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OT62: Five Thready Eight

This is the bi-weekly visible open thread. There are hidden threads every few days here. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. Also:

1. Comment of the week is Andy McKenzie on what eunuch studies tell us about testosterone and lifespan.

2. A public reminder: me linking to a website doesn’t imply that I endorse every single thing on that website, or every single thing the author of that website has ever said. I mean, it doesn’t even imply that I endorse the specific thing that I’m linking to beyond finding it interesting in some way. But to whatever small degree it implies that I’m endorsing the specific thing I’m linking to, it doesn’t imply that I support the rest of the website even that much. Please do not request that I put an “I do not support everything at this linked webpage” disclaimer on specific links. I worry that it would imply I do support everything at linked webpages I don’t attach this disclaimer to.

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593 Responses to OT62: Five Thready Eight

  1. Sandy says:

    I recently decided to stop posting on Twitter, and to restrict myself to liking and retweeting things. A journalist tweeted that Trump’s language about “bankers” and “globalists” is clearly an antisemitic dogwhistle. I objected to this as possibly motivated reasoning, looking for dogwhistles where there might not be any, and asked if criticism of Wall Street should cease to avoid the perception of antisemitism.

    I was promptly retweeted by dozens of Nazis. I don’t mean “Trump supporters”, I don’t mean Georgia soccer moms and Oklahoma Evangelicals, I mean people who put #AltReich in their bios and talk about the Day of the Rope a lot. It was quite disconcerting.

    On the plus side, some of them were just ironic Nazis who assured me that the Jewish conspiracy is overblown and it’s the Hibernian conspiracy that I should really be on the lookout for. That gave me a good laugh.

    • shakeddown says:

      The Hibernian conspiracy is a joke, right?

      • Sandy says:

        Yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be a parody of the Jewish conspiracy theories.

      • Deiseach says:

        Consider this: your current president, who is of Kenyan extraction on his father’s side, found it well worth his while to visit a tiny village in De Midlands in order to do the routine “tracing my ancestry and drinking a pint of Guinness” malarkey.

        Consider this: he got his start in Chicago, home of the Irish political machine in the days of the Daleys.

        I’m not saying there is a Hibernian Conspiracy involving my nation, the sea-divided Gael, and the corridors of power in your fine country. But I’m not saying there isn’t, either 🙂

    • suntzuanime says:

      Yeah, it can be disconcerting. You can avoid it by only talking to your friends on twitter and not to journalists, because they’re really trying to annoy the media, not you. Not sure what you’re supposed to do if you’re friends with journalists though.

    • hyperboloid says:

      I don’t think Donald Trump is an anti-Semite (remember that his son in law is Jewish), and I don’t thinks he is intentionally pandering to anti-Semites, who will likely vote for him for reasons that have nothing to do with hypothetical Zionist overlords.

      But I think one should be legitimately concerned by the paranoid tone of Trump’s campaign. The trope of an evil conspiracy of elites the oppress the good common people and can only be banished by putting absolute trust in a single national savior, has an ugly history that goes far beyond fascism.

      the Jewish conspiracy is overblown and it’s the Hibernian conspiracy that I should really be on the lookout for

      I’ve said it for years, those dirty Micks are up to no good. Has America learned nothing from the documentary Halloween III: Season of the Witch?

      • suntzuanime says:

        Hey fuck you? I know it sounds funny but some people do in fact engage in ethnic bigotry towards the Irish and I don’t think this is the sort of comments section that approves of ethnic slurs even as part of a joke.

        • Status_Signal says:

          Is there any real anti-Irish sentiment less than a generation old? This seems about as offensive as calling Germans Krauts.

          I get that’s generally a bad policy to deny someone the right to be upset by something, but it seems like it’d be impossible to talk if that level of offence was worth fighting over. I mean, the clip was way more offensive than the slur, and I’m more upset by your opening salvo than the slur directed at some portion of my ancestry.

          • suntzuanime says:

            You don’t think there’s anything wrong with calling an ethnic group “dirty Krauts”? And yes, I can confirm that there is any real anti-Irish sentiment less than a generation old.

          • Murphy says:

            @suntzuanime To be fair, our conspiracy certainly is up to no good. Soon we shall have full control and every Mick shall be able to walk proudly with his pocketfish visible to the world.

            Context is important. There’s a difference between a unionist or orange man calling irish people “dirty Micks” in the middle of a rant vs someone using the term in the middle of taking the piss about the Hibernian conspiracy or while engaging in the age old tradition of convincing the yanks of ridiculous things like that we have no electricity grid.

          • FeepingCreature says:

            As a German, I see nothing wrong with it in a humorous context. Then again, I haven’t actually myself been the victim of discrimination, so maybe my opinion would be different.

            Sometimes people like to use German Nazi slurs as “haha funny” in an online context. My reaction is usually on the level of mild embarrassment.

        • hyperboloid says:

          I know it sounds funny but some people do in fact engage in ethnic bigotry towards the Irish

          But do you believe that I’m one of them, based on the content of that joke?

          The basic premise is that it sounds ridiculous when you take the worst kind of anti-Semitism, up to and including the blood libel, and apply it to another completely random group of people.

          It’s the equivalent of ranting about how “the blacks” control the media and the banks, or how the Chinese are a bunch of lazy welfare queens. The joke rests on the understanding that racism is absurd, not that the Irish are inferior.

          • suntzuanime says:

            In more rough-and-tumble corners of the internet, ethnic slurs are just like saying hello, and that’s their culture, and I can respect that. But here, you wouldn’t make the sort of jokes you’re talking about using ethnic slurs for blacks or for Chinese, no matter how clear you were that you were actually making a joke. I’m asking you to extend that same respect to the Irish.

          • hyperboloid says:

            But here, you wouldn’t make the sort of jokes you’re talking about using ethnic slurs for blacks or for Chinese

            Your faith in me is entirely misplaced, Sandy set up the Irish bit by linking to the Hibernian conspiracy, I just rolled with it. I could have gone to exactly the same place with any other ethnic group.

            For instance I could have gone with “Those darkies are dangerous, havn’t you seen Blackula?”. Which I think would have been equally obvious as Swiftian irony. With the Chinese, I’m sure there is a Fu Manchu joke in there somewhere.

            The thing about interacting with people on line is that you don’t necessarily know anybodies cultural background or the particular things they’re going to find offensive.

            I remember having a conversation with a friend of mine about why it was more acceptable to make polish jokes then black Jokes. I thought it came down to the fact that there still was a large group of people who use jokes at the expense of African Americans as a way to signal superiority and contempt. On the other hand almost everybody making “how many Poles does it take to screw in a light bulb” jokes just means it as good natured ribbing.

            That’s not to say that I think no one should ever make black jokes, it’s just that if you live in a country where millions of Africans were imported as slave labor, your going to have to be careful to make sure nobody misunderstands you.

            In the United States anti-Irish racial prejudice, peaked in the mid nineteenth century, and had largely died out by the turn of the twentieth. More general anti-Catholic prejudice lasted longer, but was largely gone by the end of World War II.

            In the US bigotry against the Irish is the kind of old timey racism that that strikes most people as absurd, and Mick is no more offensive then limey or gringo .

            I suppose if you live in the UK or the republic of Ireland, and Lenny Murphy is part of your living memory, your reaction might be different.

            I would for instance avoid using the much uglier word Taig, which has very direct associations with the troubles.

            But if your still offended, I will direct any future racism against the Swedes, or maybe the Belgians.

        • lemmycaution415 says:

          There is no real anti-Irish sentiment in the US. That isn’t really a thing.

          There are at least some anti-Semites and they are real excited about Trump for some reason.

        • hlynkacg says:

          @ suntzuanime,
          I think you might want to adjust the gain on your “fightin’ words” meter.

        • Tekhno says:

          @suntzuanime

          Hey fuck you? I know it sounds funny but some people do in fact engage in ethnic bigotry towards the Irish and I don’t think this is the sort of comments section that approves of ethnic slurs even as part of a joke.

          Relax man. We’re all of Celtic extraction here.

          Man with an Irish last name, Irish grandfather, Scottish grandmother, Welsh grandmother on the other side, and red headed mother reporting in. I don’t have the red hair, but I have faint freckles. You could select me to face a firing squad just by pulling up my sleeves.

          Wouldn’t it be legit spooky if SSC turned out to majorly over-represent Celts?

          • onyomi says:

            I’m also genetically more Irish than anything else. I do wonder sometimes if I’m not a libertarian in part because my ancestors hated the English.

        • Well... says:

          Ethnic slurs here in the SSC comments are hilarious, and I’d love to see more of them. I’m Russian Jewish, my wife is black but with an Irish great-grandfather who endowed her with green eyes, red hair, and freckles, and our kids are a mix of all that. I would not like to see the world–even the high-IQ comments sections within it–deprive my kids of hilarious ethnic slurs. So please, continue the hilarious ethnic slurs. For the children. Won’t somebody please think of the children?? (I know those Micks sure won’t.)

      • The Nybbler says:

        The trope of an evil conspiracy of elites

        Read the Wikileaks. There’s no doubt such a conspiracy exists (though “evil” of course is a matter of opinion). I rather suspect Trump knew it did, probably because he was invited in at some point… but for whatever reason, didn’t join or defected.

        • shakeddown says:

          Any particular reference to conspiracy emails? I’ve read some of them, and they just looked like people who know each other emailing about work-related stuff.

          • Wander says:

            There are several about communications with the press, including particularly damning things about Politico. In some cases they’ve sent entire articles to HRC’s team to review before publishing.

          • shakeddown says:

            could you link to an example?

          • Wander says:

            This one. There’s a Business Insider article about it somewhere that gives a good rundown on it as well.

          • zluria says:

            Here’s one where Hillary gets the exact wording of a debate question a day before the debate.

            https://wikileaks.org/podesta-emails/emailid/5205

            My impression, though, is less that there is some giant conspiracy and everything is rigged. Just that the Clinton team includes some determined, well connected and unethical people, happy to bend the rules if they think no one is watching. Possibly this is true of other campaigns as well.

          • shakeddown says:

            Interesting. It really does seem pretty shady.
            It does have one potential neutral explanation, which is that the reporter’s sending it in for fact-checking/to see if he can get an extra comment on his article (note that this is pre-sending to the editor, and that he’s asking if they have something to add, not if he want to remove something, both of which seem more consistent with this interpretation). So I’d consider it (by itself) bayesian evidence in favour of some reporters communicating with the campaign, but not damning evidence. Do you know how the article ended up published? (If it didn’t, that’s definitely suspicious).

            edited for the second one: Yeah, that’s my impression too. Considering that this is pretty much the worst anyone found out about her after some pretty intense investigation, she seems pretty honest overall.

          • MugaSofer says:

            You want to really conspiracy yourself out, read https://wikileaks.org/podesta-emails/emailid/3599

            The unawareness remains
            strong but compliance is obviously fading rapidly.

            More seriously: Obama seems to have known about the server thing, and then lied about it. FBI documents indicate that the Undersecretary of State “asked [an agent’s] assistance in altering the e-mail’s classification in exchange for a ‘quid pro quo'”. There are some suspicious-looking occasions when the DOJ and DOS send tip-offs and warnings of upcoming stuff. And, of course, the DNC were working for Hillary.

            It’s not a conspiracy-conspiracy, exactly, but it’s still corruption going on.

            If you want to spin a conspiracy conspiracy out of that, another released FBI document refers to a group called “the shadow government” that was vetting FOIA requests. But probably not that kind of shadow government, just a bunch of high-ranking officials trying to block requests until after the election (and failing.)

            Or you could point to Bill Clinton’s ties to Jeffrey Epstein, argue that they suggest there’s high-level pedophile ring, and wouldn’t it be natural to provide help to your fellow ring members? But there’s nothing about that actually in the emails.

        • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

          “but for whatever reason, didn’t join or defected”

          http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/06/magazine/when-hillary-and-donald-were-friends.html

          One top New York foundation official who requested anonymity — many people will only speak anonymously about the Trumps and the Clintons, because both clans are known to be vindictive — notes that “in the community of plutocrats and superachievers who come to New York, Donald Trump is seen as persona non grata. He’s not a civic leader.” New York, this person says, is a place where private-equity C.E.O.s like Henry Kravis and Stephen Schwarzman see themselves making commitments to the public good. Their status doesn’t come only from being in charge of powerful corporations. “It also comes from some attachment to a hospital or university or cultural center. Trump was never part of that ecosystem.” When the tightfisted Trump hosts a charity event for veterans or a charity golf tournament, it is dismissed as something to polish the Trump brand. Trump has turned off many people in the worlds of real estate, banking and law with his strong-arming, fee-shaving or stiffing, bankruptcies and litigiousness. “Most real estate guys won’t go near him,” a leading New York financial executive says. “You lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.”

          Trump thumps his chest about money, acting as if he’s Bloomberg-wealthy, while the Clintons pretend they have less than they do. Trump wants to belong, to get more legitimacy by elbowing his way into the power crowd, while the Clintons passed that threshold of belonging after two terms in the White House. A top media mogul dismisses all three as outsiders: “No one here thinks of the Clintons as New Yorkers, and Donald is a bridge-and-tunnel person. He’s always been a poseur in New York.”

      • Deiseach says:

        The paranoid tone is matched by some of those supporting Hillary; I’m seeing a slew of pleas to “for the love of God, please vote!” on Tumblr about how (a) not voting (b) voting third party/write-in voting is going to hand the election to Trump and then it will be all your fault.

        A grown woman, with no apparent sense of incongruence, talked about how you couldn’t rely on “the senate is likely to go Democratic and that will control Trump” because even a Democrat senate wouldn’t be able to prevent the Republicans who would be victorious at state level from turning the states they dominate into hellscapes.

        Her choice of word: hellscapes. Vote Democrat all the way down the slate or else!

        Another person spoke, again with no sense that this was perhaps a tiny bit of an exaggeration, of how a Trump victory would mean millions of women, LGBT, immigrants, (I forget the entire list of minorities/potential targets) would be wiped out. Again, her choice of words.

        There’s definitely a strain of thought within a section of Democrat voters that Trump and the Republicans are basically Hitler and the Nazis just straining at the leash to set up the concentration camps and exterminate everyone they don’t like.

        There’s the usual circular firing squad where they’re turning on one another about supporting Sanders, and the vitriol about “BernieBros” and so forth is amusing in a certain way to watch, but it’s also very clear the party of inclusion and diversity and niceness has some deep divisions and bitterness between various camps.

        So now that I’m seeing all this panic and Chicken Littles running around, how much of a chance does Trump have, or is this all a flap over nothing?

        • MugaSofer says:

          About 33%, according to 538.

          • Nyx says:

            Some people have criticized that number and 33% is by some margin the highest chance anyone is giving Trump. Clinton is still leading in the polls, but Nate Silver is credulous about the chance of the polls being off and Clinton losing one of her firewall states.

            * Polls in 2000-2012 have been really really accurate, much more so than in 1972-1996. Is this the new normal, or are we giving polls more predictive power than they deserve? There have been some high-profile polling mishaps recently, such as the Michigan Democrat primary and the 2015 UK general election.

            * There are lots of undecided voters, creating uncertainty.

            * Silver was mocked roundly for discounting the chances of Trump becoming the R nominee. He could be overcompensating for his earlier error and trying not to make a commitment to either candidate that might humiliate him.

          • shakeddown says:

            The third one doesn’t seem right – he’s using the same model he did in 2012 (his polls-plus his. His polls-only is simpler, and gives the same results now.)
            Also, the LA times expects Trump to win, and was closer than other pollsters in 2012. So I suspect Silver is about right – though he doesn’t account for turnout operations, so he might be overestimating Trump’s chances because of that (the possibility of a large shy Trumper vote, OTOH, is accounted for).

          • Nyx says:

            There are also more early voters than ever, too. So many people have already voted; even if the gap between them narrows, it might be too little too late to affect the outcome.

        • Aapje says:

          I seriously believe that whoever wins this election will face several assassination attempts (or just 1, if it succeeds).

          • Matt M says:

            Eh – everyone said this about Obama too….

          • keranih says:

            Trump’s VP (as well as Hillary’s) is widely regarded as competent.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Trump’s VP (as well as Hillary’s) is widely regarded as competent.

            Personally I’m hoping that Trump wins and immediately drops dead with excitement, so we can have Pence as President.

          • CatCube says:

            @The original Mr. X

            Personally I’m hoping that Trump wins and immediately drops dead with excitement, so we can have Pence as President.

            Oh my God, wouldn’t that be great? I’d also prefer Tim Kaine to HRC.

          • nancylebovitz says:

            Why do you want Pence?

          • JulieK says:

            I don’t know much about Pence, but I’d definitely prefer any generic Republican to either Trump or Hillary.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Why do you want Pence?

            Because he’s (a) not a Democrat, (b) not Donald Trump, and (c) the guy who’d take over if Trump were incapacitated somehow.

          • CatCube says:

            @nancylebovitz

            Clinton is so terrible I’d vote for almost anybody other than her…just not Trump.

            I wouldn’t be excited for Pence, but I’d have no problem holding my nose and voting for him.

        • Murphy says:

          If the bookies are anything to go by he has at least a 1/8 chance as of this morning.

          Unusually EY actually took a position on this after trump came out with that stuff about eastern europe and the thing about nukes.

    • JulieK says:

      I wonder what they liked about your tweet. If I understand correctly, your point was that it’s possible to criticize bankers without being antisemitic. Aren’t those guys proud of being antisemitic?

      • Sandy says:

        Most of their replies were “This is the pattern, don’t blame us for recognizing it, ask yourself why you’re denying it”

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Trump ad: ((Bankers)) control the levers of power and steal our wealth.
          ADL: You know, that’s classic anti-Semitic language. You should be aware of that and not use it.
          Sandy: Not every criticism of bankers is anti-Semitic.
          Nazis: This is totally ant-Semitic. We should know.

          Is that a fair summary?

          • Aapje says:

            Or it’s:

            Nazis: That journalists defend bankers/Jews from all criticism, anti-semitic or not, is proof of a Jewish conspiracy.

    • the anonymouse says:

      Eh. As far as I can tell, “dogwhistle” just means “I know you didn’t say an offensive thing I wanted to attack, so I’m going to pretend you said something else, then attack you for that.”

      • The Nybbler says:

        Yeah, it’s getting ridiculous. Trump has an attack ad featuring George Soros and Janet Yellin, and that’s anti-Semetic. Or Wikileaks mentioned the influence Lynn Forester de Rothschild has over the Economist (she’s on their board and CEO of one of their main principals), and that’s anti-Semetic.

        On the other side, you’ve got “pizza means pedophilia” and the whole “spirit cooking” thing, which is even crazier.

        • Wander says:

          There’s still something shady. There’s just no way that “pizza related map” makes sense in any normal context. Or asking if someone wants “pasta” that’s three months old. Drugs might be a possibility too.

          • The Nybbler says:

            There’s no way these people have the discipline to maintain such a code. I think some of it is just obscure inside jokes.

          • suntzuanime says:

            I’m assuming that it’s to do with the corrupt dealings of the Clinton Foundation, since we already have a pretty good idea that that’s happening and it’s the sort of thing you’d talk in code about. Going from “they’re talking in code” to “they’re talking in code about pedophilia stuff” seems like a stretch based on pure fantasy.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Drugs are a far more likely possibility.

            First, there are far more people who use drugs than there are people who are sexually interested in children. Just based on base rates, what is the chance that a bunch of middle-aged people (who came of age in the 60s and 70s) are smoking pot, maybe a little coke, etc? Pretty high. Why are they emailing about it? Because clueless old people buying drugs probably flock to the one person who has a connection.

            Second, drugs are way more socially acceptable, which means that people would be more likely to take weak steps to hide drug use – using personal email, jokey nickname “code words”, etc. These aren’t dumb people – if they were doing something actually abhorrent, why would they take such weak steps to hide it?

            A lot of the wilder accusations are clear confirmation bias. Oh, Podesta has some weird tastes in art? Not proof of being a diddler – although liking Abramovic is proof of incredibly pretentious tastes in art (I’m honestly disappointed – I want the rich and powerful schemers to have good taste, not the oh-so-edgy paint-by-numbers crap that Abramovic does). Resemblances to the police composite of somebody who somebody saw maybe abducting Madeleine McCann? Those are often pretty inaccurate anyway, the sighting was done at 10pm, and it was of a guy in his 30s (Podesta would have been in his 50s at the time). And, I’m guessing if somebody really was the head of some evil all-powerful pedophile ring, they’d have goons to do their child-abducting.

            While there likely are child molesters operating in the corridors of power, there are child molesters operating everywhere, and when the police or other authorities turn a blind eye or cover it up, they do so for various different reasons – religious authorities (not just Catholics either) wanting to avoid trouble, private schools wanting to avoid trouble, the whole business with Rotherham which sounds like a right-wing fantasy but actually happened, Jimmy Savile, etc.

  2. Dabbler says:

    Question for those who would know better than me. How much truth is there to the claim that the Establishment is outright rigging the election against Trump? It’s obvious just by paying attention that the media is pretty much universally siding with Hillary Clinton over him, but what about other claims? Rigged election booths? Giving selective coverage to Donald Trump scandals while ignoring far worse Clinton scandals (the Clinton emails)? etc?

    The impression I get is that they are doing all of these things, but I get news from primarily right wing sources so I wanted to check with people who might know in more detail.

    • shakeddown says:

      The Clinton email scandal got more coverage than all the policy issues put together. I think it’s ridiculous it was a scandal in the first place, and while others may disagree, it sure as hell wasn’t underreported.

      More generally, my impression is that the media was fairly “objective”, in that they didn’t let their preferences obscure their senselization bias. They covered Trump more when he had more interesting scandals, then defaulted to covering Clinton’s scandals when they seemed like they’d get views.

      They seemed pretty boring to me, but I think a lot of republicans who didn’t like Trump wanted to see something that would justify voting for him, and a lot of Bernie supporters wanted to see mud-slinging at Hillary. I’ve read some of the wikileaks emails, and the only conclusion I had was that Hillary’s state department seems to have been pretty well-run and on the ball. (Edit: This is a good example of this – their analysis of Netanyahu and Israeli politics is both accurate and useful).

      That’s news media – specific figures from comedians to op-ed writers did openly prefer Clinton, but that doesn’t seem like rigging so much as expressing their opinions.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        I’ve read some of the wikileaks emails, and the only conclusion I had was that Hillary’s state department seems to have been pretty well-run and on the ball.

        Now this is a way more baffling statement than anything about Clinton or Trump’s scandals. Over the past eight years the entire Middle East burned to the ground, our relations with many traditional allies have disintegrated completely, the comical Russian reset ended with that nation as a fanatical enemy that’s invaded two neighbors and is threatening all of NATO’s eastern flank, we smooched up to one hard-left enemy of the United States after another and got nothing for it, and — oh yes, can’t forget — we pretend-signed a non-treaty with Iran and fought like demons to make sure they have local hegemony, no sanctions, and can build an atom bomb free and clear eight years from now. Hillary Clinton’s state department tour was inarguably catastrophic.

        • shakeddown says:

          The Iran deal seems pretty good (at least, as well as you could reasonably expect). I’ve heard a lot of objection to it, but it all seemed to be generic “Obama bad therefore must argue against him”, not specific things it did wrong.

          Most of the rest seems like things that were never really in America’s control. In particular:
          The Middle East did not “burn to the ground” (trust me, I’ve been there for large segments of the past eight years). The war in Syria and the rise of ISIS don’t really seem like things America could stop (I guess maintaining an indefinite military presence in Iraq could limit ISIS, but might just lead to popular uprisings against foreign troops with large amounts of american casualties, so it’s not a clear tradeoff).

          Russia’s invasion of Georgia was during the Bush administration and Crimea was after Hillary left, so I can’t see how she could be held responsible for either one. She’s actually the one pushing to be tougher on them, which seems to be your position too?

          we smooched up to one hard-left enemy of the United States after another and got nothing for it

          Not sure who you mean here. Is it still Russia? Is it China? Cuba? Any one doesn’t really seem to fit your description.

          EDIT: In the interest of trying to turn this into a less object-level debate: To what degree do you think the situation in the world (e.g. wars in the middle east) is determined by the quality of the US state department? (serious question – it clearly has some influence but doesn’t single handedly control it, so where do you think it falls?)

          • sflicht says:

            Diplomacy is literally the one policy arena in which the executive branch can exercise its discretion more-or-less unconstrained, within certain limits that have been steadily eroded over the past century. I suspect there is variation across administrations with respect to how much autonomy the State Department has to conduct affairs independently of White House policy guidance. In Obama’s case, I think it’s not uncharitable to read the history as follows: he gave Hillary a relatively free rein at first, the Libyan intervention was a disaster, she stepped down, he has since exercised more direct policy control, but he hasn’t really achieved qualitatively better results thereafter. It’s *obviously* more complicated than that, but I do think that’s a fair capsule summary.

            If we dive a bit deeper, I’m sympathetic the case that bureaucratic inertia / rogue policymakers in places like CIA and DIA can undermine diplomatic efforts to a degree that might somewhat absolve State from 100% responsibility for foreign policy. But that case can only be pressed so far. My understanding of the leaks to date suggests that the covert CIA program to arm “moderate” rebel groups in Syria — even if there was an acknowledged risk of the arms falling into radical hands, and of the resulting instability giving rise to an islamist force like ISIS with large-scale territorial ambitions (which the DIA famously predicted in a since-leaked or -declassified memo from around 2012ish? hard to keep track) — was not undertaken in opposition to strenuous objections from Foggy Bottom, but rather with the explicit or tacit support from the people hired by Clinton. Wikileaks has also made it clear that there is no ambiguity, at the highest levels, about whether the Saudi and Qatari governments have provided military and financial aid to ISIS. It’s true that one can defer to the judgment of those in power at State and elsewhere as to whether our Gulf alliances as so important that ignoring their state sponsorship of pretty heinous terrorist groups is worthwhile. But it also seems quite legitimate to observe that these actions by our government make us very vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy when we attempt to confront challenges from adversarial regimes like Iran, Syria, etc.

            Going back to the specific points you raised, the one I most want to push back on is Hillary’s culpability for the crisis in Ukraine. As Secretary of State, Clinton was responsible for overseeing the hiring and confirmation processes for most of the key personnel who managed the Ukraine crisis, even if it took place after she left office. So one can expect that their actions in response reflected her views on foreign policy, at least to some degree. Moreover, I think it’s crazy that the Western press denounces as “baseless conspiracy theories” the idea that covert operatives from the US and other NATO powers were involved in agitating and supporting the Euromaidan protests and the 2014 revolutions. Such tactics are completely in keeping with policy tools the US has exercised repeatedly during the past 50 years. NATO expansion to incorporate Ukraine was a stated neoconservative objective, and Yanukovych’s satellite regime was a major obstacle to it. And the SecState would definitely have been in a position to exercise influence over approving and planning such operations, if indeed they took place.

            Now since Hillary didn’t “pull the trigger” on the Ukrainian crisis while she was in office, maybe she escapes direct culpability. But — just as Bill Clinton deserves some blame for the Georgia war partly caused by his NATO expansion policies, even though the crisis occurred after he left office — Hillary definitely cannot escape some degree of responsibility for the parlous state of U.S.-Russia relations today.

          • shakeddown says:

            Those are good points – in particular, I didn’t consider your points about Ukraine.
            It seems like enough to convince me that someone else who knows the field well and has a different approach might handle foreign policy better. But her failures don’t seem catastrophic, in the sense that they seem to be within the range of ordinary foreign policy outcomes.
            Trump attacking her about foreign policy just feels like an angry sports fan disappointed in his favourite team: Maybe the team really did screw up and would do better under a different manager, but even if they’re at the bottom of the league, hiring someone with no sports experience to run them is a bad idea unless the current situation is clearly unprofessional. And that’s a bar Hillary’s state office does clear.

          • sflicht says:

            @shakeddown:

            I think you may be underestimating the degree to which there was real dissension in foreign policy circles about NATO expansion and policy towards Russia after the end of the Cold War. It was not a “fringe” opinion in 1992 to think that Russia should be allowed to exercise a certain sphere of influence commensurate with its power and traditional independence from Western alliances. Nonetheless, the opponents of that idea — who, incidentally, were the same folks who backed things like the second Gulf War — basically won the argument somehow, even as their signature MidEast policy prescriptions were discredited during the Bush II regime. Obama was elected in large part as a repudiation of these foreign policy ideas, and yet they retained influence within his administration, to disastrous effect, and this influence was manifest largely in the appointment to Clinton to head State and her direction of that department.

            We certainly can’t, yet, assess whether her decisionmaking was catastrophic, but it does seem to have been pretty bad. And the crux of the Trumpian criticism of her foreign policy — which, by the way, largely echoes Obama’s complaints abouts the foreign policy establishment — is really that this excuse about outcomes being “within the expected range” of normal policy is ultimately bullshit.

            It boils down to Eisenhower’s admonitions about the military-industrial complex dictating foreign policy that redounds to the benefit of defense contractors at the expense of American security and financial strength. Without minimizing the horrors of Stalin’s rule in the USSR or the disasters of Mao’s rule in China, or any number of Communist shitshows throughout the world, there is a legitimate argument to be made that a lot of hawkish US policy during the Cold War — from placing missiles in Turkey to arming the Mujahideen in Afghanistan to bombing in Laos — made things worse rather than better *on purely consequentialist terms*. Likewise, during the “unipolar moment” of roughly 1990-2010, there are legitimate arguments to be made as to whether US overseas force projection has been, on net, beneficial for mankind.

            Hillary comes down, through her words and actions, pretty squarely on one side of these debates. I’m pretty confident I come down on the other side. So it’s very difficult for me, personally, to assess her foreign policy in a positive light. And given the weight I personally ascribe to foreign policy in assessing a presidential candidate, I found myself completely unable to support her candidacy.

            So that’s my bias. Therefore I’m inclined to be more charitable than yourself when confronting Trump’s criticism of her foreign policy. He’s still said some things I’m uncomfortable with and I was never confident that his opposition to her was grounded in anything other than partisanship, so I didn’t support him either. (Voted for Johnson weeks ago, pretty happily.) But I would not endorse your “reading” of his campaign rhetoric with respect to foreign policy. You seem to regard his statements as a completely cynical, partisan effort to critique her term as SecState on tribalist grounds. I think he is actually giving voice to an anti-Wilsonian strain of the American electorate’s foreign policy preferences that has been present since George Washington, but hasn’t had a nationally meaningful candidate since Pat Buchanan. Maybe Trump is doing so for cynical reasons, but that doesn’t in and of itself delegitimize the perspective.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            The biggest objection to the Iran deal? Well, besides that it’s completely unenforceable, and runs out less than ten years from now leaving Iran free and clear to build all the nukes they want, is that Iran’s behavior has changed not a jot, other than making this token effort to pretend they don’t want nuclear weapons. Overseas, Iran has been kidnapping sailors, holding American citizens hostages, buzzing American ships, and — oh yes — funding every evil group in the Middle East, from Yemen to Lebanon. At home, Iran’s anti-American rhetoric has not softened, human rights for Iranian citizens have not improved, and ballistic missile programs continue full speed ahead.

            (This, by the way, is what I was getting at with the “smooching up to leftist regimes” bit. We hugged Venezuela so hard, and look at that place now.)

            Indeed, the result of the Iran deal was to destroy the consensus for sanctions against one of the more sinister regimes on Earth, and hand them a brand new weapon to hold off any future sanctions — now, they can threaten to pull out of the nuclear deal, and thus turn any future events back on the United States.

            There’s also sleazy details like the hundreds of millions in untraceable cash that was paid as ransom to Iran for the last bunch of citizens they kidnapped, and desperate attempts to hide it from Congress. I seem to recall that Reagan was nearly impeached for a lot less.

            I’ll give you the bit about Georgia, though. I remembered that incorrectly. Bush certainly wasn’t clear-eyed about Putin either, that’s for sure.

          • John Schilling says:

            The biggest objection to the Iran deal […] is that Iran’s behavior has changed not a jot

            Iran’s behavior includes conspicuously not building nuclear weapons, not building long-range missiles, not invading other countries, not shooting at Americans or trying to wipe Israel off the map, or a great many other things that people seem to have sincerely feared would happen if Iran were left to its own devices.

            Obviously, we’d all be happier here if the annual American flag-burning celebrations were canceled over there. But in the range of diplomatically plausible outcomes, Iran not changing its behavior is somewhere above the median and well above the apocalyptically-weighted mean. Maybe someone else could have gotten a better deal, but this looks like a good one.

