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Open Thread 65.75

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

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347 Responses to Open Thread 65.75

    • CatCube says:

      I’ve been hearing about that for so long, it always surprises me when it finally pokes it’s head above the water in the media. Of course, I’ve not been actively involved with it, so I do still learn new stuff from news stories.

      That New Yorker story mentioned that they had to keep the powerhouse running to avoid raising the forebay. That either means that the original design didn’t have sufficient capacity in it’s regulating outlet to pass normal flow of the river (I doubt the original designers were that stupid), or the RO isn’t able to pass its full design flow for some reason.

      It’s still baffling to me they don’t draw down that reservoir. I mean, they’re putting like 5 yards a day in the grout gallery. It’s possible to manage something like that, but not when you aren’t paying your workers, or they have to evacuate due to enemy action. Of course, given the state of the Iraqi power grid, they may not want to lose the generation. When people are scheduling their day around the two hours when the lights are on, it’s tough to tell them to go down to one hour.

    • Urstoff says:

      Didn’t I read this exact same sort five years ago?

      • Douglas Knight says:

        It talks about the US Army Corps freaking out in 2006. But there has been a development in the past five years: ISIS captured Mosul and the dam crew fled, ceasing grouting for 3-80 weeks.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I read the article (unlike other commenters, this was something I hadn’t heard about) and I realized I was getting hypnotized by the magnitude of the disaster.

      I don’t have a convenient way of looking at whether the information and implications of it are accurate. It occurred to me that I can’t do anything to make Mosul Dam less likely to collapse.

      It’s possible that I just shouldn’t read that sort of thing. Or maybe it gives me a better model of the world, generally speaking.

      I had a brief period of thinking that if the dam went down, it would tend to make ISIS less attractive. However, it’s at least as likely that people who are already attracted to ISIS will just blame Saddam or (more likely?) America. It would be a multi-causal disaster, and people are more likely to chose whatever fits their theories.

  1. squirrelton says:

    Hey

    There was a link on all the book recommendations categorized by subjects, can’t find it anymore.. Could you post it here please?

  2. Spookykou says:

    I have very limited media/news exposure, but recently this, apparently Civ-esque, denouncement of Israel by the UN has been eating up a lot of what little news I get.

    In the discussion, the two state solution is regularly brought up, it seems to be assumed to be the correct solution, and then there is some vague hand wringing that Trump isn’t going to go along with this two state solution.

    I assume the two state solution is aptly named, so I think I understand the basic concept.

    I was hoping to get a bit more information/clarity about some of the assumptions that seem to always get made in the news I have seen on this topic so far.

    1.) Trump is opposed to the two state solution.

    2.) The two state solution is the only good solution.

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      The two state solution is the only good solution if Israel being Jewish AND democratic is very important to you.

      If Israel being Jewish isn’t important to you, there’s a left-wing idea of a one-state solution where Israel simply institutes an ironclad secularism (and/or some binational arrangement similar to Bosnia and Srpska) and then gives Palestinians the vote. Support for this arrangement is common among socialists; it isn’t as common among liberals but some do support it, like Reuven Rivlin (who is sort of Israel’s John Kasich in that he represents the last gasp of center-right liberalism).

      If Israel being democratic isn’t important to you, there’s a right-wing idea of a one-state solution where Israel stays Jewish and just annexes the parts of the West Bank it controls, continuing to wall off and not give a shit about the Palestinians. This would turn the remaining Palestinian territory into a mess of squiggly enclaves which Israel would control all outside access to. Essentially they’d cement the apartheid comparison by formalizing the equivalent of Bantustans.

      With continued settlement expansion, the status quo essentially represents an inexorable march to the right-wing one-state solution, since the more settlements sprawl, the less feasible it is to do land swaps and end up with any kind of sensible borders since evacuating settlers is very unpopular (especially after Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal in Gaza failed to accomplish much).

      • Spookykou says:

        So Trump’s support of the status quo and settlement expansion is a sort of tacit approval of the right wing one state solution I guess.

        • Anonymous Bosch says:

          Yes. The simpler and more direct way of putting it is that Israel can be two of three things: democratic, expansionist, Jewish. Right now it’s drifting towards ditching “democratic.”

          (This quote has been rephrased and re-attributed many different times in the last 50 years, but the central principle remains true.)

          • Well... says:

            Someone could make the argument that “expansionist” is incorrect and you should say “reclamationist”.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            That quote is rather annoying, given how much historical detail it elides. As if the solution to the conflict is “gee, just stop building settlements and everything will be great, guys!” It forgets that past concessions and settlement freezes have been greeted, not with international support and peaceful negotiations, but with continued diplomatic attacks, refusal to talk from the Palestinian side, and sometimes extraordinary levels of violence. Not to mention that the conflict was going on long before there was ever any such thing as a settlement.

            There are many issues on both sides, misdeeds and mistakes by both sides, and many, many justified reasons to distrust. Simplifying the situation down to a smug aphorism doesn’t help anyone. It is not simple.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            Someone could make the argument that “expansionist” is incorrect and you should say “reclamationist”.

            I’m sure Someone cares more about semantic niceties than I do.

            It forgets that past concessions and settlement freezes have been greeted, not with international support and peaceful negotiations, but with continued diplomatic attacks, refusal to talk from the Palestinian side, and sometimes extraordinary levels of violence.

            I explicitly mentioned that the Gaza withdrawal did not yield results.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            I explicitly mentioned that the Gaza withdrawal did not yield results.

            Exactly. So it’s hard to imagine they’ll do it again, this time giving up their capital, just because some foreigners are fretting about how democratic they’ll be decades from now.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      The one-state solutions proposed have very, very low levels of Israeli Jew support because they see it as a massive demographic threat. There are about 6.3 Million Israeli Jews. If there was either a unitary state or a federal or confederal government so that the current Palestinians all became voting citizens, there would be 5.9 Million Israeli Arabs. And current demographic trends have the Arabs outnumbering the Jews within a couple years even if there wasn’t a massive return of Palestinian refugees currently living in other countries.

      Even ignoring the security concerns and assuming that any solution would successfully forestall all terrorist violence, this would put the “Jewish Homeland” in a position of having a Jewish minority, and with a voting majority that for very obvious and understandable reasons tends to have a very negative view of the whole concept of a “Jewish Homeland”, to put it mildly.

      So from the Israeli perspective, this is basically suicide. Israeli Arabs are a bit more on board with the idea, but only somewhat, and there are only about 1.6 million of them.

      Support from the Palestinian Arab side is likewise extremely low, but for different reasons, basically centering on not wanting to give Israel that much legitimacy.

      I think the demographic argument is a pretty strong one against it in practical terms, but the real killer is that NEITHER side supports the idea.

      EDIT: Bosch beat me to it, and I’ll note that I am mostly talking about what he terms the “left wing” version here, as that’s the version that diplomats and the international community mean when they talk about a “one state solution”. I don’t know of any bastions of support for the right-wing version of “one state” outside of Israel itself.

      • nimim.k.m. says:

        I’ve been wondering if the best solution would actually be the one-state solution: Israel drives away 5m Palestinians and annexes the area. Sure, it would be a horrible solution, but I suspect it would still be better than the apartheid solution, which appears to be the only other solution Israel is willing to consider.

        Better, why? Losing your home is terrible, but it happens only once. The next year, you and your children will be free to pursue their dreams somewhere else. You could have a future. The continued oppression under apartheid system could potentially go on for decades, maybe a century or two, and is inherently unstable as a system (look what happened to the original apartheid in S-A). Large amounts of ethnic Germans were driven aways from ex-Prussia in the aftermath of WW2, and today their descendants have pretty good life in Germany.

        • Aapje says:

          I truly don’t understand the Israeli right wing stance, because the only solution that makes their current choices better than a two state solution, are simply not viable due to modern day transparency/ethics: ethnic cleansing or genocide.

          They seem to be painting themselves into a corner, where you get a long-term oppression of Palestinians, until someday the winds shift and Israel loses backing from the US, which seems way more likely than a scenario where they can suddenly get away with ethnic cleansing or genocide.

          Better, why? Losing your home is terrible, but it happens only once. The next year, you and your children will be free to pursue their dreams somewhere else.

          This makes perfect sense, if you ignore reality.

          There are over 5 million Palestinian refugees living in refugee camps who are not pursuing their dreams somewhere else, but waiting to go back.

          Large amounts of ethnic Germans were driven aways from ex-Prussia in the aftermath of WW2, and today their descendants have pretty good life in Germany.

          The difference is that Middle East countries tend to have different ethnic groups who have power based on their demographics. Allowing in Palestinians tends to upset this balance of power, which they tend to resist. Arabs are not Arabs, in the way that Germans are Germans.

          Furthermore, many Middle East countries feel threatened by Israel and don’t want to assist to make Israel stronger, by solving their ‘ethnic problems.’

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            I truly don’t understand the Israeli right wing stance, because the only solution that makes their current choices better than a two state solution, are simply not viable due to modern day transparency/ethics: ethnic cleansing or genocide.

            No, the right wing stance is very, very easy to understand. Israel already tried the left wing approach of granting unilateral concessions, closing down settlements, reducing blockades and barriers, and every time they did it they got rockets and terrorism in return as well as continued attacks and delegitimization from the international diplomatic community. So eventually they learned better. People do respond to incentives, you know.

            They seem to be painting themselves into a corner, where you get a long-term oppression of Palestinians, until someday the winds shift and Israel loses backing from the US, which seems way more likely than a scenario where they can suddenly get away with ethnic cleansing or genocide.

            Why are those the only two options? Maybe someday the winds shift and the Palestinians agree to negotiations.

          • Aapje says:

            @ThirteenthLetter

            That is certainly a narrative, although one that I think has fairly little relationship with reality.

            Maybe someday the winds shift and the Palestinians agree to negotiations.

            You mean, like they already did.

            The issue is not that the Palestinians don’t want to negotiate, it’s that Israel has completely unreasonable demands (which have nothing to do with safety, but with ‘greater Israel’ logic).

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            The issue is not that the Palestinians don’t want to negotiate

            Yes, that’s totally a thing which is true.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Yes, that’s totally a thing which is true.

            It’s worth nothing in this context that Hamas’ founding charter explicitly rejects the possibility of compromise and states that the whole region is inalienable Muslim territory.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            >There are over 5 million Palestinian refugees living in refugee camps who are not pursuing their dreams somewhere else, but waiting to go back.

            Well, yes, obviously this is a problem. It’s partly caused by that because of our improved ethical standards, the ethnic cleansing is not accepted as fait accompli like in previous centuries. (And of course, as you and others said, also because not Israel nor the neighboring states want them.) But I don’t see what else there could be done, because Israel isn’t willing to go the “okay we did wrong, everybody who ever lived here, come back” route which would be the ideal solution that would fit with the “no cleansing” ethical rule. After all, significant number of them don’t want Israel to be there, in the first place.

            Of course, I’m just random internet commentator speculating with non-standard solution concepts. Letting the current situation to continue and worsen day-by-day is a similar non-solution, untenable in the long run, as was the creation of ‘temporary’ refugee camps that still exist as a permanent limbo for people stuck in them, and will just generate worse problems in the future for everyone.

            Another possibility would be that Israel gives up, and goes home. Possibly migrating to the US? But for some reason I can’t see that happening either.

          • BBA says:

            The one thing that Likud and Hamas agree on is that the Green Line is irrelevant – there is no difference between “Israel proper” and the West Bank and Gaza, and Tel Aviv is every bit as much a settlement as Ariel.

            Now you and I and lots of other people may disagree, but when’s the last time anyone on our side of the question won an election over there?

          • Brad says:

            Likud says that when it is convenient, but they don’t act as if it were true. If they really thought so they’d apply full Israeli law there instead of some weird combination of military and Ottoman Empire law.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          The problem is that losing your home with a large number of similarly placed people doesn’t mean pursuing your dreams elsewhere, it means being stuck in a refugee camp. Some camps do permit some degree of dream pursual, but this isn’t something I’d want to bet on.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          It’s worth noting that the estimated death toll from the expulsion and flight of Germans post-WW2 was between 500,000 and 2,000,000 out of 14,000,000 refugees. And I rather suspect that if you interviewed the former citizens of Danzig, Konigsberg, Brunn, etc that you’d get a less sanguine view of their fate. It’s a lot easier to say “Well all for the best” 60 years on.

          That gives us a low-ball estimate of about 200,000 dead Palestinian Arabs for that solution, and that assumes rather better conditions than could be expected to hold in this case. It also assumes the existence of a country ready to welcome the refugees. Meanwhile in reality, Middle Eastern countries have made it exceedingly clear that they are NOT willing to accept Palestinian refugees. As others have noted, there is not a shared sense of ethnic solidarity between different national groups of Arabs.

          Does Europe want to absorb a bit under 6 million Palestinian refugees? Does the US? I certainly wouldn’t want to accept too many at once. Large boluses of immigrants don’t assimilate nearly as easily.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            The partition of India also resulted in somewhere between 200,000 and 2 million deaths, despite having the backing of the incipient governments of both Pakistan and India.

          • cassander says:

            I’d love to hear the logic that explains why Germany has an obligation to host millions of syrians but jorda, iraq, et. al have no obligation to accept the palestinians.

          • Aapje says:

            @Cassander

            I’m confused by your request, since no one in this thread seems to claim that German has an obligation to take in millions of Syrians.

            So it seems like you are asking someone (Earthly Knight or Trofim_Lysenko?) to defend a straw man.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Aapje

            cassander is making a reasonable inference from the final part of Lysenko’s post:

            Meanwhile in reality, Middle Eastern countries have made it exceedingly clear that they are NOT willing to accept Palestinian refugees. As others have noted, there is not a shared sense of ethnic solidarity between different national groups of Arabs.

            Does Europe want to absorb a bit under 6 million Palestinian refugees? Does the US? I certainly wouldn’t want to accept too many at once. Large boluses of immigrants don’t assimilate nearly as easily.

            Arab countries are not willing to accept refugees. Palestinian refugees need to go somewhere else.

            I don’t know whether Lysenko is actually saying that if the Palestinians have nowhere to go, then they must be accommodated by us – but that’s the straightforward implication of his post.

          • Spookykou says:

            I am pretty sure Cassander’s point is that, people seem to assume Germany has an obligation to help Syrian Refugees and yet nobody seems to give Jordan the same obligation to help Palestinian refugees. In the broader immigration conversation.

            This I think misses the point a bit, I think that mostly the liberal assumed obligation to help the less fortunate comes from a simple ‘If you have stuff and other people don’t have stuff, share your stuff’ moral framework. I assume they would think that Jordan doesn’t have enough stuff of its own, so we can’t expect them to share.

          • rlms says:

            @Spookykou
            More relevantly, Jordan has already taken in 2 million Palestinian refugees.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            I’m pointing out that before someone comes down on the side of “hmm, maybe forcing all the Palestinians out -is- the best solution”, it is incumbent upon them to think through the consequences.

            Yes, Jordan HAS accepted a fair number, but A) Jordan is also the ONLY middle-eastern country to systematically extend citizenship and access to civil services to Palestinian refugees and B) Jordan has gone on record saying that they will not be party to Israel pushing the Palestinian population on them. In fact, to avoid any more Palestinians becoming Jordanian citizens they started revoking citizenship and privileges of some recent refugees, though international pressure seems to have forced a temporary halt to that policy.

            For someone looking for someplace other than Israel for the Palestinians to settle, Jordan isn’t the solution you’re looking for.

            For my part I actually tend a bit closer to ThirteenthLetter’s position, although I am also anti-settlement since it pushes the status quo towards forced expulsion or -actual- (rather than simple propganda claims of) apartheid. It takes two to negotiate and at this point there isn’t anyone who is both willing to negotiate in good faith and with sufficient control to deliver on anything negotiated.

            I would take apply John’s statement:

            The only viable institutions that remain are those that derive legitimacy from a war they cannot win

            more broadly, and say that until that is NOT true, there is no meaningful prospect for any sort of negotiated settlement.

            So, who wants to step in and try their hand at nation-building, ladies and gents?! Step right up, step right up! Your efforts at building a new, legitimate Palestinian government will be attacked by the existing Palestinian power structure (which doesn’t WANT negotiation and certainly doesn’t want to lose power), by the Palestinian people (who aren’t going to want foreigners meddling in their affairs), by the Israelis (who don’t want foreigners meddling and don’t want or trust a strong Palestinian government not to become a bigger threat), and by the international community.

            Come on now, don’t be shy!

          • cassander says:

            @Spookykou

            You are correct, but given that the jordanians have orders of magnitude more stuff than the palestinians, your liberal rule would still apply. Even more so with oil rich countries like Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            >So, who wants to step in and try their hand at nation-building, ladies and gents?! Step right up, step right up! Your efforts at building a new, legitimate Palestinian government will be attacked by the existing Palestinian power structure (which doesn’t WANT negotiation and certainly doesn’t want to lose power), by the Palestinian people (who aren’t going to want foreigners meddling in their affairs), by the Israelis (who don’t want foreigners meddling and don’t want or trust a strong Palestinian government not to become a bigger threat), and by the international community.

            Send forth the best ye breed—Go send your sons to exile To serve your captives’ need

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            > And I rather suspect that if you interviewed the former citizens of Danzig, Konigsberg, Brunn, etc that you’d get a less sanguine view of their fate. It’s a lot easier to say “Well all for the best” 60 years on.

            50% of my grandparents were forcibly relocated in the aftermath of the WW2, and true, they did not like it and were quite unhappy about it for the rest of their lives. But on the other hand, in their ideal world they would have traveled back in time to before there was any war. Or possibly won the war. Or dreamed that people who had taken their old homes would just magically disappear, even after living there for decades. Or other such impossible scenarios.

            And yes, I said such things are horrible. But what were the alternatives? Because about everybody was willing to to horrible shit instead doing only ethically good things, the good options were not available, but there could have been much worse outcomes.

            What I’m arguing for: don’t create temporary ‘solutions’ such as refugee camps or temporary-sort-of-occupation-apartheid, because such ‘solutions’ will seldom be turn out to be temporary. Solutions should be such that they still look like a solution if they turn out to be permanent.

            Regarding the ballpark estimate of death toll… well, I sort of assumed that in current times, it could be done better than what Stalin did in the chaos after WW2. “Here is a not-insignificant amount of cash if you relocate”? But you’re right, there being no place where they could go is a very pressing problem.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Cassander

            I don’t even have to follow that link, and yes, that poem did occur to me while I was typing. Except that the last Colonialists got sick and tired of the mess around, oh, about 1937 and these days no one has the right mix of competence, ruthlessness, and mixed cultural evangelical and exploitative motives to get back into that particular game even if the rest of the world would sit back and let them (which, to be fair, they just might, given the right area in question and the right would-be player).

            @Nimin

            Any ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip and West Bank would at minimum have to be conducted first in the form of a war of conquest and occupation against a hostile force that’s spent the last 60+ years making an art-form out of weaving its military assets inextricably into the civilian infrastructure and using the civilian population as shield, sword, and propaganda.

            Any ethnic cleansing of Jews from Israel would at minimum have to be conducted first in the form of a war of conquest and occupation against Israel, which is a nuclear power.

            I get where you’re coming from when you say that the current status quo is unstable and unsustainable, but the reason it’s the status quo is that right now literally every other practical option on the table is worse.

            I’m sure we have some people here who think that if we just cracked down REALLY hard on Israel and made them cave in, then in 10-15 years there could be a non-Jewish-State Israel/Palestine enjoying all the success, peace, and harmony of a modern South Africa. Leaving aside how low a bar that is to clear, I think that approach would leave Jerusalem looking a hell of a lot more like Kigali circa 1994 than Johannesburg circa 2016. Assuming that it would even get that far before disintegrating into a full-blown war again.

          • John Schilling says:

            Assuming that it would even get that far before disintegrating into a full-blown war again.

            Note that, while Palestinian refugees have a hard time finding homes elsewhere, pretty much every Ashkenazi in Israel and I think at this point most of the Sephardim and Mizrahim can easily find homes in western industrial democracies. Perhaps not so comfortable to them as in Jewish Israel, but much more so than in any expectation they will hold for an Arab-dominated Palestine.

            Thus, before you get to the part where an Arab-dominated Palestine gets a chance to show how nice and peaceful it will be (or not), evaporative cooling will leave Israel, with all the tanks and helicopter gunships and nuclear missiles, in the hands of the hard-line Zionists.

            Enjoy whatever fantasy you may have as to how that turns out, while it lasts. There’s a very good chance we’ll get to see the ugly reality soon enough.

    • houseboatonstyxb says:

      1.) Trump is opposed to the two state solution.

      2.) The two state solution is the only good solution.

