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OT68: Necronomicomment

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

1. Arbital has made an interactive page with my 2017 predictions where you can add your own guesses and automatically get graded and compared to everyone else at the end of the year. Try it!

2. A while ago, I tried to predict various aspects of the Trump administration and made bets with a couple of readers. Trump has now mostly finished picking his cabinet, and depending on how you count it’s 13%-14% minority. I made my 90% bet (it would be at least 10% minority) but failed my 70% bet (at least 20%) and my 30% bet (at least 30%). I think I might owe money to someone, but I can’t remember who. Send me an email about it and I’ll pay up.

3. Speaking of Trump, I agree with Aceso Under Glass’ thoughts on his latest actions, and if you feel like donating to the ACLU now might be a good time.

4. Comment of the week is Vidur Kapur on studies of saturated fat and the Mediterranean Diet.

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1,093 Responses to OT68: Necronomicomment

  1. berk says:

    What to do about your kids K-12 education?

    ok, personality & IQ have already been (mostly) determined before birth. But what about values? Religion is something that can get “taught” by parent to child, so why not values…. assume with me for a moment that values are indeed taught. What do you do if the majority of the people & institutions where you live are in sharp contrast to your own?

    We are about to produce our 1st kid and live in Berkeley and the SJW influence is pervasive. The public schools are dripping with it. The Catholic school system is no help, they are as obsessed with training their budding SJWs (in the image of Jesus, I’m sure) as the rest (see http://www.saintmaryschs.org/academics/peace-justice/). The top tier secular private schools are no better (maybe worse?). Head Royce, one of the most rigorous academically, says the following about their elementary school: “K-5 tackles the work of social justice in a variety of developmentally appropriate ways through picture books, discussion around equity and justice and people who have made a difference. The years of study culminate with a full social justice unit and project in 5th grade.”

    What do you do if you are more interested in teaching a different set of values? We don’t view the world through the oppressor/oppressed lens and we don’t want our kids to either. We care about individuality and rationality and instilling those values not forcing a 12-year-old to do community service (all schools we have looked at force their kids to work for free: community service). It’s fine if others want to but we don’t.

    There are quite a few of you Berkeley residents here who also are not fans of the official line on schooling. Any of you with kids? What do you do? Do you homeschool? Do you hire a teacher/tutors to help out? Are you already using resources you can share? Am I missing any other options?

    • Patrick Merchant says:

      I wouldn’t worry about it too hard. As a young child, I attended years of Sunday school and believed none of it. If you want your kid to be able to think outside of the socially-prescribed box, don’t try to shield them from the values you dislike. It’s futile, they’ll get exposed to it anyway, if not through school than through friends and pop culture. Just try to actively teach them to think critically, give them good reading material when they seem old enough for it, and they’ll work things out for themselves.

      That having been said, homeschooling might still be a good idea, if you really dislike the public school’s policies/curriculum.

      • berk says:

        Patrick, I’ve heard this argument before. I don’t think there is an equivalency between christian school brainwashing and SJW brainwashing. It’s (relatively) easy for a kid to reject christian brainwashing because our culture is essentially secular. In contrast, SJW values seem ubiquitous outside of places like rationalist and red tribe circles. There is no alternative to the group-think in this corner of the planet, unless we look for it. I doubt that 1 hour with the ‘rents around the dinner table is going to be very convincing versus a tidal wave of progressive ideology… thus my question.

        I don’t think shielding is our goal; that’s just not realistic in Berkeley, but a good shot at not succumbing to the mass delusion would be nice.

        • psmith says:

          SJW values seem ubiquitous outside of places like rationalist and red tribe circles.

          Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln….

          I mean, good luck with your future endeavors and all that, but moving from California to Texas or Arizona to start a family isn’t exactly the Manhattan Project.

    • J says:

      The good news is that it’s fairly hard to give your child a worse education than they’ll get from public school: http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/05/23/ssc-gives-a-graduation-speech/

    • nelshoy says:

      Sounds like a good opportunity to test the critical thinking skills you’ll inculcate as a good parent!

      You could look into homeschooling groups, which give homeschoolers a chance to socialize. A lot of them are religious, but I imagine Berkeley’s different. Maybe there’s a rationalist one?

    • Anonymous says:

      Homeschool. Optionally with some professional help for subjects you don’t feel confident teaching.

    • Matt M says:

      Move.

      I don’t mean to sound overly callous with this. I acknowledge that moving can be logistically difficult and poses various challenges. But you’re located in the veritable heart of SJW culture. Public school is not the only thing that can influence a child’s values. If you really don’t want your child influenced, go live in Wyoming or something.

      If you haven’t considered this, perhaps you should seriously do so. I feel like way too many people take their location as a given and then list all their problems from there. Mobility is both a virtue and an opportunity.

      • Anonymous says:

        That’s actually a fair idea. If you’re white, have you considered the Catholic parts of Europe that aren’t under siege?

      • berk says:

        We’ve considered moving. The Bay area has an awful lot going for it though (jobs, weather, access to big cities and all their amenities). It’s very convenient to live here for every reason except taxes and the whole progressive/SJW group-think.

        It would be nice to find a solution less drastic than moving.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          I don’t think you have to move to Wyoming. Aren’t there more neutral areas ideologically than Berkeley? I mean close enough to Berkeley so you can still live close to the same jobs and weather. As you say, Berkeley is probably the epicenter of SJW’s.

          I can certainly understand your concern, and agree it is an issue. My kids are now in their 20’s, having grown up totally in Minneapolis. I don’t think Minneapolis is as SJW as Berkeley, but it is pretty close. I always taught my kids to think for themselves, but what are they to believe when nearly 100% of everyone they know thinks pretty much the same thing. They do have some political beliefs that I think are not very rational, due to their environment. Of course most kids in the 20’s have some such beliefs.

          This reminds me of when I was a kid in the ’60’s, when it was religion that was so politically correct. I literally never met a person who admitted to being anything other than a Christian or a Jew until I was at least mid-teens. It is very hard to have differing opinions when every person in your area thinks the same way. Maybe it is inevitable that there will be some sacred beliefs never to be denied anywhere you grow up. The SJW beliefs aren’t necessarily worse than other sacred beliefs; just teach your kids by example not to take the worst extremes as their belief prototypes.

          • Nornagest says:

            Aren’t there more neutral areas ideologically than Berkeley? I mean close enough to Berkeley so you can still live close to the same jobs and weather. As you say, Berkeley is probably the epicenter of SJW’s.

            The whole Bay Area leans illiberal-leftist. SF in particular is arguably more social justice-oriented than Berkeley is; Berkeley’s still riding on its Sixties- and Seventies-era reputation but it’s now pretty much a yuppie town aside from the students. Oakland is maybe slightly less so — you’ll see plenty of leftist politics, but they won’t have quite the same condescending quality — but it’s also one of the most dangerous cities for violent crime in the US. Ditto Richmond.

            The South Bay is a step down politics-wize, aside from the ubiquitous low-level civil war over housing development, but it’s only a big city in population terms. In terms of access to anything but jobs, you might as well be living in Sacramento.

          • The South Bay is a step down politics-wize, aside from the ubiquitous low-level civil war over housing development, but it’s only a big city in population terms. In terms of access to anything but jobs, you might as well be living in Sacramento.

            I can’t speak to Sacramento, but I live in San Jose. Within long walking distance we have a Chinese supermarket, a Japanese supermarket, an Ethiopian restaurant, an Iranian grocery store, an Iranian restaurant, a Chinese restaurant, … .

            No comments on music or theater, since I don’t consume either.

          • Nornagest says:

            Yeah, the food’s pretty good and it’s easy to get groceries for any cuisine you please — of course there’s a substantial Chinese and Vietnamese presence in Sac too, but it’d likely be less diverse. I was talking more about art, music, nightlife, public transit, etc.

          • Rebecca Friedman says:

            Hey! We have Lyric Theatre downtown, which puts on quite good Gilbert and Sullivan and sometimes other musicals, we have enough interesting museums that I haven’t run out yet, and I think we even have local opera though I haven’t looked into it in detail. Plus all the theater at Stanford, the Stanford Messiah Sing (which is a sing-along), and there’s always San Franciso if you really run out – though I can only speak to the quality of the opera and museums and zoo there. Oh, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium if you’re willing to go south a bit. I can’t speak to nightlife because that isn’t my thing, but as far as culture, we seem to be great for the small-group-of-hobbyists-gathering thing – I could probably find a type of dance for every day of the week if I wanted, and that’s without counting all the music. Public transit sucks, granted – it’s usable but so slow – but I still think you’re being too hard on San Jose.

    • rlms says:

      I agree with Patrick that schools’ beliefs have very little effect on students’ values. UK schools are supposed to have a daily act of collective (Christian) worship, but I’m pretty sure that’s never had an effect on anyone. Likewise, the people I know who went to Catholic schools seem equally unaffected.

      • berk says:

        I also know many who have gone to Catholic schools and were unaffected. I myself spent 4th-12th grades in the bible belt, also unaffected. But our culture is essentially secular, so an alternative world view is readily available. An alternative to the SJW value system is pretty thin ’round these parts (and in mainstream culture FWIW).

        • rlms says:

          I think you need to define the “SJW value system”. What are some specific SJW values you disagree with?

          But regardless, the conclusion to draw from the ineffectiveness of Christian schooling combined with a mainstream non-Christian culture is that it doesn’t matter what school your children go to, they go along with the mainstream culture regardless of whether their school pushes or opposes it.

          • berk says:

            I draw a different conclusion, since there are plenty of people who do not agree with mainstream culture’s worldview (see SSC). Yes, mainstream culture has an influence, but I hope that with enough exposure to alternatives, the outcome may be different.

          • rlms says:

            In that case, why does it matter if your children go to a different school, provided they are exposed to enough alternatives?

          • berk says:

            @rlms

            Because it is impossible to expose them to alternatives in a meaningful way between school, social activities and media consumption all of which espouse the same (prog/SJW) worldview. 30 minutes at the dinner table doesn’t really cut it, especially when all the rewards (getting good grades, being in good graces with authority figures, etc.) incentivize ignoring whatever 30 minute speech or discussion they participate in at dinner. I figure access to media isn’t something we can (or want to frankly) control. And social groups are likely to be all the same in Berkeley. That leaves school.

        • Matt M says:

          I grew up in a liberal college town in a solidly blue state where SJW groupthink was fairly common (Howard Zinn was literally an assigned text in my AP US History Class in high school) and ended up just seeing how ridiculous they all were and becoming a hardcore libertarian so hey – you never know!

          • berk says:

            So Matt, how? what influenced you? when? did you succumb at first? did your parents agree with the groupthink?

          • Matt M says:

            It’s an interesting question that I can’t answer for sure. My gut instinct is to say that I got my beliefs from my father, which seems bizarre because he is very far to the left politically – but in a practical sense, he usually emphasized things like hard work and personal responsibility to me. I have a tough time reconciling what I remember having learned from him and his stated political opinions.

            I also may have just had a contrarian attitude by nature and wanted to rebel in an ideological manner. I never really rebelled by rule-breaking or mischief but I did watch Bill O’Reilly which was just as bad in the eyes of most authority figures.

            And it might be worth pointing out that my sister did not take the same path I did. She seems to have the standard progressive beliefs that make her a typical member of the community in which we grew up.

          • berk says:

            did you turn libertarian in high school, in college, or after?

            It sounds like the result a combo of innate personality + values your father instilled that ironically work perfectly with your current worldview.

          • Igon Value says:

            @Matt M

            I think an interesting factor here is that you are contrarian “by nature”. Personality is probably between 50% and 80% genetic. I would guess that being contrarian is indeed something innate (or 80% innate). It may be that this can’t be changed by the parents or the education system.

            Aside from the genes, the biggest factor influencing personality is probably the peer group. Parents have some control over that.

            So… if your kid is contrarian, let him be with SJWs; if he is not, find a peer group that agrees with your values.

          • Matt M says:

            I was basically a neocon in high school. The one thing I knew is that I didn’t agree with the crazy hippies who ran my school. As far as I knew, at the time, Bill O’Reilly was the only alternative, so that’s what I assumed I was. I ended up joining the military instead of going to college (also for largely contrarian, but not necessarily political, reasons). I spent nine years in the military and slowly slid down the slope from neocon to libertarian to AnCap during that time. I got out of the military about four years ago, and my beliefs have not changed significantly since then.

          • TenMinute says:

            That’s how most of us ended up this way, isn’t it?

          • berk says:

            TenMinute, you’re responding to Matt M? I can tell you I ended up “this way” coming from a far left…. kicking and screaming all the way mind you.

            Or do you mean we end up this way because of a shared contrarian/anti-authoritarian personality? If so, it seem like a personality trait that should be nurtured (which I grant can be tough since as a parent you do depend on some degree of authority to maintain household peace, not to mention tidy bedrooms)

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            I grew up in a liberal college town in a solidly blue state where SJW groupthink was fairly common (Howard Zinn was literally an assigned text in my AP US History Class in high school) and ended up just seeing how ridiculous they all were and becoming a hardcore libertarian so hey – you never know!

            Yes, I suspect anyone here in SSC will have thought about their beliefs enough to overcome most any kind of group-think they endured through childhood. As I stated above in this thread, I grew up in a culture where every person was either Christian or Jewish, but I was an atheist by the time I graduated high school, just because I came across a book with contrary attitudes. But that’s because it is my nature to think about such things, and also partly because I am somewhat contrary by nature, like Matt.

            But I think what Berk has to worry about if his kids are not contrarians, or intellectuals, or whatever. They may just accept the culture of the place they grew up in. So my advice to Berk in two-fold:
            1) Maybe move a few towns away from the worst of SJW-ville, so they have at least some other influences,
            2) Don’t worry about it too much, since every environment has political correctness of some sort, just try to ensure your kids adopt the most benign form of what they hear.

          • TenMinute says:

            Both, Berk. Raised hard left, but contrarian enough to snap out of it.

            The worry is that kids won’t be. And like you say, 45 minutes around the dinner table is hardly going to make up for 8-12 hours of constant struggle sessions.

          • Well... says:

            @TenMinute:

            If people who felt that way had more kids and raised them right, those kids could grow up to populate the institutions that currently hold struggle sessions. Some of the parents’ influence could seep in and make the struggle sessions stop.

            The big problem isn’t that kids won’t be contrarians, it’s that kids won’t be, period. So other people’s kids will instead.

          • TenMinute says:

            Agreed, Well. Good luck Berk!

          • Deiseach says:

            we end up this way because of a shared contrarian/anti-authoritarian personality

            Speaking for nobody but myself, I have quite an authoritarian personality, and I ended up where I am thanks to a large helping of “feckin’ mushy-minded gabble, what does anyone think or do they think apart from copying the neighbours who are copying what’s hip across the pond anyway?” Which is probably how I ended up a lot more traditional(ist) than my siblings 🙂

            Then again, I’m stubborn enough not to like being told what to do (that is, tell me what to do then go away and leave me do it, don’t stand looking over my shoulder and micro-managing me), so there is that I suppose.

      • Tekhno says:

        UK schools are supposed to have a daily act of collective (Christian) worship

        I remember that. I was an edgy fedora-lord even when I was five years old. When they would sing “he’s got the whole world in his hands” in assembly I would replace hands with “pants” and get in trouble.

        I never remember any prompting towards atheism from anyone. I never remember believing in anything at any point. My mum wasn’t Christian but she was a vaguely spiritual hippy who had an open mind towards things like healing crystals.

        Even still, in a highly Christian society I would have surely grown up Christian, but I grew up at a time when Christianity was pretty much vestigial in British society. The general environment in society is obviously important, and if school prayer is dissonant with that, it will stand out as something ridiculous and pompous, whereas in a generally Christian society it wouldn’t stand out.

        I think that can apply to SJ beliefs. If they are just the most devout version of mainstream beliefs then they could have an effect on values, because they would be situated on foundations kids are already primed for by general culture.

    • James Miller says:

      You have a difficult choice over whether to go along with it, or to teach you child about the flaws in social justice reasoning which if expressed in class might cause his teachers to have a lower opinion of him.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I think you should try to pass on your values to your kids. This doesn’t mean you have to go full on totalitarian but it does mean you should let them know where you stand and why you think so.

      Someone on the left is going to crucify me for saying this but imagine it the other way around. If you were raised in a racist society, wouldn’t you have a duty to teach your kids to be tolerant?

      • Igon Value says:

        Or maybe you can teach them why there are different values in the first place. You can explain why certain values lead to better outcomes, and why certain other values end up being toxic.

        Knowing that we are animals, albeit social animals, is a good first step. Understanding that morality itself is a product of natural selection would help not only your children but the vast majority of people.

        Teach your kids how to recognize their biases.

        • Wrong Species says:

          Let’s say it’s Nazi Germany and the majority of content your kid hears is going to massively predispose him to hating Jews. Do you think there would be something wrong with telling them that they shouldn’t hate Jewish people?

          Values are ingrained in us. You can’t call something “toxic” without implicitly endorsing another set of values. If you don’t explicitly teach them then others will. How intolerable does that culture have to be before you can say something?

          • Igon Value says:

            I think you interpreted my message as saying that values are relative, or don’t matter, or are all equivalent. No so at all. I was only saying that values don’t come from God and they don’t come out of a vacuum. Ultimately, all our behaviors, including our social behaviors, come from evolution. When we feel anything at all (hate, joy, pleasure), it is because the behavior associated with the feeling had some kind of evolutionary cost/benefit.

            Monkeys also feel hate, wage war, murder members of the out-group (see Gombe Chimpanzee War, for example). They also feel outrage when they perceive that they are being cheated (see Franz de Walls’s experiments on Capuchin monkeys). They don’t get these emotions from culture, they get them from their genes (indirectly).

            We humans have culture, and we have a very developed (wrt monkeys) prefrontal cortex, so we can override these instincts.

            Part of the problem faced by the OP is precisely how to teach his/her kids how to override their instincts. They first have to recognize the problem, be aware of the emotional nature of most of our opinions. That may not be enough, but that’s a start.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I do agree you should teach your kids that everyone is biased and why that it is. The world would be a better place if we stopped thinking of ourselves as purely rationally beings who have carefully considered the facts compared to everyone who disagrees with us who is simply brainwashed.

            I don’t know to what extent you should try to teach your kids to override their instincts. But I’m not sure exactly what you mean by that.

          • Igon Value says:

            I don’t know to what extent you should try to teach your kids to override their instincts. But I’m not sure exactly what you mean by that.

            Very briefly, because it is tangential to the discussion:

            When we feel pain, pleasure, disgust, etc., it is because the behavior associated with the feeling is evolutionary costly or beneficial. I called these feelings “instincts” quite simply because they are wired-in, a product of natural selection.

            For example, most people feel pleasure eating; or having sex. The evolutionary benefit is trivial.

            They also feel disgust at the sight of pus, feces, vomit. Staying away from disease vectors also has an obvious evolutionary advantage.

            Most people also feel disgust at the thought of a son having sex with his mother or a brother with his sister. Again, the evolutionary advantage is obvious.

            Even when told that the incestuous act was consensual and safe, most people react negatively. They can’t justify why, but they still find the act morally reprehensible. Jonathan Haidt calls this “moral dumbfounding”.

            [skip many more examples]

            All these feelings can be overridden. We have the mental capacity to do so. Doctors and nurses are usually able to keep their disgust reaction in check when they see blood, infected wounds, vomit, etc. But it usually takes some conscious effort.

            As another example, we can today tolerate homosexual love very well, even though it would have caused a strong disgust reaction only a generation ago.

            [skip more examples]

            So we do have instinctive reactions, and we do have the ability to override them.

            What I was saying is that most of our behaviors, and indeed all our feelings, are a product of evolution. Even our opinions are greatly influenced by evolution. When random people are asked a simple question about for example economic policy, they most often start from an emotion, a feeling, an intuition, and then rationalize their answer.

            I have refrained from giving non-trivial examples (such as our current obsession with inequality, or other economic subject such as the minimum wage, etc., or anything that has to do with race or gender, etc.), because doing so will necessarily start a contentious discussion. Again, “moral dumbfounding”.

            And yet all of politics is like that (emotion then rationalization). Like Robin Hanson always says, “politics isn’t about policy”. It is about power. It is about groups fighting to elevate their status at the cost of some other group. It is the same tribal fighting we observe among chimpanzees. The first answer that comes to our mind is driven by our need for status, our need to fit in, our need to signal our virtue (another way to gain status), and then we rationalize the answer.

            Once you are aware of that, you can analyze “values” much more effectively.

            Another way to say the same thing is that Berk should teach his/her kids to question their motivations. “Why do I think that?”, “why did I say that?”, “why do I write on SSC?”, “what am I trying to achieve?”, “really?”, “how am I trying to look?”, “am I trying to please someone?”, etc.

          • berk says:

            Igon, my dream school would focus on precisely those questions surrounding skepticism/signaling/motivation/bias/evolutionary explanations of behavior. This is what I would replace the predominant message I see in most schools in my area. One benefit of homeschooling would be instilling precisely that “value” in my kids.

          • Wrong Species says:

            There are many intuitions that are not something we are necessarily biologically predisposed to but because we grow up in a certain culture, we absorb it. You can’t just teach a kid to overcome these instincts and then have them rationally pick and choose. It doesn’t work like that. People generally have the values that are taught to them. Regardless of the fact that my values may be “just” an evolutionary byproduct doesn’t mean that I don’t want to pass them to my children.

            But again, I do agree on teaching some self-awareness. They should know that they are just as susceptible to group-think as everyone else. It may best to try to teach them to separate their values from what are the facts of a specific issue.

    • J Milne says:

      What are you worried your child will learn in these schools?

      • Anonymous says:

        For example, that they can choose to change their sex; that everyone is their friend, especially the highly criminal demographics and hostile foreigners; that children are burden to one’s life, rather than a blessing; that they have to go to an expensive college to succeed at life; etc; etc.

        • berk says:

          That their self-worth is determined solely by their level of self-sacrifice for others/society. That any joy they derive from life they acquire from placing themselves in the mold of a victim.

          • J Milne says:

            This reads a bit protest-too-much-y. What do these schools teach that will lead your child to believe “that any joy they derive from life they acquire from placing themselves in the mold of a victim”?

          • berk says:

            The comment was a bit snarky, my apologies.

            These schools teach a particular worldview. One that I disagree with fundamentally. They have a different religion than I do.

            Schools here reward kids continuously for self-sacrifice and certain prescribed pro-communal actions, not just by forcing community or school service but also in the vocabulary they prioritize, social science/historical bias, passages they read in English class (e.g. recent political speeches), even wording on math problems. They also espouse almost exclusively the victim/oppressor worldview defended by a post-modernist relativist mantra. Since the goal of a lot of the rewarded behaviors is to benefit the victims in the dichotomy, many kids find it expedient to align themselves or their interests with the victim side of the equation.

        • Minsc says:

          You don’t want them to get exposed to these worldviews while under your care so they can accept or reject them based on their own intellect?

          I think the opposite is more harmful – trying to prevent your child from encountering people and ideas that you disagree with just means that they’re going to learn about them and investigate them on their own. And if they’re rebelling against you, this is the type of stuff they’re MORE likely to get into.

          And no offense, but you’re really strawmanning the progressive mindset here, so if I was your kid I’d know EXACTLY what to do to push your buttons. Have you met and socialized with people who disagree with you politically AT ALL? It doesn’t sound like it – it sounds like you’ve constructed a boogeyman that you’re using as an excuse not to engage with people who think differently than you.

          • berk says:

            Minsc, I live in Berkeley. Do you think I haven’t met or socialized with people I disagree with? I was one for 30 years (then I learned to reason).

            My question is an honest one, because frankly I’d rather not move.

            You are the one who is trying to engage in a political discussion. My question was logistical, not political. (although admittedly, my previous comment was certainly a little snarky and reductive…..)

          • Anonymous says:

            You don’t want them to get exposed to these worldviews while under your care so they can accept or reject them based on their own intellect?

            I think the opposite is more harmful – trying to prevent your child from encountering people and ideas that you disagree with just means that they’re going to learn about them and investigate them on their own. And if they’re rebelling against you, this is the type of stuff they’re MORE likely to get into.

            They will encounter it, it’s virtually guaranteed. I don’t want them to encounter it coming from a person of authority over them, and especially not a person of authority in charge of telling them what to think. I did swallow bits and pieces of this propaganda, and would have preferred not to have encountered this stuff as a kid.

            And no offense, but you’re really strawmanning the progressive mindset here, so if I was your kid I’d know EXACTLY what to do to push your buttons. Have you met and socialized with people who disagree with you politically AT ALL? It doesn’t sound like it – it sounds like you’ve constructed a boogeyman that you’re using as an excuse not to engage with people who think differently than you.

            Strawmanning? I’m not strawmanning. Aside from my adjectives in the demographic/foreigner part, this are literally things progressive people claim to believe, and some few even practice them. I actually heard these examples from left-leaning people, in one formulation or another.

            And yes, I have met and socialized people who disagree with me politically at all – including transsexuals and communists – and continue to know and socialize with them. In fact, there are probably only a few hundred people in the world who substantially agree with me (and Scott banned most who used to come here).

          • Minsc says:

            Sorry, I’m more responding to Anonymous’ stuff above you – it’s difficult to parse out how much you’re agreeing with them. I’m not trying to turn this into a political argument, I’m just saying the two above comments seem cartoonishly uncharitable, and it’s hard for me to believe that you think they’re widespread beliefs amongst most progressive people in society. Let me translate a few of these statements into charitable, non-outrage-bait equivalents that your kid is actually likely to learn:

            “For example, that they can choose to change their sex” – Yes, you can do this. Most people choose not to, but if you want to, you’re not a monster and it’s not outlawed or considered morally wrong by our society.

            “That everyone is their friend, especially the highly criminal demographics and hostile foreigners” – You can be friends with whoever you want.

            “That children are burden to one’s life, rather than a blessing” – having children used to be expected of everyone past a certain age, but it isn’t anymore. So again, do whatever you want.

            “That they have to go to an expensive college to succeed at life” – I’ll give you this one, this is kind of a deeply-rooted myth in our current society.

            “That their self-worth is determined solely by their level of self-sacrifice for others/society” – leave out the ‘solely’ and I feel like this is a pretty good place to start basing a personal worldview off of.

            “That any joy they derive from life they acquire from placing themselves in the mold of a victim.” – dunno how to make this one charitable. Most people I know see through this tendency in others pretty quick, but it’s possible to fall into all kinds of echo chambers, of which this is one.

          • berk says:

            Minsc, ok, I see you were responding to Anonymous.
            I can see how he is being a little extreme…. I’m not sure someone who would otherwise not choose to, choose a sex reassignment operation because they went to public school, or that school teaches having children is not desirable (it’s pretty darn hard to fight biology on this).

            I agree with you, I could have left out “solely” to better represent the progressive world view. It is still not my set of values. I prefer my children to be driven by rational self-interest primarily, not communal interest; so you can see my personal worldview is going to be at great odds with my community’s and thus my problems with the local school system. re: benefits of victimhood, Berkeley *is* an echo chamber.

          • quanta413 says:

            @Minsc

            I think you’re kind of missing the point by arguing about how exactly to characterize a point of view rather than what to do about how to educate your children. For example, let me take one of your reasonable characterizations to point out the disagreement isn’t contingent on connotation. I’ll use one of my own beliefs for example.

            “That their self-worth is determined solely by their level of self-sacrifice for others/society” – leave out the ‘solely’ and I feel like this is a pretty good place to start basing a personal worldview off of.

            I only consider how much self sacrifice someone does as a signal of what they care about. I hope it doesn’t influence how they determine their own self-worth. In so much as that someone is willing to make an unusual or difficult sacrifice for something it signals to me what they prioritize. But my amount of sacrifice doesn’t really affect my own sense of self-worth.

            I understand that for many people it is a virtue, but it has no value in itself in my estimation. It is important to be effective; if you’re just as effective without sacrificing anything at all, then that’s even better. If I had a binary choice, I would prefer that no one derived their sense of self worth from sacrifice, but from the opposite. Did I sacrifice as little as possible to obtain my goals? Or from a more economic point of view, did I obtain the best deal I could?

          • Anonymous says:

            “For example, that they can choose to change their sex” – Yes, you can do this.

            No. The technology doesn’t exist (yet). All you can do is chemically and surgically sterilize yourself with a side of imitating the opposite sex. I’d be much more supportive if the technology did exist, mind.

            “That everyone is their friend, especially the highly criminal demographics and hostile foreigners” – You can be friends with whoever you want.

            This is not the meaning I intended, and I apologize if I did phrase it badly. Yes, you can be friends with anyone. No, you shouldn’t stroll around in an inner-city ghetto looking well-off, or through Turkey wearing a wedding dress. Bad things are likely to happen – just because you don’t believe you have enemies just on the basis of who you are, doesn’t mean they don’t exist and don’t mean you harm.

            Is my meaning clearer now?

            “That children are burden to one’s life, rather than a blessing” – having children used to be expected of everyone past a certain age, but it isn’t anymore. So again, do whatever you want.

            Why exactly would I want my descendants to hold this view?

          • Minsc says:

            Gotcha, berk. I appreciate where you’re coming from now – thanks for clarifying your position.

            And quanta, I don’t disagree with you at all – I just think that your kid is going to be encountering values different from yours all the time, so it’s better to come across as reasonable and explain why you disagree than trying to shelter/forbid your kid from experiencing or considering these things. As an example, most of the progressive people I know and hang out with aren’t the children of progressives, they’re the children of the bad kind of parent who tried to convince them that ALL gay/black/liberal people were evil, and so the first time they met one in real life they were like “Wait, this person isn’t so bad, maybe it’s my DAD who’s the asshole?”

            Which is such a predictable pattern that I find it funny to see people suggesting stuff like homeschooling/trying to remove your kids from the system entirely in order to keep them from getting tainted or whatever. It’s unlikely to work, but it is likely to blow up in your face when your kid gets old enough to understand what’s up.

            Anonymous, I’m not sure what you’re arguing, sorry. This type of thing:

            Why exactly would I want my descendants to hold this view?

            …makes me think we’re probably talking past each other, because my basic point is that kids should be taught to make their own choices as long as they’re not hurting anybody, and I don’t think you share that worldview.

          • Anonymous says:

            …makes me think we’re probably talking past each other, because my basic point is that kids should be taught to make their own choices as long as they’re not hurting anybody, and I don’t think you share that worldview.

            Indeed not.

    • Matt C says:

      We homeschool. Homeschooling is nice if you can manage it, and avoids a lot of disagreeable things.

      That said, it’s not always easy to manage. If I were in your shoes and couldn’t homeschool, I’d just plan on teaching my kids at home that not everyone believes SJ doctrine and they don’t have to believe it either. They might have to go along with doing mandated community service and a 5th grade Social Justice Project (whatever that is), but they don’t have to take it seriously.

      (“It’s stupid, but you have to put up with stupid stuff from time to time” is something my kids hear routinely, even with us homeschooling.)

      • berk says:

        Thank you, that’s useful. We are leaning towards the homeschooling route, even though it poses some challenges.
        Are you in the Bay area? Can you recommend any good homeschooling programs/groups?

        • Matt C says:

          No, I’m in Kansas, maybe should have mentioned that earlier. Yeah, the Bay Area is an expensive place to go single-income.

          Our experience with homeschooling groups is they come and go. We’ve been members of, idk, ten different homeschooling groups over the years. Somebody feels energetic enough to play leader, word gets around, a little group gets going, some kind of conflict happens and the group fragments or dissolves. Once you’ve been through it a couple times you’ve got connections and will hear about new groups through the grapevine. In the beginning you’ll have to search them out. In the old days that meant Yahoo Groups, for a while now it’s meant Facebook.

          We haven’t been too picky about the politics of the homeschooling groups we’ve joined. Around here you can go either fundamentalist Christian, or what I’ll call flakey new age progressive. We are libertarian atheists and neither of these is a great fit, but the flakey progressive groups have worked out better in practice.

          Lately, our current group has turned rather stridently social justice. This is annoying and a little alienating, but nobody is trying to shove it onto the kids (it’s just the moms chattering with each other) so we mostly ignore it and don’t worry about it too much. But if it’s everywhere out here (and it is), I think you probably need to resign yourself to putting up with some of it in Berkeley CA.

          • berk says:

            Thanks, your comment is encouraging.

            Is there any place (online) you go for curriculum/material?

          • Matt C says:

            Well, we started off unschoolers (you should read about unschooling if you’re not familiar with the term) and added more structure and lessons as the kids got older.

            In the early days we looked for learning materials anywhere we could think of and made it up as we went along. This is a hell of a lot of work, but we could not find a comprehensive curriculum that we liked, so we (mostly my wife) did it a piece at a time. If you’re really hungry for details LMK, I’ll post an email and you can email me.

            There is one resource that really stands out, and that is Khan Academy. It’s not quite a one-stop learning source, but we’ve gotten more out of it than any other single thing. But it’s not geared for little ones. Our kids were teenagers before we really started relying on it.

          • berk says:

            I am familiar with unschooling but am not a big fan (no offense meant to those who like it, I just prefer more structure).

            I am also familiar with Khan Academy (having tutored other
            people’s kids in math using it as a resource) and while it is definitely
            a good resource it is not as complete as a typical school course.

            I would love any other resources you have discovered, so yes, please post an email and I will respond.

          • Matt C says:

            Drop me a note at http://pastebin.com/tCy9Azha and I’ll watch for it. (This is a junk email address, so I might not notice a real email there after a while.)

          • One Name May Hide Another says:

            Berk, I’m thinking the Bay Area has so many people that it should be possible for you to find a small group of like-minded homeschoolers nearby, if you end up going that route. You’ll likely have to spend some time reaching out, searching and organizing, but it might be worth the effort.

            I’m planning on homeschooling my kids in the NYC area, and I will be trying to set up a group for (right-) libertarian parents here. We’ll see how that works out. If it does work out, perhaps you could move here and join us. 🙂

            The two resources I’d heartily recommend given that you’re 1) expecting your first (congratulations!) and 2) not in love with the idea of unschooling are Larry Sanger’s essay “How and Why I Taught My Toddler How to Read” (as well as the author’s blog entries on homeschooling) and “The Well-Trained Mind” by Susan Wise Bauer. You’re not going to agree with some of what that book is recommending, but it’s an excellent resource in terms of ideas about curricula, textbooks, etc.

          • berk says:

            One Name, thank you for the recommendations, I will certainly look at them. I hear you about finding a local group. I had been hoping someone on SSC would be in one such group here in Berkeley.

            We lived in NYC for ~10 years over 15 years ago. If I was still there you could definitely count me in your group….. unfortunately that is unlikely to happen.

          • lycotic says:

            berk, there definitely homeschooling groups in the south bay, where I live (though we are “normal” homeschoolers, rather than unschoolers). My wife is more of an expert on them than I am, but you should be aware that the groups reflect the general population around here and lean toward the pretty liberal (not officially, just in practice).

            There are national groups that aren’t as liberal, particularly for gifted children, and have some local presence.

          • One point worth noting is that, nowadays, a lot of social interaction can be done online, so your kids are not limited to people near them.

        • Elsewhere says:

          I was homeschooled k-12, my wife and I plan on doing the same for our children. Don’t worry too much about curriculum. Be flexible, that’s one of the powers of homeschooling. Follow your kids passions mixed with a bit of curated exposure to new things. In school kids bounce around and try to hold a lot of ideas at one time. At home when it was time to learn geometry, we picked up a textbook from a reseller and I was done with it in a month.

          I’m in Texas, not Cali, but being close to population centers is great for homeschooling. In Austin there are two homeschooling organizations. AAH was a few hundred families large and incredibly diverse. CHEA (the christian group) was larger, but I did not have much interaction with them.

    • Luke the CIA Stooge says:

      Well according to SJW types themselves, the mere presence of a copy of Atlas Shrugged in the house is enough to undue 100 years of Social Justice education and all innate Human dignity such that satan, voledemort and emperor Palpatine’s combined efforts could not make your child fall to the dark side more surely.
      Why buy a copy and you might as well surrender your child to the joint custody of the Koch brothers and the Cato Institute this moment!
      Oh and it’s also so poorly written that your children will not be able to read the first chapter title before putting it down, apparently I haven’t read it ?.

      But seriously Rand is probably the best anti-victim morality writer in English (she’s pretty much the American Neitzshe), with the film’s of John Milius (Conan the Barbarian, Red Dawn, Apocalypse Now) coming in second for popularizing that kind of ardent individualism.

      You really can’t read Rand (or read and understand neitzsche) and have an unreformed SJW guilt complex: It just begins to smell to much of hypocrisy and resentment afterwords.

      Speaking of of can anyone give a good review of Atlas? I’ve read Anthem and liked it (and most of Capitalism the unknown ideal) but never really got started with Atlas.

      • houseboatonstyxb says:

        IMO, the most important thing for a child to know about Atlas (or most other books worth reading), is that skipping stuff is okay. In Rand it’s easy. When there’s a whole page without any paragraph breaks, turn it. Likewise with any paragraph or sentence that loses your attention — skim and skip til something better turns up.

        • Matt M says:

          Oh man, I disagree with this a lot. The BEST parts of Atlas are the giant political rants! Without that it’s just some long boring story about some people, a railroad, and a giant superweapon.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            Okay, then, read the long paragraphs and skip the short ones. Atlas has a lot of different things in it; when people reject the whole book (and Rand) on some technical literary ground, I smell motivated (or at least shallow) reasoning.

