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Open Thread 80.75

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575 Responses to Open Thread 80.75

  1. bean says:

    Naval Gazing: Strike Warfare
    Series Index

    I’m venturing even further outside of my usual remit today, and discussing an issue that’s about 90% air warfare, although it is obviously applicable to naval air, too.
    We can broadly divide aircraft operation into two categories, which I’ll call strike and responsive. They are very different things, and this is important to understanding how modern air warfare works.
    Strike operations are missions launched against (usually) fixed targets, usually at the direction of high-level commanders. Let’s work an example:
    The US wants to shut down an airbase. Unfortunately, it’s not an airbase that the US owns, so we can’t just turn off the lights and go home. It’s an airbase in Enemyistan. So our first question is what is the best way to go about this. How long do we need to shut it down for? How much collateral damage can we accept? What airplanes do we have? What weapons can we put on the target? What will the effects of those weapons be? Which of our weapons options will be enough to accomplish the mission? All of this determines what airplanes and weapons will finally be assigned.
    Let’s assume that the final decision is that we’re going to attack the runways using Durandals. (In reality, this is really, really unlikely.) But this means that we need to get some airplanes right over the runways (let’s assume F-15Es), because Durandal isn’t a standoff weapon. Ah, but wait. The base is defended. There’s a couple of Tunguska SAM systems in the area, which need to be taken out before the Durandals can be safely dropped. Well, looks like we’re going to need another group of aircraft to run SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) and take them out. That’s going to involve finding the Tunguskas, which are mobile, and then eliminating them. Maybe we’ll be lucky and see them on a satellite pass on the way in, but we can’t be sure of that. So now we need to hunt them. That probably means we need planes with a backseater. There’s a couple of options here, depending on what you have available. More Strike Eagles or F/A-18Ds or Fs might be good choices, depending on what sensors are available to hang on them. SEAD should be backed up by a jamming aircraft, an F/A-18G Growler. (Which might be able to handle SEAD on its own, depending on the circumstances, but will also require elaborate planning to make sure it’s in the right mode at the right time and place.)
    OK, but it’s not like there are just the Tunguskas to deal with. There’s also an S-300 battery nearby, which we need to take out. We aren’t going to have to find this one on the fly, so we don’t need the second crewman on the strike airplanes. In fact, we can probably use standoff weapons on this one, as it’s not going to move regularly. And there’s the possibility of stumbling across some other SAM system on our way in or out of the target, so we’ll need to see if the Tunguska-hunters can double up, or if we need another group of planes. And Enemyistan has an air force, so we probably should throw in some escorts set up for air-to-air. Our force of maybe 4 F-15Es is now up to a dozen planes, and still growing.
    We’d like to keep Enemyistan in the dark as long as we can before we hit them. We have a good idea of how their radars are laid out, and we can work out a route to avoid most of them. (This is difficult in and of itself, because you also want to minimize the risk of overflying a ZSU-23 at low level that just happened to be there.) But there’s still one or two that need to die. So we have to take them out, too. Maybe for this, we can use Tomahawks from the carrier group offshore, although they have their own set of planning, largely mirroring what goes into a manned aircraft strike. And we need to make sure that they don’t try to share the same airspace that the strike group is using. And just for good measure, we’re going to throw a decoy group in to hit something else, and keep them on their toes.
    Ah, but we’re almost done now, right? Obviously not. The target is well inside Enemyistan. As such, we’re going to need to use mid-air refueling to get the strike group in. That’s another set of planning, to make sure that the tankers don’t get intercepted or picked up on radar and give the game away. And we need AWACS to coordinate everything. And a Search and Rescue package ready to go in case things go wrong and someone gets shot down.
    Obviously, there’s a lot that goes into this, and it gets even more complicated when operational or political factors force last-minute changes. Strike planning takes days. For instance, the Air Task Order (which defines what most of the airplanes in the theater are doing) for Desert Storm was done the day before. Improved computer aids have made the planning process faster, but it’s still time-consuming and difficult.
    One side-effect of the lengthy planning cycle is that it also affects airplane design. Serviceability imposes design tradeoffs, and if the minimum turn time between missions is a day, it doesn’t make sense to accept too many of those tradeoffs so that the airplane is ready to go again in an hour. Likewise, if the planning cell is going to take fifteen shipping containers of gear, there’s not a lot of point in making sure that the airplane can be maintained with only a hammer.

    Obviously, this isn’t true of all airplanes, and we come to the category I called ‘responsive’. This covers a bunch of different types of missions, but all of them require fairly minimal planning, and involve changing the mission on the fly in response to conditions. The one of these that is most akin to a strike mission is Close Air Support/Battlefield Air Interdiction or CAS/BAI. CAS is usually controlled by a Forward Air Controller (FAC) on the ground, against enemy forces very close to friendly lines. An airplane is loaded with ordnance, usually not the really complex and fancy stuff, and sent to loiter near the front lines. When the FAC needs to kill something, he calls and the airplane tries to blow it up. BAI strikes are slightly deeper behind the lines, but are still quick-turnaround missions in response to tactical data. These airplanes often will have turnaround times of 30 minutes or less, with the pilot getting a bathroom break, ammo and fuel being loaded, and the plane taking off again. In this case, serviceability and minimal ground-support equipment matters a lot.
    The other major use of combat airplanes under the responsive paradigm is defensive air combat missions, for obvious reasons. Anti-submarine patrols and tactical transport work are also examples.

    Swedish serviceability practices get brought up occasionally, and I hope I’ve shown why they can’t be generalized to the US military. The Swedish plan was almost exclusively CAS/BAI, and their airplanes are designed to fill largely the same niches that the A-10 and Harrier do. While fine airplanes, this capability comes at a cost in terms of being able to go after hard targets in a serious air defense environment. The US needs to keep that capability, and with it the big airbases and elaborate support mechanisms we have.

    • Iain says:

      Your “Durandals” link is broken, with an extra bit of punctuation at the end.

    • Eltargrim says:

      What’s the reason that the Durandal scenario is unlikely? Is it that the US has their own equivalent, that the US prefers standoff weapons for the same task, or that runways aren’t the preferred target?

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      This would suggest that replacing the A-10 with the F-35 is a pretty bad idea (I assume the latter is a strike aircraft).

      • bean says:

        Yes and no. The problem is that the traditional CAS mission is suffering badly from improved MANPADS, which is forcing airplanes up to medium altitude. GPS-guided bombs make this a good option. But the A-10 is much less survivable in that environment than anything else we could put there. Against someone with only MANPADS, that doesn’t matter, but it’s going to be critical against Iran or China. So all the A-10 is really good for is semi-permissive environments because it’s cheaper to operate than an F-16. But the Super Tucano is cheaper yet for that role.
        And then we come to fleet costs. There’s a certain overhead involved with running an airplane of a specific type. You need maintenance facilities, spares, simulators, mechanic training, engineering support and so on. The figures I saw said that if we decided not to retire the A-10 (~280 airplanes) we’d have to instead retire 330 F-16s to get the same savings. This is despite the F-16 having a significantly higher cost per flight hour. Unfortunately, I can’t track down the reference.
        The F-35 can also do a lot more jobs than the A-10 can, and some of those are responsive-type. It may take longer to turn than the A-10 when doing them, but it’s (say) 20 minutes vs an hour, which isn’t a bad trade when it’s also a pretty decent fighter.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          To clarify, are we actually investing in Super Tucanos to use in permissive airspace? That would make “replacing the A-10 with the F-35”, which is the description I tend to see, pretty misleading.

          • bean says:

            We are not, although we could put it (or an AT-6) in service pretty quickly. My point was that whoever we are planning to fight, China or the Taliban, the A-10 is not the best solution.

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            So let me see if I’ve got it: we’re planning to have enough F-35s to fight China, so when we fight Enemyistan there will be enough of them to handle CAS, even though they’re somewhat overqualified for the job? And the strike vs. responsive thing isn’t so strong a dichotomy as to make a strike aircraft unusable in a responsive role?

          • bean says:

            Short version: Yes and yes.
            Long Version: 1. That’s half of it. Keeping the A-10 hinders us against China by sucking up money and doesn’t help us much against Enemyistan. A lot of people protest that it’s cheap to fly, and on an operating hour basis, it is. But there are much cheaper platforms still, so if we’re going up against the Taliban and don’t care about survivability, we should pick one of them, not keep the A-10. Personally, I’m partial to the AT-802U, but the Super Tucano won LAAR before they cancelled it, and is the favorite to win a hypothetical next round.
            2. Most fighters can be turned relatively quickly if they’re being used in a responsive role, either for CAS or for CAP. Things like bombers and recon aircraft, not so much. The fighters may not be able to do a quick ground turn with a skeleton ground crew and few tools because you’re not going to deploy them in a manner which makes it impossible for them to do strike missions, and there are design costs for making an airplane which can do that.

          • John Schilling says:

            So let me see if I’ve got it: we’re planning to have enough F-35s to fight China, so when we fight Enemyistan there will be enough of them to handle CAS, even though they’re somewhat overqualified for the job?

            The Air Force will say that this is the plan. The Army will say that no matter how many F-35s the Air Force has, 100.00% of them will be devoted to Air Supremacy and SEAD until the Air Force is 100.00% confident that every last Enemyistani MiG and SAM has been destroyed. The Army would prefer that the Air Force have enough F-22s and F-35s to keep the Enemyistani MiGs fully occupied, even if it is a bloody fight on both sides, and the rest be planes that can’t dogfight MiGs or otherwise win their pilots medals except by providing close air support to the Army.

            The Air Force’s behavior in past wars makes me somewhat sympathetic to the Army’s version.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Has there been any more movement on Army Aviation taking back fixed-wing CAS as a mission and capability?

            My impression is that it’s half-heartedly suggested about once a decade, and then dropped because the AF, no matter how little they want to do CAS, want to lose turf even less.

          • bean says:

            Has there been any more movement on Army Aviation taking back fixed-wing CAS as a mission and capability?

            My impression is that it’s half-heartedly suggested about once a decade, and then dropped because the AF, no matter how little they want to do CAS, want to lose turf even less.

            The Key West agreement is a legal bar to doing so. In practical terms, the fact that the Army would have to recreate a fixed-wing combat capability from scratch, and set up their own parallel support and logistics capability means that I don’t think it’s going to happen. And yes, there is definitely a turf war aspect to it.

          • johan_larson says:

            Does the Key West Agreement have actual legal force? Isn’t it just a policy paper, strictly speaking?

          • bean says:

            You’re right, and I shouldn’t have said legal. That said, it’s really long-standing defense policy, and you’d presumably need USAF signoff to any change, which isn’t going to happen. The easy way is to convince Congress to make the change.
            That said, I really don’t think it would end well.

  2. Paul Brinkley says:

    What is the usual expected turnover rate of journalists in high profile news organizations?

    This question is partially driven by a claim I read in one of the other threads, that most news outlets are owned by a handful of major corporations, and that their output reflects the preferences of those corporations as to what they’d like their audiences to hear. “Right” or “left” doesn’t matter quite as much as whether it suits the purposes of the CEO. I’ve heard this claim numerous times over the years.

    However, all of the front line reporting is done by journalists, who seem to be very much in control of their stories. They genuinely believe what they write and report. Clearly, a major organization can affect content by replacing a journalist more easily than they can by leaning on said journalist to edit their story a little.

    And if anything, I take that mechanism as indirect. CEOs don’t hire and fire journalists, AIUI; news directors and editors do. CEOs lean on the directors and editors. (There’s a joke I once read about that…)

    So how often do news directors and editors tailor their journalism staff? And how much does influence run in the other direction – senior journalists resisting replacement by editors? Senior editors resisting their CEOs?

    • cassander says:

      I work for a media organization that has very low turnover. It’s a small organization, but the CEO has zero role in evaluating the content the reporters produce, and if he tried to lean on one to change a story, there would be an uproar. If you wanted to build up an ideologically committed workforce, you’d have to do it all through hiring. the CEO has neither the time nor ability to have an impact on a day to day basis.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      However, all of the front line reporting is done by journalists, who seem to be very much in control of their stories. They genuinely believe what they write and report.

      For what it’s worth, most critiques of the media I have heard don’t claim that anyone is actually lying; the question is which stories get reported on at all. My understanding is that editors assign stories to journalists, so editors could enforce a line without ever tailoring the workforce.

      • John Schilling says:

        That’s the usual critique of the media made from the left. The usual critique made from the right is that they are in fact deliberately lying.

        • Jaskologist says:

          I would say the critique has changed in the past year. From the right, the complaint was typically about what stories are “covered, with a pillow, until they stop moving,” and what things candidates are asked about (you won’t see a Democrat asked about Charlie Gard). But claims of outright lying, especially by the Washington “Democracy dies in Darkness” Post, have greatly increased.

        • hoghoghoghoghog says:

          I’d say there’s some motte and baileying going on, and that that for a bug chunk of rightwingers this is the motte.

      • albatross11 says:

        Most respectable news sources won’t lie directly, but many will lie by omission–leaving out relevant information that contradicts the story the reporter wants to tell. I have no idea whether this is coming from the journalists, the editors, or some mixture.

        • Well... says:

          “Lying by omission” is the tip of the iceberg of how journalists pass off their opinions and biases as objective truths of the universe, but “lying” is too narrow a description for those activities. Here are just a few more, but there are many others:

          – Journalists use word-choice to conjure up certain connotations or double-meanings.

          – Journalists mask their bias with the tone and timbre of indifference. (This is especially obvious on radio and TV, and mostly explains the weird sing-song voice broadcasters use: it’s a stylized/formalized affectation of boredom.)

          – Journalists brand themselves either as heroes standing up for truth/defending against lies, or as all-knowing, omnipresent demigods. For example, newspapers give themselves names like “Examiner,” “Guardian,” “Times,” “Sentinel,” “Globe,” “Post,” etc., usually drawn up in fancy Gothic calligraphy. (The fancy writing is an attempt to trick the reader’s brain into respecting the masthead as a symbol of authority and truth.) Hosts of news shows call themselves “anchors.” Journalists sometimes call themselves “reporters,” as if what they write is an unassailable, impartial record of some event.

          • Mary says:

            For instance, always notice when one expert “explains” something, and the opposing expert “claims” the opposite.

          • Well... says:

            @Mary

            That’s a good example. Another important technique I forgot to include was in the use of images! I wrote a blog post focusing on one such case: [link].

            For more about journalism and how it meddles with/dresses up as truth, I have written about it from time to time.

          • James says:

            Well…, I do think the picture you write about in that blog article is quite beautiful, from a purely artistic point of view. I really like it on its own terms. But yes, Reuters’ gloss puts a totally unwarranted spin on it.

          • Montfort says:

            Well…, as someone who reads Reuters frequently, the use of the verb “react” in a caption is basically a placeholder for “makes an expression,” I imagine because of editorial guidelines constraining captions. Sometimes it makes a misleading impression, I suppose (though note people around the girl you identify as the subject are smiling, talking, eagerly watching something, etc.), but if you’re the kind of person who clicks through at least 25/30 images in their slideshows reading the captions, you’ll catch on pretty quick.

            (Additional nitpick: the weather in DC on the day of the inauguration was high of 49F, low of 39F, which in the area is not “bitterly” cold for January, but a little warmer than average. I wore a light jacket that day, though I was only outside for an hour or two.)

            In your post, you read very deeply into what you suppose is the message of the picture, but I think that only weakens your point – I imagine your experiences, beliefs, and knowledge allow you to reasonably infer that we are obviously meant to conclude that the inauguration was miserable, or that its attendees rethought their politics. But for those who have different priors, your post offers little argument explaining this inference. In any case, I don’t think it’s worth referring to five months later as your canonical example of dishonesty with images.

          • Well... says:

            @Montfort:

            If you have to mentally substitute words when you read journalism in order for it to make sense, that is probably a sign it is misleading.

            49F is still pretty cold, especially if you’re just wearing a light jacket and you’re out there for a long time. I’m just sayin’, that girl looks like she wishes she’d worn a thicker coat. (But Reuters wants you to think she’s in that pose not because she’s chilly but because she is experiencing disgust at her own political choices.)

            Can you explain more what you mean when you say “for those who have different priors, your post offers little argument explaining this inference”?

            I don’t think it’s worth referring to five months later as your canonical example of dishonesty with images.

            Why does it matter that this example is five months old? It was convenient when I needed one and it exemplified the points I was illustrating.

            Tell you what: suggest another example to me and I will write about it.

          • Montfort says:

            What I mean about the lack of evidence is that you present what you believe we are meant to infer from the picture with no argument that I can detect. That’s simply the only way to interpret the picture, you seem to claim.

            But perhaps we are meant to infer a stern strength from the girl in pink. Perhaps we are supposed to look at the wide range of emotions present in the crowd and reflect on the different things Trumps presidency means for different groups. Perhaps it has little symbolic content and is chosen for its visual appeal. Anyone who comes to one of these conclusions can draw no evidence from your post that it was intended to be seen the way you see it.

            It doesn’t exactly matter that it’s five months old, but because I perceive the post as weak, and the reference class of “news photos from the last five months” is large, if that’s the best available evidence then that’s not especially impressive. Evidence from a more recent photo (or stronger evidence, creating the impression many weaker cases existed but were not presented) would be more convincing that a problem is common and consistent.

            Or, to condense:
            1. Your interpretation of the picture is valid, but not the only interpretation, nor do I see an argument attempting to demonstrate it to be the intended or natural interpretation*
            2. You fail to demonstrate your interpretation of the picture does not match events**
            3. The example is now old and minor, and doesn’t seem to indicate an ongoing problem. If once in every six months Reuters prints “reacts” instead of “reacts to the cold,” I’m not sure that’s unacceptable. If the error were larger (though, see 1 and 2, perhaps I might think it were larger if I were convinced of your view), one such error every fifty years might seem unacceptable.

            Finally, I decline your invitation to research for you, but if this phenomenon is as widespread as you seem to believe, you will likely notice another example as you consume more news articles. Or you could find another blogger complaining about such a thing. Personally, I’m fond of the old doctored Soviet photographs and staged propaganda photos (America had and has its fair share of these, I believe), but I can’t remember specific examples of the latter that seem relevant to modern American newspapers. (Edit: I am not trying to demand you find another example, just noting what would be more convincing, in my opinion. Obviously time is a limited resource, and you may not wish to employ it cataloging such things.)

            *And, what’s more, you don’t investigate alternate interpretations. For instance, the “editor’s choice” slide-show that contains your selected image includes many pictures that have little symbolic meaning and seem to have been selected for visual appeal or as one photo of an important event (e.g. statue of Yuri Gagarin at sundown, Iraqi armed forces fire missile, men in front of wildfire, Chinese new year celebration, black woman in snow stares at camera).

            **Here I mean you fail to demonstrate woman in pink is not “reacting” to something in the inauguration. It could be that the photographer did talk to the woman in pink, did see she was disillusioned, and chose to caption accordingly (which I doubt, primarily because I doubt the picture was intended to portray disillusionment).

            You react with scorn but don’t seem to have much evidence this isn’t the case, which is reasonable. I’m inferring your scorn is based on the idea that any individual woman displaying that expression on that day in that context would be unlikely to be disillusioned (which I agree with). But of course, if the photographers found one strikingly disillusioned woman, they would have taken her photograph. Any individual woman who is cold or looking at a curb, or so on, would be less likely to be chosen as a subject.

            Sometimes unusual things happen, and unusual things are more likely to be published. So the proportion of unusual things published that are true depends on how likely you think it is they would publish false things as well as how often you expect the true event to occur. So, granting your interpretation, the degree to which the caption seems obviously misleading, depends heavily on how much we already trusted the Reuters photographers/editors to accurately represent their content, since we really don’t have access to the facts on the ground.

            I’m willing to agree that broadly Trump supporters did not watch the inauguration and rethink their political opinions and affiliations, and were probably almost all quite pleased with the event. And because of this, if we grant that your interpretation is correct, we can at least say the photograph is not representative of the event as a whole. But the slide-show also contains several other photos of the event.

          • Well... says:

            1. OK, point taken, but I think what you’re saying is a bit like saying “You’re interpreting Dumb and Dumber as intended to be funny, but that isn’t the only interpretation of that movie.” Yes, I’m claiming my interpretation of the photo is the natural one. No, I did not provide an argument for why this is so, for the same reason I would not provide an argument to support the claim that Dumb and Dumber is a comedy. To me it seemed self-evident what the picture was trying to make the viewer feel. Photojournalism is seldom so ambiguous. Besides, there was also the caption. I’d be interested to know if a lot of other people had different interpretations though, since it is of course possible.

            2. I agree, I failed to prove that my interpretation of the picture did not match the events, but there is no feasible way to prove my interpretation or its opposite anyway. Even if I somehow tracked down that girl and was able to interview her, she’s unlikely to remember the exact moment the picture was taken.

            3. A commenter on that post made a similar complaint (he implied my example was old and minor). I reproduce my response here:

            I chose that example because it was just a click away from the statement by the Reuters editor-in-chief [which I referred to in the blog post and devoted an earlier blog post to as well] and I happened across it, not because it was the most crushing example I could find. But in some ways it’s the subtle stuff like this that deserves more of my attention. People were talking about NBC’s edited George Zimmerman 9-1-1 call for months, but stuff like this slips by under the radar.

            4 (a.k.a. “finally”). I don’t normally consume news articles anymore, and I don’t trust my ability to find a “random” one. Explanation of my not consuming news articles here. (Note: I will still read an article if a trustworthy source links it to me and/or if I’m reading it to analyze the journalism itself.) I do think it would be interesting to repeat the exercise of analyzing the way in which journalism misleads by examining some other particular case. I invited you to select an article so as to remove the possibility that I’m cherrypicking. Also because I expect you’d send me an article with nothing obviously there for me to pick at, which I like because I’d either have to revise my theory or else discover and catalog journalistic tricks I didn’t know about beforehand.

          • Montfort says:

            1. I understand that such interpretations usually feel obvious, and in such a case it seems silly to consider other views – or it may not even cross your mind other people would take them seriously in the first place.
            However,
            A) I happen to disagree with you about how obvious your interpretation is
            B) I think people who trust the media not to lie to them are more likely to interpret the image innocently (which, admittedly, is influenced by A, but also they are resistant to identifying agendas in non-innocent images, in my experience)
            C) There are definitely people who will defend the media, even to the level of “Dumb and Dumber is a heart-wrenching tragedy, obviously.”

            2. I agree, and obviously one can’t expect you to come up with evidence of the event. But do you see what that means for your argument? You’re saying “Reuters captioned this photo to produce impression X” and decry their dishonesty when X may, in fact, be true! Clearly, this works only if you’ve already assumed Reuters staff to be dishonest.

            To give a reverse-tribal version: Trump tweets a photo of a smiling man in a Che Guevara shirt in a crowd, captioned “Man reacts during Trump rally in San Diego” – and someone else writes a post about how you can’t trust Trump, since he’s trying to give the impression this man in San Diego likes him – when in truth he very well might!

            I hope this clarifies what I mean about it not being a convincing example to those who don’t already share your conclusions.

            I understand your intention better now, but I will not provide an article for your analysis in this subthread. I think we probably mostly agree about the presence of misleading word choice, image selection, techniques, etc. in news (note: I do agree misleading images are used, I just disagree about this particular example), but probably also disagree about the implications of their existence, more philosophical questions about journalism, etc. and the resulting discussion would be unfocused and exhausting. Not because of you, just because of the scope and because such issues would sneak up on us while we were arguing about the finer points of the verb “react” and what typical readers would assume or know. Perhaps in another OT.

          • Well... says:

            1. I think people who trust the media not to lie to them are more likely to interpret the image innocently too, but I think the innocent interpretation is that the girl in the photo is experiencing doubt about her support for Trump! Look at the colors, the expression, the composition, etc. Yes, any interpretation is possible, and I agree there are probably some people out there who have made any number of them, but media professionals generally go for one particular effect and, if they are good at their jobs (e.g. good enough to be highlighted by Reuters) they succeed.

            2. Yes, I assume Reuters staff to be dishonest, just as I assume all journalists to be dishonest. And I mean that in a fairly value-neutral way: dishonesty is required for journalism just as it is required for acting. Journalism is what it is because of what it poses as, not because of what it talks about. Journalism is nothing more than a certain posture added to nonfictional media creation.

            But yeah, OK, you disagree with the example but agree with (most of) my general points about journalism. You don’t want to get into further discussion about it because we’d probably be biting off more than we can chew on a venue like this—I can dig it. No problem.

            Do you at least agree that seemingly trivial examples of journalism’s dishonesty are important to look at, since they otherwise receive little scrutiny?

          • Montfort says:

            I’m not sure what all your general points about journalism are, so I won’t venture to say I agree with most of them. If we confine ourselves to the techniques you’ve listed, I agree that journalists do all of those things, though I would describe them in different ways.

            Do you at least agree that seemingly trivial examples of journalism’s dishonesty are important to look at, since they otherwise receive little scrutiny

            Sometimes. One of the bigger dangers of the analysis of bias and inaccuracy in journalism is that it encourages excessive skepticism, and allows people to dismiss information that disagrees with their views and expectations.

            It’s good for people to know that not everything in newspapers is true or impartial, and minor incidents are part of that. But they’re also part of building up a repertoire of faults one can use to selectively disqualify reports from other views, especially when their importance is exaggerated.

            The answer isn’t to just ignore them, I don’t think, but I think coverage of them requires some context about their actual severity, how that kind of thing comes about, and so on. Which, unfortunately, is hard to do, because how can you determine how important an error like that really is?

            The other failure mode, to my mind, is that some people just want to vent their spleen about journalists, and in those cases it’s sometimes just as petty to write “ha, you slipped up and used ‘claimed’ instead of ‘said’ ” as it is to write “ha, you can’t even get noun agreement right.” (well, perhaps not exactly as petty, since noun agreement is more clearly a copy-editor’s responsibility, but still).

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Little from column A, little from column B.

        A large part of it is culture. The board/CEO hired the people who hire the editors and who hire the reporters. They’re just not going to hire the wrong sorts of people who have the wrong sorts of ideas. And the news agencies are headquartered in big metropolitan areas which means the culture is heavily Blue Tribe. Even Fox News is mostly neocons, which are essentially Blue Tribe Republicans.

        Then combine that with lies of omission, words chosen for particular emotional impact or selective ambiguity and you have the mess we have.

        For instance, consider the Don Jr. Russian collusion email. Now, the narrative for 9+ months has been that the Trump campaign coordinated the hacking or release of the hacked Podesta and DNC emails with the Russian government. The Don Jr. emails and the meeting are presented as proof of this collusion.

        Here’s the full text of the emails. The contact “offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary [Clinton] and her dealings with Russia.” There’s no way Podesta’s emails or the DNC emails could be considered official Russian documents, nor did those emails incriminate Hillary Clinton (to my knowledge in any way) but specifically they didn’t have anything incriminating with regards to Russia.

        Now here’s four random stories from CNN and how they describe the documents.

        “negative information about Hillary Clinton”

        “Information about the Hillary Clinton campaign”

        “Damaging information about Hillary Clinton”

        “Damaging information on Hillary Clinton.”

        I also frequently heard it referred to as “dirt.” Because “dirt,” or “negative information,” or “damaging information” still fits in the category of hacked emails. But they never say “proof of Hillary Clinton’s illegal activities with the Russian government.” Nothing that makes one ask “what illegal activities was Clinton doing with the Russian government? What were these official documents? Why didn’t we see them during the campaign? Can we see them now?”

        Workplace/environment/hiring culture + story choice + word choice = bias. And I’m not saying that’s only on the left, or anything like that. I think bias is an inherent part of human nature, individually and collectively. Breitbart does the same stuff. The difference I would say is that Breitbart admits it’s a conservative/populist outfit with a conservative/populist slant. But CNN and the like do not exhibit such self-awareness. I think they honestly think they’re unbiased, and that reality simply has a liberal bias.

        • hoghoghoghoghog says:

          But they never say “proof of Hillary Clinton’s illegal activities with the Russian government.” Nothing that makes one ask “what illegal activities was Clinton doing with the Russian government? What were these official documents? Why didn’t we see them during the campaign? Can we see them now?”

          Exactly. You want CNN to write it a way that implies that these documents exist, thus insinuating a Trumpian conspiracy theory. Now, that conspiracy theory might be true! But these articles have no right to insinuate it, since as far as I see, they don’t address it. If the conspiracy theory turns out to be true, you can criticize CNN for covering the wrong thing, but not for spinning through word choice.

    • sohois says:

      In the UK at least, it seems to be low on average with occasional spikes when an editor is replaced, for example when the Telegraph replaced most of their editing team with the Daily Mail’s a few year ago. You don’t often hear about journalists being fired as much as being poached by another newspaper.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      Firing isn’t the only weapon. Withholding promotion and giving bad assignments is a much easier way to punish.

  3. One Name May Hide Another says:

    There is a group called VIPS (Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity) comprised of a number of former high-ranking U.S. Intelligence Community members. The group gained much praise back in the day from outlets such as Mother Jones for writing a series of memoranda to President Bush Jr warning against going into war in Iraq. VIPS expressed their belief that the official CIA stance regarding the weapons of mass destruction was “fraudulent and based on a war agenda.” They backed their opinion with a thorough analysis of the available evidence.

    Just a few days back VIPS issued a memo addressed to our current President. The memo strongly criticizes the official intelligence community stance regarding Russian involvement in the DNC “hack”. In addition to providing a critical analysis, VIPS have also submitted digital forensic evidence showing that a) there was a deliberate effort to fraudulently blame Russia for the DNC WikiLeaks, and that b) the Guccifer 2.0 persona (that the official narrative labels as a Russian government effort) operated in the Eastern Time zone and had direct access to DNC computers (i.e., that the documents “he” released were leaked, not hacked.)

    We discussed some of the evidence showing that the Guccifer 2.0’s Russian fingerprints were intentionally planted a while back in one of the SSC open threads. (Although the discussion hasn’t gotten much traction back then. I find the technical analysis fascinating and, if anyone is interested, I’d be happy to provide more background.)

    I’m glad to see the digital forensic reports, which were initially produced by independent investigators, were now picked up and verified by the VIPS group. I just hope that President Trump and others will pay attention.

    • John Schilling says:

      I don’t find this terribly convincing. They make a decent case(*) that the breach “originated with a copy (onto an external storage device – a thumb drive, for example) by an insider”. But copying big valuable directories full of work product onto thumb drives is what insiders do, not for reasons of cyberespionage but because it makes it easier to do their work at the hip coffee shop down the block from their home rather than their basement office across town. The DNC probably has made at least modest efforts to secure their own servers from prying enemy eyes, but they clearly aren’t able to enforce strict infosec discipline on their top people, so an obvious attack vector is to look for the personal laptops/iphones/whatever of known DNC officials in insecure environments.

      Which would give the signature VIPS is claiming – the first copy is done locally by an “insider” with no attempt at obfuscation, and a subsequent copy is made a modest time later with some level of maskirovka applied.

      That the actual hacker will almost certainly attempt concealment, deception and misdirection with unknown competence, possibly including a highly competent attempt to masquerade as a third party doing incompetent concealment and misdirection, should temper any assessment of “Here I have proven that the DNC was hacked by [X] for sure!”, including this one. And this one, while claiming high confidence, is IMHO weaker than most for reasons noted above.

      Would be interested in Controls Freak’s take, if he’s still around.

      * Assuming they aren’t completely making things up, which I can’t verify

      • One Name May Hide Another says:

        John, please see my comment below that I made in response to entobat. You can certainly verify at least some of the analyses in question by yourself since the primary sources are still up. And I encourage you, as well as everyone else, to do so.

        That the actual hacker will almost certainly attempt concealment, deception and misdirection with unknown competence, possibly including a highly competent attempt to masquerade as a third party doing incompetent concealment and misdirection, should temper any assessment of “Here I have proven that the DNC was hacked by [X] for sure!”, including this one.

        I don’t believe VIPS are saying X did it “for sure”. If my comment made it seem so, it’s my bad. What they are saying, however, is that the IC “assessment” that it was Russia is very problematic. Please read the memo itself for details. In addition to the digital forensic evidence in question, there are other aspects of the story, such as timing of public statements made by involved parties, that need to be considered when trying to figure out what Guccifer 2.0 really was. Again, the memo itself as well as the g-2.space site are great places to find the relevant information.

      • Controls Freak says:

        I’m still around, John, but I’ve been extremely busy. I’m often a couple days late to read these threads (if I even get to them), and then I might have time to blitz through a bunch, but not really any time to comment. Oh well.

        Anyway, if someone had asked me this question a year ago, I would have responded with some version of, “Cyber attribution is basically impossible.” I’ve since backed off of that a bit. It’s doable, but it’s still difficult; it requires tracking hundreds of group indicators (attribution to adversarial individuals may still be near impossible) for years on end (the analogy is that Google can authenticate that you’re not a robot just by having you click, “I’m not a robot,” not because robots can’t click buttons, but because they’re leveraging their years-long relationship with you and the slew of indicators they have to match with that).

        In that context, the public evidence that it was related to Russia/Russian interests is good, but not great. There’s not much in public that cuts against that explanation. I’m not particularly impressed by this group’s contrary analysis. Too many alternate explanations possible; too many speculative leaps; not even sure I agree with their method of determining time periods. They’re going to need something more than a handful of modification timestamps (which can’t be correlated with much of anything outside of cyberspace) to get my attention.

        One final note, since credibility is discussed further down in this thread. The top-line name VIPS uses to establish their technical bona fides is William Binney, and as far as I’m concerned, his credibility is approximately zero these days.

        • One Name May Hide Another says:

          That’s not a fair summary of the evidence at all. It’s not just a bunch of timestamps (I assume you’re referring to the Forensicator analysis here, which, I agree, seems far from conclusive in isolation). It’s also a bunch of metadata that shows that the allegedly “accidental” Russian fingerprints were intentionally planted, as well as the timing and content of the public statements made by the involved parties, all of which suggest that Guccifer 2.0 was a persona designed to associate upcoming DNC WikiLeaks with Russia.

          Of course the metadata in question could have itself been left there intentionally to make us think… that someone left these Russian fingerprints on purpose to falsely blame Russia.

          The sorry state of affairs as it is, however, is that mainstream narrative takes parts of the metadata at face value (the Russian fingerprints discovered by Matt Tait) and does not acknowledge or try to explain the rest of the metadata at all (the RSIDs and other bits showing that the Russian fingerprints were left intentionally.) Outlets such as WaPo to this day include the “Russian language metadata” as evidence of Russian involvement.

          Also, why is William Binney’s credibility zero? Is the credibility of the rest of the people who signed the memo zero as well in your estimation? Apart from Binney and Skip Folden, the memo was signed by:

          Matthew Hoh, former Capt., USMC, Iraq & Foreign Service Officer, Afghanistan

          Larry C Johnson, CIA & State Department (ret.)

          Michael S. Kearns, Air Force Intelligence Officer (Ret.), Master SERE Resistance to Interrogation Instructor

          John Kiriakou, Former CIA Counterterrorism Officer and former Senior Investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

          Linda Lewis, WMD preparedness policy analyst, USDA (ret.)

          Lisa Ling, TSgt USAF (ret.) (associate VIPS)

          Edward Loomis, Jr., former NSA Technical Director for the Office of Signals Processing

          David MacMichael, National Intelligence Council (ret.)

          Ray McGovern, former U.S. Army Infantry/Intelligence officer and CIA analyst

          Elizabeth Murray, former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Middle East, CIA

          Coleen Rowley, FBI Special Agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel (ret.)

          Cian Westmoreland, former USAF Radio Frequency Transmission Systems Technician and Unmanned Aircraft Systems whistleblower (Associate VIPS)

          Kirk Wiebe, former Senior Analyst, SIGINT Automation Research Center, NSA

          Sarah G. Wilton, Intelligence Officer, DIA (ret.); Commander, US Naval Reserve (ret.)

          Ann Wright, U.S. Army Reserve Colonel (ret) and former U.S. Diplomat

          Scott Ritter, on the other hand, is a member of VIPS who did not to sign the latest memo. He points out at least one detail that the memo got wrong, but thinks that while the new evidence is less conclusive than some people make it out to be, he still agrees that the doubts that it raises are well founded. After all,

          The DNC servers at the center of this controversy were never turned over to the FBI for forensic investigation. Instead, the FBI had to rely upon copies of the DNC server data provided by CrowdStrike. The fact that it was CrowdStrike, and not the FBI, that made the GRU attribution call based upon the investigation of the alleged cyber-penetration of the DNC server is disturbing. As shown here, there is good reason to doubt the viability of the CrowdStrike analysis. That the FBI, followed by the U.S. Congress, the U.S. intelligence community, and the mainstream media, has parroted this questionable assertion as fact is shocking.

