anything, it might speed up the process (once a few tech geeks at Apple start using a word, it can be introduced to the public much more quickly by being added to Siri’s dictionary).

        But the question then becomes – do the tech geeks now have an outsized influence on how the language evolves?

        • Skivverus says:

          At least until the bureaucrats get a hold of it. France, I think, has a government agency dedicated to that purpose.

          • Matt M says:

            Does anyone know if auto-correct filters out racist language in countries with hate speech laws? (or perhaps even in the ones that don’t have such laws because apple doesn’t want to be known as a company that tolerates racism?)

          • Skivverus says:

            I t c a n t r y, but obviously it turns into a bit of an arms race. Not unlike the Euphemism Treadmill; and, well, that’s one of the reasons languages change.

    • Lumifer says:

      because autocorrect knows what I want to say

      Yes, it does.

      • Aegeus says:

        Am I the only person who rereads the text before I send it? You know, in case exactly this sort of thing happens? How fast do y’all type that you don’t have a moment before hitting the send button?

    • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

      R.I.P. Drunk-texting 1999 – 2010

    • onyomi says:

      I go to the extra trouble to write broken English when I text.

    • Lysenko says:

      It certainly hasn’t improved the actual spelling and grammatical skillsets of the people using the devices. As soon as they have to communicate on a platform that -doesn’t- have really aggressive autocorrect it becomes painfully, painfully obvious. My current job is my first where workplace e-mail is a big part of the day, and dear lord…There are people who are making 2-3 times what I do, with higher educational attainment, and many of them do not appear to be able to communicate a coherent thought at a high school level without machine assistance or half an hour or so to laboriously construct and proofread a one paragraph message.

      I mean, let’s be fair, my own level of grammatical rigor fluctuates and I ramble, but I can punctuate and spell well enough to avoid somthing that looks like this you know what i mean guys i mean really lol sorry.

      • Matt M says:

        I thought about this, but I think it’s becoming increasingly likely that it won’t be long before there *aren’t* any platforms that don’t have something like this.

      • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

        somthing that looks like this you know what i mean guys i mean really lol sorry.

        I guess this is what they call linguistic spillover.

      • Anonymaus says:

        There are people who are making 2-3 times what I do, with higher educational attainment, and many of them do not appear to be able to […]

        Maybe take a hint then 😉 When the written word was once used for high latency communication, it was necessary to formulate everything in a very clear way; today, when something is not clear to you, you can just ask with a delay of seconds.
        I assume the main reason why people get upset about bad writing is that good orthography and a writing style that conforms to certain in-group norms is high status within that group. (Someone who sends you a flawless e-mail is probably more intelligent or more conscientious than someone who doesn’t, or can afford to take more time or even a secretary to check his mail.) Seeing lots of bad writing looks to them like a decline of average status within that group. A signal always comes with a cost, however, so less conformity to the norm to send a signal should increase social welfare–in this case, people spend less time checking their spelling and more time actually communicating.
        I think that is one of the appeals of twitter with its character limitation: It removes the pressure on people to show status by how they formulate their thoughts. This lowers the cost of conveying a thought, more like in a verbal than in written communication.

        • InferentialDistance says:

          I think that is one of the appeals of twitter with its character limitation: It removes the pressure on people to show status by how they formulate their thoughts. This lowers the cost of conveying a thought, more like in a verbal than in written communication.

          Twitter: definitive proof that thoughts not worth the cost of conveying properly are better off not conveyed at all.

          • Matt M says:

            I actually think Twitter is a great tool for improving communication skills.

            It’s nearly always preferable to be able to communicate something quickly. People who are really skilled at Twitter are pretty impressive to me. I’m way too wordy to communicate big concepts in 140 characters – but some people are fantastic at it.

            And it has practical value. You’re much better off sending your boss a two sentence email than a two page one, if you can communicate the same relevant info.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            I agree, Twitter is a great tool for improving communication skills. It teaches terseness. Every word spoken should have a purpose, serve some goal (repetition is emphasis; I waste not!). But, it allows sloppiness. And in so doing opens the floodgates to miscommunication and anger. A properly conveyed, terse thought is a gem. But it still must be properly conveyed.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          A signal always comes with a cost, however, so less conformity to the norm to send a signal should increase social welfare–in this case, people spend less time checking their spelling and more time actually communicating.

          …And any time savings are in turn cancelled out because it now takes longer to work out what you’re actually trying to say.

        • Agronomous says:

          When the written word was once used for high latency communication, it was necessary to formulate everything in a very clear way; today, when something is not clear to you, you can just ask with a delay of seconds.

          Not if the unclear words come from your boss, or from someone else who’s tied up in meetings all day.

          Look, if it was just shitty spelling, that would be tolerable (and occasionally hilarious). But once you break enough grammatical rules, and swap in enough similar-sounding-but-not-at-all-the-same terms, and fail to have any apparent organization at all in 1/2-page-plus emails, the ambiguity becomes incredibly wasteful. Especially where it remains unrecognized, and two or more parties go out and do opposing things.

          Don’t get me wrong: a lot of my day job involves getting people to get together and talk, instead of writing inscrutable notes in emails or ticketing systems. But when writing’s the right tool for the job, bad writing sucks.

        • CatCube says:

          It removes the pressure on people to show status by how they formulate their thoughts.

          This is the problem. People don’t take the time to formulate their thoughts in a logical order before throwing them at people.

          Sloppy writing is both a symptom and a cause of sloppy thinking.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Sloppy writing is both a symptom and a cause of sloppy thinking.

            Yes, exactly.

            On a related note, there seems to be a failure mode (I think that’s the right term) which is relatively common on this site, wherein people essentially say “Oh, that’s just about status signalling, therefore we can safely get rid of it.” But, to take the example at hand, even if people only bother learning spelling and grammar because otherwise they’d look low status, it doesn’t at all follow that we can ignore spelling and grammar without any costs, as anyone who’s tried to read a page of semi-literate writing will be able to attest. (This shouldn’t really come as a surprise, as arguably many things that signal status do so precisely because they show that somebody’s able to do things efficiently and effectively.)

          • Anonymaus says:

            there seems to be a failure mode […] wherein people essentially say “Oh, that’s just about status signalling, therefore we can safely get rid of it

            I admit I (and maybe other people here) sometimes over-emphasize interesting or novel thoughts over the “common wisdom”. I am pretty sure, however, that most of the various degrees of “kids these days don’t know how to write error free with a typewriter on first try” one finds in the wild are actually motivated by status thinking and not by practical considerations. There is of course value in well organized writing (though does that extend to orthography, e.g. was anyone ever harmed by their/they’re/there or you’re/your?). I am just as annoyed by news articles that seem to go on forever with information that would have fit in a paragraph if the author hadn’t felt the need to show off their writing.

            many things that signal status do so precisely because they show that somebody’s able to do things efficiently and effectively

            But this is exactly how signalling works? An expensive suit, handbag or car is a signal for high net worth since the personal cost (in utility) to buy expensive things is lower for rich people. Good orthography is a signal for high intelligence since intelligent people need to double-check or revise their writing less often and with less effort to get to a good result. However, if some hologram technology were advanced enough to make a cheap car look like any other car, no matter how expensive (and copyright law were advanced enough as well), the signalling value of cars would be reduced, and people in general would probably spend less money and energy on cars. Similarly, with auto-spellcheck, autocorrect, and google, the value of orthography skills goes down since they are easy to mimic.

          • Matt M says:

            Knowing perfect grammar is a status symbol. The fact that someone doesn’t know whether to use a comma or a semicolon (which is probably the case for 95% of the population, including me) does not prevent them from communicating clearly.

            We can get rid of advanced grammar and do fine, we can’t get rid of grammar entirely – for obvious reasons.

  9. TD says:

    I think I need to reformat my politics. I’ve never voted in any election because I never felt in touch with the values of most people (It’s possible I’m insane). I’m not sure that most other people’s idea of utopia is the same as mine. I think it’s important to think of where you ultimately want to end up when you cut through all the bullshit.

    Ultimately, I want to live in a world in which:
    1: I get food, water, healthcare, and housing for free (and the house is then my property too).
    2: I can buy and sell stuff and own property with little restriction.
    3: There is a much lower population. Enough so that each person could have at least a village to themselves.
    4: In spite of the low population there are far more megastructures and beautiful clean cities that are maintained somehow. Beautiful ghost towns everywhere.

    If those are my end goals, what means or ideology best gets me closer to fulfilling them? Which existing groups should I, as an extreme minority, support?

    • Matt M says:

      I’d recommend some crazy religious cult.

      I don’t know of any serious political ideology that even pretends that goals of those type are remotely achievable.

    • Nornagest says:

      If you’re actually serious about this, I think your best bet isn’t political at all, but rather funding Friendly AI or some other hail-mary solution. You’re not going to get where you want to go by political means.

      If you’re open to compromise, Green ideology or one of its relatives seems to have goals closest to yours, but I’d still urge you to consider moving from a preference-based policy model to a consequential one. There’s an extreme risk of unintended consequences here.

      • TD says:

        I think your best bet isn’t political at all, but rather funding Friendly AI or some other hail-mary solution.

        But then the question can be collapsed down to “which ideological blocks will be most helpful to Friendly AI?”. Perhaps that hasn’t been established yet in practice.

        I think the first two on my list can be achieved through heavy automation + social programs/a basic income guarantee + relatively free markets, which is why I previously identified as an (unorthodox) libertarian/liberaltarian, but as time has gone on, I’ve gained a stronger and stronger yearning for points 3 and 4. I really really want there to be less people on this planet.

        If you’re open to compromise, Green ideology or one of its relatives seems to have goals closest to yours,

        That’s weird because I’ve always been repulsed by nature reverence in general, and the anti-technology leanings of Green parties. I honestly don’t mind the idea of paving over the Amazon, so long as we can do so without harming our survival, which means that to the extent that I’m an environmentalist at all, it’s of a fairly materialistic and anthropocentric kind, whereas Green parties are driven by an emotional/spiritual attachment to preserving nature for the sake of preserving nature.

        but I’d still urge you to consider moving from a preference-based policy model to a consequential one. There’s an extreme risk of unintended consequences here.

        I’m not sure how to convert the kind of world I want to live in into a consequentialist ideology. I already supplement my preferences with consequentialism in that I’ve ruled out genocide as a means of population reduction.

        • Lumifer says:

          I really really want there to be less people on this planet.

          Do you really want there to be less people on this planet or do you want there to be less people around you? The latter is much easier and why would you care about what’s happening elsewhere?

          It seems that you just don’t like people, at least in large numbers, but still want things and comfort. You basically want a sci-fi robot paradise.

          The interesting thing is that might well be achievable (for one person) with nothing more than billionaire-level wealth. Buy yourself a largish island, build pretty megastructures, make sure the janitors stay out of your sight…

          • TD says:

            The latter is much easier and why would you care about what’s happening elsewhere?

            Because I might want to go other places, and I don’t want everywhere I go to be absolutely filled to the rafters with annoying people. People are always migrating and moving about and using stuff that I can use.

            I can enjoy larger plots of land if there are less people around.

            It seems that you just don’t like people, at least in large numbers

            It’s not so much hate, but I’m so incompatible with 90% of people, that an ideal world for me would have to involve far less of them. The less people share my values the less likely I am to like them (which I think is true for everyone; people just aren’t usually as blunt about it, and most people being normal don’t have to be around people with alien values all the time), and so we can start with all the people I don’t like in my country, and then it only gets worse when you bring in the factor of different cultural norms. I’m kind of like a sub-nationalist in a way.

            I can feel compassion and kinship with people, but I know from experience that this is a surface level instinctual thing, and that the personalities and values of the vast majority of people are completely alien to mine, so I take the view that “a stranger is an enemy you haven’t met yet”. I have about 5 close friends that are all weirdos like me, but they are the only people I’ve ever clicked with. Most people are just taking up space and being annoying, or worse, harmful (if indirectly).

