THE JOYFUL REDUCTION OF UNCERTAINTY

Links 8/18: URLin Wall

DMT users are building a “psychedelic temple” on a site in upstate New York that “aligns with the solar plexus of a projected goddess”, and it looks exactly like you would expect.

A new AI will draw a picture based on a caption you give it, but it’s not very good. Article here, and you can try out the AI itself here. If all this AI progress seems to be moving too fast and making you scared, tell it to draw “a woman with the correct number of eyes”. And fnord888 starts a duel between the picture-based-on-caption AI and the caption-based-on-picture AI.

Overcoming Bias on the newest theory for why big firms are pulling away from others: proprietary backroom IT.

If someone’s choking, and you’re wondering if you should use a ballpoint pen to puncture a hole in their throat for them to breathe through, a Journal Of Emergency Medicine study where researchers stuck ballpoint pens into the throats of corpses suggests that you should probably hold out for a real scalpel. Also, all emergency medicine doctors are now at severe risk of being plagued by the vengeful dead.

Peter McCluskey of Bayesian Investor, who unlike me actually knows stuff about economics, reviews Piketty, is able to be much more critical of some of his claims like the ones about the ultra-rich getting better investment returns than everyone else.

Basic income recipients react to one of the world’s largest experiments being cancelled. Whether you support basic income or not, promising people three years of free money, letting them quit their jobs or make long-term investments or whatever, and then saying “wait, actually, changed our mind” is pretty scummy.

Attempted drone assassination of Venezuelan president fails, but probably a sign of things to come as more and more private citizens become capable of building their own assassination drones.

Last month, Indian scientists reported the development of a room-temperature superconductor. After that, the story gets weird and possibly fraudulent.

Mastodon Is Better Than Twitter: Elevator Pitch. “The real advantage Mastodon has over Twitter is that Mastodon is not an outrage machine that’s corroding our ability to view our political opponents as real humans, deserving of sympathy and understanding.” Discusses how even the simplest things, like renaming “retweet” to “boost” and taking away the option to add a comment above it, can completely change the dynamic. I quit Twitter a while ago and am almost tempted to try Mastodon now.

China watchers have been talking more about weaknesses in Xi Jinping’s rule, although so far nothing seems to have come of it.

From the Culture Wars thread: courts have struck down a record number of Trump administration initiatives – not just because the initiatives are unprecedently bad, but also because the administration doesn’t seem to be putting any work into dotting and crossing their legal Is and Ts. Is this intentional?

Students and student groups boycotting Israel are facing weirder and harder-line tactics than ever, including some kind of sinister organization of people in canary costumes who are apparently trying to signal threats but only insofar as you can signal threat by showing up and dancing in a canary costume. Other groups put photos and information of anti-Israel activists online along with descriptions of how they are racist and anti-Semitic. I assume this is a sign of things to come after every issue becomes approximately this heated, though maybe not the weird dancing canary people in particular.

Some rare (and probably irrelevant) climate good news: UK carbon emissions are now back below 1890 levels.

Study: Hitler’s public speeches did not measurably increase support for the Nazi Party, challenging the story that everything comes down to his skill as an orator and demagogue (and further reinforcing the idea of campaigns in general not being very effective at changing minds). But then how did the Nazi Party get so much support so quickly?

Berkeley police get in trouble for tweeting the names and mugshots of antifa protesters arrested during dueling antifa and alt-right protests earlier this month. They explain themselves by saying that all arrest records are public anyway – but there’s a difference between having something publicly available in some office drawer somewhere and putting it on a widely-read Twitter account. See also Against Signal-Boosting As Doxxing.

Aristotle, On Trolling.

A study of the distribution of spatial intelligence around the world shows that it pretty much matches the distribution of regular intelligence around the world, with some surprises. East Asia does less overwhelmingly well than it does in a lot of regular intelligence tests. Countries with less gender equality have a higher male-female gap in spatial intelligence, which remember is the opposite pattern as they show in percent women seeking high-spatial-intelligence-requiring traditionally male jobs.

New antimalarial bed net works better than older bed nets, is effective against otherwise-resistant strains of the disease.

Did you know: New York has a Donald Trump State Park, but it’s inaccessible, unmaintained, asbestos-laden, and covered in garbage.

Polygenic scores branch out into detecting risk for conditions like heart disease and diabetes. New score is able to identify 8% of the population at greater than threefold increased risk for heart disease. In ten years, those health reports you get from 23andMe are actually going to mean something.

This month in dog-whistling: Internet flies into a frenzy when alert sleuths discover that a Massachusetts prison guard has an arm tattoo containing Known White Supremacist Number 88. Hundreds of online comments and various threats to the guard’s physical safety later, the guard clarified he played college football with uniform number 88. Relevant groups still say they’re proud of challenging the “privilege” of people who can use the number 88 without caring how offensive it is.

Noahpinion on a different way of thinking about housing: suppose a city built houses that only rich newcomers were allowed to live in. Would this be good or bad for poorer long-term citizens?

Old Catholic religious law said that any new territories discovered belonged to the diocese from which the discovering expedition set out, so the Pope shouldn’t have been so surprised when the Bishop of Orlando asserted his religious control over the Moon.

Michael Johnson of Qualia Research is really excited about connectome-specific harmonic waves as a paradigm for neuroscience. I am kind of failing to grasp exactly what they do or why the brain should have waves in it at all. Maybe I need to back up and understand regular brain waves better before I think more about this.

Finance/legal experts say that Elon Musk will probably just get a slap on the wrist for impulsive and potentially market-manipulating tweets, because the Trump administration SEC has stopped doing the thing where they punish people who break laws. Still some chance that Tesla will suffer from a private class action suit. While I’m glad that a company doing important work won’t fall apart just because of one impulsive tweet by someone who might not have been in the best mental state at the time, punishing executives’ bad behavior with fines when those executives are tycoons with infinite money seems like a really stupid policy.

This month in sentimental cartography: someone turns Jordan Peterson’s Maps Of Meaning into a literal map of meaning.

The last links thread led to this petition to ban San Francisco supervisors from having kitchens getting over 1500 signatures. Obviously this is a broad-based movement that needs to start running candidates for important municipal positions (for those not in on the joke: it was a protest over some SF supervisors trying to ban companies from having on-site cafeterias).

The story of the quest to expose Yoshihiro Sato, a bone health researcher who fabricated dozens of major clinical trials. And by “quest to expose”, I mean “it was really easy to figure out, but none of the journals who had published his fake trials wanted to retract them or even acknowledge the problem”. This all happened about 5-10 years ago, and I wonder if it could still happen today. I feel like someone would have published it on a science blog, or some important researcher would have tweeted it, and then lots of people would be aware of the allegations, and at the very least the guy wouldn’t keep publishing more false trials for years and years. The abdication of all science-related professional communication to the journals seems to have created a really dangerous chokepoint and I’m glad it’s gradually loosening up.

This site claims to be able to provide free EMDR online – does anyone know anything about it or have an opinion?

A famous study showing that people forced to mechanically smile were actually happier failed to replicate a few years ago, leading to the usual doubts, accusations, and confusion. An Israeli group recently published an update: they did experiments which showed that in situations without a video camera watching (as in the original study), smiling produced happiness. But in situations with a video camera (as in the replication), smiling did not produce happiness. A rare example of really figuring out what’s going on behind apparently conflicting results instead of just dismissing one side or the other – except that scientists really, really don’t think the new both-sides-were-right-after-all study is going to replicate!

A few months ago I found a strong birth order effect in the SSC survey. Eli Tyre on Less Wrong says he’s replicated the effect in a sample of famous mathematicians. If you’re a college student or someone else being asked to do an interesting psych research project, replicating this in some other sample would be easy, require zero tools, and make an actually interesting contribution to science. Bonus points if everyone can agree on a statistic to show how birth-order-skewed different samples are so we can compare one to another.

Gwern provides evidence that John von Neumann should share credit with IJ Good as the first person to seriously consider the technological singularity.

This month in “people who were probably teased in school”: Saint Homobonus.

NSI-189, the exciting revolutionary amazing new antidepressant that doesn’t work, has found a new lease on life; the FDA has named it an “orphan drug” for rare congenital condition Angelman Syndrome. I don’t know if this is part of some sort of long-term plan to use the Angelman indication as a springboard back into depression or something.

80000 Hours: If You’re Really Unsure Whether To Quit Your Job Or Break Up, You Probably Should. Researchers get thousands of people on the fence about major life decisions to make them by flipping a coin. Later, the ones who made the decision to switch jobs or break up were much happier, suggesting that there’s a status quo bias and that you can improve your life by being slightly more willing to take risks. Sneaky nitpick: this can’t rule out the possibility that quitting your job is almost always a somewhat good idea, but for 1% of people an abysmally bad idea, such that it’s bad on net.

Some Enlightenment-era rulers, including Frederick the Great of Prussia, would order criminals to be publicly tortured to death, but actually kill them quickly and mercifully beforehand in a way the crowd couldn’t detect – in order to reap the deterrence effects of harsh punishment with a clean conscience.

The Department of Education reported 235 school shootings in the US for the 2015 school year. When NPR checked, they were only able to confirm 11 of them. The others seem to have been mostly Lizardman’s Constant – ie real school shootings are so rare that they were massively outnumbered by school officials filling out the survey wrong or misunderstanding the question.

Chinese scientists claim to have used CRISPR to successfully remove a genetic disease from human embryos, although those embryos will not be implanted and turned into people.

Reason on how alternative newspapers and erotic classified sections are unfairly targeted by government investigations under the banner of scare stories about sex trafficking. Kamala Harris really comes off looking bad in this one, which makes it suck that the world is trying to put me in a position where I’m forced to vote for her in two years.

The newest literary medium is short comments on unrelated Reddit threads ranting about flesh interfaces. Read if you like Lovecraft, enjoyed the Gig Economy story linked here a few months ago, or have generally good taste.

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604 Responses to Links 8/18: URLin Wall

  1. Mary says:

    Attempted drone assassination of Venezuelan president fails,

    Alleged assassination. Faking one is both consistent with past conduct and obviously advantageous. And video shows nothing inconsistent with a fake that put him in no real danger.

    • perlhaqr says:

      Were I Maduro, I’m not sure that’s an idea I’d want to put into too many people’s heads.

      Then again, maybe Venezuelans are too poor for this to really be an issue for him.

    • engleberg says:

      Donald Hamilton’s classic Line of Fire is always worth recommending.

  2. AnonYEmous says:

    In regards to Elon: my dad told me yesterday that the SEC always gives out slaps on the wrist for these offenses, or at least just “fines”. Maybe the fine’s size doesn’t matter that much, to the point where Obama’s larger fines still sounded like slaps on the wrist to him.

    Discusses how even the simplest things, like renaming “retweet” to “boost” and taking away the option to add a comment above it, can completely change the dynamic.

    Moreso they argue toward this being true; it’s not like you can’t retweet (or “boost”) something ironically, although I guess it’s a bit harder to make sure everyone knows you’re making fun of what you retweeted.

    p.s. : the font of that prison tattoo seems pretty questionable; from Googling it, it looks a lot like the way Nazis write the number 88. What up with that?

    • melolontha says:

      Relatedly: I’ve felt for a while that Scott has a blind spot around ‘dog-whistling’, or at least a tendency not to notice it and a significant bias toward dismissing reports of it. I could handwave some possible explanations — perhaps Scott is an unusually honest and literal communicator, and is basically typical-minding; perhaps he has seen his own words ripped out of context and misinterpreted by paranoid or unscrupulous people, and is pattern-matching other cases to his own experience — but I think what would actually be useful is a) asking if other readers agree with me on this, and, if so, b) asking Scott if he would be willing to perform some kind of self-experiment to test this out. (Suggestions for low-effort (on Scott’s part) but relatively reliable ways to do so would also be welcome.)

      • CatCube says:

        I think that often as not, accusations of “dog-whistling” are a cover for, “you’re not saying anything we can object to, so we’re going to assume you’re secretly saying something we can object to, because then we don’t have to engage with your arguments.”

        • Eugene Dawn says:

          accusations of “dog-whistling” are a cover for,

          So “dog-whistling” is a dog-whistle?

        • melolontha says:

          Crying wolf about dog-whistling (mixed metaphor unashamedly intended) is definitely a thing. But so is actual dog-whistling. I feel like it would be basically impossible to settle an argument about the actual ratio between the two, or how much we should worry about either. (Our opinions will all be based on our own set of subjectively-interpreted, often dimly-remembered experiences, and when neither side is arguing an absolute (i.e. this simply does/doesn’t happen) there’s not really any such thing as a definitive piece of evidence or reasoning.)

          But I think it would be possible at least to work out where we stand relative to other people in terms of tendency to perceive dog-whistling — and with a bit of ingenuity, maybe we could even design a semi-objective test that would allow us to draw conclusions about whether we lean too far in one direction.

          • Matt M says:

            But so is actual dog-whistling.

            It’s a thing in theory, but I imagine in reality it’s incredibly rare. For an “88” arm tattoo to be actual dog-whistling, you have to imagine the person obtaining it is sufficiently pro-Nazi to entertain getting a Nazi-inspired tattoo, sufficiently pro-Nazi to want that tattoo to be visible and to be able to communicate a pro-Nazi message to certain other people, but not sufficiently pro-Nazi to openly get a clear and obvious Nazi tattoo.

            Given that the percentage of people in society at all who are even a little bit pro-Nazi is incredibly small, the amount of people who will engage in “dog whistling” for it is probably really really small. Probably significantly smaller than the people who might consider getting a tattoo that includes “88” for non-Nazi purposes.

            Meaning that, any given “88” tattoo is statistically much more likely to be innocent than to be pro-Nazi dog-whistling. Meaning that accusations of pro-Nazi dog-whistling based on nothing more than an “88” tattoo are irresponsible and illogical.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M

            On the other hand, we know that neo-Nazis use a few numbers as codes. Groups that are widely hated often adopt identifier codes, etc, with a little bit of plausible deniability; so reasoning that someone willing to get a tattoo or whatever identifying themselves as part of hated group would just go whole hog fails. If I see a double-eight my usual assumption is “dang, this person was born in 1988 and when they were getting their email account they didn’t know that it’s also neo-Nazi code” because there’s more people born that year (or whatever) who don’t know about the neo-Nazi stuff than actual neo-Nazis, but context matters: the guy with skull and Celtic cross tattoos probably doesn’t have the 88 tattoo because he’s a big Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan, right?

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I think the use of “dog-whistling” should be mostly restricted to politicians, where the concept makes more sense (a politician might want to be attractive to a group of voters, without being seen to be attracting that group of voters), and where the scrubbing of public utterances of any controversial meaning is pretty well-understood to be a part of the game, as brmic notes.

            From this point of view, dog-whistling is just an extreme case of the general political wisdom that you should sell your policies using the most uncontroversial language possible: your tax cuts should always “promote small business”, your spending programs should “help hardworking families put food on the table”; so too your defense of segregation should “protect states’ rights“.

          • In this case, it looks as though there is a simple factual issue–was 88 the guard’s number as a football player? If it was and he didn’t pick the number himself (or picked it back before 88 was being used as a Nazi signal) then the tattoo is explained.

          • Xenosisters says:

            The concept of dog-whistling is nonsensical. It is the belief that there are people who want the approval of neo-Nazis, but who don’t want to suffer the social consequences of saying so openly, so they communicate through coded language that’s only significant to neo-Nazis. But the Left are so sensitive to the threat of Naziism that they will be suspicious of a man who tattooed an 88 on his arm even after they’re given an infinitely more plausible explanation of why he did so. Before this man had to justify himself to an online mob, there were threats to his physical safety based on nothing to implicate him other than the existence of the tattoo. So the obvious question is: Why would anyone use a code that all of their political enemies “knew” to be a code? Especially if the most raucous of those enemies were so certain they knew the “code” that they would make death threats to anyone who appeared to be using it in a photo with no context and no other evidence of wrongdoing? It’s not as if the Left has been quiet about their belief that they’ve cracked this “code.” Dogwhistling is discussed on major Left Wing media outlets. It’s not as if the Left hasn’t been comprehensive in trying to find symbols of significance to White Supremacists; the ADL website has a massive database of symbols, letters, and numbers claimed to be used by hate groups. They’ve made it emphatically clear they think they know the secret codes Nazis are using to communicate with each other, despite the absurdity of the idea.

            The level of reasoning behind the dogwhistling concept is childish. It is literally a belief that there are secrets that everyone knows.

          • Matt M says:

            I’d also imagine that actual neo-nazis are likely to be unimpressed by someone quietly using a plausibly-deniable platform to signal to them without suffering any of the social costs associated with nazism.

            “Street cred” is a thing and you don’t earn any by displaying your affiliation in a cowardly manner such that it looks like you’re trying to hide it…

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            But the Left are so sensitive to the threat of Naziism that they will be suspicious of a man who tattooed an 88 on his arm even after they’re given an infinitely more plausible explanation of why he did so.

            Counter argument: He did this years ago, and the fact that people had to embed or commit to their dog-whistles long ago justifies the ratcheting up of the Left’s nazi-meters to absurd-levels, because now we can catch old things said while no one was watching.

            I hate people.

          • Mary says:

            The level of reasoning behind the dogwhistling concept is childish. It is literally a belief that there are secrets that everyone knows.

            Childish? It’s the belief that people you dislike have hidden coded messages that reveal their true nefarious evil.

            The normal term for this is “clinical paranoia.”

      • AnonYEmous says:

        i think it’s just that a lot of these people tend to find nazis where there aren’t any

        but in this case, the font really does raise questions beyond just the number “88”.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          Given that we have a picture of the guy’s full tattoo and it does have his football team logo on it, and he provided a picture of himself in his 88 football uniform, do you think he’s just playing some kind of incredibly long con, or what?

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Do we know who picked the original number? Maybe he picked it. If not, well, I’d still want to ask – why the font?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            A decent chance the tattoo artist picked it and asked if “this was what he wanted”, I would think.

          • baconbits9 says:

            If not, well, I’d still want to ask – why the font?

            The question is, why do you want to ask? Why should people have to potentially defend every aesthetic decision that they make? Every lottery number they choose? Are there not a thousand different ways that your, and their time could be better spent?

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            The question is, why do you want to ask?

            Because if a prison guard is a Nazi, that would be bad. If we can clarify whether he is with a simple question, then why not?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Because if a prison guard is a Nazi, that would be bad. If we can clarify whether he is with a simple question, then why not?

            You can’t clarify, if its a dog whistle then he will just deny it (unless you ask him 3 times of course) when asked so no clarification happens. All it serves to do is allow the questioner free license to harass anyone they want under the guise of Nazi hunting. It sets one person above the other as well, with one having the power to question and one being compelled to respond, its the old “if you have nothing to hide why don’t you want to be questioned” canard.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            If he says something like, “I was born in 1988” and that’s true, then I think most people would be satisfied. We can acknowledge that the base rates are pretty low, and set a fairly weak standard for accepting peoples’ answers.

            As to the rest of your comment, it depends who the questioner is. I think I have an interest in making sure my friends aren’t Nazis for example, and if I were hiring prison guards, I would want to make sure they aren’t Nazis. I think asking questions in that case is not unreasonable. But I can agree that for certain definitions of “we”, there’s not much value in investigating every person who does something that might be interpreted as Nazi-ish.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            You can’t clarify, if its a dog whistle then he will just deny it (unless you ask him 3 times of course) when asked so no clarification happens.

            And this is why I proposed to ask the question “who picked the original number”, i.e. who picked his jersey number. If he picked it, then “it was my jersey number” is not much of an excuse; if he says someone else picked it, then we can ask that someone else to see if he’s lying. Of course, that “someone else” might lie about it too, but then again they might not.

            The question is, why do you want to ask? Why should people have to potentially defend every aesthetic decision that they make?

            if it was a swastika tattoo does this question still apply

            why or why not

          • Thegnskald says:

            This “I might find a Nazi” shit reads like a gun blogger who, after pages of drool-ridden love poems about their new pistol, writes something like “I half hope somebody does break in tonight”.

            Except that the gun blogger probably actually does have an idea what to do with a robber if they did catch one in the act.

          • baconbits9 says:

            If he says something like, “I was born in 1988” and that’s true, then I think most people would be satisfied. We can acknowledge that the base rates are pretty low, and set a fairly weak standard for accepting peoples’ answers.

            .

            You haven’t established that your questioning would do that though. “I was #88 on the football team” doesn’t answer anything even if it was the truth. How do we know that he didn’t pick #88 because he was already a Nazi sympathizer in high school? Or heck, maybe he became a Nazi after he picked number 88, then found out they valued the number, which made him feel like he belonged in some way.

            Notice how AnonYEmous already did this above?

            Do we know who picked the original number? Maybe he picked it. If not, well, I’d still want to ask – why the font?

            There is no logical stopping point here, that is the whole point of dog whistles, conspiracy theories and numerology.

            As to the rest of your comment, it depends who the questioner is. I think I have an interest in making sure my friends aren’t Nazis for example, and if I were hiring prison guards, I would want to make sure they aren’t Nazis. I think asking questions in that case is not unreasonable

            Asking questions in these cases based on dog whistles is unreasonable because any conclusions you come to are totally unreliable. The whole (claimed) point of a dog whistle is something that is otherwise benign and easily explained away. If you want to make sure your friends aren’t Nazi’s don’t use dog whistle assumptions, and don’t look for similarities between your wife and Hester Prynne to figure out if she is cheating on you.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            There is no logical stopping point here, that is the whole point of dog whistles, conspiracy theories and numerology.

            You stop when you’re satisfied there is some other reason; I agree if someone insists on being unreasonable, they can keep prying but that’s true of anything.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Eugine –

            The premise begins as unreasonable, is the issue.

          • baconbits9 says:

            if it was a swastika tattoo does this question still apply

            No, because a swastika tattoo is not a dog whistle, its an outright endorsement that the bearer expects to be recognized by both the in and the out group.

            And this is why I proposed to ask the question “who picked the original number”, i.e. who picked his jersey number. If he picked it, then “it was my jersey number” is not much of an excuse; if he says someone else picked it, then we can ask that someone else to see if he’s lying.

            Again there is no logical end to you chain of questions, it is just when you decided you are satisfied. Well lets go ask his coach (why would his coach remember years after the fact anyway), or use it as a justification to dig into his personal and family history. Because there is no logical structure there is no way to “clear up” the “misunderstanding” if the questioner doesn’t want to be convinced.

            If you were visited by the secret police in a communist state they would do this to you.

            “Hey comrade, we just arrested your neighbors for being capitalist sympathizers, did you know of their actions”.

            No response gets you free until the questioner decides you go free.

            “No sir, no idea at all”

            “How could you not have any idea, you were neighbors after all. Isn’t that exactly what one of their conspirators would say?”

            “Yes sir, I suspected”

            “And you did not turn them in? Sounds like something a capitalist sympathizer would do”.

            The only acceptable response is

            “Yes sir, I am the one who turned them in” and the only way for this to work is to constantly be denouncing everyone remotely close to you so that when they get taken away you can point to the record and save yourself.

            This is the path these tactics take. The only way to be safe from accusations of being a neo nazi (or really just “questions”) is to be constantly accusing someone else of being a nazi.

            Finally, in the long run it is also none of your god damn business. Maybe 88 was the last two digits of his grandmother’s tattoo that she got in Auschwitz that he wants to remember or maybe he just thought an 8 on its side looked like boobs, and 4 boobs are better than 2. It is the totalitarians who come up with justifications to invade people’s lives, not the other way around.

          • albatross11 says:

            It seems to me than 99% of all alleged dogwhistles I’ve seen are just ways to accuse someone you don’t like of secretly holding some unsavory belief. And the fun part is, once you’ve found your dogwhistle, you can remain convinced (and convince like-minded people) even when there’s not really any other evidence to support your claim.

          • baconbits9 says:

            You stop when you’re satisfied there is some other reason; I agree if someone insists on being unreasonable, they can keep prying but that’s true of anything.

            You have skipped the whole part where you are justified in asking. What makes you such a good susser of Nazis, liars or secret watchers of bad TV? Further who wants to live in a world when any expression of individuality can be “legitimately” questioned? The answer to the second one is totalitarians, fascists and the like who want their view of society imprinted on everyone.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            @Thegnskald

            The premise begins as unreasonable, is the issue.

            It depends on the dog whistle in question. There genuinely are people who get Nazi numerology tattoos.

            @Baconbits9

            No, because a swastika tattoo is not a dog whistle, its an outright endorsement that the bearer expects to be recognized by both the in and the out group.

            What if they’re a Jain?

            there is no way to “clear up” the “misunderstanding” if the questioner doesn’t want to be convinced.

            Yes, but the “if the questioner doesn’t want to be convinced” is the important part. If someone is willing to be convinced, there’s no problem.

            If you were visited by the secret police in a communist state they would do this to you.

            I agree no one should be arrested on the basis of a tattoo.

            Finally, in the long run it is also none of your god damn business. Maybe 88 was the last two digits of his grandmother’s tattoo that she got in Auschwitz that he wants to remember or maybe he just thought an 8 on its side looked like boobs, and 4 boobs are better than 2.

            Whether or not someone is a Nazi is indeed my goddamn business, at least, depending on the nature of my interaction with them. And any argument that they don’t have to justify their aesthetic choices to me works just as well to argue that I don’t have to justify the standards I hold to interact with someone.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Eugine –

            Sure. You can have whatever standards you want. If you are so inclined, you can refuse to interact with people you suspect of being Zionists, too.

            Don’t expect us to pretend like your right to harass people who are patient enough to put up with it means we can’t call you out on it, however.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            There is no logical stopping point here, that is the whole point of dog whistles, conspiracy theories and numerology.

            Of course there’s a logical stopping point. Look, think about it like this; we’re dealing with probabilities. So we could use a confidence interval, say a 95% confidence interval. That still means we’ve got a 5% chance of being wrong, and admittedly conspiracy-minded people will chase that 5% chance, but I’m perfectly willing to let it go. Those precise numbers aren’t what I’m following, but that is the general idea. In this case, if he says someone else picked the number and they confirm it, then it’s pretty unlikely that either person is a Nazi. Plus, I don’t care about that other person. It could also be that he has some perfectly innocuous excuse, like Nybbler’s example that he just wanted stencil font; that sounds unique enough that I would assume that he couldn’t just make it up on the spot.

            With all that said, I think you’ve got a fair point that it’s not my job to intrude into his life just to confirm or deny something. I just didn’t like Scott’s implication that it was totally ridiculous that it was a Nazi symbol based on the simple fact that it was a number, because it was actually a number and a font which seems very similar to the font used in Nazi tattoos. Plus, if he was the one to choose the jersey number, then his explanation that his tattoo was just after his jersey number…doesn’t exactly work.

          • Deiseach says:

            If we can clarify whether he is with a simple question, then why not?

            Why did you pick the name “Eugene Dawn“? Is this a reference to the Golden Dawn? The far-right, fascist, possibly neo-Nazi Greek party?

            Is your name a dog whistle? Just answer this one simple question, Eugene, and we’ll know you’re not a secret Nazi (see, everyone can play this game!)

          • Matt M says:

            A whole fuck-ton of athletes have chosen 88 as their jersey number, including a large number of black athletes.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            @Thegnskald

            Sure. You can have whatever standards you want. If you are so inclined, you can refuse to interact with people you suspect of being Zionists, too.

            I agree, though I think that most people will agree that refusing to interact with those you suspect of Nazism is more reasonable than refusing to interact with those you suspect of Zionism, putting aside the question of whether you think people ground those suspicions reasonably.

            If the guy had a swastika tattoo, would you think this was an example of harassment? In other words, is your issue with harassing people who you suspect of Nazism, or having too low a threshold for suspicion of Nazism?

            @Deiseach:

            Why did you pick the name “Eugene Dawn“? Is this a reference to the Golden Dawn?

            If social media accounts used by members of Golden Dawn used pseudonyms containing the word “Dawn” in the same way that Nazis do in fact use the number 88, this would be a good comparison.

            But just to demonstrate how easy it is to answer such a simple question: I chose the name because it’s the name of the main character in JM Coetzee’s Duskland, which I happened to be reading when I started commenting here. See how easy this was?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Of course there’s a logical stopping point. Look, think about it like this; we’re dealing with probabilities.

            We aren’t dealing with probabilities, if we were we wouldn’t touch this with a 10 ft pole.

            What percentage of Americans do you think would admit to being a Nazi, or sympathetic to them in public that don’t also have easily identifiable Nazi traits? What percentage of Americans have been innocently affiliated with one of the dog whistle numbers, phrases or whatever at some point in their lives.

            We aren’t talking probabilities unless you have good estimates of these probabilities before hand. Otherwise we are just talking speculation and dressing it up as probabilities.

            To reiterate: the whole claim about dog whistles is that they are hard to detect outside of the targeted community, you should therefore be skeptical that an outsider is going to have any understanding of these probabilities.

          • Matt M says:

            To reiterate: the whole claim about dog whistles is that they are hard to detect outside of the targeted community

            Heh, yep.

            If you think you hear the dogwhistle, then you are probably the dog.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            A whole fuck-ton of athletes have chosen 88 as their jersey number, including a large number of black athletes.

            and then proceeded to get a tattoo of that number with the same font that apparently Nazis use for that number

            Look, initially it sounded like bullshit to me too. But the font makes it more likely than Scott or most of the people in this thread care to admit.

            We aren’t dealing with probabilities, if we were we wouldn’t touch this with a 10 ft pole.

            I gotta be honest, between you and Matt M this thread is rapidly becoming unpleasant to participate in. What percentage of americans get a tattoo of the number 88 in the same font that Nazis apparently use? How many of those are Nazis?

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            What percentage of Americans do you think would admit to being a Nazi, or sympathetic to them in public that don’t also have easily identifiable Nazi traits?

            What sort of “identifiable Nazi trait” are you thinking of here? Like, a tattoo of some sort, with a noted symbol of Nazi ideology?

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ Eugene Dawn

            What if they’re a Jain

            The point of a dog whistle is not “some things have multiple explanations”, the fact you can come up with a seemingly innocuous explanation for something does not make it a dog whistle. A dog whistle is specifically supposed to be something that is almost always benign, and Nazis with swastika tattoos are not hiding being Nazis.

          • JulieK says:

            There genuinely are people who get Nazi numerology tattoos.

            I would bet that for most of those people, you could figure out their political leanings from their social media posts, even if you didn’t know about their tattoo.

          • baconbits9 says:

            What percentage of americans get a tattoo of the number 88 in the same font that Nazis apparently use? How many of those are Nazis?

            I don’t know, and because I don’t know I don’t jump to conclusions or justify harassment or demand behavior changes. When I do leap to conclusions in my head I try to remind myself that I am often wrong.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            When I do leap to conclusions in my head I try to remind myself that I am often wrong.

            and that’s why I didn’t leap to any conclusion to begin with, except maybe the conclusion that we don’t have enough information to be sure, or at least as sure as Scott seems

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            A dog whistle is specifically supposed to be something that is almost always benign, and Nazis with swastika tattoos are not hiding being Nazis.

            Nazis with 88 tattoos also aren’t hiding being Nazis. I don’t know how dogwhistling got mixed up in this, but having a Nazi tattoo isn’t a dogwhistle; dogwhistling is for politicians. If you read Scott’s link, you’ll see that the original post characterized the tattoo as a “straight up Nazi tattoo”–not presuming that the tattoo was meant to be a secret.

            The issue is that the guy was wrong, an 88 tattoo isn’t a straight-up Nazi tattoo–but only because there are (probably) more benign 88 tattoos than Nazi tattoos in a way that isn’t true for swastika tattoos.

            @JulieK

            I would bet that for most of those people, you could figure out their political leanings from their social media posts, even if you didn’t know about their tattoo.

            The original picture was taken by someone who went to the correctional institute, and so didn’t have access to the person’s social media page.

          • Matt M says:

            I’d re-iterate my statistical argument here.

            What group of people do you think is larger

            a. People who have some completely innocent reason for liking the number 88

            b. People who are sufficiently sympathetic to neo-nazis to get a dog-whistle style tattoo, but NOT sympathetic enough to proudly embrace it and go full swastika

            I have no statistics, but I’d guess that a > b by at least an order of magnitude. Meaning, if the only thing you know about someone is that they have an 88 tattoo, assuming neo-nazi dog-whistle is just terrible logic.

          • Jack Lecter says:

            @AnonYEmous:

            We seem to have moved from “eyeballing it, that font kind of looks one Nazis sometimes use, in that both are stencils” to “the tattoo is written in Nazi Font.”

            Given that there are hundreds of fonts, this would indeed be suspicious; what are the odds someone would choose the ONE font, out of hundreds, possibly thousands of choices, as that used by Nazis?

            If Nazis use multiple fonts, though, we have degrees of freedom. And if it isn’t the exact same font, we have a lot of degrees of freedom on both ends. Also, had we pre-selected fonts as the Designated Medium for conveying ideological allegiance? If not, there’s a buttload more degrees of freedom- they’re certainly piling up.
            ,

          • Matt M says:

            I’m pretty sure Comic Sans is the official font of crazy right-wing newsletter writers 🙂

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I have no statistics, but I’d guess that a > b by at least an order of magnitude. Meaning, if the only thing you know about someone is that they have an 88 tattoo, assuming neo-nazi dog-whistle is just terrible logic.

            The correct way to do this is via Bayes’ rule. Let N be the proposition “is a Nazi” and 88 be the proposition “has an 88 tattoo”.

            We want to know p(N|88) which is equal to

            [p(88|N)/p(88)]* p(N).

            Let’s also suppose it becomes reasonable to worry that someone is a Nazi if this probability is greater than 1/2.

            I’d guess there are on the order of 10^3 or 10^4 people who are Nazis or white supremacists in the US, out of a total population on the order of 10^8, so p(N) ~ 10^-5 or 10^-4. Let’s pick the smaller number.

            So, we should worry if

            p(88|N)/p(88) > 50000, in other words, if a Nazi is more than 50000 times more likely to get an 88 tattoo than a random person is.

            If we considered swastika tattoos instead, it’s clear that the reason we conclude that someone with such a tattoo is likely to be a Nazi is because of the negligible size of p(s)–almost no one in the general population gets a swastika, so even if the proportion of Nazis who do get that tattoo is moderate, the denominator is so tiny that it doesn’t matter.

            My guess is that p(88|N) is not too different in magnitude from p(88|s); possibly even higher since at least you have some plausible deniability with an 88 tattoo. So the only question is, how much more common are 88 tattoos in the general population than swastika tattoos?

            For what it’s worth, I agree with you the number is probably low enough that we don’t pass the threshold, or even come close. But we should be clear what the mistake here is. It’s entirely plausible (and I would guess true) that p(88|N)>p(88), i.e., that Nazis are more likely to get 88 tattoos than normies, in which case your belief that a person with such a tattoo is a Nazi should go up. But the ratio probably isn’t big enough to drive it up enough to become genuinely probable.

            Seeing an 88 tattoo should probably make you more likely to believe that person is a Nazi, but unless you have reason to believe that such tattoos are very, very, very uncommon, you should still attach a low probability.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @AnonYEmous

            and then proceeded to get a tattoo of that number with the same font that apparently Nazis use for that number

            Why do you believe this? A search for [nazi 88 tattoo] reveals that neo-Nazis use a variety of fonts for ’88’, including that one, a similar one without serifs, a round one with pointy serifs at top and bottom, handwriting, a square one that looks like a 7-segment display, and whatever the heck this is.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Why do you believe this? A search for [nazi 88 tattoo] reveals that neo-Nazis use a variety of fonts for ’88’, including that one, a similar one without serifs, a round one with pointy serifs at top and bottom, handwriting, a square one that looks like a 7-segment display, and whatever the heck this is.

            Yeah, this is why I wrote “apparently”; my evidence for this belief was some Google searches I myself did, but it’s entirely possible that I didn’t search hard enough. Thanks for clearing that up for me!

          • pansnarrans says:

            @AnonYEmous

            What percentage of americans get a tattoo of the number 88 in the same font that Nazis apparently use?

            If you look at the photos from the story, the font is pretty much exactly the font used on his football jersey if you discount the shadow or outline or whatever you call the white bit around the gold bit.

            I don’t think it’s meant to be some kind of Nazi Gothic font. This is frankly “reds under the bed” stuff.

          • Deiseach says:

            AnonYEmous, what the hell is a Nazi font? You mean a font that Nazis sometimes use – I’m going to guess some kind of bastardised blackletter Gothic? Like, oh, heavy metal bands? Plainly AC/DC are Nazi sympathisers, why else would they use a pseudo-Gothic font! Look, I found this site offering hand-painted Gothic numbers in exactly the same Nazi style as you claim the tattoo shows, let’s all call for that Nazi to be shut down now!

            Eugene Dawn, how can I believe that’s the real reason? Maybe you’re lying, as you assume the guard might lie about the reason he picked the number – maybe you chose that particular novel because the name resonated with your incipient Fascism?

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            You’re the one who told me to “Just answer this one simple question” and we’d be ok.

            Also, “maybe you chose that particular novel because the name resonated with your incipient Fascism”–this is just gibberish: who knows the name of a character in a novel before they read it?

            If you think this is a reasonable comparison to a case where someone has a tattoo of a known Nazi symbol, then that’s ridiculous. If you’re trying to demonstrate that it’s possible for people to be unreasonable and demand an unreachable standard of evidence, then I agree.
            But did that happen here? Did anyone say, “oh no! You could have picked your jersey number to match your Nazi leanings”, or did people concede that he had a good, non-Nazi reason for the tattoo, and go home?

          • pansnarrans says:

            The conflation between a “known Nazi symbol” and “a two-digit number, one that will come up roughly 1% of the time that a two-digit number is chosen” is getting a little weird here. Especially as we’re apparently scouring the land for any example of that number in a font that isn’t Times New Roman.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            It’s not weird when you understand that sometimes people pick two-digit numbers to be symbols.

            I agree that its use as an integer, or as a symbol for other things, means that we can’t automatically assume that any instance of it represents Nazism (see my discussion with Matt M above), but it’s inane to say that something can’t be both a two-digit number and a Nazi symbol, for basically the same reasons that it would be inane to deny that red can be both a symbol for socialism and also one of the three primary colours.

          • WafflesWaffles says:

            Football uniform numbers are given out based on position in the formation, not already being taken, and whatever smelly jersey old the coach happens to grab off the pile first.

            Numbers 80 to 89 are given to wide receivers and tight ends. There’s only 10 numbers in that set for 2 positions so usually few untaken numbers are even available. There’s near zero room for any choice in there in the first place.

            Fun fact: in poker the combination of two 8s used to be called “two fat ladies”

          • pansnarrans says:

            @Eugene Dawn

            it’s inane to say that something can’t be both a two-digit number and a Nazi symbol, for basically the same reasons that it would be inane to deny that red can be both a symbol for socialism and also one of the three primary colours

            Of course it can both be a number and a Nazi symbol. But it seems kind of ridiculous to seek out anyone associated with the number 88 and demand they prove that they’re not a Nazi, with the presumption being that they’re a Nazi unless proven otherwise.