          • shakeddown says:

            @sflicht:
            First, I’d like to elaborate on my original point: It looks like the Hillary Clinton state department were technically/tactically competent (as opposed to being strategically competent, which is more complicated), in a way I find it hard to imagine Trump being.

            Regarding strategy, I broadly agree that US interventionism often overreaches (though Scott’s post about the Pax Americana made me less confident in that), and I don’t really like Hillary’s approach. But I’m confused about which of her state department actions you’re criticizing: Intervening in Libya and arming people in Syria both seem like questionable choices, but I can easily imagine a world where we’d made the opposite call on both and regretted it now. Either way, the biggest argument in her favour is all the international crises we haven’t had (remember that time Israel and Iran didn’t get into a nuclear war?). Which are much harder to quantify. And another argument is that Obama did run against her type of policies but ended up implementing some of them, which makes me suspect they’re harder to avoid than they seem.

            You seem to regard his statements as a completely cynical, partisan effort to critique her term as SecState on tribalist grounds. I think he is actually giving voice to an anti-Wilsonian strain of the American electorate’s foreign policy preferences that has been present since George Washington, but hasn’t had a nationally meaningful candidate since Pat Buchanan.

            Not exactly. I recognize that this voice exists, and I even partly agree with it (certainly to the extent that I think foreign policy should go in that direction). But I also think Trump, in general, doesn’t stand for any specific set of policies so much as being opposed to anything Establishment or Liberal, and that this extends to foreign policy. Eliezer’s story about leading a game world to nuclear war in a couple of hours when he was playing diplomat there seems relevant.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Iran’s behavior includes conspicuously not building nuclear weapons, not building long-range missiles, not invading other countries, not shooting at Americans or trying to wipe Israel off the map, or a great many other things that people seem to have sincerely feared would happen if Iran were left to its own devices.

            Yeah, they’re not shooting at Americans — they’re just buzzing our ships and kidnapping and torturing our citizens and holding them for ransom. (Which gets paid, in pallets of untraceable small bills carefully hidden from Congress.) And they’re not threatening to wipe Israel off the map right at the moment, because they’re too busy actively doing that to Syria and Yemen. Yes, Iran’s behavior is so much better nowadays!

            The only part that could be described as improved is the “not building nuclear weapons” part, and that redounds to their benefit, because now if anyone calls them on their misdeeds they can threaten to pull out of the nuclear agreement and that’s the end of that. A completely free hand to dominate and terrorize the Middle East and a complete end to all sanctions forever no matter what, is worth way more to Iran than some dumb primitive nuclear weapon they wouldn’t dare use anyway because the Israeli counterstrike would burn them to ash. I would say it’s an impressive bit of diplomatic maneuvering on the mullahs’ part, except for the fact that John Kerry is the kind of guy who’d give you two tens for a five.

          • cassander says:

            >The Middle East did not “burn to the ground” (trust me, I’ve been there for large segments of the past eight years). The war in Syria and the rise of ISIS don’t really seem like things America could stop

            The Obama administration didn’t “t fail to stop” the syrian civil war, they actively threw gasoline on the fire.

            >(I guess maintaining an indefinite military presence in Iraq could limit ISIS, but might just lead to popular uprisings against foreign troops with large amounts of american casualties, so it’s not a clear tradeoff).

            There was no such uprising in the offering.

            >Crimea was after Hillary left, so I can’t see how she could be held responsible for either one.

            Getting along better with Russia was a huge focus of her tenure at state. It completely failed.

        • Machine Interface says:

          ThirteenthLetter > that is largely false. Iran is mostly not involved in Yemen (which is being burnt to the ground by Saudi Arabia, a US ally), has only a marginal role in Syria (Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Russia are much more active there), there are still many sanctions on Iran (many of which have nothing to do with nuclear agreements and so are unlikely to go away anytime soon), and incidents involving US citizens and Iran have surprisingly and totally coincidently started to find much quicker and smoother resolutions since the deal was signed. But nice shifting the goalpost on nuclear weapons by the way:

          “The nuclear deal means Iran will get nukes any minute now!!!”
          “They aren’t getting nukes.”
          “Yeah well they don’t need to! They got everything they wanted from that deal!!!”

          There is not a single element that would make an objective assesser currently consider *Iran* a serious threat in the middle east, let alone in the world. It’s Saudi Arabia, a US ally, that is waging war in Yemen, that is funding ISIS and other groups that use terror tactics against western interests, that is spreading radical islamist, anti-shia and anti-christian propaganda, not only in the muslim world, but in the west as well.

          • shakeddown says:

            There is not a single element that would make an objective assesser currently consider *Iran* a serious threat in the middle east

            They are funding Hezbollah. But yeah, the deal seems appropriate to their position, since they were never going to stop doing that.

    • Sandy says:

      Rigged election booths

      Highly unlikely. Alex Jones territory.

      Giving selective coverage to Donald Trump scandals while ignoring far worse Clinton scandals (the Clinton emails)?

      Entirely possible, wouldn’t put it past them, but at the same time I think Trump scandals get more attention because of the nature of what a jackass Trump is. The media makes its money through sensationalism; Trump bragging about how he’s so rich he can walk up to a woman and grab her by the pussy fits that model better than the Clintons running a slush fund for despots.

      • skinnersboxy says:

        Why are you so confident that the election booths aren’t being rigged? Security advocates of both sides have been saying for years that switching to electronic voting machines are a massive security issue, especially without paper backups. I specifically was at a talk at RWC this year where Dr. Diego Aranha talked about how disgustingly broken the Brazilian voting machines were. If I remember right, they had a govt agency writing the voting software, so each time the administration changed hands, they would try to patch the old backdoors, and introduce new ones so that the existing party could mess with the elections.
        Obviously Brazil is not the USA, but in general, if security isn’t a focus, or you didn’t have a public audit, then whatever you’re making is not only broken, but someone already has the exploit.
        Now I don’t think that the Democratic party alone is trying to rig the election. Probably both parties and a bunch of foreign actors are all trying to rig the election. I have no particular reason to believe they’re currently able to do so, but I also don’t really understand why everyone is dismissing this as some kind of conspiracy theory.
        I would really appreciate if someone more qualified than me could talk about the security of US voting machines.

        • shakeddown says:

          On that subject, my new favourite conspiracy theory is that the Philadelphia public transit strike was arranged by Trump supporters to stop poor suburban philadelphians (almost entirely Clinton supporters) from voting.

        • zluria says:

          So the wikileaks emails revealed all kinds of scandals and shady dealings – but nothing as far as I know about rigging voting machines. Indeed, some of the shady practices would be totally unnecessary if they could just rig the machines, so indirectly the email dump is good evidence that the dems at least can’t rig the machines.

        • John Schilling says:

          Among other things, there is no such thing as “US voting machines”. There are Florida voting machines and there are Michigan voting machines and there are Nevada voting machines, California voting machines, etc, etc. Even within states, the actual administration is generally local, as is the reporting of results – there isn’t a single Master Computer in e.g. Sacramento that is wired into every precinct in California and spits out the election results ex cathedra.

          Anyone who shows you a youtube video of how they were able to hack a voting machine through some back-panel port, is missing the point. It is logistically impossible to arrange for enough agents to visit enough sites and hack enough machines to reliably swing an election, without even more reliably ensuring that dozens of the people you tried to recruit will instead go to the police or the press or otherwise leak the conspiracy.

          Twenty years from now, it might be possible to hack the Sacramento Master Election Computer to give whatever result you want. We aren’t there yet. And we are even farther from being able to conceal the existence of massive conspiracies with hundreds of agents.

          • John Colanduoni says:

            This. Another way to look at is that the security of voting machines is on par with the security of most other computers that do important things on the planet: that is to say pretty terrible. That includes things like banks, utilities, civilian government, and other conspicuous and valuable targets. Just as it is the case that non-technological mitigations keep these industries from completely crashing down around us (though there are certainly very serious incidents), the same can be said of voting machines.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          It’s good that people worry about voting machine fraud, but there has always been fraud possible, and the electronic systems generally have much much better audit trails. What if you had an insider accidentally drop a bunch of paper ballots from one reliably red town into the river?

      • MugaSofer says:

        What do you think of this claim that lack of a voting paper trail corresponds to much higher Clinton percentage in the primary votes?

        (Not endorsing it, I’m genuinely uncertain.)

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Do they even say which states they are including in which category, or the source of their polling data?

          My sense was that Hillary basically met the expectations of the polls. Bernie did well in smaller primaries and caucuses where the enthusiasm gap was likely to have a bigger impact. HRC did well in larger primaries, especially ones that were not open to non-D registered voters.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Selective coverage to Trump scandals: obviously true. The media has been doing their best to ignore Wikileaks and downplay the email thing, while playing up Trump’s hot-mic boorishness.

      Rigged election booths: The ones that have been found seem like honest touch-screen malfunctions so far. If they were going to rig them they wouldn’t show on the screen as being rigged.

      There’s also irregularities with absentee ballots in Broward County, Florida, which seems like it might be something. And there’s the robo-pen pardons of felons in Virginia. Not to mention the attempts to prevent the GOP from doing poll watching.

    • suntzuanime says:

      The Clinton emails thing hasn’t been ignored, but they have done a lot to downplay the specific contents of the DNC email leaks. It’s not clear whether this is because the media is rigging the election against Trump or just because the leaks reveal the media rigging the primary against Sanders. Presumably both, because if you’ll rig for Clinton against Sanders how much more against Trump, right? But CNN has gone so far as to claim it’s illegal for private citizens outside the media to read the Wikileaks dumps and people should just trust them to summarize the relevant facts. And it was CNN caught sending Clinton the debate questions in advance.

      Whether voting itself is rigged or not I couldn’t say. I will say that I am not impressed with the commitment to security that the electoral system has.

    • Error says:

      Giving selective coverage to Donald Trump scandals while ignoring far worse Clinton scandals (the Clinton emails)?

      My rather-lefter-than-here regular community is under the opposite impression — that the media and the public focused laserlike on the Clinton emails while Trump was busy doing a million horrible things that got token press coverage and were basically ignored by the public. Someone quoted this as illustrative.

      I don’t take that at face value, I don’t watch the news so I can’t opine myself, and I don’t doubt that J. Random Rightist here could come up with a similar list in the other direction. I am, however, reminded of a study (I forget the name of it) that found that partisans on opposing sides will both interpret a relatively-neutral news article as being slanted against them.

      Edit: Found it. Hostile Media Effect. This is more or less why I ignore claims of media bias. It’s not theoretical to me, either — I follow communities on both sides, so sometimes I get to see it happen in real time.

      • shakeddown says:

        Some of those Trump things are exaggerated or semi-fictional (him supporting something that he later retracted support for, or plausibly claimed was sarcastic), but a lot of it isn’t. And it’s not like the Clinton emails scandal was unexaggerated either, so yeah, the gist of that link seems pretty true.

      • Wrong Species says:

        The thing is that Trump has done so many horrible things that they all blend together. If he had a similar situation to Clinton’s email scandal, would anyone have changed their votes? I doubt it.

        • DrBeat says:

          The email scandals represent one really big, really important type of scandal that never has and never will be pinned on Trump, one whose importance is being constantly downplayed by the Usual Suspects who see everything in the entire world as a system meant solely for them to express smugness about their center-left political stance:

          Donald Trump has never, and will never, have a scandal about being in bed with Them. The They that ignore what the people want, the elites who betray the common man, the power-brokers who decide what will happen regardless of what anyone else wants, the architects of Big Abstract Noun who run our lives.

          That he isn’t in bed with these people because he’s a thin-skinned, impulsive, emotionally frail bully doesn’t change the fact that Hillary Clinton very much is in bed with them, and a lot of people are kind of miffed about that, and the fact they are being told they are not permitted to notice that isn’t helping. The email leaks, among other things, reveal a pervasive pattern of power figures, especially in the media, granting accommodations and favors to Hillary because She Is Owed. That the media then come out in force saying “Trump is terrible! You should vote for Hillary!” does not prove Trump is unfit for office to his voters, it is just further proof that They are in the tank for her, and you know what, there’s a really good basis for saying that.

          This election cycle is the apotheosis of everything that is terrible about our political system, and things will never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever get better. They will never, ever stop getting more terrible, because our politics are so broken that all things are only capable of becoming more terrible. All things that have a function are nonfunctional at best and actively harmful at worst. We have a psychopath with no control over his emotions whatsoever running against the human incarnation of cronyist incompetence, and nobody could have prevented this outcome because they’re not capable of taking actions that have positive outcomes. Our entire media apparatus is ideologically captured and can’t warn people about the psychopath because they’ve scorched away their ability to do or even think about anything that might help a human being. Everything in the world has been shrieking “wolf” for so long that now the universe is being tiled over with wolves and we can’t stop it.

          I hope the ballot levers release a poisonous cloud over America that kills us all swiftly and painlessly so we are spared the experience of having to live in this awful, intolerable, irredeemable world.

          • Aapje says:

            I hope the ballot levers release a poisonous cloud over America that kills us all swiftly and painlessly so we are spared the experience of having to live in this awful, intolerable, irredeemable world.

            Come on, tell us how you really feel…

          • hlynkacg says:

            Poison Cloud 2016!

        • shakeddown says:

          Isn’t Trump’s whole business model being a crony capitalist who knows the people to talk to? As in, he openly brags about knowing who in government to talk to to get around regulations?
          Like, it’s hard to imagine that it’d never get pinned on him, because he talks in an anti-elitist way that clearly annoys washington insiders. But if he were to somehow lose that protection (which can happen, mobs are famous for turning against their leaders.), he’d turn into the epitome of “Them” overnight.

          • John Colanduoni says:

            I think the main difference is that Trump’s “Them” is a much smaller elite whose power doesn’t reach nearly as far, and overall he has much less influence in his particular circle than Hillary has in hers. Like you and DrBeat, I mostly attribute that to him not being able to play the game at that level and a different set of goals, not on him being morally opposed to Hillary’s elite. In the past he was at least friendly with many of them.

      • Status_Signal says:

        I’ve had a look at pro ant ant-Trump subreddits throughout the election, and it really makes my head spin how the same events can be interpreted (and re-interpreted) in such wildly different ways.

        It’s actually quite horrifying, I’m developing an epistemic learned helplessness and deep cynicism towards pretty much all news sources :s

        • Winter Shaker says:

          I assume you meant “pro and anti-Trump subreddits”, but I love the idea of there being a constituency of G*m*rg*ters who believe Trump is also a G*m*rg*ter 🙂

      • Alex Zavoluk says:

        ” Edit: Found it. Hostile Media Effect. This is more or less why I ignore claims of media bias. It’s not theoretical to me, either — I follow communities on both sides, so sometimes I get to see it happen in real time.”

        I think you should accusations of left-wing bias more credible, seeing as how journalists are something like 97% left-leaning. For a more in-depth analysis, check out the book Left Turn; the researchers who wrote it estimate the effect size of the media on elections.

        • shakeddown says:

          journalists are something like 97% left-leaning

          That can’t be right, fox news alone is like 20% of the media market.

          In practice, it seems like you have some journalists who try to be objective but are influenced by their beliefs (because everyone always is), and then places like Fox/Huffpo where they give up and just try to be as partisan as possible. Among the first group, the slant does seem mostly liberal.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            IIRC, even at Fox News the political leanings of the reporters are fifty-fifty at most.

          • tayfie says:

            Their big hitters have a lot of exposure, sure, but it’s a very small sample of the total number of journalists. It could even be that the lack of right-leaning journalists creates a scarcity that drives the popularity of those that do exist. And just because the brand of Fox is center-right doesn’t mean all their reporters are.

            Finally, if you look closely, the self-identified “independent” journalists almost always vote Democrat. They only see themselves as moderates because they compare themselves to other journalists and not to the average citizen.

        • Chalid says:

          The first google hit for “journalists liberal conservative poll” says 28% Democrat, 7% Republican, the rest independent or other.

          This is for *all* reporters, not political reporters. Anecdotally, I’ve been told that the political staff tends to be one of the less liberal parts of a typical media outfit, and I find it believable based on my stereotypes about film critics and travel writers and what have you, but I don’t have actual statistics to back that up.

          Certainly in a typical election (this election isn’t typical) there are *way* more endorsements for Republican candidates than you’d expect if media was monolithically Democratic, e.g. the Wikipedia endorsement list has more daily newspapers endorsing Romney than Obama. While you can certainly quibble with that list, it’s nonetheless difficult to reconcile with the more overheated claims about media bias.

          • “more daily newspapers endorsing Romney than Obama. ”

            There may be a political split between the owners of newspapers and the reporters. That, after all, is a central element of the plot of Rand’s The Fountainhead. And it fits the general stereotype of employers right, employees left.

            Whether it’s true at present I don’t know.

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            As tayfie pointed out, “independent” doesn’t necessarily mean much in this case. If you’re self-reporting and in a left-dominated environment, you might feel moderate even if you’re left of a large majority of the general population. I cannot find a poll of who journalists voted for in 2012–it seems like they try to maintain a veneer of independence–but some anecdotal evidence plus the research I’ve seen would make me think that much greater than 28% of journalists consistently vote for Democrats.

            Here’s a paper by the guy who wrote the book I mentioned: http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/GrosecloseMilyo.pdf

            Notice how all the programs they look at, other than Fox and maybe Drudge, are left-of-center, and most of them significantly so.

          • Chalid says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Keep in mind that most newspaper editors are ex-reporters. So it would be strange for there to be a very large difference between editors’ politics and reporters’ politics (though you might expect some difference due to age and income factors).

          • Chalid says:

            some anecdotal evidence plus the research I’ve seen would make me think that much greater than 28% of journalists consistently vote for Democrats.

            well of course 50% is much greater than 28% 🙂

            But anyway, redefining “independent” to mean “actually liberal” doesn’t seem like a good general practice.

          • John Schilling says:

            Most daily newspapers are in small towns/cities. They are run by and for an even older and thus generally more conservative subset of the small-town audience (on account of the Kids These Days getting their news from the intertubes and Comedy Central), and the editorial is written by the reporter who got the editor’s chair by seniority. And they reach an audience too small to be significant.

            What matters is are the biases and beliefs, if any, of the reporting staff of the newspapers of record. Those are the ones that can actually send reporters to cover campaigns. Those are the ones that decide whether e.g. Hillary stumbling into a limo or Trump inciting violence or Johnson misinterpreting “Aleppo” are scandalous or trivial, because if they decide “trivial” there may be no way for the small-town dailies to know it even happened. If they decide “scandalous”, the small-town reporters look like ignorant hicks if they don’t cover it.

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            I’m not “redefining” the word “independent”, I’m pointing out that self-reports have significant issues.

      • Deiseach says:

        I think the Clinton emails are important not for scandal value but because this is what she did when she was part of the administration in power and it gives an indication of what she is likely to do should she get into power.

        Whether you think it’s a good, bad or neutral thing that she sets up her own run-around to get around departmental policy is another thing.

        Trump’s scandals are sleazy, nasty, slimy things but – apart from the claims that he engaged in tax dodging – they don’t impinge on ‘so what did he do when he was in power’ (I’m discounting the lurid ‘child rape and murder’ accusations). Hillary has demonstrated that she does, to a degree, think she’s above the rules/rules are for the peons not smart people like her when given governing power, which does not augur well for “open, transparent, accountable government”.

        We don’t know what Trump would be like but the worst thing seems to be that he’d be embroiled in a sex scandal. Just like another president (or two or more) before him, and it doesn’t seem to have done Bill’s image or legacy any lasting harm. Unless we think he’d get a rush of blood to the head and declare war on Russia or Iran or something, and frankly Hillary is hawkish enough in foreign policy that you can’t say “Well, she’d never authorise military intervention!”

        • nancylebovitz says:

          Trump not paying his contractors is also a sign of an above-the-rules attitude.

          • Matt M says:

            I would push back a little on this. Manipulation of the rules is not necessarily being “above the rules.” I haven’t researched in detail – but my understanding is that Trump typically didn’t pay his contractors by claiming the work was poorly done and thus not deserving of full payment, which might be entirely true and, if true, would be legitimate and entirely within the rules.

            To the extent that he did this so frequently that one might claim it’s a pattern and therefore NOT true, you would think contractors would start refusing to work with him or quoting him higher prices or whatever. I have a tough time imagining someone could get away with this behavior in the marketplace indefinitely without suffering any sort of major consequence.

          • nancylebovitz says:

            http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2016/06/09/donald-trump-unpaid-bills-republican-president-laswuits/85297274/

            I didn’t realize how much he wasn’t paying his employees and professionals– even his lawyers.

            Your plausiblity argument seems to leave out that there is a huge number of contractors. They don’t seem to communicate with each other nearly enough. The situation is worse for employees in general.

            There need to be a lot more organizations for sharing information.

          • Matt M says:

            This article seems to be a mere collection of bleeding heart anecdotes designed to inflame anti-Trump emotions. It doesn’t even attempt to contextualize how common such instances or lawsuits are in the hotel construction industry, or to compare Trump’s record against his relevant competitors. The closest thing to a logical argument made is “where there’s smoke there’s fire” and I’m not comfortable enough with holding that against him, especially when, if you’re looking for reasons to hate Trump, there are several other good ones that are much more clearly documented and not purely speculative in nature.

          • nancylebovitz says:

            For what it’s worth, I haven’t seen anyone saying that Trump’s treatment of his contracters is typical of builders.

          • Matt M says:

            And I haven’t seen anyone make the case that it’s particularly atypical either.

            To take a slight twist on a common meme – Trump has been a public figure and a well known celebrity for a long time, and I don’t recall ever hearing of him being particularly dishonest with contractors until he decided to run against Democrats.

          • Brad says:

            You can find plenty of articles about Trump’s sharp business practices more than two years old if you cared to look. The Press of Atlantic City archives would be a decent place to start.

          • Iain says:

            Trump has been a public figure and a well known celebrity for a long time, and I don’t recall ever hearing of him being particularly dishonest with contractors until he decided to run against Democrats.

            That doesn’t seem accurate. I did a google search for “trump contractors”, looking for articles before 2015, and found all sorts of results. Here are two of the top five hits, one from 1990 and the other from 1998.

          • Matt M says:

            I apologize. I did not mean to literally suggest it had never happened or that no media outlet had ever mentioned it happening – just that it was not really a huge part of his “public persona.” As in, why would NBC put a guy in charge of a reality show about great business practices if he chronically short-changed people for no good reason whatsoever – that sort of thing.

          • beleester says:

            I haven’t researched in detail – but my understanding is that Trump typically didn’t pay his contractors by claiming the work was poorly done and thus not deserving of full payment, which might be entirely true and, if true, would be legitimate and entirely within the rules.

            Saying “It’s not technically illegal, it just looks shady” isn’t a good defense when the attack on Clinton boils down to “It’s not technically illegal, but it still looks shady.”

        • Trump’s scandals are sleazy, nasty, slimy things but – apart from the claims that he engaged in tax dodging – they don’t impinge on ‘so what did he do when he was in power

          Apart from what they say about his character. A persistent pattern of minor scandals is much more revealing about character than what is plausibly a one-off lapse.

          As in, why would NBC put a guy in charge of a reality show about great business practices if he chronically short-changed people for no good reason whatsoever – that sort of thing.

          It’s a serioius programme about business, not a circus?

          • Matt M says:

            Fair point – but NBC is one network with numerous competitors. When The Apprentice started to do well, why didn’t CBS run an expose on how Trump is a terrible businessman who would have done better taking his daddy’s money and putting it in an index fund rather than his current model which is to short-change mom and pop small business owners and ruin their lives while simultaneously never paying any taxes at all?

          • BBA says:

            It wouldn’t work. Many “reality” shows have been exposed as less-than-honest about their subjects, and viewers by and large don’t care. Besides which, it wouldn’t get as many viewers as Survivor.

        • Jordan D. says:

          I think people commenting on the election have these weird, clearly-defined ‘scandal vs. objectionable policy’ boxes, which is leading to some of the effect which you dislike. For example, here’s my personal rough model of the candidates as someone who is openly anti-Trump:

          Clinton
          – Been in politics since the beginning of time
          – (Scandal) Has been part of a lot of scandals but virtually nothing ever comes of them (although the cattle futures thing remains suspicious)
          – (Scandal) E-mail thing demonstrates willingness to evade FOIA and possible lax attitude towards information security
          – (Scandal) Also collaborated with DNC and media against Sanders to some degree (I disagree with the extent a lot of people assign to this one, but that’s neither here nor there)
          – More warlike than I prefer
          – Has a lot of social policies I agree with
          – Kind of robotic

          Trump
          – (Sometimes-Scandal) Is an enormous jerk
          – (Scandal) Is also an enormous jerk to women
          – Has a long history of abusing the law to get what he wants
          – Has little apparent relevant experience
          – Has promised to enact policies which I think will harm many people for no gain at all

          So when people are talking about scandals, they’re talking about Clinton’s e-mails and long history of investigation vs. Trump’s inability to not say stupid and/or offensive things. It’s just possible that I could agree that the e-mail scandal is worse than Trump’s inability to shut up.

          But the people going “how can you support him when he says X” are eliding the more important policy disagreements because they assume them of their audience. They’re addressing the gaffes as the crowning jewels to a pre-existing halo of negative affect which includes things like “Oh and I think he might leave NATO” or “Plus I think he’ll deport a lot of people who shouldn’t be deported” or “And also I think he’ll appoint Justices who will roll back Obergefell” or whatever.

          So while I appreciate that other people are responsible for poorly framing things, I don’t think you get anywhere by taking parts of those models, labeling them ‘Scandals’ and comparing them. The people posting things on your feed condemning each Trump gaffe weren’t voting for him anyway, and their reasons are only tangentially related to the gaffes.

      • Matt M says:

        I’m a little unsure about the claim of “the media is neutral because they spend just as much time covering Clinton scandals as they do Trump scandals” is missing the point entirely.

        Potential bias: I am rooting for Trump (although I don’t vote)

        The way I see it, the vast majority of the media “covers” Trump scandals by pointing to them as objective proof of his evil and horribly bigotry and misogyny and general unfitness to be President. And they “cover” Clinton scandals by pointing to how they are overblown, a huge right wing conspiracy, and the product of idiocy and partisanship on the part of the FBI, most likely doing the work of a Putin-led conspiracy to destroy America.

        So fine, in a certain sense they give equal time to both candidate’s scandals, but that’s hardly evidence of neutrality…. The question of “what” they cover and “how much” they cover it pales in comparison to the question of the general tone and editorial direction of how they actually cover it…

      • “partisans on opposing sides will both interpret a relatively-neutral news article as being slanted against them.”

        This way of putting it makes it sound as though “neutral” is an objective fact and the partisans are simply being unreasonable.

        If it’s clear that (say) minimum wage laws raise unemployment among unskilled workers, then any article on the subject that doesn’t say so is biased in one direction. If it is clear that minimum wage laws have no significant negative effect, then the same article is biased in the other direction.

        Or in other words, “neutral” and “biased” presume a true account relative to which they are defined. But part of what partisans on opposing sides disagree about is what the true account is.

        • Error says:

          I’m pretty sure one could construct an article that cited only objective facts about some controversial subject, but which most pairs of opposing partisans on said subject would both say were biased against them (perhaps by virtue of the particular facts selected). I’d be willing to put nontrivial money on that, at least against you — although I’m not sure how to formalize the bet.

          I don’t think that would really answer your objection, though. One could imagine a hypothetical article that cited all objective facts about some controversy, and I think you’d get the same results in that case, but I don’t see a way to do such an experiment in real life.

          I agree that neutrality is difficult. I also think that partisans are reliably mindkilled when judging the media, and their arguments about media bias are close to 100% noise. I don’t think these two things contradict.

    • birdboy2000 says:

      Media favoring Clinton and downplaying scandals, yes, but they’d probably favor Trump just as much if Sanders were running. The press is pushing its own agenda, which happens to align more with Clinton’s than Trump’s, but which is hardly “left” in any meaningful sense. (The fact that Clinton’s agenda isn’t either, especially on economic issues, makes it far easier for them to endorse her.)

      If elections were being rigged, then either polls wouldn’t work (and I don’t mean “miss by a couple points, or occasionally by larger margins” I mean “miss consistently in favor of electoral “losers”, likely by significant margins because there’s no way to tell what “results” will be reported”) or they’d have to rig the polls. And rigging pre-election polls as a whole seems way too large a conspiracy to pull off successfully.

    • hyperboloid says:

      Giving negative coverage to your preferred candidate is not “outright rigging the election”, it’s constitutionally protected speech.

      The mainstream media had roster of conservative intellectuals and commentators who represented the center right perspective on American politics. When, almost to a man, they refused to defend Trump the producers at CNN raided the political short bus to find people who would. Instead of Charles Krauthammer, Jonah goldberg, or David French, we had Jeffrey lord and Katrina Pierson. In some ways I think they went too far trying to be fair to Trump.

      As for “Rigged election booths”, do you have any evidence to support that?

      • suntzuanime says:

        When we think of democracy as an idealized system, we think of a meaningfully fair and informative press as part of it. The press has the legal right to be unfair and uninformative, and God Bless America, but that doesn’t mean they’re not rigging the election.

        • Wrong Species says:

          “They’re rigging the election!”
          “No, they’re not. No one is manipulating votes or anything like that.”
          “Well, a lot of people in the media don’t like my candidate. That’s basically rigging.”

          • suntzuanime says:

            In fact in the original post under discussion, Dabbler explicitly makes the distinction between the media disliking the candidate and actual dereliction of duty by the media. You are being excessively uncharitable.

          • Wrong Species says:

            “Rigging the election” is not a phrase that should be used lightly. It’s like how progressives will talk about some controversial story where drunken sex is referred to as rape. It doesn’t matter if pressed they clarify what they are referring to. They are still misleading people.

            If the media being biased is “rigging the election” then that phrase is basically meaningless because every election that has ever happened or will ever happened is rigged.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Well, yes. This is pretty much the http://pastebin.com/TRRUkSWr critique in a nutshell, that the game is rigged from the start.

            It’s not clear that responding to claims that the media is behaving outrageously in this election with “but the media behaves outrageously in every election!” is supposed to excuse it.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Saying the media will always be biased(because it’s composed of humans) is completely different from saying it’s manipulated. If it was truly rigged(in the ordinary sense of the word and not some ad hoc definition), then Donald Trump would have never became the Republican candidate. If you need a highly nonstandard use of a word in order to prove your point, it means you need to taboo that word and see if the argument still has the same effect. Because if you said that the media is biased no one will dispute that but obviously it doesn’t have the same emotional punch as saying “the election is rigged!”.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Wrong Species

            The Democrats attempted to influence the Republican primaries… in Trump’s favor. He was seen as a beatable candidate.

            Much of the media may as well be the Clinton campaign, from the Daily Beast (Chelsea Clinton’s on the board) to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and NBC’s John Harwood getting questions to ask Trump from the Clinton campaign.

            But that’s not what is meant by rigging the election, at least not by Trump’s campaign (Trump’s supporters are less careful). They’re talking about ineligible voters and faked votes, the sorts of things unquestionably called rigging. It’s not clear how much of this stuff goes on, though claiming it’s zero or insignificant without evidence ignores history.

          • suntzuanime says:

            You are the one who used the word “biased”. The rest of us are talking about things a little bit more than being composed of humans. You’re moving the goalposts. The media is in fact being manipulated: the wikileaks files show many instances of coordination of narratives between the media and the Clinton campaign, as well as things like giving Clinton the debate questions ahead of time.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Nybler

            If there was strong evidence of faked votes, then yes, that would be rigging. But that’s not what suntzuanime was talking about.

            @Suntzuanime

            Maybe you were. But the discussion got started off by mentioning giving selective cover to Trumps scandals and the possibility of the election booths being rigged. One of those is election fraud and the other is standard course of events for elections. Admittedly, I am not familiar with the campaign coordination controversy but you are the first to bring it up so of course, I wasn’t thinking of that. The campaign coordinating with the press is definitely more shady than selective coverage so I’ll give you that.

          • suntzuanime says:

            I had previously mentioned that issue, but that was in my initial reply to the OP and not in this particular thread. I guess we were talking past each other.

          • John Colanduoni says:

            @suntzuanime

            I wouldn’t call coordination of narratives manipulation of the media unless the journalists in question didn’t want to do it and Hillary coerced them. I don’t think there’s evidence of the later; it all looks like everybody being on the same side from the outset. I would expect that many in other very left-leaning circles (e.g. academia) would probably be willing to shill for her without more than an email as well.

