"Talks a good game about freedom when out of power, but once he’s in – bam! Everyone's enslaved in the human-flourishing mines."

Links 6/15: Monsters, Link

Study shows that banning bottled water on campuses just makes students switch to bottled soda, with obvious detrimental consequences to health and no decrease in bottle waste.

Pakistan’s transgender tax collectors.

A couple of posts ago, I mocked the Muslim activist who claimed Mossad broke into his house and stole one of his shoes to creep him out. Jonathan Zhou corrects me and points out that this sort of thing is actually a known intelligence agency tactic.

A systematic review of all 55 medical conditions whose risks vary with your month of birth.

Popehat does some very impressive investigative reporting into the government trying to make a (literal) federal case out of random libertarian blog commenters criticizing a judge at Reason.com. A pretty good example of the abuses of power possible if laws about Internet threats are made too strict. Followups here, here, and here.

Probiotics watch: maybe eating fermented food decreases social anxiety?

Nevada enacts comprehensive school choice law. The experiment has begun.

Life imitating JRPGs – mysterious “time crystals” may hold the secret to outlasting entropy. No word on whether you have to get all seven, or whether they are hidden in temples themed around the seven elements. Some people on Tumblr try to help me understand the implications.

A while ago, I was getting the impression that the Mexican drug cartels were unstoppable and the Mexican government was too corrupt to be able to do anything about them. Now the cartels are almost all defeated or in retreat. What happened?

Long ago I reviewed a book claiming the future was glia. Now some scientists are proposing that maybe SSRIs work by affecting glial cells.

American Hippopotamus describes the 1910s plan by two larger-than-life Boer War guerilla-assassins to “turn American into a nation of hippo ranchers”. The story alone would be worth your time even if it wasn’t well-written, but it happens to be very possibly the best-written article I have ever read. Long, but also available on Kindle if wanted.

Program that teaches college women how to avoid rape may cut risk of rape in half as per new study.

This article on whether the US could replicate Scandinavia’s low poverty rate is interesting throughout, but what makes it for me is the claim that Swedes in the US have the same poverty rate as Swedes in Sweden [edit: possibly this is false?]. How much should we make of this?

Not only are we living in the future, but it’s exactly the future Philip K Dick told us to expect: “Abortion drone” to make first flight into Poland

The mysterious resemblance between the ancient Numenorean calendar and the French revolutionary calendar (h/t an-animal-imagined-by-poe)

I’d always heard the story “Iceland rejected fiscal austerity and did everything exactly the way the left wanted and did great.” Scott Sumner and Tyler Cowen say that actually Iceland had lots and lots of austerity.

I think it’s probably time to stop bothering Rachel Dolezal. She seems like a good example of a person who’s not hurting anyone, has some really weird problems she needs to sort out, but because she doesn’t fall into a designated “here are people we have agreed it’s not okay to mock” category we are mocking her. The psychoanalyst in me wants to say this is some kind of displacement where people who are upset they can’t get away with making fun of real black people suddenly see an apparent black person (and NAACP leader, no less!) lose their magical protection and become a valid target, and are now channeling years of pent-up rage at her. Anyway, not totally related, but an explanation of why this is not a good analogy for transgender.

Article originally reported as “no gender gap in tech salaries” gives a more nuanced description of their result. Summary: true based on sample of equally qualified people one year after graduation; no evidence whether or not it’s true in other situations. This article is also good example of “if you have data supporting a controversial point, ignorant people on Twitter will throw out some terms that sound statistics-y and bad, like ‘confounding’ or ‘cherry-picking’, then say you have now been debunked.”

Doctors with the highest ratings on those rate-your-doctor sites may deliver worse care than less-well-rated docs. Maybe you get higher ratings by giving patients what they want, which is usually amphetamines, narcotics, antibiotics, and unnecessary tests.

The time Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote an article about Lord Byron’s divorce so controversial it caused a third of The Atlantic’s readership to cancel their subscriptions.

Alyssa Vance writes on Facebook about Ivy League colleges’ sketchy methods of soliciting alumni donations.

In a study of 20,000 people, an uncommon allele of the MAO-A gene may cause a sevenfold increased risk of violent criminal behavior, making it probably the strongest gene-crime link to date.

Previously on SSC links: if robots are taking our jobs, how come productivity numbers aren’t increasing? Now: okay, productivity numbers are increasing, but the robots still don’t seem to be taking our jobs.

A man angry at the German government for falsely imprisoning him is adopting a thousand children in order to make them German citizens and do his part to strain the welfare state. Apparently everything legally checks out and no one can stop him. Open borders advocates take note. [edit: old story, loophole since possibly closed?]

Anti-science-denial group Committee for Skeptical Inquiry wants to make a $25,000 bet with the global warming doubters at the Heartland Institute about future climate trends. While I totally approve of this strategy (“A bet is a tax on bullshit” – Alex Tabarrok and Bryan Caplan), the exact terms seem kind of dumb – AFAIK, Heartland doesn’t believe that the Earth is not getting warmer, just that it’s not necessarily human-caused. Betting on next year’s temperature does nothing to settle that.

In the last links post, I mentioned a study that tried to use transgender people to test the sources of the gender gap. A new study from Brazil tries to do the same with race – Brazilians are frequently very multiracial, and different companies might classify the same employee differently. The study tries to match that with salaries – does a boss who thinks of an employee as white pay them more than their boss next year who thinks of them as black? They conclude that 40% of racial income gaps can be explained in that way, though of course it sounds like Brazil’s racial situation is different enough from America’s that it might not generalize.

Nothing sophisticated or intellectual about this one – just trucks driving off aircraft carriers. Wheeeee!

Some linguists talk of “the Anglic languages”, a language family including English and some of its weirder relatives and descendants that have evolved to the point of mutual intelligibility. You’ve probably heard of Scots, ie “the reason you can’t understand Robert Burns”. But did you know about Forth and Bargy?

Google’s neural nets can now amplify images without human guidance. And by amplify, they mean add shoggoths (warning: shoggoth). Also, this seems way too much like the visual effects of LSD to be a coincidence, and I look forward to neuroscientists explaining the exact connection.

A mildly interesting Wall Street Journal article on how jobs are staying open longer because employers can’t find qualified candidates also contains some surprising information – 5% of job interviews include an IQ test, and almost 20% include a personality test. I’m not sure how that meshes with our recent discussion of Griggs vs. US. I’m starting to think the importance of this case is overblown – the actual ruling specifically banned assessing qualifications based on IQ tests or on degree completion. Everyone does the latter, so why are we so sure this case is restricting people from doing the former?

Obvious once I heard it but something I never thought about it before – the Statue of Liberty is green because all old tarnished copper is green. When it was first built, it was, well, copper-colored. When it tarnished the government was supposed to raise money to fix it, but never got around to it. Now it’s impossible for me not to find the idea of the Statue of Liberty being green kind of hilarious.

California college professors told they can be disciplined or fired for committing “microaggressions” including “describing America as a melting pot” or saying that “I believe the most qualified person should get the job”. Assumed this was some kind of total fake, did some digging, still seems legit, but if anyone can find otherwise I will correct myself with apologies and relief. At least every time I see this sort of thing it’s in universities, suggesting the contagion is somewhat contained. [edit: a claim that this doesn’t matter much]

We already know that many medical studies and many psychological studies fail to replicate. What about economics studies? The necessary work is still being done, but the recent progress report suggests that about 66% of replication attempts completely fail to replicate the original finding, with another 12% partly failing to replicate and only 22% replicating completely. Possibly an argument for privileging theory more in the interminable Econ Theory Versus Empiricism Wars?

Contrary to some reports, nationwide gun violence and nationwide violence against police do not seem to have spiked after the latest round of police brutality stories and race riots.

This wins my prize for real case most like the sort of weird murder mysteries you see in books: A man is found dead in the desert with an obvious fatal gunshot wound. He has no enemies but recently suffered a major financial setback; everyone suspects he committed suicide and only wanted it to look like murder. However, this ruse is very convincing; no gun is found anywhere nearby. How did he shoot himself?

How long can a con man with no soccer talent whatsoever play soccer at the professional level before anybody catches on? How about twenty years?

IQ researcher, Ian Deary collaborator, and SSC victim Dr. Stuart Ritchie has written an introductory book on IQ and intelligence studies that looks pretty good. Not sure if the ambiguity of meaning in the subtitle is a horrible mistake or 100% deliberate.

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1,287 Responses to Links 6/15: Monsters, Link

  1. Nornagest says:

    Thought process:

    We ran the SeaWAS algorithm on a restricted sample comprising 80% of the original sample, randomly chosen….

    “Hey, wait, why would you do that?”

    …We took all novel associations (i.e., not reported in the literature) revealed in the restricted sample, and then validated them using the validation set (containing 20% of the original population).

    “Oh, it’s a cross-validation set. We do that in machine learning, and sure enough there are good reasons for it. Gold star.”

    Nice to see a paper where my initial qualms about the statistics aren’t validated. Even nicer to see a group that doesn’t just spit out the raw regression.

    • Houshalter says:

      Well it’s not cross validation, just validation. Cross validation requires you to do this like 5 times on different samples of the dataset. Also validation is for setting hyperparameters. This seems more like a test set, which is just to test if your method works after you’ve committed to it.

  2. On the google robots thing, I feel like the reason for the similarity to LSD could be obvious – just like with the AI, the brain’s pattern-recognition software is working in overdrive. The same description could be applied to the mental level, so it makes a lot of sense.

    Really cool stuff though – the connection to psychedelic visuals was by far the most interesting thing about the story to me, in the “wow, brains really are just computers” sense.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I agree it’s something like that, I just hope someone can explain more technically what it means for a neural network to be in overdrive, in a way that makes sense in both a computing and a neuroscience context.

      • Professor Frink says:

        The neural nets in question are really quite different than human brain neural nets in both response function of individual neurons and in the way they are layered.

        It would be sort of surprising if the two are totally related- the way you create the weird google images would be the equivalent of taking output from the brains image recognition and feeding it back through the eyes over and over again.

        I think maybe the similarities are related to properties of the images rather than of the specific method of image recognition.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          It wouldn’t have to be fed back to the eyes, just through the visual cortex mechanisms. Presumably there are mechanisms for controlling how much visual-cortexing the visual cortex does and those could be increased?

          Note that this was already sort of my theory of LSD – see part III here.

        • Harald K says:

          Yes, exactly. It doesn’t really matter that they don’t work the same way. No matter what approach you use to learn it, the structure in the learning data is ultimately the same, and e.g. features such as lines and surfaces are probably going to be used by any successful method.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        The original source for the shoggoths is here and the full collection here.

        The neural net is a pyramid of neurons. Many at the bottom, few at the top. The first level represents pixels. The second level represents simple shapes, like lines and curves. Higher levels represent more complicated shapes. It can be run forward or backwards. What’s happening in the images is that they start by running the network forward, up the image. Then they choose a node that is activated, indicating that the pattern was found in the image, increase the value of that node and run the network backwards to get a new image. For example, the swirly line picture is probably the result of increasing all of the low level nodes that correspond to curves.

        The brain might do something similar because it does inference. We rewrite our perception of low level details as a consequence of high level interpretation. You might imagine that LSD causes interpretation to go into overdrive, rewriting perception more than usual.

        But that’s about the opposite of most of what I’ve heard about LSD. My understanding is that it reduces interpretation and gives access to low-level sensory data. But we don’t perceive pixels. We perceive shapes. We perceive features at all levels of the network. Probably what LSD does is increase the salience of low level features. If we do not perceive pixels directly, it is not clear that there is any meaningful difference between increasing the salience of lines and running this algorithm to increase the sharpness of lines already in the algorithm.

        • But that’s about the opposite of most of what I’ve heard about LSD. My understanding is that it reduces interpretation and gives access to low-level sensory data.

          I’m not really sure what you mean by this. In my experience, probably the most prominent features of the psychedelic mindset are epiphanies and “archetypes”, so to speak, both of which are results of increasing interpretation and feel like to me to be the mental version of “image recognition going into overdrive”. That being said, I’ve never taken enough to actually see the kind of imagery in question, and I’ve heard the headspace on that level is very different.

        • Autolykos says:

          Low level visual sensory data is never pixels at any point conscious processing can possibly “see” it. It is already in the form of circular wavelets when going through the optic nerve, and becomes more like edges and line segments even before entering the primary visual cortex.
          I also immediately thought of Scott’s loopiness article upon reading what the researchers did. In hindsight, seeing ghosts is kind of the obvious result of putting pattern recognition networks into a runaway feedback loop. If you look hard enough for a specific shape, you’ll find it everywhere.

        • wysinwyg says:

          If you haven’t read it, you might like this book. It describes the sense in which the human brain might be structured like the pyramidal neural net you describe at the beginning of your comment.

          Probably what LSD does is increase the salience of low level features. If we do not perceive pixels directly, it is not clear that there is any meaningful difference between increasing the salience of lines and running this algorithm to increase the sharpness of lines already in the algorithm.

          One effect of LSD I’ve noticed is the inability to actually finish a sentence. Phenomenologically, it feels like a recursive process petering out prematurely. Perhaps the salience of low level visual details is increased under the influence of LSD because the recursion up to the top of the pyramid is suppressed, preventing full integration of the low-level details into higher-level ones.

          • CJB says:

            Oh awesome, a chance to talk about LSD with smart people that’ve taken it as well.

            The last time I took LSD, I dropped 5 tabs (twice as much as I’d ever done before.)

            The best way to describe the visual hallucination….

            You know how when a screen gets broken, or is poorly adjusted, you get those lines of colored light sort of courescing off the images? Like they’re shooting off rays of red and green and what not? You get that- or I did- streams of what looked like perfect pixels streaming off of things.

            I experience the epiphany as well. One thing though- I didn’t have trouble FINISHING thoughts so much as with writing them down- my brain was running so much faster than my hand.

            I will say, upon examining the ten or so scrawled pages the next day- most of the stuff held up. I had personal epiphanies- and in the cold light of two days later, they still made a lot of sense- but they only make sense if you have the memories of the experience to give the scribbling context.

            I suspect part of the epiphany effect is that very, very rarely in life will you spend a solid hour doing nothing but thinking about your life as obsessively as possible. It’s like sitting around thinking for five minutes by the clock- everyone thinks they do it, almost no one actually does.

          • Anonymous says:

            >I suspect part of the epiphany effect is that very, very rarely in life will you spend a solid hour doing nothing but thinking about your life as obsessively as possible. It’s like sitting around thinking for five minutes by the clock- everyone thinks they do it, almost no one actually does.

            I agree! In fact because of this I find lying in bed with insomnia to be a somewhat psychedelic experience – you live for hours on your thoughts alone.

          • wysinwyg says:

            I experience the epiphany as well. One thing though- I didn’t have trouble FINISHING thoughts so much as with writing them down- my brain was running so much faster than my hand.

            Yes, that sounds very familiar. I think what I was trying to describe might be better explained as “trying to put thoughts into language” — that is, I have an epiphany or coherent thought (or at least the experience of one) but then when I try to convey it to someone else via speech (or to myself later via written language), I’m never able to capture the original thought.

            This may be partially because, like you say, my brain is running faster than my hand or mouth. I do have the impression (which, TBH, could be completely invented post hoc) that the more I try to force my epiphanies into a linguistic frame, the more distorted they become until I realize the words I’m left with fail to convey what was so interesting or insightful or important about the initial thought.

            I will say, upon examining the ten or so scrawled pages the next day- most of the stuff held up. I had personal epiphanies- and in the cold light of two days later, they still made a lot of sense- but they only make sense if you have the memories of the experience to give the scribbling context.

            I’ve never had this exact experience, but despite what I said above, I have been able to, as I put it, “bring things back with me”. These insights are usually non-verbal, but I can start to express them once I’ve come down and can concentrate on complex thoughts again.

            For example, in one psilocybin adventure I had the insight: “the audience is the muse”. Interestingly, there’s a short story called “The Art of Seeing With One’s Own Eyes” or similar in which the narrator consumed LSD, looked at a collection of photographs of strangers, and subsequently has the same insight (word for word: the audience is the muse).

            This goes back to what I said above about my impression that trying to frame my insights linguistically distorted the content of those insights. First, I try to describe the insight in terms that might be used by an analytical philosopher, but find that this sort of reductionist approach to understanding the insight crowds out what I perceive as important about it. Then I decide I need to write a story or poem or song to convey the insight rather than a densely-worded philosophical text — that the insight can only be conveyed indirectly to someone who is already “on the same path” so to speak. Then imaginary guitar parts start playing in my head and I pay attention to those for an hour or so instead.

            With stronger doses I get more interesting epiphanies, but it’s harder to retain the context in which they occurred, so it’s harder to hold onto them when I come down. I remember on one trip going through a typology of attitudes towards the universe and how the attitudes relate to each other; for example, one type was “madness”, and another was “enumerator of types” which, because the universe is ultimately chaotic and “types” are imposed by the human mind, ultimately leads back to madness. And then I realized I was engaging in enumeration of types by going through all these possible attitudes towards the universe.

            Most of my LSD epiphanies seem, like these two examples, to have something to do with recursion.

          • CJB says:

            Lots of recursion.

            I wonder, going off of the discussion of LSD interfering with signaling, if part of the effect is A. false positives (I remember distinctly a few epiphanies where I ended up going- wait, no that’s stupid) and

            B. Presumably when I have a sober epiphany, I have the realization first, and then have to put it carefully into words. If that communication is being blocked, I’d have the same result…my subconcious realized something, but there’s a barrier between realization and verbalization.

            As for your “sorting the types” moment- a lot of LSD epiphanies turn out to be very….banal, afterwards.

            The sciencey bit of brain goes “Well, you were fucking with the “epiphany” center of your brain. The emotional bit goes “maybe we just don’t realize how deep the banal could BE, man.”

          • Hyzenthlay says:

            I feel envious of all these people who’ve had life-altering epiphanies and incredible visual experiences on LSD. The one time I took it I just had crying jags and panic attacks followed by vomiting and a skull-crushing headache.

            The one interesting bit was some tactile hallucinations (feelings like threads or hairs/bristles touching my face and fingertips) and a sense of the world somehow being more three-dimensional than usual; things just looking “different” in a way that was hard to pin down, like I was looking at everything through a lens. But I didn’t get any of the mental experiences that many people describe.

            Granted, I took a low-ish dose so I maybe didn’t get the full experience, but after how unpleasant and scary it was I probably wouldn’t take it again.

          • Hyzenthlay says:

            @ Mark Atwood:

            It’s possible that it was something else, but I’m pretty sure it was LSD. I’ve read about other people having experiences similar to mine. I think part of the problem is that I just wasn’t mentally prepared for it (though I thought I was at the time), and I wasn’t in the best state of mind going in, so it quickly turned into this self-feeding panic loop that felt like having a nightmare while fully awake and relatively lucid.

            Despite it being an experience I probably won’t repeat, I don’t regret doing it. If nothing else it gave me a healthy respect for psychedelics. It’s not a drug to be taken for escape; it demands to be felt, for better or worse.

        • Psy-Kosh says:

          > It can be run forward or backwards.

          I’m a bit confused on how the “run backwards” works.

          It’s pyramidal, fewer nodes at each layer than the previous, so the thing as a whole would work something like a many to few function, right?

          How exactly is it run backwards?

          I actually (mis)understoood it a bit differently: that it was an inverted pyramid on top of a regular one, and the layers were trained in pairs so that the thing as a whole would produce output as similar to the input as possible. Since it passes through a bottleneck, that means it would have to usefully compress the data. To do that, it’d have had to learn useful facts about regularities that show up in the data, and the deeper layers represent those regularities that it found.

          But I would have thought getting an image out from the inner abstract properties layers involved running the inverted pyramid, which was trained together with the base, rather than running the base backwards.

          Did I completely misunderstand how this works?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Yes, “running backwards” can be used for compression. That paper contains pictures of double pyramids, a bottleneck. But the two pyramids are the same. It is ambiguous what “the same” means because one has a one-to-many function and the other a many-to-one function. Once you have decided what “the same” means, as a function of parameters, the training is done subject to the restriction that the parameter is the same going both ways. Also, you may be interested in the paper To recognize shapes, first learn to generate images.

            Let’s restrict to the case of just two levels, pixels and curves.

            You could compress by throwing away the pixels and reconstructing them from the curves. If they did that, then they could produce a tweaked image by exaggerating the curve values. But if they did that, they should not compare the original image to the new image, but they should instead compare the compressed image to the new image. Both images are produced by describing curves, one a natural set of curves and the other a supernatural set of curves.

            I do not think they did that. I do not think that they did compression. I do not think that they threw out information. I think that they decomposed the image into two pieces of information, the curves and the residual information to reconstruct the pixels from the curves. Then they exaggerated the curves and add back in the residual information.

            If it’s just two levels, I think that is a bad idea and comparing the compressed image to the image produced by tweaking the compressed parameters is a better idea. At the very least, one should look at that before looking at the variant I think that they actually do. But with many layers, just using the high level compression parameters is probably a bad idea, and that’s why they’re probably keeping the residuals.

          • Psy-Kosh says:

            Douglas: Huh, interesting, thank you! I wasn’t really aware of Boltzmann machines, didn’t know about that style of neural net.

            I have some reading to do. Thanks! 🙂

          • Harald K says:

            The relationship between compression, prediction, classification and interpolation is deep, and I wish I had the education and time to really dig into that and understand it. I feel like there are some big things waiting to be discovered there.

            Some of the coolest stuff I’ve read about is people using generic compression algorithms (gzip, etc.) to perform pretty sophisticated classification, including apparently doing authorship attribution as well as stylistic models.

          • vV_Vv says:

            I don’t think they are doing it this way.

            If I understand correctly, starting from an input image they compute the activation of a few layers in feed forward mode, as if they were doing classification, then they increase the contrast after a specific layer and use backpropagation with gradient descent to search for the input image which produces the desired output.

            So if you feed the network an image of the sky with clouds, and some layer detects a weak “dog face” pattern at position (x, y), then if you increase the contrast of the activation of this layer and search for the corresponding input image, you will get some variation of the original image with a dog face appearing at (x, y), in addition to all other pattern that were detected by that layer.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Yeah, a lot of what I said about “running backwards” is wrong. RBMs are symmetric, so it makes sense to run them backwards. In theory, running them either direction is random, but in practice running them forward is often deterministic. And in the first paper I link to, they do that, labeled transpose. But for the “fine-tuning,” I think that they change the parameters of the compressor and decompressor separately, contrary to what I said. In the second paper I linked to, I’m not sure what they do.

            It is always possible to run a classifier backwards by sampling from a posterior distribution, though this may be expensive. I think that the second paper I linked to does this. The first paper, on compression, should want a deterministic result. Maybe they look for the maximum a posterior point, rather than the whole distribution?

            Yes, V, it seems that is what google is doing, too. You could interpret this as a kind of decompression. Take the image, compress it, change the compressed representation, and decompress. But how much of the weirdness is due to the change as opposed to the compression itself? This was my earlier comment. Before changing the compressed representation, they should apply the same search to the compressed representation of the original image. That is, they should search for an image that maximizes the likelihood of the same neurons lighting up.

      • Muga Sofer says:

        It sounds like they might be Going Loopy.

        (www.slatestarcodex.com/2014/04/11/going-loopy/)

      • Arthur B. says:

        You can think of what google is doing as semantic sharpening. “Sharpening”, in image editing software, usually designates a filter which enhances the local differences in color and intensity, thus making edges more salients. And indeed, if you run google’s algorithm at a very shallow layer of the neural network, edge sharpening is what you’ll get.

        What these deep networks build is a stack of representations which progressively abstract important feature of the image. Shallow neurons typically represent simple edge detectors (Gabor like features) but as you go deeper in the network, they represent more abstract concept. Sets of edge detectors are combined to form feature that detect shapes, those shape detectors are combined to detect more complex shapes, until you eventually have a neuron acting as a dog detector.

        What this algorithm does is look into those deeper levels and tweak the input until it generates a sharper signal. If you saw something vaguely dog-like, make it even more dog like. It’s a way too boost apophenia.

      • Harald K says:

        Well, they have now open sourced it. Building it and playing around with it shouldn’t be completely out of reach for anyone computer literate (at least with access to Linux or Mac, some of these libraries are not very Windows-friendly).

        I don’t know how much that helps in understanding it, but it’s cool anyway!

    • Daniel says:

      It would make an awesome photoshop or GIMP filter. When I was young, I would entertain myself by making a gradient then going over it with the sharpen tool and watching the 1 pixel-wide zebra stripe patterns emerge out of formless grey shades.

  3. Professor Frink says:

    It doesn’t seem like Swedes in Sweden have the same poverty rate as Swedes in the US. After transfers/etc, It seems like Swedes in Sweden have < 1/2 the poverty rate as Swedes in the US. Has anyone else looked at the numbers?

    • Anthony says:

      After transfers/etc, It seems like Swedes in Sweden have < 1/2 the poverty rate as Swedes in the US.

      Source? The ultimate source for the claim that Swedes in Sweden have a similar poverty rate to Swedes in the U.S. is Poverty in Europe and the USA: Exchanging official measurement methods, Geranda Notten & Chris de Neubourg (pdf).

      • excess_kurtosis says:

        Looking at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Per_capita_income_in_the_United_States_by_ancestry, Scandinavians don’t look particularly rich relative to other white ethnicities (Swedes are in the middle, “scandinavian” is at the bottom). My suspicion (this could be checked!) is that the low poverty rates people are claiming for people who identify as Swedish on the census is driven by non-response bias: Something like a third of people don’t fill out the census ancestry question, and I suspect the ones that do are disproportionately wealthy.

        • Nornagest says:

          There’s probably strong geographical effects there. Outside the Western states, the ethnic background of white Americans tends to correlate closely with geography; Scandinavians for example tend to be concentrated in the Upper Midwest, which despite the recent fracking boom isn’t a historically rich area.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Right, you should not use self-reported ancestry. Many people avoid this problem by meaning “white Minnesotans” when they say “Swedish-Americans,” but it opens up other problems. I do not see any source for the claim that the Swedish-American poverty rate is 6.7%, so I cannot tell the methodology.

          • Protagoras says:

            I would say that that certainly does open up other problems. There’s considerably more German ancestry in Minnesota than Swedish ancestry (a fact perhaps concealed due to a tradition which developed in the early and mid 20th century of the Minnesota Germans talking less about their ancestry than the Swedes do).

          • Anthony says:

            due to a tradition which developed in the early and mid 20th century of the Minnesota Germans talking less about their ancestry than the Swedes do

            Due to legal and extra-legal persecution of Germans (and Lutherans) by Woodrow Wilson.

        • eccdogg says:

          I don’t know about poverty. But Tino Sanandaji has blogged frequently on something close to this subject.

          I don’t think Swedes are rich relative to Americans I think they are rich relative to Swedes in Sweden.

          According to him as of 2007
          Self reported Swedes in US have GDP/Capita of 56k and a poverty rate of 6.7%

          Compared to 36k GDP/Capita in Sweden. No poverty rate is reported but the EU poverty rate is 8.1%

          http://super-economy.blogspot.com/2010/01/dynamic-america-poor-europe.html

          ETA: Just looked and Meg. McArdle links to a Tino article. I believe the above link takes you to the source of his claim and it is from the Census American Community Survey.

          • excess_kurtosis says:

            1) Sweden has much lower poverty rates than the US (See http://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?QueryId=47991 )

            2) Swedes are not propsperous compared to other non-Swedish whites in the US.

            The main point is that something like 40% of white people don’t report ancestry on the Census, and so people who report ancestry at all are weird and non-representative.

          • Doug Muir says:

            Tino is an interesting dude. He’s a first-generation immigrant to Sweden — Kurdish Iranian, came there as a kid in the 1980s. His background is in engineering — polymer chemistry IMS — but somehow he’s morphed into a columnist and public intellectual who is one of the loudest internal critics of Sweden’s economic and social system.

            Anyway: he’s the originator of the 6.7% claim, but he doesn’t properly source it. He just says it’s “from US Census data” and that’s it — no further information, no explanation, no methodology. So there’s literally no way to cross-check it.

            Doug M.

          • eccdogg says:

            Here is what Tino has in his methods section.

            “Method

            I have calculated per capita GDP for the US and 18 western European countries. I have also calculated Gross State product for 50 U.S states and Washington D.C. In addition, as far as I know for the first time I have calculated imputed per capita GDP of Americans by European ancestry, and compare them with those in the home country. My sources for population and Per capita (purchasing power adjusted) GDP are OECD Factbook 2009 (latest available GDP is for 2007, latest available population 2008).

            My source for relative income for Americans of various ancestry is Census 2006-2008 American Community Survey 3-Year Estimates. I use per capita income of each group relative to per capita income of the US (so if a group is 10% above average it will have a per capita GDP = 1.1*45489). (click on Selected Population Profiles).

            My sources for Gross State Products is Bureau of Economic Analysis, Per capita real GDP by state (chained 2000 dollars) in 2007. I show the results adjusted to the OECD GDP per capita figure (so again if a state is 10% above average it will have a per capita GDP = 1.1*45489).

            UK includes British, Welsh, Scottish, Scoth-Irish and those that simply identify as “American”.

            British excluding “American” has population 41,181,917, per capita income $59775.5 and poverty rate 6.8%.

            French includes French-Canadian and Basque. German includes Pennsylvania German.

            A small group identifies as “Scandinavian”, and a the group that call themselves “European” are included in EU.15 (of course technically some of the Scandinavians are Norwegian and Icelandic).”

      • Douglas Knight says:

        No, Anthony, that is not the source. That is merely the source for converting the Swedish statistics to be comparable to American statistics.

  4. Alraune says:

    I think it’s probably time to stop bothering Rachel Dolezal. She seems like a good example of a person who’s not hurting anyone, has some really weird problems she needs to sort out, but because she doesn’t fall into a designated “here are people we have agreed it’s not okay to mock” category we are mocking her.

    No. Dolezal is a custom-tailored negative externality machine who deserves every bit of ridicule, shame, and punishment she will possibly get and more. She has been faking hate crimes against herself, and anyone who fakes hate crimes is burning the fabric of social trust for attention. She deserves to be treated like Dylan fucking Roof.

    The only class of people I can think of that deserve a more “disproportionate” punishment are prosecutors who cheat to get innocent people convicted, the minimum sentence for which should be whatever the accused was going to be punished with.

    • Nebfocus says:

      I agree about her faking hate crimes, but it does seem this might stem from some sort of mental illness. Her ability to calibrate empathy seems to be broken in a serious way.

      • cassander says:

        why blame mental illness when the career benefits of her doing so are so obvious?

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          Because how risky it is. I feel like we get so caught up with the arguing that we forget the inherent ridiculousness of the situation.

          This is a person that is not only pretending to be black (through “blackface”, of all things!), and somehow became a prominent figure in the NCAAP.

          This is probably the plot of Tyler Perry’s next non-Madea movie. It was bound to blow up in her face, and the real question is how it didn’t happen sooner. As such, it seems suspect that personal gain could be the only motivation.

          • Alraune says:

            The real question is how it didn’t happen sooner.

            True, but the other direction.

            Taken a look at the national NAACP president lately? The relevant academic subculture makes questioning if someone’s looks are “black enough” totally taboo.

          • cassander says:

            it isn’t risky though, as she’s proven. Telling a sympathetic audience what they want to hear is always a safe strategy, which is why she was able to get away with it for so long.

      • It might be the parents. But that poster strikes me as herself too confident, too inclined to pick a side and take conjectures as facts.

      • brad says:

        That’s what it looks like to me too. Some sort of awful childhood which was a significant causal factor in serious mental problems, one of the systems of which is pathological lying. Of course, it is tough to say when dealing with a pathological liar whether the abuse actually happened or is just another lie, but in this case there are some other indicators besides just her word.

        If all that is true, it may not completely excuse her bad behavior, but I’d think it would at least soften the vitriol.

        • Cliff says:

          Parenting has virtually no effect on how children end up once they have grown up and left home, so I doubt it

          • Anonymous says:

            > Parenting has virtually no effect on how children end up once they have grown up and left home

            Ha. Hahahahaha. Ha ha. As someone whose parents were abusive… ha ha ha ha no.

            More seriously, using non-anecdotal evidence: “parenting has no effect” is only true once you filter out the abusive childhoods. Parents can certainly have an effect on their children by giving them PTSD or preventing them from eating. It’s just that this effect is in the opposite direction of the effect most studies of the type are looking for.

          • brad says:

            Seriously? You think people who were abused as children are at no greater risk than the non-abused for serious mental illness? I’d love to see the cite on that one.

    • Alphaceph says:

      Any links or further information about her faking hate crimes against herself?

      • Alraune says:

        See this highly credulous report from a couple months back about “racist threats” she “found” in the mail, now considered almost certainly faked by her. Money quote: “Officials said this is the 9th hate crime in less than a decade for Rachel Dolezal.” All of them are trivially fabricated, stuff like finding nooses on her property. I would in no way be surprised if she was also behind the pamphleteering, but that’s presumptuous. Washington does presumably contain at least one normal racist.

        This woman has built her entire career on the active, fraudulent, and deliberate poisoning and destruction of civilization. And that is flat evil.

        Edit: And here’s a followup from last week.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Hey now, black people can fake hate crimes just as well as white people!

        • WT says:

          Exactly.

          In biological terms, it makes much more sense to switch races than to switch sex..

          The biological difference between a white woman and a black woman is 1) skin color, and 2) hair texture. That’s about it. Those things can be altered with techniques that are much less invasive than the many plastic surgeries that it took to make Bruce Jenner into Caitlyn.

          The biological differences between the average woman and the average man include:

          1) Height
          2) Weight
          3) Proportion of muscle to bodyfat
          4) Levels of hormones such as estrogen and testosterone (which affect many things, including behavior)
          5) Hair growth patterns (facial hair, for example)
          6) Hair loss patterns with age
          7) Various physical features such as Adam’s apples
          8) External genitalia
          9) Internal reproductive organs, which mean that women menstruate and bear children, whereas men do not
          10) Breast development and function
          11) Chromosomes in every cell of the body

          So if we all agree that a biological man can switch to being a biological woman, and vice versa, and that we all have to respect those choices by calling people by their preferred pronouns, just because those people feel really strongly that they identify with the other gender, why do we discriminate against the white woman who feels equally strongly that she identifies with black people?

          Switching from white to black is a LOT LESS of a biological stretch than switching one’s sex.

          • Ever An Anon says:

            You’re right that changing phenotypic sex is significantly more difficult than phenotypic race, obviously, but seem to have taken that position to a hyperbolic extreme.

