Links 11/14: I Link, Therefore I Am

The American chestnut was once a contender for the most common tree in the country, by some accounts making up 25% of all trees in the Appalachian area and having a population of up to 3 billion. It was a vital mainstay of both the early US ecosystem and, through its wood and nuts, the early US economy. In the 1900s, a chestnutpocalypse caused by an invasive Asian fungus killed off 99.99% of them and left the species so close to extinct that the discovery of surviving single specimens can still make the news. Now a group claims they’ve genetically engineered a blight-resistant version and are holding a Kickstarter-style fundraiser to replant thousands of specimens all over the United States. Spend $100 and you can have your own American chestnut tree. Almost as cool as a pet passenger pigeon!

Almost Everything In Doctor Strangelove Was True, including the poor security around nuclear bombs, the ability of rogue commanders to initiate first strikes, and the Soviet auto-nuke doomsday device. Interesting less for the information (which is not novel) but for the description of the establishment’s mockery of the movie and condemnation of it as irresponsible, while at the same time sitting on the information that it was pretty accurate.

I respected the Innocence Project, which is why I was pretty horrified to hear that they framed an innocent person for a crime in order to get another (probably guilty) guy off death row for the same crime. Possible ray of hope in that it seems like maybe the “Innocence Project” that did that was an independent effort not linked to the main Innocence Project?

From the front lines of the malaria eradication effort: “When Bill Gates announced a commitment to elimination on the part of the Gate Foundation in 2007, it was roundly understood as an aspirational but unrealistic goal. No one thinks that any more – it’s an inevitability. The only question is how quickly can we do it – and every bit of speed we can muster is another child that doesn’t have to die.”

Vox can predict your politics pretty accurately just by knowing some basic demographic information about you. Fun to play with their widget and see how it responds to different characteristics.

A new study finds that African conflicts are correlated with the temperature, adding to past research showing that heat is associated with crime. Obviously does not bode well for global warming.

I have some commenters here who like to praise ‘traditional patriarchy’ to get back at feminists, but it’s worth remembering how god-awful traditional patriarchy can be. A Reddit thread on cults recently included the experience of one person who grew up in an honest-to-goodness patriarchal family, and it’s not pretty.

SpaceX’s ability to send things into space at low prices means they can finally implement a plan to provide cheap high-quality satellite Internet to the entire world. Good competitor to existing similar efforts like Project Loon. I’m all in favor of getting Internet to poor Africans and rural farmers, but I wonder if an underappreciated benefit of these kinds of projects will be giving anyone who wants it an alternative to Comcast and its ilk. Once there are five or six Internet providers competing for every household, things like threats to Net Neutrality suddenly become a lot less scary.

ISIS militants answer wannabe terrorists’ questions on, like “can I fight jihad if I have braces?” and “is there central heating in Syria”?

Reddit: What are some professions where the salary is much higher than people think?. People looking for jobs without college degrees, take note!

Vox discusses studies that show that one reason rich kids do better is growing up in rich neighborhoods. But remember Sariaslan’s research finding that a lot of supposed neighborhood effects aren’t causal and are probably confounded by genetics. Honestly every time I read a paper that says the neighborhood you grow up in matters, I get confused and try to figure out why you can’t lock yourself in your room and read books in a bad neighborhood. Then I remind myself that probably other kids went out of the house as a child and encountered, like, character-building trees and rocks and houses and people or something.

Coordination problems being solved hooray: US, China, agree on climate deal

This week in nominative determinism: did you know the Supreme Court case that legalized interracial marriage in the US was called Loving vs. Virginia?

Woman with heart attack is taken to out-of-network hospital, ends up with $300,000 bill. But what really grabbed me about this article was that there was a near-costless in-network hospital only a few blocks away, but the ambulance drivers were required by law to take their patients to the nearest hospital, regardless of cost. Obviously meant for patient protection, but maybe a situation where the patient would have appreciated a right to waive her rights.

Study confirms the obvious: some people can start exercise programs, stick to them pretty well, but still not lose weight.

I’m trying to avoid discussion of reproductively mature female ants, but since some people I know have gotten involved I might as well give them a shoutout. SSC reader Mytheos Holt talks about the high level of bullying and cruelty in Internet feminism, and Internet feminists respond by making fun of his appearance a lot. I would love to know what is going on inside these people’s heads: “Somebody called us bullies! How can we disprove this? I know! Let’s call him ugly and make fun of his face!”.

Related: Ozy discusses the Zoe post

My old micronational colleague and my successor as Shireroth’s Minister of the Exterior Akhilesh Pillalamarri wrote an article for the Diplomat suggesting that Pakistan should become another Iran. I swear he didn’t get the neoreaction by way of me.

The Philae mission was of course a great success, but it could have been a greater success if not that its batteries died after sixty hours. Someone asks the obvious question: why didn’t it use nuclear batteries, like American missions that have successfully lasted years without recharging? An insider on Twitter answers “political resistance to use in Europe”. Sigh. This is why we can’t have nice things can only have nice things for sixty hours.

Did you know: congenitally blind people are never schizophrenic. Schizophrenic people are never congenitally blind. Why not? It’s a mystery.

Supreme irony via Alyssa Vance: Johann Gutenberg, inventor of the printing press, was the man who turned books from rare, precious, and carefully controlled items to diverse, common, and mass-produceable goods. The leading biography of him is rare, out of print, and costs $210 on Amazon

Uber’s recent revelation that its employees benefit from Obamacare highlights the act’s ability to help entrepreneurs and nontraditional workers. If the GOP manages to sink it, I hope they stick to their own principles and make sure their replacement maintains that advantage.

A free gift to Michael Anissimov: Areas previously in the Hapsburg Empire still retain increased trust in social institutions.

Utah has the highest suicide rate in the US, something I’ve frequently heard blamed on the repressive nature of Mormonism. Now one scientist presents extremely persuasive evidence that actually high altitude increases suicide rate through oxygen depletion and it’s only Utah’s high-altitude regions where the rate is so increased. Remember, large chunks of what you think are society will always turn out to be biology you haven’t discovered yet.

A bunch of people I respect on Edge get AI embarrassingly wrong. Luke corrects some of their misconceptions, but it’s kind of disappointing to see a discussion about Bostrom’s book by people who obviously haven’t read any of it and don’t think they need to.

Another study finds e-cigarettes are an effective smoking cessation aid.

There’s been a recent spate of attacks in Israel and the Palestinian Territories in which terrorists ram their cars into civilians. In what can only be considered a completely proportionate response, Hamas-affiliated media has released a new hit song called “Run Away Zionist, You Are About To Be Hit By A Car”

High schadenfreude: Kickended, the site that shows you Kickstarter projects that absolutely nobody donated to. About a 50-50 mix of depressing broken dreams vs. pretentious would-be artists getting mugged by reality as they learn an adoring public isn’t going pay them $5000 to hear their freeform poetry about being a barista.

Study: Feeling disgusted makes people lie and cheat more; cleanliness promotes ethical behavior. This always seemed intuitively obvious to me, but I think I have a hypersensitive disgust reaction so I wasn’t sure if it happened to other people as well. I wonder if this confounds the broken window effect, since broken windows and graffiti and stuff both suggest toleration of crime and produce a disgusting environment.

A man waves the ISIS flag and shouts pro-ISIS slogans on the Berkeley campus, then switches gears and waves an Israel flag while shouting pro-Israeli slogans. Which got more negative attention? The results may surprise you, unless of course you’ve read my I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup in which case they’ll probably be pretty obvious. H/T a reader who sent this to me but I can’t remember who. And possible confounder: the Israeli flag is a whole lot more recognizable than ISIS’.

She who dies with the most noble titles wins.

Skulls Unlimited is one of those websites that’s exactly what it says on the tin. Get cher genuine rabbit skulls, dog skulls, springbok skulls and hippopotamus skills (not cheap). They emphasize that most of their “highest quality” human skulls are reserved for “research purposes”, but there’s no indication you can’t pull a Japanese Whaler Gambit and “research” how awesome it would look on your desk. And if you’re not willing to go through even that little bit of hassle, you might be really surprised with what you can get away with selling on Amazon.

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353 Responses to Links 11/14: I Link, Therefore I Am

  1. Watercressed says:

    The Reddit thread about the cult seems to have been mass-deleted, but I think the original is here

    • von Kalifornen says:

      That’s a mess.

      Although I think the problem there is honestly more the extremist Christianity (being afraid of dolls? wtf?) and extreme centralization than the patriarchy — the true comparison would be Random Untouched-By-Modernity Family #3210502.

      • Anonymous says:

        I was going to say, this doesn’t sound like any historically-rooted Christian or traditionalist practice (which would be vaguely reminiscent of “Anne of Green Gables”, rather than condemning it as satanic). This is either a case of literally mentally ill parents, or a hoax. My money is very, very strongly on the second. It reads like some horror stories I’ve heard about being brought up in crazy cult churches, liberally salted with /r/atheist snark.

        • Slow Learner says:

          Quiverfull is not historically rooted Christianity, but it is a vibrant part of the US evangelical fringe.
          The mental illness of the parents doubtless didn’t help, but the extremist religion exists, as does the homeschooling neglect (try No Longer Quivering and Homeschoolers Anonymous for more data on both. LoveJoyFeminism is also a pretty good source.)

        • Roman says:

          As someone with a few charismatic relatives, and someone who used to identify as one himself, it seems a tad extreme, but not so much that I would immediately say it was a hoax.

          • Anonymous says:

            I mean, a lot of it checks out. or at least is within the realm of plausible craziness. But there were a few things that made me raise an eyebrow. The poor girl finally gets internet, and she… reads about atheism on Reddit and tries to learn math? That sounds a bit like a kid being sneaking out at night to indulge her secret, passionate love of broccoli. But then again, I’m a humanities major.

          • veronica d says:

            Some kids hunger for knowledge and will read voraciously. In fact, I expect that is a pretty common life experience among SCC readers.

          • Hainish says:

            @Anonymous: The poor girl finally gets internet, and she… reads about atheism on Reddit and tries to learn math? That sounds a bit like a kid being sneaking out at night to indulge her secret, passionate love of broccoli.

            Discussions of atheism would have been taboo, and many people (perhaps not humanities majors so much) consider math both fun and beautiful. I don’t find it at all implausible.

          • Cliff says:

            I find it highly, highly implausible. No one can grow up in an abusive and frankly crippling home life like that and end the story the way that story ends. That person is highly unlikely to exist. The probability of it being some anti-Christian person is way higher than the probability of a family like that producing a person who could write that story.

          • RCF says:

            It seems to me that you should capitalize it or otherwise distinguish Charismatic as a brand of Christianity from a general personality description.

        • Probably not a hoax. A lot of the details match with what I’ve seen in more extreme Charismatic circles, and I don’t find it hard to believe that this person actually exists.

          However, yeah, this is not so much about patriarchy, but about having parents who are both mentally ill. Mentally ill parents will suck no matter what their beliefs are. I grew up in a household which was also a self-described patriarchy, with explicit teaching about the need of wives to submit to husbands, and it was quite pleasant. (Yes, even for my mother. You can ask her.) What “patriarchy” meant in practice in my house was that my father had final say in all important decisions, and we all knew it and deferred to him. It was a monarchy, but not totalitarian. The key, of course, is that my father was neither violent, nor mentally ill, nor an insecure narcissist, and so he delegated things to my mother without a thought and generally trusted us kids to be good without locking us in our rooms.

          • Anonymous says:

            “I grew up in a household which was also a self-described patriarchy”


            I’ve been reading your comments for the past few weeks in mild bafflement — now I understand why you’re so broken.

          • Emile says:

            (hiding behind anonymity to insult people is not very admirable)

          • Anonymous or not, I should like to think that content-free insults like the one above swiftly bring down the banhammer and/or comment deletion. (This comment, too, assuming that the deletion occurs.)

          • Patrick says:

            “However, yeah, this is not so much about patriarchy, but about having parents who are both mentally ill.”

            That’s the excuse people always give. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard it in defense of patriarchy, I’d have… not quite a dollar, maybe? Point is, this excuse sucks.

            “The problem isn’t monarchs, it’s bad monarchs!” right, sure, but the moment you put a “y” on the end of that “monarch” and realize that you need to defend “monarchy,” any defense will have to acknowledge that monarchy ensures the periodic bad monarch.

          • Granted: Monarchy allows for bad monarchs. Patriarchy enables abusive patriarchs. Democracy elects sociopathic propagandists. Feminism creates narcissistic, bullying SJWs.

            No matter what your system is, evil people will exploit it for evil ends. The question is what mechanisms exist to keep this in check, and who is empowered to identify and eliminate abusers. The current problem with online SJ is that there is no check on abuse in the name of social justice, nor any broad consensus that any such thing is even needed. And the problem with many portions of the Quiverfull movement is that they’ve implemented a pathological form of patriarchy in which there is no means to call an abusive patriarch to account.

          • Wirehead Wannabe says:

            Mai, I’d take [insert opposing party’s crazy politician] over Nero or Hitler any day. Having more people involved in decision-making dilutes the crazy.

            “The current problem with online SJ is that there is no check on abuse in the name of social justice.”

            If we’re talking about online SJWs, they don’t have nearly as much power as a monarch, or even a parent. People like us are allowed to criticize with just as much anonymity. Would you rather have an Internet Monarch with a significant chance of being a crazy SJW warrior?

          • Anonymous says:

            +1 for having a ban for comment-free insults. Neither true, kind nor necessary.

          • Matt says:

            Yeah, I think the purple Anonymous’s comment is of a kind we can all agree is unacceptable. You can’t police content much without stifling discussion, but you can certainly ban content-free personal insults.

          • Tracy W says:

            My father has a Japanese friend who explains that him and his wife have a very traditional Japanese marriage. In a traditional Japanese marriage, the wife makes all the little day-to-day decisions and the husband makes the important decisions. At which point the friend says “We’ve been married 20/25/30 years and there’s yet to be an important decision.”

          • MugaSofer says:

            >Mai, I’d take [insert opposing party’s crazy politician] over Nero or Hitler any day.

            Wasn’t Hitler elected, in point of fact? I’m pretty sure they had him in mind when referencing psychopaths who exploit democracy to get elected.

          • peterdjones says:

            In the words of Mel Brooks, they held an election…kinda sorta

          • At least the sf part of the SJW subculture was considerably shocked by a particularly nasty troll who used SJW rhetoric.

            As a result, at least some of them are working on inclusive solutions.. I’m somewhat hopeful about things getting better.

            Tracy, the American version of the joke is that the wife decides on little things like how the family spends its money, where to live, and how the children are raised. The husband decides on larger issues like the government’s foreign policy.

          • Anonymous says:

            Anonymous, what are you talking about? Mai La Dreapta is one of the best SSC commenters

          • Tracy W says:

            Mugasofer: Hitler won a large minority of the vote, and then was given power by the Chancellor Hindenburg (whom the airship was named after).

          • vV_Vv says:

            The problem with monarchy, or aristocracy in general, is not just the occasional incompetent or psychopathic monarch.

            Even a competent and sane monarch can be a bad ruler for large sections of the populations because their interests aren’t aligned to his.

            The main interest of a monarch is to avoid ending up with his head on a spike, and possibly increase his power and personal wealth (which may or may not coincide with the state wealth).

            While the monarch can be deposed by an angered population, this is very unlikely: revolution is highly costly for common folk and unlikely to succeed. Therefore, the monarch can get away with treating common folk quite badly and still keep his head on his neck.

            The monarch has more to risk and more to gain from other powerful aristocrats, who can feasibly start a civil war or stage a coup over the filmiest excuse (succession disputes being the typical example).

            Therefore, a rational monarch optimizes for consensus among powerful aristocrats, at expense of the utilities of the general population.

            EDIT: I’d like to add that the patriarchal family model doesn’t scale up to a monarchic state, because the patriarch’s interests are strongly aligned to the interests of his children due to genetic relatedness. Monarchs, on the other hand, aren’t closely related to their subjects.

          • Anonymous says:

            First, the Nazis won 37% and 33% pluralities. Second, Hitler was appointed Chancellor. Third, the Nazis won a 44% plurality. Fourth, an 80% supermajority of the Reichstag made Hitler practically dictator. Fifth, he banned other parties. In the next election, the Nazis received 92% of the vote. After Hindenburg died, there was a referendum to make Hitler really dictator, in which he received 88% of the vote.

            Were the last two votes (and many other referenda) real free votes? Hitler thought so. He paid attention to results and was nervous about the 20% dissent in Hamburg.

          • Jiro says:

            Nancy: I read that and it seems like a lot of “that person was a jerk and let’s be nice to each other” but very little of “maybe this jerk was enabled by our tendency to uncritically accept accusations by the in-group and discount defenses by the out-group”.

      • Jaskologist says:

        I also thought it sounded more like a story about how it sucks to have mentally ill parents.

        Here’s a fun one for somebody: write up a similar story about what it is like growing up in the inner city matriarchy. Maybe I’ll have time for that later.

      • Loki says:

        Surely the only families ‘untouched by modernity’ would be those found in tribes that have not had contact with other human beings in living memory?

        • Anonymous says:

          I think he meant “families that have chosen to reject modernity and continue their preexisting traditions”. I.E. Hasidim, Amish, groups like conservative Mormons or traditionalist Catholics who never accepted the sexual revolution. At least that’s how I read it.

        • von Kalifornen says:

          Not literally totally untouched, anybody above tribal level rapidly gets integrated into industrial civilization whether they want to or not. I mean various people from countries where modern (western or non-western) sexual and other cultural norms haven’t penetrated very far. They remain foreign.

          Turtle enclaves are one thing. Another is probably the majority of humankind where modernizing forces haven’t penetrated that far.

