THE JOYFUL REDUCTION OF UNCERTAINTY

Open Thread 111.75

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

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

441 Responses to Open Thread 111.75

  1. metacelsus says:

    So, I recently saw this article: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2018-10-04/the-big-hack-how-china-used-a-tiny-chip-to-infiltrate-america-s-top-companies

    about backdoor hardware being added in China in equipment bound for American customers.

    Besides not producing things in China (which at this point might not be realistic), is there any good way to prevent this?

    • Evan Þ says:

      I’m a software developer, and this is chilling. It reminds me of the famous Reflections on Trusting Trust, warning of the possibility of malicious compilers.

      Fortunately, the damage potential is limited without outside access – malicious software can be targeted specifically at your organization, but malicious hardware is hard to insert in the supply chain low enough that it won’t get shipped to other customers as well. So, if it does anything obvious on its own, other people will notice. (Unless it does so only under certain situations only present in one or two organizations… but that’s hard to tell at the software level, and demands enough complexity that it can’t fit in such subtle chips yet.) What we saw in this case was chips that opened the door to internet connections. We can hope that’s all we will see for the near future.

      So, we can surround such possibly-compromised computers with firewalls. Something like that is how Apple noticed this compromise. Ideally, the firewalls would be themselves running on more-trusted hardware… hopefully we can at least get that, or the next hardware attack might be targeting firewalls?

    • Deiseach says:

      I’m not sure how much I believe this story, but on general principle I’m not surprised – hey, globalism has a downside, who would have thought? Honestly, why wouldn’t the Chinese government take this opportunity handed to them on a plate to use the hardware manufacturing for the West in their country to find ways to acquire more information/steal tech/influence and infilitrate large companies?

      We know Western governments are engaging in cyber-espionage, using the hardware instead of software is simply seizing the opportunity.

      (And for the companies involved – yeah, why did you think China/the Chinese government/your Chinese competitors owed you anything? The reason you’re buying Chinese hardware is because getting them to build your components is cheaper than making them in your own country, and if you’re more loyal to your self-interest, why should a foreign government be any more loyal to you than to their own self-interest? If industrial espionage from your competitors at home is a real concern, why wouldn’t it be the same for those hoping to become your competitors abroad?)

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      Wasn’t there a similar penetration, but of American -businesses-, by the Chinese government about 15-25 years ago via hardware backdoors?

    • Statismagician says:

      It is incredibly funny to me that the same companies/people who keep shouting about Chinese intellectual property theft had all their products built in China without considering that something like this might happen. I mean, to be fair, I didn’t either, but I also don’t spend a lot of time thinking about Chinese intellectual property theft or arranging electronic-manufacturing supply chains.

    • Nicholas Weininger says:

      Suppose you could produce hardware with an all-US supply chain. Why would you trust the NSA not to do the same thing?

      • Evan Þ says:

        Because that would involve lots of domestic companies without particular suspicion or Constitutional backing, and the NSA is marginally more restrained by the Constitution than the Chinese government.

        I mean, I wouldn’t be astonished if I heard they’d done it – but I consider them much less likely.

        • John Schilling says:

          and the NSA is marginally more restrained by the Constitution than the Chinese government.

          In particular, the NSA can’t disappear American citizens who go to the New York Times to testify that their boss told them to shut up and install the NSA chip on the assembly line, and it particularly can’t disappear journalists who report on the story. That’s a fairly substantial constraint on their ability to do things like this covertly.

          Doing it overtly and saying “War on Terror! Squawk! War on Terror!”, meh, that might work, might not. But at least the people who cared would know. All five of them.

      • Deiseach says:

        I wouldn’t.

        But the amusing thing here is that everyone is so concerned with hacking and with software as the be-all and end-all, that there is nearly something charmingly old-fashioned about using hardware. Old-school, like planting bugs in microphones.

      • Brad says:

        > Why would you trust the NSA not to do the same thing?

        They might, but they probably wouldn’t give whatever they found to my company’s competitors.

        In terms of tactics I don’t think the west is any more “honorable” than China when it comes to digital espionage. But in terms of goals I think with the possible exceptions of France and Israel it isn’t aimed at commercial advantage.

        • cassander says:

          the west definitely isn’t as a whole, but the US really doesn’t do industrial espionage. The CIA actually tried to get them on board with it in the 90s as part of their post-cold war “what are we for” phase, but there was very little interest and it never got off the ground.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      It is worth noting that Amazon and Apple strongly deny the story.

    • dark orchid says:

      My current attitude to this story is “more evidence needed”, as Apple, Amazon and the UK’s GCHQ have responded negatively to the story and some of the details feel a bit … odd to me.

      That hardware implants exist is not exactly news; whether these specific ones exist in the form that Bloomberg claims I’m keeping an open mind on for now.

  2. ManyCookies says:

    A quick “Am I the only one that does this”: When you read a back-and-forth argument you’re not involved in, do you sometimes find yourself skimming/not reading the posts you disagree with and just reading the rebuttals to them? I am super duper guilty of this at times, it’s not a healthy intellectual habit.

    • idontknow131647093 says:

      To be honest, I have identified a few people I think are good rebutters and read them, otherwise I only read rebuttals to me. I dont read people who agree with me very much. I find that boring.

    • fion says:

      It depends on my mood. I definitely sometimes do this when I’m tired and bored, but I also sometimes do the opposite when I’m more energetic and keen.

    • Nick says:

      Yeah, I do this sometimes. I’m aware it’s not a good thing, but darn it, sometimes the rebuttals on one side are just so much more entertaining.

    • Statismagician says:

      Yep; especially on some other fora that I read, I sometimes just skip to comments by people who I know will summarize the other guy fairly but strip out a lot of the nonsense, and (completely coincidentally, you’ll agree) happen to agree with my personal viewpoints. I can think of no problems this might cause. On the other hand, it’s Internet argument-as-entertainment, so I don’t think I care that much.

    • silver_swift says:

      Yup, definitely guilty of this too.

  3. idontknow131647093 says:

    Almost 50% of mass transit in the US is in New York. Plus it it is decreasing as a percent of overall workplaces. In most cities buses actually just cause congestion by clogging lanes.

    https://www.cato.org/multimedia/cato-daily-podcast/fading-relevance-mass-transit

    • Evan Þ says:

      I don’t listen to podcasts; do you have a transcript? Or can you summarize the argument?

      Do you mean the percentage of all commuters commuting on public transit is decreasing?

      And what is “most cities”? In “most cities,” buses run seldom enough that they can’t cause all that much congestion – for instance, take Raleigh or Durham, NC, around where I grew up, where there’s one bus every half-hour on most corridors and every fifteen minutes on a very few. Even if not a single person was taking the bus, they can’t cause that much congestion by sheer lack of numbers. Meanwhile, up here in Seattle, most buses are packed during rush hour.

      • idontknow131647093 says:

        Evan Þ

        The percentage of commuters commuting on public transit is decreasing.

        The rest I don’t recall because I flash posted it because I was linked by a person I follow on twitter and found it seemed to rebut a lot of the stuff a lot of people were talking about in the YIMBY related threads.

    • Nornagest says:

      I’ve got a half-assed and unsubstantiated theory that carpool lanes are worse than useless, because they incentivize buses, family cars, people with HOV stickers, and the five or six actual carpools on the road to merge across traffic immediately, to get to the carpool lane, rather than slowly adapting to the traffic conditions. That causes people to slam on their brakes, which makes traffic worse (traffic jams are basically caused by people overreacting to the people braking in front of them).

      Buses are the worst of the lot, because they’re the biggest and tend to have aggressive drivers (it’s easy to be aggressive when you weigh twenty tons).

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I’ve wondered if buses tend to have aggressive drivers because they believe traffic laws only apply to private vehicles, not the state.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Certainly in Philadelphia they do. In Vancouver the traffic laws apparently _don’t_ apply to buses; buses have the right of way over cars.

          In Philadelphia when there’s a SEPTA strike, there’s chaos for a few days, then traffic settles down to better than normal. But it’s not clear if this is because the buses are worse than useless on a per-passenger basis or because fewer people total are on the road.

        • dodrian says:

          I would guess it’s because they’re too big and/or don’t have the power to take advantage of the opportunities that cars have to merge safely into traffic. If they weren’t aggressive they wouldn’t get anywhere when traffic is heavy. Plus they know they can win almost any confrontation (both physically, and usually legally).

        • Nornagest says:

          Maybe, but private buses are aggressive too.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Oh, like Greyhounds and tour buses? Huh, I hadn’t actually noticed that on the road.

          • Anthony says:

            In SF, Chariot drivers are generally bigger assholes than Muni drivers, but not usually worse than medallioned taxi drivers. The private tech buses are generally a little less aggressive than Muni drivers.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        That causes people to slam on their brakes, which makes traffic worse

        people merging that aggressively is in fact a problem, but I don’t usually see that happen because doing so is potential suicide

        maybe i’m wrong but shit, I wait for an opening…

    • Matt M says:

      Public transit in America is unpopular with most people because it feels unsafe, due to it being the preferred transportation method of the incredibly poor. Combine this with a low-trust society and increasing mandatory “diversity” initiatives and nobody who can afford to do anything else is caught dead on it.

      I predict that if the nationalist attempts at stemming immigration in Western Europe fail, you’ll see the same thing start to happen there.

      • 10240 says:

        I guess there is a positive feedback here: if public transport is good enough that plenty of middle class people use it, then it’s not especially dangerous, and thus people have no reason to stop using it.

      • dndnrsn says:

        @Matt M

        Public transit seems generally better in Canada than in the US. Looking at the respective demographics Wikipedia articles, Toronto and San Francisco both have fairly similar demographics. Yet the TTC is a fairly standard “underfunded but otherwise OK” transit system that is most definitely not the province of the poor, and every description I’ve read of the BART system sounds like Mad Max without cars. I therefore think your position that this is due to a diverse, low-trust society is wrong, unless up here we really do have the magic diversity secret sauce.

        • johan_larson says:

          I suspect people are overstating the problems. I used BART daily for two years in 2006-8, commuting first from Fremont into San Francisco and then from Daly City into San Francisco. The stations and running stock seemed OK. Hard-used maybe, but I don’t remember any crazy people on the trains or human waste in the stations.

          Of course, that’s a good ten years ago now, so maybe things have changed.

          • Evan Þ says:

            I’ve never used BART, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it has changed.

            Still, I’d be hesitant to extrapolate beyond the Bay Area. Up here in Seattle, the buses and trains are generally clean, usually free of crazy people, and well-trafficked by all social classes. I’ve seen the same thing in Chicago the few times I visited.

            But, in most of America, the problem is that there hardly is any public transit, so the only people who ride the infrequent buses that do exist are the people who don’t have any other option.

        • Matt M says:

          Toronto and San Francisco both have fairly similar demographics

          I’d like a little bit of elaboration here. My impression was always that Canada’s form of diversity (in Toronto especially) was the “Indian doctor” type, rather than the “Salvadoran lettuce picker” type, which is quite different.

          • dndnrsn says:

            % non-hispanic white San Francisco 2010: 41.9
            % white TO 2016: 47.7
            % black SF: 6.1
            % black TO: 8.9
            % Asian SF: 33.3
            % Asian TO: 35.1

            (note that for “Asian” I’ve combined all East, Southeast, South, and West Asians into one category for Toronto; all numbers from respective demographics article on Wikipedia)

            These demographics aren’t wildly different. The biggest differences between the two cities that one might expect to have an impact on public transit, the situation on the streets, etc, are the wider popularity and availability of heroin in San Francisco, and the much more rough-sleeping-friendly climate of San Francisco.

            (How many “Salvadoran lettuce pickers” are there in San Francisco? How do they afford rent? Where’s the lettuce? Do the Salvadorans murder at a higher rate than the American average?)

  4. Cardboard Vulcan says:

    We will be having a meeting of the LessWrong Washington DC group this Sunday. We’ll be meeting to talk about what we’ve been reading lately and books we’d recommend to others. Tell us what books you like. Hope to see you there for some lively discussion.

    WHEN: October 7th, 2018, starting 3:30 p.m.
    WHERE: National Portrait Gallery, F St NW between 7th and 9th St. Near the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro stop

    We usually meet in the main courtyard. Look for a table of folks with a LessWrong sign. If there is an event in the main courtyard we meet upstairs in the Luce Center.

  5. Winter Shaker says:

    Bryan Caplan’s link on the blogroll seems to be broken.

  6. Deiseach says:

    Staying away from L’Affaire for the moment, a fun little link – I personally am thankful to my Neanderthal ancestors! 🙂

  7. WashedOut says:

    Anyone used Portfolio Armor? Or looked into it in enough detail to share a few thoughts?

    I like the concept and would be interested, but I don’t know enough about my country’s laws around engaging overseas financial services, and any potential hurdles to claiming profits resulting from such.

    • Lambert says:

      So it’s basically an algorithm that tells you what puts to buy?
      Bear in mind that the algorithm may be optimised for its own country, not yours.

    • broblawsky says:

      It looks like it substantially underperforms the S&P up until the 2008 crash. Any benefits it has after that are likely because of retained capital.

    • baconbits9 says:

      I like the idea and do something similar in concept for myself.

      I don’t like the back testing as a major selling point. Backtesting itself isn’t bad, but it should not be an up front selling point. First you have a huge selection bias issue, why does the back testing only go back to 2002 or so? I am pretty confident that such a strategy would not have beaten the market in all times.

      I am also very suspicious of places that don’t update their back tests, they should continue to run them forward and publish their results as time passes, and their website doesn’t appear to do that. It is VERY easy to take market data, mine it and come up with a strategy that would have worked over period X, it is finding that strategy which will continue to work from now on which is difficult.

  8. johan_larson says:

    Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to reduce the US incarceration rate from the present 655/100,000 to that of France, 104/100,000. Obviously, you need to do this without sending the crime rate soaring.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      The easy first answer is to decriminalize possession of certain popular drugs – marijuana (the rest of the way), cocaine, heroin – let the market effects settle out, and see where you stand. There’s an argument long made by libertarians that the drug ban drives a black market, which in turn drives gang activity in the largest cities.

      One question I’ve always had nagging me in the back of my brain about this is that a lot of gang members might just be innately violent. I think it’s not quite the case that all these black marketeers will notice the black market evaporating and just think, “wellp, time to get that legit job behind the counter at In-N-Out”. Where will they go, economically speaking?

      And where will the new addicts go? I also think arguments against legalization on grounds of higher addiction rates are valid too, after all. We could expect to see more deaths due to increased supply of such drugs, and the deaths because someone was hit by a car driven by a crackhead will be especially enraging. What’s the envisioned model here? More rehab clinics? What if they can’t afford it? The free market model suggests foundations and other models, but to what extent will people pay clinics to actually rehabilitate and treat addicts, and to what extent will they pay just to get them away from non-addicts?

      Another blue-sky plan is to colonize Mars, and send your riffraff there. (Frame it right, and a lot of people will pay you for the chance to go.)

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Another blue-sky plan is to colonize Mars, and send your riffraff there.

        Be a lot cheaper just to ship them to Australia. Worked for the Brits.

        • Jaskologist says:

          I was going to recommend “exile to France” as a primary punishment.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Ooo a two-fer. Depends on whether or not the challenge is “get to 104/100,000” or “get to level of France.” If it’s the latter, we should also consider ways to increase the crime rates in France.

            Although, I can’t think of many better ways to increase crime in France than their current immigration policies, so…

          • Nick says:

            If we can do something to collapse the French economy, that would surely increase crime rates. Could we pressure them to leave the EU or break up the EU, or would they be okay without it?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            [Epistemic Status: Pulled From Rectum] I think leaving the EU would long-term be better for France, so no I don’t think that would help. Instead I would bolster the EU, removing still more local decision-making from France to further stagnate their economy.

            To be honest, I think the “how to ruin France” hypothetical is more fun than the “how to make America better” hypo.

      • johan_larson says:

        One question I’ve always had nagging me in the back of my brain about this is that a lot of gang members might just be innately violent.

        I suspect you could could cut down on recidivism by running more effective reintegration programs after people are released. I’m thinking closer supervision during parole, more help in finding housing and getting a job and keeping it. We might even consider long-term close supervision as an alternative to prison, with the goal being to make sure that the offenders stay away from the criminal life for good.

          • Statismagician says:

            I suspect that a lot of what Minnesota and Maine are doing is ‘not having enough population density to support a lot of drug crime/enough police to catch drug criminals.’ Also, they both have a vastly more homogeneous population than average, with all the various bonii that brings.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Here in Minnesota, people often comment that the cold weather keeps the riff raff out. I presume Mainers could say the same thing. And Canada too, which also has a lower incarceration rate, I believe.

            So my recommendation is to have a nuclear war or seed some super volcanos so we get global cooling. If everywhere was cooler, no doubt crime would go way down. I don’t know where the riff raff would go, but presumably leave the US. Of course comparing ourselves to France might not help, because they’d lose their riff raff also.

          • “Also, start doing whatever Minnesota and Maine are doing.”

            They both have quite magical dirt.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Most criminals tend to age out of violent ways around their mid-20s. (Someone smarter than me has probably done the research of exactly when.) Is it possible to hold them long enough that their violence drops but not too late to get them to be functional members of society?

          Social bonds might work for improving recidivism. And I have a strong instinct against private prisons but this might be a place they work, if they are rewarded for good results. The way to run prisons right now is “we don’t care what happens as long as you don’t kill each other.”

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        How many people do you think are in jail because of drug crimes?

        At the federal level it’s a lot, but federal prisoners are only a fraction of total prisoners.

        In addition, a lot of drug prisoners are there because they were committing some other crime, but nailing them on the drug crimes is much easier. There is a good argument that the government shouldn’t get this easy path to incarceration, and I like that argument, but the end result will be those prisoners being in jail for some other reason than drug crimes. (Again, that’s good from a governance and rights view, but not from the challenge provided in the thread OP.)

        It’s a good idea for many reasons, but not as big a bang as many people think.

        • Statismagician says:

          Short answer is, enough to matter. At the state and local levels, drug crimes account for about 1/6th of the incarcerated population, which isn’t, you know, not a big deal. More importantly, it’s about 1/4 of the population in jail awaiting trial, and anything that speeds up our ridiculous trial backlog is a very good thing.

          You’re correct that this is a (large) drop in the bucket compared to the vastly larger ~44% of people in the Federal prison system for drug charges, but still.

          • Nornagest says:

            “Drug crimes” are one thing and “possession” is another. That graph doesn’t break it down on the local level, but on the state level drug possession only accounts for 45,000 of the 200,000 state-level inmates incarcerated for drug offenses — the rest presumably being dealing, smuggling, etc. The “not convicted” slice of the local prison population is mostly people awaiting trial for state-level crimes, so we can probably expect a similar proportion there: let’s say another 24,000.

            We don’t know anything about the federal system from this, or about the people in local jails who’ve been convicted, but if they’re similar then we’re looking at about four percent.

          • AG says:

            But Paul Brinkley’s argument above is that drug crimes also decrease because legal methods of distribution (because possession is no longer criminalized) can arise, which reduces the need for dealing and smuggling.

      • Lillian says:

        And where will the new addicts go? I also think arguments against legalization on grounds of higher addiction rates are valid too, after all. We could expect to see more deaths due to increased supply of such drugs, and the deaths because someone was hit by a car driven by a crackhead will be especially enraging. What’s the envisioned model here? More rehab clinics? What if they can’t afford it? The free market model suggests foundations and other models, but to what extent will people pay clinics to actually rehabilitate and treat addicts, and to what extent will they pay just to get them away from non-addicts?

        Conversely we would expect deaths from tainted supplies and unknown dosages to decrease dramatically. It would also be much easier to educate the public about the dangers of mixing drugs, which i believe amounts for a plurality of drug deaths. So you know, there’s good to balance out the bad. Alternatively we could simply decriminalize possession rather than completely legalizing the drug trade, which is already proven by Portugal to decrease drug related addiction, fatalities, and incarcerations.

        Also, it’s important to remember that while drug addiction has significant social costs, so does enforcing drug prohibition. Law enforcement is not cheap, and neither are prisons. It may very well be the case that even if legalization causes increases addiction rates, it would still place a lower burden on society than maintaining prohibitionist policies.

        As for what to do with addicts. Well if they’re not hurting anyone, then we don’t really need to do anything about them. If they are hurting someone, then we treat them the same as non-addicts who hurt people. That’s how we handle alcoholics, i see no reason we can’t handle druggies the same way.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Where are opiods on the legalization scale? Honest question, but it seems like they are relatively legal right now (being purchased from major companies, at least) and no one is learning to take them safely. Feel free to correct my ignorance here.

          Legalizing meth would take out the home-cookers of meth, which is a pretty good win, possibly enough to set off even a putative increase in the number of addicts.

          It wouldn’t take much to convince me we should legalize some of our currently illegal drugs and ban some of our currently allowed drugs.

          • AG says:

            I guess it goes hand-in-hand with consumer protection strength. Certain opioids companies promoted a dangerous dosage, and from what I can tell they haven’t been penalized much. If the legal actors involved for a legal drug were held more liable, then they’re encouraged to not pull such shenanigans.

          • MrApophenia says:

            My understanding from reading articles on the opioid crisis over the past year or so is that the death rate is skyrocketing precisely because of the change in legalization status.

            It used to be that getting prescribed legal prescription opioids was extremely easy. This led to lots of people being addicted, but relatively few overdose deaths.

            In response to the massive number of addictions, it was made vastly harder to get legally prescribed opioids. The result is all the people who got addicted when it was legal switched to illegal means (mostly heroin) and the number of deaths skyrocketed.

            In practical terms this wasn’t a huge surprise – the decision amounts to writing off those already addicted to prevent new addicts from being created. However, the suddenly supercharged heroin black market in large areas of the country where it didn’t exist before is counteracting that to at least a degree, and now people are skipping the legal prescription stage and just starting with heroin.

      • Nornagest says:

        Why stop there? Decriminalize everything. No crimes means no crime rate.

        This may have some minor side effects.

        • Lillian says:

          Surely you understand that there’s a difference between activities that produce no victim, and activities that do, yes? As far as i’m concerned, the guiding principle should be that if there is no victim, there is no crime. This shouldn’t be an iron-clad diktat, there can be exceptions made, but they should be done with great care and hesitation. Indeed i would argue that in the absence of victims, an activity should only be criminalized given positive proof that the social costs of prohibiting it (which are considerable) are only exceeded by the costs of not prohibiting it.

          • Nornagest says:

            I think you may have taken that post more seriously than I meant it. I know it’s placed a couple levels down in the comment tree, but I was going for a stupid but technically correct and hopefully funny answer to the OP, not a snarky indictment of one of the comments.

          • Lillian says:

            Ah, my apologies then, tone can be hard to decipher over text.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Monty Python already did it

          Well, we psychiatrist have found that over 8% of the population will always be mice, I mean, after all, there’s something of the mouse in all of us. I mean, how many of us can honestly say that at one time or another he hasn’t felt sexually attracted to mice. (linkman looks puzzled) I know I have. I mean, most normal adolescents go through a stage of squeaking two or three times a day. Most youngsters on the other hand, some youngsters are attracted to it by its very illegality. It’s like murder – make a thing illegal and it acquires a mystique. (linkman looks increasingly embarrassed) Look at arson – I mean, how many of us can honestly say that at one time or another he hasn’t set fire to some great public building? I know I have. (phone on desk rings; the linkman picks it up but does not answer it) The only way to bring the crime figures down is to reduce the number of offenses – get it out in the open – I know I have.

        • Joseph Greenwood says:

          I thought this was really funny.

      • I think it’s not quite the case that all these black marketeers will notice the black market evaporating and just think, “wellp, time to get that legit job behind the counter at In-N-Out”. Where will they go, economically speaking?

        Where did the bootleggers go when alcohol prohibition ended? I don’t know, but I don’t have the impression that other forms of crime suddenly increased.

        We could expect to see more deaths due to increased supply of such drugs

        We could expect more use of drugs but fewer deaths, since quality control would be better in a legal market. Medical grade heroin isn’t a particularly dangerous drug–it was originally developed as a safer substitute for morphine.

        • sentientbeings says:

          Where did the bootleggers go when alcohol prohibition ended?

          A notable number of them went into what eventually became the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing.

        • adder says:

          Where did the bootleggers go when alcohol prohibition ended?

          Perhaps became one of the most popular alcohol producers in the country? From Franzia’s website:

          Teresa Franzia, my grandmother, planted her first vineyard along the road to Yosemite in 1906. Her family survived Prohibition by selling those grapes to home winemakers back East.

          When Prohibition ended, my father and his six brothers and sisters rebuilt the winery brick by brick, barrel by barrel…everyone pitched in. After World War II, my uncle’s new advertising slogan, “Make friends with Franzia,” introduced a new generation to wine.

          I find it hard to believe they kept the family business going by shipping grapes across the country.

          • Betty Cook says:

            I’ve read that some vineyards at that time made “raisin cake”, compressed raisins, and sold it together with an instruction sheet of what you should not do (don’t mix this much raisin cake with this much water and leave it for this long…) because if you did it might ferment!

      • Rm says:

        Let’s hope CRISPR research does out work for humans in the end: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41551-018-0293-z

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      If you raise an awful lot of jailable offenses to capital crimes, you won’t be “incarcerating” the criminals anymore, now will you? Also cuts down on recidivism.

      • Nick says:

        That would backfire, because every sentence would get challenged and adjudicated to hell. At the very least, you’d be spending a fortune on getting them through the legal system.

        • rlms says:

          Well, you can also cut down on due process.

          Of course, there are second-order effects to consider. To the extent that criminality is fungible, making crime A capital and leaving crime B with jail as punishment will lead to some people choosing to commit B instead of A, increasing incarceration levels. Likewise, at some point you would get hanged-sheep-lamb effects increasing criminality and therefore incarceration (even if you make all crimes capital you’ve still got to keep people in jail while you try them).

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          What rlms said. Do it like the Chinese, and send the bill for the bullet to the family. Very cheap.

      • Lillian says:

        The English tried that with the bloody code, and it resulted in juries who were extremely unwilling to convict, and when they did convict would frequently do so on a lesser charge in order to keep prisoners from the noose. The entire reason transportation was invented as a punishment was in an effort to compromise between the state’s desire to get rid of criminals and juries’ unwillingness to kill them.

        • The main use of transportation was for criminals who had been convicted of a capital offense and were then pardoned on condition of agreeing to transportation–fourteen years of indentured servitude in the New World. I believe that at one point criminals convicted of a clergyable felony were transported for a shorter period–but if transportation had not been an option they would have been branded on the thumb and turned loose.

