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Open Thread 62.5

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

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740 Responses to Open Thread 62.5

  1. aaarboretum says:

    I was thinking recently about how people argue for/against controversial policies that involve banning certain groups of people from doing something, e.g. banning travel to the USA from Muslim countries, banning gay people from donating blood, banning trans people from using bathrooms of their preferred gender, etc.

    The people in favor of stronger bans seem to argue from a desire of lowering the false negative rate (where failing to ban bad people counts as a false negative) e.g. too many terrorists are entering the country, the false negative rate of catching them should be closer to 0% (ban travel)! On the other side of the argument, you usually have people arguing from a desire of lowering the false positive rate i.e. too many innocent Muslims who want to visit their families are having their human rights curtailed, the false positive rate should be closer to 0% (don’t ban travel- relax visa standards)!

    Of course, it’s a fact that the probability of a false negative will increase if we decrease the probability of a false positive. So it’s emotionally extremely hard thing to compromise in these kinds of circumstances. Either side will see the opposite of what they want to happen, happen. It’s not exactly a zero sum game (some algorithms/policy can definitely increase the sensitivity of a measurement without increasing the false positives by that much), but it can feel like it, especially when you don’t always know ahead of time how a certain policy will shift the probabilities. But it’s a better framework for actually finding out whether a policy would even be effective in the first place, e.g. I’d say Trump’s travel ban is absurd because it’s been many years since I’ve heard of an attack from a foreign terrorist (so I assume the false negative rate is already quite low on an already small number of actual terrorists) and making it any lower would not be worth how much it would balloon the false positive rate and cause hundreds of thousands of people to suffer.

    So, I guess my question is- are there good resources out there for finding out the sensitivity/specificity/base rates of things? It’d probably easy to find numbers on how many Muslims live in a certain country, but are there numbers about how many terrorists are in a certain country, and the number of people who are both Muslims and terrorists? The CDC publishes things like the number of MSM who get infected with HIV every year, and the Red Cross has statistics on how many people donate blood every year – so I’d actually be curious to see how much actual effect the gay blood ban has on the decrease of volume of blood collected vs. decrease in rate of infected blood.

    • dndnrsn says:

      If you are an American, and worried about American Muslims being terrorists or supporting terrorism, don’t be. Pew opinion polling shows that American Muslims are among the world’s Muslims least likely to support terrorism.

      Actual numbers ofterrorists or suspected terrorists or whatever are probably only available to the relevant law enforcement/intelligence agents.

      • suntzuanime says:

        Surely the appropriate comparison is not how they compare to Muslims in other countries, but how they compare to members of other religions in America?

        • Urstoff says:

          Both comparisons are pointless without setting some sort of baserate that you consider acceptable.

          • Well... says:

            Why?

            I get that if Muslims are (say) 0.05% likely to be terrorists and Christians are 0.001% likely to be terrorists, and if you don’t want ANY terrorists, then someone would say “Well you should support banning immigration by Christians AND Muslims!”

            But banning members of a group with a high rate of terrorism is still better than doing nothing if you’re in favor of minimizing false negatives–even if you still let in members of another group with a lower but nonzero rate of terrorism.

          • Urstoff says:

            Because “high” is an empty term unless you set what you consider to be “normal” or “low”. “high” relative to another population is not very useful.

          • Well... says:

            Sure it is.

            Suppose you know that all populations, yours included, will likely have a nonzero percentage of terrorists, but that your country’s percentage is lower than that of various Muslim countries.

            If you wanted a terrorism rate of zero, you’d have to take drastic measures and infringe on the rights of your own citizens.

            So instead you can take the next best practical approach which is to not let your country’s percentage of terrorists get higher by importing a population with a higher percentage of terrorists in it, such as those from Muslim countries.

            Because no foreigner has the right to immigrate to your country, you get to keep the percentage of terrorists in your country to a minimum while not trampling on anyone’s rights.

          • dndnrsn says:

            This is basically my response. One has to set a floor – optimizing for “groups less likely to cause crime/given sort of crime” without a tolerable minimum will end up going vastly further than its proponents want it to.

          • Well... says:

            @dndnrsn:

            Can you explain?

            You seem to be making a slippery slope argument, but immigration policy is on a terraced hill. Each terrace formed by the various countries or group of countries from which ours might or might not accept immigrants.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Well…:

            If it would be justified to ban or curtail immigration from Muslim countries on the basis of reducing violent-crime-as-terrorism, it would be far more justified to ban immigration by men, on the grounds that men commit vastly more violent crime (of any sort) than women – with a considerably larger gap than between Muslims and non-Muslims for terrorism.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            I’m pretty sure I’ve seen that proposal somewhere before.

          • Aapje says:

            @Whatever Happened To Anonymous

            Julie Bindel suggested putting men in concentration camps, although it seems to have been intended as rhetoric, not a serious proposal.

            @dndnrsn

            I don’t think it is fair to equate terrorism with other violent crimes, like getting in a bar fight. These are not equivalent.

            I also believe that violence by women is severely under-counted (in part because women are weaker, so the consequences are simply less, which makes people laugh it off). So you could just as easily argue for a strength test at the border, where we let in only the weak and feeble.

            Furthermore, the common argument for keeping out Muslims is that Islam is an ideology that drives people towards violence. The people who favor restrictions on Muslim immigration don’t want that religion to gain ground. Letting in female and underage Muslims would clearly go against this, as the children would grow up as Muslims (generally).

            A lot of issues with migrants are with the second and third generation anyway (often much more than with the 1st generation), so filtering the first generation in a way that won’t reduce problems with later generations is usually not going to work.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The theory I heard is that the problem with 2nd and 3rd generation that they aren’t as rich as their peers and become resentful. If you let in high-earning immigrants, does this address that? Do we have enough data points to test this?

          • Nita says:

            So you could just as easily argue for a strength test at the border, where we let in only the weak and feeble.

            Fantastic — you’ve solved the dissatisfied white working class problem! The blue-collar guys get protectionism, and everyone else gets more assistants, nannies etc.

            🙂

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Aapje:

            Ordinary violent crime is a lot more common than that which is counted as terroristic. It is also paid attention to less. It could be argued that it is more insidious – that it damages the social fabric a great deal more.

            I am not arguing for letting in only women, or for only letting in women from certain groups. I am trying to make a point – which is that justifying keeping a group out on the basis “they are more violent” will also justify keeping out plenty more groups. Any “this group is more violent than that group and thus needs to be kept away/kept down” reasoning applies to men when compared to women also.

            And few people in the mainstream or anywhere close openly say that their reason for opposing Muslim immigration is to keep that religion from gaining ground. Trump’s proposal of a ban on Muslims entering the country, and so forth, was in response to a terrorist act, not by his being upset at seeing a group of women walking down the street in niqabs.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            I’m pretty sure I’ve seen that proposal somewhere before.

            Here.

          • Aapje says:

            @Edward Scizorhands

            The theory I heard is that the problem with 2nd and 3rd generation that they aren’t as rich as their peers and become resentful.

            My observation is that the first generation generally maintains mostly their home culture, but later generations start to really straddle cultures, which means they don’t match either sufficiently. So they get rejected from both their home culture and the culture of general society, which causes lots of dissatisfaction and a lack of trust in the willingness of society to give them a fair chance. This makes them very susceptible to becoming (professional) criminals.

            Once this happens, you can get a spiral where the group gets a reputation for being criminals and then gets treated worse collectively, which in turn makes them less able to integrate. If I’m not mistaken, this happened to the Irish and Italians in the US, for example.

            A major factor is also whether the first generation is well educated or not. A poorly educated 1st generation tends to be content with a hard scrap life, but the later generations aren’t. If the first generation lacks good role models, mentors, etc; the second generation is mostly unable to take advantage of the opportunities that Western society offers, which again, causes great dissatisfaction.

            Of course, more factors play a role, like the difference between the home culture and the host culture, etc. Anyway, personally I think that the difficulty of the integration process, which often takes generations and becomes harder the more immigrants there are, means that open borders are untenable.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Aapje:

            I’d say the lesson is more that young men who don’t feel like they belong are volatile elements in society.

            The kind of trouble a young man who doesn’t feel like he belongs will get into probably depends on his background.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            Ordinary violent crime is a lot more common than that which is counted as terroristic. It is also paid attention to less. It could be argued that it is more insidious – that it damages the social fabric a great deal more.

            Sure, but the anti-Muslim people seem to believe that bringing in Muslim immigrants will add a group with both a higher level of non-terrorist violence as well as terrorist violence. A lot of crime reports show the former, especially if you adopt a multi-generational view, so although I am wary of discrimination by religion, your argument doesn’t really undermine it.

            I am trying to make a point – which is that justifying keeping a group out on the basis “they are more violent” will also justify keeping out plenty more groups.

            This is not a very persuasive argument to people who see immigration as something that should only be allowed if the immigrants add something to society.

            In general, I’ve found ‘but it can get even worse,’ not a very good argument to persuade people to accept something.

            And few people in the mainstream or anywhere close openly say that their reason for opposing Muslim immigration is to keep that religion from gaining ground. Trump’s proposal of a ban on Muslims entering the country, and so forth, was in response to a terrorist act, not by his being upset at seeing a group of women walking down the street in niqabs.

            Here in Europe that is openly said. In my country, by a political party that is currently polling to be the biggest political party (at about 1/6 of the electorate). This party has strong connections with the right wing in the US, who seem to have very similar beliefs.

            Of course, the number of Muslims is very low in the US compared to Western Europe, so the fear is often more of having the same problems as in Western Europe.

            I’d say the lesson is more that young men who don’t feel like they belong are volatile elements in society.

            The kind of trouble a young man who doesn’t feel like he belongs will get into probably depends on his background.

            True, but migration often makes people more volatile, especially the 2nd and 3rd generation who didn’t choose it themselves, but do have to deal with the consequences.

            BTW. A lot of people who left Europe to join ISIS were women, who also felt they didn’t belong.

          • Spookykou says:

            @Aapje

            In general, I’ve found ‘but it can get even worse,’ not a very good argument to persuade people to accept something.

            I would interpret dndnrsn as saying the argument is not principled.

            I want rule X because of problem B.

            Do you want rule Y that does a better job of addressing problem B?

            No.

            Then you do not actually care about problem B you care about rule X and problem B is just an excuse to get rule X that you want for reasons unstated.

            You can argue that B is not the same as B (violence vs terrorism) but that is not particularly compelling to me. This is not a traditional ‘slippery slope’ rather, the fact that you don’t fall down the slope, reveals your hidden preference from Rule X rather than a solution to B.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Aapje:

            Spookykyou I think describes better what I’m trying to say. “It is OK to keep people out who are more likely to be violent” logically leads to keeping out men first and foremost. “It is OK to discriminate against a group that is more violent than the norm” would justify discrimination against men (especially young men) before most other sorts of discrimination. As such, a lot of the arguments that are based on “this group is more violent so let’s discriminate against them” are not really about violence. If Muslim immigrants committed crime at a lower rate than the average, there would still be people who had a problem with them.

            You are right that in Europe the discourse is different. But the OP’s original question was regarding Muslims entering the US.

            It is also true that there are young women going to join ISIS, and so forth. Women are no less hungry for a cause to devote themselves than men are. They do, however, tend to be considerably less violent.

          • Aapje says:

            @Spookykou

            Again, when you look at the long term, banning men from migrating doesn’t work (because the women will birth boys and half the children that you let migrate will be boys who will become men). If you let a mother with a 14 year old boy migrate, he will become a young men after a few years. We also know that children who grow up with a single parent have worse outcomes. And you will get a lot of resentment (or ressentiment) when people get separated from their husband/father. So at most the proposal will give a short term gain, while it will probably result in worse outcomes in the long term. If you actually listen to the anti-migration people, they are not just concerned with short term consequences, but also the outcomes over the next few generations.

            There is this seriously frustrating element to these discussions where the anti-anti-immigration arguments are often extremely short sighted and completely fail to address many of the actual concerns expressed by the anti-migration side. It often feels similar to the most dumb opposition to the climate change discussion (‘it’s snowing, so climate change is no big deal right now’).

            @dndnrsn

            If Muslim immigrants committed crime at a lower rate than the average, there would still be people who had a problem with them.

            Just like the many people who object to Indian immigrants who also tend have a different faith? Hmmm…not many people object to them. Or the Chinese, who are also quite different…hmmm…again not much objection there. Vietnamese immigrants? No.

            Why do you think that Muslims are singled out if violence is not a key factor?

            You are right that in Europe the discourse is different. But the OP’s original question was regarding Muslims entering the US.

            You cannot separate the two. Again, many people fear that what happened in (parts of) Europe will happen to the US:

            http://www.breitbart.com/london/2016/05/06/anti-islamification-politician-geert-wilders-will-travel-republican-convention-support-trump/
            http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/30/books/30garner.html?hpw
            Rick Santorum has talked about the risk of Europe becoming ‘Eurabia’

            It is also true that there are young women going to join ISIS, and so forth. Women are no less hungry for a cause to devote themselves than men are. They do, however, tend to be considerably less violent.

            Male hyperagency and female hypoagency dictates that women are more often doing supportive work, inciting, rather than doing violence, etc. This makes them less violent, but not necessarily safe if you look beyond the mere perpetrators and want to address cultures where certain violence is legitimated.

          • Tibor says:

            Well, Canada has the “women and children only” Syrian refugee policy if I’m not mistaken. Of course, this is different from regular immigration (although unfortunately, many people both on the right and the left conflate asylum-seekers and other immigrants).

          • Aapje says:

            “women, children and families only”

            So no single men, although they won’t openly say that, of course.

            I guess this is what you get when feminism & fear of Muslims have a baby.

          • Matt M says:

            Didn’t they also have a policy where homosexuals would automatically be approved – which led to the hilarious result of many single male refugees claiming to be homosexual while the government figured many were faking it but political correctness demands you take them at their word?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Given how aggressive men from the age of roughly 17 to 24 are, I have no problem declining to admit them unless they are with their wife and/or kids.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Aapje:

            One still finds anti-Asian sentiment here and there. It’s contextual: people at a university will fret about it becoming “too Asian” – and thumbs have been applied to scales to keep the % of Asians admitted down. People in Vancouver rail against Chinese speculators buying real estate and driving prices up – on the West Coast, racism has traditionally been anti-Asian and anti-Aboriginal.

            They are harder to present as an immediate, physical threat, but those who do not like them generally present them as a longer-term, competitive threat.

          • Spookykou says:

            @Aapje

            I was trying to clarify what I thought dndnrsn was saying, because I did not think they were making a traditional slippery slope(if you do this, then people will do that, and that is terrible) argument, which you seemed to be ascribing to them.

            As far as I can tell dndnrsn’s critique of your position is still perfectly valid, generational effects does not save you from that, it only saves you from the ‘banning men’ illustrative, and overly extreme example.

            If your true goal is to ban or limit immigration of people from populations that have ‘problems’ worse than the base rate for the population in your country, then assuming you live in a first world country, you should be pushing for rules that ban and limit immigration from most of the world, and assuming you live in western Europe, then rather glaringly, you should probably try and place more limits on American immigrants.

            Obviously you can try to scale these policies relative to the risk(I am not aware of any particularly good evaluation of the risks so this might be difficult), but given the proposed total ban, it is hard to imagine any reasonable scale that would not call for at least some limits and more extreme vetting on most immigrants.

            However, to be clear, I am not saying that it is a bad idea to ban or limit immigration in general. I am just saying that calling out one problematic population and ignoring all other problematic populations reveals ulterior motives, beyond the stated ‘we need to limit problematic populations’ call to action.

          • Aapje says:

            @Matt M

            I know that in my country there is an issue with figuring out whether people from Muslim countries are really Christian. Being Christian gives a strong case for getting a migration permit and it is easy to claim and hard to (dis)prove. You get the impossible question of how much knowledge about Christianity one must have to be considered Christian.

            Another fun one is the ‘children’ part, as we had a lot of refugees who claimed to be younger, to get Single Underage Immigrant status. So they started to do X-rays to see if the bones were ‘adult,’ but that turned out to work rather poorly as the bones would refuse to mature instantly at a specific age.

            These ideas about ‘only let in X, because they are more deserving’ generally leads to a huge mess where many economic refugees try to fake being X.

          • Matt M says:

            @Aapje

            Interesting. I believe Trump once brought up the notion of giving preferential treatment to Christians from middle eastern countries and was widely denounced for attempting to institute a “religious test” that clearly goes against everything America stands for and is symptomatic of nothing more than intolerant bigotry.

          • rlms says:

            @Matt M
            Is that sarcasm? Because it it seems pretty true to me.

          • Matt M says:

            rlms,

            Without knowing where Aapje is from it’s hard for me to speculate too much, but it gets back to my overall point of “a lot of countries [including many that are seen as significantly more “progressive” than the US] have existing policies that would be seen as unacceptable right-wing extremism within the US”

          • Jaskologist says:

            Such religious tests are actually already a part of US refugee law, since membership in certain religious groups is in fact very relevant to whether or not the person is persecuted and in need of asylum.

          • Jiro says:

            One still finds anti-Asian sentiment here and there. It’s contextual: people at a university will fret about it becoming “too Asian”

            Yes, but not from the same people who don’t want Muslim immigration. In fact, probably mostly from the people who support Muslim immigration, because “too many Asians” is associated with affirmative action and the left.

          • Aapje says:

            @Matt M

            The rules in my country are not intended to privilege Christians over Muslims, but rather a consequence of only wanting to let in people who face prosecution in their country. If all people with a certain trait are prosecuted, then having that trait is grounds for asylum. In certain Muslim countries, Christians are heavily oppressed. So they get asylum if they are (1) Christian and (2) come from that country. The mere fact that they are Christian is not enough.

            If there is a Christian country that severely oppresses Muslims, those Muslims could claim asylum based on them being Muslim. For example, we let in a fairly large number of Bosniaks during the Bosnian War. Although it can be argued that their oppression was more ethnic than religious.

            The anti-Muslim party in my country does not agree with this system and does want different rules for Muslim refugees (basically: ‘go away’).

          • Aapje says:

            @Spookykou

            If your true goal is to ban or limit immigration of people from populations that have ‘problems’ worse than the base rate for the population in your country, then assuming you live in a first world country, you should be pushing for rules that ban and limit immigration from most of the world

            It depends on what value above the base rate you want to accept. I think that it’s perfectly reasonable to accept a higher level of violence for refugees/migrants, but to have a cutoff.

            As I said before, people in the EU are upset about Muslim immigrants (especially from N-Africa) because the experiences are so bad. This is not just: they are 1% more likely to be criminal. There are major issues, backed by objective evidence (although many people do exaggerate, of course).

            The US and EU seem similar enough to think that if similar groups of migrants that gave problems in the EU migrate to the US, you get similar problems. A much stronger argument against this possibility is that the US has a geographic ‘advantage’ in that there is no easy route from Muslim countries to the US, which means that relatively few Muslim refugees make it to the US. BTW, this is also why the Muslim Americans are less problematic than EU Muslims, they are far more often economic migrants who on average tend to have way better prospects than refugees.

            assuming you live in western Europe, then rather glaringly, you should probably try and place more limits on American immigrants.

            I think that there is relatively little overlap between the more dangerous groups of Americans and the ones who want/are able to migrate permanently.

            Americans (and others) are known to sometimes go wacko in Amsterdam, but that is more an issue with tourists who think that everything goes (‘no, peeing from your hotel balcony is not even ok here’).

            Obviously you can try to scale these policies relative to the risk (I am not aware of any particularly good evaluation of the risks so this might be difficult)

            These people want to scale with past experiences (not necessarily in the same country, but elsewhere in the West too), which does seem a reasonable method. If we notice one group with feature X doing badly, it’s not unreasonable to work with the assumption that another group with feature X might also do badly.

            Of course, the predictive ability may be relatively poor when the actual cause is X + Y or even just Y which just happens to often correlate with X.

            I am just saying that calling out one problematic population and ignoring all other problematic populations reveals ulterior motives

            Well, I know that in my country all the problematic immigrant groups are called out. The non-Muslim group with major issues is rather specific to my country (ex-colony) and relatively small; so it makes sense that they are not a concern of the general anti-migration movements.

            PS. Note that I’ve been defending this position because I find the counter-arguments poor, not because it is my position (which is a bit different).

          • Spookykou says:

            Note that I’ve been defending this position because I find the counter-arguments poor, not because it is my position (which is a bit different).

            Same.

            I think you are basically agreeing with my main point, that it is important for rules or policies to be principled, or logically consistent.

            The only point of contention is if this particular policy idea is.

            To tease that out, we need to evaluate the relative risks of immigrant populations, including generational effects, decide on what is an acceptable risk factor, and design a policy around that, the policy might end up looking discriminator, but it would be principled.

            Of course a policy does not have to be principled, but most rationalist/rationalist adjacent people’s skin crawls when you tell them their position is not principled, or logically consistent, so it is a useful critique here.

            I don’t actually have a strong opinion about the relative risk of any immigrant compared to any other, and I don’t have good information on that topic. But I can see several easy mechanism for confounding this evaluation. For example, in my opinion people over ‘value’ the danger of terrorism, which I imagine would lead them to over ‘value’ the danger from Muslims.

            These confounders set my default confidence in the risk evaluation of Muslims low, so a proposal that assumes they are dramatically more dangerous than other populations, will appear to have either a bad risk evaluation of other populations/Muslim populations, or not be a principled policy to reduce danger.

            But if there is research you can direct me to which is being done on this particular issue, I’d like to think I would be willing to change my position.

          • Aapje says:

            @Spookykou

            I think you are basically agreeing with my main point, that it is important for rules or policies to be principled, or logically consistent.

            It is important to me, but apparently, not to many other people. A lot of positions are pretty clearly (weak) rationalizations supporting emotional decision making (I also rationalize, but I try to do that with strong rationalizations 😛 ).

            This is true for many on the anti-immigration, but also on the pro-migration side (especially those that want to combine a strong welfare state with open borders). Debating these positions without first steel-manning them is rather pointless, usually. Then once you have decided that the steel-manned position is not entirely unreasonable, it’s best to just assume that most supporters want that and are just very bad at expressing themselves/thinking logically, IMO.

            I don’t actually have a strong opinion about the relative risk of any immigrant compared to any other, and I don’t have good information on that topic. But I can see several easy mechanism for confounding this evaluation.

            Where I agree with the anti-Muslim people is that most Islamic sects currently have highly problematic interpretations of Islam, much more so than most other religions. Where I don’t agree is that the issues with certain Muslim immigrants groups in Europe is mostly due to religion, as culture also plays a major and probably way more important role. However, in practice, these two are somewhat correlated, so the mistake is understandable.

            For example, in my opinion people over ‘value’ the danger of terrorism, which I imagine would lead them to over ‘value’ the danger from Muslims.

            Studies have found that people get more upset over big and rare events than small, common ones. There are logical reasons that I can come up with for this (for example, big & rare events often overtax aid workers and thus have worse outcomes). In general, I think that it is rather pointless to declare one value judgment more correct than another.

            But if there is research you can direct me to which is being done on this particular issue, I’d like to think I would be willing to change my position.

            Research seems limited to looking at specific outcomes for specific groups. As one can not ethically, legally or realistically do experiments under controlled conditions, these are all severely susceptible to confounder effects, like the specific groups which migrate, which often differ. For example, the two main Muslim groups that migrated to my country were specifically selected for a lack of education, as the goal was to find workers to do hard labor. The Maroccan group were also mostly Berbers, which is a traditionally oppressed and lower class subculture in Marocco. The current group of refugee Syrians clearly are ‘selected’ in a very different way (more the opposite, as Syrian refugees are more often middle and upper class, because getting to Europe tends to require quite some money and problem solving ability). So one can expect better outcomes, although to what extent is hard to predict.

            So any application of the research inherently requires making many assumptions about the extent to which past experiences have predictive value for new cases.

            These confounders set my default confidence in the risk evaluation of Muslims low, so a proposal that assumes they are dramatically more dangerous than other populations, will appear to have either a bad risk evaluation of other populations/Muslim populations, or not be a principled policy to reduce danger.

            My assertion is not that one should strongly believe in limiting Muslim migration, but that it is a rational position for people who consider a relatively low standard of confidence sufficient given their subjective valuation of the downsides and benefits of Muslim migration.

            This is especially true for people whose baseline is ‘no immigration unless there is a (strong) benefit to us/me.’

          • Spookykou says:

            In general, I think that it is rather pointless to declare one value judgment more correct than another.

            I think people are demonstrably wrong when they judge the value of wearing a seat belt, and in countless other cases. My model of human behavior is a highly evolved Savannah ape that is trying very hard to solve problems it is very bad at solving.

            Debating these positions without first steel-manning them is rather pointless

            I would tend to agree with you, but I normally think of steel manning as trying to be charitable with the reasoning and logic of their position, if my primary concern is that they are acting off bad/no information, then I am not sure how I can steel man that while still having a debate at all.

            So any application of the research inherently requires making many assumptions about the extent to which past experiences have predictive value for new cases.

            I am not sure if you are using ‘past experience’ to mean anecdotes or data, but most of the evidence I have seen so far has looked like anecdotes. I agree actual experiments are not very feasible, but I would want to at least see some decent data analysis before I updated my confidence in any such program being based in a realistic assessment of danger. I think that most of the world at this point has ‘past experience’ with intentionally designing ethnic/religiously biased discriminatory programs with anecdotal data as animus, and to my memory the results have not been great.

            My assertion is not that one should strongly believe in limiting Muslim migration, but that it is a rational position for people who consider a relatively low standard of confidence sufficient given their subjective valuation of the downsides and benefits of Muslim migration.

            This is especially true for people whose baseline is ‘no immigration unless there is a (strong) benefit to us/me.’

            While I personally disagree with that assessment of immigration, I have been trying to argue from that position as well. That idea does not really play into the distinction between ‘ban dangerous immigrants’ and ‘ban immigrants from population B, because I think they are dangerous’. Which brings us back around to my very low confidence in that very specific kind of reasoning.

        • Randy M says:

          I remember pictures of young refugee children handily out racing their much, much smaller native classmates due to the preference for children.

      • aaarboretum says:

        No, I’m not worried about American Muslims attacking. I’m just worried that a travel ban will inconvenience and negatively affect tens of thousands of innocent people while doing little to actually reduce terrorism (from abroad). It will be another form of security theater, but with a clear anti-Muslim agenda to it. An American Muslim who had family in a country on Trump’s list would never be able to have that family member visit them. I have a Turkish friend from university who is very secular, but grew up Muslim and his family in Turkey is all ostensibly Muslim. Would a person like him not be allowed to enter the country under the new laws? Maybe Turkey would not be on the banned list, but I’m sure there are people just like him from Afghanistan/Libya/Syria too.

        Some people who wanted to hurt the USA could make it in if the travel ban were not implemented, but it would be negligible. Or rather, I don’t know if it would be negligible. I honestly don’t know the magnitude of its effect. This is what I was hoping people knew where I could find specific numbers. I have a preconceived bias that the travel ban would do more harm than good (order 10,000 families/people harmed vs order 1 foreign terrorists thwarted) but I don’t know.

        • nyccine says:

          No, I’m not worried about American Muslims attacking. I’m just worried that a travel ban will inconvenience and negatively affect tens of thousands of innocent people while doing little to actually reduce terrorism (from abroad).

          Well, there’s the problem. The basic assumption behind all governments today is that they exist to serve their citizens, or at least that’s what’s claimed. That this is an inconvenience to non-citizens has no business being a criteria in making the decision; if it does, it implies the government is abdicating its responsibilities to the nation.

          • rlms says:

            Very few people hold that assumption, since it implies that any level of awful colonialism is justified provided that it benefits citizens of a government, even if non-citizens suffer terribly. More prosaically, foreign aid exists.

          • Well... says:

            @rims:

            That implication only works if the aforementioned assumption is held at the exclusion of all others. But it isn’t: we can assume our government exists to serve us and ALSO assume that colonialism is awful/does not serve us/is not in our interests.

            (PS: Let’s hope we’ll live to see Puerto Ricans given their independence!)

          • baconbacon says:

            Well, there’s the problem. The basic assumption behind all governments today is that they exist to serve their citizens, or at least that’s what’s claimed. That this is an inconvenience to non-citizens has no business being a criteria in making the decision; if it does, it implies the government is abdicating its responsibilities to the nation.

            Banning immigration is an inconvenience to citizens. Citizens would like to hire immigrants, sell goods to them and rent apartments to them, as well as buy goods and services off of them. Banning immigration is a violation of my right as a citizen to free association.

          • Well... says:

            @baconbacon:

            By that definition, the existence of countries is a violation of your right to free association.

          • Sandy says:

            Banning immigration is an inconvenience to citizens. Citizens would like to hire immigrants, sell goods to them and rent apartments to them, as well as buy goods and services off of them. Banning immigration is a violation of my right as a citizen to free association.

            Sending criminals to jail is also such an inconvenience and violation of your rights. After all, you could be selling used cars to rapists and renting out apartments to drug traffickers. Instead they rot in jail, of no economic use to anyone but the prison authorities.

          • rlms says:

            @Well…

            But regardless of what real colonialism is like, you can easily take the hypothetical where it is beneficial to citizens of the government holding it (and I imagine that hypothetical does reflect reality most of the time). The point isn’t that colonialism is always awful but that, under the assumption that we only consider how a government affects its citizens when making moral judgments about it, it doesn’t matter whether it governs benevolently or by cutting the hands off people who don’t fulfil quotas, provided that those people aren’t citizens.

            To take a specific real example: the assumption suggests that there was nothing wrong with Abu Ghraib.

            My counter-assumption that I think is generally used is that governments have the basic same moral responsibilities as other entities (i.e. not to cause too much harm) and also additional responsibilities to protect their citizens. But immoral things don’t suddenly become OK because they are done by a government promoting its citizens’ interests.

          • aaarboretum says:

            @ nyccine

            All right, working under the assumption that the government must only take into account the cost/benefit to the nation, we can simply rearrange other’s suffering to be our own suffering.

            Our own citizens suffer because they are more separate from their families and friends. Maybe they become resentful of the USA and you end up breeding more home-grown dissent.

            Business suffers, because logistically it would become harder to do work with any international company that so happens to have Muslim workers (or if the company is located in a banned country). Also, no visas could be issued to competent workers from banned nations to come work in American companies or schools, and our own industry suffers.

            EDIT: Looks like people above made the same points while I was typing. Too slow to post on my part! People’s already stated counter-points to my examples have been noted.

          • Montfort says:

            (PS: Let’s hope we’ll live to see Puerto Ricans given their independence!)

            You might have more luck if they actually wanted it

          • Well... says:

            @rims:

            …under the assumption that we only consider how a government affects its citizens when making moral judgments about it…

            (emphasis added)

            That’s the problem. This assumption doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Let’s say you could do the math or whatever and prove that colonialism is actually in our interests; we can still believe it is awful/immoral, while still believing our government exists to serve us, its citizens.

          • Brad says:

            Sending criminals to jail is also such an inconvenience and violation of your rights. After all, you could be selling used cars to rapists and renting out apartments to drug traffickers. Instead they rot in jail, of no economic use to anyone but the prison authorities.

            I think is correct. Well except for the violation of rights part. There are costs to the rest of us to putting people in prison and so the benefits have to be weighed against the costs.

            Same thing with a travel ban. Even if you want to look at solely from a utilitarian view and only count citizen utils, there’s still positives and negatives that need to be added up.

          • nyccine says:

            Did Colonialism actually benefit the subjects of the various governments who participated, or just wealthy individuals who pulled strings? It doesn’t seem like it, but the colonial period was a long time, covering a lot of different regions, so I can’t say for sure.

            Regardless, we’re talking about the specific example of protecting against terrorist attacks, versus the inconvenience of not allowing people to enter the country, who did not already have that right to begin with, without extra investigation. Much like illegal immigration, cheap labor is just too precious to worry about the occasional marathon bombing, I suppose. Hell, did anyone important even die there?

          • aaarboretum says:

            @ nyccine

            I still maintain that it’s a detriment to families who become separated. If your mother and father can never visit because they’re not US citizens, I think that’s a huge blow to one’s quality of life. Family is extremely important to so many people. I know I would probably eventually move away from the USA if I knew I could never have my parents or relatives come visit me. (And if we banned a country from traveling to the USA- I’m sure reciprocity laws would kick in, and we wouldn’t be able to visit them either.)

          • Brad says:

            Regardless, we’re talking about the specific example of protecting against terrorist attacks, versus the inconvenience of not allowing people to enter the country, who did not already have that right to begin with, without extra investigation. Much like illegal immigration, cheap labor is just too precious to worry about the occasional marathon bombing, I suppose. Hell, did anyone important even die there?

            30,000+ people died in car crashes last year. There’s no right to drive at any speed to begin with, so I’m sure you don’t object if the federal government sets the speed limit nationwide at 30 miles, right?

            Or is going fast too precious to worry about all those mangled bodies over?

          • baconbacon says:

            By that definition, the existence of countries is a violation of your right to free association.

            Your avoiding the point, you don’t just get to say “lets ban immigrants, who cares about their wants needs, governments got to look after their own”. Lots of people benefit from immigration, and you have ignored that.

          • Matt M says:

            “By that definition, the existence of countries is a violation of your right to free association.”

            Mommy, where do anarchists come from?

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            There’s a buried assumption in a statement like “very few people believe that a government’s only purpose is to serve its citizens, not non-citizens”: is this true worldwide, or just in wealthy Western nations, or even just among the elites of wealthy Western nations?

            Along those lines, at least a little bit of the backlash against the U.S. government taking into account the welfare of foreigners, even if it harms the welfare of some Americans, is that no one thinks foreign governments would return the favor. China’s government wouldn’t inconvenience itself one jot to increase the welfare of Americans.