    • George says:

      Our church is obsessed with spiritual attacks, which are seen as stemming from absolutely everything. Anne of Green Gables? Witchcraft! Christian music? Actually sung by Satanists, filled with subliminal Satanic messages! Cabbage patch dolls? Demons who stay still when we look at them!

      This type of thinking — that some pernicious force lurks behind every cultural institution — seems to be a widespread human impulse. It’s quite pronounced if you examine the extremes of Red, Blue, and Grey tribes alike.

      • fubarobfusco says:

        There was a poor bedevilled Earl
        Who saw a Witch in every girl,
        A Wehr-wolf every time one smiled,
        A budding Vampire in a child,
        A Sorcerer in every man,
        A deep-laid Necromantic plan
        In every casual word; withal
        Cloaked in its black horrific pall
        A Vehmgericht obscenely grim,
        And all designed—to ruin him!

        He saw in every passer-by
        Black Magic and the Evil Eye,
        Interpreting the simplest act
        As being a Satanic Pact.
        Of course at times there were a few
        In some sort victims of the crew;
        For when his Countess coughed or sneezed,
        “Obsessed!” the poor old fellow wheezed.

        — from “The Suspicious Earl”, by Aleister Crowley

        • AJD says:

          “Wehr-wolf” looks like an interesting folk etymology—spelling it as if it’s based on German Wehr ‘defense’, which it’s not.

          • Not THAT anonymous commenter says:

            I have no idea how Crowley intended (or didn’t) the misspelling, but this bit of etymological mixing-up does seem to have an interesting history at first glance.

            1846-47: George RM Reynolds publishes the Gothic novel “Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf,” which from a quick glance seems unaware of the linguistic mistake:

            1910: Hermann Loens publishes “Der Wehrwolf” in German, explicitly playing on the confusion (there don’t seem to be any werewolves in it as such, but there are plenty of soldiers):

            1944: those damn Nazis take Loens’s novel as inspiration for Operation Werwolf, spelling it correctly because puns would be inappropriate at such a time, even for Nazis:

            I’m now really curious whether Crowley was playing with the etymology on purpose (his Earl protagonist is kind of a pompous ass), saw it in Reynolds’s novel and thought it badassedly Teutonic-sounding and who cares about the etymology, just wasn’t that good at using the OED, or what.

          • RCF says:

            Also, if you’re following the etymology, a female human-wolf hybrid would be a wif-wolf.

  2. Zubon says:

    From the CO2 deal link: “China intends to achieve the peaking of CO2 emissions around 2030 and to make best efforts to peak early.”

    That China agreed to anything seems like wishful thinking. What p-values would you assign to the following beliefs?
    – The folks who negotiated that agreement can commit the rest of the Chinese government and industry to it
    – They intend to follow through with it
    – If politically able and willing, it is technologically feasible

    And remember, that is a commitment to an intention, and that intention is to keep increasing CO2 output for another 16 years or so. But then they are totally going to turn it around.

    Heck, what p-value would you assign to the belief that the present PRC government will exist in substantially the same form 16 years from now?

    • Tarrou says:

      This is what I call the “Ol’ budget fix”. The mechanism whereby one party gets immediate goodies while the other party gets its goodies later, at some specified future time that somehow just never arrives. See: every budget deal done in the past twenty years.

      Any time you see a deal in which one side got what they wanted and the other side has to wait ten years, with no enforcement mechanism? That second side got rooked.

      The climate thing is wierd because what the US wanted was to hamstring its own industry to do something that isn’t possible without the participation not just of the chinese, but every other developing nation too. So it’s not as if even with the participation in full force and faith of the Chinese we get what we purport to want. Best possible outcome from the point of view of the administration is that all those variables fall perfectly into place, and they are also able to negotiate similar bilateral deals with every other nation from India to Guinea-Bissau. What’s the p-value they all come through?

      • Steve Johnson says:

        Or that they don’t give a damn about carbon emissions and “… what the US wanted was to hamstring its own industry…” was the aim.

        Making an agreement with China was just the excuse.

        • Fake Name says:

          This seems unlikely. The first question to ask when assuming things like this is “what is the motive?” What reason would the President of the United States have to cripple US industry?

          • Steve Johnson says:

            Industry doesn’t support the progressive state to the same degree that the FIRE economy does because it’s not completely dependent on the progressive state the way the FIRE economy is.

            Therefore progressives are in favor of crippling the industrial economy.

          • Nornagest says:

            That “therefore” is doing an awful lot of work.

          • cassander says:

            You’re blaming conspiracy where idiocy is sufficient explanation. By and large, progressives don’t want to cripple whole industries (petrochemicals, aside), they just have a higher moral purpose (save the planet!) and are ignorant of the consequences which will, in most cases, largely fall on the shoulders of others in any case.

          • Steve Johnson says:

            Obviously that therefore would be doing a lot of work if this was the only piece of evidence for that conclusion.

            This is applying an already made conclusion based on extensive other evidence to explain another case that fits perfectly.

            Progressive policy doesn’t make any sense under stated progressive goals.

            Progressive policy has the effect of harming progressive enemies.

            Progressives make all sorts of transparent rationalizations for the policy in question.

            This is far from a unique case.

      • RCF says:

        If a nation wants to organize an international AGW protocol, it seems to me that the thing to do is to organize a large bloc of countries and agree on a carbon tax and a distribution scheme of the revenues. Then just assess a tax bill on all countries regardless of whether they are in the bloc. If a country refuses to pay, simply collect it through tariffs. Once countries realize that they have a choice between joining the bloc, getting a say in the protocol, and paying the tax, or not joining the bloc, not getting a say, and still paying the tax, they will rush to join the bloc.

    • Char Aznable says:

      China is actually on track to meet the goals they committed to but that’s exactly why they made them. They announced targets they could meet without doing anything differently so that they could capture the good optics of making a showy international commitment without any real risk of failure.

      Climate change is actually a very real and current problem in China. All the major cities have crippling smog and people are pissed about it. The government will clear it up for big meetings like APEC but leave their citizens to live their everyday lives with gas masks on. Looking to be doing something (even something that isn’t particularly aggressive or proactive in actuality) is necessary.

      And the CCP is undergoing some changes under Xi Jinping. I don’t think he’s going to do any fundamental ideological reformation but because of certain factors about his coming to power (namely that he’s the first leader to do so without the blessing of a founder like Deng Xiaoping) he’s been using the corruption campaign to gut his potential opponents and causing some fear in the government. If he gets a full run at power the Party will probably be quite different from what it is now but set up to stay in line with what Xi wants for some time. Or he could mismanage it and cause it to go in a way nobody expects.

      • I should point out that smog is only remotely related to global warming. Smog is primarily a local problem (you ban emissions in in Beijing and it’ll be fixed in Beijing, and quite quickly), while global warming is, er, global. Smog is largely addressable through technologies which reduce particulate emissions, while global warming forces you to restrict CO2 itself. The US has very few smog problems these days, but it still creates lots of CO2.

        • roystgnr says:

          It’s worse than “only remotely related” would connote: for a given level of output, smog is inversely related to global warming, because sulfur and particulate matter in your emissions tends to cause global dimming, so both input and output heat fluxes are reduced.

          If they’re just going to clean up the smog, good for them, lung disease is a much more immediate problem than greenhouse effects, but as far as global warming is concerned that might be literally worse than nothing.

        • Char Aznable says:

          I know that in terms of actual long term effects global warming and smog aren’t the same thing. It’s just that the general process of fighting it such as reducing reliance on coal and promoting cleaner energies in their stead are the same actions nations are taking to combat longer term global warming. I have no idea what Chinese people think of wider global warming (although several major Chinese cities would have a vested interest in avoiding rising ocean levels) but I’m confident that Beijing would choose its economy over fighting global warming 100% of the time.

    • 27chaos says:

      Have you ever actually looked at China’s actions? They’ve got got like 25 nuclear power plants currently being constructed, they’re researching solar like crazy, they’re practically destroying the country’s rivers in their urge to get hydroelectricity down. It seems quite probable to me that they mean what they say. A more detailed analysis than what you provide is going to be necessary for me to have any significant doubts.

      It can be very easy to just snarkily ask for valid Bayesian evidence. But that’s an intellectually lazy way to dismiss ideas you’re biased against. The evidence is there for the grabbing if you take half a minute to look for it.

      • Paul Torek says:

        Plus, Shanghai. It’s pretty important, and very wet already. There is plenty of selfish reason for Chinese leaders to care about the effects of global warming.

        • Hanfeizi says:

          The good news is that they’re famous for their ability to build large walls.

          The bad news is that those walls tend to be rather ineffective.

      • Jaskologist says:

        I’m not sure I’d count the Three Gorges Dam as evidence in favor of environmental concern. They literally drove a species of dolphin extinct building it.

        • Anon says:

          Just because the standard liberal way to arrive at legitimate concern about global warming is via a much broader environmentalism doesn’t mean that’s the only way to arrive at it. Three Gorges is pretty strong evidence that China is trying to find non-carbon sources of power.

        • Illuminati Initiate says:

          Environmental concern and concern about climate change are not the same thing. It is entirely consistent to care about global warming due to its effects on humans, but not care about preservation of species and natural environments.

    • noahluck says:

      What p-values would you assign to the following beliefs?

      Nitpick: A p-value usually means the probability of getting data like what you got on the assumption that the null hypothesis is true. P-values totally do make sense in the context you asked about, and can be interesting and worthwhile questions. For example, one could ask, “If they were merely engaged in a disingenuous political maneuver, how likely is it they would have made these specific promises?”

      In the interests of on-record predictions, though, I’d give your suggested propositions the following probabilities:

      The folks who negotiated that agreement can commit the rest of the Chinese government and industry to it.


      They intend to follow through with it.


      If politically able and willing, it is technologically feasible.


  3. Mark says:

    If I saw some white and/or Jewish-looking guy (this isn’t meant to be derogatory – I’m Jewish and Jewish-looking, myself) waving around an ISIS flag and shouting poorly-acted platitudes about how an organization as universally hated as ISIS is misunderstood, I’d immediately assume it’s just some weird performance and ignore it. I imagine that’s a much bigger confounder.

    • von Kalifornen says:

      IDK about that, but Berkeley attracts some pretty wierd people who nobody listens to.

    • George says:

      That’s what I thought when I saw the Hebrew Israelite group in SF. I couldn’t figure out if they were serious or not.

      They (rightly) get some angry reactions, but I think most people are just confused whether or not these people are The Outgroup, and are too scared to find out. If they’re serious, I have no idea how they fit into the Red/Blue/Grey paradigm.

      • von Kalifornen says:

        I think they get sorted into a “crackpot” group? My guess is that they are either Blue or Black lunatic fringe.

        I take it that they are just black supremacists with weird Israel vibes and possibly anti-semitism against Jews in general or white Jews in particular?

        Honestly it’s a little bit different: The Hebrew Israelites make me think “You and whose army” and “you are so obviously crazy that the only reason other black people don’t turn you in/the police don’t crush you is because you are crazy enough not to be a threat”. The ISIS guy I didn’t watch the video of, but in Berkeley I would have thought “Oh, god, the Homeless Anti-Ingroup You Are Consumerist Scum Guy got a flag” or “This can’t possibly be serious” or “Is there some wierd motive behind this?”.

        • George says:

          Yeah, I guess it’s like the Lyndon LaRouche people who are all over Cambridge, MA. The prominently display posters of Obama with a Hitler mustache and no one seems to pay them any attention.

      • Dain says:

        “I couldn’t figure out if they were serious or not.”

        Indeed, funny and unserious people are ruining activism, says Salon:

    • Sam says:

      Two more confounders:
      1) Differing locations (Israel location seemed to have more traffic)
      2) From a distance, Israel’s flag is much more recognizable than ISIS’s.

    • Loki says:

      Yeah, I can certainly see disbelief in the student’s sincerity as a confounder when it comes to ISIS. I imagine if an Arab-looking person dressed in Muslim-coded clothing had done the same the reaction would have been different.

    • a person says:

      Also if I saw a guy waving around an ISIS flag declaring himself an enemy of the U.S., I might be afraid to engage him for fear that he’s evil or crazy. A pro-Israel advocate is not nearly as threatening.

    • MugaSofer says:

      I can’t watch the video here, but the article says people were actually coming up to the guy and agreeing; while his pro-Israel rant was met with “Hamas are the best!”

      Playing along with the joke?

      • Mark says:

        Dunno. The person whom the article mentioned saying “good luck” appeared on the video, and it’s hard to judge whether or not it’s sarcasm.

  4. Sniffnoy says:

    On the topic of weird psychiatric things: Had you heard of the glass delusion? Much attested in 15th-17th century Europe but apparently basically zero cases today. Must wonder what happened.

    (By the way, your second link on the Innocence Project is broken due to a stray <br/> tag. The same is true for the “surprising professions” link.)

    • Anonymous says:

      What makes this more interesting than other culture-bound syndromes? I guess it’s not often I hear temporally bound examples, but culture changes.

      • Sniffnoy says:

        Hm, I don’t know that it is! I’d forgotten about culture-bound syndromes. Just going through the ones listed on Wikipedia, this one seems more specific than a lot of them, but certainly not all of them; see. e.g. Dhat syndrome and Koro.

      • Sniffnoy says:

        Hm, OK, thinking it over a bit more, I do notice something — a lot of these culture-bound syndromes have quite a bit of folk logic to them. Like, actually having the delusion that one’s penis is shrinking may be pretty unusual, but the idea that such a thing is possible is evidently widespread enough in some places that rumors of penis-melting Zionist robot combs can start a panic.

        More generally, it seems these largely satisfy at least one of the following properties:
        A. In the case of delusions: The particular delusion is unusual, but the belief that such a thing can happen is not (e.g. Koro)
        B. In the case of delusions: The particular delusion is unusual, but makes some sense given common cultural assumptions (e.g. Shenkui)
        C. The syndrome is considered to be just something that happens to people sometimes; it’s not confined to the domain of “crazy people” (e.g. Amok)
        D. The syndrome happens typically in particular circumstances, and has a corresponding folk etiology (e.g. Hwabyeong)

        The glass delusion, on the other hand, seems to just have been a common unexplained component of madness, with no supporting cultural belief that people really can turn to glass sometimes. Of the ones Wikipedia lists, taijin kyofusho seems perhaps the closest.

        I don’t really know much of anything about this subject so I may be very wrong here in claiming there’s any sort of pattern. Still, I noticed it and thought I should mention it.

        • Anonymous says:

          Most accounts of penis theft say that it’s completely gone, not stolen. It’s hard to trust translation, but the Malleus Maleficarum contains a story about witches stealing penises and storing them in a bird’s nest.

    • James Babcock says:

      The glass delusion went away because brittle glass went away. In the 15th-17th century, you would frequently encounter objects which were so fragile that you had to devote special attention to not breaking them. Today, all of the objects that we think of as “glass” are plastics or composites which are durable enough to not need special treatment. The only times objects shatter is when they’re dropped, and if a person is afraid of that we just call it Fear of Heights and treat it as normal.

  5. Matthew says:

    Religious identification and frequency of attendance appear to be doing almost all of the work in that vox tool. I’m not under 30, poor, or sexually promiscuous, yet I come off (correctly) as mostly blue. Reducing my educational level has limited effect. Only the religious questions seem to push things significantly toward red.

    • von Kalifornen says:

      I came out as weirdly Red. Which is not true, even if I am a German space aristocrat.

    • gattsuru says:

      … switching orientation from LGBT to heterosexual increased projected support for same-sex marriage. This strikes me as surprising enough to expect it to be an error.

      ((I can go both ways, but it’s just one of multiple fiddles-with that came out drastically different from expected.))

      • Matthew says:

        It occurs to me, that if they really wanted to meta-clever Bayesians about this, they’d skew the entire thing toward blue on the basis of “person who reads Vox” having a higher base rate of blueness.

        I mean, I don’t actually think they did that. But it would be amusing.

    • BenSix says:

      Am I alone in feeling somewhat smug when tests like this yield inaccurate results? “Woohoo! Smarter than an algorithm.”

      • MugaSofer says:

        Heh, you’re not alone. I was pretty pleased to find it didn’t predict me.

        (Of course, since this article is about how everyone’s political opinions are secretly selfish …)

    • Jaskologist says:

      When I saw the religious question, that tipped it from “one neat trick using basic demographic information” to “well, of course this works.” Knowing someone’s frequency of religious attendance alone will tell you 80% of their politics. Throw in a race question to disentangle African-Americans and you’re all set.

      • Loki says:

        I would have been far more impressed if there were options for religious other than Christianity.

        For instance, I imagine Muslims as a group to have an unusual-for-Americans grouping of beliefs – probably likely to be blue on immigration and welfare but red on ‘God and Gays’.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Islam is less than 1% of the US population. *All* non-Christian religions in the US only total 6% (non-religious is three times as large). They can safely be left out of any quick quiz to determine your politics.

          Basically, any US study you see talking about religiosity or religion is talking about Christianity.

        • Illuminati Initiate says:

          IIRC prior to 9/11 American Muslims mostly voted Republican.

      • 27chaos says:

        You’d think that, but they still got more than half mine wrong after I wrote atheist. Apparently I dislike programs to help black people and am a conservative economist.

  6. Dale says:

    Except the climate deal incentivizes China to pollute as much as possible for the next 16 years, so the eventual cap will be as high as possible?

    • anon says:

      Consider the following:

      If China wanted to pollute as much as possible, what behavior would you expected, how is this different from how they acted? Can China be compelled to sign treaties, and thus be forced to lie about it?

      What is the infrastructure cost of switching from polluting to non polluting power generation? Would you invest in the former if you plan on switching to the later?