            It’s a bit like arresting someone for wearing a red shirt and then expecting them to prove that are not and have never been a communist. It’s paranoid.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            There are three different claims being made (sometimes implicitly) in the thread above:
            1) 88 has nothing to do with Nazism, and this is just paranoid
            2) 88 is a Nazi symbol, but not particularly so: the probability of a Nazi choosing to use 88 is lower than the probability of someone in the general population doing so
            3) 88 is a Nazi symbol, and Nazis are more likely to use it than other groups, but the base rate of Nazis is so low, it’s still more likely than not that any particular instance of 88 is innocent.

            Deiseach’s response to me relies on an analogy between “88 is a Nazi symbol” and “the name Dawn is a Golden Dawn symbol”–since members of Golden Dawn to not use the name “Dawn” symbolically, the analogy only holds if 1) is false. But 1) is true, so her analogy is bad.

            Others in the thread are arguing that it’s not particularly likely for a Nazi to get an 88 tattoo, see for example Matt M at 12:15 arguing that it wouldn’t give them enough “street cred”. This (implicitly) denies 2)–that Nazis aren’t particularly likely to get 88 tattoos. This too, is false, and I think it’s plausible though probably impossible to be certain, that in fact 88 tattoos are more common among Nazis than among the general population.

            If the last claim is correct, then seeing someone with an 88 tattoo should raise your probability that the person is a Nazi.

            However, since your prior for someone being a Nazi should be extremely low, you should only raise the probability to a slightly less negligible number.
            So, you are right that seeing someone with an 88 tattoo shouldn’t make you confident that they are Nazi, but it very plausibly should make you more confident that they are. To the extent that people are arguing for 1) or 2) rather than 3), they’re mistaken.

          • JulieK says:

            If you think you hear the dogwhistle, then you are probably the dog.

            I actually saw an instance of this recently in the Piketty review thread, where Steve Sailer was trying to explain that Piketty’s references to rich people meant the Rothschilds.

          • Aapje says:

            Fun fact:

            There was a dispute in Germany over what font typeface to use. Conservatives mostly favored Fraktur/Gothic typefaces, which is the style of the numbers in the tattoo, while others favored Antiqua/Latin typefaces, which mimic handwriting.

            The Nazis were internally conflicted about this, where at first they mostly favored Fraktur/Gothic, while they later pretty decisively chose Antiqua/Latin typefaces. Hitler seemed to have been a strong proponent of the latter.

            For example, Hitler said in 1934 that:

            Your alleged Gothic internalisation does not fit well in this age of steel and iron, glass and concrete, of womanly beauty and manly strength, of head raised high and intention defiant … In a hundred years, our language will be the European language. The nations of the east, the north and the west will, to communicate with us, learn our language. The prerequisite for this: The script called Gothic is replaced by the script we have called Latin so far

            In 1941, Bormann published an edict that said:

            “For general attention, on behalf of the Führer, I make the following announcement:

            It is wrong to regard or to describe the so-called Gothic script as a German script. In reality, the so-called Gothic script consists of Schwabach Jew letters. Just as they later took control of the newspapers, upon the introduction of printing the Jews residing in Germany took control of the printing presses and thus in Germany the Schwabach Jew letters were forcefully introduced.

            Today the Führer, talking with Herr Reichsleiter Amann and Herr Book Publisher Adolf Müller, has decided that in the future the Antiqua script is to be described as normal script. All printed materials are to be gradually converted to this normal script. As soon as is feasible in terms of textbooks, only the normal script will be taught in village and state schools.

            The use of the Schwabach Jew letters by officials will in future cease; appointment certifications for functionaries, street signs, and so forth will in future be produced only in normal script.

            On behalf of the Führer, Herr Reichsleiter Amann will in future convert those newspapers and periodicals that already have foreign distribution, or whose foreign distribution is desired, to normal script”.

            So if you meet any Neo-Nazis who use Gothic letters, you can tell them that they are using a Jewish typeface…

          • Thegnskald says:

            I just want to point out that Eugene could be short for “eugenics”, sounding very similar. “Dawn” is only half the messaging going on there.

            I mean, just one of these things wouldn’t be good evidence, and I had my doubts. But we really need to update our priors on the second piece of evidence.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Additionally, note the clear anti-Semitism in Eugene Dawn’s picture, in which Calvin, known to be named after John Calvin, comments on the nature of predestination and it’s relationship to the immortal soul.

            Innocuous quote? Or a reference to John Calvin’s noted belief in predestination, an anti-Semite who believes all Jews were damned from birth?

            Three independent pieces of dog-whistling. This cannot possibly be a coincidence; Eugene Dawn is clearly a fascist.

          • pansnarrans says:

            @ Eugene

            I agree that it’s your option 3: the number 88 does not make someone a Nazi, or even mean they’re likely a Nazi, but it does update in that direction.

            However, this reasonable Bayesian position seems somewhat incompatible with comments like “What sort of “identifiable Nazi trait” are you thinking of here? Like, a tattoo of some sort, with a noted symbol of Nazi ideology?”

          • Protagoras says:

            Even if he picked it, there could be plenty of reasons. There are 8 hall of fame NFL players who wore 88 (odd coincidence); if he were, for example, from Minnesota, I’d be more likely to suspect he was a childhood fan of Cris “all he does is catch touchdowns” Carter than an admirer of Hitler.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            However, this reasonable Bayesian position seems somewhat incompatible with comments like “What sort of “identifiable Nazi trait” are you thinking of here? Like, a tattoo of some sort, with a noted symbol of Nazi ideology?”

            That comment is a response to the numerous people who are disagreeing with my 1), incorrectly. As a recent example, note Thegnskald’s faux-gotcha asserting that having the pseudonym Eugene as a reference to support for eugenics is a good analogy to having an 88 tattoo as support for Nazism. The difference though, is that 88 tattoos are actually a thing that Nazis do in a way that picking the pseudonym Eugene is not something that eugenicists do.

            The analogy only functions if having an 88 tattoo is as disconnected from Nazism as having the name Eugene is from supporting eugenics–i.e., if you deny that an 88 tattoo is an identifiable Nazi trait.

            The issue is not that 88 tattoos aren’t Nazis traits; it’s that Nazis are so rare that even the handful of non-Nazis who have the trait will overwhelm the actual Nazis in any random sample. Insofar as the people above keep making analogies that imply that they disagree with this, it’s worth pointing out that they’re wrong.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Eugene –

            Your name also adds up, in a simple letter number cipher with a starting index of 0, straight to 88.

            Which we all know Nazis use. So what’s your defense? Coincidences pile up!

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Thegnskald:
            Either you don’t understand the concepts of Bayesian statistics and prior probabilities, or you are just being antagonistic for the sake of being antagonistic.

          • Thegnskald says:

            HBC –

            Why not both?

            But no. I know how Bayesian reasoning works. I am misapplying it here deliberately, in case that wasn’t painfully fucking obvious, to demonstrate how absolutely stupid the reasoning at play looks from the outside. If it looks stupid, that is because it is. And it is the same “reasoning” being used to justify harassing people whose mother died thirty years ago, or any number of other reasons someone might find a number special.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I can’t imagine you’re doing this in good faith anymore, but I’ll respond one final time before dropping this:

            Nazis actually get 88 tattoos; they don’t choose names whose alphanumeric value adds up to 88. Your analogy only works if having an 88 tattoo is as rare for Nazis as choosing pseudonyms whose alphanumeric value adds up to 88–since no one in the world actually asserts that this is the case, your analogy is stupid and strained.

            I don’t understand why you persist in making it, when I already agree that there is in fact a good reason to dismiss the reasoning that anyone who has an 88 tattoo is a Nazi, without having to deny facts that are widely agreed upon. Usually people insist on making dumb analogies when there isn’t a good argument available to them; in your case there is, so just concede that in fact having an 88 tattoo is a Nazi symbol, and then point out that the base rates are so low that you should still never jump to the conclusion that someone is a Nazi based on their tattoo.

            EDIT to respond to your comment to HBC. Let’s do this in Bayesian terms. Your analogy relies on the assumption that

            p(88|N) ~ p(num,N)

            where N is “is a Nazi”
            88 is “has an 88 tattoo”
            and num is “has a name that can numerologicaly be connected to Nazism”.

            But this is patently false; p(88|N) is a moderately sized number, I’d guess on the order of 10^-2 (i.e., about 1 in a 100 Nazis gets an 88 tattoo), whereas p(num|N) is probably orders of magnitude smaller (most Nazis just put 88 directly in their pseudonyms).

            Even though p(N|88) and p(N|num) are both small, they are small for different reasons:
            p(N|num) is small because p(num|N) is small, but p(N|88) is small not because p(88|N) is, but because p(88) is not so small either.

            Your entire argument in this thread relies on making analogies that p(88|N) is small, but all available evidence suggests it’s not–so you should stop making bad analogies to wrong the term in the equation.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Eugene –

            A randomly selected person is wearing clothes with swastikas. What odds would you place on them being a Nazi?

            Hint: The answer is less than 1%. If you don’t understand, think about Indian people.

            And if you don’t understand why I bring this up, I have personally encountered somebody who was harrassed for wearing a swastika pendant. I have read accounts from an Indian woman who was yelled at in a bus over her traditional clothing.

            I don’t particularly give a shit what the base rate is, because the behavior in question here is bad regardless of the base rate.

            Which is my point, since you seem to have trouble picking up on it: Bad behavior isn’t made better because we wrap it in supserstition rationalizations. And I call this superstition because that is what it is – pattern matching based on a flawed view of reality in which coincidence is elevated to agency.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Okay this is truly the last time I will respond:

            I don’t particularly give a shit what the base rate is, because the behavior in question here is bad regardless of the base rate.

            Which is my point, since you seem to have trouble picking up on it: Bad behavior isn’t made better because we wrap it in supserstition rationalizations. And I call this superstition because that is what it is – pattern matching based on a flawed view of reality in which coincidence is elevated to agency.

            This is inane: you follow an argument of the form “there are lots of non-Nazis with swastika clothing” with “I don’t care about the base rate”–but the whole reason the probability p(N|swastika clothing) is low is because of the base rate! If Indians didn’t wear swastikas, then the probability of someone being a Nazi given them wearing swastika clothing would not be 1%! If Nazis were as common as Indian people, then the probability of someone being a Nazi given them wearing swastika clothing would be very high!

            It’s only “superstition” and “flawed pattern matching” because of the base rates! If there are behaviours that predict Nazism with high probability, then we should care about them, to whatever extent we care if someone is a Nazi. Perhaps you don’t think we should ever investigate if anyone is a Nazi for any reason; you are certainly welcome to hold that view. But then argue for it, and don’t make bad analogies that rely on comparing totally un-like pieces of evidence.

          • pansnarrans says:

            @ Eugene

            You’re right about tattoos of “88” being something Nazis have specifically because they’re Nazis, and therefore relevant where your name is not. My issue here is that, if I’m reading this thread right, you seem to be suggesting that an 88 tattoo is reason enough to treat someone as if they’re on notice, so to speak. Your earlier comments suggested that if you saw someone with such a tattoo, it would be reasonable to demand they explain themselves to you.

            I might have a skewed viewpoint here: I’m not American and didn’t find out about the 88 thing until I read this article. So to my instincts, the accusation sounds like pure numerology. This is my bias and I accept that. But if you agree that 88 normally does not signal a Nazi, why would you want to demand they explain why they have it tattooed?

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            My comments earlier were in response to someone asking, “why would you want to ask?”; I was arguing that figuring out whether someone is a Nazi is a reasonable thing to do given sufficient evidence. It just so happens that in this case there is probably not sufficient evidence.

            Also, I’m not so confident in the numbers here that to be certain that a follow-up isn’t warranted: if I did my calculations correctly, as long as fewer than 2000 or so people in the US have ’88’ tattoos, it actually does become reasonable to wonder if you’re dealing with a Nazi. My priors on the number of ’88’ tattoos in the general population are not based on very much, so if someone has priors that in fact there are sufficiently few such tattoos, they would be right to ask questions; this is especially true if someone else sets a weaker threshold than my rather arbitrary p>1/2–given that the man in question worked in Corrections, someone might argue that even a 1/100 chance of being a Nazi should be investigated, which lets you care even if the population of people with ’88’ tattoos is smaller than 100,000 or so.

            Or, more succinctly, I interpreted a lot of people not to be making the argument “there isn’t sufficient warrant to investigate this man for being a Nazi”, but rather “we shouldn’t investigate whether someone is a Nazi regardless of the evidence”–see Thegnskald’s most recent comment for another example of this. I agree with the first claim, but to the extent that people were making arguments implying the second, I thought that was worth pushing back on as well.

          • John Schilling says:

            I agree that it’s your option 3: the number 88 does not make someone a Nazi, or even mean they’re likely a Nazi, but it does update in that direction.

            So does blond hair, but if you go around asking blondes if they are Nazis, you deserve a good punching.

            With fully one percent of two-digit numbers being “88”, and people having multiple opportunities to make symbolic use of numbers, the predictive value here isn’t going to be much greater than that of blonde hair.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            With fully one percent of two-digit numbers being “88”, and people having multiple opportunities to make symbolic use of numbers, the predictive value here isn’t going to be much greater than that of blonde hair.

            EDIT: My comment was stupid, and here’s a better calculation: we can compare directly the numerator and denominators of
            p(x|N)/p(x). where N is “is a Nazi” and x is either 88 = “has an ’88’ tattoo” or b = “is blonde”.

            p(b) = 1/20 for white Americans; there’s no way more than 1/1000 white Americans have an ’88’ tattoo, so p(88) ~ p(b)/500.

            I think p(88|N) ~ 1/100 is about right; there are a few hundred to a few thousand Nazis in America, so this means on the order of 1 to 100 Nazis with ’88’ tattoos, which seems right to me.

            p(b|N) is tough–I’m not sure how over-represented blondes are among Nazis; an absurd over estimate would be 1/2 if blondes are 10x more represented in Nazi circles compared to general white America; a lower bound is…1/10? If they’re twice as represented? Let’s take the geometric mean ~1/4.

            So p(b|N) ~ 25 p(88|N).

            So, with these plausible (to me) sounding numbers,

            p(b|N)/p(b) ~ (25/500) p(88|N)/p(88) = 1/20 p(88|N)/p(88).

            So with these numbers, I get that you should be about 1/20 as likely to conclude that someone is a Nazi for being blonde as for having an ’88’ tattoo.

          • Thegnskald says:

            The point is – if it would be assholish to do, don’t do it.

            I don’t really care if you will be right 5% of the time, or 1% of the time, or 80% of the time.

            “I think you are a Nazi” is assholish to exactly the extent that you think it is important to say, because that is exactly the extent to which you are accusing them of being something awful.

            Two situations, assuming you are right about them being a Nazi: They are sufficiently an asshole that being an asshole back is appropriate. Fine, be an asshole back.

            The other situation, though? Where somebody says they are a Nazi but don’t actually do or say anything such that you would know they are a Nazi?

            Well then – what does “Nazi” even mean, if they aren’t a Nazi in any of the ways we actually care about?

            This is just an elaborate excuse to be awful to people.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            “I think you are a Nazi” is assholish to exactly the extent that you think it is important to say, because that is exactly the extent to which you are accusing them of being something awful.

            I agree you shouldn’t see something like an ’88’ tattoo and jump to accusations of Nazism, but you can say, “oh hey, what’s your tattoo mean? You an Eric Lindros fan?”.

            The other situation, though? Where somebody says they are a Nazi but don’t actually do or say anything such that you would know they are a Nazi?

            I think Nazism is sufficiently a bad idea to hold that you can at least hassle someone a little for holding it.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Two problems, one more obvious than the other

            The first, you are hassling people because you think they hold the ideas.

            Second problem, far more subtle: The things that made Nazism such a problem aren’t part of Nazism itself.

            The second takes some explaining. First, the purging of moderates, turning a half-crazy cult into a totally crazy cult, isn’t unique to Nazism. That was what turned Germany into what it became. Next – the ideas which made Nazism so terrible are so alien to your “nice” modern Nazi that they won’t even believe the Nazis believed them. A Nazi engaging in Holocaust denial is basically saying “Woah, man. That is Western propaganda. Nazism isn’t evil incarnate.”. They don’t believe in the Holocaust because they can’t imagine humans capable of that. This kind of person, while deluded, is harmless. They don’t hold the ideas you are worried about.

            The things which made the worst aspects of Nazism are alien to our modern sensibilities, and the people who still hold those ideas are so clearly and obviously broken people that you don’t need symbols to figure out who they are. Most don’t even identify as Nazis, they have their batshit crazy beliefs.

            Ultimately the issue with all of this is that it is prosecuting yesterday’s war. The set of bad ideas we have to worry about aren’t the set of ideas a tiny number of broken people hold. The bad ideas we have to worry about are the ones that actually have purchase in our modern set of ideas. Odds are you hold some of them. Odds are I do.

            The ideas you have to worry about are the ones that are publicly acceptable, even encouraged, to hold.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            The first, you are hassling people because you think they hold the ideas.

            I agree you shouldn’t start hassling anyone until you are reasonably certain they are in fact a Nazi.

            As to the rest…The people who get ’88’ tattoos aren’t the weakly-attached sort of Nazi. Recall, ’88’ stands for Heil Hitler: these aren’t people who can’t believe that the History Channel documentaries are really true, these are people who think Hitler did nothing wrong. It’s basically a gang-sign, and the Nazis who get tattoos like that are often members in white-supremacist gangs, with all of the dubious activities that go along with it.
            A neo-Nazi with an ’88’ tattoo isn’t some guy who watched a few too many conspiracy YouTube videos and got confused, or a Carl Schmitt fan who thinks we’ve gone too far in suppressing the far-right, it’s someone who thinks Jews and blacks should be expelled or murdered, and may be part of an organization that acts on these beliefs, or willing to act on them alone.

            To be perfectly honest, I think this last part of your comment really betrays your unfamiliarity with modern neo-Nazism and Holocaust denial: yes some unfortunate naifs get caught up in it for innocent-ish reasons, but anyone who falls into a movement that wants to literally genocide large groups of people deserves some harassment for that; and the people who commit themselves to pro-Hitler tattoos are much more likely to be the ideologically committed members anyway.

          • John Schilling says:

            p(b) = 1/20 for white Americans; there’s no way more than 1/1000 white Americans have an ’88’ tattoo, so p(88) ~ p(b)/500.

            You only get to limit it to tattoos if you convince us that the 88-numerologists aren’t also going to target anyone with an 88 on their hat or their shirt or their car’s vanity plate or in their email address or anywhere else they might be inclined to put a symbolic number in public view. And we’ve already seen them lock on to e.g. using a sample size of 88 in a statistical analysis as indication of secret Nazi-ism, so that’s going to be a hard sell.

            Throw in all the symbolic or otherwise arbitrary public-facing numbers, not just the tattoos, and the comparison with blonde hair is looking better. So, are we allowed to ask blonde-haired men driving classic Oldsmobiles if they are Nazis?

          • Ultimately the issue with all of this is that it is prosecuting yesterday’s war

            At a considerable tangent, this reminds me of a comment, I think by either GKC or C.S. Lewis, that societies worry about the problems they don’t have, the ones that are the opposite of the problems they do have. A society whose problem is too much X worries about having too little X.

            Unfortunately I’ve forgotten the examples in what I’m remembering.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            @David Friedman: Yes, that was one of Screwtape’s. I don’t have the book with me or I’d post the quote.

          • perlhaqr says:

            I think there are a number of factors at work here.

            Yes, Nazis get ’88’ tattoos.

            But Nazis who get ’88’ tattoos, judging from Google Image Search, are unlikely to have that be their only Nazi Identification Mark.

            So I think the likelihood of someone who only has an ’88’ tattoo being a Nazi is pretty small.

          • Mary says:

            Lewis. Screwtape Letters

            The use of fashions in thought is to distract men from their real dangers. We direct the fashionable outcry of each generation against those vices of which it is in the least danger, and fix its approval on the virtue that is nearest the vice which we are trying to make endemic. The game is to have them all running around with fire extinguishers whenever there’s a flood; and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already nearly gone under. Thus, we make it fashionable to expose the dangers of enthusiasm Thus we make it fashionable to expose the dangers of enthusiasm at the very moment when they are all really becoming worldly and lukewarm; a century later, when we are really making them all Byronic and drunk with emotion, the fashionable outcry is directed against the dangers of mere ‘understanding.’ Cruel ages are put on their guard against Sentimentality, feckless and idle ones against Respectability, lecherous ones against Puritanism.

        • ragnarrahl says:

          “Same font that apparentoy Nazis use” is going way overboard. About all that can be said of the font is that it’s vaguely Germanic looking. That or it looks like a font whose name in Microsoft Word starts with “gothic.” It also matches the angularity of actual football uniform numbers. It’s not like he used runes for it.
          There is no font that is standard for genuine Nazi 14/88 tattoos. Sure,you can find plenty in that font– just like you can find plenty of MS-13, Crip, or Blood tattoos in that font. It’s a popular font for tattoos. Because it looks cool. I’m pretty sure I can buy merchandise for my local baseball team in that font. I know I can buy Navy merchandise in that font.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            Plus that font mostly composed of straight lines, small corner decorations, and fills. Complex curves are hard keep stable when tattooing them on, so they take longer, and cost more.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        I’m willing to perform the experiment, but I don’t know what it would be. I think giving me five statements that were somehow proven literal and five statements that were somehow proven dog-whistles wouldn’t work, because my claim is the dog whistles are so rare we should have a very low prior on them.

        My own opinion is that everyone has an overactive ability to pattern-match in a paranoid way, especially when it’s convenient for them, I’ve worked hard to try to overcome this, and it bothers me when large parts of our political discourse get conducted along lines that sound kind of like a bad Dan Brown book.

        EDIT: Won’t endorse your psych profile, but I did just ten minutes ago read someone claiming my story with the pills was anti-feminist propaganda because the guy with the red pill saved the world.

        • brmic says:

          1) I don’t think you can establish a base rate here, it depends too much on what statements you are exposed to. On the extreme end, if your social circle contains lots of people doing illegal or borderline illegal stuff, you’ll be exposed to a considerable amount of code-speak just because of that. Similarly, people with unpopular opinions should be more open to the idea that others often couch their true sentiments in more acceptable terms and merely hint at their true positions to signal people who share their position.
          2) To the extent you want to generate a base rate estimate anyway, I’d suggest using a less ambiguous, but similar behaviour. Given how well designed everything about nationally prominent politicians is, from their hair, their clothes, the camera angles etc. etc. I’d give them a much higher prior than unnamed prison guards.
          3) Priors ultimately don’t matter when dealing with a single instance, especially when the instance is not part of the sample your prior is calibrated on. So the thing to do IMHO is to come up with a set of criteria or a decision tree. One’s gut feeling might still differ from the result, but at least one could be consistent.

          Candidates for such criteria:
          – Is the whistler a sufficiently subtle communicator? (Obviously varies with signal strength of dog whistle. Even dumb neo-nazis get ’88’, but a random person interviewed on the streets mentioning ‘international bankers’ is probably not signaling their antisemitism.)
          – Is the dog-whistling phrase known to the target audience?
          – Is there evidence from elsewhere the whistler might hold the hidden view?
          – Is there insufficient evidence that they strongly disagree with the hidden view?

        • melolontha says:

          Thanks for responding. If I come up with a good idea for a test, or someone else suggests one, I’ll try to post it early in the next open thread to maximise the chance that you see it.

          My own opinion is that everyone has an overactive ability to pattern-match in a paranoid way, especially when it’s convenient for them, I’ve worked hard to try to overcome this, and it bothers me when large parts of our political discourse get conducted along lines that sound kind of like a bad Dan Brown book.

          For the record, I do agree with this — I just get the sense (partly from the previous links post, but also from various other things that you’ve written) that you’re calibrated further in this direction than I believe is warranted.

          • JulieK says:

            Maybe ask people to privately send you examples of texts that (a) they themselves have written, which contain coded language or (b) people they sympathize with have written, that they are confident they correctly understood the coded language.

            Then google some control samples that use the same phrases.

            But even that doesn’t really settle the question of how much suspicion is “warranted.”

          • My own opinion is that everyone has an overactive ability to pattern-match

            I agree. Humans have pattern recognition software so good that it can see patterns that aren’t there–in cloud formations, for example.

            That makes evolutionary sense. Seeing a tiger crouching in the bushes that isn’t really there is a much less costly mistake than failing to see one that is there.

        • Deiseach says:

          the guy with the red pill saved the world

          Y’know, I had to think about that. At first I was “oh because it’s a guy, not a woman?” then eventually it hit me “oh – red pill!”

          And the only way I know about redpill stuff is the discussions on here. Honestly, a lot of dogwhistles are not really dogwhistles, they’re misaligned pattern-matching. But it’s hard to persuade dedicated witchfinders-general that the witchcraft they see is not really witchcraft because that person is not a witch.

          • Murphy says:

            The red-pill stuff was less subtle and more waving a giant sign around making fun of the red-piller’s in scotts story.

            With the section where he even talks about looking up “red pill” and finding stuff online it was like a big arrow going “OVER HERE” 😛

          • 2181425 says:

            dedicated witchfinders-general

            I believe the preferred term is witchsmeller pursuivant.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            But then “red pill” itself is euphemistic.

            The difference between dog-whistle and euphemism is … very short.

            When the Andrews Sisters sing:
            “When I come home late at night
            I get my favorite dish, fish”

            Did they even know what they were singing?

        • Plumber says:

          "dog whistles" @Scott Alexander,
          I don’t think many of the commenters at SSC realize how incredibly “inside-baseball” and obscure many of the things discussed here are.

          I got flack for not knowing what a “Twitter mob” was so I asked my co-workers and none of them had heard the phrase, not even the 20-something new hire”, nor had they heard “SJW”, or many of the banned terms that I didn’t know.

          I saw one commenters diatribe against someone (who I assumed must be prominent) and that someone turned out to be a video game blogger!

          I saw an extended reference to something called “Elevator-gate”, which turned out to also be an incredibly minor closed-culture event.

          I read.

          I try to keep up with the stuff in The New York Times and Washington Post opinion pages, it was a piece in the Atlantic Monthly that led me to your blog, plus I’m a nerd who played Dungeons & Dragons, loved Star Trek and Asimov’s Foundation novels, and the guys at work have dubbed me “The Professor”, but I can’t usually read ten posts in any SSC threads comments without having to web search multiple references, because it’s deep insider knowledge stuff being discussed here.

          Don’t think things are common man-on-the-street knowledge that aren’t.

          • The Nybbler says:

            “Twitter Mob” — Wall Street Journal

            “Twitter Mob” (quoted) — The Atlantic

            “Twitter Mob” — The New York Times

            “Twitter Mob” — The Washington Post

            “SJW” — The Washington Post

            “SJW” — The Washington Post (again)

            “SJW” (as “S.J.W.”) — The New York Times

            “SJW” — The Atlantic

            “Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer” — Wikipedia

          • Chalid says:

            @Nybbler

            I didn’t click all of those, but for media citations to count as evidence that a word or concept is well known, you need an article that uses the word without feeling the need to define it for the reader. An explainer that outlines the concept of “twitter mob” or “sjw” actually reinforces Plumber’s point, as it suggests that the authors do not think that these concepts are known to most readers.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Chalid

            The “twitter mob” ones do use the term without defining it. The SJW ones do not, but one of the Washington Post articles explicitly claims the term is mainstream. Further, Plumber says he follows these publications.

          • Dan L says:

            @ Nybbler

            Wait to indict until you can get a conviction. And no longer.

          • Matt says:

            Nybbler:

            “Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer”

            Thank you – that’s been on the tip of my brain.

          • Plumber says:

            ^

            The Nybbler says:
            August 29, 2018 at 11:24 am ~new~
            ““Twitter Mob” — Wall Street Journal

            “Twitter Mob” (quoted) — The Atlantic

            “Twitter Mob” — The New York Times

            “Twitter Mob” — The Washington Post

            “SJW” — The Washington Post

            “SJW” — The Washington Post (again)

            “SJW” (as “S.J.W.”) — The New York Times

            “SJW” — The Atlantic

            “Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer” — Wikipedia”

            @The Nybbler,
            While what you imply about me is pretty damn insulting, a quick skim shows me that you’ve collected an interesting set of articles for me to read.

            So thanks.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Hi Plumber,

            Since you’re a newcomer, I’ll tip you off that most people generally try to avoid including the ’tilde-new-tilde’ string when they quote other comments. This is because that string is normally generated in rendering the page, to distinguish between comments that are new and comments that you saw last time you were here. When somebody includes it in the literal text of their own comment, it messes up that technique; you’ll make friends (or at least avoid alienating potential friends) if you avoid it.

          • Plumber says:

            ^ @Doctor Mist,

            Thanks for the heads up.

            Do you mean don’t quote which post I’m responding to?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Plumber:
            Don’t copy the full post, or, if you do, delete the tilde new tilde part.

            I refresh the page and then do a search on tilde new tilde so I can see each new post in order. You quoting that part messes it up.

          • Plumber says:

            ^ @HeelBearCub,

            What is a “tilde new tilde”?
            And how do you use it to “see each new post” without scrolling through the old posts (that sounds very useful!)?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            What is a “tilde new tilde”?

            A tilde is a punctuation mark that looks like a wavy horizontal line. “tilde new tilde” is the word “new” surrounded by two of those. It appears after the date in every new comment on SSC – the ones outlined in green if you’re on a typical browser.

            And how do you use it to “see each new post” without scrolling through the old posts (that sounds very useful!)?

            Upon reloading a page, rather than hunting for each comment with a green outline around it, you can just use your browser’s search feature to search for the string described above, and then use the up or down buttons on the search feature (or F3 and shift-F3 on most browsers) to view each new comment in turn. We’re not typing it exactly as it appears, because if we did, it would then show up in everyone’s searches, and we’re trying to avoid creating extra hits on the term.

            Nevertheless, it appears as a hit on one comment that you copied into one of your own comments (and incidentally, another comment on OT109). And it’ll stay that way for as long as that thread exists (and as long as the forum code uses that string).

          • Plumber says:

            ^ @Paul Brinkley,

            Thank you very much for explaining what “tilde new tilde” means, and my apologies. 

            I don’t think that I may use the tools you described on my phone but if I get access to a desktop or laptop I’ll try it out!

            …………………………………………….

            @Matt,
            @Dan L , and especially
            @The Nybbler,

            I couldn’t read the WSJ article, and I only skimmed the last two links, but I found the others very informative (and also saddening), I wish that when I asked “What’s a SJW?” when I first encountered the term at a D&D Forum I’d been sent those links instead of indecipherable YouTube videos that I had no patience for. 

            I usually just read news with an economics slant, but judging from those  links it may be wise for me to pay more attention to social news.

            As far as “Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer”, I can’t recall such an ingenious way to be insulted, and it’s very novel for me to be accused of pretending to be ignorant, should I feel flattered that you assume I have the club secret decoder ring? You’ve done a fine job of confirming my prejudices of the collegiate class.

            I work very close to where the Less Wrong/SSC Monday meetings are in San Francisco, and while I haven’t plans for attending the meets because I want to get back home to my family before evening, but if you wish to call me a liar to my face please let me know so I may accomadate you.

            -A plumber at 850 Bryant Street

          • I work very close to where the Less Wrong/SSC Monday meetings are in San Francisco

            If you can make it down to the South Bay, we’re having an SSC meetup at my house in San Jose tomorrow. I suspect that I would disagree with most of your views, especially about economics, but you sound like an interesting person.

          • Plumber says:

            ^ “…I suspect that I would disagree with most of your views, especially about economics, but you sound like an interesting person”

            Thanks @DavidFriedman, I appreciate it.

            My weekends I spend with my wife and sons, but if your near the San Francisco Hall of Justice, 3:30 to 4:00PM most weekdays, give me message and I’ll buy you a beer at Ted’s (or a Vietnamese Ice Coffee at one two other nearby places).

            If you’re going to be in or near Berkeley around 4:30 to 5:30PM most weekdays, let me know, beers on me.

            I think I’m pretty clear that I’m not a libertarian, I like talking to you guys, and I admire your consistency.

            I suppose the best description of my political beliefs would be a mid 20th century U.S.A. “liberal’ or European “social democrat” who really very much doesn’t like legal divorces of parents with children, but realizes that the problem is cultural/social acceptance of it and it can’t/shouldn’t be solved with laws, and otherwise feels that most “hot button” ‘culture war’ issues (abortion, drugs, marriage, et cetera) should be matters for the local community to decide.

            The “hot button issue” that stumps me is guns, I don’t like them in the city (I heard way too many gunshots and police sirens in the 1980’s), but I think it just makes sense for people in rural areas to have them for self protection (basically if you fire a rifle from your house, if the next house is out of range you should be able to have them) but, since, unless cities are walled, that isn’t practical (and walled cities with inspections to get in would be a cure worse than the disease), I want to limit gun ownership to women over 25 years old, and men who are registered voters over 25 years old and meet two of three conditions: married, a full Journeyman in a skilled trade, a college diploma (I don’t have one, but I’m going to assume it represents the same kind if “adultness”), and/or a shop owner with employees, all of which is to keep guns out of the hands of the stereotypical anti-social young male crazies (I’m assuming that the conditions that I listed show a certain rootedness in their communities).

            Why less conditions for women?

            Well basically women tend to use poison to murder instead, so eh let ’em have them as “equalizers”, unfortunately my scheme wouldn’t have stopped the Newton murders ’cause that guy used his mom’s guns, so I’m sure fine-tuning is necessary, but the only options I hear in public discourse is “guns for all” or “no guns”, neither of which appeal to me.

            I also think the age to drink beer is too high (if the lad can work he deserves a pint!), but the age to drive automobiles is far too low (but motor scooters would be okay), and I have a strange fondness for Austerity Era Britain which was originally sparked by watching this video, which I’m sure would infuriate my late father who was still mad about the Battle of Culloden just before he died (no he wasn’t Scottish he was born in New Jersey!).

          • Dan L says:

            As far as “Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer”, I can’t recall such an ingenious way to be insulted, and it’s very novel for me to be accused of pretending to be ignorant, should I feel flattered that you assume I have the club secret decoder ring? You’ve done a fine job of confirming my prejudices of the collegiate class.

            It’s definitely more of an internet thing than a class thing – the internet is full of liars, to the point where anyone who anonymously talks about their own life in an interesting way is very likely to be full of shit. Hell, if I was in your shoes I’d take it as a compliment!

            I work very close to where the Less Wrong/SSC Monday meetings are in San Francisco, and while I haven’t plans for attending the meets because I want to get back home to my family before evening, but if you wish to call me a liar to my face please let me know so I may accomadate you.

            Meeting in person would pretty quickly resolve the issue one way or the other I think. But speaking just for myself, I don’t really give much of a damn what anyone here claims their background is, so long as they have something interesting to say. (Which in my opinion, you definitely do.) I’m more annoyed with passive-aggressive suspicion, even if I understand where it might be coming from.

          • Plumber says:

            ^ Thanks @Dan L,

            Sometimes aspects of my life are interesting enough to make the news, and my life is interesting…

            ….for a few short stories, not a door stopper novel, which I think is true of most people. 

            Coincidence or not, but now that SSC is has taught me the term “Twitter mob”, I read an editorial in The New York Times that used the term “social media mobs“, and mentioned Twitter as “Now editing the New Yorker”.

            I still stand by my contention that the terms “Twitter Mob” isn’t universally known, but I’m more accepting why commenters here would think so, but I’m still angry that commenters would suggest that I was lying about my ignorance of the term.

            So @The Nybbler, do I stay late after work to meet you?

            My email address is hoj.plumber [at] gmail

            I’m usually at work at the San Francisco Hall of Justice from 7AM to 3:30PM, and I try to get home near Berkeley before 5:30PM.

        • perlhaqr says:

          EDIT: Won’t endorse your psych profile, but I did just ten minutes ago read someone claiming my story with the pills was anti-feminist propaganda because the guy with the red pill saved the world.

          Pfff. They’re clearly just unaware of the magic of Seconal.

      • Murphy says:

        The problem is that accusations of ‘dog-whistling’ tend to have 2 qualities: they tend to be utterly 100% unfalsifiable and they have unlimited degrees of freedom.

        1:

        There is nothing that the speaker will ever accept to make them say “oh actually, you’re right, it really wasn’t dog whistling.” and that pattern closely mirrors what you’ll sometimes see on psych wards.

        2:

        Given a motivated person looking for something they can call a dog whistle… there is no situation where people can fail to find things they can claim to be dog whistling.

        The second is the most insidious aspect because they have almost infinite degrees of freedom but can then present only the string of coincidences they find because searches for “dog whistles” are, on the meta level, indistinguishable from standard conspiracy theorist tactics.

        Lets look at a case study. The Cheese Pizza bullshit.

        Starting from the assumption that references to cheese pizza by a politician are actually a veiled reference to child porn they wove a web of connections and random symbols. because they had infinite degrees of freedom it got to the point where they were connecting in random shops on the same street which sold icecream because a big-brand icecream heart logo bore a superficial resemblance to some random pedo-symbol.

        The searches for “dog whistles” pretty much universally follow the same pattern… over and over and over again and the same techniques and the same fishing trips for vaguely defined similarities in shapes, patterns or symbols.

        I’ve seen the same degradation as people reach for more and more obscure collections of symbols. Suddenly any sentence they’ve ever uttered with 2 capital H’s in it becomes part of the “proof”. If they were born in 1988 and have an old email address with bob.x.88@stupidmail.com then that gets added. If they’ve talked about octal numbers that gets added because now all 8’s are included. If they’ve mentioned radium then that gets thrown in because atomic number 88.

        Anything with right angles related to them gets coaxed into being “obviously” an aryan cross. etc etc etc etc ad infinitum.

        A diagnostic test that can be coaxed to produce a false positive 100% of the time is a useless diagnostic test.

        And the sad thing is that people who go on about it seem to willingly choose to be blind to the problems.

        • melolontha says:

          I think this is roughly accurate, albeit exaggerated and at risk of conflating all allegations of dog-whistling with the dumber ones. But it’s also kind of the point: a skillful dog-whistle is subtle enough, and exploits enough relatively obscure in-group information, to reach the ears of the target audience but make the people who call it out look like paranoid cranks, at least in the eyes of any observer who lacks the necessary background to legitimately spot the pattern in the noise.

          Dog-whistling is clearly a thing that certain groups (I’m thinking of far-right ones, but I’m sure it happens across the political spectrum) enjoy doing, sometimes for fun and sometimes as a more serious tactical move. So I don’t think there’s any easy way out: determining whether something is a dog-whistle or a coincidence is almost always going to be a relatively fuzzy, subjective judgment call, and we’re always going to be influenced in one direction or another by our own biases. But that doesn’t mean that extreme scepticism, bordering on automatic dismissal, is the correct attitude.

