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Open Thread 69.25

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

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510 Responses to Open Thread 69.25

  1. Scott Alexander says:

    I’m supposed to help come up for a forensic psychiatry curriculum for my residency program. Anyone know any good books or sources related to forensic psychiatry?

    Also, does anyone know any really good books about psychodynamic psychotherapy that actually explains it beyond the unhelpful stuff you get in the 101 textbooks?

  2. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Parrots do their own choreography to human music

    Is there any scientific study of this? For example, why is it (mostly?) just parrots? What brain structures are needed for choreography? Or matching rhythms?

  3. What are general SSC/Rationalist thoughts on the specific question as to whether Trump and his administration have inappropriate ties/connections to Russia? In this instance we will define inappropriate as meaning this set of foreign policy mishaps would be classified as being the type of uniquely bad scandal that occurs only on average of once every 20-30 years?

    I’m not trying to start a discussion on culture wars, but rather prediction based on your own reading.

    My own prediction (I have not been a news junkie on this topic) is that we can attribute 15-25% of the scandal to actual inappropriate behavior (i.e. Flynn talking to the Russians about sanctions while he was still a private citizen), but the rest is unattributable hysteria trying to tie Trump to some horrible things that he probably has not even done or thought of.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Flynn talking to the Russians about sanctions while he was on the President-elect’s transition team was not actual inappropriate behavior. The law he is accused of breaking is super old, regularly ignored, and probably unconstitutional if it comes to it.

      The intelligence agencies are really trying to take down Trump, so they’re seizing on ticky-tack bullshit like this. It’s possible they’re trying to take down Trump because they have good reason to think he’s a Russian plant, but you’d be a fool to give the CIA the benefit of the doubt.

      • I think you’re probably right on this point, although I simply don’t know enough about the norms of executive foreign policy behavior to say for certain. It seems, at worst, what he did was technically wrong in a rather banal way. Currently lots of this Russian hysteria seems like a false positive from an establishment and electorate primed to look for something catastrophic.

        It reminds me of Scott’s point on ‘You’re Still Crying Wolf’ on how people gather small piece of evidence, each one of which is weak, but the sum have the appearance of being substantive. I keep hearing that there is ‘tons of smoke.’ But I’ve yet to see a single, stand-alone, piece of robust evidence.

        I’m still strongly willing to admit I’m wrong on this, because I don’t have anything close to real research/expertise in this field. But my conspiracy theory bells are going off.

        • Brad says:

          I agree with suntzuanime that the Logan Act is probably unenforceable. On the other hand, separately from the law there is a norm that campaigns and transitions don’t directly undermine the lame duck president. Flynn broke that norm. I consider that more a peccadillo than a major scandal.

          Although it isn’t winning me any friends right now, I am in the camp that think that a national security deep state quasi-coup is far more concerning than the contacts with Russia — at least unless and until something more comes out than has so far.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Have you tried ameliorating the friend damage by comparing the FBI leaks about Trump to the FBI leaks about Clinton?

          • Jaskologist says:

            This is basically John Podhoretz’s view, and he hates Trump:

            Those who believe Trump is a unique menace whose threat to our democratic way of life will be met with those who believe the elites are using illicit means to oust the legitimately elected president of the United States.

          • Brad says:

            @Douglas Knight
            Yes, that’s certainly something I bring up. Along with the many other skeletons in the closet of the FBI and CIA. These are not organizations I trust to have the long term interest of our republic top of mind.

            Just to be clear I am not being ostracized, being unfriended, or at risk of being fired. By “not winning any friends” I was more alluding to being on the minority side or all alone in friendly debates.

          • Matt M says:

            I’ve heard a few conservative sites bring up the “scandal” leading up to the election in 2012 when Obama was caught on a hot mic telling a Russian (want to say ambassador, but I don’t remember the specific role) that he’d “have more flexibility after the election.”

            Not sure if it ever got picked up on mainstream news, but the conservative talk radio circuit seized on that story for like a week. With the general tone of “What is he promising them in secret that he’s afraid to discuss with the voters in public!”

            Obviously this is technically different in that he was the sitting President at the time, but in the context of talking about things to happen in the future when there was no guarantee he would be President in the future, it seems somewhat similar. The overall message would seem to be “support me and then after I win I can do things that you’ll like”

      • Acedia says:

        So why did Trump ask Flynn to resign? If you’re correct (you probably are) it serves no purpose, makes his administration look weak and encourages his enemies.

        • Jugemu says:

          Possibly he thought lying about the issue was bad, even if nothing technically untoward happened.

          • CatCube says:

            It’s possible that Trump has an issue with somebody lying to him, even if he doesn’t care that they tell whoppers in front of a news camera. That type of thing isn’t exactly uncommon.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            But why would Flynn lie about it?

          • gbdub says:

            Because it is technically untoward, and he got caught. But only technically – a more popular administration could get away with it, but your first instinct is always going to be to not admit to a possible felony (even if the likelihood you’ll actually get prosecuted is small).

            That is, after all, what Hillary did with her email scandal and the same “why would you lie if it’s not actually wrong” explanation applies.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            to put on the asshole tinfoil hat, he didn’t want the mainstream media making a huge deal about a nothingburger

            hat is off

            but that is kind of what I think. Looking at what I’ve seen recently, the FBI appears to have found nothing, and it seems as though Flynn basically discussed Obama’s last-minute actions against russians in this country. Those were dumb and meaningless, especially since we (apparently) already knew about those people – if it was in our benefit for them to leave, they should’ve already left, suggesting that this was dumb and thus obviously Trump would review / at some point undo it. Personally I think his Russia situation makes it less likely that he would undo even this obviously dumb action, so there is that. But it’s not crazy that Flynn would agree that it is obviously dumb and note that Trump would not have the same ideological hangups as Obama did.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @gbdub/@AnonEEMous:

            You guys are ignoring who he (ostensibly) lied to, Trump and Pence.

            If Flynn thought that there was nothing wrong with it, and everything was completely fine, then he would have no need to lie to Trump and Pence about it.

            He ought to know that information (that he talked to the ambassador about sanctions) is very likely going to be available to the intelligence community, which he knows he is about to try and shake up. He shouldn’t expect to avoid having that information being circulated at the very least inside the White House.

            This story reeks of incompetence or stupidity or both.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            But then Pence went out and said “Flynn has told me this and I trust him”. So there was clear value in lying to Pence, so Pence could go out and honestly vouch for Flynn. And frankly, as long as…this current event, which was very stupid…didn’t happen, there wasn’t much downside to this. Sadly, this current event did happen and he lost his job. Though I’m not averse to calling Flynn incompetent, so maybe he is.

          • Iain says:

            The other weird thing is the timing.

            1. Trump has known since late January about the contents of Flynn’s call with Kislyak. The DOJ briefed him on it. Trump didn’t do anything then. (He didn’t even bother telling Pence.)
            Trump knew Flynn lied: no action.

            2. Last week, the Washington Post published an article about the contents of the call. (Asked about it the next day, Trump said he didn’t know anything about reports Flynn discussed sanctions with Kislyak, but that he would “look into that”.)
            The public (and Pence) knew Flynn lied: no action.

            3. Monday afternoon, Conway was on TV saying that Flynn had the full confidence of the president. Monday evening, reports started coming out about the DOJ warning in January. Hours later, Flynn submitted his letter of resignation.
            The public knew that Trump knew that Flynn lied: immediate resignation.

            That’s weird. The only other interpretation I can think of is that Pence got pissed last week after reading the Washington Post article, and it took him several days to get Flynn fired.

          • gbdub says:

            Isn’t the simplest explanation that Trump initially thought it would blow over, and just reached for the handiest explanation available when it became obvious that dumping Flynn was the move to make?

            Maybe the confusion is over what exactly Flynn lied about? Did he lie (privately to Trump) about talking to Russia at all, or just about what exactly he discussed? Maybe Flynn didn’t know about the intelligence – or at least didn’t think anyone would have the stones to leak it.

            It does strike me as odd that Trump is getting mocked for going after the leak. After all, the fact that somebody is not only intercepting and transcribing a private conversation with a Russian ambassador but is willing to leak from that transcript (the mere existence of which is almost certainly classified) to the press… That seems like the sort of thing we’d have been really interested in talking about if it weren’t Trump’s ox being gored.

        • Matt M says:

          What I’ve heard (from left-wing sources no less) is that Flynn publicly denied having done this, and Pence repeated his denial as fact. Therefore, revelations about Flynn having lied also tar Pence as a liar, which annoys Trump to no end.

          At the end of the day, this sort of seems to be a Watergate/Lewinski type situation where it’s the cover-up that’s the real problem, while the actual initial offense is rather boring and not worth much on its own.

      • Alex Zavoluk says:

        I still think there’s quite a lot to be suspicious about. We know Tillerson’s company will likely benefit tremendously from lifting sanctions, and there’s evidence Trump’s investments would benefit as well (hard to say for certain, but only because he’s being so secretive about his personal situation, which is itself suspicious and a problem; even so, the circumstantial evidence seems pretty good to me). Trump seems to have plenty of personal/financial connections to Putin and Russia even prior to this election cycle.

        > you’d be a fool to give the CIA the benefit of the doubt.

        I would say the exact same about Trump.

      • Alex Zavoluk says:

        Oh, and if we’re accusing the intelligence community of attempting to overthrow American “democracy,” let’s not forget that Trump is openly disdainful of any limits on his power, including the entire judicial branch, to the point of being criticized by his own Supreme Court nominee!

        • Matt M says:

          As opposed to all the other Presidents in recent memory who worked tirelessly to reduce and scale back executive power?

          • Spookykou says:

            This doesn’t seem like an equivalent comparison.

            There is a difference between expanding your powers as much as you are able under the law.

            And a general disdain for the way the law is holding you back.

            Ultimately the first position might be worse(where worse means expanded executive power), but the potential danger of the second position is something different.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m pretty sure most other Presidents had a general disdain for other powers holding them back.

            At the very least, we could agree that Jackson, Lincoln, and FDR all exhibited open disdain for other branches of government attempting to circumvent their authority.

            I think all Presidents generally feel the same way, they just have less occasion to say so publicly – and Trump’s style of communication is much more direct and far less nuanced than most.

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            Basically every president for the last 100 years, and several others besides, have expanded federal (and especially executive) power in dangerous ways.

            To my knowledge, none of them have tried to effectively end the legitimacy of an entire opposing branch of government.

            edit–I agree FDR and Lincoln were particularly bad. Trump may not be uniquely bad, but he is one of a handful of the worst.

          • John Schilling says:

            To my knowledge, none of them have tried to effectively end the legitimacy of an entire opposing branch of government.

            If the legitimacy of an entire branch of government can be ended by one guy, even POTUS, whining ineffectually about them, then that legitimacy was far too fragile to be of any great value. The Trump administration, if you have not noticed, has been doing what the courts have told them to.

            And you have been distracted from anything of consequence by a few well-chosen words, which may count as a win for Trump.

          • JayT says:

            @Spookykou
            Are you implying that Obama didn’t have a “general disdain” for the house Republicans that fought him every step of the way? Just type “Obama gridlock” into Google and you will see plenty of links to articles where Obama would bemoan the Republicans.

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            Trump may not succeed in ignoring the judiciary; that doesn’t mean it isn’t worrying that he tried to.

          • suntzuanime says:

            See, this is why we need to be able to contentlessly roll our eyes at the posts of our fellow commentors. You’re just repeating lies over and over again and ignoring any attempts at correcting you, how are we supposed to respond to that with continued attempts to correct you?

          • AnonEEmous says:

            oh yeah, that too

            Obama’s pen and his phone were an active disrespect to Congress, both houses. Oh, and in case you think he was so much more respectful of the judiciary:

            http://thefederalist.com/2016/07/06/obama-has-lost-in-the-supreme-court-more-than-any-modern-president/

            As the article notes, not only did he lose more than any president in the last 40 years, he also lost unanimously far more often. That actually means that justices he personally appointed – and who many would call ideologically biased – still voted against him. Is that not disrespect towards the judicial branch? Sending out orders that they then have to strike down? Sure, you win some you lose some, but when you lose more than you win, it begins to look like you don’t care if you lose, because after all your order stands in the meantime.

            But whatever fam, you still haven’t proven the primary point beyond muh twitter feed.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Is that not disrespect towards the judicial branch? Sending out orders that they then have to strike down?

            It doesn’t seem that way, no.

            Sure, you win some you lose some, but when you lose more than you win, it begins to look like you don’t care if you lose, because after all your order stands in the meantime.

            I’m not sure if the best way to counter all the conspiratorial anti-trump thought is with more conspiratorial thought.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Is it possible for the judiciary to disrespect the other 2 co-equal branches? What would that look like?

          • AnonEEmous says:

            is it really conspiratorial to note that someone who loses over half of his supreme court battles, maybe doesn’t care much if he loses supreme court battles

            here’s my thing: putting out an unconstitutional order is disrespectful to those meant to uphold it, as their job. Doing it this often begins to look like either incompetence or uncaring. Maybe it’s moreso that he was taking the old college try, hoping his orders would get through. But when the Supreme Court unanimously votes to strike down your order, it was probably a clear mistake. That signals a lot more constitutional and judicial disrespect than anyone here’s giving credit for.

          • Eltargrim says:

            To provide a counterpoint about unconstitutional orders and disrespecting the judiciary:

            Up here in Canada, our previous PM (Harper) championed and passed a number of laws that were fairly certain (I’d say 75%+) to be struck down by the Supreme Court. While this was spun various ways, it wasn’t seen as disrespectful to the court.

            What was seen as disrespectful to the court was when he accused the Chief Justice of acting inappropriately when there was a vacancy on the court. There was a bit of a furor over the incident, whereas the rulings were generally seen as politics at work.

            In an adversarial system of checks and balances, I think some level of friction is normal, and doesn’t rise to the bar of disrespect.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            Up here in Canada, our previous PM (Harper) championed and passed a number of laws that were fairly certain (I’d say 75%+) to be struck down by the Supreme Court. While this was spun various ways, it wasn’t seen as disrespectful to the court.

            Well, maybe it’s not disrespectful on a personal level to do that, and that might be where people are coming from. But the power of the Supreme Court is to check the government by striking down any illegal laws (or orders) so that those laws aren’t used to achieve illegal outcomes, and using them anyways until they are struck down is a direct attempt to get around this check. That sounds a lot more to me like disdain for limited power, especially if it is known that the law is most likely unconstitutional.

          • Spookykou says:

            @Jay T

            Sorry, I was just trying to point to the difference between Alex’s claim and Matt’s rebuttal.

            I personally am biased against Trump’s ‘tone’ in that I find it more disrespectful, more indicative of ‘disdain’ than any chastizations Obama dished out, which is where I would draw a distinction between the two. You also have him heaping praise on Putin at ever turn and the possible implications there as to his views on democracy. Other character details similarly affect my disposition. At the end of the day though it’s still just two different people saying they don’t like something in different ways so obviously other people could interpret it differently.

            Mostly though I made my comment for the express purpose of drawing out a rebuttal like Matt’s reply to me, your’s, or John’s, comparing president to president more directly, something that I felt was needed to really sell Matt’s point.

        • AnonEEmous says:

          Alex, this is hyperbole of the highest order.

          The major decisions that have gone against Trump have been accepted with relative equanimity; last I heard, he was crafting a new executive order specifically to get around the concerns of the judiciary. Now, he would’ve been perfectly within his rights to keep appealing the original until it was ruled on by the Supreme Court, and he decided against that.

          In other words, he has shit-talked one judge, two if you count Curiel Gonzalez way back in his campaign. But he’s accepted the limits on his power, just not on his Twitter account. So not only is that much better than other presidents we hold in high esteem, it’s really not a big deal at all.

          • Matt M says:

            Keep in mind the mockery over his “SEE YOU IN COURT” tweet.

            Which seems an order of magnitude more respectful than Jackson’s “let them enforce it”, Lincoln’s throwing his opponents in jail, or FDR’s “fine I’ll just appoint new judges loyal to me who will out-vote you” plan.

          • Iain says:

            This is the tweet that I find most concerning:

            Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!

            At some point during Trump’s presidency, “something” will happen, and Trump will attempt to blame it on the judiciary. It’s anybody’s guess how far he will take that, or how it will all play out.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            Well, Iain, like I noted in my post, Trump’s putting out another order that will do what he wanted the first “muslim ban” order to do without running afoul of the court’s current ruling (or probably any other court’s ruling).

            So maybe a concern on the grander scheme of things, but not this one specifically. And on top of that, I can find many people who would argue that this court ruled in a pretty sketchy way; if the court wasn’t judging impartially but politically, then the political consequences could easily be said to be their fault. Still, it’s something to watch, definitely.

          • John Schilling says:

            At some point during Trump’s presidency, “something” will happen, and Trump will attempt to blame it on the judiciary.

            Being blamed for Stupid President Tricks is the judiciary’s job, and always has been. Well, sometimes it’s Stupid Legislative Tricks or Stupid Gubernatorial tricks; the dynamic was explained to me by a state supreme court justice many years ago but I’m pretty sure it applies at the Federal level as well.

            In a democracy, every elected official will face powerful constituencies that want him to do something stupid and/or evil. Telling constituents that they are stupid and/or evil gets politicians voted out of office. Ignoring constituents gets politicians voted out of office. Trying to explain to constituents why their ideas won’t or shouldn’t work causes their eyes to glaze over and see above.

            Writing a law to do what the constituents want but in a way that the courts will surely strike down, gives elected officials a chance to say “I am your champion, against the Evil Tyranny of Unelected Judges! Elect me and I shall tell those judges what’s what and maybe replace some of them and Good Things Will Happen! Remember, the only reason Good Things aren’t happening now is the Tyranny of Evil Judges, who are Not Me!”

            This is the plan that allows sensible politicians to prevent popular but stupid and/or evil policies from taking root and still win reelection so they can keep blocking stupid evil stuff. And they’ve been doing it for centuries, including as noted some of our most revered and popular historic presidents.

            It’s anybody’s guess how far he will take that, or how it will all play out.

            We have, again, centuries of experience in how this turns out. And it usually turns out pretty well. Maybe this time will be different; that’s a real concern. But so far, Trump is doing this part of his job straight out of the playbook for successful not-evil presidents, and looking to the exact phrasing of his criticism of judges for the dog-whistle that supposedly says “this time, we really do kill all the Evil Judges” is as off-base as most every other accusation of dog-whistling.

            Don’t blow your credibility or your audience’s capacity for outrage over this until you’ve got clear evidence that Trump actually is taking this out of bounds.

      • cassander says:

        No, but him apparently lying to the VP about it is.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      Invasion of Iraq happened in the last 20 years, no way this will ever be thought as bad as that scandal. But that’s kind of a boring answer: if Trump were literally a Russian spy it wouldn’t be as bad as Iraq.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Really? Someone with access to all our secret information for the past 50 years feeding it to our enemy? That sounds like a nightmare. As far as America is concerned (the Middle East would feel differently), we’d rather have an Iraq every decade than that.

        • herbert herberson says:

          Why should we consider Russia “our enemy”?

        • The Nybbler says:

          If the Russians managed to make Keri Russella KGB/FSB sleeper agent the President of the United States, what do you think they would do with that?

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          Really? Someone with access to all our secret information for the past 50 years feeding it to our enemy? That sounds like a nightmare.

          Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning, call your office.

          • rlms says:

            I think Snowden and Manning have slightly less access to secret information than the President. At least I hope they do.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            I dunno, when people have been cheering on Wikileaks and its associated maze of Russian cutouts for years I am, let us say, unmoved by their sudden concern for official secrecy and fear of the perfidous Bolshies.

          • Montfort says:

            ThirteenthLetter, I’m sure you can see a difference between people leaking information to the public at large as opposed to simply giving it to a foreign power.
            People who approved of Bradley and Manning’s leaks did so largely because they thought the information uncovered should be known to the American people and were willing to accept that information being public to all (e.g. the governments of Russia, China, Iran, etc) as the price. If Trump is just feeding information to Russia like a classic spy, there’s no benefit for the leak-approvers to weigh against the cost.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            ThirteenthLetter, I’m sure you can see a difference between people leaking information to the public at large as opposed to simply giving it to a foreign power.

            In this case it’s a distinction without a difference. If you leak the information to everyone, you are also leaking it to the foreign power. It’s not as bad since at least we know that the information has been leaked, but there’s no world in which it is good. (And considering where Edward Snowden has been chilling for the past several years, the position that Russia has no influence over what Wikileaks chooses to leak in the first place and when is laughable. How bad is it if the foreign power is the one choosing what information gets leaked to the public at large?)

          • Montfort says:

            Okay, perhaps it’s a distinction without a difference to you. But I’m telling you that those who approve of the leak can do so because they think “the american people know about this” outweighs “the russians now know about this.” They do know both things are true, but they think the former is good enough that on the balance the action was positive.

            Now you are criticizing them for perceived inconsistency that they are worried Russians may get access to classified information. This is not inconsistent for at least two reasons:
            1. The part they like, where Americans learn about the information, isn’t there.
            2. They are permitted to value the classification of different pieces of information differently. They can think that the information Snowden leaked genuinely needed to be known so the citizens could weigh in on the privacy concerns and still think, e.g., the exact location and security measures around presidential safehouses should be secret.

            I am not saying you have to agree with them that the actions of Manning and Snowden were justified or net positive, just that you seem to be modeling them as one-dimensional enemies of government secrecy instead of people with complex and nuanced reasoning abilities.

      • cassander says:

        the invasion of iraq wasn’t nearly as bad an idea as the withdrawal from iraq.

    • tmk says:

      This is difficult because it is a factual question where most of us have little special knowledge. I am inclined to believe he has inappropriate ties, but I realize that belief is influenced by my general dislike of Trump, so I try not to argue about it too much. Those who dismiss all allegations seem even more politically motivated. I think Flynn’s resignation is the common issue where the lying is worse than the original misdeed.

      I am more concerned about Trumps open praise of Vladimir Putin. I think Putin is a really bad dictator, and Trumps praise indicates that he is willing to engage in the same kind of suppression of political opponents and human right, if only he could get away with it.

      • Jordan D. says:

        I agree with this. I find the various half-explored connections suspicious but- recognizing that I would be highly motivated to make such connections on insufficient data- it seems best to just sit back and assume that nothing’s true unless proven. After all, there are enough motivated investigators out there that if something more is to be found, it will probably be found.

        All of that crap aside, I do not like Putin as a leader, and I think it is worrisome that Trump is so willing to say nice things about him. Not because I think he should commit to shows of insulting foreign leaders to prove his independence of them, but because Putin is a despot in precisely the mould that Trump seems to find attractive. I think emulating Putin, aside from being bad for everyone in the country, would weaken the nation in stupid ways.

        But I am not sure that will happen- as the stupid “hey, uh, will you give back Crimea??” incident indicates, Putin may not be willing to actually play ball with Trump, and it’s possible that Trump’s original model of how diplomacy with Russia would work was based on not understanding how diplomacy with Russia works.

      • Nyx says:

        I feel like that’s the point that people are missing. The problem with Trump’s admiration for Putin is not that he’s Russian and Russia is The Enemy (as some seem to be implying), but that he’s an illiberal strongman with little respect for democracy beyond what is necessary to legitimize his rule. We should be worried about the possibility of admiration turning into aspiration or emulation. Even if you like Russia and think that US-Russia relations need to cool, that doesn’t mean that the US should be more like Russia.

      • gbdub says:

        What were your thoughts on Putin in 2012, when Mitt Romney was roundly mocked (“The 80s called, they want their foreign policy back”) for treating Russia as a geopolitical adversary?

        Because the position of the Democrats over that timespan seems to be: Invade Georgia and Ukraine? Meh. Prop up Assad? No biggie. Read John Podesta’s email? OH MY GOD WORST THING EVER!

        So while I’m with you on hating Putin, and hating any efforts to move America toward anything like that style of government, I’m also pretty suspicious of the motivations behind this most recent Red Scare. Authoritarianism sucks, but so does our intelligence apparatus selectively leaking intel to undermine an administration they don’t like.

    • BBA says:

      I’d say any Trump scandal is wishful thinking on the parts of anti-Trumpers, clinging to any shred of hope that he might be brought down. Just like every protest movement thinks it’s 1964 and they’re as obviously correct and noble as the Civil Rights Movement, every political journalist thinks it’s 1973 and they’re on the cusp of uncovering Watergate.

      To say I loathe and despise Trump with the burning rage of a thousand suns would be an understatement, but I try not to harbor these pointless fantasies about his downfall.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I read someone saying “this is it, we finally, now, have to take Trump down.” I I just thought “but that’s what Alan Arkin wanted to do in December just because Trump sucked.”

        This is exactly what crying wolf looks like. I have become inured to calls to eliminate or impeach Trump. How could I tell if this one is real? By the amount of screaming?

        • John Schilling says:

          I read someone saying “this is it, we finally, now, have to take Trump down.”

          I translate that as, “this is it, finally it will be obvious to everybody else that Trump has to be taken down, and the people who have actual power will go do that and I will pre-emptively remind them that I Told Them So so that I get credit”.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      Seeing as Russia still has enough nukes to kill us all, I find the idea of friendly relations at the top rather comforting, actually.

      • bean says:

        Not really. Russia’s nuclear infrastructure is in bad shape. And you vastly overestimate the destructive power of nuclear weapons (which everyone does, so don’t feel bad about it).
        Illustrative question: What is the largest country the US nuclear arsenal is capable of completely destroying? (Destroying is defined as getting a 20 psi overpressure over the country’s entire land area, ignoring packing efficiency.)

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          To define “totally destroy” as “hit the entire land area” seems silly.

          • bean says:

            So? I’m trying to make a point about the destructiveness of nuclear weapons, or lack thereof. Yes, it’s an idiotic targeting plan. If I was trying to actually build a nuclear targeting plan, it would look nothing like this one. But it does serve as a sanity check on “Russia can destroy us all”.
            Now answer the question, please.

          • rlms says:

            Why is “can irradiate a large amount of land” the best definition for “can destroy a country”? I think “can destroy a certain proportion of the population” is probably better.

          • bean says:

            However, if you think that’s unfair, I’ll take a different tack. Let’s assume an urban area is destroyed by 5 psi overpressure. (This is a good assumption.) I’ve gone through wiki’s list of urban areas, and pulled them into excel sorted by density. I then summed areas until I got to the same area that is covered by 1,500 300 kt warheads (a good estimate of the US strategic arsenal). Any guesses as to how many people live in the cities I killed via this method?
            I then repeated the same method on the remaining cities on the list, assuming the Russian arsenal is about the same size as that of the US. Any guesses as to what the figure for that was?
            Now, remember that some of those warheads will malfunction, or be lost on the ground, or be targeted on godforsaken parts of Montana, Wyoming, or Siberia.

          • bean says:

            Why is “can irradiate a large amount of land” the best definition for “can destroy a country”? I think “can destroy a certain proportion of the population” is probably better.

            Because that was the number I had on hand. The last time I had this discussion, the other person said “Is total annihilation of every square inch of a country necessary for deterrence?” So that’s what I did the analysis on. Anyway, I’ve come up with a reasonable proxy for ‘calculated to kill the maximum number of people’, although it was after you posted.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            You also don’t need to completely cover Tokyo with 5psi.

            The typical guidelines are to hit each minor urban center with 1 warhead, each normal urban area or industrial area with 2, and major cities or political targets with 3.

            Russia could completely cover those ~500 urban centers, no problem. Some of the smaller ones would escape because a warheads would fail.

          • bean says:

            You also don’t need to completely cover Tokyo with 5psi.

            No, but it’s more fun that way.
            In seriousness, ‘cover the entire city with 5 psi’ is a stupid way to write a targeting plan. But I’m not trying to write an intelligent targeting plan. That would take a lot longer, and be more involved. A lot of important things are surprisingly resilient (railway marshaling yards are the worst), and you’ll need to cover them separately.

            The typical guidelines are to hit each minor urban center with 1 warhead, each normal urban area or industrial area with 2, and major cities or political targets with 3.

            Whose guidelines? Those appear to be totally unrelated to what I know of actual targeting practice, and I’m willing to bet money that I’ve spent a lot more time on this than you. Nuclear warheads are not as destructive as you think they are.

            Russia could completely cover those ~500 urban centers, no problem. Some of the smaller ones would escape because a warheads would fail.

            Not to the level of actually destroying the city. I’ve heard from someone who used to actually target nuclear weapons that London would be better off in terms of infrastructure/wealth per person after a 1 MT airburst over the center of the city.

        • I strongly suspect a non-trivial subset of SSC commenters live in one of the ten biggest US cities, which makes it a slightly more rational fear for us :^)

          • bean says:

            I work right across the street from a military base which I’m pretty sure is on the target list. I have no more desire for nuclear war than anyone else, although the curves for an 800 kt warhead make me suspect it would be pretty quick. But I also don’t like hysteria about it.

        • Nornagest says:

          Hmm. Well, the Wikipedia page on American WMDs shows us as having 4,670 stockpiled warheads as of 2016, of which somewhere upwards of 1,890 are actively deployed (exact numbers are hard to find because this is counting nuclear-capable bombers, but not air-launched weapons). Let’s use the larger number and estimate an average of 300 kilotons of yield per weapon.

          The 20 psi overpressure radius for a 300 kt weapon is about 1.8 km; the area under that radius is 10.18 km^2. That gives us, very approximately, 47500 km^2 of 20 psi overpressure if we threw the entire arsenal at something. That’s a little bigger than Denmark (42,434 km^2) and a little smaller than Costa Rica (51,060).

          Of course, this is a horribly inefficient and highly unrealistic way of using nuclear weapons, as I’m sure you know.

          • bean says:

            I used the strategic arsenal figure of 1,500 warheads, and got an area of 16,833 km2, slightly bigger than East Timor and slightly smaller than Kuwait. The extra ~300 weapons are mostly tactical and usually smaller. I’m not really counting the stockpile, as it’s hard to see much of that getting deployed in a war. What does might make up for the deployed weapons that didn’t get off the ground. But overall, a very good answer.

            Of course, this is a horribly inefficient and highly unrealistic way of using nuclear weapons, as I’m sure you know.

            Obviously. I’m actually considering doing a full targeting workup of a city, but I don’t have time right now.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          Okay fine, “kill us all” was a pretty obvious exaggeration. How about “kill millions of us in a matter of hours”? You seem to be underestimating the danger nuclear war poses. I was born after the Berlin Wall fell and most of my generation seems to not understand how fucking big a deal this is. Sure it won’t literally destroy everything in the country, but you’re being intellectually dishonest if you assert that having multiple thousands of warheads dropped on us wouldn’t fuck up the country (and likely the planet) beyond recognition.

          Tens if not hundreds of millions of people (just in the US) would die: be it due to the blasts, the fires caused by the blasts, the destruction of the infrastructure needed to deal with the results of the blasts & fires, or starvation because, again, the infrastructure to get food to people is shattered.

          To say nothing of the effects of radiation, nuclear winter, and the EMPs. There would likely be some sort of Fallout-style continuation of mankind in America, but society as we know it is utterly fucked.

          Sure, Billy Bob’s Idahoan outhouse might get through the exchange unscathed, but that’s no comfort at all.

          • bean says:

            Okay fine, “kill us all” was a pretty obvious exaggeration. How about “kill millions of us in a matter of hours”? You seem to be underestimating the danger nuclear war poses.

            One of us has a nuclear bomb slide rule, and half a dozen books on nuclear weapons. I’m much more confident in my calibration of this issue than I am of yours.

            I was born after the Berlin Wall fell and most of my generation seems to not understand how fucking big a deal this is.

            So was I. Your point?

            Sure it won’t literally destroy everything in the country, but you’re being intellectually dishonest if you assert that having multiple thousands of warheads dropped on us wouldn’t fuck up the country (and likely the planet) beyond recognition.

            I agree it would be very bad. But I also am reasonable able to quantify that badness. It’s 1,500 warheads, not ‘multiple thousands’. Those still exist, but they’re one of the prime targets of the US arsenal. Likewise, the US stockpile is a target of the Russians. So a lot of those warheads are headed for places that are not civilian targets.

            Tens if not hundreds of millions of people (just in the US) would die: be it due to the blasts, the fires caused by the blasts, the destruction of the infrastructure needed to deal with the results of the blasts & fires, or starvation because, again, the infrastructure to get food to people is shattered.

            Being in a city would be very bad to fatal. But there are more plans to deal with this than you’d think. I do give you credit for bringing in aftereffects (most people don’t bother), but those are a lot more manageable in the US than in most places, and there are at least some plans to deal with them.

            To say nothing of the effects of radiation, nuclear winter, and the EMPs. There would likely be some sort of Fallout-style continuation of mankind in America, but society as we know it is utterly fucked.

            EMP is overrated as a danger, radiation isn’t as bad as you’d think (modern bombs are a lot cleaner than those of the 50s) and nuclear winter is basically a myth.