      • Tekhno says:

        But then you risk unleashing another Randian on the world. Having your right hand cut off to save your left hand.

      • roystgnr says:

        Atlas Shrugged was interesting enough to finish, but *really* needed more editing for brevity. Putting her Marty Stu’s thoughts into challenging debate rather than interminable monologue would have been nice, too; it was hard to just keep reading rather than pick up a pen to write my own rebuttals in the margins. The heroes felt like comic book caricatures.

        The villains, on the other hand, were brilliantly written, and sympathetic enough to be plausible even as they were clearly sowing the seeds of their own downfall. Half the news reports from Venezuela during the last decade could have been replaced with an Atlas Shrugged page reference without losing much information.

        The hypothesis I’ve heard is that Rand didn’t have any examples of real historical heroes of the type she wanted to write, so she had to make them up from whole cloth, whereas she had ample life experience and historical references to draw on for her villains. I don’t know whether this is correct, but it’s certainly depressing.

        • Viliam says:

          Half the news reports from Venezuela during the last decade could have been replaced with an Atlas Shrugged page reference without losing much information.

          This. I enjoyed reading Atlas, because I read fast, so long books are not a problem. But it was “just another novel”; mere fictional evidence.

          Then I read some news about Venezuela, and it felt like someone decided to organize a huge Atlas Shrugged LARP session. Suddenly my respect for Rand increased a lot.

          I still don’t trust her on everything, because criticizing other people is always much easier than creating your own alternative. But damn, she has an extraordinary talent at pointing out the problems, and if you think something is an exaggeration, you just probably didn’t pay enough attention to Venezuela or whatever other place, because yes, it is exactly as bad as she describes.

          But her heroes are quite cartoonish.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            The problem I had with Mulligan and Wyatt, and to some extent Galt, D’Anconia, and the Dread Pirate Rand, is that they seemed very cookie-cutter – their speech mannerisms, approach to problems, and general behavior seemed to be identical, with their only distinguishing feature being their trade of choice. I came away feeling this to be a critical shortcoming of the story, if its goal was to make the heroes’ side more attractive. The villains were vile, but they also had more variety.

        • Thegnskald says:

          Dagny and Rearden were both decently well-developed characters – probably because they start off as “flawed” in different ways and have to develop their way to Objectivist Enlightenment or whatever it is. They are interesting precisely because they suffer.

          Francisco, Ragnar, and Galt were thinly-developed and kind of uninteresting as characters – they have entertaining antics at points, but little else, because they’re beyond suffering.

          • Nornagest says:

            It’s been a while since I read that book, but I remember thinking that the first third of it was a way better story arc than the whole thing — because up to that point, it was about interesting characters building something great in the face of adversity, and after that, the adversity won and it became all about tedious characters trying to tear it down.

      • JonathanD says:

        I know you’re being facetious here but I’m 90% sure I’m what you’d call a SJW and I read both Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead in high school, and loved both. My opinion has of Rand as an author and philosopher has changed over the years, but I certainly wouldn’t tremble or weep if my kids read them.

      • JonathanD says:

        Oh, and if you want to get more Rand and are finding Atlas a tough go, read the Fountainhead. It’s tighter and better written.

        • houseboatonstyxb says:

          I’d say, if Atlas is too much, take a side trip through some of her non-fiction before trying The Fountainhead.

      • Deiseach says:

        Had I children and I wanted to punish them, making them read at least a chapter of “Atlas Shrugged” would be the disciplinary method of choice 🙂

        when people reject the whole book (and Rand) on some technical literary ground, I smell motivated (or at least shallow) reasoning

        Ooooh hoo hoo hoo. What do you say about me, then? I was an ardent Trekkie from childhood onwards, and reading one of the fan books about Trek there was an enthusiastic passage about how most people had read and loved and found great inspiration in “The Fountainhead”.

        Well, so eventually I found out what this essential Trek fan must-read book was and by whom, and saw a copy of “Atlas Shrugged” in a bookshop, and tried reading the thing, and put it down in disgust.

        I mean, for a start, John Galt is a massive Gary Stu. But the literary grounds that I would criticise it on are plainly hiding my motivated reasoning – I simply disliked all the characters and couldn’t decide who I’d prefer to see thrown under the train first. The unpleasant mooching characters are unpleasant, but the heroes and heroines are so objectionable, it makes me come around to being pleased when the unpleasant characters leech off them 🙂

      • Thegnskald says:

        From a Left perspective, it’s a decent book, you really need to know how to skim properly to enjoy it though. (And there’s one speech you can skip entirely.)

        The moral lessons are a little confused – the good ones to take away from it is that you are your own person, that you should stand up for what you believe in, that your empathy is your own and not anybody else’s to either demand or take credit for (a lesson which I think helps avert the worst ways SJ tends to go wrong), and that doing good things for other people is a good quality to cultivate (provided you want to do those good things, another good moral lesson).

        The bad ones are that morality is cut-and-dry, that the world is easily divisible into good people and bad people (The Fountainhead at least had some ambiguity in a couple of places), and that anybody who says they’re doing good work is lying. It’s easy to mistake the book as giving license to be a selfish asshole, but every “good” person in the book does good things for other people, while “evil” people try to do good TO other people, if the distinction makes sense. Rand’s use of words is… not quite right, which can make her position confusing, and her speeches and plot seem to point towards selfishness (and indeed, her word choice, as she misuses that word a lot), but given her characters’ actually charitable behavior towards one another, I think it’s more about taking responsibility for your own empathy and what you do with it, rather than letting somebody else claim it for their own personal or political ends.

        There’s also a lot of political nonsense in there of varying quality; the thing is, she is only sort of writing fiction, she’s also pretty much writing the history of the Soviet Union. So the fact that the Russia is now ruled by the mafia isn’t really prescience so much as describing what was already going on. Her work is an excellent description of how authoritarian (right-wing?) leftism ends up working; in terms of a description of Democratic leftism, it fails pretty badly (sort of – I guess the description of the railroad regulations in the book were pretty much how railroads were being run already, but that’s from a libertarian account, so I have no idea how true that actually is; either way, clearly things never got quite as bad as she describes them).

        So, read it, but take the political parts with a grain of salt. She describes one failure mode of society, then proposes a solution which is the exact opposite of that failure mode, and, well, reversed stupidity isn’t intelligence.

        • Matt M says:

          in terms of a description of Democratic leftism, it fails pretty badly

          I’m not sure about this. I think she takes great pains to emphasize how both popular and high culture are dominated by left-wing political thought such that the ideas in question are very popular and people who espouse them are (presumably) winning elections. I don’t recall any insinuation that the powerful elite did anything that couldn’t easily be done within the current American system of government.

          There’s a certain part of the book, which I won’t reveal in detail because of spoilers, that most people find ghastly and horrendous, but which is actually one of my favorite passages – wherein she describes exactly how a bunch of supposed “innocent victims” were totally at fault for the tragedy they find themselves in, and this notably included things such as “voted for left-wing politicians” and “supported the arts when the arts promoted collectivism” and stuff like that.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Well, except that some of the passengers are held at fault merely for benefiting from the system (when they have no power to refuse to, at that).

            I suspect sort of people who agree with her description of that also happened to find objectionable that professor who claimed that the 9/11 victims deserved it. The line of argument was certainly very similar.

            I get her underlying points – that you’re responsible for the society your choices create, and that ignorance of reality isn’t an excuse, because knowledge of reality is exactly what enables our society to exist – but at the same time, it reads like a rant about how white people who benefit from privilege are responsible for racism.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          As a fan of the book, these criticisms ring true to me, particularly the black-and-white morality and her selection of definitions.

          Your distinction that good people do good for other people while evil people do good TO them, I would have phrased as: the former people do for other people what other people consider good; the latter people do for other people what the latter people consider good.

          I think the political stuff wasn’t complete nonsense, largely in the way Matt M thinks it wasn’t.

          • Thegnskald says:

            It isn’t complete nonsense, it just mixes nonsense with non-nonsense without much care. The criticisms are largely valid; her proposals on how to fix the problems aren’t. Ayn Rand tends to write solutions as though they were self-evident from the problem, rather than treating problems as complex and largely ill-defined.

            Also, I don’t find it interesting that the left is the elite in her story; you could easily substitute right-wing villains and have basically the same plot, but with different motivations for the villains. Same with society; that the party with social dominance has social dominance is a tautology.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I can see this.

            You also reminded me of another long-standing lament I had: there is a large extent to which Rand was telling a just-so story. She had perfect knowledge of the world she’d built. The solutions her characters implement are hard to apply to the real world, because you often can’t tell your Wesley Mouches from your Hank Reardens. (Sometimes they’re all Mouches, and your options include figuring out what’s the minimum amount of Mouchebaggery you need to form a coalition with in order to get anything done.)

          • Also, I don’t find it interesting that the left is the elite in her story; you could easily substitute right-wing villains and have basically the same plot, but with different motivations for the villains.

            She was setting it in an exaggerated version of the world as she saw it.

    • moridinamael says:

      Just force them to be SJ-compliant beyond the point of reason, and then “accidentally” give them access to Atlas Shrugged when they turn 14.

      • Viliam says:

        Also: Animal Farm, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, Kallocain, We.

        And some books written by former cult members, so that they can recognize the social dynamic if someone tries to drag them into a SJW movement.

        Maybe also: nonviolent communication, Rationality from AI to Zombies.

        • nimim.k.m. says:

          And some books written by former cult members, so that they can recognize the social dynamic if someone tries to drag them into a SJW movement.

          For additional equivalently snarky response, I was going to suggest the same, but in the case they are dragged to AI risk movement or libertarianism…

          Slightly more seriously, isn’t taking your children from public schools that pollute their minds and attempt to control the media they consume and their social circles for ideological reasons one of the most recognizable modus operandi of so-called cults?

          In general (edit. to clarify, assuming that I ever have kids), I’m favorable towards the idea of letting to roam free in the public library (and even moreso in my personal library), mostly according to their tastes, and then hoping that your kids are intelligent enough not to become puppets of any ideology. I’m told hereabouts that intelligence and personality is largely innate.

          I believe the original roots of reasons why read SSC today got started around age of 10, when I decided that the history of Roman republic was absolutely fascinating and for a while hero-worshiped Cicero. This is was mostly surprise to my parents. Then I started reading newspapers they left around the house (I that that was intentional on their part) and started disagreeing about politics with them (not sure about that).

          • Nornagest says:

            Libertarianism (or at least the parts of it that call themselves that, rather than Objectivist) is about the least cultish movement I’ve ever seen. Get three libertarians in a room and the only thing they’ll agree on is that there’s one libertarian in the room.

            You’d have a better case for AI risk, but I think I actually liked it better when it was more cultish, four or five years ago.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            Well, taking the argument at the face value instead of just as snark at the cost of outgroup, Tumblr and twitter SJW brigades are also far too incoherent and missing charismatic leaders to resemble very much any real cult. More apt comparison is any ideologically motivated political movement.

            However, I’d recommend reading Orwell. Not the famous novels, but maybe the essays and memoirs of Spanish Civil War. And other histories of ideologically motivated political movements.

          • However, I’d recommend reading Orwell. Not the famous novels, but maybe the essays and memoirs of Spanish Civil War.

            Especially the four volume Letters and Essays.

    • lvlln says:

      I’m not a parent, and I don’t have any special knowledge about parenting, so my thoughts might be close to worthless on this. But my thought is, teaching your kids to value critical thinking and analysis of evidence may be the best way to inoculate them against getting swept up in SJWism. Teach them to really analyze everything they’re taught, especially from yourself and other authority figures like teachers. Keep reinforcing that every chance you get, asking them about what they learned at school, and how they know that it is or isn’t correct. Work through the steps of analyzing these things critically with them, so that they do it by instinct on their own.

      Because the basic tenets of SJW break down very quickly upon even the most basic critical analysis, giving them the tools to do so and encouraging using those tools on everything are what I think may work. Still, I imagine this is easier said than done, as raising children seems like an incredibly difficult endeavor in most cases.

      I know for me, breaking free from SJWism started out when I recognized that SJW beliefs were a huge gaping blind spot in where I tried to apply critical thinking to my life – I would just take stuff at face value from my peers. And when I decided to actually honestly point those tools at my SJW beliefs, they just broke down. In my experience, it’s almost impossible to convince anyone else of doing something like this to any of their core beliefs, but maybe if you’re raising a child, it’s possible to make “look at everything critically with skepticism” as one of their core beliefs.

      • JonathanD says:

        Be careful with that. The presumption that people for whom you hold antipathy (SJWs here) are clearly stupid (lack critical thinking skills) or are clearly immoral (lack empathy) or are clearly some other sort of inferior is a deeply pleasant trap. My feed is littered with memes about how stupid people on the right are. I’m sure yours is littered with jokes mocking my intelligence. This is, in general, a bunch of crap. You teach your kids as best you can and then they go off and become their own people. That means all the way up to having their own beliefs they came to themselves.

        All of that said if, if the OP is still following this, I think he should bite the bullet and move. When your kids become teenagers their friends become a very important influence in their lives and their forming moral sense. You have some influence over who their friends are, but not control, and if you push it too far you can cause yourself big problems. But if you just so happen to live in the most politically conservative metro in the country, your kids will naturally make friends with people who’s thinking and morals are closer to what you have in mind. This will help. In the end you may still end up with budding young SJWs who roll their eyes and put up with you (esp if they’re smart and moral :-P), but you can only do what you can do.

        • lvlln says:

          My Twitter feed is about 50/50 memes mocking both sides, as far as I can tell; I’m a far leftist, most of whose peers are also on the far left, but I make an effort to follow people on the right, too.

          But to the larger point, I don’t think for a moment that SJWs lack critical thinking skills or lack empathy (any more than the typical human, anyway). I think they have every capability to do that, which is why it disappoints me so much that they choose not to engage in it with respect to their own ideology for the former or their ideological enemies for the latter. I don’t know any particular reason WHY they choose not to engage in critical thinking towards their ideology – I can think of a few cynical explanations, but those all seem too convenient and easy to be the whole story even if partly true – but I don’t believe that I am – or anyone else are, for that matter – any more intelligent or any less tribal than SJWs.

          • Cypren says:

            To the extent that SJWs are more closed-minded or tribal than the average partisan — and I’m not sure that they really are; I have my own biases here, and SJWs are disporportionately loud voices on the internet where we all spend a lot of time — it seems likely to me that it’s a combination of three factors:

            1.) Most of the SJWs I’ve come across are in academia, either students, teachers/professors or staff. Academia is a very insulated and self-selecting environment with strong authority figures and an ideological monoculture almost unheard-of outside of organized religion. (And for the same reasons: its “priests” educate, indoctrinate and then can ideologically filter the selection of the next generation of the priesthood to people whose views they find sufficiently canonical, causing each successive generation to reinforce the orthodoxy.) People in an academic environment are heavily sheltered from engaging with heterodox views, and the prestige and status we accord to higher education lends a sense of moral authority that the excluded views must be self-evidently excluded for righteous and holy reasons because the church university represents all that is right and holy.

            2.) SJWs are disproportionately younger than the average politically-interested voter and more likely to communicate primarily online. The real-life ideological filter bubble they already enjoy by attending universities or living in deep-blue cities is deepened even further by their media/culture bubble until it seems like the world is simply self-evidently organized into three categories: SJWs, oppressed victims they must protect, and vile hateful despicable oppressors who must be destroyed. Anyone who has not been previously selected into a designated oppressed victim group must either fully embrace the SJW ideology or they have ipso facto self-selected into the oppressor group. Simple!

            3.) If you’re anywhere to the right of the average liberal, you’re also generally exposed to pop culture, which centers its Overton Window well to the left of the national one, and so you get a heavy dose of liberal (note to dndnrsn: not leftist! I’m trying to distinguish!) ideas to challenge your own as well. This clearly has an effect: it’s not happenstance that gay marriage went from being 57% opposed to 55% favored in 15 years. It was largely an effect of a concerted effort on the part of Hollywood and other media groups to introduce the American public to lesbian and gay people as human and normal, just like themselves. You see a similar effort starting with transgender people right now as well; it’s coordinated, not by some sort of over-arching centralized conspiracy like some conservatives imagine, but by cultural homogeneity and virtue signaling.

            There’s no real corresponding force that pushes SJWs to moderate their beliefs by exposing them to the other side. It’s far too easy to simply dismiss all of the enemy media and information sources as pure propaganda, and there’s no right-wing Hollywood equivalent that’s systematically delivering moral/political messaging inside of entertainment products in a subtle way, causing people to question what they think are ironclad laws of the universe and morality.

            I think one of the reasons you don’t see quite as much overt tribalism among older adults (outside of academia, orthodox religion and some areas of the media, anyway) is that our jobs usually force us into contact with people who don’t share our beliefs and views over time. You start to realize that yes, Virginia, there are monsters, but there are also lots of good people out there who simply disagree with your priors, and that doesn’t make them evil. Nearly all of the SJWs I’ve met are either too young to have had that experience yet or have never lived/worked outside of ideological bubbles where everyone either shares their views or is too afraid of accusations of heresy to contradict them.

          • Aapje says:

            @lvlln

            I don’t know any particular reason WHY they choose not to engage in critical thinking towards their ideology

            I would argue that a major reason is that the ideology explicitly denounces it (SJW advocacy often consists of ‘calling out,’ which consists of shaming the heterodox).

            Of course, shaming works. The patriarchy, racists, etc use(d) it very effectively. But it is an anti-rational method that does not seek to convince, but to pummel into submission.

            Such tactics don’t just leave a mark on people outside of the SJW movement, but also those within.

    • Murphy says:

      I don’t share your beliefs but on the meta level the issues you have issue with are not questions of fact but rather values so it’s not really fair for me to class them any differently than I would any religious group.

      Presumably you don’t want to avoid teaching about historical events or matters of fact, merely the SJ style worldview?

      Homeschooling would seem to be the most practical option for you given the constraints. If there’s enough others with your views then you might be able to get something more formal together.

      I’d suggest giving any child some level of exposure to it, otherwise they hear about it when they’re teens and may end up getting waaaay to into it like someone getting into a religion. Just some boring, box-ticking style exposure so the ideas aren’t actually new.

      • One’s children ought to be exposed to SSC, as well as the internet more generally. That will give them an opportunity to see as much of the SJW world–and others–as they wish.

  2. Fossegrimen says:

    One of the many things I don’t get about the USA is it’s attitude to enforce its own laws versus making new ones.

    America has one of the strictest immigration policies I know of and yet there are millions of illegal immigrants because the laws are poorly enforced. The apparent solution to this is to introduce new laws which are presumably also not going to be enforced.

    America has a fairly reasonable gun policy which is clearly not enforced. Last figures I saw was that 65% of gun deaths would have been prevented if current gun laws were actually enforced. This is somehow not on the table, while making new gun legislation is.

    From the outside, it seems that a sane start would be to start enforcing current laws and then see how that turns out before making new ones. The above is only the two first examples that came to mind. I keep coming across other similar ones so it seems to be a trend. This seems to be a uniquely American thing. Other countries I have lived in finds that a law is not enforced and then either start enforcing, removes or alters it to something they actually can and want to enforce.

    • Well... says:

      America has one of the strictest immigration policies I know of

      Curious to know what your other points of comparison are.

      65% of gun deaths would have been prevented if current gun laws were actually enforced.

      I’d like to see this claim fleshed out with more data too.

      • Fossegrimen says:

        I have lived and worked in several countries in the EU, Middle East and sub-saharan Africa as well as China and the US. The only country to beat America was China when it comes to depth of the vetting process. (And I’m from an “easy” country.)

        Can’t seem to find the 65% claim in a hurry. I read it on either Eric Raymonds blog or Monsterhunternation (only places I tend to come across gun related info) I do remember following links to official statistics.

      • massivefocusedinaction says:

        It probably comes from the study, Sources of Crime Guns in Southern California, done by the ATF.

        The political issue with prosecuting straw purchases is the defendants tend to be very sympathetic and most buyers figure out that if they claim the weapon was stolen (there’s rarely a requirement to report a stolen weapon quickly) it’s almost impossible for prosecutors to prove criminal charges. Buyers have enough ties to the criminals to be trusted buy a gun, but also have to have no record, and frequently be living out of their birth state (in a state with less stringent gun laws). Which means you’d have to prosecute a large number of first time college students leaving the inner city and attending schools in the south, or lots of single mothers buying guns for their boyfriend/male relatives.

        I really think better education would work well in this situation, because most people who would be likely buyers don’t think that buying a gun for someone is a big deal. It shouldn’t be that hard for the ATF to work with the SCCA to create a public service announcement and some welcome to college materials to target the likely buyer groups and let them know that it’s a felony, and how criminals get the guns they use to shoot your friends.

        • Synonym Seven says:

          I really think better education would work well in this situation, because most people who would be likely buyers don’t think that buying a gun for someone is a big deal. It shouldn’t be that hard for the ATF to work with the SCCA to create a public service announcement and some welcome to college materials to target the likely buyer groups and let them know that it’s a felony, and how criminals get the guns they use to shoot your friends.

          Like the DEA did with DARE / the Ad Council / PDFA? I mean, they even happened to stumble into one of the most memorable advertisements of a generation along the way, but it still doesn’t seem to have prevented the illegal drug trade.

          So I guess I’m just not convinced that the idea you propose would be much more effective, or amount to anything more than feel-good Yuppie do-nothingism when all’s said and done.

          • massivefocusedinaction says:

            I suspect educational efforts would be more effective with gun laws than drug laws because few people support more murders, while drug use is seen as a victimless crime.

            How many people here (and I’m guessing that the average SSC commenter is relatively well informed about laws) knew that buying a gun as anything other than a gift for someone else is a felony and the number one way guns get into the hands of criminals?

            If well informed political news junkies don’t know, why would we expect less well informed folks to know?

            Obviously after the education effort, it would become much easier politically to start much more draconian enforcement of straw purchase laws, as buyers would be seen as much less sympathetic (not unlike the shift in DUI 30 years ago).

          • Synonym Seven says:

            @massivefocusedinaction:

            Nobody supports “more murders”. Even your true Mansonite psychopaths have some strings attached. And nobody supports “more fried minds”, when “fried mind” is agreed to constitute slobbering, institutionalization-required brain damage.

            And that’s exactly the thing – people don’t see it as “more murders”. They see it as “more defense AGAINST murders” or “more protection just in case, you know, stuff hits the fan”. Is this rational? Probably not. Is it deeply-held and not about to be changed by a poster on the wall of the guidance counseling department? Absolutely.

          • massivefocusedinaction says:

            Do you think that people here are probably in the 2nd or 3rd standard deviation regarding being informed about national policies and laws? (I do).

            Do you think that more than half the commenters here know that taking cash from someone and buying a gun and giving them the gun is a felony? (50% is my guess at an upper limit for how much of the highly informed folks here knew anything about straw buyers).

            If you agree with my answers, how much lower is the penetration of this concept? I would bet that the vast majority of straw buyers are good people, who strongly oppose gun violence, but who have no idea that the think they do for a “buddy” is not only a felony, but is also the source of the majority of guns used.

            My experience with other shooters is that the average gun rights person would love to see frequent prosecutions for straw purchases, because it wouldn’t affect them (they already comply with the background checks), and if prosecutions reduced the supply of guns to the underworld it would further take political pressure off closing the “gun show loophole” they oppose (because they vehemently oppose a gun registry.

          • suntzuanime says:

            There are a decent number of people here who aren’t Americans, and it would be unfair to expect them to know about American gun law. Restricted only to the Americans I would say that yes, a majority probably do know that the straw purchase of a gun is a serious crime. It’s not like it’s a secret.

            It’s an obvious move, if you’re caught straw-purchasing, to say “I didn’t know it was a whole thing”. It provokes much more sympathy than saying “I thought I’d get away with it”.

          • quanta413 says:

            If you agree with my answers, how much lower is the penetration of this concept? I would bet that the vast majority of straw buyers are good people, who strongly oppose gun violence, but who have no idea that the think they do for a “buddy” is not only a felony, but is also the source of the majority of guns used.

            I must be more cynical than you, because even if they don’t know it’s a felony, I find it hard to believe they don’t find it suspicious and a sign of “Bad Things” TM that the person they are purchasing a gun for can’t go buy the gun themselves.

          • The Nybbler says:

            When you buy a gun from a licensed dealer, you will be told that straw purchase is a felony. It’s right on the form 4473 that you willl be required to fill out. They’re not keeping this a secret.

            There will also likely be signs and posters around the gun store warning you of this fact, though this is not universal.

          • massivefocusedinaction says:

            @quanta413

            I’d absolutely agree that people think it’s suspicious, but I don’t think most realize that it’s intended to be the lynch pin of gun control in the US. Do you think the average person thinks it’s worse than buying beer for minors (a crime that is pretty tolerated)?

            @The Nybbler
            Sure it’s on the form, how many people buying a gun (even legit buyers) read the form? I’m not that experienced with gun sales (I like gun shows so I see a decent number but it’s not random samples) but given the number of errors I’ve seen in that limited sample, I’d say most people aren’t reading it carefully.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @massivefocusedinaction

            It’s on the form, twice. When I’ve bought a gun I’ve been asked the question verbally by the seller. Nowadays a gun store is likely to have some of these posters, or similar ones, around. IMO, if you can manage to buy a gun from a dealer without knowing it’s seriously illegal to buy one for someone else, you’re either willfully ignorant or uncommonly stupid.

            It’s possible that much of the American public doesn’t realize that straw sales are a felony, but that’s different than saying many gun-buyers don’t.

        • reytes says:

          I know that there are billboards like that, because I’ve seen them (in California where I live).

          I have no other information to provide with regards to frequency or effectiveness, this is strictly an anecdotal report that I have seen billboards about this.

        • Cypren says:

          “More education” is unlikely to impact the straw purchase problem. The people making straw purchases are definitely aware that what they are doing is illegal given that it is one of the questions you have to individually answer on the federal background check form.

          The problem is that straw purchasers are unlikely to be caught and punished, and this is a well-known fact in criminal circles and used to reassure the purchaser as part of a larger campaign of social pressure. Most straw purchasers are, as you pointed out, sympathetic people who come from subcultures with high crime rates where their friends and relatives are likely to be involved in the drug trade or other violent crime.

          This is a marginal cost/marginal benefit issue. From their perspective, they’re “arming their own troops”; the gun they buy may save their brother/boyfriend/cousin’s life if he gets into a street scuffle during a turf war. The only way that you’re going to stop straw purchases is to significantly raise the marginal cost: you need to make punishment into a near-certainty so that the purchase becomes more likely to land their loved one (and themselves) in jail than it is to save their loved one’s life in a violent altercation.

          Short of draconian arms controls, this isn’t likely to stop one-off straw purchasers. But a commitment to prosecute straw purchasers regardless of their sympathetic stories, combined with taking gun dealer reports seriously (because believe me, the dealers know who the straw purchasers are; it doesn’t take a genius to guess that a single mom on welfare who buys a dozen handguns a month isn’t a hobbyist) would go a long way towards stopping the “arms trafficker” level purchasers who are supplying the cartels. People who think that federally-licensed firearms dealers, as a group, deliberately turn a blind eye to these kind of purchases probably have never known or met any. I’ve heard plenty of complaints within the gun-rights community about how law enforcement agencies are simply uninterested in pursuing these kinds of prosecutions because the defendants are “politically incorrect” targets.

          Edit: Just to add, some people will say, “if the dealers know who the buyers are, why not just refuse to sell to them?” Some do. But this is a minefield of its own, because the dealer has no investigative resources, and if he guesses wrong and, say, refuses to sell two dozen rifles to the Hispanic woman who turns out to be setting up a marksmanship club for her son’s Boy Scout troop, he could find himself on the receiving end of an ACLU anti-discrimination lawsuit very quickly. Even if he guesses right, and turns away a cartel purchaser, there’s no guarantee that the cartel doesn’t send someone to toss a few molotovs into his shop as a warning to other dealers.

          Enforcement of laws needs to be done by law enforcement, who have the resources and means to fully investigate and respond to threats.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’m curious.

            Given that there is a private sale exception, is it illegal for me to buy a gun and sell it for a profit a week later?

            I honestly don’t know the answer to that question.

          • Matt M says:

            Given that there is a private sale exception, is it illegal for me to buy a gun and sell it for a profit a week later?

            I’m not an expert, but I believe it’s legal IF you go through a registered/licensed gun broker who fills out the relevant paperwork, background check, etc.

            I would guess if you just meet a random dude from Craigslist in an alley and he gives you a wad of cash and you give him the gun, that’s probably illegal.

          • gbdub says:

            Technically, I believe what makes it a straw purchase is a pre-arrangement with the ultimate buyer.

            If you see a great deal on a gun at a gun shop, buy it as an investment, then later sell it at a gun show, that’s fine.

            If your buddy says, “Hey, I heard there was a great deal over at the gun shop, I’ll pay you back if you go buy it for me”, that would be illegal.

            @MattM – in most jurisdictions, most sales between private parties who reside in the same state do not need to go through a dealer (FFL). So “a wad of cash to a guy from Craigslist” is quite legal, as long as it was not prearranged before your original purchase of the gun.

            If you make a habit of this to the extent the Feds decide you’re acting as a de facto dealer, you can get in trouble.

            All transfers between residents of different states need to go through an FFL, who will run a check on the buyer. In some cases hand guns are subject to more strict limits.

          • suntzuanime says:

            My understanding of the law is that you can do that so long as you don’t make a habit of it (in which case you would need a firearms dealer’s license and to start making background checks) and you do it in good faith not intending to sell the gun to someone who couldn’t legally buy one (which wouldn’t be the case if you were specifically trying to engage in regulatory arbitrage).

          • The Nybbler says:

            @HBC, that varies by state.

            In states which allow private sales not through a dealer, you can certainly buy a gun for yourself and then sell it for a profit a week later, provided you have no reason to believe the person you are selling to is a prohibited person.

            As Matt M notes, if you sell it for cash in an alley to a random dude on Craigslist who is willing to pay over retail for a used (even if a week old) gun… well, I don’t envy your lawyer when the gun gets used in a crime and traced back to you.

          • massivefocusedinaction says:

            A purchase with intent to resell puts you at risk of engaging in the business of dealing in firearms without a license (a different felony). Here’s the relevant text from the ATF’s guidance bulletin:

            Courts have identified several factors relevant to determining on which side of that line your activities may fall, including: whether you represent yourself as a dealer in firearms; whether you are repetitively buying and selling firearms; the circumstances under which you are selling firearms; and whether you are looking to make a profit. Note that while quantity and frequency of sales are relevant indicators, courts have upheld convictions for dealing without a license when as few as two firearms were sold, or when only one or two transactions took place, when other factors were also present.

            Making a profit and mentioning your intent to do so in advance in a public forum would put you on legally shaky ground, if the ATF were to learn about your purchase and sale.

            If you buy a gun for your personal use, and change your mind at some short period of time after purchase, then sell the unwanted gun. You’re in the clear, probably.

            Obviously, as The Nibbler mentions, if you sell a firearm to a prohibited person, that would be a felony.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            It looks to me that private sale and straw purchase are very hard to distinguish from each other unless you have the cooperation of one side of the transaction. And private sales aren’t illegal.

            Asking someone for a loan, buying a gun with it, and then selling that gun because I felt like it (for any reason, as long as I maintained that I came to that reason after I bought the gun) is perfectly legal, I think? At least anywhere that has legal private sale.

            Imagine how DUI rates would drop if you had to prove the people intended to drive drunk before they got to the bar.

            In any case, I’m not seeing how you could actually enforce the existing laws and put a big dent in the problem.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Juries aren’t completely stupid. Intent is a factor in a fairly large fraction of crimes, and it’s far from impossible to prove. The sort of actions you describe are actions from which it would be fair to infer intent.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @HBC

            You can’t prevent straw purchases; that’s something the NRA tends to gloss over, but it’s true; if a non-prohibited person wants to buy a gun for a prohibited person and is willing to lie to do it, it’s not possible to stop them

            But punishing the straw buyer after the fact, once the felon is caught with the gun, is not going to be that hard. Sure, in a few cases, two people might be able to structure the transaction so there’s not enough evidence for conviction, but most of the time that’s not going to be true.

          • JonathanD says:

            Yes, but the education program is still a good idea, because it might (should) open up the political space for enforcement. Make billboards, radio and tv ads for a year, and include in the ads that the police may have let that go in the past, but no longer. This is a felony, for which you’ll go to prison and do real time.

            Give it a couple of months and then ratchet up enforcement. Said sympathetic stories will be much less sympathetic.

        • vV_Vv says:

          I really think better education would work well in this situation, because most people who would be likely buyers don’t think that buying a gun for someone is a big deal.

          If the ban is not being enforced, then pretty much by definition it means that the state doesn’t consider it a big deal.

          • John Schilling says:

            Or that it’s a big deal but that the blowback from arresting lots of sympathetic mostly-minority mostly-women would be a bigger deal.

            Or that it’s a big deal but that winning tribal battles to secure the loyalty of their base is a bigger deal and cooperating with the enemy tribe doesn’t accomplish that.

            Or that it’s a big deal but in a good way, because people who are afraid of gun violence are easier to talk into things you want to do but that they would otherwise oppose.

            But you are right that the state has never placed keeping guns and violent criminals apart anywhere near the top of its relevant agenda.

      • Matt M says:

        I’m willing to believe these figures, but I think “lack of enforcement” is a bit of a fuzzy term that covers a lot of ground. To me it strongly implies “the authorities are aware of and have the means to prevent X, but choose not to” In cases like, “a felon who is not authorized to own firearms obtains one and kills someone,” I don’t think that’s the issue. In a country where firearms are so generally popular and available, it’s virtually impossible for the police to prevent that sort of thing (most of the time).

      • John Schilling says:

        The 65% figure is presumably assuming zero substitution, that if a criminal cannot obtain a particular firearm by a particular means (e.g. straw purchase), neither he nor the black market will be able to find an equivalent weapon through alternate channels and the criminal will not simply stab his victim to death(*). This seems to me to be almost naively optimistic. Straw purchase and safe storage laws ought to be better enforced, but let’s be realistic about what can be accomplished.

        * Almost all murders involve a single victim within easy stabbing distance. If you only care about headline-making mass shootings, YMMV, but the 65% is I believe across all murders.

        • vV_Vv says:

          Almost all murders involve a single victim within easy stabbing distance.

          In a typical confrontation, isn’t a gun more likely to be lethal than a knife?

          • John Schilling says:

            The lethality of pistol-caliber gunshot wounds to the torso is comparable to the lethality of stabbing wounds to the torso. The issue is complicated by the fact that if you want someone dead(*) and you have a gun you shoot them dead, if you want someone dead and you have a knife you stab them dead, but if you don’t want them dead your options are different. With a knife, you can usually inflict lesser injuries to taste, where guns are pretty much limited to shooting people or not shooting them. That makes knives more useful to non-murderous criminals, and makes it hard to tease out from the statistics what happens when knives vs. guns are used by murderous criminals.

            *For this and all subsequent usages, “dead” includes “badly hurt and I don’t care what happens next”.

          • Iain says:

            The lethality of pistol-caliber gunshot wounds to the torso is comparable to the lethality of stabbing wounds to the torso.

            Does this control for the difficulty of inflicting these wounds? Facing a person bent on murdering me at anything other than the absolute closest of ranges, it seems clear to me that I should prefer my assailant to be holding a knife rather than a gun, no?

          • John Schilling says:

            Facing a person bent on murdering me at anything other than the absolute closest of ranges, it seems clear to me that I should prefer my assailant to be holding a knife rather than a gun, no?

            Depends; are you planning to fight back or run away? Most people are poor shots with a pistol, doubly so if the target is moving and doubled again if they are running on murderous levels of adrenaline. If you run away, particularly at an angle, you’ll probably be out of reach before they score a hit. If you’re planning to fight back, using a knife means they have to come into your reach.

            But almost all real (non-wartime) homicides occur at face-to-face range anyway. Premeditated assassinations are a rare exception; mostly your killer will at least want to shout at you first and probably he wasn’t planning to kill you at all until the shouting didn’t go the way he wanted. So it’s probably a wash whether they brought a knife or a gun to wave at you before they changed their mind and decided to kill you.

          • Iain says:

            It seems trivially true to me that, no matter how bad most people are firing a gun at a fleeing target, a gun is going to be significantly more effective at that task than a knife.

            Even in the case where a person is standing six feet away from me waving a weapon, it seems meaningfully harder for that person to use a knife to inflict stab wounds on my torso than it is to shoot me in the chest. (Consider, for example, the case in which I am physically larger than my assailant.)

          • Nornagest says:

            Even in the case where a person is standing six feet away from me waving a weapon, it seems meaningfully harder for that person to use a knife to inflict stab wounds on my torso than it is to shoot me in the chest.

            Not really, no. Inside six feet or so, I’d rather face somebody with a gun than a knife. The reason is biomechanics: an untrained person can’t accurately shoot at even the closest ranges without aligning sights, and that takes longer and is easier to defend against than a stabbing. Shooting from the hip, I’ve seen people miss human-sized targets four feet away.

            This assumes a determined attacker, though. The potential for accident is worse with a gun, so while I’d rather be six feet away from a crazed murderer with a gun, I’d also rather be six feet away from a scared kid with a knife.