          Furthermore, when it comes to VIPS credentials and credibility, Scott Ritter writes:

          The men and women who compose VIPS have, in their prior lives, briefed U.S. presidents and members of Congress. They have served as national intelligence officers, FBI special agents, CIA case officers, National Security Agency (NSA) technical directors, Defense Intelligence Agency and State Department analysts, and more. Their expertise is drawn from decades of highly sensitive work within the three agencies—the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the NSA—responsible for preparing the U.S. intelligence communities’ assessment of Russian meddling and within most, if not all, of the other agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community.

          These are rational people whose collective body of work has always been in direct support of the national interest and never against it. They cut across the American political spectrum, holding views that are liberal, conservative and moderate—sometimes simultaneously, as is fitting those intellects that have been conditioned to be open to considering all sources of information.

          Not to get bogged down with credentials when we have actual evidence (and lack of evidence) to discuss, but I take it that you disagree? Why?

          • Controls Freak says:

            I’ll admit, I didn’t dive into the claim of fake fingerprints before. Just did. It’s unconvincing, too. How in the world are they getting from, “The same author made a change to the style sheet of each document (that included Russian language),” to, “These were based on an original document with Russian fingerprints”?

            I didn’t mean to speak about the credibility of anyone else on their list. People can make their own judgments on them. Binney, in particular, has made various public claims that simply aren’t supportable by any evidence he’s provided. If you’re familiar with SIGINT methods/laws, you can see the way he will subtly say things in a way that lets people make connections that aren’t true; it’s designed to outrage people about false things. I’ve seen him pressed on important distinctions both in person and in internet appearances, and he’s always avoided the question or shifted his way out of it.

            The claim he made that gets him credibility with the pro-privacy types is that his project (THINTHREAD) was supposed to be better for civil liberties (compared to another program, TRAILBLAZER). His explanation of how this works has never made sense, and while people like to cherry-pick quotes out of the NSA IG report on the topic to try to laud him, the actual report doesn’t seem to support his claim. There’s nothing in the report about civil liberties, corruption, kickbacks, or anything of the sort. It’s entirely about management aspects for large-scale IT projects (how to establish metrics for success; how to estimate costs; how to ensure the right people are in the right place and that the right documentation is created so that it can be used). It basically leaves me saying, “Yea, NSA screwed up a large-scale IT development project in the early 2000s, because, well, approximately everybody screwed up large-scale IT development projects in the early 2000s.” We’re still pretty bad at it!

            Aside: I won’t go into details of the IT procurement problem from the view of a rank-and-file federal employee (it’s really bad); it’s better to hear from tech people who went into gov’t specifically to try to fix this problem. (See also: PPACA exchanges roll-out, literally the entire VA.)

          • One Name May Hide Another says:

            How in the world are they getting from, “The same author made a change to the style sheet of each document (that included Russian language),” to, “These were based on an original document with Russian fingerprints”?

            Let me explain. The first three documents released by Guccifer 2.0 on his blog (1.doc, 2.doc, 3.doc) contain the same Russian stylesheet RSIDs “styrsid11758497”. RSIDs are random numbers generated on save whenever an element gets added or edited. The fact that all three documents contain the same style RSIDs means that the Russian style setting came from the same “save” at some point in the process.

            (If you open a document, add a Russian style setting and save it, and then do the same for another document, the resulting styRSIDs will be different, even though you’re the same author and the Russian style setting is identical across the two documents. This is because the styRSIDs come from two different saves.)

            So the matching RSIDs themselves are enough to disprove the “accidental” Russian fingerprints hypothesis. How could they accidentally end up there? A look at additional metadata paints a fuller picture of what may have happened.

            Both the original author fields and the creation timestamps are identical for the three documents. The creation timestamps are 6/15/2016 13:38 (same day Guccifer 2.0 released them), and the author is a name of a Democrat IT guy who is not the original author of any of the 3 DNC documents (which we know because the documents were themselves eventually released by WikiLeaks in the Podesta batch. BTW, this obviously doesn’t mean the “author” guy here was the one responsible. But a computer on which he had previously installed MS Office may have been used. Or someone simply inserted his name for unknown reasons, even though it’s a weird, obscure name for anyone to pick at random.) Roughly half an hour later (“revtime”) the documents were edited again for 2 to 4 minutes each (“edmins”).

            So what process could have led to the documents having matching RSIDs as well as the additional metadata we just went over? A Word document with Russian stylesheet got created and then either saved-as 3 times or saved once with the file copied twice afterwards. Approximately 30 minutes later the Russian template documents get opened by someone with the account name of “Felix Edmundovich”, the contents of the original DNC docs gets pasted into them, and the documents get saved.

            This is what must have happened unless the metadata, including the RSIDs, was directly edited to make us think that someone was inserting Russian fingerprints on purpose. This is when we need to go back to consider the timing of the appearance of Guccifer 2.0 as well as public statements made by him and by DNC/CrowdStrike in order to try to figure out who he was. There is a lot of relevant information, and I’d be happy to go into more detail, if you’re interested.

            Now, obviously, no one in their right mind would say that any of this is enough to make attribution with 100% certainty. Two things are true, though: 1) the Russian fingerprints could not have ended up there “accidentally”, which is what the mainstream narrative is to this day. 2) There is enough there that warrants closer investigation. And this point is what the VIPS are trying to convey when they say: “We do not know who or what the murky Guccifer 2.0 is. You may wish to ask the FBI.”

            (BTW, thank you for the background info on William Binney. I don’t mean to ignore it. I will bookmark it and make sure to check it out in more detail later.)

          • Controls Freak says:

            RSIDs are random numbers generated on save whenever an element gets added or edited. The fact that all three documents contain the same style RSIDs means that the Russian style setting came from the same “save” at some point in the process.

            (If you open a document, add a Russian style setting and save it, and then do the same for another document, the resulting styRSIDs will be different, even though you’re the same author and the Russian style setting is identical across the two documents. This is because the styRSIDs come from two different saves.)

            This is not true. Read the Microsoft document that Adam Carter points you to – but don’t read the page he pointed you to. Read page 24, which defines styrsid, the actual field in question. It specifies that the number in question is “the rsid of the author who implemented the style.” Ok, you can read the rsid section, too. The entire point of rsid is to identify authors. (The idea is to track who made changes so they can figure out what has changed since you last read it.) So, ok. The same bloke updated the style for all of the documents. Looking at the files, there were a bunch of style changes before those changes, too. Please try again at getting to, “They were all the same file, pre-contaminated or whatever.”

          • AdamCarter says:

            Controls Freak stated:

            “This is not true. Read the Microsoft document that Adam Carter points you to – but don’t read the page he pointed you to. Read page 24, which defines styrsid, the actual field in question. It specifies that the number in question is “the rsid of the author who implemented the style.” Ok, you can read the rsid section, too. The entire point of rsid is to identify authors.”

            While the specification does state “author” in places, it is just simplifying “revision save session” for readability.

            Stylesheet RSIDs and insertions function the same as other data in relation to RSIDs (same as outside of the stylesheets). The suggestion these behave differently is unfounded.

            The RSIDs are still generated per revision save session (after all, it does stand for “Revision Save ID”) and the stylesheet insertions and behavior can be checked using a copy of MS-Word.

            Various other factors were considered too so that we knew we were working with an RTF produced with a Windows version of MS-Word, etc. details are covered in the FAQs at the bottom of my site’s homepage.

          • One Name May Hide Another says:

            @ Controls Freak,

            I had read, studied even, the MS Word document. Found it ambiguous/incomplete and that’s why I tested it, numerous times in numerous environments. (Many others have as well.) That’s why I specifically added that paragraph in my explanation above to emphasize the same author in different save/add-or-edit sessions will not leave the same styRSIDs because I knew people might get that impression from the documentation. I encourage you, and everybody else, both skeptics and believers to test it for themselves.

        • John Schilling says:

          I’m still around, John, but I’ve been extremely busy.

          No matter – better late than never, and I value your opinion (only in part because I happen to agree with it).

          Do you have a feel for how likely national intelligence agencies are to be able to flawlessly scrub metadata and the like? It is certainly possible for professionals to do this >90% of the time, which makes me skeptical of “here’s a bunch of timestamps that prove X!” arguments in such contexts, but how close to 100% is plausible and how likely are e.g. false-flag attributions?

          My personal interest and experience is with North Korean propagandists rather than possibly-Russian hacker/spies, but there are similarities. The North Koreans, FWIW, are either pretty good at knowing when they are going to get caught and not going there, or very very very good at not getting caught, and we’re always wondering…

          • Controls Freak says:

            I’m not sure I have a good answer for this question, primarily because the MO in question (acquire everything you can in cyberspace, leak publicly) is relatively new-ish. Until recently, it was much more common to try to be as quiet as you could in cyber ops. Then, NK and the PLA had a bunch of success in being relatively loud. Since there hasn’t really been any meaningful response (publicly, at least), the belief is that Russia decided to follow suit.

            Being stealthy is something that national intelligence agencies can do really well when they really want to. False flag? Not likely from the perspective of another intel agency. Again, attribution requires tracking hundreds of indicators for years; it would require a relatively herculean effort for, say, China to have done the action and tricked the US into being extremely confident it was Russia. That said, I think people have been making a different claim, to various degrees of overtness. The claim is not that the US intel agencies have been duped – it’s that they’re in on it! In theory, this could range from having planned, executed, and then falsely attributed the entire episode to sitting around while someone else stole the info, fabricated the evidence… and the IC just jumped on board because something something Trump.

            Technically, this may be plausible for the new MO, but it gets less plausible the later in the process that they get involved. If they truly got with some DNC insider, got the info directly, and then planted the false flag, they have the capability of convincingly tricking the general public. If anyone else did it, it would be vastly more difficult for them to say, “That guy did a good enough job that we can totally go along with this false story.” It would require a pretty amazing amount of effort to convince me that something happened along these lines.

    • hlynkacg says:

      The memo strongly criticizes the official intelligence community stance regarding Russian involvement in the DNC “hack”. In addition to providing a critical analysis, VIPS have also submitted digital forensic evidence showing that a) there was a deliberate effort to fraudulently blame Russia for the DNC WikiLeaks, and that b) the Guccifer 2.0 persona (that the official narrative labels as a Russian government effort) operated in the Eastern Time zone and had direct access to DNC computers…

      My first thought is to wonder if this is related to the Imran Awan case and the hard-drives that Debbie Wasserman Schultz allegedly threatened the chief of the US Capitol Police over.

      • One Name May Hide Another says:

        Interesting question. As far as I can tell, none of the publicly available information confirms any sort of connection between the two cases, but it’d be interesting to see how the situation develops.

    • entobat says:

      Is there an easy way to find primary sources on this? E.g. the report says “The 2GB of data were copied to a physical storage device in 87 seconds”, but not “here is the metadata that shows that the copy was to a physical storage device, and that it took 87 seconds”.

      I don’t have any reason to distrust this group, and the Russia conclusions they draw seem mostly reasonable given their presentation of the evidence, but I’d like to see and judge it for myself.

      • One Name May Hide Another says:

        Certainly. Thank you for asking. The primary sources are the files released by Guccifer 2.0, still available on his site.

        And below are links to the original analyses by independent investigators that the VIPS seem to have relied on. (I haven’t seen the technical report they submitted in addition to their memo, but from what I understand, the report relied, at least partially, on the research below.)

        A site that compiled all of the independent research concerning the Guccifer 2.0 persona, including original research by the author himself: http://g-2.space/

        In particular, here is the discussion of the metadata suggesting a copy paste job into a pre-prepared Russian template: http://g-2.space/intent/

        And here is the report that examined the transfer speeds, etc that suggests local access to files: https://theforensicator.wordpress.com/guccifer-2-ngp-van-metadata-analysis/

        Btw, authors of both sites are open to comments, feedback and questions.

    • Brad says:

      The author of the detailed technical report appears to be Norman C. (Skip) Folden, an 84 year old man who graduated from West Point in 1956 and worked for IBM between 1966 and 1986. Since then he seems to have been running his own company: Folden Management also known as Palladin Advocacy. Neither of these names seem to have left any kind of mark on the internet.

      He was apparently defrauded by some kind of oil and gas huckster in 1995. He appears on a list of Rand Paul donors from two years ago, and is cited on a UFO website as a “longtime UFO investigator”. There are also a few genealogy posts.

      None of this is conclusive of anything, and the author of a report doesn’t logically have any bearing on its accuracy, but considering the need for proxies on this for most of us, I will point out that this sparse digital footprint leaves me skeptical of his expertise in digital forensics.

      • One Name May Hide Another says:

        but considering the need for proxies on this for most of us

        That’s a good point. I have verified the Guccifer 2.0 “copy-paste” metadata evidence for myself and I suspect that if I hadn’t done so personally, I’d have a harder time finding this as convincing as I do.

        I have now posted links to the actual technical analyses on which the VIPS seem to have relied (at least partially). The analyses are not terribly complicated and reasonably easy to follow but they probably require at least some background in CS/IT to comfortably tackle. I know there are enough people on this site who are going to be able to investigate the evidence for themselves and I’m hoping they will add to the discussion. The authors of the analyses are open to feedback and suggestions and I have seen them amend and add to their analyses over the past several months as questions and suggestions poured in.

        • Brad says:

          The other two links may well be worth looking into. And if I get a chance I might do so. But it is worth pointing out that you lead with this memo and the memo in turn rests its credibility on the person they are calling co-author of the report and the sole author of the more detailed technical report which apparently was not publicly released. Those no publicly available evidence that that person has the technical chops to make that determination and we would expect such public evidence to exist. William Binney, for example, has a much more plausible public case to being an expert than Skip Folden, and he apparently didn’t feel comfortable doing the technical analysis himself.

          • One Name May Hide Another says:

            I understand your skepticism. VIPS were evidently happy enough with Skip Folden’s expertise to trust his assessment of the digital forensics but you’d feel much more comfortable if we knew more about Skip’s credentials ourselves. Anyway, I applaud people being skeptical of the assessments of others and that’s why I linked to the actual research and primary sources that I believe the technical analysis largely relied on.

          • One Name May Hide Another says:

            Here’s an update from the author of the g-2.space site, which I just saw on Twitter, and which I think confirms some of your doubts. I’ll try to come back and post more info as it becomes available.

            The VIPS memo and interest expressed is not an endorsement, it’s just a call for facts to be checked and analysis to be verified.

            There is some internal debate among VIPS members, Forensicator is working on publishing/providing more information, test results, etc.

            I believe there will be a dissenting view published soon (if not already) but this might overlook some of the factors considered.

            I’ll post up further details when I’ve got more information and a link to the relevant article.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I will point out that this sparse digital footprint leaves me skeptical of his expertise in digital forensics.

        I’d consider that a point in his favor. Not leaving a digital footprint these days is hard.

    • skef says:

      I took a look at the “Guccifer” evidence the last time you brought this up.

      The primary hypothesis that these documents are putting forward depends a great deal on how at least one, and possibly more than one, version of Microsoft Word manages metadata fields when updating files and translating between formats (such as the native .doc format of that time, or an earlier time, and RTF). There was no real analysis of that question, however, and instead just a pointer to Microsoft document explaining the meaning of the various fields. The argument was of the form “The evidence seems to show X. What other explanation is there?”

      Well, it really depends on what that (or those) versions of Word does with the metadata when copying and translating, which I don’t know, and the other analysts did not seem to have researched in any depth. Copies of those versions, and the OSes they ran on, are out there, and could be experimented with. Someone could attempt to reproduce and document the specific sequence of steps that would lead to a combination of metadata. That would be stronger, but not conclusive, evidence. Stronger evidence still would be based on a systematic analysis of metadata management to rule out, or make very unlikely, other sequences of steps that could lead to the same outcome.

      I didn’t say anything at the time, because this is not the place to endlessly “yes, but” other sequences of events that might have lead the same combination of those fields. There are plenty of conspiracy fever swamps on the internet to choose from. Every once in a great while, they produce something that stands up detailed analysis. This isn’t there yet, and getting into the weeds in this forum wouldn’t be constructive.

      • One Name May Hide Another says:

        Someone could attempt to reproduce and document the specific sequence of steps that would lead to a combination of metadata

        I wish you had commented back then so that I could clarify and link to more sources. What you suggest is exactly what many people have done. I linked to the bare bones explanation first because I think it does a great job summarizing the central argument and it encourages people to jump in and start playing with the problem themselves, but it is by no means an exhaustive description of all the work that went into producing this analysis. The person who discovered the RSID evidence goes into more detail in his initial article: https://medium.com/@nyetnyetnyet/russia-and-wikileaks-the-case-of-the-gilded-guccifer-f2288521cdee
        Many people have verified and tried to poke holes in this analysis since the article’s publication, including the author of the g-2.space site. No one has been able to suggest a more plausible alternative explanation.

        this is not the place

        I think this is the perfect place to discuss this analysis. It’s verifiable, falsifiable, accessible and important. It also answers Scott’s (indirect) call for us to look through the evidence of Russian hacking.

        There are plenty of conspiracy fever swamps on the internet to choose from. Every once in a great while, they produce something that stands up detailed analysis. This isn’t there yet

        This may have been closer to an accurate description of the situation when I first posted it. In fact, I posted it because I wanted more eyes on it. Today, given that there has been more analysis added into the mix (see my other comments for links) and given that the VIPS have picked it up and verified it, we’re, it seems, already “there”.

        • skef says:

          I wish you had commented back then so that I could clarify and link to more sources. What you suggest is exactly what many people have done.

          So you purposely structured your last post as an opening into an unbounded labyrinth of investigation? Why would I want to reengage with this topic now?

          • One Name May Hide Another says:

            So you purposely structured your last post as an opening into an unbounded labyrinth of investigation

            No. Based on your comment today, I assumed my first post a while back may have been unclear to you. That’s why I’m saying that I would have clarified had you asked questions. Not because I intentionally made things unclear or intentionally omitted some information.

            Why would I want to reengage with this topic now?

            It seems like you don’t, which is completely fine. Many beautiful discussions on here today in which you can choose to participate instead.

          • skef says:

            Part of the relevant sense of the argument being “there” is being self-contained.

    • moonfirestorm says:

      Couldn’t this metadata be produced by:
      – copying the files over the Internet to Russia/Romania/wherever, in the original remote hack
      – copying the files locally from the hacking computer to a Linux box set to EST
      – Uploading the second copy?

      As far as I know, date modified fields are set by the last activity on the file, and don’t hold any information about events prior to that. This works if nothing happened to the files between the original hack and the upload, but I’m not clear why that would necessarily be the case here.

      You don’t even need complicated misdirection, you could get this result accidentally just by handing the files from your actual hacker to the person that’s been chosen to handle the leak.

      • random832 says:

        It’s not clear to me from the article what the timezone evidence actually is. Many (but not all, if there was a copy to a flash drive using FAT32 it might have been, or copying the file from such a drive in another timezone might have resulted in the timestamp changing in the wrong direction) file systems store timestamps in UTC and won’t leave any fingerprint regarding what timezone the computer accessing the file was set to.

        Copying a file usually doesn’t change the timestamp e.g. to the current time, and the representation doesn’t actually include information about what timezone the timestamp is in. I assume this was inferred from something like “the file is known [how?] to have been created at 12:00 UTC and the timestamp says 7:00 therefore it was probably copied [at an unknown time] on a system that used EST to store local-time timestamps.”

        • moonfirestorm says:

          The “forensicator” analysis linked upthread suggests that how a copy changes create and last modified dates depends on how you’re copying it. I just checked on a Linux box, and copying a file with “cp” does actually change the date modified of the new file to the time of copy.

          For timezones, forensicator pointed out that the .rar archives in the 7zip file were version 4.x, which stores local time rather than UTC. The .7z format does use UTC, which is how he was able to prove the time zone: since the whole archive was likely made at a single point in time, the .rar files and the non-archive files in the .7z should have basically the same timestamp, once you’ve accounted for time zones. Look at the hour difference on the two sets of files, and that gets you the time zone (for the computer where the archive was copied to before uploading).

    • Iain says:

      I’ve spent a good chunk of time over lunch delving into these links, and I’m still not sure what the smoking gun is supposed to be. VIPS has a track record, which is good, but they do not appear — as far as I can tell — to have any particular expertise in digital forensics, instead relying on the forensicator and g2-space analysis.

      This comment on the forensicator post covers many of my qualms with it. In particular, this part seems like a big problem:

      4) All of the above is somewhat of a non-issue in my experience. It would actually be relatively uncommon for individual files to be exfiltrated in this manner. *Far* more common would be for them to be collected on a local machine under remote control, packaged nicely, then exfiltrated as a single package. Depending on the level of security, this can be accomplished in a single big transfer, or the package can be fragmented to speed up the transfer.
      5) If the files were collected locally before being extracted, this would easily explain the EDT times, the FAT timestamps, and the NTFS timestamps. None of this indicates one way or the other whether the attacker was local or remote. It is impossible to tell from any of this evidence, and suggesting otherwise is disingenuous.

      In other words, none of the evidence is incompatible with a scenario in which a hacker breached a DNC system, copied a bunch of files into a single directory using command-line tools, zipped up that directory, and extracted it over the wire. The timestamp analysis is interesting, but doesn’t prove as much as the author wants it to.

      Similarly, while there are some interesting technical details in the g2-space link, it fails to put together a solid case. A lot of it boils down to speculation about double or triple bluffs: surely the hacke would not have been so incompetent as to leave Russia-related metadata in the documents! You can tell a story in which the DNC carefully pretended to be Russian hackers, but I see no reason to believe that evil DNC machinations are the most parsimonious explanation.

      As an example of the sort of digital forensics that I do find compelling, let’s look at Matt Tait’s analysis of the Podesta spear-phishing attack. (Link is to HuffPo, because that’s marginally nicer than linking to the original twitter thread.) Here, the evidence is straightforward: the bit.ly account that was used in the attack was also used to attack a large number of other targets. Those targets included Russian citizens as well as a large number of military personnel, contractors, and journalists working on Russia-adjacent topics. It’s possible that some non-Russian group engaged in a multi-year long con to build up a fake trail, hack Podesta, and pin it on the Russians, but let’s just say I wouldn’t bet on it.

      I don’t see any acknowledgment of the Podesta evidence in any of your links. That’s a problem. Russian actors hacking the Democrats once is not proof that other attacks were also Russian, but it certainly increases the odds.

      Also: American intelligence agencies do not, as a general rule, release all of their data for public consumption. Even if VIPS is correct, and the public information is inconclusive, the intelligence community surely has evidence that is not public. The public case against Russia is a lower bound on the certainty of the IC’s conclusions, not an upper bound.

      • moonfirestorm says:

        Can confirm copying a zipped archive does not affect the date-modified timestamps of the contents of the archive, at least for .zip.

      • One Name May Hide Another says:

        A lot of it boils down to speculation about double or triple bluffs: surely the hacke would not have been so incompetent as to leave Russia-related metadata in the documents!

        The evidence shows that the Russian metadata was left on purpose. Whoever left it, first created a pre-tainted template in Word and then copied the contents of the original files into it. So it’s not the case that someone is arguing here simply that Russian hackers wouldn’t accidentally leave such fingerprints. The fingerprints were left on purpose. Given the timing of the Guccifer 2.0 announcement as well as the timing and content of public statements made by DNC/CrowdStrike, it seems Guccifer 2.0 was an operation designed to discredit upcoming Wikileaks by associating them with Russia.

        There is no mention of the Podesta case because the memo deals specifically with the Guccifer 2.0 persona and the publicly unacknowledged evidence showing the supposedly “accidental” fingerprints were, in fact, left on purpose.

      • One Name May Hide Another says:

        American intelligence agencies do not, as a general rule, release all of their data for public consumption

        Yes, American intelligence agencies have a history of lying in order to make a case for their preferred foreign policy by selectively picking evidence to rely on in their “assessments”.

      • AdamCarter says:

        4) All of the above is somewhat of a non-issue in my experience. It would actually be relatively uncommon for individual files to be exfiltrated in this manner. *Far* more common would be for them to be collected on a local machine under remote control, packaged nicely, then exfiltrated as a single package. Depending on the level of security, this can be accomplished in a single big transfer, or the package can be fragmented to speed up the transfer.

        I’d recommend people actually go and check out what is actually *Far* more common (creating an unnecessary footprint on drives just so you have files “packaged nicely” before exfiltrating is, in reality, nowhere near as common as is being suggested.

        5) If the files were collected locally before being extracted, this would easily explain the EDT times, the FAT timestamps, and the NTFS timestamps. None of this indicates one way or the other whether the attacker was local or remote. It is impossible to tell from any of this evidence, and suggesting otherwise is disingenuous.

        It wouldn’t easily explain the FAT timestamp anomalies – and they are part of the reason that the USB hypothesis has a higher probability (it’s more likely than a hacker collecting files from an NTFS system, moving them on to an antiquated FAT32 disk partition and then archiving them before “being extracted”).

  4. RDNinja says:

    I don’t know if anyone here has played The Witcher 3, but it’s set in a medeival European-esque region, and includes a trading card game (Gwent) played by many of the characters, across multiple nations. That got me to thinking about how such a game could be created and managed consistently between separate, and even warring, nations in a pre-modern era. How would the legitimacy and authenticity of cards be assured, when any king could commission overpowered custom cards for his croneys? How would rules be adjudicated when travel is slow and dangerous?

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      It… wouldn’t?

    • Charles F says:

      I don’t know if the game involves any gambling, but if it does, bringing an overpowered card nobody’s ever heard of before seems like a good way to get yourself stabbed in a pre-modern tavern. If it doesn’t, then there isn’t that big an incentive to make cards that are unreasonably powerful instead of whatever cards you think will promote an entertaining game.

      As for disputes over the rules, the base is probably simpler than modern games like MtG and there would be a lot of local house rules.

      • entobat says:

        If the Yugioh anime has taught me anything, it’s that you save the busted cards for boss fights.

      • Randy M says:

        As for disputes over the rules, the base is probably simpler than modern games like MtG and there would be a lot of local house rules.

        Triple Triad comes to mind.

      • RDNinja says:

        The rules would probably have to be very simple, if for no other reason than because you won’t be able to fit much text on cards without printing presses, and lots of people are illiterate anyway. You’d probably have to rely on keywords and symbols for most of it.

        I think verifying authenticity would best be done by an organization like the Catholic Church. They could coordinate across national borders, and local priests would have learned about it at seminaries. You’d probably have to sell it as an alternative to brawling/duels, or as a worthwhile mental exercise, to get the Church to take it up, though.

    • Deiseach says:

      I don’t know about trading card games, but for mediaeval card games, using the Tarot deck was quite popular- originated in Italy, spread across Europe, various countries did their own variations on what the suits were. Tarot was indeed originally a card game, and the use specifically for divination (because ordinary cards can be used in that way also) really originates during the 18th century, when the craze for Freemasonry and Lost Mystic Wisdom of the Ancients took hold (the Count de Gebelin popularised the notion of Tarot as “Egyptian mystery lore passed down via the Gypsies under the form of symbolic cards”).

      Your card player might find different names for the suits or different symbols used (shields not spades) if he wandered from one country to another, but I’m sure he could pick up the rules quickly. It might well be that a particular “power card” was used in one country and not another, but he could either agree to abide by those rules or try and persuade the locals to play his system instead.

      • I don’t know about trading card games, but for mediaeval card games, using the Tarot deck was quite popular

        It sounds from your link as though the game originated in Italy in the 15th century, so renaissance rather than medieval.

        • Deiseach says:

          True, though again it depends if we accept that playing cards as such made their way into Europe generally from the Middle East via the Crusades, which pushes the dating back into the 14th century and the Late Middle Ages 🙂

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      I played Witcher 3 enough to get all the Steam achievements, and played the standalone Gwent game for a month or so. I’ve never read any of the novels, but IIRC, gwent is frequently mentioned as a pastime there.

      The easiest theory is that the author didn’t think that far through the implementation of the game. (It’s one of the reasons I appreciated Neal Stephenson’s description of T’Rain in Reamde.) But since I haven’t read the novels, I can only speculate.

      (In some sense, Witcher 3 made some very implausible design decisions about gwent. You have over a dozen quests where you acquire a rare gwent card (gwent is a CCG a la Magic: The Gathering; almost no one owns a full collection) by beating its owner in a game. But you never have to stake a card of your own; at worst, you’re staking a paltry 10-coin wager. No one in their right mind would wager cards like this, especially given how broken you could make your deck.)

      A slightly harder yet still easy theory is that everyone knows the cards well enough to know when there’s a bootleg custom card. In the world of Witcher 3, there’s a standard set, and if someone tries to introduce a gold 20-power Hemelfart, people would notice and throw it out. It’d be like trying to show a hand of five aces in a poker game in 1860s Dodge City.

      (There’s an interesting kerfluffle thrown up in one of the DLCs in which someone introduces a new legitimate faction to the original four, and has a fight with some purists.)

      One legitimate problem might be verifying that a given Tibor Eggebracht, say, wasn’t a forged print. I imagine such cards would be hard to manufacture in that world, though. Eventually word might get around that someone had gotten enough printing expertise to pump a cartload of fake Tibors into the economy, but then the problem would fix itself, as everyone would eventually acquire one and use it in their deck.

      If you wanted to find empirical evidence for how this would go, the obvious place to look would be Magic: The Gathering card forgeries. I’ve played that game since beta in the early 1990s, and AFAIK, forgeries were never an existential problem.

      • moonfirestorm says:

        Most of the reason Magic forgeries were never a problem is that for a long time, Magic had a printing process too complicated for forgers to mimic, and fakes were fairly obvious. There were a number of tests involving bending the card different ways (and at the most extreme, ripping the card apart to look at the core of it, which is a specific shade of blue).

        In recent years, high-quality fakes have been showing up, and Magic has had to introduce some additional countermeasures, adding a holofoil stamp on all new cards. There’s some talk of the print quality of real cards having deteriorated recently, which likely makes it harder to tell real ones from fakes.

        I don’t know how well that would work in a world where printing is lower-tech and print quality varies wildly though.

        • entobat says:

          > adding a holofoil stamp on all new cards.

          Nitpick: the holofoil is only on rares / mythic rares (which typically one per pack of 14 cards). But putting the holofoil there is sufficient to cover 99.9% of all cards that have a realistic chance of being profitably counterfeited.

        • ManyCookies says:

          I’m not familiar with Witcher 3’s magic system, but could their magic help out here? Like have the equivalent of “holofoils”, with genuine cards having a certain effect when exposed to a common cantrip or something?

    • bean says:

      There’s a huge gap between ‘IQ isn’t everything’ and ‘anyone can become gifted with the right environment’. Besides the article’s ignorance of studies on genetics vs nurture, there’s the complete ignorance of cutoffs. Nobody doing graduate math is going to do poorly on IQ tests, at least the math part. And the Einstein as slow/dummy thing is basically just a myth.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I thought the conclusion was overblown, but if it’s true that a lot of people with major accomplishments (at least in intellectual fields) weren’t impressive as children, this might well affect policy.

        When I say “weren’t impressive” I mean it very literally– average or a little above average.

        Einstein wasn’t a dummy as a child, but was he much above average?

        • bean says:

          I thought the conclusion was overblown, but if it’s true that a lot of people with major accomplishments (at least in intellectual fields) weren’t impressive as children, this might well affect policy.

          When I say “weren’t impressive” I mean it very literally– average or a little above average.

          See, this is where I think the article goes very wrong. It’s basically equating ‘not super-precocious’ with ‘completely normal’. Yes, people who get into college extremely young are not usually the ones who end up with Nobels. But Nobels are rare, and have a lot to do with being in the right field at the right time. In the IQ experiment it refers to, it says that Alvarez and Shockley were passed over for not scoring well enough, but it doesn’t say what ‘scoring well enough’ meant. Checking the link that the cutoff was IQ 135, which is 2.3 SD above average, assuming that the normalization was done well. What I still don’t know is how well either of our Nobel laureates scored on the test, but I have really serious doubts that either was below 125.
          I guess my point is this. Yes, there are things besides a high IQ required to be a recognized genius/Nobel laureate. Curiosity, perseverance, and luck (to be in the right place at the right time) spring to mind. But you still need IQ, and it’s absurd to claim that anyone who isn’t developmentally disabled can be a genius.
          Let’s put some math on this. Let’s say there are three variables we need to declare someone a Genius. IQ, Other Intellectual (OI) and Luck (L). You need a total of 6 standard deviations to reach the threshold. A typical Genius is going to be 2 SD above on all three, and a total of .0015625% of the population will meet or better that. Now, what about someone with 3 SD IQ? They’ll need 1.5 SD of each of the others for the most probable combination. That’s .00067335% of the population, making 3 SD IQ Geniuses about half as common as 2 SD IQ Geniuses. I’m probably mishandling my statistics somewhat, and reality is obviously more complicated than this model, but in a multifactor model, IQ can be less than everything and still be important.

          Einstein wasn’t a dummy as a child, but was he much above average?

          IIRC, from The Making of the Atomic Bomb, he was definitely bright, and the stuff about his ordinary beginnings is basically overfitting. (For instance, he was a technical expert at the patent office, not a normal clerk.) It’s been a while since I read it, so I don’t have all the details to hand.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            As I recall from the article, he got into university because he had high physics and math scores but low “general” scores. Sure sounds to me like a genius, in a narrow field mind you.

          • albatross11 says:

            Nitpick: IQ is an attempt to measure general intelligence, but isn’t the same as general intelligence. So what you really want is something like

            g

            other gifts not captured by g (interest, entusiasm, grit)

            luck

          • Randy M says:

            other gifts not captured by g (interest, entusiasm, grit)

            Growth Mindset?

          • JayT says:

            That was my thought exactly, AnonYEmous. I would guess that the average Nobel Prize winner tends to not just be a genius, but also has tunnel vision for their preferred field of study. So, as a child it’s quite possible that they would have an average score on topics that don’t interest them. A child that has above average intelligence, but no specific field of interest would probably have a better overall score. It’s the whole “jack of all trades, master of none” situation.

    • skef says:

      What, no Vygotsky?

  5. lvlln says:

    So my current love ultimate Frisbee seems to be the latest community in which the SJW movement has gained sufficient clout to start throwing its weight around.

    The World Flying Disc Federation communications director was forced to resign after some tweets defending the use of a male commentator in the recent World Games. I actually don’t know the full details, particularly since most tweets have been deleted, but it seems WFDF had real trouble getting a commentator for the World Games and could only manage to get one (like many sports, ultimate usually has 2, a play-by-play and color commentator) who would have to commentate from UK while watching the feed rather than from on-site in Poland where the World Games were. The commentator was male, which made at least one Canadian World Games player angry enough to tweet, which the communications director responded to, and it blew up into some big argument.

    Given that he was the communications director, an explicitly public facing job, this forced resignation actually doesn’t seem egregious – his job performance is highly dependent on how the audience reacts to him. More troubling to me is that the audience would react to him in this way, for daring to doubt the main SJW narrative about the patriarchy and how to achieve gender equity.

    And gender equity has been a big thing in the world of ultimate lately. Recently the editor in chief of Ultiworld faced a lot of backlash for opining that USAU (the USA governing body of ultimate) should’ve negotiated to put the Men’s finals on ESPN2 instead of the Mixed one, because he believed that that was a better way to draw non-player viewers. I’m not sure he’s right on this – yes, historically men’s sports have tended to outperform women’s sports in terms of fan draw (and this has been true of ultimate), and it’s also true that the highest talent in the sport plays in the Men’s and Women’s divisions rather than Mixed. But it’s also true that having a Mixed division at the highest level is very unusual and a way for ultimate to stand out, and a non-player fan may be drawn to that more than the superior athleticism of the Men’s division over the other divisions.

    But I do find troubling that the backlash he’s faced has been of the standard SJW form, such as that fans who would stay for Men’s but not Mixed aren’t fans we want. Very shortsighted consider just how niche a sport ultimate is. Right now there’s a semi-pro ultimate league in the US (American Ultimate Disc League) that has, AFAIK, been losing money every one of the 6 years it’s been around. I think we may be on the cusp of ultimate breaking out as a sport that at least gets recognized as a real sport on the level of, say, lacrosse, and I worry that the drive to prioritize SJW goals over anything else may end up killing such aspirations.

    The Ultiworld EIC also faced backlash a couple months ago because he only had the resources to send one person to report on a particular high school tournament, and he had that reporter report on the boys’ division rather than the girls’, because the high school teams in the boys’ division in that tournament were higher profile in the national stage than the high school teams in the girls’ division in that tournament. To his credit, he stood his ground for the most part in his podcast, though he did apologize for the way he communicated.