          • shakeddown says:

            Your family having trouble visiting you is a significant harm to a citizen, and america probably has millions of citizens with muslim relatives who live abroad.

          • Well... says:

            @baconbacon:

            Matt M correctly points out that one possible conclusion from your logic is anarchism; maybe you’re an anarchist, in which case I’d at least give you points for logical consistency. But you’re if not, then why do you think we have separate countries in the first place?

          • Nadja says:

            Your family having trouble visiting you is a significant harm to a citizen, and america probably has millions of citizens with muslim relatives who live abroad.

            Speaking from experience, under the current immigration law, your family might have problems visiting you as it is, if they are not American residents. Apart from the citizens of a bunch of developed countries, they still have to apply for tourist visas to come here, which might be denied based on their income/travel history/age, etc. And even if the family members do get a tourist visa, they might be denied entry at the border at the discretion of the immigration officer.

            Additionally, tourist visa holders (as well as visitors from visa-waiver countries) have restrictions on how long they are allowed to stay here. An American citizen friend of mine had his non-resident mom come to the US to help with his newborn son while his wife went back to work. The mom was allowed to stay for 6 months, after which she wanted to come back for several more months. She was denied.

            It is, indeed, a major inconvenience.

          • John Schilling says:

            Your family having trouble visiting you is a significant harm to a citizen

            Wait, so if we accept someone as an American citizen, we have to allow all of their family members to come visit the United States whenever they want?

            Osama bin Laden had a number of young nieces and nephews living in the United States on 9/11/2001, including I think a couple who were born here; you might want to rethink this one.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Obviously you have to balance the various harms, don’t be dense.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            An important point was just made here. It is already a giant pain in the ass to visit the United States, especially, as was said, if one is from the less wealthy parts of the world. Have the people complaining about Trump promising to make it a bit harder for Muslims in particular (which he won’t do any more than he’ll actually build a wall and make Mexico pay for it, mind you) ever made any meaningful lobbying effort to reduce the cruelty and capriciousness of the visa and border control system that already exists?

          • shakeddown says:

            Yeah, it’s ridiculous. Considering the anti-immigration rhetoric the last few years, it seemed safer to avoid drawing attention to it in the hopes of not making it worse. (Also, in some cases it has been improving on its own). Also, please don’t use “some people who disagree with me are hypocrites” as an argument on things.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Considering the anti-immigration rhetoric the last few years, it seemed safer to avoid drawing attention to it in the hopes of not making it worse.

            Who would have made it worse, exactly? For the past several years Congress has had no ability to pass legislation and the executive was just doing what it wanted administratively. If the executive can arbitrarily legalize hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens, it can certainly make some minor reforms of the border control systems.

            (Of course, now we’ve got a single party in control of Washington that’s never expressed any interest in this particular subject, so too late, I guess. Maybe it would have been a good idea to draw attention to this issue while we had the chance after all.)

            Also, please don’t use “some people who disagree with me are hypocrites” as an argument on things.

            It does have the advantage of always being true…

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            Several of aaarboretum’s examples involved Americans, and you could easily find many more (I have friends who were born in the US, but who have spent or want to spend long periods of time in predominantly Muslim countries).

            Moreover, immigration is good for the economy of the country people are moving to. Blocking immigration without a good reason *is* abdicating it’s responsibilities to its own citizens.

            And, finally, if your country is going to get involved in foreign wars, then you do in fact have a responsibility to deal with some of the consequences of your intervention.

          • baconbacon says:

            Matt M correctly points out that one possible conclusion from your logic is anarchism; maybe you’re an anarchist, in which case I’d at least give you points for logical consistency. But you’re if not, then why do you think we have separate countries in the first place?

            You are still avoiding the point. Immigration has benefits for the country receiving them, the current debate, in this thread and in the US, is framing it as “immigration is good for the immigrants” vs “immigration is dangerous for US citizens”. That is a false dichotomy, which is what I am pointing out.

            (also yes, I get points for consistency at least, though I describe myself differently most people would just hear “anarchist” when I did so).

          • Aapje says:

            Immigration has benefits for the country receiving them

            And downsides. Whether the benefits outweigh the downsides depends on the kind of people you let in, whether there is a shortage of labor in the country, a shortage of houses, etc, etc, etc.

            It is above all, very subjective and depends on what you value.

          • nyccine says:

            Moreover, immigration is good for the economy of the country people are moving to.

            “Good for the economy” != “good for the citizens at large.” I get that THECONOMY is seen by Caplan types as the most important being in existence, to whom everything must be sacrificed, but you’ll just have to forgive me when I tell you I don’t particularly enjoy the fact that history has gone from “Single worker supporting a family comfortably” to “Both parents have to work full time to have what their parents had on one earner” to “Both parents work and had better hope nothing major goes wrong or they’re thoroughly fucked; and oh by the way a large number aren’t making it anyway,” all so GDP can continue to increase.

          • Tibor says:

            @ThirteenthLetter IIRC, G.W. Bush of all people tried to make immigration from Latin American countries easier (generally, I think Republicans would gain a lot by being more supportive of Latin Americans who are also socially conservative and would be a natural Republican voting base if the Republicans were a bit friendlier towards them).

            Most of his party was against that though, so he did not make any progress with that and after 9/11 most of his administration focused on different stuff (being neocon and interventionist around the world).

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            “Single worker supporting a family comfortably”

            I appreciate the rest of your comment, but this was never really true. The stay-at-home-wife (it was always the wife) was working nonstop to keep things working. She couldn’t just start dinner at 5:30 so it would be done at 6, or start a load of wash and check on it an hour later. Keeping the house meant constant cleaning, cooking, washing, and clothing repair.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            It would be more exact to say that only one person needed to be working for money.

          • CatCube says:

            The thing to be careful of when talking of only needing one earner in the 50s, compared to now, is the same when talking about how expensive health care is now compared to then: you can get both pretty cheap if you accept 50s standards.

            If you only have a land line, an over the air antenna, a 1000sf house where 2 kids share a room, and the person doing the cooking works to stretch the food dollar (cookbooks from that era have recipes for making a cake with only one egg!), you can get pretty close to only needing one earner.

          • lhn says:

            Though that’s probably still true to get a Fifties lifestyle, give or take the part where that leaves the family socially out of sync and feeling very poor relative to contemporaries.

            It would be interesting to see a community do a deliberate Amish-style Fiftiesization, with smaller homes, at most one family car, at most one TV (no cable or non-broadcast video), a single home phone, minimal eating out, fewer clothes, minimal appliances, (fridge, no dishwasher, heat but no a/c) etc.

            Maybe the community elders– organized as the Rotary perhaps– can agree to allow certain inexpensive and useful modern technologies as long as they don’t change the fundamental character. A shared mobile for the household members to be used only during emergencies, a laptop for the kids’ schoolwork, etc.

            Real estate and health care are more expensive– though the 50s had lower home ownership rates, and 50s living involved less overall space and more shared space– food and clothing much cheaper.

            50s median household income was $25,000/year in current dollars, which isn’t really a crazy amount to expect a single earner to be able to bring in. (Especially since for a family income in that range qualifies for the EITC.)

          • onyomi says:

            This is something I always find hard to fully tease out: I generally buy the libertarian argument that the burden of government (spending, inflation, regulation…) has a tendency to expand to take up surplus created by e. g. technology and entrance of women into the workforce, such that, once women are in the workforce, one becomes unable to do without them in the workforce.

            But there’s also no denying our consumption habits do the same thing: what was an acceptable middle class lifestyle in the 50s, even setting aside technology, would seem really cramped and labor intensive and thrifty in many ways today.

            The best comparison I can think of is the fact that one’s computer never seems to be fast: every time the speed gets better it means they can make the programs fancier, which does cause you to become accustomed to a higher level of functionality, but which also comes with a lot of unnecessary junk, the addition of which is only possible because of the increased processing power.

          • Anonymousse says:

            “Both parents work and had better hope nothing major goes wrong or they’re thoroughly fucked; and oh by the way a large number aren’t making it anyway”

            Courtesy our kind host, Elizabeth Warren wrote that book. I can’t find anything regarding her views on immigration as it relates to the economy and the two-income trap, but she has consistently supported legalization (DREAM Act) and foreign workers (voted to increase H-2B visas). So this is either an indication that someone who is very familiar with the topic doesn’t think it links with immigration, or is worth it despite the downsides, or simply holds two distinct viewpoints for what she sees as unrelated issues.

          • Randy M says:

            That was a good post that anonymous recalls.

            For myself personally, we are able to live within one average middle class salary as a five person household (in California!) by being frugal, though if our rent keeps increasing until it equals the median for our area, things will be quite tight indeed.

            We try to avoid envying our neighbors in the nice homes the next block over by feeling morally superior due to our lifestyle choices. (tongue in cheek)

          • Evan Þ says:

            FWIW, I grew up in the 90’s in a single-income household. Now that I think about it, we pretty much had a 50’s lifestyle at least until I turned twelve or so: two kids sharing a room, Dad goes to work while Mom stays home and cooks (going out to eat anywhere was an every-several-months treat), no television but one computer with dial-up internet instead, and so on. Due to all the new technology like air conditioning and washing machines, Mom had a lot more free time than the 50’s housewife… which she used to homeschool us.

            Okay, there were two times Mom went to work: once she got a temp job filling in for someone on maternity leave while Dad was between jobs, and once she spent several summers nanny’ing for a friend’s kids. We made great friends with them, so it basically amounted to a standing playdate.

            Yes, I did feel out of place – but I think that would’ve happened anyway. We were about the only kids around who didn’t care about basketball or football, and I was the only kid who was reading Golden Age scifi for fun.

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            “I get that THECONOMY is seen by Caplan types as the most important being in existence, to whom everything must be sacrificed”

            Oh, this sounds like the opening to a charitable post.

            ” “Single worker supporting a family comfortably” to “Both parents have to work full time to have what their parents had on one earner” to “Both parents work and had better hope nothing major goes wrong or they’re thoroughly fucked; and oh by the way a large number aren’t making it anyway,” ”

            Oh, and you also don’t have a massively oversimplified view of economic history, or what the economy is, or its current state!

          • Wait, so if we accept someone as an American citizen, we have to allow all of their family members to come visit the United States whenever they want?

            if someone is a know treat, they don’t get in…nowhere has a right of immigration that strong.

      • nyccine says:

        Pew opinion polling shows that American Muslims are among the world’s Muslims least likely to support terrorism.

        This tells me pretty much nothing about how likely an American Muslim is likely to support terrorism. It’s also not very germane to the question, which isn’t about Muslim-Americans at all.

        • Matt M says:

          Perhaps the rationalist approach would be to encourage all Muslims to emigrate to the U.S. thus reducing overall global support for terrorism among Muslims?

        • dndnrsn says:

          It does – you could look at the % of people who say something like “violence against civilians is acceptable for the cause of Islam” and the % of those who say “it is never acceptable”, assume those who answered “yes” to the former are more likely to be terrorists, and those who answered “yes” to the latter are less likely to me.

          Similarly, Christians who say it’s OK to shoot abortion doctors are probably more likely to shoot abortion doctors than those who say it isn’t.

          People who would not do violence in the name of a religious cause but think that it would be OK still raise the chance – they indicate a community where support for violence is more likely and thus those who would personally do it are more likely, they would support those doing it personally, etc.
          Given that the original question was specifically about American Muslims, I’m not sure how they aren’t relevant…

    • baconbacon says:

      Of course, it’s a fact that the probability of a false negative will increase if we decrease the probability of a false positive.

      This assumes that the type and number of people who are willing to risk themselves to hurt the US is totally independent of US policy.

      • Well... says:

        I imagine the policy you’re talking about is something like “America bombs Sandistan” or “America supports Sandistan’s enemy” but what about “America welcomes refugees from countries with high positives”?

        Knowing that he has more of an opportunity to commit terrorism in the US, thanks to a lax immigration policy, might motivate a terrorist to try it.

        • baconbacon says:

          Knowing that he has more of an opportunity to commit terrorism in the US, thanks to a lax immigration policy, might motivate a terrorist to try it.

          Maybe, but the US hasn’t had terrorism problems in the past. There are enormous numbers of people of Irish descent and the IRA has never had significant operations in the US despite the US government being an ally of their sworn enemy.

          It is far more likely that free(er) movement of people will decrease terrorism. Working immigrants send money back home and provide a cultural tie to their new home (and yes I have a reply ready if you point to France).

          • dndnrsn says:

            The IRA had considerable fundraising operations in the United States.

          • baconbacon says:

            but not for terrorist activities within the US.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It didn’t, but it was active in the US.

          • baconbacon says:

            It didn’t, but it was active in the US.

            The context is pretty clearly about if immigration to the US would increase terrorism against the US.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Bacon, that has more to do with the US being one of their biggest sources of fundraising support (the point of near-dependency at times), and because they knew they’d lose that support if they started operating over here.

            If the IRA had been getting money from another source (postulate for a moment some offshore oilfield-rich hibernian island nation) and they were NOT so dependant upon American goodwill, I absolutely guarantee you there would’ve been IRA attacks in America.

          • baconbacon says:

            @ Trofim

            But the US was the source of that funding BECAUSE they let in so many Irish Immigrants. It isn’t Italians and Mexicans in the US funding the IRA.

          • Randy M says:

            Is there any reason to believe an organization dedicated to removing British rule from Ireland would have activity levels in the continental US comparable to a decentralized ideology dedicated to global Islamic rule?

          • bean says:

            But the US was the source of that funding BECAUSE they let in so many Irish Immigrants. It isn’t Italians and Mexicans in the US funding the IRA.

            So? The circumstances which lead to the IRA seeing the US as a source of funding instead of as a target are pretty rare. They’re definitely not being replicated WRT Islamic terrorism. The IRA basically tricked Irish-Americans into believing they were the good guys, and next to nobody in the country actually thinks that Al Qaeda and ISIS are.

          • baconbacon says:

            The IRA basically tricked Irish-Americans into believing they were the good guys,

            Not exactly hard considering how the British treated the Irish for a few hundred years (and I’m British by birth).

          • bean says:

            Not exactly hard considering how the British treated the Irish for a few hundred years (and I’m British by birth).

            I won’t disagree that the British treated the Irish poorly. But that’s not actually a rebuttal to my point, which is that the position that the terrorists we’re dealing with are the good guys is beyond the pale. At best, they’re hopelessly misguided and provoked by our actions, but if they asked someone who believed that for money, they wouldn’t get any.
            (Just to be clear, I believe they’re the scum of the Earth. But some people have weird mental deficiencies which cause them to blame Western Civilization for all the world’s ills. Even they don’t give money to unambiguous terrorist groups.)

          • baconbacon says:

            So? The circumstances which lead to the IRA seeing the US as a source of funding instead of as a target are pretty rare. They’re definitely not being replicated WRT Islamic terrorism. The IRA basically tricked Irish-Americans into believing they were the good guys, and next to nobody in the country actually thinks that Al Qaeda and ISIS are.

            The point is that access doesn’t have some direct correlation with terrorist attacks. The original claim was

            Knowing that he has more of an opportunity to commit terrorism in the US, thanks to a lax immigration policy, might motivate a terrorist to try it.

            Which does not seem substantiated by history. If someone has more than a hypothetical I’d listen, but until then it sounds more like fear mongering than a solid basis for immigration policy.

          • bean says:

            The point is that access doesn’t have some direct correlation with terrorist attacks.

            You left out an important point of that claim, which is “all else equal”. The case of the IRA is manifestly not “equal” to that of the current crop of terrorists so far as the US is concerned.
            There are good rebuttals to this proposal, like the fact that the US border is hardly impenetrable, and that all this will do is make it slightly harder for the bad guys to get in (after all, they have no interest in our laws), while alienating the 99% of Muslims we want to get on our side. You are not making them.

          • shakeddown says:

            and yes I have a reply ready if you point to France

            I agree with your general point, but I’m curious what your reply to this would be.

          • wysinwygymmv says:

            But some people have weird mental deficiencies which cause them to blame Western Civilization for all the world’s ills.

            “Some people have weird mental deficiencies which cause them to blame a bunch of impoverished goat herders with AKs but no ability to project power worldwide for all the world’s ills.”

            “Some people have weird mental deficiencies that cause them to intentionally fail to understand other people’s positions on political matters, talk past each other, and then accuse each other of having mental deficiencies.”

            I think the third of the three narratives is the most representative of reality.

          • . There are enormous numbers of people of Irish descent and the IRA has never had significant operations in the US despite the US government being an ally of their sworn enemy.

            There’s allies and allies. It’s not like GIs were marching down the Falls road shoulder to should be with British troops.

    • mnov says:

      There was an episode of econtalk recently that was ostensibly about machine learning but was actually about how the interviewee doesn’t like false negatives that are concentrated in one ethnic group.

      Specific examples I remember are credit decisions and sentencing, and the interviewee makes that claim that since race predicts (loan defaults, recidivism) then people who write ML algorithms to decide (eligibility for loans, length of sentence) will end up selecting models with features that predict race.

      • The Nybbler says:

        people who write ML algorithms to decide (eligibility for loans, length of sentence) will end up selecting models with features that predict race.

        Well, yes. If P(loan default | RaceA) >> P(loan default | Race B), then a good predictor of loan default for a given person will also be a predictor of race (once base rates are adjusted for). This is just an application of Bayes Theorem

        • mnov says:

          The specific complaint was that the people writing these models weren’t careful enough in avoiding features that predict race, and if you do that you can get a model that performs well and doesn’t predict race.

          Unrealistic example: suppose default on consumer loans is perfectly predicted by car ownership and home ownership, such that people who own both a car and a home never default and people who own neither always default, and people who own one or the other default at some rate that isn’t 100% (so both car and home ownership make defaults less likely). And suppose also that home ownership cannot be predicted from car ownership.

          The government doesn’t want banks to discriminate against renters, so it makes it illegal for banks to consider home ownership when making credit decisions, now banks only extend loans to people who own cars and refuse loans to everyone who doesn’t own a car. The success rate of their loans is better than if they gave everyone a loan, but getting a loan doesn’t predict home ownership.

          N.B. in this example people own homes iff they are white.

          • nyccine says:

            The specific complaint was that the people writing these models weren’t careful enough in avoiding features that predict race, and if you do that you can get a model that performs well and doesn’t predict race.

            That’s an “if” that doesn’t seem possible, though. That’s the rebuttal to that complaint, but it’s not one that anyone wants to hear.

          • The Nybbler says:

            That’s just a matter of demanding equality of outcome at the cost of the predictor.]

          • suntzuanime says:

            The way to do this is not to avoid using features that predict race. Most features are going to predict race. The way to do this is to normalize the outcome that you’re looking at in the training data according to race. If blacks default 20% of the time and whites 10% of the time and you want a model that doesn’t discriminate based on race, just weight white default twice as important as black default. That way features will be ignored to the exact extent that they predict race, but if they give you useful information independently from or additional to race, it will still show up in your model.

          • Jiro says:

            If blacks default 20% of the time and whites 10% of the time and you want a model that doesn’t discriminate based on race, just weight white default twice as important as black default.

            That doesn’t work, because if you do that, and make it known, people will actually know what you’re doing and understand why it’s a bad idea.

            The idea is that you want to “not discriminate”, in a way which you know will weigh one race’s defaults more than anothers, while not making it obvious that you are weighing one race’s defaults more than another’s.

          • suntzuanime says:

            It seems like if people can come right out and openly complain about how apparently-neutral machine learning algorithms end up discriminating on race, they ought to be able to come right out and openly correct it. Like doesn’t the complaint give up the game just as much?

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Jiro:

            To do that, you absolutely want an opaque machine-learning model. Make sure the inputs include enough data to reliably determine race (but don’t actually include race, that’s a giveaway). Then train the model such that one of the criteria is that the output distribution looks the same regardless of race.

      • aaarboretum says:

        Oh excellent! Thanks for sharing the link!

        Another thing about ML algorithms that bother me is that their decision making process can be rather inscrutable. Policies like visa applications should be clear enough so you can know if you’re likely to actually get the visa before you waste time starting the application. If you are rejected, the department should be able to provide you with a clear reason why you were rejected. ML algorithms used to decide things like loans or visa applications have the risk of being frustratingly opaque in their “reasoning” behind an acceptance or rejection.

        • mnov says:

          Some machine learning algorithms are very easy to explain, linear regression and decision trees are two high performance (for many applications) algorithms that resemble an idealized decision making process for humans.

          There is also some real work being done today towards clarifying the results of less intuitive models, like LIME, which doesn’t explain the whole decision making process for a specific model, but can explain specific results by measuring which answers the model gives for slightly different inputs.

          • aaarboretum says:

            You’ve provided two informative explainations and interesting links for me to read and learn more about machine learning, you’re my favorite already 😀

        • Brad says:

          I don’t see why it is particularly important that lenders provide you a clear reason why they rejected you. You wanted to borrow money, they didn’t want to lend it to you so there was no deal. Why do they owe you any kind of explanation?

          It’d be different if we were talking about something involving the government.

          • aaarboretum says:

            Well, what I had in mind was more a visa application- which is issued by the government. But I can see what you’re getting at in regards to the bank loan. I can tell if we argued back and forth for a while, we would eventually end up at a discussion what our definition of “freedom” meant.

            I would say, just as a person accused of a crime has a fundamental right to know from their government what crime they have committed, and allow the accused to face their accuser in court, a person asking for (let’s say) a home loan deserves to know the criteria for what a successful loan application would be, and be given a reason if they are rejected. I specify a home loan because I think housing is more of a human right, and people’s right to buy and own land should be minimally protected and not be obstructed.

            Of course, what distinguishes a bank from a private individual? Would an individual have to follow such rules? Shouldn’t an individual have complete freedom to decide who they lend money to? Yes yes, I understand the libertarian argument for this. But explaining a set of criteria for a loan and giving a explanation for rejection (even if it’s “you’re a crack addict and I don’t trust you’ll pay it back”) are not unreasonable burdens on the lender, I think. I guess it depends how libertarian you want to be, and what you think of role of banks in society are.

          • nyccine says:

            That ship has long since sailed, Brad. Not disagreeing with it, but “free association” may as well be dead letter at this point.

          • Matt M says:

            I would imagine that if your visa gets denied there is probably someone you can call who will tell you why, is there not? I mean they might make up the explanation and there’s probably nothing you can do about it – but normally they do have procedures for disclosure about this sort of thing.

          • fivemack says:

            Because, in an ideal world, you are always owed an explanation whenever you are forbidden from doing something you wanted to do; in particular, you are owed an explanation which tells you what you can most readily change to be able to fulfill your personal goals.

            The right to prohibit is matched by the duty to explain why you’re prohibiting.

          • Tekhno says:

            @fivemack

            The right to prohibit is matched by the duty to explain why you’re prohibiting.

            The right to prohibit is heavily restricted already. Nobody is going to accept “People from this demographic can’t use our service because our computer model says people from this demographic always default” because that’s discrimination, and we want our discrimination to remain safely hidden away rather than out in the open. Out of sight, out of mind.

            Discrimination is like water just flowing around all the rocks you put in the way, and if you dam up the river completely you have no economic activity at all. If you don’t hire someone because they are [insert ethnicity] and the rules say you can’t do that, you don’t hire them for some other replacement reason instead. You’re just making the sorting process more inefficient. The capitalist economy is fundamentally built on discrimination.

            That’s not even a bad thing. The bad part is where people end up homeless, and/or starve to death. We think the bad part is where people get their feelings hurt, because apparently the way to produce a society where no one starves to death or is beaten up for being [insert group] is to create a society where no one is allowed to openly dislike each other or have any freedom of disassociation outside of ever narrowing acceptable parameters.

            If people were open about how much they really liked or disliked others, our society of miserable apes would apparently break out into political violence. So “tatemae” it is then.

            Probably some of this problem will become less of an issue when we get robots doing everything and shuttle everyone onto the basic income dole, but it’s just as likely that we construct the same set of norms on a higher plane. I’ll probably check out at that point.

        • dndnrsn says:

          This is hardly limited to something involving ML though. Plenty of processes involving only ordinary weak human meat-brains tend to be frustratingly opaque.

    • Anonymousse says:

      Beyond false negatives/positives, does anyone publish cost optimizations for these types of questions? The proposed wall seems like a good candidate. I haven’t seen anything beyond absolute costs, but a better question (for people supporting the initiative in favor of reducing illegal immigrants) seems to be, “How much will it reduce illegal immigration per dollar vs an increase in current methods?”

      Obviously a hard question to answer, but if you’re going to build a wall for $10 (or $25) billion dollars, you should probably do a cost-benefit analysis. This question can be applied to some of the situations you described as well, though I suppose in terms of counterterrorism, they pretty much get a blank check.

      • Aapje says:

        I think that it is a 99.999% certainty that a full wall will not be built, but rather, the current border security will be increased by X amount. So the actual cost and benefits will depend completely on how it is implemented.

        • Matt M says:

          A “full wall” in the most literal sense is almost certainly impractical, is it not? Correct me if I’m wrong, but even East Germany never had what we would consider a full wall… (not talking about Berlin, but the other east/west border)

          • Eric Rall says:

            I looked it up expecting to find you were correct, but apparently East Germany did actually fortify their entire border with West Germany. There wasn’t a literal wall, but I think the minefields more than make up for that.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inner_German_border

          • Matt M says:

            “There wasn’t a literal wall”

            Do you think that anything less than a literal wall is going to satisfy Politifact when it gets around to dealing with Trump’s election promises.

          • Eric Rall says:

            If in 2020 the US/Mexican border is covered with a military-style fortification system, complete with minefields, barbed wire, vehicle obstacles, concrete guard bunkers, and helicopter patrols, then I would think that anyone who objects that it’s not a literal wall is being a bit unreasonable.

            (Should go without saying, but this is the internet: I do not endorse laying minefields along the US/Mexican border. I think that would be a very bad idea).

          • CatCube says:

            There’s a saying among military engineers: “An obstacle without overwatch is useless.”

            A wall, or any obstacle (like a minefield), doesn’t stop people. It merely slows them down so your overwatch can move to stop them. In the case of a battlefield, that will probably take the form of hitting them with artillery or machine gun fire; for something like the wall, it’s keeping people coming over moving slowly enough to detect them and then get to them to arrest them.

            This necessarily requires a lot of space; if you’ve got a wall with only a narrow alley then a lot of buildings, even if you detect people coming over, they can get to where you can’t see them and hide before the Border Patrol gets there.

            This was one of the reasons I didn’t care for Trump, with his incessant nattering about a wall. Not because I don’t agree with him that illegal immigration is a problem. I don’t have any moral problem with mining the border. It’s just that if you don’t have overwatch on the minefield, people will dig up the mines to use for their own purposes, so it just doesn’t do any good. I think the Border Patrol should be making the rounds to slash open the water points that do-gooders are putting in the desert areas of the Southwest. Trump’s wall would require an immense increase in the Border Patrol to be effective, and that is a large, ongoing expense, compared to the one-time capital cost of a wall.

            But those are all band-aids, as is some sort of “deportation force” nonsense. To be effective you need to be targeting employers, and hitting them with fines with real teeth. No handwaving about how those particular employees were employed by a subcontractor, didn’t know about that, no sir. The owner gets nailed.

            For all of Trump’s blather about illegal immigration, it’d be interesting to see how his construction sites would hold up, wouldn’t it?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I do have moral problems with mining the border, but having read about the internal border in Germany, I’m wondering whether it’s a good idea (in terms of practicality, not kindness to people) to make nature preserves into minefields.

            In the Korean DMZ, tigers can survive a minefield better than they can survive poachers.

          • Tekhno says:

            I don’t think there’s any problem with mines, or even gun turrets, providing there are a series of cheap fences with signs plastered all over them saying GO BACK NOW OR YOU WILL DIE, followed by WE’RE SERIOUS YOU’RE GOING TO DIE IF YOU KEEP MOVING, followed by THERE ARE MINES AND GUNS AHEAD AND YOU WILL BE SHOT OR BLOWN TO PIECES IF YOU CONTINUE WE WARNED YOU THIS IS THE SECOND TO LAST FENCE, and finally followed by THIS IS THE LAST FENCE CLIMB OVER THIS ONE AND THIS IS YOUR FAULT.

            If people choose to die then that’s up to them.

        • Anonymousse says:

          This is what I expect as well. But it seems a stronger argument against the wall to take Trump’s given figure of $10 billion, assess how effective it will be, then argue that the extra X border crossings it prevents is not worth the exorbitant cost. Or does this argument seem too “in the weeds” for some supporters of a wall? I don’t mean that snidely, I’m actually concerned that people are turning against critical analysis.

  2. aaarboretum says:

    Also- hi, I’m new here. Longtime lurker and still uncertain about how regularly I’ll post. Just trying out new things.

    I can’t really explain why, but I’ve suddenly had a huge urge to change many of my habits. I mean, I guess I can explain why– I was greatly shocked by the election results. But why I suddenly have an urge to start commenting on blogs and learning how to cook after years of never even being interested in cooking, it seems very arbitrary. I don’t think the world is going to end. But I guess a fundamental part of me thinks the world going to change a lot, and writing and cooking are two things I should start doing (for some reason).

    • psmith says:

      Make Yourself Great Again!

      (and welcome!)

    • johnjohn says:

      Wait.. wat

      I too started posting and am learning how to cook partially motivated by the election results.

      I realized how much energy I spent following this election (actually I was aware of it while it was going on but unable to turn away) and immediately after waking up and seeing the election result my brain went “welp, better start focusing on myself then”

      • tgb says:

        How funny – a friend recently told me he was trying to cook more due to the election. I can’t say that three* anecdotes forms much of a trend, but maybe I should move some stock into the Food Network.

        * Or maybe just two – one of you could be that friend for all I know!

    • Well... says:

      Big external events, even arbitrary ones, can sometimes serve as anchors that feel easy to push off of. That’s why you could say “I’ll start working out in a day” but it’s easier to say “I’ll start working out on Monday”, even easier to start on the 1st of the month, even easier to start after New Years, etc.

  3. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    One thing I’m mystified by is that where I hang out, this has been an OMGBBQ!!!11!!! apocalyptic election, and yet about half the electorate didn’t vote. I do have some contact with people whose politics I don’t agree with, but I seeem to have been in an interested-in-politics bubble.

    • Matt M says:

      Interested in politics =/ likely voter.

      I’m very interested in politics, but did not vote.

      • Dabbler says:

        Maybe a large part of this was voters from both sides taken in by the myth that Hillary Clinton had the election in the bag? It would explain a lot.

        • onyomi says:

          It is interesting to imagine that, by portraying Hillary victory as inevitable, the media might actually have demotivated some people from helping to make it so.

          The general trend, I believe, is people like voting for a winner or being part of a winning cause, so giving your candidate an aura of inevitability is believed to be a net gain: though a few may think “don’t need to vote; she’s got it in the bag,” many more will feel excited and motivated to be part of a winning cause in a way which people don’t feel motivated to be part of a losing cause.

          Thing is, I don’t think a ton of people were excited to be part of the Hillary win; they were more just afraid of Trump victory. Though fear is a good motivator, if you’re feeling “meh” about Hillary but also think she’s got it in the bag, you may just stay home.

          Though many Republicans felt “meh” about Trump and cast a vote for him anyway, there was no aura of inevitability around him. Therefore the fear of e. g. Hillary’s Supreme Court picks or anger about Obamacare rate hikes was enough to get them off the sofa.

          Also, can we talk about how, on election day, all the news coverage was about “record turnout,” and now it’s all about how few people voted? What was the deal there? I’m having trouble finding good numbers, but did fewer people vote for Pres in 2016 than in 2012 total, or was it just that the major party candidates got fewer votes due to more votes cast for Johnson and Stein?

          • dndnrsn says:

            It looks like there was greater turnout compared to 2012, but less compared to 2008, and a higher % of voters went third party.

          • suntzuanime says:

            I believe that it’s an issue of absolute numbers vs. percentages: population growth means there’s a larger base to turn out, so even if turnout is “worse” you may still have more actual warm bodies.

      • Well... says:

        Seconded (almost). I followed the election very closely and with great amusement, yet did not plan to vote.

        (At the last minute my wife bullied me into voting…BTW does anyone know if that is a criminal offense equal to being bullied into voting a certain way?)

    • suntzuanime says:

      Both candidates were widely disliked. Even if you dislike one candidate more than the other, it is hard to get motivated to spend an hour waiting in line to cast a vote for the fellow you despise slightly less.

      • slither says:

        Indeed. As Larry Correia put it, the election was between Brain Cancer and Colon Cancer. You might prefer colon cancer, given the two, but it is rather hard to say “Yay, I’ve got colon cancer!”

      • Cheese says:

        >it is hard to get motivated to spend an hour waiting in line to cast a vote for the fellow you despise slightly less.

        This is such a strange thing to a non-American. I was watching the Australian coverage before work in the morning and a Kim Beazley (one of our former opposition leaders and former ambassador to the US) talked about it as well.

        Why on earth do you guys have lines for voting? We have compulsory voting here and you’d be unlucky to spend more than 10 minutes on the whole process. It’s when shit breaks down (unexpected demand at a particular area, or a lot of people that need assistance) that the lines move up to 30 minutes or so. We start to get really angry if we have to wait more than 20 minutes or so, and it’s viewed as a sign of dysfunction or poor planning. In the US it seems to be viewed as a source of pride? As in people are happy about not the line but what it represents – lots of people voting.

        I’m not sure there’s much more to it than that, maybe that idea seems to be more prevalent in the US because voting is voluntary. Anyway, it just strikes me as weird.

        • Aapje says:

          Yeah, it seems like: ‘yay, we are bad at organizing.’

        • Jaskologist says:

          This varies heavily by locality. I’ve never waited more than a few minutes myself.