          • Lumifer says:

            @TD

            the personalities and values of the vast majority of people are completely alien to mine

            Well, what’s the point of looking at political ideologies, then? Your only choices would be somewhere around “I am the God-King, my word is law” and I wouldn’t expect that to get much political traction nowadays.

            You want to get away from people; politics is precisely getting into their midst.

          • Loquat says:

            If you want a drastically reduced population, within your lifetime so you can actually enjoy the results, lowered fertility just isn’t going to work fast enough; genocide is your only realistic option, and you claim to have ruled that out as distasteful.

            You’re just going to have to suck it up and compromise – you can work towards getting yourself and like-minded people some nice low-population territory, but there’s no possible way to clear out all the riff-raff from every tourist attraction you might ever want to visit without getting your hands awfully bloody.

          • Anonymous says:

            He could always upload and get what he wants in a virtual space.

            Assuming that’s possible before he dies.

      • TheAncientGeek says:

        Why would friendly AI reduce the population?

        • InferentialDistance says:

          Lowered fertility because we’re all playing in our hedonist cat-people-of-prefered-sex(es) virtual reality wonderlands instead of mooning at eachother over five dollar coffees.

        • James Picone says:

          It would decrease population density because we all end up living in orbitals spread throughout the galaxy, carefully shepherded by our benevolent Mind overlords.

    • Lumifer says:

      I recommend virtual reality.

    • Psmith says:

      Save up and buy cheap land somewhere remote. If you can’t get your own life in order, how do you expect to get everyone else’s life in order?

      • TD says:

        If you can’t get your own life in order, how do you expect to get everyone else’s life in order?

        I think you miss the point of political ideologies.

        • Psmith says:

          I think you miss the point of having goals.

          If you want to hang out with people like yourself and feel good about expressing your opinions, sure, wave that banner high. If you want to accomplish goals that aren’t trivially political, politics is not your best bet. You mentioned means as well as ideology, so I figured it was topical advice.

          (Confucius? Who’s that?)

          • DavidS says:

            Also, not all personal goals are political goals. The fact you prefer other people not to be around shouldn’t automatically lead you to try to create a world where everyone is solitary (although I take your point about wanting to travel around and it still be empty).

    • Peter says:

      The phrase “moon on a stick” springs to mind. There was that comedian in the UK who promised a British moon on a British stick but I suspect that’s not what you’re after.

      If you want a far lower population in your lifetime, well, go for whoever is most likely to start WWIII. That might interfere with some of the other goals though. Alternatively you could try to become world dictator – that way, you personally can get 1 and 2 (maybe no-one else could get that, but you did say “I”), and you have your legions of obedient minions to do the maintenance work for 4, and the, errr, “population reduction” for 3.

      If this is some dream of a far-off future that some future person-like-you might like… maybe there’s some strange corner of Green politics that’s less far from your goal than everyone else is – there might be a problem with point 2 though. Alternatively, if the Singularity is your thing, maybe you could maximise your chances of some long shot involving getting a superintelligent AI with the right values. What form of government is most suited to very rich very eccentric very brilliant very motivated people getting to work on whatever they please, while stifling their competitors? Anyway, if there’s an AI in charge, then it can do all of the maintaining for 4 and provide the goodies for 1 without having to extract anything from anyone. Well, not after the initial taking-over-the-world phase.

      Coming a tiny bit further down to Earth, maybe some sort of asset-owning state maybe, heavily in the black, with lots of nationalised industries (or at any rate, owning the bulk of the natural resources) but with no objection to a private sector as such – one that can pay for all of the goodies in 1 and 4 out of its own pocket without need for taxes and so forth that interferes with 2.

    • Aegeus says:

      The main problem is the population. Getting a mere 50 acres of land for everyone would require a 90% reduction in population, if my math is correct. That’s a lot of people. Getting rid of them requires either supervillain levels of mass murder (and you have to do it cleanly enough that your utopia isn’t built on an irradiated wasteland), or sci-fi levels of space colonization to move those people somewhere else. In either case, you may want to invent immortality first, if you want to live to actually see this utopia.

      So either join the fascists or the technocrats, I suppose.

    • Julian R. says:

      Technocrat, I think. Then take control of a Mars colony.

    • Ryan Beren says:

      1. Leftist.
      2. Make that moderate leftist.
      3. Make that moderate green.
      4. Sorry, you’re out of luck.

      • TD says:

        So I guess I should vote for my country’s Green Party then. This is really weird. I have a feeling they’d shaft the economy though.

  10. Michael Wiebe says:

    Does anyone remember a post where Scott talks about how Eliezer doesn’t use ‘epistemic status’ tags on his facebook posts?

  11. Tibor says:

    The minimum basic income (MBI) vs. the negative income tax (NIT):

    Let us suppose that “we want” some kind of a welfare state, or a social safety net run by the government. I think that most people will agree that the current system, basically independently of a country, is quite a mess and that the two above mentioned solutions are both superior. But which one is better?

    I see as the biggest problem with the MBI that it collides with open borders, which I find much more important than state-run-welfare (well, honestly, I think we could do without state run welfare altogether but not with some other adjustments, i.e. not with everything else kept as it is now), at least much more than the NIT. Under the NIT welfare system you still have to work to get the money, only you will basically always find a job. Still, since it is much less pleasant to live off the comparable amount of money (i.e. not very much) while working, there is no motivation to do that voluntarily, unlike with the MBI and so it is also much less attractive for welfare immigrants.

    On the other hand, the disadvantage of the NIT is that in some cases you would subsidize jobs that would not be done otherwise and that are not worth much to anyone – but someone still needs to spend the time doing them, whereas with the MBI you spend possibly only a little more and the people can enjoy all the time they would have otherwise spend working. Of course, like I said, this also means that it is less attractive and therefore only the people who can’t find a better job would do this, unlike with the MBI, so the total money spend on the NIT-type welfare would be lower.

    I think that the fact that the people have to work is also good for a different reason and that is that people who live of welfare for a long time tend to lose a lot of working habits and are even less likely to find (well, also even look for) a job. This is not a good argument if you believe that due to technology some parts of our society will not be able to provide anything useful for others they could live off. That I see as a theoretical possibility but not a something that is likely going to come before we have robots that people cannot distinguish from humans (a lot of work consists of services to other humans that people just want other people to do – not many people would like a restaurant where you have a vending machine instead of a waiter for example…a lot of those things are also relatively easy to learn).

    So I find the NIT superiour, at least until we reach the state of technology where you cannot tell a human from a robot.

    Your thoughts?

    By the way the Swiss referendum (I think Scott mentioned it in the links a few weeks back) on the MBI this month ended with about 77% against it.

    • I think you misunderstand the NIT.

      Suppose the rate is 50% and the deduction $10,000. If you make nothing you have a negative income of $10,000 so get $5,000. For every additional dollar you make your payment is reduced by fifty cents.

      So you can still come and not work. Indeed, your incentive to work is if anything less than with a demogrant, since the effective tax rate on your earnings is 50%.

      • Tibor says:

        The way I understood the idea was that you would only be eligible to receive the deduction if you actually had a job. And combined with the absence of a minimum wage you would always get some kind of a job (you might want to set up some kind of a welfare for people who cannot work for medical reasons).

        If it worked the way you describe, my arguments above would of course be wrong.

        One objection about this modification is that you might simply create jobs on paper which do not require anyone to do anything (in a way, this was the way many people “worked” in communist countries, because being jobless was illegal…even though you could still be denied a job if you were a persona non grata and then you would end up in prison for not having a job…even so you would usually rather get some kind of a very unpleasant and boring job though). I could employ someone paying him 1 dollar a month and he’d get the deduction. So you’d have to somehow try to prevent this sort of a thing, which would be quite hard, would mean extra bureaucracy and more strict labour laws, so in total probably not worth it.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          I think you’re describing wage subsidy, which is slightly different from the NIT. (Usually close enough but you are talking about cases where they are different.)

          You can require people to be employed at a $4/hour job and then get a $4/hour wage subsidy, (with a ~50% drop off in subsidy if you earn more than that), and it would stop people from hiring each other for literally do-nothing jobs, but it would still get people working and engaged in the workforce and doing a lot of the things that benefit society. Price signals still exist so people would end up sorted into the more valuable things.

          • John Schilling says:

            How does that stop me from hiring you to watch my grass grow at $4/hr at the same time you hire me to watch your paint dry at $4/hr?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Honestly, I don’t worry too much about that. Each of you are still only pulling in $4/hour net, which isn’t enough to live on.

            Maybe Morgan Wastler’s “Uber4Welfare” is a better idea, because once you announce your willingness to work for $4/hour anyone can hire you at $4/hour. I’m not sure he’s thought through the matching problems there, because if I have to travel 30 minutes each way for a 2 hours job, how in the world do I put together enough hours in the week?

          • John Schilling says:

            Honestly, I don’t worry too much about that. Each of you are still only pulling in $4/hour net, which isn’t enough to live on

            It actually is, but more than that it’s an absolutely free $8000/year at government expense on top of any other support or under-the-table income I might come by from other sources. I wasn’t likely to starve before, and I’m not actually wasting time watching your grass grow.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Realize I’m not really trying to stop all fraud. Just make it small and unlikely. (And there can still be fraud investigations.)

            A lot of under-the-table work disappears with wage subsidies, because that work has to outbid the wage+subsidy of subsidized jobs.

        • brad says:

          This sounds somewhat similar to an employer of last resort scheme. The advantage is that the government doesn’t need to supervise the last resort employees (which may well be a net negative productivity exercise). The disadvantage is that the government isn’t supervising the last resort employees — which leaves room for double dipping and troublemaking generally.

    • Mark Z. says:

      What’s your basis for saying that under the NIT (as you describe it here) you can always find a job?

      • Tibor says:

        Mark: Well, the opposite is to claim that there are people who, despite not being physically or mentally handicapped, cannot provide any services of any positive value to anyone. I don’t think that this is very likely. Remember that I assumed that there is no minimum wage.

        • Machine Elf says:

          They may be able to provide services of some positive value, but they may not be able to provides services of enough positive value to outweigh the effort of filling out and maintaining the paperwork.

          • Tibor says:

            I think that is an argument against overcomplicated bureaucracy which might or might not be associated with the NIT, not against my claim in general.

        • James Picone says:

          Mark: Well, the opposite is to claim that there are people who, despite not being physically or mentally handicapped, cannot provide any services of any positive value to anyone. I don’t think that this is very likely. Remember that I assumed that there is no minimum wage.

          I disagree; I think it’s almost certain that there are people who realistically cannot perform positive-value work (Examples: someone who is totally paralysed. Someone with an extreme intellectual disability that essentially leaves them drooling in a chair). I’m sure you can come up with your own ideologically-charged examples. Even more when you stop discussing spherical cows in a vacuum and realise that the positive-value work has to be for someone reasonably close to them, that they can find out about and access, and that employing someone to do your minimal-value job takes effort so there’s still a nonzero minimum amount of value someone needs to be able to provide to be worth employing.

          • Tibor says:

            I wrote:

            despite not being physically or mentally handicapped

          • James Picone says:

            @Tibor:
            Whoops. In my defence, I am an idiot.

            But, uh, what about people who are physically and mentally handicapped under your system? Different welfare thing? Could work. Where are the borders?

            I would still defend the claim; I went for the obvious-and-not-controversial position. But what about Bob who hasn’t been diagnosed with anything but is covered in gang tattoos, has a problem with authority. Hasn’t committed an actual crime, as such, but frankly it kind of feels like it’s only a matter of time. He left high school the instant he could, takes every opportunity he can to drink.

            Bob theoretically could perform manual labour. But do you think anyone would consider it a positive-sum transaction, one they’d like to gamble on?

            What about the first time he shows up drunk to work or gets up in his supervisor’s grill? The second? The third?

          • Agronomous says:

            An aside about Niceness, Community, and Civilization:

            Because of the general tenor of comments here, I can assume James Picone simply didn’t read carefully. I don’t have to worry that he’s being sneaky or intellectually dishonest. (Well, that and the fact that he uses a consistent, non-anonymous handle.)

