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Open Thread 89.75

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server.

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860 Responses to Open Thread 89.75

  1. bean says:

    Iowa Part 7 is up at Naval Gazing. This covers the Turret II accident and Iowa’s last retirement.

    • John Schilling says:

      Iowa’s last retirement

      We hope.

    • Dissonant Cognizance says:

      Hey Bean, I was at the Utah memorial the other day and remembered you were having a tough time finding photos. Maybe it’s not relevant since you seem to be done with Iowa and Pearl Harbor, but if you need any specific pictures from Pearl Harbor, the Missouri, or the Pacific Aviation Museum, I live in the area and would love an excuse to go on a naval history photographic scavenger hunt.

      • bean says:

        Utah was a bit tricky to get photos of. I finally found an aerial view that I used in Part 2. But I really appreciate the offer, and I may take you up on it if I return to relevant topics.
        Actually, I’ve been meaning to ask you if you’d be interested in guest posting. You were a submariner, which is not a field I have that much knowledge of.

        • Dissonant Cognizance says:

          I want to take you up on that but I’m not sure what I could contribute. I was only a radioman, and so I think anything I’d write regarding actual submarine warfare would get BTFO by a submarine-qualified officer (one of whom I believe posts here). Between that and classified information I’m left with day-to-day submarine life, which involves a whole lot of scrubbing the engine room. Maybe after some research I could put something together.

          I’m happy to answer any submarine questions though, here or you can email me, tselleck at cocaine.ninja

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      Speaking of photos: do you have any 4k+ resolution photos you particularly like of good warships available online, for wallpaper purposes?

  2. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I promised a CW link about things going wrong at a sperm bank.

    https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2016/04/white-woman-sues-sperm-bankagainafter-getting-black-mans-sperm/

    This is two suits on different grounds about one child, not lawsuits about two different children.

    • Brad says:

      The elements of negligence are: 1) Duty, 2) Breach, 3) Cause, and 4) Harm.

      Elements 1-3 are slam dunks. The only question here is if there is a legally cognizable harm. Then if so how much in dollars is required to make her whole?

      Similarly breach of contract is probably straightforward to prove, but the normal measure of damages is expectancy. Namely: what is the difference in value between the baby should would have had, had they not breached and the baby she has. That’s an awfully tough question to answer.

      They could ask instead for costs that she claims she will incur — counseling or similar, but that’s a rather unsatisfactory answer.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Not just counselling, having to relocate.

        • John Schilling says:

          If true that will be substantial, but I have to wonder about Uniontown, Ohio being “intolerant” of mixed-race children but fine with gay parents.

          If Cramblett had a white male husband rather than a lesbian domestic partner and co-parent, I think this would be a clear win on the grounds that visible pregnancy + mixed-race child would cause suspicion of infidelity and thus reputational harm. As is, selling “harm” to judge and jury without looking like a racist is going to be tricky.

          • gbdub says:

            “As is, selling “harm” to judge and jury without looking like a racist is going to be tricky.”

            On the other hand, selling “no harm” without looking like you are denying that racism exists is also tricky.

            A better question is whether a company can/should be held responsible for harm caused by the discriminatory behavior of 3rd parties they have no control over.

          • Randy M says:

            “As is, selling “harm” to judge and jury without looking like a racist is going to be tricky.”

            No, no, see, she’s not racist, just everyone else.

            A better question is whether a company can/should be held responsible for harm caused by the discriminatory behavior of 3rd parties they have no control over.

            The question is also whether one is allowed to have preferences about offspring. If a service existed to tailor traits to parental wishes (which likely will shortly), would that establish a value in having a specific baby?

          • Matt M says:

            The question is also whether one is allowed to have preferences about offspring.

            This very sperm bank is implicitly offering that, is it not?

            It would be one thing if they made no promises about the donor one way or the other, but if they’re willing to say “you get a white baby” then surely the person is entitled to a white baby, no?

          • Randy M says:

            Seems like they are. Given that, how will people’s sympathies line up? Mother is racist for wanting a white baby? I.e., not (morally) allowed to have preferences. Or, legitimate, if non-quantifiable harm was done to her?
            We usually talk about eugenics in terms of IQ, but many people have more idiosyncratic preferences.
            If a trait does not affect life time earnings, is is allowed (socially, morally) to be preferred? Or is this a manifestation of an “-ism”?
            Does is change when it is a matter of certainty vs probability?
            Reminds me of the “Noble Winner Sperm Bank”.

          • johan_larson says:

            I think if I had to argue for “harm” in this case, I would ask whether anyone, anywhere is selling insemination services where the sperm you get is either completely unknown to you, or luck of the draw. A survey of local fertility clinics should show that no one is doing so. Based on that argue that anything that isn’t sold at all is effectively worthless. They charged my client good money for insemination services, and delivered something that a) isn’t what she asked for, and b) is worthless. And the difference between what she paid and the effective value of what was delivered is a measure of harm to my client.

            Not sure whether that would fly, but at least it doesn’t require me to say one word about race.

          • Matt M says:

            And the difference between what she paid and the effective value of what was delivered is a measure of harm to my client.

            Well they did refund her for the sperm.

            The difficulty here is that she basically has to argue that giving birth to a black child has negative value for her. That it imposes costs above and beyond the sperm. That she is worse off now than if she had never interacted with them in the first place.

          • johan_larson says:

            Well they did refund her for the sperm.

            Sure, but she is suing for negligence, not just harm done. And can’t compensation for negligence go (well) beyond the strict economic loss? In effect the financial measure of harm just establishes that there has been negligence at all. Multipliers can then be applied based on the degree of carelessness and whatnot in settling damages.

          • Brad says:

            @gbdub

            A better question is whether a company can/should be held responsible for harm caused by the discriminatory behavior of 3rd parties they have no control over.

            In general, the test in negligence law is whether the harm is foreseeable. An unforeseeable intervening cause breaks the chain of causality but a foreseeable doesn’t.

            Matt M

            The difficulty here is that she basically has to argue that giving birth to a black child has negative value for her. That it imposes costs above and beyond the sperm. That she is worse off now than if she had never interacted with them in the first place.

            No, she doesn’t. At least not on the breach of contract claim. All she has to show is a lessor value from what she bargained for, not that interaction left her worse off.

            @ johan_larson

            And can’t compensation for negligence go (well) beyond the strict economic loss?

            Punitive damages generally require gross, rather than ordinary, negligence. But they certainly can be awarded.

          • Aapje says:

            If the judge is unsophisticated, one can claim that the damages are the difference between the average or median incomes of white and black Americans, multiplied by life expectancy.

            A more sophisticated and more correct claim is to demand damages after correcting for factors that correlate with race, but that would not differ for children from the same parent. The best way to do so would be to look at a study comparing the incomes of children of different races raised by the same parent. For example, Madonna has both a white child and black children, so one could compare their incomes (and do the same for other families where the children have different races). I’m not aware of such a study having been done, though.

            So one may instead look at studies like this, which try to correct for individual and occupational characteristics, but such studies can both overcorrect and undercorrect very easily (and probably do both).

          • Matt M says:

            No, she doesn’t. At least not on the breach of contract claim. All she has to show is a lessor value from what she bargained for, not that interaction left her worse off.

            I’m not a legal expert by any means, but I feel like the defendant here isn’t disputing that the contract was breached – hence the refund. A refund is an appropriate compensation for a breach of contract that does not do any additional harm above and beyond “I didn’t get what I paid for.”

            To seek additional damages beyond the cost of the refund, she has to prove that she was, well, damaged, above and beyond the mere “not getting what she paid for” part of it. Which would therefore imply she is actually worse off than if she had done nothing (because the refund essentially restores her to “nothing” status)

          • outis says:

            Can we take the “replacement costs” angle? The contract was for impregnation with sperm of a specific type. Because of the breach of contract, the cost she now incurs for satisfying that desire is not just that of another treatment (i.e. a refund); the more substantial cost is that she now has two babies to raise. Thus the damages are the entire cost of raising a second baby.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            The best way to do so would be to look at a study comparing the incomes of children of different races raised by the same parent.

            I recall reading a blog post about a study which claimed that black and white babies had the same IQ, if raised by white parents

            Didn’t look into it because I’m lazy like that, but I bet that suffices as proof if anyone’s interested.

          • Brad says:

            I’m not a legal expert by any means, but I feel like the defendant here isn’t disputing that the contract was breached – hence the refund. A refund is an appropriate compensation for a breach of contract that does not do any additional harm above and beyond “I didn’t get what I paid for.”

            To seek additional damages beyond the cost of the refund, she has to prove that she was, well, damaged, above and beyond the mere “not getting what she paid for” part of it. Which would therefore imply she is actually worse off than if she had done nothing (because the refund essentially restores her to “nothing” status)

            No that’s not how contract law works. Expectancy damages aren’t meant to restore you to the position you would have been in had the contract never happened. Rather they are intended to put you in the position you would have been in had they fulfilled their end of the bargain.

            For example, if I contract with you to buy a new Tesla model S for $5000 and you don’t deliver the car you can’t just refund my $5000 and walk away. You owe me the difference between $5000 and what it would cost me to get a new Tesla S from somewhere else.

          • Expectancy damages aren’t meant to restore you to the position you would have been in had the contract never happened.

            Reliance damages, on the other hand, are.

          • gbdub says:

            Children are not fungible – no one could argue that a wrongful death of a child could be fully restored by adopting you a kid of matching age/race/gender.

            So could she ignore the racial aspect entirely, and simply argue, “I wanted a child with one donor, which would have value X. You gave me something I didn’t want (a child with a different donor). That child has value certainly, but children aren’t fungible so that’s irrelevant. In fact this child I didn’t ask for has caused me large expense Y”?

            At that point, restoring her to where she would be if the contract had been fulfilled would require compensation for value X. Restoring her to where she’d be if the contract never happened at all would require compensation for expense Y.

      • Randy M says:

        I’m assuming negligence requires all four of those? Like, if you catch your doctor saying he didn’t bother washing his hands before surgery, but you don’t actually get an infection, there’s no harm done so you can’t really sue for anything?

        Are there any long term studies of interracial adoption? I don’t think it has been occurring with much frequency until the last few decades, so perhaps not. In any case, saying (hypothetically) “Because of this error, I have a 15% lower chance of frequent contact with my child in twenty years and a 5% lower rate of communal support” doesn’t seem to be presenting real harms with any certainty.

        Would it be fair to call this a case of female cuckoldry?

        • Brad says:

          I’m assuming negligence requires all four of those?

          Right. In law if some test has elements they all need to be met but if one has factors then only some do.

          Would it be fair to call this a case of female cuckoldry?

          I’d think that would have to be the substitution of another woman’s egg. It could happen in the context of IVF but not artificial insemination.

        • albatross11 says:

          Interracial adoption is really common where I live, with white parents who can’t have children on their own commonly adopting Asian children.

          • Matt M says:

            They probably can’t say this in court, but interracial (Asian adoption) and interracial (conceived and the child came out half black) are very very different things from a cultural perspective…

          • For whatever it’s worth, my wife and I adopted two kids from India, who are both now in their 20’s. In my experience, the difficulty of raising a child of another race is greatly over-stated. Kids are kids. Matt is correct that it is a bit different when the two races are White and Black, but I don’t believe it is greatly different.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I suspect the courts will pull out the magic “contrary to public policy” wand and say no harm can be recognized.

      • gph says:

        I think everyone in this thread is focused too much on the racist element. I think the fact of the matter is, this woman can claim she is stuck raising a child that she didn’t want/choose. In my mind that’s harm enough, and the damages should be the entire cost of raising the child including her time/effort. Easily should be millions.

        She doesn’t even have to say it’s because the race. She looked over her choices of sperm and decided on the donor that she wanted. They gave her something else, and now she has to deal with the consequences. Even if the baby was white, she isn’t getting the traits from the donor that she choose. And any derivation from what she choose can cause her to feel like she doesn’t want the child.

        • Matt M says:

          Of course, the part of this that we all know is, had they give her any other white guy, she never would have known the difference.

          • Aapje says:

            If I poison someone’s wife and he thinks she died of natural causes, that person was still harmed by me. Another person who does the same, but in a way where the poisoning is obvious, can’t claim that he should not be convicted or have to pay damages because other people get away with poisonings too.

            So she could argue that the difference in race merely made the mistake evident, not the race of the baby is part of or the entirety of the damages.

        • baconbacon says:

          Then the solution is for the sperm bank to offer to find her a couple to adopt the child, and pay for the adoption. Once she refuses that she can no longer claim that raising the child is a hardship, and that all costs need to be covered.

          • That doesn’t quite do it, because she has already had the costs of bearing the child, and would have to repeat those costs to get back to having the child she wants.

          • baconbacon says:

            That doesn’t quite do it, because she has already had the costs of bearing the child, and would have to repeat those costs to get back to having the child she wants.

            True, but those costs are fairly small compared to the costs of raising a child for 18 years. They could cover those and even offer to cover the costs of another pregnancy and come out way ahead. The offer itself proves that the woman doesn’t feel that keeping the child for 18 years isn’t a burden.

            As I understand that isn’t the claim, but the claim that they have to move because the town is racist doesn’t seem to hold water. The company shouldn’t be liable for a 3rd parties actions imo.

          • meh says:

            There is still an emotional connection with her child. It is still hers. Adoption is not a clean solution in this regards. She is harmed if she keeps it since it is not what she wanted, but also harmed if she gives it up for adoption, since she would have to abandon her child.

            Lets say there was medical negligence during a delivery causing a baby to be permanently disabled. Do you think the solution is for the hospital to find someone to adopt the baby? Of course not! The mother still wants to keep her baby, but the hospital still deserves to pay damages.

            And by the way, raising any child is a big hardship… yet most people aren’t putting their kids up for adoption… can they still claim raising a child is a hardship?

          • meh says:

            The company shouldn’t be liable for a 3rd parties actions imo.

            Personal situations are often considered in assigning damages, this is not unusual. For example if I break arm due to your negligence, I will be owed damages, but these will be much larger if I am a professional athlete, since it has a larger impact on my expected earnings.

          • baconbacon says:

            And by the way, raising any child is a big hardship… yet most people aren’t putting their kids up for adoption… can they still claim raising a child is a hardship?

            They can’t claim it as an unwanted hardship that someone else should be liable for.

          • baconbacon says:

            Personal situations are often considered in assigning damages, this is not unusual. For example if I break arm due to your negligence, I will be owed damages, but these will be much larger if I am a professional athlete, since it has a larger impact on my expected earnings.

            This isn’t a 3rd party action, its a direct inability of you to earn.

          • meh says:

            They can’t claim it as an unwanted hardship that someone else should be liable for.

            If their child has a disability, that would be an unwanted hardship, yet they still would not offer it for adoption.

            If their child had a disability caused by malpractice, that would be an unwanted hardship that someone else should be liable for. They still would not put it up for adoption.

            Clearly unwillingness to offer your child up for adoption is not reflective of a lack of hardship, counter to the cliam

            The offer itself proves that the woman doesn’t feel that keeping the child for 18 years isn’t a burden.

            Even for the malpractice during delivery case? Should the hospital be allowed to just offer to put the child up for adoption, instead of having to pay damages?

          • baconbacon says:

            If their child had a disability caused by malpractice, that would be an unwanted hardship that someone else should be liable for. They still would not put it up for adoption.

            In these cases the harm is directly to the child, and the majority of the case will rest on restitution to make the child whole (as possible). The money goes to the parents as caregivers. In this case the couple is (as my very limited understanding has it) not claiming that being black is itself a handicap, only that it will cost more to raise the child properly because some other people in their community are shitty towards black people.

            Also to get back the original proposition that I was responding to was that the sperm bank could be liable for all the costs of child rearing,

            I think everyone in this thread is focused too much on the racist element. I think the fact of the matter is, this woman can claim she is stuck raising a child that she didn’t want/choose. In my mind that’s harm enough, and the damages should be the entire cost of raising the child including her time/effort.

          • meh says:

            who cares about the legal equivalences? not wanting to give your child up for adoption means nothing other than you are a human. It’s fine if you find her statements or reasons objectionable, but offering to take the baby off her hands is not some king solomon gotcha. And maybe the sperm bank shouldn’t be liable for the entire cost of raising the child. That still doesn’t make refusal to adopt an admission of anything.

            If it helps, imagine a scenario where a couple tries in vitro, but they accidentally use another mans sperm, only discovering this after the birth. So now that the racism meter is turned off, would it be fair not to compensate the couple if they don’t give up the baby?

          • Brad says:

            I realize you said IMO, but as I posted elsewhere the usual standard in negligence for whether a 3rd party breaks the chain of causation is whether or not those actions were foreseeable on the part of the tortfeaser.

        • And any derivation from what she choose can cause her to feel like she doesn’t want the child.

          I don’t think she has said that she doesn’t want the child. The question, which is hard to answer, is how much worse off she is with this child than she would be with the child she would have produced if she had gotten the right sperm.

    • Deiseach says:

      Damn, that case brings out the uncharitable in me. I’m struggling to be fair to the woman, and it is difficult if she has a mixed-race baby she was never expecting, but propping up her case for compensation with “the town I live in is so racist”? Yeah, that’s gonna make her popular with the neighbours! The obvious response there is “Then move somewhere else, woman!”

      It’s hard because although she is correct about the transracial wotsits making parenting difficult, the fact is that she’s sufficiently well-off to be able to afford to go to a sperm bank in the first place and to bring a court case and to have all the sociology rolling off her tongue. I mean, there are a lot of white women having transracial babies living in majority white towns who are not having any particular parenting classes or support from sociologists and social workers in bringing up a mixed race child, and they’re not suing anybody over this (possibly because they got pregnant the old-fashioned way: went clubbing, got drunk, pulled, nine months later a happy event!)

      I mean, I’m glad she’s taking the problems of mixed-race children seriously but come on lady, according to this article, 10% of births in the USA in 2015 were from one white and one black parent, so you are not some special snowflake who needs a load of cash to learn how to comb your kid’s hair. I agree the sperm bank screwed up, but as long as the child is healthy and there’s nothing about the sperm donor being physically/mentally ill, she could have had a worse outcome.

      It is veering very close to sounding like “I want to complain that this isn’t the product I ordered and I demand compensation but I also don’t want to sound racist (although I’m happy to throw my townsfolk under the bus on this one) so I am going for the ‘I need the money to properly study up how to raise my mixed race child when I’m white and living in a white supremacist hell-hole of racists the small town I’m living in’ angle”.

      • meh says:

        Do you have issue with people even being able to select for race at a sperm bank? Clearly this is allowed, and nobody seems to mind. The bank then screwed up. Consumers should be protected for something that will force them to raise a baby for 18 years. Make most other consumer complaints seem pretty trivial.

        • Deiseach says:

          I agree that the sperm bank screwed up and the woman was justifiably shocked when she delivered an unexpected mixed-race baby.

          On the other hand, the child seems to be normal and healthy, so it’s not like suing a maternity hospital for screwing up the delivery and giving the kid brain damage. And she appears to be solvent enough that the cost of raising a child was not a discouraging element (she chose to get pregnant) so she can’t claim that this is a harm either. So it does remain “I am white and living in a white town and it’s just too inconvenient and awkward for me to be saddled with a black kid” and however you fancy that up in lawyer language, it is still going to be uncomfortably close to “I’m not a racist but”.

      • Matt M says:

        The obvious response there is “Then move somewhere else, woman!”

        I think she’s planning on it?

        My reading of the article was that “the town is racist” was meant to imply “Because of this company’s negligence, I have extra expenses relating to moving that must be considered as part of the damages.” It looks like her and her legal team have already put some thought into “How exactly can we quantify the harm that was done here,” even though it’s very difficult.

    • hls2003 says:

      This strikes me as similar to the issue that got some publicity about 15-20 years ago (or maybe that’s just when I heard about it in law school) – botched contraceptive procedures resulting in a healthy child. Some parents sued, attempting to recover the cost of child-rearing. The problem arose with damage offsets: yes, it will cost thousands to raise the child, but you also have the offsetting benefits of a child. Society (or at least juries) usually don’t like hearing the value of a healthy child as “zero or negative, I hate those little monsters.” In fact, the much more common (and lucrative) claim is for medical negligence which results in losing a baby – typically the life of a baby is held to have a positive financial value. Therefore, if I recall correctly, most states limit the potential recovery to medical costs and physical/emotional distress related to the pregnancy, but nothing for child-rearing.

      This one is even more highly charged, with the race angle, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the end point was rather similar. She is, in some sense, suing for negligence resulting in a pregnancy of a character she did not expect. I would expect her to be able to recover something, but probably limited to particular issues related to the pregnancy. Even though they would be the same costs as with a non-mixed-race baby, I would think there would be some “bodily autonomy” arguments about negligence resulting in a bodily effect different from what was disclosed and/or bargained for.

    • Anonymous says:

      I guess this is part of why sperm banks are considered an immoral intervention into reproduction.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Maybe it would make sense to check on whether the town actually is all that racist instead of guessing. I’m not saying we have to, but the lawyers in the case should.

      Also, I’ve seen a fair number of black people say they’re happier if they don’t spend all their time around white people, so that might be a sufficient reason to move to a more integrated place.

  3. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Karl Marx was predicting in the mid-1800s that the development of capitalism would inevitably lead to the elimination of small businesses and decline in real wages for wage-earners.
    70 years later, his “scientific socialism” began being tested and falsified on a massive scale.
    Yet haven’t the last 35 years bore particular prediction out? Real wages have stagnated at best, while big business buys laws that raise barriers to entry.
    The funny thing is that regulating business to the point that a mom-and-pop operation can’t operate without lawyers and an HR department is considered progressive.

    • meh says:

      I think Smith also thought that left unchecked capitalism would devolve into oligarchy.

      “When the regulation, therefore, is in support of the workman, it is always just and equitable; but it is sometimes otherwise when in favor of the masters.”

      • johansenindustries says:

        Where’s that from?

          • johansenindustries says:

            I couldn’t search with your link, but searching http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/3300/pg3300.txt here doesn’t find your quote.

          • meh says:

            1. sorry, ‘support’ should be ‘favour’. it should be in your link then.

            2. it should on the page i have linked to (224), there is no need to search.

            3. just searching in google also turns up good results if you are unable to find it doing a book search. also, searching for sub phrases is often useful in debugging why a search didn’t work (could be a mis-quote, alternate punctuation, spacing, etc.). For instance, searching “sometimes otherwise” in the gutenberg link turns up results.

          • johansenindustries says:

            That link just goes to the contents (other editions, cover etc.) for me. I actually was searching for a substring. It just happened to be ‘is in support of the workman’. Should have tried more.

            Searching it just gave me links to blogs that didn’t give citations either.

          • meh says:

            oh.. the quote is on page 224, the ‘pg=PA224’ in the url is supposed to take you to the page, but maybe doesn’t work for all browser configurations? I don’t know how the internet works i guess.

            If you’re interested, I got the mis-quote by copying from David Brin’s blog https://davidbrin.wordpress.com/2013/11/11/liberals-you-must-reclaim-adam-smith/

            not sure why the quote was changed.

          • If you’re interested, I got the mis-quote by copying from David Brin’s blog

            David Brin is not a reliable source for Smith’s views. I had an exchange with him some time back on the subject–he never provided support for his claim.

          • meh says:

            Is Brin’s claim that even though Smith doesn’t explicitly mention wealth inequality, in every situation in history such inequality leads to monopolies and government control by the wealthy, which Smith does warn against?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’ve heard Brin say that the Lord of the Rings had such inferior old values (I think he described it as medieval, but I won’t swear to his word choice) that no one took prisoners. I’m dubious about whether he’s careful to get things right, but let me know if I’m mistaken.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I’ve heard Brin say that the Lord of the Rings had such inferior old values (I think he described it as medieval, but I won’t swear to his word choice) that no one took prisoners. I’m dubious about whether he’s careful to get things right, but let me know if I’m mistaken.

            My sense of Brin is that there are times when he will make an argument mostly out of contrarianism, and LotR had one example of this – there’s an argument he made that it was Sauron, not the Fellowship, that we should be siding with. Sauron’s realm was more inclusive than Gondor and Rohan, since the former admitted orcs and trolls in addition to humans, elves, hobbits and dwarves. The Ring was an allegory for modern technology and globalism. I think it was clear from the tone that he knew this was an extreme view, and made it anyway for the sake of making it.

      • That quote seems to be saying that government regulation of capitalism will tend to favor the employers, not that capitalism will devolve into oligarchy.

        • meh says:

          a free market drives competition, selects winners. the winners are motivated by desire to accumulate capital. they will thus tend to become large and monopolistic, killing the free market. to keep this in check, regulation is needed.

          the book is very long, i couldn’t quote the entire thing. it shows how some of Smith’s ideas about capitalism seem almost socialist. He seems practical and intelligent, not a raving ideologue.

          the father of capitalism also says this in his book:

          “Our merchants and master manufacturers
          complain much of the bad effects of high wages in raising the price, and
          thereby lessening the sale of their goods, both at home and abroad. They
          say nothing concerning the bad effects of high profits; they are silent
          with regard to the pernicious effects of their own gains; they complain
          only of those of other people.”

          and also

          “The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities; that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the state.”

          • Nornagest says:

            “The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities; that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the state.”

            Taken at face value, that’s an argument for a flat tax, which is not generally considered the most socialist of ideas.

          • meh says:

            ‘In proportion to their abilities’ is an interesting statement. If you can contribute more, you do contribute more. Let’s not apply our current political climate and evolved morality to something written in the 1700s. (I’ve forgotten the particular numbers, but I think it was the Obama/McCain election where Obama was being labeled a socialist for wanting a 38% top rate, and McCain was a free-market capitalist for wating a 33% top rate!)

          • Nornagest says:

            Yes, by all means let’s not project our own biases on the guy. In particular, let’s not pattern-match it to a Marxist slogan: Smith was writing before Marx by a hundred years or so, so he can’t possibly have been aware of what something that sounds a lot like “from each according to his ability…” would imply to us.

            Fortunately, he clarifies that in the same sentence, so it’s quite obvious what he actually meant. “In proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy…” is pretty unambiguous as a policy recommendation, and it’s less progressive (in the technical sense) than what we currently do.

          • meh says:

            It’s not even clear that his statement excludes as a progressive tax, as it is still proportional, just in varying proportions. He is also saying revenue is enjoyed under the protection of the state. And really if ours is currently more or less progressive depends on how Smith defined capital gains, and what his corporate rate would have been. But sure, he’s not a communist. How would you classify that statement about taxes?

            Anywho, not the most important part of the discussion, so I can remove it. (edit: no I can’t.. looks like my edit window has passed?)

          • the book is very long, i couldn’t quote the entire thing. it shows how some of Smith’s ideas about capitalism seem almost socialist.

            I’ve read it. There are some bits that can be quoted out of context along the lines you suggest. But it only seems socialist if you identify support for capitalism with support for capitalists.

            Smith didn’t.

          • It’s not even clear that his statement excludes as a progressive tax, as it is still proportional, just in varying proportions.

            If you are going to talk about Smith, it’s worth actually reading him, not just trying to tease out the meaning of a sentence taken without its context. In this case that means reading his long discussion of alternative taxes. It’s more sophisticated than most current discussions, since he realizes that who actually bears the burden of a tax is not simply determined by who hands over the money.

            He isn’t arguing for a flat tax–indeed, he isn’t arguing for an income tax at all. He is arguing that the burden of the tax system should be proportional to income. He considers a variety of different taxes from that standpoint.

          • Matt M says:

            I’ve forgotten the particular numbers, but I think it was the Obama/McCain election where Obama was being labeled a socialist for wanting a 38% top rate, and McCain was a free-market capitalist for wating a 33% top rate!

            This is basically every political debate in my lifetime.

            A concept Tom Woods refers to as “The 3×5 card of allowable opinion”

          • meh says:

            David, I haven’t read your blog response to Brin, but it look sinteresting and will try to get to it sometime this week.

            But yes, capitalism is not socialism, capitalism is… capitalism, but it seems that Smith’s free-market capitalism is a bit different from what many pundits suggest.

            Does Smith not think that government intervention is necessary to free markets?

            Anywho, going back to the OP, the statement was the largest Marx experiment seems to have been a giant failure, yet Marx’s predictions seem to be coming true in the last 35 years.

            But, it seems that Smith was also concerned about these failure modes of capitalism, this wasn’t original to Marx.

            Is this also a selective mis-reading of Smith?

          • meh says:

            A preliminary perusal of the material shows that the taxation quotation from Smith is found to be particularly mis-represented. So we can discuss the taxation views on tangent, but in response to the OP question, it still seems like the things ‘Marx predicted’ were things that Smith was also concerned with.

          • Does Smith not think that government intervention is necessary to free markets?

            Smith was not an anarchist. He assumed that government was necessary for the standard minimal functions–basically a legal system and national defense. He thought there were arguments both for and against a government subsidy for education. He held a few policy positions that modern libertarians would disagree with–I am pretty sure he wanted a maximum legal interest rate and a restriction on banks that issued their own currency doing it in very small denominations.

            But the bit from The Wealth of Nations that people quote as evidence that he supported some sort of antitrust laws is actually rejecting such laws while arguing that government should not do things that promote monopolistic arrangements.

            Anywho, going back to the OP, the statement was the largest Marx experiment seems to have been a giant failure, yet Marx’s predictions seem to be coming true in the last 35 years.

            I don’t think so. Large firms are very visible, so it’s easy for people to believe that firms are getting larger–and they have been claiming that long before the last 35 years. I haven’t seen any evidence of a net increase in size of firms, just the usual pattern of a few areas where one firm or a small number are dominant, many more where they are not.

            For examples of trends towards less concentration, you might consider the way in which the news industry has gotten much less concentrated as the result of the rise of online sources of information or the way in which the publishing industry has gotten less concentrated as self publishing has become a viable alternative to getting a publisher to take your book. And it’s my impression that industry of making and selling computers is less concentrated than it was 35 years ago, although I don’t have actual data.

            But, it seems that Smith was also concerned about these failure modes of capitalism, this wasn’t original to Marx.

            Which failure modes of capitalism? Smith was worried about government intervention in favor of the “merchants and manufacturers,” but that’s a failure mode of government intervention, not of capitalism.

            Is this also a selective mis-reading of Smith?

            I think so, but you would have to offer examples for me to be sure.

          • meh says:

            If the government intervenes to disable capitalism, that is a failure mode of capitalism. Government intervention isn’t failing, it is thriving.

            You can claim, ‘but when government intervenes it is no longer capitalism!’. Maybe, but if capitalism tends to this, then it is still a failure mode. The same with communism. Communists can claim the Soviet Union wasn’t really communist, but if communism just inherently tends to stabilize at an authoritarian oligarchy, than it is still an accurate communist experiment.

            It seems you are also saying that the OPs original premise is just incorrect, which may be. But did Smith think large accumulations of capital were dangerous to free markets?

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            And it’s my impression that industry of making and selling computers is less concentrated than it was 35 years ago, although I don’t have actual data.

            I have my doubts. There was a huge amount of diversity back then in the number of manufacturers and computer designs. Perhaps nowadays the absolute amount of diversity is even bigger, but the market has surely grown much more and a somewhat sensible definition of concentration is diversity/market size, no?

            In 1985, each of these systems had substantial sales: Commodore 64, Amstrad, Apple II, Mac, Atari, BBC Micro, IBM PC (variants), ZX Spectrum. Then there were many more minor systems being sold as well.

            Nowadays, the ‘desktop/laptop’ market is mainly split in two, between PCs and Macs. The gaming market is mainly split between XBox, Playstation and Nintendo. The smartphone/tablet market is mainly split between Android and Apple. Of course, you can split some of these even further, since multiple companies make some of these systems (although the same is true for some of the systems from my previous paragraph). However, I think that the (inflation-adjusted) average revenue of current companies is substantially higher than the average revenue of 1985 companies.

          • Incurian says:

            Nowadays, the ‘desktop/laptop’ market is mainly split in two, between PCs and Macs.

            This doesn’t say too much about about who is building the hardware, or what brand the completed product is sold under.

          • albatross11 says:

            How many companies are manufacturing personal computers that will run Windows or some flavor of Unix? How many are manufacturing tablets (which are really just computers with a different user interface) that run some flavor of Android?

            There are a few big dominant computer companies now (Apple, Google, MS, Amazon), and there were a few dominant computer companies in the past (IBM, Wang, DEC).

          • baconbacon says:

            Nowadays, the ‘desktop/laptop’ market is mainly split in two, between PCs and Macs. The gaming market is mainly split between XBox, Playstation and Nintendo. The smartphone/tablet market is mainly split between Android and Apple.

            You are treating the computer market in 1985 as one lump, and then dividing it into 3 or 4 lumps in 2017 to get this result. If a person wants a computer now they can choose a laptop or desktop with competing systems, or they can choose a tablet, or they can choose a smart phone. Splitting them up this way would be like saying “well 110 years ago there were dozens of small car manufacturers, but now there are just a few. If you want a car, that market is dominated by Honda and Toyota, if you want a pickup truck its dominated by Ford and Chevy, if you want an SUV its dominated by Dodge and Nissan, if you want a motorcycle its Kawasaki and BMW, and if you want a sport utility wagon then you are basically stuck with a Subaru!”

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            My sense of the computer hardware market is complicated, mainly because the area of focus has moved. It used to be on hardware design, which was why you’d have Altair, Atari, Macintosh, Osborne, IBM, Commodore, TI, and Tandy. Architectures were emerging at the same time, mostly correlated to the hardware at first, and with a few cross concerns emerging, such as RISC, 68000, and 8086. And then the OS was a factor on top of that, again, often correlating to the stuff underneath, but with a few standards such as Unix that anyone could lay claim to.

            But the OS barely congealed around a set of fewer than ten major players before the windowing interface on top became the great differentiator. And then that coalesced, only to have the mode of use become important – desktop vs. laptop, and then mobile, and off we go again. Now we have relatively few major choices within the mobile or desktop or laptop domains, but a lot of focus is also now on “solutions” – whether you want your business problems to be solved via cloud tech or dedicated chip design or some clever algorithm or if you’re on the other end and you’re just shopping for a consumer appliance, or you’re looking for something completely different and you don’t even necessarily know there’s computer hardware involved (e.g. cars).

            If we judge computer hardware diversity in terms of, say, the desktop market, it went from at least dozens of competitors in the 1980s to about six – HP, Lenovo, Dell, Asus, Apple, and Acer – offering essentially three user experiences (Windows, Mac, Linux).

            But if we judge by the classes of problems that desktops were being used to solve in the 1980s, it’s exploded, since this includes calculators, big iron databases hulking in server rooms (same problems, more data), laptops, tablets, routers, gateways, Raspberries, BlackBerries, Siris, Alexas, scads of specialized chips embedded in other products, and even thousands of websites.

            TLDR: lamenting the collapse of diversity in the computer hardware industry feels a lot to me like lamenting the collapse of diversity in the horse-drawn carriage industry.

          • But did Smith think large accumulations of capital were dangerous to free markets?

            Not as far as I can remember. I think he was more concerned with conspiracies in restraint of trade, which were in some ways facilitated by government policies that he criticized.

    • cassander says:

      Wages have flatlined, compensation has not. Incomes have just shifted away from cash and towards more tax favored types of compensation.

    • JonathanD says:

      Isn’t this effect primarily seen in the US (source: <5 min of google image search)? If so, one couldn't really call it a general result about capitalism, but rather one which is specific to our political and economic system.

    • Nornagest says:

      At this point I think the decline of small business is more of a Rorschach blot than good evidence for or against anything on an ideological scale. There’ve been so many changes since the ’70s that it’s stupidly easy to point to one or another of them: if you’re a libertarian it’s obviously the fault of overregulation, if you’re a progressive it’s Walmart or some other capitalist boogeyman, if you’re an old-school conservative it’s atomized society. You could probably construct a nativist angle too, but I’m not confident of my ability to pass the ideological Turing test there.

      Likely more than one of these are true, but I have no idea in what proportions.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      There’s been some arguments in the econ blogosphere about market power concentration. Most of the commentators seem to agree that big firms have more market power. But they also pay out higher wages. There’s also been a bias among the higher classes to shift towards paid W-2 income as opposed to entrepreneurial income.

      Plus, firms with a lot of market power seem to be pushing the technological frontier out MORE. They aren’t the Ma Bells stifling innovation.

      My favored hypothesis (which may change) is that frontier firms are becoming more productive much more rapidly, and it’s extremely difficult for small firms to realize a lot of the same productivity gains, since a lot of it is return-to-scale. Like, in the past 10 years, A/R systems have become a lot more advanced: computers and business logic handles at least 70% of cash application for me, the system automatically tracks invoices, I can use some rudimentary statistical analysis to spot missed invoices and billings, all stuff that would have been intensive manual work just 10-20 years ago.
      But smaller firms cannot implement systems quite as advanced as mine, and they can’t hire employees quite as good.
      The end result is that big companies can implement good A/R systems, and because each individual employee is a huge value-add, can offer high wages. So me? Good deal to be a desk jockey. Really good. 20-30 years go, not as much. Small firms? Not so much, and they fall further behind.

      Same thing with the entire economy, writ large.
      Here’s a MR link about it:
      http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2015/10/the-future-is-here-just-not-evenly-distributed.html

      It’s probably not just economies of scale. Diseconomies of scale also play a factor. Big companies can’t change as rapidly. So you have a dying Sears, with a rising Amazon.