      Trump likes making multi-party deals. Maybe he will trade X number of acres of US semi-desert to the Israelis to build a new, safer Homeland on; and sell their current acres to the highest bidder. The US acres being along a US/Mexico border Wall, for the Israelis to guard. (The Israelis get to keep any drugs they confiscate.)

      • Spookykou says:

        As a Texan, I am conflicted, I would hate to have the shape of my iconic state changed, but I also think it would be cool to be driving distance from Nuevo Israel …

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Definitely good enough for fiction. In the real world, Israeli cooperation seems extremely unlikely.

      • Aapje says:

        @houseboatonstyxb

        The Israelis get to keep any drugs they confiscate

        Drugs are worthless unless you can sell them. Are you suggesting that New Israel gets the (exclusive) right to sell drugs in the US?

    • John Schilling says:

      2.) The two state solution is the only good solution.

      There are no good solutions; the two-state solution is merely the one whose badness is least glaringly obvious.

      But still, look at a map. I count three states – Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. Shackling the latter two into a single nation-state is every bit as much a recipe for failure as trying to unite Syria and Egypt, and for about the same reason. Whatever their past history as part of a common polity or even quasi-nationality, they are now united by little more than a name and a common enemy, and that’s not enough. What passes for a Palestinian Government fractured into a West Bank Government and a Gaza Strip Government almost before Yasser Arafat’s body had cooled.

      Unfortunately, while Israel is and the West Bank conceivably could be viable nation-states, the Gaza Strip is a classic failed state and I’ve yet to see anyone propose a good solution for that. Good explanations of who is to blame for reaching that state of failure, sure, but usually with nothing beyond that but “X is to blame, therefore X has to solve this somehow” with possibly a side order of wishful thinking that the West Bank will be able to carry/reform Gaza.

      • rlms says:

        We need a three state solution! No, a fifty state solution!

      • Anonymous Bosch says:

        I don’t think it’s possible to separate the failure of Gaza from the blockade. We can debate the security justification on Israel’s end, but the facts are you simply can’t develop any kind of functional economy with so many restrictions on shipping and travel.

        • Well... says:

          If we can debate the security justification, that suggests it might not be possible to separate the blockade from the actions of the Palestinians.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            It isn’t, of course. The attitude that the Palestinians have no agency in this conflict is perhaps the biggest reason why attempts to resolve it always fail.

          • Well... says:

            True, and generalizable as well.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            If we can debate the security justification, that suggests it might not be possible to separate the blockade from the actions of the Palestinians.

            If you think the blockade is justified, then yes. Personally I think it’s far too punitive. I’m sure the QALYs lost due to economic stagnation alone outweigh the QALYs lost to rockets.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Nobody is going to accept a constant drizzle of unguided rockets on their homes in order to spare the people gleefully firing the rockets from the military force required to make them stop. That’s not how human beings work.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            “That’s just how human beings work” is not any kind of moral defense, as human beings often work in reprehensible ways. If you think that the blockade and the repeated military incursions are a justified response to the rockets, you should say so in as many words.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            “That’s just how human beings work” is not any kind of moral defense, as human beings often work in reprehensible ways.

            I’m not talking about morality. I’m talking about reality. “The other side gets to shell you with unguided rockets as much as they want and you just have to suck it up” is not a deal that people are going to take voluntarily.

            But that being said…

            If you think that the blockade and the repeated military incursions are a justified response to the rockets, you should say so in as many words.

            I didn’t say it before because it goes without saying. Of course things like blockades and military retaliation are a justified response to a hostile state shelling your towns without provocation. Who would possibly think otherwise?

          • Randy M says:

            Reading between the lines, there’s a sort of utilitarian argument that retaliation is not justified if the citizens of the aggressor nation end up suffering more than the citizens of the aggrieved nation.

            In more commonly accepted theories, the justified response will be the minimum that is sufficient to stop the aggression, even if the aggressor ends up much worse off than the other nation would have been if they just put up with it indefinitely.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ TheThirteenthLetter

            I’m talking about reality. “The other side gets to shell you with unguided rockets as much as they want and you just have to suck it up” is not a deal that people are going to take voluntarily.

            Yes, and neither is “the other side gets to occupy the lands you inhabit by force until you submit quietly and peacefully to their demands.” But I am not sure that it helps to recite these truisms. When you say that something is just “how human beings work,” it appears as though you are offering this by way of justification or excuse, and it is good to be clear that this is no justification or excuse at all. Perhaps the Israeli government and its supporters have behaved exactly as we should expect human beings under their circumstances to behave, but they might have acted abominably for all that.

            Of course things like blockades and military retaliation are a justified response to a hostile state shelling your towns without provocation. Who would possibly think otherwise?

            Is it true that any blockade or military retaliation is a justified response to any amount of shelling? Would it be acceptable, for instance, for Israel to kill a million Palestinians in response to the deaths of (say) 60 Israelis from rocket fire? Or does proportionality constrain how a state like Israel may respond to shelling?

          • Matt M says:

            “In more commonly accepted theories, the justified response will be the minimum that is sufficient to stop the aggression, even if the aggressor ends up much worse off than the other nation would have been if they just put up with it indefinitely.”

            Well so far nothing Israel has done has stopped the aggression, so are you suggesting they should respond even more aggressively than they have thus far?

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            When you say that something is just “how human beings work,” it appears as though you are offering this by way of justification or excuse,

            Perhaps you should try not to judge by appearances, then.

            Once more, with feeling: from the Israeli perspective, concessions have a really bad track record. As I’ll point out as many times as is necessary, past Israeli concessions have led to more violence from the Palestinians and more diplomatic assaults from the international community, not less of either. So why should they cooperate? Come up with a real answer and maybe we can get somewhere.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            What an odd change of subject. We were discussing whether the Israeli responses to the rocket strikes have been justified, and I asked you several questions in this regard in my last comment, to wit:

            Is it true that any blockade or military retaliation is a justified response to any amount of shelling? Would it be acceptable, for instance, for Israel to kill a million Palestinians in response to the deaths of (say) 60 Israelis from rocket fire? Or does proportionality constrain how a state like Israel may respond to shelling?

            Do you have an answer to these questions, or do you think that it is somehow impossible to answer them without first establishing that “from the Israeli perspective, concessions have a really bad track record”? For my part, I do not see how the history of Israeli concessions has any connection to proportionality constraints on killing in war.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            @Earthly Knight: I’m sorry? We were talking about multiple subjects here. But since you insist: of course there exists a level of retaliation to rocket attacks which would be excessive. I mean, duh. There, happy? I can also agree that two plus two equals four, if you want. In fact, I’ll give you that one for free.

            @Matt M: “Nothing Israel has done has stopped the aggression” isn’t entirely true. Israel’s military tactics haven’t ended the aggression against it for good, of course, but that isn’t really in the cards anyway. They’re just supposed to reduce the aggression until, someday, there is a negotiated solution. In that they’ve been fairly successful. It’s not good, but when the only alternatives on offer are worse, well, there you are.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            But since you insist: of course there exists a level of retaliation to rocket attacks which would be excessive.

            Then before determining whether the Israeli response to the rocket strikes has been appropriate, we will need, first, to inquire what constraints proportionality imposes on their response, and, second, calculate how many Palestinians have died as a result of the blockade and military incursions into Gaza. Have you already undertaken this investigation?

          • Aapje says:

            @ThirteenthLetter

            Once more, with feeling: from the Israeli perspective, concessions have a really bad track record.

            A major reason is that Israel rarely followed through on their concessions. At that point, it seems rather unreasonable to demand that the Palestinians hold up their part of the deal, if Israel doesn’t.

            As I’ll point out as many times as is necessary, past Israeli concessions have led to more violence from the Palestinians

            At one point Hamas struck a deal where they would stop the rocket attacks and Israel would mostly open the borders. Hamas did stop 98% of the rocket attacks (there are minor groups they cannot control), which exceeded Israeli expectations of how well they could/would comply.

            Yet, Israel didn’t open the borders as much as they promised, so Hamas went back to firing missiles.

            So…who was to blame?

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Yet, Israel didn’t open the borders as much as they promised, so Hamas went back to firing missiles.

            So…who was to blame?

            Easy. Hamas is to blame, because deliberately firing rockets at civilian targets with no military value is a war crime. You are defending war crimes.

          • Aapje says:

            @ThirteenthLetter

            Israel considers civilian buildings to be legitimate targets, if there is a Hamas member present.

            Many Israeli adults are in the reserves. The Hamas rockets are extremely inaccurate. Thus one can assume that pretty much every rocket has a chance to hit an Israeli military target.

            So why is it legitimate for Israel to run a high risk of killing innocents when targeting military targets, but not for Hamas?

          • Controls Freak says:

            Of course things like blockades and military retaliation are a justified response to a hostile state shelling your towns without provocation. Who would possibly think otherwise?

            Is it true that any blockade or military retaliation is a justified response to any amount of shelling? Would it be acceptable, for instance, for Israel to kill a million Palestinians in response to the deaths of (say) 60 Israelis from rocket fire? Or does proportionality constrain how a state like Israel may respond to shelling?

            Without taking sides, I’d just like to note that in the law of war, “proportionality” doesn’t work like that. There is no matter of, “Count up the dead on each side, check if it’s proportional.” Instead, proportionality is a test that follows a determination that there will unintended collateral damage as the result of a strike on a legitimate target. Immediately, we can see one reason why proportionality can’t just involve “count up the dead on each side”. If your adversary has an exceedingly large uniformed army (due to either a large population or a large portion of the population being part of the army), they are likely legitimate military targets. Even if you kill many many more of them than they kill of you, proportionality analysis doesn’t even enter the picture. (Intentionally targeting illegitimate targets is, itself, sufficient for a war crime, regardless of numbers.)

            Instead, you have a legitimate military objective, but you can foresee that there will be collateral damage beyond your intended target. At this point, you need to make a proportionality assessment between the collateral damage and the military advantage sought by attacking the legitimate target. There are still plenty of live issues for this analysis in general (and specifically for the Mid East conflict in question), but it’s worth knowing that the analysis starts from an entirely different premise than what people tend to think when they just hear the word “proportionality”.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            There is no matter of, “Count up the dead on each side, check if it’s proportional.” Instead, proportionality is a test that follows a determination that there will unintended collateral damage as the result of a strike on a legitimate target.

            Not so– traditionally, proportionality is thought to constrain both specific military operations and the conduct of war in general (see e.g. here). This is as it should be, as it’s plainly wrong to enter into a war knowing that doing so will cause 1000 times more deaths than it will prevent.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Earthly Knight

            I’m not sure you’re understanding CF’s point. “Proportionality” has a specific meaning in the Law of Armed Conflict. If it helps you, that would be part of the jus in bello mentioned in your link rather than jus ad bellum.

            This isn’t just a general sense of abstract philosophical discussion, but a matter of international treaty and jurisprudence.

            This might be a helpful starting point for you, since it discusses the multiple senses in which proportionality can be used when we talk about these issues, and does so specifically in the context of Israel.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Why should we be restricted to talking about “proportionality” in the narrow sense used in the Law of Armed Conflict, when you acknowledge there is also a perfectly good sense in which it applies to the conduct of entire wars? I was questioning ThirteenthLetter on the moral acceptability of Israel’s actions, not their legality, so I do not see what justification Controls Freak could have for entering the conversation and demanding that we confine ourselves to his preferred usage.

          • Controls Freak says:

            You are twice correct, EK. First, on the instant point, you are correct that there is a jus ad bellum proportionality condition.

            Second, in the cited conversation with TL, you were right to point out the difference between jus ad bellum and jus in bello (at least, this is how I interpreted your point). Remember, this is how the conversation went:

            Of course things like blockades and military retaliation are a justified response to a hostile state shelling your towns without provocation. Who would possibly think otherwise?

            Is it true that any blockade or military retaliation is a justified response to any amount of shelling? Would it be acceptable, for instance, for Israel to kill a million Palestinians in response to the deaths of (say) 60 Israelis from rocket fire? Or does proportionality constrain how a state like Israel may respond to shelling?

            You pointed out that while TL likely pointed out a good reason to enter a war (“a hostile state shelling your towns without provocation,” as he put it), it doesn’t justify all means of prosecuting that war. I believed that this shift conceded the point that jus ad bellum had been satisfied, and that the question was concerning proportionality within jus in bello. If, instead, you intended to make a larger argument that there actually are factors involved in the present sitution which imply that jus ad bellum proportionality constraints preclude any war actions, I just think you need to support that position more. I don’t really see much of an argument on that point in your comments to date.

            For example, you followed it up with:

            Then before determining whether the Israeli response to the rocket strikes has been appropriate, we will need, first, to inquire what constraints proportionality imposes on their response, and, second, calculate how many Palestinians have died as a result of the blockade and military incursions into Gaza.

            That again seems to concede jus ad bellum, focusing solely on jus in bello. I’m open to an argument on the former, but I don’t think you’ve opened up that line of argument at all. I’d expect it to be of the flavor, “In determining whether Israel resorting to any war response or use of armed forces would be appropriate,” rather than, “In determining whether one particular Israeli war response has been appropriate.”

            Frankly, I can’t really parse what your most recent comment is getting at. All of the theorizing in both domains I’ve discussed can have applications to legal/moral constraints. I don’t see anything particularly relevant in any of your comments that highlights a particular distinction.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I believed that this shift conceded the point that jus ad bellum had been satisfied, and that the question was concerning proportionality within jus in bello.

            Oh, okay, I can see why you interpreted my comment this way. My intention was to keep the focus on all of Israel’s activities in Gaza taken in aggregate. I was looking to get ThirteenthLetter to see that there is a moral question of whether Israel’s total response to the rocket fire has been proportional, and that the question can only be answered once we have in hand both a standard of proportionality and a comprehensive accounting of the deaths caused by the blockade and military incursions. Since I knew going in that we don’t have a reliable estimate of the blockade’s death toll, I know that no such accounting will be forthcoming and hence that anyone who claims that the Israeli response has been proportional is perpetrating an imposture.

          • Controls Freak says:

            we don’t have a reliable estimate of the blockade’s death toll

            So, this brings us back to my original comment. I just don’t think this is the relevant analysis. There is almost no aspect of just war theory that boils down to “just count the bodies on both sides”. Matters are vastly more complicated, and I really think the analysis starts from different premises. Let me detail a couple reasons why.

            First, this is a retrospective analysis rather than prospective analysis. Most theorizing is focused on foreseeable consequences before the action is taken, not a retrospective accounting of bodies following what is surely a period of time where an insanely complicated system took in many inputs from many different actors and produced some result.

            As an interlude, I think blockades (and siege warfare in general) are becoming disfavored – in part because such prospective analysis is difficult. Personally, I like this. Beyond my aversion to war in general (because it has a horrible human cost that is emotionally revolting), siege warfare in particular seems really awful. That said, the law currently allows it, and I think there are major hurdles to us being able to hammer out an agreement to actually eliminate it (especially one that can be enforced in cases when it’s not just extremely minor players involved).

            Anyway, if you take a position that blockades are morally reprehensible regardless of their legality, I understand that. If you take a position that there is some morally acceptable blockade, things get trickier. Regardless of your position on the identification between the moral/legal, it’s worthwhile to understand the current legal landscape, which was developed from someone’s (cumulative) morality. Right now, the legal question on blockades involves several factors, including proper declaration and notification, maintaining an effective blockade, applying the blockade impartially, not preventing access to the ports of States not involved in the conflict and finally, facilitating humanitarian passage.

            Again, if you just reject current law and adopt a moral position that retroactively counting bodies is the way to go, I’m fine with you just saying that. However, I want to point out that the vastly more common position starts from an entirely different character of analysis. All of these factors keep collateral damage in mind, but the antecedent question is the extent to which distinction (between military/non-military targets) is possible. As I mentioned above, I think siege warfare is becoming disfavored… but not primarily because of proportionality. Instead, it’s because distinction is harder. Most of the factors above are primarily getting at distinction.

            Of course, distinction and proportionality are linked. You can’t totally isolate them. As distinction becomes more difficult, so does proportionality. This is a major reason why there is so much effort against landmines… and why we created a really interesting mix of categories (chemical/biological/nuclear) and threw them under one label (WMDs). It’s extremely difficult to wield them with distinction, and that makes proportionality much more difficult.

            Anyway, that’s a lot of words to get at my claim that most theorizing starts from distinction first, adding proportionality onto it… rather than just starting from proportionality. This is true whether we consider an operation like dropping a bomb on a building or an operation like a blockade. It starts from, “Can you distinguish/discriminate at all?” It moves through, “How did you distinguish a legitimate target?” Then, after a lot of input from those stages, it asks, “Is the foreseeable unintended collateral damage (due to the fact that you can’t perfectly discriminate) proportional to the expected value of the military objective?” I think it’s just completely amiss to even consider the last item without starting from the former. And that’s a big reason why I think any large-scale retrospective analysis that is almost solely, “How many bodies are there? What did someone gain from those bodies,” is just a non-starter.

          • Aapje says:

            @Control

            I think that ‘counting the bodies’ makes a lot more sense in an occupation scenario, especially when the occupying force has an obligation to the occupied people.

          • Controls Freak says:

            I absolutely agree that an occupying power has (and should have) a responsibility to the occupied people (I’ll refrain from digging too much at people who will accept responsibility-based arguments in LOAC but reject them out of hand in cases like abortion). Anyway, I still don’t think the way to measure that is by just counting bodies. Instead, it’s still to analyze the actual actions they’ve taken and the situation in which those actions were taken.

            For example, suppose two different occupations. In the first, there is continued, organized, hostile behavior by large portions of the population. In the second, the population is docile. (Assume, and I know this is difficult, that other factors like the legitimacy of the occupation itself (the jus ad bellum), the general availability of resources, and so on are equivalent.) If they had equal body counts, it’s quite likely that the latter occupation involved actions which were worse. Now, I still don’t think we can just stop there. This is just to show that merely counting bodies doesn’t tell us much about the underlying actions.

            Instead, while body counts might be indicative that we should go examine actions, I think the actual analysis still starts from examining the actions. And on that score, I think the analysis is much more difficult than a body count. The Hague and Geneva conventions lay down a lot of complicated requirements for an occupying power’s treatment of the populous and property. I think they’re a pretty good starting point, because again, lots of smart people have been thinking about these issues for centuries.

            I really want to emphasize that I’m not saying these rules are perfect as they stand. They’re stupidly complicated, and there are all kinds of live issues about what could be better and how. Nor am I saying that Israel has/hasn’t lived up to its responsibilities and abided by the constraints. That’s also stupidly complicated, and I’m glad that there are smart people who can dedicate much more time than I can to not only understand the rules, but to gather factual information about the mechanics of operations and targeting. I just honestly can’t dedicate enough time to that particular conflict.

            Instead, I still am just trying to emphasize that I think the analysis is (and should be) of an entirely different character than just counting bodies and saying, “Whelp, that satisfies my layman’s understanding of the word ‘proportionality’.” I think the most common problem is to focus too much on this particular word and not realize that it’s a term of art that comes after some preliminary analysis.

          • Jiro says:

            Since I knew going in that we don’t have a reliable estimate of the blockade’s death toll, I know that no such accounting will be forthcoming and hence that anyone who claims that the Israeli response has been proportional is perpetrating an imposture.

            That doesn’t logically follow. For instance, you might not know the exact death toll, but you may know a range, and you may also know that the range is within acceptable parameters to be considered proportional.

        • John Schilling says:

          I don’t think it’s possible to separate the failure of Gaza from the blockade.

          Agreed, but so what? As I specifically mentioned, explanations for who or what is to blame for the problem are NOT solutions to the problem. If everybody is puzzled as to why the patient is dying on the operating table until Dr. House points out that maybe it’s the .45-caliber hollowpoint in his brain, the patient still dies. Removing the bullet won’t change that. Finding the gunman and saying, “fix this or else!”, won’t change that.

          The Gaza Strip is not a failing state, it is a failed state. It’s dead, Jim. The human capital is gone, the material capital is gone, the only viable institutions that remain are those that derive legitimacy from a war they cannot win, and you can’t fix all three of those problems simultaneously. Not even if the blockade were to vanish overnight. You could perhaps, at great expense, pave the whole thing over and build a new nation in which the existing population serves as the underclass and part of the working class, but nobody is actually going to do that.

          Yes, you can blame the whole thing on the blockade if you like. Then you get to argue about who is to blame for the blockade. Gaza’s still dead.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            The human capital is gone, the material capital is gone, the only viable institutions that remain are those that derive legitimacy from a war they cannot win, and you can’t fix all three of those problems simultaneously. Not even if the blockade were to vanish overnight.

            This seems a little pat to me. Not having a blockade would go a long way towards fixing at least two of those problems.