            Seriously, I’m not blase about this because I remember when it used to be worse, or because I live in the middle of nowhere and I’ll personally be fine if it happens. I’ve done enough research to know that it’s not nearly as catastrophic as the popular account would have you believe.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Some fair points. I had missed the exchange about nuclear winter, so thanks for that. And the STARTs have apparently been more effective than I’d realized, and there’s some scaremongering going on with the stats re: stockpiles, so I had some bad data. I’d actually like some followup on the EMPs if you don’t mind, as I’d been under the impression that the power grid and wired telecommunications would essentially be fried.

            So more central to the point,

            I’ve done enough research to know that it’s not nearly as catastrophic as the popular account would have you believe.

            That’s fair since popular account is pretty damn catastrophic. But is it or is it not still so catastrophic as to constitute an end to the world (or at least America) as we know it? You acknowledged that the big cities are pretty well screwed. Which more or less cuts the head off the economy and national cohesion. We might not be “bombed back to the stone age” but pre-Industrial seems like a reasonable conjecture. There’s just too many interleaving parts that are required for modern society to function.

            Like, I’ll update myself: as a species we managed to turn back the Doomsday Clock enough that it no longer (if it ever did) constitutes X-Risk. Is there also good reason to believe a contemporary nuclear exchange wouldn’t be Nation-ending?

          • bean says:

            Some fair points. I had missed the exchange about nuclear winter, so thanks for that. And the STARTs have apparently been more effective than I’d realized, and there’s some scaremongering going on with the stats re: stockpiles, so I had some bad data.

            I have to say I’m impressed by your updating.

            I’d actually like some followup on the EMPs if you don’t mind, as I’d been under the impression that the power grid and wired telecommunications would essentially be fried.

            Unfortunately, my knowledge of this is informal. But it’s been known as a potential problem for a while, and I believe that much more has been and is being done than is reported in the regular press.

            That’s fair since popular account is pretty damn catastrophic. But is it or is it not still so catastrophic as to constitute an end to the world (or at least America) as we know it? You acknowledged that the big cities are pretty well screwed. Which more or less cuts the head off the economy and national cohesion. We might not be “bombed back to the stone age” but pre-Industrial seems like a reasonable conjecture. There’s just too many interleaving parts that are required for modern society to function.

            Pre-industrial is too far. My guess is we’d lose an average of 100 years or so. I’ve heard from someone who used to do this for a living that the 1632 series is a decent portrayal of how life after nuclear war might work.

            Like, I’ll update myself: as a species we managed to turn back the Doomsday Clock enough that it no longer (if it ever did) constitutes X-Risk. Is there also good reason to believe a contemporary nuclear exchange wouldn’t be Nation-ending?

            It would be a very different nation, but the military would probably hold the remains of the country together. They have hardened radios and discipline.
            Edit:
            I should add that things would be a lot better with a little bit of civil defense prep. The injury total would probably be cut by half with a few minutes alerting. The aftermath likewise. And the infrastructure would be useful in natural disasters, too.

          • Chalid says:

            @bean if you think EMPs are overrated, would you say the same about solar weather events?

          • But is it or is it not still so catastrophic as to constitute an end to the world (or at least America) as we know it?

            Possible comparisons might be the damage done to Germany and Japan by WWII. It was very bad, and yet the countries recovered pretty fast.

            If the effect of a nuclear war was on that scale, it would be very bad but nowhere close to an end to America as we know it. How much more than that it takes I’m not sure.

          • Matt M says:

            probably depends on how strictly you define “as we know it” but both of those societies (Japan particularly) emerged quite different from the pre-war order of things, did they not?

            I mean yes, they were able to rebuild physical infrastructure and feed everyone sure, but the structure of society was entirely different after the war, was it not?

          • bean says:

            @chalid

            if you think EMPs are overrated, would you say the same about solar weather events?

            Not sure. It’s been a while since I looked into this, and I have some fragment which suggests that there’s a qualitative difference between high-altitude EMP and solar weather. I should look into it more, but I have a lot of other stuff on my plate.

            @DavidFriedman

            Possible comparisons might be the damage done to Germany and Japan by WWII. It was very bad, and yet the countries recovered pretty fast.

            On the other hand, they had the US pumping aid in. That’s not particularly likely in a post-nuclear world.

            If the effect of a nuclear war was on that scale, it would be very bad but nowhere close to an end to America as we know it. How much more than that it takes I’m not sure.

            Particularly at the level imposed by current arsenals, that’s a decent comparison.

            @Matt M

            probably depends on how strictly you define “as we know it” but both of those societies (Japan particularly) emerged quite different from the pre-war order of things, did they not?

            I mean yes, they were able to rebuild physical infrastructure and feed everyone sure, but the structure of society was entirely different after the war, was it not?

            Yes, but they also were clearly defeated in a way the US in our hypothetical nuclear war wouldn’t be, and subject to a massive social engineering project where other people’s soldiers run things for a while. It would be different, but I don’t think as different.

          • On the other hand, they had the US pumping aid in. That’s not particularly likely in a post-nuclear world.

            Germany also had the occupying powers imposing price and wage controls, which largely blocked recovery until Ehrlich succeeded in abolishing them. I’m not sure Germany was on net better off due to post-war intervention. West Germany received 11% of the Marshall plan money, so only about a billion dollars–perhaps equivalent to ten billion now. And it didn’t start until 1948, by which time it was well on its way to recovery.

            Note also that

            During the first three years of occupation of Germany, the UK and US vigorously pursued a military disarmament program in Germany, partly by removal of equipment but mainly through an import embargo on raw materials, part of the Morgenthau Plan approved by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

            I don’t know about the Japanese case.

        • AlphaCeph says:

          > vastly overestimate the destructive power of nuclear weapons

          I think this is an exaggeration. It probably wouldn’t take many nukes to ruin a country to such an extent that most people will die within a few months. E.g, the USA – hits on all or most of the cities over 300,000 people, multiples on LA and NYC and DC, some EMPs to wreck the power grid. That’s like 150 or so nukes, Russia has an order of magnitude more than that.

          What do you think will happen to the survivors? What will happen to food distribution, electricity, clean water, the internet/phones, sanitation, pest control, law and order?

          Nukes don’t have to kill you with over pressure or radiation. It’s enough that they destroy society around you and the services it provides.

          • bean says:

            I think this is an exaggeration. It probably wouldn’t take many nukes to ruin a country to such an extent that most people will die. E.g, the USA – hits on all or most of the cities over 300,000 people, multiples on LA and NYC and DC, some EMPs to wreck the power grid. That’s like 150 or so nukes, Russia has an order of magnitude more than that.

            It took me 5 to do a moderately comprehensive job of wrecking a city of about 3 million, and I left a bunch of important stuff untouched. Yes, it would be bad, and modern society wouldn’t survive in anything like its present form, but it’s more robust than you think.

            What do you think will happen to the survivors? What will happen to food distribution, electricity, clean water, the internet/phones, sanitation, pest control, law and order?

            Large portions of the St. Louis Metro Area were totally untouched in my simulation. Yes, it will be very different. But a lot of the country lives in places where recovery is possible. New York and LA are dead, but other places can survive. (DC will probably be fine. Our enemies are smart enough to know that removing it would make us significantly more efficient.)

          • What will happen to food distribution, electricity, clean water, the internet/phones, sanitation, pest control, law and order?

            I’m not sure you appreciate just how far above subsistence modern developed societies are. Real per capita income in the U.S. at present is about twenty to thirty times what the global average was through most of history.

            We could be a great deal worse off than we now are and still not have a very large fraction of the population literally starving to death.

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            @DavidFriedman:

            We could be a great deal worse off than we now are and still not have a very large fraction of the population literally starving to death.

            If we had a long period of time in which to adjust, yes. But a nuclear war would remove infrastructure we depend on in a matter of days; our stockpiles would run out in a few months.

            Even if we still had Khan Academy, I don’t think we could turn the population of New York City into successful subsistence farmers before most of them starved (or killed each other over parking spaces). I’ve read Little House on the Prairie; there’s a lot you have to know and an insane amount of work you have to do.

            It’s like the difference between sea levels rising two feet in a century, and two feet in a year.

          • John Schilling says:

            If we had a long period of time in which to adjust, yes. But a nuclear war would remove infrastructure we depend on in a matter of days; our stockpiles would run out in a few months.

            The infrastructure we depend on for food production and distribution over a timescale of months, which is what you seem to be talking about, mostly isn’t located in major cities, so I’m not clear on why you think it would be destroyed.

            Even if we still had Khan Academy, I don’t think we could turn the population of New York City into successful subsistence farmers before most of them starved

            You’re doing it wrong. We’ve already got enough non-subsistence farmers to run all of our arable farmland at levels far beyond what is necessary to avoid mass starvation anywhere in North America at least. They aren’t going to be killed in a nuclear war, their farmland isn’t going to be harmed, their fancy equipment isn’t going to be destroyed, and it can be patched together for a few years at least without new-production spare parts from the factory that maybe was destroyed. The trucks that deliver their food to market, also mostly not in cities and can be kept running for critical tasks for a good long while.

            Shortages of fertilizer and diesel fuel would be the big constraints on a timescale of months, but between rationing stockpiles and adopting substitutes I don’t see either of those as leading to mass starvation. Likewise food processing and packaging – people may not like being limited to just whichever bulk staples are presently in season, but they won’t starve.

            More generally: The alternatives are not limited to the specific food production we have now, subsistence farming, and starvation.

      • bean says:

        I decided to do a targeting workup of a city. I chose St. Louis, where I grew up, because it was small enough to be manageable, and large enough to have several good targets. I ended up using 5 800-kt airbursts at a height optimized for 5 psi overpressure. Some fine-tuning might change the numbers a bit, but not a huge amount.
        Targets, in order:
        1. The Boeing factory at Lambert Airport. They make F-15s and F-18s. Important.
        2. The downtown bridges. Effects of Nuclear Weapons indicated I had maybe 2 miles radius to do severe damage to them. This also takes out most of downtown.
        3. Scott Air Force Base. Home to Air Mobility Command (or whatever they call themselves this week).
        4. The Roxana refinery.
        5. The bridges north of downtown. This should also tear up the Granite City area pretty well, and there’s a lot of industry there.
        Nukemap estimates 347,750 deaths and 1,105,360 injuries. That’s approximately half of the population of the metro area dead or injured, which is a lot, but not as catastrophic as you’d think.
        Caveats: I did not optimize for best use of the weapons against the targets. I suspect that smaller, better-deployed weapons would suffice. I did not attempt to attack any rail/road transportation facilities besides the bridges, and I didn’t get all the road bridges. This may or may not be a good assumption when looking at actual targeting plans. There’s a fairly big GM factory not targeted, and probably several other industrial areas I missed. No account was made for missed targets or multiple warheads being used to enhance reliability. So no, three weapons are not sufficient to take out a major metro area completely.

        • Deiseach says:

          I decided to do a targeting workup of a city. I chose St. Louis, where I grew up, because it was small enough to be manageable, and large enough to have several good targets.

          This is the point where we put in the obligatory disclaimer to the NSA that all this is purely hypothetical for research purposes for a novel you may write and does not imply any intent on your part to obliterate St. Louis for slights you suffered growing up there 🙂

          • bean says:

            Granted. I should point out, though, that none of the places I lived would even have their windows broken, at least according to the map.
            And no, that wasn’t a design criteria. I wouldn’t implement the above plan, anyway, because it would destroy City Museum. (Yes, it’s a real thing, and it’s amazing.)

        • Gobbobobble says:

          “`Only` 5?” twigged the following questions for me: what proportion of Russia’s active nukes are reasonably expected to be headed to the continental US? Is it reasonable to assume the rest are all headed to NATO countries? Or only Britain and France since they’re the ones who also have nukes? Does Israel get some attention since they’re also a major US ally with strongly-implied nuclear capability? US bases in non-NATO allied countries?

          Basically looking for info on how to gauge the probability of a Russkie nuke headed somewhere near my home if they got pushed far enough to do it. And where to move if things look like they’re headed that way.

          • Spookykou says:

            Move to any smallish (less than 250,000) city with an aquifer and local agriculture would be my guess?

          • bean says:

            “`Only` 5?” twigged the following questions for me: what proportion of Russia’s active nukes are reasonably expected to be headed to the continental US?

            Obviously, these things aren’t really discussed in the open press. The first place Russian nukes are going is US missiles. We have 450 ICBMs, which takes out at least a third of their warheads once we add in support infrastructure. I’m not sure how big the Russian short-range nuclear force is. They’ll definitely be shooting at China and Europe, but I’m not sure what with. If we assume those are all taken care of by non-strategic forces, then I’d guess maybe 800 are headed at the US outside of the ICBM fields. At a guess, half of those are headed for military targets, the other half for civil/infrastructure targets.

            Is it reasonable to assume the rest are all headed to NATO countries? Or only Britain and France since they’re the ones who also have nukes? Does Israel get some attention since they’re also a major US ally with strongly-implied nuclear capability? US bases in non-NATO allied countries?

            Expect everybody to get at least a few. The Russians don’t want to end up in a world dominated by China, India, or Australia.

            Basically looking for info on how to gauge the probability of a Russkie nuke headed somewhere near my home if they got pushed far enough to do it. And where to move if things look like they’re headed that way.

            Where do you live? Major infrastructure is a target. Nobody actually plans to shoot purely at population.

        • bean says:

          I decided to re-do my targeting, because I wasn’t 100% happy with how it had turned out. This time, I went with 300 kt weapons, keeping the targets the same. However, when looking for more targets, I realized I’d made a serious mistake. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has a major facility in St. Louis (I knew this, but didn’t think about it) and it was at the edge of the downtown weapon’s 5 psi radius. This is probably not enough. I noticed that the building is right next to a railway marshaling yard, so to kill two birds with one stone, I dropped a surface burst on the yard. Yes, this does mean fallout. I’m not sure if the wind direction marker is pointing the right way or not. In any case, the total casualties for this attack are actually lower than the previous version, at 210,800 fatalities and 768,220 injuries (not counting fallout, which nukemap doesn’t estimate).
          Link to updated plot. It should be noted that I got rid of the 2nd degree burn and broken window contours visible on the previous map.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            So are the days of megaton weapons pretty much over? Or are they just in short supply and St Louis doesn’t warrant such force?

          • Nornagest says:

            There are still a few megaton weapons floating around — the B83 bomb is the American version — but my understanding is that they were a lot more popular decades ago. Targeting back then was imprecise, so you needed a large weapon to reliably break silos and other hardened facilities, because it would probably land hundreds or thousands of meters away from where you wanted it to.

            These days targeting is much better, so you can drop a smaller weapon right on top of whatever you want to kill for the same effect at much less size and weight. That in turn allows you to fit more warheads into your delivery system, get more bang for your buck in plutonium, etc. I don’t know how closely Russian doctrine follows this line of thinking, though; their avionics are usually more primitive than ours, so some of the assumptions might not hold. On the other hand, they’ve been developing their strategic capability more actively than we have over the last couple decades.

          • bean says:

            @Gobbobobble

            So are the days of megaton weapons pretty much over? Or are they just in short supply and St Louis doesn’t warrant such force?

            Pretty much over. As Nornagest says, improved accuracy has reduced the need for them in all but a few cases (explained below). Required tonnage is set by accuracy and target hardness, and I think all of Russia’s big weapons are probably aimed at missile silos. 300 kt is perfectly adequate for most city-type targets.

            @Nornagest

            There are still a few megaton weapons floating around — the B83 bomb is the American version — but my understanding is that they were a lot more popular decades ago.

            The B83 has a specific role. It’s a laydown weapon for killing very hardened, underground facilities. These take a lot of killing, so you drop the bomb, have it land relatively softly (although it still hits really hard, and it’s amazing that it works as well as it does) and waits while you escape. Then it goes off. If the target is sufficiently deep, you then come back and do it again.

            Targeting back then was imprecise, so you needed a large weapon to reliably break silos and other hardened facilities, because it would probably land hundreds of meters away from where you wanted it to.

            Hundreds of meters used to be common delivery accuracy from high altitude. The Atlas apparently had a CEP (think ‘normal miss distance’) of 1,400 m. You can’t crack silos with that, no matter how big the warhead is. A big (1 MT+) warhead is going to be able to destroy even medium-hard targets with that accuracy, though. The requirement for the Trident II was 90 m, which is enough to do so with relatively small warheads.

            These days targeting is much better, so you can drop a smaller weapon right on top of whatever you want to kill for the same effect at much less size and weight. That in turn allows you to fit more warheads into your delivery system, get more bang for your buck in plutonium, etc.

            Actually, big warheads are relatively cheaper than small ones, and not that much heavier. Warhead weight figures are always tricky, though. I suspect that some include the RV and some don’t. But you don’t want to overbuild too much, and modern warheads are safer and more reliable.

            Now, I’m going to take a tangent on accuracy. One of the more interesting things that happened in the 80s was that tactical nukes became much less important. Large yields are a way of compensating for miss distances. This is what made nuclear bombardment much more effective than conventional bombing. But with the rise of smart weapons in the 80s, tactical nukes were no longer critical to taking out lots of targets that previously would have been difficult to impossible to destroy with conventional weapons. Bridges, bunkers, and the like suddenly could be reliably destroyed by conventional weapons, as demonstrated in Desert Storm. So the same factors which got rid of the Megaton weapons got rid of the tactical ones, too.

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            @bean:

            In any case, the total casualties for this attack are actually lower than the previous version, at 210,800 fatalities and 768,220 injuries (not counting fallout, which nukemap doesn’t estimate).
            Link to updated plot. It should be noted that I got rid of the 2nd degree burn and broken window contours visible on the previous map.

            You may want to look into psychologically-healthier hobbies.

            Alternatively:
            1) Turn this one into a board game
            2) ????
            3) Profit!

          • Matt M says:

            Not a board game, but…

            Defcon: Everybody Dies

          • bean says:

            You may want to look into psychologically-healthier hobbies.

            What is this psychological health you speak of? And why is it damaged by doing nuclear targeting?
            (For some reason, this sort of stuff just doesn’t bother me. I can’t explain why.)

            Alternatively:
            1) Turn this one into a board game
            2) ????
            3) Profit!

            Hmm…
            My brother wants to be a board game designer. I might need to talk to him about this.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            I live in St. Louis, my house wasn’t even touched. Looks like we might lose our windows, we’re near the edge of one of the blasts.

            But I feel a little bit better about nuclear war now if it wouldn’t even reach us out here in Affton even as the city goes up.

        • gbdub says:

          So my understanding is that the majority of ground based ICBMs are likely targeted as counterforce weapons (i.e. mostly aimed at our ICBM fields and major military installations) – but is that a good assumption? Does anyone actually have a reasonable expectation that counterforce launches would hit their targets before they were detected and the opponents’ missiles launched in response? That is, wouldn’t most counterforce launches just end up hitting empty silos?

          Additionally I think most SLBMs (sub-based nukes) are primarily intended as countervalue (i.e. targeted at population centers) although an accurate enough SLBM (Trident II I think – but do the Russians have one?) could be a valuable counterforce weapon due to potentially short flight time.

          Long story short, I think a lot of the final casualty figures depend on how quickly US attack subs could take out Russian boomers (and how slippery Ohio-class boomers really are).

          I’d hate to wager on it, but I’d think that at this point the US advantage in command and control, and just probably better maintenance and readiness across the board, might actually make a US first strike an attractive possibility if shit started to hit the fan – I think we’d have a fair chance to take out a decent chunk of the Russian arsenal before it could launch. The retaliation would be really ugly, obviously, but I think NATO after first strike and Russian retaliation probably looks a lot better than NATO after a Russian first strike.

          • bean says:

            So my understanding is that the majority of ground based ICBMs are likely targeted as counterforce weapons (i.e. mostly aimed at our ICBM fields and major military installations) – but is that a good assumption? Does anyone actually have a reasonable expectation that counterforce launches would hit their targets before they were detected and the opponents’ missiles launched in response? That is, wouldn’t most counterforce launches just end up hitting empty silos?

            The Russians keep more of their warheads on ICBMs than we do, so I suspect some are going in countervalue targets. But yes, I think a lot of counterforce is going to be hitting empty silos.

            Additionally I think most SLBMs (sub-based nukes) are primarily intended as countervalue (i.e. targeted at population centers) although an accurate enough SLBM (Trident II I think – but do the Russians have one?) could be a valuable counterforce weapon due to potentially short flight time.

            I don’t think the Russians have anything to match Trident II, and their SLBMs all seem to have ~100 kt warheads.

            Long story short, I think a lot of the final casualty figures depend on how quickly US attack subs could take out Russian boomers (and how slippery Ohio-class boomers really are).

            The problem is that the Russian boomers can launch from pierside.

            I’d hate to wager on it, but I’d think that at this point the US advantage in command and control, and just probably better maintenance and readiness across the board, might actually make a US first strike an attractive possibility if shit started to hit the fan – I think we’d have a fair chance to take out a decent chunk of the Russian arsenal before it could launch. The retaliation would be really ugly, obviously, but I think NATO after first strike and Russian retaliation probably looks a lot better than NATO after a Russian first strike.

            Agreed, although I’d rather not put that to the test. It’s not as good as it was during the early 60s. There, the Russians had few long-range bombers, and their handful of ICBMs took days to ready. The US would have won a nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis handily.

      • There are a numbet of diffetent kindd of friendliness. ..for instance, wary nonagression, complacency or gkeeful collusion.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I think there is a 90+% chance that Russia actively cultivated relationships with people who are/were on the Trump team, and the people on the Trump team welcomed those relationships.

      I think the Trump has shown themselves to be extremely poor at playing the game (not the electoral game, the “game of thrones” that happens after you get elected). To that end, you start to have to ask how much it matters whether the relationships are “inappropriate”.

      Whatever else, Flynn talking to the Russian ambassador directly about sanctions was remarkably stupid.

      • Deiseach says:

        I have no idea what exactly is going on but I would not be surprised if Trump’s team had economic ties to Russia; everyone was trying to grab a juicy piece of the action when it was open for business. I think that is probably where any weak links lie: business, not spies.

        Does anyone know if anyone on the Democratic party supporting side has similar Russian interests? This is not to make any partisan points, this is a genuine question, because I’d be surprised if some company, business, donor, party hack etc. didn’t have a go at doing business there in partnership with a Russian company.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I think that is probably where any weak links lie: business, not spies.

          Business interests on our side might be distinguished from spies.

          Not as likely on the Russian side.

          • Deiseach says:

            Business interests on our side might be distinguished from spies.

            Not as likely on the Russian side.

            You guys were spying on the Germans, the Germans were spying on you and (allegedly) Angela Merkel knew nothing about it 🙂

            Dr Merkel insisted that the Snowden revelations of June 2013 were the first she had heard of mass NSA surveillance. When she learned of the NSA tap on her mobile phone, she said she protested to then US president Barack Obama, saying “we’re not still in the cold war”.

            At that point, her chief of staff – who has direct oversight of German intelligence services – had not yet told her that the BND foreign intelligence service was copying NSA tactics to spy on world leaders, parliaments and embassies.

            Intelligence agencies deciding they know better than the person in charge of the government may not be a road anyone particularly wants to go down, even if it is CIA versus Trump.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Deiseach:

            I’m not sure how what you are saying is relevant?

            I’m saying that if Trump and his circle are just interested in business opportunities, that has little bearing on whether their Russian contacts are or are not spying.

    • I agree with what a lot of people have already said. I think there was nothing wrong about what Flynn did, quite the contrary. I also think there are very serious weaknesses in the allegations that are made against Trump and Russia, which can be seen even by us, who don’t have access to all the information. I recently discussed this in details on my blog. The latest post, in particular, is really quite detailed and does what I think journalists should have done but didn’t. The information that was recently leaked to CNN and the New York Times about this raises some obvious questions that CNN and the New York Times completely ignored, so I tried to explain why they’re important in my posts. I think the current tensions with Russia are extremely dangerous and I really wish that people were not so easily falling for propaganda just because they don’t like Trump. There are some very good reasons to dislike Trump, but they’re no reasons to stoke the tensions with Russia.

    • John Schilling says:

      If Trump was sufficiently Presidential in December that his phone call to Taiwan was A Big Deal, then Flynn in December was sufficiently Advisorial that the simple fact of his talking to the Russians was Not A Big Deal. January 21, Trump and Putin need to have a good working relationship, just as Clinton and Putin or Johnson and Who Now? would have needed such a relationship in their alternate universes. Laying the groundwork in advance is reasonable.

      I’d very much like to know what they talked about, and some of the possibilities like an explicit quid pro quo on sanctions would be a very big deal indeed. But we aren’t going to get that information, and US-Russian relations are going to wind up exactly where they would have been if there had been no suspicious pre-election contact, so meh. We’re still waiting for the scandal that will bring down Trump, or even be remembered long after him.

    • herbert herberson says:

      Speaking as someone who loathes Trump in almost every possible way:

      a. No one has given me a good reason to begin trusting the people making these accusations (starting from a place of non-trust due to Iraq and my general anti-imperialism)
      b. No one has been able to tell me why, if true, they would crack the top-ten list of things to hate about Trump. This second one, in particular, is not for lack of asking–but whenever I do ask, I just get sputtering about how it is axiomatically bad to be influenced by foreign countries and how Putin kills journalists.

      The only time my questions have gotten an interesting answer so far was from a guy in his fifties saying he couldn’t possibly explain why it matters to a person (like me) who can’t remember the Cold War. I think there’s a lot of truth to that one.

  4. razorsedge says:

    What is the best way for a freshman college student to maximize his career earnings. Imagining that the said student is upper middle class, decently good at math, good social skills, and has a medium high 125-130 IQ , a bit taller than average, and moderately attractive , but also an overrepresented minority. Also interested in business related careers.

    • Jugemu says:

      Why maximize earnings? Are there any other balancing factors?

    • Zephalinda says:

      How much risk is this person willing to tolerate? Between a moderate-reward, low-variance strategy and a potentially high-reward strategy with high variance, which would he prefer? How important is it to limit the absolute badness of worst-case outcomes?

      How about work ethic? Geographical preferences?

      • razorsedge says:

        Medium sized tolerance,( but willing to wait a few years for payout), prefers NYC or Silicon Valley. Work ethic that is normalish ( nothing amazing but not stays and home and smokes weed all day). And define worst case scenario. And define worst case scenario. Its one thing to have a startup thats in the works and need parental support for a year, a differnet thing to end up permanently unemployed and fall out of the upper-middle class range and culture.

    • sohois says:

      This is essentially what 80000 hours advises on, and they would probably just say consulting.

      I would also just say consulting.

    • James Miller says:

      Really depends on the college. For an elite school probably investment banking, and focus on good grades and summer internships, although they are hard to get after just your first year of college. If you don’t attend an elite college, attempt to get good grades and transfer into one.

    • IB/consulting are very classic choices.

      I, personally, think tech is more fun. If you can combine some software engineering skills along with economics/business, you can position yourself to get some really well compensated jobs.

    • Brad says:

      Low variance path: doctor, consulting, tech (non-startup)
      Mid variance path: investment banking (buy side for more risk & reward)
      High variance path: tech (startup)

    • Rock Lobster says:

      I think some of the other commenters are neglecting to mention the optionality of business school.

      So I would say, go for finance. If it works out, great. If it doesn’t work out for whatever reason (finance careers are very path-dependent, in my opinion. The industry can go into a crap cycle and then you’re out, and you can never really get back in because a new crop of people move up through the xylem during the next upswing) then you can go to business school and shoot for something with lower pay but lower variance, consulting in particular. I don’t really know anything about tech.

      I work in finance and this is basically what I’ve been doing. I’m a compulsive saver because I don’t know if or when I’m gonna have to go figure something else out to do with my life.

      One thing to be aware of is that a lot of the fancy front-desk finance jobs seem to be in a secular decline, partly due to regulation but also just due to automation. For example, equity sales and trading has gone over to computers, but you still gotta pay a bond sales guy a million bucks a year to pick up the phone and then flip through an order book to get you some bonds. How much longer is that gonna last? Some of this traditional bank activity has shifted to other players like hedge funds, but shooting for a hedge fund job right out of school is a huge gamble and not likely to lead to a long-term career, though I guess you might get rich. Hedge funds as of now kind of sick to be at cuz they all invested in Valeant. I’m being a little snarky with that last bit but that strikes me as the lay of the land right now.

      • Variation on this is to study some econ/data-science combo stuff. Then you’re qualified for both types of jobs. In my most recent interviews I was simultaneously interviewing with top tech firms and a few SF based hedge funds. I lucked into my skillset, since when I started studying I didn’t know some coding/econ would end up also qualifying me for this new tech data science job.

        As a side note, I’m also not at all prodigious. I work pretty hard, and never got As in math classes etc. Not 130iq+ quant material.

        • James Miller says:

          What do these coding/econ jobs consist of? (I’m an econ professor and am often asked for career advise by econ major students.)

          • There are lots of data science jobs at companies like Amazon/Facebook/Google/Zillow (etc), as well as the mid-sized and startup-sized companies, that are looking for people with strong economic reasoning skills to help bridge or work at the cross section between business strategy, experimental/data inference, data analytics, and data engineering.

            More specifically, there might be a new market launch or new product launch, and they want someone who has a more economic and nerdier bend to work alongside a business team, but take care of more of the analytic/sciencey parts. On a new or mainly business team, this might just be doing work in Excel/SQL. On a team with a bigger econ presence you could do causal inference work and A/B testing.

            I have friends who also work on applying economic reasoning on web dev teams (like Zillow/Trulia).

            The catch for your undergrad students though is it’s very important they accumulate both tech skills, as well as a propensity to be comfortable in a tech environment. They are obviously not CS majors, but even taking 1 or 2 courses in CS makes a normal econ major resume absolutely pop out of the crowd. The ‘fear’ of hiring econ B.A.s is that they come in and can’t figure out or teach themselves how to use the databases and servers the team uses, and that someone needs to hold their hand.

      • Finance ONLY if you’re at a top ~10-20 school.

        Otherwise it’s totally, definitely, not worth it!

        • Rock Lobster says:

          Unfortunately this is true. It’s possible, but difficult, to break into that world from a lower-tier school. I know a guy, for example, who went to University of Florida and managed to get himself a banking internship and then a full-time offer, but he had to be very proactive about making that happen, as the banks were not doing on-campus recruiting there.

          When I was in analyst training, it was almost comical how seemingly everybody in my class was recruited from Cornell, Columbia, and Carnegie Mellon. The Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and MIT guys were nowhere to be found because they were all at McKinsey or Goldman.

          I’m exaggerating a little to make my point, but the layering of schools, for lack of a better term, was real.

          • Matt M says:

            Investment banking is different from finance. “Finance” usually means corporate finance which isn’t particularly elite, or all that high-earning. Certainly not compared to consulting or investment banking.

          • Rock Lobster says:

            I’m not sure I’d agree with that, at least in my context. If someone told me he “works in finance,” and then I found out he actually worked in a corporate finance department or on the Jimmy Stewart side of a bank, I’d think he was being disingenuous.

            Finance is not synonymous with I-banking, but finance would basically include the banking and markets side of a bank and the buy-side, and maybe something else I’m not thinking of right now. For purposes of OP’s question, this is what matters because these are the high-paying areas of the industry.

          • Matt M says:

            Among people who major in finance, what percentage do you think end up in I-banking or buy-side research as opposed to corporate finance or customer-facing banking roles (I was thinking more Charlie Sheen in Wall Street rather than Jimmy Stewart, but both work fine)

          • Rock Lobster says:

            Your point is taken, but I can only speak to how I see the term used on the ground in my admittedly Manhattan-centric context. And in trying to answer razorsedge’s question about how to choose an earnings-maximizing career, when people respond with “go into finance,” they’re not talking about those lower-paying, lower-status jobs.

            The trouble with using Charlie Sheen as an example is that his job doesn’t exist anymore, having been almost completely supplanted by electronic trading systems.

          • Matt M says:

            It’s been awhile since I’ve seen the movie, but wasn’t Charlie Sheen’s job basically calling people and begging them to buy certain investments? He wasn’t some super glamorous trader until he used his connections to get in with Gordon Gekko.

            I’m quite confident the cold-call farm still exists as a profession.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Yeah, basically with intelligent, good at math, and wants to make a lot of money, two careers pop out: tech and finance. In both you need to be near the top. Height, social skills, and good looks are good anywhere, but probably are least important in tech, which points to finance.

          • Brad says:

            Just to sum up for razorsedge: the finance recommendation at hand involves almost certainly getting a first job out of college in the NYC area, probably with a major bank (Goldman et al), with the title analyst making $80k+ plus bonus.

            It isn’t getting a job at a bank branch in Peoria or a back office in Charlotte.

            There are certainly other paths but the above is the modal path by a long shot.

          • Rock Lobster says:

            As I recall it Charlie Sheen was a stockbroker and was pitching stocks to people to try to bring them in as brokerage clients. I can’t quantify to what extent this model is still lingering around somewhere, but becoming a stockbroker is not a viable model at this point for a young person trying to get into finance.