            Differences in hormone levels, bone structure, patterns of hair growth, distribution of fat and muscle, height and weight between races are well documented. They’re typically, though not always, less than sex differences but you can’t wave them off either.

            Again, you made a good case but there’s no need to overstate it.

          • Deiseach says:

            Sorry, Ever An Anon, but using biology to delineate differences won’t wash. You obviously have not been on the receiving end of a Tumblr lecture when some poor foolhardy innocent has put forward “But gender is biological! What about hormones and chromosomes and genitalia and reproductive systems and and and…”

            Then they get shot down about “No! First, intersex people! Then, chromosomes and hormones and the rest of it have nothing to do with your gender orientation! You don’t need to be post-op or intending to have any surgery, you don’t even need to be on hormones, if you consider yourself to be gender This then you are, it’s that simple”.

            I hasten to add I’ve never been on the receiving end of such because I’ve never stuck my head above the parapet to draw that on me. But I’ve seen posts using tortuous circumlocutions like “vagina-havers” or “people who menstruate” to avoid using the term “woman” in discussions about periods, and still being picked up on using discriminatory binary language because men can have vaginas too! Not all vagina-havers menstruate!

            Compared with that, dosing yourself with melanin to artificially darken your skin and changing your hair style and texture to emulate the physical characteristics of race different to yours is buttons. If you can consider yourself to be CAFB/CAMB (not just “assigned female/male at birth” based on external genitalia, but coercively assigned female/male at birth), then why can’t you consider yourself to be coercively assigned white at birth based on external skin coloration?

            And it may well be racist to say that there are differences of “distribution of fat and muscle, height and weight” between races: that is saying that black people are only fit for being athletes and sportspersons because of their physical attributes, because they can run fast but they’re not smart, you terrible person you!

          • Steve Johnson says:

            The biological difference between a white woman and a black woman is 1) skin color, and 2) hair texture. That’s about it.

            and yet forensic scientists can tell a black woman from a white woman just with a partial skeleton or skull.

            Here’s a list off the top of my head of easily documented physical differences:

            1) Brain volume
            2) Skull size and shape
            3) Gestation period
            4) Twinning probability
            5) Pelvic width inlet (goes hand in hand with the skull differences and gestation differences)
            6) Bone density
            7) Body weight distribution (ever wonder why black people are better sprinters? At least part of the answer is “lighter calves”.)

            There are many, many more.

            Whether it’s more absurd to be transracial or transexual I leave as an exercise to those who enjoy debates about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

        • onyomi says:

          What is interesting to me about her is that her existence proves (not that there was any doubt in my mind, but I think there still was in some minds) that victimhood status confers powerful psychological benefits in our current society.

          I can’t find the original article, but I recall reading that she also claimed to have some sort of Native American heritage, in addition to having been sexually abused, victim of a hate crime, and, of course, member of an historically oppressed race.

          I think it’s clear she has some sort of psychological problem, but I don’t think the root of that problem has anything to do with race. It has to do with victimhood, since she clearly has done everything she can to claim victim status.

          Reminds me of the sort of hypochondriac who is constantly ill because either consciously or subconsciously they like being treated as a sick person (people who are sick often get more sympathy, nurturing, etc.).

          Of course, society has always had some level of sympathy for victims of any sort, but the appearance of Dolezal’s particular pathology at this particular point in history can’t be a coincidence: we’ve now created victimhood “categories” which don’t require anything bad to happen to you personally (though she claimed the specific sexual abuse and hate crime cards as well) in order to get the special treatment accorded to a victim.

          The reason I have a little more sympathy for her than Alraune is that, so far as I can tell, she never accused anyone specific of committing hate crimes against her. She was just trying to claim the victim status without hurting anyone else, though obviously she undermines social trust in a general way.

          The people deserving of the most severe condemnation are those who use this new culture of victimhood as a cudgel to get revenge on specific enemies, such as Columbia’s mattress girl, who, recent lawsuits seem to make clear, totally staged this whole thing as a way to get back at a lover who jilted her (and get a lot of attention for herself too, of course).

          If that case is too ambiguous for you, I recall one in which a British woman sent her dad to jail for 10+ years by accusing him of molesting her as a child. Later she admitted she was just getting back at him for divorcing her mother or something. No charges filed.

          • LTP says:

            I’m glad I’m not the only person who’s thought this. We reward people for being seen as apart of victimized classes. We give them political power and benefits, and also social sympathy and, in certain circles, even give their views greater epistemic weight. That’s why everybody is trying to claim their group is uniquely victimized.

            I recall the economics blogger Matthew Yglesias making the point that even though he is only 1/4 hispanic, and physically looks like a white Jew like the other 3/4 of his ancestry, he marked himself as a Hispanic when applying for college. Here’s a very privileged guy who suffered none of the social downsides of being Hispanic but got all of the benefits.

            It makes me wonder if some marginalized groups (whether immigrant or native) won’t assimilate as quickly as those in the past, or indeed resist it entirely, in order to maintain these benefits.

          • SpicyCatholic says:

            [V]ictimhood status confers powerful psychological benefits in our current society.

            This is an excellent point, and one that gets lost (or responded to with rage) in discussions of privilege.

            I’m willing to accept that in general, being white is higher-status than being black. I’ll posit that White Privilege is a thing. You get basket of goodies for being born white.

            But blacks get a basket of goodies too. Their basket might be smaller overall and consist of different things, but they still get a Black Privilege basket.

            The Black Privilege basket doesn’t have “can get a cab easily” in it, but it does have “if I screw up, I can tell a white liberal that it was because of racism and he’ll believe me.” It doesn’t have “I don’t have to worry about being followed in stores,” but it does have “by default, I’m going to be considered by everyone to be cooler than white people.”

            I’m not saying these are even trades, but there are privileges to being black. Dolezal wanted those privileges.

          • Mary says:

            Witness the same souls that passionately insist that there is no black privilege will also insist that it is white privilege not to be assumed to be an affirmative action hire.

          • zz says:

            I recall the economics blogger Matthew Yglesias making the point that even though he is only 1/4 hispanic, and physically looks like a white Jew like the other 3/4 of his ancestry, he marked himself as a Hispanic when applying for college. Here’s a very privileged guy who suffered none of the social downsides of being Hispanic but got all of the benefits.

            Going the other way, I’m given to understand Asian Americans with non-Asian ancestry avoid identifying their Asian heritage when applying to colleges and such.

          • onyomi says:

            “Going the other way, I’m given to understand Asian Americans with non-Asian ancestry avoid identifying their Asian heritage when applying to colleges and such.”

            Can they do that?

            I wonder if white people with surname Lee have taken to including pictures of themselves on their applications?

    • Bugmaster says:

      I don’t really know much about the Dolezal case, so this may be a stupid question, but:

      As far as I understand, this is a person who was living in a certain ethnic culture (in this case, Black) for most of her adult life; was accepted by members of this culture as one of their own; was actively working to defend members of this culture against outside threats; and who was finally outed as belonging to a different race than the one she claimed to be (in this case, White).

      On the one hand, she did act dishonestly. If I set up a club that has a rule like, “you can only join if you have at least 90% of the following genetic markers”, and you fake your genotyping results in order to join — then you are a liar, and, once the truth comes out, you should at minimum be evicted for the club (and, optimally, compensate the club members for all the resources you’ve wasted).

      But on the other hand, if race is just a social construct, then why do your alleles matter at all ?

      • sweeneyrod says:

        As I understand it, she isn’t really being criticized for lying about her race. She is being criticized for allegedly faking hate crimes against herself.

        • Alraune says:

          My view is unfortunately in a stark minority here. Most coverage has discussed the supposed hate crimes only as an afterthought, which is an awful shame because it is by far the most important aspect of the story to publicize.

        • Jaskologist says:

          She is being criticized for lying about her race far more than anything else. And coming as it did right on the heels of the whole Jenner thing it raised the obvious question: who are you to say that she is lying about her race?

        • Mary says:

          She’s being really criticized about faking her race. Hence all the delighted fun-and-games about her being “transracial,” which tends to be dismissed on the grounds “Because.”

          • DrBeat says:

            “Because,” comma, “that is not a thing that exists in reality.”

          • Mary says:

            Like I said.

            “Because.”

            the possibility is erased by fiat.

          • haishan says:

            In practice, it’s pretty much “because.” I haven’t seen a single decent argument that transgender and “transrace” are a priori different, because — as far as I can tell — they aren’t. Now, a posteriori it’s a different story; there are lots and lots of independent cases of transgender people, and ~0 good-faith claims of trans-racial identity. Mainstream criticisms often tried to conjure up some a priori difference — maybe passing as black is “cultural appropriation” in a way that gender transition isn’t, or maybe the problem is that “skin color is hereditary.” (No, I’m not making that one up.)

          • DrBeat says:

            There are differences between male brains and female brains such that we can look at a stack of brain scans and sort them into “male” and “female” piles with pretty good accuracy.

            There are no such differences between white and black brains.

            There is a process during fetal development during which the fetus’s brain becomes a male brain or becomes a female brain.

            There is no such point at which it becomes a white brain or a black brain.

          • Deiseach says:

            I have seen criticism of her for using the term “transracial” because that term originated with, and of right belongs to, people of non-white/mixed races adopted by and brought up by white parents in a white cultural background, so they “act” and “talk” white but look black or mixed-race, and suffer ostracisation from whites for being black and from blacks for being “white on the inside”.

            So among other things she has done, she is accused of stealing a term to describe herself that does not mean what she says and belongs to real transracial people.

          • alexp says:

            It makes sense to me.

            Ironically, the fact that gender is on some level essential but race is a pure social construct means that you can be transgender but not transracial.

            Transgender essentially (much more complicated than this, but this is my attempt to summarize) means that a person has brain that has innate characteristics of one gender, but by some fluke of biology a body of the opposite sex. It’s more complicated than that because there are in between states and whatnot. Regardless, that dissonance can be immensely psychologically distressful to some people.

            Race, on the under had is entirely based on how other people treat you, which is in large part based on what you look like on the outside. There’s no dissonance to be found. If people treat you like your black or asian, that’s what you are. People are angry at Dolezal because she looks black now, but she seemingly skipped 20 or so years of development where she was instead treated as white.

            Because race is purely about

          • haishan says:

            There are differences between male brains and female brains such that we can look at a stack of brain scans and sort them into “male” and “female” piles with pretty good accuracy.

            There are no such differences between white and black brains.

            …Has anyone tried? Do you have a reference to someone trying? Because I sort of doubt this claim. I know that black brains are smaller on average, for instance.

          • Ever An Anon says:

            @Dr Beat,

            Again, as I said to someone else up(?)thread, just because racial differences are often smaller than sex differences doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

            Brain volume and weight differences between races are larger than the equivalent sex differences, smaller structural differences have been discovered, and obviously psychometric tests reveal large differences in general intelligence and personality traits. Even sex hormone effects on the brain are different to a lesser extent, because different races have different amounts of serum testosterone.

            It is quite easy to distinguish brains of different races, in fact it has been done routinely from the early days of anthropology.

          • Jaskologist says:

            There are differences between male brains and female brains such that we can look at a stack of brain scans and sort them into “male” and “female” piles with pretty good accuracy.

            This itself is presupposing a certain definition of “male” and “female” and trying to impose it as normative. Give me a basic DNA scan of those brains and I could sort them into different male and female piles based off chromosomes with far better accuracy. Sufficiently advanced DNA scans would be able to make “black” and “white” piles, too.

          • Mary says:

            “~0 good-faith claims of trans-racial identity. ”

            How do you know that? Perhaps they are passing because they know you would just deny them.

        • randy m says:

          The reason she’s being talked about is that she highlights the contradictions in the progressive narrative, coming so soon after the Jenner story. Certainly there are differences, but there are enough similarities to make the sjw position that the moral case for buying into Jenners always being every bit equivalent in femaleness to every other woman is self evident, and due to that only opposed by willful evil, doubtful. Sorry for that awful sentence construction.

          • Deiseach says:

            The amusement value, such as it is, is seeing the exact same arguments used against transgender people being used against this woman or the broader notion of “transracial” as meaning “not identifying with the race I was assigned”.

            Such people don’t exist. Such a thing does not exist. This is mental illness. This is deliberate attention-seeking criminal fraud. How come she’s the only one we’ve ever heard of if this is a real thing? She can’t be transracial because biology! It’s impossible to change races and she’s a fake and a fraud and insulting real people of the real race she is claiming!

          • Hyzenthlay says:

            I do think transsexualism (in its traditional form) has more of an actual medical/biological basis.

            But then, of course, you get the people on Tumblr who say that their gender is Cthulu and other people who defend them saying, “unlike sex, gender is a social construct, so people can be whatever gender they feel like, even if they make up their own category.”

            And yes, I am one of those people who finds it exasperating that English doesn’t have a commonly used nongendered pronoun, and I will usually check the box marked “other” if it’s available, but I feel like if we’re going to apply the “fuck these categories” line of thinking to gender, we should be able to do the same with race.

            When I first heard about this story, my reaction was, “So what? If she wants to be seen as black, let her be black. How is this hurting anyone?” (Of course that was before I heard about the faked hate crimes, which I’d consider much more heinous.)

            In a way the angry reactions from the SJ community remind me of the way certain factions of feminists originally reacted to transsexuals; by saying they were men trying to “infiltrate” women (or women wanting male privilege), or men appropriating women’s bodies and experiences, etc. And then they eventually realized that they were on the wrong side of history and most of them scrambled to change their story.

            And for a long time, people mocked trendy faux bisexuals, until the SJ community realized that they were alienating huge numbers of potential supporters, then revised their story and started talking about the perils of bi erasure.

            It seems their strategy has been to become more inclusive; to say, “there is plenty of room in the ranks of the oppressed for all of you. Let’s stop fighting amongst each other and focus on the real problem, those white male cishet shitlords.” Except now they are running out of white male cishet shitlords because now more and more of those people are genderqueer and transbiracial.

            It seems the SJ community faces something of a dilemma with cases like this Option #1: be more and more inclusive and more cool with everyone self-identifying as whatever they want until human identity dissolves into one big amorphous Instrumentality blob and the career victims are robbed of their victimhood status because anyone can be whatever they want.

            Or option #2: Start doing some identity policing and telling people, “No, you cannot just SAY you are black and expect people to accept you that way if you’re not black. No, you cannot have your gender be ‘Benedict Cumberbatch’ because that makes no sense.”

            Personally I hope they go the amorphous blob route, but it will be interesting to see how it all pans out.

            Boy, this comment was rambly.

      • Alraune says:

        This story is the equivalent, Bugmaster, of discovering that 50-100% of annual antisemitic vandalism in your city was actually done by the local rabbi, and that said rabbi was actually Arab, and that he was wearing a prosthetic nose.

        • randy m says:

          Hmm, that makes it sound like the crimes were done by a covert agent. Important to point out that she herself was the target, what the nature of the crimes were, and that she probably does sympathize with the black community more than the white community. (Yrs, she died to get into a black college as a white woman… but then again, she wanted to attend a black college).
          She wasn’t, it appears, someone who wanted to have cover to attack blacks, but someone who faked threats to earn them sympathy.

          • Alraune says:

            Then it sounds like what happened. Whatever paper-thin excuses she might make for her behavior, what she has done for the PNW’s black community is rob them of time, money, credibility, security, and hope.

          • Randy M says:

            I’m not saying she helped blacks (or anyone besides herself until caught) but the first description, of the arab, makes it sound like he acts on behalf of other arabs, perpetrating harms against specific jews from within, rather than in this case a sad confused individual stoking general hatred for spoils.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            she died to get into a black college as a white woman

            Either that’s a typo, or Dolezal has occult powers that go far beyond faking her ethnicity 🙂

          • Anonymous says:

            By “died” do you mean “tried” or “dyed”?

            Note that she sued Howard for discriminating against her as a white. So she probably wasn’t pretending to be black back then, though she may have been dying her hair.

          • Nornagest says:

            They didn’t try and fail. They tried and dyed.

          • Randy M says:

            Sorry, “died” should have been “sued” and I should not comment from my phone.

            My point was that even though she was identifying as white (using a law intended primarily to help non-whites), so that argues against her actually thinking she was black, she was doing so in order to be surrounded by blacks for her university time, which argues against her acting maliciously, and perhaps for her eventual coming to truely view herself as black.

            But in the end I’m glad I don’t have to try to look inside her head, brain scans or not.

      • PGD says:

        “Transgender essentially (much more complicated than this, but this is my attempt to summarize) means that a person has brain that has innate characteristics of one gender, but by some fluke of biology a body of the opposite sex. It’s more complicated than that because there are in between states and whatnot. Regardless, that dissonance can be immensely psychologically distressful to some people.”

        I have never seen any good evidence for this ‘brain sex’ theory, just endless MRI data mining that tends to come up with conflicting results in different studies. I would also add that the whole ‘girl brains make you like to wear dresses’ thing is rather sexist.

        See here for a good take — http://sexnotgender.com/brain-sex-does-not-exist/

        But even if it was true, why not just claim ‘a person has a brain that has innate characteristics of one race, but by some fluke of biology a body of another race’ and use the same argument to justify ‘trans-racialism’? I’m sure a properly motivated researcher can do a few brain scans for you to find ‘evidence’.

    • Annms says:

      Does the suffering of others bring you joy? And if it doesn’t, and it’s about deterrence, then surely there is a limit to reasonable punishment?

      • Alraune says:

        Yeah, there’s a limit. Long-term jailing, for instance, would likely be excessive. But in this case, her statutory offense (filing false police reports, a gross misdemeanor in WA) completely fails to capture the harm of her actions (singlehandedly causing the level of danger black PNWers are in from their fellow citizens to be massively overrepresented), so she is in no danger of being appropriately, much less excessively, punished by the legal system.

        She is guilty of working to destroy social trust, and in return, is being made pariah. The punishment fits the crime.

        • Deiseach says:

          She is guilty of working to destroy social trust

          “If we let transgenders use the girls’ bathroom, you’ll have boys pretending they’re transgender just to get into the girls’ locker room!” Isn’t that the same rationale about destroying social trust?

    • Mary says:

      As opposed to faking ordinary ho-hum run-of-the-mill crimes?

      • Jiro says:

        Faking hate crimes has bad effects on society that faking run-of-the-mill crimes does not.

        • Mary says:

          On what grounds do you make that assertion?

          • Jiro says:

            Faking hate crimes increases racial tension in all of society. Faking a normal robbery that is not presented as a hate crime has no such effect.

          • Mary says:

            and what is so poisonous about “racial tension” that it makes it necessarily worse? Faking a normal robbery would undermine social trust as well — and furthermore would ensure that everyone, regardless of race, could be a victim of the faker.

          • Whatever happened to Anonymous says:

            Rape seems to be in a similar place (though with smaller, more localized effect), and I don’t think it counts as a hate crime (yet).

          • randy m says:

            Mary, two reasons: people are illogical,and that faked hate crimes are more readily amplified by a colluding news media.

          • Alraune says:

            Faking a normal robbery would undermine social trust as well.

            A single liar cannot double the perceived rate of robbery in a region.

          • Alraune says:

            People are illogical.

            Eh, I don’t think illogic has much to do with it. Even if we act dumb and ignore the endless historical precedents for ethnic tension escalating into ethnic cleansing that make it rational to pay more attention to the incidence of interethnic violence than other sorts, it’s easier to properly judge people and situations within your own group than when interacting with someone from the outside. All sorts of reputational clues and social cues fall apart when dealing with outgroup members, and it makes it much harder to judge your safety on a case-by-case basis like you could with a member of your own group. Therefore caution is warranted even in good situations, and all the more so if there’s a trend of ethnic strife.

          • Mary says:

            “Even if we act dumb and ignore the endless historical precedents for ethnic tension escalating into ethnic cleansing that make it rational to pay more attention to the incidence of interethnic violence than other sorts”

            As if ethnic violence were the only sort there were! There are plenty of tensions that erupt in violence. To focus on one is playing dumb.

          • Mary says:

            “faked hate crimes are more readily amplified by a colluding news media.”

            In other words, the root of the problem with hate crimes is that the crimes are treated as special in the first place.

      • Alraune says:

        Normal crime-fakings don’t orchestrate racial division and panic. Such impacts are obviously difficult to measure until someone sparks a literal riot, but I live in the area and saw the panicked social media posts from my black Spokanese friends in the wake of her frauds.

        She is a con-artist, who has spent years falsely making people live in fear in order to advance her own career. She is both despicable and guilty of causing genuine harm.

    • FJ says:

      In defense of prosecutors who cheat to secure for convictions for innocent people: to the best of my knowledge, those prosecutors don’t *realize* that they are persecuting innocent people. Similar to how Dolezal presumably didn’t conceptualize herself as “burning the fabric of social trust for attention.”

      There definitely are people who consciously say to themselves, “I am going to do this terrible thing that I know is terrible, because I do not care that it is terrible” — indeed, anyone who has been needlessly rude has done the same thing writ small. I just don’t think that either of your examples are good ones of this phenomenon.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          None of those address the beliefs of the prosecutors about the suspects.

          • Alraune says:

            Even in your bizarre delusionverse where framing people for crimes is still having your heart in the right place, there is no excuse for withholding and destroying exculpatory evidence. That particular brand of abuse is literally knowing they should be deemed innocent and arranging to have them convicted anyway, and it happens constantly.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Not all evidence points to the truth. 30% of 70% persuasive evidence points toward falsehood. Just having some piece of exculpatory evidence does not mean you know the accused is innocent.

        • Deiseach says:

          Alraune, as we’ve seen with cases like the Birmingham Six, it’s easy for police and forensic scientists and judges to fake evidence, concoct confessions, and use every legal trick in the book to force convictions because despite the evidence, they are convinced the suspects are indeed guilty and letting them “get away with it” on a “technicality” is not really justice.

          • PC says:

            If the police, forensic scientists, judges, and (of course) prosecutors feel so strongly about it, each and every one of them ought to quit their practice and become full time advocates for a legal system where the presumption of innocence and the duty of the state to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt do not obtain.

            Otherwise, each and every one of them, if caught, and after due process, should go to prison.

          • FJ says:

            I suspect we’re conflating some (arguably) different categories of supposed misconduct here. Let me offer a proposed taxonomy:
            Planting evidence: very very bad and criminal

            High-pressure interrogation designed to elicit confessions: maybe bad, probably depends a lot on the exactly what techniques are used?

            “Legal tricks”: legal by definition, moral righteousness open to debate?

          • Deiseach says:

            [They] ought to quit their practice and become full time advocates for a legal system where the presumption of innocence and the duty of the state to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt do not obtain.

            Lord Denning in 1980 refusing the appeal of the Birmingham Six with what would become known as the “appalling vista” decision:

            Just consider the course of events if their action were to proceed to trial … If the six men failed it would mean that much time and money and worry would have been expended by many people to no good purpose. If they won, it would mean that the police were guilty of perjury; that they were guilty of violence and threats; that the confessions were involuntary and improperly admitted in evidence; and that the convictions were erroneous. … That was such an appalling vista that every sensible person would say, “It cannot be right that these actions should go any further.”

            (Well, surprise, surprise: turns out the West Midlands Serious Crimes Squad were regularly fitting up guys for crimes they hadn’t committed).

            In 1988, saying: “Hanging ought to be retained for murder most foul. We shouldn’t have all these campaigns to get the Birmingham Six released if they’d been hanged. They’d have been forgotten, and the whole community would be satisfied… It is better that some innocent men remain in jail than that the integrity of the English judicial system be impugned.”

            In 1990, when admittedly he was in poor health and a bit loopy:

            Denning remarked that if the Guildford Four had been hanged “They’d probably have hanged the right men. Just not proved against them, that’s all”.

            (Need I mention that yep, the convictions of the Guildford Four and Maguire Seven were also later quashed?)

        • FJ says:

          Of course there are excuses for withholding or destroying potentially exculpatory evidence. E.g., in many old cases, it is impossible to perform DNA testing on physical evidence because the evidence was destroyed before DNA testing was invented. You can hardly blame a lawyer in 1980 for failing to realize that new forensic techniques are going to be invented in the future.

          Moreover, I think you seriously underestimate how hard it can be to realize that you are holding exculpatory evidence (or, more precisely, evidence that somebody twenty years from now will believe could have been exculpatory). Classic example: a battered woman calls police and screams that her husband is trying to kill her. Medical records show substantial physical injuries, and this is not the first time she’s had to call the cops on him. Six months later during a pretrial interview, she says her husband really loves her, and that she doesn’t want him to go to jail. When you explain that you aren’t going to drop the case, she says, “Well, I was lying and did all those injuries to myself.” That’s an EXTREMELY implausible recantation, and only an idiot would believe it. But it’s still impeachment evidence that has to be turned over pursuant to Brady v. Maryland. Failing to turn it over isn’t “framing” anyone, because there’s no doubt that the guy is guilty, but you have to do it anyway. It can be hard to recognize “exculpatory” evidence that does not remotely affect your belief in the defendant’s guilt.

    • Leonard says:

      She deserves to be treated like Dylan fucking Roof.

      This is hyperbole (I hope) and in bad taste.

      Roof deserves to be hung by the neck until dead. I hope you don’t feel the same about Dolezal. It’s one thing to burn the fabric of social trust by faking some “hate crimes” against yourself. It’s another thing to do it by murder.

    • SFG says:

      Dylann Roof? Rachel Dolezal made up fake hate crimes for fun and profit, but she didn’t kill anybody.

  5. calef says:

    Regarding the time crystals: I have yet to see an explanation for why the rotating ring configurations are actually the ground states.

    To me, the rotating ions appear to just be an excited state (accelerated by the initially changing magnetic field). One could trap the ions in a strong confining potential, turn on the magnetic field, and then slowly turn off the confining potential–the ions would be stationary in the presence of the magnetic field (and hence in a manifestly lower energy state than the “time crystal” state).

    Anyone have any insight? Or is this just supposed to be a stuntwork experiment?

  6. ddreytes says:

    Re: the microagressions @ UC thing –

    Assumed this was some kind of total fake, did some digging, still seems legit, but if anyone can find otherwise I will correct myself with apologies and relief.

    From what I can tell, it’s not fake, but it does seem to me that it’s being interpreted with a minimum of generosity. It’s certainly true that elements of the UC system buy into the idea of micro-aggressions, and that they would like to educate people to avoid them, and that they consider a number of sentiments and expressions to be examples of micro-aggressions.

    But at the same time, first, this is not an official policy of banning anyone with these views; these are guidelines and suggestions for structuring dialogue. These aren’t policy documents that Volokh is citing, they’re things for educational seminars and stuff like that. And I’m not sure that’s even a bad thing in and of itself – you might not agree with framing it as “microaggression”, but an awareness of how language and assumptions can be interpreted by one’s audience is a pretty useful thing.

    Second, I think he’s absolutely cherry-picking examples from the lists, without really acknowledging the context – for instance, the fact that the main document he cites acknowledges that the context of the relationship and situation is crucial to talking about these things. And I think the context where the thing is grouping the examples that Volokh cites together with other examples makes it look, to me, much more like an example of clumsy phrasing and laziness by somebody making a powerpoint for an education seminar, and much less like an official policy banning these views.

    I do think that some of it is poorly done (the “Myth of Meritocracy” section of the PDF that Volokh links is not well-phrased and probably just shouldn’t have been included). And you may still think it’s wrong – I imagine most commenters here will still think it’s evil and wrong. But I don’t think it’s anything nearly as dramatic as it’s described.

    • James Picone says:

      I’m surprised to see the ‘melting pot’ line considered a microaggression. Is it because of something about it implying assimilation or what? I’ve only ever seen the phrase used in contexts where people are going “yay multiculturalism”, which doesn’t seem like the kind of thing social-justice people would be against.

      • ddreytes says:

        I *think* where they’re coming from is that it implies that race doesn’t exist or is unimportant, in the context of an argument about racism or something along those lines. America’s a melting pot -> we treat everyone the same -> racism is over, could be the kind of thing they have in mind.

        I think it’s a pretty dumb line, to be honest. I just think it’s probably a clumsiness thing, not a malice thing.

      • LHN says:

        The original idea of the melting pot is more or less the opposite of multiculturalism: instead of remaining distinct cultures, the different peoples coming into the US are alloyed into a single new one.

        …America is God’s Crucible, the great Melting-Pot where all the races of Europe are melting and re-forming! Here you stand, good folk, think I, when I see them at Ellis Island, here you stand in your fifty groups, with your fifty languages and histories, and your fifty blood hatreds and rivalries. But you won’t be long like that, brothers, for these are the fires of God you’ve come to—these are the fires of God. A fig for your feuds and vendettas! Germans and Frenchmen, Irishmen and Englishmen, Jews and Russians—into the Crucible with you all! God is making the American.

        –Israel Zangwill, The Melting Pot (1908)

        Whether people who use it today mean it that comprehensively (or even imagine the contents of a melting pot as metals rather than, say, stew) is open to question.

        • Alraune says:

          Pity the statue of liberty couldn’t be made of Electrum, but I suppose that would have been a lot more expensive.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Don’t know how on point this is, but in the Schoolhouse Rock take, individual cultures still maintain their identity in the melting pot:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZQl6XBo64M

          • LHN says:

            That’s the context I was introduced to it as well (and probably where I got the stew image, though IIRC it also shows up in a MAD magazine book). The metaphor has clearly been modified, in part because the word “pot” sounds more domestic than industrial.

            (See also the Melting Pot chain of fondue restaurants, whose name is presumably a backformation from the metaphorical use.)

        • Mary says:

          Stew doesn’t melt. A melting pot, if it does not contain metal, contains wax or some other meltable substance.

          • anodognosic says:

            Stew, of course, has other unfortunate implications.

          • LHN says:

            That’s of course correct, but it didn’t stop the Schoolhouse Rock piece Edward Scizorhands mentions (which was probably most of my generation’s introduction to the phrase) from depicting the melting pot as a pot in which nothing actually melted.

        • Anonymous says:

          What I take from this is that use of the term “white” presupposes that this process is or has already taken place; the “whites” as a group in the USA are precisely the output of this crucible. But wouldn’t that make sentences like “White people need to stop saying America is a melting pot” pure doublethink?

      • Not Robin Hanson says:

        Is it because of something about it implying assimilation or what?

        As far as I can tell, pretty much. If the enclave adopts aspects of the mainstream culture, that’s cultural imperialism. If the mainstream adopts aspects of the enclave culture, that’s cultural appropriation. Both are seen as aggressions by the mainstream against the enclave.

        • ddreytes says:

          I agree that this is a line of thought that exists, but I don’t think that’s the sense in which it’s being used in this instance.

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        Around mid-century, the only way I’d ever seen ‘melting pot’ used was !yay multiculturism! with cheerful pictures of interestingly dressed people having a block party in Brooklyn. I thought ‘melting pot’ was kind of an unfortunate term, but I only recently found out it really began as about actually melting them into a homogenus bloc.

    • Nebfocus says:

      But isn’t the real problem that Universities are going out of their way to protect students from ideas the students don’t like? Two possible outcomes 1) students are so sheltered that they cannot function once they’re exposed to life outside of the University 2) 30 years from now we have a society that shuns anyone who doesn’t toe the line (or tow the lion).
      More speech is the answer to speech you do not like.

    • Jack V says:

      Yeah, I was thinking something like that. Looking at the source document, http://www.ucop.edu/academic-personnel-programs/_files/seminars/Tool_Recognizing_Microaggressions.pdf, it looks to me like almost all the examples are perfectly reasonable, except for the three mentioned in the article. I don’t think that pdf advice is perfect, but I think what it’s saying is basically “these are things people do that’s a problem, try not to” and is broadly right.

      That makes me think either, “avoiding microaggressions is good, but there are some other political assumptions which have got mixed in and should be removed” or “the odd items are there because someone expressed themselves badly, or they’re a real problem in a context that wasn’t fully explained.”

      • suntzuanime says:

        Or, “hey, I can see the motte, and I can see the bailey”.

      • Bugmaster says:

        I’ve skimmed over the PDF, and I think that it consists of a mix of perfectly innocuous items (e.g. “America is a melting pot”); outright racist macro-aggressions (e.g. “You are a credit to your race”); and items that are highly dependent on context (e.g. “To an Asian person, ‘You must be good in math, can you help me with this problem?'” — which may be innocuous if, say, the person in question is carrying a stack of math books as he’s walking out of the Advanced Math for Super-Geniuses classroom).

        I think my problem with the document is that it lumps all of these things into the same category. Thus, it demotes clearly racist statements to the status of “microaggressions”, while promoting innocuous statements to same. Thus, if people take the document to heart, they’ll be forced to conclude either that a). everything they could possibly say is super-racist, or b). racist statements aren’t actually that big of a deal. Neither interpretation is helpful to anybody.

    • stillnotking says:

      But the document provides for disciplinary action against professors, with the use of the “hostile learning environment” legal language. That’s completely unacceptable, whatever one thinks of the validity of the concept of microaggressions. Micro offenses don’t merit a macro response; any official punishment would be disproportionate. Even the threat of it is disproportionate.

      • willstamped says:

        None of the documents have anything about disciplinary actions.

        Volokh links to a PR article about a UCLA professor’s research on microaggressions and uses the phrase hostile learning environment. The writer of article is, I repeat, a PR person for the university. She is not a lawyer, and this is not official school policy.

        He then links to Berkeley’s page for its policy regarding reporting and adjudicating racial harassment, which uses the phrase hostile environment (not hostile learning environment) exactly once. There is a link with a long definition of what constitutes a hostile environment on the page, which Volokh doesn’t bother to link to or cite.*

        He then links to three pages (one of which is linked to twice because, hey why not?). One is the pdf in question, and the other two aren’t documents at all, but collections of resources.

        The only actual policy page he links to is the second, which also happens to be the only page that doesn’t have the word microaggression anywhere on it. Additionally, the page is about handling complaints, not about actions that the university can instigate. The university isn’t threatening anyone for anything.

        At some point someone probably will file a racial harassment complaint about microaggressions (if it hasn’t happened already). But those documents being circulated don’t have anything to do with it.

        *It’s also not clear what he means by legally actionable, against whom or for what, because he links to a page about Title VI compliance. Basically, the law there is that the university has a policy in place for dealing with complaints of racial harassment. Nothing goes to court, or gets investigated by the federal government. A student can, however, file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (which is a federal agency), but he doesn’t appear to be talking about that, and I’m pretty sure the OCR can’t discipline or fire professors.