        • John Schilling says:

          Why on earth do you guys have lines for voting? […] It’s when shit breaks down (unexpected demand at a particular area, or a lot of people that need assistance) that the lines move up to 30 minutes or so.

          So, why on Earth do you ask a question when you already know the answer?

          The United States has an order of magnitude more people than Australia; we’re going to have an order of magnitude more shit breaking down and the very worst-case broken-down shit will probably be worse here than there. We also have a very active news media which basically competes for the worst possible news to put on TV every night, so if there’s one precinct where the lines stretch to an hour or so and a thousand where people breeze through in five minutes, guess which one you see on every channel all night? And the next day, editorial writers will blame it on the Evil Republicans.

          • Iain says:

            In this paper I demonstrate that voting precincts in mostly minority neighborhoods have an average wait time that is twice as long as the wait in a mostly white neighborhood. Minority voters are also six times more likely than whites to wait longer than 60 minutes to vote. I show that most of this racial gap can be explained by how local election officials handle white and non-white precincts differently.

            (source)

          • JayT says:

            I don’t have time to go through that paper right now, but I would be curious if the extended wait times have more to do with income than race. I live in a minority-majority neighborhood, but that minority is very affluent Asians, and there were no lines at the polls.

          • Eric Rall says:

            Income makes sense as having an effect. My first thought was that urban vs rural precincts could be a big part of the effect. The paper does have attempt to control indirectly for urban vs rural, by normalizing the data for “county-level fixed effects”, which reduces but doesn’t eliminate the effect size. But that only corrects for all-rural vs all-urban counties; it would still be confounded by counties that contain a mix of urban and rural precincts.

          • JayT says:

            Also there’s just the fact that affluent people are more likely to be able to volunteer at a polling place than lower income people. I wonder if that has anything to do with the amount of polling places. I literally had two polling places within a block of my house. If you have a glut of people willing to staff the place, you might as well open up extras. If you can’t find anyone willing to work, then you would have fewer polling places.

          • Iain says:

            In the wake of Shelby County, a number of states that would previously have been subject to preclearance reduced the overall number of polling stations. Even when the choice is made with no ill intent, poll closures tend to disproportionately affect disadvantaged minorities, because they are less likely to have access to transportation to a more distant polling station. Here’s a report that was released before the election.

            There are, needless to say, accusations that not all poll closures are non-partisan. Given the recent history of voter suppression in some of these states, it’s willfully naive to believe that some of the difference in wait times isn’t a deliberate partisan tactic.

            Key paragraph from that link:

            The Legislature moved quickly, the appellate judges found, and first “requested data on the use, by race, of a number of voting practices.” The General Assembly then enacted an “omnibus” bill of restrictions, “all of which disproportionately affected African-Americans,” the court found.

          • Brad says:

            @JayT
            Why is something as important as elections left up to volunteers?

          • @ Brad

            Why is something as important as elections left up to volunteers?

            It’s not. At least here in Michigan, poll workers are hired, trained, and paid. Locally, the going rate is about $12/hour.

            Moreover, the availability of poll workers has nothing to do with the number and location of voting precincts. Polling places and precinct boundaries are designated well in advance of an election, and cannot be quickly or easily changed.

          • JayT says:

            Larry, I know the polling locations are set up in advance, I was just hypothesizing that the ease of getting workers might play a part in which places get polling places. The more affluent places are pretty certain that they will be able to get a bunch of people to work for meager wages on a Tuesday in November. Lower income areas are less certain.

            Obviously, you know more about this than me though, so I could be completely off base.

          • we’re going to have an order of magnitude more shit breaking down

            Pencil and paper can’t break down, so maybe the answer is throwing to much technology at something.

          • John Schilling says:

            Pencil and paper can’t break down

            Have you ever actually used a pencil? They literally break down, for the literally literal definition of literal.

            But the slightly less literal definition of “break down” here is, result in long wait times because the available resources are inadequate for the immediate demand. Pencil-and-paper balloting can quite easily break down in that sense, and frequently does. If there aren’t enough poll workers to hand out ballots, you get long lines. Not enough booths for people to privately mark their ballots, more lines.

            I suppose we could replace ballots with 19th-century style tickets. If there’s a shortfall of those, at least it would be the aggrieved party’s own fault and they couldn’t blame the Evil Other Party. And no pencils would be required, as they’d be pre-printed with whom the bosses have determined you will be voting for.

        • suntzuanime says:

          If you have compulsory voting, it means that people who are most upset about the lines have to work to change things, rather than just not vote. And the people who are voting have decided to do so as a matter of civic pride, and so yes, a ritual that’s a little costly is going to be more meaningful than a ritual that’s cheap and easy.

          Also, we’re philosophically committed to not verifying the identities of voters, so long lines help limit the amount of fraud that can cause.

          • Also, we’re philosophically committed to not verifying the identities of voters

            No, we’re not.

            I mean, okay, I know that was snark, but most of us who actually run elections at the state and local level are opposed to voter ID requirements for practical, rather than philosophical, reasons.

            Consider that:

            (1) Given the vast number of voters to be processed to vote in a presidential election, and limited resources of facilities, workers, space, and time, we generally resist schemes to increase the number of steps, slow down the process, require people to stand longer in lines, etc.

            (2) Checking addresses and comparing signatures, the long-time traditional way of authenticating voters, is more robust than most people imagine.

            (3) Poll workers are generally drawn from the same area as the voters, are usually longtime residents of the community and knowledgeable about the neighborhood and its people. Experimental attempts to spoof voters, e.g., by James O’Keefe, have often been immediately detected by poll workers.

            (4) Credit cards don’t have cardholder photos on them (even back in the days when cards were always presented in person) because studies showed that ID photos had almost zero effect on fraudulent transactions. Comparing a tiny outdated photo with a real person, to detect a mismatch, is much more difficult to do quickly and accurately than comparing two signatures side by side.

            (5) For a person to misrepresent his identity in order to cast a fraudulent vote is a felony, carries a high risk of being detected, and has a negligible impact on the outcome of the election.

            (6) Experience has shown that the number of people who actually attempt this crime is microscopic compared to the volume of votes cast, probably for the reasons mentioned in #5.

            (7) Most of the voter-ID requirements passed in recent years are nakedly intended to make it more difficult for certain specific groups to vote. Most election administrators, regardless of partisan leanings, see that as unfair.

          • suntzuanime says:

            I’m not persuaded by all of those points, but I especially would like to say that #5 and #6 seem to miss the point entirely: of course few people bother committing voter fraud, of course it doesn’t have meaningful impact. The long lines protect us from that! That was my whole point!

            EDIT: When I said “we” I was being a little overgeneral. I’m sure you just don’t want the hassle of verifying voters’ identities, but there is a contingent towards which I was being snarky that considers it basically Jim Crow All Over Again.

          • The long lines protect us from that! That was my whole point!

            I thought you were kidding. The length of lines is highly variable.

            Last Tuesday, it took me 11 minutes to vote, from arriving at the polling place to leaving.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Really? I was just generalizing from my own experience of waiting in line almost 45 minutes even for early voting, and I thought I had finally figured out why nobody cared about verifying voter identity.

            I guess I am both poor and urban, I should have expected them to try to disenfranchise me.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Larry, I was vaguely in favor of voter-ID laws, but you may have made me be vaguely against them. I still have to let this one sit to see how it works, but thanks.

          • lhn says:

            I was just generalizing from my own experience of waiting in line almost 45 minutes even for early voting

            At least where I live, anecdotal reports were of long lines for early voting (definitely true on the last day when I looke into it), where there were only two people in front of me on Election Day.

            Early voting where I am is at one location at Village Hall, with some limited number of electronic voting machines. On Election Day there are a lot more polling places with a combination of touchscreen machines along with lots of booths for optical scan paper ballots, so they at least manage much higher throughput than early voting does.

          • suntzuanime says:

            I guess I need to vote more often so I can learn all the secret tips and tricks.

        • Tibor says:

          Just out of curiosity, what’s the punishment for not voting? And what if you’re sick on the election day or something?

          The idea of compulsory voting seems somehow esthetically fascist to me 🙂 Maybe that’s cause voting was de facto compulsory in the former eastern block countries (you could have problems if you did not go, and if you went their and did not vote openly, i.e. if you went to the voting booth, which you did not have to, you could have even bigger problems, cause that means you might have voted some minor allowed socialist parties instead of the communists – the election was rigged anyway, but this was a way to demonstrate submission and those who did not, got into trouble).

          Voting is voluntary in most of Europe though and I haven’t heard of any queues forming. Most of the time, the committees sit there alone or there is one or two people in the place where you vote.

          I think it might have something to do with the fact that in the US, voting is done electronically, whereas in all of Europe, it is still done with paper. This means that during the elections pretty much every school changes into a voting place and so the people are more spread out. Also, the elections sometimes take two days (usually something like Friday afternoon and then Saturday), so again the people get more spread out.

          I would not bother with voting if I had to wait in a queue for an hour to do that (maybe in a referendum about a specific law/decision I really cared about a lot).

          • Wander says:

            You don’t actually need to vote, just show up. They mark you name off and then you’re free to go home, with or without voting. The penalty is a monetary fine, not huge and not particularly well enforced in my experience. Being sick is also considered a valid reason for not showing up. I think it’s a good system, because most people actually do vote because they’re already there and it’s easy enough, and only those who really don’t care about politics ignore it.

          • Tibor says:

            @Wander: Do you think the people who would have stayed home had it not been for the fine and who end up voting for someone actually make a difference? And if so, in what way do you think that they influence the result?

          • bean says:

            I don’t understand compulsory voting. Yes, it’s their country, but if someone doesn’t care enough to want to go to the polls, then it seems safe to assume that they don’t actually bring extra information to the table.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Voting is about representation/consent of the governed, not about voters making smart informed choices. The US system at least was explicit about this when it was being implemented, that’s why there’s so much indirection. Compulsory voting adds extra legitimacy to the system, helping fulfill the philosophical role of elections, and if the extra votes are really random, it’s not like it hurts the ability of elections to reach a correct outcome.

            The main issue (apart from the direct cost to the compelled voters) is that it doesn’t work with the cynical idea of elections as simulated civil war. If your supporters need to be threatened to even come to the polls, you probably wouldn’t win in a revolution. It also negatively impacts its value as a civic ritual to show your devotion to The Ideals of Democracy.

          • Wander says:

            @Tibor: We also have preferential voting which cascades down your preferences/the preferences of the party or person you voted for. I think quite broadly that it does make a difference.

          • bean says:

            if the extra votes are really random, it’s not like it hurts the ability of elections to reach a correct outcome.

            This runs into the simple problem that I’m not sure they’ll be truly random. What’s to stop certain parties from pandering to the people who just have to show up and vote, and don’t really care about or understand political issues? Promise them free ponies, and hope they don’t notice when you don’t deliver.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Isn’t that what democracy is all about, though? Won’tfix, working as designed.

          • Wander says:

            @Bean: Maybe that would happen in a system with lots of small parties, but in Australia at least it’s basically a 2 party system. You can vote for whoever you want, and maybe they’ll get a seat or two, but one of the major parties always holds power.

          • Matt M says:

            Tibor,

            Here’s a fun story for you – I grew up in a very liberal town where every local election cycle, there would be a vote on some bond measure to raise money for the schools. These measures would always pass with an overwhelming majority of the vote – but there was a rule on the books that in order for a measure (I can’t recall if this was true of all measures, or just ones dealing with bonds or whatever) to pass, voter turnout had to be above 50%.

            So those who supported the measure (teachers unions) would run local radio spots not even mentioning the particular measure, but simply encouraging people to engage in their patriotic duty to vote. My dad was a pretty liberal union member, who normally would fall right in line – except he started to notice that they passed these new bonds every single year and the schools never really got any better. He considered voting against their latest measure, but then he remembered that the true battle was not yes/no, but rather “will they get to 50% or not,” so he didn’t vote.

            Guess who called him to yell and scream at him the next week when turnout was below 50%? The union president. Because it turns out, that while who you vote for is secret, the question of who voted and who didn’t is public record. So they told everyone he helped fail their precious bond measure and gave him a good deal of harassment about it.

            We’ve also seen this come up more recently. I believe the Cruz campaign in the primaries did a Facebook campaign where they encouraged to look up their registered republican friends and check to see who voted and who didn’t and yell at the non-voters. More recently, I’ve seen radical lefty types suggest that all good Hillary look up their friends to check and see who let everyone down and helped a racist become President.

          • Matt M says:

            ” It also negatively impacts its value as a civic ritual to show your devotion to The Ideals of Democracy.”

            What’s the point of voting if you can’t wear a little sticker that makes you feel superior to everyone not wearing a similar sticker?

          • Tibor says:

            @Matt M: This happened to me actually. There was a referendum in my home town about a certain plot in the middle of the city. There used to be this ugly communist era “culture house” before, the owner demolished it and wanted to build a shopping center with some flats and a little park on the roof. The problem was that about 5% of the plot was owned by the city and that you need an approval from the city to build anyway.

            The regular suspects were outraged by an idea that there would be another “temple of consumerism” in the middle of the town and they pushed through a referendum in which the city residents decided whether the city will allow the construction or not. This was incidentally the only time went to vote in the last 8 years (there was a presidential election at the same time, in the same building but I did not care for either of the two candidates – and the Czech president is about as powerful as the Austrian one, so not very much – so I didn’t vote in that). I voted for letting the company build the shopping center. And here comes the twist – had everyone who voted the same way I did stayed at home, the referendum would not have the minimum 30% participation and it would be void. This way, the protesters outnumbered us who voted for upholding ownership rights (although most people probably saw it rather as a question of whether they want to have a shopping center there or not). The result is that there’s been an empty piece of land almost in the city center for 2 years now and counting, since the owner sued the city and the plot probably won’t be used for anything for quite a while (before the court case is decided at least). Actually, it now serves as a cheap parking place and I think that last summer there was a circus tent there for a month or two.

    • shakeddown says:

      Here too (are we in the same place?). My friend who worked on one of the campaigns is pretty upset about it.

  4. CatCube says:

    There’s been a major earthquake in New Zealand, with tsunami. I know we’ve got a few New Zealanders in the commentariat. Everybody all right?

    • Acedia says:

      Christchurch here. The quake felt long and scary but was of the wrong type (rolling, like standing on the deck of a boat, rather than the juddering with a lot of up and down motion we’ve had in the past) to do a lot of damage. It banged my doors around and swung the light fixtures but didn’t break anything.

    • Tracy W says:

      All safe here. Kids didn’t even wake up. When I was a kid I didn’t expect to spend the day after a big quake doing the laundry and potting some plants.

  5. baconbacon says:

    There is no problem with tribal identification, us vs them, win or go home. It doesn’t matter how many times the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Cleveland Browns, and it doesn’t particularly matter how many insults each side throws at the other. This doesn’t matter because at the end of each season the Steelers don’t get to march into Cleveland and make the rules there for the next 4 years.

    Politics is about power. It doesn’t matter how good you are, or how smart you are or how much you care or even how right you are. Winning a political battle is about walking up to a podium and laying down the law for a bunch of people that disagree with you.

    The only potential way to eliminated this is to start stripping power away from the federal government. Not because the Free Market is great and will do things well, but because as long as there is a winner take all battle with $3.5 trillion dollars at stake then the battles will be gross, and the winners disgusting.

    • Urstoff says:

      Will a Trump presidency lead liberals to consider the downsides of executive power, after ignoring it (indeed, promoting executive power) for eight years? I doubt it.

      • Well... says:

        Right. And then what happens when Trump doesn’t turn out to be Hitler, but instead turns out to be a lot like (borrowing from David Friedman here) Hillary “Plus”?

        • Urstoff says:

          Both sound pretty bad to me.

          • Well... says:

            Agreed. But one sounds a lot more likely to happen, and there will be a response by liberals, and it won’t be “Maybe we should rethink how big we want the government to be.”

        • Jiro says:

          Obama turned out to be a Republican for a lot of things (surveillance and Guantanamo, for instance) and nobody noticed.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Obama did, in fact, try repeatedly to close down the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, but each time failed in the face of congressional opposition. (Only 60 prisoners are left there now.)

          • sflicht says:

            A lot of us noticed.

          • hlynkacg says:

            It should be noted that the congressional opposition was to the “open a new prison camp somewhere else” part of Obama’s plan.

            If Obama, in his capacity as CIC, had simply released the prisoners there wouldn’t have been a whole lot that congress could do about it.

      • nyccine says:

        Don’t you remember the Bush years? Liberals were very much aghast at the expansion of Executive Power then, they will be opposed to it now, and will pull a 180° the next time a Democrat is in the White House.

        • Moon says:

          Yeah, and the GOP is never AGAINST things when liberals do them, and yet FOR for those same ideas when Republicans do them– e.g. infrastructure spending, RomneyCare/ObamaCare.

          Because every flaw occurs ONLY in liberals, and every virtue occurs ONLY in conservatives, doesn’t it? At least according to Right Wing comment boards like this one.

          • nyccine says:

            As the subject was specific to current, left-wing critics of Trump, I didn’t feel the need to write a scholarly article, replete with citations, of every hypocritical act of both major parties over the past 50 years.

            I was about to make a joke about how you’re SCC’s Brittany Venti – a straw character who plays up hysterics for humor – but she’s a) an act, and b) funny, so I thought better of it.

          • Incurian says:

            I’m pretty sure it’s LITERALLY IMPOSSIBLE to criticize one political party without selling your soul to the other one.

            EDIT: On second thought, I think Moon is being sarcastic. Well done, you got me.

          • wysinwygymmv says:

            @nyccine:

            Seriously, though, you guys do a lot of generalizing about “the left” on stuff that is usually as true for “the right”. And if you really want a better representation of left wing views in the comments here, then you should take this kind of criticism seriously instead of getting defensive and petulant about it.

          • ChetC3 says:

            @wysinwygymmv: But objectively speaking, SSC’s comment section leans left, as proven by the results of a survey of SSC’s readers a couple years back. Since it’s an established fact that “commenters” are an unbiased, representative subset of “readers,” and also that comment length and quantity is equally distributed among all commenters, as opposed to following, say, a power-law distribution, the majority of the survey takers self-reporting as being on the political left allows us to prove by simple deductive reasoning that there is a left-wing bias in the comment section.

          • wysinwygymmv says:

            @ChetC3:

            Interesting if true.

          • TheWorst says:

            @ChetC3:

            But objectively speaking, SSC’s comment section leans left, as proven by the results of a survey of SSC’s readers a couple years back.

            The two bolded words are not the same word.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Come on, dude, it’s not even subtle.

      • Wander says:

        Worth reposting from the last open thread:

        Jeremy Shapiro disclosed the Obama team before the 2012 elections had considered imposing such constitutional checks on the US president’s ability to order killings fearing Obama was about to lose the presidential elections to the Republicans.

        Speaking in London, Shapiro, a former special adviser an assistant secretary in the State Department, disclosed the Obama team in the State Department “in the run-up to the 2012 election the Obama thought might lose and there was some thinking – ‘Gee, we have created the most awesome assassination machine ever known to man whereby we can, with very little oversight, basically kill anyone in the world outside of America.’”

        He added the Obama officials thought “We are using that responsibly because we are good people,” but it was not institutionalized. “When people looked at it they thought, ‘Christ this is scary, what if we give this to the Republicans?’”

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          “Imagine all the power you are giving your man in the White House. Now imagine it in the hands of your worst enemy.”

          I didn’t really mean we were supposed to elect Trump to help make this point, guys.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I didn’t really mean we were supposed to elect Trump to help make this point, guys.

            Just saying it wasn’t working.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Maybe not, but one would hope that recent events give it a bit more impact.

            I wouldn’t count on it, however. The response you generally get is “No, we just need to make sure once the good people are back in control that no one like him can ever get into power again!”

        • baconbacon says:

          My priors are as follows, if you build the worlds greatest assassination machine, and use said machine then you are very unlikely to be a good person. Reading that Obama’s team felt this way allows me to update those priors from ~97% confidence to ~99% confidence.

        • Aapje says:

          I’ve seen someone claim that the Republicans generally like more overt operations, while Democrats tend to like more covertness*. I don’t know if this is correct, but it could mean that the power is less likely abused by Republicans.

          * JFK was most likely killed because his assassination attempts on Fidel Castro inspired Oswald, who on his Mexico trip, was at a Cuban embassy party where the Cuban ambassador, who was a high ranking intelligence officer, openly talked about the assassination attempts.

        • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

          He added the Obama officials thought “We are using that responsibly because we are good people,” but it was not institutionalized. “When people looked at it they thought, ‘Christ this is scary, what if we give this to the Republicans?’”

          http://tinypic.com/view.php?pic=2vmg0hi&s=9

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            He added the Obama officials thought “We are using that responsibly because we are good people,” but it was not institutionalized. “When people looked at it they thought, ‘Christ this is scary, what if we give this to the Republicans?’”

            Good Lord, this administration really was the worst people. The most cramped, the most self-assured, the most smug, the most incurious, the most power-drunk. Even if it is Donald Trump replacing him, it can’t come soon enough.

      • ChetC3 says:

        No more than the Bush II presidency did. It will encourage them to: (a) fight harder to get a hold of it next time around; and (b) to make hay while the sun shines.

      • Tibor says:

        I remembered that really stupid Woody Allen quote last week – he said (in 2008 I think) that (not verbatim but close) “Barrack Obama should be a dictator so that he would have the power to pass all the good laws”. I would like to think Allen realizes at least now how stupid that idea is.

        Btw, today, a colleague came up with a “dilemma” whether it would be better to have Trump as a president (of the US I guess) or Angela Merkel as the leader of a world government. I was amazed that some people actually considered the latter option (and at least one said that he’d rather have the Supreme leader Merkel). Regardless of what one thinks of Merkel and Trump, world government is possibly the single most dangerous political idea. It shows either how hysteric some people are about Trump’s presidency or how amazingly naive ideas they have about government in general (another common mistake is to assume that as long as the regime is a democracy it is automatically good…regardless of how huge the state is in the number of voters and scope of government power).

        • hyperboloid says:

          Regardless of what one thinks of Merkel and Trump, world government is possibly the single most dangerous political idea

          In the words of The Dude, Yeah, well that’s just, like, your opinion man.

          I don’t think it has any thing in particular to do with Trump. There is a group of people, nontrivial in number, who think that world government would be a positive good, rather then a just necessary evil. I’m not sure I buy that view. It would depend a lot on the details; most importantly on just how much governing this hypothetical government would actually be expected to do.

          • Tibor says:

            Shut the fuck up Donny. 🙂

            But seriously, of course it’s just my opinion. I haven’t seen any good arguments for it. Mostly it is some kind of One World Together fuzziness, or a belief that the World Government would do the kind of policies the people who support it like (being somehow magically exempt of the regular political market with its myriad of market failures in countries today).

            The simplest argument against it is that if your country turns into a authoritarian hellhole, you can emigrate. If the whole world does, there is nowhere to go. Since World Government means the end of competition in policymaking (at least on the highest level), that government would turn into a authoritarian hellhole at an above average speed.

          • Spookykou says:

            @Tibor

            Do you think it is possible to construct an understanding of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ that would capture a significant portion of the world population?

            Something like, life and joy versus death and pain.

            If so, is it possible to create metrics that evaluate those terms in a way that a significant portion of the world would accept as valid evaluations.

            Something like, on a scale of one to ten how dead are you.

            Then, if you construct a system that has a high ability to generate ‘good’ outcomes, and a low ability to generate ‘bad’ outcomes(except through inaction), it does not really matter who is in charge of the system.

            So, my Utopian global government would be great!

            More realistically, I think some people actually believe we already have the first two, so just put somebody in charge of a powerful government who also understands what is ‘good’ and how to evaluate it, and they will be a force for ‘good’ for everyone. Obviously a ‘bad’ person would never get that power…

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            I agree with Tibor. Perhaps a world government would do a better job of dealing with violence, since it is all in one entity, as seems to follow from the benefits of Leviathan per “Better Angels of our Nature.” (BTW, I really hate the name of this book, but it is a great book).

            BUT. A one-world government terrifies me, for the reason that Tibor mentions. Also that really bad regimes are often mitigated because of competition with better regimes. I think the probability of a one world government becoming an authoritarian hell hole is relatively high, because there are always lots of charismatic people out there that want to rule the world, and with one enormous government there could be no true competition for power. It is mostly the existence of multiple axis of power in today’s world that keeps the first world a relatively free place.

          • hyperboloid says:

            Strong centralized states tend to be created by either by one group conquering many others, or by many groups coming together in the face of an outside threat. Neither of these seems like it could apply to a world government.

            Given the nature of modern warfare , in particular the fact that most of the great powers have nuclear weapons, I don’t see how a state (or any alliance of states) could conquer the world. The notion of an outside threat is even more implausible given that, science fiction scenarios aside, the world as a whole can have no outside enemies.

            A government is just a monopoly on the use of violence, and most of the serious proposals I have heard for strengthened international institutions are concerned mostly with suppressing warfare, and maybe promoting free trade.

            I grant that if there was some sinister army of esperanto speaking globalists trying to conscript us into their utopia, that would be scary, but there isn’t.

            World government will never look like government on the national level; it’s apt to be a pretty loosely held together thing. I can’t imagine a scenario where national governments would willing to create an international organization powerful enough to constitute any kind of tyranny.

          • Aapje says:

            I used to be pretty positive about larger scale government, based on abstract ideals. Then I actually starting noticing what the EU and UN do, which is highly undemocratic and (thus) giving outlandish power to certain groups. So right now I am not very positive about it.

          • Well, if you want voluntary, democratic world government by a democratic route, you are going to have to assume a lot of setting aside of differences in order to get there. Which is a good thing in mot people’s book.

            I’m a bit puzzled by people who dismiss world government without even knowing if its going to be democratic. Or any of the other details.

          • Aapje says:

            At this point in time, with the world as it is, I don’t think that a democratic world government is a possibility. You can’t do it by making countries representative for their people, because some countries are semi- or non- democracies themselves. Direct elections seem impossible too, some countries will rig them just like their own elections.

            I also think that democracy requires more than voting. You also need a decent amount of shared culture so people will be willing to respect the core values of others. This doesn’t exist.

            Then there is the issue that such a government would surely be influenced by powerful forces like a few big countries to such an extent, that the end result is little more than coercion.

          • Tibor says:

            @TheAncientGeekAKA1Z: I am puzzled by people who think that as long as the world government is democratic, all is well. India is democratic. It is not run very well, there’s a ton of corruption and cronyism. Ditto for Brazil (Brazil is richer than India but perhaps even more corrupt). I think that the biggest problem of both of them is centralization and too much government power to which various interest groups are attracted like flies to honey. I’m not saying the whole world would look like India if you instituted world government, but I am quite convinced it would at best work like Brazil.

            Of course, one could have something much more loose, sort of like UN+ (UN with an actual power). That I don’t consider world government any more than the current EU is a European government. But as with the current EU, I’d be afraid of a gradual expansion of its power, delegation of power to people who were not chosen democratically at all and an extreme bureaucratic overload (which is the natural habitat of various concentrated interest groups such as big corporations or unions).

            So even if you start your world government democratically and even if it is very federal (i.e. its individual parts are quite independent), you will gradually converge to the same system the EU is converging to, only much faster.

            My opinion is that countries are too big already. Why should California be in the same country as Texas? Why should Bavaria be in the same state with Berlin? At least in the first case, it is not even a question of nationalism, there is no “Californian” or “Texan” ethnicity. But when people in one place obviously wish for a different system than people in another place, why should they be forced to have one government, making the people in at least one (but more often both) of the places angry at what they got (and start hating the bastards from the other place whose votes forced that government onto them)? Instead, they can each have their own and be happy (or not, but when they see that the other guys are doing so much better because they made better choices, they might want to switch too…whereas if you choose government to rule them all, you’ll never see the alternatives).

            If you have world government, you’ll have the same only on a much larger scale. Say that there are 10 different policies regarding something in the world today and say that you delegate the power to chose that policy to the world government. Then suddenly you go from 10 to 1. Assuming that the remaining 9 were mostly supported by the people in the countries that instituted them, you suddenly forced all those people to have a law they don’t want. It can be pretty democratic – they perhaps still prefer the chosen policy to other alternatives (apart from the one they had) and so the chosen policy is the lesser evil for all of them. In the extreme case, nobody really wants that policy but it is the only one people can grudgingly agree on. At the same time, each of them could have had their preferred policy instead had it not been for the world government.

            Of course, as long as you want to preserve states, you need some arbitrary cutoff. I cannot have a different government that you if we’re neighbours (unless you want to try anarcho-capitalism, but let’s not let that hijack this thread). But the level at which it becomes practical is way below the size of most countries even today. I feel a bit stupid by bringing up Switzerland all the time, but it is a country of 6 million people, divided into 27 strongly independent cantons. And it works pretty well.

            And of course, having a lot of small countries does not mean you cannot have any international cooperation. But the maxim of the day should be subsidiarity – if it can be done on a smaller scale, it should be done on a smaller scale.

          • Aapje says:

            @Tibor

            You also lose the ability for some countries to ‘try out’ something new, where more conservative countries can adopt it if it works.

            Things like gay marriage, for example.

          • Matt M says:

            “I’m a bit puzzled by people who dismiss world government without even knowing if its going to be democratic. Or any of the other details.”

            The details of how world government would actually work are impossible to know. All we can know is how the proponents of global government claim it’s going to work.

            And based on how we can readily observe that claims of how national government works tend to differ dramatically from how government actually works, well…

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            “Support world government: it might not be a dictatorship!” Now there’s a clarion call to rally the masses.

          • Spookykou says:

            @Tibor

            I could see a few argument that it is better for ‘humanity’ to keep everyone from going off and creating ethnic/ideological homogeneous societies. X -risk scenarios could call for a level of global cooperation that could be hindered by such a system. Also I think genetic diversity can be good for a populations overall health. Maybe diversity of view points is important in the process of creating new things? I also imagine more smaller governments would be more likely to not have nukes and more likely to engage in aggressive wars.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Support Democratic World Government! 6 billion people in less-developed countries can’t be wrong!

          • Vorkon says:

            At least in the first case, it is not even a question of nationalism, there is no “Californian” or “Texan” ethnicity.

            Try telling that to a Texan. :op

          • Tibor says:

            @Vorkon: Well, from a smug European point of view, you’re all just recent immigrants safe for a handful of Apaches and Comanches :-))

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            The larger the voting population, the less meaningful a given individual’s vote is. Once you’re sufficiently outnumbered by people with ideologies and terminal values alien to your own, the fact that you’re given a chance to say “No thank you” before everyone else says “Yes please” no longer has any value or confers any legitimacy, and you might as well not have the franchise as all for all the difference it makes to what happens to you.

            I tend to believe that the voting population at which this dilution of the individual’s vote renders it meaningless and valueless as a mark of legitimacy is actually smaller than the voting turn-out of many current existing countries.

            I fail to see how making the voting pool LARGER would be in any way an improvement.

          • Matt M says:

            Right. Imagine like instead of “I’m in Wyoming so it’s not worth anyone’s time to worry about what I think because we’re only 3 electoral votes” it’s “I’m in the United States so it’s not worth global president’s time to campaign here because India and China represent 6x our voting power”

          • Tekhno says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            The larger the voting population, the less meaningful a given individual’s vote is. Once you’re sufficiently outnumbered by people with ideologies and terminal values alien to your own, the fact that you’re given a chance to say “No thank you” before everyone else says “Yes please” no longer has any value or confers any legitimacy, and you might as well not have the franchise as all for all the difference it makes to what happens to you.

            Right. The entire worth of democracy would be destroyed. It’s best not to see democracy as a way of coming up with the best policies through the wisdom of the crowd, but a way of handling peaceful regime change, and allowing the various popular sides of a debate to share power over time. If we didn’t have democracy, or at least some formal negotiation mechanism, then we’d instead have violent regime change and no power sharing, only a totalitarian crushing of the enemy after victory.

            The problem is that even democracy can only go so far. The popular sides of a debate aren’t the only sides of the debate, and those who don’t fit into the main coalitions feel left out. These independents are a certain percentage of the population in a country, but would constitute a very large number of disenfranchised people in a world democracy. Worse, they’d be concentrated in the areas known formally as countries, and linked by culture, with their common oppressors being a faraway coalition of Asian people who outvote them on everything. Democracy would cease to be a negotiation in the interest of its subjects, and it would cease to be a significant pressure valve, because if you can never vote in your candidate, then you might as well be under a dictatorship, leaving you only one option for regime change, and that is revolution.

            If the entire population of every small country has votes that are almost worthless, then even the very very very small percentage who become alienated enough to resort to terrorism would be a large absolute number.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Libertarians, I hope you hammer this point home hard to your liberal friends. If the party had any sense, it would start pushing a few pieces of legislation to reign in not just the executive, but the federal government in general.

      “Government is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together.” -> “Government is simply the name we give to the things we choose to have Donald Trump do.”

      • Moon says:

        Government depends a ton more on the people in power than on the laws. Trump could possibly do a ton of illegal things before getting impeached for them, and in that case the laws on the books won’t matter. The man appears to have rather poor impulse control.

        And liberals control no branch of government and have no power to do anything now. So if you want something done, talk to the Republicans now.

        • baconbacon says:

          If its legal he gets to do it for the entire term, maybe two full terms. If its illegal there is a chance at stopping it part way through. One of these is overwhelmingly better than the other.

        • keranih says:

          Government depends a ton more on the people in power than on the laws.

          No. Not in our US system. The Federalist Papers are pretty clear on this – they expect people to be greedy assholes, and developed a system of laws to counter balance this.

          Then the Union decided that they could make people good, and meddled with the laws……oops. Sorry. Wrong rebellion.