            That’s not to say that it’s not morally corrupt or a big deal: it’s very much both. It’s just that I would be absolutely terrified if coercion of the media was happening on the same scale as the evident collusion (and probably looking to move to another country), and I think “manipulation of the media” makes it sound like the former. Manipulation of the public narrative, for sure, but that’s in a totally different circle of political hell.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Yeah, “manipulate” wasn’t quite the word I would have chosen, I was just following Wrong Species’s usage because it didn’t seem wrong enough to contest. Maybe I should have? I figured “manipulate” was close enough because the core sense was “x moves at y’s direction”, and the consent wasn’t the main point, but I can see where you are coming from.

          • Deiseach says:

            So what do we think of Hillary’s “I love having the support of real billionaires” – much-needed outreach to the nation’s neglected and underappreciated extremely rich people?

            Hillary stands with minorities of all kinds! 🙂

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @TheNybbler:

            But that’s not what is meant by rigging the election, at least not by Trump’s campaign

            Trump usually mentions the media in conjunction with rigging. For instance in the third debate (in the section that ends with “I will keep you in suspense.”) He mentions corrupt media, voters who shouldn’t be registered, and the claim that Hillary shouldn’t be allowed to run.

          • Deiseach says:

            Well, this guy thinks that there is definite media bias towards Clinton, and although it’s not out-and-out election rigging, it’s a dangerous path to tread:

            Don’t mistake me for some traditionalist harrumphing that the media is not the way it used to be in the good old days. We had partisan media long before we had objective media. And Trump is an affront to American democracy and common decency, and if this is the price to pay for keeping him out of the White House, so be it. But there is most certainly a price to pay. The next time Fox News or Breitbart caterwaul about media bias, the claim will have substantially more bite to it.

            Trump emerged, after all, at a time when news organizations had become increasingly desperate for attention and audience, and the revenues that come with them. And Trump was, in some very real ways, a salvation for news organizations that feared consumer indifference in a race presumed to be headlined by two overly familiar and less than riveting characters in Clinton and Jeb (!) Bush. Their lavish attention to his candidacy enabled the rise of Trump and, whether consciously or not, they are seeking to kill the monster they helped create.

            This is not an argument at all for moral equivalency between Breitbart and, say, The Washington Post. That would be ludicrous, but all media organizations are grappling with changing audience expectations and demands. As Emma Roller wrote recently in The New York Times, “The strongest bias in American politics is not a liberal bias or a conservative bias; it is a confirmation bias, or the urge to believe only things that confirm what you already believe to be true.”

            Audiences are increasingly seeking, and demanding, news that fits their personal notion of what is important and what is true. This is not only via Facebook and social media but also from the major news providers. I read the comment sections regularly on all these media sites; it is often awful, especially on Breitbart, but it gives you a real window into the most intense media consumers. And judging by these comments, Clinton may win the general election by 3 or 4 points, but she is going to win The New York Times primary by 70 or 80 points. And it is not simply that they have opinions on one side or another; they are routinely demanding coverage that conforms to their world view, and they have the choice to go elsewhere if they are not served.

        • John Schilling says:

          When we think of democracy as an idealized system, we think of a meaningfully fair and informative press as part of it.

          What is your name for the sort of government that the United States had for the first hundred and fifty or so years of its existence? Because we didn’t have a press that even pretended to try being “meaningfully fair” in a nonpartisan sense until fairly recently. And in another few decades, it will stop trying to keep up the pretense.

          Most people are happy to use the word “democracy” for any government in which people vote for their leaders in fair elections, with or without a nonpartisan press.

          • suntzuanime says:

            The name I would give it is “farce”. Like I said, this is basic http://pastebin.com/TRRUkSWr stuff; the preconditions for democracy to work like they teach you in Civics class don’t hold, and it’s not realistic to expect them to ever hold. Just because the system is always rigged doesn’t mean it’s not rigged in this case.

            People use the word “democracy” for any government chosen by what the unfair media considers fair elections. Sometimes when they’re feeling really hypocritical they will bring up things like state-controlled propaganda outlets when explaining why a particular regime they don’t like is not really democratic, though.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @suntzuanime

            The United States has one of the freest preses in the world. With extremely strong constitutional protections, and very narrowly defined libel and national security exceptions.

            In addition we live in an era when the Internet has vastly lowered cost of publishing, today anyone with a computer and enough money for web hosting can create a platform to promote any ideology they see fit. Americans have access to a greater diversity of ideas than any people at any time in human history.

            When you say the media is unfair, you do not mean that there is any there is any kind of censorship, or monopoly in place, you mean that your ideas are unpopular.

            To the reactionary, any situation where he does not hold one hundred percent control is unfair.

          • drethelin says:

            The de jure freedom of the press is not in question here, but the de facto affiliation.

        • 1soru1 says:

          The measure of whether a sports referee is fair is not whether they penalize both sides an equal number of times.

          • Randy M says:

            This is the crux of it, unfortunately the severity and relevance of any particular scandal or gaffe is very subjective, so we will never have agreement over media objectivity with regards to national candidates.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Excellent point

          • Iain says:

            I can’t tell if 1soru1’s post is meant seriously or not. If so: no, the measure of whether a sports referee is fair is whether or not they penalize both sides in proportion to the number of fouls they actually commit.

          • 1soru1 says:

            > no, the measure of whether a sports referee is fair is whether or not they penalize both sides in proportion to the number of fouls they actually commit.

            Yes, that was my point, and Bayes would presumably agree.

            Did you perhaps miss out the word ‘not’ while reading it?

          • suntzuanime says:

            Are you arguing against a claim anyone is making?

          • Iain says:

            I absolutely did miss the word “not”. Mea culpa.

    • TheBearsHaveArrived says:

      I doubt it would be any more rigged then any other election.

      The media hates Trump, and apparently he has less major newspaper outlets supporting him then any other candidate in history(the accuracy of that claim I can’t vet)

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      Rigging is a highly specific subset of unfairness. Not every unfair thing that happens in an election (e.g., media bias) constitutes “rigging.”

    • Levantine says:

      Question for those who would know better than me. How much truth is there to the claim that the Establishment is outright rigging the election against Trump?

      See this http://blackboxvoting.org/fraction-magic-video/
      (Short version here: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ezmpqwVEnM))
      Regarding the potential itself, see http://notthetalk.com/discussion/all/31182
      and the video here : (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDc8PVCvfKs) (Project Veritas Video II, Democrat Scott Foval on camera: “It’s a pretty easy thing for Republicans to say, ‘Well, they’re bussing people in!’ Well, you know what? We’ve been bussing people in to deal with you fuckin’ assholes for fifty years, and we’re not going to stop now. We’re just going to find a different way to do it. So, I mean I grew up with that idea.” “The question is, whether when you get caught by a reporter, does that matter? Because does it turn into an investigation or not? In this case, this state, the answer is no, because they don’t have any power to do anything.”)

      and judge for yourself.

    • geekethics says:

      I’ll ignore the partisan question and and ask if the elites are rigging the election in either direction.

      Lots of people are trying to influence the election. The FBI, the Russians, the media. The FBI doing this ought to be extraordinary in a functioning county, but it isn’t in the US. The media doing this ought not to be extraordinary in a functioning country, but some people claim it is in the US so *shrug*.

      These influences are are one thing. But they’re not what any reasonable person (the evidence of the current thread notwithstanding) would call “rigging”. To rig an election is to bias the rules, procedures, or counting. In which case we can consider voter suppression, voter harassment, and counting machines. The first two are certainly happening, and would be grounds for international observers to call the elections rigged in a normal country, but this is America so you get a pass on that I guess. As for the counting machines, the *only* evidence I have that counting machines aren’t rigged is the fact that it’s hard to run a large conspiracy. Other than that I’ve no idea why people trust the results from states they’ve not personally verified.

      So, various people are influencing the election. Some people are rigging it, and some have wide opportunity to rig it. Now, is “the establishment” doing this in a coordinated way to help one candidate? Hell no. Remember that the establishment varies from place to place. The media establishment is supporting Hilary, the FBI supporting Trump. The people doing actual rigging are the state governments, most of which are Republican, but many of which are Democrat. That means different state polls will be rigged in different directions.

      (Aside: I will never understand why people care about “the emails”. Sure, in a normal year they’d be disqualifying, but that’s because they’re on a par with “47%”, not because they’re a scandal.)

      • Deiseach says:

        Now you see, I don’t think the FBI is trying to influence the election, I think they’re doing their job. I think Hillary’s campaign is crying “Comey is a Republican!” and that is going over well with their supporters (I’ve seen plenty of people tearing strips off Comey as a stooge for the Evil Party), because it’s a classic distraction technique.

        From what I can make of it, the FBI more or less had to do something about the most recent emails, as it was part of a different investigation being carried out by the Department of Justice, so it wasn’t their decision whether or not the emails would be made public.

        Comey seems to have done all he could not to prosecute or say these were worthy of prosecution. I think the FBI is doing its job, and if the question “Had this been a revelation about a Republican candidate, would you want them to act differently or would you want them to decide it was all nothing of note?” would be answered by a Democrat or Clinton supporter, “Yes, I think the FBI should decide this was not worth pursuing had it been a Republican”, then I accept the outcry.

        But I very much feel that had it been a Republican, the same people looking for Comey’s head on a pike for making a big deal out of it would be looking for his head on a pike for not making a big deal out of it, and we’d be hearing yelling about “Of course he covered it up, he’s a Republican stooge!”.

        I think law enforcement should not be hobbled by political concerns when it comes to investigating the high and mighty, and to all those saying “Well, at long last! This should never have been a case in the first place!”, congratulations, you are now saying “all public service organisations should consider the interests of their political masters first and not make waves about anything that might make them look bad”. Remember, the principle you establish here will be used when you are out of power and your opposition succeed you. Do you want ‘some people are above the law’ to be established?

        • geekethics says:

          So, to be clear. I think having an investigation into Clinton is entirely proper. As is being open and transparent about it. I think the FBI investigation per se has been reasonable as far as I can tell.

          That’s not the same as saying that the PR spin on this was proper. Not to say that the Comey has not drafted his statements to the press and/or congress with an eye to making Clinton seem sleezy. *That’s* the influence peddling, rather than the investigation or judgement itself.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I’ll probably regret asking, but this is like a scab I just can’t stop picking.

            What if Clinton is genuinely sleazy?

            The heart of the “yes this is a scandal” camp’s argument is that, at the very least, several people on Clinton’s staff have gotten away with things that would have (and has) landed less well-connected people in jail. The dry facts of the FBI investigation report, and the raw content of the WikiLeaks releases both seem to corroborate this view.

            I share Deiseach’s sense that Comey would be getting raked over the coals regardless.

          • nancylebovitz says:

            It’s really annoying that both sides are making dire predictions about the effects of the other side winning, but we’re only going to be able to check one set of predictions.

            Personally, I’m dealing with this by assuming that even if Clinton is genuinely sleazy, it’s at a level which is much less destructive than a Trump presidency.

          • geekethics says:

            >What if Clinton is genuinely sleazy?

            She totally is. That’s why it’s an effective attack line. The best attacks are true.

            There’s a difference between sleazy/paranoid/hypocritical and actually harmfully corrupt.

            >I share Deiseach’s sense that Comey would be getting raked over the coals regardless.

            Yeah, I’ll agree with that. Whatever happens you can’t win on a case like this. Doesn’t mean he’s not using the opportunity in a partisan way.

          • “but we’re only going to be able to check one set of predictions.”

            “Back in 1964, they told me that if I voted for Goldwater we’d have riots in the cities and half a million troops in Viet Nam. And I did and we did.”

      • keranih says:

        I will never understand why people care about “the emails”. Sure, in a normal year they’d be disqualifying, but that’s because they’re on a par with “47%”, not because they’re a scandal

        As a point of reference, I will never understand why people don’t care about the emails. For reals, man, I don’t get this.

        If you could do so without getting unhappily worked up over it (because my election drama cup runnith over) explain why you feel that the deliberate subversion of transparency laws, evasion of compliance with Congressional inquiry, outright lying to the press and the American public (including by the US President) and failing to safeguard national interests is on par with the political uncouthness of a statement to the effect that nearly half the country isn’t paying income tax, (which is true, and is influential on voting patterns, but not as big a deal imo as people on both sides of the “inequality debate” have made it out to be).

        I don’t see how one at all approaches the other. Please help me understand how you see that equivalence.

        • geekethics says:

          My view is of course politicians are going to keep secrets. I’d be surprised to learn of a serious politician who hadn’t tried to get around transparency laws. I don’t think that keeping secrets is an important ethical blemish in a politician.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Usually I hear people saying something to the effect that “it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up”. It’s not often that I see someone argue the inverse.

            I’m actually kind of curious. What is your take on Nixon, or Clinton I?

          • cassander says:

            The email’s aren’t about keeping secrets. They’re about committing serious felonies, like obstruction of justice, lying to investigators, and violating the espionage act. People are in jail for much less, and she won’t even get a slap on the wrist.

          • geekethics says:

            >I’m actually kind of curious. What is your take on Nixon, or Clinton I?

            Clinton 1 I really don’t care about. Who a president has sex with is not relevant from a public policy point of view.

            Nixon was actually trying to use his powers as president to influence the outcome of an election. If you think the coverup is more important than *that* then we have very different priorities.

          • hlynkacg says:

            That’s interesting because from where I’m sitting that’s not what either of those scandals was about.

            In the case of Watergate, it’s pretty clear from the tapes that Hunt was operating on his own initiative and that Nixon’s primary involvement was in covering for him after the fact. How that is materially different from “keeping secrets” in your eyes?

            Likewise Clinton’s impeachment wasn’t about who he was having sex with, it was about having material evidence that he had previously lied under oath. If he had simply said “yes I fucked her, but it was totally consensual” when first confronted there wouldn’t have been much of a, if any, case for impeachment.

          • Jiro says:

            Who a president has sex with is not relevant from a public policy point of view.

            I think that feminism counts as public policy. Who Clinton has sex with was wrong by the standards of his feminist allies, and would be punished by the policies that he and they were making, except of course the rules don’t apply to their friends.

          • geekethics says:

            >and would be punished by the policies that he and they were making,

            I’ve not seen anyone claim that sleeping with Lewinsky was a crime at the time. Do you know differently?

          • suntzuanime says:

            Sexual harassment? Hard to think of a bigger power imbalance than an intern and the literal IRL President of the United States.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        (Aside: I will never understand why people care about “the emails”. Sure, in a normal year they’d be disqualifying, but that’s because they’re on a par with “47%”, not because they’re a scandal.)

        Because there is a history with the Clintons. If this were a relatively-new candidate, it wouldn’t matter that much.

        The Clinton legacy includes both good stuff and bad stuff. (Hillary obviously wants to run on the good stuff and omit the bad stuff.) The bad stuff includes lying to my face and attempts to dodge accountability.

        The initial (and continuing for months) reaction from the Clinton camp to the revelation that basic accountability measures were being sidestepped was that if I cared then I was a Fox-News-watching-hack.

        So. That’s how accountability is going to work for the next 4 years. Great.

      • John Schilling says:

        Aside: I will never understand why people care about “the emails”. Sure, in a normal year they’d be disqualifying, but that’s because they’re on a par with “47%”, not because they’re a scandal.

        The emails, and Clinton’s response to the emails, are the latest strong evidence that the Clintons believe themselves to be literally above the law.

        We have laws against doing what Clinton did, we have good reason for having those laws, we send people to jail for violating those laws in ways no worse than Hillary did, and if we sometimes don’t send them to jail it is usually because they confess and apologize when they get caught – and even then we don’t ever let them work in a sensitive position again.

        Unless it is a Clinton that gets caught, rather than one of the little people. Then it is time to accuse the accuser of being an Evil Republican Misogynist, how dare he try to make a scandal of this. And for Hillary to offer up evasions, denials, outright lies, and only as a last resort a pathetic not-apology apology.

        And, worse, not just the Clinton inner circle but virtually the entire Democratic electorate to agree that it is horribly inappropriate to make a big deal about Hillary breaking laws we demand other people obey.

        This is appropriate for a third-world kleptocracy; it is utterly toxic to good government and rule of law. If we have to allow this because the alternative is worse, that’s something for everyone who helped nominate Clinton to be ashamed of, and there should be no misunderstanding on that point.

        • Iain says:

          Can you be clear about the specific elements of what Clinton did with emails that you find troubling?

          Pretend that I am currently convinced by this Vox article and you are teaching me the error of my ways.

          • John Schilling says:

            She knowingly sent classified information – including literal Top Secret military attack plans – over an insecure channel. That is a flat-out felony crime, because it has to be if we don’t want our enemies to know all our secret military attack plans. She did this for reasons no better than a combination of the horrible, horrible inconvenience of having to carry two smartphones (as I am doing right now), and the ability to conveniently delete any email she didn’t want anyone else to see. When she was caught, the first thing she did was to delete half the emails on her system and demand that we trust her that she only deleted the harmless innocent ones. And then said a bunch of things about all of this that turned out not to be true, and when she got caught on that claimed that these were all honest mistakes.

            She’s good enough at being a crook, and she has enough friends in high places, that she’s not going to be convicted. From this, Vox will spin no end of stories about how this proves she’s not a crook at all. I am long past my tolerance for that, so if you want someone to do a point-by-point refutation of a Vox article you’ll have to look elsewhere. Or you could try finding a more trustworthy source in the first place.

          • Iain says:

            Do you have a source about “literal Top Secret military attack plans”? My understanding was that the emails that were categorized as Top Secret have not been released. Furthermore, when it was declared that they had been categorized Top Secret, the Clinton campaign sought to have the emails released to the public, which is a remarkably ballsy move if there is anything there that the public would find troubling.

            The Vox article has what I find to be a compelling response to the idea that we just have to take Clinton’s word that “she only deleted the harmless innocent ones”:

            Besides which, it would be almost comically easy to catch Clinton in the act of systematically destroying relevant emails. The vast majority of the work-related email correspondence of an incumbent secretary of state, after all, is going to be correspondence with other government employees. Maybe she shoots a note to the Pentagon about Benghazi, or circulates ideas for a speech draft with her communications team. Any message like that, by definition, would exist on a government server as well as on her private one. This means it would be fully accessible via FOIA and also means that if Clinton’s copy were found to not be in the pile of emails she turned over, she’d be caught red handed.

            If anybody had found the other end of a work-related email conversation, I expect we would be hearing about it. Are you aware of such an email?

            Like, seriously: where is the smoking gun here? If it existed, then you could just link me to it, instead of telling me that Vox is biased.

          • Brad says:

            She knowingly sent classified information – including literal Top Secret military attack plans – over an insecure channel. That is a flat-out felony crime, because it has to be if we don’t want our enemies to know all our secret military attack plans. She did this for reasons no better than a combination of the horrible, horrible inconvenience of having to carry two smartphones (as I am doing right now), and the ability to conveniently delete any email she didn’t want anyone else to see.

            You are (again) conflating two different things: the private server and use of the non-classified system to transmit classified information.

            Whether she used the private server or the official state department server is completely irrelevant to the question of sending classified information over an insecure channel. Both of those networks were insecure for the purposes of classification law.

            I don’t know why you keep on pushing this red herring.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Furthermore, when it was declared that they had been categorized Top Secret, the Clinton campaign sought to have the emails released to the public,

            It isn’t ballsy if you know they cannot be revealed.

            “Oh, American people, I wish they could be released, but the FBI says they can’t be!”

            I’m not commenting on the other specifics John has.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @Iain

            As per the FBI’s investigation report 8 of the email chains recovered contained material that had been classified Top Secret at the time they were sent. Of those 8, 7 had been marked Special Access, and 3 were supposed to be compartmentalized.

            As I’ve said in other threads, I get that most people don’t really understand or care about the various levels of classification or what all the different stamps and stickers mean. That said, those stamps do have meaning and these particular classifications are the “no shit guys we really do mean it this time” level of classification reserved for the stuff spy movies and political thrillers are about. There are specific procedures for handling this information, and people do go to jail for failing to follow those procedures.

            If you have something that has been marked for compartmentalization that the Sec. State really needs to know about, you do not put it an email. You either call them on the big red phone, or you write it out on a piece of paper and have an armed courier hand deliver it. (See Controls Freak’s bit on SIGINT in OT 61)

            In order for this material to end up on Clinton’s private email server someone had to first make a copy of it, and then send it over the internet. That’s a minimum of two felonies per email right there.

          • John Schilling says:

            Do you have a source about “literal Top Secret military attack plans”?

            Will CNN do, or do you need the raw data?

            My understanding was that the emails that were categorized as Top Secret have not been released.

            On account of their being Top Secret, such that releasing the actual emails would be a felony, yes. The FBI has released a general discussion of the contents of the emails with the actual classified bits redacted. Other sources have added context.

            TL,DR: The CIA or DOD tells Hillary something like, “We’re planning on blowing up Osama bin Johnson’s wedding tomorrow because we’re pretty sure Abdullah Bob is going to be there and we really need to take him out – is there going to be any diplomatic blowback we need to know about?” Details obviously fabricated by me. This inconveniently fails to happen during normal working hours on a business day, so rather than paging everyone and having them report to a SCIF, Hillary emails all her colleagues on State’s unclassified system and her private system – as brad has noted, both are unacceptable. The strike is eventually called off, possibly because of Clinton’s expert testimony on diplomatic blowback. So maybe that part is good.

            The bit where, per the FBI, “Clinton stated deliberation over a future drone strike did not give her cause for concern regarding classification”, that really ought to give you cause for concern regarding Clinton’s honesty and/or intelligence.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @hlynkacg

            There are electronic systems for TS/SCI communication; I imagine the Secretary of State would have access to one or more of them. (perhaps in her home SCIF that she was letting her maid into). No need for armed couriers hand delivering it.

            And then there’s stuff like this.

            https://wikileaks.org/podesta-emails/emailid/43648

            Here’s Hillary Clinton, passing along information including intelligence sources and methods (especially see #7) after her tenure at State. WTF?

          • Brad says:

            As I understand it, much of what we are talking about was “the military wants to do a strike on target X, we have two hours to object if that’s going to be a bad idea from the State Department point of view”. The state department got looped in on these calls in the first place because prior strikes where the State Department wasn’t consulted had diplomatic fallout.

            That kind of thing is highly classified for a good reason (don’t want X to leave the area), but it is also real time — if you miss the deadline than you may as well not have gotten the communication at all.

            Again as I understand it, State, for whatever reason, did not have a low latency system that the IC considered sufficiently secure for highly classified material. Maybe Congress didn’t want to pay for one?

            Edit: this is in response to hlynkacg’s post and was written before seeing the next two with which it is partly redundant.

          • Iain says:

            Looking at the FBI report: I’ve read through the relevant section (pages 20-26, if you would like to read along) a couple of times, and I have been unable to find any evidence that Hillary Clinton ever put anything classified into an email. There are email chains that include her, but they all originate with other people. There are 67 instances (page 22) where she forwarded emails to other State personnel – but, again, no indication that the classified information originated with her.

            Reading the summaries of the interviews, it seems clear to me that Clinton trusted the people under her to make reasonable assessments of what was classified, and that the people under her made a good-faith effort to comply with the restrictions. A couple of quotes specifically about the emails classified as Top Secret: “Sullivan stated that it [the SAP] was discussed on unclassified systems due to the operational tempo at that time, and State employees attempted to talk around classified information” (page 25); “…some of the emails were designed to inform State officials of media reports and […] merely confirmed what the public already knew” (page 24).

            I don’t know how you start at this report and end up with the image of Hillary Clinton gleefully sending top secret information to the enemies of the United States. At worst, people under her jurisdiction made judgement calls in a hurry that different State Department officials disagreed with later. The horror!

            The bit where, per the FBI, “Clinton stated deliberation over a future drone strike did not give her cause for concern regarding classification”, that really ought to give you cause for concern regarding Clinton’s honesty and/or intelligence.

            That depends heavily on what you imagine the deliberation to include. There are discussions that would concern me (“Hey, we found Osama. Here are his coordinates. Want to drone him? PS: here is the name of the informant”). There are discussions that would not concern me (“Hey look, somebody wrote an article about how we should be killing Osama with a drone. As if finding him is easy and deciding how to kill him afterwards is hard, lol”). There is all sorts of ground in between. In the absence of any evidence of the actual conversation, I suspect that pre-existing partisan sympathies will determine how concerning you find that quote.

          • John Schilling says:

            Reading the summaries of the interviews, it seems clear to me that Clinton trusted the people under her to make reasonable assessments of what was classified, and that the people under her made a good-faith effort to comply with the restrictions.

            By that logic, Al Capone got a bad rap. He didn’t cheat on his taxes at all, he just trusted his accountant to keep the books properly.

            I don’t know how you start at this report and end up with the image of Hillary Clinton gleefully sending top secret information to the enemies of the United States.

            I made no such claim. I claimed that Hillary Clinton sent top secret information to other US government officials, not “enemies of the United States”, but that she did so in an illegal manner. I made no statement regarding her mood while she did so.

            And you are not making a sincere attempt at communication.

          • 1soru1 says:

            > By that logic, Al Capone got a bad rap.

            Al Capone was a gangster. Hilary Clinton was a civil servant, and there is no evidence she was doing anything other than being a civil servant, in open collaboration with a large range of other civil servants who saw nothing unusual about anything she was doing.

            She was not a spy or military officer, and no doubt what she was doing would have been so considered out of order by those communities.
            But the case has been sufficiently investigated without finding anything that any explanation other than the obvious one she was doing the job in the way every predecessor did seems as near ruled out as politics gets.

            Sticking to your priors in the face of that volume of evidence seems bizarre.

          • Matt M says:

            “There are email chains that include her, but they all originate with other people. There are 67 instances (page 22) where she forwarded emails to other State personnel – but, again, no indication that the classified information originated with her.”

            For the record, this is completely irrelevant (or at least it would be for an average person with no political connections). People who receive classified information are pounded over the head with training (or at least, us mooks are, not sure if Clinton had to do it herself or not) about how EVERY link in the chain of custody is independently responsible for keeping the information secure. There is no “extra” punishment for security violations for documents you create yourself or whatever – you either properly secured classified information in your custody or you didn’t – period.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Nybbler

            Yes there are electronic systems for TS/SCI communication but they exist in the form of isolated networks, or strictly tight-beam station to station affairs. I would assume that Clinton had such a set up in her home SCIF but that still leaves the issue of how the material got from the SCIF to a private (non-government) computer network? Fact of the matter is that someone had to break compartmentalization and that right there is a felony.

            @ Iain & 1soru1

            You’re attacking a straw-man, the heart of the “yes this is a scandal” camp’s argument is that, at the very least, several people on Clinton’s staff have been allowed to get away with things that would have resulted in serious jail time for anyone else.

            The dry facts of the FBI investigation report, and the recent WikiLeaks releases both corroborate this view.

            In the end it’s about equality and the rule of law. The Democrats as a party are saying that there is one set of rules for the Patricians and another for the Plebes and the Plebes are understandably incensed.

          • 1soru1 says:

            > several people on Clinton’s staff have been allowed to get away with things that would have resulted in serious jail time for anyone else.

            http://www.military.com/daily-news/2016/01/30/a-look-at-federal-cases-on-handling-classified-information.html

            General Petraus: two years of probation and a $40,000 fine.

            John Deutch: pardoned before misdemeanour charges could be brought

            Sandy Berger: lost access to classified material for 3 years

            Bryan Nishimara: $7,500 fine.

            Hardly serious jail time. And in all of those cases, one or more of the following was true:

            1. the material they were dealing with was actually marked as such
            2. they were in the CIA or military, not a civilian
            3. they were stashing the material away to sell for personal profit (e.g. Petraus’s biography)
            4. they were hiding a blackmailable secret (Petraus’s affair; this is a point where I think the rules are justifiably different for the head of the CIA; is there anyone who would support Trump for that post?)

            The marking is key; if I tell you ‘we attack tomorrow’, then you have no reasonable way of knowing or suspecting that I am basing that on secret information, the crime is entirely on me. If I forward you an email marked ‘TOP SECRET’ saying ‘we attack tomorrow’, then that is entirely different.

            Otherwise, you could make anyone guilty of a felony by posting some innocuous phrase like ‘I like pizza’ and them doing nothing to report it.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            People who receive classified information are pounded over the head with training (or at least, us mooks are, not sure if Clinton had to do it herself or not) about how EVERY link in the chain of custody is independently responsible for keeping the information secure.

            I can buy this. But do we really, really think that HRC was supposed to read through every single email, the threads all the way down, each and every time she replied to any email?

            I still disqualify her because her use of the server and the immediate response indicates that she isn’t going to submit to normal oversight.

            I could also buy that her aides that initiated the email threads should be, at the least, disqualified from ever handling classified information.

          • Matt M says:

            ” But do we really, really think that HRC was supposed to read through every single email, the threads all the way down, each and every time she replied to any email?”

            No, she was supposed to not use a private, unsecured e-mail server for ANY communication that MIGHT contain classified info – which, due to the nature of her job, is probably the vast majority of communications period.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Okay, so say this all happened on the state.gov server. Wouldn’t it be the same scenario?

          • Iain says:

            @John Schilling

            I made no such claim. I claimed that Hillary Clinton sent top secret information to other US government officials, not “enemies of the United States”, but that she did so in an illegal manner. I made no statement regarding her mood while she did so.
            And you are not making a sincere attempt at communication.

            I apologize. I was having fun with hyperbole. I do not actually think you believe that. That said, I spent half an hour reading through primary documents and cited page numbers for reference. If you do not think I am making a sincere attempt at communication, I do not know what evidence would convince you.

            @Matt M

            People who receive classified information are pounded over the head with training (or at least, us mooks are, not sure if Clinton had to do it herself or not) about how EVERY link in the chain of custody is independently responsible for keeping the information secure.

            Legitimate question: how much emphasis does this training place on identifying information that should be classified, but is not marked as such? The reason I ask is that none of the documents that the FBI found on Clinton’s server had a header or footer indicating that they were classified. Eight emails (in three chains) contained a (C) that might indicate CONFIDENTIAL material (or, hypothetically, the third item in an alphabetical list. The FBI document is unclear on whether the alphabetical list explanation makes sense; you can read it for yourself on page 20 here.)

            @hlynkacg

            You’re attacking a straw-man, the heart of the “yes this is a scandal” camp’s argument is that, at the very least, several people on Clinton’s staff have been allowed to get away with things that would have resulted in serious jail time for anyone else.

            Straw man? I was directly addressing John Schilling’s claim that Hillary Clinton “knowingly sent classified information – including literal Top Secret military attack plans – over an insecure channel”. You may not want to defend that claim, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been made.

          • Matt M says:

            “Legitimate question: how much emphasis does this training place on identifying information that should be classified, but is not marked as such?”

            Before I answer, I’d like to offer a disclaimer that I’m not particularly interested in the details of this scandal, and as a result, have not done much research on it, nor am I interested in reading up about it.

            Answer: Little. The onus would typically be on the sender of the message to ensure they are sending it to a secured source. Whether or not the senders of these messages knew or should have suspected that Clinton was using an unsecured source is likely the crux of the issue. If the setup was basically some sort of auto-forward system designed to help make things more convenient for her, that’s a huge security violation on her part. If; however, she was very clear that this particular email address was for routine, non-secure information, and other people sent her classified stuff on it and failed to properly mark it, the overwhelming majority of the responsibility is theirs, not hers.

            People are encouraged to spot and properly secure unmarked or improperly marked classified material – but generally speaking, working practice is that you assume your colleagues know what they’re doing.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:
            In the words of Trump …. Wrong.

            Anything sent to Clinton’s email was not on the secure channel, no matter whether the server was private or not. It would have been just the same to send it a state.gov server as to her private server.

            And everyone who sent emails to her knew they weren’t on the hardened, classified system.

          • Iain says:

            People are encouraged to spot and properly secure unmarked or improperly marked classified material – but generally speaking, working practice is that you assume your colleagues know what they’re doing.

            Okay, cool. Thanks for the clarification.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ 1soru1

            Your list is far from complete, and pretty much everyone on it plead to a lesser charge in exchange for leniency. The DOJ under Obama has been particularly aggressive about prosecuting title 793 & 794 violations thus far which is one of the reasons their decision not to prosecute in this is so notable.

            @ Iain

            Knowingly sending classified material over an unsecured channel and “gleefully sending top secret information to the enemies of the United States”, as you put it, are not the same thing.

            @ HeelBearCub

            And everyone who sent emails to her knew they weren’t on the hardened, classified system.

            That’s the thing that really get’s my goat. Even if we concede the point that Hillary herself is not at fault we are still left with a situation where being besties with the future president allows you to break the law with impunity while sexually confused kids from Oklahoma get sent away for 35 to life.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @hlynkacg:
            Surely you aren’t comparing Manning with Clinton? That’s absolutely ridiculous. Manning knowingly and intentionally gave thousands upon thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks, without even knowing the contents (so a whistleblower claim falls).