          • John Schilling says:

            There are lots of places in the world that aren’t blockaded and yet don’t have much in the way of human or material capital, so I am skeptical of your implied thesis that removing a blockade would cause human and material capital to flow into this particular place.

            The blockade may have caused human and material capital to flee Gaza, but it has fled to places that are now more congenial to it than Gaza. Undoing the blockade now, is rather like bandaging a knife wound after the patient has bled out.

          • Aapje says:

            @Schilling

            Israel attacks have often targeted Palestinian property, including capital goods. A blockade increases the costs of goods. It seems rather obvious that such actions lowers the GDP compared to a situation where those do not happen. The only real question is how much higher the GDP would be.

          • John Schilling says:

            The only real question is how much higher the GDP would be.

            “would be”, means exactly what here?

            There are two different questions here. “How much higher would the GDP be if there had never been a blockade?”, and “How much higher would the GDP be if the blockade were removed?”. I repeat, two different questions, as different as “How healthy would the patient be if he had never been shot” vs “…if the doctor removes the bullet”.

            When you talk about past effects of the blockade, and especially now that you are introducing Israel’s past attacks as well as the blockade, that strongly suggests that you are addressing the former question – but that’s the one that has nothing to do with the future of the Gaza strip in our reality, and the one I don’t much care about at this point.

            Could you perhaps try to phrase your point without making reference to anything that happened before 2017? Gaza is what it is today, and any future starts today rather than in some alternate 1967.

          • Aapje says:

            There are two different questions here. “How much higher would the GDP be if there had never been a blockade?”

            Higher than now.

            , and “How much higher would the GDP be if the blockade were removed?”.

            Higher than now.

            In both cases, the reasoning that I used is valid, IMHO. For example, if you stop the blockade today, the prices of goods will go down in the future.

            The only difference is that the exact numbers would be different, but I didn’t claim any specific numbers, so I don’t understand why you object to my rather minimal claim.

          • John Schilling says:

            I do not object to the claim that ending the blockade would cause a marginal increase in the GDP of the Gaza strip. I simply don’t care, because I am not making any claims regarding the GDP of the Gaza strip. And it was in hindsight a mistake not to immediately challenge you when you tried to change the subject to GDP.

            The only claim that I have made is that Gaza is a failed state, and will remain so. A marginal increase in the GDP won’t change that.

            If it is your claim that there is some finite level of GDP which will automatically lift any failed state out of that miserable status regardless of its other problems, then it is on you to back up that qualitative claim with, A: the level of GDP required to single-handedly rescue the Gaza Strip from failed-state status and B: the level of GDP increase that can be reasonably expected from lifting the blockade alone.

            Otherwise, all I can see is the trivial claim that if the blockade were lifted, Gaza would be slightly less impoverished failed state. Whee.

          • Aapje says:

            Of course it is a failed state, but so what? Israel was a failed state too, at the beginning.

            People still have the right to self-determination.

            Your argument can just as easily be used to re-institute slavery in the US, because black people are not doing so well, so they apparently deserve oppression…

      • Brad says:

        Egypt could absorb the Gaza Strip. Not a great solution for any number of reasons, not the least of which is Egypt’s lack of interest, but probably less terrible then a two piece Palestinian state.

    • BBA says:

      Here’s an explainer from Kevin Drum. I mostly agree but think he’s too optimistic.

    • Is there any country in the world with a large muslim population *without* brutal attempts to remove secularism and non-islamism from the country?

      What is this one-state nonsense? Israel already had to build a wall to stop constant terrorist attacks. Removing all those restrictions would be a horrid idea with obvious terrible consequences.

      Democracy would be utterly impossible to maintain order. At least on the One-State wiki page,I find Benny Morris words convincing.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Is there any country in the world with a large muslim population *without* brutal attempts to remove secularism and non-islamism from the country?

        Indonesia?

        If you actually mean large, and not majority, India?

        • Sam Harris touched on the supposed modernity of Indonesia. Secular bloggers get slaughtered in Indonesia on a regular basis. You can’t be a well-known atheist blogger in Indonesia without having a good chance of getting murdered.

          • morgrimmoon says:

            Indonesia is, for the most part, perfectly happy to let you be any religion you want but if you don’t have a religion they treat you badly. So there is actually quite a lot of ‘secularism’ if you take that as freedom of religion, but not much if you take it as freedom from religion.

        • Sandy says:

          If you actually mean large, and not majority, India?

          One of the biggest political issues in India is the fact that Muslims are allowed to have their own civil code partially based in sharia for matters dealing with divorce, polygamy and inheritance, largely because of identity politicking with the major liberal party that relies on their votes. The major Hindu nationalist party in the country has been pushing for a uniform, secular civil code for years, citing all sorts of concerns stretching from general equality under the law to the plight of Muslim women, but Muslim leaders vociferously argue for their own special code using imported slogans like — no joke — “diversity is our strength”.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Indonesia has issues, too. Here’s how their election season went. (Vice has some good pictures).

      • rlms says:

        “Is there any country in the world with a large muslim population *without* brutal attempts to remove secularism and non-islamism from the country?”
        Several of the Central Asian -stans, e.g. Uzbek- and Tajik-.

        • Wrong Species says:

          That’s a good point. However, Turkey used to be the poster boy for a secular Muslim country and they had secularism forced on them. Of course, the Soviet Union was more antireligion than Turkey so maybe it will hold but it’s also possible that it’s just delaying the inevitable.

      • Anonymous Bosch says:

        Is there any country in the world with a large muslim population *without* brutal attempts to remove secularism and non-islamism from the country?

        Central Asia, Western Africa, the Balkans, and Southeast Asia depending on how strictly you’re applying the above conditions.

      • Urstoff says:

        The United States? There are somewhere between 3 and 4 million Muslims in the US.

        • The deadliest mass murders have been commited at at least a rate of 30x per capita over the past decade for the islamic population.

          At 1% of the population, 3 out of the top 10 mass shootings in american history have been of islamic origin, with the deadliest of them all islamic.

          • Urstoff says:

            If you’re going to count any acts of violence, then I’m not sure what your point is in asking the question. There are 3+ million Muslims in the US, and in the last 30 years there have been around 10 incidents totaling around 100 deaths, half of those in one incident (and 9/11 was done by foreign nationals, so I’m not counting it). Is that a good rate? A bad rate? Too brutal?

      • Stefan Drinic says:

        Is there any country in the world with a large muslim population *without* brutal attempts to remove secularism and non-islamism from the country?

        Hell, the Bangladeshi government is apparently annoyed enough with its Islamists that it might become formally secular in order to easily oppress them.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      1) We don’t know Trump’s attitude towards the two-state solution. I doubt Trump knows, either. He’s not really a knowing-things sort of guy.

      2) There is an alternative: instead of trying to solve such a complicated problem, kick the can down the road and hope something changes. Perhaps a few decades of resentful peace (and an end to outsiders trying to prolong the conflict for their own reasons) will lead to a softening of attitudes. It’s not great, but it’s a lot better than Aleppo.

    • cassander says:

      The two state solution doesn’t solve anything. Even under an ideal peace deal for them, the palestinian state would remain desperately poor, without a sea port, and literally run by terrorists. Under such circumstances, the odds of it becoming a functional place are basically zero, and without that, the odds of a low enough level of anti-Israel terror to make that sustainable are also basically zero.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          Why, it’s almost as if Gaza declared war on them unprovoked or something.

          This is like Imperial Japan complaining in 1945 about the United States bombing all their railyards.

        • cassander says:

          A port with another country between most of your country and it is of only limited utility.

          • John Schilling says:

            Which again highlights the fact that we are dealing with three countries, not two.

            There was a time when we could perhaps hope that port access would allow the nation of Gaza to thrive as a commercial hub, perhaps an acceptable conduit for trading Israeli goods and expertise to nearby Arab nations. But that takes the right sort of people and institutions as well as port access, so it doesn’t seem plausible now.

      • Aapje says:

        @cassander

        literally run by terrorists.

        Yet peace was made with Sinn Féin despite their terrorist roots.

        Also, I have a hard time seeing Israel as virtuous in this regard, as they used terrorism when still under British rule (and merely stopped because they got powerful enough to no longer need it) & they still terrorize the Palestinian population.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          Yet peace was made with Sinn Féin despite their terrorist roots.

          The difference is that Sinn Féin was willing to negotiate. It takes two to make peace, you know.

        • cassander says:

          >Yet peace was made with Sinn Féin despite their terrorist roots.

          That it worked once does not mean it’s a good plan. Sinn Fein evolved into nice liberals (in the traditional sense). Most terrorist organizations do not.

          >Also, I have a hard time seeing Israel as virtuous in this regard, as they used terrorism when still under British rule (and merely stopped because they got powerful enough to no longer need it) & they still terrorize the Palestinian population.

          There’s no virtue on either side, each has factions that would happily slaughter the other. I care about results. Getting a state will not improve the lives of the average palestinian.

  3. HeelBearCub says:

    For purposes of discussion/argument: The lack of underhanded free throw shooters proves that we cannot expect markets to behave rationally on their own accord.

    Discuss.

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      I’m not entirely convinced that underhanded shooting would make that much of a difference, but their reluctance to even try is definitely irrational.

      Of course, you have to take in count that BBall players are not just athletes, they are also a brand, and underhanded shooting looks lame and harms your brand (if you’re already a star).

      • Matt M says:

        This. It’s perfectly rational when you consider that players make a lot of money off endorsements, that free throw shooting does not seem to be a particular attribute which teams value highly in most cases, and that players value their “image” as well as just money in many cases.

        As an aside, when I was a kid my dad used to take me to Oregon State basketball games – one of their better players for many years was Rick’s son, Brent Barry, and he shot his free throws underhand. Everyone got quite a kick out of it.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          But teams want to win more than anything else.

          Also, endorsements are mostly beneficial to the stars, not the fill in minutes center. Arguably anything that made the fill-in center more noticeable would be actually helpful for branding/endorsements.

          • Rock Lobster says:

            I would argue that teams actually want to make money more than anything else, not to win for its own sake.

            To make money, on the revenue side you have to sell seats and merchandise and you have to get eyeballs on your team’s games on tv. While winning is generally good for that, all else equal, it may not be good for viewership if the team uses “lame,” “sissy” underhanded free throws.

            This is a bit of a stretch, but on the cost side, if a player can get x% of his compensation through endorsement deals, that reduces the amount that the team would have to pay him to attract him. In other words, if you’re the only team whose players can’t get good endorsement deals because you insist on them doing underhanded free throws to win, then you’re going to have to pay your players more to compensate them for this, or they’ll sign with other teams. It’s possible that the competitive equilibrium, then, is for overhanded free throws.

            I should add that I’m a football fan and don’t really know much about basketball.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m also more of a hockey guy than a basketball guy.

            But my interpretation of things is that teams don’t pay significantly more money for a star player who makes 80% of his free throws than a star player who makes 75% of his free throws. Unless your free throw percentage is ridiculously good or ridiculously terrible, it’s probably so low down on the list of criteria teams evaluate you on as to be irrelevant.

            There’s also a question of team dynamics. Star players get paid a lot more and are of a lot more value than coaches. If a coach tries to say, “Everyone on this team has to shoot underhand,” then the star on the team is going to tell him to get lost, and guess who the owner is going to side with? On the other hand, saying “everyone but the star has to shoot underhand” would create a nightmare from a chemistry standpoint and nobody would be willing to do that either.

            Edit: I’ll also add that even marginal players often DO have endorsement deals. Not Michael Jordan level, but they probably do have a sponsor for their shoes and equipment, and many of them also have relationships with small/local businesses that they’ll do ads or appearances for.

      • John Schilling says:

        Of course, you have to take in count that BBall players are not just athletes, they are also a brand, and underhanded shooting looks lame and harms your brand

        Not just athletes, but the teams themselves. Else the NBA would never have banned zone defense, and while we’re at it Indy Cars would be turbo-electric hybrids. Winning isn’t everything, and it certainly isn’t the only thing. Winning with style and flair is what fills the stands and tops the ratings. Losing with style and flair is a close second. Winning with lameness, is a very distant third.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          College teams “win with lameness” all the time. Look at Bennett at UVA or any number of other coaches who opt for “stall ball”. Heck, Dean Smith “forced” the NCAA to out in a shot clock by going the “Four Corners” offense where they would sometimes have literally one player hold the ball for 20 minutes (to try and force the opposition to come out of the zone). There many single digit scores in that era.

          Zone defenses are allowed in the NBA (although they were not officially allowed for many years).

          Find me a loser who loses with flair and I will show you a loser. Above all else you need to win. Win and your fans love you. That’s why Pat Riley was well regarded at the Showtime Lakers and the grind it out, beat ’em up Knicks. If he had won a Championship in New York he would have been a god, no matter how the team played. Fans of individual teams want winners.

          And shooting a free throw isn’t flair no matter what.

          • Spookykou says:

            I know nothing about real sports, but Rat Dota was pretty widely reviled by all fans of the game back when I followed that particular e-sport. I think there is something to the style argument in general, although I imagine it is not equally important across all contests/brands.

            I think you might be right about fans of teams wanting winners, but I had gotten the impression that with the rise of fantasy leagues, the total number of fans of the sport compared to the number of fans who root exclusively for a team might be shifting.

          • rlms says:

            I know virtually nothing about basketball, but from my marginally greater knowledge of UK football I’m inclined to agree. Winning in boring (or unsportsmanlike) ways might get you hate, but it still keeps you more famous than losing, no matter how stylishly you do so.

          • Urstoff says:

            And fans hate watching UVA games because they’re so goddamned boring. UVA and other ultra-slow teams regularly cause talk about how to speed up the college game.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            UVA fans love watching their team win. UNC fans loved watching four corners.

            Don’t confuse general fan and team fan, especially if we are talking about things like endorsements for bench players on a pro-team which is going to be “local car dealer”.

          • John Schilling says:

            Find me a loser who loses with flair and I will show you a loser. Above all else you need to win.

            And yet the Chicago Cubs somehow survived the twentieth century.

            I do not think you understand how spectator sports work.

          • Matt M says:

            “And yet the Chicago Cubs somehow survived the twentieth century.”

            Not just survived, but maintained intense popularity and relevance despite being known primarily as losers.

          • onyomi says:

            I think that because, at the highest levels, people seem to be willing to go to nearly any lengths to win (indeed, “the highest level,” almost by definition, is that level populated by talented people willing to do almost anything to win), it is easy to forget that the ultimate end of spectator sports is entertainment, and that showmanship still matters.

            All else equal, winning more is better. But Wheaties, the Networks, and the fans will prefer a great showman with a lot of personality who wins exciting matches at a slightly lower rate than a boring technician who wins slightly more.

            The recent overhyped Pacquiao Mayweather match, for example, while good for the short-term bottom line of everyone involved, was probably longterm not great for the sport of Boxing, because the consensus was that Mayweather won in a very boring, conservative way. Conversely, people like Muhammad Ali can singlehandedly (or two-fistedly) raise the profile and profitability of their sport not just by winning, but by winning in interesting ways/having a lot of personality.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            Oh good lord.

            I have a seriously hard time believing you are arguing in good faith.

            The Cubs are what are commonly referred to as the exception that proves the rule. Generally speaking attendance and viewership goes up when teams are in contention for the playoffs, division crowns, championship wins. It falls when teams are out of contention. This is in all ways utterly unremarkable and uncontroversial.

            There are scads of examples of this. It’s normal. When teams are not in contention changes are made. Coaches and GMs lose jobs. Players are moved.

            Winning coaches and GMs and players are retained (or move on of their own accord). Yes there are constraints around this. Contract terms, salary caps, and things like value-over-replacement may dictate that a phenomenal player may move on to other pastures, but that in no way rebuts the general point.

            The owners of franchises make the largest profit by increasing the value of the franchise when it is for sale. Many factors go into this, but winning franchises with long histories of doing so are worth far more.

          • “The Cubs are what are commonly referred to as the exception that proves the rule. ”

            A phrase that, in the way it is commonly used (and you seem to be using it), makes no logical sense at all. It translates as “evidence against a thesis is evidence for the thesis.”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            Normal distributions have outliers. Finding the outliers and pointing out their rarity, if in fact they are rare, helps show that the distribution is actually clustered around a mean (which is significantly different than where the outlier is).

          • nyccine says:

            A phrase that, in the way it is commonly used (and you seem to be using it), makes no logical sense at all. It translates as “evidence against a thesis is evidence for the thesis.”

            “Prove” as in “test”, not as in “shows true”; which is, of course, a nonsensical statement.

          • Aapje says:

            To steelman HeelBearCub’s argument: I would argue that in many types of systems, there is a local optimum with a maximum size. The underdog is a classic example: the lovable loser can only exist in the context of teams/athletes with a decent amount of success. There is pretty much a fixed level of support for the lovable loser, so if there are multiple entities competing for the lovable loser spot, they split the benefits or even destroy local optimum for each other.

            Another example is brood parasites, like many cuckoo species.

            In both these cases, the local optimum depends on the normal case being different; aka the exception (a niche) proves the rule (upon which the exception depends to survive).

          • ““Prove” as in “test”, not as in “shows true”; ”

            That used to be my explanation, but I asked a colleague whose specialty was early English law and it turned out that it was not correct.

            The original meaning was that the fact that something was stated to be an exception demonstrated the existence of the rule it was an exception to.

          • @HBC:

            On your explanation, it isn’t the presence of the exception that proves the rule, it’s the absence of other exceptions. The exception is evidence against the rule.

            Think about how the phrase is routinely used.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            I think it’s most commonly used exactly as I said. The “rule” is a “rule” the same way Poe’s Law and Godwin’s Law are “laws”.

            What we are describing is heuristical in nature. If we say “teams in competitive sports want to win” the Cubs (prior to a few years ago)are a counter example, but not one that disproves the heuristic, but rather in their clearly exceptional nature, highlight the usefulness of the heuristic. As Herm Edwards said “You play to win the game!”

            If we were talking about the speed of light, one good counter example would cause us to completely rethink modern physics. Different kinds of problem, with a different kind of rule.

            None of this prevents people from abusing the phrase to attempt to defend a heuristic that is not useful. This may be what you are referring to, however, unless you want to assert that “lovable losers” whose financial performance is not dependent on winning games is actually common rather than rare, I don’t think we can characterize my use of the phrase as misuse.

          • Spookykou says:

            The exception that proves the rule is an intentionally stated exception for the purpose of illuminating the exception and the rule.

            No free parking on Sunday.

            Tells you that there is free parking on days other than Sunday and that Sunday is the exception.

            Everyone just uses ‘The exception that proves the rule’ to mean, an exceptional case that does not comport with that thing I just said but it’s like the only one and hey here is this cute idiom so shut up.

            But, as I said, everyone uses it this way, so I guess I should just get used to it.

          • John Schilling says:

            @HeelBearCub:

            I have a seriously hard time believing you are arguing in good faith.

            Really? This is what you want to open with? Because I was arguing in good faith. I am now seriously annoyed. I will probably continue to be annoyed for some time to come.

            The Cubs are what are commonly referred to as the exception that proves the rule.

            The Cleveland Indians, the New York Mets, the New York Knicks, the Caltech Beavers, Eddie the Eagle, the Jamaican Olympic Bobsled Team, is there some set number of exceptions I need to disprove a rule?

            Generally speaking attendance and viewership goes up when teams are in contention for the playoffs, division crowns, championship wins.

            The correlation between winning and profitability, across the major US sports leagues, appears to be a whopping 0.378. Statistically significant, but when it comes to making money at sports winning not only isn’t everything/the only thing, it isn’t even the most important thing.

            Or we can look at this from the other direction. Professional tennis, as a spectator sport, has been losing popularity quite dramatically since the 1970s and 80s, which seems to correspond to the shift from the diversity of playing styles of that era to the all-power-serves-nothing-but-power-serves play of modern pro tennis.

            And women’s tennis, with less serving power, has held more of its popularity. But even there, Anna “never won a singles title” Kournikova made more in (inflation-adjusted) endorsements at her prime than Serena “Grand Slam” Williams does now.

            Tactically efficient victories don’t fill stadiums or move product. Style, flair, and image, do.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            Your link and franchise valuations doesn’t support your conclusion.

            Winning clearly has a positive impact on franchise valuation, but its effect is limited based on market… winning is paramount to maximizing franchise value in a small market.

            You specifically mentioned the Cleveland Indians. Forbes currently has them ranked 27th out of 30 MLB franchises in valuation.

            Clearly market size has a huge effect on franchise valuation, but given that teams have very limited opportunities to change markets, winning is their best bet to gain value. Style and flair do matter for the health of a sport, but that won’t stop individual teams from trying to win without regard for it.