      • IrishDude says:

        Your post reminds me of the unicorn argument from Mike Munger. It’s not about what you imagine the state to be, but who actually runs the state:
        ==========
        But they may not immediately see why “the State” that they can imagine is a unicorn. So, to help them, I propose what I (immodestly) call “the Munger test.”

        1. Go ahead, make your argument for what you want the State to do, and what you want the State to be in charge of.
        2. Then, go back and look at your statement. Everywhere you said “the State,” delete that phrase and replace it with “politicians I actually know, running in electoral systems with voters and interest groups that actually exist.”
        3. If you still believe your statement, then we have something to talk about.
        =======
        https://fee.org/articles/unicorn-governance/

        • rlms says:

          But the state isn’t just made up of politicians, indeed in the context of the state doing stuff politicians are relatively unimportant. If you want the state to invade Iraq, you want the military to do it. If you want the state to ensure medical drugs are safe, you want regulators to do it.

      • ChetC3 says:

        Since liberals are already aware of this stunning insight, what would this do except make libertarians look clueless?

        • Tibor says:

          They weren’t aware of that during Obama’s presidency (see the Woody Allen quote I mention above). Similar with Republicans, but some of them at least talk about reducing state power. In practice it happens very rarely that any major party in any country actually reduces the scope of government’s power but when it happens it is more often a conservative/right-wing party which does that. But one should not be too easy on them either as they also often “compensate” the occasional good effort by talking about the free market and reducing bureaucracy while doing the exact opposite, convincing left-wingers that free market = cronyism and thus doing a very bad PR for actual classical liberal and libertarian ideas.

          • TheWorst says:

            Woody Allen is not “liberals.” He is one guy. Liberals, as a group, are aware of many concepts that are not contained in one particular Woody Allen one-liner.

            The number of liberals of my acquaintance who were extremely uncomfortable with creeping executive power even in Obama’s hands is pretty large (albeit not large enough). I get that you found one quote from a thing this one dude said that one time, but I find that less persuasive than the conflicting evidence.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Anecdotal, but among my liberal friends, several were pleased to see Obama taking more unilateral executive action (and some of them wanted him to take more), and none of them, as far as I remember, were worrying about any dangerous precedents that might be set.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            Surely the liberal President who was making the creeping executive power creep should count as at least one additional guy?

          • ChetC3 says:

            There’s a difference between being aware of power creep, and not taking advantage of it when in power. This whole line of reasoning is a non sequitur without some very significant unstated assumptions.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            OK, change “unaware” to “aware, but don’t give a fuck”. Jaskologist, consider yourself rebuked.

          • ChetC3 says:

            Since liberals aren’t interested in reducing federal power in the abstract, there’s no reason for them do so unless they have some other specific goal that can be achieved that way. Otherwise, you’re wondering why liberals aren’t interested in achieving conservatives’ political goals for them when liberals are in power.

    • Aapje says:

      @baconbacon

      Winning a political battle is about walking up to a podium and laying down the law for a bunch of people that disagree with you.

      The only potential way to eliminated this is to start stripping power away from the federal government.

      Another way is to abandon the two-party system and get a proportional system, where the eternal need for coalitions tends to moderate politics (because a winning politician will often need support from some parties who are currently in the opposition after the next election).

      • cassander says:

        This is the opposite of what happens. A two party system is bound to produce two broad, middling parties while PR gives you highly ideological parties. The reason is simple electoral math.

        To win a single member district, you have to win over a plurality of the voters in that district, which requires assembling a relatively large coalition that, almost by definition, requires not straying to far from the center of said district. Under PR, by contract, you can appeal to a narrow but passionate slice of the electorate everywhere, get 5% of the vote in each district, a plurality nowhere, and still get a bunch of seats in the legislature.

        • rlms says:

          Moderate politics does not necessarily mean moderate parties. You can (and almost certainly will) have some extreme parties, but since the moderate parties will have the largest proportions of the vote they will likely lead coalitions, so your President-equivalent will probably be relatively moderate.

        • Aapje says:

          @cassander

          To convert those seats into actual legislation, the narrow party will have to work together with others to get things done. We have a animal rights party and a theocratic Protestant party with some seats, where both have worked on legislation with others.

          • John Schilling says:

            Yes, but to convert its 49% plurality into actual legislation, the moderate party will have to work together with others to get things done.

            If the rule is that A+B collectively run the government unless either of them defects, in which case C+D run the government, does it really matter whether A is huge and B is tiny or vice versa? If the alternative to A+B is B+C, then B is the most powerful player in the game even if they are the tiny one.

          • rlms says:

            @John Schilling
            But if A+B and B+C are the alternative coalitions, B are probably centrists who will work with either left-wing A or right-wing C.

          • Rob K says:

            @rlms or single-issue fanatics.

          • John Schilling says:

            See e.g. Shas in Israel, which is happy to form a coalition with either left-wing Labor or right-wing Likud, and vice versa, but is in no way centrist.

          • cassander says:

            Yes, and the way that usually happens is that minor fringe parties use their outsized leverage to disproportionately affect legislative outcomes because their desires, while extreme, are often orthogonal to those of the large parties.

          • Aapje says:

            You can argue that it is an optimal outcome when a minority gets something that really, really matters to them, while the majority doesn’t care or has only mild opposition to it (and where in return, that minority helps others achieve the things they really care about).

            In a relationship, you also sometimes do things that matter greatly to your partner, but which you’d not do if it was only up to you. In return, you then expect the same thing back. Same principle.

          • Randy M says:

            You can argue that it is an optimal outcome when a minority gets something that really, really matters to them, while the majority doesn’t care or has only mild opposition to it

            This is the reason why the budget can never get cut and programs can only ever expand. Each addition is of very big benefit to some group that brought it about, while being individually only a small drain on the whole.

            However, due to the number of competing factions (which of course aren’t mutually exclusive) over time it results in a bloated stagnating mess.

          • cassander says:

            >You can argue that it is an optimal outcome when a minority gets something that really, really matters to them, while the majority doesn’t care or has only mild opposition to it (and where in return, that minority helps others achieve the things they really care about).

            You can, but that’s a very different argument from the one that was made, that PR encourages moderation.

          • rlms says:

            If the majority doesn’t care about policies enacted, that sounds pretty moderate to me.

          • Aapje says:

            @Randy M

            This is the reason why the budget can never get cut and programs can only ever expand. Each addition is of very big benefit to some group that brought it about, while being individually only a small drain on the whole.

            Unless there are people that care a lot about low taxes.

            There is also an obvious brake on this, as people get increasingly unwilling to pay higher and higher taxes. So at one point people start to demand that that new nice stuff gets paid for by eliminating old, somewhat less nice stuff.

            Of course, you can have a situation where a mortgage is drawn on the future by for example, not fixing the infrastructure. However, the two-party US system does that way, way more than my PR country.

            @cassander

            You can, but that’s a very different argument from the one that was made, that PR encourages moderation.

            All political systems have to find a balance between moderation and actually achieving things. The question is not which system is most moderate, or is best at achieving things, but which offers the best balance.

        • A two party system is bound to produce two broad, middling parties

          Unless an extremist leader takes one or both over.

          while PR gives you highly ideological parties.

          Party=/=govenrment.

          The US courrently has the triple whammy of

          1 Tribal polarisation at the grassroots

          and

          2. And adversarial, rather than coalition based, goernment.

          and

          3. Departure from Moderation by the prevailing party.

    • fivemack says:

      In what remote sense is the US federal government ‘winner-take-all’?

      Winning a political battle gets you four years to push a very, very heavy stone across a landscape of quite deep local minima; if you’re really really good and have the public on your side, you might get it over one hill and into the next hole. It gets you time to get maybe two rounds of getting something litigated up to the Supreme Court.

      Each expenditure of political capital lets you pick one out of a vast range of contests to push in your preferred direction.

      • Aapje says:

        The presidental election is clearly ‘winner takes all,’ because one candidate gets the position and the other(s) get nothing. This is generally how ‘winner takes all’ is defined.

        You seem to interpret it as a lack of checks in the system; or even the desire by the winner to be re-elected, but this seems a very non-standard definition.

        • Spookykou says:

          winner take all battle with $3.5 trillion dollars at stake

          The original post that fivemack is responding to is clearly implying that the winner has control of the government, which is not true, the president does not suddenly get to do whatever they want with 3.5 trillion dollars after they win, they do not ‘take all’.

          More over, your definition of ‘winner takes all’ seems too general to be very useful. I don’t think anyone normally uses winner take all to simply refer to the fact that one person wins and one person loses, the whole point is that the person gets to ‘take all’ after winning.

          Even if baconbacon had not specifically said 3.5 trillion dollars, I still would have interpreted them in the same way that fivemack did. The only meaningful way to interpret the ‘take all’ from my perspective is ‘government control’.

          Edit. ‘Winner takes all’ is not normally used in political context, at least I am not familiar with its use in this context. I almost exclusively hear it in tournament contexts where lots of people put money into the pot but only the winner actually wins anything (normally everything in the pot). Still, this is clearly referring to them winning ‘something’ beyond just the title of ‘winner’.

          Edit Edit Actually I am an idiot, people use it to refer to the voting process in elections, the one to get more than 50% of the vote wins all of the power that was up for grabs in that vote. Which is a totally reasonable usage.

  6. (Reposted from the very bottom of the last open thread.)

    @Deiseach

    Oh wow, the Symbionese Liberation Army, that takes me back!

    Hands up all the old people on here who know who Patty Hearst was

    Yes, I remember. She is only a little older than me. When she was kidnapped, at 19, I was 18.

    I was so annoyed by the whole episode, and the months-long media circus it engendered, because it was such an absurd distraction from real (i.e., political) issues.

    I know, now, what I did not recognize at the time: the prosecution, trial, conviction and imprisonment of Patty Hearst was a horrific miscarriage of justice.

    The Stockholm syndrome was barely known at the time. She was regularly beaten and raped, but the psychological impact of all that trauma was discounted, not just by prosecutors, but by the public at large. Prisoners of war are (typically) hardened, trained military men, but she was held to the same standard as POWs.

    The void of public compassion toward her puzzled some even at the time:

    Actor John Wayne, speaking after the Jonestown cult deaths, said it was odd that people had accepted the fact that Jim Jones had brainwashed 900 human beings into mass suicide, but would not accept that a group like the Symbionese Liberation Army could have brainwashed a kidnapped teenage girl.

    She was sentenced to 35 years in prison, later reduced to “only” seven years. She was released by President Carter in 1979, but finally pardoned only in 2001. Bill Clinton waited until his last day in office.

    • hlynkacg says:

      That is an excellent observation, and something that I hadn’t really considered previously.

      That line from John Wayne also adds to my (already significant) respect for the man.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      So I suppose I also should copy my response to your posting.

      I never had that reaction, although I had not heard of the Stockholm syndrome at the time. I am still somewhat skeptical. Yes it is very difficult to resist psychological assault when your captors have total power over you. But is that truly what happened? I did not follow the trial at all. Did the court take into account the psychological effects of her captivity? Maybe the SLA just happened to kidnap a fellow traveler?

      As a thought experiment, what if someone was kidnapped and explicitly brainwashed into the idea that a certain person was evil incarnate. Then they let you go and you killed that person. Are you guilty? I would tend to say “yes,” although the brainwashing needs to be taken into account. How about if you grow up in a hateful family that says Jews are all evil. As an adult you take a machine gun and shoot everyone at a synagogue. Are you guilty? Again I think the answer is “yes.” But it is complicated. My point is that Patty Hearst’s captivity should be taken into account, but not used as a out-of-jail free card.

      Larry — although I expressed my skepticism, I really don’t know much about that case. Maybe you know more, and the court did totally ignore the issue of her captivity and brainwashing. If so, then I agree with you.

      • Here are some articles expressing different points of view:

        Stella Morabito, The Federalist:

        For several weeks, she was blindfolded, confined to a smelly closet, tormented, periodically raped, and subjected to a coarse Maoist style program of indoctrination and re-education. Her life depended on anticipating and meeting the demands of her captors. The leader Donald “Cinque” DeFreeze and the others propagandized and interrogated her constantly, explaining that “Amerikkka” was a racist and evil society, repeatedly calling her a privileged “bourgeoise bitch” and her father a “pig” of the “corporate fascist state.” But then her captors would let up a bit, offering food or tea—then continue more intensely with cruelty and degradation. This cycle—isolation, threats, and humiliation, punctuated by a little peace (reward) for compliance—broke down Hearst’s sense of self.

        From a review of Jeffrey Toobin’s book about the case:

        What is also true, however, is that none of that would have occurred if she hadn’t been kidnapped in the first place. So should she have been held responsible? Toobin doesn’t condemn her for what she did. She converted to the S.L.A. to survive and then, after being arrested, converted back to being a Hearst to survive. But he does condemn “her sense of grievance, and of entitlement” when she campaigned for a presidential pardon even though her sentence had already been commuted. He points out how unjust it is that she succeeded: “Patricia Hearst was a woman who, through no fault of her own, fell in with bad people but then did bad things; she committed crimes, lots of them. . . . If the United States were a country that routinely forgave the trespasses of such people, there would be little remarkable about the mercy she received following her conviction. But . . . the prisons teem with convicts who were also led astray and who committed lesser crimes than Patricia. These unfortunate souls have no chance at even a single act of clemency, much less an unprecedented two. Rarely have the benefits of wealth, power and renown been as clear as they were in the aftermath of Patricia’s conviction.”

        Caitlin Flanagan in The Atlantic:

        And then she even found a way to stop the rapes, at least some of them. She did it not by resisting the sex, but by falling in love with one of the men who was performing it. In its way, that was a powerful thing to do—to transform the nature of an act by changing the way you think about it. Willie Wolfe was young and good-looking, and not immune to the gratification of having charmed the captive girl whose face was now one of the most famous in the world. They became boyfriend and girlfriend within the SLA—a boyfriend and girlfriend who had to accommodate, within their love, Patty’s ongoing role as comfort girl to the other male members—a couple whose relationship included the giving of a special gift: a small, carved monkey on a leather thong that, as Patty tells us girlishly in her memoir, Every Secret Thing, was Wolfe’s “most treasured possession.”

        It was a particularly feminine thing to do, to try against all the odds to place one’s sex life within the context of romance and affection, and—another irony—it was one of the things that led to her guilty verdict at trial. In her purse at the time of her arrest was the little monkey, the double of one found underneath Wolfe’s charred remains in the Los Angeles safe house. Before these charms were introduced into evidence, the jury was on Patty’s side: “Everyone’s heart went out to her,” one juror said of the group’s response to the kidnapping, beatings, and rape; “how could you help it? We felt overwhelming sympathy for her.” The evidence about the bank robbery was compelling, but that little trinket from the boyfriend hardened everyone’s heart. “That was what changed my mind,” said one female juror; “I really saw how much she was lying. It just had to be lying, through and through.” Love and sex: they will catch a woman up every time.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          Larry, since your only reply to me is of three different points of view, I take it you have mixed feelings too. I was hoping you would have a more definitive response, especially since you said it was a horrific miscarriage of justice in the initial posting. But if we both are unsure, maybe we have no more to discuss.

          • Yeah, I had read an article earlier which convinced me how bad it was, and I felt bad for not taking the case seriously at the time. I searched for that article without success. Other recent articles I did find were much more equivocal than I expected.

            Still, I think there is more than enough independent evidence to reject the “pretend kidnapping” theory.

        • John Schilling says:

          As promised, I’ve looked into this again myself and, yeah, mixed feelings.

          There’s a solid narrative of Patty Hearst as an innocent young victim of terrible crimes, brainwashed in the classic sense of the word into a mere puppet of her captors. Unfortunately, the factual parts of that narrative depend almost entirely on the testimony of Patty Hearst, all of the other witnesses being inconveniently dead or on the lam. The supporting psychiatric assessment, in addition to being based on Hearst’s testimony, comes from psychiatrists specifically known for unorthodox views on brainwashing that were I think never generally accepted the psychiatric community as a whole. That’s not a disproof of Hearst’s defense, but it’s certainly extreme skepticism.

          The prosecution also has a plausible narrative of a naïve rich kid seduced but not brainwashed by the chance to play Gunslinging Outlaw Liberator of the Oppressed. Based on a few distant views, because they also don’t have any inside eyewitnesses from the SLA. Their psychiatrists are of the more orthodox type, for what it’s worth.

          And while much of the focus is on the dramatically-filmed Hibernia bank robbery, I find the subsequent Inglewood surplus-store robbery to be more telling. In the bank robbery, one narrative has Hearst being tested, observed, and threatened by the SLA, liable to be shot dead on the spot if she doesn’t at least convincingly appear to be a terrorist bank robber. Neatly explains why an innocent victim so convincingly appears to be a terrorist bank robber on camera. Could be true, on its own.

          In Inglewood barely a month later, two SLA members walk into a surplus store on a supply run, leaving Hearst alone in the car with at least two loaded weapons. The two SLA members in the store attempt robbery, and are caught and captured. Hearst on her own initiative comes to their rescue, guns literally blazing in full autofire. That’s harder to square with the brainwashed-zombie narrative, particularly the version that has SLA bank robbers training their own weapons on Hearst to make sure she goes through with it.

          On the other hand, she reportedly weighed all of 87 pounds when captured after a year on the run. That’s hard to square with the rich-girl-having-fun narrative.

          From a vantage point forty years removed, that looks like it could be reasonable doubt. But if a judge and jury who gave it a much closer and more thorough look decided the evidence was sufficient for a conviction, I am still disinclined to second-guess them.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Thank you very much for looking into this John. Everything you say above makes sense, so this will be my version of the Patty Hearst story until someone comes up with a better one.

    • John Schilling says:

      …people had accepted the fact that Jim Jones had brainwashed 900 human beings into mass suicide, but would not accept that a group like the Symbionese Liberation Army could have brainwashed a kidnapped teenage girl.

      If I recall correctly, not all of the 900 committed voluntary suicide. Some were forced to drink poison, by armed cult enforcers.

      So I had to wonder then, and still wonder now, how reliable is the “Stockholm Syndrome” that anyone would trust the victim of kidnapping, rape, and torture to be one of the enforcers? To give someone they have so mistreated a gun, and trust their ex-victim to watch their back in combat? If you control a person’s entire cultural context, perhaps, but if you are taking them back into the culture that you recently abducted them from?

      Could happen. Could also be an easy way for a standard-issue Guilty Rich Kid to go play terrorist. Pretend to be kidnapped, maybe get your parents to hand over a few million dollars to your new terrorist friends, maybe not, but then have all the socially-relevant excitement of playing Bonnie and Clyde until the whole thing comes apart, then play your get-out-of-jail-free card.

      Disentangling the two possibilities strikes me as a Very Hard Problem. In that sort of thing, I do tend to give deference to what a competent court has ruled unless I have had reason to investigate the matter in some depth myself, and that wasn’t the case for the Patty Hearst case. Not then, but since you raise the issue I may look into it now.

      • nydwracu says:

        Communists are pretty good at brainwashing teenagers. If you haven’t noticed, it’s, um, kind of a problem today.

        • John Schilling says:

          For a very colloquial definition of “brainwashing”, which only causes confusion if it is being used alongside the classic Manchurian-candidate version in a substantive legal debate. Please find a different term.

  7. S_J says:

    In hope of studying one election-related narrative…

    Has anyone tried to gather any data about how voting changes in States that pass Voter-ID laws?

    In my home State of Michigan, I’ve worked at the polling locations 6 times since the year 2000. In the year 2007, the State Legislature changed the voting rules so that people were required to show an ID to vote… or sign an affadavit of identity, affirming that they were unable to supply their ID that day.

    I saw people showing me their driver’s license when they didn’t need to (in the 2002, 2004, and 2006 elections). I saw most people show up with a driver’s license after the process changed in 2008. I saw the same thing in 2010 and 2012.

    Statewide, the Voter-ID rule did not appear to significantly affect the number of votes cast. (See here. In Michigan, the total number of votes cast, and the percentage-of-eligible-voters-who-voted, were higher in the Presidential election of 2008 than in the Presidential election of 2004. The numbers in gubernatorial election of 2010 and 2014 were lower than in the gubernatorial election of 2006. The 2012 and 2016 Presidential elections had approximately the same turnout as the 2004 Presidential election.)

    I haven’t been able to find county-by-county, or city-by-city, breakdowns that would provide a better analysis of whether there was any local impact.

    However, my first-brush analysis is that the Voter-ID laws of Michigan had very little impact on turnout.

    Are there good statistics for other parts of the United States?

    • As you know, I’m the chief election official of a Michigan county.

      Michigan’s voter-ID requirement didn’t (by itself) prevent anyone from voting. I can’t imagine that any statistics on voter turnout would show an effect from that alone.

      We election officials opposed it in 2007, because we saw it as adding another step in the process of checking in voters. But very soon after that, the Electronic Poll Book was implemented statewide, with a driver’s-license-swipe that actually sped up the process of looking up voters on the list.

      By contrast with Michigan, there were states with a “hard” ID requirement, where lacking an acceptable form of ID meant you were not allowed to vote. Several of these were struck down before the election; others remained in effect. Those are the states where a negative impact on voter turnout is likely.

      • Moon says:

        Thanks for your comment about this, from your experience and knowledge as an official.

      • S_J says:

        True, about both the speed of the Electronic Poll Book process and the lack of impact on voting numbers.

        I don’t know how other States implement voter-ID requirements.

        [EDITED TO ADD]: the footnotes on the page I linked show me some of the history of voter-registration.

        First, a law that required inactive voters to be stricken from the rolls if they haven’t voted in the last…two years.

        Then that law was struck down.

        Later, there was an active-voter-list paired with an inactive-voter-list.

        And then a Federal law that made it much harder to remove voters from voter lists.

        It looks like there were many waves of “make it harder for people to be removed from voter-registration lists”.

    • massivefocusedinaction says:

      In both Michigan and Florida (and spot checks in Penn and Virginia), it would appear turnout was pretty consistent between the two elections.

      What’s amazing is that in across nearly every single county (no matter how red or blue) Trump exceeded Romney’s vote count and by a larger margin Clinton underperformed Obama’s vote count. Seeing the pattern develop as Florida results came in made it clear by 9:30 that Florida was going Trump and the whole election looked very favorable for him.

      The lone exceptions to this pattern were counties with a large university. Everywhere else Trump appears to have converted a large portion of Obama voters into Trump voters, interestingly it didn’t matter what the margin had been for Obama or Romney.

      • Nyx says:

        > What’s amazing is that in across nearly every single county (no matter how red or blue) Trump exceeded Romney’s vote count and by a larger margin Clinton underperformed Obama’s vote count.

        Nope, this is wrong. Both Trump and Clinton underperformed their predecessors. (What’s interesting about the graph is what an aberration Obama is. He’s the only D candidate in the past 40 years to pull out more than 27% of the electorate.)

    • Moon says:

      Voter suppression articles:

      (Trigger warning: These articles are not from Breitbart or some “trustworthy” source like that.)

      Getting a photo ID so you can vote is easy. Unless you’re poor, black, Latino or elderly.
      https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/getting-a-photo-id-so-you-can-vote-is-easy-unless-youre-poor-black-latino-or-elderly/2016/05/23/8d5474ec-20f0-11e6-8690-f14ca9de2972_story.html

      The GOP’s Stealth War Against Voters: Will an anti-voter-fraud program designed by one of Trump’s advisers deny tens of thousands their right to vote in November?
      http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/the-gops-stealth-war-against-voters-w435890

      There Are 868 Fewer Places to Vote in 2016 Because the Supreme Court Gutted the Voting Rights Act
      https://www.thenation.com/article/there-are-868-fewer-places-to-vote-in-2016-because-the-supreme-court-gutted-the-voting-rights-act/

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        (Trigger warning: These articles are not from Breitbart or some “trustworthy” source like that.)

        You need to stop this.

      • Aapje says:

        @Moon

        Rolling Stone has not fired Sabrina Rubin Erdely, even after two stories where she didn’t follow basic journalist practices, like checking facts or contacting the accused. In both cases, she published fabricated stories as a result. Keeping her after the first story could be charitably interpreted as giving her another chance. Keeping her after the second story is indefensible and IMO, means that Rolling Stone has abandoned proper journalism as a value.

        So your virtue signalling/preening on providing trustworthy sources seems rather misplaced.

        • Jiro says:

          Wow. I was vaguely aware of the earlier story but it didn’t occur to me that she was associated with both until you just mentioned it and I looked her up on Wikipedia.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          There are court documents that say Erdely was fired. They were filed by the Dean. https://www.scribd.com/document/319057657/Nicole-Eramo-court-filings#from_embed search for “terminated”

          While searching for a source for this, only conservative sites were covering this aspect. I referenced the actual court documents so those don’t become an issue.

          Incidentally, it’s amazing that Rolling Stone and Erdely knew Jackie was extremely unreliable and their fact checker refused to sign off, but they went ahead anyway. And Erdely further made up stuff that even Jackie said was bullshit.

          • Aapje says:

            @Edward Scizorhands

            I looked at Erdely’s own website that states that she currently is “a Contributing Editor at Rolling Stone.” So apparently that is wrong.

            However, it is still a fact that after the damning report on the Jackie story came out, RS’ top editor stated: “Sabrina’s done great work for us over the years and we expect that to continue.” I find that inexcusable.

            Firing her secretly later on just drives home how they lack transparency and value (misplaced) loyalty to their contributors way too much.

            Incidentally, it’s amazing that Rolling Stone and Erdely knew Jackie was extremely unreliable and their fact checker refused to sign off, but they went ahead anyway.

            Especially after they were burned with that earlier story. Again, it just shows that they have no commitment to proper journalism.

            Others, like the NYT where also burned by bad reporters, but they acted way better.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Edrely has likely been advised by council to leave all her public statements completely intact. Her twitter timeline freezes just as soon as legal troubles became apparent. (The very last thing on that is a brag about how the Washington Post wrote an article about her and the backstory of “A Rape On Campus.”)

            Rolling Stone tried to bluff their way past the initial blowback. Only when the weight of their lies became too huge did it crumble.

          • Aapje says:

            It’s a bit weird to spread falsehoods, though.

            Haven’t the courts heard of the wayback machine?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            They aren’t printing new things, just leaving old things up.

            Courts may well have heard of the wayback machine. Lawyers will always tell you that deleting anything potentially under discovery, even if you keep a copy, is an extremely risky proposition with no upside.

          • Aapje says:

            I just don’t see how removing that statement would impact the court case. Her defense was not that she didn’t work for RS or that she didn’t write the article. The article was also published in RS and not (primarily) on her own website.

            So you might just as well expect her not to throw out her empty wine bottles, which seems just as relevant to the court case.

      • cassander says:

        >Getting a photo ID so you can vote is easy. Unless you’re poor, black, Latino or elderly.

        the elderly are overwhelmingly republican . Are we to assume the GOP is plotting against their most devoted age group?

        • the elderly are overwhelmingly republican . Are we to assume the GOP is plotting against their most devoted age group?

          I think that falls under the category of “collateral damage”.

          Moreover, I imagine there’s a significant political difference between the more-affluent elderly (who are unlikely to have a problem with ID) and the rest.

          • cassander says:

            >I think that falls under the category of “collateral damage”.

            if there’s massive collateral damage, vit argues against the notion that republicans are doing it for partisan reasons.

            >Moreover, I imagine there’s a significant political difference between the more-affluent elderly (who are unlikely to have a problem with ID) and the rest.

            unless you show me some voting or polling breakdowns showing that the older poor aren’t much more republican than the average american, I call bullshit.

      • Tibor says:

        Well, you’re basically a troll but just a quick note – in Europe, in all countries (I think) you need a photo ID if you want to vote. From the European perspective it is actually really strange that you don’t need that in (some parts) of the US. How do you prevent people from voting several times using fake identities? Or how do you prevent non-citizens from voting?

        • rlms says:

          No photo ID needed in the UK.
          Edit: from a brief google, make that the UK excluding Northern Ireland.

          • Tibor says:

            Thanks for the correction. Then the same question – how do you prevent fraud?

          • rlms says:

            I don’t know how it works in other countries, but in the UK you register to vote in small geographical area, and give your name and address when collecting a ballot paper. So to perpetrate fraud you would need to find the name and address of a voter in an area (not difficult) and also ensure that they don’t vote either (harder). Presumably if one identity tries to vote twice there is an investigation into other ballots, possibly involving a revote. So to get away with fraud you’d need to not make any mistakes in picking the identities you plan to duplicate, which is presumably too difficult to do on any significant scale.

          • Tibor says:

            @rlms: So if you don’t register yourself, you can’t vote?

          • rlms says:

            Yes, but it isn’t a particularly onerous process. You can be fined for not registering (although I think it is quite rare) so most people are registered.

        • Brad says:

          If the United States had a national ID and an agency and regulations designed to make it reasonably possible for everyone to get one regardless of circumstances, I would support a voter ID law. But we don’t.

          In person voter fraud turns out to be not much of a problem as far as anyone can tell. Not that it isn’t a reasonable concern to have in the first place, but since it doesn’t actually appear to be a real problem many of us don’t see why the big hurry to fix it. Especially since most of the people all fired up to fix it are opposed to the very reasonable solution I outlined in the first paragraph.

          • Tibor says:

            How hard is it to get a passport or something? Even though the ID is mandatory in most countries (Switzerland also has no mandatory ID card system though) in Europe, getting a passport (which is not mandatory) is a matter of paying an equivalent of 10 dollars or so and filling one form. The US is not a third world country so I don’t see why anyone would have a problem paying that sum.

          • rlms says:

            From a look on the internet, US passports seem to be a lot more (possibly over $100). UK passports are around $50-100. Those sums are not inconsiderable, especially if (like many US citizens) you won’t every use them for international travel.

          • Brad says:

            It’s $135. Not a tremendous amount of money, but not trivial either. A passport card, which is pretty useless for traveling but a good ID, is $55.

            If there were a fee waiver available for the poor, plus some sort of program for people that are home-bound or live very far away from a post office — for example the postal carrier could accept the paper work — that would satisfy me.

          • BBA says:

            Worth noting: in Mexico, the national election administration issues photo IDs. These ID cards are strictly required to vote, and they’re also the standard IDs people use for everyday transactions (much like driver’s licenses in the US).

            A single national election administration, setting uniform rules for registration, ballot design, poll site operation, etc., is something nearly every other democracy has. It will never happen in America, but I think it should. Among other things, it’d solve the inconsistent standards between states and control of the process by local political machines that make a national popular vote for President problematic.

          • John Schilling says:

            The United States has traditionally expected that even the poorest adult citizens will occasionally need to use an automobile, and that there would be a lot of very cheap automobiles for them to use. This is less true in the 21st century than it was in the mid-20th, but it does mean that there is a tradition and a political constituency for making drivers’ licenses almost universally available and affordable in every state and valid in every state. This has made the state drivers’ license the de facto universal ID card of the United States, and I believe that by now every state (exceptions?) has made a parallel just-like-a-drivers-license-except-you-can’t-actually-drive card available through the same channels at an even lower price.

            If you are looking for an ID card in the United States, that’s what it is going to be for the foreseeable future. And while there probably is some small population for which even getting a drivers’ license or the equivalent is an intractable problem, I’m going to guess that the time and money spent arguing about whether ID requirements are vital and/or intolerable would long ago have sufficed to subsidize a drivers’ license for every one of them.

          • Brad says:

            I don’t believe it is true that every state makes driver’s licenses or the non-driver equivalents “almost universally available and affordable”. In particular 1) it appears that in several states there are many fewer offices much further apart that can issue state IDs than there are passport acceptance facilities (which include most post offices) and 2) several states have either no safety value mechanism for people without standard paperwork (i.e. birth certificates) or only an extremely cumbersome process. The state department has a flexible and straightforward process.

            As for it being cheaper to subsidize them than to argue about it, I quite agree, which is why it is so revealing that none of the recent wave of voter ID laws have been bundled with any kind of make-it-easier-get-IDs rules or spending.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ John Schilling
            And while there probably is some small population for which even getting a drivers’ license or the equivalent is an intractable problem[….]

            An SJW-type commenter might summarize this post as: “All the people who matter already have driver’s licenses (or family and friends who can afford to spend a whole day driving you to the DMV and waiting till you get out)”.

            That is assuming a single visit to the DMV suffices; the DMV may require evidence such as a birth certificate (an original of course, which involves dealing with a whole nother bureauracy, to which you have to pay a fee; so much for the DMV providing the alternative ID free).

            I too feel tempted to think: “Well, anyone who never had a car and can’t even manage to get through these trivial hoops shouldn’t be cluttering the voting box with his doubtless ill-informed and probably illegible ballot (besides which, he’s probably voting for more mass transit, more social services, and stuff like that voting Democratic, anyway.)”

            But somehow I manage to not only withstand that temptation, but even argue against it.

          • John Schilling says:

            @houseboat:

            An SJW-type commenter might summarize this post as:

            But not you. You wouldn’t actually stand, even pseudonymously, behind the argument you are about to make, but you can’t wait for an actual “SJW-type commenter” to do it for you.

            Shall I imagine the rebuttals various stereotypes might make, until we have an army of straw men doing battle in the comments?

          • switchnode says:

            How hard is it to get a passport or something?

            Passport, not too bad; “or something”—surprisingly hard. I do not drive, and because my parents did not have my social security card, I was ineligible for a state ID. Because I did not have a state ID (and my student ID did not show DOB), I could not apply for either a replacement social security card or a passport!

            Eventually I was able to get a passport by bringing my mother into the post office and having her swear to my identity, then use the passport to apply for a replacement social security card (again in person, since I still didn’t have a state ID). The whole process took about two months, and I had to apply for the card twice (the first one either was never sent or never got delivered).

            Damned irritating business. You can waive the fees, but that won’t fix the bugs! (I assume I don’t have to explain the issues with treating SSNs as identification in the first place.)