    On a local level, there’s also the fact that Boston Ultimate Disc Alliance, the organization that runs leagues in the Boston area, has made this Summer’s Hat League strictly mixed M-F 3-3, when in the past they’ve traditionally gone 4-3, 5-2, or even 6-1 due to the fact that men’s signups have significantly outnumbered women’s (even at 6-1, there was generally a waiting list for men, with none for women). Not only have they not adjusted the league to match demand, they’ve actually reduced the number slots (ultimate is traditionally played with 7 on the field for each team) just to make the match 50/50. This has led to many men losing opportunities to play competitive ultimate in the area, with basically no gain for women other than that they get to experience playing on 50/50 teams.

    Having seen this phenomenon up close in the gaming community a few years ago and the atheist/skeptic community a few years before that, I’m a little hopeful things will get better as people build safeguards against these attacks, but I’m also sure the worst is yet to come, and I worry that the ultimate community is already so small and niche that it may never recover to gain the prominence it has the potential to.

    I feel like this fits into the thrive/survive dichotomy that’s been used to describe the left and right. On the extremes, people make the error of either believing survival is harder than it is or taking survival for granted, and overcorrect for those. In the case of ultimate, I guess I think the recent growing success of the sport is tenuous, and it requires constant and careful vigilance to keep up. I don’t think we have the slack to play around with particular causes within the sport when the continuing growth of the sport is on the line. Have people noticed this kind of phenomenon in other similarly tiny subcultures? I think I heard about the Magic community and the Warhammer community going through similar stuff, but my perception is that both of those are much more popular or at least long-term resilient than ultimate.

    • Well... says:

      So, it sounds like all the controversial communication has been happening on…Twitter.com? That if the commentator would have just kept his phone in his pocket or whatever, this whole thing could have been avoided?

      • lvlln says:

        Hard to say, but it definitely seems like Twitter was the main place where it all exploded. I imagine there would have been calls for WFDF to respond to the Canadian World Games player who complained – that the communications director couldn’t just ignore it, even if he didn’t have to respond on Twitter.

        FWIW, I think WFDF did capitulate and hire a female commentator for the World Games and drop the male one they had arranged for.

      • Loquat says:

        Reading that first article, it looks like initially there was just the one lady yelling that the choice to have a single male commentator was sexist, #fuckthepatriarchy, and it only blew up after the communications director tweeted a bunch of “controversial” MRA stuff back at her, most of which he has now deleted. So yeah, even if he was required to answer her, he probably could have stayed out of trouble by just addressing the frisbee commentator issue and not trying to convince her she’s wrong about the entire concept of Sexism In Western Society.

    • The Red Foliot says:

      Maybe Twitter is the root cause of SJWism? It really trivialises the process of complaining about things and since most of the SJW agitation is inane, it seems like there may be linkage there. Imagine if, like in olden times, you had to duel people over disagreements. While there would no doubt be many foolish duels, there would doubtless also be an overall reduction in disagreements, as people would be chary to incur the costs of such things.

      • albatross11 says:

        I think Twitter facilitates outrage-chain-reactions very well, and that works for both SJWs and some subset of the right that’s focused mainly on outrage.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        I think you’re really on to something here.

        Twitter has some unique characteristics that make this kind of stuff extremely virulent:

        – It’s popular. Every major company, organization, politician, creator, you name it, is on Twitter for promotional reasons. But every journalist, activist, thinkfluencer, self-proclaimed intellectual, and wannabe cheka is on Twitter, too. And there’s a giant cross-section of the population as an audience for the second group to drag the first group in front of in order to gain power.
        – There is absolutely no friction involved in tweeting at someone. Everyone is on the same level with regards to public communication and there is no good mechanism for dealing with a swarm.
        – Any response to any Tweet is a first-class citizen that can be spread around just as quickly as whatever kicked the outrage off in the first place.
        – And, of course, tweets are by their nature short and ripped out of context, so anything that can be maliciously misunderstood will be.

        Other social networks don’t have this. Facebook’s clumsy interface makes it a hassle to communicate with people you don’t know, and it’s impossible to link to replies, which means outrage burns itself out without new fuel. Reddit is almost entirely pseudonymous, meaning there’s little real-world power to be gained from performative outrage, and has its population separated out into thousands of small groups with a random jumble of rules and conventions about not getting them into fights with each other. And all the rest are too small to matter.

        The conclusion is obvious: Death to Twitter. Our civilization depends on it.

        • onyomi says:

          It does seem like Twitter has strong potential to create the kind of “now quilting, too, is a cultural battleground” dynamic because of easily it may tend to propagate the most extreme, easily offended opinions and thereby create pressure among a group’s rank and file to choose sides.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Yeah. People have commented on how Tumblr does that as well. The common factor being that it’s one hundred percent effortless to take some complete stranger’s post and propagate it into a chum pool full of piranhas.

            There’s a lot to be said for having a little friction in these systems, because the one common factor in outrage-focused slacktivists is that they’re incredibly, unbelievably lazy. (That “It’s not my job to educate you!” shtick kind of gives the game away really.) If it wasn’t so easy to drag people, they wouldn’t do it.

          • random832 says:

            One thing I’ve noticed though is that there’s a phenomenon of taking a screenshot instead of using the built-in “quote tweet” feature (in an effort to avoid boosting the target’s numbers for some reason), which does require some effort, and removing their name and picture in order to make it harder to find the original tweet to attack the person is not much more effort on top of that. (Some do, some don’t, some only do it for people they don’t consider to be public figures)

            Twitter’s new “sticker” feature makes it easier to do this without easy access to an image editor, such as on phones.

            I think there may be something to be said for, even if it is easy to hurt someone, making it also easy to avoid doing so by accident (allowing honest people to easily avoid it, and removing deniability for people who really are trying to cause a dogpile).

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Add in intentional shit-stirrers. I was not in any way involved in the Ants saga, but I observed from the sidelines that it was a troll’s paradise, with neckbeards and feminists fighting each other.

          1. Pretend to be neckbeard and insult feminists.

          2. Pretend to be feminist and insult neckbeards.

          3. Make popcorn.

          4. Watch feminists and neckbeards yell at each other.

          5. Go to 1.

    • Randy M says:

      Given that he was the communications director, an explicitly public facing job, this forced resignation actually doesn’t seem egregious – his job performance is highly dependent on how the audience reacts to him.

      Some audiences are worth placating. How hard is it to say “These complaints are unreasonable and baseless and we stand behind our decision” and then ignore the tempest in the teapot?

      • lvlln says:

        I’m not sure how realistic that option was. If, for instance, the Canadian player who complained managed to convince all her teammates to boycott the World Games, that would have caused WFDF to lose face, possibly jeopardize their chances at getting into the Olympics in the near future, and put pressure on the board of directors to fire the leadership. I don’t know how likely a boycott would have been, but given the tenor of the conversation, my sense is that even if not everyone on the team agreed, likely most people on the team could’ve been cowed into boycotting. I imagine Canada could’ve easily convinced the USA team as well.

    • AnonYEmous says:

      The petition got 1,496 signatures, and the account has 7,306 Twitter followers. It’s entirely possible that ultimate frisbee is simply stuck with a social justice fanbase and must appease the beast. I guess you could say that they should ditch them to reach to a wider and more mainstream base, but as a guy who considers himself a gamer I don’t know if I approve of that.

      Social justice’s chief problem, as seen in this article, is that dissenters are bad people. I don’t fuck with Stefan Molyneux at all, but as he’d say that is “not an argument”, and it seems unlikely that a video about the existence of the patriarchy contains any of his dumber opinions. But he’s a bad person because he disagrees politically – and in fact, they would argue that terming his opinions as political disagreements is in and of itself disingenuous. Not much else to say really.

    • powerfuller says:

      Hey, fellow Bostonian! Woot.

      My naive impression of these sorts of movements within fields/hobbies is that they’re less likely to become permanent if the measure of that field’s quality is more objective. With subjective fields you can always argue the traditional measures of quality are themselves unjust, whereas it’s pretty easy to tell in a sport which team is the worse, and (though not as objective), spectators can easily tell a well-played game from a poor one. In those fields, the trade-off of quality for equality is obvious, and if it reaches a limit people will lose interest (including the SJ folks), leaving only the ones most dedicated to the sport. In subjective domains the can more easily hang around and keep asserting the apparent excellence of traditional-thing-X is just a cultural delusion. Not sure if this is accurate.

      My other impression is the SJ folks who do this are often the people with the least love of the thing itself, and as often as not will get bored of ultimate when they realize they don’t like it as much as they like spreading the gospel. So hopefully it’ll peter out after a few years. But I guess you’ll have to switch from leagues to to pick-up games for the time being.

      • lvlln says:

        Well, even in something fairly objective like sports, you have the recent flare-up from someone claiming that Serena Williams is the best women’s tennis player and if she played against men, she wouldn’t be particularly notable and then getting taken to task over it. In ultimate, a couple years ago there was some controversy because stats showed that women didn’t touch the disc as much as men in Mixed games (i.e. when playing M/F 4/3, women accounted for less than 3/7 of the times that the disc was touched). Of course, the fact that at the top levels where this stat was collected, the 3 women tend to be slower, less capable of jumping, and less capable of throwing far, than any of the 4 men, or the fact that “touches” isn’t a great measure of someone’s contribution to a point didn’t do anything to combat the complaints that this was obvious evidence of discrimination against women on the field. I mean, they didn’t state it outright, but the implication seemed to be that teams should optimize for gender equity in disc touches rather than optimizing for winning games.

        Also making me pessimistic is the fact that in ultimate, the top players, the ones who spend dozens of hours a week training and playing for the top teams in the country, the ones who occasionally get onto SportsCenter, seem to be the ones speaking the loudest about pushing SJW dogma. Well, not all of them or even most of them, but there are some big names that keep coming up, and given how niche and unpopular ultimate is in general, just a few big names can drive a lot (I doubt anyone else knows these names, but I’m thinking of figures like Sam Harkness, Khalif El Salaam, Jesse Shofner, George Stubbs, Jaclyn Verzuh, Octavia Payne). So I’m pessimistic about the hardcore SJWs losing interest.

        • Randy M says:

          How do team matches work? I would assume each player would have their own disc that they use, but you make it sound more like tag-team on a single disc.

          edit:wait, offense? I guess I’m unclear on the difference between ultimate frisbee and frisbee golf.

          I mean, they didn’t state it outright, but the implication seemed to be that teams should optimize for gender equity in disc touches rather than optimizing for winning games.

          I’d be surprised if you couldn’t find someone to say this outright.

          • quaelegit says:

            Ultimate is more like soccer played with a frisbee instead of a ball.

          • entobat says:

            I’ll disagree with the above commenter and say that Ultimate is more like (American) football than soccer.

            Each point starts off with the winner of the previous point doing a kickoff (“pull”) to the other team. You get a point by having someone on your team catch a pass while in the endzone.

            The major rules differences are the change in scoring (only touchdowns), no downs (or conception of separate plays, really), no running while in possession of the disk, and no tackles or other physical contact not incidental to running around on a field and trying to catch the same object.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @entobat:
            I think quae’s point was more about how the game flows. You did not mention that the disc can be passed an infinite number of times, which, along with the lack of downs, makes it into a game of spacing.

            The rules make the play into some sort of hybrid of soccer and rugby, although they do smack of being inspired by (American) football.

          • lvlln says:

            I’d say the above commenters described it well. When I explain the rules to someone who doesn’t know, I start by saying that players aren’t allowed to run with the disc, and the purpose is to throw to a teammate who catches it in the end zone. If the disc hits the ground or is intercepted by the defense, then the defense takes possession as the offense and vice versa, with the new offense now aiming for the end zone on the other side.

            I’ve seen ultimate most often compared to American football, soccer, and basketball. The ruleset is clearly inspired by American football, in having end zones and moving the disc by passing. Like HBC said, it’s a game of spacing, which makes it similar to soccer in how the disc flows. And like basketball, it’s highly possession-based, and every player has to play both offense and defense, going from any part of the field to any other part (i.e. unlike soccer, where some defensive players will only stay in the back and some offensive players will mainly stay in the front). Also, after any given score, the team that just lost the point gets to start the next point on offense (with exceptions for half).

            There are also comparisons to tennis due to the massive advantage the team that starts on offense has for any given point. We use terms like “on-serve” and “breaks” to describe scores and points, not to mention “forehand” and “backhand” throws that involve similar motions to the equivalents in tennis.

        • The Red Foliot says:

          Also making me pessimistic is the fact that in ultimate, the top players… seem to be the ones speaking the loudest about pushing SJW dogma.

          Personal incentives are a strong determiner of human morality. The influence is subconscious, but most people will alter their opinions for the sake of personal convenience. For a celebrity, whose actions and beliefs are wildly known, there are incentives to be in favour of SJW and disincentives to be against it. So it is no surprise an overflow of celebrities will be in favour of whatever is vogue.

      • DrBeat says:

        When has the SJ usurpation of something ever “petered out” or failed to become permanent? They always take over and they always win and they always turn everything into a machine that serves only to punish the unpopular.

    • dndnrsn says:

      I know nothing about ultimate frisbee and always thought it was supposed to be a super casual game, so the existence of high-level ultimate frisbee is surprising to me, although not that surprising. How did it end up with mandatory mixed-sex leagues at the highest level? That sort of thing is quite unusual.

      • secondcityscientist says:

        It’s not mandatory mixed – there’s three divisions in the tournament, mixed, men’s, women’s. WFDF chose to push ESPN2 to broadcast the Mixed finals, rather than the men’s finals, in it’s premier slot. Semifinals for all divisions and men’s and women’s finals will be on ESPN3 (AKA streaming, not cable).

        • dndnrsn says:

          The existence of a mixed division is highly unusual, is what I mean. Do the players have to choose one, or do you have overlap with the other two?

          • lvlln says:

            So at the highest level – in the USA, that’s the USAU Triple Crown Tour, which involves series of tournaments in the Summer into Fall – there are 3 divisions: Men, Women, Mixed (there’s also Masters and Grandmasters versions of Men and Women open to players above certain ages, but we can ignore that for now). Clubs register for any given division, and players can be members of only 1 club at any given time. So a player might play on a Mixed team one year, but then a Men’s team another year, which is something I’ve seen happen a bunch (e.g. a player named Jeff Graham has played for Boston’s top Men’s team Ironside on some years, but also played for one of their top Mixed teams The Ghosts in other years – but never both in the same year).

            Even without that rule, it wouldn’t make sense for a player to play for 2 clubs of different divisions at any given time, because you have to practice with your team and learn the team’s system, develop chemistry, etc.

            Likewise for international competitions like the world championships, each country sends 3 teams, 1 for each division, with any given player only on 1 of those 3 teams, with zero crossover. Often, players on the Mixed international team actually play on Men’s or Women’s club teams. In the recent World Games, there was just one division, the Mixed, and I believe all 14 players on the roster came from Men’s or Women’s club teams – because the top 7 players of each gender in the USA as selected during tryouts played on single-gender teams rather than Mixed teams.

            I think Mixed might exist at the top levels for ultimate due to its history of being a hippy sport where teams were just formed from whatever players were available. As such, most local leagues are strictly Mixed. I’m actually not familiar with the exact history of how the divisions came about that led to Mixed sticking around as the top levels developed, but I imagine that legacy played into a lot of the best teams around being Mixed.

        • random832 says:

          I’m a little confused why the other divisions exist. If a sport *can* be mixed (i.e. there aren’t large differences in ability or interest that would cause one gender to dominate a mixed league), what’s the point in having segregation at all?

          • lvlln says:

            There are large differences in ability (and interest) between men and women. Even though ultimate players don’t scrape the top limits of human athleticism like major mainstream sports, at the elite level, they’re close enough to the limits such that the average player on a men’s team is going to be faster, stronger, capable of jumping higher, and capable of throwing farther than the best women players (not to mention just plain taller and bigger). Women do tend to be capable of changing direction more quickly, which is a major advantage, but it’s not enough.

            For instance, the semi-pro league AUDL is Open, which means men and women are free to try out and play on the team – there are no gender requirements. In all of the 20-something teams with 20-something players on each roster, there is one woman, who plays for a team that went winless.

            A lot of players prefer to play in single-gender divisions, because they don’t have to deal with those big physical gaps. In Mixed, you have to be more careful about throwing long to a woman even if she’s open, because a man who wasn’t on her might overtake her and block the disc. You also have to be more flexible about how fast you throw those long throws and how much float you put on them, because the top speed of your male receivers and female receivers are going to be very different. Also men have to be more careful about playing physical with women who tend to be smaller, while women have to be more wary about getting accidentally trucked by a man who might not be that careful (here is an example of a play that could’ve gone very badly if the male player hadn’t been so good about keeping his body away from the woman). A lot of players just don’t like dealing with any of that, which is why I think the top talent of both genders gravitate toward the single-gender divisions.

            That said, those are exactly the reasons I enjoy watching and playing Mixed.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Are there sports where large differences in ability don’t lead to one gender dominating? Sports were pretty much made by men for men to compete against men, so they’re designed to showcase male abilities. The things designed for women to compete against women are generally not called sports.

          • Randy M says:

            Well, there’s chess-boxing to allow nerds and jocks to compete with both their strengths relevant. I suppose someone could suggest a version to appeal to both masculine and feminine strengths.
            Ikebana-Shot Put, perhaps?

            More seriously, cooking or singing competitions. Purely physical events will almost certainly be dominated by men the high testosterone cohort.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Jaskologist

            Smallbore rifle competition is one. Yep, the NRA leading the way for gender equality in sports 🙂

      • Odovacer says:

        Tennis Grand Slams have mixed doubles. Some levels of badminton do as well. Though the sex segregated matches are more popular.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Types_of_tennis_match#Mixed_doubles

    • secondcityscientist says:

      I can’t comment in terms of high-level ultimate broadcast, except to say that as 90% of the organized Ultimate games I’ve played have been mixed, I’d much rather watch a broadcast of a mixed league than a men’s or women’s league. I also agree that having a high-level mixed league would be an interesting way to differentiate the sport from other high-level sports leagues, although I don’t know what exactly a high-level mixed game looks like. It’s possible that it looks too much like 4-on-4 rather than 7-on-7. I will check out the broadcast, though the difference between ESPN2 and ESPN3 is essentially nothing to me.

      I’ve played off-and-on in a Chicago Summer Hat league, along with my wife. The league here has a less strict gender ratio of about 60:40, which men can get through by registering with a woman or registering very early. Some people game this by registering with a woman who has no intention of playing, which is a kinda shitty thing to do, but that doesn’t happen super often. There is (or at least was) an overflow league for men who didn’t sign up on time or with a woman, which I had to play in one year.

      There’s a big difference in the game when it’s played 5-2 vs 4-3. At 5-2, it’s way too easy for the offense to operate without passing to the women. A 4-3 offense can try to operate like that, but it will be very easily disrupted if the other team has even one woman who notices that it’s happening. Also, at 5-2 there’s a good possibility that women on one of the teams are playing <=50% of the points, which can combine with being shut out of the offense to discourage them from continuing to play ultimate, or at least summer league ultimate. Summer league mostly wants to grow the community and be welcoming to newcomers, so having a newer woman feel like she's barely playing and never passed to when she is playing is something they want to avoid. When I got stuck in the overflow league, I was pretty upset that it existed and I was locked out of the "real" league, but talking to my wife about what sorts of games make her feel included and what make her feel locked out, I think it's a wise choice to try to keep the league to ~40% women.

      Again, I don't know much about high-level ultimate and I've only been to one AUDL game. But at the hat-league level, most of the young people are huge hippies and most of the older people are high school teachers – basically exactly who you'd expect to take social equity seriously. Plus, a majority of the people who actually run the Chicago league are women, because they're the people who volunteer to do it. You (or someone) might be able to convince the Boston crowd to have an overflow league, but you're not going to convince them to make life unpleasant for the women who play.

      • lvlln says:

        I’m pretty ambivalent about what version of ultimate I watch – I too have only played Mixed (from 4/3 to 6/1), and I enjoy the dynamics of Mixed a lot, but at the top levels, the fact that the players on the Women’s and Men’s divisions tend to be better athletes and more skilled than the players on the Mixed divisions helps makes up the difference. Push come to shove, I might prefer the Women’s division the most as a spectator, because it features the best female athletes, and because it focuses more on small quick passes or pinpoint precise hucks than the Men’s game, which tends to be dominated by huge floating hucks that they depend on the super-athletic receivers to chase down.

        But my preference isn’t really the issue – what I’d like to see is for spectator ultimate to be a thing outside the community of ultimate players, like the mainstream sports (i.e. what % of people who watch American football actually play football on a regular basis? I’m guessing way less than 50%. For ultimate, that’s probably at least in the 80s, if not 90s – high 90s if you include friends/family of the players). For that, I don’t find any argument particularly convincing, but I think there’s merit to the argument that empirically Men’s division of sports – including ultimate – have drawn more fans, and so that’s the one we want to put front and center for growing the sport. And ESPN2 vs 3 is also a huge difference in this, because ESPN2 is actually on cable TV, something that’s still hugely popular in vast swaths of the population, and something that one could conceivably stumble upon. ESPN3 is online streaming-only, which means you actually have to know to seek out the stream (especially since ultimate is still under the section “Games,” whose only other content I’ve seen listed is “Darts”).

        For the BUDA 3/3 thing, the issues you raised are the exact same ones raised by BUDA to justify their decision. One problem I see, though, is that these are just self-reported perceptions – do we actually have empirical evidence that this gender exclusion in play in 5-2 and, to a lesser extent, 4-3, is really happening? Obviously perception matters, but if perception doesn’t accurately reflect reality, the healthy thing seems to be to change the perception to match reality rather than changing reality and hoping perception changes. I do think it’s important to try to get the ratio of women in the leagues higher – my dream scenario would be all leagues having 50/50 split with points alternating 4/3 and 3/4, with the AUDL switching to a 4/4 Mixed league (their YUGE fields mean an 8th player on each team could work, IMHO). But the reality is, we’re not there yet, and it’s also possible we’ll never be there, just because of differences in preferences (it’s entirely possible that as we become more egalitarian, the gender balance will worsen, in fact).

        • dndnrsn says:

          Side thought: what sports are there where over 50% of the spectators are themselves participants, at some level or another?

          I would be willing to bet that well over 50% of people who have watched BJJ, for example, are at least recreationally active in that. (But it’s really boring to watch unless you know what’s going on. And even then it’s boring)

          • moonfirestorm says:

            Pretty much every eSport would count, if you want to include them. As well as stuff like Magic: The Gathering.

            Of course, those don’t show up on ESPN much.

          • Brad says:

            I fenced for four years in high school. My parents came to one match, decided it was really boring and never showed up again.

          • Randy M says:

            For me it’s hard to make mtg interesting to spectate unless it’s well edited and there’s good commentary–moreso than real other sports, I think. (Look up command tower game knights for the most entertaining version I’ve seen).

            @Brad: I just started fencing last week. Pretty neat sport, lots of tactics, but I imagine you’re anneccdote is representative because it is hard to catch or understand the critical details of a match due to the speed and fineness of the movements in the deciding moments.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I was at a HEMA event (Longpoint) in Baltimore a few weeks ago. Practically everyone there looked like they could wield a longsword, sword/buckler, saber, or grapple Ringen-style, or planned to do so within a year.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            @Randy M:

            I agree. In particular, you really need to know the particulars of the deck and the cards played, and even if they’re showing the cards in high detail on screen it’s tough to parse the strategic implications quickly.

            There’s a similar problem for stuff like League of Legends where you need to know the character abilities, but there are less than 200 characters in League and the same 15-30 will show up in every game for months, giving you time to learn a bit more. Magic has 200+ cards just in its most recent set.

            It’s also very hard to turn “a player calmly thinking, then laying a card down on the table” into an exciting moment. At least League has explosions and dramatic visuals to help hype the audience up. Magic is something that can easily be played to a full tournament level in a library.

        • secondcityscientist says:

          I definitely think there are people who will turn off a broadcast of women’s sports for no other reason than the fact that it’s women’s sports, while they’d keep a men’s broadcast on. But mixed isn’t women’s sports, it’s mixed. I think that USAU can make a good case that a lot of data on women’s sports viewership levels won’t be applicable to a mixed broadcast. To the extent that men’s games devolve into field-length hucks (something I definitely saw at my one AUDL game), it might be better to have a mixed game broadcast.

          On your local league level, you’re not going to get touches and throws data from a hat league. The empirical data you’re going to get is retention rate – how many first-time players come back next year – and survey data. If it’s just one person complaining about touches, you’re right that’s not enough. But if a large portion of the women in the league say “At 5-2 I feel like I don’t get enough playing time and get locked out of the offense, at 4-3 it’s much better” then at some level that becomes useful survey data. The goal for summer league especially isn’t exactly equitable touches for every player, it’s for everyone in the league to have a good time and to feel included on their team. Someone reporting “I don’t feel included and am not enjoying myself” is relevant data for that goal.

          Also, regarding your original “The SJWs have infiltrated Ultimate” point: I don’t know how long you’ve played ultimate, or at what level. The Chicago summer hat league I’ve played in has existed for around 25 years, and I’ve played in it for around 10. It’s always been very focused on gender equity and on spirit-of-the-game, and generally full of hippies – even among the very good players. 10 years is well before most of the current culture wars took off (though of course there were still other, slightly different culture wars then). I think you’d be more accurate to say that the hippies from ultimate took their views mainstream than that ultimate has been taken over.

          • lvlln says:

            I definitely think there are people who will turn off a broadcast of women’s sports for no other reason than the fact that it’s women’s sports, while they’d keep a men’s broadcast on. But mixed isn’t women’s sports, it’s mixed. I think that USAU can make a good case that a lot of data on women’s sports viewership levels won’t be applicable to a mixed broadcast.

            I find this argument plausible. However, the empirical evidence also shows that when Men’s, Women’s and Mixed ultimate games have been broadcast in the past, the Men’s broadcast have out-performed the others. So I also find the argument that Men’s would be the best showcase for growing the ultimate-watching audience to be plausible. Now, the fact that the empirical evidence is from ESPN3 and that different divisions were streamed at different time slots may mean that that empirical evidence isn’t that indicative.

            I think both perspectives are healthy, and I have no problem with USAU’s decision to showcase Mixed. Unfortunately it won’t be a natural experiment, but its performance may provide some more data to think about going forward. What I do find problematic is how Ultiworld’s EIC has been treated for making his argument that USAU is making a mistake, as if such an argument were verboten and offensive to principles of ultimate and its community.

            On your local league level, you’re not going to get touches and throws data from a hat league. The empirical data you’re going to get is retention rate – how many first-time players come back next year – and survey data. If it’s just one person complaining about touches, you’re right that’s not enough. But if a large portion of the women in the league say “At 5-2 I feel like I don’t get enough playing time and get locked out of the offense, at 4-3 it’s much better” then at some level that becomes useful survey data. The goal for summer league especially isn’t exactly equitable touches for every player, it’s for everyone in the league to have a good time and to feel included on their team. Someone reporting “I don’t feel included and am not enjoying myself” is relevant data for that goal.

            I agree that retention is the relevant stat. But, again, if lack of retention is driven by misperception, then it seems to me that the best thing to do is to correct the perception instead of “correcting” reality. Especially when “correcting” reality has real costs. There’s also the question of if actually having a 50/50 gender split would alleviate the issue; if it was a misperception, it’s very possible that women might still feel like they’re being looked off even if the reality is that everything really is 50/50.

            It behooves us to get an accurate assessment of reality before attempting to make corrections that have real cost to real people. I don’t like that, from what BUDA presented to the public, there’s no evidence that such attempts were made, or that any thought was put into it more than just the faith that having a 50/50 gender split will alleviate the issues.

            Also, regarding your original “The SJWs have infiltrated Ultimate” point: I don’t know how long you’ve played ultimate, or at what level. The Chicago summer hat league I’ve played in has existed for around 25 years, and I’ve played in it for around 10. It’s always been very focused on gender equity and on spirit-of-the-game, and generally full of hippies – even among the very good players. 10 years is well before most of the current culture wars took off (though of course there were still other, slightly different culture wars then). I think you’d be more accurate to say that the hippies from ultimate took their views mainstream than that ultimate has been taken over.

            I never said that SJWs “infiltrated” ultimate. I was very specific in my wording that they had seemed to have “gained sufficient clout to start throwing its weight around.” I’ve been playing ultimate for close to 20 years now, and I’ve observed that it’s a very much leftist space. As a far-leftist myself and one who cares deeply about achieving gender equity, I fit right in. But SJW is something very different from merely being leftist or being pro-gender equity. It means, among other things, a tendency to treat certain issues like literal total war, where any and every destructive action is allowed as long as it hurts the enemy.

            Again, I don’t think this was an infiltration of any sort. I think the ultimate community, which was already quite leftist, has seen SJW tendencies grow. Cultivated within, with inputs from outside, of course. This is what makes things even more worrying. As a player and fan of ultimate, I want to see ultimate continue its growth so that its players and fans cover people of all sorts. It’s unrealistic, but I’d love it if the coverage got to the level of baseball or American football. I don’t care about the politics of the people that get covered, whether they be far left like me or they be literal white supremacists or Nazis – in fact, I find the act of caring about that to be utterly reprehensible and ethically bankrupt. And I worry that the fact that the SJW takeover has been cultivated from within means that ultimate’s growth will be kneecapped by strong efforts to make sure that dogmatic purity is prioritized over all else.

          • secondcityscientist says:

            @lvlln I guess I didn’t really see the pushback on Ultiworld being that strong. The author of the piece you linked to said “I think the goal should be to get the most people watching the broadcast, at the expense of any other priorities” and the community – really, something in the neighborhood of four people – said “No, that’s not our priority, our priorities are promotion of the game on our terms (including gender equity but also including SOTG), not on ESPN’s terms”. Other people agreed with you, other people thought that Mixed might be good on other merits in addition to GE. Ultimate has some very vocal feminists and leftists among its community, but I haven’t seen it devolve into total war yet.

          • lvlln says:

            I haven’t seen it devolve into total war yet.

            Here’s to hoping it stays that way. Having seen up close what happened in atheist/skeptic and gaming communities, the SJW growth is something I really really hope we can nip in the bud.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      I think I heard about the Magic community and the Warhammer community going through similar stuff, but my perception is that both of those are much more popular or at least long-term resilient than ultimate.

      Dunno about Magic, but it’s dubious for Warhammer. The universe has gotten pretty solid mindshare in the internet meme-o-trons, but the hobby has been struggling for a while. It seems like it might be turning itself around with new management, but for a good stretch of time Games Workshop was eagerly devouring its seed corn. The biggest example being when they essentially killed off their #2 game (Warhammer Fantasy Battles) and replaced it with a dumbed down similiar-ish game (Age of Sigmar) with most recognizable factions replaced with bizarro-verse equivalents they can slap trademarks all over. And a plethora of godawful video games they shilled out their license to (there have been good GW games, but good lord they’ve given the 40k branding to a lot of absolutely terrible ones).

      To my knowledge there haven’t been any major SJW kerfuffles in the warhammer space, though there’s the usual ridiculous gender imbalance. But then I’ve been away from the tabletop scene for some years now, so I dunno for sure.

      Calling Warhammer more popular than ultimate frisbee gave me a good laugh, though, so thanks for that 🙂

      • Orpheus says:

        To my knowledge there haven’t been any major SJW kerfuffles in the warhammer space

        Feast your eyes:
        https://www.themarysue.com/warhammer-40k-fandom-fascism/amp/

        • Deiseach says:

          I think I need to go bang my head off the wall a couple times to clear it after reading that article.

          Warhammer 40K is a parody of space fascism! Well, yeah, we kinda knew that.

          These people are taking it seriously! Er, no. How about maybe they’re satirically/parodically/tongue-in-cheek photo-manipulating images of Trump as the God-Emperor because they think it’s funny/it’s all part of the “be hanged for a sheep as a lamb”/it makes guys like you clutch their pearls and run around shrieking, which is all part of the fun?

          The self-regarding “I’m smart enough to know W40K is meant as a joke and a satire, they’re so dumb they think it’s cool and serious” tone of that article is enough to make me go “Bah, sonny, don’t think you can impress me with your 140 bucks hand-painted minatures, I was buying White Dwarf back in the 80s, even before it went full-on Games Workshop trade magazine-cum-sales catalogue! I know who The Black Currant was!”

          (Note: not making any claims to be a Real Gamer and certainly never played the games, but got into reading White Dwarf via Steve Jackson and Ian Livingston’s Choose Your Own Adventure books, which tells you how old I am).

    • moonfirestorm says:

      Magic has a few SJ-related incidents now and then. Some of the early art is pretty male-gaze (Elvish Ranger and Earthbind are classic examples), but Wizards has started being a bit more inclusive, with openly gay characters (Daxos and Tiro of Meletis), non-gender-binary (Yahenni and the other aetherborn) and even a transgender character (Alesha, Who Smiles at Death)

      The advantage is that most of this is related to the flavor of the game, which mostly means art and flavor text. And the seriously dedicated players who might get annoyed by hamfisted diversity, are more interested in the text box than the art.

      It also helps that these characters are basically casually thrown into big, cool worlds, and the story is interesting without having to rely on the importance of Having a Diverse Character. Alesha got her own story article I think, but even that was as much about the tribe she lived in as her personal journey.

      There has been occasional talk about trying to make Magic less hostile to women though, usually with a lot of anecdotes about bad-smelling nerds or arrogant elitists. I don’t think either one really pattern-matches to sexism, though: there are people who are going to beat a girl playing a casual deck and sneer at her, but they’re also going to sneer at a guy playing the same deck.

      So far, nothing’s really come out of it, but Magic does have an abundance of particularly easy targets.

      • ManyCookies says:

        The MtG folks have made pretty strong efforts to diversify characters in artwork for a few years now; gender balance amongst all combat roles, darker skin tones etc etc. . But again, it’s all on very small artwork you’d need to squint at to even notice details like skin color and gender. There’s a ton of great art going to waste on those 1 by 1 inch canvas.

        The Alesha story really didn’t put that much emphasis on her trans-ness, to the extent that I completely missed it on my first readthrough! I only caught it after the reddit thread had like 5 times as many comments as story threads usually had.

  6. Tibor says:

    (reposting from OT 80.50 where I posted it a few hours ago…but I expect it to be dead soon)

    Short version: I’m looking for people to go hiking with in the second half of August around Sydney or possibly Melbourne.

    Long version: I’m visiting Australia between the 12th and 26th of August, I’m visiting a friend who however leaves after my first week in Sydney (windsurfing on Mauritius, I guess Australia is too cold for her now). My plan is to go hiking in one of the national parks around there, but from what people told me (even here), hiking is not as safe over there as it is in Europe, so it might be a good idea not to do it alone. I don’t know anyone else in Australia though, so I’m looking for someone who’s willing to go on a hiking trip with a complete stranger (unless you count this forum, I suppose), a group of people is also fine, perhaps better.

    I don’t have a clear plan yet, so we could tweak to the needs and wishes of the group. I’d like to do a 5-day trip but a couple of shorter trips would also be fine. If you’re from around Melbourne and would like to do that, that’s also a possibility, the flight is like 90 minutes, so I guess I could do that, although it would be more convenient to go somewhere from Sydney (my flight back to Europe is from Sydney as well).

    Let me know here if you’d be interested and I can give you more personal info (short version – I’m 28, Czech, finishing PhD in probability theory, I speak Czech, English, German, some Portuguese and Spanish but I guess everyone here speaks very good English anyway, so the language should not be an issue) and more importantly an e-mail address or something so we can discuss things further (I can also send you my photo so you can decide whether I look like an ax murderer or just a knife stabber).

    If you don’t want to join yourselves but know some people who might, please let them know. Likewise, if you know any Aussie forums where to post an ad, let me know as well. I already posted one on Australian Explorer and Gumtree.

    Thanks a lot and G’day!

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      I regret that I can’t afford a trip to Australia on that date. But I did at least want to encourage this sort of outreach, particularly outdoor activities. (I’m usually on the US east coast myself. Eventually I plan to make a few more big trips to various US parks, though.)

    • Cheese says:

      > but from what people told me (even here), hiking is not as safe over there as it is in Europe, so it might be a good idea not to do it alone.

      Bit weird. Your 2 main differences here are a) remoteness is greater and b) snakes/spiders. A is easily mitigated with proper planning and an EPIRB (always take a fucking EPIRB!!!). B is easily mitigated with correct care taken and proper clothing. Mind you I am West Coast so the cold factor does not really exist for me.

      Anyway. I have seen people have success on reddit, both r/Australia and particularly the city subreddits in finding people for similar pursuits. I would think that would be the best option for you. Failing that I would simply make my way up to the Blue Mountain towns and stay in backpackers. You will find plenty of potential companions there or, failing that, there are a decent number of walks that i’d be comfortable doing solo.