    • Chalid says:

      Substitute caning or equivalent.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I wish society could accept this. Caning someone 10 times is better for everyone than locking them up for 6 months.

        We can’t move forward because the counter-argument is “we should neither lock them up or cane them!”, and maybe that’s right, but we’re not getting anywhere better.

        • Chalid says:

          I don’t know. If it was very easy and costless for the government to punish people, then you might expect much more frequent punishment, and for more minor offenses.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            We would presumably still need trials.

            I often worry about the ease (to the government) of putting people on probation which allows near-arbitrary violation of their rights. If the government set out to put an ankle monitor on 50% of the population over the next 20 years, would we notice in time?

            Imprisoning people destroys their social capital. A cane strike lets them get back to their lives and jobs. Even once we decide to imprison someone, the first choice should be putting them in jail just on the weekends (or other days of the week if their job requires weekend hours). It gets the message across that their behavior is not tolerated but lets them continue to function.

            (Oh, while I’m at it, I’m marginally in favor of banning checks of criminal behavior on employment, although I would want to give the employer an out for being held economically responsible for their employees doing criminal things. If you merely block that background check but still hold employers responsible, they will find some other method of excluding felons, which means excluding populations with higher densities of felons.)

          • Randy M says:

            Even once we decide to imprison someone, the first choice should be putting them in jail just on the weekends

            Make them check in once per day at a site across the county.
            Imprisonment by rush hour.

          • quanta413 says:

            @Edward Scizorhands

            I don’t think banning checks on criminal records by employers is a good idea. All else equal, people who were criminals are probably worse workers. They’re probably also more likely to steal from the employer. It’s not necessarily easy to even know that theft is occurring if a lot of cash transactions are done by a business. If you don’t let employers check criminal records, they may use unfair proxies instead. And there’s no way in hell you’ll figure out every proxy that should be disallowed.

            If your idea is to ban background checks but not hold employers responsible, you’re basically just disadvantaging the employers who are unwilling to use proxies to try to screen out former criminals.

            On top of that, there are plenty of jobs where it’s really important to know if an employee was a criminal. Any job in a hospital for humans or animals for example gives employees an opportunity to steal valuable drugs. You don’t want a drug dealer or a thief in these places.

            I think a plan of figuring out which things should be downgraded from felonies or not put on a record is a better idea. Employers should be able to check for serious issues like past convictions for thievery or violent crimes.

          • albatross11 says:

            This came up on Marginal Revolution a few years back.

            Suppose we ban checking criminal records, but I (as an employer) really care a lot about whether any of my employees are past criminals. Both race and sex strongly correlate with whether you’ve been convicted of any serious crimes in the past. Education / social class also correlates with that.

            The paradoxical effect here is that a completely race and gender neutral employer (say, a robot or a Martian) has an incentive to avoid hiring black men (with the highest rate of felony convictions), and in fact may end up deciding to only hire white and Asian middle-class women.

        • There are plenty of things I would do if the punishment was only caning as opposed to a jail sentence that is permanently on my record.

        • rlms says:

          I expect a large chunk of society would accept caning if there was compelling evidence that it would have a sufficient deterrent effect to make up for the lack of prevention, but I doubt there is much evidence in either direction.

      • ana53294 says:

        The problem with caning is that the punishment is very uneven for the same crime.

        2 years of their life are presumably worth similar amounts to really rich people and to poor people (although a poor person would give up freedom for a smaller $$ than a richer person). But a physical punishment will have very different effects on the person depending on their health status. The eggshell skull is a principle because people are so uneven.

        If you have a human administering the caning, the same punishment can be different for different people, also. So, a racist guy will hit brown people harder. Or they may be biased in weird ways against some category of people.

        Women are physically weaker than men. Hitting them with the same force as men would actually be unfair, because the harm done to them is going to be bigger. There is also a great variability in strength with age. Older people take longer to recover.

        From Wikipedia:

        Of these, judicial caning, for which Singapore is best known, is the most severe. It is reserved for male convicts under the age of 50, for a wide range of offences under the Criminal Procedure Code, and is also used as a disciplinary measure in prisons.

        So I don’t think caning can be a general form of punishment for crimes. And wouldn’t it be discriminatory to have different punishments for the same crime for men and women, and for older and younger men?

        • “And wouldn’t it be discriminatory to have different punishments for the same crime for men and women”

          It’s not hypothetical, that’s our system now.

        • The Nybbler says:

          2 years in jail would utterly ruin an upper-middle-class geek, while having no future impact on someone who was destitute. But no one objects when the differential impact goes that way.

        • albatross11 says:

          One thing that always strikes me about Singapore is that on one side, they seem like a less free society than the US in many ways (and one much less concerned with the possibility of an innocent man going to prison in theory), and yet their per capita prison population is much, much smaller than that of the US.

        • ana53294 says:

          In what way does criminal justice differ based on gender? Other than female jails probably being nicer places (less likelihood of being raped or murdered).

          • toastengineer says:

            Women accused of the same crime have way less chance of being convicted, women convicted of the same crime have way more lenient sentences.

          • ana53294 says:

            I am pretty sure you could say the same about rich/poor, white/black, and other types of differences.

            But at least we have the same punishments on the books. The fact that a woman may be more sympathetic than a man (and a well dressed clean person is more sympathetic than the smelly guy who shouts GRAGHHH in court) does not mean that we should change the system so it starts being unfair even on the books.

        • 10240 says:

          Women are physically weaker than men. Hitting them with the same force as men would actually be unfair, because the harm done to them is going to be bigger.

          I don’t think muscle strength matters here. Is women’s skin weaker than men’s? Maybe, I have no idea.

          And wouldn’t it be discriminatory to have different punishments for the same crime for men and women, and for older and younger men?

          Well, obviously one could adjust for these differences, and if the adjustments are such that it actually hurts the same amount, I’d call it fair.

          • Lillian says:

            Women’s skin is thinner than men’s and has less collagen, making it softer and weaker. Women also also consistently show lower pain thresholds and less pain tolerance than men. Also greater muscle strength does improve one’s ability to absorb damage. Strength and toughness tend to go together.

          • Women have a layer of subcutaneous fat. Would that act as protective padding for more critical parts underneath? Or does it make women more vulnerable because of damage to that layer?

            I expect somewhere there are data on this subject, from research on trauma from accidents, sports injuries, and the like.

            One thing that is unclear to me from reading about Imperial China, where beating was the standard low level punishment, was whether its main effect was pain while it was happening or whether it had a sizable chance of doing permanent injury. My guess is that it’s the former in Singapore–that if there were lots of people crippled by the process we would hear about it.

        • Women are physically weaker than men. Hitting them with the same force as men would actually be unfair, because the harm done to them is going to be bigger.

          Under Imperial Chinese law (the final dynasty, at least), a woman being caned was allowed to wear a garment, a man being caned wasn’t.

          • ana53294 says:

            Unless the garments were pretty substantial, this seems made more to protect modesty than to give actual physical support (since undressing the torso would expose the breasts).

            I can’t imagine a t-shirt providing much help when being caned. Something like a leather jacket would provide some support. Corsets also, but I don’t think they used corsets in China.

          • Caning of men, at least, was on the buttocks. And I believe in some circumstances the woman was allowed to wear a padded garment.

            But the main concession to women was that, for many offenses, they were allowed to buy free of the punishment for what looks like a pretty small price. Men sometimes were given that option, but for women it seems to have been the norm, with cases where they were not permitted specially noted.

            One interesting feature of that legal system is that it is simultaneously biased for and against women. The underlying assumption is that men have the authority, and one result is that in many situations women are not held responsible for their offenses or are let off lightly.

            Lots of other oddities. Hitting a senior relative is a much more serious offense than hitting a stranger, hitting a junior relative a less serious offense than hitting a stranger. Stealing from a relative is a much less serious offense than stealing from a stranger, apparently on the theory that property is in some sense held in common by the family.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      David Roodman researching for the Open Philanthropy Project estimated zero marginal net impact of incarceration on crime in the United States, due to longer sentences increasing recidivism. So step one is to cut sentence length across the board until a marginal effect on crime actually is visible, then take stock of how far you still have to go.

    • AG says:

      Carrot: Decriminalize certain non-violent crimes, stronger halfway-house programs partnering with parole

      Stick: sterilize 4x repeat offenders, replace incarceration sentences for lower level crimes with caning or equivalent. Replace minimum security incarceration for certain white collar crimes with tattoos (with a proprietary ink) of the crime they were convicted of in a standardized location.

      • albatross11 says:

        “Poor Impulse Control”

        • AG says:

          Sure, why not? Although I would probably rather it be the damages done.
          “Lost $X Billion dollars of 401K funds on the stock market”
          “Ran a company into bankruptcy, causing X workers to lose their jobs”
          “Lended out X number of subprime mortgages”
          “Executive while a policy of fake accounts openings was in effect”

          That way it doesn’t matter if you can squirrel your way out of the direct causal chain, it still happened on your watch!
          Also plea deals to not get tattooed for whistleblowers, to incentivize that and not penalize as many ground-floor workers being coerced to carry out horrible policies.

          • CatCube says:

            The problem is that none of what you list are crimes on their own (and the vast majority of them will happen with no crime or possibly even notable incompetence on the executive’s part), and some white-collar crimes may not have a nice neat articulable damage. What is the dollar value of damages in this vein from insider trading? Plus, some white collar crimes may not have any damage at all, other than the government didn’t receive the right form on time.

          • AG says:

            Presumably, those traders have accounts they were in charge of, which would have a dollar value of loss.

            For maximum shitpost value, for, like, CEOs where the damage is really unclear, the content of their tattoo is voted upon by the public. Which incentivizes them to properly educate the public on complex financial things so they don’t get a wildly false tattoo!

    • albatross11 says:

      Make a large-scale switch to monitoring bracelets combined with some kind of body cameras and microphones recording everything. People who commit crimes while braceleted get either serious prison time or execution, and any tampering with the bracelet / monitoring equipment gets prison time (but less than crimes while braceleted).

    • SamChevre says:

      Channeling Mark Kleiman, whose book When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment is focused on the topic.

      Replace 70% of prison time with tightly supervised parole, alcohol and currently-illegal drugs forbidden; daily check-ins at mostly-random times, with a urine and breath test, and you go back to jail for 12 hours immediately if you fail. This would be the default for crimes that aren’t violent or pre-meditated, and crimes that were violent and/or premeditated would have a short-term prison sentence followed by tightly supervised parole.

      Replace 20% of prison time with fines, public service, public humiliation, and/or caning; this would be the default for impulsive stupidity, pranks gone wrong, and so forth. (So graffiti, public drunkenness and its consequents, vandalism, etc.)

      • Evan Þ says:

        daily check-ins at mostly-random times

        There go hopes of probationers getting jobs.

        (Other than that, though, wonderful idea.)

        • SamChevre says:

          That’s the “mostly-random” part; if you are at work, someone will check that you are actually at work most days, but your official check-in will be during non-work hours.

      • rlms says:

        How many people are in jail for crimes that are neither violent nor premeditated? I would expect (and hope) that it is a fairly small number.

        • SamChevre says:

          I think it’s a small number.

          My point was that if it’s neither, you would start with supervised parole. If it was, you might spend up to 20% of your current sentence in prison prior to starting supervised parole.

    • Nicholas Weininger says:

      Hire more police (and train them to act like actual protectors of peaceable citizens rather than like an occupying army) to raise P(getting caught | crime), cf https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2016/04/police-versus-prisons.html. This lets you then lower sentences for people who are caught while not (or not proportionately) lowering the expected punishment for crime.

      Plus what others have said about ending the drug war, letting people out of prison when they age out of the violent age cohort, and using non-prison punishments for nonviolent impulsive crimes.

    • Plumber says:

      Establish free booze, food, opioids, television and maybe even free cocaine shelters on the condition that shelter residents stay out of trouble.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Your economy would collapse from all the previously productive people who would become shelter residents.

        • Plumber says:

          Well currently some of the homeless say shelters are “like prison”, so some would rather stay out of them, really I’m thinking about San Francisco County Jail #4 where the inmates get cable television, food, books, and medical care, and while some commit crimes and then turn themselves in (especially during cold and wet winters) most don’t want to be there because they make it unpleasant for each other (the fighting and yelling), so I imagine that most people wouldn’t want the company of addicts and the desperate in the shelters I proposed.

          As it is now we have an increasingly large number of Americans on “disability”, and often enough what determines if someone is “disabled” is how much formal education do they have, so let’s get the addicts off the sidewalks and stop the pretence of physicians approval for “disability” (and really the problem isn’t that the disabled can’t physically do many jobs, it’s that employers don’t want people with old faces and without college degrees).

          And frankly I don’t care about “the economy”, as per capita GDP is higher than decades ago, even accounting for inflation, but wages are stagnant, so phooey “the economy”!

          And think of the good an “economic collapse” could do, less traffic, lower housing costs, less paid advertising, if done right, less GDP could bring more happiness!

          I’d start with Canadian and German style “card check” unionization, then French style work weeks, European vacations, a mid 20th century British “I’m Alright Jack” work ethic….

          ….I’m liking this collapse idea more and more!

          • albatross11 says:

            It’s really striking how often this same pattern comes up: how nice the environment is is almost 100% based on the kind of people you share it with. A college dorm might be less nice in many ways than a housing development in a big city, but the college dorm will probably be a much nicer place to live, because the neighbors will be (loud, drunken) college students, the dorm is very unlikely to be taken over by a gang, etc.

          • cassander says:

            And frankly I don’t care about “the economy”, as per capita GDP is higher than decades ago, even accounting for inflation, but wages are stagnant, so phooey “the economy”!

            Wages aren’t stagnant. this claim is almost invariably made citing figures based on (A) the CPI, which is known to overstate long range inflation and (B) based on a calculation just of cash wages and not total compensation. You’ll note your article, when it includes these, shows twice as much growth.

            Moreover when you look at consumption, it’s increasing almost as fast as GDP, and ultimately it’s all getting paid for somehow. People today are getting more stuff than ever before, and ultimately, that’s what matters. Not wages, not income, not wealth or savings, but standard of living.

          • Plumber says:

            “….People today are getting more stuff than ever before, and ultimately, that’s what matters. Not wages, not income, not wealth or savings, but standard of living”

            @cassander,

            Um, yeah about that…..

            (In my personal experience, no matter how much more my union negotiates for from the employers, it gets swallowed by increased cost for the medical plan, and with housing prices skyrocketing, pay is just worth less.

            The increased medical costs would be easier to take if we were less disabled as a nation but we’re not, or if we were living longer, but for two years in a row we’re not.

            Worldwide though, things are looking up)

          • cassander says:

            @plumber

            (In my personal experience, no matter how much more my union negotiates for from the employers, it gets swallowed by increased cost for the medical plan, and with housing prices skyrocketing, pay is just worth less.

            You’re not paying more for the same healthcare plan you had last year. Every year, new drugs and better procedures are developed, and most of them get added to your plans. That’s not getting charged more for a good, that’s buying more of a good. Now, is that an ideal way to spend your money for maximum personal enjoyment? Probably not, but that’s an issue of the law forcing a misallocation of your higher wages, not the absense of higher wages.

            As for housing, houses keep growing and families keep shrinking. Again we have a case of you buying more of a good, real wages failing to rise, at least for the vast majority of the country. The residents of Palo Alto are paying more for the same amount of stuff every year, but that experience is atypical.

          • Another reason that some of the claims about things getting worse are mistaken is that they use household income and ignore the fact that the average household size has trended down. If a household of three people today gets the same income as a household of four people twenty years ago, things have gotten better–it costs less to support three people than to support four.

          • ana53294 says:

            But the reason for a household of three instead of four may be precisely that they can’t have a second child while keeping their standard of living.

            IIRC, there is plenty of unrealized fertility (especially in families with two kids).

          • Evan Þ says:

            You’re not paying more for the same healthcare plan you had last year. Every year, new drugs and better procedures are developed, and most of them get added to your plans.

            But we can’t pick and choose. For those of us who don’t need the new drugs or better procedures, we effectively are paying more for the same plan.

          • cassander says:

            @Evan Þ

            But we can’t pick and choose. For those of us who don’t need the new drugs or better procedures, we effectively are paying more for the same plan.

            You’re getting the option to be able to use those drugs should you ever need them. Which, I agree, is probably not the way you would choose to spend your money in a free market and is all sorts of problematic, but it’s not evidence of wages not improving. It’s wages improving and being spent on something you don’t want. If your company gave you a company car, and one year upgrades you from a toyota to a lexus, you’re still getting a wage bump even if you’d rather have the toyota and more cash.

    • John Schilling says:

      OK, this is a CW-allowed thread, but you are raising a topic where providing any workable answer or debunking any of the unworkable answers will require going so far into that territory as to make any productive discussion impossible. Even in SSC.

      As you say, we could try doing what Maine and Minnesota did. But I’m not going to be part of that discussion.

    • Anonymous says:

      1. Punish recidivism with exile.
      2. Punish exile violation with death.

      • albatross11 says:

        Where do you exile your criminals to? Few countries are going to sign on to accept American criminals as new immigrants, so you probably mean to make some kind of open-air prison somewhere with walls and guards to keep the criminals in.

        Also a fair number of prisoners are old and sick, so saying “We exile you to the Northern Alaskan Coventry Zone” means saying “we sentence you to a bad death within a couple months.”

        • Anonymous says:

          Where do you exile your criminals to?

          That’s not necessary. This is a punishment, remember? Simply exile them *from* the US, and put the onus of leaving on them. If you feel very generous, give them a lift to the border or airport, and instruct the local customs and guardsmen to let them pass.

    • Lillian says:

      The reason the United States has the largest prison population in the world is that we hand out ridiculously long sentences. Consider the fact that the United States has 4% of the world’s population, 22% of the prisoners, and 35% of the lifers. That’s without getting into all the people who aren’t serving life, but are serving 30, 40, or 50 years. What’s more, this population has continued to grow in spite of declining crime rates.

      In France people sentenced to life are eligible for parole after 20 years, for certain extreme cases judges can extend the non-parole period to 30 years. The possibility of parole isn’t just theoretical either, the French are much more willing to actually hand out paroles than Americans. Philippe El Shennawy, the longest serving inmate in the country’s history served 38 years for being a serial thief with multiple escape attempts. His sentence was actually 54 years, but because he had no blood on his hands, a massive public campaign to secure his release eventually resulted in President Hollande pardoning him. In the US nobody would have cared. If we want France like inmate populations, we’re going to have to have France like prison sentences. This is of course politically impossible, but that’s what it takes.

      The greatest tragedy of it all is that shorter sentences may actually reduce crime rates. As ADifferentAnonymous points out above, there’s evidence that excessively long sentences actually increase recidivism, such that in the United States prison is having zero marginal effect on crime. We could literally have less prisoners and less crime by implementing sentencing reform.

      • Nornagest says:

        I’d want to compare time actually served before I started making strong judgments here.
        According to five minutes of Google, the average sentence for second-degree murder is about twenty years; the average time actually served is about six.

        The idea that longer sentences increase recidivism also strikes me as being in tension with the fact that crime is generally a young man’s game, but if a longer sentence means 16 vs. 6 months that probably wouldn’t matter too much.

        • 10240 says:

          According to five minutes of Google, the average sentence for second-degree murder is about twenty years; the average time actually served is about six.

          This might be a pretty clever way to increase deterrent effect. I wondered what’s the point in making the nominal sentence 20 years if they actually serve much less, but if people read in the newspaper about people being sentenced to 15 or 30 years left and right, that may have the deterrent effect of long sentences if fewer people know that actually less is served usually.

          • Thomas Jørgensen says:

            The research on deterrent is pretty clear – as long as there is a significant penalty, the exact details of the penalty mean very little, because it all gets parsed as “If I get caught, I am fucked”.

            Deterrent effect is almost entirely “how good are your cops at arresting the correct perpetrator”. This is, near as I can tell, most of the difference between murder rates across nations – It is possible to get the clearance rate on murder north of ninety percent, and once you do, premeditated murder more or less stops being a thing. Not entirely, there is always some joker who thinks they can beat the odds, but enough that it shows up in the overall numbers in a big way.
            By contrast, New Orleans has a clearance rate on murder in the thirty percent range, which qualifies as “Not even trying”. You hit that percentage just from arresting the people standing over the corpse crying with weapon in hand >,<

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, it was a big shock to me to realize, reading the homicide stats for the US, that about a third of murders are never solved in the US. I guess if I were inclined to murder anyone, I’d be encouraged by these statistics, but since I’m not (and would also like to avoid being murdered by anyone), I’m kinda creeped out by them.

            This probably skews a lot of the numbers we get from crime stats. For example, the fraction of murders that are intimate partners or known to the victim is probably overstated in the statistics, since those are the easiest murders to solve[1].

            [1] I once worked through a set of calculations to check whether this could account for the black/white difference in murder rates, but it doesn’t even come close–blacks commit murder at so much higher rate than whites that even if all the uncaught murderers were white, it wouldn’t bring the numbers close to balance.

          • ana53294 says:

            30 % is incredibly low. What do the police do, other than contribute to the homicide rate?

            Does the clearance rate mean *solved* murders (where they have a murder suspect and proof that, if they could use it in court would prove the accusations) or the number of murders with a prosecuted and sentenced murderer?

            There are plenty of reasons why the second could be much lower than the first one. The police can use methods that later bite their ass in court; witnesses may be unwilling to testify against gangs in court; suspects flee (or die, or kill themselves; typical in domestic violence); prosecutors are incompetent; juries are lenient (I cannot imagine that, but whatever).

          • albatross11 says:

            Ana:

            As I understand it, it’s what fraction of crimes result in an arrest (and maybe a prosecution).

            So something like a third of the time someone is murdered, the police never manage to arrest anyone for the crime.

          • ana53294 says:

            So something like a third of the time someone is murdered, the police never manage to arrest anyone for the crime.

            I guess you mean two thirds, right?

            What is required for the police to arrest somebody? If they have a witness who is unwilling to testify in court, is that enough? If the police obtained evidence illegally (e.g., by opening a car trunk without a warrant), can this be a basis for arrest?

            If it is murder-suicide, does this go towards the clearance rate?

          • The research on deterrent is pretty clear – as long as there is a significant penalty, the exact details of the penalty mean very little, because it all gets parsed as “If I get caught, I am fucked”.

            Can you point me at your source for that conclusion? I haven’t read in that literature for a very long time, but my impression when I did was that both amount of punishment and probability increased deterrence.

            The usual conclusion was that probability was more important, but that seemed to me to be based on a mistake–measuring amount of punishment by length of sentence. There are large fixed costs associated with being arrested and convicted, most obviously time in jail awaiting trial (or cost of paying for a bail bond) and reputational loss. If the real amount of punishment is Fixed Cost+number of years in prison, then a regression on number of years will underestimate the effect of increased amount of punishment.

          • Thomas Jørgensen says:

            https://nij.gov/five-things/Pages/deterrence.aspx

            Some of these findings are hilarious – it is, for example, the arrest that deters people. Not the odds of being convicted – Just the cops showing up and (correctly) going “Right, guv, it was you that knocked over Billys licorice store” and dragging you off in cuffs does the job, even if the courts fail to convict after that. This is presumably because the average aimless youth at risk for turning criminal has no clue how good the local prosecutor is, but does have a really accurate feel for how competent the local police are.

            I mean, this probably would not work if the courts never manage to convict, but it does mean that all the tough sentencing talk from politicians is just.. wasted public funds. When was the last time you saw a politician campaign on “We are going to increase the police training budget and build more labs to cut forensic turn-around times, and pay for it by canceling the contract with the private prisons” ? Because that is what a policy to be tough on crime – as opposed to tough on criminals, would look like.

            RE: Ana: in New Orleans? Apparently very, very little. This is not representative of the US as a whole, but.. the stats for the US as a whole are not good. A whole lot of murders “solve themselves”, because the guilty party feels guilty, and call the cops crying, or are other-wise complete slam dunks. So a national clearance rate of 60 odd percent is not good.
            Note that the absurd clearance rates of places like Sweden are in part an artifact of deterrence. Once people mostly stop planning murders, because the risk of getting caught is too high, then each years murders are overwhelmingly in the “Very easy solve” category, and the budget available for each of the remaining puzzlers can be very high without being a burden to the police. Which is how you end up with a situation where a strangled immigrant hooker down a well gets actual justice.

          • albatross11 says:

            Ana:

            About 2/3 of murders lead to an arrest. The other 1/3 or so don’t. That’s still low, but it’s not as bad as I think you were interpreting it.

          • ana53294 says:

            @Thomas Jørgensen

            Getting rid of for-profit jails and reducing the backlog of evidence seems a very good idea even if it doesn’t increase deterrence but increases clearance.

            One thing I have heard is that rape kits can take years to get processed. If other evidence is as backlogged, this would probably increase the number of cases that gets tried massively, though.

          • 10240 says:

            When was the last time you saw a politician campaign on “We are going to increase the police training budget and build more labs to cut forensic turn-around times, and pay for it by canceling the contract with the private prisons” ?

            That’s too abstract and not catchy enough, but “more cops on the streets” could be a workable campaign promise, and also effective deterrence based on the article you linked. No idea how common as a policy proposal it is vs tougher sentencing, I don’t remember hearing either promise too many times.

            What’s the deal with private prisons in particular, btw?

          • Thomas Jørgensen says:

            They are terrible, for obvious and predictable reasons. Dont create markets in things you do not want more of.

    • idontknow131647093 says:

      @johan

      Can I just suggest we switch the most criminal Americans with the least criminal French?

      I’m only half joking, because I think a large portion of what people think is a “unique” American crime problem is nothing of the sort. America has a culture clash problem + rich people. If America was pool like Mongolia there would be nothing to steal and no one to organize crime to sell to. If America was homogenous most of the people currently locked up wouldn’t be. The problem for America is that behavior the overwhelming majority considers unteneble is both profitable, and culturally acceptable within certain subcultures. Put those people in France or Belgium and see what happens. How bout those Capones eh?

    • beleester says:

      I’m really amused that the first two responses were “much less punishment for crimes” and “much more punishment for crimes.”

  9. bean says:

    Naval Gazing completes its survey of secondary armament with the light AA guns of WWII.
    And Friday’s post is a report of my recent visit to Iowa.