            All of this seems very far afield from whether or not individual players shoot free throws underhanded. If players started shooting underhanded, making them, and then the league banned them because they looked stupid, it would make sense to blame forces that make the game stylish. But that isn’t the situation we are in.

          • John Schilling says:

            Style and flair do matter for the health of a sport, but that won’t stop individual teams from trying to win without regard for it.

            Could you perhaps give some examples of teams that you see as trying to win without delivering at least industry-standard levels of style and flair in the process? The equivalent, in any sport, of a coach or GM having their player do underhanded free-throws?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            I already have done so. In the comment you were replying to, which is the parent of this comment.

            There are many, many examples but I had chosen to highlight UVA under Bennett. I’ve also mentioned Dean Smith’s Four Corners offense. And Pat Riley’s physical style of basketball (especially on defense) with the Knicks.

            Indeed, those last examples are illustrative. The shot clock was instituted in the college game as an (at least partial) response to the four corners. Physical defense that is designed to impede the offensive players was seen as endemic in both the NBA and the NCAA and deleterious to the popularity of the game, such that rules changes were instituted to prevent teams from winning with that style of defense.

          • rlms says:

            @JohnSchilling
            UK football team Leeds United famously tried to win in the 1960/70s with negative style and flair (see here).

          • John Schilling says:

            @John Schilling:
            I already have done so. In the comment you were replying to, which is the parent of this comment.

            There are many, many examples but I had chosen to highlight UVA under Bennett.

            But wouldn’t that one example just be the “exception that proves the rule?”, or are only you allowed to dismiss counterexamples like that?

          • nyccine says:

            That used to be my explanation, but I asked a colleague whose specialty was early English law and it turned out that it was not correct.

            Why does being a specialist in early English law make your colleague an expert in English etymology? “Prove” as a verb derives from “probare” “to test,” no? Hence “proving-ground” “proof of concept”, etc.

          • Why does being a specialist in early English law make your colleague an expert in English etymology?

            Because “the exception proves the rule” is the English translation of an early English legal maxim.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            First, I’m not disputing that it’s better to have a team that wins and is fun to watch.

            What I am asserting is that we consistently see teams that eschew “fun to watch” in favor of “has a better chance to win.” I have give multiple examples, not one example. I have also disproven one of your favored examples. If we wanted to go even farther, we could note the franchise value of both the Cubs and the Mets increased their valuations 22% after a year in which they met in the NLCS (this list was published before last season), and yet the Mets, in largely the same market, are worth less than half of the Yankees, the winnningest franchize in MLB history.

            You seem to be annoyed that I am asserting that competitive sports franchises want to win (as a means to generate revenue and increase franchise value). But you haven’t given any evidence that this is not the case, and the evidence you have pointed to actually supports rather than refutes the point.

            Market size is more of a factor in team valuation than winning, and obviously winning in sports is a zero sum game. I have disputed, and indeed have endorsed the idea, that the league as a whole needs to watch out for its brand and whether the overall league is well positioned vs. competing entertainment options. None of which makes any difference when considering whether an individual player will choose to shoot foul underhanded.

            I’m not sure what else to say at this point.

    • Spookykou says:

      It’s all about status.

      How much of their(teams and or players) money comes from being thought of as ‘cool’?

    • Tracy W says:

      Presumably it also proves we cannot expect regulators (aka coaches) to act rationally on their own accord.

      • Matt M says:

        See my post above, I think the coaches are also being rational here, in the sense that they have less real power than big stars (so telling the star to do something they will hate is a very risky proposition indeed) AND that one of their key duties is to get the team to cooperate and play well together (so setting up different rules for the players who have more power than you and the ones who don’t is a non-starter).

        Like, MAYBE if you had a super respected and famous and highly paid and secure in his job coach on a terrible team with no major stars, he could try ordering all of his players to do this and benching anyone who refuses – and MAYBE if it actually resulted in a significant improvement in free throw percentage – it would start to become more widely accepted, but that’s a very non-typical scenario…

        • Tracy W says:

          @Matt M: the same considerations can apply in the regulatory world, for example a polluting factory that’s the main employer in a marginal electorate, or regulating a socially popular group, eg regulating doctors.

          • Matt M says:

            Right, but the Congressman who refuses to crack the whip on a polluting factory that is a major employer of his constituents would not be said to be “acting irrationally” would they?

          • Tracy W says:

            @Matt M: it is indeed a recognised problem that you can have systems where each party is acting in their own rational interest and yet the overall outcome is irrational. (Prisoners’ dilemma is perhaps the simplest case of this.)

          • And the general term, at least in my usage, is market failure.

          • Matt M says:

            But I even dispute that the overall outcome is irrational. The main general purpose of basketball is entertainment. Winning games is ONE method of providing entertainment (for the fans of the winning team at least) but surely not the only.

            The only way you can definitively state that it’s “irrational” to not shoot underhand is by claiming that increased free-throw percentage clearly overrides all other competing values when it comes to playing basketball – which I think is clearly NOT the case.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Props for engaging with the question, even if it was just to snark.

        Coaches aren’t regulators, though. They aren’t supposed to safeguard the game from anything, just win.

        The NBA organization could be akin to a regulator, but free-throw percentage for particularly poor shots isn’t a danger to the game or the league or the players.

        My point being, that even when it completely in their self-interest to create space for players to reach far better free throw percentages, neither the players nor the coaches are capable of doing so.

        If, like we see with concussion protocols in the NFL, it is important for the game and the players safety, the players need the league to protect them from themselves, and the union asked for that protection in negotiations.

        • Tracy W says:

          @HeelBearClub: How was I snarking? (Genuinely puzzled here. I thought snarking was like being sarcastic. Is it just that any point stated conscisely is snark?)

          Coaches are like regulators in that they’re the ones who are meant to be improving the performance of the players and looking past the players’ individual interests to the good of the overall team. In this case, the good is winning, in a regulator’s case it might be environmental protection. If coaches can pass on clear chances to improve team performance, couldn’t an environmental regulator pass on clear changes to improve environmental performance?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Coaches are in competition with other coaches. It’s baked into their job requirement.

            Regulators aren’t in competition with other regulatory agency or other regulators. Maybe they have an oppositional relationship with those that they regulate, but that isn’t even necessarily so. Ideally they are looking out for the interests of everyone (the public, the consumer, and the business). That is definitely not true of a coach.

          • Tracy W says:

            @HeelBearChair: so coaches are under competitive pressures and still aren’t reaching the rational outcome (in their case maximising their chances of winning games).

            Regulators aren’t, so I would expect them to be, if anything, even worse at achieving their desired outcomes.

            Ideally they are looking out for the interests of everyone (the public, the consumer, and the business).

            Indeed, ideally governments all look out for the interests of everyone (the public, the consumer, and non-citizens). And yet, so many countries keep spending time and money on holding elections, and arguing about which candidates should be entrusted with government, as if they thought it was possible that a government might fail to do what they *should*. (Note: *that* last sentence was intended to be snark.)

          • Jordan D. says:

            I’m not sure it’s true that regulators don’t have the same sort of competitive pressure coaches have. I mean, some of them don’t, especially at the federal level, but consider, e.g., a state agency which regulates utilities:

            If you’re the State Utility Commissioner, you’re appointed by the governor and the legislature and tasked with ensuring that the people of State get reasonable rates and service. If you do a good job, you might get re-appointed; if you do a bad job, you’re going to be leaving at the end of your term. But what does a bad job mean? I think it means-

            1) Your state falls behind rates and services for other states.
            2) Your practices differ significantly from what the executive or legislature want.
            3) There’s enough public opinion that you’re doing a bad job that the elected officials aren’t willing to risk re-appointing you.
            4) The regulated entities threaten to revolt if a change doesn’t occur.

            This is pretty similar to the pressures a coach has. If their team becomes significantly worse than other teams, they get the boot. If they are really disliked by the owners of the franchise, they get the boot. If fans are boycotting their games, they get the boot. If the entire team goes on strike, I assume the coach will probably be leaving.

            So this kind of competition provides some protection against, say, a state utility commissioner who wants to socialize the electrical grid. There’s only so much damage he can do in one term (as a general rule, a regulation can always be held up for at least two years), and even if the legislature for some reason won’t act to block him immediately, once the electric companies start to pull out and the grid goes dark, he’s getting the boot. Likewise, even bad-but-less-harmful policies will come back to bite the commissioner if it turns out that they’ve caused the state’s ranking to fall from 29th to 47th as far as reliability or average rates.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Jordan D:
            Engaging with your hypothetical, if all of the states have reliable, “inexpensive” power that does come with “too many” side effects, all of the regulators “win”.

            In order for the situation to be comparable, you would need to have some system that cared about minute differences so that you could declare a victory.

            Coaches wake up every morning trying to figure out how to beat the next team and the next opposing coach. State power regulators mostly don’t think about what is happening in some other state, certainly not in a “how can I beat those guys” manner.

          • Jordan D. says:

            @HeelBearCub

            I acknowledge that there’s a clear- and possibly important difference- in that when two teams play, one has to lose each time. I agree that if tomorrow a revolutionary technological breakthrough caused all electric rates to slide to a tenth of present rates, every state PUC would declare themselves winners.

            From personal experience, however, I would respectfully disagree that state regulators don’t spend a significant amount of time comparing their performances to other states. A lot of regulatory regime changes occur alongside campaigns pointing at other states and going “They’re getting way better outcomes because they do X! We need to do X, too!” That’s also one of the most common ways to lobby a legislature to ‘fix’ a state’s system.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            How was I snarking?

            I’d be interested in seeing the answer to that one too.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Cerebral Paul Z/@Tracy W:
            Here is why I said it was snark.

            A single sentence response to a prompt which asked for discussion, and could easily comfortably conclude with the word “checkmate” comes across as snark, even it isn’t meant that way.

            To be fair, my prompt is a little tongue in cheek, so I was half expecting some snark in replies.

          • Tracy W says:

            @HeelbearCub: thanks for explaining. I think our comfort levels for calling “checkmate” are wildly different.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            While giving HBC due credit for making a substantive reply to Tracy despite the perceived snark, it seems to me that– assuming for the sake of argument that snark is bad– accusing someone of it should be subject to the same sort of interpretive charity, steelmanning, etc., as accusing them of any other bad thing. How a comment comes across isn’t necessarily how it really is.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Cerebral Paul Z:
            A few points:
            a) The entirety of the statement about snark was “even if it was just to snark.” That is a fairly mild and equivocal statement. It seems to me that I then did go on to respond to what I saw was the meat of the statement. Isn’t that the essence of steelmanning? To actually respond to a strong version of an argument? I don’t think you aren’t allowed to say as a preface “I’m going to steelman what you are saying because I think it has weaknesses as stated.”

            b) When Tracy indicated it wasn’t snark I originally chose to drop the subject altogether rather than even engage on it, so as to allow conversation to continue. Perhaps you think that is avoiding the issue, but it seems to me that I am again engaging with the substance of the disagreement, rather than what is ultimately an ancillary issue.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            I’m entirely in favor of treating the presence or absence of snark as a non-issue, now and always.

    • akidderz says:

      Malcolm Gladwell did a Revisionist History podcast on this issue. An interesting listen and better website interface.

    • drethelin says:

      I’m skeptical that underhanded free throws are that much better. The change in numbers based on a few examples seems not particularly significant, especially if you consider that players can grow in skill over their careers. There’s also the fact that the vast majority of free throws are thrown not in front of an audience, but while practicing. Any professional player would have the opportunity to test out this theory on their own time when they wouldn’t be embarrassed in front of the audience. I would be surprised if most players haven’t tried this during free-throw practice and concluded it wasn’t that good, or not good for them.

  4. Tracy W says:

    I’ve been taking part in Ozy’s reading people you disagree with challenge. I’m currently reading “What makes you NOT a Bhuddhist” by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse. He keeps using “we” statements, like “we believe that truth is eternal and unchanging” (not a direct quote), which from context Khyentse himself doesn’t believe, and personally I don’t either. I’ve seen this rhetorical approach before, of asserting that “we believe” something that isn’t anything anyone I know actually believes, and clearly the writer doesn’t either, and I was wondering, is there any examples of this technique working on anyone?

    • Spookykou says:

      The particular use of we in this situation does not hint at any kind of argumentative trick to me.

      I am not familiar with this book in particular, but based on the title, the author is claiming to be a ‘real Buddhist’ and explaining why the reader(on average) is not a ‘real Buddhist’. It seems that in clarifying the difference between two groups, one the author sees themselves as belonging to, the use of we should be expected.

      • Mark Jeffcoat says:

        The point is that the author is using “we” for a group that he does not belong to. “Here’s what I would say if I were a member of that group (even though I’m not) : We believe that …. “

      • Tracy W says:

        @Spookykou: I said ‘rhetorical approach’, not ‘argumentative trick’.

        Personally, it seems to me to be an anti-trick, because I find that rhetorical approach so irritating. I suppose it’s possible it’s some sort of subtle black art to drive me into anti-Buddhist prejudice.

        Let me give an example, Khyentse says (page 59),

        “We are stuck with our short-term thinking and bound by practicality. For us something must be tangible and immediately useful in order to be worth our investment of time and energy.”

        Okay, firstly, plenty of non-Buddhists study poetry, mathematics, music, seek love, or deliberately have children, all things that are often impractical and the first four are also intangible. (Indeed, the first three were all topics in my compulsory school education). So clearly this “we” doesn’t refer to non-Buddhists.

        So perhaps Khyentse means Buddhists only do things that involve short-term thinking, practical, tangible and immediately useful? But that just seems unlikely, given both the context of the book and the Buddhists I know. Plus, if the “we” here refers to Buddhists, why would Khyentse expect non-Buddhists to want to give up long-term thinking, intangible pleasures, and frivolity? Intangible pleasures are awesome. They’re cheap, transportable, and never ever require dusting.

        So who does this sort of rhetoric work on? Who thinks “Short-term thinking and practicality, that’s me!” That’s what I don’t get.

        (Note: Edited to correct page number.)

      • Spookykou says:

        I don’t see a substantive difference between ‘rhetorical approach’ and ‘argumentative trick’ I am just loading more negative affect into my description of the same thing.

        I assumed the intended audience is Buddhists, that the authors position is that a ‘True Buddhist’ is bound by, blah blah blah and that you the reader, who claim to be Buddhist do not live your life in that way, thus explaining to you what makes you NOT a Buddhist.

        So clearly this “we” doesn’t refer to non-Buddhists.

        This was my thinking as well.

        So perhaps Khyentse means Buddhists only do things that involve short-term thinking, practical, tangible and immediately useful? But that just seems unlikely, given both the context of the book and the Buddhists I know.

        The fact that Buddhists you know don’t behave this way is the whole point of the book.

        The phrasing of ‘What makes you NOT a Buddhist’ to my mind carries the assumption that the person reading it thinks they are Buddhist, which is what I am drawing my conclusions from, I have not actually read the book so I could be totally wrong.

        I also think you might be reading too literally into ‘immediately useful’ if you think it would preclude reading about Buddhism.

  5. Alex Zavoluk says:

    The British Medical Journal helpfully points out that parachutes have not been tested in RCTs: http://www.bmj.com/content/327/7429/1459

    • Tracy W says:

      Oh yes, that’s a fun article. I’ve cited it a few times when someone starts getting too intense about what counts as knowledge. Asked them if they’re willing to volunteer as a test subject.

    • James Miller says:

      “We think that everyone might benefit if the most radical protagonists of evidence based medicine organised and participated in a double blind, randomised, placebo controlled, crossover trial of the parachute.” Wouldn’t work from the viewpoint of these protagonists if they believe in quantum immortality.

    • Anon. says:

      The trials were not randomized or double blind, but clearly the people who design parachutes test their designs. Whether it’s a human hanging at the end or a dummy doesn’t really impact its performance. It’s a terrible argument.

      • Matt M says:

        And unlike drugs, we have a very confident knowledge of the limited variables involved. Parachutes are a simple physics problem. Human biology is far more complicated with a whole lot more variables to have to account for, thus necessitating a control group. We don’t need a control group for parachutes – human society has already dropped a bunch of heavy stuff from high up and knows exactly what happens if you DON’T put a parachute on it…

        • Tracy W says:

          @Matt M: that’s the point of the article. The authors aren’t really in favour of conducting an RCT on parachutes, they’re making a reducto ad absurdum argument that in some situations RCTs aren’t necessary.

      • …it might be a joke, you know.

  6. Well... says:

    @Iain: (continued from the continuation)

    My contention that Trump’s actual stances are moderate is not derived from the assumption you and I share, that Trump doesn’t believe most of the populist-right stuff that comes out of his own mouth. It’s the other way around:

    Moderateness is the default position of people who, as you described it, don’t have “actual stances”. E.g. if you don’t have an actual stance on Roe v. Wade, and suddenly you’re required to think about it, most people will just go for something approximating this safe statement: “It’s probably a good thing.” I believe Trump does that inwardly, but outwardly says whatever is strategically effective (in the case of his recent campaign, saying the thing that his targeted bases of support want to hear). (And, BTW, Trump’s political history happens to be quite moderate.)

    So I don’t think Trump is a dedicated moderate, it’s just the default position of someone without strong views on a given political issue. At the same time, I think he is dedicated to running a politically moderate administration for practical reasons. And again, there are one or two issues where he does seem genuinely enthusiastic—renegotiating trade deals and so on.

    I better understand now why you think my predictions are unfalsifiable: you are suggesting that he might replace his cabinet members “with regression toward the centrist mean,” but for entirely different reasons (i.e. randomness) than the ones I am proposing (i.e. strategic centrism) but neither of us can know which is the real reason. But I’d say you’re basically conceding to my prediction and its basic reasoning at that point: if Trump wasn’t a moderate, he would consistently cultivate a non-moderate cabinet. We already agree not only that he is a moderate, but that he is not a moderate out of conviction that the political center is Good and Right and True.

    Our remaining disagreement seems to be over whether Trump is a moderate because that’s the default position of someone without actual stances (my view), or because he really doesn’t care what happens as long as he still looks good (your view). (And I’ll happily admit that these two are not mutually exclusive.)

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      Trump’s political history happens to be quite moderate.

      I’m hesitant to give much weight to things he’s said more than a decade or so because people generally get more conservative as they age.

      • Well... says:

        If you said “I believe these 10,000 random people probably got more liberal as they aged, even though their statements didn’t” I’d say the fact that people tend to get more conservative as they age is a reason to distrust your belief, even without knowing anything else.

        But I don’t think the fact that people tend to get more conservative as they age can be used, on its own, to assert that a single individual did.

        Besides, doesn’t it kinda level off after a while?

      • I’m hesitant to give much weight to things he’s said more than a decade or so because people generally get more conservative as they age.

        My observation is that, as a person gains experience and years, his views tend to become more nuanced and less absolute. In other words, age leads people to retreat from the extremes and become more moderate as they age.

        If you start with a population of young, dedicated liberals, then sure, that process would be seen as leading them to become more conservative. But I have also seen young, dedicated conservatives move toward the political center as they got older.

        Arguably, those of a given age cohort, with the same decades of history as common experience, would tend over time to converge politically.

        • Aapje says:

          @Larry Kestenbaum

          I’d argue that some people are inherently extremist and fad-sensitive. These people generally get drawn to the most extreme fad du jour in college and then later in life, get pulling into whatever extremist thing is popular in the area where they end up.

          • I’d argue that some people are inherently extremist and fad-sensitive.

            As to extremists, consider that in the whole population, there are very few actual extremists in any age group.

            As to fads, i think almost everyone is fad-sensitive; otherwise, fads would never catch on and propagate.

            whatever … thing is popular in the area where they end up.

            No question that a person’s views are strongly influenced by the surrounding environment. For example, if someone moves to a city where conservative views are prevalent, chances are he or she will be influenced in a conservative direction.

            Of course, some people are contrarians, but most are not.

          • Aapje says:

            That depends on how you define extremist, I guess. I would argue that quite a few people are prone to extremism, but most are also extremely sensitive to peer pressure. In situations where these peer pressures fall away or support extremism, you see quite a bit of extremist behavior.

            As for fads, I should have said ‘much more fad-sensitive.’ Some people (like me) are extreme cynics, others are extremely willing to follow fads, most people are more moderate.

            No question that a person’s views are strongly influenced by the surrounding environment. For example, if someone moves to a city where conservative views are prevalent, chances are he or she will be influenced in a conservative direction.