    • Adam says:

      Plenty of good advice on careers, but also marry well. Splitting a lifetime’s worth of expenses with someone who makes just as much money as you will leave you with much more at the back end. Divorce risk mitigates some of this, but provided you’re still young enough when it happens, it’s not hard to jump right back in and find an even better wife. Being tall and attractive will help a great deal.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Find the people who are good at networking and network with them. I think the normals call this “befriending.”

      Remember, you are the average of the 5 people you spend your time with, and people skills beat technical skill 9 times out of 10.

      • cassander says:

        >Find the people who are good at networking and network with them. I think the normals call this “befriending.”

        I prefer the phrase “charisma parasitism”. The normals don’t seem to appreciate it though.

  5. DavidS says:

    I have a question for people who are good at parsing medical studies/advice.

    Salt. It being a big deal for blood pressure is presented as completely definite and I thought was undisputed. But saw various people- including taubes who we’ve discussed before – argue it’s a fairly minor effect compared to other diet issues.

    This isn’t just a hypothetical question for me as I have very high blood pressure. On medication but would seem to make sense to go with the grain lifestyle wise.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      All the authorities* agree that salt has little effect on people with normal blood pressure. What it does in the relevant case of people with high blood pressure is controversial. Most people have very false beliefs about where the sodium in their diets comes from, making them unable to actually reduce it. If you don’t make your own food, it is difficult to reduce your sodium intake. But if you do, there is a very simple solution: substitute potassium for sodium. Although I have normal blood pressure, on I use “lite salt” that is 50/50 on the grounds that everyone is deficient in potassium.

      * I’m willing to “no true Scotsman” my way down to Cochrane.

    • Loquat says:

      What I’ve read is that some people are particularly sensitive to salt, and those people substantially improve their blood pressure by cutting it, but if you’re not one of those people then cutting your sodium intake isn’t very helpful and cutting it too far may actually harm you. If you haven’t ever tried a low-sodium diet before, it probably wouldn’t hurt to try it for a while and see if it actually lowers your blood pressure.

  6. Winter Shaker says:

    Does anyone know a good way to save a copy of the entirety of a Twitter account? One of my favourite Weird Sun accounts regularly gets taken offline, and I’d like to be able to have a saved copy in case they ever decide to delete their account for good.

  7. Jugemu says:

    I’m starting to have a hard time separating political hysteria (on both sides to some extent) from reality.

    Not sure if minor political BS or on verge of civil war :hmmface:.

    • Jugemu says:

      Addendum: rapidly losing reasons to live in modern atomised age

      • FacelessCraven says:

        @Jugemu – “I’m starting to have a hard time separating political hysteria (on both sides to some extent) from reality. Not sure if minor political BS or on verge of civil war :hmmface:.”

        It’s minor political BS. I mean, it’s probably the most major minor political BS we’ve had in a long time, but hysteria is not justified.

        “Addendum: rapidly losing reasons to live in modern atomised age”

        Atomized living is at least somewhat of a choice; there are some other options available.

        • suntzuanime says:

          Let’s start a commune in Idaho

          • FacelessCraven says:

            I doubt it’d be popular with the majority here, but I’ve found Church works pretty well. Back when I was still an atheist, some friends and I had something of a brotherhood of artists going.

        • Kevin C. says:

          “Atomized living is at least somewhat of a choice; there are some other options available.”

          Such as? And for how long?

        • The Nybbler says:

          In non-atomized living, you start to have to make compromises with the people you’re living with. And somehow or another it’s always the same people who end up on the short end of those compromises. So if they can, those people will leave. Without some counterbalancing phenomenon pushing against it, atomization dominates.

    • Deiseach says:

      Not sure if minor political BS or on verge of civil war

      You can always count on a copious flow of political BS, no matter the time or party. As for the rest of it, the Black Bloc crowd seem to have calmed down for the moment so there’s no continuous rioting in the streets. Without constant street violence (and I mean ‘water cannons, riot police, tear gas and rubber bullets’), the risks of civil war are lower. All the “ring your representatives and threaten them if they vote yes to confirm Betsy deVos you will vote for their rival in the next election” probably will have some effect, given that elections are coming up and quite a few will be nervous about retaining their seats or hoping to gain one, but in the end I do think it’s more of a time-waster than a mass movement.

      The idea of getting all the Democrats in Congress to vote “no” on everything all the time right up until the elections isn’t really a flyer, in my opinion. And the “he’s gonna be impeached any day now” is also wishful thinking.

      What could be serious is if the intelligence agencies really are out to get Trump, or even the perception that they are; I base that on the alleged actions of MI5 in Britain when the Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson got into power – he had been investigated as a Soviet sympathiser/agent back in his college days, there were all kinds of rumours swirling around, including allegations of a planned coup in his first term of office, and he himself claimed that MI5 had bugged Number 10 – there is even an Official Denial up on the MI5 website.

      Actually, reading up about Wilson and his private secretary, Marcia Williams, is weirdly reminiscent of the allegations about Trump and his coterie: meeting the Russian premier at a dinner, dodgy business dealings, undue influence, and the like:

      Wilson’s press secretary Joe Haines claims that the pair first met at a dinner with the Soviet premier, Nikita Khrushchev, at which Khrushchev and the Labour MP George Brown had a drunken argument, which Williams took down in shorthand. Wilson reportedly drove her home after dinner. In 1970 she was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).

      Questions were raised in the press at the time about her commercial dealings; however, both Wilson and Williams successfully sued many London newspapers for libel. Later Harold Wilson publicly called for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the press because of the defamation in the media, and that there had been a concerted smear campaign to de-stabilise his administration by MI5. Later these claims were corroborated by Peter Wright, former assistant director of MI5, in his book Spycatcher. Spycatcher was banned in the UK by Margaret Thatcher’s administration.

    • Spookykou says:

      “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”

    • Me too. I’m somewhat naively increasing my burden of proof required as a rough approximation to deal with it.

      e.g. w.r.t Trump and Russia, if someone cannot show me something explicit, I disregard it.

      The downside to this is it makes it harder to filter out more complex or noisy phenomena that could still be real.

      • Cypren says:

        Same. I started out the 2016 campaign with the perspective, “the mainstream media are biased, but not as pro-Democrat as Fox is pro-Republican”. I have since adjusted that to “any media report which negatively reflects on Trump is assumed to be grossly misleading distortions if not outright lies until concretely proven otherwise” after the combination of slanted coverage, constant breathless allegations from anonymous sources (many of which were later proven false) and outright admissions from media figures that they were abandoning all pretense of objectivity because Trump Is Literally Hitler.

        Post-election campaign coverage has so far only confirmed my heuristic is operating fairly well.

        Like you, I am extremely concerned that this means that Trump will get away with something legitimately terrible because anyone who will call him on it has blown all their credibility insisting that he’s a Russian spy who pisses on hookers or something along those lines.

  8. Jugemu says:

    Is it just me or is the WordPress login system a total clusterfuck? I remember is being a confusing pain in the ass to register, and now I can’t use a custom gravatar because that apparently requires me to have a WordPress account, which I somehow don’t have despite being able to post here.

  9. Jugemu says:

    Testosterone levels have been going down for a while now, but first beards and then weightlifting have come back into fashion. Attempt at compensation, or is T overrated for masculinity?

    • onyomi says:

      Was weightlifting ever out of fashion? It seems to me to have charted a fairly steady course from “thing only circus guys with funny moustaches and leopard-print togas do” to “thing nearly all men and a fair number of women do.”

      Though it would be weird and surprising, though not necessarily meaningful, if that steady course did turn out to have a close inverse relationship to testosterone levels, especially since resistance training is supposed to raise testosterone.

      Somewhat related question: if it’s true that testosterone levels have been going down in recent decades and/or that weightlifting has some significant effect on testosterone, why does it not seem to have a significant effect on things we associate, medically, with testosterone?

      For example, I don’t have the impression that men are any more or less hirsute or bald now than they were 50 or 100 years ago, or that weightlifting (assuming you don’t take steroids) makes you any more hirsute or bald or prone to a heart attack, etc. I guess some might possibly attribute falling crime rates, however?

      • Brad says:

        I hope that to-from is supposed to be projecting well into the future, because as far as I can tell we are far, far away from the point “thing nearly all men and a fair number of women do” for weightlifting. Although I guess we’d be closer if you count anyone that’s ever done it rather than only those that have done so in the past week or month.

        • nimim.k.m. says:

          >because as far as I can tell we are far, far away from the point “thing nearly all men and a fair number of women do” for weightlifting.

          We are, however, at the point where most of the males in my social circles a) go to the gym (to lift weights or equivalent), b) lie how often they go to the gym (have no idea how often that happens, but if I know anything about humanity, it does), or c) have some other sport-y excuse (“I cycle to the work. Did you notice my very inconspicuous helmet and sporty backpack?”, “here is some pics how I ran a marathon in Munchen 3 years back, then I broke my knee while running in forest”).

          I’m the only one I know who is shamelessly being lazy. I walk a lot, but that’s more about living a city without a car than anything else. As I say to everybody, I’d have to cut time from my other activities, and if I manage that, I’m going to spend it reading something from the list of 100 books/articles/etc I’ve been intending to read but hadn’t got around to do yet. (Audiobooks do not work, I can’t concentrate on listening anything except music if I’m doing something.)

      • dndnrsn says:

        The popularity of weights seems to have been, over the 20th century on:

        a) first, little popularity besides physical culture people; athletes (even football players!) were told not to lift weights
        b) then bodybuilding brought it into popularity
        c) then bodybuilding declined, but weights continued to become more popular with athletes
        d) then powerlifting and Olympic lifting got more popular

      • Loquat says:

        I’ll join the people skeptical about “nearly all” men lifting weights – there’s an article I can’t seem to find again, by a guy (affluent blue tribe) who took up weightlifting and enjoyed the results but gave it up because his wife and social group all disapproved. IIRC his wife preferred him with the leaner runner’s build he’d had before, and his friends found his wish to increase his physical strength highly dubious and suggestive of red-tribe thinking.

        • dndnrsn says:

          That article struck me as … odd. I would call the milieu I inhabit left-wing, and “blue tribe” (if we’re using that to mean anything other than a synonym for left-wing), and plenty of people I know lift weights.

        • psmith says:

          ayy lmao

          There’s probably a generational effect here, too. I’m told there is a very pronounced generational effect in the US military, so this isn’t entirely conjecture.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            On the one hand, the upper middle class and upper class men I run into are as a rule pretty scrawny. The only well-off people I know who lift are the med students.

            On the other hand, the writer’s “ostracism” seems to be entirely a product of his own imagination. The whole article is a list of two or three pico-aggressions by aeorbically-inclined peers combined with paragraph after paragraph of his own class insecurity.

            Maybe I’m still not moving in classy enough circles to notice but there doesn’t seem to be a noticeable anti-lifting prejudice among reasonably wealthy (upper east side) New Yorkers. It might mark you as not having been born into money, but honestly that’s not something you’d be able to hide for long anyway.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        Depends on where you draw the line for “weightlifting”, Crossfit is super fashionable, and it involves a fair bit of lifting weights.

        • Brad says:

          Throw in crossfit, throw in aerobics while holding weights, throw in jogging with ankle weights. I still don’t think you get anywhere close to “nearly all”.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Probably not. What about limiting the “nearly all” to “college-educated middle-class (or above) people”?

          • Brad says:

            Nope. Even:
            -Men
            -In households with gross income over $50,000, and lead by a householder with a bachelor’s degree or higher
            -18-34
            -Anything that could plausibly be called weightlifting

            I’d still bet you don’t hit 50% in the last month, much less nearly all. Actually I’m not sure if the middle class+ condition hurts or helps.

      • psmith says:

        The “weightlifting increases testosterone” meme has got to die. The only clinical studies on the subject with positive results measure acute changes, not chronic changes, and in untrained subjects, and the changes are essentially never clinically significant. There are a fair number of studies with negative results, see for instance. Additionally, a good number of the effects under discussion are effects of DHT (everything to do with hair, more or less) and therefore controlled in part by levels of 5α-reductase, or plausibly related to fetal/pubertal testosterone levels and therefore not particularly susceptible to changes caused by resistance training as an adult.

        You will probably feel better and look better if you are active rather than sedentary. Any claims to a step-by-step mechanistic understanding of the relevant underlying process are almost certainly useless and false.

  10. JulieK says:

    Some people have expressed concern that a Playmobil figurine representing Martin Luther has an anti-Jewish message:

    The problem, [Professor Micha Brumlik] said, was the inscription on the open pages of the Bible that the Playmobil Luther holds. On the left is written in German: “Books of the Old Testament. END” while the right page says “The New Testament, translated by Doctor Martin Luther.”

    Why was the word “END” written so prominently, Brumlik asked. “Theologically, there can be no other reason than that the ‘Old Testament’ and its validity should be seen as ended and superseded,” he wrote in the Berlin newspaper tageszeitung.

    “Is the Old Testament, the Scripture of the people of Israel common to Jews and Christians, outdated and overtaken, as many Nazis — the so-called German Christians — wanted to see it, or is it just as important as the Gospels for Christian denominations?”

    My question is, isn’t it a core Christian belief that the Jewish scriptures have been superseded? Or is this idea mainly limited to “Nazis” nowadays?

    • Zephalinda says:

      Well, various Christian denominations have complicated relationships with the Old Testament, but “OT=END, LOL” doesn’t at all describe any of the ones I’m familiar with. Certainly not supported by the NT itself, e.g. Matthew 5:17:

      Jesus said to his disciples:
      “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.
      Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.

      Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

      The actual Nazis weren’t particularly Christian either, were they? Wikipedia says Goebbels saw an “‘insoluble opposition’ between Christian and Nazi worldviews.”

    • Winter Shaker says:

      Not a Christian, but if it was a core Christian belief that the Jewish scriptures were superseded, then they could presumably have simply omitted them when the Christian Bible was formalised – i.e. ‘the Bible’ would simply contain the New Testament. Presumably enough Christians thought that enough of the old Jewish beliefs still applied to make it important, in a time of limited literacy and expensive paper, to continue transcribing them, in a way that enough Muslims didn’t, at the time the Qur’an was first formally written down.

    • smocc says:

      The Old Testament in my KJV Bible has “THE END OF THE PROPHETS” printed in capital letters right at the end. Perhaps the designer just cracked open a Bible and approximated what they saw?

    • RDNinja says:

      It’s not that the OT has been superseded, but much of it has been fulfilled, or is not relevant to the AD era. For instance, Christians don’t follow the sacrificial laws because Jesus fulfilled them once and for all as the ultimate sacrifice. The civil laws aren’t relevant because the nation of Israel doesn’t exist as it did at the time. And the purity laws aren’t followed because God’s relationship with humanity changed with the life and death of Christ. But the moral laws are still in force, and much of the OT is necessary ro properly understand the NT in context.

    • CatCube says:

      Stating that Old Testament END is intended to be anti-Semitic is an uncharitable reading of the intent there. I think that it was more a stylistic choice of the time, and a tendency in liturgy to put a formal ending to things. In Lutheran services, the termination of a bible reading generally ends with “Here ends the lesson.”

      Now, one reason that they may have made an uncharitable reading with a Luther figurine is that Luther was, unfortunately, extremely anti-Semitic at the end of his life. He wrote a book called “The Jews and their Lies” that was approvingly quoted by Hitler. The man deserves a lot of credit for being a mobilizing force behind the Reformation, but he had some real baggage.

    • tmk says:

      I have always had the impression that the NT supersedes many of the laws of the OT, but not that Christians consider the OT superseded in general.

      I looked into this a bit. The figure was developed by Playmobil together with the German Tourism Board and is based on a statue of Luther in Wittenberg. So I don’t think Playmobil intended anything antisemitic, now do I think anyone has accused them of it.

      The question becomes if the figure unintentionally repeats an antisemitic message on the statue. Martin Luther himself was certainly very antisemitic, especially at the end of his life. The statue was made by Gottfried Schadow in 1821. Schadow was married to a jewish woman, and I cannot find any allegation that he had antisemitic views.

      Strangely, a drawing of the statue from 1822 shows a different inscription on the bible, that I have trouble reading.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Why would he make a drawing after a sculpture? It’s probably a preliminary sketch and that’s why it differs. I think it says 1817, so that’s probably when it was drawn, which is probably when it was commissioned, for the 300th anniversary of the Theses. (Though it would make sense to say 1517, but it doesn’t look like it to me.) I think that the line below is a signature, although it doesn’t quite look right.

    • bean says:

      My question is, isn’t it a core Christian belief that the Jewish scriptures have been superseded? Or is this idea mainly limited to “Nazis” nowadays?

      Superseded in that we aren’t bound by the Old Testament Law? Yes. Superseded in that it’s no longer scripture? Absolutely not. That’s an idea which has, AFAIK, only ever been popular in the Reich Church, for obvious reasons. And describing that body as a Church is stretching the point. The Nazi program to remake Christianity in their own image is frankly disturbing to read about. The OT was out, because it was too Jewish. Large portions of the NT were incompatible with their worldview, too. The Nazis did not believe that the meek would inherit the Earth. References are German Christians and Positive Christianity. So far as I know, they are the only large group in recent history to advocate the removal of the OT.
      As for the figure, I don’t see any problem. In fact, I may have to tell my pastor about this, so he can get one for his son. He already has a Martin Luther bobblehead.

    • random832 says:

      Why was the word “END” written so prominently, Brumlik asked. “Theologically, there can be no other reason than that the ‘Old Testament’ and its validity should be seen as ended and superseded,” he wrote in the Berlin newspaper tageszeitung.

      I think this is someone who is making deliberately controversial statements. “Theologically, there can be no other reason” is nonsense, because it requires deliberately ignoring the context that it’s meant to be a portrayal of the last page of the OT in some (theoretical or real) edition of the Bible, not an independent statement regarding the OT as a whole.

      It’s certainly possible it was meant in a more sinister way (if not by the people designing the figure, then by the person who made the statue it was based on, or else any previous work that may have been based on, even so far as perhaps an actual edition of the bible it may be a transcription of) but a fair examination of that possibility requires at least acknowledging and dismissing the more obvious meaning rather than completely ignoring it.

    • Deiseach says:

      Oh, boy.

      I’m not going to touch Luther, but we’ve already had this fight: Marcion, in the early 2nd century. Y’all need to brush up on your Christian heresies 🙂

      Very broadly and to make a long story short: Marcion declared that the God of the Old Testament and God the Father of Jesus of the New Testament were two different beings, the Old Testament under the Law was superseded, the books of the Old Testament should not be part of the Christian Scriptures and he set out his own list of what would be the canon of the New Testament:

      We must distinguish between the doctrine of Marcion himself and that of his followers. Marcion was no Gnostic dreamer. He wanted a Christianity untrammeled and undefiled by association with Judaism. Christianity was the New Covenant pure and simple. Abstract questions on the origin of evil or on the essence of the Godhead interested him little, but the Old Testament was a scandal to the faithful and a stumbling-block to the refined and intellectual gentiles by its crudity and cruelty, and the Old Testament had to be set aside. The two great obstacles in his way he removed by drastic measures. He had to account for the existence of the Old Testament and he accounted for it by postulating a secondary deity, a demiurgus, who was god, in a sense, but not the supreme God; he was just, rigidly just, he had his good qualities, but he was not the good god, who was Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The metaphysical relation between these two gods troubled Marcion little; of divine emanation, aeons, syzygies, eternally opposed principles of good and evil, he knows nothing. He may be almost a Manichee in practice, but in theory he has not reached absolute consistency as Mani did a hundred years later. Marcion had secondly to account for those passages in the New Testament which countenanced the Old. He resolutely cut out all texts that were contrary to his dogma; in fact, he created his own New Testament admitting but one gospel, a mutilation of St. Luke, and an Apostolicon containing ten epistles of St. Paul. The mantle of St. Paul had fallen on the shoulders of Marcion in his struggle with the Judaisers. The Catholics of his day were nothing but the Judaisers of the previous century. The pure Pauline Gospel had become corrupted and Marcion, not obscurely, hinted that even the pillar Apostles, Peter, James, and John had betrayed their trust. He loves to speak of “false apostles”, and lets his hearers infer who they were. Once the Old Testament has been completely got rid of, Marcion has no further desire for change. He makes his purely New Testament Church as like the Catholic Church as possible, consistent with his deep seated Puritanism. The first description of Marcion’s doctrine dates from St. Justin: “With the help of the devil Marcion has in every country contributed to blasphemy and the refusal to acknowledge the Creator of all the world as God”. He recognizes another god, who, because he is essentially greater (than the World maker or Demiurge) has done greater deeds than he (hos onta meizona ta meizona para touton pepikeni) The supreme God is hagathos, just and righteous. The good God is all love, the inferior god gives way to fierce anger. Though less than the good god, yet the just god, as world creator, has his independent sphere of activity. They are not opposed as Ormusz and Ahriman, though the good God interferes in favour of men, for he alone is all-wise and all-powerful and loves mercy more than punishment. All men are indeed created by the Demiurge, but by special choice he elected the Jewish people as his own and thus became the god of the Jews.

      Instead of saying “Yay Marcion, we anti-Semites totally agree with his sound reasoning”, various Church Fathers condemned him and his teachings (Irenaeus of Lyons here and at other points in the same work; Tertullian has an entire book refuting him) and the Church set out its own official canon of the Gospels and Epistles and as you may have noticed, Christian Bibles to this day continue to include the books of the Old Testament.

    • Urstoff says:

      Okay, now I clearly need one of those toys. I’d prefer a Spawn-style Martin Luther action figure that was totally ripped with a sword bloody from a recently gored Johann Eck, but I’ll take what I can get.

      • Nornagest says:

        About ten years ago there was a series of GI Joe-style action figures for major philosophers floating around. I don’t remember if Martin Luther was included, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

    • vV_Vv says:

      My question is, isn’t it a core Christian belief that the Jewish scriptures have been superseded?

      In general no, except for some specific injunctions, such as the dietary restrictions.

      The standard anti-Semitic Christian position is that Christians are the true spiritual descendants of the Israelites of the OT, while Rabbinic/Talmudic Jews are essentially heretics who rejected the Messiah.

      If I recall correctly, Hitler himself espoused a similar position in the Mein Kampf, but mixed with his theories of lineage (he thought that the “Aryans” were also the true genetic descendants of the Israelites, while Jews were either impostors who didn’t descend from the Israelites or they did partially descend from the Israelites but had somehow corrupted their “blood”.)

  11. Wander says:

    Is there a way to repair the damage that wearing shoes does, and return feet to a more un-shod state? I feel like wearing shoes in childhood physically changes the way they grow, but are there exercises or things that can be done that make toes splay and flatten out like they should?

    • Jiro says:

      Where are you getting the “damage” and the “like they should” from? You’re writing as if humans in their natural state are ideal and anything else is damage.

      Nature doesn’t work on “should”; it’s like saying that we “should” catch smallpox because vaccination is not natural.

    • Cheese says:

      I would echo what Jiro says in that ‘should’ is the wrong character of word to use here.

      However, from talking to mates who are physios or involved in exercise physiology, the consensus would seem to be go without shoes when exercising if possible. I have no idea about whether that will make your feet like they ‘should’ be, but exercising barefoot, particularly weight-bearing exercise, is probably better in that a lack of support means you’re probably going to better develop strength around the joint and balance.

      I know there’s a bit of debate in the field currently around barefoot running/running in vibrams or similar shoes – and related to that the mechanics of how your foot strikes compared to running shoes. My (very) limited understanding is that while that tends to decrease joint issues over time, it can increase fracture risk at least initially.

      One caveat to consider if you’re considering doing something like going barefoot, in a kind of paleo-ish manner I guess, is that bare feet are probably not meant to walk on concrete or hard floor either. Hence shoes.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        I though the vibram/toe-shoe stuff was pretty discredited at this point?

        • registrationisdumb says:

          Is it? Genuinely interested in this as I’ve never seen anything that fully discredits it, but have switched back to a more standard low-support running shoe instead.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’m pretty sure I was remembering the lawsuit that they settled for a very large sum which was based on the idea that they had not actually proven their claims.

            Here is a good rundown

            To me that looks like the broad claims are not true, but individual runners may get benefit, or may trade one kind of benefit for another.

            I also found, this published study which is about the efficiency claims for forefoot running.

          • Urstoff says:

            Right; zero-drop shoes definitely change your stride, but whether that is a good thing is highly idiosyncratic.

      • Nornagest says:

        I can’t speak for running, but the big problem with shoes when you’re lifting weights is instability: the soft soles in tennis and running shoes compress, giving you an unstable base. You don’t want that when you have three hundred pounds on your back; but barefoot is equivalent to wearing shoes with thin, flat soles (Vibrams would qualify, but so would Chuck Taylors). They also make weightlifting shoes, which have about the heel rise of tennis shoes but have rigid heel blocks made of hard plastic or sometimes wood. These are unnecessary for most lifts but can be helpful if you’re doing squats or related exercises.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I’d go with foot massage/joint mobility.

      If you’re feeling ambitous for your feet, Handbook of Self-Healing by Meier Schneider has a lot about increasing sensitivity and mobility for your feet, and getting independent movement for your toes in particular.

    • psmith says:

      Well, if you feel that way, surely it must be so.

      Anyway, as with anything else you might want to do, starting gently with just a little bit and working up slowly over time is a good bet. I wished to strengthen my feet at one point after a bout of chronic foot/ankle injuries and started by walking to work in cheap flats once a week, switching to stout supportive shoes for the walk home. (I was already pretty well accustomed to walking to work.). Then to work and back. Then twice a week, and so on, dropping back if I noticed undue pain. I have no idea whether my feet are more like Paleo Man’s, but I can comfortably slouch around in cheap flats for about as long as I like, which I couldn’t do before.

      Walking on grass or sand may also be a helpful part of the process, if either is logistically convenient.

  12. psmith says:

    It’s not a Schelling point if you have to announce it, right?

  13. Jordan D. says:

    So, I’ve been sick recently, and I’m looking for any suggestions people might have on how to help with the symptoms. I am insured and I’m seeing a doctor, but the process is taking a very long time. Basically:

    1) I have a nasty-sounding productive cough that doesn’t hurt or irritate my throat, so I’m ignoring it for now.
    2) I’ve experienced progressively bad breathlessness, and it’s currently to the point where I’m huffing pretty badly after three or four minutes of regular walking. The breathlessness goes away immediately when I sit down, but it’s really making grocery trips hard. Up until a week ago I took advil, which worked like a charm, but the doctor has instructed me to stop because she thinks its heart-related.

    I am currently taking an antihistamine (which has cleared up the post-nasal drip I had earlier) and sleeping with a humidifier, which is at least very pleasant.

    I’m scheduled for an ultrasound to the legs on Monday to check for DVT, but I’d really appreciate any advice anyone has on how to get this panting under control.

    • dndnrsn says:

      How long have you been sick for? Late last year I got a cold that turned into bronchitis, and the most distressing symptom was that it felt like I wasn’t getting enough oxygen – I just couldn’t breathe enough.

      • Jordan D. says:

        I’ve had very slow onset of these symptoms for about a month, but the breathlessness didn’t get bad enough to bother me until last week. I was really hoping that my first visit to the doctor would result in an antibiotic or something, but my high heart-rate and moderately high D-dimer convinced her it was heart related.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Have they ruled out pneumonia?

          How old are you?

          • Jordan D. says:

            The doctor seemed to dismiss the idea of a respiratory infection out of hand, although I’m not sure why.

            I’m 26, but I have a very sedentary lifestyle.

          • Deiseach says:

            The doctor seemed to dismiss the idea of a respiratory infection out of hand, although I’m not sure why.

            If they listened to your lungs and there was no crepitation (wheezing or creaking or rustling sounds when you drew breath), they generally take that (plus absence of a temperature) as “not an infection”.

            Still does not mean that there might not be a problem, which is why I recommend asking to see a respiratory consultant. I suppose, once you get the ultrasound out of the way, make that the next step. Hopefully there aren’t clots (though the D-dimer would indicate that), so it might be something else. 122 is a very high resting heart rate, especially for your age.

            I’d say buy a pulse oximeter (you can get cheap and fairly reliable ones online) and measure your pulse rate and blood oxygen levels at home, when you’re relaxed and not tensed up with “white coat syndrome”. If you still have constant tachycardia, then tell the doctor that. If your heart rate comes way down at home, then tell the doctor that too (and by the way, did they put you on a Holter monitor to do continuous 24-hr monitoring to check your heart rate?)

            I’m a lot older than 26 and equally sedentary plus very overweight and not at all what you’d call fit by any means, and I have a resting heart rate in the 70s. That’s why your doctor is concerned, and that’s why home testing to establish a pattern would be a good idea to help figure out if it’s always that high or only gets up there after exertion, even mild exertion.

          • Jordan D. says:

            As a quick update, I pushed for a chest x-ray this morning and they did find pneumonia, so I’m on antibiotics now. Thanks for the encouragement!

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Well, I was going to say “it sounds like you have what is going around, don’t worry.” Glad I kept my mouth shut!

          • CatCube says:

            It’ll amaze you how fast it gets better once you take the antibiotics.

            The doctor probably told you this, but make sure you take the entire course, despite the fact you’re going to feel 3 times as good in like, two days.

          • Deiseach says:

            I pushed for a chest x-ray this morning and they did find pneumonia, so I’m on antibiotics now

            Yay!* Why they didn’t send you for the x-ray first instead of the ultrasound is a puzzlement, but hey, I’m not a doctor.

            Get well soon, and keep an eye on that heart rate all the same! Though please God, once the breathlessness is sorted out it should be going down as well.

            *Obviously not “yay you got pneumonia!” but “yay you did have a chest infection after all and now you’re getting treated!” 🙂

    • Garrett says:

      I volunteer in EMS – I’m not a doctor, I’m speculating.

      Based on what you’re describing, and what you’ve communicated, there are a couple of things I’d suspect:
      * Pneumonia or some other lung infection. This effectively cuts off lung surface for gas exchange. Your doctor will need to put you on the right type of medication (probably antibiotic) to cure.
      * Pulmonary embolism. Not Good. Would expect your dr. to put you on aspirin/other immediately. This best matches concurrency with the DVT scan.
      * Increased secretions, possibly mild allergies. Using DuoNeb/ipratropium bromide might improve things.
      * Congestive heart failure: CPAP use, perhaps? Diuretics? Nitrates?

      To provide better suggestions, I’d need to know more about your current condition:
      * Past medical history.
      * What have you been “sick recently” with?
      * What treatments has your doctor started you on already? What do they suspect?
      * Is do you have a pulse oximeter available? Is your breathlessness due to a lack of oxygen or inability to get rid of CO2?

      • Jordan D. says:

        Hey, I appreciate your speculation anyway. Answers:

        1. I don’t really have any past medical history. I had whooping cough as a baby and I used to regularly contract strep throat once a year, but I’ve never had any major illnesses or operations.
        2. With the exception of a nasty bout of stomach virus two years ago, I haven’t been sick with anything for about six years. I do regularly have issues with allergies in the spring and fall, though.
        3. All she told me to do was to cut out caffeine and sugar, stop taking Advil, start taking an anti-histamine, and wait for the tests on Monday. She ordered a comprehensive blood panel which indicated slightly elevated glucose, moderately high liver enzymes and moderately high D-Dimer.
        When I went in for treatment she looked at my sinuses and concluded that was allergies, but was alarmed by my heart rate and did an EKG. That found normal heartbeat but with a resting rate of 122 (which may or may not have been partially due to my terror of needles). She concluded that the breathlessness was probably the result of exertion pushing the heart even faster and started asking questions about any recent long trips. After the panel got back, she told me that she suspects DVT, and scheduled me for an ultrasound of my legs on Monday (as well as an ultrasound of the liver, to see if there’s anything wrong there.)
        4. I don’t, but when I had it done at the doctor’s, at rest, my oxygen was normal.

        • CatCube says:

          I’m going to note that about 4 years ago, I was putting off going to the doctor after having a bad cough that didn’t go away for a few weeks. After falling out of a run because I couldn’t breathe, I went to the aid station where I had a resting heart rate of around 122, as you did. They gave me cough drops and put me on quarters for two days. When it still didn’t get better, I eventually went to the clinic, where they diagnosed pneumonia. I was better after 4 days of antibiotics.

          As an aside, I don’t recommend running when you have pneumonia. It really sucks.

    • Deiseach says:

      Ask your doctor to refer you to a respiratory consultant for a check-up. Sure, you may have heart/circulatory problems and that would definitely contribute to breathlessness, but if she’s worried that it’s (say) a pulmonary clot (from the high D-dimer) then I’d expect her to tell you take aspirin or even prescribe warfarin/injection of heparin.

      A constant cough that produces phlegm, breathlessness that has come on gradually and worsened – that sounds like a lung problem. It’s entirely possible that you have two separate problems, and I really would ask if you can have an appointment with a respiratory clinic or outpatient or something.

