More Links For July 2014

The most embarassing part of the Slavoj Zizek plagiarism scandal isn’t that Zizek committed plagiarism. It isn’t even that he plagiarized a white supremacist website. It’s the way the plagiarism was discovered. Steve Sailer was reading a Zizek book and noticed that part of it actually made sense. He wrote:

A reader inclined toward deconstructionism might note that Žižek summarizes MacDonald’s controversial argument quite lucidly. In fact, the superstar professor achieves a higher degree of clarity while expounding MacDonald’s message than in any other passage I’ve read by Žižek. I’m guessing that the last two sentences are Žižek’s denunciation of the preceding argument he quite ably recounted. But it’s striking how much more opaque Žižek’s prose suddenly becomes when he switches to elucidating what are, presumably, his own ideas, such as they are.

… and the idea of Zizek being comprehensible for even a couple of sentences so surprised Steve’s commenters that they looked up the relevant passage to see if it was plagiarized, and sure enough one of them found the real source.

I’ve previously mentioned Bir Tawil, the one part of the earth which, due to a quirk in colonial borders, is not owned by any country. However, it has now been claimed by a man who wanted his daughter to achieve her dream of being a princess.

Commenter Mark Dominus responded to my question about how to autogenerate “alien” text that linguistics and cryptographers can’t distinguish from a real language with his post on Artificial Finnish. Tomalle, äs nto tai sattia yksin taisiä isiäk isuuri illää hetorista. Varsi kaikenlaineet ja pu distoja paikelmai en tulissa sai itsi mielim ssän jon sn ässäksi; yksen kos oihin!. Looks pretty good to me – except I think a smart linguist might realize that – among other problems – Word N has no correlation with Word N+1 – whereas in real languages some words are more likely to follow others. I continue to think the problem is harder than most people appreciate.

Low Carb Diets Aren’t Anything Special. Interesting both for the data presented, and as a study in itself on how spin works. Thirty years of the establishment going “You must eat low fat diets, and anyone who eats a low carb diet is an idiot who will swell like a balloon and die!”, and when the research finally comes out to show a weak version of the low carb diet is only marginally better than low fat diets, the establishment declares that since it’s only marginal they were basically right all along and have won a humiliating victory over their opponents.

Tumblr holds a convention. Predictable results ensue.

Buck Shlegeris: What did I learn from California? – but less like the title implies and more on what it’s like to become an adult.

Time: The Dread Pirate Roberts Sails The Illicit Online Drug Trade Again. Valuable because it gets its analysis of the Princess Bride right.

The Salon parody Twitter that was making Internet waves got shut down recently, probably because too many people were confusing it for the real Salon twitter feed. Luckily, Nydwracu finds that Salon’s own headlines are pretty much self-parodies anyway. And Newsweek does an amazing job of pointing out my new favorite quirk of the real Salon Twitter feed: Jon Stewart Is A Violent Sociopath Who Must Be Stopped (extra link here if you can’t get into Newsweek).

The Most Popular Religious Groups In America, what each religious group thinks about each other group, and how demographics (race, politics, age, etc) affect how much you like each religion. Republicans don’t like Muslims, Democrats don’t like Mormons, nobody much likes atheists, and everybody likes Jews. The evil atheist plan to avoid stigma by mostly also being Jewish continues to pay dividends.

Speaking of religion, religious children are more likely to identify magical characters as real than atheist children.

[content note: sexual assault] The Satanic Panic, besides being the best name for a metal band, was a supposed incident in the eighties when a bunch of very gullible people believed that Satanists were going around murdering and torturing people. This caused everyone to become very concerned about how gullible people were and how easy it was to start panics over stupid reasons. But what if there never was a Satanic Panic, and the people condemning it were gullibly taken in by a Satanic Panic Panic?

Despite the common political idea that moochers vote Democrat in order to ensure the continued flow of free cash, in voters under 65 perceived dependence on federal spending is unrelated to vote choice.

Eliezer explains why he writes fanfiction, and it turns out to be a really really good reason.

From the Department Of Unconvincing Excuses: a Ukranian rebel commander suggests that maybe everyone on that Malaysian airliner was already dead for days before it was shot down.

Not entirely unrelated to the above: past exposure to Communism makes people less trustworthy

New York City is the most unhappy city in America, but I could have told you that. In fact, Ozy and I had a big argument when we were watching Rent, because they thought the moral was the power of friendship, and I thought the moral was everyone should get the heck out of New York City. But the article goes further and identifies the happiest and least happy places in America. Surprisingly, the happiest tend to be the ones that do worse on every other demographic measure – low income, poor health, high crime – like the Deep South. And Louisiana totally wipes the floor with everyone else.

A teacher just inside the borders of Palestine signs up for the dating app Tinder – which in her vicinity is used almost entirely by Israeli Jews. Does love – or more realistically animal lust – conquer ethnic hatreds, or does prejudice win out? Read Palestinder on Tumblr.

I didn’t realize the degree to which most Westerners before the nineteenth century were living in a bizarre Bible / Greek Mythology crossover fanfic. St. Jerome wrote a very nice chronicle describing events “from Abraham to the capture of Troy”, and there was an entire genre of texts that would have Greco-Roman mythological events in one column and Biblical events that occurred around the same time in another. Take Putnam’s 1833 Chronology, written back when subtitles were real subtitles (and mostly viewable on on Google Books). It tells us that Hercules participated in the Olympics twenty-three years (not twenty-two or twenty-four) after Gideon defeated the Midianites, and that the Voyage of the Argonauts happened exactly 207 years after Moses saw the burning bush. Also, in case you were wondering in which year Bacchus became god of wine, that was 1438 BC.

Closely related: the Table of Nations answers burning questions like: “Which of Noah’s grandsons did the Finns originate from?”

USA Today explains better than I did why self-flagellation about not repeating the moon landing is silly: “Why did we spend so much to go to another world, and then almost completely abandon the effort? It was because we did it for the wrong reason. The Apollo moon program was never really about space, or opening it to America or humanity. It was a peaceful battle in an existential war. In the post-Sputnik panic, the priority was not to do it affordably or sustainably but, to do it quickly”

The closest living relative to the mitochondria that power all higher forms of life is rickettsia prowazekii – the typhus bacterium.

“Mommy, how did the Great Israeli-Brazilian War start?”

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175 Responses to More Links For July 2014

  1. Dave says:

    > what if there never was a Satanic Panic, and the people
    > condemning it were gullibly taken in by a Satanic Panic Panic?

    Arguably, the takeaway (that it’s easy to start panics over stupid reasons) remains unchanged. Which puts us in the unfortunate position where both X and NOT X seem like adequate evidence for Y.

    • Oligopsony says:

      In this case it’s the fact of the utterance that provides the relevant information, not the content – NOT X here is not being exposed to the utterance. So no awkwardness, just meta.

    • Multiheaded says:

      The obvious answer is that the S.P.P. does not constitute a “panic ” in the mold of S.P. itself, but should be referred to as the satanic panic meme, or the satanic panic middlebrow media fad.

    • Deiseach says:

      Unfortunately, whether or not there was a real ‘panic’, there were certainly instances where people in positions of authority believed that ‘ritual abuse’ was commonly taking place and caused massive upheavals because of a misguided attempt to battle it. What is even worse is that in at least one case, the whole ‘panic’ was triggered by a case of genuine abuse, which was then seized upon and blown out of all proportion in support of the campaign against perceived ‘ritual abuse’.

      The Orkney child abuse scandal in the 90s in Britain, where children from the small island of South Ronaldsay were taken into care and their parents arrested on charges of Satanic abuse, is that case. The social worker at the heart of it had earlier been involved in a similar ‘panic’ in Rochdale in England. And she still continued to believe she was in the right, that ritual abuse was widespread, and that any and all allegations of abuse (whether factually founded or not) were at heart Satanic ritual abuse and not the ordinary horrifying cruelty that some people can inflict.

      I really do think that the education and training that social workers get should be massively overhauled and that a lot of them come out of university with their heads stuffed full of liberal psychological theories which cause more damn harm than good when they’re turned loose on real people. I heard a great instance of that just yesterday at work; office manager discussing a case of a client of ours in social housing who is a heroin addict and mother of (at least) one child which has been taken into care.

      Office manager recounts how she had a conversation with the social worker in charge of the case, where they were urging that the child be taken into care for her own good and said social worker came back with “But she’s a good mother. She never shoots up in front of the child. She always turns her back.”

      From my previous work and now here, I can see that the social services are understaffed, underfunded and overstretched. But so far as I can see, training in social work seems to be (a) stuck in the 70s mindset where theory is concerned and (b) consist of training out any semblance of common sense and instilling the mantra about “You’re there to support not make any decisions about choices or to be directive”.

      Non-direction may be all very well when you’re talking about a therapist and client having a counselling session, where the client has to work out for him or herself the best way to deal with being an overachiever.

      When it comes to a young woman so spaced out on heroin that she is being used as a catspaw by her criminal boyfriend in robbing pharmacies for drugs, and she can’t look after herself never mind a four year old child, fuck that. Somebody has to intervene.

      I don’t know why it generally seems to be that social services leave children in places where they are genuinely being physically and sexually abused, yet leap into action where for instance, in two ridiculous and racist instances in 2013 in my own country after a similar panic in Greece, two Roma children were taken into care on the grounds that they “didn’t look like the rest of the family” and so therefore must be non-Roma children who had been kidnapped.

      I don’t know what the answer is: how do you balance personal autonomy against intervention on behalf of protecting the vulnerable? There must be a better balance than we’ve seen to date.

      • peterdjones says:

        “Liberal psychological theories”… ? Widespread Satanism is a an Evangelical Christian meme.

        • von Kalifornen says:

          Talking about separate issues. (for example, someone may have common sense trained out of them, but then react in stupid ways based on what popular panics they believe in.)

        • peterdjones says:

          Yes, vK, if you add enough epicycles it’s all the fault progressives.

      • Paul Torek says:

        On this side of the pond, there definitely was a Satanic panic, too. It may not have involved any legal charges specifically alleging Satanic rituals, but that isn’t terribly relevant or interesting. The linked article fails to deliver on its headline.

    • RCF says:

      How can someone write an article on the SP, and not mention Kern County?

    • Josh says:

      I don’t know if there really was a Satanic Panic in the 80’s, but I do know that my parents burned all of my Dungeons & Dragons rule books after watching an episode of 20/20 that had a fear-mongering segment about it.

  2. Leo says:

    I think the teacher from Palestinder may be a he, not a she.