      • cassander says:

        I wouldn’t expect much different behavior today, perhaps a slight shift in priorities away from nuclear power towards coal, but as you close in on 2030, you’ll see them make lots of efforts to inflate their totals. Mostly, this will be done with creative accounting, but you might also see things like scheduling the refueling of all their nuclear plants in 2029.

  7. Tarrou says:

    Anyone surprised or confused by the current SJW/Feminists VS Internet Hate Target of the Week construct we find ourselves in would do well to go re-read Camille Paglia’s stuff from the ’90s. She pretty well called this before there was even an internet to speak of.

    As a question for discussion, which group do the SSC readers think will be the subject of the next major push for legality/normalization/designated victim group? Stipulating for the sake of argument that the normalization of gays is almost done and it is transgenders currently on deck, who is next?

    • Anonymous says:

      Could you be specific about what text to read?

      • Tarrou says:

        Her collection of essays “Vamps & Tramps” contains some excellent work, but it is mixed in with various social commentary, art criticism and general storytelling. I do recommend it highly, but then I’ve always liked her sort of crazy.

        Specific essays if you can find them would be:

        The Nursery School Campus
        The Return of Carry Nation
        The New Sexism: Liberating Art and Beauty
        On Censorship
        Glennda and Camile do Downtown (hilarious)

        My favorite is her review of Warren Farrell’s “The Myth of Male Power” titled “Cry of the Invisible Men”.

        • Anonymous says:

          Could you narrow it down to one place where she called it?

          • Tarrou says:

            Hard to narrow it to one, perhaps the best overview would be “No Law in the Arena”? It covers campus censorship, street harassment, pornography, and most of all, the alliance between WASP right-ish puritanism and feminism as a cultural force.

            Or you could just read wikiquote on her.

          • von Kalifornen says:

            Huh. She’s pro-capitalist, which I don’t like, but she seems to engage with a hostile world, which is good.

          • Anonymous says:


    • xhxhx says:

      Sex workers?

      • Bugmaster says:

        And probably porn in general. It fits in pretty well with the whole “objectification” narrative, and porn stars as well as porn producers and vendors are already pretty low status, so they are the obvious choice as the next soft target.

    • Randy M says:

      Incest or polygamy.

      • von Kalifornen says:

        Incest seems unlikely — I don’t think anybody likes it and the pushback would be ridiculously strong. It’s always loomed large as something foolish rightists accuse, not a real goal. More likely you’d have tiny cadre that doesn’t accept anyone’s condemnation of it.

        Polygamy for polyamory? Sure, possibly with creepy ‘foreign rightists and domestic leftists unite’. Though it’s not what I expect. I think it will be immigrants.

        • George says:

          Yeah, polygamy is a non-starter in the US due to the historical association with Mormonism.

          And I agree about immigrants. They’re next on deck, not trans people. It looks like the immigration push has already begun.

        • Anonymous says:

          Can someone explain to my why incest between consenting adults of legal age is bad? Heck, you don’t even have to give me an argument, just confirm for me: is this really something that most people think is gross? Generally I’m a pretty morally upright person, and I share most of the standard moral intuitions that people in contemporary America have, but for some reason, I just missed out on the moral intuition surrounding incest (between consenting adults of legal age) entirely. It’s totally ok. I have precisely 0 emotional reaction to it. I only know it as an intellectual fact that “most people think incest is bad”. I feel like I learned this fact in the same way that an anthropologist learns about some strange and obscure moral practice belonging to a foreign tribe that he is studying. There’s just no gut reaction for me at all.

          • DrBeat says:

            Yes, most people think incest is incredibly gross. It’s not one of those things we pass laws against because we have to stop people from doing it all the time, it’s one of those things we pass laws against because none of us ever wants to do it and we want to codify our revulsion into an objective community standard.

          • George says:

            Did you grow up with siblings in the same household? Or near relatives of similar age?

            If you did and you still don’t understand the taboo against incest, then yes, I consider that abnormal. See:


          • suntzuanime says:

            So as family sizes grow smaller and fewer people grow up with opposite sex siblings, we should expect opposition to incest to decrease.

          • I have very strong disgust reactions when I think about sex with my siblings or parents. Ewwww.

            However, I have no disgust reaction at all when I think about my cousins, some of whom are very attractive and would be very dateable (if we weren’t cousins and I [and they] weren’t married). At the level of cousins and beyond, I process the incest taboo as an external constraint. This probably has to do with proximity, since I saw my cousins much less frequently than my siblings growing up.

            Do you have opposite-sex siblings of your own? If not, I suspect that’s why you don’t internalize the reaction.

          • Emile says:

            For me, parent-child is very icky, but I don’t have any particular revulsion to sibling or cousin incest – this could be explained by the fact that I don’t have any sisters.

          • gattsuru says:

            Can someone explain to my why incest between consenting adults of legal age is bad? Heck, you don’t even have to give me an argument, just confirm for me: is this really something that most people think is gross?

            Prohibitions on at least mother-son sexual relationships are reliably listed as a cultural universal: Donald Brown claims there is no known human culture without such a taboo. This /seems/ to be reasonably common in non-human animals : there are documented cases, but they’re very uncommon. Father-daughter and sibling incest is less universally prohibited, but exceptions are still pretty rare, and tended to only apply to the ruling classes. Cousin and nephew sexual relationships do seem less generally tabooed, with some cultures permitting or even formalizing it.

            There are good evolutionary psychology causes for such taboos : reproductive incest has dramatic negative effects over the short term, and even where reproduction isn’t a risk, the power dynamics make abusive relationships more likely and more damaging.

            I don’t seem to have or interact with that sense, although intergenerational relationships do usually squick me regardless of consanguinity. And there’s a sizable community that does fetishize it (fanfiction smut, tumblr), though usually in contexts that aren’t really related to action.

          • Desertopa says:

            I have a sister, and the extent of my Westermarking seems to be more that I consider her “not my type” than that I experience revulsion at the thought of sexual contact with her. I think I am probably less attracted to her than I would be to a similar person who I was not raised with, but that a similar person I was not raised with would still not fall into my “highly attracted to” category.

            I do not have any sense of distaste for other people having sex with their siblings, however, as long as it’s a consensual and non-abusive relationship.

          • Anonymous says:

            Did you grow up with siblings in the same household? Or near relatives of similar age?

            No, I didn’t grow up with any siblings, so that’s probably a factor.

            Granted, if I think about having sex with my own parents, then that does seem weird to me, and it’s something that I’d really rather not do. So if when people say “incest is gross” they actually just mean “thinking about sex with my own family is gross”, then I suppose I’m actually pretty much in agreement with people.

            But I think the common moral reaction to incest goes far beyond this. See Jonathan Haidt’s paper [1] on moral intuitions. People think it’s gross for other people, who are not themselves, to engage in incest, and it’s that reaction that I can’t empathize with.


          • Illuminati Initiate says:

            Yeah, just chiming in to say that I don’t have anything against (edit: non-reproductive) consensual incest either.

            This actually does not seems to be that uncommon a position among internet liberals, leftists and libertarians, I’ve seen it expressed often enough.

            (*stands on the shore, cheering Cthulhu onward to freedom*)

          • Randy M says:

            I rest my case. Liberals can be easily convinced, conservatives less so, which is a feature, not a bug, as the goal isn’t to include the .1% (or whatever) of the population that practices incest, but to paint the opposing coalition as intolerant.

          • Anonymous says:

            I rest my case. Liberals can be easily convinced, conservatives less so, which is a feature, not a bug, as the goal isn’t to include the .1% (or whatever) of the population that practices incest, but to paint the opposing coalition as intolerant.

            Well, now I feel like I need to set the record straight. I’m firmly in the anti-SJW camp, and I hate weaponized uses of the word “intolerant”. But if there is such a thing as a moral belief held out of purely altruistic grounds, then my belief about the permissibility of consensual incest counts.

            The fact that people find the example in the Haidt paper disgusting is already completely insane to me. It’s like everyone else is saying that the sky is red, and I’m the only one who can see that it’s blue. But to go even further and criminalize such a case? If there’s anything morally repugnant here, it’s that. Granted, it’s hard to whip myself up into too much of a moral panic over this, since these laws affect very few people. But I still hope that future generations look back on this particular moral prohibition of ours as an inexplicable relic of the past, in the same way that we think our ancestors were foolish for condoning slavery and condemning sodomy.

          • Justin says:

            Disgust mechanisms are often pretty rational even if they aren’t 100% reliable. Think of diseases that are carried by feces. I think most intellectuals would be well-served to grant our intuitions prima-facie rationality and then try to figure out why the exist.

            One possible reason that people don’t like incest is because the stakes of a failed relationship are much higher. When you break up with someone you typically break up with their friends too. Sure, if you were screwed over you may hang onto one or two for a while as a show of solidarity, but over time your social circle changes. What happens when an incestuous relationship ends? At best, you banish someone from the family. At worst, you cleave it into two.

            Gattsuru proposed another explanation, which is power dynamics. I could envision a powerful patriarch monopolizing their children/younger cousins. Good for his own evolutionary self-interest but not for the family’s as a whole. Taboos against incest would serve prevent this.

          • Randy M says:

            I wasn’t actually staking a case on it being good or bad to proscribe incest; just that the taboo will be attacked, and those leading the charge will relish another weapon to use.

          • Jaskologist says:

            You guys are thinking too individualistically. When pondering societal norms, ponder society, and the results after many iterations of breeding (or failing to breed).

            Anti-Consanguinity laws break down clans, which have profound societal consequences, including a very negative correlation with democracy. I have seen (though I can’t dig it up right now) claims that the Church’s rules banning cousin marriage were crucial to the rise of the West.

          • Anonymous says:

            Most people think sex between old people is gross, and sex between their parents is gross. why is no one making these things illegal?

          • Anonymous says:

            (There are now at least two different Anonymous commenters in this thread… just wanted to clarify.)

          • Hainish says:

            It’s like everyone else is saying that the sky is red, and I’m the only one who can see that it’s blue. But to go even further and criminalize such a case? If there’s anything morally repugnant here, it’s that.

            If it’s any comfort to you, Anonymous, I feel the exact same way about this issue. I make an effort to believe people when they say they experience the disgust reaction, but I see no need to codify their disgust into law.

          • Anonymous says:

            Disgust mechanisms are often pretty rational even if they aren’t 100% reliable. Think of diseases that are carried by feces. I think most intellectuals would be well-served to grant our intuitions prima-facie rationality and then try to figure out why the exist.

            I agree with this. But the prima facie plausibility of our intuitions only extends so far. Eventually, we have to ask ourselves if our intuitions are really justified in the face of contrary evidence.

            I’m reminded of theists who say, “virtually all cultures in human history have believed in a god or gods, as well as other supernatural phenomena, so there is a prima facie plausibility to the claim that God exists.” And that’s all well and good, and we can engage in a philosophical and sociological project to determine what supports that intuition. But that doesn’t mean we have to save the intuition at all costs; we are not inextricably bound to our intuitions. At the end of the day, when we have enough evidence to the contrary, we might just have to say, “huh, I guess that intuition was wrong.”

            I grant all of your explanations about the risks of incest. It’s quite likely that these factors played a role in the evolution of our taboo against incest. But that doesn’t mean we’re licensed to jump from “incest is risky” or “some acts of incest are bad” to “incest simpliciter is bad”.

            Every activity has risks associated with it. I can make consensual heterosexual sex between strangers sound terrible. There’s a risk of STD transmission, some of which are incurable. There’s a risk of unwanted pregnancy, which could lead to physical hardship for the woman and financial hardship for the couple. A non-trivial number of women are raped and abused by their male partners. What if one partner gets more emotionally attached than the other? Breakups are always messy. What if the woman realizes she’s just being used and objectified, wouldn’t that make her feel terrible? What if the man is falsely accused of rape? You wouldn’t want that to follow you for the rest of your life.

            So there are all sorts of risks associated with any kind of sexual contact at all. But we (excluding TERFs) recognize that these risks aren’t essential to every act of sex. Some acts of sex end up instantiating none of these risks. So we end up thinking that, yeah, there are risks, but sex as a whole is ok. Really ok, in fact.

            Why should different reasoning apply to incest? We shouldn’t say, “we’ve found these rationalizations for our intuitions, so let’s throw out all nuance and keep the intuition.” We should say, “yeah, some acts of incest might be particularly bad or risky, but others are just ok, and we shouldn’t put them all in the same boat.” Like the Haidt example.

            Anti-Consanguinity laws break down clans, which have profound societal consequences, including a very negative correlation with democracy. I have seen (though I can’t dig it up right now) claims that the Church’s rules banning cousin marriage were crucial to the rise of the West.

            Ok, let’s grant that. What’s the reason for keeping the prohibition around now?

          • 27chaos says:

            Westermarck effect is rumored to not actually exist and just something that everyone claims exist because they don’t want to be perceived as icky mutants.

            It seems weird to assume that aversion to having sex with those you’re reared with is natural and intrinsic to all human beings when there’s no obvious biological mechanism through which this would occur and we have a satisfactory social explanation ready at hand – people are taught it’s bad so they treat it that way.

            If you look at the Wikipedia page, there are a few good studies against it and only a few that ever found it to exist in the first place. So the evidence for its existence is mixed at best.

          • Justin says:

            Agreed. That’s why I was careful to include the qualifier prima-facie. With that in mind, let’s break it down.

            1. Equilibria and coordination.

            A. Stag hunt. Anti-Consanguinity laws (and norms) moved us from one equilibrium to another. Now that this coordination problem has been solved, they are no longer needed.

            B. Prisoner’s dilemma. Consanguinity creates strong and highly cohesive families, but at the expense of the greater good for society. As such, they will perpetually be needed to escape each family from choosing to defect.

            2. Abuse of power

            I also like the power dynamics theory. On this view, a powerful family member may claim children/siblings/cousins for themselves. The less powerful person must accept it, or face banishment from the family and the ensuing social and financial isolation. On this view, Anti-Consanguinity laws are still needed, even if it would hurt a relatively large number of well-intentioned family members who would like to marry.

            I suppose you could object that it might be the case that the gains for those who want to marry are greater than the losses to the few who would be coerced, but the prevalence of Anti-Consanguinity laws suggests that this is not the case, except in the case of cousin marriage.

            3. ????

            I don’t pretend to fully understand the dynamics of Consanguinity on individual, family, and societal happiness. Perhaps reasons 1 and 2 are by far the least of the reasons to object to Consanguinity.

          • Ghatanathoah says:


            In regards to the Westermarck effect maybe not existing, I do have a couple personal anecotes:

            I have no female siblings, but I knew my neighbor’s daughters since I was little and find thinking of them in a sexual fashion to be gross.

            Also, I can personally attest that I find Power Rangers erotic fanfiction featuring the original cast to be gross and off-putting, but that I enjoy reading stuff featuring the cast of In Space and Lost Galaxy (Seasons 6 and 7). I suspect this is because of my earlier childhood exposure to the original cast.

            However, as with Anonymous, I have never in my life felt an urge to ban other people from consensual incest.

          • Jared says:

            I think it’s probably part of evolution to avoid incest but I agree in not understanding why everyone think it’s morally wrong. It’s pretty hypocritical to support gay marriage as marriage equality and then deny that same right to people you think are gross.

            Also, this is part of the reason that I don’t dismiss conservatives when they talk about slippery slopes. You can’t make an argument opposing gay marriage because you think it leads to siblings marrying each other but it is something to think about.

          • Were you raised without opposite-sex siblings? Number of opposite sex siblings and number of could-be-sexual situations in childhood (e.g. shared baths or beds) is strongly correlated with visceral disgust at the idea of incest.

          • MugaSofer says:

            I feel like this debate is liberal enough that it needs to be reminded of the standard anti-incest argument:

            The vast majority of people don’t want to have sex with their own parents or siblings. And it is vastly easier for people to pressure family members, especially younger ones, into sex (relative to strangers.) Therefore, incest is overwhelmingly likely to be rape.

            Yes, this misses out a few mutants or siblings raised apart, but Azathoth gave us an incest taboo for a reason we actually endorse (reducing congenital deformities and promoting genetic diversity) and that reason has not changed.

          • Illuminati Initiate says:


            No one is saying rape should be legal (well, OK, some are, but no one in this thread). They are saying incest should be legal, incest which happens to be rape is still very illegal. Also, I would say that incestuous reproduction should definitely be illegal, but I would like to point out anyone who agrees with that, or uses that as their argument against legalizing incest, is implicitly a coercive eugenicist. I bite that bullet, but I have a feeling alot of people would not.

            Edit: Thinking about this, it might be a good idea to not allow currently guardian-guarded sex (the law should not consider relatedness relevant here), but still allow other cases of non-reproductive consensual incest.

          • Ken Arromdee says:

            MugaSofer: banning incest because of “reducing congenital deformities and promoting genetic diversity” is a horrible reason when you consider that this would permit *homosexual* incest.

          • Lesser Bull says:

            The kinds of things that pass as status signaling in this community are really weird.

        • von Kalifornen says:

          My personal, possibly atypical reaction:

          Oedipism (incest between parent and child) is utter black horror. Brother and sister? Not much less horrifying though I don’t feel need to stop it rather than just run away very fast. Nephew/uncle (or other-gendered form of same) is ugh but not horrific. First-cousin marriage is slimy to think about but mostly I’m imagining how other people would regard it, I don’t want to oppose cultures where it’s normal.

          My disgust reaction runs on both genetics and social relationship.

          In all of the above cases except first cousins, my disgust is enough that it’s hard to process enough to actually suppress the incest effectively and I start to want to just bury head in sand while pretending I am napalming whole area.