          • Thegnskald says:

            If you have sufficient evidence that somebody is an X that you can reasonably conclude their use of a potential dog-whistle is deliberate, you have sufficient evidence not to need the dog-whistle as proof.

            And if you don’t have sufficient evidence that they are X, then the dog-whistle is both insufficient evidence, and irrelevant.

            Because, assuming somebody sees dog-whistles as necessary, they also do not see that they have sufficient social support to actually act on the position they are dog-whistling about. And if they don’t see it as necessary, then noticing it doesn’t mean anything.

            The only situation in which dog-whistles are actually harmful to the institution fighting them, is the case when the institution is in the minority position, and this isn’t common knowledge; which is to say, dog-whistles are only useful in a populist uprising against an unpopular tyrannical regime, as a mechanism of coordinating.

            Outside the scenario where you are oppressing the majority through a carefully controlled fiction in which they are the minority, what legitimate reason do we have, as a society, to even care if people are dog-whistling?

            Because the basic problem is that any effective dog-whistle is going to result in more false positive identifications than correct identifications – as any dog-whistle publicly acknowledged to be a dog-whistle stops being useful as a dog-whistle, meaning the set gets whittled down to the most effective – meaning that, unless the average harm resulting from somebody being class X exceeds the harm somebody suffers from being mislabeled X, identifying dog-whistles only hurts people.

            But cynically, I am inclined to think that is the point. It isn’t about fighting fascism. It is about publicly hurting and humiliating people.

          • Murphy says:

            I’m sure there are real cases in the world… but at the same time for every one of those there seems to be hundreds of cases where people take advantage of the unfalsifiablity.

            If a selfish mainstream politician does something… the odds of them deciding that including a secret message to the 0.5%-ish of the population who love the nazis at the risk of alienating the other 99.5% of the population for no tangible gain… seems too stupid and probably isn’t real dog whistling.

            Meanwhile 100% of their opposition have a strong incentive to paint everything that politician does as super secret dog whistling to the evil bogeyman of the day.

            So during the reds-under-the-bed every expression of the sentiment that perhaps poor people not starving was a good thing was a dog-whistle that the person was secretly in league with the soviet union.

            To be clear: there were real russian spies… but they didn’t secretly wear red ties or some such to signal to each other that they were spies.

            And people love doing that kind of pattern matching: like it’s fun to find pentagrams in da vinci’s paintings.

            I’d contend that the average person into spotting dog-whistling is somewhere in the order of 10000% more inclined to believe they’ve found dog whistles vs actual reality. And that they should mostly massively massively massively re-calibrate downwards their certainty of most dog whistles they believe they’ve found.

          • melolontha says:

            If you have sufficient evidence that somebody is an X that you can reasonably conclude their use of a potential dog-whistle is deliberate, you have sufficient evidence not to need the dog-whistle as proof.

            And if you don’t have sufficient evidence that they are X, then the dog-whistle is both insufficient evidence, and irrelevant.

            This seems false to me on straightforward Bayesian grounds. I think each new utterance is quite reasonably interpreted in the light of what we already know about the speaker, and affects our model of them in its turn.

            For example, suppose I know the following things about a person: he has some politically incorrect views; he reads and/or associates with some far-right bloggers; he seems intellectually curious and widely-read; he hasn’t explicitly identified himself with a political party or ideology. That’s clearly not sufficient evidence to conclude that he is a neo-nazi, alt-righter, or whatever else. But just as clearly, I will justifiably give him less benefit of the doubt when he starts using the numbers ’88’ and ’14’ in surprising places than I would if my conventional left-leaning friend did exactly the same thing.

            Because, assuming somebody sees dog-whistles as necessary, they also do not see that they have sufficient social support to actually act on the position they are dog-whistling about.

            As I think you acknowledge later in this comment, the fact that sufficient social support is currently lacking does not imply that it cannot arise, nor that the dog-whistle cannot play a part in making this happen. In any case, the person’s use of the dog-whistle still tells me something important about him. (If, for example, he’s an advocate of genocide, this is relevant and worth knowing even if he is not in a position to conduct a genocide.)

            As for the rest of the comment: I agree that dog-whistles can be used as a coordination mechanism; this is one of the reasons I worry about them. I strongly disagree with the implied claims about ‘populist uprisings’. For instance, I see no reason to believe that we can safely ignore them provided they do not command majority support, which I think is implied by this rhetorical question:

            Outside the scenario where you are oppressing the majority through a carefully controlled fiction in which they are the minority, what legitimate reason do we have, as a society, to even care if people are dog-whistling?

          • Thegnskald says:

            Melol –

            Okay. You identify a fascist.

            You find out you were wrong.

            Who got hurt, and how?

            You find out you were right.

            What benefit was there in identifying them early?

            Because I don’t see the latter outweighing the former, even with very generous assumptions.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I don’t see how dog whistles can actually be used as a coordination mechanism without the moronic overreaction that the other side has to them.

            The nature of the figurative dog whistle is that it can’t contain any serious information it can only be a branding or a subtle nod. Dropping the number “88” in a speech is easy, Trump could be in Cleveland and drop “Red Right 88” in a speech and that sounds like the shrillest dog whistle ever, but thousands of people have reference that without it being in reference to Neo Nazis. There are only two ways for it to be an actual coordination, one is for Trump to send a representative to talk to the NNs to tell them it is going to happen and to look for it and all the coordination is in that action. The other way is to harp on how “88” is a Nazi number, and that every mention of “88” should be investigated. Functionally this is signal boosting any attempts at dog whistling as it draws attention to the instances and reduces the likelihood that such statements were completely benign.

          • melolontha says:

            Who got hurt, and how?

            That depends entirely on what I did about it. There’s a good chance I simply chose to stop reading his blog, and to give less weight to his other opinions. If he was an acquaintance, maybe I cut off personal contact. If he was a friend, ditto — but the hypothetical is less plausible here, because I would have been more careful to find the truth, and probably just asked him directly. If he was in a relationship with someone I cared about, maybe I shared my concerns with her — but again, presumably she either disagreed with me or talked to him about her concerns, so if I was wrong then there was no real harm done. If he’s a politician, I stopped supporting him and (if I was confident in my judgment) tried to convince other people to do the same. I could go on, but the common thread is that a) I’m unlikely to have done anything drastic, and b) the more significant my response, the more care I would have taken to get the judgment right and ensure I wasn’t just jumping at shadows. If you push me on it, then yes, there are some cases where I would be quite happy to see someone face real consequences (e.g. being dropped by an employer or sponsor) for extremist signaling and incitement. But I’m not advocating (much less participating in) some kind of witch-hunt where people are thrown to the wolves for anything that looks a bit suspicious.

            What benefit was there in identifying them early?

            If we’re talking about someone I have a personal relationship with, I would consider ‘fascism’ a very important piece of information about a person’s character, so the stakes could be quite high for me and a few others. But to focus on the larger-scale cases, e.g. politicians or public figures: one potentially significant benefit is the chance to disrupt their coordination game, and re-empower the usual kinds of social sanction that stop people from doing this sort of thing out in the open. More concretely: to prevent them from attaining a position of power by combining the support of in-the-know fanatics, mainstreamers who missed the signal, and people in between who basically wanted plausible deniability.

          • Thegnskald says:

            So somebody gets hurt, and your reason for why it is necessary is that it is personally important to you. Everything else is, forgive my bluntness, fluff.

            I mean, I accept this logic from a lot of people, I just suspect you would find their company… uncomfortable. It is a more traditionally… right-wing mindset.

          • melolontha says:

            So somebody gets hurt, and your reason for why it is necessary is that it is personally important to you. Everything else is, forgive my bluntness, fluff.

            I genuinely don’t understand what you’re talking about. I think you may have misread or misunderstood my comment, or else are being very unfair. I need to take a break now (it’s late where I am), but I’ll probably check back later, so if you want me to understand where you’re coming from, feel free to elaborate.

          • Murphy says:

            I will justifiably give him less benefit of the doubt when he starts using the numbers ’88’ and ’14’ in surprising places than I would if my conventional left-leaning friend did exactly the same thing.

            This is sort of a textbook way to mislead yourself or run a witch-hunt.

            I mean this is literally an area where the human brain is broken and tends to find meaningless misleading patterns constantly.

            You can’t just lump together a pile of crappy evidence and pretend that it’s the same as good evidence. yes yes Bayesian. but that only works at all if you are doing all the other things that are required for Bayesian reasoning to work.

            And people are really really really bad at that. Once they’ve decided that the pyramids are made by aliens or that some random nurse might be a murderer they start making a pile of crappy confirmatory “evidence” but, pretty much without fail, they never ever ever mentally stack up the millions of dis-confirmatory data points because those are boring.

            People almost universally start playing the game of “Texas Sharp Shooter”. ie drawing a bullseye around random clusters then declaring it amazing that so many shots ended up inside the lines.

            For another case study lets look at Lucia de Berk

            Some busybody screwed up some crappy amature stats and decided that she was working suspiciously often when patients died. They then chained together crappy evidence on top of crappy evidence exactly how, in practice/reality people do when they think they’ve found a witch in their ranks. Deaths became suspicious after the fact because she got associated with them and in the end they convinced themselves that there was a serial killer on their ward… despite the average death rate dropping while she worked there.

            There is a real human cost to that shit.

            You are describing a way of approaching life that is almost guaranteed to mislead you and leave you believing endless baseless conspiracy theories.

            it’s not just bad. it’s awful in many many ways.

          • Thegnskald says:

            If “somebody important to you” is dating a Nazi, it is because they share social groups with Nazis. That doesn’t happen by accident.

            And if somebody important to you shares social groups with Nazis, you also probably share social groups with Nazis. That also doesn’t happen by accident.

            If you find an actual Nazi, you should really update your priors that you are really close to being a Nazi yourself.

            Social bubbles, yes?

            So your concern over Nazis is correlated with you being a Nazi. It is about as accurate as the average dog-whistle diagnosis, too.

            Do you want me to call you a Nazi? Does that help us communicate? Does it help prevent Nazis from taking over?
            Does it help anything at all?

            Or would it just be a self-serving signal on how enlightened and not-Nazi I am, at your expense?

          • melolontha says:

            @Murphy

            As I said a moment ago, I do need to get going, so I’ll be brief — but I think you’re reading more into my comments than I’ve actually said. The failure mode you’re pointing to is definitely a real thing, but I don’t see why you’re so confident that I (or someone acting on the views I’ve expressed here) will fall into it. Most of the significant judgments we ever make are balancing acts between one bias and another, or between zealotry and apathy, or whatever. I feel like this conversation is falling into the trap I acknowledged in my first comment:

            I feel like it would be basically impossible to settle an argument about the actual ratio between the two, or how much we should worry about either. (Our opinions will all be based on our own set of subjectively-interpreted, often dimly-remembered experiences, and when neither side is arguing an absolute (i.e. this simply does/doesn’t happen) there’s not really any such thing as a definitive piece of evidence or reasoning.)

            If it would help to provide examples of the kind of thing I would identify as a dog-whistle, and my degree of confidence in each case, I can do that (though not tonight). I should also make it clear that the case mentioned in this links post was just a catalyst for my posting about this — I haven’t looked into it, but I’m happy to accept that it was probably a misunderstanding over an innocent tattoo. But as for the underlying disagreement (as opposed to your opinion of me personally) I think we might just end up with dueling anecdotes, and no opinion changes, because neither of us are making sufficiently extreme claims to be punctured by counterexamples.

          • melolontha says:

            If “somebody important to you” is dating a Nazi, it is because they share social groups with Nazis. That doesn’t happen by accident.

            And if somebody important to you shares social groups with Nazis, you also probably share social groups with Nazis. That also doesn’t happen by accident.

            If you find an actual Nazi, you should really update your priors that you are really close to being a Nazi yourself.

            Social bubbles, yes?

            So your concern over Nazis is correlated with you being a Nazi. It is about as accurate as the average dog-whistle diagnosis, too.

            Do you want me to call you a Nazi? Does that help us communicate? Does it help prevent Nazis from taking over?
            Does it help anything at all?

            Or would it just be a self-serving signal on how enlightened and not-Nazi I am, at your expense?

            I don’t think there’s any value in continuing this exchange. I showed you the courtesy of engaging with your hypothetical, and you’ve focused simplistically and misleadingly on one small part of my response while ignoring the rest.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Melol –

            The value was never in convincing one another, but in convincing our audience.

            But no, you didn’t engage my hypothetical, partly because I was posing rhetorical question and not hypothetical situations, and partly because you didn’t engage in what I was saying. My latest response IS a hypothetical, placing you in the role of victim of the sort of game you are defending here.

            It is pretty clear you don’t like it. Which was exactly the point.

          • Jaskologist says:

            You know how doctors don’t skip straight to irradiating their patients when a cancer test comes back positive? Somewhat counter-intuitively, even in a test with a very low false positive rate, there can still be more people it incorrectly flags than people it correctly flags, simply because the population of people with cancer is so much larger.

            2% of the integers between 1 and 100 are 14 or 88. 5% of those under 20 are. A significant portion of the current adult population was born in ’88. There are going to be way way more of these in your positive result set than there will be actual Nazis, because the population of “non-Nazis who use numbers” is so much bigger than the population of Actual Nazis.

            And that’s without even expanding the criteria to the other numbers under suspicion of being Hitler.

          • Dan L says:

            @ Thegnskald

            As a tactical suggestion: if you’re explicitly playing to the audience, this is probably a bad venue to be employing unsubstantiated rhetoric, blunt dismissals of nuance and guilt by association.

            @Jaskologist

            You know how doctors don’t skip straight to irradiating their patients when a cancer test comes back positive? Somewhat counter-intuitively, even in a test with a very low false positive rate, there can still be more people it incorrectly flags than people it correctly flags, simply because the population of people with cancer is so much larger.

            The Bayesian argument is probably a valid criticism of people who condemn others for dogwhistling. It’s similarly a valid criticism of people who condemn others for condemning others for dogwhistling.

          • The Red Foliot says:

            @Thegnskald

            If “somebody important to you” is dating a Nazi, it is because they share social groups with Nazis. That doesn’t happen by accident.

            And if somebody important to you shares social groups with Nazis, you also probably share social groups with Nazis. That also doesn’t happen by accident.

            Lovecraft was a self-declared ‘fascist’, of a sort, who was racially prejudiced to a high degree against Jews and other minorities, but he had friends who were themselves Jewish and also very moderate in their political opinions and such. After Lovecraft died and much of what he had said in private correspondences had been disclosed to the public, some of those friends disavowed Lovecraft and turned vehemently against him. They had not known of Lovecraft’s beliefs beforehand, and they shared not one iota of commonality with him in regards to those beliefs, so that they stand as evidence that people can befriend other people despite being of an entirely different persuasion politically and temperamentally.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          to some random pedo-symbol.

          Doesn’t the mere existence of “pedo symbols” prove someone, somewhere is dog-whistling pedo stuff?

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          2:

          Given a motivated person looking for something they can call a dog whistle… there is no situation where people can fail to find things they can claim to be dog whistling.

          The second is the most insidious aspect because they have almost infinite degrees of freedom but can then present only the string of coincidences they find because searches for “dog whistles” are, on the meta level, indistinguishable from standard conspiracy theorist tactics.

          2a:

          The same argument form can be turned on them. If enough people claim something is a dog whistle, you can, with a little effort, find some pattern between them, and claim that’s a dog whistle. After a while, you can tie anyone to a dogwhistling underground, especially if you can reasonably posit the existence of a latent group somewhere in internetland where this is discussed. (It doesn’t even have to be explicitly named something like /r/dogwhistlers; it just has to be adjacent.)

          The ultimate victor is probably the one with the biggest megaphones. Which typically has less to do with whoever’s got the moral high ground.

        • SEE says:

          “If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.”

      • Deiseach says:

        I think the people who see dogwhistles in 88 are honestly seeing them, but it’s because they are so tuned in to white supremacism and the rest of it that they immediately jump to that conclusion. Ask me what comes to mind when I see 88 and I’ll say “it’s… a number?” They’ll say “Heil Hitler of course, and anyone who pretends otherwise is lying or a Nazi stooge!”

        There was someone on here earlier in another comment thread who was all “naturally everyone knows what the 14 words are, so a reference to 14 plainly means that” and a few people had to come on and reply “no, I had no idea until the topic was raised on a site like this one”. Not everyone is hunting Fascists in their daily lives!

        • Jaskologist says:

          As a normie-check, I asked my wife if the number “1488” meant anything to her. It did not, and when I explained it she kind of side-eyed me for even knowing this.

          I don’t think people realize the extent to which there are many internets out there, and most people are not on the same one you are.

          • Plumber says:

            “As a normie-check, I asked my wife if the number “1488” meant anything to her. It did not, and when I explained it she kind of side-eyed me for even knowing this….”

            @Jaskologist,
            As one data point, I never heard of “1488” signifying anything, until I read it on a SSC thread last week, and unless there’s some context I’m unlikely to notice it.
            I don’t think it’s well known at all.
            Frankly, there’s much to learn at SSC, but much of the references and banter are really obscure.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Plumber:

            … and what do you think (((some person’s name))) means?

          • albatross11 says:

            I would have assumed it was another of those endless Eric Flint alternative history books.

          • Plumber says:

            ^

            “@Plumber:

            … and what do you think (((some person’s name))) means?”


             @HeelBearCub,

            It means someone is being deliberately vague, but in the context of this thread it must reference something or someone ill-favored, presumably some jerk.

            I know I just e-mailed Scott some of this, and if I also posted it I apologize, but I think it bears repeating:

            I don’t think many of the commenters at SSC realize how incredibly “inside-baseball” and obscure many of the things discussed here are.

            I got flack for not knowing what a “Twitter mob” was so I asked my co-workers and none of them had heard the phrase (not even the 20-something new hire), nor had they heard “SJW”, or many of the banned terms that I didn’t know.

            I’ve seen one commenters diatribe against someone (who I assumed must be prominent) and that someone turned out to be a video game blogger!

            I saw an extended reference to something called “Elevator-gate”, which turned out to also be an incredibly minor closed-culture event.

            I read, and try to keep up with the stuff in The New York Times and Washington Post opinion pages, it was a piece in the Atlantic Monthly that led me to this blog, plus I’m a nerd who’s played Dungeons & Dragons, loved Star Trek and Asimov’s Foundation novels, and the guys at work have dubbed me “The Professor”, but I can’t usually read ten posts in any SSC threads comments without having to web search multiple references, because it’s deep insider knowledge stuff being discussed here.
            Please don’t think things are common man-on-the-street knowledge that aren’t.

            SSC is a great learning tool, but many comments are about deep “in-the-weeds” stuff and many, probably most people I know wouldn’t be able to follow along, just as I don’t expect to just be able to hand my son the California Plumbing Code and expect him to be able to do my job.

          • Randy M says:

            I know I just e-mailed Scott some of this

            I’m really curious what you expect the outcome of this e-mail to be.

            If you don’t know something, just ask honestly. But don’t use your ignorance to try and prove a point, like “I don’t know what a twitter mob is, so it can’t be a problem” because you can’t assume you are any more representative than anyone else. I agree that people on-line a lot can get a skewed perspective about the prevalence of the twitter topic du jour, but there’s no reason to error in the opposite direction and assume it is entirely irrelevant.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Plumber:
            The three parentheses symbology was (maybe still is) used by modern anti-semites to identify people who happen to be Jewish.

            Once enough people on twitter noticed this convention, many people started tagging themselves this way, frequently regardless of whether they were Jewish, as a way of expressing solidarity with Jewish people who were being targeted in this manner.

            The average person on the street won’t know this. The writer of the median tweet problem is familiar with it.

            My point here is that the internet has made international sub-cultures far more common. The common knowledge of a dominant culture is no longer. Thus, what looks obscure to you is easily understandable to the people who follow the goings of various forms of social media.

            This is a little like, mmmmm, say 15 years ago, when your parents probably had no clue what that “internet” thing really was.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            In fourteen hundred and eighty-eight,
            Columbus had four years to wait.

          • Plumber says:

            “’m really curious what you expect the outcome of this e-mail to be….”

            @Randy M,

            Scott Alexander seemed to be getting down on himself and I wanted to assure him that it really was obscure stuff.

            “If you don’t know something, just ask honestly”

            When I initially did I received more “How dare you not know”, and “Your only pretending to not know” responses than deciferable answers, and I got a bit angry and decided to test just how known these things are among people I encounter face-to-face. 

            “But don’t use your ignorance to try and prove a point, like “I don’t know what a twitter mob is, so it can’t be a problem” because you can’t assume you are any more representative than anyone else. I agree that people on-line a lot can get a skewed perspective about the prevalence of the twitter topic du jour, but there’s no reason to error in the opposite direction and assume it is entirely irrelevant.” 

            That’s a valid point, and it may be possible that all ten of my non-Russian co-workers are also in a bubble” (there’s five guys at work who maintain the boilers who grew up in the Soviet Union but because of the language barrier we they don’t mix as much with the others doing building maintenance, and I’ve taken to calling the boiler room “The Russian Empire”).

            “@Plumber:
            The three parentheses symbology was (maybe still is) used by modern anti-semites to identify people who happen to be Jewish.

            Once enough people on twitter noticed this convention, many people started tagging themselves this way, frequently regardless of whether they were Jewish, as a way of expressing solidarity with Jewish people who were being targeted in this manner…..”

            Thanks @HeelBearCub,

            – a (((Plumber))) from Oakland

            “…This is a little like, mmmmm, say 15 years ago, when your parents probably had no clue what that “internet” thing really was.”

            15 years ago my use of the internet consisted of little except renewing check out times of books and tapes from the library, and (because of how long it took on dial-up) waiting 30 minutes for a page of an article in The New York Times or Wall Street Journal to load up, so I barely knew about the “internet” thing, and in many ways I just didn’t know until after I was issued a “smartphone” in 2012, and it still took me a few more years until I realized what I could do with it.

        • sentientbeings says:

          Ask me what comes to mind when I see 88 and I’ll say…

          …two seven-segment displays?

        • AG says:

          “8” is “hachi” in Japanese, which is close to the onomatopoeia for clapping, “pachi”

          So things like “8888888888888” are pretty common on, like, Asian livestream chats as a stand-in for applause.

          That’s my weeb-netz mental association for 88.

      • Jack Lecter says:

        @melolontha:

        Examples would be nice; if he’s got a bias leading him to the wrong conclusions here, and you know that, you’ve presumably seen him actually reach conclusions you think are wrong.

        Multiple examples would be nice, since you’re suggesting a trend.

      • jonm says:

        Hmm I also think Scott has a blind spot on the issue of dog whistles but this is not the example I would want to double down on to prove that.

        To me dog whistles seem clearly related to the motte and bailey fallacy that Scott loves. In both cases it’s about communicating in a way that sends a message to the target audience but can be usefully denied to outsider audiences. Why believe in one but not the other?

        • AG says:

          I was surprised months ago when going through the TV show Scandal when suddenly there was an episode literally called “Dog-Whistle Politics,” except that their explanation of it was more about the issues of derailing or microaggressions.

          In the context of the main character being revealed to having an affair with the POTUS:

          A: Just tell us why she won’t defend herself as passionately as she defends her clients! She’s usually so well-spoken.
          B: For a black woman. She’s usually so well-spoken for a black woman. Isn’t that what you meant? I say that because I’ve been looking at the last 72 hours of your station’s news coverage, and when you’re not suggesting that Olivia Pope is an angry black woman, you’re implying she’s a homewrecker who slept her way to the top.

          [Bringing up my criminal past], that’s what you were going for, right, Dan? But why would you bring that up now when we’re supposed to be talking about how Olivia Pope doesn’t fit with the slutty-mistress stereotype? So instead of representing her as she is, a formidable, passionate advocate, you take the easy route, shading her, using all manner of coded language. There’s a name for that, Claire, and it’s Dog-whistle politics.

          On this network alone, Olivia Pope has been described as lucky, sassy, ambitious, well-spoken, well-mannered, articulate, shrill, calculating, overconfident, secretive, urban, hot-blooded, known to use thug politics, arrogant, a siren. Words like these mean nothing to the general public, which is why the media and I’m including you in there, Claire can get away with using them. But when women of color, like Ms. Pope, hear that kind of coded language, they know exactly what you’re getting at.

          The term queer likely started as a dog whistle. “If [her momma] hears, her baby’s queer, for all, that, jazz…”

          The ironic thing is that many of the people here are extremely sensitive to dog whistles employed by pro-SJ people, such the claims of difference between nice guy and Nice Guy, white people and White People, straight people and The Straights, etc. Darkly hinting at things in an innocuous but patterned way. And they’re very very outraged when SJ people then hide behind the innocuous read. “Well you’re not a Nice Guy unless you think what I said about Nice Guys was offensive!”-type Kafkatrapping is some grade A dog whistle tactics.
          Things on Outgroup Bingo Cards, basically.

          • Randy M says:

            The ironic thing is that many of the people here are extremely sensitive to dog whistles employed by pro-SJ people

            I think there is a particular sensitivity to Social Justice reverse dog-whistles.
            “All white people are racist” or “die cis scum” or “kill men” or whatever are at best knowingly provocative ways of stating less contentious ideas or just in-group solidarity signals (at worst the literal denotation is intended but denied). This is the opposite of hiding dangerous intentions under obtuse symbols or phrases, and is either intentionally riling people up, an unforced PR blunder, pushing boundaries, or using implausible denials to mask true feelings.

      • slapdashbr says:

        It’s a combination of those things and I know he’s made a post about his experiences of himself or friends being attacked for seriously out-of-context misinterpretation of their comments.

        I don’t mind ignoring dog whistles- I’d argue that on a pseudonymous website, you have two expectations about dogwhistles: 1 it’s a genuine dog whistle, you’re in the outgroup, and you don’t notice it because it isn’t meant for you to notice, or 2: it’s not a genuine dog-whistle, it’s deliberate trolling designed to get a rise out of you, and as we all know, don’t feed the trolls.

      • John Schilling says:

        If dog whistles are real, why is it that only Nazis ever use them? It sounds like they would be a broadly useful tool for deniable communications among any dispersed and marginalized community, if they actually worked the in the manner claimed. But I can’t recall anyone ever saying that anyone but Evil Right-Wing Extremists has ever made use of this useful tool, and that seems implausible.

        Where are the examples of actual or alleged dog-whistle politics on the left? And, insofar as the Overton window has shifted substantially on some issues within living memory, where are the people willing to admit to having used the technique, and explain to the rest of us how well it actually works (or not)? Anyone here want to step up and say they’ve blown a dog whistle for one cause or another?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          It sounds like they would be a broadly useful tool for deniable communications among any dispersed and marginalized community,

          I’ve always thought that this line of attack, that taking dog whistles as if they are literally super secret signals, was especially weak. It ignores what we know about how euphemism and signalling work.

          Take, as an example, the idea of gang colors.

          Are you going to deny that signalling via the use of colored apparel isn’t real?

          Conversely, are you going to argue that in order for this signalling to be real, that everyone everywhere must use these colors as this kind of signal?

          These kinds of things are always contextual, socially contextual, and as social animals we process this kind of context automatically.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’ve always thought that this line of attack, that taking dog whistles as if they are literally super secret signals, was especially weak.

            Isn’t that literally what “dog-whistle” means? For the literal definition of literally? If a “dog whistle” wasn’t a secret that only the target audience (*) would recognize, we’d just call it a “whistle”.

            It ignores what we know about how euphemism and signalling work.

            Euphemisms are polite, not secret. If someone asks, “where is the men’s room?”, and your response is “wait, I am unclear – do you mean the room where people with penises might go to urinate or defecate?”, they will think you needlessly rude and/or impossibly clueless but they won’t deny that they are looking for a place to take a piss. Same goes for signalling via e.g. gang signs, which are meant for enemies as well as friends and are in no way secret or obscure.

            If you mean to say that “88” numerology is a non-secret euphemism or signal, then A: “dog whistle” was a really really stupid term to use, and B: if there’s any uncertainty, you ask the guy what he meant to signal and you take his word for it.

            If you’re not going to take his word for it, then you are alleging that is a secret code, and we are going to judge your claim on the plausibility and efficacy of the alleged code.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            “dog whistle” was a really really stupid term to use

            Worth noting that no one in the article uses it, and it’s Scott, who presumably disagrees with the actions of the protesters, who characterizes it as such. You’ll see me and some others upthread arguing that the term should be reserved for public figures.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Same goes for signalling via e.g. gang signs, which are meant for enemies as well as friends and are in no way secret or obscure.

            They aren’t secret or obscure in context.

            But if you see someone wearing blue, is your first thought that they are a Crip? And, of note, as the knowledge of the symbolism became common (and used by law enforcement and others) … the gangs are much less likely to wear colors.

            Euphemisms are polite, not secret.

            Yes, but that is part of how dog whistles work. It’s no longer acceptable to openly have a swastika tattoo. You can’t just say “n*****, n*****, n***** [anymore]. That hurts you. It backfires.”

            The idea is to play on the same fears or emotions, but couch it in socially acceptable language. It’s similar to the euphemism treadmill in that new terms are continually invented to play the same role.

            If someone in the 80s was talking about the “inner city crime problem” the meaning was clear, but even using “ghetto” had pretty much fallen out of favor by then.

          • John Schilling says:

            But if you see someone wearing blue, is your first thought that they are a Crip?

            No, for the same reason I don’t think someone is a Nazi if they have an “88” somewhere on their skin or their clothes.

            Gang members, don’t wear khaki dockers and a blue polo shirt. They traditionally wear an ensemble that does rather blatantly signal “likely gang member”, and coordinate the colors to clarify which gang.

            And, of note, as the knowledge of the symbolism became common (and used by law enforcement and others) … the gangs are much less likely to wear colors.

            They are less likely to wear colors because they are less likely to want to be identified as gang members.

            The colors always identified them as gang members. Nobody who mattered, failed to understand that. Gang colors are not and never were an example of “dog whistling” in the maybe-the-football-player-is-a-secret-Nazi sense. Gang members used to want to be identified as gang members, and for everyone who mattered to be clear on which gang. Now, for several specific reasons enumerated in the article you cite and conspicuously not including “the cops finally cracked the code”, they prefer anonymity. So they don’t engage in the same level of blatant signalling.

            Dog whistles, if they worked, would be quite useful to the 21st century street gang soldier. I suppose it’s possible they have sourced some really effective dog whistles that BI hasn’t noticed, but I’m skeptical.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Jihn Schilling:

            Nobody who mattered, failed to understand that.

            Yes, but the “who matters” part is pretty important. They were trying to signal to other gang members (who mattered). They weren’t trying to signal to non gang members. For quite a while this meant it was a hidden signal if you didn’t matter (or you weren’t particularly interested in how to identify gang members.)

            This should make it clear that “secret” signals aren’t really secret, they are just a product of specific community knowledge.

        • Eugene Dawn says:

          Probably a good comparison are secret societies or gangs (both of which have some overlap with Nazism). I don’t know enough about them, but I’d guess you could find some good examples among like, the Carbonari, or other revolutionary secret societies, which would probably count as left wing.

          But I think gang symbols are probably the best comparison, especially since many white supremacist organizations are effectively gangs. For example, 81 stands for the Hell’s Angels using the exact same code.

        • Mark Atwood says:

          Anyone here want to step up and say they’ve blown a dog whistle for one cause or another?

          I had a music teacher who marched in the 2nd gay pride parade in San Francisco, back when the crowd was throwing rocks, not kisses. According to him, code phrases like “are you a friend of Dorothy’s” and assorted other carefully deniable visual and and spoken signals was in real life use back then.

        • AG says:

          As I said above, things on Outgroup Bingo Cards are often attack-style dog whistles. Gamer, plays CoD, has an anime avatar, uses Well Actually, etc. The first, especially, fits the bill, since pro-SJ people waffle between using Gamer as a slur and claiming that there have always been a substantial population of minority demographic gamers.

        • Dan L says:

          I suspect that the term is loaded enough that the same sorts of signaling behavior are going to come across as more “dog whistlish” simply by being right-wing, but I can think of a few correspondences.

          For personal aesthetic choices, (88 tattoo!) sexual subcultures are full of this stuff – anything that reliably trips your gaydar has probably been serving this function for decades. There are more esoteric examples in use today in various circles, but effectively coordinating on what the signals are is difficult. I could name a few currently-in-use techniques here, but I’ll pass for obvious reasons.

          For general value statements (tradition!), “diversity” and “inclusiveness” have to be near the top of the list. Pragmatic HR policy or tribal signal – depends on context.

          For government policy (state’s rights!), gun control proposals probably count as a legitimate dogwhistle often enough to annoy the hell out of those on the left that aren’t incrementally building towards confiscation. Apparently immigration policy is suspect now too, but that just might be SSC.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            I could name a few currently-in-use techniques here, but I’ll pass for obvious reasons.

            Yup. I’ve got at least 3 such on my person or within arms reach right now.

            It’s fun when someone formerly unknown to me recognizes them.

        • brianmcbee says:

          All this conversation about dog-whistles is confusing me. I thought phrases like “strapping young buck”, “welfare queen”, “inner city” were used as far back as the Reagan and Clinton era, and we all knew what they meant. Does dog-whistle mean something else now?

          • The Nybbler says:

            “Inner city” may have once been a dog-whistle, but it hasn’t been for a long time; everyone knows it refers to crime-ridden urban neighborhoods mostly populated by blacks and/or Hispanics. Reagan denied “young buck” was racist and claimed where he grew up, it was used for a young man of any race. David Bernstein at Volokh investigated and came up inconclusive.

            According to Slate, Reagan’s “Welfare queen” was based on a real woman, a fraudster of indeterminate (though officially white) race.

            The major characteristics of a dog whistle are

            1) Your intended audience can hear it.

            2) Some other relevant groups can’t.

            To be useful, you’re going to need a decent signal-to-noise ratio, too; if your secret signal is being used without hidden meaning all the time, it’s not useful.

            Prison and gang tattoos with 14/88 aren’t dog whistles, because everyone relevant — your gang, their gang, law enforcement — knows what they mean.

            The best example I know is “family values”. Supposedly using this signals to the right group that the candidate opposes gay rights, opposes abortion, and supports religion. To someone not in the know, it just sounds like generic feel-good political talk. But I’m not the dog, so I can’t confirm if this one is real.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            @ Nybbler

            The major characteristics of a dog whistle are

            1) Your intended audience can hear it.

            2) Some other relevant groups can’t.

            Isn’t that really the biggest problem now though?

            I would think this recent example is the most hilarious and easily applicable:

            https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-08-29/trump-backed-candidates-win-florida-senate-governor-primaries

            Full text quote:

            Florida elections are always competitive, and this is a guy who, although he’s much too liberal for Florida, I think he’s got huge problems with how he’s governed Tallahassee, he is an articulate spokesman for those far-left views, and he’s a charismatic candidate. I watched those Democrat debates, and none of that is my cup of tea, but he performed better than those other people there. So we’ve got to work hard to make sure that we continue Florida going in a good direction, let’s build off the success we’ve had on Governor Scott, the last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state. That’s not going to work.

            Many super serious people tell me this is a dog whistle. Saying the word dog a lot is also a dog whistle according to these serious people. Basically any common reference with an animal in it is generally construed as a dog whistle. The whole enterprise appears to me to just be an attempt to stop people from using effective analogies.

          • I think there may be two different meanings:

            1. A coded signal intended to be understood only by in-group members.

            2. A plausibly deniable signal intended to be understood by everyone.

            Your examples would be the second.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            “Family values” is my preferred example. Another good one is states’ rights: from at least the late 1940s to some time in the 1970s, a US politician defending states’ rights was almost certainly arguing for segregation, or against civil rights.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Eugene Dawn –

            Man your history classes failed you.

            “States’ rights” wasn’t a euphemism, or a dog-whistle. It was an argument.

            It was an argument made by racists, that the powers the Federal Government was adopting for itself would greatly curtail the power of states to determine their own laws.

            It was effective because a lot of non-racists who didn’t believe in racism (or at least the goals of the racists) DID believe in federalism.

            It was also entirely accurate, to the point where people today don’t even understand that there used to be a question or whether the Federal Government should have the sorts of powers we now accept as a matter of course.

          • AG says:

            @Thegnskald: Looks like it’s the other way around. Eugene specifies the use of the term in the context of the 1940-70s, not the Civil War era. And the fact that it was a legitimate argument to federalists is part of what makes it a dog whistle: federalists were not the dog. Just as the whole reason that the left pushed the term “undocumented immigrants” was because they had caught on to how “illegal immigrants” had become a euphemism, even though “illegal immigrants have broken the law” are a legitimate argument to some rule-of-law people.

          • Matt M says:

            For left-wing examples, see things like

            “Common sense gun control.” Reads to most people as “Make it harder for criminals and crazy people to purchase deadly assault weapons.” But might actually be “Total ban on private firearm ownership.”

            “Comprehensive immigration reform.” Reads as “Improve the situation regarding border enforcement to become more effective and more humane.” Might actually be “Amnesty and open borders.”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I want to go on record that, unless I see further evidence that DeSantis was intentionally using the word “monkey” to accomplish some specific campaign objective, my best guess is that this was just bog standard misspeaking.

            “If something is working, don’t monkey with it” isn’t particularly racially charged in isolation. Another phrase that would have the same connotations is “We are going to [succeed], unless we mess it up.”

            To me it seems like he just combined those two thing to unfortunate effect. Perhaps even because he knew he should avoid using the word “monkey” during the campaign.

          • Thegnskald says:

            AG –

            …the fact that it is a legitimate argument to Federalists is the POINT, not a way of hiding meaning.

            You are importing modern sensibilities to the Civil Rights era. By and large, the racists weren’t pretending not to be racist, because the badness of racism hadn’t been decided yet.

            The whole “dog-whistle” shit came afterwards, as a way to accuse Federalists of racism. As indeed people believe today.

          • Jaskologist says:

            “Common Sense Gun Control” et al aren’t dog whistles, they’re just marketing, of the kind you could learn about in Aristotle’s Rhetoric. “Partial-birth abortion” vs “Intact dilation and extraction” are instances of the same sort of thing.

          • Randy M says:

            Pro-Choice is closer, since on the face of it it doesn’t indicate at all what issue it specifically refers to (and plenty of pro-choice people are not libertarian absolutists). However it’d be silly to call it a dog whistle since everyone knows what it means and the people who use it will proudly clarify if asked.
            Of course, “Family values”, referenced elsewhere, is the same thing.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            “States’ rights” wasn’t a euphemism, or a dog-whistle. It was an argument.

            It was an argument made by racists, that the powers the Federal Government was adopting for itself would greatly curtail the power of states to determine their own laws.