      • Standing in the Shadows says:

        As much as I get tired of breathless “hyperledger solves everything” hype, even as I am working to stand up a couple of different Sawtooth instances, I do kind of wonder what a hyperledger inter-corporate AR/AP system might do to your field in a decade or so.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          You aren’t the only one….I don’t understand the blockchain technology very well, unfortunately. It looks like most of the applications being studied are for payment transfers between companies. That would hopefully make my job easier and more accurate, but that wouldn’t replace the internal general ledgers.

          To a great extent, you still need human decision-making and analysis. Is this new computer mainframe a capital expense? If so, what is the depreciation schedule? What’s the budget for computer replacements next year? Why did we exceed computer replacement by 30%? Okay, we exceeded computer replacement because labor was twice as expensive but the actual parts were 10% less expensive. Why did that happen? Okay, we used overtime labor, why didn’t we contract out to a different company at a lower cost, and how do we budget for this next year? Are you planning to hire additional workers, because then we need to change the budget for our health-care expenses, and if not we need to increase our overtime budget.

          And then no one wants to provide an answer, so you have to call, email, stalk, beat people with sticks to get answers.

          So unless blockchain comes with the ability to people with a stick, it won’t replace the human element entirely….and actually accounting might look very similar to the way it is now, because we spend most of our time doing stuff like that, not making journal entries.

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            Blockchain ledger for promises of violence.

            Sounds like a great SF idea, or possible how things are done on Jackson’s Whole and on New Hong Kong…

          • The Nybbler says:

            Jim Bell came up with that idea a while ago. Might not want to discuss it too much, it got him imprisoned.

      • Wrong Species says:

        At first, a person could start their business just by selling some of their product.

        Then, they had to get a loan from a bank to open up a store and hopefully earned enough revenue to pay it back.

        Now, they get a venture capitalist to spend money for something that won’t get any revenue for years with the hope that it will someday be profitable.

        I think you’re right, but I don’t agree about the diseconomies of scale. Amazon isn’t growing at such a massive rate because they are at the right size. They are growing because they decided to reinvest their revenue for years with little profit. Sears either doesn’t have the will or the capability to do something like that.

        On the one hand, this is good. We want the most productive firms to win out over the sluggish. It’s good for consumers and the economy. But it is concerning that so few companies might be in control of a larger percentage of the economy. Especially when these companies don’t need that many workers.

        • Note that Sears was more or less the Amazon of its day.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Yeah, Sears may not be the best example, and some larger firms are innovating well. Wal-Mart has hit the e-commerce space in a big way.

          I guess we’ll see. Normally diseconomies of scale are a real thing, though, which is why GE developed the rule to spin off any business where they are not #1 or #2, and why start-ups have any room to grow at all.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          Economy of scale will only go so far. You can make a factory that turns out a million units a year more efficiently than 100 factories each turning out 10k each. But if the market demand permits 10 million units a year, it may be that a one-million-unit factory is the best one you can build – there’s only so much floor space for machinery and raw material storage and only so much throughput on that machinery – and now your best bet is ten such factories, and you likely won’t be able to run even two of them as efficiently as a competitor could run just one more.

          Which makes me wonder where that cap is for a company like Amazon. The Amazon way of running merchandise is applicable to anything from books to yard tools. They don’t have to make the stuff; just display and deliver it. But Amazon does other things. Some of them are loss leaders fed by their retail business. Some are fed by the tech they use on their retail business, so they’re easy for Amazon to establish a presence. Some might be easy enough for competitors to imitate, though, and even do better than Amazon. I just don’t know exactly where.

    • We’ve talked about this on SSC open threads before. In short, there is plenty of ambiguity as to whether Marx predicted an absolute or merely relative immiseration of workers. (By relative, I mean relative to the wealth that they could be enjoying if capitalism did not routinely place certain fetters on the production and distribution of useful wealth).

      As for the elimination of small businesses, it is still happening. Plus, consider: the small businessman in Marx’s day was someone who used his own capital and thus reaped the entire rate of profit, including interest and the net profit of enterprise. Now, most small businesses are really working for those who finance them, the collective class of capitalists associated in the big financial institutions and on the stock exchanges. If our small businessmen are not outright just managers who are being paid a salary, then at most they merely take home the net profit of enterprise after interest is deducted, and these small business owners are given the fairly grueling managerial job of identifying disproportionately profitable areas for the collective capitalist class to move into, and using their skills to make that happen…while reaping but a portion of the proceeds of the capital that they employ.

      Not that this is a bad thing! It is inevitable that, as the division of worldwide labor becomes more complex, it will also become more coordinated, regulated, and centralized. The big financial institutions are the seeds of the future planning commissions, and should not be broken up, but rather democratized. This is one thing that distinguishes scientific socialists from reactionary populists who merely yearn for an unattainable “paradise lost” of simple commodity production where every producer owns his own business and produces for his own account, and where coordination of society’s division of labor into various lines of production happens only chaotically due to Smith’s “Invisible Hand” rather than consciously.

      (Although, the Invisible Hand really is a wondrous mechanism, for what it’s worth. Marx was in awe of what it had accomplished. But he also knew when it was time to put an old dog to sleep.)

      As for business buying legislation, why of course! Political power cannot be walled off from economic power! That is historical materialism 101.

      • Standing in the Shadows says:

        … The big financial institutions are the seeds of the future [scientifical communist] planning commissions, and should not be broken up …

        I now have a new theory as to why the Democratic Party in the US, and why the socialish greenish progressiveish consensus parties in the EU have cozied up into circles of mutual analingus with Big Finance.

      • In short, there is plenty of ambiguity as to whether Marx predicted an absolute or merely relative immiseration of workers. (By relative, I mean relative to the wealth that they could be enjoying if capitalism did not routinely place certain fetters on the production and distribution of useful wealth).

        I quote from the Communist Manifesto:

        Hence, the cost of production of a workman is restricted, almost entirely, to the means of subsistence that he requires for maintenance, and for the propagation of his race. But the price of a commodity, and therefore also of labour, is equal to its cost of production. In proportion, therefore, as the repulsiveness of the work increases, the wage decreases. Nay more, in proportion as the use of machinery and division of labour
        increases, in the same proportion the burden of toil also increases, whether by prolongation of the working hours, by the increase of the work exacted in a given time or by increased speed of machinery, etc.

        That is pretty explicit. I do not see how you can read that either as consistent with what actually happened thereafter or as consistent with the claim that Marx was not predicting an absolute immiseration of the workers, along with increasingly unpleasant conditions of work.

        I’ve tended to interpret Marx as a follower of Ricardo who, like most other people, did not have Ricardo’s extraordinary mathematical intuition and so misunderstood the logic of the Ricardian system. But I’m not sure that’s correct.

        Ricardo, from whom Marx presumably got his iron law of wages, made it explicit both that he was describing a long term equilibrium, which wages might exceed for an unlimited length of time, and that that equilibrium wage depended on the tastes of the workers.

        Can you quote Marx, somewhere else, saying that what he was predicting was not a falling real wage for the workers but only a real wage that did not rise as rapidly as per capita output? That seems to be what you are claiming he was ambiguous about.

  4. Jeremiah says:

    I recently finished Rationality: AI to Zombies. I do not consider myself a Bayesian. I’m one of those religious people. (Mormon) And I also feel that Talebian Antifragility is a better model for how to behave under uncertainty than Bayesianism, which is to say I had some issues with the book (not the least of which was the length.) I thought this might be a good place to invite people to tell me why I’m wrong or what I missed. My initial review is here.

    TL;DR
    -Yudkowsky focuses too much on winning, but he doesn’t spend much time on the “when” of winning (though I mention his contributions to existential risk)
    -It maybe necessary to lose in the short term in order to win in the long-term.
    -Both of these things may contribute to fragility, which from Taleb’s perspective is short-term limited wins which lead to large unbounded losses.
    -There does not appear any allowance in Bayesianism for dealing with asymmetrical outcomes. Where being wrong is catastrophic (despite an assessment of a very low probability) vs. where being wrong is inconsequential (but with the same low probability.)
    -I mention Scott missing Brexit and the election of Trump as an example of what this looks like.

    I’m looking for people to tell me what I missed.

    • johan_larson says:

      Can you give a thumbnail sketch of what “Bayesianism” is? I’ve studied statistics, and Bayes’ Rule certainly came up, but the notion of Bayesian statistics as opposed to some other kind was never touched on.

      • Jeremiah says:

        Bayesianism is Yudkowsky’s/LessWrong’s term/ideology. Here’s their link on it:

        http://lesswrong.com/lw/1to/what_is_bayesianism/

        As a thumbnail it’s making very broad use of Bayes Law as a way of making choices when you’re uncertain.

        • johansenindustries says:

          I don’t know about if LessWrong etc. use it differently, but Bayesian statistics* is a mainstream thing. Andrew Gelman has a blog about it, and it is about taking a prior anf getting a posterior.

          *Opposed to frequentist.

        • johan_larson says:

          It’s a heck of a jump to go from the very specific notion of Bayes’ Law, which is about the relationship between the conditional probabilities of two events to the far more general notion that what you should believe to be true is a function not merely of what you have just observed, but of your views just before you observed them. I’m not saying it’s wrong, but there are at least a lot of steps missing in the argument.

          I’m familiar with something similar in a much more specific case, namely rating chess players. In competitive chess, you have a rating, which is a number like 1800. After playing a set of tournament games, there is a formula for adjusting your ranking based on your results and the ratings of the other players. Sensible enough. What the Bayesians want you to do is something similar, but more generalized.

      • A1987dM says:

        Take a look at the first few chapters of Probability Theory: The Logic of Science by E.T. Jaynes (the first Google hit is a pdf of the first three chapters). Sure, sometimes he does sounds like he’s fighting a strawman, but I can assure you that frequentism used to be the mainstream interpretation of probability until recently and is still pretty widespread.

    • pontifex says:

      I recently finished Rationality: AI to Zombies. I do not consider myself a Bayesian. I’m one of those religious people. (Mormon) And I also feel that Talebian Antifragility is a better model for how to behave under uncertainty than Bayesianism, which is to say I had some issues with the book (not the least of which was the length.)

      To be honest, I was never very impressed by Taleb. Maybe there was something I didn’t “get” about his writing, but he just seemed to be making the point over and over that “black swans do happen, and sometimes they can be really bad.” To which I can only say: well, duh! Anyway, doesn’t Yudkowsky also cover black swans in his book, when discussing short-term versus long-term thinking? He makes the point that people are better at thinking about frequent risks than about things which happen infrequently. Which seems to be Taleb’s whole point, just expressed without made-up vocabulary.

      -There does not appear any allowance in Bayesianism for dealing with asymmetrical outcomes. Where being wrong is catastrophic (despite an assessment of a very low probability) vs. where being wrong is inconsequential (but with the same low probability.)

      Doesn’t Bayesianism handle that trivially, just by having a large negative weight attached to the bad thing? A large negative weight makes the possible bad outcome influence your decision greatly, even if it is not likely to happen.

      The bigger problem with Bayesianism is Pascal’s mugging. And, on a more practical note, the difficulty of actually calculating the probability of… anything, really. I’m not sure how Yudkowsky deals with that… I haven’t read the whole book.

      -Yudkowsky focuses too much on winning, but he doesn’t spend much time on the “when” of winning (though I mention his contributions to existential risk)

      I also think Yudkowsky focuses too much on winning. And more specifically on function optimization. But this is a disorder of the whole machine learning field at the moment. There is almost no discussion of concepts like “creativity” or “willpower” that GOFAI (good old-fashioned AI) spent a long time thinking about. Instead, people are focused on improving benchmark X by Y%, because it’s measurable and publishable.

      • Incurian says:

        The bigger problem with Bayesianism is Pascal’s mugging.

        From wikipedia:

        Pascal responds that the probability for that high return is even lower than one in 1000. The mugger argues back that for any low probability of being able to pay back a large amount of money (or pure utility) there exists a finite amount that makes it rational to take the bet…

        I don’t understand why this is true. Shouldn’t the probability of a payback diminish with the increase of the mugger’s offer? It looks like Pascal, in this telling, hints that is the case, but then just drops it.

        A link from that wikipedia page goes to a GiveWell page that seems to be making a similar point.

        • pontifex says:

          The bigger picture here (to me at least) is that you need to consider variance as well as expected value. A lottery ticket that pays out one in a 10^100 times, but gives you 10^105 dollars each time, might have an expected value of $100,000, but the variance is so high that I would not pay that much for it.

        • meh says:

          I second Incurian’s point. The flaw in the argument is that the 1 in 1000 is assumed constant for any payout amount. I think the probability of payout decreases faster than the increasing payout amount. so at $10, I believe the mugger will pay back with probability p, for a $10p expectation. At $1000 the probability could be less than (1/1000)p (since why would such a wealthy person be mugging me, unless he is running a social experiment). So, as the payout increases, the expectation could actually *decrease*.

          Imagine the 2 scenarios
          1: give me your wallet and tomorrow I will return with twice the amount.
          2: give me your wallet, I will remove the cash, and return the rest to you.

          which one do you think has higher expectation?

          • pontifex says:

            I think speculating about the robber’s motives or likely behavior is not really the point of the thought experiment.

            Imagine if, rather than a robber, it was someone completely trustworthy, who offered a deal that had an extremely small — infinitesimal! — chance of paying out a gigantic, life-changing award. The expected value could be extremely large. And the odds would would be in your favor, if you could play over and over. But you can only play once. And since there is basically 0% chance that you will ever see the reward, the expected value doesn’t (or shouldn’t) matter to you.

            You can also imagine a scenario where it’s a threat rather than a reward. Give all your money to the Church of Paperclip Maximization, or else you have an extremely tiny chance of being tortured for all eternity in the worst possible ways. Would you take that deal? If you just are looking at expected value, and not at variance, I can make the potential torture worse and worse until you have to take the deal.

          • meh says:

            I still don’t entirely see it. I think the argument lies on our inability to intuitively think about large utilities. Like, what’s the difference between positive a billion utility and positive a trillion utility? Mathematically the utilities increase, but emotionally they just become some undifferentiated maximum value.

            In scenario 1, as the probability of success goes to 0, the payout utility has to become enormous. I don’t really know how to think about utilities that large, but at some point I assume the only way to increase my utility is to obtain god like powers. When put that way (as opposed to some vague ‘enormous utility’), suddenly even a low chance of winning seems like an ok game.

            The same goes for the second example. Think of what the worst torture possible. Now, is something 1000x worse than that really something you want to risk, even if it is an extremely small probability of happening? i.e. I don’t think it is wrong to take the deal if you keep making the torture worse and worse.

          • pontifex says:

            The same goes for the second example. Think of what the worst torture possible. Now, is something 1000x worse than that really something you want to risk, even if it is an extremely small probability of happening? i.e. I don’t think it is wrong to take the deal if you keep making the torture worse and worse.Report

            OK, fine. I’m making you the deal now then. I’ll send you a bitcoin address, you send all your money there. In exchange, I promise not to use my godlike powers to torture you eternally. (There is a very, very, very low chance I actually have these powers, but it’s not zero.)

            Note for the humor-impaired: this is a joke. But if it weren’t, still, would you take that deal?

          • meh says:

            sure, it is low but not zero. Can you give me an estimate of what the probability is? And describe in specifics the torture so I can assign a utility value to it.

          • pontifex says:

            Joke answer: everything from the broadcast.

            Slightly more serious answer: Well, if I have godlike powers, then the torture can be infinitely bad, right? So no matter what, the negative utility will not be finite.

          • meh says:

            sure, but the probability you have those powers is infinitesimally small. so the expectation is….? Also, if you had these powers I suspect that instead of making the punishment worse and worse, you would instead do something like bend a spoon to increase my probability estimation that you actually have the powers. My probability estimation becomes lower and lower when all you do is increase the amount of torture.

            The general problem with problems like these is that when stated as a word problem, there are many hidden assumptions that we aren’t noticing (or are noticing but are not really in the forefront of the problem). I think if stated just in the simple math, it will become only a problem of infinite utility being possible, and no longer seem like an absurd proposition.

            i.e. the (positive) version of the problem,
            You have epsilon chance of winning X dollars. How large does X have to be to pay $1000 for the game? Now we can talk about expectation maximization, risk tolerance, variance, etc. I think for this, expectation and variance both matter, the only real question is infinite utility.

            Finally, I’ll note the mugger problem is similiar to walking into a convenience store and the clerk saying ‘do you want to buy a lotto ticket?’ i.e. give me your money, and i’ll give you a small chance at a large payoff.

      • Jeremiah says:

        To be honest, I was never very impressed by Taleb. Maybe there was something I didn’t “get” about his writing, but he just seemed to be making the point over and over that “black swans do happen, and sometimes they can be really bad.”

        Did you read Antifragile? That book brings more nuance to things. IMHO

        Doesn’t Bayesianism handle that trivially, just by having a large negative weight attached to the bad thing? A large negative weight makes the possible bad outcome influence your decision greatly, even if it is not likely to happen.

        Perhaps it does, but if so I have no recollection of Yudkowsky mentioning it in 2300 pages. Also the standard form of Bayes law allows you to update probabilities, it has no term for weighting the consequences of different probabilities. Also Yudkowsky spends a large amount of space on stuff with very little weight (p-zombies, and many worlds vs. Copenhagen, for example.)

        And I could be totally missing something which is one of the reasons I posted.

      • johan_larson says:

        I thought his first book made a couple of decent points: in some domains results are radically skewed, and optimizing for the median (or even mean) case in those domains is asking for trouble. He sure took his time saying it, though. I wish the 100-page monograph would come back in style.

        Also, he didn’t enhance his credibility by displaying a weird affection for the life of the playboy (“flaneur”).

        • pontifex says:

          Sure, black swans are underappreciated in some domains. But they’re overappreciated in others. For example, Scott has a bunch of blog posts about how we probably should be less conservative in approving drugs for really bad diseases, because we’re killing more people than we’re saving. (I’m too lazy to find the blog posts now.)

          I’m not even convinced that Taleb’s meta-point is valid. There’s a tiny chance of a lot of bad things happening: supervolcanoes, nuclear war, spontaneous human combustion (yes really) Should I change my behavior based on these things? Probably not. In the first place, I don’t have a good idea of how likely they are, or what I could do to mitigate them. In the second place, it just might not be worth it. If I move to Montana and stock up on canned food, maybe I’ll be more likely to survive a nuclear war. But only at the cost of ruining my life.

          In reality, there’s no shortcut to deciding what to do. You don’t get a gold star for saying “well, black swans exist and they are bad, so avoid them.” You have to look at each specific scenario and see what we could do to avoid it, and whether it’s actually practical and worth it. For example, we probably could have done more to prevent over-leveraging in the finanacial system in 2007. But you can’t generalize that to say that every black swan is a burning issue that we need to get right on top of (we need to do something about that spontaneous human combustion problem, now!)

          • johan_larson says:

            I think the larger point is that the right way to deal with black swans is not to try to predict them; that’s impossible. It is rather to be aware that they exist and therefore adopt a position of flexibility that lets you change up when the unexpected occurs. If you’re heavily committed to the usual state of things, you’re going to get killed when the unexpected occurs.

          • albatross11 says:

            It’s quite possible that any given low-probability event isn’t worth preparing for, but that there are ways to prepare for a large set of such events, such that the sum of their probabilities is high enough to be worth preparing for.

            For example, having a few days’ food and water and fuel for heating a room in your house is a good way to be prepared for a largish set of bad things that might happen, any one of which is pretty unlikely, but at least one of which will happen in the next ten years with a not-all-that-small probability.

          • baconbacon says:

            A super volcano is not a black swan, you have missed two different major points in Taleb’s work.

            First on the subject of the title “The Black Swan”, the original black swan was the surprising discovery of a species of swan that had black feathers, before that only white swans were known. This is not a story about a rare event, it is a story about the limits of knowledge. “All swans are white” was not disproved by a freak mutation (a rare event) in the chick of a white swan, it was always false as there were (essentially) always black swans. You could not have formed a (useful or correct) Bayesian estimate of the reality of black swans by searching all of Europe. You would have, after exhaustively counting every last swan you could find, perhaps concluded that not 1 in a billion swans was black. Perhaps a very clever Bayesian would have couched his 1 in a billion estimate with the knowledge that mutations exist and that just because he could find no swans now that did not mean that one could not be hatched in the future. That very clever Bayesian also would have been wrong by many orders of magnitude.

            Secondly for the actual discussion of human black swans this is only an analogy. The housing crash isn’t considered a black swan because it is a rare event, it is considered a black swan because it is an emergent property. It isn’t random, but an expected event that has never occurred before. This sounds like a contradiction, but isn’t.

      • baconbacon says:

        To be honest, I was never very impressed by Taleb. Maybe there was something I didn’t “get” about his writing, but he just seemed to be making the point over and over that “black swans do happen, and sometimes they can be really bad.”

        Your not the only one to make this claim.

        However Taleb’s point is very different (although I will concede that he hammers on the one same principle over and over).

        An attempt at a summary: The black swan in nature is just a random chance, you see only white swans, posit that all white swans exist. This does not alter the chances of a black swan occurring (or currently existing outside our knowledge). Taleb’s broad point is that in complex systems with purposeful actors that noting that all swans are white can cause the black swan to appear. If you note that housing prices in the US have never declined by more than X, and then build a financial derivative to profit from this, you might actually be creating a new environment that will cause housing prices to fall by more than X. The basic difference being that somethings that look unlikely become more likely just by the noticing.

    • Incurian says:

      -There does not appear any allowance in Bayesianism for dealing with asymmetrical outcomes. Where being wrong is catastrophic (despite an assessment of a very low probability) vs. where being wrong is inconsequential (but with the same low probability.)

      Does the regular expected value formula not cover this sufficiently? Or is expected value not compatible with Bayes?

      • Jeremiah says:

        If there’s some way of feeding Bayes into the expected value formula, I do not remember seeing it. A search of the text on my kindle turns up three instances of “expected value” none of which relate to applying it to Bayesian statistics/reasoning.

        And one of which says “And never mind the expected value of posterity.” Which is exactly my criticism. 😉

        • Incurian says:

          “And never mind the expected value of posterity.”

          Not sure what he meant by that, that sounds weird.

          If there’s some way of feeding Bayes into the expected value formula, I do not remember seeing it.

          I don’t quite understand what you mean by that. If all your probabilities are derived from Bayesian statistics, and you use those numbers in your expected value calculation, I think you’ve done it. Maybe your complaint is that he doesn’t explicitly cover expected value, not that it’s incompatible with Bayes?

          This GiveWell blog post I linked upthread has some discussion about this.

    • Hunter Glenn says:

      I was also Mormon when I started R:AI to Z. I was preparing a thorough explanation of the path to defensible religious knowledge about the church (heavily guided by The Lectures on Faith), but managed to poke my own holes in it by the time I finished the book.

      I read your piece, and, if I’m understanding, your main criticism, perhaps most clearly displayed with Alexander’s predictions, is that being 90% right isn’t necessarily better than being, say 80% right, depending on which things you’re getting wrong. It’s better to be right 80% of the time if that 80% covers the most important things than to be 90% right if the mistakes that happen 10% of the time are about very important things.

      Hence the idea of “antifragility,” to sacrifice optimal progress for the sake of having a higher probability of avoiding awful things. You didn’t go too much into it, but does antifragility literally say not to “shut up and multiply”? That is, does it say to take actions that you think will produce less utility than others in order to avoid the occasional terrible result?

      If not, and if all it’s saying is that we need to prepare against unforeseen disasters, then I think the whole system comes out of Bayesianism. Make the best model you can, and then adjust your utilities (positive and negative) by the probability they will occur to make choices. That leads to preparing for disasters, and the exact amount of preparation also comes out of that calculation.
      If it does (say not to shut up and multiply), then it just sounds like antifragility is saying to exaggerate negative utilities. Something like “every utiliton below this threshold is worth 2 utilitons above this threshold; we’re willing to sacrifice twice as many utilitons from (for example) worlds with a utility score of -10 or higher in order to prevent the loss of half as many utilitons from worlds with a utility score of lower than -10.”

      If that’s the idea, then I think Bayesianism also accounts for that; the adjustment in order to avoid exceptionally bad results is just about how you weight your values, which is orthogonal to how to achieve them.

      • Viliam says:

        It’s better to be right 80% of the time if that 80% covers the most important things than to be 90% right if the mistakes that happen 10% of the time are about very important things.

        I would rather be right about the most important 80% things than about the least important 90% of things. But we can actually make this choice in real life? I mean, if you know that you are wrong about X, then on some level you already know the truth about X. And if you know the truth about X, and the truth about Y, then you don’t have to decide which one of these truths is more useful to you; you can take both of them.

        The nearest situation in real life I can imagine, is when (1) X feels true, (2) Y feels true, and (3) X and Y are contradictory. Now I am forced to make a choice between X and Y, but I do not know which of them is true.

        It is possible to say in such situation that one should e.g. favor the option that is supported by more experience (has more parallel streams of evidence) over one that is a result of a long conjunction of arguments. (Although, even this reasoning could make us favor “Sun turns around Earth” over “Earth rotates”.)

  5. Kevin C. says:

    So, how should you best respond when your therapist starts pushing new-ager pseudo-religious nonsense about “asking the universe for what you want”, that you need to put “positive energies” into “your personal universe” because “people find what they look for” — and therefore, by implication, everything bad that’s happened to you is your own fault because you were ‘looking for it’ with your ‘negative attitude”?

    How about when she says you should ignore statistics entirely because they don’t really matter, because “outliers exist” and because “probabilities are meaningless”?

    • Randy M says:

      If you like her and just want some affirmations you can believe in, try rephrasing it in a more down to earth way.
      “In other words, I should set concrete goals for myself?”
      “So you mean if I act confident people will treat me with more respect?”
      “Are you saying that I need to appreciate the small positive things in my life I might be overlooking?”
      “Hmm, perhaps in my situation I need to consider low odds but high pay-off strategies?”

      If you don’t like her then you can probably take it as a chance to look elsewhere, since she sounds like someone who says meaningless platitudes and that’s not what you are looking for.

    • quanta413 says:

      Honestly, if possible, I’d consider getting a new therapist. That style would not work for me. I’m not sure what I’d do if that option was out.

      Granted assuming this is about you and your therapist, I don’t think everything you give an example of your therapist saying is wrong, so maybe just try to filter out the signal from the very loud noises. Your perspective on the larger world seems more negative than is strictly justified (it may be totally justifiable on a personal level; I do not know what your life is like). But I think I personally benefit from your perpective, since your perspective is interesting and coherent and I often enjoy reading it.

      • Kevin C. says:

        Can’t really go to someone else, because it’s the Neighborhood Health Center; you get who they give you. It’s them or the generally worse Community Mental Health Service for someone on Medicaid like me. And she’s otherwise generally been better than many of the other providers I’ve previously had.

    • johansenindustries says:

      To be fair, three points

      1. Richard Wiseman holds that there is no such thing as lucky or unlucky and that instead they differ by being open and aware of opportunities. (And had done studies – no idea of replication – to look into this)
      2. You miss every shot you don’t take.
      3. Statistics can be misleading and are affected by people’s beleifs in statistics. There was a discussion on this website about mistaking ‘a greater porportion of men have experienced being physically attacked at night’ with ‘men are more at risk of being attacked at night’

      • Kevin C. says:

        2. You miss every shot you don’t take.

        I’ve actually seen people use exactly that argument to justify spending $100/mo on lottery tickets, and argue that everyone else should too. And I’m fairly confident most everyone here should understand why this is a bad idea, and that the lottery is “a tax on innumeracy.”

        • Matt M says:

          True, but it depends on how you structure your problem statement.

          If your goal in life is to win the lottery, then buying a lot of lottery tickets is the best way to achieve that goal.

          If your goal in life is to maximize the amount of money available to you, buying a lot of lottery tickets is an obvious mathematical loser.

          It’s quite possible that the potential net gain in utility of winning $average_lottery_jackpot is significantly higher than the net loss of $average_monthly_lottery_expected_loss such that said choice actually does make a certain amount of sense.

          • baconbacon says:

            If your goal in life is to maximize the amount of money available to you, buying a lot of lottery tickets is an obvious mathematical loser.

            This actually isn’t even true, unless you are totally emotionless. It is reasonably plausible that buying lottery tickets can substitute for some other unhealthy behavior (like drinking/smoking) with fewer negative effects. I suspect this is the case for some of the ‘benefits’ to things like drinking a glass of red wine or eating chocolate daily, and that the effect of adding in a glass every day would be minimal for many people without dropping some other poor habit.

    • Jeremiah says:

      I thought that they’ve shown that it’s mostly the act of talking that helps people, and that the content doesn’t matter that much. Which I suppose argues for both staying with her (because what she says doesn’t matter) or switching (because any therapist which doesn’t annoy you will be as good as any other.)

    • cassander says:

      get a new therapist?

    • liquidpotato says:

      I’ve actually been thinking about this “ask the universe for what you want and it will give it to you” thing lately. I think what it really is, is making confirmation bias work for us instead of against us.

      A few months ago I started doing a few new things and I’m pre-occupied with the new challenges of getting some mastery. The funny thing that happened is that quite a few things started popping up on my radar that gives me opportunities to push my mastery to a different level.

      Clearly the universe giving me these opportunities just when I need them is complete nonsense. It’s much more probable that because I’m thinking about the topics so much that I’m sensitive to any topics, discussions or events, no matter how tenous the link is, to see it from the perspective of the new things I’m trying out, where normally, I would have dismissed them from my mind or not notice them at all.

      My two cents and run on sentences.

    • skef says:

      Assuming your in-person demeanor is anything like your demeanor here, anyone who treats you is likely to start saying things like this to you. You tend to respond to a suggestion with an explanation of why it won’t work. You do it consistently enough that most therapists are going to identify the tendency as part of your problem.

      So given that you’re not in a position to easily switch therapists, and she seems not-bad in other ways (and also that you’re asking for the best response, and not alternative ideas), my suggestion would be to 1) go up to the meta-level, 2) “stick to your guns” but 3) don’t insist on invalidating her own viewpoint. So, basically, acknowledge your pattern of “negativity” but be clear that from your perspective you are weighing each suggestion objectively and her just stipulating that some are likely to succeed isn’t going to work for you therapeutically. Explain that while you see the possibility of being systematically wrong, the “just be optimistic” approach isn’t right for you, and she needs to take a different strategy.

      • I would be strongly tempted to ask her what she wants and whether the universe had given it to her.

        • Kevin C. says:

          Actually, when I expressed my usual (lifelong) skepticism of this sort of hippy-dippy claptrap, her response was basically “then why has it worked so well for me?”

          To which I answered “confirmation bias” and “confusing correlation with causation”, that the plural of “anecdote” is not “data”, and her personal experiences lack scientific rigor.

    • Drew says:

      You should take the expert’s advice. Follow it for 6 months. Then re-evaluate based on outcomes.

      Debating the therapist is like me arguing with a tennis coach who’s criticized my follow through. Follow through can’t matter! The trajectory is set when the ball leaves the racket!

      Both objections are technically correct. My ball doesn’t know where I end up pointing my racket. Your life isn’t determined by spiritual energies resonating with the universe.

      But, I’m not paying for a physics lecture. You’re not paying for a sociology seminar. The point is to get actionable advice that a domain-expert thinks will improve our outcomes.

      Maybe my tennis coach is bad at physics. Or maybe “follow through” is a polite way of saying that I’m making a whole ton of minor mistakes, many of which will get auto-corrected if I focus on my form.

      Maybe your therapist is bad at math. Or maybe “positive energy” is a polite way of saying that you have a bunch of off-putting personal tics, many of which will get auto-corrected if you focus on a positive vibe.

      • Nornagest says:

        Follow-through is a psychological hack designed to get your body aligned at the correct angle at the point of contact. People have a strong tendency to change their angle of attack slightly if they start thinking past the swing too early, and that’s fatal in a sport like golf; the tendency can only be burnt out by, first, deliberately extending your swing past the point of contact, and second, lots of practice. It’s like how beginning boxers are taught to punch not the surface of the bag, but a point a foot or so behind it.

        Similarly, a lot of the talk about manipulating “internal energy” in martial arts is a hack designed to help you engage particular muscle groups in counterintuitive ways, or to ensure that you keep breathing through a technique (harder for a lot of people than it sounds). There is no such thing as internal energy, it doesn’t exist, but acting on the idea of it is still genuinely helpful for a lot of people.

    • SamChevre says:

      I’m going to give an answer out of left field.

      We don’t understand how the brain works at all well.
      We really don’t understand the universe works well at all: for one thing, it includes billions of brains.

      Logic works well for things we understand, but we need something different than logic to manage interacting with things we don’t understand.

      Think, for an analogy, of the old wired phone system–and assume that your knowledge was that there was such a thing as a telephone and you had to pay to talk to people. Someone tells you “if you pick of this handset, whistle this tune, push this random set of numbers, and whistle the tune again, you can talk to anyone in the world for free” it would make no sense: there would be no logic that made that plausible. In reality it works, because of the way that the switching system works–but it doesn’t work explainably.

      A lot of counseling is really a form of magic–changing consciousness in willed ways. You can’t explain why it works, but it demonstrably does work a lot of the time.

      So my advice would be do it, and don’t do it because it makes sense: do it because it quite often works and we have a very poor idea as to why.

  6. Kevin C. says:

    Does loyalty require optimism? That is to say, can pessimism about a cause’s chances of success be equated to disloyalty toward that cause?

    • SamChevre says:

      I would say “Definitely not.” The men who flew the Ploeisti raid knew they were likely to die. The Scots who followed Bonnie Prince Charlie weren’t entirely stupid: there had to be plenty of them who knew they’d likely lose.

      • gbdub says:

        Was dying necessarily a failure in those cases? The Ploesti raid was certainly dangerous, but plenty of crews made it through. You always assume it will be the other guy that eats it. Even if you don’t, the mission can (and did) still succeed – maybe you consider that a worthwhile trade.

        Some people just want to die for a cause. Or really do believe that noble failure is better than disgraceful survival.

        When enough people get really pessimistic in battle though, they rout (which ironically might make them more likely to die).

    • Witness says:

      If you’re internally pessimistic, no. If you act in such a way as to increase the odds that your cause will succeed, you should think of yourself (and be treated) as loyal.

      If you’re externally pessimistic, maybe. People react in a bunch of different ways to pessimism, and some of your potential allies may react to your expressions of pessimism in ways that damage the cause. (Sometimes the opposite, of course – convincing people to dig in for a long, uncertain battle can be helpful for example).

      Compare:
      “Game over man, game over!”
      “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills…”

      As with everything, act judiciously.

      • Kevin C. says:

        More specifically, I’m thinking of folks at certain other places on the net (one commenter in particular stands out) who accuse anyone (not just me) who expresses insufficient certainty that 4d-Chessmaster Trump will lead the Red Tribe to glorious victory over the “pajama boy” Left of being (((paid infiltrators))) there to spread demoralization.

  7. johan_larson says:

    I was asked to copy this message from late in the last OT to this one, to facilitate further discussion:

    Yeah, the topics [of the Sequences] are appealing but the presentation is off-putting. Eliezer’s educational background is idiosyncratic, and that may be why his writing style is odd. No one ever forced him to do it in the usual way. That’s why I’ve been thinking about where one could get the same stuff but presented differently. And I suspect quite a bit of it is available in various college courses.

    Math has courses in stats.
    Philosophy has courses in logic.
    English has courses in rhetoric.
    Cognitive science and psychology have courses about how we think.
    Computer science has courses in how to build artificial minds (or mind-like systems, if you prefer.)

    A good broad liberal arts degree (in the traditional sense) would cover quite a bit of this stuff. But the material is very scattered.

    • Jeremiah says:

      Just noticed this. I already posted something similar above, but I just finished reading the sequences, and whatever else maybe said about them they are WAY too long. I don’t know that I have much to add about other places to find the same information, it’s something I’m curious about myself. But I will say that having read both, I think Taleb’s books (Fooled by Randomness, Black Swan, Antifragile) present a better system for making decisions under uncertainty.

    • Nick says:

      You remembered! Thanks. I want to give an in-depth response to this, but it’ll be in a few hours. I’m broadly interested, though, in what others have to say about: 1) whether the core lessons of the Sequences are already (or better) taught by a traditional liberal arts education, and 2) whether the core lessons of the Sequences could be better taught by a liberal arts education with minimal or substantial curricular changes.

      • Protagoras says:

        I don’t know that there’s much of anything in EY that isn’t offered somewhere in the traditional liberal arts curriculum, but of course the important question is whether anyone learns it. For that, I don’t think either of these questions can be given a purely theoretical answer. Educating people seems to be hard, and it also seems to be the case that different people respond to different methods differently. There is some research that suggests that a liberal arts education does a fairly unimpressive job of teaching good thinking skills, but it still seems to be better than nothing, and the current results come with a giant “compared to what?” Whatever the alternative is (reading the sequences or whatever else anyone comes up with), we should want evidence in its favor to be supported by actual, thorough studies measuring the results, not anecdotes from people who are quite likely to be outliers and/or overestimating how much benefit they got. We certainly don’t want theories about why approach X, Y, or Z “should” work; educational theories based on that have a long history of failure.

    • Incurian says:

      Covering those topics in school doesn’t mean they teach them well or correctly.

      “What do you mean you need to go to a Madrassa to learn about religion, we teach that in Catholic school!”

    • Nell says:

      I’ve always found Eliezer’s disdain for academia understandable, but ultimately off-putting. I think he was failed too many times, too early in his life, and if he’d had Terry Tao’s parents, he would have climbed the academic ladder easily, and met plenty of other people just like himself along the way.