          More rationally, I think it’s a combination of natural evolutionary anti-inbreeding impulses, and some stuff about abusive and unhealthy relationships. Oedipism seems like horrible Gor-esque exploitation of all women you own if perpetrated by father, and, well, Oedipus if by mother.

        • Deiseach says:

          Incest seems unlikely — I don’t think anybody likes it and the pushback would be ridiculously strong.

          Well, there’s an ethics council in Germany that would disagree with you:

          In the case of consensual incest among adult siblings, neither the fear of negative consequences for the family , nor the possibility of the birth of children from such incestuous relationships can justify a criminal prohibition.

          The fundamental right of adult siblings to sexual self-determination has more weight in such cases than the abstract protection of the family.

          The courts (even the European Court of Human Rights) to date are so fuddy-duddy behind the times on this that so far, at least, they’ve struck down the ruling that the incest conviction was wrong, but if another newspaper report is correct:

          (T)he case prompted calls for Germany to follow France, Turkey, Japan and Brazil in ruling that consensual sexual relations between adult relatives are no longer illegal.

          As an aside, can anybody tell me what the heck Ethics Councils do? All I ever see about them is saying that animals have more rights than certain categories of humans, it’s perfectly okay for medical personnel to decide to knock off patients without consulting said patients or family, and the likes of this – banning incest is interfering with your private family life.

          • suntzuanime says:

            If ethical experts don’t come up with results surprising to the layperson from time to time, what are you paying them for?

          • Doug S. says:

            You pay them to take responsibility for decisions you don’t want the blame for making. (“Who do we give scarce human organs to?” is such a decision.)

          • Luke Somers says:

            > All I ever see about them

            Dog bites man isn’t news. Ethics councils saying that doctors can’t kill patients isn’t news.

            That said, can you link to those? They sound really odd.

        • anonymousCoward says:

          >Incest seems unlikely — I don’t think anybody likes it and the pushback would be ridiculously strong.

          google wincest, or visit

          Edit – You probably should not do either of these things from a work computer.

      • gattsuru says:

        Expect demographics to push everything : the Left may support a topic popular only among one percent of the populace, but it’ll only support a topic that’s popular among /their/ one percent of the populace. Because of the Westermarck effect, humans who are raised in close proximity are very unlikely to want to mate in any significant numbers. In order for the Left to want to legitimize consensual incest under this model, you’d need to expect social atomization among the Left’s leading lights to result in near siblings rarely interacting.

        ((This is why, contra Scalia, neither incest nor bestiality are likely to be legalized under the progeny of Lawrence : the answer to “What separates these categories?” may well be “You can’t ask that question!”, but the Left says so internally just as much as otherwise. Bestiality correlates with early access to unfixed animals, a trait that’s gone down among the glitterati and is slated to decrease further.))

        Polygamy’s the easy one, in the sense that it’s been at a slow and unofficial resonance with coastal culture, but it’s also been at the slow and unofficial resonance since…. uh…. the entirety of Western Culture? Yeah, men weren’t actually marrying their mistresses in the 1500s, but they provided more support than many actual marriages today, so it seems kind a wash. On the other hand, this same mechanic’s also behind several hundred years of powerful men having really embarrassing secrets — and worse, ones much deeper than having a mistress — revealed through relationship drama, and bringing it forward to the point of polygamy seems likely to only augment the drama.

        At the risk of taking the ‘easy’ bet: BDSM. It’s relatively popular (~15% of populace), shows up psuedorandomly (relationships to medical trauma, genetics), is sometimes legally dangerous and almost always socially dangerous, and can easily be reframed into Left-friendly terminology and models.

        • von Kalifornen says:

          IDK about that: BDSM doesn’t have the same sense of romance or seriousness to it.

          • Auroch says:

            People are pretty closeted about it, but there are definitely significant romantic elements. They’ll become more visible in time; when the gay rights movement started, bathhouse sex was typical and common, and visible romantic relationships rare.

            Another point in favor of BDSM being victims-of-the-decade: Recent surveys indicate that over 50% of sexual relationships include rope play. It’s the vanilla end of BDSM, but it’s being mainstreamed.

            I fully expect poly/BDSM to basically be treated as a unit for this kind of thing. And to be thoroughly mainstream in Blue and Gray areas in 15-20 years, and at roughly the current social status of being gay in Red areas at that time.

        • Anonymous says:

          Maybe my view is biased because I live in a very blue city, but isn’t BDSM more or less accepted by now?

          • Matthew says:

            That was going to be my initial reaction too, but on further consideration.

            You can mention that you are gay at your place of work without anyone batting an eye (outside of deep Red areas).

            The trans activists are pushing for that to be true for people who transition as well.

            In most places, blue or otherwise, it would probably still go over as weird to acknowledge that you’re a dom/sub. You could argue that’s because people don’t discuss what they do in the bedroom, but for some BDSM people, it might as well be their sexual orientation, so it’s hard to see why “gay” would be something to acknowledge publicly and “kinky” wouldn’t.

          • g says:

            Matthew, it seems to me there’s an important difference in that being gay or straight is about whom you love as well as what sort of sex you have, so if you talk about it at work it can be put in the “talk about family” bucket rather than the “talk about sex” bucket. That’s not so true for BDSM.

          • Loki says:

            There are some things that need doing legally with BDSM but it’s not going to be a big thing with people coming out or wanting it to be okay to casually mention at the water cooler or whatever. It’s just going to be some finicky judicial cases to fix the facts that:
            * a lot of forms of BDSM are still technically illegal, and it is not possible under the law in a lot of places to consent to be hit or beaten, which means cases can still be prosecuted even if the ‘victim’ doesn’t want to prosecute because it was all consensual. This, rather than so much the shamefulness of it, is what drives kink clubs and parties ‘underground’ (as it means establishments are technically allowing or promoting illegal activity) and produces a fucked-up insular BDSM culture where, ironically, it’s easier to get away with actual consent violations (in kind of a much milder version of how prostitutes are less likely to report rape).
            * Something clarifying that, following from the above, private consensual BDSM does not qualify as a reason to take away children or refuse a couple for adoption.

            But basically these issues rarely come up as they are in the ‘ignore the law for ages before getting around to altering it’ stage, as with sex toys and sodomy. And just as with sodomy, it will take a few more high-profile cases to get the law actually changed.

        • Deiseach says:

          I’ll give you a cynical worst-case scenario that may lead to the decriminalisation of incest, and it’s not because of any left or liberal push for adult sibling sexual rights.

          As I’ve mentioned on here before, I work in local government in the social housing department. We deal with people who are probably tagged as “the underclass” in some instances, and in general and the main with the working-class who aren’t working for one reason or another.

          We see a lot of single parents and cohabiting couples. We see so many women turning up with children by multiple fathers, and a fair share of men fathering children by multiple partners (whether ex- or concurrent), that it’s become less a black joke and more a prophecy in the office that in ten or so years, there will be brothers and sisters ‘dating’ (where you can take ‘dating’ to mean having sexual encounters which may or may not lead to cohabitation but certainly have a high chance of leading to pregnancy) because they won’t know they’re half-siblings.

          I’m seeing lots of single parent families with three or more surnames amongst the members: mother’s birth surname, child A with father’s surname, child B with mother’s surname, child C with other father’s surname.

          If Mary Murphy and Joe O’Brien have a child, then they break up and Joe takes up with Sally Maguire and has a child by her, and if Baby Murphy and Baby Maguire never meet or know of each other’s existence (if they even know that Joe is their dad in the first place), and sixteen or eighteen years later Susie Murphy and Tommy Maguire meet and take up together and it turns out oops – brother an sister!

          Well, what court or what heartless criminal law system is going to prosecute innocent young people whose only fault was to fall in love, hmmmm? De facto non-prosecution will lead to de jure non-prosecution and then to decriminalisation, because what use is a law on the books that is never going to be prosecuted because no government wants to be the one to throw mothers of small babies into prison simply because they had no idea their lover was their brother?

          Yeah, I fully anticipate the bleeding-heart tugging on the heartstrings PR campaign here, because somebody with an axe to grind will take this as the perfect chance to shake up our heteronormative patriarchal oppressive sex-negative society.

          • pneumatik says:

            ” … what use is a law on the books that is never going to be prosecuted because no government wants to be the one to throw mothers of small babies into prison simply because they had no idea their lover was their brother?”

            The more laws on the books that aren’t regularly enforced the more criminal violations prosecutors can throw at people they’re trying to put in jail. More violations means more potential jail time, which means the accused is more likely to plead out, and for a worse sentence.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I smell a Theodore Dalrymple column in the making.

          • Deiseach says:

            So, pneumatik, amongst the other horrors of the American legal system, prosecutors regularly throw in “And we’re charging you with adultery!” along with the other “violations…at people they’re trying to put in jail”?

            Sodomy laws? I’m sure some still exist, particularly when it comes to heterosexual sodomy, and what with the increasing popularity of heterosexual anal sex, this too can be used.

            Common-law marriage, in such states as still recognise it, and associated bigamy laws – you may not be aware that you contracted a common-law marriage with your ex-partner and since you never filed for divorce, your present marriage is bigamous!

            I’m sure there are plenty of technical laws on statute books that have quietly fallen into disuse and that could, in your example, be used if prosecutors want to ring up a raft of charges – but really, if I’m trying to get Jim Smith for petty theft and burglary, am I really going to be combing the books to see if I can also bung in “herding geese after midnight” and “driving cattle without lights” in order to strike terror of extra jail time into him?

    • David Hart says:

      I’m not sure if it’ll be literally the next thing, but I expect to see people who use currently-prohibited drugs to be on the list in the near future. We’re already most of the way there with cannabis, and since the same basic arguments against prohibition apply to pretty much all other recreational drugs, with some modifications – basically that prohibition is less effective at stopping drug use than it is at inflicting harm on both users and the rest of society, and causes more net harm than it prevents – it should only be a matter of overcoming enough people’s disgust reaction (and sidestepping a few vested interests whose venality will become more apparent as time goes on) in order to get to a system of best-evidence-based legal regulation.

    • Loki says:

      Well, I wouldn’t agree that many of the former SJ identities are ‘done’ being normalised into society (maybe you run in a very liberal crowd), but for the sake of argument:

      Trans people still need a lot of work, and trans people who are nonbinary are going to get their recognition after trans people who are transitioning to ‘male’ or ‘female’. Being able to put ‘other or none’ in the gender space of your driving license is still a long way off.

      Polyamory – it has a lot of Mormon baggage to get over, but multiple marriage is probably going to be an upcoming push. Which will be interesting, because unlike gay marriage, this actually would change things a lot. A lot of the legalities and tax breaks surrounding marriage are predicated on it being two people.

      Race: I think SJs, while stereotypically of the liberal-sex-positive-feminist-gay-trans crowd (which is stereotypically white) are coming to more of a realisation and identification with anti-racism people, partly due to the movement, like the rest of society, slowly becoming less white-dominated, and partly because of recent high-profile incidents in the US. I am hoping that this could lead to giving anti-racism the same high profile as feminism and gay rights, rather than it being assumed that racism is basically over now.

      • Odd; the SJs that I know are all very keen on anti-racism. I wouldn’t remotely call racism less important that queer issues to them. The only major difference is that there are no big legal gains left to be made for anti-racism, since racism is already about as illegal as it’s going to be. This in turn means that there’s less total energy for anti-racist causes, since it’s not clear even to the SJs themselves what they want on the anti-racism front.

      • Jaskologist says:

        I was confused by this, too. What would a more anti-racist SJ look like? What extra laws would they aim for?

        • Loki says:

          A lot of the same laws they push for now, but for slightly different/more nuanced reasons. It would be more a change in emphasis than in platform.

          In the US, it would focus on police brutality and accountability, education equality and other forms of support for people with little money. Plus immigration. None of these are things SJs *don’t* want now, but they are things SJs, broadly speaking, as a group, probably spend less time on than gay marriage and feminism.

          Also: better control of hate crimes (anti-Semitic hate crimes having risen recently), and immigration.

          But yes, a lot of these are already on the SJ agenda – because of a thing we call intersectionality: the hypothesis that helping one oppressed group frequently helps another. Like, helping poor people helps PoC, transgender people and disabled people, since those groups are all more likely to be poor. Relaxed attitudes to gender roles helps women, but also gay people and people with non-standard gender expressions.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Polygamy makes the most sense; people already accept it implicitly, since serial monogamy is just a less humane version of polygamy. What is the counter-argument? Are you going to slut-shame those who sleep around a lot? Or do you only start shaming them once they try to commit to the (multiple) people they sleep around with? Why in the world would that be worse than sleeping with and discarding them?

      However, this would affect a whole lot of people. The strategy we have seen so far is to normalize very small groups (homosexuals are 2-3% of the population, I think trans doesn’t even crack 1%). This allows the average person to assume it will never affect them, while still hollowing out the old norms. Under this strategy, the smart next move would be bestiality. But I haven’t seen many trial balloons floated for that one.

      On the third hand, there remains pedophilia. I did see a number of trial balloons for that one. More importantly, the people heading the organizations pushing these normalizations clearly want this one badly. Just last week, the co-founder of the Human Rights Campaign was indicted for sexually abusing a teenage boy. It wasn’t that long ago that Larry Brinkin was discovered to enjoy watching toddlers get raped while shouting “White Power!” He, too was on a Human Rights Commission, and San Francisco dedicated a whole week to honoring him. Leaders in the world of progressive morality, both of them. And you can assume that media outfits like the BBC, which happily covered up for Jimmy Savile, would help with promotion when the time comes.

      But I think there was too much pushback against those trial balloons. They may need to wait another decade or two.

      • Protagoras says:

        Pedophilia seems like a pretty unlikely one, insofar as it is treated as far more seriously bad now than it used to be. The trend would have to reverse itself dramatically.

        • Anonymous says:

          Mere reversal proves too much, since the trend already dramatically reversed.

        • Jaskologist says:

          I could write a pretty convincing case for ephebophilia based built solely on currently common views and the proposition “it is not immoral for 13 year-olds to have sex.” I could push that a lot younger by adding in “sex is not icky; there is nothing magically harmful about penises.”

        • Justin says:

          I think that’s a case where there is a wedge between your average social liberal and your average postmodernist academic. In the long run the average social liberal will see their views move to conform.

        • I’m surprised at how many liberals are sure, just sure, that progressivism will never back pedophilia. Of course progressivism isn’t part of a vast pedophile conspiracy now, but all of the arguments required to put it together are already part of the progressive dogmas.

          To wit: it is already case the only legally valid principle by which sexual relations may be regulated is consent. Pedophilia is criminalized under the notion that children cannot give informed consent. But this is patently false: most young people at the age of thirteen are more than capable of understanding what sex is and what its consequences are. “Children’s rights” is already a burgeoning cause on the left, and it’s not hard to see that denying children the right to freely enter into loving relationships due to the arbitrary dictates of a calendar is nothing but reactionary bigotry, and it robs children of their essential humanity. Pedophilia isn’t just an option, it’s a human right.

          Most progressives of 2014 are horrified by this, because they retain the emotional disgust reactions of a former age, and they refuse to calculate the sum of consent culture + children’s rights. But that’s just because, though they’re progressive now, they’re bigots by the standards of 2085.

          We’re all bigots eventually; some of us just get there faster.

          • Whateverfor says:

            The circle of what is allowed with “consent” is expanding under progressivism, but the circle of who can consent isn’t, and might even be contracting. See all the nonsense happening on college campuses right now, like the case at Occidental. There’s a certain logic to it, trying to stop the worst excesses while keeping most of the good, although only accepting the oppressor-oppressed narrative means innocent people will get scapegoated into the oppressor role and get hurt.

            More generally I’m sceptical of argument from pedophilia for the same reason as argument from Hitler: you’re much more likely to get there by looking for the worst possible thing and then working back to the subject of complaint then the other way around.

          • Matt says:

            I’m surprised by how horrendously you just failed the ideological Turing test.

            Forget about rights and consent for a second: do you honestly think that the left’s opposition to sex between adults and children has nothing to do with the awful, often life-ruining harm it causes?

          • Of course liberals care about the harm. But once the propaganda push comes, it’ll be very easy to present the harm caused by child sex as harm caused by the stigma, which will go away once the stigma is removed. (Compare: homosexuality.) Eventually it’ll be considered impolite to bring up what is now considered common sense.

            Still, I hope you’re right and I’m wrong about this.

          • Matt says:

            Of course liberals care about the harm.

            Okay. That’s not what you said or implied in the comment I responded to, though.

            But once the propaganda push comes, it’ll be very easy to present the harm caused by child sex as harm caused by the stigma, which will go away once the stigma is removed. (Compare: homosexuality.) Eventually it’ll be considered impolite to bring up what is now considered common sense.

            I think that to understand where you’re coming from, I need to know why you are trying to draw an analogy between gay rights and legalised child abuse.

            I get the feeling that we probably disagree strongly on the issue of homosexuality, but surely you would concede that the alleged harms of legalising and destigmatising homosexuality are relatively indirect and non-obvious? Gay people themselves certainly seem a lot happier when they’re not being shamed and prosecuted, and the rest of us are not harmed in any obvious way. (Except to the extent that we feel disgusted, or upset that our religious convictions are being disregarded, etc.) If you’re worried about the spread of disease, a) safe sex practices are entirely possible for gays and b) plenty of straight people have risky sex. (Even if you think there are important statistical differences in reality, you can see why these considerations might be taken to blunt the force of that argument.) We’re left with fairly indirect social harms that you would surely (?) concede can be sincerely doubted by thoughtful people.