            It was effective because a lot of non-racists who didn’t believe in racism (or at least the goals of the racists) DID believe in federalism.

            Read what I said again: my “from at least the late 1940s to some time in the 1970s, a US politician defending states’ rights was almost certainly arguing for segregation, or against civil rights.” sounds like your “It was an argument made by racists”–do you believe that the racists were defending states’ rights on general principle, or not? If not, then how is this different from my assertion that states’ rights was a way to sell segregation and opposition to civil rights without having to defend those explicitly?

            If I were to disagree with you anywhere, it would be your assertion that there were “a lot” of federalists who were pro-states’ rights on general principle; I suspect it was a small number of people (including, however, some high-profile ones like Barry Goldwater)–but this doesn’t change the fact that even when a non-racist campaigned on states’ rights, the states’ rights issue they almost certain had in mind was civil rights.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Eugene Dawn-

            That’s true enough, but how does that make it a dog whistle? Everybody knew what they meant. And you could know what they meant and still concede, as Goldwater did, that they had a valid point.

            If I am for policy X, and seek to find allies by generalizing my advocacy to a broader policy X’, I don’t see how I can be either blamed for that tactic or accused of trying to hide my true agenda. Surely I am allowed to point it out if there is a larger issue than the one I keep being hammered about.

            A Federalist like Goldwater might be concerned that a segregationist talking up states’ rights might taint the cause of state’s rights. A civil rights advocate might be concerned that the ACLU supporting the Skokie marches might taint the cause of free speech. And in either case, that concern might be correct, because maybe the slope isn’t really all that slippery and you can therefore be against some really nasty boundary cases without really comprising all that much. But then you still have to admit that you aren’t really 100% on board with Federalism or free speech.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I don’t think a dog-whistle requires that it be known only to the group targeted–it’s obviously implausible that such a situation can arise. As I say above, I think a dog-whistle is just an extreme version of the usual euphemism and plausible-deniability that politicians usually use: no national politician, even in the 1960s, wants to run explicitly on “we should defend segregation”, or “we should oppose blacks voting”; but they may want voters who oppose blacks voting and like segregation to vote for them. So you promise to do that–but in language that doesn’t necessarily alienate others. You find a high-minded principle that lets people do what they want to do anyway (this is not an argument that Goldwater adopted states’ rights views opportunistically; the “you” here is general–Southern voters were looking for a national candidate who could run on an effectively pro-segregation platform that wouldn’t alienate the rest of the country).

            The point isn’t that Goldwater was trying to hide his real agenda; the point is he knew that when he promised to support states’ rights, a majority of the people who voted for him based on that promise did so because they knew it was effectively a promise to preserve segregation (and Goldwater understood this too, even if he didn’t like it).

            If he had run on a states’ rights platform when civil rights and desegregation were not on the nation’s agenda, most of his Southern voters (who were basically his only voters) would have dried up.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Hmm. Then why’s it called a “dog-whistle”? It sounds like you’re saying the idea has no real-world instance, in which case, well, we may be in violent agreement.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            It’s a colourful term to describe an exaggerated version of an everyday occurrence; apparently it was adopted from polling, where slight changes in questions could produce wildly different answers, the idea being that respondents were ‘hearing’ something in the question that wasn’t obvious at the surface level.

            I’m not sure who’s responsible for the belief that a dog-whistle is some sinister secret code that only certain people can understand: it’s a phrase whose ‘real’ political meaning isn’t obvious from its dictionary definition. So, even though “family values” is vague and can refer to any number of possible values, everyone understands that it means conservative sexual values–not because of the literal meaning of the words, but because of how it’s actually used in politics.

          • Randy M says:

            If everyone understands it, where is the plausible deniability?
            Basically, if you go up to the person and ask what they really mean by their euphemism/dog whistle and they give you exactly the policies they intend to put into place, then I think using the term is either incorrect, or the term should lose its sinister connotations. Or you can try to get spin and public relations entirely out of politics. Good luck.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            By not saying directly that you are for something, if your opponents say, “my opponent supports …”, you can say accuse them of smearing you, and there will be no sound-clips or awkward video where you’re caught on tape saying you support it. If you are courting two different constituencies with different views on an issue you can keep from alienating either one by retreating to dog-whistles.

            I’m a little more skeptical of this, but there may also be subtle psychological differences in carefully picking words to have certain connotations: imagine a politician gives the exact same speech, except in one he always uses the term “illegals”, and in the other the term “people of undocumented status”. Even if we accept that the two phrases refer to the exact same class of people denotatively, and can be perfectly substituted one for the other without changing the literal meaning, the connotations might still play a role in how people interpret the politician’s remarks.

            In other words, they work the same way that all euphemisms and evasions work: no one misunderstands what “#@!#$” means in a comic book, or ‘f–k you”, and no one is confused about whether “passed on to a better place” means something different than “dead”. Yet, people still insist on censoring expletives, or using euphemisms, or evading the subject by talking indirectly, because that’s just how rhetoric works.

            I don’t think we can or should remove this feature from politics, but I think commentators on politics should at least understand and be honest about what the various euphemisms stand in for.

          • Randy M says:

            if your opponents say, “my opponent supports …”, you can say accuse them of smearing you, and there will be no sound-clips or awkward video where you’re caught on tape saying you support it.

            But there will be if everyone knows the dog whistle. Otherwise, everyone doesn’t know.

            imagine a politician gives the exact same speech, except in one he always uses the term “illegals”, and in the other the term “people of undocumented status”.

            So dog-whistle isn’t about hiding an agenda, but about using the proper Shibboleth?

            Even if we accept that the two phrases refer to the exact same class of people denotatively, and can be perfectly substituted one for the other without changing the literal meaning, the connotations might still play a role in how people interpret the politician’s remarks.

            Basically, you’re saying that is someone says “We need to find a fair way of dealing with Illegals” vs “We need to find a fair way of dealing with the undocumented population” their ways are probably different? There’s probably something to that, but I don’t think anything is gained by gasping “Racist dog-whistle!” when you could instead ask what those policy proposals would be in concrete terms.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            There will be clips of you arguing for the sanitized euphemistic version, but never for the ugly version. So, your opponent says, “this man supports segregation!”, and you respond, “What a cheap smear! What evidence do you have?”.
            “Here’s a clip of you giving a joint rally with Strom Thurmond saying you oppose the Civil Rights Act!”
            “Where in that clip do I say I ‘support segregation’? I was at that rally to support states’ rights, not segregation!”

            And so forth…

            So dog-whistle isn’t about hiding an agenda, but about using the proper Shibboleth?

            I’d say more like sanitizing an agenda, where at the one extreme, if you sanitize super-well it’s effectively hiding it, and at the other extreme, you’re essentially just using a shibboleth.

            but I don’t think anything is gained by gasping “Racist dog-whistle!” when you could instead ask what those policy proposals would be in concrete terms.

            This is true, though of course politicians might not have their proposals ready, or the issue might be which judges you will appoint, or there might be some other reason a politician can evade a direct question, but you’d still like to know “where they stand” on the issue.
            This last is related to the more general issue of trying to understand to whom a politician is appealing as a way of determining what political pressures will act on them when they are faced with unforeseen situations: a politician who uses racist dogwhistles is more likely to be effectively pressured by racists than one who doesn’t, which is worth considering if you’re worried about how a politician will react to unforeseen issues that arise with racial valence.

          • JPNunez says:

            https://www.politico.com/states/florida/story/2018/08/31/racist-robocalls-mar-floridas-race-for-governor-589468

            Well I guess that DeSantis dog whistled…and the dogs listened.

            At least the DeSantis campaign is disavowing the robocalls.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      There are people who change sides. Has anyone seen someone say that they used to dog-whistle?

    • The Nybbler says:

      I think the tattoo is intended to imitate a stencil font like would be used to do uniform shirts, though the serifs wouldn’t be there. Maybe he just picked one that the tattoo artist had and he thought looked cool. Neo-nazis use all sorts of different ’88’s, including both that one and better approximations of football numbers.

      (but you can’t go by me; my first phone number ended in 1488 and I drive a car from Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft)

      • Matt M says:

        Yeah, I consider it more than possible that if you walk into a tattoo parlor and say “Give me an 88” the tattoo artist probably has a decent idea of what it might mean, and might assume you want it for certain reasons, and default showing you certain fonts or whatever…

        • slapdashbr says:

          Honestly, most tattoo artists, probably not. The neonazi-skinhead community (people who’d get an “88” tattoo as a Nazi symbol) is what, a few thousand people in the US at most? Tens of millions of people get tattoos, most tattoo artists probably never meet a genuine neonazi in their life.

          Keep in mind the typical tattoo artist is a stoner into punk/urban music styles, anti-authoritarian and vaguely leftist. Anti-fa not neonazi.

      • Jack Lecter says:

        I’m just gonna leave this here…

        Wikipedia- Twilight Zone- Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?

        This one’s probably also relevant, even if it’s not as good.

      • Thomas Jørgensen says:

        Plausible course of events; He asked for an 88 tatoo ánd the tatooist went
        “might be a nazi. Nazis getting 88 tats is, after all, something that happens in this shop on a regular basis. Asking him that would be rude, so I will just show him the standard nazi tat and ask if this is what he wants”.

        Then the guy – who knows no actual nazis, and thus does not know what their tats look like goes “Cool font.”.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      People do go to jail for pump-and-dump stock manipulations. But not people with as much social capital as Musk. There were short-sellers of TSLA and he hated them and this action looks exactly like he was trying to force a short squeeze.

      I like Musk and I didn’t like typing that paragraph. But sometimes the injustice in the system works for people you like.

      • Deiseach says:

        Edward, that’s a lot more structured than I think Musk was actually doing. I know that after the fact, he has insinuated he did it to punish the people shorting Tesla stock, but frankly I think he’s been hitting the ol’ Colombian marching powder and/or other herbal remedies (he’s already admitted being wired to the moon on Ambien) to keep up with his new pop music girlfriend and her scene, plus the real problems with being Chief Cook and Bottlewasher of at least three different companies at the same time, and that the tweet was much less considered (and descriptive of anything actually happening in the real world, as contrasted with the world inside Musk’s head) than he scrabbled to make it sound later.

        “I did this to punish short sellers, who cares if the SEC slap me on the wrist” at least sounds more grown-up than “I threw my toys out of the pram about taking Tesla private because people were hassling me over when would I get the goddamn cars into production”.

        • Matt M says:

          I find the over-reaction to Musk’s tweets as silly and amusing as the over-reaction to Trump’s tweets.

          Twitter was built to be a platform wherein famous people could post their inane, flickering, thoughts. The character limit encourages you to say whatever is on your mind at the time, rather than developing a nuanced and carefully worded and well thought out analysis.

          These people are using Twitter exactly as it was intended to be used and the very serious people are reacting with shock and amazement that somehow, they AREN’T getting the equivalent of a 10K filing statement or a State of the Union address…

      • Do people go to jail for schemes that fail after four hours?

  3. Mary says:

    Old Catholic religious law said that any new territories discovered belonged to the diocese from which the discovering expedition set out, so the Pope shouldn’t have been so surprised when the Bishop of Orlando asserted his religious control over the Moon.

    That is, until new bishoprics are formed. Notice there are several in this country, having started with the bishop of Baltimore. (The Founding Fathers highly approved of having our own, as supporting our independence. Not, of course, that they could officially say so.)

  4. Mitchell Powell says:

    “Whether you support basic income or not, promising people three years of free money, letting them quit their jobs or make long-term investments or whatever, and then saying “wait, actually, changed our mind” is pretty scummy.”

    On the other hand, I’d expect a real-world attempt at basic incomes to get cancelled pretty quick, so maybe they’re just trying to model the likely real-life outcome by jerking people around like this.

    • Doctor Mist says:

      Yes. The only way basic income makes any sense at all is for the government to start small and grow from there: “We’ve looked at the numbers and we’re pretty sure we can promise to give everybody $50 per annum in perpetuity.” Ten years later: “Well, that didn’t break; let’s raise it to $100.” And so on.

      Perhaps that seems ridiculous; what Congressman would vote to give everybody $50 a year? That’s 15 billion dollars! For what? Don’t we already have a deficit?

      But then why is it suddenly a good idea if it’s $10000?

    • Alphonse says:

      As a follow-up to this, I have difficulty mustering too much sympathy regarding the termination of this program. Governmental programs are generically subject to potential future cuts in funding. Virtually no one enjoys having funding cut for a program that benefits them. “Interest group complains when its concentrated benefit from the government is slashed” hardly seems like a novel headline.

      Of course, the program here was “supposed” to run for three years. But, to my understanding from reading the article, that was the intention of the politicians running the government back when the program was started. I’m not familiar with Ontario politics, but presumably that coalition of politicians lost an election, and this was the result.

      Declaring this program somehow off limits to cuts by a subsequent administration (at least for its “planned” three-year runtime) would just further cement the one-way ratchet toward ever-expanding governmental expenditures.

      I’m sure some of the individuals involved in the program genuinely expected it to continue for three years. I’m sure some of them are going to suffer non-trivial adverse impacts as a result of its early termination. But I expect that’s true for numerous budgetary cuts, and since I don’t oppose all budget cuts on principle, I can’t muster much opposition to this one on that basis alone.

      • N.K Anton says:

        In a Canadian context, you expect lengthy memorandums to cabinets or ministers to informing the government about the rationales, cost-benefit analyses, and other advice about decisions like this – and the government hasn’t been in power long enough for me to grant them doing that. Governments have done more research and analysis for removing smaller programs that are less bipartisan.

        The government that got in power has a “folksy”/populist bent and I assume these sorts of actions are about politics or signalling more than anything. The same government also reversed the sex-ed program a few days into power as well. This is a government that campaigned against the “technocratic liberal elite” incumbent and prizes shooting from the hip, so its not surprising.

        The norm in provincial and federal governments is to sunset programs or projects at the end of the program even if you didn’t preside over it. I’m a fan of public choice theory as much as the next guy but governments in power don’t usually one-way ratchet gov’t expenditures because of this norm, they tend to replace them with their own programs (even if it is the same program under a liberal/conservative sounding name).

      • grendelkhan says:

        This seems a little too general. People make plans based on policies, and not all budget items affect people’s long-term plans. It’s why you can’t feasilbly just cancel Medicare or Social Security, and in the private sector, it’s why defaulting on pensions is very heavily frowned upon.

    • AG says:

      I’d expect a real-world attempt at basic incomes to get cancelled pretty quick

      Interesting, one of the arguments by UBI opponents is that it would become an un-repeal-able ratchet even in the event of it not working. But this case at least disproves that in the short term.

      • Matt M says:

        That depends on it actually being U.

        There’s a huge difference between a universal program and a “limited trial.” The reason social security is impossible to repeal is because virtually everyone with a vote is either collecting from it or has already paid into it.

        All of the various considerations of the pros/cons of UBI are irrelevant to a program that’s actually an LTBI (limited trial basic income).

        • AG says:

          The Bush tax cuts were also supposed to be limited, but have been continually extended because the people who have a vote keep extending it. The US has been in a perpetual legal state of emergency for decades because the people who have a vote keep extending it. A program being supposedly limited/temporary has never been an obstacle to sticking around for forever.

          So, evidently, BI didn’t fall into that, which implies that it’s different from other “supposedly limited/temporary gets sticks around forever because it’s convenient to voters.”
          (Though we’ll see how the Alaska or First Nation BIs do)

          • Matt M says:

            My point is that it was limited not by time, but by application.

            The Bush tax cuts applied to everyone, therefore everyone is interested in extending them. A UBI, applied to everyone, would receive similar support.

            A proposed “trial” tax cut where we take some small sample of people in a particular tax bracket and cut their taxes but nobody else’s would be quite easy to repeal midway through, because only the sample population is affected.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Only if the UBI is implemented responsibly. If we offset the cost of it by adding an “UBI Tax” line item to everyone’s income tax statements, I’m betting most/enough people will be able do the math and realize that they are losing out in this deal.

            If we implement it by just borrowing the money then yeah, free money, it should obviously continue forever and be expanded.

          • AG says:

            @Matt M: I guess that’s why such things would have to be rolled up into a giant morass of other things happening, like the recent tax reform, or Obamacare? But then again, we’ve now seen that sections of Obamacare can get repealed, which supports your point. But somehow I doubt that we’ll see similar chisel-repeal on the recent tax reform.

    • oppressedminority says:

      The government who implemented basic income was a socialist government, with about a 5% approval rating, and only one year left to its mandate. They implemented it knowing full well they were going to be out of office shortly, with an overwhelming likelihood of being replaced by the conservative party who was obviously going to scrap it, as part of desperately needed cost-cutting measures. Keep in mind that Ontario is Canada’s most populous province, and used to be Canada’s economic engine, and now qualifies for equalization payments from the likes of Saskatchewan and Newfoundland (apologies to Americans but this is the equivalent of Mississipi giving Massachusetts a bailout package).

      To modify Scott’s formulation, I would say that promising people three years of free money, knowing full well that the program will be terminated when you will be out of office in a year, is pretty scummy.

      More generally, UBI is so obviously a terrible idea that I cant imagine otherwise intelligent people are taking it seriously. How can you imagine a future where only a select few do productive work, while the overwhelming majority receives free money, without considering that the powerful will one day decide to just exterminate the free loaders instead of paying them just for living?

      • Guy in TN says:

        How can you imagine a future where only a select few do productive work, while the overwhelming majority receives free money, without considering that the powerful will one day decide to just exterminate the free loaders instead of paying them just for living?

        Why do you assume that the “powerful” and “those doing productive work” will be the same category?

        My hot take is that there isn’t that much overlap, even today.

        • oppressedminority says:

          Fair point. I’m not exactly sure how a future where most jobs are automated and only a few people work will be in detail. But I’m assuming there will still be very powerful, wealthy people. To the extent there will be work to be done by humans in a highly automated society, my guess this work will be mostly of the decision-making variety, and by definition those making the decisions will be wealthy and powerful.

          I might be wrong of course, but this strikes me as a reasonable assumption, and this scenario represents a far greater and plausible risk than an as-of-yet uninvented artificial intelligence making paper clips out of humans, which is of course the great fear of many pushing the UBI concept.

  5. dndnrsn says:

    How the Nazis went from a fringe party to getting more votes than any other party to power is really complicated. It’s interesting if Hitler’s public speeches didn’t actually attract more voters – because his underlings (especially Goebbels) certainly thought his speeches were important. One thought: without a dedicated core of supporters (both important inner-circle guys and others with leadership positions along with rank-and-file diehards) the party would never have gotten anywhere, and his speeches were clearly important in attracting them. He very clearly had an extremely strong charismatic pull on those near to him.

    EDIT: What role do public speeches by politicians play, in general? How would the best speechifier do against the most average?

    • idontknow131647093 says:

      The Nazi’s rise is mostly correlated with the communists rise and a kind of collapse among traditionalists and liberals in Germany.

      They were simply the only non-Communists that were trying.

      • Squirrel of Doom says:

        Yeah, my limited understanding of that time is that it was a three way battle for power between nazis, communists, and democrats, and democrats were not in the top 2.

      • dndnrsn says:

        It’s not that they weren’t trying, it’s that confidence in Weimar democracy was really flagging. The only ones who really liked it were the social democrats and the liberals; the conservatives (including the Centre party) didn’t like it much; the Nazis and the KPD were openly against it. That two of the largest parties in a democracy are openly against that democracy is not a vote of confidence.

        However, the commies never had a chance of taking power democratically, and a revolution probably wasn’t in the cards. They did, however, get enough support and power to frighten conservatives into thinking a deal with the Nazis was a good idea. As it happened, they weren’t able to control Hitler like they thought they could. The Nazis were unable to take power on their own, and had a deal not been cut they might have continue to decline (the last free elections showed a drop in their support from the one previous). Both indisputably fascist regimes took power when conservatives lost their nerve and tried to cut a deal with a partner they thought they could control.

        @Squirrel of Doom

        In the last free election, the social democrats got about 25% more votes than the communists.

        • Eric Rall says:

          The KPD was also crucial in that like the NSDAP, they adopted a policy of voting against attempts by any other party to form a government. After the November 1932 elections, the Nazis and the Communists between them had enough votes to block any other potential government, so Hindenberg and Papen had to bring one of those two parties into the government (or escalate abuse of the Article 48 decree powers to bypass the Reichstag, or call yet another snap election and hope for a better outcome).

          I’ve heard arguments that in hindsight, Article 48 was the best option. I’m skeptical of that argument: Article 48 decrees don’t completely bypass the Reichstag, so the NSDAP and KPD could combine to repeal any Article 48 degree, or even to force the resignation of the Chancellor.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The most likely alternate outcome was probably some kind of right-wing authoritarian government, probably with military involvement, similar to what happened in many European states. The argument can easily be made that this would have been preferable to what happened – the nature of national socialism made a major war, genocide, etc far more likely.

        • idontknow131647093 says:

          The fact that conservatives sided with Fascists is prima facie evidence that those parties had lost their luster and energy. This is akin to the modern US if the GOP was constituted mostly of “Never Trumpers” and the option for conservatives was Richard Spencer or Robert Mugabe.

          The strongest defense against extreme right wingers is a moderate right wing party that is vigorous.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Sure, they’d lost their energy, and the Nazis were getting more votes, but the Nationalist party thought they could use Hitler (and then presumably discard him), etc. They clearly still thought they had their energy, or at least that Hitler was a boob they could lead around. The closest analogy would be the Republican leadership thinking that some hypothetical more-effective-than-Richard-Spencer white nationalist leader running for the nomination would be easy to steer (considering that the US doesn’t have a system that works for more than a couple parties).

            In the case of Germany in the 20s and 30s, the strongest defence would have been for the authorities to uniformly enforce the laws against the far right as much as they did against the far-left. Unfortunately, that wasn’t in the cards. Where the laws were actually enforced, it made life a lot harder for the Nazis .

        • engleberg says:

          The Gestapo shot enough anti-Hitler people that Hitler could seize power. Hitler had a textbook right-wing national socialism, a secret police that had a country. This is controversial?

          • Joseftstadter says:

            Not controversial, completely wrong. The Gestapo didn’t start shooting people in earnest until after Hitler had seized power. Hitler was put in power by right-wing conservatives who thought they could control him.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Given that the Gestapo didn’t exist until after the Nazi takeover of power, yeah, this isn’t controversial, just wrong.

          • engleberg says:

            As to ‘shooting people in earnest’, what do you mean? Hitler killed his enemies all in good fun until he was elected? And the Gestapo didn’t exist until their official founding under that name? And Hitler had no agency, he was just stuffed into power by some other party?

          • albatross11 says:

            engleberg:

            When you have no idea what you’re talking about, it’s really okay to just stop talking.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @engleberg

            The Gestapo was formed from Prussian political police. Prior to the Nazi takeover, these were not under the command of the Nazis.

          • John Schilling says:

            How many people did the “Prussian political police” shoot before the Nazis took power, and how many of those people were enemies of the Nazis?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @John Schilling

            Are you asking me? I’m not sure what you’re getting at.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Anyway, the Prussians had police dedicated to political matters and intelligence. Among other things, they spied on the commies and the Nazis. I don’t think they shot very many people at all; most political killings prior to the Nazi takeover were unofficial or semi-official (eg the Free Corps).

            When the Nazis got into power, part of the deal was that Goering would be the Prussian interior minister. This put him in charge of these police units, which he combined into the Gestapo, an abbreviation for the German for “Secret State Police” and made sure that enough of its men were Nazis. Eventually Himmler and the SS got control of the Gestapo.

            It is impossible for the Gestapo to have gotten Hitler into power by shooting people. That statement is wrong in multiple ways.

          • ec429 says:

            It’s possible that engleberg is confusing the Gestapo with the SA. The latter is generally considered to have been a factor in Hitler’s rise to power.

          • Joseftstadter says:

            True, the SA used violence to “control the streets” and whip up enthusiasm, but that violence arguably damaged the Nazis reputation among the bourgeois and was one reason the Nazis did poorly in the November 1932 election right before Hindenburg and Papen decided to elevate Hitler to power.

            And Hitler actually had little interest in killing his political enemies before he came to power, he preferred to use Communists and Jews as bogeymen to scare ordinary Germans into choosing the Nazis as their “protectors”.

      • Eugene Dawn says:

        Not a historian but:
        Given that the change in Nazi electoral success went from 12 seats in 1928 to 107 seats in 1930, I think the Depression has to play a pretty large role. The 1929 referendum to renounce the Treaty of Versailles is supposed to have given the Nazis and Hitler name recognition, I guess just at the right time to take advantage of a catastrophic failure by the mainstream parties to manage the economy.

        • dndnrsn says:

          The Nazis were already known, but they were a fringe party – people knew what they were selling, they just didn’t want to buy it. The Depression definitely played an enormous role. It undermined the parties that said “things are OK” and led people to the Nazis, as well as to the Communists (the unemployed voted KPD more than NSDAP, I’m pretty sure); people going commie spooked the conservatives into thinking the Nazis were the best bet.

    • Wency says:

      Framed another way:

      Maybe Hitler’s speeches were polarizing. Scared the hell out of some people, while firing up the base. Hence, only a weak electoral effect, but the enthusiasm of the Nazi base was instrumental in the ultimate fate of the Weimar Republic.

    • Alraune says:

      The nazis succeeded because they could create coalitions and absorb existing institutions in a way the communists could not, and everyone in the middle was forced to pick one or the other.

      Germany was still extremely federal, actually governing required the conversion of numerous local and pre-modern social power centers. The communists demanded a miniature revolution within every one of them, the nazis just demanded that your existing leader take dictatorial responsibility for his group and not be jewish.

    • ohwhatisthis? says:

      Well its because attempting to do those questionable statistics almost a century after the fact with poor data and totally ignoring the strong emotional effects on a core group of supporters is really really stupid.

  6. sentientbeings says:

    Basic income recipients react to one of the world’s largest experiments being cancelled. Whether you support basic income or not, promising people three years of free money, letting them quit their jobs or make long-term investments or whatever, and then saying “wait, actually, changed our mind” is pretty scummy.

    That is a statement that is both true and a reason not to support basic income plans. When considering public policy, the relevant considerations do not end at “what we would like to do”; they must also consider “what is likely to happen.” Policy changes due to shifting political winds, and policy failures, especially from unintended consequences or unsustainability, are not black swan events.

    • sohois says:

      But many basic income detractors claim that once implemented, it would be impossible to muster the political will to repeal a UBI, even if the outcome was bad. Is it more likely that UBI will suddenly be cancelled and leave many people in the lurch, or that UBI will be impossible to cancel and could be a permanently bad policy?

      • sentientbeings says:

        That is a difficult question to answer. I suspect that it would depend primarily on two factors: (1) How long has the program been active/how many people does it include? (i.e. how entrenched is it?); (2) That Which is Seen and That Which is Not Seen (i.e. how apparent and concentrated are the downsides of the policy?).

        This pilot program wasn’t around very long, so it wasn’t very entrenched. I have to wonder about the visibility of its downsides though. The standard, immediate moral and fiscal objections to welfare/transfer programs are the same now as before the program started. The other objections, whose relative strength or weakness are, in large part, subject to empirical results, probably cannot be evaluated given the short term of this program. That leaves me wondering whether there were issues that are unseen to the public, but known to the administrators of the program.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        And given that people in this trial now swear to dedicate their lives to hunting the white whale getting revenge on the government, it sounds like a real danger.

    • christianschwalbach says:

      If this UBI attempt did not include a replacement of all other social programs, then its not UBI as has been proposed by the majority of theorists. So, naturally, it was wound up. One of the major selling points of UBI is to not only distribute funds at the basic level, but to eliminate a section of bureaucracy and spending that is supposedly ineffecient.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I don’t think any UBI proponents outside of rationalist groups really think you’ll be eliminating that other spending. It’s “UBI oh but of course we also need basic healthcare and low income housing and disabled and elderly care and…”

        • dick says:

          As I think the last UBI thread proved, “UBI” without qualifiers or a specific proposal is too vague to argue for or against – the payment varies from “a pittance” to “enough to raise a family on” and the funding model varies from “revenue neutral via massive spending cuts” to “massive entitlement funded by new taxes”.

        • Matt M says:

          This.

          “UBI can be used to eliminate all the other welfare programs” is the motte, used to get free-market oriented people onboard with the concept, which will be quickly thrown away in lieu of the “but of course certain groups will need extra help for x, y, and z” bailey as soon as the UBI is passed.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’m not sure people are saying that UBI would eliminate all other aid– what I’m hearing is that UBI would greatly simplify the aid system while making it more helpful.

            There would still be people with high medical needs who would need more help.

  7. Andy B says:

    Regarding EMDR: My mother is a certified EMDR therapist and we’ve had many conversations about it. EMDR is a therapeutic protocol that uses bilateral stimulation to access traumatic memories which are then processed therapeutically in more or less the usual talky way. That’s why there’s no consensus whether the bilateral stimulation actually helps more than the talk therapy would alone. If the bilateral stimulation does do something useful, using it to access traumatic memories outside a therapeutic environment has a non-trivial probability of being a Bad Plan. tldr that site is run by idiots and there’s a decent change that it’s dangerous enough to deserve being shut down.

  8. Mary says:

    promising people three years of free money, letting them quit their jobs or make long-term investments or whatever, and then saying “wait, actually, changed our mind” is pretty scummy.

    On the other hand, promising people something and handing third parties who didn’t make the promise the duty of fulfilling them is pretty scummy too.

    • Brandon Berg says:

      See also: Government employee pensions.

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        And Social Security.

        • DeWitt says:

          B-but they said I was paying into a fund!

        • grendelkhan says:

          Does Social Security not have a strong history of bipartisan support at each point where it’s been shored up? As I understand it, it’s a pretty popular program, especially with old people, who tend to be overrepresented as voters and as legislators.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            The existence of the program certainly. Republicans tend to be at or near retirement age anyway and partly because they believe they “paid into it”

            The retiree attitude about SS is that it’s only broken if it fails to pay. Trying to reform SS to ensure that it stays solvent is equivalent to fixing something that isn’t broken.

            My father’s retired and supports SS in theory but He’s admitted to me that there is no justification for why SS can’t simply be a compulsory savings program with subsidies for people at the bottom.

    • Murphy says:

      So no government program is allowed last beyond the next election? Sounds like an attempt to make it impossible to run any kind of coherent government projects at all.

      • CatCube says:

        It’s more like, “no government program is required to last beyond the next election.”

        • Murphy says:

          That still sounds sketchy and a recipe for constantly wasting resources sabotaging your opponents projects.

          If one party votes for the country to borrow money the other party doesn’t get to say “well, we don’t feel like paying it back”

          Even if you don’t like the other parties the government as a whole can have duties and commitments that they don’t just get to ignore. Even if 2 political parties hate each other the different administrations are bound together as one country no less than a married couple in one household. Responsible for each others commitments and debts.

          If the administration hires staff the next one doesn’t get to ignore the money owed to the employees hired under contracts signed by the last administration.

          If the government makes a commitment then breaks it it’s still a breach of trust regardless of whether there was a change of party in the drivers seat.

          No less than if a married couple swap who the primary decision maker is and they decide to default on all the couples debts.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Does this reasoning apply only to commitments you like, or can Congress pass a law saying that all future tax revenue goes to retired senators, and we don’t get to revise that because – hey, commitment?

            Which is to say – no.

            ETA: My first version of this response referred to German commitments made in the 40’s, for those who will appreciate the twisted humor. I decided that version was unnecessarily antagonistic. But I still think it would have been funnier.

          • Murphy says:

            @Thegnskald

            The government can break agreement they’ve made. just like people can welch on debts etc.

            But it remains breach of trust that others will take into account.

            if the country refuses to pay it’s debts others will refuse to lend to it and charge higher interest.

            If a government passes retroactive legislation invalidating the contracts of people hired by the previous administration and wiping out money owed to them… they’ll find it hard to find people willing to work for them because they’ve demonstrated themselves to be kind kind of scumbags who abandon their debts, agreements and commitments.

          • Thegnskald says:

            That doesn’t really address the substance of my objection. Yes, the government has the power to ignore commitments.

            Yet somehow I don’t think “Voting all the senators out of office who voted themselves all our tax money, and voting new guys in to undo what they did” would cause any loss of faith in the system. Well, maybe the senators would be upset, but…

            …well, that is kind of the thing, isn’t it? They can argue about the commitment they made on our behalf till they are blue in the face; the question isn’t whether or not they committed to it, but whether or not we agree that we should be committed to it. In an important sense, every legislative change is breaking a commitment. Deregulating the electrical grid is violating a commitment we made with the companies we made contracts with.

            Which means that whether or not we are obligated to honor a commitment is, in fact, a matter of perception, which boils down to…

            Well, public opinion. If we vote out the guys who made a commitment on our behalf, we have said that we do not have their commitments. Because that is the thing – the commitments really are theirs, not ours. The politicians, not the public, make the promises. We just decide whether or not we like the promises they make.

          • Matt M says:

            Yet somehow I don’t think “Voting all the senators out of office who voted themselves all our tax money, and voting new guys in to undo what they did” would cause any loss of faith in the system.

            The loss of faith in the system would occur immediately after Senator Batch 1 looted the treasury.

            It’s possible that if, operating within the system, this action was able to be undone with perfect justice, faith in the system would be restored.

            But that strikes me as pretty unlikely…

        • albatross11 says:

          This is literally true–this Congress can’t bind future Congresses. But in practice, government programs with a lot of beneficiaries are very hard to cut, so I don’t think it’s usually much of a problem.

          • Controls Freak says:

            government programs with a lot of beneficiaries are very hard to cut

            …I just realized that this is applicable to the military, as well. Not just in the sense that they employ a lot of folks (directly and through spending to contractors), but also because the benefits that the military secures for the country accrue to a lot of folks.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      This was a pilot. I’m not pro UBI, but the point of a pilot is to gather data – the honest thing would have been to let it play, including if against it.

      • Matt M says:

        As a libertarian, this went about as well as could possibly be imagined.

        This pilot taught all involved a valuable lesson. The state are a gang of liars and thieves, who cannot, under any circumstance, be trusted.

        I encourage more such pilots to enable the continued proliferation of this valuable message.

  9. idontknow131647093 says:

    Re: The Piketty Review

    Piketty does have some good points buried in this section: wealth can bring increased risk tolerance, and increased patience, which help produce good returns. Patience is pretty important for producing good investment returns. Piketty probably overestimates the value of risk tolerance, because he assumes standard portfolio theory, whereas in practice, investors concern for their relative (not absolute) wealth prevents high-risk investments from generating higher returns.

    I think this does not nearly go far enough. Risk tolerance and patience are not only important for producing good investment returns, they are important for accumulating your first Million, Billion, etc. So saying that rich people get those traits from being rich is like saying Lebron got his dunking ability from being in the NBA.

    • mseebach says:

      I think those traits are meant in purely practical terms, not psychologically. The kind of risk tolerance that comes with being able to actually afford losing a million, the kind of patience that comes with actually not needing that million for ten years, is very much a function of being rich. But of course, you need the psychological traits as well. I’ve met a few mostly rich people that it’s not difficult to imagine could be very, very rich if they’d just take a chill pill and take a damn risk once in a while and give it time to succeed.

      • veeloxtrox says:

        The kind of risk tolerance that comes with being able to actually afford losing a million, the kind of patience that comes with actually not needing that million for ten years, is very much a function of being rich.

        I don’t know if you frequent reddit but if you do, spent a bit looking at the top posts from the last month of r/povertyfinance r/personalfinance and r/financialindependence. While wealth is definitely a factor, I would say that the mindset of a person makes the biggest difference if they are posting in r/povertyfinance instead of r/financialindependence.

  10. Plumber says:

    “Noahpinion on a a different way of thinking about housing: suppose a city built houses that only rich newcomers were allowed to live in. Would this be good or bad for poorer long-term citizens?

    @Scott Anderson

    Thanks for the link on housing, please keep them coming!

    (There still needs to be increased sewage treatment capacity if there’s going to be more San Franciscans, unless we just let the Bay turns back into what it was in the early 1970’s though).

  11. Sniffnoy says:

    Looking up Angelman syndrome on Wikipedia, one finds the following:

    Children [with Angelman syndrome] usually have a happy personality and have a particular interest in water.

    The hell??

    (Emphasis mine.)

    • Mary says:

      Well, sounds like we have another candidate for a condition that may have been taken for a changeling.

    • Chalid says:

      IME early toddlers are often fascinated by water; perhaps the people with Angelman syndrome just never outgrow it?

    • C_B says:

      I know an Angel kid (~15 or so). She’s perpetually cheerful, very charming (despite being completely nonverbal), and a constant danger to herself. Beelining toward any water deep enough to drown in sounds 100% like something she’d do.

  12. Doctor Locketopus says:

    > researchers stuck ballpoint pens into the throats of corpses suggests that you should probably hold out for a real scalpel.

    That’s what the Leatherman is for. The pen barrel is just to keep the hole open.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Came here to say that. Trying to poke a hole in someone’s throat with a ballpoint isn’t going to work. Maybe a good sharp calligraphy pen.

      • Matt M says:

        Yeah, even in the episode of MASH where Father Mulcahy had to do this, he used a pocketknife to make the incision, and the pen as a tube to let the air in.

    • John Schilling says:

      That worked in the 20th century, when a significant number of people actually carried pocketknives. Now that they are all deadly weapons that will e.g. get you thrown out of school if you are caught with one, very few people pick up the habit.

      • JonathanD says:

        Also, phones. I stopped carrying a pocket knife around the time I started carrying a cellphone.

    • purple_cat says:

      The same researchers did a follow up study with pocket knives! No scalpel needed.

      CONCLUSION:
      In this cadaveric model, bystanders with variable medical knowledge were able to establish an emergency cricothyroidotomy in 80% of the cases only using a pocketknife and a ballpoint pen. No major complications (particularly injuries of arterial blood vessels or the oesophagus) occurred. Although a pocket knife and ballpoint pen cricothyroidotomy seem a very extreme procedure for a bystander, the results of our study suggest that it is a feasible option in an extreme scenario. For a better outcome, the anatomical landmarks of the neck and the incision techniques should be taught in emergency courses.

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27810460

      edit: Also… I think I might have stumbled upon fraud? The cadavers and participants in both studies are the same, and in the second study, two participants ‘chose’ not to use the available pocket knives, and ended up with exactly the same results that they had in the pens only study. :-/

      participants 3 and 4: https://imgur.com/a/NgKPXUA

  13. Lexie says:

    Heinlein’s Expanded Universe reprints a 1950 article discussing the essential singularitarian conceit of exponential knowledge growth. Even has a chart! Perhaps Gwern might like to know.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      >essential singularitarian conceit
      >exponential knowledge growth

      ಠ_ಠ

      http://yudkowsky.net/singularity/schools/

      • Lexie says:

        I might’ve described it badly, but if so, that’s on me. But it definitely read to me as “Singularity”, despite the unusually early date. Shall I fetch my copy off the shelf and quote the relevant passages? I’m home sick today anyway, it’s no trouble.