  3. Multiheaded says:

    Regarding the Zizek/MacDonald thing:

    Ever since the 19th century, they have led movements that tried to discredit the traditional foundations of gentile society: patriotism, racial loyalty, the Christian basis for morality, social homogeneity, and sexual restraint.

    If the paleocon/”White” “nationalist” crowd imagines that they would not have been shocked by how patriotism (read some Hobsbawm), “racial loyalty” (but not between the Englishman and the swarthy uncultured Teuton!), the “Christian basis for morality” (top kek), social homogeniety (not really) and sexual restraint (read your Foucault already, dipshits!) looked in the 18th century… well, my point is, they would in fact have been shocked. Those things as they exist in the conservative/reactionary imaginary have only really fully formed by the end of the 19th century, as a backlash (and sometimes a deliberate ideological operation) against the currents of change driven by impersonal factors. “Tradition” as they understand it is an early Modern innovation that a certain type of elites have often tried to impose by force.

    • Oligopsony says:

      Minus the racial and more ambiguously patriotic stuff anti-philosophe writers in the late 18th were making arguments very similar to MacDonald’s (and indeed, almost all future strands of conservatism,) so I’d be cautious about overextending this (although the similarities are more striking in the form than in the precise content.)

      • Multiheaded says:

        Um, yeah, not to overextend it… but I’m more talking about how things actually were, i.e. how a modern reactionary imagines that “homosexuality” has always been Othered and condemned vs. how Foucault describes that “homosexuality” didn’t use to be a thing, but by the end of the 19th century this more disciplinary understanding of sexuality has achieved sufficient penetration for it to appear as if it is the logical and inevitable outcome of old-time morality.

        • You’re equivocating in a way which is common among anti-conservatives who want to make conservative positions seem recent, but which is ultimately deceptive. It’s true that “homosexuality” was only understood as a unified phenomenon in the late 19th century, and was thereafter available to be condemned or praised as a vice/disease/orientation. However, the underlying phenomenon of “men having sex with other men” has been known since antiquity, and in the Christian (and Jewish and Muslim) worlds was univocally condemned even if it was unofficially tolerated. You know this, but your statements about Foucault allow the inattentive or low-information reader to assume that the condemnation itself is new, rather.

          Additionally, how exactly are conservatives supposed to talk about this now? We live in a world in which the concept of “homosexuality” has been reified, and we have to carry on our discourse using the terms available to us. So we talk about “homosexuality”, even though many of us are skeptical of the concept, because that’s the only way we can be understood.

    • Anonymy says:

      What does “top kek” mean?

  4. Anonymous5 says:

    I feel like it’s really worth pointing out that the real “establishment” on the food and weight issue are the ones backing the laws of thermodynamics and conservation of energy. There are also clear, large factions of random everyday people who oppose this establishment for their own pet theories so it’s not merely a foregone implication everyone accepts.

    Except for exceeding rare medical conditions where they bloat up on water or something, people can’t not lose weight by expending more energy than what they eat.

    Talking about diet fads swinging back and forth makes you seem like a smart cookie contrarian to the “Scientific establishment” and “conventional wisdom” and whatever but to steelman the whole situation you should look at the people who have consistently, for decades, made the claim about those who eat too much and don’t exercise.

    If you’re expanding the problem in a psychological sense to what people will actually adhere to in a behavioural way for given programs around nutrition the simplifications made here aren’t so easy.

    • lmm says:

      >I feel like it’s really worth pointing out that the real “establishment” on the food and weight issue are the ones backing the laws of thermodynamics and conservation of energy.

      I don’t think that’s true. When I was growing up,government and official medical advice was all about reducing fat (and to some extent sugar). Food pyramids and the like said to eat lots of carbohydrates even if you were trying to lose weight. This was super dumb, sure, but I think it really was the establishment position.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        The establishment to this day is 100% about low fat diets. There is a simple objective measure of the establishment: who controls IRBs. It is illegal to do a diet study comparing two options if one of the options is not low fat.

        • Michael Edward Vassar says:

          Also, the establishment position is just ridiculously dishonest here. 35% carbs is the average for their ‘low carb’ diets. REALLY? I don’t think I have ever heard that a 35% carb diet would help with accelerated weight loss ANYWHERE.

        • RCF says:

          Citation needed.

        • anodognosic says:

          Michael Vassar, that definitely jumped out at me too. 35% carbs does not describe Atkins or Keto.

      • Hainish says:

        “When I was growing up,government and official medical advice was all about reducing fat (and to some extent sugar).”

        I remember much the same thing, BUT my impression is that the point of cutting fat was to, ultimately, cut calories. The notion that one could take in unlimited non-fat calories or make sugars and refined carbs a big part of the diet (e.g., Snackwells) seems to have been mainly an unintended consequence of this advice.

        • That might be a hint to be careful when giving advice.

          I’ve been considering the idea that advice should include some clues about how to tell when following the advice is going wrong.

    • Misha says:

      Ahh, dismissing entire fields of research by saying “hey you idiots forgot thermodynamics!”. Isn’t that a classic creationist claim? It’s almost as if BIOLOGY IS COMPLICATED. Hell, we don’t even need to venture outside of physics/engineering. If the exact same amount of coal can have a different output in a Newcomen engine versus a watt engine, why can’t different human bodies process different foods and get different outcomes? Your “thermodynamics” is simply a way of looking down both on people who are overweight and on anyone who tries to find a solution that doesn’t fall under the purvey of virtue. Like abstinence only sex education, “eat less and exercise more” is a failure of efficacy and ethics.

      • The Anonymouse says:

        Except that “eat less and exercise more,” much like abstinence, actually does work, if you actually do it.

        I suspect this conversation would be more productive if we could acknowledge that there are actually two claims being discussed, a strong one and a weak one. Strong claim: eat less and exercise more doesn’t work. Weak claim: eating less and exercising more is hard, and a lot of people cannot bring themselves to do it for one reason or another.

        The strong claim is silly; one day at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, or the Fort Benning Infantry School, will give you more refutations than you will ever need.

        I would certainly support the weak claim. There’s all sorts of reasons that people want to eat less/exercise more, but fail. Medical reasons. Difficult schedules. Easy availability of cheap, tasty calories. Or, for the old-fashioned out there, simple laziness and lack of willpower.

        If what you really want to say is something like, “fat-shaming is bad, let’s not, because losing weight is hard, and for some people medically inadvisable,” then I’ll get behind you on that. But let’s not pretend it isn’t possible, or generally a good idea.

        • Leo says:

          That depends on what you mean by “work”. Cause weight loss and muscle build-up? Certainly. But I would describe something that keeps me up at night with hunger pangs, and won’t let me focus enough to do my job, as working.

        • Paul Torek says:

          Leo has the key point. Weight-loss strategies succeed or fail based on hunger pangs or the lack thereof, plus some other experiential factors (e.g. exercise makes most people feel better in many ways.) Two strategies with the same net balance of caloric expenditure and intake can have very different outcomes, both in terms of ultimate weight loss/maintenance, and life satisfaction.

        • RCF says:

          You speak as though when someone says “I’d like to lose weight”, they mean “I wish to optimize my life for weight loss, without any concern for any other value.” Double masectomies are very effective at preventing breast cancer, yet people are still looking for other treatments. Living under a bridge is the most effective way of reducing real estate expenses, yet people still discuss how to reduce high housing costs. Your analogy shows the fallacy of your position: abstinence works if you’re optimizing for disease prevention, but it doesn’t work if you’re optimizing for actual human happiness.

        • von Kalifornen says:

          It seems to be established that, between motivation (People calling their fellow men and women “land whales” do not exactly reproduce the Drill Instructor’s ability to create and maintain “moto-boners”) and variable efficiency, dieting and exercise can be amazingly futile — or very effective. Frequently the psychological cost is great. (I do not know what it would be like in other societies.)

          Of course, what is not true is the extreme denialist fat-positive view which always arrives at the answer of not trying to loose weight, regardless of context or capabilities. But neither is the simplistic energy balance. Even fidgeting while sitting in a chair can be a large enough energy sink to prevent weight gain while eating a good deal more than normal.

        • Leo says:

          @von Kalifornen: I wish to defend the extreme denialist fat-positive view, by pointing out that while it rejects “I shall exercise and eat more vegetables and less cake in order to lose weight” in all circumstances, it very often encourages “I shall exercise and eat more vegetables and less cake because all of those are healthy; this might cause weight loss”. I still don’t agree with that position, I think “I’m going to lose weight, because I need less strain on my feet/knees” is reasonable, but it’s nonstupid and more valuable than obsessing over weight alone.

        • Randy M says:

          Better than to discuss/find the most efficient way to lose weight is to find the most efficient way to sate hunger.
          Of course, I won’t deny that some foods encourage people to eat when not hungry (food reward) but there may also be diets that are more satisfying with less calories, and identifying one would help more than pointing out that constant hunger will get one to the point to having less mass.

    • ozymandias says:

      I dunno, man, all I have is anecdote here, but anecdotally anywhere between “three hours of exercise a day” and “not leaving my chair except to walk to the bed and fall asleep” and anywhere between “regularly hungry” and “regularly binging on candy” leaves me at approximately 120-125 pounds, also known as exactly the weight range I fluctuate within all the time regardless. (I’m 5’9″.) It is possible I have a body that is extraordinarily prone to not changing– in fact, that’s almost certainly true– but it’s also possible a simple calories in : calories out model doesn’t work for many people.

      • Anonymous says:

        i’m not sure what you’re asserting here. unless you have some GI disorder where you’re not absorbing most of what you eat, you’ll find that regardless of drastic variance in activity and food intake, it still averages out to whatever you need to maintain that weight.

        • ozymandias says:

          I don’t know the mechanism (although I’m pretty sure I don’t have a GI disorder), I just know that my weight is *extremely* sticky and that e.g. the two years of nine to eighteen hours a week in the pool when I played water polo did exactly nothing to change my weight in any direction whatsoever. I suspect I am on the high end of weight stickiness here, but I suspect it is also a sign that something is up here other than diet or exercise.

        • anodognosic says:

          Anonymous, I’m glad you’re willing to assume what needs to be true to support your theory.

      • Army1987 says:

        I can very easily gain or lose 5% of my body weight in two months; I have weigh myself daily and adjust my food intake accordingly to prevent that (which is not feasible e.g. when I’m travelling). As a result I have an ungodly amount of stretch marks around my waist.