            Whereas I’m sure that many, many people all over the government have, for instance, discussed the CIA drone strikes over email in elliptical or non-elliptical terms. Because it’s been widely reported but is still classified.

            People at State were going about doing their jobs, not intentionally leaking things.

          • Matt M says:

            “People at State were going about doing their jobs, not intentionally leaking things.”

            When I was in the Navy, I had to spend 10-15 minutes per day checking our secure messages. This required me to get up, go to a little room (closet), open it with a combination lock (code known only to me and my assistant, illegal to write down), log in to a ridiculously slow computer system with an entirely separate account and complex password (also illegal to write down), boot it up, log in, and check the messages. We were very unimportant, received maybe less than 5 secret messages (zero TS) in my four years on the job. None of them were about any super important spy stuff.

            It would have made my life a lot easier and freed up a decent amount of time for other stuff if I could have just auto-forwarded that account to my unsecure account. This would not have been a malicious act on my part – I would have been “just doing my job.” I also would have been in a HUGE amount of trouble for it – probably facing jail time.

            Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the government’s INFOSEC policy, it is very specific and very clear about what the expectations are, and typically drops the hammer with the fury of a thousand suns on anyone who violates it, even if accidentally or for totally benign purposes. Except the politically well connected. Do you not see how this might be upsetting to some people?

          • Brad says:

            State is not now nor has ever been under the jurisdiction of DoD or its INFOSEC policy. A bunch of (ex)mil types on here can’t seem to accept that.

          • bean says:

            State is not now nor has ever been under the jurisdiction of DoD or its INFOSEC policy. A bunch of (ex)mil types on here can’t seem to accept that.

            That’s not true, except in the pedantic sense that State doesn’t answer to the DoD on the matter. The INFOSEC policy in question is laid out in an executive order, and applies to the entire government, except the DoE, which has its own system. The regs the ex-military people here had to work under are the exact same ones that Clinton was supposed to obey.

          • Matt M says:

            Realized after I posted and edited to correct.

            While they are technically separate – I have to imagine their policies are very similar. It would make very little sense for them to not be – but I entertain that possibility, in which case any of my anecdotal knowledge (which is about the only knowledge I have on this) would be irrelevant.

          • Brad says:

            The State Department has never, and didn’t under Clinton, have the same attitude and practices regarding classified information that prevails in DoD and the IC departments. I’m sure it still doesn’t to this day.

            DoD, the NSA, the CIA, and so on as institutions have long been deeply unhappy about what they see as a caviler attitude over at Foggy Bottom.

            Any of the Presidents could have stepped in and done something about this. Either via their own efforts, via their selection of a Sec. of State that shared their view of things, or via the Attorney General taking an aggressive prosecution stance. They have not done so. Congress, conceivably could have done something about it, though that would mean giving up their addiction to ducking responsibility for anything and everything by delegating to the President. It would also have mean significant additional spending, another thing they are loath to do.

            None of our elected officials have done anything about this. They apparently don’t see the trade-offs in doing so as worth it. Now maybe you think that is a serious problem. Maybe you think Obama and GWB (and Clinton and various Congresses) have been shockingly derelict in their duties in this area. Taking that into account when voting is perfectly reasonable. But pretending that Clinton and her aides were somehow huge outliers that thought they were above the law because you compare standard State practices to the rules laid out for military service members and find the former wanting is just not great reasoning.

            N.B. this entire argument has nothing at all to do with the email server, which is a compeltely seperate issue from the classified information on anything other than systems rated for them

          • bean says:

            The State Department has never, and didn’t under Clinton, have the same attitude and practices regarding classified information that prevails in DoD and the IC departments. I’m sure it still doesn’t to this day.

            This is very different from your earlier claim that they weren’t under the same legal authority. “The State Department is traditionally lax with classified information” is not actually a defense to what Hillary did. Legally, she should face the same penalties that any of our commentators would have if they’d done the same thing. Even if State gives people a pass on some things the DoD/IC might act against, they have taken action in very similar cases to this in the past.

          • Brad says:

            Even if State gives people a pass on some things the DoD/IC might act against, they have taken action in very similar cases to this in the past

            Who? Which State Department employee was ever indicted for doing anything similar to what Clinton did?

            This is very different from your earlier claim that they weren’t under the same legal authority.

            That language was in direct response to a Matt M’s earlier post which has since been edited (as he mentions in his 11:38 post).

          • John Schilling says:

            The State Department has never, and didn’t under Clinton, have the same attitude and practices regarding classified information that prevails in DoD and the IC departments.

            Right. The DoD as a matter of practice obeys the law. State is full of people who habitually violate laws like 18 U.S. Code § 793 (f). Being in the company of people who habitually violate the law, and having the attitude that violating the law is just peachy, does not make one any less of a criminal.

            And being Secretary of State, makes one more responsible than anyone else on the planet for making sure the State department does obey the law, to purge it of any attitudes and practices contrary to same.

            Being a blog commenter means you can, if you wish, come up with endless rationalizations why it is OK for your favorite politician to break the law whenever her attitudes and practices call for her to do so. But you’re just making yourself look silly to everyone who hasn’t drunk the same brand of Kool-Aid.

          • Brad says:

            Any decent ADA could find six federal laws a random person off the street has violated before lunch. It’s a game they play to amuse themselves.

            When Comey said that no reasonable prosecutor would bring that case, it was entirely accurate. As far as I can tell no one has ever been convicted of violating the 793(f) you trumpet — in no small part because the law it was part of was construed very narrowly in the 40s in order to avoid constitutional problems.

            The rigid legalistic view you are pushing, if adopted, would grind the country to a halt. I understand why the military likes to indoctrinate its members into that kind of mindset, but it isn’t appropriate outside that context.

            You want to think that you are the clear eyed one and a majority of your fellow citizens are Kool Aid drinkers, that’s certainly your right. I’m not worried about appearing silly from that viewpoint.

            Late edit:

            The DoD as a matter of practice obeys the law.

            This, btw, doesn’t pass the straight face test given the military’s participation in torture which is illegal under domestic law and jus cogens. Congress had to pass a special retroactive immunity laws in 2005 and 2009 in order to ensure that no one would ever be prosecuted for that lawlessness.

          • bean says:

            Who? Which State Department employee was ever indicted for doing anything similar to what Clinton did?

            Note that I did not specify indictment, because I couldn’t support it. The case I was thinking of was Scott Gration, who screwed up in a lot of ways, including using personal email for official business. That wasn’t the only factor, I will admit, but it was clearly not OK enough to be something the IG picked up on. Note that the report on his conduct was released nearly a year before Clinton stepped down as SecState, so she should’ve noticed that she was doing the same.

            That language was in direct response to a Matt M’s earlier post which has since been edited (as he mentions in his 11:38 post).

            I don’t recall what would have sparked your post in the unedited version.

          • Matt M says:

            “Congress, conceivably could have done something about it, though that would mean giving up their addiction to ducking responsibility for anything and everything by delegating to the President.”

            I can think of one fairly famous senator who tried. It didn’t go so well for him…

          • Controls Freak says:

            The State Department has never, and didn’t under Clinton, have the same attitude and practices regarding classified information that prevails in DoD and the IC departments. I’m sure it still doesn’t to this day.

            The best test, as usual, is to find/replace the organization that you like with an organization you dislike. So, “The NSA has never, and didn’t under [Director], have the same attitude and practices regarding [law] that prevails in [other parts of the government]. I’m sure it doesn’t to this day.”

            So, do you have a general aversion to following the law (to avoid “rigid legalistic views”) even if the agency in question is NSA, or do you think there is a specific reason why State is right to routinely break the law in this particular type of case?

        • cassander says:

          >The emails, and Clinton’s response to the emails, are the latest strong evidence that the Clintons believe themselves to be literally above the law.

          Why shouldn’t they believe it? At this point, it’s quite clear that they are.

    • Mark says:

      An example of irritating media bias:

      Creepy Trump:
      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-jennifer-hawkins-video_us_58137b85e4b0390e69cfbbba

      Creepy Joe Biden:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKjuTv85Maw&feature=youtu.be

      Coverage is highly partisan and a bit mad. My sense is that the pro-Clinton people are worse because “immigration controls = Hitler” makes less sense to me than “the elite aren’t looking out for your best interests/ this specific leader is corrupt/ the elite are engaged in a giant conspiracy and are devil worshipping child abusers” – but that’s mainly a matter of taste.

      • hyperboloid says:

        I realize that people can sometimes be willing to believe almost anything about their political opponents, but do you really think Joe Biden is a pedophile based on that video?

        The audio is hard to make out but I’m hearing something like “I know how hard it is to be a thirteen year old girl…..{inaudible}…..you should talk to my daughter..{inaudible}” don’t you think that’s a lot more likely then Joe Biden being such a pervert that he not only lusts after thirteen year old girls, but is also incapable of restraining himself in a room full of people?

    • keranih says:

      As a strong anti-Clinton voter who feels that the Democrats have a long standing practice of using shady to unethical means to tilt elections in their favor…

      …there’s not much evidence, in a legal sense, and – like most conspiracy theories – in reality there’s not much room for actual outright actionable shenanigans.

      I think there’s a lot of “oh, let us Do The Right Thing and help Educate The Unwashed Masses” on the part of the press, who feel they are doing their part to Slay Demons, and that a necessary part of Slaying Demons is to lie your ass off to yourself about whether you’re being partial to one side or not. I do think they are exercising a great deal influence about which stories to pursue and which ones to fail to cover with any depth, and this means a positive spin on D’s and a negative spin on R’s. But that’s as much group think of over-educated coastal liberals than any conspiracy.

      I think that some ballot stuffing goes on – it’s been a long standing tradition in American history (the number of kids these days who have never heard of Tammany Hall is deeply disappointing) and until we get a better handle on voter id & absentee ballot verification, it’ll still be going on. But I think it’s far better now than in the past with the “union” ballots.

      I sat through the sturm & drang of Florida elections in 2000 and 2004, including accusations of ballot stuffing because certain Panhandle counties had had more votes for Republican candidates than registered Republicans (because some very…concerned and…enthusiastic out-of-state people didn’t realize the history of single-party local politics there).

      I prefer paper ballots, myself, but on my list of reason why the ADA sucks, modern electronic ballot machines are pretty far down the list.

      TL;DR – The old stand-by has been “if it’s not close, they can’t cheat” and it’s more or less conservative’s own fault for letting the election get this close. This could have been a walk-away.

      • DrBeat says:

        This election is both of their faults. All either side had to do was nominate a candidate who wasn’t reprehensible in order to win by a landslide. It was the opposite of a Prisoner’s Dilemma and yet they both managed to defect against themselves.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Yes. This US election really shows the problems with the primary system in a big way.

          • DrBeat says:

            Trump shows the problems of a primary system, Clinton shows the problems of not a primary system because the entire Democratic leadership had anointed her the chosen victor from day 1 and tipped the scales in her favor at every stage of the process. The Clinton nomination is exactly the kind of thing primaries are there to prevent.

          • Creutzer says:

            On the other hand, one could argue that apparently, primaries fail at preventing what they’re supposed to prevent, and if they hadn’t been there, then the Democrats would at least have been duly punished for nominating someone they really shouldn’t have nominated.

        • Nyx says:

          > All either side had to do was nominate a candidate who wasn’t reprehensible in order to win by a landslide.

          Three years ago, Clinton had great approval ratings, a popular husband (most people remember the Clinton years fondly), a wealth of experience both in congress and the White House, huge name recognition, experience running a nationwide political campaign and the overwhelming support of the party machine. She looked like a perfect candidate. She doesn’t look like a perfect candidate now. I wonder what happened? The election. The same would have been true for Warren, for Sanders, for Bush! for Paul, for Cruz, for Rubio, for everyone. I don’t think there’s a way to be a politician and remain popular in the United States. Why are Obama’s approval ratings improving? Because he’s about to stop being President, and all those Republicans can finally have closure. “Bill Cosby is dead? Now I can finally wear sweaters again.”

          • suntzuanime says:

            I dunno, I was still reprehensing Clinton pretty hard three years ago. I mean arguably that’s because I have a longer attention span than the people you poll for approval ratings, but still, if you were paying attention you should have known she had serious weaknesses.

            Just the Benghazi incident alone should have proven she wasn’t precisely a *perfect* candidate. And experience running a nationwide political campaign is a lot less impressive if it’s the same campaign you’re running this time because you lost last time. One might wonder, might the problems you had last time that caused you not to win still be problems?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Ding, ding, ding.

            Winner, winnner, chicken dinner.

            Edit: Nyx has the right of it.

            Suntzu, remember that a 60/40 vote split is a historic level beatdown and that most people who vote don’t pay attention to politics until about August of the election year.

          • suntzuanime says:

            You’re delusional if you think that someone like Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren wouldn’t be looking better than Clinton right now. Yes they’d be dragged down by electoral politics, but it’s a matter of degree and how much room there is to work with.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            You’re delusional

            If I am, then why didn’t Warren or Biden run? Were they delusional as well?

          • suntzuanime says:

            There are obviously other considerations, don’t be silly.

            Just to take one example, Sanders would also be looking better than Clinton right now, but he didn’t win the nomination, because the fix was in.

          • Iain says:

            Sanders is a self-identified socialist. You don’t think Trump could have made hay with that?

          • suntzuanime says:

            They said that about Obama as well. It’s not clear that people care as much as they used to, it seems like a principled socialist may be less offensive than an unprincipled crook. But that wasn’t the main point, my point was that just because you would look less reprehensible than Clinton on the eve of the election doesn’t mean you’d be wise to challenge her in the primary.

          • Sandy says:

            If I am, then why didn’t Warren or Biden run? Were they delusional as well?

            Biden didn’t run because his son died and that took away any appeal the presidency had for him. That actually might have helped him in a hypothetical race because he’d have a lot of sympathy, but it’s understandable why he didn’t feel like running. And quite frankly Biden is a lot more charismatic than Hillary is, so I don’t doubt that he could have done better.

            I don’t think Warren could have won. Popular with white progressives but not a big name for other demographics. She’d have the same problem Sanders did.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            It was pretty obvious, to me, that the Clintons were forcing everyone else out of the primary, to stop any kind of Obama-like surprise like in 2008. The only reason Sanders was in because was because Sanders either a) didn’t give a shit because he’s not a Dem, b) was never on Clinton’s radar, or c) didn’t give a shit because he considered Clinton a corporate tool.

            This was before the emails were revealed where the DNC was completely in the tank for Clinton. And when it was found out DWS joined Clinton’s campaign.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Sanders wasn’t a Democrat before, and isn’t a Democrat now. He didn’t get in thinking he could win, he got in to move the party left.

            Clinton kept absolute kid gloves on when dealing with Sanders. She never attacked him. And the arguments against Trumps unpreparedness start to look weaker once Bernie makes some terrible gaffes on the campaign trail.

            Biden and Warren didn’t think they could win. Clinton worked to sow up the “mainstream of the party” nomination 3 years ago. She had all the money, all the super-delegates, all the endorsements. Yeah, Sanders made her sweat, but that doesn’t mean Biden or Warren could have won the nomination.

          • suntzuanime says:

            I never said Biden or Warren could have won the nomination. I strongly implied the opposite, in fact. Please try to pay attention.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @suntzu:
            You did? Where?

            (Edit: I see now that the was another comment slipped in past what I was referring to. I don’t think it actually really matters to my point, though)

            All I saw was you saying that Biden or Warren would have done better in the general.

            And all I am saying is HRC was incredibly strong as a Dem candidate, and we don’t have the counterfactual scenario where Biden or Warren actually gets evaluated as the Democratic nominee for President.

            Let’s look at another example. When did people, outside of strongly partisan Rs, start hating Al Gore?

          • suntzuanime says:

            Did you miss the part where I said “yes they’d be dragged down by electoral politics, but it’s a matter of degree”? Like seriously, are you even bothering to read?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @suntzu:
            As you can see, I missed one of your posts.

            I would agree that Warren or Biden probably would be running ahead of Clinton. But, how many percentage points to you think that is?

            Do you think Warren or Biden would have won in a landslide? How do you define a landslide? Would you have voted for either of them? Would either of them have caused the last blue-collar midwestern whites to stick with the Democrats?

            Obviously, we can’t run the counter factual, but I think a) it would not have been a definite cakewalk for any other candidate without even any potential problems, b) Trump is exposing a real hunger in a plurality of the voters that was clearly already there, c) unless we get the oppo dump and grind that comes with a campaign, we can’t know what mistakes they would have made and problems they would have had, and d) there is a huge chunk of the electorate that is not up for grabs in any given election, they are going to back their party candidate.

      • Quite aside from claims about the current election, the extensive use of mail-in ballots now makes vote buying pretty easy. You don’t have to trust the seller to vote the way he agreed to. He just signs his ballot, doesn’t fill it in, and sells it on the black market.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          What do you think it would go for?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          You better be real sure your whole operation can identify people who will comply and won’t squeal with a high degree of accuracy.

          • keranih says:

            Snitches, you know, get stitches.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Which is why there has never, ever been a police informant ever.

            Unless you have one party rule, this is the kind thing that federal prosecutors make a whole a career from.

          • The voter who sells the ballot can’t squeal. All he knows is that some guy gave him twenty bucks for his ballot. He has no way of knowing who that guy was working for.

            The most likely scenario for vote buying or fraud is (local) one party rule. The Chicago machine wants to make sure Illinois goes for the Democrats–and the police are part of the machine, so not looking very hard for machine fraud.

          • keranih says:

            Which is why there has never, ever been a police informant ever.

            Ah, yes, because cops sweating out suspects for hours on end over poll fraud is a thing.

            one party rule

            …like, well, urban CA? Chicago? Detroit? Baltimore? Large chunks of large urban centers across the rest of the country?

    • cassander says:

      Votes are stolen every year. The easiest places to steal votes are large urban centers like Chicago, almost all of which are overwhelmingly Democratic. It’s almost tautological to assume that whatever rigging there is in the election, it will break against Trump.

      In terms of subtler effects, like media, there I fall back on the old reliable that one should never blame conspiracy where idiocy (or in this case, people’s natural inclinations) is a sufficient explanation. Confirmation bias alone is enough to assume that democratic reporters will naturally downplay democratic scandals, and republican reporters republican. You don’t need a conspiracy when the media is composed almost entirely of your faithful admirers.

    • Nyx says:

      > It’s obvious just by paying attention that the media is pretty much universally siding with Hillary Clinton over him, but what about other claims?

      Sure. But why shouldn’t they? Trump wants to expand libel laws so he can sue people who criticize him. In fact he already does that as a private citizen. Of course the media are going to hate him. Maybe if he wanted more positive media coverage, he shouldn’t deliberately antagonize media organizations.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Maybe if he wanted more positive media coverage, he shouldn’t deliberately antagonize media organizations.

        With much of the media essentially being part of the Hillary Clinton campaign and taking direction from it, it wouldn’t matter that much. There’s no point in pandering to those who are against him regardless, and attacking the media scores him points with others.

      • suntzuanime says:

        Yes, if you’ve accepted that the role of journalism is to advance the political interests of journalists, this makes sense.

        • ChetC3 says:

          What other professions do you expect to act against their self-interest out of pure (ie, uncompensated) idealism?

          • suntzuanime says:

            Many journalists are paid. If you’re saying, what professions do I expect to carry out their professional obligations for only their ordinary salary I would say “all of them”.

            For example, I expect the software engineer who designs banking software not to shave off fractional pennies and deposit them in her personal account, out of what you might call “pure, uncompensated idealism” and I would call “doing her fucking job”.

          • ChetC3 says:

            I meant what professions do you expect will act that way, not what professions do you think should act that way.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Well, most of them? Journalists seem especially bad, most professionals seem by and large to care about their professional ethics. I guess cops are another profession that I tend to expect to violate their duties? But like doctors, engineers, scientists, by and large we expect them to act in accordance with their professional obligations, and we would be upset if they violated that. We are upset when the police routinely violate their professional obligations. So why are you talking like there’s something wrong with being upset at journalists?

            Like, the hypothetical example I gave is one that doesn’t happen often, and we are outraged when it does.

          • Matt M says:

            “For example, I expect the software engineer who designs banking software not to shave off fractional pennies and deposit them in her personal account”

            A better example might be “I expect banks not to develop an algorithm that secretly siphons funds away from Super PACs which support candidates who favor more extensive banking regulation”

            I imagine if progressives found out some bank was doing that, they wouldn’t shrug it off as “Hey, they gotta do what they gotta do to protect their profession right?”

    • Jacob says:

      Republicans have a long and proud history of voter suppression, then when democrats fight back they scream about vote-rigging and dead people voting.

      1. Shelby vs. Holder gave back certain states the right to control their own elections free of federal government interference, and then we promptly found out why the federal government was interfering. North Carolina deliberately targeted black voters when removing voting methods.

      2. The RNC is under a “consent decree” to stop interfering with elections in predominantly black districts.

      3. A lot of people have replied about media collusion with the Clinton campaign. I agree it’s a problem that our media is not fully independent of the government, and doesn’t hold them to task. Trump has Steve Bannon, head of Breitbart, in charge of his campaign. A bigger conflict of interest I can’t even imagine.

      4. Over the years there have been literally dozens of cases of voter fraud. Voter disenfranchisement happens by thousands, tens of thousands, maybe millions per year, and definitely alters elections.

      4a. From the same link above:

      Florida’s aggressive efforts to root out voter fraud before the 2000 election erroneously purged 12,000 names from the voter rolls—of the 12,000, 44 percent, more than 4,700 voters—were African American. That was more than enough votes to change the outcome of that year’s presidential election. (my note: Bush “won” Florida by about 500 votes)

      The best way to rig an election isn’t to stuff the ballot box, that’s too obvious, it’s to stop your political opponents from voting.

  3. hnau says:

    Speaking of linking to websites and not endorsing them: I noticed that the sidebar link to Unequally Yoked disappeared recently. Anyone know if there was a particular reason for that?

  4. Sandy says:

    I found this essay on nydwracu’s blog and wondered what people more familiar with African geopolitics thought of it. It’s a very Moldbuggian “international community as global predator” kind of thing, I thought.

    • James Miller says:

      Excellent essay that could be titled “Bono helps Moloch rule the Congo.”

    • SEE says:

      Well, I think there are two major problems with it.

      1) It’s irrational on the “natural rulers” stuff.
      2) It gets near but misses the real big picture in its effort to shoot at people the author doesn’t like.

      The big picture is simple enough. Francafrique, now including the former Belgian colonies since nominal decolonization, is the imperial realm of France. The local divisions and their balance of power are maintained, by France, for the foremost purpose of preserving French power and influence. All the “do-gooders” amount to is occasionally-convenient dressing to cover up the bare power plays of raison d’État. The “international community” is a cipher; it’s just everybody else nodding along while France does what it likes, because nobody else sees any profit in challenging French control of its sphere of influence.

    • Creative Username 1138 says:

      Gary Brecher/John Dolan is very old style armed struggle left-wing (pro FARC, pro IRA, pro Vietcong). He uses reactionary as an insult.

      The old stuff as Gary Brecher are according to him written in character as an American nationalist.

    • Jugemu says:

      Interesting, but doesn’t seem very plausible to me that mining companies would actively want Congo to be violent and chaotic, or that this would actually making things more profitable for them.

      • Sandy says:

        I don’t know if this is actually the case on the ground level, but in the absence of a stable government, mining companies could be dealing with militias and informal groups who agree to lower prices for mineral extraction rights just to keep their operations running so they can keep fighting in their war. Organization produces bargaining power.

        • Jugemu says:

          It could possibly be cheaper day-to-day (though not obviously so), but it seems much higher risk.

          • SEE says:

            The risk in mining company terms is risk to the bottom line. And in those terms, while the risk of short-term shutdowns due to violence because local governments are weak is undesirable, it is superior to the (historically predictable) nationalization of the mines by powerful local governments.

            Really, they’d rather have an open, centralized, powerful, competently-run French colonial empire, but it’s politically impossible on both domestic and international levels for France to run one.

            So they settle for a peace between lots of weak local factions who have to worry about the influence the mining companies have with the French government. That weakness necessarily leaves the whole system vulnerable to outbreaks violence and chaos, but on a ten-year scale, losing two years’ production to wars is better than losing all your invested capital and having to compete against the nationalized mine in the world market.

          • Jugemu says:

            I see – I was thinking more about taxes (which don’t seem to be worth government stability to avoid) than nationalization risk (which might be).

      • James Miller says:

        Mining companies will be competing with each other for extraction rights, and the ones that have the advantage in dealing with the violence and chaos will prefer this environment to having a stable government.

    • JulieK says:

      This part is interesting:

      To show you what I mean, imagine that there’d been a United Nations, a lot of NGOs, and a noisy meddlesome “international community” to barge in when we were starting our Civil War in 1861. How would the Civil War have ended? Simple: it wouldn’t have. The “peacekeepers” would have intervened exactly when one side was starting to win—say, the summer of 1863—to freeze the two sides in position, “halt the killing,” and encourage a stalemate that left everything up in the air.

      (My opinion of Sophie’s World shifted when I got to the part where Hilda’s father says it would be a good idea to let UN peacekeepers solve the Mideast conflict.)

      But his economic ideas are pretty stupid:

      And the peacekeepers, all those well-meaning French and English dudes, would not only get to feel good about their humanitarian work, they could rest easy knowing they’d knocked a potential economic competitor out of the running for centuries to come.

      Okay, if he believes it, maybe the hypothetical French and English dudes would believe it as well, but it’s still a mistake that a dirt-poor conflict-ridden hellhole is preferable to an economically competitive trading partner.

      • SEE says:

        Incidentally, the noisy meddlesome “international community” did try to barge into the US Civil War. They just didn’t have the power to do so over the objections of the Union. Lincoln told the British that if they recognized the Confederacy, the US would declare war on Britain — which would have halted US grain exports to the UK and threatened Canadian exports, which would have caused Britain to starve.

        If the British had had a secure supply of food, or the “international community” sufficient military advantage that Lincoln could not have credibly threatened to go to war with Britain, the “international community” probably would have intervened and forced an armistice.

        • Matt M says:

          Not a historical expert on this by any means, but I’ve always had the impression that England was largely waiting on the Confederacy to win a major battle in Union territory and thus prove they had the capability to actually win the war, rather than just hold out indefinitely.

          • SEE says:

            I disagree a little. yes, they were waiting. But I don’t think anyone thought the Confederacy on its own could impose a settlement by military means, even if it won several battles on Union soil. What a Confederate victory in Union territory would have done is prove that the Confederacy indeed could hold out indefinitely.

            A major military defeat for the Union in Union territory would prove that the Union was unable to execute a siege-based victory strategy. The “Anaconda Plan” would be unable to work if the Confederacy could break the grip of the snake; intervention would then be seen as forcing the Union to accept the inevitable.

            A Confederate offensive victory would also demonstrate that the Union had its hands full just fighting the Confederacy, and thus would be overstretched trying to fight on the Canadian frontier or in a wider naval war. That is, it would have been the evidence needed to demonstrate that an intervention could be successful, by demonstrating the Union was at the limits of its reserves. Without a Confederate victory, the depth of Union reserve military power, and thus ability to fight a wider war, was difficult to ascertain.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            IDK, this seems to fall prey to the fallacy Scott talks about in “Tuesday Should Not Change The Narrative”. Armies win and lose battles for all sorts of reasons, and a country with significant demographic and industrial advantages doesn’t suddenly lose those just because they happen to lose a battle, or just because the battle they happen to lose is in one region rather than another.

            Of course, policymakers do fall into logical fallacies and make bad decisions on this basis, so I’m not ruling out your explanation entirely.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          which would have halted US grain exports to the UK and threatened Canadian exports, which would have caused Britain to starve.

          Just like the CSA embargo caused global economic collapse due to cotton shortages, I suppose.

          Anyway, the US had difficulty enough defeating the South alone, getting into a war against the world’s foremost naval power, which also had one of the best armies of the time and happened to be the Union’s main source for imported weapons, would not go very well at all. The lack of British involvement in the USCW had far more to do with their dislike of a group of (literally) militant slave-owners than any fear of US power.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            Yeah. This notion that Britain didn’t intervene because it feared US power (either military or economic via grain imports) is total historical nonsense. If anything, the situation in 1861 was the opposite – the US actively avoided courting British hostility at every opportunity.

            The Trent affair, for example – the Lincoln administration backed down. “One war at a time,” the President remarked.

            The Emancipation Proclamation was also formulated with an eye towards foreign powers – it made it politically impossible for Britain, with its large anti-slavery populace, to intervene in favor of the South.

            The “international community” of 1861 – basically Britain and France as the only colonial powers that mattered – conspicuously did not intervene in our civil war, and it wasn’t because they feared the US Navy.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            It’s been a while since I looked into it, but from what I recall during the Trent affair people in Britain generally took it for granted that, if they chose to go to war over the incident, they’d be able to beat the Americans at least badly enough to get reparations and an admission that the US had bene in the wrong. Those MPs who did oppose war generally did so on the grounds that this would indirectly help the CSA, not because they thought Britain would be unable to win.

      • Jiro says:

        imagine that there’d been a United Nations, a lot of NGOs, and a noisy meddlesome “international community” to barge in when we were starting our Civil War in 1861.

        Because of slavery, people say all sorts of unprincipled things about the Civil War, applying standards they would never apply to anything else. So any arguments to the effect of “according to that reasoning, the Civil War would…” are suspicious. It’s not invoking the Civil War to say “if this was true the outcome of the Civil War would have been worse by rational standards”. It’s invoking the Civil War to say “if this happened, then that would have helped the South and saying that the South should have been helped is something done only by evil racist unpersons, so you’d better not”.

    • Tekhno says:

      It sets off my “progressive” and “reactionary” detectors at the same time.

  5. shakeddown says:

    Speaking of elections: I just found this clip by Abe Simpson that shows how pretty much everyone reacts to any political argument.

  6. cmurdock says:

    Hey Scott, you ever considered making Unsong available on Lulu or some other service? I’d like to read it, but IMO physical books are way better than e-books.

    • The Pachyderminator says:

      Not to speak for Scott, but I imagine he’d be happy to allow people to have copies privately printed, just as some people did for HPMOR. You’d probably want to wait until the story is completed, though, which will probably be several more months.

      ETA: The best guess at this point for the story’s total length is 72 chapters. If this is correct, it should fit comfortably in two volumes of ~400 pages each.

      • oldman says:

        Why is 72 chapters the best guess? There are 66 books in the bible – so I’d assumed it was going to match that. Am I missing something obvious?

        • sharedvi says:

          It’s the number of letters in the Shem HaMephorash

        • The Pachyderminator says:

          Also, this will lead to the story being finished at the same time the beginning of the story takes place, which is too elegant to be a coincidence.

  7. onyomi says:

    So obviously many of us are quite interested in the election outcome, and I frankly have no idea what is going to happen. In a few days, of course, I will think it should have been obvious what was going to happen. In the interest of calibration, I’ll put my own wild guess probabilities and what I think they will “mean” if they happen (though as to what the long term implications of any given result may be, we will not, of course, know those Tuesday night; yet I still think it might be worthwhile to record and solicit some views now before I’m tainted by hindsight bias).

    Hillary wins Big: (20%):
    Appetite for populism of the brand Trump is peddling must be much lower than thought; seemingly this result can’t be just a result of Trump’s personal failings, may indicate that GOP is really lost as far as the White House is concerned and will never hold it again without major restructuring.

    Hillary wins Narrowishly (40%):
    Doesn’t seem to prove much other than that status quo is strong and Trump a bad candidate. In some ways the least interesting outcome and so I also give it the highest probability. Weirdly, however, I’m not sure whether a narrow or big victory is better for either candidate in terms of national unity: a lot of bad blood has been generated by this election and a lot of people are going to be unhappy, whatever the outcome. Usually a big win=mandate, while a narrow win makes a president weak. But a narrow win in this case allows Trump supporters to believe that HRC “rigged” the election somehow, and could highlight the more generally divided culture. This outcome also seems a knock against the “charisma” theory: Trump clearly has more charisma, but this outcome will show that e. g. fundraising prowess, good organization, staying on message, etc. “trumps” charisma, “persuasion,” etc.

    Trump wins Narrowishly (30%):
    Kind of a big deal for the anti-establishment, though hard to tell whether for more basic, fundamental reasons, like HRC’s own weaknesses as a candidate, the lukewarm economy, the difficulty of the same party holding onto the White House, etc. or because of something more genuinely unusual.