            (ETA: adjusted to better match edits to parent comment)

          • vV_Vv says:

            @John Schilling

            That makes knives more useful to non-murderous criminals, and makes it hard to tease out from the statistics what happens when knives vs. guns are used by murderous criminals.

            Then why are guns almost universally preferred by criminals, even though they are more expensive and more regulated than knives?

            @Nornagest

            Not really, no. Inside six feet or so, I’d rather face somebody with a gun than a knife. The reason is biomechanics: an untrained person can’t accurately shoot at even the closest ranges without aligning sights, and that takes longer and is easier to defend against than a stabbing.

            I suppose that even if you are unskilled in marksmanship, you could always use a gun pretty much like a knife: lunge at the opponent to close the distance and then shot at short range or even in contact, the result would be similar to stabbing with a knife, except that the gun punches more power, especially at very close distances where the propellent gas can expand into the wound and keep pushing the bullet.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            @vV_Vv: guns aren’t universally preferred. Rather, it’s that the criminals who prefer knives tend not to make the news.

            That said, guns do have certain upsides. They are a status symbol, whose value to a gangster should go without saying. It’s easier to pull a trigger than swing a knife. A gun is more useful to a smaller criminal vs. a larger criminal than a knife would be. And a gun is still more of a threat outside of melee range than a knife would be. While the chance of a hit is much smaller, it’s still high enough that, multiplied by the negative payoff, it’s a useful deterrent against resistance.

            These are also among the reasons guns are useful to civilians, albeit less so, given that civilians are much more frequent than violent criminals.

          • Jaskologist says:

            You can see gun vs knife in close quarters in either this training video or done by Mythbusters. My understanding is that the “21-foot rule” is a standard part of law enforcement training, but I wouldn’t know first-hand.

          • vV_Vv says:

            You can see gun vs knife in close quarters in either this training video or done by Mythbusters.

            These videos only show that you can’t reliably defend from a knife attack at close range using a holstered handgun, not that a knife is superior to a handgun in a close range attack.

            If you were to re-enact these demonstrations with the attacker using a gun I’d bet that the attacker would have an even higher success probability, especially when starting with the gun in his hand.

          • Nornagest says:

            I suppose that even if you are unskilled in marksmanship, you could always use a gun pretty much like a knife: lunge at the opponent to close the distance and then shot at short range or even in contact, the result would be similar to stabbing with a knife, except that the gun punches more power, especially at very close distances where the propellent gas can expand into the wound and keep pushing the bullet.

            That’s still two actions that have to come in sequence: place the muzzle, pull the trigger. That might not sound like much if you haven’t spent a lot of time doing weapons work, but it is in fact a very serious disadvantage when even half a second of delay can lose you the fight. It’s also much harder to disarm someone holding a knife, or even to temporarily render it harmless: the edge of a knife is dangerous from all angles and for obvious reasons it’s hard to grab the blade. Guns present their own challenges there, especially semiautomatic pistols (the recoil of the slide carries enough energy to tear up your hands pretty badly; on the plus side the next round almost certainly won’t feed correctly after that), but less serious ones on balance.

            This isn’t armchair reasoning and it’s not something I half-remember hearing from some rangemaster somewhere. Gun and knife defense is part of the curriculum of one of the martial arts I study. I have spent probably a couple hundred hours working on exactly these sorts of scenarios; the tl;dr is that either one is very bad, but at hand-to-hand range a knife is probably worse.

          • John Schilling says:

            Then why are guns almost universally preferred by criminals, even though they are more expensive and more regulated than knives?

            Guns are not preferred by criminals who engage in e.g. robbery(*) of civilians. Those are normally done, even in the United States, with knives, blunt instruments, or fists.

            Guns are preferred by criminals who engage in mass murder, which makes up 50% of media reporting of criminal violence.

            Guns are also preferred by criminals who prey on other criminals, or criminals who are afraid of being preyed on by other criminals. Because Chicago Way.

            * Just to be clear, “robbery” in Anglo-American law means theft by violence or threat of violence, not e.g. burglary of an unoccupied building.

          • Cypren says:

            To the extent that guns are preferred by criminals, one must also consider that there’s a tremendous amount of cultural baggage attached to our perception of firearms. We’re exposed from a young age to the idea that firearms are totems of power and death, like a sword was a few centuries ago. In contrast, everyone is surrounded by knives every day and thinks very little of them in general. Special-purpose combat knives like a KA-BAR may have a bit more “mystique”, but when we see someone wielding a chef’s knife or cleaver as a weapon, our first thought tends to be “insane nutball” rather than “deadly warrior”, despite the fact that these are actually considerably more dangerous weapons due to blade size and weight.

            Additionally, very few individuals without specialized training have any idea what a gunfight is actually like, or the real lethality of firearms versus bladed weapons. For example, the majority of people probably believe (because it’s what they’ve been exposed to in movies and TV their entire life) that taking a bullet to the chest instantly drops a person to the ground (or even knocks them flat on their back); in reality, the effects vary a great deal based on caliber, exact shot location, victim body mass and the amount of adrenaline they’re hyped up on.

            As a result, guns are symbols at least as much or more as they are effective weapons; as long as they retain that place in popular culture, criminals are always likely to desire them for the intimidation factor alone.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The 20-foot-zone is a smaller for an unholstered gun, but even if you have a gun at your side with the safety off and your finger near the trigger, a knife attacker can cover more ground than you expect.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            This seems like we are busy comparing apples to oranges and trying to argue which one makes a better vegetable.

            If we are six feet apart, and I have my pistol out, cocked and pointed at you, with your knife in your hand ready to stab, and the Sensei counts down 3,2,1,Go … are you really claiming the knife is better?

            The other arguments seems to boil down to the fact that whoever initiates has taken a large advantage. If I did decide to shoot you before you decide to knife me, I win. If I am trying to react to you trying to knife me, it’s much worse.

            If you want to maintain that knives are actually generally superior to guns, then I don’t see why you would also insist you need a gun for self-defense.

            ETA: BTW, none of this is an argument that merely taking away guns will lower murder rates or violent crime rates or what have you.

          • Nornagest says:

            If we are six feet apart, and I have my pistol out, cocked and pointed at you, with your knife in your hand ready to stab, and the Sensei counts down 3,2,1,Go … are you really claiming the knife is better?

            In that situation you are almost certainly both dead, or at least badly wounded. People don’t just immediately die when you shoot or stab them; unless you hit the brain stem or cut essential nerves or tendons controlling the weapon arm, either of which is very unlikely without lots of training and a fair amount of luck, they’ll have time to counterattack. And if their counterattack is unopposed and already lined up accurately then it’s going to land. Fortunately that’s a pretty contrived situation.

            I get the impression you’re reading more into my statements than I’m trying to claim. To be very clear, I’m not saying that a knife is a generally more dangerous weapon than a gun; I’m saying that it’s a more dangerous weapon at a specific, close range, assuming a determined attacker and especially if that attacker happens to be un- or poorly trained. You can use this to draw your own conclusions about crime or whatever else you happen to be interested in; I’m not an expert in those domains.

          • rlms says:

            Clearly apples.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Nornagest:

            In that situation you are almost certainly both dead, or at least badly wounded.

            No one said I had to stand still.

            I’m not saying that a knife is a generally more dangerous weapon than a gun; I’m saying that it’s a more dangerous weapon at a specific, close range, assuming a determined attacker and especially if that attacker happens to be un- or poorly trained.

            I think their are hidden assumptions in here about the attacker that are more than just untrained and determined.

            Sex? Age? Size? Fitness level? I think you assume some of those go along with determined.

            In any case, I agree this is mostly academic at this point and far away from the original point. I think there a huge number of scenarios where you would concede that a gun is superior, and a limited number where the knife is superior.

            But if you really want to kill someone, and you have a knife, you’ll try to make it so the situation is conducive to killing them with a knife.

          • John Schilling says:

            If we are six feet apart, and I have my pistol out, cocked and pointed at you, with your knife in your hand ready to stab, and the Sensei counts down 3,2,1,Go…

            Wait, wait, I know this one. You push the man with the knife in front of the trolley, so that it will be diverted and strike the gun-wielding madman before he can shoot five innocent people.

            Seriously, in what way does the scenario you describe in any way reflect anything that happens in reality? In reality, confrontations don’t start with both parties holding weapons in their hands, and if one party is holding a weapon the other isn’t going to close to six feet before deciding that, hey, maybe I should draw my weapon too.

            If you are still at the shouting phase, and within shouting distance, the winner will be the person who knows two seconds before the other guy that this is going from shouting to violence. That won’t necessarily be the aggressor; he may still imagine that a bit more shouting will get him what he wants when you have figured out this isn’t no way going to end well. But if you imagine that all you have to do to prevail is stop him from having a gun and then cede him the initiative, you’re going to die staring at the hilt of the knife in your chest and wondering “how did that happen”?

            Shoot him first. Or stab him first. Or run away before he decides to shoot or stab you. Or don’t get within six feet of him in the first place, if he’s waving a knife or a gun.

          • Nornagest says:

            No one said I had to stand still.

            Nor am I assuming it.

            I think their are hidden assumptions in here about the attacker […] Sex? Age? Size? Fitness level? I think you assume some of those go along with determined.

            These don’t matter nearly as much as you’d think, at the untrained level. The biggest advantage of a gun or a bladed weapon is that it takes very little power to do serious damage, and that totally changes the game from what you see in empty hand; you can leverage physical fitness into smaller but still significant advantages, but that takes real work. Hollywood fantasies about e.g. inborn reflexes are fantasies. But that still leaves willingness to use the weapon: this is a trainable skill too, and it’s arguably the main goal of early weapons training, but there are other ways to get it. I am using “determination” as shorthand for all of these.

            This doesn’t apply to blunt weapons, by the way; size and strength are still a very big deal there.

            I think there a huge number of scenarios where you would concede that a gun is superior, and a limited number where the knife is superior.

            Sure. The question is how many of each look like your average violent crime — but again, that’s not a subject I have the expertise to tackle and it’s not the point I’m trying to make.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:

            The other arguments seems to boil down to the fact that whoever initiates has taken a large advantage.

            That was my point.

          • Cypren says:

            If you are still at the shouting phase, and within shouting distance, the winner will be the person who knows two seconds before the other guy that this is going from shouting to violence.

            So much truth. The Mexican standoff trope you see in TV and movies, where two people are pointing guns at each other while arguing, simply does not happen in real life. If you have a gun pointed at someone and they move to point their gun at you, you shoot them. This is both an extremely powerful instinctual response and the only rational tactic in the situation. Doing otherwise may make for good drama, but it’s not what happens in reality.

          • John Schilling says:

            That was my point.

            Then why were you arguing the superiority of one weapon over another, in scenarios where we seem to be agreeing that both weapons are equal (i.e. sufficient to ensure victory to whomever makes the first deadly move)?

            Knives are superior to guns when the objective is not to win a fight but to force the compliance of someone who isn’t going to put up a fight. Guns are superior to knives if you know that you are likely getting into a fight when you are still sixty feet away. If you are six feet away from someone before you decide you need to win a fight against them, speed and decisiveness matter but choice of (deadly) weapons mostly doesn’t.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            Perhaps I choose the wrong place to start my argument.

            I only chimed in because people seemed busy trying to establish that a knife was generally better, or at worst equal to a gun. But this is only true in a specific situation where the range advantage of the gun is nullified by initiating the attack.

            And what matters there, far more than gun or knife, is making the first move. It’s not a gun vs. knife thing, it’s a “First move, I win” thing.

            And as you said, a gun is definitely better at longer ranges than that.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            If you have a gun pointed at someone and they move to point their gun at you, you shoot them.

            Too late. By the time your brain realizes he is pointing his gun at you, he has already fired.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      Maybe because this is a fairly heterogenous country and so one part of it gains power and makes laws which the other part decides to ignore? Rural folks get immigration laws passed, urban folks ignore them. Urban folks pass, I dunno, land use regulation or gun regulation, rural folks ignore them. Then twenty years later someone gets elected who insists on the laws being obeyed and all hell breaks loose because there are a whole lot of iron rice bowls which depend on the law not being enforced.

      I will say that it seems to be worse now than it used to be. Perhaps it’s because there is less federalism; although it wasn’t a trend which started with him, the country underwent severe centralization of power under Obama.

      • Matthias says:

        Maybe because this is a fairly heterogenous country and so one part of it gains power and makes laws which the other part decides to ignore?

        Seems like an argument for federalism; and in general pushing as much regulation down to the lowest level (county, state, only then federal) as possible?

        • reytes says:

          The problem with federalism is, one, there are plenty of things where the interests of local shareholders genuinely conflict with national interests (things like “should we have a national park system”). Two – and more significant – it’s really hard to figure out the dividing line between “things we should leave alone so that local governments can figure them out” and “things it’s morally wrong or politically unjust to allow local governments to do”. And unfortunately no one ever really figured out a solution to how to stop lower-level entities from things like making it legal to own human beings, or preventing black people from voting, or what have you, without taking away local control. And I think that kind of tension is ultimately always going to be very hard to resolve.

          • Anonymous says:

            In addition: The top-level authority always seeks to erode federal/local prerogative for naturally selfish reasons, and historically, it usually wins eventually.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            This is only a problem if your definition of “federalism” is “the states can do anything they want up to and including chattel slavery and the federal government has absolutely no power to stop it.” Fortunately, that is not what federalism is. I would put it to you that it’s quite easy to draw a line that has “power to legalize marijuana” on one side and “power to legalize chattel slavery” on the other.

          • Cypren says:

            One of the major problems in modern America is that people have started moving every issue into the “things it’s morally wrong and unjust to allow local governments to do” bucket. It’s not enough to pass laws regulating the way you want to live in your territory; you need to force those heathens in the state next door to live the righteous life as well for their own good.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            @Cypren: Yes.

            In fact I might go so far as to say it is the major problem in modern America.

          • cassander says:

            >(things like “should we have a national park system”).

            I don’t think that’s a point anyone disputes. what they dispute is declaring millions of acres miles of frozen tundra national parks then declaring said parks sacred and inviolable for political reasons.

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t think that’s a point anyone disputes.

            Hello! 🙂

        • cassander says:

          @matt M

          Unless you think we should build condos on the national mall, we’re going to have some sort of national park system.

          • Matt M says:

            I think that we should build on the national mall whatever the most useful thing to build there is.

            If it happens to be condos, then so be it.

            I offer no personal opinion as to what the best use of any particular plot of land is – but I suspect that the most hysterical predictions, the ones that assume, for example, that without the National Park System, the most profitable use for the Grand Canyon would be as a giant garbage dump, are largely incorrect.

    • ashlael says:

      This was my anecdotal impression of America too. As far as I am aware the seat belt laws are pretty similar there to my home country (Australia), but while everyone wears seat belts here I got made fun of for doing it when I visited the USA. Similarly, there seemed to be a lot more casual flouting of traffic rules (e.g. Double parking, which I don’t think I have ever seen in Australia).

      • Chalid says:

        Where and when in the USA was this?
        The government puts usage at 86% nationally with a low of 67% in South Dakota but I suppose there might be are subpopulations where usage is very low.

        Overall usage in Australia is 95% if you believe this Wikipedia page, with the usual caveats about methodological differences etc.

        • doubleunplussed says:

          I have no doubt it’s 95% in Australia. I’ve never known anyone to not wear a seatbelt in Australia. Except in buses, nobody wears seatbelts in buses except very occasionally when the bus driver specifically mentions it.

          Actually the sole example I can think of of not wearing a seatbelt in a car is being arrested and the cops putting four of us in the back seat where there were only three belts. And they actually commented on the technicalities of why that was legal – something to do with having to use them if they’re there, but if you have more people than belts it’s ok (and you’re not usually allowed more people than belts but cops are).

          If it were limited to my city I would have even said higher than 95%, but it’s plausible that usage is low enough in rural areas or in some other state that that brings it down to 95.

      • Nornagest says:

        This is almost certainly a regional thing. I’m American, and I’ve never not worn my seat belt, nor heard anyone getting made fun of for it in my presence. I’ve occasionally met people who didn’t consistently wear them, but I’d put the proportion well south of 10% in the subcultures I hang out in.

        Double-parking is a thing, though. But I only started seeing it once I moved to a large city with a hopelessly fucked parking situation.

    • Anonymous says:

      The sheer amount of laws may have something to do with it.

    • Tekhno says:

      @Fossegrimen

      From the outside, it seems that a sane start would be to start enforcing current laws and then see how that turns out before making new ones.

      It could be that the laws have already failed in that they aren’t enforceable in a lot of situations. I don’t think this is a “Oh! Enforce them? Why didn’t I think of that?” moment for the justice services. What we really need to do is find out exactly why they are hard to enforce before we are able to craft new legislation that is easier to enforce. The need to regulate is driven by public impulse not measured consideration, however, so don’t count on it.

      • Anonymous says:

        My country publishes like 20 Bibles new legislation annually, and it only has a legal history going back to WWII, it’s unitary and not very large. I cannot imagine the amount of legislation de jure in force in the US at any given time.

        Forget enforcing it. Start by discovering what it is.

    • Eltargrim says:

      While I’m far from an expert, my understanding is that enforcing immigration action is expensive. This alone would limit enforcement, without the need for relying on regional differences.

      As for gun laws, my guess is that most of the laws that would be enforced are related to handling and storage, as many gun deaths are from accidental/negligent discharge from poor storage or access by unauthorized users. If I’m right, this is also very hard to enforce, as people store guns in their own homes; state actors can’t just barge in and do spot checks to see if you’ve got a properly outfitted safe, and by and large most gun owners are otherwise as law-abiding as any other citizen.

      Finally, the people enforcing the laws aren’t the people making the new laws. They have different incentives. For politicians, passing a new law is a low-effort strategy to be seen to be doing something.

      • massivefocusedinaction says:

        There are very few national storage laws, we don’t enforce the laws against straw purchases (it’s a felony to buy a gun intending to resell it). Guns purchased this way is the top source for criminals to get their guns.

        • Eltargrim says:

          Huh, interesting. Up here in Canada storage is a big thing, probably one of the more likely laws that a gun owner will violate as it’s pretty strict. Do states tend to have their own storage requirements?

          • massivefocusedinaction says:

            Typically only the states that are pretty strict on other gun laws, the top site in a google search indicates 11 states have gun lock (storage) laws.

          • Eltargrim says:

            @massivefocusedinaction thanks for the information!

      • Cypren says:

        …many gun deaths are from accidental/negligent discharge from poor storage or access by unauthorized users.

        This is a fairly common misapprehension, but the number of accidental firearm deaths is fairly low. According to the CDC data for 2014 (the most recent year for which complete data is available; see page 44), there were 586 deaths from accidental discharge of firearms. Compare this to, say, 31,959 deaths from falls, 42,032 from accidental poisoning and 35,398 from motor vehicle accidents, and gun safety doesn’t really look like America’s pressing national health crisis.

        The largest source of firearm deaths in the US is suicide: 21,334 in 2014, accounting for almost exactly 50% of total suicides. The second significant source are homicides, at 10,945 (about 2/3 of total homicides). Both of these phenomena are heavily localized to demographic groups, with the majority of firearm suicides being white men age 15 and older and the majority of firearm homicide victims being African-American and Latino men between the ages of 15 and 44.

        • Eltargrim says:

          Thanks for the correction, and for providing data as well!

        • Douglas Knight says:

          the majority of firearm suicides being white men age 15 and older

          I think it would be better to say that men 45+ have a majority of gun suicides, but I’m not sure what the point of claims like this are, so it is hard to argue about. I like that statistic because it is simple. (from wonder, that doesn’t allow linking).

          Why bother restricting by age if you are just going to leave out boys? If you are going to restrict, why not restrict sharply? And why bother restricting by race? Sure, non-hispanic whites have 2-3x the (gun) suicide rate of hispanics and blacks, but if you are talking about percentage of the total number, minorities don’t contribute much. If I restrict by race, I have to expand the age range to compensate, but not much: non-hispanic whites 35+. Here is an easily linkable document that shows age distribution, but not sex or race: 45+ is 60%.

          • Cypren says:

            Note that the chart you linked groups everyone “65 and older” into a single category, which makes it look artificially large compared to breaking those people down into 10-year age spreads like the other columns. The distribution isn’t quite that clean. Going by the 2014 report, there are more firearm suicides among people age 15-24 (2270) than among people age 75-84 (1776), and among 25-34 year-olds (2829) than 65-74 year-olds (2711).

            Based on this data, it seems most accurate to say that suicide risk jumps dramatically in the 15-and-older bracket (presumably since that’s the first point at which a person can realistically gain access to guns at will) and encounters a peak somewhere around age 55, then declines thereafter, though I’m sure that part of the apparent decline is simply due to potentially-suicidal people dying in other ways.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            It lumps together 65+ because there aren’t that many old people. Why are we talking about absolute numbers at all? You inferred rates from absolute numbers, which is an error. The suicide rate among women peaks in the 45-55 bucket. The suicide rate among men declines a little after 55, but it is pretty much level at 24-27/100k for ages 35-75 and then goes up to 35 for 75-85 and 49 for 85+. Again, from wonder, 1999-2015. (the 24 rate of 35-45 and 65-75 isn’t much greater than the 22 rate of 20-35, though)

    • LCL says:

      I have no position on whether the given examples are accurate, but a major reason for mismatches between law and enforcement in the U.S. is that passing a law costs nothing but enforcing it costs money.

      Politicians can look good by passing a law, but may not have the appetite to enter the budgeting fracas and secure adequate funding to enforce it. Or may try, but fail – budgeting is always a bloodsport. They can try to require lower levels of government (states, counties, cities) to do enforcement (and pay for it), but the lower levels of government predictably hate this and rebel.

      edit: agree w/ Eltargrim who posted the same thing while I typed.

      • aristides says:

        To add to this, this problem is compounded by having the legislative branch write the laws and pass a budget as independent actions, while the executive enforces them. If you ask any executive agency “if you could change one law” most would increase their funding. There’s an argument that this is a feature not a problem, since one of the main goals of the separation of powers was to make it difficult for the government to do anything, unless they coordinate completely. I’m not sure if this happens in other countries.

        • Subb4k says:

          In most countries the legislative branch controls the executive branch, which means that they mostly agree. Of course there can be a party revolt (that may result to the government resigning, or the legislature falling in line), or maybe the situation plays out in such a way that it looks like the executive is controlling the legislature.
          But off the top of my head, I can’t think of a single democracy outside of the US where the government and the legislature can be entirely opposed and everyone would go “yup, this is normal, government as usual”.

          [For clarification: France also has a presidential regime (i.e. the constitution places the president (and executive power) above the legislative power), so you would expect it works mostly the same way as the US but it doesn’t. But since the 2000 constitutional reform, the National Assembly (lower house of parliament, which is the one that really matters in almost every case) is elected at the same time (well, one month later really) as the president, so they are very likely to be of the same party. And even before when they were not of the same party (86-88, 93-95, 97-2002), the government (i.e. the prime ministers and all other ministers) resigned and was replaced by one matching the majority party in the Assembly. Yes in such a case the president stays president, but his power is mostly limited to veto (extremely rare) and calling for new legislative elections (which would be a big gamble, unless the president was newly elected and acting to get a governing majority).]

    • Aapje says:

      @Fossegrimen

      This seems to be a uniquely American thing.

      “In the context of the law of the Netherlands, the term gedogen (toleration, although gedogen does not literally mean toleration; one can describe it best as toleration in law) refers to not enforcing certain laws.”

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

      So the Dutch like it so much that we have a word for it (and we make policies when not to enforce the rules, which is really typically Dutch: we make rules about when not to enforce the rules).

    • Matt M says:

      I think there’s a mix of many factors, most of which have already been covered here. I’d call out three general reasons:

      1) Resource scarcity
      The government is almost certainly underfunded… in terms of being able to properly execute all of the different things it claims it needs to do. Especially so at the state/local level where budgets have to be balanced and they can’t just print their way out of a deficit. Consider being the mayor of San Francisco. You have X dollars to spend and Y things you have to make sure are adequately provided (based on the demands of the people who elected you). You also have Z federal mandates of things they generally want you to do (but which you suffer no real severe consequence for not doing). X is not sufficient to provide excellent quality Y and full compliance with Z. You will almost certainly prioritize Y (because that’s who elects you), then whatever is left over goes to Z, which leads us to….

      2) Ideological priorities
      As the mayor of San Francisco, when you take a look at what’s left of your budget after doing all the various locally demanded things, how do you decide which state/federal mandates to pursue and at what level of funding? Once again, the opinions of the people who vote for you are probably relevant. If your voters really don’t like immigration enforcement, but are huge fans of gun control enforcement, you will probably work to spend/execute as little immigration enforcement as possible and as much gun control enforcement as possible. And in Jackson, Mississippi, where the priorities are reversed, their mayor will do the opposite. So the national aggregate will include a lot of places that don’t enforce immigration, and a lot of places that don’t enforce gun control, but these places are not likely to overlap. But the reason we got here in the first place is…

      3) Federalism (or what’s left of it)
      Without getting into an extended discussion of cultural history, most Americans these days identify primarily as Americans and not as Texans, Californians, etc. People are programmed to think of national concerns, demands, etc. first. So when there’s a school shooting somewhere, the primary instinct is to write to your federal Congressman and demand that action be taken to ban assault rifles. Not just, you know, in your town/county/state where the shooting happened, but everywhere. But given the existence of many jurisdictions that oppose such legislation on philosophical grounds, AND believe it to be impractical at executing its stated goals of reducing gun violence, it’s not surprising that, even if you can get the law passed, enforcement is going to be lukewarm at best. Having one-size-fits-all legislation at a national level, but enforcement largely delegated down to the insanely local level (in practical terms, if you live in a very rural county, “law enforcement” probably consists of a sheriff and a couple deputies whom you know on a first name basis) is not a good recipe for having impressive looking compliance numbers (but is a reasonably good recipe for trying to retain some last vestiges of a federal system, even in a country that for the most part no longer wants one)

    • Fossegrimen says:

      Thanks for all the explanations, they all makes sense. The bottom line is still that if you have a law that you know is not being enforced and is not going to be, it’s probably better not to have the law.

      Speaking of which; turns out Trumps travel ban was just enforcing the Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 and adding Syria to the list of nations. Good summary here

      • Matt M says:

        The bottom line is still that if you have a law that you know is not being enforced and is not going to be, it’s probably better not to have the law.

        No, because that’s political suicide.

        If you vote to repeal the “keep machine guns out of the hands of crazy people” law and a crazy person kills someone with a machine gun, you lose your next election. If you keep it on the books but the local sheriff ignores it, you can righteously condemn him and insist that you, as a good legislator, did everything you possibly could to save the children but those damn rednecks betrayed the country and doomed us all.

      • BBA says:

        The 2015 act excluded people who had visited those countries from the Visa Waiver Program. Under the VWP a citizen of, say, the UK can book a flight to the US and visit under the standard tourist visa terms without needing to go to the US embassy and go through the interview/background check process to get a visa. Note that for non-tourist visas (student, temp worker, etc.) everyone needs to go through the vetting process.

        Note also that the named countries were never part of VWP and people with (e.g.) Iraqi nationality always had to be vetted to enter the US for any reason at all.

        The current action is excluding all nationals of the named countries from entering the US, even if they have visas or green cards. It’s saying the President doesn’t trust the Foreign Service to vet anyone and all visas issued to anyone from any of those countries are now invalid.

        • gbdub says:

          Yes, Trump’s order did not merely “enforce” an existing law, it added substantial additional restrictions (a temporary complete ban).

          That said, I’ve seen a lot of criticism of Trump’s selection of countries, and “he just used Obama’s existing list of countries with tighter restrictions due to security risks” is a fair rebuttal to that particular criticism.

    • Urstoff says:

      Given how many terrible laws we have here (including immigration and gun laws), I’m glad they’re not enforced more than they are.

    • Riothamus says:

      It is a sane start, but also an extraordinarily difficult one. Reforming the operations of any kind of bureaucratic agency is highly unusual – we should expect most attempts to fail. The enforcement agencies are not the only stakeholders in the process; if the courts or jails cannot handle the volume, they simply release the individuals (a common example is large groups of non-violent offenders being released in the name of jail overcrowding). This feeds back into enforcement agencies priorities – no one likes doing a job only to see it undone as soon as they are finished.

      So from here it looks like identifying the components of the system which are short of capacity and fixing that problem, and then addressing the enforcement agencies practices to reflect the new capacity, and then probably iterate.

  3. 3rd says:

    Anyone think rbutr will become more relevant/known?

    Scott linked to it a while ago. I couldn’t find exactly which post.

    • Interesting.

      I argued in Future Imperfect for a back-link browser as a way to do essentially the same thing.

      When I tried to install the plugin in Firefox, I got a response from Firefox which implied that the plugin was one they didn’t trust. Does anyone here know more about it?

      • aegist says:

        Hi David and 3rd,
        Although I have the bias of being the founder of rbutr, I am quite confident it will become more relevant. I believe so because mapping critical responses to articles is a necessary feature for the internet to continue being a valuable source of information and education.

        As long as pages are free to make things up and stand alone as if they have not been criticised, then misinformation will spread exactly as we have seen happening over the last 6 months.

        By ensuring that critiques of information follow that information everywhere it goes, then the worst information will be hounded to death, while contentious information will be provided context and nuance, and the information which tends to be less wrong will stand out as such.

        The world seems to have just woken up to the threat that misinformation holds over us. Bad ideas can hurt, kill, and destroy whole societies. Fighting back is of crucial importance. Yet every approach to this massive problem falls short because they all want to censor information or arbitrate truth. These approaches inevitably ostracise people and attract massive resistance along the lines of “No one tells me what to believe!” – which is perfectly justified.

        The concept behind rbutr is the only method which can work. Even if the execution of rbutr is flawed, the philosophical concept underpinning it is the key. Either rbutr will gain traction because of it, or someone else will execute the idea better. Either way, we will all be better off because of it.

        RE Firefox:
        Unfortunately our volunteer who developed the Firefox plugin is no longer free to help, and so when Mozilla changed their process, we lost the Firefox plugin. We’re always looking for more volunteers, and are in the process of open sourcing rbutr right now. Anyone who wants to help fix a major flaw of the internet is strongly encouraged to reach out to me and join in.

        We’re also working on modifying our Chrome plugin so that it will work within the Facebook news feed. Quite a simple change actually. Just need someone to do some simple Javascript coding.

        http://blog.rbutr.com/support-rbutr/

  4. The Red Foliot says:

    I’ve been thinking that the real reason democracies don’t go to war as much as small tribes or autocracies is that democracies have a hard time coordinating the biases of all of their members. This goes opposite to what starry-eyed idealists say, that democracy is less bellicose because of ‘the wisdom of the people’. Rather, there are myriad minor tribes in any given democracy and many of these tribes would be capable of reaching a point of murderous rage if they were insulated from society at large and could plausibly pull a genocide off in their own little slice of the world. But because they’re in a super state with a thousand similar groups each pulling their own way, there forms a stasis, an inability to carry out anyone’s violent impulses; and in this period of passivity, homo sapiens, the two-faced lying animal, turns to social signaling instead.

    Each group protests its own (stifled) predilection for violence. They howl that they were never violent to begin with, that they abhor violence, that they have used their innate wisdom to determine that violence is wrong and that the absence of violence is due to said abhorrence.

    In autocratic states, a capricious dictator or group of cronies can carry out whatever murderous whims they have in the time it takes to push a nuke button. In traditional tribes, there are only 50-100 people, and by definition they are of the same tribe. It is possible for them to all have the same murderous whim at the same time and to coordinate their actions together to violently punish an outgroup.

    The reason democracies don’t randomly genocide people isn’t that their members aren’t violent or don’t have that impulse or have philosophically thought out reasons from first cause not to do it. Rather, they are organizationally incapable of doing so. It is like that Moloch guy is working for us! However, reactionaries would point out that there is no objective reason to care either way and that subjectively a person (a reactionary, say) might actually prefer violent genocide, stating that it is a perfectly natural impulse they have and that it might also be necessary for implementing some other goals that they have (all of this on the basis of caprice).

    If true, wouldn’t this show that the modern disdain for violence, genocide and such things is socially constructed, that we only have these views because we’re conditioned by the structure of our society to have them, that if we were born into societies structured differently, like in a state of Hobbesian anarchy, we’d be incentivised to think and act differently? It seems to me that there’s no philosophically defensible argument behind any of the moralizing that goes on, well, ever, but even today in our enlightened time. I’m always annoyed whenever I hear the puerile arguments used on TV, which always confuse secondary causes for primary ones and don’t ever consider that the reason they hold a given view is simply that they happened to be born into a society which inculcated them with it.

    • nelshoy says:

      The smoothing over of high variance positions is kind of what “wisdom of the crowds” is, so you’re not inconsistent with prevailing wisdom on that front.

    • Anonymous says:

      The reason that democracies don’t seem as warlike as non-democracies is mostly the newness of widespread democracy and no true Scotsman whenever one does declare war, or both (“it’s not a true democracy unless it’s got universal suffrage!” ignoring the sheer novelty of universal suffrage).

    • Tekhno says:

      @The Red Foliot

      I think this theory is interesting but I can think of counter-examples in that people were able to for populist imperialistic nationalism in the early part of the last Century. People form into two coalitions formed from those who are least objectionable against those who are most objectionable, so this lessens the effect of individual-level disparate interests.

      It may also be that democracy tends to correlate with wealth and capitalism, and that the economic dependence of modern states is what is stopping them going to war with each other as frequently as they otherwise would.

      It could also be that WWII and the threat of nukes in the Cold War scared us straight for 7 decades or so, and we’ll return to a natural attractor state soon.

      In autocratic states, a capricious dictator or group of cronies can carry out whatever murderous whims they have in the time it takes to push a nuke button.

      Tangential, but…

      This feeds into my main fear about Friendly AGI, which is that theories about AGI leading to FOOM and a singleton (which I doubt for reasons I’ve gone into a few OTs ago), would lead to highly centralized control of automation in order to tackle that risk.

      The result would be a small group of elites centrally controlling what tasks the AGI is unleashed upon. At this point, almost the entire population is economically and militarily redundant, and since the ability to have democracy rests on the public being able to leverage some level of power against the rulers, the most perfect autocracy possible would be enabled by the material conditions.

      Even in North Korea, the Kim family must tend to the human concerns of their subjects, and must appease the military. A dictatorship based off controlling a Friendly AGI singleton would lead to the absolute negation of all ties of incentive from the populace to the leader.

      Yes, there could be a nice guy in charge, but a guy who has no limits whatsoever is not going to remain nice for very long, since the only thing stopping him from remaking the entire world in his image is empathy, and humans are excellent at rationalizing their way around empathy so that the situation serves their interests. The nice guy will find himself slipping, bit by bit when there are no incentive structures to box him in. It’s especially easy if it’s someone who already puts thought into soft-genociding certain segments of the population through kind and paternal genetic manipulation. What happens when those segments are completely 100% economically and militarily redundant? Does the nice guy still play Mr.Nice Guy?

      If FOOM is correct, then I think the vast majority of the populace are doomed to be the playthings of a small elite (and if you say “What? Like now!” then you haven’t seen nothing yet) who use all their prestige and authority on the AGI question to get a first mover advantage and position themselves as the ones who get to wield the power of the Friendly AGI (“Friendly” really must in the end mean “does what humans want” and the great con game involved will be that humans have some kind of coherent interest as a group, so the decision as to what counts as Friendly is highly political).

      • James Miller says:

        “If FOOM is correct, then I think the vast majority of the populace are doomed to be the playthings of a small elite”

        The elite of the United States didn’t do this during the brief period in which it held a monopoly of atomic weapons.

        • Deiseach says:

          The elite of the United States didn’t do this during the brief period in which it held a monopoly of atomic weapons.

          Because the threat of nuclear weapons at that time was “we can reduce your nation to a hellhole of radioactive ash piles”. Doing that to your own nation would be against your own interests, because you want the cities/land/serfs living there for your own economic or whatever benefit.

          You can’t be ultimate dictator without subjects and if you kill all your subjects and turn the country into a radioactive hell-hole, what good does that do you?

          Also, the attention of the nation was focused outward on external enemies and trying to establish global dominance. Nuclear weapons were also not in the possession or control of private industries, corporations or citizens. Had the period of monopoly not been so brief thus ensuring the attention was on external enemies, if it was BombWorks Inc who held the patent and licencing on building and operating the bomb, who knows what would have happened?

        • Tekhno says:

          @James Miller

          The elite of the United States didn’t do this during the brief period in which it held a monopoly of atomic weapons.

          Because the populace was still economically necessary. Centralized AGI is the condition that makes that not so.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Bueno de Mesquita claims that democracies are reluctant to go to war, but also reluctant to stop fighting. Can you explain that? (I don’t know if he has an explanation.)

      Are democracies really more reluctant to go to war? What’s a democracy, anyway? Perhaps the winners write the history books, declaring themselves to be democracies attacked by autocracies?

      • Anonymous says:

        I don’t buy the “reluctant to war” part, but I can at least give an example the “reluctant to stop” part – the Roman Republic in the Punic Wars. According to my sources, they lost something like 40% of their male population (compare: Nazi Germany lost a single digit percentage in WWII) after Hannibal’s rampage across Italy, but they would not quit fighting, and won eventually. Another example is the Allies’ unyielding determination to accept nothing less than unconditional surrender from the Axis.