      Good luck with the ultrasound!

  14. Randy M says:

    I read Blightsight on recommendations from the previous open thread. Quite a lot to think about. Thanks to those mentioning it.

  15. knownastron says:

    This was supposed to be the Open Thread that we reflect on our week of no culture warring, right?

    Is that happening somewhere else or has no one initiated it yet on this thread?

    • dndnrsn says:

      The no news thing? I thought the initiator was going to start a thread. In any case, if people still care, for those who skipped the news for a week:

      1. What’s the biggest threat facing the world?
      2. What’s the biggest threat facing the US, specifically?
      3. (If you’re not an American) what’s the biggest threat facing your country?

      • cassander says:

        Honestly, “the US” is a perfectly good answer to all three of those questions.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Bada-boom-tss.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            You laugh, but can you name a better answer? : /

          • cassander says:

            In all sincerity though, I think you can make a decent case that A) the continued success of the US is the most important thing in keeping the world a decent place because it’s the lynchpin of a global system that while not perfect, is fundamentally not that bad, B) the biggest threat to that success is the decay of the US political system (or, if you prefer more neutral language, the inability of the US to resolve political problems), C) that the other countries that are part of that system benefit from it as much as the US does, and will suffer as much if it falls apart, and D) there’s nothing else on the horizon that can do anywhere near as much damage as the collapse of the US led system.

            But then, I say that as one of those neo-liberals (economically at least) you’re not particularly fond of who wants more or less capitalist global order, so your mileage might vary on all of those points.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’d agree that those are more or less correct. The US hasn’t behaved great as a world leader, but it hasn’t behaved terribly either. The US’ problem is that, well, it’s hardware running software it wasn’t meant to run. The US’ system was not designed for what the US is doing, so it’s a horrible mess of kludges and workarounds.

            My objection to neoliberalism is, primarily, that capitalist globalism has bred either its own demise or will turn into tyranny of some form or another. I know people who are basically aspiring to be part of the international ruling class: future politicians, future political hacks, business types, think tankers, etc. I went to college with them, and I’m friends with some of them. They are leading us all to ruin.

            (I get a bit ranty now. TL;DR a decent chunk of the people I went to university with are contemptible hypocrites).

            Their cluelessness, lack of self-awareness, and lack of empathy for people they consider below them is absolutely breathtaking. “Let them eat cake” level stuff. They can’t understand that their high IQs are not earned, and that intellect is not a moral quality (as an aside, I think this is part of the appeal of blank-slatism to intelligent people: if they ignore that IQ is probably about 50% inherited, and most environmental factors are out of their control, they can pretend that their university degrees and so on simply show their high quality as individuals, instead of showing that they rolled well for INT at character creation). They can’t understand why all those factory workers who want to keep their jobs, or want the jobs to come back to town, instead of learning to code and moving to the Bay, or getting a business degree and moving to London or NYC, or getting a law degree and… etc. Their mastery of skills that allow them to pick up and move pretty much anywhere and earn well doing it mean that they have little consideration, respect, or loyalty for their countrymen who cannot. The people from all over the world working in finance in London feel loyalty to each other – after all, they are the best, are they not? – far more than they do to the peons from wherever they come from.

            Their response to stuff like Brexit and Trump’s election is eye-opening. Absolute contempt for the great unwashed. I’m exempting visible minorities, Muslims, LGBT people, etc from this – because they actually stand to suffer from right-wing populism, real suffering, not in the pocketbook – but the fact is that the most spite I have seen has tended to come from straight white cis people. Their hatred and contempt for Brexiters and Trump voters is palpable, especially when it’s hilariously hypocritical – I have heard condemnation of Trump voters as racists … at parties that are overwhelmingly white; I have heard more than one white guy use “white guy” as a term of abuse … and they throw parties that are 100% white. They don’t even recognize their hate and contempt as hate and contempt, they just project it onto those they despise. They do not recognize their own racial biases (I remember a wealthy young man explaining to me, to paraphrase, “it’s not racist to be afraid of black people, because they’re poor, and poor people are more likely to be criminals”) but instead project them onto those they despise (he now posts Facebook statuses excoriating straight white cis men, a group from which he apparently exempts himself, despite being 4/4 for those qualities).

            Either this will lead to the demise of neoliberal globalism – because even if the Brexiters and the Trump voters are dumb, they’re not so dumb as to not notice the contempt, and will vote to put a thumb in the eye of the elites who despise them. Or, it will lead to tyranny of one kind or another, as the elites decide that, really, those rednecks in coal country and those losers in North England shouldn’t be allowed to vote. I saw reactions to Brexit and Trump’s election that looked stunningly like this. A lot of “it’s old people who voted for Brexit – they’re all going to be dead soon, so why should they be allowed to make decisions they’re not going to feel the results of?” type stuff, for example.

            They do not get that they are extremely lucky – generally, in the class they were born into, and uniformly, in their inheritance of genes for intelligence and the good environment provided by smart parents. They rolled very well for INT but not so great for WIS.

            The capitalist global order has been extremely good in some ways, extremely good for a lot of people – worldwide standard of living is rising, after all; people in places we think of as starvation-ridden disasters live better than Europeans did in fairly recent history (we do not think of Victorian England as a third-world country, to give one example). But it has enabled the creation of a rich, smart international elite that feels loyalty only to itself. Either the masses will rise up and destroy what the elite has built – which will be bad for all of us – or the elite will decide that the masses must be prevented from riding up – which will be bad for all of us. It will even be bad for the elite, because sooner or later they will make a mistake, and then it’s torches and pitchforks.

            EDIT: I think I need to expand a bit to politics. Sorry for the novel. I’m a left-winger. The people I know who exhibit the above behaviour tend to think of themselves as left-wingers, but they have basically abandoned class as an issue. They tend to do very well in the capitalist system, and are very good at finding reasons why their contempt for poor people is justified. If they just came out and admitted that they think they are the lords of all creation based on qualities that were largely decided by the time they were a teenager, and that their actions and beliefs are largely self-serving, I would respect that more than their belief that they are the moral cream of society.

          • Jaskologist says:

            ^ Comment of the month.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Thanks. It is, surprisingly, more coherent than I expected.

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn

            >My objection to neoliberalism is, primarily, that capitalist globalism has bred either its own demise or will turn into tyranny of some form or another. I know people who are basically aspiring to be part of the international ruling class: future politicians, future political hacks, business types, think tankers, etc. I went to college with them, and I’m friends with some of them. They are leading us all to ruin.

            with the partial exception of the business types, though, all of those people are pretty anti-capitalist. Not in the marxist revolutionary sense, of course, but in that their solution to every problem amounts to something like “put a bunch of people like me in charge of deciding who gets what”. It’s never “stop fucking with it and let the market decide”, especially on the left. Back in the 90s, there were a few people, even on the left, saying let markets decide, and a few of those even meant it, but the neo-liberal wave is dead. The threat I see to the capitalist order is not violent revolution, it never was, it’s that the slow accretion of parasites eventually either outright starves the golden goose or so enfeebles it that people lose faith in it and vote in something worse.

            I agree with you on the globalist culture types. Like you, I grew up with them, went to school with them, and can’t stand them. I had one gay friend castigate everyone she knew on Facebook, or at least all her “cis, white, straight friends, especially the dudes among you” that we were basically privileged shitlords for telling her everything was going to be fine. Donald fucking Trump, who is to the left of 2008 Barack Obama on gay issues.

            But what enables that elite isn’t capitalism, it’s government. Government is what brings those people together at cushy retreats paid for by others. Capitalism keeps them back at home scheming how to undercut each other’s prices by 1%. We need more capitalism to starve that elite of cushy gigs and make them work for a living.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Honestly, the people I know, not really anti-capitalists. I’m talking about the people I know who are going to be MPs, party fixers, bankers, etc. The college activist types at least have a loyalty to a group that isn’t “international elite” and at least have a real complaint under there somewhere (I’ve posted at length about how they often just coopt causes and turn them into self-advancement) instead of “waaah those yokels who voted for Brexit might mean I have to move from London to another financial capital”. Which is a rant I saw more than once – expats working in London, just absolutely outraged that voters in whatever the equivalent of flyover country is in the UK had dared to inconvenience the important people. Don’t they know that the UK is just a life support module for London?

            They like crony capitalism. The interaction of capitalism with government is often terrible. Examples: bailouts create horrendous perverse incentives, regulation of the sort that makes bars to entry high benefits large established players, etc. They want the market to decide, as long as the markets decide in their favour.

            They’re all very left-wing, or at least think they are, but their left-wing politics are entirely social in form. They want a utopian future where the MPs, financiers, and think-tankers jetting around are of all colours, religions, genders, etc.

          • cassander says:

            dndnrsn says:

            >Honestly, the people I know, not really anti-capitalists. I’m talking about the people I know who are going to be MPs, party fixers, bankers, etc. The college activist types at least have a loyalty to a group that isn’t “international elite” and at least have a real complaint under there somewhere

            You’re using the term “anti-capitalist” to mean something like “wants to tear down the world order”. I’m using it to mean “doesn’t believe in capitalism as a problem solving tool”. I agree. they aren’t revolutionaries, they aren’t even Old Labor. That doesn’t mean they are not anti-capitalist though.

            I call them anti-capitalist because they never, ever propose more capitalism. the most you’ll get out of them is that capitalism is fine and good for unimportant stuff like toothbrushes, anything important can’t be left to the vagaries of the market. It needs someone in charge of it, You know, tolerant, diverse, educated, handsome, just like them!

            And I stand by my solution. The way you drain the swamp is to cut back on government and make them fucking work for a living. It might not change their attitude, but at least it means I don’t have to subsidize them scolding people anymore.

            >They like crony capitalism.

            They like cronyism because it’s how they advance. They don’t care if it’s crony capitalism or the traditional kind.

            >The interaction of capitalism with government is often terrible.

            yep, tends to reproduce the worse aspects of both.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The finance types I know are certainly not anti-capitalist, the aspiring politicians aren’t, nor are all the hacks, and the think-tankers tend to be pretty pro-capitalist. Plenty of them aren’t employed by the government. I know more of these people than I know the left-wing activists, and I tended to be closer to them – the left-wing activists tend to be pricklier, while the politico/finance bro/think-tanker types tend to be very friendly in an obviously-sizing-up-whether-they-can-use-you way.

          • bean says:

            ^ Comment of the month.

            Seconded.

          • Jiro says:

            They can’t understand that their high IQs are not earned

            The problem with this reasoning is that while that is true in a sense, it is also true in a similar sense that nothing is earned. Which should clue in is that that is not what people typically mean when they talk about having earned things.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Jiro:

            The problem with this reasoning is that while that is true in a sense, it is also true in a similar sense that nothing is earned. Which should clue in is that that is not what people typically mean when they talk about having earned things.

            Let me expand. They view intellect and its accomplishments as, basically, down to hard work and good choices. They don’t recognize that the qualities that enable this were set by factors mostly outside of their control. They also see it as moral in nature. They’re better because they’re smarter.

            Analogy: just being built to sprint does not a great sprinter make. Hard work is needed. But we recognize that no matter how hard they work, someone with, say, a condition wrecking their coordination, is never going to be a sprinter. If they work really hard, they might be able to finish a marathon. We, rightly, recognize that as a big personal achievement. We don’t see an inability to run fast as a sign of personal failing, or moral inadequacy.

            For some reason, though, a lot of people have decided that intellect is unlike other qualities – that it is unfixed, and so can be taken as entirely reflecting hard work. It is also seen as a moral quality.

            All things are, to some degree, unearned. But some things are more earned than others, and some things are less earned. A lot of people pat themselves on the back an awful lot for having picked the right parents.

            I know a lot of people who make derogatory comments of people of average or lower-than-average intellect in tones of moral disapproval.

          • jms301 says:

            dndnrsn that nails my feeling about “Left Wing” middle class peers so neatly.

            WRT people being pro-crony capitalism though isn’t this basically the Blair/Clinton 3rd way ideology which whilst it ‘failed’ has no good ideological replacement? Low market regulation with almost intentional regulatory capture on one hand with tax and spend on the other.

            It seems a hugely appealing ideology for both “left” and “right” – big profits for capitalists are very hard competing in an efficient market. Meanwhile for bureaucrats they get to tax, spend and dole out.

            Aside from trying to re-animate post war social democracy I don’t see any serious game in town. What would you guys propose?

            cassander: how much regulation does your proposed ‘tear down government’ world have? Do we keep weights and measures legislation or will I be carrying my own pint glass to the pub?

          • cassander says:

            @jms301 says:

            >WRT people being pro-crony capitalism though isn’t this basically the Blair/Clinton 3rd way ideology which whilst it ‘failed’ has no good ideological replacement? Low market regulation with almost intentional regulatory capture on one hand with tax and spend on the other.

            Depends on who you’re talking to and how charitable you’re being. you have some people who advocated a sort of Hayekian welfare state, you tax a lot, and spend a lot, but you don’t regulate. You work hard to make sure your spending doesn’t distort market prices. You have inclinations towards vouchers, maybe a UBI.

            On the other side, though, you have the public private partnership guys who advocate something a lot more crony capitalistic, thought hey never actually call it that of course. Then it’s all very “third way”, “harmonization”, and cooperation between public and private spheres. They’re more concerned with outsourcing government services, consensus regulation, partnering with NGOs, that sort of thing. I’m not a fan of these guys. They’re all about blurring the line between government and not-government, and I like that line stark.

            >cassander: how much regulation does your proposed ‘tear down government’ world have? Do we keep weights and measures legislation or will I be carrying my own pint glass to the pub?

            I tend towards the Hayekian welfare state model myself. Tax me if you want, but don’t tell me how to live my life. Try to avoid complicated codes of regulation. Where you can’t, make signing up for them voluntary (with the caveat that those that don’t sign up have to put a giant “not government approved” stamp on whatever they’re selling) the way FDIC banks work. Give people money or vouchers to buy services, not the services themselves. Above all else, make government act in ways that make the costs explicit rather than hidden so honest debates about whether or not it’s worth doing are at least possible.

          • Cypren says:

            @dndnrsn: Completely agreed with your diagnosis of the problem; modern mainstream liberals have abandoned any sense of social justice based on class and are all about token paeans to race and sexual identity while ensuring ideological conformity to a worldview that entrenches them as masters of the universe. The overwhelming sense of entitlement and superiority (especially coming from people who are not particularly intelligent, diligent or educated, just credentialed) is largely what pushed me away from the Left and towards the Right on a personal level.

            I think you and @cassander are basically getting at the same thing, though: modern liberals are anti-capitalist not in the sense that they want to seize the means of production, but in the sense that they want crony capitalism. Privatized gains, subsidized losses. They’re in favor of markets when markets work in their favor. But the markets need to be regulated and controlled by the Right People, you know. None of that destructive stuff that might threaten the power and privilege of Harvard men, who so clearly deserve everything they have gotten in life.

            That’s not capitalism; capitalism requires markets that aren’t insulated from risk and don’t have special exemptions for the politically-connected. What we have is the worst of all possible worlds, where the government diverts the wealth of the many to the pockets of the few, determined mostly by strength of political connections and social networks to those in power.

            ETA: On reflection, I think a lot of this is the natural side effect of the Baby Boomer liberals’ rise to power. The student radicals of the 1960s took over the elite universities, and through their accumulated institutional prestige, took over law, the bureaucracy and many other prestige-driven fields. They are the establishment. But their whole cultural identity was built around fighting the Establishment. So the modern drive to make everything about race, gender and sexuality is all about trying to fulfill a narrative where they’re still the noble crusaders for the underdog in a world where they are the ones with wealth and power who have the most to lose from redistribution.

            Even the focus on credentialism is a big part of this effect: pretending that elite university credentials show your meritorious superiority as an individual is a way of insulating them from the charges that they’re simply a new aristocracy that passes down its privileges to its children and the occasional fortunate outsider who gets inducted into the ranks. Meanwhile grading standards and objective measurements of academic performance are being constantly watered-down so as not to threaten the perquisites of children born to the ruling class.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Cypren:

            Completely agreed with your diagnosis of the problem; modern mainstream liberals have abandoned any sense of social justice based on class and are all about token paeans to race and sexual identity while ensuring ideological conformity to a worldview that entrenches them as masters of the universe. The overwhelming sense of entitlement and superiority (especially coming from people who are not particularly intelligent, diligent or educated, just credentialed) is largely what pushed me away from the Left and towards the Right on a personal level.

            What is “mainstream”? What is a “liberal”? I consider myself a liberal. I believe in human rights, personal freedoms, rule of law, and fighting unjust discrimination. A lot of people I know have eschewed some of this: a belief in freedom of speech is apparently now a red flag of incipient fascism, or something (yeah, figure that one out). A lot of them consider themselves leftists, not liberals. I think they’re quasi-liberals who have abandoned the best bits of liberalism.

            A lot of people who consider themselves outside the mainstream, consider themselves radicals, etc, are just doing the bidding of neoliberal capitalist globalism. They just don’t know it.

            I think you and @cassander are basically getting at the same thing, though: modern liberals are anti-capitalist not in the sense that they want to seize the means of production, but in the sense that they want crony capitalism. Privatized gains, subsidized losses. They’re in favor of markets when markets work in their favor. But the markets need to be regulated and controlled by the Right People, you know. None of that destructive stuff that might threaten the power and privilege of Harvard men, who so clearly deserve everything they have gotten in life.

            The right likes crony capitalism too. Plenty of rich business types who vote Republican would not be happy if regulation actually was chopped down to nothing, bailouts for failing business removed, and all that laissez-faire stuff actually happened. They want the freedom to make scads of money, but with the knowledge there’s a safety net. This isn’t evil – it’s completely normal human behaviour – but it’s sleazy.

            Meanwhile, a lot of people who think they are tearing down systems of oppression are just making it so that “Harvard man” becomes “Harvard person.” Increasing who gets to be in the ruling class is defensible – but not when you are playing radical and claiming you want to do away with the idea of the ruling class. That’s what I object to: the hypocrisy.

            That’s not capitalism; capitalism requires markets that aren’t insulated from risk and don’t have special exemptions for the politically-connected. What we have is the worst of all possible worlds, where the government diverts the wealth of the many to the pockets of the few, determined mostly by strength of political connections and social networks to those in power.

            I don’t know if I trust definitions like “oh that’s not the true capitalism.” It strikes me as being much the same as “oh having dissidents murdered isn’t the real communism – when the real communism happens, reeducation camps will be nice and fluffy.”

            ETA: On reflection, I think a lot of this is the natural side effect of the Baby Boomer liberals’ rise to power. The student radicals of the 1960s took over the elite universities, and through their accumulated institutional prestige, took over law, the bureaucracy and many other prestige-driven fields. They are the establishment. But their whole cultural identity was built around fighting the Establishment. So the modern drive to make everything about race, gender and sexuality is all about trying to fulfill a narrative where they’re still the noble crusaders for the underdog in a world where they are the ones with wealth and power who have the most to lose from redistribution.

            Again, I’m going to question you on “liberal” here. The student radicals definitely weren’t liberals. I think you, being a right-winger, are engaging in outgroup homogeneity bias: “liberal” is a term of abuse among leftists (real or self-proclaimed). Most of the Boomers who became ruling class were probably liberals, though. I don’t know what % of students considered themselves radicals.

            I agree with your second bit here. I think I’ve brought up my thoughts on this before – let’s say you’re a straight white cis man born into considerable wealth. If you adopt a leftism based on class, the question arises – why not give your money to the poor? Why not burn your resources helping the less fortunate? If you ignore class entirely, though, you can self-flagellate (or just go straight to hating on other straight cis white men, after all, you’re not bad like them, you’re enlightened) about things you can’t change. No need to sell the Range Rover.

            Even the focus on credentialism is a big part of this effect: pretending that elite university credentials show your meritorious superiority as an individual is a way of insulating them from the charges that they’re simply a new aristocracy that passes down its privileges to its children and the occasional fortunate outsider who gets inducted into the ranks. Meanwhile grading standards and objective measurements of academic performance are being constantly watered-down so as not to threaten the perquisites of children born to the ruling class.

            I don’t know if it’s quite that simple. Grade inflation seems to be less of an issue in Canada than the States, at least, if stories of classes where As and Bs are the norm are true. Here, the best universities are all public, and they get a lot more government funding. It seems to me like the greater need to keep kids (and their parents) happy means more grade inflation in the US.

          • psmith says:

            They view intellect and its accomplishments as, basically, down to hard work and good choices.

            tfw working hard and making good choices are also basically biological and immutable
            (just being pedantic, I understand what you’re getting at)

          • Cypren says:

            @dndnrsn: I was actually trying to use “liberal” as distinct from “leftist” based on comments both you and HeelBearCub have made in the past. The people I’m speaking of aren’t Leftists, at least as I understood you guys; they’re people who have borrowed the language and moral self-righteousness of class and anti-discrimination struggle and appropriated it into a squishy philosophy of “we can enjoy all of the selfish benefits of being the establishment while still being Good People if we just self-flagellate publicly and voice support for the right causes”. Papal indulgences distributed for the right retweets, if you will.

            I think we’re generally in alignment in ideas, at least if I’m reading you right, even if we’re differing in terminology. The hypocrisy is a mostly what bothers me as well; I may disagree with the political philosophy of a Leftist who lives in a commune and spends all his wealth on helping the poor, but I won’t deny he’s living his ideals and admirable for it. I will mercilessly mock a Columbia MBA who tweets from his BMW that we need taxes on “the rich” to help the needy — by which he means anyone making about 20% more than himself.

            Incidentally, the hypocrisy on the Right infuriates me just as much, championing less government and restrictions but always finding places for pork, anti-competitive measures and corporate welfare. This isn’t a partisan thing, and I’d be happy to see the hypocrites on both sides burn in hellfire. The world would be a much better place for it.

            Where we differ philosophically is a different topic and one best saved for a different thread. Suffice it to say that I think this is a place we’re in nearly complete alignment.

          • tfw working hard and making good choices are also basically biological and immutable

            Which points at the problem with this very convincing line of argument.

            You don’t deserve your high IQ, so the fact that it makes you (say) very productive doesn’t mean you deserve your high income and status. But the same applies to every other characteristic that might seem to make you deserving.

            It works in the other direction as well. Hitler did not deserve to be born in the time and place and with characteristics that made him a mass murderer, so does not deserve any worse a fate than anyone else.

            It’s tempting to conclude that everyone deserves the same equal outcome, just for being human. But you didn’t deserve to be born human any more than you deserved to be born of wealthy parents in a developed society with a high IQ. Implicitly, “deserve” is being predicated not of you as you actually are but of a sort of disembodied spirit, the potential you before it became the actual you.

            One possible response is to accept this line of argument and follow it to moral nihilism. Nobody deserves anything, hence nothing that happens is just or unjust, fair or unfair.

            An alternative is to treat judgements as made not about potential people but actual people. The Hitler we think badly of is the actual Hitler, the person he became, whether or not the potential Hitler deserved to become the actual Hitler. The person we think well of, think deserves good things, is the actual kind, honest person, not the potential person who became that person.

            One can still argue about what characteristics deserve admiration, status, or wealth. But the fact that you don’t deserve to be the person you are is irrelevant if it is the person you are, not the potential you before you were conceived, whom we are judging.

            One slightly intermediate position, for those who believe in free will, is that what you deserve depends not only on what you now are but on how you got to be the person you are, what free will choices led there. The person who is dishonest and cruel because at some point he decided of his own free will to be deserves our condemnation more than the person who was brought up in an environment where no other alternative ever occurred to him.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Rather than framing things as “deserving” vs. “undeserving”, I think it’s better to frame them as “social opprobrium will be productive” vs. “unproductive”. In other words, you can’t make someone smarter by yelling at them to get a job as a robotics engineer, but you can make them more diligent by yelling at them when they’re late to work.

          • Incurian says:

            It sure would be nice if there were some agreed upon lexicon for contentious political terms here. Maybe in a wiki format. It might be fun. There would be charts and diagrams.

          • 1soru1 says:

            > I will mercilessly mock a Columbia MBA who tweets from his BMW that we need taxes on “the rich” to help the needy — by which he means anyone making about 20% more than himself.

            That’s not hypocrisy, that is just a solution to the prisoner’s dilemma; I will if you will, so let’s ensure we both do.

            Fundamentally, American politics is breaking down due to a contradiction between two irreconcilable truths.

            One is that taxes are as low as they rationally could be in a first world democracy. The other is that over half of the voting population has a political identity as ‘the guy who wants lower taxes’.

            Solutions to this contradiction include abandoning rationality, abandoning democracy, and abandoning american hegemony. A few have even tried abandoning their political identity.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Cypren:

            OK. I get what you’re saying. In my view, there’s what someone says they are, and what they are. A lot of people who say they are leftists, radicals, revolutionaries, aren’t really those things. Depending on the definition of liberals you take, there are people who say they are liberals who aren’t – if you don’t believe in freedom of speech, are you really a liberal?

            A lot of people right now exhibit the hypocrisy of revolutionary rhetoric while not walking the walk. If you talk about smashing the system, but you exist in a position that benefits from the system… If your calls for “revolution” somehow always end up with you in a nice job, and no revolution… Etc.

            @David Friedman:

            Let me explain what I mean. For intellectual accomplishments, the upper ceiling is basically set. Do you have the genes for intelligence? Did you have good conditions in the womb? Did you get enough to eat as a kid? Did you grow up in circumstances that enabled you to develop your gifts? All of these things are basically outside of a person’s control. This is the case with a lot of qualities – we are just less likely to recognize this with intelligence. Nobody would say “you’d be taller if you worked harder.”

            Of course, past that point, personal effort is needed. The extent to which people have control over their conscientiousness, attention span, etc can be debated. Point is that there are plenty of smart lazy people who earn mediocre marks in school, but their marks are still beyond what others could work trying their hardest.

            For the purposes of argument, let’s say that 50% of the equation is innate ability over which one has no control, and 50% personal effort. Someone who gets to 90% based on 50/40 shouldn’t think they’ve worked harder than someone who gets to 70% with 20/50. However, if they believe that none of this is innate, they will believe they have worked harder, and believe they are morally superior.

          • Jiro says:

            Someone who gets to 90% based on 50/40 shouldn’t think they’ve worked harder than someone who gets to 70% with 20/50.

            But on the *average*, someone with 90% hs worked harder than someone with 70%, even though this fails in some specific case.

            At the tail end of the curve, everyone has worked hard. (Consider a bunch of superstars whose position is so good that they can only get there by having both innate talent and hard work. 100% of those people will have worked hard, compared to some amount much less than 100% of everyone else.)

          • Matt M says:

            I will mercilessly mock a Columbia MBA who tweets from his BMW that we need taxes on “the rich” to help the needy — by which he means anyone making about 20% more than himself.

            As a recent MBA grad, let me assure you that even the most left-wing MBAs are quite aware that they are currently in, and will almost certainly always be in, the top marginal tax bracket.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Jiro:

            On average, yes. However, when the person who’s made it to 50/40 thinks that it’s 100 effort, and considers themselves superior to 30/40 or the 20/50, or thinks that the 30/50 is inferior to them and could have gotten to 90 just by working harder… My basic issue is that the intelligent people I know tend to talk about unintelligent people in incredibly contemptuous terms. This is both in spite of and because of their seeing it as a blank slate.

            As our society rewards high intelligence more and more, the belief that it’s a blank slate means that more and more unfair opprobrium will be cast on people who bear no actual blame. Someone with high intelligence patting themself on the back is no different from someone born rich patting themself on the back: they were born to the right parents, good for them.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            As a general point, I hear (some) smart people complain about stupid people as though stupidity is both a permanent trait and a moral failing.

            I think smart people generally don’t know how to become smarter themselves, so it’s unreasonable for them to expect stupid people to become smarter. It’s probably a subcategory of typical mind fallacy– x is easy for me, so if other people aren’t doing it, it must be because they aren’t trying at all.

          • The Nybbler says:

            OK, dndrsn, but where are you going with this? Suppose intelligence, talent, willingness to work hard, etc, are all innate and have nothing to do with the individual who possesses these qualities? What policy prescriptions does it imply?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @The Nybbler:

            I don’t know the degree to which those different things are innate. It’s like athletic qualities: the evidence we have suggests that strength can be improved far more than speed, so time spent in the weight room is probably more beneficial than time spent sprinting. Etc. Ability to work hard is probably the most malleable, so teaching kids organizational strategies and such would probably be a good idea.

            I think the general policy prescription required would be an educational system that recognizes this (so, probably a lot of streaming, like the German system) and fits into a society where everyone can have dignity and a decent standard of living. The combination that currently exists of an economy that increasingly rewards intelligence while certain other qualities (physical strength, for example) become less rewarded, and the false belief that intelligence is something everyone can develop equally by working at it, leads to the horrible conclusion that those who do not succeed have some kind of moral failing, and thus deserve their lot in life.

            I could go on. My general point is that society should not be built solely for the people who happen to have lucked out in one way or another. Trying to build a society that does not screw people for something that is no fault of their own is, in my view, more humane than the society we have now, and far more humane than some kind of eugenics policy (which would be awful on multiple levels).

          • IrishDude says:

            @1soru1

            I will mercilessly mock a Columbia MBA who tweets from his BMW that we need taxes on “the rich” to help the needy — by which he means anyone making about 20% more than himself.

            That’s not hypocrisy, that is just a solution to the prisoner’s dilemma; I will if you will, so let’s ensure we both do.

            Why’s that a prisoner’s dilemma? To me, the prisoner’s dilemma involves analyzing the incentive of one person ‘winning’ at the other’s expense (either in single trial or repeated iterations). If you won’t donate but I will, my donation will still benefit people so your failure to donate isn’t at my expense. I can always make people’s lives better by donating to effective charities that help those who are struggling, regardless of what other people do, so I don’t see how defection necessarily relates to the scenario of helping the needy.

            I’m curious 1soru1, do you individually maximize how much you help the needy, based on your ethics you propose for how we should help the needy as a society?

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            Perhaps what we need most is to unlearn the Protestant Ethic– that is, to get a better grip on the fact that money and moral praise are two different things, and how much of the one you’re entitled to doesn’t have much to do with how much of the other you’re entitled to. The other realization which could be set alongside that is that our economic system, broadly speaking, rewards you for what you do, not for what you are, and if you accept that you needn’t even reach the question of whether anyone deserves to be what they are.

          • IrishDude says:

            @dndnrsn

            Trying to build a society that does not screw people for something that is no fault of their own is, in my view, more humane than the society we have now, and far more humane than some kind of eugenics policy (which would be awful on multiple levels).

            I find it difficult to understand sometimes when people talk about abstracts like ‘society’. So, can you be specific what about what you mean when you say you think ‘society’ screws people over for things that are no fault of their own? Some specificity would help me better understand where you’re coming from.

          • Incurian says:

            I think it was Hobbes who famously said that if it weren’t for
            Society deciding to screw people over, we’d all default back to a natural state of happiness and wealth.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @IrishDude:

            Good point. I’m being vague, and I’m being too abstract. A few examples of what I mean:

            -mechanization, offshoring, and various other changes mean that there are far fewer solid, full-time jobs one can make a career of where someone with an average or below-average IQ and a high school diploma would be a good fit.

            -bureaucracy and its accoutrements are designed by, and thus to a certain extent for, people who are smarter than average. An example: tax systems. Honest mistakes on your taxes – easier to make for people who just are not as smart – can be really life-wrecking, given that whatever tax agency it is will come a few years later and charge interest and freeze your bank account, etc.

            -the equivalent to bureaucracy in the private sector is often even worse, because it’s often malice, not incompetence. Credit card companies relying on confusion about how interest works to gouge people. That sort of thing.

            If you take the view – supposedly the more enlightened, more equality-minded view! – that intelligence is not innate, and just reflects effort, the conclusion is basically “it’s their fault”. I think this is really unfair and inhumane, because it’s judging people, often on a on a moral level, for stuff that isn’t their fault. It’s also quite unattractive for people to applaud themselves for stuff that is outside of their control. Tall people don’t go around saying “I’m so tall! Great job! Go me!” If they think it they at least keep it to themselves.

            As a bleeding-heart pinko, I support attempts to protect people from stuff that is outside of their control, and given that intelligence is mostly out of an individual’s control… I am currently of the view that some sort of welfare/regulatory state is the best way to accomplish this, but I am open to arguments otherwise, and do recognize that some social welfare legislation has been extremely badly thought out and has done more harm than good, and likewise with some regulations.

          • IrishDude says:

            @dndnrsn

            As a bleeding-heart pinko, I support attempts to protect people from stuff that is outside of their control, and given that intelligence is mostly out of an individual’s control… I am currently of the view that some sort of welfare/regulatory state is the best way to accomplish this, but I am open to arguments otherwise, and do recognize that some social welfare legislation has been extremely badly thought out and has done more harm than good, and likewise with some regulations.