            My point was that a certain type of personality will seek out the extremist view in the bubble they are in. It makes them feel good to have absolutist standpoints and be judgmental about others.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I think one thing about Trump that makes him different from us is that I don’t think he has the private/public distinction that we do. For me, and I’m pretty sure many people here are the same way, I spend a lot of time meta-thinking, figuring out what exactly I believe and how I can make coherent belief systems of out of all the mess. Then I carefully watch what I say in public, making sure I don’t confidently proclaim something that can be disproven with a google search or something heterodox enough to get me in trouble. Trump isn’t like that. I don’t think he’s stupid, I just don’t think he ever introspects. Whenever he says something, he’s just responding to the heat of the moment. He doesn’t spend much time cultivating his own belief system which makes him sound inconsistent, even if his general political mood isn’t. This comes so naturally to him that he doesn’t understand when people are different, which explains his own confusion towards journalist gotchas. That isn’t the attitude of a calculating politician caught in a lie. It’s the attitude of bewilderment.

      In the context of your debate, I don’t think there is a dichotomy between what Trump thinks is good for the country and what he views as good for himself.

    • Iain says:

      I disagree that moderate is the default position, and I therefore disagree that Trump is a moderate.

      The default position, if you don’t have opinions about an issue, is to adopt the opinions of the people around you. In the past, when Trump made most of his moderate-seeming remarks, those people were wealthy New Yorkers. For the foreseeable future, though, the people around Trump are going to be Republicans, and Trump is likely to default to Republican positions. I don’t think it’s worthwhile to quibble about precisely which Republicans might count as moderates, and your earlier comments about Bill Clinton and George Bush make me think that we are assessing moderation from incompatible viewpoints. I think we can agree, though, that the number of non-moderates is non-zero — off the top of my head, Steve Bannon seems like a clear case.

      Anchorless people float towards the middle of their bubbles. Trump’s bubble is not moderate. Barring public pressure, which he has done a good job of ignoring up to this point, I do not think there is any reason to believe that he will move systematically towards the center. What we are currently seeing is more or less what I expect we are going to continue to get.

      An alternative angle: would you say that Trump ran a moderate campaign? If not: why do you think that his practical reasons for moderation are different in office than on the campaign trail?

      • Well... says:

        You make a valid and coherent argument about Trump’s bubble. I’m still not convinced though: I find it unlikely that Trump’s closest friends/influences have changed much since before the campaign.

        Getting things done from the White House means something very different than getting things done in a campaign.

        • Spookykou says:

          I find it unlikely that Trump’s closest friends/influences have changed much since before the campaign.

          An alternative angle: would you say that Trump ran a moderate campaign? If not: why do you think that his practical reasons for moderation are different in office than on the campaign trail?

          Getting things done from the White House means something very different than getting things done in a campaign.

          The implication I read in the last quote is that Trump did not run a moderate campaign.

          If he is influenced by the people around him, did not run a moderate campaign, and you do not think the people around him have changed, then…what am I missing here?

  7. Thegnskald says:

    Has anybody done a write-up of the scaling informational entropy issue in government – namely, that
    the bits of information produced by elections aren’t sufficient to maintain a government of a certain scale of complexity?

    • Ivy says:

      Never heard of this idea before. Wouldn’t this suggest that having more frequent elections or direct democracy results in better governance?

    • sflicht says:

      It’s an interesting idea and I am not aware of any information theoretic analyses along these lines. But your premise seems a bit weak to me. In fact it is common for elected officials to use polls to determine policy, and it was/is probably also a practice (at least to some extent) in undemocratic regimes of the past and present to gauge public opinion through whatever means were available. (My gut feeling is that a lot of what we would classify as opinion polling and market research today was viewed as within the wheelhouse of espionage in the past — what with different levels of scientific knowledge about statistics and communications technology, but I’m curious to know more about this.) So there are actually lots and lots of bits of information, and the amount of available information has scaled in parallel to the complexity of governance. In the absence of a theoretical model which suggests a scaling law for the ratio (available info) / (governmental complexity), I’m not sure I find the concern underlying your comment especially compelling. Unless you’d care to elaborate by providing such a model?

    • Aftagley says:

      For this question, are you assuming a direct democracy in which a vast majority of policy decisions are decided by the voters? Because I could see that style of government getting out of hand pretty quickly.

      On the other extreme end of the system, if you consider elections as being opportunities to set the a nation’s overall philosophy (might be a poor use of the term. Character maybe?) then arguably those bits of information could be substantive enough to support an arbitrarily large government.

    • MoebiusStreet says:

      It’s a topic I’ve been thinking about recently, and it concerns me. You expressed it well, in terms of the bits of information. The universe of relevant issues on which we need to voice an opinion far exceeds how much we’re able to express our opinion, particularly at the federal level, by way of votes cast.

      This is a scalability problem in at least two dimensions. There are difficulties in the population size: because the democratic part of our government is hierarchical, the number of candidates for whom we can vote for (or against) only increases as the log of the population. More significantly, it fails as the scope of government increases: as it subsumes more functions, there are naturally more topics on which we need to express ourselves democratically, yet we get no additional channels to do so.

      The end result of this can be seen in, for example, a legislator who thinks that as long as they stay on the side of a “litmus test” issue like abortion or gun control, they can do whatever they please with respect to other issues; or a campaign that’s based primarily on demographics (race/gender/religion) because of party affinities, rather than directly addressing issues.

    • Aapje says:

      @Thegnskald

      My theory is that it’s not the time between elections that is the issue, but that many politicians become part of a system where they are bombarded with lobbyists, polls, narratives and other distorting information, while they stop having normal interactions with people. So they become increasingly unmoored from reality.

      This is why I strongly support term limits for the most intense government jobs (like president/prime minister)

    • cassander says:

      Arrow’s impossibility theorem makes basically this point about elections.

      • quanta413 says:

        That’s rather different is isn’t it? Arrow’s theorem is about the impossibility of making a function that can specifying the transitive preferences for a group from the set of rational individuals with well specified transitive preferences the make up the group.

        Even if all their preferences may align, this is more about the much harder issue of imperfect information being dispersed throughout the population. And whether or not we can imagine a form of government that can properly reveal enough of this hidden information from the people.

  8. Rock Lobster says:

    It’s commonly asserted that the glaring deficiency of pre-Scientific Revolution philosophy is the lack of science. It was heavy on observation and trying to reason between different hypotheses, but lacked the tool of experimentation to cull the herd of different speculative hypotheses and inspire new ones.

    But I find myself wondering, is this really true? Were the ancient Greeks, for example, held back by their lack of the scientific method, or were they simply held back by the primitiveness of their observational tools? Europe at the dawn of the Scientific Revolution had the benefit of many centuries of iterative technological tinkering that the Greeks didn’t, so that they were able to create the telescopes, microscopes, oceangoing ships, familiarity with simple chemicals, math(?), etc. that helped kickstart the advances of the Scientific Revolution. Consider that fields like astronomy and human anatomy are pretty much entirely observational, many advances in biology were observational (cells) or based on observation plus thought experiment (evolution). (I realize it’s more complicated than that; for example understanding spectral lines helps us interpret observations of stars).

    Or to put it in counterfactual terms, let’s say that Aristotle had in fact come up with the idea of science and wrote about it. What exactly would he or other philosophers of the time been able to do with it?

    I’m sure I’m not the first person to wonder this, but my curiosity is piqued.

    • Randy M says:

      I think there are a number of examples of gross anatomical knowledge that is able to be determined without any complicated blades, so I assume there is something to the criticism.

    • Spookykou says:

      I think the core concepts of the scientific method predate the scientific revolution.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      What do you mean by “science”? My guess is that Aristotle did write down something very close to your definition.

      What is “experiment”? What is the difference between “observation,” “measurement,” and “experiment”? When Hipparchus says that the precession of the equinoxes is 1 degree per century and asks future astronomers to measure it by comparing their observations to his charts, is he proposing an experiment? When Erasistratus does vivisections and determines which nerves are motor and which sensory, is he performing an experiment?

      Lucio Russo argues that the pneumatic toys of Ctesibius (which we know only through Hero’s recreations) were designed to falsify various claims by Aristotle about air and vacuum. Would that count as an experiment?

      I believe Russo’s claim that Alexandria in 150 BC was more advanced than Alexandria in 150 AD (Ctesibius vs Hero, Hipparchus vs Ptolemy, Erasistratus vs Galen), and so the lesson I draw from antiquity is that science is very fragile. The Roman era Greeks had the books of results of the Hellenistic Greeks, but they didn’t have enough grounding to really understand them, let alone create such knowledge.

      But I guess your question was not about antiquity, but about, say, 1200 vs 1600.

      • Rock Lobster says:

        Those are good points. I’m not sure I have good answers to them. All I can say is perhaps I’m not being broad enough with what constitutes an “experiment” and that maybe “think about what kinds of evidence would support this and go look for that evidence” would also fall under the rubric of science even though that’s not literally an experiment.

        • I have two examples of scientific experiments in the medieval period, one from a Norse saga, one from the Rehla of Ibn Battuta. The first was on the location of consciousness, the second on whether a phenomenon was really a miracle associated with a particular religious figure.

        • Matt M says:

          When I had an internship in the pharmaceutical industry, they made me read some primer on clinical trials that stated the first ever randomized controlled trial was made by one of the Babylonian kings…. something to do with allowing the Jews to keep kosher and then monitoring whether or not they were still effective fighters in the army or something like that?

          Someone who knows the old testament better than I can probably fill in the gaps and make some sense of this story. But the basic premise was “the core idea of controlled testing is literally older than Jesus”

      • Jiro says:

        When Hipparchus says that the precession of the equinoxes is 1 degree per century and asks future astronomers to measure it by comparing their observations to his charts, is he proposing an experiment

        It’s an experiment by some technical definition, but it cannot be used to disprove Hipparchus’ claims within his lifetime, so the dynamics around proposing such things are quite different from the dynamics around what we usually consider experiments.

    • Mark says:

      I think that love of experiment has normally been religiously motivated – once people have developed a Pythagorean view of the world, that the world can be expressed by number, and that this is meaningful, they have a motivation to make increasingly accurate measurements to prove their belief.

      In practical terms, I would think that engineers and craftsmen were conducting experiments throughout antiquity/middle ages, but that since these “experiments” were conducted for purely practical purposes there wouldn’t have been any reason to publicise the results more broadly to those outside of the trade.
      Only once we have the idea that the order of the universe might be revealed to us does the more general experimental science catch hold, before becoming an intellectual habit somewhat detached from the original motivation.

    • Not A Random Name says:

      Disclaimer: I’m trying to remember things from a presentation I once held on a related topic, it’s been a while and I haven’t spent much thought on it since. But Kurt Lewin had an interesting theory on that and I’ll try to present it as well as I remember:

      According to Kurt Lewin the main problem of the ancient greek in terms of scientific discovery was not one of tools or math or anything of that matter, it was a problem with their thinking and their approach to the world.
      Basically they were looking at the world around them and everything seemed to chaotic so they weren’t confident there even was such a thing as a law of physics that was always true. So what they did instead was to look for regularities and patters and then attribute those to objects.

      To give some examples:

      They observed a stone falling to the ground after letting it go and since it do so with great regularity and independent of which environment it was in they therefore concluded the stone most have a property that made it fall down and they called that property “heavy”. And every other object that fell down as well was attributed that property “heavy” as well. The problem with that is that they then started using that as an explanation for why things were falling down: Because they were heavy of course. And that’s just a circular argument that doesn’t give you deeper insight into anything.

      It can also be a problem that their (relatively) arbitrary categories could make it harder to see connections that in fact exist. For example they had the categories of “heavenly” and “earthly” and so it wasn’t natural at all to assume that the same universal principles (the laws of physics) applied to both equally. That in fact free fall experiments on earth told you something about how objects in space traveled.

      Also the idea of modelling everything as an attribute of objects can’t be used to adequately describe everything. A stone in a vacuum, far removed from all other sources of matter or mass, does not “fall down”. We now know that gravitational pull is an influence between two objects of mass – but how do you model that as a property of an object? Especially since in their model the earth wouldn’t even be a part of the “heavy” group.

      In any case his point was that in the discipline of physics there was a change in approach and perception to the world around the time of Galileo and in this opinion that was was caused the real change in scientific discovery and everything. And not math or better measuring tools. He then used this to show how his own discipline – psychology – was still very much stuck in what he called the “platonic way of thinking” and apparently was one of the pioneers for of modern experimental social psychology.

      There is more to this and if this sounds interesting to you I’m sure you can find more of it online. I don’t have access to any English sources, sadly, aside from his wikipedia-page.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        I don’t know about that explanation. Wouldn’t most scientists nowadays agree that “laws of nature” are really just generalisations based on the behaviour of physical objects?

    • cassander says:

      I would not understate the importance of printing. The amount of work it took to copy books pre-printing made the sort of accumulation of knowledge that empiricism requires incredibly difficult. You’d be hard pressed to preserve what already exists, much less generate new knowledge and disseminate it.

      The real question is why no one thought of printing sooner. printing takes no technology that wasn’t available in ancient times, but no one seems to have thought it up until Gutenberg. It’s one of those technologies like gunpowder or the horsecollar, that seems to have come way later than it should have.

      • Montfort says:

        Well, the Chinese did think of it – they were making woodblock prints on paper since like ~80AD, printing text around 500AD(?) and had movable type by the 11th century. Meanwhile, no one in Europe seems to have caught on to printmaking of any kind until about the 15th century (though, to their credit, it didn’t take long to see a wide variety of applications). [Note, I had to double check the dates on wikipedia, consult better sources if needed]

        But I wonder if the printing press would have really been all that helpful in preserving knowledge before, say, the 12th century- the market for books was awfully small, and you still need people to take care of the books, read them, and periodically reprint them. That is, I think easy reproduction is necessary but not sufficient to avoid “losing” a lot of knowledge and scholarship.

        • cassander says:

          the market for books was tiny because the cost was so high. In a pre-printing society each book represented months of labor. I don’t think it’s at all a coincidence that outpourings of scholarship often occurred in extremely small geographic spaces, 4th century athens or Ptolemaic Alexandria, because it was far easier to exchange ideas by speech than written word and that could only be done over very short distances. Printing, like a lot of industrial processes, created its own demand by lowering costs by orders of magnitude.

          I’m curious what inflection point you think there was circa 1200.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I don’t think it’s at all a coincidence that outpourings of scholarship often occurred in extremely small geographic spaces, 4th century athens or Ptolemaic Alexandria, because it was far easier to exchange ideas by speech than written word and that could only be done over very short distances.

            Counterpoint: the twelfth-century renaissance.

          • Montfort says:

            Nothing specific, just general literacy/universities/12th-century-renaissance stuff. Also before the big population crash for plague and various wars.

            I agree that to some extent cheaper books would have made a bigger market, but I’m not totally convinced that means a lot more viable copies of greek scientific work floating around europe instead of, say, latin bibles and religious glosses. I’m willing to concede we’d probably have fewer works lost altogether because a few would survive from luck out of big print runs (though not if they moved to less durable printing), but the fact that books in general are available would not increase demand for specific types of books.

            Like most historical counterfactuals, you could probably argue me around either way. It’s possible, e.g., having a lot of greek books floating around in western europe would keep knowledge of greek alive enough that they could be copied/translated/read, if they’re not crowded out by other works now made available.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            The Renaissance of the 12th Century seems pretty concentrated to me, concentrated in the Universities. Sure, it wasn’t only Paris, but also Oxford. Just like the Hellenistic Era wasn’t only Alexandria, but also Pergamon. (If Alexandria specialized in math/physics/astronomy, while Pergamon specialized in art and biology, maybe it was more concentrated. But the greatest scientists were Archimedes in Syracuse and Hipparchus on Rhodes.)

            James Franklin claims that the printing press didn’t do much good.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        I would not understate the importance of printing. The amount of work it took to copy books pre-printing made the sort of accumulation of knowledge that empiricism requires incredibly difficult.

        Plus, copying errors would run the risk of contaminating data that was already gathered. E.g., one of the problems in the heliocentrism vs. geocentrism debate was that the widely-available astronomical tables often had errors in them through having been copied and recopied so many times, making it more difficult to tell which theory actually fitted with the evidence better.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Do you have any concrete examples? I have heard that the printing press allowed the distribution of accurate trig tables (and maybe some predecessor to log tables).

        But I am not aware of any problems with the distribution of scientific data. Ptolemy’s star charts and geographic coordinates appears to be clean. I believe that Mr X is incorrect: the problems with tables were due to bias in creation, not error in distribution.

        The printing press could allow one person to collect data and the world to analyze it, but this didn’t happen for hundreds of years. Brahe didn’t publish his data, but left it for his personal collaborator. Really, he couldn’t publish his data because it was too expensive.

      • Rock Lobster says:

        That’s a great point as well. As far as I’m aware there wasn’t much of a “Republic of Letters” in the Ancient Greek world (including those parts of Italy and Asia Minor that were of the Greek-speaking world).

        Anyway I think that lends support to my speculation that maybe the causation is reversed, that the scientific method was a result of, rather than the cause of, the advances of the early Scientific Revolution era.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      If you want to know why science progressed the way that it did, the first thing you have to know is how it actually progressed. Most explanations are attempting to explain a false history.

      Most explanations of the supposed failings of Greek science are criticisms of the physics of Aristotle. Is he the peak of Greek science? No, he isn’t even the most famous Greek scientist. I emphasize fame because everyone already knows enough of Greek science to falsify the usual stories.

      • Rock Lobster says:

        I’m not sure exactly what you mean by this. Could you elaborate?

        I know that part of the problem with pinning down Ancient Greek philosophy is that so much of what we “know” about the Presocratics and Sophists is filtered through Aristotle and Plato, both of whom may not conveyed their views accurately.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Sure, we don’t know how sophisticated the philosophies of Thales and Democritus were, nor how advanced their results. I’m saying that there are people after Aristotle. Lots of them left no record, but plenty of documents survived. I’m saying that whenever anyone talks about what was wrong with Greek science, you can disprove it by reading Archimedes, the single most famous Greek scientist. Often you can disprove it by reading Aristotle himself, his book on fish — biology was his specialty, after all.

          Similarly, most descriptions of medieval science are nonsense.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Often you can disprove it by reading Aristotle himself, his book on fish — biology was his specialty, after all.

            Apparently Aristotle was the first man (that we know of) to discover that dolphins are mammals, not fish. He worked this out by dissecting dolphins and discovering that they give birth to live young rather than by laying eggs.

  9. sflicht says:

    Apparently a seemingly obscure legal corner case involving a cross-border shooting — one of the first matters SCOTUS takes up in 2017, probably (?) before Trump’s nominee for Scalia’s seat is confirmed — will actually have significant consequences for reasons I don’t fully understand. Thus it is generating some discussion on Lawfare. I wonder if any experts on here (Controls Freak et al) have thoughts on the matter.

    • Jordan D. says:

      I’m not a criminal or international attorney, but from my brief readings of the briefs in this case, I think Professor Vladeck has the better argument. I mean, I suppose the Supreme Court could use this case as a springboard to declare that the 4th and/or 5th Amendments apply to all people everywhere in the world- but I wouldn’t put any substantial sums of money on that. Or minute sums, for that matter.

      Now, it isn’t obvious that the Court is going to grant relief to the plaintiff here, but if they do, I imagine it would be by doing exactly what Justice Kennedy has suggested in the past by creating a category of permissible Constitutional non-citizen extraterritorial claimants for the border area. An opinion which allows, say, Angela Merkel to assert a 4th Amendment claim seems really far-fetched.

  10. Thorium says:

    Can someone remind me why a national ID card is a bad idea?

    Context: in the airport yesterday I saw a sign that some states’ drivers licenses will soon not be good enough to let you on a plane. “Sigh,” I said, “it looks like we’re getting closer and closer to having a national ID card.” And then I couldn’t remember why that was a bad thing.

    • sflicht says:

      I think it’s a potentially good idea at this point. But my generic argument against is that if such a thing exists the government is going to expect you to carry it around and produce it when it interacts with you (e.g. when you get pulled over by the cops). It’s bad when we let the government force us to do something, and this is a particularly fascistic thing that was commonly done by oppressive states of the past.

      Incidentally I hate the modern passport system and I wish we could go back to the pre-WWI situation, but that doesn’t seem likely anytime soon.

      On the other hand, I spent the last year living in Hong Kong where they do have a national (er, well, special autonomous regional) ID card and it’s pretty convenient, especially for getting through immigration control quickly without human interaction. Although with Global Entry I can do that in America too now, so maybe it’s not a big advantage. I suspect the biggest advantages would come if the card has support for various cryptographical operations (a la Estonia’s national ID card, but not Hong Kong’s), but I’m not actually positive these would be that useful in practice.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        Out of interest, what was the pre-WW1 passport system like?

        • sflicht says:

          From Wikipedia, I gather that enforcement couldn’t keep up with railroad technology, so while many states issued passports they weren’t really required when travelling.