      The core of Eliezer’s ideas–of making beliefs pay rent, and really, truly *listening* to that small part of your monkey brain that can sit back and, for lack of a better word, *rationally* evaluate a situation definitely is part of a solid liberal arts education, but it’s also something of a you-already-have-it-or-you-don’t-think-about-things-that-way-at-all mentality. It’s something that requires cultivation–something that some people are inherently good at, and others never really truly grok (much like programming).

      Those ideas crop up in your standard four-year degree program, and are probably even cultivated by the rare lecturer, but–and I think Eliezer would agree–his ideas certainly aren’t being optimized for in such degree programs. I honestly found Grad School to be the closest thing to an experience that, while chock full of plenty of perverse incentives, actually came close to cultivating a correct-way-of-approaching-problem-solving view of the world.

      • quanta413 says:

        I honestly found Grad School to be the closest thing to an experience that, while chock full of plenty of perverse incentives, actually came close to cultivating a correct-way-of-approaching-problem-solving view of the world.

        Interesting. I thought that might be true before I went to grad school (I think my undergrad was really good at cultivating a good approach to problem solving), but at this point I have not found it to be true. I haven’t found exactly the opposite either, but certainly I think of scientists on average as much less trustworthy than I did before grad school, and I see borderline unethical to definitely unethical behavior enough that I’m surprised that things don’t go worse on aggregate.

        • Nell says:

          Yeah, which I think is the problem in a nutshell–academic programs don’t explicitly optimize for rationalist!bayesian thinking. Publish-or-perish certainly doesn’t incentivize the best sorts of thoughtful practices when solving problems. But it’s nonetheless one of the few places in the world where you’re explicitly working on making a better map of some territory. Actually doing that particular part well requires something that looks a whole lot like the bundle of ideas that Eliezer talks about.

          • quanta413 says:

            I dunno. I feel like domain knowledge and ability to grind out a ton of work end up being far stronger factors of making a better map than having the bundle of ideas and skills that Eliezer talks about. If you’re good at (1) and (2) I think (3) is the next thing to work on but not as necessary as it would first seem.

            And like you said the system and incentives sometimes work against good epistemic behavior. On the other hand, that’s the short to medium term incentives. In the long term (like 50 years or more), I think the system and incentives in science probably are better than most fields.

  8. gbdub says:

    Following up some of the Net Neutrality discussion – does the way we pay for home internet make sense?

    Most payment schemes for stuff can I think be roughly broken into 3 categories:
    1) Pay-per-unit. Examples are gasoline and home electricity – a gallon of gas costs X, a kilowatt hour costs Y. You pay for every unit, and only for the units you buy.
    2) All-you-can-eat / pay-for-access. E.g. buffets, Netflix, cable TV. You pay one price to get in the door, regardless of how much you use.
    3) Pay-per-capacity. E.g. garbage service (pay for a small bin, pay for a dumpster, either gets taken once a week). Most internet service works this way, your pricing is based on your peak download speed. Mobile plans are sort of this – you pay for a maximum chunk of data, but you don’t usually get credit for unused data.

    It seems to me that charging by “pipe size” for home internet doesn’t make a lot of sense anymore. It would be like if the power company charged everyone the same price for 50 Amp service, regardless of if they ran their lights and AC all day or only lived in the house for the weekend.

    The user has no incentive to be frugal with data use. The ISP has no real incentive to increase capacity, since they get the same cash from their subscribers regardless of how much data they use. Download speed doesn’t seem like a great price discriminator – most home users want enough speed to stream HD video, and don’t need any more than that. Like the electric company, the same peak capacity works for most, but if everyone used their peak capacity at the same time, it would overwhelm the system.

    Technical issues for metering aside, pay-per-byte seems like a more sensible approach. It encourages users (and websites) to be frugal, easing capacity concerns. At the same time, ISPs are encouraged to add capacity since they can sell more data. It makes people pay their “fair share” – data hogs will need to pay for the privilege.

    So why don’t we do it this way? Purely technical? Legacy of the evolution of the system (download speed used to be a much bigger discriminator, I think)?

    • cassander says:

      Probably because the marginal cost of bandwidth is lower than the marginal cost of an extra gallon of gas. The cost comes from connecting the pipe to everyone else, not sending information down the wire once it’s there.

      • gbdub says:

        But that’s equally true for electricity, and that’s metered by the kilowatt-hour.

        • cassander says:

          I don’t think it is. there are big fixed costs, no doubt, but someone has to actually generate each kilowatt. With data, once you’ve built a pipe of a given size, the costs of sending one bit and a billion are basically the same.

          • MrApophenia says:

            Think that through further, I think the power company is a good comparison because the delivery model is the same – it’s just that with the internet a different company owns the power plants. It’d be like the situation if the power company actually just built and maintained electrical wires, and all the actual power plants were independently operated.

            You’re already paying a power plant to get access to their power, but now the company that owns the wire says they want a bigger cut.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            It’d be like the situation if the power company actually just built and maintained electrical wires, and all the actual power plants were independently operated.

            At least in my state, this is almost the case. Residents pay the power company that runs the wires to your home but once a year or so the neighborhood will have someone canvassing to switch your actual energy provider (cheaper, greener, or whatever). For the resident, the result is adjustments to your power company bill.

          • cassander says:

            If there were two companies, I’d expect the wire company to charge you a fixed connection fee and the generating company to charge you by the kw/hr. For an ISP, maintaining a connection that can carry 100mbps costs them the same amount whether you’re using it constantly or not at all.

    • phisheep says:

      Advertising.

      Way back before dear old Rowland Hill, postage was paid by the recipient, not by the sender. Can you *imagine* how much junk mail you’d be getting now if that still happened?

      • gbdub says:

        But the ISP doesn’t make any money off of ads – why would they care?

        • Civilis says:

          If the recipient was required to pay for each email received, the problem of spam would be completely different, and the public would have demanded some sort of solution long before now. Now apply that logic to online advertising. (Another way to think of it is if your cable company billed you per minute of viewing on non-premium channels, you’d turn off the TV any time a commercial came on.)

          The issue is that the cost in terms of bandwidth for viewing a web page is completely invisible to an end user, especially including the cost of the advertising on a page. I can’t count how many simple news pages want to play some elaborate video ad. And it’s not just the ad itself, it’s the mechanisms to make sure that I view the ad and the site gets credit for the view.

    • Brad says:

      Consumers have comparatively less insight into bandwidth than to appliances or lights or what have you. In the rare case where something goes very wrong with an electric bill (modally someone stealing electricity from you) the electric company works with you. For ISPs they’d have to do that much more frequently. On the one hand, sure it’s great to be able to bill a customer $500 because he has a virus, but on the other you probably are not going to end up collecting the full amount very often and you’ll have to use a lot of resources dealing with unhappier customers.

    • John Schilling says:

      1. Back in the days when Netflix was still mostly about mailing DVDs, most home internet customers wanted broadband capability somewhere in the 1E6 bps range so that e.g. Youtube videos wouldn’t take more than a few seconds to load, but used that capability with a duty cycle of less than 5%. At that level of usage, almost all of the ISP’s cost comes from installing and maintaining the cable, router, etc sized for peak capacity, and almost none of it depends on the trickle of bits actually delivered.

      2. Most people absolutely hate doing even simple algebra, hate not knowing in advance what their utility bill is going to look like, and really hate having their utilities disconnected or degraded because they didn’t sign up for enough [whatever]. So if it costs the company an amortized $15/month to support an idle 1 mbps DSL line and $20 for each trillion bits delivered (comes to $52 per mbps-month), then Alice who uses 2% of her capacity costs the ISP $16/month and Bob who uses 6% costs $18, and Grandma who uses the DSL line twice a year to read her grandchildren’s emails still costs $15/month. The solution that maximizes the profit : angry calls to customer service ratio is to charge everyone a flat $25/month.

      3. When Charlie the Early Adopter gets the first Netflix account on the block and runs it a solid six hours a day, that costs the company $28/month, but there’s only one Charlie on the block so they’re probably going to keep the flat rate of $25/month. But another thing people really, really hate is having to pay for something that they are accustomed to getting for free, and zero-marginal-price add-ons to a flat-rate service count as “free” for this purpose. So when half the block is Charlies and half is Bobs, the ISP gets grumbling if they increase the price to $30/month for everyone but the fiery hate of a thousand suns if they hit the Charlies with a special surcharge for Being Like Charlie.

      4. Yes, this is going to break in the long run.

    • pontifex says:

      The cost of the copper or fiber in the ground is huge. Those lines represent a huge amount of human labor to install and maintain. In contrast, upgrading the router in the local hub is a comparatively trivial cost (which telcos will still whine about, naturally). And as computer technology marches on, routers become cheaper and cheaper, but copper or fiber in the ground still remains expensive. Or possibly even gets more expensive, as low-skilled labor gets more expensive.

      Plus, if you actually try to use a lot of data on your “unlimited” data plan, they will usually start throttling you down, or sometimes even outright disconnect you. There are some hilarious lawsuits where telcos try to argue that “unlimited” doesn’t mean that there are no limits. You can read up on them if you want that nice glow of culture war-adjacent indignation. 🙂

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Peak internet usage is synchronized in the evening, just like prime time tv, so the cost really is the pipe size. If you bittorrent in the middle of the night, those extra bytes cost the ISP something, but not much. Pricing electricity by pipe size for residential customers wouldn’t be as reasonable as for internet, but it’s not totally crazy for residential customers. Changing the mix of energy to solar makes it more reasonable in the near future. (It’s also a lot easier to abuse than the internet, via batteries and bitcoin, but those are recent developments.)

      In fact, water, gas, and electricity are not just pay per unit, but have a monthly rate, ie, connection charge (not quite the pipe size) and this is often half of my bill.

      I read a paper by Andrew Odlyzko, maybe this about the history of communication technologies and how people always hate paying per unit, even though it’s a lot cheaper, and other recurring patterns.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Water is effectively unlimited household water, with a per gallon charge for gardeners. Most landlords of apartment buildings bundle it with the rent, so it is unlimited. Similarly, gas is basically unlimited cooking and hot water with a rate for heating. But the monthly charge is a smaller part of the bill and fewer landlords bundle it, but still many.

        The fixed part of the electric bill is usually a smaller portion than the other bills. I’m not sure why, since my impression is that it really undercharges for the value of the connection and overcharges for the value of the electricity, which is going to be a problem as solar ramps up, particularly with net metering, but even without. Maybe it’s a form of price discrimination, if the rich use much more electricity than the poor, but not so much more water and gas.

    • Joeleee says:

      Not sure if anyone else has mentioned this yet, but the “Pay-per-unit” model for utilities, especially electricity is often a bit different. With the increasing prevalence of solar and batteries, charging per kWh is no longer a representative way of pricing. If you go “off the grid” but still require a utility connection for when your battery is low and there’s no sun, you’re incurring a significant cost on the system to have the infrastructure in place. So instead of paying per unit, you pay a fixed “infrastructure cost” and then pay per kWh used over that. This is something like the old pay per line, then pay for calls model of traditional telcos.

      Additionally, for heavy users of electricity (or water/sewerage), particularly commercial users, you will pay to have a MW capacity piped directly to your premises. Then, you can work with them to demand shape etc. to manage total bandwidth required across the network by doing things like paying a variable energy price depending on the market price at the time.

      Basically, you have a simple pricing structure for consumers, because they don’t want to think about the complexities, but if you have a user who imposes a significant load on the network, you require them to respond to dynamic incentives. After all, it should be worth their while to actively monitor usage.

      I know some of this happens with the use of e.g. dark fiber currently, but one of the complexities is that the heavy users aren’t necessarily commercial users. So this isn’t a solution, so much as another way to think about the problem.

  9. Well... says:

    On my blog, I’ve created a kind of word problem meant to test a hypothesis. I can’t say more for bias-reduction reasons. Curious to get y’all’s reactions.

    What value did you choose for X?

    How does that correspond to the, uh, other thing?

    Do you think the word problem works for what it is?

    • Witness says:

      I chose 0, or a close enough approximation as makes little difference.

      I thought it was a reasonably fair correspondence, at least for me.

    • Jeremiah says:

      I basically choose 0 for X, (My actual thought was that there might be some non-zero number, but it would be very very small) and it corresponded very well to the other thing. Not sure that the penalty for not pressing the button is sufficiently grim. Also I should mention that I’m very religious, so my belief in an afterlife may have minimized how much weight I gave to the negative consequences (in this life).

    • johansenindustries says:

      I said 0 and it corresponded very well to complete the trio.

      I think the test is if anyone did have a decently high X. And i doubt they will.

    • Randy M says:

      I was tempted by zero, but I’ll say my actual answer was “I guess 1 in a billion.”
      I’m against the object level issue. (Is there a term for what an analogy refers to? Referent maybe?)
      And I didn’t guess what you were going for–I thought it was going to end up some kind of wire-head thing, maybe. Somehow I was going to end up being the other person. (But I didn’t base my low answer on that).

      • Randy M says:

        Actually, I think my 1-in-a-billion answer is pretty good, but a bit high. Imagine the scenario where everyone has a choice. There’s 7 billion people on the planet. Assume they all make the same choice. If we don’t push the button, there’s considerable increased suffering. Not to mention second order effects–people won’t be performing as well in critical jobs with less sleep, etc. So there is some number where it’s pretty reasonable to have everyone push it. But at 1 in a billion, that means about 7 people will die. I’ll pick dust specs over torture, so let’s push it out to 1 in ten billion and play the odds that no one will die.

        Imagine a new anti-depressant that that works great with no side effects, but will kill people if they overdose after it is expired at some low odds. We’d probably control that but still allow it to be prescribed, right?

    • Jiro says:

      Applying it to abortion to turns it into Pascal’s Mugging, where there’s a small probability of a large consequence, and the main contributor to the probability is epistemic uncertainty. I don’t accept that the correct thing to do in Pascal’s Mugging is to calculate probabilities.

    • John Schilling says:

      SSC answer to question one: Insufficient data because you want a numerical value for X and aren’t even trying to quantify the harm that will otherwise befall me. The ratio of X:harm is going to be low but finite.

      Anywhere else, the answer to question one is “X=0, you monster”.

      Question #2: The analogy is flawed in that the assertion that a mother who declines to abort her baby will love that baby with all her heart is another thing that probably ought to be quantified for the SSC audience. Outside of SSC, you’ll be dismissed as a monster by Team Life for asserting that probability is anything less than 100% (how could a mother not love her baby?) and dismissed as a monster by Team Choice for asserting that probability is anything greater than 0% (you expect a mother to love her rapist’s baby?)

      • Incurian says:

        Insufficient data because you want a numerical value for X and aren’t even trying to quantify the harm that will otherwise befall me.

        Yeah, I tried to play along but I couldn’t get past this. My thoughts were that I want things I love because they make my life better, so if they end up making my life worse I don’t know that I’d want them. Maybe the question should ask for an acceptable ratio of difficulty to death likelihood (or something)?

        “X=0, you monster”.

        Crap. That’s what I meant to say.

      • Deiseach says:

        Anywhere else, the answer to question one is “X=0, you monster”.

        But is it, though? Ignoring the second half of the problem, yes we all would say that under no circumstances would we press a button that might kill an innocent person, so X = 0.

        But if we think about it for ourselves, without having to give a number, but in the privacy of our hearts – would we really be willing to undergo the inconvenience and maybe even suffering not pressing the button would cause? Especially if X was only really low like maybe 1 or 2 or 5 or even 10% chance?

        I know the right answer is “X=0” and I agree that is right. But I think I might privately decide “X = 50% because that’s still a 50:50 chance for them as against a 100% chance for me of a bad outcome”. Or maybe even higher!

    • The Nybbler says:

      0, but it doesn’t work for me; there are differences. The first line is phrased as an absolute, but it’s actually subject to uncertainty in the other thing.

    • Deiseach says:

      Do you think the word problem works for what it is?

      In the particular instance you are using, not really, because in that case pressing the button isn’t an X% chance of killing, it’s 100% (and if it doesn’t turn out to be 100%, people will be very angry and may even sue you). It’s a good problem to get people wondering “Realistically, how high would I be willing to go for X?” but for the problem you want to use it, it doesn’t work: for a medical procedure, the expected success rate is if you press the button, there is only 2 in 100 chances it won’t result in the death of the person and for surgical procedures, that goes down to 2 in 1,000 chances it won’t result in death.

      So basically if you press the button, you are putting X very, very low for a refusal to press it (i.e., you want to cause the death of the person and if there’s only 1% chance this will happen then you won’t press the button; if X = 100% then you will press the button).

      As for the mother love question, there are those who encourage button pressing as they claim the mother will suffer even more if they don’t press it because then they will meet and possibly fall in love with the person and if they have to give them up they will always be thinking of them and missing them, so button pressing is more humane all round.

    • quanta413 says:

      Unfortunately, I figured out what you were going for too quickly which made me think maybe X is close to 1. Disturbingly, this made me realize that even if I applied the idea to a different situation than you were going for, where everyone agreed and I knew it was morally wrong, I might accept a pretty high number for X (.1? .5? 1?) even if it wasn’t the situation you were making an analogy for.

      I’m really, really glad I’ll probably never be tested either in the situation you were making a metaphor for or something similar.

    • quaelegit says:

      Like quanta413, I realized what you going for and found it very hard consider your word problem by itself without jumping straight to the object level. So on that basis I don’t think it’s super useful for testing your hypothesis.

      On the other hand, since it seems from comments that more pro-life-ish people found it easier to think about what different values of ‘x’ would mean, perhaps it is a good word problem for highlighting/discussing some the different moral intuitions of people on different sides of the debate.

      (In fact, judging from Randy’s comment, I’d guess something about “this lines up better with some pro-life-ish moral intuitions so works better as a hypothetical question when viewed from the pro-life-ish side”, but with n=2 that’s a weak guess.)

      =====================

      Anyways, my response to the hypothetical:

      Agree with others about the problems with assuming P(‘I will love this person’) = 1 and having P(‘Button will kill this person’) be the main variable. I think John Schilling made good points about quantifying X, quantifying the harm to yourself, etc.

      Another big thing: from the phrasing, I assumed that the person in danger from the button is already out there living their life, and that aside from pressing the button I won’t have any affect on them until some far-in-the-future meeting. This does not map to my understanding of the object level issue.

      • Well... says:

        Another big thing: from the phrasing, I assumed that the person in danger from the button is already out there living their life, and that aside from pressing the button I won’t have any affect on them until some far-in-the-future meeting. This does not map to my understanding of the object level issue.

        To me, that’s the biggest difference. Essentially I’m treating “% chance that the thing I kill ends up being a human when otherwise it’s just a clump of cells” and “% chance that I end up killing a human when otherwise I wouldn’t have killed anything” as the same thing even though they’re not. But to get to the moral issue, I figure they’re close enough.

        BTW, and hopefully above commenters will read this too, I created this hypothetical during an argument with my pro-choice brother, as a way to get him to understand how a purely rational person from the anti-abortion side might see the issue (or how I see it anyway). And in that instance, I didn’t ask him what X was, I just told him it was 50% and then asked if he’d push the button. He never answered me.

        • Creutzer says:

          “% chance that the thing I kill ends up being a human when otherwise it’s just a clump of cells”

          I can’t help it: what sort of bizarre essentialism is this? I feel like saying “Go read Eliezer’s ‘A Human’s Guide to Words'”.

          I think what you want to say is: “% chance that the thing I kill is actually morally relevant”. That just presupposes moral realism, which I think is equally bizarre, but at least most people don’t agree with me about that.

        • Deiseach says:

          % chance that the thing I kill ends up being a human when otherwise it’s just a clump of cells

          Psst – humans are just clumps of cells! The ugly bags of mostly water are just giant masses of cells all clumped up together, how horribly unpleasant and in no way comparable to the clean, elegant, aesthetic lines and metallic purity of a paperclip!

        • quaelegit says:

          > I created this hypothetical during an argument with my pro-choice brother, as a way to get him to understand how a purely rational person from the anti-abortion side might see the issue

          Ok, for this purpose it seems like a pretty good hypothetical to me.

          From another side (or, at least my other side): in the hypothetical, not only will you yourself go through months of inconvenience and years of economic consequences, but then you have years of affecting the other person, and you might do a bad job and cause them a lifetime of misery. That’s what I’m more concerned about trying to put a probability on.

          In your answer to skef, you stated “I acknowledge this is not a perfect metaphor, but I do think it’s a useful way to get people who have no epistemic uncertainty about abortion (especially pro-choicers) to consider that maybe they should have some.”

          As a somewhat pro-choice person who does have epistemic uncertainty about abortion, I think its important to think about the uncertainty that this person will have a good life and you will love each other.

          ETA: and I feel like I’m probably repeating myself and I really don’t want to get into a debate on this object level issue, so I’m not planning to respond to this thread anymore, but I just wanted to say that I did find your hypothetical worth thinking about and discussing, so thank you for sharing.

          • Randy M says:

            We can use rates of attempted suicide to see revealed preferences here. Most people do not seem to regret their existence enough to do something about it.

          • Creutzer says:

            Suicide reveals a preference for death. That’s a very different thing from regretting one’s existence in the sense of regretting having been born.

          • Randy M says:

            In which direction? I think number of people who wish they’d never been born would be less than those that want to die right now.

          • Creutzer says:

            Certainly either is possible without the other. You can not (sic! as opposed to cannot) regret being born, but say that it’s enough now and you want to die. You can also regret being born, but not want to die (for example because of the consequences your death would have, which not having been born would not have had, or because of the unpleasantness of getting yourself killed).

            I don’t know how prevalent regretting one’s birth without wanting to die really is, and that sort of retroactive preference isn’t revealable. You can’t ask about it because the truth will be buried under layers of social desirability bias. We’ll probably never know.

          • Randy M says:

            I understand the logical compatibility and non-equivalence of the statements, but I expect that practically they overlap significantly and one can assume by all the striving to live that most living people are glad they do, short of evidence otherwise.

      • Iain says:

        Another big thing: from the phrasing, I assumed that the person in danger from the button is already out there living their life, and that aside from pressing the button I won’t have any effect on them until some far-in-the-future meeting.

        Seconded. I figured the trick out before thinking through my answer, but to the extent that I might have considered giving a low number, it would have depended on my assumption that there was an actual pre-existing person being harmed. This thought experiment fails as an intuition pump because it only works if you are already on the pro-life side of the fence. The real division between pro-life and pro-choice is where you draw the line of personhood. “Isn’t it bad to risk killing a person you love” has no weight if you are already confident that you aren’t killing a person.

        My preferred intuition pump is the old classic: the hospital is burning down, and you can either rescue one crying baby or a rack full of hundreds of fertilized embryos — which do you choose? I’m not in a position to evaluate how convincing it is, but at least it addresses the real point of contention.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          My preferred intuition pump is the old classic: the hospital is burning down, and you can either rescue one crying baby or a rack full of hundreds of fertilized embryos — which do you choose? I’m not in a position to evaluate how convincing it is, but at least it addresses the real point of contention.

          Not really, because it’s only really a valid analogy for a situation wherein abortion is necessary to save the mother’s life.

          • Iain says:

            Uh, no? The point of the thought experiment is not to analogize the pregnant woman to the baby.

            The point is this: if you believe that embryos are fully human people, of equal moral stature, then the answer should be easy: you leave the baby behind, grab the embryos, and save hundreds of human lives. If that seems morally questionable, then maybe there is a moral distinction between embryos and babies that you are not permitting yourself to notice.

          • johansenindustries says:

            @Iain

            There are three buttons. There are three types of nanobomb. Each button deactivates its respective type of bomb. Each type of bomb will go off in 1,2,3 minutes respectively.

            A hundred people have bombs of type 1 and 3 internally in their blood. One man has bomb 2. This is the one opportinity to deactivate a type of bomb.

            Which button do you press?

            EDIT:

            If I were to try to make your metaphor better, then I would say a baby in one room. A thousand pregnant ladies in the other. A machine that destroys the brain of any baby yet to hit his first birthday. You have to fire it in one room. What room do you fire it in?

            OF course, everyone would sacrifice the one baby if forced. So doesn’t quite work for your point.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Iain:

            The issue isn’t actually the moral status of the embryo vs. a born human per se, it’s the embryo’s life vs. a born human’s (the mother’s) convenience, financial situation, job prospects, etc. As a society, we already accept the principle that human convenience can be outweighed by the existence of other things, even if these things aren’t as important as humans; that’s why we have laws against, for example, destroying the habitats of rare animals, or pulling down historic buildings.

        • quanta413 says:

          I kind of like that intuition pump, but it’s obviously emotionally rigged to the pro-choice side. Let’s make it better by using something closer to the tradeoff we are dealing with. Then let’s make it cruel and heartless by quantifying it. That should be a better intuition pump.

          The hospital is burning down and you can either rescue X mother and baby pairs, or Y pregnant mothers. How much greater does Y have to be than X for you to decide to save the pregnant mothers? What if the pregnant mothers are all pregnant with twins? What if the pregnant mothers are all third trimester and the babies are all less than a month old?

          Obviously, if you’re extremely pro-choice, Y = 2X is the break even point. If you are extremely pro-life and put value only on human lives but not on suffering pain, then maybe Y=X is the break even point.

          • Iain says:

            I think that just muddies the point, because it brings in the question of how you weigh adults vs infants.

          • quanta413 says:

            I disagree, the point is not muddled at all; that question is morally the same as the question we are dealing with. There is no meaningfully different moral criteria to be used comparing different ages of people to comparing babies to balls of cells that will count as babies in 1 day, 2 days, 30 days, etc. If you believe your answer will depend on the ages of the infants (or let them be children or toddlers or whatever), then you can add that detail and specify how it affects things. Perhaps you are Peter Singer and that’s a perfectly valid answer. After all, for him Y=X is the cutoff if the infants are too young, but Y=2X (or something like it) if the infants are instead children. And he’s got a smooth progression between the two cases as you go from infant to child.

        • Witness says:

          I may save my friend more easily than two strangers. I may save a (presumed innocent) stranger above two convicted criminals. I may save an able-bodied adolescent more quickly than a thousand people who are likely to remain trapped in permanent or semipermanent isolation/solitary confinement after being saved.

          None of this means that it’s okay to kill any of the above in order to spare myself some inconvenience.

          • Iain says:

            Sure. But that places a limit on your ability to credibly claim that [strangers / criminals / those trapped in solitary confinement] are of equal moral weight to [friends / innocents / able-bodied adolescents].

          • Witness says:

            That’s a bit of goalpost shifting isn’t it?

          • Iain says:

            It’s an intuition pump, not a rigorous proof that abortion is great. If it does not pump your intuitions, that’s that.

            Edit to add: Note that there is a significant pro-choicewards step from “abortion is baby murder” to “fetuses have lesser moral value than babies but that doesn’t mean you can kill them”. The goal of the intuition pump is to convince people to make that step.

          • Witness says:

            Mostly what it does for me is force me to confront the fact that modern medicine has enabled a shift towards r-selection, with all the horror that implies.

            It doesn’t really pump my intuitions about abortion specifically, no.

            Edit to address your edit:
            I don’t see the step, any more than I see a step between “Killing a stranger is murder” and “I preferentially save friends over strangers”.

            The whole “lesser moral value” thing isn’t getting to me at all – I freely accept that the two strangers have identical moral weight to my friend, but may choose to save the one friend anyway, and the same can remain true at larger numbers based on other biases than “moral value”.

    • skef says:

      The phrasing could use some work when it comes to the counter-factuals. The first paragraph asserts that an event will happen. The second asserts that doing something could prevent that event from happening.

      And like other commenters I don’t get what the percentage idea is doing in the example. Abortion isn’t Russian Roulette or something. If the idea is that the fetus might be a person, then the example is resting on a kind of rhetorical trick, in which conceptual uncertainty is portrayed as metaphysical uncertainty.

      • Well... says:

        Yes, you’re basically right. Like I said to quaelegit, I’m quantifying the epistemic uncertainty over whether a human embryo has the same moral worth a post-natal human does, using a metaphor that maps it to a kind of Russian roulette over whether performing some action will result in a morally bad thing happening.

        I acknowledge this is not a perfect metaphor, but I do think it’s a useful way to get people who have no epistemic uncertainty about abortion (especially pro-choicers) to consider that maybe they should have some.

    • yodelyak says:

      [edited to somewhat disguise possible spoilers, but don’t read below the dashes if you plan on answering well…’s q yourself]
      X = 0%, or functionally so, but with a lurking awareness that this is the kind of territory where it’s much easier to *say* 0% than to live that truth.
      Issue level: w/r/t/ the issue, I am on the side that thinks the government should not try to prevent people from making their own decisions.

      —–
      Full answer:
      I pictured someone I already love, very much, and who I think about every day, and miss when they’re not around. I then supposed another copy of them, only better. (Now with operatic singing and advanced maths!) I supposed I might get to meet this person, and would come to love them more than anyone else in my life.

      Only then did I start to imagine the “button.” The question of whether to risk a chance of killing the romantic love-of-my-life for some significant amount of everything not starting to suck… well, I didn’t see how that could be a very smart question. I went with “0” for X, or anyway near enough that there’s no point quibbling. Love’s pretty great, and even if everything started to suck, I’d rather have love.

      I’m pro-choice, although I support significant restrictions on late-term abortions.

      I have some thoughts about this… Let’s see. I think I wasn’t supposed to think “romantic love” exactly, but just “love the way you love your kids” or even “love like you have for everyone because you were raised in a good church” kind of way. So maybe I broke the experiment. I don’t think romantic attachment is actually a from-before-you-were-born kind of thing, and maybe you didn’t mean to invoke *that* strong a love.

      Some examples of things I think that are incompatible with the strong only-one-true-love idea are: 1. We can make society work with an odd number of people. 2. Chickens can be trained to recognize attractive faces.

      From what I understand, the majority of abortions are sought by women who already have children, who they already love, and they’re not easy or happy-go-lucky events. I could easily be wrong about much of this. Anyway, I’m going to stop writing because I’m really curious to see what everyone else wrote.

      • LewisT says:

        FWIW, I also initially thought that the scenario was referring to romantic love.

        My answer was also zero (or something quite close to it), but not because of the romantic love angle. My answer would have been the same if the scenario had stated that some stranger on the other side of the world would have been the one to die.

    • Drew says:

      My moral answer was that X is around ~10%. I approached it with a veil of ignorance. “Would you risk an X/2 chance of death to avoid a 50% chance of lifetime disability?”

      But I also missed the intro paragraph on my first reading. With that 0%. Selfishness or love would put the problem outside of morality.

      —-

      The argument proves too much.

      Blastocysts aren’t conscious. So, if there’s any moral ambiguity, it’s around the idea that maybe we should treat “people who’d otherwise exist” as morally equivalent to fully-developed adults. But this moral stance has huge implications well beyond abortion.

      To reason about “people who’d otherwise exist”, we need a vantage point that lets us see them. Suppose we’re sitting at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. We can watch an initial timeline. And we can see what happens if we intervene in various ways.

      In our initial timeline: George McFly and Loraine Baines go to the Enchantment Under The Sea dance. One thing leads to another. A condom fails. Loraine get pregnant. They debate an abortion, but get married instead. The kid grows up to be Marty McFly, beloved child and eventual husband of Jennifer Parker.

      We could intervene and talk Loraine into an abortion. Would that be murder? Not legally. But it sure feels like it. From our table, we can see Marty McFly’s life. Encouraging an abortion looks pretty similar to outright killing him.

      So, we go a step back. The condom failed. We could swap it out with a good one. Would that be murder? This seems like more of a stretch. Abortion is a more direct intervention. But, in the end, the outcome is still the ‘death’ of Marty McFly’s.

      So, we go a step back. The Enchantment Under The Sea dance was a bit delayed because the musicians had car trouble. What if we delay them a bit more? The outcome is that the dance is canceled. George and Loraine never hook up. Marty McFly ‘dies’.

      This starts getting morally tricky. The brute fact is that anything that prevents George McFly and Loraine Baines from hooking up will end Marty McFly. But, that’s true for every child that was conceived, and every child that could have been conceived.

      What if we fixed the musician’s car? Then, they show up on time. Dance ends a heartbeat earlier. Fluids shift imperceptibly. And, Marty McFly ‘dies’. A sibling, Mary McFly is born in his place.

      So, if you really want to say that “preventing a who’d otherwise exist” is the same as killing, you can. But then any time you don’t facilitate someone getting laid, you’re committing murder.

      And, almost any time you interact with anyone, you’re causing a change of events that will snuff out the timelines of people who’d otherwise be born, and replace them with potential siblings.

      Unless you want to appeal to transubstantiation or souls, there’s not a great way to stop the “potential person” style argument from carrying on well before the point of conception.

      • Loquat says:

        You’re glossing over an important distinction, though: a blastocyst may not be conscious, but it is definitely alive and will grow into a conscious entity given time. In fact, depending on how you define consciousness, babies might not even really be conscious until 5 months or so after birth, and almost nobody thinks killing a newborn baby should be morally acceptable.

        Also, humans can’t actually see alternate timelines, and have no way of knowing that this act will result in the existence of Marty, while that act will result in the existence of Mary instead, so it doesn’t make any sense for our morality to address that sort of thing. But we do know that a pregnancy will result in a baby, unless something goes wrong, so terminating it is unquestionably ending the existence of a person who would have otherwise been born.

        • Protagoras says:

          Ugh. While I suppose there are people in the United States who haven’t thought through their position on this, at this point I think that consists entirely of people who are determined not to do so. That goes doubly for SSC. Do you really think that around here there’s the slightest prospect of anybody on any side in this discussion making a point anyone on the other side hasn’t heard (much less of them taking it seriously, even if by some miracle a new point were raised)?

          • Well... says:

            That seems to be an argument against debating anything at all on here.

          • Protagoras says:

            This debate in particular is one on which pretty much every American at least seems to have opinions hardened to granite. On other topics, there is sometimes room for changes on the margin, but this one, not so much.

          • Well... says:

            I’ve been generally anti-abortion since about age 19 (though not before), but my specific ideas about abortion (especially what to do about it) have changed a few times from age 19 to now and I wouldn’t say I’m currently 100% sure. In other words I probably couldn’t be turned pro-choice, but I could be convinced that I’m wrong about how anti-abortion laws should be designed and carried out, or how steep they should be.

        • Winter Shaker says:

          Loquat:

          But we do know that a pregnancy will result in a baby, unless something goes wrong, so terminating it is unquestionably ending the existence of a person who would have otherwise been born.

          Terminating it is unquestionably preventing the existence of a person who would otherwise have been born. If it wasn’t questionable whether it counts as ending the existence of a person, it wouldn’t be such a culture war issue in the first place.

          [Edit in reply to Anonymous below: okay, let me rephrase that. It is unquestionably preventing the existence of something that would unquestionably be a person. It is only ending the existence of something that is questionably a person. Will that do? Either way, do you agree that Loquat’s ‘unquestionably ending…’ wording is still an overstatement?]

          • Anonymous says:

            To my understanding, the culture war is exactly about whether it is the prevention or the ending. Those two are mutually contradictory, so you can’t say that prevention itself is unquestionable… unless you think abortion is retroactive contraception or something similar.

          • johansenindustries says:

            No it is being questioned if a ‘foetus’ is a person, because it is a culture war issue.

            The Atlantic slave trade did not go on because Africans were seen as less than human. it went on because there was money being made, and acting as if they were less than human helped justify that.

            Death camps don’t happen because people suddenly find the victims less than human. They happen because there’s a will and a way to kill those people, and declaring them as being less than human helps to reduce the wages of the prison guards.

            Abortion goes on because it is convenient to those in power. Acting as if the baby is less than human helps them justify it.

            Pro-choice Americans believe that if something goes wrong with the dose in a late-term abortion and the baby exits the woman still living, that it is the doctor’s responsibility to kill it there. Going ‘Terminating it is unquestionably preventing the existence of a person who would otherwise have been born.’ is sophistry that doesn’t actually reflect the actual views of pro-choices based on the legislation they actually pass.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Pro-choice Americans believe that if something goes wrong with the dose in a late-term abortion and the baby exits the woman still living, that it is the doctor’s responsibility to kill it there.

            Is that the majority position? I mean, if ‘pro-life’ can be rounded off to ‘no abortions under any circumstances (or at least, any circumstances where a live baby is reasonably likely to result if the pregnancy is carried to term)’, then ‘pro-choice’ encompasses the full remaining range, from ‘elective abortions within a narrow time window in early pregnancy, or only if the foetus is diagnosed with some particularly horrible medical condition’ all the way up to ‘abortion on demand, for any reason, right up to the time of natural birth’. I am not sure that that latter position is in fact the majority view among people who do not take a strict ‘pro-life’ position, and indeed, some sort of intermediate position is the kind of thing you actually see in the real world. Indeed, I would have expected that a lot of the reason for people being squeamish about late-term abortion is precisely because they think that what is being terminated is by that point something that is capable of suffering.

            Abortion goes on because it is convenient to those in power. Acting as if the baby is less than human helps them justify it.

            Well, okay, but literally everything else that isn’t illegal also goes on because it is convenient to those in power (or at least not inconvenient enough to be worth the bother trying to ban). Unless you’re trying to argue that in this one case, every politician who support the availability of some sort of elective abortion under some circumstances actually believes that it is an evil akin to slavery or the Holocaust but is villainously promoting it anyway for some sort of personal gain, which is … conceivable, I guess, but unlikely, and an extremely uncharitable take.