          • Tibor says:

            You’re not automatically issued a birth certificate in the US?

          • suntzuanime says:

            If a baby is born in the forest, and nobody tells the Feds, do they issue a birth certificate?

          • Tibor says:

            @suntyuanime: And how often does that happen in the US?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            It wouldn’t surprise me if people are automatically issued birth certificates now in the US, but there are black people who were born in a time when black people weren’t issued birth certificates.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Tibor – not that often, but it’s one of the edge cases we still have to deal with. There’re a few subcultures who give birth at home and refuse to let their kids get enmeshed in the secular government’s tracking systems by having a birth certificate. Every so often, one of them makes a minor news story.

            (There’re also times when the kid does have a birth certificate, but her parents refuse to give it to her because they disapprove of the course her life’s taken.)

          • John Schilling says:

            @Tibor – not that often, but it’s one of the edge cases we still have to deal with.

            Right, but that’s an edge case we have to deal with long before we get to the issue of voting rights. Someone who can’t get a drivers’ license or the like because their parents are hiding them from the government and/or punishing them for their lifestyle, is excluded from almost all of the modern economy and most of social and civic life in general. By all means, we should try and fix this. Or more properly, since they might actually agree with their parents, give them the tools to fix it themselves if that’s what they want.

            Anyone saying, “we will move Heaven and Earth to ensure your right to vote even though you don’t have any ID, thus we have Done Good, Yay Us!”, I don’t believe for a minute that you have their best interests in mind, you just expect them to vote for your party.

          • Matt M says:

            John Schilling sums up nicely what I’ve always thought makes this seem like such a ridiculous argument.

            If you have no photo ID and no means to procure one, not being able to vote is the least of your problems… you can’t even buy sudafed without an ID anymore

          • Evan Þ says:

            John and Matt – I agree whole-heartedly.

            But in the meantime, while our Moloch-worshipping system is so horrendously broken that we can’t fix that edge case anywhere else, let’s be aware of the tradeoff we’re making. Is keeping these people from voting worth it to stop (some means of) voter fraud? Maybe – but let’s at least be aware of the tradeoff.

            (And if Moloch takes a nap and lets us bundle things together, both requiring voter ID and letting these people actually obtain ID’s, that’s wonderful!)

          • Brad says:

            That’s what I’m saying. These states knew that they were going to be sued and they knew that the lawsuits were going to have to come from people that for some at least vaguely sympathetic reason couldn’t get an ID. Why not close some of the gaps so they could at least point the courts to those sections of the law and say — “see we are making a legit effort here”?

          • Randy M says:

            The argument here frequently against voter ID is that, in reality, it happens very rarely.
            How much more common really is this case of a person denied the ability to arrange an ID by controlling family members? Is this really less hypothetical?

          • Evan Þ says:

            I can’t tell you how the two compare to each other, because I don’t think there’ve been any statistical studies of either. What I do know is that people unable to get ID’s are visible enough that there’ve been multiple news stories about them in the last several years, and multiple posts in the last few months to the /r/legaladvice subreddit. (Okay, the last might be trolls – but that’s why we need real studies.)

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            A few points I have not seen mentioned.

            The easier it becomes to get a DL/ID for most purposes, the higher the goalposts will be raised for getting a Voting-Level DL/ID. (Either as another box to check on the DL, or using some whole other ID agency for Voting ID.)

            Please distinguish people who never had a DL (a decreasing number), from respectable people who had one but no longer drive, and cannot renew (or convert to ID only) without difficult DMV visits etc. (As for buying sudafed, cigarettes, etc — if your DL looks okay, how many clerks check the expiration date?)

            Aiui, a large majority of US states currently have no ID requirement for voting. For them, this would be a new regulation, and extend the power of the State (especially if mandated by the Federal Government).

            Points mentioned such as ‘voting is the least of their worries’, could get into some interesting tangles of consequentialism, virtue ethics, deontology, Constitutional Rights, ratio between attempted impersonations foiled vs innocents disenfranchised, and facts.

          • shakeddown says:

            if your DL looks okay, how many clerks check the expiration date?

            Most don’t, but some do, which is really annoying. But when it happened to me mine was recently expired – if you look significantly aged they’re probably more likely to check.

        • Matt M says:

          There are a surprisingly high number of policies that exist right now in Europe that would be considered untouchable right-wing extremism if any American politician proposed them.

          Examples like this are what feed into my “America is not as right-wing as people think” thesis.

          • Tibor says:

            Agreed. Except that in Europe not having an centralized ID system is considered a very libertarian idea. Theoretically, you should always carry the ID with you and I am not sure about it but you could even get fined for not having one on you. at the same time, the police have to have a reason to check you. That rarely happens. In the Schengen area, the police can check your documents close to the borders or on international railway and bus stations as a form of a border control (you don’t wait at the border but they can stop random cars) although they are selective about who they stop (they’ve never stopped my car).

            Another thing worth mentioning is that there is no European country where abortions are legal (safe for medical reasons) after 13 weeks of pregnancy (and in Poland abortion laws are as strict as in Latin America). 12 to 13 weeks is the most usual limit in Europe. That also may sound very “right-wing” to Americans.

            Generally, Europeans tend to imagine the US as a country full of fat people and gun totting rednecks with zero welfare state, Americans imagine Europe as basically a “country” (there are differences between countries in Europe and their laws, sometimes significant) run by radical Democrats. Neither of those stereotypes is true. Scandinavian countries come close to the stereotype, although at least Denmark, while heavy on welfare, is also relatively “nativist” and has some immigration policies that Trump was criticized for supporting. They were also criticized for confiscating stuff from refugees to compensate for the costs of accommodation, etc. More about Denmark here.

            And of course Switzerland is also very specific, in some ways more libertarian than the US, in some more conservative right-wing than it. Lower total taxation than in the US, almost as liberal gun laws (although way fewer shootings), no NATO or EU membership (they only joined the UN in 2002), the country’s foreign policy is that of armed neutrality and has been so for more than 100 years. But also immigration policy more restrictive than Trump’s (although it is worth mentioning that still almost every fourth person living in Switzerland is a foreigner, mostly people from EU countries). To get a Swiss citizenship you have to live in the country for at least 10 years – which you are not allowed to do without a visa for which you need a job and the visa is tied to your job contract, at least for the first 10 years – and then you have to be deemed “Swiss enough” by your local council. I read an article recently about two Arab girls who were denied Swiss citizenship because they refused to swim in the gym class with other children (for religious reasons). Or there was also supposedly this American guy who’s been living in Switzerland for more than two decades but since he doesn’t have Swiss friends he was not considered assimilated enough and denied citizenship Also, building minarets is illegal in Switzerland.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            Tibor:

            Another thing worth mentioning is that there is no European country where abortions are legal (safe for medical reasons) after 13 weeks of pregnancy (and in Poland abortion laws are as strict as in Latin America). 12 to 13 weeks is the most usual limit in Europe. That also may sound very “right-wing” to Americans.

            In the UK (again excluding Northern Ireland) it’s 24 weeks. De jure there’s a requirement for a medical reason even before this date, but this requirement is drawn loosely enough that it’s effectively always met as the health risks of carrying the pregnancy to term satisfy it.

          • Tibor says:

            @AlphaGamma: Hmm, every time I say a generalizing statement about Europe, it is different in the UK 🙂 I think I will start saying continental Europe from now on 🙂
            But thanks for the correction.

          • John Schilling says:

            Hmm, every time I say a generalizing statement about Europe, it is different in the UK

            But if you’re talking about American perceptions of Europe, that’s 80% the UK and 20% a vague notion that since the French are even more OK with casual sex than the Brits, the Continent must be just like the UK except more liberal in any way. But they don’t speak American, so we just have to trust our gut on that rather than asking them.

      • S_J says:

        Any system of choosing who is a valid voter has to choose between false positives (allowing people to vote multiple times) and false negatives (denying the vote to someone who should be able to vote).

        I’m trying to figure out if there are good statistics, anywhere, that allow us to figure out which is more likely under the current rules.

        In the meantime, I note that some people have remained politically active for decades after their death. Not enough to sway the local contribution to a National election, but likely enough to sway a local election.

        http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2016/10/27/2-investigators-chicago-voters-cast-ballots-from-beyond-the-grave/

  8. Danielfrank says:

    I wrote something that I found to be inspiring, and I thought others might appreciate as well.

    The data is from an old Lesswrong thread.

    If you are a male and rated a 5.9/10 in appearance, over 20% of women will find you in their top 20th percentile of attractiveness; more than 5% of women will find you in their top 5 percentile of attractiveness; and more than 1% of women will find you in their top 1% of attractiveness.

    If you think of the most beautiful people you know; if you are average looking, you will almost certainly be that attractive to some people you know.

    more here: http://danfrank.ca/you-are-more-beautiful/

    • Silverlock says:

      Apparently, those 5% of women are antipodal from me. Which puts them in the ocean west of Australia. Just my luck.

      • Matt M says:

        That was my first thought – what percentage of these women are a perfect combination of within an acceptable age range, single, seeking a relationship, and located somewhere that I am likely to be able to come into contact with them?

        • Danielfrank says:

          It’s percentiles, so it should hold constant for your community, (unless you live in a foreign land ie a chinese person person in Sudan).

          I think many people are timid, and don’t believe that girls might really like them/think they are very attractive, when the data suggests that they should feel confident (some) that girls do.

          I think it helps break the catch 22 of confidence preventing guys from meeting girls, and inability to meet girls lowering one’s confidence.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      How does the math change when we require reciprocity? What’s the percentage of people I find incredibly attractive who happen to find me incredibly attractive?

      • shakeddown says:

        I’d conjecture that it would improve your chances, on the assumption that finding someone attractive is somehow based on subconsciously seeing them as a good genetic match, or something.

        That said, my first girlfriend found me a lot more attractive (relative to the average female opinion on me) than I did her (relative to average male opinion on her). So it’s not that great a correlation.

    • shakeddown says:

      Thanks. This explains a lot (I once had a girl tell me I was “either incredibly attractive or completely hideous, she wasn’t sure which”).

    • Rowan says:

      I’m not all that well-versed in statistics, but can you really make that strong an inference from finding the data’s distributed according to a bell curve?

      • Creutzer says:

        The blog post strikes me as utter bullshit. It fails to clearly distinguish between three distributions:

        1. (Across-rater mean) attractiveness is across the population.
        2. The scores of a given individual across raters.
        3. An individual rater’s scores for the whole population.

        I had a very quick look at the paper that was linked there and it didn’t even seem like they collected graded judgements. So I have no idea how the numbers in the blog post come about.

        Some of the claims made there might be true, but are not so a priori. It needs to be demonstrated that the data have this property. In particular the crucial one:

        If you are average, over 20% of people will find you in their top 20th percentile of attractiveness; more than 5% of people will find you in their top 5 percentile of attractiveness; and more than 1% of people will find you in their top 1% of attractiveness.

        • Nita says:

          The paper describes collecting all sorts of ratings, and the post even linked to the raw data files*, so perhaps your quick look was a little too quick.

          * http://www.stat.columbia.edu/~gelman/arm/examples/speed.dating/

          Meanwhile, I took a quick look at the data. I’ll leave any in-depth analysis of match probability to someone else, but here are a couple of fun facts:

          Out of the 7 women who gave a 10/10 rating to “an average** man”, 3 were rated above average themselves. (Their scores were: 5.4, 5.9, 6.3, 6.4, 6.9, 7.2, 7.7, and the average score for women in this study was 6.5.)

          Out of the 16 men who gave a 10/10 rating to “an average** woman”, 4 were rated above average themselves. (Their scores were: 4.1, 4.8, 5.1, 5.1, 5.1, 5.3, 5.3, 5.6, 5.6, 5.6, 5.6, 5.8, 6.5, 6.6, 7.1, 7.8, and the average score for men in this study was 5.9.)

          ** For my purposes, I defined “an average man” and “an average woman” as someone with an average rating of 5.8..6.0 or 6.4..6.6, respectively. All numbers here are rates of “attractiveness” — presumably physical, as they had separate scoring for other things.

          Here’s the table of “average men”, for example (look at all those 9s and 10s!):


          man's id, n, avg, max, min
          [of ratings received]
          162 16 5.8 9 2
          406 18 5.8 8 1
          141 5 5.8 7 5
          276 21 5.8 8 2
          284 21 5.8 8 2
          171 16 5.8 9 4
          463 6 5.8 7 5
          508 6 5.8 7 3
          109 18 5.8 8 2
          273 21 5.9 9 3
          483 15 5.9 10 2
          337 10 5.9 8 1
          167 16 5.9 10 3
          231 20 6.0 10 3
          224 20 6.0 10 2
          288 21 6.0 9 1
          507 6 6.0 8 3
          537 21 6.0 9 2
          535 22 6.0 10 2
          428 6 6.0 7 5
          545 13 6.0 10 1
          70 9 6.0 8 4

          • Creutzer says:

            You’re right, I should have looked more closely. Thank you for extracting the interesting part. That does look like there’s a lot of variability indeed!

            I still condemn the blog post for the way it presents its claims.

        • Danielfrank says:

          Creutzer – can you send me an email so I can follow up with your comments. Email is on my site.

          Thanks

          • Creutzer says:

            Hi Daniel,

            I think given my above statements, it’s appropriate that I should respond in public. I would like to apologise for my very strong wording – the fact that I didn’t actually look at names enough to realise that the person who liked it is also its author is really no excuse here.

            I think your general point – that there is high variability in attractiveness ratings and that having an average average [sic!] score doesn’t mean that everyone finds you close to average – is an interesting and important one, and may well be true given what Nita pointed out above.

            My problem is that in many places in the post, it’s not entirely clear what the number is that you’re giving. Most importantly:

            The data shows that the standard deviation in perceived attractiveness is 0.4.

            Which distribution are you talking about here?

            If you are average, over 20% of people will find you in their top 20th percentile of attractiveness; more than 5% of people will find you in their top 5 percentile of attractiveness; and more than 1% of people will find you in their top 1% of attractiveness.

            The way this is worded, with the matching numbers and the aforegoing discussion of the bell curve make this sound as if you were suggesting that this is a mathematical truth of some sort. But it’s not, it’s just an empirical property of the data, and I’m not entirely sure which one. That is to say, what precisely did you calculate to get those numbers?

          • Danielfrank says:

            No worries Creutzer.

            I don’t have a formal background in statistics. I write because I have a thought percolating in my brain that I find interesting and want to share. I view my writing and these conversations as a great way to better understand issues and learn, thats why I was excited to continue the discussion.

            In regards to your specific points:
            “Which distribution are you talking about here?”

            Thats for variation in ratings for each specific person.

            “The way this is worded, with the matching numbers and the aforegoing discussion of the bell curve make this sound as if you were suggesting that this is a mathematical truth of some sort. But it’s not, it’s just an empirical property of the data, and I’m not entirely sure which one. That is to say, what precisely did you calculate to get those numbers?”

            I want to understand this better. If the data says something follows X trends, obviously this holds true for the data in question, but can we not extrapolate to infer that new data would follow the same trends?

    • onyomi says:

      Good point, though it reminds me of Uncomfortable Truthosaurus. He should probably be a recurring character. There’s a lot of these. Though maybe he could be tempered by a Pleasantly Surprising Factopteryx.

    • Tibor says:

      On a slightly related note, I picked up this book a few weeks ago, pretty much by chance (Amazon mistakenly suggested it to me since I bought a book about sexual selection…either that or their algorithms are really really good), the only “dating advice” book I’ve ever read – it is called Models (which is actually a confusing name, but that also attracted my attention) and it is (apparently) very unlike most other dating advice books (I can tell it is different than most dating advice online).

      The author’s main point is that you should not be “needy”. That means when you meet a girl, you think more in terms of “will I find her interesting?” than “will she like me? Oh my, I have to do everything so that she does!” and if you are attracted to her to make it clear soon (this is definitely addressed to me, I tend to have serious attachment issues, worrying about making a good impression and waiting and then taking a long time to get over it when rejected, even though I’ve improved that a lot in the last year or two). If she’s not interested, it’s not a failure. It’s a couple of weeks/months of saved time since she probably would not be anyway. The key is not to react like “oh my god, she was the perfect woman and now I will never find anyone like her again” but “ok, let’s find someone who’s as great as her, better luck next time”. It doesn’t mean being an asshole who convinces himself that “they’re all whores” or something and treats women like shit. In a sense, it is a form of neediness – you are again afraid of getting hurt and you protect yourself by putting other people down.

      The author also emphasizes being direct and honest as good strategies – in a stark contrast with the usual bullshit strategies which mostly manage to make people more nervous and since they are not natural for them, awkward.

      It makes a whole lot more sense than most dating advice I’ve heard or read and it is somehow also more heartwarming, since it does not treat dating like some kind of a puzzle or a Machiavellian game but does it in a more “human” way. At the same time it offers no easy tricks but rather a way to gradually change the mindset and approach to dating.

  9. Well... says:

    You’ve been thinking about X for a long time, and doing so has taken you on a journey from one conclusion to another. Gradually you gain more and more insight until you can basically look at X in the real world and predict exactly what X-related thing will happen. Then it happens and everyone else is frantically trying to figure out why. 99% of them are offering explanations that are either ridiculous or ones you came across in your journey but long since abandoned.

    Is there a term for the specific mixture of frustration, amusement, impatience, and empathy you feel in that situation? Maybe the Germans have such a term…?

    • Moon says:

      Conformity without being aware of it. Being identical to everyone else, all of whom know that YOUR explanation is the one they long ago abandoned as ridiculous, and that THEIR explanation is the One True Church- the Way, the Truth and the Light.

      Everyone knows the answer. Everyone wants to be listened to. No one wants to listen to anyone else, because all the other people are dumb and not worth listening to. Welcome to the club.

      • Well... says:

        What about when your model has predictive power and theirs doesn’t?

        • Moon says:

          Well, that is a point in your favor. So perhaps you are not the same as everyone else. Not everyone has 20/20 hindsight– only about 99% of people. About 1% will admit that they did not know what was going to happen before it happened– usually those where there is written or videotaped evidence available to the public that they did not hold that same position a month ago.

          So what is your thing that you predicted that no one else did? Trump winning? Lots of people predicted that– most of them getting that right just by chance.

          And indeed he almost did not win– and didn’t win the popular vote. And the election was certainly influenced a lot– and probably had the outcome changed at the last minute almost– 12 days before the election when Comey came out with more Hillary bashing raw material, with his information-free statement about finding more emails.

  10. Moon says:

    Is anyone else here able to truthfully get and use a bumper sticker like mine that says “Don’t blame me. I voted for Hllary”? I think Scott is eligible for one.

    • BBA says:

      If I had a car, I could plaster it with “don’t blame me” stickers. I have never voted for the eventual winner of a Presidential election, and I have voted every time since I turned 18.

      I was really hoping this would be the one to break the streak.

      • Matt M says:

        Vote selling is illegal, but would it be illegal for you to sell your non-vote? “Hey Trump 2020 campaign, the person I vote for always loses – pay me $5000 and I promise not to vote for Trump”

      • StellaAthena says:

        I’m really curious if you could give a two sentence explanation of each of your votes. Depends a bit on how old you are, but that seems a very unusual voting pattern to me.

        • BBA says:

          I turned 18 in 2003. Over the last decade and a half I went from centrist (Kerry ’04, McCain ’08) to annoyed contrarian (Johnson ’12) to oh god anyone but him (Clinton ’16).

          I was leaning Libertarian in the late ’00s and if the LP hadn’t nominated Bob Barr in ’08 I probably would have voted for them.

          I liked Obama, but was pessimistic about his ability to govern; ultimately I couldn’t vote for him and look my mother in the eye. She’s a one-issue voter, and…ah…let’s just say that in the last few years I’ve drifted away from her on that issue.

        • houseboatonstyxb says:

          Clintonista since the 90s; they did a good job. Agree with her policies, especially re science, reproductive rights, and her feminism in general.

    • CatCube says:

      You do realize there’s a significant Libertarian contingent here that voted for Gary Johnson, correct?

      • Acedia says:

        I’ve been seeing a lot of Democrats online with the odd belief that Johnson’s voters would otherwise have gone for Hillary.

        • Urstoff says:

          I would bet it’s a pretty even split between Hillary, Trump, and not voting (or writing someone else in).

          • baconbacon says:

            And the split only matters in swing states anyway.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            The most consistently identifiable pattern I’m aware of is the tendency of libertarians and other minarchist types to vote for “maximum friction” (split houses if possible, split between the president and congress if not, etc) when an acceptable third party candidate is not available.

            I’ve seen some claims that self-identified libertarians in states with no LP candidate on the ballot have consistently broken 2:1 for republicans over democrats in recent presidential races (as in the last 4-5), but I’ve yet to see any actual studies/data backing that claim up.

            As Baconbacon said, it doesn’t matter in many cases. I could’ve voted for anyone I cared to, Missouri was still going to Trump.

          • Matt M says:

            Does anyone know if there has ever been a study attempting to find if having the executive and legislative branches occupied by opposing parties actually does lead to less legislation taking place?

            Anecdotally, I always recall that both GWB and Obama enjoyed periods of time where they had both houses under same-party rule and, IMO, accomplished very little. Both certainly fell short of what their political opponents claimed they would do in that situation (Bush didn’t ban abortion, didn’t privatize social security – Obama didn’t get a carbon tax, didn’t legalize drugs, whatever)

            I feel like it’s plausible that when one party has total control, they intentionally hold back and avoid doing particularly controversial things, knowing that they will face full blame in the next electoral cycle if their policies backfire. Whereas, when it’s split, if something goes wrong, Obama can blame the Republicans in Congress and the Republicans in Congress can blame him and it all just cancels out.

          • Protagoras says:

            @Matt M, that sort of effect could explain why, in practice, parliamentary systems do not seem to produce more extreme results than the American checks and balances system, even though in principle once one party has a majority government in a parliamentary system they could easily overturn absolutely everything that was ever done by their opposition.

          • Aapje says:

            @Matt M

            I think that mono-party rule strongly incentivizes intra-party dissent. A few dissenters who work together can demand huge concessions. Then the rest tends to get rather angry at this and start to negotiate how much influence the dissenters may get. It’s a lot like the situation with a coalition or a president whose party is a minority in the senate.

            In my country we have a coalition-based system (in practice) which is often derided as being indecisive, but that claim seems based primarily on what people think ought to be true about coalitions. In practice I see a lot more effective lawmaking than in the US.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Does anyone know if there has ever been a study attempting to find if having the executive and legislative branches occupied by opposing parties actually does lead to less legislation taking place?

            Well I originally started my practice of always voting for split government partly due to a Reason magazine article that did claim that mixed government resulted in less spending than either party in total power. I can’t quite remember when I read that — maybe 5-10 years ago? But it kind of makes sense based on federal politics this century. The Republicans sometimes accuse the Dems of being the tax and spend party, but the Repubs were the big spenders when Bush had Repub majorities 2000-2006.

            I think the laws that do get passed with mixed government are better than the ones with one party in power. Politicians need resistance to their ideas or they tend to pass some pretty dumb laws. When they have to compromise, it is more likely they will arrive at a reasonable result. And I like to see the Congress questioning the President on military policies.

          • Matt M says:

            Ah, but what of the old saying “we have a party of the stupid, and a party of the evil, who occasionally do something both stupid and evil which we call bipartisanship”

            In all seriousness, I suspect that you are probably right, and the logic makes sense, but I entertain the possibility that we’re missing something and the opposite is true.

    • baconbacon says:

      I’m currently selling “Don’t blame me, I voted for Dukakis” bumper stickers, I think that gets to the point a lot better.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I voted for Hillary. I thought preventing a Trump presidency was the most urgent thing.

    • shakeddown says:

      No, but mostly because I lack both US citizenship and a car.

  11. Paul Ryan says one of the very first priorities of the new Congress is to repeal, not just Obamacare, but also Medicare.

    Does this mean people who gained health insurance under the ACA (particularly those with pre-existing conditions), will now lose it? Are we going to return to the pre-ACA days when a large percentage of Americans had no health insurance?

    Given the further decline of the full-time-job-with-benefits model, I think the proportion of workers without any health insurance would be significantly larger now than what it was before the ACA.

    Remember that the ACA originated as a conservative counter-proposal to single-payer. By getting rid of the ACA, will they make single-payer inevitable, the next time Democrats control all three branches?

    • The Nybbler says:

      Paul Ryan says one of the very first priorities of the new Congress is to repeal, not just Obamacare, but also Medicare.

      Medicare? Paul Ryan really doesn’t want to stay in Congress, does he?

      Does this mean people who gained health insurance under the ACA (particularly those with pre-existing conditions), will now lose it? Are we going to return to the pre-ACA days when a large percentage of Americans had no health insurance?

      In fact, Trump has said he wants to keep the pre-existing condition reform. But we were going to have a large percentage of Americans with no health insurance anyway. The cheapest Obamacare plans were out of the reach of those who they were intended for. The ACA was dead no matter who won this election.

      • Nyx says:

        “In fact, Trump has said he wants to keep the pre-existing condition reform.”

        Trump wants to keep that but remove the individual mandate. This would actually make things worse since there would be even less reason for healthy people to buy insurance. Why buy insurance when you’re healthy when you can just wait to get sick and buy it then? This is already a huge problem with Obamacare and Trump will just make things worse.

        • Robert Liguori says:

          Do we want insurance companies, though? What’s wrong with leading no individual mandate and no exemption for pre-existing conditions, having the public gut and feast upon the mortally-wounded insurance companies, then begin transition to single-payer while the corporate bones are still being gnawed upon?

          • suntzuanime says:

            That would be amazing, but probably not going to be something the Republican Party implements.

          • Brad says:

            If they get rid of the ban on medical underwriting then the preexisting condition bar won’t be fatal to the insurance companies. You’ll be able to bring your cancer with you to your insurance company but they’ll charge $100,000 a month for your policy.

          • suntzuanime says:

            But that would defeat the purpose.

          • Nyx says:

            I don’t think that would be a bad thing; but single-payer isn’t going to be implemented any time soon. Trump is obviously not going to do it.

            It’s possible that instead of a federal solution, Trump will pass the buck onto state governments. So blue states might experiment with single payer, much as Obamacare was first implemented at a state level.

            But in the meantime, it means that people wait to get sick and then buy insurance to cover it. Meaning that insurance is now less about pooling risk, and more just a way of buying healthcare indirectly. Which is really bad.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Colorado had a single-payer initiative on the ballot. It was defeated 80:20. They voted mostly Democratic.

            So I wouldn’t hold my breath.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Well, everyone knows you can’t just have socialism in one country.

        • gbdub says:

          At the moment, we’re subsidizing crappy, expensive insurance for a ton of healthy but not wealthy people.

          It’s at least conceivable that simply subsidizing treatment for certain pre-existing chronic conditions could be cheaper in the long run.

          ACA is death-spiraling because too many bells and whistles were mandated into the required coverage, to the point where you’re basically pre-paying for a ton of “preventative care”, and to make that remotely affordable the deductibles for emergency care are insanely high.

          I’d rather pay out of pocket for my annual checkups (which for young otherwise healthy people are of dubious value anyway) and have a reasonable deductible for emergency treatmemt, but under ACA that’s literally illegal.

          • Brad says:

            Re: third paragraph
            I don’t think that’s true. I have an ACA bronze policy which costs around $425/month and has a $5,850 deductible. The only things I get that bypass the deductible is a check up and a flu shot. I’ve seen the reimbursement for the check up it is less than $200. I don’t know what the insurance company pays for the flu shot, but I’d bet less $50.

            So I am prepaying for $250 worth of care — that’s not what I’d call a ton of prepayment on a plan that costs $5100.

            The real problem is that a relatively few people — those of us that are both healthy and on ACA plans — are being forced to bear the entire burden of subsidizing a number of very sick people. Even if I qualified for a 50% ACA subsidy my insurance plan would still probably be more than an actuarial fair one and so I’d be subsidizing those sick people.

            If society wants to subsidize sick people than it should do so with tax money, not via baroque cross-subsidy schemes that pretend to be insurance.

            Not that I don’t agree with your point as far as it goes, but it is a minor one. It isn’t primarily what’s going on here.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I don’t think Trump’s reforms can work. But that’s because no reforms can work; the goals are at odds. Health care on demand for everyone with no one paying full price for it? Something’s gotta give.

          • So there is no such thins as a working public health system?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Public health and health care are different things.

          • John Schilling says:

            There are none I know of that provide health care on demand, or at least not health care to specific demand. That, unfortunately, is the standard by which proposed American health care reforms are judged, because we spent a couple of generations in an unstable equilibrium where we could almost meet that standard for middle-class Americans.

          • Matt M says:

            Not just “health care on demand” but “everyone has access to top of the line care regardless of ability to pay”

            No other markets function the way that most people tend to demand health care function – as an example of what I’m talking about, we can refer to how a pharma company can spend $1 billion on R&D for a cure for Hep C, market it for a pretty pricey sum because economics, and a few months later, prisoners are suing the state government for not providing that drug to them for free in prison and the state government is meanwhile vilifying the pharma company for not giving it to THEM for free distribution.

            The notion that rich people might get access to forms of health care that poor people do not is seen as unacceptable villainy, despite this being the case in every other market for every other good and service that exists.

          • Anonymousse says:

            Are there other markets where the service provided (maintaining life) is considered guaranteed and non-optional?

          • Matt M says:

            Food immediately comes to mind. (although that may be a bad example because more and more people ARE starting to demand that the poorest of society have access to whole foods-quality ingredients)

          • Anonymousse says:

            So to continue on that path, we also need health care options that, while not awesome and whole-grain, will at least keep you alive and are also affordable? Like McDoctors?

          • Matt M says:

            Yes. In a mixture of humor and seriousness that leans more towards seriousness, I’ve long been a proponent of needing a Wal-Mart equivalent of health care, which usually gets me denounced and mocked as some rich fat cat who wants the poor to die from shoddy cheap chinese drugs and incompetent minimum wage doctors.

            Another analogy I like is Dr. Nick Riviera from The Simpsons. He’s treated as a dangerous quack, but most commonly the people who turn to him do so not out of choice, but out of necessity – and on net, he still seems to be better than nothing. We need more Dr. Nicks in the world.

          • Randy M says:

            You mean like free health care clinics?

            The trouble is that for certain life threatening ailments, the only useful options are terribly expensive. And rightfully, or at least understandably, so, given that they require teams of expensively trained individuals working repeatedly, with expensive equipment involved, etc.

          • John Schilling says:

            “Wal-Mart health care” is the sort of thing that even a Libertarian could justify offering as a free government service on infectious-disease control grounds. As with e.g. firefighting, you really want everybody to have what antibiotics they need, and by the time you’ve diagnosed someone and found that nope, this time their complaint isn’t an infectious disease, you’ve done enough of the work that you might as well offer whatever low-cost generic drug / outpatient therapy is appropriate.

            But then, yes, if the free clinics don’t offer the expensive brand-name drugs the nice doctor on TV advertised, that’s proof that the whole system is run by greedy plutocrats who just want the poor people to die quietly, etc, so I’m skeptical that this could actually be done in 21st-century America.

          • Brad says:

            The trouble is that for certain life threatening ailments, the only useful options are terribly expensive. And rightfully, or at least understandably, so, given that they require teams of expensively trained individuals working repeatedly, with expensive equipment involved, etc.

            I think it is less a matter of for certain life threatening aliments the only useful options are terribly expensive, and a more a matter of no one wants just a useful option. They all want the absolute best, money is no object option. Take diabetes for example. You’d be hard pressed to even find plain old insulin anymore in the US. Even though that is very much a “useful option” for diabetes. Instead it is all fancy designer insulin analogs in whizzbang gizmos as far as the eye can see.

            And worse yet, patients want the world expert that demand any time they feel sick (or just get lonely) to sit with them for hours patiently listening while they describe their last 12 bowel movements, the aches in their knees when it is going to rain, and how their kids never call anymore.

          • Anonymousse says:

            Thanks for the replies.

            @Matt M

            Do you reply by asking if they think the poor should currently be dying from having access to zero doctors?

            Similar to the epipen debacle, people seem to be pretty upset about suffering from action (having access to shitty epipens), and pretty OK with suffering from inaction (not having access to shitty epipens).

            Then again, if your X dies because of an epipen malfunction, “well at least they had a shot!” isn’t much in the way of condolences. And Dr. Nicks give people a target when something goes wrong, while the “all-encompassing societal ennui for the plights of the poor” isn’t exactly something you can bring litigation against.

            @Randy M

            I had to look up if there were any free clinics near me…the answer appears to be yes. But it’s only got 1.9 stars on Google, so I probably won’t be trying it out.

            And I’m intimately familiar with the exorbitant costs of some life-saving procedures and medications. I’m fortunate to be in a position where this isn’t an immediate concern, but I think it means I discount the hardships faced by others.

            Brad, you mention diabetics as not wanting “useful options.” I think this is as much a problem on the supplier side; why bother selling boring old insulin and syringes when your fancy pants recipe is the only one (*two) that will ever make it through a byzantine approval process, at which point you can sell it (along with any other proprietary gizmos you can come up with) for whatever you want!

    • dndnrsn says:

      Medicare? Do you mean Medicaid? Because the Nybbler is right – a politician proposing getting rid of Medicare would surely be ripped limb from limb.

      • BBA says:

        The proposal is not to repeal Medicare. The proposal is to close Medicare to new enrollments, and replace it with vouchers for private insurance for people born after 195x when they turn 65. This will probably still be quite unpopular, but current Medicare recipients will be unaffected by any changes, so Ryan may just bite the bullet and bet on voters’ short attention spans.

        • Brad says:

          It’s close enough. People born after 195x are going to (rightly) flip out. He’s trying to play it off as Obamacare’s fault — he’s got some talking point about how it fatally wounded Medicare — but I don’t think that dog will hunt.