    Trump wins Big (League) (10%):
    The most surprising outcome and the one which would be the biggest blow to political received wisdom. After people figure out what happened, it will be interesting to see what direction US politics takes; it’s hard to imagine it being quite the same. Also, a point in favor of the importance of irrational charisma, “persuasion,” etc.

    All of these are just my personal guesses and subjective impressions: very interested to hear others’ views, especially before Tuesday.

    • shakeddown says:

      Usually a big win=mandate, while a narrow win makes a president weak.

      Apparently mandates aren’t as dependent on victory margin as you’d think.

      I think you’re overestimating the probability that Trump wins big (though he could win narrowly). Also, what do you define as winning big? 10% on the popular vote?

      • onyomi says:

        Interesting point about “mandates.” A similar point seems to exist with respect to “lessons learned.” The “lesson” pundits tell us we’re supposed to learn (“this means the GOP wasn’t conservative enough,” “this means the GOP was too conservative,” etc.) from election outcomes seem similarly disconnected.

        For this purpose, I’ll define “winning big” as achieving a margin >Obama’s ’12 victory. I probably overestimate Trump’s chances of this due to optimism bias (it’s my desired outcome, though I don’t care as much about that as I do about the LP getting 5%; also getting a little depressed about the prospect for that, however).

        Also, just read a story about how stocks are up on news of announcement that FBI finds nothing criminal in emails. I am confident that Wall Street wants Hillary, so I’ll interpret stocks up as “Wall Street thinks Hillary’s got this.” Wall Street could be wrong, as markets were surprised by Brexit, but I’ll assume they know a lot of things I don’t know, so I’ll subtract 5% from “Trump wins big league” and reallocate it to “Clinton wins narrowly.”

    • Sandy says:

      I think Hillary winning narrowishly is the worse outcome as far as the GOP establishment is concerned, because if Trump outperforms Romney (which I think is very possible), then supporters of his populist style can claim it is a more winning approach than the plaid country club conservatism of the Romney/Bush/Kristol crowd. That it could win in 2020 if repackaged with a smoother, smarter candidate (Ayatollah Cruz coming your way?). Their opponents will counter that Trump only did better than Romney because Hillary is a much weaker candidate than Obama, so at that point it comes down to what voters prefer to believe.

    • Acedia says:

      Whatever the outcome, we’re all about to endure months of emotional meltdowns from the losing side and insufferably smug triumphalism from the winners. Blech. I wish I could leave the planet until the middle of 2017.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        Hey, you’d get back just in time for the midterm elections campaigning to start!

      • John Colanduoni says:

        I’m curious as to what Clinton’s reaction would be if she lost. I’m not saying she neccessarily wouldn’t throw just as bad as a tantrum as Trump, it’s just that she seems nothing if not pragmatic to me and that doesn’t really fit. If Trump does poorly in office, a magnanimous loss would make it really easy for her to do a 2020 run.

        Edit: When I say pragmatic, I mean from the perspective of choosing her political moves for her own benefit, not in terms of how she’d run the country.

        • suntzuanime says:

          Is she going to live long enough? There were questions about her health during this campaign, and she’ll be four years older in 2020. She’ll be older than John McCain was in 2008, and there were serious doubts about whether he was too old to be a good presidential candidate.

          • Sandy says:

            Probably. Average lifespan for a white American woman is about 81, plus Clinton is rich and has access to the highest possible standard of medical care. I think she’ll definitely live to 73 barring any sudden revelations or mishaps; whether she’ll be competent to govern is a different story, who knows.

            One thing Clinton has going for her is the lack of any serious medical problems in her past, like McCain’s melanoma.

          • tmk says:

            Trump is a year older than Clinton, and women live longer.

          • suntzuanime says:

            I doubt Trump will run in 2020 if he loses either. This seems like the last shot for both of them.

        • onyomi says:

          I don’t think Hillary can/will run again if she loses. Too old, too many scandals, and too much of a perception of her having stolen the nomination from Bernie.

          Less sure about Trump. Depends on what happens to his “movement” if he loses: if they sort of dissipate in disappointment, then no. If it proves to have “legs” after a Trump loss, then maybe. It would probably also have to be a narrow loss, so he and his supporters could claim their movement is just picking up speed but wasn’t quite ready to take on the corrupt establishment. If he loses “big league,” then he’s probably done (Yes, I know Trump is a year older than Clinton, but he’s clearly more energetic than her; a Trump 2020 run would, of course be contingent on him remaining so energetic for another 4 years at least).

        • Deiseach says:

          If Trump does poorly in office, a magnanimous loss would make it really easy for her to do a 2020 run

          2020 would be her fourth go, though, and that might tell against her. 2008 – genuinely wanted it and fought like a dog with Obama but lost out; 2012 – bowed to the inevitable and graciously stood out of the way of the second term, helped by the lollipop of getting the Secretary of State gig as peace-making for the 2008 result; 2016 – her best chance.

          If she loses to Trump of all possibilities, then 2020 would be less “this is my time at last” and more “my God, how desperate is she? doesn’t she know when to quit and stop making a fool of herself?” Besides, I don’t see Hillary as being magnanimous about anything, pragmatic sure, but she holds grudges and unlike Obama, she has no reason to go easy or be nice towards Trump.

        • SEE says:

          2020?

          If Clinton loses, she’s done, whether she wants to be or not. If she tried to run again in 2020, she’d only be a punchline.

    • BBA says:

      There’s also the possibility of a drawn-out recount or other irregularities leading to Congress refusing to certify the Electoral College votes, thereby invoking the 12th Amendment tiebreak procedure. Under those circumstances I think Evan McMullin is most likely to win.

      A short while ago I would have called this scenario absurd, but if the Cubs can win the World Series anything is possible.

      • The Nybbler says:

        There’s at least one declared faithless Hillary elector, which could send it to the House already. More scandals between election day and electoral college meeting day could result in more faithless electors. The House gets to choose between the top 3 electoral vote-getters, so it would be between Hillary, Trump, and whoever got the most faithless votes (could be Bernie Sanders, even), or McMullin if he won Utah (or got faithless votes)

        This could also result in a Trump/Kaine situation, amusingly.

        • suntzuanime says:

          This election being determined by faithless electors would in a way be a perfect conclusion. It would be even better if it were the Trump electors going faithless, it would fit the narrative better, but I’ll accept the reverse.

          EDIT: Actually, on reflection, I think a couple spurned Sanders supporters finally getting their revenge in the Electoral College is narratively even more pleasing. Unless faithless electors threw Trump’s win to Jeb Bush and he got to stroke his pet turtle super-villain style and quip “slow and steady always wins, Donald”. Oh, that would be sweet. I can’t believe this election is almost over.

          • sflicht says:

            I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least one faithless Republican elector, in addition to the known Democratic one.

            But I’d be a little more gratified if the Democratic guy proved decisive somehow, because that would probably have a little more impact in terms of convincing establishmentarian progressives that the undemocratic manner in which the Democratic Party approached the 2016 campaign was Not Okay. (I think mainstream Republicans have already absorbed that their approach to this cycle was bad in a lot of ways.)

          • Sandy says:

            Unless faithless electors threw Trump’s win to Jeb Bush and he got to stroke his pet turtle super-villain style and quip “slow and steady always wins, Donald”.

            I hope that happens. That way /pol/ remains sort of right, even if they wish it weren’t so.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        Wouldn’t McMullin have to win at least one EV to be eligible in that case?

        To the extent that he’s campaigning seriously instead of as a protest vote — that is, about no extent at all — that’s his strategy: win Utah, hope no one gets 270, get chosen in the House. Unfortunately it looks like GOP voters in Utah are backing off the protest vote since the election’s looking a little tighter than anyone expected.

        • shakeddown says:

          Macmullin isn’t really a protest vote – the only way he’d matter was if he were the tie-breaker, in which case either he or Trump would win the election.

    • Alejandro says:

      My own probabilities follow. I define narrow win as a win with two or less states to spare, i.e. in a diagram showing states ordered by margin of victory like 538’s “winding path” the red-blue division is at one of the five central states.

      Clinton large win: 25% (Most likely particular result is current 538 blue states + NV, FL and NC). Meaning: ground game, big rejection of Trump by minorities, educated moderates and women.

      Clinton narrow win: 50% (Most likely particular result is current 538 blue states + NV and either FL or NC). Meaning: ground game.

      Trump narrow win: 20% (Most likely particular result is current 538 red states – NV + NH and MI). Meaning: depressed Dem turnout.

      Trump large win: 5% (Most likely particular result is current 538 red states + NV, NH, MI and either PA or CO). Meaning: depressed Dem turnout, “change election”, anti-establishment feeling.

    • TheBearsHaveArrived says:

      UNless hillary basically collapses and comes close to dying, or dies, she wins the election. Trump has no chance now.

    • Wrong Species says:

      First, look at 538’s projections:http://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2016-election-forecast/

      The top swing states are Nevada, New Hampshire, Florida, Ohio, Iowa and North Carolina. Now play around with the electoral votes: http://www.270towin.com/

      Assuming that every other state votes how the polls have been showing, then Trump could win every single one of those swing states and still only tie it up. At this point, I’m assuming that he would win by the votes going to a Republican Congress.. If Clinton wins just one of those(and doesn’t lose any of her other states), she will win. Of course, all of those states are extremely close(other than Iowa, which should go for Trump). And it’s possible that Trump could win another state, like Michigan or Colorado. But he hasn’t ever lead in polling in those states. If Trump does win, it will probably be because he won the electoral college but not the popular vote. He’s still trailing her by three points. If that happened, I’m not sure what the outcome will be but it’s to safe say it wouldn’t help with party polarization.

      Edit: I realized that Trump will probably win Maine’s second district so that pushes him to 270.

      • Sandy says:

        Assuming that every other state votes how the polls have been showing, then Trump could win every single one of those swing states and still only tie it up.

        Trump could win narrowly if he got all those states. 538 currently has Trump as the favorite to win 1 of Maine’s electoral votes.

        But yeah, this requires him to win every single swing state.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I’d put a significant probability (40%) that the polls are understating Hillary’s support and that rather than winning be 2 or 3, she wins by 5 or 6 or more in national popular vote.

      Three reasons:
      1) Democratic coalition voters are the hardest to reach for pollsters. Obama won by 3.9% even though polls did not predict anything close to that high a margin.
      2) To the extent GOTV matters, it favors Clinton “bigly”.
      3) Normally staunch Republican voters who will vote Clinton this election are less likely to answer polls than they normally would.

      I’m sure there is some 3 effect working against Clinton, but those votes aren’t going to Trump.

      • onyomi says:

        I feel like there are equally good reason to expect underestimation of Trump support, including:

        “Shy Trumpkin Syndrome”

        “Independents” who say Gary Johnson when called but will pull the lever for Trump if it looks close (there may be some Jill Stein supporters who will do the same for Hillary, but she has fewer supporters; there was a sense earlier on that Gary Johnson was pulling equally from would-be Dem voters as would-be GOP voters, but I don’t think that’s true. So-called “independents” seem more often to be closet Republicans in general, according to Nate Silver).

        Re. “bigly,” it also sounds to me like he’s saying “bigly,” but I realized eventually he was actually saying “big league.”

        • Chalid says:

          We hear about shy voters every cycle – these days it’s part of the standard Republican persecution fantasy, though I kind of remember Democrats making the same argument in 2004 – and there’s no particular reason to think that pollsters don’t have a decent handle on the phenomenon, if it exists. At least, I’ll take a good pollster’s likely voter model over some anecdotes about how people have been *especially* mean on Facebook this year.

          (Thinking back – under Obama I remember seeing the Republican “shy voter” excuse that people felt pressured to claim to support Obama to protect themselves against racism accusations. In Bush-Kerry ’04 I remember the claim that people felt pressured to claim to support Bush to protect themselves against accusations of being unpatriotic. I don’t really remember if the claims were as pervasive as “shy Trumpkin” is now – I suspect such arguments occur in direct proportion to how far behind the candidate is – but they weren’t qualitatively different.)

          Third party voters are a reason to expect underestimation of both party’s support, i.e. higher overall variance. Given their demographics I’d actually expect them to lean Clinton.

      • beleester says:

        2 is probably the most interesting to me. This is possibly the largest test we’ll get for for “Does a political campaign matter?”

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Yeah, although there is the confound that the part of the Dem coalition formed by those who used to be union workers (mid-west blue collar whites) probably are shifting their allegiance to Trump in some significant numbers.

          Still, with the numbers out of Florida today (the number of early voters in 2016 exceeds the total votes cast in 2000, with an unprecedented surge in Hispanic votes) it sure looks like GOTV (plus some intrinsic motivation) might really tell the tale for HRC.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      Well, Jim has joined Scott Adams in predicting a Trump landslide, which is something. But I’m gonna be boring and stick with the Betfair odds because, as we all know, prediction markets are the best way to forecast the future. That means an 83% chance of a Clinton victory and a 17% chance of a Trump victory as of right now.

      • ShemTealeaf says:

        I thought I’d seen the worst that Jim’s Blog had to offer, but now he’s openly advocating violence against “likely Hillary voters”. It almost seems like they’re deliberately trying to alienate anyone who isn’t already 100% in line with them.

      • onyomi says:

        Well, now that he’s firmly back on the Trump Train and it’s too late to plausibly hedge his bets, Scott Adams will definitely enjoy a huge credibility bump if Trump wins (especially if he wins “big league”) and a huge hit if he loses.

        Personally, I still can’t understand why Adams is so controversial around here other than because he likes Trump; his actual thesis is simple enough: people think they’re rational 90% of the time and emotional/irrational 10% of the time, but it’s really more like the reverse. Therefore, what counts in things like elections is optics, perception, feeling, charisma, “persuasion,” etc. way more than policies or even basic facts about e. g. the electorate, the economy, etc. He could be wrong about this, or, more likely, just greatly overestimate it, but it’s not a completely crazy idea.

        I am a little more skeptical about the second half of this (charisma being more important than the economy, gerrymandering, etc.), but I agree with him that Trump is a better salesman, so Trump performance tomorrow will be an interesting test of how much salesmanship really matters. Confounding this is the fact that fundamentals should be somewhat in his favor, though they generally also favor a Democrat in the White House. Hence my view that a narrow Trump win will be hard to “read” in terms of implication. A big Trump win, however, seems a clear victory for “persuasion.”

        A Hillary win, conversely, might tend to indicate that maybe charisma and enthusiasm and “persuasion” aren’t really as important as ground game, etc. (that said, the HRC camp definitely did its fair share of vilifying Trump at an irrational, emotional level: it wasn’t just a cold presentation of facts; it was “do you want your children to look up to this creep who will probably nuke us all??”).

        • Almoturg says:

          I haven’t read any of his posts, but why does he think that polls don’t reflect the effects of charisma/persuasion? Models like the 538 one don’t explicitely include a lot of factors but mostly just aggregate poll data.

          • onyomi says:

            That is a good question: one imagines they should, at least for the most part, though he also offers some plausible-ish irrational reasons to expect them to be wrong (though I guess we’d just call that “the margin of error”), like “what if husbands are hiding their love of Trump from their wives?” “What if people are just telling pollsters what they want to hear?” Of course, these would be possibilities in any election, but we might expect them to be bigger factors in such a bitterly contested election (it’s harder for me to imagine a serious argument between a married couple about Obama v. Romney than about Clinton v. Trump, for example).

            This is just me putting words in Adams’ mouth, but I guess he’d say something like: in an election where polls are this close, the actual outcome will depend almost entirely on irrational factors polls can’t capture like whether or not men are hiding secret Trump support, whether or not that final, moving commercial gave people the kick in the pants they needed to actually get out and vote, and (I would add) what the weather was like on election day.

          • Almoturg says:

            Then it seems to me his prediction is not really based on psychology/charisma/whatever but on predicting that there is some fundamental issue with how polls are conducted/interpreted, and that this issue skews them towards one particular outcome. I.e. it doesn’t really matter how people are convinced to vote for a candidate but only why we can’t measure that they were.

          • onyomi says:

            That is a good point, though I think the polls don’t have to be wildly off for him to be right: for example, if the average of all the polls is Hillary 52, Trump 48, and he is 100% confident that polls systematically underestimate Trump support by 5% for some reason, then it seems like he might be justified in predicting a very high likelihood of Trump victory.

            Personally, the biggest blindspot I see him having is the following: as an argument for the fundamental irrationality of politics he points to the fact that smart people disagree on every major issue, which we wouldn’t expect if they were being rational. But he overlooks all the “issues” smart people do agree on, like evolution, or whether the sun will rise tomorrow. Issues are “issues” precisely because they are the small subset of things smart people disagree on.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I think the dislike for Adams around here comes from the way that he makes “predictions” that don’t follow best practices. Regardless of who wins tomorrow, he’s sure to say that he predicted it, or that we live in the 2% universe but his prediction of a 98% chance was still right, or whatever.

          • onyomi says:

            I think that is a very fair criticism of him, though that’s not the type of criticism I’m really talking about. People are saying he’s basing his predictions on “magic,” when he’s basing his predictions on his understanding of human psychology. His understanding of human psychology could be wrong, but it’s not “magic.”

            The fact that he’s wildly overconfident in the predictive power of his understanding of human psychology is a separate issue, and, I think, a much more legit criticism.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Is that something people here are criticizing him based on? Mostly what I see is “he rigs his pseudo-predictions so he can say he’s right no matter what” but, y’know, confirmation bias and all that.

            I think you’re right on your second paragraph, though. If he stuck to analyzing “persuasion” skills, Trump’s body language, his unwillingness to back down, all that, and how it plays into him doing way better than expected, that would be one thing. But finding excuses as to why the polls aren’t showing that, and in fact a landslide (not a marginal Trump win in the electoral college and maybe in the popular vote) is silly. He’s gotten so attached to his own theory he can’t see the holes in it.

            Adams came out of the primaries looking good because he saw something a lot of other people don’t seem to have seen at the time. But he attributed all of the primary result to it.

          • ChetC3 says:

            People are saying he’s basing his predictions on “magic,” when he’s basing his predictions on his understanding of human psychology. His understanding of human psychology could be wrong, but it’s not “magic.”

            That’s what people mean when they say “magic,” that his argument and his understanding of human psychology are laughably bad. Besides, as an entertainer, isn’t Scott Adams obliged to keep quiet about politics for the sake of our cultural unity?

          • onyomi says:

            “Besides, as an entertainer, isn’t Scott Adams obliged to keep quiet about politics for the sake of our cultural unity?”

            Many people seem to think so: most of the mainstream criticism of him on, e. g. Twitter, is some variation of “stick to Dilbert,” or the more annoying “I never thought Dilbert was funny.” (I, probably like everyone, am also vulnerable to this kind of thinking, however: I’ve always felt a little “meh” about Joss Whedon and his recent commercials made me think “ah hah! my ‘meh’ about Joss Whedon movies was right!” but my actual feelings about Joss Whedon films were actually probably lukewarm enough that they could have been pushed in a positive direction had his politics turned out to be more similar to my own).

            That said, I think the criticism would be more legit if he were making Dilbert political, which for the most part, he seems not to be. I have previously complained about e. g. the over-politicized Oscars, but I am much more bothered by that than I am by movie stars expressing their political views on e. g. their personal blog, or in an interview or something.

            That said, I do get the sense that Adams is basically bored of Dilbert and trying now to translate this Trump thing into some kind of career move where he becomes a political pundit or something.

        • MugaSofer says:

          My irritation with Adams is twofold:

          He hedges his bets, then lies about what he supposedly “predicted” afterwards. People have forgotten this, but the whole “master persuader” thing started out covered in disclaimers that he didn’t really believe it, it was just for fun to see what he could twist to seem to fit it.

          His examples of “persuasion” are usually stupid. He frequently cites specific phrases which usually don’t gain traction as being “linguistic kill shots”. For example, he said the Clinton campaign calling Trump “dark” and “an octopus” would change the race.

          • onyomi says:

            I think he was absolutely right about “dark”–Clinton and her surrogates used it consistently for a long time. It was clear that someone had a meeting and told them to describe things as “dark,” as opposed to just being a coincidence. “Octopus” he seems to have been wrong about, or, at least, it never caught on.

          • MugaSofer says:

            He may have been right that it was a deliberate campaign thing, but he was wrong that it was an election-changing linguistic killshot that would go viral.

          • onyomi says:

            But I think the very fact that campaigns have meetings where they make a decision about which adjective to use to describe their opponent is actually news to people, though it may seem less so in this cycle of “low-energy Jeb,” “crooked Hillary,” “little Marco,” “lyin’ Ted,” etc. etc.

            Part of his argument has always been that Trump is not just a natural-born player of the game, but that he is, in some sense, revealing the game for what it is. Regardless of the outcome of this election, I think we can expect future campaigns to do a lot more A-B testing, hire more cognitive psychologists, test out more epithets for their opponents, etc.

            Adams may not always correctly guess which labels will stick, but he is pretty good at at least noticing when they are being tactically, rather than haphazardly, deployed. That in and of itself is interesting to me.

        • Anonymous Bosch says:

          Well, now that he’s firmly back on the Trump Train and it’s too late to plausibly hedge his bets, Scott Adams will definitely enjoy a huge credibility bump if Trump wins (especially if he wins “big league”) and a huge hit if he loses.

          Adams has swapped back and forth between “Clinton will win unless X” and “Trump will win unless X” (where X is usually a list vague enough to retrofit any subsequent event) so many times that anyone who still takes him seriously now won’t be dissuaded by the last flip-flop.

          I recall one of his flip flops was based on “oh shit, Hillary hired some really good persuaders.” It’s fucking politics, you didn’t think that would happen? You thought Hillary was gonna try to win with the force of her personality?

          His blog has been a somewhat illuminating study in persuasion. But that persuasion is not Trump persuading voters. It’s a past-his-prime comic writer positioning himself as an alt-right thought leader.

        • Brad says:

          Personally, I still can’t understand why Adams is so controversial around here other than because he likes Trump

          His methods and style are 180 degrees around from the “rationalist” methods and style. The puzzle is that he has any fans here at all.

          After the integrating the answers from last thread that this came up in I think is down to his support for Trump — Trump supporters of an intellectual bent, of which SSC has a fair number, have few public avatars and so can’t be too picky — and his minor geek celebrity status.

          • onyomi says:

            I think I figured it out: honest probability estimates feel like some sort of sacred value for “rationalists.” The fact that Adams does this one thing badly, or dishonestly, seems to disqualify him from making any other valid points in rationalists’ minds.

            My point is that if he’s right that politics is irrational, then the rational thing to do is to analyze that irrationality. His argument about “shy Trump supporters” for example, is basically just an appeal to “social desirability bias,” which is the sort of thing rationalists talk about all the time. Maybe he misunderstands or incorrectly applies these sorts of concepts. But I don’t actually see many people here or elsewhere making that case.

          • dndnrsn says:

            He’s too irrational about being rational about how people are irrational when they think they’re being rational!

            PEOPLE! Let’s be rational here! You can trust me on this one, as I am a Trained Hypnotist.

          • onyomi says:

            Hahaha… yeah I think that’s pretty much it.

          • Brad says:

            His argument about “shy Trump supporters” for example, is basically just an appeal to “social desirability bias,” which is the sort of thing rationalists talk about all the time. Maybe he misunderstands or incorrectly applies these sorts of concepts. But I don’t actually see many people here or elsewhere making that case.

            There are 7 billion people on the planet. Any one of them *could* be making valid points. We need to use heuristics to decide what to spend our time considering. For Scott Adams all the heuristics point to crank. I’m not willing to dig deeper, take his writings, translate them out of hucksterism language into something more tractable and give them a maximally charitable reading. There’s plenty of other people’s writings to read and consider and only so much time.

            Last time this came up, didn’t you say that there were more conventional writers making the same sort of points? Why keep on defending and pointing back to the — at best — shallow sensationalist popularizer when there are those better options out there?

          • onyomi says:

            “Why keep on defending and pointing back to the — at best — shallow sensationalist popularizer when there are those better options out there?”

            On this point, I do think there is an availability or “can’t be too picky” problem: there are people better at this than him out there, but to my knowledge, none of them is commenting on this election.

          • Jaskologist says:

            For Scott Adams all the heuristics point to crank.

            Not all of them. For example, on the “called the primary result correctly” metric, he beat most professional political pundits.

    • I think it’s pretty clear that Trump is not going to lose as badly as Goldwater did (about 60/40 if I remember correctly). My guess is that he will lose by enough to make the outcome clear. The remaining question is the senate, which at this point looks like a toss up.

      Suppose I am correct. One important question will be whether he lost because he is an unappealing candidate as a person, or because the positions he held, insofar as one could tell what they were, were unappealing. If the former, it would make sense for the Republicans next time to nominate a more attractive candidate with roughly the same bundle of positions. If the latter, the Republicans have the problem of finding a candidate who can both get the nomination and appeal to the general electorate.

      • Matt M says:

        My guess is that the media will do what it always does – no matter what the real reason, the narrative will be that it’s because of his positions, particularly his being offensive towards women and minorities, and the story will be that the GOP cannot possibly ever win another election ever without wholly embracing political correctness and trying to out-compete the Democrats when it comes to sucking up to minority groups.

        Sort of like how the narrative in 2008 has become that McCain would have won easily if it weren’t for Sarah Palin being such an idiot. Not much actual evidence for it, but they repeated it often enough that everyone now believes it.

        • Chalid says:

          Sort of like how the narrative in 2008 has become that McCain would have won easily if it weren’t for Sarah Palin being such an idiot. Not much actual evidence for it, but they repeated it often enough that everyone now believes it.

          Say what? Who believes that?

    • Chalid says:

      I’d say 40% chance that its a very comfortable Clinton victory, such that election night is not suspenseful and we know the outcome by 10:00 PM EST. About another 45% chance for a narrow Clinton victory and the remaining 15ish percent for the various flavors of Trump victory.

      Democrats take the Senate if Clinton wins a comfortable victory, and have about a 50% chance of winning in the narrow victory case. Democratic House candidates will win more votes than Republican house candidates, but Republicans comfortably keep the House because the system is obviously rigged in favor of conservatives 🙂

      Reasoning: Sensible poll aggregators seem to be between 70% (Nate Silver at the low end) to 90% and up, so something in the middle of that range seems sensible. Clinton’s superior GOTV isn’t accounted for in the models and this pushes my probability of a Clinton win toward the higher end of this range. Also early voting seems like it’s good news for Democrats so far, but this is rather weak evidence. (Those who are giving a 98+% chance of Clinton victory are just wrong, I think as, the sample of presidential elections isn’t big enough for such strong statements, and this is an exceptional election in many ways.) So ~85% chance of Clinton win.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Clinton’s superior GOTV isn’t accounted for in the models

        Why do you think the polling people who think about this stuff 40+ hours a week, 50 weeks a year, for 10+ years, haven’t ever thought of this?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Because they haven’t had an election where one side unilaterally disarmed?

        • Chalid says:

          Because poll-based models don’t incorporate non-poll information.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Chalid:
            That’s not really true. Most polls switch to a “likely voter” screen sometime after the conventions, which means they are doing something to model turnout.

            But what they don’t do is assume that this year’s GOTV operations are marginally different than last time.

          • Chalid says:

            So I do know this, and I thought about discussing it, but didn’t feel like writing more than one sentence in response to a guy who seemed to be mainly trying to snark (though perhaps I am having the usual problem of evaluating tone on the internet). But the aggregators (who were the subject of the post) don’t do much with non-poll information. Something like Nate Silver’s polls-plus is a pretty small correction by the time election day arrives and most others do nothing at all.

            Anyway, regarding LV models, some will capture a small part of a turnout operation, and some will capture a large part, and some will miss it entirely. For instance voting history is a standard question in some companies’ LV screen and that, as you say, will miss a marginal difference in GOTV. And pollsters are (understandably and probably correctly) reluctant to change their methodology at the last minute.

  8. Loquat says:

    Anyone feel like sharing parenting advice and/or anecdotes? Particularly involving babies – I’m on maternity leave with one right now.

    • Wander says:

      If you’d like to take a risk and go against the grain, for the possibility of saving yourself a lot of time and pain, you could look into the idea of not using nappies and using a toilet from the beginning.

      • Loquat says:

        I’m intrigued, but how does that work when the baby’s young enough that they just let loose whenever they feel the urge?

        • Wander says:

          The theory goes that babies actually do noticeably emote when they need to go, and that it doesn’t take much effort to learn these signals. There are communities built around this sort of thing, and it does really seem to hold some sort of water.

      • Chalid says:

        I’m not sure I see why one would do this. Diapers are a little inconvenient, sure, but needing to hunt down a bathroom every time you go out and your baby needs to eliminate seems *way* more inconvenient. Not to mention dealing with nighttime accidents.

    • zz says:

      Also, congratulations!

    • tmk says:

      I don’t think this is the best place for that. Disproportionately few here have children. It may work as an antidote to the usual craziness for parenting websites, but only if you take everything with a large grain of salt.

      That said, I have a one-year-old though I have not been on parental leave. I am happy to discuss parenting. For a starter advice: a lot changes in the first year. Most problems you encounter will fix themselves.

    • JulieK says:

      Congratulations!
      Is this your first? How old is your baby?

      Hmm, I know I have some good anecdotes, but I’m too sleep-deprived to remember them… 😉

      Advice: With a newborn, when your baby cries, your job as a parent is to figure out the problem and fix it. As kids get older, the challenge is often to switch gears, step back and give kids tools to handle their own challenges.

      • Randy M says:

        I’d add my experiences that babies don’t really need to be trained to turn into very well behaved children. They usually have a reason for crying and identifying those and rectifying them early will help.

        May want to look into “baby sign language” for the 4-8 month old range; teaching them a few (3-5) hand motions that they can do to signal their need for food, changing, help, etc.

      • Loquat says:

        Thanks! She’s our first baby, currently about a month old. So far, pretty much all crying has been more or less fixable with some combination of feeding, diaper changing, and/or cuddling/rocking, though she has had a few periods of prolonged fussiness with no apparent cause.

        @Randy, baby sign language looks useful – I’ll probably check that out in a month or two, once she seems like she’s gaining conscious control over her hands.

    • the anonymouse says:

      The best advice I ever received (which played out with my own kids) is to remember that kids were raised in caves and huts for millennia, and nonetheless usually turned out okay.

      That is, try to worry less and enjoy more. So long as the kid is warm and fed and not beat-on, it’ll probably turn out fine. You don’t need all the fancy (and expensive) parenting “wisdom” constantly sold to you.

    • Urstoff says:

      Get a breast pump so that you can have some milk for dad to get up in the middle of the night and feed the baby, giving you much needed sleep. If you have relatives nearby, let them babysit as much as possible (probably not in the first few weeks, but definitely later on). Tummy time on an activity mat is an opportunity for you to catch up on whatever: reading, tv, sleep, quiet, etc.

    • Deiseach says:

      Many congratulations! Be proud that you are saving the gene pool! 🙂

      Only advice comes from observation of my sister: when you have your first child, you will panic about every last little thing. Don’t. Babies are tougher than you think. The home does not have to be 100% sterile and spotless (a bit of clean dirt won’t hurt), and generally they will not be dying of some mysterious ailment every time they run a temperature or cry. If you try to follow the best parenting advice of the experts, you will drive yourself nuts because they all contradict one another. Ask your mother what she did when she had you. Find advice that sounds sensible and reasonable to you, and don’t make yourself (or the baby) run to a strict schedule, because life is not convenient like that. Get sleep whenever you can; don’t be ashamed to collapse onto the couch in the middle of the day and snore like a pig when the baby has been put down instead of doing the housework, you won’t die because of a pile of dirty laundry but you need as much rest as you can get.

      Good luck!

    • hlynkacg says:

      Don’t mind me, just wanted to join the others in saying congrats!

      • shakeddown says:

        Joining in on this. (Seriously, congratulations).
        In terms of advice (which isn’t worth much, since I don’t have any kids of my own), overestimating kids’ intelligence is much better than underestimating it (when in doubt, treat them like you would an adult). Of course, does not apply to babies.

        • Autolykos says:

          Very solid advice. Remember that they mostly lack knowledge and experience, not intelligence – and that they have all day to think about how to get something, while you have to deal with the attempt within seconds. Also, pretty much anything sold as “child-proof” is unlikely to hold up for more than a minute against moderately intelligent children. Plan accordingly.
          And you’ll quickly learn that it is impossible to forbid everything they will think of (and trying will only give them ideas). My little brother once covered his wooden railway in custard he pilfered from the kitchen, and it is still a mystery to us why and how he did it. Objects I was interested in had a notably increased likelihood for falling off tables and cupboards, yet nobody ever managed to discover the causal link. Whenever we were invited to someones garden and there was an unattended garden hose somewhere, the hosts usually couldn’t even manage to finish the sentence “Don’t worry, it’s child-proof.” before everyone was thoroughly wet. I anticipate to have a lot of fun when I finally have children…

    • When the baby gets a bit older, consider unschooling as an option. For my description of it, see posts on my blog.