            Look, I didn’t come here wanting to get bogged down arguing for any particular position on the pro-choice scale; I was just objecting to Loquat’s unsubstantiated claim that abortion is unquestionably the ending of the existence of a [thing worthy of moral concern], rather than the prevention of the existence of such a [thing that would be of moral concern once it came into existence]. My point was that if it weren’t questionable, something on which reasonable people can and do disagree, then it wouldn’t be a culture war issue in the first place. And your comment seems to be likewise asserting that a [blastocyst/embryo/foetus] is morally equivalent to a fully sentient child or adult. Which, okay, you can hold that position. You can argue for that position. But you cannot claim that that position is uncontrovertially correct and expect to be taken seriously … unless I’ve misunderstood what you’re trying to argue for.

          • Deiseach says:

            No, Winter Shaker, I disagree.

            Preventing the existence of someone who would otherwise have been born is what you do with contraception (or sterilisation, if you’re sure you don’t want any/any more kids). Sex gets you pregnant, you want sex but not the pregnancy, you use method(s) of preventing the pregnancy by preventing conception. You are preventing the sperm and ovum from meeting up successfully.

            When the contraception fails or was never used and the women becomes pregnant, then barring a miscarriage we’re into ending (“terminating”) the pregnancy and the existence of someone who would otherwise have been born. The sperm and ovum have done their job, the zygote has been formed, and if you don’t stop the process at some point then you’re going to end up with a miniature human person. That’s why all the emphasis I see over and over again on the “clump of cells” rhetoric when it comes to pro-choice people mocking pro-life people; “they are worried over a clump of cells” (because that makes it sound like a wart or a tumour, not a human life, and so ridicule is the weapon being wielded here).

          • johansenindustries says:

            @Winter

            What we see in the UK is indeed abortion limits that are just later than when the baby can survive out of the womb. And a pro-choice person is one who considers that too low. And I have never heard a pro-choice person condemn the legal post-birth abortions, and if your notions were correct you would expect them to rather.

            The people supporting slavery and the holocaust didn’t think they were committing an atrocity to the scale of the holocaust or slavery.

            You said ‘If it wasn’t questionable whether it counts as ending the existence of a person, it wouldn’t be such a culture war issue in the first place.’ my point is that this is completely backwards. People suddenly became enamoured with Latin and complex philosophy about the nature of consciousness because it is a culture war issue. Its not a bunch of Latin-speaking philosophers rushing to enlighten us about our outdated view of human life.

          • albatross11 says:

            I suspect one problem with thinking clearly about abortion is that we’d like to draw a clear line between okay and not-okay actions, but the lines that are natural to draw (conception/implanting and birth) aren’t all that convenient for our moral reasoning.

            Maybe we might also draw a line at viability outside the mother, but that’s kind-of fuzzy–a six-month fetus *may* survive if delivered early; an eight-month fetus probably will survive. Also, that line changes based on technology. The other lines are pretty arbitrary ones (putting the boundaries at the trimesters is a pretty classic Schelling point thing), or are very subject to technology changing (when can you hear the heartbeat vs when can you see the heart beating on ultrasound).

            In particular, if the criterion we want to use for moral reasoning is sentience, I’m pretty skeptical that a newborn baby qualifies as sentient any more than, say, a 7-month fetus which can be aborted in some cases in the US. But where you can probably get 30-40% of the population on board with allowing abortion of that 7-month fetus, you will get approximately 0% on board with “aborting” the newborn.

          • Loquat says:

            Huh, that wasn’t even the part I was expecting argument on. Really, all I meant was:

            1. This [thing of controversial moral status] is definitely alive.
            2. Abortion kills it.
            3. If not killed (either by abortion, or by illness/accident/etc), it will develop into [thing everyone can agree is worthy of moral concern]

            …which is I think to most people’s intuition is very different, morally, from preventing a couple from hooking up in the first place, because as normal humans with no ability to view alternate timelines we have no idea whether said hookup would have even resulted in pregnancy, and that was the whole thing Drew was going on about, that if you’re a timelord preventing hookups is morally the same as abortion.

            And, of course, like albatross11 said above, there’s no obvious point mid-pregnancy to draw a line and declare *this* is the point where the [tocms] becomes a [tecaiwomc].

        • quanta413 says:

          …almost nobody thinks killing a newborn baby should be morally acceptable.

          True, almost nobody. But Peter Singer thinks it should be morally acceptable and he’s a prominent ethicist. There is something to be said for the moral consistency of his position.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        Blastocysts aren’t conscious.

        Neither are sleeping people. I’ll make sure not to nod off if I’m ever in your presence.

    • I also assumed romantic love.

      That being said, we make decisions all the time which potentially endanger the lives of people unknown to us. And we tend to follow the routine default choice that everyone around us is making.

      You’re driving to an important appointment and don’t want to be late. Driving just at the speed limit involves some risk; each increment of speed above the limit increases the chance that some innocent person will die as a result of your decision.

      Of course the person most at risk in this situation is yourself, but you are not the only one; if someone else is killed, you were the one breaking the law. Alive or dead, you will be seen as culpable.

      Yet nearly everyone routinely exceeds the speed limit.

    • syrrim says:

      I chose 0.3%. Is that high? It felt low at the time… I chose that not because I care about the person I will eventually love, but because killing seems wrong. There will always be more people to love. If I’d known it was about abortion, I would have picked a higher number. Abortion is normally done within nine months of conception. Therefore, if you want to have another baby, you only need wait 9 months to have it.

      The analogy would be just as valid if the baby hadn’t been conceived yet, and you were wondering whether or not to use a condom, or whether or not to go on a date with someone, rather than whether or not to have an abortion. Something happens, between choosing to date someone, and the baby becoming an adult, that turns them from a figment of your imagination to a person. People differ on when they draw that line, although most people have inadvertently agreed on it being somewhere in a 9 month time period. Nevertheless, that line is needed – we can’t say that you must go about your life with the only goal of increasing the number of babies you produce, as to do otherwise is murder. Even the catholics don’t go that far.

      The holy war over this issue, as far as I can tell, isn’t because some people are more caring than others. Rather, people have a certain existing view of where the line should be drawn. Their argument in favour is stupid, and will inevitably look stupid to outsiders. However, they perceive any effort to regress their internal view as being a useless affront on their freedom, and any effort to progress their definition as being a slippery slope from which any definition could be adopted.

      • Well... says:

        I suppose I see the question of whether killing unborn human life as being non-controversial: even pro-choicers will agree this is murder. The essential disagreement between them and the anti-abortion crowd, then, is over when human life begins. Most pro-choicers seem to think that a fetus doesn’t become a human life until somewhere into the 2nd or 3rd trimester of gestation, whereas most anti-abortion people say it begins from the moment of fertilization or conception. (Extremely few would say a sperm or unfertilized ovum counts as a human life.)

        So, in my hypothetical you might say X (very) roughly represents the likelihood that human life begins at conception or very close to that.

    • yossarian says:

      I have actually read past the …’s before considering the value of X, because I felt there was a catch, then I saw that there were quite a few. For me, it would matter that:
      1) The person doesn’t exist yet (in my opinion), and I am not morally obliged to create it.
      2) The problem puts it as a “you will love the person, there is an X% chance person will be killed”, while the real formulation, I think, would be “the person will not exist, otherwise there is a X% chance you will love the person”
      3) Does not take into the account possibilities “Y% chance you will hate the person”, “Z% chance you will abuse the person”, “A% chance you will end up neglecting the person”, “B% chance the person will have to suffer greatly or live a not-really-worthwhile life”, “C% chance the person will become a threat or a burden to the other people in the society” and so on.

      • Iain says:

        Also very relevant, in context:
        – the chance that the existence of this person means that you will not have an opportunity later to create a different person — one who you would love just as much or more, but who would have a better life.
        – the chance that there are already many people in your life whom you love, and the addition of a new one would spread you too thin and leave you unable to fulfill your duties to your loved ones.

        In the real world, 67% of women give “unready”, “can’t afford baby now”, or “has all the children she wanted or all children are grown” as the most important reason for their abortions.

    • melolontha says:

      I noticed the intended analogy before reading the explanation, so it was at least close enough to be recognisable, but your way of thinking about the issue seems very different from mine. From my perspective the answer to your last question is definitely ‘no’.

      .
      .

      [spoilers for the word problem follow]

      .
      .

      I guess I have two (related but somewhat distinct) main issues with it. First, the analogy is not very close, and the differences are important. Killing a person doesn’t just rob that person of their future life, it (usually) causes immense suffering to other people. Also, although I personally care about conscious experiences rather than preference-satisfaction as such, some people think that an important part of the badness of killing is the fact that it leaves a person’s goals and plans forever unfulfilled (whereas presumably foetuses do not yet have goals or plans).

      Second, I think the question ‘does this count as the taking of innocent human life’ is a red herring, reminiscent of what Scott talks about in his essay on the noncentral fallacy. It’s more a question about concepts and semantics than a question about facts and values, which are presumably what really matter here.

    • AnonYEmous says:

      X

      40%

      How does that correspond to the, uh, other thing?

      not so much

      Do you think the word problem works for what it is?

      I don’t want to spoil it, but no

    • Rowan says:

      I already kill people all the time by not donating to the AMF, and the idea that they’re my soulmate or such nonsense doesn’t really outweigh costs that high to myself, so I set X to 100 but really I’d still press the button then.

      …huh. Does this map to “infanticide is okay too, birth is just a schelling point”?

    • gorbash says:

      I refused to choose a number, because the word problem was insufficiently specific.

      “It will be harder to do the things you want, to achieve the things you try to achieve. You will be hampered down. You will lose sleep. You will lose money. You will experience moments of intense pain.” — How much money? How much sleep? How many moments of intense pain? How much “hampering down”?

      For a bad answer to that question, like “I would lose my job, lose all my money, get evicted, and die homeless in the street suffering intense pain”, you could get me to choose a pretty high value of X, like definitely 20% and probably at least 50%, and I would argue from consequentialism that my life is probably worth at least X fraction of this other person’s life.

      For a better answer to that question, like “I’d be 10% more tired every day for the rest of my life and my taxes would go up 10%”, X would be very very low.

      I’m in favor of the — er, the thing.

    • RavenclawPrefect says:

      Highly variable based on the specifics; could range from 0.01% to 1, depending on the situation.

      Spoilers ahead for the other thing (click the link if you haven’t yet and intend to):

      Giving specifics relevant to the actual scenario it’s trying to parallel, where the person’s death causes no harm to anyone else and by failing to press the button I’m likely given the future choice to cause another person to come into being at a lower cost to my quality of life who will have better expected life outcomes, probably something like 0.9. Currently trying to sort out how I think about murder ethically, so this judgment is tentative and could change a bit in the next few months (though I anticipate not below 70%).

      I think it’s possible to add a fair bit more relevant info without giving away the situation; the lack of effect on people close to this person is important (since my decision would change significantly if pressing the button orphaned children or left friends and family in despair for years to come).

  10. liquidpotato says:

    I put up a book request a couple open threads back but had no replies, so am posting on a fresh thread in the hopes that it will get better results.

    I really liked reading Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer and was hoping the commenters on SSC might be able to point out a similiar book, dealing with parasites and their life cycles for me.

    Thanks in advance.

    • jchrieture says:

      Recommended: Adam Johnson’s darkly eschatological SF novel Parasites Like Us (2004, GoodReads review here). This was Adam Johnson’s first book; it provides a good introduction to the themes of Johnson’s later works.

      Replete with bio-, anthro-, and paleo- meditations; Johnson’s brand of integrative SF-narrative may be too pomo for some SSC folks. Possibly too, the OP-er “liquidpotato” might prefer that Parasites Like Us dealt more with parasite-biology sensu stricto, less with (e.g.) the ecological impacts of Clovis point civilization.

    • Vermillion says:

      Have you read I Contain Multitudes? Not strictly about parasitology but would still scratch the same itch I’d wager.

    • albatross11 says:

      There is an excellent set of microbiology podcasts put out by Vincent Racaniello and various colleagues. One of them is called “This Week in Parasitism,” and involves in-depth discussions of parasites. I’ve listened to some of the episodes, which were quite good, though parasitology has never grabbed me the way virology (TWIV) and microbiology (TWIM) have.

  11. Odovacer says:

    Interrupting People

    What are your algorithms/heuristics/whatevers for when and when not to interrupt someone? Also how do you do it?

    Aside from the obvious, e.g. speaker at an event or in a classroom, I had a lot of difficulties with this. When I was a lot younger I would often interrupt people; I was eager to share something related to what they were saying. It was rude of me, and turned a lot of people off. After enough chastisement and self-reflection I went to the opposite end. I tried to let people speak until there was a natural pause in the conversation. That worked with some people, but with others, well, they wouldn’t shut up. If I didn’t stop them they would go on for many minutes, and change the topic. If I wanted to add something to a certain topic, by the time they stopped talking they would be 2-3 topics past what I wanted to address.

    Now, I do my best to let others speak their thoughts, but I do interrupt them if they’ve been speaking for a sufficient amount of time (that really depends on the circumstances), and if I have a clarifying/supporting question or statement.

    • Randy M says:

      It’s actually rather complicated, if mostly grokable. I find all of the following relevant:

      Is the interjection on topic, or a change of topic?
      Is the interjection urgent?
      How long has the current speaker been speaking?
      How many interruptions have there been recently?
      Is the occasion formal (that is, like a lecture) or informal?
      How long have you been a participant?
      Relative status between speaker and interrupter.

      Generally “Don’t interrupt” is a good heuristic if the speaker is also following social norms and nothing urgent has come up. Norms will also vary by culture, though.

    • rlms says:

      It’s very context-dependent. One heuristic I use is that if I can predict what the other person is going to say (i.e. they’re about to tell me something I already know); I have a more interesting direction to turn the conversation; and there aren’t many third parties involved who might want to hear what the speaker has to say, I interrupt.

    • jchrieture says:

      Among Friends (Quakers) the social rules regarding interruptions derive from a primary directive: “Never speak twice before all have spoken once.” Three social consequences are:

      (1) When Friends do speak, their words are well-considered (the overall social effect is overwhelmingly good).
      (2) Friends never interrupt (the overall social effect is generally good).
      (3) Friends rarely tell jokes (the social effect is arguably bad).

      Specifically in regard to (2), I was witness to a Friend who was testifying to personal troubles … it became apparent (slowly), to everyone present, that the distraught Friend could not stop their stream-of-sorrow.

      Rather than interrupt, a weighty Friend physically took their hand … and held it until (after many minutes) the sorrowful stream dried up of itself.

      Specifically in regard to (3), only one Friendly joke is known (to me). Brace thyself:

      Q  What do you get from crossing a Witness with a Friend?
      A  Someone who rings your doorbell, then just stands there, without saying anything.

      Among Friends, this joke is regarded as a finger-wriggler! 🙂

      • LewisT says:

        “Never speak twice before all have spoken once.”

        That’s quite interesting. How closely do Friends tend to follow that rule? I’m having a hard time envisioning how this would work without forcing many conversations to start off in a fairly artificial way, especially in groups of five or more. Also, is it socially permissible for a Friend to give up his right to speak? I know that there are some contexts in which I am happiest sitting back listening to others talk. This is especially true if the topic is one I don’t know much about (better to remain silent and be thought a fool, etc.). Do Friends make allowances for this sort of situation?

        • jchrieture says:

          In regard to the (good) questions that you ask, far more can be learned from physically attending a Quaker service, or from reading a Friendly essay like Richard Allen’s “Silence and Speech: An Open Letter to a Newcomer,” than from any comment I could post. According to Allen’s essay:

          One almost invariable convention is that no person speaks more than once in a meeting though even this is not an absolute cast-iron rule.

          If among Friends there are any “absolute cast-iron rules”, then I am not aware of them — it’s a community in which respect for tradition is exceedingly strong, and respect for individual choices is even stronger, and yet respect for authority per se is nearly nonexistent.

          PS: the above “finger-wriggling” link is no manner of joke, but rather among Friends is a prevalent practice for expressing silent approval in public.

      • Nornagest says:

        Go away, John.

        • Winter Shaker says:

          Really? If that’s a Sidles post, he’s modified his commenting style so as to be entirely unobjectionable.

          • Aapje says:

            He regressed in the comment below, but this was a particularly lucid comment for him.

          • Randy M says:

            Indeed. I didn’t catch on until the quote-link-emoticon ending of the first comment.
            This was quality enough to allow him, if it didn’t make a mockery of Scott’s ability to ban commenters.

    • quaelegit says:

      Caveat: I’m probably no better at this than you are.

      For the most part I try to default to not interrupting unless it’s important and urgent (kind of along Randy M’s criteria). Most of what I think to say isn’t very important, so it’s not a huge loss that it gets missed. If there is something I really want to follow up on, I will just awkwardly transition back to it, e.g. “To back up a few topics…” or “In response to you made earlier…”. This is not actually awkward with a bit of practice (and if people find it awkward or annoying they are welcome to change their conversation style to let me respond to points as they come up).

      However, if I feel like someone is never giving me a chance to participate and/or get annoyed, I switch to ‘assertive, rude, New Yorker’ (apologies to NYC dwellers for the stereotype, but I actually do find it helpful to think of it in terms of tapping into the stereotype). In which I will exploit any pause or breath if I have something I want to say, though I try to keep my tone respectful and put a polite spin on it. AFAIK this hasn’t pissed anyone off, but I don’t use it very often (I can only think of one person I do this around regularly).

      Also worth noting that this is my conscious heuristic for when I’m explictly paying attention to the interruption problem. I don’t know what I usually do when I’m not thinking about it, because I’m never consciously aware of it unless it screws up (and I get called out for rudely interrupting — which again doesn’t happen very often).

      • Brad says:

        However, if I feel like someone is never giving me a chance to participate and/or get annoyed, I switch to ‘assertive, rude, New Yorker’ (apologies to NYC dwellers for the stereotype, but I actually do find it helpful to think of it in terms of tapping into the stereotype). In which I will exploit any pause or breath if I have something I want to say, though I try to keep my tone respectful and put a polite spin on it. AFAIK this hasn’t pissed anyone off, but I don’t use it very often (I can only think of one person I do this around regularly).

        No offense taken. The strangest part is if someone with NY pattern speaks to someone with the MW pattern both come away thinking the other was rude. Not interrupting, for example with statements of agreement, makes us think you aren’t really paying attention or don’t care about what we are saying.

        • quaelegit says:

          > Not interrupting, for example with statements of agreement, makes us think you aren’t really paying attention or don’t care about what we are saying.

          “I’m listening” signals is another conversation tactic I’ve been (occasionally) trying to work for the last few years. I think if done right it isn’t interrupting — but maybe I’m interpreting what counts as “interruption” pretty narrowly?

          • Brad says:

            I’m not talking about an “uh huh” or “yeah” but a full-on taking over the conversation with an anecdote that reinforces what the other person said before turning it back over. My sense is that would be considered rude in the midwest but it isn’t in NYC.

    • SamChevre says:

      I have spent years–20 or so–trying, with limited success, to learn not to interrupt people. I still have to actively think about not interrupting to not interrupt.

      My family don’t talk one at a time: we never have. My father’s family doesn’t either. So I am perfectly comfortable participating in a “conversation” where three different topics are being discussed, and each of them has a couple people talking at the same time, and most participants are involved in more than one of the three. Most people think that’s not an appropriate conversational norm: my wife is incredibly hostile to multiple-people-talking-at-once conversations.

    • Some years back, a speech therapist studied the speech of science fiction fans (the generally geeky folks who regularly attend sf conventions) conversing with each other.

      The linked article only mentions it briefly, but from more detailed accounts I read at the time, she found that interruption was unusually frequent in that context, and not seen as rude.

    • Polycarp says:

      If I am in a conversation that involves someone presenting an argument of the form A therefore B therefore C . . ., I will interrupt if I don’t buy one of the therefores or if I think one of the sets of factual premises is clearly wrong. Sometimes I think this rule should be suspended. This is often the case when I am talking with someone who is approaching things from a standpoint very different from mine. Better, then, to get the big picture before responding.

      It’s very interesting to see how different people react to this kind of interruption. The more rational a person is (as a rule of thumb) the more likely they are to understand this sort of interruption and roll with it. Having grown up in a big family may also play a role here.

      • Incurian says:

        I will interrupt if I don’t buy one of the therefores or if I think one of the sets of factual premises is clearly wrong

        Oh, good one! Someone recently got mad at me for doing this and I was completely taken aback, because I think it’s a very useful practice.

    • gorbash says:

      I hate it when people interrupt me.

      I’ve noticed there are certain activities where interrupting me is standard practice — for example, in games of Werewolf / Mafia / Avalon / etc, it’s good practice to speak as much as you can and not let anyone else get a word in, because then you’ll be more persuasive. I don’t participate in those activities.

      I do interrupt other people sometimes. Other times, I wait for the opportunity to speak, then give up and leave the conversation. I don’t think I can put into words what determines which one I do.

  12. rlms says:

    Very interesting life story I found by browsing Wikipedia’s list of child prodigies. Synopsis:
    “Hildegart Rodríguez Carballeira was an activist for socialism and sexual revolution, born and raised by her mother as a model for the woman of the future. She was conceived in Ferrol by Aurora Rodríguez Carballeira and an undisclosed biological father chosen by her mother with eugenic intentions. She spoke 6 languages when eight years old, finished law school as a teenager, and was a leader of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party and afterward of the Federal Party.

    Hildegart was one of the most active people in the Spanish movement for sex reformation. She was connected to the European vanguard, corresponding with Havelock Ellis, whom she translated, and Margaret Sanger. She had correspondence with many other European personalities, accompanying Herbert George Wells in his visit to Madrid, but rejecting his offer to go to London as his secretary.

    At the age of 17, her mother shot and killed her, giving the explanation “the sculptor, after discovering a minimal imperfection in his work, destroys it.”.”

    • Lillian says:

      Good god, the woman succeeded in making a bona fide child prodigy who studied law, taught philosophy, and became widely known and highly regarded activist, all while still a teenager. Yet that still wasn’t enough. If such a daughter could not satisfy Aurora Rodríguez, then no thing and no one could have any hope of ever doing so. No wonder they locked her up in the loony bin.

    • At the age of 17, her mother shot and killed her

      This evokes a dark memory from around ten years ago.

      I was invited to speak at an academic honors convocation. Several undergraduate students received awards for doing outstanding work. One of the awardees sat at our table, and I was quite impressed with her.

      The very next night, she was shot and killed by her own mother.

      The mother had lost her job, suffered a mental breakdown, and feared that she and her daughter would soon become homeless. So she killed her daughter to prevent that from happening.

    • Matt M says:

      Geeze man, I was not prepared for that rather abrupt dark ending!

  13. Lillian says:

    As i have long suspected, there is little evidence that the media has a significant effect on body dissatisfaction and eating disorders.

    http://www.christopherjferguson.com/Who%20Is%20the%20Fairest.pdf

    “From the literature reviewed to this point we conclude several points:
    1. Genetic effects on both eating disorders and body dissatisfaction are clearly the strongest effects, accounting for approximately 40% to 80% of the variance (Bulik, Sullivan, & Kendler, 1998; Keski-Rahkonen et al., 2005; Klump et al., 2001; Spanos, Burt, & Klump, 2010; Wade, Wilkinson, & Ben-Tovim, 2003) in such outcomes.
    2. Among social factors, peer influences, both active and passive, exert the most powerful influence on body dissatisfaction.
    3. Media effects on body dissatisfaction remain generally small and inconsistent, particularly when other factors, such as peer influence, are controlled.”

    People on Twitter were suggesting that the media influences peer opinion, but i contend that it’s peer opinion that influences the media. Think about it, the media operates in a free market, whatever they publish must appeal to their consumers. If publications aimed at women use very thin models, it must be because that’s what sells. Indeed efforts to move towards using more average and plus sized models have largely stalled, because their appeal turned out to be more limited. This shows that it is not the media that dictates public tastes, but rather public tastes that constrain the media.

    • quaelegit says:

      > Indeed efforts to move towards using more average and plus sized models have largely stalled,

      Is this the case? I feel like I’ve started seeing (and continue to see) a lot more plus size models in ads in recent years.

      • Lillian says:

        That’s why i said that they stalled, not that they reversed themselves. The efforts succeeded in the sense of having plus size models at all, but the stated goal was actually to have the entire industry revise its standards to be more realistic. In that sense it failed, as thin models continue to dominate the market and plus size models don’t appear to be making further gains.

        That said, they’re still fighting it out. Last year Fashion Week got thinner, but this year a bunch of big brands announced they would not use unhealthily thin models. This is something of a cop-out, given that heroin-chic was a short-lived fad, and healthy thin is still in, but in in the long term there may yet be more progress. As things stand now though, i expect plus size modelling will continue to be a niche market.

    • jchrieture says:

      TLDR: Bring back the Marlboro Cowboy … the man who taught the world “what sells” (to borrow a phrase from the OP).

      THE POINT: Like tobacco-smoking, starvation-dieting induces compulsive behavioral disorders in susceptible individuals … most prevalently in adolescent females.

      Hmmm … tobacco/cancer denial … pesticide toxicity denial … climate-change denial … vaccine-safety denial … and now anorexia denial (?) … whence this denial-clustering? And how should scientists/rationalists respond?

      At the risk of being excessively confrontational (even by “Open Thread” norms), ideology-driven science-shutdowns are a bad idea … because in the long run, science-shutdowns make rational discussion of tough social issues entirely infeasible.

      • Montfort says:

        I was going to give you the benefit of the doubt for the Quakers comment (even on reflection it’s quite readable, good work!), but you’re still banned, John.

        • Nornagest says:

          Yeah, I wasn’t sure it was Sidles until the last sentence of the Quaker comment (that style of condescending quasi-humor is unmistakable), but this is much more obvious. It even has the topic-comment structure he originally got banned for.

          • Scott has banned him, so he’s persona non grata here. Okay.

            But apart from that, what’s so bad about John Sidles? I don’t remember much of him, and I certainly had no idea that the indicated posts were his.

          • quanta413 says:

            @Larry

            I’m not sure exactly what it is but judging by the few posts he’s made post ban…

            …I think it’s that his writing style is a sort of unique form of incoherent and terrible. Personally, I’m not hugely bothered by it and usually just skip over it. And occasionally he contributes something. But my vague memory is his posts tended to be worse pre-ban (like longer and more obnoxious).

          • Nornagest says:

            But apart from that, what’s so bad about John Sidles?

            His posts really are incoherent and terrible, and condescending, and full of obnoxious stylistic tics, and you’d need a bulldozer to make room for his ego, but that’s not what really pissed me off about him.

            At the end of the day there is only one prerequisite for intelligent discussion, and that is being willing and able to understand and engage with other people’s points. All our other norms — don’t shitpost, don’t insult people, try to use a legible style — are nice to have, but you can have a conversation without them. It probably won’t be a pleasant conversation, but it can be a productive one.

            Sidles doesn’t do that. If you’re dumb enough to substantively respond to one of his posts, he’ll pick apart your response until he finds something that he can use as a prompt to repeat one of his twenty or so talking points, and then he’ll do that. If you’re arguing for something he doesn’t like, he’ll take a few swipes at you in the process; if you’re arguing for something he does, he’ll agree with you in a way that makes you wish he didn’t.

          • jchrieture says:

            His posts really are incoherent and terrible, and condescending, and full of obnoxious stylistic tics, and you’d need a bulldozer to make room for his ego …

            Similar criticisms are commonly extended to the broader (Post)Modern Enlightenment — there being no shortage of commentators who do so.

            It follows that persons who admire the (Post)Modern Enlightenment, have reason to assess such critiques as sincere compliments.

            On behalf of the SSC’s pomo-enlightened readers, thank you for this insight.

          • Nornagest says:

            Once again, please go away.

          • hlynkacg says:

            If you’re dumb enough to substantively respond to one of his posts, he’ll pick apart your response until he finds something that he can use as a prompt to repeat one of his twenty or so talking points, and then he’ll do that.

            Right, if you don’t give him such an opening he’ll just dig through your post history for excuses to dismiss you as too stupid and/or emotionally repressed to comprehend his clearly superior and enlightened prose.

            That sort of thing in conjunction with the issues raised by Nornagest above are what got him banned in the first place.

    • skef says:

      People on Twitter were suggesting that the media influences peer opinion, but i contend that it’s peer opinion that influences the media. Think about it, the media operates in a free market, whatever they publish must appeal to their consumers. If publications aimed at women use very thin models, it must be because that’s what sells.

      Peer opinion about X can influence the media in a way that influences peer opinion about Y.

      The clearest way this has happened in the last 50 years or so has to do with standards of male attractiveness. As women’s discretionary income increased, so did the efforts to find effective ways of marketing to women. Sex sells, so those efforts included better nailing down and following through on what women (intrinsically or contingently) find attractive. A side result is that general portrayals of men in advertising and fiction conform much more to those standards than they did in the 60s and 70s. And a side result of that is that men today have a much more acute sense of where they fall in the attractiveness spectrum than they used to, with the understanding mediated in part by their male peers.

      • I haven’t noticed any of this (last paragraph). Could you explain what you mean that portrayals of men are conform more to what women find sexy? What characteristics are you talking about? I don’t feel I know any better than I did 50 years ago where I so fall.

        I do think that women in general are more likely than previously to be interested in men based more on their general appearance than before. Although women are still much more likely than men to be more attracted based on power instead of appearance. And I don’t think this has anything to do with the media. It is the general culture that has changed.

    • Aapje says:

      @Lillian

      There is also little evidence that sexual preferences of men drive body dissatisfaction, as studies find that men prefer more voluptuous partners than what women see as the ideal.

      • Randy M says:

        I feel like there is a motte and bailey by the activists on this matter based around non-specific words like thin and curvy.

      • Jaskologist says:

        That just means that men sexually prefer women who see the ideal body type as less voluptuous than men see it.

      • Lillian says:

        Yes the article discusses that. It seems body dissatisfaction is mainly driven by intra-female competition, so the pressure is to conform to female rather than male ideals of feminine beauty. It’s interesting that these ideals don’t quite match up though, sice you’d think it would be advantageous for both men and women to be aware of their opposite’s preferences, that they might better attract them. Likely the difference is that they’re optimizing for different problems. The male ideal female is meant to push men into seeking out healthy fertile mates, but the female ideal female is meant to push women into appearing healthy and fertile. It could be that in the latter case aiming at a point just past the target leads to more hits.

        • Aapje says:

          Or it could be a classic virtue spiral, where direction pushing is seen as virtuous, rather than target hitting, so people don’t stop when the target is hit.

          Competition for the favors of the best specimens in a group also doesn’t necessarily result in optimal outcomes for those whose favor is being fought over.

          Let’s say that having some qualities, like wealth or higher class or higher education, makes it far easier to be thin. Furthermore, let’s assume that it’s far easier to (dress up to) fake being wealthy, higher class or better educated, than it is to fake being thin*. Then wealthy and/or higher class and/or better educated women have a strong incentive to make being thin strongly correlated with these other qualities, so men will use that to decide which women to approach/favor, rather than use more easily fooled indicators.

          This mechanism works especially well because men prefer thinner than average women, although it starts working less well when women get substantially more thin than what men prefer. But you’d still expect women who compete like this to err on the side of wanting to be too thin, which is exactly what we see.

          Of course, you can make a similar argument about male competition. Do men favor showing off wealth more ostentatiously than women prefer? That is what one would expect if the same mechanism happens for male competition over women.

          * Note that this is far easier in online-dating, where old or ‘strategic‘ pictures can obscure body weight.

          • baconbacon says:

            Treating men or women as groups of monolithic traits causes all kinds of problems.

            Say men had a range of preferences, and women somehow were all very similar in appearance and behavior. Each woman would get roughly the same amount of attention, although some would be unlucky and be stuck with a cluster of men who didn’t like the average. The first woman to display a different trait would likely grab more attention than the average woman as she is going to be outnumbered by the number of guys who would prefer her new trait to the average (even if it isn’t their ideal). This extra attention will lead to copying by other previously unsuccessful women.

            This is (to a limited extent) what you see in US schools in general. Up until the early stages of puberty there is relatively little in the way of distinctive physical traits when compared to what is about to come. Then they enter high school, freshman year for a lot of girls means they are now (fairly suddenly) being compared physically to their peers who are developing earlier, and also to the sophomores through seniors at the school who are way more advanced on average. They quickly associate physical appearances, and physical changes, with increased attention. Since they can’t will themselves to larger breasts and shapelier butts particularly well, many are stuck feeling as if their only option is dieting. This change, even if preferred by only a few, is likely to increase the attention they get, or course if multiple girls follow this strategy some will get less attention than others, and might well feel pressured to try even more extreme forms of dieting to out compete.

            These effects can be compounded very easily. Say boys develop sexually a little later than girls, then girls entering high school will often be competing for a smaller effective pool. This basic split can be used to explain a lot of issues that arise. The boys that mature quickly end up with out sized attention from the girls, girls end up in competition with each other, and then the boys that mature later are functionally playing the game with both boys and girls who are more experienced and thus have explored and developed further into the social rules that need to be obeyed. At some point, rather than learning and catching up, they just get shut out of the game entirely for long stretches.*

            I think this also addresses the peer effects for girls that are being found, but would need to read more to be able to be confident in that at all.

            * I like this explanation for why poorly socialized guys often end up with poor hygiene. They end up so far removed that the basic actions of clean(ish, this is high school after all) clothes, showers and teeth brushing do nothing to improve their standing, and gain little or no positive reinforcement for effort they do put in.

          • Lillian says:

            It rather feels like the three of us are poking at the edges of the same truth rather than really disagreeing here. All our statements appear to be compatible as part of a larger thesis about a complex system. This seems like a good sign.

  14. Yosarian2 says:

    Some interesting research, relates to some of the topics Scott has discussed in the past. Apparently there is a significant amount of genetic overlap between intelligence and longevity; a lot of the same genes seem to improve both.

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171128123356.htm

  15. Apropos of a recent exchange, what are ways in which university education could be produced at a much lower cost? What keeps it from happening?

    • Anonymous says:

      Apropos of a recent exchange, what are ways in which university education could be produced at a much lower cost?

      The internets.

      Bankruptcy for education loans.

      What keeps it from happening?

      Aggregate inertia and influence of the banking sector.

    • mustacheion says:

      I think that lectures waste a ton of man-hours. Lectures are probably a pretty good way of learning some subjects, like maybe history, but they are a pretty mediocre way of learning others, like my field, physics. Even so, I do think lectures are a useful component of a university education in almost any subject, but it doesn’t make sense to have so many people give such similar lectures many different times to different groups of students. And many professors are really good at certain aspects of teaching, and very poor at giving lectures, or visa versa.

      So my proposal is that we produce (film) the ultimate lecture for each subject once, update it every few years, and spread that one lecture everywhere. Assemble a team of the best academics from the specific subject the lecture is on. Hook them up with a team of people who understand how to package information to make it easy to learn, actors / public speakers to actually present the information, and graphic artists to create diagrams and other visual media. Go ahead and spend a couple million dollars to produce a single hour long lecture. Distribute it on the internet for anybody who wants to watch it. Students enrolled in a physical class can be assigned to watch this lecture on their own time, possibly more than once to be sure they absorb the information, and can then meet in small groups (either physically or via telecom) with other students and a TA / group discussion leader to ask questions and solve problems together, or whatever other activities go well with the specific subject. You still need to pay the TA, but from my experience (four years as a grad student TA) that kind of work is much easier than preparing and delivering a lecture.

      In a nutshell, the advantage of this approach is that you are trading a large one-time cost for a huge amount of distributed future value. A single lecture for a subject, produced only one time, could satisfy a major component of the educational needs of every single student in the entire world fluent in the language the lecture was produced in. And for the smaller incremental cost of translating the lecture, satisfy the needs of almost every student in the world.

      Minor Drawbacks:
      – Some subjects are contentious – not everybody would agree on what things are appropriate to teach / how to frame things. But there are lots of subjects that are not (math, physics, computer science) so we could start on those subjects first.
      – Some parts of the lectures would become out of date as new discoveries are made and as fields shift. But I think that the majority of what is taught in many subjects, especially at an undergraduate level, doesn’t change all that frequently. I would say that 90% of what I learned in getting a MA in physics had been known for fifty years.
      – How do you choose which organization gets to produce the ultimate lecture, and how can we trust they
      do a good job. I suppose that the libertarian answer to this one is to encourage the major educational institutions to compete to create the best ultimate lecture, though this will drive up total cost of setting up the system, since multiple organizations are producing redundant products.

      Major drawback:
      – It’s difficult to imagine how to recuperate the cost of producing these ultimate lectures. I can’t really think of a good business model that doesn’t either restrict access to only the wealthy or suffer from free riding.

      But I would say that the biggest reason why the system I am describing won’t work: it may not be able to satisfy the signalling aspect of a university education. A good education can empower a person to be able to make valuable contributions to society, but a good education by itself isn’t quite enough – you also need to be able to convince others that you have the potential to make a positive contribution in the first place to get them to work with you. The most obvious example of this is getting a job – you need to get hired before you can use your education to make the world a better place. Ultimate lectures by themselves can’t certify that students actually learn anything and actually gain useful skills.

      Though I will comment that something needs to arise to fulfill the signaling aspect of university education, because it has been my experience that the universities are starting to completely fail to accomplish this goal, yet our society and economy are rather based around the ability of a university education as a certification that a person is not a looser. A generation or two ago, a university education was a very difficult thing to acquire, and if you as a person were able to actually acquire a degree, that by itself was a sufficient indication that you are not a looser and can be a good candidate to hire for a job. But because a university education was essentially a guaranteed ticket to a prosperous middle class life society moved in the direction to overproduce degrees. Now days, universities produce so many more degrees than there are jobs that need that degree, and degrees are so easy to get (since we demand they be accessible to everybody) that their value has massively gone down. A university degree is now seen as a necessary but not sufficient certification that a person is not a looser – a massive downgrade from the days when they were seen as a sufficient certification. I believe that the falling value of university education is going to become a major political / societal issue in the coming years as so many students these days have taken on massive amounts of debt to acquire a degree that will fail to deliver them any value.