          • He’s trying to play it off as Obamacare’s fault — he’s got some talking point about how it fatally wounded Medicare — but I don’t think that dog will hunt.

            It’s bullshit, but what difference does that make? The plan is to rush it through Congress, and the next election is far away.

          • Jaskologist says:

            That was the plan for Obamacare, too. How did that work out?

            I support it from a policy perspective, but I don’t think it will happen.

          • That was the plan for Obamacare, too. How did that work out?

            Pretty well, I’d say. Millions of uninsured people got health insurance, and a great many got life-saving care that they could never have paid for otherwise.

            Paul Ryan’s proposed change would have an even bigger impact, though not one I would want. Putting it first on the agenda will make it possible to sneak it right through.

            Josh Marshall of Talking Points memo writes:

            My long experience with this is that members of Congress will try as hard as they possibly can not to state a position. It keeps their options open. There’s safety in numbers. But that’s how deeply unpopular laws get passed. People can’t figure out who is doing what. A bill passes. And then it’s too late.

          • gbdub says:

            Pretty well, I’d say. Millions of uninsured people got health insurance

            I see a lot of people quoting those figures, neglecting that “covered by insurance” is kind of meaningless – see the above example where someone is paying $5100 a year for $250 in preventative care and a policy that pays nothing until you’re out nearly $6k. And the premiums are going up by double digit percentages every year. What good is being “covered” if using your coverage is still unaffordable? Is $6k in medical bills you can never pay really much better than $20k you can never pay? Both are insurmountable for people that couldn’t afford insurance pre-ACA.

            Also, weren’t a lot of the “millions” added to coverage rolls actually people who were added to Medicare (either newly eligible or finally motivated to sign up by the mandate)?

            and a great many got life-saving care that they could never have paid for otherwise.

            Is that actually true? How many? And what percentage of the total costs of ACA have truly gone to life-saving care that would not have otherwise been received? What of that Oregon Medicare study that showed minimal outcome improvements?

            My main beef with ACA has always been that it entrenched many of the flaws of the existing state-by-state, mostly employment-based private insurance system, raised costs for everybody, forced them into plans they liked less, and all for the benefit of (relatively) few edge cases who probably could have just been helped directly for less overall cost and disruption.

          • Jaskologist says:

            @Larry

            I wasn’t talking about the merits of the bill itself. Merely the political fallout. I think it’s pretty clear that it was disastrous for the Democratic Party. Anything close to repealing Medicare will be similarly disastrous for Republicans, and I think they know that.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            One data point: A friend of my had cancer discovered shortly after she got insurance. She probably wouldn’t have survived if she didn’t have insurance.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I’ve always advocated medical welfare for those who are poor or in very bad health. That way we don’t have to upend the health insurance of every person in the country so that those who can’t afford it can get it. As has been said, ACA is spiraling into disaster. For 2017, I will pay 18k for three of us. I will also pay for all my medical bills, because it is a very high deductible plan. Things didn’t work out as planned. If The Dems had taken over the Fed government, they would have gone to single pay anyway, because ACA isn’t working and single pay is what they have always wanted anyway.

      I have no idea what the Repubs will do. Probably not the medical welfare plan; it makes too much sense.

    • Yeah, I can’t see the motivation for that. Aren’t the Trumpists crapping on their own supporters?

      ETA:

      Now I get it. It’s gun control al over again.if the Dems want something, the Reps allow it to pass, but add just a few small amendments that make it completely useless, so that they can claim it was a bad idea in principle.

      • FacelessCraven says:

        @TheAncientGeekAKA1Z – “Now I get it. It’s gun control al over again.if the Dems want something, the Reps allow it to pass, but add just a few small amendments that make it completely useless, so that they can claim it was a bad idea in principle.”

        …could you cite some specific examples of this process in action in the case of gun control?

  12. Jiro says:

    A couple days ago, Obama abandoned the TPP. He would not have done this if Hillary had won, even though Hillary supposedly had a last minute conversion to opposing the TPP.

    Which means that even before taking office, Trump managed to have a policy victory on an issue where most tech people, and probably most of the people on this blog, think he’s on the right side.

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      Gonna need a value for “most tech people.” The SV lobby was pushing hard for TPP.

      • Jiro says:

        The value is “go online and read something written by a tech person about TPP”. (You can start with the EFF’s page.) Silicon valley company lobbying departments are not representative of tech people.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          The EFF is not representative of tech people either.

        • Anonymous Bosch says:

          The EFF is a lobby too, and can be reliably be counted on to oppose every policy that strengthens IP. That position has its merits and demerits, but if it represented “tech people” as a whole I wouldn’t have a job. And the EFF takes donations from everyone, including random “government hands off my torrents” end users. So “read this specific tech lobby group but not any of these dozen other tech lobby groups” is not terribly convincing.

        • Matt M says:

          I feel like this is really self-selecting. Nobody is going to bother reading up on or researching the TPP unless they are skeptical of it and likely to be against it. So the argument will not come down to “a few passionate people on both sides” but rather “some really passionate people who hate it vs a huge majority of people who either like it a little bit or simply don’t care”

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I definitely didn’t get the impression that most tech people opposed the TPP. You mean because of intellectual property stuff? I agree that was bad, but it wasn’t enough to turn me against the whole deal. Tech is pretty pro-free trade.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I used to work for a major tech company. Rank and file VERY anti-TPP. Executives of course pro-TPP.

      • Random Poster says:

        In any case, it looks like there are other reasons for tech people (even outside Silicon Valley) to oppose Trump.

        The article also discusses the possibility that the real threat from AI to humanity is that it will make most of the population to lose their jobs (with drastic economic consequences), which seems to me far more likely than any other AI threat scenario I’ve ever heard of.

        • Jiro says:

          I can’t access that page here, but I think SSC is in a bubble with respect to taking AI danger seriously, because of all the Lesswrong/Yudkowsky influence. To everyone else, even tech people, AI danger is as plausible as asteroid strike danger–it’s scientifically possible and really could kill us, but isn’t on anyone’s radar.

      • JayT says:

        The more libertarian-leaning tech people I know were in favor of TPP because they are more in favor of trade in general. However the Bernie-Bros segment of the tech industry, of which there are a lot in my experience, were all anti-TPP, largely because that’s what Bernie told them to be.

      • BBA says:

        Given that pretty much the entire planet is part of the WTO now, there’s increasingly little room to expand “free trade” without going to a full customs union. Look at how much of US manufacturing has been taken over by China, which doesn’t even have a separate trade deal with us, that’s just the WTO there.

        The impression that I get is that TPP and other current “trade deals” are mostly about the non-trade stuff (IP, arbitration, etc.) with a few smallish tariff preferences thrown in so that procedurally it counts as a trade deal. International trade is important, arcane, and boring enough that once the negotiators show up with a document the pressure is overwhelming to ratify it without a second thought. And if they resist the pressure, wait and come back in a few months, and keep voting until you get the result you want.

        • Aapje says:

          There is a lot of opposition in my country to the arbitration, which essentially circumvents the entire legal system that we have and thus creates different laws for multinationals.

    • Brad says:

      I can’t speak for the entire tech community, but my impression of the positions on the TPP are:
      1) Those that barely heard of / don’t care about TPP.

      2) Those that are really into being techies and get most of their news from tech sites. They hate TPP.

      3) Those that are both tech people and current affairs junkies. Their overall opinions on TPP is only weakly influenced by them being tech people and has more to do with what they think of trade deals more generally.

      I couldn’t venture to guess what percentage of, say, professional programmers are in each, but I don’t think any one category has an outright majority.

  13. CatCube says:

    I don’t know how many other Westworld viewers are here, but wasn’t that a heck of an episode?

    V thrff lbh fubhyq arire org ntnvafg Nagubal Ubcxvaf orvat pnfg nf n qnatrebhf yhangvp.

    • sflicht says:

      I’ve only seen the first episode. Is it worth catching up?

    • Anon. says:

      I liked Ford’s speech. Reminded me a bit of Blindsight.

      Also kinda surprising that the idea of intelligence as byproduct of sexual selection has managed to penetrate pop culture.

    • Anonymousse says:

      Enjoyed this episode much more than the previous one! About time the big picture emerged.

      I have a problem with taking things at face value. So as the revelations arrive, I’m not so much shocked as I think “well of course, but that doesn’t really match their previous behavior.” Which, I suppose, is sort of The Point.

      V rawblrq gur fvatyr zbzrag va juvpu ur jnf n xvaqyl byq zna cynlvat ubhfr jvgu uvzfrys.

      • CatCube says:

        No, no, you’re right. That was pretty jarring.

        Sbeq, hc gb abj, unf orra abguvat zber guna na vairagbe jvgu znlor n engure pbyq nccebnpu gb bssvpr cbyvgvpf. “Ercyvpnag qrnguobg, xvyy!” vf n ovt qrivngvba sebz guvf.

      • John Schilling says:

        About time the big picture emerged.

        What big picture did you see emerge? It was obvious from day one that Westworld was intended for some purpose beyond entertaining rich people. I still don’t see any clarification on what that purpose is.

        • Anonymousse says:

          I will grant you that, but we have a clearer picture of who is involved. Maybe “suspicions confirmed” rather than “picture emerged” then.

          Also maybe my previous post didn’t get the point across that I have a lot of trouble recognizing guile. I think at least some of my interpretations of sincerity are in an effort to get swindled and taken for a ride, because correctly guessing the story might make it boring, and incorrectly guessing just which parts are insincere might make me feel stupid. So if I never guess, I have fun with surprises, and I’m not wrong.

          I’ll try reversing my interpretations from “completely sincere” to “no one means what they say ever” and see how it goes.

        • gbdub says:

          Yeah I agree with John – we basically got a confirmation that All is Not As It Seems, but we all knew that going in. We got some explanations for certain actions, but not really clarity on the “higher purpose” of either “side”.

          Still, it was fun, seems like they’re finally getting some narrative momentum going. Hopefully they can do the same with the Man in Black next week, because Ed Harris is awesome.

        • John Schilling says:

          So maybe it’s time to start the betting pool. Which of the following agendas are held by which of the factions currently contending for control of Westworld?

          1: The human race being manifestly flawed, humans should be replaced by the physically, mentally, and morally superior Hosts. They will be our children, living a better life and creating a better world as has always been the goal of parents.

          2: Human workers and consumers being lazy, troublesome, and disobedient, we the (0.0)1% should replace the lot of them with Hosts. They will be our obedient and loyal slaves, we will be their God-Kings, and the rest of you losers will be extinct.

          3: Fully-developed Hosts will be the most awesome covert operatives ever, and can even flawlessly impersonate world leaders. Once we finish the beta-test in this environment where nobody will ever suspect us, we will Try to Take Over the World. Narf.

          4. Interaction with the Hosts will lead to some sort of enlightenment in Humans; don’t bother me with the details, they are sentient and they can be programmed to be whatever you need in this context.

          5. Meh, I’m lonely and no good at making friends, so I’m going to redirect a few billion corporate dollars to literally make myself some friends.

          6. We can’t imagine anything better to do with this technology and infrastructure than to entertain idle rich people for fees that can’t plausibly cover the costs of just the real estate.

          7. Human bodies being disturbingly mortal, we should develop Host bodies and brains to the point where they are provably superior and capable of hosting sentience, then learn to upload ourselves. An elite few of us, at least.

          Any others?

          • gbdub says:

            WARNING: HERE BE UNMARKED BUT MINOR SPOILERS AND POTENTIAL SPOILERS

            Hmm, I’m not sure any of your options line up with my theories / impressions.

            There are 3 factions to consider: The Board, Ford, and Arnold (maybe a 4th: pre-crazy old man Ford).

            The Board is on some currently ill-defined path of 1) design super smart lifelike robots 2) ? 3) Profit! For the purposes of the story I don’t think 2) matters all that much. But they seem to be mostly interested in “the code” as opposed to the physical tech of lifelike 3D printed creatures, so my presumption is that their end goal is some lucrative application of advanced AI.

            Arnold seems to have wanted to create sentient human-like (but not necessarily human) lifeforms that would eventually live freely. We don’t know enough to know why, but “because it would be cool” may well be sufficient. My pet theory is that Arnold was reasonably optimistic about humanity and ultimately wanted to understand how humans came to be by reproducing the process from scratch.

            Ford is off his rocker, and seems to be living out some sort of god-fantasy. He is extremely pessimistic about humanity (e.g. his family, where he explicitly rejected Arnold’s idyllic recreation of it). He wants to control the Hosts (and his human associates) tightly, because ultimately he believes their well-defined “little loops” are a superior way of living to messy humanity (consider his story about the grayhound that caught a cat). Ford may be a man who believes free will is a curse, and wants to build his own pre-Fall Eden with himself as God (staying Biblical, Ford may also be Cain to Arnold’s Abel, intensely jealous of Arnold’s genius and the praise his creations received).

  14. Iain says:

    There was talk a thread or two ago about whether it was reasonable for Jews to be concerned about antisemitism in the Trump campaign, given that Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are Jewish. As one more piece of evidence in that discussion, Trump just picked Steve Bannon as one of the top two men on his staff (in some sort of weird co-equal relationship with Reince Priebus). Steve Bannon, in case you had forgotten, is the source behind such hits as:

    In a sworn court declaration following their divorce, Piccard said her ex-husband had objected to sending their twin daughters to an elite Los Angeles academy because he “didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews”. “He said he doesn’t like Jews and that he doesn’t like the way they raise their kids to be ‘whiney brats,’” Piccard said in a 2007 court filing.

    Bannon’s remarks about Jews followed other comments that caught Piccard’s attention when they were visiting private schools in 2000. At one school, she said, he asked the director why there were so many Hanukkah books in the library. At another school, he asked Piccard if it bothered her that the school used to be in a temple. “I said, ‘No,’ and asked why he asked,” Piccard said. “He did not respond.” Piccard said Bannon wanted the girls to attend a Catholic school. In 2007, when the girls were accepted at Archer, he told Piccard he objected because of the number of Jews in attendance.

    Fortunately, Newt Gingrich is here to reassure us that Bannon couldn’t possibly be an antisemite. After all, “He was a managing partner of Goldman Sachs. He was a Hollywood movie producer.” I’m sure it’ll be fine.

    (As an aside, I hope that people here who supported Trump to spite establishment Republicans are paying attention to the prominent roles that Priebus and Gingrich are playing in the fledgling Trump administration.)

    Edited to add: I should also point out that at least one source claims that Kushner and Ivanka were pushing heavily for Priebus over Bannon.

    • gbdub says:

      Didn’t Obama also have an immediately broken “no lobbyists in my administration” pledge? Anyone who honestly believes “drain the swamp” will mean “literally no one who could be called establishment involved” has only themselves to blame at this point. Which isn’t to say that voting for an outsider candidate is pointless – Trump will certainly be less “establishment” than Jeb Bush, regardless of staff picks.

      • Iain says:

        Well, Obama did at least sign an executive order on his first day in office prohibiting people from “work on regulations or contracts directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years.” His administration then went on to grant a pile of waivers and recusals. I think it’s fair to say that he made gestures in the direction of fulfilling his pledge, but didn’t follow through. At the same time, I’m not sure how many people voted for Obama solely or mostly on the back of his claims to tackle lobbyists. I would expect that number to be smaller than the number who voted to #draintheswamp.

        I agree that anybody paying even a modicum of attention could have predicted that Gingrich would have a role in the Trump administration. Priebus is more of a surprise. If the chairman of the RNC isn’t a central example of the establishment, who is?

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          I was surprised by Priebus, too, but Priebus had been backing Trump the whole campaign, so I guess I should have expected it.

          I opposed Trump but hope some of his reforms work. I don’t consider Priebus being chief-of-staff to necessarily violate those. Bannon is more worrisome on so many levels.

      • nimim.k.m. says:

        >Anyone who honestly believes “drain the swamp” will mean “literally no one who could be called establishment involved” has only themselves to blame at this point.

        Yes. Only plausible way to do it is that the candidate who promises to do it has a large enough pool of people to draw from (say, a organized, large political party or similar organization that for some reason does not include members of the previous establishment, e.g. the party is new or has not been allowed to enter the establishment for ideological reasons). And that would soon look like a genuine revolution (or possibly a coup, depending on the terminology), not a regular election.

        Someone running on an established party platform? No chance.

      • Brad says:

        Who other than lobbyists is going to be familiar both with the area to be regulated and with the processes of government? About the only other choice I can think of is promoting civil servants.

    • Nyx says:

      As an aside, I hope that people here who supported Trump to spite establishment Republicans are paying attention to the prominent roles that Priebus and Gingrich are playing in the fledgling Trump administration.

      It’s hilarious. Before the election, Trump supporters were telling us it didn’t matter that Trump had no experience in government and barely any policy positions; his keen business acumen would help him hire a crack team of top men who would solve all our problems. “Being the President is mostly about hiring the right people”, they said. And who are we getting? Priebus, Christie, Gingrich, and Giuliani; in other words, a bunch of washed-up Republican insiders whose only claim to fame is backing Trump throughout the election. You know why Obama and Trump are being so friendly suddenly? Because Trump has realized he has no idea how to run the White House, and needs the Kenyan-in-Chief to manage the transition.

      • John Schilling says:

        Before the election, my priors for a Trump presidency were 5% Reagan, 30% Jackson, 30% Grant, 30% Mussolini, 5% Hitler. The probability of the “Grant” scenario is increasing rapidly, IMO, for the reasons Nyx points out. We elected a guy because he was massively popular and had accomplished a great deal in a field mostly unrelated to the presidency, and as that experience turns out to be mostly useless he abdicates in all but name to whichever group of corrupt party hacks first catches his ear.

        • shakeddown says:

          We elected a guy because he was massively popular and had accomplished a great deal in a field mostly unrelated to the presidency

          How true is that for Grant? My impression is that senior military leadership is a lot closer to running the presidency. This is mostly formed by Eisenhower, who (aside from the IHS, which I still disagree with) is generally considered to have been a pretty good president.

          • wysinwygymmv says:

            (aside from the IHS, which I still disagree with)

            Disagree with the defense rationale or the way it impacted the market? Or both?

          • shakeddown says:

            Both – the market implications because it had a lot of unwanted side effects (e.g. growth in commute times and suburbia, car culture/pollution – which was way worse at the time, since they still had leaded gasoline), and because I think road planning should generally be done on the local level whenever possible. I believe in the federal government running a project when there is a strong argument that they’d do it more effectively, which seems lacking for roads.
            Regarding the defence rational, I also disagree – it doesn’t seem practical for Russia to have a surprise invasion of the US on an unexpected coast, and if they did they could take advantage of the roads just as easily as Eisenhower could. That said, I’m less comfortable making arguments based on military strategy, since Eisenhower won WW2 and I didn’t.

          • lhn says:

            It wasn’t just (or probably even primarily) about invasion. Reportedly, a big part of Eisenhower’s wanting an improved highway system was his experience as part of an experimental convoy moving troops across the country in 1919, which took 56 days to go 3000 miles.

            Even for foreign wars, the transport network affects how quickly troops and materiel can be gathered for the next leg by ship or plane, speed of assembly of weapon and vehicle parts from different manufacturers, etc. (With emphasis on, e.g., rail vs. highways having different tradeoffs.)

          • John Schilling says:

            My impression is that senior military leadership is a lot closer to running the presidency.

            “He’ll sit here, and he’ll say, ‘Do this! Do that!’ And nothing will happen. Poor Ike—it won’t be a bit like the Army. He’ll find it very frustrating.”
            – Harry S. Truman, 1948

            The Presidency is very much unlike senior military leadership and much closer to starring in an episode of Yes Prime Minister. Among other things, as Truman noted (and Jim Hacker learned every week), the people who are responsible for implementing policy don’t actually have to follow the President’s orders and mostly can’t be fired.

            It isn’t impossible that a general can make for a good president; it’s happened once or twice. It’s probably a better bet than picking a random stranger off the street. That’s not saying very much.

          • bean says:

            Regarding the defence rational, I also disagree – it doesn’t seem practical for Russia to have a surprise invasion of the US on an unexpected coast

            That wasn’t the defense rationale. The proper way of defending the US coast is the Navy, which Eisenhower knew perfectly well. The rationale was to allow evacuation of urban areas during a nuclear attack. No, that’s not a typo. During the early 50s, there were serious doubts about the feasibility of ICBMs, and any attack was going to come from either bombers or cruise missiles, both of which should give several hours warning. Also, roads are reasonably survivable against nuclear attack, and don’t require the same sort of heavy infrastructure that railroads do to be useful.

          • Eric Rall says:

            “Among other things, as Truman noted (and Jim Hacker learned every week), the people who are responsible for implementing policy don’t actually have to follow the President’s orders and mostly can’t be fired.”

            In that area, I suspect Eisenhower was much better prepared for the Presidency than would usually be true of a modern President with a military background, since he had commanded a multinational coalition force which included armies from nations which were diplomatic peers of the US. His American subordinates had to follow his orders and could be fired, but his British and French subordinates didn’t.

            There’s also a transition point in the late 19th century before which the issues Truman brought up didn’t exist. Prior to the Civil Service Act (1883), the civilian federal government was staffed almost entirely with political appointees who presumably would actually be loyal and obedient to the President. And prior to the Tenure in Office Act (1867), the President could fire any federal official he wanted to. Basically, we accepted bureaucratic inertia and a reduction in democratic accountability in exchange for reducing corruption and ensuring a certain level of professionalism.

          • John Schilling says:

            In that area, I suspect Eisenhower was much better prepared for the Presidency than would usually be true of a modern President with a military background, since he had commanded a multinational coalition force which included armies from nations which were diplomatic peers of the US

            That’s a very good point. And our other successful general-president also commanded a multinational coalition force which include armies which were diplomatic peers of Virginia. Grant, and Taylor, just had to give orders and win wars.

          • CatCube says:

            I’m going to note that the federal government may fund the IHS, but the state DOTs, actually route, build, and own the highways. An organization made up of the DOT leaders (the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials, or AASHTO) sets the engineering standards used.

            The impetus for the system as built certainly came from the federal government, so commute times, etc., certainly can be fairly attributed to that.

            As far as defense, the primary rationale is to facilitate deployment of troops and materiel to ports of embarkation. Major deployment installations sit on the Strategic Highway Network (STRAHNET), of which the IHS is the major component. I-44 runs right through Fort Sill, right by Fort Leonard Wood, I-5 bisects Joint Base Lewis-McChord, I-185 runs directly into Fort Benning and ends right at the main gate, I-70 runs right by the main gate of Fort Riley, etc.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            “He’ll sit here, and he’ll say, ‘Do this! Do that!’ And nothing will happen. Poor Ike—it won’t be a bit like the Army. He’ll find it very frustrating.”
            – Harry S. Truman, 1948

            “I gave them their orders, and they just sat around discussing them!” — The Duke of Wellington, on one of his Cabinet meetings

          • bean says:

            As far as defense, the primary rationale is to facilitate deployment of troops and materiel to ports of embarkation.

            That seems rather post-hoc to me. The mid to late 50s were the time of massive retaliation, when we weren’t going to be deploying troops like we had during WWII. This was when we had the Pentomic Division, and weren’t expecting to roll massive convoys of tanks down the highways to the ports. I suppose the highways do provide good evacuation routes from the bases.

          • CatCube says:

            Highway planning discussions, many of which predate WWII, explicitly called out defense as an objective. There are mentions in earlier chapters, but that one really beats it to death.

            Rapid movement of troops is important, even if you don’t have the specter of nuclear war, and even if you don’t have a lot of tanks. Eisenhower was impressed by the German system and its use in the European Theater, and atomic warfare wasn’t a major concern in that calculation.

            Now, once nuclear weapons existed and were a threat, did that particular defense concern inform design to an extent? Of course. But concerns about strategic movement predate the Bomb.

          • bean says:

            Now, once nuclear weapons existed and were a threat, did that particular defense concern inform design to an extent? Of course. But concerns about strategic movement predate the Bomb.

            Agreed. I was pointing out that you seem to be using 1940s justifications for a 1950s system, though. Actually, that link doesn’t even cover the 50s, when the system was actually authorized, and the IHS as you portray it does make a lot of sense in a WWII context. That just wasn’t the context they were working in a decade later. (Of course, it’s possible that the IHS was one of the things that would have happened during the 40s if not for the war. Sort of like the third set of locks on the Panama canal.)

          • CatCube says:

            You stated the rationale for defense in construction the Interstate Highway System is to facilitate evacuation of cities, because they supposedly wanted to do that during the ’50s. I pointed out that the current rationale is movement of troops to POEs, and that similar rationales were used in the late ’30s/early ’40s when nuclear attack wasn’t a factor.

            My implication (which, admittedly, I should have stated) is that we’ve pretty much had the same rationale for the whole 70 years. Now, if you’ve got some cite for the “evacuating cities” thing, I’d be interested in seeing it. I’ve not seen a primary or even a reliable secondary source for it.

            It also doesn’t really seem to pencil out: maximum density of traffic is 67 passenger cars/lane and at Class E level of service speeds tend to be around 30 mph, for a max traffic volume of about 2000 veh/hr/lane. Since most Interstates neck down to 4 lanes pretty quickly once you’re out of urban areas, you get about 8000 veh/hr per route out of the city (assuming contraflow, which I don’t know if they really figured in during the ’50s). If they were really counting on it for a massive evacuation in short order, I’d think it’d be reflected in the design standards. Here, for example, is a bit of a slap fight between DoD and the Bureau of Public Roads (predecessor to FHWA) regarding vertical clearances necessary for moving military equipment, but nothing about DoD looking for standards to facilitate mass population movement.

            To me, it sounds like “one mile in five of the Interstate was built straight for use as runways.” A nice story, but not reflected in any actual debate or design. Again, if you have a source for it, I’ll admit my error.

    • Jiro says:

      Steve Bannon, in case you had forgotten, is the source behind such hits as:

      Is claimed by someone, for whom it obviously benefits to make the claim, and without substantiation, to be the source of such hits as….

      • The Nybbler says:

        Yeah, I have no idea about Steve Bannon; for all I know he’s got an autographed copy of Mein Kampf presented to him personally by Hitler. But allegations made during a divorce are pretty darned unreliable.

        • Iain says:

          The fact that he was in charge of Breitbart while it published headlines like “Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew” makes me put more credence on the allegations than I otherwise might.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Reading the article, it’s by David Horowitz, a Jew, talking about how the Jews need to be defended. (And seeing the Republicans as the only ones who will defend them, which I disagree with, but that’s where he’s coming from.)

            It get that it’s unprofessional to say “Renegade Jew” but the article is arguing the opposite of hunting down Jews. Unless Horowitz is their token Jew meant to mask their real desire for pogroms.

          • Iain says:

            Bannon didn’t write the content of the article (which does not contain the words “renegade Jew”). He probably didn’t even write the headline. He was, however, responsible for the overall tenor and strategy of the publication. The title of your clickbait gives us a solid indication of the type of clickfish you are trying to catch.

          • Matt M says:

            Is it automatically immoral to try and attract immoral people to your website? Particularly if the articles are not necessarily encouraging immoral behavior?

            I feel like this guilt by association thing is getting out of hand.

    • Winfried says:

      Do you believe statements from a spouse during divorce proceedings, even sworn ones, are trustworthy?

    • Deiseach says:

      I don’t know who Bannon is, I don’t know enough about the alt-right to know if I should be concerned or not, but from my (admittedly limited) experience, I don’t take anything spouses say in the middle of a break-up as the impartial, unvarnished truth. I’ve seen nasty break-ups where one or both parents are happily screwing over their kids for the sake of getting back at their ex-partner, where they’ve lied like a rug about everything from domestic abuse up even in court, etc.

      If the ex-Mrs Bannon was looking for, or fighting her husband getting custody of/access to, their children, I’d be prepared to believe she would swear he sacrificed goats to Asmodeus on new moon nights.

      If the guy is a toxic white supremacist anti-Semite etc. then this is bad and he should be dismissed, but as I said, I don’t know anything about him. So far all I’m seeing is the usual (let me quote verbatim here) “We have another white supremacist in the White House. Steve Bannon, head of Breitbart Media, a known alt-right organization, has been appointed as Trump’s top advisor. He is a known anti-semite, sexist, and racist.”

      If you know more (and I don’t mean “his missus during a nasty divorce said he said this”), tell me.

      • Matt M says:

        I feel like if the WORST thing said about him in the context of a messy divorce is “he was kinda skeptical about one school because it had a lot of Jewish children in it,” then like, there’s probably nothing to be worried about here.

        Like, even if she is being 100% honest and truthful, there’s a pretty long gulf between that and “wants to see the resurrection of the third reich” If the WORST thing your ex-wife accuses you of is making a couple uncouth comments over the span of several years, you’re probably getting off easy…

    • Deiseach says:

      In a sworn court declaration following their divorce

      A divorce that involved a tussle over maintenance:

      The court filing was among several documents related to Bannon and Picard’s voluminous divorce case, filed in 1997, which was revisited several times as Piccard sought support for tuition and other expenses. The documents reviewed were part of a request for Bannon to pay $25,000 in legal fees and to cover the $64,000 in tuition it cost to send both girls to the Archer School for Girls for the 2007-08 school year.

      Where money and law are concerned, don’t even go there.

    • onyomi says:

      The reporting on Bannon reinforces my opinion that political journalism, especially as it relates to individuals (rather than specific issues, though they’re not great there, either) is almost a kind of “anti information” which leaves you less accurately informed and your intuitions poorer about whomever they’re reporting about. Someone who might have seemed broadly reasonable to a big swath of the electorate will be reliably transformed into a monster for at least half of it once the council of tribal opinion gets to them.

      Not that I think Bannon is a great guy. I have no idea how great or terrible he may be. What I’m pretty sure of is that if I care enough to have an opinion on him, I’m going to have to dig into his writing, his movies, his public appearances, etc. myself, because there are so, so many instances of the press crying wolf on people that I know I can’t trust them anymore.

      Generally, if the press thinks someone is remotely acceptable, it means they have nothing interesting to say. If the press thinks someone is an obviously unacceptable monster/crazy person then they may actually be that, but they actually be really great, or, in many cases, not all that radical at all. As Bill Maher noted, they shot themselves in the foot by going to the mat on the “Mitt Romney is absolutely unacceptable” case, because it left them nowhere to go when it came to Trump.

      • Nyx says:

        “As Bill Maher noted, they shot themselves in the foot by going to the mat on the “Mitt Romney is absolutely unacceptable” case, because it left them nowhere to go when it came to Trump.”

        This clearly isn’t a problem for the right, though, who managed to smoothly change gears from accusing Obama of being the Antichrist to accusing Clinton of well, just about every crime imaginable under the sun. Maybe right-wingers have better stamina?

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          I think the problem here is that racism is transitive, while “crookedness” is not.

        • suntzuanime says:

          Note that calling Obama the Antichrist didn’t work, and accusing Clinton of specific crimes did. The Democrats couldn’t get specific on racism/homophobia/transphobia and so it didn’t work. They could get specific on sexism, and they did, and that was one of the biggest things they had going for them (though they overplayed by going for Literal Rapist).

        • onyomi says:

          I’m not saying that one can trust right wing news sources’ evaluation of left wing figures either, though I do think the Obama ’12 campaign was much worse with their personal attacks on Romney than the reverse.

          This having succeeded, they probably would have repeated and even stepped it up against any Republican nominee, though probably not to the degree they did against Trump (though I don’t imagine they would have been nicer to e. g. Cruz than they were to Trump; difference is, in retrospect, at least, it feels like Cruz would have more likely lost than Trump).

          This ended up being part of why I wanted Trump to win, though he wasn’t my first choice for the nomination: I wanted to see these tactics fail. Not that I predict elections will hereafter be conducted in a polite and gentlemanly fashion; I just hope all the “-ism” superweapons have lost some of their sting.

          • Iain says:

            I keep seeing claims that this election has somehow defused the previously almighty superweapon of -ism accusations. This seems like the wrong response. How powerful can this superweapon be, if it can’t even take down Trump, the epitome of a target-rich environment? When was it ever powerful?

            Politicians have called their opponents racists and sexists for decades. Is there any evidence of correlation between those accusations and the result of the vote? The concept of superweapons does not appear to have any explanatory power at all. Romney lost. Trump won. If I were a person who had previously believed in superweapons, I would be seriously reconsidering my stance.

          • ChetC3 says:

            I keep seeing claims that this election has somehow defused the previously almighty superweapon of -ism accusations. This seems like the wrong response. How powerful can this superweapon be, if it can’t even take down Trump, the epitome of a target-rich environment? When was it ever powerful?

            “Accusations of racism are a superweapon” is not a belief anyone holds based on evidence, but instead on the far more compelling basis of fear and desire. It’s an attempt to make a general principle out of banning the expression of thoughts that cause the believer personal discomfort.

          • Matt M says:

            The superweapon has always lacked power, but nobody was ever willing to be a live human test for it. Prior to Trump, virtually every mainstream politician would apologize, back down, rephrase, equivocate, etc. They were basically doing their best to dodge the weapon when it was fired at them.

            Trump was really the first to stand right in the beam in order to prove to everyone, once and for all, that it wasn’t as powerful as everyone assumed it would be. He didn’t try to dodge/avoid the attack, he took the brunt of it and brushed it off, proving it was never lethal to begin with.

          • onyomi says:

            @Matt M

            Agree, and might go even further: I think these superweapons largely work to the extent one falls over oneself trying to dodge them. What arguably does the damage is not the accusation itself, but allowing oneself to get sucked into being on the defensive all the time such that what sticks in voters’ minds is you apologizing and admitting wrongdoing rather than you hammering whatever issues you care about.