      • Anonymous says:

        Wait, how many calories above (or below, but at your height/weight I’m guessing you’re trying to gain weight) a typical estimate of TDEE were you consuming? “Regularly hungry” and “regularly binging on candy” is hardly a reliable indicator of calories consumed, given how notoriously difficult it is to estimate consumption if you’re not in the habit of quantifying everything already. I’ve met lots of so-called “hardgainers” who would complain about how much they ate without putting on a single pound, but when we ate together their meals would consist of a hamburger, fries, and soda, all together not in excess of ~1000 kcal, compared to my mountain of cottage cheese/peanutbutter, half-gallon of milk, giant bowl of very oily veggie/tofu stir fry, etc.

        Also, 3 hours of daily exercise (which hopefully included a significant fraction of heavy resistance training, for both weight gain and loss) is grossly excessive, unless you were taking hormonal supplements at the time. You may have been suffering from overtraining, which can supposedly stymie both weight loss and gain.

      • Toby Bartels says:

        There may be something else regulating your hunger (or desire for exercise) so as to regulate your weight.

        For exmaple, I have been told that diabetes (at least type II) will do this. If you eat too little for the level of meds you use (and you don’t tinker with your meds), then you’ll get hypoglycemia and have to eat more; which comes very naturally, since hunger is a symptom of hypoglycemia. Then it becomes almost impossible to lose weight (unless they give you too little meds, which is dangerous). It also becomes almost impossible to gain weight, for precisely opposite reasons.

        I only got this second-hand from a diabetes educator, and she probably didn’t get her information from a double-blind controlled study. So to you, it’s an anecdotal urban legend. Anyway, with that BMI all your life, you probably don’t have diabetes (at least not type II). But something like this is a possibility.

    • Deiseach says:

      So if low-carb diets aren’t all that different from the conventional wisdom, then what does that mean for diabetes sufferers?

      Because as a fairly recently diagnosed Type 2 diabetic, I’m seeing a lot of enthusiasm for low-carb diets – including some official recommendations – when engaging in the whole “congratulations, now you’ve got to do wholesale diet and exercise change forever” information and education of new diabetics. Including claims that low-carb diets are much better for long-term control and lowering of blood glucose levels.

      Yes? No? Works for diabetics but for normal people you may as well stick to the “x amount of carbs, x amount of protein, cut out the fats” diet?

      • Athrelon says:

        Based on my experience working with a few doctors who use this diet in practice, low-carb is unequivocally superior to the “standard diabetic diet” for long-term outcomes. I’m surprised, though, that this information is so widespread – I’ve seen only a handful of doctors who “who’t yell at you if you try a low-carb diet,” and only two who actually spend a lot of their time putting diabetic patients on it.

        Caveat: inform your doctor before starting a new diet, especially if you are on insulin, not a substitute for medical advice etc. etc.

      • Hainish says:

        Have you looked into diets based on glycemic index/glycemic load?

    • Alexander Stanislaw says:

      Can we end this (non) debate once and for all?

      Via the law of thermodynamics, one can only lose weight if mass in < mass out. Most of the changes in mass in the human body come from calories or water. Water weight does not account for long term changes in weight, therefore the only feasible way to lose weight is to ensure "calories in" < "calories out"

      However, different diets and biochemistry can make it easier or harder to change calories in or out. It might be easier to reduce "calories in" with one diet vs another and there may be metabolic or psychological reasons for this. And it might be easier to increase "calories out" with one diet vs another and there may be metabolic or psychological reasons for this. And things other than diet can also influence how easy it is to change calories in or out.

      Are we all on the same page?

      • James Babcock says:

        The “psychological reasons” you refer to are actually not so psychological. If you manage to completely run out of usable energy, you die of heart failure. Before this happens, you’ll pass through a state of hypoglycemia, which brings with it an extremely powerful craving for food. As well it should, because in that state, the alternative to eating is death, literally.

        The biggest failure of the calories-in-calories-out model is that it tells people to starve themselves and override the safeguards, damaging their health in ways that don’t have very much to do with weight.

        • Eric Rall says:

          This predicts fat people starving to death while still fat. Are there a large number of cases of this actually happening?

        • Army1987 says:

          This predicts fat people starving to death while still fat. Are there a large number of cases of this actually happening?

          The number is nonzero (Nancy Lebovitz is probably going to post a link here), but I don’t know if it’s large. (I’ve met several people who managed to lose a sizeable fraction of their former body weight but no-one who starved to death.)

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          The calories in/out model is a descriptive one, not a normative one. It does not prescribe that one should ensure that calories in < calories out, it merely states that if long term weight loss occurred then it was the case that calories in < calories out.

        • Here are some links about people starving to death on very low calorie diets– I didn’t see anything about their weights at death, but they weren’t anorexics, so I assume they at least weren’t significantly underweight.

          Alexander, I’ve definitely seen the calories in/calories out model used normatively, and I’d say it’s the basis of prescribing extremely low calorie diets.

        • Eric Rall says:

          The second link specifies 60 reported deaths out of a population of 100,000, and 28 of those deaths showed signs of an underlying disorder. Since the type of diets in question were prescribed and medically supervised, I’d expect under-reporting of deaths to be relatively rare.

          That’s a high enough rate to confirm the weaker claim that extreme calorie deficits are stressful to the body and that stress can in rare instances be fatal, but the stronger “CI-CO model is fundamentally wrong and you’ll starve to death if CI << CO regardless of stored body fat" claim seems like it would predict a much higher death rate in that population, approaching the entire portion of the population that complies with the extreme diets being studied.

      • Toby Bartels says:

        I’m glad to see you mentioning mass! People focus so much on Calories, and of course that must hold all of the secrets, because laws of thermodynamics (assuming no water bloating in your legs). But it’s even simpler and more straightforward to focus on Grams (uppercase means kilograms, nutrition science is cool that way), which also must hold all of the secrets, because law of conservation of mass (assuming no nuclear reactor in your stomach).

        So follow these simple rules, and you are guaranteed (by a very basic law of physics) to lose weight:

        * Exercise. If it makes you sweat. Or just hang out in a sauna.
        * Urinate and defecate as much as possible. This is why diuretics and laxatives are so useful in diet pills and foods.
        * Lay off the water. At least food has nutrients, but water is just empty Grams.
        * Get a haircut you hippie! That’s worth a Gram right there.
        * Weigh yourself every day. This is your one single measure of progress. Keep your eye on the prize!
        * Early intervention is the key to stopping childhood obesity. Withhold enough food, and you can stunt their growth, with effects that will last them their whole lives.
        * Do you really need *both* hands?

        I’m sure that you all can think of many more great pieces of advice based on this one undeniably true scientific fact!

    • RCF says:

      Saying that the way to lose weight is to have calories out exceed calories in is like saying that the way to get rich is to have money in exceed money out.

      • The Anonymouse says:

        But of course it isn’t. Everybody not incapacitated or institutionalized has it entirely within their control how much food they lift to their mouth and how much they move each day.

        Mind you, for many people, it is difficult. But telling people that it is impossible, making up excuses for them and then demanding that society accept those excuses, makes it even harder and and only harms those you seek to protect.

        • If a rationalist is considering losing weight, then they’d presumably want to know the odds of losing weight stably vs. losing and regaining back to their original weight, losing and regaining more weight, and/or getting an eating disorder.

          So far as I know, there is no research on loss behaviors and outcomes for the general population. I did a very casual survey, and here are some follow-ups.

      • Froolow says:

        This actually seems like a pretty good model for sense-checking economic decisions, so I don’t think it works as a counter-example.

        For example, if someone was trying to sell me a ‘finance plan’ (analogous to a ‘diet plan’) which said, “You can spend as much as you like and work as little as you like, as long as you never buy carbohydrates” I’d be able to reject that plan out of hand – the laws of economics preclude spending more money than you make, regardless of what you spend that money on. In the same way, the laws of physics (which are a lot less malleable than the laws of economics – and I speak as an economist) prevent you from gaining weight if your calories in < calories out (excluding weird water-retention diseases and so on).

        But you are correct "money in < money out" is probably a bad model for actually trying to plan your finances. No sane person actually tries to optimise for 'minimum weight' (or 'maximum money'). If I want to optimise 'looking good' I'm going to increase the amount of protein I eat and hit the gym more. If I want to minimise exercise I'm going to eat as many leafy vegetables and pulses as possible and as few carbs and fat as I can get away with an still function. Most sensible financial plans will say stuff like, "Most people spend lots of money on mobile phone contracts they don't really need. Do you need a mobile phone? Could you Skype instead? If you do decide you need a mobile phone, do you need the latest iPhone or could you do with a second-hand Nokia?". You can sense check this against the absolutely-certain rule that you will gain money if money out < money in, so it is a useful heuristic to bare in mind.

        I don't know if an argument from analogy might be more convincing, but consider that pyramid schemes are predicated on the notion that there are enough idiots in the world who don't understand that money in must eventually equal money out to make money for the scam artist – if the investors thought about what they were investing in for a second they would realise that at some point in the pyramid the money either has to dry up or investment at the level below them has to come from people who have already bought into the scheme. It seems like – despite the obviousness of the advice – there is value in stating the bleeding obvious before moving on to the more complicated discussions about how to optimise money in per time or similar. If the analogy holds up, then there is value in offering the 'calories in vs calories out' model before getting into the nitty-gritty of whether supplements are cost-effective and so on.

        • Anthony says:

          The financial equivalent would be more like “You can work as little or as much as you like, and you can spend as much or as little as you like, but you may never, ever borrow money.”

          And while taken to the extreme, that’s stupid advice, a little understanding around it makes it much more sensible. If you don’t borrow money, you can’t spend more than you have. (Borrowing is the easy way to increase the money coming in, for the short run.)

          The point of low-carb diets is that fat (and protein) lead to satiety for much lower caloric intake than carbohydrates. A friend of mine once did Atkins induction by eating a pound of bacon (uncooked weight) a day, with occasional lettuce. That’s a low-calorie diet – about 1300 to 2000 calories/day. Most people won’t feel nearly as hungry after eating a half-pound of bacon as they would after eating only 800 calories worth of bread. But “most” is not “all” when dealing with humans, or biology more generally.

      • Alexander Stanislaw says:

        Which is both correct and hardly trivial. So many people focus on money in, without any consideration for how much they are spending and are surprised when they can’t afford to buy a house or retire early. So can’t we just agree to say “Yes of course, now how do we achieve this realistically?”

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      Others have already made these points in this thread, but for my money not quite as well as Eliezer.

  5. Multiheaded says:

    The first link to is borked.

  6. Nornagest says:

    You may know this already, but rides again! Best part: the occasional retweets of real Salon headlines.