            On the other side, we have a case where young children — a group that most adults feel strongly inclined to protect from harm — are treated in a way that a) is intuitively disgusting to the vast majority of us, but also b) seems obviously and directly harmful, and c) is extremely harmful, according to very good and easily-understood evidence. Why would anyone, aside from some of the very few who actually want to abuse children, want to legalise that? Or, to address your comment more directly: from where will the “propaganda push” come, and why would it be “very easy to present the harm caused by child sex as harm caused by the stigma, which will go away once the stigma is removed”?

          • Anonymous says:

            I think that Mai is right about the long term trend. The harms of child sexual abuse are small and contingent enough (Rind et al.) that they could be accounted for within the framework of ordinary sexual abuse, and any special and additional harms could be attributed to stigma and false consciousness. But the short- and medium-term trends point in the opposite direction.

            Canada raised the age of consent from 14 to 16 in 2008 after a 14 year old boy had voluntary sexual relations with a 31 year old man he met over the Internet. The public finds this sort of thing sufficiently repellent that they changed a century-old law to prevent it from happening.

          • Jaskologist says:

            What is your evidence that sex is “extremely harmful” for children? Higher rates of suicide? Higher rates of drug abuse? Higher rates of other associated mental illnesses? All of those associations also hold true for homosexuals, transsexuals, and men. Why would these statistics only cut against pedophilia?

            Really, the fact that you’re appealing to feelings of disgust should set off huge alarms in your head. Very very recently, gay sex was also “intuitively disgusting to the vast majority.”

          • Randy M says:

            This thread is hilarious. Matt’s arguing that of course liberals would never legalize ‘child abuse’, all good-thinking liberals know that it is inherently harmful, and then two people chime in that the same acts in question aren’t inherently harmful.

            I think the next stage is asking Matt to check his privilege or something. Or maybe there’s an IAT somewhere that can help him identify his bigotry at those with different kinks than his?

            (eta: To be fair, I’m not sure if either of them are arguing honestly or making the opposite point ironically, though.)

          • @Matt: You’ve asked about my motivation, so here it goes.

            When I was in high school, my views on homosexuality were considered centrist common sense. Today, without having changed my views at all, my position has been declared unconstitutional by multiple courts, has almost no purchase among national elites or people under 30, and can literally get you fired from your job. The speed and scope of this change was disorienting, but more importantly it shows how Cthulhu swims left.

            Gay marriage didn’t enter the mainstream by virtue of radicals calling for a totally new morality. It won because its advocates joined it to moral intuitions that people already held, namely that marriage is about the affirmation of mutual love, rather than being about procreation or sacramental union. The disgust reaction which used to be the normal response to homosexuality was chastised as being vestigial, and the other kinds of harm were either denied or assumed to be due to the stigma. (Jaskologist gave some examples of this above.)

            I don’t bring pedophilia into this discussion looking for another way to discredit the acceptance of homosexuality. Rather, from my point of view the acceptance of pedophilia is an inevitable consequence of the dominant sexual ethic. If consent is the only rule and romantic love is sacralized, then how can you stigmatize relationships which are consensual and loving? There is harm, but harm can be explained away. There is disgust, but disgust can be recast as bigotry. Inherited prejudice can last for a while, but eventually consistency wins out.

            I don’t intend to provoke anyone to reexamine the object-level claims about homosexuality on the basis of this. That ship has sailed. Rather, I’d like progressives to at least consider that Cthulhu is not their friend, and that in his leftward swim he may devour their sacred values as well.

          • another says:

            Matt, if you think the choice of who is supported by progressives is so obvious, how do you explain how it changes? In particular, in the 70s, pedophiles were much higher on the agenda than transsexuals. If then, why not in the future?

            Randy, isn’t this a perfectly ordinary slippery-slope argument? The mainstream right tells the mainstream left what’s going to happen; the mainstream left says it could never happen, and says no one wants that; but the mainstream right is just quoting the radical fringe.

          • Randy M says:

            I don’t regard slippery slope as a fallacy when the bottom of the hill is a logical conclusion of the same premises that brought us to the cliffs edge.

            Furthermore, the right is usually proven correct about what will happen, over the protestations that such will never happen by the left, which then turns around and says “anyone who opposes [that which we said we’d never do] is and was a bigot!”

          • Nornagest says:

            I don’t think it’s going to happen (at least in the next 30 years or so — anything’s up for grabs after the formation of the next major political narrative), and I think the reason it isn’t going to happen is that you can’t justify it with the oppressor/oppressed model.

            Progressive sexual ethics aren’t about free love; a better way of putting it is that they’re concerned with minimizing harm resulting from, and only from, the exercise of power in a sexual context. (This tends to look a lot like free love to rightists, because the kinds of harm they care about are completely different.) Because of this approach to harm minimization, they don’t handle differentials in social status or mental capacity well, and when these differentials come up the usual response is to err far on the side of caution; see for example California’s recent campus sex law. The implications w.r.t. children are obvious: there’s a case for Romeo-and-Juliet laws but the adult age of consent is only going to go up.

            Note that this has very little to do with the level of actual harm caused by child sexual abuse. For similar reasons, I also think BDSM is going to be a tough sell to the Left establishment.

          • another says:

            Nornagest, it seems plausible that pedophilia is hard to sell to the current harm/oppression zeitgeist, but as an explanation of the 70s, that seems to me like an anachronism. If you can tell that they were hopeless in the 70s, why didn’t anyone in the 70s see that? Why did LGB wait till the 80s to throw them under the bus? Maybe progressive sexual politics in the 70s really was about free love. It’s not the conservatives who coined that term.

          • Nornagest says:

            I was still working on that part of my comment, but I’ll move it here to make the threading clearer: back in the Seventies, these ethics were still in the process of being hashed out, which is why NAMBLA had a platform for a time and also why it evaporated.

            The ways the Sixties and Seventies-era hippie ethic factored into modern Left ethics are not straightforward. Counterculture literature often looks extremely politically incorrect by our standards, even by comparison with the mainstream of the time.

          • Jaskologist says:


            I will jump back in to say that you have an interesting analysis, there. Too soon to know if it’s true, obviously, but it sounds plausible.

          • another says:

            What’s the difference between “being hashed out” and “being replaced by the next political narrative”?

          • Nornagest says:

            What’s the difference between “being hashed out” and “being replaced by the next political narrative”?

            “Hashing out” is how you turn a chaos of candidate narratives into a coherent “next political narrative”.

            The Fifties, Sixties, Seventies counterculture was foundational to the modern Left. But don’t mistake that for it being the modern Left in embryonic form. It was full of conflicting interests and partial narratives, and nothing really unified it except a vague contrarianism and perhaps opposition to the Vietnam War. The ones that survived integrated into the progressive mainstream, shedding bits of themselves along the way; the ones that didn’t are largely forgotten.

          • Progressive sexual ethics aren’t about free love; a better way of putting it is that they’re concerned with minimizing harm resulting from, and only from, the exercise of power in a sexual context.

            A plausible alternate hypothesis! Well see which one creates better predictions.

          • nydwracu says:

            Maybe progressive sexual politics in the 70s really was about free love. It’s not the conservatives who coined that term.

            Right — it was a Protestant utopian, who is also notable for organizing an anti-slavery society while at Yale.

          • Matt says:

            @Mai, I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree. I don’t think you’ve come close to addressing the huge differences between ‘reasons to oppose homosexuality’ and ‘reasons to oppose pedophilic sex’ that I pointed out, nor explained why or from where the push for legalised child sex is likely to come. I stand by my position that you drastically misunderstand your political/moral opponents.

            @Randy, are you kidding? Jaskologist is clearly trying to say that the horrible progressives will disregard the harms of child sex just like they disregarded the ‘harms’ of homosexuality. He’s not attacking me from the left.

            @Jaskologist: I don’t want to engage with you any more, because I’m now convinced that you’re doing nothing more than disingenuous mud-flinging. You’ve repeatedly refused to defend or withdraw the ridiculous accusations and insinuations you made earlier in this thread, and now you’ve pulled out the patently silly ‘but homosexuality correlates with bad outcomes too!’ argument. To clarify regarding the disgust reaction, though: my point there was that, yes, disgust is a common thread, BUT crucially in the case of child sex it is backed up (both intuitively and empirically) by actual harm. Nobody has any reason to overcome or disregard that disgust reaction in the case of child sex. Even if you think social pressure would do it, you haven’t explained how or why that social pressure is going to build.

            @another: I’m not sure that I really understand the question. I don’t think the targets of progressive support are always obvious, nor unchanging. Progressives certainly don’t have a magical ability to always get it right, either; there are some obvious progressive failure modes. I just think it’s clearly ludicrous to suggest that legalising sex between adults and young children is a plausible progressive cause. I’ll need evidence that this was on the agenda at all in the 70s: until you provide it I suspect you’re either thinking of tiny fringe elements or conflating support for child sex with something else (maybe support for treating adults who are attracted to children, but don’t act on that attraction, as decent human beings rather than monsters, or pushes to tweak age-of-consent laws, or something?).

            Before I step out of this thread, I should clarify two things:

            First, pedophilia refers to adult sexual attraction to (or, loosely, sex with) young (generally prepubescent) children. Attraction to physically mature but legally underage people is a completely different issue, and of course I’m not suggesting that age-of-consent laws will stay locked precisely where they are forever. (Though I don’t think they will predictably be lowered, either. Personally I would probably support more freedom for teenagers to have sex with each other, but tighter restrictions on older adults who want to have sex with teenagers.) Ignoring that distinction and treating those grey-area line-drawing arguments as a slippery-slope to legalised pedophilic sex is where things get ridiculous, and I think that anyone who does so must either seriously misunderstand ‘progressive’ thought processes or simply be trolling.

            Second, I feel sad for people who are sexually attracted to children, and I respect the ones who are cursed with those urges but choose not to act on them. I think it’s a great pity that ‘pedophile’ has become a catch-all term bringing down the stigma of child abuse upon everyone unlucky enough to feel that attraction, including those who are good enough not to act on it. Given the chance to do so safely, I would like to help those who feel attracted to children but have not committed any abuse, rather than cast them aside as irredeemably broken. If that makes me a terrible wooly-headed progressive, so be it.

          • another says:

            Matt, for history try wikipedia. For more detail, a knowledgeable but interested author.

          • Matt says:

            I won’t quibble about precisely what it takes for a position to count as being ‘on the agenda’, but NAMBLA clearly is and was a fringe group that decisively lost the argument.

          • Anonymous says:

            And Stalin never allied with Hitler.

          • Nornagest says:

            Oh, for fuck’s sake, let’s not start throwing the dictators around. Yes, NAMBLA had a national audience in the late Seventies and early Eighties — big enough, at least, to be the butt of jokes in the Sunday funnies (and not just Doonesbury), though probably not big by the modern standards of activism. Yes, it tried to align itself with LGBT rights at that time, and made a credible stab at it for at least a couple of years (though never entirely without controversy). No, this doesn’t prove anything in particular about LGBT motives or activist ethics. As I’ve said above, the modern synthesis of progressive ethics didn’t exist then, and LGBT activism was very young at the time and hadn’t fully developed its modern tropes, alliances, or political goals.

            Does that clear some things up?

          • Matt says:

            And Stalin never allied with Hitler.

            Okay, you win: I’m done here. That’s the dumbest analogy I’ve ever heard, and I’m pretty sure you know that. It’s been quite stressful trying to have a good-faith discussion with people I vehemently disagree with, doing my best to engage seriously with those who are arguing in good faith from vastly different premises without making myself too easily trollable, and the last thing I need is anonymous commenters chipping in with content-free ‘lol ur just a goodthinking leftard’-style nonsense.

          • Anonymous says:

            tried to align itself…a couple of years

            Nornagest, if you disagree with the history in wikipedia, can you point to a more accurate source?

          • Nornagest says:

            Wikipedia does a pretty good job, actually. It’s mostly focused on criticism of the organization, understandably enough, but it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out the context of those early criticisms.

          • Lizardbreath says:

            @Mai La Dreapta:

            Great points.

            I’ve supported same-sex marriage since Andrew Sullivan’s “Here Comes the Groom,” but I don’t support this hounding people out of their jobs and so on (and of course, neither does Andrew Sullivan). (OT: The court of public opinion has now begun to basically “try people for ‘crimes’ that weren’t ‘illegal’ yet when committed.” Brendan Eich; Orson Scott Card; Paula Deen. Look, it’s not even legal for the *actual* courts to do that, so…)

            “Gay marriage didn’t enter the mainstream by virtue of radicals calling for a totally new morality. It won because its advocates joined it to moral intuitions that people already held, namely that marriage is about the affirmation of mutual love, rather than being about procreation or sacramental union.”

            I think it’s important to note that the advocates already felt that way, so could argue sincerely. (Though, SSM opponents always summarize pro-SSM the way you just did, and that’s just not quite an accurate summary. I’ll leave it at that since it’s OT.)

            Part of what happens here is…the same thing people were saying happened with the social justice wars in atheism: Two groups silently drift apart at a time when their behavior is the same and both groups believe they are still “acting normally”…

            (Frex, in the case of SSM: One group of people’s subconsciously-formed generalization-from-examples-as-they-grew-up idea of the definition of marriage just…didn’t take gender into account. And another group’s subconsciously-formed idea of the definition just…still did. And both groups thought they were normal.)

            …and then, one day, both groups suddenly realize how much they’ve come to disagree. Such as when one group suggests something that to them is logical and uncontroversial and–again–“normal,” and the other group recoils.

            (Sadly, what I’ve concluded is that for the recoiling group…you didn’t notice the creeping change back when you could’ve done something about it, and by the time something does make you notice and recoil, it’s really too late.)

            “Rather, I’d like progressives to at least consider that Cthulhu is not their friend, and that in his leftward swim he may devour their sacred values as well.”

            Well, I disagree with MM’s characterization of “Cthulhu’s” swim as always “leftward”…but yeah. Cultural change happens and we may not like it / it isn’t always a good change.

          • RCF says:

            @Jaskologist, I would like to either see you present evidence that gay people who have intercourse with people of the same sex, and trans people who transition, have higher rates of suicide than, respectively, gay people who don’t have intercourse with people of the same sex, and trans people who don’t transition, or see you banned.

        • Tarrou says:

          Resistance always increases in the years and decades before reversal. The KKK went defunct for fifty years, only to be resurrected when civil rights pressure started. This is one indicator that makes me think pedophilia might be a good call. They’re pretty well the last group on earth you can revile publicly, aside from heteronormative white males.

          • Hanfeizi says:

            (Of course, I would also add that our stereotypical image of a pedophile in the US is a creepy, middle-aged, middle-class white man.)

        • anonymousCoward says:

          the operative search terms here would be shota and loli, and also Heck, punch “young teens” into google and see what you get. Again, definitely do not do this from a work computer.

          This conversation seemed to grow fairly acrimonious, but I have no axe to grind. I’ve spent a lot of time on the internet where the phrase “delicious flat chest” didn’t raise any eyebrows, and it’s pretty obvious from the porn market that an awful lot of people are being giant hypocrites on this issue. Current age of consent laws are entirely arbitrary. There’s been lots of mention of “harm”, but a number of other behaviors have moved from pathology to normative, so why not this one?

      • Justin says:

        I think you’re on the right track, but I see in terms of significantly lowering the age of consent to 12 or 13. I suspect people who object will be called homophobes.

        • Slow Learner says:

          Buuulllllshit. There might be a case for “Romeo-and-Juliet” laws existing more broadly: for instance I can’t see that there’d be much harm to a 15 year old doing some sexual exploration with a 16 year old, but in a lot of places that’s illegal, and in some it’s statutory rape.
          But I can’t see any broad constituency for dropping the age of consent.

          • Deiseach says:

            But ages of consent were historically as low as twelve or even ten in some countries. They only got bumped up after (for example) in the United Kingdom there was a sensationalist campaign by a muckraking journalist about “white slavery”, where the age of consent was twelve years old.

            This meant that many poor families were basically selling their daughters as prostitutes or mistresses to wealthy older men; the men couldn’t be prosecuted for rape because the defence was “This was consensual sex, she’s old enough!” This was also the defence of the families (and of panders): “No, no, we never pimped out a young girl for money, she chose to be the mistress of a forty year old man”.

            Yes, there was a lot of moral panic hysteria about it – The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon – but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t genuine abuse going on, of the girls and of the law under the guise of “old enough to freely consent and who says otherwise? The girl herself? False rape accusations designed to blackmail money out of me!”


            The system of procuration, as I have already explained, is reduced to a science. The poorer brothel-keeper hunts up recruits herself, while the richer are supported by their agents. No prudent keeper of an introducing house will receive girls brought by other than her accredited and trusted agents. The devices of these agents are innumerable. They have been known to profess penitence in order to gain access to a home for fallen women, where they thought some Magdalens repenting of their penitence might be secured for their house. They go into workhouses, to see what likely girls are to be had. They use servants’ registries. They haunt the doors of gaols when girls in for their first offence are turned adrift on the expiry of their sentences. There are no subterfuges too cunning or too daring for them to resort to in the pursuit of their game. Against their wiles the law offers the child over thirteen next to no protection. If a child of fourteen is cajoled or frightened, or overborne by anything short of direct force or the threat of immediate bodily harm, into however an unwilling acquiescence in an act the nature of which she most imperfectly apprehends, the law steps in to shield her violator. If permission is given, says “Stephen’s Digest of the Criminal Law,” ” the fact that it was obtained by fraud, or that the woman did not understand the nature of the act is immaterial.”

          • Luke Somers says:

            Deiseach, the reasons those laws were put in place seem fairly good to me.

            Having a R&J-style restrictions (older not more than twice as much older than 12 as the younger, or the younger is >18) seem like a step that might be taken. Simply lowering the Age of Consent back down to 12… not so much.