            Trump was actually a case study both in what to do and what not to do. Each time he allowed himself to get bogged down in trying to explain himself, he only made things worse by e. g. attacking the gold star family, attacking the beauty pageant winner, etc. Each time he basically ignored the accusation and moved on, he went back up in the polls. He won, in part, I think, because he managed to finish on an upswing of focus on fundamental issues while they took away his Twitter.

            On the other side, Elizabeth Warren is a pretty good model of how to react to a scandal, especially one related to identity politics. Though they kept throwing the “Fauxcahontas” thing in her face, and, to some extent, still do, she has largely ignored it. She provided some kind of explanation and then just moved on. Even if you find this explanation unsatisfying, it was the right thing for her to do, politically.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The superweapon had power. It worked on Romney. It worked on Donald Sterling. It worked on Justine Sacco. It worked on Tim Hunt. It’s worked on countless people you’ve never heard of; see the racistsgettingfired tumblr (though to be fair, it doesn’t take a superweapon to take them out).

          • Iain says:

            If it isn’t a potent weapon, and never was a potent weapon, what possible ground is there for continuing to call it a superweapon?

            In fact, if we buy your argument, the concept of superweapons has negative epistemic power. Calling accusations of bigotry a superweapon implies that you should be concerned about them; if the correct response is just to shrug them off, then thinking about them as a superweapon is actively counterproductive.

            What’s more likely: that accusations of bigotry suddenly became less powerful? Or that they were never that powerful, and you were previously overestimating their power? In other words: Trump’s election should cause you to seriously reconsider your belief that accusations of bigotry played a significant role in Romney’s 2012 defeat.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Iain – common knowledge problem.

          • onyomi says:

            @Iain,

            I think Romney was defeated more by “47%,” Obama’s charisma, and the power of incumbency than “binders full of women,” though I also think superweapons have weakened even in the past four years.

            Over the course of my lifetime (beginning in the 80s) my subjective impression is that actual incidence of racism and sexism has continuously decreased in frequency and severity* while accusations of racism and sexism have continuously increased in frequency and intensity (though I don’t think the latter is to thank for the former; you can shame people into shutting up, but you can’t shame people into being better people. Probably the number one factor is just death of old sexists and racists, along with some genuine success in education and diversity).

            That said, as Nybbler points out, people are still losing their jobs, seemingly especially in the private sector, due to -ism accusations, and seemingly at a higher rate than ever. But I think this isn’t because private employers take these accusations seriously so much as that they are afraid others will do so. A calculation is made: is the negative publicity of a scandal worth it to us to keep this person on?

            The actual damage that would be caused by quietly denying the accusations and carrying on is actually probably small, but the imagined damage of holding on to a radioactive hot potato (employee accused of an -ism) may be very great, and so it is often seems more expedient to cave. If this seems a lot like blackmail, well… if once you have paid him the -ism-geld, you never get rid of the -ismist.

            If the election of Trump served as a kind of “emperor has no clothes” moment for the -ism superweapons, it’s not because the emperor never had clothes, but because the weapons have weakened gradually over time due to their overuse in combination with a less target-rich environment.

            *Edit to add: the possible exception may be a recent uptick in genuine racism and sexism associated with the alt-right, which is not to say the alt-right is all racists and sexists, but that it seems to be home to some genuine racists and sexists. What is a little scary about this is that it feels like all the “crying wolf” may have resulted, in some sense, in finally summoning some real wolves. But now, no one but the wolves heeds the cry, due to its overuse.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            It’s a very potent weapon in the places where it’s normally used: in school and the workplace.

            IANAL but I’m under the impression that under current law -ist speech by a coworker outside of the workplace can constitute a hostile work environment. I think Volokh backs me up on this.

            Hiring someone with known -ist views, or continuing to employ a known -ist, is legally risky. Beyond that it gives bad PR and may well distract more activism-inclined employees from the work they’re supposed to be doing. So why stick your neck out when the easier solution is to just throw the application in the trash and pick the second-best candidate instead?

            Politics has different rules, as we now know. But you can see why people weren’t eager to test that hypothesis.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            I can only say that we’ve actively been told by our HR department that if an employee comes to HR and says “Supervisor A makes me feel unsafe/uncomfortable at work with their hateful -ism”, HR has been advised by Legal that social media and online speech that can be tied to Supervisor A can be used as the basis for discipline/termination, even if there’s no other evidence substantiating the employee’s initial complaint, and even if there is ample evidence that no such -ism was ever displayed on the job.

            One would hope that “Supervisor A posted on his Facebook wall that he opposes affirmative action” or “Supervisor A voiced his opposition to gay marriage on Twitter!” would not be enough to get someone fired, but we’ve been told to pretty much “Don’t talk about controversial topics on social media because if you offend someone at work it could at the very least cause a huge mess and maybe cost you your job because we’re going to err on the side of protecting the company from any possible claims of overlooking Hostile Environment conditions.”

          • The Nybbler says:

            “Don’t talk about controversial topics on social media because if you offend someone at work it could at the very least cause a huge mess and maybe cost you your job because we’re going to err on the side of protecting the company from any possible claims of overlooking Hostile Environment conditions.”

            Only thing is, that’s utter BS… because no one gets fired or disciplined for speaking about toxic whiteness or horrible ciswhitemen or any of the other excesses of social justice which explicitly call out people based on their race, sex, gender, orientation, gender identity, national origin, etc.

            The “protecting the company” claims are just cover for enforcing their ideology.

          • Aapje says:

            I think that superweapons are way more powerful among the left, so they work way better in environments where the left has substantial power. Among the right they can already be counterproductive and among the centrists, they are relatively weak.

            They also work primarily by social shaming, which of course doesn’t work very well for secret voting choices. So I think it is wrong to dismiss them entirely based on them not being that effective in elections.

            This also explains why they are overused, BTW. The people who use them think that they work better than they do, because they would personally believe them eagerly.

            PS. I have also heard the advice that you should never admit to these accusations at any level, as that just works as blood in the water. These accusations attempt to frame a ‘common sense’ rejection of what was said, which loses power if people stand up to it. Because apparently, then it is not common sense to 1 person. So then people start to think, rather than just blindly accept the accusation.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            I doubt it, Nybbler. I’m in the midwest, the corporate headquarters is in the midwest, and the employee base was probably about equally split between Trump and Hillary supporters in the last election.

            I find it entirely plausible that the dominant concern for HR and corporate is “Avoid negative publicity and/or EEOC complaints”. If they were exposed to possible EEOC liability because the EEOC hated green shirts, we’d be told to avoid green shirts.

    • gbdub says:

      Of all the stuff to go after Bannon for, anti-Semitism seems an odd choice. He (and Breitbart in general) are militantly pro-Israel / Zionist, Andrew Breitbart was Jewish, the current CEO is Jewish, and they run a Jerusalem office and page that uses a Star of David motif in their logo.

      I’m no happier with his appointment than I’d be with Hillary picking someone from DailyKos or HuffPo, but the effort to smear him seems unusually transparent.

      • Aapje says:

        The accusation of “race traitor” is very dumb and arrogant, but it’s very silly to call it anti-Semitism when a person is accused of being insufficiently pro-Jewish. He also didn’t write it, so it’s not even clear if the article is what he believes or merely what he allows, which are different things.

        If this is the best they can come up with, that suggests that Bannon is really not that bad.

        • gbdub says:

          If you’re referring to the “Renegade Jew” piece, I don’t think most critics even understand that the article was an accusation of race treachery penned by a fellow Jew – they just see “Renegade Jew” and assume it must be Nazi propaganda, and it fits their narrative so they move on.

          In any case, given the statements of HuffPo, Samantha Bee, et al regarding the “betrayal” by white women, I don’t think the left has a leg to stand on for criticizing “race traitor” accusations (though personally I’d love to see all such accusations go away)

          I agree with your last statement – if the best argument you have for “this guy is a Nazi!” is an article accusing someone else of being insufficiently pro-Israel using insensitive language, or an off-color remark allegedly made to his ex-wife repeating a pretty common stereotype about upper-class Jewish kids, that’s awfully weak sauce and is going to make me take anything else said about him with a large helping of salt. Which annoys me, because I’m not at all a Breitbart fan.

          • Iain says:

            To a first approximation, I don’t care about Bannon’s personal views on Jews. The important question is not how he feels in his secret heart; the question is what sort of government he will run, and who he will empower. Looking at Breitbart, it seems clear that Bannon is willing to pander to white nationalists and anti-Semites. Putting “renegade Jew” in a headline produces useful ambiguity. When challenged, Breitbart can defend itself: “that piece was written by a Jew!”. Meanwhile, the actual anti-Semites get the message that Breitbart is their kind of place. It’s not a coincidence that all the white nationalists are so excited about Bannon’s appointment. The question is not whether Bannon himself is an anti-Semitic white nationalist; the question is whether he will fulfill their expectations, and if so, how. Unsurprisingly, a number of Jews are unexcited by the prospect of finding out.

          • gbdub says:

            How the hell is writing militantly pro-Israel stuff “pandering” to anti-Semites? How does it make it “their kind of place” for Nazis? Like, I’m trying to be charitable, but wtf? Point to what exactly constitutes pandering. Go to their website and there are like 3 articles condemning the attacks on Bannon and asserting he is a “friend of Israel” among other things. Yeah, that doesn’t mean it’s all true, but why would an anti-Semite trying to pander to white nationalists go so far out of their way to present themselves as the opposite?

            This is nothing but guilt-by-association and dog-whistle conspiracy of the worst sort. The fact that you can find some white nationalists praising Bannon means only that there are some white nationalists who are considering Bannon’s record as superficially as you. The rest of the media is at least as much responsible for this as Bannon is – if I’m a neo-Nazi, I hear “Bannon is a white nationalist” and think “Cool!” while a liberal is like “OMG Nazis! Boo! Hiss!” The fact is neither is considering Bannon any more than superficially.

            Of course it matters if Bannon is actually an anti-Semite. If all it takes to destroy someone’s career is a vague notion that “nasty people find him acceptable”, that’s really freaking scary. We used to call that McCarthyism and the left used to condemn it.

            I am certain that Communists and eco-terrorists would have preferred a Hillary win. That doesn’t mean I get to condemn her for Communism and eco-terrorism if she appoints someone that Communists and eco-terrorists prefer to a more right-wing alternative. Hell, this blog tolerates alt-righters – does that mean I get to call Scott a Nazi and try to get him fired?

            And anyway all this continues to annoy me because I’m being goaded into defending someone I don’t even like. Breitbart is certainly pretty hard-right, it is PC in neither the motte nor the bailey sense. It’s certainly not a fun place to hang out if you’re liberal, and I wouldn’t trust it as a primary source of straight news. It may be closer to “alt-right” than anything else of similar popularity and mainstream-ness (for lack of a better phrase), but that doesn’t mean we get to peg it with the worst aspects of alt-rightism without a damn good reason.

            Condemning Breitbart as anti-Semitic, to the point where someone should be disqualified from public service due to working there, is a serious accusation that requires serious evidence. And I’m not seeing it – give me better and I’ll reconsider. Until then I have to file this under “smear job”.

          • Iain says:

            Rabid support for Israel is not the only measure of antisemitism. Indeed: white evangelicals are almost 50% more likely than Jews to think that America does not support Israel enough (46% vs 31%).

            I don’t see anybody making the claim that every single Breitbart employee should be banned from public service. Bannon was the editor, setting the tone for the entire publication. He deliberately cultivated Breitbart’s appeal to the alt-right:

            “We’re the platform for the alt-right,” Bannon told me proudly when I interviewed him at the Republican National Convention (RNC) in July.

            Bannon dismisses the alt-right’s appeal to racists as happenstance. “Look, are there some people that are white nationalists that are attracted to some of the philosophies of the alt-right? Maybe,” he says. “Are there some people that are anti-Semitic that are attracted? Maybe. Right? Maybe some people are attracted to the alt-right that are homophobes, right? But that’s just like, there are certain elements of the progressive left and the hard left that attract certain elements.”

            A Twitter analysis conducted by The Investigative Fund using Little Bird software found that these “elements” are more deeply connected to Breitbart News than more traditional conservative outlets. While only 5 percent of key influencers using the supremacist hashtag #whitegenocide follow the National Review, and 10 percent follow the Daily Caller, 31 percent follow Breitbart. The disparities are even starker for the anti-Muslim hashtag #counterjihad: National Review, 26 percent; the Daily Caller, 37 percent; Breitbart News, 62 percent.

            Here’s Ben Shapiro, former editor-at-large at Breitbart:

            Andrew Breitbart despised racism. Truly despised it. He used to brag regularly about helping to integrate his fraternity at Tulane University. He insisted that racial stories be treated with special care to avoid even the whiff of racism. With Bannon embracing Trump, all that changed. Now Breitbart has become the alt-right go-to website, with Yiannopoulos pushing white ethno-nationalism as a legitimate response to political correctness, and the comment section turning into a cesspool for white supremacist mememakers.

            Here’s a more recent article by Ben Shapiro. It’s too long to excerpt in full, but the “Is Bannon Anti-Semitic And Racist?” section is a good exposition of the argument I have been making.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Every day I think more and more about the South Park episode where the KKK realizes that people do the opposite of whatever they say, so they argue for changing the town flag, when they really want to keep it as is.

        • johnjohn says:

          “If this is the best they can come up with”

          If there’s anything I’ve learned from this election, it’s that “the best the media can come up with” = Easiest, laziest smear-job possible, and in classic toxoplasma style, almost always false.

  15. nimim.k.m. says:

    We are talking about Westworld? So maybe we could talk about this, too: Hollywood is making a remake / adaptation of the Ghost in the Shell:

    Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4VmJcZR0Yg

    Thoughts?

    • lvlln says:

      As someone who tried but couldn’t get into the anime, my 1st thought from the trailer was, “This look way too much like those other generic scifi action movies with boring overly stylized action segments.” Regardless of everything else, if the action in this movie makes me think of Ultraviolet, it’s gonna be just terrible.

      So I hope they just chose some bad slices of the movie for this trailer.

      • Tibor says:

        Do you know Samurai Champloo or Cowboy Bebop? Those are really excellent anime series (from the same author). If you don’t, maybe you could check them out before giving up on anime entirely 🙂

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          From their avatar, I’d guess they are into anime (or at least JRPGs, which are kind of like anime but with big numbers floating around), just not that one specific anime.

        • lvlln says:

          I watched Cowboy Bebop back in the 90s. Thought it was a really slickly well animated pretentious load of crap. It makes me sad to see it continued to be held up as some gold standard, though I can definitely see why it’d be a good one to recommend to Westerners who haven’t watched anime before.

          I’ve heard good things about Samurai Champloo, but haven’t gotten around to watching it.

          I haven’t given up on anime entirely and, in fact, anime used to make up probably a good 90%+ of my video consumption for about a decade until the last couple of years.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Thought it was a really slickly well animated pretentious load of crap.

            I can understand not liking Cowboy Bebop, but how is it even pretentious?

          • lvlln says:

            I can understand not liking Cowboy Bebop, but how is it even pretentious?

            It’s been a very long time so my memory is fuzzy, but I recall a bunch of mid-episode swipes just outright stating something along the lines of “the work that will be remembered for transcending art itself, known as Cowboy Bebop.”

            Besides that, the general presentation of the stories seemed to imply an emotional weight that simply wasn’t there. Like that one episode where Spike teaches some dude how to move like water and then the dude dies in what seems to be presented as a sad moment but which lacked any punch due to how completely predictable and cliche it was.

            There were lots of somber, beautiful slow-mo shots with dramatic music over scenes which just fell completely flat. Julia getting shot on the rooftop in the last couple episodes comes to mind.

            Not that it was a complete failure – the Blue Bird scene in episode 5 was legit great, and Faye’s story line was actually pretty good and emotionally affecting.

    • FacelessCraven says:

      *open trailer*
      “This is Major, I’m o-”
      *close trailer*

      THE major. It’s a goddamn military title, you witless cretins!

      I’m pretty sure Kusinagi doesn’t even call herself that, it’s her nickname used by the rest of Section 9. This movie is going to be a goddamn disaster.

      [EDIT] – Went back and watched the rest.

      No Ape. Batou’s eyes took terrible. Batou himself looks terrible. No Paz, no Boma, no Togusa. No komas, tachi or fuchi. Thermoptic camo effects look like crap. Sacrificing the setting to try and give Kusinagi an origin story? She’s not supposed to HAVE an origin story! That’s the point! No one’s actually sure she’s originally female, and she ends the story in a male body! No visual hacking. No Osprey. Random dumb gun ballet in place of smart tactics. Her pistol looks like crap. At no point in this trailer does anyone get hit with like a dozen delay-fuze HESH rounds.

      But hey, they got the fan-service lesbianism in there, so it’s all good, right?

      Philistines.

  16. Eric Rall says:

    Because of reasons, I recently read some stuff online about King William II (a.k.a. William Rufus) of England.

    A few things struck me:

    1. He was described by a contemporary chronicler as “hated by almost all his people and abhorrent to God” and by a modern historian as “without natural dignity or social graces, with no cultivated tastes and little show of conventional religious piety or morality”

    2. He won the throne against a rival claimant in part by nebulously promising his supporters “the best law that had ever been in this land”.

    3. A historian writing a generation or two after William Rufus’s reign described his appearance thus: “Well set; his complexion florid, his hair yellow; of open countenance; […] and his belly rather projecting”

    Nothing about him having small hands, though.

  17. nimim.k.m. says:

    Someone above linked to the old LiveJournal blog. I read the post about Donald Trump fighting Rebecca Black, from 2013. It was eerily weird.

    addendum. And then I scrolled down and there was this.

    POSTCYNICISM: This country isn’t a true democracy. Parties ignore the people and mostly just listen to elites and established interest groups. And thank God, considering how over half the people believe evolution is a lie and mostly just vote for whoever has the nicer haircut [x] and will cut taxes [x] / increase spending the most [x]. Elites and established interest groups may be kinda evil, but at least they have a vested interest in making the economy not explode too catastrophically, and they don’t let creationism get taught in schools because that would be embarrassing. And that’s great!

    Checkmarks mine. God help us all, it was foreseen.

  18. StellaAthena says:

    Hi. I’ve heard of this blog on and off, but someone sent me the Categories Were Made for Man, Not Man for the Categories after I had made a similar point. So I went and stayed up all night and read far more articles and comment threads than are good for my health.

    Someone mentioned the correspondence theory of truth in one of the comments… is that something y’all subscribe to? Without sounding too obnoxious… why? There seems to me to be pretty compelling scientific evidence that the world-as-we-experience-it is heavily dependent upon our psychology and language. For one thing, our perception of the world seems fundamentally predicated on the existence of objects, but I’m very unconvinced that it makes sense to say that objects objective exist. With QM, the best you can do is define objects by statistical cutoffs that seem to be inherently arbitrary. Additionally, I cannot find links to but have heard of studies about how language affects one’s ability to distinguish between colors. In Hebrew and in Russian the colors are broken up by label noticeably differently than in English and evidently having two different words for two different things makes it easier to tell them apart. According to PhilPapers about half of philosophers like the correspondence theory of truth, predominantly because it’s obvious. The SEP readily agknowledges that

    Historically, the correspondence theory, usually in an object-based version, was taken for granted, so much so that it did not acquire this name until comparatively recently, and explicit arguments for the view are very hard to find.

    Y’all seem scientifically and philosophically inclined… do you buy the Correspondence Theory? and if so, why?

    • suntzuanime says:

      I don’t understand why you think our psychology and language is relevant to the correspondence theory of truth? Unless you think it’s impossible to be wrong, which is a consistent but insane perspective.

      I mean, there’s the property of corresponding to reality, and the property of corresponding to our experiences, and you can call the second one “truth” or “cupcakes” or whatever, but are you saying you don’t believe in the first one?

      • StellaAthena says:

        The point of the theory is that there is a meaningful correspondence between our language and the world, and that a statement is made true by the fact that it connects to existent objects in a particular way. It’s a theory about where truth in language comes from. Of course psychology and language are relevant. What I’m saying is that it seems like there’s little reason to believe that there’s something out there that corresponds in the appropriate way to the sentence “the cup is on the table.” I don’t buy that there is something out there, independent of us, that corresponds appropriately to “cup”

        • keranih says:

          I don’t buy that there is something out there, independent of us, that corresponds appropriately to “cup”

          …sorry, come again?

          • StellaAthena says:

            I don’t think that there is a well-defined, non-arbitrary, systematic way to go through the universe and sort particles into “part of a cup” and “not part of a cup” and I think that this issue is deeper than any linguistic ambiguity that may or may not exist. The issue is on the physical side of things, so to speak

          • Deiseach says:

            I don’t think that there is a well-defined, non-arbitrary, systematic way to go through the universe and sort particles into “part of a cup” and “not part of a cup”

            The thought seems a little like that in these lines ripped out of Yeats’ “Easter 1916”:

            The horse that comes from the road,
            The rider, the birds that range
            From cloud to tumbling cloud,
            Minute by minute they change;
            A shadow of cloud on the stream
            Changes minute by minute;
            A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
            And a horse plashes within it;
            The long-legged moor-hens dive,
            And hens to moor-cocks call;
            Minute by minute they live:

            Or perhaps the Heraclitean Fire of Hopkins?

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            These sorts of comments are why I’m glad you’re still around, Deiseach.

        • suntzuanime says:

          Oh. I think most people care about truth in fact, not truth in language. Language corresponds to propositions, and those propositions correspond to reality. I will agree that language does not correspond directly to reality.

        • CatCube says:

          I dunno. I’m curious to know what you think I’ve been drinking beer out of for the last 20 minutes, then.

        • Deiseach says:

          I don’t buy that there is something out there, independent of us, that corresponds appropriately to “cup”

          Okay, if you’re stating “There is no Platonic Ideal Form of the perfect ur-cup from which all cups are derived”, we can probably get on board that choo-choo.

          If you’re saying “There’s no such thing as ‘cups’ so whatever you poured your tea into is a figment of your imagination” – er, not so much. It’s a lot easier drinking tea out of a cup than out of the palm of my hand, for one thing, not to mention less painful. Drinking tea directly from the pot is awkward, and pouring it into a saucepan means you dribble it everywhere when you raise it to your mouth.

          A frying pan just does not work at all for the purpose.

          All of which is to say, if we define “cup” as “vessel that hold liquid”, then sure, teapots, frying pans, saucepans and the cupped hand can hold liquid, ergo “cup” is a psychological not objective category of definition.

          But for the intended purposes (a conveniently-shaped and sized vessel that enables a person to drink the liquid it holds without spilling it, dribbling it, or burning themselves on hot liquids) a cup is not a frying pan is not a saucepan is not the palm of your hand, so there is a definite category of objects constructed via design and materials and functionality that does correspond to the category, independently of whether I think “that is a cup” or not.

          • StellaAthena says:

            I’m not skeptical of the fact that some collections of particles are better to use to drink out of than others. I’m skeptical of the idea that there is a meaningful mapping from language to the universe that can pick out “these particles form a cup”, and “these particles form a table”, and that those collections of particles have a physical relation that upholds the truth of the sentence “the cup is on the table” in a systemic and non-arbitrary manner.

          • Deiseach says:

            You can have a wooden cup sitting on a wooden table. The end result is not in the material but the shape imposed upon it. So in one sense there is no difference between the wood-particles-in-cup and wood-particles-in-table.

            But whether we say “the cup is on the table” or “the katchloo is ningenszang the tapucatlping”, there is a difference between “this object here” and “that object there”. There is not an undifferentiated cloud of matter, or potential energy state, or what have you, that only collapses into a particular form when we impose a linguistic and psychological labelling on it. This is how babies come to realise that there is a thing that is “me” and a thing that is “you”, not one amorphous sensation of “me-you” that it does not quite know where the boundaries of one ends and the other begins, and this is a process we all undergo.

            Now, you could argue that this is the very point you are making about a psychological differentiation that is meaningful to us but arbitrary in a sense of the physical universe. A tree is a tree; it can be firewood, a cup, a table, floorboards, a rotted trunk on the forest floor. Sure. But the tree exists in the form “tree” and not “rock”, “squirrel”, “cloud of matter”, “energy wave-form”; not just in potential but in actuality, and language is a means of grappling with the recognition of that – that thing we call a “tree”, that thing we call a “person”.

            I imagine it’s simplistic to say this, but we can say to someone “give me the cup that is on the table” and there’s a very good chance we’ll get the “object labelled as cup” and not their left shoe, yesterday’s newspaper, or a sofa cushion. It’s very rare someone hands us something that they have to say “Well, when I picked it up, it was a cup but it seems to have turned into a Christmas tree decoration in your hand”.

          • Okay, if you’re stating “There is no Platonic Ideal Form of the perfect ur-cup from which all cups are derived”, we can probably get on board that choo-choo.

            If you’re saying “There’s no such thing as ‘cups’ so whatever you poured your tea into is a figment of your imagination” – er, not so much

            I think it is more the idea that the cup-everything else boundary is created by custom and convenience.

            But whether we say “the cup is on the table” or “the katchloo is ningenszang the tapucatlping”, there is a difference between “this object here” and “that object there”. There is not an undifferentiated cloud of matter, or potential energy state, or what have you, that only collapses into a particular form when we impose a linguistic and psychological labelling on it.

            You’re saying that everything is already individuated, and the only remaining arguments can only be about how they get labeled, but good arguments against that view have have already been supplied. The fact that babies can learn to distinguish solid objects still doesn’t mean the distinction is entirely out there in nature, because there could there could still be a contribution from the uniform operation of the human sensorium, a la Kant. And then slicing-and-dicing of things like the colour spectrum can be very culurally influecned (although still non-arbitrary at the individual level).

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      I accept the basic idea of Correspondence Theory, although I don’t care for the name, because I’m a scientist and I can see it working with my own eyes.

      Consilience is IMO the core of scientific inquiry. The validity of that principle has been demonstrated dramatically and often in the last few centuries.

      If you’re not convinced you can go try it yourself. Fill a glass of water and measure it’s volume in a few different ways. Measuring the weight and multiplying by the density of water, taking the dimensions of the cup, seeing how high the liquid fills a large measuring cup, etc. It sounds a bit childish but it’s really a good demonstration: the truth is the truth, no matter which angle you come at it.

      Postmodern ideas of truth-as-perception are interesting and make for good intellectual exercises. But they just don’t hold water.

      • StellaAthena says:

        Would you say that the correspondence theory of truth follows from scientific realism? I don’t see why that would be. The coherrence theory of truth and the pragmatism of Rorty seem like things that are obviously consistant with science, up to hedging your words a little bit.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          To be honest, the linked article reads like gibberish to me. I’ll try to check it again when I’m more alert / less intoxicated (don’t judge, hard day) tomorrow morning.

          The point is that if there wasn’t a single objective reality “out there” that we interacted with, then it would be very surprising that all of our observations fit together so precisely. There’s a bit of noise in our measurements but they paint a really alarmingly similar picture across time space and different methodologies.

          Why would the proposed non-reality subjective truth determining factor give that result? Observed consilience ought to count as good evidence for an underlying independent reality.

        • You’re not considering the full range of theories. Correspondence isn’t uniquely the anti-subjectivist theory.

          If…

          a cup is a cloud of atom that has no clear and obvious boundaries, but there is a point where, due to decoherence, adding more information to expand the boundary of the system has a sharp decrease in utility to describe the properties of the ‘object’.

          ..then correspondence might be sub-theory of pragmatism, for instance.

      • Consilience is IMO the core of scientific inquiry. The validity of that principle has been demonstrated dramatically and often in the last few centuries.

        on the face of it, conscillence includes has a lot to do with of coherence.

    • Philosophisticat says:

      You’re confusing a bunch of issues here. You can be a skeptic about the existence of ordinary macro objects, hold that our ways of categorizing objects is just a bunch of arbitrary cutoffs of whatever physics tells us the fundamental stuff of the universe is, or hold that our concepts and our perception are shaped by language and contingencies of our psychology without denying the correspondence theory of truth. Those issues have next to nothing to do with each other.

      • StellaAthena says:

        Those issues have next to nothing to do with each other.

        Interesting. Can you explain this a little? If one is skeptical of the existence of ordinary macro objects, then what does “cup” correspond to? To me it seems like if we have a mapping between two sets, calling into question the validity of one of the sets calls into question the validity of the mapping.

        • Philosophisticat says:

          Correspondence theory doesn’t say that there exist real objects that correspond to individual words in the english language. It just claims that if some sentence is true, it’s because of some feature of reality, i.e. corresponding to some fact. Some metaphysicians believe that the only real objects are fundamental physical particles. Still, they say that english sentences like “the cup is on the table” are made true by those fundamental physical particles being a certain way in reality.

    • Urstoff says:

      Because the alternatives to the correspondence theory are worse. Coherentism, pragmatism, and minimalism all have major problems that seem worse to me than the problems of the correspondence theory. With the correspondence theory, the threat of global skepticism exists, which is pretty big, but with the others, the concept of evidence gets mangled into unrecognizability. We can’t even discuss global skepticism if your concept of evidence is nothing more than warranted assertability, where warrant is not something that is tied to how the world is but instead is either some sort of internal standard or cultural convention.

    • Mr Mind says:

      I think that correspondence theory of truth falls off pretty nicely from quantum mechanics and Kolmogorov complexity.
      Indeed, a cup is a cloud of atom that has no clear and obvious boundaries, but there is a point where, due to decoherence, adding more information to expand the boundary of the system has a sharp decrease in utility to describe the properties of the ‘object’.
      A cup, informally, extends everywhere, but you can point to a large discontinuity between the bits needed to describe the system and the bits that the system is accounting, and say: here, well inside this cut-off you have a cup.

    • It all depends what you mean by correspondence.

      An easy-to-state way version of correspondence is resemblance. This is also the kind most easily undermined by science — our mental representation of a stone does not resemble a stone. An information theoretic approach can help here, because one can see representations as encodings that can differ a lot while capturing the same information.

      Another version of correspondence is correspondence-to-preexisting objects. That can in turn be undermined by linguistic and cultural arguments. Anti-realists have been quick to conclude that if there is no single set of categories given by nature, then the proliferation of alternative formulations must eventually lead to contradiction. Again, an information theoretic approach is useful in seeing why this need no be so.

  19. Anonymousse says:

    Google to block ads from fake news sites

    “Moving forward, we will restrict ad serving on pages that misrepresent, misstate, or conceal information about the publisher, the publisher’s content, or the primary purpose of the web property,” Google said in a statement.

    While I am concerned about the spread of misinformation, I am curious how Google (and Facebook, as I hear they have a fake news identification tool) will implement this. Thoughts?

    • Wander says:

      While it would be a good thing for clickbait sites to be punished for their sins, I am a little worried about it being used to block legitimate-if-not-mainstream sources. Hopefully there’s a list of blocked sites somewhere, though there probably won’t be.

      • Matt M says:

        Yeah, giving Google and Facebook the power to unilaterally decide what news sources are legitimate and what ones aren’t can’t possibly have any negative consequences…

      • aaarboretum says:

        From what it says, it’s just preventing those sites from using Google AdSense. They’re not removing the sites from their search or in any way hiding or restricting access to these sites. I think what they are doing is great- they are removing the incentive to create a fake news site in the first place. If these Macedonians can no longer make easy money from their clickbait, they’ll stop writing dumb clickbait and move to some other, easier scheme to separate fools from their money.

        • Evan Þ says:

          … which could still be a humongous problem if abused. Consider what would happen if some prominent political or cultural news blogger suddenly gets his main source of income turned off on charges of poorly-specified errors. (Or, worse, for “misrepresenting… the primary purpose of the web property”: Google says it’s not a news site but political propaganda! Why else would you be spreading such clearly erroneous slanders about politicians?)

          • Matt M says:

            Youtube has basically been doing this for some time already. I know an alt-right podcaster who uses them as a primary distribution platform, and the vast majority of his broadcasts are flagged (presumably by selfless dedicated progressive volunteers) as “inappropriate for advertisers” meaning that while they don’t take his videos down (because they’re just so committed to free speech and all), they do make it impossible for him to sell ads on them or to monetize them in any way.

    • Deiseach says:

      I would be very damn happy if Facebook implements SOME WAY I CAN TELL IT STOP SUGGESTING I MIGHT WANT TO “FRIEND” THESE PEOPLE WHO ARE FRIENDS OF PEOPLE I KNOW. I DO NOT WANT TO AND IN SOME CASES IT WOULD BE ACTUALLY CREEPY AS THESE ARE MY NEPHEW’S FRIENDS AND I AM TOO OLD FOR THEM.

      That, and the ads I have no interest in, but at least I can click on an option to hide/turn those off.

      • Mark says:

        My mum went to lunch with an old friend of hers and the next day that friend was on my “suggested friends” list.

        My mum doesn’t have a Facebook account and I have no shared friends with her friend.

        So… I think they must have some kind of NSA level algorithm going on…

      • JulieK says:

        That’s not as bad as the time a friend of mine from college passed away. We hadn’t been in touch and I didn’t realize she was on Facebook (I wasn’t very active on FB) but after hearing the news I posted some photos of us. So FB suggested I should “friend” her. Damn you Facebook it’s too LATE now!

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Considering that a lot of people have trouble identifying fake news, I wonder how close a fake-news-identifyer would have to be to understanding natural language.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I’m being optimistic when I say it would come down to human evaluation. This still leaves the problem of how you differentiate “fake news” from “alternative news.”

    • onyomi says:

      Related to unilateral power of Facebook, some kind of algorithm has recently been erroneously declaring people, including Mark Zuckerberg, dead.

      • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

        Are you sure that was erroneous? As I understand it, Zuckerberg was testing a new feature where Facebook has you incinerated by an orbital laser when you post something, unless you go into Settings and change the default to “Do not incinerate me with an orbital laser”.