      Can you tell that I am bitter about being having been unemployed for the past two years? 😛 I received an absolutely fantastic education and have excellent analytic thinking and problem solving skills, but I can’t actually convince anybody else that I have these things. As a teenager I was obsessed with phoniness and actively shunned the kinds of personal-brand-building activities that you put on your resume because I bought into the belief that my academic success alone could prove my personal worth. But now that I am in the real world and see how necessary it is to be able to market yourself to employers, I feel extremely frustrated at my earlier self’s idealization of university education.
      Sorry if this feels off topic, but actually I do think that this is a really important aspect of education to consider – one that my younger self did not consider and is now paying for.

      • beleester says:

        I had a course in college that used Udacity lectures for a large chunk of its instruction, so the idea has merit.

        I don’t know if Udacity is profitable yet, though.

      • Deiseach says:

        So my proposal is that we produce (film) the ultimate lecture for each subject once, update it every few years, and spread that one lecture everywhere.

        Um – The Open University? Much late night viewing on the BBC was “OU lectures filmed in the 70s and boy you can tell by the fashion”

        • Matt M says:

          Even Khan Academy is basically this.

          • albatross11 says:

            One sideline, though, is that different approaches to explaining/understanding an idea work for different people. I think it’s really valuable to be able to find some completely different source of instruction (lectures, slides, notes, textbook, whatever), when the one you’re paying for isn’t working for you. That’s one really nice feature of iTunes I/OCW/Khan Academy–if your linear algebra teacher isn’t explaining things well, maybe the MIT linear algebra lectures or the Khan Academy linear algebra lectures would do a better job.

          • Viliam says:

            different approaches to explaining/understanding an idea work for different people

            True. Unfortunately, the existing school system offers no improvement in this dimension; each students only gets one version of the lesson.

            It would be nice to have multiple lessons on the same topic online. Perhaps cross-linked “if you feel you didn’t understand the lesson, try this version”. (Possibly with some social network aspect, where you could see the videos recommended by people like you.)

      • Brad says:

        Why doesn’t anyone use the Feynman lectures on physics? Has introduction to mechanics and introduction to E&M changed that much since then?

      • So my proposal is that we produce (film) the ultimate lecture for each subject once, update it every few years, and spread that one lecture everywhere.

        Why isn’t the best book superior to the best lecture? You are not limited to books written by people now alive for you to record and the student can read the book at his own pace and times of his convenience.

        One possible answer is that there is something about the live interaction, student in the same room as lecturer, that works for many students better than reading a book. But you are not giving that, since your lecture is recorded, not live.

        • nimim.k.m. says:

          Why isn’t the best book superior to the best lecture?

          I contend that for some people in some circumstances books can be superior to lectures. Even without any training in “speed reading” skills, students generally can read faster than lecturer can talk; one can return to previous paragraphs or stop reading to think about a difficult point (asking the lecturer to go about the previous point 5 times or stop talking would be a social faux pas).

          This is pure speculation, but the same reasons might explain why sometimes a very good lecture works very well for some people on some particular topic: the lecturer is forced to present the material at read-at-aloud speed or slower (because writing equations or sketching figures at the chalkboard slows everything down). This gives the student time to think about what they hear.

          However, personally I believe tutorials (maybe order of 15 persons of quite similar level of background knowledge) with an atmosphere that encourages to you interact with the teacher and other students (and you can plausibly interact with them) is the ideal form for organized learning. This does not scale very well, so it isn’t what people think about when they hear the word “lecture” (I close my eyes and see lecture hall with ~150 students for freshman calculus) and that’s why people would think that recorded lectures would be a comparable experience (“any questions or comments?” it would be awfully inconvenient if all 150 students started sharing their questions or comments, so it’s quite rare to have any true discussion.)

          • Protagoras says:

            Colleges seem to be moving toward less and less of the 150 person lecture halls and more and more small classes, so if criticisms of lectures are based on the former, they are trying to fix a problem that is already being successfully fixed.

          • quanta413 says:

            @Protagoras

            Are you speaking of liberal arts colleges or big universities or both?

            I’ve only been a student at large R1s, and neither of them has been moving away from the enormous lecture format. If anything, they’re doubling down on it. For example, when I started university, iClickers were not very prevalent and thus attending large lectures was effectively optional. This was very useful to me as I once took two classes that had the same slot. It also meant that if the lecturer was god awful, I could avoid wasting time and just read the book then take the tests. You might ask why I’d take the class then, but these were required classes and couldn’t be avoided.

            Now, iClickers seem to be required for a lot more of the classes I know about, and answering the questions is sometimes a significant fraction of the grade. Or they’re used to take attendance, and if you don’t activate your iClicker for too many lectures you’re automatically failed (Seen this policy on a syllabus, but never actually seen it enforced, not sure if it’s more than a threat).

            Granted, iClickers have good uses in theory, but my experience with them has been pretty meh. Often, professors give credit just for clicking to respond at all, so there’s not even much incentive to both getting answers right.

          • The Nybbler says:

            WTF? The whole point of boring lectures is to skip them. That’s why it’s college and not high school.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Surely there’s some way to cheat the iClicker. If there isn’t, I’m very disappointed in the students’ lack of initiative.

          • Nick says:

            At my university attendance was very often required (or a significant portion of your grade, say 20% was attendance and participation, or there were even quizzes once to twice a week). We had small classes, though, so it was pretty easy for a professor to tell when a student was or was not there, and to my knowledge we never used iClickers or anything like them, just regular old roll call or something.

            I have mixed feelings about it. I didn’t really mind attending class, even if the lecture was kind of boring, and I think I still derived value from it. In my experience, most students got value from it, even if they thought they didn’t or that their time could have been better spent. But for the top students, it’s sometimes the opposite, where they’d be better served by skipping but can’t. And all that aside, these various measures to encourage attendance—roll call, participation grades, having a bunch of short quizzes—may just waste class time and the professor’s own time in addition to the students’ time. I think I’d prefer to see a much stronger presumption toward attending class, but with few or no penalties should someone not; improving the quality of lectures is, of course, one way to encourage that.

          • quanta413 says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            The only simple way to cheat an iClicker is give it to someone else to click for you. This is generally heavily penalized if you get caught (because it’s cheating even if you have them enter answers randomly), and also requires you have a friend who does go to lecture.

          • Viliam says:

            requires you have a friend who does go to lecture.

            Seems like a business opportunity for nerds.

          • Montfort says:

            The iClicker equivalent used at my college accepted input via a web interface, so if you monitored it during the lecture, you could input random answers (the questions were not displayed), and hope the professor wasn’t asking questions like “Are you physically present in the room: A – no, B – no, C – no, D – yes.”

        • albatross11 says:

          Personally, I find that I benefit from having two or three more-or-less independent ways of seeing something explained. If I don’t seem to be getting much out of the lecture, maybe the book will help. Or an alternative set of lectures online. Or a website someone put up explaining the idea. Or….

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’ve seen a recommendation to read math textbooks from different decades. Types of explanation go in and out of fashion.

    • johan_larson says:

      What keeps it from happening? Ultimately, because judging the value of a university education is hard or impossible, so we rely on secondary measures of quality, including exclusivity, reputation, and prestige. These tend to be the characteristics of luxury goods, where people tend not to negotiate down. People brag about being able to afford a Patek Philippe or a Porsche, not about the screaming good deal they got on one. And producers of luxury goods tend not to offer such deals, because doing so tarnishes the brand.

      Trying to judge the value of the actual education delivered would probably require separating the actual work of educating from the judging of results. This would mean some authority would set standards for what someone who has passed the 101 level of political science should know and administered tests to verify that they do. And that someone really shouldn’t be whoever is delivering the education.

      I would expect existing institutions to fight a proposal to do this tooth and nail. Suddenly Fancy Pants College would have to justify charging $5000 for a course that prepares you for an exam that you can also prepare for with a $500 course at Home Town Community College or even a $150 self-guided course you ordered from Amazon. And a 95 would be a 95, no matter which way you got it.

      Incidentally, I took a stab at estimating what it actually costs to deliver a college education by traditional means, and the figure I came up with was $30,000, not including books and room and board and whatnot.

      • LewisT says:

        People brag about being able to afford a Patek Philippe or a Porsche, not about the screaming good deal they got on one.

        Not in the Midwest, they don’t. I can’t think of the last time I heard anyone boast about how expensive his new (vehicle, house, anything) is, except in the context of bragging about the massive discount he was able to get on it. Even the multimillionaires I know do this. To do otherwise would be gauche.

        On the other hand, people do brag when their kids are accepted to or receive a major scholarship from a prestigious university. That’s considered acceptable.

      • Matt M says:

        I would expect existing institutions to fight a proposal to do this tooth and nail. Suddenly Fancy Pants College would have to justify charging $5000 for a course that prepares you for an exam that you can also prepare for with a $500 course at Home Town Community College or even a $150 self-guided course you ordered from Amazon. And a 95 would be a 95, no matter which way you got it.

        When I was in the military, I was trying to earn my bachelors degree with as little out of pocket expense as possible. Tuition assistance covered something like 15 credits a year, with a maximum allowance of cost per credit hour that would eliminate any elite schools. I took online courses to hit the 15 credits a year, but at that rate, it would take about 8 years to earn a degree.

        I supplemented the rest with CLEP tests, basically subject-level tests you can take, provided by the college board, to prove mastery in a certain subject. The test fee is something like $90. Colleges aren’t required to accept these tests for credits, but most of the lower prestige ones will (snooty schools of course will not). My preparation for these tests usually consisted of watching Youtube videos of lectures of say, Psychology 101 for the Psychology test. Occasionally I would go on Amazon and buy a previous version of a commonly used textbook for that subject. Out of date versions (and by out of date, I mean 2-3 years old) can usually be had for $10 or so. I passed every test I took, usually by a wide margin.

      • Viliam says:

        “Teaching + evaluating” creates a horrible conflict of interests.

        In my experience, already at high school — students constantly tried to make me teach less, because then they would have an excuse at the exams that I didn’t teach that, so they would be required to learn less. Also, some parents come (and sometimes bring their lawyers) to threaten the school if they kids get less than perfect grades. And it’s kinda depressing to teach people who visibly try to make you teach as little as possible.

        In instead, the role of the “teacher” would be to teach; and the role of some “examiner” (preferably working outside the school, i.e. not a subordinate of the same director) would be to make exams, I think the situation would change. Suddenly the teacher would become an ally… against the “bad” examiner. At least the students would not object against being told more about the subject.

        Also, it would make possible to evaluate teachers. (Of course you would still have to control for the quality of students.) In current system, teachers who teach little and give everyone free A’s are the most popular. If you expect more, and give worse grades, everyone is angry at you. However, saying openly “well, my colleagues simply don’t teach all the required stuff, and then give free A’s to anyone” is not going to make you friends at the workplace. (And the colleagues could say: “well, that’s just your opinion, man; you obviously need some excuse for your crappy teaching, reflected by the bad grades of your students”.) Instead, if both me and my colleagues would have students examined by the same independent examiner, there would be some feedback at least for the most obvious cases. (Yes, many things could go wrong, Goodhart’s law, etc. Still think it’s better than the random system we have now.)

        • Matt M says:

          Suddenly the teacher would become an ally… against the “bad” examiner. At least the students would not object against being told more about the subject.

          Hmm, I feel like the same problem emerges though. So what happens if the teacher, for whatever reason, doesn’t end up covering all the material the examiner plans to examine (splitting these roles into two fully independent people with no accountability to each other seems to drastically increase the likelihood this will happen).

          The students then complain, I didn’t deserve this bad grade. My teacher never covered this! And they have a point. The examiner, by the nature of his job, I assume, has to say “Not my problem, take it up with your teacher.” The teacher will have his various excuses from “I didn’t have time, I didn’t have resource, the examiner sucks and asked bad questions, etc.” How does the conflict get mediated exactly?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            The examiner, by the nature of his job, I assume, has to say “Not my problem, take it up with your teacher.”

            If I remember correctly, this is exactly what happens with AP Tests. Just because your teacher did a poor job doesn’t mean you deserve to get the same grade as someone who actually knows the material. It’s not your fault, but utterly accurate to anyone using the grade as a measure of knowledge. It’s also not your fault if you only grow to 5’2″ but it doesn’t fly to tell the NBA you’d have been 6’5″ if your genes had “covered” height properly.

          • Viliam says:

            In current situation, if the teacher does not teach something that is required, it is easy to cover up (just don’t ask it at the exam). In the proposed situation, it would be easy to find out. I think that not hiding errors is an improvement.

            the examiner sucks and asked bad questions

            This part is easy. The questions and answers should be recorded. So afterwards people can look at the records and say whether the question did or did not belong to the defined scope.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Overruling of Griggs v. Duke Power and other laws and rulings which make it difficult for employers to test potential employees rather than rely on a credential.

      This isn’t really a “way” but a change in incentives. Probably the best you can do from the outside; organizations are good at distributing waste/fat and making it all look essential so there’s no one place you can target.

      • Technically Griggs vs Duke Power was basically repealed in the ’80’s. But then Congress codified Griggs with the Civil Rights Act of 1991. So it is this law you really want to be repealed.

        I agree that this law has had some very bad results and should be repealed. But it is only a partial response to the original posting. For one thing, it is has been pointed out many times on SSC that using a college degree as a proxy for a good hire is common in Europe as well as in the US. The European usage is obviously not a result of the Civil Rights Act. Repealing that law is only part of the solution.

    • hyperboloid says:

      There a several on line programs that offer reasonable bachelors, and masters degrees at a low cost. Excluding those in the very controversial for profit sector, the two that come to mind are Southern New Hampshire University, a traditional brick and mortar college in new england that branched out into on line education in a big way, and Western Governors University, which was founded in 1997 by the governors of five western states to offer professional education to students in low population areas who might not otherwise be able attend a traditional college.

      Both are focused heavily on non traditional students, working adults who need to complete a degree to open opportunities in the workplace. WGU uses a competency based education model that relies heavily on testing rather then course time to earn credits. Whereas SNHU’s programs are more like the on line education that is available from most state universities.

      In a world in which increasingly a bachelors degree takes on the role once filled by a high school diploma, I think what WGU is doing has a lot of advantages. It would be a great thing if state universities could offer a catalog of low overhead on line degrees, with a strong focus on testing competency in specific skills that are important to employers. This is of course not a comprehensive liberal education, but that’s not what a lot of people need.

    • JulieK says:

      “Apropos of a recent exchange, what are ways in which university education could be produced at a much lower cost? What keeps it from happening?”

      Most people want 3 things from university – actual knowledge and skills, a prestigious credential, and the experience of spending 4 years on a nice campus with other people their age. If your alternative only has the first, you might not get many takers.

      • Wrong Species says:

        It does if you can convince employers to hire you after getting one for a tiny fraction of the cost.

        • JulieK says:

          That’s what I meant by “prestigious credential.” Will employers think your degree is as good as one from a famous university?

          • Wrong Species says:

            Most people don’t go to Harvard though. If it can replace your state university, that will do a lot on its own.

          • Matt M says:

            Your state university, in most cases, is already not outrageously expensive though.

            The problem isn’t Harvard OR state universities. The problem is all of the private liberal arts schools who charge almost as much as Harvard while delivering a degree that’s almost indistinguishable from that of a state university.

          • Wrong Species says:

            In-state tuition(not including room and board) sets you back thousands of dollar per year. With room and board that’s probably over ten thousand.

          • Nornagest says:

            In state tuition(not including room and board) sets you back thousands of dollar per year. With room and board that’s probably over ten thousand.

            That’s lowballing it. I just looked up in-state tuition for the University of California, one of the larger state systems; it’s $12,630 annually. (Out-of-state students pay more than three times that.) Room and board varies by school and by the type of housing you get, but at UC San Diego, for example, it seems to be somewhere in the neighborhood of another $10,000 for three quarters.

            California is expensive, but e.g. Illinois State looks to be comparable.

    • John Schilling says:

      Apropos of a recent exchange, what are ways in which university education could be produced at a much lower cost? What keeps it from happening?

      TL,DR: we probably can’t produce university education at much lower cost without politically unpalatable austerity programs, but we can maybe take the price down a few notches by hacking away at some of the bureaucracy, building new universities, and/or sending fewer students to university in the first place.

      OK, skipping over the bit where everyone is a technophilic autodidact and so MOOCs can do everything but the signaling, boo signaling, what is it that makes up the real educational value of a university education that isn’t a readily MOOCable lecture?

      1. Ability to interact personally with teachers at every level from TA to Esteemed Professor, who can provide more nuanced feedback than a multiple-choice test and offer specific help when needed.

      2. Ability to interact personally with many other like-minded students, for collaborative study, networking, and fun motivation.

      3. Availability of laboratory facilities and the like, for fields of study where these are relevant

      4. University-organized internships, exchange programs, and the like

      5. A period of several years when the student has a socially and economically accepted excuse for doing no productive work and can hang out alone in the library and/or in the coffee shop with their friends without being told to get a job.

      How to make these cheaper:

      #1 should be right up your alley, and I assume the “cut professors’ salaries by 50%” solution is not the one you were looking for. What does it take to get lots of professorial-level talent to hang out in one place on the cheap? I’m thinking this is something traditional universities are already pretty good at.

      #2 gets us into circular logic territory, because anything that makes university education cheaper, makes it cheaper to have lots of good students hanging around supporting everyone else’s education. If we address the other points, this one comes along for the ride. But, anything that gives the best students the “opportunity” to avoid going to university, makes it harder / more expensive for universities to provide a good education to everyone else. So MOOCs may be part of the problem as well as part of the solution

      #3 calls for us to think hard about whether universities really need some of the fancy and expensive laboratory facilities they insist on. But I don’t think there are big gains to be had here, because A: those laboratory facilities are also part of the compensation package for the professors, most of whom are unwilling to wholly abandon research in the name of education, and B: most of them are paid for from a separate revenue stream than tuition

      #4 is probably not a big cost driver except insofar as the university’s prestige makes it easier to set up these deals and prestige can be expensive.

      #5 gets cheaper if we can convince the students to accept a lower standard of living. A traditional university gets most of the achievable economies of scale by housing the students in dorms and feeding them in cafeterias. Modern universities are often criticized for providing what look like frivolous luxuries, and to some extent that is true and represents a potential savings. But see #2, we want to convince the really good students who don’t have to go to university, to do so anyway for the benefit of all the rest. Plus we are now educating the grandchildren of the baby boomers: grandparents like to see their grandchildren indulged, and they vote.

      So nothing obvious comes to mind in terms of greatly reducing the direct cost of university education. Which leaves three alternate approaches that may be promising:

      #6, reduce administrative overhead. This is I believe substantial at most universities. Some of it is due to legitimate regulatory or lawsuit-avoidance requirements, which could be addressed by government action. Or more precisely by a credible promise of government inaction. The rest is just the Iron Law applied to university bureaucracy, and that’s tough but not perhaps hopeless.

      #7, increase supply. No matter how low the direct costs of university education, if the number of slots is smaller than the number of dedicated applicants, the price is going to skyrocket. And yet it is relatively uncommon for new universities to be created, at least in developed nations. Unfortunately “new university nobody has heard of” is now firmly linked with “crappy for-profit university that rubber-stamps credentials without really teaching anything”, so we’re going to need a way to boostrap “this is so a Real University!” prestige. Maybe convince famous rich people, particularly the ones who are famous for being smart (e.g. Gates, Bezos) to go the Thomas Jefferson / Leland Stanford route and endow universities? Would mean cutting into their bednet-distribution charitable efforts, though. Added bonus, new universities created ex nihilo will come with less entrenched bureacracy.

      #8, reduce demand. Provide alternatives – with real economic opportunities at the end – for people who aren’t well-matched for university education, stop insisting that university education is the One True Path to the American Dream, stop accepting students who aren’t going to graduate in four years, and stop subsidizing education except in narrowly-targeted cases.

    • James Miller says:

      Make 3-year undergrad degrees standard, like they have in England. Government accreditation bodies would currently stop a college from switching from a 4 to a 3 year BA degree.

  16. quarint says:

    Do we still think that Trump is not a racist ? Is it still crying wolf ?

    • Anonymous says:

      Islam is a race now? But I thought Islam is the cure to racism! Though I guess you have a point, if Trump opposes Islam, and Islam is the real cure to racism, then that makes Trump at the very least an opponent to anti-racism.

      • quarint says:

        Right, Trump makes the difference between “muslims” and “brown people” crystal clear. As demonstrated in the link I provided.

        • Anonymous says:

          Your link is to a reddit post, which links to a BBC article, which includes a screenshot of the tweets Trump retweeted. Where is the distinction made? Or are you being sarcastic?

      • beleester says:

        Sure as sunrise, any accusation of racism against X will be followed by a comment of “But is X really a race?” As if racism was the only way something could be evil, so if it’s not racist, it must be okay.

        Yes, we’re all sticklers for correct terminology here, but “religionist” hasn’t really caught on as a term so I’m not going to flip out over it.

        • Winter Shaker says:

          “religionist” hasn’t really caught on as a term so I’m not going to flip out over it.

          Well, to the extent that it is used at all, I am more likely to see it used as an approximate antonym of ‘atheist’, i.e. someone who follows a religion, without specify what religion.

          Would ‘(anti-)religious prejudice’ work better?

          • albatross11 says:

            It seems to me that there’s a *much* stronger case for the claim

            Trump is an anti-Muslim bigot

            than the claim

            Trump is a racist.

            And I think it’s actually pretty important to be clear about exactly what we mean when we toss around these words, since they’re commonly used in extremely fuzzy ways.

          • I don’t see support for either claim. Trump is a demagogue who believes he can get attention and political support by saying hostile things about Muslims.

          • albatross11 says:

            DavidFriedman:

            Fair enough. His rhetoric is often explicitly hostile to Muslims and hispanics, whereas I don’t think that’s true in general for blacks or gays. What he feels in his innermost heart about Muslims is unknowable.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Trump calling for the execution of the Central Park five even after there was good reason to think they weren’t guilty suggests some degree of anti-black racism. Likewise, his birtherism might be racism, or it might be political opportunism and epistomological irresponsibility. (Is this a culture wars thread or what?)

            His major animus is against Muslims and hispanics, though.

            Speaking of birtherism, I talked with a man who seemed to know a lot about birther arguments. I asked him what he thought would happen if Obama were removed from office because he didn’t met the natural born citizen requirement, and the birther had no idea.

            Presumably, the outcome would be that Biden would become president.

            This suggests to me that the birther community wasn’t thinking about their goals at all. Whether it was racism or political animus or something else, this seems very weird to me.

          • johansenindustries says:

            This suggests to me that the birther community wasn’t thinking about their goals at all. Whether it was racism or political animus or something else, this seems very weird to me.

            Have you not considered ‘Respect for the Constition’? “Who? Whom?” and similar maxims are the domain of the left, and not something that would really feature in the conscious calculations of Birtherists.

            Obama’s publisher said he was Kenyan-born. As soon as this was bought to Obama’s attention he should have said sorry and then gave the complete evidence of his being born in the US* rather than having his supporters scream ‘Racists!’.

            The issue of whether he could legitimately run is hugely important and should of had cross-party consensus that Obama should have taken all the (very easy) steps to end the doubt that Obama and his publisher of choice created.

            * Which he obviously didn’t do, as it took the current President to force Obama to finally give the full evidence.

          • Matt M says:

            Trump calling for the execution of the Central Park five even after there was good reason to think they weren’t guilty suggests some degree of anti-black racism.

            No it doesn’t. It suggests he believed they were guilty. It’s quite a leap to go from that to “He believed they were guilty solely because they were black.”

          • John Schilling says:

            Trump calling for the execution of the Central Park five even after there was good reason to think they weren’t guilty suggests some degree of anti-black racism.

            The intense desire to punish the only suspect available when the alternative is punishing no one at all, is an error orthogonal to racism. I’ve seen it happen far too often, and with suspects of all races including white guys, e.g. Richard Jewell. Or, more locally, the current mayor of my city still insists that this guy is guilty of a crime he pretty clearly didn’t commit because something something the victim deserves justice something tough on crime blah blah.

            Donald Trump is pretty clearly an anti-muslim bigot and he may be a weakly anti-black racist, but he’s also very clearly a Tough On Crime idiot.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @johansenindustries

            Have you not considered ‘Respect for the Constition’? “Who? Whom?” and similar maxims are the domain of the left, and not something that would really feature in the conscious calculations of Birtherists.

            What, right-wingers are incapable of making decisions based on who benefits and who loses out?

          • johansenindustries says:

            @dndnrsn

            The fact that I wrote ‘don’t’ and you read ‘can’t’ kind of proves my point about the left-wing mindset.

            If you want an example, then the most obvious one is ‘Iam glad slavery is abolished since slavery is an evil’ vs ‘I am glad slavery is abolished since slaveowners are evil’

          • Brad says:

            This:
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barack_Obama_citizenship_conspiracy_theories#/media/File:BarackObamaCertificationOfLiveBirthHawaii.jpg
            released to the public on June 12, 2008 was more than sufficient for anyone that wasn’t insane or racist or both.

          • johansenindustries says:

            @Brad

            It doesn’t matter if a quarter of Americans are racist, insane or insanely racist.

            On something that affects his eligibility to be President, he should not have his publisher claim that he was born in Kenya and then use the controversy to rile his base instead of providing the proof that he so easily could.

          • Brad says:

            Since you’ve repeated the claim twice now, do you have some audio or video clip of Obama’s publisher saying he was born in Kenya? Or even better some proof that Obama “had his publisher claim” that?

            > instead of providing the proof that he so easily could.

            He did. I just linked it above.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @johansenindustries

            You stated that it’s the domain of the left. What’s your evidence the right doesn’t do it? Or, some people on the left, some people on the right, etc. You’re just flatly stating something and telling me what I believe.

          • johansenindustries says:

            @Brad

            That proof was not good enough. Perhaps you think that it should have been. Perhaps you think it is evidence of great evil amongst Americans that it wasn’t. But the fact is it wasn’t. A quarter of Americans wrre still unconvinced by the short form. It took the long-form certificate for it to go to lizardmen levels and Obama refused to release the longform certificate until he had milked the controversy dry.

            You are correct that I should not have written* ‘said’. Well done. However, I did not make the ‘said’ claim twice since I the second was a ‘claim’ claim which is perfectly legitimate to use in reference to written materials.

            Obama, to some extent, picks his publisher. He chooses what image to present to his publisher. He chooses what books to send to his publisher. When he is running for President, I think he has to take more responsibility. The obvious example is when it is said that people have their accountant (as opposed to their publisher) prepare documents that way when it is likely that they just acquiested with what the accountant said. Or perhaps ‘Why did Trump fake a Times cover” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/06/27/why-did-trump-fake-a-time-cover-look-for-a-clue-in-the-real-ones/?utm_term=.697952981e39)

            * I almost did it again there.

            (https://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/birthers/booklet.asp)

          • Brad says:

            Where someone was born isn’t a matter of opinion so I’m not sure why you are citing opinion polls. (Except not actually citing.)

          • johansenindustries says:

            @dndsrn

            What’s your evidence the right doesn’t do it?

            Isn’t is the done-thing in rationalist circles that you can’t prove a negative?

            I can only point out that identity politics is associated with the left. Hate laws are promoted by the left (particularly in America, in the UK it is more that opposing hate laws makes you right-wing). Protected categories are prefered by the left. Class war rhetoric (possibly the original identity politics, so I might be double-counting) used to be the left’s raison d’etra.

            The phrase ‘they’re voting against their economic interests’ is an oft-heard phrase amongst left-wing circles. And despite mostly hanging around right-wing circles I can’t think of a right-wing equivilant. The right mainly think of hurting society or everyone. The left thinks we’re all doomed, but particularly pooorer islands and that’s terrible.

            One example is Obamacare. This site: has the criticisms of Obamacare summarised as being

            Opponents argue that the Affordable Care Act will hurt small business, raise health care costs and reduce economic growth. But if you listen carefully to their arguments, you can detect the underlying fear: if millions more Americans have health insurance, they will be more “dependent” on government. In short, opponents really believe that the country will be worse off if health insurance becomes available for 25 million people who don’t have it today.

            The bit about small busness is definitely the more left-wing thinking and indeed I might say it exist to appeal to left-wing thinking, but the vast majority of those things are about everyone. Compare that to the left’s view about reforming Obamacare* which are just a list of as many sympathetic special interests as they can think of.

            (* I can’t find a similar summary on that issue. Tell me if you disagree with mine.

            However, certainly there will be people with the attitude I associate with the left in the right camp. For this open thread the obvious example would be Nazis. Who like the right’s value of toleration at the moment. Another example: Right wingers think sucker punching people is wrong. There could definitely be groups on the left that are the same way. There’s no such thing as an absolute.

          • johansenindustries says:

            @Brad

            You were the one to link to Wikipedia.

            We are not discussing where Obama was born. We are discussing whether he provided sufficient proof of where he was born, and the nature of sufficient proof has to depend on his audience. And on issues of legitimacy, when he’s running for President, that audience has to be every American.

            He ought to have made a good faith effort to remove all doubts. He didn’t. He took a half measure. We know he took a half measure because once the gains from keeping the controversy alive were gone* he finally did release the long-form birth certificate.

            *Mostly birthers getting used o their representatives not being.

          • Nornagest says:

            Do we have to re-litigate boring political arguments from ten years ago every couple of weeks on here?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @johansenindustries

            Isn’t is the done-thing in rationalist circles that you can’t prove a negative?

            OK, prove the positive. “Who-Whom” was just Lenin’s pithy way, as far as I can tell, of saying “the important question is whether they win or we do.” It’s been adopted more recently by Sailer followers, again as far as I can tell, to express their belief that people on the left categorize an action as being good or bad based on who does it.

            But one can find the right doing both things. For an example of the former sense, the current tax bill will dick over a lot of grad students, but that makes who-whom sense if you consider that grad students rarely vote Republican. For an example of the latter, I can predict with eerie accuracy whether the left-wing majority or right-wing minority on my Facebook feed will talk about a given murderous attack, based on who did the attack and whom they did it against – about 2/3 of a week after that guy plowed into counterprotesters in Charlottesville, there was an Islamist terror attack involving vehicular homicide, and the people talking about Charlottesville and the evils of vehicular homicide didn’t mention it, and the people who had been quiet about Charlottesville were suddenly up in arms about the evils of plowing a car or truck into groups of people. That is exactly “who-whom” in the sense it’s used by Sailer, etc, and I see everyone doing it, because it’s basic tribalism.

            I can only point out that identity politics is associated with the left. Hate laws are promoted by the left (particularly in America, in the UK it is more that opposing hate laws makes you right-wing). Protected categories are prefered by the left. Class war rhetoric (possibly the original identity politics, so I might be double-counting) used to be the left’s raison d’etra.

            The left, right now, is more into identity politics, or, at least, is more into openly expressing the concept. But plenty of stuff one sees in the mainstream Republican party rightwards can be seen as “identity politics for white people” (or, for certain sorts of white people). I don’t think you can call “class warfare” identity politics – it’s a material thing, isn’t it? You can’t identify as proletarian if you own a factory, and if you give a member of the proletariat a big stock portfolio, they’re not still a member of the proletariat, are they?

            The phrase ‘they’re voting against their economic interests’ is an oft-heard phrase amongst left-wing circles. And despite mostly hanging around right-wing circles I can’t think of a right-wing equivilant. The right mainly think of hurting society or everyone. The left thinks we’re all doomed, but particularly pooorer islands and that’s terrible.

            Easy equivalent. The right-wing version of “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” style “they vote against their economic interests because Republican elites snooker them with promises of culture-war stuff they won’t ever actually get” is that some democratic voter blocs are kept voting democrat by social welfare, etc, programs that are long-term harmful. I’m pretty sure Thomas Sowell talks about this, so you don’t have to go too far right! (The farther-right version is a lot more crude).

            One example is Obamacare. This site: has the criticisms of Obamacare summarised as being

            Opponents argue that the Affordable Care Act will hurt small business, raise health care costs and reduce economic growth. But if you listen carefully to their arguments, you can detect the underlying fear: if millions more Americans have health insurance, they will be more “dependent” on government. In short, opponents really believe that the country will be worse off if health insurance becomes available for 25 million people who don’t have it today.

            The bit about small busness is definitely the more left-wing thinking and indeed I might say it exist to appeal to left-wing thinking, but the vast majority of those things are about everyone. Compare that to the left’s view about reforming Obamacare* which are just a list of as many sympathetic special interests as they can think of.

            (* I can’t find a similar summary on that issue. Tell me if you disagree with mine.

            I will acknowledge that “these underprivileged groups have worse health care than the average and we need to help them” is a thing on the left, but I don’t know how it plays into either an original or a contemporary (Sailerite, really) understanding of “who-whom.”

            However, certainly there will be people with the attitude I associate with the left in the right camp. For this open thread the obvious example would be Nazis. Who like the right’s value of toleration at the moment. Another example: Right wingers think sucker punching people is wrong. There could definitely be groups on the left that are the same way. There’s no such thing as an absolute.

            Is “don’t sucker-punch people” an element of right-wing thought? Or is it simply that right now the biggest political proponents of sucker-punching (after all, most sucker punching is entirely politics-neutral; tapping a guy on the shoulder then plowing him in the jaw probably happens more due to alcohol and petty beefs than politics) are on the far left?

            And, most left-wingers think sucker-punching people is wrong. The “punching Nazis is great” crowd complain constantly that the far larger numbers of ordinary liberals, social democrats, etc don’t appreciate them enough, are too weak to embrace punching, etc etc.

          • johansenindustries says:

            The left, right now, is more into identity politics, or, at least, is more into openly expressing the concept. But plenty of stuff one sees in the mainstream Republican party rightwards can be seen as “identity politics for white people” (or, for certain sorts of white people).

            ‘Can be seen’ is not the same thing as actually is. When all you have is one lense then everything will be split between things that ‘make sense it that lense’ and incomprehensible hate and evil. Its the same thing as thinking that attempts to simplify the tax-code must be borne from animosity to universities who had benefited from the loopholes and special dispensitions being put in.

            The right absolutely opposed the Charlottesvill ramming and thought it was bad. Not focusing on it is more abut marketing than principles. Even if it were otherwise you’re reasoning would still be circular. The left being outraged by one right-winger killing one person while being more offended by hypothetical backlash than the frequest Islamist attacks is only symmetrical with the right if you assume that they are symetrical.

            Easy equivalent. The right-wing version of “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” style “they vote against their economic interests because Republican elites snooker them with promises of culture-war stuff they won’t ever actually get” is that some democratic voter blocs are kept voting democrat by social welfare, etc, programs that are long-term harmful. I’m pretty sure Thomas Sowell talks about this, so you don’t have to go too far right! (The farther-right version is a lot more crude).

            Is not the fact that there’s a pithy phrase for the left-wing eqivilany pretty good evidence that the former is the more common.

            But yes when it happens, that is both sides assuming that the other intends to vote in their own interests but are failing. However, the left’s position is “How can these people be so stupid?”, the right’s position is that “Actually in the long-run the effects of welfare are harmful to thoe communities”.

            The answer to the right are that these people are not profesional economists or that in the long-run we’re all dead. The answer to the left is that they’re not actually just concerned with their own narrow self-interest.

            The left’s position is that working-class right-wingers must be stupid. They come to this conclusion by not realising the possibility that they do not intend to vote in their own self-interest. They do not realise the possibility because abstract principles are not something they possess. The fact that the right are outraging the left with actions that the left cannot comprehend is proof that the right do.

            Nobody ever engages in wide-eye confusion for why A-Americans vote Dem.

            Is “don’t sucker-punch people” an element of right-wing thought? Or is it simply that right now the biggest political proponents of sucker-punching (after all, most sucker punching is entirely politics-neutral; tapping a guy on the shoulder then plowing him in the jaw probably happens more due to alcohol and petty beefs than politics) are on the far left?

            Its when you say things like that then it proves my point. There really are people who hold principles rather than principals. Some people do find ‘ And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?’ resonating with them. As just as its reasonable to conflate Republicans with right-wing, it is reasonable to conflate them with right-wing too.

            And, most left-wingers think sucker-punching people is wrong. The “punching Nazis is great” crowd complain constantly that the far larger numbers of ordinary liberals, social democrats, etc don’t appreciate them enough, are too weak to embrace punching, etc etc.

            Perhaps, The Guardian and the like don’t count as real left-wing. But is there an equivilant fake right-wing paper saying that its OK to engage in anti-civilisation behaviour if it makes a Nazi (or comminie or whatevr) uncomfortable?

          • dndnrsn says:

            ‘Can be seen’ is not the same thing as actually is. When all you have is one lense then everything will be split between things that ‘make sense it that lense’ and incomprehensible hate and evil. Its the same thing as thinking that attempts to simplify the tax-code must be borne from animosity to universities who had benefited from the loopholes and special dispensitions being put in.

            If a left-wing proposal to simplify the tax code included a bunch of stuff removing loopholes etc that benefit, say, fossil-fuel manufacturers – would it be fair to speculate that an urge to harm fossil fuel manufacturers is at play?

            The right absolutely opposed the Charlottesvill ramming and thought it was bad. Not focusing on it is more abut marketing than principles. Even if it were otherwise you’re reasoning would still be circular. The left being outraged by one right-winger killing one person while being more offended by hypothetical backlash than the frequest Islamist attacks is only symmetrical with the right if you assume that they are symetrical.