  7. Multiheaded says:

    From the Salon parody twitter:

    ‘Anger is a healthy response’: This Bastille Day, let’s remember the social justice potential of unhinged bloodlust

    1) As expected, I unironically agree.
    2) This is way more sane, interesting and radical then the real Salon headlines as collected by Nydwracu.

    3) This account is still Bayesian evidence for its author being fucking disgusting, because it’s TiA-like, and TiA never knows where to draw a line.


    Naming your child “Kyler” is a great example of white privilege gone bananas

    I believe that regardless of our political leanings we can all agree that this is the case. I wonder how long it would take for an “eyeroll” type account to quote this one.

    • Oligopsony says:

      This “men’s rights activist” was arrested for walking around a mall with a cape and katana

      Do the right-leaning tendencies of those in STEM mean that nerds deserve to be bullied after all?

      Let’s nationalize Amazon and Google: Publicly funded technology built Big Tech — time to make them utilities

      man there are some real diamonds in here

      • Multiheaded says:

        Regarding the third one: I wonder what the account’s owner imagines the actual history of Big Tech to be like. Perhaps he has simply never thought about it? I mean, aerospace, DARPA… hell, it takes a whole lot of ideology to just up and disregard all that.

        • von Kalifornen says:

          I never cease to be disgusted by the way the shaping of the physical world, which for the two modern centuries has defined human life and power, has been replaced by the eyeblinks of social technology. Where now are the semiconductor-makers who gave Silicon Valley its name? At least Google and Amazon produce products that are both unambiguously useful and partly physical.

          That article, though. I wonder whether the author realizes either how arbitrary their suggestion is (it seems like something out of Ayn Rand, though they are not wrong about the abuses) or that these companies’ creativity and other virtues are not compatible with being confiscated by the government we have. Toward the end, they seem no longer to care about privacy or the use of public resources and seem to be rejecting any interesting tech development that earns money by any method other than traditional product-selling.

        • Anthony says:

          The best response I’ve seen to the third suggestion was that we should nationalize all the industries which depend on the roads, since the government built the roads.

    • Multiheaded says:

      Extra bonus:

      Why I can’t look at ads anymore without thinking about capitalism’s manipulation of desire

      It’s even worse in my case. Whenever I find music in supermarkets to be a pleasant relaxing noise, I instantly think of Adorno and snap out of it.

      A new study shows that men who urinate standing are more likely to commit rape and violent crime

      Is this supposed to satirize liberals or racialists?

    • Anonymous says:

      So what even is that tumblr txt account? It just tweets pictures of tumblr txt tweets?

    • lambdaphage says:

      On one hand, mocking suicide is “fucking disgusting” (agreed). On the other, I believe I have you mentally filed primarily as the guy who’s really enthusiastic about Lenin-style violence. I don’t think I get you.

  8. lmm says:

    > Surprisingly, the happiest tend to be the ones that do worse on every other demographic measure – low income, poor health, high crime – like the Deep South.

    Maybe this makes sense if the thing that varies is people’s happiness set-point? Kind of depressing if so.

    • Nornagest says:

      Recent changes in prospects might have something to do with it. I noticed the Stockton/Lodi area low on the list, which I know as one of the most economically depressed places in California. (The weather also sucks, and there are an astonishing number of agriculture-related smells floating around, but I imagine you’d get used to both.)

      • Anthony says:

        I grew up in Concord, which isn’t quite as hot as Stockton (though my first summer there it hit 117F). You don’t get used to it. It just continues to suck.

    • Deiseach says:

      Or it may be the old chestnut that “money can’t buy happiness” is true. You’ve got the Swanky Apartment or Big House, you have as much money as you need, you’re achieving in your career, you may (or may not) be in a relationship, and you look around you when you’re 30s/40s and go “But why am I not happy? I have lots of Stuff and Stuff is supposed to make you happy!”

      Whereas you’re living in the arse-end of nowhere and life regularly pisses on you, so you may as well laugh as cry because crying will get you nowhere and at least you can (for the time being) look at the beauty of the moon and the river for free.

  9. Ialdabaoth says:

    The Satanic Panic, besides being the best name for a metal band, was a supposed incident in the eighties when a bunch of very gullible people believed that Satanists were going around murdering and torturing people. This caused everyone to become very concerned about how gullible people were and how easy it was to start panics over stupid reasons. But what if there never was a Satanic Panic, and the people condemning it were gullibly taken in by a Satanic Panic Panic?

    I had front-row seats for the start of this phenomenon.

    What happened, to the best of my memory (I was seven[?] or so at the time), was this:

    Two kids were caught “playing doctor”. Their step-mom’s mom had custody of them, and decided that the only way two children could ever have learned to do such filthy things was if their parents had abused them, and the only way adults could ever do that to precious little angel children is if Satan had full control of their souls. Also, I think there was some longstanding animosity already in the family so the “OMG their parents were Satanic kiddy-diddlers!” was a convenient thing to pump that emotional pressure through. Other kids claimed that the soon-to-be-defendants were nice people and thus they must have been corrupted too, and the set of parents who were clearly in league with Satan expanded.

    Because this was fucking Bakersfield (or its environs; I can’t remember if I was living in Porterville or Oildale at the time), the rumormill started going like crazy, and one of the BS preacher-types got it in his head that he had a winner – so the process started repeating elsewhere in California.

    The charge that “there was good evidence” is utter, complete horseshit. I can say that with strong confidence because the process started in Bakersfield, and Bakersfield P.D. does not know what evidence is. I mean that quite flatly and literally.

    Also, I know some of the people responsible for spreading the current batch of BS that “there was good evidence but it was suppressed because of a deep Satanic conspiracy that goes all the way up to the federal government and the secret Illuminati shadow-government”. (And yes, that is absolutely where the current meme of ‘it wasn’t all bullshit’ comes from, and that’s exactly how it’s explained when it’s not being marketed to non-Fundamentalists).

    You’ll likely have to do some digging to find reputable sources for all this, because my own source is “I grew up with these people, I saw this with my own goddamn eyes, I know for a fact what’s true and what’s bullshit, and I know Bakersfield like I would know a cancerous growth on the back of my own hand.”

    • Hainish says:

      (I’m sure you’re asked this all the time) Have you considered writing a book?

      • Ialdabaoth says:

        So, here’s how my social anxiety manifests: I’m not 100% certain how much of my childhood memories are real and how much are constructed.

        Any book I could write about my life would likely be scrutinized and challenged.

        The easiest way to throw me into an absolute self-destructive spiral is to accuse me of fabricating past events for the sake of getting other people in trouble.

        If I DID write a book, it would have to be pretty heavily fictionalized, and it would likely STILL wind up making a lot of people that I knew as a kid really uncomfortable.

        I’ll think about it.

    • Toby Bartels says:

      It’s worse than this. The article makes it sound like the McMartin Preschool case started it all, but it didn’t. That case was in Manhattan Beach, far from Bakersfield, and maybe there was evidence of abuse there, I don’t know. But it wasn’t the beginning. The beginning was the case that you remember, about people living in and around Bakersfield, starting with the McCuans.

  10. Said Achmiz says:

    New York City is the most unhappy city in America, but I could have told you that. In fact, Ozy and I had a big argument when we were watching Rent, because they thought the moral was the power of friendship, and I thought the moral was everyone should get the heck out of New York City.

    Scott, you have just got to explain what you have against NYC. Of all your attitudes I find this one the most perplexing.

    • drunk_meyerkev248 says:

      Not Scott and very drunk (Friend from Dublin is in town, so I’m whatever $104.75 in beer/($6-7/beer)/2 people is into my cups), so sorry for the typos and extra commas, but let me try to explain except using SF as an example because I live in Mountain View at the moment.

      SF/NYC is a fucking fantastic place to visit for a week, and blow $5K. It’s really cool. Drunk me admits this. Got great museums, got cool neighborhoods, got stuff you’ve heard of living in random bits of nowhere. I can’t overstate just how AWESOME a place it is to visit for a week and blow $5K.

      It is an incredibly shitty place to live.

      The average income in SF is ~$68K pre-tax, the average rent is something like $4K/month. I did this, so $73K income turns into about $50K post-tax if you’re single. So your paycheck pays rent (And honestly, this isn’t a CA bitch. CA is marginal 9.2, average ~7%. MI is 4.35%. $2-3K/year isn’t a huge deal compared to the rent difference. It’s just that making $100K/year means you pay a TON of federal taxes. Irregardless of where you live. In theory, I make $100K/year. In reality, I make $1807/paycheck. Or about 46K/year after tax, health insurance, 4% to the 401K, etc, etc). And then a beer is $7/beer in the burbs and $10 in the city. AFTER you pay something like 38% in income/payroll tax. So in theory, SF is cool, in reality you can’t afford to do any of the cool things, and you’re living with 6 people in a 3 BR house. I make $160K/year pre-tax (SERIOUS oneoffs) and I live in the BURBS ($12 train ride up to the city) and I have a roommate because I can’t afford my own place. And you get to deal with CA traffic (40 minute 8 mile commute). And my theoretical commute to SF on Caltrain is SHORTER than the commute from Western SF to Downtown SF because SF mass transit sucks. And even NYC mass transit isn’t all THAT great since t takes about an hour to go 13 miles from Harlem to Coney Island.

      And meanwhile, since happiness seems to depend on what the people around you are like, you deal with MULTI-millionaires on a regular basis. Who spend your monthly income on dinner. Which makes you really unhappy.

      On the other hand, you can go live in suburban Detroit (Where I grew up) and make 70-80% of your salary. If you don’t work for a multinational that doesn’t understand the meaning of the words “Cost of Living” and pays everyone exactly the same no matter where they live.

      Fine, Detroit Sucks (In reality, it’s a reverse donut. Downtown is AWESOME. Suburbs are awesome. Everything in between sucks so bad I’ve been in a car that was literally on fire going down the freeway because there was NO WAY we were getting off in Detroit) and you get to deal with snow. BUT:

      * A nice house is ~$200K. An Ok house is $100K. I’ve got some relatives who live in $50K houses that are honestly pretty nice. And my teacher uncle owns 3 houses, 2 of them lakeside. In CA, you can add a zero on each of those. And then double to quadruple those if you live in the city. Which then after basically 50% income tax is $4 Million in pre-tax income. You have any idea how hard it is to make $4 Million? That’s 25 years of my current income (See: one-offs). Plus ~$30K/year in property tax.
      * Because $50K gets you a REALLY nice lifestyle, you don’t pay a whole lot of taxes. I’ve never made $50K, but when I made $30K, I paid -$67 in federal income tax and when I made $20K, I didn’t pay taxes. At all. And Dad gets 3 floors that are the size of my apartment for $500/month. Seriously, he makes 20% of what I do and lives a better lifestyle.
      * Traffic’s pretty good. The freeways are screwed during rush hour, but the underlying mile road system goes ~30 MPH, and rush hour is actually only about an hour long. In CA, I’ve parked my car on the freeway at 2:30 in the afternoon because the road was not moving.
      * And then at some point, you take a week off work and take a vacation in SF. Which once again, is a REALLY cool place to visit. With all the money that you weren’t spending trying to make rent in SF. (Seriously, I visited SF more living in MI than I have in the year and a half that I have lived in CA)
      * And a beer is $3. Instead of the $7 that I paid tonight. Which because of taxes, becomes $4 vs. $12.