        • John Schilling says:

          There was no “system”, but rather a patchwork of often-unwritten rules. From the glass-half-full perspective, this is great: no pesky bureaucracy, I don’t have to apply for passports or visas, I don’t have to ask permission, to travel between nations. From the glass-half-empty perspective, not so great: you can’t get a passport or a visa, and there is no way to know whether you will be permitted to cross the border until you show up and maybe get turned back.

          This wasn’t so much a problem for the person who lived in Flanders and had business in Amsterdam every other month, because they knew the unwritten rules about who was allowed to cross that border and when. For e.g. prospective US immigrants, I know that the major steamship companies had their offices in Europe insist on all of the passengers showing some sort of ID documentation that, in their experience, would get them past the inspectors at Ellis Island (and thus not thrown back on the ship to be repatriated to Europe at the company’s expense). So at least if you were going to be told “No”, it would probably be in your own country.

    • Anonymous says:

      Well, in the United States it’s a political issue (“voter fraud!” vs. “oppression of the poor!”), so you naturally are gonna get mindkilled on it.

      I don’t see any objective problem with it, however.

      (Was any sort of atrocity inflicted or enabled by national ID systems on the subjects by a despotic regime somewhere? I haven’t heard about it, but it’s theoretically possible – identify everyone, then round up the heretics and apply bullet to the back of the skull. But you don’t really need a national ID for this, do you?)

      The one great, awesome advantage is being able to prove that you are you when interacting with state officials. They’re duty-bound to accept the document they themselves issue as valid. Combined with a national registry, this is an easy way to keep tabs on the population, too. If you’re unable to produce a national ID and there’s no trace of you in the system otherwise, the judiciary is going to assume you’re an illegal immigrant; unlike in the US, where it’s not strictly necessary to be in any particular database or have any sort of identification – hence the immigration problems.

      • sflicht says:

        Ever heard of yellow badges? I’m not — I repeat NOT — saying I think a national ID card is even remotely likely to be used for any sort of profiling purposes, let alone genocide, given the institutional structures in place in American society. But, frankly, the fact that identifying the outgroup is prerequisite to eliminating them is so obvious, that I’m genuinely surprised your comment seems oblivious to it.

        • Anonymous says:

          That’s a stretch, but I’ll grant that a national ID system did make it slightly easier to find out who is a Jew and who is not. I don’t think it was that much of a difference, given the other ways of identification – religious affiliation records, birth certificates, genital alterations, testimony of local Gentiles, etc.

          According to my learnings, that’s how they found out most of the time; identity papers were branded afterwards. It made it more efficient to keep track of identifications made.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I didn’t see this post but briefly address this – there may be a link between the easier ability of the German occupiers of the Netherlands to identify Jews due to pre-war census and identification data, and the far higher % of Dutch Jews who were victims of the Holocaust than was the norm in Western Europe.

        • John Schilling says:

          Ever heard of yellow badges?

          Universal ID plus Big Data makes the yellow badge obsolete. If the government cares whether a citizen or permanent resident is e.g. a Muslim, they can determine that with very high confidence from the digital trail essentially everyone leaves in their daily life, e.g. the credit card that is used at a restaurant almost every day at lunchtime except during Ramadan. With universal ID, you cannot interact with the government, or even with sufficiently-regulated businesses, without revealing your identity as a Known Muslim. It doesn’t have to say so on the ID, it says so on the screen that e.g. the TSA officer can see and you can’t as he scans your ID.

          At this point, we may be fighting a doomed rearguard action against Ubiquitous Law Enforcement and either eternal tyranny or total collapse. But this particular piece of territory seems to be, for cultural reasons, one we can hold for a good while and which will confound the Enemy’s plans more than most.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’m wondering about the likelihood of a future where The People in Charge don’t have privacy either. I’m assuming that they might have some privacy for a while, but it ultimately won’t be possible to prevent the data about them being leaked.

      • Jiro says:

        A national ID is good for and cross-referencing you in various databases, which can lead to findong out very private information by combining them. Of course, this happens already with drivers’ licenses, credit cards, etc. (and it’s bad there too).

      • cassander says:

        >(Was any sort of atrocity inflicted or enabled by national ID systems on the subjects by a despotic regime somewhere?)

        The USSR, and other communist states, used internal passports to restrict and keep track of everyone’s movement. Granted, the qualifications sflicht makes apply here as well.

      • dndnrsn says:

        (Was any sort of atrocity inflicted or enabled by national ID systems on the subjects by a despotic regime somewhere? I haven’t heard about it, but it’s theoretically possible – identify everyone, then round up the heretics and apply bullet to the back of the skull. But you don’t really need a national ID for this, do you?)

        I remember reading/hearing that pre-WWII census data in the Netherlands was more precise and complete than the norm, which helped the German occupiers in rounding up Jews. A bit of Googling gives this from Wikipedia:

        Also, the civil administration was advanced and offered the Nazi-German a full insight in not only the numbers of Jews, but also where they exactly lived.

        I would have to follow up on this, though, since I am not sure that I have it right. A much higher % of Jews in the Netherlands were victims of the Holocaust, but there’s a variety of factors given as possible reasons.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          I feel I should point out that having a accurate census data and having a national ID card scheme aren’t the same thing. It’s quite possible that the accurate Dutch census records made it easier for the Nazis to round up Jews, but that having a national ID system wouldn’t have made it any easier.

          • Matt M says:

            I suppose its possible but seems unlikely.

            As I see it, the census and the ID work together. The census gives you a big long list of names tied to religion, and the ID allows you to tie a specific individual you see on the street to the name.

            That’s exactly how the system can be sinister. You sell the public on the ID with the idea that “hey, don’t worry, all it will have on it is your name and whether or not you’re an organ donor, it won’t list your religion or anything like that, that would be creepy and evil”

            But of course in a different venue that you don’t necessarily think about, they ARE asking for your religion and every other thing they might use against you one day.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Presumably a national ID scheme would need some kind of central database, etc? Even if your central database for the ID cards doesn’t include stuff like ethnicity, religion, etc, it still makes it a lot easier to link the ID cards to the census data.

          • Gazeboist says:

            @Matt M:

            I would personally be satisfied with “hey, don’t worry, if you’re concerned about privacy just get five and use them for different things”. It seems pretty unlikely that we’ll get that system, though (and it has its own flaws, of course).

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      Because roughly 25% of the American public are evangelicals, and some evangelical Christians worry that it constitutes the first steps towards the Mark of the Beast. Of those who have no religious objection there are also federalists and other States’ Rights types who oppose on principle any further centralization of power in the federal government.

      It’s a policy idea with large blocs of guaranteed opposition and very few passionate defenders.

  11. So the russian hacking news continues.

    Ok. Lets think about incentives. What actual incentives would putin and the general russian government have in order to greenlight such a thing?

    And also…what actually occured? Can anyone pinpoint to exactly what that government has done?

    • Anon. says:

      >What actual incentives would putin and the general russian government have in order to greenlight such a thing?

      Assuming the Russians thought Hillary was more Hawkish: avoiding war?

      • sflicht says:

        I have a suspicion that at the highest levels of strategic thinking in both Russia and the US, a one-dimensional hawk/dove model of the political dynamics determining policy in both countries is viewed as completely obsolete, except insofar as it proxies (imperfectly) for the model that might be used implicitly by an unsophisticated median voter. I personally thought US-Russian relations were among the most important 2-3 issues during the 2016 US elections, and I viewed HRC’s stated Russia positions as disqualifying, but I don’t think it’s accurate to say that what I worried about was an outright declaration of total war.

    • “And also…what actually occured? ”

      Apparently people probably working for the Russian government successfully accessed the email records of the Democratic National Committee and one of their high up people and gave the information to Wikileaks, which published it. Some of the information made the relevant Democrats look bad.

    • Aftagley says:

      This article by IBTIMES links to a good DHS report of what happened (at least the first half does. After that it goes into cyber security good practices. It’s a pretty good summary of what happened. Basically they used social engineering to get enough information to conducted spearphising attacks, used those to get credentials and install malware on the network that let them exfiltrate data.

      As for incentives, there are three motives I’ve heard that make sense:

      1. Putin does not like Hillary Clinton. As Sec. of State, she oversaw the implementation of international sanctions after the invasion of the Ukraine happened that have crippled the Russian economy. We don’t hear much about it, but Putin’s Russia is not doing very well. Nato says they entered a recession caused by the sanctions (and falling oil prices) back late 2014 and haven’t been able to get out of it since then. Even before that, she led America’s critique of Russian interferences with global democracy and attacks on journalists. She’s criticized Putin for years, this was his way of getting revenge.

      2. Putin thinks Trump will be more supportive of Russia, maybe even rolling back the sanctions. I mean, during his campaign he toyed with the idea of acknowledging Russian control of Crimea. Russia had the option between someone who has a record of being unfriendly towards Russia vs. an outsider who was saying nice stuff. It’s hard to understate just how beneficial international recognition of Russian expansion and an easing of the economic penalties would be for Putin and Russian as a whole.

      3. Putin likes chaos. I admit, this one’s a bit less tangible than the other reason, but according to this narrative, Putin sees himself as a better geopolitical actor than the other world leaders, and thinks he’s better able to leverage chaos for national advancement than his peers. If he thinks Trump would lead to instability, and he’d be better than anyone else at exploiting that instability, he’d go for it.

  12. Stefan Drinic says:

    Is there something you’d like to know about that strange land across the Atlantic this time around, Mark? I’m sure Aapje, Tibor and I would be happy to oblige you.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      This is a very strange comment. Is this directed at me, since I think the other Mark is in the UK? It is true that I find non-US contributors very valuable, since we get very little ink in the media here with the viewpoints of non-Americans. But I have nothing in particular right now. Although I would like to know what country you live in Stefan — it is always nice to where people are coming from.

  13. Wander says:

    I have something of a game-theory question. Say that every human in the world was given a ticket that they could use to enter one of two lotteries. One lottery has a prize of 400 million US dollars, while the other is 2 million. Is there a proper way to figure out which is the better lottery to enter?

    • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expected_value#Univariate_discrete_random_variable.2C_finite_case

      That doesn’t consider risk-averse behavior, though.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Risk_aversion

      Nor, the entire science of predicting the entire planets decision on this, of course.

    • Iain says:

      Assuming for the sake of simplicity that the utility of money is linear, I believe the Nash equilibrium for this situation occurs when everybody enters the $2M lottery with 200:1 odds. If everybody else uses the same strategy, the expected value of both options is the same — the $400M lottery has 200 times as many people, but pays out 200 times as much — so you can’t gain an advantage by changing your strategy. For any other strategy, one of the lotteries would be a better bet than the other.

      • John Schilling says:

        Since the utility function of money is neither linear nor uniform, this makes the correct answer as follows: Determine whether your actual utility function is, at the megabuck-to-gigabuck level, more or less linear than the average person’s perceived utility function. If more linear, go for the $400E6 payoff, which will by your standards be undervalued in the market. Less linear, $2E6.

    • Anonymous says:

      What the other two have said. My take:

      First determine if you are maximizing the amount of cash won, or whether winning either is not really distinguishable in terms out of outcome for you. I mean, I wouldn’t care if I won 2 million or 400 million, just that I won either: I’m now super rich in any of those outcomes. In this situation, simply go with the lottery that is more likely to grant you a win.

      If you’re maximizing cash, then multiply the change of winning by the amount to be won, and compare the two. Choose the one that produces the higher number.

  14. sflicht says:

    On the theme of things I recently watched on airplane and enjoyed, has anyone watched the show Limitless? I gather that it’s a remake of an old movie that shared the plot of “Lucy” (which I didn’t see), but I thought it was well-done. Themes relevant to SSC include: nootropics, consequentiialst vs deontological ethics, and certain battlegrounds in the culture wars.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      A 2011 movie is “old”?

    • Said Achmiz says:

      I have watched this show’s entire single-season run. (Sadly it was not renewed for a second season.) I enjoyed it tremendously. Here’s some of my thoughts on it.

      The thing about Limitless, the series, is that it is not in the same genre as Limitless, the movie. The movie is… a thriller? I guess? (I quite liked it as well, by the way.)

      The series, on the other hand, is a superhero show.

      Brian Finch (the lead character) gets superpowers, which are unique to him (or… are they??); these superpowers change his life and his perspective on things. The nature of Brian’s superpowers is a bit nebulous, and while they’re tightly centered around a core “thing”, new ways to use them can pop up as the plot demands (i.e. the superpowers are magic, not science). Naturally, Brian uses his newfound superpowers to fight crime and generally help people. He is a good person; his life is kind of a mess, he doesn’t really have it together, but he has a good heart; he’s selfless, loyal, and compassionate. Circumstances prevent him from being able to reveal the truth about his superpowers to his family, whom he loves dearly and who love him. Bad guys are after Brian; they either want to kill him or to press him into service, so as to harness his superpowers for their own evil ends. Fortunately, Brian has allies who know about his superpowers (and who have their own agendas, as well as a dark secret or two). He also has a mysterious benefactor / nemesis / something.

      In short, Brian is not far removed from a Peter Parker or similar figure. It’s a familiar story; we’ve seen it many times.

      But it’s done really well. As @sflicht says, some very interesting themes are explored, that relate to both social and individual issues. The show takes these themes seriously, and doesn’t scoff at the unusual and the out-of-the-mainstream, or use such things as cheap ploys to set up Weird Bad Guys Who Are Bad Because Weird (oh, if I had a nickel for every TV series that did this…). The characters are well-written and enjoyable to watch; the (non-sexual!) chemistry between Brian and Rebecca is great, and Brian’s father (played by the outstanding Ron Rifkin) single-handedly takes the show to a level above the competition by convincingly showing us many realistic ethical and legal implications of situations that, in many other such shows, are simply ignored or blithely glossed over.

      Another note about the show’s formula: “person with superpowers + ordinary law enforcement agency = solve crimes” is not new, and there are parallels with The Sentinel, Alien Nation, Continuum, and even Dexter (in the latter’s case, if for no other reason than the fact that Jennifer Carpenter plays very nearly the same role in both shows…). Limitless holds up well in these comparisons, in my opinion. I’m a fan of police procedurals, so this aspect of the series is positive in my eyes; it may turn off some people, however.

      Finally, Limitless features the best hacking scene since Hackers.

    • Not A Random Name says:

      Watched the first 8 episodes and then quit the series. I really liked it at the start. But I guess it wasn’t serious enough for me. Or rather, many characters where introduced as “the serious type” and then couldn’t pull it off. There’s just so many times you can “let it slide” and still be taken seriously.
      So yea. After a while I lost my willing suspension of disbelieve and after that everything usually is mediocre at best. I will say I never felt the series was downright bad.

      As for all the themes you mention: I don’t remember any of those aside from nootropics and there I feel the series took the only reasonable approach: Use it if it exists.

  15. Aapje says:

    We were recently discussing why Assange doesn’t go after Russia (or China) and he himself recently gave an interview explaining it:

    In Russia, there are many vibrant publications, online blogs, and Kremlin critics such as [Alexey] Navalny are part of that spectrum. There are also newspapers like Novaya Gazeta, in which different parts of society in Moscow are permitted to critique each other and it is tolerated, generally, because it isn’t a big TV channel that might have a mass popular effect, its audience is educated people in Moscow. So my interpretation is that in Russia there are competitors to WikiLeaks, and no WikiLeaks staff speak Russian, so for a strong culture which has its own language, you have to be seen as a local player. WikiLeaks is a predominantly English-speaking organization with a website predominantly in English. We have published more than 800,000 documents about or referencing Russia and President Putin, so we do have quite a bit of coverage, but the majority of our publications come from Western sources, though not always. For example, we have published more than 2 million documents from Syria, including Bashar al-Assad personally. Sometimes we make a publication about a country and they will see WikiLeaks as a player within that country, like with Timor East and Kenya. The real determinant is how distant that culture is from English. Chinese culture is quite far away.

    Interestingly, it seems that this interview got turned into fake news by The Guardian, who ‘summarized’ the interview by simply rewriting the answers to fit their own narrative. If you see claims that Assange supports Trump and/or that Assange close relationship with the Putin regime, then be aware that both are false memes, which are probably based on these gross distortions of the Assange interview.

    • Aftagley says:

      If you see claims that Assange supports Trump and/or that Assange close relationship with the Putin regime, then be aware that both are false memes, which are probably based on these gross distortions of the Assange interview.

      Hold on, there’s a huge difference between “This article distorts an interview to fit an existing narrative” and “therefore the existing narrative is false.” Remember, the accusations of pro-Russia, pro-Trump bias existed way before this recent article.

      This article: seems to do a pretty good job describing his biases. He’s pro-Russian in the sense that working with Russia has netted him valuable intel that he’s been able to leverage into massive popularity for his platform. He’s pro-Trump in the sense that he doesn’t like Clinton, either personally (she opposed wikileaks early and often) or for what he feels she represents (a distant, arguably unaccountable entrenched political class.)

      Also, his reasoning is pretty sketchy. I guess I understand that not having any staff that speaks the language or knows the culture makes sense, but saying that a country that is currently arresting and killing journalists doesn’t need any help having a free press is a bit disingenuous.

      • Aapje says:

        Remember, the accusations of pro-Russia, pro-Trump bias existed way before this recent article.

        I was talking specifically about claims that Assange spoke out in support of Trump & that he has a close relationship with the Putin regime. These are far stronger claims than mere pro-Russia, pro-Trump bias.

        False news tends to build on established narratives, by making more extreme, but false claims, which people believe because it fits with their established narrative. This tends to happen step by step, each iteration pushing people further away from the truth.

        He’s pro-Russian in the sense that working with Russia has netted him valuable intel that he’s been able to leverage into massive popularity for his platform.

        There is actually no evidence that he knowingly got the intel from the Russian government, so you seem to have jumped to conclusions.

        In my opinion, the accusation of being pro-Russian requires that someone actually goes out of their way to benefit Russia. Your claim is actually that he is not anti-Russian: that he doesn’t refuse to work with Russia when they have shared interests (and even this weaker claim lacks evidence).

        This kind of inversion/manipulation of the truth is exactly the kind of dirty tricks that are used to deceive people.

        Also, his reasoning is pretty sketchy. I guess I understand that not having any staff that speaks the language or knows the culture makes sense, but saying that a country that is currently arresting and killing journalists doesn’t need any help having a free press is a bit disingenuous.

        He never said that they didn’t need any help. Again, you are making things up.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          In Russia, there are many vibrant publications, online blogs … So my interpretation is that in Russia there are competitors to WikiLeaks

          That whole section is a big problem for your theory, Aapje. It applies far more to the US than it does to Russia. That is Assange giving a very glossy version of the state of the media in Russia.

          It’s one thing to say that they don’t speak Russian, so they aren’t in a good position to collect, analyze and distribute Russian secrets.

          It’s quite another to preface it by saying that Russia is fine anyway.

          • Timothy says:

            I think there’s a subtext to that part. He specifically mentions people/orgs getting persecuted as threats to the Russian gov’t. Compare to Wikileaks, Manning, Snowden, getting persecuted as threats to the USG & aligned governments. Compare to the bulk of the Western media not getting persecuted by the USG, because they’re collusive or ineffective and not a threat.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            That whole section is a big problem for your theory, Aapje. It applies far more to the US than it does to Russia.

            Nowhere in the statement does he say that Russia is less oppressive than the US (which he doesn’t even mention!). The main point he makes is that whether people turn to WikiLeaks is a matter of those people perceiving WikiLeaks as a good way to make information public. If there are alternatives that are perceived as a better way, in that culture, people will use those alternatives. Is this such a weird argument??

            He states that this perception exists about WikiLeaks in English-speaking countries, Syria, East Timor and Kenya, but not in Russia or China.

            What you are doing is reading things into his answer that he didn’t actually say.

            It’s quite another to preface it by saying that Russia is fine anyway.

            Sigh. The word ‘fine’ is nowhere in the statement, nor any other statement that can reasonably be read as such.

            He merely doesn’t go out of his way to state the problems with Russia, which you interpret as him believing that they don’t exist.

            Not stating something is not the same as stating the opposite!

          • Jaskologist says:

            Snowden and Manning aren’t get persecuted as “threats” simply because they are criticizing the USG. They leaked classified information, which we have laws against for a good reason.

          • Matt M says:

            “Snowden and Manning aren’t get persecuted as “threats” simply because they are criticizing the USG. They leaked classified information, which we have laws against for a good reason.”

            I don’t have any good examples off the top of my head, but have there not been people who have leaked certain classified information and not been strongly prosecuted for it?