        • stillnotking says:

          Fair enough. After having read your comment and John’s, I’m inclined to believe Volokh is overstating the case here. Thanks for the clarification.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          Volokh links to a PR article about a UCLA professor’s research on microaggressions

          I’m searching downwards for the term microaggressions and this is the first time I’ve seen it without implied scare quotes. I know it’s nice to accept other people’s terms for themselves, though ‘social justice workers’ etc imo stretches the niceness a little too far; it’s setting up for an attack like “You oppose justice?” But accepting the term ‘microaggressions’ goes far too far. It accepts that ‘microaggressions’ are a thing. And that people who say these-utterances-that-the-SJs-list are somehow ‘being aggressive’.

          • Nita says:

            Scare quotes in general tend to lower the quality of discourse — they’re one step away from repeating your opponents’ arguments in a funny voice.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Nita

            If funny voice was ranked 10 in rudeness, here is how the steps away might go:

            10 – funny voice
            9 – “the so-called” or “the self-styled”
            8 – writing it with full quote marks
            7 – writing it with semi-quote marks
            6 – using it with distancing allowed by tone or context
            5 – accepting its literal meaning with no distancing at all, which becomes rude to the people who do not accept it

    • Brian says:

      It’s disingenuous to fall back on the “but it isn’t official policy!” argument. It’s becoming increasingly clear that professors and students are terrified of expressing an opinion that goes against a certain political orthodoxy because of the very real possibility of severe repercussions, particularly in the case of professors, who can be (and are) easily fired for committing these micro-aggressions. Issuing a document informing people that talking about the existence of a meritocracy is a micro-aggression has the effect of making absolutely certain that no professor will ever, if he or she values their job, suggest that the US is a meritocracy. It doesn’t need to have an “or else” stamp on it. That’s implied.

      Look what happened to Laura Kipnis. It’s been depressing seeing so many people argue that everything’s fine since she didn’t lose her job. As if anyone who wasn’t an incredibly brave soldier (as Kipnis clearly is) would be willing to risk speaking their mind about sexual politics after what happened to her.

      • ddreytes says:

        What you say about a chilling effect may or may not be true. I think it probably is true, although I suspect I think it’s less serious than you do. But Volokh’s characterization of the documents in question was still inaccurate and deeply misleading. And I think that’s still showing up in your comment – taking the PDF as a list of things that are microaggressions and will be punished is just not accurate to the context and content of the document.

        • Brian says:

          I’m not on campus, so I can’t talk about the chilling effect first hand. But I feel comfortable saying it’s a very serious problem, given the sheer volume of complaints coming from professors, many of them anonymously out of fear of retribution. This is way, way over the line.

          I think you’re misreading my comment, since you again mentioned “punishment,” presumably meaning some sort of official action taken by the school. This comes up an awful lot, and I think it misses the point.

          The fact that there isn’t some sort of official punishment (although that certainly may happen too) as a result of these guidelines does not close the issue. Disciplinary hearings or what have you don’t have to result from these “guidelines” in order for them to immediately chill speech. Most professors aren’t tenured. As Freddie DeBoer pointed out, many professors don’t even need to be fired – they just need to not be rehired. And given the climate on campus, you better believe that these teachers are not going to open debate on affirmative action after these guidelines were published.

          I just don’t see how anybody could argue that these guidelines are harmless – I don’t even see how you can argue that they’re acceptable. Something is wrong when universities are issuing speech codes to professors!! How can this not be self-evident? I don’t care if it’s the dean, the diversity office or a PR agent. This matters.

          • ddreytes says:

            My argument is that the specific documents we’re talking about in this instance are not speech codes, nor are they being issued to professors.

            There’s certainly an argument to be made that the concept of microaggressions and political correctness have a chilling effect in themselves. But there’s a distinction between those things and the kind of chilling effects which they might have, and a programmatic speech code and the kind of chilling effects it might have. And my issue is that Volokh – and, to a lesser extent, I think you – are speaking about the latter, when this is an example of the former.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ ddreytes
            And my issue is that Volokh – and, to a lesser extent, I think you – are speaking about the latter, when this is an example of the former.

            Now that is a slippery slope I could worry about.

  7. James Picone says:

    RE: The Heartland bet, Heartland has repeatedly claimed that we’re in some kind of global-warming-pause, and several of the people they tap for articles about climate change occasionally claim we shouldn’t expect warming. The actual CSICOP press release quotes a 2013 Heartland report:

    Among the key findings of a 2013 report published by Heartland was that “The level of warming in the most recent 15 year period [since 1998] is not significantly different from zero” and “natural variability is responsible for late twentieth century warming and the cessation of warming since 1998.”

    The actual bet is essentially “land-only 2016 will be warmer than 1986”, which is something of a no-brainer. CSICOP does say they’re intending to repeat the bet every year for the next 30 years, which is a prediction that for the next 30 years, year n will be (land-only) warmer than year n – 30. There are /absolutely/ Heartland-associated denialists who would say that isn’t going to happen. Their environment page currently includes a chart by Christopher Monckton, who will endorse literally any position that is tangentially connected to global-warming-isn’t-happening – he’s a walking weak-man of the entire no-global-warming community. They regularly have Fred Singer write stuff, including Heartland’s NIPCC report, and Singer claims that the temperature record has been manipulated to support GW claims.

    The NIPCC report itself claims that climate sensitivity is an /order of magnitude/ smaller than the IPCC’s figure, a view which can only be consistent with a Earth continuing to warm if you also reject thermodynamics. It also contains the claim:

    The recently quiet Sun and extrapolation of solar
    cycle patterns into the future suggest a planetary
    cooling may occur over the next few decades.

    , from the executive summary of NIPCC’s CCR2: Physical Science report. It goes on to claim that surface-based temperature records have a significant warm bias due to the urban heat-island effect and that there’s no ‘trophospheric hot spot’, a phenomenon that should occur if Earth is warming, no matter what drives the warming.

    It is entirely fair to ask Heartland to put up or shut up on whether it’ll keep warming for the next 30 years. They’d be stupid to take the bet, though – they’ll lose every single year, short of massive vulcanism (like several VEI 7-8), global thermonuclear war, or other similar unpredictable forcing.

    • Tarrou says:

      I bet you $100 the world will be 100 degrees colder, on average next year*.

      *as measured by me, with reasonable mathematical adjustments should I think the measured temperature doesn’t accurately capture how cold I think the earth is.

      • James Picone says:

        CSICOP is not GISS. There’s no evidence that GISTEMP has been manipulated in any political way; in fact the adjustments end up reducing the global trend*. And CSICOP would still win the bet handily every year for the next 30 years on GISTEMP raw, or on HADCRUT raw or processed, with or without oceans. I assign less likelihood to them winning the bet every year for the next 30 years on RSS or UAH, but that’s mostly because the trophosphere is not the surface and ENSO events are massive in the satellite datasets – it’s possible that there’ll be a massive la-nina event in 2028.

        *Adjustments reduce trend on net because early-record sea-surface temperatures get increased – the ‘bucket adjustment’. Land trends increase slightly, mostly because of TOBS adjustments. The effect is quite large in the contiguous US, so you see a lot of Shocking Graphs of the effects of adjustments on US land temperatures that don’t seem to realise that it’s justifiable and has very little global effect. All of this is almost besides the point, anyway – the effect of adjustments from 1985 onwards is close to zero. See this post by Zeke Hausfather. It was also published on Curry’s blog, so don’t bother playing the “Oh SkS” game.

        EDIT: Victor Venema has a pretty good blog post on this too: here

      • Sorry, referring to adjustments does not cut. The claim that global warming has stopped is normally made by showing one of the main datasets, which are naturally adjusted to remove non-climatic changes, because we want to see the climates changes.

        (Did you see the article yesterday on WUWT on the adjustments of the sunspot series by a mitigation skeptic?)

        • Tarrou says:

          My point was that making a bet when one team gets to record the score is pretty disingenuous tactic.

          Unfortunately, what should be a straightforward scientific question has gotten tangled up in politics. The teams are activated. Both sides will falsify data if it helps them, and both have been caught doing so. But only one side has control of academia. So they can make all the “bets” they like, secure in the knowledge that even if the world enters an ice age next year, there will be either no change or slight warming in the official datasets.

          • Are you really claiming that the scientists who work at NOAA, GISS, BEST, CRU and the MetOffice would be willing to do a bad job, would be willing to put their reputation on the line so that a bunch of physicists the do not know at some sceptical society would not lose a small bet?

            I would almost wish my colleagues were that stupid. That would make it very easy for me to demonstrate their errors and write many high-profile scientific publications.

          • CJB says:

            “would be willing to put their reputation on the line so that a bunch of physicists the do not know at some sceptical society would not lose a small bet?”

            No. I think they’d be willing to not question the data, fudge the data, ‘ajust’ the data, ‘correct’ the data, ‘scale’ the data, ‘use modeling techniques’, and anyone of the other thousand ways that consciously and unconsciously, scientists low-key falsify data all the time. And yes, there are legit uses of all those things- but you know and I know that lots and lots of times they’re the savior of those with weak data.

            You’re presenting a false dichotomy- I don’t think Michael Mann (the denier boogyman!) is sitting around actively fudging the books. I think he’s very unlikely to present his data or his opponents with the strictest self criticism possible, because people in far less politicized careers don’t.

            ” That would make it very easy for me to demonstrate their errors and write many high-profile scientific publications.”

            Why? If I overturned relativity tomorrow, I’d expect a great deal of difficulty in publishing my results, and that’s in a field with a lot less politics.

            Further- ARE you doing this? Are you actively looking for errors in your colleagues work to publish on- or do you given them the benefit of the doubt, consciously or unconsciously?

            I suspect that unless your working relationship with them is terrible, there’d be a lot of pressure not to go out and publish- internally and externally. Again- we see this factor in areas of much less political activity.

            And yes, there are a lot of denialists getting cash from oil sources- but if the IPCC came out tomorrow and said “actually, we’ve revised our position- warming is entirely natural and has nothing to do with human activity”….a LOT of people would be out of jobs. A LOOOOOT of people would have seriously damaged careers, a lot of money (lot more than oil money) would stop flowing.

            I don’t think that either group has been particularly seduced by the green side of the force into active, continuous lying, when, as demonstrated in this thread, there’s plenty of people willing to do the dirty work for free. I do think both sides have lying liars, however (hardly a difficult bet, statistically speaking).

          • Yes, naturally I actively look for problems. My most cited scientific article on homogenization is where I am checking the results of others.

            The colleagues whose methods are not that good (but still improve temperature trend estimates) are naturally not happy. Tough luck. Then they should develop better methods.

            And my group was so fortunate to find a problem in one of the best methods we have. When you do good work, people want to build on it and improve it (which means finding problems). It is a great honor when other scientists find (non-trivial) errors in your work and this helps you as well to develop better methods.

            Finding problems is not easy. The other scientists are not stupid. But it is the best thing you can do to build a good reputation in science.

            That I was able to find some problems seems to have helped my reputation.

            Science is not a think tank.

          • Tarrou says:

            No, Victor.

            I am really claiming that the vast majority of the people dedicated enough to environmental ideals to make a career in climate science are politically aligned. They will not do a bad job, they will do a great job to justify why they believe what they believe, and hell, they could be correct! But that would be sheer chance. Because they are going to find evidence of warming (and once the warming thing fades as a public policy lever, whatever follows it). The framing of their hypotheses, the methodology of the studies will all be very complicated and rigorous, but it will only produce one result.

            I always recommend a visit to Yale’s Cultural Cognition lab. Smart people aren’t less likely to be wrong on any given subject, but they are much better at resisting attempts to prove them wrong. And climate scientists are very, very smart.

          • Tarrou, why would someone who thinks the environment is important make up an environmental problem rather than work on reducing the real ones? Environmentally interested people are overrepresented in the environmental sciences relative to the rest of society, but there are still a lot of conservatives; your “theory” would also need to explain why they are unable to find the glaring mistakes made by the others.

            May I conclude from your comment that there is no evidence that could ever convince you that global warming is real? Or did you forget a part of the argumentation?

            If you are into psychology/cultural cognition, you surely realize that global warming is about the worst kind of environmental problem to get humans to do something about; it is the worst kind of tragedy of the commons, every single person contributes only little, the consequences are long term, the threat is very abstract, hard to see with your own senses, a powerful lobby is against it and no big baby eyes looking sad into the camera. Surely people could have made up a better problem.

            Scientists are not only smart, they are also scientists. They are, I repeat myself, not a think tank.

    • Henk says:

      It is entirely fair to ask Heartland to put up or shut up on whether it’ll keep warming for the next 30 years

      Propagandistically, it seems that it doesn’t matters if past models of Doom have failed,
      because current models of Doom still predict doom, which is bad, therefore something must to be done and “deniers” are evil. Therefore the bet is a suckers bet for “Heartland” (whoever that is) because Doomists have already shown that they are propagandistically immune to their own bad models. “Heartland” wins, it doesn’t matter. “Heartland” loses, “deniers” are refuted.

      (Scientifially, there’s no burden of proof on “Heartland” to provide “better” models. Don’t know why they do.)

      • James Picone says:

        If you think climate change is nonsense, you should expect Heartland to win this bet. How many years of the results coming up such that Heartland would have lost it would it take for you to update?

        Keep in mind, from my point of view you (and Heartland) are the people completely blind to the empirical evidence that, for example, models very definitely perform better than the no-change model, basic physics predicts a greenhouse response and still-pretty-simple dynamics predict it to be positively forced, the amount by which global average surface temperature has increased over the last 30 years is close to impossible to understand without a significant greenhouse forcing, etc..

        The reason I ask for a hypothesis from Heartland is because it would be very surprising from a pure-physics point of view if global warming isn’t a thing, and pretty surprising from a dynamics point of view if the feedback isn’t positive. ‘Global warming is happening and a problem’ isn’t a single simple hypothesis you can snip out of the web – if it’s wrong, then there are big implications to chase up. There’s a /reason/ the vast majority of publishing scientists think GW is a thing.

        When you’re disagreeing with a scientific consensus built upon some pretty-well-accepted physics, you had damn well better be able to demonstrate a better model.

        • Deiseach says:

          James, the obstacle the current Doomsayers have to overcome is people like me, who are ordinary clods old enough to have lived through several scares.

          By this hour of my life, all human civilisation should have been destroyed by:

          (1) Overpopulation! We are entering into a period of mass starvation and global famine that has never been seen before, and the hungry masses will boil out of the Third World, over-run the West, and we’ll all go down in a scrabbling mass of starving wretches clawing one another’s eyes out!

          (2) The next Ice Age! Really Scientific Data indicates that we’ll all end up over-run by glaciers as it is undeniable that Global Cooling has begun! Albedo! Sunlight reflected off the impenetrable cloud-cover of Earth and we’ll all end up icicles!

          (3) Nuclear war! It’s only a matter of when, not if the Cold War turns hot, and/or some rogue state [insert pet bugbear here] develops its own bombs and starts throwing them around! Reagan provoking the Soviet Union with “The Evil Empire” rhetoric and the crazy Star Wars space defence notion? We’re doomed!

          (4) End of fossil fuels! Within ten twenty by the 21st century, oil will have run out, our industrial civilisation will have collapsed, and we’ll all be poor, freezing and starving in the dark!

          So you see why yet another “This time we’re gonna boil to death!” scare sounds less than convincing to us plain morons? It’s not necessarily denialism on the part of a lot of people, it’s more Apocalypse Fatigue.

          • James Picone says:

            Several things are wrong with this viewpoint:
            – Your list is terrible. (1) I’ll accept (although I’d argue that it could still be a genuine problem that was merely put off by Borlaug), (2) never reached anything like the level of consensus we’ve got for global warming – it was essentially some speculative research that the media ran with because the media is awful. This is not in the same reference class. (3) was a real potential problem; we are lucky the trigger wasn’t pulled, and (4) peak oil is a real thing, although catastrophist glosses on it are fringe. It’s also not supported by 97% of relevant papers in the field, unlike GW, with high-nineties percent of publishing scientists accepting it.
            – You’re leaving out several things that should be in the reference class but change the character of it – for example, CFCs destroying the ozone layer, SOx and NOx emissions causing acid rain, leaded petrol, smoking and Y2K. The first several are clear-cut cases of there being a real problem that scientists brought up and then vested interests fought solutions to for years. Y2K was overhyped by the media, but it was also a real problem that people had to spend significant amounts of money to avert.
            – You make no distinction between “thing widely believed by the scientific community to be a problem” and “thing hyped by some segments of the media”, and you make no distinction between the single most catastrophic prediction that the media can dig up and what is actually mainstream. Nobody is going to boil to death until something like 6 degrees above preindustrial. GW isn’t a human-extinction event without humanity being so stupid we deserve it (burning literally all the coal would do it, for example, but that’s never going to happen).

          • chaosmage says:

            James Picone, I think you’re missing Deiseach’s point. Global Warming looks superficially similar to the points on that list, especially to people who only get their information from traditional journalistic media (still a supermajority of the 50+ demographic).

            I do not doubt the differences that you are emphasizing exist. Can we agree they are not being emphasized enough in traditional journalistic media?

          • James Picone says:

            @Chaosmage: Yes, I am very happy to agree that the media is awful at discussing climate change.

          • DrBeat says:

            In Dieseach’s defense, “Okay those other things were bullshit, but this one is real and is not bullshit because of Reasons” is a thing I expect to be said by everyone supporting a thing that is bullshit and comes from a longer line of things that are bullshit. “All the other things that look like this are wrong but you should make an exception for the one that is currently being pushed” is not a compelling statement.

          • CJB says:

            The main reason I’m a “denier”?

            There have been several reputable, actual cases of literal,actual, fucking with the data.

            As in “we artificially raised temperatures for South America”. “Climategate” also comes to mind.

            most of these aren’t broken by one guy finally saying “it’s all awful!” they’re broken by people who get ahold of “random slice of emails” and go “damn, this random slice of emails has many lies”

            Science is only good when ALL the data is rigerously, intensely, and entirely unfucked with.

            That’s the primary reason- i don’t care what 97% of the people working on it think, because 99% of them aren’t collecting data, or typing in data, or checking data. They’re taking “Dataset 452” and plugging it into their models.

            Second- if CO2 causes warming is pure thermodynamics, we need to examine thermodynamics, because based on the serious events since the last ice age, CO2 correlates to high COOLING levels. Most of the X kiloyear events that involved massive cooling also saw massively high levels of CO2.

            Third:

            You know what this reminds me of? I heard this song the other day, one of those “I’m an old fashioned dude, I don’t do XYZ” songs. And the singer was going on about how twitter doesn’t cut it- he wants a phone call. Don’t let the warm, personal touch of a phone call die away. Obviously, earlier generations had the same complaint.

            So tell me: what is a “normal” climate? On the large scale, earth varies between “miles of ice to the equator” and “no ice caps at all, anywhere, any when)

            The temperature, weather, and climate we’re so obsessed with is a historic freak- A brief, glacier free pause before the ice comes down again.

            4th. There’s a reason for spherical chickens in a vacuum being the old jokes about physics. I have no doubt that in a wee lil bottle in the lab, CO2 heavy atmospheres do capture more overall heat than lower CO2 levels. I also have no doubt that there are a hell of a lot of other factors influencing the earths climate.

            Simply put- I view it as more like…discussing the impact of genes on intelligence. Sure, maybe, even probably. But if you sit around trying to explain that every smart person ever had just the right genes, you’re gonna be fucked, because a lot of things impact intelligence.

            To get a much longer, much better review of this:

            http://quadrant.org.au/magazine/2015/06/climate-wars-done-science/

            Believer turned denier. The guy knows science, he understands the concepts.

            Also, other memes I’d like to see die-

            the “OMG it’s all so complex listen to the experts.”

            No, it isn’t. I’ve got a MS in Envi. Sci. Mathematically, you need primarily good stats, which isn’t that hard and pretty easy to grok, and the concepts are very simple.

            For example, if the ultimate gap between “layman knowledge’ and “expert knowledge’ is in math (arguably), then Environmental science is much closer to english lit. than it is to physics. I was a history major who easily got an MS in the sciences. I didn’t even need to take remedial stats because I’d had calc. (I took some remedial stats study anyway.)

          • wysinwyg says:

            The temperature, weather, and climate we’re so obsessed with is a historic freak- A brief, glacier free pause before the ice comes down again.

            It’s also the only climate human beings have ever effectively engaged in large-scale agriculture in.

            In fact, the brief climactically stable period we’re currently in started about the same time that (or a little before) agriculture was invented.

          • Deiseach says:

            But James, global warming was hyped to the utmost, and yes, it was the usual media leaping on the bandwagon.

            But I do think some activists encouraged it in the spirit of “scare ’em straight”; in order to get governments to move on addressing climate change, mass public opinion had to be swung round to “Something must be done!” and the quickest way to do that was panic.

            Yeah, my list is terrible: because every so often, another and contradictory panic came along to say we were all doomed, doomed! in the next five/ten/twenty years. And lo and behold, five/ten/twenty years later, we were still here.

            So older, more conservative types are burned out on this. Climate change may be every bit as catastrophic as it’s portrayed, but a lot of people are shrugging their shoulders and going “Eh, heard it all before” not because they hate science or don’t believe in it, but because they think it’s simply another media flap that has been blown up into a doomsday scenario and that in five/ten/twenty years time, it’ll be the robots or the aliens or the god-emperor computer that is going to doom us all.

            Also because for the “We’re all going to freeze to death” flap, we had Real Scientific Evidence By Real Scientists With Graphs and Everything being splashed about. Superficially, Real Scientific Evidence By Real Scientists With Graphs and Everything for “It’s getting hot in here” looks very reminiscent of that.

          • haishan says:

            Wait, I thought it was already the god-emperor computer that’s gonna doom us all. At least on this website.

          • Nornagest says:

            AI risk is probably the weirdest catastrophe that gets written about on this site, but it’s not the most likely one. The last LW poll put existential risk from natural or engineered biohazards higher than from AGI.

            Those numbers depend somewhat on the form of the question, though. In particular, global warming (aside from an unlikely runaway scenario) is a catastrophic risk but not an existential one: it’s quite unlikely to kill 90%+ of humanity, but it’s quite capable of making life a lot less pleasant for them.

          • James Picone says:

            @DrBeat: Several of the things on Dei’s list were not bullshit. And she left off several things that very much weren’t bullshit that we dealt with.

            @CJB: I’m not sure you’ve gotten a single thing accurate there.
            AFAIK no major dataset has ever been demonstrated to have been manipulated for policy effect (adjusted for non-climactic effects like UHI, TOBS, whatever, sure. That’s somewhat different). You’re going to want to point out exactly which of the leaked emails supports the claim that there was data manipulation going on, because so far I haven’t seen anything in them that’s worse than scientists getting pissed off, in private, at deliberate misinformers.

            If you think CO2-has-a-warming-forcing is even remotely questionable here, you’re on the crackpot end. This is creationism levels of wrong. Roy Spencer has written blog posts about this, for heaven’s sake, and he’s very much not on my side. This isn’t a small effect – this is a Earth-is-about-30c-warmer-than-it-should-be effect.

            I’ve seen Matt Ridley’s bullshit before. It is not convincing. It is, in fact, just a giant Denialist Meme Romp. An ice age was comething in the 1970s! No, that wasn’t even remotely the consensus, global-warming effects were far more discussed then then ice-age stuff, scientists are hardly to blame if friggin’ Newsweek decides to run a big story about how we’re all going to freeze to death. Matt Ridley and Ian Plimer are, in fact, in the pay of fossil-fuel interests; this is public record. Jim Hansen became an activist because the data he was looking at convinced him, not the other way around, the ‘lukewarmer’ position is the Intelligent Design of climate denialism – the position is still Anything But Mitigation, it’s just a marketing ploy to try and keep the crazy end from making Ridley look bad, even as he quotes them (hint: WUWT happily publishes articles by people who deny the greenhouse effect), Ian Plimer is at least consistent with his rejection of consensus – he also rejects consensus astronomy (he likes the ‘iron sun’ thing) and some consensus medicine (he thinks asbestos is perfectly safe). Ridley, as far as I’m aware, only rejects consensus in science in this one specific area for some reason (he says it’s because it’s a consensus about the /future/, and that makes it different. No word yet on whether he thinks the consensus that if he inhales asbestos fibres, he is likely to get cancer in the future is nonsense). His range of possible temperatures forecast by the IPCC is… weird. I’m not entirely certain whether he’s talking about the output of various scenarios (as in, he’s talking about the range between we-stop-emitting-CO2 and we-keep-emitting-lots-of-CO2) or whether he’s talking about climate sensitivity (which fits the numbers and the whole lukewarmer thing slightly better, except that the ‘end of the century’ line doesn’t make sense then). The claim that sensitivity PDFs cluster at the lower end is somewhere between trivially false and subtly wrong, depending on exactly what he means – certainly the peak of PDFs for climate sensitivity is large enough that doubling atmospheric CO2 content would be unpleasant. ‘Denialist’ is not intended to evoke Holocaust denial, it’s intended to invoke, you know, denial. Ridley proceeds to just flat-out make shit up about the 97% stuff – there’s been far more than two surveys, all getting high-90s values (hint: the American Meteorological Society is for weather forecasting, not scientists), Tol’s just flat out wrong on approximately everything – check it yourself, Cook made a nice web tool that lets you classify papers yourself, hardly ‘preventing replication’. Joanne Nova is another greenhouse-denialist – see what I mean about Ridley using ‘lukewarmer’ to avoid association with the ‘no warming at all’ position while freely quoting from them? Water vapour feedback is experimentally demonstrated in the real world. The trophospheric hot spot is a feature of any warming of the Earth’s surface, not just CO2-driven warming; by claiming it doesn’t exist, Ridley is claiming no warming. There’s nothing in mainstream climate science that has a problem with temperature falling while CO2 concentrations increase, it’s just that that isn’t what’s happening right now. Estimates of climate sensitivity are only getting ‘lower and lower’ if you only pay attention to a specific kind of climate sensitivity study, which is known to generate underestimates. If you look at paleoclimate studies, you get larger values. If climate sensitivity were as low as some of the studies Ridley is referring to claim, it would be impossible for Earth to leave ice ages. Yet we do. And no, temperatures are still inside the model envelope.

            I’m going to stop now – this comment is getting far too long – but suffice to say that the rest of Ridley’s deliberate misinformation is just as accurate. God knows why you trust him and the rest of the liars over actual scientists.

          • “In particular, global warming (aside from an unlikely runaway scenario) is a catastrophic risk but not an existential one: it’s quite unlikely to kill 90%+ of humanity, but it’s quite capable of making life a lot less pleasant for them.”

            That’s the conventional wisdom, but I have not yet seen any good arguments for it. At the high end of the IPCC projection for the end of this century you are talking, roughly speaking, about converting the climate of Minnesota to that of Iowa and shifting coastlines (assuming nobody bothers to dike) in by about a hundred meters. You are also talking about sizable increases in agricultural productivity due to CO2 fertilization, and an expansion of the land area of the Earth that is warm enough for human habitation by an amount several orders of magnitude larger than the loss from sea level rise.

            The current climate was not designed for us nor we for it. Humans currently prosper across a range of climates much larger than the projected change. The popular arguments for large net negative effects either exaggerate the projections or list only the negative effects.

            A lancet article estimated that deaths from cold outnumber deaths from heat about twenty-fold world wide. The physics of AGW implies that winters will get milder by more than summers hotter, due to the interaction with water vapor. Yet alarmist articles routinely cite increased mortality from increased heat while ignoring the decreased mortality from decreased cold.

          • “Ridley proceeds to just flat-out make shit up about the 97% stuff – there’s been far more than two surveys, all getting high-90s values”

            Cook et. al. 2013 got its 97% figure for categories 1-3, where 1 was humans as principal cause, 2 as saying humans were a cause (the example given used the term “contribute to”), 3 as implying what 2 says. The paper reported only the sum of the three, and Cook in a later paper claimed that number was for humans as the main cause. In fact, the paper’s webbed data show that category 1 is 1.6%, not 97%.

            Anderegg et. al. found that climate researchers who had publicly expressed a view on the IPCC position divided about 2:1 between pro and con–a fact you need to go to the supplementary material to discover. They got the figure up to about 97% by eliminating all save the 50, 100, or 200 who had published most. That might mean that the experts all agree or that it is easier to get published if you support the current orthodoxy.

            Various other studies use very weak definitions of what is being agreed on or very small sample sizes. But the results are then converted from “X% think global temperature is rising and humans are at least partly responsible” to “X% say humans are causing warming and the results will be terrible.” Can you cite any respectable study that gets the latter conclusion with X>90?

            For details on Cook et. al., including a link to Cook’s response, in which he attacks me for an argument I did not make and entirely ignores the argument I did make, see:

            http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.in/2014/02/a-climate-falsehood-you-can-check-for.html

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            With regards to the various crises Deiseach mentioned, there’s also the bit how the alarmists’ suggested societal response to each and every one of them is “give all the power, influence, and money to me and my left-wing friends.” An amazing coincidence, at the very least.

          • 27chaos says:

            If it helps, the Doomsayers are idiots. Global warming will be expensive and kill many people. But it will not turn the planet into a ball of dust.

          • James Picone says:

            @David Friedman:
            There’s an entire five IPCC reports discussing impacts if you really want the evidence. Briefly, though:
            – Climate change doesn’t stop at 2100. The scenario where we do nothing (whether it’s dressed up as ‘let the market and technological development solve the problem’ or not) doesn’t end at 2100. This effects most of the cheap adaptation measures (for example, diking).
            – Most plant growth isn’t limited by atmospheric CO2 content. Water and temperature are likely to become more limiting factors in high-warming scenarios. For example, the state I live in, South Australia, is already hard to farm in – chances are by 2100 under a high emissions scenario, it’s essentially impossible without significant technical investment.
            – Earth is not a cylinder. Gaining new land in Siberia does not offset losing agriculture at lower latitudes.
            – Having to pick up and move a substantial fraction of the largest cities in the world in ~100 years and/or spend vast and ever-increasing amounts of money trying to fight the sea don’t seem like good value to me.
            – Human civilisation was designed for the current climate. I make no claim that this is the optimum climate, in any sense, but abrupt transition will hurt, and business-as-usual carries a significant risk of really very bad outcomes. If we hit the 1% jackpot and ECS is >4c, I really hope we haven’t doubled CO2 content twice, because if you get >7c rise some parts of Earth’s surface become too warm to inhabit by humans without technological assistance to maintain body temperature.
            – Cold kills more people than heat worldwide, but the marginal effects of more heat when it’s hot are substantially larger than the marginal effects of more heat when it’s colder. AFAIK currently some places are projected to have less temperature-related deaths in a warmer world, but there’s more there than you give it credit for. The effects on temperature extremes can be pretty significant, after all – that most recent heatwave in Russia would have been a six-sigma event prior to the 1970s-present warming.
            – I’ve answered the Cook stuff above, but broadly I don’t think he’s done anything wrong, and you’re relying on a criterion that would conclude that economists don’t think prices are determined by the market and physicists don’t think gravity exists.
            – Given that EiE will publish approximately everything, I think the easy conclusion here is that there’s a lot of denialists spouting nonsense to the public because it’s easier and more profitable than research. Roy Spencer seems to get along fine and even occasionally gets someone to publish his curve fitting, for example, so it’s not like this is impossible. And, y’know, if it’s hard to pass peer review with a non-consensus position, maybe that’s because the consensus position is roughly correct? Peer review isn’t that high a bar.
            – Scientists hard to survey to a degree of rigour that will satisfy people who are never satisfied: news at eleven.

            @ThirteenthLetter:
            Well it worked out for CFCs, smoking, leaded petrol, and SOx/NOx, for whatever value of ‘give all the power influence and money to us’ that is relevant here.

          • Deiseach says:

            Wait, I thought it was already the god-emperor computer that’s gonna doom us all. At least on this website.

            “Good news, everyone! We’re all going to boil to death due to runaway global warming a lustrum before the unfriendly god-emperor computer can enslave, torture and degrade us!” 🙂

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            If you read the “Good news, everyone!” in Professor Farnsworth’s voice, Deiseach’s comment sounds like a pretty entertaining Futuruma episode.

          • A few responses to Picone’s long post:
            “Briefly, though:– Climate change doesn’t stop at 2100”

            How reliably do you think people in 1900 could predict what the problems of 2000 would be? We have some evidence on that question–Jevons prediction a little earlier that England would shortly run out of coal, widespread claims that the U.S. was running out of topsoil, concerns about dysgenic effects of higher fertility of the poor leading to eugenic programs.

            We do not know what humans will be doing in 2100. William Nordhaus, one of the economists associated with the IPCC projections, conceded that his calculations beyond 2050 were very uncertain. Bearing expensive costs now on the basis of our guesses about what will be problems a century hence makes very little sense.

            Nordhaus, in a piece attacking those who thought AGW was not a problem requiring urgent action, reported his estimate of the net cost of waiting fifty years to do anything instead of taking the optimal action immediately. He put it as a single sum, which sounded large. He didn’t mention that, converted into an annual cost, it came to less than a tenth of a percent of world GNP per year.

            For details see: http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2014/03/contra-nordhaus.html

            “Most plant growth isn’t limited by atmospheric CO2 content. Water and temperature are likely to become more limiting factors in high-warming scenarios.”

            Higher CO2 content increases productivity for many, although not all, plants. The EPA, in a piece designed to argue for your position, conceded that. Further, higher CO2 reduces water requirements. Low temperatures limit agricultural output more than high, as you can see by looking at where on Earth plants grow.

            “Having to pick up and move a substantial fraction of the largest cities in the world in ~100 years and/or spend vast and ever-increasing amounts of money trying to fight the sea don’t seem like good value to me.”

            And you believe that a substantial fraction of the largest cities are within one meter of sea level? That’s the high end of the IPCC projection for 2100. The rough rule of thumb is that coastlines move in by a hundred meter for each meter of sea level rise, although of course that varies from place to place. How much of the largest cities in the world is within a hundred meters of the coast? You might consider that the Dutch have been occupying land below sea level for a very long time, and started doing it with the technology of centuries ago.

            There is a convenient web page that shows the effect of various levels of SLR:
            http://flood.firetree.net/?ll=-27.839076094777802,138.1640625&z=13&m=7
            Playing with it will give you a more realistic view of the subject.

            ” I make no claim that this is the optimum climate, in any sense, but abrupt transition will hurt”

            And you regard warming of about a tenth of a degree a decade, the average since 1911, as abrupt? Is it abrupt if it goes as high as three tenths of a degree per decade, as some projections suggest? Sea level rise of about an inch a decade, which is roughly the average so far? Two or three inches a decade?

            The only a priori argument for expecting AGW to have negative effects is the one you suggest–that we are currently optimized against the current environment. That would be a serious argument in the case of rapid change, but the change we are observing is very slow. By the time farmers have to change crop varieties to deal with a temperature change of one degree, they will have changed crop varieties several times for other reasons.