            As a bleeding heart AnCap, I also like to help out people that struggle through circumstances outside their control. Aside from assisting people in my own life who fall on hard times due to things that weren’t their fault, my two main charity focuses are assisting the 3rd world poor, who often struggle to progress no matter how hard they try because of the corrupt regimes they live under, and kids who get life-threatening illnesses. I feel a moral obligation (though not unlimited!) to help those who run against barriers outside their own making.

            In my attempt to help people that struggle due to things outside their control, however, I don’t think it would be just of me to harm other people who weren’t responsible for that struggle. My neighbor Joe might have a harder time getting a job due to intellectual difficulties or a physical handicap, but I don’t think that makes it right for me to coerce my other neighbor Sarah into lessening Joe’s burden. While Joe isn’t at fault for his lower intelligence or physical disability, Sarah isn’t either.

            Instead, I think people should voluntarily give what they feel is right to help the unfortunate strugglers, and use the powers of persuasion, appeal-to-vanity, or other peaceful means to encourage the less sympathetic to assist. Thoughts?

          • @dndnrsn:

            Why do you think intelligence is due to factors beyond your control, but working hard isn’t? Are you assuming that free will does apply to the latter, but not at all to the former?

            I would have said that how intelligent you are partly depends on choices you make–most obviously how hard you try to train yourself to think clearly, also, at the extreme, whether you do things such as too much indulgence in recreational drugs that lower your intelligence. And how hard working you are depends at least in part on features of your personality that are probably in large part genetic.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @IrishDude:

            My reason for supporting the general model of system we have now – taxation that is, ultimately, at gunpoint, and all that – is simply going with the Devil we know. I know the outline of ancap thinking, more or less – it’s just that “let’s tear down the system and start over; trust me, this is gonna work” has a terrible track record.

            Systems based on people giving of their own free will work decently at lower levels. Any group of a few dozen people can coordinate “what goes around comes around.” It gets more difficult at larger levels. It isn’t just about social welfare, either. The least convincing part of ancap thinking, to me, is the idea that regulation is not necessary to keep lead out of canned goods, etc – a lack of regulation did not lead to food safety a hundred or so years ago…

            @DavidFriedman:

            I don’t know if training yourself to think more clearly works. Can it raise your IQ? I think it is possible to become wiser, but not more intelligent. Ability to work hard is probably partially innate – there’s probably a genetic component, and there’s environmental stuff (there’s various indications that attention span has fallen since, say, the mid 19th century) but is more under the individual’s control than a lot of other things. I base this, admittedly, on personal experience – when I started working harder in school, my marks got a lot better; there’s no reason to think anything innate changed.

          • rlms says:

            @dndnrsn
            ‘Systems based on people giving of their own free will work decently at lower levels. Any group of a few dozen people can coordinate “what goes around comes around.” It gets more difficult at larger levels.’
            I agree with your general preference for the status quo, but I think actually the opposite to this paragraph sometimes applies. Central management (several people having their actions controlled by a small number of others) does work very well on small scales — think employers/employees, parents/children, military command structures etc. The problem is that it doesn’t scale.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @rlms:

            A lot of things scale badly. I think charity is something that a society can’t depend upon to help the less fortunate, basically.

          • Matt M says:

            Can government be “depended on” to help the less fortunate?

          • dndnrsn says:

            The welfare state in some places works better than others, but sure.

          • @dndnr

            sn

            You havent explained in any objective way why neoliberalism will fail. You just daid that sovioeconomic group A dislike distrust and misunderstand sociall group B. As far as I can see that also works the other eay round, and had also been going on forever…so why would it be catastrophic now?

            I dont know whether you think the solution is dictatorship of the proletariat, or increased love and understanding.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I think that communications and transportation technology have really changed things. The elite not thinking highly of the masses is not new, but large chunks of the elite being basically untethered to any geographic or even governing entity, and thus in no way responsible to or for any particular grouping of the masses, is. I have no doubt that back in the day nobles sat around talking about how their peasants were shit, but they didn’t have the ability to pick up and move to some other different group of peasants. They also probably didn’t say it in the open.

            I don’t really think there is a solution. The vanguard party who totally promise to hand the reins of power over to the proletariat once the revolution has been secured never will, and increased love and understanding might work on an individual level – London investment banker X could realize “hey, wait a minute, I’m not better than everyone in Newcastle” but I doubt that is going to happen on a group level.

          • jms301 says:

            @dndnrsn To me that’s overly defeatist, prior to WW1 there was far worse inequality. There is currently a concerted effort to roll back taxes on estates, capital, high incomes & to popularize the belief that our inequality is merit based.

            But compared with the view that Kings, Priests & Lords had their place ordained by God and an estate tax of ~2%.

            Anyway since it’s an interesting question – my view is we need strict regulation aimed at forcing Efficient Markets.

            Basically I think our main problem is that our economies optimise for profit. Now most things are pretty efficient this requires they optimise at avoiding competition.

            If we imagine a world without weights and measures legislation you could expect a pub chain which best tricks their customers with their optical-illusion pint glasses would prosper & eventually end up running all the pubs.

            But we essentially have this with advertising, companies best able to charge a premium based on their ability to deceive actually beat the better product. This is why Coke has a market cap of $180B and Apples is $700B.

            This isn’t to say the state should choose what soft drink people buy, just that it should limit the arena of competition so we’re not selecting for the most efficient liars, regulator capturers & union busting slave employers.

  16. jcalvin85 says:

    Would someone have the time to help me out with my adhd+ocd mess?

    I have managed the following:

    – left an oven-cooked fish (salmon) rotting in my fridge for two weeks, then thrashed it and washed it pretty normally
    before this
    – left a lunch box containing leftovers of a fish salad (salmon as well, but only a few 1-2cm diameter pieces of it) in the room temperature for three days, and the dressing from the box had leaked and spilled all over my apartment floor

    and now my brain has become convinced botulinum toxin has formed and is all over my sink and floor, and is going to infect people I care about and me.

    I am fully aware this sounds pretty ridiculous. I don’t normally (ever, actually, until now) seek reassurance with my neurotic thoughts. Right now I’m under a lot of stress, busy, and have friends coming over next weekend. Fear of hurting them is the worst part of this, and will almost certainly trouble me throughout the whole time and be visible to them.

    Commonplace CBT techniques I usually successfully use aren’t helping. Seeking out information and pushing my probability estimates down to the 0,01s is not helping, because I can’t seem to find any comprehensible information regarding how botulinum-forming bacteria actually do behave and how likely would all the steps necessary for toxin formation to be.

    Again, this is extremely likely to look way less threatening to me in retrospect, but it causes intense anxiety in me (and there are several reasons for that I’m aware of and am working on which I won’t go into now), has for two weeks now since this happened. I do not have a trusted friend of a professional to contact, I do not have the social or financial capital to do this.

    Things that would help:

    – common sense intuitions (e.g. if you wouldn’t spare a single thought to this had it happened to you, or you’ve had similar food leftovers in your dirty dishes for days-weeks)
    – some quick intuitions or assesments about actual risk (I know botulism is really rare, but this fear evades it through the suspicion that my case is too weird to be comparable to the normal-people-habits from where the data’s drawn)
    – refutation to the suspicion above
    – something better I don’t know about

    Posting from an anonymous account due to privacy concerns, a long time SSCer wishing I could have someone like Scott as my psychiatrist. Thank you for any possible answers!

    • Deiseach says:

      Okay, a very quick off the top of my head: C. botulinum is an anaerobic organism. It is not going to grow in aerobic conditions like a fridge or a lunchbox exposed to the air (even if the top is on, a lunchbox is not hermetically sealed and if the dressing leaked it’s definitely not air-tight seal).

      You’ll get it in things like canned foods, which is why you shouldn’t eat anything from dented/bulging cans. If you were going to get food poisoned (a) it would have happened by now and (b) it would be good old E. coli, Salmonella or the likes.

      If you cleaned up the mess, scrubbed out the fridge, and can’t smell any fishy odours, you’re safe. If you’re still worried, grab the rubber gloves and the old-style bleach and water mix, scrub everything again, boil wash the cloths and discard them in the rubbish. You can also, after that, if you still are anxious, use a vinegar cleaning solution – high acidity, such as pickling foods to preserve them, destroys the botulism spores.

      University of Minnesota slideshow about botulism, which reinforces the point about oxygen (aerobic) environment keeps botulinum toxin from being produced. You cooked your food normally, didn’t can anything, it was all exposed to the air, so there’s no risk of botulism.

      Tips from Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (and if you can’t trust Ohio State, who can you trust?):

      How can I control the pathogen in my home?
      1. Boil all home-canned, low-acid foods 20 minutes before eating. Low-acid foods are most vegetables, some tomatoes, and meat or poultry.
      2. Discard all raw or canned food that shows any sign of being spoiled.
      3. Discard all bulging or swollen cans of food and food from glass jars with bulging lids.
      4. DO NOT TASTE food from swollen containers or food that is foamy or has a bad odor.
      5. Process low-acid foods at temperatures above boiling (which can only occur using a pressure canner) and for the recommended time for the size of can or jar you are using.
      6. Can low-acid foods in a pressure canner. Do not can low-acid foods in the oven, in a water-bath canner, open kettle, or vegetable cooker.
      7. If you suspect that home-canned food has spoiled, heat the food to boiling to destroy possible toxin, then discard the food. Do not eat this food. Clean all surfaces with chlorine/water solution (one tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water) that leaky containers may have contaminated. Then boil any sponges or cloths used for clean-up to destroy the toxin. Then, discard the sponges or clean-up cloths.
      8. Do not give honey or foods with honey to infants under one year of age.

    • Vermillion says:

      That sounds pretty sucky, I’ve reassured an OCD friend of mine in the past so I’ll give it a shot.

      – I have many many times discovered old food or literal crap (cats bah) that’s been hidden away until the smell finally became noticeable. I have never once worried about any health risk when cleaning it up, because the skin is a very effective barrier against Bad Stuff™ and I’m damn well not going to get it in my mouth. I’m also not gonna use any silverware that’s fallen on the ground without a soap and water wash for the same reason.
      – The only times I have ever heard of botulinum forming/killing people is in improperly canned food. This leads me to suspect that it requires anaerobic conditions to survive(It does, but I only googled this afterwards, good memory me, thanks me). If so, food that has been rotting in the open air will just have a bunch of other smelly bacteria but not botulinum.
      – If botulinum had somehow managed to survive in the air (it didn’t) and had deposited toxin all over your sink and floor (it didn’t) then you would already have inhaled the deadly spores and perished. Since you are alive (I assume), that is proof that there is no botulinum in your kitchen.
      -Throw away your canned salmon, that shit is gross.

      Edit: Also all the things Deiseach said.

    • Incurian says:

      Can’t you just clean it real good? Or if that’s not enough, hire a professional to do it?

    • Loquat says:

      I have, on occasion, had leftover food or dirty dishes escape notice long enough to grow mold. Washing the dish really well in hot water, or running it through a dishwasher if possible, always works and I’ve never sickened myself or anyone else.

      And I really wouldn’t worry about what germs may be on the floor, unless you and your friends like to get a whole lot more intimate with your floor than I do with mine.

  17. shakeddown says:

    So everyone agrees rent control is terrible. But the concern it’s meant to address – that landlords could jack up prices once people move in, because of high moving costs – seems pretty legitimate. Is there any good way of dealing with it? (Or alternatively, if it doesn’t happen in places with high demand and no rent control, can someone explain why?)

    • Urstoff says:

      I presume contract law is still intact even without rent-control laws, so you’d still have a consistent rate after one year (or whatever the term of the lease). I don’t think this is a major problem in other markets without rent control laws, as competition probably checks rent increases from being too ridiculous.

      • Matt M says:

        Although it’s worth noting that a lot of tenants prefer and actively seek out month-to-month arrangements so that they have the flexibility of not being locked into a contract and being able to move whenever they wish. The fact that there’s a tradeoff involved (the landlord can raise the rent every month) doesn’t always seem to enter their minds.

        But I do think most states, even the red ones, do have certain laws about how frequent and by how much you can raise the rent (and how much notice you have to give to evict someone).

        • Urstoff says:

          Month-to-month rates are higher anyway, right, simply due to the uncertainty for the landlord?

          Are month-to-month tenants more common in high-density areas? My rental experience comes from relatively suburban cities where one year+ leases are the vast majority.

    • suntzuanime says:

      One way to deal with it is to have a year-long lease, so that you’re settling the rent price for a year at a time and you know you can’t be fucked with for at least a year. There’s also the fact that no landlord wants hostile tenants, and if they have good tenants they don’t want to fuck with them and piss them off enough to leave, so exploitative measures can be short-sighted.

      It’s not impossible to move, just annoying. There’s a limit to how much power the landlord has.

    • Matt M says:

      As a property owner myself (I hire a property manager, so I wouldn’t call myself a landlord) I think people under-estimate how inconvenient this is on the other side too though.

      Unless you live in a ridiculously high demand area (i.e. someplace with rent control and other dumb regulations) and/or are willing to accept well below the market price, finding a tenant takes time. During this time you are earning exactly $0 in rent, which is a pretty steep cost. Not to mention that finding good tenants (i.e. pass your background/credit check, always pay rent on time, don’t have loud parties and wreck up the place, etc.) is even harder. Such people are quite valuable and it really doesn’t seem worth it to jerk them around and risk them leaving for an extra 5% or whatever.

      Yes, costs are generally higher to the tenant than the landlord, but the cost to the landlord isn’t zero.

      • Matt M says:

        Anecdotal example – I still have my original tenants and haven’t raised the rent in over two and a half years. The initial rent figure was above what I expected to get and they’ve always paid on time and haven’t bothered about any repairs or anything, so why bother? Property values have gone up and I’m sure I could get away with raising it some, but it just doesn’t seem worth the risk. Maybe I’m being too conservative, who knows?

      • Cypren says:

        Not to mention that finding good tenants…

        So much this. I think most people who are educated enough to be debating the social and economic effects of housing policy are probably assuming that most tenants are people like themselves: educated, cultured, polite upper-middle-class people who pay their rent on time and take care of the property they’re renting, or pay damages if they don’t because that’s in the agreement they signed.

        This is not the typical tenant.

        People will repeatedly fail to pay rent on time and then file complaints with the city if you try to evict them. Sometimes they will do this repeatedly, and hop from tenancy to tenancy leveraging renter-friendly laws to extort as much free rent as they can from each landlord before moving on. Some tenants will trash your property in retaliation for any perceived slight, from calling them about that loud 3AM party they’re throwing that’s infuriating the neighbors, to reminding them that they need to pay rent at all.

        Even if they don’t do these things maliciously, there will be sob stories about how they just need you to be okay with giving them a couple of months to pay rent, the money is coming, they swear, it’s just a temporary hiccup…

        And cracking down on people like this is difficult. Many states have extremely renter-friendly laws based on the presumption that the tenant’s interest in their home always trumps the landlord’s interest in their property. Even when the tenant is a serial evictee who is clearly milking the system for their own gain.

        Being a landlord is not the endless stream of easy money most people seem to think.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          I like this:

          It’s not easy to evict someone in California. Generally that’s a good thing—especially in the Bay Area, one of the nation’s most expensive places to live. In a region where it’s not uncommon for one-bedroom apartments to rent for more than $3,000 a month, there’s an obvious incentive for landlords to find excuses to force out tenants and jack up the rent.

        • Deiseach says:

          Even when the tenant is a serial evictee who is clearly milking the system for their own gain.

          Now imagine those same tenants in social housing, and any attempts to evict them when they run up several thousand euros’ worth of unpaid rent get local councillors and social workers and the local media and particular lawyers all lapping up sob stories human interest stories on the case about cruel heartless bureaucrats throwing people out onto the side of the street into homelessness on the one hand, while on the other hand the government auditor is hauling you over the coals about the level of unpaid rent indebtedness and why aren’t you making an effort to collect it?

          Plus if you do manage to get them evicted, they immediately declare themselves as homeless and come back expecting you to get them (a) into emergency accommodation (b) to house them in social housing again.

          A private landlord at least is not deemed to have a moral obligation to provide housing to anyone regardless of whether they are in genuine need or not.

          (While I’m back in education and moved out of social housing provision, I follow the news in the local papers for old times’ sake and oh boy, same old faces and names cropping up again and again).

          • Loquat says:

            Wait, so social services in Ireland has to:
            a) provide housing for those in need,
            b) charge rent for that same housing, yet
            c) cannot reliably garnish wages or welfare – or are the typical offenders getting money in ways like informal cash payments that it would be impossible to garnish?

            I’m sure there were reasons to set it up that way, but it just seems odd to this Yankee.

          • Deiseach says:

            Okay, I think I may have misled you. It’s not Social Services, it’s Local Authorities (county and city councils) who are legally obliged to provide social housing:

            Each housing authority shall make a plan (in this Act referred to as a “housing services plan”) setting out the objectives which the housing authority considers to be reasonable and necessary for the provision of housing services having regard to the requirements of the housing strategy or strategies relating to housing supports for its administrative area.

            Thank God I wasn’t directly involved in the Rent section, but the woman who was moved in there and told to crack down with the new policy was tearing her hair out about it because the incorrigibles were so bad.

            The majority of tenants in social housing provision will be people on limited incomes – either low wage earners, or on pensions, or a great many of them on social welfare payments of some kind (single parents, unemployment, disability). Rents are set by the Differential Rents Scheme which takes into account number of people in the household, income, etc. and calculates the weekly rent.

            The payment methods are via:

            • Banks/Credit Unions – standing orders, direct debit
            • On line payments
            • Household Budget Scheme – Dept. Social Welfare (An Post Bill Pay)
            • Rent payment card system
            • Money Advice & Budgeting Service

            You can make attempts to get rent repaid, but really committed dodgers will have a thousand and one ways to make it as difficult as possible, e.g. “I never got your letter telling me I was in arrears/I can’t afford to pay that much, I am on social welfare and have a family/This is our family home, you can’t throw me out” and then they lawyer up and the first thing the solicitor’s letter to the council will say is: if you let Mrs X or Mr Y build up such an arrear, it’s your fault not theirs, you should have acted before things got to such a pass.

            Often when there is an arrangement in place that the tenant will repay so much a week in back rent, they’ll do it for a while then let it slide again. People who run up arrears are not really very conscientious in general about paying their debts. We can send out Notices to Quit but they tend to be ignored in the same manner.

            It may end up with having to go to court, and it is really hard to get a judge to decide “yes, the council can kick this tenant out” because of the homelessness thing. Same with getting a judgement about taking money out of their wages/social welfare payments – even if we arrange a repayment scheme, it can take a long time to pay it off – one example that the aforementioned new Rent clerk told us about was someone who would be paying off arrears of a couple of thousand by a fiver a week, which would take eleven years to pay back. Because so many tenants would be on social welfare payments rather than in full-time employment, their incomes (admitted incomes) are limited and we can’t take so much that they would not be able to live on the remainder.

            Where there are moneys due and owing by a household to a housing authority under any of the provisions to which this section applies and the housing authority is satisfied that the household would otherwise suffer undue hardship, the housing authority may enter into arrangements with the household for the payment of those moneys (together with any interest that may have accrued under section 33 (2)) by such instalments and at such times as the housing authority considers reasonable in all the circumstances in addition to any rent, charges, fees or loan repayments that the household is paying to the authority.

            One way of building up a backlog of rent is: tenant gets social housing. Tenant then moves in partner whom they never informed us about beforehand, nor inform us about afterwards, to live with them. They should be paying rent for this person, but are not. If we get wind of it, we then calculate the rent they should have been paying and write to them to look for it.

            You can imagine how successful that is 🙂

            People often abandon the house and skip off to England, rather than pay rent arrears. They may then turn up again in six months to a year’s time and re-apply for housing. Now, they’re not supposed to be considered by us or another local authority if:

            A household shall not be eligible for social housing support where —

            (a) at any time during the 3 years immediately before the carrying out of the social housing assessment, the household or a member of the household was in arrears of rent for an accumulated period of 12 weeks or more in respect of any dwelling or site let to them by any housing authority under the Housing Acts 1966 to 2009 or provided under Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000 , and

            (b) the housing authority has not entered into an arrangement under section 34 with the household or the member concerned for the payment of the moneys due and owing to the housing authority in respect of those arrears.

            However, in that case they’ll probably claim homelessness and have to be accommodated by the homeless services, who are really under pressure and over-stretched. And as I said, you get local politicians and do-gooders and bleeding hearts all intervening and interceding for them, which makes it very hard to get anything done. That’s why I was so vehemently anti- the guest poster and their blithe admission that IRAP deliberately picked the photogenic immigrants to get their stories into the media – I’ve seen how that works from the other side, where winsome appealing human interest story is disseminated and the bureaucrats are made out to be heartless paper-pushers, but if you knew all the facts of the case it would be a different matter. I realise it’s a great strategy for the advocacy causes, and they don’t care about playing fair, but the ‘good cause’ sob story you picked may not be telling you all the truth, and the advocate is certainly not telling the media all the messy inconvenient facts.

            I hasten to add, this is not to tar everyone with the same brush! You do get people who, through no fault of their own, do fall behind in rent and will make an honest attempt to pay off arrears. But it’s the bad tenants, as discussed in other comments, who know how to game the system and it’s hard to pin them down and either make them pay up or get them evicted, because they know how to play the game.

          • Loquat says:

            Well, I was using “social services” as more of a catchall term for government assistance, so you haven’t misled me. It still seems odd that you have a government agency which MUST provide housing to anyone who claims to be in need yet also expects them to pay rent. Our best-known form of housing assistance here in the States is Section 8, where you get a voucher to help you pay rent and it’s more or less up to you to find a place to live. Upon further googling, though, it seems there are various state and local agencies that offer public housing to the poor, and at least some of them charge rent, but afaik none of those agencies are required to provide housing to everyone in need and indeed they tend to have substantial waiting lists. It’s certainly possible that we might have some similar photogenic media-savvy rent-dodgers in said housing, though!

          • Deiseach says:

            Oh, we do have rules about who can apply, and we do have waiting lists, and there are various rent allowance schemes (one of which was supposed to be phased out and replaced by a new one, but as things stand they are both in operation at the moment). There are also private housing agencies, some of which are charities, some of which are associations, that provide housing in particular units for short-, medium- and long-term accommodation for particular categories of tenants, and local authority housing services work closely with them:

            The main purpose of the Housing Services department in local authorities is to facilitate the provision of suitable, cost effective, quality accommodation and housing support for people in need of housing.

            Housing support can be provided in a number of ways:
            – Social rented tenancies in local authority owned properties.
            – Sourcing social housing properties from the private sector through schemes such as the Rental Accommodation Scheme and the Leasing Initiative.
            – Accessing accommodation provided by Voluntary and Co-operative Housing.
            – Provision of Traveller accommodation.
            – Provision of accommodation for homeless people.
            – Facilitating extensions to existing local authority homes to meet specific household needs.
            – Provision of certain grants to increase accessibility in the home for people with disabilities and special needs.
            – Provision of accommodation for older people.

            The problem with the rent allowance is that it is capped to a certain limit depending on the area, and the number of people in the household, and it is fixed at below the market rate. This leads to a perennial problem where (a) some landlords in places of high demand (generally Dublin because that’s where the most demand is) refuse to take tenants on rent allowance at all, because they can get more from charging market rates , even if the tenant offers to make up the difference by paying out of pocket themselves (b) when the market is going well and rents increase (as they are doing now), tenants find the allowance inadequate, can’t afford to make up the difference themselves out of pocket, and there are calls to increase the allowance.

            The problem there is (1) trying to balance the budget of state spending and where is this extra money going to come from (2) some landlords will increase the rents in proportion to take into account the new allowance limit and the tenant still has to pay out of pocket.

            There are rules – you can’t just turn up and demand to be housed (well, you can, but you have to fill out a form and provide supporting documentation and evidence of need, and if for instance there’s a bedroom in your parents’ house, then you are not deemed to be ‘in need’ even if you’re twenty-six and your parents don’t want you living at home). This gives rise to the waiting lists. It also means that informal fudges come back to bite you in the backside – one previous town manager had an unofficial rule that he wouldn’t house anyone under the age of twenty-one, so even if an eighteen year old applied on the grounds that ‘my parents are kicking me out of the house’, their application wouldn’t be processed (it would be accepted but not processed).

            This worked okay until one guy, on the waiting list for years, went to a particular lawyer in town (this lawyer has a reputation for taking out cases against the council, even things like the “I tripped on the paving” scam and yes, that’s a real scam). Lawyer takes the council to court and, because the “no housing till you’re twenty-one” is an unofficial rule not in the government regulations, he wins the case. Council is sued for the difference in rent his client alleged to have paid over ten years of not being housed in social housing, came to a cool ten grand or so.

            But wait, that’s not all! After winning his case for the difference in rent which was supposed to go for “cost of finding accommodation in the private rental market”, client puts in a new application still expecting social housing and we have to process it and treat it on equal footing, plus client gets the benefit of being ten years on the waiting list, bumping him up the list over others waiting on it. This is all part of the court judgement.

            So he gets the cost of his rent and the application for social housing, even though he is supposed to be looking for private accommodation. (The reason the money was not going on looking for private accommodation is not unrelated to the “should drugs be legalised?” question and I’ll say nothing more because I’m supposed to be bound by confidentiality.)

            You can’t win sometimes. I liked where I was working and they were great people, but I’m happy to be out of it and now working as clerical support in an early intervention service for 2-5 year old kids with autism and other special needs. At least if a 2 year old lies down on the floor having a screaming and kicking meltdown, it’s excusable 🙂

            I am sure there are scammers and chancers in the USA pulling the same kinds of tricks.

          • Jiro says:

            It also means that informal fudges come back to bite you in the backside

            I lack sympathy here. It’s ultimately the same principle as not allowing an informal fudge of “this council won’t process the applications of black people”. People do need places to live when they are under 21 but >= 18, after all. The whole point is to get people housing and you’re arbitrarily deciding not to distribute housing to people that are supposed to be distributed housing.

          • John Schilling says:

            People do need places to live when they are under 21 but >= 18, after all

            People also need housing when they are 15, 16, and 17, and I didn’t notice the number “18” anywhere in Deiseach’s posts.

            people that are supposed to be distributed housing

            You are making an unwarranted presumption about who is “supposed to be distributed housing” in someone else’s country.

    • Skivverus says:

      At a guess towards the latter (or at least, to “it doesn’t happen to an infinite degree”), “having a reputation as an evil landlord damages your ability to cash in on non-evil tenants”.
      As for more intelligent rent control, perhaps limiting the first derivative (price change per year) rather than the total cost would allow for more market information to get through without dinging renters too badly. Though that in turn leads to concerns about frog-boiling analogies.

    • Brad says:

      Changing tenants costs landlords money just like moving costs you money. And each new tenant has the potential to be a real disaster — doesn’t pay, wrecks shit, etc. I’ve lived in half a dozen market rate rentals (NYC), and in my experience a renewal lease will be at least a little less than what the landlord would charge if the apartment were vacant. Sometimes significantly less. Certainly not more.

    • qwints says:

      Leasing to new tenants has costs, but in terms of immediate outlay and lost opportunity. You generally will spend more on cleaning and repairs than you can recoup from the security deposit. You’ve got to market to tenants and vet the ones who come through. You may have to pay a broker. And you miss out on income for some period of time. Alternatively, you can keep your paying, well behaved tenant at no additional cost of time or money.

  18. Vermillion says:

    So another weird wrinkle on a link from a few months back, about how the congenitally blind never get schizophrenia. Kids with congenital blindness are much more likely to also have autism. My read is that there are a lot of developmental issues in those individuals and if you screw around with brain circuitry enough then autism becomes way more likely, because social behaviors require a lot of things to go right and it’s very easy to knock out one of those cards and have it all come crashing down.

    But then what does that make schizophrenia, if not something on the other end of the bell curve. Like if autism and congenital blindness are both the result of some series of developmental failure modes, then schizophrenia is…those same developmental processes working too well? I mean there are a lot of biological processes that require very careful balancing. But then there is substantial overlap in gene expression in both autism and schizophrenia, much more than e.g. Bipolar disorder. And none of the genes they found as differentially expressed were in opposite directions from control.

    This is weird right? It seems pretty weird to me.

    • AnonEEmous says:

      well there was that post Scott made somewhat recently about schizophrenia and autism being ((MAYBE???)) opposites. I don’t think it relates that much to this but go read it if you want.

      • Vermillion says:

        Yeah the increase in autism in congenital blindness is definitely in line with that idea. But the genetic data is not…

        Another thought that occured to me while I was walking out of the office, there might not be good diagnostic tools for the visually and cognitively impaired. So maybe schizophrenics are being classified as autistic. I’m not sure I buy that though, the diagnostic instruments are pretty dang thorough.

  19. hlynkacg says:

    Testing: Am I still banned?

    Edit: Seems not (that or I’ve been double secret probationary banned) If anyones reading this there are no hard feelings on my part. I handled that exchange poorly and I deserved to get called out for it. Mea Culpa.

  20. suntzuanime says:

    So we’re not allowed to roll our eyes at unsupported conspiracy theories posted on Medium.com anymore? An indefinite ban for treating nonsense like nonsense seems excessive.

    • Montfort says:

      I don’t see it as a big loss that you have to actually type out “this looks like a completely unsupported and hysterical conspiracy theory.” If you want to publicly display your disapproval for a post, you should explain why, not treat it as self-evident and frame it for maximum disdain.

      • suntzuanime says:

        That seems like it leads to stuff like that holocaust heterodoxy guy who got mad that we were dismissing his holocaust heterodoxy video out of hand and if we didn’t want to spend the four hours watching it we didn’t have to comment. Some stuff is legitimately worth rolling your eyes at.

        At the very least, indefinite banning seems excessive. He was maybe out of line, but he was provoked. A warning or term ban seems more reasonable. Basically it’s a form of anarchotyranny, if you let people freely make ridiculous claims and then come down like a ton of bricks on people for ridiculing them.

        • Montfort says:

          I don’t think we have a big problem with that particular poster. S/he didn’t seem that mad, actually more embarrassed about it after some reflection. Besides which, people did roll their eyes at it, but since they did so by explaining why it’s ridiculous to expect people to watch four hours of video the whole affair concluded in relatively civil terms.

          Further, it does seem as though some people were able to ridicule while staying within the bounds of the rules. If it were the case that everyone violated the rules all the time and Scott merely picked his least favorites to ban, then that would be anarcho-tyranny. Instead, Scott has a rule, apparently, that people being snarky should include some semblance of relevant content.

          As for the length of bans, I’ve never really understood the reasoning behind them. To play devil’s advocate, there are few things more against the principles of SSC than ridiculing an argument without responding to its substance. I guess actual violence (or a credible threat) in lieu of argument would be worse, for one, not sure what else might qualify.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            i was really hoping for a substantive discussion on whatever he had posted without having to watch it myself

            but I didn’t think that was actually going to happen

            maybe on a meta-level it shouldn’t because that would imply something about the community. *sigh*

          • Montfort says:

            I think they had a reasonably-palatable-to-mainstream opinion on the more general topic of historical reliability, sort of like “how well do we really know anything outside of living memory?”.

            If that’s the case, I encourage them to return to the topic with a less radioactive example.

          • Deiseach says:

            i was really hoping for a substantive discussion on whatever he had posted without having to watch it myself

            Wasn’t really possible, though, because the video was such a mess. The parts I forced myself to watch were risible, e.g. “In one incident recounted in this book, somebody claims a diesel train engine broke down and took two hours to repair, but when I visited a German spa I got this graduated glass to drink out of so I could measure how much of the mineral water I had drunk. Would a people so precise and efficient about their water glasses have taken two hours to fix an engine, if they even let an engine get to the point of breaking down in the first place? Clearly this alleged incident cannot be true. So this book’s claims that the train was taking people to a concentration camp are plainly lies”.

            And that’s sparing you the droning monotone all this was delivered in, as well as making the point more cogently than the narrator did.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            it all good my G

            i mean i was explicitly admitting to a request for other people to do my work for me which is kinda ridiculous. and you ended up doing that in your comment anyhow. God Bless America.

          • Mark says:

            It’s definitely a terrible video with lots of absolutely rubbish arguments, but there are some substantive, checkable, points being made, (volume of bodies to size of graves/ drinking water supplied by a well within the burial area/ etc. etc.) There must be better ways of communicating them, though.
            (So, yes, a pretty embarrassing OP to bring to the internet brains trust.)

            I’ve no idea whether the more grounded points have any real basis or not, my inclination would be to view it as one of those “theres never just one cockroach in the kitchen” things – if there are lots of arguments that seem obviously bad, there is a good chance that the ones that seem fairly good, are also actually bad.
            But that’s probably not an ideal way to approaching things.

          • Jiro says:

            That’s a Gish gallop, and that’s why the reaction to a Gish gallop should be to take apart a couple of arguments and then stop.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      He was an awful commenter and I imagine Scott banned him for the totality of his comments. He could have picked a more hostile example, but I don’t think he is trying that hard to make the examples instructive.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Ding ding ding

      • IrishDude says:

        Yeah, seemed like a relatively-snarky poster. I think warnings are nice but it may be asking a lot of our host to do more hands-on policing.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        I mean, the Reign of Terror was allegedly suspended, “being an awful commenter” should not cut it as a ban justification (thankfully for me).