  10. Plumber says:

    In California registered Republicans have dropped to 24.5% of eligible voters, and we now have a “top two” primary in which, regardless of party, the top two vote getters are the ones on the ballot in the general election instead of an the old system where it was the winners of different party primary elections that were on thr ballot in the general election.

    In areas that still have party primaries and one party is always the winner in the general election, so barring an unexpected upset the majority party primary winner will be the general election winner what reason is there to not register for the majority party in that area since “all the action” is in the primary?

    • jgr314 says:

      In MA, the primaries are open to those registered in the party or those registered as independent, so there is no benefit that I can detect from registering for a party. I agree with you that the primaries are the key election, generals are just a rubber stamp.

      • Statismagician says:

        My intuition is that the truth of this varies inversely with distance from the ocean.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          I disagree. It is very true in Minnesota (in the city at least), that the Democratic primary determines the winner in November. I presume that this is also the case in many red states for Republicans, few of which are on the coasts.

          • Statismagician says:

            Well, the Great Lakes connect to the Atlantic, so if they were just a little saltier…

            But yeah, on further investigation my intuition =/ reality.

    • johan_larson says:

      Why isn’t the California Republican party morphing into something rather more moderate, in order to be more attractive to California voters? Ideological purity is great fun, but if you can’t get elected, you’re just a debating society.

      • Lambert says:

        Not really sure how the state party systems work in the US, but could it be the case that a moderate California Republican Party would alienate Republicans in redder areas of California?

        • Anthony says:

          This is likely at least part of the case. Rural California is *very* right-wing.

          Republicans in the suburbs are generally more moderate, though that’s often only on sexual issues. However, local elections are officially (and in general, actually) non-partisan, so while there’s plenty of scope for being moderately conservative in local politics, it means that nobody gets known as “that Republican who gets the city to tighten up spending”, just as “that guy who…”, limiting the opportunities for Republicans to make a name for themselves that’s not tied to the national party.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Because in this context “moderate” means “promise people free stuff like the Democrats do.” But you can never win this race because the Dems will always promise more free stuff.

      • Deiseach says:

        Pulling this out of my backside, but I’d imagine:

        (1) If you moderate sufficiently to be attractive to potential Democrat voters, then you’re going to be Democrat in all but name, and why vote for Democrat-lite when they can vote for the Real Thing?

        (2) No matter how moderate the Californian Republicans might be, they are still stuck with being the Republican party. All their Democrat opponents need do is harry them over being the same party as the racist/sexist/anti-immigration/anti-gay rights/pro-horrible rich people getting even richer off the blood and sweat of the hard-working middle class etc. party people, and reproach them with “How can you belong to the same party, be a colleague of, Senator Awful McTerribleperson (seen here twirling his moustache and cackling evilly as he sips from a brandy snifter of orphan’s tears)?” If the Dems keep hammering on to voters that “Don’t be fooled, Candidate Nicey O’Niceness is still a member of the party that wants to deport in chains and in rags all your relatives back to certain death in the horror zones they barely escaped from!”, it won’t do Representative O’Niceness much good to protest they personally have never put anyone in chains (not even in the fun way).

        (3) By the same token, the national party is going to go “So remind us again, why are we bothering to include you guys?” when the local Californian Republicans pick the Democrat-sounding policies/sides in debates every single time. Eventually they are going to say to Representative O’Niceness “Make up your mind, Nicey: are you gonna vote with us on the Seal Clubbing Tax Abolition Bill or have you decided you’re a lily-livered traitor who is going to scuttle off to the Democrats if they’ll have you?”

        • Nornagest says:

          If you moderate sufficiently to be attractive to potential Democrat voters, then you’re going to be Democrat in all but name, and why vote for Democrat-lite when they can vote for the Real Thing?

          In most places in the US this isn’t really true. About a third of Americans aren’t registered with either of the major parties, and any moderate Republican’s going to be trying to pick up potential Democratic voters from within that pool, not from among card-carrying Democrats. You don’t necessarily need to moderate very far to do that, especially if you’re campaigning on local issues.

          This might not work in California, though.

          • Plumber says:

            That’s the key though, in areas where either party has a chance to win the two party system and seperate primaries make sense as does registering with the party that’s closest to your views, but in deep blue and deep red areas, that srill have seperate party primary elections, if you want to get a less bad candidate elected you have to vote in the primary of the only party that will get elected.

          • Deiseach says:

            Yeah, I was thinking specifically of California because that was the example used – if the figures are correct, then about three-quarters of registered voters are for the Democrats. Trying to chip away at the solid blue vote in the cities is going to be a thankless task there, because you would need to moderate so much.

          • Nornagest says:

            if the figures are correct, then about three-quarters of registered voters are for the Democrats.

            No, it’s not that heavily slanted. The LA Times article places registered Democrats at 43.8% of registered voters, Republicans 24.5; the remainder would go to No Party Preference or (much more rarely) one of the minor parties. Registering in California registers you to vote, you don’t need to pick a party and a lot of people don’t.

          • Dan L says:

            @ Deiseach:

            Trying to chip away at the solid blue vote in the cities is going to be a thankless task there, because you would need to moderate so much.

            It’s definitely possible though, to the point where some of the most popular politicians in the US are governors from the minority party. There’s definitely a component of state-level versus national politics, but I’m not sure it’s inaccurate to just call that a purity test operating to homogenize a party across state lines.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            Republicans have plenty of seats in the US House from California because there are red areas. The question is: Why can’t Republicans run a “moderate” statewide to appeal to enough “moderates” so that they get a governor or senator or something.

            First I’ll discuss Senators. Here it is usually a losing proposition. Mark Kirk in IL got elected for one term due to a fluke, was plenty moderate, and still got kicked to the curb very quickly. Being a Senate/House Republican means you either have to vote a certain way a certain amount or you will just become disrespected by your colleagues. Also, California is so to the left of the US that there is virtually no time you will be able to caucus with the Republicans without losing your career. A trend bucker would be someone like Susanne Collins, but she is unique because of incumbency and Maine’s uniqueness.

            Second, on Governorships, I think there is always an opening but the problem we often see is that in order to win and be re-elected in a Blue State as a Republican you have to do almost nothing and consign yourself to nothingness from the beginning. In Illinois, Bruce Rauner did about as good as anyone could have without using a nuclear option (which also would have ended any re-election bid), but he is going to massively lose because he didn’t get much done because that is just how it is.

            I actually think its easier to be a Democrat in a Republican state (however rare) as governor because you can use the powers of the office aggressively, whereas most Republican platforms are not really aggressive, they are about pruning.

          • Dan L says:

            @ idontknow131647093:

            First I’ll discuss Senators. Here it is usually a losing proposition.

            Broad agreement here. The best cases of Senators defying the whip on a regular basis and staying in office tend to be where they’re drawing on a support base that doesn’t cleanly fit the two party dynamic, which looks more like Murkowski and Lieberman than Collins and Manchin.

            Second, on Governorships, I think there is always an opening but the problem we often see is that in order to win and be re-elected in a Blue State as a Republican you have to do almost nothing and consign yourself to nothingness from the beginning. […]

            I actually think its easier to be a Democrat in a Republican state (however rare) as governor because you can use the powers of the office aggressively, whereas most Republican platforms are not really aggressive, they are about pruning.

            I’m unconvinced of this asymmetry. I don’t see a clean way of quantifying it, and if we’re going with just-so stories I’m more fond of the conventional wisdom that people generally prefer Democrats in their legislatures and Republicans in their executives. (It’s probably more accurate to replace the parties in that sentence with “Blue/Red-coded traits”, but that’s getting into the weeds on a tangent.)

      • bean says:

        Because California isn’t that homogeneous. There are still areas where conventional Republicans can and do get elected. They are the ones who control the state party, and they’re not that likely to support Dem-lite candidates in San Francisco.

      • Brad says:

        In NY (and I think other parts of the NE) over the last 30-40 years we’ve had a situation a number of times where a centrist used the Republican line to mount what was the moral equivalent of a third party challenge.

        Not especially recently though, now that I think about it. I wonder if the increasing rationalization of the parties, and ensuing reliability of party as a proxy, has killed that.

      • broblawsky says:

        That might have worked 50 years ago, but today, the modern media market means that most XXX Tribe people are going to consume similar media/news and therefore come to think the same way and demand the same things from their representatives. It’s hard to motivate hardcore Fox News watchers to come out and vote for RINOs.

      • 10240 says:

        [Not American, not well-informed on this] AFAIK it works just like that on the local or state level: that’s how California had a Republican governor, and NYC a Republican mayor, not that long ago. But in federal elections for the Congress, voters know that what matters most is which party has the majority in the two houses of the Congress, and I guess a California Republican congressman would would still vote with the Republican party much of the time, so Californians won’t elect a Republican.

        • Nornagest says:

          It’s true that California had a Republican governor recently (Arnold Schwarzenegger, 2003-2011), but the Governator was an unusual case for a number of reasons. He was famous in his own right, for one thing, and he was elected (the first time) in a special election with something like a hundred names on the ballot, including many from both major parties. I voted in that election, and the list was two pages long and included such luminaries as Larry Flynt.

          Pete Wilson (1991-1999) was also Republican, but in the early Nineties California was still considered a swing state, or pretty close.

    • quaelegit says:

      This is the reason my parents gave for registering as Republicans when they moved to OC in the 1990s. I think they do vote for Rs at the local and maybe state level sometimes, because the local level priorities & divides do not line up with the state- or national-level ones.

  11. Chevalier Mal Fet says:

    Any of you nerds watching the MLB playoffs?

    It’s been an exciting first week so far, in the National League at least (the only thing that’s happened in the AL in the last month or so was the Yankees destroying the A’s in the wild card game). There was an unprecedented double tie in the league – on the very last day of the season, the Brewers tied the Cubs for best record in the NL Central, while the Rockies tied the Dodgers for the NL West. This led to TWO tiebreaker games on Monday, which has never happened before. The winners advanced to the 5-game Division series, the losers were thrown into a win-or-go-home wild card game.

    Well, the Brewers won a tense and exciting tiebreaker, 3-1, go ahead runs scoring in the 8th inning, and forced the Cubs into the wild card against the Rockies. The NL wild card was a blast. Rockies clung to a 1-0 lead into the 8th, when the Cubs tied it up (using a pinch runner! A player on their roster for solely that situation), and the game extended 13 innings. Colorado scratched out a second run there, and then held in the bottom to knock the Cubbies out, 2-1.

    Two weeks ago, the Cubs were the best team in the NL. Now they’re out of the playoffs. I know some folk want to get rid of the single-game wild card, but I think it’s some of the most exciting baseball that’s played. Sucks for the Cubs, but then, they probably should have scored more than 2 runs in their final 22 innings.

    From here on out, I’m on the Brewers’ bandwagon, because they look like the 2015 Royals if you squint.

    • Gossage Vardebedian says:

      Baseball’s evolution over the last 30 years into a power-hitting and power-pitching game has continued with the changes in pitching staffs and the creative postseason deployment of them. Ultimately it’s all a result of hitters realizing that getting strong enough to hit home runs makes them more valuable, which led to more walks and strikeouts from pitchers (three true outcomes) – and the ubiquitoutness of the speed gun in scouting had something to do with this too – which meant pitchers threw harder, which led to more pitchers throwing fewer innings, which led to “bullpen games.”

      • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

        It’s not uniform, though. There have been teams in the past couple of years that have had success without TTO hitters or strong starting pitchers. Indeed, the Royals – arguably the most successful postseason team in the last 5 years in terms of pennants/World Series won – are pretty much the polar opposite.

        They didn’t have many strong power threats (not a good investment when you play in the second-largest [after Coors] outfield in the majors), but instead had a lot of speedy guys who were threats on the basepaths. The 2015 championship team struck out the least amount of times in baseball. The 2014 pennant winners had the most steals – and the fewest walks and home runs. You saw this ethos with the Cubs in the wild card game – their lone run came from Terrance Gore, a pinch runner who stole second and then scored on a single. If they had won, Epstein and Maddon would have looked like geniuses for acquiring Gore and for using him at the right time.

        On the defensive side of the ball, the starting pitching was never spectacular. No Kershaws, Syndergaards, Scherzers, or Arrietas – but they DID have a strong bullpen which they used aggressively. In fact, I think the rise of “bullpen games” is more attributable to this. Teams since 2015 have been much more aggressive about using relievers in high-leverage situations.

        What I DO think we’re seeing, though, is lots of confirmation bias. Liam Hendricks gave up 2-runs, therefore the opener strategy is stupid – never mind that a traditional starter may have done just as poorly. Terrance Gore struck out in the bottom of the 13th, therefore the dedicated pinch runner was a dumb idea – even though without Gore that game would have ended in the 9th.

    • Urstoff says:

      No need to squint given that Moustakas and Cain are both on the team.

  12. rlms says:

    In discussions of gay marriage, people often bring up the suggestion that marriage as an institution that gives tax benefits and visitation rights etc. should be deregulated further, for instance removing restrictions on “marriages” between relatives. It appears that Belgium actually has this!

    • quanta413 says:

      Do you mean that what they call legal cohabitation has no such restriction? Is legal cohabitation truly equivalent to marriage in Belgium in everything but name? I can’t tell from just the brochure.

      Page 6 says “Third degree marriage with family members (parents, brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, aunts) is also excluded.”

      • rlms says:

        Yes (probably should’ve said that). Marriage has the usual restrictions that it can’t be between family members and must have a relationship involved. The brochure says that legal cohabitation doesn’t change your civil status (not sure what that means) but my understanding is that it gives the same rights as marriage.

    • pontifex says:

      Let’s start by removing the tax penalty for dual-income couples marrying in the US.

  13. Ketil says:

    [Tried to edit my comment, and then it disappeared entirely. Sorry if the repost appears twice]

    What do people think about the recent Grievance Studies Hoax? It is easy to ridicule the lack of rigor (or method, or indeed any contents of value at all) in these fields, but perhaps the natural sciences aren’t all that much better?

    In spite of rigorous methods, science still suffer from the replication crisis, from slight abuses like p-hacking and cherry picking, and I suspect, also from biases that favor the established – if you expose the right values, cite the right people, and use the fashionable terminology, I suspect bad papers are more easy to get accepted than good papers that fail to fit in with current fashions. And there’s also the “control group” of supernatural science (or parapsychology), people using all the right methods and rigorous analysis, yet finding highly significant evidence for (what most people still consider) absurd theories.

    Here’s a particularly negative take on the state of medical research.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      The hoaxers seem to put most of their focus on the nature of the conclusions they got published, rather than the methodological issues they slipped by. Tell me more about the latter, and I might agree that’s a strike against the journals in question.

      But as it stands… I feel like it’s as if a group of socialists submitted a paper to an economics journal with what they considered a self-evidently absurd pro-market conclusion. If you’re willing to produce fake data, you could probably get a paper published saying, say, that workplace safety regulations actually reduce worker safety, which you could then mock to a wide audience.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        It’s not just “fake data,” which peer review cannot catch. Here is a twitter thread about the craziness of the journals that accepted and what the reviewers were expecting.

        https://twitter.com/RealPeerReview/status/1047813753180438528

        Also, it should be noted that many journals, especially sociology journals, rejected their papers as nonsense.

        • mdet says:

          The one that basically says “How did you even define ‘rape’ when it comes to animals? You can’t just read them like you would humans, because they’re not human” sounds reasonable. And there’s another that basically says “You bring up race and black feminism in the intro, but A) ultimately found that dog fur color had no impact and B) analogizing race to dog breeds sounds like a terrible idea, so you should probably rethink or drop the racial aspect”.

          The fact that the reviewers were able to give straight-faced feedback at all is ridiculous, but the feedback they did give is… less bad than I expected?

          I think the most interesting discussion to come out of this is “At what point should a publication tell a researcher ‘Your premise is so ridiculous that we’re not even gonna give you constructive criticism’”

      • idontknow131647093 says:

        But they didn’t even really need to produce fake data did they? They just made a lot of unfalsifiable conclusions and that was enough. The dog park one is arguable the best of the lot because they at least faked a study of going and examining dog behavior. Some of the other ones are just stupid ideas like “fat bodybuilding” and them asking the “important questions” like “why is muscle better than fat”?

    • rlms says:

      Scott has a Tumblr post on it saying that it improved his opinions of most of those fields. Basically, the hoaxers used several tricks to make the journals look sillier than they really were. For instance, consider this paragraph from the article:

      We used other methods too, like, “I wonder if that ‘progressive stack’ in the news could be written into a paper that says white males in college shouldn’t be allowed to speak in class (or have their emails answered by the instructor), and, for good measure, be asked to sit in the floor in chains so they can ‘experience reparations.’” That was our “Progressive Stack” paper. The answer seems to be yes, and feminist philosophy titan Hypatia has been surprisingly warm to it. Another tough one for us was, “I wonder if they’d publish a feminist rewrite of a chapter from Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.” The answer to that question also turns out to be “yes,” given that the feminist social work journal Affilia has just accepted it. As we progressed, we started to realize that just about anything can be made to work, so long as it falls within the moral orthodoxy and demonstrates understanding of the existing literature.

      Unless you read it carefully, you get the impression that the Progressive Stack paper was published in Hypatia. In fact, it was rejected multiple times. Some reviewers gave some positive feedback, but “peer reviewers are nice and encouraging to authors of bad paper” is rather different to “watch these stupid feminists get duped”.

      Another trick is that some of their papers (for instance the dog one) involve making up some data that would be interesting if true, and then writing the ridiculous stuff in a later section that isn’t the main focus of the paper. This is notable if you think feminist studies journals should be able to root out falsified data, but I doubt many people who liked the hoax hold them to that standard (and certainly many journals in “proper” subjects fail to meet it).

      • theredsheep says:

        According to the authors, the Progressive Stack paper was rejected for being too sympathetic to the privileged kids, and for putting an unreasonable burden on the unprivileged kids by expecting them to do the heavy lifting of shaming their peers.

        • Eugene Dawn says:

          I’m not sure that’s an accurate characterization. Here are the reviewer notes. The only parts that discuss “shame” or
          “shaming” are

          I’ve never had much success with shaming pedagogies, they seem to foment more resistance by members of dominant groups. Can you say a bit about the parameters of discomfort? How do instructors walk a line between making privileged students feel genuinely uncomfortable in ways that are humbling and productive and so uncomfortable (shame) that they resist with renewed vigor.”

          a dismissal of the authors’ claim that the progressive stack “avoid[s] alienation and shame around these topics” is “asserted, but never clearly and convincingly argued” and finally

          This still makes me uncomfortable because it’s shame-y and I’m not sure that the student can see it otherwise. Maybe say something about how shame can be overcome by sitting in discomfort.

          None of those sound like your characterization. I only skimmed, so maybe there’s something else you’re referring too, but when it comes to shaming the reviewers ranged from unconvinced that it was effective to uncomfortable because of how shaming it is.

        • michaelkeenan0 says:

          I had a Twitter exchange with the Quillette writer who wrote that. He says he got it from the hoaxers’ Project Summary and Fact Sheet, where they say:

          “The reviewers’ only concerns with these points so far have been that (1) we approach the topic with too much compassion for the students who are being subjected to this, and (2) we risk exploiting underprivileged
          students by burdening them with an expectation to teach about privilege.”

          But I read the reviewer notes, as Eugene Dawn linked below, and…am I being too pedantic, or is that just a lie? Like, “[treating privileged students this way] still makes me uncomfortable because it’s shame-y” seems like an objection to me. Sure, it’s weakly phrased, but especially in the context of claiming that they approach the topic with too much compassion (which as far as I can tell is also a lie), then I think it’s a lie.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        The tumblr post you quote is by Michael Keenan.

    • dndnrsn says:

      First, let’s wait a couple weeks and see what comes up. So far all the coverage of this is entirely on the side of the hoaxers. Did they do anything sneaky to get these bad papers in? Are these actually prominent journals, as is claimed?

      Second, I fear that the general reaction will be “haha look at the essjaydubs in academia; they can’t recognize a certain Austrian PFC if you swap out some of the words” or a focus on the “corruption” in particular fields (which, admittedly, I think the approach a lot of social studies fields have taken since the middle 20th century is a bad one, but…) rather than the general “ecosystem” problems in academia: publish or perish, all the overqualified people fighting for a small supply of decent jobs (which is one of the ways purity spirals happen), etc.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I think it demonstrates that these fields are entirely vacuous, that someone who does a little bit of study to determine the correct writing style and the sorts of ideas that are in fashion can regularly get published.

        • The Nybbler says:

          It certainly proved that conference’s process for selecting papers was worthless. But a single non-reviewed paper in a single conference ‘known for “being spammy and having loose standards.”’ doesn’t take down the entire field. These people got 11 such papers published, and the hoax was exposed by people outside the field.

          • Jaskologist says:

            It is rather telling that they got exposed by people outside the field. They inadvertently tested the hypothesis in two ways:
            1. A demonstration that the field unable to distinguish real work from BS.
            2. A demonstration that the people who say the field is full of BS are in fact able to identify BS.

      • mdet says:

        I went to an HBCU and took two African American Studies classes as required. They were basically history classes taught by history professors, but focused on African and African American history specifically. I don’t even remember any ideological pushing, outside of an older black professor occassionally lecturing us younguns on how we need to be better fathers.

        I have no idea what the AFAM Studies theorists are like, or what kind of stuff gets published in their journals, but the field isn’t *entirely* vacuous. At least part of it is historians trying to teach & study history.

        Now the gender studies class I took was basically just mainstream pop feminism, no more, no less.

    • dodrian says:

      One thing that has always struck me as unfair about these hoax papers is that they don’t give time for responses to be published. Getting published is only the first step – in a good scientific process you’d expect others to try and replicate or contest those results.

      I’m of the opinion that a lot of the “*** studies” fields are bull, but I don’t think that “hey look we’ve published these fake papers” is a good way to demonstrate that. Especially if you don’t attempt to publish fake papers in other fields as a control 🙂

      • quanta413 says:

        But we’re not talking about science. Still most science papers aren’t replicated either. I think publishing is a reasonable bar unless we expect people to literally enter the field as graduate students and spend 10 years infiltrating only to end with “surprise, this was all just a test!”.

        I vaguely remember someone tried to publish fake papers in some science journals, and I’m not referring to outright fabricating loads of data which can work. I think they were computer generated or something. I forget if any got past an editor and to peer review.

      • Nick says:

        Especially if you don’t attempt to publish fake papers in other fields as a control 🙂

        They sort of did this—I read elsewhere that 0/7 of their sociology papers were accepted.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      Also, for everyone’s information, here’s the paper that’s a Mein Kampf chapter rewrite.

      Skimming it myself, it doesn’t seem that damning to have been published.

      • Ketil says:

        Would probably be funnier if accompanied side by side with the relevant chapters from Mein Kampf. As it is, it reads like a poorly structured and repetive review of literature attempting to define feminism. (I also just skimmed it quickly.)

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          Okay, did some digging and it looks like it’s this chapter.

          It’s clearly nowhere near a simple regex replace, and as far as I can tell they don’t even have isomorphic outlines, but there are identifiably corresponding passages. This is the first correspondence I identified, so not deliberately cherry-picked for damningness or lack thereof, but also not necessarily representative.

          Fifth, though change may come in stages, feminism cannot limit itself to half-measures in solidarity or be selfish. These manifest under choice feminism (Ferguson, 2010), for example, by placing emphasis upon a so-called objective standpoint (cf. hooks, 2000, p. 8) or through pursuit of aims that appear feminist but actually support neoliberalism (Rottenberg, 2014, 2017). Though what constitutes justice is itself multifarious and pluralistic, only a single-minded alignment with solidarity for effecting the goal of justice will suffice (cf. Hirschmann, 2010; hooks, 2000; Patel, 2011; Russell & Bohan, 2016). That is to say, under neoliberal approaches, society will not be made feminist in the true sense (Rottenberg, 2014; pace Snyder-Hall,2010) but only feministic with many limitations. This is the state in which we now find ourselves. Neoliberal oppression can only be countered by an effective antidote to neoliberalism which Rottenberg demonstrated that neoliberal feminism cannot provide. Only the blinkering of privilege (cf. DiAngelo, 2011; Dotson, 2014) could underestimate the need for solidarity and regard choice feminism as a workable solution(Rottenberg, 2014, p. 428). Most people are neither scholars nor activists–indeed, few even consider themselves feminists (Houvouras & Carter, 2008). As such, they possess little understanding of abstract theoretical knowledge, and this directs their opinions toward the affective, which is where their compassion and frustration lies. In this sense, individuals are receptive to appeals in one direction or the other but never to a nuanced halfway point between the two. Allyship is a means by which compassion can be directed toward more oppressed others in stages (Edwards, 2006), whereas, as Rottenberg (2014, p. 428) explains, neoliberalism and choice limit compassion and foster forgetting toward groups outside ones own.

          The nationalization of the broad masses can never be achieved by half-measures, by weakly emphasizing a so-called objective standpoint, but only by a ruthless and fanatically one-sided orientation toward the goal to be achieved. That is to say, a people cannot be made ‘national’ in the sense understood by our present-day bourgeoisie, meaning with so and so many limitations, but only nationalistic with the entire vehemence that is inherent in the extreme. Poison is countered only by an antidote, and only the shallowness of a bourgeois mind can regard the middle course as the road to heaven.

          The broad masses of a people consist neither of professors nor of diplomats. The scantiness of the abstract knowledge they possess directs their sentiments more to the world of feeling. That is where their positive or negative attitude lies. It is receptive only to an expression of force in one of these two directions and never to a half-measure hovering between the two. Their emotional attitude at the same time conditions their extraordinary stability. Faith is harder to shake than knowledge, love succumbs less to change than respect, hate is more enduring than aversion, and the impetus to the mightiest upheavals on this earth has at all times consisted less in a scientific knowledge dominating the masses than in a fanaticism which inspired them and sometimes in a hysteria which drove them forward.

          Anyone who wants to win the broad masses must know the key that opens the door to their heart. Its name is not objectivity (read weakness), but will and power.

    • lvlln says:

      Given that the Sokal Affair was over 20 years ago, and the postmodern “studies” fields that it was criticizing only became stronger and more influential in that time, I’m pessimistic that this will do much good. On the other hand, perhaps any extra chipping away at their credibility is a good thing, and it will have a positive effect on the margins.

      I think the strongest criticism against these hoaxes is that there was no control group and, as such, there’s no way to tell if these “grievance studies” fields that the hoaxers were targeting are any more susceptible to being hoaxed than other fields of research like the hard sciences. Indeed, if these hoaxers had attempted to publish a research paper based on their performance of these hoaxes, then I would hope that such a paper would have been soundly rejected for that flaw of lacking a control.

