THE JOYFUL REDUCTION OF UNCERTAINTY

Open Thread 110.25

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

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707 Responses to Open Thread 110.25

  1. DragonMilk says:

    So there’s the leaked Google video post 2016 election. For all that’s in there, one remark that struck me was when someone said MLK said, “history bends toward justice” and says he thinks it bends toward progress which leads ultimately to justice.

    The original context it seems, was, “Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

    1. Why do people assume there’s an arc, of history or of morality?
    2. What do people mean by progress?
    3. What do people mean by justice?

    • Plumber says:

      “1. Why do people assume there’s an arc, of history or of morality?”

      @DragonMilk,

      Either deeply held religious faith (which since I’ve never had that it is an opaque reason to me), or wishful thinking. 
      “2. What do people mean by progress?”

      Change for the better.

      “3. What do people mean by justice?”

      “Justice” is harder, let’s say good is rewarded, evil isn’t rewarded, and fate isn’t arbitrary.

    • Lambert says:

      People assume there’s an arc because there exist trends and cycles on longer timescales than the human lifetime.
      That, and apophenia.

    • ilikekittycat says:

      1. Martin Luther King Jr was a Marxist/socialist from a young age, and believed in the tendency of the rate of profit to fall/production crises to lead to exacerbations of class tensions in capitalism (leading inevitably to its overthrow.) He also believed in a conservative Baptist sense of everyone being judged by God, eventually. The intersection of these worldviews led to his conviction that white supremacy (both counterrevolutionary and evil) in America was doomed in favor of multiracial cooperation.

      2./3. Justice in the sense of every human recognizing every other human being has innate dignity, and progress being how far along we are at eliminating of the institutions and ideologies that prevent us from living together in harmony

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      What do people mean by justice?

      https://samzdat.com/2018/07/15/footnotes-1/

      Well now that all depends on how you care about things doesn’t it?

      Slightly less pithily, justice, as far as I can tell, is what we call the process by which a political/perceptual paradigm approaches stability (or at least meta-stability) and consistency (or at least meta-consistency), which may involve it fundamentally changing. While individuals may not agree on the stabilizability of particular paradigms, most people admit that justice can exist even in paradigms that they believe to be unstable when the principles that they identify as axiomatic for that system are sufficiently unviolated.

      Slightly less windbaggily, justice, as far as I can tell, is when a society tends to act in ways consistent with what that society broadly agrees are important fundamental principles.

    • The Nybbler says:

      1. Sitting where we are now, it certainly looks like there’s an arc of history. No matter how bad you think the world is, it’s easy to examine nearly all the past and see that it was worse. A longer and more detailed look shows that this is not some monotonic increase, but the overall trend seems pretty clear.

      2. Progress in that context is simply the world changing in a direction amenable to those claiming progress.

      3. Justice, as George Bernard Shaw probably never said, is the process in which I get mine and you get yours… good and hard.

      • DragonMilk says:

        1. How much of that is a privilege of circumstance, living comfortably in a developed part of the world? What if you were a girl in south east asia who paid a lot of money to go abroad to work and support your family only to be shipped off to Africa as a sex slave that got raped repeatedly to break you in? What if you are a boy who fled Myanmar as an orphan after your father and brothers were killed, sisters and mother raped? What if you are a man in sub-Saharan Africa whose family is in the process of dying of starvation and between warlords and aid workers expecting sex in return for food, you are about to die as your arm has just been hacked off in the latest raid? Or even in the US, if you were a girl from a working class family who is has been unemployed since the 90s, whose brother just died of an overdose, and pressured to join a gang?

        These are present day matters, to say nothing of the horrors of the 20th century (Holocaust, purges and famines of Stalinism/Maoism, getting nuked or napalmed).

        You hear that the well off are getting even better off, and tell you the increase isn’t monotonic, but eff the agricultural and industrial revolutions, you see no progress or justice in your own life or those around you.

        2. The prior point is to ask, progress toward what? What direction and why should we head there? The mantle of liberal individualism? Why would progress naturally result in justice? I’d say the priority would be to reduce injustice, which is nontrivial, which leads to point 3.

        3. A traditional view of doing justice is to stand up for the oppressed, the orphan, the widow, the refugee, and to not give or take bribes, as the poor cannot afford such a thing. Deal with others not from a consumer mindset (how do I benefit from this interaction?) but from a just and empathetic mindset (what is the spirit of what is right and fair, how would I behave if I were in this person’s situation?)

        Anyway, I bring up the initial point because it struck me as both the speaker being out of touch with the plight of so many people, and to take for granted some vague notion of a progress arc that somehow has justice more or less automatically accompanying it.

        • The number of extremely poor people in the world has fallen sharply over the last few decades, and calorie consumption per capita has trended up in the third world, at least for the past seventy years or so. So the improvement isn’t just for those of us living in the developed world.

          Measuring changes in justice is harder.

        • JDG1980 says:

          What if you were a girl in south east asia who paid a lot of money to go abroad to work and support your family only to be shipped off to Africa as a sex slave that got raped repeatedly to break you in? What if you are a boy who fled Myanmar as an orphan after your father and brothers were killed, sisters and mother raped? What if you are a man in sub-Saharan Africa whose family is in the process of dying of starvation and between warlords and aid workers expecting sex in return for food, you are about to die as your arm has just been hacked off in the latest raid? Or even in the US, if you were a girl from a working class family who is has been unemployed since the 90s, whose brother just died of an overdose, and pressured to join a gang?

          With the possible exception of the last example, all of the things you list here are evils that have been commonplace throughout human history. What has changed is that a sizable chunk of the world’s population, not just a small elite, now lives in societies which (however imperfect) are characterized by a level of prosperity, peace, and freedom unknown in previous eras.

  2. Tarpitz says:

    I am probably being a complete idiot, but how does one actually vote for ACC entries?

  3. Plumber says:

     I’ve been seeing a lot lately contrasting “The California model” with “The Texas model”, and that’s sparked me to question: If, for whatever reason, California and Texas were made independent nations (but with open borders with the United States, like E.U. countries are to each other), what would they do differently than what they do now?

    Off the top of my head, I imagine that Texas would ban abortion, but I can’t think of any other changes, and I’d hope that California would adopt Canadian labor law (or better yet German labor law!), but I doubt it. 

    I actually think not much would change for California or Texas, but I imagine the U.S.A. would  have a weaker military without those two big States.

    What do you think would be different? 

    • quanta413 says:

      I’d hope that California would adopt Canadian labor law (or better yet German labor law!)

      Wait, why would this make a difference? I don’t think California is similar enough to Germany or Canada. The number of illegal immigrants in the California labor force is pretty big, and I think means you can’t just move rules from Germany or Canada to California and expect the same results.

      • Plumber says:

        “Wait, why would this make a difference….?”/blockquote>

        @quanta413

        Just to make it easier to unionize, and it would be a hope, not an expectation as I couldn’t really think of much that would change for California hence my question.
        On some level almost half of the Nation seems to regard it as a big deal tradgedy every four to twelve years when a President from a different political party gets into office, but in thinking about it, in many ways the states already are self governing.

    • qwints says:

      Texas would be very different. Texas has a very small civil rights law compared to the federal regime, and it seems unlikely that an independent Texas would, for example, add a ban on public accommodation discrimination. Looking at recent Texas laws that have been declared unconstitutional – Texas would ban abortion, gay marriage, gay sex, sex toys, and publicly traded companies selling liquor. Looking at the Texas Republican Party platform, Texas would likely mandate prayer in schools and significantly increase religious observance in public spaces.

      • Anonymous Bosch says:

        Addition: TCEQ is one of the most toothless, captured regulatory agencies in existence, while our Supreme Court has damn near abolished class-actions, so I’d expect a *lot* more ambient pollution without the EPA or federal courts.

    • cassander says:

      By far, the largest share of federal government spending goes to entitlements. Without SS, medicare, most medicaid funding, and welfare/SNAP, something would get passed in their place. California’s programs would be a lot more expensive and socialized than Texas’.

      What military policy these new countries would pursue would probably depend substantially on the circumstances of their departure, but I think it’s also safe to say that, all else being equal, texas would end up spending more at least initially, though by a much smaller margin than California ended up spending on its welfare state.

    • Chalid says:

      I’d guess that CA would probably allow much more immigration, especially of the high-skilled kind.

      • John Schilling says:

        High-skilled immigrants are an economic threat to millions of existing high-skill workers in CA, and a boon to tens of thousands of businessmen – mostly unsympathetic businessmen like techbro VCs. Plus, they’re almost all white and thus privileged(*) and don’t need CA’s help. Low-skill immigrants threaten no major California interest groups or voting blocs, benefit a broader spectrum of employers, and are already a sympathetic cause célèbre among the people who are going to be running an independent California.

        More immigration, yes, but not especially of the high-skilled kind. The question is what sort of clever scheme they’ll come up with to discourage that sort of thing, while keeping the appearance of a broadly pro-immigration policy.

        * East Asian + High Skill = Effectively White when counting privilege/oppression scores.

        • Chalid says:

          This isn’t the sort of issue where people vote with their pocketbooks. If you’re an existing high-skill worker in CA, you will have friends and coworkers who are high-skill immigrants (and there’s a very good chance you are an immigrant yourself or are the child of one), and will generally have positive associations with them and see them as valuable contributors to society.

          And of course employers will have their own ways of getting favorable immigration policy.

          (I don’t want to get into a SJ discussion, but I do want to note the very large number of South Asians among CA’s high-skill immigrants.)

          • Matt M says:

            You’d think so, but IME this is not the case.

            I went to business school and the class was 20% Indian. Almost all the white kids were super left on all the relevant CW issues… but still did not support increased skilled immigration. As much as they might mock the lower classes with “dey took our jerbs” they themselves really did see their Indian classmates as “someone who is more qualified than me and will only demand 80% of my salary” – direct competitive threats.

          • Chalid says:

            My experiences point the other way, FWIW. I suspect that MBAs might have a uniquely mercenary perspective on this sort of thing.

            Also, from a pure economics perspective, “high-skilled workers” are not a uniform lump of labor. Most skilled workers are complements to each other. If you’re a software engineer and additional doctors or DBAs immigrate, that *raises* your real wages, and vice versa.

    • John Schilling says:

      The most significant factor for CA will be that it has to replace Social Security, Medicare, Obamacare, etc, etc, with California equivalents. Which will almost certainly be much more generous and inclusive, e.g. “medicare for all”, without accepting the cost constraints and without the Full Faith and Credit of the United States Government behind its promises to pay back the loans it will need to hold things together while they figure it out.

      Also, without California, both the USN’s Pacific Fleet the US State Department’s clout in East Asia will be substantially weaker, and CA will not be picking up that slack. Which means China will be pushing its weight around in a big way, and the Pacific Rim trade that California is expecting to be its economic salvation will be less than free in a way that makes it much less profitable to anyone other than China. Prognosis: Hyperinflation

      The first order of business in TX will be to make Christianity the official state religion, possibly de jure, definitely de facto, with all that this implies regarding abortion, gay marriage, etc. And, yes, they’ll have to replace the federal safety net programs with something, but they won’t break the bank doing it. On the immigration front, expect a major crackdown on illegal immigration, but if allowed to do that to its own satisfaction TX might be surprisingly welcoming to a fair number of legal Mexican immigrants.

      This will probably work out fairly well for Texas as a nation-state, but a sizable minority of Texans at least will suffer for it. And Austin will be a much less pleasant city for people like us to live in, which I will regret insofar as Austin is near the top of my list of places to move right before CA collapses.

      • Eric Rall says:

        The most significant factor for CA will be that it has to replace Social Security, Medicare, Obamacare, etc, etc, with California equivalents. Which will almost certainly be much more generous and inclusive, e.g. “medicare for all”, without accepting the cost constraints and without the Full Faith and Credit of the United States Government behind its promises to pay back the loans it will need to hold things together while they figure it out.

        As of 2015, the Federal Government collects about $400 billion in taxes (income, payroll, excises, etc) from California. If an independent CA were to simply clone the US tax code as an add-on to CA’s existing state taxes, that would go a long way towards covering that, especially (as seems likely) if CA doesn’t try to come close to matching US per-capita military spending. Not all the way, though: single-payer alone has been estimated at anywhere from $200 billion to $400 billion, and California gets about $100 billion/year in federal grants (mostly for education, medicaid, TANF, and transportation infrastructure) that would need to be replaced (although I think the Medicaid portion of this is double-counted with the single-payer estimate). Single-payer would replace Medicare, Medicaid, and the ACA, but that still leaves Social Security as well as a bunch of small-to-medium programs like Pell Grants, agricultural subsidies, and student loans.

      • Deiseach says:

        Also, without California, both the USN’s Pacific Fleet the US State Department’s clout in East Asia will be substantially weaker

        Stupid question – could nowhere else on the US west coast pick up the slack, or what about Hawaii?

        • Matt M says:

          Yeah, it would be annoying for the USN to have to relocate the Pacific Fleet to Seattle. But it’s not like they wouldn’t do it….

        • bean says:

          It wouldn’t be easy. There’s a lot of military presence in SoCal, and you’d need somewhere to put the half of the Pacific Fleet that’s based out of Sandy Eggo, and the 40% of the Marine Corps that lives in California. I doubt there’s that much slack either in Pearl or the other West Coast base at Bremerton, and there aren’t other Marine bases on the West Coast. I’m sure this could be rectified with time and money, but I strongly suspect that they’d make their task easier by drawing down forces. A destroyer we scrap is one we don’t have to build a new base for.

        • John Schilling says:

          Also note that the US Federal Government has just lost a huge chunk of its tax base, and a huge fraction of its pragmatic reason for projecting military and diplomatic power across the Pacific Rim. Something has to actually go away to balance the books, not just rebase to Seattle, and why shouldn’t it be the Pacific Fleet?

    • littskad says:

      California would have serious water issues as an independent nation.

    • idontknow131647093 says:

      Both of them would have better government than the current United States, both would crack down hard on illegal immigration (Texas first and faster), both would establish some sort of welfare state, but one that is much leaner and less corrupt than the US welfare state, and all these things would create pressures on the remaining US state to become a better government.

      I assume the open borders within the US policy would not last, particularly for businesses and money. Such freedom of movement creates a “race to the top” (or bottom based on your POV) which causes capital to flee poorly governed areas. This is why the Ds/Rs always try to impose their worst ideas at the federal level (there is no escaping them). A well government California or Texas would cause such emigration, particularly capital emigration that conflict would soon occur.

    • 10240 says:

      Presumably, we should think about things that a state can’t do right now. Take, for example, universal government healthcare: does the constitution or federal law preclude a state from implementing it?

    • James Miller says:

      If California were to become independent, I would expect Trump to tell Mexico “We will give you back California in return for your paying for the now much larger wall. Any Californians who object can be silenced by accusations of racism.”

  4. johan_larson says:

    It’s open mic night here at the Larson CrazyCreative Missions Bar and Grill. What missions should the rest of us choose to accept?

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Find the fastest / most effective way to fund mass production of carbon nanotubes, in terms of finding an application with a favorable rate of return.

    • Randy M says:

      Formulate a plan to achieve maximal fame in minimal time. The catch is that it isn’t for you, but a random person chosen from your nation after you submit the plan.

      edit: Oh, and with 1 or fewer casualties. Let’s do hard mode, people.

      • johan_larson says:

        Assuming you are essentially an ordinary person, you could declare war on graffiti. Learn where it gets put and how to clean it off. Then spend your free time — you’re an ordinary person, so you have quite a bit of it — removing it. Document your efforts with pictures and video. Spread the word through social media and traditional media too, when possible. Appear at city council meetings with copious documentation of all the vile graffiti the city is content to leave all over. Cultivate an air of eccentric indignation and wear odd easily-recognized attire, like a pink stahlhelm.

        Within a year or two you should be known locally as a colorful, somewhat useful local character.

      • cassander says:

        Isn’t the answer to that question always “shoot the American president”?

        • quanta413 says:

          Is there anyone that trying to assassinate has a higher fame pay off for?

          Not than the trying to shoot the current President mind. I don’t think you can top that. Just a generic President.

          • johan_larson says:

            Killing the American president gets you infamy, not fame. In any case, I doubt the typical person could assassinate the president these days. There’s an awful lot of security.

          • quanta413 says:

            You don’t need to succeed to get the infamy.

            Reagan got shot by a random crazy person who wanted to impress Jodie Foster. Even the best security has limits if someone is going to step out in public all the time.

          • albatross11 says:

            Maybe you wanted to enjoy that fame somewhere other than a federal prison?

          • Tarpitz says:

            Compared to a generic president… maybe Prince George? The combination of “five year old child” and “in direct line to the British throne” is pretty headline-grabbing.

            Elvis or Michael Jackson might once have been reasonable answers, but I don’t think there’s anyone in showbiz on that level today.

          • Matt says:

            The Pope

          • beleester says:

            The only two presidential assassins that I remember are Lee Harvey Oswald and John Wilkes Booth. So I think success is necessary to be truly memorable.

            (And even that is a crapshoot, since I remembered only 2/4 successful assassins. Maybe you need to assassinate a really famous and successful president.)

          • CatCube says:

            @quanta413

            The Secret Service also changed their procedures in the aftermath of the Reagan assassination attempt. I believe they require all people on a rope line to go through metal detectors now, and they make extensive effort to screen for explosives.

            IIRC, they used to only require people on a rope line where the President would get close to go through metal detectors, but after President Clinton would walk to any rope line within his field of vision, they started screening any rope line within sight of the President.

          • quanta413 says:

            @albatross11

            Well, I might not want to, but that doesn’t affect my success in the stated challenge!

            @CatCube

            I didn’t know that. Thanks.

          • cassander says:

            In fame, probably not, but ratio of fame to chance of success? possibly.

            Matt’s suggestion of the pope is a good choice, but I think a famous billionaire is probably easier and has nearly as much payoff, at least in the english speaking world. Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Charles Koch or Mark Zuckerberg all seem like good choices.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Matt’s suggestion of the pope is a good choice, but I think a famous billionaire is probably easier and has nearly as much payoff, at least in the english speaking world. Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Charles Koch or Mark Zuckerberg all seem like good choices.

            In the short-term it might, but in a couple of centuries I expect more people to remember an assassinated pope than an assassinated random rich guy.

          • Matt says:

            Also there were no stipulations about difficulty or getting a bonus for extra infamy in the English-speaking world.

    • phi says:

      Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to devise a strategy allowing a non-nuclear nation to deter other nations from nuking its cities. (You don’t necessarily need to defend against conventional attacks.) Your budget is $20 million per year of protection, and allying yourself with another nation that has nuclear weapons is not allowed.

      • Nornagest says:

        I’m tempted to say “spend ninety-five percent of it on ballistic missile research and the rest on aluminum tubes; let the other countries fill in the blanks”. But that’s as likely to provoke attack as it is to deter it.

        Really, if this was possible for twenty million a year, countries like North Korea would be doing it instead of pursuing nuclear weapons, and countries like South Korea would be doing it instead of pursuing strategic alliances. The best strategy by the letter of the question is probably to be Switzerland and just stay out of any conflicts that might end with you getting nuked, but that probably violates its spirit.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Spend the money on developing fusion cuisines between your local food and that of the most likely hostile neighbors and then seed your best cooks with money to start up restaurants in those countries steadily bringing you good will among the populace of those nations.

      • Eric Rall says:

        Endow research universities in my major cities and (once they’re up and running) generously fund research grants and fellowships for highly academically qualified grad students. Actively recruit students from the US, Russia, and China for the fellowships, and skew the fellowships’ academic criteria to favor things that correlate with upper-class (which correlates with politically-connected) families. As long as they’re in school, these students are hostages against their home countries’ nukes.

        After writing that up, I looked up the budget for UC Berkeley and found that it’s a lot more than $20 million ($2.8 billion total). I could fudge and say that most of the money for the schools comes from tuition, but realistically it would take pretty big subsidies to build schools with strong enough academic and research lure enough international students to form an effective population of human shields.

      • James C says:

        Develop horrifying biological weapons housed in undisclosed locations far away from strategic nuclear targets. No one ever said mutually assured destruction was limited to bombs.

      • James Miller says:

        Announce that the entire world is really a computer simulation created by your country, and if anyone in this simulation launches an attack on your cities they will be eternally tortured in the simulation. Devote the $20 million per year to creating a fund to build the simulation as soon as the tech exists.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        Stash loads of cobalt in random secret places throughout your cities, turning any normal nuke dropped on them into Dr. Strangelove-style doomsday device.

        (I’m pretty sure this wouldn’t work for at least three separate reasons, but I still like the concept)

    • RDNinja says:

      You and your garage band are sent back in time to the Medieval era, and ushered in front of the court of some king. What song from the last 50 years do you play to impress everyone?

    • dick says:

      You are transported back in time. You can choose how far, but at least 100 years. You’ve been granted an audience with ten locals, and you have one hour to convince them that you really are a time traveler. If you succeed, they’ll offer you a sinecure in the hope that you’ll invent things, and if you fail, they’ll… do whatever it is people in that time and place do to crazy people, which we assume is probably not very nice.

      (Fine print: You take nothing with you, not even clothes. The locals you’re talking to are reasonably bright and educated and open-minded, for that time and place. Your flux capacitor’s resolution is 10 square miles and 10 years.)

      • fion says:

        I feel as though the less far back the easier. My first thought was to go and talk to Einstein before he published general relativity. (I know enough about general relativity to convince him I’m from the future.) But then I realised your question makes it pretty much impossible to target a specific person.

        So this is hard. I can’t tell them something that they, specifically, know about because I don’t know who ‘they’ are; I can’t predict some future event and be proven right because I’ve only got an hour; I can’t find a particular event that will be happening during that hour to predict, because it could be any time in 10 years; and I can’t show them some piece of future technology.

        Ok, I think I’m going to need to milk the “reasonably bright and educated and open-minded” for all it’s worth. Obviously at lest one of the ten will be well-versed in modern mathematics! I go back to about 1820 having studied all the mathematical proofs from the 19th century I can. First, I show them a Mobius strip and several of the cool tricks you can do with it. Then I make several mathematical statements and say I can prove them and that as yet, none of them have been proven. I say that I am not a great mathematician, but each one of these theorems would take a great mathematician to discover the proof of. I can prove any of them; your choice, thus demonstrating that I must be from the future, because not even the greatest mathematician of today could prove any (let alone all) of these.

        I try to choose as accessible proofs as possible, for example the impossibility of squaring the circle, doubling the cube and trisecting the angle. Perhaps also that e is transcendental or that the reals are uncountable. I can tell them about quaternions, Stokes’s theorem, Green’s theorem. Not all of this, obviously, because we don’t have time, but their choice. And it will require a little revision beforehand to find which of these can be proven most quickly and understandably. In my last five minutes I promise them that I’m worth taking the risk – that I know far more mathematical and scientific truths that revolutionise their society, not to mention many natural disasters that I have memorised the time and location of. (I’ll probably keep quiet about the wars, though. No need to scare them when time is short…) Imagine what an opportunity could be wasted if you turned me away just because I had so little time and equipment with which to prove myself!

        As for location, I think I’ll go for Cambridge, UK. I already know the city and the language, and assuming I’m successful in my one-hour hearing, I’ll want to be able to talk and work with some of the great mathematicians, scientists and engineers of the time. I am not a genius myself, so I’ll need to use my knowledge to guide the real geniuses in the right direction and help them make their discoveries faster.

      • Deiseach says:

        Fine print: You take nothing with you, not even clothes.

        So a naked person who claims to be from a century in the future turns up on my doorstep? Yes, I’m going to think “local asylum has had an escapee, such a pity, seems like a nice person poor chap” and not “Yes, I really believe your story even though you don’t even have a pair of trousers, much less any evidence that you possess advanced technology from the wondrous future”.

      • Matt says:

        I will go back the minimum amount of time, to a 10 square mile army air base. I will aim to get an audience with an aeronautical engineer, and explain what I know about how he can advance his technology. He knows quite a bit about aircraft, I know a lot, too. He might know a little about rockets, but I know tons. He’ll want to keep me around, and convince his bosses to do so.

        I’ll also throw in what I know about how the world is just wrapping up World War I, and that World War II is on the way.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Talking about WW2 is probably more likely to get you thrown in the kook bin, if you prove your bonafides with the testable knowledge you shouldn’t jeopardize it with stuff that is distant and interpretive.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        Go to the bronze age, somewhere with iron ore, and make iron?

    • LesHapablap says:

      Your mission is to create a top level post in an open thread that gets the most replies, without mentioning gender or race.

      • False says:

        Why, I would simply create a thread whose structure begins with “Your mission is…” and elicit ideas from other posters to find possible solutions to a hypothetical problem or conundrum.

      • AG says:

        “Is the SSC commentariat biased in a certain political direction?” is perennial.

      • LesHapablap says:

        This reminds me of a bet I once saw happen on a poker forum. The challenge was to find a way to receive five unsolicited offers of money from members of the forum who did not know him. He would be restricted by any stipulations the challenger could think of that would adhere to the spirit of the bet, which ended up being a list of 60+ rules. He bet $35k to win $10k and succeeded!

    • veeloxtrox says:

      Your mission, if you choose to accept it is pick a day in the next year. On that day, you will receive a single major daily publication of your choice from the next day. Maximize your next worth.

      • Matt M says:

        Day of the Super Bowl. Make large bet, not on the winner, review the various prop. bets and find one with a decent enough payout based on the actual events of the game. You can probably find at least one with a 10/1 payout. Probably helps to make a few other loser bets of small value to not attract suspicion.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Not a bad starting point but I think you can do better by going back to a high volume day with multiple events and build parlays what will payout at better odds.

          • Matt M says:

            Eh maybe but that might look suspicious. Granted, it seems impossible that they’d simply refuse to pay someone who got suspiciously lucky without any real proof.

            I still think the Super Bowl is your best bet for this. That’s when the “dumb money” really comes out and random nobodies bet a lot and sometimes win. You could parlay multiple props within the same game I believe. Vegas really wouldn’t look twice at a Super Bowl day parlay with Winner + Total + MVP + Unlikely prop bet hitting it big, whereas they probably would get somewhat suspicious at seeing that happen on a random Saturday across a smattering of NBA, NHL, College football, and soccer matches.

          • baconbits9 says:

            You don’t have to go cross sports, and you can hide among the dumb money on many different days. Take the opening day of March Madness, there will some number of underdogs who win on the first day, and parlaying 2 underdog wins will net a much higher return than parlaying favorite wins and the more events there are the more underdogs wins you will have to choose from. If you take the superbowl and it turns out the favorite wins with the favorite for the MVP winning you payout isn’t going to be that great.

          • Matt M says:

            If you take the superbowl and it turns out the favorite wins with the favorite for the MVP winning you payout isn’t going to be that great.

            Parlays get pretty high payouts pretty quick, even at basic -110 bets.

            As far as hiding the money, my impression is that Super Bowl Sunday gets like, an order of magnitude more betting than any other event/day, including major things like March Madness or whatever.

            Honestly, with how many prop bets exist and how quick parlays stack odds, you could effectively get a really large payout on virtually any day, including a random weekday in the summer that just has a few baseball games scheduled. The purpose of going for the super bowl is to hide the money and get away with it.

          • baconbits9 says:

            All bets aren’t parlayable, lots of prop bets are either not going to be included, or only included with other prop bets.

            As for the -110 comment, we are talking about maximizing net worth, not just building a nice win, and -110 is basically your average superbowl prop after the vig. The game winner could be -200, the MVP -150. To build a winning parlay that would equal just two underdogs on the first day of March Madness you might have to go 6+ bets deep and that might well raise red flags as their aren’t nearly as many people who build really deep parlays like that. Things like “i bet on my 3 favorite teams” are common on events like MM so if you are worried about ‘hiding’ you probably are at least as well off, if not better off, in MM than the SB.

        • Matt says:

          You could probably get a better result by betting at a horse track.

        • dodrian says:

          Could you pick something that’s likely to do a year-in-review article? A weekly or monthly publication probably. You could potentially glean the results of all the major sporting events from that.

          Edit: NM, I misread the proposal. I’m not getting the publication until the day before, so obviously my idea is out.

          • Tarpitz says:

            I would expect the (London) Times from the Monday after the end of the Premier League season to have a pretty extensive season retrospective. Not every result of every match, but a lot to be getting on with. As a bonus, you’re also getting that weekend’s horse racing, cricket, tennis, lower division football etc – it’s a fairly busy time of year for sport in general.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I used this in an earlier mission. Horse racing is probably the quickest way to make a lot of money from a little on a single bet; there’s a lot of races, plenty of unlikely bets, and there’s often an unlikely bet which pays off big. So, a busy day at Saratoga, a few months from now, I get the Daily Racing Form (presumably bright and early in the morning or it doesn’t work). I spend the interim time regularly going to horse tracks and betting, usually small amounts, occasionally larger ones, and always including a couple of long-shot bets.

      • Thegnskald says:

        New York Times.

        April 7th, getting it on April 6th.

        I will buy a Powerball ticket, as that is a Saturday, combined with mixed-success betting on Final Four, combined with whatever stocks moved the fastest.

        I will, in the meantime, be accumulating all the money I can for my various bets and investments; depending on stock movement and Powerball earnings (and Final Four odds), a net worth of a billion dollars is on the upper end of plausible.

        Super Bowl is out because no good lotteries draw on that day.

        Oh yeah, and I will try to make news a month or two prior by making a public nuisance of myself worshipping Bacchus.

  5. AG says:

    Ozy noted on Tumblr that they actually are very moved by abstract art. I am very unimpressed with modern art, and most of the essays trying to tell me why, objectively, I shouldn’t scoff at it, are equally unconvincing.
    I’m curious about at what point people think a particular music genre has gone up its own ass, and how much music education plays a role in that. There are certain classical music pieces that I very much appreciate because I have played them myself, and yet still my eyes glaze over when listening to similar pieces by the same composer. Sometimes I wonder if giving people at concerts sheet music can better help them keep up with a piece of music, and the advent of Youtube videos that basically do this seems to agree.

    So here’s my example of a more esoteric classical music piece I very much enjoy, but I have classical music training:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_j6qC1a_5CA

    Anyone wanna submit theirs for other genres? (I’m particularly curious if this is even possible for pop music.)

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I’m tremendously fond of Bruce Pollock’s abstract art.

      • AG says:

        Yeah, that stuff is pretty cool. Not sure about the “Block Group” ones, though.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Nice example, Nancy. I would have said I dislike abstract art too, but it is true that I enjoyed those pictures. I guess what I don’t like is abstract art that is anything more than a cool design. I didn’t read the writing on the link, because it is the design that is cool, not what the artist has to say about it.

      • Orpheus says:

        Is it right to call this stuff art? Sure, it is aesthetically pleasing, but for me art should express something. What does this express?

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Delight.

          Does enjoyment of color and pattern count as something to express?

          • Orpheus says:

            Meh. Not really.

          • Orpheus says:

            Ok, maybe I should say something more. I just figure that this argument applies to way too much. My curtains have a preety cool pattern on them. Are they art? What about some random nice looking cloud?

          • AG says:

            @Orpheus: one of the potential comments I could have made about Bruce Pollock’s art was how they remind me of historical Islamic tessellations. Are those not art?
            In contrast, what the hell does a fucking Robert Ryman or Barnett Newman piece express?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Orpheus, Pollock’s work really makes me happy. On the other hand, he’s got a good but minor reputation. Presumably, his work doesn’t do a lot for very many people.

            On the other hand, your argument doesn’t prove much. I don’t know what specific art you like, but I’m sure there’s plenty of mediocre stuff which is vaguely in the same category.

            To some extent, art is relative to the viewer.

          • Orpheus says:

            @AG No. Historical Islamic tessellations are not art. Again, they are very aesthetically pleasing, but they don’t express anything. Or would you consider the tiling in your bathroom art?
            And I don’t see why you contrast this to Robert Ryman and Barnett Newman. What they do is not art either (and most of it is not even aesthetically appealing).

          • Orpheus says:

            @Nancy To me, the question of whether or not something is art should be independent of the quality of the thing. Art can be good or mediocre or bad, but my point is that a piece of art and a piece of whatever it is Bruce Pollock and co. create are profoundly different things, and comparing between them does not make a lot of sense.

          • AG says:

            But expression is tied to intent, no? The Islamic tessellations were meant to express a religious sentiment, to declare the glory of Allah by the impressiveness of works by his worshippers, as the grandeur of any temple is meant to do for their respective deities.
            In Nancy’s link, Bruce talks about the thing he is trying to express: the aesthetics in nature, “how the scale of our common vision is but a small part of a much greater whole,” “geometric reality that unites the micro- and macrocosms,” etc.

            Can a kid’s finger paintings or a student’s bored doodles be art, and how would we know if they were trying to express something or not?

            Ozy found that abstract art strongly expressed something to them, whereas I might look at the same piece and know mentally that it’s supposed to be expressing this or that thing, but just be unimpressed by that sentiment, or the execution of it. Does said piece then waffle back and forth on its status as art, depending on the audience, or is it tied to the intentions of the artist?

          • Orpheus says:

            @AG

            Can a kid’s finger paintings or a student’s bored doodles be art, and how would we know if they were trying to express something or not?

            To me, a piece of art is similar to a joke in that if it needs to be explained, it does not work. So if you can tell what the kid/bored student was doodling, then it works at least on some level, and if you can’t then it doesn’t.

            But expression is tied to intent, no?

            Yes, but it is not enough.

        • John Schilling says:

          …art should express something. What does this express?

          Wait, wait, I know this one. It expresses the eternal verities of the human condition. Only a philistine would fail to recognize this. You’re not a philistine, are you? Come join me in mocking the philistines who don’t understand how abstract art expresses the eternal verities of the human condition

          . Is there a word for the thing where people expertly craft pleasant sensory inputs without trying to express anything beyond “this is pretty”? If not, we need to coin a word for that.

          And then tear down half of the world’s “art” museums and galleries, to make room for the places where we will display this stuff instead.

          • gbdub says:

            I’m on board with this plan.

            I find a lot of modern / abstract art aesthetically pleasing, or at least interesting… but it often seems like the artists and curators put more effort into the little paragraphs that describe the work as ever so deep and meaningful in strained jargon-laced art speak than they do into the blank canvas or hole in the ground or pineapple that’s supposed to be some sort of life altering experience. Bugger off and go paint another one of those, it would look nice over my bar.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Is there a word for the thing where people expertly craft pleasant sensory inputs without trying to express anything beyond “this is pretty”? If not, we need to coin a word for that.

            Not a word, but a phrase — “decorative art”.

          • Thegnskald says:

            You might want to read… whatever Ayn Rand’s book on art was called.