  7. Aapje says:

    I happened upon a gender-related article that claims that a major source of bias among social psychologist is the papers they cite in their work. As evidence, the writer presents some papers and their cite counts, where he claims that the scientifically worse papers, with ‘politically correct’ outcomes get more cites than the scientifically better papers. He counts scientific quality by sample size, scope, whether it is a meta-analysis or a single study and multiple measurements over a long time vs a single measurement.

    I consider it quite plausible that scientists would engage in cherry picking based on their biases and this seems like an obvious failure mode in science, given that for many claims, you can find both papers that show a significant effect and those that don’t (or show a significant effect for an incompatible claim). There are also quite a few papers that have conclusions far beyond or even inconsistent with what the study itself shows. These could also be falsely be used to argue in a paper that a premise is most likely true.

    However, his example is itself scientifically weak (by his own standard) given the small sample size, scope, it not being a meta-analysis and just one measurement. So I was wondering whether people here know about more comprehensive research into scientific cherry picking, discussions about this phenomenon and such.

    I could imagine that using network analysis, you might even be able to find ‘bubbles’ in scientific fields, where you’d find that a group of scientists form a network that prefer to cite papers with certain outcomes and papers written by each other, while another group does the same for other papers and also cite each other. One might then challenge the each group to address the most cited paper by the other group, create bipartisan research groups, etc, etc.

  8. Deiseach says:

    Britain is introducing legislation to ban all non-electric cars and vans from 2040 onwards, for the sake of controlling air pollution. There have been the usual suspects moaning this doesn’t go far enough, but forgetting about them – what is the general opinion on here? Good idea, dumb idea but it’s all politics, quick buy shares in Tesla now you’re gonna make a fortune in 20 years, what?

    • bean says:

      I suspect that this will lead to revolution, and Jeremy Clarkson being made Dictator.

    • Brad says:

      It seems a little early. If it isn’t going into effect for another 13 years why does it need to be introduced now? Does anyone really need that much lead time to stop selling non-hybrid vehicles?

    • John Schilling says:

      Well, the politicians making this promise will presumably all have retired by 2040 so they get all of the credit now whether it works or not and none of the blame then if it doesn’t work. The politicians of 2035 will get at most a minority share of the credit if it works, but all of the blame if it doesn’t because they’ll be right there and they could have stopped it and because unlike credit, blame has to attach itself to someone who is around to be blamed and shamed if at all possible.

      So unless the electric cars of 2035 are really fantastic, better than petrol or diesel in every way and cheap enough for the working class to afford, there will be a temporary extension of the mandate until, well, whenever most of the politicians in office in 2035 can expect to be safely retired.

    • skef says:

      My view is that an announcement like this makes such a ban politically possible, where it wouldn’t be otherwise. If in 2035 everything is pointing towards electric vehicles, and regulators want to make that official, there would be a lot of “how can you do this with no warning?!?” uproar. An announcement like this now is for a “don’t say that we didn’t warn you” later.

    • buy shares in Tesla now

      Risky if Tesla isn’t one of the ones who makes it when electric cars become dominant.

    • The Nybbler says:

      It’s sort of like banning the incandescent light bulb without any adequate replacement. Which they also did. But no doubt it will happen, and go worldwide, and quality of life will just get a lot worse for relatively little gain.

    • Fossegrimen says:

      I’ve been pootling around in a Tesla Model S for the last couple years and I think this is a totally pointless legislation as given another two decades of progress on EVs, there won’t be a demand for fossil fuel ones.

  9. James Miller says:

    Trump’s ban on transgendered people in the military is a political masterstroke. Trump can frame this decision as coming out of a cost/benefit calculation. But for the left, not discriminating against transgendered people is a sacred value and even admitting that their might be any benefit to not allowing transgendered in the military is considered disgusting/evil and a sign that you are on the side of the hated enemy. Consequently, moderates are likely to notice that the right is able to discuss this issue far more rationally than the left, and that the left seems unhinged when debating this issue. Since the left is attempting to frame Trump as being beyond reason, having a national debate on transgendered people in the military will cause Trump to seem saner to most Americans. Of course, none of this means that the decision was correct from a military viewpoint.

    • Brad says:

      I hate to disappoint, but the debate so far seems to including questioning the cost/benefit calculation rather than posited (and much desired) unhinged rhetoric. For example, I’ve already seen comparison’s to the military’s spending on Viagra and on the cost of Trump’s golf trips.

      • gbdub says:

        comparison’s to the military’s spending on Viagra

        Which is really dumb. I highly suspect that the military spends much less on Viagra per soldier using it than they do on gender-transition drugs and surgeries, per soldier affected. There’s also the part where the transitioning service member has to be on limited, non-deployable duty for a very long time (min 6 months) where they are of limited utility, stressing the readiness of their home unit, and still collecting full pay and benefits (which is not included in the cost calculation).

        Presumably the Viagra users can still serve in their normal role.

        • Brad says:

          Yep it’s silly. Silly on about the same level as worrying about a few tens of millions of dollars in medical treatment costs for a function we spend more than half a trillion a year on.

          It isn’t hysterical and it isn’t invoking unshared “sacred values”.

          • Spookykou says:

            Silly on about the same level as worrying about a few tens of millions of dollars in medical treatment costs for a function we spend more than half a trillion a year on.

            I thought that restrictions on who could serve in the military(NASA, etc) were primarily about reducing cost per person. Is it your contention that all such restrictions are silly, or do you have a vague cost per person at which you feel these restrictions should be lifted? As someone ineligible for military service I am personally curious.

          • Brad says:

            If the military were a lean mean fighting machine, I’d say okay don’t pay for gender reassignment. But when we have to build the F-35 in 200 Congressional districts and can’t close military bases that make no sense–inefficiencies that sure run into the many billions–they can make this gesture too.

          • Spookykou says:

            I think I might understand, while there is not much society gains by, for instance, letting tall people be astronauts. The broader goal of increasing acceptance of transgender people in society will be reinforced symbolically by their acceptance into the military, which makes this particular deviation from standard military policy acceptable/laudable.

          • James Miller says:

            Brad,

            The more money the military wastes on X, the more important it becomes for the military to not unwisely spend money on Y.

          • Aapje says:

            X is inefficient, so it is acceptable to introduce more inefficiency is not a very compelling argument.

          • Randy M says:

            X is inefficient, so it is acceptable to introduce more inefficiency is not a very compelling argument.

            The level in budgeting between “too little to matter” and “too important to touch” is very thin.

          • Brad says:

            It seems awfully convenient to pick this hill to die on in terms of cost inefficiency in such an inefficient and expensive organization.

            Who’s pushing sacred values now?

          • Aapje says:

            @brad

            It seems awfully convenient to pick this hill to die on in terms of cost inefficiency in such an inefficient and expensive organization.

            Why do you treat inefficiency and total expenses the same in your argument? These are very different things.

            I don’t accept the idea that scaling up somehow makes it more acceptable to waste money. IMO, it is more legitimate to argue the opposite: US taxpayers are already spending $$$ per capita on the military, so it makes sense to put extra effort into making the military more efficient, because that effort will pay off much more than if the US optimizes a minor expenditure.

            Secondly, if you want trans people to have access to gender-transition treatment, why would you want to hamper the military, rather than make the gender-transition treatment available in a sensible way that doesn’t harm part of your government that is not intended as part of the welfare state?

            Perhaps you are reasoning that in the absence of universal healthcare, you have to take what you can get, rather than what makes sense. This seems to be the best steelmanned defense of having the military accept transgender recruits, pay for their treatment and then have them not being able to do their job (because a dependency on medicines that the logistical system cannot run up to the battle zone means that you can’t deploy them).

            But then make that actual argument if that’s what you believe. The ‘costs are not too high’ is never an argument for something until you actually make a good case that the benefits are worth the costs and cannot be achieved in a better way.

          • Brad says:

            @Aapje

            But then make that actual argument if that’s what you believe.

            That’s not the argument I’m making at all. Don’t put words in my mouth.

            I’m making the argument that in our society we don’t treat the military as solely how can we get the most efficient fighting force for the least amount of money. Not even close. We treat the half trillion dollars a year in expenditures as a giant Christmas tree everyone can hang their wish list off.

            You want to change that culture, fine go ahead and try. You all of a sudden get religion on the importance of efficiency when it comes to a tiny cost for transgender people and I don’t believe it’s really about the money for you.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Politicians and those they’ve promised pork to treat the half trillion dollars a year in expenditures as a giant Christmas tree everyone can hang their wish list off.

            I don’t think anybody considers MIC pork bloat a good thing, other than the MIC. Just ’cause we aren’t rioting in the streets over it doesn’t mean we like it.

          • Aapje says:

            @Brad

            It’s not hypocritical to ‘get religion’ when there is a (perceived) change for the worse.

            Plenty of people really dislike that manufacturing happens in specific places for pork reasons, rather than select the cheapest and best manufacturer. It’s just (probably) not something that is getting any worse, changes in a way that invites commentary, etc. So it’s not something that comes up often and/or provides an occasion where many people want to weigh in at once.

            It’s like shitty work conditions in the third world. Plenty of people dislike that, but it takes a special event, like a factory collapsing for the debate to happen.

            Arguments of the type ‘you’re not complaining about X, so why are you now complaining about Y’ generally are pretty ignorant of how debating dynamics work, deeper motivations, etc and they generally can be levied against any group, because the same dynamics happen everywhere.

            It’s about as useful as ‘Stop being human!’

        • Gobbobobble says:

          Presumably the Viagra users can still serve in their normal role.

          Right – why should the military be paying for any elective procedure that removes you from active duty?

          (And if dysphoria means that “elective” is inaccurate, congrats, you get a medical discharge)

      • albatross11 says:

        Yeah, the viagra meme is hypocrisy-hunting and outrage-farming, not any attempt to address the actual costs and benefits of the issue.

        I suspect this isn’t a winning issue for Democrats, but the public polling numbers are more balanced than I expected:

        This article summarizes results of polling the *public* saying that about 23% of people thought letting transgender people in the military improved military readiness, 38% thought it would have no effect, and 31% thought it would be bad for military readiness.

        At a guess, Republicans lose very few voters blocking this policy.

        This poll of serving members of the military was much more negative about the whole thing–only 12% thought it was good for military readiness while 41% thought it was bad.

        That suggests that it might not be a bad decision for Democrats to support it, but it’s not at all popular in the military. I don’t know how much of that is based on the mostly red tribe makeup of the military, and how much is based on a better idea of the likely complications.

        • Randy M says:

          This article summarizes results of polling the *public* saying that about 23% of people thought letting transgender people in the military improved military readiness, 38% thought it would have no effect, and 31% thought it would be bad for military readiness.

          This is such a stupid way to frame it. What does the average member of the public know about military readiness? Can the average person polled give the price of gender transition treatments to within an order of magnitude, or that of the military budget? Can they give a non-laughable assessment of military readiness now, or even what the term includes?

          The proper question for the public is of values. “Is it worth risking some military effectiveness to advance equality between transsexuals and non-transexual soldiers or not?”

          • bean says:

            The proper question for the public is of values. “Is it worth risking some military effectiveness to advance equality between transsexuals and non-transexual soldiers or not?”

            I’m not even sure that’s a proper question. Even I would not seriously say that any risk to any amount of military effectiveness is unacceptable in the name of equality. Was there a small initial dip in effectiveness when Truman ordered integration in the 40s? Probably, but I think it was the right decision in the long run. But you’d have me answering ‘yes’ to your question, which is not the same as saying I’d support the policy under discussion.
            (Or I might say ‘no’ because I know what you’re actually asking. But in any case, you’re not really providing information.)

          • Autistic Cat says:

            @Randy Let’s stop talking about values. Values are why liberals support anything that is pro-LGBT and conservative Christians oppose everything that is pro-LGBT regardless of the actual merits of these issues. Values are why we have Blues, Reds, Browns and other crazy groups. Values are why the public can’t have calm discussions on these issues.

            Values have to get out of the way for any practical decision to be made. That include liberal values, Christian values, Nazi values, Communist values, whatever.

            When faced with a real life issue let’s talk about facts, costs/benefits and reality, not ideologies, values or religions.

          • Urstoff says:

            You can’t remove values when it comes to questions of social (particularly state/public) institutions. I think both liberals and conservatives agree on that score.

          • Spookykou says:

            @Autistic Cat

            I think Randy is just/mostly speaking to the survey design here.

          • albatross11 says:

            Surely we also want to think about how much. If the only way to support transgender rights were to shut down the military, that’d lead to a different situation than if it would add 0.01% to the military budget.

          • albatross11 says:

            Values matter, and so do costs, both because we don’t all agree on values, and because we don’t all hold each of our values equally strongly. Convince me that free speech predictably leads to another holocaust in my lifetime, and I’ll stop sending periodic checks to the ACLU.

          • Mary says:

            “costs/benefits ”

            By including that, you contradict yourself. You can not evaluate any costs or benefits or indeed anything at all, without values. Have you never seen a discussion on policy where someone mentions a cost, and someone else proclaims it an added benefit?

          • Well... says:

            @Autistic Cat: It sounds like you value practicality and factual information. Understand that sometimes those are not the only values people have.

          • Autistic Cat says:

            @Urstoff ..which is why I hate both liberalism and conservatism. Both are insane dogmatic movements. Oh and let’s don’t forget fundamentalists and neo-Nazis. They aren’t better on this one either.
            @albatross11 I want to limit arguments about values because they are generally not very productive.
            @Mary I agree.
            @Well..Yeah. My real values are basically preserving human lives, science, technology, rationality and high living standards. Everything else is just a tool to realize my goal. Ethics exists for the sake of improving human lives instead of existing for its own sake. Hence I would rather have a society that is less egalitarian but has better living standards for all than a society that is poor but strictly egalitarian. To me egalitarianism is merely a tool to promote high living standards for all which is the real goal. Hence if the tool does not work well enough I will discard it.

          • Well... says:

            @Autistic Cat:

            You want to limit arguments about values because you don’t think they’re productive, but you concede that you have your own values toward which you consider everything else just a tool. You surely acknowledge that other people may have different values from you, and will correspondingly see everything else besides their values as a tool.

            Since you don’t want your values used as merely a tool toward other people’s goals and neither do they want their values used as tools toward your goals, y’all’s values may need to be hashed out. Limiting that discussion will not get you past it. Talk about not very productive…

          • Mary says:

            Also you leave in the air the question of what constitutes improvement in human lives. If someone tells you that giving large doses of recreational drugs to certain violent criminals so they spend their lives in a happy drugged stupor, and the rest of us don’t have to fear them, what fact will tell you otherwise?

            Also, you can’t be practical until you decide what to practice. Is ordering the tide out practical? yes, if you want to cure your courtiers of absurd flattery, according to the tale of King Canute.

          • @Autistic Cat

            To me egalitarianism is merely a tool to promote high living standards for all which is the real goal.

            Wary of dogpiling, but no one has pointed this out yet; “high living standards for all” is itself at least based on considering everyone equally up to the base level where we set “high living standards”.

            “Improving human lives” is also an ethical value (as Mary points out), it just happens to be so widely shared and basic that you view it like the fish views water, even though there is actually general wide spread disagreement on what constitutes improvement, even if we take aside the very small amount of people (who do exist) that disagree with the premise itself.

            No one can escape from values, nor really from equality in some sense. I think that there are different kinds of egalitarianism, and I do think that we can’t discuss it properly unless we confine it to a pre-agreed context, equality in of itself being a boundless abstraction, but you can’t really escape from including it in your values on some level unless you’re proposing wacky things like perfectly individualized caste systems with separate law systems for each individual, or barbaric things like pure “might makes right”.

          • Randy M says:

            Surely we also want to think about how much

            I guess I did a bad job explaining my objection. The problem is that the average person is very ill-prepared to evaluate military readiness, costs, benefits, etc., so a survey of what they think about such things doesn’t matter except in the vaguest way. It’s basically just asking “has there been more media chatter recently about a stretched-thin military, or about transgendered unfairness?”

            But since we are a democracy, the values of the average person on the street do matter; that’s what we are optimizing towards. Here’s two good things, how do you weight them relatively?

            It certainly makes sense for generals, congressmen, etc. to study the costs carefully and present their arguments, then try to do what the people want taking that into account. Telling me “the public thinks the military is stretched too thin” doesn’t tell me very much about the military, but it tells me something about the public.

            Ah man, I sound like a technocrat.

          • random832 says:

            @Autistic Cat

            When faced with a real life issue let’s talk about facts, costs/benefits and reality, not ideologies, values or religions.

            The costs/benefits cannot be measured without the values.

      • James Miller says:

        This seems a way to ignore cost/benefit analysis by changing the subject to something completely irrelevant.

        • Corey says:

          Well, nobody can focus on cost-benefit analysis because there’s no there there:

          Costs: rounding error
          Benefits: rounding error

          So all we’re left with is our priors.

    • Autistic Cat says:

      Can we discuss this issue without the usual bluegreensmanship that infests discussions elsewhere?

      Here are my questions:
      1.Are transexual recruits not as good as cissexual recruits on average?
      2.Do transexual recruits consume more resources on average compared to cissexual ones?

      Both are factual questions so your religious and political stances have nothing to do with them.

      • bean says:

        1.Are transexual recruits not as good as cissexual recruits on average?

        Depends. In physical terms, transwomen are probably better than ciswomen. Transmen are almost certainly worse than cismen. In other terms, transsexuals have really high rates of other psychological problems. Since it’s no longer 2006, this is going to mean that they get turned down at really high rates, even if there’s no bias, and that leads to pressure on the military to loosen standards for them. (The same thing happened with women.)

        2.Do transexual recruits consume more resources on average compared to cissexual ones?

        Well, is military healthcare going to cover their treatments? Because those are probably not cheap.
        (Actually, thinking about it, I’m a bit concerned with the military becoming a way for people to transition cheaply. Particularly if we allow them to protect themselves from poor feedback by calling ‘transphobia’.)

        • albatross11 says:

          It’s also reasonable to ask how incorporation of openly trans people will affect the culture of the military and unit cohesion.

          • Well... says:

            In a broader sense, how much can we ask troops to be open-minded and accepting before it causes them to become worse at killing enemies because they’re too empathetic and nurturing? Or does this effect even happen at all? I’m genuinely curious.

      • Urstoff says:

        Even if 1 & 2 are answered in the positive, further argument needs to be made that therefore transgendered individuals should not be allowed in the military.

        • bean says:

          No. The argument should be made that they need to be allowed in, and that it won’t hurt the military too badly. That argument has not been made.

          • Urstoff says:

            I don’t see why either should be assumed to be the default. There’s enough burden of proof to go around.

          • Spookykou says:

            I don’t personally know the answer, but at least in a legal context this probably wouldn’t be a nebulous question.

          • bean says:

            I don’t see why either should be assumed to be the default. There’s enough burden of proof to go around.

            This sort of logic is terrifying to me. It seems intuitively obvious to me that our primary objective here needs to be military effectiveness. Not in the sense that it’s the only thing we care about, but that it gets the highest weight in our optimization algorithm, and that we consider what we’re doing in terms of how it impacts effectiveness before we do it. As such, when you’re talking about a change like this, burden of proof should be on the people wanting the change, not on those saying ‘don’t mess with the machine until you’re sure’.

          • Brad says:

            @bean
            Aren’t transgender people allowed and in right now? Why are you saying the status quo is that they are? (Unless I’m misreading you.)

          • Montfort says:

            As such, when you’re talking about a change like this, burden of proof should be on the people wanting the change, not on those saying ‘don’t mess with the machine until you’re sure’.

            But in this case, the change is not letting trans people in.

          • bean says:

            Aren’t transgender people allowed and in right now? Why are you saying the status quo is that they are? (Unless I’m misreading you.)

            I think you are. The traditional position is that they aren’t allowed in. They may have been allowed in or to remain in after coming out, for a very brief period (less than a year). I don’t feel like digging through DoD policy documents right now to figure out what was/is actually going on. (If you think I’m being a wimp, try it yourself.) It certainly hasn’t been in effect long enough for me to consider it a safe status quo. We know not letting them in works. Anyone who says that we’ve learned from the last year that letting them in does work, particularly without being able to show me a really detailed research paper on the matter, is just being dishonest.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Aren’t transgender people allowed and in right now? Why are you saying the status quo is that they are? (Unless I’m misreading you.)

            Short answer is “it’s complicated”. Until 2016 active hormone treatment was included among the psychoactive drugs that could preclude enlistment (without a waiver at least) and actual surgery was off the table for active duty personnel (grounds for a med-board). Obama instructed the DoD to “accommodate trans-people where ever possible” but didn’t specify what that actually meant, leading to the current mess of vague conflicting rules, and general state of confusion.

          • Urstoff says:

            This sort of logic is terrifying to me. It seems intuitively obvious to me that our primary objective here needs to be military effectiveness.

            I’ll hope that’s hyperbole and that you’re not literally terrified. Military effectiveness is clearly a major objective, but it’s not the only objective that matters (hence why we don’t spend, say, 10% instead of 3% on our defense budget).

            It’s really a hopeless argument on either side, though. Everyone nominally cares about inclusiveness in social institutions, but those who don’t like transgendered people will think that the loss of effectiveness (if there is one) will be too much, and those who like transgendered people will think the loss (if there is one) is worth it. I doubt you could get either side to give a commitment on exactly how much of a loss of effectiveness is acceptable in the name of inclusion (unless it’s zero or a number that is implausibly large).

          • bean says:

            I’ll hope that’s hyperbole and that you’re not literally terrified.

            A little bit of hyperbole.

            Military effectiveness is clearly a major objective, but it’s not the only objective that matters (hence why we don’t spend, say, 10% instead of 3% on our defense budget).

            I wasn’t referring to the entire government, I was referring to how we run the military, which is what this case was about. And I explicitly rejected military effectiveness as the sole and only consideration earlier in this very thread, even though I think it deserves the highest weight in this discussion. And I see no indications that it was even on the table for those who proposed this policy.

      • John Schilling says:

        Here are my questions:
        1.Are transexual recruits not as good as cissexual recruits on average?
        2.Do transexual recruits consume more resources on average compared to cissexual ones?

        The third and by far the most important question is, does the presence of transgendered troops adversely affect morale and cohesion among the 99.5% of soldiers who are not transgendered.

        My suspicion is that the answer is “probably not, but hamfisted attempts to make the Army into an LGBT safe space will”. Or maybe the military will do it right. But that question hasn’t been answered yet, and people refuse to ask it in favor of softball questions are the main cause for skepticism about the answer.

      • Corey says:

        Can we discuss this issue without the usual bluegreensmanship that infests discussions elsewhere?

        I’ll take a stab: I have a criticism that it’s really incoherent policy, because nobody, possibly including Trump, has any idea what it *means*.

        That is, when looking at an individual service member or recruit, how do you determine whether they’re in violation of this policy? Consider people who are:

        – Mid-medical-transition now (easy central case)
        – Transitioned 10 years ago
        – In the middle of the year or more of living as preferred gender before medical transition starts
        – Considering beginning said year but hasn’t yet
        – Had a diagnosis of gender dysphoria 6 months ago
        – Had a diagnosis of gender dysphoria 10 years ago
        – Present appearance or behavior of less than X-amount-of-feminine or Y-amount-of-masculine
        – Has some sort of intersex condition (e.g. androgen insensitivity)

        All of these are reasonable lay definitions of “transgender” but make widely different policies, and would have differing military effects. There’s a reason policy gets made by signing orders/laws to establish commissions to study stuff, rather than in Tweets.

    • Randy M says:

      From the military view, it is only as relevant as it is made to be. That is, having access to an additional 1-2% of the population with emotional and/or physical complications is not going to win any wars. But if it offends progressives enough that they lose recruits or funding it might be a threat to military capabilities (well, until the point such capabilities were truly needed, at which point this would be forgotten), so after enough pressure there might be some public support from military leaders to walk this back.

      More likely, reversing it will be among the first EO’s of the administration in 2020, 2024, or 2028, whenever the next Democrat turn is, for some easy publicity and positive press coverage.

      • Autistic Cat says:

        ^Then we need to just stop the bluegreensmanship.

        • albatross11 says:

          Two points here:

          a. The policy change accepting transgender soldiers was only announced by the Obama administration in June of 2016. I kind of wonder if this is one of those things where Obama wanted the credit for doing it, without wanting to have to deal with the resulting problems or hassles. (It’s certainly not something any national politician was going to do as a vote-getter!)

          b. As far as I can tell, any Republican president we could have ended up with would have gotten rid of this policy.

          • gbdub says:

            I believe it was only supposed to go into effect now, having already been delayed 6 months for further review by Mattis.

            So your a. seems fair. Not positive about b., and they probably would have nixed it in a more subtle way.

          • albatross11 says:

            gbdub:

            Yeah, I don’t think you can expect Trump to do much of anything in a maximally-smooth or minimally-harmful way. But it’s hard to imagine Bush, Cruz, Rubio, Paul, Christie, etc., leaving it in place, either.

            Also, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Democratic president push it back a few years every few years so it only came into effect under the next Republican administration.

          • Autistic Cat says:

            @albatross11 ..which is a sad thing to know.

            Basically Christianity and liberalism are fighting yet another completely useless and pointless war just like the one over gay marriage.

            This is something the autistic author Star Ford has taught me. Non-autists sometimes basically fight for nothing. They sometimes do not even want the problem solved. Instead they just want to show others that they care.

          • @Autistic Cat

            Don’t worry. All the annoying monkey sex stuff will be washed away by the coming obsolesence of humans in general for any productive role in any institution.

            At some point we’ll be having a debate about whether humans should be allowed in the military altogether, with arguments focusing around whether they damage the unit effectiveness of standard issue killbots with sub-ms reaction times.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Forward Synthesis

            Plus, hominids are weak, and far less able to carry the amount of paperclips needed for modern operations.

    • bean says:

      I have a serious problem with allowing transsexuals to serve, in that it completely violates the military’s usual position on psychoactive drugs and is not in the best interest of the military.
      The primary reason I’m not in uniform right now is that I would have to be off my ADD medication for a full year before they’d accept me. This was not a price I could pay (and in retrospect, I’m better off outside). This rule applies to any psychoactive drugs, as far as I’m aware. There’s a bit more leeway after you get in, but I believe that you have to be clean before deployments.
      Allowing transsexuals to serve seems like a violation of the intent of this policy. You’re allowing people undergoing medical treatment with a serious psychological component in, for no reason that I can see other than ‘transsexual’ being popular with liberals while ‘ADD’ is just a random thing with no political connotations.

      The other reason I don’t like it is that the military should be optimized only for effectiveness. This is a group where the primary job is literally to go and kill people, and not get killed in return. A large portion of the military is from conservative backgrounds who don’t like transsexuals. Forcing transsexuals on them is probably going to erode unit cohesion and make the military less effective. It shouldn’t be assume to be costless.
      (I also oppose adding women to combat units for largely the same reason. The campaign for their placement was intellectually dishonest, to say the least, and the fact that a woman can skip a deployment by becoming pregnant without consequence is frankly ridiculous.)

      • Autistic Cat says:

        I would allow women to serve though. Some of them are better snipers than men and that’s all that matters for a military. Liberal dogmas, Christian dogmas and fascist dogmas all need to go and not obstruct optimization of the military.

        I agree with you on the first three reasons though.

        As for “conservatives” I think we should use a more descriptive term instead, namely practicing Christians. Your “conservatives” certainly do not include secular alt-rightists and secular libertarians.

        • bean says:

          I would allow women to serve though.

          I’m not in favor of banning women from all military service.

          Some of them are better snipers than men and that’s all that matters for a military.

          Not necessarily. The problem is that the vast majority of the jobs in the military are not for snipers, and the pipeline to sniper work as we have it runs through the infantry, which is the last place you want women. Basically, imagine doing a backpacking trip for a month, with no breaks and no showers. And you’re being shot at. What the military has been doing is not the same as what it needs to train for, but it’s covered over a lot of potential problems.
          I’m willing to talk about integrating women into combat arms after I’m sure that the other side is taking my objections seriously. There’s probably a little bit of space in special roles, but it would have to be carefully managed. This is not the situation we have today.

          As for “conservatives” I think we should use a more descriptive term instead, namely practicing Christians. Your “conservatives” certainly do not include secular alt-rightists and secular libertarians.

          I suggest you double-check the cultural backgrounds involved. Conservatives may have been the wrong word, but the military is mostly populated by groups that are not WEIRDs. Be they conservative Christians, blacks or Hispanics, they are not the groups that are most pro-transsexual.

          • EGI says:

            …the infantry, which is the last place you want women. Basically, imagine doing a backpacking trip for a month, with no breaks and no showers. And you’re being shot at.

            Could you elaborate why this should be more of a problem for women than for men? I mean perhaps I’m dense in some way, but I get the problem with women being weaker / less athletic than men on average (though in a sane world this would only mean 20% of men and 4% of women or whatever the percentages may be pass the recruitment test). But I really can’t see why going without a shower or being shot at is a greater problem for women. If I wanted to construct a difference here, I would say women are smaller (harder targets) on average and produce less sweat and grease (less stinky) so we should allow only women into such units… (this would obviously be stupid). Relaxing requirements for women is of course a bad idea, except if the requirements were stupid in the first place, in which case they should be relaxed for men too.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            This is a pretty good starting place.

            And to show that it’s not just a US trend

            Note that, as I’ve said elsewhere in this thread and previously, I still think positions should be open to women. But I think that when women meet standards at a lower rate than men (if we establish a single unified standard, as we should, we’ve already let it get too low for non-combat personnel), and then drop out faster than men due to injury, you’re going to end up with gender ratios that don’t look even vaguely representative of the civilian population…

            …and as long as the gender ratios don’t look representative, I think there will be pressure to change that. For example, you get pressures to lower physical training standards or to have gender norming for PT scores. which leads to the differential levels of fitness and BMI for male vs. female soldiers currently going into combat mentioned in the link above…

            It’s all one problem.

          • bean says:

            Could you elaborate why this should be more of a problem for women than for men? I mean perhaps I’m dense in some way, but I get the problem with women being weaker / less athletic than men on average (though in a sane world this would only mean 20% of men and 4% of women or whatever the percentages may be pass the recruitment test).

            It’s the physical challenges, at least in large part. Yes, if the standards are appropriately set and enforced, that in theory shouldn’t be a problem. But I have zero confidence in the US military’s ability to set those standards, and keep them when they’re under attack by angry feminists when not enough women get through.
            I’ll use Canada as an example. They had trouble getting women into infantry roles, and when they did, they had one pass in the initial class. I believe she was a former lumberjack. So they went and fiddled with their test. The current combat physical test has two components. One is a pretty grueling rucksack march. This is the less dishonest one, although the rucksack is only, IIRC, 30 lbs. I have enough experience backpacking (as the small person in the group, no less) to know that this kind of weight carriage is not linear. Just because you can keep up with 30 lbs doesn’t mean you can do so with 100 lbs, which is more typical of modern infantry work. And the people who are going to have disproportionate trouble are the small ones. The existing cutoffs are set around the population distribution of men. Adding women will reduce the average values, and that could cause problems.
            But that’s the less dishonest test. The more dishonest is casualty evacuation. There, the standard is to transport a casualty of your own size. I believe this was changed from an absolute standard after too many women failed it. Last I checked, combat is not nice enough to make sure that the casualty you have to evacuate isn’t bigger than you.
            The same forces at work in Canada are at work here.

            But I really can’t see why going without a shower or being shot at is a greater problem for women.

            Women have more trouble when hygiene standards fall, things like UTIs. As recently as 2003, there were units stuck inside armored vehicles for a week, relieving themselves in jars. And then you have unit dynamics. Mixed groups have different ones from all-male groups, and not necessarily in a way good for combat effectiveness. And various test have found that men have an instinctive reaction to protect injured women, although that may have been declining in recent years.
            I’m not sure these challenges can’t be overcome, and I even think that some combat units might be usefully open to women. But I’m really hesitant to stick 19-year-old women in a group dominated by 19-year-old men, and just hope everything works out. I’d propose a trials unit be sent, staffed by proponents, and observers from both sides of this issue monitor it closely. Nobody seems interested.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Could you elaborate why this should be more of a problem for women than for men?

            From a Platoon Leader/Detachment OIC’s perspective the problems are as follows…

            1) Capability: Finding females who can carry their weight is hard. A male who can lift his own body weight and run a sub 15 minute mile is merely “fit” where a female who can do the same are freaks of nature 4 standard deviations above the median. This is important because most of what grunts actually do really is “Grunt work”. Guns are heavy, ammo is heavy, batteries are heavy, multiple days worth of food/water is heavy and someone has to carry it all in the field.

            2) Health issues: Even if you do find a female who can physically do the job females generally consume more healthcare than males. Which is a problem if you’re expected to cover thier health expenses in perpetuity.

            3) Sex: People fuck. Stressed-out, athletic, 20-somethings fuck a lot. Accidents (including babies and STDs) happen. Frankly this wouldn’t be so bad if DoD enforced it’s own rules and prosecuted those involved for fraternization and/or missing movement but the last time a theater-level commander threatened to court martial a female for getting pregnant a bunch of congress-critters (including a recent presidential candidate) threw a fit and tried to have him removed. This is especially galling when those same females turn around complain about being passed over for promotion because they were on maternity leave when they should have been doing thier fucking jobs.

            4) The relationship issue: Dealing with work-place relationship drama gets messy enough as it is without adding a whole bunch of stress, and ready access to automatic firearms to the mix. Honestly one of these day’s I’m going to have to write a book (or Scott-length post) about my 2008 deployment just so I can link it when threads like this come up.

            Finally there’s the social issue…

            Violence is a integral part of the military’s mission. A combatant who is not comfortable with the use of violence as a tool (or receiving it for that matter) will not be effective in combat. A great deal, perhaps the majority, of military training is specifically designed to build this comfort. The unspoken premise behind “women should serve in combat” is that violence against women is not only acceptable but something that society should encourage. As a socially conservative “misogynistic dinosaur” I like the fact that we have norms against women being the recipients of violence, and that is why they don’t belong on the front lines.

          • Fossegrimen says:

            Honestly one of these day’s I’m going to have to write a book (or Scott-length post) about my 2008 deployment just so I can link it when threads like this come up.

            Yes please, you can do it in the form of a few “battleship” posts.

          • EGI says:

            OK, so the main point is, that you think it is politically easier to keep certain roles closed to women, than to enforce gender blind standards? I’m not convinced, but maybe… I would find it very easy to argue for the later and very difficult to do so for the former.
            The rest is some additional strain injuries, pregnancies, and some social dynamics stuff that may or may not be a problem (or even beneficial???).
            This sounds quite manageable to me, especially considering that between most women not being interested in such jobs and most of the interested ones failing the gender blind recruitment standards there will be like a few percent or even less women in the relevant units.

            Therefor I think if effectiveness is your real concern arguing for gender blind standards should be key.

      • Randy M says:

        Saying that the military should be optimized for killing is like saying marriage should be optimized for child rearing. To restrict it to that function is to give up a powerful tool for equality in return to optimize for a somewhat dubious end goal that we are already over prepared for.

        That is, you aren’t really going to convince the progressives to let this cause go in for the sake of having more efficient killers, because this is more important to them than that is, even if they aren’t going to outright say so in front of voters who might not yet be so enlightened.

        • Autistic Cat says:

          We need to suppress the progressives on this one. At the same time we should enforce gay marriages and suppress practicing Christian opposition to allowing a tiny minority to marry.

          From an autistic perspective this is just stupidity from both sides. When can we get rid of all of this absurdity?

          We are never going to strengthen humanity to deal with alien invasions if we can’t force the culture wars to end.

          • Randy M says:

            enforce gay marriages

            We don’t even enforce straight marriages, I doubt we are going to enforce gay ones. 😛

          • Autistic Cat says:

            @Randy M Yeah I should have phrased it in a better way. Allowing gay marriage and shutting up conservative Christians.

            We may be facing alien invasions and now we are arguing over gay marriages because a bunch of people are so offended at a tiny minority.

            Forgive me. I’m just a mad autist now. Most allistic people make no sense. Why argue over gay marriages? Why argue over bathrooms? Why argue over pronouns?

          • Randy M says:

            Allowing gay marriage and shutting up conservative Christians.

            Your phrasing isn’t improving.

            We may be facing alien invasions

            Are you be speciest or just racist?

          • Autistic Cat says:

            LOL by “alien” I mean non-humans from other parts of the universe.

          • Randy M says:

            Speciest, then. Well, I’m behind on the news.

          • Autistic Cat says:

            ^Aliens are a legitimate concern. I don’t hate them. However we need to strengthen ourselves so that they can’t destroy us. I’m all for trade and coexistence with friendly aliens. However humans still need a military in space to deal with aliens with bad faith.