            The only version of that argument that strikes me as at all plausible is the application not to humans but to other species, the claim that change that is slow for us might be too fast for some plants or animals. That might be true—I don’t know enough to evaluate it. But having seen a lot of arguments for a conclusion that I can show to be bogus, I am reluctant to trust arguments for the same conclusion that I can’t readily evaluate.

            “Cold kills more people than heat worldwide, but the marginal effects of more heat when it’s hot are substantially larger than the marginal effects of more heat when it’s colder. ”

            Your evidence for that is? I’ve seen quite a lot of claims about the negative effects of warming that include estimates of increased mortality from hotter summers and simply ignore the decreased mortality from milder winters.

          • James Picone says:

            @David Friedman.
            People in the 1900s didn’t have many ways of causing significant changes that would persist for centuries. CO2’s atmospheric lifetime is very long. Unless the singularity happens between now and 2100, we’re going to have to care about agriculture, temperature, and sea level. Saying “Well if there are any problems technology will solve them” is making a risky bet; I don’t want to make it. Would you have made a similar bet for CFCs instead of outright banning them? Because if you had, you would have lost the bet – technology wouldn’t be mitigating the health effects of ozone depletion.

            Higher CO2 content increases productivity for plants, as long as they have enough water and a good temperature range. Those conditions may obtain in some parts of the world. I doubt it’ll increase production worldwide, and I expect the effects of previous prime agricultural areas no longer being prime agricultural areas, at least for the crops they usually grow, will suck.

            I suspect the temperature effect on plants, again, is an example of marginal effects – cold kills, but an extra degree C at the top end is unpleasant.

            The IPCC’s SLR estimates are likely low. This has been the case for a while – careful reading of the IPCC’s SLR chapters will reveal that they neglect dynamic effects of ice sheet breakup altogether, because we don’t have a good model for them, and the IPCC is very conservative with its predictions. If you ask SLR experts, they will tell you that we should expect substantially more. Some of the evidence in favour is that ice sheets the world over are melting faster than the IPCC predicts – the Arctic, of course, is the IPCC prediction furthest from reality, but is sea ice so doesn’t affect sea level. Greenland and Antarctica are also melting faster than was predicted. This paper found that the difference between the IPCC’s SLR projections from 2001 and 2007 and reality is testable nowadays – IPCC’s projections are too low.

            I do think that a substantial fraction of large cities are within the range of SLR we should expect.

            The Dutch have been occupying land below sea level in a world with comparatively small year-on-year sea level rise. I expect it would be much more expensive if the wall had to keep being built every year. And, of course, that depends on local geology – with that much sea level rise, south florida isn’t a place any more, dikes or no dikes, because the local rock is porous.

            Warming will be faster than the average since 1911. We know that because it’s already faster than the average since 1911. Trendline from 1970s (you know, where there’s actual statistical evidence of change in trend and aerosols aren’t a concern) is ~.17c/decade. If CO2 content in the atmosphere continues growing superexponentially (i.e., we do nothing), that will accelerate.

            And yes, that is rapid. We’re seeing heatwaves that would have been once-in-a-thousand-years in the preindustrial (Moscow 2010). There are adults alive today who have never seen a year that was average in the preindustrial. The current warming is likely more rapid than any other warming in the past several thousand years, and we’re likely warmer than any other point in the Holocene right now. I don’t understand why the evidence that if we continue emitting CO2, the Earth will warm up, on average, 1.7 degrees every ten years isn’t terrifying to you.

            3.2 mm/year is a fair amount of sea level rise, yes. Again, that one is going to accelerate if we continue growing atmospheric CO2 content superexponentially. This should be obvious given that straight-line extrapolation gives 32cm by 2100 and the IPCC projects as high as a metre (and their projections are running below reality here, by a fair amount).

            RE: temperature mortality. See this paper, particularly these charts.
            (and broadly speaking that has to be true eventually – at ~7c warming, some parts of Earth reach wet-bulb temperatures high enough that an inactive human in shade will die of heat exhaustion, but that’s probably not going to happen in any reasonable timeframe. We’d have to burn literally all the coal.)

            The IPCC’s AR4 chapter on temperature-related mortality (here) quotes several studies that consider the effect on cold-related mortality.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            “The IPCC’s SLR estimates are likely low.”

            That’s the insidious thing about these consensus-denying anti-science people. They turn up where you least expect them.

          • I think I put up a long response to James Picone’s long comment in the wrong place, so am putting it again here:

            “People in the 1900s didn’t have many ways of causing significant changes that would persist for centuries.”

            They believed they did—in all three of my examples. Using up all of England’s coal, for instance, would have been a significant change that would have persisted for much longer than that.

            My point was not about what they could do but about what they believed. If anything, the world is changing faster now than then, making it even harder to predict future problems and solutions.

            “Higher CO2 content increases productivity for plants, as long as they have enough water and a good temperature range.”

            Higher CO2 reduces water requirements, as I already pointed out.

            “Those conditions may obtain in some parts of the world. I doubt it’ll increase production worldwide, and I expect the effects of previous prime agricultural areas no longer being prime agricultural areas, at least for the crops they usually grow, will suck.”

            As I keep pointing out, we are talking about very slow change. Looking at the world at present, do you observe that if two places have average temperatures a few degrees apart, they grow not only different varieties but different species? Wheat currently grows, in North America, from Texas to Alberta, a distance of 1500 miles North/South.

            Of course, they grow different varieties of wheat. What do you think the odds are that, even without AGW, agricultural areas will keep growing the same varieties of the same crops a century from now?

            “The IPCC’s SLR estimates are likely low.”

            The simplest test is past performance. Was the SLR projection in the first IPCC report higher or lower than what actually happened? For temperature it was higher—have you checked SLR?

            The second test is bias. It’s easy enough, reading IPCC reports, especially the summary for policy makers, to see what conclusion the authors want readers to reach. That suggests that any bias is likely to be in the direction of exaggerating the arguments for that conclusion.

            “I do think that a substantial fraction of large cities are within the range of SLR we should expect.”

            That range, for 2100, being?

            “The Dutch have been occupying land below sea level in a world with comparatively small year-on-year sea level rise. I expect it would be much more expensive if the wall had to keep being built every year. And, of course, that depends on local geology – with that much sea level rise, south florida isn’t a place any more, dikes or no dikes, because the local rock is porous.”

            I don’t know what your “that much” is. I pointed you at a web page that lets you see the effect of various levels, calculated from topographical maps. Without diking, one meter still has a tiny effect on Florida.

            And SLR is slow. Eight inches in the past century.

            “Warming will be faster than the average since 1911. We know that because it’s already faster than the average since 1911. Trendline from 1970s (you know, where there’s actual statistical evidence of change in trend and aerosols aren’t a concern) is ~.17c/decade.”

            Or in other words, you first assume that the previous pause (roughly 1940 to 1970) can be eliminated from the record by special casing it, then deduce the average rate by looking at the period thereafter.

            As I think I already pointed out, the pattern of warming suggests some effect that alternately cancels and reinforces warming. If that interpretation is correct, you are taking a full cycle of reinforcing plus less than half a cycle of cancelling.

            “And yes, that is rapid. We’re seeing heatwaves that would have been once-in-a-thousand-years in the preindustrial (Moscow 2010).”

            Do you find it surprising that, somewhere in a large world, there is some event that has only one chance in a thousand?

            “I don’t understand why the evidence that if we continue emitting CO2, the Earth will warm up, on average, 1.7 degrees every ten years isn’t terrifying to you.”

            Does the rate you are now claiming decribe the effect of current emissions on the equilibrium that will be reached several thousand years from now, ceteris paribus? It’s an order of magnitude higher than the trend line you just reported.

            “3.2 mm/year is a fair amount of sea level rise, yes. Again, that one is going to accelerate if we continue growing atmospheric CO2 content superexponentially. This should be obvious given that straight-line extrapolation gives 32cm by 2100 and the IPCC projects as high as a metre (and their projections are running below reality here, by a fair amount).”

            One meter, last time I looked over the report, wasn’t what the IPCC projected. It was the high end of the range of projections produced by the high emission scenario.

            “RE: temperature mortality. See this paper, particularly these charts.”

            Thanks. Bookmarked. Looking at the table, the only place for which they give separate figures for the effect of heat related mortality and cold related is England, for which the reduction in cold related mortality is about ten times the increase in heat related mortality. Have you noticed any of the people arguing for the perils of AGW mentioning that fact? If not, does that suggest that your opinions may be based on a highly biased selection of facts and arguments?

            Observe that the comments emphasize reasons to minimize estimates of the benefits and maximize estimates of the costs. Given any complicated externality issue, it’s almost always possible to tweak the calculations in the direction you want—a point I have been making in the climate context for a long time.

            “(and broadly speaking that has to be true eventually – at ~7c warming, some parts of Earth reach wet-bulb temperatures high enough that an inactive human in shade will die of heat exhaustion, but that’s probably not going to happen in any reasonable timeframe. We’d have to burn literally all the coal.)”

            And in unreasonable time frames, populations shift. The U.S. alone had a million migrants a year in the period before WWI. The world is much richer now and transport technology substantially improved.

            If you are talking about changes over a thousand years or more, you should assume populations are mobile. We lose lowlands in the equators, gain Antarctica and the northern edge of the northern hemisphere.

          • Harald K says:

            ThirteenthLetter:” the alarmists’ suggested societal response to each and every one of them is “give all the power, influence, and money to me and my left-wing friends.””

            James Hansen, I guess an “alarmist” if there is anyone, has advocated fully refunded tax on carbon on the source. This means that all the tax collected on carbon emissions, be distributed evenly across all citizens. If you emit more than average (including indirectly) the tax is a net gain to you, if you emit more it’s a cost.

            How is this giving all the power, influence, and money to him and his left-wing friends?

          • Alraune says:

            James Hansen, I guess an “alarmist” if there is anyone, has advocated an enormous bureaucracy redistributing wealth from his ideological enemies to his allies’ political constituency.

            How is this giving all the power, influence, and money to him and his left-wing friends?

          • “James Hansen, I guess an “alarmist” if there is anyone, has advocated fully refunded tax on carbon on the source.”

            Hansen seems to be one of the more reasonable people on the alarmist side, and my guess is that he is arguing for a position he honestly believes in. It doesn’t follow that that applies to everyone, or even most people, on his side.

            “How is this giving all the power, influence, and money to him and his left-wing friends?”

            The nearest thing to an implementation of a carbon tax in U.S. politics so far was the cap and trade bill that passed the House but died in the Senate. The cap and trade part was equivalent to a carbon tax. But it also included allocation of valuable carbon credits to various favored groups and extensive regulations.

          • James Picone says:

            @David Friedman:
            We know for a fact that we can put CO2 into the atmosphere that will not come out of the atmosphere for thousands of years, or until the Singularity happens, whichever comes first. Deciding not to deal with a problem because the Singularity might happen seems like a profoundly stupid way of handling risk management.

            The various problems that having more CO2 in the atmosphere will cause (ocean acidification is another big one that you should probably look at some time) aren’t Singularity-levels of hard-to-deal-with, but the consensus of experts in the field seems to be that they’ll be unpleasant – that’s what the IPCC is for, after all. I see no particular reason to believe your assertions over them. And I see no particular reason to believe that the society of 2030 can shrug off heatwaves that would have been impossible in the preindustrial, that the society of 2050 won’t have to care about whatever effect the Arctic ceasing to exist has had on global climate, that the society of 2080 will trivially be able to handle a sea rising several times faster than it is right now. You’ve noted, on another thread, that I have “a remarkable talent for not seeing what you don’t want to see”. I think you should strongly consider how much your politics influences your perception of large-scale coordination problems. I think if it was 1980 we’d be arguing about whether CFCs can really get into the stratosphere, and besides we’ll have solved the problem of skin cancer in the future. Why should I believe this is a london-full-of-horse-manure problem, and not a CFC problem?

            I am not an expert on plant biology; neither are you. The IPCC’s position is that we’ll see some greening, but not as much as one might naively expect because other nutrients and temperature changes limit the effect. Seems plausible. But funnily enough, the various experts contributing still think food security implications are worth considering. You can’t just change the climate of an area and have farmers either move to somewhere with a better climate or change their crops. It doesn’t just *happen*. Infrastructure has to be built. People go out of business. There are huge transitional periods. It costs money. Alternately, we could spend a comparatively small amount just by imposing a friggin’ consumption tax on CO2.

            I disagree that the change we’re experiencing is slow. I expect to see an ice-free Arctic in the next ten years. I expect to see a new warmest-year-ever every decade. It’s not just fast on geological timescales.

            The study I linked on SLR – this one – does the comparison. 3.2mm/year is ~60% more than the IPCC projections have for this time. IIRC the IPCC reports even note that they’re likely an underestimate. Because dynamic processes are hard to estimate so they left them out entirely. Temperature rise has not been underestimated.

            Broadly speaking, we should expect ‘more than the IPCC range’. God knows how much more. There’s a reason they didn’t try to include dynamic effects. But it’s enough.

            The widget you linked just colours in squares that are below sea level + SLR blue. Tidal effects and storm surge can be worth somewhat more than that. The sea is not a bathtub.

            The past century is not representative of the SLR we can expect in the next century. For starters, it’s only been ~3.2 mm/year since 1970ish.

            Here’s a page with various graphs of forcings over the instrumental period. There’s a reason to consider the 1970->present period.

            Positing magic epicycles based entirely on eyeballing of a graph is not what I would describe as a sound analysis.

            Graphs of extreme values show the expected increase. We are seeing more one-in-a-thousand-year events than we would expect. One-in-a-thousand-years is sufficiently rare that it’s noteworthy – there have not been very many one-in-a-thousand-year heatwaves in recorded history.

            1.7c/decade was a brain fart; you are quite correct that .17c/decade is the current trend. That is a lot.

            The high emission scenario is roughly what you are suggesting we follow.

            I have actually heard that England is supposed to have less cold deaths than they are gains in heat deaths. England is quite cold. Most of the world’s population lives somewhere warmer than England.

            Despite your implications, the IPCC remains biased conservative. They talk entirely about what we can very certainly expect given our current observations – uncertainty cuts both ways. Political pressure is more likely to make the IPCC push less hard for change than anything else; politicians don’t want to actually take action on climate change if that hurts voters, because it’s unlikely to be popular.

          • Harald K says:

            I of course consider Hansen no alarmist, I consider him likely one of the best informed people on the issue. If you knew nothing about his conclusions, only about his background and credentials, you’d probably believe that too.

            A carbon tax does not require any huge bureaucracy. It’s as simple as any tax can get. It’ll be significantly simpler than VAT, which many (most?) countries have. I should not even have to say that, Alraune. It’s bloody obvious. If you want a society where even the capability for basic tax collection is too much power for government, be my guest, but then it’s you wanting less government, not Hansen wanting more. The government we have is more than sufficient to implement a carbon tax.

            One reason cap and trade was preferred over a carbon tax was that it was supposedly more “market based”.

            Another reason is resistance to redistribution. If pollution is free, then suddenly isn’t any longer, that shakes things up. The way around that is to establish property rights in proportion to what people have simple taken pre-property rights: if you let out 50 tons of CO2 last year when it was free, congratulations, you now have a tradeable permit to emit exactly 50 tons of CO2 per year.

            You see how that is perverse, but also how it achieves its goal of not making losers out of current winners or vice versa.

            It’s been done like that for many other things, and it’s not as if it isn’t understandable – you don’t get popular from threatening a core industry, even if that industry gets its dominant position from overexploiting a shared resource.

            But nice, so we can agree we shouldn’t do it that way? And maybe we should start a FRCT low and gradually ramp it up to make the necessary restructuring less destructive? This would be a great start. But unfortunately, agreement on that is not worth much if you underestimate the need to cut carbon emissions.

          • James Picone offers a long defense of his view that AGW is a terrible thing. Much of it comes down to “trust the experts.” I am inclined to trust experts when there is no better alternative, for instance on the claim that temperatures have trended up. But often there is.

            For instance… . One of the people producing the IPCC conclusions about consequences is William Nordhaus. He is in my field, economics, and I can read what he writes and make sense of it. I observe him writing a response to a WSJ editorial on warming. The editorial argued that it wasn’t a crisis situation requiring immediate action. Nordhaus disagreed. He gave his estimate of the cost of waiting fifty years instead of taking the optimal action at once: 4.1 trillion dollars, and remarks that “Wars have been started over smaller sums.”

            What he doesn’t do is convert that figure to an annual cost spread over the world for the rest of the century. It comes to about .06% of world GNP per year. He is attacking people for a position that his own research supports–some evidence of the pressures determining which side he wants to be seen to be on. For details see:

            http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2014/03/contra-nordhaus.html

            Along similar lines, I see multiple claims about mortality that count the effect of hotter summers and ignore the effect of milder winters. I see an EPA page trying to imply that AGW reduces the food supply. The only solid fact it contains is an increase from CO2 fertilization. The rest is pointing out that droughts and floods and such could reduce output–but with no evidence that droughts and floods will be more common.

            Figuring out what “the experts” believe and how solid it is isn’t a trivial problem. Fifty years ago the experts predicted severe problems from population increase and resource exhaustion, and works making catastrophic predictions in the fairly near future were taken seriously. On the evidence so far, they were wrong–things moved in just the opposite of the direction they predicted. Other examples where what purported to be a scientific consensus was something closer to a political consensus can be offered.

            For my discussion of the general problem of judging outside your expertise, see:

            http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2015/06/judging-outside-your-expertise.html

            Finally, and getting back to one of my arguments with James, I see a prominent figure in the AGW movement make a provably false statement about his own work, and I have not yet seen anyone in that movement recognize the fact. That James can talk himself into denial on the plain evidence on John Cook is not so disturbing. That nobody in his movement, at least nobody I have seen, is willing to come out and criticize one of their own when he has been demonstrably dishonest tells me something about how much that movement is concerned with truth and how much with supporting its side. Along similar lines, the head of the IPCC is apparently now out due to accusations of sexual harassment. But he remained in office after accusing critics of junk science in his defense of an alarmist claim by the IPCC (the vanishing Himalayan glaciers) that turned out to have no scientific basis at all. That says something about organizational priorities.

          • Alraune says:

            For all I know or care, Hansen may be a technocratic saint with no ulterior motives. We’re talking about pattern-matching here. Your description is still isomorphic to “give my team all the money and power,” and given the weight and importance of the energy industries, the massive gap between law-as-summarized and regulations-as-implemented, and the competence of our political system, the odds of what comes out of that sausage grinder being what you put in are ~0%. You can argue that whatever mangled system is put in place will probably still be better than no system if you like, but Deisach’s skepticism remains highly warranted.

        • “If you think climate change is nonsense, you should expect Heartland to win this bet.”

          If you think warming stopped in 1998, which I gather is the Heartland position, (or 2002, which is my best guess from looking at the data), you should expect Heartland to lose the bet for the next thirteen (or seventeen) years, because each year’s thirty year average is replacing one of the years before the warming ended with one after. So if the bet is presented as “Heartland losing means Heartland is wrong,” Heartland will get undeserved bad publicity for the next thirteen (or seventeen) years, since they would lose the bet even if they were right.

          Which makes me conclude that the people offering the bet are engaged in deliberate fraud, counting on other people not recognizing the implication of a thirty year average. If they were honest, they would propose comparing the average from 1998 to this year with the average from 1999 to next year, since that’s the test of whether temperature is continuing to rise.

          • James Picone says:

            The position that temperature has increased from 1970 to 1998-2002 by magic and is then stationary thereafter doesn’t make sense. If Heartland thinks that rise is natural variation, they should expect global average surface temperature to go down, and soon.

            The bet you propose is certainly harder for people who think CO2 is a significant climate forcing – 17 years is not very long in climate terms – but I’m pretty sure CSICOP would win that bet more often than they lose it over any reasonable span of time.

            You do realise that picking 2002 as the inflection point is the exact same mistake as picking 1998, right? I’m sure I’ve asked you that before.

          • CJB says:

            The problem is- we’ve seen shifts that big before- see ‘medieval warm period’ and ‘little ice age.”

            If you look at the temperate shifts leading up to those, and extrapolate along the graph, you suddenly find that we should all be dead of boiling and/or freezing by now.

            The climate does these things. Randomly- England really was a warm green paradise for a while. The wine really did freeze in the glasses at Versailles.

            I’ve heard anthropogenic suggestions for this- essentially that North America was clear cut by the Indians, causing the warm period, and when they died after Columbus, the resulting growback caused the cooling.
            That essentially requires that North America was sustaining a pre-agricultural population of a hundred million or so, however- a level it wouldn’t reach again until 1900, after years of immigration, population boom, and expansion, using industrial revolution tech.

            Hell, using IRON. It takes a long freakin’ time to destroy a tree with fire and stone.

            Either the Algonquin did more damage to the forest primeval in a few hundred years than we did, or the climate did some weird freaky stuff we don’t really understand yet.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            I continue not to see where Picone is getting the “and soon” part from.

          • “You do realise that picking 2002 as the inflection point is the exact same mistake as picking 1998, right? ”

            I don’t realize that. 1998 is visibly an outlier. 2002 is not. A straight line fit to the webbed NASA data from 2002 to 2013 (I did the calculation before the 2014 data were in) gives a very slightly negative slope.

            But since I have your attention, would you like to explain:

            1. Why Cook et. al. 2013 reported the sum of categories 1-3 but not the numbers for the individual categories–when doing so would have revealed that category 1 was tiny?

            2. Why Cook claimed later that the paper showed 97% for humans as “main cause” when that describes only category 1?

            My point is not that researchers do or do not agree with one claim or another about AGW. It is that the source of a prominent article cited in defense of AGW claims, and the proprietor of a web site used for such defense, has demonstrably lied, in print, about his own work. Unlike your claim about Ridley, mine is supported by evidence you can check for yourself, all of it provided and webbed by Cook and his coworkers (two articles and the webbed data from one of them).

            You used the phrase “God knows why you trust him and the rest of the liars over actual scientists.” I think I have demonstrated that one of the people you apparently trust is a liar. Do you care?

          • “If Heartland thinks that rise is natural variation, they should expect global average surface temperature to go down, and soon.”

            That depends on the form of the natural variation. If they think it is a random walk they should expect it to be quite a while before next year’s temperature is cooler than the temperature from thirty years earlier, since the data on which the bet is based show rapid increase in the period prior to 1998.

            Are you assuming that they believe that each year is a new random draw? That seems wildly unlikely given the data, but without that I do not see how you get your conclusion.

            Do you agree that the form of bet offered, with a thirty year average instead of a seventeen year average, means that the people offering it are either dishonest or mathematically incompetent?

          • James Picone says:

            @David Friedman
            GISTEMP LOTI, 1975->2014, 12-month running mean: here

            2002 is the next peak in the record after 1998, so it’s got all the problems of doing statistical work by eyeballing an interesting peak and drawing a line from there (and /that’s/ the fundamental problem, not that 1998 is some special magical outlier – it’s just the most convenient one. If I drew the trend from 2000-present, what would you say?).

            From what I know of you, you should have the statistical chops to calculate uncertainty margins for that linear trend line. I would strongly recommend you calculate them and then look at where the 1970s-2002 trendline sits – it’ll be inside your confidence interval. Remember to account for global average surface temperature being highly autocorrelated. Alternately, just use the SkS trend calculator. -0.01 +/- 0.179 c/decade for the 2002->2014 period, at 2 sigma. 0.177 +/- 0.67 c/decade for 1975->2002, 2 sigma. Even at 2-sigma, the central estimate for prior to your selected period is (just) inside the confidence interval, and that’s before correcting for the whole eyeball-selected-peak thing.

            RE: Cook’s consensus paper, I’m pretty sure I addressed that in my comment here. I’ll say it again – I have no problem with Cook presenting categories 2 and 3 as congruent with the IPCC position. I’m not surprised that category 1 is small. How many papers on economics say, in their abstract, that they think the law of supply and demand drives prices? If you did a similar study on economics papers, wouldn’t you end up with a similar structure – a small number of papers that explicitly say, in their abstract, that supply and demand drives prices, and several other papers that strongly imply they use that fact without outright stating it?

            Matt Ridley has “financial interest in coal mining on my family’s land”. He /is/ fossil fuel interests. That one is trivial to find – I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that his association with the GWPF has earned him money and that the GWPF is funded by fossil-fuel interests.

            If Heartland thinks global average surface temperature is a random walk, I am steelmanning their position. That would violate the second law of thermodynamics.

            I’m suggesting that they think the climate is underlying temperature given current forcings, which I’ll call T, plus a random distribution V, with draws from V each year correlated strongly with each other (that is, if V is on the upper end this year, expect an upper-end-ish V this year, but some probability of low V). Heartland claims V has been drawing high since 1998, maybe even earlier. I’m not sure how else to construct their views without literally invoking magic – a climate that gets hot and then stays hot for no reason at all.

            I agree that the form of the bet offered makes it highly likely that CSICOP will win, and that it’s probably a bad bet even if you think Heartland is right. I don’t think it’s bad-at-maths or dishonest, though – it’s not like it’s abundantly clear what’s going on actually reading the bet. I think it’s trying to tie Heartland to an actual prediction instead of them waffling on about 18-year-four-month pauses, and I think it’s trying to make the point that you actually do need long periods of time for the trend to outweigh noise.

          • Nathan says:

            James – I really think you are being WAY too soft on Cook here. If his methodology, applied properly, would lead to an absurd result then that shows that it is a bad methodology. It is the height of intellectual dishonesty to claim that papers say something other than what they actually say in order to get a result closer to what you want.

            I mean, surely it’s not like saying “Yeah, Cook’s paper is bad but AGW is still probably real” is such a huge concession? Why defend this crap?

          • James Picone says:

            @Nathan:
            I don’t think this is a question of “methodology applied properly leads to absurd results”, I think it’s “methodology how Friedman wants to apply it leads to absurd results”.

            Cat1 is a very strong condition – it’s the papers that explicitly say, in their abstract, “Global warming is happening, and it’s mostly human-caused”. Cat2 is papers that explicitly say “Global warming is happening” in such a way that human impact is implied without quantification of human impact. Cat3 is implicit global-warming-is-happening-and-has-some-human-impact, like papers that talk about mitigation mechanisms. Knowing that ~33% of all papers they found with a simple search are in categories 1-3, and if you remove category 4 (Papers that express no clear position – for example, some impacts papers, some paleoclimate stuff) you end up with ~97% in categories 1-3.

            That there are vanishingly few papers that implicitly or explicitly minimise human contribution to global warming is a Big Result.

            I don’t think it’s a bad paper. And I think Cook has been exemplary in doing this openly and honestly. Huge swathes of data from the paper are available on SkS. They created a tool that lets you rate papers yourself. They emailed authors whose papers they rated and asked the authors to rate their own papers. They raised the fee that the journal charges to make papers open-access, so the paper could be read by people who don’t have a journal subscription. This doesn’t read like someone trying to be deceptive to me.

          • Picone writes:

            “I’ll say it again – I have no problem with Cook presenting categories 2 and 3 as congruent with the IPCC position.”

            How about with his presenting the sum of categories 1-3 as papers saying that humans were the main cause of warming, as he did in the second paper? Does a paper saying that greenhouse gases contribute to warming—the example for category 2—imply that humans are the *main* cause of warming?

            You don’t think it’s a bit odd to only report the sum for categories 1-3 and not give the individual numbers—thus obscuring the fact that category 1, the only category which claims humans as the principal cause, was only a tiny fraction of the total?

            Did you compare my blog post with Cook’s response to it? Is that consistent with the belief that Cook is an honest man? Perhaps you could point to where in my post I make the argument he attacks me for making?

            My point is not how many people do or do not believe in AGW. It’s that John Cook has lied in print about his own work. Since you regard SKS as a reliable source of information, that ought to matter to you, assuming you care whether your beliefs are true.

            Which of these claims do you dispute:

            1. Only category 1 consisted of papers whose abstracts claimed that humans were the main cause of warming (“Principal cause” in the definition). Categories 2 and 3 do not.

            2. Category 1 was 1.6% of the papers (after category 4 was eliminated)

            3. In the second paper, Cook claimed that the first paper showed 97% of the papers supported humans as the main cause of warming.

            If you agree with all of those, you agree that Cook lied in print, no? If not, which do you disagree with?

            Most issues in the climate controversy are difficult. I have been pushing this because it isn’t. You can check all of the relevant facts for yourself, since both papers and the data from the first are webbed.

            And for other people reading this thread, I suggest that they look at my blog post on the subject themselves and reach their own conclusion.

            http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2014/02/a-climate-falsehood-you-can-check-for.html

          • James Picone says:

            @David Friedman:
            Broadly, yes, I have no problem with that. The position (cat2 & !cat1) or (cat3 & !cat1) only makes sense in the context of absurd premises – claims like “humans have no recently significantly increased the CO2 content of the atmosphere” or “there are negative forcings of ~2 W/m**2 magnitude that we don’t know about” or “forcing due to doubling of CO2 isn’t in the neighbourhood of 3.7 W/m**2”. I very much doubt more than a handful of the papers in cats2&3 would endorse one of those premises.

            Cook2013 reports the numbers in all categories. Again, it’s a friggin’ exemplar of open research. The abstract doesn’t specifically say how many papers were in which category, but that’s because abstracts are highly space-limited and anybody who wants that information can read the paper. They report the aggregate for cats1-3, 4, and 5-7 in their abstract because those are the takeaway – something like 3% of all papers that can meaningfully be ascribed a position implicitly or explicitly question the consensus. That’s a big deal.

            I really don’t understand this harping on cat1 being small. It’s expected to be small. Nobody writes a paper, and in the bloody abstract, says “Oh and by the way we think this basic principle of the field is true”. I still think it’s a useful tool. Applied to medical science, you’d see a change in proportions of cat1-3/4/5-7 papers on ulcer causation after the experiment that demonstrated they were bacterial.

            Yes I compared your blog posts. Notice that my original comment on the matter, long ago, suggested that what was going on is that Cook pattern-matched what you were saying to the “but cat4 is 30% of papers! Cat1 is tiny!”, rather than “Cat1 is tiny compared to cat2&3!”. There has been a lot of that. If you went to a denialist blog in the wake of Cook2013, it was almost certain you would run into people saying that. Mistakenly concluding that that was your argument is pretty easy to do if you’re just skimming.

            Again, if you did a Cook2013 survey on whether economic consensus was that prices were set by supply and demand, how many papers do you think would be in cat1?

          • James Picone says, about Cook et. al. 2013:

            “Cook2013 reports the numbers in all categories. ”

            That is not the case. The webbed data make it possible, with some effort, to count the numbers in all categories. But what the paper–not the abstract, the paper itself–reports is only the sum for categories 1-3, labeled “endorse AGW,” not the individual numbers. You seem to be confusing the paper with the abstract.

            The paper itself is at:

            http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/8/2/024024/article

            Would you like to point out where it gives the separate numbers, or percentages, by category?

            As I keep pointing out, in the second paper Cook doesn’t say “97% endorse AGW,” a vague and possibly true claim. He says:

            “Cook et al. (2013) found that over 97% endorsed the view that the Earth is warming up and human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause.”

            Is that a true statement? Is it close to a true statement, given that that particular study found 1.6% holding that human emissions of greenhouse gases are the principal cause? Is it not in the least suspicious that the original paper failed to report that fact, gave 97% for the much vaguer “endorse AGW,” and the author then claimed that number for the stronger claim?

            I keep pushing this point because it is a much simpler issue than the climate questions we are discussing, and if you are not willing to admit that 2+2=4 when doing so leads to a conclusion you do not like, neither I nor you ought to trust your conclusions, or your summaries of the evidence, on much more difficult issues.

            With regard to Cook’s response to my criticism, I concede that it’s possible it was not deliberate dishonesty but error. But if so, he is willing to accuse a critic of dishonesty without making any serious effort to actually read the criticism and see what it says. And it is at least suspicious that he attacks me for an argument I didn’t make to which he has a rebuttal and does not even mention the argument I did make–to which, as I have been arguing here at some length, there is no rebuttal. That is not the behavior of a man who cares whether what he writes is true.

          • James Picone says:

            Looks like you’re partially right – I thought the broken-down-by-category numbers were in the supplementary material, but instead it’s just all the articles with their ratings, which can trivially be turned into the numbers you’re looking for. The abstract does report numbers for categories 1-3, 4a, 4b, and 5-7 though.

            I think it’s a true statement. Again, papers in cat2&3 can only be taken to not agree with the consensus if you add in an insane premise. If someone says “They fell out of an aeroplane!” and someone else describes that statement as agreeing with “they died after falling a long distance”, well strictly speaking the first statement doesn’t necessarily imply the second, but without a premise like “…and they were wearing a parachute” or “…and the plane was on the ground”, it seems like a safe assumption.

            Again, if you did a Cook2013 survey of economics papers on the question “The market is the principle factor determining prices”, how many papers do you think would be in cat1? Would it be fair to say that when you found >95% papers in cat 1-3, but a tiny proportion of that in cat1, that you have found that >95% of economics papers endorse the position that the market determines prices? (equivalent cat2&3: ‘explicit claim that the market is a factor in price determination, without quantification’, ‘implicit claim that the market is a factor in price determination, without quantification’.)

            Given that he didn’t get your name right, it seems abundantly clear that he glanced at the post, noticed the ‘cat1 is small!’, went “Oh it’s another one of those“, and wrote the standard reply. I don’t think that’s the behaviour of a man disinterested in honesty, that’s the behaviour of someone who’s seen several bajillion really terrible arguments against his paper and no longer has the time or inclination to read every single rebuttal. I’m willing to bet you’ve given people the simple argument against some manifestly-wrong argument against AnCap stuff without noticing that they have a subtly different, less obviously-wrong argument before.

            tl;dr: If you believe “CO2 causes warming”, “>50% of the recent warming is anthropogenic” is the only sensible conclusion, unless you also believe something manifestly untrue. (“Humans aren’t the cause of recent CO2 increases”, “CO2 hasn’t increased”, “There’s an extremely large forcing we don’t know about”, “Climate doesn’t follow the laws of thermodynamics”). No, even if you think ECS is low that doesn’t help – the actual attribution is ~110% of the recent warming is anthropogenic.

            EDIT: And, of course, if there wasn’t a consensus, categories 5-7 would be larger. Much larger.

          • James Picone writes:

            “Looks like you’re partially right – I thought the broken-down-by-category numbers were in the supplementary material, but instead it’s just all the articles with their ratings, which can trivially be turned into the numbers you’re looking for.”