        • HeelBearCub says:

          That means we are back to “at least two of true, necessary, kind is required”.

          Contentless snark is certainly not kind. And when you repeatedly do the same type of shit over and over, it’s definitely not necessary.

          I’d argue that their contentless snark wasn’t even usually true.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            i feel like you already lay out the case for why, actually, none of those three qualities were present (I guess if user purposespice was actually adorable, but the truth of an insult like that one is almost orthogonal to its purpose so who cares). So, yeah, it’s probably still only asking for one of those qualities (not that this case proves that epistemically, though I bet everyone knew that already.)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @AnonEEmous:
            I think anytime one engages in contentless snark, which many posters will do from time to time, you run a certain risk of falling to the banhammer.

            But the best case for contentless snark is when what is being responded is a certain kind of mind-killed argument that is best punctured by satire. In that kind of situation, a snarky comment can be both “true” (for the same value of true that can apply to more serious political satire) and “necessary”.

            IOW, I’m not trying to make a case that contentless snark is always ban-worthy, but I still think there needs to be a good case that it passes the “2 of 3” test.

            9 times out of 10, maybe 99 out of 100 in my case, resisting the urge to snark is the by far better option.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            i think that it is only safe to hold the opinion that certain arguments are braindead in an environment with high social cohesion; in other words probably people disagree with what qualifies as braindead

            then again we mostly agree already, as your last sentence is pretty spot on. sadly an urge difficult to resist.

          • Fossegrimen says:

            I would contend that most snark is kind. Possibly not to the target of the snark, but certainly kind to all of us getting a good laugh from it.

            shut up and multiply and all that 🙂

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          Why wouldn’t we want awful commenters to be banned?

          That’s rhetorical. I get the idea that moderation policy should be fair and predictable, but ultimately we judge the mods by the quality of the community they moderate. Scott (or his minions volunteers) culling weaker posters isn’t anything to complain about.

          The main issue isn’t banning low quality posters, but with politically motivated bans. There is some overlap, since a lot of low quality posts are political, but it’s pretty easy to tell whether a ban is coming from “you’re hostile and annoying” or “you’ve offended my girlfriend’s progressive sensibilities.”

          • Mark says:

            I don’t like the idea of culling ‘weaker’ posters because:
            (1) Different people have different views on what is interesting.
            (2) The danger of missing something interesting due to bias is greater than the cost of skimming over and passing things that aren’t interesting.
            (3) When I post something stupid, and get schooled by the SSC commenteers, I learn something.
            Perhaps, someone similarly silly reading might also learn something.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            let’s be clear here ; obviously you are not in favor of it because you would be the first to be culled !!!

            whereas extremely strong posters like me (take a look at this post if you doubt that sterling claim) would never be removed and thus stand to benefit. so i say cull away!

            ((/s))

          • Mark says:

            Well, yeah 😉

            I’ve been commenting here for a while, and I’ve said eight things:

            1) There is only a very narrow band of (super-human) ‘intelligence’ that is dangerous, because of the rate of selection of ideas, chaos, and wire-heading.
            2) Communism shouldn’t be dismissed out-of-hand.
            3) Immigration controls shouldn’t be dismissed out-of-hand.
            4) Libertarianism isn’t morally attractive.
            5) Utilitarianism isn’t attractive.
            6) The one universal constant must be the perception of flow of time.
            7) Materialism anthropomorphises the universe (naive realism only makes sense as back-door Berkeleyism)
            8) Inter-stellar “society” couldn’t be a society as we understand it. The *rate* of social/intellectual evolution necessary on the planetary level must be very different to that on the inter-stellar level – so, Lovecraft.

            I don’t think those are useful or informative things to say, but they interest me, and I’d feel sad if they were purged.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            I think you may be suffering from imposter syndrome on this issue.

            You seem like a good quality poster. You’re civil, you think things through and are open to changing your mind when you get “schooled,” and you don’t spam.

            When I’m talking about low-quality posters, what I mostly mean is people who post a dozen comments an hour repeating the same points and baiting other posters in the process. Or those who respond to effortposts with “TL;DR” or similar zero-effort snark. The kind of people whose presence kills discussion rather than enabling it.

          • Cypren says:

            I’m generally in favor of the current moderation policy as well. This is the only internet forum even vaguely related to politics and the culture wars that I’m willing to engage with because it’s not full of the standard partisan “my tribe is right about everything and the enemy tribe is PURE EVIL” comments you find most other places. People who have nothing to contribute and no arguments to make, only tribal gloating, don’t seem to last long.

            I’d like to see it stay that way. I prefer arguing with people who are calm, rational and willing to listen to my ideas and rebut them; that’s the only way I’m going to learn anything.

  21. IrishDude says:

    I’m interested in hearing what hobby others are into and why. To start if off, I got into hang gliding about 6 or 7 years ago. My wife got me an introductory lesson as a birthday gift and I loved it, so I’ve gone several times a year since. I learned on flat land on a farm using scooter towing (you can see what a scooter looks like about the 24 second mark here). I’ve increased my skill level to be able to get truck towed up to about 1,600 feet in the air (depending on the wind direction and speed that day), which you can see here.

    A truck that has a giant winch with line wrapped around it sits in the bed of truck, the line is attached to your harness, and you’re then pulled into the air as a truck speeds 30mph down a long runway. The winch lets out the line connected to your harness but maintains some pressure to pull you up. Just before the truck runs out of road I pull a release and fly back down to Earth.

    When you become skilled, and hit the right weather conditions, you can get thermals (rising columns of heat) that you can fly circles in to gain height. I only have limited experience thermaling since most of the days I’ve flown have had very little thermal activity. But if you catch the weather right, you can fly up to cloud base and stay up for hours (20 minutes is my record flight time so far).

    Hang gliding is the perfect combination of serenity and thrill. You float in the air observing the Earth from above, an occasional hawk soaring below. Then, when you get close to the ground you pull in the bar to gain speed for safe landing, taking a big roller coaster drop to get low, get a few inches off the ground, and flair to land like a bird. It’s an amazing I experience that I highly recommend, and if you don’t want to be a pilot you can always fly tandem with an instructor and get towed into the air by light plane.

    When I reach an important financial milestone, I’m buying a powered harness with a propeller on it, that I can use to launch a hang glider by myself from flat ground.

    So, I’m curious what others are into and why?

    • Loquat says:

      Vegetable gardening! Because I like plants and I like getting useful rewards from my hobbies, basically. Also, it lets me enjoy things that would be expensive, inconvenient, or not even available to buy from the store; for example, I’ve had reasonable success growing okra, while I rarely if ever see decent-quality fresh okra for sale. If we ever move someplace with more yard space, I hope to add some perennial exotic fruit like kiwi berries.

      • IrishDude says:

        My parents-in-law live on a fair amount of land and have a huge garden. They grow corn, tomatoes, squash, and other veggies. They always have an abundance and share, and aside from the good taste, it’s cool eating something where you know directly where it came from. They also grow grapes, strawberries and apples, and make homemade wine with their fruit.

        I have a small 3X3 foot garden box behind my house the my wife grows grape tomatoes in, which are nice to snack on.

      • quanta413 says:

        I’m curious. I’ve bought okra from the grocery store, but I’m not sure how to tell what okra is good quality. And as far as cooking it, I’ve only stewed it. How do you tell what’s good, and how do you like to eat it?

        • Loquat says:

          Telling if it’s good: pretty much the same as most vegetables – should seem crisp and firm, with good color; avoid floppiness, mushiness, and black spots. Okra is also like zucchini in that if it got too mature before harvest it’ll have tough unpleasant bits inside, though how mature is too mature varies a lot by variety. It’s hard to go wrong with pods less than 6 inches long though.

          How to eat: I really like just tossing whole pods in oil, salt, and spices and roasting them (400F, maybe 10-15m). Also I’ll include sliced okra in my mixed vegetable sautees and stews – sauteed onion, garlic, and okra is pretty great.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and weightlifting. BJJ is rolling around on the floor in funny pyjamas or form fitting garments, as the case may be, trying to control the other person, with the ultimate aim of making them give up because either you’re choking them or you’re screwing with their joints. It’s derived from judo, which is derived from Japanese jujitsu.

      For the longest time I was a very sedentary person – no muscle, plenty of fat. Started watching MMA and trying to get in a bit better shape. Eventually took judo classes at my university on a whim. Shortly thereafter, I picked up BJJ, and started lifting weights. I don’t do judo any more – doesn’t fit my schedule – but I’ve gone from being sedentary to spending 10+ hours a week in the gym.

      BJJ is great because it’s very physical, but it also rewards thought, planning, etc. There’s a lot of strategy there. Great exercise, too. Strong component of socializing. Weights I do more to get stronger, as a means to an end, but there’s something very satisfying about improving yourself in a quantifiable way.

      • IrishDude says:

        I enjoy catching the occasional UFC fight. Do you have matches against other people? Or just spar and practice?

        If you can find a fun activity that gives you exercise, that’s awesome. I used to like jogging a lot, but have had chronic IT band issues that has led me to running only occasionally and for shorter distances. I found a nice exercise replacement when I got a unicycle as a present for Christmas over a year ago and have had a lot of fun learning to master different skills. It’s low impact on my body, and gets my heart rate up quickly since I am constantly using muscles to balance or pedal (no coasting like on a bike!).

        • dndnrsn says:

          I’ve competed a couple times but I’m not great at it. I’m thinking I’m gonna give another spin once I’ve slimmed down to the lightest weight class I can achieve – I’ve competed at a couple of weight classes, but was carrying too much chub, and going up against somebody who is just “larger for his size”, so to speak, sucks.

      • What is bjj sparring like? I stopped sparring in boxing about a year ago due to a concussion, and also decided as I am no longer in my early 20s, and I’m becoming a proper adult, I need to protect my brain.

        I have a visceral dislike of grappling with another man. I can’t really explain it, it just makes me very uncomfortable to imagine being on the ground rolling around trying to pin someone. Whereas punching feels more natural. Did you ever feel this way or get over it?

        • dndnrsn says:

          I haven’t done any striking, so I can’t compare the sparring. The impression I get is that you can go much harder much more often sparring when it’s grappling instead of striking, because no concussions.

          I never had a problem with the sparring on a level of “comfort” although it can be pretty gross when sweat, blood, etc get involved. I got over that.

        • Nornagest says:

          It’s mostly grappling.

    • Emerich says:

      That sounds amazing. How dangerous is it? When you’re at cloud level, can an error cause you to plummet? What are the chances of a gust flipping you over? Etc.?

      I’ve started learning kite surfing, but I’m still too much of a beginner to give useful impressions.

      • IrishDude says:

        It’s relatively safe if you learn under a competent instructor and make good decisions. My instructor only put me a couple feet off the ground until I learned to control the hang glider. The better my control got (turning, going fast, slowing down) the higher he pulled me up. Hang gliders themselves are very stable by providing resistance if you push or pull too much. Speed is your friend and you don’t want to stall in the air unless you have a lot of altitude to recover. Choose to fly only when the weather is more mild and you don’t have to worry about fighting strong winds.

        I haven’t made it to cloud base myself yet, it’s on my goal list. I’ve heard that clouds can suck you in though so you have to be careful. Visibility is a must so you’re never supposed to fly in a cloud (planes and other hang gliders fly too and you want them to see you!).

        I just recently saw a picture of Obama kite surfing. Looks like fun! Is the water warm where you’re learning?

        • Emerich says:

          As with other water sports, you can wear a wetsuit if it’s chilly. They’re not that expensive nowadays. The bigger challenge is that especially for learners, you need onshore or sideways winds so that you don’t get swept out to sea, and you want to be at a beach where either an instructor or staff are at the ready with jetskis in case you need help. It’s harder to go upwind with a kite than it is in a sailboat or when windsurfing. That means you need to go to beaches in parts of the world with predictable, steady winds. As a result, it can get expensive what with lessons, equipment, and travel. So far I’ve only learned to control the kite–on the day I was supposed to have my first board ride the wind failed–and that was my last day. I’ll have a better idea whether it’s all worth it once I’m actually surfed. To be continued.

    • I’m interested in hearing what hobby others are into and why.

      My major long term hobby has been medieval historical recreation in the Society for Creative Anachronism. That includes cooking from medieval cookbooks, making medieval or renaissance furniture and jewelry and tents, sitting by a campfire telling poems and stories either from the Middle Ages or designed to sound as if they are, writing poems on medieval topics. Until a few years ago it included the sport of combat with (non-lethal copies of) medieval weapons.

      Some of jewelry making, in particular lapidary, is outside of the medieval context. Also some carpentry.

      • IrishDude says:

        How’d you get into the SCA? Showed up randomly to a meeting one day? Had a friend invite you?

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          He tried to find stateless medieval Iceland and took a wrong turn at Chicago.

        • The SCA started in Berkeley in 1966, spread to the East Coast. I and some friends at University of Chicago heard about it about 1969 and decided to start a midwest branch. Another was being started in Michigan at about the same time.

          I’m not sure how most people who join find out about it nowadays. Early on I think science fiction fandom was a good deal of the transmission mechanism, but that connection got weaker over time. Active groups that are recruiting sometimes put on demos. College groups may recruit at the school’s activity day. People may hear about it from friends.

          The only requirement to attend an event is some attempt at pre-17th century garb, so if you aren’t afraid of mixing in with a bunch of weird strangers you can just show up. Events are often outdoors in a park, where people passing can and do ask about it. If you are sufficiently interested to want to try to join in they may have loaner garb that you can borrow for the event.

          Like some other hobbies, the SCA is really a bunch of different things from the standpoint of different people.

    • I’m interested in hearing what hobby others are into and why.

      My major long term hobby has been medieval historical recreation in the Society for Creative Anachronism. That includes cooking from medieval cookbooks, making medieval or renaissance furniture and jewelry and tents, sitting by a campfire telling poems and stories either from the Middle Ages or designed to sound as if they are, writing poems on medieval topics. Until a few years ago it included the sport of combat with (non-lethal copies of) medieval weapons.

      Some of my jewelry making, in particular lapidary, is outside of the medieval context. Also some carpentry.

      I also plant fruit trees.

    • bean says:

      Battleships. I volunteer at the USS Iowa in Los Angeles, although I’ve been something of a battleship nerd for a lot longer than the year I’ve been there. It’s cool to get to see the ship regularly, and see more of it than most people do, but the best part is definitely that I get to talk about the ship a lot, and instead of the usual ‘you are being weird, please go away’ looks that I’m sure all of us are used to from having very weird hobbies, I get told ‘thank you’ for giving a 5-minute long description of the fire control system.

      • IrishDude says:

        Any particular reason battleships are your favorite instead of aircraft carriers, destroyers, or subs?

        • bean says:

          I like big guns, I guess. I don’t have a particular reason I can put my finger on. And if I’d ended up in a town with an aircraft carrier, my bookshelf might look considerably different. But there’s something really interesting about the design philosophy behind the battleship, in a way that there isn’t for most other types of ship. It’s possible to explain why almost everything was done the way it was with relatively simple terms. Carrier design, by contrast, is monstrously opaque.
          The other advantage is that they’re so obsolete you rarely hit the classification wall you do on other types of ship.

          • So what is your view of the ultimate battleship battle that never happened–Iowa vs Yamato?

          • bean says:

            We’d win. Our armor is about equal (weird but true), at range our guns were as good (not as weird, also true) and our fire control was vastly better.
            Link

          • cassander says:

            @DavidFriedman

            I agree with bean. There’s some extensive discussion of the topic by some naval historians. the Iowa’s guns were smaller, but 18″ bought the yamato surprisingly little, and that much was undone by lower quality japanese shells. the same is true of armor.

          • bean says:

            I agree with bean. There’s some extensive discussion of the topic by some naval historians. the Iowa’s guns were smaller, but 18″ bought the yamato surprisingly little, and that much was undone by lower quality japanese shells. the same is true of armor.

            That’s the same link I gave.
            That aside, it’s not that the Yamato’s shells were particularly bad (although they weren’t great, see below), but that Iowa’s were so good. The US Navy considered the 2,700 lb super-heavy AP shell the equivalent of a conventional 18″ shell at armor penetration at long range. It was amazingly better than the British and German shells. The Japanese designed their shells to optimize for underwater hits, after some experience during tests on the battleship Tosa, cancelled by the Washington Naval Treaty. This meant very long fuse delays and a compromise of penetration power. In practice, they got a single underwater hit on the USS Boise, off Guadalcanal, and flooding put it out before the magazine exploded. Most of the time, the long fuse delay meant that the shell was out the other side of the ship before it detonated.
            In fact, the improved shells, developed after the ship was designed, unbalanced the armor scheme. The designed immune zone was 18000-30000 yards (shells penetrate vertical armor better at short range, but penetrate deck armor better at long range because the shell is falling more steeply) against 2240 lb shells. In practice, it was 20,500-28,500 yards against the heavier shells, which is too narrow for normal design practice.
            (If this was interesting to people, I’d be more than happy to do more of these.)

          • On Iowa v Yamato, my views are almost entirely based on Fletcher Pratt wargaming long ago, which I suspect ignored all the details you mention. The one big thing is that, at least by the game rules, the Yamato had substantially longer range. So if the Iowa is chasing, the Yamato spends a long time within its range and outside the Iowa’s range, by which time it’s slowed the Iowa down to its speed.

            Of course, if the Iowa wants to get away the battle doesn’t happen, since it’s faster.

            Checking your link, the Yamato outranges the Iowa by about two miles, the Iowa is about six knots faster, so if the Iowa is chasing it will get within range of the Yamato after about 20 minutes of the Yamato being in range of it. The Yamato is supposed to be firing two rounds a minute, so 40 broadsides. That’s 120 shells, assuming that it runs straight away and so can only use the rear turret. I don’t know how much of an angle it has to be at to get all three turrets firing.

            I have no idea what the odds of a hit are at that range or how many hits it would take to slow the Iowa down to the Yamato’s speed, at which point the Yamato wins, assuming it is still out of the Iowa’s range.

          • Incurian says:

            (If this was interesting to people, I’d be more than happy to do more of these.)

            Please do and never stop.

          • Protagoras says:

            I believe the longest range at which any battleship ever scored a hit on another battleship was 28000 yards, so the theoretical maximum ranges of the guns on Iowa and Yamato were probably irrelevant; battleship guns firing at or close to theoretical maximum range are almost certain to miss. The superior fire control on Iowa would probably mean it would start actually hitting at longer range than Yamato.

          • John Schilling says:

            Depends on whether you are counting ballistic range or effective range. The Japanese Type 94 18.1″ naval gun, as mounted on the Yamato, could project a shell to a distance of 42 kilometers, compared to 38.7 kilometers for the US Mark 7 16″ naval gun. However, the greatest distance at which a gun fired from a moving warship has ever actually hit another moving warship is about 24 kilometers, so the prospect of the Yamato sinking an Iowa-class by bombarding it without reprisal from 40 kilometers out is extremely slim. As bean notes, the United States had better fire control, which is what really mattered.

            Wargame designers tend to overestimate the lethality of weapons like battleship guns because A: most of the readily-available data is from peacetime exercises and B: a game in which players spend half an hour moving ships and rolling dice without ever being able to imagine spectacular explosions is a game that people won’t play more than once and won’t recommend to their friends.

          • bean says:

            On Iowa v Yamato, my views are almost entirely based on Fletcher Pratt wargaming long ago, which I suspect ignored all the details you mention. The one big thing is that, at least by the game rules, the Yamato had substantially longer range. So if the Iowa is chasing, the Yamato spends a long time within its range and outside the Iowa’s range, by which time it’s slowed the Iowa down to its speed.

            That’s not particularly realistic. As others have pointed out, nobody has ever hit a moving target at that range, and it would probably take more than one hit to seriously slow Iowa.

            Checking your link, the Yamato outranges the Iowa by about two miles, the Iowa is about six knots faster, so if the Iowa is chasing it will get within range of the Yamato after about 20 minutes of the Yamato being in range of it. The Yamato is supposed to be firing two rounds a minute, so 40 broadsides. That’s 120 shells, assuming that it runs straight away and so can only use the rear turret. I don’t know how much of an angle it has to be at to get all three turrets firing.

            That’s two-thirds of the ammo loadout (60 rpg) in the aft turret. Please, fire at me at long range. (Actually, it’s probably almost all of the AP ammo. D&G says they were using 10 to 40% of the special incendiary after 1943.) It also says that 4 and 5 gun salvo spreads at maximum range were 457 to 549 meters. Making lots of bad assumptions, I get Iowa taking up about 1/22nd of that area if the salvo is centered perfectly. Making even more terrible assumptions (notably that the salvo will be centered on the Iowa), that’s going to put you at something like one hit per 22 rounds. A better estimate is half that or less. So at best, 6 hits before we can reply. That’s significantly less than the number usually necessary to sink a ship of this type. So long as we don’t have terrible luck (Hood) or suicidal magazine practices, we should be fine. D&G don’t have data on firing arcs, but those are usually 270-300 degrees.

            I have no idea what the odds of a hit are at that range or how many hits it would take to slow the Iowa down to the Yamato’s speed, at which point the Yamato wins, assuming it is still out of the Iowa’s range.

            I think Iowa could run at Yamato speed on about half power. They’d definitely need to take out two sets of machinery, and quite possibly three. The engineering spaces take up half the length of the ship, and about 3/4ths of the width. (There are 4 boiler rooms and 4 machinery rooms, B-M-B-M-B-M-B-M, and can be interconnected.) So a total of 3/8ths of hits will hit machinery. I’m a bit rusty on bionomial tests, but I think it’s reasonable to assume that you’d need at least 3 machinery hits to slow the ship enough. Oddly, that comes to 8 total hits, more that the maximum you can expect in the time you have before we get in range even under best case scenario.
            (Yes, flooding could slow us more. OK, two machinery hits and a total of 6 hits. Still a lot better than you can expect to do.)

            I’m going to have to do a lot more digging on gun accuracy on maximum range. And later see how my explanation of battleship fire control works in text form, without my usual visual aids (Catalina Island and the ship.) Also, I think I’m going to be there tomorrow, so it may be delayed.
            (Turns chair around to see bookshelf with a shelf full of books with ‘battleship’ in the title. Smiles. Rubs hands together. Would laugh manically, but is bad at doing so. Begins pulling books off the shelf.)
            Edit 1:
            Using the same methodology as above, I looked at Iowa’s shooting. I was only able to find pattern numbers offhand, which was 219 yd for a 3-gun salvo from Iowa at a 34,000 yards from Iowa in November of 1987. (Yes, I’m slightly cheating because that was about the best battleship shooting ever and Yamato was sunk 42 years earlier, but I don’t really care.) If we assume 300 yard diameter for a full salvo (I’m spitballing right now, I’ll try to do a better job later) Iowa has a 1/7th chance of hitting. In WW2, it was probably a lot closer to being equal. Note that this excludes shooting at the wrong point, and that’s where Iowa’s vastly improved FC system comes into play. Radar range is more accurate, and the Mk 8 is a lot better system than the Japanese had.
            Edit 2:
            The best article I know of on the subject says that the USN was projecting about 0.1 hits/gun/minute in 1940 at max range. That’s going to correspond roughly to an accuracy of 5%, which is better than either side did at Jutland. Mean point of impact errors seem to average around 1.5% of range, while dispersion is more like 2% of range. If we assume that dispersion is diameter instead of radius, we get about 5% hits, which checks with the above math, but does tell us that improved dispersion will actually hurt us. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that the Japanese (who had tighter patterns and probably worse mean point of impact errors) would usually miss completely. This isn’t unknown. After the Komandorskis, the Americans thought the Japanese would have hit more with looser patterns.
            Oh, and Iowa has another big advantage. We can maneuver without spoiling our fire control solution. They can’t.

          • Protagoras says:

            Ah, I seem to have misremembered, it was 26000 yards, not 28000. Doesn’t affect the point, obviously. But another point on this is that Iowa vs. Yamato, fun though it is to think about, may not be the most interesting counterfactual. Most of the cases where battleships were used to good effect in WWII did not involve them fighting other battleships. While the Japanese were certainly doomed in the long run (there’s no way things couldn’t have gone horribly for them from 1943 on with the U.S. building giant fleet carriers at a rate of one every month or two), they also made some serious mistakes, and one of them was holding their battleships in reserve for the decisive battle that never came. There were a number of places where more aggressive use of their battleships in 1942 might have helped them. The one time they used battleships to support their ground forces at Guadalcanal, the shore bombardment did a lot of damage to the American air base. They could have used a lot more of that sort of thing. And for that matter the battleship crews would have gotten some combat experience; when the Japanese finally did start using their battleships near the end of the war, they not only suffered from being absurdly outnumbered at that point but also from rather dismal crew performance.

          • bean says:

            Right. Text version of my fire control spiel.
            (Scene: 05 level of Iowa.).
            The maximum range of our guns is 20 nautical miles. (I point at Catalina Island, normally visible on the horizon, but not in the google link) That is almost exactly how far our guns could go from right here. Now, how do you even try to hit something at that range?
            There are several things you have to compensate for. First, the movement of the ship, roll and pitch. That’s where naval fire control started, in the 1890s. Then there’s the actual range to the target, followed by the target’s movement.
            The whole process starts with the director. The job of the director is to figure out where the enemy is, where he’s going, and, secondarily, where the horizon is. The horizontal bar in the image is the optical rangefinder. This whole system was designed before radar was available, so it’s designed to be able to work on optical information only. Even during the 80s, optical bearing information was more accurate than radar.
            From the director, all of the data I mentioned earlier is transmitted via synchro down to the plotting room, where the rangekeeper takes it. The rangekeeper is a big box full of gears, cams, integrators, and other devices. All of the calculation is done mechanically. The rangekeeper takes the data from the director, and then calculates where the target will be when the shells hit. It compensates for own-ship motion, wind, coriolois effect, the earth’s curvature, and the magnus effect on the projectile. Then the data goes to the stable vertical, which is a special gyroscope that is what is normally used to compensate for the ship’s roll and pitch. (In certain cases, the director can provide this, too. That’s actually what directors were invented to do.) Now, this has two modes. If the seas are moderate, then the guns are aimed continuously, and fired when the manual salvo key is pressed on the stable vertical. If the seas are too rough for the drive on the guns, then they’re locked in position, and the automatic key is pressed. One contact is on the gyro, the other on the stable vertical frame. When the deck is horizontal, the guns are in the right position, and the contacts meet, firing the guns.
            In either case, the fire control orders go through the parallax correctors, which compensate for the fact that the guns are spread out.
            The turrets themselves have what’s called Remote Power Control (RPC). Most battleships had someone manually controlling the turret to match the ordered position (follow-the-pointer), but RPC allowed the FC system to directly drive the turret. This sounds easy now, but was quite difficult at the time.
            Obviously, even this isn’t enough to get a hit. There’s someone in the director who is spotting to correct for shells falling off the target. This is cranked into the director.
            Now, this is where it gets really cool. The director is also driven by the rangekeeper to stay pointed at the target. If it starts to drift off, then the director crew cranks in a correction, which automatically updates the rangekeeper’s solution on the target, forming a closed-loop control system. Done with analog tech in the 30s.
            The whole system is very accurate. During the bombardment of Ponape in 1944, Iowa was using a reference point to provide an initial solution, which they then offset from to targets. The ship went out of sight of the reference point for 15 minutes with the director and rangekeeper still tracking. When they came back into sight, the solution was off by 100 yards and 1 miliradian (.05 degrees).
            During the reactivation in the 80s, computers were added to compensate for more factors, including more accurate barrel wear and muzzle velocity estimates. They were planning to replace the mechanical computers in the late 80s, but only because there were only cams for the 2700 lb and 1900 lb shells, which limited options for new shells. Also, the mechanical system takes a lot of maintenance. There are gears that have to be aligned, friction pads to replace, and so on.
            The whole system is heavily redundant. There are two main battery directors, and four secondary battery directors, all of which can be cross-connected to drive any of the rangekeepers, which in turn can drive any relevant guns. The Mk 37s work on similar principles to the Mk 38s, but can also shoot at aircraft. This is even more impressive, because they have the same system, but deal with 3D targets moving much faster. Yes, there are AA tables for the 16″ guns, but they were never used that way, and would probably have been quite ineffective. The Mk 37 was by far the best system of its type during WWII. The British actually used it in preference to their own system. There’s also a director with integrated computer in the fire control level of the conning tower. And if all of this fails, the turrets can fire under local control.
            Links:
            Armament and FC of the Iowas
            Rangekeeper
            Overview of fire control principles
            Mechnical fire control mechanisms

          • gbdub says:

            Thanks bean, that was very cool. I wasn’t aware the systems were at that level of sophistication and automation in WWII.

            I haven’t gotten to go on a battleship yet but I do love touring warships. Always love how purpose driven their design is. On the Midway in San Diego, I also loved the little touches of humanity that they preserved, particularly in the pilots’ areas. Like the pegboard in the briefing room that scored everyone’s recent landings with little colored tags. Had their callsigns on one side and the motto “Go Ugly Early!”

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            Unless the Iowa could sink the Yamato during the few minutes it took to charge it up, I don’t think it would stand a chance against that Yamato’s Wave-Motion Gun.

          • bean says:

            @Protagoras:
            The Decisive Battle doctrine was at least 40 years old by WWII, and changing it would change a bunch of other stuff, most notably Japanese warship procurement patterns. I’m not sure how much help extra BBs would have been at Guadalcanal. The problem is that the slow battleships wouldn’t have been able to avoid American air attacks, and of the fast ones, two were lost and the other two used there. Yamato wasn’t, but she was new and the fleet flagship.

            @gbdub

            Thanks bean, that was very cool.

            You’re very welcome. Frankly, I’ll give that spiel to anyone who looks even vaguely interested. I got to do it 4 times today, which was reasonable, although not great.

            I wasn’t aware the systems were at that level of sophistication and automation in WWII.

            These were the very cutting edge at the time. In fact, I’ve seen speculation that one of the main reasons we won at the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal was because the automation meant that the relatively untrained crews of SoDak and Washington could perform well.

            I haven’t gotten to go on a battleship yet but I do love touring warships. Always love how purpose driven their design is. On the Midway in San Diego, I also loved the little touches of humanity that they preserved, particularly in the pilots’ areas. Like the pegboard in the briefing room that scored everyone’s recent landings with little colored tags. Had their callsigns on one side and the motto “Go Ugly Early!”

            Well, come and pay us a visit. I’ve been to Midway, and she’s very nice. I would say she’s better, except for the lack of 16″ guns. We try to keep as much of that same spirit, but our crew was generally less colorful than pilots, and a lot of those touches are in the areas we can’t take the public. I think my favorite is a bench in the machine shop where the crew on duty during the Japanese Surrender stamped their names. Several other crews did the same, but the original workmanship is superb. Unfortunately, not on the tour.

            @Machina ex Deus

            Unless the Iowa could sink the Yamato during the few minutes it took to charge it up, I don’t think it would stand a chance against that Yamato’s Wave-Motion Gun.

            We used to put people who made that joke in the brig, but then people started using it to get access down there. Now, they go straight over the side.

    • gbdub says:

      I basically collect eclectic hobbies.

      Right now my main ones are high power model rocketry, homer Ewing, and the sport of curling.

      I’m a rocket engineer by day, so hobby rocketry was a natural. I’m basically flying substantially larger versions of the little Estes park flying rockets many of you have probably been exposed to. But it’s gotten pretty sophisticated – GPS tracking, electronic altimeters controlling the recovery system, desktop simulations for planning flights, etc. Its a nice combination of craftsmanship and technical geekery. My favorite thing about it is there’s always a stretch goal, you literally “level up” to larger rockets and there’s always an extra complication you can add. Also lots of ways to do it – some people are high performance altitude junkies, others take pride in beautiful paint jobs, others love seeing how wacky a thing they can make fly.

      Home brewing is another great combination of craftsmanship and geekery. It’s very easy to follow basic recipes and you don’t need too much gear. But again you can take it to pretty crazy lengths if you want. I love the geeky aspects of it – planning out different combinations of yeast, malt, and hops to combine interesting flavors. It’s another hobby that’s been helped by accessible computer tools. I use a program called BeerSmith that automatically calculates things like original gravity and final alcohol content and IBUs as you build the recipe, so it’s very easy to tinker. My favorite part is that it’s really improved my enjoyment of beer overall – I can recognize a lot more flavors and know where they came from.

      Curling is basically Canadian bowling (but back when bowling was something popular). Also more athletic (sweeping is a surprising good workout). Pretty quick to pick up, lifetime to master. The “weirdness” of it is definitely a plus, but I also love the combination of skill and deliberate strategy. It’s very friendly and communal – buying a beer for your defeated opponent is expected practice. One of the coolest aspects is the ability (and likelihood) to rub shoulders with great players in the sport. We recently had the vice skip of the current US national team stop by our club because he just happened to be in town. We were short a man so he subbed in for our team – what other sport lets you play with an Olympian? And the nature of the game is such that it’s still fun even when you’re playing with people of wildly varying skill.