            First, it’s false to say everyone on the right condemned what happened in Charlottesville. It’s not especially hard to find people on/around the fringe right saying that car guy was acting in self defence, or whatever. Second, Second, it seems to me that you’re attributing a given action by someone on the right to “marketing” but on the left to “principles.”

            Is not the fact that there’s a pithy phrase for the left-wing eqivilany pretty good evidence that the former is the more common.

            So, because Lenin coined a pithy phrase, that proves this is a left-wing thing? Come on, that’s not pretty good evidence of anything.

            But yes when it happens, that is both sides assuming that the other intends to vote in their own interests but are failing. However, the left’s position is “How can these people be so stupid?”, the right’s position is that “Actually in the long-run the effects of welfare are harmful to thoe communities”.

            The answer to the right are that these people are not profesional economists or that in the long-run we’re all dead. The answer to the left is that they’re not actually just concerned with their own narrow self-interest.

            The left’s position is that working-class right-wingers must be stupid. They come to this conclusion by not realising the possibility that they do not intend to vote in their own self-interest. They do not realise the possibility because abstract principles are not something they possess. The fact that the right are outraging the left with actions that the left cannot comprehend is proof that the right do.

            You keep talking about what “the left” thinks. I was unaware that these were positions that I, someone on the left, holds. I was also unaware that I do not hold abstract principles.

            Have you read What’s the Matter with Kansas? The thesis is not that right-wingers voting against their economic interests are idiot rubes. Frank, the author of that book, which was quite the big thing in left-liberal circles ten or fifteen years ago, did not assume that stupidity was the reason. He recognized that they valued some things more than others. He did not think they were stupid, or snookered into thinking abortion more important than their own economic interests – his description of their snookering lay in the fact that Republican politicians had a habit of promising prayer in schools or an end to abortion and then delivering free market or crony-capitalist legislation.

            Nobody ever engages in wide-eye confusion for why A-Americans vote Dem.

            OK, but their explanations for why differ.

            Its when you say things like that then it proves my point. There really are people who hold principles rather than principals. Some people do find ‘ And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?’ resonating with them. As just as its reasonable to conflate Republicans with right-wing, it is reasonable to conflate them with right-wing too.

            Is there a reason to believe that people who hold “principles rather than principals” are disproportionately found on the right? Is there evidence that they do? And the “you saying this proves my point” framing is really kind of condescending.

            The major reason that the sucker-punching proponents are left-wingers, mostly fairly far left, is that the whole “punch a Nazi” thing comes out of the 80s/early 90s punk scene, where modern North American antifa mostly descend from, where there was a problem with Nazi punks, so anti-Nazi punks basically made it a policy to punch them whenever they showed up. By and large, it worked. So, you’ve got an element on the left that has had previous success with relatively more frequent low-intensity violence: it’s usually not incredibly dangerous, it’s emotionally satisfying, and for some applications, it works (you don’t see many Nazi punks around). There’s no equivalent on the right, but that doesn’t prove some difference in the essence between right and left; the difference is due to historical change. If there had been commies infesting the country music scene, and guys in cowboy hats and bandannas had started punching them to go away…

            Perhaps, The Guardian and the like don’t count as real left-wing. But is there an equivilant fake right-wing paper saying that its OK to engage in anti-civilisation behaviour if it makes a Nazi (or comminie or whatevr) uncomfortable?

            It’s not about “real left-wing”, it’s about “left-wing” including everyone from slightly-left-of-centre-centrists to tankies. You keep talking about “the left” as though it is this monolithic entity. That is pure outgroup homogeneity bias.

          • The intense desire to punish the only suspect available when the alternative is punishing no one at all, is an error orthogonal to racism.

            Possibly an implication of:

            “Something must be done.
            This is something.
            So we must do it.”

          • John Schilling says:

            “Something must be done.
            This is something.
            So we must do it.”

            Precisely. And since the incentive of the police is to stop looking for suspects once they have arrested someone they think is guilty, for everyone else “this” isn’t merely “something”, it’s the only thing available to be done.

          • johansenindustries says:

            If a left-wing proposal to simplify the tax code included a bunch of stuff removing loopholes etc that benefit, say, fossil-fuel manufacturers – would it be fair to speculate that an urge to harm fossil fuel manufacturers is at play?

            One would not have to speculate. They would be loudly boasting about punishing the evil fossic fuel companies.

            If they’re not boasting about punishing the fossil fuel companies and it just happens to hurt them, then no I do not think that it would be fair to think that they are lying about what reason they do give and are in fact motivated by hate for fossil fuel companies.

            First, it’s false to say everyone on the right condemned what happened in Charlottesville. It’s not especially hard to find people on/around the fringe right saying that car guy was acting in self defence, or whatever. Second, Second, it seems to me that you’re attributing a given action by someone on the right to “marketing” but on the left to “principles.”

            Having to kill somebndy to defend your own life is bad. Self-defence and bad aren’t opposites. ‘but on the left to “principles.”’, I’m certainly not. What somebody (left or right) is making a particular effort to publicise is obviously and innately marketing. It is when we get to beleifs that we can start talking about principals. If both sides agree that something is bad but its worse optics for one side then the fact that is is the other side publicises does not tell us about their principles.

            So, because Lenin coined a pithy phrase, that proves this is a left-wing thing? Come on, that’s not pretty good evidence of anything.

            I was refering to ‘What’s the trouble with Kansas’. But its definitely good evidence – if there was a culture and all you knew about it was that it had fourty words for snow would you think they were as likely from the Sahara desert and Alaska?

            Have you read What’s the Matter with Kansas? The thesis is not that right-wingers voting against their economic interests are idiot rubes. Frank, the author of that book, which was quite the big thing in left-liberal circles ten or fifteen years ago, did not assume that stupidity was the reason. He recognized that they valued some things more than others. He did not think they were stupid, or snookered into thinking abortion more important than their own economic interests – his description of their snookering lay in the fact that Republican politicians had a habit of promising prayer in schools or an end to abortion and then delivering free market or crony-capitalist legislation.

            Nobody ever engages in wide-eye confusion for why A-Americans vote Dem.

            OK, but their explanations for why differ.

            Yes they didn’t need a book – “quite the big thing in left-liberal circles ten or fifteen years ago” – to begin understanding why others voted against them [Yes I know, you didn’t need a book to tell you anything]. Ussain Bolt wouldn’t have had a hit racing career if many other people could run as fast as him. Thomas Frank wouldn’t have had a hit book if many other people on the left could simply look at Kansas and go ‘They probably have principles’.

            I would call Thomas Frank the exception that proves the rule. But a brief look at his Wikipedia page says that he’s a former college Republican who has also wrote a book critical of the Democrats, so he doesn’t actually appear to be of the left.

            Is there a reason to believe that people who hold “principles rather than principals” are disproportionately found on the right? Is there evidence that they do? And the “you saying this proves my point” framing is really kind of condescending.

            There are many reasons. You have been reading them. Do you accept the existance of a great number of persons with principles? Do you accept that if those people were often found on the left then one would not be able to write a hit book exploring the rise of anti-elistist conservatism in the USA? Do you accept that such a book was a hit?

            The major reason that the sucker-punching proponents are left-wingers, mostly fairly far left, is that the whole “punch a Nazi” thing comes out of the 80s/early 90s punk scene, where modern North American antifa mostly descend from, where there was a problem with Nazi punks, so anti-Nazi punks basically made it a policy to punch them whenever they showed up. By and large, it worked. So, you’ve got an element on the left that has had previous success with relatively more frequent low-intensity violence: it’s usually not incredibly dangerous, it’s emotionally satisfying, and for some applications, it works (you don’t see many Nazi punks around). There’s no equivalent on the right, but that doesn’t prove some difference in the essence between right and left; the difference is due to historical change. If there had been commies infesting the country music scene, and guys in cowboy hats and bandannas had started punching them to go away…

            But guys in comboy hats didn’t punch commies to go away. You need to explain why they don’t exist. You say that difference today is because of the differences yesterday.

            But how do you explain the differences yesterday when commies were infecting higher education or sports (or wherever) and there was still this lack of vigilante violence on the right?

            It’s not about “real left-wing”, it’s about “left-wing” including everyone from slightly-left-of-centre-centrists to tankies. You keep talking about “the left” as though it is this monolithic entity. That is pure outgroup homogeneity bias.

            I also refer to the right as a monotholic entity. Is that pure ingroup homogenity bias? Or is it just thinking that the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ do – in some areas, such as this one – cut reality at the joints?

          • Brad says:

            @johansenindustries

            We are not discussing where Obama was born. We are discussing whether he provided sufficient proof of where he was born, and the nature of sufficient proof has to depend on his audience. And on issues of legitimacy, when he’s running for President, that audience has to be every American.

            No, the audience doesn’t have to be every American. He met all the legal requirements to be listed on the ballot in every state. That’s all he needed to do. Every birther lawsuit failed.

            You and your compatriots weren’t satisfied. I acknowledge that. You claim that lack of satisfaction is sufficient reason in and of itself to give rise to an obligation on his part to do whatever it took to satisfy you. I disagree. No such obligation existed. And given that no such obligation existed, and that none of you were going to vote for him regardless, he had zero reason to cater to your inane demands.

          • johansenindustries says:

            @ Brad

            Democratic instititutions are important and fragile things. I think it every person who is fortunate enough to live in a nation with them has an obligation to not deliberately damage those institutions in order to get your opponents to poorly react to rile up your base, just because it’s convenient.

          • Anonymous says:

            FWIW, why is the location of his birth even an issue? He has citizenship via jus sanguinis anyway.

          • johansenindustries says:

            @Anonymous

            Because the Constitution demands that president be a natural born citizen, and that has generally been held to mean having been born in the United States.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/donald-trump-says-central-park-five-are-guilty-despite-dna-n661941

            @ John Schilling @ David Friedman

            Trump kept calling for their conviction *after* someone else was convicted due to DNA evidence and they got a forty-one million settlement for false conviction.

            I’m surprised this isn’t common knowledge here, and I suspect people aren’t hanging out in places where Trump is sufficiently hated.

            On the other hand, it may be that I’m unusually interested in justice system atrocities.

          • Anonymous says:

            @johansenindustries

            Because the Constitution demands that president be a natural born citizen, and that has generally been held to mean having been born in the United States.

            Is there a rule that says this, or is it just an unwritten custom?

          • johansenindustries says:

            The constitution demands that the President be a natural born citizen. It does not define the term.

          • Brad says:

            Democratic instititutions are important and fragile things. I think it every person who is fortunate enough to live in a nation with them has an obligation to not deliberately damage those institutions

            Which is one reason Trump is unfit for office. Raising spurious objections, which had already been disproven, to the constitutional eligibility for office of a duly elected President was an attack on our democracy.

            But apparently a bunch of y’all didn’t care.

          • johansenindustries says:

            @Brad

            Trump did not ‘raise’ those objections. He forced Obama to settle them.

          • Brad says:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barack_Obama_citizenship_conspiracy_theories#/media/File:BarackObamaCertificationOfLiveBirthHawaii.jpg

            It was long since settled. All the organs of government so held. Trump insistence in the face of hard evidence that it wasn’t was an attack on our democracy. But it seems you only pretend to care about that.

          • johansenindustries says:

            @Brad

            Proof is in the eye of the beholder. I always thought that McCain was less likely to be natural born. That certificate on the other hand may have proved it to you. It still didn’t prove it to a quarter of the country – honestly, Brad, I think you may have been the only one convinced – and since better proof would have been so easily to present he should have presented it.

            Frankly, the idea that Obama wouldn’t show his full birth certificate because it would prove his being born elsewhere is in fact the more charitable explanation than the truth of his deliberately keeping the controversy alive for political gain.

          • John Schilling says:

            Trump kept calling for their conviction *after* someone else was convicted due to DNA evidence and they got a forty-one million settlement for false conviction.

            Yes, I am aware of this. I am also aware that Rex Parris kept calling on the courts to uphold the conviction of Raymond Lee Jennings in spite of his being exonerated by DNA evidence and ultimately released with a hefty settlement, with both Parris and Jennings being white. Please don’t make me go dig up other examples.

            “[X] was once arrested for a brutal rape and/or murder, therefore [X] is Guilty, Guilty, Guilty! and must be punished most severely, don’t bother me with your ‘DNA’ and proof of innocence and other suspects who may also be guilty, we’ve got a Guilty! person here who must be punished!”, is a stupid wrong thing that people have been doing for as long as we have records, and it is a stupid wrong thing that white people have been doing to other white people for as long as we have records.

            It is a stupid wrong thing that is NOT EVIDENCE OF RACISM, even if in a particular stupid wrong case it happens to be a stupid wrong white person doing it to innocent black people. And yes, I know that Donald Trump was particularly stupid and wrong about the Central Park Five. But you are still crying wolf.

          • Brad says:

            Hawaii doesn’t issue short form birth certificates with false information. Nor does any other state. So it would have been impossible to have had a different place birth on the other birth certificate form than on that birth certificate form hr provided. I’m not sure how an impossible explanation can possibly be charitable.

            As for the 1/4 of the population, for which you still haven’t actually provided any evidence, again I don’t see any relevance. If anything it just goes to show how damaging Trump and people like him were in their attacks on American democracy.

          • skef says:

            Frankly, the idea that Obama wouldn’t show his full birth certificate because it would prove his being born elsewhere is in fact the more charitable explanation than the truth of his deliberately keeping the controversy alive for political gain.

            Well, not any more, right? Unless you’re arguing today that he was not born in Hawaii.

          • johansenindustries says:

            @skef

            Well, not any more, right? Unless you’re arguing today that he was not born in Hawaii.

            No, it is still more charitable to think that he really wanted to President and had no choice. Than to think he did it deliberately as a cheap tactic.

            Even with him having released the long-form and nothing incriminating coming from it, the charitable explanation is still that he didn’t know what was on it and was paranoid about it.

            We should not extend to Obama the charitable explanation. The charitable explanation has never been credible to me. That still doesn’t change what the charitable explanation is.

            (Most on the left, of course, would never look for for an explanation being happy to simply drink Tea Party tears. It is not unreasonable for the right to do otherwise.)

            @Brad

            As for the 1/4 of the population, for which you still haven’t actually provided any evidence, again I don’t see any relevance.

            As I said before when said that, you were the one to link to the Wkipedia article. If you disagree with the article that you linked to and the CNN and Harris Polls that the article you posted cited, then say so directly.

            If anything it just goes to show how damaging Trump and people like him were in their attacks on American democracy.

            It is absurd to blame Trump for the state of things before he intervened. Trump stepped in and resolved the issue before the 2012 election like a good statesman should. To blame Trump for the state of things before he got involved run counter to causality and is simply lunacy and demagoguery.

          • skef says:

            No, it is still more charitable to think that he really wanted to President and had no choice. Than to think he did it deliberately as a cheap tactic.

            You don’t seem to be using “charitable” with the epistemic sense that it most often has here.

            There’s nothing epistemically uncharitable in ascribing a self-interested motivation. And the circumstances required to account for doubt on Obama’s part seem absurdly unlikely. I presume his parents would have needed to forge the short form, on this theory? And given that his mother was unquestionably a U.S. citizen, they would have done this in the 1960s so that he could be a natural born citizen, in anticipation of his running for president?

          • Brad says:

            The issue was definitively resolved in June 2008. Obama is not responsible for your faulty reasoning abilities. Maybe blame your schoolteachers. Or parents.

          • johansenindustries says:

            @skef

            I may be using the term differently from how it is usually used here. Is there a term used here for what ‘charitable’ means elsewhere(merciful or kind in judging others)?Whatever that term is I mean that. Trying to ascribe to Obama the least wicked and least demonstrative of malice possible motive.

            @ Brad

            Things are resolved when they are resolved. Not when Brad or anyone else thinks they ought to be resolved. Can’t get an is from an ought.

            It has been said that Trump wading in in 2010 was instrumental in his gaining the platform that let him win in 2016. If those people aren’t just talking out of their backside, then the situation could not have already been resolved in 2008.

          • Brad says:

            @johansenindustries

            It has been said that Trump wading in in 2010 was instrumental in his gaining the platform that let him win in 2016. If those people aren’t just talking out of their backside, then the situation could not have already been resolved in 2008.

            Why not? A perfectly reasonable explanation for that sequence of events is that Trump first gained the admiration of what would become his base by pandering to their racism.

            I don’t see any reason to give the benefit of the doubt to those that refused themselves to acknowledge reality even when there was no reasonable doubt left.

          • skef says:

            Is there a term used here for what ‘charitable’ means elsewhere(merciful or kind in judging others)?Whatever that term is I mean that. Trying to ascribe to Obama the least wicked and least demonstrative of malice possible motive.

            “Sympathetic” isn’t far off.

            I don’t think it’s hard to do a bit better. After many accusations that he was born in Kenya, Obama released a document with the legal status of a birth certificate. (That is, a document that is accepted as a birth certificate in legal situations that require one.) Then many people said they wanted to see a different document. At that point he might have quire reasonably concluded that the people in question would never be satisfied.

            “Everything would have been settled if he had released the long form at the time” is a politicized claim with dubious support.

          • johansenindustries says:

            @Brad

            Just saying ‘racism’ doesn’t constitute an argument. Can you give another example of a person managing to get political cout by entering a political dispute that was resolved two years earlier?

            @Skef

            That the issue was resolved when Obama released his long-form certificate is something you don’t deny, do you?

            So you think the most sympathetic explanation is ‘Obama thinks we*’re all disingenious liars, so just can’t be bothered to try to satisfy as we’re unsatisfiable’?

            When we’re talking about the scale that we are talling about, that doesn’t strike me as being much more sympathic than Obama is worried that he was secretly born in Kenya (regardless of the probability of the possibilities, which is unrelated to sympathy)

            *’we’ of course refering to the people anking for and wondering why Obama wouldn’t release his long-form.

          • dndnrsn says:

            If a left-wing proposal to simplify the tax code included a bunch of stuff removing loopholes etc that benefit, say, fossil-fuel manufacturers – would it be fair to speculate that an urge to harm fossil fuel manufacturers is at play?

            One would not have to speculate. They would be loudly boasting about punishing the evil fossic fuel companies.

            If they’re not boasting about punishing the fossil fuel companies and it just happens to hurt them, then no I do not think that it would be fair to think that they are lying about what reason they do give and are in fact motivated by hate for fossil fuel companies.

            So, the only way to know if people are motivated by who-whom motivations is to pay attention to what they’re saying – it’s never fair to speculate about somebody’s unspoken motivations if they give you a different explanation?

            Having to kill somebndy to defend your own life is bad. Self-defence and bad aren’t opposites. ‘but on the left to “principles.”’, I’m certainly not. What somebody (left or right) is making a particular effort to publicise is obviously and innately marketing. It is when we get to beleifs that we can start talking about principals. If both sides agree that something is bad but its worse optics for one side then the fact that is is the other side publicises does not tell us about their principles.

            I was refering to ‘What’s the trouble with Kansas’. But its definitely good evidence – if there was a culture and all you knew about it was that it had fourty words for snow would you think they were as likely from the Sahara desert and Alaska?

            You’re deriving an awful lot from Lenin saying something one time; this isn’t remotely in the same ballpark as “forty words for snow.” If you were talking about communists, hey, maybe, but I fail to see how Lenin saying something pithy one time is somehow characteristic of The Left.

            Yes they didn’t need a book – “quite the big thing in left-liberal circles ten or fifteen years ago” – to begin understanding why others voted against them [Yes I know, you didn’t need a book to tell you anything]. Ussain Bolt wouldn’t have had a hit racing career if many other people could run as fast as him. Thomas Frank wouldn’t have had a hit book if many other people on the left could simply look at Kansas and go ‘They probably have principles’.

            OK, but you’re using “left-wing people in general are bad at understanding the Republican voter base” as a standin for “left-wing people in general don’t have principles”. Those statements aren’t the same thing at all. I will admit that there is a very strong tendency on the mainstream left and the far left to be bad at understanding the Republican voter base. But that’s not the same question as to where you can find more people with principles.

            I would call Thomas Frank the exception that proves the rule. But a brief look at his Wikipedia page says that he’s a former college Republican who has also wrote a book critical of the Democrats, so he doesn’t actually appear to be of the left.

            He criticizes the Democrats from the left, as I understand it; Thomas Frank can safely say to be of the left.

            There are many reasons. You have been reading them. Do you accept the existance of a great number of persons with principles? Do you accept that if those people were often found on the left then one would not be able to write a hit book exploring the rise of anti-elistist conservatism in the USA? Do you accept that such a book was a hit?

            Again, how does having principles yourself make you good at understanding the principles of others? Every left-winger in the US could be principled; they could still fail to understand the right. And vice versa. In my experience people with strongly-held principles are the worst at understanding the other side.

            But guys in comboy hats didn’t punch commies to go away. You need to explain why they don’t exist. You say that difference today is because of the differences yesterday.

            But how do you explain the differences yesterday when commies were infecting higher education or sports (or wherever) and there was still this lack of vigilante violence on the right?

            Easy answers: because academia involves fewer fistfights than punk concerts in general, and, wait, what commies are we talking about? When did commies infect sports?

            I also refer to the right as a monotholic entity. Is that pure ingroup homogenity bias? Or is it just thinking that the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ do – in some areas, such as this one – cut reality at the joints?

            Your characterization of everyone on the left as being more into who-whom than everyone on the right because Lenin coined a phrase. What in the world is Lenin supposed to have to do with me? If Lenin had said “he who smelt it dealt it” what would that say about the left? This isn’t carving reality at the joints. The joint between Lenin and a left-liberal is narrower than the joint between a left-liberal and a mainstream conservative. At the very least, the latter two are less likely to kill each other than Lenin is to kill either.

          • johansenindustries says:

            So, the only way to know if people are motivated by who-whom motivations is to pay attention to what they’re saying – it’s never fair to speculate about somebody’s unspoken motivations if they give you a different explanation?

            ‘Never’ goes too far. As I said before there is no such thing as an absolute. But yes on the who you should assume that they are motivated by what they say they are motivated by.

            You’re deriving an awful lot from Lenin saying something one time; this isn’t remotely in the same ballpark as “forty words for snow.” If you were talking about communists, hey, maybe, but I fail to see how Lenin saying something pithy one time is somehow characteristic of The Left.

            When I said ‘Is not the fact that there’s a pithy phrase for the left-wing’ this was immediately after quoting you using the phrase ‘What’s the matter with Kansas’. When you mistook it as referring to Who? Whom? I stated “I was refering to ‘What’s the trouble with Kansas’.” You then quoted that.

            If I point out Lenin. Don’t see how he’s representitive of the Left. The Guardian. don’t see how that’s representative of the left. Punks/Antifa. Don’t see how that’s representative of the left. The popularity of a book whose shock thesis is ‘Republicans have values’. “What’s Lenin got to do with me”. You don’t like Lenin? Fine then deal with my tens of other examples. Although, frankly, if you are on the left then you almost certainly like someone who admires someone who aspired to be like Lenin.

            He criticizes the Democrats from the left, as I understand it; Thomas Frank can safely say to be of the left.

            Yeah, I read more. He was a Bernie voter.

            OK, but you’re using “left-wing people in general are bad at understanding the Republican voter base” as a standin for “left-wing people in general don’t have principles”. Those statements aren’t the same thing at all. I will admit that there is a very strong tendency on the mainstream left and the far left to be bad at understanding the Republican voter base. But that’s not the same question as to where you can find more people with principles.

            Again, how does having principles yourself make you good at understanding the principles of others? Every left-winger in the US could be principled; they could still fail to understand the right. And vice versa. In my experience people with strongly-held principles are the worst at understanding the other side.

            It is not about not understanding the principles of one’s opponents, but assuming that those principles don’t exist and that the person must be stupid. If the left were accusing the right of haviing principles, were simply getting it wrong then that would suggest the left have principles. But they don’t. If you think the right has principles but you don’t know what they are then you can try reading David Brooks. It is the insight that they’re not stupid but have principles that let’s you get a hit book.

            There’s a habit of people thinking their opponents are their opposites. That one’s opponents accepts one’s framing but just takes the opposite side. We see this when the right scream “You hate freedom!”, “You hate tradition” and the left show “You hate black people” “You hate gay people”. Which are principles. Which are principals? Is there a counter-example I’m missing?

            A person motivated by principles will naturally assume that his opponents are motivated by principles. An identitarian will assume his opponent is motivated by identitariasm. Can you name a left-wing news source that if speculating on the right’s motive are clearly dominated by assumptions of principles (perhaps equality, to give an example) rather than motivated by malice to a group or being in cahoots with another?

          • Guy in TN says:

            It’s easy to mistake someone who has principles very different from yours for not having principles at all.

            We see this when the right scream “You hate freedom!”, “You hate tradition” and the left show “You hate black people” “You hate gay people”. Which are principles. Which are principals? Is there a counter-example I’m missing?

            Are you implying that this cherry-picked rhetoric is evidence that the Left is lacking in principles? Flipping it is easy. When the Right says “you hate America” or “you hate Christianity”, and the Left says “you hate equal rights” and “you are greedy”, who is arguing from principles here?

          • Guy in TN says:

            Also, the dichotomy of “principles vs. identity politics” isn’t all that clear cut, or informative. Politicians often try to appeal to certain segments of the population because those segments share the same principles as them.

            Its like if a politician said “we are the party of Christians” instead of “we are the party of Christianity”. Is saying the former proof that they are actually insincere about their Christian beliefs, and are instead just playing “identity politics”?

            There are reasons, ethical principles, why the Left supports what on the surface appear to be an unrelated coalition of people like homosexuals, Black Americans, and immigrants. These principles are things like support equal rights, the elimination of social hierarchy, and economic utilitarianism in general.

          • skef says:

            So you think the most sympathetic explanation is ‘Obama thinks we*’re all disingenious liars, so just can’t be bothered to try to satisfy as we’re unsatisfiable’?

            Before he released the short form, people demanding that he release his birth certificate as evidence he was born in the United States. He did so. Then they weren’t satisfied. So an unhealthy mix of “disingenuous liars” and “delusional” seems about right.

            It’s not unsympathetic to him just because it’s unsympathetic to other people. And it’s not unreasonable to be unsympathetic to the people in question given that they didn’t accept that a birth certificate was a birth certificate.

          • @Skef:

            If I correctly understand this argument–I don’t actually remember the details of the controversy–Obama first released the short form document that supported his place of birth and then, some years later, the long form. The first release did not persuade all the skeptics, the second did–or at least most of them.

            If that is correct, what is your explanation for the several year delay? johansenindustries’ explanation, as I understand it, is that Obama thought he benefited politically by the fact that some people were unreasonably skeptical on the issue, presumably because they were not going to vote for him anyway and their unjustified skepticism made his opponents look bad.

            Do you agree with that explanation, and if so do you agree that it was a base motive? If not, what is your explanation? Saying that everyone should have been convinced by the short form may be true, but it isn’t an explanation.

          • skef says:

            If that is correct, what is your explanation for the several year delay? johansenindustries’ explanation, as I understand it, is that Obama thought he benefited politically by the fact that some people were unreasonably skeptical on the issue, presumably because they were not going to vote for him anyway and their unjustified skepticism made his opponents look bad.

            Do you agree with that explanation, and if so do you agree that it was a base motive? If not, what is your explanation? Saying that everyone should have been convinced by the short form may be true, but it isn’t an explanation.

            I disagree with a number of aspects of his characterization, most of which have to do with an unrealistic application of hindsight to the whole ordeal.

            First, the demands for the long form were of a different nature than the previous demands for a birth certificate. There is a constitutional rule that presidents must be natural born citizens. The demand for proof of that status was unusual, but given that his father was foreign and he had spent time when he was young in a foreign country, doubt about his origin was comprehensible. So he released his birth certificate. Demands for the long form implied fraud on his part or, at best, his parents’, in forging a short form. Meeting a demand to produce a document on the part of people accusing you of having forged a document makes for a losing battle. It was entirely reasonable for him to ignore those people at the time.

            It may have been a political miscalculation on his part, in that he may have assumed that a higher percentage of people would have seen that this implicit accusation of fraud crossed a line. But people at the time did largely understand that the people demanding the long form were not reasonable, and at least bordering on conspiracy theorists. And he did get elected.

            Second, the timing of the release of the long form is clearly tied to the strategy for the campaign for his second term. At that point, no one thought there was a live legal issue about his eligibility, and basically everyone was going to vote for or against him based on a) their assessment of his first term and b) other political commitments. One reason to take that step would be “let’s put this whole thing to bed.” Another would be to remind voters that a subset of his critics were at least borderline conspiracy theorists. There may also have been a “fuck you” element to it, directed to those who had implicitly accused him or his parents of fraud.

            The claim on the part of birthers that “we would have been satisfied by his producing the long form” is, as I said earlier, dubious. The claim that Obama “waited years to settle the issue” rests on it, because it assumes that he could have settled it at the time. I consider it an attempt on the part of a group that had wound up looking foolish in the eyes of most to look somewhat less foolish. That doesn’t imply a lie — there is no implication of a forgery, for example — they might just see themselves now as more reasonable and less motivated by politics (and the other thing) than they are.

          • johansenindustries says:

            @Guy in TN

            I think there would be a huge difference between Christianity and Christians. If there isn’t, then why don’t we see people using both rather than just using Christianity.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @johansenindustries

            A person motivated by principles will naturally assume that his opponents are motivated by principles.

            I think this is the core of the dispute. I disagree with this; I certainly don’t think it’s sure enough that you can make it a key part of your argument. In my experience, people with strong principles usually thinks their principles are the right principles, and so someone who disagrees with them clearly has something wrong with them. Even if they attribute principles to their opponents, they usually get the principles wrong, and identify their opponent as having principles, but evil ones.

            The statement “people with principles generally identify their opponent as having principles” (with the addendum that, further, they are good at identifying those principles properly) is one that needs some backing up.

        • Creutzer says:

          Yes, we’re all sticklers for correct terminology here, but “religionist” hasn’t really caught on as a term so I’m not going to flip out over it.

          Oh, but the difference should be made, because it’s nowhere near clear to me that religionism is as bad as racism.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Indeed, objection to Thugee or the old religion of the Mexica is completely understandable.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Nybbler, I’ve long thought that the framers of the US Bill of Rights owed an enormous debt to the conquistadors for converting the Mexica to Christianity. Without them, the Free Exercise clause would have been suicidal.

          • quaelegit says:

            @Le Maistre Chat —

            I’m confused. Why would non-Christian Mexica (who are thousands of miles away in the Valley of Mexico) be more of a problem for the U.S. than the other non-Christian Native Americans who were actually in U.S. claimed (or intending-to-be-claimed) territory?

            Edit: oh, are you saying that if human sacrifice was still practiced in Mexico in the 18th century it would have caused a problem for the Founding Fathers? It seems pretty easy to route around by adding “except no human sacrifice” or something. And also, still, the non-Christian religions of the Native Americans they actually had contact with didn’t seem to cause a problem with respect to the free exercise clause specifically.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @quealegit: you raise a good point. I’d say the Free exercise of human sacrifice problem didn’t come up with tribe’s north of Mexico, but I have this nagging memory that there were indeed homicidal rituals in some tribes on US-claimed soil well into g the 19th century.
            I don’t have the link handy, but when I can I’ll post an interesting article about a Navajo archaeologist controversial for claiming that the Ancestral Pueblo culture (Anasazi to him) killed and ate people and post-Columbian rituals of the region are designed to keep the dark god of that era away.

          • Nornagest says:

            I can’t think of any off the top of my head, but I’d be surprised if at least one of the dozens of native North American religions didn’t do human sacrifice. Native Hawaiian religion definitely did. Not on the scale of the Mexica, but it’s well documented. The practice died out with colonization, but I don’t know how or if the legal system got involved.

            I do know that the Sun Dance of the Plains cultures was banned for a long time. No human sacrifice in that one, but it’s reputedly pretty nasty to Anglo eyes.

        • Anonymous says:

          As if racism was the only way something could be evil, so if it’s not racist, it must be okay.

          Overusing the “racism” card, especially in situations where it doesn’t apply, does make it sound as if “racism” is the only possible evil. Indeed, that racism is evil, and evil is racism. No need for nuance of any sort, or to correctly label bad things, so long as the alleged perpetrator is branded with something, right?

          Yes, we’re all sticklers for correct terminology here, but “religionist” hasn’t really caught on as a term so I’m not going to flip out over it.

          “Islamophobe” is the correct accusation here. “Bigot” and “xenophobe” are more generic but may apply. “Racist” is not.

          • LewisT says:

            Overusing the “racism” card, especially in situations where it doesn’t apply, does make it sound as if “racism” is the only possible evil.

            Even children pick up on this abuse of language. Hence why they mockingly accuse each other of being “racist against fat people.”

        • Aapje says:

          @beleester

          The defining characteristic of racism is that it is hatred of something that the other person cannot change and that does not define their behavior. Criticisms of culture* are fundamentally different because one can change their culture and culture often makes people behave in certain ways.

          If criticizing culture is racism, then criticizing ISIS culture is racism and being anti-terrorist is racism.

          Ergo, it is useful to be far more nuanced about objecting to those who criticize cultures than those who criticize races.

          * Like religion

          • albatross11 says:

            Aapje:

            That’s a defining feature of many kinds of prejudice or bigotry outside racism. There are surely people who aren’t racist by any reasonable definition, but who despise gays. It wouldn’t make any sense to call them racist.

            “Racist” in particular is thrown around so often and so sloppily in US politics that it’s really important to nail down what you mean. Personally, I think the word should be tabooed, and the speaker should replace it with a more precise statement of what they mean in most discussions.

          • Viliam says:

            Criticism of culture is the opposite of racism. It means taking the opposing position at the “nature or nurture” scale when explaining behavior. (I am not saying that reverse stupidity is intelligence; only that reverse is reverse.)

            If Islam does not explain the behavior of ISIS, then what does? It could either be some inherent inferiority of the brown people — and I guess no politically correct person wants to go explicitly there (although a few make large enough hints in that direction; I mean the whole idea that your color of skin completely determines your identity is already halfway there, you just have to be socially savvy never to bring it to the obvious conclusion) — or we have to pretend that nothing happened, or that everything is completely random and unpredictable. (And there is always the option to disregard all context and simply proclaim: “patriarchy did it”.)

            Also, it is very harmful to blame minority members for “internalized racism” if they criticize the culture they grew up in. Ayaan Hirsi Ali can’t say that she regrets being genitally mutilated, or we put her on a list of hate speakers. The message is: if you are a member of a minority, and you see any mistake made by your community, and would like to improve it… just shut up! You are allowed to blame cishet white non-Muslim males, and that’s where your freedom of speech effectively ends. And this is supposed to somehow help the minorities. Apparently, only the whites are mature enough to be able to receive criticism and use it to improve themselves. And that opinion is somehow not racist.

        • Randy M says:

          If you don’t want the conversation to be derailed, start out with accurate terminology.

    • MrApophenia says:

      The original claim in the “crying wolf” post was that Trump was no more racist – measured specifically by his friendliness to white supremacists – than other Republican Presidents or candidates.

      Given that every living Republican President before Trump and nearly every living Republican presidential candidate put out statements after Charlottesville specifically to clarify that they do not agree with Trump’s views on white supremacists, I can’t see how that claim is still defensible.

      You can still argue that Trump is not himself a white supremacist and is simply more willing than past Republicans to ingratiate himself to them – but that still marks a substantive difference from past Republican candidates and presidents.

      • johansenindustries says:

        What are Trump’s views on white supremacists?

        As I remember it, although he objected to violent self-proclaimed anti-fascists also, he did not have a single nice word to say about white supremacists in the aftermath of Charlottesville. Therefore, if they all disagreed, then surely Trump is the least racist Republican president if that is the metric being used.

        • Anonymous says:

          Trump’s just a normie.

        • MrApophenia says:

          The main point of contention was over whether there were “fine people” on both sides, with all other Republican candidates/presidents clarifying that they do not believe there were fine people on the KKK side of the rally.

          On the broader level, many people pointed out the oddness of Trump’s response to that issue being essentially the only time he has ever looked for nuance and tried to see both sides of an issue. When a Muslim kills someone, we must ban all Muslims; when a white supremacist kills someone, we must remember that many of the people waving Nazi flags did not actually kill anyone, and also some liberals were punching people!

          I mean, shit, I know a lot of people find it difficult to see anything weird about Trump’s response to Charlottesville- but think of it this way: it is basically unprecedented to have all the past presidents & candidates (not to mention Congressmen) from your own party issue statements specifically disagreeing with you on something, on any topic. That never happens.

          The leaders of the Republican Party think Trump is more racist than they’re comfortable with.

          • johansenindustries says:

            @MrApophenia

            I had a really long post that was eaten. Presumably I used a banned word – can’t think what it was.

            Bullet points:

            I don’t believe that Trump ever has changed his position based on ‘a Muslim kills someone’. It is possible that a Muslim killing someone gives him the opportunity to speak of his immigration policy, but that’s just like Charlottesville gave him the opportunity to condemn white supremacists and the violent left.

            One of trump’s earliest scandals was saying about a terrible group ‘and some I assume are good people’ condemning a group while suggesting that some of its members might be good people is perfectly Trumplike.

            Being decent and seeing the decency is what let Trump win crucial states over Clinton.

            ‘all the past presidents & candidates’ is false. That not correct. A subset did. If we look at the subset: McCain, Romney, and the Bushes are losers who suck. They didn’t vote for him. They are opposed to MAGA, there is no reason to think their criticism is anyway related to ‘Trump is more racist than they’re comfortable with’

          • Anonymous says:

            @johansenindustries

            I had a really long post that was eaten. Presumably I used a banned word – can’t think what it was.