      • Fadeway says:

        With feminism being the reason for anti-pedophilia laws in the first place, I would be very surprised if pedophiles ever becomes part of the agenda. In fact, it would vastly change my beliefs about the movement if that happened.

        • Tarrou says:

          Anecdotally, there was a case here in Michigan of a public schoolteacher banging a 15-year-old student, and he got fired. The Freep (quite liberal Detroit newspaper) ran several articles claiming that the only reason anyone cared about this was that the underage student he was banging was also male. If this is the route they take, it will happen for homosexual relationships first.

        • Jaskologist says:

          I wouldn’t expect feminism to be the driver.

          Even so, it’s hardly immune. Simone de Beauvoir campaigned for legalizing pedophilia, and she liked to seduce her students then pass them off to Sartre.

          More recently, The Vagina Monologues contained a segment positively portraying the rape of a 13 year old girl by another woman.

          And that’s enough from me. I fear this has gone into the race/gender territory that Scott dislikes. My apologies to him.

      • Matt says:

        Is there a snappy piece of Less Wrong jargon for “it’s more likely that something has gone hilariously wrong in your reasoning process than that your political opponents are part of a vast pedophile conspiracy”?

        • Jaskologist says:


          Catholic priest scandal.

          American public schools.

          Really, the challenge is coming up with large organizations that haven’t covered up child abuse on a widespread scale.

          • Matt says:

            Several large organizations have covered up widespread child abuse. There is a gigantic gap between that fact and what you said in your previous comment, let alone what you were insinuating.

          • Matthew says:

            I feel like that list is trying to pull something sneaky. Rotherham and the Catholic Church are examples of pervasive child abuse cover-ups.

            While there have certainly been instances of child abuse being covered up in public schools, your list carries a false implication of the overall prevalence.

          • Jaskologist says:

            As part of No Child Left Behind, statistics were gathered on sexual misconduct. You can see the report here; the relevant part is on page 20. According to the government’s own statistics, “9.6 percent of
            students are targets of educator sexual misconduct sometime during their school career.”

            I consider that pervasive. It amazes me that there hasn’t more outrage over that number.

          • Matthew says:

            Thank you for providing a source. Having glanced through it, I’m doubling down on “you’re being a bit sneaky” here.

            The Education Department report explains at length that the top line number is for experiencing “sexual misconduct,” not just sexual abuse, and includes things like being subjected to jokes with inappropriate subject matter. Now, I still think that has no place in school, but the number for misconduct including unwanted physical contact is 6.7%. Even that still gets you all sorts of contact that is far short of rape. The figure for molestation would be lower. Again, bad, but not remotely comparable to Rotherdam or the Catholic Church.

            EDIT: Furthermore, for this to be comparable, you would have the central authority — uh, that would be the Department of Education — orchestrating the cover-up, not publishing reports about the extent of the problem.

          • Randy M says:

            Technically Matthew is only saying that you make a false equivalence with the rate of cover-up, not with the rate of abuse.

            (above posted before I read Matthew’s follow up)

            So then what are the rates for the Catholic Church?

          • Matt says:

            I note that you haven’t bothered to defend the ludicrous things you said in the second half of your original comment.

          • Jaskologist says:


            Ah, interesting. I am comfortable and relieved tossing out the noncontact numbers. But I’m not comfortable trimming the 6.7% number; all of the contact items they list look way over the line to me. And either 6.7% (remember, that’s the educator number; it doesn’t include acts by other students) is way higher than normal, or the world is a much worse place than I thought.

            Nor do I find it relevant if the covering up is done by a central authority (which in this case would probably be teacher unions, not the DoE). It is worse if many people throughout an organization choose to look the other way; the problem is far more intractable then. (I am, in this case, going off my gut feeling that teachers are not being fired in nearly the numbers they should be if these stats are true. If somebody has contrary numbers, I’d be glad to hear them.)

            It seems hard to find numbers to compare against. The Catholic Church’s Jay Report gives 10,667 victims over a 50 year period, which I assume comes out to less than 1% of the number of children actually attending the Church. But I’m not sure that number is actually comparable.

          • Hainish says:

            “it’s more likely that something has gone hilariously wrong in your reasoning process than that your political opponents are part of a vast pedophile conspiracy”?

            The bait and switch here is that Rotherham is a town in England, the Catholic Church is a religious institution that skews right, and the U.S. public schools are a broken system. In no sense do any of these qualify “political opponents” of conservatism.

          • Randy M says:

            I don’t think that was his point, rather just that “conspiracy of pedophiles” is not quite as rare a phenomenon as suggested.

            As to whether they are more rare than errors in his reasoning process, I am not familiar enough to judge, but I suppose the proof would be to point out the errors in the reasoning in as much as it was made explicit.

          • Matt says:

            @Randy: The problem is that he didn’t make an actual argument, but just threw out some dark insinuations backed by bizarre ‘evidence’. Read this again and tell me what there is to engage with:

            On the third hand, there remains pedophilia. I did see a number of trial balloons for that one. More importantly, the people heading the organizations pushing these normalizations clearly want this one badly. Just last week, the co-founder of the Human Rights Campaign was indicted for sexually abusing a teenage boy. It wasn’t that long ago that Larry Brinkin was discovered to enjoy watching toddlers get raped while shouting “White Power!” He, too was on a Human Rights Commission, and San Francisco dedicated a whole week to honoring him. Leaders in the world of progressive morality, both of them. And you can assume that media outfits like the BBC, which happily covered up for Jimmy Savile, would help with promotion when the time comes.

            But I think there was too much pushback against those trial balloons. They may need to wait another decade or two.

            I did not suggest that ‘pedophile conspiracies’ in the sense of institutional cover-ups, failures to act, or even widespread cultures of abuse are vanishingly rare, nor was that the point in question.

            Please tell me I don’t need to spell out what Jaskologist was trying to do in the comment quoted.

        • 27chaos says:

          I don’t think there’s an active conspiracy, but there’s a strong informal norm for anyone associated with promoting gay rights to either dodge the issue or (with some dishonesty) claim they’ll never relax anti-pedophile laws.

          • Matt says:

            Why ‘with some dishonesty’? That’s a huge accusation to make without offering any supporting argument or evidence. (‘Huge’ in the sense of ‘prima facie ridiculous’ as well as ‘extremely offensive, and correspondingly important if true’.) If the connection between supporting gay rights and supporting pedophilia is supposed to be obvious, it’s really, really not: you’ll need to spell it out.

          • 27chaos says:

            I don’t have any links at hand, but I’ve had several conversations online with people who admit that they are intentionally pursuing this strategy.

          • Matt says:

            Did you mean to imply that the link was a common one? That’s how I read your comment. If you just meant that such people exist, sure. The strong norm against their admitting it hardly requires a sinister explanation, though, and I’m not sure why you would bring it up in this context. (“I don’t think there’s an active conspiracy, but…”)

            (As a side note, of the people on the internet who claim to support gay rights for secret pedophile reasons, how many do you think are sincere and how many trolling? Who benefits from that kind of revelation?)

            Using extreme fringe elements — in this case, extreme fringe elements who have to hide their goals from those they are trying to use as allies, because they would otherwise be instantly shunned — to discredit a movement is a pretty shitty way to do politics.

      • nydwracu says:

        Yeah, they tried that in the ’60s. And, for once, the Reaganites won.

    • Justin says:

      My vote: genderqueer.

      The LGBT has so far been playing into our binary categories of biologically male and female. That’s true for identification and attraction. But soon people will want to be feminine males and masculine females. That’s perfect for the SJW’s too because people with breasts and deep voices will make wonderful pawns of “weaponized tolerance”.

      • Loki says:

        WTF is weaponised tolerance supposed to be?

        (Also people already want to be, and are, feminine men and masculine women. Masculine and feminine traits exist on a spectrum and women are more likely to have more feminine traits and vice versa, but they overlap a whole lot, meaning that even within cisgender heterosexual people, you will still find individual women who are higher in various masculine traits than individual men.)

        • Justin says:

          I would submit that there are still very strong social norms that keep people very close to the poles of the gender spectrum. The LGBT community may be pushing the boundaries a bit, but most of the middle ground between male and female remains unexplored. That fact that Brittany Griner is taller than 99.9% of men doesn’t change that. Buck Angel, perhaps maybe does, but that’s the kind of boundary-pushing I’m referring to.

        • Justin says:

          Whoa, I just read one of your other comments in this branch. How do you argue for the need for further civil rights protections for the transgendered who are non-binary and then take issue with the concept of people who are non-binary when I said that genderqueer is the next civil rights issue?

          • Cyan says:

            Loki didn’t take issue with the concept of people who are non-binary, but rather with the idea that significant numbers of such people do not yet exist. …And also with the idea that “weaponized tolerance” is a concept worth naming.

      • Deiseach says:

        Hmmm – I am a person with breasts and a deep voice. I had thought I was simply a deep-voiced woman, but apparently I am a masculine female pawn of weaponized tolerance?

    • Anonymous says:

      Ah, Paglia. If you missed her the first time around, don’t miss this critique from the Baffler, volumes of which shared many a 90s dorm bookshelf with a remaindered copy of “Vamps & Tramps.”

      (I’m surprised I don’t see Thos. Frank cited more often by NRXers and other cultural reactionaries. He sure hates hippies.)

  8. be serene and do arithmetic says:

    What, in your view, makes it not OK for people who oppose executions to save someone from execution and also get executions *completely outlawed* in that state by merely having someone falsely incarcerated for some years?

    • Matthew says:

      …at the cost of potentially discrediting the Innocence Project elsewhere.

      Also if this is supposed to be a noble ulititarian endeavor, then either

      a)they should have framed one of themselves

      b)set aside a fund to compensate the victim of their fraud (I’d expect on the order of several million dollars to compensate for several years of unjust imprisonment)*

      *I also believe the state should compensate the wrongly imprisoned, which ought to set up competing incentives to the prosecutorial/law enforcement bias toward closing cases, if not actually correct it.

      • RCF says:

        Can you explain how those follow from utilitarianism?

        I think a better argument is that if one is operating purely from a utilitarian calculation, then deontological arguments against capital punishment, such as “it’s barbaric” etc., would be rather hypocritical.

        Also, this makes “Someone else confessed, so you should let me go” a lot less persuasive argument.

    • gattsuru says:

      In addition to the already-raised points above :

      1) The Innocence Project could not have been certain that their actions would result in completely outlawing the death penalty in the state.
      2) The Innocence Project did not know that their falsely convicted man would not be set for the death penalty.
      3) /Even if/ they knew the above, there’s also a massive annual risk of murder, assault, and sexual assault while behind bars.

      And 4) the mechanism they used to produce the fraudulent conviction relied on taking the most vulnerable person available and using manufactured evidence that would have only encouraged an innocent party to act.

  9. von Kalifornen says:

    Also spotted on the Berkeley Campus: Iranians opposed to political brutality and suppression by the current Iranian regime, with tons of flags including fancy red-and-white flag with rifle and sickle.

    One of few times in Berkeley political language that role of violence in revolutions is even alluded to. Not sure what they wanted typical from typical person passing by, though – I doubt it was “Freedom”.

  10. Anonymous says:

    The Innocence Project in question, based at Northwestern divided into three parts. The ones at the Journalism and Law Schools abandoned the name “Innocence Project” while the one no longer affiliated with the school, run by the ex-professor who orchestrated the frame up, still calls itself the Chicago Innocence Project.

  11. Andrew G. says:

    (this was a reply to Anonymous @10:42 but didn’t get threaded correctly? Seems the original was edited in the meantime? Shrug)

    I think you’re confused – the original Innocence Project was founded in 1992 at Yeshiva University (Cardozo School of Law) in NYC and appears not to be connected to the reported incident.

    Northwestern apparently has two separate projects – “Medill Innocence Project” (now “Medill Justice Project”) in the journalism school and a “Center on Wrongful Convictions” in the law school, both founded in 1999.

  12. DrBeat says:

    but there’s no indicationi you can’t pull a Japanese Whaler Gambit and “research” how awesome it would look on your desk.

    Hypothesis: Very awesome.

    Control group: Stevens’ desk, because Stevens isn’t cool enough to have a skull.

    Conclusion: so fucking awesome.

    • Matthew says:

      This is sort of orthogonal, but I put one of these guys in my office. Then I assembled an official-looking nameplate for him, complete with company seal, and put it on the door under my own nameplate. It identifies him as a “specialist in international brain drain.”

      Management has yet to complain, and I think most of them have figured it out. When the logistics or HR people come through doing space inventory, though, it confuses them mightily.* I consider this a plus.

      My desk might not be “awesome,” but I’d rather be “that guy” than “awesome” anyway.

      * Edited. This originally read “…thought confuses them mightily.” That probably works too.

  13. Maia says:

    The “Edge gets AI wrong” link goes to the same place as the “Luke corrects misconceptions” link. Guessing this wasn’t intentional?

  14. Anonymous says:

    I hate to be bearer of bad news, but that reddit thread about professions making more money than people would expect has a lot of fishy numbers in it. A non-union plumber making $100/hour?  The median per-hour wage for plumbers is $23.62. The 90th percentile make $84,440 a year which, assuming 40 hours/week for 52weeks/year works out to a little over $40/hour. Much less than the numbers cited in that thread.

    • The Anonymouse says:

      If I were optimizing for income, I’d be working in the skilled trades. Electrician, likely, or plumbing, HVAC, or specialized welding. I’d be making a lot more money, and atop that, likely living in a place where that money goes a lot farther.

      I am continually amused by my tryhard West Coast peers whose career dreams top out at what my best friend was making ten years ago. This is the same guy who, in high school while I was competing in Academic Decathlon, was drinking beer and ignoring the school’s encouragement to show up once in a while, or, at the very least, sign up for the GED. Your mileage may vary, and not everyone can be him, but he is more than happy to tell you the secret of his success: work hard, use your hands, and do the work everyone else is too cool to do.

      This will conclude Anonymouse’s nonrepresentative anecdata interlude. 😉

      • Hanfeizi says:

        Do your “west coast tryhard peers” career dreams really top out there, or just their short-term goals? One difference is that the skilled trades tend to top out lower, while professionals who make partner or executive in their 40s or 50s tend to end up making absolutely silly amounts of money in the decade before they retire ($200-300k a year is typical, and $500k+ isn’t uncommon- and that’s here in the midwest. I’d guess things are more ludicrous in Cali.)

        But they suffer through a lot of years of $40-50k while managing piles of college debt before they get there.

    • Anonymous says:

      Does the 90th percentile number come from an empirical distribution, or is it an estimation?

    • anomdebus says:

      Both can be correct if you don’t assume working approximately 2000 hours/year.

  15. Dan Simon says:

    Re: The Innocence Project, all you need to know is that the co-founders were Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld, famed defenders of…OJ Simpson. Their purpose from the beginning was never simply to protect the innocent, but rather to undermine prosecution of the guilty by any means necessary. Those who are genuinely concerned about the plight of the wrongly convicted–and I don’t doubt that a majority of supporters of the Innocence Project fit into that perfectly respectable category–need to understand that the victim group in question, while truly tragic, is also very, very tiny, and the majority of its activist advocates have much grander, and much, much more sinister, ambitions.

    Re: ISIS flag vs. Israeli flag, of course very few people on the Berkeley campus would have any idea what the guy ranting about ISIS was talking about. But then, how many know anything about Israel, either, other than that the dominant political tribe in those parts consider it evil? The whole point of the exercise is to demonstrate that hostility to Israel is based on ignorant tribalism, not serious understanding of the region. (And, to be sure, the same applies to virtually any political dispute exhibiting strong partisan polarization.)

    Re: AI, when I was in grad school, about a quarter century ago, there were lots of people running around talking about AI as though (1) they understood what the “I” part actually meant, (2) they knew how to build an “A” version of it, more or less, and just needed a few more decades to work out the details, and (3) their project, once complete, was sure to transform the world for the immeasurably better. The rest of us, of course, all enjoyed a hearty laugh at their expense, certain that no more self-important fools could possibly exist on the face of the earth. Then the AI alarmists showed up, making the same mistakes (1) and (2), and an even bigger, more hilarious version of mistake (3)…

    Re: US-China climate change agreement, I really hope you’re being sarcastic…

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Scheck and Neufeld’s Innocence Project is almost entirely concerned with DNA evidence, not “undermining prosecution.”

      False convictions are not a “very, very tiny” victim group. Systematic use of DNA evidence from Virginia shows that about 20% of murder and rape convictions are false.

      • Dan Simon says:

        Could you provide references for both claims, please? I believe I’ve seen multiple instances of Innocence Project-instigated reversals of convictions based on non-DNA-related evidence–although that may simply be a matter of confusion over the “Innocence Project” name, as other commenters have suggested. And the 20% figure for false convictions strikes me as one of those Internet statistics, like “20% of American women have been raped”, that aren’t quite what they seem. For example, many such analyses confuse overturned convictions with exonerations, even though the former give no assurance that the defendant is actually innocent. And a study of exonerations (whether they include mere reversals of convictions or not was unclear from the article I read) found about 1,300 between 1989 and 2013–obviously a tiny fraction of all convictions.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Scheck and Neufeld’s Innocence Project claims to only rarely take non-DNA cases, but it doesn’t give numbers. Whereas, it claims to be involved in most DNA exonerations nation-wide, giving numbers.

          In Virginia, a forensic examiner systematically preserved evidence from thousands of cases between 1973 and 1987, allowing DNA testing long after the fact. Of the 227 rape convicts that got results, 33 (15%) were exonerated. For homicide, very few cases yielded DNA evidence; the corresponding number is 5 out of 23 (22%). Larger numbers did not match the convict, but were not considered sufficiently exculpatory. Maybe I should have said 15% rather than 20%.