        I don’t know exactly why this happens, but it definitely does.

      • dndnrsn says:

        His explanation in his book (The Dictator’s Handbook, co-author Smith) is something along the lines of: democratic leaders get in more trouble if a war goes wrong, so they pick their wars more carefully. The chapter on war, however, is weaker than the rest of the book.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Just to be clear, that sounds like an explanation of reluctance to start wars, the thing that lots of people claim, and not an explanation of reluctance to stop wars, his unique claim.

          • reytes says:

            I haven’t read the thing at all, but it seems to me like it could explain both – if you face more consequences for losing a war, mightn’t that incentivize you to fight longer and hold out for a reversal of fortune?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Douglas Knight:

            Their explanation for reluctance to stop wars is that, picking and choosing their wars more carefully, they are more likely to go to war only when necessary, and you’re far less likely to bail on a necessary war. I think – I don’t have the book in front of me.

            Like I said, the chapter on war is the weakest. I think they misunderstand Sun Tzu, they praise the way the US has prosecuted wars in the past few decades – which can be read as a failure to follow the bit of Sun Tzu that they misunderstand, and in general their grasp of military history is weaker than their grasp of political history. Which is unsurprising.

    • Dahlen says:

      This all reads to me like a very polite and theoretical complaint at this state of affairs, made out of a state of mind that is different from that of the typical person and thus misunderstands it badly. Psychologically healthy people that do not find themselves in times of crisis aren’t at risk of an imminent Lord of the Flies scenario of outbursts of violence borne out of their spontaneous passions (with the mention that the Lord of the Flies kids were themselves in a time of crisis). If they are, it may be the first criterion that is failed. Democracy has something to do with it insofar as it reduces the risk of crisis, and for the reasons found in the recommended book in the last paragraph.

      You write, “[t]he reason democracies don’t randomly genocide people isn’t that their members aren’t violent or don’t have that impulse or have philosophically thought out reasons from first cause not to do it”. Why not? All three of these seem to me to be plausible contributors, at the very least, to the phenomenon of reduced violence. People do vary in levels of violence (obvious example: young men vs. everybody else), and rational/philosophical thought can influence people’s decisions, I mean, that’s why they bother with thinking these issues through (sometimes). Or take the statements about people claiming visceral abhorrence of violence; such feelings would have an adaptive value for survival, so I ask again, why not? Maybe there are some nice correlations to be found in there with levels of democracy. It may be that people might disagree with that statement for other reasons than for being big lying hypocrites.

      Finally, there’s an odd undertone running through the entire piece, of hint-hint-nudge-nudge-3edgy5me:

      This goes opposite to what starry-eyed idealists say

      and in this period of passivity, homo sapiens, the two-faced lying animal, turns to social signaling instead

      They howl that they were never violent to begin with

      reactionaries would point out that there is no objective reason to care either way

      subjectively a person (a reactionary, say) might actually prefer violent genocide, stating that it is a perfectly natural impulse they have and that it might also be necessary for implementing some other goals that they have (all of this on the basis of caprice)

      there’s no philosophically defensible argument behind any of the moralizing that goes on

      I’m always annoyed whenever I hear the puerile arguments used on TV

      I don’t know if it’s paranoia or me getting fnorded or something, but you sound like you’re undecided whether what you dislike most is the pacifism or the pretense of pacifism, or maybe the democratic conditions that contribute to pacifism.

      If you want a good account for why democracies are less violent, starry-eyed idealist Steven Pinker has a book called The Better Angles of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined that you might want to check out, if you haven’t already.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        If you want a good account for why democracies are less violent, starry-eyed idealist Steven Pinker has a book called The Better Angles of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined that you might want to check out, if you haven’t already.

        That’s interesting, I was going to bring up this book, too, but I don’t remember him saying that democracies are less violent (maybe I forgot because I found that part unconvincing). What I did find convincing in the book was the virtuous cycle of peace. Much violence between both individuals and countries results from bluffing. If A thinks that B is likely to be violent, then A may one-up B by being more aggressive himself, on the assumption that B may hold back if he believes that A will beat him. Of course B is playing the same game — he acts aggressive to prevent A from attacking him. Sometimes this mutual bluffing will prevent war, but sometimes it doesn’t.

        But if A and B are used to being at peace with each other, then they don’t need to do this dangerous bluffing, at least not quite as aggressively. Thus peace itself results in continued peace. I think this virtuous cycle accounts for the long peace we’ve had since WWII. Relative peace, of course there’s been wars, but less so than WWII, and continually decreasing since then. I’m not sure how much democracy has to do with this. I suspect increasing levels of democracy in the last few decades are more a result of less was, than the cause.

      • The Red Foliot says:

        @Dahlen
        A fascinating concept. Maybe even a true one, though I’ve honestly never looked at it that way before. I’ve always thought my ideas to be absurd rather than edgy.

        But your main argument is flawed. Yes, you see an increase in violence in times of hardship, but even in times of plenty there is lingering strife. Lynchings shot up during the dirty thirties, but they were present before then. There is evidence that famines correspond with increased levels of violence in tribal societies, but even in regular times they register a high violent death rate.

        Hardship corresponds with increased violence but it can’t be the only cause. It still leaves unexplained the existence of a general tendency.

        When looking at state societies in particular, and the times of hardship they sometimes endure, I think a common confounder is that those moments of hardship often correspond with a loosening of state control. While the hardship by itself could be seen as causing people to become more violent, it remains likely that for some (many?) the violence was latent all along and the catalyst wasn’t so much the hardship but the withdrawal of state power. In the absence of state authority, they exercised their own.

        Which brings me back to the main thrust of my argument, that people are only non-violent because the state enforces non-violence, and the state only enforces non-violence because there are too many actors to agree on whom their collective violence should be wielded against. In their indecision, they must abide by peace, because whomsoever violates the common peace provokes a sudden outrage among his fellows. He, the violator, shall be violated.

        The actors are all violent, as evidenced by their eagerness in times of state dissolution to commit atrocities; or for that matter, in times in which the state looks the other way. Even in state societies which have long been peaceful, long been inculcated with pacifist memes, peace hangs but by a shred. If the police disappeared tomorrow, the skyline would burn, there is no doubt about it.

  5. suntzuanime says:

    I mostly agree with the piece about immigration, but I take issue with one piece of it:

    To the extent that foreign terrorists living in the US is a problem this does not touch it at all, because terrorists are not putting down roots.

    Technically this is true, but the qualifier “foreign” is doing a lot of work. Second generation terrorists like the one who massacred that gay nightclub are a big part of the threat that we’re attempting to respond to, and if you keep their foreign parents from putting down roots, you end up with fewer domestic terrorists living in the US.

    EDIT: Although now that I think about it, the e.g. guys who blew up the Boston Marathon were pretty rooted despite being foreigners, so I guess the whole thing is just nonsense.

    • Anonymous says:

      Permitting foreigners from hostile nations and religions into your country is just a Bad Idea(TM).

      • Synonym Seven says:

        That’s far too broad and trite. Immigration isn’t moving a giant novelty candy crane over a random landmass and pressing the “drop” button. People choose to immigrate, and people who appreciate their home country’s policies will, by and large, choose not to immigrate from the home country. The current European crisis stems from refugees – different from standard immigrants in that the shitty backwards country/society they’re so irrationally fond of is being actively torn apart.

        Some of the most desireable immigrants would be from hostile nations – people who have seen “the enemy” (so to speak) up-close and personal, and who have rejected it. Cuban and “old generation” Russian immigrants have been some of the most pro-capitalist demographic groups, just as post-1991 Russian immigrants tend to be reliably anti-capitalist.

        Religion is a bit goofy, and in a lot of hostile nations there’s a dichotomy where the state and government come to symbolize all the bad and oppressive aspects of living, and the church and religion symbolize the relief from that daily horror – regardless of how “objectively oppressive” that religion may be. These are the people who come off the boat very religious but end up, within a generation or two, solidly in the secular middle class.

        Just as a French Catholic is vastly different from a South American Catholic, an American Muslim is vastly different from ISIS, no matter what sort of goofy whacko nonsense they post on Facebook during their teenage rebellious/anarchist phase. Yes, there are exceptions – there are some American Muslims who post goofy whacko nonsense on Facebook and go off and shoot up nightclubs, but it’s as irrational to search for denomination-exclusive reasons here as it would be to ask why atheism caused Harris and Klebold to shoot up their school, or what it was about Christianity that inspired Timothy McVeigh. They can all be reduced to their fundamentals: Alienated outcasts who lack the self-awareness to handle their depression, and aren’t possessing the ability to channel their frustration into punk rock or the ability to find tolerance within themselves, and who latch onto whatever they personally feel is a fundamental aspect of their being that separates them from “the herd”, artificially magnifying its influence just to stave off their own cognitive dissonance.

        • Anonymous says:

          That’s far too broad and trite.

          No.

          People choose to immigrate, and people who appreciate their home country’s policies will, by and large, choose not to immigrate from the home country.

          This appears to be contradicted by just about every immigrant group that attempts to make their new host nation more like their old home. I am an immigrant myself, and I did not immigrate for love of my host country’s policies, but for economic reasons – I like their money, but not so much their laws and customs. They’re tolerable, sure, but I actually prefer my own country’s policies.

          The current European crisis stems from refugees – different from standard immigrants in that the shitty backwards country/society they’re so irrationally fond of is being actively torn apart.

          …and because of rumours that places like Germany and Sweden are paying relatively enormous amounts of money to people just for arriving on their doorstep. (Which isn’t true, which is why the migrants who get there are so disappointed.)

          Some of the most desireable immigrants

          You mean people who are visually similar to natives, and behave mostly like the natives already?

          would be from hostile nations – people who have seen “the enemy” (so to speak) up-close and personal, and who have rejected it. Cuban and “old generation” Russian immigrants have been some of the most pro-capitalist demographic groups, just as post-1991 Russian immigrants tend to be reliably anti-capitalist.

          And yet they’re still an alien element, upsetting the balance in the host country. “Let’s permit only pro-capitalist immigrants!” is just as bad as “Let’s permit only anti-capitalist immigrants!” It’s just feeding into tribalism, and is transparently supported just because new citizens are new voters, and every party wants more voters who vote for them.

          Religion is a bit goofy, and in a lot of hostile nations there’s a dichotomy where the state and government come to symbolize all the bad and oppressive aspects of living, and the church and religion symbolize the relief from that daily horror – regardless of how “objectively oppressive” that religion may be. These are the people who come off the boat very religious but end up, within a generation or two, solidly in the secular middle class.

          Just as a French Catholic is vastly different from a South American Catholic, an American Muslim is vastly different from ISIS, no matter what sort of goofy whacko nonsense they post on Facebook during their teenage rebellious/anarchist phase. Yes, there are exceptions – there are some American Muslims who post goofy whacko nonsense on Facebook and go off and shoot up nightclubs, but it’s as irrational to search for denomination-exclusive reasons here as it would be to ask why atheism caused Harris and Klebold to shoot up their school, or what it was about Christianity that inspired Timothy McVeigh. They can all be reduced to their fundamentals: Alienated outcasts who lack the self-awareness to handle their depression, and aren’t possessing the ability to channel their frustration into punk rock or the ability to find tolerance within themselves, and who latch onto whatever they personally feel is a fundamental aspect of their being that separates them from “the herd”, artificially magnifying its influence just to stave off their own cognitive dissonance.

          If those people, or their ancestors, were not permitted into the country, they would not have had the chance to shoot anyone up in the country, because they would not have been in the country.

          Islam is fundamentally hostile to every other belief system. You are reliably going to get people who take it at face value and blow themselves up or shoot some infidels or drive a truck through a crowd, because that’s what they are encouraged to do by the source text. The only way to not have the problem is not to have substantial amounts of muslims in your land – otherwise statistics will be plain against you, and you will get terror attacks once in a while; sometimes more often, depending on various factors.

          And that’s even before assessing the problem that these new people will vote their identity, their values, their ideology – against the natives who let them in.

          • Synonym Seven says:

            I actually prefer my own country’s policies.

            Evidently not, because those policies lead to the economy which you emigrated from.

            To put it another way, it’s totally easy to say you prefer the policies of “do no harm to any living being”. And it’s certainly possible – maybe not always easy, but possible – to actually believe you’re living up to that preference. But even the Jainists are killing countless microbes every time they breathe, and they generally don’t grapple too much with the cognitive dissonance.

            Never underestimate the capacity of the mind to create a happy, self-delusional narrative.

            You mean people who are visually similar to natives, and behave mostly like the natives already?

            If you’re going to say that Cubans look like the Western-European caucasians that constitute the WASPy definition of “American native”, then certainly the average Persian is as well. More self-serving delusion being wrangled to post-facto support whatever conclusion the mind wants.

            And yet they’re still an alien element, upsetting the balance in the host country. “Let’s permit only pro-capitalist immigrants!” is just as bad as “Let’s permit only anti-capitalist immigrants!” It’s just feeding into tribalism, and is transparently supported just because new citizens are new voters, and every party wants more voters who vote for them.

            Absolutely, which is why the best – or least-worst – principle is “let’s permit only immigrants who sufficiently want to be here”. In lieu of a desire-quantifying robot, we can imperfectly measure the depth of that “want” via citizenship tests, waiting periods, and the like.

            If those people, or their ancestors, were not permitted into the country, they would not have had the chance to shoot anyone up in the country, because they would not have been in the country.

            If only the Presidents of the 1800s had established immigration quotas against those barbaric nations of the Kingdom United, we’d still have a lovely Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

            Islam is fundamentally hostile to every other belief system. You are reliably going to get people who take it at face value and blow themselves up or shoot some infidels or drive a truck through a crowd, because that’s what they are encouraged to do by the source text. The only way to not have the problem is not to have substantial amounts of muslims in your land – otherwise statistics will be plain against you, and you will get terror attacks once in a while; sometimes more often, depending on various factors.

            blah blah Crusades blah blah Catholic Church blah blah English Reformation blah blah Recusancy Acts blah blah Salem Witch Trials blah blah Baptists blah Fred Phelps blah.

            You’re conflating the religion of Islam with the cultural conditions in majority-Muslim nations and until you, or the “grunge east” community, or people as a whole, find a way to reliably segment and tokenize these two components into different nouns, there’s little to be had but tedium and headache on both sides when trying to intellectually discuss this issue.

          • Anonymous says:

            Evidently not, because those policies lead to the economy which you emigrated from.

            No. The policies that were in place under Communism are to blame for that. And it’s getting much better, pretty fast on historical scales, but not on personal scale. I don’t think there’s anything much to be done differently to accelerate it. I’m earning money where I am, whereupon I will return to my homeland, because the place I’m earning the money is a bad place to build a future.

            Never underestimate the capacity of the mind to create a happy, self-delusional narrative.

            Apparently, I’ve underestimated how long it would take my interlocutor to declare me delusional.

            If you’re going to say that Cubans look like the Western-European caucasians that constitute the WASPy definition of “American native”, then certainly the average Persian is as well. More self-serving delusion being wrangled to post-facto support whatever conclusion the mind wants.

            Cubans don’t look like Anglo-Americans.

            Absolutely, which is why the best – or least-worst – principle is “let’s permit only immigrants who sufficiently want to be here”. In lieu of a desire-quantifying robot, we can imperfectly measure the depth of that “want” via citizenship tests, waiting periods, and the like.

            No. That’s an awful principle. The principle that works is: “let’s permit only immigrants who will be completely indistinguishable one generation later”. If a Swede or a Protestant German immigrates to Norway, say, their kids will likely consider themselves fully Norwegian, and would be extremely hard to distinguish at any level from native Norwegians. This offers the least problems in the long-term.

            If only the Presidents of the 1800s had established immigration quotas against those barbaric nations of the Kingdom United, we’d still have a lovely Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

            I fully agree that permitting the Irish to settle in the US was a big mistake.

            You’re conflating the religion of Islam with the cultural conditions in majority-Muslim nations and until you, or the “grunge east” community, or people as a whole, find a way to reliably segment and tokenize these two components into different nouns, there’s little to be had but tedium and headache on both sides when trying to intellectually discuss this issue.

            Are you trying to say that Middle-Eastern Arab Christians commit roughly the same amount of suicide bombings as their Middle-Eastern Arab Muslim brethren? Because that’s not true.

            Anyway, I see that you’re new here. I would greatly suggest reading the commenting guidelines here. Declaring your debate opponent delusional is pretty uncharitable, and that’s not well-liked around here.

          • You are reliably going to get people who take it at face value and blow themselves up or shoot some infidels or drive a truck through a crowd, because that’s what they are encouraged to do by the source text.

            I assume you mean the Koran. Could you quote the passages that encourage those particular forms of behavior?

            The Koran encouraged warfare between Muslims and non-Muslims, mostly, when it was written, the non-Muslim Arab inhabitants of Mecca from which Mohammed fled and with whom he was at war, off and on, until his side won. But where does it encourage killing random non-Muslim civilians, which is what you seem to be claiming?

          • rlms says:

            If the Quran actually advocated suicide truck attacks, I would immediately convert to Islam based on its remarkable power of prophecy.

          • Anonymous says:

            @DavidFriedman, @rlms

            Could you quote the passages that encourage those particular forms of behavior?

            If the Quran actually advocated suicide truck attacks, I would immediately convert to Islam based on its remarkable power of prophecy.

            You two are taking me way too literally here. AFAIK, there is no verse encouraging literally hijacking motor vehicles to slay civilian infidels in the Koran. There are, however, verses that encourage slaying infidels and dying in war against infidels. This is somehow interpreted by at least some Islamic religious authorities to mean that suicide attacks are permitted. Trucks and bombs are merely the tool of the current year.

            And I’m not going to say “that’s unislamic!” any sooner than I claim the Pope is not Catholic because he says something only indirectly and twistily derivable from Scripture.

          • rlms says:

            I was being sarcastic. But I think David Friedman would like you to cite some of the passages about killing *random civilian* infidels.

          • Anonymous says:

            Can’t help you there. It seems to be like one of those things that aren’t explicitly supported by the source text, but are done anyway in intended full conformity.

          • Synonym Seven says:

            No. The policies that were in place under Communism are to blame for that.

            I’m no Stalinist, but “pesky Communism, making things suck after it’s been overthrown” is about as weak an argument as it gets. Taken to logical conclusion, it means the flaws of Communist rule were due to the policies enacted by the pre-Communist regime, which in turn can lazily point to the people who came before them, and before them, and so on and so on. Or, in another direction, it’s the same as blaming enlightened peaceful rationality for the conditions that ferment once said enlightened peaceful rationality is removed.

            Apparently, I’ve underestimated how long it would take my interlocutor to declare me delusional.

            There’s a difference between thinking the CIA is using communism chemtrails to subvert true Newtonian physics and render a false relativistic world where an invisible agent implanted a fluoride-sensitive chip in your head that gives you pain when you don’t drink enough yummy yummy tapwater, and thinking that you have a headache due to being dehydrated from too much MSG. Both are incorrect, and both rely on self-delusion, but the former person is delusional, whereas the latter merely has a bit of a delusion in their narrative.

            Cubans don’t look like Anglo-Americans.

            I’m glad we agree on this point. Can you then retract the bolded bit in your previous statement, “You mean people who are visually similar to natives, and behave mostly like the natives already?”

            The principle that works is: “let’s permit only immigrants who will be completely indistinguishable one generation later”.

            I’m not sure whether you’re talking about physical resemblance / racialist terms (in which case Palestinians and Israelis, Republicans and Unionists, Sunni and Shiites, Serbs and Croats, and Hulu and Tutsi are all excellent counter-examples); or if you’re focusing on cultural sympathies, in which case I think you may have glossed over the part where I said “want to live here“.

            I fully agree that permitting the Irish to settle in the US was a big mistake.

            Ah, yes, so it is the racialist position. Let me know when the various racialists decide on a singular methodology for arbitrarily dividing the already-rather-arbitrary “commonly-accepted” racial divisions, and can explain the relative lack of ethnic turmoil in starkly (black and white… quite literally) ethnically diverse nations in Scandinavia, Canada, and even the U.S. versus that in much-more homogenous India, the Middle East, and Africa.

            Anyway, I see that you’re new here. I would greatly suggest reading the commenting guidelines here. Declaring your debate opponent delusional is pretty uncharitable, and that’s not well-liked around here.

            Randomly injecting toxic opinions, on the other hand, seems well and good.

            Is there a euphemism that you find more palatable? I agree “delusional” can be a bit more heat than light, but I have yet to find a reasonably accurate descriptor that isn’t either douchey sjw-speak or just fundamentally clinically “Kirk vs Picard” awful.

          • Anonymous says:

            I’m no Stalinist, but “pesky Communism, making things suck after it’s been overthrown” is about as weak an argument as it gets. Taken to logical conclusion, it means the flaws of Communist rule were due to the policies enacted by the pre-Communist regime, which in turn can lazily point to the people who came before them, and before them, and so on and so on. Or, in another direction, it’s the same as blaming enlightened peaceful rationality for the conditions that ferment once said enlightened peaceful rationality is removed.

            Or you could just notice that countries not handicapped by communism for decades are going to be way ahead in development, and catching up will take time. By the time it does catch up, I’ll be old and gray.

            I’m glad we agree on this point. Can you then retract the bolded bit in your previous statement, “You mean people who are visually similar to natives, and behave mostly like the natives already?”

            No. I was contradicting you on the definition of a “desirable immigrant”.

            I’m not sure whether you’re talking about physical resemblance / racialist terms (in which case Palestinians and Israelis, Republicans and Unionists, Sunni and Shiites, Serbs and Croats, and Hulu and Tutsi are all excellent counter-examples); or if you’re focusing on cultural sympathies, in which case I think you may have glossed over the part where I said “want to live here“.

            All the mentioned groups differ substantially in one major aspect of their behaviour. The Serbs hate the Croats, but the Croats hate the Serbs. If they both hated the Bosnians instead, it would be substantially easier to integrate them into one group. That’s why I said not only visual similarity matters, but also behavioural similarity. Hating each other is not a similarity.

            Ah, yes, so it is the racialist position. Let me know when the various racialists decide on a singular methodology for arbitrarily dividing the already-rather-arbitrary “commonly-accepted” racial divisions, and can explain the relative lack of ethnic turmoil in starkly (black and white… quite literally) ethnically diverse nations in Scandinavia, Canada, and even the U.S. versus that in much-more homogenous India, the Middle East, and Africa.

            I have no idea what your point here is, since you’ve stated things which are not true; Scandinavia, Canada and USA are by a wide margin much more homogenous than India, the Middle East and Africa. Less rhetoric, more clarity.

            Randomly injecting toxic opinions, on the other hand, seems well and good.

            Yes. This is one of the very few places on the internet where a communist, a fascist, an islamist and a monarchist can debate with approximately as much civility as can be afforded.

            Is there a euphemism that you find more palatable? I agree “delusional” can be a bit more heat than light, but I have yet to find a reasonably accurate descriptor that isn’t either douchey sjw-speak or just fundamentally clinically “Kirk vs Picard” awful.

            You can call me whatever you like. I’m just telling you that the culture around here expects you to actually believe the other guy when he tells you that he believes something, rather than tell him that he’s delusional or lying.

          • You two are taking me way too literally here. AFAIK, there is no verse encouraging literally hijacking motor vehicles to slay civilian infidels in the Koran. There are, however, verses that encourage slaying infidels and dying in war against infidels. This is somehow interpreted by at least some Islamic religious authorities to mean that suicide attacks are permitted.

            Yes. As I already agreed in the comment you are responding to.

            Your claim however, was:

            You are reliably going to get people who take it at face value and blow themselves up or shoot some infidels or drive a truck through a crowd, because that’s what they are encouraged to do by the source text.

            That statement, to the best of my knowledge and belief, is false. As best I can tell from your response, you have no basis for thinking it true. There is a very large difference between “the source text encourages” and “at least some Islamic religious authorities interpret.”

            Some Christian authorities have at various times in the past interpreted their religion as justifying killing large numbers of people, non-Christians or Christians of the wrong denomination. Would you conclude that Christians are encouraged by their source text to “blow themselves up or shoot some infidels or drive a truck through a crowd”?

          • Anonymous says:

            There is a very large difference between “the source text encourages” and “at least some Islamic religious authorities interpret.”

            I don’t think it’s that large a difference to the common man.

            Some Christian authorities have at various times in the past interpreted their religion as justifying killing large numbers of people, non-Christians or Christians of the wrong denomination. Would you conclude that Christians are encouraged by their source text to “blow themselves up or shoot some infidels or drive a truck through a crowd”?

            You can find justification for most any action if you look hard enough, the Bible is long and there are many curious passages. That doesn’t mean the overall meaning of the text suggests it, and the religious authorities are there to determine what the overall text does or does not suggest. I don’t think those Islamic authorities are talking entirely out of their ass when they uphold the legitimacy of suicide bombings.

            I will take your word that the Koran doesn’t *explicitly* call for it, though. You are, after all, a greater authority on it than I am. 🙂

          • You can find justification for most any action if you look hard enough, the Bible is long and there are many curious passages. That doesn’t mean the overall meaning of the text suggests it, and the religious authorities are there to determine what the overall text does or does not suggest.

            In the case of Islam, the relevant authorities are mujtahids, experts in deducing legal rules from the religious sources. They are grouped into the fours Sunni madhab, schools of law. I am not aware of any madhab which supports the position you want to attribute to Islam in general. Can you point at one?

            If not, I do not think you have any basis for regarding Islam as more supportive of random murder of unbelievers than Christianity. Consider the Albigensian crusade for one example.

            Do you disagree with my claim that medieval Islam was more tolerant of religious diversity than medieval Christianity, not less?

          • Anonymous says:

            In the case of Islam, the relevant authorities are mujtahids, experts in deducing legal rules from the religious sources. They are grouped into the fours Sunni madhab, schools of law. I am not aware of any madhab which supports the position you want to attribute to Islam in general. Can you point at one?

            I cannot. OTOH, Muslims aren’t organized into a hierarchical, worldwide organization organization; they’re more like Protestants than Catholics. Who is to tell a self-appointed Islamic priest that he’s preaching wrong, and excommunicate him for failing to right his ways?

            My point is: Muslims are doing a whole lot of terrorism. They are doing religiously motivated suicide attacks. Some clerics see this as eminently justified – the so-called Caliph is one of those. I don’t know the details, but I don’t think I need to know the details to grasp the overall issue.

            If not, I do not think you have any basis for regarding Islam as more supportive of random murder of unbelievers than Christianity. Consider the Albigensian crusade for one example.

            Which wasn’t random. It was eminently organized and largely comprehensive.

            Do you disagree with my claim that medieval Islam was more tolerant of religious diversity than medieval Christianity, not less?

            Yes – it depends on the particular regime. Some Caliphs and Sultans and Sheiks did not give a crap, so long as people paid the jizya. Others weeded them out root and branch. And there’s the whole offensive jihad thing, which doesn’t strike me as particularly tolerant.

          • OTOH, Muslims aren’t organized into a hierarchical, worldwide organization organization; they’re more like Protestants than Catholics.

            Correct.

            Who is to tell a self-appointed Islamic priest that he’s preaching wrong, and excommunicate him for failing to right his ways?

            There aren’t any equivalent of priests–a prayer leader is just an ordinary Muslim. Someone who is viewed as learned in law, possibly a mufti, can tell him that he is wrong. Nobody can excommunicate him.

            Also true of protestant Christitan denominations. A believer in one of them can also get up and say things that don’t fit the teachings of his sect.

            I asked:

            Do you disagree with my claim that medieval Islam was more tolerant of religious diversity than medieval Christianity, not less?

            He replied:

            Yes – it depends on the particular regime. Some Caliphs and Sultans and Sheiks did not give a crap, so long as people paid the jizya. Others weeded them out root and branch. And there’s the whole offensive jihad thing, which doesn’t strike me as particularly tolerant.

            Could you be a little more specific than “some … others”? Attempts to kill off Christians and Jews with dhimmi status were in direct violation of Islamic law. You might be able to find a handful of rulers through fourteen centuries who acted that way, but it would be harder than finding examples of Christian sects that engaged in mass murder of other Christians.

            The normal situation through Islamic history was that Christians and Jews lived in peace in areas ruled by Muslims, with various disabilities including paying a head tax (but not being required to pay the Koranic tax that Muslims paid). It was in the Christian areas that pogroms and mass expulsions of Jews were moderately common, and Muslims less welcome than Jews.

            Jihad was religious war, intended to bring more territory under Muslim rule or, when defensive, to prevent Muslim territory from being brought under non-Muslim rule. Christians engaged in essentially the same behavior, from Charlemagne’s campaigns through the Reconquista. The most notable difference is that the success of the Reconquista resulted in the expulsion of Jews and Muslims, the initial conquest of al-Andalus did not result in the expulsion of Christians.

            Since you reject my claim, would you like to offer some evidence in support of that rejection?

        • dndnrsn says:

          @Synonym Seven:

          First: The European crisis stems less from refugees than from a really, really poor handling of the refugee crisis. Europe could easily have dealt with Syrian, Iraqi, and Afghan refugees if they had made an attempt to do the processing overseas and in various other ways do it in an orderly fashion. Instead they’re faced with people showing up, often without papers, and claiming asylum – which is a very different situation. This was a crisis that Europe could have handled – instead, the way it was bungled has given a huge shot in the arm to the populist right and far right in Europe and the US. And, further, now Canadians and Americans are less willing to take in refugees – we should be taking in more – even though due to our geographic position all refugees from those three countries will be heavily vetted and processed when they get here, instead of guys showing up and claiming asylum.

          Second: Are you an atheist, or a “lukewarm” believer? Because I think in your last paragraph you make the mistake that a lot of people who aren’t especially religious do when analyzing religion: their attitude is more or less “there must be some material reason why people believe this stuff; they can’t really believe it deep down”. Consider: some people do.

        • John Schilling says:

          People choose to immigrate, and people who appreciate their home country’s policies will, by and large, choose not to immigrate from the home country.

          Some people chose to immigrate. Some people have little choice but to move to wherever their parents, husbands, etc, move to or starve at home. And some people are effectively kicked out by their homeland’s government.

          Regression to the mean, means that the second group will be dominated by people who would rather have stayed home. Loss aversion means these people will be more focused on blaming their host nation for everything they have lost, than on crediting it for everything they have gained.

          The third group, you may imagine consists of wonderful people who dissented with the specifically objectionable policies of their homeland’s government, but they are mostly going to be people who simply don’t play well with others.

          • Anonymous says:

            Regression to the mean will affect also the first and third group, though admittedly less (as they are skewed in a particular way, and depending on their endogamic practices – if there’s a bunch of case 1s and a bunch of case 3s coming in from the same origin country, and intermarry, they’re going to regress pretty heavily).

      • The Nybbler says:

        Permitting foreigners from hostile nations and religions into your country is just a Bad Idea(TM).

        As tourists or to do business? That seems completely wrong. Hostility between governments short of all-out war doesn’t mean the people shouldn’t do business with each other.

        As students? OK, maybe it’s bad to train Iran’s nuclear engineers. On the other hand, US higher education has had some good results in peeling away smart foreigners and making them into Americans. Including at least one China-born Nobel laureate. So a blanket ban here seems bad.

        As permanent immigrants? The US has historically been able to absorb immigrants from hostile countries. During the Cold War, we welcomed them. Certainly we shouldn’t be fools about it, but again a blanket ban seems unreasonable.

        • Anonymous says:

          As tourists or to do business? That seems completely wrong. Hostility between governments short of all-out war doesn’t mean the people shouldn’t do business with each other.

          I used “nation” and “country” here intentionally. Nation refers to the people; country refers to the state. If two Holy Roman Principalities are led by rival princes, that doesn’t necessarily make the Germans living in them hostile to each other on that basis. Compare the attitude of a median Muslim Arab towards the Jews. This is what I mean by national hostility. Thanks to the American bungling of the Middle East, not a lot of Muslims or Arabs like Americans and/or Europeans for that matter.

          Tourists are not really all that dangerous, I’ll grant. With adequate precautions, they’re not a threat, because they’re highly unlikely to do any major harm.

          As students? OK, maybe it’s bad to train Iran’s nuclear engineers. On the other hand, US higher education has had some good results in peeling away smart foreigners and making them into Americans. Including at least one China-born Nobel laureate. So a blanket ban here seems bad.

          Those people are still Chinese/Persian. You can’t become American any more than you can change your sex, or your height. The rule of thumb I would use here: If two of these immigrants had a child, and raised her/him American, would that child be at risk of receiving a comment to the effect of, “You speak really good English. Where are you from?” in America, then they’re not American. They might be at least partly culturally American, but just like being culturally Christian doesn’t make you an actual Christian, so too being culturally American doesn’t make you American.

          As permanent immigrants? The US has historically been able to absorb immigrants from hostile countries. During the Cold War, we welcomed them. Certainly we shouldn’t be fools about it, but again a blanket ban seems unreasonable.

          I would like to remind you that in the early 20th century, the US universities were definitely not radically left-wing. And there weren’t very many communist spies around. While I can empathize with the plight of those fleeing communism, I don’t think their coming is very good for the recipient country.

          • The Nybbler says:

            You can’t become American any more than you can change your sex, or your height.

            That’s a very un-American attitude, IMO (and both my parents were born here).

            I would like to remind you that in the early 20th century, the US universities were definitely not radically left-wing. And there weren’t very many communist spies around. While I can empathize with the plight of those fleeing communism, I don’t think their coming is very good for the recipient country.

            I don’t think refugees from the communist countries were the cause of the left-wing turn in the universities; in fact, I think that claim is bizarre.

            As for the spies, the Rosenbergs were born in Manhattan, as American as can be. Julian Wadleigh was born in England, Alger Hiss in Baltimore, MD, Whittaker Chambers in Philadelphia PA, Aldrich Ames in Wisconsin… do you know of a single legal immigrant who was a spy?

          • Dahlen says:

            You can’t become American any more than you can change your sex, or your height.

            Oh, wow, that’s precious. I know you right-wing folks object to the notion that sex reassignment surgery actually changes one’s sex, but as for the height part, I’ve got some biomedical news for you. 😀

          • hyperboloid says:

            The rule of thumb I would use here: If two of these immigrants had a child, and raised her/him American, would that child be at risk of receiving a comment to the effect of, “You speak really good English. Where are you from?” in America, then they’re not American

            ¿Que?

            At first I took you for a white nationalist, but now that I read that again even that interpretation makes no sense.

            If two Nigerians immigrated to the US and had a child, who was raised in this country speaking perfect English, no one would ever have a reason to mistake the kid for a foreigner just because he was black. They would just assume he was African American …. or well, you know the other kind of African American (we really do need a word to distinguish those things).

            Similarly most Persians and a great many Arabs could pass for “white” Americans easily. Or, are you really claiming that Andre Agassi, Steve Jobs, and Darrell Issa, aren’t perceived as Americans ?

            Also the notion that refugees from Communist countries drove America to the left is just bizarre. Cold war era immigrants are, perhaps unsurprisingly, well known for their right wing, or at least stridently anti-Communist views.

          • Cypren says:

            You can’t become American any more than you can change your sex, or your height. The rule of thumb I would use here: If two of these immigrants had a child, and raised her/him American, would that child be at risk of receiving a comment to the effect of, “You speak really good English. Where are you from?” in America, then they’re not American.

            This seems like a fundamental misconception of a non-American about American culture. In most nations which are based around an ethno-racial heritage, yes, this would be the case. But America has always prided itself on being based on a shared culture and an ideal rather than a common ethnicity. We prize the idea of the “melting pot” and the “nation of immigrants”. The current anti-immigrant sentiment is not being driven by racial concerns (as its opponents like to portray it) but by cultural ones: specifically, the concern that we are admitting large numbers of immigrants now who have no desire to adopt American culture and are being actively aided in their resistance to it by well-intentioned but ignorant idealists who venerate the “idea” of foreign cultures primarily as a virtue-signaling mechanism to show “superior” education and status over their “ignorant” countrymen.

            While I can empathize with the plight of those fleeing communism, I don’t think their coming is very good for the recipient country.

            In my experience, I have never met an immigrant from a Communist country who endorsed Communism. The advocates of Communism and “Communism-lite” social policies in the US are almost universally people whose only exposure to it is textbooks and pundits. They’ve never been exposed to the system as it’s actually practiced and are quick to “no true Scotsman” any references to practical implementations, which is the reason they’re still in love with it.

          • suntzuanime says:

            For the record the left wing folks also object to the notion that sex reassignment surgery actually changes one’s sex.

          • Anonymous says:

            @hyperboloid

            White Americans and Black Americans are two distinct nations (and I’m using the term uncertainly in case of whites, absent any good data on how much the various white ethnicities actually blended together, and how they stayed apart). They’re both Americans in a sense, but they’re really not the same nation (which should be obvious).

            As far marginal caucasian cases – they can pass, sure, especially now. Could they have passed before everyone and their dog started immigrating? In any case, this is a rule of thumb, not a 100% accurate method of telling.

            @Cypren

            You are precisely right that I’m analyzing America through the lens of Europe. I don’t do it not knowing how Americans view themselves. I just happen to disagree with their notions of proposition nations, and instead think they can, and should be, viewed by the same standards of ethnicity as Europeans are.