            In this situation, you might try to “go back” in your browser, then open up the reply box again. Depending on how your browser does form data, your post might still be in there.

          • Brad says:

            ‘all the past presidents & candidates’ is false. That not correct. A subset did. If we look at the subset: McCain, Romney, and the Bushes are losers who suck.

            If two Presidents, a long time Senator, and a successful businessman and Governor are losers in your mind, you must have quite the impressive resume. Let’s see it.

          • johansenindustries says:

            @Brad

            Its not in my mind. There were big elections. Huge things. I’m surprised you missed them all. Three of them loss directly. All of them lost when their favoured candidate got toasted by Trump.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            From an article about the “fine people” comment:

            “You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people on both sides,” Trump said Tuesday. “You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of — to them — a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.”

            The park — where white supremacist groups had gathered to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee — was renamed Emancipation Park in June.

            “Are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson?” Trump said, identifying both former presidents as slave owners. “You know what? It’s fine. You’re changing history, you’re changing culture. And you had people — and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists because they should be condemned totally — but you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, and the press has treated them very unfairly.

            Emphasis mine. He was not calling the neo-nazis and the white nationalists “fine people,” he specifically condemned them. He was talking about the people who were there merely opposed to the removal of the statue, but were either not aware of or not part of the nazi/WN groups.

            There were fine people on both sides, who were probably naive or stupid. For instance, here’s the picture of the aftermath of the car attack. See the black flags, the red flags, the red and black flags? These are socialists, anarchists, communists. These are not nice people. Not fine people. But if you zoom in there’s some schlep there in a Gary Johnson t-shirt looking quite overwhelmed. That’s probably a fine person who thought he was going out to confront “hate” and did not necessarily understand that he was also marching with the sorts of people who want to use state power to enslave his libertarian ass.

            So, back to crying wolf. Trump specifically condemns the hate group people, states that when he’s speaking positively of anyone there he’s specifically not talking about the hate group people, and only the people who were there in support of not tearing down historical landmarks, and you and the media are running with “Trump thinks nazis and kkk are ‘fine people.'” Still crying wolf.

          • Matt M says:

            So, back to crying wolf. Trump specifically condemns the hate group people, states that when he’s speaking positively of anyone there he’s specifically not talking about the hate group people, and only the people who were there in support of not tearing down historical landmarks, and you and the media are running with “Trump thinks nazis and kkk are ‘fine people.’” Still crying wolf.

            Yep. When the most nuanced analysis of an event is coming from Donald Trump, that’s when you know you’re crying wolf.

            To clarify, Trump’s statement was: There were very bad people here. There were Nazis. I condemn them. There were also very bad people on the left. I condemn them as well. But there were also some fine people there, marching on both sides of this event.

            The boiler plate Congressional statement was: THIS EVENT WAS FULL OF NAZIS! NAZIS ARE BAD! NOBODY IS ALLOWED TO CLARIFY THIS IN ANY OTHER WAY OR THEY ARE SUPPORTING NAZIS!!

          • albatross11 says:

            And these quotes are one reason why it’s hard to take a lot of prestige media outrage coverage of Trump at face value. Because the excerpted quotes and the public discussion were 180 degrees out of phase with this.

            This would be bad if he were merely an average president doing some dumb things because he got dealt a bad hand and played it poorly, as with W. But it’s a lot worse with Trump, who IMO is really unsuited to be president, and whose hobby seems to be taking a fire ax to the nearest bit of Chesterton’s fence he can find. We need *accurate and honest* reporting of the stuff he does. We get *inaccurate and overblown and dishonest* reporting of the stuff he does, which has the effect of masking a lot of the worst of his actions behind a smokescreen of his enemies’ lies about him.

          • MrApophenia says:

            The notion that there was some contingent of people there who innocently showed up to protest the statue removal and were shocked to discover Nazis is wrong on its face. This was a protest arranged by white nationalists and neo-Nazis with an explicit, openly stated mission statement of trying to get the mainstream right to accept that they are all serving the same cause. That’s why it wasn’t named something about Robert E. Lee and was instead called “Unite the Right.” This wasn’t some innocent protest crashed by a bunch of racists, it was a Klan rally from the get-go.

            As opposed to the counter-protestors, who were the usual batch of types who show up to counter-protest Klan rallies, from communists to antifa to people who just feel strongly opposed to Nazis having a rally in their local park.

            The best case argument for Trump is that he honestly didn’t know that. And Trump is pretty stupid, so sure, that’s plausible. But I want you to really consider an equivalent scenario:

            An explicitly pro-ISIS group holds a rally in support of imposing sharia law in the US. A bunch of people show up waving ISIS and Al Quieda flags, the crowd chants about killing infidels, and one of them kills a counter-protestor.

            A Democratic President gets up on stage and says that, sure, ISIS and Al Quieda are bad, but there were lots of nice moderate Muslims at that rally, and they shouldn’t be judged too harshly.

            Reasonable response?

          • LewisT says:

            @MrApophenia

            An explicitly pro-ISIS group holds a rally in support of imposing sharia law in the US. A bunch of people show up waving ISIS and Al Quieda flags, the crowd chants about killing infidels, and one of them kills a counter-protestor.

            A Democratic President gets up on stage and says that, sure, ISIS and Al Quieda are bad, but there were lots of nice moderate Muslims at that rally, and they shouldn’t be judged too harshly.

            Reasonable response?

            Not a good analogy. In your hypothetical, what innocuous cause does the Democratic version of Trump think the moderate Muslims were rallying in favor of? If he thinks that they were rallying in support of imposing sharia law in the US, he absolutely shouldn’t exonerate them. Sharia law is incompatible with US law, and so it should be obvious that the entire rally is worthy of condemnation.

            In the real-life situation, the protesters were ostensibly protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, which is a perfectly legitimate cause. It is not unreasonable to assume that some of those protesting the removal of the Lee statue were non-violent, non-Nazi, non-white-supremacist protestors.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            The notion that there was some contingent of people there who innocently showed up to protest the statue removal and were shocked to discover Nazis is wrong on its face.

            I find your in-depth knowledge of the composition and ideology of the entire crowd there quite impressive. And the way you switch from “Alt-Right” to “Neo-Nazi” to “A Klan Rally” really makes the case that you’re being precise and factual in your analysis and not simply slinging terms with maximal emotional load across as wide a range of people as you can.

            As for what the exact ratio of white supremacists to neo-nazis to KKK members to Non-Racist Southern Pride types to various other flavors, I don’t know. Based on the footage I’ve seen, it seems pretty clear that the goats outnumbered the sheep by a wide margin. It’s equally clear from the footage and the reporting that it was not an all-goat event, especially during the earlier phase before the protest was moved out of its original planned location.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t think your example is reasonable. You need something that’s object-level popular. The vast majority of Americans (including black Americans) are not in favor of tearing down historical monuments. If you want a source I can dig around, but the last poll I saw (shortly after Charlottesville) was something like only 25% of people in favor of tearing down monuments, with ~64% opposed and ~11% don’t know. And the survey comp was biased towards Democrats, who are more likely to be in favor of removal anyway. Lots of people are against taking down monuments but are not at all in favor of WN/NPI, White Supremacists, KKK or Nazis.

            So, consider instead a “Freedom of Religion” rally, sponsored by an Islamic group that hadn’t killed anyone yet (NPI is not ISIS or Al Qaeda tier), and then one of them goes full snackbar and blows people up. Yes, I can believe there are plenty of non-Muslim Islamapologists who would show up to such an event, in favor of religious freedom, and then be shocked, totally shocked when limbs start flying. I would fully expect a Democratic politician to then say #NotAllMuslims and talk about the fine people who were there to support religious freedom when the event tragically turned violent by one extremist who was probably only doing it because of right-wing Islamophobic rhetoric anyway so really we need to blame the Republicans.

            ETA: Also I agree with Trofim. There is what I call the left’s “One Drop Rule of Nazis:” if there’s one Nazi in any group of people then it’s all Nazis. I’ve only seen this one guy with a Nazi flag, and given that it looks like he just took the flag out of the wrapper that morning, I don’t know how serious he is about his Nazism. You’d think any self-respecting Nazi would bother to iron his flag.

          • Matt M says:

            The notion that there was some contingent of people there who innocently showed up to protest the statue removal and were shocked to discover Nazis is wrong on its face.

            The fact that you knew Nazis were going to be there and you still showed up does not make you a Nazi.

            The fact that you happen to agree with Nazis on Issue X, with Issue X being virtually anything other than “kill Jews” does not make you a Nazi.

            The fact that you march alongside Nazis in support of Issue X does not make you a Nazi.

            I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If Nazis are the only ones willing to march for causes I believe in, then I will march with Nazis. I won’t march with them when they support causes I don’t believe in. If you want to call me a Nazi because of that then so be it, but I’m not playing this game anymore.

          • MrApophenia says:

            But again, that’s precisely my point. They weren’t holding a “Respect our history” rally, they were holding a “Unite the Right” rally which really was organized by neo-Nazis, the Klan, and other white nationalists. The only thing General Lee had to do with it was what park they picked.

            And again, the original question wasnt whether Trump should be nuanced about white supremacists. The question was whether he was different from normal Republicans. There clearly is, because even you guys are attacking normal Republicans for their un-nuanced condemnation of Nazis.

            The question wasn’t whether you think Trump is right, it was whether there was a difference between Trump and other Republicans on the subject.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            But Trump “totally condemned” the nazis and white supremacists.

            What exactly is the problem?

            I’m not trying to convince you of anything. You were anti-Trump before this and anti-Trump after this.

            I:

            1) Support Trump.

            2) Do not support Nazis, KKK, Richard Spencer, or white nationalism or supremacy.

            3) Do not support removing confederate statues.

            You’re the one trying to convince me to not support Trump, by telling me he supports Nazis, KKK, Spencer, WN/WS. But when I look at Trump’s words, he “totally condemns” nazis and white supremacists. I’m in agreement with Trump here, find your argument unpersuasive, and think you must either have reading comprehension problems, or are intellectually dishonest. I cannot find any reading of Trump’s statements that bear out the assertion that he thinks nazis/kkk/WN/WS are “fine people,” unless “totally condemns” means the exact opposite of what I think it means.

          • Brad says:

            Matt M

            I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If Nazis are the only ones willing to march for causes I believe in, then I will march with Nazis. I won’t march with them when they support causes I don’t believe in. If you want to call me a Nazi because of that then so be it, but I’m not playing this game anymore.

            You’ll get fired from your cushy job for doing so and I won’t be outraged over that. Just so you are on notice and can’t pull a Damore whining about how could you have possibly known.

            @johansenindustries

            Its not in my mind. There were big elections. Huge things. I’m surprised you missed them all. Three of them loss directly. All of them lost when their favoured candidate got toasted by Trump.

            And you’ve what, never lost anything in your life? If that’s your definition of loser than everyone in the world is a loser. What a worthless point.

          • Matt M says:

            The question wasn’t whether you think Trump is right, it was whether there was a difference between Trump and other Republicans on the subject.

            Of course there’s a difference. “Other republicans” are whining sniveling do-nothings whose strategy consists of constantly apologizing to the left, and who constantly lose elections by doing so.

            Trump is different from that.

          • rlms says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko
            “It’s equally clear from the footage and the reporting that it was not an all-goat event, especially during the earlier phase before the protest was moved out of its original planned location.”
            Gavin McInnes didn’t go because he thought it was “too explicitly neo-Nazi”. What is the source of your in-depth knowledge of the composition and ideology of the entire crowd there that you disagree with him on the basis of?

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @RLMS

            What is the source of your in-depth knowledge of the composition and ideology of the entire crowd there that you disagree with him on the basis of?

            The claim Apophenia made was: “The notion that there was some contingent of people there who innocently showed up to protest the statue removal and were shocked to discover Nazis is wrong on its face.”

            If there was even ONE person there who was not an avowed white supremacist and/or neo-nazi, that claim is false. Much the same way the statement “Muslims are terrorists” is categorically false if we can show the example of even a single Muslim who is not a terrorist. I am not the one making claims of extraordinary knowledge here, RLMS.

            I am claiming that based on the video of the event I’ve watched, adn the reports I’ve read, I think there is room to conclude that there was at least one and most likely more than one person there who was not an avowed white supremacist and/or neo-nazi. Is that sufficiently clear?

          • johansenindustries says:

            @Brad

            If I lost something and then spent the rest of my days criticising the winner. Then people might think I was a bit sour and biased. We actually have a phrase for that.

          • rlms says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko
            To be pedantic, “some contingent of people” implies more than one person, and furthermore suggests an organised group. But getting to the crux of the issue: do you think it would be fair to describe the Unite The Right rally as overwhelmingly white nationalist? If so, I’m pretty sure that you agree with MrAphohenia and me about the facts, and hence should also conclude that Trump’s claim that “you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists” is incorrect (either because he has a different definition of white nationalist to us, or — more likely in my opinion — he assumed that it was a generic anti-statue-removal rally). If not, please link your examples of non-white-nationalist rally goers.

          • johansenindustries says:

            @rlms

            ‘Overwhelmingly’ doesn’t actually destroy mathematics. There were either fine people there or not. The number of non-fine people doesn’t change the actual statement.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            getting to the crux of the issue: do you think it would be fair to describe the Unite The Right rally as overwhelmingly white nationalist?

            Sure, for values of “overwhelmingly”. I think that once you discount the avowed white supremacist, neo-nazi, and/or KKK types there, as Trump did, you’re not left with his “many” but rather with a distinct minority of the participants.

            I think that attributing that “many” to him looking at the guys waving swastika signs and going “Yep, looks like a bunch of fine americans!” in his head is bullshit, and ignores that Trump is a walking embodiment of Hanlon’s Razor. It sounds like you and I are on the same page of that part at least.

            If so, I’m pretty sure that you agree with MrAphohenia and me about the facts,

            Apparently not, since MrApophenia claims that it is patently obvious that there exactly zero non-White Supremacists at the rally. My position is that it is not obvious that that is the case.

          • Brad says:

            Romney and McCain spend all their time criticizing Obama? Bush I, Clinton? Who did Bush II lose to again? Your ‘point’is totally incoherent.

            You’re like the fat guy at a bar that can’t walk a flight of steps without wheezing yelling at the TV that a professional athlete is a loser because he missed a catch.

            The people you are deriding as losers are far more accomplished than you are. If you claim we should discount their opinions because they
            are losers how much more so should we discount yours?

          • rlms says:

            @johansenindustries
            If you read my post carefully, you will see that Trump claimed there were “many” non-white-nationalists at the rally, which contradicts my statement that it was overwhelmingly white nationalist. It’s true that his statement about “fine people” was not qualified in such a way, but the obvious interpretation is that the two groups are the same (otherwise he’s saying there were many non-white-nationalists, but only some of them were fine). However, that’s beside the point. I’d be deeply worried if Trump claimed that there were fine people in ISIS, even though that’s certainly true. Wouldn’t you?

          • johansenindustries says:

            @rlms

            I disagree with you that there are fine people as part of ISIS. I think if you’re taking sufficient steps to be part of ISIS, then you’re not fine.

            I also disagree with what you’re implying that anyone who is not a white nationalist is fine. It is perfectly sensible to refer to only a subset of non-white nationalists as being fine.

            There can still be many non-white nationalists at a rally and it being “overwhelmingly”* white nationalist. For example, it is true that Texas voted overwhelmingly for Trump, but there are still many Hillary voters in Texas, no?

            However, imagine if a young muslim goes to a Musim United march organised by a hardline pro-sharia group. Do I want the President to condem that young man? No. I want him to condemn the group and offer the hand of deradicalisation to the young man.

            * This might seem as if it is just being pedantic, but I think it really gets to the thinking: What did they overwhelm?

          • Matt M says:

            You’re agonizing over the question of how many “good people” would show up at a rally that has been advertised as white nationalist.

            I could counter by asking how many “good people” show up to a counter-protest that has been explicitly advertised as “stop these white nationalists from exercising their lawful, constitutionally protected right to assemble because we disagree with them”

            If you are part of the group that caused the police to unconstitutionally break up a lawfully permitted rally due to fears of escalating violence, I’m not sure how much moral high ground you get to claim here.

          • John Schilling says:

            So, consider instead a “Freedom of Religion” rally, sponsored by an Islamic group that hadn’t killed anyone yet (NPI is not ISIS or Al Qaeda tier),

            As an analogy to actual, swastika-wearing Nazis? That fails on account of actual Nazis have killed lots of people. Millions of them, in a horrific manner and with no justification.

            Not so much American Nazis specifically, but the only reason anyone ever becomes any kind of post-1945 Nazi in any country at all is because they think that Hitler fellow had some fine ideas and that we could use some of that kind of thinking around here. Seriously, I don’t think ideology or group anywhere has undergone the sort of evaporative cooling than has Nazism. Aside from Hitler and the Holocaust, there is nothing the Nazis have to offer that other groups can’t provide at less social cost, and is there any group anywhere whose social membership costs are as high as the Literal Nazis?

            People wearing actual swastikas and other Nazi iconography are signalling allegiance to Adolf Hitler and everything he stand for. People standing next to people wearing actual swastikas, are the moral equivalent of Benito Mussolini or pre-1941 Josef Stalin, signalling that they believe their ends are so righteous as to justify any means. The best that can be said about any of them is that they are a puny evil, but they are still evil. This applies only to literal swastika-wearing and/or sieg-heiling Nazis, not to everyone against whom “Nazi!” has been screamed, but it does apply to the actual Nazis and any analogies need to match that.

          • johansenindustries says:

            @John Schilling

            ‘The only reason anyone ever becomes any kind of post-1945 Muslim in any country at all is because they think that Mohammed fellow had some fine ideas and that we could use some of that kind of thinking around here.’ is a statement of fact and Mohammed went to war to kill a great deal of people. He’s not Hitler, but the fact that he’s not the icon of evil just limits the reasons to be a Muslim.

            There are however numerous reasons why one might go out cosplaying as a Nazi at a protest: 1. To be edgy 2. As a laugh 3. To offend people 4. To try to push the Overton window 5. To demonstrate American freedoms; probably more that I can’t think of.

            For example, Prince Harry went out in a Nazi uniform – not at a political event, but he’s a Prince everything is essentially political – would you call him an evil racist who wants to murder all the jews?

          • rlms says:

            @johansenindustries
            “I disagree with you that there are fine people as part of ISIS. I think if you’re taking sufficient steps to be part of ISIS, then you’re not fine.”
            I disagree with you that there are fine people at a rally that invites David Duke to speak. If you’re taking sufficient steps to listen to David Duke, then you’re not fine.

            “I also disagree with what you’re implying that anyone who is not a white nationalist is fine. It is perfectly sensible to refer to only a subset of non-white nationalists as being fine.”
            Who were the non-fine non-white-nationalists Trump was referring to in that speech?

            “For example, it is true that Texas voted overwhelmingly for Trump”
            Um, no? I’d hardly call 52% (to Clinton’s 43%) an overwhelming victory.

          • johansenindustries says:

            Going to a rally where Duke speaks is not the same thing as going to a rally to hear David Duke speak. When Celeste and Daphne performed at Glastonbury had all the Glastonbury goers gone to hear Celeste and Daphne?

            (If you’re suggesting that there’s some moale equivalancy between listening to David Duke speak and mass-murder, warmaking and sex slaves then I would disagree with you heavily there as well. Though I suppose you think listening to Duke is worse since you think that ISIS and not the rallygoers are full of very fine people. I was mainly referring to the effort and willingness to enter a warzone, though.)

            The non-fine non-white nationalists would be the non-white nationalists who aren’t fine. I’m unsure what it is that you find difficult about that concept. Perhaps they were just looking for a fight? Or they cheat on their wives. Who knows?

            Is is true that there are counties that voted overwhelmingly for Trump? Would you say that in all the counties that voted overwhelmingly for Trump that there aren’t many Clinton voters in it.

          • Matt M says:

            If you’re suggesting that there’s some moale equivalancy between listening to David Duke speak

            I listened to David Duke speak.

            Or, I should say, I spent a lot of the day looking for livestreams of Charlottesville, and most of them went down at various times. One of the last remaining ones was with someone watching David Duke. By the time he spoke, the rally had already been forcibly dispersed by the police throughout the city. His “speech” was delivered on no stage, with a small crowd of people (maybe 20 or so) huddled around him, in what appeared to be the parking lot of some small park or something. I came in midway so I cannot speak to the content of the whole speech, but I saw about 10 minutes or so, and it was pretty boring standard right-wing stuff. No different from what you’d hear on Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or whatever. Nothing about a race war or a new holocaust. Then he told everyone he heard Antifa was coming, and urged them to get in their cars and leave the city, at which point the 20 or so people seemed to disperse and go their separate ways.

          • You’ll get fired from your cushy job for doing so and I won’t be outraged over that.

            Would you have the same reaction to someone who marched in a demonstration along with Communists?

          • If you read my post carefully, you will see that Trump claimed there were “many” non-white-nationalists at the rally, which contradicts my statement that it was overwhelmingly white nationalist.

            I disagree with you about the meaning of words. If there are a thousand people in a group, a hundred of whom are X’s, the statement “there are many X’s in the group is true. So is the statement “the group was overwhelmingly non-X’s.”

            “Many” does not mean “a majority.”

            Would you dis agree with the statement “there are many American transsexuals”? “Many women are victims of rape”?

          • You’re agonizing over the question of how many “good people” would show up at a rally that has been advertised as white nationalist.

            Was it? The slogan someone else quoted was “Unite the right.” The word “nationalist” does not appear in that. Quite a large fraction of the population identifies as right, just as quite a large fraction identifies as left.

            Where was it advertised as white nationalist, such that only white nationalists would want to come?

          • rlms says:

            @DavidFriedman
            ““Many” does not mean “a majority.””
            Not necessarily, but look at the context. Trump said there were “some very bad people in that group” but “many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists”. That suggests a minority of bad apples (it is not contradictory to describe a minority as “many” and a majority as “some”, but it would be odd). This interpretation is supported firstly by the fact that he was trying to imply an equivalence between the two sides, and secondly by the fact that it would’ve been an accurate description for most anti-statue-removal rallies (but not this one).

            “Where was it advertised as white nationalist, such that only white nationalists would want to come?”
            Look at the rally’s twitter. The most recent retweet is from “Identity Evropa”, a bit further down is a tweet pointing out that the Mayor of Charlottesville is Jewish. The founder of the Proud Boys declined to speak at it, because he didn’t want to be associated with “explicit neo-Nazis”. The rally organiser wrote a few articles for VDare, such as this one, which is pretty clearly white nationalist.

            There were some non-white-nationalist right-wing groups physically present at the rally: various militias came to protect the first amendment rights of the protestors. But they all seemed to take pains to distance themselves from the rally (for instance by referring to the organiser as a “piece of excrement”).

          • skef says:

            Where was it advertised as white nationalist, such that only white nationalists would want to come?

            “We” discussed this in OT82, but many of those links are down. The language on the Unite the Right’s Facebook event page was:

            This is an event which seeks to unify the right-wing against a totalitarian Communist crackdown, to speak out against displacement level immigration policies in the United States and Europe and to affirm the right of southerners and white people to organize for their interests just like any other group is able to do, free of persecution,

            The page is now down, but that language is documented here.

            I take it that whether a non-white-nationalist would want to come to an event described this way (and with the associated media that rlms links to) would depend on the non-white-nationalist in question. Gavin McInnes pulled out of the event beforehand because of the ethno-nationalist focus.

          • I asked:

            “Where was it advertised as white nationalist, such that only white nationalists would want to come?”

            And got the response:

            Look at the rally’s twitter.

            Unless I’m missing something, the first tweet at that link is from the day after the event, so notrelevant to how the event was advertised before it happened.

            skef cites a facebook page for the event, which includes:

            and to affirm the right of southerners and white people to organize for their interests just like any other group is able to do, free of persecution,

            I agree with that–don’t you? It wouldn’t be a reason to come to the demonstration–but neither is it a reason to avoid it, if one agrees with other things it is for.

          • skef says:

            I agree with that–don’t you? It wouldn’t be a reason to come to the demonstration–but neither is it a reason to avoid it, if one agrees with other things it is for.

            Epistemic charity is an aid to understanding, not a suicide pact. Abandoning knowledge of connotation and social implications just makes one obtuse.

          • @skef:

            We are discussing the claim that it was “a rally that has been advertised as white nationalist.”

            Nothing so far offered supports that claim. What you now seem to be claiming is that it was a rally which someone who was paying attention could have deduced was being organized by white nationalists, which is a much weaker claim.

            And even that isn’t true–Neo-confederates are not the same thing as white nationalists.

          • skef says:

            Unless I’m missing something, the first tweet at that link is from the day after the event, so notrelevant to how the event was advertised before it happened.

            You’re missing something. This, for example.

          • skef says:

            What you now seem to be claiming is that it was a rally which someone who was paying attention could have deduced was being organized by white nationalists, which is a much weaker claim.

            Only if people are generally as dumb as you seem to think they are.

          • albatross11 says:

            The irony of this discussion is that there is zero probability that Trump actually went through any of the thought process we’re going through, trying to untangle whether or not any non-white-Supremacists were at the Charlottesville rally.

          • quanta413 says:

            Only if people are generally as dumb as you seem to think they are.

            What David Friedman is saying only requires a few dumb people or people not paying attention out of many people. Although a lot of people would have run across media reports about the Neo-Nazis and Neo-Confederates, the main thing preventing hapless saps from showing up to Nazi protests on accident is probably the fact that most people have no interest in going to protests of any variety.

          • Matt M says:

            Let’s also keep in mind that the whole reason McInnes and the Proud Boys made a big public show of “officially disavowing” the rally is because it was ambiguously marketed such that a lot of well-meaning right-wing people might show up, being unaware that there were white nationalists present, and end up with their photos posted on the Internet and being fired from their jobs for being a Nazi.

            So I guess you can say “Well since McInnes disavowed everyone should have known better” but that doesn’t work unless you follow Proud Boy Twitter accounts. But the fact that they felt the need to go through that exercise at all shows that there was ambiguity and that they themselves believed a lot of people wouldn’t understand the “true nature of the rally” or whatever.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @John Schilling

            As an analogy to actual, swastika-wearing Nazis? That fails on account of actual Nazis have killed lots of people. Millions of them, in a horrific manner and with no justification.

            No, I was pointing out that Spencer’s NPI group was not actual swastika wearing Nazis. I was surprised they allowed someone with a swastika flag, or KKK garb at the rally. My impression of NPI had been that they were trying to disassociate pro-white advocacy from anti-other advocacy, and create something like every other ethnic group has (NAACP, AIPAC, National La Raza Council, CAIR, etc).

            That was my impression before Charlottesville, though. Now I can’t extend them that charity.

          • Skef writes:

            You’re missing something. This, for example.

            1. I don’t think that was at the link which RLMS offered as supporting his claim.

            2. Are you assuming the axe things in that image are supposed to be fasces? Are you further assuming that most people reading the tweet will recognize them as such?

            I wouldn’t be surprised if the first assumption was correct. Or if people who self-identified as fascists recognized them. But I would be very surprised if the average American did, or even knew what the fasces was and what its connection to fascism was.

            What we are arguing about is not whether the event would attract fascists but whether it would attract only fascists (and white nationalists and KKK people).

          • John Schilling says:

            @johansenindustries:

            ‘The only reason anyone ever becomes any kind of post-1945 Muslim in any country at all is because they think that Mohammed fellow had some fine ideas and that we could use some of that kind of thinking around here.’ is a statement of fact

            That is a false statement. Many people become Muslims because they want the benefits of theistic religion generally. There are many similar theistic religions to chose from, and in most places no great social penalty for choosing Islam over one of the others. By comparison, there are many hard-right and/or white-nationalist groups that don’t call themselves Nazis,but there is a hefty extra dose of stigma for taking up the swastika.

            For that matter, many people become Muslims because their parents, teachers, etc, expect them to, and it’s easier to go along than make a fuss. There are many communities where almost everyone is a Muslim and social penalties would apply for not being a Muslim. Are there any majority-literal-Nazi communities in the US, or anywhere else in the world?

            and Mohammed went to war to kill a great deal of people.

            This at least is true, but it isn’t uniquely true. Lots of people waged wars in the name of lots of religions, and Mohammed did lots of notable things other than waging war in the name of his religion.

            Hitler, is famous for trying to exterminate the Jews and conquer a bunch of lebensraum for the Aryan Übermenschen. Those are pretty much uniquely Hitlerian evils, and they are pretty much the only things Hitler is famous for. Anyone signing up for Team Hitler specifically, is signing up to support those things.

            You’re missing the importance of evaporative cooling here. Islam, and for that matter communism and social justice and even Trumpism, offers many different things to many different people. Support for any of these movements, is not support for any specific thing. And that was true of Nazism in, say, 1931. Then stuff happened.

            As a result of that stuff, Nazism is considered uniquely despicable for its insistence on uniquely despicable things, which may have been unfair in 1946 and maybe even in 1956 but by now has imposed sufficient costs as to drive to alternative right-wing movements anyone who doesn’t specifically insist on the uniquely despicable things that only the Nazis have to offer.

            That is absolutely not the case for Islam in general, and it would be a bit of a stretch even for ISIS.

          • John Schilling says:

            No, I was pointing out that Spencer’s NPI group was not actual swastika wearing Nazis.

            Right. They were the sort of people I was referring to when I said, “People standing next to people wearing actual swastikas, are the moral equivalent of Benito Mussolini or pre-1941 Josef Stalin, signaling that they believe their ends are so righteous as to justify any means.”

            And even if you don’t see any moral problems with it, how can you not understand that it is an absolute losing strategy to have people wearing swastikas at your political rallies without evidence of your disapproval being at least as obvious to the camera as are the swastikas?

          • rlms says:

            @DavidFriedman
            Why are you charitably assuming that Unite The Right twitter significantly changed its political position right immediately after the rally, but not that I intended multiple tweets from it to be evidence*? Regardless, there’s a tweet from August 12th that describes the rally-goers as the “alt-right” (which does not imply that it was white nationalist, but does show it wasn’t intended to unite e.g. neoconservatives and right-libertarians). That tweet also uses triple parentheses to indicate a belief in the Jewishness of American intelligence agencies.

            You don’t seem to object to my statement that the rally’s organiser (Jason Kessler) is a white nationalist. Given that, and the fact that both sympathetic neutral parties who were present (the militias) and a sympathetic person who was invited to speak (Gavin McInnes) deemed it accurate to describe the rally as “white supremacist” and “explicitly neo-Nazi” without qualification, I think the onus is very much on you to give evidence of

            *although question of what evidence I intended to provide is irrelevant if you care about the truth rather than point scoring

          • johansenindustries says:

            @ John Schilling

            Would you agree that Christopher Waltz probably does not want to kill all the Jews? And that he went out in public in Nazi uniform.

            Now, obviously I am not saying that these protesters went to the rally with Nazi memorabilia so as to make a film. But would you agree that the statement: ‘people wear Nazi uniforms for a variety of reasons, possibly including to express their support for the Holocaust and conquering Europe for Deutschland’?

            And if you are open for multiple reasons, is it not more reasonable that they went out in the uniform of ultimate evil in order to offend or even intimidate, rather than to demonstrate their support for the Holocaust or invading Europe?

          • @DavidFriedman
            Why are you charitably assuming that Unite The Right twitter significantly changed its political position right immediately after the rally, but not that I intended multiple tweets from it to be evidence*?

            You made a claim about how the event was advertised. In support of that claim you provided a link to a page that contained no information on that subject, since the first tweet it showed was from after the event.

            The question isn’t whether it was possible for some people to figure out that the event was being organized by white nationalists, it’s whether it was impossible for anyone interested in the event not to realize that.

          • John Schilling says:

            Would you agree that Christopher Waltz probably does not want to kill all the Jews? And that he went out in public in Nazi uniform.

            Really? Your defense is going to be that I didn’t explicitly exclude movie actors, historical recreationists, etc, from the class of “actual swastika-wearing Nazis”? Because most people don’t have any trouble recognizing that Waltz et al aren’t Nazis of any kind, but the sort of people who show up at political rallies wearing swastikas really are.

          • skef says:

            In support of that claim you provided a link to a page that contained no information on that subject, since the first tweet it showed was from after the event.

            Twitter user pages have unbounded scrolling. As you scroll down, earlier tweets are displayed. If you thought that only the messages prior to the event were relevant, it’s not rlms’s fault that you didn’t scroll down to look at them.

          • johansenindustries says:

            Really? Your defense is going to be that I didn’t explicitly exclude movie actors, historical recreationists, etc, from the class of “actual swastika-wearing Nazis”? Because most people don’t have any trouble recognizing that Waltz et al aren’t Nazis of any kind, but the sort of people who show up at political rallies wearing swastikas really are.

            There are numerous reasons to wear a Nai uniform. There are numerous reasons to wear a Nazi uniform at a political rally. Once you’ve accepted that there are numerous reason to wear a Nazi ‘uniform’ at a political event then ‘they have Nazi iconography they must support the invasion of Poland’ because simply an error of logic.

            When the left went to protests carrying Nazi symbols – swatsikas and the like – to protest TRump – did you consider that evidence that they were firm supporters of the holocaust. Or did it seem obvious to you that they (being your in-group) had other reasons for the Swatsikas rather than support for the 3rd Reich?

            Perhaps, including the offending of their outgroup?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Twitter user pages have unbounded scrolling. As you scroll down, earlier tweets are displayed. If you thought that only the messages prior to the event were relevant, it’s not rlms’s fault that you didn’t scroll down to look at them.

            A citation to a haystack is not a valid reference to the needle contained therein.

          • Brad says:

            Perhaps, including the offending of their outgroup?

            Mission accomplished. Just turns out their outgroup was bigger than they thought.

          • Brad says:

            David Friedman

            Would you have the same reaction to someone who marched in a demonstration along with Communists?

            I wasn’t outraged when the middle finger to the President lady got fired, so someone marching next to people with hammer and sickle getting fired certainly wouldn’t outrage me.

            But to get to what I gather is the underlying question, I don’t have the same visceral reaction to communist symbolism as I do to Nazi symbolism even if the handbook of 20th century democides says I ought to.

          • Matt M says:

            But to get to what I gather is the underlying question, I don’t have the same visceral reaction to communist symbolism as I do to Nazi symbolism even if the handbook of 20th century democides says I ought to.

            Why do you suppose this is?

          • hyperboloid says:

            @Matt M
            I’m can’t answer for Brad, but I think there are very good reasons to have different reactions to Communists and Nazis.

            For one thing Communism covered a much greater spectrum than Nazism. While we should think of Pol Pot, and Stalin in the same terms as Hitler; we should most certainly not put Ho Chi Minh, Castro, Vo Nguyen Giap, Tito, Che Guevara, Khrushchev, and Brezhnev into the same category of world historical evil. And that’s without getting into the various democratically minded Communist parties of Europe, or India who seem to have done little beyond peaceably contest elections, and occasionally engage in hypocritical apologetics for Soviet crimes.

            The French Communist party helped to form much of the the backbone of the resistance, while the French hard right was collaborating with a regime that was shipping French citizens to gas chambers. There really were some very decent people in the French, and Italian Communist, in fact more then decent, brave, even heroic. Of course one can probably say the same thing about the wehrmacht, and even if it’s true it doesn’t change the fact that Marxism-Leninism is a terrible system of government, and that it’s advocates deluded themselves about the nature of the Soviet regime for decades.

            If you wanted to equate Fascism writ large with Communism, that would be a different thing; but I get the impressions that some on the hard right have a great deal of admiration for people like Franco, and Pinochet, and would recoil at comparing them to a bunch of godless reds.

            The other thing is that I agree with (what were, at least theoretically) the terminal goals of Communism, Indeed I would think most people do. And I don’t just mean people on the left. In principle the goal of Communist parties was to create a classes, stateless, post scarcity society, free of all forms of coercion and alienation, and based on principles of voluntary mutual cooperation.

            Notice the similarity of this vision to David Friedman’s ideas about a stateless utopia. Notice also the number of ex communists who were prominent in the American conservative movement. Either Whittaker Chambers, James Burnham, Irving Kristol, and et al. fundamentally changed their basic moral values when they repudiated the radical left, or more likely there view of the facts changed; and they came to think that sadly Marx’s vision was impossible, and that any attempt to put it into practice was doomed to end in catastrophe.

            It actually seems to me, that the spirit of (pre-alt right) American conservatism was closer to Marx, than to say Julius Eovla, or Richard Spencer. How many ex Nazis ever served on the board of the National Review?

            The dictatorship of the protectorate was just supposed to be a phase that would end with the withering away of the state. No honest person ever joined a Communist party thinking they were going to create a permanent tyranny. The thing is that no political movement ever failed more totally at achieving it’s stated aims than Marxism, and no system of government was ever more different from how it’s propagandists represented it than Communism.

            The Nazis on the other hand did exactly what they said they were going to do. To quote Hitler’s own words from mien Kampf blaming the Jews for Germany’s defeat in world war one:

            If at the beginning of the War and during the War twelve or fifteen thousand of these Hebrew corrupters of the people had been held under poison gas, as happened to hundreds of thousands of our very best German workers in the field, the sacrifice of millions at the front would not have been in vain. On the contrary: twelve thousand scoundrels eliminated in time might have saved the lives of a million real Germans, valuable for the future.

            Communism failed, Nazism on the other hand worked exactly as designed, right up until it’s enemies destroyed it. Accordingly we view Communist sympathizers as fools, and would be accolades of Hitler as monsters.