            She divided art, broadly, into “aesthetics” and “art”. She defined “art” to be something like “Deliberately and specifically evocative”, with some additional rules about what things could be evoked so things would remain “art”. So a painting of a man is evoking an image of a man, and is entirely deliberate, because the artist put everything there. Photographs pass the evocative test, but she claimed they failed the deliberate test, so didn’t qualify. (Her argument coming down to “Clothing is somebody else’s art”, more or less, as an example.)

            Entertainingly, the copy I read had a forward by someone who pointed out that Ayn Rand’s rules for what constituted art excluded architecture as valid art, so the premise for The Fountainhead was flawed.

          • Orpheus says:

            Ugh, must we bring Ayn Rand into this? As with basically everything she ever said, someone else said it much better. In this case, we might consider the manifesto of Modern Realist Painters (aka The Annigoni Manifesto) or Gamells Twilight of Painting, or this if you want something more modern.

        • Matt says:

          We (a bunch of engineers) had a brown bag lunch with this topic – what ‘art’ is rightfully called art?

          We decided that if it was still considered art 100 years later, people would be right to call it art now.

          • AG says:

            See, this is where Ozy’s admission was key to me. I feel that if someone is subjectively moved by something, it has artistic value. So if some people are moved by the most esoteric of modern art, because they know the context in which it is responding to, goody for them.

            Art museums trying to insist that plebs recognize said value as an objective thing, though, that rubs me the wrong way. Furthermore, trying to lionize a certain Arteest as a Great Person for propagating the next step of Art going further up its own ass, yeah spare me that.

            So going back to the music example, I’m all for lionizing jazz musicians that made jazz popular in the mainstream, but am skeptical over whoever they think is pushing the art form further today, vs. people who have combined it with other genres to influence modern pop forms (and thus still palatable to most people).

          • Deiseach says:

            From the British comedy sketch show The Fast Show which ran from 1994-97, the section called Jazz Club.

            The bits taking the piss out of Nigel Kennedy and Jamiroquai are hilarious!

        • Thegnskald says:

          Some of it does seem to express something, some of it… just looks pretty?

          There is a piece that looks like a fractal fern. It represents natural growth. Pretty straightforward.

          The tessellations of hexagons in circles in hexagons? Eh. Looks pretty.

          I know what my vote for what drug Pollock did lots of is, though.

    • Peffern says:

      In my experience, sheet music makes listening much more enjoyable. But I might just be weird.

      • Nicholas Weininger says:

        You are not that weird– I have exactly the same experience. I wish all concert programs included follow-along scores (piano reductions would be fine in the case of orchestral music).

    • fraza077 says:

      I very much appreciate because I have played them myself, and yet still my eyes glaze over when listening to similar pieces by the same composer

      I’ve found the same thing. Pieces that first sounded chaotic grew on me as I started playing them, but if I listen to something else that is objectively similar, it’ll sound awful to me. However, I think there is still a cut-off point where I find it has lost all musicality.

      I think there are 2 related aspects that I view this in.

      One is the general principle of more complex music. Pop songs (and old folk songs) have catchy, repetition-filled melodies that anybody can “get into”. Classical Romantic music has more complex themes, where often (at least in my case) the first few listens feel like just listening to some random classical music, before the patterns get built in my head and I begin to appreciate the beauty of it. It’s one of those classic sugary short-term reward vs long-term satisfaction situations.

      The other part is that people who get deep into music just get bored. If you study music enough, eventually the standard of music building blocks become like only using two chords and the white keys would be to an intermediate musician. You seek novelty. It’s a sort of hedonic treadmill, where only weirder and weirder stuff will satisfy you.

      I’m happy that I haven’t gotten bored of “normal” music.

      Sheet music wouldn’t help me at concerts. I would just go “Yep, that’s what they’re playing, and it sounds like shit”.

      • AG says:

        See, but I think that a lot of people who study music still have a cutoff on the hedonic treadmill. I can still appreciate a good solid pop song, despite being maximalist, and certain forms of classical music are just unpleasant to me, even if they’re fun as challenges to play (as you say in your last line).
        There’s a self-selection effect for people who like contemporary abstract classical music, but it bears out that most people empirically aren’t into it. Some people can listen to Top 40 radio forever.

        Also, the nice thing about the internet is that getting deep into music is basically endless, now. There’s always another genre with decades of history to explore. The flip-side of this being that new genre development has somewhat stalled. The current trends in what are arguably the more recent genres (hip hop and EDM) seem to be regressing, with the likes of mumblecore and such.
        (My argument there is that new genre development is more dependent on technology than anything else, and we just haven’t had a new tech frontier in music yet.)

        • Thegnskald says:

          Metal! Metal metal metal metal.

          While not a new genre, it is experiencing major innovations, and directly as a result of technology – specifically, communication, which it (with little expectation that lyrics are understandable) is uniquely posed to take advantage of. Metal is currently the music medium of choice for cultural fusion, and it is fascinating to see folk music traditions incorporated, and gradually fused together.

          Also, Unexpect. Just, Unexpect. Try “Feasting Fools”. Just, y’know, don’t try to do anything else while you listen to it, as it is just noise if you don’t pay absurdly close attention to what it is doing, which is playing a simple melody as a series of mini-movements. Most of Unexpect’s early music begins with a piano piece that set your melodic expectations; if you are paying attention, you can anticipate the otherwise apparently random next movement. It is incredibly satisfying to listen to, once you begin to “get” it.

          • AG says:

            That’s why I’m curious as to people’s various levels of “this sounds like noise” vs. “this is doing some really interesting things,” dependent on their comprehension of context.

            I’ve enjoyed some of the prog and metal stuff that may seem esoteric to people, but also recognize that sometimes said innovations are just reinventing the things classical music had already gone through. Kpop went through a phase of having lots of jagged transitions, to mixed reception, but I was like “yeah this is a lot like late-Romantic/early-Contemporary classical, love it.”
            And per what I said above about sheet music, I’ve had certain 7+minute Yes songs that I just glaze over for casual listens, even though I know I rather enjoy them if I pay attention.

            I’ve heard some really cool Jazz ensemble pieces, so long as they stay away from the “endless meandering solos” model. The main innovations are in adopting some unexpected rhythms (again, reinventing some of the paths Classical had taken), but notably, incorporatings rhythms from jazz-derived genres as funk or hip hop. In which case, an argument can be made that the real Great Artist of Jazz in the modern age is EW&F.

            Will try out Unexpect when I get home today. Thanks for the recommendation!

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Thegnskald

            I think it’s really interesting that the assumption here is that “metal” means “indecipherable vocals.” That excludes everything up to and including most thrash doesn’t it?

            Really good point that indecipherable screeching is an international language. I can listen to pretentious inauthentic black metal from many different places without the language barrier being an issue.

      • dick says:

        The other part is that people who get deep into music just get bored. If you study music enough, eventually the standard of music building blocks become like only using two chords and the white keys would be to an intermediate musician. You seek novelty.

        This immediately made me think of Caroline Shaw’s “Partita for 8 voices”.

  6. Paul Brinkley says:

    Per a long-running thread in the previous OT, a straw proposal, which turns into at least three:

    Open carry is no longer prosecuted. Rather, it is treated as an aggravating circumstance in the event of a violent crime, meaning it will result in a larger penalty by default. (Choose whatever penalty increase you think is interesting.)

    DUI is no longer prosecuted. Rather, it is treated as an aggravating circumstance in the event of another moving violation.

    Immigration that is not via current legal channels is no longer prosecuted. Rather, it is treated as an aggravating circumstance in the event of another crime (violent, fraud, embezzlement, conspiracy to commit, etc.).

    How ought these differ? Suppose all three were implemented anyway. How would people likely respond? (I’m interested in ye olde unintended consequences here.)

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Your example of open carry confuses the heck out of me because open carry is already legal without a license in most (31) states and all but a handful allow open carry with a license. It’s “not prosecuted” because for the most part it’s entirely legal.

      I’m sick of arguing about immigration so I’m going to sit that part of the debate out.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Well, the easy counter to your point about open carry is that it’s still illegal in 19 states, and that there still exist people who would like to make it illegal in more places, as well as concealed carry, and even ownership. So, the idea in that case is to never prosecute it anywhere, but instead come down extra hard on, say, a robbery where a firearm is used.

        The straw proposal is more about getting law enforcement further out of the business of prevention, and shifting those resources toward punishment. Or alternately, implementing prevention more through deterrence.

        It’s an interesting tradeoff to me, in general. I’m aware of research that suggests limits to the power of deterrence. Meanwhile, there are definite drawbacks to outlawing acts that could lead to harm. Firearms is especially curious, since there’s an element of intent – someone who carries but has no intent is utterly unlikely to cause harm. Likewise, someone who enters a country but has no intent to take advantage of its welfare system or its spirit of public trust is utterly unlikely to deprive anyone of resources.

        So this is me exploring the framework.

      • Evan Þ says:

        I think a better analogy would be “unlicensed possession of a firearm is no longer a crime, but an aggravating circumstance, etc.”

        I’m not saying I’d support that, but it intrigues me, and I’d like to see an analysis of the results.

      • albatross11 says:

        Yeah, also I think most felonies get higher penalties if they’re done with a firearm, so I think we may be implementing your scheme already.

    • quanta413 says:

      1. What Nabil ad Dajjal said above.

      2. We get a hell of a lot more car accidents involving drunk drivers I bet. I think making DUI not a crime is a pretty terrible idea. Making it an aggravating circumstances will make it harder to crack down on people DUI.

      3. No comment.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Re drunk driving, I agree. We’re going to get a whole lot more tipsy drivers who think they can drive home without an accident. Some of them are totally wrong, and they crash. Some of them might’ve been able to drive in most circumstances, but they got into some circumstances where they couldn’t, and they crash. And a lot of them couldn’t tell in advance, because alcohol is well known to suppress your ability to make calculations such as this.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        DUI: there’s an interesting distinction I think you and Evan are hinting at here, then. A test exists which yields objective measurement of BAC (right?), and there’s widely accepted correlation between BAC and probability of an accident (right?). And so the increased probability of harm is taken as justifying LE putting resources into prevention vs. post mortem deterrence.

        To what extent is this general principle applied toward other harmful acts?

        • andrewflicker says:

          Obviously common with other substances- DUI when on muscle relaxants, or getting fired for operating heavy machinery, etc.

          Beyond substance abuse, though, you could look at how security clearances are denied/revoked due to engaging in behavior that indicates a susceptibility to bribery or extortion.

          Hmm… what else?

          The FDA forbids the use of many drugs OTC due to correlated side-effects, many of which have never been causatively linked, or because of avoidable side-effects that are dangerous and that many people would not adequately avoid without a doctor’s monitoring (not saying I always agree, but that’s, I think, the stated purpose).

          Basically there’s a link here to what’s sometimes disparaged as “the nanny state”, where a government shapes behavior in ways that are intended to be better off for the person behaving.

        • quanta413 says:

          I think Evan’s point that alcohol suppresses judgement is very important too. It’s not just that there’s an objective measure of what we want. Some people probably can drive better on a higher BAC than others. But alcohol suppresses judgement, so way too many people who have enough conscientiousness before drinking and who wouldn’t drink too much knowing it’s illegal will get drunk and then change their minds if driving drunk isn’t illegal.

      • Protagoras says:

        I wonder about the drunk driving one. I don’t know the exact statistics, but the police are not stopping a lot of random people and checking them, so I would expect that most DUIs were people who were violating some other traffic law that led to the stop. And obviously substantial numbers of people still do drive drunk; to the extent that there’s been a reduction, I would expect it to have more to do with the reduced social acceptability of that sort of thing than the DUI laws. Though perhaps the laws have contributed to the reduced social acceptability.

        • quanta413 says:

          I agree, that they probably are violating some other law or driving vaguely recklessly but that doesn’t mean it would be easy to punish them for that. It could be hard to punish people for being a little swervy on the road. It’s hard to prove, and it’s easily open to accusations of police discretion being used unfairly. It’s relatively fair and ironclad to be like “yep, this guy was x BAC % over the legal limit”.

          Also, I’ve talked to people who told me they didn’t give a flip about the social acceptability of driving under the influence. But they did care about the odds of getting caught.

          I doubt social acceptability has much to do with it, because it’s hard for anyone who knows you to observe unless you’re not only wasted but acting out somewhat.

          Where I’ve lived the police also do things like set up blockades on New Years and talk to each drive who passes. They smell alcohol? You’re probably getting a breathalyzer test. And people still drive drunk right after midnight.

          • baconbits9 says:

            My impression is that it is not hard to “prove” (that is get it to hold up in traffic court) that someone was weaving. Just the cop showing up to the court date and stating that it happened gets you there most of the time. They don’t bother because without some other charge to add in like DUI its a tiny fine and a hassle and the arresting officer will miss the court date often enough that you just give them a warning and look for a drunk you can nail.

    • LesHapablap says:

      As (or if) the surveillance state becomes more intrusive, there’s less reason to have crimes that are “victimless” still be considered crimes. If you could catch every moving violation, or even every driver that started weaving a bit too much and seemed drunk, you wouldn’t need to have as low a BAC limit.

      If you can reliably prevent minors from gambling online, then online poker doesn’t need to be illegal (since that was the justification for making it illegal in the US).

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I’ll bite the immigration bullet. Doesn’t that just kick the can down the road a bit? You can’t work (legally) in the US without a social security number, and you can’t get a social security number as an illegal immigrant. All illegals are either getting paid under the table (illegal) or using fraudulent/stolen documentation (also illegal).

      Assuming illegal immigrants are not independently wealthy, they need to work to live. So every adult, non-dependent illegal is almost certainly breaking laws beyond simply crossing the border illegally.

      This is different than the open carry and DUI situations. For open carry, I have never heard of anyone committing a crime while open carrying. It is possible to drive while intoxicated and not break other traffic laws. But it’s practically impossible to be in the US illegally without committing other types of fraud, so every illegal who evades border patrol is probably guilty of something, aggravated by their illegal status. You might as well stop them at the border, because you’re stopping some other crime somewhere else.

      ETA: And if the solution is “give illegals documentation” then they’re not illegal anymore, and have essentially the same status as legal immigrants or greencard holders. So now the hypothetical has changed to “punish legal immigrants more harshly for crimes.”

      • arlie says:

        Commiting a crime while open carrying?

        Well, there’s the recent case of a police officer who went ‘home’ to the wrong apartment and shot the person who lived there as a ‘home intruder’.

        I’d expect there’d be other cases of over-aggressive reactions involving those not involved in law enforcement. But I can’t cite any off hand.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Considering the shooting was unintentional, that may or may not be a crime. It depends on how the facts shake out as to whether this was negligence/recklessness or a tragic accident. Also law enforcement is kind of a special case of “open carry.”

          The point is an open carrier committing a crime is a black swan. An illegal immigrant committing some sort of documentation fraud or labor law violation is par for the course.

          • arlie says:

            Considering the shooting was unintentional

            Are you telling me the gun went off by mistake?

            I’ll agree that the plan probably wasn’t “I’ll go into the wrong home, shoot whoever’s there, and claim it was all a mistake”. But the level of negligence involved in this one looks criminal to me. And as far as I know, the gun was intentionally pointed at a person, and the trigger pulled. How unintentional is that? Of course IANAL, YMMV, etc. etc.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            If she had been in the right house, it would all be okay, right? If you come in to your home, and find someone there robbing it/threatening you, you can shoot them. The only mistake was that it was the wrong home. How negligent was she in not realizing she was in the wrong home is the only question.

            It’s a horrible tragedy. That man should absolutely be alive today, and that woman should absolutely not be a killer. But she didn’t mean to go kill an innocent man. We’ll see what the jury says, but what do you think she should be convicted of, and what do you think a fair punishment is?

          • On the evidence so far, she should be convicted of manslaughter.

          • arlie says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            If she had been in the right house, it would all be okay, right?

            I wasn’t there, but except in jurisdictions like Colorado, with it’s “make my day” law, quite possibly not.

            There’s a duty to use only reasonable force, etc. That doesn’t mean “shoot first and ask questions later” ;-( Did the perp honestly feel threatened? Would a “reasonable person” have felt threatened enough to use lethal force. etc. etc. Did she issue any warnings? Was the victim saying things like “WTF are you doing in my apartment – get out!” Unless he appeared to be attacking her, she may not even have been justified in brandishing the gun, never mind shooting it – regardless of location.

            Moreover, since she was a police officer, she should have been more familiar with the relevant laws than someone who merely had an open carry permit. I.e. if a police officer can screw up this badly, the last thing I want is random neighbours carrying guns, openly or otherwise.

            But all that’s a digression. Your assertion – no one openly carrying firearms ever commits crimes – only needs one exception to be demonstrated false. I picked the cop, because she’s still in the news, and it being a cop makes it particualrly juicy. Also, you are treating all crimes as equivalent … documentation fraud is equivalent to manslaughter. In which case I get to point out every person who ever jaywalked or drove 5 miles over the speed limit, while incidentally armed 🙁

          • albatross11 says:

            Nitpick: I think you usually need a permit to carry a concealed gun, but not to carry one openly. For that, you may need a permit to own the gun (depending on where you live), but I don’t think you need a special permit to let you wear it openly.

            Epistemic status: Uncertain. Please correct me if I’m wrong and you know more.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            There’s a duty to use only reasonable force, etc.

            I don’t think there is. This isn’t a movie where Steven Seagal throws away his gun to have a fair knife fight with the bad guy. If somebody breaks into my house I blow them away and ask questions later. She thought someone broke into her house.

            Don’t do the thing where because it’s your outgroup (a cop) who attacked someone from your ingroup (immigrants? foreigners?) that you want to escalate an accident into willful murder. This leads to over charging. Same thing happened with the Kate Steinle shooting. Illegal immigrant shoots white girl and they tried to charge him with 2nd degree murder because political outrage. But she was killed by a ricochet. It’s highly unlikely he meant to bounce a bullet into someone he didn’t know and had no reason to shoot. They might have got a conviction on manslaughter, but not second degree murder.

            So I know you want to punish a member of your outgroup, but unless there’s something we don’t know (like she knew the victim and this is all an elaborate ruse) this wasn’t murder. It’s a tragic accident, and let a jury determine whether or not she was negligent enough for a manslaughter conviction.

          • arlie says:

            There’s a duty to use only reasonable force, etc.

            I don’t think there is. This isn’t a movie where Steven Seagal throws away his gun to have a fair knife fight with the bad guy. If somebody breaks into my house I blow them away and ask questions later. She thought someone broke into her house.

            In most places under law codes ultimately derived from British common law, this would get you charged with and convicted of manslaughter, even if the gun were completely legal.

            At least, that’s my understanding from basic civics as communicated to teenagers in Canada 45 years ago.

            The existence of a legal code like this tends to distress some Americans, and they try to pass “make my day” laws as in Colorado, where it’s basically OK to shoot anyone in your house, except possibly your fellow residents 😉 The standing joke in Denver in the 90s was that if you ever shot someone, you should drag the body partway into your house before calling the police, so as to avoid criminal charges.

            You may live in a jurisdiction with such a law, and/or the armed home invader in this thread may do so. But please check the actual laws where you live, before you get into a situation like this. You may have a duty to retreat, if that’s safe, even if armed. etc. etc.

            Slightly more seriously, every once in a while there’s a case in the news where some armed householder shoots a trick-or-treater, or a lost foreigner who stopped to ask directions, or some similar innocent person. I don’t know whether the householders in question felt threatened by a knock on their door, or whether the “home invaders” in question pushed an unlocked door partly open, in order to more easily be heard when calling somethign like “is anyone home?” The point is just that weapons don’t automatically confer good judgment, so I doubt they somehow confer law-abiding-ness.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @arlie
            Castle doctrine — the idea that one does not have to retreat before using force (including deadly force) in self-defense in one’s home — actually derives from British common law, though many states and countries based on that common law have discarded it. More recently some US states have revived it by statute. This is different than “stand your ground” which rejects the duty to retreat anywhere you might lawfully be, not just in your home.

            Ontario, at least, does not require retreat from the house. Note that “castle doctrine” laws usually go further and deny a duty to retreat _within_ the house.

            This is somewhat separate from level of force, which most US states just split into deadly and non-deadly — proportional force is not usually required. Deadly force is generally only allowed if the defender reasonably fears the person being defended is in danger of death or grave bodily harm. Deadly force is usually not allowed in defense of property. Some ‘castle doctrine’ laws modify this by making it a presumption that someone defending against an intruder in their home is reasonably in such fear.

            Of course, ‘castle doctrine’ doesn’t help you if you shoot someone in their home believing it’s yours; the best you’re going to get there is imperfect self defense, which brings it down to manslaughter. Unless you’re a cop, in which case there’s a good chance the badge may act as a get-out-of-jail-free card.

            Disclaimers: IANAL, laws vary by jurisdiction, if you have time call a local criminal lawyer before shooting someone.

          • The standing joke in Denver in the 90s was that if you ever shot someone, you should drag the body partway into your house before calling the police, so as to avoid criminal charges.

            That was the advice I was given by a police officer in Philadelphia in the seventies. If I ever shot a burglar, the two things to do were to make sure he was dead and make sure his body ended up inside my house.

          • Lillian says:

            On the evidence so far, she should be convicted of manslaughter.

            The word for intentionally killing someone when you didn’t have legal cause to do so is murder. The woman’s gun did not accidentally aim and fire itself at the victim, so the intentionality here is rather beyond dispute. The complicating factor is that the shooter claims that she genuinely thought she had legal cause. As far as i’m concerned, that is grounds to charge it as murder in the second degree rather than in the first, and to give her a lighter than typical sentence upon conviction, not to charge her for manslaughter.

            As it happens the law agrees with me. Here is the relevant statute in Texas. It seems pretty clear to me that the events of the case fall neatly under its auspices. The death was intentional as covered by B, and falls under the extenuating circumstances covered by A and D, which makes it murder in the second degree.

            In contrast, the manslaughter statute uses the wording “recklessly causes the death of an individual”. Again, shooting at someone is not recklessly causing a death, it’s intentionally causing a death. There’s extenuating circumstances, but the law files them under second degree murder, not manslaughter.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            IANAL, but Lillian, I really don’t think the statute you linked supports your preferred outcome. This case doesn’t have anything to do with “adequate cause” or “sudden passion.” It was entirely mistaken identity, and mistake circumstance. Complete tragedy.

            Do you want justice or vengeance? If you want vengeance, okay, let’s fry her. But let’s not pretend it’s something else. As far as we know, she didn’t know this person, didn’t want to kill this person, and has made the worst mistake of her or anyone else on this forums’s life.

            Back to the original point, when we talk about “open carry” we’re usually not talking about cops. And this case may not even be a crime. So no, one maybe crime by a special case of “open carry” does not compare to the avalanche of crimes committed by illegal immigrants, which exenteds far beyond documentation fraud, including rape and first degree murder.

            So my original point stands: people who open carry commit almost no crimes, and illegal immigrants almost all commit a crime, and as a group commit almost every violent crime.

          • Brad says:

            IANAL

            Clearly.

            There’s a duty to use only reasonable force, etc.

            I don’t think there is.

            There is.

            If somebody breaks into my house I blow them away and ask questions later.

            Then it’s only luck that’s prevented you from being a murderer.

            She thought someone broke into her house.

            An unreasonable belief, and in any event not exculpatory.

            Don’t do the thing where because it’s your outgroup (a cop) who attacked someone from your ingroup (immigrants? foreigners?) that you want to escalate an accident into willful murder. This leads to over charging.

            This is clearly a major problem. You can tell because such a high percentage of cops that kill people end up charged with murder.

            So I know you want to punish a member of your outgroup, but unless there’s something we don’t know (like she knew the victim and this is all an elaborate ruse) this wasn’t murder.

            No, you’re wrong. Murder doesn’t require premeditation in the colloquial sense. It requires intent. She intended her actions. She killed him. There’s a prima facia case for murder.

            It’s a tragic accident, and let a jury determine whether or not she was negligent enough for a manslaughter conviction.

            Negligence doesn’t apply here. She intended to shoot him, she shot him. There’s was no accident.

          • Lillian says:

            IANAL, but Lillian, I really don’t think the statute you linked supports your preferred outcome. This case doesn’t have anything to do with “adequate cause” or “sudden passion.” It was entirely mistaken identity, and mistake circumstance. Complete tragedy.

            Do you want justice or vengeance? If you want vengeance, okay, let’s fry her. But let’s not pretend it’s something else. As far as we know, she didn’t know this person, didn’t want to kill this person, and has made the worst mistake of her or anyone else on this forums’s life.

            It absolutely has to do with adequate cause. There are no provisions for thinking that you had a valid claim to self-defence and being wrong, nor should there be. By a plain reading of the law if you don’t have a valid self-defence claim it’s murder, and if you don’t have adequate cause or sudden passion, it’s first degree murder. Fortunately for her, she does have adequate cause, because thinking that you have an intruder in your home is precisely the sort of situation that “would commonly produce a degree of anger, rage, resentment, or terror in a person of ordinary temper, sufficient to render the mind incapable of cool reflection.”

            Listen, i support the right of the people to bear arms, openly or concealed, and to use them in the defence of their persons. However i believe that this right needs to be counter-balanced by the idea that if you intentionally shoot someone you had better be in the right. You don’t get to purposely kill a person, and then when it turns out you made a mistake be all, “Whoops, my bad.” For justice to the be served there have to be consequences for the wrongful killing of others, and this is a wrongful killing. She was not in the right, and it was not an accident, it is beyond dispute that she shot him with intent.

            Now, in Texas these consequences come in the form of a murder charge, which can be downgraded to second degree after a conviction, and which in turn carries a penalty of between two and twenty years. If her story is true, then surely we can find a number in the lower third of that range which is reasonable given the extenuating circumstances.

    • 10240 says:

      Which thread or what question is your comment about?

  7. Alex Zavoluk says:

    Austin meetup report:

    Highly successful. We had about 25 people (compared to last year’s 32, but it was significantly hotter), more than half new to the group, and most people stayed for our whole 3 hours. Scott Aaronson came for about 1.5-2 hours. I gave away at least 16 of my 20 fidget spinners, which seemed popular. Many people indicated an interest in returning, and some of them came to our following group meal. We used playing cards to randomize groups twice, which I liked as I got to meet many new people.

  8. Mark V Anderson says:

    I’ve noticed that US Presidents tend to have short last names. Since Eisenhower, there have been no Presidents with names over seven letters. I was surprised that last names are shorter on average than I thought, with the average lengths 5 to 7 letters. But even with that statistic, it is still true that Presidents’ last names are shorter than average. I think longer last names take up too much space in one’s brain to generate enthusiasm for the average voter.

    I think it would require a top-notch politician to make it to President with longer than 7 letters. And I wonder if a 2 letter or 3 letter name would give a candidate an extra bump in the polls. Are there any possible candidates with 2 or 3 letters? And does this trend occur in other democracies?

    • Matt M says:

      I don’t think 2 or 3 letters would help. My guess is that it’s mainly about syllables. Most Presidents seem to have 1 or 2 syllable names. Obama was pushing it with 3.

    • Civilis says:

      Interesting to think about this, as none of the losing main-party candidates have names longer than 7 letters either (Clinton, Romney, McCain, Kerry, Gore, Dole, Dukakis, Mondale, Carter, Ford) until you get back to 1972 (McGovern).

      [Following information taken from Wikipedia]

      2016 Republican primaries have 12 candidates, of which 3 have eight letter names (Christie, Santorum, Huckabee). 2008 Democratic primaries have 8 candidates, of which 2 have eight or more letter names (Richardson, Kucinich). It’s a small sample set, but still shorter than average.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Well yes, both the Repubs and Dems had short last names, because the effect happens in the primary too. And mostly the shorter names won: Trump beat Clinton, Obama beat McCain, then Romney, Bush beat Gore, then Kerry (not much diff), Clinton defied the odds by beating Dole, but Bush beat Dukakis, and Reagan slightly shorter by beating Carter, then Mondale. Shorter doesn’t always win, but it looks like it would be statistically significant if you got together a mass list of probable candidates since 1960, and compared to who won primary and general election. It think that’s the way to bet.

  9. phi says:

    Here’s a thing which I call The Alarm Paradox. Most likely other people have though of it before with a different name.

    Imagine a boy assigned to guard a flock of sheep grazing on a grassy hill above a small village. Whenever he sees a wolf approaching the flock, he is to cry “WOLF!” at the top of his lungs, and then all the villagers will come running up the hill to drive the wolf away and protect the sheep.

    For a while, the system works well. On most days, there is no trouble at all. When a wolf does decide to show its face, the boy cries wolf, the villagers arrive, and the flock is saved. The boy is never tempted cry “wolf” when there is no wolf, because he is overall a sort of responsible person, and well aware of the importance of his simple job to the livelihood of the village.

    Soon, the wolves stop even bothering to harass that flock of sheep. The wolves living in that area are of a crafty sort, and know when to abandon a lost cause. Those sheep are simply too well defended.

    One day, along comes a wolf who is even craftier than all the others, and he comes up with an idea. He heads over to the grassy hill, where the boy is guarding his flock. He begins to approach.

    Seeing him, the boy sounds the alarm: “WOOOOOLF!”

    The villagers hear, and start coming up the hill, making a tremendous clatter with their spears and pitchforks. The wolf, hearing commotion, disappears down the other side of the hill and back off into the forest from whence he came. Upon arriving at the top of the hill, the villagers question the boy about this wolf he supposedly saw.

    “It ran away just a little after I sounded the alarm,” says the boy helplessly.

    The villagers look at him suspiciously. That is not how wolves usually behave. But then they shrug, and head back home.

    The next day, the wolf tries the same strategy, and the exact same thing happens. The day after that, the wolf shows his face twice, and twice the villagers muster to fight him. Now, however, they are becoming very suspicious of the boy. On four occasions, he has cried wolf, and on not one of them has a wolf materialized.

    On the fourth day, only half of the villagers show up to fight the wolf. On the fifth day, only three of them show up. On the sixth day no villagers appear.

    The wolf waits and waits to hear any sound of armed townsfolk clomping up the hill. Silence. The corners of his mouth slowly turn up into a toothy grin. He charges towards the quaking boy and his flock.

    The moral of the story: Everything worked fine when the villagers could see the threat with their own eyes. In the beginning, whenever the boy sounded the alarm, the villagers could see that he was right because there was a wolf there for them to fight off. With the new wolf, however, that changed. Each time the boy warned of a coming catastrophe, the villagers acted to prevent that catastrophe. But for some catastrophes, preventing them means that you have no way of knowing whether or not they would have happened without your intervention. This was exactly the case for the new wolf. It took very few alarms before the villagers were lulled into a false sense of complacency.

    This probably applies in many situations: A manager is told by an employee that the company’s software has a major security bug that needs to be patched ASAP. She assigns a team working overtime to the problem, and soon the bug is fixed. If this happens many more times, however, she may begin to wonder if these “major security bugs” are really as important as her employees make them out to be.

    • Well... says:

      When I was just out of high school I was working in food service. I can’t say much good about my brief experience in that industry, but one thing going for it is you meet a lot of interesting people. One guy I worked with was a former crackhead who also was a former bike thief. (Ostensibly former. Maybe current on both accounts; neither would come as a shock.) His name was Kimmy and he didn’t have a lot of teeth.

      One day I asked Kimmy what was the best kind of bike lock to prevent theft.

      “Oh, they can clip anything. Soon as some newer stronger one come out, they find a way to clip it, just watch.” He nodded and kept mopping or running around. He had sort of a manic energy that I liked.

      I had just bought a new bike after my old one was stolen — it was my sole mode of transportation, and the bastards who took it left nothing behind but the fancy U-lock I bought for it, its closure bar pruned like a rose stem. A little dismayed by Kimmy’s answer, I probed further: “So what’s the least worst bike lock?”

      “Chains.” He held up his fists and made them tremble. “Thick ones. Sum’ real loud. People take bikes don’t wanna draw attention to they selves.”

      He made a circular motion with his arms, like he was tying a scarf around an Easter Island head. “Run it all through the tires and the frame and shit.”

      So that same day I replaced my bike lock with about six feet of somewhat heavy chain, secured by a sturdy padlock, and I used this to lock up my bike just as he said.

      It worked like a charm and I had bikes for years after that, and never had one stolen.

      Enough time passed for me to grow accustomed to mishearing noises and sort of hallucinating my bike was being stolen, but like phantom phone vibration I eventually learned to calm down and relax. My bike was always there waiting for me, draped in the length of chain where I left it.

      In that time I uprooted myself again, I went to school, I got married, and my wife and I worked and lived in various parts of the state and then eventually moved across the country. I secured my bike, then our bikes, that way the whole time.

      We’d been in our new apartment on the other side of the country for less than a week. One night around 9:30 or 10 while I was lying awake, I heard the familiar sound of the chains rattling and reflected on how it sounded — just like the real thing, I thought. I closed my eyes and waited for the sound to stop, as it always did. Then I went back to whatever else I was doing or thinking about. But wait, hadn’t I also heard a truck squealing out of the driveway of the building right after? I’m not such an unlucky person that those two sounds would be meaningfully connected in my life, right??

      This anxiety roused me up out of bed and over to the front door to peek out and make sure my bike (and my wife’s) were both still there as I had come to expect. But this time they weren’t. Just two U-shaped pieces of cut chain.

      That was my alarm paradox.

      • Tarpitz says:

        Your alarm wasn’t primarily an alarm, though – it was a deterrent. And it probably worked pretty well: you would probably have experienced a much higher rate of bike theft without it.

    • Robin says:

      Is this what happens with vaccinations? People have forgotten how bad measles or tetanus actually is. Or personal hygiene like washing hands to avoid infectious diseases, which we tend to dismiss in times where plague epidemics do not occur.

    • Anonymous5Jul2018 says:

      They could have investigated the matter further by having someone observe from a concealed position.

  10. Matt M says:

    So, I have an interesting dilemma that’s a bit philosophical and a bit medical.

    Long-term, my girlfriend wants to have kids, and I’m becoming increasingly onboard with the idea. But there’s a bit of a complication. I have a genetic skin condition that has a 50% chance of passing on to any offspring.

    It’s quite rare and frustratingly, nobody seems to give a single crap about it, because it’s “fortunately” not life-threatening or harmful to health in general. What it does is make me highly perceptible to getting quite large/painful giant red lumps (call them boils, cysts, carbuncles, whatever – they come in all shapes and sizes and consistencies) every so often. And I mean really big and really painful. I get them somewhat randomly – sometimes twice in two months, sometimes maybe a year between. On average, I’d say I average a big nasty one every six months or so, which causes about one week of really intense pain almost all the time (they’re usually located on my back, neck, or rear end, such that it’s almost impossible to sit down or move without aggravating them) followed by another week of drainage which is sort of off and on painful (but comes with a feeling of relief that the worst is over).