            Or, to frame the issue another way, is it not possible that the people who decide what to classify and what to release do so with a strong consideration of “does this make the government look bad or not?” (as in, the issues of classified info vs government criticism are deliberately intertwined)

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t have any good examples off the top of my head, but have there not been people who have leaked certain classified information and not been strongly prosecuted for it?

            Usually the leaks are published by journalists citing “anonymous sources”. The journalists can’t be prosecuted because they don’t have security clearances in the first places, haven’t signed a Form 86, and so aren’t violating any laws. The anonymous sources can’t be prosecuted because, do the math.

            I am not aware of any case where someone with a security clearance is known to have deliberately “leaked” Top Secret information with the intent of having it appear in a newspaper or the like, without the government at least trying to have them thrown in jail for it. There may be a few cases like that, but it’s rare. If it appears to have been simple negligence, the government usually settles for terminating their clearance and their job.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            And if Manning or Snowden had leaked selected information which had shown wrong-doing, they might very well have never been prosecuted as whistle-blower protections do actually allow this.

            Despite their claim to want to expose wrong-doing, what they revealed mostly had very little to do with that.

          • onyomi says:

            So if the government determines that what you report on the government for doing was not wrong, then you are in big trouble, but if the government determines the government was in the wrong, you’re okay?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            Please, some charity.

            Do you think that the bulk of the documents released by Snowden and Manning dealt with wrong-doing? Do you know enough about what they actually released?

          • registrationisdumb says:

            something something pentagon papers, Ellsberg, New York Times

          • John Schilling says:

            You are aware that the US Government tried to put Daniel Ellsberg in jail for a very long time, right? I’m not sure what point you are trying to make.

        • Aftagley says:

          I was talking specifically about claims that Assange spoke out in support of Trump & that he has a close relationship with the Putin regime. These are far stronger claims than mere pro-Russia, pro-Trump bias.

          My apologies then. When you said,

          If you see claims that Assange supports Trump and/or that Assange close relationship with the Putin regime, then be aware that both are false memes

          I thought you meant in general, not just specifically as they relate to that one article.

          There is actually no evidence that he knowingly got the intel from the Russian government, so you seem to have jumped to conclusions.

          After the initial series of releases in early June, the leaks were publically attributed to Russian hacking. Despite that, Assange continued to release the information in a steady drip up until the election. I agree, it’s unlikely that at one point he sat down with a Russian Intelligence officer and agreed to release information as part of a Russian operation, but he had good reason to believe the intel he had came from Russian intelligence sources and he still decided to release it.

          In my opinion, the accusation of being pro-Russian requires that someone actually goes out of their way to benefit Russia. Your claim is actually that he is not anti-Russian: that he doesn’t refuse to work with Russia when they have shared interests

          Yep, this is where we have a difference of perspective. (Although to be totally accurate, my actual claim is something more along the lines of “he knowingly allowed himself to be used by Russian Intelligence because it furthered his personal goals.”)

          But to your point, I don’t see a tangible difference there. If you’re acting of your own volition, and the net result of your actions benefit Russia, then you were acting in a way that is pro-Russian.

          He never said that they didn’t need any help. Again, you are making things up.

          Ok, if that’s the case then I’ve totally misread the first part of his quote. When he says,

          In Russia, there are many vibrant publications, online blogs, and Kremlin critics such as [Alexey] Navalny are part of that spectrum. There are also newspapers like Novaya Gazeta, in which different parts of society in Moscow are permitted to critique each other and it is tolerated, generally, because it isn’t a big TV channel that might have a mass popular effect, its audience is educated people in Moscow. So my interpretation is that in Russia there are competitors to WikiLeaks…

          It looks to me like he’s making a dual claim: That there are already blogs and small newspapers releasing the same information wikileaks would if they had a larger Russian presence AND that state control of the larger media organizations is such that wikileak’s information would never be publically broadcast on TV.

          Maybe it was overly-reductive of me to boil that down to saying the Russia doesn’t need wikileak’s help, but that seems to be the gist of his comments; that the information wikileaks could uncover is already in the public discourse.

          • Aapje says:

            After the initial series of releases in early June, the leaks were publically attributed to Russian hacking.

            After

            As of yet there is no proof that the Russian government is behind it (it is not implausible, but not proven), there is weak evidence that Russian-speaking people are behind it and there is zero proof that Assange got it from anyone who was openly pro-Russia.

            but he had good reason to believe the intel he had came from Russian intelligence sources and he still decided to release it.

            Perhaps, although he may plausibly know more than you and I, which he may value higher than the weak evidence from the media. However, even if it is the case that he knew or suspected that the source was the Russian government, it merely shows that he is not so anti-Russia that he will make an exception on his normal policy to spite Russia.

            Do you believe that he would have refused the exact same evidence if Huma Abedin had given this to Assange (not that this is plausible, but just to make a point)?

            If you’re acting of your own volition, and the net result of your actions benefit Russia, then you were acting in a way that is pro-Russian.

            So if a person is 100% self-interested and their actions benefit Russia yesterday and harm Russia today, both merely by chance and not due to a conscious decision to help/harm Russia, was he pro-Russia yesterday and anti-Russia today? Does it make any sense to frame it this way?

            I would argue that your framing is incredibly deceptive, perhaps not to yourself (you may have a highly irregular definition of pro-Russia and not suffer from motte-and-bailey fallacies in your reasoning), but certainly to others who read your statement that he is pro-Russia. I’ll bet that most people define pro-Russia way more strictly than: doesn’t go out of his way to harm Russia.

            It looks to me like he’s making a dual claim

            The way I read his statement is that he is making a rationalization of why he isn’t approached by Russians.

            I think that there might be a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of WikiLeaks, where you see them as a pro-active organization who actively refuses to go after Russia, while I (and probably Assange too) see them as a fairly passive organization that is highly dependent on people approaching them.

          • Aftagley says:

            After

            Yes, but that only covers the initial release. Well after Russia had been implicated in this attack, Wikileaks continued their campaign.

            As of yet there is no proof that the Russian government is behind it (it is not implausible, but not proven

            Out of curiosity, what level of proof would you require in order to feel confident it was Russia?

            Everyone from The cyber security company that responded to the initial hacks at the DNC, to the US intelligence community have attributed the hacks to Russia. There is no evidence that any third party conducted hacks and then leaked the information to Wikileaks. As of yesterday, this same information is the basis for new US sanctions on Russia. None of this, perhaps, can stand on its own as conclusive proof, but Russia’s involvement is the most reasonable option based on the preponderance of the evidence. This might be an appeal to authority, but these organizations have access to information and expertise I don’t. I don’t see anything that renders their conclusion untrustworthy.

            Do you believe that he would have refused the exact same evidence if Huma Abedin had given this to Assange

            No. Assange’s antipathy for Clinton has, if you trust the former wikileaks associate quoted in the Buzzfeed article I linked earlier, existed since at least 2010. I think he would seize any opportunity to publish information that would hurt her chances at victory.

            That being said, I don’t think I’ve understood your question here. Would you mind rephrasing it?

            So if a person is 100% self-interested and their actions benefit Russia yesterday and harm Russia today, both merely by chance and not due to a conscious decision to help/harm Russia, was he pro-Russia yesterday and anti-Russia today? Does it make any sense to frame it this way?

            This only seems ridiculous if you artificially reduce the timeline down to a period of days. On a larger scale, this makes perfect sense. As a very obvious hypothetical example: suppose we have a lobbying firm that in 2010 is hired by the Russian government in order to advance Russian interests in the US for 5 years. By choosing to work with Russia the firm has become pro-Russia. This is an entirely self-interested decision, they just want the money. During this time, it would be very reasonable to say that they are a pro-Russia organization despite being motivated entirely be self interest.

            If then, for whatever reason, the relationship then fizzled out and the company was approached by, say, Ukraine to lobby against Russia it not be too out of the ordinary (although arguably unethical) for them to now be anti-Russian, again, motivated 100% by self-interest.

            What I’m trying to say is whatever underlying motivation you claim doesn’t matter, the only thing that matters is what outcomes come about as a result of your actions. The firm above is purportedly only motivated by a desire for profit, but the net result of this motivation is first to be pro-Russia and then to be anti-Russia.

            Applying this back to Wikileaks: I think Assange’s prime motivation is to increase the overall prestige and importance of wikileaks. The best way for him to accomplish this is by releasing high-profile pieces of information that will get heavy play in traditional media. He is offered, either via an anonymous source or by someone with ties to Russian intelligence, access to information that will both play into his dislike of Clinton and his desire for international relevance. An added cost of using this information, however, is know that it will benefit Russian interests. No decision exists in a vacuum. Choosing to continue releasing the information after its provenance back to Russian intelligence has been made public is choosing to act in a way that is pro-Russian.

            I would argue that your framing is incredibly deceptive, perhaps not to yourself (you may have a highly irregular definition of pro-Russia and not suffer from motte-and-bailey fallacies in your reasoning), but certainly to others who read your statement that he is pro-Russia.

            Do you see a meaningful difference between acting in such a way that causes Russia to benefit and being pro-Russian? I honestly don’t. If you find this deceptive, I’d love to know why.

          • If you’re acting of your own volition, and the net result of your actions benefit Russia, then you were acting in a way that is pro-Russian.

            This reminds me of Orwell’s discussion of how “Objectively” was used by (among others) Stalinists in attacking Trotskyites. The Trots were “objectively pro-Nazi.” That sounds as though it means “it is an objective fact that they are pro-Nazi.” But if pressed, the statement morphed into “It is an objective fact that challenging Stalin’s control over the international Communist movement helps the Nazis.”

          • Aftagley says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Whoops. Looks like it’s time to reset my “Days since I accidentally outed myself as Stalinist” sign.

            In all seriousness though, I’ll see you Orwell reference for Orwell reference:

            Pacifism is objectively pro-Fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side you automatically help that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, ‘he that is not with me is against me’.

            Underlying motivations are important in that they can help you understand people’s priorities in decision making, but when looking at the net results of someone’s actions, you’ve got to call a spade a spade.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aftagley:
            I think you are being a little glib in your argument, although I basically agree with you.

            Not all actions that you take that have a benefit to Russia ore pro-Russian. If, say, your primary desire is to stop a slow unwinnable war by rebels in Syria and you do things that ultimately result in Assad staying in power, but also greatly reduce the overall violence (to everyone), this may help Russia, but it’s not really pro-Russian.

            On the other hand, in this case, Wikileaks allowed themselves to be used to do exactly what Russia wanted, and in the process elevated Trump to the presidency, who is far more compromised and less open than Clinton. It’s hard to see how Wikileaks is particularly accomplishing their goals in elevating Trump.

          • Aapje says:

            @Aftagley

            but Russia’s involvement is the most reasonable option based on the preponderance of the evidence.

            I agree that it is most likely, but that is still not hard evidence that it is true, for which one would like some hard evidence that the Russian government is controlling these actors, like testimony by a hacker. As of yet, it is all circumstantial evidence.

            Besides, none of this proves that Assange knew that he got it from the Russians initially and secondly, I disagree that him not caring who gave it to him, makes him pro-Russia.

            Do you see a meaningful difference between acting in such a way that causes Russia to benefit and being pro-Russian?

            I see an enormous difference, because I believe that motive and outcome are fundamentally different things. If someone loses control over his truck and drives into a crowd, this is fundamentally different to a person who intentionally drives into a crowd, even if the casualties are the same.

            If you don’t believe this, I fear that there is an unbridgeable gap between us.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            It’s hard to see how Wikileaks is particularly accomplishing their goals in elevating Trump.

            From their website: “WikiLeaks specializes in the analysis and publication of large datasets of censored or otherwise restricted official materials involving war, spying and corruption. ”

            It appears to me that this is exactly what they did.

            Are you willing to entertain the possibility that Assange values unveiling this kind of information over whatever the effects that unveiling the information may have, preferring not to speculate about the latter or to play games, but just to release indiscriminately?

          • 1soru1 says:

            Sometimes they can seem a bit similar, but coincidental and temporary alignment of interests is a different thing from ideological agreement.

            The thing most many people miss is that Assange actually is ideologically, not personally, pro-Putin.

            He is the kind of hardcore libertarian who believes government is a necessary evil. So he has no quarrel with a government that kills people, starts wars, makes the rulers rich, etc. That’s what a government is supposed to do.

            The thing he can’t abide is when a government claims to be virtuous, upholds rights, solves problems. Those are the claims that must be destroyed by being exposed as lies.

          • Aapje says:

            That seems like an extremely weak-manned libertarian argument. Do you have any actual evidence that he believes that?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:

            Did they actually reveal corruption, or just things that were embarrassing? Did they do any analysis? If so, what?

            And I don’t think it is accurate to refer to the emails that were published as official.

          • He is the kind of hardcore libertarian who believes government is a necessary evil. So he has no quarrel with a government that kills people, starts wars, makes the rulers rich, etc. That’s what a government is supposed to do.

            Can you cite any self-identified libertarians who hold that position? The closest I can think of are ones making the argument that it is good for a government to be obviously bad because people will then realize it is bad and get rid of it, which is not the position you are describing.

          • suntzuanime says:

            That position sounds more http://pastebin.com/Hx3dCQ5j than libertarian. “Making the rulers rich” is not a function of government any hard-core libertarian is going to support.

          • Anonymous says:

            He is the kind of hardcore libertarian who believes government is a necessary evil. So he has no quarrel with a government that kills people, starts wars, makes the rulers rich, etc. That’s what a government is supposed to do.

            That position sounds more http://pastebin.com/Hx3dCQ5j than libertarian.

            Pretty much. The Death Eater position is that government is a fact of life; the expected outcome of human organization. There’s no point opposing its existence, and its universal properties – killing people, starting wars, making rulers rich, (etc). That said, not all governments and structures are equal, and outcomes for particular groups are in large part determined by what kind of regime rules over them.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            I would argue that a politician who says one thing to one group of voters/financiers and another thing to another group is a form of political corruption. Also, other behavior was uncovered that seemed to indicate a conflicts of interest (like taking money from well-connected people who also demanded things from her).

            Of course, you may argue that Assange does a bad job. WikiLeaks certainly seems to have become far less diligent over time.

            However, IMO, the question is whether Assange can reasonably* believe that this leak was consistent with the mission of his organization. For me, the answer is yes.

            * within the normal bounds of human reasoning ability

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      WikiLeaks not focusing on Russia because they are not Russians and do not speak Russian is sort of sensible.

      But as far as I know, arguing that Russia has vibrant opposition media is not representative of the reality. Novaja Gazeta is a very small paper that is probably more famous here in the West than in Russia, and as Assange says, nobody of importance reads it, so Kremlin does not care. Navalny seems to have spend quite much of his time last couple of years under a house arrest or in prison.

      Compare this to WikiLeaks’ leaks, and more importantly, Snowden, and their treatment in the Western media. We are not very good, but I must say that our critical media is doing rather well in comparison.

      And Wikileaks’ Twitter has been very pro-Russia. Half of its feed is retweets of RT! Okay, I actually went and checked and this seems to have changed since when the war in Ukraine was more active.

      • Aapje says:

        To steelman Assange: he may plausibly be a ‘information wants to be free’ activist. So for him, it may be sufficient if Russian people have the ability to put information ‘out there’ and if those who are interested, have access to that information.

        AFAIK, one of the major reasons why the Russian opposition does badly is because a very large portion of the Russians have been brainwashed. Assange may not see this as a problem of the media, but rather, of the people.

        • John Schilling says:

          To steelman Assange: he may plausibly be a ‘information wants to be free’ activist. So for him, it may be sufficient if Russian people have the ability to put information ‘out there’ and if those who are interested, have access to that information.

          Then why is it not also sufficient for him that the American people, even absent Wikileaks, have the ability to put the information ‘out there’ and for those who are interested to have access to that information?

          • quanta413 says:

            Regardless of jumping every linguistic misstep Assange makes in an interview. The important point is that Assange lacks the capability, background, and interest to do as well against the Russian government as he does against the U.S. And it’s hardly like he’s been very effective against the U.S. government.

            As an outsider with no real power, he’s probably in no position to do any better and most likely significantly worse than the current Russian opposition does.

            No organization can do everything and it’s bizarre to argue that Assange is pro-Russia because Wikileaks is primarily English speaking and because his interests may occasionally align with Russia’s. You may as well argue that Assange is pro any dictatorial government that isn’t aligned with the U.S. and that Wikileaks hasn’t focused on. Iranian Mullahs, Venezuelan strongmen, whatever.

            This whole thread of arguments is largely based upon a false dilemma of “The U.S. vs. Russia” and trying to decide which side Assange is on.

      • Anonymous Bosch says:

        But as far as I know, arguing that Russia has vibrant opposition media is not representative of the reality. Novaja Gazeta is a very small paper that is probably more famous here in the West than in Russia, and as Assange says, nobody of importance reads it, so Kremlin does not care. Navalny seems to have spend quite much of his time last couple of years under a house arrest or in prison.

        In addition, NG’s reporters have a nasty habit of being murdered by “Chechens.” Using NG and Navalny as examples of vibrant opposition is only convincing to people who don’t actually follow Russian politics.

        • Aapje says:

          He didn’t say ‘vibrant opposition’ in general though, he said that those specific organizations were ‘vibrant*.’ I think that people are reading more into that statement than what Assange necessarily meant (and in general, that people are picking specific words in his statements and assigning great meaning to them, while ignoring the gist of his statements).

          Of course, such bad faith interpretations are fairly typical in interpretations of people in the outgroup, but one should still resist it.

          * WikiLeaks doesn’t seem very vibrant itself**, so this statement may merely mean: not doing worse than us

          ** With its leader having house arrest

  16. onyomi says:

    Random observation:

    I know a lot of interethnic/intercultural married couples. In olden days, one concern parents and relatives would express about this sort of thing was “what if the in-laws don’t get along? They don’t have the same culture!”

    My wife and I are Christian/lapsed Catholic and both come from families which celebrate Christmas. This is always a point of mild contention: which set of in-laws to spend the holiday with? Or just to spend it apart? I guess it will be even more difficult if/when children come along (though this would not be so much an issue were both sets of in-laws within driving distance of one another).

    Conversely, if you have one Christian family and one Chinese family or one Jewish family, you can always spend Christmas with the Christian family and Hanukkah or Passover with Jewish family and Chinese New Year with the Chinese family, etc. Actually seems more convenient.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      “what if the in-laws don’t get along? They don’t have the same culture!”

      I’d imagine that people saying this are worrying about the sort of situation where someone on the husband’s side makes a joke which is fine in his culture but which comes across as a mortal insult to the wife’s family, rather than arguments over which holidays to celebrate.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Have something more subtle: do you smile when you apologize to indicate that you want to be friends, or do you not smile when you apologize because you’re indicating that you take the matter seriously?

        • onyomi says:

          That is an interesting one. I don’t know if this is an Anglo-American thing or what, but I would definitely not like someone smiling while they apologize because it would seem to be a mismatch with the requisite feeling of remorse/contrition.

          Similar: I recall overhearing a friend ask a Russian friend, in Russia, why none of the shopkeepers ever smiled. The Russian friend said that Russians think a smiling shopkeeper is probably cheating you (after all, he’s grinning about what a great deal he’s getting/what a chump the customer is). A serious, honest shopkeeper should look almost pained to let you get such a great deal, one imagines. Americans, conversely, interpret a frowning shopkeeper as a bad attitude/poor service.

          • Spookykou says:

            The shopkeeper attitude thing seems like something out of a barter economy?

            I can’t remember the last time I shopped somewhere, where I felt like any employee in the store had any influence over the prices.

          • onyomi says:

            Yes, I was thinking that as well: in America the person selling you stuff usually didn’t make or buy the product nor set the price. An exception might be something like a car salesman, where, if he sells to you at a higher price, may get a higher commission. And, indeed, the overly slick and smiley car salesman is something of a negative stereotype.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Slurping your soup: rude, or required?

        • The original Mr. X says:

          I remember when I was in South Africa, I got told off for brushing my teeth anywhere other than the bathroom, because “We wash our bodies in the bathroom, not in the rest of the house!”

          • Aftagley says:

            Maybe I’m culturally blinded here, but where would you brush your teeth if not the bathroom?

          • Spookykou says:

            I find waiting two minutes for my electric tooth brush to turn off takes ‘a while’ when I am just standing there moving it around, but if I lay down in a bed the time seems to pass quicker.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Maybe I’m culturally blinded here, but where would you brush your teeth if not the bathroom?

            Somebody was waiting to use the toilet, so I took my toothbrush into the kitchen to use the tap there. Big no-no, apparently.

          • quanta413 says:

            but if I lay down in a bed the time seems to pass quicker

            Clearly the height of cultural barbarity. All civilized peoples know that if you don’t suffer at least some minor inconvenience while brushing, your teeth aren’t really getting clean.