      • Lexie says:

        So, I went and found my copy of the book, and it looks like Heinlein’s claims are primarily in what MIRI would call the “Accelerating Change” school. Page 391 of the 2010 paperback, emphasis in original: “The correct projection, by all facts known today, is for the curve [of technological progress] to go on up indefinitely with increasing steepness.”

        So, OK, I goofed it in recollection. But that still counts as a kind of singularity, and tje article still dates from 1950.

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          My point was that the word “singularity” as used in the rationalist community almost always refers to the idea of an intelligence explosion rather than accelerating change, and that is indeed the case in the OP. In fact, confusion over the different meanings of the term “singularity” eventually led Eliezer Yudkowsky to stop using that word and speak exclusively of an “intelligence explosion”.

          BTW, “Where To?” is the article being discussed, in case anyone wants to read it (though something appears to have gone wrong between pages 18 and 19). It reminded me of “What May Happen in the Next Hundred Years”, as discussed in “Book Review: Age of Em”.

  14. journcy says:

    I love these link posts.

    I’m interested in seeing how the room temperature superconductor thing will shake out, even if it seems relatively obvious something fishy is going on.

  15. bja009 says:

    I also want to join Mastodon now, because Leviathan is an excellent album and I can’t help but associate the two despite the complete lack of overlap.

    Also their description of why they’re better than Twitter is… refreshing. I hope their platform lives up to the description.

    • Jacob says:

      So, are we doing an SSC Mastodon instance? Who’s in?

      • timorl says:

        That was my problem when I wanted to join Mastodon — not being sure which instance to pick and what that would entail. If there was a SSC one I’d definitely join.

    • selfmademecha says:

      Choosing your Mastodon instance is important. I’d refer folks here to qoto.org, and recommend it as inspiration if SSC gets its own instance up and running. Here’s a teaser from the About page:

      QOTO: Question Others, Teach Others

      A Mastodon instance for scholars in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and all yearning to learn.

      A free speech space. No censorship here.
      We do not silence or block any instances.

      Unique Features
      Inline math Latex support – Use \ ( and \ ) for inline LaTeX, and \ [ and \ ] for display mode.
      65,535 character limit for toots (usually 500)
      65,535 character limit for profile bio (usually 160)
      Full text searches – usually you can only search hashtags and usernames

      https://qoto.org/about

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I don’t know. It read to me like “that other place has lots of witches. We won’t have witches because we’ve put up a ‘no witches’ sign.”

      • Mark Atwood says:

        More like your own local neighborhood association or your own local congregation gets to police for witches, but only among your own population. You can expel a witch, and your mayor/pastor can make it so nobody in your neighborhood/church will accidentally see anyone who lives in a neighborhood/church that they don’t like. But there are other neighborhoods/churches that are specifically welcoming to various kinds of witches. And any of your neighbors can still listen to any specific witches who live outside your neighborhood/church, if they want to.

        • Rana Dexsin says:

          And for those who do want to be around lots of witches, there’s always witchcraft.cafe or occult.camp. (Not a personal endorsement, just seen them floating around.)

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          That didn’t work out well for reddit.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            Reddit was still one company. They could *say* the boards were separate, but everyone knew that was a lie. Witchfinders and NoPlatformers had someone they could escalate their shreaking to, and people they could bring pressure on, and Reddit had insiders sympathetic to the shreakers.

            In the fediverse, there is no Fediverse, Inc. There is no CEO, there are no investors, there is no Board of Directors, there is no Trust&Safety Board, there is no HR. There is nobody with power that anyone can pressure or persuade.

            Hilariously, as Mastodon caused the fediverse to really start grow, a bunch of SJWs discovered all that, to their horror. And thus so then they set about trying to *create* a “Trust&Safety Board”, and kept shreaking louder and louder each time someone tried to explain to them that there was no mechanism to give any such “board” any actual enforcement powers with any actual teeth.

          • dick says:

            To play devil’s advocate: the steel-man of the “This could happen to Mastodon, too” argument is not someone finding a way to censor the fediverse in its entirety, it’s a future in which the largest and most popular Mastodon nodes all peer with each other and coordinated on policy, and decide to jointly ban certain content and un-peer nodes that don’t.

            People who like that content could still go to less-popular Mastodon nodes, the same way people who get booted from twitter can go to Gab, but they’d bitch about it, the same way they do now. So we’d be having the same argument about anti-right-wing censorship by the coordinated group of prominent Mastodon nodes, instead of by Twitter and Facebook.

            (I’m not saying this will definitely happen, just that it’s plausible, especially if the most popular Mastodon nodes end up being run by the sort of left-leaning Silicon Valley types that run social media companies. But it’s also plausible that the most popular Mastodon nodes end up censoring left-wingers, or being staunchly anti-censorship, or that no critical mass of nodes ever ends up coordinating and it stays archipelago-ish like it is now.)

          • no one special says:

            Hilariously, as Mastodon caused the fediverse to really start grow, a bunch of SJWs discovered all that, to their horror. And thus so then they set about trying to *create* a “Trust&Safety Board”, and kept shreaking louder and louder each time someone tried to explain to them that there was no mechanism to give any such “board” any actual enforcement powers with any actual teeth.

            This sounds amusing. Is there a link to further information somewhere?

          • Mark Atwood says:

            “some mastodon nodes could collude to ban a node”.

            Already happened, over two major fracture points. The fediverse continues to work and to grow. One of which was SJWs vs “Harassment”. And the other was over something much more hilarious, and I won’t name it here, because it’s another mindkiller topic that people get stupid about.

            The story is here: http://ansuz.sooke.bc.ca/entry/335
            which was written by someone who reads SSC.

            Read and enjoy.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Mark Atwood:

            I would really prefer if you would stop engaging in the behavior that you are engaging in, repeatedly. It’s annoying when people go around trumpeting schadenfreude, and anticipation of such. It’s an old pattern of yours.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            This sounds amusing. Is there a link to further information somewhere?

            Searching on “mastodon safe speech instance list” will illuminate the aftermath, with lists of shared instance blocklists, and lots of essays and github pull requests couched in in SJ lingo and cant. The current epicenter appears to still be the instance at awoo.space

  16. ksdale says:

    The SEC has penalties related to the egregiousness of a violation, but they’re mostly concerned about violators paying back their profits and then some. Elon almost certainly didn’t make money on this trade, in fact, his stock is worth a lot less now than it was before the whole thing. Seeing as the vast majority of securities law violations are people doing sketchy things to make money for themselves, I’m not sure the SEC is wrong to not care about this. The only people who were even hurt were people who exited short positions right after the announcements, but I’d bet that the people sophisticated enough to hold big shorts on Tesla are also sophisticated enough to think his announcement was baloney.

    • tildeon says:

      “but I’d bet that the people sophisticated enough to hold big shorts on Tesla are also sophisticated enough to think his announcement was baloney”

      This is not quite right:

      1/ Assuming that the stock market is reasonably efficient / sophisticated, it should have immediately shrugged off the announcement. (It didn’t Tesla stock rallied from ~340 to ~380 on the news)

      2/ Holding shorts is expensive. Pumping up the stock price like this makes it difficult (even for sophisticated investors) to maintain their short position. So even if you knew the announcement was baloney you might not have been able to do anything about it.

      • baconbits9 says:

        1/ Assuming that the stock market is reasonably efficient / sophisticated, it should have immediately shrugged off the announcement. (It didn’t Tesla stock rallied from ~340 to ~380 on the news)

        This isn’t right though, it isn’t a binary situation as far as the market is concerned. Musk tweeting “we are going private” and not having funding can mean the whole range from “complete load of wind from a guy looking to hurt the shorts” to “almost has the funding and is jumping the gun by a little bit”, and that range includes all kinds of stuff like “has been trying to go private but can’t raise the capital but going private is definitely on his mind”. Figuring out the possibilities and their weights and their impacts is non trivial, in real time it is a practical impossibility.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      The only people who were even hurt were people who exited short positions

      This doesn’t do Musk’s defense much good. He hated short-sellers and manipulated the stock price by tweeting out something that wasn’t true to punish the short-sellers.

  17. wavey davey says:

    UK CO2 emissions dropping to the levels of the 1890s really surprises me. In 1890 there were essentially no cars, no aeroplanes, no electricity generation, and the population of the UK was close to half what it is now (37m vs 66m). Economic activity was many times less than it is now in terms of GDP. While the UK was industrialized, millions of people still lived a rural, largely animal-powered life. Family sizes were larger and most of the labor-saving devices we have in the home didn’t exist, suggesting domestic energy consumption would be lower.

    It does seem that: switching away from coal + better energy efficiency + increased renewables is having a dramatic impact … Alternatively, there’s something awry with the data. I did see the following site shows different stats which don’t match the “lowest since 1890” claim, although still dropping: http://www.gci.org.uk/images/Record.pdf

    • James K says:

      There was little electricity generation in the 1990s, but there was a lot of energy generation for steam engines, and they used coal for that.

      • Deiseach says:

        there was a lot of energy generation for steam engines, and they used coal for that

        See The Black Country – “During the Industrial Revolution, it became one of the most industrialised parts of Britain with coal mines, coking, iron foundries, glass factories, brickworks and steel mills producing a high level of air pollution. …The first trace of “The Black Country” as an expression dates from the 1840s. The name is believed to come from the soot from the heavy industries that covered the area, although the 30-foot-thick (10 metre) coal seam close to the surface is another possible origin.”

  18. suntzuanime says:

    If Elon Musk actually had infinite money there would have been no crime. The SEC would have asked “what did you mean when you said you had funding secured to take Tesla private” and Musk would have said “the funding is in this infinite pot of money” and the SEC would have said “right then, sorry to bother you, man I gotta get me one of those”.

    Elon Musk has finite money, and yet he’s chosen to share some of it with us by making silly illegal tweets and getting fined for them. Thank you, Mr. Musk.

    • Deiseach says:

      I think it’s more that Elon has chosen to share some of his notional billions with purveyors of medicinal remedies (all legal like Ambien, of course!) and that explains the silly tweets.

      It’s hard to feel sorry for a billionaire sobbing to the newspapers about how he spent every hour of his birthday at work – yeah, Elon, us ordinary slobs don’t get the day off for our birthdays and have to work those days too. So maybe he means he had to stay day and night in the office, but again – you can afford mansions plural, having to pull the occasional all-nighter isn’t going to make people on wages not salaries and who get rostered to work back-to-back twelve hour shifts over the weekend cry salt tears for your hard life.

  19. Nate the Albatross says:

    I’ve always been baffled by attempts to ban classifieds like Craigslist and Backpage. Once my local police department issued a statement saying 100% of their sex trafficking arrests stemmed from backpage and then called for a ban. Umm… if we catch criminals on backpage and nowhere else doesn’t that mean we should encourage the sites use? Is the police goal to catch criminals or just bury their heads in sand?

    I’d also argue that pushing the sex trade away from well labeled classifieds and into mainstream websites is dangerous for police, sex workers and ordinary people. We don’t want there to be dumb secret codes where someone didn’t understand that an eggplant emoji meant the ad wasn’t really what they thought. I’ve even read about people who were turned away from “massage” sting operations because they insisted on getting a massage instead when they were offered sex.

    My point is that even if the claims about backpage being a wretched hive of scum and villainy were true that would be a societal good by making police work very easy and if customers only looked there then the rest of the internet would be safer.

    Oh, and they should just legalize sex work. In a legal environment sex workers would report on underage and trafficked individuals to get rid of their competitors.

    • idontknow131647093 says:

      If you are baffled you dont understand government. The goal of modern government is to criminalize the majority of things then to act selectively.

    • Guy in TN says:

      Umm… if we catch criminals on backpage and nowhere else doesn’t that mean we should encourage the sites use? Is the police goal to catch criminals or just bury their heads in sand?

      Another goal of the police is the prevention of illegal activities. Yes, they want to catch those who commit illegal acts, but they also want to create an environment where those illegal acts never happen in the first place.

      So the police could be running a hypothetical calculation like:
      -By setting up stings on Backpage, we are able to catch 10% of all people who engage in prostitution
      -We have a study that shows shutting down Backpage would lead to a 20% overall decline in people who engage in prostitution

      So option one lets them catch 10% of criminals, while option two lets them catch 0%, but decreases overall crime by 20%. Its not irrational for the police to choose the latter option.

      • Mark Atwood says:

        The police don’t set policy.

        Or rather, they shouldn’t, because when they do, it always goes very very badly.

        They probably shouldn’t even be consulted all that much when policy makers set policy.

      • Murphy says:

        Keep in mind how most people think.

        I’m reminded of the story of WW2 bomber planes that came back with lots of holes. The brass wanted to put extra armor where planes were getting lots of holes but the armor really needed to go where the bullet holes were not. Because those were the spots where a hole meant the plane crashing and you never getting any data from that plane.

        If you’ve got 2 sites, one cooperative and one not and most of your arrests come from the cooperative site then it’s like seeing a plane with a fuselage full of bullet holes.

        But you should be worrying more about where the criminals are getting away with their crimes.

        You get a similar problem when cops get pressured to under-report or downgrade reported crimes in their region to improve metrics. If you put an upstanding, honest and competent cop in charge who does the right thing… then the metrics will make it look like crime spiked when he was put in charge because he stopped fudging the numbers.

      • Nate the Albatross says:

        Thousands of years of data suggests that closing a visible market for prostitution is a huge waste of time. I’m sure if someone digs they can find calls from police to ban MySpace, newspaper classifieds, pay phones and the telegraph.

        The internet is uniquely suited to instantly shift to a different website making any claims to close down “xx%“ of the market a joke. This is like demolishing a street corner known for drug sales and claiming progress. It accomplishes nothing.

        Proof: ask for an estimate of crime reduction and then offer to cut the police budget for that department by that percentage. Money, mouth.

  20. cactus head says:

    >flesh interfaces

    Shaggy dog story, don’t bother reading. It begins like an interesting SCP discovery/exploration log but disappears up its own ass in meta, and the resolution, if you can call it that, is unsatisfying.

    • Lexie says:

      Oh, I don’t know. I don’t feel as if I’d wasted a couple of hours on it, anyway.

    • genocidebunnies says:

      I thought it was brilliantly written, and I find myself still returning to some of those segments two years later. Some parts are obviously rumbly, but there are at least a handful of decent short stories in the narrative. MHE tried to do a lot of the same things as Gig Economy, and for the most part did them much better.

  21. Sniffnoy says:

    DMT users are building a “psychedelic temple” on a site in upstate New York that “aligns with the solar plexus of a projected goddess”, and it looks exactly like you would expect.

    Upstate New York, huh… too bad it’s nowhere near Agloe, eh? 🙂

    • Deiseach says:

      I don’t know if it’s the artist’s impressions that are putting me off, but it doesn’t look very good. It’s the kind of mish-mash of Ancient Egyptian, Chinese dragons, and anything else their little hearts desire that I expected, but the proportions and design are – I can only say – kitschy. Maybe less of their own amateur art and get a good architect/artist in to turn the inspiration into design – think of Gaudi’s Sagrada Família!

      • brianmcbee says:

        I loves me some psychedelic art, though. Hopefully they can raise enough cash to make it happen.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      Also, I understand that Alex Grey is a trained medical illustrator who has taken a load of psychedelics, and his art looks exactly like you’d expect if you gave a medical illustrator a load of psychedelics.

  22. IrreverentCosmopolitan says:

    “The real advantage Mastodon has over Twitter is that Mastodon is not an outrage machine”

    Yet.

    imo it has little to do with features or terminology – it just doesn’t have the critical mass of mainstream traction to create a sustainable outrage chain-reaction, in particular it hasn’t been adopted by businesses, celebrities, public figures and the people that tend to follow them thus not creating financial incentives for parties that benefit from outrage to proliferate and amplify it.

    • Deiseach says:

      Agree on that “yet”. Twitter started out as the idea for a chatty, friendly way to share quick bites of information or recommendations, and hopefully attract celebs who would tweet “my new movie is out today” and entice people to sign up as followers. The 140 character limit was supposed to avoid long comments that would get into rows, and instead be anodyne happy pap.

      Look how that turned out.

      Mastodon can control badness as long as it’s small. If it takes off and gets hundreds of thousands of subscribers, the same problems will crop up: how do you moderate that level of traffic? People can only do so much (and a commercial company is only going to be willing to pay so much to hire warm bodies to read and censor messages), so we’ll be seeing algorithms, with all the potential for “they banned me for talking about breast-feeding because they said that violated the TOS about porn” that enables, not to mention people will still manage to get into storms of fury over various teacup tempests of the day.

      • DawnPaladin says:

        Mastodon can control badness as long as it’s small.

        That is exactly Mastodon’s goal: Rather than becoming so large as to become impossible to moderate, create lots of small self-moderating communities. The communities (“instances”) can federate with each other (or not), allowing their members to interact (or not).

        Mastodon isn’t a company that’s going to hire people – it’s an open-source initiative that people participate in because it’s fun and they want to.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I assume that some of those self-moderating communities will be unsavory by whatever standard. I’m guessing that Mastodon will be blamed.

          • DawnPaladin says:

            Probably true. At the same time, federating provides a neat solution to the dilemma of “how do we prevent horrible people from ruining our discourse without becoming the thought police”. Rather than having one central authority who decides on behalf of everyone (a la Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit), each community can decide for themselves which kinds of speech they will put up with. The more extreme and hateful a community is, the more instances they will be barred from federating with.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I don’t know, I assume this will just be similar to reddit. Nobody thinks reddit is awesome, not really.

          • AG says:

            @DawnPaladin: So…Twitter via Reddit/Livejournal?

          • DawnPaladin says:

            @AG It’s a little like Twitter via Reddit, if each subreddit was self-hosted, as in the days of BBSes – but with all the interoperability of today’s Reddit, and with better moderation tools.

            I also like the culture that’s developing there. People are creating a new space and I’m seeing determination to get it right this time and avoid recreating Twitter’s cultural problems. I like the direction it’s going.

          • Ghillie Dhu says:

            @DawnPaladin

            how do we prevent horrible people from ruining our discourse without becoming the thought police … The more extreme and hateful a community is, the more instances they will be barred from federating with.

            I expect there will eventually be pressure to cut ties with communities which federate with communities labeled “extreme and hateful”, and with those who won’t cut ties, &c. ad infinitum.

            The system’s still made out of people.

          • Matt M says:

            I heard that Gab was being threatened with having its domain host and payment processors refuse to do business with them unless they removed various “offensive” posts.

            Why wouldn’t the same thing happen here?

            It’s been proven time and time again that “You can choose to block offensive statements” isn’t enough. People object to offensive content having any platform at all.

          • dick says:

            I heard that Gab was shut down by George Soros personally, wielding an AK-47 and wearing a Che t-shirt! Then I read an article and found out that what actually happened was that Microsoft tech support threatened to kick them off Azure because their content violated its TOS. And the answer to “why wouldn’t the same thing happen here?” is “nothing, if it was hosted on Azure, or the fact that it’s not hosted on Azure if it isn’t hosted on Azure.”

            What is your goal here? You’ve hammered on this before, in the thread about Alex Jones getting kicked off Twitter. Should big tech companies not be able to refuse service to customers they don’t feel like working with? If so, how does that work exactly? Who decides if someone’s tweet was deleted for a good enough reason, if not Twitter? Should they be forced to host other stuff that violates their TOS, like porn? I’m not trying to catch you out, I’m genuinely confused because this strikes me as a really un-libertarian line of thought and, while I know what you’re complaining about (that if all the social media companies decide to not host certain right-wing speech, that speech will be stifled), I’m not sure what you think ought to be done.

          • DawnPaladin says:

            @Matt M Since each community is independently owned and hosted, legal pressure would have to be applied to the specific community that was hosting the content. There’s no way to apply legal pressure to all of Mastodon, any more than you could sue all of the world’s email servers.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @dick:
            I’d argue that once we get to something Azure, we are starting to get to “common carrier” type of status. It’s hard/impossible to run content hosting that scales at all from a server in your home office.

            But, that gets into “should we regulate these things as monopolies” territory, which is another ball of wax altogether.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m not sure what you think ought to be done.

            My main problem here is the obvious double standard vis-a-vis “protected groups.” I’ll admit I have a selfish motivation. I’m annoyed that the vast majority of my political opponents are legally protected from discrimination in a number of significant ways, while myself and my allies are not.

            Long-term, I favor a very libertarian solution. Abolish any and all anti-discrimination laws and allow complete and total freedom of association. This would be a market solution. If Twitter can refuse to allow conservatives to use its product, bakeries should be allowed to refuse business from homosexuals. And so on and so forth.

            Short-term, I’d like to see existing laws enforced consistently to eliminate potential double-standards as much as possible. Many social media executives have made public statements declaring that their platforms do not engage in politically motivated censorship. Under the doctrine of disparate impact, any such platform that can be found to censor conservatives more harshly or more often than liberals should have any executives who have made such statements investigated and punished for fraud. (Because while it’s legal to discriminate against conservatives, it’s NOT legal to lie about the nature of your product)

            In this particular conversation, my only real point was to agree with Ghillie. Mastodon’s assurance that this can’t possibly happen to them falls flat to me. It isn’t happening now because they’re too small for anyone to care about. Let them get big and it will happen. They can talk about their architecture and their non-profit status all they want. Ultimately it won’t matter. Eventually, if you get controversial enough, people come for your head – and if those people represent a popular majority and you represent a tiny and hated minority, they are going to win.

          • dick says:

            I’d like to find some common ground here, so I’m going to fisk this in some detail, but please take this in the spirit of “trying to understand the other side better” and not “a leftist wants to fight me” okay?

            Long-term, I favor a very libertarian solution. Abolish any and all anti-discrimination laws and allow complete and total freedom of association.

            What happened to Gab has no relation to the Civil Rights Act, the legal notion of protected classes, or the court cases over the Christian bakery. Your proposed solution would not change what happened between Gab and Azure, or Alex Jones and Facebook, in any way.

            Many social media executives have made public statements declaring that their platforms do not engage in politically motivated censorship.

            You understand that they claim not to have done this, right? Facebook kicked some people off for reasons you say are politically motivated but they say aren’t. Given that, what is it you want to happen next? When Facebook kicks Alex Jones out and says “We have nothing against conservatives but he violated our TOS and we would still have kicked him off if he were liberal” and you/he thinks they’re lying, you want what to happen? A lawsuit, and then a court of law decides what kinds of speech do/don’t qualify as “conservative” and starts dictating to private companies what speech they must allow? That sounds like a good small-government solution?

            Under the doctrine of disparate impact, any such platform that can be found to censor conservatives more harshly or more often than liberals should have any executives who have made such statements investigated and punished for fraud.

            Uh, didn’t you want to abolish all anti-discrimination laws thirty seconds ago? Now you want to reinstate the Civil Rights Act, and add “political ideology” as a protected class, and use that to force private companies to host speech they dislike? Again, I ask this in a “I feel like I must be misunderstanding you” way, not in a “ha ha i got you” way.

            Mastodon’s assurance that this can’t possibly happen to them falls flat to me. It isn’t happening now because they’re too small for anyone to care about. Let them get big and it will happen.

            This betrays a lack of understanding of how Mastodon works. Without going into technical details, just consider the fact that the big issue in the Mastodon world right now is that many of the Japanese nodes host content that would be classified as child porn in the US. As long as that controversy is unsolved, I think your Pepe pictures will be safe there.

          • quanta413 says:

            @dick

            Matt M already explained it, but you’re not understanding. Even if a libertarian set of rules was preferable, it’s preferable for everyone to be under the same set of rules rather than that some people have to follow some rules and others have to follow other rules.

            The chance of getting libertarian rules in the next few decades is laughably unlikely. The chance of getting major tech companies regulated as common carriers or something like that is very low but not quite as low.

            The goodness of a policy is not a monotonic function of a single variable, so your objections that somehow it’s inconsistent that Matt M prefers something “left” of the current “center” even if his most preferred position is somewhere to the “right” doesn’t make sense. Imagine that Matt M’s policy preferences are like a mountain range. He might like to be on the highest mountain (Mt. Anarchocapitalist), but if he’s in a valley, getting to the top of the nearest mountain is still better. And way more likely.

            I don’t think Matt’s fraud angle has a chance though and think it’s an unworkable idea.

          • j r says:

            I’ll admit I have a selfish motivation. I’m annoyed that the vast majority of my political opponents are legally protected from discrimination in a number of significant ways, while myself and my allies are not.

            Maybe you should stop picking political opponents and allies based on demographic categories.

            Better yet, maybe you should stop having political opponents.

          • Aapje says:

            @j r

            Just like the kulaks should not have ‘chosen’ to become the opponents of Marxist-Leninists?

          • Matt M says:

            Indeed. I didn’t “pick” my political opponents. They picked me. Because of my race, gender, and sexuality.

            My only option is to bury my head in the sand and pretend this isn’t true, which I did for a long time. I won’t do it any longer.

          • dick says:

            so your objections that somehow it’s inconsistent that Matt M prefers something “left” of the current “center” even if his most preferred position is somewhere to the “right” doesn’t make sense.

            That is not my objection. My objections are a) his long-term solution (“Abolish any and all anti-discrimination laws and allow complete and total freedom of association”) would not affect the problem we’re discussing at all, b) his short-term solution (expand the doctrine of disparate impact to include ideology) contradicts his long-term one.

            As I tried (evidently not hard enough) to convey, I’m not being the consistency police here; I just think that when a self-avowed libertarian proposes something diametrically opposed to libertarianism, it’s a clue that I’m likely misunderstanding something. There’s no law against Matt M saying, “Keeping Alex Jones on Facebook is so important that I’m willing to compromise my principles to achieve it,” but he didn’t actually say that, he said something seems to imply it, maybe.

            So, I asked for clarification. And if I could enforce one norm on this community by an act of fiat, “default to asking for clarification rather than going on the attack when someone says something that sounds laughably dumb but could’ve been misunderstood” would win, hands down.

          • Matt M says:

            You misunderstand the problem I am attempting to solve. You think I am attempting to solve the problem of “Alex Jones was banned from Facebook.” But I’m not. I’m attempting to solve the problem of “The vast majority of conservative-leaning people are not protected from discrimination, while huge portions of liberal-leaning people are.”

            There are two ways one could go about correcting this imbalance.

            Option 1 is to say “nobody gets any protection at all.” This is my preferred option, but is very politically infeasible.

            Option 2 is to say “everyone gets protection.” This is anti-libertarian, as you say, but would correct the basic fairness and double-standard issue. This is difficult as well, but less difficult to achieve than Option 1, and I even propose a way of achieving it (prosecuting social media executives for fraud/false advertising) that might be quicker/easier/more politically palatable than “add political affiliation as a protected class.”

            It’s also worth noting that the “get them for fraud” option is not anti-libertarian. Even in an AnCap society, fraud would be considered an act of aggression worthy of punishment. As far as I know, there is no system of values that considers it morally acceptable to promise something and deliver something else (which is exactly what the social media networks are doing when they claim not to be engaging in political bias, but their results are overwhelmingly focused on silencing right-wing speech)

          • dick says:

            I’m attempting to solve the problem of “The vast majority of conservative-leaning people are not protected from discrimination, while huge portions of liberal-leaning people are.”

            I suspect that the core issue we disagree on hinges on your definition of the terms in that sentence. What discrimination, specifically, am I protected from that you aren’t? I assumed this was about social media censorship because that’s what the threads were about where you brought it up, but if Alex Jones is a bad example, please provide a good one.

            It’s also worth noting that the “get them for fraud” option is not anti-libertarian.

            I ignored the fraud angle because it’s predicated on a social media company making a promise not to censor anyone that is legally binding (as opposed to the CEO saying “We value all voices!” in a marketing spiel) and I don’t think any company ever has done that or ever would do that. Sounds like, “I plan to discredit Trump by convicting him of murder, and I’m ready to move forward just as soon as he murders someone.”

          • Matt M says:

            I’m not an expert on fraud or false advertising statutes.

            But I believe it to be true that most of these companies executives have made multiple public guarantees of a lack of bias, in marketing materials, to the press, and sometimes even to Congress.

            Consistent with how the left typically views these things in other industries, if we could find a disparate impact that harms conservatives, this would be sufficient to prove that discrimination exists (whether it is intentional or not) and that they are therefore falsely characterizing the nature of their products. I’d give them the chance to recant before prosecution. If they publicly admitted their products were biased against conservatives, that would go a long way to satisfying me on this issue.

            To me, it’s almost a sort of double hypocrisy on this issue. Not only does the left get away with discriminating against the right in a method that would never be considered legal or acceptable if the roles were reversed, but they’re also allowed to lie about doing it. The libertarian in me would likely be satisfied with a mere admission: “Yes, our terms of service reflect our political values, which lean left, and our enforcement tends to be biased towards the left because that reflects the values of the majority of our employees. Anyone who is uncomfortable with this is encouraged to use a different product, but we will not compromise our values in the pursuit of supposed fairness or neutrality.” Would that be so hard?

          • dick says:

            But I believe it to be true that most of these companies executives have made multiple public guarantees of a lack of bias, in marketing materials, to the press, and sometimes even to Congress.

            Facebook and Twitter and so forth tell you explicitly what they will or will not host, in their TOS. If you think someone involved with one of those companies has said something somewhere that would supercede that or be relevant here, you ought to cite something specific because AFAIK you’re the first person on earth to suggest it.

            if we could find a disparate impact that harms conservatives, this would be sufficient to prove that discrimination exists

            I think you’re handwaving away an incredible amount of difficulty through not knowing very much about this topic or thinking it through very far. Say Twitter banned N accounts last month, and you want to prove disparate impact by showing that more than 3N/5 of those were from conservatives. How do you go about this? What distinguishes a conservative Twitter account? Don’t ask Twitter, they struggle to figure out which accounts are owned by humans. You going to write some code that can do this? Hire a small army of people to read the users’ past tweets and make their best guess? Do you still want to go through with this plan if the “how to tell if a Twitter user is conservative or not” rules are written by someone you think is a RINO or a false conservative, as seems very likely to be the case?

            The libertarian in me would likely be satisfied with a mere admission: “Yes, our terms of service reflect our political values, which lean left, and our enforcement tends to be biased towards the left because that reflects the values of the majority of our employees. Anyone who is uncomfortable with this is encouraged to use a different product, but we will not compromise our values in the pursuit of supposed fairness or neutrality.”

            Isn’t this sort of implied, when you’re significantly to the right of the society you live in? I mean, you are intellectually aware that there are people significantly to the left of the norm, and those people feel that Twitter doesn’t go far enough in enforcing (what you would call) left-wing values, correct? I’m pretty sure those people outnumber people like you; certainly they outnumber you in the tech industry. Every other day, there’s an article on HN about how awful it is that FB and Twitter could do more to combat harassment and anti-semitism and so forth, but refuse to because they’re so greedy.

            This whole issue just seems like an artifact of the fact that you’re on the far side of a distribution and imagine yourself to be in the middle. From where I sit, Twitter and Facebook are doing their best not to enforce rules ideologically. They absolutely do not want to become a right-wingers-only or a left-wingers-only; they just want money and for people to not hate them. They’re like Kang and Kodos:

            Kang: Abortions for all.

            [crowd boos]

            Kang: Very well, no abortions for anyone.

            [crowd boos]

            Kang: Hmm… Abortions for some, miniature American flags for others.

            [crowd cheers and waves miniature flags]

            To make everyone happy, they want to ban only the stuff both sides hate, but they can’t because the two sides don’t agree very well. So they do the best they can, by banning only the stuff that most people hate, and that includes some stuff you like, because you are pretty far from the median human. And to you, that looks like they’re biased – just like the other tech companies, and TV news, and universities, and book publishers, newspapers, schools, the government…

          • dick says:

            Also, I ask again: What discrimination, specifically, am I protected from that you aren’t? Please give me an event that happened in the real world that would be an example of what you mean when you talk about the discrimination that’s suffered by the right and not the left, in the context of censorship in social media.

          • quanta413 says:

            That is not my objection. My objections are a) his long-term solution (“Abolish any and all anti-discrimination laws and allow complete and total freedom of association”) would not affect the problem we’re discussing at all, b) his short-term solution (expand the doctrine of disparate impact to include ideology) contradicts his long-term one.

            Objection (a) is different, but I don’t see how (b) isn’t the objection I ascribed to you in more words. Objection (b) that there is a “contradiction” is the objection of inconsistency.

            I’ll try again with another analogy to explain why there is no contradiction or inconsistency. There is no contradiction because politics isn’t like having a scale and setting it to the maximum or minimum. Sometimes there isn’t a one way gradient of ever improving goodness, and you have to keep in mind what other people want. What you are claiming is like arguing that if I was in an office where half the people wanted 65 and half wanted 70 but my preferred temperature was 75 that I would be crazy to side with the people wanting 65 because I had a sweater that made 65 comfortable enough but was too warm for 70.

          • j r says:

            @Aapje and @Matt M say:

            Just like the kulaks should not have ‘chosen’ to become the opponents of Marxist-Leninists?

            Indeed. I didn’t “pick” my political opponents. They picked me. Because of my race, gender, and sexuality.

            The idea that being a straight white male in present-day America is akin to being a kulak in Stalin’s Russia is so far outside of the frame of legitimate conversation that I have a hard time comig up with a response. To the extent that there is an American gulag, it’s disproportionally filled with the brown and the poor.

            I’m not a straight white male, but I am two of those things and I can’t think of any way in which the two of those things that I am have given me any reason to feel victimized. That is, unless we are re-defining victimized to mean, “I read some stuff on the internet that made me a little mad.”

          • The Nybbler says:

            Subject to discrimination in college admissions, subject to discrimination in hiring and promotion. Subject to discrimination in public accommodations (that is, often female-only and non-white-only spaces are permitted de facto or de jure where male or white ones are not, such as gyms).

            Assumed guilty (sometimes until proven innocent) in accusations of sexual harassment on the job or on campus, assumed guilty of rape and/or domestic violence based on the accusation of a more favored group (Duluth Model).

            Subject to discipline or dismissal if a woman or minority utters the magic words “hostile workplace environment” with respect to them.

            On a softer level, the power of accusations of racism and misogyny mean we have strictly lower status than women and non-whites; if we get into a dispute that isn’t settled formally we automatically lose as soon as the race card or misogyny card comes out.

            Sure, they’re not shooting us and burying us in mass graves. Although some have the desire.

          • Mary says:

            The idea that being a straight white male in present-day America is akin to being a kulak in Stalin’s Russia is so far outside of the frame of legitimate conversation that I have a hard time comig up with a response.

            It is perfectly legitimate to point out that the Left has a long history of not allowing people to not be their enemies.

            Especially given that the kinship you demand might only be a matter of their getting more power.

          • j r says:

            @Mary

            It is perfectly legitimate to point out that the Left has a long history of not allowing people to not be their enemies.

            OK, but just how far back in “history” do you want to go? If your answer is that you only want to go far enough back in history to make your point look legitimate, then I’m just not going to take you seriously.

            If you are complaining that historically black colleges and universities or that Smith college can exist, but that no “white college” or all-male college could exist, then you are erasing the historical context that led to those places being established. And, in fact, their continued existence places no burden on anyone else.

            There is a real historical record of women being denied basic political rights. There is a real historical record of black people being terrorized by people who enjoyed impunity from legal punishment. There is a real historical record of police raiding gay bars and arresting people for the crime of being gay in a group. There is no similar historical record of “conservatives” or straight white Christian males being treated in a fashion at all similar.

            If you want to argue that political correctness is a problem that sometimes claims an innocent person’s reputation or that Facebook and Twitter should be more even-handed in how they censor their platforms, I’ll nod my head in agreement. But let’s have a sense or proportionality here. I get that being a victim has become cool, but come on.

          • Matt M says:

            There is a real historical record of women being denied basic political rights.

            Indeed.

            And if this was the 1890s and I was a woman, you can bet your ass I’d be siding with the political forces that wanted to grant me equal rights.

            But instead it’s 2018 and I’m not a woman, so I’m going to be siding with the political forces that want to protect the basic rights I still have.

            The left has gotten away with fully exploiting identity politics for the better part of the last 50 years or so. It’s only recently that the right is starting to wake up and say “Oh wait, we can do this too.”

          • oppressedminority says:

            @dick:

            Say Twitter banned N accounts last month, and you want to prove disparate impact by showing that more than 3N/5 of those were from conservatives. How do you go about this? What distinguishes a conservative Twitter account? Don’t ask Twitter, they struggle to figure out which accounts are owned by humans.

            It’s quite easy actually. Sarah Jeong gets to keep her blue check mark and her account despite using it to spread hate speech. Candace Owens tweeted the exact same tweets as Sarah Jeong, only changing the race being attacked and was suspended within hours.

            Many others have done similar experiments, setting up two accounts, making the same tweet from both accounts disparaging either race A or race B, and reporting both tweets. Only one account gets suspended. Try it, it only takes a few minutes.

            You can go on about how history to justify your current double standard and discrimination, but at least be up front about it, dont pretend there is no double standard and discrimination. Also, consider that this double standard is maybe not the best way to get to where we all want to be.

          • oppressedminority says:

            @Matt M

            And if this was the 1890s and I was a woman, you can bet your ass I’d be siding with the political forces that wanted to grant me equal rights.

            I’m really curious to know exactly how long men had full voting rights while women did not. I dont buy the notion that all of history was women being subjugated by men, it’s an insult to all women born prior to 1950 first of all, and doesn’t pass a basic smell test.

            Women have wielded political power for a very very long time (e.g. Nefertiti, Cleopatra, Queen Victoria, and Cercei Lannister to name only a few obvious examples), and for most of history the biggest distinction on whether you had any rights was not gender but class.

            As for the right to vote, I’m not 100% on this but my understanding is that only land owning males could vote at first (i.e., in 1776), then all males, then women too.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I note we’ve moved from “there’s nothing bad happening to straight white men except people saying mean things on the internet” to “discrimination against straight white men is OK because stuff that happened before they were born”.

          • Thegnskald says:

            There was a long discussion of this sort of thing in a previous topic (I do not recall which, my apologies) which convinced me of the following concept:

            Voting is a social technology that was invented by upper-class men to benefit themselves. It was rooted in decent arguments. The history of voting rights has been the history of groups arguing that the original reasons applied to them, as well.

            I suspect the reason women prior to the last century weren’t particularly interested in voting rights was that the popular presumption is that their husbands voted in the best interest of their family units, and voting was a substantial burden (travel time being what it was), so if women were granted the right to vote, they would be voting the same as their husbands. But women would then have to vote, because any group whose men voted but whose women did not would be at a disadvantage. It doubled the amount of labor involved without changing the results.

            I think this changed in the last century because the presumption / social trust that men would vote in their family’s best interests vanished, possibly strongly influenced by the temperance movement.