    According to Google, there is no treatment and there is no cure. The entire internet has very little information on this whatsoever. As far as I can tell, the medical establishment doesn’t give a shit – because it’s “just pain” and it’s not “chronic” in the sense that I don’t have the pain literally all the time. I’ve seen several dermatologists, most of which ignored everything I said, misdiagnosed me, then gave up when their standard “cystic acne” treatment didn’t work. At my mother’s request, I even suffered through a year long course of Accutane, which did nothing long-term.

    As a teenager, this was a very troublesome issue for me. I was embarrassed by it and during the worst of it, often had, not really suicidal ideations (never formed a plan or anything) but a whole lot of “I wish I’d never been born” type thoughts. I’ve learned to cope a little bit better as I got older, accepting it as just a part of life, and trying to avoid the “why me” sort of thoughts by maintaining perspective that everyone has problems and pain in their lives, and many are born into various sorts of circumstances far worse than my own.

    All that said, the prospect of passing this on to my child horrifies me. My own father didn’t know he had this, but I do. My girlfriend wants two kids, which would put the odds of getting two children without this disease at 25%. Despite the fact that on the net of things, I’m glad I was born, I still can’t imagine myself being responsible for someone being born into the world with this condition. It doesn’t manifest itself until puberty – and I imagine myself having a child and spending their whole first 12 years of life in complete dread of the moment when they say “Daddy it hurts” and I have nothing to tell them other than “It’s about to get a lot worse” and “Get used to it because you’ll be dealing with this for the next 30 years.”

    So one option is to go for it anyway, take my chances, hope the kids eventually feel how I do (that on net, it’s still worth being alive), etc.

    Aside from that, what all other options are there? I’ve heard adoption is often costly and messy – that actually getting a white infant is incredibly complicated, and then there are risks of the birth parents returning and demanding custody. I suppose artificial insemination is also an option, but there’s also stories of that going poorly – I think it was here on SSC we discussed the story of the white couple who ended up with a black baby. Even putting the race stuff aside, I’m skeptical of sperm banks. Somehow, it seems like they all promise you tall, blonde, super-athlete, doctor sperm. And yet somehow, my perception is that most men who donate sperm aren’t… well… that.

    And then there’s the question of – what am I having kids for if not to pass on my genes? Like many here, I believe heritability is a pretty big thing. That genetics explain a whole lot. Generally, the reason I want to have kids is to preserve my culture and values for future generations. Can I be confident in that happening if my own genetics aren’t involved?

    I’m really not sure what to do about any of this.

    • Incurian says:

      Lots of stuff is going to hurt your kids, at least you’re prepared for this one.

      • Matt M says:

        Most of the other stuff won’t be directly caused by me though.

        As horrible as this sounds, it may be that my primary concern here is probably my own guilt, moreso than the kid’s pain.

    • onyomi says:

      It seems you should also take into account the probability that there will be a better treatment for this condition in 10-15 years than there was when you were a kid (yes, you say nobody cares about it, but it might not take specific research on your condition to result in better treatment options as a side effect of future medical breakthroughs).

      TBH, not to downplay your problem, but I am related (by marriage) to a family where everyone has like a fifty-fifty chance of developing Huntington’s Disease when they reach middle age. I feel like something like that might be enough to give one pause about having children (barring the case where you can e.g. select the embryos you know don’t have it). Your case doesn’t sound, to my subjective judgment, like it should.

    • Nootropic cormorant says:

      I don’t get why you’d care about the kid being white but you don’t about it being yours. After all, being related to you and being of the same race seem like the same thing at different scales. And the difference between your genetics and average white genetics are probably greater than between average white and average black when it comes to academic success if that’s what you care about.

      You seem to have achieved happiness, I would thus not discontinue the brand of your progeniture, your children can do so if they want to, or we might even already be editing genes by the time they become parents making the whole dilemma moot.

      • Matt M says:

        There are cultural implications of mixed-race families that I don’t care to deal with.

        Assuming I go down this route, I’d probably want to keep it as secret as possible.

    • False says:

      Putting aside the question of inheritable conditions, you might want to question some of the assumptions here.

      Generally, the reason I want to have kids is to preserve my culture and values for future generations.

      Why? What is so valuable about your values and culture, specifically? Even if your own genetics are involved, how can you guarantee you will pass these things on in the first place? Many families have a dynamic of “My parent was a huge ***** of ****, I’m going to do the exact opposite of what they did.” If this is your major reason for wanting kids, why don’t you instead become a teacher? You can reach more people and potentially pass your values on to people who will be more receptive to them.

      When you began to think about your child inhereiting your condition, you were thinking about them as individuals with their own subjective experiences of life. This is quite laudable, in my opinion. Will my children suffer? What will they think and feel, and how can I, personally, help them? Is it ethical to create a life knowing it will have specific challenges with potentially no solutions? These questions are at least attempting to struggle with the weight of what it actually means to have children. However, “I want to pass on my genes because that is cool for me” is the opposite of this, and ignores the potentiality of a human life to instead regard it as a genetic and cultural vessel for its parents.

      I think you were on the right track thinking about your hypothetical children as people, but you lost the humanist bent when you brought up the genetic component.

      • Nootropic cormorant says:

        What’s so valuable about your values

        This doesn’t look constructive.

        • False says:

          Personally, I think this is something everyone should ask themselves. I find it very constructive to critically question my own assumptions and ideas.

          • Nootropic cormorant says:

            And what did you find out? Are your values valuable?

          • False says:

            Not all of them. I’ve found that I have some persistent, stubborn beliefs that are actually very detrimental to my day-to-day life, to say nothing of their philosophical ramifications. It’s been helpful for me to acknowledge them and work towards managing and, hopefully someday, replacing them.

          • Nootropic cormorant says:

            But surely you treasure your metavalue of optimizing you beliefscape as otherwise you wouldn’t hold it?

          • False says:

            Yes, because it is constructive.

          • Nootropic cormorant says:

            Alright, presumably this is how everyone feels about their terminal values, so what’s the point of exhorting someone to question whether they should be preserved?

          • False says:

            I’m not sure I understand your line of reasoning.

            Are you saying that because questioning my values is a terminal value for me, I should’t need to question my terminal value of questioning my values?

            But as I said earlier, I arrived at this value of questioning my values by questioning my values and realizing the process was constructive. I’m more than happy to question whether or not its valuable to question ones values. In fact, we’re doing it right now! You’re questioning my terminal values by asking whether or not its justified to question other people’s terminal values.

            The very foundation of being a rationalist as an ideology is predicated on the idea that people have unconcious biases and thought processes that lead to mistaken or irrational beliefs and opinions and that this should be (to choose a word completely at random) overcome. I’m not sure its constructive for you to suggest that we should suddenly stop doing this at the point where it overlaps with people’s terminal values.

          • Nootropic cormorant says:

            Granted, but it’s there’s a difference between questioning values, which can be useful, and promoting the value of questioning values which 1) doesn’t offer any solutions for this problem 2) Matt probably already holds given where this is posted.

          • Jaskologist says:

            You’re telling people not to be attached to their values or try to spread them, which actively proselytizing for your own.

            This is an instance of the Null Tribe Exception.

          • False says:

            @Nootropic

            This is very much a situation where questioning assumptions could potentially help Matt M as well as his hypothetical children.

            The solution to this problem is to not have kids. The fact that this isn’t an actual conceivable option in this context maybe shows the limitations of what you refer to when you allude to “where this is posted”. I was under the impression that the rationalist community was open to rational yet non-mainstream ideas. Maybe I’m mistaken, and I should only tow the silicon valley-cultural line. In that case, you’re probably right.

            It’s odd to me that we can (and should, as rationalists) consider the ethical and moral ramifications of versions of ourselves that a superhuman AI could potentially simulate, but not our own children. Fair enough, a quirk of rationalist culture, perhaps!

            That being said, the very fact that Matt M posted this question shows he has enough moral awareness to understand that not having kids is a moral option. From that perspective, asking him to question his motivations to procreate seems reasonable, because (as written) his moral reasoning for wanting to have kids is flimsy. In real actual life, he will undoubtedly have kids (due to social pressure and pressure from his wife) and he is only looking for rationale to assuage his guilt. That much is obvious. But in the context of this blog and the rational community, how is this not a venue to at least argue an anti-natalist position? Are we censoring anti-natalist thought? Is discussion of the issue taboo?

            @Jaskologist

            Ah! “Questioning of terminal values for me, but not for thee”. How very clever 😉

          • Nootropic cormorant says:

            @False

            Fair enough, but what I meant by the mentioning the context of this discussion is that you’re preaching to the choir by calling for more philosophical inquiry, Matt probably already thought a lot about his values and telling him to reconsider them again wouldn’t result in any new insights.

            For full disclosure, I do not consider myself a rationalist and I come from a different social and ideological milieu than most rationalists and SSC commenters.

      • Well... says:

        Even if your own genetics are involved, how can you guarantee you will pass these things on in the first place?

        Who said anything about guarantee? It’s much more likely that a typical person would be able to influence his own kids than the kids of other people, which is 100% of who would inherit the future if he doesn’t have his own kids.

        • False says:

          I used the phrase “guarantee” because Matt M’s ethical conundrum is between the chance (50%) that his children will suffer and the utility of passing on his values (probabllity unknown).

          I agree with you that he has a higher chance of influencing his own kids, but I’m not convinced that is true only if they are his kids genetically.

          • Matt M says:

            Indeed. Which is why I am open to the sperm bank, and even the adoption solution. Nurture surely has some effect. But nature certainly does too.

          • Well... says:

            I thought I remembered reading somewhere that the values of your biological parents are a significant predictor of your values, even if you were adopted. I could be wrong.

    • arlie says:

      Can you select embryos or sperm that don’t have this? I’m guessing probably not – lack of research probably means lack of test development – but that would be the get out of jail free card. Especially sperm selection.

      • Matt M says:

        Extreme lack of research. I don’t even have an official diagnosis, because no dermatologist I’ve ever seen bothered to look into it. What I have is a sticky note with a couple latin words written on it that I got from a Nurse Practitioner who said “I saw a guy like you once, he got so angry and refused to leave until I found something new he hadn’t been treated for before. I found this in a medical index and it seemed to satisfy him, maybe it’s what you have too.” And when I googled it, it was a far better match for my symptoms than any of the common stuff dermatologists had always incorrectly tried to diagnose me with before.

    • AliceToBob says:

      Some questions:

      (1) Is there any possible way to genetically screen for this, either your sperm or the embryo (going the IVF route)? Saw this has been asked above already.

      (2) Does it manifest only in males?

      (3) Do you have any brothers who you would be okay with donating sperm, and who would acquiesce to such a request?

      • Matt M says:

        2. From what I’ve read, it can occur in either gender, although in my personal case, I got it from my father, who got it from his father. I know my sister doesn’t have it. Unsure about aunts and uncles (my father is not on good terms with the rest of his family)

        3. No, just the one sister. I have male first cousins on my mom’s side. I had never considered that. I’m sure my mom would be delighted to know that I’m carrying on her genes at least.

        • AliceToBob says:

          (2) Perhaps start mapping out your family tree, even if that meant mending some bridges (the rest of the family has friction with your father, but not you, right?). See if any women in the family have suffered from it; if not, perhaps aim to have girls (for example, through IVF).

          (3) Forgot to add, crucially, that your partner would obviously need to be onboard with this. If you go this route, it would be nice to be as sure as possible that they don’t have the condition too. Could be hard to verify.

          Follow up questions: you say you’ve googled your suspected condition. Have you gone further, and gone to the scientific/medical literature?

          I would not put my faith in any single medical professional (nurse practitioner or otherwise). Have you received a second or third opinion from a dermatologist or other specialist? Given the importance of what you’re deliberating, this seems like the obvious move, but I have to ask…

    • baconbits9 says:

      If you want to have kids, have kids. If you give it to one of them you will probably feel guilty about it, especially during outbreaks. If you are a decent parent you kid probably isn’t going to hate you for it, and you should be going in with a good idea how to approach and take care of it as best it can be.

      When I was in my 20s I found out that my parents had been sort of covering up (just by not talking about it) somewhat significant mental issues. Anorexia in one person, a mental institution stay for at least one, possible bi-polar in another. I was annoyed at having gone through depression and some suicidal thoughts/actions as a teenager without knowing this, but I wasn’t mad at the idea that they gave it to me.

      • Matt M says:

        See, I feel like this is different though.

        My understanding with mental health is that it’s somewhat heritable in a certain way, but nobody really knows exactly how or to what extent.

        In this case, it is considered absolutely certain that it’s a specific gene mutation that is dominant and therefore 50% chance of passing it on.

        • baconbits9 says:

          All situations are different, the issue here is one of two things. You either don’t want to have kids because of what the condition would do to the kid, or you don’t want kids because of what them having it would do to you or your relationship with the kid.

          My answer to both is that if you managed to handle it and create a good life then trust that your kids will eventually be able to handle it. Their life will be harder than the average person’s life in some ways if they receive it, but that is hardly a reason to not have kids as their are many ways in which a person’s life will be harder than average, and most people will experience some. Hell Lebron James had to come home to his mansion with the n-word spray painted on it,

      • Randy M says:

        I’ve recently been taken my mom to some mental health clinics and got to hear her family history on the matter. Like you say, things that weren’t exactly covered up before, but never discussed in terms of the inheritance of her or my children.

        Fortunately in these cases (as opposed to Matt’s) these are likely very highly polygenic and highly interactive with the environment.

    • Well... says:

      If it’s not something you hate your parent(s) for, or wish you hadn’t been born over, then why assume your kid(s) would feel differently?

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Well, I want you to have kids, because you and I have similar values, and I selfishly want the young people to have similar values to me when I am old, and for my kids to live among people who share our values. So, consider that your child’s potential suffering benefits not just you, but the rest of your tribe as well.

    • ing says:

      …Find a friend who’s willing to be a sperm donor?

      I guess that exposes you to some legal risk, if your friend later decides he wants your kid? I’m not a lawyer, dunno. But it seems like the best way to make sure you get good genes.

      • Randy M says:

        I think you would want to talk to a lawyer; the friend at least may end up on the hook for child support.

        Perhaps the sperm could be laundered through a clinic to obscure legal obligations/risk. There’s a weird thought.

        • ana53294 says:

          A child born within a marriage is considered the husband’s kid. In my understanding, there is also a limited time after the kid is born where the husband can ask for a paternity test and avoid child support (IIRC, it is something like 2 years).

          So this risk is limited in time.

          • Randy M says:

            I believe you, but I’d still talk to a lawyer to see if there’s precedent the other way and how much discretion a judge has.

          • 10240 says:

            That probably very much depends on jurisdiction. And Matt M wrote girlfriend, not wife.

    • ana53294 says:

      About the values: while I have seen some hints that being conservative or more liberal is a genetic trait, you have to take into account the environment. Because the world seems to move left, even your genetic progeny will probably be more left than you, even if they remain conservative.

      Swedish conservatives (not the Sweden Democrats, but the other conservative parties they have), would probably be left-wing moderates in the US. If you get back in time enough, you would be a really radical leftist. My mother, who grew up in the Soviet Union, is always surprised how economically conservative I am (and socially liberal). Although my father is a leftist, I grew up in a very conservative town, and a lot of those values were absorbed by me.

      So if you want your kids to have the same values as you, my guess is that prioritizing the community may be more important than genes for passing on values. So, for conservatives, the best thing would be to move to the Bible belt and stay away from cities.

      • Matt M says:

        Done and done.

        Just closed on a house in the suburbs surrounding Houston, TX last week.

        And to be clear, when I say “Pass on my values” I’m thinking more generic than specific. My dad is a hardcore lefty and I’m not, so clearly I appreciate that my genetic material is no guarantee my child will be an AnCap.

        That said, I’m reasonably confident that they’ll be generally intelligent, law-abiding, etc. That they’ll be white, American, and either Christian or Atheist. That they’ll be reasonably wealthy (at least compared to the average child being born in Zimbabwe).

        And you don’t have to be Richard Spencer to care about these things. You can be Mike Judge, writing Idiocracy 15 years ago. Generally speaking, I think the world could use more “people like me” and my specific political beliefs are part of that, but they’re far from the only part. I’m certainly prepared to be disappointed by my child’s eventual voting record, much as my own father is disappointed in mine!

        • ana53294 says:

          they’ll be generally intelligent, law-abiding, etc. That they’ll be white, American, and either Christian or Atheist. That they’ll be reasonably wealthy (at least compared to the average child being born in Zimbabwe).

          If that is all you want, then a sperm bank donor would probably work. Black babies born from sperm banks are rare enough cases to be mentioned in the news, so they are pretty rare. Most white kids born in a middle class family will earn a reasonable income and will be law-abiding.

          The possibility of your kid becoming Muslim or Jewish is also quite low, if they grow up in a tight, Christian community. The main reasons for conversion to Islam are community and marriage. Race is also a factor, with African American being more likely to convert.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Maybe you should do more research on your condition, including observing details of what happens before and between outbreaks. There might be some clues.

    • James Miller says:

      If they know what genes cause this you could use embryo selection. If not, you could use a sperm donor, perhaps a relative of yours who doesn’t have the gene. Lot’s of people have problems that they don’t want their kid to inherit.

    • a reader says:

      I’m almost sure in vitro fertilization + embryo selection will be the solution to your problem. Maybe you should ask fertility clinics, maybe one of them already tests embryos for your disease or may be convinced to include it in its tests.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      Just one anecdotal item:

      I adopted a couple of kids from India. Not because of any genetic issue with me or my wife, just because the usual way wasn’t working. My kids are now in their twenties. I now cannot imagine going through life without having kids; it just seems like I needed to bring up a new generation. I also think as I get older the kids will become ever more important. One inevitably lives somewhat vicariously through one’s kids, and that may become more important as I become more infirm.

      Yes with my own genes would have been better, but a whole lot better adopted than nothing. We had no racial issues for either kid. It really wasn’t any different than bringing up White kids. Research indicates that my adopted kids’ personalities have almost no correspondence with my own, but I am skeptical. I believe I helped them to become valuable humans.

      • Matt M says:

        Thanks for pointing out. And I actually grew up very close to a Korean girl about my own age who was adopted by white parents and things seemed pretty mostly fine for her.

    • pontifex says:

      How do you know that you have a 50% chance of passing on the skin condition, if they haven’t figure out what gene(s) are involved? If it’s a recessive gene, then it shouldn’t be a problem.

      • 10240 says:

        Without knowing the specific genes, it may have been observed that kids of parents with the condition also have the condition 50% of the time. Dominant inheritance, recessive inheritance etc. of certain traits was known before the DNA was even discovered.

      • Matt M says:

        Since posting I’ve done a new round of Googling and it looks like they can identify the gene. Or at least 5-10 or so genes that it may be. It’s a dominant gene, that’s how they know it’s a 50% chance.

        • If they have identified it by the time you are having children, it should be possible to use IVF to produce several embryos and test to see which ones don’t carry it. That solves the problem, although at some cost in money, time and unpleasantness, unless you have moral objections to creating an embryo and then destroying it.

    • Betty Cook says:

      I agree that I would worry about passing on your skin condition; I gave up trying to have a third child when I reached the age where the odds got too high of Down’s Syndrome or other damage. And by now other people have made some of the obvious suggestions, including getting a competent doctor to look at you in light of the nurse’s diagnosis and your googled information, and getting a sperm donation from some male member of your family who doesn’t have the problem so that the resultant kid will be half your wife’s genes and some proportion yours.

      Two comments: first, even if you have a kid who is genetically half yours, he/she will be very different from you in many ways, from your wife’s genes, sheer random chance, and cultural change over 20 or 30 years. An kid adopted or a mix of your wife’s and a donor’s genes will be more different, but it’s a matter of degree and you will have to adjust to differences you did not expect regardless. (I could tell stories about my two, but since they both read this blog…)

      Second, from my observation of people I know, once you have the baby however you got it, it will be your kid. He/she will grow up as part of your family, you will be responsible for it, you will feel it is your kid, and he/she will feel you are his/her father, and you will be his/her father, day to day. And with reasonable luck you will find when you are 60 or 80 there are people in the next generation down who care whether you live or die.

  11. Odovacer says:

    How do you recognize and deal with sophistic posts/sophists? Do you engage them? Try to refute them on things you know to be false or misleading?

    I’ve come across numerous political/historical/economics posts by sophists. They’ll usually have some facts that they cherry pick or exaggerate to support a narrative, bring up a lot of strawmen and other fallacies. They can be fairly convincing if I don’t know anything about the subject or don’t critically think about what they say. Most times I’ll give the poster the benefit of the doubt, but if I see a pattern or certain words or phrases that trip my sophist-dar, then I tend to engage or just write them off completely.

    Here’s a comment from the Marginal Revolution blog about China. It contains some kernels of truth, i.e. China graduates a lot of STEM majors. China is doing great work in some fields of biotechnology and has leads in some fields. Regulatory burdens can slow down economic growth and harm innovation. He seems to be painting a portrait of a dynamic, soon to be dominant in tech, economics and human capital China, compared to a stupid, lazy, sclerotic USA.

    However, there are facts that counter his narrative. For example, more Chinese students choose to come study and work in the US than the reverse. While not exclusive to China, there’s a lot of fraud in their research due to poor incentives. There have been numerous scandals wrt food production in China, that could be reduced with better regulation.

    This isn’t to say that his narrative won’t happen. The economic and quality of life growth in China over the past 20+ years has been amazing. China is a large country that is spending a lot on research and will continue to contribute to the world. However, the US also spends a lot on research and still has a lot of innovation in technology and management. It’s not like the US is standing still while China races ahead.

    • onyomi says:

      Maybe you can clarify what you mean by “sophistic”? It sounds at the beginning like you’re talking about people not arguing in good faith, but the example you give sounds rather more like someone arguing in good faith but failing to grasp nuance.

    • False says:

      Just to play devil’s advocate, why do you think the linked comment is sophistry? He seems to have relatively medium strength arguments overall. Do you simply disagree with his view, or do you see a certain line of argumentation that is inherently dishonest?

      As far as cherry picking evidence, are you not guilty of the same thing? You claim that more Chinese people coming over to the U.S. to study than the reverse is a sign that the U.S.’s STEM programs are better. However, one could argue that this actually shows that China is more dominate; i.e., that Chinese STEM majors have a mastery of both the English and Chinese languages (arguably the two most important lingua francas), whereas American students can not survive in a Chinese-language environment. From this perspective, the imbalance makes sense in favor of the Chinese, because not only are they better linguists and international citizens, but they also have the opportunity to learn science from both countries.

    • Plumber says:

      “How do you recognize and deal with sophistic posts/sophists? Do you engage them? Try to refute them on things you know to be false or misleading?…”

      @Odovacer,

      In my case please just call me on it.

      I learn more that way.

      • Plumber says:

        @Odovacer,
        I’m serious, if I don’t have all the facts, just tell me the facts!
        Don’t assume malice instead of ignorance (full disclosure, I didn’t read the link you provided of the guy’s “sophist” argument about China because that’s not a subject that interests me).

    • arlie says:

      I have heuristics for recognizing liars, idiots, and the willfully ignorant. I have other heuristics for recognizing those likely to be well informed, competent, and interested in getting at the truth. Neither set are infallible, but they help me reduce the noise to signal ratio.

      I almost never engage with people I believe to be most likely “liars, idiots, and/or willfully ignorant”. I will sometimes engage with those whose ignorance seems likely to a result of insufficient experience, education and/or input.

      Actually, that’s not quite true. If I’m in a sufficiently bad mood, I may play a game of “bait the trolls” or similar, and/or show off for a possible audience. But it’s not generally very satisfying, so I have to be in a pretty bad mood, not to be able to think of half a dozen rather more fun things I could be doing instead.

      I think your usage of “sophists” implies something similar to my “liars, idiots, and/or willfully ignorant”.

      • Plumber says:

        @arlie,
        Because you used the previously unfamiliar to me term “heuristics” I looked it up and learned it.
        Thanks!
        Now please share what “heuristics” you use.

        • Randy M says:

          Very useful term. Like a habit of the mind.

        • arlie says:

          Explaining my heuristics is difficult, because they aren’t very conscious, or thought out. (That probably means they aren’t as good as they could be.)

          I think I start by excluding some sources entirely. I’m not on Facebook at all. I don’t read the National Enquirer, though I may laugh at its front page when I pass it in a grocery store.

          My next filter is for style, and is probably somewhat broken. Twitter-length utterances can’t contain a good argument, so ignore them. Some too-short statements show up as links, and I have a feel for when they are most likely to be misleading click bait – acquired by clicking through rather too often when I first started seeing them. If the language and proof-reading demonstrate incompetence and/or laziness, ignore unless there’s obvious reason for incompetence (second language writers, some dyslexics).

          If the communication shows signs of not caring about truth, ignore it. If “truth” means “feels right”, if factual information is rejected, if digs are made against scientists, if claims are made that all beliefs are equally true – ignore.

          If it sounds like the standard talking points of any group, ignore the author as probably parroting without understanding, or some kind of true believer. (Agreeing with various points from some group is fine; exactly matching them, complete with emphasis, is not.)

          If the communication is essentially incoherent, and you can’t figure out what it’s trying to say, ignore.

          If attempts are made to silence criticism, ignore.

          If there are footnotes, citations, and references to data, it’s probably good. (But beware – one too well known author in the new age community includes fake footnotes – if you check the material cited, it doesn’t say what she claims.)

          If the language used suggests significant education – i.e. they have vocabulary etc. – it’s more likely to be useful. (This is another one that may be a bad heuristic, and just select for ‘people like me’.)

          If it covers something I know something about – does it give a balanced picture? Or are large swathes of relevant data completely missing?

          Is the conclusion remotely plausible? Little green men from Mars probably aren’t controlling major political figures, ‘perpetual motion machines’ have a long history of bogosity, and there’s unlikely to ever be a panacea that solves all physical or mental distress. Does the argument match common anti-patterns – e.g. yet another conspiracy theory. Does the presenter have a financial interest in convincing me?

          Is the presenter building on prior art? xxx is good, but also consider yyy – that’s a sign of a good argument.

          Does the presenter appeal first to emotions and fallacies. xxx % of scientists agree – bad argument. (Though now we have people capable of better, who use that argument because there’s research showing it works very well in general.)

          Does the presenter appeal to “science” as if it were holy writ? Do they talk science with no sign of understanding the scientific method? Are claims made for being “scientific” without any sign of a falisfiable hypothesis? – if so, ignore.

          Does the presenter appeal to religious doctrine for questions of fact? If so, ignore. (Feel free to make an exception for people who share your religion.)

          That’s all that comes to mind right now, but I’m sure there’s more I actually use.

    • ilikekittycat says:

      Most people who are trolling are trolling to get you to expend more effort than them. If someone sticks around and advances an argument for more than a couple lines, its 99% probably not sophistry. There’s orders of magnitude more people on the internet that believe in weird and incomplete notions of things than there are wannabe puppet masters trying to maliciously engineer internet discussions

      • The Nybbler says:

        The troll can expend less effort while sticking around and advancing an argument. For one thing, they don’t care if their argument is true. For another… you know the one about wrestling a pig, right? You both get dirty and the pig likes it.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Most people who are trolling are trolling to get you to expend more effort than them.

        This wasn’t true for a former roommate of mine when he was actively trolling people. He had free time and was bitter and would bait (and admit that he was baiting people) for a reaction. The time relationship wasn’t a factor.

        • Nootropic cormorant says:

          According to the rules codified by The International Troll Association at the 2011 convention, this makes him a loser and shaming him on this point, basically trolling him back, could yield results.

          • baconbits9 says:

            He was three levels above me as a troller at my best.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Rules? Trolls are usually Chaotic. (for those who remember, David Sternlight was a rare Lawful troll)

          • albatross11 says:

            Instead of Lawful Evil, he was Lawful NSA.

          • Plumber says:

            “Rules? Trolls are usually Chaotic. (for those who remember, David Sternlight was a rare Lawful troll)”

            @The Nybbler,

            I’m ignorant of who David Sternlight is, but I appreciate the Dungeons & Dragons reference. 

      • Jiro says:

        85iqanddepressed on the subreddit is a counterexample.

    • Björn says:

      I don’t think that guy is a sophist. Sophists win arguments by effective rethoric, that guy is just stuck on the narrative that China has a perfect political and economic system, while the West has become soft. You can easily point out areas where is narrative is wrong, like Chinas dept problem, their dependence on the world economy for export, etc.

      He even digs his own grave by claiming China would have an advantage because of less regulations. Their current moratorium on video game licences shows that the Chinese goverment is willing to hurt it’s own companies for pointless reasons. The recent retirement of Jack Ma from Alibaba shows as well that being an entrepreneur in China has pitfalls Western CEOs can not image. Or could you imagine Jeff Bezos retiring for “mumble mumble” reasons?

      A sophist would run his argument so it does not fall apart when someone introduces well known facts from last week’s news.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I’m not sure if what you mean by sophists. What I really detest are those arguing in bad faith. But you really can’t tell that this is true until you have had a few back and forths with them. A bad faith arguer is someone who pays no attention to your argument as a whole, but instead focuses on some detail in your argument and attacks it full force. A good faith arguer usually wants to at at least try to understand the other person’s argument, so they can determine where they agree and disagree, but a bad faith arguer just wants to score points. Once I realize that the other person is arguing in bad faith, I abandon the discussion immediately. No point in putting more thought into a wasted discussion.

  12. onyomi says:

    This article arguing that the many, many attempts to take out Trump are fundamentally similar to the sort of coup our (US) intelligence community has previously engineered in other nations is fairly convincing to me. Or, even if the particulars are not correct, it feels extremely obvious to me (but seemingly not to most, which is why I post this) that the DC establishment and media are, not to mince words, “out to get” Trump any way they can, and that the particulars of the various scandals they’ve tried to stick to him are ultimately irrelevant, since they aren’t the root motivation.

    More generally, maybe someone can steelman for me the case that Trump is so uniquely horrible as president as to warrant daily headlines like “How Do We Rebuild Norms Of Reality After Watching Past Two Years In ‘Shocked Horror?'” or “the main consequence was to make life more difficult for the grownups trying to mitigate the damage of the Child Who Sits on the Nuclear Throne.

    Whereas so far as I can tell the NYTimes oped was about how Trump is not being bellicose enough for the “adults” in the GOP. After two years I feel much more convinced than before the election that we’re less likely to get into more unnecessary wars with Trump than we would have been with a continuation of the foreign policy status quo (albeit probably more bellicose than Obama) under President Clinton. For example, Trump has expressed much more public skepticism about e.g. the value of US intervention in Syria.

    tl;dr, there are plenty of problems to point to with Trump, but the reaction to him in the establishment media/DC mainstream seems so out of proportion to those as to need alternative explanation. If you disagree, can you explain either why the reaction to Trump isn’t as overblown as it seems to me and/or why he is a lot more dangerous than he seems to me?

    • The Nybbler says:

      So I heard today that unemployment is down, inflation is down (despite tariffs), and the stock market is up. Also there’s some sort of hissy fit about hurricane death numbers.

      I don’t think you need the intelligence community pulling off a coup; that’s just ripped from _Homeland Season 6_. Trump’s a crude and crass outsider who defeated the Democratic establishment’s darling… not much more to it. They hated Reagan almost as much.

      • onyomi says:

        They hated Reagan almost as much.

        Did they really? I mean, I was a little kid during his presidency so I wouldn’t remember much personally, but was it really even close to this extreme? That is not my impression, though I could be wrong.

        • idontknow131647093 says:

          It doesn’t seem a stretch to me. I recall what they said about Bush/Romney and they were insiders that happened to not think raising taxes was a brilliant idea.

        • Plumber says:

          @onyomi,

          Yes “they” really did!

          I was a teenager in Berkeley and Oakland, California when Reagan  was President and can absolutely confirm that he was very much hated back then, though I don’t recall any “Resist” bumperstickers, T-shirts with the “no” slash over Reagan’s face in a circle were sold on Telegraph Avenue. 

          He was hated from back when he was governor (read the “alternate history novel Warlord of the Air by Michael Moorcock for an early 1970’s caricature as a scoutmaster of Reagan).

          Even when he was still just a candidate for President he was reviled (see the song “We’ve Got a Bigger Problem Now” by the Dead Kennedy’s for an example).

          On this @The Nybbler is right.

          • Nornagest says:

            There was a fairly popular punk band (by punk standards) calling itself Reagan Youth.

          • Plumber says:

            And there was a band called Jodie Foster’s Army as well.

          • Nootropic cormorant says:

            Another example of Reagan era histrionics in punk is ” We’ve Got A Bigger Problem Now” by Dead Kennedys, which is based on an earlier song of theirs, “California über alles”, that originally makes fun of Jerry Brown and is actually witty.

        • Deiseach says:

          I can quote you the lyrics (written not by the singer) of a song by one of our singers (well-regarded, and I do think he’s a fine folksinger, but his politics are leftist and a bit too feel-good in that, for example, he uncritically swallowed the whole Burning Times myth and produced a song about it). This is from 1984 when President Reagan rediscovered his Irish roots and visited the small town where his ancestors came from (funnily enough, we didn’t get protest songs when President Obama did exactly the same thing). Oh, and just to clarify, the singer in question, despite the lyrics, is not black:

          I remember the show twenty-one years ago,
          When John Kennedy paid us a visit.
          Now the world’s rearranged – not improved, only changed –
          But our heart’s in the same place – or is it?

          CHORUS
          Hey Ronnie Reagan, I’m black and I’m pagan,
          I’m gay and I’m left and I’m free.
          I’m a non-fundamentalist environmentalist,
          Please don’t bother me.

          You’re so cool, playing poker with death as the joker,
          You’ve nerve, but you don’t reassure us.
          With those paranoid vistas of mad Sandanistas,
          Are you really defending Honduras?
          You’ll be wearing the green down at Ballyporeen,
          The town of the little potato.
          Put your arms around Garret and dangle your carrot,
          But you’ll never get me to join NATO .

          CHORUS

          Do you share my impression the world’s in recession,
          There’s rather too much unemployment?
          Still with Pershing and Cruise we’ll have nothing to lose,
          But millions in missile deployment.
          We can dig shelter holes when we’ve bartered our souls,
          For security then we can shovel.
          While the myth of our dreams turns to nightmares, it seems,
          From the White House straight back to the hovel.

          CHORUS

          Since the Irish dimension has won your attention,
          I ask myself just what’s your game.
          Do your eyes share the tears of our last fifteen years,
          Or is that just a vote-catcher’s gleam?
          Your dollars may beckon, but I think we should reckon,
          The cost of accepting your gold.
          If we join your alliance, what price our defiance,
          What’s left if our freedom is sold?