            Precisely my claim, except that it isn’t trivial to sort and count thousands of articles. My blog post included a link to that data. What was “partially” right about what I wrote or only partially wrong about your claim that the numbers for the separate categories were in the article?

            The authors of Cook et. al. 2013 counted the articles in the separate categories in order to compile their 97%. You don’t think it a bit odd that they didn’t bother to report those numbers but instead only reported the large figure for categories 1-3 without mentioning how tiny the figure for category 1 was? It doesn’t suggest anything to you when they first avoid giving the small figure for category 1 and Cook then applies the figure for the combined categories to a description that only applies to category 1?

            You have an extraordinary ability not to see things you don’t want to see.

            “The abstract does report numbers for categories 1-3, 4a, 4b, and 5-7 though.”

            Precisely what I have been saying. It reports the large number for categories 1-3, does not report the small number for category 1. And you really think that posting a list of some 12,000 articles on the theory that readers of the article will go through them, sort them by category, and add up the numbers, is a reasonable substitute for reporting numbers they have already calculated? Nothing odd about it?

            “Again, papers in cat2&3 can only be taken to not agree with the consensus if you add in an insane premise.”

            The claim in the second paper was not that 97% agree with the consensus, a conveniently vague term. It was that “Cook et al. (2013) found that over 97% endorsed the view that the Earth is warming up and human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause.” A much more precise claim, and one that was off by almost two orders of magnitude.

            Do you disagree? Did category 2 and 3 consist of papers holding that humans were the main cause of warming? If not, then only category 1 classifies, meaning that Cook misrepresented 1.6% in his own data as 97%. I don’t understand why you keep talking about the consensus, when my charge is about Cook’s claim in the second paper—”main cause.”

            “And, of course, if there wasn’t a consensus, categories 5-7 would be larger. Much larger.”

            How many times do I have to tell you that I am not arguing about how many people believe in AGW, I am arguing that John Cook lied in print about his own work?

            This isn’t rocket science, or even climate science. It is the reading of straightforward English.

          • James Picone says:

            @David Friedman:
            The consensus is that anthropogenic GHG emissions are responsible for 110% of recent warming.

            I very much doubt that there were more than single-digit papers in cats2+3 that would argue against that.

            Getting the individual category counts out of that data file is half an hours work if you know what you’re doing. No, I don’t think that’s too much of an imposition. It’d be nice of Cook to report all those figures, but whatever. It’s not a big deal.

            No, I don’t think it’s suspicious, and I’ve explained why.

            I note that you’ve steered very well clear of my argument that Cook’s methodology would show similar results on questions widely agreed-upon in any scientific field.

        • Careless says:

          pretty surprising from a dynamics point of view if the feedback isn’t positive

          Pretty shocking from an anthropomorphic principle standpoint, though. You don’t have a billion year old biosphere with a climate dominated by positive feedbacks.

          • Nornagest says:

            This is pedantic of me, and I apologize, but I think you mean “anthropic”?

          • James Picone says:

            How many times has Earth frozen to ludicrous degrees? Five. One of which may literally have frozen the equator.

            How many times have mass extinction events killed most life on Earth? Depends how you count, but several, at least five. Some of them were climactic, some of them were climactic precipitated by asteroid impact or vulcanism.

            Earth is not a friendly place on long timescales.

            I think there’s some occasional confusion because ‘positive feedback’ in the climate sense is different to ‘positive feedback’ in the electrical-engineering sense. It’s not runaway. One unit of warming produces <one unit of additional warming. Plus there are geological-scale processes that can clean up – rock weathering, plant matter getting buried and fossil shells burying CO2, for example.

          • Alex Godofsky says:

            If your positive feedback is “not runaway” then what you’ve actually got is negative feedback.

          • James Picone says:

            @Alex Godofsky:
            There’s a meaningful difference between systems where increasing parameter F results in dynamic changes that oppose the increase enough to prevent any increase at all (very large negative feedback), systems where increasing parameter F results in dynamic changes that oppose the increase without completely wiping it out (negative feedback), systems where increasing parameter F results in dynamic changes that on net neither oppose nor enhance the increase (no feedback), systems where increasing parameter F results in dynamic changes that enhance the increase, but at less-than-unity (that is, each unit of F is worth 0<n1 increase) (runaway positive feedback).

            Climate feedbacks are almost certainly positive. They are almost certainly not runaway positive, at least in any climate state that’s existed on Earth before. I don’t know how control theory uses those terms, but in climate science that’s what it means.

        • “and pretty surprising from a dynamics point of view if the feedback isn’t positive.”

          Could you expand on that? I thought everyone agreed that there could be both positive (water vapor) and negative (albedo) feedbacks, so that the conclusion that the net feedback was positive depended on data, not theory.

          • James Picone says:

            I swear I’ve seen an excellent chart showing estimated magnitudes of particular feedbacks, but I can’t find it now. I did find this completely-irrelevant-but-interesting history of IPCC radiative forcing charts, though.

            The straightforward answer is just that every single published ECS estimate with most of its probability mass >1c is claiming net positive feedback, and there are /extremely few/ published ECS estimates with substantial probability mass <1c. Here’s the IPCC’s list of ones based on mostly direct measurement (and some based on the Last Glacial Maximum for some reason). Energy-balance approaches like most of those studies tend to underestimate climate sensitivity, as well – that’s a known drawback to the mechanism. Paleoclimate studies tend to generate higher values, but it’s not clear whether that’s because it’s including slow feedbacks that aren’t relevant on a century-long timescale.

            If you’re just trying to Fermi up an estimate, notice that water vapour is easily the largest feedback by magnitude, and is positive.

            (Are you talking about surface albedo or cloud albedo? IIRC surface albedo is thought to be a weak positive feedback, because melting ice -> lower albedo -> more energy absorbed. Cloud albedo is negative of uncertain magnitude, and is probably one of the least constrained values here. Net cloud feedback is also uncertain as a result, could be slightly positive to very negative).

          • James Picone writes:

            “The straightforward answer is just that every single published ECS estimate with most of its probability mass >1c is claiming net positive feedback”

            I wouldn’t be surprised. But I was responding to the claim that it would be “pretty surprising from a dynamics point of view if the feedback isn’t positive.”

            That appears to be a claim not about what the data show but about what they have to show on theoretical grounds.

          • James Picone says:

            “Basically every scientist studying the matter concludes that it would be surprising” seems like a strong argument to me.

            On theoretical grounds – again, water vapour is easily the biggest feedback, and it’s positive. There are very few identified negative feedbacks. And a climate with net negative feedback likely never leaves ice ages.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m not following this global warming debate at all but I see no apparent contradiction between believing “warming ended in 1998” and “2016 will be warmer than 1986”.
      If warming ceased in 1998 taking the 30 years bet would result in losing it for 13 years straight even if you are right.

      • James Picone says:

        Heartland claims that the warming is natural variation; that combined with the pause stuff implies pretty strongly that we’re at a peak, and should then expect a reduction. Notice the vague planetary-cooling prediction from the NIPCC.

        Would be basically impossible for that bet to go anywhere other than towards CSICOP for the next few years, though, yes (assuming no large volcanic eruptions etc. etc.).

        • Wrong Species says:

          Next year obviously won’t decide anything but I think 15 years might. If there is no significant warming between now and 2030, then it will put the pro global warming crowd in an awkward position.

          • ryan says:

            I don’t share your confidence. The pro crowd wasn’t brought to their position by correct predictions. That doesn’t seem to be an issue for them. So long as the IPCC et al keep on humming, I think their cultural allies will stick by them.

    • Gbdub says:

      Can someone better versed in this explain why the “pause” SHOULDN’T significantly reduce my confidence in climate predictions? I’ve seen some post hoc explanations for “where the heat went” and that the “pause” was covered by the predictions (just barely, and in models that predicted a slower but steady trend, not a sudden stop). But these don’t seem to escape the conclusion that there were substantial gaps in our understanding of the climate long after the “science was settled”. What’s to say that now we’ve got all the parameters right?

      The big issue for me is that the pause period is something like 2 decades – and the entirety of the strong evidence for anthropogenic warning comes from at best a century. 20% of the data (the most recent, and only predicted 20%) failing to match your model seems pretty bad, not just a blip in a solid long term trend.

      • Tom Womack says:

        “The pause period” isn’t a meaningful thing to talk about from a statistical point of view; records are a really bad way to summarise noisy statistical data (can you sensibly say that people have not got better at the 800-metres since 1983 when the current world record was set?)

        There’s weather in the short term, there’s climate in the long term, and there are awkward things like el Nino events which fit between them; 1998 had an anomalously hot el Nino event.

        • “1998 had an anomalously hot el Nino event.”

          I think that’s correct. It is the reason that I date the pause from 2002, since when temperature has been pretty close to flat.

        • Gbdub says:

          But it’s not like the data post 1998 follows the pre-1998 trend with 1998 as a single outlier. Yes, anomalously high 1998 made it look worse, but the running average has been flatter for the last 20 years than for any time since the mid 20th century.

          Your last point is what bothers me – it’s not clear we can dismiss 15 or 20 years as “weather” while staking our hat to a “climate” change that’s been going on for <100 years. Those strike me as same order of magnitude. Even IPCC scientists seem to be comfortable admitting that this trend is unlikely and requires better explanation.

          Climate scientists explain the apparent pause through things like multi-decadal ocean and trade wind fluctuations, and some heat getting trapped in the deep ocean. But evidence for this is controversial – apparently a NASA study couldn't find any deep-ocean warming. Either way, this potential impact of the ocean is not something that was even able to be studied until quite recently – which seems to require a reduction in confidence of our models going back to past centuries. When you tell me there's big multi-decadal changes going on that you can't fully explain or apparently predict, but you're totally confident that a trend that only started 100 years ago will continue indefinitely, well, it's hard NOT to be skeptical.

          TL:DR version: even now, there seems to be substantial, legitimate uncertainty sufficient to create a not fully explained 15-20 year break in the trend of AGW. What other unknowns are hiding out there, and why should I believe that our prediction of the next 30 years is going to be much better?

          • ryan says:

            I would relish some accidental slip of the tongue where someone says “increased greenhouse gas concentrations have caused surface temperature to accumulate over the last century.”

            The magnitude of my enjoyment would be about the same as how impressed I am that climate scientists can know how much heat accumulated in the oceans from say 1890-1930 with almost no error.

      • I think the pause is real, despite various people trying to argue it isn’t. A while back, I did a linear regression of the webbed NASA data starting in 2002, because eyeballing the data that seemed to be when the warming stopped. The slope was very slightly negative. There’s one more year of data now, and my guess is that including it would make the slope slightly positive, but I haven’t checked.

        My interpretation, based mostly on eyeballing the data, is that the pattern reflects the sum of two trends, one a roughly linear increase due to AGW, one a roughly sinusoidal perturbation with a period of about sixty years. That explains the mid-century pause, during which temperature was constant to declining from about 1940 to 1970. Also the fact that warming started in about 1911. My guess is that the perturbation has something to do with heat moving between the atmosphere and the ocean, the ocean being the obvious place to put large amounts of heat with little visible effect, and I’ve seen a reference to at least one paper providing a mechanism.

        The IPCC special cased the earlier pause as due to particulates in the air. There doesn’t seem to have been a good theoretical basis in advance for predicting the size or even the sign of such an effect, so it looks like adding another parameter in order to explain a deviation from the model. It might be right, but it looks less plausible once one observes the pause reappearing more or less on schedule.

        If my interpretation is correct, the IPCC has probably overestimated climate sensitivity and over predicted future warming by taking the periods when the perturbation reinforced AGW as the norm.

        • Gbdub says:

          Your last paragraph is a concern I share – if the pause is a result of some sort of periodic fluctuation, it doesn’t seem like climate scientists are appropriately discounting past warming for similar fluctuations.

          Basically, they’re taking a 50 year trend and calling it nominal, even if the same fluctuation causing the current pause may have been “artificially” increasing past temperatures on the upswing.

        • James Picone says:

          There’s not enough data to find a sinusoid in global average surface temperature with anything like confidence. Mostly because it’s really easy to fit nearly anything with a linear trend and a sinusoid.

          You know full well that the uncertainty on a 2002-present linear trend is massive and includes the prior-to-2002 trend.

      • James Picone says:

        There’s no statistical evidence of a change in trend past 1970 in the data – that is, there’s no ‘pause’.

        There’s the visual appearance of a pause because 1998 was stupid-warm, and eyeball-mk-1 is terrible at stats.

        This realclimate post does some stats stuff, including the output of a changepoint analysis on global temperature.

        The blogger Tamino is a statistician, and has written several blog posts about the pause. This one demonstrates that post-1998 temperatures fit on the pre-1998 trendline easily. This blog post is Tamino doing changepoint analysis on global temperature data. And this one might make it clear why linear trends from 1998 or 2002 are less than impressive – year-to-year temperature is both very noisy and autocorrelated, so the uncertainty in trends over periods as short as 17 years is massive. The uncertainty in the 1998-present trendline includes the 1979-1998 trendline because of that.

        From a climate point of view, talking about a pause since 1998 is only slightly more respectable than talking about a pause since last week.

        Oh it’s worth noting that most of the “Look here’s a pause!” charts use the RSS satellite dataset, which shows the least warming since 1979 of any of the four major temperature datasets, partially because the satellite record measures lower trophosphere temperature, not surface temperature, and responds much more to el-Nino/la-Nina than the surface record, partially because satellite temperature measurements are Really Damn Hard and require substantial adjustment and there’s some question over whether RSS has cold biases, and partially because the satellite measurements don’t include much of the poles, which warm faster.

        • James Picone says:

          SkS trend calculator: https://www.skepticalscience.com/trend.php

          Play with that, it’ll give you 2-sigma uncertainties for linear trends over arbitrary timescales on temperature data.

        • Gbdub says:

          Not to be flip, but every graph I’ve seen looks like it has a flat spot since ~2000, even if I cover up/ignore 1998. This seems effectively unprecedented over the last half of the 20th century, when AGW was supposedly the dominant factor in global temperature change. And several IPCC scientists have talked credibly about the pause, and NASA has looked into pause-related ocean conditions. So am I supposed to trust the scientists or not?

          The fact that you can fit 15 years of non-warming into a 2-sigma model (barely) does not particularly boost my confidence in dire predictions for 50 years from now.

          I’m not a statistician, just a lowly rocket scientist that runs Monte Carlo sims all day, but I can tell you if I showed something like the global average temp 5 year moving average to my bosses and said “don’t worry about explaining this flat bit up here, it’s within the 2-sigma bounds” that wouldn’t cut it. If you’re planning massive societal intervention, I’d like a model that reflects reality a bit better than that.

          • James Picone says:

            What if you explicitly draw the pre-1998 (or pre-whichever-point-you-think-the-pause-starts) trendline in, like Tamino did in the blog post I linked? Here’s the graph you get with GISTEMP. Other datasets look similar, although the satellite datasets it’s a much shallower trendline.

            Are rocket Monte-Carlo simulations anything like as noisy as temperature data? Look at that graph – there are single-year jumps of something like 1.5C. Meanwhile, the trend is ~0.45 / 34 = 0.13 C/year. The noise is more than ten times larger than the signal.

            It’s not like we haven’t had periods like that before. Here’s 1980->1995. Looks pretty flat. Here’s one where the entire 1970-presentish (it ends in february 2014) range is covered by several negative-to-flat trends.

            2014 is the best candidate for warmest year ever. 2015 is looking like it’ll beat it. Of the ten warmest years on record, only 1998 isn’t in the 21st century.

            I’m really not sure what else I can say here. The stats are what the stats are, and there’s not enough evidence to conclude that the trend from any point after the 1970s is different from the trend since the 1970s. Even at 2-sigma, even not correcting for deliberately selecting a warm outlier to start the trend on. Eyeballs are great at seeing patterns, so great that they’ll see them even when there isn’t enough data to justify it. Don’t trust your lying eyes – trust the maths. Surely that applies to Monte-Carlo rocket simulation just as much as any other mathematical subject?

          • Wrong Species says:

            @James

            Notice how much longer the flat trend is on this last one. The only reason we haven’t deviated from the trend line is because there was such a big jump in the 90’s. If average GDP growth was 3% and then it hit 6% for 5 years straight, GDP might still be above the trend line if there was a recession for two years. It might not be time to declare a “new normal” but it would be a lie to declare that the economy had never stopped “statistically increasing”.

            Regardless of whether you want to call it a pause or not, there is still the problem that much more warming was predicted than we got.

          • James Picone says:

            @Wrong Species:
            Nope, 1980->1995 is flatter than other pause periods of similar length (all uncertainties 2sigma, using GISTEMP):
            1999->2014: 0.090 +- 0.136
            1998->2013: 0.066 +- 0.143
            1998->2014: 0.062 +- 0.127 (17 years)
            1980->1995: 0.057 +- 0.158

            2001->2014: 0.013 +- 0.156 is flatter, but shorter – only 14 years.

            For comparison:
            1975->1998: 0.163 +- 0.084 (23 years)

            I’m not entirely certain what you’re getting at RE: GDP growth. I’m not saying ‘statistically single year temperatures haven’t been below the trendline’ (‘GDP growth hasn’t gone negative’), it wouldn’t be a trendline if there weren’t temperatures below it. I’m saying that the trendline from the 1970s up to the present day fits the data better than a piecewise linear function with a break anywhere after the 1970s. This is a mathematical claim. It’s directly testable. You can test it.

            (The GDP-growth example is probably not amazing because GDP-growth is a trend on an exponential function, and temperature is not a measurement of trend of some underlying function).

            Hell, just for fun I can play the opposite game – the trend from 1992->2006 is 0.309 +- 0.171. That’s nearly twice as much as the 1970->present trend! For 15 whole years!

            If, in 2006, someone had pointed that out to you, would you conclude that global warming was worse than the IPCC was suggesting? Notice, incidentally, that the IPCC didn’t use that trend in reports.

            We’re still within the model envelope, and I don’t know why people keep claiming we’re outside of it. The model envelope is friggin’ gigantic. They’re not supposed to predict el-Nino events or natural variation, they’re supposed to predict climate. And they do that better than naive models – Hansen’s written-in-1984, published-in-1988 model does better than assuming no change would have in 1984, for example: here. (Although you have to be careful with it because there are three scenarios and we haven’t matched any of them perfectly, and also Hansen had a slightly different CO2 forcing value than is considered correct now – 4 W/m**2 vs 3.7 W/m**2 – so you end up having to consider forcing growth for each scenario vs real world instead of simple GHG emissions).

    • Anthony says:

      The problem with The actual bet is essentially “land-only 2016 will be warmer than 1986″, is that it’s like betting “[baseball team] will not lose by more than 5”. If CSICOP wants a fair bet, it will offer Heartland or other skeptics a bet that some temperature series (as currently defined) will not be lower than the average of the climate model predictions at some time down the road. So if the predicted rise is 2.3 degrees C, CSICOP should pay out if the rise is less than that. I’d even be willing to spot them half a standard deviation at even odds – if the predicted rise in temperature in the highest 69% of model predictions (or the value of mean minus ½ sigma) is at least 1.8, CSICOP wins the bet if the actual rise is at least 1.8.

      • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

        But that would let Heartland off the hook for its own over-ambitious prediction. Why not a three-valued wager, in which if Heartland passes (a suitably corrected version of) the original test it gets CSI’s money; if the GCMs turn out to validate after all CSI gets Heartland’s money; and in the highly likely event of neither of these happening, everyone keeps their money?

      • James Picone says:

        Why would CSICOP want to take a bet that they would lose 50% of the time in the event they were right?

    • ryan says:

      According to: http://www.breitbart.com/london/2015/06/16/exclusive-well-all-be-dead-before-climate-change-orgs-admit-theyre-wrong-says-mp/ some guys went around a Royal Society meeting asking how long would surface temperature need to stay pretty much flat before you decide you were wrong about this global warming problem, and the answer they gave was 50 years (as in 2065).

      Really have to admire their commitment.

      Richard Feynman said one of the most difficult problems with testing the standard model of particle physics was doing the math and figuring out exactly what the model actually predicted. But at least they had foundation to work from. There’s no formal theory of [CO2]-forced climate change, just some related postulates and climate models. So the question of what in particular does “the theory” predict is a doozy.

      I once asked that question in an internet forum and had this interesting exchange:

      Me: What, and please be very specific, testable predictions does the theory of ACC make?

      Reply: Equilibrium climate sensitivity is between 2.0 and 4.5 degrees Celsius.

      Me: By what metric do we determine that equilibrium has been reached?

      Reply: When all feedbacks have resolved.

      Me: By what metric do we determine that all feedbacks have resolved?

      Reply: Depends on the feedback.

      Me: Could you give an example?

      And that’s where the conversation ended. But from this perspective the Royal Society is in quite the hurry, as the general idea is that feedbacks will resolve in something like 2500-3000 years. So it is of course a technically testable prediction, the best kind of testable prediction. Unless of course something unexpected happens which throws off the experiment. A possibility.

      I would say that if Heartland and CSI do set up this bet, they largely deserve each other. In the meantime let all of us continue to assert that morality requires unshaking belief in the correctness of an only moderately coherent and generally untestable hypothesis.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        “Unless of course something unexpected happens which throws off the experiment. A possibility.”

        Given the current rate of technological progress, I’m compelled to regard “possibility” as a tongue-in-cheek understatement. It’s one of the things that bothers me about the impetus to do something about climate change. The most dire IPCC claims are in the ballpark of ten-degree changes over the next century, by which time we’ll have invented who-knows-what. For example, by then, I expect we’ll have a pretty good handle on how to terraform Mars, and there’ll be machines there, busily mining the air, extracting and melting ice, etc. It’s more likely IMO that we’ll be able to directly address imminent climactic features as fast as they manifest. Meanwhile, we adapt to temperature changes of 60+ degrees on a 6-month cycle now, routinely.

        • ryan says:

          In 2000 years when they thaw out my brain and upload my consciousness to the matrix, if human beings don’t have very active control over the weather, I’m going to think out a tweet about how very disappointed I am in them.

          Of course adaptation and mitigation are the appropriate response to any potential climate change problem. Which is why I think it’s so obvious that when it comes to energy policy and climate science the tail is wagging the dog.

        • Harald K says:

          The paradox of technological progress is that if the techno deus-ex-machina comes to save us, it will be despite people like ryan. For technology to come along and save us, technology has to realize there’s a problem to be solved, and if you oppose, say, carbon taxes, there isn’t very much problem to be solved from the market’s perspective.

          When “the market” decides to dismiss environmental concerns/repeal environmental legislation/block environmental legislation that would otherwise have passed, I suppose it’s a bit like your AI that hacks its own reward function.

          • “and if you oppose, say, carbon taxes, there isn’t very much problem to be solved from the market’s perspective.”

            There is a problem to be solved–fossil fuel costs money. So there is an incentive to find less expensive substitutes. There isn’t an incentive to find substitutes that cost more than fossil fuel but less than you think fossil fuel ought to cost with a suitable carbon tax.

            Your argument depends on the claim that global warming produces net costs. I’ve been arguing at some length in various places, including here, that there is no good reason to believe that. Warming will produce both costs and benefits, the size of both is uncertain, there is no good reason to expect the costs to be larger than the benefits and some reason, well short of certainty, to expect the benefits to be larger than the costs.

          • Alraune says:

            For technology to come along and save us, technology has to realize there’s a problem to be solved.

            Claiming technology doesn’t realize it needs to give us more powerful energy sources is like claiming technology doesn’t realize it needs to make us all immortal and kill all our enemies. Those are the primary problems technology exists to solve.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Alraune:

            @David Friedman has the crux of the argument right.

            Those who believe the science that predicts AGW also believe that rapid induced climate change has negative externalities. The market doesn’t solve externality problems on its own.

            Saying that the market will try and provide power at a cheaper price per unit by either increasing power output or decreasing cost is not the same thing as saying the market will try and reduce externalities.

            For a community that cares as much about AGI as this one seems to, I’m surprised that people don’t think that the risk of dire outcomes from AGW warrants action.

          • Alraune says:

            I think it warrants migration out of some marginal environments, and probably geoengineering.

          • Tom Womack says:

            ‘I think it warrants migration out of some marginal environments’

            That’s fine, except that those marginal environments include Mumbai, Lagos, the whole country of Bangladesh, all the giant capital cities of West Africa, most of the state of Louisiana; migration out of any one of those would be on the scale of the rearrangement-of-populations after World War Two, which is only not remembered as a hideous catastrophe because of the more hideous catastrophe than preceded it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Alraune:

            That’s a little like saying you think Clippy warrants being nuked from orbit. It’s not a statement about reducing the risk of Clippy occurring, it’s a statement about a presumed method of dealing with Clippy once Clippy happens.

            And intentional geoengineering to combat side-effect geoengineering has it’s own risks, separate from the risk that it simply doesn’t work, so this really doesn’t address my basic contention.

          • John Schilling says:

            The market doesn’t solve externality problems on its own

            Not in the general case. If, e.g., runoff from the local paper mill is polluting a river, the quest for cheaper paper doesn’t necessarily give you less pollution.

            But in this specific case, the modal energy source for fixed power is coal, and the modal energy source for transportation is petroleum. Those are what drive the price structure the market is trying to beat. And those are also, coincidentally, the most carbon-intensive practical energy sources. So, in this specific case, a free market’s efforts to reduce prices, will incidentally reduce the carbon footprint as well.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:

            That’s not necessarily true. For instance, the search for cheaper energy gives you mountain top mining which actually increases rather than reduces externalities. Even if, say, solar reduces in Price Per Watt below various fossil fuels, all that does is force fossil fuels to look for even cheaper ways to extract.

            To some very real extent, the drive for fossil fuels when competing with carbon neutral sources is a drive to increase externalities. See the the court case decided today against the EPA in the regulation of mercury emitted by coal plants.

            Edit: Looked at another way, on the margin, every single producer of anything would love to increase externalities if it lowers their own costs.

          • John Schilling says:

            @HeelBearCub:

            Please stop using the word, “externalities”. That word is a plural, whereas the rest of us are talking about one specific externality. That externality is atmospheric CO2 emissions, and global warming to the extent that this correlates with atmospheric CO2. I do not believe anyone here has claimed that the free market automatically resolves externalities in general, only that it may be reasonably expected to resolve this one specific externality. And I thought I was clear and specific on this being a local, coincidental exception to the general rule that markets don’t do externalities well.

            Mountain top mining may have plenty of negative externalities, but a greatly enhanced carbon footprint seems unlikely to be one of them. The solution space for cheaper power includes things that will have little net impact on CO2 emissions, and things that will greatly reduce CO2 emissions, but (coincidentally, in this specific case, can I stop repeating that now?) not much that greatly increases CO2 emissions. By the time the market is finished trying everything it can, CO2 emissions will have gone down. And if we’ve turned the EPA into the all-global-warming, nothing-but-global-warming regulatory agency, maybe we’ll have some conspicuous wastelands where used to be scenic mountains, etc, but mostly carbon-neutral wastelands.

            And, since you bring it up, cheap solar power doesn’t force coal miners to look for cheaper ways to extract. Competition from other coal miners already does that, more directly and more efficiently. If the coal industry does come up with a new mining technique that’s as cheap as solar, then A: that’s still carbon-neutral, and B: if it’s cheap solar that actually motivated this, then that means somebody is actually using enough cheap solar to cut into their profits. So, we hypothetically get a combination of a carbon-neutral solution and a zero-carbon solution.

            But after a couple hundred years of industrial-scale coal mining, I wouldn’t expect “improvement” in that field to outpace solar.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @HeelBearCub – “And intentional geoengineering to combat side-effect geoengineering has it’s own risks, separate from the risk that it simply doesn’t work, so this really doesn’t address my basic contention.”

            The argument that it CAN’T work doesn’t seem very compatible with the climate change perspective in the first place, and presumably we’d have something like a century to get it right?

            The general response to geoengineering proposals from the Climate Change side is part of why I have a really hard time believing them. Climate Change has been pitched as an existential threat to our entire civilization for at least two decades, and I remember Global Warming being ten years from wrecking the world a decade before that. In all that time, we’ve made pretty much zero progress at curbing co2 emissions, and that doesn’t look to be changing in the immediate future. And yet, the only solutions anyone is willing to discuss are regulatory schemes and taxes. That doesn’t seem to add up.

            Surely if Climate Change is as dire as predicted, all options should be on the table? What makes geoengineering more dangerous than Climate Change itself?

            [EDIT] – Ditto for nuclear power. Again, near-perfect solution, some downsides, but definitely preferable to the collapse of our civilization, and the vast majority of the resistance to it comes from Climate-Change-adjacent groups.

          • Adam says:

            The IPCC is supportive of nuclear energy:

            Nuclear power is therefore an effective GHG mitigation option, especially through license extensions of existing plants enabling investments in retro-fitting and upgrading. Nuclear power currently avoids approximately 2.2–2.6 GtCO2/yr if that power were instead produced from coal (WNA, 2003; Rogner, 2003) or 1.5 GtCO2/yr if using the world average CO2 emissions for electricity production in 2000 of 540 gCO2/kWh (WEC, 2001). However, Storm van Leeuwen and Smith (2005) give much higher figures for the GHG emissions from ore processing and construction and decommissioning of nuclear power plants.

            Climate Change 2007: Mitigation of Climate Change

            They put out a report on geoengineering but it didn’t get official working group endorsement:

            IPCC Expert Meeting on Geoengineering

            Personally, I’m broadly supportive of any measure that brings clear instances of market failure closer to a pure competition model, and tradeable pollution credits seem to fit that mold pretty well (they worked for sulfur dioxide), but I frankly don’t see how any sort of cap-and-trade scheme or even outright regulation of absolute allowed emissions levels will work in this particular case, just because of the global scale and the fact that any one country, even the U.S., in the long run can’t make much of a difference on its own. Geoengineering or just some form of technology allowing us to adapt to changed conditions (something like a molecular printer to make food without farming), is probably the only realistic long-run mitigator. Thankfully, “long run” still probably means past the end of my own lifetime.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Adam – “The IPCC is supportive of nuclear energy…”

            Good to see, but why the resistance from what one would presume to be their allies in the broader climate change movement? Where’s the broad social push for Nuclear power that we see for carbon regulation or taxing?

            Thanks very much for the link to the geoengineering report; I’ll read that when I get off work tonight.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:

            First off, I’m not sure why you felt the need to bold some stuff for emotional effect.

            Second, in your original comment you said “So, in this specific case, a free market’s efforts to reduce prices, will incidentally reduce the carbon footprint as well.”

            Now you are saying it will be either carbon neutral or reduce it, which is a weaker claim. As you said, the reduction of the carbon footprint is merely incidental. It assumes that non-CO2 emitting technologies can be made cheaper than CO2 emitting ones.

            If the market figures out how to extract fossil fuels in even cheaper manner, or the existing regulatory structure is altered in such a manner that the existing costs due to some other currently regulated externality was not imposed, then the market won’t address the carbon issue at all.

            I’m not sure why you think that carbon-free sources of power are guaranteed to be cheaper than those which emit carbon. If that is the crux of your argument, can you expand on it?

          • John Schilling says:

            I am saying that each individual measure taken by the market will be either carbon-neutral or carbon-negative, and therefore the sum total of market efforts will be carbon-negative.

            The market doesn’t do just one thing, which is why we have e.g. more than one type of powerplant. And in another generation of cost-reduction efforts, we’ll have still more types of powerplants – some of which will emit much less CO2 than what we have now, and none of which will emit much more.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:

            How is this different than the argument that, before regulation of runoff from paper mills, that the market was already solving runoff from paper mills in an incidental manner? Is it because you think we are so mature in the fossil-fuel industry that we can’t possibly carbon pollute any more than we already do now?

            When you look at things like tar-sands extraction, assuming that is made as cheap as other sources, that is actually more polluting, in terms of carbon, than other sources (probably negligible, but still, there is a point there vis-a-vis whether your assumptions about fossil fuel are correct).

            Nothing will make me happier than if carbon-free sources of power arrive at being cheaper (enough) than carbon-polluting sources, and I certainly think that it is possible. If that happens then, yes the market will mostly take care of phasing out fossil fuels.

            There is still the question of whether carbon-free sources get cheap enough fast enough to avert great external costs. To some extent, its too late on that front. We will have great cost. Its more a question of how great the cost.

          • John Schilling says:

            It’s not about maturity. A hundred years ago, most of our power came from coal, the fuel with the worst possible carbon footprint. Here and now, most of our fixed power still comes from coal; transportation has shifted to the slightly less CO2-intensive petroleum.

            The difference between energy production and paper production is that the paper industry does not presently implement the solutions that generate the worst plausible level of toxic runoff, but the energy industry does presently implement the solutions that generate the worst plausible level of CO2 emissions. That’s purely a matter of coincidence. not intent. But it means that the market has no place to go but better, in the area of energy-related CO2 emissions.

            Indeed, seeing that the energy industry is paying fifty dollars up front for every ton of carbon it emits, there’s a pretty powerful incentive to make things a lot better. And will continue to be even if improvements elsewhere cut the price of coal mining in half.

          • “For a community that cares as much about AGI as this one seems to, I’m surprised that people don’t think that the risk of dire outcomes from AGW warrants action.”

            You are assuming zero risk of dire outcomes from action to prevent AGW. The end of the current interglacial, to take the most obvious example, would impose larger costs on humanity than most of the high cost/low probability outcomes in the other direction.

            You are also assuming dire outcomes that happen fast enough so that there isn’t time between their becoming obvious and becoming dire to do anything about them.

            “That’s fine, except that those marginal environments include Mumbai, Lagos, the whole country of Bangladesh, all the giant capital cities of West Africa, most of the state of Louisiana;”

            How large a sea level rise are you assuming? Checking the flood map at:

            http://flood.firetree.net/?ll=-27.839076094777802,138.1640625&z=13&m=7

            I observe that seven meters, seven times the upper bound of the high emission projection for 2100, leaves most of Mumbai and almost all of Louisiana above water. I didn’t check the rest, but the one map I’ve seen that shows a substantial fraction of Bangladesh flooded was, if I remember correctly, for 250 years in the future–produced by a government funded agency as part of an argument for why other countries should give, not lend, money to the Bangladesh government.

            Or in other words, unless you anticipate a sea level rise in the tens of meters, your assertion is a wild exaggeration.

          • Harald K says:

            “…And those are also, coincidentally, the most carbon-intensive practical energy sources. So, in this specific case, a free market’s efforts to reduce prices, will incidentally reduce the carbon footprint as well.”

            It’s not that simple. What replaces one source may well be something worse. Even if the market lucks out and delivers less pollution, it’s going to underdeliver unless there is a cost attached to the pollution. Underdelivery matters.