          • JRM says:

            From the conclusion of that study:

            Given the potential inaccuracy of an estimate of any rate of wrongful conviction, we provide
            two statistics as an alternative, both based on the actual numbers observed in this data:

            1) The rate at which convictions for serious person crimes and retained evidence yielded a
            DNA profile and the convicted offender was eliminated as the source (56/715 or 7.8 percent); and

            2) The rate at which convictions for serious person crimes and retained evidence yielded a
            DNA profile and the convicted offender was eliminated, and that elimination appears to be
            probative evidence that supports exoneration (38/715 or 5.3 percent).

            Plus “probative evidence that supports exoneration” is not the same as “this dude didn’t do it.” Plus plus, this study really, really needs a chart with the DNA, where it was found, etc. There are DNA evidence cases where the DNA seems dispositive and others where it doesn’t.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            15% is the best number we have. Full stop. Everything else is a squid ink.

            The 8% and 5% numbers are idiotic. They amount include in the denominator cases where the DNA was unusable and cases where it was not possible to get a sample from the victim or convict. You can equally well put all prisoners in US in the denominator, as Dan did above. The only reason to do this is because you don’t like the true answer.

            “Plus”: yes, the world is complicated. Maybe it’s hopeless to look at the 23 homicides. But rapes are pretty straight-forward. Yes, the paper could have included such a chart, but don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. The big problem is multiple rapes. One example in the appendix, where the victim claimed two rapists and the DNA identified one. This gets counted as one guilty and one uncertain. It would probably be better just to drop multiple rapes from the data set entirely. But I don’t have the data, so all I can do is stick with the 15% number.

    • Lemminkainen says:

      May I ask what you think the Innocence Project’s founders’ more sinister ambitions are? I’m not sure if I can see how any individual would significantly benefit from destroying the credibility of the prosecutorial system. People do use deception and conspiratorial tactics pretty frequently in real life, but they generally have reasons for doing so.

      • I know nothing about their “sinister ambitions,” but if you wanted to discredit the justice system you could to a lot worse than propagating the statistic that 20% of all convictions are false.

  16. Kaminiwa says:

    >”Honestly every time I read a paper that says the neighborhood you grow up in matters, I get confused and try to figure out why you can’t lock yourself in your room and read books in a bad neighborhood. ”

    Well, for starters, you don’t get the room to yourself – there’s 4 kids and 3 bedrooms, and that means two to a room. You also don’t have an allowance to buy books with, nor are you going to make money from doing chores or housework for your neighbors. By and large it’s also just significantly less socially acceptable. And especially when you have 3 siblings living with you, it’s much harder to ignore that social pressure.

    You also don’t really get exposed *to* books. You don’t have friends or teachers talking about them, you don’t get connected to people who are involved with that. Even if you scrounged the money and had the space, you don’t know *which* books to read.

    • Emile says:

      You seem to be talking about the effects of being poor, rather than growing up in a poor neighbourhood.

      It seems to me that when face the choice between a house in a poor neighbourhood, and a worse house (smaller and/or more expensive and/or less convenient for work) in a good neighbourhood, people with kids tend to prefer the second option because they’re concerned about the effect of the poor neighbourhood on their kids – and some studies/books/experts seem to say that this is indeed the right decision, and Scott was reacting to those.

      To put it in other temrs:

      Everybody agrees there’s a link between poverty and child outcomes, but:

      * Scott is questioning “poverty -> neighbourhood -> child outcome”
      * You describe “poverty -> bad home environment -> child outcome”

      Both effects could be independently valid or not, but a (prospective) parent wondering where to buy a home only cares about the first effect.

    • This is incorrect. Poor households have plenty of living space, at least in the US.

    • alexp says:

      You probably realized this, but Id like to point it out anyway:

      Scott was being facetious and self deprecating in that comment.

    • Luke Somers says:

      I don’t disagree on the whole.

      > You also don’t have an allowance to buy books with, nor are you going to make money from doing chores or housework for your neighbors.

      Libraries, at least, almost entirely remove the cost aspect of books. Many urban poor are within walking-distance of a library (not all, yes). Rural poor… that’s tougher.

  17. suntzuanime says:

    That Vox thing does not predict my politics accurately at all, you owe me a click.

  18. suntzuanime says:

    I’m not sure the disgust-unethicality connection isn’t just exactly the broken window effect in more general form. A disgust reaction is a reaction to the disorder of the world, and the more disordered the world is, the more stuff you’re likely to be able to get away with.

    Also, if the theory about conservatism stemming from a highly-active disgust reaction is true, does this mean that conservatives are all else equal less ethical people?

    • Is disgust really a reaction to disorder? I notice I’m disgusted by feces, dead animals, other peoples’ bodily fluids, and many other such things. That, though, has nothing to do with order or disorder; I still feel disgust when I imagine these things being highly ordered.

  19. Joe says:

    After reading the Gamergate links the Internet feels like an entirely different planet. I can almost see both sides of this controversy sitting silently in the same San Francisco coffee shop tearing each other apart on the free wifi. Maybe a Nice Guy holds the door open for an SJW that just called his pseudonym a pimply faced loser or neck beard. Wow!!

  20. Auroch says:

    The Mytheos Holt article seems correct but not high-quality. There isn’t that much *justification* for his claims.

    Also, +1 person who found the Vox article fairly inaccurate.

    • eqdw says:

      I am generally sympathetic to some of the legitimate issues (both explicit and implicit) of the pro side. But this piece made me uncomfortable. There was a ton of subtle (and not-so-subtle) connotations being sneaked in. It was doubly offensive, given the general narrative tone (and the implications of impartiality that said tone bestows).

      • 27chaos says:

        Same reaction here. I commented on the blog piece saying it was inappropriate to criticize his appearance, but it had to be a very mild comment because his arguments were so badly biased that I knew getting anyone to sympathize with him would be hard.

  21. CaptainBooshi says:

    I would love to know what is going on inside these people’s heads: “Somebody called us bullies! How can we disprove this? I know! Let’s call him ugly and make fun of his face!”.

    It’s really just simple human nature. The article insulted them (and it was a very insulting and dismissive article), so they decided to insult the article author right back. Physical appearance is one of the easiest things to insult, and easily accessible since his photo is right by the article. They’re not trying to prove him wrong, they’re just trying to hurt him in the same way they felt he hurt them. They almost certainly don’t even think they need to disprove him, because they would find the idea that they are the bullies laughable, so the only thing they care about is getting him back.

    To clarify before people misread what I’m saying, I am not saying they are right to do this, I’m trying to answer Scott’s question of what is going on inside their head. Insulting someone just because they insulted you is just a formula for a never-ending cycle of abuse and bad feelings. Nevertheless, even though it isn’t a good response, it is an entirely understandable response. It’s almost certainly why that article itself is so insulting, so he could get them back for the insults they’ve given in the past.

  22. CaptainBooshi says:

    Another possible confounder for the ISIS-Israel thing: I would legitimately be more afraid of confronting someone celebrating ISIS than someone celebrating Israel. Israel is a country, really only known for being awful to it’s neighbors, people who are also just as awful back. ISIS is a terrorist group, known for being awful to everyone, everywhere. In fact, it’s a bit odd that he chose ISIS rather than Palestine, since that would be the more obvious comparison.

    More than that, I just clicked through, and it’s only a 3-minute video, which means that the overwhelming majority of all the interactions he got would have been edited out, and tells us absolutely nothing other than a small number of people didn’t want to confront him about ISIS and a small number of people did want to confront him about Israel. I just looked him the video creator up on Wikipedia, and he was “inspired” to make documentaries by Michael Moore and Sacha Baron Cohen, so clearly fair editing would also be one of his priorities.

    Sorry for the snark, but I hate stunts like this where someone edits down unknown amounts of footage to get a video showing exactly what they want.

    • RCF says:

      Are you including Gaza in Israel’s neighbors? I don’t know of any basis for saying that Israel is “awful” towards Egypt, Syria, or Jordan, and it only attacked Lebanon because it wouldn’t stop firing rockets at them. And ISIS seems to be confined to Syria and Iraq. I’m not sure who qualifies as its “neighbors”.

  23. CaptainBooshi says:

    Woman with heart attack is taken to out-of-network hospital, ends up with $300,000 bill. But what really grabbed me about this article was that there was a near-costless in-network hospital only a few blocks away, but the ambulance drivers were required by law to take their patients to the nearest hospital, regardless of cost. Obviously meant for patient protection, but maybe a situation where the patient would have appreciated a right to waive her rights.

    To be fair, the woman was unconscious when the ambulance picked her up, so even an option to waive her rights wouldn’t have made any difference here. She wouldn’t have been able to tell the ambulance drivers to take her somewhere else even if it was an option.

    There’s also no real indication that she would have been able to tell them which hospital they should take her to. I couldn’t tell you without looking it up whether a particular place takes my insurance or not.

    • Slow Learner says:

      I’m just headscratching – I thought that emergency care in the US was meant to be covered even for the un-insured? So how, if she was picked up in an ambulance when unconscious – presumably making it emergency care – is she responsible for any costs at all?

      • Joshua Fox says:

        > emergency care in the US was meant to be covered even for the un-insured

        Everyone is billed, it’s just that the hospital can’t refuse you.

        Most American hospitalizations are charged a fixed fee, which is “Give us everything you have.” Once you have lost all your assets including your house, you declare bankruptcy, and then you are usually not liable for the rest.

        If you have insurance, then things are different: Usually insurance pays, though in stories like this, it’s back to the fixed fee. I’m puzzled as to why this sort of story does not happen far more often. Since you can need emergency evacuation anywhere, not necessarily near your in-network hospital, it seems that over half of people taken to emergency care, even if insured, would end up like this woman in the “Everything you have” fee situation.

        • suntzuanime says:

          I think it’s generally considered pretty embarrassing for the insurance company when something like this happens to one of their subscribers, so they try to keep it from happening. I believe that many plans will pay for emergency care even in out-of-network hospitals (and I think that might be legally mandated in some states that you can’t give preferential reimbursement for emergency care?)

          • gattsuru says:

            Under current federal law, almost all types of insurance providers are required to pay network-level costs for emergency care performed out-of-network. That’s why the ‘bill’ goes from 300,000 USD to 150,000 USD in the first bit of handwaving.

        • The Anonymouse says:

          I have, on more than one occasion, seen someone get hurt (usually on a worksite) where one bystander’s natural response is to call for an ambulance, only to get rebuked with, “I can’t afford an ambulance! Call me a cab!”

        • Jos says:

          The numbers in the article are wierd, and I wonder if the writer dropped or added a zero some place, but if I understand correctly:

          Hospital A would have done the services for $1,500, apparently including doctors on staff.

          Instead, the ambulance drove the patient to Hospital B, which, together with the consulting doctors, charged a total of $300,000. The insurer paid $150,000, leaving $150,000 to be paid. The consulting doctors want the partient to pay them another $40,000 on top of that, and the hospital wrote their remaining portion off by 90%, which if I’m doing the math correctly means they want $11,000 more.

          Since $1,500 and $150,000 show up in the same article, I’m guessing there may be an error, but the bottom line is that (a) Hosptial A would have accepted the insurer’s network rates to do the service and (b) Hospital B and doctors got paid those same rates, and want more.

          • Creutzer says:

            I’m a bit surprised that in the US, of all places, this goes through legally. I mean, when you’re unconscious an in an emergency, how are you in a position to enter into a contract with them that obligates you to pay them sums they can apparently determine arbitrarily?

          • suntzuanime says:

            Happily, you have a right to have your rights waived for you in those instances!

          • CaptainBooshi says:

            I believe the idea is not that Hospital A would have done the services for $1,500, but that is how much she would have had to pay after insurance, since it was in-network. Since insurers can negotiate with in-network hospitals, this means the total amount would have probably been way more than $1500 but way less than $300,000.

          • Creutzer says:

            suntzuanime, in case you were replying to me, I’m not following. I don’t see how phrasing this in terms or rights is possible. Being literally in no state to enter into a contract doesn’t look very much like a right, it’s just the wrong sort of thing. So how can it be waived by you or for you?

          • suntzuanime says:

            The right that’s waived for you is the right not to have to pay for services you never requested and whose prices you never had a chance to negotiate.

          • Jos says:

            CaptainBlood, you’re totally correct – thanks!

        • gattsuru says:

          Once you have lost all your assets including your house, you declare bankruptcy, and then you are usually not liable for the rest.

          Primary domiciles are almost always protected in bankruptcy, and the exceptions involve the sort of high-value land assets that aren’t going to be consumed by medical debt. A number of other assets are usually protected, including primary transportation below a certain dollar value, and some types of banking assets.

          I’m puzzled as to why this sort of story does not happen far more often.

          The internal mechanics are far more complicated than what you hear about in the news. The actual costs will have nearly nothing to do with the reported costs.

          For one, the 300,000 USD number was never relevant. The insurance provider has to — by federal law — cover at least the in-network costs of any and every emergency procedure, in BCBS’s case here, apparently more than half of the bill.

          But at a deeper level, a large amount of these costs are signalling. That’s why the hospital says it can eat 90% of costs. They’re not expecting folk to pay all of the bill, but they have to start high and discount from there because those initial claimed fees are used to calculate and negotiate rates with other people.

          ((I’d also expect that there are some errors in the reporting, as some of the numbers don’t match up right.))

          • Anonymous says:

            Also, money the hospital writes off as noncollectable it can declare as charity work.

          • Hadlowe says:

            The high original dollar amount is important in legal settings as well as a large number of jurisdictions prevent juries from finding out the actual amount of medical costs (those paid by insurance at a fraction of the billed amount) and only present the initial bill. It works out well for the plaintiff’s bar.

          • RCF says:

            That’s a rather expansive use of the term “signalling”.


            I’m rather skeptical of that claim. They wouldn’t be able to claim the deduction unless they declared the original price as their income.

        • Anonymous says:

          From what I remember shopping for health insurance couple of years ago, most plans (even cheap plans) cover out-of-network for emergencies.

      • Zoe says:

        I thought that emergency care in the US was meant to be covered even for the un-insured?

        Nope. It is by law available to everyone regardless of insurance or economic situation, but you still get a bill and if you can’t pay it you get to declare bankruptcy.

        • Slow Learner says:

          The what the actual fuck!? Every time I learn something about US healthcare, it seems more horrifyingly broken, I don’t get it.

          • Anonymous says:

            It makes sense when you think about it. The decision to not spend money on insurance may result in bankruptcy. I.e., a financial decision results in a financially disastrous outcome. Does not cost you your life. Like any other stupid financial decision you may make in non-healthcare related area in life.

          • Hainish says:

            Nope, you got it in one. It’s horribly broken.

          • peterdjones says:

            The public debate about the subject is broken too,

          • Anonymous says:

            Is it more horribly broken than the fact that you’ll go broke if you finance a new $50k car every other year? Or if you take all your money to the casino and lose?

          • Randy M says:

            Anon-there’s no law that says dealerships must finance all comers, regardless of the fact that they clearly can’t pay for services. That would make it brokener.

  24. nk says:

    “Honestly every time I read a paper that says the neighborhood you grow up in matters, I get confused and try to figure out why you can’t lock yourself in your room and read books in a bad neighborhood. Then I remind myself that probably other kids went out of the house as a child and encountered, like, character-building trees and rocks and houses and people or something.”

    Is this a joke?

    • Cyan says:

      Yes, it’s a joke. Here Scott implies that (1) he was unusually bookish as a child, and (2) he’s subject to the Typical Mind Fallacy, until he remembers not to be.

  25. A long time back, SU used to have human foetus skulls, but no longer apparently?

  26. potatoe says:

    A $300K heart attack, but no million dollar Canadian baby? It turns out this isn’t the first time Canadian parents were screwed over by the one-two punch of “you needed medical care in America” and “travel insurance” – in 1997 the same thing happened and eventually the province of Alberta just gave up and paid for this bizarrely expensive birth.

    • eqdw says:

      As a Canadian living in the US, I’m well aware of the importance of travel health insurance.

      What I was *unaware* of, is that since I am not currently a resident of Canada, I cannot receive health care there. If I travel back to Canada without travel insurance, and go to a hospital, they will bill me same as if the inverse scenario happened.

      The More You Know

  27. kaninchen says:

    Related to the Vox thing, have you seen Yougov profiler ( It gives demographic information about British fans of almost anything you can name, as compared to their peers. For example, people who like whales are mostly middle-aged women, without much disposable income, who spend a lot of time online and (unsurprisingly) tend to keep pets.

    • Emile says:

      For example, people who like whales are mostly middle-aged women, without much disposable income, who spend a lot of time online and (unsurprisingly) tend to keep pets.

      They also tend to come from the southwest of Britain, which makes me wonder how clear it was to the people involved whether the question was about Whales or Wales.

    • Rowan says:

      They’re not “mostly” middle-aged women, just disproportionately more likely to be so than fans of other animals (as the FAQ says) – that’s how they get interesting and varied pictures of the fans of different things.

    • Deiseach says:

      It also thinks that “people who enjoy writing fiction” are 25-39 year old males from East Anglia.

      So all you non-East Anglian males, and females from anywhere, sorry – you don’t really enjoy it and you may as well give up now!

  28. Anonymous says:

    >“This is absolute madness, Ambassador,” President Merkin Muffley says in the film, after being told about the Soviets’ automated retaliatory system. “Why should you build such a thing?” Fifty years later, that question remains unanswered, and “Strangelove” seems all the more brilliant, bleak, and terrifyingly on the mark.

    It’s perfectly clear why. According to the Soviets, it was to ensure that there will be revenge, no matter what. There’s no better way to keep people calm about the potential for a decapitating US first strike. And it wasn’t entirely automated, the system simply could delegate full launch authority to two officers in a bunker if certain conditions were met.