          CHORUS

        • Matt M says:

          I think the left/democrats definitely hated Reagan, GWB, etc. this much as well.

          The difference this time around is that the mainstream Republicans also hate Trump that much, and they didn’t hate Reagan/GWB that much.

          So in the past, what the left could get away with was somewhat tempered by organized pushback from the establishment right. This time, the establishment right is, at the very least, willing to stay silent and look the other way, and at the most, join in the sniping.

          The NYT op-ed does not read like it came from a leftist. GWB was called Hitler too, but he never experienced attacks from his own side quite like this.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Also, I don’t think the Deep State was out to get Reagan.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            My leftist relatives still hate Eisenhower. And he actually fought Nazis.

          • engleberg says:

            The left called Reagan a fascist when they were talking about South America, but the rest of the time they called him an actor. I don’t think the real left hates Trump more than usual. But he ran for office challenging the establishment consensus in favor of lower American wages through higher immigration, and the establishment hates hates hates him.

    • arlie says:

      Personally, I see this as part of a continuum.

      Every election, the set of people who aren’t reconciled to the democratic outcome seems to get larger, and the range of behaviour *not* shunned by everyone as off-the-wall gets broader. I know people who are still claiming that Bush stole the “hanging chad” election, and was never a legitimate president – but most people regarded them as pretty much off the wall, even among those who supported his opponent. With Obama, we have the Birthers, and those who claimed he was Islamic. With Trump, half the Democrats I know (*not* a representative sample) act like the only reason they don’t think he’s Satan incarnate is because they don’t believe in Christian mythology.

      There’s been a similar progression in statements from various grades of supposedly “fair” media. The sorts of things that used to be said only by a newsletters for committed radicals, run off in the basement on a mimeograph, and maybe the odd self-published book, is now coming out of media outlets are neither generally recognized as mostly fantasy (National Enquirer and its ilk) or not recognized at all. Once again you can see a progression from Bush to Obama to Trump.

      The case of Trump is made more complex by his attacks on specific media outlets, such as the New York Times, and sometimes on media in general. People who feel attacked hit back. I’d expect similar behaviour from e.g. Fox News, if major political figures started calling it “Faux News” and excluding its reporters from news conferences.

      Add to this Trump’s self presentation as an outsider. People who feel attacked lash out. Lots of people feel attacked by Trump. Many of them are career pols or beltway bureaucrats. (The rest are probably immigrants, Mexicans, Muslims, and citizens of allied nations being pressed for ever more concessions.)

      What I don’t see is any more of a concerted attack than there was on Obama. Lots of pissed off people bad mouthing him to anyone who will listen – sure. Lots of politicians and would be politiicans openly planning to obstruct everything he does, even if the specific thing is innocent – sure, and much the same with Obama, and before. (Current US politiicans don’t compromise, AFAICT.) Ever more effective (and more shameless) opposition with every election – yep. The odd wingnut arrested for making threats, or even attempting to carry them out – yes again, and possibly more each election. Foreign agents sticking their spoon in the stew – quite obviously, this time, but probably not all that new, though maybe ever more effectively. Political partisans doing anything they can to discredit him, with ever less regard for truth – yes again.

      Now personally, I’d dance on Trump’s grave – provided only that Pence pre-deceased him – and was merely somewhat disappointed with Obama. So I probably find it easier to notice “absurd” opposition to Obama than I do to Trump. But I don’t think that means I’m wrong in seeing a continuum here, and one that also included Bush.

      • onyomi says:

        Maybe it is just as simple as, due to the “Crying Wolf” effect, all rhetoric in politics tending to rise at least one, if not several steps above what a seemingly reasonable reaction would be.

        For example, if standard operating procedure for both parties is to call any president of the opposing party, no matter how unremarkable, “a disaster for the nation,” then there isn’t much room left, rhetorically, if someone comes along who is both not of your tribe and also more so than average.

        That is, because nobody saved a “10 of 10” on the outrage scale for a genuinely unusual president, even a slightly unusual president results in an unhinged-seeming “11 of 10.”

        On some level I can understand the strong incentive for actual politicians to do this; I find it a bit more perplexing when people like Eliezer join in.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Yeah, but usually the outrage dials back down after the election. Particularly consider the primary to general election switch. The candidates warn everyone that disaster awaits us all if their primary opponent wins the party nomination, but as soon as the convention rolls around it’s all “this is the [wo]man for the job, and a finer leader and patriot there never was!”

          I’ve told the story before, but I’ll do it again. When Trump won the New Hampshire primary HuffPo ran “WAR IN EUROPE” sized letters “NEW HAMPSHIRE GOES RACIST, SEXIST, XENOPHOBIC!!” I wondered if when Trump won the general election people would realize, “Oh, New Hampshire isn’t racist, sexist and xenophobic. There aren’t nazis everywhere. They just want somebody to do something because their friends and family are dying and you can’t get them clean when there’s $10 heroin on the streets.” Nope. It’s all nazis everywhere all the time.

          • Brad says:

            They just want somebody to do something because their friends and family are dying and you can’t get them clean when there’s $10 heroin on the streets.”

            I thought the Republicans were the party of personal responsibility?

    • Nicholas Weininger says:

      To your original “steelman” question I think David Frum has a pretty good summary here:

      https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/10/building-an-autocracy/568282/

      tl;dr: we are trading short-term gains for tremendous long-term dangers, and though Trump has not gone full Orban on us, he clearly would if he were smarter and our institutional checks were less strong; and he has worn down those checks enough, by setting a precedent of getting away with Big Lies and extreme corruption, that they will be much less effective against a future, smarter Orbanist.

      If you don’t think Orban’s regime is actually terrible this will not be so persuasive, of course, and I imagine some on here probably don’t; but for those that do, that’s the strong case as I understand it. On a scale of generations institutional quality really matters to sustainable prosperity and growth, and Trumpism degrades our institutional quality more than the alternatives.

      • idontknow131647093 says:

        His steelman doesnt appear all that strong on review.

        For instance, he says something silly like this:

        Around the world, democracy looks more fragile than it has since the Cold War. But if it survives for now in America, future historians may well conclude that it was saved by the president’s Twitter compulsion.

        It seems quite clear to me that democracy is currently fragile because of all of the trends that preceded Trump/Brexit/Morawiecki/Orban, and they are simply a reaction of a subset of voters to the previous failure of democracy. I feel like embedded in this is some sort of conceit that 50 years of a rotating Bush/Clinton/Obama/Boehner consensus would strengthen democracy. To me it seems far from it. Those people were unable to effectively wield power abroad and unable to form consensus at home.

        President Trump continues to defy long-standing ethical expectations of the American president.

        Simply false as far as I can tell. He is a potion of Clinton’s philandering and Obama’s lack of transparency. He just gets called out more.

        SUBORDINATION OF STATE TO LEADER

        Rhetorically I would agree, but in practice there is yet to be evidence that he has launched a war to avenge his father or used law enforcement/IRS resources to investigate political opponents, or really enriched himself significantly. Maybe one day we will see, right now he’s just a talker on this.

        Trump is hardly the first president to lie, even about grave matters. Yet none of his predecessors did anything quite like what he did in July: Travel to a U.S. Steel facility and brag that, thanks to his leadership, the company would open seven wholly new facilities. In reality, the company was reopening two blast furnaces at a single facility.

        Pure idiocy. Its not just the lies that matter, its how much the lies matter that matters. “Keep your doctor”, “WMD in Iraq” even if these are only 1 like they are worth a million fabrications about a steel plant, or the size of a crowd. And those lies were repeated and AMPLIFIED by the media. Its really not possible for him to catch up to either without lying us into a war, or lying us into a major social policy change.

        Committee have concocted (and the conservative media have disseminated) an elaborate fantasy about an FBI plot against Trump. The party’s senior leaders know that the fantasy is untrue.

        Yea, this isn’t aging well.

        Since 2010, that history of state-pioneered ballot restrictions has repeated itself, and if Republican power holders feel themselves especially beset after 2018, the rollbacks may continue.

        A silly lie that runs opposed to all evidence we have.

        It could happen here. Restoring democracy will require more from each of us than the casting of a single election ballot. It will demand a sustained commitment to renew American institutions, reinvigorate common citizenship, and expand national prosperity. The road to autocracy is long—which means that we still have time to halt and turn back. It also means that the longer we wait, the farther we must travel to return home.

        You might find this semi-hopeful, but I do not. It simply seems to me that he prescribes more people doing what he wants, which is a complex scheme of bilateral unilateralism, that is similar to what we had 1994-2016, but actually working. We can’t have that unless its a different kind of bilateral-unilateralism that, frankly, Frum would hate.

        We cannot be caring abroad and at home, as the old way would like, because there isn’t enough money and good will to go around. We could be callous everywhere, but that will be unstable, even if many of us libertarians would like it at least for a while. What we have to do is recognize that there is going to be a tension between, “America for Americans” and “Global World Community” and not pretend that ignoring the former for a few decades (as we did) makes things work well. Particularly not democracies.

        • Matt M says:

          Indeed. “Democracy is in danger because people aren’t voting the way I want them to” is a weak argument.

          If you think Democracy is dependent on people voting the way you expect, you should probably think Democracy is a bad system (as I do, because I know that most people will not vote the way I prefer)

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Yes, I read Frum’s article yesterday and had the same reaction. Special pleading mixed with outright falsehoods.

          I particularly dislike the whole “enriches himself” angle, as Trump’s wealth has fallen since the election. Trump is probably the only politician in the last 50 years who will leave Washington poorer than he went in.

          On the other hand, the Clintons have a combined net worth a little over $100 million. “Public service” pays pretty well I guess.

        • Nicholas Weininger says:

          A few points here:

          — It is absolutely the case that the corruption, arrogance, and ineffectiveness of the neoliberal establishment paved the way for Trump. It doesn’t follow that Trump isn’t nonetheless much worse than the neoliberal establishment. The failures and sins of Tsarism paved the way for Communism but the Communists were still much worse than the Tsars.

          — On why words matter more than you may think, see Jacob Levy: https://niskanencenter.org/blog/the-weight-of-the-words/

          — It seems foolish to conclude, on the basis of Trump’s record so far, that his accession has actually decreased the likelihood of our blundering into a stupid, catastrophically destructive war. We had a very close call with N. Korea and could well again; and if actions speak louder than words, surely the appointment of John Bolton speaks louder than any number of expressions of skepticism about intervention.

          — A point Frum doesn’t make, but which I think is a common driver of anti-Trumpism, is that norm corrosion extends its impact beyond politics. There’s historically been a strong norm that politicians make an effort to appear decent, knowledgeable, and well-intentioned. More often than not this appearance is a sham but it is still a very good thing that they feel compelled to put in the effort: hypocrisy, tribute, vice, virtue and all that. Trump breaks that norm: more than any other modern president he is openly, unapologetically a delusional, vindictive, bigoted, semiliterate asshole. In being those things while occupying such a prestigious office (and supporting other similar figures like the egregious Arpaio), he weakens the social stigma against being those things. This is bad, because that stigma is justified, useful, and important. There are always going to be plenty of people like that in the world, and for the sake of their betters’ welfare and safety, they ought to feel ashamed of themselves and pressured to hide their true nature.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            — It is absolutely the case that the corruption, arrogance, and ineffectiveness of the neoliberal establishment paved the way for Trump. It doesn’t follow that Trump isn’t nonetheless much worse than the neoliberal establishment.

            Special pleading. Trump is worse for the beneficiaries of the neoliberal establishment but better for the victims of the neoliberal establishment. The neoliberal establishment argues for their self-interest behind a facade of virtue. e.g., the NLE wants mass immigration for cheap labor, their cheap landscapers and maids, but they don’t have their neighborhoods transformed by mean-mugging foreigners who drive their wages down. When the white working class elects Trump to alleviate these hardships, the NLE decries this as “racism” and “xenophobia.” Nah. You can get the money or you can get the virtue but you don’t get both.

            There’s historically been a strong norm that politicians make an effort to appear decent, knowledgeable, and well-intentioned. More often than not this appearance is a sham but it is still a very good thing that they feel compelled to put in the effort: hypocrisy, tribute, vice, virtue and all that.

            This just makes me think of R. Lee Ermey from Full Metal Jacket (NSFW).

            Trump breaks that norm: more than any other modern president he is openly, unapologetically a delusional, vindictive, bigoted, semiliterate asshole.

            Again with the special pleading. When Obama condescends to the “bitter clingers” holding on to their guns and their bibles, well that’s decent, and knowledgeable, and well-intentioned. When Hillary dismisses a quarter of the electorate as “irredeemably deplorable” (irredeemably! She actually said that!), well, who’s to argue? Naked bigotry against the outgroup is decent, knowledgeable and well-intentioned after all.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            This could be a reply, and my longer reply has been lost to the ether, but I;m really just going to focus on your first paragraph. The rest I think is kind of just namecalling or things I don’t much quibble with.

            — It is absolutely the case that the corruption, arrogance, and ineffectiveness of the neoliberal establishment paved the way for Trump. It doesn’t follow that Trump isn’t nonetheless much worse than the neoliberal establishment. The failures and sins of Tsarism paved the way for Communism but the Communists were still much worse than the Tsars.

            I agree Trumpism may end up being worse than Neoliberalism, but to evaluate the chances of that we need to create a coherent theory for what Neoliberalism actually is. I don’t think people like Frum can articulate what it is and what its goals are without either lying or ignoring its recent track record.

            If anything it appears that the goal is a managed decline of the west (or as Frum’s fellow nevertrumper Jonah Goldberg calls the “Suicide of the West”, or Douglas Murray calls “The Strange Death of Europe”). Its not really that I think they think they are doing this, but the combination of traditional Neocons with traditional center-leftists as forming the dominant “middle” has caused some trends to emerge which make the declines in growth and social capital almost inevitable.

            Most obvious is the fetishization of immigration and diversity. To me, these have gone past simple compassion and civil rights into something I cannot really identify any redeeming qualities in. When the most vocal and prominent people who speak on this appear to be cheering the end of whites as a majority in a country, simply for the sake of it, its not a movement that makes sense.

            Second is the ridiculous modern attitude to war in both these camps. They treat them like a king would treat a jousting tournament. It appears they don’t understand what it takes militarily and politically to commit to and win a war, but still enjoy toying with the various incursions simply for the purpose of engaging in them to do international virtue signaling.

          • engleberg says:

            Re: ridiculous attitude to modern war-

            Yes, I can’t see Jonah Goldberg ever considering that badmouthing Trump to a Never Trump audience isn’t all that risky compared to flying a plane maintained by men with dead friends on the Forrestal.

      • Deiseach says:

        You really think Trump is more likely to pave the way for a future autocrat than Obama’s “if Congress won’t pass my bills, I’ve got a phone and a pen” rulership? I think Trump is simply using the tools that were left to him, which is why I tear my hair out about people not being able to think five minutes into the future about “yeah but suppose our thousand year reign of hope and light doesn’t actually eventuate and the other lot get in, should we really cut down all the laws and leave these tools for them to use against us?”

        From an NPR online article, so presumably not one of the “Obama is the Great Satan” sources:

        President Obama has a new phrase he’s been using a lot lately: “I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone.”

        He’s talking about the tools a president can use if Congress isn’t giving him what he wants: executive actions and calling people together. It’s another avenue the president is using to pursue his economic agenda.

        Since the start of the year, the president has announced three new economic “promise zones,” a college affordability initiative and a manufacturing research hub. These are all part of what the White House is calling a “Year of Action.” And they’re all things that didn’t require Congress to do anything — something the president makes a point of saying.

        “I am going to be working with Congress where I can to accomplish this, but I am also going to act on my own if Congress is deadlocked,” he said at an education event at the White House on Thursday. “I’ve got a pen to take executive actions where Congress won’t, and I’ve got a telephone to rally folks around the country on this mission.”

        “Wielding A Pen And A Phone, Obama Goes It Alone” – that’s your smart person wearing down institutional checks, and that’s much more worrying to me than a blustering braggart (but not to the people at the time nodding and smiling at the Strong Independent President who didn’t need no Congress).

        • Matt M says:

          Yeah – Congress enthusiastically kept delegating more and more of its power to the executive throughout the Bush and Obama years, and anyone who questioned this was considered to be an unpatriotic libertarian extremist.

          Yet again, the chickens have come home to roost.

          What really disappoints me though is that they’ve learned nothing. Nobody in the establishment is saying “Gee, maybe we shouldn’t have such a powerful executive.” Instead, it’s all entirely focused on “HOW DO WE REMOVE TRUMP AND MAKE SURE SOCIAL MEDIA IS CONTROLLED SUCH THAT NOBODY LIKE HIM MIGHT EVER WIN AGAIN”

          • albatross11 says:

            +1

            We’ve spent *decades* with Congress punting most of their decisions to the courts and the executive branch, and the executive branch getting increasingly powerful as a result. If only it had been forseeable that someday, someone not so committed to the previous ruling class consensus in the US would get elected….

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I would also really like a definition of “authoritarianism.” The media keeps calling Trump “authoritarian,” but isn’t authoritarianism consolidating power, and making more rules, not removing rules? Trump has slashed the federal register by something like 30,000 pages. The Obama administration made a rule about how schools must manage their bathrooms. Trump rescinded that rule. Said people can figure it out for themselves. Isn’t the authoritarian the one who wants to tell you how to run your school bathroom from Washington? And not the one who stops telling you how to run your bathrooms?

          Unless I’m delusion (entirely possible), I’ve always thought of myself as pretty anti-authoritarian, and I disliked Obama telling me what to do, but I like Trump not telling me what to do.

        • Nicholas Weininger says:

          I in fact warned friends at the time who were enthusiastic about Obama’s executive orders that they should not support such arrogation of power to a single individual even for a cause they liked, because who knew what a much worse future president might do with it. And that was before anyone thought Trump would get in. So you’ll get no argument from me that the presidency has waaaaaay too much power and prestige. It is still worse for that power and prestige to be used– sometimes for good, sometimes for bad– by someone with some semblance of civilized moral standards than by someone who proudly flaunts his lack of them. I would like to think the anti-Trump backlash will result in more effective restraints on the imperial presidency but I’ve seen no evidence that that’s likely to happen.

        • Nick says:

          Puff pieces about the Strong Independent Leader are a disturbing genre. See the sycophantic Fr. Rosica’s recent piece about Pope Francis being unbound by Scripture, Tradition, etc. and how great that is.

    • John Schilling says:

      More generally, maybe someone can steelman for me the case that Trump is so uniquely horrible as president

      Trump is too ineffectual a president to be truly horrible. But if we listen to him tell us what he wants to do with the power of the presidency, that includes things like setting up a Justice Department that will explicitly make prosecutorial decisions based on what is politically advantageous to the Trump Administration and/or Republican Party. Please tell me you recognize that this would be an impeachment-level horrible thing if actually implemented.

      • onyomi says:

        includes things like setting up a Justice Department that will explicitly make prosecutorial decisions based on what is politically advantageous to the Trump Administration and/or Republican Party.

        When/where did he say that?

        • John Schilling says:

          Starting during the campaign with “Lock Her Up!”, and down to the present with crap like this.

          • onyomi says:

            I thought the “lock her up” thing was inappropriate and crass, though obviously not serious and, to the extent it was serious, meant as an implication that Hillary was a “criminal,” not that the DoJ should lock her up despite her not being a criminal.

            Re. the DoJ I read Trump’s comments about it and Sessions as understandable complaints that it’s biased against him and shouldn’t be, not expressions of a desire to use it as his personal attack dogs (though I think the idea of a truly non-partisan, independent DoJ is a mirage, given the current system).

            Put another way, I don’t blame Trump for acting like everyone’s out to get him when… everyone’s obviously out to get him. Which is not to say I like every aspect of his behavior or policies or personal style, only that the reaction to him seems, at turns, completely unhinged and/or completely cynical.

          • John Schilling says:

            …not that the DoJ should lock [Hillary] up despite her not being a criminal.

            But Hillary is a criminal. So is Donald Trump. So am I. And so are you. Everyone is a criminal. We have long since reached that great objective, but mostly by accident and the one thing that makes this country any better than Stalin’s Russia is that we have reasonably consistent and well-understood standards for which subset of criminals we prosecute and imprison. And a Justice Department that administers them without taking orders from the President on which of his political enemies need to be locked up and which of his friends get a pass on their crimes.

            Sending classified information through a private email server and the like, is a thing we very consistently do not lock people up for. Insider trading, for better or for worse, we do. Trump’s “lock her up!” w/re Hillary during her campaign, and his demand that Collins should get a pass during his, and his wanting to fire anyone who even investigates him for his own crimes, add up to an undisguised assertion that Team Trump is above the law and that anyone who opposes them cower in fear of his unconstrained exercise arbitrary power. And that, yes, is uniquely bad as US presidents go.

            If your defense of Trump is that none of these things ever actually happened and none of them ever will because Trump can’t pull them off, then that’s Trump saying he wants to be and ought to be Stalin but being too inept to be even pull a Nixon. Which I count as two strikes against the man, not a point in his favor.

          • onyomi says:

            @John Schilling

            While I don’t think Trump has only failed to imprison Hillary for lack of the power to do so (I take him “seriously, but not literally”), I don’t actually disagree too terribly with most of your criticisms of Trump.

            I think the key problem is that I have a lot of trouble believing that most of the criticism I see of Trump is the critic’s “true rejection.” I think in most cases the “true rejection” is some combination of Trump’s personal style rubbing people the wrong way and, probably much more importantly, him attempting to actually change how things run in DC, including which federal agencies and military interventions get the funding they were promised, as well as, perhaps most importantly, the general triumphalist arc of the culture war.

            And precisely because of the “everyone is a criminal” phenomenon you mention, those who want to take out a politician for reasons they don’t want to say because they sound bad can come up with an endless stream of “untrue objections” until something sticks, though this also introduces the “crying wolf” threat: Trump could do something actually impeachment-worthy and I’d be less likely to take it seriously because of all the times they’ve already tried to impeach him for fake reasons.

            This relates to a rule I’ve previously suggested everyone should adopt wrt political scandals: “would this scandal make me not vote for my current favorite politician were I to discover it was true?” For example, finding out he was lax with his e-mail security at one point would not be enough for me to stop supporting Ron Paul in any of the elections he ran in, so I should not (and did not) ever argue that Hillary’s e-mail woes should disqualify her. Which is not to say being lax with e-mail security cannot be a point against someone when deciding whom to vote for, only that people should not engage in hyperbolic rhetoric about how damning a particular failing is if that same failing would not be utterly damning applied to their own favorite candidate.

            Maybe I’m being too uncharitable to Trump critics? Maybe some of their stated objections are precisely their fundamental objections? I’m sure that’s true in some cases. But part of the problem with all the “crying wolf” is that it makes it very hard to pick out the genuine criticism from the disingenuous. As Michael Malice puts it: “Virtually every political claim can be regarded as a Jeopardy! setup for the question ‘What do I need to say to get you to do what I want?'”

          • cassander says:

            @onyomi

            trump was viscerally loathed before he was sworn in, the reaction to him has nothing to do with him trying to change DC and everything to do with him thumbing his nose at contemporary blue tribe norms.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        What we have right now is a justice department making prosecutorial decisions motivated by harming people who support Trump. What I would like them to do is go after the other side with equal fervor.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      He’s also why we’re getting hurricanes. From WaPo: Another hurricane is about to batter our coast. Trump is complicit.

      • The Nybbler says:

        ROTFL. The term “Trump Derangement Syndrome” is getting some hate on the subreddit, but it definitely applies to that headline.

        Anyone remember when the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was going to become the ‘new normal’ due to climate change? Then we didn’t have a major hurricane hit the US coast until Harvey in 2017? Not only can no particular hurricane be pinned on climate change, no apparent _pattern_ in hurricanes can either.

        • Matt M says:

          In fairness, they did blame Bush for Katrina as well, didn’t they?

          • arlie says:

            I thought ‘they’ blamed Bush – and FEMA in particular – for mishandling Katrina, not for causing it.

          • Plumber says:

            @Matt M,

            Yes.

            As I recall, the theory went something like “Global warming contributed to Katrina, Bush won’t fight climate change, Katrina is Bush’s fault!”

            Apoplexy over who is now President isn’t new.

          • Protagoras says:

            So there’s an established pattern of Republican presidents collaborating with hurricanes? Disturbing!

          • pontifex says:

            Anonymous sources interviewed by the New York Times claim to have a video of Trump secretly meeting with the hurricane.

          • albatross11 says:

            To be fair, the hurricane *did* promise him some dirt on Hillary.

        • Deiseach says:

          Anyone remember when the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was going to become the ‘new normal’ due to climate change?

          I thought it was definitely happening? The news over here is having kittens because of the four – FOUR!!! – storms in the Atlantic at the moment, and while North Carolina is getting hit by Florence (good luck to the people there), there’s a suspicion the tail of ex-tropical storm Helene means next week will be a bit blowy and rainy (sample simultaneous headlines on my news feed just now: (a) tabloid newspaper – DEADLY STORM HELENE POSES ‘A THREAT TO LIFE’ WHEN IT HITS IRELAND (b) national broadcaster – STORM HELENE TO BRING WET AND WINDY WEATHER).

          There’s a lot of pieces about how from now on we’re regularly going to get hurricanes and what-not because global warming, and I think this is because this year we had actual by-God weather happening in this country, not just climate: we started off with the winds from the hurricane, then REAL SNOW and blizzard (like) conditions, then the summer was HOT AND DRY FOR A PROLONGED PERIOD SO WE EVEN HAD SORTA KINDA DROUGHT. This is highly unusual when the usual pattern is “rain, rain, warmer rain, foggy, colder rain” 🙂

        • Lillian says:

          Personally, my favourite Trump Derangement Syndrome headline is: The week Trump went full dictator and no one tried to stop him

          His horrible act of authoritarianism? He tweeted about the government’s official jobs report 69 minutes before it was due to be released in violation of the Office of Management and Budget protocol. Not official regulation carrying the weight of law mind, but simple written procedure. Yes that is it. Trump broke an administrative rule passed by an organization that he is ultimately the boss of, and this means he is now a full blown dictator.

          So if he breaks a real Federal regulation does that make him a double-dictator? Does he get triple-dictator for breaking Federal laws? Like, how do you even go up from there? With this level of hysterics, i’m forced to assume that if the Philadelphia Inquirer publishes an article with the headline: “TRUMP OFFICIALLY WORSE THAN HITLER!” They just mean he ran over a dog.

    • dick says:

      The article struck me as straight up silly. There’s a conspiracy to oust Trump which includes the CIA, FBI, and MI6 plus both Clintons, and the result is the Mueller investigation and the Steele dossier? To silly to rebut.

      As for Trump being uniquely bad, I don’t believe that and I don’t think most mainstream Democrats do, though I’ll grant that the rhetoric against him might sound like it. I think that’s more because they really genuinely personally dislike him than because of his policy goals, insofar as he has them.

      • onyomi says:

        As for Trump being uniquely bad, I don’t believe that and I don’t think most mainstream Democrats do, though I’ll grant that the rhetoric against him might sound like it. I think that’s more because they really genuinely personally dislike him than because of his policy goals, insofar as he has them.

        So… because they dislike his personality, a bunch of Democrats who actually don’t think he’s much worse than the average Republican outside his personality, are nonstop sending the message that the democracy is in deep peril because of our unprecedentedly bad president?

        • dick says:

          I don’t think the rhetoric against Trump is that much worse than the rhetoric against a baseline Republican would’ve been (say, Rubio or Cruz or whoever). Remember when Obama’s signing statements were evidence that that he was an autocratic despot who would refuse to relinquish the presidency and install himself as a dictator-for-life? Doesn’t seem any worse now to me.

          But, given that people will always use overblown rhetoric against a president they don’t like the policies of, I think that rhetoric is somewhat more personal and petty when it’s also someone who is also unlikeable. But that’s not specific to Trump – if George W. Bush had been a braggart and adulterer, you would’ve seen a lot of the same stuff back then.

          • Nornagest says:

            That’s going too far. Yes, every President draws fire, and some of that’s going to be overblown and irrational. Bush attracted some of the same tone of rhetoric, and so did Obama, and even Clinton in his second term. But there’s a real difference in scale, and in how it breaks down. Trump dominates news coverage like I’ve never seen in my lifetime, and the criticisms I’ve seen of him are like 80/20 personal over policy. Bush was more like 20/80.

            Granted, Trump hasn’t started any wars yet.

          • dick says:

            I think the “dominates news coverage” is the main thing that’s different, and that’s not a change in Trump, it’s a change in how the media works. I mean, there’s nothing about Trump that would’ve kept him from being elected in 1980 or 1992 or 2008. But back then, the news wouldn’t even have reported on him as a real candidate – his candidacy would’ve been covered, if at all, by a chuckling Tom Brokaw right after a segment about a water-skiing squirrel. Today, there is no more “is this too dumb?” filter in the newsroom, clickbait rules, and if Trump says he doesn’t like brie we get serious op-eds in all the major papers about what it means for Franco-American relations.

            So, for better or worse, the guy gets clicks, and the whole mainstream media now flogs him like Fox flogged Obama for 8 years. But I don’t think the people writing the “Trump falls asleep in cabinet meeting, is this the end of democracy?” headlines really believe it in their heart, any more than the folks at Fox really believed Obama would go door-to-door taking peoples’ guns away.

        • Nornagest says:

          There’s no contradiction if they think personality is important in a President, which they do.

        • Brad says:

          I’m confused by the confusion.

          An analogy: if you think cursing is super cool and have nothing but contempt for those sheeple that think otherwise, fine. You do you. But sooner rather than later if you curse and curse and curse you will will run into some parent with his kids that will completely flip out at you. Maybe he’s in the wrong and maybe he isn’t but you shouldn’t be surprised.

          You might not think having a President that throws temper tantrums on a daily basis is any big deal, but you shouldn’t be surprised that others do.

          • onyomi says:

            I don’t believe he does throw temper tantrums on a daily basis and see that characterization as part of a cynical strategy to get rid of him. I could be wrong, but at this point it’s very hard to know, because there’s already been so much cynicism (and I think a healthy dose of skepticism about popular portrayals of even less contentious political figures is probably reasonable, as with, e.g. the portrayal of Bush Jr as stupid–I think he was the worst president in recent memory, but he wasn’t stupid).

          • Brad says:

            You don’t need insider accounts just go read twitter.

            I struggle to maintain the assumption of good faith here.

          • onyomi says:

            Can you point me to a “temper tantrum” tweet?

          • Brad says:

            https://mobile.twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1028354010129027077

            I can’t imagine any other president in the modern era taking that kind of tone in public communication.

          • onyomi says:

            @Brad

            I’m not sure I’d take that as evidence of “daily temper tantrums,” but okay (I scrolled through a month of his tweets and that was worse than any I saw).

            But maybe a big part of my problem is precisely what I perceive as a focus on style over substance in DC: one can authorize unjust, wasteful military interventions to appease military-industrial constituencies so long as one does so with dignity. But tweet intemperately and they’ll find some way to take you out (and I actually don’t find perplexing the editorials about how Trump is undignified, etc. I may disagree with their authors’ priorities, but at least they state their “true rejection.” What I find especially bothersome is the cynicism: e.g. investigations that wouldn’t be pursued against a president who better fit the DC cultural norms; arguably this was also the reason for the Kenneth Starr investigation; I thought that was BS too, btw).

          • Brad says:

            e.g. investigations that wouldn’t be pursued against a president who better fit the blue tribe cultural norms;

            They are not “blue tribe” cultural norms, they American cultural norms. Jimmy Carter had impeccable rural credentials and he was appropriately presidential. So was Johnson generally, at least in public. This isn’t a red / blue thing.

          • John Schilling says:

            But maybe a big part of my problem is precisely what I perceive as a focus on style over substance in DC:

            That’s our problem too. Right now, the top man in DC is one who has no substance under his odious personal style, who has accomplished nothing of significance before or after his election that isn’t ultimately just a matter of self-promotion.

            Traditional Washington insiders may care more than they ought to about style, but they also actually get stuff done – stuff that an awful lot of Americans actually want done, even if you personally don’t. Trump, lacking in substance, gets nothing done. The swamp remains undrained, the wall unbuilt, Obamacare unrepealed and unreplaced, etc. But he tells his followers what they want to hear about what he allegedly wants to do, blames the lack of progress on somebody else, pure style, no substance, and they eat it up.

          • cassander says:

            @Brad

            those norms are codified and enforced by cultural organs that are overwhelmingly blue tribe. Calling somalia a shithole in a private meeting is not a violation of american norms, but it was turned into a scandal of “unpresidential behavior” by a media that loves to be outraged by trump. Lyndon Johnson would literally wave his dick at subordinates, and that never made the news.

            @john schilling

            That’s our problem too. Right now, the top man in DC is one who has no substance under his odious personal style, who has accomplished nothing of significance before or after his election that isn’t ultimately just a matter of self-promotion.

            He did more deregulating in his first year than Bush did in 8, he’s getting judges confirmed, and got a tax reform bill passed that I like. Are those amazing achievements? Not by any means. But they’re not nothing and I like them a hell of a lot more than anything the opposition would have done in the same timeframe.

          • Brad says:

            brad wrote:

            You don’t need insider accounts just go read twitter.

          • AliceToBob says:

            He did more deregulating in his first year than Bush did in 8, he’s getting judges confirmed, and got a tax reform bill passed that I like. Are those amazing achievements? Not by any means. But they’re not nothing and I like them a hell of a lot more than anything the opposition would have done in the same timeframe.

            Plus pushback against Title IX overreach, and publicly supporting the lawsuit against Harvard for discriminating against Asian students. Yeah, those aren’t major accomplishments, but they are actions that go a ways to (re)establishing basic norms by publicly repudiating some of the sexism and racism now perfectly acceptable to some on the left.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Which specific assertions did you think are silly?

        What I really want to know is why Carter Page is still walking around a free man. I mean, they got a title 1 FISA warrant on him. That’s for knowing agents of a foreign government. How exactly did Page go from being the FBI’s star witness is the prosecution of two Russian agents to being a Putin loyalist in the span of a few months? What exactly was the probable cause for that one?

        And once the cat was out of the bag that Page had a FISA warrant on him, why didn’t the government move to arrest him? Or why didn’t he flee to Mother Russia?

        It couldn’t possibly be that corrupt law enforcement officials, loyal to the party in power, fudged out a warrant so they could use the giant evil government panopticon to spy on the opposition political campaign. After all, agents of the federal government are beyond reproach, and the Democrats are saints. So why haven’t we executed Carter Page for treason already?