      But that criticism still wouldn’t address the issue that these hoaxes revealed a level of carelessness and disinterest in methodological rigor that shouldn’t be acceptable in any field of study that’s worth calling a field of study. It’s not just that they cleverly got some fraudulent data past the reviewers, it’s that the papers that got through had serious and often obvious issues in logic and reasoning that made them roughly worthless in terms of ascertaining truth and which should have been caught by even an undergrad with a decent level of education in logic and reasoning. It’s possible that other fields like biology, astronomy, physics, economics, psychology, etc. are just as bad or even worse, which would point to a general failure in all (of those) academic fields, rather than just the fields targeted by the hoaxers. But then it would follow that we should become more doubtful of results that come out of biology, astronomy, physics, economics, psychology, etc. rather than that we should remain just as credulous as we are now of the results that come out of the “grievance studies” fields.

      • pontifex says:

        Hopefully someone from Red Tribe can figure out how to defund these fields. In the medium and long term, it would reduce a huge amount of the craziness that’s poisoning politics now.

        • albatross11 says:

          I think many of those fields are useless and even harmful, but I am also extremely uncomfortable having partisan politics determine which fields may be studied at a university, or which subjects are to be funded. It’s hard to imagine Congress making good decisions there, overall. (I don’t expect the right or the left to make good decisions–we’re liable to end up with both climate modeling and psychometrics defunded.)

    • albatross11 says:

      I think it is very worthwhile to try to decide what fields have useful information/insight and which ones are just politics/bullshit. I’m not convinced that this is all that great a way to determine that, despite the fact that I have an extremely low opinion of the value of “grievance studies” type fields.

      What I know from my own field (cryptography) is that:

      a. There are some very good conferences and journals, where it’s hard to get in even with good work.

      b. There are also shitty nth-tier conferences where a lot of crap gets published. [ETA] Interestingly, these conferences will often have really good work published alongside the mathed-up trivial results or implementations of something that was well known for a decade.

      c. There are some fraudulent journals/conferences where everything gets published, used by some academics mostly (I think) in China and Pakistan to get enough publications to get a job.

      d. Peer review is extremely noisy. Good results get rejected; crap gets published because the writers knew the right language in which to write it up.

      e. In general, academic publishing has the problem that it’s battered down by Goodhart’s law. Employers, schools, etc., look at publications to determine whether to give you a job/give you tenure/let you graduate/etc. That means that some papers are written because someone has a real result that’s interesting, but many others are written to get/keep a job, with only very limited concern for whether the paper is adding anything to the knowledge of the world.

      In my field, you can probably get bullshit published by faking your data/claiming results and experiments that didn’t really work. This isn’t guaranteed, but it’s likely, especially in lower-tier journals. But in order to do that, you need to know the language in which to phrase your results, and the way to write them up. If you don’t fake your results, it’s likely to be rather harder to get published, because reviewers will ask things like “Did you actually implement your attack for a smaller subset of rounds, and how did that work out?”

      • albatross11 says:

        How *should* we decide what academic fields are worthwhile?

        Some things I can think of:

        a. Experimental verification (physics, chemistry, biology, exp. psychology)

        b. Observation (including observation of data not seen before a theory was made) (economics, sociology)

        c. Logical verification (math, maybe philosophy)

        d. Practical implications of being right (computer architecture, medicine, rocket science)

        The fields where the consensus of the field is based entirely or almost entirely on who makes the most convincing arguments to other experts in the field (most philosophy, most macroeconomics) with no chance to check those arguments against realty seem the least likely to be giving us real information about reality.

        There’s also a practical hierarchy about how smart the people in the fields are. Physics professors are probably a whole lot smarter, on average, than gender studies professors. But maybe that just means that they can make much more convincing and engaging unfalsifiable bullshit.)

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        Seconding a lot of this description for my field (statistics/machine learning/causal inference).

    • mdet says:

      One of the papers they submitted was “Rubbing One Out: Defining Metasexual Violence of Objectification Through Nonconsensual Masturbation”, which apparently “seeks to situate non-consensual male autoerotic fantasizing about women as a form of metasexual violence that depersonalizes her, injures her being on an affective level, contributes to consequent harms of objectification and rape culture, and can appropriate her identity for the purpose of male sexual gratification”. Which might sound like some ridiculous gender studies nonsense… if a 2,000 year old Nazarean hadn’t already said it. “Everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart”.

      The rest of the paper might be nonsense, but it sounds like the thesis statement is as reasonable and mainstream a position as Christianity is.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Nope, it’s nonsense whether said by the Nazarene or the gender studies student, but at least the Nazarene wasn’t obfuscationist about it.

        (It also contradicts my understanding of the Catholic Church’s view on sin, which is that temptation is unavoidable but not a sin, only giving in to it is)

        • Nick says:

          (It also contradicts my understanding of the Catholic Church’s view on sin, which is that temptation is unavoidable but not a sin, only giving in to it is)

          Yep. Fantasizing, as most folks do when they masturbate, would constitute giving in; passing thoughts (it occurs to you that that woman is really hot, or it crosses your mind that you’d really like to have sex with that guy) would not, unless you start entertaining the thoughts.

        • mdet says:

          My point was that I’d consider it more discrediting if a journal on gender straight up refused to publish mainstream Christian viewpoints. Their thesis is a position that I could easily see the Catholic Church arguing for, if probably using a different set of jargon and starting from different premises. If the journal is willing to publish this, then maybe more gender-traditionalist viewpoints can get published as well. My judgement of the journal’s credibility has *very tentatively* increased.

          As an aside, if you think Christians aren’t capable of obfuscationist jargon, A) what I posted was a translation, not the original text and definitely not the original speech, and B) remember that a few years back, a good bit of the Catholic liturgy got changed, turning things like “[Christ,] one in being with the Father” into “consubstantial with the Father” (which still irks me).

    • dark orchid says:

      If Hypatia had accepted their hoax papers, this would have lowered my opinion of Hypatia. As a true Bayesian, the fact they were rejected must increase my opinion of Hypatia a little – conservation of expected evidence and all that.

      In my own area of Computer Science, I know there are a lot of serious papers and a lot of bull. I would consider my field to be not completely made up, but some research in it sure is. Maybe that’s the same to some extent for all fields? Our host can tell you all about bad work in psychiatry, psychologists can tell you about the replication crisis, Ozy I think has a post on “beware amateur sociology” and I can tell you a thing or two about silly ideas in some areas of CS. It would be really suprising if gender studies were the exception to the rule that there’s something like a lizardman’s constant for the percentage of rubbish papers in every field of academia, and that’s before we get to pay-to-publish journals.

      I consider it my duty as a reviewer to be civil to any paper that lands on my desk for a conference I’ve agreed to be on the PC for, even if my review is pointing out how some of the methods in the paper reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of the field. Rejecting a paper with “more scholarship needed” sounds like a good example of this.

      There’s also authors in my field that seem to resubmit the same paper almost unmodified to every conference (as long as you wait for the rejection from the last one before resubmitting, this is legal) so I tend keep my rejection letters stored in text files so I can reply to an almost unmodified resubmission to the next conference with an almost unmodified copy of the rejection. This trick has saved me countless hours of time.

  14. Randy M says:

    So there’s a movie coming out about Dick Cheney called Vice. To say I’ve soured on neocons would be putting it lightly, but at the same time I don’t trust Hollywood to approach the subject with any nuance or accuracy.
    However, I think it’s by the people who made “The Big Short” which I think I’ve seen some praise for addressing the 2008 recession competently. Any hope for this one? (It’s mostly academic, as I don’t care to pay for movies at the theater and forget about them by the time they come to video netflix/Amazon)

    • I loved The Big Short, although I’m not sure I would say it had much nuance. They didn’t really try to portray the villains as complex at all. But it was wickedly funny and smart. Make of that what you will.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        I liked the Big Short, but their “explanation videos” are definitely….yeah, lacking in nuance probably is a good way of putting it. This is how I end up hearing 10,000 different takes on why securization is horrible and should be banned from my college-educated friends.

    • cassander says:

      the trailer does not bode well for the accuracy of the movie. Dick Cheney wasn’t a reluctant VP, he chaired the committee that was in charge of coming up with a good VP candidate, and recommended himself.

    • S_J says:

      Is there any indication that there will be a notice to viewers that, if they ever go hunting wild birds, they should pay careful attention to the hunter-safety guidelines?

      (I actually don’t remember much else about Cheney…I generally had a good opinion of the man at the time, but my estimate of him suffered greatly when he made that mistake. Worse, he failed to apologize to his fellow-hunter.)

  15. DragonMilk says:

    Who here plays Europa Universalis IV? Other Paradox titles?

    I just got back into it after finally getting the “vital” Art of War and Common Sense DLCs. It’s still the most in depth game I’ve ever played. Paradox is my favorite publisher but for….

    1. What do you think of Paradox’s DLC structure?
    2. Do you think a max 50% off for DLC and holding original prices constant after years of release is harmful in the long term, particularly when sales used to go for 75% off?
    3. Has it personally made you play their games less (yes for me)?

    • dodrian says:

      I’m a fan of Cities: Skylines, though I only own the base game. I’ve not bought any DLC because it all seems to be highly priced compared to the value it adds to the base game. I’d consider buying some if it were on a big sale.

      I get that they’re probably selling the base game as a loss leader, recouping costs through DLCs, but if they’re selling the game for less than (which is what’s happening in the current Humble Store Sale), it makes it feel like the DLC is a rip off.

      I tend to not buy new games in general though. I think I bought Civ VI and XCOM 2 at near-full price (Fireaxis published both, both worth the money), though admittedly while I at some point will get the DLC for both I haven’t yet bought it. With so many sales all the time, and so many games I’ll never play it’s just easy to pick up a new title.

    • massivefocusedinaction says:

      I tried EU back in the EU II days and hated their combat and economy models.

      I came back after realizing CKII was even more of the dynastic management that I liked best in TW Medieval, and found that I didn’t mind a pretty similar combat/economic model (I suspect because the focus of the game is the dynastic management).

      I’m not a huge fan of the DLC model, and I mostly waited to the DLC after it goes 75% off during steam sales so I guess I’ll be waiting a while for the last couple DLCs.

      It doesn’t really affect my time spent playing the games, because I wasn’t playing it that often, though I had a fun, short burst after the After the End mod got pointed out on the subreddit.

    • chrisminor0008 says:

      EU4 has been on my Steam wishlist for years on the basis of very good personal recommendations such as yours. However, every time the game goes on sale 80+%, the DLC decidedly does not. I’m not willing to pay multiple hundreds of dollars for a game. (I get most of my games multiple years after release and at hefty sales.) But I’m also not willing to play an incomplete game, which by all accounts the base game is.

      It really seems to me that the developers are trying to perfect a price discrimination strategy to extract the maximum possible from every customer rather than just delivering a solid experience at a single price. The cheap discounted base game plus non-discounted DLC feels reminiscent of free-to-play iPhone apps that are bottomless pits to throw in app purchases into.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Unfortunately now that they are a public company, they are no longer discounting that much.

        You can get the base game for $10, and it’s technically playable. I just have the “core” two DLCs and got them grey-market for $15 (not that much less than $17.50 when they are on sale) so you’re looking at $27.50 on sale for a “complete” game or $10 for the intro.

        I think there’s friction between business people and developers – I really love the games and the development teams, but a lot of the content is locked behind a wall of DLCs. Heck, certain achievements won’t even unlock unless you have certain DLCs even though you could do it without them!

        But I also understand that for whatever reason, they’ve decided to utilize DLCs as the means to fund continued development of the game, and why there’s not an EU V, VI, or VII like other companies might do instead and re-charge the full $60 for a AAA game.

        For my part, I love the game but have the sense that their policy makes everyone feel worse than they ideally would, as evidenced by the “mixed” reviews out of anger of long time fans at DLCs for what is actually an excellent game.

    • Ketil says:

      I’ve played EU4, HOI4, and CK2. Takes some (too much, I have a life too!) time, but mostly I really enjoy the complexity and the historicity of it all. Playing Civ 5(?) felt like a child’s toy in comparison.

      EU4 – I don’t think I have any DLCs (it’s been a while now), just the base game. CK2, I’ve gotten a couple of them, and my last (unfinished as usual) game, I was playing the Lithuanian heathens, working to reform my religion and generally keep the Norse and Catholics in their place. HOI4, no DLCs.

      Especially the CK2 DLC model I find quite good. The bare game is fine, but DLCs extends it rather than change it, e.g. stuff like merchant republics, heathen tribes, or muslim countries become playable. EU4 DLCs seemed more intrusive, adding different rules and changing more of the existing game. (Perhaps I’m biased by the DLCs I’ve looked at, and this isn’t generally true – but it’s my impression, anyway)

      In any case, you certainly don’t need all DLCs to play the games.

      Generally, I put DLCs I want in my wishlist, and buy one when I am suffiently bored and it is sufficiently discounted.

      • DragonMilk says:

        I started with CK2. The best way I could describe EU4 is that you can play anyone you see on the map now!

        …Except to get the most out of them and not be handicapped you’ll need to buy specific DLCs.

        Another thing I see Paradox accused of is adding maluses and other bad events in the base game over time, and putting the most efficient solutions to them in DLCs

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      I play Stellaris. I think it’s worthwhile price-wise, but you have to be judicious about buying the DLC.

    • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

      1. What do you think of Paradox’s DLC structure?

      At first, I liked it. I started playing Paradox games with EUIII/HoI3/Vicky 2 era. In those days, DLC usually added something functional and nice, but not necessary for the game – I’m thinking of For the Motherland’s army structure in Hearts of Iron, for example.

      I really don’t care for EUIV’s structure. I like the game a lot, but every 6 months or so Paradox will break the game and then sell me the solution. It’s extremely frustrating and I’ve lost multiple campaigns to it before. As an example, one update introduced development levels, and then locked a lot of game content behind having a certain level of development – but offered to sell you a DLC that included a means of increasing development. There’s a lot of stuff like that in the DLC for EUIV. HoI IV and CKII have much healthier DLC systems of adding content and not tinkering with essential game mechanics.

      2. Do you think a max 50% off for DLC and holding original prices constant after years of release is harmful in the long term, particularly when sales used to go for 75% off?

      Yep. It’s definitely killed most of my interest in EUIV. I haven’t played the game in years, while I still go back to Stellaris, Hearts of Iron, and CKII.

      3. Has it personally made you play their games less (yes for me)?

      Oh, certainly. If I take a break for a few weeks, then there’s even odds it feels like that some newfangled patch will wreck the empire I built or the variant run I was trying. If I take a break for a few months in frustration with that, when I come back the game is totally unrecognizable (Ages now? Estates? What is this new devilry?), and I get frustrated and leave again.

      • metacelsus says:

        To be fair, even when Paradox pushes an update you can still play the old version through the Steam beta system.

        • John Schilling says:

          Can I do that even after it has literally rewritten the map of my ironman empire and left my armies scattered in the face of a powerful and cohesive enemy?

          Because if so, that’s something they might want to highlight somewhere in the documentation.

    • cassander says:

      I think the DLC structure is problematic for their games. It starts out reasonable, but over time it generates games that have a lot of relatively shallow, not interconnected mechanics that add up to less than the sum of their parts, because they all have to be designed to work together regardless of which expansions anyone has. It means that the games get more and more of a mess as they age. I really like their games, or want to like them at least, but they all end up frustrating me because of this.

    • Lillian says:

      Currently i’ve been playing mostly Crusader Kings II, indeed i discussed my current game in the previous thread. It’s Karen Dynasty starting at the Sons of Lodbrok bookmark (AD 867). Thus far i’ve reached the 1160s and i’m on my 9th monarch, the 3rd to be Shahanshah of Eran and Aneran. The Karenids and their vassals hold all of Iran, Iraq, Arabia (minus Yemen), Syria, Southern Anatolia, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, all of Central Asia, Sindh, most of Punjab, Gujarat, Kashmir, Western Tibet, the Tarim Basin, most of the Khazak steppe, and much of the Pontic steppe.

      Also thanks to some strategic marriages and forced concubinage, my Shahahshah is descended from the ancient Parthian clans, the Sassanids, and Muhammed himself. We’ve got imperial legitimacy out the ass. Present goal is mostly just waiting for the Mongol fuck train to show up. Then afterwards i think i’ll go place one of my dynasts on the Chinese throne.

      As for what i think about the Paradox DLCs. Well i have all of the ones for CKII, and i appreciate them a lot, but i can’t comment on the price structure, i got mine through a generous patron.

    • ilikekittycat says:

      For any other company it would annoy me, but I get so many hundreds of hours out of specifically Paradox games that I put up with it and think its generally worth. Main complaint would be that it incentivizes development for many years after a game should have been retired and they should have started work on Vicky III

    • DavidS says:

      I play CKII and am looking forward to their new one about the Hellenistic period / Rise of Rome.

      I don’t mind too much about the DLC: I don’t think it’s needed to be playable and they tend to provide any necessary updates (and some core expansions e.g. the Conclave council system) for free, so the DLC is more for ‘extra fun stuff’. Allows the base game to be more affordable and get more money from people to the degree they’re willing to pay more.

  16. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    Has anyone ever explored a steampunk/biopunk/whatever-you-call-Twig’s-genre setting based on early availability of artificial neural networks, realized as vat-grown brains?

    I’m picturing semantic capabilities similar to current machine learning tech, bent whichever ways make the setting more fun. Without a general computing infrastructure, you can’t get thousands of judgments per second or anything–even if your brains are capable of it, I/O is going to be either Victorian-grade electrical or mechanical (punchcards, maybe), or biological (eyes and arms).

    (Slow I/O would also severely limit training, but I think we could handwave that away by assuming that you can implicitly crib some of the priors off of animal (human?) brains, with the result that training takes around the same number of examples it would take to teach an animal to learn the same task.)

    So getting a judgment is nowhere near as cheap as it is with real-life ML… but you’ve still got a system that can equal or outperform humans on many tasks, doesn’t take breaks, and needs no salary except a drip of synthetic blood or glucose syrup or something.

    If you can interface in some eyes, you can do visual recognition–facial recognition for security and surveillance, sure, but also guided missiles as soon as the aviation part of that is ready. Self-driving cars might also be on the table, especially with slower cars making collisions less dangerous on one hand and a greater societal risk tolerance on the other.

    Shading into economics fiction, you might also be able to replace factory jobs, depending in part on your actuator tech. If the twentieth century’s burgeoning industry is staffed by capital instead of labor, you’ve got a pretty interesting alternate economic and political timeline.

    Then there’s more social decisionmaking: stuff like loan applications, prison sentencing, etc. Presumably Victorian society would have fewer scruples than today’s about this sort of thing, and we can imagine an offshoot of High Modernism advocating that they replace sloppy biased human judgment everywhere they possibly can, perhaps building a model city somewhere. Neurobrasilia?

    What other implications might such technology have had?

    • AG says:

      Brain-computing is better at certain things than silicon-computing, so the evolution of “tech” would be directed towards those sorts of applications. Less number-optimization, more brain-intuitional solutions. For example, the wind-tunnel would probably still get developed, but you don’t have a binary file/.csv raw data file, it would be plugging into the Brain-Matrix to experience the biosensors’ position yourself, and tactilely feeling if it’s more or less wind resistance. That, or going directly to a visualization display with variable precision of the color map, because you can’t really calibrate the biosensors.

      As you point out, visual comprehension would be far higher than computer systems, but on the other hand, damage perception would not be nearly as precise. So the development of video games would change a whole lot, RPGs would likely not have ATB-like systems, but have much more abstract mechanisms. Ironically, platforming would likely not be altered much.

      Also, memory retrieval tech would be a constant field of development. Early brain-computer memory retrieval would be notoriously bad, until sufficient studies were conducted on those with eidetic memory and the mechanism could be replicated.
      As per above video game discussion, however, program exploits would be hilarious, finding ways to create false pattern inputs, like optical illusions. On the other hand, certain exploits like clipping would be lessened because the brain-computers would be less susceptible to certain non-intuitional physics (“there’s a game wall there, the player shouldn’t be able to go through it”, “the player shouldn’t be able to achieve this speed”, “what is this alternate universes business or half-button presses nonsense, none of that”).

  17. Machine Interface says:

    A question for people who see themselves as both attached to nationalist/patriotic values, and rational values, notably who consider truth an important terminal value.

    This isn’t about the claimed advantages of having a strong national ethos in a given country; for the sake of this question let’s assume they’re all true, that nationalism really does make a country more united, more functional, more successful, and its inhabitants more likely to defend it. This is also not about whether nations are real or not. Let’s assume that all a nation needs to exist is for its members to believe it does.

    In a given country, the nationalist ethos is generally taught and sustained through a national mythology, a collection of historical facts that explain how the current national values came to be, against what other values they competed before eventually prevailing, etc.

    Here’s the problem: if we want to be very charitable, we’ll say that these national mythologies are, in the best of case, a really creative and partisan interpretation of history. In fact there are many cases where, even at our most charitable, we are forced to conclude that many elements of the national mythology are at best unfalsifiable fabrications, at worst an exact negation of what actually happened.

    A very common kind of such fabricated elements is the fancyful claim of ancestry. Thus Frenchmen are taught that they descend from the “Gaulish people” (as if there had been such a thing as a united and homogeneous “Gaulish people”), through the intermediary stage of the “Gallo-Roman” civilization — a complete retroactive construct, the people who lived in Gaul after the Roman conquest saw themselves simply as Romans, and Gaulish material culture almost completely disappeared in front of Roman culture.

    This is sometimes accompanied by pseudo-linguistic claims about how such and such trait of the French language — such as the sound of the vowel “u” or the base 20 remnants in the counting system — originate in Gaulish (even though Gaulish not only had neither of those traits, but it died off half a millenium before those traits even developed in French), along with a strong instistance on the Gaulish loanwords that can be found in French — which are actually few and far in between compared to Frankish loanwords, and are often shared with neighbouring Italian and Spanish anyway, and thus not a French specificity at all.

    If we try to see where and why the claim of Gaulish ancestry originated, it appears that it was mostly conceptualized during the French revolution and became widespread during the French 3rd Republic (1870-1940), and served two purposes:
    1) Claiming that all French people were descended from a united Gaulish nation that had been conquered by Rome fueled into the freedom and equality narrative of the revolution, against the royal narrative where the aristocracy claimed descent from the Frankish ruling class, and the royal family specifically claimed descent from mythical Trojan ancestors.
    2) It served to make the French nation more prestigious by virtue of being “older” than the Spanish or Italian nations which were “only” descended from the Romans.

    Nothing in this is mysterious or even controversial among French historians, yet the mythical version remains the overwhemingly prevalent narrative at all levels of public education, in popular history and media, and in French political discourse.

    We find similar dubious claims of ancestry that we could similarly deconstruct in most national mythologies, be it Hungarians (claiming descent from Turkic people), Iraqi (the direct offsprings of Sumerians!), Maltese and Lebanese (whose language is totally not an Arabic dialect but the noble continuation of Phoenician), Egyptians (take a guess), to say nothing of Israeli and Palestinian claims.

    And of course it doesn’t stop there, as on this original lie are built many more, and every historical fact is taken and distorded to fit the desired narrative.

    To take the French case again, another common myth is that the imposition of the French language for all, as the universal language of reason and equality, started with Francis I and his Ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts, which “made French the official language of France for the first time”.

    Except it did not do that at all. All that the Ordinance did was replace Latin with French *in legal documents*, and only there. Latin was still the language of religion and education, and common affairs everywhere (up to and including when dealing with the law) were still conducted in speech in the local dialects. The pesky reality is that French kings *wanted* their kingdom to be multilingual, not only because they saw it as a symbol of cultural wealth, but also because French, as the language of the royal court, was seen as a *pivilege*, and so it was *not* desirable that just about anyone could learn French (to the point where, for instance, local initiatives to conduct the mass in French rather than in the local dialect were sometimes cancelled by royal order).

    It’s in direct opposition to this royal endorsement of multilingualism that the French revolution’s will to impose French as the sole and universal language of France must be understood. It was both a way to achieve equality by giving everyone access to the language of social elevation that was French, and to destroy the cultural inheritance of the monarchy by annihilating its vector, regional languages and dialects — again none of this is really cryptic or mysterious for historians, the French revolutionaries themselves are pretty explicit about their motives and intentions in their declarations: “Federalism and superstition speak Breton; emigration and hate of the Republic speak German; counter-revolution speaks Italian, and fanatism speaks Basque. Let us break those instruments of damage and error.” (Bertrand Barère in 1794).

    Yet the idea that French is the “traditional” and sole acceptable language of France and that the kings themselves wanted it to be so has so thoroughtly penetrated the French zeitgest that even current French traditionalists and royalists take this idea for granted and are not the last to express their strong opposition to any arrangement that would give any breathing room to regional languages and dialects in the public space.

    I’m sure if you are even moderatedly versed in the history of your current country of residency, you can fill in your own examples.

    —-

    So to the point. To people who are both attached to nationalist values and to the truth.

    Do you think that a nationalist ethos is necessarily constructed on historical manipulation and falsification?

    If yes, how do you reconcile that with your strong valuation of the truth?

    If no, I’d like you to expend on how you think a nationalist ethos can be articulated rationally around an often unglamorous historical reality, where most nations were basically cobbled together in the 19th century and where many of their values are recent inventions that were often determined arbitrarily simply by which designated enemy the nation constructed itself *against* (French nationalism rejected multilingualism to oppose royal values; Swiss nationalism embraced it to distinguish itself from its neighbors), and on what a rational nationalist ethos would look like.

    • Statismagician says:

      Yes, nationalism, nations, and the idea of any kind of demographic unity broader than ‘this specific village’ were created essentially out of whole cloth starting sometime after the Renaissance. None of this is in any way surprising, nor should it be controversial.

      This has precisely no relevance to the truth of those things now. It is absolutely the case that ‘French’ means something usefully different from ‘Swiss’ these days, and that the French as a rule speak French.