      • IrishDude says:

        Do you have an altitude record for your rockets?

        I got a home brew kit for Christmas one time. I enjoy drinking beer a lot, and trying a variety of beers, but I didn’t enjoy making it.

        Watching Curling in the Olympics is one of my guilty pleasures. It reminds me of shuffle puck which is one of my favorite bar games.

        • gbdub says:

          My current best is around 3400 ft AGL, mostly because that’s as far as I’m comfortable going on the main club field I go to without GPS. I’ve built a tracker though, so I’m looking to push that when the weather cooperates. Last couple launches have been breezy with a low cloud deck.

          Which brew kit did you get? Oddly, I like the more complicated kits since they feel more hands on.

          It reminds me of shuffle puck

          One of our club’s fundraisers is actually a shuffleboard pub crawl we pile on a tour bus and hit up all the bars that have a couple tables and run a rolling tournament. As you note, similar principle.

          You should see if there’s a club in your area – most clubs hold frequent “learn to curl” events where you can get a basic lesson and throw stones for a couple hours for $20-30 at most, all necessary gear provided. And all clubs will be pushing awareness around the olympics.

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      …hobbies? Not sure if I have any, but in the sense “something you do on your free time for fun”:

      Lately on my I’ve been reading slightly different papers than I read when I’m “working”.

      And SSC. Some other blogs. (Gelman, MR, the usual lot.) And non-fiction books (currently a collection Orwell’s essays because I said somewhere they are good but then I realized I don’t remember much of the details other than reading them as a teenager. In particular, previously I finished England Your England. Funny, if not particularly relevant today.)

      That …sums it up.

      I just realized how boring I am.

      • Wrong Species says:

        I think being “cool” is overrated. Look at this guy. He sleeps with a lot of girls, travels often and makes a good amount of money. But look at the details.

        If you want results, you’re going to have to amputate everything from your life that does not contribute to those results. This includes TV, social obligations, and maybe even your current hobbies. Every moment I spend has to answer the question, “Is this pushing you further in any of your goals?” If I’m not winding down, working out, earning money, or meeting women then – generally – I shouldn’t be doing it. Balance between your priorities is just as important as your focus on them. Fitness shouldn’t take more than ~10 hours per week so that leaves money and women for you to split the remainder of your waking hours between.

        2: On Guy Friends

        With some exceptions, a waste of time. They add overhead to your decision-making and logistics.

        4: On Relationships and Monk Mode

        Every once in a while I meet someone that I really enjoy my time with. At that point I shift into monk mode and focus on money until the cost of the relationship becomes more than the cost of being single. Then the relationship ends and the chase resumes. I do think that it’s possible to be completely and mutually fulfilled by someone special but I haven’t found that yet.

        23: On The Dangers of Experience

        When I was in college I wanted to gain confidence with women because I wanted to find “the one”. I’ve now gained that confidence along with some unintended consequences.

        I now find that sex with strangers is intoxicating. It makes me feel powerful. My tolerance for imperfection has declined as I have more positive experiences. My definition of perfection has become increasingly precise. Every girl I meet gives me a new flavor of excitement, a new reason for my heart to race. Adversely, another reason why “this one isn’t good enough”. Another reminder that “there’s someone better out there”. It’s not unhappiness – it’s just a growing hunger for more, for better. It’s an addiction!

        I bet the girls he meets think he’s really awesome. But at what cost? Obviously, there’s nothing wrong having cool hobbies but being “boring” isn’t necessarily a bad thing either.

      • shakeddown says:

        On the subject of reading papers: Is there anything you’d suggest reading in the half-year I have left until I start my software engineering job? (big company, no specific team assigned yet).

      • Do you have the four volume Orwell letters and essays? I found it very interesting.

        • nimim.k.m. says:

          No, just one smaller collection of selected essays in English and another similar (slightly different selection of essays but with some overlap) translated to my native language. And the (famous) books (Catalonia memoir, 1984, The Animal Farm).

    • Machina ex Deus says:

      My hobby is sitting in a cubicle and drinking coffee while browsing the web, having occasional interesting conversations with the people around me about our kids, and occasional boring conversations (which we go into a windowless room for) about schedules and status (although the latter topic gives me an opportunity to exercise my creative side). I’m pretty into it; I usually spend eight or more hours a day at it (more than I spent on World of Warcraft), and drive some ways to get together with my fellow hobbyists.

      This doesn’t sound very interesting or useful, but I’ve gotten/kept a lot of software development jobs based on how good I am at my hobby, and not many based on the quality of my programming.

  22. IrishDude says:

    Does anybody else wish there was a preview button before your comment was posted? I find after many posts I look it over and want to edit it right away. After posting, I can more easily see how paragraph breaks look or potential tagging errors. If I could preview I could edit more before rather than after posting. An old forum I posted on had a preview button and I found it valuable.

    Just curious if I’m the only one who would use that capability and whether it’s even possible to implement.

  23. Rock Lobster says:

    Has anyone ever written an alternate history in which America was “Franco” instead of Anglo? I.e. a set of French colonies that achieved independence, the population speaking French, place names being mostly French and native instead of Anglo and native, civil law, etc. etc. you get the idea.

  24. sovietKaleEatYou says:

    In honor of the “GOP accountability survey”, what are some organizations one could donate to that support free speech in America? I’m looking for the following parameters:
    * anti-BS and not too partisan, though left-leaning better than right-leaning
    * with a good record in non-US countries without freedom of speech

  25. random832 says:

    Is there a way to get a “firehose of all comments” page or feed that goes further back than the most recent ten comments shown on the RSS feed?

    Even better would be a way to include all comments on all posts but the N most recent ones (which are higher in volume and can reasonably be checked by looking at those articles’ comment pages)

  26. Casey Mann says:

    In an alternate reality where Mitt Romney beats Obama in 2012 (or even 2008), how does the world look now, in 2017? Do we still have the SJW Left and the Alt Right? Public debates about punching Nazis?

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      I expect politics would look about the same. I’d be amazed if Romney would have successfully addressed the identity politics motivating Trump voters and SJWs or the class conflicts motivating the left. However baseline reality would be quite different.

    • Deiseach says:

      In an alternate reality where Mitt Romney beats Obama in 2012

      Intense screaming about racism being why the incumbent, Obama, lost (naturally). Every decision Romney makes being put under huge scrutiny, especially as we all know he’s a sexist misogynistic theocrat who wants to lock women up pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen as well as establishing an American Taliban.

      Much pissing and moaning about how if the Dems had run Hillary instead, they’d have beaten the schmuck (because rose-coloured glasses are so firmly affixed to some people’s faces, you couldn’t crowbar them off) because First Woman President! “Women” being treated as a monolithic voting bloc such that all of them are oppressed by the Republicans (the “binders full of women” thing would have been even more beaten into the ground than it was the first time) and would naturally all vote for First Woman President (we’ve seen how well that worked out in our timeline).

      Romney’s four years would not be a disaster or a triumph, he’d be pretty much a standard Republican president (which of course would have meant some on the left complaining they had been living in Actual Fascist State Under Literal Hitler – ha ha ha, little did they know, eh?) and I don’t think we’d currently be worrying about Reds Under The Beds.

      Which would bring us to 2016 and the two parties squaring off for the election. I think Romney would certainly run for re-election. I think it’s possible Jeb! would have put himself up as well. Cruz etc? No idea, possibly Rubio would have gone. I think, though I won’t stake my life on it, that the party probably eventually would decide to stick with Romney as incumbent running for re-election, for all the reasons cited here. Trump, if he decided to throw his hat in the ring, really would be the joke no-hoper everyone took him to be and I doubt he’d get selected, not after four years of an averagely successful, not horribly terrible Republican president who is now going for re-election.

      That leaves the Democrats. Given Hillary’s clawing ambition, I think she would have put herself forward again. As to other potential Democratic candidates, I don’t think Bernie Sanders would have had a chance this time round. The “anyone but Hillary” internal opposition would have crystallised around Obama (I think it’s generally forgotten how in 2008 the two camps hated each other, to the point that for a while it looked as if they would split the party in two). Given that in this timeline, Obama wasn’t re-elected in 2012 and didn’t plaster over the wounds by giving Hillary the Secretary of State job, I don’t think there would be any love lost between them and he’d be backing or supporting a different candidate to Sanders. Who that would be, I have no idea. They might decide to try for First Woman President themselves but this time another minority – Kamala Harris? They might think if they worked the oracle for Obama in 2008, they could do it in 2016 against Romney.

      I think Hillary would have a tougher time running against a rival who wasn’t Sanders. If she was able to use her clout and connections to get the DNC to tilt the scales in her favour once more, then we’d be looking at Clinton versus Romney.

      And I think that she’d lose this time round as well, because (a) Romney not being the actual devil, after four years in office plenty of people would go “Eh, he’s dull but reliable” and vote for him as a safe pair of hands, known quantity, better the devil you know and so on (b) enough people dislike Clinton not to vote for her (c) people who genuinely couldn’t decide who they liked least of that pairing would stay home and not bother voting instead of going third party.

      That’s me, though, and I simply do not see Hillary as electable, even if in 2016 running against incumbent Mitt Romney there were no email server scandals and FBI leaks and the rest of it.

      But my God in Heaven, can you imagine the boredom level of the debates between them? Political minutiae to daze even the wonkiest of wonks! Sleep aid manufacturers out of business and on street corners begging cap in hand because five minutes listening to the pair of them knocks even the toughest case of insomnia on the head! 🙂

      • cassander says:

        The couple paragraphs are great, but the election analysis vastly exaggerates the US’ willingness, in both parties, to nominate people who have lost or against sitting presidents. If Romney wins, no one serious runs against him in 2016. maybe, just maybe, Obama runs again, but I’d bet against it. I think you’re right that Romney beats Hillary handily, unless his presidency happened to be particularly disastrous.

        • Deiseach says:

          the US’ willingness, in both parties, to nominate people who have lost or against sitting presidents

          Oh I agree, which is why I couldn’t see Obama in this timeline running in 2016, if he lost in 2012. Mainly because, as you say, the party wouldn’t back a loser and also because he has enough pride/vanity/sense of proportion not to put himself forward again unless there was a huge national yearning for “we shouldn’t have voted for Mitt, come back Barack” which I wouldn’t be certain of happening.

          But certainly if not him as a candidate, someone associated with him, a protégé(e) or client using his connections and support in half (or however much of the party both from the organisational and from the ‘voters who always vote Democrat even if we ran a scarecrow’ sides) the party to run against Team Clinton? I could see that happening, which is why Bernie wouldn’t be even a blip on the radar at all in alternate 2016.

          And that would have been a harder fight for Hillary to win the nomination, running against Team Obama’s picked choice, because the playing field re: dirty tricks using the perfectly legal procedures of the rules of selection would have been a lot more equal.

          Hillary vs Romney – Romney wins.

          Team Obama Candidate vs Romney – not so sure who’d win that one.

      • random832 says:

        Trump, if he decided to throw his hat in the ring, really would be the joke no-hoper everyone took him to be and I doubt he’d get selected, not after four years of an averagely successful, not horribly terrible Republican president who is now going for re-election.

        Could he run as a Democrat?

        • Deiseach says:

          Could he run as a Democrat?

          He possibly could have shifted enough on policy to be a thorn in the Democrats’ side instead of the Republicans’ side, but for two things:

          (a) he’s the wrong sort of rich guy for the Democrats; they like the pretence, at least, of class and breeding – he’s not polished enough for his level of wealth, and not wealthy enough to get away with the lack of polish (they’d hold their noses and tolerate a crude zillionaire pumping funds into the coffers, especially if they could persuade him to do it for a few selected Good Causes that would appeal to the demographics they were chasing, but crude and only a multi-millionaire is not good enough – see Hillary’s gushing about “I love real billionaires”)

          (b) Hillary’s ambition. It was her turn, and if Obama took it from her in 2008, no way in Hell would she step aside for a loudmouth johnny-come-lately in alternative 2012. And by the bye, I am amazed by this op-ed in the Washington Post from 2008 where, eh, Hillary was supposed to be basing her claim to the nomination on the fact that she appealed to poor(er) white voters, who would be too racist to vote for a black candidate – what would be termed the Trump vote in 2016. Anyway, it analyses her major flaw as arrogance, and I think the same thing torpedoed her campaign in 2016:

          From the beginning, Hillary Clinton has campaigned as if the Democratic nomination were hers by divine right. That’s why she is falling short — and that’s why she should be persuaded to quit now, rather than later, before her majestic sense of entitlement splits the party along racial lines.

          … Clinton’s sin isn’t racism, it’s arrogance. From the beginning, the Clinton campaign has refused to consider the possibility that Obama’s success was more than a fad. This was supposed to be Clinton’s year, and if Obama was winning primaries, there had to be some reason that had nothing to do with merit. It was because he was black, or because he had better slogans, or because he was a better public speaker, or because he was the media’s darling. This new business about white voters is just the latest story the Clinton campaign is telling itself about the usurper named Obama.

          “It’s still early,” Clinton said Wednesday, vowing to fight on. At some level, she seems to believe the nomination is hers. Somebody had better tell her the truth before she burns the house down.

          And in 2016, it was misogyny, it was racism, it was populism and toxic white nationalism etc. that gave Trump the lead. Same old, same old: as Talleyrand is supposed to have said of the restored French monarchy “They have learned nothing, and forgotten nothing”.

    • Jaskologist says:

      The two parties would have very different views regarding Russia.

      • Deiseach says:

        Do you think alternative 2017 would have seen the traditional “Republicans bash Democrats for being too soft on Russia and cosying up to Putin” instead of the other way round as it currently is?

        • cassander says:

          It’s more like “Romney does stuff that is cast as anti-russia, the democrats criticize him for it (the opposition party will criticize almost any foreign policy move the incumbent makes, there’s no ideology there, just partisanship), then republicans respond with democrats are soft on communism Russian expansionism.”

        • Jaskologist says:

          Romney’s view on Russia was that it was our #1 geopolitical adversary. Obama’s view on that was “the 80s called, they want their foreign policy back.”

          Those aren’t caricatures, either, those are quotes from the debate.

        • bean says:

          Almost certainly.

    • Deiseach says:

      Oh, my. I missed this back in 2008, but this is all part of why I think Hillary is unelectable; she does firmly insert her own foot into her own mouth all by herself and then double down hard when called on it.

      “We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California,” Hillary Clinton said yesterday, referencing the fact that past nomination contests have stretched into June to explain why she hasn’t heeded calls to exit the Democratic race. She was in an editorial board meeting with a South Dakota newspaper, and she didn’t even seem to notice she’d just uttered the unutterable.

      The nation’s political science students, our future strategists and campaign managers, would do well to pay attention to this moment. There are taboos in presidential politics, and this is one of the biggest. To raise the specter of a rival’s assassination, even unintentionally, is to make a truly terrible thing real. It sounds like one might be waiting for a terrible thing to happen, even if one isn’t. It sounds almost like wishful thinking.

      and

      Hillary Clinton’s reference to the shooting of Robert Kennedy on June 6, 1968, after he had just won the California primary, hardened feelings in the Obama campaign once more, following a brief thaw as it appeared that Clinton would seek to unite the party in the final weeks of the campaign. Her allusion came on the heels of two other comments over the past few days that the Obama campaign described as off-putting: her reference to the Michigan and Florida delegations as similar to the fraudulent elections in Zimbabwe, and her comparison of that dispute to the ballot recount in the 2000 presidential election.

      So first she as much as accuses the Obama campaign of election fraud (shades of “the Russians hacked the election” to come?), then follows that up with referring to the Bush-Gore recount where she is plainly casting herself as Gore from whom Bush ‘stole’ the election, then she follows that up with talking about a Kennedy assassination as to why she’s still grimly hanging on inside of reading the writing on the wall that Obama has the nomination in the bag, and everyone interprets that as talking about Obama getting a bullet, not herself.

      For “smart experienced canny vote for me I know how to do the job”, she really does make things harder for herself!

    • The Nybbler says:

      SJWs and the alt-right yes, but no Trump run and no public debates about Nazi-punching (Richard Spencer remains out of the public eye). Milo still provokes and is protested (less violently) but it’s not national news. The SJWs are slightly weaker without the Department of Education behind them. The Democrats run Hillary in 2016 and she loses to an incumbent Mitt Romney.

      • Deiseach says:

        As a matter of interest, is there anyone here who thinks Hillary in any timeline against any particular opponent could run and be successfully elected as First Woman President?

        Not to be morbid, but I imagine that could only happen if (say) Bill had been assassinated near the end of his first term and the widow was put up as the Democratic candidate in the next election – there’s a tradition in Irish politics of electing the next generation family member to the family seat, but I don’t know if – the Bushes etc. aside – you have the same traditions in America.

        Hillary and Gore running against Dole and Perot in 1996 seem electable, with the help of a (presumed) groundswell of sympathy for her bereavement.

        Anyone got any other notions how she’d win?

        • rlms says:

          She’d win in the wacky alternative timeline that is exactly like this one but had Clinton campaigning slightly better/Trump campaigning slightly worse in Michigan and Florida.

          • Jordan D. says:

            Yeah, seriously. Hillary was a bad candidate, but I don’t think she was ever unelectable.

            I don’t know how much I buy it, but Nate Silver theorizes that she gets elected in the wacky alternative timeline where, e.g., the New York FBI don’t find e-mails from her on Weiner’s laptop. Perhaps that wouldn’t have been enough to do it, but it seems pretty likely that even a few small changes over the course of the election might have resulted in her winning.

          • BBA says:

            The anti-Hillary crowd likes to say she never won a contested election in her life. That’s a little unfair. She was leading in the polls in the 2000 Senate election even before Rudy Giuliani’s personal life imploded and he dropped out in favor of the little-known Rick Lazio. But it’s undeniable that the implosion/replacement had more to do with her victory than anything she did in the campaign.

            2006 was basically uncontested (I wasn’t living in NY at the time, and had to look up who her opponent was… the mayor of Yonkers? really?) and as for since then, well, you know.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Head to head polling from early last year is hard to take seriously now. Clinton might have done better against a more establishment candidate like Cruz or Rubio. They would not have the “outsider advantage” that Trump did, running in what turned out to be an anti-establishment year.

          • Matt M says:

            Almost any of the GOP field would still look like an outsider compared to Hillary. Cruz and Rubio have both been serving in Congress for less than ten years. That’s practically nothing in Washington terms. Of course, if you assume this was a good year for outsiders, sans Trump, the GOP base may very well have nominated Carson or Fiorina or someone like that as well.

        • The Nybbler says:

          We don’t have a general tradition of putting the widow in (though it’s happened in some cases); I don’t think Hillary could have gotten the Presidency that way. She could have beaten Trump in an almost-distinguishable timeline; I imagine she could have beaten Jeb or Rubio or Cruz with a good campaign on her part and no email scandal. With no Obama, maybe she beats McCain.

          • Deiseach says:

            2008 was her best chance. The later attempts were too long on the vine, I do think that was part of the problem: she’s been in politics (both as wife of Bill and co-governor/president and in her own right) for so long, she can’t really get the excitement of “First [Whatever] President” that Obama was able to generate; it’s more “Oh, Hillary – again?”.

            In 2008, I think McCain would have been beatable, but it would also depend on who she picked as running mate (Kaine was not a great choice since he wasn’t left enough for the die-hards – I read a lot of grumbling about his abortion record as Governor of Virginia – and not really inspiring for the centrists). With the right VP to make up for her deficiencies, she could have won – but she does seem to have trouble admitting that she has deficiencies until after she does something (like the dismissive baking cookies remark) that gets her into hot water.

            And I mean – yowch! You’re being asked about allegations of political corruption involving your husband steering juicy contracts the way of the law firm you worked at when he was governor, and you choose to go on the attack – okay, fine, but by attacking women who are full-time wives and mothers? Not the best way to handle it.

            The competition—in which the contender for Republican first lady pits her cookie recipe against one submitted to the magazine by the potential Democratic first lady, for readers to bake, taste, and vote upon—began as a response to an off-the-cuff remark Clinton made in 1992.

            That’s the year that her husband, Bill Clinton, was running for his first term as president. In response to accusations that Bill Clinton steered favorable contracts to Hillary Clinton’s law firm as governor of Arkansas, Clinton explained to a hounding press that she had ambitions outside the traditional role of first lady and wife:

            I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession, which I entered before my husband was in public life.

        • Deiseach says:

          Well, unelectable is my own personal opinion. The fact that she was parachuted into New York, including buying a house to live there since the Clintons had no previous connections with the place, did seem like trading on her position as First Lady. Had Guiliani not imploded, I wonder would she have won? It also makes me wonder if party insiders who were looking for a ‘star power’ candidate either doubted Giuliani would seriously run, or knew enough about his personal troubles that they expected they would eventually blow up in his face.

          But I think everybody (except the die-hard stans) accepts that she went for a Senate seat as the first stepping-stone on the path to the ultimate prize of the Presidency, and Obama popping up out of nowhere in 2008 must have been a real inconvenience.

          She wasn’t able to beat him off in 2008, she had to step aside again in 2012 because he wasn’t going to be deflected, and in 2016 we’ve seen what happened (the Russians! They had it in for her!) Running again in 2020, I really don’t expect it to be any different and whoever the First Female President is going to be, it’s not Hillary.

          She campaigns for the women’s vote but the problem is that a lot of women plain don’t like her. I find it very hard to think of her as sincere about much other than her desire to be in public life (whether that’s because she genuinely believes that is where she is called to be or not). Pragmatism is one thing, but even if she’s speaking about something she really believes in, I do find it hard to believe that she means it (and is not just reciting the script her focus-groups team told her would appeal to demographic L).

  27. jms301 says:

    Any thoughts on the relative cost vs benefit of regulatory capture in different political bodies?

    I was thinking about this with regard to Brexit – the EU is larger therefore presumably a more tempting target for regulatory capture.

    Whilst the UK FPTP system seems to makes regulatory capture easier (certainly our politicians seem more willing to bail out banks!).

    Meanwhile US large economy twinned with relatively small congress and huge costs of congressional races seems practically designed to make regulatory capture the norm.

  28. Le Maistre Chat says:

    So with all the hubbub about punched Nazi Richard Spencer, how many of you knew that he shares a lease in Alexandria, Virginia with an Iranian-American academic, Jason Reza Jorjani?
    Jorjani appears to be a humanities professor who got his PhD by leveraging things the Left likes (being foreign, continental philosophy), only to add as a corollary of his dissertation on Heidegger and how Western science ignores the supernatural “… and as an Aryan, I think Heidegger’s Nazism was swell!”

  29. HeelBearCub says:

    Add this to the pile of evidence supporting the claim that leaded gasoline is the big driver of so many trends.

    Note two things here. First, Britain’s violent crime rate peaked about 15 years after it did in the US. Second, it dropped a lot faster than it did in the US. Why?

    Because, first, Britain adopted unleaded gasoline about 13 years after the US (1988 vs. 1975). And second, because it phased out leaded gasoline a lot faster than the US.

    What other theory would predict a gradual drop in violent crime between 1991-2010 in the US and a sharp decline in violent crime between 2006-10 in Britain?

    ….

    Anyway, I might as well take this opportunity to repeat my prediction that terrorism in the Middle East will begin to decline between 2020-30.

    • Nornagest says:

      This would be a lot more convincing if there was a state-by-state (or other regional, if the bans happened at that level) breakdown that correlated leaded gas phase-out in that state to violent crime declines in the same state. A loose fit on two graphs could be coincidence; fifty-one is a lot harder to explain away.

      Does that data exist?

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Like all secular explanations of the crime wave, including ones that claim to look at the whole time series, this is based entirely on timing the peak of the crack epidemic. The timing of the crack epidemic was obviously exogenous, so it is the least interesting detail to explain and it distracts from the important details. Even if you were to try to explain just the crack epidemic, everyone ignores the demographics and assumes that the perpetrators were much older than in reality, so their conclusions are nonsense.

  30. cassander says:

    @dndnrsn says:

    Continuing from the previous open thread

    >The US has had serious issues with mutually-antagonistic ethnic factions in the past… Activists on college campuses or whatever are hardly innovators in that regard, if that’s even what they’re doing.

    Yep, and the result was nasty ethnic political blocks battling it out in the cities, sometimes literally, though very technically and without any bloodshed, ethnically cleansing one another. And a few decades before we got into that, we had an actual civil war where we murdered three quarters of a million of each other. We have a long history of this, and it’s bad. Our suppression of this instinct was a huge win, but now they’re bringing it back, and in an era when there’s much more to fight over because government is so much bigger.

    >You see agitators unconsciously steering the US towards Yugoslavia. I see well-off (certainly, well-educated, definitely higher-status) members of certain ethnic groups leveraging the real and actual suffering of lower-status members of those ethnic groups (or, coopting the movements of the lower-status members) to advance themselves on university campuses, in activist circles, etc.

    Those two things in no way conflict. They’re doing both.

    >demanding that something be done about poor rural white people OD’ing on painkillers and committing suicide … by starting a Poor White Rural Studies department (gee, I wonder where they’re going to get the staff for that? Who will they hire?)

    see the history of the italian studies department at CUNY for hilarious proof of this.

    >My view is that these things being institutionalized and turned into sinecures neutralizes them, because once somebody has a job and an office, all of a sudden they have less interest in messing the system up.

    It stops them from being revolutionary, but it doesn’t stop them from being harmful if they continue to push the country towards yugoslovia.

    • Nornagest says:

      My view is that these things being institutionalized and turned into sinecures neutralizes them, because once somebody has a job and an office, all of a sudden they have less interest in messing the system up.

      It stops them from being revolutionary, but it doesn’t stop them from being harmful if they continue to push the country towards yugoslovia.

      I don’t think we’re talking about the same “them” in these two cases. We have a forty-year history of the marginalization of various groups being leveraged into “studies studies” departments at major universities, but for most of its history this seemed to be mostly harmless in stability terms. Uniformly very very slanted, of course, and that might be a problem in itself — political monocultures don’t strike me as a good thing whatever their content — but for most of those forty years it almost never led to off-campus policy changes more meaningful than building memorials and creating holidays.

      But in the last ten years or so we’ve started to see academic concepts escaping the campus and the permanent activist scene and taking on a life of their own in the wild, especially on social media. That’s causing real polarization, and I think there’s a good chance of it leading to a real loss of stability — but the people promulgating these versions of the same ideas don’t have jobs or degrees tied to them. They are, basically, amateurs, and they have nothing to gain by moderating their views.

      • cassander says:

        ideas take a while to catch on. To quote voldemorte, “Very generally, the consensus at Harvard at year Y is the consensus of America at Y+50. If this isn’t power, what is?” Sowell echos the same theme in “If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules and be judged by the same standards, that would have gotten you labeled a radical 50 years ago, a liberal 25 years ago and a racist today.”

        You can quibble a bit about the exact length of the period, but the basic point that whatever students are taught to believe today will be the conventional wisdom when they’re grey eminences seems almost inarguable.

        • Nornagest says:

          I’m not sure I buy the Y+50 theory. When I was reading Days of Rage, I was struck by how similar the radical theory then was to the radical theory now — the terminology was slightly different, but the actual concepts and even most of the motivations behind them were exactly the same. If anything it’s gotten slightly less radical on the far left in the last 50-odd years, since Marxism’s lost a lot of its currency.

          So if what campus activists were shouting then is the same as what campus activists are shouting now, whence the perception of a leftward shift? It’s because those views have gotten more normalized — they’re closer to the center of the Overton window, and the window as a whole has shrunk. But that doesn’t mean the left extremes of the window have moved much. Oh, sure, there’s been a lot of movement on a few narrow identity-politics issues, but I don’t think those actually matter very much.

          • cassander says:

            The radical activists in the 70s were running at an 8 on the extremism scale, they eventually became middle class and settled on a 4, which became conventional wisdom. Not every idea Harvard puts out sticks, but a lot of of them do. And then the next generation comes along with a different set of crazy ideas, some recycled, some novel, and the process repeats.

          • Deiseach says:

            So if what campus activists were shouting then is the same as what campus activists are shouting now, whence the perception of a leftward shift?

            Possibly because, as cassander says, a lot of those campus activists mellowed somewhat, became part of the academic establishment, and have cooled down a bit from when they were twenty year old fire-eaters.

            Back then, they were yelling those slogans at Da Man, the Establishment, the guys in charge at the universities where now they are part of the faculty, and back then those were considered to be conservatives and on the right.

            They still think of themselves as liberals/radicals/on the left, but now they are Da Man, The Establishment, and their students are shouting those slogans at them, and it’s a shock – so their instinctive reaction is “Hey, I’m on the left, these slogans are for use against the right!” and so they think that things have shifted leftward, instead of recognising that now they are the Establishment the fire-eaters are reacting against – it’s not that they’ve moved rightward, it’s that the kids have moved leftwards!

          • rlms says:

            @cassander
            You seem to be saying “some political ideas in Harvard become popular”. That seems uncontroversial, not particularly bad, and very different from the idea of relentless leftward movement.

          • Deiseach says:

            That seems uncontroversial, not particularly bad, and very different from the idea of relentless leftward movement.

            The difference is that the people in positions of authority now at the universities, in the media, etc. are generally those who think of themselves as on the left (or at the very least as liberals), whereas to The Kidz nowadays they are the stodgy conservatives.

            So while in the time-honoured manner The Kidz are yelling at The Establishment for being hidebound, rightish and not left enough, the difference now is that the majority of The Establishment being yelled at don’t perceive or think of themselves as being conservatives – that’s their parents’ generation, that’s the people they yelled at when they were The Kidz.

            So the answer – as far as they are concerned – plainly must be not that they are now on the conservative side of the line but that Kidz Today have moved very far to the left 🙂

          • rlms says:

            @Deiseach
            But are The Kidz *actually* uniformly further left than The Authorities? They might disagree about e.g. whether Germaine Greer is an leading light of feminism or an evil transphobe, but Nornagest thinks (and I agree) that they both have similar opinions about destroying capitalism (they don’t want to).

          • cassander says:

            @rlms says:

            >You seem to be saying “some political ideas in Harvard become popular”. That seems uncontroversial, not particularly bad, and very different from the idea of relentless leftward movement.

            There’s a world of difference between “some ideas at harvard get popular” and “no ideas that aren’t from harvard get popular.”

          • rlms says:

            @cassander
            Well, some ideas probably originate in Yale and Columbia! More seriously, some ideas do come from other places — various forms of Christianity are still pretty influential in the US and other European countries, and genuine mass movements are a thing. But I’d expect a large proportion of new ideas to appear to come from elite universities, since any good (or bad but persuasive) idea is likely to capture some Harvard students, who are probably in a better position to spread and enact it than obscure originators.

          • Deiseach says:

            But are The Kidz *actually* uniformly further left than The Authorities? They might disagree about e.g. whether Germaine Greer is an leading light of feminism or an evil transphobe, but Nornagest thinks (and I agree) that they both have similar opinions about destroying capitalism (they don’t want to).

            I think in classic class struggle terms they’re not; I agree that both sets of them don’t want to destroy capitalism – part of why I’m half-amused, half-rolling my eyes at the Black Bloc hangers-ons who big up their participation in the window-smashing: they’re not working down coal mines or as migrant farm labour in solidarity with Da Peepul and the exploited immigrant POC class, they’re at university and when they eventually graduate their expectations are a good middle-class job with good pay and conditions, even if it’s in some kind of techie start-up or Radical Queer Activism Outreach Non-Profit (with hefty government funding), or even in academia itself. Smashing the windows of Starbucks and Amazon and banks when those are the places you’ll probably end up working eventually, or in places on the same level – that’s the kind of non-joined up thinking that makes me not take the protests seriously (the hardcore activists are a different deal).

            Cultural or social liberalism/leftism is a different kettle of fish, and that’s where I think the “I’m still relevant, they’ve gone to the extreme!” effect kicks in. Great example you picked – Greer the Feminist Role Model for Generation X (and possibly Y, or at least Greer The Venerable Foremother) versus Greer the TERF for Millennials.

            In skiffy terms, how reputation shifted from Heinlein the sexual libertine and all-round smasher of taboos and 60s radical and Great Writer to Heinlein the racist misogynist fascist, if you will 🙂

          • Incurian says:

            Radical Queer Activism Outreach Non-Profit (with hefty government funding), or even in academia itself.

            This struck me as slightly redundant.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @rlms

            “genuine mass movements are a thing”

            I dispute this, at least as long as one distinguishes “movement” from “inchoate angry mobs”. Behind every “mass movement” is the leadership and organizational abilities of a rival elite or arriviste proto-elite.

          • rlms says:

            @Kevin C.
            I agree that most movements do have leaders, although I wouldn’t say the leaders of e.g. the Civil Rights movement were elite or proto-elite. But some movements, e.g. the anti-Vietnam war movement seem pretty leaderless.