        • dick says:

          Which specific assertions did you think are silly?

          The main one of the article, that there’s a treasonous conspiracy of high-level bureaucrats trying to oust Trump in more or less the same way we’ve engineered coups in other countries:

          The bottom line is that the intelligence services of the United States, and top officials of the FBI, have indeed launched a regime change operation comparable to the dozens carried out by these very same spooks over the years from Latin America to the Middle East.

          Could this be happening? Sure, they’ve done such things in other countries, why not. Could the Mueller investigation be evidence of this happening? Pure bosh. Did these guys forget how to poison people and bribe mistresses and stuff? Mueller hasn’t even alleged any wrongdoing by Trump!

          It’s about as compelling as, “I think the cops are plotting to murder me and make it look like a suicide – how else do you explain my second cousin getting three traffic tickets in a single month?”

      • cassander says:

        As for Trump being uniquely bad, I don’t believe that and I don’t think most mainstream Democrats do,

        I know a few mainstream democrats and they all seem to think that. Though, the mainstream democrats I knew also thought that bush was uniquely bad, and probably would have thought his dad and reagan were uniquely bad, so that doesn’t tell us all that much.

    • beleester says:

      The thing about reading the tea leaves of Trump’s policy positions is that he’s taken both sides of pretty much every single issue at one point or another. He’s been skeptical about US intervention in Syria, he’s also reportedly asked why we haven’t tried to kill Assad himself instead of the current slap-on-the-wrist strikes. He’s held (symbolic) peace talks with North Korea and he’s also gone on tweetstorms about how his Big Red Button is bigger than Kim Jong Un’s. During the campaign he asked why we have nukes if we aren’t going to use them. Yes, he’s said that he doesn’t plan on starting a war. I just have no idea why anyone believes him. On any subject, really.

      (There may be good reasons to think a war is unlikely in general, such as the fact that we’ve already bombed all the likely candidates in the Middle East besides Iran, but Trump’s character isn’t one of them.)

      But “not getting into a war” is a low-resolution metric – large wars aren’t common, and the pressures that start one are likely to be spread over several administrations.

      So the thing people are looking at is how the Trump administration is using their soft power. Who are we threatening with sanctions or diplomatic pressure? What allies are we supporting? What nations are we treating as friendly and which as enemies? By those measures, Trump seems to be making lots of enemies and no friends.

      Also, I think there’s a difference between “not being bellicose” and “letting other nations do literally whatever they want” and things like “imposing a minor diplomatic consequence for nations that assassinate people in other countries” fall on the correct side of that line. If we say that Russia can do anything they want so long as it’s not an actual military intervention (or even then, if you use “little green men”), will that incentivize Russia to do more or fewer political assassinations?

      • Matt M says:

        Yes, he’s said that he doesn’t plan on starting a war. I just have no idea why anyone believes him.

        Because the guy that says he won’t start a war, even if he is somewhat unreliable, is still less likely to start a war than those who loudly declare that they will start a war?

        then you’ll conclude that Hoover was better than FDR, Buchanan was better than Lincoln, and so on

        All accurate conclusions, IMO.

        • John Schilling says:

          Because the guy that says he won’t start a war, even if he is somewhat unreliable, is still less likely to start a war than those who loudly declare that they will start a war?

          When was the last time we had a president or major-party presidential candidate declare that they will start a war?

          Declaring that one would go to war if [X] occurs, is an entirely different thing. And, for reasonable values of [X], one that reduces the chances of a war actually starting. It’s the guy who simply says he won’t start a war, that you have to worry about. Because that guy is lying. Either he’s flat-out planning to start/expand a war (Wilson, LBJ), or there are circumstances when they will start a war that they are trying to conceal.

          Trump, I’m pretty sure, has never really thought about when he would start a war, because his diplomatic model is that he talks tough and the other side backs down, because America! and Trump!

          • Matt M says:

            Well, so far, that model has been more effective than the GWB/Obama models, so whatever.

            The Hillary/McCain class of politician never met a war they didn’t like or didn’t want. Trump at least seems capable of identifying that sometimes war is a less than optimal outcome. That puts him apart from the rest of Washington.

          • John Schilling says:

            The Hillary/McCain class of politician never met a war they didn’t like or didn’t want.

            So, if Hillary had been elected, you’d have expected her to launch simultaneous nuclear attacks against Russia, China, England, and France? Because I’m guessing not.

            The next time you try to express anything like this, please dial the hyperbole down by at least 90%. As is, I read your statement as “People like Hillary and McCain are more enthusiastic than I am about some wars, and I’m too angry to be more detailed than that”. Which is neither informative nor persuasive.

          • pontifex says:

            Hillary was a well-known hawk who supported her husband’s war in Kosovo, voted for the invasion of Iraq, and supported the war in Afghanistan. Of course she supported bombing Libya during the Arab spring.

            “Never met a war she didn’t like or didn’t want” seems factually accurate. I can’t recall any war in the last 20 years that the US was involved in that she opposed (except Iraq, once it had started and buyer’s remorse set in).

            Obviously Hillary wasn’t going to “attack Russia, China, England, and France” but she might very well have intervened in Syria more than we have done. I wonder if she would have been brave enough to put boots on the ground there?

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, Hillary and McCain are/were both on the hawkish end of consensus US policy. That’s not trying to start a war with Russia or China (though miscalculations are always possible), but it is bombing Libya and maybe starting a war with Iran.

            During the campaign, Trump seemed less enthusiastic about that sort of thing than Hillary/McCain, but since it was also pretty obvious he’d spent massively less time and energy thinking about it, it wasn’t clear to me how much weight to give to his apparent lack of hawkish sentiment.

          • John Schilling says:

            “Never met a war she didn’t like or didn’t want” seems factually accurate. I can’t recall any war in the last 20 years that the US was involved in that she opposed

            You understand that there’s a rather large difference between “a war” and “a war that the US was involved in”? Wars that the US are involved in are a very small subset of the set of all possible wars, filtered by the fact that a whole lot of Americans not named Hillary Clinton or John McCain had to also want the US to be involved in them.

            I understand that “agrees with the more hawkish plurality of Americans as to which wars the US should be involved in” is a much less effective bit of rhetoric than “never met a war they didn’t like”, but the one is an accurate statement and the other is a hyperbolic lie, and this is a place I’d like to keep free of the latter even when it does make for clever rhetoric.

      • albatross11 says:

        As an exercise, before Trump was elected, I tried working out the sign of the difference in probability of a nuclear war if Trump vs Clinton was elected. This probably reflects my ignorance as much as anything else, but it wasn’t at all obvious what the sign should be.

        • beleester says:

          I think that has more to do with the rarity of a nuclear war than with either of their leadership styles. It’s hard to do math on tiny probabilities.

          Although one thing you definitely could have noticed before the election was that Trump planned on tearing up the Iran deal, which seems likely to have a more direct impact on the probability of nuclear war than whatever general raising of tensions he gets up to.

      • Randy M says:

        The thing about reading the tea leaves of Trump’s policy positions is that he’s taken both sides of pretty much every single issue at one point or another.

        This is a less subtle twist on Obama’s campaign strategy of “say nothing, and let everyone assume what they want.” But really nothing new for a politician. Remember John Kerry “flip-flopping”?
        Maybe it is more significant for Trump and the complaint was overblown for others, but you’d have to show that.

    • jgr314 says:

      *bias disclaimer: I don’t like Trump*

      I have been reading a lot of US history recently. My conclusion is that
      (1) it is common for the opposition party to try to tag their winning opponent with extreme labels and claim it is a disaster for the country.
      (2) It isn’t rare for the winner’s party to also dislike him.
      (3) Most US presidents have been pretty terrible
      (4) Individual presidents (even whole administrations and iterations of government) usually don’t matter that much. Subpoints: (i) the country is very big, (ii) the actual range of options available to the strategic actors is pretty narrow, (iii) institutional constraints make the feasible range of options even narrower.
      (5) Thus, the US has made it through and done pretty well (note: past performance is no guarantee of future results; also the Civil War could easily have been the end; also really great fundamental assets, both physical and human capital)

    • cassander says:

      This article arguing that the many, many attempts to take out Trump are fundamentally similar to the sort of coup our (US) intelligence community has previously engineered in other nations is fairly convincing to me.

      The article in question is substantially overstating the efficacy of CIA et al when it comes to backing coups. When was the last one of those we actually pulled off without military force? Maybe haiti in 91?

      that the DC establishment and media are, not to mince words, “out to get” Trump any way they can,

      They’re out to get trump any way they can, as long as it doesn’t imperil their careers, disrupt their personal lives, or require them to change out of their pajamas after 9 at night. Which is not nothing, but it’s considerably less dire than “any way they can, full stop.”

      After two years I feel much more convinced than before the election that we’re less likely to get into more unnecessary wars with Trump than we would have been with a continuation of the foreign policy status quo (albeit probably more bellicose than Obama) under President Clinton.

      This is probably true, but it also doesn’t say much. Clinton has a long record of being very hawkish, almost john mccain level hawkish.

    • noddingin says:

      The Clintons (and other sensible Democrats) would not want to oust Trump now; better have him in office to be voted out in 2020. The person with most incentive to oust him now, is Pence.

    • Brad says:

      Were you really expecting to come to a better understanding of the coastal liberal media elite with this comment and ensuing discussion? You mentioned steelmanning, have tried a tiny bit of charity? You might be surprised at where that could lead.

    • Plumber says:

      “…there are plenty of problems to point to with Trump, but the reaction to him in the establishment media/DC mainstream seems so out of proportion to those as to need alternative explanation…..”.

      @onyomi,

      What i’ve noticed in my neck o’the woods is how opposition to Trump seems to combine the different types of opposition that was against Reagan and Bush junior. 

      First off, my once upon a time Republican wife mostly seems aghast at the Putin connection, my brother (who grew up in Berkeley and Oakland, California like I did, but lives in Maryland now) is probably the most “Blue Tribe” person that I know well, and when he last visited he wore a “It’s Mueller Time” t-shirt, during the primary campaign my boss (a Republican who lives in Sonoma county) described Trump as “Not a real Republican”, the other guys at work are mostly blue-collar Democrats (if we vote we usually the way are union tells us) and mostly they just think Trump is funny, and they don’t seem particularly concerned but, judging by their signs, my neighbors (I live a stones throw from Berkeley, California) are a different matter. 

      Bumperstickers against Bush were common ten to fifteen years ago, and now I see “Resist” bumperstickers, a new thing however is the “In this house we believe….” signs listing various liberal beliefs that have been popping up, more alarming to me is that the far left (the RCP Avakianists) presence (judging by posters on telephone poles) is back to what I remember they were in the 1980’s, and now I see exhortations that “We need a revolution” again.

      One vocally right-wing former co-worker (he got moved to another building so I seldom see him anymore) gleefully exalted over watching a video on his phone of “Antifa getting beaten up” (I had to ask what Antifa was) and shortly afterwards I noticed “The Anti Fa Handbook” in a prominent place at a local bookstore, and within a month I could hear helicopters that I presume were police over the University where “commies” and “fascists” were screaming at each other in an effort to look like that they’re going to reenact Weimar republic streetfights at “rallies and “counter-rallies”, so yeah it does look like vitriol is ramped up.

  13. Well... says:

    Are there any professions that don’t use acronyms as part of their occupational spoken jargon?

  14. Well... says:

    I remember hearing somewhere that I/O psych isn’t respected by other branches of psychologists. (Or something like that.) Can anyone verify one way or another?

  15. jhertzlinger says:

    After reading How architecture-themed Twitter accounts became a magnet for white nationalism and rereading The Toxoplasma Of Rage, I decided Moloch recently said “YOU KNOW WHAT NOBODY HATES EACH OTHER ABOUT YET? ARCHITECTURE. LET ME FIND SOME STORY THAT WILL MAKE PEOPLE HATE EACH OTHER OVER ARCHITECTURE.”

  16. DavidS says:

    Interested in thoughts on this report (partially because I read this community as often broadly sympathetic with e.g. Jon Haidt, but also as having lots of people who didn’t like stupid teachers making them do stuff they didn’t want to do at school).

    https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2018/09/teens-think-they-shouldnt-have-to-speak-in-front-of-the-class/570061/

    Particularly

    • quanta413 says:

      Group projects are the truly diabolical and cruel thing to assign to students. Speaking in front of people is stressful but at least it only lasts 5 to 10 minutes (at school).

      I don’t really see why this is news though. Most children hate pretty much all schoolwork. A lot of schoolwork is pretty pointless long run.

      • DavidS says:

        I think there’s a feeling that schools are now more responsive to this sort of thing and that kids feel more entitled to demand their right not to feel stressed.

        TBH I think it’s mostly been noticed because The Coddling of the American Mind is on the best-seller lists and it’s just such a neat fit!

      • Matt M says:

        Group projects are uniquely terrible as a means of evaluating individual competency and schooling is based almost entirely around this. So it’s a legit complaint.

        That said, group work is super common in college and relatively common in corporate America, so it’s probably worth having students practice it in middle/high school. And the only way to ensure they actually put any effort into it is to grade it. So I’m not sure there’s an easy solution here.

        • ana53294 says:

          Schools include people with very different IQs and work ethics. Universities and workplaces are quite segregated by these things, so group work after school is much less stressful than at school, and you are less likely to have a laid-back moron in your group.

          Also, all the emotions of puberty make those experiences much worse than they are at adulthood. And the people who direct those group activities, the teachers, are people who have no experience at all working in groups. In my school, the math teacher did not coordinate with the physics teacher. They barely managed to coordinate the math curriculum across different years. Teachers are like cats, and they don’t work in groups at all. How could they help teach what they don’t do at all?

          • Randy M says:

            Schools include people with very different IQs and work ethics. Universities and workplaces are quite segregated by these things

            Eh… it’s a spectrum, sure, but I don’t think there’s all that large a difference.
            Besides, it makes sense to practice in a difficult but low stakes context.

            Teachers are like cats, and they don’t work in groups at all. How could they help teach what they don’t do at all?

            Some things you learn by doing, even if not optimally.

        • The Nybbler says:

          If you want to grade group projects right, you need to put in a lot more effort than a teacher practically can. You need to figure out, for each group, who is carrying the weight, who is slacking, and how the working group members are handling the slackers. You also need to have actually taught strategies for handling the slackers.

          • Matt M says:

            If you want to grade group projects right, you need to put in a lot more effort than a teacher practically can.

            Which won’t happen. At least 50% of the reason group projects even exist is due to teacher laziness. If you have a class of 30, it’s a lot easier to grade 6 papers from groups of 5 than 30 papers.

            If the teacher has to get involved in evaluating who in the group did what percentage of work, they might as well just grade 30 papers and be done with it.

          • Nick says:

            I had a professor in college who put the work in to grade teams fairly. He kept pace of the group’s progress with regular meetings and code reviews, had everyone individually document what work they’d done, and had us submit detailed evals of ourselves and our teammates at the end of the semester. It was my impression he kept abreast of all the drama and the slacking, or lack thereof, that I heard through on the grapevine from other groups throughout the semester. It was a lot of work, though; he had to meet with teams individually a lot, and my personal journal for the semester ran 15 single spaced pages, so multiplying that by 30 students….

        • Randy M says:

          Agreed. Group work and public speaking are very valuable skills to develop, even if a large segment detests them (and another large segment loves them a bit too much).

      • onyomi says:

        Growing up in the US I took it for granted everyone hated group projects, but having taught in Asia I found that many students quite preferred them, probably due to not entirely inaccurate stereotypes about Asian culture being more group, consensus-oriented, as well as the fact of East Asian students being shyer, on average, than Americans in my experience, though with quite a lot of variability, as in the US (I have also noted big regional differences in apparent extroversion of students in US classes, leading me to believe culture is a big factor).

        This also solves, to a certain extent, the problem of making students talk in front of their classmates: the more extroverted members of the group can “take the lead” when presenting the ideas the group, ideally, came to together (of course, if the same students always talk while others remain silent it becomes hard to evaluate the performance of the non-talkers).

        I also have mixed feelings about whether ability to speak in front of groups should be a requirement of education. On the one hand, it’s not as if someone who happens to have crippling anxiety about presenting his ideas in front of others should have academic success entirely barred to him. Obviously, some people can be very successful, happy people doing things that don’t require that.

        On the other hand, I’m also a big proponent of the idea that school, if we’re going to make every kid do it, should be about instilling more useful life skills than just ability to pass tests on a small, semi-arbitrary subset of human knowledge, and I think being able to express one’s ideas in person is a very valuable, important skill. Even in academia, where you can be more successful than most fields by barricading yourself in the library and writing books and articles, you’re going to fare a lot worse, all else equal, if your in-person presentations (and therefore also your teaching) suck.

        And I also worry that if this problem is getting worse (though maybe it’s just a function of more being willing to speak up about the problem), it may be a result of e.g. kids spending more time with faces buried in cell phones and ipads and that accommodating the negative results of that, though maybe not bad in the short run, may be sort of like demanding more accommodations for the overweight rather than figuring out what’s wrong with our eating habits (and, to be clear, I’m not saying accommodating those with social anxiety or weight problems is bad, only that I don’t want it to mean giving up on solving those problems).

        • I also have mixed feelings about whether ability to speak in front of groups should be a requirement of education.

          There are two different questions mixed here. One is whether it should be something that is taught. The other is whether successfully learning it should be a requirement. Your “have academic success entirely barred to him” suggests the latter.

          There are lots of things that it’s worth trying to learn but not necessary to learn. Some people learn them and benefit thereby, others don’t learn them and end up doing things that don’t require them.

          • onyomi says:

            Well, this also relates to the issue of early education eschewing specialization by design. By the time you get to college or especially grad school, it’s not a problem if you are great at physics but terrible at foreign languages. But if you are terrible at foreign languages all through primary and secondary school it might hurt the GPA that constitutes part of one’s ability to get into a good college for studying physics.

            Maybe primary and secondary school should be more like college and grad school in that you can enjoy success so long as you are demonstrating ability in something, but not necessarily everything we’ve determined is supposedly part of a “well-rounded” education. I imagine this would produce better results insofar as the current economy tends to be more rewarding to people who are really good at even an obscure thing (with some limits, of course) than those who are okay or even quite good at a wide range of skills. That is a much bigger burden on teachers, though, and one also expects that, given the choice, more students will choose the “competitive video game player” academic track than the market for that can bear.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Presentations don’t seem like stupid work to me because they are an actual useful skill in the workplace. Good presenters are worth their weight in gold. Bad presenters lead to poor communication, poor results, and repeated meetings because no one understood the presenter the first time around, or the presenter confused the audience with a bunch of irrelevant tangential information (a common failure mode).

      Most people don’t like presenting because they are bad at it. But your teacher is most likely going to be far nicer than anyone you deal with in the working world, particularly a hostile manager who doesn’t like you pointing out his errors.

      • DavidS says:

        I got the sense most people were more worried about presenting in front of the class than in front of the teachers!

        I think there’s an underlying issue here that some schools seem to be just incredibly terrible, dysfunctional little societies. Always makes me think twice about the ‘wouldn’t it be great to live in a village where everyone knows everyone’ thing: isn’t that the school experience that loads of people are running away from.

      • Brad says:

        I’m one of those people that’s bad at it, and I agree entirely. It would be fantastic were I better at at, and inasmuch as I could have been if I’d be assigned more in high school I consider that a failure of the system.

        • Betty Cook says:

          I am basically bad at this, and requirements in school to do it were something I detested at the level of making me sick to my stomach, and as far as I could tell did no good–I did not stop feeling sick if I had to do it, and I did not get any better at it. What did help was situations in a hobby context, long after I was out of school, where I knew things other people wanted to know and were interested in hearing about, and my giving a talk/explaining things was actually useful to the people I was talking to. It still makes me nervous, but it’s something I can do.

          I gather there are organizations for adults that are specifically designed for getting better at this (Toastmasters?) and where you can presumably expect a friendly audience to practice on.

      • onyomi says:

        I would also add that, while exposure therapy may not always work in every case in terms of reducing anxiety, public speaking and presentations are very much something that improves with practice. I am not a very extroverted person, but since getting and keeping my current job required I do a lot of presentations (lectures and academic presentations of my work), I’ve become both significantly more comfortable with and better at it.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I look forward to The Atlantic’s next hard-hitting exposé, “Schoolchildren Think They Shouldn’t Have to Eat Their Broccoli; Bathe.”

    • bean says:

      Students have been hating high school since high school was invented. Adults have been ignoring them for just as long. Why are we paying attention now, just because they claim it’s “discriminatory against those with anxiety”?

      I’m not opposing improvements to high school. There’s a lot of room for that. But this kind of thing is actually valuable in the real world, and saying “but anxiety” is a stupid reason not to do it. And while “but I’m not as good at speaking as other people, and will be graded lower” is true, this is how both school and the real world work. I’m sorry, but it just is. Being good at public speaking is powerful, and you should try to do it.

      Actually, I think this is a social media problem. Someone saying “Students shouldn’t have to do things they don’t want to” is going to get a million likes from other students, and five from the Haidt/unschooling set. And none from anyone else. But it’s hard to tell a million likes/retweets from high schoolers from a million from the general population.

      In conclusion, ignoring twitter continues to be a good life choice.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Why are we paying attention now, just because they claim it’s “discriminatory against those with anxiety”?

        Because this generation has raised their kids to solve their problems by complaining to authority figures.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Since everyone’s linking articles from the new issue of the Atlantic to complain about them, I’ll join in. What you said is exactly what I thought of while reading Americans Aren’t Practicing Democracy Anymore. College activism is not “here’s an issue, let’s debate it, put together some compromises and vote on them” but “let’s browbeat the administration with histrionics until they give us what we want.” I’m not surprised when we wind up with Democrats behaving like they did during the Kavanaugh hearings last week.

          • Plumber says:

            @Conrad Honcho,

            It’s true in my case, I simply don’t stick around union meeting till they end like I used to (I’ve got a two-year old ar home!), and I haven’t precinct walked in years.

        • DavidS says:

          Not sure if it’s just that. There’s a sense that some cohort of people (in the UK v anecdotally this seems to apply to 25 year olds and not 30 year olds) grew up in a context that specifically focused a lot on mental harm and treating it equally to physical harm.

          Which in a detached way makes sense: but the trouble is that it’s
          1. Far more subjective
          2. Massively open to either pretence of taking more harm or worse
          3. conditioning yourself to take harm so you can impose your will

          As I understand it The Coddling of the American Mind partially talks about the last and argues that there’s a set of attiudes/strategies that are basically reversed Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. People are being encouraged to catastrophise, to be hyper-aware of potential signs of people attacking them etc. etc.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I think this is just an extension of turning to authority figures. Teaching kids never to hit another kid opens up the verbal harassment. If I call you names until you punch me who gets in more trouble? This opened up virtual free licence for name calling, almost no chance of being punched, and if you are the other kid gets it worse? Telling makes it obvious you are getting to them, the same as crying, plus it opens up a new avenue for teasing.

            The ‘let the authority figure sort it out’ forced kids into a position of either lashing out or demanding that verbal attacks be taken as seriously as physical attacks. That generation grows up, has kids and views it as their sacred responsibility to stop their children from every having to face adversity. The only way they can do that is if their kid complains about everything they don’t like and eventually it gets to the point of “my child doesn’t like public speaking, school should be a safe space why are you making them do it?”. Hell the kid probably DID feel traumatized by standing in front of the class, doing something that they were uncomfortable with for the first time. It was probably the most intense feeling that they had ever experienced alone (without their parents consoling them right after the soccer game).

      • Matt M says:

        Indeed. IMO schools should be requiring more public speaking and practice communicating, not less. It’s far more important of a skill (and one that can be improved through repetition) than a whole lot of other stuff they spend time on…

        • Randy M says:

          I would have opted out of any public speaking assignment in high school that I could have; since then I’ve done intercollegiate debate, been a school teacher, and given product training to major customers.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I hated them myself (but then, I hated school in general), and being forced to do them didn’t make me any more confident, but it seems clear that public presentation is a valuable skill and perfectly reasonable to require.

      There’s a difference between something that makes you uncomfortable because it’s new and unfamiliar and something that makes you uncomfortable more fundamentally, and I think that a lot of people who have experience the first kind of discomfort don’t understand the second. Sometimes it _never gets better_ and every time you have to do the uncomfortable thing it’s like sticking an extremity in a meatgrinder. But, even acknowledging that, you still often enough have to do it anyway; that’s life and responsibility and becoming an adult. Anyone who seriously believes “Nobody should be forced to do something that makes them uncomfortable” needs a good hard dose of reality.

      • Nootropic cormorant says:

        Just because you didn’t manage to adapt to a situation doesn’t mean you cannot adapt, it just means mere exposure is not good enough.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Just because you didn’t manage to adapt to a situation doesn’t mean you cannot adapt, it just means mere exposure is not good enough.

          Without any evidence that there’s some other way to adapt, I’m sticking to “can’t adapt”.

      • bean says:

        There’s a difference between something that makes you uncomfortable because it’s new and unfamiliar and something that makes you uncomfortable more fundamentally, and I think that a lot of people who have experience the first kind of discomfort don’t understand the second.

        I’m not so sure that these are actually different things. I didn’t like public speaking in school. I wasn’t one of the people who skips school to avoid it, but I did quite a bit, and still was nervous and not that good. Then I started tour guiding, and about nine months later, I started to get rave reviews when I gave presentations at work. Not just the normal “good job”, but people going out of their way to give me compliments about it. I eventually realized that my gut had come to accept speaking in front of people as normal. And when you aren’t nervous, public speaking is pretty easy.

        That said, this method won’t work for everyone. I didn’t realize I was doing public speaking for quite a while. I was just talking about battleships, and sort of trained myself out of it by accident. But most jobs require you to speak in front of people, so I don’t see any reason to waive this off any more than we do other aspects of school.

        Edit: For a more rigorous example, take exposure therapy. I’m sure that the nervousness of a normal person around a spider appears different in kind, not just degree from full arachnophobia. But the latter can be treated by essentially having them practice being around spiders until they aren’t nervous. Yes, it’s in controlled conditions, but I don’t buy the difference.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I’m not so sure that these are actually different things.

          As I said, people who have had the first kind of experience tend not to believe in the second. For actual phobias even the high estimate of exposure therapy puts it at 90% for significant reduction (not necessarily elimination) of symptoms; that leaves another 10% who it doesn’t work for.

          • bean says:

            Maybe there is some fraction who has some sort of genuinely different reaction which can’t be treated by exposure therapy. I’m not a psych person, but I also don’t know how you’d rigorously prove there are different types. But the odds are that anyone who fears public speaking can be helped by exposure.

          • DavidS says:

            Interesting. Couple of questions.

            1. How much does ‘incurable’ correlate with ‘initially severe’? There are some people on the twitter thread talking about having what sounds like overpoweringly negative responses to public speaking but getting over it through exposure
            2. Do you think there’s any way to spot the difference beyond just trying to break through with exposure?

          • Lillian says:

            There are absolutely some fears that do not respond to exposure. In my case, i’m scared of being unconscious, despite the fact that i’ve been doing it on a daily basis since before i was even born. What’s more, i wasn’t even afraid of it when i was a child, i just didn’t like it because it was boring. Somehow over time dislike became avoidance, and avoidance became fear, and now i seem to be permanently stuck with it.

            Had a similar thing happen with bees, wasn’t scared of them even though one stung me in the hand. Hell i would gleefully kill them with that same hand. Then one day i was about to slap one when i noticed it was pointing its butt upwards, so i hesitated. Then it moved along a bit, and i could have killed it safely, but the fear was already in me, so i hesitated some more, than i dropped a book on it. Been terrified of bees every since. Knowing that bees could sting didn’t make me afraid, being stung didn’t make me afraid, being afraid made me afraid.

            What i would surmise here is that exposure doesn’t work when what you’re really afraid of is your own fear. You can build a tolerance to specific fearful things, but you can’t build a tolerance to fear itself.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I don’t know if it corresponds to magnitude of initial fear or not; presumably for studies examining actual phobias, all involved were of fairly high magnitude. I do know there are some things (not public speaking but in the general neighborhood) which I’ve had to that are uncomfortable _every time_, and in fact get worse rather than better.

          • Nootropic cormorant says:

            @Lillian, your example shows exactly that it is hesistation and avoidance that shore up fear. Just being exposed probably isn’t enough, but doing things might be, especially if successful.

    • LesHapablap says:

      Just about everything in life worth a damn requires being uncomfortable to get it. How is a guy who chickens out of a presentation going to ask a girl out on a date? And what girl is going to respect the guy who was too scared to do a presentation? Is he going to refuse to do any presentation for the rest of his life?

      I feel bad for these kids because I think they have been set up to fail by a system of parenting that generates anxiety from an early age. It’s no wonder that teen pregnancy rates are down, kids are prevented from maturing in many important ways.

  17. arlie says:

    I recently Kurt Andersen’s Fantasyland I’m curious whether other people here have read it, and what they think of it. I’d be particularly interested in seeing that response associated with people’s normal position on US politics aka the “culture wars”.

    On the face of it, the book looks like it comes straight out of a “blue tribe” homeland, given the specific things it mocks, even while attempting to keep somewhat of a numerical balance in its later examples. It also fails to clearly show where it’s getting some of its claims, leaving this cynic asking whether they are cherry picked and/or outright false. (The anecdotes don’t seem sketchy to me, just the mostly implicit claims that they are representative and statistically common.)

    That didn’t stop me from enjoying it. It mocked a lot of groups I don’t think much of, and did it complete with lots of anecdotal examples. Some of the historical anecdotes were unfamiliar to me, which is always fun. And some of the mockery was just plain funny.

    But in spite of all these points – and my own generally ‘blue tribe’ attitudes – I suspect that there’s a lot here that rationalists would enjoy, regardless of tribe. Particularly if the rationalists in question are really grey tribers, with pink or pale blue leanings.

    If you’re strongly religious, you probably won’t like it. The attitude to religious faith displayed comes straight from talk.religion.atheism or similar more modern forums.

    But otherwise, he’s objecting to the gullible, and still more to those who profit from them, whether they are selling bogus patent medicine or confidently announcing the exact date for the end of the world. His thesis is that the US needs a balance between hopeful, optimistic belief and hard nosed, evidence-based rationalism, and that the balance is currently askew.

    He dislikes a lot of things I consider to be harmless fun, claiming they contribute to the imbalance. I suspect those more red tinged than I might well agree with him about many of those things, which is part of why I suspect a lot of reddish tribers might also enjoy it.

    So I’m curious what other folks who frequent SSC think of this book.

    • Plumber says:

      @arlie,

      I haven’t read the book but I read the author’s article in The Atlantic Monthly that was adapted from it.

      The article nicely confirmed my general “blame-the-baby-boomers-for-most-everything” attitude. 

      If you’re like me and seethes with resentment of Americans born from 1946 to 1963, and enjoys seeing the situation described as “….The great unbalancing and descent into full Fantasyland was the product of two momentous changes. The first was a profound shift in thinking that swelled up in the ’60s; since then, Americans have had a new rule written into their mental operating systems: Do your own thing, find your own reality, it’s all relative. The second change was the onset of the new era of information. Digital technology empowers real-seeming fictions of the ideological and religious and scientific kinds. Among the web’s 1 billion sites, believers in anything and everything can find thousands of fellow fantasists, with collages of facts and “facts” to support them. Before the internet, crackpots were mostly isolated, and surely had a harder time remaining convinced of their alternate realities….” and “…After the ’60s, truth was relative, criticizing was equal to victimizing, individual liberty became absolute, and everyone was permitted to believe or disbelieve whatever they wished. The distinction between opinion and fact was crumbling on many fronts….” then I say give it a read.

  18. Incurian says:

    I spent the last week playing Mass Effect Andromeda, and I think it’s crazy under-rated. I’ve been a big fan of the Mass Effect series since the beginning, but I skipped Andromeda because of all the negative reviews. The two things I heard most were there were lots of technical glitches, especially with animations, and that it appeared to have been written by SJWs. After checking out the Battlefield V beta (it sucks), EA Origin enticed me to give Andromeda a try.

    While the game has it’s problems, I thought the animations were fine (I understand they were patched shortly after launch), and probably my social circle is a bit hyper sensitive to the SJW thing, because while I could sort of understand the complaint (especially in the first couple hours of the game, though maybe that’s just how long it took for my preconceived notions to wear off) it seemed fine to me, and a lot of the dialogue options were definitely not SJW-friendly. My review follows, and it will have some very minor spoilers (more about gameplay than plot mostly), but the tldr is if you’re a fan of the series you should give this one a chance.

    The bad: I hate hate hate hate hate the interface. You have to hold E to interact, no more tapping. It took me hours to get used to. Very frequently it’s hard to target the item or person you want to interact with. Putting mods on your guns is a pain and kind of difficult to figure out. You can only have three skills at a time. There is a “profile” system to allow you to switch between different sets of skills, but switching profiles incurrs a long cool down penalty, making it useless in combat, so hopefully you can predict the skills you’ll need for a particular encounter in advance. I wound up just choosing my favorite three and sticking to them. Several quests have you bouncing all over the map for no reason. You can’t skip the take off and landing cutscenes. The journal and map are atrocious, making pathing and planning very difficult, to the point that I began just doing quests in the order listed instead of bundling them by location. The plot is slightly derivative. The “scourge” is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of.

    The good: I like the characters a lot, they have personality (the characters are probably the most important aspect of the series to me, and they got this one right, best in the series). The plot and villains and kind of interesting, and kept me interested throughout, I would really like a sequel to continue it. The combat is pretty fun, not as good as ME3, but better than ME2 imho. I like being able to cherry pick skills from different classes without being siloed into one. The game concept is pretty fun, although imperfectly implemented. The research, planetary development, and strike missions really made it seems like a living and connected area. It’s much less linear than previous games (and not just in the “pick the order you complete each planet” sense). The open worlds are great, they nailed it. Lots of stuff to do, unlike previous games in the series that basically had one main quest line and then lots of boring driving to complete stupid extra quests, and it has fast travel you can unlock across each planet. It feels much more like a Bethesda game than a Bioware game, but not boring like I find most Bethesda games. The ground vehicle is perfect, and not at all frustrating. The protagonist is inexperienced and unsure of him/herself, which I found endearing. There is swearing and nudity where appropriate.

    Any fans of the series play it all the way through but hate it?

    • Tarpitz says:

      I liked it, though not even close to 2, never mind 1. 3, on the other hand, enraged me so much within the first hour or two that I just gave up entirely.