            Alraune, you’re the last we should listen to when you talk of what is warranted, since you don’t accept the science. I also wonder how you imagine “migration out of some marginal environments, and probably geoengineering” could be achieved without much bigger government than a fully refunded carbon tax would need. Sometimes I think you’re just trying to spread noise.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Harald K:
            “Alraune, you’re the last we should listen to when you talk of what is warranted, since you don’t accept the science.”

            First off, that was @John Schilling’s argument, not @Alraune’s. I think he is broadly correct that we just happen to be in a situation where the first exploited fossil resource also happens to be the least efficient in terms of CO2 per Watt, although this might be akin to spritzing water on someone who is standing in lava.

            As to your point about Alraune, pointing out someones biases is relevant. Saying that they should not be listened to because of those biases is wrong.

            Make the argument, above all else.

          • Alraune says:

            How do you imagine “migration out of some marginal environments, and probably geoengineering” could be achieved without much bigger government than a fully refunded carbon tax would need?

            Migration takes place person by person, and the most plausible geoengineering schemes are the ones that could be implemented by a relatively small number of interested actors. Neither requires “bigger government.”

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          Good to see, but why the resistance from what one would presume to be their allies in the broader climate change movement? Where’s the broad social push for Nuclear power that we see for carbon regulation or taxing?

          Everything may be different in different countries (US here), but here are a few reasons some of us aren’t very interested.
          We never believed the super doomsday stuff anyway. Realistic warnings about environmental degradation were enough to go on, and we’re less interested in fringey edge ideas and more interested in boring possible middle ground.
          Nuclear stuff is inherently dangerous, and little understood. Talking about how much better it is understood and handled now than fifty years ago … or how much safer Model X is than Model Y … isn’t very impressive when looked at from a Bayesian distance.
          All this focus on carbon seems very narrow. A tree farm of young trees may do better with carbon, but the native forest of mixed species and mixed ages is better for other reasons.
          The whole carbon/GW thing may have holes in it. It’s just numbers … and so is the claim that Model N Nuclear Plant is better on carbon than Model X of something else. Next year’s figures may be different, but building a nuclear plant is a big expense and big committment; after you’ve built Model N, we’re stuck with it. Better the money should go to better clean renewable projects, which are smaller, shorter, and build on what was learned in the previous project. The fossil fuel industry is full of dinosaurs, but a crop of nuclear dinosaurs set in cement is not the best way to replace them.
          I hope that’s enough reasons for our lack of enthusiasm.

          Carbon regulation and taxing don’t lock us into any current technologies; they leave invention free.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “Nuclear stuff is inherently dangerous, and little understood. ”

            What? No it isn’t- its no more dangerous than any other method of power generation.

            “isn’t very impressive when looked at from a Bayesian distance.”

            What are you talking about? Nuclear safety record in the west is fantastic.

            “Next year’s figures may be different, but building a nuclear plant is a big expense and big committment; after you’ve built Model N, we’re stuck with it”

            Yes, because its operating costs are so low you won’t have an incentive to replace it. That isn’t a bad thing.

            There also is plans to build smaller, more modular nuclear power plants. It isn’t inevitable that nuclear power plants are large.

            ” Better the money should go to better clean renewable projects, which are smaller, shorter, and build on what was learned in the previous project.”

            Damns aren’t exactly smaller and shorter. I’ll assume you are talking about wind and solar. I don’t think they are capable of providing the amount of energy the world needs. You need a solution that provides the current amount power plants output, plus the current amount cars use (because we will be switching them to electric) plus the amount the third world will also be using as it transitions to first world conditions.

          • Protagoras says:

            I actually tend to believe the stories of the nuclear advocates about how safe and cost effective nuclear could be with more advanced and efficient designs and more sensible regulations. But despite decades of promises, in practice nuclear has turned out to be quite expensive, always much more expensive than advocates promise. Now, admittedly, in specific cases it is easy to point to seemingly avoidable reasons for this; various bureaucratic and other hurdles and whatnot, producing waste and inefficiency. But these avoidable problems never seem to end up being successfully avoided in practice. I have a few armchair theories as to why, but the crucial point is that until somebody does have a good story as to why things always go wrong, and a well-evidenced explanation of how they will actually fix those problems in the real world in a way nobody else has managed before, it just doesn’t look all that promising. Especially with the price of solar dropping like a stone.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            ” in practice nuclear has turned out to be quite expensive, always much more expensive than advocates promise.”

            Doesn’t that depend heavily on the country? I am under the impression the Chinese and French managed to carry out their programs relatively cheaply.

            “Now, admittedly, in specific cases it is easy to point to seemingly avoidable reasons for this; various bureaucratic and other hurdles and whatnot, producing waste and inefficiency. But these avoidable problems never seem to end up being successfully avoided in practice.”

            I’m not seeing how you’d expect nuclear power plants to avoid bureaucratic hurdles. I mean lets take the US where they were going to have a place to store nuclear waste (Yucca)… and then Obama canceled it. I’m not seeing what the industry could have done differently.

          • Protagoras says:

            @Skinner, French nuclear power (I don’t know much about the Chinese program, and distrust Chinese official statistics anyway) is cheaper than nuclear power in many other countries. Nonetheless, it is not consistently cheaper than other energy sources (energy prices vary greatly over time, of course), and not nearly as cheap as the usual promises of nuclear advocates about how cheap nuclear can be. To deliver on its promise, nuclear would have to find a way to take whatever the French did right and take it much further, or find other sources of cost savings.

            On your other point, I see that you don’t understand me, though I didn’t think I had been unclear. Nuclear advocates claim that we should be pursuing nuclear. In order for that to work well, bureaucratic hurdles would have to be cleared. Presumably, nuclear advocates believe this can be done. I imagine this is on the basis that what is done by government policy can be undone by adopting a different government policy. My point was that the long dismal track record of nuclear suggested that the bureaucratic hurdles are not actually that easy to remove (since nobody’s managed it before), and may in fact be impossible to avoid. Again, I have my theories about why that might be, but the exact reason is less important than that this clearly is a much less tractable problem than the nuclear enthusiasts seem willing to admit.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @houseboatonstyx – “We never believed the super doomsday stuff anyway.”

            Carbon taxes (or large tax schemes of any kind, to be fair) seem like a bad idea to me. Without the super doomsday stuff, why would I support them?

            I feel that you’re highlighting the heart of the problem: The modern environmentalist movement seems caught in a contradiction. The situation is dire, so we need a massive new regulatory scheme to protect us from disastrous climate change, but also the situation is not so dire that we should consider geoengineering or mass deployment of nuclear power. The apparent contradiction erodes my confidence that this is an issue that should be taken seriously.

            Needless to say, there’s a serious conflict between how you describe the issue and how the issue is described to the public. That’s not your fault, obviously, but doesn’t that disconnect concern you?

            @Protagoras – Interesting points. Obviously if, say, 15 billion worth of solar power plants delivers the same energy as 15 billion worth of nuclear power plants, I’d vastly prefer the solar. I would be very surprised to find that was true, though, especially minus government incentives and such for solar. At that point, why worry about carbon at all, if we’re inevitably going to switch to clean and abundant solar-based electricity?

            If regulatory and bureaucratic issues hamstring Nuclear power, might that not be attributable to the intense lobbying against nuclear power by the environmental movement? If so, it’s a bit unfair to claim that nuclear can’t be done because of red tape, while actively wielding the red tape dispenser.

            Is climate change a crisis that requires drastic action to avoid, or is it a normal-cost-of-doing-business change that imposes costs in line with other national issues? I feel that people in this thread seem to be arguing both at different points. That doesn’t seem kosher.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Faceless Craven:
            “At that point, why worry about carbon at all, if we’re inevitably going to switch to clean and abundant solar-based electricity?”

            Why worry about whether the car ends up in the ravine, as long as we are going to turn at some point?

            It’s only been very recently that it looked like sure that solar could outpace fossil fuels (which benefit from subsidies themselves). At least some of that momentum comes from the amount of money put into very unsure clean power tech over the last 30 years. At least some more of that momentum comes from the risk that the carbon external cost does start to be pushed back on the emitters.

            Broadly, those who worry about AGW have been doing what they can to get the car to turn before it crashes. To now say, “Well it looks like we will make it, so what was the fuss about?” ignores how much effort has gone into turning the wheel and keep the wheel from turning back.

            “Is climate change a crisis that requires drastic action to avoid, or is it a normal-cost-of-doing-business change that imposes costs in line with other national issues?”

            I don’t think that coalition politics can be ignored here. There was a brief period, before all out opposition to anything Blue became the Red strategy post 2008 election, when Newt Gingrich and Nancy Pelosi appeared in adds together saying we had to do something about climate change. When Red decided that they would turn back to denying climate change, etc. that means the only possible alliance on the issue is left. No point in pissing off the left side when it doesn’t get you any support on the right.

            There is the very real issue that I don’t think any country has actually implemented a long term high level nuclear waste strategy. There is also the very real issue that when a nuclear accident goes bad, it goes really, really bad (Fukishima, Chernobyl). MIT estimates that we will have 4 serious nuclear accidents every 50 years.

            I’m not sure how much we would have to increase nuclear power to replace fossil fuels, but given the public reaction to even one Fukishima (Germany and France completely phasing out nuclear power), it seems like a bad bet to think that you can sustain the kind of nuclear industry needed.

          • Nornagest says:

            Obviously if, say, 15 billion worth of solar power plants delivers the same energy as 15 billion worth of nuclear power plants, I’d vastly prefer the solar. I would be very surprised to find that was true, though

            Pricing information isn’t always available, and solar is complicated by the high variance in power delivery, but there’s enough information floating around for, if not an apples-to-apples comparison of some recent projects, then at least an apples-to-pears.

            Recently a handful of new nuclear units have been approved, following a long drought since the late Seventies. Vogtle 3 and 4 are an in-progress nuclear project with an expected nameplate capacity of around 2.2 gigawatts and an expected cost of about $14 billion. Projects like this always generate cost overruns, so let’s round that up to $20 billion, or about $9/W at peak generation.

            Meanwhile, the Topaz Solar Farm is a recently completed $2.5 billion project with a nameplate capacity of 550 megawatts, or $4.5/W at peak generation.

            That looks a lot cheaper, but the nameplate comparison is misleading. Nuclear has a considerably higher capacity factor than solar; factors of .7 to .9 are typical. Recent values in the US are on the high side of that range, but I’m inclined to lean low for new reactors; let’s say .75. Topaz, meanwhile, averages 125 MW, for a CF of 0.23.

            After taking those into account, Vogtle ends up costing a little over $12/W, and Topaz a little under $20/W over average generation. Closer than I’d have thought!

            This analysis disregards operating costs, but I’d expect those to be low for both types of plant in comparison to capital costs. Somewhat higher for nuclear, but those plants probably last longer too.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “There is also the very real issue that when a nuclear accident goes bad, it goes really, really bad (Fukishima, Chernobyl). ”

            Really, really bad? How many people did Fukishima kill?
            “The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), released a report on the Fukushima accident April 2, 2014. It stated that the scientists have found no evidence to support the idea that the nuclear meltdown in Japan in 2011 will lead to an increase in cancer rates or birth defects.[9]

            None of the workers at the plant have died from acute radiation poisoning.”

            If your position is based on Soviet nuclear accidents, I invite you to look at the rest of their safety record.

            “This analysis disregards operating costs, but I’d expect those to be low for both types of plant in comparison to capital costs.”

            Nuclear operating costs are about 5% of fixed costs (although I don’t remember if this refers to total operating costs or just the fuel).

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Samuel Skinner – but how much land is off limits, and how much did the cleanup cost?

          • John Schilling says:

            According to Wikipedia, about six hundred square kilometers was temporarily evacuated, but the no-entry zone has since been opened and crops grown in the area are now safe for human consumption. Cleanup costs were initially estimated at $13 billion (USD), and likely to come in below that level.

            By comparison, the total economic damages due to the Sendai earthquake are estimated at $235 billion, plus almost sixteen thousand dead.

            If the dangers of civilian nuclear power amount to a 5-6% increase in the economic cost of any magnitude-9 earthquakes and tsunamis in the vicinity, with nobody being killed, that seems not intolerable.

            If the psychological effects of nuclear power is that it causes people to forget that one of the worst earthquakes in history killed fifteen thousand people, that seems very strange – but judging by the international media reaction, at least, that’s how it works. There might be some useful social engineering to be done there, but that’s out of my field.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:

            Fukushima could have been much, much worse, right? I believe the Japanese Prime Minister said it had the possibility of being 10 Chernobyls (although I think that was predicated on all the reactors melting down, but I think that was a possibility if #4 did melt).

            Yes, they managed to get it under control. But it definitely was not a sure thing in the early going.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            nobody being killed

            Not true! Two people were struck by a crane.

          • John Schilling says:

            @HeelBearCub: There’s only one (former) head of government that can speak with authority on matters of nuclear engineering, and he isn’t Japanese. “Ten Chernobyls” is at least 99.9% hyperbole.

            What made Chernobyl such a nightmare is that the Russian RBMK-1000 reactor was basically made out of coal, and housed in a building without a roof. Well, OK, graphite rather than coal, and there was enough structure up top to keep out the rain, but same difference. Carbon doesn’t melt, so if the reactor overheats, the options are limited to A: catch fire and B: vaporize. And with no containment roof, pretty much the entire radioactive core of the reactor is free to disperse across the landscape as smoke and ash.

            But coalgraphite-moderated reactors are basically used to breed plutonium for nuclear weapons; the RMBK-1000 was a dual-purpose design, and not the first graphite-moderated reactor to go bad. Fukushima, and pretty much every other pure power-generating reactor, was A: built of metal and metal oxides, B: used water as a moderator as well as a coolant (hence, nuclear reaction cannot continue if water level drops), and C: was fully enclosed by a meter or more of steel and reinforced concrete.

            Metals and metal oxides melt before they burn or vaporize. And they can’t melt while there is still liquid water present; takes a lot of energy to boil a reactor’s worth of water. And even when all this happens, there’s all that steel and concrete.

            With first- and second-generation reactors, at least, it’s possible to daisy-chain failures so that the molten core breaches the containment structure. But gravity still works, meaning that the radioactive core winds up as a blob of slag buried underground with a meter of steel and concrete as a cap. And maybe some radioactive steam gets vented early in the process, and maybe ground water can get at the buried core and leach away some radioisotopes, but even in the worst case that’s not going to be even a tenth as bad as Chernobyl, never mind ten times as bad.

            Nuclear power generation is as safe as you can hope for in any power source so long as you don’t do mind-bogglingly stupid things like building the reactors out of coal, or not putting a roof on the containment structure. Or experimenting with “what happens if we turn off the primary power supply to the coolant pumps for our nuclear reactor made of coal?”, but really you lost me at “made of coal”.

      • James Picone says:

        You can tell feedbacks have resolved by looking at top-of-atmosphere energy imbalance, which is directly measureable.

        Some other predictions:
        – You will measure more infrared coming down from the sky than the sun is emitting (and you’ll get actual numbers, I just don’t want to look up the value right now). That’s ‘there is a greenhouse effect’, the prediction.

        – If we put more CO2 in the atmosphere, all else being equal, there will be more energy in the system. You really ought to count this one as a fulfilled prediction, because it was made prior to the 1970s and hey, we put a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere and suddenly the poles are melting and it’s warmer than it used to be.

        – If the warming is due to increased greenhouse gas content, the stratosphere should cool. This isn’t the case for solar warming, or some kinds of natural variability. There’s limited evidence here, because the stratosphere is hard to get good data in, but what we’ve got suggests the stratosphere is cooling.

        – Manabe 1991 predicted increased Antarctic sea ice as a result of putting more CO2 in the atmosphere from a model, and that did happen, but that one might be Texas sharpshooter over the entire scientific establishment – lots of things getting predicted.

        – If you examine proxy data from paleoclimate, you should expect ECS to be in roughly that range. You can usually assume paleoclimate data is in equilibrium, because geological data tends to be, the problem is stuff like dating and getting accurate-enough data and so on. Paleoclimate ECS estimates tend to be larger than instrumental ones, probably because they’re over a longer period of time and so include slow feedbacks.

        • CJB says:

          “suddenly the poles are melting and it’s warmer than it used to be.”

          *looks at record breaking ice pack levels*

          Here’s the IPCC commentary on the poles circa 2001

          http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/tar/wg2/index.php?idp=593


          Satellite observations show no significant change in Antarctic sea-ice extent over the 1973-1996 period.***** Analysis of whaling records and modeling studies indicate that Antarctic sea ice retreated south by 2.8 degrees of latitude between the mid-1950s and the early 1970s.***”

          “whaling records”. That’s a bit of irony for you.

          “Arctic sea-ice extent has decreased by 2.9% per decade over the 1978-1996 period; sea ice has thinned, and there are now more melt days per summer. Sea-ice extent in the Nordic seas has decreased by 30% over the past 130 years.***** It is not yet clear whether changes in sea ice of the past few decades are linked to a natural cycle in climate variability or have resulted explicitly from global warming”

          Since then, things have not improved for the “poles are melting” argument.

          • James Picone says:

            Here’s a plot of 12-month-mean Arctic sea ice. Notice how it has fallen off a cliff. Arctic sea ice, in fact, is the place where IPCC projections have been most off-base with reality – it’s melting far faster than the IPCC originally predicted.

            Antarctic sea ice has an upwards trend. It’s not yet clear how much the very-recent massive upswing in Antarctic sea ice is the new normal or an outlier; the trend there is much less certain.

            Antarctic land ice is melting. No good plots here, I’m afraid, but here’s a study.

            To the best of my knowledge, the evidence is that the current low in Arctic sea ice is unprecedented in human history.

          • Harald K says:

            Antarctic land ice is melting.

            That is actually surprising to me. I would expect increased snowfall (from increased water vapour) to dominate melting from increased temperatures.

          • James Picone says:

            @Harald K:
            That effect dominates in some parts of Antarctica. ‘Tis a big continent. From what I can tell a lot of this is fairly new, too – mass-balance data from Antarctica only started getting collected in 1990, and ice only started going noticeably down semi-recently (during the ‘pause’). Greenland is losing ice faster, too. The SKS article about it is pretty good. Apparently the mechanism is believed to be warmer ocean water melting the edges of the continent.

        • ryan says:

          Can you offer any mathematically specific and readily predictable test of future observations (with caveats as to possible intervening effects is fine) which, if incorrect, would demonstrate that “climate change/global warming/whatever it is that occupies your brain” is actually wrong?

          So, eg, technological breakthrough happens and it’s suddenly possible to very accurately measure the rate of T change in the stratosphere, what rate over what timeframe would mean “theory thing” is incorrect?

          • James Picone says:

            I’m insufficiently expert to give a snappy answer here. Searching around on the web, I did find this Science of Doom blog post which contains a 1967 model projection of stratospheric cooling with more CO2, and references some stratospheric temperature reconstructions. The results aren’t an amazing match, but they are the right sign and show the right general behaviour (temperature profile goes the right direction at the right time). There’s complexity because ozone depletion is actually relevant here so you end up with two somewhat-uncertain effects being combined for a more-uncertain projection compared against pretty uncertain data.

            Giving single testable predictions that are clearly wrong or right which test large edifices of theory is not an easy problem. Can you come up with a single mathematically-specific testable prediction that would establish whether or not evolution is the best explanation for human intelligence? A similar principle applied to physics might result in the rejection of relativity – observed galactic rotation curves don’t match relativity very well. There’s a somewhat more complex interplay here than “Does this pass simple test X?”. Global warming is the output of several hypotheses that are individually testable and some modelling, much the same way galactic rotation curves are the output of general relativity and theories of galactic formation and uncertain observations of stellar density. It’s hard to work out which bit of the edifice is wrong when predictions don’t line up.

          • ryan says:

            @James

            I think you gave pretty much the right reply to the question. “Climate Change” refers to a wide variety of hypotheses of varying specificity and with varying levels of testability and evidential backing.

            Relativity is an interesting analogy. GPS satellites and ground stations need to agree about how much time has gone by for them to work correctly. The satellites experience the flow of time differently due to both special and general relativity. If the satellite doesn’t make the adjustments necessitated by each theory, it’s clock won’t agree with the ground clock. If it does make the adjustments, then it will.

            So when general relativity has trouble with galactic rotation curves, we can be confident the problem is in our misunderstanding of some other element of rotation curves, or that general relativity needs an update for very large scale phenomena. But we don’t lose any confidence in its correctness in terms of adjusting clocks on GPS satellites.

            Consider then the greenhouse effect. It works by radiative heat flow in and out balancing where it is emitted to space and the convective adiabatic lapse rate maintaining the surface at a higher temperature in proportion to their separation. Extra GHGs work by increasing their separation by raising the altitude of emission to space. There’s no way this is wrong.

            But the greenhouse effect alone does not give rise to much warming, rather it is magnified or reduced by a variety of feedback mechanisms, the total effect of which is unknown. Software climate models have been built by researchers, in which these feedbacks roughly treble the warming due to anthropogenic GHGs alone. These software models are the embodiment of the best scientific understanding of climate we’ve got. But these software models make predictions known to be false. They differ from reality in numerous ways, including the behaviour of clouds, the amount and variation of precipitation, humidity, upper tropospheric temperature trends, and even surface temperature (their estimates of natural background temperature vary by several degrees between models).

            I don’t really know if the analogy to rotation curve problems fits here. Regardless, a good deal of people consider “climate change” to be an indisputable scientific fact and even has epithets for people who dispute their conclusion. It seems clear to me that no logical or scientific reasoning has led to this state of affairs. Instead I see raw tribalism.

            The dispute then between CSICOP and Heartland is quite figuratively monkeys flinging shit at each other. We might pause and reflect on the sad state of affairs, but no one should make the mistake of thinking their dispute is in any way meaningful.

    • Careless says:

      Speaking of global warming bets, anyone remember Nate Silver asking if anyone wanted to bet him on the temperature in their hometown? I wanted to bet him, but didn’t have any blog, let alone a ranking blog. Would have made a few hundred dollars, too.

      Nate would have learned that, over the short term, weather trumps climate.

      • Harald K says:

        Provided he took a diversified basket of these hometown warming bets, I think he would have done well.

        • Careless says:

          No, he was letting anyone from anywhere bet him based on their hometown’s weather over (IIRC) the next three months.

    • Nathan says:

      Climate sceptic here, and I would not take that bet. Let’s compare the two points of view.

      The “consensus” view is that with a very high probability, large increases in CO2 will cause large increases in temperature.

      My view (which may not be exactly shared by all sceptics) is that we don’t understand the climate well enough to predict it with much confidence. But simply based on the history of the last 300ish years we should expect the modest natural warming trend we’ve experienced over that time to continue in the a science of any strong reason to believe it has stopped. (Note: a decade and a half of no warming might be problematic for a prediction of 4C rise but not so much for a prediction of a 1C rise).

      So both I and the consensus expect the world to warm. The difference is by how much and with what confidence. So a fair bet would need to be either weighted by odds (I don’t expect temperature to stay flat but I think there is some probability it will) or be based on an over/under on some projected amount of warming.

      • James Picone says:

        Why do you expect the warming trend to continue if you don’t think anything’s causing it?

        The relevant phrase here is “climate isn’t a bouncing ball”. It doesn’t go up just because it went down some hundred years ago – it has to be forced.

        • Nathan says:

          I’m expecting temperature to go up because that’s what it’s been doing since the little Ice Age, for reasons unknown to me but clearly unconnected to anthropogenic emissions of Co2 as that didn’t start in earnest till the 20th century. I don’t expect the trend to continue forever, but I have no reason to predict that it’s going to stop in the near future, nor is the current pause enough to say that such a slow trend has stopped, given the noise that exists in the temperature record.

          • James Picone says:

            Little Ice Age hits its minimum at about -0.8 relative to 1950-1980 reference period, at 1600. On that reference period, 2004 is ~0.4.

            1.2 / 400 = ~0.03 C/decade

            1970->present is an increase of ~0.7 c in 45 years, or 0.15 C/decade, some five times larger.

            There’s no obvious driver for some kind of recovery from the low period, and there is a very obvious driver for the increase from 1970 that scientists have been talking about since the late 1800s.

            LIA recovery is not a very good explanatory mechanism here.

          • Nathan says:

            Why are you citing the 1970-2015 trend? We started increasing emissions significantly around 1945, as you can see here: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/images/ghgemissions/TrendsGlobalEmissions.png

            The right trend to use would be 1945-2015.

          • Nathan says:

            Also, even using your selected time period which truncates 25 years of data for no clear reason (I’m assuming you’re not deliberately leaving it out to exaggerate the warming trend), that’s a warming rate of 1.5C/100y – WAY less than we are told to expect. Why should I believe that we are headed for a warming three times that between 2000-2100 – a period that is already 15% over with nothing happening?

          • James Picone says:

            There’s statistical evidence of a change in trend in the mid-1970s. I’ve probably linked to this realclimate article already, which contains a graph showing the output of a change-point analysis. IIRC it’s probably to do with air quality laws reducing aerosol output lessening a substantial anthropogenic negative forcing.

            I note that you have ignored the point that ‘recovery from the little ice age’ cannot possibly explain recent trends. 1945->present is about 0.11c/decade, which is still ~4 times larger than it should be if it were a constant recovery from the LIA.

            Transitional climate response is different to equilibrium climate sensitivity – TCR is how much warmer you get each year if you keep emitting some amount of CO2, ECS is how much warmer you get if you hold CO2 levels fixed for some amount of time. We haven’t gotten all the warming from the ~400ppm CO2 in the atmosphere yet, and emissions are increasing exponentially. Warming should speed up if we keep emitting exponentially. If we stop emissions at some point, we should see something like a logistic curve.

          • Nathan says:

            “There’s statistical evidence of a change in trend in the mid-1970s.”

            I’m sorry James, but I see this sentiment as being completely and utterly indefensible. It was the one I was trying to generously assume you did not in fact hold.

            What is the simplest test of the proposition that lots of CO2 in the atmosphere will lead to lots of warming? Dump lots of CO2 in the atmosphere and see how much it warms. And we’ve been doing that since 1945.

            But you measure from 1970ish instead. Why? Because “There is evidence of a change in trend”. In other words, because you don’t want to include the 25-30 year period where we were emitting CO2 at high rates but the world wasn’t warming, BECAUSE it wasn’t warming.

            Deliberately leaving out relevant evidence because it does not support your conclusions is just not good enough. It inclines me to disbelieve that you are in fact taking a fair minded view of this issue.

            You say “LIA recovery is not a good explanatory mechanism”. I think you have slightly misinterpreted my view. I am not trying to explain the recent warming. I don’t believe I can, I don’t understand the climate well enough. And I don’t believe anyone else does either, no matter how convinced they are that they do.

            The reason I disbelieve the doomsday scenarios is not because I believe I have a better model, it is because I believe the temperature record does not support the doomsday model.

            That isn’t to say I view the LIA recovery model as being “wrong” per se – sure, recent warming is above trend, but long flat periods and sudden jumps are all contained within that long term trend, as we can see from reconstructions like this:
            http://www.atmos.washington.edu/1998Q4/211/project2/lia-pic3.gif

            Maybe there’s some underlying reason beginning in 1650 that causes the temperature to rise slowly and unevenly. Or maybe there’s a bunch of different positive forcings coming in at different times, and CO2 is the latest of these. I don’t know, and I don’t believe that anyone else knows.

          • James Picone says:

            @Nathan:
            I measured from the place where there’s a statistically-testable change in trend because I wanted to catch the actual rate of current warming that I expect to continue (and accelerate). I pointed out the negative forcing that geared up from 1945-1970. And I also pointed out that starting from 1945 doesn’t actually change the fundamental point here – we’re warming up quite a bit faster than we would expect if it was some kind of warming-since-LIA thing. Remember your original post?

            But simply based on the history of the last 300ish years we should expect the modest natural warming trend we’ve experienced over that time to continue in the a science of any strong reason to believe it has stopped.

            I’m pointing out that the recent warming is entirely unlike anything in the past 300 years. It’s likely unlike anything in the past several thousand years. Doesn’t matter whether you measure it from 1970 or 1945. But that said, if you want a clear CO2 signal, starting from 1970 is a Good Idea.

            Here’s a graph of Mauna Loa CO2 data, which unfortunately doesn’t start until ~1958. 1970->present, CO2 concentration goes from ~325 to about 398, for about 1 W/m**2 of forcing (5.35 * ln(398/325)).

            CO2 prior to 1958 but at usable resolution is much more sparse. Preindustrial CO2 is usually taken as 280 ppm, so that’s a pretty good overestimate. 1945->1970 with that overestimate is 5.35 * ln(325/280), 0.8 W/m**2. GISS has some ice-core data (here) giving 310 ppm for 1945, which gives 0.25 W/m**2 for that period.

            TL;DR, even with ludicrously favourable assumptions, 1970->present has more CO2 forcing than 1945-1970. Plugging in actual data for 1945 makes the forcing increase from 1945->1970 ~a quarter of the 1970-present rise. And there was a significant negative forcing operating over that period – aerosol emissions. If you want to compare climate-science predictions to temperature increases, you have to look at net forcing, not just CO2 content.

            Frankly, you’re ignorant. You’re waving around ideas that are entirely unconnected to the actual hard data and mathematics and statistics underlying climate science.

            I don’t think that graph shows what you think it shows. It’s not an actual paleoclimate reconstruction – it’s 50-year averages of Central England temperatures up to the 1950s by Hubert Lamb. Here’s what it looks like if you superimpose CET up to 2007. Note that CET isn’t global and is pretty untrustworthy prior to 1900. And yet, you describe it as a ‘temperature reconstruction’, imply it’s global, imply that it shows jumps warmer and stronger than the present (hard to evaluate without a scale on the y-axis), and think it confirms your views.

          • James Picone writes:

            “We haven’t gotten all the warming from the ~400ppm CO2 in the atmosphere yet, and emissions are increasing exponentially. Warming should speed up if we keep emitting exponentially. ”

            My understanding is that the warming goes as the log of CO2 concentration. I haven’t worked out the math in any detail, but is your claim that any exponential growth results in an increased rate of warming?

            Do you think predicting a continued exponential growth in emissions is plausible over the rest of the century? The obvious arguments against are exhaustion of supply and improvements in the technology of substitutes, most obviously nuclear and solar.

            I’ve seen a calculation by someone at Cal Tech suggesting that the IPCC high emission scenario burns about twice the estimated world supply of coal by 2100. If the cost of solar continues to fall as it has been, I would expect solar to start replacing fossil fuel in any application that doesn’t raise storage problems within a decade or so.

          • James Picone writes:

            “We haven’t gotten all the warming from the ~400ppm CO2 in the atmosphere yet, and emissions are increasing exponentially. Warming should speed up if we keep emitting exponentially. ”

            Warming goes as the log of CO2 concentration, so linear growth in equilibrium temperature requires exponential growth in concentration. Concentration is the integral of net emissions, and the integral of an exponential is an exponential. I haven’t worked out the math in any detail, but it looks as though exponential growth in emissions starting with a concentration of zero should give linear growth in equilibrium temperature, and starting with positive concentration should give less than linear growth.

            Am I mistaken? Is your claim that any exponential growth results in an increased rate of warming?

            Also, do you think predicting a continued exponential growth in emissions is plausible over the rest of the century? The obvious arguments against are exhaustion of supply and improvements in the technology of substitutes, most obviously nuclear and solar.

            I’ve seen a calculation by someone at Cal Tech suggesting that the IPCC high emission scenario burns about twice the estimated world supply of coal by 2100.

            If the cost of solar continues to fall as it has been falling, I would expect solar to start replacing fossil fuel in any application that doesn’t raise storage problems within a decade or so. That should substantially reduce emissions.

          • James Picone says:

            @David Friedman: I misspoke. CO2 content is rising superexponentially.

            I doubt the IPCC projections burn all the fossil fuels on the way to 2100. The world we burn all the fossil fuels probably isn’t human-inhabitable. CO2’s hit about 5000ppm in paleoclimate – maybe higher? – so 95 W/m**2 of forcing over preindustrial. Likely enough that ECS isn’t a thing anymore (i.e., feedbacks aren’t linear in forcing any more), but taking 1C for a doubling (i.e. no feedbacks), we get a 25c increase in average temperature. God knows how meaningful any of that is – I don’t know whether all that 5000 ppm is accessible, over those sorts of ranges nothing is linear, etc. etc. – but it’s probably the right order of magnitude.

            EDIT: An article by James Hansen calculates that there’s enough fossil fuel reserves to ~quintuple CO2 content with conservative assumptions about airborne fraction. That’s ~8.6 W/m**2 forcing, 4.6 C increase with an ECS of 2, 6.9c increase with an ECS of 3. Non-conservative estimates obviously worse, but it’s hard to figure out how much CO2 ends up in the ocean given a particular pathway. Also I’m not sure if Hansen’s figures include clathrates or
            the explosion in unconventional fossil fuels.

          • James Picone writes:

            “@David Friedman: I misspoke. CO2 content is rising superexponentially.”

            Are you agreeing that your original claim, that exponential increase in emissions led to an increasing rate of temperature change, was mistaken?

            Following your link, it looks as though concentration has risen pretty close to exponentially—the log graph is close to a straight line, although slighly increasing.

            But the question is why you expect future increases to be more than exponential. I don’t think you have responded to my reasons to expect it to be less.
            What is your assumption about the growth of emissions? Linear, exponential, more than exponential?

            “I doubt the IPCC projections burn all the fossil fuels on the way to 2100.”

            Then it’s a good thing that the claim I reported was only about coal.

            “EDIT: An article by James Hansen calculates that there’s enough fossil fuel reserves to ~quintuple CO2 content with conservative assumptions about airborne fraction. That’s ~8.6 W/m**2 forcing, 4.6 C increase with an ECS of 2, 6.9c increase with an ECS of 3.”

            Are those figures for the final equilibrium temperature? How long before it is reached?

          • James Picone says:

            @David Friedman:
            Exponential increase of CO2 content in the atmosphere results in linear increase in temperatures, yes. Forcing is linearly proportional to log(co2).

            A log-plot of Mauna Loa CO2 anomaly is statistically-significantly superexponential. That’s the point of the post I linked to.

            I don’t know a great deal about fossil fuel reserves, but as far as I’m aware isn’t coal the most common fossil fuel by a pretty substantial amount? As in, if we burn all the coal, we’ve probably burned all the oil and the vast majority of unconventionals along the way, just because there’s so much of it.