      Mind you, there’s reasons why I live in CA at the moment (Namely: Even Amazon corporate culture is reasonably reasonable in the Valley), but at a certain point, the snow is worth it.

      /The fundamental issue is that Cubicles are smaller than houses. Facebook’s campus has ~95 sq. ft/ employee. Even a postage stamp lot is 5K sq. ft. And cubicles stack. And then the Bay Area has zero infrastructure so they can’t move the people from the houses to the jobs, zero space, and way too much money floating around to live in the very little space close to the jobs.

      • Said Achmiz says:

        It seems to me that answering a question about New York by using SF as an example is strange. They’re… not the same place. In fact, I would venture to say that they are different places.

        I have only been to SF briefly. It seemed nice. So I don’t know how accurate any of what you said about SF is. Maybe it’s all true! But applied to NYC, a lot of it sounds bizarre. For example:

        visit for a week and blow $5K

        Gosh. What are you doing for that week? Buying diamonds?

        It is an incredibly shitty place to live.

        Just because of the cost of living…?

        the average rent is something like $4K/month

        In NYC it seems to be just under $3k. Lower in most of Brooklyn and Queens.

        a beer is $7/beer in the burbs and $10 in the city

        I don’t think I’ve had a $10 beer in my life. I could find a bar that pricy, probably. If I went and looked for one. And was inclined to make the trip out to Manhattan… But how often do you go out drinking, anyway? It is possible to live a rewarding life without weekly bar-hopping, you know…

        And meanwhile, since happiness seems to depend on what the people around you are like, you deal with MULTI-millionaires on a regular basis. Who spend your monthly income on dinner.

        I don’t think I’ve ever met a multi-millionaire socially. I’m sure I’ve been within several yards of one? Probably? I mean, Manhattan is pretty crowded. But the sort of life you’re implying that you lead is certainly outside my experience.

        Your main points of concern seem to be: the price of housing; traffic; the price of beer (at bars, I surmise). To each his own! I do not judge.

        But. There are other concerns one might have…

        • drunk_meyerkev248 says:

          Fair enough.

          SF and NYC are both very expensive major American cities that people use as examples of great American cities to live in. And they’re not. Because you’re spending all of your money living 3 to a BR and NOT spending that money on all the cool things that you’d like to be doing because you live in SF/NYC.

          I’m just using SF because I live there and so I know these numbers backwards and forwards. Because I run them every month or so.

          So the TLDR is basically:

          1) Taxes suck to a degree that’s really hard to explain to people who’ve never made $100K/year. And that’s honestly fine. Someone’s got to pay taxes, it might as well be me.

          When I made $20K/year, I didn’t pay taxes. When I made $30K/year, I didn’t pay income taxes. When I made $72K/year, I paid ~$23K in income/payroll taxes. And then somehow, I gained a $28K/year payraise and it turned into a $600/month paycut in terms of takehome.

          Which is fine when you’re in the midwest and $100K gets you the house and the car and the nice vacations. And less so when the new apartments across the street are $4K/month, and $100K pre-tax sorta pays rent and food and you’re running on darn near 50% taxes after that.

          And then the townhouses one street over are currently selling for about $1.5 Million in cash offers only. Which is NEVER going to happen even on my bosses salary.

          (And I have no idea how people who don’t make as much as I do or live in the city do it. I’m paycheck to paycheck with roommates in a 600 sq. ft suburban apartment. They’re just screwed).

          Like I said, there’s reasons for living here (The ability to walk into work in a t-shirt and shorts cannot be over-rated). The ability to live out the American Dream with the house, the yard, the 2 kids and the dog is NOT one of them.

          2) You can live in these honestly really cool cities. Except then you have roommates. Or you can live in these MUCH cheaper meh cities and then take some vacation time and go have fun in the cool cities. With all the money that you’re not spending on rent. And meanwhile the other 350-odd days/year, you don’t have to deal with traffic (8 miles. 40 minutes. Biking’s 50 and I get the exercise in) and you get to live in the nice house.

          3) I’m using the price of beer as a proxy for “OMG, everything around here is so crazy expensive.” If you want, we can use the $25 that I spent at the burger place yesterday. Or the $12 and 2 hours that I spent riding the Mass transit to the airport when I went to Dublin for work. (Or the $54 that I spent parking at the airport for a weekend, because it’s a 30 minute drive and CA mass transit sucks).

          Or the last time I was in NYC, I paid ~$25 to get into the Met. And this was really cool. But the last time I was at the DIA, I paid $5 to get in. And I’m not sure that the Met was 5x cooler than the DIA.

          So I TOTALLY get where hipsterdom came from. I might not be able to afford a decent non-rat infested apartment because it’s an extra $2K/month even with roommates, but as long as I’m spending $6/beer, I might as well spend $7/beer on the GOOD stuff (And then get the name of the good stuff and go get it at the store later for $4-5/beer).

          /And $5K. Depends on where you’re coming from, but flight is going to be $6-700/pop. Hotel is going to be ~$200/night/room if you’re in a reasonable location where you aren’t taxiing everywhere or walking really far. Getting on the subway is going to start at $4/person/go. Not sure you can bounce off $5K as a single person, but I did it repeatedly as a kid doing family vacations. And then last month, I hadn’t seen my sister in a year, I was in Dublin for work and she was in Paris studying abroad, so I dumped $1700 on a 3-day weekend in Paris. Which I barely noticed because that was a little more than a month’s rent plus utilities.

        • Said Achmiz says:

          I have concluded from your comments that you don’t know very much about New York City.

          spending all of your money living 3 to a BR

          Having lived in the city for most of my life, I naturally have a few friends there. I don’t know anyone who has ever shared a bedroom with anyone they weren’t currently in a relationship with (and those people share a bedroom… in a whole apartment they have to themselves).

          the $25 that I spent at the burger place

          Um, well, I supposed I’d have to ask how much food you got for that $25…? If it was just, like, a burger, and if this had happened in NYC, then I’d have to conclude that you went out looking for an expensive place on purpose. Not even the burger place in Times Square that my friends and I frequent is that expensive.

          Or the last time I was in NYC, I paid ~$25 to get into the Met.

          Admission to the Met is free. This is definitely your most baffling example.

          there’s reasons for living here (The ability to walk into work in a t-shirt and shorts cannot be over-rated)

          This is, of course, both untrue of NYC (you were claiming it only of SF, I do realize) and would be a really bizarre benefit to claim even if it were true. There are at least 10 things I can think of just off the top of my head that are way more important than dress code at one’s place of work.

          Getting on the subway is going to start at $4/person/go

          Ok, now you’re just making up numbers. Come on.

          Look, here’s the thing. Some people come to NYC (to visit or live) and they think, “Hey, I’m in The City! Naturally I must live in nothing less than Manhattan, or at worst Williamsburg; I must go out to bars in Midtown nightly; I must visit all the museums and pay the entire recommended admission fee if not more; and if I should ever eat a meal that costs less per ounce than sterling silver, my entire New York experience will have been null and void.”

          Now, if you can afford that, that’s cool. I don’t begrudge people that. Those are the people who pay the taxes that paid for my wonderful high school and my beloved college (“what benefits does living in NYC have”, you ask…?).

          But it would be the sheerest folly to conclude that one must lead that lifestyle in order to live in the City, or to be happy living in the City (in fact, the opposite is obviously true).

        • Ken Arromdee says:

          And then somehow, I gained a $28K/year payraise and it turned into a $600/month paycut in terms of takehome.

          Taxes run on brackets. If you earn enough money to be taxed at a higher tax rate, only the additional money gets taxed at the higher tax rate. So this scenario could not happen unless earning the raise also increases your other expenses, or reduces benefits. I doubt you get any benefits if you’re making $72K.

        • Andy says:

          Taxes run on brackets. If you earn enough money to be taxed at a higher tax rate, only the additional money gets taxed at the higher tax rate. So this scenario could not happen unless earning the raise also increases your other expenses, or reduces benefits. I doubt you get any benefits if you’re making $72K.

          I smell a troll…

          Scott, you have just got to explain what you have against NYC. Of all your attitudes I find this one the most perplexing.

          Perhaps the subtly-ingrained West Cost disdain for all things New York. It might be in our drinking water. 😛
          But I remain impressed that NYC (then pretty much just Manhattan) had over 5000 people per hundred acres in 1860, when most of the country had less than 2. You New Yorkers may have valuable lessons to teach about being able to live in denser cities, as much as it shames my LA heart to say so.

        • Anonymous says:

          >I don’t know anyone who has ever shared a bedroom with anyone they weren’t currently in a relationship with (and those people share a bedroom… in a whole apartment they have to themselves).

          Do I have the honor of being the first person on this blog to use the phrase “check your privilege” completely devoid of any irony or trolling? Because seriously, if you live in NYC and have never met anyone ever who shares a bedroom, you should think about your economic standing before using your experience as a judgment.

        • Said Achmiz says:

          Given that the person to whom I am responding is, by his (?) own description of his income level, notably wealthier than I and makes more than three times more money than several of my friends do, no, I really do not think I need to “check my privilege”. Please consider the context of my comments.

          (Out of curiosity, do you yourself live in the city?)

      • anon1 says:

        For fuck’s sake. Yes, you can find a $25 burger in SF. They exist to fleece the tourists who are there to blow $5000. You can also find a fucking amazing $7 burrito the size of two meals. Yes, long BART trips aren’t that cheap. Because it’s commuter rail at that point, and not a subway, and you’re making an unfair implicit comparison.

        There’s basically no need for a car, which saves a lot compared to… dunno, whatever suburban ideal you’re trying to compare to. Public transit is underfunded and disorganized and bad in all kinds of ways, but it basically works and for the US that’s kind of impressive. SF is pretty bike-friendly and things are reasonably close together. And basic necessities are shockingly cheap. (I moved from New England to SF and what I spent on groceries was cut in half.)