          • hyperboloid says:

            White Americans and Black Americans are two distinct nations

            Are you a native English speaker?

            Because for that sentence to make any sense it seems like you must be using the word “nation” in a way that is idiosyncratic, to say the least. .

            If you mean that blacks constitute a completely separate society or culture then, as an American living in a mixed race community, that’s news to me.

            Even at the height of racial segregation I don’t
            think that was true, as nobody viewed blacks as in any sense foreign, but merely as belonging to a lower racial cast.

          • Anonymous says:

            @hyperboloid

            Bilingual. I do admit to making up vocabulary as I go along, since this view is anything but conventional.

            You don’t need to be foreign to be distinct – like the caste system of India. Familiar, nearby, but separate.

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            You can’t become American any more than you can change your sex, or your height.

            This is almost 100% diametrically opposed from what everyone else means by “American”.

            I think I speak for the rest of the Right-Wing Commenter Dogpile when I say that genetics and ancestry have no bearing on being American. Culture can be incompatible (e.g. mandatory conversion of other religions, monarchists), but usually those incompatibilities get discarded.

            Did the English stumble on some good ideas for running a country? Did some English-descended North Americans improve on and codify those ideas? Yes, they did, but even non-English, even Catholics, even (gasp) Irish people are perfectly capable of running a country using those ideas.

            America is not an ethno-state. That’s part of why we’ve surpassed every ethno-state ever.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Machina ex Deus

            This is almost 100% diametrically opposed from what everyone else means by “American”.

            I think I speak for the rest of the Right-Wing Commenter Dogpile when I say that genetics and ancestry have no bearing on being American. Culture can be incompatible (e.g. mandatory conversion of other religions, monarchists), but usually those incompatibilities get discarded.

            Then being “American” is just ideology, rather than actually being ethnically American. Anyone can call themselves American if they adopt the ideology, regardless of where they were born, what ethnicity they are, who their ancestors were, etc.

            Which is why I see this form of identification to be vacuous.

            America is not an ethno-state.

            True. It’s an Empire, ruling over many and varied groups of people.

            That’s part of why we’ve surpassed every ethno-state ever.

            Not really. You were really lucky to get that excellent piece of real-estate, and populate it with civilized people of somewhat common descent. At the moment, America is in decline due to – in part – inviting foreigners en masse, which eroded the unity it initially had. The more and varied foreigners you invite, the more America will change, and I doubt that change is for the better.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Yeah, no. As MeD said, it’s precisely our ability to -assimilate- immigrants and to integrate useful ideas from other cultures without losing the core values of our own that have made us so successful in the 20th century. Even the theoretical core of Anglo-Saxon Protestant Values have as much to do with French, German, Italian, and ancient Greek and Roman ideas as they did with British ones.

            As for immigration and communism, all the examples I can think of are of staunchly, militantly ANTI-communists coming from an immigrant background. Like, oh, say, Ayn Rand?

            Meanwhile the people most sympathetic were the ones born and raised here.

            And yes, I would agree that “American” is a cultural/ideological choice, not an ethnic one.

          • John Schilling says:

            Then being “American” is just ideology, rather than actually being ethnically American. Anyone can call themselves American if they adopt the ideology, regardless of where they were born, what ethnicity they are, what culture they possess, etc.

            Now you understand. “American” is an ethnicity, and you don’t have to be born into it. These are both true things.

            Exceptionally true things, as a combination, at the root of an awful lot of what we call “American Exceptionalism”. The United States of America was able to e.g. put men on the Moon because, when it mattered, Werner von Braun was an American.

          • Anonymous says:

            @John

            I did not misunderstand at any point. I simply disagree. Just because the Greeks of Byzantium claim and believe they are Romans of the Roman Empire doesn’t make it so.

            @Trofim

            Yeah, no. As MeD said, it’s precisely our ability to -assimilate- immigrants and to integrate useful ideas from other cultures without losing the core values of our own that have made us so successful in the 20th century. Even the theoretical core of Anglo-Saxon Protestant Values have as much to do with French, German, Italian, and ancient Greek and Roman ideas as they did with British ones.

            Every non-American you assimilate changes the sum total of the group. It’s probably the reason for the cultural-religious-ideological upsets since USA began to take in masses of new citizens. Assimilation is a two-way street; they move closer to you, but in the process move you closer to them.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Trofim – “Yeah, no. As MeD said, it’s precisely our ability to -assimilate- immigrants and to integrate useful ideas from other cultures without losing the core values of our own that have made us so successful in the 20th century.”

            It seems questionable whether this ability still exists, or whether it can be regained.

          • John Schilling says:

            I did not misunderstand at any point. I simply disagree. Just because the Greeks of Byzantium claim and believe they are Romans of the Roman Empire doesn’t make it so.

            Right. It takes Romans saying, “you’re one of us” to make it so. Or Americans.

          • Anonymous says:

            That also doesn’t make it so. Not unless being “Roman” is simply a question of allegiance, in which case it’s just that. If you define “Roman” as allegiance, it’s no longer an ethnicity – or there are now two meanings: one in which “Roman” means people of a certain common descent, and one in which “Romans” are just people who are legally recognized as such despite lack of common descent.

            In the case of Americans, I have my doubts whether the original American nation still exists.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @hyperboloid

            BlueAnon is using ‘nation’ in the older and more formal sense. These days, we use it colloquially as a synonym of state. He means it in the sense of the ‘nation’ in ‘nation-state’. The whole population of a single ethnically, linguistically, and culturally homogenous people.

            In other words, a mythological construct.

            @Anon

            As I just said, a mythological construct. Trace it back, and the purity, history, lineage, and homogeneity of ethnic nations dissolves in to an endless and interlocking web of changes and transformations. Diaspora, isolation and drift, conquest and assimilation, Intermarriage, on both the macro and micro scale, on and on throughout the centuries.

            So yes, you’re correct that every immigrant we accept into body of the American Nation changes that nation, moves us slightly in their direction. But guess what? That’s inevitable! And by applying intelligent immigration policies and allowing for freedom of movement, it actually gives us Americans a good shot at steering the direction of that influence and drift to our own benefit, which is more than can be said for the “natural” way.

            @FacelessCraven

            I think you’re overstating it when you say we’ve LOST the ability, but I’ll agree that it’s not what it once was, and I think that that’s a problem. That said, it’s not an insurmountable one.

          • Anonymous says:

            So yes, you’re correct that every immigrant we accept into body of the American Nation changes that nation, moves us slightly in their direction. But guess what? That’s inevitable! And by applying intelligent immigration policies and allowing for freedom of movement, it actually gives us Americans a good shot at steering the direction of that influence and drift to our own benefit, which is more than can be said for the “natural” way.

            I would imagine it is for your benefit to stay mostly as you are, rather than acquire a host of uncivilized traits from newcomers. Unless, of course, you think that there is something seriously wrong with the way of life of the Anglo-Americans that needs changing for some reason.

            Intelligent immigration policy – I fully agree. Unrestricted immigration is not intelligent.

          • Intelligent immigration policy – I fully agree. Unrestricted immigration is not intelligent.

            The U.S. had something close to unrestricted immigration until late in the 19th century, and pretty close until the 1920’s. Do you think we would be better off if, instead, we had restricted immigration through that period in whatever ways would at the time have been politically popular?

          • Matt M says:

            David,

            How do you clearly separate “immigration policy” from other societal policies that affect immigration.

            While it’s true that immigration itself was unrestricted, I’m thinking of stuff like: No welfare state, no government forms printed in 30 languages, no special accommodation for non-English speakers in public schools, etc.

            There were other policies in place in society as a whole that (whether they were designed to or not) strongly discouraged certain types of people from immigrating and encouraged all immigrants to assimilate as quickly as possible.

          • There were other policies in place in society as a whole that (whether they were designed to or not) strongly discouraged certain types of people from immigrating and encouraged all immigrants to assimilate as quickly as possible.

            I think the lack of a welfare state was important–in my view, a large part of the current European immigrant problem is due to the existence of a welfare state that is, by the standards of the immigrants, generous.

            But your “assimilate as quickly as possible” is a considerable exaggeration. The Amish mostly came over in the 18th century and have not yet assimilated. Chicago when I grew up in it was, probably still is, largely a patchwork of ethnicities from immigration a century or so ago.

          • Matt M says:

            And the Amish represent what, 0.01% of the total population?

            And yes, while ethnic enclaves did (and still do) exist, I think the attitude back then was entirely different. It was basically “fail to assimilate at your own risk.” There was some understanding that you can live in an enclave if you want, but if you make that choice, you should expect to be treated like an enclave. Society will let you have your enclave, but it will not bend over backwards to serve your needs because of this choice.

            The modern state seems to bend over backwards to make it as easy as possible for people to not assimilate, and cultural forces have judged any attempt to encourage assimilation as racist bigotry.

          • Anonymous says:

            The U.S. had something close to unrestricted immigration until late in the 19th century, and pretty close until the 1920’s. Do you think we would be better off if, instead, we had restricted immigration through that period in whatever ways would at the time have been politically popular?

            I think Anglo-Americans would be better off, not necessarily *you*. I estimate that there would be less socialism overall, and the government would be de facto working somewhat more like it is described in the Constitution, rather than what you have now. Probably much less crime, too.

          • Deiseach says:

            You can’t become American any more than you can change your sex, or your height.

            So the first English, German, Dutch, French and Spanish explorers and settlers never became American, then? There are no Americans (apart from the indigenous tribes and we can argue that they’re really still Siberians by that criterion).

            What you are really arguing is that due to a historical accident, the majority of settlers and immigrants who colonised what would become the United States were Western Europeans. They became the majority population and thus constituted the first citizens of the national entity The United States of America. If subsequent immigrants are not of that racial stock, then they cannot become American because their features are not those of the majority, even if they have been born and raised there.

            Where that argument falls apart as bollocks is imagine the first child born to English settlers in what is not yet the United States, being introduced to children of the local native tribe. He or she can equally be asked “Where are you from?” because they don’t look like the locals round here. Is that person an American? Can they become an American? Will they and their descendants never be able to become Americans?

            Plainly not, because those are the very people who did become Americans.

            Even if we’re going to confine it to “descendants of European settlers”, there is no reason that “Learn English, you’re in America now!” has any moral or persuasive force since Spanish, French, Dutch or German are all equally languages spoken by the original settlers. You may as well demand that Anglophones learn French because they’re in Louisiana now.

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            @Blue Anonymous:
            From Wikipedia:

            In the 2000 census, self-identified German Americans made up 17.1% of the U.S. population, followed by Irish Americans at 12%, as reported in the 2000 U.S. Census. This makes German and Irish the largest and second-largest self-reported ancestry groups in the United States.

            Tell me some more about how we need to stay Anglo-American. Also note that Germans were quite abundant in the Colonies; it may not be coincidence that every time Europe has a German problem, they need us to come over and fix it.

            I, personally, am part German, part Irish, and part Italian. Lack of English descent does not seem to hamper my understanding of the Constitution or ability to follow either laws or civic norms. I don’t notice African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Ethiopian-Americans, or Indian-Americans having difficulties with them, either. And African-Americans have been around longer than most of my ancestors, and have contributed about half of American culture.

            Ethnicity is a red herring. All great states are multi-ethnic (including Imperial Rome; look up the African emperors). It’s time to give up 19th-Century Romantic Nationalist delusions.

          • And the Amish represent what, 0.01% of the total population?

            Closer to .1% for the Older Order Amish at present, about 200,000. If you include the less extreme spinoff groups substantially more, but I don’t have any figures.

            Society will let you have your enclave, but it will not bend over backwards to serve your needs because of this choice.

            I’m not sure what your now vs then perspective is. The Amish have been accepted as conscientious objectors from the beginning. Current accommodations include allowing their kids to leave school after eighth grade, allowing them to run their own systems of one and two room private schools staffed by teachers without certification, allowing self-employed Amish and Amish employed by other Amish to opt out of Social Security. None of those is recent in the sense of the past couple of decades, most date from the mid-20th century.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      But that sentence is doing work in the context of this topic sentence:

      This is not border security, this is punishing people for cooperating with us and trusting us.

      This action didn’t directly effect ~99.999% of the people in this country from those countries. But it made all of them more fearful of and angry at the US government. It’s hard to see how the numbers work out to view this as more likely to apply to a green card holder terrorist who just happens to be out of the country than to nudging the son of an existing green card towards being a terrorist.

      • doubleunplussed says:

        It didn’t affect them immediately, but if the order holds, it means green-card holders from those countries can’t leave and re-enter the US anymore.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        nudging the son of an existing green card towards being a terrorist.

        I think the green card part of all this is insane, but someone who could be “nudged” into becoming a terrorist by this is someone no sane person should want in our country anyway.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          But the person in question is a citizen.

          Keeping the green card holders out won’t do anything to that persons legal status. It’s irrelevant whether you want them here or not.

          To put it another way, if we just go ahead and kill all the Chinese cardiologists now, the absolute number of crimes committed by Chinese cardiologists will be zero. But don’t think you are actually lowering the crime rate.

      • tgb says:

        Do you actually put the odds of a given green card/visa holder desiring or already having planned to leave the US at some point in the next day at one in 100000? The visa holders I know (in school) tend to visit family back home about once a year and 90 days is around 1/4th of the year. So I’d conservatively estimate that 2% of those people are directly affected.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Note that I am not restricting my numbers to current holders of visas or permanent residence status. 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation citizens are also affected emotionally, but they aren’t (and can’t be) subject to the policy.

          This is directly relevant given that we have a great number of self-selected lone(ish) wolf mass-murderers nominally motivated by a desire for jihad, but who were also citizens.

          But, I was also speaking very loosely. I didn’t try to research actual numbers. It’s fair enough to call me on artificial precision.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            1st, 2nd and 3rd generation citizens are also affected emotionally, but they aren’t (and can’t be) subject to the policy.

            Minors, and even some majors, oversees with their parents. Who would they fly back home to?

    • INH5 says:

      EDIT: Although now that I think about it, the e.g. guys who blew up the Boston Marathon were pretty rooted despite being foreigners, so I guess the whole thing is just nonsense.

      Not that this EO would have done anything to prevent the Boston Marathon bombing, seeing as how the Tsarnaev brothers were from Kyrgystan, a country that isn’t on the list.

      Other terror attacks that couldn’t even theoretically have been prevented by this measure: 9/11 (15 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, 2 were from the UAE, 1 was from Lebanon, and 1 was from Egypt), the Beltway sniper attacks (the perpetrators were African American converts), the Fort Hood shooting (Nidal Hissan was born in the US to parents from the West Bank), the Texas Mohammed Cartoon Contest attempted attack (the perpetrators were an African American convert and a Pakistani), the Chattanooga shooting (the perpetrator was from Kuwait), and the San Bernardino shooting (the perpetrators were a Pakistani and a child of Pakistani immigrants).

      But I suppose it theoretically could have prevented the Pulse nightclub shooting, if it had been put in place back in the 1980s. You know, when Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan were receiving massive support from the US government and were openly referred to by the President as “brave freedom fighters.”

      That leaves the 2016 Ohio State attack, the 2016 Minnesota mall mass stabbing, the 2010 attempted car bombing in Portland, and… I can’t find anything else. So this doesn’t seem particularly effective as a counter-terrorism measure, to put it mildly.

      • Sandy says:

        The argument could be made that it sends a message to potential Muslim immigrants (and whatever subset of potential Muslim terrorists among them) that America is closing its doors to them; so if you do have potential future terrorists that might come in from Pakistan or Jordan or Saudi, there is now a psychological effect dissuading them from moving to America.

        • Synonym Seven says:

          “Beep beep boop. I was going to immigrate to this country whose practices I hate and blow them the fuck up, but since it seems they do not want my kind I suppose I shall be psychologically dissuaded from immigrating.”

          • Sandy says:

            I don’t think most people immigrate because they want to kill Americans; I think they immigrate in search of work or an American college degree, and somewhere along the way they (or their kids) get radicalized for whatever reason (American foreign policy, culture shock, radical preachers, whatever) and grow to hate Americans. That’s what happened with the Orlando shooter and the Boston bombers.

            Sayyid Qutb didn’t travel to America because he hated Americans. He grew to hate Americans because American culture disgusted him, and when he went back to Egypt he became a pioneering ideologue of violent anti-Western Islamism. Who knows what would have happened if he’d felt going to America wasn’t an option because the American government didn’t want people like him in the country?

          • Anonymous says:

            Have you never heard of the Hijra?

      • Anonymous says:

        Other terror attacks that couldn’t even theoretically have been prevented by this measure: 9/11 (15 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, 2 were from the UAE, 1 was from Lebanon, and 1 was from Egypt), the Beltway sniper attacks (the perpetrators were African American converts), the Fort Hood shooting (Nidal Hissan was born in the US to parents from the West Bank), the Texas Mohammed Cartoon Contest attempted attack (the perpetrators were an African American convert and a Pakistani), the Chattanooga shooting (the perpetrator was from Kuwait), and the San Bernardino shooting (the perpetrators were a Pakistani and a child of Pakistani immigrants).

        Sounds like going back to the Naturalization Act of 1790 would help here, where so far, the measures are just an annoyance – they piss lots of people off, and don’t even work.

        • BBA says:

          Which part – the part where only white people can become citizens, or the part where the borders are completely open and nobody can be refused entry or deported for any reason?

          • Anonymous says:

            I did not know that the NA1790 specified open borders and lack of deportation powers.

            EDIT: I checked. It says nothing about it at all.

            http://rs6.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llsl&fileName=001/llsl001.db&recNum=226
            http://rs6.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llsl&fileName=001/llsl001.db&recNum=227

          • BBA says:

            That was the state of the law under the 1790 act. It was silent on the matter, and anything not forbidden is permitted.

            People entering the country weren’t even asked their names until Castle Garden opened in 1855, and that was under state law. Federal control over immigration (as opposed to citizenship) didn’t come until 1882.

          • Anonymous says:

            That’s a strawman, unless you actually think I’m proposing to roll back *every* piece of legislation prior to the NA1790. In case you do: I don’t, but that wouldn’t be the worst idea ever.

          • BBA says:

            I just was unclear on what you thought the 1790 act meant. It only specified the conditions for citizenship; it said nothing at all about whether someone could enter the country to begin with. And at the time that one act was the entirety of American law on the subject, whereas its current successor, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 as amended (most notably in 1965 and 1990), contains the entire structure of visas, green cards, deportation, etc., as well as the conditions for becoming a citizen. So I took you to mean replacing the entirety of the INA 1952/65/90 regime with the much simpler NA 1790 regime and was simply wondering which parts of that regime you found preferable.

            In case you thought NA 1790 meant that persons ineligible for citizenship were also ineligible to enter the country, that’s not what it meant at all.

          • Anonymous says:

            In case you thought NA 1790 meant that persons ineligible for citizenship were also ineligible to enter the country, that’s not what it meant at all.

            My bad. I meant both, yes. Do you know where the border controls and immigration restrictions were first defined? The mid-20th century seems very late.

          • BBA says:

            It happened gradually. The first law declaring any immigrants illegal was the Page Act of 1875, which was targeted at Chinese and Japanese “coolies.” The 1882 Immigration Act required all noncitizens entering the country to be approved by a state immigration commission (the earliest of which had started operating under New York state law in 1847) and required that “any convict, lunatic, idiot, or any person unable to take care of himself or herself without becoming a public charge” be refused admission and deported. The 1891 Immigration Act moved enforcement from state agencies to the federal Office of Immigration and added more categories of aliens to be refused admission. Visas were (IIRC) a World War I measure, green cards date from World War II, and there have been piles of other legislation changing the terms since then.

            The 1952 Act is just the most recent law to repeal all earlier laws and unify the rules for the system.

          • Anonymous says:

            Thank you!

      • suntzuanime says:

        Like I say, I broadly agree with the post. But we should resist the temptation to speak nonsense in the service of our political points.

      • INH5 says:

        Correction: It turns out that Afghanistan isn’t on the list either. I thought it was due to a faulty memory.

        So that leaves the count of terrorist attacks in the last 20 years that could have even theoretically been prevented by this XO at 3, and the count of terrorist attacks that actually killed people that could have been prevented at 0, unless I missed something.

  6. Hi everyone,

    I’m a PhD candidate at Cornell, where I work on logic and philosophy of science. I recently started a blog (http://necpluribusimpar.net) where I plan to post my thoughts about random topics. For instance, I wrote a post (http://necpluribusimpar.net/slavery-and-capitalism/) against the widely held but false belief that much of the US wealth derives from slavery and that without slavery the industrial revolution wouldn’t have happened, as well as another (http://necpluribusimpar.net/election-models-not-predict-trumps-victory/) in which I explain how election models work and why they didn’t predict Trump’s victory. Since Scott brings that up in his post, I have also shared my thoughts on Trump’s executive order (http://necpluribusimpar.net/executive-order-immigration/), although I suspect that he would disagree with me. I think members of Slate Star Codex will find my blog interesting and I welcome any criticisms, suggestions, etc. I have already advertised my blog here, so I apologize for the shameless self-promotion, but I just started it and I would like people to know about it 🙂

    Philippe

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I looked at it. It looks like an interesting topic, and my intuition is that you are totally right in most of your points about slavery and the industrial revolution. But I think it would take quite a bit of time and effort to make a truly informed judgment as whether you or Baptist is correct. Obviously Baptist would have a totally different conclusion. If I had time, I’d look more closely.

      I am a little surprised at the very assertive approach as a PhD student you took in this essay, especially towards a professor at your own school. Yes, I understand that academics play hardball, but you are accusing him of not just being wrong, but of being incompetent.

      • Actually, it’s worse than that: I don’t merely accuse him of being incompetent, although I also accuse him of that, I accuse him of being dishonest. I agree that it’s a strong claim, but I think Olmstead and Rhode’s paper completely warrants it. The fact that he is a professor in my school should not prevent me from calling him out for that and, indeed, it does not.

  7. Well... says:

    Does anyone know of any organizations with a focus on research into, or the mitigation of, internet addiction and/or social media’s negative effects?

  8. T3t says:

    Question posed to the vegetarians/vegans/others interested here (mostly moral utilitarian concerns):

    About a year ago I stopped eating pork based on the reasoning that I wouldn’t want to eat anything smarter than my pet (a dog). This did not reduce my overall meat consumption, which moved entirely to the direction of fish, beef, and chicken.

    Some recent reading has made me think that perhaps intelligence is not terribly relevant when it comes to (negatively) valuing the suffering of animals. Under this reasoning, I should in fact move away from chicken back to pork.

    Arguments for/against/orthogonally?

    • nelshoy says:

      Have you tried good veggie meat? The trick is not going in expecting meat and being disappointed when it’s not meat, its using a different base that still tastes good and can still be consumed like meat (BBQ sauce, buffalo, you name it).

      If you absolutely can’t give up meat, cows satisfy both your criteria of less intelligent than a dog and large meat/pain ratio.

      • T3t says:

        I haven’t tried good veggie meat, but from all that I’ve read recently it still doesn’t pass “inferior substitute”. I’d rather eat real vegetable preparations (and things like mushrooms). Unfortunately this is unfeasible in terms of how much energy I have to cook things, and my near-work eating options are heavily meat-centric.

        Thanks for confirming my intuition on meat balance.

        • I’d rather eat real vegetable preparations (and things like mushrooms). Unfortunately this is unfeasible in terms of how much energy I have to cook things, and my near-work eating options are heavily meat-centric.

          I’m not sure if you are saying that you don’t cook and so are dependent on restaurants or that cooking meat takes much less energy than cooking vegetarian meals. I don’t think the latter is true. Lentils, for example, are quite easy to cook. Fruit salad with cottage cheese, which I’m fond of (I’m not vegetarian), is very little trouble. I’m sure there are lots of other examples.

          • rlms says:

            “Fruit salad with cottage cheese”
            Has libertarianism gone too far?

          • No.

            Cut up apples, bananas, plus raisins plus cottage cheese makes a tasty light meal. Add some walnuts and cut up avocadoes if you are feeling decadent.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Cottage cheese with blueberries and a little bit of splenda is my nightly before-bed treat and it’s wonderful.

            I’m still attempting to find a way to make lentils palatable.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            Lentils are the easiest thing to cook bar none. Stew in plenty of water, to some sort of soup texture. Add other stuff at various stages. That’s easier than rice or quinoa etc that has a narrower target texture.

          • Deiseach says:

            I’m still attempting to find a way to make lentils palatable.

            Tarka dal (also spelled “dhal” or “daal”) is palatable (though I’ve never cooked it myself, only had it as part of an Indian takeaway). Otherwise I can’t eat lentils, not even as soup – they are just a mushy, tasteless mess. Bleecch!

          • JonathanD says:

            @Edward: Two parts onion to one part of carrots and celery (feel free to eyeball it), then add in your lentils and your broth of choice. Salt and pepper to taste, throw in a bay leaf and cook until the lentil texture is right. Use lots of broth for a soup or less for a stew. Once you get the hang of it make a big batch and use it for several meals.

          • Loquat says:

            My rule of thumb with lentils is to add plenty of salt and herbs/spices. Sauteed onion, garlic, and jalapeno, plus lentils and a bit of tomato, makes a great soup or stew.

          • berk says:

            The type of lentil matter quite a bit as well. Certain varieties are guaranteed mush. I prefer the french green (du puy) types for optimal intactness.

            One way I cook lentils is in heavily salted water with a halved onion and maybe a bay leaf. Pop cherry tomatoes in a pre-greased hot skillet, add sausage/leftover meat: cook, add lentils mostly drained and a little of their water: bring to a boil. Add spinach and/or herbs (sage is good):cook. Drizzle very generously with olive oil before serving.

          • Since it’s gotten to the recipe stage, here is our standard dish of lentils from a 13th c. Andalusian cookbook, with the missing details filled in by trial and error:

            ½ lb onions 4 T butter (or oil)
            1 ½ c dried lentils ¾ t salt
            2 ¼ c water 12 threads saffron
            1 ½ T oil 2 T vinegar
            ⅜ t pepper 4 eggs
            1 ½ t coriander more pepper

            Slice onions. Put lentils, water, oil, pepper, coriander and onion in a pot, bring to a boil, and turn down to a bare simmer. Cook covered 50 minutes, stirring periodically. Add butter or oil and cook while stirring for about 5 minutes. Add salt, saffron (crushed into 1 t water) and vinegar, and bring back to a boil. Put eggs on top, cover pot and keep lentils at a simmer; stir cautiously every few minutes in order to scrape the bottom of the pot without stirring in the eggs. Adjusting the heat is a little tricky—too low and the eggs don’t cook, too high and the lentils stick. With a larger quantity, the pot stays hot enough to cook the eggs without being on the flame.
            When the eggs are cooked, sprinkle with a little more pepper and serve.

    • lycotic says:

      As a vegetarian:

      Complexity of the animal matters to me, but so also (in a completely tribal-to-humans kind of way) does similarity to me. I’m not sure how defensible this is, but a fair amount of my vegetarianism has to do with how much I manage to empathize with the creature. In that sense, I empathize slightly better with most mammals than most birds.

      This empathy is important to me, because it is that projected self I’d damage by eating meat. I don’t think this position is as bad as it might sound. My sheer existence is a choice that retains some life and removes others. My choice is remove those less like me rather than more, and thus my skewed weighting function.

      If I were to relax my requirements, the first thing to be eaten would be the bivalves — I really do care about their pain less. But I never learned to eat seafood as a kid, so I think they’re safe now.

    • akarlin says:

      Some recent reading has made me think that perhaps intelligence is not terribly relevant when it comes to (negatively) valuing the suffering of animals.

      Erm… why not?

      The most promising theories of consciousness now revolve around the idea of information integration, which incidentally happens to be pretty central to intelligence.

      Conversely, if capacity for suffering is not significantly correlated with intelligence, then we might as well give up on ethics.

      • rlms says:

        I happen to agree with you that intelligence is important for moral relevance, but it is quite possible to disagree (for instance, arguing that all human lives are equal isn’t uncommon).

        • akarlin says:

          Humans are very tightly clumped together in terms of intelligence relative to other animals, so treating each individual human as an equivalent ethical unit is not philosophically inconsistent (not to mention practical, at least under a universalistic liberal paradigm).

          Humans (by definition) cluster around a global average IQ of about 85 +/- 45 (3 S.D.). One informal estimate of chimp IQ relative to human norms is 14. Since there is only a very narrow point of intersection between the very brightest chimps and the stupidest people, plus a convenient species division to demark that border, this makes sense.

          What if Neanderthals are revived? Homo erectus (late or early)? Homo habilis? Then things may get pretty tricky.

          • rlms says:

            “Humans (by definition) cluster around a global average IQ of about 85 +/- 45 (3 S.D.). One informal estimate of chimp IQ relative to human norms is 14.”
            Nevertheless, there are some humans with an IQ nearer to 14 than 100. Likewise, there are newborn babies, fetuses and people in comas. You can say that these are edge cases who should have the same ethical rules applied to them as typical humans, but that is non-obvious (especially in the latter two cases).

    • j.28724 says:

      >Some recent reading has made me think that perhaps intelligence is not terribly relevant when it comes to (negatively) valuing the suffering of animals. Under this reasoning, I should in fact move away from chicken back to pork.

      Could you link what you read?

      As a vegetarian, I’d say my deepest rationale comes from the belief that it’s unethical to harm or kill intelligent and conscious life. I’d be interested in opposing views.

    • herbert herberson says:

      Why do you privilege the interests of chickens over broccolis?

      To me, the answer to that question also applies to pigs over chickens, which is why I’ve been doing the same thing you describe for years

      • Synonym Seven says:

        Why do you privilege the interests of chickens over broccolis?

        Chickens can readily express their pain in a nature that I can empathize with as another living being.

        Broccoli either cannot feel pain or cannot express it in such a coherent nature. For all I know, the sensation a broccoli has upon being harvested is like that of a haircut.

        • Anonymous says:

          Broccoli is fine, so long as you stay away from the tomatoes.

        • houseboatonstyxb says:

          For all I know, the sensation a broccoli has upon being harvested is like that of a haircut.o

          Actually, that’s what a Jaina monk told me (well, he said more like a manicure). A sensation with some sharpness but mostly a feeling of freshness, minor stimulation, astrigency.

          Personally, I’m more impressed by the fact that plants have evolved for quite a long time to produce edible but expendable parts that few animals have. Animals that can fight or run away, have the incentive of pain to do so, and live to reproduce another day.

          Those plants who, in effect, trade their expendable parts for transport, fertilization, or fertilizer, by butterflies, berryeaters, or Popes, or grazers, have the opposite incentive.

  9. nelshoy says:

    If the Wall’s getting built, can it at least be done in an intelligent way?

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/solar-panels-us-mexico_us_5857fa6be4b0390447097e56

    Huffington Post mentioned a solar border, but why not at the very least set up a technological wall with mounted IR cameras and earthquake sensors or something instead of tons of concrete? It’s 2017, I think we can do better. You’d think that would fit with Trump’s self-assertion pragmatism and business sense, but maybe he’s too locked-in from his campaign rhetoric.

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      You also should consider that Trump probably wants the Wall to look impressive. For added benefit, it might also prove to be a huge tourist attraction. (Consider the Great Wall of China.)

    • Deiseach says:

      Sounds interesting but the immediate caveats that spring to mind are:

      Since solar plants use security measures to keep intruders out, the solar border would serve as a de facto virtual fence, reducing porousness of the border while producing major economic, environmental and security benefits on both sides. It would make trafficking drugs, arms and people all the more difficult for criminal cartels.

      (1) Because the drug cartels/people traffickers would not bribe or threaten the security guards? “Hey, want your granny to keep living, turn a blind eye 10 p.m. next Friday night to any moment on the south-eastern patrol section” is something you would need to be very sure couldn’t or wouldn’t happen, nor that the security guards might fancy getting a cut of the money for letting drugs/immigrants through as a nice little earner on the side.

      (2) Cheaper Mexican-generated solar power supplying US cities, maybe even places like Los Angeles. Great idea, but leaves the US side vulnerable to blackmail in trade agreements or disputes between the Mexican and American administrations: who’ll blink first – the American cities with no power or the Mexican businesses not getting money for the power they’re not selling? It also gives the US an incentive to meddle with Mexican politics to make sure the cheap power keeps flowing via having US-friendly interests in charge.

      (3) Part of the idea of a big concrete wall is public construction works that will boost the construction industry and allied trades and downstream economies by providing employment opportunities in the US – the concrete plants and quarries hiring on more workers of the blue-collar/unskilled and low-skilled variety. Solar panel walls on the Mexican side are no good for that.

      It’s an idea that is certainly interesting to explore, and if some investors can get together to do a trial on building a stretch of solar panels in the Mexican deserts and see how much power they’d generate and if it can be piped and sold on the US side, it’d be a great chance.

      • Matt M says:

        “Since solar plants use security measures to keep intruders out”

        Like what? Fences? Guards? The same things that we already have on the border now but that aren’t working?

        Do people really think that the average solar plant has better security than the US national border? This sounds almost like a parody idea tailor-made to troll Glenn Beck and Alex Jones into rants about how “the left thinks that we can keep the cartels out with SOLAR PANELS”

        • The Nybbler says:

          As far as I can tell, the major security around some of the larger solar plants is the same as the Mexican border — they’re surrounded by inhospitable desert. The smaller ones in my area (New Jersey, not the best place for solar) have no security, you can walk right into them.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Sure, there are better places in America than NJ and it’s a pity about the distribution of subsidies, but it’s not that bad. I used to complain that NJ:CA :: Germany:Spain, but then I looked up insolation and found that NJ is as good as Spain.

    • James Miller says:

      A technological wall would be easier to take down than a real wall would be and so is less binding on future presidents. Lot’s of U.S. politicians officially support secure borders, but in fact want it to be easy for illegal immigrants to cross our Southern border. With a mere technological wall, a future president might simply not find the funding to replace burned out cameras, or not allocate guards to protect part of the border. It would be much harder, however, for such a president to physically remove (or allowed to be removed) part of Trump’s wall because this kind of action would make his anti-border enforcement beliefs obvious.

      • nelshoy says:

        A future president could do the same with a physical wall by failing to man or maintain it. The regular upkeep of the virtual wall could be passed by Congress now, which would still force a future president to use a direct action to shut it down. It would be nice to have someone estimate the cost of an effective virtual wall and get the media to float it as a cost saver.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I get that part of “build a wall” is that it’s there permanently, unless a subsequent administration actively removes it.

        But an unmanned wall really isn’t that good at keeping people out. It needs to be manned or monitored in some form. If I were trying to build it to be proof against future budget-cutting, I would put in IR cameras powered by solar panels reporting in via cell or satellite. Those still have ongoing costs, but most of the cost is front-loaded, so a future administration would need to explicitly kill the budget. That’s easier than physically tearing it out, but not as easy as just letting it lie.

        (Having it physically manned by good ol’ American workers would help employment, but it’s easier for subsequent administrations to relocate those jobs elsewhere.)

      • Nyx says:

        Even physical walls need to be maintained and manned. What made walls like the Berlin Wall and the Great Wall of China successful is that they were manned, with open areas and watchtowers so that intruders could be apprehended (or shot).

        There’s also the other problem; that a physical wall, while harder to remove than a technological one, is also harder to build. It’s highly unlikely that the wall Trump intends is going to be built in four years, and even eight years is still a bit of a stretch. Maybe the next Republican president will continue what he started, but maybe he won’t, and it could be that by the time the wall is actually finished, the problem it was built to solve won’t exist (or will have progressed too far to resolve).

        Rather, Trump’s wall should be seen as symbolic. The construction of a wall is something tangible, objective and measurable in a way that tweaks to the law or slow trends in data aren’t. The same Obama administration came under fire for being too hard on immigrants (from the left) and too soft (from the right), because both sides could pick and choose their statistics and facts in this glorious “data-driven” world. In an era of reduced trust between voters and politicians, a wall is a potent statement of Trump’s allegiance and commitment. The fact that it’s a complete waste of time and money is besides the point; or perhaps it is the point. Rather like the dictator that forces his subjects to repeat obvious falsehoods to demonstrate their obedience, we force our politicians to build absurd, wasteful totems to demonstrate their loyalty.

        • houseboatonstyxb says:

          But seeing the Berlin Wall crumble into souveniers, was an impressive refutation of its message.

        • John Schilling says:

          There’s also the other problem; that a physical wall, while harder to remove than a technological one, is also harder to build. It’s highly unlikely that the wall Trump intends is going to be built in four years, and even eight years is still a bit of a stretch.

          Turkey announced a plan to build an 800+ km concrete wall along its Syrian border in July of 2015, and from recent reports seems on track to finish next month. As the United States is rather richer than Turkey, and walls can be constructed along their entire length simultaneously, I don’t see a four-year wall-construction process as being inherently impossible. It might fail due to American NIMBY-ism, or to Trump’s ego demanding a more impressive wall than can arranging such construction projects does seem to be one of the things he is actually good at.

          Electronic walls, give me a break. Yes, we can string sensors along the border in less than four years. Developing, fielding, testing, and troubleshooting such a system to the point where it is good for anything but generating more false alarms than the border patrol can deal with, will be the work of a decade or more.

          As a joke, or a monument to Trump’s incompetence, sure. That probably works for you, and for huffpost. Pretty sure Trump’s team is going to see through that and go with the simple, passive defense that plays to their strengths. If future presidents choose not to properly man or maintain it, the visibly enduring physical infrastructure will still make Trump look like he did his part and the failures will be on his successors.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Why bother? The Wall is just a Trump monument anyway, it doesn’t really matter how it works.