            Equilibrium temperature before very-slow feedbacks – ~a century after the concentration is reached. The 2c estimate should be read as lowest-physically-plausible, the 3c as central estimate. My earlier spitball involving ~5000ppm CO2 is probably massively out because most of that CO2 has ended up as calcium carbonate or buried as fossil fuel reserves deep enough that they’re not realistically extractable, or something. Hansen’s estimate is much more reasonable, but it’s based on a 1/3rd airborne fraction, and AFAIK 1/2 is the amount we’re currently seeing.

            I don’t expect solar technology to be cost-competitive with fossil fuels for some time. Nuclear probably could be, but I’m not sure the political capital is there. I don’t think this is a problem that credibly just goes away with technological development, at least not fast enough. And I’m not sure a slow phaseout of fossil fuels starting a decade from now is sufficiently fast.

            I wouldn’t expect effective exhaustion of some fossil fuel (AFAIK oil is plausibly exhausted in the next few decades?) to affect emissions much – my understanding is that there’s significant amounts of unconventional fossil fuel reserves, and enough coal that we’re unlikely to run out fast enough for it to be relevant (and, per Hansen’s figures, burning it all is a potential human extinction event, and I don’t think we’re collectively that stupid).

        • ryan says:

          My response to things like “climate isn’t a bouncing ball” is always “it isn’t? Neat, how’d you figure that out?”

          Just once I’d like to hear the reply “well, we didn’t, our models just assume it’s the case.”

          • James Picone says:

            The answer is ‘thermodynamics’.

          • ryan says:

            @James

            No, it’s not.

          • James Picone says:

            So how does the climate system manage to hold itself out of equilibrium? That’s the thermodynamics issue. If the LIA was real there’s a 1.2c difference between its trough and our peak. If even half of that is supposed to be unforced, that’s a pretty substantial difference in energy flow without anything to cause it…

            If it’s all driven by solar variation, that’s okay – that’s a forcing. But solar forcing is close to trendless over the instrumental period and has been this high for a while as far as we can tell. If there is any trend, it’s downwards – most recent solar cycle was quite weak. So that can’t be the explanation.

          • Ptoliporthos says:

            @James Picone

            You seem to be repeatedly accusing your interlocutors of positing no forcing mechanism, when a more likely (and charitable) reading of their models might be that they are positing an unknown forcing mechanism which may or may not include anthropogenic CO2 emissions. In the short term, this naive model would reasonably predict recent trends to continue, plus or minus some noise, no matter what the underlying mechanism of forcing. I don’t believe anybody would be confident in making long term predictions with this agnostic model, though.

          • James Picone says:

            @Ptoliporthos: Forcings that big are unlikely to be invisible. What effect did you – or they – have in mind that’s worth on the order of 2 W/m**2 over the entire Earth’s surface?

            Meanwhile there’s a line of scientific argument stretching back to the late 19th century that CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is relevant to climate, and if you do the maths the magnitudes seem to line up…

            Maybe the planets are held in their orbits by some as-yet-unknown force that happens to line up pretty well with predictions from the gravitational model, but I wouldn’t bet on it. That seems like an analogous argument to me, just transplanted to a domain with more certainty and less political implications.

            (See also: the people arguing that maybe ozone levels just naturally started declining around about the time we started emitting significant quantities of a chemical we had strong theoretical reasons to believe would catalyze the ozone->oxygen end of the equilibrium)

          • Ptoliporthos says:

            @James Picone
            I don’t believe all your interlocutors are actually trying to argue with you about the identity of the forcing mechanism. I think the point of their argument is that you don’t need to agree on the forcing mechanism to know that the bet is a trap.

            “Don’t think anything is causing it” is not the same as purposefully agnostic about it for the sake of a mathematical argument.

            Your gravity analogy is quite relevant, after all, people were pretty good at predicting planetary motion without a theory of gravity. Your interlocutors are basically saying that the proposed bet doesn’t help distinguish between a theory of gravity and a theory of the music of the spheres, because a only a sucker would take the bet, no matter what underlying model they believe in.

            If you feel strongly about the gravity parallel I’d suggest that you should be able to make some very confident predictions with your model.

            Here’s a suggestion — why not make some prediction and offer to donate money to Heartland if you turn out to be wrong. You get to define all the terms of the donation, and then everyone will be able to see just how confident you are in your model and your predictions by how much wiggle room you leave yourself and how much you will put on the line.

          • ryan says:

            @James

            Your claim, I believe, is that for any given solar input, total heat in the atmosphere/ocean system can only on long time scale average (years, instead of say days) accumulate or dissipate within certain bounds (I presume less than the Joule equivalent of delta 1.2C in surface atmospheric heat?). Awesome position to take, and if a true discovery a laudable one.

            But I remain unconvinced this is a discovery. Rather it seems to be a facet of how climate software engineers model the system.

          • James Picone says:

            Ryan: I might put it as “Over non-geological averages (enough to average out the solar cycle at least), either top-of-atmosphere energy imbalance is zero, or you’re in the middle of some kind of Event” (like a large volcanic eruption, sudden burst of greenhouse gases, large meteorite impact, whatever).

            I think that’s broadly the same as your formulation. Put another way, if temperature is varying by more than some threshold, something is driving that change.

            I maintain that this is a consequence of thermodynamics, and shouldn’t be controversial. I don’t see any mechanisms for natural variability to ‘hold temperature up’ against a top-of-atmosphere imbalance (or the other way around) that doesn’t imply runaway feedback (for example, if variation in water vapour was sufficient to change temperature enough to maintain the new water vapour concentration, you have runaway feedback).

            I of course accept that long-lived greenhouse gases vary naturally over geological timescales and that affects ToA budget and temperature, that continental configuration affects things, that solar insolation varies and that’s relevant, etc.. I just think that all of those factors are comparatively slow in geological terms, insufficiently strong to have caused the recent warming, or the wrong sign for the recent warming.

          • ryan says:

            @James

            So over some longish time frame that I think we have sort of the same idea of, heat can accumulate or dissipate, but within some upper and lower bounds? As an aside isn’t a bouncing ball kind of a good metaphor? Regardless, thermodynamics that is, OK checks out.

            Climate software models are programed such that heat may accumulate or dissipate within bounds that sort of emerge observationally from the parameters and form of equations chosen by the engineers. Run a climate model without including changing forcings, and it will fluctuate, but on a long run heat content remains at some average.

            The software engineers are not capable of, so far as I know, modeling climate in such a way that it could shift from one alternate stable state to another without the shift being caused by changes in external forcings. It’s hard enough for them to build models which are stable to begin with. Programming a model in which feedbacks could get out of hand, but then get back in control, is totally out of the question, at least for now.

            I don’t think it’s rational to conclude from this that the climate can’t shift from one alternate stable state to another without the shift being caused by forcings. It really seems like that’s a lot of people’s reasoning.

  8. Shmi Nux says:

    Can killing a ballot measure (calling to kill gays) set a precedent to to later kill other, less vile ballot measures in the future, because they are “inappropriate, waste public resources, generate unnecessary divisions among the public, and tend to mislead the electorate”? Or am I seeing the ghostly hand of SJW where there is none?

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/06/23/california-kill-gays-initiative/29195825/

    • nico says:

      I wouldn’t be worried. The test there seems to be something like “should said amendment pass, would it be immediately unenforceable for obviously conflicting with the US constitution?” That’s a high bar, and not one likely to creep downward.

      Editing in: my point is that there’s Legal Logic going on there, not SJW Logic, so I wouldn’t worry about things developing in the bad-SJ sort of way.

      • Alraune says:

        “should said amendment pass, would it be immediately unenforceable for obviously conflicting with the US constitution?”

        They put those on the ballot all the time.

      • Lesser Bull says:

        *should said amendment pass, would it be immediately unenforceable for obviously conflicting with the US constitution?” *

        Good thing the meaning of the U.S. Constitution doesn’t keep changing every time a court issues an opinion.

    • I don’t have the citation handy, but the Michigan Supreme Court ruled the opposite way almost a century ago — a precedent which has been buttressed with many following cases since then.

      Following World War I, anti-Catholic groups proposed a constitutional amendment to require attendance at public schools, in other words, to ban parochial schools.

      The exact same arguments were advanced in an effort to keep it off the ballot: it was obviously unconstitutional, it would generate unnecessary divisions, it would waste public resources.

      The Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the constitutionality of a proposed amendment could be considered only if it had been adopted, and refused to keep the question off the ballot.

      The proposal went to the voters twice, in 1920 and 1924, and was soundly rejected both times.

  9. nydwracu says:

    How did he shoot himself?

    After hovering over the link, I thought it would have been that he shot himself in a hot-air balloon in such a way that he would fall out of it afterwards and the gun would stay in the balloon.

    As a bonus, it could be possible to rig the balloon so that the gun falls out of it automatically a while afterwards. I’m not sure how this would work — the simplest solution these days would be to use some sort of computerized device.

    That’s not what happened, of course — and it wouldn’t have been possible for someone with financial difficulties who didn’t already own a hot-air balloon, since five seconds on Google suggests that the simplest model costs something like $10k. But the general idea seems sound. How far could an unmanned hang glider travel?

    Then again, these days you could just use a drone.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      In that case, though, surely you’d expect some injuries/damage from the fall unless it was an extremely low-flying (almost crashing) balloon. Though the guy falling out would lighten the balloon enough for it to take off again.

    • Nornagest says:

      I had some similar thoughts — set an accurate rifle up half a mile away with some sort of auto-firing mechanism, and be in the right place when it fires. The trouble with that sort of thing is that it’s conspicuous; although it wouldn’t be found immediately, it’s unusual enough that someone’s going to link it to a mysterious murder when it is.

      I think I have a better idea now, though. Remove the primer from a round of ammunition and replace it with a short length of fuse. Light the fuse, discard the match, and hold the cartridge to your temple. It won’t be nearly as powerful as it would be if it was fired from a gun, but at that range it should still be lethal. The recoil will pull the brass out of your hands; ideally it’ll send it somewhere it won’t be easy to find, but even if it is found it won’t be trivially obvious what you did.

      • FacelessCraven says:

        Bullets do not work that way. The brass cartridge is there to provide obduration for the chamber. It is not strong enough to allow the powder to build lethal pressure. In the scenario you describe, I’m not sure you’d actually get enough pressure to unseal the bullet from the case mouth. You might just get a useless jet of flame out the primer hole. If the powder burned fast enough, the case mouth would swell to allow the powder gases to vent around the cartridge, imparting enough energy to the bullet to give it maybe two inches of free movement. Hand burns and possibly facial burns from the venting powder would be your most serious injuries.

        • Nornagest says:

          You’re probably right. I was thinking about it as a small explosive more than a miniature firearm, along the lines of tossing a box of ammo into a fire, but now that I think about it the primer hole would probably vent too much for that to work, if it even generated enough pressure in the first place.

          What if you kept the primer, touching it off from outside instead, and filled the case with something more energetic?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            Same problem.

            I used to have an old issue of Guns & Ammo where they set up a bunch of tests involving cooking off loose ammo. This was pre-internet, and there were rumors of firemen being killed by cook-offs in residential fires. they used a blowtorch to cook the ammo, cloth-covered modelling clay to simulate flesh, and used a variety of rifle and pistol calibers .22 to 30-06.

            The worst danger was the primer, which was light enough to become a projectile and create shallow penetrations in the clay in some calibers, possibly life-threatening if it penetrated between the ribs and got the heart. None of the bullets traveled more than an inch or two; the brass swelled out into a bell and vented around it before imparting any appreciable energy.

            SAAMI has apparently done some training vids on the subject for fire departments:
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=1470&v=3SlOXowwC4c

            [Edit] – How much more energetic are we talking? I mean, you could fill a cartridge with plastique, and that would probably do it…

          • Nornagest says:

            How much more energetic are we talking? I mean, you could fill a cartridge with plastique, and that would probably do it…

            Well, it’d have to be something that our clever suicide could get his hands on without raising too many eyebrows, so that probably rules out plastique. Wouldn’t have to be in quantity, though. Priming compounds, perhaps?

          • Anthony says:

            The problem is that the bullet weighs more than the cartridge. Inside a gun, the cartridge and the gun function as a unit at the moment of firing, so the energy imparted to the cartridge is also imparted to the gun, resulting in recoil. If you set off a bullet not in a gun, the bullet would end up with less velocity than the cartridge.

          • CJB says:

            The other problem is that even if you managed to rig up some sort of tricksey thing strong enough to set off the primer- most of a bullets acceleration comes from being pushed down the barrel by the gases. I wouldn’t particular WANT you to say, point a bullet at me and smack the primer with a screwdriver, but I’d be very unlikely to die.

            And if you did die, it’d look nothing at all like either a normal firing pin (you can tell guns apart by firing pins to a degree) a normal bullet wound (very low velocity) or a normal bullet (no normal rifling impressions)

            Also you’d leave powder burn on your own hands.

            Presuming that his ultimate motivation was insurance payout (Suicide doesn’t pay, murder does)- there has to be an easier way. It doesn’t even have to look like murder, bro.

            Like, you can’t fake up a bit of broken wire, or sharp rock and slice your femoral? “Oh, gee, terrible accident. sliced his femoral. Tragedy.”

          • LHN says:

            Suicide usually doesn’t bar life insurance payouts after a period of two or three years after purchase. (Presumably, beyond the time horizon where most people who might actively plan to buy insurance and then kill themselves would find it tempting.) Though within that timeframe there’d still be a motive for covering up a suicide, of course.

    • PDV says:

      I was expecting the gun to be tied to a terrified horse. It seems more reliable than the balloon version.

      • Houshalter says:

        But someone would find the horse. The balloon will probably land hundreds of miles away, in some totally random place, in the middle of the woods, or an ocean, etc.

    • Cimer says:

      Isn’t it easier to just ask somebody to shoot you? Murder is much easier to get away with if the victim cooperates.

  10. Vine says:

    Fun fact about the Statue of Liberty: the outer shell is made of copper, but superstructure that supports it is made of iron. Because of various ill thought out preservation methods, for about 20 years the whole thing accidentally became a battery with about a .25V differential. Because of how batteries work, this meant that electrons were being pulled from the iron structure into the copper. When iron looses electrons, it more or less dissolves (see Galvanic Corrosion). By the time the damage was noticed, some key support beams were down to 50% of their original thickness.

    • randy m says:

      That was a fun fact, but not as fun as I hoped when I read “the statue of liberty was a giant battery.”

    • tcmJOE says:

      Oh yeah, and not only that, but WAS DANGEROUSLY CLOSE TO PARTS COLLAPSING AT THAT POINT, and the reason the corrosion was discovered was that some people were trying to climb the statue in order to hang a protest banner.

      The whole story is a good chapter in the book “Rust: The Longest War”, which is definitely worth a read.

  11. TrivialGravitas says:

    Article originally reported as “no gender gap in tech salaries”…

    Also true based on actually being IN the tech industry. The same study looked at men vs women with CS degrees (from that college, one year after graduation, with a full time job) and found a quite substantial gap. So either women aren’t getting that first tech sector job (whether they’re applying and not getting it, or deciding not to use their degree isn’t available data), or men with CS degrees are somehow getting better paying non tech jobs.

    • Stefan Drinic says:

      I may well be making all the wrong assumptions here, but did they control for things like women prefering more parttime work, age at which they should have children, and so forth?

      • Stefan Drinic says:

        Replying since I can’t edit: nevermind, I should learn to read. The post specifically said they looked at women with full-time jobs in the relevant sector. I’m a lot less doubtful now.

    • a reader says:

      The gender gap statement appears to be incorrect if you actually read the study. Looks like an example of incorrectly saying a debunking is debunked than the other way around.

      The main “supporting” study literally says the opposite of what’s claimed, “over one-third of the pay gap cannot be explained by any of these factors and appears to be attributable to gender alone” and also notes that of the 2/3 that’s accounted for, one of the possible causes driving those factors is discrimination.

      • Samuel Skinner says:

        The debunking refers to the 77% of a man line that often goes around.

        “The main “supporting” study literally says the opposite of what’s claimed, “over one-third of the pay gap cannot be explained by any of these factors and appears to be attributable to gender alone””

        That’s the part that is possibly discrimination. Other theories have been raised (such as differences in bargaining), but as is, we should put it down as an “I don’t know”.

        “one of the possible causes driving those factors is discrimination.”

        This should be said more clearly. The other 2/3 does not include discrimination, but things like different hours worked or career choices.

        This is possibly due to discrimination, but because this is replicated in so many countries (including ones like Sweden that are highly committed to gender equality) its generally taken to be due to choice.

        • a reader says:

          Does it refer to that? The qz post is a response to comments that an older qz post claiming that “there is no gender gap” is wrong. The original article claimed that there is no gender gap and linked to a study that showed that 2/3 of the gender gap could be accounted for as evidence. YMMV, but I find “two thirds of the gender gap can be explained by some known factors” to be different from “there is no gender gap”.

          “The other 2/3 does not include discrimination, but things like different hours worked or career choices.”

          Have you read the study that’s cited by the original qz article? That’s not what it says.

          If the issue is whether or not there’s actually a gender gap or that, in general, claims about whether or not a gender pay gap exists have been debunked, I have no comment. I haven’t read enough about the issue to be well informed. But the particular qz post that’s linked is typical buzzfeed quality linkbait, which can be seen by reading the post it’s defending and then looking at the sources cited, which don’t even support the claims in the post. Unless I’m reading the paragraph that has the link backwards or am missing a bit of irony, it strikes me as a non-optimal example of the general phenomena that’s being described.

  12. Tarrou says:

    From the end of that story about the thousand adoptions (which was from 2006):

    “Germany changed its law in 2008 in response to this case, making it possible for the state to challenge paternity claims and require a test.
    Mr Hass was sentenced to two years and six months in prison in Paraguay for breaking the country’s laws on adoption and furnishing false documents.”

    Apparently there was something they could do to stop him. Open Border advocates take note! 😛

    • NaHa says:

      And that law was declared unconstitutional in 2014 by the Federal Constitutional Court.

      And this isn’t really about adoptions, it’s about voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. Yes, that guy claims that all these children are really his biological children.

      If you’re an open border advocate please note that this only works because he is too poor to pay child support on ‘his’ numerous children…

      • Tom Womack says:

        “this only works because he is too poor to pay child support on ‘his’ numerous children…”

        isn’t a terribly serious reduction, because almost everyone is too poor to pay child support on a thousand children, and those who aren’t could, in the circumstances described in the article, adopt ten thousand instead.

        • NaHa says:

          “because almost everyone is too poor to pay child support on a thousand children”

          Yes, but they seize income above a certain amount for your own survival, even it it isn’t enough for all your children.
          How much child support *he* owes doesn’t matter to him because he’s basically a beach bum in Paraguay.

          For people actually earning money it makes a difference because most people don’t want to be poor.

  13. David Moss says:

    Does anyone else find it really weird that the ‘teaching people to avoid rape’ intervention worked so dramatically well? The training they were given seems fairly platitudinous.

    • Tarrou says:

      Well, there’s only so many times you can have people redefine every sexual experience they’ve had as rape. Once you’ve used the “all alcohol is rape!” and “Creepy people looking at you is rape!” the rape rates have to fall pretty dramatically.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      And so the students were taught how to break wrist holds and chokeholds and yell.

      I assume this part is pretty important…

      • David Moss says:

        Yeh, I thought that the bit where they were told to respond by “physically resisting” and not just “crying” and “pleading” seems like it could be an active ingredient, simply for lack of any better candidates. It’s still kinda stunning that this *halved* rape.

        I’m sure that teaching them *how* to actually break holds and so on would be useful, but I wouldn’t have predicted it to be so efficacious and I’d expect this to be considerably worse than any old self-defense course (where they’re learning solely about self defense, rather than here where most of the course seems to be role playing discussions and basic factoids). Yet it would be striking if teaching people basic self defense was *even more* effective at preventing rape than this program was.

        • chaosmage says:

          I suspect most of the active ingredient is the experience of actually purposefully physically hurting someone (as an adult).

          If you’ve never done that, you can feel a weird aversion to defending yourself. I’d describe it as an inhibitory fear that fighting back could lead into an even less predictable situation that the one you’re already in. I suspect many girls – who haven’t hit anyone since their fifth birthday – have exactly that inhibitory fear, and don’t know it because everyone underestimates how very stressful situations change reactions.

          But it isn’t hard to overcome. Once you’ve actually consciously hurt somebody – whether at a self-defense course or at this anti-rape course or in a martial arts class or whatever – it becomes an option. You feel, not just know, that you’re able to hurt people. It becomes available to your System 1, which is good because in very stressful situations like physical assault, System 2 will be overwhelmed and not much help.

          And then it turns out most people will just stop whatever they’re doing when they’re surprised and/or in pain. More actual self-defense expertise might be less useful that the very basic ability to act at all in a physical confrontation.

          • CJB says:

            Other factors that might influence it-

            Without getting all SJW- there are some (*sigh*) problematic narratives (*SIIIIIIGHHHHH*) that do go “hey bro, she really wants it, chicks just don’t want to feel like whores”. And while I do think that pressing the point a little isn’t anything even like rape, the simple fact is that a not-terrible-far extension of the idea that it’s ok to push boundaries a little when you’re making out is to extend those boundaries into rape. Much as one can quickly push a 65mph speed limit into a 90mph crash.

            But the simple fact is that someone with those narratives in mind is going to react very different to someone saying “please stop” and someone hitting them and going “let me go, you fucker!”

            So I think that’s where most of it comes in- guys whose internal narrative was “this isn’t rape” suddenly being treated like rapists.

            Much as I hate to give SJWism any cookies at all- narratives do matter, and these actions break the narrative in a big way.

            Also- rapists aren’t terminators. While a significant amount of rapes are committed by people who seem to be hardened criminals (oh god- is that unintentional pun too awesome to delete or too offensive to keep) someone has to be doing it for the first time, and thus probably easy to frighten.

          • alexp says:

            CJB, I thought that was a very insightful comment. Thank you.

          • David Moss says:

            You don’t need to be a SJW to think that encouraging people to violently resist rather than cry and plead or do nothing would help deter rapists tbf. I’d have expected arch-conservatives to recommend the same. I’d also have assumed that it would work without ‘bro’s thinking that she *really* wants it’ is a factor: if the victims are just crying and pleading them to stop, it seems hard for even the broiest bro to think that they are just acting coy.

            An issue with this interpretation is the fact that reported attempted rapes decreased significantly more than completed rapes. So it seems that it’s not just about people resisting more once someone has started to attempt rape, although you could imagine that it makes people more deterringly resistant before.

            @Chaos Mage
            The thing is that then I would expect people who have done martial arts or self defence of any kind to be similarly enormously less at risk of rape or even attempted rape, which would be somewhat surprising, and a tragedy if true and no-one has even bothered to look into it.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            I’m a sample. Never been threatened with sexual violence, but in real life scuffles, and even in thought experiments, my system/s totally shut down at the idea of causing actual damage. Luckily my NOW self-defense course left me walking like a bad-ass.

            I can totally understand how even a harmless move like twisting free could scare off an attacker if it shows trained expertise. So if that’s the only training she can absorb, that alone can make a big difference. And knowing that if you stick to the first set of motions you’re not in danger of harming anyone, can let you twist, or whatever, with full strength.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @houseboatonstyx:
            “I can totally understand how even a harmless move like twisting free could scare off an attacker if it shows trained expertise”

            As a complete guess, scaring off their attacker isn’t what is going on here. Rather, I think what is going on, at last some very substantial part of the time, is the aggressive party getting it through their thick skull that the other person actually means it.

            I say this, because I don’t think the numbers of forcible stranger attacks are very substantial. And we also have this sick model set up where guys expect to hear no, that then transforms to yes.

            My wife was essentially assaulted in college. The boy she as with closed and locked the door and said my wife couldn’t leave until they had sex. She seems to think he was trying to be persuasive. I think if she had forcibly prevented him from touching her, he would have actually gotten the message that he was NOT just being persuasive.

            I assume part of the issue here is that if things then escalate, the risk of substantial physical injury rises, or the fear of it rises.

          • CJB says:

            Another note-

            It doesn’t take a hell of a lot to freak out the average person.

            Tell me you don’t react to, say, a mouse darting towards you the way you’d expect to react to a semi darting at you.

            A person suddenly resisting violently is an order of magnitude more difficult to deal with than someone who just isn’t cooperative- that’s why the police always end up dogpiling people. Holding down someone that doesn’t want to be held down is very, very difficult.

            Essentially, the same reason anything struggles- if you fight hard enough, you’re not worthwhile prey.

      • wysinwyg says:

        1. You can’t teach someone to effectively break a wrist or choke hold held by someone stronger than them in one session. It would take weeks of drilling to make the technique useful in a real-world scenario.
        2. I think very little campus rape is forcible rape of the type that would be helped by breaking wrist or choke holds.*
        3. Of the three suggestions here, “yelling” seems by far to be the most likely to be effective.

        However, going over this stuff might be effective by priming the target to resist instead of cooperating. That’s the most likely scenario I believe. Edit: Maybe also something to do with confidence in general, though that might also be affected by the roleplaying.

        *I wouldn’t expect chokeholds to be a favored technique of rapists since it tends to put the attacker’s crotch at the center of the target’s back (for rear chokehold) or their shoulder (for guillotine chokehold). However, a properly executed chokehold can knock someone out in about 30 seconds by blocking bloodflow to the brain, so there’s that.

        • shemtealeaf says:

          I think you’re overestimating what they mean by ‘chokehold’. I think they’re talking about pressing on the neck from the front with the hands or forearms, rather than something like a guillotine or RNC. It’s not something that’s going to be very effective for actually choking someone unconscious, but it can be used to control a weaker untrained opponent (as most female rape victims presumably are).

        • ryan says:

          My initial thought is that the seminar may have changed the students’ perception of what constituted rape. They could have continued to engage in drunken hook up culture as much as before, but then have been less likely to report having been raped on a later survey.

          • AlexanderRM says:

            The article in question explicitly says the seminars included telling students things like “if someone had sex with a person who was intoxicated, the act could be defined as sexual assault”, including a real-life example of a student who reevaluated a previous experience as rape, and I get the strong impression they including other stuff about consent as well, which if anything I would expect them to increase the level of reporting as a portion of rapes committed.
            Which makes the massive drop even more shocking, actually.

      • 27chaos says:

        Where do I learn how to do those first two things?

        • wysinwyg says:

          Any Brazilian jiu jitsu gym, but look for one that has a reputation for good technique moreso than aggression.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Extremely cynical thought: people who have been taught how to avoid rape may feel responsible for avoiding rape and therefore be less likely to expansively classify situations they’ve been in as rape on a random survey.

      • David Moss says:

        I actually wondered whether something like that might be at play when I first read about it: people who’ve been through all this training might feel *more* ashamed if they were to be raped and so less likely to report it during followup. But fwiw, reports about the training (potentially cherry picked anecdote to be sure) suggest people feeling less ashamed about being raped and also more likely to think they’ve been raped than before.

      • Tim Martin says:

        Your “extremely cynical thought” is mentioned by the researchers! To wit:

        “Differential reporting between the groups is possible. Women in the resistance group might have underreported sexual assaults (perhaps believing that they should have been able to resist them); however, it is also possible that reporting of outcomes would be increased in women sensitized to sexual assault by the resistance training.”

        So… yeah. Does it balance out? I dunno.

    • nico says:

      Without having read the study, I have four theories:

      Theory #1: A large number of rapes they were measuring were of the weird-communication-failure variety. It makes sense that “defining personal sexual boundaries” beforehand would cut down massively on that.

      Theory #2A: The prevention program caused its participants to internalize a stricter definition of rape than the brochures did.

      Theory #2B: The prevention program gave victims a greater sense of agency in their own victimization and the resulting shame suppressed reporting rates.

      Theory #3: Rapists are pushovers.

      • David Moss says:

        #1 Interestingly the training included telling the women that no rape was ever “miscommunication” and that the men always knew that the women didn’t consent (and that is why you shouldn’t try to reason or plead with your rapist).

        #2A The intervention group did have lower rates of attempted rape as well as rape. But presumably that could be due to women taking the advice to “if you think someone is going to rape you, leave” and so on. Attempted rape was reduced more than completed rape. It also has lower coercion, attempted coercion and nonconsensual sexual contact, so I guess it’s not just about definitions shifting.

        #3 Funnily enough Lisak’s research does suggest that rapists tend to target quite precisely women who they think will be vulnerable to being raped, so I guess making these women signal difficult-to-rape by making them try to explicitly negotiate boundaries and say pointedly “My friends know where I am and will pick me up later” or whatever might succeed in deterring rapists (from targeting these particular individuals at least).

        • alexp says:

          Se CJB’s comment above. Perhaps being told that no rape is ever a miscommunication makes the woman act more forcibly in the cases where there is a miscommunication, hence preventing miscommunications.

        • AlexanderRM says:

          @ David Moss your point about #3 is actually a common concern about “rape prevention” tips and whatnot*, if a tip causes women to deter rapists, the rapists will just look for someone else, so it’s a rat race.

          A truly successful rape prevention thing would need to reduce the *total* number of rapes in an area, which unfortunately would be a lot harder to study. (you’d need to somehow isolate entire social units as study groups for extended periods such that any rapists in a given group could only target women in that group, and have enough of them to be a good sample size). I suppose you could try it a little with different prevention programs at different colleges, but I’d imagine there are far too many confounding factors to get any useful results.

          *at least among feminists, the only place I’ve seen it before is mixed in with social-narrative criticism about how they put the emphasis on women failing to prevent rape rather than on men for committing rape.

      • Deiseach says:

        Theory #4: By giving the participants skills that would enable them to physically engage with their attacker, and discussing situations in which it would and would not be appropriate to use these skills, the participants became more confident about saying “no” when they were uncomfortable in a situation and if the guy insisted, they could follow up by breaking the bastard’s wrist if he tried to ‘persuade’ them.

      • irrational_crank says:

        Perhaps the rape training scheme carries some negative externalities; it may be that rapists chose to rape other women instead who looked less confident having not gone through the scheme and so the scheme failed to actually reduce rape in total.

        • Jiro says:

          If the women were told that no rape is caused by miscommunication, the externalities are even more obvious.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          the rape training scheme carries some negative externalities; it may be that rapists chose to rape other women instead who looked less confident having not gone through the scheme and so the scheme failed to actually reduce rape in total.

          That seems rather like saying that if X% of the residents put stronger locks on their doors, the burglars would just break in other people’s houses. But the more people who have better locks, the more time a burglar would waste trying to find a weak one, and the more chance of getting caught while trying. Thus, the fewer actual burglaries.

          I should think that a negative externality would be an increase of rape in total. If it just shifts the targeting from one group to another, with the total number of rapes remaining the same, that would be a neutral outcome, ie zero change.

      • DrBeat says:

        I would phrase Theory #3 as so: Because they had not been trained to believe that they were absolute, powerless victims in all capacities, utterly devoid of agency and completely at the whims of men, they actually took actions aimed at preventing their victimization and some of these actions succeeded.

        I don’t think it is as absurd as you try to make it sound. The prevailing feminist narrative to women who are potential victims is: “You have no agency whatsoever. Do not take actions. You have no capacity to affect the outcome of events. Make no effort, on even the slightest level, to ensure your own well-being. It is entirely the responsibility of men to do that for you.” I would expect that if we polled a group of people who are given that message and that message alone, and compared it to people who were told ANY kind of way to prevent victimization, that the second group would have a much lower rate of victimization than the first.

      • Tarrou says:

        #5: The vast majority of sex being classified as rape, graduates of the class are now less likely to have any sexual contact, thus reducing the “rape” rate!

        Of course, a complete lack of sexual contact won’t stop some rape complaints.

    • David Moss says:

      Also can anyone explain to me why:
      “The 1-year risk of completed rape in the control group was nearly FOUR TIMES as high among previously victimized women as among women with no history of victimization (22.8% vs. 5.8%)” [emphasis mine] ?

      • suntzuanime says:

        Because whatever factor in your life tends to lead to rape in the past tends to lead to rape in the future? I imagine this is a pretty general effect, that e.g. people who have been in automobile accidents have a substantially higher automobile accident rate than those who haven’t, and so on.

        • David Moss says:

          Of course. I’m wondering what those factors are. If this was the general population it would be easy to think up explanations that could account for the huge difference (different neighbourhoods, totally different population of people around you, totally different lifestyles etc.); when it’s comparing people who are all students sharing the same campus it’s more striking and it suggests that these factors could be the kind of thing to intervene-at.

          • anodognosic says:

            This is the sort of thing you get in trouble for saying, but these kinds of lifestyle interventions have become taboo because they have been deemed to be victim-blaming. One of the big correlates of rape starts with “al” and ends with “cohol”. Emily Yoffe got a lot of flak for pointing that out in an article on Slate some time ago.

          • suntzuanime says:

            This whole study seems sort of taboo and victim-blamey, though? I mean at least they didn’t compare it to the effectiveness of teaching college men to avoid raping, but…

          • anodognosic says:

            @suntzuanime I’m a bit surprised you had that impression, because I thought the article at least was careful to distinguish these protective/defensive tactics from actual victim-blaming and offered plenty of caveats expressing the standard liberal concerns about this sort of thing. Care to expand?

          • David Moss says:

            They are saying things that would definitely get you lynched for victim blaming in other contexts (for example, suggesting that women learn self-defence, avoid lonely areas, saying to be careful in contexts where there are drugs, be wary of leaving a bar with someone you just met etc. etc.).

            OTOH they are offsetting this by constantly repeating that rape is never a woman’s fault, that men might rape because they’ve learned they are entitled to sex, writing a long paean at the end about how this is a “feminist project” based on “feminist theories”, including in their advice that people should “Fight for women’s rights” and complain about sexist jokes, saying “Sexual harassment is not about sex
            and fulfilling sexual desires. It is, in
            fact, about power” and so on.

            So it signals pretty heavily which “side” it is on and I think people mostly care about “sides” more than concrete content. No doubt some will still call it victim-blaming.

          • Two possibilities:

            1. Some people had and continue to have a more expansive definition of rape than others.

            2. Some women look like easier targets than others. My impression is that some women signal, deliberately or not, softness, vulnerability.

        • CJB says:

          “One of the big correlates of rape starts with “al” and ends with “cohol”. ”

          I got into a huuuuge (longer than many of scott’s threads on a website with an average of 100-200 comments per post) flamewar some years ago for arguing about this.

          Essentially I pointed out that the “drunken sex is always rape” narrative is a deeeeeeeply problematic one and things went from there.

          But the point I always remembered is pointing out that anti-rape training like this is actually pretty excellent and effective, and getting a lot of “Women ALREADY know this, you don’t think we’re constantly trained in this?? Why not teach MEN not to rape, huh?”