        Also… a $12 Caltrain fare? Where do you live? Gilroy? If you want to say Gilroy’s a shitty place to live, I’ll believe you, but it sure isn’t SF.

        • Said Achmiz says:

          And basic necessities are shockingly cheap. (I moved from New England to SF and what I spent on groceries was cut in half.)

          This is definitely a good point. Even out here in a low-income neighborhood of Indianapolis, groceries (especially produce!) are substantially pricier than they are in, say, Brooklyn. Everything from frozen meat to fresh fruit and vegetables to eggs and dairy products costs more. (Not to mention the fact that there’s a much poorer selection and overall lower quality and many of the things I’m used to in NYC just plain aren’t available.)

          Now granted, my rent’s a third of what I’d pay in the City. But cost of living differentials aren’t uniform across expense domains, that’s for sure.

  11. CaptainBooshi says:

    Surprisingly, the happiest tend to be the ones that do worse on every other demographic measure – low income, poor health, high crime – like the Deep South.

    This really is very surprising to me. I can rationalize reasons for this, but I can also recognize that is what I’m doing. I’m very curious about why this is true, and once again hope for a lot more research into the area of what actually makes people happy.

    But what if there never was a Satanic Panic, and the people condemning it were gullibly taken in by a Satanic Panic Panic?

    The article is quite interesting, and I’m glad you linked it, but I’m not quite sure it says what you’re claiming. It makes a convincing case that most of the sexual abuse trials of the ‘Satanic Panic’ were not modern day witch-hunts, and that sexual abuse was often actually happening, and that the idea that all of these charges were ginned up due to moral panic has been harmful to actually prosecuting sexual abuse of minors since then. This seems to me, however, to be very different from saying there wasn’t really a ‘Satanic Panic’ to begin with. There could still have been a lot of people genuinely freaking out about Satanic rituals, which would explain why you saw them ascribing Satanic motives to unrelated crimes.

    In fact, you could make a case that the problem he is decrying is a result of the the ‘Satanic Panic.’ Once it turned out that there wasn’t a rash of people worshipping Satan and doing awful crimes in his name, like people were worried about, the real crimes that got swept up and declared part of the Satanic problem were dismissed as fantasy as well. You still have the problem of people overlaying real crimes with the Satanic worries they had, and messing up all kinds of trials. The author even notes at one point that he did find in some of the cases that people were charged who shouldn’t have been. I’ll also note the author is focusing specifically on the sexual abuse of minors, which was not the only part of the ‘Satanic Panic’ worth mentioning, as we also saw cases like the West Memphis 3.

    All in all, I don’t think you can conclude from this guy’s argument that the ‘Satanic Panic’ wasn’t a real thing, but it is quite convincing that the idea that has emerged since then that it consisted entirely of modern-day witch hunts is wrong.

    • Meh says:

      “Surprisingly, the happiest tend to be the ones that do worse on every other demographic measure – low income, poor health, high crime – like the Deep South.

      This really is very surprising to me. I can rationalize reasons for this, but I can also recognize that is what I’m doing. I’m very curious about why this is true, and once again hope for a lot more research into the area of what actually makes people happy.”

      I don’t believe it is true. The study controlled for income.

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        Are they using average happiness or median happiness? The happiest individuals I’ve met — who could pull an average way up — have been in the poorest regions. Their incomes and standards of living would be low by national standards, but were comfortable and secure by local standards; at their level they were solvent and without much stress.

        In the US these were in declining tourist areas: beautiful scenery and weather (seasonal), a lot of vacant or abandoned summer houses, banks and hardware stores closing. Most people were retirees or on some sort of welfare. Others had chosen part time low stress work.

      • lmm says:

        Wait, it’s controlled for income? Then isn’t this all explained by the result that you’re happier when you’re richer than the people around you?

        • Desertopa says:

          Well, probably not all- New York was still third from the bottom on the “unadjusted” scale, so there appear to be other factors at work there.

  12. lmm says:

    So what was with the ball pit? Sometimes with these tumblr scandals I feel like I need a whole history to explain what’s going on. Are ball pits now an expression of privilege or something?

    • David Barry says:

      From Know Your Meme:

      Following the cancellation of the Welcome to Night Vale appearance, rumors began to spread on Tumblr that the convention organizers were trying to appease the angry attendees by offering “an extra hour in the ball pit” in compensation. Soon, many attendees at the convention, as well as Tumblr users who were remotely following the story through the hashtag, began making mockeries of the ball pit as the primary attraction of the entire event.

    • CaptainBooshi says:

      My understanding is that they set up a tiny, one-person ball pit in a huge room as a joke attraction, and everyone on the internet decided that they must have been totally serious about it, and mocked them for how pathetic it was. Of course, I had not even heard of this convention until people started talking about it afterwards, so this is like 5th-hand information, and I have no idea how accurate that is.

  13. Douglas Knight says:

    except I think a smart linguist might realize that – among other problems – Word N has no correlation with Word N+1

    Well, what happens in the Voynich or Seraphinianus? Do the people studying them notice correlations between sequential words? It is pretty easy to know how much structure you need to pass the tests that those documents have been passed. Certainly no one has assigned parts of speech to the words, so a model of parse trees is overkill. An n-gram model of word sequence is pretty easy to layer on top of an n-gram model of letter sequence. Either you use the letter sequence model to build a dictionary and then use a word sequence model to build the document, or you simply combine the two models. And a sufficiently high N for letters subsumes multiple words. High N would have helped with the vowel harmony problem that occurred at N=3. At n=6, transitions between the two types of vowels would not have been generated. Occasional long words would have violated the rules by transitioning through neutral vowels, though.

  14. The low carb article implies the dieters tested were eating something like 150g of carbs a day. That’s what I eat when I’m having a cheat day off my low carb diet, and 3 times more than most experts (I have read) recommend as the daily maximum on a low carb diet. I guess they proved that my cheat days are as healthy as a standard low-fat diet? Excellent 🙂

    • BenSix says:

      That depends on what those carbohydrates are. “Low fat” and “low carb” are effectively meaningless without distinguishing between diets high in beans, whole grains and tubers or white flour and refined sugar, or fish, olive oil and avocados or sausages, pork rinds and mayonnaise.

      Me, I’m on a free gluten diet. I steal bread and pasta.

  15. US says:

    “The closest living relative to the mitochondria that power all higher forms of life is rickettsia prowazekii – the typhus bacterium.”

    …or at least it was, back when that paper was published – in 1998..

    Google scholar says the paper has been cited by 1418 other studies so far – I’m not going to go look through all of those other papers, but it does not seem unlikely that another ‘closest relative’ has been found by now. Especially not considering how much attention this paper has received, and considering how much work has been done in the area of genetic sequencing etc. in the meantime.

    Still interesting though..

  16. AndekN says:

    > The Satanic Panic, besides being the best name for a metal band

    The band Of Montreal has an album called “Satanic Panic in the Attic”. Sadly, it isn’t metal, but rather “psychedelic pop”.

    • a person says:


    • Nornagest says:

      “Satanic Panic” is a little precious for a metal band anyway. It reads to me more like post-punk or something else in the vast and insufferably ironic alt-rock space.

  17. Meh says:

    The study says the happiness is adjusted for income (among other things), which I’m not sure is the right thing to do with a happiness study. I would say the conclusion that NYC is unhappiest place on earth is somewhat flawed.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Overadjusting for income seems like a really good explanation.

      • mareofnight says:

        I was thinking the same thing. If they adjusted for income and it looks pretty much like the opposite of an income map, something could be up with their math.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      Especially if they adjusted for nominal income rather than PPP income. If the result is that for constant income happiness is inversely correlated with cost of living, that’s spectacularly unsurprising. And I do recall once seeing a state-by-state unadjusted happiness map where poorer states were much worse.

      …on the other hand, apparently NYC was still the third-unhappiest sampled metro area even without adjustment. On the other other hand, I know at least one innately unhappiness prone person who absolutely refuses to live anywhere else. The causation direction is always a question.

  18. Andy says:

    The Tumblr convention being a fiasco doesn’t surprise me, but not because it’s Tumblr. Making a convention happen is a complicated thing, with a lot of things that can go wrong, and the Dashcon organizers were apparently amateurs with no experience.
    An insightful take:

    This has nothing to do with it being a ‘Tumblr con.’ This has to do with it being something run by inexperienced people. Anime cons have flamed out like this. MLP cons. Sci-fi cons. Comic cons. I could fill a file folder with cons that were the result of hubris, bad planning, stupid decision making, straight out up and up fraudulent planners. I know of multiple cons that have ended in the negative in the $10-50 THOUSAND dollar range. I could name three RIGHT NOW. It has nothing to do with the fandom. It has to do with the fans running a con who should not be running a con.

    • One more angle, from what I’ve read from volunteers who worked on the con– the people who started Dashcon didn’t understand that if you’re in charge, people take what you say about money and how authority is distributed very seriously.

    • Nornagest says:

      I’m not sure that flies. I’ve been to a first-year anime con of about the same size, run by people with enthusiasm but little to no experience. It was a pretty miserable experience with little greasy incompetence-prints all over it, and I never went to a con again; but it doesn’t approach the levels of misery and incompetence that I’ve been seeing in the Dashcon posts. That’s something special.

      On the other hand, I can’t claim to have a particularly broad perspective on this sort of thing. And I have no idea of the financials involved.

      • Anonymous says:

        it doesn’t approach the levels of misery and incompetence that I’ve been seeing in the Dashcon posts. That’s something special.

        Were these posts by confirmed attendees, with evidence to corroborate?
        A special point of Scott’s link is that a lot of things were taken out of context or flat-out made up – remember, reports of the BDSM panel letting in minors started hours before the panel started. That strongly suggests that, whether out of attention-seeking or at least some of the posts about Dashcon have no basis in reality. Because of this, and the amount of attention on Dashcon and the Tumblr slice of fandom in general, I’m inclined to discount posts about Dashcon being more than the normal run of incompetence as being likely-not-true.
        Edit: Andy here, and my cookies are still screwed up. Sorry.

    • lmm says:

      Yeah, I meant to say something about this. A few months ago I was listening to some of the UK animé con scene reminisce and we agreed that #1 of every con has been a mess. Even the ones that are awesome now. Rather than intrinsically the “wrong people” I think it’s fair to say no one gets these things right the first time.

      I’ll wait for dashcon II before passing judgement on the competence of tumblr.

      (I still think overreactions on tumblr were a predictable outcome that deserves light mockery though)

    • Scott Alexander says:

      The impression I get – at least from the article I linked to – was that the convention wasn’t that much of a fiasco, and the problem was people trying too hard to criticize and find fault with it and bring it down.