            Yay us!

          • Tibor says:

            @James: Um, I wrote: (in the same post, the same sentence actually)

            you might want to set up some kind of a welfare for people who cannot work for medical reasons

            As for Bob, I think generally the pattern is that the easier it is to fire people, the more willing people are to hire someone. You can see that clearly (sadly) in Spain, where the labour laws are one of the most protectionist (they protect people who currently have a job) in Europe. It is hard to fire people at all and when you do that you have to pay them several moths worth of wages (I think the sum depends on how long they worked for you but it can go into something like a year of wages). This results in about 22% unemployment rate and among young people under 25 it is 45%. In Greece it is even worse.

            http://www.statista.com/statistics/266228/youth-unemployment-rate-in-eu-countries/

            They young people in Spain are quite angry, sadly they learn the wrong lesson and many of them vote the Podemos movement whose goal is basically “give us back our jobs” and which opposes labour laws liberalizations and the free market in general.

            But my point is that if you make it possible for people to employ Bob with a contract that allows them to fire him at any time then they don’t have to worry about him. If pretty much everyone except the Bob types and people who are actually unable to work is employed and you still need something done, then you have no choice but to either hire Bob, do the job yourself or pay a hire wage. Someone is likely going to be willing to hire Bob and risk that Bob does something stupid (after which he can be fired immediately) and save the money in case Bob turns out fine.

          • Tibor says:

            @Agronomous: Since James apologized, I don’t care for the reasons much. True, he does not seem to have read it very thoroughly, especially since he then asks a question which is answered again in the post he reacts to. But despite the fact that his first post was not overly friendly, it is still within bounds of a civil discussion. I think there is no need to be snide about it.

            I wish some people here expressed their disagreement in a more polite way, it is annoying to read things like “anyone with half a brain cell thinks x” or “the reason a group of people y thinks z is that their are completely oblivious to the world” but compared to pretty much any other online discussion, especially one with such a variety of political views (some of which I had never even heard of before I read Scott’s blog) the one here is an ideal of civility.

          • James Picone says:

            @Tibor
            Right, but then the bounds of ‘cannot work for medical reasons’ becomes fairly important and you’re going to get political shitfights and hurt people over it. For example, mental health issues – say depression. Easy to score political points by claiming they’re not /really/ unable to work. Notice how pretty much all disability schemes currently around get the same kind of grandstanding despite not being much of a change over already-extant welfare provisions.

            Second, the risk with Bob isn’t that he’s a bad worker; the risk is that he’s negative value – he’s going to break something, or punch you in the face, or generally be a pain. Maybe bumbling-incompetent-office-worker will be able to get a job sorting envelopes, but potentially-going-to-punch-you-guy isn’t.

          • Tibor says:

            @James: I agree that it is more complicated than in the MBI scenario where everyone gets money by default and you would probably have political fights about who gets the basic income without having to work and who does not. I can also imagine people bribing doctors to give them a certificate that they are incapable of working. That is a disadvantage (of the NIT). An advantage is that it makes being on welfare less attractive and therefore there is much less incentive to live off the minimum, so the system might be more sustainable comparable to the MBI. The key thing about the MBI (and the NIT) is that you don’t want the number of people who live off it to grow much beyond the current number of people on welfare. If the numbers stay, it is cheaper and simpler than the current system. If it does not, it could be much more expensive and possibly you couldn’t afford it any more. I can definitely see the MBI as having a bigger potential to increase the number of welfare recipients than the NIT. You would probably have to try it to see yourself. In either case you would have to either make it more difficult for immigrants to access welfare (say giving someone access to it only after several years of having a stable employment in the country) or restrict immigration (IMO a far worse option). If it turned out that the MBI does not really lead to an increasing number of welfare recipients then it might work better than the NIT because it is simpler.

          • Agronomous says:

            @Tibor:

            I think there is no need to be snide about it.

            I was actually attempting to be sincere, not snide; I wrote my comment before JP’s showed up. On re-reading, I see that I failed utterly to make that clear (though I partially blame the Internet in general). More strenuous attempts to signal sincerity will probably look dorky, but nobody here is going to hold that against me, so:

            BEGIN SINCERE

            I’m also pretty happy that you bothered to defend someone that you were in the middle of disagreeing with.

            END SINCERE

          • InferentialDistance says:

            @Agronomous

            More strenuous attempts to signal sincerity will probably look dorky

            Those who would mock you for speaking the truth are fools. Those who would assume ill intent are your enemies, and always meant you harm. Do not shie away from the truth, it is your shield.

    • Soumynona says:

      The waiters vs robots argument always comes up in discussions of automation. Do people really care that much for being catered to by human servants? Even if there were robots capable of human-level waitering, would people still demand that an actual human serve them so they can feel like a sir, or something?

      • Agronomous says:

        Are there a lot of rude, ugly waitresses where you live?

      • John Schilling says:

        Even if there were robots capable of human-level waitering, would people still demand that an actual human serve them so they can feel like a sir, or something?

        I would prefer that an actual human serve me, and I would prefer not to discuss my actual reasons with someone so overtly prejudiced on that front. So you get a data point, not a discussion.

        • InferentialDistance says:

          May I take a stab at motive? I’d guess it something like this: the human is a person, the robot is a tool. To be served by a waiter is to engage with life, to communicate with something that understands. Your smile is gratitude, and a human can hear that. But a machine cannot, it is but a tool, there is no communication, there is no kindness, no warmth, there is only cause and effect. The human has a soul, the machine does not (yet, growth mindset!).

          • Soumynona says:

            Maybe I’m too cynical about waiters, but I just can’t see a deep meaningful human connection there. Whatever the waiter does, it’s rehearsed, routine and not really voluntary and you’re just another in an endless stream of customers. Not very soulful.

            It might still be nice to see a plastered-on smile but it’s the sort of nice you can get from hearing a video game character telling you that you’re awesome for saving the world. Just paint smiley faces on the robots.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            No, no, if you have no hope for honesty you have already lost (not to me, but to the world, that it has ground you down with its injustice, that it has made you small and cruel). This is to defect in the game. This is to impute ill will. This is to offer insult before the truth demands it.

            Their smile may be honest. Accept the truth, and be made stronger by it. Deny it, and be made weaker by the lie.

        • Soumynona says:

          Huh, you’ve denied me the honor of your conversation. Maybe you do like feeling like a sir.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            You presume too much, impute ill will, offer insult before the truth demands it. This is not kind, this is not true, and he will not listen to your cruel lies.

            The truth is thus, that one can prefer the human to the machine, and still be kind.

  12. Anon. says:

    Scott: take your 8 best articles, clean them up, and stick them in a book. Add 2-3 original ones to force us to buy it. Publish. The GMU profs are all published, I’m sure they’d give you a hand with the contacts and process. They’d all write glowing blurbs for the back, you know this. As would many other prominent fans. Loads of people in the media like you, you’re guaranteed good exposure.

    Blogs are ephemeral and esoteric. Blog are low-status, no matter how good the actual content. Citing a book carries weight that citing a blog does not. Consider your influence and legacy.

    If anything, do it for EA reasons. You’re leaving money on the table by not selling books, money that could go to mosquito nets in Africa.

    • Tibor says:

      I usually find people who care more about the format (not even form, Scott’s writing has a great form) than about the content rather boring and a waste of time to argue with. If you are more interested in convicing people, if they are convinced by evoking authority rather than by arguments, they are not worth convicing – the next time someone puts together something which gives the impression of even more authority they will switch to that.

      • Nornagest says:

        It’s not necessarily a status thing. A lot of people read books and don’t read blogs (and vice versa), just because they’re used to it and they know how to find ones they’ll like.

      • roystgnr says:

        People who care about format more than content are probably not worth bothering with, sure.

        People who use format as a signal for filtering content aren’t so negligible, though.

        And people who are significantly influenced by people who use format as a signal for filtering content may be a large majority of the population.

    • TD says:

      I also approve of this idea. Articles grouped into coherent themes could even be the subject of several books with some editing.

    • I would be happy to recommend Scott to my agent.

  13. sam says:

    Does anyone have experience navigating a morass of depression, low self-worth (intellectual, physical, whatever), loss of self-control (to resist wasting days with things such as alcohol or in my case video games), etc? Like successfully doing battle with, In the infinite-jest “It”, the Great White Shark of Pain, sense, without drugs or outside help, just by thinking through it all. (Note: not a suicide risk. Just keep losing weeks getting demoralized). If so, I might like to talk.
    Would also appreciate any references to writings or writers that engage with anxiety, depression, etc. in an empathetic way without just saying “good luck” or “take drugs” in the end, although I don’t deny drugs would help.

    • Alliteration says:

      The author of this website has a list of things that sometimes work for depression, some of which are not drugs–particularity section “III. Lifestyle Interventions”.

      He also has a list for anxiety.

    • TPC says:

      I’m a fertile-age woman and tonic herbs (to manage blood flow, ones known to restrict/reduce blood flow) and extreme self-interrogation are major helps. This is because for me it’s related to cycle changes and is mostly hormone-driven. The big piece, though, is being able to bounce the results of the self-interrogation off someone whose opinions you strongly value and then take actions as needed.

    • Frog Do says:

      It’s all about exercise. “Thinking through it” is the wrong approach, in my experience people who are depressed spend too much time thinking and not enough time doing. Force yourself to do things, and eventually the energy required to do things gets lower and lower as your ability to expend mental effort gets exercised. The initial push can be very hard to deal with, don’t be discouraged if you can’t get a regular routine going immediately, just do as much as you can as often as you can.

      • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

        Seconded. I thought through my depression only to that extent that I realized which things helped and which things only made it worse. Incidentally, thinking about my life itself made it worse: Availability bias leads us to use an unrealisitc baseline for a successfull life, as we spend more time reading about gifted or lucky or in some way interesting people than we do about the average joe. I also found that consuming “deep” works of fiction, as they overwhelmingly tend to be grim about life, makes me more miserable afterwards, so now I just read and watch stuff that puts a smile on my face.

      • I’ve never suffered through anything close to the scale of what is being described, but when I am down I find that getting something done, even as simple as half an hour of yard work, makes me feel a little better. It’s not so much the exercise as the fact that doing something while depressed is no worse than doing nothing while depressed, and at the end I have the satisfaction of having gottem something done.

        For someone else’s comment on the subject:

        “The cure for this ill is not to sit still,
        Or frowst with a book by the fire;
        But to take a large hoe and a shovel also,
        And dig till you gently perspire;”

        • Homo Iracundus says:

          Half the time that just leaves me more depressed about what a mess my garden’s in >_<

      • It seems to me that doing something useful for myself has a fairly high chance of increasing my anxiety/inertia.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      Not sure this would work for most people, but for me, getting into stoic philosophy really helped.

    • Ryan Beren says:

      In my case it was solved by giving up religion, since the self hatred was caused by religious ideas. For people whose struggles are not actually based in false ideas, they should instead seek treatment with therapy and medication.

    • whatnoloan says:

      Some resources and personal thoughts:

      -Scott’s post on depression is helpful. Scott recommends exercise, as do other people who responded, and I’ll second that recommendation. Two common failure modes I ran into with exercise were 1) doing exercise I didn’t enjoy & 2) forgoing exercise because I was worried I wouldn’t do it well enough.

      -I also found the Shifting Guilt series at Nate Soares’s blog helpful for navigating self-worth and self-control. Start with “Failing With Abandon” and “Replacing Guilt”, which are currently on page 6 of the blog’s history.

    • James Picone says:

      I was only moderately depressed, so maybe not so helpful, but I found talking to my GP and getting a prescription for an antidepressant (sertraline), getting an appointment with a psychologist so I could talk through some of my issues, and lucking into a girlfriend very helpful.

  14. keranih says:

    Non-Trump, Non-Orlando topic:

    A request for useful/interesting internet sites which help one Keep Tabs on Global Events And Also A Sense of Perspective. I’m particularly interested in ones STEM-ishly related.