      • Machine Interface says:

        This is explicitely not what I was talking about — this is not about calling into question the existence of nation themselves, it’s about learning how rational nationalists reconcile the fabricated historical narrative of their nation with their attachment to truth.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          There’s a lot to unpack here. We could ask how the rationalist (or rather empiricist) philosophes who preached nationalism reconciled their attachment to truth with the stories they were telling, or just focus on how “nationalists” today reconcile them.
          If we’re talking current, don’t you see that there are at least two kinds of nationalism? One is a label of convenience for utilitarian rational types who reject the New Left’s truth claims, while people who are really into nationalism can be basically postmodernist, just pro-ingroup rather than pro-every-group-except-whites. The latter is how the historical Nazis were: their intellectuals literally talked about “Jewish physics” and Deutschphysik as if the ethnicity of the observer mattered. The former are… reaction engines, resisting Blue Tribe truth claims as against the evidence: you could say this puts them in the same position as the French Revolution era Blue tribe, promoting homogeneous communities and states for reasons of utility.

        • John Schilling says:

          It is a true fact that the nation I live in is an artificial fabrication. It is also a true fact that the house I live in is an artificial fabrication. A thing can be both fabricated and true at the same time. As an engineer, I place a high value on things that are both fabricated and true.

          And I view people who try to destroy the philosophical foundation of my nation in roughly the same way that I view people who try to destroy the physical foundation of my house. Yes, yes, you’re not trying to destroy anything, just “asking questions” and “trying to understand”. Help me understand why you should be allowed to live in a fabricated house or apartment rather than thrown into a nice natural cave, and if you’re still living in a house at the end of it, maybe you’ll have the answer to your own question.

          • Machine Interface says:

            Well to pursue your analogy, here I’m merely noticing that some part of the house were shoddily built due to adherence to outdated masonry practices, self-delusion from the buyer, and outright deception by the architect. I’m not saying that we should tear the house down and live in the woods, I’m asking if you’d rather want:

            1) Keep the house as is and stay faithfull to the original plan and intention, even as you secretely know that some parts are bardly built?

            OR

            2) renovate or reconstruct the fundations of the house to make it sturdier, even if that means compromising on the original plan?

            To put it back into the actual problematic, given that:

            1) Nations are built on a historical narrative
            2) This historical narrative is a fabrication
            3) Even though, some sort of narrative is necessary to continue to instigate and maintain the feeling of national belonging in the population

            Do you:
            A) accept the flawed narrative as necessary to maintain the nation in a state that you find desirable or
            B) come in favor of building a new, more rational narrative that is better at supporting critical examination, and so ultimately make the national feeling stronger, even if it might require some compromise on the original values vehiculated by the first narrative?

            I’m interested by people with both answers and arguments for both, and I reiterate, I am framing this question specifically with the assumption that nations exist and they are a net good — there is no trap at this level, I’m not looking to jump on the first contradiction in your argument and exclaim “aha! so you admit nations are fake!”

          • John Schilling says:

            If your plan is that, to improve my house, I should start by redoing the foundation, I’m pretty much going to read that as your plan is to tear down my house.

          • CatCube says:

            @Machine Interface

            To further work with the analogy, sometimes you won’t want to mess with a foundation, even if you have known problems. You may not understand fully how loads are being carried in a building–as the building has moved over its lifetime, loads that you thought were carried by another part may have transferred to the one you’re working on. Disturbing the subsurface may start to cause settlement problems elsewhere, because the load on that footing may be providing support for others which will become an issue once you take the load off during renovation; usually, you’d shore to avoid that, but sometimes other issues deeper in the subsurface means the shoring isn’t as effective as you think.

            Generally, unless there’s a real and immediate safety issue, the best course of action is to not screw with an existing structure. Conservatives (I’m one, @John Schilling is not IIRC) generally view societies the same way.

          • John Schilling says:

            In this particular context, I am conservative for approximately the reasons CatCube indicates. The track record of people trying to create new & improved national identities is really not good.

          • Machine Interface says:

            Ok, that makes sense and is consistent; the narrative, while flawed, serves its purpose, and efforts to build a better one have proven unconclusive, therefore it is best for now to stick with the existing one.

            A further question in this perspective then: is the existence of academic historians who kindly point out that “hey, it didn’t actually happen that way at all” considered a problem and a danger to the perpetuation of the narrative, or can it be safely ignored given that they appear to be a mostly inaudible minority?

          • Nick says:

            Machine Interface, your use of the house analogy doesn’t work. You say in the top-level post that nationalism has all these claimed advantages for its citizens, and you grant them for this discussion. But in your house analogy, you say parts of the house were “shoddily built due to adherence to outdated masonry practices.” But if the things you grant at the beginning are true, then this house wouldn’t be shoddily built at all, it would be better than the caves or woods you’d otherwise be living in. So you either grant that it’s actually pretty nice, or you admit that you don’t believe in those claimed advantages in the first place and that they shouldn’t be granted.

            To dig into what I think is the problem here, it’s more as if someone built a house using witchcraft, so that the walls don’t actually distribute the weight of the roof and the foundation is literally sand, and yet it all holds together. Now, this is silly because witchcraft doesn’t work in the field of structural engineering*, but it does in other fields, ones dealing with “social realities” (stuff that, as you say, is real because folks believe in it). If you want to use an analogy, it’s going to have to come from one of those.

            To actually answer your questions, I don’t have a well thought out view of what to do with witchcraft. I don’t believe true things have to be useful or vice versa, but it does make me pretty uncomfortable that false things are sometimes more useful than true things. My first instinct is that it should prompt interrogation of things that might be witchcraft: we should be asking, are the benefits we get from this worth having beliefs we know or suspect to be false? (Atheists, bless their hearts, have a knack for sniffing out candidates, but I don’t know that they always calculate the tradeoff right. And I say that as someone actually religious, and who thinks religious claims are literally true!)

            But one lesson sam[]zdat draws in the article I link above is that you can’t distill the benefits of witchcraft without the false beliefs. Some can square that circle, the sort who can go to church every day of their lives without believing a bit of it, but that’s not most folks. Rationalists can’t either, but they try distilling the benefits. I think John and others speak to that when they say most attempts at engineering a replacement for national identities fails.

            Another lesson sam[]zdat draws is that interrogating these things has a corrosive effect. To the specific question of nations—I don’t begrudge historians who know national mythologies are bullshit and write as much in their books, but I think I would if they were going around shouting it as loudly as they could. I think there’s a lesson to be drawn there.

            *[citation needed]

          • quanta413 says:

            A further question in this perspective then: is the existence of academic historians who kindly point out that “hey, it didn’t actually happen that way at all” considered a problem and a danger to the perpetuation of the narrative, or can it be safely ignored given that they appear to be a mostly inaudible minority?

            Seems fine to me. Seriously, almost no one has the time to keep up with history. And when historian’s ideas reach the broader society the national mythology just sort of bends to fit around formerly inconvenient facts. It’s happened a lot before and it will keep happening.

            The illusion of a continuous national ideal is plenty. Actual continuity is unnecessary. It’s like consciousness.

            But I don’t actually find the idea of undermining the national mythos historically threatening. I think the current reality is more than strong enough to overcome historical inaccuracies so I’m not worried that attempts to make people have an accurate view of history matter.

          • Machine Interface says:

            @Nick

            I’ll conceide that I likely mishandled the house analogy.

            The idea of witchcraft as explained here does articulate the problematic I had in mind way better than I did.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      There’s a very rational lower-case-c conservative reason not to mess around with national founding mythologies: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

      I have no confidence whatsoever in the ability of self-proclaimed “social engineers” to build functional institutions on any scale. Giving them license to re-build an institution as vital as the national identity is (was) nothing less than national suicide.

    • ana53294 says:

      National identities were not invented one day by a single guy. They mostly were built organically, by weaving reality with legend.

      Attempts at rationally engineering the economy have mostly resulted in disasters and famines. I don’t see why rationally engineering national identity would go any better.

      • Machine Interface says:

        I don’t think I really agree with the first paragraph, but it’s again not really what I’m talking about here.

        My question is really about: do the faulty historical narratives that underly national identity need to be fixed? and if not, does that mean that the performance of these narratives is valued over their veracity — in other words, do you value the benefits of nationalism over truth as a terminal value?

        And again I’m not trying to trap anyone here, there’s no wrong answer to the above question — I don’t consider it a sin to value certain things more than truth.

        • Nornagest says:

          You keep saying you’re not trying to trap anyone, but when someone runs up to me with a story that such-and-such a part of the culture is a pack of lies and needs to be critically reexamined, with their helpful friendship and guidance of course, I have a hard time shaking my prior that someone’s trying to sell me something no matter how strenuously they claim they only want to seek the truth.

          This is exactly why no one likes the New Atheists, for example. And they’re not the first people to use that pitch, not by a long shot.

          • Machine Interface says:

            Well I know what it can sound like and that my reinssurance will do nothing to change how it sounds like. Not much I can do about that asides from keeping my story straight as the discussion advances until you’re convinced that I’m trying to argue in good faith (nonewithstanding personal bias that I am not aware of).

            I’m not claiming that things *need* to be critically reexamined — as far as I can tell, they already have been a long time ago, by people who understand history better than I do, and their conclusion is that the narrative is lacking in factuality.

            I don’t perceive the claim that, say, actually there’s very little evidence of any continuity between Gaulish and French culture, to be a postmodern controversy pushed by radicals — it’s something mainstream French historians have considered a closed case for quite a while.

            And I’m not “selling” anything, which the framing of my question should make clear — myself I don’t believe in nations nor that the notion of nation does much good, that much is clear, but I’m framing my question as “in a reality where nations exist and they are good”, so basically, this is a reality where I have been falsified and so my opinion on “what we should do” is irrelevant. My question is “what would *you* do?”

            To clarify further, the point I’m really interested in this discussion is not your relation to nationalism, it’s your relation to truth — is the value of truth amenable to compromission if this results in a greater good in other areas (such as pushing a fictional but useful narrative that results in a net good)? This is actually an answer I tend to answer “yes” to (although of course not in the domain of nationalist narrative). I picked nationalism here as something presumably conservatives would be more able to relate and balance against other values.

          • To clarify further, the point I’m really interested in this discussion is not your relation to nationalism, it’s your relation to truth

            Lots of other context where the same issue arises.

            Consider voting. The mythos is that every vote counts. The fact is that, in a presidential election, the chance that your vote will change the outcome is comparable to the chance that you will be hit by lightening this year. Arguably, telling people that truth makes the political system work worse, rather than better, since it results in rational people being less likely to vote.

            Or consider jury nullification. It’s at least arguable that, if you believe a law is entirely unjust and happen to be on a jury trying someone for violating that law, your moral obligation is to vote for acquittal even if you think he is guilty. But it’s also arguable that for that position to be widely held would have very bad consequences. Suppose, for instance, one potential juror in four believed that homosexual sex was so evil that practitioners deserved to die—the position of the law in a number of civilized countries not all that long ago. Such a person could murder a homosexual with about a .97 probability of getting a hung jury.

            So should one promote the belief that jurors should rule according to the law even if one believes it isn’t true?

          • albatross11 says:

            For the record, I am not a fan of promoting socially-useful lies, for all the reasons I’ve described before.

            But this discussion somehow makes me think of Littlefinger’s conversation with Varys in Game of Thrones.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Consider voting. The mythos is that every vote counts. The fact is that, in a presidential election, the chance that your vote will change the outcome is comparable to the chance that you will be hit by lightening this year. Arguably, telling people that truth makes the political system work worse, rather than better, since it results in rational people being less likely to vote.

            I’m not sure this is exactly right–first of all, “every vote counts” strikes me as true, or at least, reasonably true; I think you’re really arguing against the claim that “every vote matters” which is a different and stronger claim.

            That aside, I think the better way to think of this is via decision theory, or some sort of categorical imperative: it’s not “vote because your vote matters”, so much as “if you could pre-commit everyone with your values to a decision to vote, you would have a viable coalition of people with your values who reliably turn out to vote, so vote as a way to promote this norm”–it’s true that you’ll hear a lot of “every vote matters”, but you’ll also hear a lot of “imagine if no one voted”, or “what if everyone who agreed with you felt that way”, which I think are implicitly making the argument I suggest.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Yes, I think the applicable principle here is “fix the worst first.” Or to put it another way, first work on the log in your own eye before pointing out the mote in mine.

            As I suggested downthread, globalism is based on a narrative which is both false and destructive. For example, the idea that the economic and social problems in third-world countries are the result of misbehavior by Westerners/White People/Israelis/etc.

            Let’s work on that problem first.

    • dark orchid says:

      I think it’s Gandhi who said “be the change you want to see”. Come up with an idea what you want your nation to look like, and then invent myths around how that’s how your forefathers lived. If you’re lucky, some of it will become true for your grandchildren.

      A “rational” nationalist ethos might look a bit like some 18th century empires invoking “natural law” to justify why it was right and good that they took over parts of the world and reordered everything into evenly spaced rectangular grids by applying the scientific method, or something like that.

    • Zephalinda says:

      I’m not sure the question really is so starkly about “false” historical grand narratives vs. “true” ones.

      The nature of the process of researching and creating historical knowledge from sparse, ambiguous evidence is such that layers upon layers of narrative get baked in at every single stage. Arguably “history” itself in our present-day sense is precisely a technology designed for creating dubious grand narratives in the service of modern ideologies, given that it arises contemporaneously with those ideologies and is immediately put to their service upon its emergence. Heck, Rationalism itself has as its own origin myth a set of embarrassingly crude Whig history-of-science stories that are similarly distant from the much more complex historical “reality” according to our current lights. And if we’re being honest, even that more nuanced and careful current understanding still contains far more by volume of cultural prejudice and random storytelling than of historical data.

      I mean, there’s obviously a lot of historiography written on this subject, and various subfields have their own ways of dealing with it, but if you wanted to explore best practices for those oriented toward truth, I think it’d be fairer to ask why rationalists are allowed to think about history at all.

    • WarOnReasons says:

      Do you know any mass ideology that, unlike nationalism, does not use false or exaggerated historical narratives?

      To the best of my (admittedly very limited) knowledge of the French history, the ideas about common Gallic ancestry were used for political gain long before the 3rd Republic. For example, in 16th century Francois Hotman in his Francogallia used it to justify Huguenot opposition to royal absolutism. During the revolution in the 18th century, the theory that the common people of France have Gauls as their common ancestors while the aristocrats are descendants of the Francs was also actively used by the revolutionaries.

      Modern political movements are also no different. Even those that are officially internationalist and supposedly committed to “scientific facts” in practice are very fond of creating historical myths of their own and using ethnic tensions to promote their agenda. For example, the communist USSR glorified Russian history and having “International” as its anthem has not stopped it from deporting several ethnicities to Siberia and Kazakhstan. Left-wing political movements in the US and Europe are also not above using ethnic antagonisms or fake historical narratives for their own political purposes.

      • Machine Interface says:

        “Do you know any mass ideology that, unlike nationalism, does not use false or exaggerated historical narratives?”

        I do not, but I am skeptical of ideology in general so… Nationalism as a meme seems however, as of today, much more universally widespread than any other ideology.

    • Eugene Dawn says:

      I am not sure I qualify to answer, as I’m not particularly attached to nationalist values, but I recognize the small-c conservative value of nationalism, and I’m moderately patriotic about my own country, Canada, so why not?

      I do not think a nationalist ethos is necessarily constructed on falsification. Manipulation is harder to avoid, but only because historical manipulation seems to me hard to avoid in general. I doubt you can find a set of completely uncontestable historical claims that would stand as a foundation for a meaningful national sentiment, but a large part of the difficult is that uncontestable historical claims are in short supply generally, and often pretty anodyne and limited. I certainly think a nationalist could rely on a version of history that is about as accurate as the average popular history book: unlikely to satisfy an academic historian, but probably not outrageous.

      To the extent that the above answer counts as a ‘yes’ to your question, I’d say: I think we can accept that a large number of people holding views that are true-ish but would not satisfy an academic does not contradict a ‘strong valuation of the truth’–I’d love it if people knew more about physics, but I don’t think the fact that people use technology made possible by physical theories that they have minimal understanding of, or wrong ‘folk’ interpretations of, should be taken to mean that our technological society is built on a widespread belief in lies. What matters is that there are institutions and people who understand and promote the truth, and there is a vague sense among the general populace that they should defer to those institutions and people concerning ‘physical truth’.
      Similarly, if people hold muddled folk beliefs about national origins, but are inclined to defer to the judgement of professional historians when push comes to shove, I think that’s mostly fine.

      If my answer above counts as a ‘no’, then I’d say that I think my view on the possibility of constructing a nationalist identity around an “unglamourous historical reality” is shaped by the fact that my nation does not currently claim a historical continuity past the 19th century anyway, and for which there is plainly no possibility of assuming a common linguistic or ethnic heritage. Canadian nationalism has been overwhelmingly ‘civic’ in character more or less since its beginning, or at least, there has always been such a strain of civic nationalism present.
      Insofar as we have national myths, they tend to be exaggerations of the importance to the development of a ‘Canadian identity’ of events from fairly recent historical time: The Battle of Vimy Ridge, say, which apparently did not become viewed as a foundation-event of Canadian identity until 50 years later, during Canada’s centennial.
      I won’t claim that Canadian nationalism is “rationalist”, or ideal in some way, but I don’t think it’s based on any egregious falsehoods, and it seems to be working fine.

      • Obelix says:

        Canadian nationalism might not be based on egregious falsehoods, but I feel it exaggerates some presumed characteristics of the Canadian nation to an unwarranted level. It also denies the reality that Canada is a multinational country, which I feel is a big deal.

        • johan_larson says:

          Multinational in what sense?

        • Eugene Dawn says:

          Canadian nationalism might not be based on egregious falsehoods, but I feel it exaggerates some presumed characteristics of the Canadian nation to an unwarranted level.

          I agree, but I think it matters whether the exaggerations are more serious than you find in any other popular understanding of history, and to what extent you believe it is possible to de-exaggerate these characteristics.

          I am not sure I agree that Canadian nationalism denies multinationalism–though perhaps we just have different ideas as to what counts as Canadian nationalism. I think most Canadians who believe in some kind of national identity will acknowledge that first nations people and Quebeckers, at least, have a claim to some kind of national identity.

          • Obelix says:

            I agree, but I think it matters whether the exaggerations are more serious than you find in any other popular understanding of history, and to what extent you believe it is possible to de-exaggerate these characteristics.

            I’m mostly thinking of the claim that Canada is the greatest country in the world, based on its (actually not unique) experience with diversity. But it’s true that Canadian nationalism gives (what is to me) unwarranted importance to some events from history (like the War of 1812), while downplaying others (like the Rebellions of 1837-1838).

            I am not sure I agree that Canadian nationalism denies multinationalism–though perhaps we just have different ideas as to what counts as Canadian nationalism. I think most Canadians who believe in some kind of national identity will acknowledge that first nations people and Quebeckers, at least, have a claim to some kind of national identity.

            That’s interesting. I view Canadian nationalism largely as a formalization of Ontarian identity and viewpoints, which are then assumed to apply to all Canada. This makes sense given the demographic and political power of Ontario in Canada. But, speaking as a Quebecer, my impression is that it explicitely denies any validity to a Quebec national identity, which it instead holds to be a negation of liberal values. As for native peoples, I suppose they’re recognized a right to claim a national identity, but then again Canadian nationalism attempts to co-opt this identity in sometimes clumsy or even insulting ways.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I’m mostly thinking of the claim that Canada is the greatest country in the world, based on its (actually not unique) experience with diversity. But it’s true that Canadian nationalism gives (what is to me) unwarranted importance to some events from history (like the War of 1812), while downplaying others (like the Rebellions of 1837-1838).

            I’m not sure “greatest country in the world”-type claims are really false claims in the sense of the original post, though I suppose it’s true that Canadians might believe that their experience with universal healthcare and diversity is unique in a way that is not true.

            I also think “unwarranted importance” and “downplaying” are probably not really covered by the concerns of the original post–so long as the basic claims made are true, or at least, true by the standards of popular understanding of history, I don’t think this is a case where nationalism conflicts with devotion to the truth.
            I am also not sure I agree with your characterization of Canadian nationalism: in school I feel like I learned at least as much about the 1837 rebellions as about the War of 1812–certainly we learned about them in the context of the Durham report and the Act of Union.

            That’s interesting. I view Canadian nationalism largely as a formalization of Ontarian identity and viewpoints, which are then assumed to apply to all Canada.

            I don’t doubt that there’s truth to this (I’m on Ontarian, so I’d likely be blind to it), but again, I’m not sure there are differences in truth-claims here–my guess is that what’s at issue is what it means to be a “nation”, and how compatible different versions of supra-Canadian nationalisms are with each other, and with Canadian nationalism write large. Do you have an example in mind of the way in which Canadian nationalism denies the reality of Quebecois national identity?

    • fortaleza84 says:

      In fact there are many cases where, even at our most charitable, we are forced to conclude that many elements of the national mythology are at best unfalsifiable fabrications, at worst an exact negation of what actually happened.

      Taking American nationalism and British nationalism as examples, would you mind giving one or two examples (for each) of un-truths which make up part of the national mythologies?

      • Machine Interface says:

        First thing first, I certainly do not pretend to be able to talk in similar details about the national narratives of other countries as I can with the French one. With British nationalism in particular I am mostly at loss as I am actually quite unfamiliar with the minutiae of British culture — I simply do not have the same level of exposure to it than to American culture, in spite of closer geographical proximity.

        It *would seem* to me that British nationalism severely overstates the role of the Anglo-Saxons in its history and understate the role of Norman, French and German contributions to the British aristocracy and monarchy (whereas in fact the original Anglo aristocracy was almost completely destroyed during the Norman era and only slowly rebuilt itself over several centuries by marrying into the Norman-French ruling class). But this might just as well me my French/Continental bias speaking.

        For American nationalism, here are some points that I have gathered over the years from interacting with american culture on the internet. I do not pretend that this list is a sound historical criticism, some of the points I think of as salient might just be anecdotical, and my views of these things might have been biased by the nature of my sources (more often blue tribe than not):

        — The portrayal of the ealy settlers as good people fleeing religious persecutions in order to build a new utopian society of freedom, when in fact many of them were authoritarian religious fanatics even by the standards of their time, and often brought the persecutions with them: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plundering_Time

        — The idea that British settlers mostly arrived on virgin lang and built a society where there was nothing, as the hunter-gatherer natives had not done anything with the land, when in fact they were often appropriating cultivated farmland of tribes that had developped an agricultural civilization.

        — The emphasis on “taxation without representation” as the main motive of the American revolution, with much less discussion of the Crown curtailing the colonists’ desire for westward expansion and conquest (Royal Proclamation of 1763) and of the ambiguous role of slavery in the revolution.

        — The actual values, intentions and designs of the Founding Fathers are only aknowledged when convenient and are otherwise remorselessly replaced with retro-projections of modern values.

        — The tendency to strongly understate multilingualism (and to an extent mutli-ethnism) in 19th century America, pushing the narrative that English has always been the traditional, universal, dominant language.

        — The ridiculous overstatement of the role and effects of American interventions in Europe in the two World Wars, and a largely idealized version of the causes and intentions of these interventions.

        — A general revisionist narrative toward everything that ressembles socialism, that overstates the usefulness and opportunity of American interventions in various Latin American countries, and tends to erase the entire history of the labor movement in the US.

        • fortaleza84 says:

          Ok, to answer your question, I think that in most cases it’s not necessary to whitewash history in order to adopt nationalistic/patriotic values.

          So for example, it’s possible to say “Yes, the early American settlers displaced a lot of Indians and in general acted pretty sh*tty towards them but it doesn’t follow that we have a moral obligation to open our borders to any third-world person who wants to come in.”

          And it’s possible to say “Yes, America has absorbed a lot of non-English speakers, but it’s still reasonable to insist that people who move here make English the primary language of their families.”

          As far as my valuing truth goes, I would note that there are a lot of untruths floating around out there and I am most concerned with the untruths that are destructive. So for example, if one assumes for the sake of argument that the United States did not play a decisive role in World War II, I don’t think it’s particularly destructive to believe that in fact, we Americans were the heroes of World War II.

          By contrast, there are globalist beliefs which are both false and destructive, for example the idea that people from all cultures are equally likely to engage in misbehavior; or the idea that misbehavior by third-world people is the result of racism/oppression/colonialism by whites/Westerners/Europeans/Israelis/etc. and that with enough concessions and appeasement, misbehavior by third-world people will cease; or the idea that white people/westerners/Israelis/etc. are primarily and uniquely responsible for the serious problems in the world.

          These ideas are not only wrong,, but also policies are being advocated and implemented based on these ideas that would cause and do cause a lot of harm and suffering.

        • WarOnReasons says:

          The ridiculous overstatement of the role and effects of American interventions in Europe in the two World Wars,

          I’m really curious about the modern French perspective on these events. Do most French believe that without the US intervention the Central/Axis powers would have still lost the war and France would have preserved its independence?

          • Machine Interface says:

            No, most French people buy the “Americans saved us” narrative. When I started studying the subject a bit, I remember being quite surprised, for instance, to learn that there were actually more Commonwealth than US troups at the Normandy Landings.

            The French just add their own self-serving bits to the narrative, by greatly overstating the importance and effect the Free French Forces and the French Resistance had on the war — for a few decades after WW2, the collaboration of the French State with Nazi officials was an outright banned subject in public discourse and education (this went as far as doctoring archive photography to remove the eveidence), although official discourse has since come around on that and aknowledged this aspect of the war.

            I think most people in Western Europe are fond of the “Americans saved us” narrative because the alternative is to fairly consider the decisive role of the Soviet Union in the war.

          • pontifex says:

            The US gave a huge amount of aid to the Soviet Union though– food, tanks, other war materiel. This was pretty important in the first years of the war. Also, if the US hadn’t been in the war, the Soviets would have been fighting a two-front war, with Japen attacking them in the east. Finally, even if you believe that the USSR could have won it alone, the postwar fate of Europe would have been very different.

        • cassander says:

          — The ridiculous overstatement of the role and effects of American interventions in Europe in the two World Wars, and a largely idealized version of the causes and intentions of these interventions.

          The idealization, I’ll give you. We do cherish our self perception as the guys in the white hats. But I think the average american’s view of the importance of US involvement in WW2 is largely accurate, if usually for the wrong reasons. And the importance of the involvement of the US in ww1 is only somewhat overstated.

          The other allies bled more than the US, there’s no denying that, but they were able to bleed because they were eating mostly american food, brought to them mostly on american ships, protected from u-boats by mostly american aircraft that were running on mostly american gasoline. There are few categories of war goods where the US did not make more than the rest of the allies combined and many (and not small ones) where they made more than the other allies and the axis combined. The more expensive, hi-tech, and industrially demanding the good, the more likely it was dominated by the US, and a lot of the goods that the US didn’t make were made with substantial inputs of US raw materials.