    • Matt M says:

      I absolutely loved Andromeda and talking about this makes me angry. I feel like a bunch of trolls decided, based on a few dumb screenshots, to hate and sabotage this game without actually playing it, and somehow it worked, and killed off what might be my favorite series of all time.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Played through it. Felt okay at the beginning, but quickly became “meh,” which quickly became a chore, which quickly became “oh my god will this game please end.”

      Open World for Mass Effect does not work, IMO. They do not enough unique environments or opponents to make me want to explore the world. It’s a LOT better than the Mako+ME1 combo, but it’ll never compare to one of the flagship Bethesda products. ME2 worked really, really well with a tight storyline and a tight environment.

      Especially since so much of the storyline of Andromeda involved retreading the same combat areas on the same planet. Like going to Havaral or whatever five times for different reasons.

      The characters are okay, but not as good the original triology. I think the only person I actually liked was stereo-typical Jamaican alien race guy, and I still can’t remember his name. I can’t even remember the other crew, actually. Was there a Krogan? Some old woman who thought she was an Asari commando but was actually human or something like that? Oh, that annoying cheery nerdy guy who you go on a sidequest to get a couch or something.

      Overall, I’d say Andromeda is a lot like Dragon Age 2: it’s alright, but it’s not anywhere near as good as the original.

      The combat was great, only thing that made it worthwhile.

      • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

        Decided to piggyback off this comment of the ones so far because it closely echoes my own thoughts about the game.

        I loved the Mass Effect series, and played through the original ones 6 times (once for each class, experimenting with different choices and seeing the butterflies, obviously). Mass Effect 1’s gameplay didn’t really bother me, didn’t even mind the goofy vehicle sections once I figured out how the random planets were *meant* to be navigated (ie, actually studying the terrain, not just driving in a straight line from one anomaly to the next, the hell with the intervening terrain), and the story/worldbuilding was top notch. Mass Effect 2 was hampered by its criminally idiotic main plot, but the gun/powers play was a lot more polished and the side stories with your crew were the high point of the series. Mass Effect 3, same story – whoever they put in charge of the main story was sadly a total moron, but the individual character arcs were solid, had some really nice story beats (ie Mordin, Tali, and the whole Citadel DLC), and as long as I didn’t think too hard about anything it was fun.

        Andromeda, though, I have no desire to replay. Gameplay was fun. I liked the shooting and the jump jets, I thought the jeep was the best yet, and honestly, the open world worked for me. I loved blasting into a random encampment and leaping out to wreak havoc.

        What did NOT work in Andromeda is the story. The main plot is even dumber, somehow, than Mass Effect 2. The high concept of the faltering extra-galactic colonization mission is cool, and I would ahve loved a game about finding the missing arks and getting civilization started on the right foot – instead, I got this boring nonsense about the boring kett and the equally boring, uh, angari? I don’t remember the new aliens, sorry, and not nearly enough answers to satisfy. The plot was one long chase for a MacGuffin, with literal “Your princess is in another castle” moments, a villain nowhere near as compelling as Saren, and the side companions were only okay. This might be nostalgia bias, but I didn’t really connect with any of the crew the way I did with the crew of the Normandy.

        Basically, I’d agree that Andromeda was so okay it’s average. Anodyne and sterile throughout, with fun kinetic gameplay but absolutely no soul.

        • Matt M says:

          What did NOT work in Andromeda is the story. The main plot is even dumber, somehow, than Mass Effect 2. The high concept of the faltering extra-galactic colonization mission is cool, and I would ahve loved a game about finding the missing arks and getting civilization started on the right foot – instead, I got this boring nonsense about the boring kett and the equally boring, uh, angari? I don’t remember the new aliens, sorry, and not nearly enough answers to satisfy.

          Generally agree with this. The “establishing civilization” part of the story was cool (although it sucks that a lot of it was somehow already done and fairly well advanced before you woke up). The alien races part of the plot was very weak, particularly given that the whole setup with the alien races is largely derivative of Halo, Starcraft, and virtually every other sci-fi video game franchise ever.

          This might be nostalgia bias, but I didn’t really connect with any of the crew the way I did with the crew of the Normandy.

          I don’t know that it’s “nostalgia bias” but I do want to push back on this. People connected with the crew of the Normandy because you got to experience them for three games in a row which is somewhat unique in gaming (and in RPG dialogue-heavy gaming specifically). People remember Garrus and Tali based on their entire arc of ME1 – ME3. The simple fact of the matter is that in ME1, most of the side characters were boring as hell. Ashley being a straw-man fundamentalist Christian was probably the second most compelling side-plot they had. Garrus and Tali were boring as shit. Liara was awful (EMBRACE ETERNITY!!!) Hell, Garrus was optional, and a lot of people probably ended up with Wrex dead.

          I get annoyed when people try to compare the characters from Andromeda to ME 2-3. That’s just so unfair. The proper comparison is to ME1 and ME1 only, and Andromeda’s story, worldbuilding, and characters are all far superior to ME1. ME1 was a freaking mess, that looks better in hindsight because the games and characters and plot in general got a lot better in the sequels. Andromeda was never given a chance to improve. It’s unfair I tells ya!

    • Baeraad says:

      I quite agree. All the hate never made sense to me. I’ve tried to press a few critics on particulars for how, exactly, the mean ol’ SJWs had totally ruined the franchise, and the closest thing I’ve gotten to an explanation is that Andromeda is a bit lighter-and-softer than the original trilogy – there’s a theme of new beginnings and fresh starts, in contrast to the original’s galaxyful of festering grudges and ancient betrayals. Because optimism is now classified as liberal propaganda, apparently?

  19. albatross11 says:

    This article talks about Montgomery County, MD’s school system making changes to its gifted programs, largely to make the racial numbers come out better.

    As with essentially all articles along these lines in respectable publications, they don’t bring up any of the obviously-relevant statistics w.r.t. race and test scores, so the fact that whites and Asians tend to predominate in these advanced classes is either evidence of subtle discrimination and racism, or just some weird phenomenon nobody can explain. And as is often the case, there’s a surface-level positive coverage of what the school system is doing (which, of course, it on the side of all right-thinking people), but a few contrary facts leak out–like the teacher at the gifted and talented school commenting that with the new admissions criteria, her gifted and talented students aren’t always above grade level anymore, and they’ve implemented some tracking so the advanced students get to move faster. They also point out that admissions of Asians is down by several percent, which for some reason doesn’t thrill Asian families. (But blacks and hispanics are much more important voting blocs and mascots in US politics, so it probably doesn’t matter.)

    MC is famous for its high-quality schools. I wonder if they’re wreck their whole famously-excellent set of magnet programs, in order to get the racial numbers to come out right.

    • gbdub says:

      This whole “I’m sorry, you can’t be educated to your full potential because it might make darker-hued students look bad by comparison” thing is, I suspect, a big part of why Horrible Banned Discourse successfully nerd-snipes a lot of the “grey tribe”.

      • Statismagician says:

        Could you unpack that a bit? I’m not quite sure what you mean by Horrible Banned Discourse or nerd-sniping.

        • Thegnskald says:

          I think gbdub is saying that Horrible Banned Discourse is more appealing to people who feel like they get fucked over by the current system’s emphasis on rcial equality, which may disproportionately be composed of nerds?

          But the phrasing is a bit odd, yeah.

        • Randy M says:

          Primate Life Differences
          Organic Person Variation
          Natural People Distinction

          nerd-sniping means that the concept is somewhat more attractive to analytical types who coincidentally have negative memories of school than to the general population.

        • gbdub says:

          Sorry that was intentionally maximal SSC-jargon.

          Randy and Thengnskald basically got it.

          The point is that if you’re a student of an analytical bent, with maybe a touch of sci-fi conspiracy buff, seeing your education get potentially crippled by explicitly reduced or eliminated academic standards in the name of having the right color scheme (without admitting that “reducing academic standards” is what’s happening)… the idea that even educators recognize that some groups are intrinsically less capable, but actively suppress this knowledge in the name of “social justice” is maybe not the craziest theory out there.

        • “Horrible Banned Discourse” has the same initials as a label whose use is discouraged here–I’m not sure if it results in a comment not appearing or if it’s just people trying to help Scott keep the blog’s profile low from certain angles. The content of the doctrine is the idea that genetic diversity among human subpopulations is important.

          • albatross11 says:

            And maybe more generally, the idea that biology as an explanatory factor in social phenomena is probably undervalued in the current world.

            For example, there are strong social forces pushing back against anyone making an argument that the unbalanced male/female ratio in STEM fields is due to biological causes. Any specific argument along those lines (Damore’s memo, say) may or may not be right. But since those social forces do their best to both make it harder to make those arguents, and also to impose a high cost on anyone who does make them, we should expect that they’re underproduced in the world.

    • The Nybbler says:

      A lot of the so-called educators involved really think it’s the programs which make the student, that entrance to these programs are just being handed out as a reward for scoring high on an arbitrary test. They’ll go through and blithely wreck the programs in the name of justice, while never believing they’re doing so.

      The politicians probably know better but don’t care, because pandering works.

      • Randy M says:

        I think teachers tend to be either very idealistic, or very jaded about student potential and it’s uniformity or lack thereof.
        If by “educators” you mean ed school professors, curriculum designers, etc.–then yes, absolutely, it’s all about the program.

        • albatross11 says:

          From a political perspective, seats in a really good school are a *wonderful* thing to be able to hand out to your supporters as patronage. Too much of that will wreck the goodness of the school, but most useful systems can support a certain level of corruption, and anyway, maybe by the time the magnet schools become famously horrible hell-holes, you will have retired and it will be someone else’s problem.

          • engleberg says:

            Yes, seats in a good school are great loot, and an opportunity for shakedowns, but there’s also a real difference in goals. If person A wants schools to educate all citizens, and person B wants schools to educate an elite, A will fight to put the asses of the masses in gifted elite programs, and B will fight to exclude.

          • albatross11 says:

            Why have gifted programs at all if lot of the students you put into those gifted programs are at or below grade level? It kind-of sounded in that article (who knows how accurate this was) like the dodge they were doing was having a bigger gifted program, of which some of the participants were pretty normal students doing fine at grade level (who I guess are more skewed black and hispanic), and then the actual advanced students who are well above grade level (who I guess are more skewed Asian and white). (Thus, you have “tracks” within your highly gifted center. Hey, wow, you’ve magically closed the racial performance gap–suddenly, your highly-gifted center has the right racial numbers. And it would be utterly impolite and wrongheaded to look more closely and notice that the kids getting algebra in the fifth grade are all Asians, whereas the highly gifted and talented kids who are doing fifth grade work in fifth grade all somehow turn out to be black kids.

  20. bean says:

    Naval Gazing is getting closer to wrapping up the New England reviews with a look at the USS Nautilus and Submarine Force Museum in Groton, CT. It’s one of the very best I’ve ever seen.

    There’s also an amusing story of one of the greatest procurement disasters in history, the aptly-named Nimrod.

  21. Conrad Honcho says:

    What don’t I know about chess?

    My five year old seems to have caught the bug. He asked about the chess board in his kindergarten class, I told him I’d show him how to play, and now he won’t stop pestering me for games, playing the chess app on his pad, and he’s joined the chess club at school (which is run by people from…something that I can’t recall that sounds like “Academic Chess Society” that organizes tournaments throughout the school district).

    I played a lot in junior/senior high, but just with all the other nerds at the nerd table at lunch with our pocket chess boards. Never competitively.

    To the chess players on SSC, how can I help my kid? Any advice on books, websites, favorite chess computer programs/apps? Exercises? Youtube channels? Besides “play a lot of games,” what can I do to get less bad so I don’t wind up teaching him bad habits? Or is that not even a thing?

    Thanks!

    • Björn says:

      After learning the rules, you have to learn the basic strategies. Those are things like develop your pieces, play for control of the center, use castling, put your rooks/queens/bishops on open/half open (where they are blocked by no pawn/only one), have nice pawn structures and learn their tactics (you can play chess with only pawns, first one to get a queen wins). There are also the three basic motives fork, pin and skewer. That would be the content of a beginner chess strategy book.

      After that you train opening, mid game and end game by learning openings or doing chess problems. It depends on the people running the chess club at your son’s school what they will do exactly. You should see if your son likes it how they do it, this is the only important thing at his level.

      I don’t think there are any bad habits you can teach your son, but if you lack the basic strategic ideas, he will crush you rather fast.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Thanks!

        That would be the content of a beginner chess strategy book.

        Any you would recommend?

        • Björn says:

          No idea, I’m German and haven’t played chess since 2010. But it shouldn’t matter which one you take, the beginner strategies are very canonized. Maybe you should look for one that is targeted towards kids so your son can read it too in the future.

    • Jaskologist says:

      This seems like as good an excuse as any to plug Really Bad Chess.

    • SamChevre says:

      LICHESS is my preferred site: it plays unpredictably, but very effectively.

    • jgr314 says:

      My family got a lot out of the Fritz and Chesster series of computer games. I don’t recall all the content of the first one, but guess that you and your son could skip that and start with the second.

      My other advice is to keep playing other games and don’t just play chess (on your own or with him). For kids, I think you capture the most meta-level benefits from strategy games if you try to get strong at one (or two), but have broad experience with many. FWIW, my family’s primary game is go, my older kids play chinese chess with their grandparents, and I make them play western chess when I really want to win the game.

    • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

      If you want to look deeper at strategy, IM Silman’s books How to Reassess Your Chess, his Endgame Course, and his book of Complete Chess Strategy really helped me understand the deeper things going on in higher-level chess. Maybe a bit much for a 5-year old, then again, kids often are surprisingly good at this stuff.

    • Nick says:

      I recently caught the chess bug too. The absolutely best guide for someone just beginning chess is this. Practice until you’re good at those. Also, actually play lots of games.

      I play on lichess. It’s free to use and it’s an awesome site. Once you’ve got all the basic tactics on that site down, practice with lichess’s puzzles. You can also practice chess fundamentals there too; it covers a lot more basic mating patterns, for instance, than the site above does, but don’t overextend yourself here. It’s more important at the start to actually play lots of games.

      When you’ve played a good game and you want to know where you or your opponent went wrong, the best thing to do is ask a more advanced player to go over the game with you. The second best thing is to use the analysis board. There’s a button on the right when you complete a game on lichess so you can go directly to analysis. If you request a computer analysis, it’ll show you which moves were inaccuracies, mistakes, and blunders (that’s in increasing order of seriousness) and alternate lines that could have been played. The +/- scores on there are centipawn loss: as that novice site above will tell you, pieces are given rough point values, with pawns valued at 1, bishops and knights at 2-3, rooks at 5, queens at 9, and kings undefined. A + score means white has an advantage and a – score means black has an advantage. So being down a pawn would put you at about a -1, but the exact position could change that number a lot; if your opponent can checkmate you in one move, you’re not just down a pawn, and the analysis board would just say #1 or #-1 instead. (The # means “checkmate” in algebraic notation.)

      For lectures, my favorite are Ben Finegold’s, though the St Louis Chess Club has a bunch of other good lecturers too. If you go the Finegold route, prepare yourself for all the dad jokes and roasting of other players. He currently lectures at Atlanta.

      For books, I can’t recommend any because I don’t own any. But I can tell you my more advanced friend recommends Yasser Seirawan highly.

      Also, I’m pretty sure our own Chevalier Mal Fet is a teacher in St Louis, so I hope he has some good stories about the initiatives in local schools by the SLCC, or at least a few stories about visiting the place….

  22. Matt M says:

    In light of the most recent controversy, I am having to consider updating my priors on the intelligence and leadership skill of Pope Francis.

    When he took over, one of the biggest threats facing the Catholic church was scandal relating to child molestation. The international and US media was hammering the church over this on a regular basis. So naturally, his reaction was to… go full SJW and spend all his time talking about climate change and refugees and the dangers of nationalism.

    At the time this made little to no sense to me. But now I see the dividends. In the most recent round of child molestation charges, the media atmosphere seems… entirely different. When one of the Cardinals came out and said “We can’t let this stuff distract us from what’s REALLY important” the media response was basically: “He’s right you know.” Far less hostility and animosity.

    He’s flipped the situation, in a matter of a few years, from “movie about relentless journalists uncovering church corruption is popular and celebrated” to “journalists completely disinterested in church corruption” solely by declaring the politically correct opinions on a range of topics. While this is morally offensive to the extreme, and while I myself would recommend all catholics leave the church over this scandalous behavior, I have to say, if his mandate going in was “Get the press off our backs about this molestation stuff,” then he has had incredible and tremendous success.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Completely agreed, except for your recommendation. When the Church is plagued by heretics, the faithful should remove the heresy rather than remove themselves.

    • dodrian says:

      I’m not convinced that Pope Francis is leading as he does as an intentional distraction from the Church’s other issues, but I could be convinced that the Cardinals elected him with that outcome in mind.

    • Deiseach says:

      When one of the Cardinals came out and said “We can’t let this stuff distract us from what’s REALLY important” the media response was basically: “He’s right you know.”

      Mmmm – I think the media response has a lot more to do with the original accusation (Vigano’s letter and statement) being all “it’s the fault of THE GAYS!” and involving (former) Cardinal McCarrick, who was liberal and (relatively) beloved by the Washington and Noo Yawk media as ‘one of their own’ sharing similar Blue Tribe values on important things plus being a native son for the New York lot. While McCarrick’s ultimate downfall was the accusation of grooming a young man from childhood by abusing his position as a family friend, the ongoing scandal was that he liked seminarians a little too much (in the gay sense of “chickenhawk”) and that it was an open secret he had a series of ‘nephews’ to stay with him and whom he squired around (if I believe what I’m reading online):

      Even as last month’s credible, substantiated allegation that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick abused a minor in the early 1970s resulted in the Pope’s direct suspension of the 88 year-old prelate, and with it emerged two decade-old settlements by the dioceses he led over his misconduct with adults, late Thursday afternoon The New York Times published the apparent epitaph of one of American Catholicism’s towering figures of the late 20th and early 21st centuries: the testimony of some 20 years of abuse of one man by the retired Washington prelate, beginning when the victim – the son of a close friend of the future cardinal – was 11 years old.

      …As previously reported, the first allegation against McCarrick – levied last January, the 1971 abuse of a 16 year-old boy which, in a historic step, was found credible through the standard Dallas Charter process – itself represented the first time in a quarter-century that a cardinal’s assault of a minor was openly aired and acted upon by Rome.

      While the removed prelate was said to have been planning an appeal of that judgment – and the final determination of McCarrick’s penalty remains pending before the Pope – a second accusation of child abuse effectively short-circuits an attempt at recourse. What’s more, however, given last month’s simultaneous disclosure of the twin settlements over the then-bishop’s misconduct toward two priests – the first of them reached in 2005 – it bears repeating that “among the College of Cardinals, never before have both degrees of scandal converged at once – that is, until now.”

      Gay rights activism having spent decades trying to break the attitude that “homosexual men are paedophiles” and having seen success in that (the acceptance of gay Scout masters etc.), naturally the media are not going to cover a scandal – however juicy – that plays right back on the “gay men are paedophiles” angle.

      I think (a) Cardinal Cupich phrased himself unfortunately, as it has been interpreted as meaning at best ‘ignore this, sex abuse is small potatoes’ and at worst ‘keep covering up’ whereas I think he did mean the real important mission of the Church is the message of salvation which is for eternity, so the abuse scandal is not the whole story and certainly is not the definition of the Bride and (b) Francis, while liberal (hey, he’s a Jesuit), is not as liberal in some ways as the media thinks (they loved the ‘who am I to judge’ sound bite and ignored the context it was given in, where he was speaking in response to a question of one particular case and talking about – given someone has confessed, repented, and wants to live a reformed life, then who is he to judge they are not sincere? So while being a gay clergyman would not necessarily be a dealbreaker for Francis, the corollary there is “so long as you are keeping your vows and not fucking other men, much less teenagers”.

      Also, Francis is liberal but to say he went “full SJW and spend all his time talking about climate change and refugees and the dangers of nationalism” is not quite the full story. The Church reliably offends the left and the progressives about sexual morality, but when the right is congratulating themselves on being in the driving seat, then the Church upsets them about economics. Think of all the Free Market Capitalist conservatives reacting “yeah the pope is a great guy but he’s wrong on this” when the last few popes spoke about Mammon 🙂

      • idontknow131647093 says:

        The problem with this is that while the church had a pedophilia problem, that was always over-hyped. It really had a homosexual pederasty problem that was covered as a pedophilia problem. If it wasn’t so we would have expected many more young female victims, and a lot more teenagers knocked up by their priest.

        • dick says:

          The Catholic church’s pedophilia problem has been over-hyped? That’s the church’s problem over the last two generations, too much attention being paid to pedophile priests?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Yes, the majority of clerical abuse has been committed against post-pubescents, but attention has focused almost exclusively on paedophilia.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            Its a definition problem. There aren’t that many pedophile priests in the standard definition that normal people would think: Preying on pre-pubescent kids. That still is a problem, but the major problem is priests preying on teenage males who are developing or even in some cases fully developed (in a kind of Weinstein-y power position sexual assault).

          • John Schilling says:

            The Catholic church’s pedophilia problem has been over-hyped?

            idontknow is using a pedantically literal definition of “pedophilia” that does not match the common usage.

            The Catholic Church has a roughly properly-hyped problem of Priests committing statutory rape against minors in their charge. In fact, this problem is more likely to involve 16-year-old boys than 8-year-old boys. Some of the reporting has given the misinformation that the proportions are reversed. So, in the most pedantically literal sense, the Church’s specific Priests-diddling-8-year-old-boys problem has been overhyped. And its Priests-cavorting-with-16-year-old-boys problem has been similarly underhyped.

            Almost nobody other than pedantic literalists cares, though there are some narrow circumstances where understanding the difference will lead to more effective corrective actions.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            idontknow is using a pedantically literal definition of “pedophilia” that does not match the common usage.

            Approximately nobody thinks of cavorting-with-teenagers when they hear “pedophile” – it’s almost always diddling-8-year-olds, if not younger. Both are literally pedophilia but it is useful to more precisely describe the problem because teenagers have a lot more options for protecting themselves if they’re made aware that they’re the ones at risk.

          • Almost nobody other than pedantic literalists cares

            I think you are wrong. Most people react much more strongly to pedophilia than they do to sex with someone physically mature but below the age of consent in the relevant jurisdiction.

            In the case of priests having sex with teenaged boys, there are four different issues:

            1. How bad is sex involving someone below the age of consent. I think for most people the answer is “not very bad.”

            2. How bad is homosexual sex. For some the answer is “not bad at all” for others it is “very bad.”

            3. How bad is sex by a priest who has taken an oath of celibacy. I think traditional Catholics would view it as quite bad, many other people as not very bad.

            4. How bad is sex obtained by abusing a position of some sort of authority. I think many people regard that as quite bad. In my experience, one of the most common arguments for making 1 illegal is that it is likely in practice to be 4. That’s part of the reason why many states make exceptions for cases where the partner is also young.

            Note that, until recently, McCarrick was known to be guilty of only 2 and 3, although one could speculate about 4.

          • Matt M says:

            I wonder how many “male priest hooks up with consensual gay adult worshiper” stories there are out there that we never hear about, because the other party doesn’t see them self as a victim and therefore has no compelling reason to motivation to “come forward” with the story.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            It’s all part of the same problem.

            Men tend to prefer sex with young partners. Heterosexual men having sex with young (i.e., 15 year old) girls is illegal, socially unacceptable, and difficult, as few 15 year old girls are interested in casual sex.

            15 year old boys, however, are very interested in casual sex. This is why when an attractive female teacher has sex with one of her male high school students, while yes this is illegal and is punished, an awful lot of men say “nice.” It’s treated as more of a malum prohibitum than a malum in se issue.

            Gays feel the same way. Yes, it’s wrong when an older man has sex with a 15 year old homosexual boy. But, ya know, it’s kind of what 15 year old homosexual boys want, just like 15 year old heterosexual boys. Someone they find attractive to touch their penis. So how bad is it, really? Maybe don’t get caught? Just be a little more careful next time, eh?

            The pederasty is an inevitable consequence of the male sex drive and homosexuality. You will not get rid of the pederasty without getting rid of the gay priests because gay teenage boys and gay adult men want to have sex with each other while straight teenage girls are not nearly so interested in having sex with straight adult men.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            @John Shilling

            idontknow is using a pedantically literal definition of “pedophilia” that does not match the common usage.

            Actually, my usage matches the common usage. People do not call sex with people who you cannot determine are underaged by merely looking at them “pedophilia” except on Chris Hansen specials intended to be dramatic; they call it statutory rape.

            Indeed, the chuch’s homosexuality problem goes beyond just homosexual statutory rape, and that dogma holds homosexuality and non-chastity fro priests as sinful: It extends to sexual assault of non-minor priest candidates by senior, homosexual priests in a type of priestly casting couch. It is fairly well known that there is a gay contingent in the church that was mainly responsible for the coverups etc.

          • albatross11 says:

            Note that much the same issue came up previously w.r.t. Roy Moore. Part of the messiness here is that the whole point of an age of consent law is that it’s impossible to draw a clear line in these cases–there are presumably 15 year olds in basically reasonable sexual relationships and 20 year olds in awful exploitative ones. You can’t expect police and prosecutors and judges to get the right answer when looking at those, so it’s a lot simpler to just say “If you’re over 18 and she’s under 16, you’re going to jail.”

          • Nick says:

            It is fairly well known that there is a gay contingent in the church that was mainly responsible for the coverups etc.

            I’m not convinced it was mostly the “gay contingent” covering it up. Cardinal Law of Boston was a well-known conservative bishop who was as guilty as anyone of coverups, and as far as I know Law’s conservatism was no facade, nor is he gay. There is—or was, at any rate—a strong current among conservatives of protecting the Church’s image and of blindly trusting bishops.

          • Nick says:

            Also, re the argument over the word “pedophilia,” did no one read my long and detailed post about the John Jay Report last time this came up? idontknow and David are right and John is wrong—it matters rather a great deal whether what we’re talking about is pedophilia or something else.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Is this really happening? I’ve seen attacks on the right-wingers attacking the Pope over this, but I’ve also seen left-wing sources agreeing that, yes, child abuse is bad and something has to be done right now.

      • My reading of the situation is:

        Francis shares the modern view that there is nothing specially bad about homosexuality. He probably disapproves of priests being sexually active, whether homosexual or heterosexual, but doesn’t see it as a big issue. He may well believe that the church should permit priests to marry, hence that its failure to do so to some degree excuses non-marital sexual activities. McCarrick was known to engage in homosexual sex with adult partners, the previous Pope strongly disapproved of that, Francis mildly disapproved of that but thought highly of McCarrick in other ways, so was willing to ignore it. I think that account is consistent with the available evidence.

        Either Francis strongly disapproves of priests having sex with minors or he recognizes that it is a sufficiently loaded issue that he has to appear to strongly disapprove of it. With regard to the latter, note that the minor in question was sixteen, so not a child. Hence when the new information came out he acted against McCarrick.

        The split now occurring is between people whose moral views come primarily from the church and people whose moral views come primarily from conventional elite opinion. The latter group want, naturally enough, to move church doctrine to be more consistent with conventional non-Catholic views. The former don’t. The latter group strongly approve of Francis, the former strongly disapprove.

        One question this raises for me is why did Benedict resign. Did he expect to be replaced by someone with views close to his? Was he forced out in some sort of invisible Vatican coup? Did he decide that the church would be better off if its views were closer to the secular mainstream and that, since he couldn’t support such changes, he should resign in favor of someone who could?

        I know very little about church politics so have no good idea how this is going to play out–in particular, whether there is some sense in which Francis can be forced to resign.

        I should probably add that as an atheist observer my sympathies are with the conservatives although my moral views on the central issues are on the other side. I disapprove of people claiming beliefs they don’t really hold. It was my impression that that was true of a lot of the mainline Protestant churches in the past–they were much more upset over a hundred people being killed by Apartheid South Africa than a million Ibos, more or less, being killed by black ruled Nigeria, because the former fit into the liberal image of whites oppressing blacks, the latter didn’t. They were conventional liberals (American political sense) first, Christians second.

        It’s also my impression of some economists. I had a colleague and friend many years back who, as I saw it, only believed in economics in working hours. His opinions on policy issues were based on other things—at most he was willing, if pressed, to argue that you couldn’t rigorously prove those opinions were wrong via economics, which is true of almost any policy position.

        I suppose I could argue that my view of these issues comes from a moral view in favor of honesty–even honesty with regard to a mistaken view of the world. If you claim to believe you are living in a fantasy–which, from my point of view, is what a religious believer is claiming–you should act as if you believe it.

        • idontknow131647093 says:

          Consensus view is that Benedict resigned because he had the early symptoms of dementia and no longer felt comfortable with the responsibilities of the job.

          • Deiseach says:

            I don’t know if that’s consensus; the consensus I was hearing was that he never expected to become pope (he had a house picked out back home in Bavaria where he was going to retire with his brother and his sister to housekeep for them and keep his cats and play piano as soon as he hit the retirement age of 75), he was humble enough never to feel comfortable in the big job, and that mixed with a sense that he was rowing against the tide (constantly being presented as wanting to go back to the bad old days of conservatism and Church dominance and autocracy because of a thirst for power instead of the theological and doctrinal reasons he presented) along with his advancing age made him decide to resign.

            This was a really big thing, the last time remotely like it was the time Celestine V renounced the papacy, and there was much discussion over was it even possible. I don’t know about dementia but he was visibly becoming physically frailer and I think he was just happier to retire to a life of prayer, contemplation, and out of the spotlight.

        • Deiseach says:

          McCarrick was known to engage in homosexual sex with adult partners, the previous Pope strongly disapproved of that, Francis mildly disapproved of that but thought highly of McCarrick in other ways, so was willing to ignore it. I think that account is consistent with the available evidence.

          I think that is the crux of this particular accusation – Vigano is very much exercised over McCarrick in particular. So it comes down to who knew what, exactly, when and what they did or didn’t do about it.

          Problem is evidence – you can have very strong suspicions based on rumours and gossip that Uncle Ted likes the young men in a way that is more than avuncular and mentorly interest in their vocations, but unless somebody comes out to say “yeah we slept together”, there is always the defence that this is slander and reading more into things by malicious opponents and enemies.

          I think it’s going to be rather unclear who knew what – what is not being taken into consideration, I think, is that Francis was an outsider. He’s South American, so he wasn’t plugged into the Italian Vatican network in the same way, and may not have heard all the rumblings on the grapevine. And there’s also the idea that he felt closer to bishops/cardinals from the Americas, which McCarrick as a North American was also one, so he liked him and was inclined to trust him.

          Right now we have two separate grave scandals entwined – the ongoing child sexual (and other forms) abuse, and the gay scandal. Vigano didn’t do any help by mixing the two together in his letter about “it’s all the fault of the gays!”, so dealing with the whole McCarrick fallout (the accusations about engaging in grooming the eleven year old child of the family where he was a friend only came out in July of this year) is being lumped in with the child abuse. McCarrick was mostly rumoured/accused to like young adult men, not children, and the two accusations about minors really came out of the blue. There may well have been a whole ‘turning a blind eye to adult gay sexual misconduct’, particularly with the fall in vocations – a combination of “we’re all modern now and understand about human sexuality” with “we’re not getting enough straight guys as seminarians” meaning standards being relaxed, especially as accusations of homophobia over using psychological profiling to steer away potential seminarians with homosexual tendencies were making the rounds – I used to joke about if I were pope I’d slap the entire North American church under interdict and threaten to excommunicate them en masse if they didn’t pull up their socks, and I had no inkling of this kind of thing.

          I think Wikipedia has a fair description of the whole McCarrick mess:

          A news report by Catholic News Agency, based on interviews with six unnamed priests of the Archdiocese of Newark, described Cardinal McCarrick’s actions while Archbishop of Newark. According to this report, when McCarrick would visit the seminary in the Newark diocese, he “would often place his hand on seminarians while talking with them, or on their thighs while seated near them.” One of the priests stated that McCarrick “had a type: tall, slim, intelligent – but no smokers.” He stated that McCarrick would invite young men to stay at his house on the shore, or to spend the night in the cathedral rectory in central Newark. In response to the story, the Archdiocese of Newark stated that neither the six anonymous priests interviewed for the story, nor anyone else, “has ever spoken to [current Newark Archbishop] Cardinal Tobin about a ‘gay sub-culture’ in the Archdiocese of Newark.”

          Michael Reading, who was ordained a priest by McCarrick, stated that he had heard stories about McCarrick’s sexual advances toward seminarians when he himself was a seminarian in Newark in 1986.

          …On June 20, 2018, Cardinal McCarrick was removed from public ministry by the Holy See after a review board of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York found an allegation “credible and substantiated” that he had sexually abused a 16-year-old altar boy while a priest in New York. Patrick Noaker, the attorney for the anonymous complainant, alleged two incidents at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, one in 1971 and the other in 1972. Noaker stated that when measuring the teen for a cassock, McCarrick “unzipped [the boy’s] pants and put his hands in the boy’s pants.”

          McCarrick stated that he was innocent of these charges: “I have absolutely no recollection of this reported abuse, and believe in my innocence.” He also stated, “In obedience I accept the decision of The Holy See, that I no longer exercise any public ministry.” Also on June 20, 2018, Tobin revealed that during McCarrick’s ministry in New Jersey, there had been accusations of sexual misconduct with three adults, and that two of the allegations had resulted in confidential financial settlements with the complainants.

          …In late July 2018, a New Jersey man whose uncle had known McCarrick since high school alleged that McCarrick had sexually abused him for 20 years, and that McCarrick had exposed himself to him when he was 11 and had sexually touched him beginning when he was 13. On July 16, 2018 The New York Times published a front-page article describing McCarrick’s abuse of adult seminarians.

          So a lot of gossip, a lot of “somebody told me that”, a lot of stories and rumours and ‘everybody knows’ but nobody actually coming out and making a public or on-the-record complaint. A bit like “But how could Harvey Weinstein get away with it for so long if everybody knew?” That’s how it happens – everybody knows but nobody says anything until the final straw breaks the camel’s back.

          • If I correctly followed the story, during Benedict’s papacy McCarrick was moved out of the seminary he had been living in to a different residence in a context which strongly suggested that it was done in response to reports that he was having sex with seminarians. So I think the core of Vigano’s claim–that McCarrick was disciplined in response to his having sex under Benedict and the discipline lifted under Francis–is supported.

          • Deiseach says:

            My problem with Vigano’s claims is that the letter (which may be an artefact of being translated from Italian into English, I don’t know) has an awful lot of Vigano going “I knew by how his left eyebrow twitched that he was aware of what I meant even though we hadn’t discussed it yet, so I played dumb in order to draw him out”.