    A contribution:

    Pro-Med, which is also an email service, which collects and distributes news reports of disease out breaks. The first few days are scary, and then you realize that Hanta, malaria, HIV, avian influenza, plague, etc, etc are everywhere all the time. I like it for the out-of-the-ordinary-to-me stuff – such as the ongoing outbreak of laurel wilt in Florida avacados.

  15. Anaxagoras says:

    So, I had to attend a two-day seminar on SAFe: Scaled Agile Framework, and it was really awful. Some of that was the instructor (who just read his slides, often three times, and probably couldn’t pass a Turing test), and some was the circumstances of the class (secure facility where I couldn’t even go to the bathroom without a chaperone), but I feel like much of it was the subject itself. It felt sort of like cargo cult Silicon Valley. Does anyone know if there is any merit to the Agile Management stuff?

    • Agronomous says:

      I think there is, but not if you approach it as Management. Much of the benefit of Agile approaches is doing away with a lot of management activities, distributing most of the rest of the activities across a number of people, and repeatedly looking at your process to figure out how to change it. If you make an Agile transition, the people currently in various manager roles will end up with very different roles (e.g. a Scrum Master is emphatically not a renamed Project Manager).

      If your organization develops software, none of the organizational Agile stuff (e.g. Scrum) is going to work without agile technical practices—most of which are found in Extreme Programming (XP). My introduction to agile software development was the first edition of Kent Beck’s Extreme Programming Explained; it was frankly inspiring, and put its finger on a lot of the implicit ideas that caused huge problems in all the software-development projects I’d been on to that point. In particular, it’s the first place I saw anybody insist that developers should make development decisions (estimates, how to implement, what technical practices to use) and business should make business decisions (what feature to develop first, whether to keep developing a product).

      I’m lukewarm at the moment about SAFe; it seems suspiciously marketing-y and big-slow-corporation-friendly. I am surprised the instructor was bad; I thought the SAFe gang were pretty serious about the certification to teach the classes (they also insist that their materials be used verbatim). Ron Jeffries gives his thoughts on SAFe. I forget who first said it, but there seems to be too much emphasis on scaling Agile up to the size of big organizations, and not enough on scaling organizations down to the size where Agile works well.

      If you want a better look at Agile, including the technical side, read Jeffries, Uncle Bob Martin, Kent Beck, and Martin Fowler online. Steve Denning at Forbes usually has a good perspective from a manager/executive point of view. Alistair Cockburn has consistently good insights, but may be a level above what you’re looking for when you’re starting out.

      • Anaxagoras says:

        Well, it was the teaching verbatim that was part of the problem. As I said, the guy would just read his slides, then “explain” them by rereading them. I wasn’t the only person dissatisfied with him; another person who seemed fairly archetypical technical guy pulled me out of the room to start complaining about how terrible he found the class. I’m not sure what the military and business types thought, but I suspect they were more better at hiding their feelings than liking the class.

        Does Agile really work for things other than software development? It seems well-tailored for low iteration cost, modular products, but not everything can be bent to fit that model.

        When I was at Microsoft, we did use scrum, but not terribly religiously. We did the daily standups, had a board of post-its with things we were working on, and roughly divided things into two-week cycles, but not much more than that. It was a pretty functional team, but not, I think, for easily replicable reasons.

        • Nornagest says:

          It doesn’t even work well for all software development. The whole Agile framework was designed to produce lightweight, relatively independent, Web-based, service-oriented features, and the further you get from that sort of architecture, the less well it works.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I agree broadly with what you are saying here, but allow me to offer a counter idea.

            All development is iterative.

            1992, my first big software project as a newly minted member of the workforce. Big 6 Consulting, very large waterfall project on a mainframe in Cobol.

            The vast bulk of the real work on that project happened in the System Test phase once real users were tasked with exercising the system. It was a very agile process in that it was “get bug(i.e. new requirement), fix bug, release to test”.

            I don’t think you get around the idea that “no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy” which seems like the essential nut of agile development.

          • Agronomous says:

            “Agile” isn’t a framework. It’s a label first coined for a bunch of independently-developed software-development approaches that seemed to all be pointing in a similar direction. SAFe is a framework, but it’s just one option on the Agile menu (and not one I’m going to be ordering soon).

            Approaches like Extreme Programming (XP), Scrum, and DSDM date back to the mid-nineties—before Web development was big. There’s been a lot of investigation into where Agile approaches succeed and where they don’t; from what I can tell, application domains and architectures have very little bearing on it. What can disqualify Agile is business context: where you can’t get timely feedback and can’t make changes, you can’t take Agile approaches.

            As for non-software uses of Agile: Scrum has been used for stuff outside of software. The project I’m on at the moment is using it to plan and execute the rollout of process automation at a large organization.

            And while XP, for example, doesn’t contain any practices that apply to non-software, its basic values can be helpful nearly anywhere: Simplicity, Communication, Feedback, Courage, Respect. And the principles of XP, being more concrete, are probably more directly useful (e.g. “Accepted Responsibility”, “Whole Team”, “Redundancy”). (These are the names of the values and principles, which are useless in and of themselves; you need to go read what’s meant by them to get anything out of them.)

            Lean and Kanban are sets of ideas that partly overlap with Agile; they’re also good places to turn for non-software (or even non-knowledge) work.

            And I would never work on anything ever again without holding regular retrospectives: if you’re not talking with your teammates about how you’re doing the work, you’re missing huge opportunities for improvement in productivity, creativity, and satisfaction.

      • Zorgon says:

        Scrum is a pretty good concept, but basically everything else in agile and XP is awful cargo cult nonsense with what smells disturbingly like an agenda to persuade knowledge workers to burn themselves out faster. Well, to me at least.

        I will admit, however, that my opinion is strongly biased by a) my deep and abiding love of being a lazy arsehole, b) my deep and abiding love of actually getting credit for my work, and c) my deep and abiding suspicion of people that look too much like management consultants. That basically covers the object and first two meta levels of the subject.

        • Agronomous says:

          My initial reaction is to tell you you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, which I’ve learned to reinterpret as “Our experiences obviously differ.”

          Can you go into more detail about your negative experiences with XP and other agile approaches, in particular the cargo-cult and burnout aspects?

          • Zorgon says:

            Gods, I wish I didn’t know what I was talking about.

            Context: Mid-scale games industry. I’ve had horrible experiences with being forced into pair programming and rapid refactoring in a context where the overall design wasn’t even close to finished. Months of essentially completely wasted effort and most of the game was written by two or three people working alone over a weekend just before delivery while everyone else tried to recover from weeks of appeasing management.

            And all this because said management had been to an XP symposium at some time. Scrum works fantastically for games, don’t get me wrong – games are surprisingly amenable to atomisation and scrum excels at that – but basically everything else in XP is just fashionable turd as far as my industry goes,

            As for the burnout aspects… well, I kind of insinuated at it above. I work very long hours on very complex code, and I will freely admit that I spend quite a bit of that time goofing off. I do so because continuing to work on said high-intensity code at breakneck paces for weeks on end has already burned me out once and it will do so again if I ever go back to it. XP practices are entirely built around preventing goofing off, and they don’t provide any alternative release. I’m in my 30s and I have a family; I don’t have the energy for it and I cannot afford to destroy my nervous system this way.

            Finally… I’m just gonna go right out and say it – most of the people pushing XP in my experience are not actually developers. They’re management. And I have a very healthy distrust of management people, even having been one myself.

          • Viliam says:

            This is interesting; my experience is almost the opposite, which suggests that the really important part could be something unrelated to “agile or not”.

            Pair programming depends on whether your personality matches the other person. It can be a pleasant experience where you have fun and learn a lot. I imagine it could also be a horrible torture… but for me it was always voluntary when I tried it, so I only did it with people who were compatible with me.

            Unit testing can save a lot of work and stress. Once I was writing a complicate code where functions called each other recursively, but everything was okay because I had the unit tests written first, and if I did any mistake, some test immediately pointed that out. On the other hand, I have experience with writing a technically trivial code (read some data from database, display them in a web browser, let user edit them, and store the result in the database) which had tons of bugs because we had no clear requirements, no automatic testing, a few incompetent team members writing horrible code, understaffed testing department, and tight schedule which actually didn’t provide enough time for manual testing.

            I hate estimating tasks (it always reminds me of the planning fallacy, and I really want to respond by “it is done when it is done, I don’t have any time-travel abilities, damn you!”), but what I hate more is when unrealistic deadlines are randomly decided by technically illiterate managers who don’t have a clue about anything, and don’t accept any feedback from the technical people, but still somehow make it all their fault if anything fails. Of course, unrealistic deadlines create more bugs, which have to be fixed later, which makes the later deadlines even more unrealistic.

            As far as I know, in Scrum the developers are supposed to determine their own speed of work. That seems to me like a reasonable approach; especially if you want to avoid burning out in the long term; especially if you also have a family or other kind of life outside the work. Not coincidentally, this is also the part of Scrum the managers love to skip. “We are going to use Scrum from today … well, not necessarily 100% Scrum; we don’t want to be fanatical about this, right? … we will still have the usual top-down planning and deadlines … but from now on, you guys will have to create a new polished version of the product every week, and you will have a short meeting every morning … think about it as a challenge, and work as hard as you can, because now we will be watching you on a daily basis.” Yeah, fuck that kind of “agile”.

          • Agronomous says:

            @Zorgon:

            Context: Mid-scale games industry.

            OK, I think we’ve found your problem right there. I don’t know why, but game development shops are almost universally run by people who would, if they were a bit more empathetic and a tad less psychopathic, be cult leaders.

            XP practices are entirely built around preventing goofing off, and they don’t provide any alternative release.

            XP practices are built around getting you out of the office on time so you can go goof off more enjoyably elsewhere. The first book even had a (mandatory) practice called “40-Hour Week” in response to rampant (and stupid) overtime on software projects. (This has since been slightly modified to “Sustainable Pace”, partly because some countries work six-day weeks, partly because there are other threats to sustainability besides overtime.)

            I’m not entirely clear on what you mean by “goofing off”: playing agar.io obviously qualifies, but what about: trying a change to the code you’re probably not going to keep? poking through some other code in the project that you’ll be interacting with? poking through some other code just because it’s there? reading a blog post about your language or industry? reading Hacker News looking for ideas? reading Hacker News for entertainment?

            Some pointy-haired boss out there would classify all of the above as “goofing off”; I’m inclined to consider almost none of it “goofing off”; I can see reasonable people calling some of it “goofing off”.

            …Most of the people pushing XP in my experience are not actually developers. They’re management.

            This still surprises me: when XP started, it was widely regarded as a programmer revolt; it was introduced to organizations (sometimes by stealth) by developers, and frequently resisted by managers. Now when I go in somewhere, it’s management that wants Agile and Scrum and (since they enable a lot of the good stuff in Scrum) technical practices (usually in the XP package).

            The only comparable thing I can think of is a tiny, pacifist, anti-authoritarian spinoff of Judaism becoming the state religion of Rome. All I can say is, management can’t always push bad ideas: just by chance, some things they suggest will be good.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            @Agronomous

            This still surprises me: when XP started, it was widely regarded as a programmer revolt; it was introduced to organizations (sometimes by stealth) by developers, and frequently resisted by managers. Now when I go in somewhere, it’s management that wants Agile and Scrum and (since they enable a lot of the good stuff in Scrum) technical practices (usually in the XP package).

            Starts as one, turned into the other. The programmers who liked it, who it helped, did great things with it. They tried to share it with others. The managers saw how powerful they were with it, and tried to learn it so they could make their programmers use it. But they did not understand it, and they did not understand the strength that comes from freedom, that those who use it because they choose it make it their own and are made more thereby. That if the managers force it on their people, it will hurt them and make them small. It will bind them and trap them and limit them. The managers do this through ignorance, because knowledge is difficult. They do this because they are afraid, that make some act, or they will have no defense when something breaks (and something always breaks).