      • Andy says:

        This was my impression, though it definitely had a lot of problems caused by inexperienced organizers.
        What was so interesting to me about the Dashcon response was that much of the criticizing and fault-finding can be put into the category of “rumor” (fe the “minors being in the BDSM panel” hours before the panel began) helped along by Tumblr being a mishmash of subcultures that sometimes virulently hate each other. So a lot of the faultfinding can be interpreted as an attempt to smear disliked subcultures, via rrumor and legend-making.

      • adsd says:

        There is an amusingly disproportionate amount of tumblr hate compared to tumblr…fail? tumblr suck? whatever

        • Andy says:

          Define your terms? Is “tumblr hate” hatred toward people on tumblr or hatred by tumblrites toward others?

  19. Ben says:

    The USA Today article is incredibly stupid. There was nothing inherently unsustainable about launching big rockets, and nothing ‘cultish’ about wanting to regain the capability we lost when we lost the Saturn V. The author praises SpaceX’s approach – he would do well to listen to SpaceX’s chief technology officer, founder, and CEO.

    • EoT says:

      Yep. Even without moonshots, they could have just iterated on the Saturn V. Would have been a lot cheaper than the Space Shuttle.

      • von Kalifornen says:


        There have also been a variety of space-shuttle-based shuttle-less ideas, mostly focused around “put engines on the external tank”.

  20. Adele_L says:

    The alien text generation caused me to imagine the following scenario:

    Someone looks at n-letter frequencies in real languages, and uses this to generate a realistic alien vocabulary. Then someone else points out that the words don’t correlate with each other.

    So the original person looks at word-pair frequencies in real languages, and uses this to improve the alien text. This is more convincing, but soon enough, people point out that there isn’t really any structure in how the words are organized.

    Thus, rules for generating alien grammars are devised, the quality of the text is further advanced. But there is no coherence within paragraphs, and no overarching structure throughout the whole text exists.

    The generator is improved again, and this process continues on iteratively for several decades. The final complaint is that there is no correspondence to a possible environment and context for the text to exist in. Agglomerating the statistical structure of various cultures around the world, a new text is generated, everyone is satisfied, hence it is quickly forgotten.


    Much, much later, the resulting book is rediscovered – and is successfully translated. It’s a book detailing a hitherto unknown and very alien culture, grappling with the emotional trauma of living in such a disjointed and meaningless society. Anthropologists are completely baffled at how such a culture could have ever developed, and how it could have not left any hint of a trace beyond this text. There is speculation that it is a work of fiction, of course, but most people agree that the emotional salience of the text implies that someone, somewhere, must have actually existed in this strange alien world…

  21. Armstrong For President 2020 says:

    Can someone explain the “Jon Stewart is a Violent Sociopath” thing? I’ve tried to find the original article but Newsweek has decided not to let me see their site and everything else I’ve found is just the tweeted headline without elaboration. I do realize it’s just your standard libelous clickbait but it’s really bothering me not knowing what the basis of this is.

    On Macdonald, it seems to me like the only reason anyone has ever heard of him is that more prominent left-wing authors keep condemning and/or plagiarizing him. He just doesn’t seem to have a natural audience on the far-right; I’ve never seen a group selectionist in HBD and only a few in the New/Alt Right or NRx crowds, literate white nationalists probably prefer 19th/20th century authors like Spengler, and far-right Christians aren’t exactly receptive to arguments based on natural selection. If it weren’t for the outrage against him I doubt he would have been able to get his articles into the National Review to begin with.

    • Erik says:

      It’s a commentary on the nature of clickbait headlines. What started as “Jon Stewart replies to [name of person]’s argument” got abbreviated in headline shorthand by using the name as a metonym for the person’s argument, and exaggerated in clickbait format by substituting a far more violent verb, resulting in a series of statements along the lines of “Jon Stewart crushes Karl Rove”, “Jon Stewart eviscerates Dick Cheney”, “Jon Stewart annihilates Republicans”, etc.

      Sounds like a violent sociopath out of context.

      (I think there may be an element, too, of responding to/echoing/imitating/whatever last cycle’s round of rage involving Sarah Palin’s gunsight ads “targeting” various people and places.)

    • gattsuru says:

      Article here (may have interstitial ads).

  22. Swimmy says:

    Despite the common political idea that moochers vote Democrat in order to ensure the continued flow of free cash, in voters under 65 perceived dependence on federal spending is unrelated to vote choice.

    You would probably enjoy Sears and Funk’s Self-Interest in Americans’ Political Opinions. This is decades-old news in political science. On almost any policy issue, self-interest explains very little in opinion polls. Poor people don’t necessarily vote Democrat. Old people aren’t more in favor of Social Security. Parents aren’t more likely to oppose busing. Etc.

    Self-interest explains so little in how people vote, especially if you control for education, that political scientists are impressed when they can find an example that works. For example, smoking: smokers are way more likely to oppose anti-smoking laws.

    • Paul Torek says:

      Just as I always suspected. There’s something inherently unlikely about selfishly standing in line for half an hour or so, in order to give yourself a microscopically better chance of a few laws being changed in your favor. It’s like Drew Westen said: people vote their values.

  23. BenSix says:

    What was also embarrassing was the fact that Zizek blamed the plagiarism on his friend emailing him comments on MacDonald that he then published. “I am not dishonest in stealing somebody else’s work,” in other words, “I am just dishonest in passing off somebody else’s work as my own insights”. Not being a hack – just being a hack.

  24. Eric Rall says:

    In fact, Ozy and I had a big argument when we were watching Rent, because they thought the moral was the power of friendship, and I thought the moral was everyone should get the heck out of New York City.

    And here I thought the moral was to always put lease agreements in writing.

    • drethelin says:

      the moral is that modern progressives are self-centered narcissists who care more about pop-culture, tribal signalling, and their own problems than they do about those of society.

  25. Elizabeth says:

    Could you put a sexual assault content warning on the “satanic panic panic” link?

  26. MugaSofer says:

    Speaking of religion, religious children are more likely to identify magical characters as real than atheist children.

    As a theist: well … yeah.

    After all, one of those groups is … exceptionally likely … to feel it’s important to tell their kids “of course, in the real world there are no dragons” or whatever.

    Does love – or more realistically animal lust – conquer ethnic hatreds

    Turns out … not really, no. Kind of amusing in a macabre way, though.

    “I’m in Palestine.” “There is no Palestine!”

    “Then … where am I?” "You don't know where you are?"

    • Eli says:

      After all, one of those groups is … exceptionally likely … to feel it’s important to tell their kids “of course, in the real world there are no dragons” or whatever.
      You don’t expect to meet dragons on a daily basis any more than we do.

  27. Eldritch says:

    On the Voynich statistics / Artificial Finnish angle, this 2004 paper describes an algorithm that could generate text with the observed statistical properties of the Voynich manuscript – including the extremely language-like syllable-level features and the very weird sentence/word level properties of Voynichese.

    A more refined technique might involve doing something similar on the word level. Voynichese has good syllable-level patterns, but it’s lacking in word-level patterns (to quote the author of that paper, “For instance, Voynichese is much more repetitive than any known language; there are numerous cases of the same very common word appearing two or three times in a row. That can occasionally happen in real languages, but not on anything like the scale that occurs in Voynichese. Conversely, Voynichese doesn’t have the regular word patterns that do occur in real languages: for instance, when you see the words “on top” in English, you normally see the word “of” occurring after them. Similar patterns occur in all other known languages, but they don’t occur in Voynichese.”)

    A similar technique that could also generate word-level patterns could appear extremely language-like indeed. (I suspect this ultimately ends up in constructing an entire conlang sketch, with phonotactics, grammar, sound change rules, prefixes, etc and then generating random sentences and words based on the sketch.)

  28. rsq says:

    What’s the (tumblr) story with flower crowns? They fetishize gay relationships??

    • Nornagest says:

      I’ve honestly never seen the flower crown thing in the wild, but knowyourmeme informs me that they’re Photoshopped onto images of various guys, most notably Harry Styles of the band One Direction.

      Seems pretty harmless to me.

    • ozymandias says:

      What Nornagest said for flower crowns. The “decrying sexualization while fetishizing gay relationships” thing was an anti-SJ post which noticed that there was a panel on gay subtext and another panel on the treatment of women in media and then got REALLY MAD about how awful it was that people thought you shouldn’t dress superheroines in stripperific clothing and also shipped slash ships.

  29. Viliam Búr says:

    I can confirm that socialism makes people less trustworthy. This is how it looks from the other side — you guys from the West seem to us extremely naive, like small children. No offense, I think it’s adorable. 😉 But seeing how much you trust each other, we can’t resist thinking about how easily it could be abused. It’s just our natural way of thinking.

    It’s like, in terms of Prisonners’ Dilemma, if you had two cultures: in one culture, people cooperate most of the time; in the other culture, people defect most of the time, and cooperate only with their family and close friends. Yeah, it’s completely obvious which one of those cultures will be rich, and which one will be poor. The part that I don’t quite get is how exactly do you succeed to maintain this unstable equilibrium of cooperation. Because, you also have some cheaters. How do they not succeed to ruin the trust in the whole society? What makes most people say: Yeah, I know that untrustworthy people exist… but I’m going to trust people anyway, because everyone seems so nice. Instead of: Well, since everyone seems to trust everyone, this is a perfect opportunity to make some money.

    At this moment, my best hypothesis is that in the culture of non-cheaters, being caught as a cheater is a great social stigma. In the culture of cheaters, it just means you got unlucky. So even if both cultures had the same formal punishment, the informal punishment would be much greater in the non-cheating culture… which in turn might discourage most people from cheating. But I’m not entirely convinced that this is a sufficient explanation.

    In my country, there is a proverb from the socialist era: “It you don’t steal, you are stealing from your own family.” Honestly.

    • Eldritch says:

      I don’t know why it Just Works. My guess is that, in an economy like ours, not cheating still gets you a satisfactory lifestyle a lot of the time. This means the social stigma against cheaters can survive, because most people don’t need to cheat. Which, in turn, means most people can be trusted, because the combination of not needing to cheat and feeling social pressure not to cheat means most people don’t cheat.

    • moridinamael says:

      I think you’re underestimating the degree to which the cultural values are internalized. When an opportunity to cheat arises, I don’t choose to refrain from cheating due to complex game theoretic reasons, or to avoid being caught out and punished – the *reason* I usually avoid cheating is because I viscerally feel that only a scumbag would cheat, and *I’m* not a scumbag.