  10. Acedia says:

    Is a cold civil war beginning in the United States, as some on both the Left and the Right are claiming, or is this just a slightly brighter and hotter version of politics as usual right after a presidential election?

    I’m a foreigner who’s avidly following things (I think I’m reading a good mix of thinkers from all major tribes), but it’s hard to get a view from ground level.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Things have been worse, but things have certainly been better. There’s a school of thought that says that democracy just means cold civil war. In that sense, we seem to still be a democracy, yeah. In a narrower sense of “hot civil war could break out on a moment’s notice”, nah. People are assaulting each other in the streets over politics, but mostly not using lethal levels of violence. We’re still a few steps from the brink.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        People are assaulting each other in the streets over politics, but mostly not using lethal levels of violence.

        I’d say that very much oversells the amount of political violence the US has. Both in comparison to other countries and in comparison to other times in the US.

        I’m trying to think of any direct political clashes that involve large groups on each side, both expecting to do, or at least receive, violence. I’m not really coming up with any.

    • Anonymous says:

      In addition to what suntzuanime said:

      1. As long as military remains firmly loyal, there’s no threat of civil war. I’d watch for states buffing up and instituting new State Guards, if you want to have some way of measuring the tenseness of the situation. AFAIK, nothing is happening there.

      2. Democracy is indeed war by head-counting. Interesting things may begin to happen once the sides begin to be perceived substantially different in actual military potential. If one side is mostly military age men, and the other is women, pensioners and bourgeois bohemians, some people are going to start to think, on the former side, that regardless of the head counts, they are stronger, and could enforce their will on the majority. Fortunately, the Democrats have blacks and Hispanics on their side. 😉

      • Fifth says:

        If one side is mostly military age men, and the other is women, pensioners and bourgeois bohemians, some people are going to start to think, on the former side, that regardless of the head counts, they are stronger, and could enforce their will on the majority. Fortunately, the Democrats have blacks and Hispanics on their side.

        Not just blacks and hispanics, but a hell of a lot of veterans of all races who can’t stand Trump’s bullshit. This will be especially true if we leftists can bait Trumpists into committing the Bloody Sunday mistake and inflict stomach-turning and morality-outraging violence upon peaceful people. Given the personalities of Trump and Bannon, that shouldn’t be too hard.

        Also, i would be careful before underestimating women. Boudica and the Trung sisters might want to have a wooooord with you…

        • Anonymous says:

          Not just blacks and hispanics, but a hell of a lot of veterans of all races who can’t stand Trump’s bullshit.

          Source?

          This will be especially true if we leftists can bait Trumpists into committing the Bloody Sunday mistake and inflict stomach-turning and morality-outraging violence upon peaceful people.

          It looks more like the right is trolling the left to committing acts of violence so far.

          Also, i would be careful before underestimating women. Boudica and the Trung sisters might want to have a wooooord with you…

          There are also probably up to a million women worldwide who could take me in a fist fight. Which doesn’t mean anything, because on average, women are half as strong as men. And not nearly as aggressive and warlike.

          • watsonbladd says:

            Ask the Arabs about Golda Meir. Or the Argentinians about Maggie Thatcher. Or the Sikhs about Indira Gandhi.

          • Anonymous says:

            Keep naming examples until the n-count reaches something remotely in the ballpark of male aggression/warlikeness.

            These are all rare exceptions, not the rule.

        • albertborrow says:

          Fortunately, the Democrats have blacks and Hispanics on their side.

          Just saying: “People will vote for us because we’re right…” ignores the real problems the Democratic party has to address within itself and with respect to the world. As a libertarian, even the current state of affairs is better than what Hillary would have done for me. At least this way, people are wising up to the unreasonable amount of power the Executive branch has been seizing.

          • Anonymous says:

            Forgive me, but I don’t understand what point you’re trying to make.

          • Matt M says:

            At least this way, people are wising up to the unreasonable amount of power the Executive branch has been seizing.

            No they aren’t. At least, not that I’ve noticed. Most of the anti-Trump stuff I see on social media is 100% dedicated to “we have to block Trump and then win the next election” and not AT ALL in the area of “perhaps the federal government should not have this power in the first place.”

        • Sandy says:

          Also, i would be careful before underestimating women. Boudica and the Trung sisters might want to have a wooooord with you…

          I mean, Boudica and the Trung sisters were all eventually slaughtered and their countries fell under imperial control, but sure, they put up a few surprises.

        • Deiseach says:

          This will be especially true if we leftists can bait Trumpists into committing the Bloody Sunday mistake and inflict stomach-turning and morality-outraging violence upon peaceful people.

          Oh, you mean the way Kent State caused the nation to rise up and overthrow the government and establish a whole new regime?

          This is the flip-side fantasy to that of extreme right wingers and survivalists about ‘I have my guns, if the government try to force me to do anything I’ll start shooting!’

          See how well that went at Waco. Hell, look at the Occupy movement worldwide – what came out of that, exactly?

          This is not the 18th century anymore and an armed citizenry able to rise up and overthrow an oppressive government are not playing in the same ballpark any longer. The modern US army has more trained (and training is important) soldiers, weaponry, matériel, resources, backing and experience of handling insurgents gained overseas over the past couple of decades; they’d cream you in the field if it came to real war and not the black bloc patheticness of “we set trashcan fires and broke windows, and we Punched A Nazi! Whee!” I’ve been seeing ‘activists’ online patting themselves on the back for.

          Look at Syria – there’s a handy example of what goes on when you’re in revolt against a regime. Northern Ireland had (and has the remnants still active) paramilitaries with guns, bombs and training versus the British Army, and the current peace process was not because of the victory of the armed struggle.

          • Synonym Seven says:

            Oh, you mean the way Kent State caused the nation to rise up and overthrow the government and establish a whole new regime?

            Well, yes, depending on how literal you’re going to be about “whole new regime”. To be trite, the regime that debated the merits of Roe v. Wade is so far off from that which found something in Connecticut’s side of Griswold meritorious enough to earnestly argue as to constitute a factory-refurbished regime, if not brand-new.

          • Deiseach says:

            To be trite, the regime that debated the merits of Roe v. Wade

            Which, you will note, was a change brought about by going to law in the conventional manner, not by the people grabbing guns, getting into a shooting war with the state forces in the street, and instituting a ‘hang the old regime, we’re the new rulers now’ and drawing up a whole new constitution etc.

            The cool activists with copies of the Little Red Book and home-made bombs were not the ones who brought about the upheaval in societal change.

          • John Schilling says:

            See how well that went at Waco.

            Quite well for everyone but the one immediate group of martyrs, actually. The militarization of Federal law enforcement pretty much stopped after Waco, and wacky groups of misfits minding their own business in the desert were mostly left to their own devices rather than subject to intrusive raids staged for the press. No great social harm seems to have come of this.

            Alas, the benefits were limited to a general increase in the professionalism of Federal law enforcement, and did not trickle down to the states.

          • Cypren says:

            The modern US army has more trained (and training is important) soldiers, weaponry, matériel, resources, backing and experience of handling insurgents gained overseas over the past couple of decades; they’d cream you in the field if it came to real war…

            While I agree with the overall thrust of your comment, I would point out two things: first, the US Army suffered a tremendous blow to its prestige and aura of invincibility at the hands of a reasonably small portion of Iraq’s armed populace resisting it via insurgent techniques during occupation. Winning a ground war against another army with overwhelming force is very different from counterinsurgency operations when pacifying a hostile populace. We’ve gotten better at that, but the difficulty level hasn’t changed. If you read the literature in their communities, three-percenter types do not argue that they’re “gunna grab mah guns’n shoot some’uh them thar Washington bastards”. Their strategy for taking on a hostile government is actually quite sensible: subtle and targeted terrorist operations designed to instill fear and mistrust into the occupiers and make it personally dangerous for them to operate in the occupied territory. You don’t storm federal buildings; you target and assassinate individual military and government personnel as they go about their daily lives. The more they crack down on the populace to try to stop you, the less compliance they get. This is a strategy that worked quite well for insurgents in Iraq until the hardline Islamists got too much control and started oppressing the regular citizenry enough that they decided the Americans were the lesser evil.

            The current governmental campaign of brute force in Syria’s civil war is a counterpoint to this strategy, and it’s effective for two reasons: first, Assad and the Russians don’t care at all about civilian casualties and are quite happy to bomb or gas a city as an object lesson to people not to be human shields for rebels. Second, the divisions between governement and rebel held territory have tended to be sufficiently geographically divided enough that it’s easy for the government to simply carpet bomb areas and be assured that they’re not harming their own troops, supporters or infrastructure.

            While it’s possible to conjure a scenario where these conditions apply to a runaway US government cracking down on the populace, they both seem unlikely. Our military doesn’t have the culture or conditioning required to countenance carpet bombing American cities. We have in fact deliberately structured it to make mutiny and internal strife tear it apart if someone attempted to use it that way; this is one reason why military units are comprised of personnel from all areas of the country, continually shuffled between posts, rather than the traditional historical precedent of having units assembled from distinct geographic areas with strong cultural cohesion. This strongly reduces the chance that a unit of soldiers all see the citizens of a target city or state as their outgroup or fargroup and would be able to execute their orders in a detached manner.

    • Zombielicious says:

      I’ve been pretty “ground level” here for it all. To avoid the longer thing I was initially going to post, I’ll just say this: imo, we’re probably headed for either major domestic strife, or an impeachment within the first year. Or maybe a major international incident or war, but I’d think the first two more likely – if nothing else there’s no way an administration as incompetent, inexperienced, and ill-intentioned as this one seems to be can weather the kind of pressure that is building from every angle – domestic and international – for a full four years, and I don’t think they’re psychologically capable of backing off and just being a normal GOP presidential administration at this point.

      I can safely say the only thing remotely similar to this I’ve seen in my lifetime was 9/11 (not old enough to remember Vietnam or MLK), and that was a completely different scenario. Maybe everything will settle down, but even just what’s happened this week seems likely to make waves for years to come.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        I’d rate the possibility of an impeachment, especially leading to a removal from office, as very, very low.

        But, if that does happen does that describe a cold civil war? It would be the Republicans doing it.

        • hyperboloid says:

          Why? Admittedly it has not been common in American history, with two presidents impeached and acquitted, and one forced to resign; but nothing about Trump has much precedent.

          In extreme enough circumstances the constitution provides a means to remove an unfit commander-in-chief, and Trump seems to be the most likely president to meat that criteria in living memory.

          I give it a one in two chance of happening before 2020.
          Though it is much more unlikely before 2018.

          • reytes says:

            I guess you think it’s very likely that the Democrats retake the House in 2018?

          • hyperboloid says:

            Yes, for the most part. The Democratic party does of course have a talent for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, but there is a lot working against the republicans.

            For one thing, the Republican control of congress depends on heavily gerrymandered districts. These sorts of electoral shenanigans are a double edged sword, as they create a lot of districts with slim Republican majorities. Under ordinary conditions they make the ruling party stronger, but in a true wave election they can turn defeat into a total rout.

            For another, Trump has made a lot of promises to a lot of people, that are going to be almost impossible to keep. I don’t think that there is any policy he could intact that would return manufacturing jobs to the Midwest. Not to mention the fact that Trump stands a good chance of starting a Trade war with Mexico that, given the size of US agricultural exports, will badly hurt farm state economies.

            Combine all of this with the overall incompetence of the Trump administration; and my general attitude was well expressed by Creighton Abrams during the battle of the bulge:

            “They’ve got us surrounded… The poor bastards”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            An impeachment leading to a removal requires 67 votes in the senate. That’s an extremely high bar to clear if Trump is merely very poorly competent and unpopular.

            Everything flows from that fact. Because it is far worse to fail to impeach a president than to succeed, and especially so if that president is a member of your own party.

            House members are especially vulnerable to primary challenges. House leadership knows this and will therefore be loathe to put their membership in a position where a still president Trump can actively campaign against a member who votes to impeach him.

            The odds that Trump is impeached this year seem very low, given all that.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The electorate typically takes away a sitting President’s seats in Congress at the midterms. That’s one good reason to expect the Dems to get the House in 2018.

            There was a strong feeling that Clinton was a shoo-in so lots of people were giving her an opposition Congress. They overcorrected in the wrong direction. That will likely reverse.

            I know it seems, right now, like the Democrats are doomed forever. But it always seems like the party out of power will be out of power forever.

            As for Trump impeachment? A slight chance, more than for a normal POTUS. But still low.

        • Zombielicious says:

          @HeelBearCub:

          No, impeachment wouldn’t be a cold civil war. My opinion was/is that we’ve already had a sort of “cold civil war” between rural America and urban America for a long time, and it’s likely to turn into a hot one soon. Well, literal “civil war” wouldn’t be my first guess, though I really wouldn’t put anything beyond possibility at this point, but at least stuff like major riots throughout the country, with Trump and Bannon using it as an excuse for a security state crackdown and power grab, in a feedback loop until something breaks. It seems this may likely be the intentional strategy, especially with Bannon now on the NSC, and the executive branch apparently ignoring judicial rulings and court orders. That would really be more of a hot war between the urban proletariat and the national security state, but since the security apparatus would have basically been hijacked by some white Christian supremacists (Bannon, Flynn, Pence, etc), it seems like a direct outgrowth of the ongoing culture and class wars.

          As for impeachment, it seems unlikely now, but Trump and Bannon are outsiders in their own party, and I don’t think they’re making friends very fast with this strategy – not consulting anyone about major legislation, insulting prominent senators, causing boycotts (Uber), causing nationwide protests on a daily/weekly basis, etc. The GOP still has their guy Pence in second place. If the administration makes enough enemies in the GOP, and GOP takes enough pressure, they may decide it’s not worth it anymore and throw Trump to the wolves.

          I’m not really sure this (replacing Trump with Pence) would be much better, because I strongly disagree with this place’s whole “crying wolf” narrative – more that people were (correctly) trying to warn you, the wolves have been there the whole time, but no one was willing to listen until one of them was actively disemboweling you. The GOP is every bit as bad as their most critical opponents make them out to be (look at the non-response to the Muslim ban), I don’t really think the Republican party is compatible with a free democracy anymore (they’ve been refusing to recognize the legitimacy of their opponents for a while now), and Pence and the GOP would very likely push ahead with the exact same plan, just in a more well thought out and procedural manner with plausible deniability where we continue to be told “you’re still crying wolf” right up to the literal gas chambers. Still, I’m a lot more worried about Bannon and Flynn than I am Pence.

          A lot of sweeping guesses and predictions in here, but considering this is normally 0.0001% probability stuff and is now more like 10+% probability stuff, it seems worth voicing the concern at least.

          • Cypren says:

            I was going to try to rebut this, but honestly, if you’ve read Scott’s “crying wolf” post and still think that Trump is readying the gas chambers, I don’t think there’s anything that’s going to puncture your ideological bubble. All I can say is that I hope someday you poke your head outside it and realize that people can disagree with you, and that doesn’t make them Nazis.

          • Deiseach says:

            causing boycotts (Uber)

            Oh come on, I agree Trump made a dog’s dinner of the executive order, but blaming him for a bunch of trendy lefties deciding to quit using their hip taxi ride-sharing service in a huff because they viewed it as strike-breaking and scab labour is a bit much.

            What next – “I refuse to buy my organic tulsi leaf tonic from that store anymore as I don’t think they rebalanced their chakras in an authentic non-culturally appropriative fashion – damn that fascist in the White House for forcing me to do this!”

            some white Christian supremacists (Bannon, Flynn, Pence, etc)

            Considering that Bannon, as far as I can make out, is a three-times divorced cultural Catholic I don’t really see the “white Christian supremacist” angle there, unless you’re trying to tell me he converted to some variety of Protestantism – or unless there is an ultra-secret cabal of ex-Catholics who are planning to set up a theocracy.

            I think you should go with the Catholic angle, to be honest; trying to look up what denomination Pence is, I see that he’s another(!) former or not wholly committed Catholic who later became a member of a nondenominational Evangelical church and is currently not affiliated with any one particular church. Hmmm – aren’t Kelly and a few others also Catholics? I can’t find out about Flynn but given that he is (or was) a Democrat and has an Irish name, it’s entirely possible he too has an Irish Catholic background. Why, it’s beginning to look like a conspiracy!

            We Catholics (which will include the lapsed and the wandering across the church aisle to other denominations ones) are well used to conspiracy theories about us wanting to put the governance of the United States (and indeed the world) under the sway of a theocracy, all answering to the Pope in Rome (aka The Man of Blood, the Anti-Christ, and the Catholic Church as being the Whore of Babylon) so you’re already well established there.

          • Iain says:

            Abort Operation Tulsi Chakras, lads — she’s onto us!

          • Zombielicious says:

            @Deiseach:

            Missed your reply until now. Obviously I didn’t mean Trump literally started the #DeleteUber thing himself (pretty sure it was a specific guy on twitter, actually), but it seems to have resulted from initial incompetence at implementing the ban. In any case, Presidents take a lot of blame (and credit) for stuff way beyond their control, and regardless of how warranted you think it is, it can’t be making people trying to work with Trump any happier when it happens.

            Hard to reply to the rest; you’re stating it like I’m arguing some kind of “Jews control the world!!1!11!” theory, rather than speculation about specific people in the Trump administration and their policy goals. I’m more worried that lots of people in the administration might be bent on (a) inciting a “clash of civilizations” (good read, should probably be its own discussion) between a Christian west and the Islamic middle east, and (b) pushing the U.S. towards being officially a Christian nation (lots of regular conservative voters would probably like some version of this anyway) – two goals which complement each other pretty well. That’s a whole other long discussion, maybe better in a separate thread, if you really want to have it.

            On the other hand, the longer I watch it unfold, it seems more likely that whatever the goal is, we’re more likely to get bumbling incompetence leading to other bad things than the implementation of some grand strategic vision. It’s very hard to make real predictions about what I think will occur when it’s been less than two weeks and we’re constantly getting new information about how the administration is beginning. My initial post was made in the middle of massive protests and the U.S. Marshals allegedly refusing to enforce court orders. Another week from now and we’ll probably know even more about what to expect. Initially I gave four possibilities: (1) relatively normal GOP administration, (2) major domestic strife (e.g. widespread rioting, maybe violent resistance movement), (3) removal from office, and (4) war. I’m still betting on one of those, the likelihood of each just changes from day to day as we learn more about it.

    • James Miller says:

      My subjective impression is that it’s much worse because, I suspect, a (post-civil war) record high number of Americans would support using violence to remove the President to replace him with someone who isn’t the Vice President.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      Not yet. We need some older and more politically active people to chime in here, but if you look at that “Days Of Rage” article that was linked in the last link post Scott made I think it’s pretty clear that tensions and the level of political discord and violence in the US now is still lower than it was than 1963-73. It’s probably the highest it’s been SINCE that point, and “worst it’s been in 40-50 years” is not exactly reassurring. On the other hand, that didn’t come anywhere near Bleeding Kansas and other pre-Civil War levels of violence.

      The classic story for American primary students that illustrates the pre-Civil War tensions is that you had things like the attack on Charles Sumner. That is, a Democrat congressman Preston Brooks literally assaulted an abolitionist Republican Senator Charles Sumner on the Senate Floor so badly that Sumner nearly died, because of the strength and tone of Sumner’s rhetoric a few days previously during the Senate’s discussion of the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the violence around it I mentioned above. There were protests and demonstrates in multiple cities…to show support for Sumner. Southern politicians recovered some of the pieces of the shattered cane and wore them as jewelry as a mark of solidarity…

      …so, yeah, we aren’t there yet.

      Is there anyone else in addition to David Friedman (BTW, do you prefer David or Dr. Friedman as a form of address on here, since you use your real name?) who’s old enough to comment on personal recollections of the national atmosphere and mood circa 1963-73?

      • psmith says:

        Based Kestenbaum, I think.

      • BTW, do you prefer David or Dr. Friedman as a form of address on here

        I prefer “David Friedman.” David is ambiguous. I don’t object to the use of titles but they don’t seem terribly relevant here.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        David Friedman it is, then, thanks. I didn’t expect you to be particular about titles, but I’ve known enough who were that I thought it would be polite to ask. I am trying (with varying degrees of success) to cultivate manners.

  11. Wander says:

    How would you communicate intelligence to an alien being? Say you were out walking one night and a UFO came down and little green men came out to meet you. Not knowing what sort of senses they used to perceive the world, what do you think is the best method of showing them that you have at least some understanding of reality?

    • sty_silver says:

      pick up a stone, carve this pattern: http://fs5.directupload.net/images/170129/iisg6avq.png into the ground and hope they get it

      • Matthias says:

        Math might be an interesting idea. But that example seems to be 3^2=9? That’s hard to get, if you don’t know the notation. Try enumerating prime numbers instead?

      • Bugmaster says:

        Aliens won’t necessarily know what arrow symbols mean. Try enumerating prime numbers (with dots) or drawing the Pythagorean theorem. When that fails, just pull out your cellphone (slowly ! make no sudden moves) and show them Angry Birds, they’ll get the message.

      • Sanchez says:

        Your use of the arrow there isn’t just human specific; it’s culturally specific. Just a simple line, or whitespace even, might work better.

        There’s a joke mathematicians tell that the answer to this question would be to draw Dynkin diagrams and hope that the aliens had knowledge of at least one of the subjects where they pop up.

    • mnov says:

      Show them my phone.

    • Anonymous says:

      Pick up a branch and wave it at them defensively, to demonstrate tool use.

      Make fire.

      Attempt to show them regular metal items.

      • Aapje says:

        Pick up a branch and wave it at them defensively, to demonstrate tool use.

        It’s preparing to attack, shoot it.

        Make fire.

        It’s preparing to attack, shoot it.

        Attempt to show them regular metal items.

        It’s preparing to attack, shoot it.

        • Anonymous says:

          It’s preparing to attack, shoot it.

          Hey, that’s a good idea! Shooting them will definitely demonstrate both technology and intelligence!

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          It’s preparing to attack, shoot it.

          The alien is wondering if it can have sex with me, if it can kill me, or if it can eat me. In that order.

    • Shiri says:

      Some suggest making this gesture, alternating the direction of the right angle formed after a while. Alternatively drawing a pythagorean triangle with a rock in the sand. This apparently demonstrates some familiarity with mathematics, but I don’t know about that; slow lorises throw their arms up because of some venom gland, and most humans can’t tell the difference there.

      • Loquat says:

        I don’t know about the gesture either – especially since the simpler the gesture, the more likely it could just be some kind of animal behavior like a threat display rather than true intelligence – but drawing a pythagorean triangle seems like a good idea to me. Specifically, I’d draw a 3-4-5 triangle with the appropriate number of dots or hash marks next to each side.

      • Machina ex Deus says:

        It’s Elric of Melniboné, shoot it!

    • J Milne says:

      If you want to show that we’re better than cavemen or ancient egyptians, you could draw the exceptional Dynkin diagrams. It’s hard to imagine graphs having a different representation in other civilisations.

      • Bugmaster says:

        No, it’s super easy to imagine. We draw graphs as circles connected by arrows, but there’s nothing special about that particular notation. Shure, the underlying math is universal, but you won’t have time to hash that out before your dissection.

        • J Milne says:

          Let’s say undirected graphs. I don’t think it’s necessary that your vertex be a circle to be recognised as such, so we’re really talking ‘things’ connected by lines. I think that has as good a chance to be understood as trying to indicate counting with lines or dots, for example. (And I think it has a better chance of being understood than the above poster who tried to represent an exponent.)

          Edit: I am kind of curious if you have some examples in mind of natural-seeming notation for graphs that don’t resemble objects connected by lines.

    • beleester says:

      Not knowing what sort of senses they used to perceive the world, what do you think is the best method of showing them that you have at least some understanding of reality?

      I don’t know if I can account for not having the same senses as me, because for all I know they see through radio waves and the answer is “Go home and start disassembling my radio.”

      But if they share our senses, I would think that the context alone would provide a lot of clues that we’re intelligent. Just looking down at the planet from orbit, with a decent telescope, it shouldn’t take a lot of time to deduce that humans are responsible for, well, everything in civilization. If they encounter me while I’m out walking, we’re probably near a house, or a road, or some other artificial structure that was clearly built for humans. Even the clothes on my back are visibly artificial!

      (Now, this doesn’t provide evidence that humans made those things, maybe they think I’m just the servant of the real intelligence, but that should at least indicate “This is a first contact scenario, not a wild animal, don’t pull out the ray guns.”)

      If there’s no context, like the aliens crash-landed in the middle of the desert, I think the traditional method is to show some sort of math, because that’s universal across cultures. I’d go with writing out a list of perfect squares or prime numbers, in tally marks.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Show several ways of writing numbers. Start with hash marks up to 20. Then do Roman Numerals. Then do binary. Then do plain decimal. Then stick with decimal.

      Show common mathematical operations. Write a list of squares. Write a few pythagorean triples.

      Do a list of the first 20 prime numbers.

      Sketch the periodic table. Aliens will have it arranged differently, but the basic 2-6-10-14 pattern will hold anywhere. If you have any objects on you that you know the chemical composition of, write their element number next to it. Your gold ring is number 79, with some number 78 if platinum included. Your glass of water is two parts number 1 and one part number 8. The glass itself, maybe, is one part number 14 and two parts number 8.

      That got me curious. There are few things I carry around or could easily get that I know the chemical composition of. Maybe I’m forgetting some common examples.

      • Betty Cook says:

        There is an old SF story by H. Beam Piper, Omnilingual, in which human archaeologists are trying to figure out a humanoid but extinct Martian civilization, knowing that there can be no Rosetta Stone, and the breakthrough is when they figure out that they have found a Martian copy of the periodic table.

      • houseboatonstyxb says:

        @ Edward Scizorhands
        > Show several ways of writing numbers. Start with hash marks up to 20. Then do Roman Numerals. Then do binary. Then do plain decimal.

        Bingo, imo.

        > Then stick with decimal.

        No, that might indicate that we’re stuck in the Decimal Age. Better just hand them the rock and wait for them to fill in their example (while you retreat politely). Photographing what they draw, wll at least record important information before they blast us out of existence for, in their terms, handing them a rock and telling them what to do with it

        Or, to proceed at once to the next chapter, start with the Pythagorean Theorem plus V.R.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Cart before the horse.

      If they come out of a UFO to meet humans than they should be far more well equipped to determine if we are intelligent, and how so, than we would should be in communicating this to them.

      Unless they come from another location in the Solar system, in which case they might not be any better than us.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        Or they have some biological differences that make interstellar travel as easy for them as interplanetary travel would be for us.

        I’m thinking here of the Race/Lizards in Harry Turtledove’s Worldwar series, who can develop suspended-animation technology much more easily because they’re cold-blooded and so end up invading Earth with 2000s-level tech. That’s mostly handwaving- but aliens who can hibernate or otherwise endure extremely long voyages could get here much more easily. And if they can also survive long periods of exposure to vacuum, then they could have got into space even earlier…

    • Just plot the prime numbers you know.

      That might even work in every possible universe with intelligent beings recognizable as also intelligent by humans.

    • Murphy says:

      See if they’ll let me on their ship.

      If they do get one of their computers to play doom.

      http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=2158

  12. FacelessCraven says:

    I find myself in need of voluminous high-quality audio to listen to while I work. I’m especially looking for recommendations for fiction or history, though Penny Arcade’s DLC and Aquisitions Incorporated podcasts have been personal favorites in the past. I’m particularly interested in Chinese history at the moment.

  13. Cobraredfox says:

    “Hi there, Muslims worldwide!

    You remember that scary looking guy who tried to recruit your son to strap on a bomb a few months back? You know, the guy who kept ranting that the West was trying to destroy Islam; that secularists, atheists, and crusaders were trying to invade Muslim lands; that the only way to preserve righteousness within the Kingdom of Peace is to fight and die for it?

    He TOTALLY has a point! Fuck you all!

    Sincerely, President Donald J. Trump”

    Four years of this, we’ll be well primed for a new Civil War.

    • suntzuanime says:

      You sure have a weird definition of “invading Muslim lands”.

      • Anonymous says:

        I know, right? It’s rightful Chalcedonian clay.

        • suntzuanime says:

          My point was more that the US is not Muslim land (yet! growth mindset) and that keeping people from entering is the opposite of invading.

          As Acedia alluded to below, there are plenty of things the past couple administrations have done that legitimately would fit the description, so making that point over something like this is bizarre.

          • Anonymous says:

            He probably means the latest round of peacekeeping and war on terror. How that is relevant to the immigration ban, I don’t quite know.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Oh, was there a new thing? I hadn’t heard about Trump doing anything more than continuing Obama’s policies of occasionally sending flying murder robots at people.

          • Anonymous says:

            There isn’t, AFAIK. Same old, same old.

    • Acedia says:

      I’m sure all those dead civilians from Obama’s drones are just water under the bridge.

      • Cobraredfox says:

        Symbols hit hard ]er than death.

        Drone strike a village, they’ll be pissed, and the villagers will demand recompense.

        Burn a Koran, a couple million Afghans take to the streets and set tire fires to block all convoys. Saw it with my own two eyes.

        Shoot, for that matter, you bomb an American convoy in Iraq and kill twenty US soldiers, conservatives will mutter about unfair tactics but just accept it as a price of doing business. Burn an American flag and they start fistfights. Just how humans are hardwired, I guess?

        This public declaration of hostility by Trump had an effect far beyond its scope.

    • Anonymous says:

      Four years of this, we’ll be well primed for a new Civil War.

      Do you have any wealth to bet on this? I could use some extra cash four years from now.

    • akarlin says:

      Trump shows no signs of invading Muslim lands, unlike Hillary or Bush.

      Also why would Muslims want to live under literally Hitler anyway? Surely we should if anything be grateful to Trump for sparing them from that terrible, terrible fate.

      Good luck on the civil war. The Army loves Trump, and Red America has most of the guns.

    • AnonEEmous says:

      So just to clarify: we’re trying to destroy Islam by

      what?

      Notice how only Muslims are ever given this type of courtesy. With everyone else, it’s understood that a freeze in relations with a country is not going to lead to a bunch of terrorists existing suddenly. If you can’t handle not being let into a country that supposedly hates you and has values diametrically opposite to yours… then fuck off. I don’t want to see what other things you can’t handle.

      • Cobraredfox says:

        What, I’m responsible for defending enemy propaganda now?

        Islamists will exploit this using similar rhetoric to what I described. Trump played into their narrative. It was stupid and made the world worse without making anybody safer.

        It was a dumb move, designed to appeal to his base at the cost to US influence worldwide.

        • Matt M says:

          Islamists will exploit this using similar rhetoric to what I described. Trump played into their narrative. It was stupid and made the world worse without making anybody safer.

          When Salon writes articles criticizing the pro-life movement, are they playing directly into the hands of abortion clinic bombers and making all of us less safe?

        • Synonym Seven says:

          Islamists will exploit this using similar rhetoric to what I described. Trump played into their narrative.

          Anything can play into a narrative. That’s why it’s a narrative.

          In an alternate reality, President Antitrump just offered all travellers from those countries expedited customs processing and a free first-class upgrade. This plays into the alternate-ISIS narrative of “the decadent west continues to bribe good Muslims, offering these turncoats such luxurious riches as a devil’s temptation away from the ‘true path’ [as we see it] of Islam”.

          The other side’s narrative – distinct from the actual fundamental members of the “other side” – should be towards the bottom of your vast list of concerns. Trump at least gets this. It’s unfortunate that he completely doesn’t get the social nuances of the human factor (how do you turn a spy into a double agent? You don’t torture him into capitulation, you don’t even give him a Hobson’s choice of “you can either work for us or else be tortured/starved to death” – you offer him a better life working for you), but hey, at least it’s a start.

        • Nyx says:

          Got it, we should never ever criticize Islam because that would play into the hands of Radical Islam. In addition, we should never criticize Christianity (that would play into the hands of Dominionists), white people (white nationalists), Jews (ultra-Zionists), black people (NOI), the welfare state (Marxist-Leninists), or journalists (Piers Morgan).

    • Matt M says:

      Presuming that Muslims will inevitably react to criticism with violence and terrorism is racist and Islamophobic.

    • Sandy says:

      Pretty amazing how Jews (and/or Israelis) are flat-out banned from entering some Muslim countries but they haven’t responded by entering anyway and running over Muslims with trucks in Riyadh and Tehran.

      But if you do that to Muslims, it’s pretty much taken for granted that they’ll respond with terrorism, and people think this indicates something other than the fucking barbarism of the Islamic world.

      Does anyone here seriously think that if Trump said “Immigration from India is now shut down until we can figure out what the hell’s going on”, American Hindus would respond by bombing public places? Why is it that so many queue up to serve as apologists for Muslim terrorism when it wouldn’t be acceptable from any other group?

      • hyperboloid says:

        How many Muslims countries actually ban Jews from receiving visas?

        I know Saudi Arabia doesn’t, you can travel there with an Israeli stamp on your passport, though I do suspect you will get dirty looks from the customs people.

        Nobody takes it for granted that “Muslims” collectively are going to start committing acts of violence because they can not travel to the US. It’s just that there is large groups of extremists who have been arguing that the US is waging war against Islam. And frankly given how many Muslims have been killed by US policy in the middle east it’s not hard to see where someone wold get that idea.

        Trump’s policies throw fuel on the fire, and make it hard for Muslims now fighting groups like Daesh and Al Qaeda to do their jobs.

        people think this indicates something other than the fucking barbarism of the Islamic world.

        Really? You want to go there? Because as we all know, no Hindu has ever committed an act of religious violence.

        • Sandy says:

          According to the International Air Transport Association, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, the UAE, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Iran and several other Muslim countries all refuse admission and transit to anyone with an Israeli passport (anyone can get an Israeli stamp on a non-Israeli passport, that doesn’t mean you’re Jewish).

          There was also a minor row (mostly swept under the rug) a little while back when a Jewish reporter (who was not Israeli) in Obama’s press corps was denied entry to Saudi when Obama traveled there.

          Really? You want to go there? Because as we all know, no Hindu has ever committed an act of religious violence.

          Absolutely, Hindus have committed acts of religious violence. But I’m not sure you’re the one who wants to delve into the details of religious violence, because I can guarantee you that Islamic violence in India and against India dwarfs all other forms of religious violence by every other group combined by a massive degree.

          Modi was banned from entering the United States for years before he became Prime Minister. Did his supporters start planting bombs in Times Square? America has been an ally of Pakistan since the Cold War. Have Hindus responded by killing Americans?

          • hyperboloid says:

            There is a pretty clear difference between baning citizens of a country you don’t recognize, and banning all members of a particular religious group . (In fairness to Trump, he is not actually banning Muslims per say from travailing to the US, just citizens of certain countries.)

            The reporter in question worked for the Jerusalem Post, which I think was probably the source of the problem.

            And at any rate, the Israeli example kind of makes my point for me. I don’t think the IDF’s
            periodic tendency to reign destruction on some parts of the Islamic world is completely unrelated to the hostile treatment Jews have often received from Muslims.

            If the Muslim world wanted to do something for the Palestinians, reassuring the average Israeli that Muslims are not plaining to wipe them out might not be such a bad idea.

            I can guarantee you that Islamic violence in India and against India dwarfs all other forms of religious violence by every other group combined by a massive degree.

            If we’re back dating things to the Mughals, I don’t doubt it. But I don’t think that’s particularity relevant to this situation.

            America has been an ally of Pakistan since the Cold War. Have Hindus responded by killing Americans?

            There is no practical reason for Hindu extremists to attack the United States, it just wouldn’t make strategic sense. Salafist- Jihadi radicals on the other hand have cynically calculated that the only way they can advance their cause amongst a mostly unsympathetic population is to provoke violence between western countries and the Islamic world, that way they can position themselves as the defenders of the Umma.

            It is a truly despicable strategy, and one that we should not play into. The vast majority of victims of Islamic terrorism are Muslims, the people risking the most to fight it are Muslims. This is a kind of civil war within their society; by designating the whole of the Muslim world as barbaric those who preach a clash of civilizations are effectively doing the work of our enemies.

          • rlms says:

            “I can guarantee you that Islamic violence in India and against India dwarfs all other forms of religious violence by every other group combined by a massive degree.”
            Do you mean that the sum of Islamist violence both in and against India dwarfs other forms, or that the sums of Islamist violence in and against dwarf other forms in their respective categories? If the second, what are you basing that on? By searching “India” on this site, I count two Islamist groups with 183 casualties in India, and at least three Christian groups with 265 casualties (NLFT, NSCN).

          • because I can guarantee you that Islamic violence in India and against India dwarfs all other forms of religious violence by every other group combined by a massive degree.

            I can’t find a total figure for Muslim casualties during the partition of India into India and Pakistan, but for one part of it I’m seeing estimates in the Wiki article of from 200,000 to 800,000. Large numbers of Hindus killed as well, of course, but I don’t think those numbers are consistent with your claim.

          • quanta413 says:

            By searching “India” on this site, I count two Islamist groups with 183 casualties in India, and at least three Christian groups with 265 casualties (NLFT, NSCN).

            Are you sure you’re using that table right? I think the “country” block in the table is where the group is based not where they commit their attacks. Are you intending to count where groups are based not where they attack?