  29. Loki says:

    In the identity voting thing:
    I have to wonder if there is a statistical difference if one separates (which can be difficult) voting for advantages for your group vs voting against discrimination.

    For a single, easy example: ‘use state school time and resources for prayer’ is a benefit for a particular group*, whereas ‘be allowed to teach in colleges if you’re an atheist’ is the removal of a detriment to a particular group. While these are both, technically, ‘selfish’, it seems like there may well be a clear difference in peoples’ opinions (especially when it comes to benefitting groups they do not belong to) depending on whether a proposal is pro-group, or just anti-anti-group.

    * articles I have read state that this is what the ‘prayer ban’ is about, and that it doesn’t prevent anyone choosing to pray while at school and not engaged in required activities. If this is incorrect, then the example is incorrect.

    The tool also mixes up beliefs on whether something should be legal/available and beliefs on whether it is morally wrong. I know there are plenty of people who think ‘x is morally wrong but should not be illegal’ so that’s a clear confounder.

  30. Jordan D. says:

    Cold-war era systems, complexes and plans are good for inspiring a delicious mixture of bemusement, consternation and abject horror in readers. Dead Man’s Hand is my favorite for the name alone, but the US’ own Operation: Looking Glass is also fodder for the imagination (

    That post about the Innocence Project is really depressing, and I hope that the mistaken-name theory percolating here is true.

    Anyone who isn’t familiar with Loving v. Virgina should at least check out a summery! It remains good law today, and has shown up for guest appearances in many of the recent opinions on gay marriage (it doesn’t control in those cases because race-based discrimination is strict scrutiny and nobody is willing to go higher than heightened scrutiny for sexual-orientation, but the theme is the same and so were some of the arguments made by the state). It’s up there with Brown v. Board of Education as far as important civil-rights cases of the past century go.

    (Other important cases for the current issue include, but are not limited to: Lawrence v. Texas, Windsor v. United States and maybe Baker v. Nelson if you’re into that sort of analysis)

    The little I know of psychology makes me think that perhaps the best lawyers are the ones who can get your cases scheduled in front of judges several hours before lunch but right after they’ve washed their hands. What if the Equal Protection clause requires us to either furnish judicial benches with sinks and salad bars or forbid judges from eating and going to the bathroom?

  31. Joshua Fox says:

    Re that Hamas music: It may be a first for you, but this stuff is quite common in Palestinian culture.

    Here’s an item from the Facebook page of Fatah, which is under Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority: “I’m coming towards you, my enemy… with cleavers and knives”. That’s just an example. There’s a whole genre’s worth out there.

  32. Anonymous says:

    As someone who lived in Chicago for a few years, when I hear “The Innocence Project” I think of the one in question, not the original in New York.

  33. Doug Muir says:

    Philae nuclear power: it’s an oversimplification.

    1) Solar panels have been getting steadily cheaper and better over the last 30 years. That’s true for solar panels in space as well as on Earth. 30 years ago, solar panels could only be used on spacecraft out to about 3 AU (3x the Earth’s distance) from the Sun. Now they can be used out to around 5.5 AU, or around the orbit of Jupiter. So, for instance, up until recently all Jupiter space probes — the Pioneers, the Voyagers, Galileo — had to use nuclear power plants. But the latest Jupiter probe (JUNO, launched a few years ago and due to arrive in 2016) uses solar panels.

    All of Rosetta / Philae’s mission was within 5 AU. So, it made sense to use solar panels. They’re a tested technology, and they’re also just better — cheaper, lighter, simpler, and with fewer alarming failure modes.

    2) Nobody was expecting what happened: a bounce off the comet’s surface, landing mostly upright but in an area of permanent shadow. Planning assumptions were either that Philae would make a successful landing, or it would bounce and crash, landing damaged and/or on its side or upside down. The actual outcome was a weird combination of good luck (Philae was unhurt by the bounce and landed almost upright) and bad (it landed in one of the few areas of near-complete shadow).

    3) The current generation of radioisotope thermal generators (RTGs) used in space are much too big for little Philae. For instance, the RTG used by Curiosity on Mars weighs 22 kg. Philae only weighs 100 kg complete — and its solar panels are less than 2 kg of that.

    “Well, couldn’t they just design a smaller RTG?” — not easily, no. The laws of physics say that as you get a smaller mass of radioactive material, power output drops dramatically. I’m not sure it would even be physically possible to build a 2kg RTG (including shielding), using reasonably available isotopes, that would satisfy Philae’s power requirements. Even if it was, you’d have to design the thing pretty much from scratch. That would add quite significantly to the expense. Why would you do that, when there’s a perfectly good off-the-shelf power technology right there?

    So why the tweet? Well, assuming that Ulamec is being quoted honestly (I’m agnostic on this), it is true that (a) the European Space Agency (ESA) has foot-dragged on nuclear power in spacecraft, (b) that’s primarily for political reasons, because some ESA member states are kinda nuclear-phobic, and (c) this has caused some grumbling among EU space people. Without nuclear power, the ESA can’t send anything further than Jupiter. It’s simply impossible for ESA to do cool deep-space missions like Cassini (Saturn) or New Horizons (Pluto) using solar power, because those missions are just too far from the Sun. NASA can do those missions; ESA cannot. The most they can do i hitch a ride on a NASA deep space probe (like the Huygens lander did on Cassini).

    The ESA has been claiming for years now that it will one day develop its own RTG (probably based on americium instead of plutonium… long story) but progress has been suspiciously slow and it’s certainly not going to be ready before the end of this decade. So it’s possible that Ulamec is using the publicity around the death of Philae to give the ESA a little public nudge.

    That said, Philae was never going to use an RTG. It just wouldn’t have made sense for this mission.

    Doug M.

    Doug M.

  34. pinkocrat says:

    On appropriate case names: there was a case pitting religious conservatives against horny gay dudes called Bowers v. Hardwick.

  35. Cyan says:

    I have a theory that a person with a strong emotionally-based ideological commitment will be literally unable to process opponents’ arguments if they are the slightest bit complicated, not matter how reliable the apparent support. I first noticed this in myself — when Anissimov pointed me to a journal article that he claims backs his racism, I just couldn’t make myself see the connection between the population statistics reported therein and the claims Anissimov said it justified. I credit Anissimov with enough intelligence to, at minimum, cherry-pick academic-looking backing that actually supports his views; I just couldn’t get past my Ugh Field and properly engage my System 2.

    I think Scott is probably suffering from something similar in his appraisal of Futrelle’s response to Mytheos Holt’s article. Scott suggests that like it’s mostly making mock of Holt’s appearance, so I was kind of surprised to see that the mockery was just the first two sentences, after which Futrelle got on with the actual analysis-of-the-article part. The thesis of Futrelle’s commentary is clear: “Mytheos does indeed seems to be suggesting that GamerGate is fundamentally driven by the resentment of “dumpy” white dudes who can’t get a date” and therefore the warm appreciation with which GamerGaters have greeted it is rather odd.

    One might not agree with Futrelle, and that’s fine. My point is that there’s actually something substantive being argued; the mockery was incidental (and minor, not “a lot”). Scott seems to have not perceived this at all. (On my theory described above, he was incapable of perceiving it.)

    • Lizardbreath says:

      This is a really interesting idea!

      I have definitely seen this in people I’ve been arguing with. (Well, I would notice it there, eh? 😉 )

      I think sometimes, though, it’s not so much “Ugh Field” as “very different assumption structure.”

      When Jim was vehemently complaining about Scott’s supposed motives for his “Maybe some apparent homophobes are typical-minding the closet” post, I could only just barely sort of follow Jim’s complaints. I could see he had a bunch of assumptions I didn’t share, and (I thought) I was having a hard time following his reasoning because I was missing those assumptions.

      Meanwhile, on the object level…

      I wouldn’t call Futrelle’s mockery mild. The scornful tone is IMO intense, and is present throughout the article. It does shift from “appearance” to “ideas” part way through, though.

      These days I tend to mistrust a mocking/scornful tone even when applied to ideas, though. It’s far too easy and common these days for people who are “mocking ideas” to twist others’ meanings, take their statements out of context, etc.

      And in fact…that’s exactly what this:

      “Yep. Mytheos does indeed seems to be suggesting that [Worker Ant] is fundamentally driven by the resentment of “dumpy” white dudes who can’t get a date.”


      Yes, Mytheos does seem to be suggesting that “[Worker Ant] is fundamentally driven by the resentment of “dumpy” white dudes”–

      At journalistic corruption. And at SJWs, for SJWing.

      Not at the fact they can’t get a date. (Though yeah, Mytheos suggests they can’t. And are unfairly bullied for it. By hypocritical SJWs. Like Futrelle.)

      Futrelle’s slicing and dicing is masterful. He makes Bush I’s “Read my lips: no new taxes [I’ll just raise the old ones]” look like rank amateurism.

      “Resentment of “dumpy” white dudes”– True.
      “Who can’t get a date”– True.

      How then can Mytheos argue his point has been misrepresented?

      And yet, it has. Futrelle has carefully worded his article such that nearly every reader will read that “*who* can’t get a date” as “*because they* can’t get a date.” When Mytheos never said *that* at all.

      Is there even a fallacy name for this extremely manipulative wording? Because there should be.

      • suntzuanime says:

        It’s a deceptive use of conversational implicature. Specifically, it uses the Maxim of Relevance to imply a relationship between datelessness of resentment without denotationally stating it. I don’t think this is an argumentative fallacy as argumentative fallacies are typically concern with cases in which communication has been clear and a fallacy has been successfully communicated. This is more of a linguistic version of motte-and-bailey, a semantic motte that can can be retreated to when the pragmatic bailey is attacked.

      • Hadlowe says:

        An argument that misconstrues through context only a minor detail of the opponent’s position, resulting in a near-complete lack of rhetorical stasis?

        I propose the “straw homunculus.”

        Edit: After posting this, I bothered to google “homunculus fallacy,” and found I was treading on very old territory. Mods – feel free to delete this comment.

        • Randy M says:

          If you can edit, you can delete (remove all text and save). I think the Mods have better things to do than remove comments that are merely incorrect or banal, without being damaging to the culture.

          • Hadlowe says:

            Thanks, will do so in the future. On other forums I frequent, it leaves a null post and will occasionally cause errors.

      • Cyan says:

        Right! You give a proof-by-construction that it’s entirely possible to critique Futrelle’s analysis; but did Scott even perceive that there was an analysis, or did he think the entire thing was just making fun of Holt’s appearance?

        • Lizardbreath says:

          Maybe he intuitively sensed the problem I described, but didn’t spend enough time thinking about it to put it into words, so instead he just quickly summarized it as “making fun of Mytheos”?

          Since IMO the entire thing *was* just making fun of Mytheos + deceptive wording, I’d call “making fun of Mytheos” a fair summary.


          “I noticed I was confused when I clicked on a link under the text “making fun of his appearance a lot” and did not find a lot of appearance-mockery.”

          Good point.

      • RCF says:

        “Is there even a fallacy name for this extremely manipulative wording?”


    • Illuminati Initiate says:

      Scott was not trying to argue about the points made in the article in the first place though. Hes not offering a critique here. He was just objecting to the bullying in said article.

      • Cyan says:

        Indeed. But I noticed I was confused when I clicked on a link under the text “making fun of his appearance a lot” and did not find a lot of appearance-mockery. There’s lots to object to there, so it surprised me that the objection Scott ended up making turned out to be hyperbole.

        • Matthew says:

          To be fair, the amount of argument-from-appearance that is reasonable before becoming excessive is zero.

        • RCF says:

          The TITLE of the article is “#[reproductive ants]’s new champion is a wax replica of Patrick Bateman who thinks gamers are a bunch of dateless nerds”. I think it’s rather disingenuous to claim that mockery of his appearance was merely incidental.

          • Cyan says:

            Meh. The title highlights the appearance mockery, the post does indeed mock Holt’s appearance in the first two sentences, and then Futrelle spends the rest of the post (much longer than two sentences) arguing for the thesis. I’m content to continue calling that incidental.

          • Anonymous says:

            I’m surprised at the number of people who think that the article is made of text and thus should be judged by the proportion of text. The purpose of the article is to launch an image macro.

    • Jos says:

      You’re probably right that Scott hasn’t supported the “a lot” in his note. (IMHO, I’d expect 3 – 5 links to support a claim that “internet feminists” had made fun of Holt’s appearance “a lot.”)

      That said, it does seem to be satisfying to bully and belittle people, and it is a little funny that the response to an article complaining about nerds being bullied has a bunch of bullying in the title and first two paragraphs. I’ll grant that once Futrelle shoves Holt into his locker a couple times about his looks, he moves on to a response that mocks him for other reasons.

      • Anonymous says:

        There’s plenty more in the comments. I know that “lolcomments” applies, but these are people that one would assume identify as feminists.

      • Cyan says:

        The funny thing is that trying to mock someone’s appearance by saying that they look like a character played by Christian Bale is just ridiculously self-defeating.

  36. NonsignificantName says:

    Funny case names in general:
    EDIT:I think Underhill mentions elsewhere on his blog that U.S. seizure of property cases often name the property itself as the defendant. This is responsible for a lot of these.

    • Illuminati Initiate says:

      My favorite is “I Am The Beast Six Six Six of the Lord of Hosts in Edmond Frank MacGillivray Jr. Now. I Am The Beast Six Six Six of the Lord of Hosts IEFMJN. I Am The Beast Six Six Six of the Lord of Hosts. I Am The Beast Six Six Six of the Lord of Hosts OTLOHIEFMJN. I Am The Beast SSSOTLOHIEFMJN. I Am The Beast Six Six Six. Beast Six Six Six Lord v. Michigan State Police, et al.”

  37. Doug S. says:

    My mom, a retired physician, is in possession of a genuine human skull. I’ve seen it, it’s really cool. (Does this give a new meaning to “skeletons in the closet”?)

    • Randy M says:

      Assuming she didn’t kill the former owner of the skull, it does give a rare benign and literal meaning to the expression.

  38. JRM says:

    Innocence project issues:

    1. The Northern California Innocence Project published a long treatise on all the prosecutorial misconduct they found. They did have a list of cases in the back. So I looked them up.

    One of them was this: Cops don’t turn over arguably exculpatory evidence. Prosecutor finds out on day of trial before trial starts. They litigate the issue outside the presence of the jury. Defense does not want a continuance. They use the evidence in the trial. (Exculpatory evidence in the possession of cops is constructively in possession of prosecutors, so the duty to turn over promptly exists even if the actual prosecutor doesn’t have it.) Guy gets convicted. Appeals court rules no harm done. This was counted as misconduct by the prosecutor. The report has some actual misconduct, yes. It just counts wrong.

    2. “Exonerations” doesn’t mean “innocent.” I can’t find the case right now, but in the most severe version of this, guy gets released as exonerated and then DNA evidence comes in. Whoopsie. So there are some innocent people. They just count it wrong.

    3. Roger Keith Coleman. Famous case death penalty opponents glommed on to; Coleman insisted his innocence before getting the death penalty and very nice church people stuck up for him until the DNA hit many years later. (These were legitimately nice people trying to do the right thing; there were others that were opportunistic jerks, but the church people seemed genuinely sincere and trying to get to the truth.)

    4. There’s some cheating – usually not as bad as this, which is awful. California had a death penalty case in which jurors signed affidavits saying they were unduly influenced and now realized they screwed it up. Well, not jurors, exactly. Defense investigator signing jurors’ names.

    Good things about Innocence Projects:

    1. Some innocent people have been exonerated. The number of people you need to do that is pretty low for the above nonsense to be tolerable. (The straight-up frame-up is incredibly bad. The Northwestern guy had a terrible record of lying to everyone, all the time. Everyone involved should be jailed.) But just because Barry Scheck is a grandstander and may have some bad motives doesn’t mean they don’t do some good.

    2. Pushback, at some point, is a good. We end up in a kind of awful tribal situation here; Radley Balko claimed that all persons convicted of three felonies in California got a mandatory life sentence, which he had to know was totally untrue. (No retraction has been made in the intervening years.) Balko has also attacked forensic odontology fraud in an extremely compelling way. Meanwhile the law and order people sometimes have blind spots on the other side; Nancy Grace is not nice.

    (Here are a few links (A better person would have had more, and inline, but it’s already way past my bedtime)):

    Northwestern professor running their innocence project is big liar:

    Roger Keith Coleman was a bad man:

    Pretty terrible Northern California Innocence Project Report on Prosecutorial Misconduct:

    Balko’s “Three Strikes Law imposed life sentence on anyone convicted of three felonies”:

    Nancy Grace’s Adventures in Prosecution:

    • Tuoni says:

      Actually, the vast majority of the population of British Columbia lives at low altitudes. I quickly checked the ten largest metropolitan areas from Wikipedia and only 3 were above 300 m and one above 500 m. The largest cities were at sea level. By a rough estimate, at least 80 % of the population lives below 300 m of elevation. By comparison, Salt Lake City is situated at 1280 m above sea level and the lowest point in Utah is at 664 m.

  39. Scott, would you consider yourself a humanist?

  40. no-name mcgee says:

    Gutenberg didn’t invent the printing press; he invented movable type, which made it much more useful than it already was and allowed for a wide variety of books, along with a variety of smaller innovations.

    I’m a little shocked that you either don’t know this or don’t feel it worth being accurate about.

  41. RCF says:

    Is there something wrong with my computer, or is We Hunted the Mammoth written in black words on a dark grey background?

    • Anonymous says:

      In my browser, the text is written in a grey (#4E4E4E) and the background is “transparent” (white).

  42. Matthew says:

    Since comments are closed on the relevant post, I’ll put this here: Yet another study on Alcoholics Anonymous