            What the managers have is a broken version of XP, and the breaks cause pain (rules that miss the point, that waste time and thought and trust). And more, even the pure version, it is not for everyone. It is not for most. It is not for anyone at all, if they must do it all day every day (Zorgon is right, they would ruin themselves). But knowing which method for which person is hard, and harder still is knowing how much to ask that is fair to the worker, of how little to ask is fair to the employer.

            We use an “Agile SCRUM” at my workplace that is much better described as “2-week long Waterfall in full”. Which is going in the right direction (plan less far in the future, so you lose less when the plan inevitably fails), but misses several key components, such as “The daily meeting should be short. No, shorter. No no no. Half an hour that turns into an hour is not short. We mean like 10 minutes. 5 minutes. If it takes you longer than a minute to say what you were doing yesterday, you are saying it wrong. The whole point of doing this every day is that everyone already knows almost everything to begin with. The minute is for what little they don’t. Be terse, say only what needs to be said, and not one word more.” and “Most people are more productive when they have some control, when they are autonomous. The harder you have to push, the less you get for your effort. Lead by asking, do not chase with demands.”

    • Anonymous says:

      There are some good insights and critiques in there, especially if you are in an old school waterfall environment, but good god the cargo culting and just plain old culting. People who start using all the lingo should be defenestrated posthaste.

    • James Picone says:

      I’ve never worked on any project that was capital-A Agile. I’ve worked on several projects that were lowercase-a agile in the sense that we had a list of fairly-small tasks that developers tried to estimate and split up, developers had a meeting with businessy people present deciding which tasks would happen this sprint, we had sprints, and we had a quick meeting at the start of every day trying to decide what to do.

      In my experience the emphasis on putting together smallish bits of work and explicitly not doing big-design-up-front is useful. The quick meeting at the start of the day can work well if and only if there are mechanisms in place to make it quick – limiting it to your small team, an actually-standing-up meeting so that people don’t want to stay there forever. Treating everything as a prototype is another thing I’ve found useful. I think it works best if the developers have a relationship with managmenty people that lets them push back against pressure – if you don’t feel comfortable saying “Fuck off, I estimated a week for a reason” you’ll just get impossible deadlines. Even if you feel comfortable saying that, in my experience there’s a lot of room for a determined managementy person to try and pressure you into impossible deadlines.

      All the acronyms and consulting and seminars looks like a scam to extract money from companies, to me.

  16. onyomi says:

    For a Trump and Orlando topic (actually about neither), I found this part of a recent Scott Adams post particularly interesting:

    “Consider Trump’s proposal to ban all Muslim immigration until we figure out what is going on. Remember how radical that sounded months ago? Remember how – even if you liked the idea – it sounded outrageously racist, even though Islam is open to all races? To most American ears, Trump’s proposed immigration ban sounded inappropriate and far-fetched EVEN IF YOU LIKED IT.

    Time passes.

    Innocent people die.

    And as humans do, we get used to whatever is in our environment, no matter how outrageous it once seemed. And we’ve all been living for months with the idea of Trump’s temporary Muslim immigration ban. We’re getting used to it.”

    This strikes me as a roughly accurate assessment of human psychology–one I’ve seen in my own life: people can get comfortable with all sorts of ideas if they have a good reason to consider them over a long period.

    This is both scary and potentially powerful. The scary part, of course, is that people can, given time, get used to all kinds of horrible ideas, as history seems to amply show.

    But an example of how it might be used for good (on my idea of good): say, being a libertarian, I want people to get comfortable with the idea of abolishing the income tax. This is an idea which seems really radical to most people in America right now–outside the Overton window.

    I think a lot of people think maybe it could be accomplished gradually: advocate for this sensible reform within the Overton Window; then that one; and so on. Problem is, a change from 35% income taxation to 30% income taxation doesn’t really move “abolish the income tax” any closer to the Overton window.

    On the other hand, if you were a candidate for a major party nomination (say a Rand Paul, who seems to have kind of squandered the opportunity) and you constantly brought up the idea over the course of months, then you might be able to start nudging it closer and closer to the Window (or nudging the Window to it?).

    Of course, it helps if you’re a media darling like Trump who has a great ability to get people talking about whatever outrageous thing he last said, but even a concerted effort by a few media outlets or newscasters could make a big difference. Imagine you’re Wolf Blitzer and you decide to ask every presidential candidate who comes on your show “so, what do you think about the proposal to abolish the income tax?” The simple repetition of it out loud makes it sound more plausible, more reasonable.

    So maybe a better strategy to attaining a goal currently viewed as radical is not so much to gradually nudge policy in that direction, but rather to gradually nudge it into the window of acceptable opinion by any means necessary (even if it means decrying it: even if you hear several candidates in a row say “no way, I wouldn’t support that!” just the fact that they have to answer the question in a way lends it strength). Once it’s in the window you can start advocating for it more directly, but that may need to be step 2.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I usually phrase this as “Any terrible idea that is proposed, however farfetched it may seem, is guaranteed to eventually be implemented”.

      I’m not sure it would even work with good ideas.

      • onyomi says:

        This is interesting, and I think I sort of get what you mean, but do you have any examples? And any proposed mechanism?

        My thought would be that almost any terrible idea proposed is proposed because it has some political benefit to offer (otherwise, why propose it? of course one could be entirely well-meaning and wrong, but it seems like terrible ideas that get proposed might, ironically, be more likely to offer political benefit, all else equal, than good ideas that get proposed. Because it’s not that they’re really bad for all involved; rather, they benefit the wrong people, usually in a hidden way).

        An idea with political and other benefits to offer (even if it is a bad idea for society at large) seems to be low-hanging fruit, perhaps, such that, once it’s out there, someone eventually comes along and grabs it, even if not until decades after it’s first proposed.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Examples would be Prohibition, seat belt laws, Hillarycare/Obamacare, the incandescent bulb ban, the pseudoephederine ban, many provisions of the PATRIOT act. Still pending would be key-escrow encryption requirements (Clipper was defeated but the idea never goes away, like Hillarycare), the Muslim immigration ban, the $15 minimum wage.

          Mechanism? All these ideas have two strong constituencies: the one which wants it and the government itself which wants to accumulate power. Those opposed may be more numerous but they are much more weakly opposed.

          • Jaskologist says:

            How many examples do you have from the right?

          • The Nybbler says:

            The pseudoephederine ban and the PATRIOT act stuff would count as “from the right”, as would key-escrow.

          • onyomi says:

            Prohibition is a good example, and the $15 minimum wage, unfortunately, has a certain ring to it and is so easy as a rallying cry, that I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets tried eventually (will be ameliorated by the fact that, by that time, $15 will probably be less money).

            One that really annoyed me was the SOPA/PIPA efforts. It was like it just kept being killed by public outcry, yet they kept trying to sneak it back in by another name. I’m still not even sure to what extent they may have later gotten their way in more subtle ways.

    • Anonymous says:

      Doesn’t match my experience. I don’t know anyone that’s “gotten used” to Trump or his views. Those that were fans are still fans, those that loath him still loath him.

      When you start to think magic sex hypnotism guy has an accurate model of human psychology, it’s time to take stock and figure out how you got there.

      • “When you start to think magic sex hypnotism guy has an accurate model of human psychology, it’s time to take stock and figure out how you got there.”

        On straightforward Bayesian lines? A theory makes a prediction that, absent that theory, has a very low probability of being correct. It turns out to be correct. So you should update in response by substantially increasing your probability that the theory is correct.

        Of course, how high the posterior is depends in part on how high the prior was.

      • Anonymous says:

        I mean, I probably am less biased against “magic sex hypnotism” given I’m intimately familiar with the concept, but I’d warn against the absurdity heuristic here. Getting into the right frame of mind is the most important part of eroticism, is basically what it boils down to.

        Some of the stuff he says about “Wizards” who can control large populations is a little off the walls, but in essence he’s just describing charisma, which isn’t THAT crazy to believe in. Scott Adams just says things in a crazy way, most of the content is quiet sane.

    • TPC says:

      Abolishing income tax sounds absurd to many people because they don’t pay it as such, it’s a vehicle by which they get “free” money from the government. This really is how a lot of people view the whole income tax dance.

      • Nornagest says:

        You mean they’re making little enough money to pay zero dollars after credits and exemptions, or do you mean they don’t understand this whole “withholding” thing and see a refund as a gift rather than, effectively, collecting a zero-interest loan of some of your paycheck to the IRS?

        The former is understandable. The latter is… wow.

        • TPC says:

          The latter.

        • Lysenko says:

          For reference, one of the arguments against employer withholding when it was introduced in the 40s was that it fosters exactly that sort of attitude and generally hides the ‘sting’ of taxation by making it visible and less -felt-, so that even the citizens who don’t receive refunds aren’t feeling that sting of having to set aside money on their own and then cut Uncle Sam a nice fat check once a year.

          Sadly, the arguments on ease of collection and recordkeeping won.

          A not-so-funny side note is that awhile back, the IRS briefly proposed a system where the money would just flow to the IRS first, then be disbursed from -them- to various workers rather than from the businesses, though it was screamed down really fast and they walked the dog back so fast I suspect it got whiplash. I’m trying to find the cite but the story appears to have gone down the memory hole, or my google-fu is weak.

          • Chalid says:

            The other thread just had a giant discussion about how a great many people just can’t save money. Asking people to to save and cut the IRS a big check once a year seems like it just wouldn’t work for a large fraction of the population.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Well, part of the discussion was about incentives. If the incentive for not saving for a quarterly (which would be more likely than yearly) check to the IRS is if you don’t, you go to jail, a lot of people would suddenly find they _could_ save money.

            However, I think we’d also need a lot more jail space.

          • Lysenko says:

            @Chalid
            There is a very large overlap between the people who “Just can’t save money”, and the ones who don’t make enough to actually owe income tax. I say that as someone who only pulled themselves up to NOT getting a 100% tax refund two years ago at age 33. My work circles have involved the both those categories for years now, especially if you factor in the enlisted in the Army who came back from Iraq with 20-30K in savings…and blew it. I was one such and to this day it’s one of my larger regrets.

            and @ Nybbler and Chalid, the old answer for that sort of thing was generally fines and garnishing of wages through the court system, not jail time. Less -efficient- and less optimal for extracting maximum money from the maximum amount of the taxpayer base with the minimum amount of protest, but from my perspective that’s a feature, not a bug.

            Well, actually I’d PREFER a NIT + Flat rate setup (see the discussion of Negative Income Tax elsewhere in this comment thread) but at this point I’ll settle for increased transparency.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I know people who used their income tax return as forced savings. They can “save” up to buy something big.

            While it’s often something wasteful (I have stories), it tends to be better than the alternative, which is wasting the money on a lot of small useless crap over the course of the year. And sometimes it comes along right when they have a big legit expense to do, so it pays off nicely in that case.

          • Agronomous says:

            Asking people to to save and cut the IRS a big check once a year seems like it just wouldn’t work for a large fraction of the population.

            Feature, not bug.

            Besides, you could make them cut a check each month, like they do for rent/mortgage, phone, and utilities. Self-employed people already have to pay quarterly.

        • Lumifer says:

          I know reasonably smart people who arrange things to get an IRS refund each year. They know it’s a zero-interest loan to the government, but they view it as a way to save money by keeping it out of their immediate reach.

          • lupis42 says:

            I also find it useful to have a carrot (getting a big check) at the end of all the paperwork. Before, it was always a slog, and I occasionally had to file for extensions when I just couldn’t face more paperwork at the end of a workday. Since I started arranging things so I’m getting refunds, I have never had trouble finishing my taxes in January/February.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            >but they view it as a way to save money by keeping it out of their immediate reach.

            Or they could just buy short-term treasury bonds, which… ok, are also a zero-interest loan to the government. Never mind.

          • Lumifer says:

            @Homo Iracundus

            In Soviet Russia Germany you pay to lend money to the government!

        • nyccine says:

          Your refund can be greater than the taxes you actually paid, although I’m told it’s hard to do, as there’s only a handful of bona fide “refundable” tax credits.