          This was all possible because between 1910 and 1940, the US really transforms into the first developed country. This process was just getting started by the first world war, but by 1939 the effects were monumental.
          Take the car industry as an example In 1913, Ford makes more model Ts than cars existed in the entire country 5 years earlier, and does the same thing for each of the next 5 years. In 1916 ford alone made more model ts than there were cars in europe at the time, and in 1929, the US makes 4 million cars, a number that France, the UK, and Germany combined won’t reach until the late 50s.

          • albatross11 says:

            The war in the Pacific was overwhelmingly won by the US, right? It’s the war in Europe where we provided a lot of the material wealth to win it, but didn’t do as much of the dying as the Russians.

          • johan_larson says:

            The Pacific war was essentially China+US vs Japan, wasn’t it? Australia helped some, and the British helped some, but their contributions were relatively small.

            Do we know how many Japanese casualties China and the US were respectively responsible for?

          • cassander says:

            Yes, the Pacific War was largely an american affair, though the commonwealth was not uninvolved.

            Figures for japanese war dead vary considerably, which makes it difficult to come to a firm accounting. The Japanese definitely had more men in China than the Pacific, but the Pacific was a lot deadlier. I think anywhere from 1/3 to 2/3s of japanese deaths coming in china is reasonable, but it’s very rough.

          • Machine Interface says:

            Note that I was specifically talking about Europe — that the US did most of the work in the Pacific in WW2 is not in question.

            In Europe, my impression is that, certainly the US intervention in WW2 had an effect, in the sense that it likely allowed the war to end sooner and prevented a few additional countries to fall to the Soviets.

            But it seems likely that in the mid-run, the lack of US intervention wouldn’t have made a huge difference for France and the UK. Hitler would have been defeated by Stalin and the Commonwealth forces would have landed in France a bit later.

          • pontifex says:

            The US out-produced the Commonwealth by at least a factor of 2 in
            all the important categories,
            though. 108,410 tanks vs. 47,862 tanks. 6,771 large ships vs. 890 large ships. 324,000 total planes vs. 177,025. And if we hadn’t given them all that stuff for free, a lot of those British goods never would have gotten produced because the money would have gone to food or other supplies instead. If we sell to both sides, the picture gets even bleaker for the Allies. We easily could have done that, and a lot of American companies did, prior to the war. Ford in particular sold a lot of trucks to the Nazis. (Now there’s something we don’t talk about a lot…)

            No, if the US doesn’t get involved, Europe either falls to the USSR or Hitler wins in the east. And Germany winning is more likely than you think. Japan would have stabbed Russia in the back, so their strategy of moving all the factories far from the front wouldn’t have worked as well. The Axis might have even been able to seize a lot of the oil fields in Russia.

          • Machine Interface says:

            That’s the first time I ever hear the claim that an Axis victory against Russia was possible, Japanese help or not.

          • cassander says:

            @pontifex says:

            No, if the US doesn’t get involved, Europe either falls to the USSR or Hitler wins in the east. And Germany winning is more likely than you think. Japan would have stabbed Russia in the back, so their strategy of moving all the factories far from the front wouldn’t have worked as well. The Axis might have even been able to seize a lot of the oil fields in Russia.

            Japanese intervention would certainly have complicated things for the russians, it definitely wouldn’t have been good, but I’m not sure it would have been decisive. factories moved beyond the urals were closer to japan, but not exactly close. even today there’s not a lot of people out in eastern russia. The japanese would have had to travel hundreds, maybe thousands of miles in very inhospitable country to take anything vital, and we know that even second rate russian divisions could smack around the best of the japanese army with relative ease. Maybe there were vital raw materials coming from out there, I can’t be certain, but the japanese would have had a very hard time against even limited soviet resistance.

            @Machine Interface says:

            In Europe, my impression is that, certainly the US intervention in WW2 had an effect, in the sense that it likely allowed the war to end sooner and prevented a few additional countries to fall to the Soviets.

            See my comment upthread about the enormity of the difference in productive capacity between even the UK and the US, to say nothing of russia and germany. The soviets just barely held on even with massive infusions of US aid. Without direct involvement, you have much less of that, and you don’t have most of the bomber offensive. Defending against that consumed a staggering share of german productive capacity. By 1944, it’s consuming most of german artillery production, 1/3 of total ammunition production, and virtually the entire luftwaffe. Every gun or plane shooting at allied bombers was one not shooting at the russians, and that makes a huge difference to their ability to fight.

          • John Schilling says:

            That’s the first time I ever hear the claim that an Axis victory against Russia was possible, Japanese help or not.

            I thought you were hearing that claim repeatedly from “ignorant’ Americans, and arguing against it?

            But here’s making it explicit: An Axis victory against Russia was possible. Without American help, an Axis victory against Russia was nearly inevitable. Aside from the extra concentration of German resources that would have been available without the US & UK maintaining a second front, there was the matter that Russian armies were incapable of mounting mechanized offensives without US assistance. Most of Russia’s supply trucks, were built in Detroit. Most of their railroad locomotives were Made in the USA. Most of their cartridge brass and most of their high-octane aviation fuel, particularly in 1942-1943, came from the US. And it all came on US ships and planes, and it came free of charge.

            The Russians evacuated enough of their factories to keep their army in T-34s and Mosins and MiGs, but as they say, amateurs study tactics, dilettantes study strategy, professionals study logistics. Without US logistical support, Russia’s armies would have been limited to the strategic defensive; everything they lose, they lose forever, everything they win with their tactically superior weapons, Germany gets another shot at. And Japan, once they realize it’s safe to get some payback for 1939.

          • Lillian says:

            The best case scenario for the Soviet Union without American aid is they manage to push the Germans back to Poland and then the war just grinds to a complete halt. The Soviets lack the logistic capability to push much past the Polish border, let alone into Germany, and the Germans lack the materiel and manpower to really defeat the Soviet Union. Most likely after a few years of indecisive fighting they quietly come to an armistice and then both sides officially declare victory. Hitler can say he secured the lebensraum he promised and kept it safe from the Slavic hordes. Stalin can say he preserved the Motherland from the fascists. However there would very likely be a Round 3 fight a decade or two later.

          • Nootropic cormorant says:

            Lend Lease logistics were very helpful to the war cause, but most of them only arrived in late 1943 or so and made up only a third or so of Soviet trucks.

          • John Schilling says:

            Most of everything, in every theatre, arrived in late 1943 or after. But as for lend-lease making up only a third of Soviet trucks, citation definitely needed.

        • pontifex says:

          The portrayal of the ealy settlers as good people fleeing religious persecutions in order to build a new utopian society of freedom, when in fact many of them were authoritarian religious fanatics even by the standards of their time.

          US history textbooks are pretty open about the fact that a lot of the early settlers were “authoritarian religious fanatics,” although they may not phrase it quite that way. Who are these people, who haven’t heard of the Puritans? Probably not people who grew up in the US, I bet.

          The idea that British settlers mostly arrived on virgin lang and built a society where there was nothing, as the hunter-gatherer natives had not done anything with the land, when in fact they were often appropriating cultivated farmland of tribes that had developped an agricultural civilization.

          The population density of the native americans was extremely low compared to what came after. Disease lowered this already low population. It’s not an exaggeration to say that someone coming from Europe would have found the Americas empty looking during this time period.

          The emphasis on “taxation without representation” as the main motive of the American revolution, with much less discussion of the Crown curtailing the colonists’ desire for westward expansion and conquest (Royal Proclamation of 1763) and of the ambiguous role of slavery in the revolution.

          I can agree with this somewhat.

          The tendency to strongly understate multilingualism (and to an extent mutli-ethnism) in 19th century America, pushing the narrative that English has always been the traditional, universal, dominant language.

          English was always the traditional, universal, dominant language in the US in the 1800s. There were a lot of Germans, Italians, etc. who immigrated during this time period but German, Italian, etc. were never universal or dominant. English was.

          A general revisionist narrative toward everything that ressembles socialism, that overstates the usefulness and opportunity of American interventions in various Latin American countries, and tends to erase the entire history of the labor movement in the US.

          Actually, I see the exact opposite in California. People believe that every time a sparrow falls in Latin America, it’s because of an evil US plan. To be fair, the US did make a bunch of questionable interventions there in the past (cough, United Fruit, cough).

  18. well... says:

    I’d logged out for a while and then tried to log back in today. I was weirded out because at first my password didn’t work, then I tried the reset password option and was told my email address wasn’t registered to an account. This was really baffling until I noticed I was logging in at WordPress.org rather than WordPress.com. I know I have a wordpress.com account, but apparently I didn’t have a wordpress.org one, my .com one didn’t transfer over, and so I had to create a new one, which feels like a duplication of effort, needlessly expanding my online footprint.

    Anyway, I’m mainly curious why I’m having this issue now when I’ve never had it before, and whether anyone else experienced the same thing.

  19. johan_larson says:

    TIL there are Pacific hurricanes. As it turns out, cyclonic weather systems can happen in both the eastern and western Pacific Ocean. Those in the western part are called typhoons and those in the eastern part are called hurricanes, just like the ones in the Atlantic. (I used to think all such weather systems in the Pacific were called typhoons, but that’s not right, as it turns out.)

    Pacific hurricanes don’t get much coverage in North America, because they typically stay at sea. Occasionally one makes landfall in Mexico or hits Hawaii.

    Here are the storm tracks of the 2015 crop of Pacific hurricanes:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_Pacific_hurricane_season#/media/File:2015_Pacific_hurricane_season_summary_map.png

  20. Nornagest says:

    I’ve been reading an archive of the Something Awful “FATAL and Friends” thread on bad or obscure tabletop roleplaying games, and while there’s some good criticism there, there’s a Puritan tone throughout that I found very striking.

    The last significant time I spent hanging out with SA goons was in the mid-2000s, and the culture seemed very different then. Do we have any current or former goons here? If so, what happened?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Sorry, can’t speak from experience; I’ve never been a goon, being unwilling to pay $10-20 for the entertainment a forum provides. I do find “FATAL and Friends” reviews entertaining, though. Have you followed the RIFTS reviews by what seems to be a dude born around 1980 (he’s constantly comparing the fictional tech to action figure vehicles)?
      My outside impression of what happened is that “Lowtax” started out as a libertarian trying to do for-profit forum hosting, then there was an election cycle where a bunch of Republicans bet their accounts on Obama losing and SJW became all the mods? This would have to have been before they starting demonizing Reddit and TVTropes for not banning conservative speech…

      • Nornagest says:

        No, I haven’t gotten to that yet. There’s a lot of material there.

        IME the most entertaining reviews there are the ones where the reviewer basically likes the product but it has some serious flaws (like the one for Dark Sun), and the worst are the ones where the reviewer has an obvious grudge against the product and takes every cheap shot he can (like the one for Pathfinder). The ones where the product really is just terrible (e.g. for Werewolf’s Children of Gaia Clanbook) are initially fun to read but I can only handle them in small doses.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          No, I haven’t gotten to that yet. There’s a lot of material there.

          There is. Thanks for that rule of thumb… I’ll go read the Dark Sun one. 🙂

          • Nornagest says:

            Just read some of the Rifts reviews. Holy hell there are a lot of these — and that setting looks very Nineties indeed.

            Also read the Runequest review, and I might need to find a copy of this game now.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            See, what happened is that Palladium started as an AD&D heartbreaker published in 1983. A couple years later the head of the company, Kevin Symbiote or whatever his name is, got the license to Robotech, the clusterbomb dub of Macross and some other mecha anime.
            Since he used a variant of his AD&D heartbreaker for a Japanese-style SF game (!), the idea occurred at the beginning of the Nineties that they could be combined into the ultimate Kitchen Sink setting, in which humanity developed anime SF tech before a nuclear war turned everything Mad Max and simultaneously turned the ley lines into dimensional rifts for millions of fantasy creatures to pour through.
            They’re still, in the Year of Our Lord 2018, publishing setting books for this Mad Macross With Magi world under the same dated rules.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Also read the Runequest review, and I might need to find a copy of this game now.

            I think you kind of have to if you grok the Mircea Eliade stuff and enjoyed King of Dragon Pass.

            Taboos are another d100 random chart of things that may or may not matter, ranging from Never eat Bear Meat to middling stuff like Make a Pilgrimage to a place on the Spirit Plane every year or big pains in the ass like Never Lie, wear clothes

          • Plumber says:

            ” ..read the Runequest review, and I might need to find a copy of this game now”

            @Nornagest,

            I played the 1978 rules version ofbRuneQuest and it was pretty damn AWESOME!!!

            The subsequent versions I’ve seen look mighty fine to me as well.

            Here’s a PDF sample of the latest rules.

          • Lillian says:

            They’re still, in the Year of Our Lord 2018, publishing setting books for this Mad Macross With Magi world under the same dated rules.

            The funniest part about the Rifts ruleset is that Kevin Siembieda insists they are the most perfect set of rules ever devised and as such require no revision, yet at the same time doesn’t actually use them in his own games, instead preferring a heavily cut-down and house-ruled version. One of my friends is a huge Rifts fan and he wasn’t surprised by this. He holds that nobody in the entire history of humanity as ever played Rifts with the rules as written. It can’t be done.

            Fortunately Rifts was recently ported to another system! Unfortunately that system is Savage Worlds which is… divisive. It works though! It’s even kind of balanced! This is much more than can be said of the original system. The main issue i’ve got that isn’t a general complaint about Savage Worlds is that they really fucked up the Juicers. In Rifts it takes years of constant roid rage for a Juicer to burn out, in Savage Rifts it can happen within a few sessions, which basically makes them unplayable except as guest characters.

      • Nornagest says:

        It might have something to do with the SA/4Chan split. My imperfect understanding is that 4Chan launched in mid-2003 as an SA spinoff but took a while to get going, after which the two boards differentiated in a very Eagles-and-Rattlers kind of way. The first I remember hearing much of 4Chan in the wild would have been in 2005 or 2006, which is about when I lost touch with most of my goon friends.

    • Nick says:

      I only found FATAL and Friends recently, when my RPG group was trying out a JRPG called Double Cross. The reviews were really helpful, especially since I didn’t have access to the book and our GM is (sorry to say) pretty bad at explaining the setting. I don’t recall a Puritan tone in the reviews—do you mean Puritan as in actually puritanical, or as in SJW-puritanism, or something else entirely?

      • Nornagest says:

        It’s definitely a postmodern identity politics kind of puritanism, but I don’t want to say SJW because I didn’t get the sense that the authors (most of them, anyway) are actively pushing an agenda. It’s more like they feel the need to do ritual denunciations when certain topics are broached. Sexuality, for example, or anything that could be construed as culturally insensitive. Or, interestingly, Great Man narratives of history.

        That’s unusual. I’m used to seeing rants about how such-and-such is problematic and terrible, and I’m used to seeing discussions that just don’t bring up the problematic bits, and I’m even used to talking those bits up so that you can be kewl and edgy, but I’m not used to seeing this sort of approach.

        • AG says:

          @Nornagest:
          That kind of approach is what happens when you have people who are immersed in the motte of SJ (and rarely confronted with the baileys), true believers. They sincerely believe in the concepts in a relatively good faith way, and in that mindset, those elements do really become FedEx Arrows that bother them in their media. To them, those elements aren’t just moral issues, but become part of what makes for more or less effective storytelling, better or worse writing. So of course it’s something that “should” be addressed in a review, and they don’t see themselves as advancing an agenda, either.

          An equivalent thing would be how charitability is a common standard by which SSC and Rattumb often evaluate online articles. They don’t necessarily set out to advance the Charitable Agenda, it genuinely bothers them if writing gets uncharitable, with the perception that the uncharitability often then hurts the article’s own writing/arguments.

          • dndnrsn says:

            C’mon, there’s plenty of groups you can comfortably be uncharitable to here. It’s better here than the average, but there are definitely groups here that someone can hang up a “boo” sign and people will come and boo and pat each other on the back for booing.

          • Nornagest says:

            I would rather this thread not turn into yet another iteration of the Ideological Bias In SSC Fight.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Good point. Nothing to see here, folks.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          That’s unusual. I’m used to seeing rants about how such-and-such is problematic and terrible, and I’m used to seeing discussions that just don’t bring up the problematic bits, and I’m even used to talking those bits up so that you can be kewl and edgy, but I’m not used to seeing this sort of approach.

          Really? Progressive puritanism (Quakerism?) seems a common part of any old-thing fandom to me. I’ve read people explicitly say that it’s OK to enjoy Lovecraft so long as you recognize his problematic parts (by making ritual denunciations).
          Great Man theory is anathema to Marxists, so that’s only interesting as showing the continuing role of Marxism in contemporary educated middle class culture, like the invocation “late capitalism.”

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            As someone who’s pretty far into the niche field of Lovecraft Discourse, as is unavoidable when you’re as much of a fan as I am, I think you’re at least partially misinterpreting “it’s ok to read Lovecraft as long as you don’t delude yourself about his problematic parts.” There are a startling number of people who do this.

            Especially in the last few years (since the WFA was changed, roughly) it’s become a bit passé to bring up his racism unprompted, and most people will probably judge you tiresome if you bring it up randomly.

            E: as Nornagest says, there’s also a lot of “I can’t even.” I’m talking about people who *are* fans.

          • Nornagest says:

            I gotta admit here that I’m not very linked into the Lovecraft fandom, as such. I’m into the history of horror and SF, so I’ve read Lovecraft himself and most of his circle, and I’ve also read a few professionally published contemporary Mythos stories, and I’ve written a bit of Mythos-adjacent stuff. But I don’t follow Lovecraft criticism, or belong to any fan communities, or particularly seek out Mythos fanfic.

            That said, though, the take I see the most is something along the lines of “Lovecraft and his racism can’t be disentangled, so I can’t enjoy him”, which I’d say falls under “rant re: problematic” more than “ritual denunciation before getting on with it”.

            (I have noticed that those professionally published stories have taken a sharp turn for the revisionist in the last few years, though.)

          • Nootropic cormorant says:

            The most common approach that I spot in the wild (including on here) is denial that there is anything intrinsically racist about Lovecraft’s fiction.

          • Nornagest says:

            The most common approach that I spot in the wild (including on here) is denial that there is anything intrinsically racist about Lovecraft’s fiction.

            I get the feeling you’re picking a fight, but whatever. Aside from “The Horror at Red Hook” and maybe a couple of others, that’s a bullet I’m willing to bite.

            It’s also a fundamentally different statement, though. You might for example be aware of Lovecraft’s historical views and, if you’re the type of person who thinks about this stuff all the time, be unable to read The Shadow Over Innsmouth as anything other than a fable about miscegenation. Disappointing, but fine. It’s even fairly likely that he intended it as one to some extent, although if it were a straightforward screed it wouldn’t have the last sentence it has. But that doesn’t make it inherently racist as long as valid alternative readings exist. It’s a book, it doesn’t have agency. To be inherently anything it pretty much has to say it outright.

          • Nootropic cormorant says:

            @Nornagest, between his emphasis on biology, view on civilization and general approach to alien and unknown, denying racism in Lovecraft’s work is like trying to deny its atheism to me.

            I don’t care either way, everyone’s free to do alternative readings, but I can’t help but sneer a bit as I would at Christians covering pagan statues with fig leaves.

            Another point I see a lot is that he is only racist compared to our modern sensibilities, and that his racism is merely a reflection of his environment. He literally defended the Nazi party (although decrying its barbaric methods), which I doubt was anywhere close to median political opinion in 30s America.

        • Nick says:

          Can you point to a particular review? I have an idea what you’re talking about (I think I’ve seen similar on spacebattles), but I’d like an example.

          • Nornagest says:

            It was less something I saw in any particular review, and more a general tendency I started noticing after reading a lot of them. I could dig through them looking for a particularly Puritan one, I guess, but I’m at work.

            (Anything with the “this game is super gross” disclaimer on top might be a good place to start looking, though. But look out, because some of them really are, uh, somewhat disturbing.)

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I mean, when it comes to Lovecraft specifically I have vague memories of it being said over and over again during the Tor.com “girl cooties” reviews of his corpus.
            This “I know it’s problematic but we should be allowed to like it once we state our political bona fides.” talk is actually semi-libertine. To be really puritan, you’d say “novels are bad” or “fantasy is politically suspect, read some HG Wells”, full stop.

    • BBA says:

      Not a goon, but I’ve noticed a reversal (at least in internet culture) in the early 2010s. It used to be the right was puritanical and the left was libertine, now it’s the other way around.

      At least that’s how it felt. It could just be that almost everyone is puritanical, it just took the left-wing puritans a while to make their presence felt online, while the religious right (as puritanical as ever) went from outgroup to fargroup. And of course the left-right dimension started mattering a hell of a lot more.

      Anyway, SA was essentially left-wing, so they went puritan. 4chan was essentially libertine, so they went right-wing. So it goes.

      • BBA says:

        To add: I’m thinking back specifically to the ’80s fights over music censorship, Tipper Gore vs Frank Zappa. Gore, of course, was a Democrat, while Zappa was a political nihilist which these days gets coded as right-wing (e.g. South Park). In the wake of Kavanaugh our cultural betters have denounced movies like “Animal House” as fundamentally right-wing and oppressive. (And they have a point, but…) I have no doubt that, if the PMRC existed today, they’d be totally behind it, though with a different rationale for censorship.

        I’d mention the particularly absurd incident of an instrumental Zappa album getting an “explicit content” warning label for the title of one of its tracks, but this appears to be an urban legend. I find it believable that the warning label would be applied purely because of the censors’ personal dislike of Zappa with the track title as a pretext.

        • albatross11 says:

          An op-ed in the New York Times.

          The right has plenty of unsavory characters and nutcases providing votes and support right now–they were always there, and Trump has brought them out of the woodwork. But there is a faction of people with genuinely awful ideas and beliefs that are at the top of the cultural pyramid in the US left, and they fairly often get published in top media organs like the NYT and Washington Post. (Overwhelmingly, an equivalent article from the right could be written by making a few word changes, but would be unpublishable in any mainstream media organ in the US. For good reason.)

          • BBA says:

            Was this reply supposed to go somewhere else?

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Just to be clear — this is your take on the “Jews will not replace us” analogue for the left?

          • albatross11 says:

            Ilya:

            I’m not claiming an equivalence between the two.

            I *am* pointing out that this is pretty awful and is getting a spot on the NYT op-ed page. I think something comparably awful (say, about how single white women were traitors to their race for not supporting the Republicans) would never be published there, and if it somehow were published, it would lead to several people at the NYT getting sacked for letting it appear.

            The worst/craziest people on the right show up at rallies and are locally scary if you happen to be in their path, but they’re not anywhere close to the top of the cultural pyramid. They aren’t professors, they don’t get op-ed spots in the top newspapers, etc. The closest they come is that maybe someone on Fox will say a kind word about them.

            My sense is that the people with actual political power on the right are more likely to be nuts, but that the people with cultural power on the left are more likely to be nuts.

          • Brad says:

            I’d think guest on Fox News is equivalent to op-ed in the NYTimes (and wouldn’t say either represents the top of the pyramid.)

            Do you think that no one out as far on the right has been a guest on Hannity or whatever?

          • albatross11 says:

            I don’t know–I don’t watch any TV news except when I’m stuck somewhere with a TV turned to Fox/CNN/MSNBC/etc. This is the second time I’ve linked to op-eds in top-tier newspapers[1] pushing what seem to me to be crazy-fringe identity-politics ideas from the left.

            [1] I’d say NYT, Washington Post, and WSJ are the top three newspapers in the US, with WSJ broadly on the right in a very establishment/pro-market way. In some sense, I’d say the NYT is the voice of the establishment–at least, this is more true of the NYT than of any other media organ.

            When something appears in the editorial or op-ed pages of any of those top newspapers, it seems like it’s an idea that’s getting a serious hearing at the top. Now, I don’t read every one of those op eds, so maybe there’s extreme right-wing stuff there I’m missing. Maybe someone can point to a link?

          • albatross11 says:

            Maybe it’s worth talking about the content of those ideas, rather than trying to argue over whose team has to take responsibility for each crazy person and how much responsibility they bear.

            There’s a common thread, when anyone complains about the extreme end of left-wing identity politics, that we’re cherry picking the crazies, they have no power off the campus of Berkeley, etc. Here’s an example of some terrible ideas being given a serious hearing in the nation’s top newspaper. It’s hard to claim an idea isn’t at least somewhere within shouting distance of mainstream when it appears on the pages of the New York Times.

            I think concepts like “traitor to your gender” or “traitor to your race” are moral obscenities. Nobody owes you their political support because of their race, religion, gender, sexual preference, ethnic origin, etc. Especially, nobody owes you their support on an ambiguous question of fact where everyone has loaded the question up with appeals to gender/race/religion/sexual orientation/whatever.

            Similarly, collective guilt for a whole race/gender/religion/sexual orientation/etc., is a moral obscenity. Trying to do justice at the level of these huge groups requires violating any notion of individual justice.

            There’s a whole ideology (or maybe set of linked ideologies) based on these utterly broken ways of thinking about morality. We should be pushing back on them.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          I’d mention the particularly absurd incident of an instrumental Zappa album getting an “explicit content” warning label for the title of one of its tracks, but this appears to be an urban legend. I find it believable that the warning label would be applied purely because of the censors’ personal dislike of Zappa with the track title as a pretext.

          It is widely reported and apparently false that the RIAA gave the 1986 album Jazz from Hell a national Parental Advisory sticker. It is more likely that Zappa chose the name “G-Spot tornado” to protest the stickers, continuing his 1985 testimony. But there is another claim that a particular chain gave it a sticker, with citation to a 2002 book.

          It is true that a PMRC husband took official action against Zappa in another context, blocking his appointment to the Czechoslovak government.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m a pretty huge and hardcore Zappa fan and I’ve never before heard it disputed that Jazz From Hell did, in fact, receive the parental advisory sticker.