          • Matt M says:

            Smashing the windows of Starbucks and Amazon and banks when those are the places you’ll probably end up working eventually, or in places on the same level – that’s the kind of non-joined up thinking that makes me not take the protests seriously

            I think you misunderstand the college lefties.

            The fact that they will end up working for Starbucks and Amazon is problematic to them. A necessary evil brought about by our terrible capitalist system. Thankfully, they and their classmates will bring the gospel of social, economic, and environmental justice to these dark corners of the economy that are dominated by greedy racist old white men.

            They DO want to destroy capitalism, they just don’t want to be inconvenienced while doing so. So no, they aren’t going to shun the 60k job they get out of undergrad in order to go live underground as a revolutionary like people did in the 60s. They’ll happily take an unpaid internship to advance their own job prospects, then immediately lobby that unpaid internships should be illegal. They’ll work the 60-80 hour weeks their employer demands, and write about how they have been subjected to modern day slavery. They will hate the system, but they won’t refuse to participate in it – rather they will infest it and poison it from the inside.

    • dndnrsn says:

      @Cassander

      Yep, and the result was nasty ethnic political blocks battling it out in the cities, sometimes literally, though very technically and without any bloodshed, ethnically cleansing one another. And a few decades before we got into that, we had an actual civil war where we murdered three quarters of a million of each other. We have a long history of this, and it’s bad. Our suppression of this instinct was a huge win, but now they’re bringing it back, and in an era when there’s much more to fight over because government is so much bigger.

      How likely do you think another civil war is?

      Those two things in no way conflict. They’re doing both.

      I think they have a clear incentive to keep it all safe, though. People with more to lose have less reason to disturb shit in a serious way.

      see the history of the italian studies department at CUNY for hilarious proof of this.

      Links, or explanation? Google’s giving me nothing.

      It stops them from being revolutionary, but it doesn’t stop them from being harmful if they continue to push the country towards yugoslovia.

      I think Yugoslavia is a … extremely dramatic worst case scenario. If the US was invaded by a genocidal foreign invader, and one ethnic or political group collaborated and ran concentration camps for the others, and there was a partisan war…

      • cassander says:

        @dndrsn

        >How likely do you think another civil war is?

        Not very. But ever more dysfunctional government without civil war isn’t great either.

        >I think they have a clear incentive to keep it all safe, though. People with more to lose have less reason to disturb shit in a serious way.

        YOu assume that they know what is safe and what isn’t. None of the diversity bureaucrats think they’re pushing towards yugoslavia, they think what they’re doing isn’t just safe, it’s helpful. I think they’re wrong.

        >Links, or explanation? Google’s giving me nothing.

        Here’s a good one. It’s all the language of grievance from any african studies department, for italians, because CUNY has a uniqeu department of italian studies. I used to know of a very good article documenting a longer history of the department and how it ended up like this, but I can no longer find it. The point being that you’re precisely right and that these academics are responding to broader social/political/economic incentives. I re-iterate that doesn’t mean they aren’t dangerous.

        >I think Yugoslavia is a … extremely dramatic worst case scenario. If the US was invaded by a genocidal foreign invader, and one ethnic or political group collaborated and ran concentration camps for the others, and there was a partisan war…

        So by yugoslavia I mean a polity that starts to dysfunction/break down because all politics became identity politics. Once that happens there ceases to be room for compromise. Really, the late habsburg empire would be a better example, yugoslovia is obviously inflamatory, but people are less familiar with that history. I don’t think that mass genocide and partisan war is a likely outcome for the US, but I do think that you can see the US sinking to the level of dysfunction you see in Italy or Greece. ever more poisonous politics destroys social trust, which leads the bureaucracies working less and less well, but where no one can do anything to fix things because it’s no longer possible to build political coalitions without huge handouts to various identity powered interest groups, which just makes the trust problem worse.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Personally, I think that the tendency is worrying – it’s really bad for academia, because there are departments producing awful research, outright gibberish, etc; it’s really bad for the left, because the norms become those of the ridiculous bits of academia – but I don’t think it’s as dire as you do.

          With regard to the US becoming more and more dsyfunctional, surely the mess of a governing system is more to blame?

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn says:

            >Personally, I think that the tendency is worrying – it’s really bad for academia, because there are departments producing awful research, outright gibberish, etc; it’s really bad for the left, because the norms become those of the ridiculous bits of academia – but I don’t think it’s as dire as you do.

            As as rule, I try to worry more about flows than stocks. I’m less concerned with where things are now than the direction things seem to be headed in.

            >With regard to the US becoming more and more dsyfunctional, surely the mess of a governing system is more to blame?

            Sure, but why is it such a mess? Because of the demands put on it by voters and politicians. And vast majority of the novel demands put on it come from the left.

          • Cypren says:

            There are a lot of ridiculous demands put on it from the Right as well, probably the foremost being “keep cutting taxes but don’t touch entitlements or defense spending”.

            What we have is a massive dysfunction caused by hundreds of individual interest groups out to loot the public treasury and fighting over the spoils. They span both parties from the extremes to the moderates. There are genuine culture/religious disagreements too, but honestly, I think those are mostly used as smokescreens by politicians on both sides so that we don’t pay attention to where the money is going.

          • cassander says:

            @Cypren says:
            February 19, 2017 at 7:03 am ~new~

            >There are a lot of ridiculous demands put on it from the Right as well, probably the foremost being “keep cutting taxes but don’t touch entitlements or defense spending”.

            I was careful teo say the “novel demands” people wanting to pay less tax is literally older than the country. that’s the sort of demand the system was built to handle, and has been handling for 200 years. It wasn’t designed to handle running an education system for 320 million people in order to ensure maximum diversity.

            >What we have is a massive dysfunction caused by hundreds of individual interest groups out to loot the public treasury and fighting over the spoils.

            unquestionably. but there’s an important difference between mere interest groups and identity groups. interest groups are motivated by interest, at the end of the day, they can agree on some compromise over the spoils. It might be a tough fight, but agreement is the point. Once identity gets involved, though, every fight starts to feel like an existential struggle and compromise gets a lot harder, leading to a marked uptick in fighting, and more resource extraction.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @cassander:

            As as rule, I try to worry more about flows than stocks. I’m less concerned with where things are now than the direction things seem to be headed in.

            What times have things looked like this, and how did they turn out? Student activism and so forth didn’t come to much in the 70s. I agree there are worrying developments, but there are worrying developments all over the place. I figure global warming/killer robots/nuclear war will get us before everyone starts macheteing each other over something some professor said.

            Sure, but why is it such a mess? Because of the demands put on it by voters and politicians. And vast majority of the novel demands put on it come from the left.

            The system was clearly not designed for the demands put upon it. It was designed for the US in the late 18th century. Is the solution therefore to not put any demands upon it that would have been novel in the late 18th century?

            And, forget “lower taxes” – is “bail out financial institutions that have made bad decisions” a “left-wing” idea? I would say that’s more harmful than people jockeying for lower taxes.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            And, forget “lower taxes” – is “bail out financial institutions that have made bad decisions” a “left-wing” idea?

            I don’t think the Republican base was in favour of that. In fact, wasn’t the Tea Party originally formed in opposition to Bush’s bail-out plan?

          • cassander says:

            dndnrsn says:
            February 19, 2017 at 11:56 am ~new~
            @cassander:

            >What times have things looked like this, and how did they turn out? Student activism and so forth didn’t come to much in the 70s.

            This is a fair point. Had I been around back then, I’d almost certainly have been worried about the radicals, and for similar reasons, and, eventually, been proven wrong.

            >I agree there are worrying developments, but there are worrying developments all over the place. I figure global warming/killer robots/nuclear war will get us before everyone starts macheteing each other over something some professor said.

            Like I said, that’s really not not what I worry about. It’s more “their demands and coarsening of culture make reform of an already not great political system even harder, leading to a greek like catastrophe when the pension bill finally comes due, but in an economy that’s 25% of world GDP, not .5%”

            >The system was clearly not designed for the demands put upon it. It was designed for the US in the late 18th century. Is the solution therefore to not put any demands upon it that would have been novel in the late 18th century?

            Frankly, yes. You have to be aware of what your institutions are like before you ask them to do things. The national weather service is a fine organization, but if you asked them to run the port of oakland or kick ISIS out of mosul, they wouldn’t do a good job. If you want novel things from the government, it’s on you to ensure that the government is capable of doing those things well, either by designing them to work within the confines of the system (e.g. letting the states run the welfare state) or re-shaping the government to better carry out your ideas. saying “well the other party won’t let us set ourselves up as philosopher kings, so it’s not our fault shit’s bad right now” doesn’t get you off the hook. You should have factored that you aren’t a philosopher king into your plans.

            >And, forget “lower taxes” – is “bail out financial institutions that have made bad decisions” a “left-wing” idea? I would say that’s more harmful than people jockeying for lower taxes.

            It’s certainly not a right wing idea. The right wing idea is “liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate farmers, liquidate real estate… it will purge the rottenness out of the system. High costs of living and high living will come down. People will work harder, live a more moral life. Values will be adjusted, and enterprising people will pick up from less competent people.”

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ The original Mr. X, that was certainly a large part of it, and the wider populist “revolt” during the 2010 midterms in general.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Frankly, yes. You have to be aware of what your institutions are like before you ask them to do things. The national weather service is a fine organization, but if you asked them to run the port of oakland or kick ISIS out of mosul, they wouldn’t do a good job. If you want novel things from the government, it’s on you to ensure that the government is capable of doing those things well, either by designing them to work within the confines of the system (e.g. letting the states run the welfare state) or re-shaping the government to better carry out your ideas. saying “well the other party won’t let us set ourselves up as philosopher kings, so it’s not our fault shit’s bad right now” doesn’t get you off the hook. You should have factored that you aren’t a philosopher king into your plans.

            The US system is so hard to change, though. It was made to be hard to change, as far as I understand it. The US is trying to run as a global superpower using a system made to run as a decentralized republic. It is, as you note, trying to run a welfare state federally, despite this probably being the domain of the state governments. The whole thing has been done using a bunch of weird workarounds.

            It’s certainly not a right wing idea. The right wing idea is “liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate farmers, liquidate real estate… it will purge the rottenness out of the system. High costs of living and high living will come down. People will work harder, live a more moral life. Values will be adjusted, and enterprising people will pick up from less competent people.”

            Isn’t this kinda no-true-Scotsman though? Is laissez-faire capitalism the “true right wing”?

            (Also, I thought liquidating farmers was a Stalinist idea) (OK, bad joke)

          • BBA says:

            Mellon was nearly impeached around the time he said things like that. He was accused of using his government position to benefit his many business interests at the expense of the American people. Whether the accusations were true or not, I think the way the public turned on Mellon after the crash and were able to force him out of office demonstrates that just liquidating everything is unworkable in a democratic polity.

            When some people realize this, it turns them off democracy (cf. Peter Thiel). When I realized this, it turned me off libertarianism.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The US system is so hard to change, though. It was made to be hard to change, as far as I understand it. The US is trying to run as a global superpower using a system made to run as a decentralized republic. It is, as you note, trying to run a welfare state federally, despite this probably being the domain of the state governments. The whole thing has been done using a bunch of weird workarounds.

            I don’t think America being a superpower is the problem; there’s nothing about the US Constitution, even strictly interpreted, that prevents it having a large army and navy. Trying to run a welfare state federally is a far bigger problem, although as far as I can see that’s an argument for leaving welfare to the states, not for setting up a bunch of weird workarounds that end up leading to dysfunctional government and a country riven by factional hatred.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Does the US government as originally devised have the authority necessary to maintain a large military? Taxation, etc?

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn

            >The US system is so hard to change, though. It was made to be hard to change, as far as I understand it. The US is trying to run as a global superpower using a system made to run as a decentralized republic. It is, as you note, trying to run a welfare state federally, despite this probably being the domain of the state governments. The whole thing has been done using a bunch of weird workarounds.

            Yep, though as The original Mr. X points out, the global empire isn’t the hard part. The constitution is actually fairly well set up for that both in how much power it gives the executive and the shape of that power. The trouble is the domestic stuff. As for the constitution as originally set up, the military is less than 4% of GDP. That’s about twice pre-ww2 levels. I’m not sure if that counts as a lot more or a little more.

            >Isn’t this kinda no-true-Scotsman though? Is laissez-faire capitalism the “true right wing”?

            Fair enough, it’s certainly not a capitalist idea, and “right” and “capitalist” are not synonymous terms.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Does the US government as originally devised have the authority necessary to maintain a large military? Taxation, etc?

            Erm, yes:

            The Congress shall have Power to lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States

            Plus, Congress’ power to levy taxes was increased by the Sixteenth Amendment, giving the lie to the argument that it’s impossible to change the US system:

            The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Does “common defence” cover, say, military bases all over the world?

          • Kevin C. says:

            @The original Mr. X

            “I don’t think America being a superpower is the problem…”

            You miss another problem, beyond the welfare state, though; that is simply our sheer scale. For example, your average congressional representative serves a contituency of 700,000 people, something like 12-14 times as many people as when the founders set up our system, with the issues of giving less “voice” to each such constituent, while, on the other hand, at 435 people, the House of Representatives looks to already be a bit too large to serve as an effective deliberating body without the “workarounds” of party/faction organization.

            And in general, recall that for N entities, the number of pairwise interactions goes as N^2, so bigger polities generally require regulatory activity to increase by a more than proportional amount. What works for an agrarian, pre-industrial nation along one coast does not necessarily scale well to a continent-spanning post-industrial nation of about 80 times more people, more hypermobile and more diverse. (See Stuntz on the effect of “urban anonymity” and the invention of the automobile on crime rates, for example). Or what happened to the jury system between 1776 and now, with over 90% of cases decided by plea bargain. Or the relative proportion of old-fashioned common law vs. government-made legislation and regulation.

  31. BeefSnakStikR says:

    This is not a request for medical advice, but I’ve gotten no straight answer from any professional I’ve asked and can’t find an answer online. There may be a simple answer.

    I’ve began taking SSRIs under the guidance of my family doctor. While comparing drugs, I’ve read that drugs differ in half-life, and that a longer half-life can make withdrawal from the drug is more intense.

    In which case–why are drugs prescribed “N times a day” rather than than “N times every H hours”, where H is some multiple of the half-life of the drug?

    Wouldn’t this allow you to more evenly taper off the medication, whereas splitting pills in half, 1/4, 1/8 etc. wouldn’t actually cause you to have 1/2, 1/4, etc. in your system?

    • You can look up the half-life formula, and then use it to calculate the steady state amount of mg’s in your body at any given time. You’ll find that even for shorter half-life SSRIs, the fluctuation of mg’s in your blood isn’t that large. For this reason it’s way easier to stick to a once/day cyclical drug dosage. It makes it WAY easier to not miss a dose. Often you can very slightly optimize these things, but it comes at very small benefit and a risk of patient compliance dropping heavily.

      Source/confidence: Not a medical professional, but used to have a strong interest in pharmacology and studying steady state of all drugs I (used) to take.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’m confused.

      First of all, longer half-life doesn’t necessarily make withdrawal more intense. It can sometimes make it more protracted, but it generally makes it easier because you’re “auto-tapering” the drug. For example, suppose you’re on some addictive substance with a half-life of one month. A month after you quit, you still have half your normal dose in your body, so you’re probably not going to go into withdrawal. Two months afterwards, you still have a quarter of your normal dose. And so on. Whether this is good or not depends on how long it takes you to adjust to dose changes.

      There are some complicated rules about how long it takes drugs to reach “steady state”, but I think the rule of thumb is usually about five half-lives. So if you halve your dose of SSRI, after five half-lives it will get down to where it would be if you’d been taking it at that dose all along. This isn’t really a disaster – it just makes the tapering process a little bit smoother. I don’t know of anybody who has ever run into problems from this – it’s all just done empirically, where if cutting your dose in half is too big a change, you go to three-quarters.

      Compliance with drugs falls off precipitously the more complicated the instructions are. To totally make something up, 60% of people may take a drug you prescribe every day, 30% might take one you prescribe three times a day, and maybe 1% will take one you prescribe every 7.5 hours carrying over from day to day.

      If I’m missing something, let me know.

  32. Anatoly says:

    So, we got from the inauguration to talking of “the enemy of the people” in less than a month.

    I honestly expected it to take quite a bit longer than that.

    I guess it sounds just a little bit extra ominous to people like me who grew up in the USSR or the eastern bloc. For all I know, perhaps the phrase is nothing special to born-and-bred Americans or the millennials everywhere.

    Oh well. It’s just Trump. Seriously Not Literally. He never means what he says etc. etc.

  33. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Are American Alzheimer’s Patients Getting Gliatilin/Delecit?

    Question raised on livejournal about a drug which seems to be pretty good but is little-known in the US.

  34. Deiseach says:

    Medicine-related news:

    (1) Calorie-restricted diets may possibly be beneficial for extending human lifespan (but there are drawbacks and it could only be up to an extra nine years)

    (2) Getting closer to nanobots for use inside the body?

    • Mark says:

      According to fightaging dot com and SENS, calorie restriction and drugs mimicking its effects could only ever extend human life by a small amount, and are therefore a distraction from the real work that needs to be done with stuff like nanorobots.

      Question for the crowd (related to calorie restriction) – I don’t really get hungry and it isn’t any great hardship for me to not eat for a day. Is anyone else like this?

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        According to fightaging dot com and SENS, calorie restriction and drugs mimicking its effects could only ever extend human life by a small amount, and are therefore a distraction from the real work that needs to be done with stuff like nanorobots.

        That seems like, ironically, a short-sighted view on their parts.

        There is a decent amount of money that people would be willing to spend on longevity research, given that the wealthiest people in our society are also the oldest. And there’s a ton of basic science which desperately needs to be done on the cellular mechanisms of aging (“nanobots” won’t help if you don’t know how aging works in the first place).

        So why not let the one fund the other? Scientists working on dietary restriction are elucidating pathways involved in aging. And, unlike SENS, they neither sound like a scam / cult and can participate in translational medicine within the lifetimes of the people funding them. It’s a brilliant way to get medical funding to support basic research on a key issue.

        • Mark says:

          The example that Aubrey de Grey always gives is of keeping a classic car on the road.

          A better understanding of the process by which damage takes place is unlikely to be of much immediate practical use, especially not once the damage has already been done.

          Larry Ellison used to provide quite a lot of funding to anti-ageing research, but gave up because it didn’t produce anything actionable. Glaxo paid several billion for reversatrol a few years ago, and nothing much came of that.

          If what SENS is saying is correct, we’d be better off spending the money on repair and then using the proceeds from that to build a better understanding and more permanent solution to the problem of ageing.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            A better understanding of the process by which damage takes place is unlikely to be of much immediate practical use, especially not once the damage has already been done.

            Bolded for emphasis.

            Already been done to whom? If longevity research existed solely for the sake of keeping Aubrey de Grey alive as long as possible that would make sense. But there are billions of young people in the world and there will be tens of billions in the generations to follow. Helping them is at least as much of a priority as is keeping boomers alive.

            Larry Ellison used to provide quite a lot of funding to anti-ageing research, but gave up because it didn’t produce anything actionable. Glaxo paid several billion for reversatrol a few years ago, and nothing much came of that.

            If what SENS is saying is correct, we’d be better off spending the money on repair and then using the proceeds from that to build a better understanding and more permanent solution to the problem of ageing.

            That sounds like exactly what I’m proposing though.

            Current longevity research seems likely to pay off, and even just a few years per drug or treatment makes them very competitive with other branches of medicine (e.g. anti-cancer therapies). And, once people see tangible results, more money will be available for the field as a whole. Including fringe players like de Grey.

          • Mark says:

            Yeah, you could be right – I think I’ve probably overemphasised de Grey’s/SENS objection to calorie restriction mimetics – they think that SENS repair strategies are likely to be more effective and that the money would be better spent with them, but, AFAIK, they still welcome other avenues of research. (I think the ‘fight ageing’ blog takes a bit of a stronger position).

            One point I would make is that it might be harder to prove the efficacy of a drug that, in a best case scenario, added a few additional years of life (out of a span of 80 odd). We might see some improvement in some markers, or whatever, but it’s unlikely to get people excited in the same way as regenerating the thymus or reversing some noticeable feature of ageing might.

            But there are billions of young people in the world and there will be tens of billions in the generations to follow. Helping them is at least as much of a priority as is keeping boomers alive.

            Triage.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            I think our “get people excited” meters are calibrated differently.

            Ordinary people will not be excited by a $50,000 drug regimen which increases lifespan 5 years on average. But that comes out to $10,000 per QALY*, making it very efficient by medical standards. I’m not a health economist, but I’ve seen standards that call $100,000 per QALY a “good value.”

            A result like that would absolutely increase research funding and probably get breathless reporting as a fountain of youth treatment by click-seeking journos. If explained in layman’s terms the excitement would likely diminish, but there’s no real risk of that happening.

            *Bizarrely, QALYs don’t have an age-weighting function: a “healthy” 78 year old man living to 83 is worth the same as an actually healthy 25 year old making it to 30.

          • Mark says:

            Ordinary people will not be excited by a $50,000 drug regimen which increases lifespan 5 years on average. But that comes out to $10,000 per QALY*

            I think it might be difficult to prove that these drugs do extend lifespan by 5 years (or whatever) – I mean, you might be able to demonstrate that this drug has x,y,z effect on this process of metabolism, but given the complexity of the ageing process, that that change will necessarily result in *this* extension of life is going to be a hard sell.
            You’re going to have to have people taking them for years just to demonstrate the effect.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            It’s not as difficult as you’d imagine to demonstrate that sort of claim.

            We’ll see how the TAME clinical trial turns out in 2021 or so. The linked paper is a review an essay by Dr Nir Barzilai of Albert Einstein. I wasn’t able to find any info on the trial itself, outside of press articles anyway. But Albert Einstein is also running a less ambitious one-year trial on the same general concept called MILES, and the head of that clinical trial was the second author on Dr Barzilai’s review essay.

      • I don’t really get hungry and it isn’t any great hardship for me to not eat for a day. Is anyone else like this?

        Yes. I notice that I’m a little hungry and would enjoy eating, but if I ignore it the feeling goes away. My standard approach to maintaining my weight is one meal a day, to losing weight one light meal a day.

        • Cypren says:

          So glad I’m not the only person that easily skips meals like this. My wife thinks it’s some form of mental defect and that I’m going to starve myself to death if she doesn’t force feed me.

          • There is clearly a lot of individual variation. If my wife goes without eating for too long, she gets indecisive–quite a noticeable change. My pattern wouldn’t work for her. It does seem to work for our daughter.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      This summer I worked in a longevity lab, studying how to extend yeast lifespan*, and from what I gathered from the literature and talking to senior researchers is that the idea of caloric restriction as such is a bit out of date.

      Caloric restriction works to an extent, but the primary reason it works is because of protein restriction. Two major stress pathways in the body check for amino acid levels and will shut down most new protein production if there don’t seem to be enough. The most famous pathway, mTOR, looks at amino acid levels in the lysosomes (where some proteins are broken down and recycled) while the GCN2 pathway looks at uncharged tRNA levels (tRNA is how the cell matches the mRNA sequence with the peptide it’s supposed to make).

      Anyway, the gist is that an effective caloric restriction diet is even less pleasant than it sounds. Because what you’re actually supposed to cut is mainly protein and not just sugar, and your cells spend all their time in a stressed state as a result.

      There may also be drugs coming out relatively soon to give you the same effect on a normal diet, by blocking uptake of certain amino acids. Ibuprofen does a decent job of it by blocking tryptophan intake, metformin is supposed to do something similar but is a much more dangerous drug to play around with.

      *I know, it’s such a glamorous life in science…

      • Deiseach says:

        Ah, didn’t know that about the protein restriction as well! Going on plain old “cut down on your calories”, I was thinking ‘well okay, sedentary modern people not living in draughty caves, we could cut back on the fuel for energy a bit’.

        So it sounds like the old joke about giving up booze, sex and everything but plain food – you won’t actually live longer, it just feels that way.

        So that, coupled with the reported side effects, sounds more like it’s forcing the body into semi-hibernation or reduced metabolism state or something, which may extend lifespan – a bit like the description of the effects of the One Ring:

        Why, I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread. That can’t be right.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Wouldn’t this really mess up anyone doing strenuous exercise?

  35. AnthonyD says:

    https://medium.com/@thoszymkowiak/deepmind-just-published-a-mind-blowing-paper-pathnet-f72b1ed38d46#.cks7w1tuw

    Deepmind just showed transfer learning for neural networks. Admittedly the transfer only works on some subsets of games but this is huge. I am updating my probability that general AI will be here soon.

  36. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    http://www.chronicle.com/article/The-Great-Shame-of-Our/239148

    The trap for adjuncts in literature. This is what the replication crisis would be like if the same pressures to do shoddy work were in place, but it was even harder to check on the quality of the work. The piece is both about what a very bad deal universities promote to grad students *and* poor quality literary criticism as a result.

    • Machina ex Deus says:

      I honestly don’t understand what adjuncts are thinking. If any institution treated me the way they are treated, I would proudly flip burgers before darkening its door again.

      Yet they sit there (OK, scurry around all day to multiple employers) and take it. Why? There must be some psychological problem underneath their self-sacrificial behavior.

      And many of these institutions are fabulously wealthy. I suspect psychological problems with the administrators who treat them this way, as well.

      • Loquat says:

        Love of the work and feeling it’s much higher-status than burger flipping, most likely. Possibly combined with a conviction that working hard ought to be rewarded with a living wage regardless of the market for one’s work, and/or hope that the situation will improve soon, either due to adjunct protests or government action.

      • Deiseach says:

        Well, they are stuck. They probably have large college loans to pay off, and if they quit then they’ll have to put up with all the “I told you so” about getting a degree in the arts, as well as the jokes about “what does an arts graduate ask you at work? do you want fries with that?”

        And most institutions have the “put up with shit until you make it through the other side” (see medicine and junior doctor shifts) or “put up with shit until you get one of the scarce golden tickets of a full position/tenure”.

        The ones who went through it themselves aren’t any more motivated to make it easier for the new batch coming up, and as for the administrators, they’re operating on the same principle as most businesses: if you can get cheap labour, you’re crazy to pay more and improve conditions when it won’t make a difference in productivity or quality of peon you need to do the scut work.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I do not feel sympathy for the adjuncts. It’s not like it is a secret that there are few jobs in this field. If you spend a lot of time and money on a PhD in an area in which only the superstars can make a decent living, and you know this is true going in, then you shouldn’t expect sympathy when you receive poverty wages.

      I also don’t feel that literary criticism actually helps society in any way. And I think most people feel this way, or else there’d be contributions going to these poor adjuncts. Literary criticism at the professional level is for the idle rich. I don’t expect my hobbies to pay my way, and neither should these adjuncts.

      • Cypren says:

        You’re probably underestimating the correlation between literature majors and people who firmly believe that society owes them a living wage for existing, no matter what they choose to do with their time.

  37. Dabbler says:

    Requesting a bit of help. I have found an old claim that Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter who wrote The Art of the Deal, for Trump, made numerous claims attacking him. I am especially interested in the claims in this article that Trump is a very ignorant person with an extreme lack of focus with very little interest in reading.

    Requesting help with scrutiny here. Does anyone know anything about the reliability or unreliability of it?

    • Deiseach says:

      Trump is a very ignorant person with an extreme lack of focus with very little interest in reading.

      No idea, but if he only reads stuff that he has to read to find out things, he’s in good company – I remember a while back (I think on the sub-reddit) a few boasts from various people about “I never read non-fiction, I only read factual stuff that will give me information, I don’t read anything apart from textbooks that I have to read” and proud of not reading for pleasure because they had better things to do with that time.

      Extreme lack of focus – when there is the increase in ADHD diagnosis and Adderall is the drug of choice even if you don’t have an official diagnosis to help you focus and improve concentration to study to grind out those grades for university? If anyone really thinks that’s a problem for the job, then all he needs is a prescription which I imagine will be easily available.

      Ignorant? I couldn’t tell you there, but if “What is Aleppo?” is no big deal in a would-be president, who cares? 🙂

  38. Dabbler says:

    Also requesting advice on another topic. Does anyone have some good sources for allegations against Trump that have definitely been refuted? There is someone I know who I am trying to persuade that the media are outright making fabrications against Trump, and sourcing would be helpful.

    • mnov says:

      There is someone I know who I am trying to persuade that the media are outright making fabrications against Trump, and sourcing would be helpful

      Why do you believe the media is\are fabricating claims about Trump?

      • 1soru1 says:

        He didn’t say he believed it, he admitted he didn’t know. He merely said he was trying to persuade someone else of it.

        I don’t think there is a particularly good true example to use here, perhaps the best would be the allegation that the bust of MLK was removed from the White House[1]? Which was trivial, and literally corrected within hours, with profuse apologies. Which is not what you would do if you were trying to spread misinformation.

        However, that’s not a problem; there are plenty of plausible fake stories you can make up, or copy from the clever people whose job it is make such things up. These can have all the details in the right place to make a fully convincing narrative, much more plausible than real-world events could ever be.

        [1] http://time.com/4645541/donald-trump-white-house-oval-office/

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          “Trying to spread misinformation” is probably a bad way to think about it. I’m sure that even the most hostile media critic doesn’t think of themselves as trying to spread misinformation. It’s just the old problem of “too good to check.”

          To wit: We all know that Trump and his gang are a bunch of evil racisty racists, so if you’re in the Oval Office and it’s crowded with people and you don’t see the bust of Martin Luther King Jr., well, obviously he must have thrown it out, right? It couldn’t just be that someone was standing between you and the bust, right? Because that fits in with your pre-existing views and so is obviously plausible. (Never mind little details like how it’s the GOP that bangs on about how great Martin Luther King Jr. was the most these days, especially that “not the color of their skin but the content of their character” bit that has become embarrassingly reactionary and not to be mentioned in polite company.) So, why bother actually checking if it’s true? Because how could it not be, right? To Twitter!

        • John Schilling says:

          Zeke Miller, the guy who when asked said “I didn’t see the MLK bust”, may not have been trying to spread misinformation. If the Time story is correct, he subsequently tried to spread accurate information, so good for him.

          The reporters who published articles asserting as fact that the MLK bust had been removed, on nothing but one tweet from Miller, that’s close enough to deliberately spreading misinformation as makes no difference. There are always defamatory rumors circulating about any major political figure, and Ethics in Journalism 101 says that you don’t publish anything like that without at least asking the target for their side of the story.

          • Kevin C. says:

            “Ethics in Journalism 101”

            **Mumble mumble reproductively viable worker ants mumble**

            Isn’t it the job of our intrepid young J-school graduates to make the world a better place?

            An incandescent Thomson was having none of it. Salmon wasn’t writing about journalism but about money. He wrote: “If anyone ever approached me about wanting to become a journalist for the money I would show them the door.” So what drew him into the trade? “People should want to be journalists because of anger. And when I see anger I give real encouragement … That alone should motivate journalists of any age.” He scorned the notion that people might become reporters “for the money or the middle-class lifestyle”. Journalists he admired “were doing it because they were angry at the way things are and they had the power to make it better”.

    • webnaut says:

      On social media, I seem to remember lots of vague swirling allegations about Trump and anti-Semitism on Holocaust Day, which is trivially disprovable given his ties to Jews and Israel. The evidence for Steve Bannon being lumped into that category also seems weirdly weak for something suggested/reported so frequently, since the best evidence was apparently his ex-wife saying he didn’t like some whiny Jewish children at the school his kids were attending. At that rate …

      It is true that some of the alt-right are anti-Semites but even there a lot of subgroups that fall into that category obviously aren’t e.g. half the Death Eaters are themselves Jewish, not to mention Voldy. I don’t even think there’s much evidence the leader of NPI is, it’s just something that “sounds good enough to be probably true” rather than something which actually is true. No attention is paid to Spencer’s ideological mentor and I am confident his statements are literally designed to be cherrypicked for the Internet Outrage Machine to spread his message. Why do all the heavy lifting yourself, you know? I’ve seen The Atlantic edit a video for instance to turn three people (in a crowd of 300-500) doing Roman salutes into six or nine people with different camera angles, and the use of focusing/blurring for what can only be ulterior motives. They even may have added sound effects if I remember the original upload properly.

      I think it is very important to understand something about the Media. The more official news agencies don’t usually lie outright (they save that kind of thing up for special occasions), what they do is give broadly shared misleading impressions. This helps them avoid any blowback later.

      The Devil is also supposed to be economical with his lying for much the same reason, doesn’t want to undermine his currency.

  39. Deiseach says:

    More medicine/biological science news!

    What grabbed my attention here was the use of “engrams” – a tiny step on the road to the promised land of reading and recreating stored memories? To recreate the personality? To recreate the person? In the post-scarcity/singularity GodEmperor AI future of personal immortality?

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