            Space colonization has to be sped up. At the very minimum humans should take over planets of Alpha Centauri, Sirius, etc.

          • bean says:

            Aliens are a legitimate concern. I don’t hate them. However we need to strengthen ourselves so that they can’t destroy us.

            Slow down a bit. Any aliens that can manage to mount an interstellar invasion are going to be so much more advanced than us that you’re essentially calling for pre-Columbian natives to prepare themselves to resist the US military. We have better ways to spend our money.

            Space colonization has to be sped up. At the very minimum humans should take over Alpha Centauri, Sirius, etc.

            Again, how. Even if every human joined a cult dedicated to launching a mission to Alpha Centauri today, it would be decades at a minimum before we could make serious plans to launch one.

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, us planning an interstellar mission now is probably like Caesar Augustus planning out a lunar mission.

          • Randy M says:

            Aliens are a legitimate concern. I don’t hate them.

            Yeah, and my best friend is an alien.
            Next thing you are going to be saying they need their own separate habitats, away from earth women.

          • Autistic Cat says:

            @Randy Please stop. You know that we don’t know any aliens. Maybe the fact that I trashed the sacred values of both liberals and conservatives led you to believe that I’m an amoral secular neo-Nazi? LOL nope.

            I’m serious on the issue of aliens. The purpose of my idea is just self-defense, not segregation.

            We can’t have rational chats if moral bashing is allowed.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Build the dang space wall!

          • Autistic Cat says:

            The very fact that someone can throw moral accusations around even here shows that rationality is really not very popular.

            Nobody should be allowed to throw moral accusations around in a rational discussion about facts.

            If I start a new rationalist forum there will be no rules other than the following: Obey American laws (e.g. no child porn), reduce the amount of irrationality and no moral accusations from any point of view. I will ban the words “JIDF”, “Normie” /poI people love. I will ban racial slang words because they aren’t used to convey anything other than insults hence they contribute nothing to a rational discussion. However I will also ban “racist”, “sexist”, “homophobic” and other liberal moral accusations. I will ban any word with strong emotional and ideological significance because appealing to emotions has no place in a rational discussion.

            Note that the reason why “JIDF” needs to be banned is not that it is antisemitic. Instead it is because it is almost always used as a form of ad hominem and I don’t want to allow ad hominem in a rational discussion.

          • Mary says:

            “We can’t have rational chats if moral bashing is allowed.”

            Perhaps we don’t value “rational chats” so much as you do.

          • Autistic Cat says:

            Then I will start a new forum with other hardcore rationalists.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Autistic Cat:
            Ignore Mary. She perceives that you attacked one of her sacred values and is attempting to wound.

            Randy M means no harm, I think, but he is trying to be humorous and you aren’t processing that correctly. The issue is that you have thrown “space aliens” in to this sub-thread with no pretext. You may have reached conclusions about the certainty of incoming interstellar invasion, but you can’t assume that is a conclusion shared by others. Throwing it into conversation as if it is leads to a kind of cognitive whiplash for which humor is a frequent response.

            Humor is frequently used as a trigger for engendering friendship. It’s usually better to respond in kind and then return to your topic, with a different approach.

            You probably already know this, but aren’t processing it, I’m guessing.

          • Randy M says:

            I apologize for ribbing you. In addition to HBC’s cogent explanation (and your comment comes on the heel of my watching a discussion of the drake equation/fermi paradox), I realize I was channeling Seinfeld as well as referencing sci-fi tropes and pointing out how your arguments superficially resembled the current immigration debate . I thought my manner indicated that I knew my own arguments were parodies. A discussion of whether it would be immoral/unprogressive to oppose colonization of earth by aliens would be interesting.

            In seriousness I will point out that your off-the-cuff remarks show a troubling eagerness to suppress or shut-up political opponents for bringing in appeals to ideology/religion/values while concealing the fact that you have values of your own from no one but yourself.

            Yes, if we want to convince people we need to use reason and appeal to shared values. No, you don’t get to enforce those norms on other sub-cultures. That’s one of America’s more famous shared values.

          • Deiseach says:

            If I start a new rationalist forum …I will ban any word with strong emotional and ideological significance because appealing to emotions has no place in a rational discussion.

            I would be very interested to see the experiment take place, because for a start nobody could start a light-hearted “this is my favourite ice-cream flavour” discussion – it all comes down to subjective taste which is not rational – and I think there would be a limited amount of topics that could be discussed in a non-emotional fashion.

            I’d like to see it tried, and see what results, see if it could go beyond:

            “I wonder if the government should return to the gold standard?”

            “I think it should”.

            “Good, then we’re all agreed”.

            HeelBearCub, the “moral bashing” exchange took place in response to Autistic Cat in all (seeming) seriousness proposing that we need a space military to deal with bad-faith aliens. If you really think that is the topic of a rational chat that is all about the rationalism and pure facts and no humour or emotional side-tracks, and a mild comment about “maybe we’re not as into rational chats as you are” (with the implication between the lines that “not every discussion on here is one of grim seriousness”) is some kind of attack on the grounds of “you are trying to force me to give up being a zealot proselytiser of my particular moral code”, then I’ll sit back and watch you and Autistic Cat plan out our Planetary Space Defence Corps in the most stringent purely factual, rational, no joking or morality or emotional fol-de-rol allowed style (and I hope all the little BearCats will be charming and clever and a credit to you both as parental-units in the five minutes’ interaction post-birth you have with them before you hand them over to the relevant Governmental Progeny Cultivation Unit, as Autistic Cat has proposed should be done).

            Is it “moral bashing” if I say that I think “we are in possible danger from alien invasions” is a risk I would file beneath “God-Emperor AI turns us all into paperclips” and way down the list from the No. 1 Absolute Guaranteed Worst Risk “Sweet Meteor O’Death”? I’d like to be sure what I’m being scolded for when you reprimand me for the same faults as Mary.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            If we’re seriously discussing preparations for an alien invasion I think we’ve moved far beyond the scope of “rationality.”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Deiseach:

            I made no claims about the likelihood of interstellar attack. Rather, I perceived someone who is autistic getting tilted because of their different way of processing social interaction, and I was trying to be helpful to them. It seems they want to rationally discuss the possibility of interstellar attack in a forum that, while more populated by those who are autistic than most, is still fairly well populated with “normies”. They have approached it in the wrong way.

            If you think Mary was responding to the bit about space aliens, and not the bit about suppressing Christians, … we have very different impressions of Mary. My sense is that her style is frequently to post one sentence attacks or insults, and she is firmly in the set “conservative religious”. Her reply to Autisic Cat does not seem to be properly interpreted as conversational, so its best for it to be ignored.

          • Autistic Cat says:

            @Mary No offense. I was just mad at Red and Blue irrational neurotypicals. I’m an autist and we autists usually don’t even think about people enough to hurt people on purpose.

            @HeelBearCub Oh I never got that! Yeah it is neurotypicality/autism that caused this communication issue. I thought that Mary meant that the average poster here is not as rational as me. Hence I decided to start the Rationality Corner forum on Nabble for other hardcore rationalists. I thought Randy really wanted to bash me using liberal curse words and refused to partake in rational discussions. Yeah I never got these before you explicitly told me more facts about neurotypicality.

            @Randy Sorry I misunderstood you…No offense. I usually interpret lack of autism as irrationality. Hence I’m frequently mad at most humans for not being sufficiently rational (or not appearing sufficiently rational to an autist lol).

          • Autistic Cat says:

            @Randy I’m mostly concerned with liberals and Christians entering deadlock on issues that are completely stupid from my point of view.

            From my perspective the most important principle in dealing with these social issues that often have a religious background is to try to eradicate them. To me both following liberals and following Christians on certain social issues is better than having to hear both sides arguing about them.

            Many social issues are like the Paperclip Cult for others: The Paperclip Cult is a weird cult that wants to manufacture a paperclip on the Paperclip Day every year. There are many who argue in favor of letting the cult manufacture one paperclip per year and many who argue against it. The weird cult is on all kinds of newspapers where real news should be. Now you are fine with either allowing the cult to manufacture its paperclips or not allowing it because the debate itself is more annoying than both decisions without the annoying debate.

            This is how I think about the bathroom wars. I’m annoyed by the Christians who hate LGBT rights AND the liberals who are not going to shut up about LGBT issues either. I’m in favor of some well-defined LGBT rights such as the right to a civil marriage and freedom from discrimination. However I want to shut down both the liberal LGBT lobbies and the Christian lobbies after LGBT rights are granted. The question I ask when I hear this issue is: “When will both sides shut up so that we can enjoy some peace and deal with real issues (i.e. issues I care about)?”

          • CatCube says:

            @Autistic Cat

            “When will both sides shut up so that we can enjoy some peace and deal with real issues (i.e. issues I care about)?”

            Well, you’ve still not made a convincing case that the issues you care about are “real issues”, and from what I understand of your “ideal” world, you want a dystopian hell that would be brushed off by critics as unbelievably dire if an SF author put it in a book. (Asexual, genderless people, etc.) Why on earth are we going to drop the things we care about to talk about this?

          • Spookykou says:

            The reason that both sides continue to talk about these issues after they are ‘resolved’ is because they are not actually resolved.

            Just because a law is passed, that does not mean that the Left/Christians are happy with the law, it also does not mean that they can not take action to see that law changed. It seems perfectly natural for them to continue to push towards their desired world state, just as you continue to push towards yours.

            If a law was passed enforcing a norm towards emotionally charged values focused argumentation for dispute resolution, would you simply accept it, or would you continue to argue for detached rationality as the superior way to resolve disputes?

          • Autistic Cat says:

            @Spookykou I see. Sure if someone dares to enforce emotional discussions and crush rationality I will certainly not surrender. Instead I will leave and find a more rationality-friendly place.

          • Spookykou says:

            Moving to someplace more friendly to your values, or fighting the oppressive laws that conflict with them, both are options, although I imagine the calculus differs from person to person.

            Perhaps relevant, the recent conversations on here about peoples willingness or lack thereof to move and how variable it was.

          • Autistic Cat says:

            @Spookykou Yeah. However the stuff people care about have to be reasonable.

            Imagine that there is a paperclip cult called Paperclipism that tries to force everybody to manufacture and wear paperclips. If you ever refuse to wear a paperclip in a neighborhood populated by cult members the cult will force you to purchase one from them. They also throw stones at those who disrespect the Paperclipism or paperclips.

            In the last local election Paperclipist leaders forced its members to vote for cult member Mr. Steel Paperclip. Since the Paperclipism has 10,000 members they managed to win the election. After Mr. Paperclip was elected the Paperclip Cult became increasingly authoritarian. They have been trying to force everyone to observe the rules of Paperclipism, forcing public schools to preach Paperclipism and arming their parallel military.

            What do you think about Paperclipism?

          • dndnrsn says:

            That they’re doing good work. Keep the clips bending, say I.

          • Spookykou says:

            However the stuff people care about have to be reasonable.

            This is not a stipulation you or I can make, I think what you are trying to say is that when people care about things that you don’t believe are worth caring about, you think it is acceptable to ignore their utility function.

            Keep in mind that this is something of a double-edged sword.

            You claimed to want people to stop arguing about issues after they were settled, I was attempting to show that just because a law had been passed the issue was not in fact settled. You seemed to agree that a law that banned rational discourse would not actually settle the issue of what kind of discourse we should use, so I assume we are in agreement on that particular point?

            I assume the paper clip cult is an attempt to move the conversation in a different direction, that I am not terrible interested in going. Suffice it to say, my moral philosophy is not rigorous, and I acknowledge that fact.

          • Aapje says:

            That they’re doing good work. Keep the clips bending, say I.

            There are always those that bend the knee paperclip.

          • Mary says:

            @Autistic Cat:
            Ignore HeelBearCub . He is just attempting to wound.

            And apparently has something against concision.

          • Mary says:

            “If you think Mary was responding to the bit about space aliens, and not the bit about suppressing Christians, …”

            Perhaps YOU should think that maybe I was responding to the bit I quoted. In fact, I really have to wonder that anyone could possibly think I was responding to anything else, after I made it clear by quoting it.

            ” and she is firmly in the set “conservative religious”.”

            So what? This sort of ad hominem only casts serious doubt on the rest of what you said.

        • bean says:

          Saying that the military should be optimized for killing is like saying marriage should be optimized for child rearing. To restrict it to that function is to give up a powerful tool for equality in return to optimize for a somewhat dubious end goal that we are already over prepared for.

          Maybe I’m coming on a bit strong, but the last few decades have been a long attack on military effectiveness in the name of social justice, with absolutely no awareness that a tradeoff was even being made. This goes back to the early 90s, when the USS Acadia was sent home from the Persian Gulf due to too many of her female crew being pregnant. Right before the offensive started. Press? None. Consequences for the crewmembers? None. Tailhook was a complete witch hunt. There are absurd double standards for sexual assault. Women were ordered into combat units on the basis of frankly dishonest logic. The list goes on.
          I’d be OK with a serious discussion of the possible tradeoffs. But that is not what we have now, or have ever had.

          • Corey says:

            the last few decades have been a long attack on military effectiveness in the name of social justice, with absolutely no awareness that a tradeoff was even being made

            I dunno. Keeping blacks, women or gays out would constitute giving up pretty big swaths of recruit population and potential good soldiers. While it’s never good to speculate that there’s a bottom to how dumb a population can be, I’d think people are widely aware of this. (AFAIK transgender, even under rather loose definitions, is still a pretty small population slice so that doesn’t apply in this particular case).

          • bean says:

            I dunno. Keeping blacks, women or gays out would constitute giving up pretty big swaths of recruit population and potential good soldiers.

            First, I explicitly reject including blacks in this. Integrating the military in the 40s was a good idea, and one Truman deserves credit for. It also happened about 40 years before the current problems began.
            Second, the choice isn’t as simple as include/exclude. Women have served as nurses on battlefields for centuries. In WWI and WWII, they performed a lot of administrative and support duties, too. My concern is that we’ve been pushing to integrate them more fully without any sort of cost/benefit (the military is 80-85% male now, and it’s not like we’re dying for personnel today) and with some rather absurd double standards, like no punishment for getting pregnant on or right before a deployment. And in terms of ground combat, most women simply aren’t strong enough to do the job. Is getting the tiny fraction who are a good reason to risk the critical esprit de corps?
            Third, I actually think DADT was not the worst policy. Who you like to share a bed with should have very little bearing on your job in the military. If you’re gay in a disruptive way, it’s a problem. If you’re Christian in a disruptive way, it’s a problem. At one point, being openly gay would at least arguably have been disruptive enough to be bannable. That isn’t the case today, so the policy should change, although frankly sexuality of any sort doesn’t really belong in the military. Humans will be humans, and there are limits on how far you can go, obviously.

          • Aapje says:

            @bean

            although frankly sexuality of any sort doesn’t really belong in the military.

            That seems idealistic in a head in the sand kind of way. Humans gonna human.

          • bean says:

            That seems idealistic in a head in the sand kind of way. Humans gonna human.

            Which is why I said that in my next sentence. Someone being non-disruptively gay is fine. Someone being disruptively gay needs to be dealt with, in the same way as someone being disruptively Christian or disruptively straight with the cute corporal from the other squad should be dealt with. The threshold for ‘disruptively gay’ may be slightly lower, but such is life.

        • albatross11 says:

          Ideally, this discussion would deal with likely costs and benefits. The common framing of this issue from the SJW world is in terms of moral or legal principles, but without thinking about the likely costs, it’s really hard to know whether it makes sense or not.

          How many people are likely affected here? What are the likely costs of enacting the policy? (In dollar terms? In damage to morale? In making the military less effective?) What are the likely benefits? (In terms of expanding the set of available recruits? In terms of social benefits?)

          I don’t know enough to even begin trying to answer those questions, but they’re relevant to what the right decision is. It’s easy to phrase disastrous policies in terms of high principles (it’s unacceptable that anyone is starving in this day and age–let’s set a maximum price of food at about 90% of its cost of production!)

          • Aapje says:

            The common framing of this issue from the SJW world is in terms of moral or legal principles, but without thinking about the likely costs, it’s really hard to know whether it makes sense or not.

            I would argue that this is extremely common in SJ rhetoric about pretty much anything.

            The narrative often consists of a us vs them argument where ‘them’ has unfair advantages, so any costs to ‘them’ are completely fine as long as it brings any benefit to ‘us.’

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Also consider the downstream policy effects. Physical and mental fitness are important considerations for military service. Transgenderism is a mental and physical condition unlike blackness, gayness, or womanness.

            We currently exclude people from military service for mental illness and physical abnormality. Transgenderism is either a mental illness (an X who thinks they’re a Y) or a physical malady (a Y who has the wrong major body parts). Either way, if the military is going to have to accommodate this medical condition, what other medical conditions is it going to have to accommodate? “Flat feet” is out, but “extra penis and missing breasts” is okay?

        • Mary says:

          “. To restrict it to that function is to give up a powerful tool for equality in return to optimize for a somewhat dubious end goal that we are already over prepared for.”

          By “powerful tool for equality” you mean “powerful tool for some people to force other people to bow to their version of equality”

          Which is pretty extreme inequality.

        • Well... says:

          Marriage IS optimized for child-rearing! As it should be!

      • skef says:

        (Although this sounds leading, I’m just asking for informational reasons … )

        What is the more general active member policy with respect to prescription drugs, psychoactive or not? Are only oral drugs OK, or are things like patches allowed? Are injections allowed, perhaps if there is enough time between them? Are the allowed prescriptions restricted to a narrow list? (Obviously these questions raise a lot of complex supply-chain issues.)

        • bean says:

          No idea. Not the sort of thing I normally pay attention to. We have a fair number of vets around who might know, though.

        • BBA says:

          That’s the real question. Would we be treating hormones differently from any other medication simply to enforce an identity-politics mandate? Ideally we’d set the policy on medication neutrally, and make it clear that any “ban” on trans people isn’t because of any sort of animus, it’s just logistics. This won’t convince the hardest-core SJWs, but enough people will see it as a worthwhile compromise that it’d be allowed to go forward.

          But instead, we get pure toxoplasma and an identity-politics football for decades to come.

          (Contrast DADT, where there wasn’t a neutral mechanism for keeping the old policy and now there’s practically nobody calling to reinstate it.)

        • skef says:

          On the far end of the treatment-by-drugs scale, here is a discussion of diabetes and the U.S. military. The short version is “maaaaaaybe, but probably not.”

        • hlynkacg says:

          What is the more general active member policy with respect to prescription drugs, psychoactive or not? Are only oral drugs OK

          Pretty simple really, you are not authorized to take anything that was not prescribed by your command’s medical officer/department with the exception of specifically approved OTC medications. (Mostly things like Aspirin, Tylenol, Dramamine, etc…)

          • skef says:

            @hlynkacg

            I was wondering more about the policy at enlistment time.

            Anyone who needs a drug to function normally poses specific challenges. The short-term human side of military supply chain is food, water, and for combat medic supplies (bandages, stitch needles, etc.), with the medium-term human side being clothing. If some particular soldier needs prescription drug X, then you either need to make sure there’s enough X around everywhere the soldier might wind up, not send the soldier where combat supply chain is an issue, or not count on the soldier’s contribution in combat.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I was wondering more about the policy at enlistment time.

            People who are dependent on a prescription drug to function generally get eliminated in the medical screening phase. Furthermore, failure to disclose such a dependency opens one up to charges of fraudulent enlistment. Waivers are available but get evaluated on an individual basis. Someone who’s enlisting to be a Supply Clerk, IT Specialist, or Air Traffic controller has a lot more lee-way than a grunt.

            As for the bit about supply chains, this is where deployability metrics come in which are a complex enough topic on thier own to warrant a post along the lines of Bean’s Naval Gazing.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            so does this not apply to hormone treatments?

    • gbdub says:

      Serving in the military is not a right, a fact that most of the progressive criticisms I’ve seen seem to ignore. There are plenty of no-fault-of-their-own reasons why someone might be barred from service, none of which mean that they are less patriotic, not respected, or whatever, from asthma to flat feet to cancer to tattoos in the wrong spots.

      I believe in rights for the mentally ill – but I don’t think schizophrenics should take point on an infantry patrol. I believe in rights for diabetics – but I don’t think someone dependent on perishable medication for survival should be forward-deployed to a war zone. I believe in rights for the disabled – but I don’t think we ought to make tanks wheelchair accessible. And I believe in rights for transgendered people – but I don’t think a condition highly comorbid with many serious mental illnesses (including suicide attempts), that is in the best case usually dependent on significant medical intervention (often in ways that would render someone combat-ineffective for a long period of time), is a good fit for military service.

      That said I do think there is a distinction between a person actively transitioning and a person who has been stable in their outward gender identity for several years. Though in the latter case there’s the complication that usually maintenance hormones would still be required, plus I don’t know how many people that actually applies to given that military is mostly a young person’s field.

      Of course, Trump handled this in his typical half-cocked and hamfisted way that lends itself to more heat than light. Something like an executive order saying “After much consideration, it is the determination of the Joint Chiefs and myself that the accommodations required to allow actively gender transitioning individuals in active military service are detrimental to military readiness, and therefore the previous administration’s instructions regarding their accommodation are hereby rescinded”.

      But instead we get “all transgenders banned” on Twitter.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      A policy that was meant to optimize military effectiveness would not ban trans soldiers. It would give the military leeway to hire promising trans recruits. Of course it is possible that trans people are so incredibly unbalanced that they would be a net negative, 100% of the time (but hadn’t we decided they have an average IQ of 120 or something?).

      What you are seeing here is the Right jumping the shark. How extensive would you say Trump’s cost/benefit calculation was before making this announcement? Do you think he filled the whole napkin, or just the corner? But of course there is no need for Republicans to do any cost/benefit analysis, to run their bills past the CBO before voting on them, or anything like that. The Democrats are ideological, therefore the Republicans are not, therefore this policy is logical and the Left’s alternate interpretation is hysteria, QED.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Republicans just betrayed their voters and were exposed as liars for the past eight years. It’s a golden opportunity for the left to drive a wedge into the party and crank up the heat on their civil war.

        But instead they are talking about this, reminding us all how much they hate us, and how much the feeling is becoming mutual. Civil war averted for another day. Trump couldn’t have done it without you.

        • Alejandro says:

          Who are the “they” who are instead talking about this? Vox.com, my standard proxy for what the mainstream left is talking about, has as of this moment 6 out of the 8 “Top Stories” being about the health care debacle. Of the other two, one is about leaks in the Trump administration and one about the transgender ban.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Well, let’s compare replies in this sub-thread to Le Maistre Chat’s ACA mention down below.

            At the moment, I count 73:0

          • skef says:

            @Jaskologist

            That mention was a random news image joke.

          • Jaskologist says:

            @skef

            Ok, so a random news image joke was the sum total of our ACA discussion, which only reinforces my point.

            It looks like we’ve got an ACA subthread going now, but note that it’s about a more recent event in the news cycle. Which means that we should be expecting a new Trump tweet soon to sweep it off the radar.

          • Randy M says:

            At one time I had strong feelings about health care (anti ACA and socializing tendencies in general) but I feel increasing uncertainty and humility in discussing it reasonably. I expect there’s lots of ways to do a middling job, but due to the number trade-offs involved it isn’t easy to say which is superior, which is a local maximum difficult to move away from, etc.
            Is USA expense subsidizing the cost-controlled nations in terms of research in new drugs or procedures?
            Is there too much regulation already to make any reference to economic principles in an effort to constrain cost?
            Are people too emotional to rationally implement any sort of cost containment measures?
            etc.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Jaskologist:
            The OP of this sub-thread, unless I am mistaken, is not a liberal.

            Why is this getting more play? Because SJ is the outgroup here. Gray tribe and red tribe can happily bash on people who think banning the transgendered is the patriarchy in action.

            In addition, the fact that the ACA is better policy than the alternatives on offer causes huge cognitive dissonance for the libertarian minded who tend to be prolific here. If I post a critique of objections to the ACA or an analysis of why the Republican policy proposals are awful, I’ll get tons of backlash from Republican supporters, endless nitpicks of my position from the right-libertarians and crickets otherwise.

            Another factor is that Scott’s position as an uber-contrarian actually discourages anyone from arguing that government policies on anything might be better than the alternative, without offering much in the way of an alternative.

            So everything is setup in a way to discourage conversation on the substance of healthcare reform that isn’t “Singapore is great! Also, it’s totally market based. No, it is!”

          • Corey says:

            I have quick answers:

            Is USA expense subsidizing the cost-controlled nations in terms of research in new drugs or procedures?

            To an extent, though the delta in our prices is way more than the value of such a subsidy. Noah Smith goes through the overall numbers here; when I ran the numbers on drugs I concluded that we could just fund all the world’s drug research for less than the US government itself currently spends buying drugs.

            Is there too much regulation already to make any reference to economic principles in an effort to constrain cost?

            Yes and no. On the no side, you’d have to add significant regulation to even get to approximating a market (think of the requirements that auto mechanics give you a binding pre-work estimate, for example; it’s usually literally impossible to find out prices in healthcare until after services are rendered). Also, some regulations help the market (the market for generic drugs has good competition in part because the FDA does their best to make the products non-differentiable).

            On the yes side, basically once you have EMTALA you might as well have single-payer, and there’s no policy to the right of ACA that lets people with chronic or pre-existing conditions get treated.

            Are people too emotional to rationally implement any sort of cost containment measures?

            Yep. The wonks’ dream of fully covering any intervention costing less than some $X per QALY would be a really difficult lift politically (and also cause problems with people arguing over X and QALY numbers).

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            In addition, the fact that the ACA is better policy than the alternatives on offer causes huge cognitive dissonance for the libertarian minded who tend to be prolific here. If I post a critique of objections to the ACA or an analysis of why the Republican policy proposals are awful, I’ll get tons of backlash from Republican supporters, endless nitpicks of my position from the right-libertarians and crickets otherwise.

            What makes you think there’s any cognitive dissonance? That’d imply actual agreement with your position, which I suspect most libertarians and right-leaners don’t share, which is why you would get negative responses to assertions that ACA is objectively better to alternative health plans.

            At this point, ACA might be short-run better than the politically realistic health plans, but that just proves the point of conservatives being against the plan in the first place: it’s almost impossible to roll back an entitlement, no matter how expensive or unsustainable it becomes.

          • cassander says:

            @HeelBearCub

            >In addition, the fact that the ACA is better policy than the alternatives on offer

            Assuming facts not in evidence.

            If I post a critique of objections to the ACA or an analysis of why the Republican policy proposals are awful, I’ll get tons of backlash from Republican supporters, endless nitpicks of my position from the right-libertarians and crickets otherwise.

            It’s perfectly possible to both dislike the republican proposals on offer and to lament the existence of the ACA.

            Another factor is that Scott’s position as an uber-contrarian actually discourages anyone from arguing that government policies on anything might be better than the alternative, without offering much in the way of an alternative.

            I see zero evidence of this. There are a lot of discussions of policy all the time, several of them in this very open thread.

    • Iain says:

      It is interesting to me that in all the hubbub about how those darn SJWs are making this a political issue when it should really be a cost/benefit analysis, nobody has mentioned the actual published cost-benefit analysis from RAND. One important point from the report: 18 other countries, including Canada, Australia, the UK, and Israel, already allow transgender personnel, and none of them have experienced any problems with it. (There are also, it should be pointed out, trans soldiers serving in the US military right now.)

      It also seems odd that the left is being accused of playing politics. Trump’s tweets were a transparent political ploy to score a win with his base; if this was the result of careful consideration and study, the military would not have been completely taken by surprise. I can imagine an apolitical decision-making process choosing to limit when and how trans people can serve; it doesn’t look anything like this.

      Furthermore, I think people are overestimating the popularity of this move. When Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican Mormon from Utah, feels compelled to subtweet you in defense of transgender soldiers, maybe you shouldn’t go patting yourself on the back about political masterstrokes.

      • bean says:

        An interesting study, although it does seem like they fail to consider possible behavior changes by those outside of the military. I’m not at all familiar with the current state of insurance around gender transitioning, but it seems possible and even likely that the military could become the preferred option for getting a free transition. While that seems like a bit of an extreme position, the military’s position on SJW issues often makes college deans think they’ve gone too far. I’ve been told by someone on active duty that their policy on alcohol and sex is “if you and a girl have one drink each and have sex, and she decides it was rape a week later, it’s rape”. If the same attitude is given towards transsexuals, then any trans person who doesn’t like what they’ve gotten screams ‘transphobia’ and can basically do whatever they want. So they go in, transition on the taxpayer dime, spend the next few years sitting around doing nothing, then get out.
        WRT foreign military experience, I looked into this quite closely during the women in combat rollout, and the normal reports are usually not that accurate. The Israelis have a famous integrated ‘infantry battalion’ which is actually a border guard unit. The Canadians have serious deployability problems with their women, have reported dishonest statistics on it, and changed their physical test when they couldn’t get enough women into the infantry. I suspect they may be playing the same games with their reporting on transgender issues.

        • Randy M says:

          it seems possible and even likely that the military could become the preferred option for getting a free transition. While that seems like a bit of an extreme position, the military’s position on SJW issues often makes college deans think they’ve gone too far.

          I don’t know about preferred option, but by way of analogy paying for (some of) college is a perk of service, isn’t it? A specific reason some people enlist.
          I think it would be fair for critics to ask why this personal expense is justified but not transitioning.

          • bean says:

            A fair point. But that college doesn’t make a servicemember nondeployable for several months (because it happens after they leave) and it’s pretty broadly targeted. This is specific only to trans, which is a very small percentage of the population.
            That said, I’d be in (on the fiscal side at least) if they took a hit on their GI bill eligibility. It currently takes 3 years on active duty to get full benefits from that, so let them trade off, say, 1 year per major surgery. And if I could be sure that they were held to the same standards everyone else was while on duty, which is in a lot of ways the bigger concern.

          • Randy M says:

            I was hoping you’d bite the other bullet. Let’s get rid of military pay for college, and have them pave the way for our lower cost alternative by certifying each discharged service member with some official document.
            “Honorable discharge with academic proficiency” to signify that he is about as literate and numerate as an average college graduate or better. Slap an IQ score-equivalent test result on there as well, and dare the market to turn away vets certified by another government institution, while paving the way for a free-market version of the same.

            (edit: meant to say honorable, lol)

          • cassander says:

            @Randy M

            It’s long been my assertion that we need to replace the vast and confusing web of benefits we gives soldiers with more cash. The system as it currently exists is frankly lunatic. the VA, for example, is a 19th century relic that has manage to persist until the 21st century that is almost universally disliked by the people who actually use it. Sadly, it’s also politically sacrosanct.

          • Brad says:

            @cassander
            It would be a good idea not just for the military, but for the entire public sector. And for the private sector too, for that matter.

          • bean says:

            “Honorable discharge with academic proficiency” to signify that he is about as literate and numerate as an average college graduate or better. Slap an IQ score-equivalent test result on there as well, and dare the market to turn away vets certified by another government institution, while paving the way for a more compact version of the same.

            It’s definitely an interesting idea. I would point out that there are people who go to college because they want a specific degree, who get left out in the cold even if this works as you want. But I can see the utility in terms of providing a recognized alternative for ‘some degree required’ positions.

          • Randy M says:

            I would point out that there are people who go to college because they want a specific degree, who get left out in the cold even if this works as you want

            Well, yes, but people who want a specific car get left out of the subsidized bus routes as well.

            Presumably if you need technical information and the job you want won’t allow you to apprentice to get it and none of you military service prepares you (like it might for nurses or electronics repair or flight) then you are in the same position as everyone else looking for that job, except a bit older and with some savings.

            If you want to say offering a degree is the only way to entice these people to enlist, I think cassander’s point is sufficient rebuttal. Give them cash. Probably apocryphal:

            “How can I ever thank you?” gushed a woman to Clarence Darrow, after he had solved her legal troubles. “My dear woman,” Darrow replied, “ever since the Phoenicians invented money there has been only one answer to that question.”

          • bean says:

            I’m not saying that it’s a bad idea, just that I’m not sure yet. I do think that there’s a tendency on this board to go “all college is just credentialism”, which I don’t really agree with. (At least not for all degrees.) And I would want to look at the impact this has before endorsing it, but I’ll definitely agree it bears looking into.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I’ve been told by someone on active duty that their policy on alcohol and sex is “if you and a girl have one drink each and have sex, and she decides it was rape a week later, it’s rape”.

          I don’t think this sub-thread is the best place to get into this, but the best man at my wedding is Air Force JAG. He describes something that looks a lot like the opposite, which is that it doesn’t matter how blind drunk you may have been, if there is any evidence of anything that looks like consent , there is no way you are winning that case.

        • Iain says:

          I have a hard time believing that transition tourism would be a significant real-world problem. It does not appear to be a problem in any other military with transgender personnel. If it somehow became a serious issue, you could just require some minimum period of service before transition would be covered.

          Granting for the sake of argument that the success of the women in combat rollout has been exaggerated for political reasons, I suspect that you would still not advocate that all women should be prohibited from any form of military service. In the same way, foreign militaries with transgender troops may be downplaying some of the repercussions — but I don’t think they could possibly be covering up enough problems to justify a complete ban.

          • Aapje says:

            If those countries ensure that their citizens can get treatment without having to go into the military, then they obviously won’t have this issue.

        • Deiseach says:

          WRT foreign military experience, I looked into this quite closely during the women in combat rollout, and the normal reports are usually not that accurate. The Israelis have a famous integrated ‘infantry battalion’ which is actually a border guard unit. The Canadians have serious deployability problems with their women, have reported dishonest statistics on it, and changed their physical test when they couldn’t get enough women into the infantry.

          This is what I’m wondering about and since I can’t think of a tactful way to phrase it, gonna hafta go with non-tactful.

          Since there have been discussions on here previously about putting women into combat roles, how does this affect transgender soldiers/other forces? I’m going to assume that a trans woman (that is, born with male skeleton and muscle build) is going to be as good as any cis women soldiers and (as the arguments over sport go) probably won’t be far behind cis men (if they get the same access to physical training to get fit and get muscles). Someone who was 5′ 10″ before they started on oestrogen and had their boobs reduced is not going to shrink down to 5′ 4″ (the 2010 average height for US women).

          But what about trans men? Is a 5′ 6″ trans man going to be as physically fit and able for the combat role as a 5′ 6″ cis woman or a 5′ 6″ cis man? That is, would their carrying a load ability and running speed be nearer to that of a man or a woman? I don’t know what difference taking testosterone is going to do, I know it’ll give you muscle, but it’s not going to change the shape of your pelvis or the width of your shoulders. So would requirements be relaxed in order for trans men to qualify?

          So yeah – if you’re going to shuttle all your trans male soldiers into the same roles as women as non-front line combatants, I don’t know if that satisfies the “no bans on transgender soldiers” types, or if they’ll claim that’s discrimination.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Hormones are huge. Trans women who start taking testosterone blockers and female hormones see muscle mass decrease, body fat increase and accumulate differently, to give the two most noticeable physiological effects; trans men who start taking testosterone see muscle mass increase and body fat decrease, in addition to other effects of testosterone (faster recovery from exercise and injury).

            Anecdotal evidence: there was a trans woman who competed in MMA, and was outed as trans (or, came out? Can’t precisely remember). There was a lot of speculation that she had an unfair advantage, but then she lost to a fighter who went on to have a 50-50 UFC career, and people quieted down, because if she did have an advantage it clearly wasn’t enough to overcome a cis woman who isn’t in the top 10 in the big leagues.

            It would be interesting to see statistics on, say, how a trans man with a given height and build compares athletically to a cis man with the same height and build (and testosterone levels).

          • Nornagest says:

            I’ve met a trans guy that was pretty ripped, although I didn’t actually compare gym stats with him or anything. Hormones have pretty broad effects on athleticism, which is why anabolic steroids work — they’re simply artificial testosterone or analogues of it.

            I get the impression that shoulder width and pelvis shape are not that important to overall strength, which makes intuitive sense to me — narrow shoulders means a shorter lever arm on the pectorals and some back muscles, but that only affects a couple of motions, and wide hips should actually help. Losing four inches of height on average is a serious impediment for a lot of sports, though.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            If we were to do what I want us to do- Say “Doors are open wide to all genders and gender identities, but our standards don’t budge one bit, in fact we’re raising them slightly and cracking down on the men who don’t make the cut while we’re at it”- I would anticipate ground combat jobs to go cismen > transwomen > transmen > ciswomen in terms of pass rates, but for ciswomen to outnumber transmen and -women due to demographics.