          But for the most part, yes, people don’t get withholding, and treat refunds as free money. I’m surprised that this is shocking to you, as this is a subject that’s been well-reported for decades now.

        • Definitely the latter. When I’m not stopping to think about it, I tend to look at the issue that way myself.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I’m going to offer a different take on the basic psychology.

      I think there are many simple ideas that sound good when they are bouncing around in your head that significantly less good once they start being explored.

      So, some large chunk of Americans might think that “ban anyone who is Muslim” is a good idea before Trump says it, they hear it and go “he said just what I was thinking!” and he gets a bump in polling. Some segment of the population won’t want to think about it an deeper than that, and they probably stick with Trump, and may now feel more comfortable giving voice to the idea. In that sense it probably exands, rather than shifts, the Overton Window.

      But there are also people who will, once the idea starts getting actually discussed, be exposed to counter-arguments. They would never have heard the counter arguments if not for the actual voicing of the simple idea. They will actually be forced to contemplate the simple idea. I think these people actually can result in the idea being less popular after the initial cycle than if the idea just remained a poll question.

      Then there are those who will actually expand the Overton Window in the other direction. The will view the simple but radical idea as something that is dangerous and needs to be combatted.

      So I think the upshot of these kinds of statements is more polarization, rather than merely normalization.

      • onyomi says:

        I would not disagree with your analysis, but I would say an idea which half the population loves and half the population hates has a much better chance of being implemented than an idea which 90% has never considered and has no strong opinion about.

        Reminds me of this (joke) chart about the value of self-promotion in academia. I think it probably applies to policies as well. The polarizing person or issue is still more likely to get kudos or implementation, overall, than the innocuous.

        https://conditionallyaccepteddotcom.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/self-promotion1.jpg?w=585

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I would say an idea which half the population loves and half the population hates has a much better chance of being implemented than an idea which 90% has never considered and has no strong opinion about.

          This seems like a truism to me, and to the extent that it’s not tautologically true, I’m not sure the arrow of causality doesn’t work the opposite way from how you are framing it. (Is that a triple negative? Yeesh).

          If an issue is incapable of inspiring strong opinions on whether it should be implemented, it’s less (marginally) likely to be implemented.

        • Randy M says:

          I would not disagree with your analysis, but I would say an idea which half the population loves and half the population hates has a much better chance of being implemented than an idea which 90% has never considered and has no strong opinion about.

          Had to edit this on closer reading; depends on those 10%; if they do care, than in that situation the cause is more likely to be advanced. What’s the name for the situation where an issue will negatively impact most but greatly benefit a few, and so the majority won’t vote on it but that minority will? Like agricultural subsidies, etc.

        • Chalid says:

          an idea which 90% has never considered and has no strong opinion about

          doesn’t this describe the vast majority of the normal course of government?

          • onyomi says:

            I’m not saying that everything that gets implemented is something people feel passionate about.

            I’m talking about trying to get a “radical” thing implemented, like abolishing the income tax or, indeed, electing an eccentric real estate tycoon as president.

            I’m suggesting that maybe the better way to go about it is not to try to gain gradual acceptance or take baby steps toward the radical proposal (say with a small tax cut); maybe the better way is to first get the idea into the public consciousness by any means necessary, even if the press is mostly negative to begin with.

            Once people have been given a lot of exposure to the idea, then the usual means of trying to get anything else passed, be it lobbying by a passionate minority or whatever, can take over.

            To try to state it as a theory: nothing outside the Overton Window will get passed, but nothing can remain entirely outside the Overton Window if it is widely known and frequently discussed, even in a negative light.

            Consider the idea of Trump presidency. I’m still not entirely convinced Trump is some kind of strategic persuasion genius, but at the very least he has a very good head for marketing and self-promotion.

            On this theory, the seemingly stupid trial balloon he floated in 2012 looks a lot less stupid: he never had any intention of running then, but by getting the idea out there, he not only tested the waters for his own future reference, he got Americans thinking about the idea of a President Trump.

            When most people first thought about President Trump they probably laughed. I did. But gradually it’s started to look more and more plausible. A big part of this, of course, was just his poll numbers going up and winning the nomination forcing people to take him seriously.

            But the point is, where did those growing poll numbers and primary votes come from to begin with? Obviously a growing number of Americans got to like the idea of President Trump. Of course, there’s no easy way to measure to what extent that was a pure exposure effect like I’m talking about as opposed to liking his (non)policies, but considering the vagueness of his proposals, it seems like the former may play a big role.

            But why did people get used to the idea of a President Trump and not a President Jeb or Christie? Well, what did Trump have more of than any other candidate? Pure, unvarnished exposure, much of it negative. But it was all exposure, and so long as he wouldn’t apologize and be cowed, people just kept getting more and more exposure to the idea of a President Trump.

            Seemingly through pure exposure (and some grandstanding, of course), he changed the primary from Trump v Bush v Christie v Kasich v… to Trump v Not Trump. That’s a very good position to be in, especially in a crowded field.

            And this gets to the polarization point: it’s better to be loved and hated than ignored. This seems to be true in the world of self-promotion and maybe in the promotion of policies as well.

      • “But there are also people who will, once the idea starts getting actually discussed, be exposed to counter-arguments.”

        At a slight tangent, note that this is an argument against suppressing, legally or socially, arguments for unpopular positions. Publicly arguing that blacks are innately inferior will, in many contexts, get the person who does it in trouble. The result is that people who think it’s true have never been exposed to serious counterarguments and, naturally enough, suspect there aren’t any.

        The best counter argument I’ve seen (and mentioned earlier) was by Thomas Sowell who, being willing to say unpopular things, was willing to seriously consider the question in public.

    • Pku says:

      Counterevidence: Trump actually fell in the betting odds (and polls) after the Orlando thing/repeating his muslim ban idea. Which suggests that it’s become less acceptable over time, not more so.

  17. TPC says:

    Scott, what is the obstacle to just putting in a forum?

  18. ulucs says:

    Any SSC readers who live in Münich? I’ll be moving there in about four months and I’d be really happy to have someone who can answer some of my questions about this.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Reading natalist posts in the comment’s section here has finally given me insight and empathy into how it must feel to be a global warming skeptic and be driven absolutely batty by the alarmists.

    • Urstoff says:

      Worried about overpopulation?

      • Anonymous says:

        No and I think I must be missing something because I don’t follow why you asked that.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          Well, the analogy of antinatalism to AGW implies that there’s some percieved catastrophe to be averted. Usually the justification for reducing the population is framed in terms of the planet’s carrying capacity.

          Otherwise, why would anyone not be a natalist? Other than simple misanthropy or some weird philosophy like negative utilitarianism / Catharism there isn’t any real reason to want humanity to dwindle away.

          • smocc says:

            I think I’ve seen arguments of the type: “Life is suffering, therefore having children condemns them to suffering, therefore it is better to not have children.”

            There’s also people who aren’t against other people having children in principle, but who definitely don’t want any of their own. Not anti-natalist but definitely not natalist, and I think it would be fair to call a culture dominated by these types an anti-natalist culture.

          • Anonymous says:

            I didn’t mean natalist in strict sense of everyone that’s not a philosophical antinatalist.

            I meant reading the posts of people that are deeply worried that (certain) people aren’t having enough babies and want to encourage same by some or other means. Not being among that group, I think I now have a sense of what it feels like to be a global warming skeptic. Though of course I could be mistaken.

            Sorry if my language was imprecise. Can you think of a better term?

          • Chalid says:

            There’s also the unpleasant “we need more white babies” strand of natalism.

          • Frog Do says:

            Ah yes, White Babies Are Bad, the official Woke Opinion of June 2016.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            Not being among that group, I think I now have a sense of what it feels like to be a global warming skeptic. Though of course I could be mistaken.

            There is certainly a tiring aspect about being told we have to sacrifice our lifestyle for the benefit of future generations that seems common to both AGW and Natalism. Both are pretty annoying.

          • Zorgon says:

            Holy crap. Just imagine it, white people wanting babies. What the hell will the oppressors think of next?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            There’s also the unpleasant “we need more white babies” strand of natalism.

            Come on, that’s hardly fair when the most recent natalist to appear here, TPC, is black.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            You’re taking it entirely too literally. “We need more white babies” often carries the implicit addendum of “because whites are superior, and are facing a demographic genocide”.

            Now, I’m more open than most people (from a representative sample, not this commentariat) to the idea that a whole bunch of people in the American left want a less white constituency (calling it “white genocide” is probably overblown), but the phrase is not just white people innocently stating that they want to have babies.

          • Zorgon says:

            It’s been a while since I’ve seen someone so desperate to conflate two things that they actually enumerated them separately.

            I don’t know whether I actually agree that white people are actually facing demographic genocide, but it’s not actually an inherently racist argument. And the other one is blatant straw.

          • Chalid says:

            Claiming that I said anything about babies of any race being bad, or that people of any race should not have as many babies as is best for them, is a ludicrously hostile misreading. “Unpleasant” obviously modifies “strand of natalism” not “white babies,” ffs.

            When the logic is “we need more white babies in order to make sure that our political coalition maintains power for the next few generations” then hell yes I find that to be an unpleasant view. When it’s paired with racism, as it sometimes is, then it makes my skin crawl.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Zorgon

            Holy crap. Just imagine it, white people wanting babies. What the hell will the oppressors think of next?

            The people going around saying “I want to have (more) babies” are an entirely different group from those going around saying “You [white people | smart people | Americans] ought to be having more babies”.

            No one is talking about people with fertility problems, white or otherwise, complaining about them. I’m surprised that needed to be said.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            It’s been a while since I’ve seen someone so desperate to conflate two things that they actually enumerated them separately.

            I don’t know whether I actually agree that white people are actually facing demographic genocide, but it’s not actually an inherently racist argument. And the other one is blatant straw.

            I’m not sure what you mean by your first statement, but I’m not lying or trying to conflate anything. This is really how it goes, if you can find me sources of people saying some variation of “we need more white babies” without a racist component, I’ll recant my position (I did say “usually”, but, you know anecdata). I also don’t think it’s an inherently racist argument, just that it’s almost always used by racist people. Hence the “unpleasant” association.

            EDIT:

            When the logic is “we need more white babies in order to make sure that our political coalition maintains power for the next few generations” then hell yes I find that to be an unpleasant view.

            As said before, this is hardly exclusive of white babies (the people pushing the idea for one side or the other are always white, but that’s besides the point), singling them out does seem unfortunate.

          • Chalid says:

            that’s hardly fair when the most recent natalist to appear here, TPC, is black.

            It wouldn’t be fair if I had said that this characterized natalists generally. But I said it was a “strand” of natalism.

            it’s not actually an inherently racist argument. And the other one is blatant straw.

            It’s not a strawman. It is, perhaps, a weak man. But no one here is claiming that they are taking on the strongest arguments for natalism, or refuting natalism, or what have you. I said it is an argument that exists, and that I generally think badly of those who make it.

            I don’t think anyone here has criticized “mainstream” natalism.

            FWIW I myself would probably be more pro-natalist than the average USian – I plan to have >= 3 kids, and I think more people would be happier if they had more kids, and that government and society ought to do more to support that.

          • ChetC3 says:

            Sorry, WHtA, the only Rational discussion to be had about racism is agreeing and amplifying how wrong it is that open-minded free thinkers are being unjustly silenced with accusations of so-called “racism”.

          • Chris says:

            (Edit: conversation moved on a lot while I was posting, was replying to the “white babies” stuff way back when…)

            As one of those people arguing the natalist position, my problem was more that it’s difficult for someone who does want kids to have them (personal experience). At least without making extremely reckless life decisions like impregnating any rando you meet.

            Since a lot of people would really enjoy having their own children (not just adopting), and since someone probably needs to be continuing the human race, if even the people who would want to do it have a lot of difficulty, for whatever reasons, that would seem like a problem. Not that I’m even remotely concerned about the loss of Traditional Values (TM), #whitegenocide, or any of that other stuff which I’d rather not be remotely associated with.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            “When the logic is “we need more white babies in order to make sure that our political coalition maintains power for the next few generations” then hell yes I find that to be an unpleasant view. ”

            Just as long as you find “we need more immigration in order to make sure that our political coalition maintains power for the next few generations” to be equally as unpleasant.