            Lashkar-E-Taiba killed 164 people and wounded 308 in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, but they are based in Pakistan so they’re listed under “Pakistan” in the table. And if you filter for “India” they don’t even appear as a group. Just looking at this random article with a timeline of major news events, you get way past 183 casualties due to Muslim terrorists in India since 1998. http://www.ibtimes.com/major-terrorist-attacks-india-over-last-20-years-timeline-1752731

            It is perhaps still possible that Christian terrorist groups have killed more people in India, but I’m pretty sure you need to be more careful how you count. And that’d probably be the wrong measure anyways. There are way more Muslims than Christians in India unless my memory is totally failing me.

          • rlms says:

            Yes, that’s why I asked what Sandy was referring too. It is possible that Islamist attacks against India from other countries might dwarf other religiously-motivated attacks from other countries (although that is surely to a large extent because it has intense geopolitical enmity with a neighbouring Muslim state, rather than e.g. a Christian or Buddhist one), but if they’re also claiming that Islamist attacks from within India dwarf other religious attacks from within India then that table is evidence against that.

            If measuring terrorism relative to population proportions is the sensible thing to do, then that greatly weakens the case for “overwhelming Islamist violence”, since as you suggest there are about 5-7x as many Indian Christians as Muslims. Side note: looking at the Wikipedia page of Indian religious demographics, it seems that there are more Indian Christians than Sikhs. That is very surprising to me, probably because British Indian immigrants are disproportionately Sikhs.

  14. Markus Ramikin says:

    I think I might owe money to someone, but I can’t remember who. Send me an email about it and I’ll pay up.

    Now what could possibly go wrong with that!

    • Anonymous says:

      Spartacus?

    • Aapje says:

      Hello Scott, I am a Nigerian prince and you owe me $10k.

      Sincerely,

      Prince Awukabelelelelele Mwkakambe

      • Synonym Seven says:

        ATTENTION SCOTT: IMPORTANT, PLEASE READ, DO NOT IGNORE THIS COMMENT!!

        I’m sure you are well-aware that there are many scammers who proclaim to be former or current royal figures of African nations, especially Nigeria. I will be happy to investigate the claims made by the above user, Aapje, and report back to you on the veracity of his claims, for the very low fee of one thousand US dollars. I am sure you will agree this is a fair price, and should these claims prove legitimate, you stand to reap a substantial blessing in future dealings.

        SCOTT PLEASE STOP READING NOW, DO NOT READ, IGNORE THIS SCOTT:

        Aapje, $1K to become a Platinum-tier Prince. Many thanks in advance.

  15. akarlin says:

    Did the Arbital predictions.

    (1) As people pointed out in SA’s previous threads, some of the questions are phrased badly (e.g. “will look more worse than better”) and will be hard to falsify.

    (2) Most people think there is a 40% chance that Syria’s civil war will end in 2017. Really?

    People also seem to be overweighing Le Pen’s prospects – twice burned (on Brexit and Trump), thrice shy?

    This is more speculative, but I am considerably more optimistic on Trump’s future approval ratings – I suspect they will begin to soar this year as the MSM narrative sinks under its own lies and Trump Derangement Syndrome, and even skeptics will begin to see that he is a man of action, someone who is serious about draining the swamp and making America great again.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      He doesn’t even want anyone to say “drain the swamp” anymore.

      The MSM is not lying when they say his plans seem vague, poorly thought out, frequently with very unwanted and highly foreseeable consequences, and in some cases illegal or unconstitutional. Then he goes and proves them right.

      I’m not seeing it.

      • quanta413 says:

        Agreed. I only wish the media would apply the same level of scrutiny and perhaps even overreaction when we get fucked by the normal “respectable” presidents we’ve had up until now. Doing illegal and unconstitutional things is par for the course with respect to the surveillance state and has been since at least the 1960s, but all we’ve got is the occasional media flare up and Glenn Greenwald kind of at the fringes. And our foreign policy is routinely morally more questionable than anything trump has managed so far, yet it draws much less aggressive scrutiny. The media seems to consistently drop the ball every time the U.S. invades or bombs a country.

      • cassander says:

        >The MSM is not lying when they say his plans seem vague, poorly thought out, frequently with very unwanted and highly foreseeable consequences, and in some cases illegal or unconstitutional. Then he goes and proves them right.

        That’s true, but it’s equally true of every other politician’s plans before they become legislation. And often after.

    • sflicht says:

      Do you think the 20% betting odds on Le Pen are reasonable? (electionbettingodds.com)

    • The Nybbler says:

      Most people think there is a 40% chance that Syria’s civil war will end in 2017. Really?

      Is that so impossible, with the US and Russia both backing Assad, as I expect will happen?

      • Anonymous says:

        You regard Assad winning as bad? What?

      • akarlin says:

        Okay, fair enough, but many things have to happen and work out just right in the next 11 months for this to happen.

        (1) Since it is at permanent war with all other factions, Islamic State should be completely eradicated from Syrian territory. Palmyra shouldn’t be a problem, but taking Raqqa and cleaning up Deir ez-Zor are both going to be grinding affairs.

        (2) The Idlib rebels will have to reach a new confederative deal with the Damascus government, but that means they will have to unite and universally accede to said deal and enforce it upon their maximalist elements. Given that they are already tipping over into a mini civil war, that is almost certainly out of the question. The more hardcore factions – so now, essentially, Al-Sham – are likely to come out on top in this struggle, at which point the war with the Syrian government will resume in earnest. But I don’t see this happening for at least a few more months.

        (3) All the other minor rebel pockets will have to be reintegrated or cleaned up.

        (4) Last but not least, some kind of deal has to be reached with Rojava. That is a whole other kettle of fish. Damascus is not particularly keen on recognizing their autonomy, and the Turks very much agree on that!

        (5) Speaking of the Turks, they must also not “backstab” Syria and Russia; should that happen, the SAA’s position around Aleppo will turn sour very, very quickly. I very much doubt they will, but Erdogan is the quintessential opportunist, so nothing can be completely excluded.

        Although many of these conditions will be satisfied, it seems rather unlikely that all of them will be.

    • Nyx says:

      “he is a man of action, someone who is serious about draining the swamp and making America great again.”

      If only being “serious” was sufficient to solve all the various problems America faces.

      • houseboatonstyxb says:

        “he is a man of action, someone who is serious about draining the swamp and making America great again.”

        Or about breaking eggs, anyway.

  16. rks says:

    Does a head of an executive branch in a liberal democracy have an ethical obligation to cater to those who voted against him/her?
    Or he/she doesn’t and can enforce policies of any level of punishment to those people as long as his/her constituents are doing fine?
    Or does it depend on the voter ratios where if, for instance, backing electorate > 50% of the total population than the minority can be thrown under the bus?
    If the electorate > 50% of the total voters (but less than 50% of the total population)?
    If it’s just a legal victory with the total backers comprising 20% of the total population?

    In general, is compromise with the opposing electorate something inherent to the system or not?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Or he/she doesn’t and can enforce policies of any level of punishment to those people as long as his/her constituents are doing fine?

      I would say this is decidedly out-of-bounds.

      Working to implement your preferred policies is fine. Making those policies deleterious or advantageous based solely in political affiliation is not.

      Machine politics, as an example, is considered to have been effective at maintaining control of government, but also is considered to be corrupt by its very nature

    • Anonymous says:

      In general, is compromise with the opposing electorate something inherent to the system or not?

      Not really. The philosophers around the time of the resurgence of democracy in the west attempted to shoehorn minority rights into the deal, after the disaster of the French Republics, but it doesn’t really mesh well with the whole majority rule thing. It’s like an exception to the general rule. And if people forget why that feature is there, they tend to discard it as not fitting the democratic system.

      • rks says:

        Assuming the rulers are supported by the majority.
        In the hypothetical 3-party, winner-takes-all democracy we can consistently have the rulers supported by the 30% of the population but who are still able to impose their rules onto the other 70%.
        It seems wise to compromise but if the ruler is arrogant enough and the check-and-balances institutions are weak we can have a democratic tyranny of minority.

      • reytes says:

        This is pretty classically the tension between liberalism and democracy, yeah. Like, this is why it’s useful to keep in mind that liberal principles and democratic principles are not necessarily the same thing

    • geekethics says:

      I’d say compromise with the opposition isn’t supposed to be part of the system, likewise trying to second guess the outcome of the election/composition of the legislature by acting differently according to the details of the electoral arithmetic.

      What’s supposed to be part of the system is a set of restrictions of what the executive can do that applies regardless of how popular they are, and regardless of what the opposition thinks about it. You’re not supposed to be able to hurt the opposition, because you’re not supposed to be able to hurt minorities. You do have to cater to the opposition in so far as the executive must treat them equally under the law.

      The point of a good constitution is “if one party gets all their policy to the full extent permitted and the other side gets nothing can this make a disaster happen”.

    • Deiseach says:

      Does a head of an executive branch in a liberal democracy have an ethical obligation to cater to those who voted against him/her?

      You’re the governor of the entire nation, you are supposed to govern the entire populace, and to do it impartially – you may have a policy that you think is in the best interests of all that the opposition thinks is a bad policy, but you don’t get to implement policies that are blatantly “this rewards my friends and punishes my enemies”. I wouldn’t say “catering to”, as that can sound like cynical bribery, but if those who voted against you ask for something or need something, you need to consider it on the same grounds as if it were asked for or needed by those who voted for you.

      You do have an obligation to the nation to rule as fairly as you can and not to pick out any scapegoats or screw people over because you don’t like them.

      • cassander says:

        >You do have an obligation to the nation to rule as fairly as you can and not to pick out any scapegoats or screw people over because you don’t like them.

        What if you think they’re the problem? Say you’re a reformist mayor who wants to crack down on corruption, so you fire a bunch of the most corrupt people in the most corrupt department? Is that ok? What if you just take the most corrupt department, fire everyone, and start over from scratch on the grounds that that’s easier than reforming an existing institution? What if it’s not the most corrupt department, just a normal department, but you do it because you’re not powerful enough to take on the most corrupt department successfully and you still want to do something?

        Every policy affects someone negatively. how do you separate dealing with the problem from scapegoating?

        • Deiseach says:

          It’s not scapegoating if the guys you fire really are corrupt or are part of the bad old way of “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”.

          It’s scapegoating if you campaign on an anti-corruption platform, get elected, then get a list of everyone working in Department L and fire everyone whose surname begins with the letters P-S and claim “I’ve clamped down on corruption, I’ve cleared out the rotten apples!”

          • cassander says:

            Right, but how do you distinguish between firing everyone named steve and firing everyone in a random department, when the criteria isn’t as completely arbitrary as everyone named steve? Particularly from the outside?

    • Kevin C. says:

      Have you ever heard of the Curley Effect?

  17. meltedcheesefondue says:

    I thought I’d share it with people here. An attempt to weave together strands from Eliezer’s fun theory, Scott’s Archipelagio, and various ideas about post human life and societies.

    It starts with the death of the main character, and moves forwards from there.

    http://lesswrong.com/lw/od6/the_adventure_a_new_utopia_story/

    Since it was originally posted during Christmas:

    Hark! the herald daemons spam,
    Glory to the newborn World,
    Joyful, all post-humans, rise,
    Join the triumph of the skies.

    Veiled in wire the Godhead see,
    Built that man no more may die,
    Built to raise the sons of earth,
    Built to give them second birth.

  18. talus says:

    So what happened with that FDA guy? As far as I can tell the position is still open?

  19. Chilam Balam says:

    It seems that Trump did not run the immigration executive order pass the office of Legal Council, which interprets the law for the executive brach, nor by the National Security Council, which previously under Bush and Obama looked over executive orders relating to these areas. DHS and DoJ only got to look at this on Friday. It seems like every airport interpreted the ruling differently, and I don’t see the political benefit of having this not only apply to new entrants, but people who were already permanent residents. Banning students and spouses who left seems hardly fair, nor like they are great threats to America.

    Overall, this has not given me confidence in the administration’s administrative capabilities.

    • Sandy says:

      Sessions hasn’t been confirmed yet. Theoretically, the administration’s capabilities for this sort of stuff should improve once that happens.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Do any of the Trump supporters here think that this order went well / was some kind of 8-dimensional chess? Or does everyone just think Trump screwed up the execution?

      • Sandy says:

        I think Trump hurried through it without coordinating with agencies or smoothing out any of the kinks (like the green card holders) just so he could kind of say, “See, I delivered on my promise as soon as I could” or something like that. Hopefully he and/or Bannon will learn from this; immigration enforcement seems to be generally on his side, so there’s no excuse for a lack of coordination.

      • Matt M says:

        Withholding judgment for now. I’m still expecting at some point for Trump to “walk back” the green cards thing, propose a “compromise” that is a lot less strict than this, but probably more strict than anything the left would have imagined accepting a few months ago, and for the left to gleefully accept it, declare victory, and pat themselves on the back for having “successfully defied Trump.”

        If none of that happens and things just go back to the pre-Trump status quo, it’s a massive failure.

        The only other thing I would note is that if we frame this as the judicial department preventing Trump from imposing the immigration controls he promised and framed as necessary and there IS, eventually, some sort of terrorist attack that can even remotely be traced to any of these nations, that’ll be a yuge political win for Trump, which he will milk for all that it’s worth.

      • geekethics says:

        I interpret this as Trump throwing something at the wall. If he can bully people into pretending it’s legal he wins. If not he tries again with something a bit more legal. In the mean time the agents on the ground are going to defer to him, so the law as enforced will always by the most favourable to trump it can be.

      • James Miller says:

        I think Scott Adams is right that it helps Trump solve the political problem of “his supporters on the right want more immigration control than he can (or should) deliver while his many critics on the left want far less.” As Adams says “Trump’s temporary immigration ban set a mental anchor in your brain that is frankly shocking. It will make his eventual permanent immigration plan (”extreme vetting”) look tame by comparison. ”

        This is a symbolic gesture that will appease his anti-immigration base, and make it easier for swing voters to accept his eventual plan. The outrage that the order is generating helps with both goals. Immigration is an issue that helps Republicans, so doing something symbolic that causes immigration to dominate the news is politically smart.

        • Anonymousse says:

          It will make his eventual…plan…look tame by comparison.

          He’s been doing this for months. Does this strategy have any fatigue such that its effectiveness will plateau?

      • reytes says:

        I think Trump critics are about equally likely – if not more so – to ascribe it to 8-dimensional chess as Trump supporters.

        The other thing I wanted to say was that the confrontation that appears to be imminent between the judicial and executive branches worries me quite a bit as well, and seems like an important thing to take into account in any 11-dimensional-chess theories.

        ETA because I thought of another thing: if you believe the reports that Bannon intervened to overrule a DHS interpretation of the Executive Order and specifically ensure that the law applied to permanent green card holders, it seems hard to read it as an administrative error or something. I don’t know.

        • Chilam Balam says:

          Yes. I do not like the images we are seeing of U.S. Marshalls having to force C.B.P. officials to comply with a federal court order.

          • Deiseach says:

            On the other hand, I get very ironic feelings about this given the level of punitive malice about forcing Kim Davis to comply with the letter of the law (to the point of cheering about her going to jail).

            Either state officials at whatever level get no leeway or freedom of conscience, they have to implement the law as written regardless of their own feelings, beliefs or interpretations or else, or they do get freedom of conscience. This is all part of that “be careful what you wish for” warnings – the left wanted punishment of those who would not be obedient rule-followers, they got it, now what do they expect?

          • reytes says:

            @Deiseach: I think there are two separate things here – there’s the question of whether or not officials should enforce the Trump executive order (which, I agree, is comparable to the Kim Davis situation), and there’s the question of whether or not officials should obey a court order staying them from enforcing the Trump executive order. And in this particular subthread we were talking about the latter question. So I’m not sure how relevant the Kim Davis situation is in this specific context.

          • Chilam Balam says:

            @Deiseach

            I think I understand what you mean, but I don’t agree the situations are exactly comparable in the way I understand you. Correct me if I am wrong.

            If I recall the Kim Davis case correctly, she was refusing to follow a court ruling, and here again, I am talking about how there have been reports that CBP officials at Dulles and Houston refused to follow the Federal Court order putting a stay on U.S. green card holders being denied entrance, and apparently Federal Marshals were involved . In both cases, I support government employees following court orders.

        • rlms says:

          It’s ridiculous to suggest that Trump is playing 11-dimensional chess. Eight dimensions is plausible, and I could even believe nine at a push, but eleven is too many.

        • BBA says:

          Trump does not play chess. He beats up the chess team and steals their lunch money.

        • lycotic says:

          I agree that opponents, like me, are pretty likely to ascribe this to chess rather than incompetence.

          All of this plays just too perfectly into the narrative. The order was aimed to avoid hurt anyone important to Trump, but otherwise bite as hard as possible (by, say, coming unwarned and affecting green card holders). But those liberal universities and tech companies whining about their postdocs and employees are just gravy.

          The administration made clear that they weren’t trying to make sure that the order passed legal scrutiny — the fact that it was always going to be struck down by activist courts was part of the plan. Thus Giuliani’s statement that it was always intended to be a Muslim ban wasn’t a gaffe, despite the holes it picks in the legal defense of the order. It was merely completing the signalling.

          The sheer dodginess of this is the point — it increases the heated response, and thus the heated blowback. The point is setting stuff in flames.

          In order to believe the above narrative, you have to believe that Trump (or Bannon) never cared about making this work, but merely cared about inflicting the maximal harm on a group that would only be defended by liberals. This puts him as almost cartoonishly evil, but the sheer incompetence required by the other theory is also mindboggling.

          • Nornagest says:

            If Trump was trying to hurt a group that would only be defended by liberals, I can think of a half-dozen ways to do more damage off the top of my head. This policy looks to be tailored more for buzz and short-term inconvenience: compare Black Lives Matter protests shutting down freeways.

            What I’m having a harder time figuring out is what that buzz is supposed to fuel. If you’re a protest group, almost anything that gets your name in the papers is good, because that helps set the agenda. If you’re the President, you already have your hands on the levers of power, so what gives? The policy’s doomed, and even a modified version is going to be radioactive for a while. The “this is a distraction” theory makes more sense, but what does he need a distraction for? Appointments are the main thing on the agenda at this stage, but he’s not going to have any trouble getting those in.

            Maybe this was a boundary-testing exercise: try to drop something really out there and see how much pushback it gets, then use that to estimate how much you can get away with. A conventional politician wouldn’t need that, because a conventional politician would already have an intuitive feel for it. But Trump is not conventional.

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        His administration probably messed up the implementation, and did so unintentionally.

        But IMO that actually looks like a good thing long term because it will likely cause a confrontation between Trump and the Judiciary.

        Right now, American courts are one of (if not the) the biggest obstacles to real reform remaining. Like the media, their power comes solely from the reverence other people have for them and the continued willingness of the populace to pretend that they are impartial. And like the media, the best way to strip them of that power is to publicly defy them and win anyway.

        President Trump hung a picture of Andrew Jackson in the Oval Office, and I don’t see a Jacksonian “John Roberts has made his decision; now let him enforce it!” as being beyond the pale. As long as the military and federal police remain on the President’s side it doesn’t matter a whit whether or not the courts think a given executive order is constitutional.

        The biggest danger is that the Congressional GOP will take this as an opportunity to undo the 2016 primary result and put Pence or Ryan in as President instead. But that would take a lot more spine than they’ve ever shown before.

      • He had to have messed up. Writing an executive order, which is immediately legally challenged, having to make exceptions, and throwing your federal bureaucrats into confusion, can’t be a good strategy. Even for a hard first bargain.

        I’ve mostly rationalized his choices in the past, but I’m also concerned that people are viewing him as a larger-than-life strategic genius. Rather than a 70 year old CEO who has a set of strategic heuristic tools that he is really good at using.

        Thankfully for him, progressive moralizers, actors, and tech CEOs are backing him up on this one with their continuous, never-ending insanity, which helps convince everyone who likes Trump that it’s the right choice.

        Even I initially was supporting the proposal, based on the fact that people I can’t stand strongly opposed it, until I stopped and realized that’s not actually a good reason to think anything, and the order itself is not optimal.

      • AnonEEmous says:

        i’m hearing Bannon overruled cooler heads. Now cooler heads are winning out, possibly as a result of a judge granting a stay on part of the executive order

      • The Nybbler says:

        (I’m a “Trump supporter” in that I preferred him over Hillary, not that I supported him in an absolute sense)

        1) A draft of the order was leaked to the press on Thursday, so I don’t even believe the DOJ and DHS didn’t see it until Friday.

        2) Some of the complaints, like that it didn’t define “entry” (a term used a lot in the statutes, including the one authorizing this order) and that it wasn’t clear if it applied to permanent residents (it was; it does) seem specious, and were possibly either by people trying to push back or simply taken aback by the scope of the order.

        3) I do think the order was hastily drafted and I’d like to think that had he thought it through, it would have been slightly narrower. But maybe he’s exactly as petty and cruel as the order seems. We’ll see; if he rather easily backs off on the permanent resident thing, he’s slightly less cruel (and about as cruel as I’d expect). If he also backs off on other long-term visas, he’s less cruel than I would expect.

        I think the order was neither screwed-up nor multi-dimensional chess; it was him checking off the “Muslim ban” box in a manner which was expedient for him. There might be a little bit of “chess” involved in that he might have identified those who will be problems at DHS by seeing who tried to soften the order, but I wouldn’t swear this was deliberate.

      • suntzuanime says:

        Seems like a fuckup to me. He’s at war with the bureaucracy and draining the swamp, but the bureaucracy is there to help keep you from making fuckups like this.

      • I’m not a Trump supporter and I don’t think the order was good for the country, but I am uncertain whether or not it was good for Trump. One reading of his tactics through the election is that he was deliberately doing things that would infuriate the opposition because their reaction would solidify his support. This could be more of the same.

  20. Matt M says:

    I’d like to have a discussion about the online etiquette of “getting the last word.” (This came up in a recent OT, but I’ve actually been thinking about it for longer, I swear)

    On a different site, where I am very much in the ideological minority, I am often declared to have lost various arguments because, at a certain point, I just walk away. After some amount of back and forth, I say to myself in my head “It’s clear we’re talking past each other, we’ve all made some good points, the discussion has ran it’s course, I’ll just stop responding.” Apparently this is frequently interpreted as, “Aha! You didn’t respond to User X’s last point, therefore you obviously have no response, therefore you concede the superiority of his position!” I find this to be uncharitable and unfair, but on the other hand, also a somewhat logically reasonable assumption.

    Some people try to get ahead of this with posts like “I’m leaving now and letting you have the last word” but I always saw that as kinda passive aggressive. Like it’s almost pointless virtue signaling. Letting someone have the last word, to me, means simply walking away. If you make a big show of “I’M WALKING AWAY NOW” that doesn’t impress me much. On the other hand, if you don’t do that, apparently people assume you just lost the argument. So to defend the virtues of your position, you are apparently obligated to continue posting until infinity so long as any one person continues to reply. That doesn’t seem quite right either.

    I would suggest this is a bigger problem for an ideological minority on any given venue, because they are more likely to have multiple people making multiple counter-arguments against them at once, such that it’s difficult and time-consuming to keep up with everything. If the only way to “win” is to constantly provide rebuttals to every single point raised against you, that’s easy to do when you’re part of 10 people arguing against 1, but incredibly difficult when you’re the 1 fending off challenges from 10.

    Does anyone have any thoughts on this? Solutions?

    • Anonymous says:

      Solutions?

      Stop giving a damn what other people think. Or at least those who treat you unfairly and uncharitably.

      If the only way to “win” is to constantly provide rebuttals to every single point raised against you, that’s easy to do when you’re part of 10 people arguing against 1, but incredibly difficult when you’re the 1 fending off challenges from 10.

      There are no winners in the special olympics. What you might consider is instead of arguing to win – which is impossible – instead try to argue such that neutral spectators will be inclined to be convinced to your side, rather than your opponents’.

    • Sandy says:

      There’s no cure for getting irritated by the internet other than to stop getting irritated by the internet. Just stop thinking you need to defend your honor against online strangers by arguing endlessly.

    • Urstoff says:

      Don’t worry about “winning” an argument, because it doesn’t matter.

    • Error says:

      The custom on LW is (was?) “tapping out“, and I always found it one of LW’s better customs.

      It probably doesn’t work on a forum so epistemically bankrupt that it considers silence equivalent to surrender, though. If your company treats argument as a battle rather than a mutual search for truth, you may want to find better company.

      • Matt M says:

        “The analogy comes from the practice of “tapping out” from a sparring match when one is tired, or at risk of injury, or has simply had one’s fill.”

        Seems like a bad analogy. In MMA (or pro wrestling), tapping out is essentially equivalent to “I give up, you win, please stop hurting me now!”

        • Synonym Seven says:

          Well, yeah, but a “slam dunk” is only worth two points – easily bested by the three-point shot or the “plus one”, and trickier to execute than an uncontested layup or free-throw, and leaves you open to a goal-neutralizing charging or blocking foul in a way that a regular field goal shot does not. Yet none of this seems to impede the understood meaning of a “slam-dunk argument”.

      • suntzuanime says:

        It definitely doesn’t work if you spend multiple paragraphs calling your interlocutor a horrible racist in the same post where you tap out.

    • Wrong Species says:

      The thing is that rarely does a heated argument end with one conceding to another. If one person hands down what looks like a slam dunk argument and the other person goes completely silent, it’s not unreasonable to assume that they don’t know how to dispute your argument.

      I think announcing your intention ahead of time is the best solution. Don’t say something abnoxious about “letting them have the last word”. Just give a strong reply to their last point and say: “I’m getting tired of this argument and it doesn’t look like I’m changing your mind. I’m out.” And then try to avoid checking for any replies.

      • Two of my father’s comments related to the issue of winning arguments:

        The objective is not to persuade the other person. It is to give him the arguments with which he may later persuade himself.

        Anyone you can persuade in one argument isn’t worth persuading–someone else will persuade him back the other way in the next argument.

        • Wrong Species says:

          Those are good points. I’m pretty sure I’ve never changed my mind over a big issue with one argument. The worst is probably someone getting me to shut up for a while. People are so used to treating debates as a war that they refuse to accept anything less than total surrender which will probably never come. If you can get someone to concede at least one of your points, you’ve accomplished something.

        • Chimpacabra says:

          If you’re arguing on some sort of public internet discussion board, you also have the possibility of convincing other people who are reading your arguments though not participating in the discussion. Given the 90-9-1 rule for estimating the number of lurkers/occasional contributors/frequent contributors on various sorts of social media sites, you can expect that the number of people reading any sort of post made on a public discussion board is much higher than the number of active participants in the discussion. I suspect many people participating in public discussion boards do not realize just how many people are reading their posts but not responding to them.

    • BBA says:

      On this note, I’d like to apologize for my conduct on the last thread. There are some matters that I cannot discuss rationally with those who don’t share my moral framework, and this is not the proper forum for my moral-but-irrational beliefs.

      (I’m not apologizing for my beliefs, though.)

    • suntzuanime says:

      My thoughts are that this is a bigger problem in real life than online. Online arguments take place asynchronously, and none of us can devote every second of every hour of every day to arguing about politics, so if one stops responding, it’s entirely plausible that one was simply called away by the demands of the real world. Further, since the norms of asynchronous argument are different, continuing fighting when you have no more new points to make, or only weak tertiary new points to make, looks petty and actually undercuts you in a way that it wouldn’t IRL.

      Remember that the goal of an argument is not to get the other side to give in, but to advance the social position of your ideas, which is achieved by A) persuading onlookers and B) making the other side feel like they got the worse of it, such that they will hold back from challenging your ideas in the future. Neither of these requires an actual surrender on the part of the other side. So if you’ve made good points, and your interlocutor has looked flailing and foolish, don’t feel like you’ve lost an argument just because you didn’t get the other side to agree with you.

      • Matt M says:

        So if you’ve made good points, and your interlocutor has looked flailing and foolish, don’t feel like you’ve lost an argument just because you didn’t get the other side to agree with you.

        Right, I generally agree with this. And *I* don’t usually feel like I lost. But the other side runs gleeful victory laps anyway and I suppose my concern is that onlookers might shrug and believe them.

        • suntzuanime says:

          Well, sometimes they’ll leave themselves open for cutting mockery in the process of their victory laps, but usually you just have to trust to the discernment of the onlookers.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          Matt. You said this occurs when you are very much in the minority. I suspect the lurkers are probably in about the same proportion of ideology, so it is unlikely they will agree with you. All you can hope for in that case is put some doubt in their minds that may sometime result in changing their ideas a bit on the margins. So it is likely they will be running victory laps — you just hope that is only on the surface.

          Arguing politics only makes sense if you play the long game; unless making points with no effect on others is your goal. Even on the SSC, where we are civil enough that people often agree that others are making a good point in opposition, I don’t see anyone changing their points of view. I think my mind is changed by arguments I hear, but only very marginally in the short run, and more substantially after I have thought about it, and probably also hear more good arguments given in slightly different form. When 90% of the good arguments one hears are from the opposition, I think most folks will waver after a while. But it takes time, as it should, because it is best when we have thought about our original beliefs enough that they can be refuted only with overwhelming evidence.

    • liskantope says:

      Yes, I’ve seen this issue and several variants of it play out online. I’m not sure I have a practical solution, but I have a “solution” in the abstract epistemic sense of the word. In an argument, one side may be more valid on the object level but may have more difficulty expressing their views effectively due to circumstances beyond their control (e.g. they’re outnumbered 10 to 1). It is possible in this way to have better arguments on your side while still losing the debate, so these circumstances, which are independent of which side is actually right, must be taken into account when evaluating how the debate went. If feasible, a set of meta-level rules (or at least ideals to strive towards) should be set up in order to bring debate performance outcomes closer to reflecting whose side actually has better arguments.

      The best practical solution may be to try to express this while arguing. Obviously it shouldn’t have to be anything as wordy or halfway-incomprehensible as my paragraph above, but maybe just “I’m sorry, I can’t get all of my points across and it becomes exhausting when there are 10 of you all arguing with me at once.” If they are rational and intellectually honest enough, they should understand that this difficulty is independent from the rightness/wrongness of your stance on the topic.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I really don’t see an issue with saying “Here is the last I will say on this” and then not responding to arguments.

      I do think it is highly annoying to he in a conversation, to be repeatedly challenged to address supposed weak points in your argument, to then spend effort to address those points, and then have the other party simply go silent.

      As to the specific term “tapping out” I don’t believe it has the specivic meaning here that it apparently did at LW. I interpreted it merely as a statement that no more posting from them on the topic shold be expected.

    • Explicitly say something along the lines of “I have made the arguments for my position, I find your responses unconvincing, I see no point in repeating the same arguments so I am done with this conversation.”

      People who disagree with you will tell themselves that this is proof that they are right and you are wrong, but there is nothing you can do about that.

    • Cypren says:

      I’ve always preferred to make a polite post along the lines of, “Alright, well, I’ve enjoyed the discussion, but it seems clear that we’ve reached the end of constructive discourse because our priors are too different. Thanks to everyone who participated.”

      This has always struck me as a good way to make it clear that you’re bowing out deliberately rather than cowed into silence, but avoids the temptation to “rage quit” or flip the bird to your interlocutors on the way out the door, which will not help your position in the eyes of anyone who reads the thread later. I’m usually very quick to bow out this way if someone interjects into a thread with blanket ad hominem attacks, especially if I’m outnumbered. My experience has been that as soon as someone breaks decorum and just starts slinging insults, the rest of the majority tribe will tend to drop their masks and join in the beating. The best you can do is just beat a hasty retreat and try to exit with as much grace and dignity as you can manage.

    • registrationisdumb says:

      Stop arguing with people on the internet and start posting dank memes.

    • Eponymous says:

      I’d like to have a discussion about the online etiquette of “getting the last word.” (This came up in a recent OT, but I’ve actually been thinking about it for longer, I swear)

      A closely related concept is the exponential growth of point-by-point refutations.

      I generally try to consciously adopt a sustainable online communication strategy, in which I try to keep my comments to reasonable length. Then to disengage from a communication, I either steadily reduce the length of my replies, or try to move towards a clear wrap up or conclusion.

      By necessity, this involves failing to address all of your interlocutor’s arguments. But I think this is actually productive. My usual practice is to focus on one point (or a subset of points) where I think we can either reach agreement, or (more commonly) clearly articulate the source of our differences.

      Persistent disagreement bothers me from a philosophical perspective, and so my goal is to isolate the fundamental differences in belief that explain differences in surface-level opinion.

      However, this is a daunting undertaking. More recently my standard practice has been to merely carve off a tiny point or part of the conversation so I can constructively engage in it. (Or in this case, merely inserting an aside that was stimulated by your comment, and is somewhat relevant.)

      (Of course, there’s always the possibility of “victory by extreme persuasiveness” or “victory by exhaustion”. But in practice this is rarely achieved.)

  21. SnakeLady says:

    On the immigration executive orders. My first emotional reaction was that this is awful and scary. I thought about this more and I’m angry, a little hopeful and scared but for different reasons than you might think. (For background on my perspective: I currently live in the US under permanent resident status, I’m a citizen of a EU country and I’ve lived in 4 countries so far.)

    1) Angry. Everyone who is getting so worked up about people with legal visas being denied entry has no idea how immigration law/regulations work in the US. The fact that you’re arriving at a US entry port with a visa does not automatically mean you are going to be allowed entry, and if you are denied there isn’t any process or much you can do. The risk of being denied entry has always been dependent on things like your country of origin, background etc. Every day the US turns away some people who I’m sure are perfectly nice and had a really good reason to come here. Making it 0% chance of visa entry for folks from certain countries sounds radical, but the US has always maintained the right to refuse entry to anyone they please. Of course the media are suddenly getting worked up about this now, so a lot of Americans are as well because the TV said so and it fits the narrative of how bad Trump is.
    What about refugees and green card holders? This is a temporary ban (120/90 days respectively), and it already looks like this might be handled more carefully with some decisions made on a case by case basis by immigration officials or courts. Also see my comments in point (2). Finally, permanent residence aka green card is not that “permanent”, it can be taken away for a variety of reasons, one of the common ones being that you stayed out of the US for too long. Residence status is more like a privilege that awards you certain rights and responsibilities but it’s not a right in itself.
    Only citizens have the right to vote, so the laws in the US, including immigration law are designed by representation elected by US citizens, which makes sensible immigration reform unlikely. The citizen constituents won’t care about immigration unless they are bothered by it (they take away our jobs, commit crimes, participate in terrorist activities etc.). I don’t like the current immigration law in the US, but it bothers me when people who have no understanding of the difference btw green card, visa, legal vs illegal immigration, suddenly get all worked up about specific cases because the media told them to. You’re not helping! Hence angry.

    2) Hopeful (a little at least). These are mostly temporary measures (90/120 days). (Hmm, this sounds like the Syrian refugee case is the one to protest against, since it isn’t temporary…). It sounds to me like sloppy implementation and the case of someone saying “I don’t know what the best solution is, so let me do something simple for now while we work out what should really be done”. Again, like with a lot of things Trump, not necessarily the end of the world and eternal doom. I’m still in the wait and see camp.

    3) Scared. The scary part to me is the likely deliberately vague phrasing in another executive order on immigration which deals with deporting undocumented immigrants who have done something criminal. Japan has this thing were they always report how out of the people arrested over the course of X time the largest majority were foreigners. This sounds awful unless you know that if you are a foreigner residing in Japan you are required to carry ID at all times, and if you don’t have one the police can arrest you. Likewise, I’m sure a lot of foreigners legally residing in the US have broken the law by doing things like (a) forgetting to report their address change to immigration (b) falsely claiming to be US citizens by mistakenly ticking the wrong box on a long form or ticking the most closely applicable box where there was none for “resident”. So the general recipe here is to have a vague formulation about say deporting immigrants who have maybe done something criminal or pose a threat, that could be applied to almost anything. Then you can use it to justify actions on a case by case basis (if you want somebody deported because they have views you don’t like, I’m sure we can find something on them) and later to report aggregate stats which prove how bad a given group of people is (we deported X immigrants, we deport criminals, ergo immigrants are bad). Again, maybe in this case it’s just sloppy executive order writing, but just the potential of what I described above really scares me because it’s so easy to do but harder to spot right away.

    • beleester says:

      Making it 0% chance of visa entry for folks from certain countries sounds radical, but the US has always maintained the right to refuse entry to anyone they please.

      I don’t think “It’s okay because it’s legal” is a good argument against anything. The President has the legal power to order many, many stupid things, up to and including nuclear attacks, but that doesn’t mean I can’t criticize him for them or get angry about them.

      If you’re trying to argue that it’s not unusual for the US to do this, that it’s just a normal risk of travel that foreigners should have expected to deal with, then you need to argue that it’s actually not unusual, not just that it’s technically possible.

      It sounds to me like sloppy implementation and the case of someone saying “I don’t know what the best solution is, so let me do something simple for now while we work out what should really be done”.

      What makes you confident that someone is currently working out “What should really be done,” or that their new solution will be less sloppy than the current one? And why did we need to rush the implementation in the first place?

      • SnakeLady says:

        I never said “It’s OK because it’s legal”. I don’t like this executive order just as I don’t like the current immigration law in the US. I was only trying to say that the new thing is not that far out from what existed already which did not seem to bother anyone before. The way things are, the rights of citizens vs non-citizens in the US are very different. It’s fine to criticize it, just as it’s fine that it makes me angry that people are suddenly criticizing it now, which somehow suddenly seems to include a lot of criticism directed at things that have existed for quite a while but not many people cared. Maybe if there had been more push for immigration system reforms before, it would have been much harder to introduce an executive order like the one of Fri.