      Other than that … . In our experience, children are a lot of work but worth it. You might want to read Bryan Caplan’s book, if you haven’t, in part for a discussions of ways of not making the job more work than it needs to be.

    • akc09 says:

      Congrats! Hope things are going well. Our second little goober is due… er, today, actually. (Why yes, we are going a little crazy waiting.)

      The piece of “advice” that I found the most helpful in the first few months was: You can let them cry for a little while sometimes, it’s not going to hurt them. I heard so many stories of people who felt like they couldn’t shower or use the bathroom because ohmygod, what if the baby starts crying and I have to hop out of the shower with shampoo in my hair?

      Frankly, if a baby safe in its crib can’t cry for 5 or 10 minutes without suffering permanent damage, we wouldn’t have made it this far as a species.

      Also, I’d say write down your own goofy stories and observations, whether it’s in a blog or journal or something else. You probably won’t remember most of this in a few years, and I still love browsing through the journal that my parents kept of my own baby/childhood and comparing their experiences to my own.

      • hlynkacg says:

        Also congrats

      • IrishDude says:

        Must be a popular time of year, as I just had my second kid 11 days ago, another boy. Lots of other people I know have been having babies the past month as well.

        As for advice, I’d second that you should take breaks and give dad a turn on feedings, particularly in the middle of the night. Catching up on sleep when you can makes for much happiness.

        Congrats Loquat and akc09!

    • Chalid says:

      Take lots of videos! You will treasure them later.

      Here is a thread from a year ago where I asked a similar question. Very few of the responses are baby-focused, though.

  9. Levantine says:

    This alleged ‘master of persuasion’ (well, a trained hypnotist) … claims he has designed an article to “dehypnotize a Clinton voter who thinks Trump is a dangerous candidate.” In fact, he says he has already shown success with some people. How does it look to you?

    (http://blog.dilbert.com/post/152734465316/unhypnotizing-a-clinton-supporter)

    See for yourself.

    • Mr Mind says:

      I predict that, when Trump will lose, Adams will go full-conspiracy-crazy against Clinton. That’s the only way to maintain self-consistency if Trump is such a great persuader.

      • MugaSofer says:

        From what I understand, he’s already flip-flopped to “Robert Caldini is secretly working for Hillary and designing her speeches, so she’ll win” and back to “Trump landslide 98% probability” several times.

        I assume he’ll do so again if she wins, and then point to the fact he “predicted” it the first time he flip-flopped as proof he’s always right.

    • vvvivarium says:

      I don’t know if you’re being sarcastic or not by sharing this article- but I’m going to sincerely respond to Scott Adams as a Hillary partisan that this article was meant for.

      1. Trump’s Tough Talk Inspires violence-
      As a Clinton supporter, I don’t trust James O’Keefe videos after both his ACORN and PlannedParenthood video were shown to be heavily edited and misleading. If he wants to fight against his bad reputation, he should release the unedited full video. Also, there definitely has been violence at a Trump rally recently, the most salient one in the news being the “assassination attempt” in Nevada where a protester with “Republicans Against Trump” sign was beaten by spectators until someone shouted ‘gun’ and security intervened.

      2. Temperament-
      Clinton definitely sounds stilted and robotic in this video, haha! This is reputation she’s had for a long time. But of course this is just one video- I could also point you to the most recent video where it starts raining at a Florida rally and Hillary revels in the moment- showing a passion and exuberance we don’t often see from her. Donald Trump at a recent rally in Florida started talking to himself saying “No sidetracks, Donald…” “We’ve got to be nice and cool, nice and calm”. I could say he sounded unhinged and unstable if I wanted to spin it that way. So what I’m saying is you can cherry-pick your sound bites to make anyone look good. And the point about people he’s worked with liking him is also mediated by the fact that a lot of people he’s worked him don’t like him, most recent example being the Ex-Harrah’s executive who said “I know Trump. Don’t vote for him.”

      3. Trump might insult foreign leaders into a war-
      Ross Douthat in the NYT had a Sunday piece recently about the reasonable things we could expect from a Trump presidency in terms of relationship with foreign powers. From his article- “It’s silly to imagine Moscow slipping into a comfortable détente with a President Trump; Putin is more likely to pocket concessions and keep pushing, testing the orange-haired dealmaker at every opportunity and leaving Trump poised, very dangerously, between overreaction and his least-favorite position — looking weak. That’s just Russia: From the Pacific Rim to the Middle East, revisionist powers will set out to test Trump’s capacity to handle surprise, hostile actors will seek to exploit the undoubted chaos of his White House, and our allies will build American fecklessness into their strategic plans. ”

      4. There is no 4- Adams skips this number.

      5. Trump might start a war-
      This may be the strongest argument against Clinton, since she is pretty hawkish and interventionist. Trump is nominally an isolationist and will probably try to avoid war with foreign powers. OK. Besides just not starting wars, Trump also wants to go beyond that and defund NATO, allow Saudi Arabia to have nukes, and just abandon our allies in the world to get pushed around by bully-states like Russia. It echos the “America First” movement during the early 20th century and all of its problems.

      6. Alcohol –
      SA says, “If we don’t trust a social drinker to operate a motor vehicle, can we trust a social drinker to manage a nuclear arsenal?” Donald Trump’s team just took his Twitter account from him and changed the password because he couldn’t control himself. To quote Obama “If Trump Can’t Handle A Twitter Account, He Shouldn’t Have Nuclear Codes”. I mean, Trump is tweeting these things while completely sober! He doesn’t even have to be drunk to be a mess!

      7. Group Violence versus Crazy Individuals –
      At a rally Obama was giving in NC, a Trump heckler held up a Trump sign and began to be boo’ed by the crowd. Obama chastised the crowd and said that everyone has the right to support their candidate, and people should respect their elders. Obama said “He’s doing nothing.” “Don’t boo, Vote.” Trump tries to actively foment his supports. To use an oldie from February, Trump says people should “knock the crap out” of protestors, and that he would pay for their legal fees. He also had his suggestion that “second amendment people” do something if Clinton gets to pick judges for the Supreme Court. And of course, the Nevada rally again, where a mob of people descended upon a guy who had a protest sign and would have severely hurt him had not security intervened.

      8. Pacing and Leading –
      This is what every politician does – they promise a lot, and then can’t deliver. The president is not an all powerful deity and will always have to compromise. Obama never was able to close Guantanamo Bay. He was not able to get a single-payer option included in the ACA. He was not able to enact a “Buffet Rule” and increase the taxes of millionaires to be greater than that of their secretaries. Trying to spin “not keeping your word” as “leading” is hilarious and shows how quickly these so-called persuasion techniques fail under just a modicum of thought.

      If Scott Adams is hoping to persuade Hillary supporters with that article, I don’t think it’ll work.

      EDIT: Reading your comment again, using ‘ alleged’ in your first sentence makes me definitely think you are sharing the article in jest. Oh well- I’ll leave this partisan block of text up here anyway.

      • Deiseach says:

        Donald Trump’s team just took his Twitter account from him and changed the password because he couldn’t control himself.

        There’s a lot more people than Trump who have meltdowns on Twitter. This is less than convincing to me; you could equally argue “Since Obama spent more time off playing golf than taking care of business while in the White House, why should he have control of the nuclear codes?”

        President Barack Obama was this week due to play his 300th round of golf while he has been in office.

        Mr Obama used the occasion to reveal that his handicap had fallen to “an honest 13” and admitted he was spending more time on the course as his presidency wound down.

        • vvvivarium says:

          Yes, I can understand your argument. Twitter outrages, while being highly anti-correlated with a stoic character, are probably un-correlated with a trigger-happy, nuclear-launching character. How much someone goes on twitter rants probably has little to do with their ability to reason about nuclear launches.

          But then Scott Adams is trying to pull the same rhetorical trick with Hillary. It is also disingenuous to say that social drinking has any correlation with fitness to reason about whether to launch nuclear bombs (I’m positive the two things are not done at the same time).

          Anyway, a more robust argument would probably have been the no-correlation one, rather than the twitter outrage one.

          But just to rant for a bit, Scott Adams is making the argument of Social Drinking leads to Making Bad Decisions leads to Launching Nuclear Missiles, and whenever I see people making bad arguments like this, especially when it’s My Team being attacked, it always makes me want to respond in kind. It’s an ingrained tit-for-tat way of operating. It’s hard to take the high road of “your argument’s reasoning is flawed, let’s talk about the structure of the argument” because that’s not what convinces people. And also, sometimes if you do try to begin argument about how someone makes their argument, you can end up in a situation where you both keep on ratcheting up the meta-level arguments-about-how-to-argue until the original thing you were talking about is not even recognizable any more.

          Sure, if I stick with the tit-for-that method, I may end up making bad arguments too- but rhetorically it still works (and it always feels so good too to get one on the Other Team). It’s absolutely not a rationalist thing to do- but this election cycle has decreased my patience to argue on any meta-level.

          • John Schilling says:

            But then Scott Adams is trying to pull the same rhetorical trick with Hillary. It is also disingenuous to say that social drinking has any correlation with fitness to reason about whether to launch nuclear bombs (I’m positive the two things are not done at the same time).

            Didn’t we elect an Irishman to lead us through the most dangerous crisis of the nuclear age? Or was that just Hibernian-Conspiracy fearmongering?

          • SEE says:

            @John Schilling

            Didn’t we elect an Irishman to lead us through the most dangerous crisis of the nuclear age?

            If by “lead us through” you mean “cause”, sure. Missiles on Cuba weren’t a crisis; committing acts of war against the Soviet Union and giving Khrushchev a choice between humiliation and starting World War III was.

        • tgb says:

          Not sure, but did you accidentally misinterpret the thing you quoted? “Spent more time off playing golf than taking care of business” seems like a misreading of “was spending more time [i.e. than previously] on the course as his presidency wound down”. And your link quotes 81 golf games in 628 days, which had better equate to well less than the time he spent “taking care of business”.

      • Urstoff says:

        These don’t sound like the words of a “nominal isolationist”: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2015/11/13/trumps_updated_isis_plan_bomb_the_shit_out_of_them_send_exxon_in_to_rebuild.html

        Unless by “nominal” you mean “claims to be one but isn’t”. He seems to be isolationist only in the sense that he won’t mind when Eastern Europe gets enveloped by the Putin autocracy.

        • Anonymous Bosch says:

          I made this point repeatedly in Scott’s two Trump posts. Without the benefit of hindsight, Trump is very pro-war. He’s on record supporting the Iraq war tentatively, supporting Libya intervention enthusiastically. His “take the oil” attitude would require indefinite occupation and a colonial puppet state, which would fuel huge amounts of resentment and terrorism. To the extent it’s different from neoconservatism, it’s different because it’s closer to the leftist “blood for oil” straw-man (neocons, for all their naïveté, genuinely want to build democratic states).

      • dndnrsn says:

        The point about drinking is weird. Most people have changed their view of driving drunk to the point that it’s seen as evidence of a serious problem – maybe back in the day “social drinker” included driving home with a BAC above normal, but my experience has always been that drunk driving is a major taboo.

        I would absolutely trust a social drinker with that job. I mean, is she going to just sit there alone, slamming Jameson’s, and decide a nuclear war sounds like a good idea? Bust out the launch codes at a party after too many tequila shots because, hey, why not? I doubt it.

        Unless there’s an indication she’s going to be getting hammered alone like Nixon during Watergate, I wouldn’t worry about it.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          And if she were totally plastered and ordered a strike, her staff could just pretend not to hear her.

          I’m hardly a big Clinton fan but Adams would do better to leave several of these things completely off the table.

      • tayfie says:

        This sort of attitude about the Project Veritas videos baffles me. You don’t think they are false, but you disbelieve them anyway. As an aside, any time someone says something “has been shown” without specifying by whose judgement, I get headaches.

        All journalists must edit their work. Many hours of investigation must be filtered down to the most relevant facts. Since you don’t believe the quotes in the video are fabricated, you must have in mind a context where the quotes don’t have the obvious meaning that Scott Fovel and others explicitly planned and executed protests at Trump rallies with the purpose of provoking violence, a practice they refer to as “bird dogging”. They even take credit for specific instances like Arizona and Chicago. If you don’t have an alternative explanation to offer, then you’re just ignoring evidence you don’t like.

        • 1soru1 says:

          The whole ‘it’s ok to secretly infiltrate an organisation, record people, and get them fired if you can get them on video saying one politically incorrect thing’ seems like it would be a big enough stretch by itself. Selective editing, which it does seem there is a unarguable case for, is hardly the only reason to object to that.

          If he did that, and discovered the exclusive scoop that the SJW wing of the Democrats were plotting something similarly Orwellian, would there be perhaps a moment of self-realisation?

          • suntzuanime says:

            There’s a difference between “saying one politically incorrect thing” and “admitting nefarious deeds”.

            I dunno, I am not a huge fan of sting-type operations, and I know people sometimes say things they don’t really mean. But given the amount the left was pushing the Trump tapes, I don’t think they have much of a leg to stand on taking that position.

          • 1soru1 says:

            One guy got fired simply for saying Trump supporters were racist; that’s pure political correctness, the kind of view people may have in private but tactically can’t defend in public.

            Editing aside, the real point is there is literally nothing revealed as being considered as possibly being done by a random no-name political operative that is remotely as nefarious as the stuff happening on the other side of the camera.

            It’s like ‘they are planning to infiltrate our rallies’, said the guy with fake id who’d been working in the other teams campaign office for 6-months.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Yes there is definitely some irony in an agent provocateur going in and exposing a conspiracy of agents provocateurs. That doesn’t excuse the latter conspiracy though, any more than an FBI agent posing as a hitman excuses you from trying to hire a hitman.

        • Brad says:

          If someone put together a very deceptive film in 2009 and a lot of other people spent a lot time going over exactly how it was edited in order for it to appear deceptive and then the guy did the same thing again in 2011, why ever consider anything by him again?

          Life is too short for that. He burned all his credibility.

  10. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    SSC SF Story of the Week #26
    This week we are discussing The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect by Roger Williams.
    Next time we will discuss Friendship is Optimal by Iceman.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      It seems to me that the primary problem with the world of Prime Intellect, which a lot of people consider to be a dystopia, is that the characters don’t place interesting limits on themselves. Sure, it’s no fun to never experience any challenges and to have Prime Intellect always ready to bail you out of any situation, and even if you resolve not to ask for help you can’t rely on your willpower holding out indefinitely (cf. the Fun Theory sequence). But Caroline already hit on the solution to this with her invention of death contracts. The problem is that she didn’t think big enough; death contracts are only used for short forays into ephemeral adventures, like Caroline’s experience of being skinned alive by a guard at a concentration camp. What she should do is contract herself into an interesting situation that will last decades. She could spend lifetimes raising families, acting in movies, leading nations, or whatever else she wanted, before returning to cyberspace to plan her next adventure. Indeed, this is pretty much what happens at the end; if you read localroger’s notes for the sequel that will probably never be written, it is revealed that Caroline’s and Lawrence’s life as hunter-gatherers was just another simulation, and that Caroline wakes up in cyberspace after her “death”.

      Also, I’m pretty sure a random general cannot authorize the use of nuclear weapons by saying “code scarecrow” into his phone four times, but that’s a nitpick.

      Finally, there is a short side story called “A Casino Odyssey in Cyberspace” which is pretty interesting as well. Be sure to check it out!

    • Murphy says:

      I was kinda put off a bit by the excessive quantity of torture porn in TMoPI.

      Also I was really unclear on the matter of how prime intellect was allowed change itself. It certainly upgraded itself in many ways and it knew it’s instances were crashing but for some reason it couldn’t hunt down the bugs? Given the trillions of lives in the balance should the whole system fail I’d have thought it would have a strong mandate to sort that problem out even if it did cause some conflicts. After all, it was able to cope with other types of conflict.

      It’s also never really made quite clear why the torture porn lady maintained a position of such high importance to the AI, why it would continue to pay extra attention to her actions even centuries later.

      I’m also unclear why people who want to die can’t just order prime intellect to pause their simulation or run them at 1 trillionth speed until the heat death of the universe. You’re not ordering it to kill you, you remain alive but get to skip eternity until you finally reach the point where PI can’t run anyone at all.

      • Adrian says:

        pause their simulation

        Minor nitpick: It’s not a simulation, everything is still happening in the physical universe with the same physical laws as reality (except for the “Correlation Effect”). Prime Intellect has the ability to control particles and forces on a fine-grained level, allowing it to alter a person’s local environment. I guess it should still be able to put a human into permanent stasis as you suggested.

    • MugaSofer says:

      Leaving aside the whole “the protagonist is an evil lunatic” thing and all the – is it “torture porn” if it’s literally porn featuring torture? – the part of this story that miffs me the most is the idea of a vast godlike intellect that visibly changes it’s mind every time it interacts with the protagonist.

      It explicitly knows, in advance, that she’ll argue it into doing things that are bad. But it seemingly can’t realize this threat is real and act on it until she does so – it can’t update. Something that incoherent and broken shouldn’t be able to do anything, let alone ascend to godhood.

      With that said, this is pretty much the only story that semi-convincingly portrays a superintelligent AI undergoing hard takeoff, AFAICT.

      • Adrian says:

        With that said, this is pretty much the only story that semi-convincingly portrays a superintelligent AI undergoing hard takeoff, AFAICT.

        It’s pretty telling that a story which requires fictional physical laws is among the more convincing and “realistic” scenarios for fast takeoff of superintelligent AI – though not very surprising, given that all such scenarios seem to contain one or more “Then a miracle occurs”-steps.

        • MugaSofer says:

          It’s a weak point in the story, yeah. PI’s servers just happen to run on magitech that can be reconfigured into other, more powerful magitech?

          But any story involving superhuman intelligence is going to need to draw on fictional technology at some point, even a slow takeoff one. So I don’t hold it too much against the story.

          • Adrian says:

            My post was meant as a comment on the superintelligent-AI-hard-takeoff fantasy found in the Rationalist sphere, not as a comment on the story. In fact, I think that part of The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect was done rather well and I didn’t find it hard to suspend my disbelieve.

        • Montfort says:

          Do you expect all plausible predictions of the future to be translated into convincing and realistic short-form fiction? I don’t go around claiming that predictions of bee colony collapse leading to famine are unrealistic because I haven’t read a convincing short story about it. Similarly, I have doubts about hard takeoff, but it’s the lack of convincing arguments that matters, not the lack of convincing sf stories.

          Fiction authors (even science fiction authors) are optimizing for different things than people making sincere arguments about their pet x-risk, and are limited by their form, expertise, and audience.

          (Note, MugaSofer didn’t say this was a particularly convincing scenario for hard takeoff, just that it was the most convincing treatment of hard takeoff in a short story they could think of. You can see the difference between the two claims, right?)

          • Adrian says:

            Do you expect all plausible predictions of the future to be translated into convincing and realistic short-form fiction?

            That is not what I said at all.

            Similarly, I have doubts about hard takeoff, but it’s the lack of convincing arguments that matters, not the lack of convincing sf stories.

            I’ve said nothing to the contrary.

            Note, MugaSofer didn’t say this was a particularly convincing scenario for hard takeoff, just that it was the most convincing treatment of hard takeoff in a short story they could think of. You can see the difference between the two claims, right?

            I believe you have completely misunderstood my post.

          • Montfort says:

            I believe you have completely misunderstood my post.

            That’s entirely possible, and I invite you to explain what your comment actually meant.

            I’ve reread your comment and can still only draw from it something along the lines of “if hard takeoff were better supported then there would exist more convincing stories about it.”

            I guess if I ignore the quote from MugaSofer maybe you meant something more like “I personally find this story more convincing than actual arguments for hard takeoff.” But I don’t think that’s what you meant because that’s not really all that telling; it reduces to “It’s pretty telling that I am not convinced by arguments for hard takeoff.”

            Perhaps the point of difficulty here is I’m interpreting the phrase “it’s pretty telling” as implying that you are presenting some kind of evidence against the plausibility of hard takeoff? Is that not the case?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I’ve reread your comment and can still only draw from it something along the lines of “if hard takeoff were better supported then there would exist more convincing stories about it.”

            I think it’s more along the lines of “If all the stories about take-off have to change/handwave always factor X, that’s a good reason to think that X would prevent take-off”. If all the colony collapse famine stories had to handwave away some aspect of modern agricultural practice to actually get the famine to happen, that would be good evidence that, in the real world, colony collapse wouldn’t result in a famine.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Or, to give another, real-life, example: British invasion literature of the 1890s/1900s generally had to find some way of handwaving away the Royal Navy so that the totally-not-Germans could actually invade. (“The Royal Navy was all out on manoeuvres somewhere!” “A spy broke into Portsmouth and planted bombs on all the warships!” “The enemies managed to build some kind of super-gun that could sink battleships with a single hit!”) The fact that they had to, and that their handwaves were generally so obvious and unrealistic, is of course evidence that no country in this period could successfully invade Britain due to British naval dominance in the area.

          • Montfort says:

            Mr. X, good example. It’s true that that sort of uniform avoidance indicates a potential argument against the proposition in question. But I’d still say the base rate of fiction handwaving things away because they’re hard to explain, boring, distract from the point of the story, outside the author’s knowledge, etc. is high enough that it’s not very good evidence. (And, keep in mind, if an element is too boring or complicated or obscure for one story it’s usually too boring or complicated or obscure for a lot of stories.)

            The strong evidence is when you ask your friend at the BRNC “Hey, is there any reason the Navy might be unable to defend against an invasion?” and he replies “No, actually that’s pretty much our top priority,” and proceeds to give you a breakdown of possible attacks/adverse events/etc and the precautions taken against them.

    • Deiseach says:

      I do agree that for something allegedly so brilliant and all-controlling, Caroline seemed to get around Prime Intellect very easily. Even when it knew that acceding to her requests would cause trouble. If it were really smart, it would have created a simulation for her where she “won” and was now living back in the “real world” – or simply have kept her in storage the next time she did something like die of rabies, rather than restore her from back-up.

      I did rather get caught up how, every time the story mentioned something like “Prime Intellect has discovered completely new laws of physics! Prime Intellect is turning the galaxy into something easier to simulate and run!”, then the author mentioned something rooted in the historical context of when he was writing that had me going “They’re using CATHODE RAY TUBES? How quaint!” 🙂

      That was my major quibble with the story, actually; I could suspend my disbelief for the “artificial intelligence becomes god in ten minutes” parts, but when it came to the real world (as in our real world of our time line), Williams wrote as though he had never seen or encountered the things he was describing.

      For one, the description of the religious straw man that the early version of his AI was dialoguing with – “a man dressed in a clerical uniform”? So, unless this is meant to be some kind of AU (and who knows, maybe it is), in our world 70s/80s there were such things as “clerical uniforms”? (Hint: not every denomination has specific clothing for its ministers, this is usually only the liturgical churches, and if you don’t mean vestments, you probably mean the “black shirt, black trousers, dog collar” version of clericals). Imagine I wrote a story where I wanted to indicate “SmileyBot was responding to the questions put to it by a scientist” but instead of the commonly understood word “scientist”, I used the phrasing “a man dressed in a scientific uniform”. Would I sound like a native speaker of English? Or as if I had any notion what a ‘scientist’ was? The word you are groping for here, Mr Williams, is “clergyman” 🙂

      I was a bit angry over the cancer description; Caroline was supposedly dying of “five or six types of cancer”, in massive pain, and her nurse was stealing all her pain meds. Let me tell you – if you’ve ever heard a cancer patient when their pain meds are too low (not non-existent, as you would have us believe was the case for Caroline, but that they had worn off and the new dose wasn’t high enough), it would not be a simple case of “gee, she’s sure on a lot of medication but it doesn’t seem to be doing anything, oh well, just knock it up a notch”. You would be in no doubt the person was suffering and there would be immediate response because they don’t just moan softly now and again, it’s horrible to hear. Again, Mr Williams having no idea what the real world situation is like.

      Also, the thieving nurse was the only person on duty 24/7? No relief? No days off or holidays? No other nurse took over when she had to eat/sleep? So nobody else had access to the drugs and injecting them into the IV, so the nurse could steal them all? Rubbish! He had to have her go out to eat lunch in order for his plot device of another nurse giving the too-high dose of real pain meds to work (where Caroline dies fortutioiusly just as Prime Intellect is scanning the environs), and this never happened before in the entire five years she was looking after Caroline? Yeah, right.

      And while we’re at it – a crack addict is in such tip-top physical condition after five years of abusing the drug that Prime Intellect uses her as a template in preference to the other, older nurse with minor health problems, when re-creating Caroline’s body? Who knew a heavy drug habit was a health regime?

      I’ll finish up with saying I also learned more about Mr Williams’ sexual kinks than I wanted to know, but that’s his business. Except I would suggest that when you’re writing your necessary-and-relevant-to-the-plot scene of a man having sex with his twelve year old daughter, it’s perfectly acceptable to use the old “row of asterisks” or “fade to black”, you really don’t need to tell us how she felt on his cock as contrasted with how her mother felt. Really you don’t. >_<

      • MugaSofer says:

        If it were really smart, it would have created a simulation for her where she “won” and was now living back in the “real world”

        Are you sure it didn’t?

        • Deiseach says:

          Yeah, the ending could very possibly be that, but if it didn’t do it the first time she tried crazy shit, I’m very curious as to what happened to make Prime Intellect decide eventually “Okay, time to put her out of my misery”.

          Also, out of seven billion or so humans, Caroline is the only one who can figure out how to out-fox PI? I don’t know; I realise the story had to be set up so that the God AI had some flaws or weaknesses for its ending to work (and I’m still not sure what the heck the ending was supposed to be: humans need challenges to be happy?) but on the one hand you have an entity that apparently can put the rest of the galaxy into storage because aliens aren’t human, but it can’t cope with “gosh, sometimes humans lie and sometimes humans are perverse about their incentives!” What, it never read any basic psychology textbooks?

          The easy answer would have been to give Caroline and the weirdoes and the sickos their own little playground planet to torture and murder each other to their hearts’ content and cordon it off from the rest of humanity who seemed happy enough with how things were going. If PI had ethical qualms about letting real humans die real death, then it could hive off a sub-entity whose sole job was to keep track of them and re-load them from back-up copies. Crashing the entire thing because one woman was bored seems – excessive.

  11. Tuna-Fish says:

    So, anyone else watching Westworld?

    It’s exceptionally well made and while it starts out pretty banal, it’s getting rather deeper as it goes on. I strongly recommend it to everyone here, especially after seeing the 6th episode…

    • Robert Liguori says:

      I’m one episode behind you, and I’m enjoying myself enough to continue, but I’m feeling strongly like I’m watching the illusion of profundity. I’ve been burnt before by media which tried to be profound by throwing loads of crap at the wall, and while I certainly hope that everything comes together, I feel like there have already been too many ‘wait, why did they do it that way?’ moments for any narrative to spin them all back together.

      I cheerfully look forward to being proven wrong, but I’m not convinced its likely.

    • DrBeat says:

      It annoys me. I feel like the world is poorly thought out, and it wants me to be asking questions, but the questions I ask aren’t what it wants me to: they’re things like “how long does it take to pull a robot offline, do a diagnostic, and put it back? because they seem to be doing it multiple times in a day yet be separated by a large distance.” or “if they encourage people to be violent and rapey to hosts, and make it as hard as possible to tell guests from hosts, how has that not led to a gigantic problem?” or “how is the level of sentience in the robots useful for any purpose beyond being evil? wouldn’t they be able to do a lot more useful things if they knew they were in a theme park simulation, like respond to emergencies or malfunctions or help out guests who have trouble that breaks kayfabe?” or “Why is it nobody acts like they are in the situation the show tells us they are in?”

      It’s also so up its own ass about being mysterious and not TELLING us things, that we don’t know enough about the characters to care about them. There are a couple of characters it manages to push successfully, but for most of them I just don’t know enough about them to give a fuck. The fact every episode is juggling way too many plot lines with hazy notions of time doesn’t help.

      At least it wasn’t as preachy and heavy-handed as I feared from the first episode.

      • Anonymousse says:

        I’ve had many of the same questions about the world. Such as, if they can generate human bodies from a vat, and imbue them with “exponentially” more powerful minds, how do you arrive at retrofuture Disneyland as the most interesting setting for exploring this technology? I understand the “Westworld” property is previously established, but the ludicrous technology on display is distracting for me, rather than letting me get absorbed in the story as I suspect it is meant to.

        The latest episode had several odd scenes that seemed to dumb down the characters and the setting, and actually made me less excited about the series. One in particular was focused on seeming haunting and beautiful and revelatory, but struck me as completely inconceivable. I hesitate to say more because spoilers, but am curious about other peoples’ reactions.

        EDIT: Thought about it some more. Maybe they’re going for the long con here, but I can’t shake the feeling that some of these character’s decisions are stupid. Even if they’re by design, I didn’t particularly enjoy it.

      • cassander says:

        >“how long does it take to pull a robot offline, do a diagnostic, and put it back? because they seem to be doing it multiple times in a day yet be separated by a large distance.”

        they clearly have underground connections to different parts of the park.

        >or “if they encourage people to be violent and rapey to hosts, and make it as hard as possible to tell guests from hosts, how has that not led to a gigantic problem?”

        The number of guests at any one time is clearly pretty small.

        >or “how is the level of sentience in the robots useful for any purpose beyond being evil?

        The people running the park care about a more realistic simulation, so they tell the programmers to be more realistic. The programmers care about sentience, so they respond by increasing sentience.

        >or “Why is it nobody acts like they are in the situation the show tells us they are in?”

        Huh? I think they do do that.

        • DrBeat says:

          > The number of guests at any one time is clearly pretty small.

          For one, that makes the cost fo running this place absurd compared to the benefit if it’s true.

          For two, they said in the first episode that it was about 1400 guests and 2000 hosts. Which is, itself, an absurd number given how often we see them have to perform maintenance on hosts, all of which appears to be done by hand. But a close to 2:3 ratio of human:robot is not sufficient margin to say “Go crazy with the killin’ and rapin’, you probably won’t hit a human!”

          • cassander says:

            >or one, that makes the cost of running this place absurd compared to the benefit if it’s true.

            The economics of the place are definitely insane, no question there.

            >or two, they said in the first episode that it was about 1400 guests and 2000 hosts

            I don’t recall that.

            >Which is, itself, an absurd number given how often we see them have to perform maintenance on hosts, all of which appears to be done by hand.

            Only when something actually happens to them. It seems like most of the time they just go about their loops.

            >But a close to 2:3 ratio of human:robot is not sufficient margin to say “Go crazy with the killin’ and rapin’, you probably won’t hit a human!”

            2:3 would never work, but 2:300 would, which is more what it seems like, especially since the guns are basically paintballs and you can always yell “hey I’m a guest!”

      • John Schilling says:

        I get the same feeling from Westworld that I did from, say, “The X-Files” after the first season or “Battlestar Galactica” after the second. That I am meant to trust the creators that There Is A Plan, and the sense of mystery as I watch The Plan unfold is as much a part of the enjoyment as the actual revelation of The Plan, but really, I know they are just making it up as they go along and it’s going to be a disappointment. By the time “Lost” came around, I stopped believing in that fairy tale. But those stories at least had interesting characters that I could care about; “Westworld” does not.

        As for the obvious implausibility of using technology this advanced and infrastructure this expensive to entertain a modest group of modestly rich people, the obvious explanation is that the owners are using Westworld as an excuse to beta-test sentient androids whose actual purpose lies elsewhere. Even that wouldn’t work in the real world, but Secret Conspiracies are always a couple orders of magnitude more effective in Hollywood than in reality.

        • cassander says:

          Hey, there’s always Babylon 5, the one show that said it had a plan, and did!

          • suntzuanime says:

            And then botched that plan due to network scheduling issues!

          • cassander says:

            Yeah, a little, but all in all it worked out pretty well in the end. The botching mostly made the last season a little slow, it doesn’t make the first 4 any less good.

          • John Schilling says:

            IMO, it made S4 noticeably less good due to the forced compression, and some of the filler for S5 was positively awful. Fortunately, S1-3 make for a perfectly good three-act story in themselves.

          • lhn says:

            And even with the flaws resulting from the plan’s contact with network reality there’s still a visible difference from shows that kite plot checks on the theory that the answers will be there when the due date comes.

            On the other hand, “How I Met Your Mother” is an example of a show that locked in a long-term endgame that didn’t really fit by the time they reached it.

    • Robert Liguori says:

      And just saw the 6th episode.