      The psychology goes something like this, I think: Maybe Fred is going to cheat, and thereby beat me at this particular contest, but that makes me better than Fred. Fred is a bad person. Furthermore, pragmatically, Fred’s policy of cheating is eventually going to result in him being caught, and he’s going to be punished very badly by Society.

      • Viliam Búr says:

        No, I didn’t mean that people are doing decision-theoretic calculations every time they have an opportunity of cheating. It is on the level of feelings. But there will always be a few people who feel otherwise, and who will try to pass their values on their children and friends… so what is the pressure that keeps them in check in a long term?

        On this side the feelings are like: only an idiot wouldn’t cheat when it’s possible, and I’m not an idiot. Of course it’s more complicated; it depends on the specific kind of cheating. The most forgivable would be stealing from common property: it belongs to no one, so stealing from it harms no one; it’s a victimess crime. (I am not arguing for a correctness of this view; just reporting it.) This part is probably a habit cultivated during socialism when there was a lot of common property which was horribly mismanaged. On the other hand, stealing from a specific person, that would make you a scumbag. The rule of thumb is that a larger group makes it more anonymous, a smaller group makes it more personal, and if you have a group of 20 people, that’s a gray area, there will be strong feelings in both sides. And of course the people who steal will rationalize: “Everyone steals, if they can. How do you imagine anyone ever got rich?” (Which in turn becomes another justification for socialism.)

        When I see advertising on internet: “If you are not satisfied with our services, just tell us and you get 100% of your money back”, my first thought is: in my country, this company would totally go bankrupt in a week; and the second though is: but obviously they must be lying. I mean, even the possibility of legal punishment does not apply here, so what exactly stops the people from taking the free money? I imagine in the West this could work, but it still feels like magic.

        • Army1987 says:

          When I see advertising on internet: “If you are not satisfied with our services, just tell us and you get 100% of your money back”, my first thought is: in my country, this company would totally go bankrupt in a week; and the second though is: but obviously they must be lying. I mean, even the possibility of legal punishment does not apply here, so what exactly stops the people from taking the free money? I imagine in the West this could work, but it still feels like magic.

          Never underestimate the power of trivial inconveniences.

        • Patrick says:

          It’s not THAT different in the west. We just add a class element to it. We have entire systems by which business owners and businesses “cheat” lesser people that are no culturally normalized that we don’t even consider it “cheating.”

          For example, telling your customers that you “have” to charge them a fee for their account overdraft to recoup the loss they’ve caused you, even though the fee is many times the loss and actually generates so much of a profit that you’ve overhauled your payment system to add trivial inconveniences to maximize the rate of overdrafts. And don’t even get started on insurance, with its incentive to make the broadest possible promises while you’re signing up, then to pay out as few claims as possible without undercutting their sales pitch to the next guy. Or the curious tendency for salaried employees to work more and more and more hours because they know that secretly, even though their boss never said it, they’re competing to be the most workaholic person in the office and the losers get fired for pretextual reasons.

          We in America believe very deeply that workers are supposed to be honest, forthright, giving, transparent, and enthusiastic. But go up a level and it’s a Malthusian fight for dominance where anything not technically illegal is obligatory, and lobbying to make things not *technically* illegal is a core value.

    • Army1987 says:

      I don’t know socialism is the only reason for that. Southern Italy also is a lot like that.

    • Ornithopter says:

      According to the usual suspects, this difference between (roughly) Western Europe and Eastern Europe is due to unmentionable reasons. Blah blah blah Hajnal line blah blah blah kinship altruism etc. I don’t really buy it, but what do I know.

      • nydwracu says:

        Would be interesting to test countries outside Hajnal that didn’t go communist. (The southern parts of Italy, Spain, and Portugal, and supposedly also Finland, Ireland, and eastern Austria.)

        (Prediction: the southern parts of Italy, Spain, and Portugal will pattern with the communist countries, and Finland, Ireland, and eastern Austria won’t. If this sounds reasonable to you, note that this is probably what the early-20th-century race theorists would have predicted — Nordic/Alpine/Mediterranean and all that.)

        • Army1987 says:

          Look at my comment above.

          What about former Communist countries within Hajnal, i.e. the GDR and parts of the Baltic states and Czech republic?

        • nydwracu says:

          You’d have to be careful about those, since the Germans were ethnically cleansed from all of them but the GDR after WW2. I don’t know if Hajnal took that into account and looked only at the histories of the populations that were there when he discovered the line.

      • James James says:

        Some opponents of HBD seem to be trying to make out that the Hajnal line is a significant tenet of HBD or neoreaction. It’s not. So the parent comment
        and this one
        are straw women.

        The Hajnal line is an interesting idea, but I haven’t seen HBDers trying to draw strong conclusions from it. It’s a bit like Emmanuel Todd’s work on family structure. (Todd did try to draw strong conclusions. He called his book “The Explanation of Ideology”. See

        That said, we should expect family structure to have *an* effect, even it’s not obvious in advance *what* that effect will be.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      I am very surprised to hear that from you because you are from one of the richest ex-communist countries.

    • James James says:

      What does “social stigma” imply? It means people don’t interact with you; trade with you.

      Imagine there was a society of people following this rule: “cooperate with everyone following the same algorithm as me, and kill defectors”. That would work. That, I submit, is what does happen, except with “social stigma”. The aim of social stigma is to drive defectors away or into bankruptcy/death, without actually killing them.

      Jim argues this in his essay “Natural Law and Natural Rights” (

      “The scientific/ sociobiological/ game theoretic/ evolutionary definition: Natural law is, or follows from, an ESS for the use of force: Conduct which violates natural law is conduct such that, if a man were to use individual unorganized violence to prevent such conduct, or, in the absence of orderly society, use individual unorganized violence to punish such conduct, then such violence would not indicate that the person using such violence, (violence in accord with natural law) is a danger to a reasonable man. This definition is equivalent to the definition that comes from the game theory of iterated three or more player non zero sum games, applied to evolutionary theory. The idea of law, of actions being lawful or unlawful, has the emotional significance that it does have, because this ESS for the use of force is part of our nature.”


      “An act is a violation of natural law if, were a man to commit such an act in a state of nature, (that is to say, in the absence of an orderly and widely accepted method of resolving disputes), a second man, knowing the facts and being a reasonable man, would reasonably conclude that the first man constituted a threat or danger to the second man, his family, or his property, and if a third man, knowing the facts and being a reasonable man, were to observe the second man getting rid of the first man, the third man would not reasonably conclude that the second man constituted a threat or danger to third man, his family, or his property.

      The scientific definition is equivalent to the medieval definition because of the nature of man and the nature of the world. The two definitions are equivalent for our kind of animal, because if someone uses violence properly, and reasonably, he does not show himself to be dangerous to a reasonable man, but if someone uses violence improperly, he shows himself to be a danger.”

    • Viliam Búr says:

      Yeah, there is this strange non-monotonic relationship between cooperation and utility:

      Always defect — bad

      Cooperate with family, defect with strangers — better

      Cooperate with family, tit for tat (defect first) with strangers — better

      TFT (cooperate first) with family, TFT (defect first) with strangers — better

      TFT cooperate first with everyone — better

      TFT cooperate first, forgive once or twice — better

      Always cooperate — better for the first few years… then alternative strategies that always defect against us start spreading and we can’t coordinate to undo the last step, because everyone on our side knows that more cooperation is always better 🙁

  30. Paul Torek says:

    About regional patterns of happiness: it’s the social networks, I’ll bet. Does the Deep South have strong communities? Close-knit families? I don’t know much about it, but I wouldn’t be terribly surprised.

  31. Tyler says:

    >But even though I don’t mind dealing with my parents, I love that I don’t have to anymore. My relationship with them feels much more consensual to me, now that I could leave it without that much external inconvenience. Of course, I won’t disown my family, but it feels really freeing to have the option.

    It’s the next-best-alternative for negotiating. The next-best-alternative for adult relationships with your parents is going and being an adult somewhere else – you have a sad feeling for a moment, then it passes. As a child, the alternatives are much worse.

    >I’ll miss the look on the face of my students when we finally spot the bug in their code.

    And I’ll miss the vaguely drunk evenings I spent with Buck and his way too fun enthusiasm for lambda calculus. I look forward to having him back.

  32. Sniffnoy says:

    Wait… “Sick buglers, eh”… oh I get it now… seems you’ve started a trend, huh Scott?

  33. Kaj Sotala says:

    As a Finn, my first reaction upon seeing the Artificial Finnish was “that looks kinda like Estonian”.

    • rsaarelm says:

      Estonian is how you know what Finnish probably sounds like to non-Finnish-speakers.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Yes, it’s pretty high praise, but a better test would be whether it looks Finnish to Estonians.

  34. Zorgon says:

    From the Satanic Panic article:

    His new book, The Witch-Hunt Narrative, was juts published by Oxford University Press.

    So… isn’t this guy just picking out a handful of potential real cases of sexual abuse that were thrown into doubt due to the ‘Satanic Abuse’ memeplex of the 80s? He makes no attempt to counter the vast literature on the subject regarding the extent to which this theory penetrated most authorities which dealt with children in the UK and many parts of the US at all. They had conferences on the subject back then, civil servants were required to attend classes on it, people made entire careers out of the “fight against Satanic Abuse”.

    There really were hundreds of SA-related cases in the 80s and early 90s. Finkelhor is the standard source for it, although there’s more. Cherry-picking out some with good (or if Ialda above is correct, mostly invented) evidence for there being actual abuse only demonstrates that people got away with child abuse because of this crap.

    The question for me is: is this a new form of denialism, or is it just a guy trying to sell his book using contrarian articles in what has to be the most credulous online source in existence? Are we going to see more “Satanic Abuse Iz Real!!1!” idiocy, or people rewriting the 80s to suit their politics?

    Come to think of it, maybe this is just some tribal defence of the social science world now the bad press has died down.

    • Nornagest says:

      Are we going to see more “Satanic Abuse Iz Real!!1!” idiocy, or people rewriting the 80s to suit their politics?

      “Satanic Abuse is Real!” might be a little out there for anyone that doesn’t unironically read Chick tracts, but, to a first approximation, everyone constantly rewrites (or tries to forget about) every era not in immediate living memory to serve their politics. How many different narratives of the Victorian era have you heard? The Fifties? The Sixties?

  35. Joe from London says:

    Does anyone have a method to download (>20) SSC articles to an Android for offline reading? I have tried several feeder apps but they all seem to have an upper limit. gReader, Feedly, etc…gReader has a setting that allows you to download 200 articles, but it doesn’t seem to be working.

    (This isn’t specific to SSC, I guess, but this is the main blog I read)

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