          • Matt M says:

            I always liked the comparison of voting to a literal giant war/brawl between two competing factions. Then some smart person said “Hey, these brawls are always won by whichever side has the most combatants, so why not skip the actual brawl, just count how many combatants each side has, and declare that side the winner?”

            And under that logic, of course women and field slaves didn’t vote. They didn’t brawl either.

          • Thegnskald says:

            That analogy is decent. It holds up in explaining why we give concessions to specific minority groups as well – as a proxy for a brawl, sometimes having the brawl is more expensive than giving in, even if you would win. So minority protections built into the voting system prevent pyrrhic battles.

            Flip side, as I understand it, women were not entirely unrepresented in brawls; that is an artifact of draft armies. Peasant revolts in particular tended to feature women fighting alongside men. So voting in that sense reflects brawls between hierarchical societies. Expanding suffrage equates to dissolving the hierarchy in the original metaphor.

            In which case, we can return to the rich men social technology sense. Voting was a gentleman’s agreement between them to substitute votes for wars.

          • dick says:

            @quanta413 : I repeat, I was *asking* if the contradiction was intended. Your analogy is fine, but if you say “I want the temperature higher and therefore I’m on the lower-temperature-side” it’s reasonable for someone to ask why. I’m not just going to leap independently to the conclusion that you own nothing but thin t-shirts and thick sweaters.

            In this case, Matt M, an avowed libertarian, had implied (indirectly, without clearly proposing something) that he wanted the government to get involved about which ideological positions can and cannot be taken online. I’m about 4% Libertarian and that sounds like an absolutely insane government overreach to me, so it’s not unreasonable to ask for more details and to confirm if I’m understanding him right. But he’s not answering me and it’ll never happen anyway, so that’s that I guess.

            @oppressedminority

            [Answering the question of how to tell conservative twitter accounts from liberal ones] It’s quite easy actually… setting up two accounts, making the same tweet from both accounts disparaging either race A or race B, and reporting both tweets. Only one account gets suspended.

            Errr, this is about political ideology, not racial animus. Is disliking blacks a conservative principle now?

            That seems like maybe not the argument you intended to make, so I repeat: the question is not “show me something that happened once on Twitter which you feel was a case of a conservative being treated poorly.” (It astounds me how often this needs to be explicitly mentioned, but the other side has some incidents that they think were unfair, too.) It is “show me how to distinguish the conservatives on Twitter from the liberals, so that I can tell which side is being mistreated more.” The larger context was Matt M proposing to make ideology a protected class (among other reasons, to keep conservatives from being discriminated against by tech companies) and identifying who is and is not a conservative is a precondition to that.

          • oppressedminority says:

            @dick:

            Errr, this is about political ideology, not racial animus. Is disliking blacks a conservative principle now?

            No, of course not. And well-behaved conservatives are still allowed to be on twitter. That’s not the point. The point is that liberals behaving badly on twitter will get a pass, like Sarah Jeong, whereas conservatives behaving badly on twitter will not.

            This is not to justify bad behavior. But both conservatives and liberals have their share of people who behave confrontationally and spew hate speech. Liberals behaving badly will typically make blanket statements against white people or against males, and conservatives behaving badly will typically make blanket statements against muslims.

            If one side gets to behave badly while the other doesn’t, this creates a serious imbalance.

            We see the same in real life with antifa being the violent wing of liberal politics with no true equivalent on the right, and antifa being tolerated in most moderate circles (“they’re anti-fascist so they must be good derp derp”).

          • dndnrsn says:

            People who do antifa stuff complain bitterly that liberals, moderates, centrists, etc don’t appreciate them, are against them, etc. The New York Times condemned the Murray-at-Middlebury incident. It is not true that the centre-left is unquestionably supportive of no-platform type stuff.

            EDIT: Come on, “violent wing of liberal politics,” find me one person who says they’re an antifa and a liberal. The sort of person who would say they’re an antifa is the sort of person who casts scorn on liberals.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Wil Wheaton has already been driven off of Mastodon by outrage, and he described it as worse than the worst he ever experienced on Twitter, which he hated so much he joined Mastodon. He is undoubtedly being dramatic since that’s his profession, but this isn’t an endorsement for being anti-outrage. (The fact that he was driven off by his allies does not change this.)

            I won’t link because every link is to outrage, but you can find citations very easily.

          • dick says:

            The point is that liberals behaving badly on twitter will get a pass, like Sarah Jeong, whereas conservatives behaving badly on twitter will not.

            This is a correlation/causation issue. If Twitter bans anti-semites, and anti-semites are mostly old, is Twitter biased against the elderly? No, they’re biased against anti-Semites.

            If you’re super concerned about how it’s easier to get away with bashing white people than bashing black people and Jews, fine, everyone needs a hobby I guess, but your problem is not with Twitter, it’s just with the society we live in. What you’re really asking for, I think, is for Twitter to adhere to some arbitrary objective notion of fairness, rather than what they’re doing now, which is “ban whatever we seem to be getting the most flak for not having banned yet”. And it’s not so much that you’re wrong, as that what you’re proposing is impossible, because there is no thing as objective fairness, and attempting to find it would just move the accusations of bias from Twitter to whomever is attempting to define it.

            I would also be very wary of internalizing the “liberals dislike whites and men, conservatives dislike non-whites and women” idea, which in addition to being literally false just seems like really sloppy thinking that will lead to all sorts of other failures and intellectual cul-de-sacs. It’s also a very strong example of Poe’s Law – “Of course Twitter is biased against conservatives, look at how often they ban racists!” sounds like something you’d see on DailyKos.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            wilw getting chased off a fediverse instance by shreaking trans activists for being “trans-phobic trash” because he used to use Randi Harper’s foolishly implemented poorly designed badly coded blocklist that just so happened to accidentally block some trans activists, I have to admit… was mildly unsurprising

            OTOH, it’s too bad nobody explained to Wil how the fediverse works.

            I’m sure that there are existing running instances that would have welcomed him and who would have told the brigades of shreaking outragist activists demanding his ban exactly where they can shove their outrage. Or even better, he could have asked a tech savvy friend to spin up a $5/month individual instance just for him. I would have followed it.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Wil Wheaton’s problem is poor choice of allies. Had he joined the witches instead of the witch-hunters, he’d still take a lot of flack over Wesley Crusher, but that would be it.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            I’ve never blamed wilw for Wesley Crusher.

            He did what was probably the best possible work given how poorly the character was written.

            (It’s illuminating to discover that Gene Roddenberry’s middle name was… Wesley.)

          • Aapje says:

            @j r

            One of the more irritating things about how modern English-speaking people tend to interpret the written language is the apparent inability by almost everyone to distinguish between similes and equations.

            Your interpretation of my comment is thus wrong, because I hold to a richer use of the language, which I suggest you at least learn to read.

            @oppressedminority

            In my country, men got the full franchise in 1917, women in 1919.

          • Matt M says:

            This is a correlation/causation issue. If Twitter bans anti-semites, and anti-semites are mostly old, is Twitter biased against the elderly?

            If a police department administers an intelligence test, and the unintelligent are mostly black, are they biased against blacks? YES, according to US legal precedent. That’s what disparate impact is. And you don’t get to have it both ways.

            rather than what they’re doing now, which is “ban whatever we seem to be getting the most flak for not having banned yet”.

            They are getting a lot of flak for banning conservatives, but they don’t care. They’re standing firm in their “principles.” The notion that they just do whatever they have to in order to avoid controversy is so clearly false I can’t believe someone would even try to make that argument. Their current practices and policies are very controversial, just only according to red tribe. Just because blue tribe says that of course it’s clear and fair and obvious that conservatives are hateful and should be banned does not make it so.

          • Plumber says:

            “…If a police department administers an intelligence test, and the unintelligent are mostly black, are they biased against blacks? YES, according to US legal precedent. That’s what disparate impact is. And you don’t get to have it both ways….”

             @Matt M,

            I can’t speak on the S.F.P.D.’s tests, but I can for the tests for a permanent position as a Plumber for the City and County of San Francisco that were administered in 2011.

            To apply to take the test you had to learn the City’s computer application system which was pretty annoying, and you had to show eight years of full-time experience, which you could do by having your union write a letter (which mine was happy to do), have your employers write a letter (the only option if you were a non-union employee), or provide tax records that you were “Tony Baloney Plumbing Inc.”.

            As far as I know I’m the only one who got into the city with some non-union, as well as union experience (my uncle wrote a letter), everyone else had exclusively union experience (the majority) or had been an “independent contractor”.

            First there’s a written test which was mostly plumbing code related stuff (my unions apprenticeship night classes helped me with that), arithmetic, and a couple of physics and logic puzzles. 

            If you got a high enough score on the written test, around a month later you take a hands on test (that year it was assembling something out of steel pipe) and a series of interview questions that there’s time limits for. One particular question “There’s a report of a small gas smell” I remember there was twenty minutes to answer, and I answered in one minute “I sniff it, if it really is gas I get the Hell out and call P,G&E and the Fire Department” either was the right answer, or I otherwise did well because I got a high score.

            Once upon a time they just hired based on the scores of the tests (highest first) but then they decided to allow supervisors more discretion, and they now interview a range of high scorers as a group, which as the guy who (ironically) is now a supervisor for the Department of Public Works Steamfitters recounted, led to him being the #1 high scorer but having to interview a dozen times along with lower and lower scorers each time before he was hired just before the list expired, and the lists do expire, they’re only good for two or three years, and they has to be another test for a list.

            When I first got with the city there hadn’t been an “active list” for years, so they”d hire “Temporary exempt” employees in which you’d just get hired based on two interviews (I think I got hired because I had already gotten a certain security clearance from the Federal government in order to work at the oil refineries in Richmond, California which you had to have in order to work in certain areas of the waterfront. The legend is that clearance was first required in the 1950’s because so many west coast longshoreman/stevedore’s were suspected of being communists).

            Because I worked with other “Temporary Exempt” plumbers who later did and did not pass the test to become permanent city plumbers, as well as work with others who later became permanent when I was, and because the scores were public record (you’d look to see how much competition you had) I knew the scores of those I worked with, and while there was some correlation between how effective in the field they were and the scores of my fellow whites, and the Asians, et cetera, however while the three “temporary exempt” black plumbers that I worked with scored really low, they were mostly better “hands on” plumbers than many of the other plumbers that I’ve worked with who had higher scores, one scored second to last on the list, and I judged him to be a better plumber than most (including me), and I really don’t know why the difference, but I noticed it and can only guess why.

            I’m glad the system exist as it did and I got my job, but I wish that there had been some “affirmative action” so I could still work with those three black guys, instead of a couple of idiots that I worked with who also made it in from the test.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Plumber:
            It’s hard to get people here to understand that “highly competent” and “book smart” aren’t the same thing.

          • j r says:

            @Aapje

            One of the more irritating things about how modern English-speaking people tend to interpret the written language is the apparent inability by almost everyone to distinguish between similes and equations.

            I will take that as an admission that your kulak metaphor was indeed histrionic and not particularly representative of reality.

          • dick says:

            The notion that they just do whatever they have to in order to avoid controversy is so clearly false I can’t believe someone would even try to make that argument.

            Well, you lack imagination. They get a constant barrage of abuse from the left (which you don’t read) for not being anti-you enough, analogous the constant barrage of abuse from your side for not being pro-you enough, and they’re trying to split the uprights because that’s the best way to maximize their profits. Obviously you think the latter is right and the former is wrong, but it’s pretty silly to assume they agree with you; no amount of anecdata should make you dumbfounded that a publicly traded company would break ideology for its own financial interest, especially when they are loudly claiming to be doing it and getting criticized by both sides for it.

          • BBA says:

            I can confirm what dick is saying. In my circles every announcement of a change to the platform is greeted by a chorus of “who cares, just ban the Nazis already.”

            (Naturally there’s disagreement about who is and isn’t a “Nazi.” I think Alex Jones falls short of Nazism, hateful and corrosive as he is, but he’s the one they’re most upset about not being banned yet.)

          • Aapje says:

            @j r

            No, go read some Shakespeare or something.

          • Matt M says:

            dick,

            I’ve made the point many times before that yes, obviously it’s true that virtually no amount of censorship of the right will truly placate the more extreme voices on the left.

            Given that, I think the least controversial thing they could do is say “We won’t censor, block what you want, but otherwise, we’re washing our hands of being the content police.”

            That way, they could still have a consistent and easy to understand standard.

            But their current strategy of loudly virtue-signaling to the left that they care oh so much about “trust and safety” while simultaneously insisting to the right they absolutely intend to uphold objective and fair standards in support of free speech is almost maximally designed to enrage both sides, and generate the highest possible amount of controversy.

          • dick says:

            If a police department administers an intelligence test, and the unintelligent are mostly black, are they biased against blacks? YES, according to US legal precedent. That’s what disparate impact is. And you don’t get to have it both ways.

            Disparate impact is a human law specific to protected classes of people, not a moral law of the universe. The position “If Twitter policy disproportionately affects conservatives, they’re biased against conservatives” is emphatically 100% not true. I will happily concede that if Twitter policy disproportionately affects conservatives, that’d be illegal under the hypothetical new law you thought up, but “that would be illegal if someone passed a law against it” is sort of axiomatic.

            I think the least controversial thing they could do is…

            Well, they’re hiring. But being (blissfully) ignorant of what one side is saying puts you in a pretty poor position to know how they can best appease both sides.

          • oppressedminority says:

            @dndnrsn

            Come on, “violent wing of liberal politics,” find me one person who says they’re an antifa and a liberal. The sort of person who would say they’re an antifa is the sort of person who casts scorn on liberals.

            I’m not interested in what people claim to be, I’m interested in what their actions reveal them to be. In the case of antifa, they are obviously a sad, deluded bunch, who are objectively working as the violent mob wing of the Kochs and George Soros. They dont know that and would be outraged at the idea, but they’re not exactly Sherlock Holmes so the fact that they didn’t figure it out yet is not surprising.

            Would antifa oppose any attempts to enforce immigration law against illegal immigrants? Yes, obviously, and violently. The Kochs and Soros would share that goal, as it benefits their wallet, while it hurts the normal hardworking American family.

            Antifa are just a bunch of vulnerable people with broken lives who have been manipulated into thinking they are gloriously fighting the system, while in fact being front line troops for the system. It’s brilliant from an engineering perspective if not from a moral perspective.

          • oppressedminority says:

            @dick

            And it’s not so much that you’re wrong, as that what you’re proposing is impossible, because there is no thing as objective fairness, and attempting to find it would just move the accusations of bias from Twitter to whomever is attempting to define it.

            Right. I’m asking for the impossible. It would be nice if Twitter could apply it’s neutrally written ToS neutrally, but the laws of physics dont allow it. Just imagine trying to judge the appropriateness of the following comment without knowing X, it’s IMPOSSIBLE!!!

            “All people of race X are despicable.”

            But seriously, you’re engaging in some fallacy (I forget the name, I’m sure it has a name), where upon somebody asking for an improvement you reply that perfection is impossible.

            Twitter is currently very obviously biased against conservatives and applies its ToS selectively against ideological opponents. I’m not asking for an “arbitrary notion of fairness”, I’m asking for standard, well-established fairness principles to be applied as objectively as possible. While perfection is indeed unattainable, some transparency would go a long way in helping Twitter fix their current issues. Issuing a short statement with each decision to ban or not would at least show that the decisions are made based on principle, and not the whims of some blue-haired feminist. If this is too much of a burden for twitter, they should stop trying to curate their content and only act as a conduit of information.

          • oppressedminority says:

            @Aapje:

            In my country, men got the full franchise in 1917, women in 1919.

            Do you mind sharing what country that is? Anyhow, obviously men are forever in debt to women for those 2 years.

          • oppressedminority says:

            @dick:

            They get a constant barrage of abuse from the left (which you don’t read) for not being anti-you enough, analogous the constant barrage of abuse from your side for not being pro-you enough, and they’re trying to split the uprights because that’s the best way to maximize their profits.

            Saying that twitter is trying to split the difference between the witch burner and the witch is no defense for them. I suppose I should be thankful they’re not caving in to the mob completely, but their current behavior is inherently unstable.

            As a side note, apparently this weekend a whole slew of shadowbanned pro-Trump accounts were un-shadowbanned just ahead of @jack’s testimony to congress.

          • dick says:

            Right. I’m asking for the impossible. It would be nice if Twitter could apply it’s neutrally written ToS neutrally, but the laws of physics dont allow it. Just imagine trying to judge the appropriateness of the following comment without knowing X, it’s IMPOSSIBLE!!!

            Once again, I suggest that “is it okay to criticize blacks and jews there?” is a terrible, terrible proxy for how friendly a place is to conservatives. If you insist on using it, then I further suggest that your problem is not with Twitter, it’s with Twitter and Facebook and corporate boardrooms and academia and stand-up comedy and pretty much all of modern society.

            Twitter is currently very obviously biased against conservatives and applies its ToS selectively against ideological opponents.

            That’s your opinion. Now imagine a person with the opposite opinion. Can Twitter curate/ban/filter/whatever in a way that makes both you and that person happy? That’s what I’m saying is not possible.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Once again, I suggest that “is it okay to criticize blacks and jews there?” is a terrible, terrible proxy for how friendly a place is to conservatives. If you insist on using it, then I further suggest that your problem is not with Twitter, it’s with Twitter and Facebook and corporate boardrooms and academia and stand-up comedy and pretty much all of modern society.

            Indeed, all those places are unfriendly to conservatives, with the possible exception of corporate boardrooms. (and definitely including some corporate boardrooms).

      • straindave says:

        Did you guys read the linked article?

        How does Mastodon solve this issue? Well, Mastodon doesn’t have retweets; it has “boosts”. Boosts are essentially like retweets, with one key difference: there’s no option to add your own commentary. You simply can’t post something awful with a message saying how awful it is—all you can do is boost something awful without commentary. What’s more, the name itself—”boost”—draws attention to a fact that Twitter does its best to obscure: by boosting something you disagree with, you’re ultimately giving that viewpoint more exposure, not less.

        • AG says:

          I dunno, this kind of reads like the “Our researchers as UpSwipz found the up/down paradigm more intuitive than left-right, our app is changing the world!” joke that Legends of Tomorrow had this past season.

        • Deiseach says:

          Mmm – what’s to stop you “boosting” Awful Thing, then mastodoning (or whatever the verb for making a comment will be) afterwards “guys, see Awful Thing in comment above? Isn’t it awful?”

          People being people, they’ll find a way to get around that. Plus, boosts can blow up in their faces – if people boost Awful Thing, somebody else is going to say “you condone Awful Thing, else you wouldn’t have shared it!” and then the demand for Mastodon to scrap boosting (because Awful Things are being boosted) will roll in.

          • beleester says:

            Plus, boosts can blow up in their faces – if people boost Awful Thing, somebody else is going to say “you condone Awful Thing, else you wouldn’t have shared it!” and then the demand for Mastodon to scrap boosting (because Awful Things are being boosted) will roll in.

            Really? Have people called for Twitter to remove the re-tweeting feature because occasionally people re-tweet Awful Things? I think you’re catastrophizing just a bit here.

            And the fact that boosts can blow up in your face appears to be a feature, not a bug. The reason they’re calling it a “boost” is to remind people that re-tweeting something is inherently going to signal boost whatever you retweet, even if your intent is to call it out as something bad.

          • Deiseach says:

            Have people called for Twitter to remove the re-tweeting feature because occasionally people re-tweet Awful Things? I think you’re catastrophizing just a bit here.

            Possibly. But Mastodon are setting themselves up as the virtuous alternative (‘we piously remind you by using the term boost that you are giving the oxygen of publicity to this Awful Thing’) so they are going to be held to that standard, and people will demand that they intervene in a way that they don’t or can’t demand of Twitter. Mastodon is small, new, and people are aware of the potential pitfalls, as well as being hyper-alert for hate speech or dog whistles. I don’t think expecting human nature to work as it generally does is catastrophic thinking, but then again I do tend to the pessimistic.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            There is no “they” in Mastodon for “Mastodon are setting themselves up…”.

            There is one guy (Gargon), who is the lead developer for one popular implementation (Mastodon), of the protocol suite (OStatus and ActivityStreams). But there are other implementations coming online, written by other people.

            The more far insane SJs in the fediverse have already flounced off to their isolated instances to jerk their circles together in their own safe spaces. As more far SJ types join, they will either be attracted down into those safe spaces, or will just bounce back to the birdsite for their outrage fix, or they will go with the Fediverse flow.

            (I’m @mark@hax0rz.lol in the Fediverse. Come join in! The qoto.org instance seems nice and SSC-like friendly.)

          • Mark Atwood says:

            If someone manages to shame Gargon into scrapping boosting from his implementation (unlikely), someone else will cherrypick out the reverse patch, and fork the project to put it back in.

            If every running different instance in the fediverse is shamed into taking it out (vanishingly unlikely, and getting less likely the more de novo implementations there are), then the user agent clients will just add it back in on the client side.

            Retweet/Boost is nothing more than an API optimization of what people will do anyway. I remember when the birdsite didn’t have Retweets, and people did it with copypaste, and then later with client support, before it was added it to the API so that it could be threaded and tracked.

          • Matt M says:

            Mark,

            Do you think those technical nuances will be respected/understood the first time a journalist gets a hot tip that a popular website is hosting Nazi content and refusing to do anything to prevent them from spreading their messages of hate?

            For the record, I think calls to develop a way to censor the entire Internet will be coming in the US within the next 5-10 years, particularly if the Democrats win in 2020. We are more likely to implement a Chinese-style firewall than we are to go back to the old days of deregulation and free speech.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            Of course it won’t.
            Because journalists are terrible, and their editors are worse.

            And the left has finally taken off the mask and admitted that “free speech” was a ceasefire, and a best, a detente, until they could overcome it with power.

            Be all that as it may, en-transit regulation of federation protocols is going to be hilarious to encode and enforce. One of the largest Mastodon instances already exists specifically for the purpose of evading the US’s newest censorship law.

        • Plumber says:

          “….The left has gotten away with fully exploiting identity politics for the better part of the last 50 years or so. It’s only recently that the right is starting to wake up and say “Oh wait, we can do this too.””

          @Matt M M,

          What left?

          Some old men at nursing homes? 

          Sorry to “no true Scotsman” but this really grinds my gears as collegiate “campus activists” busy with trivial efforts to rename buildings on their colleges isn’t a “left” worthy of the name, the closest to an active left I can think of recently has been the “Justice for Janitors” campaign in Los Angeles, and the efforts to raise the minimum wage in individual cities like Seattle.

          Obamacare? Better than nothing, but in many ways it’s a “No insurance company left behind” law.

          We once ,  had a left in the United States, and they fought and even  gave their lives to improve desperate living standards.

          Organized Labor has been decimated, and the percentage of jobs that are unionized has dropped from a 1954 high of 34.8% down to 10.7%.

          Adjusted for inflation, the median male worker earns less now than he did in 1979.

          C.E.O.’s at the largest companies now make 270 times as much as the average worker, up from 27 times as much in 1980.

          Most of the recent economic growth has gone to soaring corporate profits, while median real wages have gone nowhere.

          Welfare aid to the poor was mostly destroyed in the 1990’s

          Our sidewalks are increasingly covered with the tents of the otherwise homeless.

          What more does the right have to win?

          Oh, I guess they haven’t destroyed Social Security Insurance yet, but just like everything else the’ve done in my lifetime to ruin a once great Nation I’m sure they’ll get around to it.

          We live in a “two party system”, with one “conservative” party Hellbent on it’s very successful effort of a radical return of the U.S.A. to the pre 1930’s extremes of wealth and poverty by hollowing out what was once a broad and prosperous middle-class, while making noises to it’s base about making abortion illegal, and we have another “progressive” party that keeps abortion legal while slightly slowing down how fast things get worse, but never really delivering promised progress.

          It really seems to me that, unlike the 1930’s, in my lifetime Republicans have been radical libertarians and Democrats have been conservative

          • It really seems to me that, unlike the 1930’s, in my lifetime Republicans have been radical libertarians and Democrats have been conservative

            Speaking as a radical libertarian, I can’t see it. A short list of radical libertarian policies would include:

            Sharply reduce government expenditure as a share of the economy.

            Reduce or eliminate legal restrictions on freedom of contract

            Shift to a non-interventionist foreign policy

            Sharply reduce or eliminate restrictions on immigration

            Legalize all drugs. Also prostitution and gambling.

            Unilateral free trade

            On the first four the situation is the same or worse than it was fifty years ago. There has been a little progress on the last two, but I don’t think the Republicans can take much of the credit.

            I would agree that the Democrats are conservatives– “conservative” in this case meaning support for the policies brought in under the New Deal.

          • Plumber says:

            @DavidFriedman,

            I think that I accidentally posted twice, and the post you’re responding to is in the wrong place, but that may be a happy accident, because I can discuss things with you, and maybe I’ll learn something anyway,, on your points:

            “Speaking as a radical libertarian, I can’t see it. A short list of radical libertarian policies would include:

            Sharply reduce government expenditure as a share of the economy.”

            In my area except for a couple of Coast Guard Stations, the once prominent military bases are now closed, Post Offices are closing, the grand infrastructure projects are no more, it really seems like except for sending checks to old people and their Doctors the Federal government has disappeared.

            “Reduce or eliminate legal restrictions on freedom of contract” 

            Unfortunately I don’t understand what that means.

            “Shift to a non-interventionist foreign policy” 

            Your probably right on that, while the bases are gone at home, new ones were built overseas.

            “Sharply reduce or eliminate restrictions on immigration” 

            Most of my co-workers this decade have been immigrants and it’s hard for me to imagine more. 

            “Legalize all drugs. Also prostitution and gambling.” 

            Twenty years ago pot was illegal, this week I could see (and smell) someone smoking it in front of a police station. 

            As for prostitution and gambling? 

            Earning a living in this “casino economy” feels too much like both!

            “Unilateral free trade” 

            I thought that’s what the W.T.O. was!

            “On the first four the situation is the same or worse than it was fifty years ago. There has been a little progress on the last two, but I don’t think the Republicans can take much of the credit”

            You’re right, it’s been bi-partisan, but the Democrats make noises against the changes.

            “I would agree that the Democrats are conservatives– “conservative” in this case meaning support for the policies brought in under the New Deal.” 

            Yep, that’s what I meant, though on reflection I think in many ways both parties are reactionary, they just have different years that the want to return to.

            Maybe it’s my age, but basically I think the “New Deal” of the ’30’s, and the “Great Society” of the ’60″s were mostly good things.

            And this is going to sound horrible, but I want less freedom.

            Legally I want the wealth of the very rich taxed away so they can’t bid up housing out of the reach of median wage earners, culturally/socially I want people to not feel free to divorce when they hsve children, and also I hate the smell of marijuana and wish people wouldn’t smoke it on the sidewalk.

            I would like to see more “Mom and Pop” businesses (especially bookstores), but I have no idea how to encourage that!

          • @Plumber:

            1. Government expenditure (federal, state and local) as a share of national income has gradually increased over the past sixty years, from about 25% of GDP to about 35%.

            2. Freedom of contract means that you and I are free to contract on any terms mutually agreeable. I said “reduce or eliminate” because I don’t actually object to banning assassination contracts. But I do object to forbidding me from selling you a service on mutually agreeable terms that the government doesn’t like. That would include minimum wage laws, professional licensing, usury laws, … .

            3. According to a quick Google, the U.S. has more than 800 bases abroad. Wiki lists about 180 bases in the U.S.

            4. During the years just before and after WWI the U.S. was accepting about a million immigrants a year, including my grandparents. The population was about a hundred million, so the equivalent today would be about three million a year. We actually admit a bit over one million legal immigrants.

            5. Marijuana prohibition is gradually disappearing, but, as I said, that isn’t mainly due to the Republicans.

            6. Unilateral free trade would mean no tariffs—the policy of the U.K. in the 19th century and Hong Kong in the 20th. The U.S. is nowhere close to that.

            I don’t particularly like the smell of marijuana, but I don’t think it’s worse than cigarette tobacco.

            One person paying to have a million dollar house built doesn’t prevent someone else from paying to have a hundred thousand dollar house built, so your point applies to land but not to houses. In the Bay Area, where both of us live, the availability of land is sharply reduced by government action at all levels—the figure I’ve seen is that eighty to ninety percent of the land is not legal to build on. Restrictions on height of buildings further increase the cost of housing.

            I think both the New Deal and the Great Society were mostly bad things. If you look at a graph of the U.S. poverty rate, definition held constant, what you see is that it was falling pretty steeply from just after the war until about the point at which the War on Poverty got fully funded and staffed, has been roughly constant since then, going up and down with the general economy. The theory of the War on Poverty was that it would eliminate poverty, result in those who had been poor becoming sufficiently productive to earn a non-poor income. It failed, so got converted into a program to make being poor somewhat less unpleasant. For a discussion of that see Losing Ground by Charles Murray.

            One way to encourage more small businesses is to reduce regulation, since a small business is less able to hire lawyers to navigate the rules than a large business.

  23. IrreverentCosmopolitan says:

    “In ten years, those health reports you get from 23andMe are actually going to mean something.”

    Your children’s health insurance quotes will probably rise sooner than that even though you don’t remember expressly allowing anyone to sell your genetic data to your health insurance company – you just wanted to know if you were really part Cherokee so as not to feel guilty when dressing up as an Indian for Halloween.

    • The reports I get already mean something–just not very much.

      A few years back I got one telling me I was more likely than average to have a meningioma, a non-cancerous tumor between the skull and the membrane that contains the brain. As it happened I got it shortly after having surgery to remove the meningioma, but although the information was not useful it was at least weak evidence that the reports contain real information.

    • sketerpot says:

      In the US that would run into trouble with the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, which forbids (among other things) charging higher premiums for genetic predisposition to a disease.

      • IrreverentCosmopolitan says:

        I see your GINA and raise you a HR1313

        @David Friedman – I wasn’t suggesting genetic info isn’t medically useful, it’s probably incredibly so and will become even more in the future, just that the 23andme and similar business models at their current state are an unbounded liability.

  24. AlphaGamma says:

    On shirt number 88:

    The legendary Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon briefly wore number 88 when playing for Parma, saying it represented “four balls” and therefore courage. He changed the number when representatives of the Italian Jewish community pointed out its neo-Nazi connotations which he said he wasn’t aware of (though he also claimed to be unaware of the meaning of the Fascist slogan he had worn on a T-shirt under his jersey the previous year!).

    Gary Hooper, a (white) English striker, wore 88 when playing for Celtic because he was born in 1988.

    Meanwhile in the US, there have been plenty of black NFL wide receivers who wore number 88 and nobody cared.

    • idontknow131647093 says:

      That is what I always think of when people say 88 is some super secret neo Nazi signal. 88 = Wide Receiver. Mostly Irvin for me but I know Marvin Harrison and Lynn Swann also wore it

  25. fion says:

    Mastodon Is Better Than Twitter

    I assumed this was talking about Mastodon the heavy metal band. I thought an argument why they were better than Twitter sounded pretty entertaining.

    Related: Metallica Is Better Than Tumblr

  26. Szemeredi says:

    Is there something I can read giving the ‘other side’ to that reason Backpage story? I got to the end to learn that the CEO and marketing director plead guilty to conspiracy which suggests there’s maybe a little more to it.

    • Iain says:

      There’s some interesting discussion in this Hacker News thread. In particular, these two:

      Take referrals to NCMEC, which Brown mentions 5 times in this piece. The indictment mentions it too, right before quoting an email by Backpage staff saying that referrals to NCMEC are to be capped at 500 per month or 16 per day. The obvious concern here would be that Backpage was not in fact reliably forwarding things to NCMEC; only slightly less obvious a concern is that they had so many problematic ads that they had to manage the volume of stuff they were sending to NCMEC, which takes some of the bite out of Brown’s argument that child exploitation simply isn’t a major problem in the adult services industry.

      Rather infamously at this point, Backpage is accused not only of running ads for child sex traffickers, but of doing so knowingly: for years, under Lacey and Larkin’s management, their policy — as Brown writes — was to check ads for suspicious keywords. What Brown doesn’t tell you is that their software then stripped the keywords out of the ads and ran them anyways.

      There’s a lot in the indictment to suggest that they don’t take child sex trafficking seriously as a problem. They joke about it (“entrapment.com”). They take meetings and disregard the information they’re given. They’re on the record declining to adopt things they say are “good ideas” because they don’t have enough “P.R. value”. I think the balance of information we have strongly suggests that Lacey and Larking just DGAF.

      This is the problem I have with the Standard Internet Discussion on Backpage.com. It invariably focuses on the harm reduction argument. I’m prepared to buy the harm reduction argument! But someone responsible needs to run that site; the people who actually ran it belong in prison.

      (I haven’t read the indictment and don’t have a strong personal opinion.)

      • Ghillie Dhu says:

        their software then stripped the keywords out of the ads and ran them anyways.

        This is what got them; once they were modifying the posts, they stopped being pure user-generated content and the CDA safe harbor no longer applied.

        • Mark Atwood says:

          That’s asinine. *Everyone* filters UG content, everyone large machine edits UG content for display or for impact, and everyone at least moderates for legality and for topicality. Even the chans.

          • Ghillie Dhu says:

            My extended team at work includes the company’s UGC moderation function, and there was much discussion when BP got taken down; apparently modifying the content breaks protection in a way that filtering & modifying the presentation* do not.

            *I’m not sure what you mean by “for impact”, but I’m going to presume by analogy with “for display” that it falls into the presentation bucket.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            I was searching the right term for “impact”, and I don’t like “impact” all the much. Please for a better term?

            What I meant was instances such as “facebook does not show you everything that every person or page you follow posts, and what it does to select to show and who to show it to is algorithmic and randomly decided”,

            Or for a more heavy handed example, Twitter shadowbans.

          • Ghillie Dhu says:

            Understood, thanks for clarifying; in that case it’s just a variant of filtering.

            If BP had even blocked the posts & told the users what needed to be changed in order to get past the filters, they probably would’ve kept safe harbor (IANAL!!!), but they went beyond that.

      • Dan L says:

        These look like the kind of arguments I was looking for, thanks.

        But I’m suspicious of a moral argument that they Didn’t Do Enough when law enforcement, FBI included, is apparently giving them attaboys on a semi-regular basis. If headlining charges keep getting dismissed, that’s not helping the prosecution’s case.

        • Mark Atwood says:

          I read the HN thread, and I was not impressed with the the anti-BP side.

          Recurring conflating “sex work” with “child rape for money”, with a side dish of “anyone who disagrees with me is pro-rape”.

          People lose their minds when the topic is sex work.
          I still judge them as stupid for doing so.

      • Protagoras says:

        My guess, based on looking at the accusations against Backpage and having followed this issue a bit and looking at a lot of the research, is that advertising of underage prostitutes on Backpage was incredibly rare, and almost all the ads that showed signs of being suspicious for that sort of thing were false positives. Backpage no doubt knew this, and apparently mostly didn’t take the warning signs all that seriously as a result (though they did cooperate with authorities when specifically asked to do so, which seems to have greatly aided the investigations and prosecutions in the tiny number of actual child prostitution cases). Law enforcement presumably knows this as well, but the prosecutors pretended not to know this and claimed that Backpage not getting too excited about what they were pretty sure were false positives was something other than what it was.

  27. Jack V says:

    I agree with you that I don’t want a company destroyed by one thoughless comment, but that the rules need to be enforced in such a way that people actually keep them.

    There does seem to be a significant problem with fines (obviously) affecting people with lots of money not very much. But this is because we give the same size fines to everyone. We have the word “billion” and when we use it fines, people pay a lot more attention. We have the word “nationalise” if we need it!

  28. Johan Richter says:

    I think fines for economic crimes make perfect sense, better than prison inmany ways. In the Musk case I am skeptical of any action being justified, it does not bother me if tycoons vent a bit on twitter.

    Regarding the birth order effect, the obvious question is if we should care about it. Should birth order diversity be a thing? I say no but then I am not much of a fan of any diversity goals. The people who claim to care about diversity as an instrument to improve outcomes on the other should probably start caring about birth order as well.

  29. Mazirian says:

    I would think the birth order effect is a “tail effect.” First-borns outscore second-borns by about 1.5 IQ points. If we assume that famous mathematicians have IQs above 150 and that second-borns average 100 in IQ and first-borns average 101.5, 0.04% of second-borns will have IQs in the famous mathematician range versus 0.06% of first-borns. So there will be 50% more first-born famous mathematicians than second-borns (after controlling for sibship size in the population). Of course, the threshold may in reality be different and other traits with small mean birth order differences could be involved as well, but that’s the principle.

    • gwern says:

      Yes, that was my first reaction too. It shouldn’t be too hard to figure out what SD increase you need for first-borns to reproduce the observed fraction at the relevant threshold (probably higher than the equivalent of 150 IQ); if it’s around +0.1SD in ‘mathiness’, then it would be consistent with a birth-order effect (which might or might not be on fluid intelligence, it might be on a lower-order ability like visuospatial ability).

  30. Deiseach says:

    In further “what they said was good for you/would kill you last week, this week they’re saying will kill you/is good for you” nutrition news – red meat and dairy is beneficial to the heart! Coming on the heels of that Irish study about “cheddar cheese actually reduces cholesterol”, this is a reversal of the “saturated fats no no no” advice up to now.

    Okay, this does not mean eat half a cow and your body weight in cheese, butter and milk every day, but you can eat that steak without the vegan nagging about “of course this is terribly, terribly unhealthy for you” 🙂

    • AG says:

      But what’s their opinion on steak aging?

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Processed red meat increases risk of cancer (and so does grilled, for different reasons). It’s perfectly compatible with being good for hearth health – it’s just universe that’s perverse.

  31. ana53294 says:

    The list of Jewish groups that do anti-BDS work on campuses is bafflingly long. A partial tally includes StandWithUs, AEPi, CAMERA, the David Project, the David Horowitz Freedom Center, Jerusalem U, AIPAC, Sheldon Adelson’s Maccabee Task Force, and the Zionist Organization of America. The total amount of American Jewish and Israeli government funds flooding the anti-BDS effort is easily in the tens of millions of dollars each year.

    I find it really weird that you can have so much foreign money pouring into US institutions and nobody bats an eye. And when you point out that all these people and organizations are foreign agents, you get accused of anti-semitism.

    The alt-right may be bonkers, but they have good reasons to suspect a global zionist conspiracy to protect Israel (because it actually exists).

    • sentientbeings says:

      And when you point out that all these people and organizations are foreign agents, you get accused of anti-semitism.

      You believe that Alpha Epsilon Pi, a Greek letter fraternity, is correctly characterized as a “foreign agent” organization, or that its membership are foreign agents?

      • ana53294 says:

        They are an organization acting to protect the interests of a foreign power.

        Also note that that was the only organization you had qualms about. You agree about the rest?

        • sentientbeings says:

          I selected AEPi for two reasons.