      This adequately sums up my reaction to pretty much all of the main characters right now.

      I really hope this is going to end up being something more than Yet Another Caveman Science Fiction story, but I grow progressively less hopeful.

    • Acedia says:

      I only watched the pilot episode, and the main reason I didn’t watch more was my feeling that the moral question of “what if we created sentient robots and then mistreated them?” has already been fully explored in fiction at this point (most famously by Asimov, but there have been countless others).

      Another reason was their failure to make Ed Harris’ character genuinely threatening at all. They clearly wanted him to seem scary and tough, but the fact that the robots were incapable of defending themselves made that impossible – he was just a kid stomping on ants. That failure seemed like a sign of things to come.

    • sohois says:

      Going to echo the other comments here that it doesn’t seem all that well done and has the hallmarks of a massive disappointment. It’s a very soft sci-fi, where most of the park doesn’t really make sense but they still treat it as deadly serious and important. The central ethical and philosophical question of the show, the morality of the park when you’re dealing with consciousness, just isn’t going to be very interesting beyond a season or two, there is only so much you can do with that. Which means that inevitably, you have to trust the show runners have some extra plan to maintain interest, which almost always ends in a disaster a la Lost.

  12. JulieK says:

    Have you had the experience of disliking something, then trying a more intense version and finding you like it?
    This happened to me with green tea and with olive oil.

    • Brad says:

      Beer. I never liked the standard high school / college beer (American pilsner), and so assumed that I just didn’t like beer. First time I tried a stout I feel in love and have been a beer drinker ever since.

      • keranih says:

        Yeah, me too, pretty much.

        Still can’t stand blush Zin or American light beers, but I love the more complex reds and dark beers.

      • andrewflicker says:

        I think that’s true of a great many of us modern-day craft beer drinkers. My dad’s Bud Lights revolted me, but then I moved to Chico and got to try Sierra Nevada stuff first-hand and fell in love.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        Lager for me. I used to think it was tasteless rubbish, then I tried some actually good lager and now I love it.

    • andrewflicker says:

      Other than the good beer example Brad brought up, this was true for me in work, too- A basic office job sucked, but the more-intense ecommerce variant ended up pleasing me. I want some excitement and competition in my work!

  13. citizensearth says:

    If I log in using WordPress, it doesn’t display my link in my name. Is there any way to change that?

  14. citizensearth says:

    Question for rationalists and rationally inclined SSCers: What’s the best online resources for convincing a non-rationalist/intuitive person to become a rationalist, or at least more logically inclined?

    Most people I’ve talked to don’t mount rational arguments against learning logic, fallacies, cognitive biases, knowing a little about probability, or generally thinking rationally. Instead they characterize a focus on these things as cold-hearted, seek to conflate it with establishment and oppression somehow, or merely brush it off and focus on other things. They might even nominally agree with the statement “logic is important and beneficial”, but in practice they may remain completely unmoved.

    None of this is surprising, but if we can’t use logic to convince people we know (let’s say friends, family etc), what should we use? What compelling resources has the rationalist community developed or identified to *really* convince non-rationalists that logic and reason is a worthwhile thing to pursue? Are there good resources that use emotion to convince people that rationality is good, for example? Why does it seem like there are so few of those kinds of things around? (yes I’m aware appeal to emotion is fallacious, let’s ignore that)

    • psmith says:

      Why do you want to?

      • Efficiently influence people I know to be generally more logical/rational, or at least to increase their value of logic and rationality.

        • I’m still not clear whether you want people to be more rational as a terminal value, or as a means to something else, such as making it easier for you to persuade them rationally.

          In any case, you have to start with where people are, with their own value system. LessWrong kinda sorta started with a way of selling rationality that would be attractive to a wide range of people: rationality is about effectiveness…whatever you are or want to be, rationality will make you better at it.

          But they didn’t really follow through on it, because they came up with their own set of tribal shibboleths, Bayes, MWI and so on, so that “becoming a rationalist” was to all intents and purposes joining a tribe, and therefore leaving beyond an existing tribe, if you had one.

          People are mostly about tribalism.
          Therefore, “leave your tribe and join mine” is a terrible way of selling anything, and is probably what people are hearing when you try to sell them rationality.

          But because people are mostly about tribalism rationality can become tribal.

          • Thanks that seems fairly on the money. I think I was attracted to LW via a prior interest in it’s contents, but I definitely came late to the party and was put off by that tribalistic feeling. It does seem like a good selling strategy for rationality, though I wonder if it translates to epistemological rationality, which is part of the package I’d like to aim for. Thanks.

            IIRC you used to have a more political focused blog, have you removed that or something? Or is my memory a bit faulty today?

    • MugaSofer says:

      I dunno. Focus on the emotional impact of accidentally hurting loads of people, maybe?

      • Seems reasonable, just how to get them to listen to a story about how loads of people got hurt once upon a time? I feel like too much negative/dark stuff might result in rejection outright. /r/rational Rationalist Fiction sub seems like a possibility, haven’t look in much detail yet.

    • rlms says:

      Why online? You are handicapping yourself if you remove the option of “give them a copy of Thinking, Fast and Slow”.

    • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

      I view rationality as a personal pursuit. Persuading people is hard, and usually doesn’t involve logic except as a justification for emotional responses or personal anecdata. My solution to this is to accept that persuasion is hard and try to tackle a different hard problem; arriving at truth. If someone’s not open to logical persuasion, you can’t “fix them” logically.

      • I don’t see it a fixing people. People influence each-other on topics all the time, I just notice on this topic there’s limited available materials. I get what you mean though. My own casual interest in it is kind of personal too, and I can’t really identify any single person or thing I read that caused me to move in that direction.

    • andrewflicker says:

      I think the original stylistic aim of LessWrong had it right: If you frame rationality as a weapon that you can give someone with which they can achieve their *current* goals, they are far more interested than if you are presenting it as a mindset which will change their goals.

      So, just like any good salesman: Figure out what they want/need, what their problem is, and then show them how what you’re selling will fix it and make their life better. (And if you aren’t already a good salesperson, you need to learn that before you start trying to sell someone something so complicated and non-intuitive as rationality.)

    • paulmbrinkley says:

      One idea I’ve toyed with for a long time is exercises in rational thinking – pose a puzzle, for which the solution forces thinking something through logically. I’ve typically found this hard to do (and would love others’ insights on achieving it), but the notion of making a brainteaser game of it appeals to me. A video game made from it – a mobile game, in particular – might end up as a killer app.

      • I was just thinking that understanding the principle of comparative advantage is a pretty good test of intellectual ability. It’s straightforward enough so that someone who can manage abstract thought should get it pretty easily, abstract enough so that someone who can’t very likely won’t.

        Possibly works as an exercise as well.

      • Makes sense, ignoring the comparative part David is (I think?) sneakily mixing into his comment there. Except the killer app thing. There’s a lot of puzzle games already, and I couldn’t discount them somehow contributing to my own interest in this area to be honest.

        The only thing I can think of is to work backwards from the rational thought pattern to the question rather than forwards? Beyond that not sure. Maybe there is a puzzle game subsection of the gamedev community? Let us know how you go with it!

        • “the comparative part David is (I think?) sneakily mixing into his comment there.”

          I don’t know what you mean. “The theory of comparative advantage” is the label for a piece of economic analysis developed by David Ricardo about two hundred years ago.

  15. Matt M says:

    A few times, people here have posted a link to a site that had easy resources and suggestions for how to go about seeking therapy/counseling for someone just starting out. Does anyone have that handy and wouldn’t mind posting the link? Thanks in advance.

    • I’m not familiar with that link, but if you’re a student most educational institutions provide some kind of access, at least in my part of the world. Workplaces sometimes too, though be cautious with this as I’ve heard of people’s difficulties being treated less than confidentially when they later had a conflict with their boss. Other than that it probably depends what you’re looking for counseling for. Obviously a search engine could help find something in your area. If there’s a specific problem there could be support groups or organisations (for example there’s often organisations that help with marriage counseling). I’d suggest a qualified psychologist is often better even for non-serious difficulties, that is if you can afford it or can utilize some free service.

  16. SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

    I would like to own a dog, but do not know whether my living situation is acceptable:

    All online information pertaining to adopting pets seems to be filled with either virtue signaling or excessive concern for animals: An ideal environment for an animal is described, and anything less than that is seen as negligent. Many sites claim for example that adopting just one cat will lead to the cat suffering from loneliness. Owning a dog in particular is often described as a part time job, and if you watch almost any youtube video with cute animals playing with humans, somebody *will* accuse the human of animal cruelty.

    It’s obvious why that happens, we are supposed to protect helpless and innocent creatures, and family pets are the epitome of that. If for example taking your dog for a walk three times a day made him super happy, you’d be a monster for declaring: “I accept that my dog will be slightly unhappy around noon, walking him two times a day is still acceptable and on average he is happy.”

    We do not treat our children this way, either. While parents are expected to provide a good environment, nobody blaims them for not eliminating every bit of discomfort from their childrens’ lives. We also used to not treat our pets this way, treating your pets as family members is a very recent (and Western) phenomenon, and that makes me wonder if dogs 50 years ago were truly miserable.

    So basically I would like to know whether a small apartement (200 square ft/20 m^2) is suitable for a Golden Retriever and how I can determine if my pet is overall happy and content (as oppsoed to just excited to see me).

    • rlms says:

      I think generally the bottleneck is how frequently you walk your dog, rather than living space size. I’m sure my great-grandparents’ sheepdogs were perfectly happy living in a tiny cottage since they were outside most of the time. Equally, even if you live in a mansion, most dogs will be unhappy if they never get to go out. Regarding judging happiness, I think the best way is to get a friend with experience of dogs to give you their opinion. I think if a dog is healthy and appears happy, it probably is happy enough.

    • Eltargrim says:

      I agree that the bottleneck for responsible dog ownership is walking frequency, which is the primary reason that I do not own a dog.

      If a dog is sufficiently fed, has loving human attention (and I set the bar low here), and gets regular physical exercise, they’re going to be happy enough. They’re simple creatures.

      Walks are the big factor because they’re both exercise and mental stimulation. The conventional wisdom is that the closer the breed is to having been a working dog, the more stimulation they need, and short of having a herd to manage, walks and play will have to suffice. This may make the dog happier, but more importantly it will help avoid having your apartment torn to shreds by a 30 kg ball of energy.

      As for apartment size, consider your proximity to yard substitutes, such as off-leash dog parks. No apartment will substitute for a field, so don’t bother trying.

    • Matt M says:

      “We do not treat our children this way, either. While parents are expected to provide a good environment, nobody blaims them for not eliminating every bit of discomfort from their childrens’ lives. ”

      Wait for it. We’re certainly moving in this direction, particularly in terms of “safety” and even more particularly in terms of safety involving allowing children to be in public unsupervised. I don’t have anything prepared, but leaving your kids alone in a public place for more than five minutes seems to risk significant involvement from CPS these days. Reason.com covers this stuff on a pretty regular basis.

    • keranih says:

      Dogs are pack/social critters. Don’t get one if you’re going to leave it alone more than a couple hours a day.

      Another dog to play with is best, taking it to work is fine for older dogs (but hard for puppies who can’t sit still) (if you are walking timber surveying, that is different, but I’m assuming office) and staying at home with a cat who is willing to interact with the dog is okay too.

      We also used to not treat our pets this way, treating your pets as family members is a very recent (and Western) phenomenon, and that makes me wonder if dogs 50 years ago were truly miserable.

      Prior to the nation-wide penetration of a/c after WWII, people lived more in their yards and porches than in their houses, which is where the dogs lived. Also, more dogs roamed the streets (and died after getting hit by cars.) Plus they were more often infected with fleas and other parasites. (The impact of parvo as a killer plague wasn’t until more recently.)

      At a guess – longer, healthier lifespan now, slightly higher level of depression and neurosises. Kinda like humans.

    • tgb says:

      Talk to your local animal shelter or veterinary hospital and ask for advice rather than getting it from random internet people. They might also have local suggestions.

    • Rosemary7391 says:

      I’m not sure I’d want to live in an apartment that small, let alone have a dog in it as well! However, if you’re able to make sure the dog is let out every few hours, and have the space for the dog to sleep, have water out without tripping on it etc, you might be okay. I think the walking 3 times a day will be important as the apartment is so small and the dog not small, and dogs don’t use a litter tray like a cat will. You also don’t want it to get bored and decide to chew furniture etc. Are there no restrictions on pets in your building? There often are in blocks in England, especially for animals that will need to walk through common areas to get out so can’t be hidden…

  17. 75th says:

    If Bakkot (or anyone else who helps with SSC/Unsong web development stuff) sees this, there is something potentially of interest to you in /u/Bakkot’s Reddit inbox.

    (If it has already been seen and intentionally ignored, then continue ignoring and I will not talk about it anymore)

  18. nancylebovitz says:

    Any thoughts about the likelihood of significant post-election violence?

    I’m not expecting it, but it’s not the sort of thing I would do and I may be typical-minding.

    • rlms says:

      Depends on the result, and/or Trump’s reaction to losing (if that occurs). There is also the possibility for a snowball effect where initial media coverage escalates/de-escalates violence.

    • The Nybbler says:

      If Trump wins, I expect some major protests and some of it to be violent. If Hillary wins, there may be some minor violent protests. Part of this is because the anti-Trump vote is in areas of higher population density, but most of it is because the “community organizers” are on Hillary’s side. The reason we haven’t seen anything like Baltimore or Charlotte recently is because those who back such actions realized they were helping Trump.

      • keranih says:

        The reason we haven’t seen anything like Baltimore or Charlotte recently is because those who back such actions realized they were helping Trump.

        Yeah, I was thinking on this the other day, and was wondering if there really hadn’t been any white cop/black man shootings, or if something else was going on.

        Jimminie Christmas, we need a better way.

      • nancylebovitz says:

        It’s also possible that there haven’t been major recent racist killings.

    • hlynkacg says:

      Meh…

      If Trump looses, which I think is likely, I think that most of his supporters will shrug and go home saying something to the effect of “whelp, this just goes to show that the elites look out for their own”.

      If Trump wins, that’s where things get interesting. After the mess in San Jose it would It wouldn’t surprise me to hear that BLM protestors had strung someone wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat from a lamppost.

      • nancylebovitz says:

        And of course, I’m expecting the violence, if any, to be from Trump supporters who think the election was stolen from them.

    • TheBearsHaveArrived says:

      If trump wins(and he won’t) there will probably be lots of violent protests. If Hillary wins, probably less. Trump has put himself in lots of the public mind as the white power president, and I would expect some reactions to that.

      • the anonymouse says:

        Trump has put himself in lots of the public mind as the white power president

        I suspect statements like this (unintentionally) reflect more about the commenter’s mind than the “public mind.”

        • nancylebovitz says:

          Well, a lot of people opposed to Trump think of him as a white power president, and so do a conspicuous bunch of pro-white power people.

          I don’t know whether “the public mind” is a meaningful concept.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The idea of Trump as a white power president is pretty ludicrous when you look at his businesses. Not to mention his Jewish son-in-law. But he’s a Republican who has said nasty things about Mexican immigrants and Muslims, so he must be Hitler.

            He’s retweeted some stuff from the white power people, but whether this was courting support or he got suckered through not understanding Internet memes and groups I don’t know. Later he seemed to leave courting the more extreme internet groups to Trump Jr, which I think is deliberate.

  19. nancylebovitz says:

    I’ve heard that there are a lot fewer yard signs and bumperstickers. If so (does anyone have actual infomation?), this suggests a lot of shy supporters on both sides.

    • dndnrsn says:

      It could be that people are not necessarily shy in talking to pollsters, or friends (unless their views differ), or whatever, but this election is charged enough they don’t want any random person to be able to say “aha, this is the house/car of one of the HATED ENEMY”.

      Although, given the level of vitriol against Trump in the bubble I am a part of, and imagining there’s an equal level of vitriol against Clinton in Trump circles (no reason to think there isn’t), I can imagine anyone who supports the “wrong candidate” for their social group keeping their mouths shut.

    • MugaSofer says:

      Or just less supporters, period.

      If there are lots of people holding their noses, not voting, and voting independant, all of those eat away at the “proud Clinton/Trump voter” demographic who tend to buy signs.

      • nancylebovitz says:

        Anyone care to lay down their bets (or at least predictions) on the percentage who will vote? I have no idea.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I’m in deep (D) territory (northern NJ suburbs). There are a ton of yard signs for local candidates. Very few for President; I think I’ve seen about 10 Hillary signs total in the towns around me, and 3 Trump. One Hillary sign was vandalized.

      Further west (west of I-287, north of I-80) is all Trump territory, though I actually saw a couple of Johnson signs.

    • IrishDude says:

      My neighbor had a small Trump sign on their porch behind a chair for a couple weeks, seemingly not comfortable enough to make it prominent. After his Access Hollywood remarks came out, the small sign was replaced with one for the Republican senator in my state. In the rural areas I drive by, I see many signs for Trump, so there is more comfort there expressing support for him. I haven’t seen any Clinton signs in my area, but my state of Maryland will almost certainly go to Clinton.

  20. Error says:

    A question for whoever might know:

    People sometimes refer to alcohol as “liquid courage” for purposes of social interaction. What substances are there that can serve a similar purpose, *without* the habit-forming properties?

    (for context: I would find artificial social courage useful. But I have addictive habits and alcoholism runs in the family, so I’ve always been unwilling to risk drinking. I am hoping for other alternatives.)

    • rlms says:

      Alcohol isn’t that habit-forming.

      • Schibes says:

        If you have the gene for alcoholism, it totally IS habit forming, and can completely mess up your life. It runs in Error’s family, and it runs in mine too. I’ve been fighting it for decades (with a good deal of success as of late).

        Care to share where you got the idea that alcohol is not “that” habit-forming? Perhaps you’re one of the lucky ones who has the “tipsy gene” that actually protects against alcoholism and can’t see outside your own personal experience?
        Relevant WSJ article

        • rlms says:

          I’m certainly not arguing that alcoholism isn’t real or damaging, just that most people manage to drink moderately without becoming dependent.

          “Perhaps you’re one of the lucky ones who has the “tipsy gene” that actually protects against alcoholism and can’t see outside your own personal experience?”
          I think that the opposite is more likely, based on the large number of my ancestors who died due to excessive drinking. But I have managed to drink in social environments without becoming dependent, so my experience is that it is possible to drink socially without problems even with a genetic predisposition towards alcoholism.

          “Care to share where you got the idea that alcohol is not “that” habit-forming?” My impression was that the proportion of alcoholics out of those who have every drunk alcohol is much smaller than the proportion of addicts out of those who have ever used heroin or smoked. Interestingly, wikipedia seems to suggest that I am mistaken; the difference isn’t that drastic. But I still believe that it is generally safe to drink alcohol unless you have multiple factors that make it risky (genetic predisposition, and general addictive personality, and general psychological problems for instance).

        • Error says:

          I’ve been fighting it for decades (with a good deal of success as of late).

          Just wanted to say I’m glad to hear that you’ve had some success. I’m given to understand my father beat it at some point too. It can be done — I just don’t ever want to have to do it myself.

          (my mother’s side is more like rlms — she drinks socially without issues)

    • Incurian says:

      I have found caffeine to be helpful, but it is also habit-forming. I used to pound an energy drink before parties as a way to increase my sociability.

      If you have anxiety or whatever, an anti-anxiety drug might be useful (but probably also habit-forming). I guess it depends on what in particular you’re trying to overcome with liquid courage.

      • Autolykos says:

        Not a doctor, so please check this with a professional before trying – but Betablockers seem to be quite good at eliminating the physical symptoms of anxiety, which can help a great deal with “unlearning” your anxieties (and in the meantime, it will at least show less – but from my experience, not actually make you feel less anxious).

    • Autolykos says:

      Pretty much anything that feels good (or removes something that feels bad) can be habit-forming, if you’re predisposed to it. So it’s probably best to go for something that wouldn’t be a bad habit.
      If you’re not dead-set on solving the problem chemically, you might try “micro-meditation” – when you notice you’re feeling anxious, acknowledge it (without judging!), and concentrate on some sensation in your body in as much detail as possible for a few seconds (the feeling of your breath is a classic, but you might as well focus on how your toes feel). Works quite well for me, has the nice side effect of boosting your presence in the room, and can also be used to give you some distance from any other emotion you don’t want to deal with *right now*.

  21. Mark says:

    Amusement is the natural response to unpredictable complexity and chaos.

    Laughter is the gift of Kek.

  22. R Flaum says:

    We hear a lot about fighting extinction threats. But what would be the most cost-effective way to spend your money if you were in favor of human extinction?

    • keranih says:

      Access to education for girls and women.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Very slow, I suspect won’t work at all for extinction of the entire species (the decline would be so slow we’d figure a way to have kids AND education… or a culture which valued kids more would overtake the once-dominant one). I think you need something fast (e.g. Sweet Meteor of Death) or somehow irreversible.

        Genetically engineering a zombie apocalypse (as in Ringo’s _Black Tide Rising_) might be the easiest. Some sort of contagion that leaves its victims stupid, violent, and sterile. Not sure who you’d donate to, though; Bond villains and such are in short supply.

        • keranih says:

          I question your math – the decline hasn’t appeared to be slow from where I’m sitting.

          The pro-reproduction replacement culture is a decent idea…except that I look at the candidates on the table, and if anything, that hastens the inevitable.

          Like, to the speed of a critical mass overload.

          • The Nybbler says:

            US population is still rising; aside from immigration the US is just about at replacement level. Europe and especially Eastern Europe are in big trouble. Parts of Asia are worse but starting from a very high baseline.

            Islam taking over just means a new Dark Ages, not nuclear annihilation. In the West you still have the above-replacement Latino cultures (and the Amish, though their lack of tech may result in the Islamists just killing them). I don’t see human extinction there, just the extinction of modern Western civilization.

          • Sandy says:

            Parts of Asia are worse but starting from a very high baseline.

            Certain parts are worse off than others, and potentially worse off than anyone in the world — look at China, if they have to subsidize half a billion old people in the decades to come with a birthrate of only 1.6 and falling, that’s a body blow to their economy.

          • keranih says:

            Islam has a higher-than-average conflict rate, both within nations, between Muslim nations, and on the borders. I think that rising influence/power of Muslim nations will increase the instability of the world.

            Latino cultures are ‘Westernizing’ rapidly, and those that are not, are volatile and not of the mold of the Amish.

            I could be wrong, I frequently am. And it will be some time to see if I am correct.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Body blow to their economy? Sure. But not an extinction event. Increase the instability of the world? It’s been much more unstable, without threat of extinction.

            Sure, we have nuclear weapons now, but if even the norks aren’t crazy enough to use them, why would the Islamists once they finally got them (assuming the dying remnants of the currentnuclear powers didn’t destroy them before turning out the lights)? Maybe some limited nuclear exchanges, but nothing like an extinction event.

            I agree that if the lower fertility trend for certain countries continues it’s going to end up with a nastier and uglier world. But a world still full of people.

          • Autolykos says:

            Forget about nukes. Currently, neither the US, nor Russia have enough of them to actually wipe out humanity. Killing off billions, sure – but from there to total extinction is still a long way. And maintaining such a stockpile is expensive – it’s not as if nukes breed by themselves. So North Korea and Iran can build as many nukes as they like, and go as crazy with them as possible, and that would still be far off from an extinction event.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            Western European fertility levels are rising, so I wouldn’t be that worried. Eastern Europe has that problem where everyone who has even slightly decent prospects gets the hell out, so it’s about as doomed as the rural US is.

      • hlynkacg says:

        That’s terrible and you should feel terrible.

        • keranih says:

          Oh, believe me, I do.

          (And on edit – how come it took eight hours and me to come up with that? What kinda alt right/neo-reactionary cesspit *is* this place? Pathetic, I tell you.)

          • ChetC3 says:

            And on edit – how come it took eight hours and me to come up with that? What kinda alt right/neo-reactionary cesspit *is* this place?

            One where theirs seems to be the only fringe contrarian game in town, unless a some earlier replies about environmental apocalypse and nuclear armageddon got caught in the spam filter.

    • beleester says:

      Politics is too unpredictable for me to say it’s a good way to guarantee extinction. Sure, it’s easy in theory, just elect the right politician and he’ll launch the nukes, right? But strangely enough, very few presidential hopefuls have “Trigger nuclear apocalypse” on their platform. Finding a candidate who can rise up through a political party that doesn’t want to end the world, and then win the election against another party who also doesn’t want to end the world, is a non-trivial operation. And one rainstorm on election day could send all your billions of dollars to waste.

      So I’m going to second The Nybbler’s idea and say an engineered virus is a good start. You’ll need something with few visible symptoms and a long incubation period, but high lethality later on, otherwise your disease will get quarantined and eliminated before it makes a dent in the population. This is a tall order, it doesn’t match any existing virus, but at least you have clear specs to work from. And a biology lab is reasonably cheap on the scale of things that can end the world.

      Another good option would be to start an asteroid-mining company, and then aim a dinosaur-killer-sized chunk of rock towards Earth. This is going to be ridiculously expensive, probably a few trillion dollars, but once your rocket launches it’ll be nearly impossible to stop. And you might be able to run the initial stages of your plan as a legitimate business venture, bringing big chunks of platinum down to Earth.

      Regardless of which option you choose, you’ll probably need to earmark some funds to root out those last few survivors living in a bunker in Alaska. So make sure you have a plan to survive the apocalypse you’re about to unleash!

      • lhn says:

        Another good option would be to start an asteroid-mining company, and then aim a dinosaur-killer-sized chunk of rock towards Earth. This is going to be ridiculously expensive, probably a few trillion dollars, but once your rocket launches it’ll be nearly impossible to stop. And you might be able to run the initial stages of your plan as a legitimate business venture, bringing big chunks of platinum down to Earth.

        It seems to me that if you can set up a company capable of aiming a dinosaur-killer asteroid at Earth, others will have the capability to divert it. That gets harder the longer it takes for them to notice, but surely the rocks lots of bright drive flares are going to will be under regular observation by the curious if nothing else. Especially if you’re among the first asteroid mining enterprises.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          If you attach a few rockets on the asteroid and aim it at Earth, the next step is to give the asteroid a completely crazy spin. That stops other people from being able to usefully attach rockets on it.

          This whole thing is going to need a lot of regulation.

          • John Schilling says:

            You don’t need to attach rockets to an asteroid to make it not hit the Earth. That task is several orders of magnitude easier than making it hit the Earth, on account of not-Earth being a much bigger target than Earth.

            By the time anyone has the capability to make asteroids of a particular size hit Earth on command, making asteroids of that size not hit Earth will be trivial.

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        So I’m going to second The Nybbler’s idea and say an engineered virus is a good start. You’ll need something with few visible symptoms and a long incubation period, but high lethality later on, otherwise your disease will get quarantined and eliminated before it makes a dent in the population. This is a tall order, it doesn’t match any existing virus, but at least you have clear specs to work from.

        Just sell off your starting symptoms, buy all the resistances, and pray that your virus makes it into Madagascar before they close the port.

      • R Flaum says:

        Rather than supporting very warlike politicians, it might actually be a good idea to support very pacifistic ones, on the theory that they’ll do little to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. A world in which a whole bunch of crazy dictators have nukes is probably one with a higher likelihood of extinction than one in which only a few countries do. (Of course, some dictatorships have had nuclear weapons and not used them, most notably the Soviet Union. But only a few of them, and none of their leaders were insane in the manner that would be useful here.)

        • paulmbrinkley says:

          This reminds me of something I often say: most Americans – including those taken as Jacksonians – are pacifists. Indeed, they are among the most pacifistic people you’d ever meet. They are so pacifistic that if the time finally came where they were dragged, kicking and griping, into a war, they will want to fight it in such a way that they never, ever have to go back and fight it again.

          I virtually always say the above with intent to extol the pacifists’ virtue. They’re smart about their will to minimize harm, but that can occasionally lead to counter-intuitive results. (Think Carrot Ironfoundersson.)

          The moral of the story here is that if your path to peace is to hire a pacifist, you will want to very carefully consider how your preferred pacifist will reason, in the same way you would need to be careful how you instruct your AI to make paperclips.

  23. nancylebovitz says:

    I used to see rationalist arguments against voting, though not so much lately for some reason.

    In any case, I’m wondering whether using rationality to discouarage people from voting makes sense– voting (even if you include news-following, discussion, and research) is a fairly modest waste of time, and I don’t see the same amount of energy being put into discouraging comparable wastes of time. Video games are much more of a time-suck. [citation needed, I admit I’m guessing]

    Also, does voting make more sense if it’s being made onerous or even dangerous? Is it possible that the people who make voting difficult and risky are making a rational estimate that voting endangers their interests?

    • rlms says:

      People generally enjoy video games [citation probably not needed]; I don’t think the people arguing voting would have a problem with someone voting because they enjoy doing so, rather than out of some allegedly misplaced sense of duty or a feeling of being able to influence the world. Personally, I think it’s kind of like a tragedy of the commons problem. If everyone votes, we all benefit from good government. If no-one votes, bad stuff happens. Since an individual vote has very little effect in contributing to the production of good government, but can be mildly inconvenient for the voter, the optimum strategy for each voter is not to vote. But if everyone follows that strategy then the system falls apart. So it makes sense to feel obliged to vote.

      • Autolykos says:

        It is a mistake to believe the main function of voting to be choosing good policy. Even the politicians you vote for have little to no influence on policy. They need to focus primarily on maintaining power, or get replaced by someone who does. The only leeway the winning candidate has to enact the policy they want is the extent to which they are better at maintaining power and satisfying interest groups than their competitors. Which is usually only a very small margin.
        The point of voting is that it turns the people into one of the interest groups politicians have to appease. Screw up badly enough (e.g. by tanking the economy or losing wars) and you will be replaced. A high voting turnout and a well-informed and interested population will make this threat more credible, and force politicians to take the interest group “common people without connections/money” more seriously. Thus, informing yourself and voting is a common good, but not because it would influence policy in any appreciable way.

  24. Tekhno says:

    If things get really really really really really really really really bad and Nazis and Communists are fighting in the streets for dominance across the Western world as liberal state authority is challenged, then we should have a plan to rob the place of strong horse from them, lighting the way back to restoration.

    The problem of Nazis and Commies isn’t that they represent half the population each; otherwise they’d be unbeatable during a time of chaos. The problem is that they represent the largest minorities willing to do violence in the face of a collapsing status quo. The vast majority of people are drawn into supporting one or another based on the lesser of two evils as they feel like there is no longer any option but to back the strongest horse that they perceive will persecute them the least. This is solvable.

    The problem is that in the face of such chaos, a liberal ideological status quo isn’t willing to up the ante to the same level of the Nazis and Commies. It’d be hypocritical, wouldn’t it? If you fight extremists using extreme methods, then aren’t you an extremist? Lest ye become a monster and all that.

    This might just be a load of self-paralyzing nonsense. This is entirely the problem in just designating problem ideologies “extreme”. The biggest problem with these ideologies isn’t that they are extreme and willing to use violence, but that they collapse all of society down to a single value; race for the Nazis and class for the Commies. In order to fight them while maintaining integrity, you have to be able to express this factor ideologically, so instead of calling them “extremists”, we should call them “monomaniacal”, “singulist”, or “maximalist”. We’re then able to package them together without condemning them for using the very violence we need to stop them.

    You can’t just have the police cease all of their activities in a formal manner, as you’d risk the integrity of an already strained liberalism and its values of free speech. You’d need to engage in informal violence in the same way that they do. That means gangs, clubs, and organizations dedicated to turning up and protesting against both groups, and protesting here is a euphemism for kicking their heads in. Nazis and Commies turn up to protest each others activities and almost every single time it breaks out into mutual and gleeful violence. It’s quite consensual. We’re not talking about no platforming or any of that bullshit, just meeting them on the street in the exact same way that they meet each other to signal who is the strong horse.

    The problem with joining in is that it’s hard to get people to organize purely against things without being for things. It’s much easier to argue for Nazism or Communism than it is to rally and inspire people to fight both at once. It seems like a void. Instead of inspiration, you need money. You need a league of rich people funding people to turn up, and supply flags and posters first. A League of Antimaximalists to outnumber and humiliate them at every clash so that when the status quo is imperiled people feel like there is another alternative able to restore order from the chaos. The Antimaximalists would also engage in community organizing and things like soup drives to usurp the community power of Maximalist ideological organizations. True, order without vision can’t exist for long, but we’re talking about the street level. This would buy time for political alternatives in order to restore proper governmental order and a real solution to whatever crisis is ailing the country. There is no problem in finance or problem of poverty that Communism can solve which social liberalism cannot, and there is no problem in border control and clashes of culture that Nazism can solve that civic nationalism cannot.