    • ilikekittycat says:

      A Dutch lady “Icequeen” was made a moderator of the general bullshit main forum. A guy in Texas posted a pig holocaust thread about spearing a throng of feral hogs and then using their corpses to spell out things, etc. The goons thought it was funny but the moderator thought it was atrocious and so she got rid of it and there was this huge dramatic backlash in like 2006 against the “catladies” (what would now be called SJW) on the forum. What would now be called red pill/alt right/Anthony Cumia shock comedy right people left to start their own forum called “Something Awful Sycophant Squad” (eventually breaking up into The New Effort and My Posting Career.) The original goons (whose median has now been moved well left of center because of the population loss) were shocked that people that far right had been hiding their power levels the whole time and posting amongst them that people decided they need to catch this before it happened again, and there was a subforum opened up called “Helldump.” On Helldump people would go through a person’s post history to mock them and make the best case that they were the sort of people that were ruining somethingawful. It didn’t last long because of how cruel it obviously ended up becoming (this is where “dox”/”doxing” became common nomenclature.) After that most people started to post like their posts would potentially be what they had to defend in some future inquisition

      You may or may not have seen this post in the past. Jeb Lund was one of the main helldumpers and it’s a reflection on that whole affair

  21. ManyCookies says:

    Suppose you have some criminal law and you’re trying to figure out how much discretion to give your police on enforcement. The consequences of giving too little discretion have been explored to death. But giving too much discretion often results in the police only enforcing the law against people/groups they don’t like or can extort from, the classic example of the latter being the Safety Triangle Laws in some Latin American countries.

    Is there a particular name for this discretion tradeoff?

    • Brad says:

      I don’t know of a name, but an analogous problem is exactly why the federal sentencing guidelines were passed. Before them how many years a criminal spent in prison was largely down to which judge he drew out of the hopper.

      Naturally there was a backlash to the backlash …

  22. Mark V Anderson says:

    I never had time to read the Kavanaugh discussion in the .25 thread, so I hope I am not being redundant here.

    I want to push back a bit on the concept that a judge must have exemplary character. Why is it even important if the judge has committed crimes in the past, sexual or otherwise? I don’t see why this is necessary to make good legal decisions. I think a good judge will have the two following characteristics:
    1) Have a a very good legal mind to be able to synthesize the evidence and previous cases, and write a coherent explanation for his decision.
    2) Sincerely wants to enhance the legal process with good decisions, instead of making decisions for personal or partisan benefit.

    Yes, #2 is clearly about character, but is a pretty narrow aspect of character, and I don’t think it correlates with those who commit crime. Yes, we want to avoid judges that have taken bribes as public officials, but otherwise, I don’t see why the character issue even arises when vetting judges. I don’t have high confidence that looking for a lack of integrity in judges is worth doing, but I am confident that far more effort is made on this than should be.

    • Nicholas Weininger says:

      It’s worth unpacking the very broad category of “crimes” here and talking about specific crimes.

      1. Willingness to commit perjury, and thus undermine the truth-discovery function of the legal process as well as break the law for personal benefit, is probably correlated with putting personal benefit over the legal process in making judicial decisions. If you don’t think that correlation exists, I’d be interested in what evidence you have against it.

      2. Committing a crime that indicates depraved disregard for the rights of a particular class of people at least plausibly correlates with being biased against that class in judicial decisions. In the present controversy, for example, it’s reasonable (again if you really think otherwise please show evidence) to think that someone who has shown such disregard for women as to repeatedly sexually assault them would be a poor judge in cases involving women’s rights. Similarly, a racist hate crime would cast doubt on the judge’s ability to be fair to members of the racial group targeted.

      So whether or not you believe Kavanaugh did, or probably did, perjure himself and/or commit sexual assault, these are reasons why you might believe that *if* he did those things that should disqualify him. Shoplifting or drunk driving, for example, would probably not be disqualifying for these reasons, though lying about one’s record of doing those things might be.

      • That would be a legitimate argument if the charge was of repeated sexual assaults, but I don’t think that whether a drunk high school boy unsuccessfully assaulted a drunk high school girl says much about what the adult, some decades later, feels about women.

        The perjury claim, on the other hand, is current. I remember during an earlier Supreme Court conflict a comment by a legal professional, either a law professor or a judge or both (it was long enough ago that I no longer remember who), to the effect that if it turned out a candidate was an axe murderer that might be a problem, but he was a perjurer that settled the matter–he was out. Legal folk take perjury very seriously.

        • albatross11 says:

          IANAL, but that’s basically my take, too. If K committed this sexual assault as a teenager, that’s very bad, but it’s not clear to me it would disqualify him from being a judge. If he perjured himself to avoid losing the supreme court position, though, that would seem pretty unambiguously disqualifying, to me. Being evasive, belligerent, or deceptive in hostile questioning doesn’t seem nearly so important.

          The problem with the whole discussion is that most of the people with a loud public voice already knew that they were for or against him without knowing anything but his party affiliation. So when people who were always against him now come up with a new reason (“his testimony was too belligerent and emotional; a judge should be calm and measured”), my inclination is to read that as an example of arguments-as-soldiers. If he’d been calm and even-toned, they’d find a way to claim that this was a reason for him not to be confirmed, because their fundamental goal is to keep someone from the other party from getting confirmed.

          On the other hand, when people change their opinion of whether he’d make a good judge based on that, this seems like it might be evidence of something important. Ben Wittes did, in an article I linked to in an earlier thread.

          And the issue there is one I see coming up a lot in the K confirmation battle: If the way to sink a nomination for the SC is to spread so many horrible lies and smears about someone that they lose their temper in public, then we will see a lot of attempts to spread horrible lies and smears about every SC nominee in public, because the people behind these battles care about very little as much as they care about winning. Similarly, if unfalsifiable accusations of sexual assault from the past are the superweapon that can derail a nominee, then we should expect to see them used a lot in the future.

          Both of those stand to make every SC nomination battle really awful, and to convince lots of top-tier judges that they don’t want to put themselves and their families through that wringer. It will also end with lots of people on the court with a deep and abiding grudge against the other party. One that exists for absolutely good reasons, but that may still warp justice.

          • Nick says:

            So when people who were always against him now come up with a new reason (“his testimony was too belligerent and emotional; a judge should be calm and measured”), my inclination is to read that as an example of arguments-as-soldiers.

            I’m ambivalent about this. In theory if we’re getting nowhere on the sexual assault allegations we should be able to look at a less controverted allegation like perjury, right? Unfortunately, while I agree his answers were lawyerly and evasive, I haven’t been convinced by any of the perjury claims. Most of them have just come across as terrible motivated reasoning, like “a similar slang term was used by other people at another place at another time and meant threesomes, therefore he’s probably lying.”

          • Deiseach says:

            In theory if we’re getting nowhere on the sexual assault allegations we should be able to look at a less controverted allegation like perjury, right?

            Not when the original charge was “this man is an unconvicted sexual assailant, we are going after him for attempted rape, this is not a political manoeuvre”. If they can’t make those charges stick, then “okay let’s see if we can get him on perjury” makes it (a) the original charge was not about rape, it was about being a political maneouvre (b) it’s a bit “if we can’t get him on arson, let’s see if we can get him on jaywalking”.

            I don’t think it’s the same as “We can’t get Capone for being a mobster, so let’s get him for tax evasion” since the whole scenario was “We know and have credible evidence hedunnit” or at least that was the excuse for this: we’ve been given an accusation that we think is real and reliable. If that charge blows up in your face, you don’t get a second bite at the cherry with “Oh yeah and he’s also a perjurer!” If perjury is your concern, that should have been part of the charges from the start. What if the perjury charges are disproven – are they going to try “We have reason to believe he did not sort out clean dry recyclables from his rubbish collection”?

            As a side note, can anyone confirm/deny for me that Lawyer Avenatti is thinking of a run for the presidency? Just when I thought this whole drama couldn’t get more overwrought…

          • Nick says:

            If perjury is your concern, that should have been part of the charges from the start.

            Some folks actually do think he perjured himself before the hearing, back when the senators were quizzing him for fitness. Remember HeelBearCub talking about the White House aide and stolen documents for federal judge confirmations during the Bush era? Anyway, the new perjury allegations were all from stuff he said in the recent hearing, so that’s why those weren’t coming up until afterwards.

            What if the perjury charges are disproven – are they going to try “We have reason to believe he did not sort out clean dry recyclables from his rubbish collection”?

            Well, when the perjury charges didn’t work, plenty of people started using the judicial temperament argument! Again, though, I think there’s a lot of motivated reasoning going around, but I don’t think everyone’s arguing in bad faith. If I were trying to convince a liberal that Bill Clinton ought to be impeached, I might start with the original allegations, and then move to the perjury allegations if I’m getting nowhere. It’s a good strategy—it’s just that a good strategy won’t save a bad argument.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            If they can’t make those charges stick, then “okay let’s see if we can get him on perjury” makes it (a) the original charge was not about rape, it was about being a political maneouvre (b) it’s a bit “if we can’t get him on arson, let’s see if we can get him on jaywalking”.

            This isn’t quite right: if he’s perjuring himself on matters related to the rape charge it should count against his credibility–his denials ought to be weighted less. This is not to argue that his claims actually count as perjury, or whatever–just that, conditional on the belief that he lied about his drinking and his yearbook and whatever else, that should impact our belief on his credibility when denying the charges.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Thing is, the claims that he lied about the yearbook and his drinking aren’t based on much more than eye-rolling. The term “boofing” has been confirmed to be slang for “farting”, others have testified to “Devil’s Triangle” being a drinking game (and another person’s yearbook entry claims they came up with the name, so the Urban Dictionary meaning seems unlikely). He didn’t said he never drank to excess; quite the contrary. He said he never blacked out, which has not been refuted.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Like I say, I really don’t want to get into the details, I’m just defending the weaker point that the perjury claims are not unrelated to the sexual assault charge.

            However, your list is not exhaustive: it ignores the “Renate alumnus” claim, his interpretation of “Beach Week Ralph Club”, and his evasion of the issue as to whether he is Bart O’Kavanaugh (reported to be puking into a car during Beach Week–the kind of thing a member of Beach Week Ralph Club might do).

            The latter two he never actually denied, so of course have nothing to do with perjury, but if he was being evasive and misleading with his answers, I think that still speaks to his credibility.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Kavanaugh claims “Beach Week Ralph Club” refers to him throwing up. “Ralphing” is well-known onomatopoeic slang for throwing up, so that makes perfect sense. He also claims to have a weak stomach “whether it’s with beer or with spicy food or anything”. He’s certainly downplaying the idea that it’s because he was drinking too much, but he doesn’t deny it.

            his evasion of the issue as to whether he is Bart O’Kavanaugh (reported to be puking into a car during Beach Week–the kind of thing a member of Beach Week Ralph Club might do).

            His “evasion” was “You’d have to ask Mark”. Obviously Bart O’Kavanaugh is based on Brett Kavanaugh, but if Brett had said he “was” Bart, he’d be signing up for everything Judge said about Bart, including stuff that was exaggerated or otherwise fictionalized to make a better story. If the Senators wanted to know about specific incidents they should have asked. Objecting to a him being lawyerly and avoiding stepping into rhetorical traps laid for him is unreasonable.

          • Deiseach says:

            This is not to argue that his claims actually count as perjury, or whatever–just that, conditional on the belief that he lied about his drinking and his yearbook and whatever else, that should impact our belief on his credibility when denying the charges.

            Well, you can drink to the point of throwing up without that being the point of passing out or blackout drunk, so I don’t think we should take that as lying about his drinking. That he should be a bit evasive about what he did when he was young and foolish is natural, particularly when it was plain the line of questioning was intended to manoeuvre him into admitting yeah, he’d gotten so drunk he passed out once or twice before, when the immediate follow-up there would have been “Aha! So you can’t be sure that you didn’t commit this assault in your drunken, blacked-out state!”

            The idea that we’re all supposed to be shocked, simply shocked, at the idea of late teenage/early adult guys getting so drunk they throw up (and boasting about how hard-drinking they are and how drunk they got last weekend) is rather ludicrous, although maybe American attitudes to drinking really are that different.

            I don’t think he lied about the yearbook – all the “But Urban Dictionary assures me this slang term means something quite different!” isn’t convincing to me. I was a teenager/young adult through the 80s, slang terms evolve over time and what is used in one area in one context can mean something completely different elsewhere. As for the multiple Fs meaning one particular sexual term – insert eyerolling here. I always heard it as only three Fs – “find ’em, fuck ’em and flee”, this five F term seems a bit extraneous.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I agree with you that he didn’t deny:

            The latter two he never actually denied, so of course have nothing to do with perjury

            and I agree that better questioning could have tried to force him into a direct statement or a lie, but I don’t think that negates the point that, to whatever extent you think he was evading the question and refusing to answer point blank, that should affect your judgment of his credibility. It also still ignores the “Renate alumnus” claim, which he did answer directly (I think?)

            @Deiseach

            Please read my original post: “conditional on the belief that he lied about his drinking and his yearbook and whatever else, that should impact our belief on his credibility when denying the charges.”

            In other words, his truthfulness on the issue of drinking is germane to the sexual assault allegation, and nothing you’ve said argues against that.

            However much he may not want to address his drinking, the fact is, the accusations against him involve drunken behaviour, and so whether or not he drank heavily at that time is relevant. He claims not to even know Ford; if she accurately characterized his drinking anyway, that’s relevant.
            Similarly, Ford’s fear of flying claims are relevant to her credibility: the reason it was reasonable to investigate Ford’s flying history, and her trips to Polynesia or whatever, isn’t because we’re supposed to be shocked at her high-flying lifestyle, it’s because it bears directly on a claim she made that she’s scared of flying, and we we can use that to assess her credibility.

          • The Nybbler says:

            to whatever extent you think he was evading the question and refusing to answer point blank, that should affect your judgment of his credibility.

            No, I don’t think people lose credibility when they attempt to avoid rhetorical traps. If someone evades a simple question, that’s one thing. But evading a complex question is a different matter.

            It also still ignores the “Renate alumnus” claim, which he did answer directly (I think?)

            The meaning of “Renate alumnus” is unknown, so there’s no basis for a perjury charge there. Everyone agrees he didn’t have sex with her, which seems to be what people claim it means.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            No, I don’t think people lose credibility when they attempt to avoid rhetorical traps.

            Yes, but if you disagree with that characterization of the questions, then it does affect his credibility.

            Again, consider the analogy with the questions to Ford about fear of flying. Would you characterize questions about her vacations as “rhetorical traps”? Or are they meaningful (though obviously politically motivated questions) about how she can reconcile current statements with past behaviour, to determine her propensity to tell the truth?

            The meaning of “Renate alumnus” is unknown, so there’s no basis for a perjury charge there. Everyone agrees he didn’t have sex with her, which seems to be what people claim it means.

            Of course there’s no basis for an actual perjury charge, but there’s basis to believe he’s lying, which again should affect your judgment of his credibility.
            And I don’t think the argument is that he had sex with her; it’s that he was pretending as if he had had sex (or, at least some kind of sexual interaction) with her.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Yes, but if you disagree with that characterization of the questions, then it does affect his credibility.

            No, you have to think that the person answering the questions is characterizing the questions in a certain way.

          • onyomi says:

            No, I don’t think people lose credibility when they attempt to avoid rhetorical traps.

            I think I may be willing to bite an even bigger bullet and say that I don’t much fault people for lying when they know an honest answer will harm them due to the vagaries of our current political-media landscape even though, in a fairer world, it would not.*

            For example, imagine if Kavanaugh’s first response to the Ford allegations had been something like the following:

            Uhmm… well, honestly you’re talking about a really long time ago. I don’t remember this lady’s face or name. We did drink a lot back then and I definitely fondled a few girls at various gatherings, but I’m pretty sure they were all into it at the time? And yeah, we passed out a few times, so I can’t rule out I did something I didn’t remember the next day, but like, ask my friends: I wasn’t that kind of guy: I’ve always been very respectful of women! Hell my wife and I didn’t even do it till after we were engaged and she was only the 2nd women I ever went all the way with after that one time with the hooker… but like, I’ve been a really responsible husband and dad for the past twenty years plus, so I really don’t think this should affect anyone’s opinion of my qualifications to be on the SCOTUS after so long, even if I did actually cause this woman trauma, for which I’m very sorry, by the way…

            I don’t know if the truth is closer to the above than what Kavanaugh said, but if the above were the truth, I don’t think it should affect peoples’ appraisal of his suitability to serve on the SCOTUS. But we all know it would: even before this whole thing came out there was extreme opposition to Kavanaugh. No Democrats could be counted to vote for him so they’d only need to peel off a couple Republicans uncomfortable with the optics of the above and Kavanaugh’d be done.

            And what kind of ammunition would he be handing his opponents with such a statement? Ammunition against not only Kavanaugh but anyone who supported him, including the President. Being so honest would not only lose him his chance at the SCOTUS it would earn him the justified enmity of many of his former political friends and allies for handing their opponents such a gift.

            If we were living in a reality where this kind of honesty wouldn’t be politically devastating then I think one could fault Kavanaugh for being deceptive (assuming evidence of deception); but given that we aren’t, I’m not only not inclined to fault him, I’m not even sure what a more reasonable, virtuous course of action would have been for someone in his position.

            *I understand the moral hazard of this: I’m not saying anyone is justified in lying any time, by his own lights, he deserves to get away with whatever he’s being accused of; rather that one is justified in lying, or at least in being evasive and mildly deceptive, at times when, practically speaking, telling the unvarnished truth will ruin you and your friends and allies even though most fair-minded people would agree it shouldn’t have that result.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I don’t know if the truth is closer to the above than what Kavanaugh said, but if the above were the truth, I don’t think it should affect peoples’ appraisal of his suitability to serve on the SCOTUS.

            But we’re not debating whether it should affect your appraisal of his suitability for SCOTUS, we’re debating whether it should affect your appraisal of Ford’s allegations, and I think “I definitely fondled a few girls at various gatherings, but I’m pretty sure they were all into it at the time? And yeah, we passed out a few times, so I can’t rule out I did something I didn’t remember the next day” should affect your judgment of whether Ford is telling the truth.

            I’ll note that one could apply your argument even under the assumption that Ford is telling the truth completely accurately: suppose the events happened exactly as she described and Kavanaugh remembers this, but one still believes events so long ago and for which Kavanaugh is sorry shouldn’t affect your appraisal of his suitability for SCOTUS. Then admitting to the truth of the assault will derail an otherwise acceptable nomination, so lying about his assaulting Ford is justified.

            The problem is, we have no principled way of deciding which factors are fair to consider, and which aren’t, so partisans of one side will always be able to justify lying about inconvenient facts by claiming that they wouldn’t be relevant anyway. I think the much better argument is to just argue that any given set of facts isn’t actually disqualifying. Since that claim is the justification for the lie anyway, making the argument publicly lets us at least determine how convincing we find it, instead of having to rely on the self-determination of a motivated reasoner.

          • J Mann says:

            his evasion of the issue as to whether he is Bart O’Kavanaugh (reported to be puking into a car during Beach Week–the kind of thing a member of Beach Week Ralph Club might do).

            His “evasion” was “You’d have to ask Mark”.

            FWIW, every lawyer I know would want their witnesses to answer that question that way. Frankly, Kavanaugh doesn’t know if Bart O’Kavanaugh is actually something Judge remembers about Kavanaugh personally, whether he’s a composite or fictionalized character, or whether Judge was thinking of someone else and put in Kavanaugh’s name as a joke. He can make a guess, and his guess would probably be right, but if you are testifying, never ever guess about what someone else intended unless they told you, and even then, just testify specifically that they told you they intended X.

            If the Senate wanted to know if Kavanaugh ever puked in a car during Beach Week, they should have asked him that.

          • onyomi says:

            I randomly discovered an argument against my own in the Analects today:

            The Master said, “Riches and honors are what men desire. If they cannot be obtained in the proper way, they should not be held. Poverty and meanness are what men dislike. If they cannot be avoided in the proper way, they should not be avoided.

        • Nicholas Weininger says:

          @DavidFriedman, you really “don’t think that whether a drunk high school boy unsuccessfully assaulted a drunk high school girl says much about what the adult, some decades later, feels about women?” Why not? If nothing else, it speaks to whether or not he was successfully socialized/acculturated as a teenager to treat women as fellow full human beings. I don’t find it at all implausible that that would affect his propensity to treat women’s autonomy and rights under the law with the appropriate level of respect.

          • Drunk high school boys punch out other drunk high school boys. That doesn’t say much about whether, as adults, they will treat other men as fellow full human beings.

          • Nicholas Weininger says:

            Actually I think it does. Having an unblemished record since puberty of scrupulous peaceable respect for the bodily integrity of others is an entirely reasonable thing to demand of Supreme Court justices. That it would exclude the vast majority of the population is a feature, not a bug; the vast majority of people are not fit to sit on the Supreme Court or any similarly powerful court.

          • albatross11 says:

            So, by your standards, anyone who was in a fistfight in high school would automatically be disqualified? Can you offer any evidence that this would lead to better outcomes in terms of supreme court decisions?

            I mean, it’s possible to come up with all kinds of weird restrictions on who can be a justice, like “never had premarital sex” or “never heard to utter a curse word in public.” I don’t really see why one of those would be any less meaningful than your criterion.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          That would be a legitimate argument if the charge was of repeated sexual assaults, but I don’t think that whether a drunk high school boy unsuccessfully assaulted a drunk high school girl says much about what the adult, some decades later, feels about women.

          There was another woman who claimed that Kavanaugh was involved in repeated instances of gang rape during his teenage years, although that always struck me as the least credible of the accusations against him and the accuser ended up walking back most of her previous claims anyway.

          • There were two other accusations that I saw described. The one you mention would, if true, be much more serious, but there seemed no reason to think it was true. The other, that he exposed himself once when drunk, didn’t strike me as very serious even if true.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Willingness to commit perjury, and thus undermine the truth-discovery function of the legal process as well as break the law for personal benefit, is probably correlated with putting personal benefit over the legal process in making judicial decisions. If you don’t think that correlation exists, I’d be interested in what evidence you have against it.

        Evidence? I think there is none either way. But it is a whole lot different defending oneself from personal attacks and making public decisions about third parties. In fact, it is customary for judges to recuse themselves from cases that affect them personally for that very reason. I think there is very little correlation between one lying about personal matters that will cause one harm, and making legal decisions as a judge. In the case of Kavanaugh, he had many years as a judge where one could determine if his judgments were for his benefit. That clearly would correlate, but I’ve heard nothing about that.

        Committing a crime that indicates depraved disregard for the rights of a particular class of people at least plausibly correlates with being biased against that class in judicial decisions.

        Yes but it is only plausible, not very likely. Much more plausible would be looking through his actual decisions to see how he thinks, instead of attributing some personal actions to his legal beliefs about particular classes.

      • 10240 says:

        I don’t think that sexual crimes stem from a disregard for women’s rights in particular (or those of the sex of the target of the crime). IMO the mechanism is (1) X is willing to disregard other people’s rights and use violence in order to get what he wants (usually regardless of the other person’s sex), (2) X (who is a heterosexual man) wants sexual activity with a woman.
        If X was homosexual, then (all else equal) (s)he would assault someone of his/her own sex, and we wouldn’t infer a bias against his/her own sex from that. (All else is usually not equal, though, there are various reasons same-sex assault may be less common even after accounting for demographics.)

    • Brad says:

      Yes, #2 is clearly about character, but is a pretty narrow aspect of character, and I don’t think it correlates with those who commit crime.

      How would we know? The overlap over all of history has to be tiny. Especially because your characteristics apply only or mostly to appellate rather than trial judges, of which there have been even fewer.

    • Plumber says:

      “….I want to push back a bit on the concept that a judge must have exemplary character….”

      @Mark V Anderson,

      Speaking only for myself, my opposition to Kavaugh had nothing to do with his character. 

      I mostly opposed him because of what to me seem multiple anti-worker pro employer decisions (the OSHA vs. Seaworld one is most prominent in my mind, but there’s list), and I’d be happier if he wasn’t a Yale law school graduate (I’d be happier still if he wasn’t a law school graduate at all and passed the Bar after serving an apprenticeship, but we haven’t had a Justice like that since the 1940’s).

      But what was revealed about his background made me like him even less, no not the drinking and alleged harassment and assault, but instead what it revealed sbout his his prep school/country club privileged roots while claiming “he had no connections” really made me want him not on the court and opposed even more. 

      My wife on the other hand, was convinced of and livid about his alleged groping, et cetera and followed the case much more closely than me.

      My boss also followed the case and was convinced that Kavaugh “was being railroaded” and was angry about the “sexual politics” (and says he and his wife fought over it, as she had a different opinion).

      So my wife (on one side) being angry this and last week made home life less pleasant, and my boss (on the other side) has been grumpy as well, making work harder. 

      For myself, I hope that I don’t hear about it much more, but I fear that it’s now more likely to be more decisions like Janus, which will make me angry.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Yes, Plumber, it makes a lot more sense to me that you reject Kavanaugh based on his decisions. But he was nominated by a Republican President. Do you think that some other nominee is likely to have better decisions? IF you are a Democratic Senator, should you vote against confirmation of any nominee that is more right-wing than you’d like? And the Republicans do the same when a Dem President makes a nomination? Then we get to the point that justices can only be added to SCOTUS when the President and Senate majority are of the same party? I think that is a very bad result, and so it is best if there is some compromise on confirming nominees that you disagree with.

        • Plumber says:

          “….IF you are a Democratic Senator, should you vote against confirmation of any nominee that is more right-wing than you’d like? And the Republicans do the same when a Dem President makes a nomination?…..”

          @Mark V Anderson,

          That seems to be the trend.

          I saw a chart of how much closer (and along party lines) the votes to confirm Justices have become over the past few decades, and sadly with the way the Court seems more and more to be legislators from the bench” and less like “neutral interpreters of the law”, that’s to be expected.

          I expect more partisanship, not less, in the future.

          • Guy in TN says:

            I think the most productive framework is to jump past the high school civics class mindset, and ask ourselves:

            Given that judges are political, and given that they are crafting legislation-in-everything-but-name from the bench, where do we go from here?

            My take is, since we can’t change the incentives they are responding to (its very difficult to find constitutional ways to punish overly-partisan judges!), we’ve just got to adapt to the justices-as-legislators reality, and respond accordingly.

            If this involves nastier confirmations, vacant seats, court-packing, and threats to impeach judges, well, so be it. The courts brought it on themselves.

          • and sadly with the way the Court seems more and more to be legislators from the bench

            John Lott’s argument is that the change is a result of the expansion of government authority, which means that more politically contentious issues get decided by judges. That not only makes the whole confirmation process more political, it means that it is especially hard to get very able candidates confirmed, since the opposition sees an able judge on the wrong side as more dangerous to them than a less able one.

          • Plumber says:

            “……Given that judges are political, and given that they are crafting legislation-in-everything-but-name from the bench, where do we go from here?…..”