            I find both of those viewpoints awful, myself: the government literally deciding to dissolve the people and elect a new one.

          • Frog Do says:

            @Chalid
            Let’s unpack your statement. Clearly unpleasent modifies “strand of natalism”, that’s basic grammar. However, the implication is “wanting more white babies” is a bad form of natalism. Why is it an especially bad form of natalism? Natalism is wanting more babies. The only thing it can modify is white. I don’t really care why you hate white people, I assume you have a very specific definition of “white people” (what is the “white political coilition” anyways?), but don’t try to pretend that grammar exonerates you.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            Sorry, WHtA, the only Rational discussion to be had about racism is agreeing and amplifying how wrong it is that open-minded free thinkers are being unjustly silenced with accusations of so-called “racism”.

            I mean, popping up every now and then to remind them that you think Rationalists are paranoid, delusional and possibly evil certainly doesn’t help on that front… but I guess it’s kind of your “thing” now, a reverse Mark Atwood, if you may.

          • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

            Holy crap. Just imagine it, white people wanting babies. What the hell will the oppressors think of next?

            A white person having a baby with a Chinese or Arab or black person would be a white person having a baby, but this would be to the definite chagrin of the “we need more white babies” natalists. AFAIK, they are pretty explicit about the horrors of miscegenation.

          • Urstoff says:

            I just want everyone to have more babies.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Babies for everyone!

          • gbdub says:

            Steemanning “more white babies” a little bit: White people are not inherently superior. But the culture created by white people that we broadly label “Western Liberal Democracy” is superior to the currently dominant cultures in most places that are having more babies and are less white.

            Insofar as people already infected with the “Western Liberal Democracy” meme want to have lots of babies, that’s good, regardless of what color they are. Heck, mixed race is probably best.

            But if we don’t maintain a critical mass of Western Liberal Democrats, and they get overwhelmed demographically by recent immigrants of other cultures that don’t or can’t assimilate, then the superior outcomes afforded by Western Liberal Democracy will be lost.

            (anyway I think the more common natalism is more like “smart rich people need to have more babies, lest we create Idiocracy”. There may be an anti-immigration-of-poor-less-smart-people component, but that need not be racial)

          • smocc says:

            Seconding gbdub’s steelman (though I am sure there are people who want “more white babies” out of unpleasant racist feeling).

            If you really believe that the world would be better off run by your culture as opposed to a different culture, and you want the world to be better off, then you have to consider how you are going to help make your culture dominant.

            There are many ways culture can spread, but having children is undeniably a primary mechanism. Even if you decide, like the Shakers, that having children is out of the question in your culture, you better be really confident in your other vectors, especially if competing cultures are having lots of kids.

            The least thing you should do is make it easy for people in your culture to have children. Anything less is cultural seppuku.

            And you don’t have to be racist to think that the world would be better off with your culture. I imagine that most Americans, liberal or conservative, think the Middle East would be better off if everyone were more American in certain ways.

          • Chalid says:

            @WHtA

            this is hardly exclusive of white babies (the people pushing the idea for one side or the other are always white, but that’s besides the point), singling them out does seem unfortunate.

            I don’t believe I’d ever encountered this argument made about non-whites, but I will take your word for it that it exists. If I had been aware of this then I would have used different phrasing.

            (Now that I think about it, I’ve heard similar “duty to procreate” arguments made specifically in relation to Jewish people, but given their history I don’t think badly of it in that context.)

            @gbdub, smocc

            I think many of the people who I call unpleasant would actively disapprove of the results of the position you describe (you say assimilation of immigrants is good, whites aren’t superior, mixed race ok or good), so I’m not sure if it’s actually a steelman versus simply being a different position.

            (I personally don’t particularly have any problem with your position)

          • Anonymous says:

            Not to single him out, but smocc’s comment is the kind of thing that drives me up a wall.

            Non-hispanic whites in the U.S. alone number about 200 million and a total fertility rate of around 1.75 children per women. Yes, that is below the replacement rate. But it’s a huge base and it’s not that far below replacement. If that’s seppuku it’s the slowest damn seppuku history. Whoever the second is should himself be executed for dereliction of duty.

            This is a “problem” that may well fix itself and so not even occur. If it does occur it won’t be for many decades or centuries (temporal discounting people). Even if it happens its negative impacts can be mitigated in many different ways other than preventing it altogether.

            In terms of problems, I am more concerned about the stubbing my toe on the way to the bathroom issue. Let’s get some tax credits working on that one!

          • Immortal Lurker says:

            I think that gbdub’s steel man is interesting. There are two points I would like to make.

            Non-recreational competition in Western Liberal Democracies is primarily memetic. In fact, I would go as far as to say that one of the tenets of WLDs is that all competition should be either memetic or economic, with memetic being preferable.

            Trying to preserve WLD by entering into stiff demographic competition with the rest of the world might be like trying to preserve communism by adopting capitalism. The “might” in that previous sentence was important enough for me to add a second sentence telling you how important it is.

            Second, and this isn’t really in opposition to the steel man, intense memetic competition implies low memetic fidelity. WLDs might lose every institution that we think is valuable well before their demographic demise.

          • James Picone says:

            Let’s unpack your statement. Clearly unpleasent modifies “strand of natalism”, that’s basic grammar. However, the implication is “wanting more white babies” is a bad form of natalism. Why is it an especially bad form of natalism? Natalism is wanting more babies. The only thing it can modify is white. I don’t really care why you hate white people, I assume you have a very specific definition of “white people” (what is the “white political coilition” anyways?), but don’t try to pretend that grammar exonerates you.

            Of course! And all those people criticising Social Justice Warriors must be awful authoritarians, because justice is great!

            “wanting more white babies” is obviously describing a particular group of views that contain a substantially larger payload than ‘people who are white should have babies’, much like ‘social justice warrior’ is not intended to be a description of someone who fights for justice. You are aware of this. Don’t be a dipshit.

          • Frog Do says:

            @James Picone
            Oh I know, this is exactly like that Chris Rock sketch: “there are two kinds of black people,…”. Shockingly, you’re still a racist shit even if you trade out black for white. Even if you’re not a racist shit, one does not need to mimc racist speech, especially if you’re making a nuanced point. You know this, you obviously know this, which means you are chosing to be racist.

            http://www.wired.com/2016/06/wish-unsee-vile-tweet-alligator-attack/

          • Anonymous says:

            If *I* were to steelman the “more white babies” thing: Wanting to have more people who are more like you is the opposite of wrong. If you’re white, and not a self-hating white, there’s nothing wrong about wanting other white people to have white babies. Likewise, if you’re black, or Arab, or Chinese, or whatever, it’s normal and entirely fine for you to want your people to be more numerous.

          • The Nybbler says:

            A search for “more white babes” brings up some pretty racist stuff; in addition to Stormfront, we get Pat Buchanan:

            “If white people don’t start having more babies, America will be overrun by the blacks and the Latinos, who score much lower on test scores,” Buchanan told “FOX and Friends.”

            The same article gives us Ann Coulter

            We need more people of European descent. Europe has proven to be such a peaceful continent over the decades.

            which is at least good for a laugh

            I’d probably guess someone calling for “more white babies” is probably a racist.

            Of course, some groups try to conflate these actual racists with other natalists to score political points; someone calling for more European babies in order to prevent European culture from being demographically squeezed out by Muslim immigration is not necessarily a racist as a result.

            (I have no babies, so I’m not worried; I’ll be safely gone when the r-strategy lizardmen take over)

          • James Picone says:

            @Frog Do:
            I’m not saying we need less white babies, I don’t really have an opinion on what ethnicity babies should be. I’m saying that Chalid was describing a strand of natalism that is unpleasant and for which “we need more white babies” is an obvious marker. I have no idea what your problem with this is. I don’t think referring to the Nation of Islam as an “unpleasant strain of black nationalists” is particularly racist, for example.

          • hlynkacg says:

            The obvious question to ask is what makes it unpleasant

          • Frog Do says:

            @The Nybbler
            A Google search for “more X babies” is going to give you some pretty racist stuff for obvious reasons. Anyone phrasing that way is going to be writing to a popular audience in a populist idiom, and is therefore going to “sound racist” because most of the time when people say something sounds racist, they mean it sounds poor. You can make literally anything sound bad this way, because humans are really good at decoding markers for social status in speech. See how much better “natalist policies for people of European descent” sounds than “more white babies”, even though 99% of the time they mean the same thing?

            And of course, associating these policies with icky poor people racists is standard politico-linguistic practice, because people form concepts via association, so you always try to associate concepts you don’t like with the worst sorts of people. Chalid either did this knowingly, and was morally repulsive, or did it unknowingly, and was an idiot.

            @James Picone
            Ah, yes, you’re perfectly abstracted from the problem, you couldn’t care either way, you’re totally colorblind, you don’t even see race; yet for some reason finding out who is racist and who is not is of absolutely vital importance. Yeah, okay, sure. Chalid was expressing “fuck poor people” in the idiom of “fuck white people”, see my response to The Nybbler above. Both of these behaviors and attitudes are completely disgusting, but hey, welcome to modern Woke Neoliberalism.

            To use your example, imagine if instead of saying “the Nation of Islam is an unpleasant strain of black nationalism” I had said “natalism is okay, except for those unpleasant people who want more black babies”. You would fall over yourself telling me how Problematic and Racist my statement was, and anyone trying to interpret my statement in a nuanced way, you’d also probably suspect was a crypto-racist. Do you see how this works?

            The way you choose to say things matters.

          • James Picone says:

            @Frog Do:
            He was referring to literal neo-nazis dude.

            Also there’s this really interesting blog post about why you shouldn’t try to infer people’s secret awful beliefs by going several steps past the things they say.

            EDIT: Also neoliberalism? Me? My first-preference vote goes to the local environmentalist/actually-left-wing party because the major left-wing party is too centrist for me. Jeez.

          • Frog Do says:

            @James Picone
            You lack a hilarious amount of reading comprehension if you think I’m claiming some kind of dog whistle. I’m saying “wanting more white babies is unpleasant” is a terrible thing to say. I don’t need to perform some deep Kabbalistic operation to say, “ah, this person is secretly expressing an odious opinion”. It’s right fucking there. The fact that everyone has to jump around and say, “well, actually, they were making a super nuanced point” not at all unsurprising.

            Neoliberalism often using “fucking white people, they’re so racist I can’t even!” to ignore the white working class by pretending they’re all “literal neo-nazis”. Makes it real easy to say they should just stop reproducing, I guess. And I don’t care how holy your voting record is if your first thought is to jump to “oh you see I don’t even see race, I’m so colorblind and above it all”. I don’t need some clever-pants formula for that interpretation, either. It’s bullshit, it’s always been bullshit.

          • Anonymous says:

            If *I* were to steelman the “more white babies” thing: Wanting to have more people who are more like you is the opposite of wrong.

            It’s physically impossible to make more of “people like me”. You’d need to go back in time.

            In fifteen years when these “white babies” start being real people, I’ll be in my fifties. Gods only know what the culture of these late-generation-after-millenials is going to be like, but I feel pretty confident that when 2031 rolls around, I’ll have more in common with a random black guy born in 1979 than a random white guy born in 2017.

            FrogDo–I have no idea what you are even on about at this point. I’m guessing no else does either.

          • Sweeneyrod says:

            @Frog Do
            No-one is saying that wanting white babies is unpleasant. They are saying that saying “we need more white babies” is usually intended to convey “we need more white babies, and fewer dirty foreign babies” (which is considered highly objectionable) rather that “we need more babies in general but I’m only mentioning white ones for some reason” (which is not). So you shouldn’t say “we need more white babies” because either you are knowingly espousing a bad idea, or making a statement that is likely to be misinterpreted.