          • Well... says:

            I like to wander around while I brush my teeth (kinda like while talking on the phone), and in the morning when I do this, I use my free hand to make the bed.

            Maybe relevant: I brush my teeth with my lips closed around the toothbrush so nothing sprays out. Apparently not everyone does this…before we started dating, my wife (then girlfriend) had never encountered the technique and was amazed at it. I think that’s why at first (before she noticed the technique) she thought I shouldn’t wander around while brushing. Now she does it too.

            I should go to South Africa and show them the technique. Change their whole culture.

    • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

      In olden days, when extended families were more of a thing, it was a lot more important that the in-laws get along than it has since become.

    • Well... says:

      My marriage is both interreligious and interracial. Our families get along because they’re all emotionally mature enough to absorb small intercultural shocks and disagreements in identity or ideology. For instance, if someone in my family accidentally offended someone in my wife’s family, it would simply never come up. The people in my wife’s family would smile and move past it knowing that other things are more important. Same goes vice versa.

      Anything that could hypothetically be enough of an issue between our families for them to not get along as a result (e.g. me abandoning my wife, my wife abusing the children, etc.) could happen regardless of the mixedness of our marriage.

      And actually, since the particular configuration of our intermarriage has a lower divorce rate than the overall average, it could potentially mean we’re even less likely to have these serious types of issues.

  17. scmccarthy says:

    I have been thinking a lot about how the idea of a continuous self is imperfect – the “you” who was alive a year ago is not entirely the same “you” who is reading this now – and specifically how that does or could relate to concepts like property rights, debt, and statute of limitations.

    Could anyone point me towards existing writing on this topic?

    • Spookykou says:

      No idea about other writing on this topic, just wanted to comment that I spend a lot of time thinking about this.

      In particular I feel like there is a sense in which the 10 year old version of me is effectively dead at this point. I have no memories of anything 10 year old me did, I have almost no idea what 10 year old me thought about most topics, 10 year old me is more of a stranger to me than other humans I know today. Which is kind of nice, because if 10 year old me is already dead, then when I am 50 current me might well be dead in a similar sense, and so fear of death is kind of silly, because current me will only exist 20 years from now in as much as I am an influence on 50 year old me.

      Just some shower thoughts.

      • Anonymous says:

        I was expecting him to hack the matter transporters to not destroy the originals and run around interacting with himself.

    • rlms says:

      See the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on personal identity here.

  18. onyomi says:

    In OT 65.5 I pushed back against the seemingly prevalent notion that it’s pointless to ever criticize one particular political party, faction, campaign, or end of the political spectrum since, invariably, one can find examples of the opposite side of that binary also being awful, often in similar ways. Though there I was emphasizing more that, though both parties are awful, it can still make sense to claim that they are awful in different ways.

    But I also want to content that it’s not pointlessly partisan or myopic to criticize whole campaigns or factions more generally, though obviously a statement like, “the Democrats always run dirtier campaigns” can get too broad to be defensible. To that end, though, I’m going to give my own, somewhat subjective take on campaigns of recent memory. I’m sure I will seem biased on some points and many will disagree with my evaluations. I totally expect that. My bigger point is that I want to assert that it is possible to do so: there is such a thing as a dirty campaign and such a thing as an honorable campaign.

    1964: Johnson much nastier than Goldwater
    1968: Not that familiar; no strong opinion
    1972: Nixon meaner than McGovern
    1976: Both pretty honorable
    1980: Both pretty honorable; Reagan arguably a bit snarkier
    1984: Both pretty honorable
    1988: Both pretty staid
    1992: Bush seemingly a little nastier than Clinton
    1996: Dole’s nomination fight kind of nasty, but general fairly staid; Clinton pretty honorable
    2000: Both fairly nasty, though neither side obviously worse
    2004: Kerry more honorable than Bush
    2008: Obama more positive message than McCain
    2012: Romney more honorable than Obama
    2016: Both quite nasty, Hillary somewhat more so than Trump

    One obvious trend is I have stronger opinions about the elections I lived through myself. Another one, it seems to me, is elections getting nastier in the past 50 years, which seems to mesh with the overall impression of increased partisanship. Another trend, on my view is for Dems to get nasty recently, after a period of being relatively honorable (though unfortunately there seems to be some correlation between “honorable” and “loser”), which I personally attribute to the rise of identity politics.

    • Spookykou says:

      I think it might be worthwhile to disentangle ‘nastiness’ from negative vs positive message (as you do with 2008)

      I think Trump and Hillary were both very nasty, but Trump clearly had a positive message for his voters, where as in the last few weeks it felt like all Hillary was doing was appealing to ‘never Trump’ sentiment.

      I heard a related anecdote about how hard the Hillary campaign tried, and failed, to come up with slogans, I personally don’t remember any? Where as Trump has two that I remember ‘Make America Great’ and ‘Drain the Swamp’, this might be confused by media coverage of Trump though?

      • onyomi says:

        Yes, I think there is a correlation between not making a positive case for oneself and running a dirty campaign, though they are separate issues. I think this relates to my idea, below, that incumbents may tend to fight dirtier, because, unless things are going really well, it is often easier to attack the opponent than run on the strength of one’s record.

        I think it’s also important to distinguish “honorable” and “dishonorable” ways of attacking the opponent. Though negative campaigning also correlates highly to dirty campaigning, it doesn’t have to. Generally, attacking non-strawman versions of the opponent’s platform seems perfectly honorable, while intentional strawmanning, deception, and personal attacks count as “fighting dirty” in my book.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        “Stronger Together” was a major theme for Hillary throughout the entire campaign.

        If you missed that this was her slogan, then you weren’t “paying attention”. Now, I’m putting that in quotes because I don’t know what caused you to miss this major positive messaging thrust of hers. But it should cause you to reevaluate whether your depiction of the campaign she ran is accurate.

        • Incurian says:

          I heard “I’m with her.”

          • onyomi says:

            She seemed to start out with “Stronger Together” and use “I’m with Her” more as the campaign went on. For better or worse, neither “caught on” as well as “Make America Great Again,” nor did she succeed in slogan/chant/soundbite-izing any of her policy proposals in the way Trump did with “Build the Wall.”

            Seems like English language slogans usually need exactly three syllables (U-S-A) in order to be chanted effectively: “Build the Wall!” “Lock her Up!” “Drain the Swamp!” all make better chants than “Stronger Together.” “I’m with Her” has three syllables, but doesn’t seem appropriate as a chant.

          • Montfort says:

            Onyomi (taking a swerve from the subthread topic), as most sports fans know, four syllables works just fine, too, in trochee (“Let’s Go Red Wings”). Five syllables works, but is weaker, since the last three have to be grouped together in quicker time (people often clap this rhythm after a “let’s go” chant, but three-syllable teams/cities use it sometimes). I can give you examples for two, six, and seven, too, and some protests use very complex chants. But I’d say 2-6 syllables is probably best.

            In any case, you can’t chant “Stronger Together” as well because the stress pattern for best chanting is STRONG-er TO-geth-er, which is not how you say “together” normally. I’d put more weight on the fact that imperatives are usually good chants, whereas other sentence fragments need a bit more thought to work that way.

          • onyomi says:

            I feel like the “Let’s Go Red Wings” pattern is more suitable for a lower-key kind of undercurrent of cheering. I’m not sure whether it’s suitable as a political cheer, but there may be some good examples which don’t spring to mind. I’m actually super interested in how certain prosodic patterns evoke different emotional tones, as this is a big feature of Chinese (both classical Chinese poetry and modern Chinese political slogans, for example, display a strong preference for five and seven-syllable patterns of 2-3 or 2-2-3, though 2-2 and 2-2/2-2 patterns are also common).

            The typical Chinese sport chant, “jia you [clap, clap], jia you [clap, clap],” is also similar to “let’s go Red Wings,” interestingly.

          • Brad says:

            What about “No justice, no peace”?

            For a really long one there was “Hey, Hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”

          • onyomi says:

            “No justice, no peace” is a good five-syllable one, though it has something of the feel of a protest, because of the call-and-response quality.

          • Montfort says:

            Since I spend a lot more time watching hockey games than political chants, the best I can offer you for non-undercurrent chanting in 4 syllable trochee is this, which looks and sounds to me a lot like various political chanting groups, but maybe I’m not following the distinction?

        • axiomsofdominion says:

          Clinton’s slogan was always “I’m with her.” As someone who campaigned for Sanders in multiple states its all you ever heard. “Stronger together” was her post primary win attempt at a slogan but it was no more catchy than Devine’s “A Future to Believe In” for Sanders and honestly no one on the campaign actually gave a shit about the Future slogan. “Feel the Bern” was the Sanders one and it wasn’t even created by anyone official. It was also way catchier than anything Clinton had. People even parodied it with “Feel the Chafe” as a Chafee joke.

      • Spookykou says:

        I wasn’t paying attention, no need for scare quotes, I get very little news coverage, and basically no ads in my day to day.

        NPR in the car on the way to work is where I get all my news, which is where I heard the story about her campaign having troubles coming up with slogans, which fit in perfectly with my personal experience of not remembering hearing her slogan.

        I got a tiny bit more news in the final weeks of the election, I watched the debates and a few other things, which is were I drew my conclusions about the final stretch messages, but again I will admit that this was hardly a thorough vetting of campaign positions.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Many of the Clinton rally sound bites I heard (many of which I believe were on NPR, although my news sources probably run together in my mind) would have a section where Clinton would give a slight pause mid-sentence as a queue and she and the crowd would say, in unison, “Stronger Together”.

          Something like “We need to bring everyone forward in our economy. We all need an opportunity for good jobs at decent wages. I will work to make this happen because I believe that we are … stronger together.”

          And the scare quotes weren’t that, just a measure of my uncertainty as to why you missed it.

          • Spookykou says:

            Now that you say it, it sound familiar, but I might just be fabricating memories because apparently that is a thing people do.

      • BBA says:

        As a Clinton supporter, I will say that the reason why there was no positive vision from the Clinton campaign was that realistically there was nothing that Clinton could do besides maintaining the status quo. Congress and most statehouses would stay in Republican hands, Obama had pretty much taken every executive action he could to pursue progressive policy goals, and judicial nominees would be stonewalled.

        Clinton’s only options were to make promises she knew she couldn’t keep or double down on bashing Trump. She didn’t have the charisma or chutzpah to pull off the former. The latter almost worked.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          As a Clinton supporter, I will say that the reason why there was no positive vision from the Clinton campaign was that realistically there was nothing that Clinton could do besides maintaining the status quo. Congress and most statehouses would stay in Republican hands, Obama had pretty much taken every executive action he could to pursue progressive policy goals, and judicial nominees would be stonewalled.

          Plus, Clinton had been a senior official in the Obama administration. Running on a platform of hope and change would invite the question “If the previous guy was so bad that we need to change everything, why did you accept a job under him?”

        • Congress and most sta

          tehouses would stay in Republican hands

          It wasn’t clear that the senate would, and if it switched she would get to appoint judges.

    • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

      Expect some serious pushback on 1988. While I’m not one of the people who regards the famous Willie Horton ad as racist, it was hard-hitting at the very least, and arguably a low blow.

      • onyomi says:

        I’d forgotten about that one. Never having liked Bush Sr. or Jr. I’m happy to give the nasty award to Bush in ’88. Sadly Jeb! seems to be the nicest Bush, but his father and brother had poisoned the name by the time he came to the national stage.

    • onyomi says:

      One other trend which may exist (based on admittedly few examples, might be interesting to check it out over longer time span): incumbents seem to be meaner than challengers. I wonder if this relates in some way to a conscious or unconscious perception that the additional 4 years in some sense, “belong” to the incumbent, and the challenger is trying to “steal” them.

      And, of course, for all their advantages, incumbents have the disadvantage of having a very clear record of having been president. Unless the economy, etc. is doing really well at the time, it may be easier to use scare tactics about how much worse your opponent would be than to mount a positive defense of one’s own record, which, no matter how generally good, will always be open to attack. This also makes some sense with respect to Hillary, who sort of ran like an incumbent.

  19. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Summary: Someone else made a sensible prediction almost a year ago of a Trump win. Link at the bottom for predictions that Obama couldn’t win.

    From :

    I’d totally forgotten this, but I’ve been going through my posts of the last year in preparation for writing a year-end post, and found this: On January 31st, I predicted that, given a straight fight between Trump and Clinton, Trump would be elected President.

    Let me repeat that: On January 31st, 2016, I predicted that Trump would be elected President.

    Here’s the relevant part of what I wrote:

    The article’s second argument is that “there are simply not enough struggling, resentful, xenophobic white people in the US to constitute a national majority sufficient to win a presidential election.” The flaw in that reasoning is that, if Trump wins the nomination, he won’t need merely that category. Unless the party splits over him, and I wouldn’t count on it doing so, other Republicans will have nowhere else to go. Trump has high negatives, yes, but so does Clinton (if she’s the Democratic nominee), and she doesn’t have the enthusiasm of her party’s base. Enthusiasm is what means turnout, and – as the difference between 2008 and 2010 amply shows – between two strong bases, it’s turnout that wins elections. Combine that with the prospect of a sluggish economy, and in a straight fight between Clinton and Trump, it’d be a wonder if Trump didn’t win.

    Then I wrote, “Never say that a strong candidate can’t win,” with a link to a collection of quotes from as late as the day before the 2008 election saying that Obama can’t, or won’t, win.

    A bunch of people saying that Obama couldn’t possibly win

    I tell you three times, this wasn’t my prediction. I thought Clinton would win.

  20. What’s with the focus on the mission to mars? We already know we can get there and back safely.

    In order to actually stay there, we need renewable energy and micro-climate managing capabilities….along with somehow creating hard large structures out of the dirt and air. If trees can do it so can we, eventually.

    So what’s with the focus on all this Space-X rocket research? What are they going to do when they get there? Tap-dance until the food and oxygen runs out? For the near future, GMO’s may be the way to go on anything-mars related, besides merely saying we planted a flag there.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Happy New Year, everybody!

  22. Gazeboist says:

    Can an economist (amateur or otherwise) recommend a good introductory text for general equilibrium theory, or some background to help build up to it?

  23. onyomi says:

    In no way to take away from anyone’s New Year’s celebration–but I was thinking about how Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Years is basically all just holidays involving “eat and drink a lot,” with some variations. Like, I could invent a new American holiday and if someone asked me “so, how do we celebrate the equinox?” And I’d be like “uhhh… eat and drink a lot?” If I said, “oh, you stay up all night chanting and then jump in a freezing lake,” it probably would not catch on, yet premodern people might, ironically, be more likely to buy into it.

    But Christianish American holidays no longer come with any demands (do they? or am I not thinking of them? I know someone who jumps in freezing water every New Years Day, apparently a Scottish practice; I guess just staying up till midnight is sort of a demand, as is finding presents and dealing with relatives): Yom Kippur or Ramadan-style fasting, Chinese and Japanese New Year’s thorough housecleaning, etc. Of course people enjoy getting together, eating, and drinking, but… I dunno, feels like the yang is missing some yin or something.

    Somewhat related, I’ve seen people around here saying it’s hard to design rationalist “rituals” which “work” as well as religious rituals. Has anyone tried to imitate Confucianism somehow, because it seems to me to be the most long-lasting ritual system with largely secular roots (Xunzi, the third-most influential early Confucian, for example, was pretty much an atheist, yet argued strongly in favor of the social importance of ritual).

    • onyomi says:

      Duh: Lent. But many people I know just turn that into an excuse to have delicious fish every Friday! There seems to be a kind of “holiday entropy”: in the absence of people feeling a compelling need to keep doing the sucky parts, all holidays tend to collapse into food/drink/social gathering. (Don’t get me wrong, I like excuses for food, drink, and social gathering, I just think we could create and/or revive some of the other rituals as well)

      • nimim.k.m. says:

        I believe you are correct. For the really ‘sucky’ parts to be observed, you need some compelling philosophical reason to do it. You could semi-easily invent such that would be acceptable for rationalists (for example, for fasting, “it’s worthwhile prove to others and yourself that you can resist the temptation of frivolous things and embrace life of asceticism at least for some period of time”, and so on). However, the problem is that in the absence of any centralized movement and community, it’s difficult for these things to catch on. (For example, if there were rationalists who’d fast to prove that they are capable of asceticism, they’d all do that in different times.) And it’s easier to come up with such if there’s centralized codex and framework of such ideas to develop, such as with Christianity and the Bible.

        Absent of such source, I guess you’d do better by doing what all the other religions and cultures and like have always done: cultural evolution i.e. steal and adapt the cool parts from others.

        I mean, there probably was reason why, around the winter solstice, some Germans decided to cut a tree and bring it to their household and decorate it, but practically nobody who does it today knows it or cares.

        However, creating or reintroducing or adapting a tradition so that it actually sticks around needs a wider community who decides to do it or some other reason why large contingent of people starts to do it. One author, Charles Dickens, was very successful at popularizing Christmas by writing a book about it.

  24. US says:

    Some observations from a book I recently read:

    “With the rise of the subspecialty area ‘medical neuropsychology’ […] it has become apparent that many medical conditions may […] affect the structure and function of the central nervous system (CNS). Diabetes mellitus has received much attention in that regard, and there is now an extensive literature demonstrating that adults with type 1 diabetes have an elevated risk of CNS anomalies. This literature is no longer limited to small cross-sectional studies in relatively selected populations of young adults with type 1 diabetes, but now includes studies that investigated the pattern and magnitude of neuropsychological decrements and the associated neuroradiological changes in much more detail, with more sensitive measurements, in both younger and older patients.”

    “Cognitive decrements [in adults with type 1 diabetes] are limited to only some cognitive domains and can best be characterised as a slowing of mental speed and a diminished mental flexibility, whereas learning and memory are generally spared. […] the cognitive decrements are mild in magnitude […] and seem neither to be progressive over time, nor to be substantially worse in older adults. […] neuroimaging studies […] suggest that type 1 diabetic patients have relatively subtle reductions in brain volume but these structural changes may be more pronounced in patients with an early disease onset.”

    “A very large neuroimaging literature indicates that adults with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes manifest structural changes in a number of brain regions […] Children with diabetes have a greatly increased risk of manifesting mild neurocognitive dysfunction. This is an incontrovertible fact that has emerged from a large body of research conducted over the past 60 years […]. There is, however, less agreement about the details. […] A very large body of research on adults with diabetes now demonstrates that the risk of developing a wide range of neurocognitive changes – poorer cognitive function, slower neural functioning, abnormalities in cerebral blood flow and brain metabolites, and reductions or alterations in gray and white-brain matter – is associated with chronically elevated blood glucose values […] Taken together, the limited animal research on this topic […] provides quite compelling support for the view that even relatively brief bouts of chronically elevated blood glucose values can induce structural and functional changes to the brain.”

    “According to […] 2007 prevalence data [from the US] […] [a]lmost 25% of the population aged 60 years and older had diabetes in 2007. […] It has been projected that one in three Americans born in 2000 will develop diabetes, with the highest estimated lifetime risk among Latinos (males, 45.4% and females, 52.5%) (6). A rise in obesity rates is to blame for much of the increase in T2D (7). Nearly two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese (8).”

    “In recent years, a number of investigators have reported insulin defects in Alzheimer’s disease. […] Converging evidence is consistent with the hypothesis that brain insulin signaling is abnormal in patients with Alzheimer’s disease […] These abnormalities are sufficient to influence energy production, oxidative stress, cell survival, GSK-3β activation, and advanced glycation of proteins (29). De la Monte and colleagues have proposed that these insulin signaling abnormalities are so profound that they constitute “type 3 diabetes” or brain insulin resistance associated with Alzheimer’s disease”.

    From the Humana Press textbook Diabetes and the Brain. I found the observations regarding type 1 most interesting because I have type 1 myself, but I figured I should also add a few observations on the topic of type 2 considering the potential long-term public health implications of a significant link between insulin resistance and Alzheimer’s. In the context of type 1, although potential CNS effects of diabetes are presumably well known in the acute complications setting (severe and prolonged hypoglycemia, ketoacidotic states leading to acute brain swelling and increased intracranial pressure), I don’t believe many people are aware of the fact that diabetes may also have significant long-term effects on the central nervous system, effects which may not necessarily be closely related to those which play a role in the acute setting. For example I know that this topic has not once been brought up during my time as a diabetes patient, and I’ve had type 1 for almost 30 years (and I got the diagnosis early, so I’m more likely than most diabetes patients to have been affected). Potential long-term effects of multiple severe cases of hypoglycemia have been discussed, but not long-term brain effects of chronic hyperglycemia.

    Anyway I thought this might be of interest to one or two people reading along here. These two blog-posts incidentally cover the book in more detail.