        What makes you confident that someone is currently working out “What should really be done,” or that their new solution will be less sloppy than the current one? And why did we need to rush the implementation in the first place?

        I said a little hopeful, not confident. I feel from your reply that you are inferring I have views which I do not hold and I never stated in my post that I hold them (this is why I never comment, don’t know what go into me today). Why did we need to rush the implementation even though it clearly hasn’t been thought out? Because it’s a classic new CEO move, you have to take a few simple, clearly visible actions and then people think you’re effective. And I did not say I agreed with any of those actions.

      • And why did we need to rush the implementation in the first place?

        “We” didn’t. Trump did. He want to create the image of someone who, as soon as he got into the White House, started solving the problems he had claimed in the campaign that he would solve. Doing something about immigration that got a lot of attention did that.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think it’s right to protest against temporary bans as if they were permanent, because if we assume they’re temporary, and then the administration just keeps renewing them at their expiration date, it won’t get much media coverage and it will be very hard to protest it at any particular time in the future.

      This might sound paranoid, but I’ve seen it happen again and again.

      • Matt M says:

        Yeah. Even as a Trump sympathizer I would agree with this. The Patriot Act was supposed to be temporary too.

      • The Nybbler says:

        FWIW, I’m expecting a permanent refugee ban (or near-ban with few exceptions), probably a permanent ban/near-ban on immigrants from Iran and Syria at least. I don’t expect Trump to play the ‘extend the temporary ban forever’ game. The executive order contemplates permanent bans for certain countries following some sort of nonsense report, and I expect that report’s contents are predetermined.

  22. Uncorrelated says:

    berk’s question has pushed me to finally post a related question that I’ve been thinking about lately.

    Our daughter is just finishing middle school in New York City and we’ve been involved in a process for finding a high school that is very much like what other people only go through for college admission. Between helping her with essay writing, practicing for a standardized test, and similar things I’ve gotten a much more detailed look at where she is intellectually than I’d had before. (And I am upset with myself for not having this view all along.) Despite good grades and generally good comments from teachers, I now see a real need to help her in things that I think all fit under the heading of “critical thinking”.

    But I’m worried that “critical thinking” is too broad a target to aim for at once and from what I’ve read (albeit after just a quick web search) courses that try to teach it directly don’t show great results. Are there smaller topics that we could try tackling one by one? Is there good research showing what works?

    I had the idea of starting with a particular aspect of reading comprehension. I don’t know if this has its own proper name. We would practice precise parsing of language and common misinterpretations. E.g. (from a book I looked at) a sign saying “traffic for the next 10 miles” might be incorrectly interpreted as stating “there will not be traffic after 10 miles”. Or “X is not as good as Y” being interpreted as “X is bad”. I’m hoping that this is bite size enough to not be overwhelming to start with and concrete enough that there is a definite correct interpretation of each example. Bigger and more fuzzy things could come later. But that’s just what I’ve come up with so far. I would love to have more ideas to choose from.

    • Incurian says:

      Defending both sides of a contentious issue might help develop related skills.

      • Hetzer says:

        Defending both sides of a contentious issue might help develop related skills.

        I’ve tried to do that before, and it really didn’t yield great results. When arguing for something I don’t actually believe in, I just end up engaging in sophistry. I distract people with emotional appeals, I can feel pangs of anxiety as I try to gloss over logical fallacies, I construct a very stately web of diversions from the important truths and try not to let my voice shake too much as my mind races to model and predict my opponent’s counter-attack, hoping like hell they will not recognize the real flaws in my argument, and (if I’m really on top of my game) I will deliberately fail to argue my (phony) position as well as I could have, creating some weak points in my arguments, trying to tempt my opponent into attacking them so I can counter with all the arguments I held back in my earlier statements. And… I guess, I try to go with that strategy until I can run out the clock. Since my stated position is (if I am honest with myself) indefensible, my only hope is to distract my opponent and make him waste time attacking phantoms, hoping he will lose patience or get too tired to formulate an effective attack.

        In short, I don’t really enjoy telling lies. And I got enough practice with that particular… “skill” when I was a child, lying about pretty much everything to teachers, my parents, etc… basically anyone who I thought might not treat me quite as well if they knew what I believed to be the truth. Professor Moriarty was not, in my estimation, a good role model, but I did understand him.

        If I get into an argument, then it is only because I have an opinion, already formed, of what I support and what I oppose. If I am not prepared to do that, if I don’t care about an issue enough to feel my thoughts are worth volunteering unprompted, then I don’t participate, and instead sit passively and listen to others hash it out (if anyone is interested). For me to really engage in a discussion and acquit myself honorably, I have to argue for what I believe in!

        I mean, shit, if I want to profit from an adversarial argument, I’ll find someone else to argue the other point, someone who really believes what they’re saying to me. At least that way, if we are unable to convince one another we are correct, we can still mull over the conversation to get some idea of where one another’s true convictions lie and how they were formed.

        Perhaps I’m simple-minded. But the way I think of it (no, really! honest!) is that the internet lets me find someone to argue with no matter the topic, and so there is less to be gained from telling lies as a sort of academic exercise than there is to found in genuine communication, hashing out real differences of opinion.

      • Uncorrelated says:

        I think something like this may work. Sophistry is a risk, but hopefully she’d learn to argue the steel-manned version of arguments she disagrees with. This actually fits in well with my personality. I often finding myself wanting to correct/improve the arguments I hear of people who I disagree with. In the sense of “what they should have said was …”. I’m now curious to see if she has the same inclination.

      • Incurian says:

        The sophistry thing is a real danger and would certainly be the wrong lesson to learn, good point. Maybe it would be good to personally engage her in these debates and point out flaws in arguments for both sides so she can learn by example.

        EDIT: I see Dahlen made the same point below before me.

    • reytes says:

      Logic puzzles? A lot of them seem to rely on close reasoning, following specific clues in the text, stuff like that.

    • rlms says:

      Get her to comment on SSC. She can take the title of second second-generation SSC commenter (I think David Friedman’s daughter was the first).

      • At best fourth second-generation SSC commenter–I have three children.

        Patri was involved with Less Wrong before I knew it existed and may well have commented here before I did.

      • Dahlen says:

        omg, no 14 year old girl needs to be on the same internet forum that once hosted Jim, what the hell!

        • suntzuanime says:

          Yes obviously any place anyone obnoxious touches is unclean forever and must be ritually destroyed. Give me a break.

        • rlms says:

          I was being mostly sarcastic. I don’t think SSC is a particularly suitable place for the average 14 year old (or even an intelligent 14 year old).

          • suntzuanime says:

            I sort of agree in the sense that I don’t want to read their bad posts and doubt their ability to properly contribute, but for their own sake they’re probably better off here than e.g. Tumblr.

    • houseboatonstyxb says:

      Ozy might be able to help with this. Zie is a fan of C.S. Lewis, who gives a lot of examples of critical thinking at a middle school level.

      • berk says:

        I am interested in this too. Can someone elaborate on what text specifically of C.S. Lewis’s you are referring to?

        • houseboatonstyxb says:

          @ berk
          I am interested in this too. Can someone elaborate on what text specifically of C.S. Lewis’s you are referring to?

          Lewis demonstrates critical thinking in almost all of his books, and offers middle grade readable examples of almost everything at all. On re-reading I see that the famous “bit of your orange” passage (the cold opening of Mere Christianity)…

          More later, probably too much.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            You know, the first you mention C.S.Lewis, I’m thinking of Narnia. Or the whatever-they-were religio-scifi books, That Hideous Strength and others? I don’t really see how they would promote critical thinking, even if they are okay entertainment and possibly suitable propaganda-of-sorts pieces if you subscribe to Lewis’ views on Christianity (though the latter property did not really work for me).

    • Get her to read essays that are both fun to read and intelligently argued. GKC would be one possibility, Orwell another. But that depends on her being at an intellectual level where that sort of things is of interest to her, and this may be too early for that.

        • Dahlen says:

          Chesterton, I would guess.

          • Uncorrelated says:

            Chesterton may be too much right now. But I am encouraging her increase the amount of time she spends reading things that interest her. (Without me, or her mother, being too involved. I’m not trying to turn her entire life with us into one long tutoring session.)

    • Dahlen says:

      Have you talked to her about this, does she agree that she might have a problem with critical thinking? I don’t exactly remember what developmental milestones you need to pass before you start caring about your own level of critical thinking, and after all you know your daughter, your parenting style, and the situation best, but depending on what she thinks about this, you may want to decide whether to approach this as a tactful “nudge” or as a formal course with lessons and homework (or anything in-between). I mean, it’s not the sort of appraisal to which people react well.

      Here are my ideas. I don’t exactly know if they’re worth anything as advice.
      – Get her to sift through bullshit — exposure to very biased and absolutely ridiculous media, lies, controversies, propaganda, sources that contradict each other. Warning: this might result in your daughter getting exposed to bullshit.
      – Get her to read books that use as storytelling devices red herrings, distraction, misdirection, unreliable narrators — stuff that’s meant to force suspicion into the reader, if she wants to have any chance of understanding the story. Detective novels might be a good starting point.
      – Logic exercises. We used to have these in 9th grade as a school subject. Warning: they can be very, very dry and boring.
      – Engage her in debates, guiding her along the way and correcting mistakes, but in a friendly and didactic way.
      – Tincture of time. She’s only, what, 13-14? It’ll get better.

      • Uncorrelated says:

        We are talking about it, though not in terms like “Your critical thinking skills are deficient and you must spend time studying with me.” She appreciated the help in studying and essay writing. While doing that, I noticed the pattern that the bits she needed the most help on were critical thinking. I also can see that among the schools we’ve looked at, the ones that interested her most are ones where these kind of skills will be the most essential. I think she kind of realizes this herself.

        I like your suggestions. We’ve already had got some debates going at the dinner table (not explicitly as learning experiences). The detective novel idea is interesting.

      • Incurian says:

        Regarding storytelling devices, tvtropes.org is a great resource.

    • Betty Cook says:

      Give her a copy of “How to Lie with Statistics”. I came across it in junior high school and many years later gave it to my kids as the best intellectual self defense source I knew. It’s very readable, too, and there is a lot to be said for having your teaching projects be fun for the kids being taught.

    • One Name May Hide Another says:

      I’ve seen the following books recommended in homeschooling circles: “The Art of Argument” by Aaron Larsen, “The Argument Builder” by Shelly Johnson, and “James Madison Critical Thinking Course” by William O’Meara. They might be too basic for your daughter (I believe they are aimed at middle schoolers), but perhaps worth checking out. Oh, and best of luck to your daughter with the high school selection/admission process.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      May be a bit too abstract, but Zendo is fun, and is about disproving hypotheses.

    • Iain says:

      High-school debate might be a valuable extra-curricular. Good high-school debate is a very good way to train critical thinking. At lower levels, there tends to be a bit too much emphasis placed on eye contact and delivery and so on, but even there it forces you to see both sides of an issue.

      (It might depend on the circuit; I understand that in some American circuits, the emphasis is on rapidly reading as many arguments from cue cards as possible in the hope that the opposing team will leave one unaddressed. That seems less useful.)

    • houseboatonstyxb says:

      We would practice precise parsing of language and common misinterpretations. E.g. (from a book I looked at) a sign saying “traffic for the next 10 miles” might be incorrectly interpreted as stating “there will not be traffic after 10 miles”. Or “X is not as good as Y” being interpreted as “X is bad”. I’m hoping that this is bite size enough to not be overwhelming to start with and concrete enough that there is a definite correct interpretation of each example.

      For examples of more such ambiguities, you might look through Linguaphiles at Live Journal, mostly in the ESL questions.

  23. R Flaum says:

    Is it safe to eat literally no vegetables if I take multivitamin/multimineral pills?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I ate literally no vegetables for about ten years when I was a child. It seemed okay, though I wouldn’t recommend it. As long as you’re otherwise eating a balanced diet, it should be worse-than-perfect but not die-immediately bad.

    • Anonymous says:

      Well, there was this one guy who fasted under medical surveillance for a year to lose weight, ingesting only supplements and water. I figure it’s not the worst thing you can do. Consult your physician.

    • The Nybbler says:

      How literally? Life without Brassica (leafy greens) is safe enough without multivitamins, I’m living proof. But I eat citrus, potatoes, capsicums, onions, alliums, peanuts, etc. If you’re willing to eat organ meat I think you’re good on micronutrients with no veggies at all, though you’d lack carbs.

    • Deiseach says:

      Considering the post we had about Californians food-poisoning themselves via not washing their reusable bags, bunging raw meat and veg together in the bags and letting them simmer in the heated interior of the car boot for a couple of hours, and not washing the dirt off the vegetables before eating them, it probably is safer if you eat literally no vegetables 🙂

  24. JulieK says:

    Someone was looking for an article called “If you Want People to Trust the News, You have to Print News Worth Trusting.”
    You may be thinking of this popehat piece:
    Deserving Trust
    (And it’s worth reading in any case.)

  25. It’s difficult to measure how bad Trump’s executive order is. Each country on the list is either a failed state or not an ally of the US. The thing is, we don’t take many immigrants from these countries as it stands today. For Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen, the US issued permanent residence to 21,107, 13,114, 3,840, 6,796, 127, 734, ad 3,194. As far as refugees, the US takes a shockingly low amount for how up in arms about refugees progressives act. The US took a total of about 70,000 refuges in 2015. (https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/Refugees_Asylees_2015.pdf).

    Then there is this PROFOUND moralizing from the left, with people like Albright (who have themselves made ‘hard choices’ that may have caused massive suffering in arms https://www.facebook.com/MadeleineKAlbright/posts/1196791023775885). Or companies like AirBnB, which is offering ‘free’ housing to people impacted by refugees impacted by this OR people not allowed into the US, which is absurd when you think about it. There is so much more… companies like Lyft, all actors, etc.

    The reality of course being that we only let in a few thousand Syrian refugees in 2015. On the refugee count it seems arbitrary to me — if we let in a few thousand but we do it with progressive moralizing from a Democrat president and speeches about the strength of the US, that’s good. If we temporarily drop the refugees from Syria to 0, and we do it with speeches about how they are dangerous, it’s evil incarnate.

    I know these people and companies think they mean well, but it seems so disingenuous and out of touch with reality. Of all the thousands of minor policies the US interacts with every year, from trade restrictions to tariffs to drones to arming militants to organ transplant regulations, the magnitude of all of them is tremendously higher. Although I guess it’s fair that they might not clash with our existing values, they aren’t as noticeable, or they don’t give a signal for a prediction of a much much worse future.

    Overall I agree with Scott here, the big issue I think is damaging credibility by not letting permanent residence into the US. That makes this a credibility issue on the promise of the US, regarding a small but serious part of the executive order. Whereas temporarily banning immigrants from failed and oppositional states, and decreasing refugees from almost none, to none, isn’t that big of a magnitude change.

    • Anonymous says:

      The XO is mostly security theater. If Trump were serious about this, he’d ban every Muslim majority country, or even all Muslims. But for the random pedestrian pro-Trump voter, he seems to be fulfilling his promises.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      Or companies like AirBnB, which is offering ‘free’ housing to people impacted by refugees impacted by this OR people not allowed into the US, which is absurd when you think about it.

      Wait, what? AirBnB doesn’t have any housing of its own, it’s just a middleman for renting out rooms and apartments. Are they seriously airdropping refugees into random third parties’ homes? That can’t be right.

      • rlms says:

        Presumably they’re offering to pay for refugees being housed by third parties through them.

        • Aapje says:

          @rlms

          And presumably they are expecting very few people to take them up on this offer and it is mostly free publicity.

      • Montfort says:

        The full details are not yet available, but I would guess they’d pay opting-in renters the full rate, and eat the cost to put any leftover refugees in hotels.

  26. Error says:

    Here’s something random: I vaguely remember hearing that going to law school is a terrible career decision. I was under the impression it was because way too many people do it, so it’s hard to find good work.

    Yet, paying lawyers is still (I assume?) expensive as hell, which it should not be if there is an oversupply of lawyers. I notice that I am confused. Either there’s not really a glut of lawyers, or hiring a lawyer isn’t as expensive as I thought, or something economically weird is going on here.

    Can anyone tell me which?

    • zz says:

      Having spoken to a practicing lawyer I’m personally close to, it’s that the labor market for lawyers has massive inefficiencies that don’t go away because lawyers tend to be heavily entrenched in tradition.

    • Cypren says:

      Both.

      (Disclaimer here: I am not a lawyer, just someone who studies law as something of a hobby. Professional lawyers can probably provide a lot more detail here, and I would ask forgiveness for necessarily painting with a broad brush to simplify a complex industry into a few paragraphs.)

      Legal services take a few different forms: rote contractual, protective, negotiation and adversarial. Traditional local legal sole proprietorships and small firms did a lot of rote contractual law, drafting wills, powers of attorney and other small-ticket items that were quick and easy to do because they were essentially just mass produced fill-in-the-blanks forms. This was a terrible economic inefficiency that was essentially the outcome of a cartel monopoly. LegalZoom and other “Internet lawyers” have dropped the bottom out of this market entirely.

      Protective lawyers are typically in-house corporate counsel. You keep them on salary to continually survey the activities of your corporation and make sure that you’re not violating (the letter of) the law to the best of their ability. These jobs don’t pay nearly as well as Big Law, but they’re steady and available in nearly any large corporation.

      Negotiation and adversarial law services are typically what are provided by what we think of as legal firms. These are the lawyers who broker large corporate mergers, file lawsuits and conduct criminal defense. The common thread in all of these arrangements is that they are not fee-for-service, are contracted for a specific case, and have an unknown quantity of labor required at the outset to reach a desired result. This is where your hourly billing arrangements come in, and where things tend to be very expensive.

      When you hire one of the Big Law firms for this sort of work, you’re really paying for three things: institutional prestige, combined experience (even if your case is being worked by a more junior attorney, he has access to much more experienced partners and specialist attorneys to ask questions if he needs them) and probably most importantly, relationships. Big Law firms tend to have cozy relationships with judges, prosecutors, politicians, nonprofits and other influencers who can bring pressure to bear on your case in both subtle and overt ways. Add all of those factors together and you get the over-$1k/hr rates they can charge.

      Small law firms have been forced to get into more adversarial law as they’ve watched the rote contractual services that were their bread and butter disappear over the last decade. This has resulted in stiffer competition, consolidation and more than a few exits from the profession, because filling in the blanks on forms and stamping them with your Official Guild Seal of Approval is necessarily much less demanding work than winning a trial or negotiating a settlement. Many individuals who were comfortably making a profit off of the economic rents in the old model were suddenly forced to add actual value, and found they were unable to. This is why a number of lawyers have tried (unsucessfully, so far) to get internet lawyer services shut down or banned from their state.

      So all of this taken together means that being an attorney in modern America is about “go big or go home”. Either you go to a top-5 law school straight out of undergrad and get on the Big Law track (and either make partner or exit and go work for a large company as in-house counsel), or you wind up saddled with mountains of debt and living a rather pathetic hand-to-mouth existence while fighting tooth and nail for clients with your fellow second and third-tier graduates while wishing you’d spent your college years on a more profitable profession.

  27. TomA says:

    Is there a learning curve associated with making public predictions and then evaluating the results annually? In other words, are you improving your ability to make predictions as a result of the feedback, or is your track-record relatively consistent over time?

    Most people that I know who regularly predict (and bet on) sports game outcomes do not seem to be getting better at it over time, despite putting in enormous time and effort (plus access to sophisticated online information resources).

    • Wrong Species says:

      There are plenty of resources for sports betters but trying to make consistent, accurate political predictions is relatively new. There’s more low hanging fruit where predicting sports is like daytrading.

    • Matt M says:

      Most people that I know who regularly predict (and bet on) sports game outcomes do not seem to be getting better at it over time, despite putting in enormous time and effort (plus access to sophisticated online information resources).

      For the same reason that stock pickers don’t get better over time. You can do all the analysis you want about what happened in the past, but what happens in the future is different.

      Not to mention that for every bet (or trade), the has to be someone on the other side making the opposite bet/trade, and if we assume some certain level of market efficiency, they are just as likely to be well informed and have access to the same information that you do.

      • Tarpitz says:

        The sports betting market is not particularly efficient, because a lot of money is bet in small chunks by poorly informed fans. There are several fairly simple heuristics which over time produce a consistent return even allowing for the bookmaker’s margin – I believe the classic example is always betting against the Dallas Cowboys. My personal favourite is the market for leading goalscorer at major international football tournaments: the public invariably gives too little weight to the strength of the defenses in the known part of a player’s schedule, ie the group stage.

        • Matt M says:

          I’m not sure I buy this. A lot of ignorant boobs go out and buy a bunch of shares of Apple because they think the iphone looks cool as well. I understand the logic of things like “popular teams will be overvalued in general” but in theory, the sharp money out there knows it as well and is pushing back against that force and driving the prices to equilibrium. Various gambling-related social media accounts publicly post “pros vs joes” trackers for various games, as well as metrics like % of bets placed vs % of money wagered.

          I won’t claim it’s totally efficient. There probably are strategies worth exploiting, but I think it’s very close and most people who *think* they’ve figure out how to beat the system will probably lose in the long run.

    • moridinamael says:

      I just wanted to put this out into the universe: I find the interface in the Arbital link to be fun and easy. If somebody were to put out an enormous list of predictions that you could just skim down and click through like that, I would do that all day.

  28. rlms says:

    Muslim mayor in homophobic Dutch suburb supports gays
    The angle presented in the title might be interesting to discuss, but what stuck out to me was this bit:
    “The suburb has recently been in the news for homophobic incidents, with gays being verbally abused, spat on and harassed.
    The community grew particularly restless over gay men using Slotervaarts De Oeverlanden public park as a place to meet and have sex, a practice known as ‘cruising’.
    After gay lobbyists complained over incidents of homophobic violence, the local council erected signs in the park indicating the spots where gay sex is known to take place, in a bid to avoid any unfortunate encounters.”

    Certainly, harassment is bad. But getting upset about people having sex in your public park seems reasonable. But under a libertarian framework, how can you argue for restrict people’s behaviour in public land? Or is this an argument for private ownership?

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      Certainly, harassment is bad. But getting upset about people having sex in your public park seems reasonable. But under a libertarian framework, how can you argue for restrict[ing] people’s [behavior] in public land? Or is this an argument for private ownership?

      As a rule, libertarians will respond to any question about public property by saying that privatization would solve the problem. That’s just a given.

      Of course, there will always be pubic spaces regardless of whether the owners are governments or private individuals. People will have to enforce some sort of community norms regardless. And a norm against public sex is eminently reasonable.

      The issue which the article belies, though, is that this isn’t a case of Dutch traditions versus gay culture. It’s Islamic law versus Dutch traditions and gay culture. The Muslim immigrants are a much bigger threat to the Dutch than any amount of public gay sex, especially since they seem to believe that they can enforce their own religious views even while they’re guests on foreign soil.

      • rlms says:

        Well, the Muslim mayor who is opposing homophobia doesn’t seem like much of a threat.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Unless he’s just using the gay sex in the park thing to break down the Dutch traditions.

          • hyperboloid says:

            Muslims are promoting homosexuality to undermine western civilization?

            Are they putting fluoride in the water to?

            We must stop the Muslim plot to corrupt and impurify our precious bodily fluids!

          • Islam as a religion is solidly against (at least) male homosexuality. Islam as a culture, on the other hand, has at some times and places been very accepting of it. There are two famous Arabic essays that take the form of debates on the relative attractions of hetero and homosexual sex.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @DavidFriedman

            I’ve always wondered about that, as no society with the level of pervasive sexual segregation that existed in some (though not all) Muslim communities could have gone without more then a few homosexual relationships.

            I certainly know that Saudi Arabia has long been the target of jokes among other Arabs about exactly what it’s young men get up to.

          • TenMinute says:

            >There are two famous Arabic essays that take the form of debates on the relative attractions of hetero and homosexual sex.

            You can’t just talk about something that interesting without linking the source!
            (I tried to find them, but any real results are buried in piles of autoethnographies about the “intertextual construction of brown male anality”)

          • rlms says:

            @TenMinute

            Secondary source. Presumably the essays are “The Book of Respective Merits of Maids and Young Men” by al-Jahiz. However (as the article points out), a lot (but by no means all) historic Islamic acceptance of homosexuality was actually Greco-Roman-style acceptance of pederasty.

          • Well... says:

            The Taliban guys all kept little boys around for sex. (Source: “Seeds of Terror” by Gretchen Peters. If you can find a webbed copy try searching it for relevant keywords.)

            A creative but surprisingly plausible reading of the Alt Right is that it’s one big primer to get sexually-frustrated young Western men ready to become Muslims. The hatred of Christianity, the monomania about Jewish influence, the anti-feminist polemicism, the eagerness for political combat, and of course the gay haircuts…well, maybe it’s all just an incredible coincidence.

          • psmith says:

            A creative but surprisingly plausible reading of the Alt Right

            Not half so creative as you think. This may be relevant.

          • Well... says:

            @psmith: Hah, yeah I know.

          • Matt M says:

            Alt-right…. hatred of Christianity…. wha?

            I’ve never encountered this in my experiences with the alt-right. As far as I can tell, going alt-right has caused many formerly atheist libertarian types to become more sympathetic to Christianity, as it represents the “mainstream white/American culture/civilization” they view as under assault from the SJWs.

          • Well... says:

            I guess I should clarify, this applies only to certain parts of the Alt Right. (The Bloody Shovel being just one example.) But I am pretty sure those are the parts currently most closely associated with the label.

        • gbdub says:

          The article mentions that the suburb in question is composed mostly of Muslim immigrants. And the suburb is unusually homophobic by Amsterdam standards.

          Homophobia is a problem in this suburb largely because of the attitudes of its Muslim immigrant population. So the Muslim mayor speaking out against this problem is a good thing, but he’s not a Muslim telling ethnic Dutch people to be more tolerant – he’s a Muslim telling fellow Muslims to get in line with what is already a Dutch norm.

          That said it’s fair to ban public sex – the question is whether the sexual adventurers are being abused because the sex is public, or because it is gay.

          • suntzuanime says:

            I feel like in cases where someone simultaneously breaks a live norm and a deprecated norm the presumption should be that enforcement is enforcement of the live norm. Doing otherwise creates a privileged class of deprecated-norm-breakers who have greater leeway to break live norms.

          • gbdub says:

            Can you unpack that in plainer English please?

          • gbdub says:

            EDIT: Duplicate comment

          • suntzuanime says:

            Live norm: norm against having sex in public spaces. Deprecated norm: norm against homosexuality. In response to your comment “the question is whether the sexual adventurers are being abused because the sex is public, or because it is gay”, I feel like there should be a presumption of the former. If you are breaking a norm, you are a norm breaker, and protesting that you are also breaking something that is not a norm is not something I want to hear. Stop fucking in the middle of the park.

          • gbdub says:

            I would argue that, in that particular community, both norms are live (see e.g. the threat to burn down a “homo club” at the end of the article)

            The article doesn’t really state whether the homophobic attacks are exclusively occurring against individuals having sex in public parks. I don’t get the impression that that is the case.

            And in any case, “no vigilante justice” is also a norm. Telling an overly affectionate couple to get a room might be normal behavior – beating them up is not.

          • suntzuanime says:

            I was treating the norms of Dutch culture broadly as the controlling norms. If the Muslim enclave is sufficiently isolated and autonomous then surely there’s no problem, as the norm against homosexuality is legitimate? Or at least there’s no more problem than the usual problem we have when other cultures enforce norms that we don’t like.

      • Synonym Seven says:

        And a norm against public sex is eminently reasonable.

        Without resorting to traditionalism (of which “community standards / mores” is a subset): Why?

        • Anonymous says:

          Aside from sexual privacy being an in-baked human universal? I don’t know. Hopefully, someone has a better explanation.

          • quanta413 says:

            It’s not an in-baked human universal though; maybe in baked for modern agricultural civilizations. When whole families of hunter gatherers live in one hut, parents sometimes have sex a short distance from their children and it’s totally normal. I’m thinking about a book I read on the !Kung, but I’ve heard similar things about another group or two.

          • hyperboloid says:

            When whole families of hunter gatherers live in one hut, parents sometimes have sex a short distance from their children and it’s totally normal

            I suspect that was normal, at least among the poor, in many western countries well into the modern era.

            Until the twentieth century a large portion of the population of many parts of the world lived in modest one or two room accommodations. And if they lived in a part of the world where the weather was particularly unpleasant for large parts of the year, I doubt they were sending the kids out to play every time ma and pa wanted to physically express their love.

          • Anonymous says:

            “In presence of close kin” and “in public” is not the same thing, though. I would also imagine that given the option of better privacy, these people would have taken it.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Exposing someone who isn’t a consenting party to a sex act to that sex act – eg flashing your junk at someone on the train – is a violation.

          • The Nybbler says:

            That principle looks like it could easily be stretched to require burqas.

          • dndnrsn says:

            How so?

          • Synonym Seven says:

            Exposing someone who isn’t a consenting party to a sex act to that sex act – eg flashing your junk at someone on the train – is a violation.

            A violation of what? The law? Sure, not arguing that. Of your personal mores, or the mores of 21st-century American society? Sure, but why is that to be considered sacrosanct?

            That principle looks like it could easily be stretched to require burqas.

            Or, stretched in a different direction, to stigmatize homosexual displays of affection. Or displays of affection from interracial couples.

            Or displays of anything, really – what is so uniquely special and different about sex that it merits such treatment? Why can’t this exact same argument be made about humming songs on an elevator, or wearing a Tweety Bird t-shirt?

            How so?

            Exposing someone who is not a consenting party to the oh-so-impossibly alluring sight of an uncovered female head is indecent exposure.

          • The Nybbler says:

            How so?

            What’s considered “sexual” varies from culture to culture. Showing any skin at all could count; this is the point of the burkha, to prevent women from causing unconsenting (or otherwise) sexual desire in men. Showing one’s face (or ankle, in another culture) could count as a sex act.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It’s a violation of the other person’s personal autonomy, and it’s involving them in a sexual act without their consent.

            I would argue that, sure, some cultures would say that showing ankle or hair is sexual. Showing someone your genitals, whacking off in front of them, having sex in public, etc is the “lowest common denominator” sex act. Whether flashing ankle is sexual or not depends on the society. In what societies is masturbating not a sex act?

        • Cadie says:

          Perhaps hygiene, though that would apply best to buildings and other gathering places, not places like “out in the middle of a field.” Most of us have a general idea that stranger’s body fluids are icky and we don’t want them on things we’ll be sitting on, at least not unless those surfaces are well-cleaned before we sit. The same disgust reaction one would have to stepping in a puddle of pee would apply to semen or vaginal secretions as well. So even if the shame / morality aspect went away, it’s doubtful that public sex would be fully accepted as normal. Maybe there would be special semi-private areas or something, who knows, but most people would still frown on getting it on at McDonalds.

          • Synonym Seven says:

            I guess this is the most convincing of the rationales so far, yeah.

            I can’t see it the sole motivation for the current state of affairs, though. Hygienically, I’d put it about on par with spitting. If someone spits at McDonalds, it’s kinda gross and you may eventually ask them to leave if they keep on doing it. You probably don’t call the cops, absent other confrontational factors, and you probably don’t take the account of your harrowing personal brush with lewd and lascivious saliva predators to the blogosphere, unless it’s to basically laugh and/or shake your head in dismay.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Public property is collective ownership, which means that the public can ban things on their property in the same way that a private owner can. So on a private road, we would be ok with the owner banning drunk driving. Same thing applies to government owned roads. Otherwise, there would be no road rules and there would be complete chaos. I know many libertarians try to argue that the government should be neutral in these cases but when two people are having gay sex in a park how can you possibly be neutral?

  29. Odovacer says:

    Have you ever been part of a protest? What made you decide to or not to? Did you care how much you agree with the other protesters or organizers?

    I have never attended a protest, but I’m considering attending a “March for Science” protest if it ever happens. I’m a scientist and I’d like more funding for most science as well as people to have a better understanding of science is and isn’t. I’m cautious about the Trump administration, because while I think he might approve a lot of money for research, I think he’s equally likely to cut a lot of funding for research and inflame anti-science attitudes, e.g. vaccines.

    However, I’m hesitant to participate because some of the things from the official twitter account are things that I do not support, e.g. this. I’m also fairly indifferent to climate change science and scandals, and that seems like a big focus of the march. I’m not yet certain what trade-offs I’m willing to accept. I’m also uncertain whether protests are effective or just a way for people to play/hookup/achieve catharsis.

    • gbdub says:

      Yeah, like the March for Women, this group seems more concerned with lumping a typical grab-bag of left-wing issues into the fold than actually promoting their nominal focus. Which bothers me because you ought to be able to be “pro-science” without having any particular stance on e.g. immigration policy, other than that we ought to debate such policy using good data.

      Agree with their position or not, at least the March for Life picks an issue and sticks with it.

      • liskantope says:

        I don’t know how how it will actually play out, but in theory it’s possible for the March For Science to focus on Trump’s claims which blatantly contradict the consensus of the scientific community (e.g. vaccines cause autism, global warming is a hoax invented by the Chinese). But I too have a feeling it’s going to turn into a protest for the usual collection of vaguely left-wing causes. I see on the Facebook group that people are already discussing lack of diversity in the scientific community, for instance.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      Most protests tend to be organized by groups which are dedicated to protesting and already have a laundry list of their own priorities (it’s the whole “we let the Communists run things because they’re the only ones who know to make sure there are enough porta-potties” problem.) If you sign up with one of them, you’re likely to have a Free Palestine guy on your left, a Trump=Hitler guy in front, and a KillAllCisMen guy on your right and the Black Bloc bringing up the rear, and you can guarantee that any such “March for Science” will be opposed to GMOs and nuclear power. So look carefully before signing on.

      • gbdub says:

        Speaking of, does anyone know a good alternative to the Sierra Club that actually supports nuclear power? I love national parks but hate anti-nuke alarmism.

    • Matt M says:

      Holy crap @ that tweet.

      I guess “anti-science” is the new “racist.” They’re going to call anyone to the right of Castro that anyway, so time to start owning it!

      • liskantope says:

        I have a feeling “racist” isn’t going to be retired anytime soon.

        • Matt M says:

          True. But large parts of the alt-right are basically people who decided “I’m not going to bother trying to convince anyone I’m not a racist anymore.”

          Which, as Scott sort of addressed in Stop Crying Wolf, has basically been spun as “look at all these open white supremacists!”

        • FacelessCraven says:

          racism is wearing the wrong hairstyle.

      • JulieK says:

        I keep looking at their icon and seeing the Capitol dome as a safety shower.

    • deconstructionapplied says:

      Our politics are probably very different, but I’ll offer you my perspective anyway, since all the other responses you’ve gotten are garbage.

      For reference, I’m a straight white man. I’ve been to a variety of protests, starting with Occupy in 2011. I was a barely employed college graduate and I was becoming radicalized on my own and was frustrated that no one in my social circle cared about politics at all. Not that people didn’t agree with me, but everyone I knew was completely apathetic. I went to Occupy not really knowing what to expect and it was amazing to be able to talk with people about, e.g. wealth inequality, and for them to already have an opinion (regardless of whether or not I agreed with them). So for me, the first protest I ever went to was meaningful in that I discovered I was not as isolated as I thought. And if I were crazy, at least I was crazy in the company of people I liked and admired.

      It didn’t bother me as an individual that people came to anti-bank protests with signs for free Palestine, prison reform, gay marriage, gun rights, etc. Occupy specifically was pretty cooky. What did bother me was people organizing behind the scenes to use the entire march for their pet cause. While I might not mind your free Palestine sign, this march is about foreclosures, so don’t try to steal the megaphone and get people to cheer it on.

      I’ve also been to Black Lives Matters protests and I feel more protective of the messaging around that since, unlike the Occupy’s amorphous, expansive character, BLM is fairly narrow in focus.

      I went to the Women’s March in DC. That was exciting for me because it was the first protest my parents had ever been to, and it was huge and I felt like I was participating in something historic.

      If the primary reason you go to a protest is to effect change, you’re going to be disappointed. You’re essentially offering your body and your time as a chit to the organizers to advance their own goals. If you’re pretty sure their goals don’t overlap with yours in any significant way, you shouldn’t go (unless you are indifferent and have friends going, which doesn’t seem to be your case).

      When it comes to accomplishing something via protest, you are an individual putting a penny in a jar for someone else to buy something whose cost you definitely don’t know, and of which the purchaser is also probably also unaware.

      Looking at the March for Science information… honestly it looks like they don’t know what they’re doing. However, the character of the march is created as much from that of its attendees as the organizers. The organizers for the Women’s march and the speakers they chose were extremely diverse. The attendees, while still diverse, were much less so. They were also less radical than you’d have guessed based on the Women’s March’s website.

      What does this mean? I wouldn’t go to the March for Science alone unless you are extroverted and willing to actively work to meet people. But if you go with a couple of friends you’ll have fun. Another option would be to find whatever local organizations (assuming you don’t live in DC) are chartering the buses and going with them. You’ll meet some new people and make friends who have at