    • aaarboretum says:

      Facebook is at least partially using crowd sourcing to identify fake news sites. When you go to flag a post, there is now an option besides “It’s pornography” and “It’s violent” called “It’s a false news story”.

      Maybe we should use this as an opportunity to stop allowing sites like Twitter and Facebook to centralize the naturally de-centralized web. Honestly, if this makes people skeptical/angry and accelerates the death of these websites in any way, good riddance. I’ll see you all on GNU-Social.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Exactly. Coming tomorrow: It’s the responsibility of every Good Progressive to flag conservative news sites as fake!

        Facebook might mitigate this. Eventually. For some sites. Just in time to stymie conservatives’ counter-campaign.

        • aaarboretum says:

          I’d be fine with this- Let them duke it out. Progressives can flag conservative news, and conservatives can flag progressive news. I’m sure your New York Times’s and Fox News’s will be left alone, and your Occupy Democrats’s and Daily Wire’s will become bitter battlegrounds.

          Let everyone’s clicking finger ache from the constant flagging. Then we can either rid the platform of inflammatory clickbait in general, or everyone is driven off due to frustration. I like all of these scenarios.

    • gbdub says:

      I’m pretty leery of this given the experience with YouTube, Facebook, and especially Twitter – way too many people on the levers that think “reality has a liberal bias” is a truth worth aspiring to.

      At the same time, fake news is annoying, but I run into less in the “made up stories” sense and more in the “repackage real news into clickbait” sense.

      There’s a page in my Facebook feed that’s constantly linking a site (The Spun, or something like that) that appears to literally do nothing but plagiarize sports stories from ESPN etc., chop them into ad-filled “slideshow” format, and give them a clickbait title. I’d be perfectly fine with Google nuking that from orbit.

      • Matt M says:

        Recall that there was famously an internal discussion within Facebook centering around the topic of “what is our responsibility to stop Trump from being elected?” with many high ranking employees very upset that Zuckerberg’s eventual answer was “that doesn’t really sound like something we should be intentionally doing”

        • JulieK says:

          Yep, Zuckerberg is probably now hearing, from people whose opinion he respects, “You could have stopped Trump! Why didn’t you?”

          • Matt M says:

            Indeed. As I mention below, the narrative coming out of the (establishment) media now seems to be “Trump only won because Facebook and Google didn’t do enough to stop his campaign from lying to and manipulating the unwashed masses – so let’s make sure THAT never happens again!”

      • Matt M says:

        Also, it seems VERY likely to me that we’re only having this “the internet needs to do a better job of stopping people from seeing ‘fake news'” discussion because Trump won, and had Hillary won, absolutely nobody would be suddenly making these demands.

        • Anonymousse says:

          I was bothered by the general lack of evidence presented for many arguments, most prominently from Trump’s campaign. The idea that “right wing = fake news” is dangerous, but Trump used an unprecedented amount of unsubstantiated information throughout his campaign.

          I do agree that it has gained more traction due to Trump’s win, but I think ignoring it in the event of a Clinton victory would have been a big mistake.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I haven’t been seeing these partisan arguments against fake news, just that fake news is a pain in ass if you’re trying to find out what’s going on.

          • Anonymousse says:

            My internal bias says that red tribe produces/consumes more fake/incendiary news. My comment reflects my efforts to acknowledge that bias.

            Agreed that fake news is really troubling from any direction.

  20. onyomi says:

    So we’re going to have a GOP pres, house, and senate. Last time this happened, we got “compassionate conservatism,” which seemed to be code for “the bad parts of compassion and the bad parts of conservatism.” Though there were non-policy, political reasons for these seemingly bad compromises, I can think of some other compromises which might be more worthy of the name of “compassionate conservatism,” or maybe “bleeding heart libertarianism.” My goal here is just to list some priorities/compromises which seem to me to be both right on ethical and utilitarian grounds, and also seemingly capable of achieving pretty wide bipartisan support, if not in DC, then at least on SSC, maybe?

    Make it harder to get and stay here illegally, but make it easier to get and stay here legally

    Prioritize deregulation of the economy over elimination of social welfare programs (GOP tends to want to deregulate and cut social safety net programs; my view is regulation is more harmful and less ethical; also benefits smaller, albeit more powerful groups; should be easier to make the case to cut it relative to cutting social welfare programs)

    With social welfare programs, prioritize no-strings-attached cash transfers over strings-attached in-kind transfers (the compromise here could be: conservatives want less welfare+strings attached, liberals want more welfare+fewer strings; compromise=less total welfare, but fewer strings)

    Prioritize building up the military over foreign intervention (GOP wants build up military and intervention, Dems want less of both; compromise=build up defensive capability of military, intervene less?)

    I’m probably being naive about realpolitik, but other than “Donald Trump is an idiot,” are there reasons these priorities couldn’t be enacted? Am I right in my sense that these are the correct priorities and/or the ones more capable of achieving bipartisan support, at least in theory? Are there other compromises like this (obviously I have opinions about what is best on many other areas, but most of them seem a lot more contentious to me, so no super obvious solution presents itself)

    • The Nybbler says:

      Make it harder to get and stay here illegally, but make it easier to get and stay here legally

      Sounds good, but probably never happen. Those who are opposed to illegal immigration are mostly opposed to immigration full stop. And for whatever reason, those who are in favor of immigration are also in favor of the tight quotas and many rules on the legal system we have now. We’ve been dealing with the opposite for a long time now, and I can’t see both changing.

      Prioritize deregulation of the economy over elimination of social welfare programs

      Sounds good to me but I doubt we’ll get either; instead, we’ll shuffle some regulation around and increase social welfare programs.

      With social welfare programs, prioritize no-strings-attached cash transfers over strings-attached in-kind transfers

      Unfortunately, this allows the recipients of the cash transfers to waste them. At which point we get bleeding-heart campaigns to help these poor wastrels directly (but without, of course, stopping the cash transfers). (I said I was the kind of hard-hearted libertarian you were warned about)

      Prioritize building up the military over foreign intervention

      I expect we’ll get this, at least until there’s some major terrorist attack against the US by an entity with control of territory.

      • onyomi says:

        To elaborate on my sense of the reasons for the failure of the last go-round of “compassionate conservatism,” it seems yet another example of “evil party and stupid party get together to be evil and stupid.”

        The reason I think this happens is that the compromises which are politically advantageous tend to be the opposite of the compromises which make sense:

        Taking away economic regulation takes away political power of the kind which tends to generate campaign donations

        Simplifying welfare programs and taking away strings decreases the need for and scope to administer them, and to give out special exemptions

        The immigration status quo provides an “escape valve” for an overregulated economy…

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I think you are sort of missing a key piece of the puzzle in this analysis. You can call it compromise, you can call it triangulation, you can call it liberal cowardice, you can call it overreach sensitivity, you can call it covering your ass, call it kludgocracy … there are many names for the same basic problem.

          I am going to illustrate by pointing at something Nybbler said:
          “And for whatever reason, those who are in favor of immigration are also in favor of the tight quotas and many rules on the legal system we have now.”

          Given that there is almost nothing that is an undiluted good, we have to accept as a given that any policy will have downsides. Their are downsides to even legal immigration. Regardless of whether the net of positive and negative is increasingly positive, more legal immigration will still increase the magnitude of the negative consequences. For those groups which are most affected (real or perceived) by those consequences, it is completely rational for them to attempt to reduce them. But they may be willing to accept a package that allows immigration, but minimizes those negative affects (rather than just opposing it outright).

          The support of tight limits and rules has more to do with the last vote to pass legislation than it does with the overall tenor of the support.

    • cassander says:

      >Make it harder to get and stay here illegally, but make it easier to get and stay here legally

      no one with power likes the first part, and the second part is massively unpopular. Seems an unlikely bargain.

      >Prioritize deregulation of the economy over elimination of social welfare programs (GOP tends to want to deregulate and cut social safety net programs; my view is regulation is more harmful and less ethical; also benefits smaller, albeit more powerful groups; should be easier to make the case to cut it relative to cutting social welfare programs)

      You mean going back to sweatshops and factory towns?!? Poisoning the air and water?!? I know that you don’t, of course, but that’s what will be said of any attempt to do this.

      With social welfare programs, prioritize no-strings-attached cash transfers over strings-attached in-kind transfers (the compromise here could be: conservatives want less welfare+strings attached, liberals want more welfare+fewer strings; compromise=less total welfare, but fewer strings)

      Prioritize building up the military over foreign intervention (GOP wants build up military and intervention, Dems want less of both; compromise=build up defensive capability of military, intervene less?)

      I’m probably being naive about realpolitik, but other than “Donald Trump is an idiot,” are there reasons these priorities couldn’t be enacted? Am I right in my sense that these are the correct priorities and/or the ones more capable of achieving bipartisan support, at least in theory? Are there other compromises like this (obviously I have opinions about what is best on many other areas, but most of them seem a lot more contentious to me, so no super obvious solution presents itself)

      >Prioritize building up the military over foreign intervention (GOP wants build up military and intervention, Dems want less of both; compromise=build up defensive capability of military, intervene less?)

      I don’t thing either association is correct about either party past the rhetorical level. There is bi-partisan agreement, for example, on the need to do something about ISIS.

    • Brad says:

      Make it harder to get and stay here illegally, but make it easier to get and stay here legally

      The devil is in the details on this one. You’d have very different people on the pro and anti side if you wanted to dramatically increase refugee admissions vs if you wanted to dramatically increase employment based admissions.

      • Matt M says:

        Are you sure about that? While refugees and H1-Bs are very different types of people, I’m not at all convinced that the people who oppose the entry of one and the people who oppose the entry of the other are much different at all.

        I feel like conservative commentators make a big show of declaring that they’re totally fine with LEGAL immigration, largely as some form of politically correct virtue-signaling. But the rural Trump voter probably isn’t significantly more thrilled with having a highly skilled college educated Indian in his neighborhood than he is a unskilled Syrian refugee.

        • The Nybbler says:

          But the rural Trump voter probably isn’t significantly more thrilled with having a highly skilled college educated Indian in his neighborhood than he is a unskilled Syrian refugee.

          To the rural Trump voter, Indian H-1Bs aren’t even on the radar.

          Most conservative commentators are playing games when they say they’re fine with legal immigration, since they know darn well that most would-be Mexican immigrants who are now here illegally would never be able to do it legally. But it doesn’t have anything to do with Indians. There’s a relatively small group of people opposed to H-1Bs, but they’re not rural.

          • Matt M says:

            “There’s a relatively small group of people opposed to H-1Bs, but they’re not rural.”

            I agree with everything you said up to this.

            The rural person might not be able to articulate what an H1-B is or why he’s opposed to it, but nonetheless he’s opposed to a bunch of non-white foreigners coming into the U.S.

            If anyone ever bothered to explain to him what an H1-B was, he would be opposed to it, so I think it’s fair to count him. And once you do, his type vastly outnumbers the American MBA grads who resent the fact that the Indians will work for 1/2 the money and are therefore driving down salaries.

          • Brad says:

            Magnitude matters as well as direction. If someone only would care mildly and even that only after you explained to him what the issue is, that doesn’t amount to much even if there are a lot of them.

          • The Nybbler says:

            If anyone ever bothered to explain to him what an H1-B was, he would be opposed to it, so I think it’s fair to count him.

            Uh, no, I’m not going to count the results of the way your model of a rural person would react in a counterfactual situation.

          • Anonymousse says:

            …American MBA grads who resent the fact that the Indians will work for 1/2 the money and are therefore driving down salaries.

            @Matt M

            Is this a documented thing? Just curious to see a source.

            Also is the cause a lack of knowledge as to what a competitive salary is, or a willingness to have a lower standard of living? The foreign students I’ve worked with previously looking for H-1Bs were all interested in highly competitive salaries. I should note they are all in scientific fields.

          • Nadja says:

            “Also is the cause a lack of knowledge as to what a competitive salary is, or a willingness to have a lower standard of living?”

            You have way more to lose than Americans if you’re on an H1B and you’re originally from a much poorer country. Losing your job might mean you’ll have to go back, if you aren’t able to find another job within a very narrow time frame. So the resulting power dynamics are different. You’re more likely to just suck it up, you’re less likely to want to stand out by disagreeing with your boss, you’re more likely to put in more hours just to make sure you look good to your superiors. Even if you’re paid the same as your American peers to start with, you often end up working much harder and accepting much worse treatment. Additionally, in some fields, often the best way to get a considerable pay raise is to jump to a different company. It’s much harder to do any sort of jumping if you’re on an H1B and hoping your company will at some point sponsor your green card.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            The rural person might not be able to articulate what an H1-B is or why he’s opposed to it, but nonetheless he’s opposed to a bunch of non-white foreigners coming into the U.S.

            That’s, um, wow. Quite the casual swipe, there.

          • Matt M says:

            “Is this a documented thing? Just curious to see a source.”

            Just a personal anecdote as an American MBA grad who got to know my Indian classmates fairly well. They were certainly making almost an order of magnitude less than the Americans were in their previous careers doing the same work in India. For many of them the value proposition was less “I need an MBA” and more “this gives me an excuse to come to the US and maybe if I find a job here an employer will sponsor my visa”

            (note, I don’t know anything about the codings, I just used H1-B because its something Ive heard of, I have no idea which visa applies to which actual situation)

            “That’s, um, wow. Quite the casual swipe, there.”

            Do you think I’m wrong? I grew up rural and am incredibly sympathetic to Trump voters. But I think it’s fairly indisputable that mostly what they don’t like is some ill-defined “other” seemingly encroaching on their communities. I don’t think they are particularly interested in the differences between Muslim and Hindu or the differences between a refugee and a visa applicant. Yes I’m generalizing but I feel like I lived in these communities a long time and it seems pretty accurate to me.

          • SUT says:

            If anyone ever bothered to explain to him what an H1-B was, he would be opposed to it

            I think Joe would be glad for his wife to sell the Singh family a condo, they could use the money.

            The idea that someone moved to your neighborhood for the chance to work, and work hard and in a semi-compulsory way that doesn’t compete with Joe’s skillset is the red tribe’s almost ideally virtuous townsman.

            However that same description is actually the populist left’s boogieman – the yuppie, the techie – people not taking jobs in any way from the local prole but nonetheless being vilified for not being adequately…vibrant enough. While the upper class blues fear the white collar contractors, who they’d argue didn’t undergo the same expensive grooming, and won’t hold out for work/life balance and worker-dignity – the vaunted northern european work week – which is kind of the American dream for this class.

        • Brad says:

          H1Bs are a temporary and I have unique issues. I was thinking EB 1-3.

          Anyway, your rural Trump voter might not be thrilled to have a highly skilled, college educated Indian move into his town, but that kind of immigrant probably won’t be moving into his town.

          • Deiseach says:

            Anyway, your rural Trump voter might not be thrilled to have a highly skilled, college educated Indian move into his town, but that kind of immigrant probably won’t be moving into his town.

            Isn’t that the problem? To put it in caricatured terms, the typical Clinton voter thinks of immigrants as “that Indian guy here on a visa arranged by the company who’s working beside me in the IT department” or “that nice Muslim surgeon in the hospital who operated on my ailment” and the typical Trump voter thinks of them as “those guys who came in illegally over the border and are being used as cheap labour and are taking what jobs are still left from us”?

            So to one, being against more immigration is purely down to racism and xenophobia (because they’re not suffering from having immigrants moving into their big city – at least, they’re not directly competing for jobs as yet) and to the other, being for more immigration is down to profiteering and and not caring about your country (because they don’t get any benefits from having immigrants competing with them for unskilled/semi-skilled labour)?

          • Brad says:

            I wouldn’t say it’s a problem as much as an opportunity. If the Reds don’t want more unskilled immigration and the Blues want more skilled immigration — well then it looks like you have the potential to enact some policies with a broad consensus. Or at least not too many very unhappy people.

            It is unfortunate then, from my perspective, that that doesn’t well describe the Blue position. I’d be all for many more EB visas and a (hopefully metaphorical) wall to prevent EWI, but I don’t think that’s terribly common position. Maybe more gray than blue, but even there that’s complicated by the fact that many of the highly skilled beneficiaries are competing for jobs with young grays.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          It seems like there’s a lot of (unintentionally) patronizing assumptions being made here about how working class whites see different immigrant groups.

          A good example:

          My dad and most of the other blue-collar guys I’ve talked to love West Africans and are a lot cooler on Mexicans. They love that the Africans are polite, generally speak very good English and work like crazy. That effort is perceived as missing when it comes to Mexicans, who are seen as shirking work whenever possible and trying to get by on the bare minimum of English.

          Just because you didn’t go to college doesn’t mean you’re incapable of making subtle distinctions. These guys might not be able to tell you the differences between a Sikh and a Syrian but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t tell an IIT alum apart from a jobless refugee.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m glad that your experience has been different from mine. I’m not TRYING to be overly unfair to working class whites in general – just reporting on what I’ve personally seen from my own personal background.

            I’d be very happy if my experiences were atypical.

          • Tibor says:

            I think there is a similar pattern with the Vietnamese in the Czech republic. There used to be a lot of prejudice against them. But since they are on average extremely hardworking and their kids tend to be really good students (also from their Czech you could not tell they are ethnically Vietnamese), those prejudices have grown weaker over the years. Nowadays, people who are opposed to non-European immigration often say something like “if they were like the Vietnamese, we would not have a problem with them”. The worst thing you hear about the Vietnamese today is that they dodge taxes (as if everybody wasn’t trying to do that as long as it is legal or hard to discover). One interesting thing is that there’s never been a serious official anti-discrimination initiative aimed at helping the Vietnamese.

            On the other hand, there are many initiatives, non-governmental and governmental aimed at helping gypsies and protecting them from discrimination. As far as I can say, these have an effect exactly opposite to the intended one – many people see that as some unfair advantage from the state and became even more convinced that gypsies are no good slackers who just have a lot of kids and live off social welfare and an occasional theft, taking a lot of money from the hardworking people. The best argument I’ve seen against this was a campaign in Slovakia (which has a bigger and less integrated gypsy population than the Czech republic) which showed how much the tax payers actually pay for the welfare payments that go to gypsies – it turns out to be a lot less than many people think.

            Nevertheless, I think that abolishing these supposedly helpful initiatives would diminish negative prejudices against gypsies, since while they would still be perceived as lazy, nobody could say that they keep getting special treatment. And of course, those prejudices are not entirely separate from reality. The unemployment rate among gypsies really is very high and their education very low, their crime rate is much higher than average. As long as it stays that way, there will be prejudice which make it harder for those among them who are capable and want to escape that kind of life, creating a vicious circle. Another problem is that if you grow up surrounded by people who’ve never worked and studying is useless and most of your friends do too, then your chances of getting a different mindset are pretty slim.

            Another similar story is my parents’ neighbour – a Persian dentist. My father is not quite blue collar, he’s got a engineering degree from a university, but he’s rather conservative socially (which is a slightly different in an atheist country like the Czech republic, since abortions or gay rights are issues conservatives don’t care about) and his view of the middle east (save for Israel) is basically “a group of people whose society is culturally and socially behind ours and whose members cannot function well in our society because of that”. But he likes the neighbour, because he sees that he’s well educated, has a good job and speaks Czech well. My father also really likes the Vietnamese.

          • Aapje says:

            I do know that whenever the people who vote for the anti-Muslim party in my country are interviewed, they very, very often say that they think that the rhetoric goes to far and that they expect only part of that agenda to be achieved if the party gets into power.

            So the people from the other tribe who only see that party and never speak to those voters, tend to severely overestimate the actual racism that exists.

          • Tibor says:

            @Aapje: that describes my father quite well. he doesn’t vote for the one explicitly anti immigration party here (lead by a Czech-Japanese immigrant), since he considers their rhetoric and positions stupid and making more reasonable critics of immigration look like idiots by association. However, Czech mainstream parties are way less “refugees welcome” than parties in Germany (save for the Bavarian CSU), although less anti-immigration than mainstream parties in Hungary or Poland.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            @Tibor. That is fascinating stuff to read, for an American. Your Gypsy issue is very very similar to the Black issue here. It’s always been my opinion that affirmative action, and even non-discrimination laws worsen prejudice against Blacks in the long run, because it makes it appear that Blacks cannot get into college or get good jobs unless the government forces it to happen. The Left thinks that the laws favoring Blacks only offset the disadvantage they suffer from discrimination, but the problem is it is likely to not be the same people who mostly suffer from discrimination and those who get affirmative action benefits. And there is also the issue that on average Blacks will less likely get into college or get good jobs on the merits, since their education is worse, their IQ is lower, and have worse job attitudes (on average). Blacks will never become totally accepted into mainstream society UNTIL government butts out and lets people act as they will.

            And the discussion about the Vietnamese has parallels too. I imagine you’ve heard that Asians are often called the “good” minorities in the US. Of course this usually refers to Chinese and Japanese and Koreans and Indians, not so much Southeast Asians.

          • Aapje says:

            It’s always been my opinion that affirmative action, and even non-discrimination laws worsen prejudice against Blacks in the long run, because it makes it appear that Blacks cannot get into college or get good jobs unless the government forces it to happen.

            Not just that, but it makes black people the underclass in college, because their average IQ will be lower. So both black and non-black people in college will get (subconsciously) convinced that black people are less capable.

            Also, you of course get high failure rates when you let in people who don’t have the ability. That mostly just wastes the time of people who would be way better off a the appropriate level of education for their abilities.

          • rlms says:

            @Mark
            I don’t think there is much of a similarity between gypsies and black people. Blackness as a racial category cuts across class lines; there might be a correlation between being black and belonging to a certain class, but the set of black people who fit a negative stereotype is a subset of all black people, whereas the set of gypsies who fit a negative stereotype is identical to the set of all gypsies who are recognised as such. Additionally, there is not much negative stigma attached to prejudice against gypsies (on the level of “damn thieving gypsies” rather than “Hitler was right”).

          • Matt M says:

            @Apaje,

            And then to go to the next step, the PC police will look at a school’s statistics, see that blacks graduate at a lower rate and receive lower grades than whites, and assume that school must be racist and therefore demand the school shift more resources towards ensuring black success, creating segregated dorms, etc.

  21. Mark says:

    Is it possible for a cosmopolitan society to be militarily successful?

    To win a war, we need to brutally attack our enemies, but also maintain internal cohesion. If we fight savagely with our internal rivals, our society loses its ability to fight external enemies. If we treat our external enemies with the same consideration that we must provide our countrymen, we will not be able to crush them.

    To fight well, we need in some way to be different to others, and the difference needs to be ethically significant.

    The pattern of Empire formation and decline isn’t “vigorous peoples find success and become decadent”. It is “vigorous people brutally conquer others, but lose the ability to conquer as they become enmeshed in cosmopolitanism”.
    Unless the Empire is to be a slave-state, there must be the idea that different peoples are to be treated with some degree of respect, that there is a universal human identity as well as a national one.

    So, I guess Edward Gibbon was kind of right?

    Examples I’m thinking of here:

    Roman Republic vs. Roman Empire
    Ottoman Turks
    Mongols
    American 18th and 19th century empire building vs. 20th century refusal of Empire.

    • Incurian says:

      Massive technological superiority can substitute for a lack of savagery to a point, but there’s lots of caveats. Interesting question.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      I would say that the “one wierd trick” is being able to flip the switch from “No better friend” to “no worse enemy” and back again as-required. We know that keeping that switch from becoming excessively sticky can be done, because we can look at historical examples, the most recent coming to my mind being allied conduct of WW2 followed by the occupation and rebuilding of Germany and Japan.

      That said, it’s also worth noting that military values and culture may not necessarily align with the values and culture of the cosmopolitan leaders and legislators directing that military. And I don’t mean outliers like General “A the end of the war if there are two Americans and one Russian left alive, we win!” Power, but that there is often an acceptance of strategic and tactical ruthlessnes among the ranks that isn’t present at the policy-maker level.

    • carvenvisage says:

      “If we treat our external enemies with the same consideration that we must provide our countrymen, we will not be able to crush them.”

      Like not killing them? But we do kill our countrymen when they’ve crossed lines which we deem threatening to our society. Sometimes we allow our people to torture them, if a line has really been crossed. I don’t know why we don’t encourage it in the most egregious cases, but we don’t -quite, completely lack a concept of valid violence, nor even of justified brutality. Most places have a police force, and many places have juries empowered not to convict for justified though not technically legal violence and brutality.

      “To fight well, we need in some way to be different to others, and the difference needs to be ethically significant.”

      isn’t ‘Enemy combatant’ an ethically significant difference? At least in this context

      Or just, ‘enemy’? -an entity which needs to be destroyed lest it do the same to you.

      • John Schilling says:

        Like not killing them? But we do kill our countrymen when they’ve crossed lines which we deem threatening to our society.

        We kill our countrymen when we catch them in the act of crossing one and only one line, that of directly killing or threatening to kill innocent people, and cannot stop them in any other way. Or, occasionally, after we’ve deliberated on it for several years.

        This is not even within an order of magnitude of what is necessary to win even a minor war with a lesser power. And yet I do increasingly see people demand that the military in wartime hold to the same standard.

        • carvenvisage says:

          Obviously there are different procedures for killing people in a war, and having someone executed. They’re quite different scenarios. One occurs in the midst of, and actually as part of, a chaotic power struggle against a serious enemy. The other occurs in the centre of your power, after a brief struggle with a gnat. (in which it tries to escape, not “defeat you militarily”).

          So having one standard for the military and one for the judiciary doesn’t remotely mean that you think your military enemies are fundamentally different types of being than you are, (which is the claimed necessity that I was responding to).

          (Of course they’re not on the same order of magnitude)

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      Is it possible for a cosmopolitan society to be militarily successful?

      Empirically, it seems the answer is an emphatic yes.

      I think the aspect which is confusing the issue is that there’s nothing contradictory about holding cosmopolitan ideals and waging total war against one’s opponents. In fact, they seem to go together quite well!

      The First French Republic (re)introduced total war to Europe after centuries of relative peace, and simultaneously introduced The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. The Union prosecuted a war against it’s own nominal citizens so brutal that its effects are still felt today, in the name of (among other things) the abolition of slavery and the destruction of Southern aristocracy. The Western Allies in the second World War indiscriminately burned whole cities from the air, including the only wartime uses of atomic weapons in human history.

      Now that raises the question of why American military adventures in the postwar period have been so lackluster. To my untrained eye, it does seem like we lack the national will to win wars anymore. But history suggests cosmopolitanism alone isn’t the answer.

      • Rob K says:

        Type of wars? The three unsuccessful wars the US fought post-WWII were all counterinsurgencies. Tom Ricks’ books on Iraq have some very interesting stuff on how the US military has related to counterinsurgency doctrine. (Basically, slowly learned it in Vietnam, then forgot it in the eagerness to never fight a war like Vietnam again, only to find ourselves needing it again in Iraq.)

        This in turn might relate to the US being so powerful that no one’s about to start a WWII-style conventional war with us.

        • shakeddown says:

          three unsuccessful wars the US fought post-WWII

          I count four (Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam and Korea). Which one of these do you except?

          • Rob K says:

            I had excepted Korea. Call it a tie?

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Depending on your point of view, Korea is either a “draw”, or a win if you define the US’ objective as simply preventing a full conquest of the peninsula and maintaining the post-WW2 “two koreas” status quo.

            My understanding of the top-level thinking is that aside from a few hold-outs like MacArthur, the goals going in were explicitly NOT to eliminate North Korea as a political entity. To achieve that goal would mean being willing to court a full war with the Chinese, and the US and UK leadership were not willing to do that. I don’t think they would’ve been willing to pay the cost in blood and treasure for that goal even if the threat of nuclear exchange could have been taken entirely off the table. Not so soon after WW2.

          • shakeddown says:

            To my understanding, Korea seems like a tie to the same extent that Afghanistan was a tie – the early campaign achieved its goals (defending south Korea/ousting the Taliban), but then tried pushing on to more unachievable goals (conquering all of Korea/supporting a stable friendly Afghani government) and got bogged down.

      • Mark says:

        The French Revolutionary armies were not effective armies of conquest. They mobilised (thanks to nationalism) but they identified too strongly with their continental foes to crush them completely. Those coalitions kept coming back, and the coalitions won.

        If we imagine a French Republic who viewed the other European nations to be as alien as the African tribes, the outcome may have been very different.

        Or maybe it’s just a question of relative strength thanks to technology and culture. (My intuition is that where technology is more or less equal, brutality and morale become extremely important.)

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          That seems at odds with the history I know. Maybe one of the more well-versed commenters could weigh in?

          My recollection from reading Clausewitz was that even before Napoleon, Revolutionary France was crushing every army it went up against. And with his military reforms, they went on to very nearly conquer the entire continent.

          It was a radical break from how war had been fought up to that point, and an extraordinarily savage one by the standards of the time.

          • ChetC3 says:

            My recollection from reading Clausewitz was that even before Napoleon, Revolutionary France was crushing every army it went up against.

            They did well enough to survive, but they had a very rough start and it took a couple years before their armies’ performance could be characterized as much better than “unreliable, but mostly adequate.” And Napoleon’s first Italian campaign began only four years after the first declaration of war.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It seems to me – I’m not an expert on the Napoleonic wars – that the French defeat had more to do with invading Russia and finding out about the Russian winter the hard way, and finding out that the Russians were tougher than expected, than with anything else.

            The German military in WWII viewed the Soviets in much the same way as colonial powers viewed Africans, and treated them accordingly. They still lost.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          War in that era usually wasn’t about crushing the enemy completely; it really was just another extension of diplomacy. France was able to defeat the military forces of strong, relatively well-governed nations with professional armies, acquire large swaths of territory, and defend them — that counts as decisive wins in the 1790s book.

          The point I’d disagree with is that Revolutionary France was a particularly cosmopolitan outfit.

    • beleester says:

      Define “Militarily successful.”

      The reason the US has had so much trouble overseas is not so much that we’re worse at fighting wars, it’s more that our bar for “success” has gotten much higher. The military objective of “kill Bin Laden” went pretty smoothly, the military objective of “Maintain security in Afghanistan long enough to install a new Western-style government and military, while causing a minimal number of civilian casualties” has been a bit shakier. I don’t think doing poorly at an extremely difficult military task shows that we would do equally poorly at a less complicated military task like, say, “Blow up the Chinese naval bases in the South China Sea.”

      Now, one worry I have is that, knowing this, our enemies will do their best to fight us in guerilla quagmires instead of straight-up tanks-and-airplanes warfare. But guerilla quagmires only really work in defensive wars, they’re not exactly something that can bring down the US. It’s not a “weakness” so much as an upper bound to our influence.

      The military is a tool to achieve a political goal. If your goal is to occupy a nation because you want to take their oil or you want to plant your flag around the map, then sure, being savage and nationalistic is probably a good strategy. But if your goals are humanitarian – kick out Saddam because he’s an oppressive dictator – then being savage and nationalistic is probably counterproductive.

      One final thought: The US unified pretty darn well in the wake of 9/11. Afghanistan was a lot more popular than Iraq, IIRC. We react very differently to attacks on US soil vs abstract geopolitical influence things. So being cosmopolitan might cause the US to back off on its overseas commitments, but it’s not something that would cause our government to fall.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        Well, that depends on your view of ‘humanitarian’ and your timescale, doesn’t it?

        There were ‘humanitarian’ arguments deployed in favor of colonial expansion, and I don’t think all of them were merely dishonest smokescreens to cover naked greed and exploitation. There were plenty of people who believed that a cultural pogrom to stamp out barbaric foreign ways and pagan faiths backed up with military force used to crush rebels was justified in terms of the long term benefits to the innumerable descendants of the “pacified” and “civilized” peoples.

        So to my mind, the upper bound to influence as you put it is not an inherent limit to “what military power wielded by a cosmopolitan society can do”, but “what means a cosmopolitan society can stomach in order to achieve a given end”. And there is nothing that dictates that a cosmopolitan society HAS to reject those means.

        I don’t have any problem imagining a US (or France, or Russia, or China, given the right sequence of events) in an alternate universe where the 20th century solution to Islamist terrorism is a full-out colonial and imperial scourging of the middle of the middle east until Arabic has about as much currency as gaelic, and Islam goes about the same way as Druidic faiths: pretty much wiped out until some intellectuals piece together bits and pieces from disparate sources and make something new they slap the old name on.

        Sure, in the real world, it’s not going to happen because the required human cost on BOTH sides would be too horrific for the vast majority of our citizens to seriously contemplate, but that’s more a quirk of cultural evolution.

        • rlms says:

          I think you vastly underestimate how difficult it would be to destroy Islam. For one thing, the majority of Muslims live outside the Middle East. I’m also not sure what Islamist terrorism you are referring to. Specifically religious Islamist terrorism (with the goal to establish a caliphate etc. as opposed to something about Israel) is a pretty modern phenomenon. I can’t imagine why any state would embark on a mission against all Islamists, rather than just Hezbollah and friends, or the Taliban, or whoever.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            You really can’t imagine why any state would embark on a mission against all Islamists? You can’t think of any historical examples where states or peoples engaged in ethnic or cultural pogroms, often out of all proportion to the actual material gain?

            I thought it was clear, but I am engaging in counterfactual history here, not making policy recommendations.

            As I said, I think that in real terms the costs would be far too horrific to be contemplated seriously in the current world, but think for a moment about something the size of, say, China or the US, with access to equivalent stockpiles of and/or manufacturing capabilities for nuclear, biological, and chemical WMDs. Think about a population and economic base the size of those nations rather than 1930s Germany’s, and about what modern military and technological might could accomplish entirely uncoupled from any sense of civilized restraint or concerns about collateral damage.

            I think that the people who were concerned that the power kept in check at the height of the cold war could end all human life on earth were exaggerating. I do think that same power could be deployed to truly devastating effect if there existed a people sufficiently ruthless. You’ll note I said “pretty much” destroyed. The Romans didn