            If I believed the things that Communists said, I would become a communist. On the other hand if I believed every word the Nazis said about the Jews, I might become a very enthusiastic Zionist, in the hope that my Hebrew neighbors might be relocated somewhere away from me, but I would not become a child murderer. The difference between me and a Nazi is not just one of factual opinion, but of the deepest moral principles.

            Perhaps some people are flying the hammer and sickle because they really like gulags, but that is not the impression I get at all from talking to western Marxists, who seem very intent on convincing me that what Stalin did was not “true” Communism.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The Nazis on the other hand did exactly what they said they were going to do.

            Plenty of prominent Marxists, including Marx himself, were quite open about the fact that their classless society would require the “liquidation” of “counter-revolutionary” elements, so murderous Marxist regimes were doing exactly what they said they were going to do, too. Nor does the fact that they planned to stop at some vague point in the future make much difference: after all, I’m sure even the Nazis would have stopped committing genocide, once they’d exterminated all the “inferior races”.

          • johansenindustries says:

            @Hyper

            In principle the goal of Communist parties was to create a classes, stateless, post scarcity society, free of all forms of coercion and alienation, and based on principles of voluntary mutual cooperation

            What methods do communists use to create a post-scarcity society in revolutions? Sure, everybody wants a post-scarcity society but surely you can only count it amongst communist’s goals if they are trying to make strides towards it.

            Leaving that aside, as somebody who strongly disagrees with the idea of a classless society then we can descrive Nazisms as ‘In principle the goal of National Socialist parties was to create a Jewless, free of all forms of coercion and alienation, and based on principles of voluntary mutual cooperation and shared values’

            To my mind the defining principle of both ideologies is that once you get rid of the wreckers, then everyone else can live in harmony.

            I don’t see any real difference between murderous envy of perceived power and wealth belonging to the well-bred and murderous envy of perceived power and wealth belonging to Jewish people. Surely the difference can’t be that Hitler wrote it down first, whereas Communists just implement it?

            Of course, only the ‘twelve or fifteen thousand’ figure you quote Hitler as saying is the equivilant of Lenin’s borgeousie purge. The Holocaust is a couple of magnitudes higher than that.

          • Brad says:

            @Matt M
            A personal connection to the victims of the one but not the other.

          • powerfuller says:

            In principle the goal of National Socialist parties was to create a Jewless, free of all forms of coercion and alienation, and based on principles of voluntary mutual cooperation and shared values’… once you get rid of the wreckers, then everyone else can live in harmony

            Yeah, the demotic/egalitarian nature of Nazism that parallels Communism is often ignored. The Nazis wanted to create a society where everybody was equal as well — all pure and Germanic and working toward the Furher. If the Nazis succeeded in killing everybody else, what (in theory) would be left would be an egalitarian mass of totally equal (i.e. homogenous) people. The only difference is that the Communists tried to implement their equality by killing or removing anybody above the common folk, whereas the Nazis tried to kill anybody below or outside the common folk. Would you rather Procrustesus stretch your limbs or chop them off?

            Also, I think the difference (for Americans at least) is simply geographical distance — Communism’s horror were further away. C.F. Nazi imagery in Thailand.

          • quanta413 says:

            @hyperboloid

            If the Nazis hadn’t been annihilated by the end of WWII, we probably would have seen “moderate” and less murderous Nazi parties in other parts of the world too. The only places communists didn’t fuck up were because they lacked the power or faced off against stronger opposition. We don’t worry about French communists now for the same reason Richard Spencer doesn’t really matter. Lack of a plausible route to power, not because their ideas or ideals are vaguely morally acceptable.

            And saying communism failed but Nazism succeeded is bizarre. The Nazis failed by ’45. Communism still isn’t dead, and you are still apologizing for their monstrous ideas and horrifying bodycount by selectively leaving out all the evidence that they fully intended to liquidate kulaks/enemies of the state/bourgeoisie. That wasn’t some sort of accidental side effect of high minded ideals, it was the point.

          • Viliam says:

            The main difference between Nazis and Communists is that Communists had more time and space, and that the Communists were not defeated dramatically. As a consequence of that:

            – Communists had multiple leaders, so now we can say: “These ones were quite evil, but compared with them, those other guys who didn’t literally murder millions of people seem like saints.”

            – When we talk about Nazis, we debate descriptions from outside; what actually happened. Concentration camps, etc. When we talk about Communists, almost always someone introduces their “inside view” and insists that we instead talk about how some of their ideals were noble.

            No, let me put it more plainly… When we debate Nazism, Nazis are not invited; they are merely described. But when we debate Communism, some Communist or a sympathizer usually invites themselves, and puts themselves into a position of an expert who knows “what Communism was truly about”, unlike the other guys who are just repeating American propaganda. Being a Nazi sympathizer gets you disqualified and called a horrible person; not being, at least slightly, a Communism sympathizer achieves a similar effect.

            – Communists had the opportunity to raise whole generations of people, isolated from non-Communist opinions and news. Just because the regime officially ended, it’s not like these people are going to update about everything overnight. For people in the Nazi regime, I guess it was “this is what it is like during the war”, but for many people in Communist regime, it was all they have ever experienced, and even allowed to hear about.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I think Nazism was, in a sense, actually a worse idea than Communism.

            Nazism glorified one smallish sub-group of the human race, and had compulsive military expansionism built into it. This meant it burned out relatively quickly.

          • dndnrsn says:

            National socialism’s economy, and subsequently war economy, was based on using conquest to pay for more conquest. (I’m thinking of doing an effortpost series on this) – but that isn’t necessarily why it burned itself out; its problem was just as much that German industry couldn’t compete with the industrial capacity of the USSR and the US put together. However, if it wasn’t destined to burn itself out, it was destined to do horrible things – the German plan for the east revolved around a predicted ~30 million Soviet civilian deaths due to starvation, for example.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            It wasn’t just that Nazi Germany had a pyramid scheme of using the next conquest to pay for the current conquest, the narrow racism presumably made it harder for them to get and keep allies.

          • dndnrsn says:

            They didn’t have a great deal of trouble in finding allies, did they? They had several Eastern European countries on their side, and the Italians. Not great allies (the Italians being in the war might have caused more problems for the Germans than it solved, for example), but still. Their problem in keeping allies had to do with losing the war – something that happened at least twice was “German ally sees the writing on the wall, tries to quit the war, German forces seize power to keep them in the war, then deport all that country’s Jews.”

          • @hyperboloid:

            Than you for your detailed answer to the question.

            One minor quibble. Pinochet was a military dictator. I don’t think he was a fascist–at least, his economic policies were not. Franco is a better example.

          • Anonymous says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Franco wasn’t Fascist. He was a Catholic Monarchist Reactionary. If you want a real Fascist, look at the Man Himself – Mussolini.

          • Viliam says:

            Nazism glorified one smallish sub-group of the human race, and had compulsive military expansionism built into it. This meant it burned out relatively quickly.

            Communism took for granted that ethnic Russians are superior humans. But it didn’t plan for exterminating other ethnic groups. They were supposed to live forever in harmony under the superior Russian leadership.

            The emphasis on being “international” simply meant that you (a non-Russian) are supposed to forget about your own nation/country, and only think about what is good for the Soviet Union. Not that Russians are expected to do the same for you!

            Fascism and Naziism could be approximated as “let’s do something similar to Communism, but putting our nation/country at the first place”.

        • Brad says:

          > What are Trump’s views on white supremacists?

          Although I don’t use that idiotic platform it’s my understanding that retweeting implies endorsement.

          • xXxanonxXx says:

            It doesn’t. Not unless you’re very desperate to target someone with guilt by association. Twitter is chaotic. People frequently retweet accounts they’re unfamiliar with. To say Trump has now endorses white supremacists is like insisting someone endorses the political platform of the National Socialist Party because they overheard a member tell an offensive joke at a party and laughed at it.

          • Urstoff says:

            Tweeting is voluntary, overhearing something at a party is not. Although the most likely explanation in this case is that the videos confirmed Trump’s prejudices, and he too impulsive to spend time looking into who exactly made the original tweet.

          • Matt M says:

            Why does “who made the tweet” matter.

            Shouldn’t the objection be more related to “does the tweet accurately represent what it implies”?

            It strikes me as interesting that there’s so much obsession over who he re-tweets, rather than what he re-tweets.

            As if re-tweeting the KKK saying “Good morning, world!” is somehow a greater moral affront than re-tweeting Beyonce saying “Let’s round up all the Muslims” or something…

          • xXxanonxXx says:

            I was thinking of the laugh being roughly analogous to the tweet, not the overhearing. I agree he’s too impulsive to have likely looked in to the account, which is why this hasn’t changed my opinion of the man. The only thing it shows clearly is that he believes Muslims pose a threat, and you don’t need to be detective to have figured that out already.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            There are many reasons one retweets things. Sometimes it’s an endorsement of the statement, but not necessarily. To think it’s an endorsement of the original tweeter is silly, given that you only need to tap a few times and it’s done and at no point does this involve the bio of the original tweeter showing up on your screen. You don’t even have to be as impulsive as Trump to retweet something from an asshole.

            Nearly always retweeting is done because you want the thing to have more exposure. Sometimes this is done because you think the thing is dumb and wants mocking, but from context we can tell this is not what Trump was doing.

          • Randy M says:

            Nearly always retweeting is done because you want the thing to have more exposure.

            That may explain the outrage. The SJW way of solving bad actors is to de-platform them. If you give exposure without explicit condemnation, you are working against de-platforming, which makes you part of the problem, and hence guilty of the same sort of sin.

            my understanding that retweeting implies endorsement.

            I don’t know twitter enough to know if it has idiosyncratic norms. I would personally have a broader variety of reasons of retweeting than endorsement of everything the originator has said or done, down to “this particular tweet is interesting in some way, even if I’m not convinced by it.” Like when I post articles to Facebook even if I don’t agree with the conclusions but there’s some interesting annecdotes or whale puns in there somewhere.

            In reality I don’t link things much, because I don’t care for the drama potential, and I use social media to be social, not to change the world.

          • Iain says:

            Setting aside questions of whether retweets should be considered endorsement in the general case: the original source of the videos seems pretty confident that Trump’s retweet in particular was an endorsement. If she were wrong, it would be very easy for Trump to clarify. Instead, he tweeted back at Theresa May about how she should ignore him and “focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom”. (The connection between a video of a Dutch kid and Radical Islamic Terrorism in the UK is left as an exercise for the viewer. If you don’t see it, well, I guess that lack of vision is why Trump is president and you’re not.)

            Can we just take a step back and realize how insane this all is? The President of the United States of America impulsively retweeted a set of videos designed to make people afraid of Muslims. His defenders are reduced to claiming that, well, he probably didn’t know that the original source is an anti-Muslim loonie who has been arrested for harassing women wearing hijabs while out shopping. If he were your senile great-uncle, that would be a reasonable excuse. Don’t you expect better from the leader of your country?

            It must be so exhausting to feel compelled to defend this twit.

          • Matt M says:

            Don’t you expect better from the leader of your country?

            No.

            People wanted representative democracy. They got it. Good and hard.

          • quanta413 says:

            Don’t you expect better from the leader of your country?

            Ideally, yes. In the actual world as is, no. Seeing as it’s already acceptable and respectable to engage in all sorts of warfare directly causing the death of hundreds of thousands to millions and lie in order to get to the point where you can do that for reasons I find highly questionable at best and arguably evil at worst (Polk, Wilson, Johnson, Bush II), I don’t feel like anything is meaningfully more broken when a President is rude, uncouth, crazy, and religionist/racist/whatever. And really, lots of Presidents have been the last thing; some were just more polite or circumspect about it. Especially when current President is one of the most disliked Presidents in the last couple decades. I would prefer a different President, but the bar for him accidentally doing better than I consider several past Presidents to have done is so low it’s embarrassing.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            It must be so exhausting to feel compelled to defend this twit.

            Not really, because I don’t have to apologize for Trump. I agree with him.

            On the other hand, his opponents who feel compelled to devote gallons of ink and days of broadcast time every time he takes 10 seconds to retweet something while sitting on the john, that’s got to be exhausting.

            Oh, and constantly having to apologize for the atrocities of Muslims, who adhere to a supremacist religion that wants everyone who isn’t them either dead, forcibly converted, or subjugated. That’s got to be pretty exhausting too.

          • xXxanonxXx says:

            His defenders are reduced to claiming that, well, he probably didn’t know that the original source is an anti-Muslim loonie who has been arrested for harassing women wearing hijabs while out shopping.

            This is exactly backwards. The defenders shouldn’t have to be demonstrating Trump didn’t know about the original source. Trump’s detractors should have to demonstrate that he did. Then and only then would it become an issue even worth discussing.

          • Iain says:

            @xXxanonxXx

            You miss my point. Even granting Trump the complete benefit of the doubt regarding the source, he still impulsively retweeted a handful of poorly sourced videos designed to portray Muslims in a negative light, without spending any time at all to research their veracity.

            You might accept that from an elderly relative. It would generally be met with skepticism in the comment section of this blog. It is crazy that people are willing to defend this as reasonable behaviour from the President of the United States.

            @Conrad Honcho:

            Have you, uh — have you ever actually met any Muslims? Because I have to say that if Islam requires all non-Muslims to be enslaved, subjugated, or killed, the Muslims I know are doing a piss-poor job of it. Should I complain to the local imam?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Iain

            Did you know that there are nazis walking around who aren’t gassing Jews right now?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Iain: actually, yes. It’s kind of his job to make nominal Muslims better Muslims. Every religion has scads of members who don’t practice the hard teachings.
            (Of course the doctrine of armed jihad becomes less hard if you’re a man who can’t get a mate and the mujahideen leader is following the doctrine about slave girls.)

          • Iain says:

            @Conrad Honcho:

            The Daily Stormer is, as I understand it, fairly prominent among American Nazis. According to its founder, “the official policy of his site was: ‘Jews should be exterminated.'”

            CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, is a prominent representative of American Muslims. Here are their core principles: you will notice a surprising lack of subjugation. Instead, there’s a bunch of hippy nonsense about dialogue between faith communities. Terrifying!

            If you think that Islam demands the subjugation of non-Muslims, and the vast majority of American Muslims disagree with you, consider the possibility that maybe they know more than you.

            @Le Maistre Chat:

            You are being the anti-Muslim version of this guy. Don’t be the anti-Muslim version of that guy.

          • xXxanonxXx says:

            @Iain

            You seemed to have two points. One, that Trump supporters were desperately trying to argue that maybe Trump didn’t know the source of the tweet. This is exactly backwards. It should be seen as an act of desperation by Trump detractors to bring the connection up at all. Two, you’re saying Trump did not investigate the videos for veracity, and spread them for the express purpose of sending the message Muslims are a danger to our society. I agree. I just don’t see how this is news. Trump has been spreading dubious stories since before the election. He’s said that Muslims needed to be subject to extreme vetting before they could come to America. It’s not like you need to go rummaging around in the man’s trash for incriminating documents to discover what his real positions are. He’s not subtle.

            For what it’s worth, I agree with him that Islam is a problem. I just wish someone else could address it. And, yeah, the Commander in Chief behaving like a pundit on twitter does make me cringe.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Iain

            CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, is a prominent representative of American Muslims. Here are their core principles: you will notice a surprising lack of subjugation. Instead, there’s a bunch of hippy nonsense about dialogue between faith communities. Terrifying!

            Two (obvious) possibilities:
            1. The organization is aligned with an interpretation of Islam where that makes sense. Islam doesn’t have as much formal splitting as Christianity does, so you’ll have several mutually contradictory sects saying they’re plain old Sunni, whereas Christians tend to mark their sect as special and distinct somehow (like “Adjective” Catholics).
            2. The Islamic holy text supports lying to infidels in matters of religious import. Since American Muslims are in no place to throw their weight around in the bailey, for want of sufficient numbers, they wisely resort to motte-only public relations. You’ll probably find that in Muslim-majority countries, Islam is less “hippy” and more “mujahideen”.

            If you think that Islam demands the subjugation of non-Muslims, and the vast majority of American Muslims disagree with you, consider the possibility that maybe they know more than you.

            I suppose you might not view Jizya as subjugation.

            @Le Maistre Chat:

            You are being the anti-Muslim version of this guy. Don’t be the anti-Muslim version of that guy.

            But, unlike the guy you link (who commits a logical error in the second paragraph), LMC isn’t wrong. Islam has been practically harvesting the efforts and hopes of unmarried young men for conquest since it existed. Legal polygyny and exhortation to violence against infidels is just going to do that.

          • beleester says:

            @Anonymous:

            1. The organization is aligned with an interpretation of Islam where that makes sense. Islam doesn’t have as much formal splitting as Christianity does, so you’ll have several mutually contradictory sects saying they’re plain old Sunni, whereas Christians tend to mark their sect as special and distinct somehow (like “Adjective” Catholics).

            In this case, you should not be asserting that “Muslims”, unqualified, are in favor of subjugating infidels.

            2. The Islamic holy text supports lying to infidels in matters of religious import.

            This is an impossible argument. Regardless of anything Muslims do, you can assert that it’s merely a deception tactic until they’re in a position to start subjugating the infidels again. If this is your premise, there is no way for you to be convinced that Muslims are not planning to subjugate you.

            (Jews used to get a similar smear, along the lines of “They can’t be trusted, because they have a religious holiday where they declare all their oaths and promises null and void.” Take any assertions of the form “This is what [outgroup]’s holy book says, so you know that they cannot be trusted regardless of how nice they act” with an entire mountain of salt.)

          • Jaskologist says:

            I agree that taking a passage out of a holy book is probably not a good way to understand how a large religion is practiced.

            So look at the actual practice: in how many countries where Muslims have the political power are the non-Muslims treated well?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Regardless of anything Muslims do, you can assert that it’s merely a deception tactic until they’re in a position to start subjugating the infidels again.

            But isn’t that exactly what people say about “peaceful” white nationalists..? (obviously substituting “minorities” for “infidels”)

          • Anonymous says:

            In this case, you should not be asserting that “Muslims”, unqualified, are in favor of subjugating infidels.

            The very amorphousness of Islam, particularly Sunni Islam (Shia is nowadays pretty much a one-country affair), is why I’m resorting to blanket statements. If Mr Westernized Moderate Muslim and Mr Orthodox Fundamentalist Muslim and Mr Self-Appointed Jihad Preacher are all claiming to be part of the very same body of believers, and not even have the decency to formally schism and rebrand, I’m not going to do it for them.

            This is an impossible argument. Regardless of anything Muslims do, you can assert that it’s merely a deception tactic until they’re in a position to start subjugating the infidels again. If this is your premise, there is no way for you to be convinced that Muslims are not planning to subjugate you.

            Maybe they should have thought about that before subscribing to said holy book.

            In addition, whether they want to subjugate infidels or not is a simple question of looking at what they do when they can do it. History looks a lot like “Muslims subjugate infidels when they can, and lie about it when they can’t”.

            My general argument is this: A good Muslim should want to subjugate infidels. A Muslim who doesn’t want to subjugate infidels in the name of Allah is not a good Muslim.

          • I suppose you might not view Jizya as subjugation.

            Quoting from your link, which looks to me like a pretty good account of the subject:

            Sources comparing taxes levied on Muslims and jizya differ as to their relative burden depending on time, place, specific taxes under consideration, and other factors.

            … while Abdul Rahman Doi viewed it as a counterpart of the zakat tax paid by Muslims.[40] According to Khaled Abou El Fadl, moderate Muslims reject the dhimma system, which encompasses jizya, as inappropriate for the age of nation-states and democracies.[37]

            You could probably make a clearer case out of differences in legal status–who can be a witness against whom, what the diya is for killing someone.

    • dodrian says:

      This, I think, is a turning point. Before I agreed with Scott that on balance the media’s coverage of Trump was doing more harm than anything Trump was actually saying. While I still don’t think the question “Is he racist?” is the right one, retweeting false videos where the original intent was to incite hatred is completely unacceptable.

      Unfortunately I also think that a considerable swath of the media has constantly been making so much out of his actions that turned out to be inconsequential that they have no power left to call him out on genuinely harmful ones. Those that already hate him will continue to hate him, and Trump’s tacit supporters having seen all the smoke before but never fire will continue to ignore what the media says about him.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Sorting through reddit comments is painful, but if I’m reading it right, he retweeted 3 videos purporting to be of Muslims behaving badly. One of them was not in fact of a “Muslim migrant”. (I assume since BBC is denying the “migrant” part only, he’s actually the child of Muslim migrants, but let’s cross the entire video out to be safe.)

        If he had just retweeted the other two factually correct videos, would that have been acceptable?

        (Do correct my facts if I’m off somewhere. There’s a lot of fog of war here, and if all 3 videos were fake my hypothetical is kind of beside the point.)

        • Matt M says:

          I think this is the conversation we need to have.

          It strikes me as non-obvious that simply posting, without commentary, a video of Muslims committing crimes is somehow “Islamophobic.” And even less obvious that someone re-tweeting (which is, by definition, posting without commentary) said video is therefore also Islamophobic.

          Furthermore, I find it somewhat revealing to see the American media (who are oh so concerned with Trump’s egregious assaults on the first amendment), enthusiastically parrot the talking points and support of tyrannical British laws which do not respect free speech. Headlines typically go something like: “Trump re-tweeted postings from Britain First, a racist right-wing hate group who have been arrested for inciting racial hatred.” So basically, we know these people are bad because the British government has arrested them for hate speech.

          Nevermind that the US rejects hate speech as a thing worth being arrested for, and that such charges would be instantly laughed out of court in any country that even pretended to protect a right to free speech.

          I have to wonder how they might react if Trump retweeted, say, the Dalai Llama. “Trump re-tweets racist propaganda from an individual that is currently an outlaw from justice in China, where he is wanted for disturbing societal peace and inciting religious hatred.”

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @Jaskologist:
          First, the claim is more than “here are some Muslims behaving badly”. There is an implicit claim of causality.

          Second, from this ABC article we can see that the videos lack a commitment to truthfulness.

          We don’t actually know the religion of the boy arrested in The Netherlands, as it was not released by the police.

          you can see that the most incendiary video is badly in need of context, as it is from the Egyptian unrest in 2013. The motivation for that unrest wasn’t religious, but rather different Egyptian factions struggling for political control of the government.

          This is just plain old shit-stirring. It’s easily identifiable. I understand things like confirmation bias and backlash effect are extremely strong. But really.

          • Incurian says:

            The motivation for that unrest wasn’t religious, but rather different Egyptian factions struggling for political control of the government.

            Which factions were those?

          • Incurian says:

            Reasons for demanding Morsi’s resignation included accusations of increasing authoritarianism and his pushing through an Islamist agenda disregarding the predominantly secular opposition or the rule of law.[25][26][27] The uprising concluded seven months of protests that started when the Morsi government issued a highly controversial draft constitution that gave him sweeping unlimited powers over the state’s judicial system.[28][29] The demonstrations, which had started peacefully, turned violent when the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood were stormed in Mokattam in Cairo and when 5 members of the organization were killed amid clashes.

            Nope, no religious motivations here.

          • johansenindustries says:

            What part of that article suggests that the videos lack a commitment to truthiness. The fact that the duth boy was born there is now well know – although this time yesterday, it was all ‘not a muslim’ everywhere; that’s changed.

            But what’s untrue about the others?

            Do you not feel bad when you say ‘The motivation for that unrest wasn’t religious, but rather different Egyptian factions struggling for political control of the government.’ when one of those factions – arguably the most major – and the faction that murdered the boywas a self-proclaimed Brotherhood. A brotherhood of what, do you recall?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            When the military and their backers, who were Muslim, attacked people, who were also Muslim (and this was not sectarian fighting either) what was the true relevance of their religion?

            This is standard power play bullshit. Highly likely to happen during and in the wake of the downfall of any authoritarian government.

          • Randy M says:

            When the military and their backers, who were Muslim, attacked people, who were also Muslim (and this was not sectarian fighting either) what was the true relevance of their religion?

            I get what you mean, but the implication of this is that it’s silly to imagine Muslims fighting over doctrinal matters.

          • Iain says:

            @Randy M:

            European history involves quite a lot of fighting between Protestants and Catholics — some of it, such as the Troubles in Ireland, quite recent. How much information would you say that this fighting gives us about the character of Catholics and Protestants?

          • Matt M says:

            I feel like it’s probably possible to tweet a video of a Catholic committing a crime without everyone immediately jumping down your ass about what a Catholophobe you are.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Up Next: Trump retweets a bunch of Thomas Nast cartoons.

          • Randy M says:

            @Ian, HBC: Pointing out that both sides share the same religion does not provide much evidence as to whether religion was a motivating factor. I wasn’t saying HBC was wrong, just that his evidence was insufficient.

            But–him saying that it wasn’t sectarian (which I missed, despite quoting, whoops–darn relevant paratheticals) does specifically admit the possibility, so it seems my post added little.

            European history involves quite a lot of fighting between Protestants and Catholics

            Yup, a lot of which seems to have been fought for tribal reasons, and led for political reasons.

            Which seems like a good argument for not condemning Muslisms as specifically evil, and also for not allowing immigration by more disparate cultures than we already have for historical reasons.

          • Iain says:

            @Matt M:

            Sure. But if you tweeted multiple videos of Catholics committing crimes in foreign countries (except one of those videos wasn’t actually a Catholic after all), and you had a history of doing things like this, and you had been elected as the president of the United States on a platform of keeping Catholics out of the country, then maybe the Catholics would start getting a little antsy.

            You know. Hypothetically.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I think the muslims beating people and destroying things of value to people of other faiths is both more hateful and likely to incite hatred than sharing videos of them doing it.

        This is the values disconnect we have. I care about the things in the video, not the sharing of the video.

        Upthread I shared a picture of the aftermath of the Charlottesville car attack. Are you mad at me for doing so because that might incite hatred against neo-nazis?

        • albatross11 says:

          I see your point, but this is one of the places where I think Trump does a lot of harm.

          When you’re a powerful and influential person, you ought to be especially careful not to incite violence or hatred. Partly, that’s because lots of people look to you for guidance about how they should act. But also, that’s because lots of people actually are taking orders from you or your government–perhaps at several removes, but still, you’re the guy at the top. “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest” is a lot more dangerous thing to say when you’re the big boss than when you’re some random property developer in NYC.

        • dodrian says:

          (This is also sort of replying to Jackologist/Matt M above)

          Perhaps I’m being particularly sensitive to these videos because until recently I lived in Britain, and it’s that he retweeted Britain First, who have a history of sharing inflammatory content (even if it was probably Ann Coulter he was retweeting, not them directly, according to the BBC). It’s also that at least one of these videos is misleading – I’d similarly be upset if you were sharing pictures claiming they were antifa rioting if in fact they had nothing to do with antifa, even (especially?) if there were genuine incidents where antifa did just that.

          With this instance it’s also context – I can’t see any reason why Trump would share even legitimate videos. It’s not in response to a specific event or even policy proposal. It seems to be just to antagonize his opponents and excite his supporters, and while I didn’t mind when he did that with the CNN wrestling video (well, OK, I don’t think a President should ever do that, but it’s normal for Trump, ultimately inconsequential, and the way the media tried to link a bad, obvious joke to threats to free press was just ridiculous), in this context I think it has real potential to encourage hatred or harm of a specific people group in a way that none of his actions or tweets before have.

          • Matt M says:

            With this instance it’s also context – I can’t see any reason why Trump would share even legitimate videos. It’s not in response to a specific event or even policy proposal. It seems to be just to antagonize his opponents and excite his supporters

            This is how 99% of Twitter users use Twitter.

            The problem here is that people keep expecting Trump to behave like an intellectual statesman, rather than like a regular Twitter user. The media is shocked and appalled that he uses Twitter in the exact same way as everyone else does. He looks at it on his phone when he’s bored, occasionally RTs things he sees that he likes, composes hastily written screeds to bash his political opponents, etc.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I feel like this rounds to “you may not criticize Islam.”

          • Iain says:

            People expect Trump to behave like he’s President. Is that unreasonable?

          • dodrian says:

            Just because it’s how other people use Twitter, does that make it OK?

            I’ve long accepted that this will be a Presidency of 3am tweets, belittling political opponents, rants about whose is bigger, and even calling out foreign allies. It’s not what I’d want in a President, but it is what we have.

            But I’m responding to the original post’s question: are people still crying wolf? Up until now I would’ve defended Trump and the assertion that the frequent portrayal of Trump as an (in this case) anti-Muslim bigot, the constant parroting of the idea that he’s encouraging hate, and the scrutinizing of every tweeted character for whistles or what-have-yous is doing more to encourage hate than anything Trump himself has done.

            Trump may or may not be more racist than your average 70 year old white man, and I don’t care, but this time I think he’s crossed a line to where he’s actually encouraging hate. This is where I think the media have a legitimate reason to call him out, though as I mentioned above, they’ve cried wolf too much and lost their credibility in the matter.

          • rlms says:

            @Jaskologist
            He’s *allowed* to do whatever he wants — he’s the president! But if he retweets random videos of cardiologists falsifying test results (and furthermore some of those videos turn out to not actually depict cardiologists), that’s strong evidence that he has an irrational fear and hatred of cardiologists.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Is fear of Islam (or Muslims) more or less rational than fear of Nazism (or Nazis)?

          • rlms says:

            Vastly less rational. How many Nazis would you say there are in the US? Give an estimate, then calculate deaths/person for each group from here.

          • quanta413 says:

            Vastly less rational?

            I dunno, are we talking actual honest to god Nazis because I’ve traveled back in time to 1940? Because obviously actual Nazis are scarier.

            However, modern neo-Nazis are mostly wannabe punks with no real power or the occasional murderous thug/criminal who the FBI (or police) comes down on like a ton of bricks (although they are useful bogeymen and make for good press headlines). The second type may be dangerous if you run into them in a dark alley but vastly outnumbered by other types of murderous thugs/criminals of a less ideological bent.

            There’s no real point in being afraid of modern neo-Nazis in America or in being afraid of crazy Islamic terrorists. It is hypothetically possible that one may end up in a dark alley with a Neo-Nazi or be an unfortunate soul going about their business when some ISIS inspired nut goes on a rampage, but both options are super unlikely and not easily preventable. Better to be afraid of crashing your car.

            If it wasn’t for the media’s constant obsession with these sort of extremely low probability dramatic events, I’d don’t think either issue would be on people’s radar much at this point.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’m not interested in deaths/person but in political power.

            The vast majority of Nazis are peaceful. Never gassed a Jew. They just support a political system that allows for the gassing of Jews once they obtain state power.

            The vast majority of Muslims are peaceful. Never slaughtered an infidel. They just support a religious and political system that allows for the slaughtering of infidels once they obtain power.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I dunno, are we talking actual honest to god Nazis because I’ve traveled back in time to 1940? Because obviously actual Nazis are scarier.

            I don’t know. Shouldn’t you compare 1940s Nazis to ISIS, or other Islamic governments?

          • quanta413 says:

            I don’t know. Shouldn’t you compare 1940s Nazis to ISIS, or other Islamic governments?

            I still say 1940’s Nazis are considerably more dangerous than ISIS. Competence counts so to speak. Even though ISIS isn’t a pack of idiots, I don’t think it’s measuring up to the Nazis of the time who cultivated allies and were able to steamroll a well developed continent for a little while.

          • johansenindustries says:

            If there are sufficienty few Nazis that the ratio is in favour of Muslims* then there are sufficiently few Nazis that to be scared of Nazis is silly. It’d be like being of the zombie of Charles Manson – obviously if its right there then that’s a horse of a different colour but meh.

            * Worth mentioning that there’s quite an oppressive branch – the TSA – founded to pretty to try to prevent Islamic terrorists as well as having to ‘fight them over there’ and Islamic terrorism is still the far larger number just this decade.

          • Randy M says:

            If we’re going to use historic Nazis, why not use the Ottomans at the gates of Constantinople for the Muslims? Or Muhammad’s followers riding towards Mecca?

          • quanta413 says:

            If we’re going to use historic Nazis, why not use the Ottomans at the gates of Constantinople for the Muslims? Or Muhammad’s followers riding towards Mecca?

            Hmmmm… that’s tough. It’s not clear how to adjust for population and the massive gaps in time. But I definitely wouldn’t want to be anywhere in the vicinity of either of these groups if I wasn’t their ally, and they both had competence in spades and were very successful (much more successful in the long run than the Nazis). I’m willing to call them “roughly as terrifying or maybe even more terrifying than Nazis” to their outgroups.

          • albatross11 says:

            Matt M:

            That seems about right to me. You or I can spout off on the internet about something without thinking it through much or knowing what we’re talking about, and little is the worse for it. The president is in a fundamentally different situation–his words have weight and impact that very few other people can match.

          • albatross11 says:

            Conrad:

            So, how many countries ruled by Muslims are currently about the job of slaughtering infidels? If you count ISIS as a country, that’s one. The rest of them don’t seem to be too keen on human rights (including but not limited to religious freedom), and some of them are pretty nasty places for anyone who’s not the right brand of Muslim (Saudi Arabia), but perhaps I’ve missed the news stories about the mass executions of infidels going on in Muslim countries.

          • albatross11 says:

            quanta:

            Yeah, Nazis in 1940 were in control of the most powerful country in Europe with a really badass military, lots of industry, and science/technology at the forefront of human achievement. It’s been several centuries since anything like that was the case for any Muslim country.

          • Matt M says:

            You or I can spout off on the internet about something without thinking it through much or knowing what we’re talking about, and little is the worse for it. The president is in a fundamentally different situation–his words have weight and impact that very few other people can match.

            Okay.

            But Trump never agreed to do that, never promised to do that, and never gave the slightest indication that he was even the least bit inclined to do that. And people voted for him – not in spite of that sort of behavior – but because of it.

            You can disagree with it if you want. You can even denounce it. But seeing the media continually reach for their fainting couch because they are just shocked and appalled that Trump’s Twitter etiquette isn’t becoming of a very serious politician has grown pretty damn tiresome.

          • Civilis says:

            So, how many countries ruled by Muslims are currently about the job of slaughtering infidels?

            It’s not just a matter of deaths, but quality of life. It’s also hard to compare, because we’ve got one example of Naziism, and the numbers for what it was like to be a regular German during that time period are skewed by the war. For that reason, I’m not going to try to use ISIS’s Caliphate, Syria, or the Sudan or Ethiopia for examples of Islamic governance.

            Serious question: is the government of Iran or Pakistan today more or less oppressive than Mussolini’s Italy pre-World War II or Franco’s Spain post Spanish Civil War? Given that the big lefty protest umbrella is called AntiFA, I think they’re comparable states to use.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @Conrad honcho
            I find it interesting that islamaphobes always seem to agree with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi that the only Muslims who really count are the subjects of his pathetic caliphate.

            The vast majority of Muslims are peaceful. Never slaughtered an infidel. They just support a religious and political system that allows for the slaughtering of infidels once they obtain power

            Tell that to the soldiers of the Iraqi golden division. Because these brave, and ruthless men, have been fighting shoulder to shoulder with Christians, and Yazidiz, against an army of ruthless genocidal terrorists. What exactly have you done to save anyone form the horrors of the so called Islamic sate?

            It is true that there are many in the Muslim world who no doubt have sympathy for the hateful, and fanatical doctrine of the Jihadis, but they are overwhelmingly outnumbered. I am not telling platitudes about peaceable Muslims, because the people of Egypt did not respond to the abomination that left more than three hundred worshipers dead in a mosque in the north Sinai on Sunday by taking the path of peace, instead they have gone to war. As the Kurds, and the Iraqi’s, and the Afghans, have gone to war, to save their civilization form those who would destroy it.

            Every time Trump insults Islam, he insults them, and undermines there struggle. It is a disgrace to hear the commander in chief of the US armed forces talk about our allies like that.

            I am on the side of those who are, as we speak, risking their lives to fight men who would come here and kill us in our sleep if they could. Who’s side are you on?

            @Civilis

            Serious question: is the government of Iran or Pakistan today more or less oppressive than Mussolini’s Italy pre-World War II or Franco’s Spain post Spanish Civil War

            Much less, in both cases. Pakistan, though it has is has it’s problems is a multi party parliamentary democracy. Iran while deeply repressive in many ways, is no absolute dictatorship, and has mixed system of government akin to European constitutional monarchies of the nineteenth century.

            Also, Ethiopia? They’re brown (or black as may be the case) so they must be Muslim? In case you don’t know, that country is, and always has been overwhelmingly Christian.

          • Civilis says:

            Also, Ethiopia? They’re brown (or black as may be the case) so they must be Muslim? In case you don’t know, that country is, and always has been overwhelmingly Christian.

            Mea culpa. I meant Somalia. Shows what I get for typing while frustrated. I will note that this is the second time that someone on the left has fallen back on talking about the right’s supposed hatred of ‘brown people’. Isn’t that canard a little outdated?

            Much less, in both cases. Pakistan, though it has is has it’s problems is a multi party parliamentary democracy. Iran while deeply repressive in many ways, is no absolute dictatorship, and has mixed system of government akin to European constitutional monarchies of the nineteenth century.

            It’s not the state of the top level of government that solely defines repression. Pakistan just had a senior government minister forced out because the oath of office was changed slightly in how it referenced the prophet. Significant parts of the country are in the hands of tribal authorities. Murders of those accused of blasphemy seem to go unsolved. Likewise, the Republican Guard’s calling a lot of the shots in Iran, and I wouldn’t want to be in one of their prisons either.

            It’s hard to compare two societies of different technological eras. Certainly, Franco and Mussolini didn’t have the Internet to deal with in keeping their control of government, and it was a lot easier to make inconvenient dissidents disappear. Still, that countries are willing to torture and disappear the inconvenient in the modern age with all the modern problems that entails tells you something about them.