            The problem is that I have no faith in the ability to open the doors without concomitant pressure to adjust training and readiness standards.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        To be specific, it helps when your main examples have single digit sample sizes (for example, Australia has 6 transgender troops) out of the entire force, all in non-combat roles…

    • dndnrsn says:

      Leaving aside the issue entirely: how is this a political masterstroke? It’s blown up in his face. Republicans are attacking him over it. It looks like he didn’t consult with anyone, just sort of hammered out a tweet and thought that somehow turned into policy, so he looks even more like an incompetent who doesn’t know how the game is played.

      I thought we were well past the whole “noneuclidian baccarat” notion.

      • beleester says:

        Agreed. If the goal is some clever shift in how you frame the debate, painting yourself as the sane man taking on the unhinged leftists, you need to, well, actually do something to paint yourself that way. For instance, you could make sure the Pentagon actually has a plan to implement your order before you issue it, and make sure that your own party is on-board. That would make it look like you were in control of the situation.

        Simply saying “After consultation with my Generals and military experts…” doesn’t make people believe that you actually consulted your generals and thought it over.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Republicans are attacking him over it.

        Republicans or “Republicans?” On the conservative websites I visit you won’t find one negative comment.

        • beleester says:

          Well, just upthread, Iain cited a Republican senator from Utah. Is that Republican enough for you?

          Edit: Fivethirtyeight has a full breakdown: Of 19 Republican senators who made statements, 2 were explicitly in favor, 9 were explicitly opposing, and 8 didn’t make an explicit statement either way. He’s not getting a lot of support from Congress on this one.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            The GOP establishment is not very popular with conservative voters. Comments from Republican senators are a poor proxy for the opinions of right-leaning voters.

          • beleester says:

            1. The GOP establishment is popular enough with conservative voters to get elected. That’s why they’re the establishment.
            2. When push comes to shove, it’s the Senators who pass laws, not the base. Regardless of whether they’re Republicans or RINOs in your book, Trump has to take their opinion into account if he wants to get things done.

          • Jiro says:

            The GOP establishment is popular enough with conservative voters to get elected.

            They’re “popular” only as the lesser of two evils.

          • John Schilling says:

            They’re “popular” only as the lesser of two evils.

            Is that not even more true of Trump himself? I’m pretty sure the “#NeverHillary” vote was at least as large as “Yay Donald!”

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Is that not even more true of Trump himself? I’m pretty sure the “#NeverHillary” vote was at least as large as “Yay Donald!”

            I’ve still yet to meet anyone with Trump as a first choice in the primary. Most liked Cruz.

            I hope Jeb! will run again, on a campaign of solid norm-core.

        • Brad says:

          Scotsman or “Scotsman”?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’m talking about voters. If things said and done by establishment Republicans were congruent with the opinions of Republican voters we wouldn’t have President Trump right now.

          • Brad says:

            Tens of millions of Republicans voted for Trump. Tens of millions of Republicans voted for the members of the Republican House and Senate caucuses. As far as I know zero Republicans voted for you for anything. But you do read unnamed conservative websites. So there’s that.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Go to Breitbart and find commenters who are furious at Trump for banning transgendered individuals from serving in the military.

            You apparently know the conservative mindset better than I do, Brad, so please enlighten me, what exactly is the conservative sacred value Trump squashed here? Your average flyover state Republican’s serious concern for the feelings of the trans community? Your average redneck’s deeply held belief that the military exists for social experiments, and that killin’ for’gners comes second to paying for penis removal surgery?

            The Republican senators against this are out of touch with the base.

          • Brad says:

            I like to have data before forming strong opinions, much less offering them as authoritative. You should try it sometime.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Breitbart is hardly mainstream American conservatism, is it?

            The elected Republicans going against Trump presumably are doing so because they think not doing so will hurt them. If they are out of touch with the people who voted for them, that will hurt them. While the Republican leadership was out of touch with its base on a national level going into the primaries, is that true of these elected officials? They are not operating on a national level, and I would presume most of them know their audience.

          • Iain says:

            @Conrad Honcho:

            The “base”, as you define it, is too small to get anybody elected. If your only goal is to be rabidly popular with 30% of the population, then maybe this makes sense. For some strange reason, most politicians seem to be unwilling to settle for 30%.

            If you want to use an idiosyncratic definition of the word “Republican” that only includes people who approve of Trump’s action, then sure — no real Republicans are attacking him. I prefer a less circular definition myself.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Iain

            The “base”, as you define it, is too small to get anybody elected. If your only goal is to be rabidly popular with 30% of the population, then maybe this makes sense. For some strange reason, most politicians seem to be unwilling to settle for 30%.

            I’m not sure about that. Assume that 30% is in the same party. If half the population generally aligns with party A and half generally aligns with party B, then being rabidly popular with 30% of the population means you’re rabidly popular with more than half of a given party. Which means you get the primary victory, and then the rabid 30% will be dragging the less rabid 20% along.

            Wouldn’t 30% rabid support, 20% tepid support be better than 50% mild support?

            Still, I find this all very odd that I have several Blue Tribe members telling me that the Red Tribe base is pro-trans. Have they always been pro-trans or is this a recent development?

          • Iain says:

            @Conrad Honcho:
            Alternatively, the rabid 30% drives the non-rabid 20% away.

            Consider what might happen if the Democrats went all-in on Black Lives Matter. Large chunks of the base would be delighted. In left-wing echo chambers, there might be no dissenting voices. That doesn’t mean the Democrats would win the election.

            (If you are tempted to retort “But that’s exactly what Hillary Clinton did!”, consider who’s sitting in the White House right now.)

            Still, I find this all very odd that I have several Blue Tribe members telling me that the Red Tribe base is pro-trans. Have they always been pro-trans or is this a recent development?

            We’re not telling you that the Red Tribe base is pro-trans. We’re telling you that the Republican party needs to win votes from people who are not the Red Tribe base.

          • dndnrsn says:

            And it’s not even that the Republicans in question are pro-trans. Trump announced a “policy” that apparently didn’t exist, after seemingly no consultation, by tweet. They may object to the incompetent, going-off-half-cocked nature of it as much as anything else.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Iain

            We’re not telling you that the Red Tribe base is pro-trans. We’re telling you that the Republican party needs to win votes from people who are not the Red Tribe base.

            I sense goalposts moving. The original assertion was “Republicans are attacking him over it.” Now it’s that he’s going to alienate non-Republicans.

            You’ve also said that taking too hard an ideological position alienates people. Isn’t the ideologue position the one that says transgendered individuals should be allowed in the military? It’s not the practical one. There are many, many medical conditions that make one unfit for military service because their condition would make them a danger to themselves, their fellow soldiers, and the success of the mission.

            Right wing ideologues support Trump’s position. Left wing ideologues are never going to vote for Trump anyway. The pragmatic voters who are not ideologues are going to agree with Trump, because since it’s reasonable to refuse people for military service because of flat feet, then it’s reasonable to refuse people for military service due to extra or missing genitals.

            @dndnrsn

            Trump announced a “policy” that apparently didn’t exist, after seemingly no consultation, by tweet.

            I haven’t seen anything indicating military chiefs were not consulted about the policy, only that they were unaware Trump was going to announce it. The media is conflating the two trying to make it seem like the ban was a surprise, rather than that it was merely the tweet that was a surprise.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            I sense goalposts moving. The original assertion was “Republicans are attacking him over it.” Now it’s that he’s going to alienate non-Republicans.

            perhaps the latter is the reason for the former

            Isn’t the ideologue position the one that says transgendered individuals should be allowed in the military?

            That’s an opinion. I guess what matters is who shares it.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Regardless of the reality of what happened, I did say “seemingly.” Trump looks incompetent, which is enough to cause career politicians to distance themselves, regardless of whether or not he actually is. You don’t have to be against Trump’s agenda (insofar as he has one) to think he’s doing a very poor job of advancing it.

          • Spookykou says:

            I sense goalposts moving. The original assertion was “Republicans are attacking him over it.” Now it’s that he’s going to alienate non-Republicans.

            You might be conflating Red Tribe Base with Republican. I think Iain is using Red Tribe Base to refer to the portion of the Republican party that is Trump’s base

          • Spookykou says:

            Also, it is probably important to remember what exactly dndnrsn was responding to, namely that this was a masterstroke, and,

            Consequently, moderates are likely to notice that the right is able to discuss this issue far more rationally than the left, and that the left seems unhinged when debating this issue.

            Given the context, the fact that even ‘Republicans’ are giving him heat for this, seems particularly relevant in terms of evaluating this move as a masterstroke that will bring moderates over to his side.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Nothing Trump has done has been a masterstroke, unless he’s some kind of deep cover agent working to discredit right-wing populism, ruining his own name for the greater good of left-wing progressivism.

        • BBA says:

          Odd how in America the hard-left crowd and the hard-right crowd both hate “their” parties’ establishments, but where the hard left rejects the Democratic label entirely and calls itself Socialist or Green or whatever, the hard right sees itself as embodying the essence of the Republican Party.

          • Spookykou says:

            It makes an odd sort of since to me, if I imagine the core philosophy of the left as ‘progress’ and the core philosophy of the right as ‘conservative’. Progressives are happy to distance themselves from their past incarnation, they care not for tradition, a butterfly casting off it’s cocoon. Where as the conservatives need to embody their past incarnation, embrace tradition, like…I can’t think of a good animal metaphor.

          • Wander says:

            The entire point of the a-r label was “We’re right wing, but god we’re not the Republicans”.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      What is your predicted gain in Trump’s approval ratings as a result of this “political masterstroke”? When will they begin?

    • Douglas Knight says:

      [A] can frame this decision as coming out of a cost/benefit calculation. But for [B], [X] is a sacred value and even admitting that their might be any benefit to not [X] is considered disgusting/evil and a sign that you are on the side of the hated enemy. Consequently, moderates are likely to notice that [A] is able to discuss this issue far more rationally than [B], and that [B] seems unhinged when debating this issue.

      Is this abstract framework generally true? Do you have examples of similar situations in the past, intentional or not?

  10. veeloxtrox says:

    There was a discussion in the previous open thread involving theism. There were a couple questions that I was interested in hearing more opinions on.

    1) What amount of evidence would be needed to prove that a deity of some sort exists?

    2) What amount of evidence would be needed to prove that a specific pantheon of gods or a specific god exists?

    3) Somewhat related to one: with no prior evidence, can it be said if polytheism or monotheism is more likely?

    I am relatively new to SSC and so if there are older discussions somewhere on this topic, links would be appreciated.

    • Urstoff says:

      For 1, it depends on the powers the deity is proposed to have. Any a priori philosophical argument will not justify a deity that actively intervenes in the world. At most, your standard arguments for theism (cosmological, ontological, etc.) only get you to an empty box called “deity” that has the sole property of being a necessary (and maybe sufficient) causal condition for the existence of the world.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Even if God was completely non-interventionist in the cosmos after creating it, it could be both good and beneficial to worship Him

        • Autistic Cat says:

          If the universe is a simulation by some alien computer scientist will you worship him/her/it?

          Here is the difference between deism and theism. In theism you have more than creators of the universe. You have strong supernatural beings who demand submission and obedience.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            If the universe is a simulation created by a being just like us, no. Such a being, being merely salient rather than superhuman intellect, would be inferior to Brahma or Plato’s demiurge.
            But what created the creator’s cosmos? If we are a simulation, then we are ultimately mathematical objects, so if that is the mind that thinks mathemayical objects into existence, our substance and that substance should be able to interact, with none of the interaction problems dualism raises.

          • Autistic Cat says:

            @Le Maistre Chat Nah. That’s not the point. The issue is not whether the creator is a highly intelligent being but whether He/She/It forces humans to worship and obey Him/Her/It.

            Deism is certainly possible to imagine. However it is theism that is really weird. Why would a creator of a universe care so much about a group of insignificant beings called humans and whether that group of beings obey Him/Her/It? I mean if you wrote some program will you torture some bits in your computer for failing to obey you?

          • onyomi says:

            If God exists but never intervenes after having created the universe, is there any benefit to worshiping him which would not accrue by worshiping God in the case he does not exist (which I would bet has some psychological benefits)?

          • You’re saying theism, but you are meaning Judao-Chistianity.

          • Randy M says:

            If God exists but never intervenes after having created the universe, is there any benefit to worshiping him which would not accrue by worshiping God in the case he does not exist (which I would bet has some psychological benefits)?

            In a world in which no God created it, would we expect any benefits to accrue to worshiping such a concept?

          • Corey says:

            I could see an argument that if the creator of the universe told you rules to live by, He probably knows what He’s talking about and so it would be wise to listen. (Assuming there is such a creator, and you can authenticate the rules, etc. which is of course the hard part)

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Why would a creator of a universe care so much about a group of insignificant beings called humans and whether that group of beings obey Him/Her/It? I mean if you wrote some program will you torture some bits in your computer for failing to obey you?

            Have you ever heard of The Sims?

          • MrApophenia says:

            In a world in which no God created it, would we expect any benefits to accrue to worshiping such a concept?

            There seems to be a fair amount of evidence that people derive a lot of comfort and long-term psychological benefit from worship. This seems to be true completely regardless of whether the god they worship exists or not, which we can see from the fact that people with contradictory belief systems derive the same benefit.

            The practical impact of worshipping a non-interventionist god and a non-existent ones would probably be pretty similar – but that doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be a positive impact.

          • Randy M says:

            This seems to be true completely regardless of whether the god they worship exists or not, which we can see from the fact that people with contradictory belief systems derive the same benefit.

            That is not even evidence, let alone proof, that a non-interventionist god didn’t set up the universe in such a way as to reward the worship of himself. I think the level of specificity required to accrue psychological or social benefits from worshiping Yahweh but not Allah crosses over inter the interventionist level.

            The practical impact of worshipping a non-interventionist god and a non-existent ones would probably be pretty similar

            Is this what you would have expected to see absent such evidence? Or would you have expected worshiping a non-existent god to be as adaptive as fearing a non-existent predatory or searching for non-existent type of food?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            That is not even evidence, let alone proof, that a non-interventionist god didn’t set up the universe in such a way as to reward the worship of himself.

            No, but it’s evidence that the different interventionist “one true gods” don’t all exist as they are or were worshipped.

          • Randy M says:

            “the god they worship”

            You’re right, my bad.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            However it is theism that is really weird. Why would a creator of a universe care so much about a group of insignificant beings called humans and whether that group of beings obey Him/Her/It?

            If God cares enough to create us and sustain us in being, why wouldn’t he also care what we do?

          • Autistic Cat says:

            @The Original Mr.X

            Assuming that there are many aliens why shall a deity care that much about whether this small and weird group of beings who can’t even colonize Alpha Centauri called humans obey Him/Her/It or not?

            If an Abrahamic religion happens to be correct humanity should mourn because there exists such a demanding deity we can’t flee from and then obey the Abrahamic God. It is certainly not good for humans to deal with a deity who had a history of killing almost all humans (i.e. Noah’s Flood) and may threaten to kill more at least in Christianity and Islam.

          • Spookykou says:

            Assuming that there are many aliens

            A rather bold assumption I think, perhaps god made all of this just for us?

            If an Abrahamic religion happens to be correct humanity should mourn because there exists such a demanding deity

            If we assume they are correct it would be prudent to cleanse your mind of such sacrilegious thoughts, as such a being holds the power to give you infinite bliss or suffering and can read minds(souls?). While I can appreciate the moral fortitude to refuse to worship an evil god, it is not a fortitude that I posses, and besides who am I to puts such faith in my own conception of good and evil when confronted with the creator of the universe.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “Why would a creator of a universe care so much about a group of insignificant beings called humans and whether that group of beings obey Him/Her/It?”

            Hobbyists are weird.

          • Aapje says:

            @The original Mr. X

            If God cares enough to create us and sustain us in being, why wouldn’t he also care what we do?

            Humans care enough to create and sustain lab rats. Then we kill them when the experiment is over, because we don’t care about the rats themselves, but what benefit we get from experimenting on them. We also don’t care if the lab rats worship humans.

            And given what we know of the universe, it’s actually very unlikely that the ‘original mover’ created humans specifically. We seem to have arisen spontaneously from evolution, which seems to have arisen spontaneously from a soup of molecules, which seems to have arisen spontaneously due to natural processes, etc back to the big bang.

            We may just be the speck of dust in the corner of the room that God doesn’t care to clean up, because it doesn’t bother him; or no rational/thinking entity may even have involved in the chain of events that brought us about. The latter seems especially plausible, since there is so little evidence that we live in a universe with a goal or a non-chaotic origin.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Autistic Cat:

            Assuming that there are many aliens why shall a deity care that much about whether this small and weird group of beings who can’t even colonize Alpha Centauri called humans obey Him/Her/It or not?

            Why shouldn’t he?

            For us humans, with all our limitations, it makes sense to ignore small things and focus on the bigger picture. But God is omniscient, omnipotent, etc., and therefore has none of our limitations. So, there’s no reason why God shouldn’t care about us, even if there are much bigger and more technologically-advanced alien civilisations out there (which isn’t at all a given).

            If an Abrahamic religion happens to be correct humanity should mourn because there exists such a demanding deity we can’t flee from and then obey the Abrahamic God.

            That’s certainly not how most Abrahamics see it. Nor, for that matter, do many atheists, hence the popularity of the “You only believe in Christianity because you want it to be true!” argument.

            @ Aapje:

            And given what we know of the universe, it’s actually very unlikely that the ‘original mover’ created humans specifically. We seem to have arisen spontaneously from evolution, which seems to have arisen spontaneously from a soup of molecules, which seems to have arisen spontaneously due to natural processes, etc back to the big bang.

            God sustains the universe in being each and every moment, in much the same way that a musician sustains his music in being. So God is, in fact, sustaining each of us, personally, in existence, right this very instant.

            We may just be the speck of dust in the corner of the room that God doesn’t care to clean up, because it doesn’t bother him; or no rational/thinking entity may even have involved in the chain of events that brought us about. The latter seems especially plausible, since there is so little evidence that we live in a universe with a goal or a non-chaotic origin.

            Given that the universe around us is non-chaotic, positing a chaotic origin would violate both the first law of thermodynamics and the principle of sufficient reason.

          • Autistic Cat says:

            @The original Mr.X Here are the issues.
            1.Before claiming “God wants this” or “God wants that” you have to justify your belief in the Abrahamic God rationally or add “Assuming that the Abrahamic God exists..”
            2.I used to deal with fundamentalist Pentacostals. Yeah this is exactly how a normal person would think about a deity who is so willing to condemn people to hell fire. I’m already more willing to endure than most for the sake of long term benefits. However even I can’t handle that indefinitely. If you read the entire Bible you will find that the Abrahamic God is in essence a Kim Jong-un like entity. It would be really sad if an Abrahamic religion happens to be correct because it is better to have never existed to get condemned by the Abrahamic God along with 99.99%+ of humanity for one trivial reason or another. According to these Pentacostal stories even really devoted servants of AG can go to hell for some weird reason they aren’t necessarily even aware of. Sorry I don’t want to deal with such an entity. If even devoted service can not guarantee safety from wrath of AG, what can? Nothing. If AG is real and fundies are right we need to mourn because we are unfortunately existing and hence are statistically very likely to go to hell.

            @Spookykou If modern spiritual fundies such as these prophets and visionaries in Africa are right you don’t want to deal with AG either. Why serve AG when He has a history of condemning His loyal servants for trivial reasons? If AG can send people to hell for reasons they did not even know, how are you sure that you would be safe from AG’s wrath? If Christianity or Islam is correct then AG is at least as harmful as Mao, Stalin and Kim Jong-un to humanity because at least these three haven’t exterminated all but 8 people within their respective realms.

            I really don’t hate AG. However if He does exist it is a sad thing to know.

          • Evan Þ says:

            According to these Pentacostal stories even really devoted servants of AG can go to hell for some weird reason they aren’t necessarily even aware of. Sorry I don’t want to deal with such an entity. If even devoted service can not guarantee safety from wrath of AG, what can? Nothing.

            Note that most Christians believe exactly the opposite of this.

          • Autistic Cat says:

            @Evan Christianity was supposedly defined by AG, not consensus of people who call themselves Christians. My views on AG actually fit the Bible better than the view of most Christians.

            Look at Jesus’ real preaching. Do you think AG isn’t going to cast billions to hell?

          • Spookykou says:

            @Autistic Cat

            I don’t really understand what you are trying to say here. My point was that my response to an evil god would be to attempt to appease/worship it in as much as I am able.

            I also called into question the legitimacy of my ability to apply moral labels to a being that created the universe.

            The fact that this evil god could, at a whim, destroy all life in the universe, or create infinitely nested simulations of pure suffering(problem of good style) is inconsequential to the idea that I personally would be better off not thinking thoughts it did not want me to think.

            I can only pray my evil god is just as bad as Mao!

        • Urstoff says:

          Do you have an argument to support that supposition?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            It depends on what God is. If He is the Good, adoring Him, meditating on Him in hopes of yoking my mind to the divine mind, is the ultimate way to become good.
            On the subject of yoking, if God has any of the classical attributes like omniscience or omnipotence, it’s in your self-interest to yoke your mind to His if possible.

          • Autistic Cat says:

            @Le Maistre Chat First of all we need to separate theism from deism. You really need to give us evidence for theism (i.e. There exists a deity who really cares about whether humans obey Him/Her/It).

            If theism is correct morality is dead. “Good” and “evil” are simply whatever God/Gods think is good/evil.

          • Aapje says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            If He is the Good, adoring Him, meditating on Him in hopes of yoking my mind to the divine mind, is the ultimate way to become good.

            ‘Yoking’ is only possible if humans can perceive God at a level that allows for deriving a morality from him. Given that various believers have made completely contradictory claims about the morality that their religion justifies, it seems that a strong claim about the ability for humans to reliably base their morals on God is disproved.

            Of course, one could make the far weaker claim that people with divine inspiration act more morally on average than those without, but that is an unfalsifiable claim and thus not very convincing to a scientific mind.

            The assumption that God is good is also highly questionable. Why would this be the case? In fact, why would God’s behavior even fit in our moral frameworks or be fitting for the human context?

            Perhaps God is like the cat who tortures a mouse for his amusement.

            Perhaps what created our universe is not sentient but a natural mechanism that creates chaos, where humanity just came about by chance, with no purpose or reason for our existence.

            The idea that an omnipotent God exists and is good seems to be the least likely to be true, given that we live in a world of imperfection that causes lots of suffering. An omnipotent God that was good would logically have created a world without that suffering.

          • ‘Yoking’ is only possible if humans can perceive God at a level that allows for deriving a morality from him. Given that various believers have made completely contradictory claims about the morality that their religion justifies, it seems that a strong claim about the ability for humans to reliably base their morals on God is disproved.

            Serious claims of yoking or Henosis are not made by every theist, but mainly by mystics, who tend to be rare in each religion, and often at odds with the conventional. Huxley-style lPerennialismmakes the further claim that mystics do in fact agree with each other. Perhaps it is the steelman of theism.

            The idea that an omnipotent God exists and is good seems to be the least likely to be true, given that we live in a world of imperfection that causes lots of suffering. An omnipotent God that was good would logically have created a world without that suffering.

            Again, that is judaeo-christianity, not theism.

          • Deiseach says:

            If theism is correct morality is dead. “Good” and “evil” are simply whatever God/Gods think is good/evil.

            Isn’t that already an argument? There is no objective morality, it is all subjective, “good” and “evil” are only what humans think are good and evil, and the only basis for judging something good or evil is if it maximises utility/happiness/reduces suffering (for the group over the individual)?

            It’s a bit tough to blame theism for doing away with morality, when there are plenty willing to claim evolution has done exactly this (our moral notions are formed by what was evolutionarily advantageous to our survival).

          • Deiseach says:

            Given that various believers have made completely contradictory claims about the morality that their religion justifies, it seems that a strong claim about the ability for humans to reliably base their morals on God is disproved.

            That’s one of those “heads I win, tails you lose” arguments: if various religions disagree on what is moral, then that proves there isn’t any deity/deities involved at all, because they contradict one another. If you can find common moral claims, that proves there is no deity/deities involved because plainly this is the common human behaviour making these choices.

          • Aapje says:

            @Deiseach

            That’s one of those “heads I win, tails you lose” arguments: if various religions disagree on what is moral, then that proves there isn’t any deity/deities involved at all, because they contradict one another. If you can find common moral claims, that proves there is no deity/deities involved because plainly this is the common human behaviour making these choices.

            No. First of all, none of this proves anything. It’s just about likelihoods & the ability to make meaningful statements about a deity/deities.

            Secondly, the existence of commonality does not provide evidence that God does’t exist, but rather, partial commonality suggests that God either doesn’t exist or is rather useless as a source of morality.

            If Bob argues that God wants A and B, Alice argues that God wants A and C, etc; then the fact that both Alice and Bob insist that their God demands things beyond the commonality strongly suggests that either their uplink with God is severely broken or that they confuse their own desires for God’s desires. Even if God would exist and some of the beliefs by Bob and Alice are divinely inspired, we cannot assume that the distortion in communication is neutral. So God could actually be sending D, which Bob and Alice both mistakenly interpret as A.

            So when believers cannot give a consistent account of what God wants AND what he doesn’t want, you have to use your own judgement anyway. At that point, religious people/religions are untrustworthy.

            Finally, I’m not even convinced that there is any meaningful commonality in religion. Even fairly basic things like murdering people for God is/was demanded by some religions and condemned by others. The Bible claims that there was human sacrifice to Moloch. I think that you can only claim that religious people have a strong common core of beliefs if you cherry pick the religions/believers that you compare.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            ‘Yoking’ is only possible if humans can perceive God at a level that allows for deriving a morality from him. Given that various believers have made completely contradictory claims about the morality that their religion justifies, it seems that a strong claim about the ability for humans to reliably base their morals on God is disproved.

            If knowledge requires absolute unanimity, nobody can know or ever has known anything at all.

            The assumption that God is good is also highly questionable. Why would this be the case? In fact, why would God’s behavior even fit in our moral frameworks or be fitting for the human context?

            Evil is not a substance in its own right, but rather a lack or absence of good. God, being pure act, can lack nothing. Therefore, there can be no evil in God. Therefore, God cannot be evil.

            Perhaps what created our universe is not sentient but a natural mechanism that creates chaos, where humanity just came about by chance, with no purpose or reason for our existence.

            Then that natural mechanism would require a cause for its existence. All that the “Maybe the universe was created by some natural force” argument does is kick the can down the road; it doesn’t actually do away with the need for a creator.

            The idea that an omnipotent God exists and is good seems to be the least likely to be true, given that we live in a world of imperfection that causes lots of suffering. An omnipotent God that was good would logically have created a world without that suffering.

            As Augustine says (Enchiridion xi): “Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil.” This is part of the infinite goodness of God, that He should allow evil to exist, and out of it produce good.”

          • The original Mr. X says:

            If theism is correct morality is dead. “Good” and “evil” are simply whatever God/Gods think is good/evil.

            Thomas Aquinas would like a word with you.

          • Aapje says:

            @The original Mr. X

            God, being pure act, can lack nothing. Therefore, there can be no evil in God.

            Here you smuggle in a metric ton of assumptions and then beg the question. ‘Pure act’ is the assumption that God is absolute perfection, which of course logically means that he is not evil, because that was assumed to be true.

            Thomas Aquinas believed in the rather silly and thoroughly discredited Aristotlean idea that things have potentiality. The idea is that it is morally good for things to actualize their potentiality and that things can only change by external causes. As the original mover, God cannot be changed by anything else and thus it is assumed that he must be unchanging. Since nothing changes God, he has no potency left to achieve and thus must be fully actualized. Since the assumption is that actualization is good, God must be pure good. The problem with this reasoning is that we discovered that core building blocks of nature are far smaller than ‘humans’ or ‘cows,’ like molecules, atoms, and even smaller, which are identical in various things, where the arrangement is what makes these things into ‘humans’ and ‘cows.’ It is not credible to assume that this arrangement, which is not even static, but which is continuously evolving, has potentiality.

            Without potentiality, the entire argument for the ‘pure act’ falls apart.

            All that the “Maybe the universe was created by some natural force” argument does is kick the can down the road; it doesn’t actually do away with the need for a creator.

            No, because it is not necessary for time to exist outside of our universe. As such, the substrate that exists outside this universe doesn’t have to obey causality, entropy, etc. It can just exist (and not ‘always have existed,’ because such a statement makes no sense in the absence of time).

            From the perspective of the substrate, we may be in all states at once, which we perceive as a succession of states, because we have time.

          • Controls Freak says:

            The problem with this reasoning is that we discovered that core building blocks of nature are far smaller than ‘humans’ or ‘cows,’ like molecules, atoms, and even smaller, which are identical in various things, where the arrangement is what makes these things into ‘humans’ and ‘cows.’ It is not credible to assume that this arrangement, which is not even static, but which is continuously evolving, has potentiality.

            I don’t follow. Consider a trio of bowls, filled with cement, sand, and water, respectively. I could say that the contents are potentially a road, or potentially a wall. However, the core building blocks are much smaller than the objects which they may eventually compose. Does that mean that we can’t say that they’re potentially a road/wall at this stage?

            Or is it the movement that is important? Suppose we put them in a concrete-mixer; which is not even static. It’s continuously evolving. Is that the key to saying, “This stuff isn’t potentially a road/wall?”

          • Nick says:

            Aapje,

            Who said anything about assuming? The ancients and medievals had arguments for the act-potency distinction.

            Anyway, it’s not clear to me what your refutation establishes. An Aristotelian will readily accept that something like a human is composed of matter in certain arrangements. But he’d reply this just pushes the problem back, since the theory of act and potency was meant to be an account of change, and elementary particles, which do not as far as we know have structure, can still change e.g. flavor. And once you’re admitting that there are ways an elementary particle can and cannot be, you’re admitting that an elementary particle has potentialities. Well, the compositions of things such as atoms and molecules have potentialities as well, arising from the ways in which their constituents can and cannot be… thus chemistry, biology. Or so the Aristotelian would argue, I think.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Aapje:

            Thomas Aquinas believed in the rather silly and thoroughly discredited Aristotlean idea that things have potentiality.

            Then how exactly do you account for change? You’re not a secret parmenidean, are you?

            The problem with this reasoning is that we discovered that core building blocks of nature are far smaller than ‘humans’ or ‘cows,’ like molecules, atoms, and even smaller, which are identical in various things, where the arrangement is what makes these things into ‘humans’ and ‘cows.’ It is not credible to assume that this arrangement, which is not even static, but which is continuously evolving, has potentiality.

            What’s that got to do with anything? The Aristotelian view was that objects are composed of matter and form; and he was perfectly well-aware that the same piece of matter could be arranged into different forms.

          • Aapje says:

            @Controls Freak

            For Aquinas, man’s final purpose (telos) is happiness with God (eudaimonia/beatitudo), something for which we all have an innate desire. So the assumption is that actualization of potency will bring us closer to be fully actualized aka actus purus, which God already is.

            But if we evolved from animals by way of natural selection, then there is no fundamental difference between us and a cow or other animals, so then this can only be true if a cow and other animals also seek eudaimonia or if there was a special intervention by God which sets humans apart. Aquinas’ philosophy argues that humans are different from animals, but we know that we evolved from non-humans, so this cannot be true without intervention, for which Aquinas offers no proof. If animals then are truly no different from humans, then the smallest animal must seek eudaimonia. However, there is no strict barrier between animals and non-life. In fact, it is now believed that animals originated from simple chemical processes, which became so complex that they gained the attributes we call ‘life’.

            So then these chemical processes must seek eudaimonia. So at that point, life is no longer involved and the actualization of potency has become identical to entropy. So then Aquinas’ eudaimonia can be equated to maximum entropy.

            This then creates a huge problem in both directions. In the far (near infinite) future, entropy will disallow the existence of life, which seems incompatible with the claim that the end result is eudaimonia. After all, the claim is that eudaimonia is ‘human flourishing’, but if ultimately humans will no longer exist, then there can be no human flourishing.

            In the other direction, if the desire for eudaimonia is not present at the larger level, then at most this can consist of God having set the exact conditions to get the final result at the end of a very long causal chain. However, given the logical end result being the non-existence of man, not eudaimonia, then how can we conclude that God is good? After all, the end result is not good.

            So to resolve this mess you either have to ignore scientific fact or assume things (like Godly intervention) for which no strong evidence is provided.

          • Aapje says:

            @The original Mr. X

            Cause-effect in our world merely requires an increase in total entropy, not that an individual object loses potentiality permanently. For example, photoluminescent materials lose potential when they emit light and this emission ultimately ends without an external source, but you can then cause it to gain potential/start emitting again by photoexcitation.

            So then it is silly to argue that potentiality turns into actuality and ultimately into actus purus, unless you look at the entire system, but then you are just describing entropy.

            Entropy is not compatible with human telos or eudaimonia, as I argued above.

          • Controls Freak says:

            @Aapje

            Wew lad. I feel like you went off in quite an orthogonal direction. In your prior comment, you directly attacked the very idea that things have potentiality. I remarked that I didn’t follow this claim, regardless of some story about ‘god’s intervention/ultimate plan’ or whatever. That whole line of argument is just entirely tangential to what I thought was a pretty clear statement:

            Thomas Aquinas believed in the rather silly and thoroughly discredited Aristotlean idea that things have potentiality.

            Further, you proceeded to form your argument against Aristotle’s god by saying, “Without potentiality…” I was responding directly to your claims on potentiality, not really anything about some such god. This is part of why I presented an example that is very stripped down. In fact, it avoids any discussions about god’s intervention or ultimate plan or anything. Because, well, his metaphysics was more broadly applicable than that. Can you please respond to it?

            Do you think that evolution/entropy prevents bowls of material from having the potential to become a road? Is it something like, “I think Deity X would want that road to be a racetrack, but I find it scientifically impossible for that road to become a racetrack”? If so, isn’t that more a point against Deity X rather than the metaphysics of potentiality/actuality?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Aapje:

            Cause-effect in our world merely requires an increase in total entropy, not that an individual object loses potentiality permanently. For example, photoluminescent materials lose potential when they emit light and this emission ultimately ends without an external source, but you can then cause it to gain potential/start emitting again by photoexcitation.

            There’s nothing about Aristotelian metaphysics that requires a thing that actualises its potential to lose that potential thereafter. Aristotle and his followers were quite aware that, e.g., a ball can be in motion (actualising its potential for movement) at one point, and then at rest (not actualising its potential) at a later point, and then in motion again (again actualising its potential) at some point after this.

            So then it is silly to argue that potentiality turns into actuality and ultimately into actus purus, unless you look at the entire system, but then you are just describing entropy.

            Whut? In Aristotle’s metaphysics, actus purus comes before everything else, including potency. I’ve no idea where you got this idea of potential turning itself into pure act from, but it’s certainly not from either Aristotle or Aquinas.

    • skef says:

      1) What amount of evidence would be needed to prove that a deity of some sort exists?

      This shouldn’t be the relevant question. The thought that it is goes back to a medieval Christian rhetorical stance.

      You’ll often run into the claim “Atheists think they can prove God doesn’t exist, but they can’t.” Behind this is what amounts to a definitional argument, according to which Atheists are certain that there is no god, and all degrees of doubt on the question (below some high level) fall under “Agnostic”. No other realm of appropriate belief is judged on the same terms.

      I call myself an atheist because I don’t believe there is a god any more than I believe anything else I don’t believe.

      Your question makes the same mistake at the other end of the spectrum. Can I prove I’m typing on a keyboard right now? Well, hrm.

      • veeloxtrox says:

        I think it can be a relevant question. If I state X is true and you state X is false it can be productive to establish a stander of evidence to prove that X is true or false. Once that stander is determined, we can then go about seeing if we can meet that stander. If we cannot, then it is reasonable to be agnostic on the issue since cannot prove the value of X.

        I think atheist can come in two flavors, I don’t believe a god exists vs I believe no god exists. I think both can be rational stances but I think both require different levels of evidence. I am trying to find the standard of evidence needed to overcome the belief related to “I don’t believe a god exists.”

        It very well be that the standard is so high that it is unprovable, but I feel like it is still an interesting discussion to have.

        • skef says:

          Once that stander is determined, we can then go about seeing if we can meet that stander. If we cannot, then it is reasonable to be agnostic on the issue since cannot prove the value of X.

          I doubt I can prove that I’m typing on a keyboard right now. Where would I even start? But I’m hardly agnostic about the subject. I very much believe I am typing on a keyboard. Similarly, I don’t think the evidence needed to convince me there is a god needs to rise to the level of proof.

          I will admit that the more abstract a notion of god becomes, the more likely it is that arguments for the existence of that god will lean towards the a priori, and therefore be the sort of thing that could be proved or not. But not all notions of gods are so abstract.

          • Autistic Cat says:

            I suppose that the amount of evidence for a supernatural claim should be comparable to evidence for a natural claim.