    • Matt M says:

      I feel like the organization you describe in your final paragraph already exists, and is, in fact, the U.S. government.

    • Mark says:

      You need a league of rich people funding people to turn up, and supply flags and posters first. A League of Antimaximalists to outnumber and humiliate them at every clash so that when the status quo is imperiled people feel like there is another alternative able to restore order from the chaos.

      This is fascism, isn’t it?
      Yeah – I think it’s highly likely that in the event of a breakdown of the state there would be something similar to what you describe here – groups violently defending the status quo, or promoting something slightly less extreme and more palatable than the alternative.

  25. tayfie says:

    I’ve been wondering: To what extent is health advice self-fulfilling?

    1. Small evidence of some practice x being health/unhealthy is found.
    2. People who care about health pay attention and act while people who don’t ignore.
    3. Because people who care about health have other healthy habits, sample populations shift and evidence snowballs to confirm the original evidence.

    The problem is, what if the original evidence was just noise? Has there been any examples of such a case in the wild?

    • Randy M says:

      This is actually very widely discussed in nutrition studies, or at least certain discussions of them. For examples, studies showing meat causes colon cancer by comparing with people already on vegetarian diets voluntarily will be conflating with the hard to detangle attitude that health is important (a reason for choosing a vegetarian lifestyle) versus a more hedonistic one (due to disregarding advice about, for instance, red meat).

  26. thepenforests says:

    The SSC commentariat seems weirdly knowledgeable about all things military, and I find myself almost involuntarily fascinated with military-related things, so I’ll ask here – thoughts on the following?

    New Warship’s Big Guns Have No Bullets

    Was this warship just a complete waste of money, or what?

    (Also, I find myself coming across stories like this over and over again, and I have to wonder – frig, is there some kind of disease of modernity that just affects everything related to manufacture? Like, why can’t we just for once build something without costs ballooning out of control?)

    • Matt M says:

      When it comes to government contracting, cost overrruns are a feature, not a bug. Easy money for the contractors.

      • thepenforests says:

        Okay, but it seems like that’s always been true. Am I imagining that the problem is much worse these days, or what?

        • Matt M says:

          Theory based on no particular research or evidence: It’s not any worse, it’s just more widely reported, or more specifically, we now have easy access to a wider ranger of sources than we did in the past. The existence of the Internet makes it easier to pick up on these things when they do happen. 10 years ago this story would have been buried on Page 28 of the Norfolk Star-Ledger, and you’d never find it unless you lived in Norfolk and read it from cover to cover every day.

          Today you can just Google “ridiculous waste of money” AND “DOD” and get 20 such examples in a matter of minutes!

          • CatCube says:

            We’re in an era of spending lavishly on equipment to reduce risk to personnel. (And to minimize the number of personnel needed, since pax costs are a huge driver of military spending.)

            World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, you handed each Soldier an M16, a steel helmet, an LBE with some mag pouches and a few canteens, gave them a slap on the ass and sent them out to find Charlie.

            Now, we have body armor systems that price out at around $2000 each, each deploying SM has night-vision equipment, and they move around in extremely well-armored vehicles with a $10,000,000 price tag and a thirst for fuel.

            However, we lost 50,000 people in Vietnam over about 10 years. We lost around 6,000 over the same time period in Iraq and Afghanistan.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          My pet theory is that the US (perhaps more broadly the West) military has been growing decadent without real competition. The world has become so peaceful that mil-ind can get away with more graft without serious consequences to power projection ability. Whereas in the early half of 20th century everyone is scrambling like mad for their very survival, and before that you had a more multi-polar world with much more frequent conflict (that actually mattered, unlike the various US adventures of the past couple generations) to keep military contractors (relatively) honest.

          Of course, I’m an amateur armchair type. Curious whether this sounds right to folks with actual background in these things.

    • FacelessCraven says:

      @thepenforests – Ninefold reduction in total rounds ordered equals somewhere around a ninefold increase in per-shell cost to defray sunk R&D? As I understand it, these aren’t normal artillery shells, they’re hypersonic-launch brilliant munitions. I’m not sure I find any part of this surprising; brilliant artillery shells have always been hamstrung by per-round costs.

    • hlynkacg says:

      Well the thing is that the infamous “military industrial complex” employs a lot of STEM inclined folk and STEM inclined folk comprise the bulk of SSC’s commentariat so there is a bit of overlap.

      To answer your question. I don’t think the Zumwalt project was a complete waste of money as a lot of the tech that was developed for it has genuinely practical applications. That said, I would say that the project itself has suffered from poor management and a serious case of requirement bloat where it tries to be all things to all people and the final product ends up being horrifically expensive and impractical as a result.

    • Autolykos says:

      is there some kind of disease of modernity that just affects everything related to manufacture?

      There is, and its name is efficiency. You become more efficient (on paper) by shaving off margins of error, reducing tolerances and eliminating reserves and spare capacity. This also makes you more fragile to unforeseen events, but those don’t appear in your calculations (by definition). Government contracts go to whomever is most efficient on paper, i.e. the most fragile of them all.
      Fuckup ensues, everyone covers their ass by proving they picked the most efficient option, rinse, repeat.

      • hlynkacg says:

        ^ Bingo ^

        “durability” is expensive, so when you optimize for things other than (both in technical and program terms) durability is often one of the first things to get sacrificed.

      • There’s a simpler version: government contracts are often required to go to the lowest bidder, so they go to the most dishonest bidder.

        But I agree that Efficiency is Inefficient.

    • bean says:

      Complete waste of money, sad to say. The problem was that they were developed in a period when ‘transformation’ was the mantra in the DoD. It had started as ‘question how we do things’ and ended up as ‘don’t do things the way we normally do’. The Zumwalts took this the furthest of any program I’m aware of, including features like fighting and floating on the list. The Navy worked this out at least 5 years ago, but the Maine congressional delegation kept them from killing the ships. The cut in shells is a recognition that it would be criminal to let them get close to anything that can shoot back. Still, they have a lot of electrical power, so they’ll probably make good trials ships as long as they don’t have to face heavy weather.

      • FacelessCraven says:

        got any links for additional background?

        • bean says:

          Certainly. Here you go.
          Sources are obviously somewhat hard to come by, as the Navy would rather not air their dirty laundry. For some reason “high-tech ship” makes a lot better press than “appalling waste of money”, even though it’s the other way around for the F-35 (which actually seems to be working). That particular essay is somewhat dated, but nothing I’ve seen in the past 4 or so years gives much much confidence they’ve fixed the problem.

      • Deiseach says:

        The cut in shells is a recognition that it would be criminal to let them get close to anything that can shoot back.

        I’m simultaneously wincing and laughing. Are they that much of a sitting duck? If so, you might be able to flog them to the Irish Navy, our defence forces are always happy to pick up some second-hand equipment 🙂

        (To be fair, governments have been better about buying new equipment for all branches of the defence forces in recent times, but there was a period when we were snapping up third-hand gear and glad to get it).

        • bean says:

          I’m simultaneously wincing and laughing. Are they that much of a sitting duck?

          I may have exaggerated slightly, but I’d really rather have a Burke off a hostile coast. I could be sure that the radars and missile systems worked (as demonstrated recently off of Yemen) and it’s not likely to sink in a bad storm. There are several reasons why cancelling the LRLAP program would be a good idea. First, there are now better ways to deliver the kind of fire support that the Zumwalts were intended to. I’d go with a new short-range land-attack missile, probably based on the SDB. Stick it in whatever VLS cells are handy. We have lots of those these days. Second, there aren’t enough Zumwalts to actually make much use of the things, and from what I hear, the AGS program is dead, and not going on some future Burke variant (not sure why this is, actually). So we might as well save the money. They really are going to spend their careers as trials ships while the Burkes form our surface fleet. Third, there’s the curse of naval guided projectiles, which never work. Several of my books have pages and pages of failed programs.

          If so, you might be able to flog them to the Irish Navy, our defence forces are always happy to pick up some second-hand equipment 🙂

          I’d imagine that even your navy is smart enough to not want them. Plus, they do have lots of shiny US technology which we wouldn’t want falling into other hands. (Yes, even the Irish, who aren’t even part of NATO.)

    • bean says:

      (Also, I find myself coming across stories like this over and over again, and I have to wonder – frig, is there some kind of disease of modernity that just affects everything related to manufacture? Like, why can’t we just for once build something without costs ballooning out of control?)

      We can and occasionally do. I can think of several very successful military procurement programs over the past few decades, including the JSOW, Super Hornet, and Virginia-class submarine. They tend not to make the press. Also, a lot of the ‘cost overruns and program death’ stories are overblown. The F-35 has been a prime victim of this, as was the V-22 before it. Oddly enough, the Zumwalt hasn’t been, even though it’s probably the best example of defense stupidity around right now.

      • Incurian says:

        Why do you think the heat we give the F-35 is overblown?

        • bean says:

          The problems it’s been having are pretty typical of a really complicated technology development program. They’re doing things they’ve never done before, and that’s always expensive, particularly when you lump them into an operational program, and then make it your only one. It’s certainly not been an exemplar of good program management, but I’d say that it’s in maybe the 40th percentile there.
          If you dig, the things said about the F-35 today were also said about the F-15 and F-16 30-40 years ago. The defense industry hasn’t changed since the 50s, but only people who have been around a long time or those who really study it seem to notice.

          • shakeddown says:

            @bean
            I’m curious, this is the first I’ve heard of it. The criticisms I’ve heard go something like:
            a) Spending on an advanced-capability fighter like this is pointless at current levels of technology, since modern AA would shoot it down pretty fast.
            b) It’s better to invest in drones, which give much better bang for your buck, and the F-35 is a distraction.
            c) The air force is biased towards the F-35, partly because of a “fighter pilot joc” culture which disdains drones, and partly because it’s structured so that people’s incentives are to become fighter pilots for the most advanced planes, and said pilots later advance to be in charge, which causes them to focus on advanced fighters to an unhealthy degree.

            You seem pretty knowledgeable about this stuff – how accurate would you say these are?

          • John Schilling says:

            Drones are not significantly cheaper than manned aircraft of similar capability, and not significantly harder to shoot down. Probably easier to shoot down, really.

            The idea that drones can evade attack because their silicon-and-titanium construction will enable them to withstand twice the acceleration of meat servos runs up against the limits of aerodynamics quite hard: no engine known to man can overcome the drag associated with that sort of acceleration for more than a few seconds, but the missile chasing down your drone can accelerate harder and longer than the drone can.

            If you have a moral aversion to sending “fighter pilot jocks” out to their deaths, that’s an argument for using drones on the highest-risk missions. If you have a moral aversion to having your fpjs living on modafinil and adderal for days on end, that’s an argument for using drones on the longest missions. But not on simple cost-effectiveness calculations, at least not for the sort of missions we plan to send F-35s on.

          • bean says:

            a) Spending on an advanced-capability fighter like this is pointless at current levels of technology, since modern AA would shoot it down pretty fast.

            That’s pretty much why we’re buying the F-35. Yes, AA is getting better, but the manned aircraft has been declared dead before, and the F-35 is basically what we need to survive on the battlefields of 20 years from now. The F-16 won’t be able to.

            b) It’s better to invest in drones, which give much better bang for your buck, and the F-35 is a distraction.

            John covered this pretty well. Basically, drones aren’t magic. They have a few small advantages from not carrying pilots, and a lot of disadvantages from needing good comms. I’ll take the pilots until AI gets a lot better.

            c) The air force is biased towards the F-35, partly because of a “fighter pilot joc” culture which disdains drones, and partly because it’s structured so that people’s incentives are to become fighter pilots for the most advanced planes, and said pilots later advance to be in charge, which causes them to focus on advanced fighters to an unhealthy degree.

            What else would they be focusing on? Bombers? We have one in work. Drones? Massively oversold. Senior military leadership is never as conservative as they’re accused of being, and usually comes off looking pretty good after the war. Those that aren’t conservative usually lose.

          • sflicht says:

            Drone’s aren’t magic

            I’m slowly making my way through Van Creveld’s history of air power to try to learn something about this topic. I’m still in the early years, where one of the striking themes is the rapid onset of fighters, despite the consensus just a few years earlier that the important role of airpower is dropping ordinance (even thought it was rather pitifully ineffective at the time). This seems like a somewhat rational, game theoretic response (you need fighters to shoot down their fighters who want to shoot down your bombers), except for the fact that — granting some ambiguity in the historical record that Van Creveld acknowledges — there’s a not-easily-dismissed argument that the *most* important role for aircraft in say WWI or the Italian campaign in Libya, was intelligence gathering / aerial reconnaissance.

            Like I said I’m still reading the book, I lack subject matter expertise, and perhaps Van Creveld’s final chapters (which I believe discuss drones among other modern topics) refute my next points. But so far this history has made me wonder just how certain one can be about the role of airpower in 20 years. UAVs do offer fundamentally new capabilities, insofar as they can be *small*, hence *cheap*, hence *ubiquitous*. They can also (I understand) linger in a target area for long periods of time. It seems clear that they’re now preferred for the aerial reconnaissance roles previously filled by U2s etc. (Although perhaps they can’t fly high enough to serve this function in genuinely contested airspace? And perhaps satellites make most of that stuff obsolete anyhow, or will do so soon?) It all makes me wonder how USAF planners can credibly predict what air war against a great power would look like even now, let alone 20 years from now.

          • John Schilling says:

            It all makes me wonder how USAF planners can credibly predict what air war against a great power would look like even now, let alone 20 years from now.

            It takes the other great powers about twenty years to field a completely new top-end system, just like us. We know what a war with them twenty years from now will look like, because we know what they are developing now.

            A hundred years ago, there was a lot of technological low-hanging fruit to be had by whoever could see past all the clever-but-wrong ideas and kludge up a system around a really good idea. We’ve spent the past century plucking that tree pretty bare. If there’s a revolution to be had, it will have to be something that comes completely out of left field.

            Possibly at 299,792,458 meters per second.

          • shakeddown says:

            Thanks for the answers!
            One more question – I seem to recall a war nerd article that said the current Chinese (and/or maybe russian?) equivalents to the F-35 massively outperform it. How accurate is that? (Also, where would you say is a good place to read up on this stuff?)

          • sflicht says:

            @Schilling

            How confident are you really, that just because it took us say 20 years to field the F-22 it would take the Chinese 20 years to field an equivalent fighter, or more relevantly, an airborne craft of comparable relevance to modern warfare?

            I realize that (a) stealth is a thing, and (b) stealth is hard and requires subtle mathematical techniques to perfect, combined in just the right way with massive engineering efforts to make practical. But what I *don’t* feel confident in is that people in 20 years will think stealth as understood in 2016 is a thing. Is it really inconceivable, with current tech, to field several hundred lightly armed drones with minimal RCS in place of one F-35? Why, exactly, should civilians be confident that the Chinese have or lack the requisite tech? How, exactly, do such considerations factor into modern air power doctrine?

          • keranih says:

            @ shakeddown

            I seem to recall a war nerd article that said the current Chinese (and/or maybe russian?) equivalents to the F-35 massively outperform it.

            The reports I read said “outperformed per dollar of production” – so the six or seven non-American fighters that one could buy with an F-35 could shoot down an F-35 before it got all of them.

            No ups without downs.

          • John Schilling says:

            How confident are you really, that just because it took us say 20 years to field the F-22 it would take the Chinese 20 years to field an equivalent fighter, or more relevantly, an airborne craft of comparable relevance to modern warfare?

            I’ve been following Chinese aerospace programs for about thirty years now, and looking back even farther than that. They have always taken the slow and steady approach. I don’t think I have ever seen one of their programs outpace our own equivalent, even though they have always been running a decade or more behind us and thus had our example to follow. I’m pretty sure Mandarin doesn’t even have a word for “Skunk Works” or “DARPA”.

            And for at least the past twenty years, I’ve been hearing Western commentators declaring that we’d better watch out because Real Soon Now the Red Chinese are going to overtake us and then we’ll be sorry. It’s pretty much always wishful thinking, traceable to someone hoping for a Cold War / Space Race competition that they can use to light a fire under whoever is blocking or underfunding their favorite program.

            As for the claims that Russian/Chinese fighters are better than their American counterparts, a lot of that is based on using easily-measured metrics like top speed and the number/range of air-to-air missiles carried. Those aren’t the most important parameters in modern air combat. Unfortunately, the things that are critically important are rather hard for outsiders to know – can anyone here tell me the radar cross-section of the J-20?

            And even on the “easy” things like top speed and missile range, people have a tendency to just compare the manufacturer’s advertising claims.

          • bean says:

            @sflicht

            UAVs do offer fundamentally new capabilities, insofar as they can be *small*, hence *cheap*, hence *ubiquitous*.

            But ultimately, they’re limited to recon and very light strike work in areas that aren’t heavily defended. To do more, you need to make them expensive. Drones don’t magically remove conventional aeronautical engineering limits. The big advantage most drones have is that their range isn’t limited by the pilot’s ability to stay awake. Similar manned aircraft have been built from time to time.

            Although perhaps they can’t fly high enough to serve this function in genuinely contested airspace?

            Not sure on that. Depends on the drone, and I suspect there may be a classified program or two working on that front.

            And perhaps satellites make most of that stuff obsolete anyhow, or will do so soon?)

            Not really. Satellites and drones are complimentary. Satellites see everywhere, but only occasionally. Drones are vulnerable, but can stay on station for a long time.

            @shakeddown

            One more question – I seem to recall a war nerd article that said the current Chinese (and/or maybe russian?) equivalents to the F-35 massively outperform it. How accurate is that?

            Well, war nerd currently has my second-place trophy for worst defense analyst, so I’m pretty sure he’s wrong. A lot of people still don’t understand that you build the performance into the weapon, not the platform. A 737 with AMRAAMs (and the proper radar fit) is scarier than an F-22 with just a gun. Add in that the F-35 is a strike aircraft, not a fighter, and it’s entirely possible that the latest Chinese 5th gen fighter is better in a dogfight. Not going to lose a lot of sleep over it.

            (Also, where would you say is a good place to read up on this stuff?)

            The problem is that people who really know generally can’t talk. I’ll see what I can turn up.

            @sflicht

            How confident are you really, that just because it took us say 20 years to field the F-22 it would take the Chinese 20 years to field an equivalent fighter, or more relevantly, an airborne craft of comparable relevance to modern warfare?

            Very. These things are driven by the basic timescales of the engineering involved. That’s vastly more complicated than it used to be.

            Is it really inconceivable, with current tech, to field several hundred lightly armed drones with minimal RCS in place of one F-35?

            Yes. The problem there is cost. The F-35 has a flyaway (marginal) cost of ~$100 million. Several hundred drones in place of that would have to cost less than $500k each. The Tomahawk costs ~$1.5 million each, and it’s a cruise missile, not an air combat drone. For that matter, an AIM-9X costs $600k right now.
            A small drone is going to be unable to use long-range missiles, which means it has to close through the enemy’s long-range missiles before engaging. This is a bad thing. Also, you have to talk to all of these drones to use them to anything like their full capability. This is really non-trivial. You can’t just string more Cat-5 to these things. And it still leaves you short of strike platforms, which is the F-35s actual role. There are games you can play with Cooperative Engagement Capability and the like which might save the thing, but it’s not likely to save the concept.

            Why, exactly, should civilians be confident that the Chinese have or lack the requisite tech? How, exactly, do such considerations factor into modern air power doctrine?

            The reason modern airplanes are expensive is because of electronics. Period. Coming up with a plan which prohibits us from fitting the full set of electronics, and then buying a huge number of sets of the bits that are left seems suboptimal.

            @keranih

            The reports I read said “outperformed per dollar of production” – so the six or seven non-American fighters that one could buy with an F-35 could shoot down an F-35 before it got all of them.

            Six or seven? What are you buying? Even a Gripen is $30-60 million, and that’s regarded as a pretty fiscally responsible program.

  27. nancylebovitz says:

    https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=times+square+train&tbm=nws

    Possibly of interest: A woman killed another woman by shoving her in front of a train. The headlines vary by mentioning the sex of the person killed, or the sex of the killer. One had it that a person was killed.

    • Randy M says:

      I like how the link in the middle of the page shows a picture of Chris Christie. (probably from an automated feature that grabs a random picture from the page, but still).

    • Montfort says:

      I saw the story on a news site today under two different headlines; filed first as something like “Woman pushes person in front of train” and then later (presumably once details of the victim were known) “Woman pushed off subway platform.”

      Not sure what that signifies, besides possibly a bias towards framing around the victim instead of the perpetrator.

  28. kwc says:

    Hello, kind citizens.

    I am a longtime lurker, having read pretty much all of SSC, the Sequences, and HPMoR but never emerging from the shadows to actually post– although I have introduced many others to the site. I am a Bay Area native and data analyst who majored in math at an elite liberal arts college in the States, and I am applying to graduate schools in Statistics and Operations Research. My medium/long term goal is to achieve a position of influence in the world that will allow me to do interesting and satisfying work that has a significant net positive impact on sentient beings. I would prefer to do this rather than simply engineering a high-earning job and donating a portion of my income, in part because I believe I would hate the kind of work that would be best suited for that path, and in part because I believe that, as a prominent intellectual, I could have more influence on the course of human history than by merely donating a hefty sum annually. (And I could still donate money as a prominent intellectual. See: Peter Singer.)

    Recently, I realized that I hadn’t been completely honest with myself about what my interests and goals are, in fact, and so I was engaged in this process of talking myself into applying certain graduate programs that could turn out to be interesting or “good” for me, rather than ones that I am truly excited about and fit my interests more closely. In light of that, and with just over 20 days until the first round of applications are due, I am hoping to clarify my goals and to discover any programs I should add to my list– or, especially, discover previously unknown professors whom I might be interested in working with. My sincere hope is that some of you folks will have suggestions of places to look or people to reach out to.

    Things that interest me:
    Probability theory / stochastic processes / MCMC methods / simulation
    Data analysis / data science
    Bayesian statistics
    Decision Theory
    Statistical learning / Machine learning
    Algorithms (i.e, the ones I learned about in my undergrad “Algorithms” class: dynamic programming, sorting algorithms, graph traversal)

    Perhaps not directly related to my graduate studies:
    Psychology / Ethics / Epistemology – how they interact with each other, and with the concepts above; in psych specifically: how do people make decisions, form beliefs and change their minds?
    General Artificial Intelligence
    Animal rights/welfare

    I know some of these things can be found in Stats and OR programs. Will I be able to find a meaningful confluence of them? Which researchers have interests that align most closely with mine? I am a strong applicant in many respects, but my GPA is a fair amount lower than the average admit for the top Stats and OR programs. My adviser thought I would be competitive for OR programs in the “top 10,” but “maybe not in the top 3 or 4.” So, if I’m not going to go to Stanford/Cal/MIT, where would the next best place be to go to do meaningful work in these areas? I have some idea of the answers to these questions, but have not personally found anyone in academia who shares my values and interests closely enough, so I have had trouble finding clear, action-guiding answers.

    If any of you have input, especially those in or from academia, it would be very much appreciated.

    Thanks very much,
    K

    • Autolykos says:

      How about neuroscience? Psychology and machine learning are pretty central there, and the groups that work with animals have to think a lot about animal welfare. Data analysis and statistics are a lot of what you’d actually do there (but OTOH, it’s very hard to find any field where you don’t).
      I got into it via physics, but it is open from many directions. I have mostly worked with psychologists, biologists and engineers.

    • Reasoner says:

      Did you look at 80000 Hours?

  29. onyomi says:

    Almost as good as the octopus who picks the World Cup, Mystical Chinese Monkey Predicts Donald Trump will be Next President. I would like to know, however, whether he is kissing him or trying to eat his face.

  30. TheBearsHaveArrived says:

    Well, I guess my prediction in this thread was biased thinking, and all stupid recency bias.

    Razib Khan predicted that most polls were inaccurate due to people not willing to give Trump support in public because it was sociably damaging, biasing all the polls upward. Nate Silver already moved up every pool like +2 due to republicans actually voting(oversimplification). Guess Khan was right?

    my incorrect prediction was stupidly based on the predictions from yesterday. How shortsighted.

    That needs to be looked into. The rates of spousal cheating are never captured by interviews either. And trump says very…very offensive things.

    I was about to go to sleep. Now seeing the current results, i’m up. Very up.

    • TheBearsHaveArrived says:

      Well, benefits to Trump vs Hillary. I need to write an essay after the results.

      I hate how my brain does this. I thought Alexander wrote a good essay. And if trump wins, i’m still following adams for quite a while.

      Something something surprising heuristic.

    • Reasoner says:

      Non-interview data on spousal cheating, from Razib.

  31. rlms says:

    Interesting. Good luck America.

  32. Itai Bar-Natan says:

    I’m looking for an obscure Eliezer Yudkowsky Sequence post. It is a dialogue about how the statement “I don’t know” is basically dishonest since you should always have Bayesian probably estimate for everything. Could anyone help me find it?

      • Itai Bar-Natan says:

        Thanks.

      • Jiro says:

        “I don’t know” means “I have so little information that you should not update very much based on anything I might conclude, and I should not act based on it”. Eliezer tries to get around the latter by claiming that one must always choose between acting and not acting, but there are such things as defaults.

        Refusing to say “I don’t know” and acting based on poorly founded estimates leads to being taken in by Pascal’s Mugging.

        • Deiseach says:

          Oh, this is the “how many apples on the tree?” thing? I’ve changed my mind on that and decided to cut it more slack because it was a chat exchange and nothing like a properly thought out and written up post.

          I can see that yeah, you could say “Based on what age the tree is, what is the season of the year, and that the average number of apples on a modern cultivar is in the range zix to kaflump, I would estimate with a probability of feefoo percent that there are magoo apples on the tree outside your window”, but dude, sometimes it’s just easier and better to say “Haven’t the foggiest, mate”. You do not have to be an instant expert with an infallible opinion on every topic under the sun.

  33. alexpear says:

    Random question: Does anyone have any memes, concepts, techniques, or epistemic best practices they wish more people had heard of? I’m looking for good memes to spread.

    • Adrian says:

      Can you give an example for “meme” in the context you’re thinking of? The Internet has tainted me and now I associate “memes” with semi-funny pictures with captions.

      • alexpear says:

        I mean shareable ideas and concepts. ‘Ideas’ would probably be a clearer word for me to use here.

        • Matthias says:

          What are you trying to achieve?

          The Gates Notes might be interesting.

          • alexpear says:

            In the public sphere & my Facebook network there’s a lot of repetitive political discussion. But there are also a few ideas and perspectives that are novel and enlightening, where only a few people have heard of them and many people would appreciate being exposed to them. (My pet ideas, for example, are things like ballot rules changes that could have positive-sum improvements on elections.) In the aftermath of the US election, i suspect lots of people have pet concepts they really wish others understood.

            Thanks for the link!

    • glenra says:

      Does anyone have any memes, concepts, techniques, or epistemic best practices they wish more people had heard of?

      I love the concept of expecting short inferential distances. From exposure that idea, I remain painfully aware that the people I’m arguing with probably don’t share my premises and preconceptions at a fairly deep level. Which means if reasonable discussion is to be possible, I need to make more of an effort to figure out what their premises are and more of an effort to let them know what mine are.

      Sadly, this idea interacts very badly with one of the more toxic SJ memes: “splaining”. I have not, alas, found a way to bridge the gap between the two.

    • Does it count if I shamelessly plug my blog?

  34. Humbert McHumbert says:

    Been reading Yudkowsky’s Trump posts and panicking a bit. Someone please convince me that it’s safe to have Trump in control of nuclear weapons.

    • Deiseach says:

      I don’t think anyone is safe to have in control of nuclear weapons, but if you’re panicking via reading Yudkowsky, sit back and relax, brother. Unless you’re prepared seriously to panic about AI turning you into paperclips, treat it as “so this is this guy’s opinion, well that’s an interesting angle”.

      • Humbert McHumbert says:

        I’m not persuaded by the Trump post on the basis of Yudkowsky’s authority, but rather because of the strength of his arguments. (By contrast, I’ve never been convinced by his AI risk arguments.)

        • Deiseach says:

          I’m not persuaded by the Trump post on the basis of Yudkowsky’s authority, but rather because of the strength of his arguments.

          Well, given that his big realisation in that post after playing some kind of diplomacy/war game was “Holy crap, government is hard, maybe all the politicians and bureaucrats and civil servants are not total idiots after all”, I am unimpressed by the rest of it. Some of the rest of us had come to the opinion that Things Is Complicated long before that 🙂

          He seems to me to have gone into it with the view fixed beforehand that Trump is an idiot and a buffoon and will throw a tantrum and go for war on the basis of being insulted, then worked forward from that – ‘if I, universally recognised Smart Person, found it tough to do a job I knew feck-all about, what will dumb poopy-head do in the same position?’

          Well, that’s what you have a civil service for. We minions do not just sit around drinking tea all day and waiting to collect our pension, honest!

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      I was pretty worried 24 hours ago about WTF would happen with Trump in the White House.

      Now that it has happened, I’m still concerned, but it doesn’t seem as bad as I thought.

      We’ll see.

    • bean says:

      Trump’s finger is not directly on the button. If he randomly decides to nuke France, the officer with the suitcase will say that he’d like the JAG’s opinion on the issue before he moves on, and Trump will be removed before the JAG responds.

      • Humbert McHumbert says:

        The worry is not that Trump will nuke countries at random. The worry is that his impulsiveness and ignorance of strategy will make a crisis more likely to turn into a nuclear war.

        • bean says:

          We survived Kennedy. I think we’ll survive Trump.

          • shakeddown says:

            That is not reassuring. Kennedy himself estimated a 30% chance of things going south in the CMC.

          • bean says:

            Kennedy caused the CMC by being weak despite having overwhelming strategic superiority. There may have been a 30% chance of things going south, but it was only because he’d lead Khrushchev to believe that he’d get away with putting missiles in Cuba. Trump is somewhat less likely to fall into that trap.

          • shakeddown says:

            Care to elaborate? I heard that story as Kennedy pushing Kruschev by putting missiles in Turkey without thinking ahead, then grandstanding when Kruschev retaliated by trying to put missiles in Cuba. This definitely seems like the sort of thing Trump would do. (Fortunately, this isn’t the cold war anymore, so we’re probably safer).

          • bean says:

            Care to elaborate?

            Always.
            In 1962, the US had an immense strategic advantage, significantly bigger even than we realized. The Soviets knew that if it came to war, they’d lose, and badly. They had maybe half a dozen ‘operational’ ICBMs, and those took, IIRC, about 72 hours of preparation to launch. Their bomber force wasn’t much better. Kennedy came into office talking about nuclear parity, dramatically mishandled the Bay of Pigs, and basically gave Khrushchev the impression that he wouldn’t mind if missiles went into Cuba. I’ll look for more details when I get home.

          • bean says:

            Further elaboration:
            What probably kicked the whole thing off was Kennedy’s behavior at the Vienna summit in June of 1961. Khrushchev was trying to figure out a way to stop the entire population of East Germany from fleeing through Berlin, and Kennedy acted as if he believed his own rhetoric about the Missile Gap and spoke of Sino-Soviet forces during the depths of that split. He then essentially backed down and let Khrushchev build the Berlin Wall, despite that being at least against the spirit of the agreements governing Berlin. This lead Khrushchev to decide that Kennedy would back down the next time he pushed, which was in Cuba.
            Source is Norma Friedman’s The Fifty-Year War. Excellent book.

    • baconbacon says:

      Did Trump become more or less predictable as the campaign wore on? Did he move farther away from the mainstream or toward it? Did he look more presidential at the end or less?

      A presidential campaign is pretty grueling, his ability to not collapse during it probably speaks to stability, not instability. Is he an a**hole with a big ego? Yes, so was Steve Jobs (allegedly). What does the worst case (reasonably) for Hillary look like? I’d frame it like this- Syria showed that her primary motivation is leaving a legacy of accomplishment. She is calculating to the effect of wanting to win some dramatic victory where others failed before her, instead of taking the simple lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan that involvement would be complex with low probability of success she ran a gambit with other people’s lives to be seen as influencing democracy in an unstable region. A person willing to risk others’ lives for their own glory is going to be the type of person to risk major military involvement to make sure they are viewed well by history (Wilson).

      I think you can make this type of argument for any candidate, how strong depends on your priors in all likelihood, but I don’t buy the approach of Trump being uniquely dangerous in this position.

  35. It’s been a while since I’ve been reading the comment sections / OTs thoroughly. Does anyone care to comment on the rough distribution of political opinions of the SSC commentariat in the last 6 months or so, and has the registration thing changed this?