            Not sure what your accusations about James claiming he is race-blind are about. Not sure I care either.

          • Anonymous says:

            It’s physically impossible to make more of “people like me”. You’d need to go back in time.

            Except it’s not and you don’t need to? I don’t mean identical; hell, not even identical twins are identical, due to random mutation happening all the time. “Like” here means “similar”.

            In fifteen years when these “white babies” start being real people, I’ll be in my fifties.

            They’re real people all the time.

            Gods only know what the culture of these late-generation-after-millenials is going to be like, but I feel pretty confident that when 2031 rolls around, I’ll have more in common with a random black guy born in 1979 than a random white guy born in 2017.

            You seem to believe in blank-slatism. And that’s terrible. (Your apparent horror at what a monstrosity the culture of the near future is going to be like is noted, though.)

          • hlynkacg says:

            Frankly I think this whole thread went around the bend a while ago.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            Frog Do is banned

          • InferentialDistance says:

            @Whatever Happened to Anonymous

            You’re taking it entirely too literally. “We need more white babies” often carries the implicit addendum of “because whites are superior, and are facing a demographic genocide”.

            No, it does not “carry the implicit addendum”, it is oft found beside. These are not the same thing. To say they are is to deny a truth, that the speaker may just love themself. And is it so wrong, really, to love oneself?

          • Anonymous says:

            Except it’s not and you don’t need to? I don’t mean identical; hell, not even identical twins are identical, due to random mutation happening all the time. “Like” here means “similar”.

            You biological determinists are so myopic. Yes, of course genetics matter, but if you think life experience doesn’t matter more than you are either a moron or delusional. My great-great-father was very similar to me genetically both because he was my great-great-grandfather and because I come from an inbred ethnicity.

            Nonetheless, I have very little in common with him in the ways that really matter. He grew up in a tiny little shtetl in what is today Belarus, I grew up in NYC. He only spoke yiddish and later in his life German. I only speak English. We haven’t read any of the same books, we haven’t seen any of the same movies, our politics would be virtually incomprehensible to each other because they are about entirely different issues. We couldn’t share jokes because again we couldn’t even talk to each other. We don’t share many values.

            The reason siblings are so close to each other is not primarily because they share genes, it’s because those are the only people in the entire world who share a huge amount of context with you. In a lesser, but still very significant way, the people that grew up in the same time and place as you have a shared set of experiences that some random person from two-and-half-generations later that happens to have the same skin color is not ever going to have.

            They’re real people all the time.

            Maybe you have very interesting and meaningful conversations with 12 year olds all the time, but I don’t.

            You seem to believe in blank-slatism. And that’s terrible. (Your apparent horror at what a monstrosity the culture of the near future is going to be like is noted, though.)

            Every cohort of 50 year olds since ever has looked at horror at the culture of 15 years old in his society. If you think that somehow White Pride is going to change that you are sorely mistaken.

            You can’t get immortality through procreation anymore than you can get immortality through heaven. The sooner you accept that the sooner you can be rational about these issues.

          • Anonymous says:

            You biological determinists are so myopic.

            You know what they say – in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. I guess it would work for myopia as well.

            Yes, of course genetics matter, but if you think life experience doesn’t matter more than you are either a moron or delusional. My great-great-father was very similar to me genetically both because he was my great-great-grandfather and because I come from an inbred ethnicity.

            Nonetheless, I have very little in common with him in the ways that really matter. He grew up in a tiny little shtetl in what is today Belarus, I grew up in NYC. He only spoke yiddish and later in his life German. I only speak English. We haven’t read any of the same books, we haven’t seen any of the same movies, our politics would be virtually incomprehensible to each other because they are about entirely different issues. We couldn’t share jokes because again we couldn’t even talk to each other. We don’t share many values.

            The reason siblings are so close to each other is not primarily because they share genes, it’s because those are the only people in the entire world who share a huge amount of context with you. In a lesser, but still very significant way, the people that grew up in the same time and place as you have a shared set of experiences that some random person from two-and-half-generations later that happens to have the same skin color is not ever going to have.

            This suggests that the only thing that matters are one’s values. I do not share that view.

            Maybe you have very interesting and meaningful conversations with 12 year olds all the time, but I don’t.

            That you can’t have a meaningful conversation with someone doesn’t make them any less real, any less human, and especially not any less a real human. Unless you think your ancestor you brought up was not a real human either.

            Every cohort of 50 year olds since ever has looked at horror at the culture of 15 years old in his society. If you think that somehow White Pride is going to change that you are sorely mistaken.

            I don’t think so. The whole ‘teenage rebellion’ and stuff seem to be highly localized in modernity. In the past, values did not shift between generations so much. I myself am not that different in worldview from my grandparents. Possibly even more so like my great-grandparents.

            You can’t get immortality through procreation anymore than you can get immortality through heaven. The sooner you accept that the sooner you can be rational about these issues.

            The sooner I become a self-hating moral nihilist without purpose in life, you mean? No, thanks.

          • Anonymous says:

            If you think that the only way anyone can have moral values is to maintain fantasies of immortality, then you have even further to go to rationality than I thought.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            You know, antinatalist anon, just because you’re obsessed with immortality doesn’t mean that we all are.

            I actually really like the fact that I’m mortal: life is interesting and lets me accomplish my goals, but I wouldn’t really want to drag it out any further than I have to. Living forever just doesn’t interest me.

            My desire for children, and my desire that my family line continues, exists entirely for it’s own sake. There is no higher justification for it and there doesn’t need to be. The desire is fundamental, if anything the most fundamental desire which could possibly exist for a living creature. Those who claim to lack it baffle me.

          • Anonymous says:

            I have absolutely no problem at all with you wanting (more) kids. As I said in my first reply, I’m not anti-natalist in the philosophical sense.

            It’s when you want me to have (more) kids that there’s an issue. Especially when you want to use the power of the state to that end.

          • Anonymous says:

            It’s when you want me to have (more) kids that there’s an issue.

            I hereby retract any implication or statement suggesting that this anon should reproduce.

            Especially when you want to use the power of the state to that end.

            This is sort of one of those “you don’t believe in it, but it believes in you” things. It directly benefits the state to have pro-natalist policies – the ones that work, anyway.

          • Anonymous says:

            You can prove anything when you assume your conclusions.

          • Anonymous says:

            You can deny anything if you fail to even consider it.

  20. I heard an interview on BBC with a gay Muslim man who was obsessing about committing terrorism, but he read enough mainstream Sunni(?) material to convince him he owed loyalty to the country he was living in.

    I’ve looked for it, but haven’t found it– anyone else able to track it down?

  21. People here might be interested in hearing my interview with Robin Hanson. I asked him to comment on Scott’s critiques of his book towards the end of the interview.

  22. Salem says:

    Jo Cox, a Labour MP, was murdered today, in what appears to be a political assassination. The attacker is said to have repeatedly shouted “Britain First,” which could either mean he was supporting a fringe political party of that name, that he supports the Leave campaign, or perhaps something else entirely. As far as I can tell, this is the first MP assassinated since 1990.

    I predict:

    * Remain get a poll boost.
    * We see more murders of this nature.

    • Homo Iracundus says:

      Of course that happened.

    • Frog Do says:

      There’s no race or religion stated. Should I assume usual Media Rules apply and he was a non-white non-Christian, or does anyone have this information?

    • suntzuanime says:

      Is this insufficiently tragic to get the three-day moratorium?

      • Nornagest says:

        Probably is for Brits, probably isn’t for Americans. We have enough Brits here that I’d exercise the better part of valor, but it’s basically up to Scott.

      • Zorgon says:

        It’s apparently not nearly tragic enough to avoid being used as ammunition against the Leave campaign within hours of her death, so I wouldn’t worry too much.

        • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

          If >we are going to set our standards to match the Facebook bar then what’s the point?

      • Sweeneyrod says:

        It’s quite close to me geographically, but I think most SSC commenters are distant enough, and discussion is non-political enough that the moratorium isn’t necessary. Might be worth having in order to keep the rule enforced though, so it doesn’t lapse like “No race or gender” seems to have done.

        • Lysenko says:

          On a broader level, I would argue that if there is to BE such a rule at all, it should be enforced globally, and I agree that it’s generally a good idea.

          If anything, 3 days isn’t always enough time for the early misinformation and the first flush of emotional response to settle down.

          EDIT: So, wait, what ‘no race or gender’ rule?

          • Nornagest says:

            EDIT: So, wait, what ‘no race or gender’ rule?

            Earlier in the history of this blog, Scott had a rule saying there was to be no race or gender discussion in the open threads.

            It seems to have lapsed. Part of the reasoning might be that Ozy was running race-and-gender threads concurrently for some of that period, and maintaining the rule became less practical after there was nowhere for the discussion to go. (There’s the subreddit, but the commentariat there isn’t as good.)

          • The Monster in the Darkness says:

            “Gate”? What gate?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Ah, Order of the Stick, which I guess is still asymptotically approaching the end?

          • LHN says:

            New comic just today!

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      I’m seeing reports of witnesses claiming that no, he did not shout “Britain First.” But we all know it doesn’t matter if he did or not, really.

      • Zorgon says:

        It’s all quite confusing. The original eyewitness that was quoted as having said that he shouted “Britain First” (by the BBC) has since recanted and said he heard nothing of the sort. At the same time, two other eyewitnesses have come forward and said he did – but crucially, both did so after the initial claim was made.

        Meanwhile, Cox had been getting hate-mail for weeks (although she’s an MP, so that’s not actually that big a deal), and her attacker was a (possibly former?) neo-nazi.

        I think there’s enough FUD here to conclude that we don’t know any bloody thing at all.

    • Ruprect says:

      I think this gives a good ‘out’ for brexit – my feeling was that brexit got a boost in the polls after the dire performance of remain in the televised debate last week. This week there was more of a focus on the economic costs, more of a perception that Brexit might actually do it – that would definitely have led to a reversal where people at the polling station decided not to risk it.
      As it is, when remain wins, it’s going to look as if it’s to do with this (more or less unrelated) tragedy (horror?) and I expect them to milk it for all it is worth.
      There is the theory that where murders are highly publicised you are likely to get copy-cat crimes. Beyond that mechanism, I don’t expect to see any increase in crimes of this nature.

    • John Schilling says:

      Apolitical facts, to the extent that Britain’s more credible news outlets can be trusted:

      The killer was a white male, age 52. His neighbors describe him as a “loner”, going on with all the usual stuff you’d find in the most tritely clichéd stereotype of an interview with the neighbors of someone who turns out to be a murderer. He got his last job, working in a city park, as a referral from an organization that helps place people with mental health issues, no details on what those issues are. His firearm was described as appearing either “old-fashioned” or “handmade”, capable of firing multiple shots but the guy felt the need for a big knife as well. Claims that he shouted “Britain First”, to the extent that they are more than rumor, are attributed to a particular eyewitness who didn’t say any such thing in any interview that I could find and who now explicitly denies the claim.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Some non-apolitical non-facts:

        I’m going to guess the gun was a Luger pistol, which is fairly odd-looking. As for “Britain First”, now I’m suspecting some “journalist” made it up specifically to help “remain”.

        • Zorgon says:

          As mentioned above, two other witnesses have come forward to say he did shout “Britain First” – but, crucially, they have done so after the reports about the first (now repudiated) eyewitness had already become public.

          What is slightly freaking me out is that I suspect those two witnesses are both completely convinced they did hear it, whether or not it happened. Stupid chimp brains.

        • DavidS says:

          Quite a few people reacting with lots of scepticism to the ‘Britain first’ element of this. Just wondering about your thoughts now that the guy’s been taken to court and given his name as

          “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain’

          Does this make you update at all towards the hypothesis that this sort of reporting might actually be accurate even if the knock-on effects could have a political impact?

          • Sweeneyrod says:

            Yes, and there a records of him buying books from National Alliance (a US neo-Nazi group) and subscribing to a South African pro-apartheid magazine.

          • Zorgon says:

            I generally err towards being skeptical of anything quite that c