          It is, out of that list, the organization with which I am most familiar. That allows me higher confidence in my statement of the second reason, which is that it is very obviously not what you allege it to be.

          You made a strong claim – “all these people and organizations are foreign agents.”

          I chose an organization that anyone with a passing familiarity could recognize did not fit that description. I expected that you would modify the strength of your claim.

          That you did not suggests to me that you are much more confident in your knowledge of AEPi than is warranted, so much so that your assessment of other organizations becomes suspect.

          • ana53294 says:

            The mission of Alpha Epsilon Pi is to develop the future leaders of the world’s Jewish communities. This mission is demonstrated every day through acts of brotherhood, Tzedakah (charity), social awareness and support for Jewish communities and Israel.

            They state in their website that they are an organization which has an objective, among others, to protect a foreign government. That does not make them a foreign agent?

          • sentientbeings says:

            @ana53294

            Your quote from the website states the mission “to develop the future leaders of the world’s Jewish communities.” It goes on to list support for Israel as example activity of that development. That is not the same as saying that is the organization’s mission. You might think I’m splitting hairs, but I disagree. Regardless, that’s not really the substance of my broader objection.

            My objection is that the reality of an organization is what is relevant, not the mission statement. Whether intended as such or not, mission statements are often just flowery expressions of some virtue. AEPi is a fraternity. Their primary organizational concerns are campus or campus-adjacent social activities. There are many non-Jewish members. They do not exist for the purpose of influencing United States foreign policy.

            You might consider revising your definition of foreign agent. Based on your description in another comment, it is appears your definition is not based on any formal relationship, but rather your own assessment of whether an actor’s behavior benefits a foreign entity and harms the domestic entity. That would allow the scope of the term to be hugely broad and determined at your discretion. I think the normal understanding of the term is that someone either is or isn’t a foreign agent and that isn’t subject to the opinions of someone else.

          • ana53294 says:

            Let’s split hairs.

            Straight out of Wikipedia:

            A foreign agent is anyone who actively carries out the interests of a foreign country while located in another host country, generally outside the protections offered to those working in their official capacity for a diplomatic mission. Foreign agents may be citizens of the host country. In contemporary English, the term has a generally pejorative connotation.

            What is your definition of foreign agent?

          • They state in their website that they are an organization which has an objective, among others, to protect a foreign government. That does not make them a foreign agent?

            The relevant definition of “foreign agent”

            The Act requires periodic disclosure of all activities and finances by: people and organizations that are under control of a foreign government, or of organizations or of persons outside of the United States (“foreign principal”), if they act “at the order, request, or under the direction or control” (i.e. as “agents”) of this principal or of persons who are “controlled or subsidized in major part” by this principal.

            (Wiki on Foreign Agents Registration Act)

            So no, it doesn’t.

        • IvanFyodorovich says:

          The expansive “agent of foreign power” argument lands you in weird places. If I argue we should kill all Canadians and steal their resources and you oppose this on moral grounds, are you “an agent of a foreign power”? Or can you admit that ethical considerations can shape foreign policy? Likewise, pro-Palestinian groups generally frame their arguments in terms of benefiting Palestinians, not the U.S. (even if they think their policies would help the U.S., that clearly isn’t the driving concern). That doesn’t make them “agents of a foreign power”.

          • ana53294 says:

            Palestine is not a country, though. And most of the BDS effort is targeted at stopping US support for Israel, not at directing specific US action to help Palestine.

            I am pro-Palestine, but I do not support helping Palestine. I think Western countries should just stop messing around in the middle east, and just let Israel survive on its own.

          • IvanFyodorovich says:

            BDS aims to block investment in and trade with Israel (Boycott, divest, sanction). So it is hindering American commerce. So by your misguided criteria, if you support BDS, you are acting against American interests in favor of a foreign group or entity.

          • ana53294 says:

            Again, Palestine is not a country. I don’t think that the people who were protesting apartheid in South Africa were foreign agents – because South African blacks were not a country.

            But if an organization starts defending South Africa’s land expropriation attempts, I would consider them a foreign agent, because they are acting to protect South Africa’s government.

            My definition only includes countries. Foreign entity is too broad a definition (it would include companies and churches, and I would not call that a foreign agent).

          • IvanFyodorovich says:

            You are digging yourself into a deeper pit of nonsense. So American foreign policy must be based strictly on national self-interest and cannot show concern for any other country or its residents, but it can show concern for stateless peoples or quasi-states like whatever Gaza is. That is your position.

            Or can you just admit that it’s okay to care about other countries and the people in them without being a “foreign agent”?

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Palestine is not a country, but is a partially recognized state recognized by 136 UN members. While this may be enough to make it so that advocacy for BDS does not make one strictly-speaking a foreign agent, I’m not sure that we should care so strongly about not meeting the dictionary definition. How much does the fact that Israel is a UN-recognized country matter to your argument here?

            In my opinion, you’re also getting a lot of mileage out of the rather vague “actively carrying out the interests” in the definition of foreign agent. What threshold of “active” do we need? How do we determine what the “interests” of a country are, and when they are being carried out? The organizations you list range pretty widely in how much they advocate for Israel and what sorts of advocacy they do.

            I think this is a classic case of using a phrase with a strong connotation (“foreign agent”, which calls up associations with espionage and subterfuge) but a weak denotation (anyone who “actively carries out the interests” of a foreign country).

            This is fine as far as it goes, but it seems to me you are rely on the connotation of the phrase “foreign agent” to make the claim that there is a “global Zionist conspiracy”–“global” and “conspiracy” sound like the terms you’d hear from someone relying on the connotative meaning of “foreign agent”, even though you’ve only given evidence for the denotative meaning.

          • IvanFyodorovich says:

            Reponse to your last edit (I can’t edit mine). Your new criteria makes even less sense. So if Ruritania enacts Policy X, it is okay for an American to support Ruritanians who oppose Policy X, but any American who forms a group to support Policy X is a “foreign agent”. This makes no sense, and makes good faith policy discussions impossible.

            Furthermore, contrary to what you are claiming, you can totally be an agent of a non-state. If a group of Ruritanians give me a million dollars to lobby the U.S. government to support a coup against the Ruritanian government, I am a foreign agent.

            It seems you are inventing criteria extremely selectively.

          • ana53294 says:

            I think you have to account for the difference between a country’s government and any other group of people who are trying to defend their interests.

            If I am caught as a Russian agent, I may be jailed, and swapped for another agent. I will have my country backing me up and protecting me. This is why I think it is important to distinguish between people who are acting in the interests of their government, and who may enjoy the protection of their government, and stateless people who do not have a safe place they can escape to.

            Palestine is not a country. If a Palestinian agent is caught, they will not be swapped for American agents in Palestine – because Palestine does not have the authority to detain American foreign agents.

            Yes, you can be an agent of a non-state. You can go around the world campaigning for the repeal of GMO laws in defense of Monsanto. You would be Monsanto’s agent. But you will not be a foreign agent, because again, Monsanto is not a country, and if a country chooses to jail you or kick you out for acting against their government, Monsanto cannot protect you (although they will lobby the US to do so).

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Do you think the Israeli government would come to the defense of people from the organizations listed? Would Israel accept a swap between a member of AEPi and an American caught spying on Israel?

          • ana53294 says:

            If the American-Israeli relationships ever came to the point where the US would jail a member of the AEPi for working to further Israeli interests, then yes, I would believe that they would be exchanged (the exchange rate for these agents may not be one-to-one, though; you may exchange one CIA agent for ten* AEPi detainees, for example; or you can exchange one Sheldon Addelson for three* CIA agents).

            I think allied countries frequently have a kind of deal where they turn a blind eye on each other’s foreign agents. Countries frequently turn a blind eye on other country’s foreign agents even when they are not allies. For example, when the US kicked out Russians after the Skripal poisoning, they kicked out some Russians for being foreign agents – and they were not registered as such. Did they suddenly learn it at that moment? I am pretty sure that the US knew they were foreign agents, and did not touch them, under the implicit agreement that in exchange, Russia does not touch known American foreign agents.

            *Numbers totally arbitrary, but you get the idea.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            If the American-Israeli relationships ever came to the point where the US would jail a member of the AEPi for working to further Israeli interests, then yes, I would believe that they would be exchanged

            The whole point is that this is vanishingly unlikely. As I pointed out earlier, you are trying to use connotation of “foreign agent” as a subversive spy, even though the denotation is only “someone who advocates for a country”.
            Whenever you discuss foreign agents in general, you use examples that are non-citizens, or people engaged in espionage. But then you apply the term to groups of American citizens who are just doing ordinary political advocacy. This equivocation is what I am objecting to.

            If the reasoning that makes “foreign agent” a useful term is that it includes people who are likely to be arrested for espionage, then we can skip directly and ask how many of the organizations on your list do things that might get them jailed for espionage or related crimes. If, as I suspect the answer is “few to none”, then it’s not clear why it’s important to call them foreign agents.
            If you want to argue that in fact, these groups are the kinds of people who might really by engaging in the spy-vs-spy world, you have to make that claim and argue for it directly, not just rely on the fact that they fit the fairly weak definition of “foreign agent”.

          • ana53294 says:

            You use examples that are non-citizens

            I stated that if a second generation Russian American acted in the interests of Russia, they would be a Russian agent, even if they weren’t Russian citizens.

            I also think that the Irish nationals who lobbied the US government to defend Ireland where foreign agents.

            The reason why it is hard for me to come up with foreign agents who can act openly and without subterfuge (are not spies) to further the interests of their country is that the US only allows some countries to do that.

            The Council for American-Islamic relations would be another example of a foreign agent.

            I disagree with the use of jails as a criteria of being a foreign agent. I have stated, again and again, that the US is not going to jail these people as foreign agents, even if they fulfill the definition of foreign agents (AIPAC being the most egregious example; if the Attorney General during JFK at some point wanted to register the AIPAC as a foreign agent, and then withdrew for political reason).

            So by saying they are not foreign agents because the DoJ you are not responding to my arguments.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Right, but when you explained why it was important that a foreign agent be an agent of another country, your example involved Russians who were expelled, i.e., Russian citizens working directly for the Russian government.

            But since the people at AIPAC or AEPi or whatever are not Israeli diplomats, it’s not clear how much value we get from applying the same term to the two groups, and acting like statements about the one group should transfer easily to statements about the other.

          • Civilis says:

            Palestine is not a country. If a Palestinian agent is caught, they will not be swapped for American agents in Palestine – because Palestine does not have the authority to detain American foreign agents.

            Palestine (or, rather, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas) would not detain ‘foreign agents’ only because at this point in time they have a practice of killing suspected spies. There have in fact in the past been ‘NGOs’ in the region which have ‘detained’ American ‘agents’ (some, such as the Beirut CIA Station Chief, might even be actually classified as agents, although under diplomatic cover and protection) and they did use those ‘detained’ ‘agents’ to ‘negotiate’ for the release of their own ‘agents’.

            If the rules are going to be changed to target ‘opposition to American interests’, it would be more likely to target association with actual State Department designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations, such as Hamas.

          • ana53294 says:

            @Eugene Dawn

            So you do not believe Israel would act to protect Jewish pro-Zionist organizations?

          • beleester says:

            I honestly can’t tell if you know this, but AEPi is a college fraternity. The Israeli government has much more important things to do than to protect their right to party on campus.

            I mean, I suppose Israel would at least ask the US Government “WTF are you doing?,” because when your closest ally goes batshit insane and treats a college fraternity as a significant diplomatic or political threat, that’s a question you need to ask. But actually take a significant action to protect them, on the order of “trade a captured CIA agent for X number of frat brothers”? Haha, no.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            So you do not believe Israel would act to protect Jewish pro-Zionist organizations?

            Not in any meaningful sense, absent some truly unlikely circumstances, no. I do not think Israel would trade a captured spy or whatever for one of AEPi’s drunken frat bros.

          • ana53294 says:

            I do not mean AEPi frat boys. I mean the people like Sheldon Addelson, who actually do a lot of stuff to further Israeli interest.

            My guess is that Sheldon Addelson is a lot more influential than any CIA or Mossad agent could ever be, so they would exchange for him.

          • IvanFyodorovich says:

            In the event that the United States began arresting libertarian bloggers, Peter Thiel would probably build an artificial island and launch ransomware attacks to free the bloggers and shelter them on his island. Therefore all libertarian bloggers must be considered “foreign agents” of Hypothetical Peter Thiel Island /s

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            It depends why Sheldon Adelson is in trouble in the first place.
            And if you didn’t mean AEPi frat boys, why did you list them in the first place?

          • ana53294 says:

            I made a comment on the content of an article, and I just did not remove the frat boys.

        • Johan Richter says:

          Acting to promote the interests of a foreign power is different from being an agent of said foreign power, in the legal sense. It is fine, legally, if Trump admires Putin and advances Russian nationalism, but if he is employed by Putin and takes orders from him that is very different.

    • Aapje says:

      One in nine Israelis is of Russian descent, including the former Minister of Foreign Affairs and current Minister of Defense. So one could argue that the Russian (Jews) are meddling with US institutions.

      😛

      • ana53294 says:

        Mark Zuckerberg, who is an alumnus of the AEPi fraternity, was already questioned by Congress for not stopping Russian interference with the election. Now we know why. It is all part of a Russian Zionist conspiracy!

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      Sheldon Adelson and David Horowitz, while generally awful people, are Americans.

      • ana53294 says:

        Being citizens of your country does not mean they are not foreign agents*.

        *The way I see it, foreign agents are people who are acting in the interest of another country against their own country. So if we get a second generation Russian who is an American citizen, but coordinates with other organizations to stop any sanctions against Russia, they would be a Russian agent. This applies to any country whose interest are against the US.

        • Civilis says:

          Foreign agents are people who are acting in the interest of another country against their own country is an incredibly easily broken rule, and one easily applied to shutting down the party in power’s political opposition.

          To avoid dragging current politics into it, I’ll stick to World War II. In the period after the war had broken out in Europe but before the attack on Pearl Harbor, which side was putting in the interests of another country before American interests: the pro-British, or the pro-German?

          I’d argue the answer is ‘both’, but I would suspect the answer at the time was obviously ‘why, the side I’m not on, of course’. I don’t think anyone has a right to claim a monopoly on defining what ‘America’s interests’ are, or, for that matter, which countries interests are against the US (absent a declared state of war, and even that raises a lot of problematic examples post-World War II). There’s a reason that treason is considered to have a very specific definition in US law, and I would seriously question the wisdom of bypassing that fence.

          • IvanFyodorovich says:

            Slight tangent. I’m reading Chernow’s Hamilton biography. I hadn’t realized how big a deal the pro-British vs. pro-French thing was in American politics for like, 25 years. Each faction was convinced that it was pursuing sound policy based on American self-interest and basic morality, and that the other faction were paid agents of the enemy. Members of Team Jefferson seriously thought Team Hamilton wanted to make the U.S. a constitutional monarchy under one of King George’s kids, while Hamilton accused Team Jefferson of wanting to make the United States “A province of France”. Washington’s farewell speech cautioning against entangling alliances was probably Team Hamilton attacking Team Jefferson, however balanced it reads 200 years later. “I’m objective, you’re not”.

            In hindsight it’s all pretty silly, but this kind of rhetoric did not help. The Alien and Sedition Act was spurred in part by the fear that Team Jefferson would support a French invasion force and had to be treated accordingly.

        • ana53294 says:

          You can also make a definition of foreign agent that is too lax, though.

          Israel has directly and indirectly influenced a lot of organizations in the US. I am really, really sure that if Iran and Iranian-Americans acted in such an organized manner to support Iranian interests, they would be classified as foreign agents.

          I just don’t agree with the policies that mean your country’s so called allies can do anything to influence local policy, and they get away with it.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I am really, really sure that if Iran and Iranian-Americans acted in such an organized manner to support Iranian interests, they would be classified as foreign agents.

            If someone made a list of Iranian foreign-agent organizations in the US that included a fraternity for Persian-American students, and then gestured at their list to conclude that there is a “global Iranian conspiracy” to support Iran, I would be pretty skeptical.

            As it turns out, there is an organized campaign of organizations supporting Iranian interests. I agree these probably count as foreign agents, but I’m not sure they’re very good evidence that they “get away with […] anything to influence local policy”, nor that they are evidence of a “global conspiracy”.

          • ana53294 says:

            The AIPAC does get away with influencing policies and not registering as foreign agents, though.

            And wouldn’t you say moving the US embassy to Jerusalem is a significant change in policy?

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I would say that. I would say the same about the Iran deal.
            I am not disputing that there are organizations that have sway on American foreign policy decisions in favour of Israel, nor that a lot of that influence is used for the bad.
            What I am disputing is that
            a) every pro-Israel group in American contributes to this; AEPi is a fraternity and has as much influence on American foreign policy as any other fraternity, i.e. none
            b) the organizations that do have influence are part of a “global Zionist conspiracy”; they are ordinary interest groups
            c) that this is unique to Israel; other countries have lobby groups in America who can influence policy.

          • ana53294 says:

            a) every pro-Israel group in American contributes to this; AEPi is a fraternity and has as much influence on American foreign policy as any other fraternity, i.e. none

            I agree that they may not have any inmediate influence on American foreign policy. But they are an organization that provides the cadres to the organizations that actually influence American foreign policy. Sheldon Addelson is an AEPi alumnus; would you say he has no effect on American foreign policy?

            b) the organizations that do have influence are part of a “global Zionist conspiracy”; they are ordinary interest groups

            I think that actual, real conspiracies are not made by organizations nobody can detect or find (that one is bonkers). I rather think of conspiracies as organizations that act in a concerted manner and are able to maintain political ties throughout generations. The fact that they frequently act openly and boldly does not make them any less of a conspiracy. When necessary, they hide, and when they can, they act openly. The American part of the Zionist conspiracy acts openly. There are other parts that are secret (the Mossad), and they all act together.

            The Spanish government, for example, also believes that organizations that have the same political goals belong to the same organizations. So the political parties (who acted openly and boldly) and journalists (who published interviews to terrorists; this was not hidden at all), were prosecuted by using the same laws as the ones used for ETA. Just sharing political objectives was considered enough reason to say they belonged to the same organization, and were terrorists because they did not condemn terrorists.

            Does the AEPi condemn Mossad assasinations? Do any of the other organizations condemn assasinations carried by the Israeli government? Because if they don’t, they would fall under the same umbrella as the Mossad (under the Spanish definition of terrorism, which the US supports*).

            c) that this is unique to Israel; other countries have lobby groups in America who can influence policy.

            Yes, other countries have lobby groups. The US Israeli lobby is more powerful than other countries’ lobbies, though, and can get away with more stuff (same as the Irish and the Saudis).

            *They put the Basque politician Arnaldo Otegi, who was a terrorist under the definition of the Spanish government but not under the more common definition, on the no fly list.

          • Civilis says:

            b) the organizations that do have influence are part of a “global Zionist conspiracy”; they are ordinary interest groups
            c) that this is unique to Israel; other countries have lobby groups in America who can influence policy.

            I think the key to my apprehension at this train of thought is that while Israel’s lobbying efforts are disproportionately large compared to the country’s size, it’s not functionally different than other nations and yet here it’s branded uniquely as the ‘Zionist conspiracy’.

            China has extensive clandestine intelligence gathering and influence spreading organizations everywhere, and yet we don’t speak of it as the “Sinoist Conspiracy” (I’d also accept “Manchurian Conspiracy” as an equally horrible name). We have revelations of Chinese spying on an almost weekly basis, covering cyberwarfare, theft of technological secrets, influence in academia, corporate buyouts, and old fashioned agents (the most recent on the staff of the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intel committee). If you want to make the government pay attention, submit someone with a current connection to China for a background check; even worse if they have family over there.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Recall your original comment:

            I find it really weird that you can have so much foreign money pouring into US institutions and nobody bats an eye. And when you point out that all these people and organizations are foreign agents, you get accused of anti-semitism.

            The alt-right may be bonkers, but they have good reasons to suspect a global zionist conspiracy to protect Israel (because it actually exists).

            My argument is that the reason no one bats an eye is because most of these organizations are organizations of American citizens, and at least one of those organizations is just a fraternity for Jews. Why should anyone bat an eye at the fact that Jews, like all other people, advocate politically, sometimes for bad causes?

            Your reasoning is that it’s worth noticing because they are “foreign agents” but you are equivocating between two different senses of “foreign agent”: one with extremely low standards to meet, so that all the above groups qualify, and one that relies on the sense that “foreign agents” are comparable to diplomats and spies.

            I agree if all the above groups were as connected to Israel as Russian diplomats to Russia or as spies are to their country of origin, this would be worth batting an eye at. On the other hand, if they’re just normal citizen interest groups and Jewish social clubs, perhaps the reason no one bats an eye is that it’s completely unremarkable.

            The reason people think you’re being antisemitic presumably has to do with the fact that you are pointing to a group of Jews who want to get together and drink and accusing them of being foreign agents, simply because some of their members are pro-Israel.

            Similarly, characterizing the above as validating the alt-right, whose view of a global Jewish conspiracy is not as, uh, minimalist, as yours, doesn’t exactly refute the charge; nor does suggesting that a bunch of Jewish frat boys need to condemn the Mossad’s assassinations or be complicit in them.

          • ana53294 says:

            The reason people think you’re being antisemitic presumably has to do with the fact that you are pointing to a group of Jews who want to get together and drink and accusing them of being foreign agents, simply because some of their members are pro-Israel.

            The reason I said that those organizations are foreign agents is because they are acting to coordinate policies as organizations. It is not just individual members who are acting against BDS; it is the organizations themselves.

            I guess I misunderstood the emotionally charged nature of foreign agent. For me, a foreign agent is somebody who is acting as an agent who is protecting a foreign country, in the same aseptic sense as a person who goes around lobbying to lower taxes on cheese is an agent of the dairy lobby. If for you foreign agent means an evil spy who should be charged for treason, then it was wrong of me to use this word.

        • Anonymous Bosch says:

          The way I see it, foreign agents are people who are acting in the interest of another country against their own country.

          Unless you’re dealing with literal espionage or sabotage, “against their own country” is subjective and mostly just reduces to whatever one’s political views are. Plus a lot of it is plain old motivated reasoning. There’s a lot of anti-war writers who end up repeating other countries’ imperialist talking points wholesale (the White Helmets are al-Qaeda!) out of an unconscious or semi-conscious belief that conceding anything about the bad behavior of other countries just gives succor to domestic warmongers who would re-run the Iraq invasion or start WW3. I think they’re wrong, or at the very least have fucked up priorities, but that’s a counterfactual judgment, so who’s to say?

        • slapdashbr says:

          An agent is someone providing information or resources to an intelligence officer- which they may do unwittingly or under false pretenses. “Agents” are not on the payroll, although they may be taking regular payments, they may consider themselves as “working for” their handlers, or they may be ideologically motivated. OTOH they may just be amoral and willing to take a bribe. Most Soviet agents were not communist sympathizers, they were just willing to give up classified information for some amount of money (in the US, the soviets had some very highly placed agents in UK intelligence who had genuine communist sympathies).
          The point being, someone can be an agent acting against their country of citizenship, regardless of their internal justification, and sometimes without realizing they are being used as such. The CIA has a tendency towards running front companies and offering bribes (which are generally effective in the places where the CIA needs something and the state department doesn’t have access to simply ask nicely). Officials taking bribes may not know who they are actually taking bribes from. They would be called agents of the CIA, regardless.

          • ana53294 says:

            You are using the “spy” acceptation of “foreign agent”. I believe “foreign agent” is a slightly broader category that includes, but is not limited to, spies. And some foreign agents act openly, if they are agents of countries that are perceived as allies.

    • WarOnReasons says:

      I find it really weird that you can have so much foreign money pouring into US institutions and nobody bats an eye. And when you point out that all these people and organizations are foreign agents, you get accused of anti-semitism.

      Do you have any evidence that “so much foreign money” is indeed pouring into US from Israel (I assume by “so much” you meant greater amounts than required to maintain an embassy)?

  32. theredsheep says:

    I’m testing the AI picture generator and getting mostly gibberish. It responds to colors and some color-related cues (I mentioned desert and got some tan, forest gets green, etc.), but a lot of the cues as to shape seem utterly random. I tried “knight in shining armor” and “girl with a pearl earring,” and both yielded something like stock photos of a molar pregnancy. It was hopeless at deciphering song lyrics, even fairly descriptive ones like “devil with a blue dress on.” The white room with black curtains near the station was generally white and room-like, but didn’t always have anything recognizable as curtains at all. I guess that’s still fairly impressive.

    • Lexie says:

      I asked it for a pretty spider and what I got was mostly ears. At least one of us was confused, I thought. Spiders don’t have ears. Now Google is telling me “The jaws and poison: Spider enemies”. At least one of us is confused, I think.

    • FLWAB says:

      I tried a variety of simple words: canyon, fish, angel, demon, and ice. All of them returned unrecognizable blobs of color, though the colors vaguely matched: canyon was dusty brown, fish was bluish gray, angel was mostly white, demon was mostly black, and ice was white and blue.

  33. eliza says:

    Hitler rise to power thanks to traditional german nationalism, antisemitism and violence culture. Decent people got beaten on the streets by militias long before gestapo’s was established. Also, christians back then were eager to pact with all sorts of devils, as long as they came from anticommunist hell.

  34. Joseftstadter says:

    If you read contemporary accounts of the Nazis rise to power, like Sebastian Haffner or Victor Klemperer, what is striking is how quickly large segments of the educated German population went from finding Hitler risible in 1932 to basically shrugging their shoulders and going along with the program in 1933, and especially after the Reichstag fire. My take is that the constant fighting and jockeying for power during the Weimar era ended up breeding tremendous apathy towards politics and a large segment of the population was willing to trade some freedoms and moral qualms away for stability, even if it was Hitler.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Even before 1933, the Nazis had disproportionate support among the professional classes and especially among university students. Their support was probably younger than the average; the higher-ups in the Nazi leadership were very often youngish men. Hitler was 44-45 when he took power, which is pretty young for a national leader; Himmler and Goebbels were both young men; the leadership of the SS was primarily made up of men who were at most old enough to have served in WWI, or were part of the “war youth generation”.

  35. Ghillie Dhu says:

    Between my first & second passes through the comment section, 88 comments we posted; between the second & third, 14.

    Coincidence? I THINK NOT!

  36. eucalculia says:

    On the Freakonomics experiment (breaking up/changing jobs on a coin toss). I find it really hard to interpret because I can’t imagine being in a state of mind where I’d be willing to break up with someone based on the result of a coin toss (what a story for the grandchildren if the coin tells you to stay together!). In fact, I can’t really imagine any decision of that magnitude not being heavily overdetermined. Maybe I’m unusual?

    • dick says:

      Yeah, I’d be curious how many people saw the coin flip and said, “Eh, I just realized I want out of the experiment.” It could be that people who wanted to make a move but needed a little push are more likely to honor the outcome of the coin flip.

      • Matt M says:

        Also worth noting that decisions to preserve the status quo must be continually made.

        If the coin flip says “Don’t quit your job,” you can always wait and quit tomorrow instead. Or flip another coin tomorrow. Presumably the one flip doesn’t bind you to your job/girlfriend for eternity.

      • Simon_Jester says:

        There’s an old, uh… I’m going to call it a heuristic… for making difficult decisions where you find yourself ambivalently balanced between two options.

        If you truly can’t decide on a binary question, you flip a coin. If you have no problem living with the outcome, it’s what you wanted, so go for it.

        If you DO find yourself having reservations with the outcome, then you subconsciously wanted the opposite and were having trouble admitting it to yourself. So do the opposite.

        The bare fact that an external decision-making process, even a random one, has directed you to a certain course of action… It can help you firm up in your own mind how you feel about the action. So the existence of the external stimulus can, yes, do a lot to precipitate these things, literally bring them out of their invisible state of being ‘dissolved’ in the mind.

        • This reminds me of a story supposedly from the Civil War. General Grant congratulates one of his officers on a successful attack. The officer explains that he wasn’t sure whether to attack or retreat, so flipped a coin. Grant expresses surprise that the decision was made on a coin flip.

          “Don’t be upset, general. I disobeyed the coin.”

        • aphyer says:

          I heard it as a poem, I think by Piet Hein:

          Whenever you’re called on to make up your mind
          And you’re hampered by not having any,
          The best way to solve your dilemma, you’ll find,
          Is simply by spinning a penny.

          No, not so that chance will decide the affair
          While you’re passively standing there moping;
          But the moment the penny is up in the air,
          You suddenly know what you’re hoping.

    • herculesorion says:

      I find it really hard to interpret because I can’t imagine being in a state of mind where I’d be willing to break up with someone based on the result of a coin toss

      I think that’s the point of the thing; that if you are in that state of mind then you’ve already broken up with the person and you just haven’t worked up the nerve to move out yet.

      • Simon_Jester says:

        Yeah.

        If you ever find yourself thinking about your significant other “if the coin toss says ‘heads’ I am leaving whether they want me to or not,” or for that matter, “I KNOW they want me to leave, and on ‘heads’ I stop asking them to reconsider…” You’ve already reached the point where it’s over.

  37. rjmason says:

    This all happened about 5-10 years ago, and I wonder if it could still happen today.

    As I get older (now mid-to-late-40s) and time subjectively seems to pass faster and faster, formulations like, “This all happened 5-10 years ago, I wonder if it could happen today,” seem increasingly ludicrous. Five years ago seems like barely before breakfast.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Me, too.

      I remember counting it out on my fingers because I had trouble believing that the sixties were fifty years ago.

      I blame humans having random access memory. You pull up a memory, and it doesn’t come with a feeling of duration.

    • Randy M says:

      When I was young, the days of the week had names like “Monday”, “Tuesday”, “Wednesday” etc.
      Now it seems like the days of the week have names like “New Years” “Valentines” “Easter” etc.

  38. alcoraiden says:

    I like the coin-flip test as a way to piss or get off the pot. Flip a coin. If you’re suddenly angry with the result, do the other thing. If you’re relieved, do the first thing. But as for “just do the risky thing,” I imagine this is not going to be the same for people who have an extreme bias towards one side or the other. Some people are commit-o-phobes and might be short-term happier with breaking up, but will realize in 10-20 years that they have no partner and actually hate it. Some people might be risk lovers and need to rein themselves in. Etc. Also, how is “quit drinking” considered a “not important” decision?

    About the smiling thing: everyone who has ever been depressed already knew “make yourself smile” is the most bullshit ineffective piece of advice ever. Glad science caught up with us.

  39. slapdashbr says:

    A thought on the Overcoming Bias piece: firms that are dominating their industries seem to be acting not just in ways to increase efficiency through scale (better “backroom IT” which I think is a rather modest description of what we should probably simply call “better execution of core business” as I don’t think it’s simply the effective use of internally-developed software); they are doing everything possible to *avoid competition*. Like every tech company supporting open-source, in a way that encourages their customers to buy their specific product and use freeware for everything else. Global Foundries just quit its efforts to develop their 7nm node; instead they are going to focus on more specialized applications of their current fab technology. They’re not trying to compete, they’re trying to find a market to dominate with monopoly power. Competition drives down profit margins (and consumer prices). Modern capitalists understand this and avoid competition whenever possible.

    OTOH, individuals and smaller firms *must* compete. Wages aren’t keeping up with productivity, increases in productivity are going almost entirely to higher profits for shareholders, because the labor market *is* competitive.

    • dick says:

      “backroom IT” which I think is a rather modest description of what we should probably simply call “better execution of core business”

      I thought it was too inside-baseball to get much discussion here, but I essentially agree – the paper talks about “backroom IT” as if it were equivalent to off-the-shelf software except developed internally, which is just so wrong as to betray a lack of familiarity with how internal software is made and used. Further, I don’t really buy the idea that scale is a big factor here – the idea that software organizations get better with size is dubious at best. If BigCo can build their own internal software for managing the warehouse and SmallCo has to use some other off-the-shelf solution, and BigCo’s is better, the obvious reason is probably because BigCo’s internally-developed software is specifically designed for BigCo while SmallCo’s solution is more generic and required more integration. Separately, the paper’s proposal to require big companies to license or sell or open up their internal software sounds half-baked, for the reasons brought up in the comments.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        half-baked

        More like completely baked, in the 420 sense.

        I say this as someone who has built and maintained “custom back end” software for organizations for the 25+ years. One of the more painful projects I ever did was taking the custom software that had been created for one electric utility and bringing it up at a second electric utility, and that was working side-by-side with some of the people who made it for the first utility.

        • Matt M says:

          Agree with both of you.

          The reason that McDonalds’s internal software is “better” than Joe’s Hamburger Stand isn’t because McDonalds is richer and can afford fancier software – it’s because they made software specific to the needs of McDonalds (and therefore, software that is NOT specific to the needs of Joe’s Hamburger Stand).

          Even if you forcibly required McDonalds to give the software to Joe for free, it seems non-obvious that this would actually make Joe better off…

          • dick says:

            Even if you forcibly required McDonalds to give the software to Joe for free, it seems non-obvious that this would actually make Joe better off…

            The issue is not that it might not help Joe so much as that it’s just not possible or reasonable to do. Internal software has a lot of baked-in assumptions about things specific to the company that built it, which make it useless to anyone else without a ton of work; if Joe tries to use McDonald’s burger-franchise-running software, he’s going to find that he can’t log in to it because he’s not a valid user on the MCD_INTERNAL domain, and once he routes around that he’ll find that he can’t run reports because MCD_PRINTER isn’t found, etc etc. The paper (according to this article anyway, I didn’t read it) tries to handwave around this by saying that modular software is a good design pattern, but that would only be persuasive to someone who’s only slightly familiar with the kinds of software we’re talking about.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        – the paper talks about “backroom IT” as if it were equivalent to off-the-shelf software except developed internally

        Obligatory “I did not read the paper.” Did the paper actually say that? The single quote in the blog post says the exact opposite: convergence cannot be expected because backoffice IT is not easily exportable. The blog poster says he isn’t convinced of that and explicitly asked for feedback. Per his update, he updated his priors to “it’s really difficult to export backoffice IT to a non-native environment.”

        Regarding scale: it’s not that scale causes good backoffice IT, it’s that good backoffice IT causes scale (within markets). Backoffice IT requires a large initial investment, is hard to copy, and has a great deal of path dependence. That means that once you have a competitive advantage in backoffice IT, it’s hard for anyone else to imitate it, which means your competitive advantage is now sustainable, and you will grow to dominate market share over time.

        • dick says:

          Did the paper actually say that? The single quote in the blog post says the exact opposite

          That quote was from a WSJ article, not the policy paper (in your defense, the OB didn’t make that very clear), but now that I look, it does seem like I misinterpreted things somewhat; in context, I think the paper only discussed compulsory licensing for patents, not software, and Robin Hanson’s reference to licensing software (“firms could be forced to lease their backroom IT to other firms in the same industry at regulated prices”) is either him misunderstanding the paper, or just him floating his own idea. (Which was then rightly shot down by his commenters).

          Backoffice IT requires a large initial investment, is hard to copy, and has a great deal of path dependence. That means that once you have a competitive advantage in backoffice IT, it’s hard for anyone else to imitate it, which means your competitive advantage is now sustainable, and you will grow to dominate market share over time.

          That’s a plausible-sounding story, but there are equally plausible-sounding stories in the other direction. Try this on for size: “When a company decides to develop software internally they are pinning their hopes on a single team, but if they go third-party they can choose from multiple teams competing with each other.” Or, “Internal software teams are treated as cost centers, and usually cannot offer the kinds of salaries that pure software companies can offer.” Or, “Internal software allows companies to hard-code assumptions about their business model which can become technical debt when their model changes, by making it harder to adapt to new markets.” My point is not that this is right, just that this is too squishy a topic to have a firm opinion on without data.

  40. Mark Dominus says:

    I didn’t even have to go as conceptual as “a woman with the correct number of eyes’. I asked for ‘purple hat’ and got a work of abstract surrealism in which I could discern nothing that was either purple or hatlike.

    It was a quite spectacular failure.

    (Addendum: it seems I captured the wrong picture. Incredibly, the actual purple hat one was an even more spectacular failure than the one I linked above.)

    I wonder if the intent of the project has been misunderstood, and was never intended to figure out what you asked for and then to depict that thing. Perhaps it is actually an attempt to generate random abstract art using your input as a seed.

    Although that’s what it seems to be, whether or not it was intended that way.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      At a guess, it probably has more to do with the set of images and descriptions it has been trained on, which was probably very large in total but very small, relative to the problem space.

      • dick says:

        Yeah, this seems like “if you write a half-assed neural network and train it on unsuitable images, then it will make kind of arbitrary garbagey-looking output” which does not really qualify as news to me.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Well, I’m not clear that we can currently make a “fully-assed” neural network for this problem space. Not one that returns answers before the heat death of the universe.

          I could be wrong about that, neural networks aren’t my bag, but my sense is that the work well as specialists, not generalists.

        • JulieK says:

          Google images had no trouble giving me a picture of a purple hat.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Google images had no problem presenting you with a number of images tagged by humans with the phrase purple hat, most of which are commercial in nature.

            I suppose it would be theoretically possible to try and train your neural network on the fly using google images as input. But, it’s not clear to me that this isn’t cheating.

          • AG says:

            How is it cheating? Aren’t the training sets currently used basically a set of images that have been tagged by a human as something? “These pictures are of cats.” Using Google Images just means using the labor that online people have already put into tagging.
            (Besides which, I’m pretty sure a lot of the people putting together training sets are basically running Image Search scrape programs)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @AG:
            Because it doesn’t understand purple or hat then. It only understands “purple hat” as something completely distinct from “yellow hat” and “straw hat”.

            If you then ask it for “purple straw hat” it will then have to train itself on that phrase.

            And then when you ask it for “Jay Z wearing a purple straw hat with Beyonce in a white dress” you will get this .

          • AG says:

            Yes, and how is this different from how neural networks are currently trained?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @AG:
            My sense is that training a neural network on an inadequate/wrong set of reference images is understood to be a problem, and non-trivial.

  41. Ezra says:

    “Why the brain should have waves in it at all”? Well we can model the brain as a control system (as you’ve written before), and intuitively I expect any control system to have waves as the inputs and outputs attempt to converge on a level. Unless this is a different sense of wave?

  42. AnarchyDice says:

    I was thinking about possible explanations for the birth-order effect, perhaps higher IQ first borns make it more likely for the parents to have a second or more children. This would presumably come from a higher IQ kid being slightly more pleasant on the margins. You might think that a second or third child would be more likely to be high IQ as well, but here is my thought:

    If we normalize around the range of possible IQ’s a given couple could create, each child is randomly picked from that range, and higher IQ children are marginally more pleasant/less resource-intensive such that they increase the chance of more children. Then it stands to reason that first-borns would appear to have a higher average IQ. This would be an artifact from the fact that only children were randomly drawn from the lower end of the range of possible IQ’s and made it less likely that their parents had a child than they otherwise might have. Then, the later children are closer to the actual average of the available range. This theory would not explain why later children have much less difference between them though, perhaps parents with three or more kids have other things that are driving their marginal children having decisions than how easy the first and second were to raise?