            I think McCarrick was disciplined and I think he did flout that at home in the US as time went on. Whether we can say that Francis deliberately relaxed it or let him get away with it knowingly is another matter. Maybe he did think McCarrick was behaving himself so some of the restrictions should be lifted, that’s not quite the same as “I don’t think he did anything wrong”.

            To be honest, the impression I get from Vigano’s Testimony is that he is a bit of a busy-body with a habit of firing off letters about everything and anything, so I’m not surprised he doesn’t get responses from the various bodies he accuses of ignoring his warnings. It’s perhaps a case of unfortunately crying wolf so often about petty matters (I imagine he’s referring to The Vagina Monologues when he talks about “a morally unacceptable event authorised by the academic authorities of Georgetown University” where yes, once again he sent off two letters of complaint to the Georgetown president plus copies of those letters and a third covering letter to Cardinal Wuerl) that his correspondence tended to get ‘filed in the circular file’ when he sent real warnings.

  23. Statismagician says:

    Can anybody give an account of whether the article here is as earth-shattering as the NYT article about it suggests? The authors claim that having a black teacher in grades 3-5 can reduce high school drop-out rates by as much as 39% for persistently-poor black boys, but a) I don’t know very much about the specific techniques they used; b) the claim has very little face validity, to me at least, and c) between the attempts to control for everything else that effects educational attainment and the almost deliberately unintelligible layout of the tables, I can’t help but feel something either slipped or was slipped through the cracks. Thoughts appreciated.

    EDIT: I quoted the percent-improvement, not the actual value – the intervention lowers dropout rates by 7%, which is itself 39% of the preexisting rate. Mea culpa.

    • dndnrsn says:

      I can’t comment on a or c, but why do you not think it’s at least a plausible claim?

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Because over and over again we keep finding that improving educational results is really, really hard. Even slight effects. Any study that finds “one simple trick improves results by 39% 7%” should be taken with heaping grains of salt.

        Particularly when the metric is high school graduation (or dropout) rates, which is a textbook Goodheart’s Law example.

        I don’t have time to read the study right now, but I’ll propose one alternative explanation conjured from my rectum: black teachers are more likely to be found in poorer, black school districts, which have a large incentive to bypass standards to improve their graduation statistics. i.e., the DC school systems previously discussed on SSC.

        ETA: Corrected statistic as per Statismagician below.

        • Statismagician says:

          The 39% is my bad, as noted below and corrected in the original post – that’s the relative improvement, net is a 7% drop. This is, it should be emphasized, still a much higher effect size than anything else I know about, and at such a trivial cost and such a long time interval that it just doesn’t make intuitive sense to me.

        • Deiseach says:

          I’ll propose one alternative explanation conjured from my rectum: black teachers are more likely to be found in poorer, black school districts

          I’m going to propose another, cynical, explanation: black teachers can impose discipline without the “that’s racism! you are being racist to me!” card played. LaShawn is goofing off in class? Black Mr Smith or Mrs Jones can tell him to get his lazy ass off to the principal’s office and let the rest of them learn, whereas white Mr Green or Mrs Robinson is going to be crucified as not understanding Black culture means being exuberant (mostly, from the descriptions I read, that seems to mean “yelling and shouting and slouching around and behaving in a way that would have gotten the báta (stick) back when I was in school“).

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t think that’s cynical. That would be a real, positive effect, that yes, you absolutely can improve legitimate educational outcomes by having black teachers for black students. If that is the method by which a diverse teaching staff improves graduation rates for black students by 7%, let’s start hiring more black teachers.

          • Deiseach says:

            Conrad Honcho, but that also implies the improvement can come about by letting non-black teachers discipline black students by taking away the fear inspired by “you can’t do that to me, that’s racist!” That means that yes, LaShawn, I can tell you to sit up straight and pay attention and stop chatting with your buddies while I’m teaching and no, you can’t run to your social worker and say mean ol’ white teacher is being racist to you.

            You really think that’s going to fly in Current Year?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Deiseach, all I care about is genuine educational outcomes. If black teachers produce better genuine educational outcomes for black students, hire more black teachers.

            I’m skeptical the educational outcomes are genuine (Goodheart’s Law), but I’m more interested in genuine educational outcomes than I am in fighting the PC Police.

          • Deiseach says:

            Deiseach, all I care about is genuine educational outcomes.

            Well, I can’t argue with that. I do think it’s important to know why black teachers do better for black kids, though, and if it’s because of (a) discipline and not (b) same cultural background, then we should be aware of that, because then it’s not the cultural similarity that is the secret sauce.

            If the practical outcome is “we don’t know or care how it works, but it works, so we’re hiring more black teachers” and that does have a positive effect down the line, great! What worries me is that educational psychologists and sociologists will then write papers that set policy about hiring ethnicity X teachers for ethnicity X kids for success, so you then get schools hiring black/Hispanic/whatever teachers but letting discipline go to hell, then the whole project is a massive failure because it turns out keeping a standard of discipline where you’re not counting “black students were excluded from school Y number of days because of disciplinary infractions, this is racist, stop doing it” is what enables better outcomes which you should have known from the start if you interpreted your data properly.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Race matching is plausible and there are a lot of plausible results. The NY Times article is pretty reasonable. But the specific result is phrased in terms of magic. Before asking whether race matching in elementary school reduces long-term drop out, you should ask if race matching in middle school does; and whether race matching in high school reduces short-term drop out, which has surely been studied.

        Alternately, if race matching in elementary school improves short-term test scores, you should study how persistent this effect is; and whether the test scores screen off the effect of the intervention (eg, in predicting drop out). The paper seems to be motivated by this point of view, but doesn’t seem to actually measure it; and I think it claims a much larger effect on drop out than would be predicted by the scores. A lot of social science is generated by grasping qualitatively plausible results and not thinking about effect sizes. (It’s reasonable that the long-term effect on drop out is not mediated by test scores, but that brings us back to the first paragraph, where they should first study shorter term effects.)

    • The Nybbler says:

      There’s quite a few degrees of freedom in the paper (3rd grade teacher, 4th grade teacher, 5th grade teacher, a combination of any two, or all three, low income student versus all student, which phenomenon to measure), and quite a few degrees of freedom they might have chosen externally (did they try 1st and second grade or high school teachers and not get a result?), so I’m going to do the lazy thing and suspect P-hacking that won’t reproduce.

    • albatross11 says:

      P(study replicates) = .05

  24. Statismagician says:

    I should first note that I read the wrong statistic; it’s a 7% net drop, which is itself 39% of the pre-existing rate. This is much less immediately weird-looking to me.

    I think the time lag is suspiciously long for the result (7% improvement is still huge in social-science world), and I don’t have any personal experience of elementary school teachers being vastly influential (which isn’t an argument; I could totally just be wrong here).

    I’m also probably suffering from some kind of sour-grapes bias (real name unknown); I have a statistics-related degree, their tables really are so poorly laid out as to be basically illegible, so naturally I subconsciously assume this is for some nefarious purpose and not just me being less clever/well-read than I think I am.

  25. gbdub says:

    Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is reduce the moral valence of innate intelligence in American society without seriously hurting innovation/productivity, so that we can have reasonable discussions about improving education without constantly getting derailed by identity politics.

    This message will self destruct.

    Inspiration: saying “group A is more intelligent on average than group B” gets you crucified, “group A is taller and faster on average than B” gets a shrug. Yet being tall and fast is, if anything, more immutable than intelligence, and the differences in finances and fame for being the absolute fastest, instead of just the 99th percentile fastest, are even greater than they generally are for intelligence.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Sorry, if Hollywood hasn’t been able to do it by portraying highly intelligent scheming villains being beaten by some naive fool in tights or a big guy with a square jaw and poor taste in cocktails, I’m not going to be able to do it.

    • Matt M says:

      “group A is taller and faster on average than B” gets a shrug

      eh, depends on who you are and who the groups are

      Jimmy the Greek was, in fact, crucified for saying this

    • Statismagician says:

      Cyberpunk option: do the opposite. Let moral valence of intelligence increase without limit until somebody invents an AI than can solve this problem for me, then do whatever it suggests.

      Deconstructionist option: is this actually what’s going on? Certainly any discussion of why our education system is so awful inevitably turns into a screaming pit of nonsense, but I think that’s less because we’re valuing intelligence especially highly and more because measuring it is conflated with old-timey Fantastic Rascism. The way forward be to de-couple educational attainment from ‘can have decent life outcomes,’ i.e. through a basic income sort of thing, so that ‘let’s fix education’ doesn’t come off quite so much like ‘let’s mess with the system that determines whether your kids end up in horrible crushing poverty.’

      Propaganda option: we’re not tracking kids based on IQ testing, we’re doing it based on learning styles. This way, kids can learn at their own pace, in the way that’s best suited to their own unique lived experiences! Pay no attention to the fact that one learning style is ‘all the math and philosophy, also computers’ and one learning style is ‘this is how to build a chair.’

      Reactionary option: mandate required changes from outside the system, crush those who resist beneath my iron boot.

      Vaguely plausible option: [error 404]

      • albatross11 says:

        I like the propaganda option.

      • Deiseach says:

        Pay no attention to the fact that one learning style is ‘all the math and philosophy, also computers’ and one learning style is ‘this is how to build a chair.’

        Also, do your damnedest to get your kid into the “this is how to build a chair” classes, as the forthcoming inevitable rise of AI will mean all the programmers are now obsolete since computers are now designing, programming, and building themselves. So having a skilled artisanal trade means they won’t be begging in the gutters with “will code for food stamps” cardboard signs, instead they’ll be creating custom one-of-a-kind hand-made and eye-wateringly expensive pieces for the ultra-rich who make their money off the AI 🙂

        • The Nybbler says:

          If it’s friendly AI, they’re going to be using their computer-controlled equipment to build the chairs, so the chair-builder is out of luck too.

          If it’s not friendly AI, those raw materials are put to better use than to have someplace a meatsack puts its rear end. And come to think of it, those meatsacks could be used as raw materials themselves.

          • Tarpitz says:

            I dunno, I’ve read two entire books about a chair-builder who’s a key – if sometimes recalcitrant – employee of friendly AIs.

          • albatross11 says:

            That was a highly noncentral example of a handmade chair!

          • Deiseach says:

            If it’s friendly AI, they’re going to be using their computer-controlled equipment to build the chairs, so the chair-builder is out of luck too.

            In which case, places like Whole Foods and Trader Joes should be an unsustainable business model, much less Goop 🙂

            See, this is the snob appeal, the same reason for the whole raw pure food organic free-range non-GMO etc and so on, which is why I said they’d produce conspicuous consumption for the ultra-rich. Think of all the fol-de-rol about slow food, artisanal products, genuine ethnic cooking with proper ingredients, and the corollary of all that, cultural appropriation – the insistence on authenticity, the sacred value of our day.

            The mass-produced machine products are cheap and mass market. What’s the point in having one of seven billion identical chairs? But having a unique, one-of-a-kind art piece – now that’s different. See the slight imperfections and subtle lack of symmetry which demonstrates that this is all done by unaided human hand, eye and brain! As recognisable as the individual brushstrokes of a masterpiece! No two alike!

            The AI could churn out art that is better than Leonardo, Michaelangelo or Mozart. So what? The oneupmanship is owning the last original Monet in private hands. And in a world where everyone (who is connected in the right ways to the social system as it is now constituted) can have anything and as much of it as they want, standing out from the crowd is the status symbol all will strive for. Owning the first AI-produced chair gives you kudos, but in a world where even the tramps begging in the gutters can have an AI-produced chair if they can scrape together the price, where’s the value to that?

            Aluminium used to be used as a precious metal in jewellery, because it was only discovered in 1825 and early production methods were so complex that it was rare and in short supply – allegedly Napoleon III gave a dinner where guests of the most special rank were served with aluminium plates, the gold and silver plates being used for the less important! But now it’s so easy to produce, we use it as kitchen foil.

            Same with AI-produced mass market goods versus human versions 🙂

            EDIT: We had something of a discussion on a similar topic here a while back, and the point of the imperfect human version over the superior machine-produced version is not the product (the AI could cleverly introduce imperfections to mimic human-produced chairs), it’s the labour and the cost. The hours of time of a real human putting in sweat and effort is what you are paying for, and signalling that you can afford to have a human using their time in this way to produce goods for you. Did anyone ever buy a Bauhaus chair because it was comfortable to sit in? But it was the trend, the cutting edge, the marker of taste and sophistication and being above the common herd.

            The ultra-rich of the AI-future can now all be their own little personal version of the Medicis and the great Renaissance patrons of the arts, with all the opportunity to peacock about it that entails -the same way that charities get them to donate by putting on galas where they pay for expensive tickets and wear designer clothes and jewellery and show off their wealth and status. It would be more efficient to simply write out a cheque or give a donation of the amount, but it would not enable them to mix with their peers, get their photos in the society columns, and have their egos stroked for being such wunnerful, wunnerful philanthropists.

          • For a different example of Deiseach’s point, consider the price difference between natural sapphires and synthetic sapphires.

          • Peffern says:

            Why wouldn’t the same apply to programmers? I can already think of one field where people prefer bespoke, wood-fired human-written code over machine learning, even though the latter is at least demonstrably comparable if not superior.

          • Lambert says:

            I think the folks who build chairs for the super-rich tend to have gone to a fancy college to get an art degree, rather than the local polytechnic.

            And that after a certain point, you can’t really make a chair objectively any better. Success becomes a matter less of technical skill or artistic vision, and more of following the fashion and social games of the techno-plutocrats.
            E.g. not being above the unironic use of the words ‘upcycling’ and ‘shabby chic’.

          • dick says:

            Why wouldn’t the same apply to programmers? I can already think of one field where people prefer bespoke, wood-fired human-written code over machine learning, even though the latter is at least demonstrably comparable if not superior.

            Er, huh? I don’t think comparing human-written and ML-produced code makes sense but unpacking why is kind of complicated. Do you work in software?

    • Randy M says:

      Bring back a belief in Christianity, which posits an innate and unique worth of human beings that is ineffable and not correlated with performance of any sort.

      Absent this, “better suited to the current environment” is pretty much isomorphic to “better person”, and the current environment demands intelligence, among–but not equal to–some other traits

    • fortaleza84 says:

      I recall reading somewhere that there are only two concepts which are insults in every language: “ugly” and “stupid.” If it’s that universal, it’s likely to be in our DNA.

      • cassander says:

        I have a hard time believing that “slutty” isn’t on the list as well.

        • fortaleza84 says:

          I would certainly agree that “promiscuous” is a pretty universal insult if (1) it’s directed against a woman; and (2) it’s in a culture which is patriarchical, i.e. one in which men are expected to contribute significantly to their offspring. But without those constraints?

          • ana53294 says:

            it’s in a culture which is patriarchical, i.e. one in which men are expected to contribute significantly to their offspring.

            Isn’t that all cultures? Can you give an example of a culture where men are not expected to contribute to their offspring?

          • Plumber says:

            “….Can you give an example of a culture where men are not expected to contribute to their offspring?”

            @ana53294,

            Sure, here’s one, and it’s actually pretty common that in matrilineal cultures maternal uncles (mothers brothers) help raise their sisters children, and the fathers don’t.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Patriarchy is pretty widespread but it hasn’t yet conquered the world as far as I know.

            In any event, what I was taught in anthropology class (and it makes sense to me) is that in patriarchal cultures, female chastity is valued since men don’t want to invest energy in children who might be some other guy’s. In such a culture, it makes sense that it would be highly insulting accuse a woman of sexual promiscuity.

            Probably that’s part of the reason why an accusation of sexual promiscuity is far less of an insult when directed at a man than a woman. Sometimes it’s even seen as a positive if a man is seen as a “player.”

            I’m willing to accept that there may be universal insults besides “ugly” and “stupid,” but I don’t think “slutty” is one of them.

      • marshwiggle says:

        Are there languages where implying a male is unable to perform sexually is not an insult? What about moral deviance, specific or general? I’m not really buying the claim I guess.

        • fortaleza84 says:

          “Are there languages where implying a male is unable to perform sexually is not an insult? “

          Sure, even in English it would not be an insult to a 7 year old child to state that they were unable to perform sexually. Although it would be insulting to assert that such a child was “stupid” or “ugly.”

          I do agree that if we limit things to adult men, a statement that the man in question is not able to perform sexually is probably an insult in just about every language and culture, but it seems to lack the universality of “stupid” or “ugly.”

          I’m not really buying the claim I guess.

          I’m skeptical myself, but it does seem that “stupid” (and “ugly”) are very much universal.

      • albatross11 says:

        Dirty or unclean is a very basic category. And I think this tends to involve ritual or religious uncleanness–this might be inborn (untouchable caste, albino), or based on something that happened to you (leprosy, some kind of contagious bad luck), or something you did (killed your father, slept with your mother, sacrificed at the wrong altar). I suspect every human culture has insults related to this,

    • The original Mr. X says:

      Dispense with meritocracy as an ideal, and bring back feudalism.

  26. baconbits9 says:

    Disclaimer:
    I am not a licensed professional and am not giving anyone advice on what to do with their money. I will be documenting what I am doing with some of my money and why.

    I am posting this here because there are a good number of people who like to discuss economics and finance, and I have posted here enough under this name and baconbacon that you should have an idea of who I am if you read comments.

    I am restarting an older blog of mine with a new focus which will be synthesizing (and maybe improving) the Austrian Business Cycle Theory with the Efficient Market Hypothesis. I will be betting some of my own money on my predictions and tracking those positions, stating when I entered and exited them and why, unlike other blogging attempts I have made I have a backlog of largely finished posts that will aid the early momentum and fill gaps where I can’t/don’t/won’t post much. Reasons you might find this blog interesting.

    1. You like to read fringe Macro economic views.
    2. You like commenting on a blog where the author is likely to respond to your comments, and is willing to go back and forth on points in the comments section.
    3. You are an active investor and are looking for a new viewpoint to evaluate and perhaps incorporate it into your own structure.
    4. You don’t believe in the EMH and think you can beat the market by fading my positions.

    Some reasons why you won’t want to read my blog beyond not finding the subject matter interesting.

    1. I am not a great writer and am a poor self editor, I will put some effort into pre editing, and some more into fixing errors that people point out. My writing does improve with practice but I am out of practice and it will probably take several dozen posts to really get to what some would consider the low end of acceptable in terms of typos and clarity of expression.

    2. You are infuriated by posts that just sort of end without a conclusion or summing up. I am working on a macro level view and many of my posts will be ‘look at this correlation, this reduces the strength of explanation X’, but few of ‘look at this correlation, this means X, Y and Z’.

    The link to the blog is here, and my first (new) post is here.

    • Matt M says:

      I’m becoming increasingly suspicious that we’re on the verge of a recession. By “on the verge” I don’t mean like “next week” but more like “sometime in the next 1-2 years.” My reasoning is based on two primary things.

      1. General optimism. We seem to have reached a point where everyone is generally optimistic about the economic future. Usually this means things are about to change. All my friends and family who 9 years ago were declaring that the stock market was a giant scam are now insisting that it’s an easy 10% return per year no questions asked. The “since 2009” chart is a pretty giant upward curve and P/E ratios are historically high. This sort of thing has never lasted forever before.

      2. Conspiracy theories relating to politics. The anti-Trump forces in Washington are going to do whatever they can to crash the economy before the 2020 election. I’m not sure they’re competent enough to actually pull it off, but lord knows they’ll try. Part of me still considers it pretty darn suspicious that the exact timing of the popping of the housing bubble was right before the 2008 election. Another few months earlier or later and maybe McCain beats Obama.

      The rational side of me knows that I can’t time the market, so I’m not making any drastic moves in terms of selling anything. But I have stopped my monthly contribution for the sake of dollar-cost-averaging. I’m now adding investments manually, and directing them at a consumer staples ETF rather than the S&P index. I feel like consumer staples is a nice point for still having stock exposure if things continue to go well, but having less direct risk at being tied to the highly cyclical tech sector (I suspect that in the event of a real recession, it’s the FAANGs that are going to get hammered fast and quick)

      • baconbits9 says:

        I have come to a similar conclusion, with a different timeline (my early estimate is 1.5-3 years) and for different reasons.

        I also think your #2 reason is totally incorrect, the people who could theoretically do it are the people most exposed in the event of a crash as well. The powers that be generally hate dramatic change, and Trump isn’t nearly powerful enough or successful enough to make rocking their system worth it. If he was 50 and without term limits you could maybe justify it but it would be a huge reaction just to prevent 4 more years of Trump, especially when he isn’t near 100% to win without a crash.

        • Matt M says:

          the people who could theoretically do it are the people most exposed in the event of a crash as well.

          Are the people who run the Fed highly invested in tech stocks?

          As far as I can tell, they didn’t even suffer from a professional or reputational standpoint last time around. Does anyone besides the Austrians actually hold Bernanke, Greenspan, etc. responsible for any of this?

          ETA: Even if we go to the private sector… hell… Jaime Dimon or all people seems to be on the verge of running for President. If the CEOs of the big banks during the crisis came out okay last time, what on Earth makes you think they wouldn’t try and do it again?

          • baconbits9 says:

            The people who run the Fed are highly invested in running the Fed, crashes bring lots of scrutiny down on them and some future blog posts will discuss how the previous crash narrowed its long term options and set up a showdown with the Federal Government.

            Does anyone besides the Austrians actually hold Bernanke, Greenspan, etc. responsible for any of this?

            Yes, the Monetarists blame them for not preventing the crash.

          • Matt M says:

            crashes bring lots of scrutiny down on them

            Really though? Aside from Ron Paul getting a little bit more popular, what exactly happened?

            To be clear – I don’t expect they’ll crash things any worse than they did in 2008, and they all seem to have gotten through that just fine.

          • baconbits9 says:

            There is a pretty straight line connection between the crash, the slow and uneven recovery and Trump’s election. Janet Yellen ended up as the first Chairperson to serve only one term since 1979.

            In general the Fed has less prestige than it did pre crash, Greenspan was held in extremely high esteem for a long period and generally still is (thanks at least partially to being out of office when it happened).

          • Plumber says:

            @Matt M,

            Except for Pat Buchanan it’s news to me that anyone on the right dislikes the Fed, I thought that was a left-wing thing.

            Bernie Sanders has spoken against the Fed, and slightly left but mostly centrist economist Paul Krugman has called Greenspan “The Worst Ex-Chairman Ever“.

            We must be getting news from different sources.

            Speaking of which, check out this take on Greenspan, it’s hilarious!

          • Matt M says:

            centrist economist Paul Krugman

            Hah, thanks, I haven’t had a laugh this big in quite some time.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Another note that I would make is that the Fed has aggressively ‘fought’ every recession since the early 80s. Prior to the 2008 crash the Fed was easing as early as July 2007, which was months before the official start of the recession, the same with the previous recessions. Austrian capital theory basically states that a recession at this point is baked in, with only questions about the length and depth being under Fed control. The Fed would have to buy into Austrian theory to be able to time a crash without doing something really obvious and hard to justify.

          • Plumber says:

            “Hah, thanks, I haven’t had a laugh this big in quite some time” @Matt M,

            You’re welcome. 

            In thinking about it, Krugman is “centrist” by Berkeley, California (which is near where I live) standards, but not by San Jose, California standards (I spent over a decade working in the Hellscape of “Silicon Valley”), so I edited my post to read “slightly left but mostly centrist” which, since he pretty much just advocates vintage 1940’s textbook Keynesian economics that were mainstream when I was born in ’68, I stand by.

      • baconbits9 says:

        The rational side of me knows that I can’t time the market, so I’m not making any drastic moves in terms of selling anything.

        I hear this a lot, but my conclusion is that you don’t need to make substantial moves to beat the market, you just need small positions and the right amount of leverage plus keeping the rest of your portfolio where it is. Big market downswings are driven by people who are unable to maintain their position in the face of headwinds.

        • Matt M says:

          Right. I think “timing the market” often gets interpreted as something like “You won’t be able to successfully flip a giant switch that goes from BUY AS MUCH AS YOU CAN to SELL EVERYTHING on the exact correct date.” Which is obviously true that nobody is equipped to do this.

          That said, surely there’s some room for well educated and intelligent people to gradually adjust the composition of their portfolio in anticipation of long-term moves down (in a current period of strength) or up (in a current period of weakness).

          Basically, if I was “calling a top” with 100% confidence, I’d sell all my stocks today and take up large positions in 3x short ETFs. But instead, I’m simply saying “I think we’re probably pretty near the top, so it makes little sense for me to continue throwing money into an asset that I think is likely to go down soon and is highly exposed to some fairly risky stuff” (I do have a small position short in FB, but that’s mainly for ideological and entertainment purposes)

          • baconbits9 says:

            Right. I think “timing the market” often gets interpreted as something like “You won’t be able to successfully flip a giant switch that goes from BUY AS MUCH AS YOU CAN to SELL EVERYTHING on the exact correct date.” Which is obviously true that nobody is equipped to do this

            This is true, however my buying/selling strategy is aimed at making that ‘buy as much as you can’ mode easier/more profitable.

      • People have been saying that the next recession is coming for the entire decade. I remember hearing in 2015 how the stock market trend was unsustainable. I’m not changing any of my behavior based on the possibility of recession because we simply don’t know.

    • arlie says:

      Can your blog software produce an RSS feed? I’m interested, but probably not enough to poll yet another site – whereas if new posts appear in my general feed, I’ll read them, and maybe follow the link back to the original post and comment.

      • liate says:

        Here’s the rss link.

        A lot of the time, things that seem like they should have an rss feed but don’t have a link to it will have a “link alternate rss” tag—look at the source and search in page for rss to find it

        ETA: apparently there’s also a link to the Atom feed (atom is basically rss, afaik most things that do rss nowadays also do atom) at the bottom of the page…

        • baconbits9 says:

          Well thank you, I was just signing on to find it before I went to bed (after my wife explained what an RSS feed was of course).

          For anyone that saw my second post before I fixed the formatting…. sorry, it is fixed now though.

  27. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Over in the polygenetics thread, people are repeating that intelligence differences are largely genetic.

    If it’s genetic, it’s physical.

    The argument that there’s some sort of limit keeping people from being a lot smarter is at least plausible. However, this may just mean that there’s no simple path to being a lot smarter– organisms might have to be doing something quite different than we are to get to a better local maximum, just as getting to living on land or achieving flight weren’t simple extrapolations for a long time.

    There’s no such argument demonstrating that the majority of people couldn’t be somewhat smarter. After all, people with IQs of 120 exist. Is it plausible that some post-birth method of getting beyond the genetic limits of their intelligence for the vast majority of people is possible?

    • Plumber says:

      The upper limit is genetic, the lower limit is environmental.

      “Enrichment” efforts by ambitions “UMC” parents have an increasingly marginal limited effect on intelligence (there’s only so much that can be done), but lead poisoning can definitely make you stupider.

    • engleberg says:

      Women have smaller brains than men, but about equal intelligence. Obviously, feminizing men’s brains would produce a bunch of super-genius girly-men.

      • Women have smaller bodies too. My impression from the animal kingdom is that the relevant statistic is something like the ratio of brain weight to body weight.

      • fortaleza84 says:

        Women have smaller brains than men, but about equal intelligence.

        Over the years, I’ve come to be skeptical of claims like this. Part of the problem is that much of intelligence research uses children, and of course boys and girls mature at different rates. Another question is that in assessing intelligence, how much weight do you give to mathematical ability, which seems to be noticeably stronger in men than in women.

        • If, as I think is the case, women do better than men on tests of some sorts of intelligence and worse on others, I don’t think the statement “women have about the same intelligence as men” is meaningful. You can adjust the weights on different questions to make the average come out equal, come out with men more intelligent, or come out with women more intelligent.

          How do you get an objective set of weights?

          • engleberg says:

            The average tiny girly brain is about 3/4 the size of the average giant manly brain. As you say, brain/body ratio is about the same. But since women don’t average a 75 IQ to the average man’s 100 IQ, it’s meaningful to say we have about the same intelligence.

            My impression is that women’s brains are wired left and right, while men’s brains are wired front to back.

            The Flynn effect raising IQ and declining sperm count correlate, sort of.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            I’m not a neurologist, but a Google search indicates that the male human brain is about 10% larger than the female brain — not 33% larger as you seem to be claiming.

            Not that it really matters, since even if IQ is correlated to brain size, it’s unlikely that the relationship is simple and linear.

            By the way, I also did a Google search on male versus female iq differences in adults and apparently 1 paper gave men a 5 point advantage. Which is pretty consistent with my general observations — that men are slightly smarter than women with a big advantage in mathematical type reasoning.

          • albatross11 says:

            My not-so-informed impression is that:

            a. IQ positively correlates with ratio of brain mass/body mass.

            b. Males and females have about the same average IQ, though as David pointed out, since IQ is an intentional construct, that may be partly the result of the starting assumptions used in constructing IQ scores from subtest[1] scores.

            c. Males do somewhat better on spatial/geometric reasoning subtests than females; females do somewhat better on verbal kinds of reasoning subtests than men. Also (I think this effect is smaller) Asians tend to do a little better on spatial/geometric reasoning than non-Asians.

            d. Interestingly, according to something I heard on a Conversations With Tyler (Cowen) podcast, autistics do relatively poorly on some kinds of subtests but extremely well on others. The IQ scores are just poorly attuned to autistic brain function. One result is that autistics can get very different scores depending on the IQ test.

            [1] IQ tests, as I understand it, usually give the testees several different kinds of questions, compute a score on each subtest, and use those scores to compute a kind of index score. Though I gather this isn’t true of all tests–some just use one kind of question of varying difficulties. And someone who knows more, please correct me if I’m misunderstanding this stuff–I am definitely not any kind of expert on any of this stuff!

          • engleberg says:

            Fortalezza, I googled it and you are right and I was wrong about 10%, not 25%. Looking at their pretty little heads I thought the brains were smaller, but apparently their gracile bones misled me. Still, girls don’t average 90 IQ to a guy’s 100.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Still, girls don’t average 90 IQ to a guy’s 100.

            Assuming that there is a positive correllation between brain size and IQ, why would you expect the relationship to be linear?

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Males and females have about the same average IQ, though as David pointed out, since IQ is an intentional construct, that may be partly the result of the starting assumptions used in constructing IQ scores from subtest[1] scores.

            Even ignoring that problem, I’m still skeptical. The one reference I found put adult male IQ 5 points above adult female IQ.

          • engleberg says:

            Re: why would you assume a linear relationship?

            A nonlinear relationship where average women and average men are about as smart while men get the Fields medals and more homeless sounds okay.

            Still, smaller brains, about equal intelligence on average, if not for biology’s notorious shortage of mad scientists we might have super-genius girly men (or super-genius big-headed broads) to design our flying cars.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            A nonlinear relationship where average women and average men are about as smart while men get the Fields medals and more homeless sounds okay.

            I don’t understand this at all, but I will offer an example to show what I mean: Perhaps IQ and brain size has a relationship of diminishing returns; adding 10% to the size of the brain nets you only about 5 extra IQ points.

            I’m not saying this is how things are, just that it’s not necessarily a contradiction for male brains to be 10% bigger than female brains but only 5% smarter as measured by IQ.

      • LesHapablap says:

        Women seem to be better than men in terms of social intelligence, but that could also be because women mature socially faster than men. Hard to parse that out as you say.

        • fortaleza84 says:

          I’m not so sure about that. What I’ve noticed over the years is that society is gynocentric, so that women receive an automatic level of deference and respect and value that men do not receive. Including in social situations. It’s easier to succeed when you are playing on easy mode.

        • LesHapablap says:

          We are talking about different things. I doubt that the deference to women is a new thing, depending on what you’re talking about. May need to give some examples.

          If you take a group of 8th grade girls, they have formed very complex and competitive relationships and status games. They are quite nasty to each other in a way that men are not, and it could be that in that crucible some social skills are quickly formed. They will understand social situations which will go over the heads of most males. A 19-year old woman will be more mature about relationships and things than a 19-year old man, on average.

          The counter-argument to that is that women understand female-centric social situations better than men, and that men have their own social side which they understand just as well. Certainly it is true that women don’t understand the male experience very well.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            I doubt that the deference to women is a new thing

            I would agree with that. Gynocentrism is as old as the hills.

            They are quite nasty to each other in a way that men are not, and it could be that in that crucible some social skills are quickly formed.

            That might very well be; admittedly the line is blurry between intelligence and skill. Having a tendency to be more interested in a particular subject at a young age to the point where your skills get honed for whatever reason might in many cases be indistinguishable from some flavor of intelligence. E.g. people who are gifted at mathematics will often report fascination with numbers, equations, etc. from a young age.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The issue shows up most strongly in mixed groups in antagonistic situations. Women can use the full panoply of their skills, up to (and sometimes including) physical violence against men in support of their goals. Men essentially can’t use any of them. If they raise their voice or use sarcasm they’re bullying. If they remain calm they’re condescending or mansplaining. If they solicit support from others they’re ganging up. If they do seem to be getting their point across somehow, she can act offended or upset and bring others to her defense.

            There are places this doesn’t hold, of course; the US Congress comes to mind.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Men essentially can’t use any of them

            I wouldn’t go that far, but I do think people tend to have perceptual blinders to the unevenness of the playing field when men and women come into conflict.

            What really brought it home to me was the mattress girl fiasco at Columbia University. In which a girl carried a mattress around to protest the fact that a male classmate had supposedly raped her. Even though the objective evidence seems to indicate pretty strongly that she is mentally ill and a liar, people took her seriously. Now imagine that a male student carried a mattress around to protest some perceived misbehavior by a female classmate. At best, nobody would pay him any attention.

            A few years ago, I would have thought this was the result of feminism, but now I’m pretty sure what’s at work is gynocentrism. People instinctively accord a level of deference and respect to women which men simply don’t get. With automatic social status, it’s far easier to accomplish your goals in social situations than without. And I’m pretty sure that’s what accounts for the perceived social intelligence of women.

            One could test this hypothesis with an online game which relies on social skills but there’s no way to find out the sex of any of your competitors. People are permitted and encouraged to lie about their sex if they want. In such a game, I’m pretty confident in predicting that men would dominate.

          • albatross11 says:

            Fortaleza:

            The thing with accusations of rape that’s difficult is that this is a crime that, when it happens, basically creates no evidence. A man and a woman go on a date, go home together, and have sex. The next day, the woman claims she was raped, and the man claims the sex was consensual and she’s just expressing morning-after regrets. Assuming you don’t have some extraordinary set of circumstances, there is basically no way to collect enough evidence to prove who is lying. (If the sex never took place, or if she’s covered in bruises, there may be enough evidence one way or another, but not for the normal case of either consensual sex or date rape.)