            If Biblical miracles happen again such as one man defeating an army of 10,000 or some river dries up after a religious leader said some prayer I doubt many will remain secular.

          • Deiseach says:

            If Biblical miracles happen again such as one man defeating an army of 10,000 or some river dries up after a religious leader said some prayer I doubt many will remain secular.

            I think we had some discussion about this a while back and people were saying (for example) “if the stars re-arranged themselves to write in the sky ‘I am God and I exist’, I’d be more likely to think it was a hoax or a hallucination or aliens using a global hologram or maybe even aliens moving the stars, but I wouldn’t be convinced it was God“.

            A river drying up could be explained away; there are plenty of “natural explanations” for the parting of the Red Sea by Moses, for example (or my favourite in this vein, Ice Floe Jesus).

            One man beating 10,000 would be tougher to explain away but then again – how do we know it wasn’t he paid a bribe to the army, or they were acting on instructions from their leaders to throw the battle, or the Russians hacked them 🙂

            This very point is covered in the Parable of Lazarus and Dives:

            27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house — 28 for I have five brothers — so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

          • moonfirestorm says:

            I wonder if you could solve this by having biblical miracles occur the way they did in the Bible, namely to help the Christians?

            If you keep chasing Christians near rivers, and the rivers part for them then close for you, at the very least you’ve got super high-tech aliens with a weird affinity for helping Christians.

            Huh, said aliens could probably handle everything God’s credited with (except creation of the universe I guess), but I don’t feel like that’s going to be enough to worship them. Maybe with the advance of technology and advent of science fiction, we need more impressive miracles from our omnipotent beings.

            I wonder if there is something that’s impressive enough to guarantee “nope that’s God”? Maybe stuff that messes with time, like perfectly predicting a future event that’s too chaotic to have set up or simulated?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I wonder if there is something that’s impressive enough to guarantee “nope that’s God”? Maybe stuff that messes with time, like perfectly predicting a future event that’s too chaotic to have set up or simulated?

            In Carl Sagan’s novel, Contact, he addresses this specific problem. The main character (an atheist) writes a program to compute the digits of pi in various number bases, and lets it run for days (maybe longer; I forget). Eventually, in base 11, it turned out that the digits formed a peculiar pattern, which, when rendered at a particular resolution, portrayed a circle…

          • Autistic Cat says:

            @Deiseach We can not know anything IRL with 100% certainty however reasonable predictions do make sense.

            Let’s replace “God” by “President Trump”. Why do we not see people who deny that Trump actually exists? Of course it is possible that Trump is actually some illusion caused by some alien instead of a real person, right? Why do we have atheism but not aTrumpism or Trump-agnosticism? Because there is a lot of evidence to support the claim that Trump exists but no evidence to support aTrumpism. The main reason why atheism and agnosticism are widespread is that there is little evidence to support the claim that deities are real.

            If Biblical stories happen now instead of staying in the Bible it would be irrational to assume that Judeo-Christianity is incorrect.

          • Jiro says:

            A river drying up could be explained away; there are plenty of “natural explanations” for the parting of the Red Sea by Moses

            There are plenty of “natural explanations” for it because it’s easy to make up explanations which are consistent with the evidence that actually exists for it, which is none. Events that happen where we can examine them don’t have this problem.

            Also, I suspect that you yourself give such explanations to non-Christian ancient miracles.

            I think we had some discussion about this a while back and people were saying (for example) “if the stars re-arranged themselves to write in the sky ‘I am God and I exist’, I’d be more likely to think it was a hoax or a hallucination…

            Because it isn’t proof, it’s evidence. The evidence would mean that it is more likely that God exists, but also more likely that a bunch of other things are true too. It would take the cumulative weight of evidence (particularly evidence that makes the other scenarios less likely) for atheists to say “that’s enough evidence for God”. No individual item would do so.

        • Aapje says:

          @veeloxtrox

          ‘God’ is a word that is used to refer from anything from ‘nature’ to a purely spiritual being with no impact on the material world, to an active interventionist.

          For the more fundamentalist definitions of God, there is often a large amount of specifics, including specific claims about how the world was created, how nature works, etc.

          Personally I think that the people who equate God to nature are just atheists who prefer to see themselves as theists.

          Claims for a purely spiritual God cannot be disproved scientifically by definition, so the question whether such a God scientifically exists is nonsensical, as scientific existence concerns the material/measurable.

          The definitions of God as an interventionist entity often results in claims that can be scientifically examined. If such an examination results in the claim being proven false, this is evidence that that particular definition of God is objectively wrong.

          Confusion often arises because the many definitions of God. A person can be a strong atheist (this God doesn’t exist) when talking about creationism, a weak atheist/agnost (I don’t believe this due to a lack of evidence) when it comes to a purely spiritual definition of God and a theist when God=nature.

    • Autistic Cat says:

      This is a cool discussion!

      I believe we should use common sense. For example I’m sure that there are few Trump-agnostics who doubt that President Trump actually exists. There are also few rabbit-agnostics who are not sure whether rabbits are real. Why? Because there are a lot of evidence that both President Trump and rabbits exist. President Trump has been heard and seen speaking so he is almost certainly real. Rabbits can be seen in pet stores if not your back yard.

      If a theistic deity that regularly interfere in human lives exists I’m sure there is a lot of evidence to support the claim that the deity exists.

    • Spookykou says:

      Star trek has the ‘you are not actually a god you are just an advanced alien thing’, personally I am also fine with the reverse of that ‘you are an advanced alien thing claiming godhood and I will accept your claims in as much as you display the ability to do the things you claim to be able to do’.

      I think this question is only ‘difficult’ in that that deity/god comes with a lot of baked in assumptions that shouldn’t really be there. Is this thing claiming to have created life on earth, well if it is capable of interstellar space flight and a few billion years old, why not?

      • Well... says:

        Would any intelligent 5- or 6-dimensional being basically appear to be a god?

        • MrApophenia says:

          Deep Space 9 did some really interesting stuff with this idea. I was always fascinated by the idea that the Federation and the Bajorans basically agreed on the literal facts of the Prophets’ existence. The Bajoran view of, “These are literally omnipotent beings who transcend time and space, and periodically intervene in the universe to help us. Of course we worship them,” is technically in no way an inaccurate statement about the ‘wormhole aliens’ from Starfleet’s point of view.

          Religion in some fictional settings must be a fun ride. There has got to be a church set up by now in the Marvel Universe dedicated to the proposition that God exists, and he wants to eat the Earth.

          • Deiseach says:

            Deep Space Nine also had an episode where Keiko O’Brien was strongly cast in the Galileo role about this; it was made even more overt because the opponent was Vedek (later Kai) Winn who was the villain figure for a lot of the show’s run, and was shown to be politically ambitious, ruthless, and prone to abusing her role as religious leader for personal gain and imposing her morals on others. So it was pretty much set up as Science vs Religion, with Science being self-evidently right (and really annoyed me for stacking the deck like that; I did a lot of muttering while watching it about “You are not Galileo and this is not the same thing at all, so get off your high horse, Keiko”). It was a bit much to have Keiko teach the remaining kids in her class about Galileo and the Inquisition, with herself clearly cast in the role of “persecuted for the sake of science”, she was enjoying her ‘martyrdom’ a little too much, and it did undermine her claim that she was just teaching the kids history and science and not imposing any kind of philosophy at all:

            Vedek Winn attempts to negotiate in public: she will not object to Keiko teaching a non-spiritual viewpoint of the Wormhole, if Keiko simply does not teach about the Wormhole at all. Keiko replies that it is her job to open children’s minds to knowledge, not to hide it from them. Keiko asks if Vedek Winn will also object to teaching of evolution, and of the origin of the universe. Winn leaves with the Bajoran contingent, officially boycotting the school. The last five of her students are remaining.

            … After the meeting, Jake Sisko tells his father about school. Keiko continues to teach her remaining five students about Galileo, and how he was tried by the Inquisition for his belief that Earth revolved around the Sun. Jake makes the connection between the story of Galileo and current events on the station. He tells his father that the current controversy is stupid, and asks where the Bajorans get such ideas. Commander Sisko, however, points out that the Bajoran religion is quite reasonable in light of the Wormhole and the nature of the Prophets, and counsels Jake to be tolerant of the beliefs of other cultures.

            That part of the episode was unexpected in light of this, where Sisko tells his son that maybe the Bajorans are right, or at least not wrong, in how they interpret the Prophets and that the Official Starfleet View that they’re “wormhole aliens (sufficiently advanced but not gods, ha ha no gods don’t exist)” is not necessarily correct and may be short-sighted, besides being condescending and paternalistic and contrary to the stated Federation values of tolerance and diversity (in that Keiko wanted to teach the Bajoran kids her/Starfleet’s view of the matter not alone as “neutral stance on this” but “this is plainly right and the religious stuff is for private consumption and your parents are well-meaning chumps but now I’m here to enlighten you”).

            DS9 was a good show for wanting to look fairly at all sides (although it did have its preachy episodes as well as it’s “why on earth did anyone think this was a good idea?” episodes).

    • MrApophenia says:

      The following post contains SPOILERS for Carl Sagan’s Contact and the recent Doctor Who episode “Extremis.”

      .
      .

      In both of these stories, people are able to prove they live in an intelligently designed universe by finding artifacts built into the actual structure of mathematics that couldn’t have arisen naturally. In Contact it’s a message encoder in the digits of Pi. In Doctor Who, it was the inhabitants of a simulated universe finding some shoddy programming around the simulation’s random number generator.

      I think the basic idea is sound, if not the exact mechanisms. If we found an intelligible message or other very clear sign of intelligence built into the deep, structural nature of reality, it would be pretty hard to shrug off.

      (Of course, proving the existence of a creator isn’t necessarily a sign that the God in question is the one you were hoping for. Just ask the simulants in that Doctor Who episode.)

      .
      .
      .

      Spoilers above

      • Well... says:

        I thought Contact was exceptionally brilliant as an atheist’s concession that he might be wrong.

        • Autistic Cat says:

          ^Many atheists and agnostics have no problems with deism. It is theism that is actually odd.

          • Well... says:

            I’m not really clear on the difference. Can you explain it?

          • Evan Þ says:

            AFAIK, deism says that God exists; theism says that He intervenes in the universe? So, a mere deist would believe in a God who created the universe, started it moving, and then left it alone.

          • Well... says:

            So, deism is the “watchmaker” concept. I didn’t realize the two were indistinct.

        • MrApophenia says:

          Sagan was very big on this sort of thing. In his nonfiction books, he touches on the UFO phenomenon several times. And nobody wanted to be wrong about UFOs more than Carl Sagan.

          I think a lot of people forget that the same guy who came up with the SETI program was also a noted UFO debunker. Sagan wanted very badly to find alien visitors, he just never came across adequate evidence to actually believe it.

          Something similar may have been true with his thoughts on religion.

      • onyomi says:

        I know a physics professor who claims to have done this. Problem is, I don’t know enough about physics to evaluate his claims. Until a large percentage of other physicists come out in support of him, I’m going to assume he’s wrong.

    • Well... says:

      1 & 2: Depends who you’re trying to prove it to. If you’re proving it to yourself, you don’t need evidence in “amounts” but rather the right piece of evidence at the right time. For me it came one day in 2012, rather unsuspectedly but without much fanfare, when I paused in the middle of some task and realized I believed in God.

      3. Depends if you define it as the number of gods believed to be (possibly) in existence or the number of gods you worship and are loyal to. In the Torah, God does not seem to require that His people disbelieve in other gods, merely that they not respect or worship them. (Though of course this nuance is lost on most.)

      • Autistic Cat says:

        ^You don’t necessarily need any evidence to convince yourself that a belief is correct or you should have it.

        I agree that this nuance exists in the Torah but not in the Qur’an.

        • Well... says:

          You don’t necessarily need any evidence to convince yourself that a belief is correct or you should have it.

          I’m not certain this is true. Someone might feel like part of his brain is in control of deciding what he believes, and that this part of his brain always requires evidence, but it is sometimes lenient in what it will accept. This might be effectively the same as not requiring evidence, but from a brain process standpoint it’s different.

          I didn’t say anything about the Quran.

          • Randy M says:

            AC is pointing out that some traditions have stricter interpretations of Monotheism, I think.

          • Well... says:

            OK. I don’t know who he’s agreeing with when he says “I agree” then.

          • Autistic Cat says:

            The Written Torah indeed did not claim that no other deities exist however some later books in the Tanakh seem to claim that.

    • Why frame it in terms of evidence, rather than interpretation of evidence?

    • dodrian says:

      I don’t believe that it is possible to prove the existence of a deity or deities.

      There’s a good rationalist joke that goes like this: Q. What do you call alternative medicine that works? A. Medicine!

      I want to frame my comments more with relation to the supernatural than to deities, and try and explore what you mean by ‘evidence’. To tweak the above joke: Q. What do you call the supernatural that you have evidence for? A. Natural! That is to say, ‘natural’ encompasses what there is evidence for, is repeatable, and what, even if not understood in cause, is understood in effect (eg., we know the universe is expanding, it’s observable and predictable even if we don’t know why – that’s still part of the ‘natural’). The ‘supernatural’ encompasses what we can’t test with evidence – ghosts, deities, miracles, etc. If all of a sudden a ghost were to appear in the entrance portcullis of Edinburgh Castle for an hour at 7pm on the first Tuesday after every full moon – if it were observable, predictable and to an extent measurable then we would slowly begin to think of this ghost less as ‘supernatural’, and more as a natural phenomena.

      So – what evidence would be needed to prove that a deity of sorts exists? If we were to have this kind of concrete evidence, I think we would stop thinking of them as a deity. An ascended being perhaps? A different life-form? They wouldn’t necessarily even have the same philosophical outlook as we do, or be willing to communicate to a western, rationalistic world-view. Sci-fi is full of speculation about this, other mentions in this thread include the Bajoran Wormhole ‘gods’ or the various ‘gods’ in comic books (from Thor to Superman). If a deity were to appear on Earth and perform the kind of miracles that were attributed to Jesus, and they were demonstrably not sleight-of-hand, half the world would want to worship him, the other half would want to study him to learn something new about the universe.

      If you’re interested in exploring this further, a lot of my thinking comes from C.S. Lewis’ book Miracles. Essentially, he argues, in order to even have a perception of the ‘supernatural’ we must first have a concrete idea about what is natural. Those who wrote about Jesus turning water into wine did so not because they were dumb and didn’t understand that you can’t just turn water into wine (unless by water you mean grape juice, and by ‘turn into’ you mean add yeast and keep sealed at an appropriate temperature for several weeks), but they wrote about it precisely because they understood it as an extraordinary event.

      To return to your original question – what sort of evidence would prove that a deity exists – as I’ve argued, existence of scientific-type evidence would actually de-deify them. Whether you are willing to accept less than rigorous, scientific evidence as proof (or indication) of a deity will depend on your outlook and worldview. Clearly many people do (including C.S. Lewis, and yes, including myself and a number of other commentators on this board).

      To answer your question from a personal stance – why do I believe, specifically, that Jesus was/is the son of God, a deity if you will? It is not one piece of evidence, but many things that have pointed me this way, including:
      -Seeing friends’ and family members’ lives shaped by their faith, and wanting to share in that, both as a child and continuing as an adult.
      -Personally witnessing ‘miracles’, including seeing a friend with a medical diagnosis of multiple sclerosis being prayed for, and later being declared medically free of the disease.
      -The historical and literary evidence of the existence of Jesus of Nazareth, and the world-changing movement that sprung from his teachings (the spread of ancient myths and manuscripts is particularly interesting to look at).
      -Personal experiences with the ‘supernatural’

      I realize that none of these reasons are scientifically compelling, that all of them could have other explanations that someone coming from a rationalist worldview would prefer. But they have convinced me, and in the end that’s all that matters for deciding if _I_ believe that a deity exists.

      • MrApophenia says:

        I’m not totally sure I understand how proving a deity makes them not a deity. To use your ghost example – if we gain the ability to really prove the physical existence of ghosts, that may mean they aren’t supernatural, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t ghosts.

        It might change our relationship with ghosts (“If the ionization rate is constant for all ectoplasmic entities, we could really bust some heads! In a spiritual sense, of course.”) but they are still ghosts.

        If I proved the literal, empirical existence of Brahma tomorrow, that might not imply everyone should immediately convert to Hinduism, but it does definitely mean a deity exists.

        • dodrian says:

          Hmmm… I see what you mean, but I think that the point I was trying to get at was that the discovery of ghosts or deities would not only begin to change our relationship with them, but that change would spill over into how we conceive of them as well.

          I suppose that in my reading of veeloxtrox’s post, the meaning of ‘deity’ as asked to be proven had an inherently religious component. If we were to meet an incarnation of Brahma, that would be proof of a deity’s existence, but many people would immediately attempt to explain Brahma without invoking religion, and attempt to de-deify him: Brahma is an alien, Brahma is a previously-unknown form of matter/energy, Brahma is an external intelligence that simulates our universe in his mind, etc.

          To that group of people you haven’t actually proven the existence of a deity, except in the historical sense of “the [mythical] deity these people worship actually had a basis in reality”, not in the religious sense that I would attempt to define a deity as “being with powers beyond rational explanation”.

          I suppose really I should have asked veeloxtrox what they meant by the concept of ‘deity’. I guess if they were to define ‘deity’ they might answer their own question by giving a list of criteria that describe a deity. Those criteria would then be the evidence they would require to prove that one exists.

        • Aapje says:

          One can argue that one motivation for believers is to believe in something that is supernatural and if a creator were to be proven to actually be part of the natural world, this would not be considered suitable for worship.

          For example, since we gathered a lot of evidence for the Big Bang, a good claim can be made that this was our creator. Yet we don’t see very many people worshiping the Big Bang.

          • Autistic Cat says:

            Because the Big Bang isn’t going to answer your prayers or cast you into hell for disobedience.

  11. Alex Zavoluk says:

    Something I’ve thought more and more about recently: what makes for a good place/way to discuss serious topics?

    Various contenders (just ones I’ve thought about recently, not meant to be complete in any way):

    Real life. Problems include: Inability to provide or check sources for factual claims (smart phones may be helping a little here); not enough time to thoroughly read and analyze research, especially technical research; problem of some individuals speaking too much or too loudly; various problems attached to real identity attached to posts.

    Facebook. Problems include: No built in quote/emphasis features, among others; poor formatting so longer comments look like shit; only 2 levels of nesting of comments and replies; various problems attached to real identity attached to posts; poor searching.

    Reddit. Problems include: comments easily hidden; rapid decay of showing top posts; various problems attached to anonymized posts (I realize I also mentioned problems attached to real identities, but either way there are both ups and downs);

    Blog comments. Problems include: limited/poor formatting; various problems attached to real identity attached to posts; topics driven by blog owner.

    Other web forums (like lesswrong or cafe chesscourt style). Problems include: comments easily hidden (not on LW right now); various problems attached to anonymized posts.

  12. Le Maistre Chat says:

    3) monotheism has a much stronger set of philosophical arguments for it. There are multiple reasons for this. One, Occam’ s Razor (literally “entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity”). Two, part of the classical definition of God is “the Good”, and read Euthyphro for the problems polytheism raises there. Three, the classical Western and Hindu traditions independently argued their way to monotheism ( while the society around them was polytheistic, so you can discount motivated reasoning).

    Also, have you considered that “evidence” might be the wrong term for things beyond observable spacetime?

  13. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Latest development in the ACA drama: it looks like Senator Mitch McConnell is listening to Michel Foucault.

  14. Collin says:

    I’ll trade you a Kashmir rug for a DJI Mavic Pro.

  15. johan_larson says:

    People love to beat on the news media. So biased! So trapped in the belt-way/Manhattan/big-city bubble! But the journalists can turn that around, too. No one under 50 is buying newspapers! People get all their news from their friends on Twitter and Facebook!

    I have to wonder whether things are actually worse than they used to be. We have vastly more choices in where to get our news today than people did fifty years ago, and more choice should be better, right? Anyone know of any studies that have tracked people’s knowledge of current events over a span of decades?

    • Corey says:

      The increase in information choices has also allowed the creation and maintenance of reality bubbles, so it’s probably a giant negative for the world.

    • kenziegirl says:

      Not sure how much this answers your question, but it’s no secret that the economics of print news have changed drastically in the past couple of decades. The Atlanticreports that advertising revenue from 2000-2015 declined 66%. This guy cites OES statistics showing a 36% decline in employment of journalists from 2005-2015. The mundane issues of employment and financial solvency too often lead to several developments: journalists will do what keeps them in paychecks, whether pandering to the lowest common denominator, or satisfying an angel investor or patron who infuses cash in return for having editorial control over the content. Then you have individuals who are so passionate about something (read: biased) that they’re willing to do it for minimal pay. Either way it’s common sense that you would end up with a lot more biased stories from a particular viewpoint catering to a smaller audience.

    • Well... says:

      I don’t think journalism is worse now in terms of bias. To quickly see what I mean, do an internet search for NYT articles from a hundred years ago or more.

      What’s interesting is the amount of bias in journalism hasn’t really changed, it’s the language and tone we associate with lack of bias that has changed.* Journalists have also discovered new techniques to appear impartial (and probably forgotten some old ones).

      *Journalism is nothing more than the studied affect of that language and tone.

  16. Autistic Cat says:

    I think I will start a new rationalist site on Nabble or Yuku called The Rationality Corner. If it can become sufficiently popular I will purchase a domain for it.

    Here are my tentative rules.
    1.Do not post illegal stuff. This is mostly about child porn. Note that I only care about what is illegal, not what is socially taboo or unpopular. As long as I can get away with hosting some rational opinion I will host it.
    2.Try to overcome bias and be rational.
    3.No moral accusation and other forms of ad hominem against posters. This includes “JIDF!” from 4chan, “worldly!” from Christians, “racism!” from liberals and all racial slangs.
    4.Anonymity is encouraged. Since the society loves moralizing speech and crushing anyone who doubts its dogmas (liberal, Christian, Nazi, Islamist, whatever) we need anonymity. Reactionaries talk about the Cathedral however they also have their own Cathedral so they aren’t better than the establishment.

    Any comments?

    This place and LW are great. However there is
    still too much liberalism around which I believe hampers rationality.

    I will not ban any topic. Hence it is 100% fine to discuss specific claims of Steve Sailer rationally, whether ISIS is actually Islamic based on a literal reading of the Qur’an in Arabic, whether all humans should be replaced by robots or whatever. Basically I will intentionally destroy all conversational taboos and social norms to maximize rationality.

    The forum will be multilingual if enough people who prefer to use a non-English language want to have their own boards.

    I wonder whether it will become a circle-jerk for autists only though.

    • I’d be interested just to see how it goes.

    • Deiseach says:

      No moral accusation and other forms of ad hominem against posters. This includes …“worldly!” from Christians

      This tickles my fancy, since I’ve never seen it used before (plainly I’m not hanging around with the right type of Christians).

      So if ever in future I have a disagreement with anyone on here, I can just wag my finger and tsk-tsk at them for being “worldly!” 🙂

    • andrewflicker says:

      I assume you mean “liberalism” in the US-politics sense, because certainly liberalism seems to be related to your actual goals here (liberty of opinion, individualistic debate, etc.), if not a direct instantiation of a liberal mode of discussion.

    • Autistic Cat says:

      I don’t think things work on Nabble. Here is our forum hosted by ProBoards!
      http://rationalitycorner.freeforums.net/

    • carvenvisage says:

      Given the low uptake of Scott’s own split off forum, and the natural perceived hostility of trying to ‘fork’ a community:

      My impression is that you threw this idea out earlier as meaningless escalative bluster, which can be appropriate in in person interaction, especially if people are turning against you as I think they were in that thread, but is to be avoided if you are online, because:

      if people are ragging on you in person, showing a little stress/irrationality can warn them to back off, because they can see they’re agitating you and feel bad, and because in person it reminds people of the potential for escalation or retribution, but on the internet neither of those things exist, so showing stress is just showing weakness, and if you’re not aware in the shift in social context you might get into trouble some other time with that.

  17. Chalid says:

    I don’t get what this very latest iteration of healthcare repeal, e.g. “skinny repeal”, was about.

    Essentially McConnell tried to pass a super-stripped-down and impractical version of health care reform through the Senate. The claim being made McConnell wanted to pass a bill, any bill, so that the process would then go to a joint House-Senate conference committee to reconcile the House and Senate versions. This committee would, in theory, produce something acceptable to both House and Senate, after which both chambers have to vote again on the bill before the law could advance to Trump’s desk.

    I get why this works normally – the House passes a bill, the Senate passes a slightly different bill, and the joint committee can negotiates these small differences while taking into account the needs and feedback of the coalition that supported the bill.

    But here the House and Senate versions are radically different and the conference committee would be essentially starting over from scratch. So why bother with the vote? If the skinny repeal is just a way to start talks between House and Senate negotiators, well, you can just start having those talks anyway, right? Is there some parliamentary procedure reason that a bill coming from conference committee might be easier to pass? My understanding is that the conference report is not open to amendments which I suppose might be a help?

    It makes me suspect that McCain was on to something and that Paul Ryan might have wanted the option to pass the skinny repeal in the House. Perhaps as a way to get concessions during negotiations? “If you don’t agree to be flexible on this point we’ll go ahead and pass the disastrous skinny repeal instead and your name will be on the ensuing mess.”

    • skef says:

      An unpopular bill that comes out of a conference committee has an advantage: the House and Senate can each pass it while blaming the other chamber for its contents. Voting on the bill beforehand makes it easier to pin the contents on congresspeople in campaign commercials.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      It was about McConnell trying to use (almost) every procedural trick possible to keep alive the possibility that the ACA was gutted.

      Conversely, it’s a means of keeping alive the possibility of passing something, anything so that you can say you passed a bill. There are optical reasons to want this. Trump badly wants it, but so do some representatives.

      The parliamentary thing to be aware of is simply that this is one of only two reconciliation bills that the Senate will be able to take up this year. Bills under reconciliation aren’t subject to filibuster. The Democrats will filibuster any ACA repeal bill not considered under reconciliation.

      Usually there is only one reconciliation bill a year, and it’s reserved (roughly) for passing the spending bill that keeps the lights on in the government. Technically, this is last year’s bill. You aren’t going to gum up this years bill with ACA repeal (it’s going to hard enough for the Republicans to pass spending bills without Democratic help). So if they don’t do ACA repeal now, they aren’t doing it this year, and they probably aren’t doing it at all.

      So the “skinny” bill was like grabbing a slim reed while being swept downriver. It’s not likely to work, but what if it does?

      ETA: They could also just nuke the filibuster, but McConnell says he will not do this. That at the very least means he doesn’t have the votes to do it.

      • Chalid says:

        The question was, if leadership’s goal is to keep the process going by pushing bill-writing responsibility to a conference committee, then why didn’t they just directly appoint a conference committee?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I don’t think you can do that. The bill under question has to save the budget at least as much money as the originating house bill to pass under reconciliation.

          • Chalid says:

            OK, I was unclear earlier.

            Leadership gathers some senators and congresspeople together. It tells them to write a bill from scratch that can pass both the House and the Senate. Why is this task easier if this group is a “conference committee” as opposed to “a group of people writing a new bill?”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Chalid:
            What do you think the last month has been? McConnell spent the time since the passage of the House bill attempting to craft something that could pass the Senate and failed. Theoretically, that is even easier than trying to craft something that will pass in both chambers.

            This is what they were left with after that failed.

            As is being pointed out, if you get something to conference, you at least have the theoretical leverage that comes with bringing the same bill up in the House, which potentially puts more pressure on the moderates.

            And maybe the House Republican caucus would have been insane enough to pass the skinny repeal bill without thinking too much about it. “Act in haste, repent at leisure.”

    • BBA says:

      I’m not deeply familiar with the intricacies of legislative procedure, but couldn’t the Senate just pass any bill under the same number as the House bill, in order to get to conference? If it needs to be germane, have the bill say “it is the sense of the Senate that Obamacare needs to be repealed” and then not repeal anything.

      There’s the Byrd Rule/filibuster issue, but everyone’s been expecting the filibuster to get nuked this session anyway.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        As I said above, McConnell say he will not nuke the filibuster. At their very least that means he doesn’t have the votes to do it.

      • bottlerocket says:

        As best I can tell, McConnell had to put some teeth into the Senate proposal or risk losing the votes of the harder line conservatives in the Senate due to lack of guarantees of actually repealing substantive parts of Obamacare. These Senators are ones who would be actively harmed by having their names on bills that don’t go far enough against Obamacare and be worried about losing their next election to a guy who promises to go to Congress and really put the screws to ’em.

        Under this model, your placeholder Senate bill would also have problems getting votes, but from a different faction. The skinny repeal’s contents would be the result of purely maximizing for expected votes across the Senate’s preferences, which perhaps unsurprisingly doesn’t result in an actual coherent policy.

    • Rob K says:

      It seems very likely that, had the Senate passed this bill, the house would at very minimum have credibly threatened to pass it as a negotiating tactic, and quite likely just passed it.

      The cavalier attitude toward the impacts of this piece of major legislation that most of the participants in this farce have shown isn’t entirely surprising, but is certainly instructive.

      • Corey says:

        It’s a sign of the times that:
        – A bill of incoherent policy that no senator wanted to become law was introduced
        – It didn’t pass
        – We are surprised that it didn’t pass, because it came down to 1 vote

        A shorthand for these times is “lol nothing matters”.

        • MrApophenia says:

          I particularly liked Graham, McCain and what’s his face holding a press conference to announce they would only vote for the bill if the House promised not to pass it.

  18. Deiseach says:

    Okay! So this struck me (in a blog post about the new Catholic cathedral in Raleigh, North Carolina) in view of (a) the discussions on here before about articles on ‘Bluexit’ – that is, that the Blue States should secede or otherwise divide from their Red brethern, part of which is economic gloating about “and we won’t be dragged down by the backwards, ignorant, bigoted, poverty-stricken South anymore, see how they get on without our money propping them up” and (b) the discussion about “so why don’t the unemployed in the Rust Belt and other places, where the major employer has pulled out, just pack up and move where the jobs are?”

    (Bolding mine):

    Over the decade ending next spring, the Stateside church will have opened four new cathedrals. The sign of the times, however, lies in the specifics – all but one have been built to serve Catholicism’s epic emergence in the heart of the American South.

    Though the cycle doesn’t wrap up until early 2018, yesterday saw the dedication of the largest of the group: Raleigh’s 2,000-seat, $46 million Cathedral of the Holy Name of Jesus – the new hub for a 550,000-member fold not only doubled in size over the last decade, but tripled since 1990 on the back of massive migration both from the Rust Belt and Latin America.

    …In the short term, the final lap of the US’ new cathedral crop comes early next year – of course, again in the South. Amid the church’s exponential growth in East Tennessee, Knoxville’s $28 million, 1,500-seat replacement for Sacred Heart Cathedral will be opened on March 3rd, overflowing with frescoes and capped by a Florentine-style dome.

    (1) So it looks like the poor are packing up and moving where the jobs are – but it’s not in the coastal regions (California and New York) traditionally thought of as the prime economic plums, if Rust Belt people are moving to places like North Carolina.

    (2) So maybe the South isn’t as poverty-stricken as the Blue Exiteers like to make out? Sounds like the South is (relatively) booming, if a good chunk of migrants both external and internal are shifting there – after all, if the main objection is “they’re coming here as economic migrants”, then they must be going where the work is, and if they’re increasing numbers so greatly in the American South for the Church, then the work must be in the South. (As well as the usual “moving to where your relatives/friends/countrypeople are already living” and “it’s the first and nearest place you end up in the North after coming over the borders from South America” – obviously for Rust Belters “moving up from Central and South America” doesn’t apply).

    Anybody know anything about employment/economic growth in the South? I don’t have the maths skills to work it out, but if Catholicism is roughly 25% of American population religious demographics, then 1 in 4 moving to North Carolina are Catholics, so that means if a diocese of 550,000 has tripled, how many (3 in 4) non-Catholics have moved there? Plainly I am assuming here that not every single person who moved to North Carolina and East Tennessee was a Catholic, or that only native Catholics moved; if Rust Belt Catholics moved then Rust Belt non-Catholics must have moved, too 🙂

    • Randy M says:

      Was the rust belt Catholic in large number?

      • MrApophenia says:

        Yeah, it is where most of the Catholic immigrant populations settled. The first American archdiocese was in Baltimore.

      • JayT says:

        I know Illinois is very Catholic (more than half the religious people there identify as Catholic) thanks to the large Irish and Eastern European populations. Wisconsin too. Indiana and Ohio are not very Catholic. Michigan is in between.

        I think it varies from state to state based off of who were the original immigrants.

    • Corey says:

      I live in Raleigh, it’s pretty prosperous (and of course Blue) overall. Most of the population is transplants, coming here to work. There’s also economic diversity, so one employer or industry imploding wouldn’t be catastrophic (we have a strong presence of tech and pharma, some banking).

      There are several factors; off the top of my head:
      – Buildability. Plenty of room and tolerance for sprawl so you don’t have property being bid into the stratosphere like in places limited by geography and/or restricted zoning.
      – Right-to-work. You can’t have unions in the usual sense in the South, hence auto plants and such.
      – Weather. The one time a year it snows, the city shuts down and you can stay home.

    • MrApophenia says:

      The data on poverty rates is fairly clear – the South overall has higher poverty rates than the rest of the country, and extremely high poverty rates also seem to cluster in the Southern states. (Especially if you count West Virginia as Southern, which you can make a case for.)

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_poverty_rate

    • BBA says:

      Extrapolating to the rest of North Carolina from Raleigh (the state capital and home to several major universities) is like extrapolating to the rest of Ireland from Dublin. And North Carolina is one of the richer states in the South.

    • Brad says:

      Re: red and blue

      Wake County, which includes Raleigh, went for Clinton 298,353 to 193,607 for Trump. Durham County, which is the next county over and is part of the greater Raleigh-Durham-University area, went for Clinton 118,783 to 27,879 for Trump.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I live in this area of NC.

      First off, tripling the Catholic population to 550K just means the number was really low to begin with.

      Second this area of NC has been a growing tech hub since the advent of the appropriately named Research Triangle Park. That growth is primarily driven immigrants from out of state. Some of it from the mid-west, but more of it has been from the Northeast. The park was built on the backs of large tech companies like IBM that established operations here due to lower costs than in major-metros in the Northeast and Midwest combined with quaility-of-life factors driven by three prestigious universities (or two plus and engineering school) all in close proximity.

      One big driver of population influx is simply relative house prices. You can sell a house in the Northeast and buy one for a third of the cost down here. If you had any equity before, you are sitting pretty. This also prompted a lot of “snowbird” influx as well, retirees or near retirees looking to turn their housing nest egg into cash.

      I don’t think we have lots of people who can’t find jobs in factories in the Midwest moving to Raleigh.

    • SamChevre says:

      The South is multiple sub-regions, with very different economics. Raleigh-Durham is a major tech-education-medical hub, and is quite wealthy (median family income over $80,000). In contrast, Halifax County (an hour north) has a family income of around $40,000.

      Similarly for Tennessee: Williamson County (Nashville suburbs) has a median family income of over $90,000; Grundy County a hundred miles away, where I grew up, has a median family income of under $30,000 (and is over 98% white).

      So the South is both a rapidly-growing, migrant-attracting place, but that’s only in some areas; other areas are among the poorest parts of the US.

  19. Randy M says:

    So, let’s decide–is fantastic racism deplorable? I don’t mean to be tautological; that’s fantastic as in “from fantasy” not “great”. I watched a few episodes of a TV series on Amazon awhile back (I don’t recall which be could look it up if needed) set on an earth recovering from an alien attack that had numerous mixed settlements of various other extra-terrestrial species on the planet.

    Without making this about current events (honest!) how would you feel about aliens living on the earth? Assume an earth somewhat similar to present, so no galactic human empire, and also however implausibly assume that the technology level granting these aliens interstellar flight doesn’t put them too unassailably advanced. Assume rudimentary communication has been established.

    What factors influence how you would feel about this? The size of the alien’s empire? Their differences from human biology or psychology? The aliens place in galactic politics (ie, what enemies they have) or their influence on earth politics (ie, are they giving the Russians an advantage)? The number arriving? The effect they might have on the local/global environment? Breeding rates?

    Unlike the protagonists of the series (but perhaps more like District Nine shows? haven’t seen it) I would be against this intermingling beyond an embassy or the like. This is the only planet we have and unless aliens are boot-strapping us I want it preserved for us. Would we see the progressives push to include an intelligent ET as the equal of a homo sapien in our moral and political decisions with the expected push back? Any idea how such a debate would play out in other countries?

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      I think that the issue is too unbounded on parameters to have much useful discussion.

      I think that the TV show you’re referring to is “Defiance,” which as I recall has pretty anthropomorphic aliens.