    I have no idea what the number crunching would be, but how much less likely would parents have to be to have a second or third child based on the IQ of the first in order to explain the birth-order IQ effect? Could we compare and contrast with something like collicky-ness or some other factor that refers to ease-of-child-rearing?

    • WarOnReasons says:

      If your hypothesis is true the IQ difference between the first- and second-born child in the same family should rise with increasing age difference (since IQ manifests itself much stronger in older children). If my memory is correct the data shows the opposite trend.

  43. GringoenChile says:

    I’m surprised not more people are jumping on the connectome harmonics piece. This jives well with my experience with closed-eye visuals when meditating in darkness – I would be interested to know if others have the same “phosphene” experience with high periodicity under the same conditions.

    Similarly, the whole binaural beats shtick fits well within this framework

    A possible experiment could also involve measuring perception of time; a harmonic system seems like a natural candidate for internal clock.

  44. John Schilling says:

    but probably a sign of things to come as more and more private citizens become capable of building their own assassination drones.

    Nope. Very few private citizens are capable of building their own assassination drones, and I’m pretty sure that number is slowly declining.

    Lots of people, including the Venezuelan assassins in question, are capable of adding an explosive charge or other weapon to a commercially-purchased drone. That’s not the same as “building their own”. in ways that will be increasingly significant as police forces and intelligence agencies adapt to drone threats. Commercial drones use commercial, insecure control channels that governments can subvert or shut down at will. And in a decade, commercial drones will all explicitly broadcast a police-only side channel saying “I am a drone owned by [X], and have been specifically instructed to fly path [Y], if any police force has a problem with that, let me know and I’ll stop”.

    People who genuinely can build their own drones, including the part where they write the control software, may have capabilities, but there may not be enough of them to provide a useful degree of anonymity.

    • Mark Atwood says:

      John, what did you think of the “Slaughterbots” hypothetical? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slaughterbots

      As soon as I saw that video, it gave me nightmares. It still does.

      It does because…, because every piece of tech demonstrated in that video, I’ve seen shown in demo, usually in person. Much of that tech is now in production or is now in late lab stage, just not all together in one piece.

      A swarm that that video demonstrates doesn’t need to navigate in the open skies or along public rights of way, and so won’t get caught for failing to respond on public safety control signals. A crate of them could be delivered to a target region via ground shipping, and then….

      • John Schilling says:

        just not all together in one piece.

        Right, because systems engineering, integration, and test is the easy part of weapons system development.

        I expect this will work about as well as the master action plan where a doomsday cult with thousands of members including Ph.D. chemists, hundreds of millions of dollars, professional laboratory facilities, and near-immunity from police scrutiny decided to synthesize some nerve gas using well-known production processes and conduct a mass-casualty terrorist attack. A thousand petty stupid problems between theory and implementation will substantially degrade the results of the first major attack and leave enough of a footprint that there won’t be a second.

        • Dan L says:

          Emphatically seconded.

        • Mark Atwood says:

          Building a 100g drone fitted out with an off the shelf camera and an off the shelf processor running off the shelf open source flight control software and off the shelf machine vision and facial recognition software or SoC is a lot easier then synthesizing a test tube of nerve agent, and a lot less dangerous, and doesn’t require any regulated precursors.

          Building a hundred of them just requires some time.

          *I’ve* done the electronics design, swdev, and systems integration and then personally hand assembled and soldered together 100s of small integrated pieces of electronics toytech that are physically more complicated than these would be. And I’m just barely capable. There are lots of people much better than I at it.

          It just took a few weeks, a lot of tea, and a good high energy EDM audio stream.

          The only thing in this scenario that is not an off the shelf part now is the cheap on-board programmable machine vision processor, and that will be a $25 catalog part within the next two years. The other limiting factor is what we have now in that form factor is only good for a dozen minutes of flight time, but for many scenarios, that’s enough.

          Yeah, it would take a nationstate level someone to build and deploy tens of millions of these. And nobody is going to use this “to kill half a city”. But, there are other actors, and other motivations, and this tool opens up new action paths.

          The way that society deals with this may just have to be it will leave behind a lot of forensic evidence to trace it back to whodunit. But… that may not be enough.

          • bean says:

            Sorry. John’s right on this one. I’ve previously shared a story about how a minor and entirely defensible software decision on one platform nearly caused serious problems when it was ported to another. That was at one of the world’s largest aerospace companies. I’ve been doing similar work for a year. In that time, I’ve seen several cases of equally silly decisions. The idea that someone in their basement could find and fix all of the bugs in an off-the-shelf implementation of something like that is rather silly.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Mark Atwood
            I think you’ll find that co-operative, purposeful behavior is going to be far more difficult than having a single drone do something. Just flocking is doable, but having the drones realize they need to sacrifice a few to blow a hole in something, or to execute a search pattern… I’m sure militaries are working on it, but it’s not hobbyist basement tech. A simple “go here, set off explosives” is, however.

          • Murphy says:

            @bean

            I don’t think “the military struggled with this hence normal people would fail” is a good argument.

            Various militaries have completely failed projects (though some succeed) to create their own Operating Systems yet the worlds geeks have built many that you can download for free along with decades of debugging and features that are non-trivial to break into.

            there’s a large enough community around normal drones that there’s lots of existing software.

            There are literally already drones getting grenades mounted on them and flown at enemy soldiers. They’re crude but the people doing it don’t spend their lives in development hell.

          • bean says:

            Various militaries have completely failed projects (though some succeed) to create their own Operating Systems yet the worlds geeks have built many that you can download for free along with decades of debugging and features that are non-trivial to break into.

            Sorry, but I’m going to call selection bias. When a military sets out to build an OS, it sets out big. There are flag officers giving briefings, thousands of slide decks, and big contracts. When a geek starts to build an OS in his basement, he just does it. So you’ve heard about every single military OS, successful or failed, while you’ve only heard about the basement OSs that worked or that failed close enough to you to be noted. I’d guess that the military success rate is higher if we could correct for the “publication bias”. As proof, I’d note the GNU HURD kernel, which is high-profile enough that I’ve heard of it, ended up in development hell. There’s nothing magical about doing something in a basement that makes it easier than doing it as part of a large, well-resourced team. You spend less time in meetings, but you don’t have peers to work with.

          • Controls Freak says:

            I’m going to register my disagreement with the standard military experts here, though I think that disagreement is perhaps somewhat mild, because the key question is what exactly you expect the system to do. I’ll assume the constraint as John put it:

            Commercial drones use commercial, insecure control channels that governments can subvert or shut down at will.

            That is, no human control. No GPS data. Not even a magnetometer. Purely passive and internal stuff (cameras/IMUs are a go). Starting from the fact that by “drone”, most people mean “quadrotor”, it’s important to understand that quadrotors are extremely simple to control. Mark Atwood is right that there is open source software that can be run on simple, commercially-available processors which will do the basic operation of a quad with almost no effort (by this, I mean that I would expect a bachelor’s-level student to be able to mostly just do it, and it’s within easy reach of a hobbyist).

            The harder question is, “Where do you want it to go?” This is vitally important if your mission is to assassinate a particular person. Generally, the way you assassinate someone is that you know the place he’ll be at a particular time, and you set up to get him there. Easy Mode is, “I know Politician X is going to be at Location Y at Time Z giving a scheduled speech.” Ok, how are you going to get to Location Y? GPS is out. The effort level required to actually acquire a usable map and then code software to exploit this map via simple camera input is difficult enough that I’ll put it out of range of most of the folks we’re talking about. (If I were writing a proposal for doing it, I’d estimate the time of 3-4 people of my choosing for 9-18mo, supposing I could get liberal GEOINT from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. Primary concerns to delay actually fielding it would be rules/lawyers, including the effort required to make it deniable (ensuring GEOINT data is unrecoverable, etc.). That’s a barrier of the type John was talking about concerning anonymity.)

            If you don’t need to get to a particular Location Y or a particular person, then I think John is wrong to dismiss Mark’s concern about (weak) slaughterbots. If your intended behavior is, “Fly more or less in a straight line until your Person Detection algorithm gets a hit, then close in on that person and detonate,” I think it’s extremely doable. I think a hobbyist who spends enough time with open information (and existing open source projects) from the machine learning community will be able to construct a ‘good enough’ Person Detector. The terminal trajectory planning requires a bit of work (but not too much; there’s a bit of secret sauce here to make it highly-reliable, but I’m not going to discuss that openly). I don’t think Thompson’s Law is a knockdown counterargument, because the control algorithms are going to be extremely simple, and you are going to use Google’s new Edge TPU for executing your Person Detection algorithm, right? (This new product has restricted enough capabilities that it’s going to be damn near impossible to sabotage in the way John supposes commercial drones running proprietary software will be vulnerable.) Not really sure how interested anyone is in this type of capability, though. You can send them in kind of random directions, but you need to do the initial setup/release of them, and that’s likely to run into those anonymity concerns again if you want to kill more than ones of people.

            Actually identifying individual people – much more difficult… especially since you’re mostly flying ‘blind’, just looking for anyone. But if you’re fine just getting anyone who happens to be in your random flight path, you can probably do it. (I’d say that you could make a mobile sentry system that does this better, but collision-avoidance in the air is pretty off-the-shelf, while actually navigating terrain is a bit more difficult.) If GPS is deniable, don’t expect amateurs to be able to have a group of vehicles reasonably-intelligently searching even an open space for a particular subset of individuals in a targeted attack.

            Nybbler is totally right that cooperatively blowing holes in things in order to execute well-planned search patterns is an entirely massive jump up, and I’d probably laugh at any proposal along these lines that came across my desk unless it was for an extremely specific operation.

          • bean says:

            @Controls Freak

            I’m not going to disagree that “fly in a straight line until you see a person, then kill them” is fairly easy to make a drone do. But that’s very different from “fly through this building, potentially of unknown design, and then kill a specific person”. And if you just want to kill random people, what’s wrong with using a rifle?

          • John Schilling says:

            Building a 100g drone fitted out with an off the shelf camera and an off the shelf processor running off the shelf open source flight control software and off the shelf machine vision and facial recognition software or SoC is a lot easier then synthesizing a test tube of nerve agent

            For you it is, but the Ph.D. Chemist would disagree. As noted in the linked article, Aum Shinrikyo was able to produce test-tube quantities of Sarin within a month of establishing their laboratory.

            And then spent the next two years stumbling incessantly when it came to scaling up production, developing and testing dispersal techniques, and the other details of actually deploying a useful weapon, ultimately killing no more people than they could have managed with a good sword. CNAS has some detail, but not too much, on what sort of difficulties they encountered.

            And I’d prefer to avoid discussing exactly what sort of difficulties you’re going to encounter deploying large numbers of operationally useful slaughterbots, but they are numerous. Building a prototype that works once is the easy part. Killing one random person on a city street, or two or three or five, sure. See Controls Freak on that. Killing 8,300 people, or killing specific people, or killing people who hide indoors, or continuing to kill people in repeated attacks after the military and police coordinate on countermeasures, no, you’re just going to wind up on death row wondering why your elegant plan for technological terror only left five people dead.

            Stick with rifles, or bombs.

          • Controls Freak says:

            that’s very different from “fly through this building, potentially of unknown design, and then kill a specific person”.

            Yep. That’s still a few years off, even for military folks. Most of the pieces have been demonstrated, but there are too many problems with buildings, in particular. DARPA’s Fast Lightweight Autonomy is a good public program that likes to show off their work, if you’d like a reference for the SoA. They can go through a building pretty quickly, mapping on the fly, but their solution for closed doors is “turn around” (they assume there’s always an open door into the building and an open door out), and adding these capabilities is going to increase the anonymity/Thompson’s Law concerns even further.

            if you just want to kill random people, what’s wrong with using a rifle?

            I have the terrorist model in mind, and what you get is standoff distance, which could help with the anonymity problem. You could even have it fly at altitude for a while before coming back down to acquire a target. Easy to do and can help obscure your location.

            In sum, I think killbots that are just meant to terrorize folks are completely doable by amateurs right now, likely anonymously. Worse, it can be done in a way that can’t be prevented by our standard cUAS techniques, because we’re intentionally avoiding jammable sensors/comms (even if you pulled them off of helicopters, current DIRCM likely isn’t up to snuff without techniques to detect/target these small vehicles (and any real advances anyone is making on this problem is deeeeeply classified at the current moment in history)). The “stadium full of people” scenario is incredibly vulnerable, even with what is currently being deployed. It’s sensible to be afraid that this is coming (possibly soon), even if it would still take significantly more effort to pull off a high-profile political assassination against a foe as competent as the folks protecting most heads of state.

            (And FTR, even with all these caveats, when I saw the video in Venezuela, I knew immediately that it wasn’t us who did it. We wouldn’t have missed that badly. It’s honestly like they didn’t even try.)

            EDIT: Of course, as your target gets less important, it’s less likely that he/she will be followed around by GPS/comms jammers/interceptors, but then other factors come into play (how strict their time/location schedule is, other methods also get easier, etc.). Trying on-the-fly identification is definitely going to be a huge sticking point, so you’re likely to want an independent means of giving yourself a target location.

          • INH5 says:

            I have the terrorist model in mind, and what you get is standoff distance, which could help with the anonymity problem.

            I think the Beltway snipers demonstrate that when properly used a rifle offers more than enough standoff distance and anonymity for random spree killings. I would guess that following their playbook except for the dumb mistakes that got them caught would give terrorists a far better ROI than drone attacks.

          • Controls Freak says:

            Eh, we’ve developed much better tech to fix that problem, and it’s been pretty solidly deployed in a lot of areas. Current observability of these small vehicles is pretty bad, and given that most uses of them are entirely benign, it’s unlikely that we’re going to ban them or seriously go after every quad in the air. Coupled with the fact that you can implement a simple timed delay, the person deploying it can be long gone before it pops up on anyone’s radar as a threat. These problems aren’t impossible to work through on the investigation side of things, but they’re a lot more difficult than “dude with a rifle”.

          • INH5 says:

            Eh, we’ve developed much better tech to fix that problem, and it’s been pretty solidly deployed in a lot of areas.

            It isn’t hard to think of plausible ways to avoid being picked up by gunshot detectors for far less cost and effort per attack than rigging up drones as weapons.

            But I’m not sure that matters, because if I’m reading the Wikipedia article right, most of the victims of the Beltway snipers weren’t anywhere resembling a major urban area when they were attacked. You’d have to cover a large portion of the land area of the United States with those sensors, and that would get expensive…

          • The Nybbler says:

            Gunfire locators wouldn’t have worked for the Beltway sniper because even if you located the gunshot, they’d be gone, in the nondescript sedan they were shooting from, by the time you arrived.

            Pretty much any strategy for high-profile murder you repeat often enough is going to get you caught; if law enforcement can concentrate its resources on you, you’re probably going to lose; either you’re going to make a mistake or just get unlucky. But that’s different than them having some sort of general way of preventing it.

          • Controls Freak says:

            Microphones are cheap. DC is surprisingly big, anyway.

            They’re able to provide a location within only a few seconds. That type of correlated information makes it much easier to combine sources of intelligence after the fact. Still might not catch them the first time, but you’re more likely to be able to narrow down which nondescript sedan it is that is relevant more quickly.

            And agreed that any repeated murder is likely to get you caught eventually. But the location-obscuring nature of dropping off a quad somewhere and letting it go off to attack someone reasonably far away is a non-trivial means by which one could hinder traditional investigative means. More importantly, for the sake of the original question, it’s really easily within the grasp of a simple hobbyist.

      • Murphy says:

        That was an interesting watch.

        Though i’d argue that the systems outlined are overly complex. Also, restricted materials like explosives.

        There’s already systems to stamp out lots of very very cheap very very small drones.

        But complexity is hard, complexity adds points of failure.

        Autonomous systems work best when they have really really simple programming. Find dark places, head towards the light, head directly towards the strongest source of radio waves on frequency X, head in the direction with the highest concentration of X. Robots like that get used for teaching kids the basics of robotics.

        now…

        https://www.fastcompany.com/1672143/harvard-develops-micro-drones-based-on-origami

        So some nutter who wants to watch the world burn makes a few 10’s of thousands of nano-drones, some with detectors for different flammable gasses, some programmed to just head for warm/dry places etc.

        Then drives round a city releasing them at 2am.

        At the appointed minute the drones self-immolate and thousands upon of fires start at once across an entire city, every tiny gas leak and many little warm dry corners.

        Funny thing about fire: if there’s enough of it it starts to create it’s own weather, firestorms that can create a wall of flames spreading faster than a car can drive on the open road.

        I find that scarier. Complex systems have more points of failure to attack.

      • INH5 says:

        There’s a good critique of that video here, and I think that the strongest point there is that microdrones like the ones shown in the video could be easily defeated by chicken wire.

        And if you think that protecting entire cities with chicken wire screens would be too expensive or difficult, it empirically is not. I grew up in a city where most household windows, many exterior doors, and even a fair number of porches have metal screens to keep out mosquitoes. Presumably screens to keep out drones that are many times larger than mosquitoes would be significantly less expensive, even if you had to have multiple layers.

    • The Nybbler says:

      People who genuinely can build their own drones, including the part where they write the control software, may have capabilities, but there may not be enough of them to provide a useful degree of anonymity.

      Uh, yeah, I have some bad news for you.

      • John Schilling says:

        Right, because you can always trust that software you downloaded from some hobbyist on the internet will be suitable for your extreme niche use case, and that it will have been carefully vetted for potential security exploits that your enemies might use against you.

        If your threat environment is the one that comes with trying to assassinate government officials, then Thompson’s Law applies – or close to it, way closer than “It’s open source, so The Man can’t shut it down!”

        • The Nybbler says:

          Right, because you can always trust that software you downloaded from some hobbyist on the internet will be suitable for your extreme niche use case, and that it will have been carefully vetted for potential security exploits that your enemies might use against you.

          It’s not a niche use case; it’s a common use case for the software — “Navigate to this point, then activate this output”. That the output goes to a detonator rather than a light or a camera, well, the software doesn’t actually need to know that. The enemy isn’t going to have any access to the software to send a kill signal, even if one is embedded. It doesn’t even need to have an active radio on the final flight. For now, they could jam the GPS if they catch on in time, but I suspect non-GPS navigation will become more common in the future.

    • Jaskologist says:

      I think you’re overstating the difficulty here. I think this is, or soon will be, in about the same ballpark as building an IED. It’s not for everybody, sure, but there are more than enough engineers around with the capabilty (and aren’t engineers especially prone to terrorism anyway?) And I bet they have an advantage in the R&D department over IEDs, because a drone can potentially carry a lot of death-dealing contraptions (poisons darts, pistols, very small rocks) which have much less potential to blow up in the experimenter’s face.

      These people will absolutely have the skill needed to cut out whatever circuit broadcasts a side-channel and solder the rest back together. They won’t be able to mass-produce them, but they’d be able to produce enough for some targeted assassinations, or an ongoing insurgency.

      • sfoil says:

        A drone with that can fly at 200mph for about two miles with an ECM-proof control channel and a ~6lb high explosive payload has been available for the high hundreds to low thousands of dollars for over fifty years now and I don’t know of a single assassination that has ever even been attempted with it.

        Target identification is a far from trivial problem. Even if you have a foolproof error-free multispectrum image of your target, you still have to know where they are and when they are there. You imagine releasing your killbot and then it explodes next to that guy you don’t like: what happened in between? If you imagined that you had to “move into position” to release your bot, how did you know where to go? Would it have been easier or harder for you to just shoot him? How about a land mine?

        If I just want to kill a classroom full of people at random like in that video, $600 gets me an autoloading rifle and 200 rounds of ammunition, right now. It also probably gets me a more than a couple of claymores and a timer or other sensor (since everyone assumes that they can readily access explosives for their killbot) if I don’t want to be present when the killing occurs.

        • Murphy says:

          I think the gimmick in the video was the facial recognition thing. Load a thousand facial profiles in and you can pick off the people who were at a particular protest while leaving everyone else unharmed as a show of force and to scare others into never making waves.

          My gut feeling is that if drones like this became a major threat we’d just start seeing lots of string-doorways and similar things that are a pain in the hole for drones to navigate without getting tangled up.

          There are already systems that can recognize mosquitoes in flight from the frequency of their wing beats and zap them out of the air.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fH_x3kpG8Z4

          If micro-drones became a common threat then we’d just see neighbourhoods with anti-drone systems that can burn any drone without an authorized/signed tag.

          Or if the drones are really that cheap just boxes full of drones programmed to fly at other drones and spew really fine thread. even if they tangle themselves up the locals can just salvage their drones later and cut the thread off.

  45. Gerry Quinn says:

    I tried the AI artist, but it seems to have come under the influence of the abstractionists. ‘Dog with sausages’ was no more recognisable than ‘Green dreams sleep furiously’

  46. Deiseach says:

    Looking at St Homobonus, congratulations Ethical Altruists, you now have a patron saint of your very own! Doesn’t this sound like “earning to give”? 🙂

    He was a merchant from Cremona, northern Italy. Born Omobono Tucenghi, he was a married layman who believed that God had allowed him to work in order that he would be able to support people living in a state of poverty.

    • Randy M says:

      Homo-bonus is very much a cabalistically utilitarian name, too–implying that all forms of value are interchangeable.

  47. ec429 says:

    Anxiously awaiting the day when Twitter decides that radio hams are all neo-nazis. You see, we have a bunch of codes, some of them numeric, that were devised because morse code is slow and compression is useful — and the abbreviation for “love and kisses” is 88.

  48. INH5 says:

    A study of the distribution of spatial intelligence around the world shows that it pretty much matches the distribution of regular intelligence around the world, with some surprises. East Asia does less overwhelmingly well than it does in a lot of regular intelligence tests. Countries with less gender equality have a higher male-female gap in spatial intelligence, which remember is the opposite pattern as they show in percent women seeking high-spatial-intelligence-requiring traditionally male jobs.

    Note that this was measured using a mobile phone game, so there are a number of potential sampling issues, especially when they try to correlate it with various statistics about the entire respective country. This is an issue I often see with large cross-cultural studies: they use convenience samples such as online polls or college student samples, then try to correlate their results with statistics about the general population of the countries without taking into account that, for example, a sample of Kenyan college students is almost certainly highly unrepresentative of the general population of Kenya, and seems likely to be unrepresentative in different ways than a sample of American college students is.

    I’m also pretty skeptical of the validity of the Global Gender Gap Index itself. The factors that go into it (see page 4 here) are a mix of things that seem reasonable (how many women vs men work or are educated) with much more questionable measures (life expectancy where women living longer makes a country “more equal,” and the gender balance of parliament which is highly susceptible to manipulation by quotas). The high GGGI rankings of Scandinavian countries over other European countries, for example, seems to be mostly due to their large percentage of women in national governments, which in turn seems to be mostly due to informal quotas, as they don’t score that much higher on the economic or education indexes.

    • Aapje says:

      much more questionable measures (life expectancy where women living longer makes a country “more equal…)

      What is interesting is that they don’t stack the deck by only using measures where women are worse off, which is the typical way in which people who operate on the premise that only discrimination against women exists, express their bias.

      Instead, they simply declare that women should live at least 6% longer than men, so if women don’t live this much longer, then there is a gender gap. This ignores the possibility that this gap may (partially) be discriminatory and/or culturally determined, rather than biological.

      This choice also undermines the presentation of their report as an objective measure of gender gaps, since they apparently consider some gaps to be non-gaps when the gap is what the authors think it should be. So here we get into newspeak territory, where words get redefined into their opposite: a 6% gap in life expectancy is not a gender gap, but a 0% gap is a gender gap.

      They are also inconsistent, because while they take a 6% life expectancy gap as a biological fact, they completely ignore the possibility that other gender gaps may have biological causes. So they stack the deck by assuming biological causes when doing otherwise would suggest the possibility that men are being discriminated against, but they assume cultural causes when doing otherwise would allow for the possibility that inequality is (partly) biological.

      They also use a cut-off in one direction for many of their measures, where any measurement where women do better than men is counted as 100% equality. This makes it impossible for them to conclude that men suffer from a gender gap to their disadvantage. To demonstrate how absurd this could work out, imagine the extreme scenario of a country that kills all its baby boys. According to the report, such a country would have no gender gap on gender equality, despite men living 80 years less than women. It would have no gender gap on education, despite no men being educated. Etc.

  49. christianschwalbach says:

    I do predict, somberly, that drone assasination attempts will trend upwards. As far as success rates go, that depends on counter-measures, and I am woefully ignorant on that topic. I predict that it will trend upwards in poorer nations with motivated anti government groups or individuals

  50. One Name May Hide Another says:

    What? 88 is some sort of Nazi symbol? Man, 8 is considered to be the luckiest number in the Chinese culture, and the more 8s the better. 88, in particular, is similar to 囍, which means double happiness. So, if you, for example, look at homes sold in predominantly Chinese-American neighborhoods, you’ll see transaction prices with multiple 8s. Many Chinese also like addresses or license plates with 8s.

    • 10240 says:

      Various East Asians like swastikas too, so this should not decrease our priors on it being a Nazi symbol.

  51. About the coin toss, you should also consider people’s tendency to justify past actions. Haven’t we all encountered the person who made what seems to us to be an obviously irrational decision, but who insists that they are happier having made it?

  52. arancaytar says:

    except for one participant. He performed the tracheostomy after three attempts in >5 min with a lot of patience and force.

    Ramming a blunt object into someone’s throat is probably even harder while they’re still alive, but after five minutes of oxygen loss that distinction might be moot.

  53. Ketil says:

    Here is some fact checking from back when Bernie Sanders and others claimed 18 school shootings, which I think illustrates some of the problems with these statistics. Not sure it is useful to try to generalize some of the statistics, but most “school shootings” seem just to be the combination of having many schools and much gun-related crime/suicides. Also interesting that while armed guards are the cause of some of the “school shootings”, they don’t seem to be effective at stopping them (although they might deter some potential perpetrators from trying, of course).

    https://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2018/feb/15/jeff-greenfield/mostly-false-18-us-school-shootings-so-far-2018-an/

    • Matt M says:

      Something that interests me re: armed guards is that school shooters often adopt a “nothing-to-lose” mindset where they don’t particularly fear death or arrest. None of them expect to “get away with it.”

      Compare this to other situations where we might think of armed guards being useful, to prevent bank robberies, to protect famous people, etc. In these situations, bank robbers plan on escaping. Professional assassins plan on escaping, etc. The perpetrators also have “something to lose” which means that the armed guard will not necessarily be expected to put their lives, literally, on the line.

      In the case of school shootings, we are asking low-paid, poorly-trained government employees to literally charge into a room with an unknown situation with an assailant with unknown weapons who is quite ready and willing to die. This seems a bit unreasonable to me. The fact that literal sheriffs are seemingly unwilling to do this speaks volumes. “Armed guards” definitely won’t, not on a government salary at least. Banks and celebrities might be able to afford the “you better be willing to die for us” premium but a public middle school definitely can’t.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        “Armed guards” definitely won’t, not on a government salary at least.

        Armed guards aren’t even government employees, and are compensated poorly in comparison to the government employees we do arm.

        Your broader point seems correct to me though.

      • grendelkhan says:

        Matt M: In the case of school shootings, we are asking low-paid, poorly-trained government employees to literally charge into a room with an unknown situation with an assailant with unknown weapons who is quite ready and willing to die.

        Something about this situation leads to this sort of thinking–if you’re ideologically opposed to restrictions on firearms, and yet you can’t come out and say that you accept a certain rate of dead toddlers per year, you wind up getting weird in the middle.

        Like the Sandy Hook false-flag theory, which posits a rapacious conspiracy which will stop at nothing, but which also ensured that no children died. (A Very Specific Level of Evil, for sure.)

        Proposing armed guards in every school is still less aggressively silly than Megan McArdle’s take at the time:

        I’d also like us to encourage people to gang rush shooters, rather than following their instincts to hide; if we drilled it into young people that the correct thing to do is for everyone to instantly run at the guy with the gun, these sorts of mass shootings would be less deadly, because even a guy with a very powerful weapon can be brought down by 8-12 unarmed bodies piling on him at once.

        She went on to calrify that she wasn’t proposing training classrooms of elementary-school children to perform banzai charges, only high-schoolers. Something about gun culture got weird after Newtown.

        • Thegnskald says:

          Part of the problem with Sandy Hook is that the way it was reported on was so poor that many people concluded, by the rapidly changing story, that somebody had forced the media to change the story. What makes this plausible is that the government was frequently getting up to exactly this kind of shit in living memory (albeit mostly in Cold War operations against other countries).

          As for the weirdness, a lot of us are clever enough to be able to figure out how to kill far more effectively than with guns. I think part of the disconnect is that us gun-culture people are acutely aware of the limitations of guns, whereas a lot of the people outside gun culture seem to deify them. Another part of the disconnect is that us clever people tend to forget the average person isn’t that clever. And then an additional layer to that disconnect is that cleverness only matters when you need to be creative; if guns are effectively removed from the population, the first clever person to find an effective method is going to popularize it, and you don’t need to be clever to copy something.

          Which means the first step you have to take is one the gun-culture people want anyways – change the way these things are reported on, so that you don’t give people ideas. Removing guns, only for the
          media to sensationalize the first (insert effective methodology here) to happen to give all the crazies a new – and almost certainly more effective – way to murder lots of people? You haven’t improved the situation.

          • JPNunez says:

            This is silly. It’s not like in countries with sensible gun control, high schoolers are orchestrating complex-yet-more-efficient ways of killing their fellow students.

            Not giving access to guns to troubled teens will stop those teens from going on murder rampages. End of story.

          • Thegnskald says:

            JPNunez –

            No, in countries with sensible gun control, they do the same thing they do here: They kill them with guns.

            Well, except the Spanish kid who used a crossbow and machete. Or the multiple kids who added Molotov cocktails to the mix.

          • JPNunez says:

            You will notice that that spanish kid is like the only attack on a spanish school in …dunno, seems like decades?, had only one dead victim, and the kid was stopped by a teacher.

            So, adjusting for population, Spain is coming out way ahead.

            Dunno what your point is. I am sure some americans would come in favor of adopting Spain’s gun control measures if this is the result.

            Besides, if you are so clever as to find better ways of killing, I am sure you could put your money where your mouth is, and sell this way to the american army. Turns out many attacks in America are done with weapons as-similar-as-legally-possible to the stuff American soldiers carry to actual war, so if you were actually right, you could leave American soldiers better armed.

            With, you know *checks notes* … crossbows and molotov cocktails? I’ll be waiting to buy stock of Gnskald Armaments Incorporated.

          • Thegnskald says:

            JPNunez –

            And puts it solidly behind North Dakota, Iowa, Wyoming, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Alaska, none of which have ever had school shootings.

          • JPNunez says:

            Dunno why you’d compare a whole country with a state. I mean, other regions of Spain -not even going to look it up- are tied with Alaska or whatever state.

            You are just flailing around now.

            edit: oh wait

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

            Ok so you are just straight up lying.

            Gonna drop this convo.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Nah, just lazy.

            https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/news/politics/wp/2018/02/14/eighteen-years-of-gun-violence-in-u-s-schools-mapped/

            Misread that.

            And the appropriate comparison would be either between states, or between the EU and the US as a whole. Comparing country-by-country results in a very skewed perspective, since larger numbers skew towards the mean, and the US as a whole is much larger than any one European country.

        • Matt M says:

          yet you can’t come out and say that you accept a certain rate of dead toddlers per year, you wind up getting weird in the middle.

          Agreed.

          While I don’t really believe armed guards would actually reduce school shootings in a meaningful way, I suppose a certain part of me supports it, to the extent that it might solve a different problem – the problem of placating left-wingers who are demanding gun control.

          If it’s taken as a given that something must be done, I’d rather support something ineffective that’s generally in-line with my values than something I believe would be both ineffective and antithetical to my values.

          Most right-leaning proposals to deal with school shootings strike me as essentially this.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            All of these proposals end up being weird and won’t look very effective if you study the statistics a little, I think, because in general, school shootings are so rare that they practically all look like outliers. There’s no pattern.

            …Well, there’s one pattern. It’s almost always a guy. But we probably all agree that just locking up all the guys is not practical. But (again), that’s the same class of solution everyone proposes. Lock up the mental cases. Lock up the loners. Lock up the ones who are mean to animals. Lock up the this. Lock up the that. But with any group of people we think of as risky, whatever test we devise to detect them is going to detect a lot more false positives.

            There’s a similar result with solutions like armed guards. At least there, no one’s rights are being overtly infringed. But if we posted a guard at every school, then for every shooting an armed guard prevents, there will be thousands of guards that aren’t doing anything but making students and teachers uncomfortable and drawing a salary until retirement.

            Which is not to say this is a net negative for everyone. If you lost your kid at a shooting, I would never expect you to simply shrug and say oh well, at least we saved on money and discomfort on several thousands of schools. But this is why I sort of think that (in general) governments should only act on statistics, and only individuals should be permitted to act on values.

      • John Schilling says:

        Something that interests me re: armed guards is that school shooters often adopt a “nothing-to-lose” mindset where they don’t particularly fear death or arrest. None of them expect to “get away with it.”

        They don’t expect to get away with it, but you seem to be implying that this turns them into ruthless unstoppable Terminators that need a SWAT team in full gear to put down. The observed reality is, it turns them into resigned depressed individuals who have one last, simple, stupid plan and tend to go crawl into a corner and die as soon as that plan meets any resistance.

        I don’t know of a school shooting where the killer made more than a token effort to engage police or armed security personnel before surrendering, fleeing, or committing suicide, and none where a policeman or armed security guard was killed. Even in the broader category of mass shootings, gun battles with security personnel are extremely rare and I think mostly associated with politically-motivated terrorists. Against school shooters, anyone armed and willing to engage will almost certainly end the threat and live to tell the tale.

        • Matt M says:

          I don’t disagree in general with your post. I would just say that.

          a. As a rule, they’re probably harder to put down than bank robbers (though certainly not impossible)

          b. They’re probably paid less and receive less training and status than the guards employed by banks (I’d also suggest that they probably have many more “other things” to do to occupy their time the 99.999999% of the time there is no threat, whereas I’d suspect bank guards are more ‘security-exclusive’ with their time)

          • John Schilling says:

            a. As a rule, they’re probably harder to put down than bank robbers (though certainly not impossible)

            Depends on exactly which bank robbers.

            The more common sort of bank robber, with a “give me all the money” note for the teller and maybe a pistol to back it up, is as much a pathetic loser as the school shooters, down to their very last stupid plan and not at all up for a shootout with the police. And, insofar as their stupid plan doesn’t require killing anyone, very little threat.

            The minority of bank robbers who reason that banks do in fact have serious money which can be obtained if their defenses can be overcome, that this is not a thing one man alone can do but they have friends with skills, is an entirely different order of threat. Still less deadly than the school shooters because they also don’t plan on killing anyone. But by the time they actually show up at a bank, they are motivated, disciplined men working as a team. Yes, their plan is to escape. If they encounter the police, the only way they can escape is by winning a car chase or winning a gunfight, and they know that, and they’ve factored it into the plan. You really do want a SWAT team to take on these guys.

            And banks mostly don’t bother to hire armed guards any more, because they don’t need them against the first kind of robber and can’t afford them against the second. It’s better all around to just let the robbers have what they came for and let the police take care of them later. With schools, the shooters are coming for blood and letting them take what they came for is not an acceptable response.

  54. JPNunez says:

    That paper on IT concentration should be shoved in the face of Nicholas Carr and his “IT doesn’t matter” article https://hbr.org/2003/05/it-doesnt-matter

  55. aesthesia says:

    With the very little I know about neuroscience and the somewhat more I know about harmonic functions on networks, I’m a bit skeptical of the “harmonic brain modes” framework. It seems like it falls into a bad habit of reasoning I’ve noticed in the research in network neuroscience I’ve been exposed to: Here’s a network we extracted from the brain somehow, and here’s a tool that mathematicians have developed to study networks. Let’s smash them together and say that we’ve discovered something about the brain! That is, there’s not a rigorous model behind the analysis, and the interpretation of the results goes way beyond anything the math actually justifies.

    Mathematically, as far as I can tell from the papers cited, they’re looking at the eigenfunctions of the discrete Laplace operator on the brain connectome (as extracted from diffusion MRI data–there are a lot of different things called the connectome). They give a dynamical model for the time evolution of this system, and because it’s somewhat related to the wave equation on the graph they study the dynamics in terms of the Laplacian eigenfunctions. This is somewhat reasonable, and actually pretty interesting. Maybe it’s a decent, if very rough, approximation to the actual dynamics of the brain. The claim that these eigenfunctions are natural resonant modes of the brain is sketchy, though, and as far as I can tell there’s not a lot of justification for taking the model much further.

    • Robert Jones says:

      I agree with this and add that Michael Johnson’s post seems to be pushing the idea much further than the original papers. If brains do have waves in the usual sense (and like Scott, I’m unclear on this), it would be surprising if harmonic analysis didn’t tell us something useful, but I don’t see that it provides a new paradigm for understanding the connection between mind and brain or anything like that.

    • johnsonmx says:

      Mike Johnson here. I think what you say is reasonable given the data we have so far; there are a lot of unknowns regarding how powerful this way of looking at the brain is, and what the actual implications are. I’m attempting to push the paradigm much further than Atasoy’s papers — if the article seems outlandish in some senses I hope the critique can be focused on my extrapolation rather than Atasoy’s basic claims (which I think are both novel and fairly self-evident).

  56. robotpliers says:

    “But then how did the Nazi Party get so much support so quickly?”

    A large part of it likely came down to jobs, heightened social prospects, and peer pressure. The Nazis famously cracked down on most urban/factory workers and depressed their wages, but people further removed from the centers of production–living in towns, villages, etc., being members of the petty bourgeois, and so on, and who tended to live in more economically depressed areas–were given opportunities for employment and entry to a new social network with exclusive perks (party members only!). Additionally, when someone’s boss joined the party, it was common enough for them to join too, so as to stay in the boss’ good graces. In short, the Nazi’s promised jobs in a depressed economy, provided social services to members, and were able to rely on hierarchical economic, family, and social structures to spread their influence.

    …And they got a lot of mileage from confiscating the property and land of Jews to redistribute it among the rest of the population. Think of the Nazi plan as taking an economically depressed, defeated country and creating an ethnically-focused economic boom through massive internal displacement of Jews and others, reallocation of their wealth, and a general expansion of material and social benefits, while simultaneously shifting to a full employment war economy and promising to go forth and own Europe and create a glorious new thousand year empire of peace and prosperity.

    For additional thoughts, see here: http://www.ethicsandculture.com/blog/2018/they-thought-they-were-free-a-review