            This is the thing that the campus tribunals have tried to address. And they’ve run into the same problem that the police have–there’s no evidence that’s going to show whether there was a crime or not. They can reduce the burden of proof so far that they more often manage to decide the man’s guilty in those cases, but they can do this only by capturing a huge amount of perfectly normal and legitimate stuff in their definitions of rape/sexual assault/sexual misconduct.

            So, we know there are guys who are genuine predators in the world. We know they rape women. I’ve heard stories from women I know well, who I don’t believe would lie to me, for whom telling this story was absolutely not any kind of benefit to them, in which they were date-raped. I’m sure it happens, and probably happens fairly often. But we also know that we basically don’t have any way to punish predators who are reasonably clever and don’t leave obvious evidence.

            So here’s a woman engaging in a very costly signal that says she’s been raped. She’s saying “I’m willing to make a big, ugly public spectacle of myself in a matter that most women will basically do anything to keep quiet.” It’s not crazy to take this as some evidence (still not enough for a criminal conviction) that she’s telling the truth, particularly for people who don’t know anything about the matter but the fact that she’s carrying this mattress around.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            The thing with accusations of rape that’s difficult is that this is a crime that, when it happens, basically creates no evidence.

            The exact same thing could be said about a false accusation of rape. And yet one could do a thought experiment where a male student who claims to have been falsely accused of rape carries a mattress around to protest the way he was treated. Would he be given the same level of deference and respect as mattress girl? Of course not, even though he is making a big embarassing demonstration of something most guys would want to keep quiet.

            There is a huge double standard at work, which I used to think was the result of feminism. But I have come to believe it’s gynocentrism; women get automatic deference and respect.

            Mattress girl has gotten lots of the attention she obviously wanted. Is this due to her superior social intelligence? Or is it just another case of “upvotedbecausegirl”?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Albatross:

            The thing with accusations of rape that’s difficult is that this is a crime that, when it happens, basically creates no evidence. A man and a woman go on a date, go home together, and have sex. The next day, the woman claims she was raped, and the man claims the sex was consensual and she’s just expressing morning-after regrets. Assuming you don’t have some extraordinary set of circumstances, there is basically no way to collect enough evidence to prove who is lying. (If the sex never took place, or if she’s covered in bruises, there may be enough evidence one way or another, but not for the normal case of either consensual sex or date rape.)

            In general, yes, but in the case of Emma Sulkowicz specifically there are texts and Facebook messages from after the alleged rape where she tells Nungesser she loves him and complains that she doesn’t see him enough.

            So here’s a woman engaging in a very costly signal that says she’s been raped. She’s saying “I’m willing to make a big, ugly public spectacle of myself in a matter that most women will basically do anything to keep quiet.” It’s not crazy to take this as some evidence (still not enough for a criminal conviction) that she’s telling the truth, particularly for people who don’t know anything about the matter but the fact that she’s carrying this mattress around.

            Eh, I’m not so sure. By all accounts she was lauded in the university for her mattress thing, and Nungesser was reviled and outright harassed. So it doesn’t really look like her signal was all that costly, at least not for herself.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @LesHapablap:

            I doubt that the deference to women is a new thing, depending on what you’re talking about.

            I suppose the difference is that, in the past, men were expected to treat women gently because men were stronger; conversely, women were expected to behave in a way that merited gentle treatment. Nowadays, however, any suggestion that men are stronger or that women should moderate their behaviour is met with outrage, but men are still expected to treat women gently. Basically, women keep the benefits they got from the old system, without the responsibilities; men keep the responsibilities, without the benefits.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            I’m not so sure. By all accounts she was lauded in the university for her mattress thing, and Nungesser was reviled and outright harassed.

            That’s probably true, but what’s so interesting to me is that for the man, there is little or no way as a practical matter to fight back. If he started carrying his own mattress at best nobody would care. At worst he would be perceived as a harasser. He tried suing the University but his case got thrown out (it was settled at the appeals court but settlements at the appeals court tend to be very unfavorable.)

            It reminds me of how I would envision a dispute between a medieval peasant and a medieval aristocrat. At every turn, the deck is stacked in favor of the aristocrat.

            And yeah, the objective evidence completely favored the male student in that situation, but it didnt matter much as far as public perception. People saw a damsel (seemingly) in distress and took her side.

            It’s amazing that even in 2018 (especially in 2018) a woman need only point the finger at a man and she can cause him a world of problems with almost no cost or consequences to herself if the accusation is completely fabricated. Whereas the reverse is anything but true.

            The reason for this, of course, is that society is gynocentric, i.e. priority is given to the wellbeing, needs, and desires of women. Women are accorded automatic respect and deference that men do not receive.

            And to me, it’s pretty obvious that this is the reason women are often perceived as having superior social intelligence: They are playing the game on a much lower difficulty setting than men.

          • baconbits9 says:

            And to me, it’s pretty obvious that this is the reason women are often perceived as having superior social intelligence: They are playing the game on a much lower difficulty setting than men.

            If you believe in what you wrote why wouldn’t you concede that gynocentrism is likely caused by higher social intelligence in women? That seems far more likely than similar social intelligence but with women winning all the time.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            If you believe in what you wrote why wouldn’t you concede that gynocentrism is likely caused by higher social intelligence in women? That seems far more likely than similar social intelligence but with women winning all the time.

            A couple reasons: First, there is a better-fitting explanation, which is that in the ancestral environment it was vital to give priority to the well being of women for the sake of tribal survival. Because women, not men, are the limiting factor in reproduction.

            Men have always been seen as the expendable sex, and this carries through even today when you look at workplace fatality rates.

            Second, it does not appear that the advantages women enjoy result from superior social intelligence. Again, look at the situation of mattress girl: She was able to get a lot of attention and sympathy by carrying around a mattress. If it were just a matter of social intelligence, the man she accused could have garnered sympathy by pulling his own stunt. Which obviously would not have worked.

            Indeed, if you search for “women are wonderful bias,” you will see that there is actual research showing that people are biased in favor of women.

            But even outside of formal scientific research, you can see this for yourself with informal experiments. The classic one being “Libertarian Girl” in which a blogger set up a new blog posing as a girl. Suddenly he got lots and lots of attention.

          • BBA says:

            In general, yes, but in the case of Emma Sulkowicz specifically there are texts and Facebook messages from after the alleged rape where she tells Nungesser she loves him and complains that she doesn’t see him enough.

            I don’t see how this is dispositive. Sulkowicz could just have been in denial at the time about what happened, and there are countless stories of woman staying with abusive men. (Sulkowicz no longer identifies themself as a woman, but for the sake of argument…)

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I don’t see how this is dispositive. Sulkowicz could just have been in denial at the time about what happened, and there are countless stories of woman staying with abusive men. (Sulkowicz no longer identifies themself as a woman, but for the sake of argument…)

            It’s not 100% dispositive, but it is evidence against Sulkowicz’s claims.

            And speaking of deference to women, I think the fact that, when presented with evidence contradicting her account, your first reaction was to explain it away, is a piece of evidence in favour of the notion.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Because women, not men, are the limiting factor in reproduction.

            This argument holds no water because there isn’t one limiting factor reproduction. Without access to sufficient calories there won’t be reproduction, without access to clean water there won’t be reproduction, without sufficient protection from predation there won’t be reproduction.

            If you ignore all other factors then yes, technically only one man is required for reproduction, but for almost all of our existence humans have been far closer to death than they were to enough wealth where single mothers could raise numerous children to childbearing age themselves.

            This explanation of gynocentrism not only ignores these facts but ignores that the roles played by men were glorified frequently, but not the women. We know who Achilles is supposed to have been, but have few (no?) myths about women who had an unrealistic number of children.

          • Matt M says:

            Well, there’s that old woman who lived in a shoe…

          • fortaleza84 says:

            This argument holds no water because there isn’t one limiting factor reproduction.

            I agree that technically there is not one limiting factor, but I think my point is pretty clear: As between men and women, women are the limiting factor. So for example, if a tribe loses 25% of its men, it’s not nearly as much of a demographic disaster as if the same tribe loses 25% of its women.

            This explanation of gynocentrism not only ignores these facts but ignores that the roles played by men were glorified frequently, but not the women. We know who Achilles is supposed to have been

            Ahh, but do we know the names of the hundreds of men who died violently and miserably in the same battles where Achilles earned his glory?

            The answer is “no.” You are committing the fallacy of the peak, in which women as a group are compared to the most successful men.’

            See, the way things work is that women get status automatically, whereas men have to acquire it — by hard work, talent, risk-taking, and sometimes by luck.

          • baconbits9 says:

            As between men and women, women are the limiting factor. So for example, if a tribe loses 25% of its men, it’s not nearly as much of a demographic disaster as if the same tribe loses 25% of its women.

            This is only true if women and men are equal in providing/preventing the other limiting factors. As long as whatever the cause of 25% mortality was mysterious and un-repeated this might be true, but if the cause was an war with a neighboring tribe, or famine like conditions or any of a number of possibilities then you can definitely come up with scenarios where losing a large portion of your men is objectively worse (for reproductive success) than losing a large portion of your women.

            Ahh, but do we know the names of the hundreds of men who died violently and miserably in the same battles where Achilles earned his glory?

            Do we know the names of the innumerable women who died during childbirth? Of the women raped after the fall of Troy? What is the ratio of the number of men mentioned by name in the Iliad to the number of women?

            Men have always been seen as the expendable sex

            Men went to war because they are stronger by a lot. An army of men vs a similarly sized and armed army of women would end with a victory for the men an overwhelming amount of the time, you don’t leave the women at home because you need them to birth babies specifically, you leave them at home because someone has to be left at home and women had far less value in battles than men had.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            This argument holds no water because there isn’t one limiting factor reproduction. Without access to sufficient calories there won’t be reproduction, without access to clean water there won’t be reproduction, without sufficient protection from predation there won’t be reproduction.

            If you ignore all other factors then yes, technically only one man is required for reproduction, but for almost all of our existence humans have been far closer to death than they were to enough wealth where single mothers could raise numerous children to childbearing age themselves.

            Well, women can gather food, fetch water and fight off animals too — maybe not as well as men, but still well enough to replace a man in these activities better than she could replace a man in getting lots of babies gestating at once. And for most of history humans have lived cheek-by-jowl in extended family groups, so people wouldn’t be raising the children on their own, but in a group with their brothers, cousins, aunts, parents, grandparents, etc., who’d be able to provide some help if one of the child’s parents were dead.

            This explanation of gynocentrism not only ignores these facts but ignores that the roles played by men were glorified frequently, but not the women. We know who Achilles is supposed to have been, but have few (no?) myths about women who had an unrealistic number of children.

            Maybe I’m misunderstanding Fortaleza’s argument, but I don’t think he’s (she’s?) claiming, nor do I think his argument requires, that women are or were glorified more than men, but rather that men’s instinct to protect women was/is stronger than their instinct to protect men. Hence, when a woman says a man is hurting or mistreating her, another man’s first reaction is going to be to side with the woman. (Hence as well feminists have been able to advance their agenda extremely effectively by claiming to be oppressed by men, even though the statistical evidence for this is mixed at best.)

          • BBA says:

            My first reaction was to stop and reconsider the narrative – maybe Sulkowicz really was hostilely reinterpreting events to fit a social justice narrative, maybe Nungesser wasn’t the d*debr* rapist he’s been portrayed as, maybe Columbia actually got it right.

            But then I realized I was being androcentric. So in the name of countering my own bias, I decided not to express that reaction, and instead to counter it by toeing the social-justice line. (Also, judging from some family members’ experiences there, there’s no way in hell Columbia could ever get anything right.)

            I’m no knee-jerk SJW. My instincts are more towards a sort of Rawlsian neutrality, and I often find it difficult to “believe all women.” But doing the right thing isn’t always easy. And (atypical mind fallacy?) I doubt many, if any, people on my side are doing this consciously or at all.

          • Randy M says:

            But then I realized I was being androcentric.

            Is that along the lines of “reason and evidence are intrinsically male” or “assigning agency to women is oppressive” or “I know what is good for me”?

          • BBA says:

            It’s a little bit of “I actually believe in left-wing values”, but mostly “self-loathing and depression.”

          • Randy M says:

            I mean, how is “believe all women” a value? Is it some fundamental principle that women always tell the truth, even when they contradict themselves or each other?
            Don’t assault women–sure that’s a value. I get behind it. Ask for consent at every step–that’s a value, sure, even if I think it’s very hard to enforce or sell. But “believe all women”? That’s just propaganda.

            mostly “self-loathing and depression.”

            Careful, the mirror image of Kevin C is not something you want to be.

          • BBA says:

            I mean all the stuff about rape culture and how disbelieving lived experiences contributes to it. Maybe values isn’t the right term for it, I don’t know.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            you can definitely come up with scenarios where losing a large portion of your men is objectively worse (for reproductive success) than losing a large portion of your women.

            How common or likely are those scenarios? It seems to me that you don’t really dispute that in general, women are the limiting factor in reproduction compared to men. Nor do you dispute that in general, reproduction is a vital factor in tribal survival. To be sure, situations can arise where losing a large percentage of men is objectively worse than losing a large percentage of women, but playing the averages and common sense, that would be the exception and not the rules.

            Do we know the names of the innumerable women who died during childbirth? Of the women raped after the fall of Troy? What is the ratio of the number of men mentioned by name in the Iliad to the number of women?

            No, no, and I don’t know. Anyway, I am certainly not claiming that at all times, women had more social status than men. And in fact, I am pretty confident that the high status people have always been mainly men. What I am claiming is that in general women received (and still receive) a certain amount of social status automatically while men do not.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            In general, yes, but in the case of Emma Sulkowicz specifically there are texts and Facebook messages from after the alleged rape where she tells Nungesser she loves him and complains that she doesn’t see him enough

            .

            Without getting into the actual merits of her allegations, what’s interesting about this to me is that sending such messages is NOT a sign of high social intelligence. Part of social intelligence is organizing what you do and say so that you will be believed by other members of your social group. Getting caught making contradictory statements is necessarily going to undermine your credibility.

            In short, it seems pretty clear to me that mattress girl was able to garner a good deal of sympathy and attention not because of high social intelligence but because she was an attractive young woman and gets to play life on super-easy mode.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            But then I realized I was being androcentric. So in the name of countering my own bias, I decided not to express that reaction, and instead to counter it by toeing the social-justice line. (Also, judging from some family members’ experiences there, there’s no way in hell Columbia could ever get anything right.)

            Reversed stupidity is not intelligence.

          • baconbits9 says:

            What I am claiming is that in general women received (and still receive) a certain amount of social status automatically while men do not.

            But based on what evidence?

          • Matt M says:

            Part of social intelligence is organizing what you do and say so that you will be believed by other members of your social group.

            Her social group was going to believe her no matter what, therefore, any time and effort spent on ensuring that her behavior seemed consistent would have been wasted.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            But based on what evidence?

            My general observations. For example:

            1. Wrongdoing which is perceived as primarily a male perpetrator with a female victim (e.g. rape, spousal abuse, sexual harassment, failure to pay child support) are treated extremely seriously; wrongdoing which is perceived as primarily female perpetrators with male victims (e.g. paternity fraud, false rape accusations) typically have little or no consequences.

            2. Illnesses which are perceived as primarily striking women (e.g. breast cancer, osteoporsis) receive far more attention and funding than illnesses which are perceived as primarily striking men (e.g. prostate cancer)

            3. Discrepancies which are perceived as going against women (e.g. the wage gap, representation in tech fields) are great societal concerns. At the same time, discrepancies which go in the opposite direction (e.g. the workplace fatality gap, difference in life expectancies, suicide rates), receive very little attention.

            4. When a woman uses her sexuality to get opportunities from men, few people care; when a man uses the offer of opportunities to get sex from a woman, people freak out. If such a trade is immoral, then logically both parties to the exchange should be condemned. And yet only the traditional male role receives most of the opprobrium.

            5. Traditional male sexual preferences — such as preferring women who are healthy, thin, and young — are constantly lambasted from prestigious quarters. Traditional female sexual preferences — such as preferring a man who is tall and wealthy don’t receive this level of negative attention. There is a steady stream of news articles from women complaining about the lack of suitable men; analogous articles from men don’t get published.

            6. People freak out about violence against women in video games, action movies, etc. even though those same games and movies typically feature far more men than women being the victims of violence.

            I could go on, but everywhere you look it’s clear that society is gynocentric, i.e. the wellbeing, needs, and desires of women are prioritized over those of men. And as mentioned above, one aspect of societal gynocentrism is that someone like mattress girl is taken seriously (and her victim is not) even though the evidence strongly suggests she is a liar and is mentally ill.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Her social group was going to believe her no matter what

            Well it seems that the tribal elders (i.e. the Columbia disciplinary tribunal) didn’t believe her, which is why her victim was able to escape banishment.

          • Matt M says:

            It’s also worth considering – was her terminal goal actually to get this guy expelled?

            If her terminal goal was actually to launch a successful career as an activist – she succeeded wildly.

            Prediction: The Kavanaugh accuser is leaving this with a million dollar book deal. No matter what happens to Kavanaugh.

          • Plumber says:

            “Gynocentrism”

            fortaleza84,

            In trying to think of how and why a perception of “Gynocentrism” seems to be common and increasing (judging by the comments here) it occurs to me that most SSC’ers are probably young-ish college graduates. 

            There’s your problem right there!

            Most college students are now women, so of course college and the white-collar world are “gynocentric”.

            Majority rules!

            If you want a non “gynocentric” work environment, may I suggest a career in the building trades instead? 

            There’s an argument that most office work isn’t the proper occupation for an able-bodied free man anyway. 

          • fortaleza84 says:

            If her terminal goal was actually to launch a successful career as an activist – she succeeded wildly.

            Perhaps, but again one can ask what would have happened had a 20-year-old man tried the same stunt. It seems very unlikely that he would have received the level of attention and sympathy received by mattress girl.

            To the extent she succeeded at attaining her goals, it seems that it was mainly because she was playing on easy mode and not because she has exceptional social intelligence.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            There’s your problem right there!

            Most college students are now women , so of course college and the white-collar world are “gynocentric”.

            Majority rules!

            I would have to disagree with this. There are plenty of arenas which are majority male — the tech industry; Wikipedia editors; etc. And you still see the same gynocentrism you see everywhere else: People freaking out that there isn’t 50% female representation at the highest levels; people claiming that there is an anti-woman culture when the reality is 180 degrees opposite; people suffering severe consequences for daring to suggest that women may not be as competent as men; etc.

          • Plumber says:

            “I would have to disagree with this. There are plenty of arenas which are majority male — the tech industry; Wikipedia editors; etc. And you still see the same gynocentrism you see everywhere else….”

            fortaleza84,

            Wikipedia editor?

            That’s a job?

            Well, maybe because they’re outnumbered 50 to 1, but in my 11 years as a new construction plumber, and my 7 years doing repair service work, I haven’t seen it, though I suppose if enough women worked in the trades, even if not the majority, that could change, but not yet.

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ fortaleza84

            Your list is all modern, they might support an argument that society has become gynocentric, but not that society has been gynocentric for long periods of time. The first example alone is refuted as spousal abuse by husbands was not treated as a serious issue by society until relatively recently.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Wikipedia editor?

            That’s a job?

            No, but neither is “college student.”

            Wikipedia would seem to undercut the “majority rules” principle you are advancing.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            but not that society has been gynocentric for long periods of time.

            Does the phrase “women and children first” ring a bell to you?

            Anyway, let’s assume for the sake of argument that society has been gynocentric only for the last 30 years. It’s still consistent with my point that the achievements of people like Mattress Girl are more the result of a tilted playing field than superior social intelligence.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Does the phrase “women and children first” ring a bell to you?

            It does, it also is only about 170 years old, isn’t actual maritime policy, and was coined in a work or fiction. There have also been arguments made that it is a practical measure whereby getting passengers who might be prone to panic out of the way and allow those remaining to tackle the threat as best they can.

          • Randy M says:

            There have also been arguments made that it is a practical measure whereby getting passengers who might be prone to panic out of the way and allow those remaining to tackle the threat as best they can.

            I think this is belied by experience, since the Titanic’s lifeboats set out with open spaces even as men stayed aboard and women were forcefully separated from their husbands and loaded into them.

          • Protagoras says:

            @Randy M, Titanic’s emergency procedures were unusual in a wide variety of respects. Mostly in being extraordinarily bad, but just their generally being an outlier suggests that they probably shouldn’t be used as a typical example of anything.

          • Randy M says:

            Here’s another famous instance of W&CF. It doesn’t seem like the policy is intended for expeditious evacuation, but deference to the weaker sex. In any case, baconbits9′ justification doesn’t make sense to me, sense if the women and children are prone to hysterics, it would make more sense to make sure there were men aboard to take charge of the lifeboats.
            Any other examples where women and children first led to more people surviving, or the converse where a “seat them orderly in the order they come, regardless of person” policy would have backfired from panicked passengers?

          • LesHapablap says:

            fortaleza84,

            I don’t think you’re wrong about socially things being easier for women, but the mattress girl example isn’t too supportive. Initial accusations of any kind will always get more attention than the denials.

            Regarding the social easy mode: you’ll find the below book excerpt very interesting and probably affirming. It’s by a lesbian who spends 18 months living as a man, and the vastly different social experience she encounters:

            Norah Vincent – Self Made Man

            Many of my dates – even the more passive ones – did most of the talking. I listened to them talk literally for hours about the most minute, mind-numbing details of their personal lives; men they were still in love with, men they had divorced, roommates and co-workers they hated, childhoods they were loath to remember yet somehow found the energy to recount ad nauseam. Listening to them was like undergoing a slow frontal lobotomy.

            Weren’t people supposed to be on their best behaviour on first dates? Weren’t they supposed to at least pretend an interest in the other person, out of politeness if nothing else?.

            If you have never been sexually attracted to women, you will never quite understand the monumental power of female sexuality, except by proxy or in theory, nor will you quite know the immense advantage it gives us over men. Dating women as a man was a lesson in female power, and it made me, of all things, into a momentary misogynist, which I suppose was the best indicator that my experiment had worked. I saw my own sex from the other side, and I disliked women irrationally for a while because of it. I disliked their superiority, their accusatory smiles, their entitlement to choose or dash me with a fingertip, an execution so lazy, so effortless, it made the defeats and even the successes unbearably humiliating. Typical male power feels by comparison like a blunt instrument, its salvos and field strategies laughably remedial next to the damage a woman can do with a single cutting word: no.

            Sex is most powerful in the mind, and to men, in the mind, women have a lot of power, not only to arouse, but to give worth, self-worth, meaning, initiation, sustenance, everything.

          • baconbits9 says:

            link

            The Birkenhead drill may have saved the lives of women and children aboard its namesake ship and the more famous Titanic, but new research suggests the supposed tradition foundered during other calamities. Economists Mikael Elinder and Oscar Erixson from the University of Uppsala in Sweden have studied 18 maritime disasters that took place between 1852 and 2011. Writing in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they reveal that women and children only enjoyed a better outcome than men when the Birkenhead and Titanic went down. In every other case, men had the advantage, with an average survival rate of 37 percent compared to 27 percent for women and 15 percent for children. Rather than “women and children first,” Elinder said, passengers and crew on stricken vessels have historically abided by a very different axiom: “Every man for himself.”

          • Randy M says:

            Those rates don’t sound terribly different; it’s about what I’d expect if men tended to survive better in harsh conditions than women or children. You could spin a narrative of oppression out of it, but I don’t buy it.
            In any event, it’s clear that order will increase survival, and giving deference to one particular class will increase survival of that class. Historically it seems (from this report which lacks much detail) that neither was the norm. It’s not clear, and I doubt, that W&CF increase total survival over “queue up, families together, fill the boats completely one at a time, crew stays to help until they are able to leave”.

          • John Schilling says:

            If her terminal goal was actually to launch a successful career as an activist – she succeeded wildly.

            Her subsequent career seems to have been as a marginal hipster porn star performance artist, which probably wasn’t her goal going into college and probably isn’t going to end well for her. I haven’t followed the matter closely, but I don’t think that “wild success” is the right description here.

          • baconbits9 says:

            You could spin a narrative of oppression out of it, but I don’t buy it.

            No one is trying to spin a narrative of oppression of women in this thread, just refute “gynocentrism”.

            It’s not clear, and I doubt, that W&CF increase total survival over “queue up, families together, fill the boats completely one at a time, crew stays to help until they are able to leave”.

            That might be true (probably is) but the crew would have been all male through most of history, and such a situation would have looked a hell of a lot like women and children first.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            It does, it also is only about 170 years old, isn’t actual maritime policy, and was coined in a work or fiction.

            I’m not sure what you mean by “actual maritime policy.” Are you disputing that in the most famous ship evacuation in history, priority was given to female passengers over male passengers? Are you saying that this was an anomaly and not a regular practice?

            Anyway, as I mentioned above, you don’t seem to dispute that the achievements of mattress girl were more the result of a tilted playing field than superior social intelligence. Agreed?

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Any other examples where women and children first led to more people surviving,

            I don’t know, but has there ever been a sinking ship (or similar disaster situation) where the crew decided to prioritize saving male passengers over female passengers?

            Because it’s definitely happened that females were prioritized. It’s also happened that the situation was a total free-for-all.

            I’m pretty confident that disaster situations where saving male lives was prioritized are either completely non-existent or very unusual compared to the reverse. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s never happened that any ship’s officer has seriously proposed to “save the men first.” That’s gynocentrism, folks.

        • fortaleza84 says:

          Initial accusations of any kind will always get more attention than the denials.

          Well in the mattress girl situation, what got all the attention was mattress girl’s claim that the system had failed her by allowing the dude who had supposedly assaulted her to remain on campus. So one can imagine a situation where her assault accusation was upheld, the dude was expelled from school, and he tried to make things public by protesting in some unusual way. In that situation, it seems doubtful that he would have gotten the level of attention and sympathy she received.

          Besides, it wasn’t just the attention that was so striking about the situation; it was the fact that people took her seriously and were sympathetic even though the objective evidence strongly indicated that she was in the wrong.

          Anyway, I agree that women have a great deal of power in the sexual marketplace, however this is a tricky example because for a long time many societies had norms in place (and still have to an extent) to deal with this problem: Women were supposed to dress modestly; to refrain from sexual relations outside of marriage; to marry only one man and be faithful to him; to refrain from using their sexuality to advance themselves; etc.. Women who violated these norms were socially shamed or worse.

          I think women’s power in the sexual arena derives more from market conditions (supply and demand) than the societal tendency to prioritize women’s wellbeing, needs, and desires.

          That said, I do think female sexual power (including the male desire for female validation) results in a lot of advantages for women. So that when women get out of traffic tickets more easily than men, it’s more likely that it’s this factor in play than supposedly superior social intelligence.

      • keranih says:

        Someone please clarify my data on this – on the raw scores for intelligence tests, average male scores are slightly higher, but during validation, the tests are adjusted so that the average scores are the same…

        …or so I have been told. Accurate? Not Accurate?

        • In order to have a “raw score” you have to have a test, and designing the test involves a decision about how many questions of what sort to have. Suppose, for simplicity, that there are two types of questions. Men, on average, do better on type A questions, women on type B.

          A test that is all type A will show men to be more intelligent, a test that is all type B will show women to be more intelligent. Which come out better on a test with both sorts depends on the relative number of type A and type B questions.

          One way of deciding that is to choose a ratio which gives the same average score for men and women.

          • dick says:

            It’s true that how you weigh different sub-tests affects the “which gender is smarter” question, but that doesn’t mean the answer is arbitrary. We don’t really know what intelligence is or how to measure it properly, but we do know that it ought to correlate with things like job performance and salary and college grades and so forth, and when you’re tuning the weight of math/verbal/etc questions, you can see whether the correlation with other measures of intelligence gets stronger or weaker.

            I’m not one of those people who reads a ton about this, but my impression is that this process of grading IQ tests by comparing them to other observed measures is well-understood and that the consensus is that the difference in IQ between genders is widely thought to be either nonexistent or very small, even according to those people who think there are large and important differences between ethnic groups that are being buried by the evil liberal whatever-you-call-it.

          • albatross11 says:

            dick:

            Just as a nitpick, the liberals in the relevant fields fully acknowledge (and discuss and investigate) the differences in average IQ scores between racial groups–they may prefer that some hypotheses about the cause of those differences remain unspoken before the masses, but it’s not like James Flynn or Paige Harden or Eric Tukheimer[1] is trying to pretend there’s no race/IQ correlation.

            This is a pathology of some popular writers, and nearly all mainstream publications (which will have a several-page story about unequal educational outcomes between blacks and whites without once mentioning the black/white average IQ difference that provides a pretty plausible explanation for those differences in outcomes). Those publications broadly lean liberal because mainstream publications in the US broadly lean liberal, but more conservative publications like the Wall Street Journal or The Economist seem to take the same editorial line.

            [1] Note that these folks are serious researchers in the field, and as best I can tell, do good science in their field. I think they’re somewhat wrong on a social/political question surrounding their field, but maybe I’m wrong instead. And I think Harden and Turkheimer, in particular, are engaged in genuinely important work in trying to think through the implications of intelligence differences between individuals and average differences between groups from a liberal perspective. If indeed the human b–diversity view of the world is more-or-less accurate, we need smart, well-intentioned people from all sides to think through its implications and decide how to respond.

          • @Dick:

            In principle what you are describing might be doable, but I don’t think it is practical. You would have to see what weighting of different questions gave the best correlation with outcomes. There are at least three problems:

            1. The relevant data don’t exist. The authors of The Bell Curve had data for a large number of people on IQ and outcomes. But that data would not have included the scores each person got on each question, which is what you would need to try different weightings until you determined which was best.

            2. Suppose you had the data. By assumption, women do better on some questions, men on others. If you found that a heavy weighting on type A questions gave you a better correlation with income, how do you know if that reflects anything more than the fact that men make more money than women? To solve that problem you would have to separately do the experiment by gender, and would almost certainly discover that the weighting that was optimal for one gender wasn’t for another.

            3. There are multiple real life outcomes that matter and correlate with IQ and no reason to expect that the same weighting would be optimal (do the best of prediction) for all of them.

          • dick says:

            Just as a nitpick, the liberals in the relevant fields fully acknowledge (and discuss and investigate) the differences in average IQ scores between racial groups

            I said differences between ethnic groups, not between their scores. Anyone who can read knows there’s a difference in test results. The argument is over whether that differences is caused by a difference in underlying intellectual ability or something else. My point was that AFAICT both sides of that debate generally agree the difference in gender is too small to be interesting. I could be wrong, but it doesn’t seem like you’re disagreeing.

            I don’t have a dog in this fight and I was not trying to bring up what appears to be the taboo-iest of taboo topics here. My only strongly held position on this is the exact opposite of your last sentence: I am not very interested in knowing whether black people are inherently smarter or dumber than whites, ditto for men vs. women, northerners vs southerners, righties vs lefties, etc, because of how distinctly un-useful the answer would be, both to me personally and for policy-making generally.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I am not very interested in knowing whether black people are inherently smarter or dumber than whites, ditto for men vs. women, northerners vs southerners, righties vs lefties, etc, because of how distinctly un-useful the answer would be, both to me personally and for policy-making generally.

            A laudable attitude, although I’m not sure the answer would be un-useful for policymaking: most affirmative action programmes, quotas, etc., are premised (explicitly or implicitly) on the idea that there are no significant differences between groups, so if one group is under-represented, it must be due to discrimination, which we have a duty to correct for. If it turns out that there are actually good, non-discriminatory reasons for one group being under-represented, then these programmes lose their justification.

          • dick says:

            @DavidFriedman

            In principle what you are describing might be doable, but I don’t think it is practical.

            I bet you can think of reasons why it would be impractical to build the Hoover Dam, yet there it is. I don’t know a ton about psychometry, but from what I’ve learned I think these are reasonable responses:

            1) If you’re trying to make or revise a test, and you want to know how well your test correlates with (say) the WISC, you don’t call up the person who designed the WISC and beg for spreadsheets, you just ask a bunch of people to take both tests. Then you ask them what their SAT scores were, how much they make, and whatever else you’re curious about, and hire some grad students and make them do statistical analyses for two years, and Bob’s your uncle!

            2) You don’t, that’s why this field is so arbitrary: we cannot precisely define the thing we’re trying to measure, and are not even sure it exists in the form we imagine. But if you want to argue that one IQ test is better or worse than another IQ test, all you can do is compare it to proxies for IQ, which includes other IQ tests.

            3) Yep, it’s a hard problem, there’s a lot of choices that must be made which can later be second-guessed or improved upon, which is why we have a bunch of different IQ tests instead of one of them.

          • dick says:

            most affirmative action programmes, quotas, etc., are premised (explicitly or implicitly) on the idea that there are no significant differences between groups, so if one group is under-represented, it must be due to discrimination

            This is not true. (Or rather, it is true the way you phrased it, but only because you forgot to mention IQ anywhere. I assume that you meant “no significant IQ differences between groups”.) Affirmative action programs are mainly supposed to offset systemic bias and racism, not differences in IQ. This should be blindingly obvious if you remember that the side which supports affirmative action is the side which tries to downplay racial IQ differences.

            I concede that a small number of policy matters would be affected, but I think they’re pretty niche and inside-baseball, certainly too much so for me to have had any pre-existing interest in them. And when people on the internet say that they’re only interested in the race-IQ debate because of those policy issues (as opposed to only being interested in those policy issues because of the race-IQ debate), I generally don’t believe them.

          • 10240 says:

            Affirmative action programs are mainly supposed to offset systemic bias and racism, not differences in IQ.

            Yes, but the existence or non-existence of innate differences gives some information on the (non-)existence and extent of systemic bias and racism, since both are possible causes (among others) of the outcome disparities we observe. In particular, bias and racism are often inferred from outcome disparities, relying on the assumption that other causes for the disparities don’t exist. We could agree that we don’t care about whether innate differences exist, we assume that they may or may not exist, and we don’t infer discrimination from outcome disparities, but many people don’t seem to want to agree to the last part.

            it’s not like James Flynn or Paige Harden or Eric Tukheimer[1] is trying to pretend there’s no race/IQ correlation.

            This is a pathology of some popular writers, and nearly all mainstream publications (which will have a several-page story about unequal educational outcomes between blacks and whites without once mentioning the black/white average IQ difference that provides a pretty plausible explanation for those differences in outcomes).

            What dick said: these researchers agree that there are racial IQ gaps, but may assume that these have societal causes. Under that assumption, these IQ differences can’t be called the cause of the unequal educational outcomes, just (presumably) another manifestation of the same effects that cause the educational differences. Then the IQ differences are not very important to mention. They are not completely irrelevant, though: the fact that even IQ tests that try their best to not rely on acquired knowledge show differences, that has implications on the causes of the outcome differences, even if these causes are societal.

          • d