      I ran a roleplaying game at one point in which I tried hard to have “realistic” aliens. The two species that came to earth were the “Starfish” and the “Jabberwocky.”

      The Starfish were cold shallow-water dwelling amphibians that looked something like large, partially-shelled four-armed sea-stars. Hence the name. They were blind, with sonar, and communicated via series of clacks and schlucking sounds that humans couldn’t make. They had no narrative memory of the past. That is, they could remember facts and impressions, but couldn’t make a story of their past experiences.

      The Jabberwocky were sort of bat-butterfly things. They hung upside down and preferred a hot environment with more sulfur than was safe for humans to breathe. They communicated via ultraviolet patterns on their wings (that they could change like a squid changes its skin), and their mental structure had evolved to simultaneously process multiple communication streams at the same time: they were quite capable of having multiple, independent, contradictory thought processes at once. Their consciousness was much less singular in nature than humans.

      In all cases, the species only managed to communicate with each other via AI intermediaries rendering their communications into text pidgins to each other. It was the work of years to extract much meaning from their communications.

      • Randy M says:

        I think that the TV show you’re referring to is “Defiance,” which as I recall has pretty anthropomorphic aliens.

        Yes, that’s it. Dr Who also plays with the idea in episodes like “the Zygon Inversion”, which if I’m remembering correctly gave me a bit of values dissonance.

        I think that the issue is too unbounded on parameters to have much useful discussion.

        You’re probably right. Personally I’m doubtful we’ll ever encounter other species, and most of the fictional representations of the issue are more concerned with being analogies than looking at realistic aliens.

        The later Ender’s game books, Speaker, Xenocide, deal with some of this, though from the reverse. The humans colonized the home world of a sentient species, who at one point show considerable unease at the thought of the universe filling up with humans before this non-human species had the chance to expand. I believe in the series it was resolved with magic, but the reactions of the humans and aliens to the coexistence was dealt with in a true to life way.

      • Well... says:

        Your selection of the term “realistic” is interesting to me. Why did you choose that term to describe those aliens?

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          Heh, I didn’t spend a lot of time agonizing over it. “Believable” or “plausible” would probably have been better.

          Obviously, I do not make any claim that these were “realistic” in any strong sense of the word. Presumably no such aliens exist, nor, if any aliens exist, would they be noticeably like my fictional creations.

          The concept was that, within the context of “there exist aliens that visit Earth,” I wanted to present aliens that had few concessions to the classic sort of Star Wars/Star Trek-style “aliens as humans in cool costumes” deal. If intelligent aliens exist, I think it is very, very likely that they will have mental quirks that make them much harder to empathize with than, say, “humans with severely atypical minds,” and they will have body-plans very unlike ours, and communication styles very unlike ours.

          • Well... says:

            That’s kinda what I figured, but I wasn’t sure.

            I asked because I’ve thought about this same thing in my own (unstarted but planned) sci-fi writing project, which includes an encounter between humans and extraterrestrial life. What ends up feeling the most “realistic” is roughly equivalent to whatever is least familiar.

            I’m not sure I can say what traits are likely or unlikely to exist in intelligent aliens. On the one hand, what if intelligence is something that the universe can only produce in life forms that follow a certain evolutionary path–coincidentally, like the path of life forms on Earth? Once we decide for our fiction “OK, the conditions that allow intelligence to evolve shall exist on another planet” then we would be forced to say that the intelligent life forms on that planet are man-like, which implies a lot of other things about their world being Earth-like as well.

            On the other hand, it seems unlikely that another planet out there is so like ours that life forms could evolve there that are even remotely familiar. Even your Starfish and Jabberwocky are way too recognizable.

            (“Too familiar/recognizable” is a complaint I have about 99% of aliens in the books, movies, and TV I’ve come across. Exceptions include the monolith in 2001, the eponymous “Sphere,” the crystalline entity in Star Trek “TNG,” and actually a few other of the weirder/more abstract Star Trek aliens. “Solaris” was an elegant but almost too-convient work-around: the alien was incomprehensible to humans so it manifested familiar apparitions for us to interact with.)

    • Loquat says:

      My primary concerns: how different are these aliens from humanity, how many of them are there, and why do they want to settle on a planet they’re not adapted to? District 9 is kind of a worst-case non-war scenario, where the Prawns are basically all needy refugees who can’t even operate their own technology, let alone teach us about it, plus they have a high birth rate (or would, if the human administrators didn’t make a habit of searching for and destroying their eggs), and they’re sufficiently bad at working with humans that even after several years on Earth exactly zero Prawns have been able to rise above the refugee camp.

      In general, fantastic racism becomes more justified the more significant differences there are between species. If we encountered Yudkowsky’s Babyeaters and managed to make peace with them, I think we’d want them to stay very far away and definitely not do any child-rearing on our worlds, and they’d feel the same way about us.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      I’d say we should allow it unless there’s a reason why not, but I do accept the possibility of good reasons why not. I would not allow immigration from District 9 aliens, for instance (see Loquat’s post below for details on these)

    • Deiseach says:

      The series I recall dealing with that was Alien Nation, the TV show based on the movie of the same name, where the aliens were (literal) slaves from a crashed space ship who settled on Earth because they had no means of getting off it (and their captors weren’t aware where they were, and Earth pretty much wanted it to stay that way since the slavers arriving would probably have meant humans being enslaved as well). They did face racism etc. with the difficulties of settling into human society.

      The series you describe sounds a bit different – can humans emigrate off-planet and go to the other alien planets, for instance? If they can come here but we can’t go there, then ‘racism’ or ‘anti-immigrant sentiment’ or ‘the galactic wall’ is already in place on their end; if we’re recovering from an alien attack, have we really got the ability to stay “get off our world” and make it stick? why are these various other alien species coming to Earth – what have we got that they want/need? There’s a big difference between the equivalent of embassies and trading stations where the aliens are here for discussions about buying/selling stuff and actually buying/selling stuff, and ‘Little Rigeltown’ where they’re living because they’re all trying to get work here or have come to Earth to make their fortune on the wild frontier. One set won’t want/need votes and representation (if they’re ‘gunboat ambassadors’ they’ll already have plenty of influence anyway) and the other set will want paths to citizenship and equal rights.

  20. Brad says:

    Trump weighs in on our discussion regarding whether people should be expected to move to find work.

    “You’re going to need people to work in these massive plants,” Trump said. “I’m going to start explaining to people: When you have an area that just isn’t working like upper New York state, where people are getting very badly hurt, and then you’ll have another area 500 miles away where you can’t get people, I’m going to explain, you can leave.”

  21. onyomi says:

    If it weren’t for all these gentrifying jerks turning Brooklyn into a nice place to live we could still have the authentic, real New York before neoliberalism ruined it.

    More proof that today’s ideological left has largely given up on their promises to make the poor materially well off; instead they aim to prevent the encroaching bourgeoisie from ruining the gritty authenticity of the poor or challenging the dominance of the elite.

    • Guy in TN says:

      After coming up empty from CTRL-Fing the New Republic article for the words “rent”, “cost”, and “price”, I can assure you that the article is not representative of the Left’s critique of gentrification.

      The reason gentrification makes poor people materially worse off, is largely because poor people do not own the homes they live in. So making their neighborhood new and shiny results in higher rent, resulting in poor people having to move. So not only is there less affordable housing in general due to gentrification, but having to move is harmful in itself in many ways (including displacement of community, sometimes being forced to change jobs).

      Of course, the underlying problem is the system of rent. But given that rent is an economic policy that is not politically feasible to challenge, the left has to tackle what it can here.

      As a poor renter, I do my part in making sure that the house I live in looks sufficiently shitty that my landlord wouldn’t consider raising the rent (trees growing out of the gutters, trash in the yard, cardboard for blinds, ect).

      • CatCube says:

        This is fascinating to me. What system are you proposing other than “own your house” or “pay the person who owns it”? Because governments have been landlords before, and are not notably better in terms of keeping a place not a shithole.

        Buildings are expensive, especially since now we have building codes that prevent buildings from being deathtraps, and also a whole bunch of “well, of course we have to have that” types of things like handicapped accessibility. Somebody has to pay for all that shit, and a landlord who doesn’t get it from his renters will go broke real fast.

        • Guy in TN says:

          The system I’m advocating for is that each person should be able to live in a building without a large financial burden placed upon them for doing so. Call it “own your own room” I suppose, although I shy away from using the word “ownership” due to its specific meaning in certain economic philosophies.

          Buildings are expensive, but at some point they are paid for. My house seems pretty normal for my neighborhood and it was built in the 30s. It’s not all or nothing, there are situations where rent fulfills a social utility to compensate a person who maintains the building, and there are situations where rent is nothing more than a legal liscence to extract money, with no correlation to cost or labor. There are policies we can implement that would minimize the harm of rent while still encouraging construction (for example, price controls, transfer of property for buildings past a certain age to the tenants, public housing in well-off areas, etc)

          • CatCube says:

            Who will bear the large financial burden, then? Like I said, buildings are generally pretty expensive. And no, they are not ever “paid for” in the sense that there is no further expense to ownership. The mortgage might be paid off, but taxes and insurance will still be monthly bills, and ongoing maintenance will always suck up a large amount of money. As every building owner knows, the day after a building is completed it becomes a fight with nature to keep it from falling over.

            For example, you might have a rent payment you’re really unhappy about every month. (I do, too!) However, you’ll never get a call saying there’s a roof leak, and now you need a $12,000 new roof, and you need it in short order or the building will get further damage in the tens of thousands of dollars range. I’ve had that happen to one of my landlords–I was packing for a trip out of town early one morning, and noticed a bubble in the drywall in the bedroom ceiling. While we were going to the airport later that day, as soon as it was a reasonable hour I called the landlord and told her, “There’s apparently a serious leak in the roof over the bedroom. I’m heading out of town right now, so you have my permission to enter the house when I’m not there. The forecast says rain so you might want to do that really quickly and get a temporary fix in place before any further drywall damage occurs.” Then I got to wash my hands of the whole thing. About 8 months after the roof thing, I called them because the A/C unit wasn’t functional. They had to buy a new condenser, and I think it was a few thousand.

            Note that these were not due to any malfeasance on my part: this is just what happens when you own property. If you add in shitty tenants who don’t take care–or worse, deliberately destroy things–being a property owner gets really expensive really fast. I’ve had friends that were small landlords, and it was never a huge moneymaker. Yeah, you can make a small but respectable sum, but you’re not getting rich off any individual property.

            Now that I’m out of the military and not moving around every few years, I’m considering actually buying, so I don’t have rent that keeps going up (I live in Portland, convenient to mass transit.) However, the knowledge that I will then be responsible for large, unforeseen repair costs on top of a substantial mortgage does give me pause.

          • Brad says:

            Maintenance is a real cost that can’t be hand waived out of existence. But they don’t make up all of what tenants pay to landlords. Depending on where you live some or most of rent is just, well, rent.

            These days we talk more about other kinds of economic rents, but land rents are still around eating up huge sums of money and producing nothing.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            I want to hear more about how the likelihood of having your building seized without compensation and given to someone else encourages construction.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @CatCube
            The “large financial burden” I was referring to comes not from the costs of building upkeep, but from the costs of rent. Of course there will be costs to fixing the occasional thing. That isn’t where the majority of money is going, hence why people can make a career out of being landlords. I think most renters (at least the poor ones), if given the capability, would rather decline to pay someone $1,000s of dollars a year to act as a middleman to place maintenance phone calls for them and sign the occasional legal paperwork.

            @Paul Zrimsek
            The “encouraging construction” policy is that rent could still exist, despite having additional limits to the legal authority that comes with ownership.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            OK, I took you to mean that what you’re proposing would literally increase construction– not just that it would fail to stop construction completely.

            What would likely happen is that rent on those units which haven’t yet been seized would increase to the level of mortgage payments (which is what they would basically become).

          • Guy in TN says:

            @Paul Zrimsek
            You are probably right, but the cost of property and the associated mortgages would decrease, since there would be less money to made from ownership via renting it out. If the property expiration window was short enough (say, 40-50 years) you could still essentially solve the problem of low-income displacement, leaving the slightly higher rents to those wealthy enough to live in newer units.

      • onyomi says:

        So making their neighborhood new and shiny results in higher rent, resulting in poor people having to move.

        In many cases isn’t the rent only low in the first place because some proportion of those poor people or their ancestors made the place unpleasant to live in with crime, sofas on fronts lawns, etc.?

        • Guy in TN says:

          I would say the undesirability of the area stems from the poverty of the people who live there, and all of the negative aspects of life that come with being poor (uncleanliness, desperation, ect)

          I suppose I’m not understanding your objection here.

      • Well... says:

        @Guy in TN:

        I had to do a double-take to realize your post was sarcastic, but I don’t get the satisfaction of being amused by the whoosh as it goes over other people’s heads because you were a little too slick.

        • Guy in TN says:

          I’m 100% serious. I guess I don’t fit the demographic of the average SSC poster, either financially or politically. I find very it interesting that you thought I being sarcastic. Re-reading my post it does come across as a little ridiculous, but tenants intentionally sabatoging their landlord is pretty normal among the people I know. Truth stranger than fiction and all that, I suppose.

          • Well... says:

            I grew up poor, had friends who lived in the “don’t go there at night, lock your doors and don’t make eye contact with anyone as you’re passing through” hood, and lived in various hoods myself for a few periods as an adult. Me and everyone I knew, we tried to make our (rented) homes as nice to live in as we could given what we had and what we knew how to do.

            So when there was trash lying around, trees growing out of the gutters, cardboard as blinds, foil wrapped around the stove, etc. I always assumed it was because that’s the best people could afford, or because they were stupid and unconscientious, or because they didn’t really understand how to do it better, or because they didn’t see it as their job to make it better.

            Only an Objectivist who genuinely hates poor people, I figured, would conclude that they were doing that awful stuff as a concerted way to keep their rents down.

            So either you’re a troll (in the sense of impersonating a straw man of the group you dislike for the sake of messing with people or turning them against that group) or the poor-hating Objectivist was at least in some sense right.

          • Guy in TN says:

            This is like, Perverse Incentives 101.

            Here’s an analogy. Let’s say that the government passes a law that says that every car will be taxed as part of a way for the government to collect revenue. This tax is enormous- equal to about 30% of the average workers income. But it gets worse. At random times, a car inspector could show up and take a look at your vehicle. If he deems it “very nice”, he could raise the tax rate to 40%, 50%, or even higher.

            The thing is, his “very nice” determination of the car is based largely on cosmetic details. Grime on the wheels, bugs on the windshield, bumper stickers, that sort of thing. Given a world like this, do you think people would ever voluntarily take their vehicle to car washes? Do you think people wouldn’t load up with bumper stickers on purpose? Especially considering the costs from jumping from 30% to 40% of their total income?

            It’s not just “good” in the sense of fulfilling their rational self interest. I think poor people are right to do so, in the sense that it is part of achieving a wealth distribution that is more conducive to the flourishing of mankind.

          • Well... says:

            I really suspect you’re trolling, but if you’re not I apologize and hope you’ll understand why I think that. The stuff you’re saying is exactly what I’d expect a troll (maybe of the Gotcha subspecies) to say. Anyway, giving you the benefit of the doubt…

            Just because a perverse incentive exists doesn’t mean the perversion always happens, or even happens a significant amount of the time. Most tenants do not actively set about making their homes and neighborhoods undesirable. The thought would not even occur to them. “I need to leave trash lying around and use cardboard boxes as blinds so my place looks like a dump so that prospective buyers or renters won’t want to live here so that my landlord will remain desperate so he won’t raise the rent on me” is a quintuple bankshot of an idea that I just don’t believe most renters are actually having. (Contrast with the very straightforward “I just want to live someplace nice.”)

            Or how about the reducto ad absurdum: anything we desire, we should treat poorly so others will not desire it and then the price of it will drop in response to reduced demand. Is that how the world works?

          • Spookykou says:

            @Well…

            I also assumed it was a troll for what it’s worth. I am on the poorer end, and used to work in one of the poorest schools in my city, of those families that I had the chance to know, who actually lived in homes, none would ever engage in the behavior Guy in TN describes.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Landlord-tenant relations between poor tenants and their landlords are notoriously adversarial. So I wouldn’t at all be surprised about tenants wanting to make sure their landlords don’t raise rent as a result of the tenant’s efforts. Even wealthier tenants will be wary of doing such things as replacing appliances not just for fear they’ll lose the cost of the appliance when they move (that’s expected) but for fear the landlord will raise the rent on them.

            That’s not all that’s going on, though. Part of it is the “nobody washes a rental car” issue; the tenants have no incentive to make cosmetic fixes that cost them time and money and add only to the landlord’s value, and the landlord has no incentives to make cosmetic fixes unless he knows he can raise the rent as a result. Trees growing in the gutters are entirely a landlord issue; typically cleaning the gutters is a landlord’s responsibility.

            And then there’s the pure culture issues, like loud parties and sofas (or cars on blocks) on the front lawn.

          • Matt M says:

            Even wealthier tenants will be wary of doing such things as replacing appliances not just for fear they’ll lose the cost of the appliance when they move (that’s expected) but for fear the landlord will raise the rent on them.

            I don’t think that’s true at all. In my experience as a white-collar tenant with pleasant relations with my landlord, there was usually some sort of standing (or able to be arranged) agreement something to the effect of “If you upgrade the place in a meaningful way, I’ll take 50% of the cost of the upgrade off your next month’s rent.”

            After all, the landlord wants you to take good care of the place and even upgrade it on your own if you’re willing (thus adding to the value of their investment). Actively punishing you for doing so does not seem to be a logical choice for them.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @Well…
            @Spookykou
            Th disconnect probably manifests more as negligence, and a general apathy towards keeping the place “nice” in the cosmetic property-values sense. I admit that if I walked up to my neighbors and asked them “why do you have house furniture in the lawn, don’t you know that reduces property values?” the response would probably be “I don’t own the property, so what do I care?”, instead of “Good, higher property values will raise my rent.”

      • hlynkacg says:

        Lol, well played.

    • Autistic Cat says:

      Why do the poor need “authenticity” instead of means to earn wealth? “Authenticity” in misery is not something good. Overcoming misery is.

      @Guy in TN The part about rent is reasonable. The part about community only makes sense if the community is not itself a part of the problem.

      • onyomi says:

        Why do the poor need “authenticity” instead of means to earn wealth? “Authenticity” in misery is not something good. Overcoming misery is.

        Sarcasm. I’m saying the left fetishizes the (urban) poor as an “interesting” fargroup, whereas they hate the middle class as an outgroup with bad taste.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      I think you should take more seriously the idea that New York has gotten worse in important respects, and that this is related to an influx of money. In the 70’s New York was like the New World; it was so over-built (thanks to industry leaving) that you could live there for basically nothing. This made things possible there which are no longer possible.

      The anti-gentryfiers are misguided – if anything they should be advocating for massive, anything-goes tenement construction. But your accusation, that they basically want to create a wildlife preserve for poor people that they can oggle on their way between Williamsburg and Wall Street, is mostly incorrect.

  22. IrishDude says:

    Have you ever encountered a product that you think you’d have been more likely to buy if the price was higher (Giffen good)? I can’t think of any thing off hand for myself. Potentially a cheap painting, that I had thought was rare and valuable, would make me likely to suspect it was a fraud and be less likely to buy it (if I was interested in authenticity and not just a cool looking painting). So, that same painting at a higher price would make me more likely to buy it. But apparently this makes it a Veblen good, not a Giffen good, as the price changes the perception of the product.

    I’m actually not sure if my question is answerable, as it seems to me that raising prices would inherently vary perceptions of the good, making observation of the Giffen good effect impossible.

    • Randy M says:

      For mtg cards, their price is a pretty good indication of their power level. I might buy a 0.50$ card above a 0.05$ card for that reason, although I personally don’t play competitively and have a pretty low budget for such things so I won’t buy the $5.00 card.
      PC games that are marked way down might be good if they are old, but if they came out in the last few years and are $10.00 or less they are probably buggy garbage. Adjust prices accordingly for digital distribution.

    • Montfort says:

      The example given in the wiki page seemed to make sense to me, though it sounded more like an unusual effect or phenomenon than a kind of good, exactly. I think commodities like grains (or kerosene for heating, etc) would be mostly immune from changing perception based on price – even if gas goes up to $10/gal I wouldn’t think the gas was better quality.

      But no, I can’t think of anything that would really apply to my current situation – maybe it will come to me later.

    • Iain says:

      When buying, say, olive oil, I will sometimes pick a slightly more expensive version, using the heuristic that the price corresponds roughly to quality. As a result, there are cases where I might be more likely to buy a bottle of olive oil if it cost slightly more.

      I don’t think this counts as a Veblen good. (I certainly hope that my olive oil consumption is not conspicuous.) It’s more of a consequence of imperfect information.

    • Brad says:

      There are three necessary preconditions for this situation to arise:

      1) the good in question must be an inferior good,
      2) there must be a lack of close substitute goods, and
      3) the goods must constitute a substantial percentage of the buyer’s income, but not such a substantial percentage of the buyer’s income that none of the associated normal goods are consumed.

      If precondition #1 is changed to “The goods in question must be so inferior that the income effect is greater than the substitution effect” then this list defines necessary and sufficient conditions. The last condition is a condition on the buyer rather than the goods itself, and thus the phenomenon is also called a “Giffen behavior”.

      Seems like a pretty narrow definition. Maybe mass transit? When ticket prices rise I have less money and so am less likely to substitute a taxi or uber ride for a subway ride. Pretty mild effect though.

    • Montfort says:

      Seeing Randy and Iain’s responses, I want to check my understanding. Below, I’ll parrot back what I think a Giffen good is, so please correct me if I’m in error.

      A Giffen good, I think, is supposed to be more like a poverty trap – you want the better version of it (delicious meat), but when the price of the inferior good goes up all you can afford is the much inferior good (bland grains), so you have to buy more of it.
      For example, say you have $30/week for food, and need 15000 kcals (roughly). If grains give you 1000kcals/$ and meat 200 kcals/$, you can buy about $11 of grain (11,000kcal) and $19 of meat (3,800kcal) (=14,800 kcals, so actually a little less meat). If the price of grain goes up to 500 kcals/$, you have to spend all $30 on grain. So even though it got more expensive, and the price of meat stayed the same, you have to buy more (15000 kcals) grain to make budget.

      Or that’s the spherical-cow version, but I guess in practice you’d have to account for decreased consumption, other possible substitutes, and probably other things I’m not thinking of.

      So that seems different from the goods Randy and Iain suggest, though I’m not sure I can clearly articulate why – I guess because if they had a special discount (e.g. employee discount) where they could pay non-market price for the cards or oil, they would buy the same product at the same or higher quantities, but the notional poor bread-eater would use some money saved to buy some more meat instead.

      • Randy M says:

        Sorry if you’re confused. I just answered the question he asked without doing the reading. Eh, if it was good enough for college…

        Maybe gasoline? If it is cheap, I might buy the unleaded plus for the warm fuzzies of carring for my anthropomorphic car that Chevron tries to sell, but if the prices go up (and they will go up for all grades) then I will stick to the $3.00 regular unleaded.

        (actually, probably not since that’s a ‘despite’ not a ‘because’)

        • Montfort says:

          I don’t really specifically blame you or Iain for my confusion, it just emboldened me to make it public, that’s all. For instance, the wiki page also claims:

          A 2008 paper by Robert Jensen and Nolan Miller made the claim that rice and wheat/noodles are Giffen goods in parts of China by tracking prices of goods, but it is probably a mistake to cite noodles as a sort of Giffen good, as the term is usually used by modern economists to refer to goods that are so specialized and rare that they aren’t used for food consumption. Examples cited circa 1990 include the purchase of the painting, Irises, by Vincent van Gogh, as something considered to be “priceless, for those with enough money to spend.”

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      Budgeting practices could lead to Giffen behavior. I do something look at how much money I’m spending on food, so if grocery prices went up, I might end up deciding I should eat out less and this buying more groceries.

    • Deiseach says:

      Cheap tools. If the price is too low, I’m likely to think “yeah that means they’re made out of crappy soft metal and will break once you put the tiniest bit of force on them”. Sometimes a price that is too good to be true is too good to be true.

      EDIT: Okay, reading the comments above, that’s a Veblen good? So for a Giffen good – it’s inferior, it costs more, you buy it preferentially – I think cheap shoes (like the Sam Vimes Economic Theory).

      Back when I was first trying to buy decent, hard-wearing shoes and had very little money, a good pair of shoes would cost £50 while a cheap pair might cost £20. Say I had £40 to spare, since I only bought shoes when I absolutely needed them, then it would be easy enough to buy a cheap pair of shoes and save up to buy the good, long-lasting pair. If the price of the cheap shoes went up, though, to £30 or even £40 then the margin to save went away and I still had to buy shoes, so I’d end up buying the now more expensive cheap shoes without being able to save up to buy the better ones.

    • Well... says:

      Do you really buy paintings at all? You personally, I mean.

      I only ask because I don’t really know anyone who thinks of themselves as someone who buys paintings. I’d be interested in meeting some such people since I have artists in my family.

      • dodrian says:

        My wife buys paintings to hang in our house for decoration. They all have personal significance though – such as paintings of places she’s been, not fine art.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Can’t think of any.

      The conditions of the Giffen Good mentioned makes me think less “higher price=higher quality” and more “higher price=all I can afford.”

      So if potatoes went up price, my budget is screwed because potatoes are a huge staple in my diet. This drowns out other calories…so I have to actually buy more potatoes to keep myself from starving.

      A price reduction in potatoes makes me richer, which means I’m now rich enough not to have freakin’ potatoes at every meal.

      In practice, I can’t think of any products that are like this. The closest I could ever think possibly happening was during the gas prices: maybe gas is high, killing your budget, so you have to move further from your job because that’s where cheap houses are, which actually INCREASES your gas consumption. But that’s not what actually happened.

      I especially can’t see this happening in a modern economy.

  23. The original Mr. X says:

    I’ve not been following discussion threads very thoroughly recently, so apologies if this has already been talked about, but what do people here think of the new Doctor Who?

    • Orpheus says:

      Well, at least she can’t be any worst then Matt Smith.

    • dodrian says:

      I stopped watching Doctor Who after the first season of Matt Smith because Moffat’s writing got so bad (Smith was OK as the Doctor, his scripts were awful).

      The much more exciting news is that Moffat is leaving. I probably won’t watch any of a new series live as it airs, but may attempt to catch up on it if the writing gets good reviews.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        Yeah, I liked Smith a lot, wanted to like the next guy, but was pretty disappointed with how Moffat’s writing ended up (and with how the characters he wrote got increasingly irritating and one-note) to the extent that I gave up on the show a year or two ago.

        People were speculating about a female Doctor literally thirty years ago so it’s not like it’s really a flashy new thing; unfortunately nowadays you have to worry about the showrunners pulling some YASSSS SLAY QUEEN GIRL POWRRRR TAKE THAT WHO-BROS angle. But maybe they have more sense than that. I figure there’s at least a 30% chance!

    • keranih says:

      I think that a) my Doctor is McCoy and b) I’m not over Nine, and don’t plan on being over Nine for a good long time.

    • Jiro says:

      I have no confidence that the current staff will not use her for social justice.

      They already had black people in Regency London, where the black lesbian companion said that it’s a “bit more black than you see in the movies” (yeah, if “bit” means 0.05 percent). The Doctor replies “So was Jesus. History’s a whitewash.” (I shouldn’t have to remind you that Jesus was not black.)

      They also had ancient Roman soldiers tell her that ancient Romans like men and women, and consider homosexuals and heterosexuals “restricted”, but perfectly fine. This isn’t true; Romans had homosexuality, but not in the sense of equal relationships.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        They also had ancient Roman soldiers tell her that ancient Romans like men and women, and consider homosexuals and heterosexuals “restricted”, but perfectly fine. This isn’t true; Romans had homosexuality, but not in the sense of equal relationships.

        At least they didn’t say that ancient Rome had gay marriage (or did they?).

        • Evan Þ says:

          Ancient Romans did have it, if by “Ancient Romans” you mean Nero and Elagabalus and maybe a few more emperors I’ve forgotten.

          (Pedantic, but especially when we’re going against the grain of culture in these discussions, it pays to be precise.)

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Elagabalus was widely considered to be insane. In fact, the reason he was considered insane was precisely because he did weird things like try to marry other men. Far from proving that ancient Rome had gay marriage, his case proves the exact opposite.

            (Unless by “ancient Rome had…” you mean “one ancient Roman, widely considered insane, tried to…” But I don’t think that’s what many proponents of the “Romans had gay marriage” meme are arguing.)

            As for Nero, the above applies for him as well; note also what Suetonius says (Nero 28.1):

            He castrated the boy Sporus and actually tried to make a woman of him; and he married him with all the usual ceremonies, including a dowry and a bridal veil, took him to his house attended by a great throng, and treated him as his wife.

            So even one of the most famously decadent and megalomaniacal Roman Emperors apparently had a sufficiently heteronormative view of marriage that he tried to turn his slave into a woman before marrying him. Again, far from proving the existence of ancient Roman gay marriage, this case proves the precise opposite.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Unless by “ancient Rome had…” you mean “one ancient Roman, widely considered insane, tried to…”

            Yes, I meant literally: “There were two publicized cases where ancient Romans entered into gay marriages – and they were widely considered insane, but it still happened.” Like I said, because this goes against the widespread meme, we should be precise and point out how those instances don’t disprove the general statement that gay marriage for non-insane-emperors did not occur in ancient Rome.

          • 1soru1 says:

            All of which is perfectly in line with what was shown in the show; they felt their way of doing things to be superior. Other arrangements were either barbarianism or degeneracy.

            Also, there was a large enough black population in London in Regency times, disproportionately beggars, circus performers, actors and so on, that the colony of Sierra Leone was specifically founded to get them out of the capital.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sierra_Leone#Early_history

          • Jiro says:

            All of which is perfectly in line with what was shown in the show;

            The show had them talk as though they referred to what 21st century people would consider relationships. Being attracted to a male coworker, and being attracted to men as long as they are inferior, are both forms of being attracted to men, but it’s misleading to describe the latter as if it were the former.

            It would be like having a show set in the pre-Civil-War South where the characters all say that they don’t mind being around black people. Because after all, slaves are black people, and they don’t mind being around them.

            Also, there was a large enough black population in London in Regency times

            Pay careful attention to how many black people that link mentions, and compare those numbers to the population of London.

    • rlms says:

      I stopped watching after Capaldi’s first series. I’m more excited about the change of showrunner than the new Doctor, if the next series is viewed well I might start watching again. My experience with the show is probably different to that of most other people here though, since I’m young enough to have watched the new (2005) show as a child.

  24. onyomi says:

    Posted this above because of the comment about old-fashioned vs. current Marxism, but I think the whole thing is worth listening to and maybe discussing: Peter Thiel basically making the case that technology has stagnated in most of the economy.

    Seems counterintuitive at first because of the way computer technology keeps accelerating, but as he points out, we seem to have created this weird dichotomy where you are free to innovate in the virtual world of information but highly constrained in the world of “stuff” or “meatspace,” as we might call it.

    I think when I get depressed or pessimistic about the future, this is what gets me depressed or pessimistic (I am usually fairly optimistic about the future in the long run, but this sort of thing makes me very sad/angry when I think of all the progress foregone and how we are, in so many ways, less free to do anything in the world of actual stuff than we were 100 years ago).

    • Spookykou says:

      I didn’t read the article(I know, worst comment) so I could be totally off the mark in terms of what it is saying, but based on your comment I will carry on.

      I work in a pretty meatspace environment (UPS) and we are regularly rolling out what I would think of as innovation in our industry. We now have fully automated shipping facilities, we are working with people to develop special car batteries specifically designed for our usage pattern (starting a car hundreds of times a day), etc. I feel like a lot of important technology is just about increasing efficiency, so as long as people are still doing that, I think we are on the right track.

      • onyomi says:

        I feel like shipping is a weird case because it kind of bridges meatspace and digital space. And I don’t know anything about what’s going on behind the scenes like you do, but the prices and convenience of shipping seem to me to perfectly reflect the dichotomy Thiel describes:

        Insofar as I’m using Amazon prime to get stuff I order online shipped to my door in record time, shipping seems way better than it used to.

        Insofar as I’m trying to ship any physical stuff myself to anywhere else in the world, shipping not only doesn’t seem better, it seems to have gotten much worse over the course of my lifetime. For example, without using some kind of special courier service or getting in on some special deal, there is no easy way, in America, to ship anything smaller than a shipping container’s worth of stuff overseas on a ship. The USPS completely stopped doing it and Fedex and UPS don’t offer it. Your only options are air mail. And the air mail costs as much or more than buying a plane ticket would.

        Like, I recently shipped a bunch of books from the US to China. To ship a box of books that weighs as much as me from the US to China literally costs more than a round trip plane ticket for me to go to the same exact place. And my books don’t need leg room or in-flight entertainment.

        • Spookykou says:

          Have you considered checked luggage?

          But more seriously, I think it is important to remember that the ability for you to get stuff is mirrored by someone else having an improved ability to get stuff to you. However, it is certainly possible that a particular method/means of shipping could have been lost in the churn of the great capitalist system along the way.

          Addendum, I know that I have purchased books from sellers located oversees on Amazon, possible system hack, sell books to yourself through Amazon and take advantage of whatever discounted oversees shipping rates they have access to, as it is almost certainly, in real cost, cheaper than it used to be to actually move stuff around the world.

  25. Autistic Cat says:

    Shall we have a mascot for rationalism? My suggestion is that we use a cat.

    Cats are mostly individualists and do not like to obey people. They do not like to follow leaders either. Hence I think using cats to represent us rationalists is a good idea.

    SSC, what do you think?

  26. Autistic Cat says:

    A new rationalist forum with almost absolute (see below) free speech, the Rationality Corner is now open!
    http://rationalitycorner.freeforums.net
    Please come to our new forum to discuss topics that aren’t allowed here such as reaction etc. I believe we need to let the rationalist community scrutinize these ideas rationally instead of shutting them down as mere racism or sexism.

    We have no taboo topics. We have no topics that have to be avoided. However we do not allow either racial slurs OR screaming racism.

    • Matt M says:

      with absolute free speech

      we do not allow either racial slurs

      um, nope

      • Autistic Cat says:

        @Matt M Here is the reason. You can express any view rationally without racial slurs. Hence removing racial slurs does not really make the forum less free as long as you stick to rationality.

        For example you may have problems with Group A. At RC we are fine with you saying that Group A commits a lot of crimes. We will ask you for the evidence but won’t shut it down for supposed anti-A racism. However you don’t need to call Group A by a racial slur, A’, in the argument. Just call Group A Group A.

        We don’t censor racism, sexism, homophobia, Satanism, pro-race mixing agenda, Zionism, JIDF, anti-Zionism, feminism, radical feminism, MRA, whatever. Instead the only thing we censor is excessive irrationality.

        • Matt M says:

          I’m not evaluating the quality of your reasoning for banning certain speech. Just your claim of “absolute free speech” immediately followed by “with these exceptions”

          • Autistic Cat says:

            Sure! I think I will modify my first post.

          • Autistic Cat says:

            I think RC will probably attract some of the more rational Blues and Browns. This is exactly intended because I want to get them to have a rational debate on taboo topics.

            Blues can’t call us racist because I’m not Brown. Browns can’t call us SJW because I’m not Blue. I’m an autist who does not like bias.

          • Jiro says:

            Blues can’t call us racist because I’m not Brown.

            Yes, they can. At most, they can’t accurately call you racist, but they may not be interested in accuracy.

            They can also figure that saying something they don’t like automatically proves you are Brown (whatever that means here).

          • Autistic Cat says:

            @Jiro Yeah that’s why I will mostly stick to managing the forum and non-controversial topics without commenting on controversial stuff at all.

            I hate witchhunting.

            P.S. The Brown Tribe refers to the secular neo-Nazis and other secular alt-rightists.

          • Nornagest says:

            In my experience, “I’m not on anyone’s side, I’m unbiased” and all its many, many variations, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, really means “I am so embedded in my side that it’s never occurred to me that it has assumptions that might be questioned”.

        • Autistic Cat says:

          It seems that we already got a sensitive topic.
          http://rationalitycorner.freeforums.net/thread/6/race-intelligence
          How can we discuss it without being irrational or causing a witchhunt?

  27. jonathankolber says:

    Is discussion closed at the Archipelago thread?

    We’ve independently developed an almost identical line of thought, with a few differences. Would love to discuss with you, and explore taking this further.

    • rlms says:

      Presuming you mean the old archipelago post, no-one will respond there even if it is open. If I were you, I’d post your ideas in the next open thread.

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