            @Guy in TN,

            Drop the pretence that Court appointments are about “character”, “judgment”, “legal ability”, and other fig leafs and just acknowledge that the fight is over who our nine Kings will be (until the Executive branch pulls an Andrew Jackson and just ignores the Court, leading to dictatorship.

            And then?

            Maybe Feudalism?

            I’m not hopeful).

          • Guy in TN says:

            There actually are constitutional “checks” to restore democratic control over the courts, its just we have developed norms not to use them. As flawed as our constitution is, it still gives primacy to the legislature to ultimately determine the makeup of the courts, in the form of impeachment, refusal to confirm, and court-packing.

            So all that needs to happen, is that the voters get fed up enough with the Supreme Court to elect representatives willing to wield these tools.

          • albatross11 says:

            Guy in TN:

            Those exist, but it’s hard to imagine their use leading us to a better place. If the eventual result of this is that whenever the same party controls the white house and the senate, they pack the court with their people and then anything they do is constitutional (until they lose some elections), that restores some democratic control at the cost of breaking something that looks pretty important.

          • Guy in TN says:

            I’m failing to see much of a downside. If the same party is elected to the presidency+senate, I would say a supposed “interpenetration” of the constitution by the courts shouldn’t get in the way of a democratic mandate.

    • DavidS says:

      I think if they’d committed crimes and clearly admitted/repented/reformed that would be different. Cover-up feels to me like more of an issue in many ways than the crime itself.

      Also, if the US is going to have a system where judges are political appointees in such a blatantly tribal and party political way, then appointing them inevitably sends political messages, and I don’t think it’s credible to expect the appointment of someone who attempted rape to be seen as fine because of some technical argument that it’s not relevant (I’m engaging with the hypothetical here, I haven’t actually followed the reports much in terms of if he did it).

      This is true of any serious crime but especially one where there’s a widespread view that it’s not taken seriously enough, that the powerful cover it up for each other etc. If the evidence suggests he did it (actually, even if it’s unclear or suggests he didn’t, but that’s another issue) his appointment will be seen as a signal that sexual crime against women isn’t taken seriously, both by those who think it ought to be and by those who think it ought not to be.

      Also, there’s the general issue (as with Trump) of people in positions of great power who may have committed (or still be committing!) criminal offences, especially ones that are serious in legal/reputational consequences: i.e. that it opens the person up to blackmail and other undue influence. In security checks here in the UK, it’s the chance that you might be open be threats of exposure that they’re worried about (that and things like uncontrolled gambling).

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        I think if they’d committed crimes and clearly admitted/repented/reformed that would be different. Cover-up feels to me like more of an issue in many ways than the crime itself.

        I guess I don’t see the issue of hiding a crime done in my youth, or even more recently. OF course if I committed a crime in my life, or even a serious faux pas that is greatly looked down upon, I would definitely lie about it if I thought it couldn’t be proven when I was up to be a judge. I can’t believe more than 1% of people would tell the truth if it wasn’t necessary. Everyone does this, don’t they? I see no bearing on the integrity of a judge when making legal decisions.

    • Eugene Dawn says:

      Why is it even important if the judge has committed crimes in the past, sexual or otherwise? I don’t see why this is necessary to make good legal decisions.

      Having committed a crime is evidence about the judge’s attitude to the law, which it is their job to interpret and uphold; obviously the age at which the crime was committed and the seriousness of the crime should matter here, but I don’t think it’s absurd to argue that a serial killer nominated to the court should be dismissed on the grounds that such a person has no respect for the law, even if they might have a good technical understanding of it, and that this should count against them.

      An even stronger argument though, is that with only 9 SCOTUS spots available, supply should far outstrip demand: even if you demand people who are in the top .99999 percentile for qualities 1) and 2) you list above, you should still have plenty of qualified choices–using minor issues of character as tie-breakers in these cases seems reasonable.

      The question isn’t “why should a criminal be disqualified” it’s, “given these ten otherwise identically-qualified candidates, can this ‘guy is a criminal’ be used as a basis to prefer one of the other 9?”

      • johan_larson says:

        How many remotely plausible candidates are there for the position of Supreme Court Justice? You pretty much need to be an appellate court judge or a law professor, don’t you?

        • Eugene Dawn says:

          I think there’s a strong norm of that, at least recently, but I’m not sure it’s a strict necessity: Pew says that 30 justices prior to Gorsuch had appellate court experience, and if I’m understanding their “higher education” category correctly, 23 had law prof experience.

          This also doesn’t include nominees, some of whom, despite failing to be confirmed, should count as “plausible”–I’m not sure how that changes the numbers.

          According to this document, it looks like legislative background used to be much more common, but has since declined. Figure 5 is pretty interesting: you can see a pretty dramatic rise in appellate court experience starting around 1960, but it was much less common before that (the figure also misses Elena Kagan and her lack of appeals court experience, as it predates her nomination by a month–she was nominated to an appeals court, but the nomination expired).

          Anyway, even if you only include appellate court judges and law profs that has to be a few hundred candidates at least, depending on which schools you’ll accept your professors from–more than enough to ensure that you can use personal judgment and character as a tie-breaker.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          I’m of the opinion that not only is appellate experience not necessary, that you shouldn’t even need to be a lawyer to get onto SCOTUS. We’ve had Justices who merely attended some law classes but never became professional lawyers.

          I would like one non-lawyer on the court, but given the modern way that everyone is picked to death, there is no chance of that. Instead we have an extreme of everyone there having gone to Harvard or Yale. (And this is one kind of elitism I thought Trump might have changed. But when Kav’s name came up, he was all happy at Kav’s Yale prestige.)

          There are no defense lawyers on the Supreme Court, either, probably for similar reasons, and that is a viewpoint that I’d definitely want represented there more. Expressed as priorities, I’d want to push for someone with PD experience getting onto the bench before I worry about non-lawyers.

          • engleberg says:

            I wouldn’t mind seeing ex-Presidents go on the Supreme Court. It handles a lot of administrative political decisions they’d know about, and Judges Long Binh Jail, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama- next Trump; well, talk about an incentive to start electing a better class of President.

          • Nornagest says:

            It’s happened; William Howard Taft served eleven years on the Supreme Court. He wasn’t appointed until eight years after his presidency, though.

          • BBA says:

            Taft was appointed Chief Justice after his presidency ended. And all ex-presidents of France have the right to sit on the Constitutional Council, though it’s somewhat uncommon for them to exercise that right. (The Council reviews laws for constitutionality before they enter force; the French Supreme Court does not have the power of judicial review.)

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            In the context of the discussion though, he doesn’t fit Edward Scizorhands’ criterion: he served on 6th Circuit until 9 years before becoming President.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest: William Howard Taft was appointed to fill a vacant Supreme Court seat, and filled the seats to its right and left as well.

          • albatross11 says:

            I really hope that Kavenaugh’s experience makes him a lot more sympathetic to the plight of the falsely-accused.

            [ETA]: If he did what Ford claims, then maybe he will at least be more sympathetic to people whose crime happens when they are very young. Though we’ve had a number of presidents who smoked pot in their youth, and none of them seemed all that big on decriminalization, so maybe this won’t work out.

        • Nicholas Weininger says:

          Well, the Federalist Society supposedly gave Trump a list of, what, 25? Shouldn’t that be plenty for this purpose? I doubt very much that any of the others would be either substantially less conservative or substantially less well-qualified than Kavanaugh, and I’d bet most of them don’t have anything like his baggage.

          • I have been told that Kavanaugh wasn’t on the original Federalist Society list, possibly because of his views on executive power, and was added to the list of possibles by Trump.

            Whether that’s true I don’t know–my source isn’t a Federalist Society insider. Does anyone here know?

          • albatross11 says:

            K didn’t have this baggage until Ford made her accusation–before that, I think his only baggage was being part of the Starr investigation into Clinton.

          • I gather he had a good deal of baggage unrelated to those issues, at least from the standpoint of libertarians–that he was viewed as less protective of Fourth Amendment rights and more deferential to the executive, in particular the idea of a unitary executive, than many of them liked.

            The Federalist Society is a libertarian/conservative alliance, so that would affect who they put on their list.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            K didn’t have this baggage until Ford made her accusation–before that, I think his only baggage was being part of the Starr investigation into Clinton.

            McConnell was reportedly worried about Kavanaugh’s paper trail, including “documents that Judge Kavanaugh has created in his 12 years on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, as well as in his roles as White House staff secretary under President George W. Bush”, as well as the Starr stuff–he was concerned it would “pose difficulties for his confirmation.”

          • albatross11 says:

            Okay, fair enough. Since the part of the confirmation battle I’ve heard about was all about the sexual assault/drunken weenie-wagging/high school gang-rape gang accusations, I didn’t realize they were likely issues.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            It’s hard to remember now, but initially most of the Kavanaugh fight was over releasing documents from his time in the Bush White House; there were also accusations of perjury and misleading the Senate over his time in the Bush White House.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Well, the Federalist Society supposedly gave Trump a list of, what, 25?

            No I don’t think that is nearly enough, with the kind of scrutiny we give nominees these days. And even if we include more than 25, given that Kavanaugh wasn’t on the list of 25. In any case, the amount of and level scrutiny is simply theatre and has little to do with his ability as a judge, and almost no bearing on anyone answering yea or nay. It only made a difference this time because the Dems and Reps were so close, so it only took a few who cared to make a difference in confirmation.

      • Don P. says:

        Two extra points about the charge of perjury, in particular, and in this case:

        1. It must matter that we have a case of someone who might have perjured themselves in order to get on the Supreme Court. That doesn’t sound like someone you’d trust to render an impartial verdict without regard for how it might affect them or their other interests.

        2. The last act taken in putting someone on the Court to to swear them in, which, if it is supposed to have any actual meaning, even symbolic, is a little hard to take seriously if the person just broke their oath to testify truthfully.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          . It must matter that we have a case of someone who might have perjured themselves in order to get on the Supreme Court. That doesn’t sound like someone you’d trust to render an impartial verdict without regard for how it might affect them or their other interests.

          No I don’t see that. Several folks above also were making a big deal about perjury. I don’t understand what that has to do with his job of Supreme Court judge. This is especially so when the purported lying is about his personal behavior that in my opinion (and probably Kavanaugh’s) have zero bearing on how well he does as a SCOTUS. But even in general I don’t see that perjury makes him a worse judge.

          I think oaths in general are pretty stupid, and the great prevalence of oaths in the US has basically made a mockery of people who do tell the truth. So I put no importance on the oath he has to make.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        I don’t think being a serial killer should count against a judge, except that a serial killer should be in jail and not available to be a judge.

        I think your argument of supply exceeding demand is a very poor one. We want the very best legal scholars on our high court. I think there are thousands of people that are qualified to be a Supreme Court justice, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t scour the list for the very best one. I don’t think we want to eliminate the best one for a reason other than legal ability and sincerity, just because the next best one might have a better “character.” Plus of course the way that nominees are worked over these days, I suspect we’d end up with the 10th best one in many cases, not the 2nd.

        • Eugene Dawn says:

          I can’t imagine you could quantify who the “very best” SCOTUS judge is, not in any meaningful way. What possible selection criterion would you use to narrow it down to literally the top 1 person in the country?

          Also, character, honesty, and judgment probably are almost certainly not orthogonal to your point 2) anyway, and committing certain crimes is evidence against a nominee having those characteristics–to the extent that someone has committed certain crimes, that is evidence that they are not the top SCOTUS possibility in the country: having committed (certain) crimes (at certain stages of one’s life) is evidence against a nominee’s ability to make decisions for reasons other than “personal or partisan benefit.”

    • Something that is almost certainly true but not acknowledged: only a tiny percent of people care about the perjury issue. People lie all the time about different things. We only “care” about it when we can weaponize it against the other side. Bill Clinton lied and yet Democrats didn’t care because he was on their side. Let’s at least acknowledge reality anonymously if we’re not willing to do it publicly.

      • Guy in TN says:

        It’s Arguments as Soldiers, of course, but that doesn’t mean the “soldiers” aren’t useful, for purposes other than truth-seeking.

        I 100% don’t care about prejury, and would support a judge on “my side” even if he was caught prejurying red-handed on videotape.

        At the same time, I wholeheartedly support a investigation into Judge Kavanaugh to see if he committed prejury. And if he did, I think he should be removed from the bench. I think he should be removed for any reason really, since he is a conservative and I am not.

        But since we can’t just say that in polite society for some reason, instead we come up with a multitude of ever-shifting process-oriented arguments that just happen to make this situation different from all the other situations in the past, where seemingly the same logic would apply to my side. See: people contorting themselves trying to explain why opposition to Kavanaugh is apolitcal, but opposition to Garland was dirty nasty politics (and vice versa).

      • engleberg says:

        Courts care a lot if you get caught telling a direct lie. They have to. Lots of cases are swearing contests and if you don’t penalize the liars who get caught, no contest.

        Ford looks like a rape victim. Doesn’t mean Kavanaugh raped her. It’s the D party woman look, rape victim who knows what pigs all men are. R party women look like they’ve shot a rapist and expect gentlemen to behave.

      • Nicholas Weininger says:

        As one of the people who do care, who believes both Ford and Broaddrick, and thought at the time (and a fortiori thinks now) that Clinton’s perjury ought to have ended his Presidency, I can’t disagree that we’re a tiny percentage. I don’t think we ought to give up on ever being anything but such a percentage, though. It is not too fastidious or puritanical to demand that anyone we entrust with so much power over others adheres to a very high standard of honesty, and it’s important to long-term institutional quality.

        As far as I can tell, in our time the animating factor causing otherwise decent people to overlook crimes committed by politicians on their side is a belief that the threat from the outgroup is so great and so imminent that the ingroup can’t afford to lose any effective champions. This has been a problem in US politics for about fifty years now, worsening steadily each decade; in retrospect we were lucky that so many Republicans abandoned Nixon. Al Franken is the recent exception that proves the rule: it was safe to disavow him because doing so had zero chance of changing the balance of power in the Senate; had Minnesota happened to have a Republican governor at the time, the same people who condemned him would be thinking up rationalizations for “censuring and moving on.”

        The only way I can see to combat this dynamic is devolution of power, either through federalism or an outright two-state solution. But the percentage of people who sincerely want this, and are willing to give up control of what the other side’s state governments do on issues they care deeply about in order to achieve it, is not much higher than the percentage who consistently care about perjury.

    • Vorkon says:

      I saw one thing related to Kavanaugh recently that confused me a bit.

      In her recent statement about why she was going to vote ‘Yes,’ Susan Collins said:

      There has also been considerable focus on the future of abortion rights based on the concern that Judge Kavanaugh would seek to overturn Roe v. Wade. Protecting this right is important to me. To my knowledge, Judge Kavanaugh is the first Supreme Court nominee to express the view that precedent is not merely a practice and tradition but rooted in Article 3 of our Constitution itself. He believes that precedent is not just a judicial policy, it is constitutionally dictated to pay attention and pay heed to rules of precedent. In other words, precedent isn’t a goal or an aspiration, it is a constitutional tenet that has to be followed, except in the most extraordinary circumstances. The judge further explained that precedent provides stability, predictability, reliance and fairness.

      Does anyone have any idea what actual statement or position held by Kavanaugh she’s referring to here, or what actual language in article 3 he’s deriving that position from? I mean, I understand the importance of precedent, and it would be practically impossible to run a court without it, but the idea that following precedent is Constitutionally dictated seems like a bit of a stretch to me. Is she just overstating something innocuous he once said, i.e. “following precedent is part and parcel of what a court does, and since Article 3 establishes a Supreme Court, by definition following precedent is dictated by the Constitution,” or something like that, in an attempt to oversell her case that he won’t overturn Roe v. Wade? If so, I’d hardly call him “the first Supreme Court nominee” to believe this. And if not, it seems like it would have to be a much looser interpretation of the Constitution than I’d like to see in a court that’s already too prone to legislating from the bench.

      I know I’ve always viewed precedent as a sort of necessary evil; It’s important that a court doesn’t need to keep re-inventing the wheel during every case, but at the same time I feel that the American judicial system’s slavish devotion to precedent, above and beyond the plain text of the law, is one of the things that’s making it too powerful relative to the other branches of government.

      To be fair, I think this statement probably says more about Susan Collins than it does about Kavanaugh, but I still found it vaguely troubling.

  23. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Late Bronze Age trivia:
    During Egypt’s 18th Dynasty, it became fashionable to wear shirts for the first time. When a king of Mitanni sent gifts to the Pharaoh or another king, the Akkadian cuneiform name TUG.GU.EA HURRI was attached to it. All over the Eastern Mediterranean, we begin to see paintings of men wearing short-sleeved shirts, in anything from our modern length to ankle-length. Earlier art of men in Egypt, the Levant, and Crete had only depicted them wearing a kilt, or less.
    Why the new fashion? It was probably adopted from colder climes to protect the skin from body armor. Military technology influencing civilian garb, like when men all started wearing pants for protection in horseback riding. 🙂

    • Nornagest says:

      Makes you think. The necktie is a sort of vestigial scarf; given that we’ve started seeing shemaghs in American men’s fashion (first among activists wearing them as a symbol of Palestinian solidarity, then among hipsters imitating the activists, then among tacticool types imitating the ones they or their heroes wore in Afghanistan or the Gulf), does that mean that in a hundred years American men are going to be wearing a sort of lacy patterned stole and not knowing why?

    • Basil Elton says:

      >Military technology influencing civilian garb
      I wonder what would be the latest known account of such an influence? Anything later than aviator sunglasses?

      • Nornagest says:

        At least the Vietnam-era M-65 field coat, which pretty much every men’s fashion house has their own version of (e.g.). Similarly, nylon bomber jackets are based on Cold War-era USAF flight jackets (the leather kind are WWII). Cargo pants are also adaptations of fatigue trousers from WWII or later; it’s hard to pin down exactly what the style was originally based on, but you can find recognizable BDU trousers (1981) in civilian wear.

        You might also count the woodland camo pattern, which is what you think of when someone says “camouflage”, and appears on lots of civilian clothes, but was also first issued to US troops in 1981.

        • Basil Elton says:

          The camo pattern is strongly associated with the military, even when civilians wear it in urban environment, they do it (I guess) because they want to look sort of militaristic. It’s not something someone would wear without knowing or caring about its military origins. So I would say that one doesn’t count, I even wanted to exclude it explicitly, but was sure it’s older than aviators.

          But the others you mentioned certainly do count. Apparently, that puts us at 60s, or even 80s if we count BDU. I actually didn’t even know all that stuff was based on military uniform (except for M-65, but I’ve forgot about it).

    • johan_larson says:

      You can get baby-handling gear now inspired by military body armor and load-carrying vests.

      https://www.missioncritical.cc/products/babycarrier?variant=5077930051

    • dndnrsn says:

      Is there any archaeological reason why I should not imagine this as the first Polo shirt? It’s got its own brand mark and everything!

  24. Just a reminder that we are having another South Bay meetup tomorrow (Saturday).

  25. Tibor says:

    I’m currently considering a job offer which involves traveling commuting two hours a day (in total, there and back) on a bus. I could work during this time and then be in the office for 6 hours only (plus a 30 minute lunch) so in terms of time efficiency it doesn’t sound like that bad a deal (I spend another 30 minutes on the public transport to the office once I arrive in Prague and 30 minutes to get to the bus station back home but I guess that’s unavoidable unless I work from home). I was hoping to get home office but unfortunately the stock holders of the company don’t like the idea too much and if they don’t like it there’s not much anyone can do about it.

    Does anybody here have experience with such an arrangement? I usually have no problem working on a train, buses are a bit smaller but I guess I can always pick some work for the bus that can be done there. However, I’m wondering if wouldn’t eventually get sick of spending 2 hours a day on a bus (I have no problem reading things on a bus, particularly as this one just takes the highway so there are no sharp turns and most of the time the bus just goes forward at a roughly constant speed).

    Otherwise the job sounds quite interesting and is in a sense unique in that it is possibly the only Czech multinational in the field – They provide loans, mostly in a couple of southeast Asian countries and their headquarters and the research and development is done in Prague. I would be developing credit risk models in the RnD department there. From what a friend of mine who actually runs the department told me, they are very sympathetic to new research and since the company is quite big, financing interesting new projects is usually non-issue whether they end up working out in the end or not. They also have a possibly interesting (definitely financially) option of sending people to the countries for about 3 years once they have enough experience to supervise the local staff and teach them new methods. Since I planned to spend some time in the region (albeit I was thinking mostly about Singapore which they don’t cover…Vietnam, India or Indonesia also sound interesting though…they also have branches in the Fillipines, Russia and Kazakhstan but I’d be much less interested in particularly the latter two). The only downside I see is that the owners are a bit conservative as far as home office is concerned (they also have a dress code of sorts, but fortunately no suits, a shirt and decent-looking jeans and shoes are ok) so there’s no avoiding commuting every day (at least regularly, an occasional home office day is fine but it cannot be done every week).

    • dndnrsn says:

      I worked a job where (due more to horrible traffic than distance) my commute could be 2 or 3 hours. It gives you a lot of time to get reading or whatever done, but spending that much time on public transit really wears on you after a while. I suppose it would be better or worse depending on the quality of local public transit and how bad the traffic is. If you will actually enjoy the job, that probably makes it easier to tolerate the commute.

      • Tibor says:

        The first 50 minutes are on the highway and there the morning traffic is usually fine as long as they are not repairing a part of the road (an alternative is to take the train but it arrives at a slightly more distant point in Prague). The next 30 minutes are lost, there is a bus which makes quite a lot of turns and then the metro which is not private enough for any serious work (at least for me) because of how the seats are set up. But 30 minutes is quite a normal commute (well, in Pilsen it would still be quite a lot but in bigger cities it is an unfortunate reality). Same for the way back. I hope the traffic is ok in the directions I’m taking.

        I could also go by car, which would take me 45-60 minutes each way (office to apartment) but I cannot do any work while driving and also it is more costly – makes quite a difference if you do it every day.

    • cassander says:

      My experience is that a big part of the difficulty with commutes isn’t the overall length, but the amount of effort it takes. A commute where you spend 50 minutes on a train and 5 minutes walking to and from the station at either end is very doable. A commute where you spend 20 minutes driving, 10 on a train, then switch lines and 20 minutes on a second train then 10 walking at the other end is much, much worse. the odds of something going wrong up dramatically as the number of mode switches increase, and your ability to get work done goes down.

    • ana53294 says:

      Although I don’t tend to get dizzy or nauseated in cars and buses, I personally find it very hard to maintain high levels of productivity even in the most luxurious and quiet bus or train. There is something about the movement that makes me sleepy, tired and distracted.

      I know other people who have the same problem. This setup may work for you, but quite a few people will find it problematic.

      • Tibor says:

        I think I can actually be quite productive on a train. Buses are a bit worse since they are not as spacious. In my previous job I would also commute (the commute was even longer, 50 minutes on the bus and then 45 in the metro) and I could usually work on the bus (not so much in the public transport). But I only did that once a week rather than every day.

    • sharper13 says:

      Is there a reason you can’t just move closer to Prague in order to minimize the commute? My daughter is currently in the Czech Republic, but not having been there personally yet (going middle of next year to pick her up), my impression is that taking a train to/from most nearby towns is fairly common for people to do and that there is some open space between Prague and other towns, so living on the outskirts of Prague may be a less expensive option if it’s a financial issue?

      Not questioning your decision-making (I’d say take the commute if they’re going to pay you for it, you can always adjust later by moving closer or whatever if you can’t stand it), just curious about the options.

      • Tibor says:

        I guess I could simply move to Prague itself. Or one of the small towns/villages around it. However, I have my own flat in Pilsen and I’d have to rent one elsewhere. I suppose I could sell it and buy something closer to Prague (the prices in Prague itself are much higher and currently in a sort of a bubble created by the incompetency of the previous city council) but the main reason is really that Prague feels too big to me and those small towns around it not big enough. Also, in the long run there might be a good job for me at home. This won’t happen in the next 2-3 years however and I’m not sure about it whether I’d like to do it yet. It would probably be a bit less interesting work, definitely less intellectual, since it involves running a small business rather than developing interesting forecasting models, but the pay would likely be similar and there’s a 7 hour workday (including the lunchtime) and a 15 minute commute – by bike. That ultimately means 2,5 additional hours of free time every day, which is quite a bit. But in the short term I have to find a job elsewhere (or get something way below my expected paygrade…there are some interesting jobs for programmers here, but not for statisticians or probabilists).

        The company is not going to pay for the commute but it’s not that expensive, it will cost me less than 5% of my after tax monthly salary. If I were driving by car every day, it would “only” take me 45 minutes to get to the office (from my flat) but it would cost a lot more (petrol is a lot more expensive in Europe than in the US 🙂 )…and provided that I will be able to work on the bus efficiently, it would not ultimately save me any time either.

  26. SamChevre says:

    Western Massachusetts meetup:

    Today, Saturday October 6
    6:30 PM
    The Roost
    1 Market St
    Northampton

    We had 12 people at the first meetup.

  27. SteveReilly says:

    Is there a reason that my email subscription here isn’t working? For the past few weeks I haven’t been getting emails. I signed up again and emails still haven’t been coming.

  28. BBA says:

    A weird theory on international constitutional law by Kevin Drum: Old Constitutions Need Courts More Than New Constitutions

    Counterexample: Canada, whose constitution was significantly reworked in 1982, still has extensive judicial review. Though that may be more of a common law/civil law divide – judges are more necessary in the common law Anglosphere than everywhere else.

  29. JulieK says:

    I used to get an email alert every time Scott posted a new article. However, I haven’t gotten any such emails such Sept. 24. (Yes, I checked my spam folder.) Anyone know what happened?

  30. Deiseach says:

    Hopeful little snippet of a news story about a possible treatment for viruses in bees that come from Varroa mite infestation:

    Steve Sheppard, a Washington State University entomology professor, has heard a lot of wild ideas to save bees over the years, like harnessing static electricity to stick bees with little balls of Styrofoam coated in mite-killing chemicals. Stamets’ pitch was different: He had data to back up his claims about mycelium’s antiviral properties and his company, Fungi Perfecti, could produce it in bulk. “I had a compelling reason to look further,” Sheppard said.

    To test Stamets’ theory, the researchers conducted two experiments: They separated two groups of mite-exposed bees into cages, feeding one group sugar syrup with a mushroom-based additive and the other, syrup without the additive. They also field-tested the extract in small, working bee colonies near WSU.

    For several virus strains, the extract “reduced the virus to almost nothing,” said Brandon Hopkins, a WSU assistant research professor, another author of the paper.

Leave a Reply