          And I wish I’d had this study then. It wouldn’t have mattered, but I would’ve enjoyed it.

          • David Moss says:

            This study(‘s intervention materials) actually describes alcohol as one of the “oldest rape drugs” you’ll be pleased to know.

      • FJ says:

        If you are repeatedly raped by the same person over a period of months or years (e.g., most child victims, many victims of marital rape or boyfriend rape), then your odds of being raped twice in a year approach 100%.

        • David Moss says:

          Yeh, but again, that doesn’t seem to apply so easily to the campus case (unless a lot of people in their sample were being repeatedly raped by the same person over the course of the year)- and if that was the case then you’d expect one of the best ways for their intervention to reduce rape rates would just be to get these people away from their abusers.

      • Alraune says:

        Can anyone explain to me why: “The 1-year risk of completed rape in the control group was nearly FOUR TIMES as high among previously victimized women as among women with no history of victimization (22.8% vs. 5.8%)”?

        Isn’t that just the 80/20 rule? Criminal victimization following a power law distribution shouldn’t be surprising, things transmitted among social networks usually follow power law distributions and criminal victimization is transmitted among social networks. (Extremely cursory Googling says that, yes, at least some work on repeat victimization finds power-law distributions apply.)

        Which, wow. That’s got some extremely unfortunate implications as to the rationality of victim-shunning, if not victim-blaming.

        • Anonymous says:

          It’s a big jump to assume that this has anything to do with social networks. The claim is that being raped in high school predicts being raped as a freshman. The social network has probably changed a lot with the change of school. (But Canadian college is local.) I’ll stick to victim-blaming. If it does have to do with rape victims choosing bad social networks, it’s a mistake them make repeatedly. Similarly, maybe it’s a bad sign about your social network that it has rape victims in it, but it’s a bad sign about your choice of that social network and if you jump ship and start over, you’ll probably just get more of the same, just like the rape victim moving from high school to college.

          • Alraune says:

            It’s a big jump to assume that this has anything to do with social networks.

            In what sense is that a large jump? That social interactions travel through social networks is nigh-tautological, and crime is a form of social interaction. How are you defining “social networks” here?

            Also I think you’re reading my concluding line backwards? I’m saying that refusal to associate with victims of crimes is probably rational. Whether that’s because “likelihood of victimization” is a variable and contagious attribute or because it’s a fixed attribute you want to signal a lack of is just another of those Calvinism-like dilemmas, interesting but not very relevant to the end result.

    • haishan says:

      Small pilot study (n=450) with a huge effect size? Yeah, I don’t think it’s likely to last.

      But there’s always so much resistance to teaching women how not to get raped — doing so might “deflect responsibility from potential perpetrators” or whatever — that it seems plausible that there’s low-hanging fruit there. Yeah, sure, women get advice on how not to get raped all the time, but it’s (a) probably not the most effective advice, on average, and (b) not coming from high-status, trusted sources.

    • ivvenalis says:

      Armies teach unarmed combat, not because anyone thinks it’s that useful in actual warfare, but because it instills in the trainee a mindset that he’s capable of defeating his enemy at the most basic physical level. The same thing is/was true of the use of the bayonet: even two hundred years ago, there was an awareness that battles rarely devolved into hand to hand combat. However, a soldier with a bayonet on the end of his rifle and a basic confidence of being able to stick it in someone was more likely psychologically to complete an assault (or die trying), rather than stopping and trading potshots the moment he entered range, which has always been pretty useless.

      Whatever these women were taught, the actual effectiveness probably isn’t that important. What’s important is that it gives them confidence they’re capable of getting out of a bad situation on their own. It’s pretty clear that creating a micro-environment where it feels awkward to say no is a standard seduction skill, and these encounters easily fall under loose definitions of “assault”, even though there is approximately never even an intent to use actual violence on the part of the “perpetrator”, and not having a “words-only” view of the world is probably a good way of avoiding these techniques.

      • FJ says:

        This is very insightful and comports with my experience.

      • What’s important is that it gives them confidence they’re capable of getting out of a bad situation on their own.

        Yes, this was my immediate thought of where the effect came from. Confident people are less likely to be singled out as victims.

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        It’s pretty clear that creating a micro-environment where it feels awkward to say no is a standard seduction skill […] and not having a “words-only” view of the world is probably a good way of avoiding these techniques.

        Physical contact moves for avoiding them and/or countering them without behaving uncool – would be a very good thing to practice in self-defense classes.

    • Cauê says:

      Information on sexual victimization was collected with the use of the Sexual Experiences Survey–Short Form Victimization (SES-SFV).31 The SES-SFV, a revision of the original 1982 SES,32 is the most widely used measure in sexual assault research and has high reliability and validity.33 Its strength is that it does not require correct labeling of sexual assault by participants but assesses how often particular experiences that legally constitute sexual assault (in Canada) and rape (in the United States) have occurred.
      (…) Completed rape (oral, vaginal, or anal penetration) and nonconsensual sexual contact (nonpenetrative) were defined as nonconsensual sexual acts in which the perpetrator used threats, force, or drug or alcohol incapacitation.

      …and there goes the information value. Is it possible to see the results for “force and threats” separated from “drugs and alcohol” somewhere?

      • Douglas Knight says:

        The survey does make that distinction, so you could extract it if you could get the raw data, but the distinction is not published anywhere.

  14. Tarrou says:

    From the article on rape prevention:

    “one in five” STRIKE ONE!

    “she was startled to learn that if someone had sex with a person who was intoxicated, the act could be defined as sexual assault” STRIKE TWO!

    “I felt an adrenaline rush and some shock,” Ms. Boyes, 22, said. “It was eye-opening to realize that I had been raped in high school.”

    And there it is!

    • anodognosic says:

      The actual example, in context, does not seem to be an otherwise innocuous sexual encounter redefined as rape post hoc (if I correctly understand your implication). It reads like a prototypical example of malicious abuse of an intoxicated person, which the victim took to be her own fault until this realization.

      • Tarrou says:

        And yet the description is perfectly anodyne and aside from the word “Assaulted”, which is a journalistic choice from someone deeply invested in one narrative could be a perfectly innocent encounter. Two teens got drunk (how drunk? We don’t know) and had sex. Under the new fake guidelines, this is rape. But who raped who? Technically fake-speaking, both are perpetrator and victim, but in reality only men will ever be charged.

        This is sexism, misandry and a reprehensible erosion of the horror all sane people rightly feel at the real crime of rape.

        Of course, she could have been taken advantage of, we don’t know. But we do know she didn’t think she was taken advantage of until someone explained to her that she could offload any and all responsibility for her actions onto another person by virtue of her sex.

        • wysinwyg says:

          Doesn’t really prove anything. It’s very common for victims of abuse to believe the abuse is their own fault even when it’s not.

          • Tarrou says:

            Is it?

            Is it more common than people hitting college, redefining their identity and at the same time being immersed in a society in which victimhood is the ultimate status, and thus reinterpreting any vague event from their past life in the worst possible light in order to gain this status?

        • anodognosic says:

          Perhaps you’re right, specifically about the word “assaulted” – I can’t know what led to the choice of that word – but it bears saying that children who are victim of sexual abuse often have similar realizations about being taken advantage of only much later, and I hope you’d consider that abuse prima facie. Which means this kind of belated realization is *really* not much of an indication either way.

          • The_Dancing_Judge says:

            When the woman is 16 and drunk, i think its a different scenario than a 5 year old that has no idea about the nature of sexual relations at all. In the five year old’s case its obviously abuse, the only question is determining if it really occurred. With the 16 year old, even if it occurred, the mechanics of how it occurred matter (was she passed out? overpowered? or just “very drunk?”). The NYTs reducing these things down to “drunk sex is assault/rape” isn’t an accident.

          • Tarrou says:

            Children are incapable of consent by definition, thats why we have that handy legal term “Age of Consent”!

            The girl in this story is past that, and so we must judge her actions by the standards which all other consenting adults are judged. A sixteen-year-old, barring some bizarre cult compound retarding her understanding of sexual matters, is perfectly capable of understanding the difference between “rape” and “not-rape”. If college administrators later convince her that the legal lines drawn by the government are wrong and in fact, any interaction with a man that ever made her uncomfortable was, in fact, rape, this doesn’t change the original facts.

          • anodognosic says:

            @Tarrou All I can say is that you’re not looking very hard. I’m not even especially interested in the topic, and I’ve come across a fair number of stories of women of around this age who were not raised in a cult compound and who underwent what even by your standards would be incontrovertibly considered rape but who did not realize it until much later. So no, in practice, understanding the difference between rape and not-rape is not that simple even in cases that are perfectly clear-cut to an outside observer.

    • The_Dancing_Judge says:

      THANK YOU!

      That one weird trick that men hate: turning the legal definition of incapacitation into “very drunk.”

      (STYLE GUIDE NOTE, DO NOT DESCRIBE THE ASSAULT, JUST STATE THE ENCOUNTER WAS AN ASSAULT)

      …I mean, seriously, she was “very drunk,” then a guy offered to take her home, then he “assaulted” her? Thats the entirety of the description. All my media obfuscation detectors immediately went on full alert. Lets break this down.

      *********
      “I felt an adrenaline rush and some shock,” Ms. Boyes, 22, said. “It was eye-opening to realize that I had been raped in high school.”

      At 16, she had been at a party, drinking alcohol for the first time, and was very drunk. A boy offered to take her home — and then assaulted her.”
      ********
      1. She was “very drunk.” Unless she was passed out/obviously unable to tell where she was and what she was doing, this is not the legal definition of incapacitated.

      2. “A boy offered to take her home — and then assaulted her.” So the word, “assaulted” is doing the entirety of the work. Did he just have sex/make sexual contact with her? Assuming the “very drunk” point above wasnt just a red herring, this is the logical assumption. Thus, its probably not legally sexual assault. If the writer meant he used force in his contact, then why not say so? Why just say “assault” and be done with it?

      I would bet money the “very drunk” part is the operative part, not the bland labeling of the event as “assault.” And in that case, no rape/sexual assault occurred.

      • Whatever happened to Anonymous says:

        I think we’re not that far gone that we should drop the assumption of good faith (when a story is being recalled, obviously things are different when an accusation is being made).

        • The_Dancing_Judge says:

          The whole point and framing of the narrative in that article is not a good faith, even handling of the facts, or a narrative on one technique to reduce the incidence of rape. I am, of course, interested in how that rape prevention class could have possibly reduced rapes by half – that’s an interesting question. If the article had just reported on the success of the class, i would have no objections.

          Rather the problem is that the article endorses the idea that there is a rape epidemic on college campuses. I deny that there is anything going on other than lots of meaningless drunken sex by people not mature enough to emotionally deal with the vacuous nature of these exchanges (*ofc rapes do happen, no there isnt an epidemic). I mean, when the writer asserts that having “sex with a person who was intoxicated, the act could be defined as sexual assault” without clarifying the *could,* and then goes on to describe a scenario where the only thing suspicious occurring is that the woman is drunk, i think we are outside the realm of charitably.

          Finally, this is an issue right now because proving that there is a hostile environment on college campuses is being used for a variety of feminist power moves. The most scary being the Title IX kangaroo courts that kick men out of college and label them rapists on bare accusations of a previous female partner while denying the accused basic procedural safeguards.

  15. Darcey says:

    Of course SSRIs work by affecting glee-al cells.

  16. suntzuanime says:

    “At least the insanity is limited to our universities” = “At least the poison is limited to our water supply”

    • hawkice says:

      So, I think this metaphor isn’t 100% for a number of reasons, but I’ll pick this one because it seems most central to your point:

      If we know the water supply is the only place poison can come from, that’s AMAZING NEWS. All of the poison in a single public trust, where we can filter it before delivering it to anyone? That’s arguably substantially safer than real life, where anything could be poisoned, but actually is poisoned with such low frequency that it’s not worth checking.

    • stillnotking says:

      At times like this, I remind myself that the political environment at American universities in the late 1960s and 1970s was approximately a thousand times more toxic and evil than it is today. Ever read The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test? We seem to have gotten through that reasonably well; at least, without the Little Red Book becoming a template for the next generation of corporate HR managers.

  17. AbuDhabi says:

    Re: Abortion drones.

    This is beyond awful. How can anyone with any decency allow such a thing?

    • Deiseach says:

      Women On Waves do this for publicity value, not actual abortion provision. Previously they’ve sailed ships into ports, including once to Ireland, for this whole “We’ll provide the women of Ireland with surgical abortions” (I don’t think anyone took them up on it).

      I’m not going to comment on this whole thing, because I know I’ll just degenerate into yelling and swearing (take it that I’m a horrible fascist anti-choicer who wants women to die from backstreet abortions using coat hangers, right?).

      Okay, that’s a lie. I am going to comment on this.

      The U.N. is getting into the debate as well re: Ireland’s abortion laws, even though we’ve just taken the first step in legalising limited abortion. But that’s not enough, apparently. Abortion for everyone now! As an aside, that’s why I am not convinced by those who pooh-pooh or scoff at the “slippery slope” argument, because I’ve seen the slippery slope in action.

      Abortion, my younglings, though you may not believe it, back in the Bad Old Days (i.e. the 1970s), abortion was only going to be the very last resort in the very gravest cases. Married women who were mothers of young families and were in immediate danger of physical death in childbirth. Rape and incest then later, and later still where the foetus was so physically malformed it could not survive long after birth (or was so mentally disabled, as in the case of hydrocephalus). Abortion was not going to be birth control, it was not going to be on demand, it was not going to be for unmarried women, it was a terrible, tragic choice that was going to be rigorously overseen by qualified medical professionals and only permitted in the least possible number of cases.

      Abortion for “threats to the physical or mental health and well-being of the mother, rape and incest” was campaigned for as compassionate response to hard cases that would only apply for a relatively low proportion of pregnancies, and permitting it on these grounds would never, ever lead to the liberalisation and extension of abortion laws, no way, no how.

      And now, countries that permit abortion only on these grounds are finger-wagged at for their “highly restrictive” laws, and newspaper articles trot out the activists’ line that this is a violation of women’s rights with no question.

      So – back in the Bad Old Days either the campaigners were deliberately lying about the impact of making abortion legal (possible that some of them were) or they honestly believed what they were saying and thought abortion would be held as so abhorrent, and as such a last desperate resort, that there would never be women aborting their pregnancies because the foetus had a cleft palate, or that doctors would wink at the laws and rubberstamp abortion requests or sex-selective abortions, or that it would be considered too expensive (where “too expensive” means “but we’re not rich enough to afford two sets of fees for private school”) to have twins so one should be aborted.

      Hence the slippery slope, where what was the last resort of desperation gradually becomes the unwarrantable restriction of a natural right.

      • James Picone says:

        I think Savita Halappanavar would object to your characterisation of Irish law as allowing abortion in cases where the mother’s physical health was at risk, you know, if she wasn’t dead.

        • AbuDhabi says:

          Medical technology is not perfect. Who knew?

          • James Picone says:

            If Halappanavar had received an abortion for the foetus that she couldn’t carry to term (she had already miscarried), then she wouldn’t have died.

            This isn’t a question of medicine being imperfect. This is a straightforward example of a medically-necessary abortion where the foetus was dead either way being refused because of Irish law (or at the very least, the interpretation of Irish law under vogue at that hospital), and a woman dying as a result.

            Don’t practice medicine and deontology at the same time, kids.

          • AbuDhabi says:

            “If Halappanavar had received an abortion for the foetus that she couldn’t carry to term (she had already miscarried), then she wouldn’t have died.”

            Or so you think. The doctors, based on available data and in compliance with their oaths and the local law, made the choice. Just because they couldn’t save their patients doesn’t mean they didn’t try.

          • James Picone says:

            Woman shows up on day 0, suffering from a miscarriage (that is, it’s over – this foetus will not get born). She asks for an abortion, was told that it wasn’t legal because the foetus had a heartbeat and her life “didn’t appear to be in danger”.

            Day 2, she collapses because of septic shock.

            Day 3 the foetal remains are removed.

            Day 7, she dies.

            I’m not entirely certain how someone can look at that timeline and not conclude that maybe the reason she developed septicemia was because a dying foetus was left in her for three days longer than it had to be.

            This isn’t a difficult question. The medical professionals involved could have given her the abortion she needed on day 0, when she first showed up. Instead, they delayed until day 3 because of Irish law, because they had to wait until her life was in direct danger, rather than preventing that direct danger to begin with.

          • AbuDhabi says:

            My bad for misunderstanding the meaning of “miscarriage” in this context. I had been under the impression that the case was not fatal yet.

            However, it’s still the case that the issue was misdiagnosing the danger, rather than a simple case of not getting treatment “because no”.

          • randy m says:

            Don’t practice deontology and medicine… not a fan of the Hippocratic oath?

          • AlexanderRM says:

            @ randy m It seems to me that if you actually interpreted “do no harm” literally (and I think a very reasonable interpretation would be “don’t do anything that wouldn’t be considered OK if it weren’t for the other positive consequences in this case”, which is pretty much standard deontology), it would eliminate entire branches of medicine. Like any form of surgery.

        • Muga Sofer says:

          Since she did not die as a result of being denied an abortion, IIRC, I’m doubtful. She *was* denied an abortion, but that isn’t why she died (it was basically misdiagnosis/incompetence.)

        • Brett says:

          As you might know if you bothered to fucking read that article you cited (the Aftermath section, at the bottom), Irish laws were changed in response to Savita Halppanavar’s death to allow abortion in cases of physical risk to the mother.

      • AbuDhabi says:

        Slippery slope is real, BTW, as you yourself realize.

        http://www2.law.ucla.edu/volokh/slippery.htm

        • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

          I’m bitterly disappointed that the Rube Goldberg diagram in Volokh’s paper failed to include either a boiling frog or a cloud the size of a man’s hand.

      • aguycalledjohn says:

        Since we’re not going to get anywhere with the argument about abortion rights in themselves, would you agree that the fact that when polled the majority consistently support more liberal laws https://www.ifpa.ie/Hot-Topics/Abortion/Public-Opinion but the political interests make it impossible to change is a little fucked up?

        I’m also curious how the dynamics would change if the UK and other countries stopped allowing Irish women to travel for abortions. My suspicion is things would change pretty quickly. As it stands for anyone rich and well enough to travel its de facto legal, it just means that the poor and people like poor Savita get screwed over to defend the symbolic integrity of the state’s ban.

        • sweeneyrod says:

          Although I am pro-abortion, I would still disagree about the fucked-upness of the government not acquiescing to the will of the majority. There is still considerable support for the death penalty in the UK (around 50%). When it was abolished in 1965 there was around 70-80% support for it. I’m glad that it was abolished when it was – I don’t think there is necessarily anything wrong with the government leading the people.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            “I don’t think there is necessarily anything wrong with the government leading the people.”

            Okay, sorry, gonna be that guy: Why don’t you think there is anything wrong with that?

            From your own statement, opposition to the death penalty was a small enough slice of public opinion that it bordered on fringe belief. What exactly made the government qualified to overrule the people’s opinions on this matter?

            (To be clear, I’m not arguing that the government didn’t have the legal ability to abolish capitol punishment, I’m just asking why it was okay to oppose public opinion in this case.)

          • Banananon says:

            @ThirteenthLetter
            Are you looking for a defense of abolishing the dealth penalty, or of the claim that its okay for the government to differ from majority opinion?
            I interpreted the parent’s claim as analagous to “Sometimes the ends justify the means. Here is case where the end I wanted justified this potentially questionable means.” In this reprasing, your response of “But how do you *know* that particular end is desirable?”. In short, it kind of seems to be missing the point of the parent’s argument, in that you’re attacking the assumptions rather than the inference.

            A side note: I’m not sure what constitutes a fringe belief, but my implicit assumption is that it’s much rarer than 20%, maybe 1% or fewer.

          • Alraune says:

            A side note: I’m not sure what constitutes a fringe belief, but my implicit assumption is that it’s much rarer than 20%, maybe 1% or fewer.

            I get the impression that there are a lot of ~15% prevalent views that can be deemed fringe or not based on context.

        • Deiseach says:

          Ah, the Savita case! I wondered when that would turn up. What about the safe, legal, registered medical clinics that provide abortions? Such as this one in the U.K.? Funnily enough, I’m not seeing this case splashed all over the national and international media as an indictment of medical failure.

          Savita Halappanavar died not because of lack of access to abortion but because of shoddy and neglectful hospital care that permitted her to develop and die from sepsis.

          But don’t worry. I’m sure we’ll get abortion in Ireland in a few years time. I don’t think it’s going to be the great panacea we’re being promised, though, anymore than child abuse suddenly disappeared because now “every child a wanted child” because of access to contraception and abortion. People are still having children that they neglect and positively abuse, and unless there is going to be some kind of mandatory 24/7 monitoring by government agencies to make sure ‘unfit parents’ women don’t get pregnant or if pregnant that the pregnancy is terminated, that is never going to change very much.

          • John says:

            If you’re trying to argue that abortion in the UK is horribly unsafe, linking a death that led to three medical personnel being charged with manslaughter (compared to as far as I can tell no serious repercussions for the Savita case) is probably not your best bet.

          • Deiseach says:

            John, the Savita Halappanavar case was a tragedy, but it was immediately reported globally as if “See? If only backwards Ireland permitted abortion, this woman would have been alive!”, even though it turns out it was shitty medical care and not being able to recognise when someone is dying of sepsis that killed her. There have been other mini-scandals since then about maternity services in Ireland, and dead babies and dead mothers, but since none of them were useful for the cause of arguing Ireland should have abortion, they haven’t made the global news.

            Meanwhile, in our neighbouring island, where safe, legal medical abortion is practised, a woman died of complications from one of those safe, legal surgical abortions that we mustn’t criminalise because that would drive women to dangerous back-street abortionists, yet there is no corresponding wave of publicity about “How could this happen?”

      • Erik says:

        “Women On Waves do this for publicity value, not actual abortion provision.”

        And a good thing too, because the drone operation seems so very prone to disruption. Trolls shooting down or stealing the drones in midflight are the obvious issue, but what about someone sending in an extra drone carrying some other superficially similar pill, or switching out the cargo en route? Did they not think through what a terrible idea it is for people to be taking pills delivered by a jerry-rigged system across long distances?

        Sugar pills that don’t result in an abortion.

        Laxative pills inserted by an advanced troll who still thinks shit jokes are the best thing ever.

        Scarlet letter pills that make the user flush red or otherwise look visibly marked for an extended period of time.

        Poison pills.

        Scaling up drone delivery at national distances would require so much identification, verification, security, etc. that I expect it rapidly loses any advantages it has over regular transport. Once you start sticking on certificates indicating that the cargo is really from Source S and has not been tampered with, and this has to fly over a hostile country for a hundred miles with an escort, and/or there’s some medical testing authority on the receiving end, it becomes a lot easier for that country’s government to go “Stop that, you”.

        • Deiseach says:

          Scarlet letter pills that make the user flush red or otherwise look visibly marked for an extended period of time

          Niacin. There’s a reason health-food stores market “no flush” niacin because I can testify that the other stuff does make you turn red and feel as if someone is holding a blowtorch to your face 🙂

        • The object is to convince their supporters that they are the Wave of the Future and cannot be stopped.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Yep — and to overawe their more gullible political opponents. Use a magic technology word, ideally one which can be spun as subverting some evil technology normally used for right-wing purposes, and their friends in the press will handle the rest of the narrative.

            I’d be willing to bet a shiny nickel that there is no physical “abortion drone” or even any plans to buy one. Actual hardware isn’t needed, just a story about it.

      • Abortion, my younglings, though you may not believe it, back in the Bad Old Days (i.e. the 1970s), abortion was only going to be the very last resort in the very gravest cases.

        I’m confused. I didn’t think Ireland changed its abortion laws in the 1970s. Are you speaking of some other country?

        • Deiseach says:

          I’m speaking of the general attitudes, in Ireland and the U.K. (the 1967 Abortion Act was hard-fought and there were sporadic attempts over the years to have it revoked, and even now it’s not applicable in Northern Ireland) and even the United States.

          Attitudes to abortion have changed. That’s the point of the slippery slope. When I see people laughing at the very idea of such a thing because come on, those worst-case scenarios are absurdities dreamed up by the nay-sayers who don’t want to give an inch, I still believe there is such a thing, because attitudes do change and what was an impossibility becomes an exception becomes normal becomes a right to which everyone is entitled.

          Look at how same-sex marriage – which was not even dreamed of back when people were campaigning for the decriminalisation of homosexual behaviour – has now become a human right which it is immoral to deny.

          I’m not concerned one way or the other about civil same-sex marriage; it’s become legal in my country and I can’t see that it is going to destroy marriage more than straight people have already done. But it does mark a change in attitude that would have been unthinkable within my lifetime and such changes in attitude are not static and do not confine themselves to nice, happy, rainbows and sunshine outcomes.

          • The issue, from my perspective, is that applying death is such an easy, neat, and simple solution to any social problem or inconvenient person. Dangerously easy.

            Legalizing death (abortion, euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide, capital punishment) is usually very popular. And the slippery slope is indisputable: the easier it is to utilize Death to solve a problem, the easier it becomes, and the more problems it can be applied to.

            Your post describes this evolution with respect to grounds for abortion. A similar experience applies with physician-assisted suicide in the countries which have legalized it.

            That being said, abortion is also a personal autonomy and self-determination issue. At least in my moral universe, a woman cannot be compelled to bear children against her will.

            Moreover, it is preposterous to call a fertilized egg or a blastocyst a human citizen entitled to all the rights and protections of the born. And the process of developing from a single cell to a baby is gradual, with no bright line to mark an arbitrary boundary between “worthless bunch of cells” and “precious human being”.

            Hence, it’s not sustainable to partly legalize abortion. Either you allow the decision to be made (by the woman and her doctor) or you don’t. Any rule about “circumstances” or “reasons” or “health” will be stretched to fit any need.

            By supporting legal abortion, I carved out an exception in my no-legal-death-for-problem-solving rule. Hence, I feel a responsibility to strongly oppose other manifestations of easy legal Death, such as physician-assisted suicide (euthanasia lite) and capital punishment. I don’t want abortion rights to be generalized into those situations.

          • Randy M says:

            I don’t see how you can say abortion is about “applying death” and also about “personal” autonomy. (Unless you mean non-human death, in which case it doesn’t fit your other examples). If youare willing to call what is happens to the fetus “death” (at least of the same type of death as the other human examples listed) then the personal autonomy is basically a non-issue in comparison, or else I find your ethics incomprehensible.

          • I don’t see how you can say abortion is about “applying death” and also about “personal” autonomy. (Unless you mean non-human death, in which case it doesn’t fit your other examples). If youare willing to call what is happens to the fetus “death” (at least of the same type of death as the other human examples listed) then the personal autonomy is basically a non-issue in comparison, or else I find your ethics incomprehensible.

            But that’s exactly the thing: abortion is inherently ambiguous, because of the gradual development problem.

            By some standards, even the destruction of a microscopic fertilized egg is a human death. I acknowledge that view, even though I don’t agree. For others, abortion at some point further on would be a human death — but there is no consensus on what that precise point would be.

            (We’re talking about public policy here, so I don’t get to intuit my own wonderful solution and impose it on everyone. What the rest of the community thinks about this matters a lot.)

            So okay, the later you are in pregnancy, the more likely the fetus would be considered human, and the more serious a matter it is to abort, but what does that mean operationally? A reason to abort that would have been good enough three weeks ago isn’t good enough now? Maybe, but as Deiseach illustrated, these matters get very slippery very fast.

            Rather than getting into precise stages and standards, and searching desperately to find a hill to defend and draw a strict moral line, I prefer to trust that the people directly involved (including administrators and regulators where applicable) will make appropriate decisions under individual circumstances. Even if that decision sometimes entails the death of an unborn human being.

            You could say, anyone not born yet isn’t human, so abortion is not a death and always okay. But that position makes no more sense than giving single cells full citizenship.

            You could say, abortion in the third trimester should require extra scrutiny. I say, great! Scrutinize away. Form a review board. Tie it to the doctor’s licensing. Just don’t stack it so that the answer is always the same. And be prompt, since every passing day makes the choice harder. Mindless delay is the worst possible approach.

          • Randy M says:

            “We’re talking about public policy here, so I don’t get to intuit my own wonderful solution and impose it on everyone.”

            Could have fooled me. Actually, you did:
            “At least in my moral universe” ; “By supporting legal abortion, I carved out an exception ”

            I was responding to your post as if you were describing your views on morality.

            Anyhow, I still see a contradiction between saying hat there is a morally relevant death and that the pressing issue is “bodily autonomy” It is claiming protection of a right while denying it to others.

          • Could have fooled me.

            I just mentioned that to explain why others’ ideas of whether or not a specific fetus is a human being are relevant to the discussion.

            Anyhow, I still see a contradiction between saying hat there is a morally relevant death and that the pressing issue is “bodily autonomy” It is claiming protection of a right while denying it to others.

            The gestation/abortion issue is sui generis. You either privilege the life of the fetus over the consent of the mother, or vice versa. There is no sustainable consensus “in-between” position.

            I think it’s monstrous to hold a woman’s life hostage to a single cell, or a blastocyst. But once you allow any abortion, you’ve opened the door to all abortions, because there is no meaningful boundary to contain just the extreme cases, or just the cases you or I think would be reasonable.

            Therefore, the cost of giving priority to the consent of the burdened party is that some deaths (as you or I might varyingly define them, assuming we had full knowledge) will occur. That is not a good thing, but it is a necessary thing.

            The nature of reality forces moral compromises, and it does not work to put human life absolutely above all other considerations. How could we have a transportation system without accepting in advance that people will be killed? Why allow surgery for non-life-and-death conditions, when we know that some small percentage of the patients will die on the operating table?

            What I am strongly opposing is the ability to single out someone and legally put them to death for being troublesome or inconvenient. Making the exception for abortion obviously means that I’m not including the unborn as “someone”. It doesn’t mean I completely disregard the problem, or miss the obvious parallels between abortion and (say) euthanasia.

          • Randy M says:

            “I think it’s monstrous to hold a woman’s life hostage to a single cell, or a blastocyst.”

            Oh don’t be such a dramatic. Outlawing abortion would be requiring her to take the same consequences of her actions as every ancestor she’s ever had has faced.

            Anyhow, that’s a lot of nice justification. Yes, life has risks inherent, even deadly risks. The way we deal with that is usually to allow those effected by the risk the most to make the choice. Seems to me like the way you’ve chosen to draw the line with abortion and euthenasia is consistent in one way–deny the rights of those with the most to lose.

            Btw, your ethics, as described here:
            “By supporting legal abortion, I carved out an exception in my no-legal-death-for-problem-solving rule. Hence, I feel a responsibility to strongly oppose other manifestations of easy legal Death, ”
            remind me of one of the quirks of utilitarianism Scott’s spoke of–Trying to bargain with the moral calculus in unrelated areas. Paraphrased, “Abortion is isomorphic in important ways to morally problematic issues , but I can let it slide because I’m going to watch these other, analogous but unconnected dilemmas very carefully to make up for it.

            It’s also weird that you keep arguing that it is impossible to draw a line during pregnancy, but then say that what matters is what people collectively think about it. Seems that collectively westerners find abortion early acceptable and late disturbing, and so have in actual fact set up such lines. They may not actually be grounded on logic (but no less so than birth; a mother by law must care for or relinquish children, so much for bodily autonomy there), but they have proven that those deaths you see as “not good, but necessary” were not actually the latter.

          • Outlawing abortion would be requiring her to take the same consequences of her actions as every ancestor she’s ever had has faced.

            I’ll just leave that here.

            Trying to bargain with the moral calculus in unrelated areas.

            Nope, that’s ridiculous.

            People with views like yours, back in 1972 when my state voted on legal abortion, predicted that it would lead to devaluing human life in other areas. They would not have been surprised by what Deiseach recounted above: what was promoted as an extreme solution for rare, grave cases has become relatively commonplace.

            My friends in the right-to-life movement have pointed out that the exact same dynamic is going on in Europe with regard to euthanasia, which has rapidly expanded to include children, prisoners, physically healthy adults, and people who gave no consent. Guidelines and safeguards which were supposed to limit the practice are being widely disregarded. I think this is rather alarming. source source source source source source

            This is exactly Volokh’s slippery slope, linked and discussed in prior comments on this thread. Did legalizing abortion (position A) pave the way for the euthanasia craze (position B)? Yeah, probably it did.

            I support (A), but I make no apology for not wanting to slide all the way down to (B).

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Larry K
            By some standards, even the destruction of a microscopic fertilized egg is a human death. I acknowledge that view, even though I don’t agree. For others, abortion at some point further on would be a human death — but there is no consensus on what that precise point would be.

            In a serious discussion elsewhere, a devout and sophisticated Jew said: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. – So, what’s hard about that?”

            Some supporting quotes are badly presented at the Christian site … http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/03/19/1285933/-Bible-Life-Begins-at-Breath-Not-Conception#
            … but I have seen the same idea attributed to Jewish sources also.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Larry Kestenbaum:

            A similar experience applies with physician-assisted suicide in the countries which have legalized it.

            Forgive me if this leads to massive derailing, but have you read our host’s blogpost on this subject? There are apparently some people out there willing to seriously misrepresent the data in order to make things sound much scarier than they are.

          • Forgive me if this leads to massive derailing, but have you read our host’s blogpost on this subject? There are apparently some people out there willing to seriously misrepresent the data in order to make things sound much scarier than they are.

            Thank you, I hadn’t seen that. Perhaps I should have been more wary of numbers provided by partisans.

            I remain opposed to euthanasia, but it would be nice if the situation in Europe isn’t as alarming as I thought. I will investigate further.

        • Schmendrick says:

          I believe he’s referring to the arguments trotted out in favor of liberalizing abortion laws in the 70’s, not the actual laws themselves.

      • On the other hand, the abortion rate in the US reached a peak in 1989 and has been declining since. If the current rate of decline continues, it will reach zero in 2053. In 2054, a left-wing media outlet will blame the abortion epidemic on capitalism. (The only reason Cthulhu always swims left is that the direction of left keeps changing.)

      • Niklas says:

        Women on Waves do actually try to provide abortions (not surgically, but through pills administered by doctors onboard their ship), as well as provide information to women on how to do it by themselves relatively safely.

        Their missions just usually fail for one reason or another. Turns out the governments and anti-abortion activists in the countries in question don’t really like them.

      • robbbbbb says:

        The culture wars, in a nutshell:

        Progressives: “We need A!”

        Conservatives: “That will cause bad things B, C, and D, and in five years you’ll be back asking for E.”

        Progressives: “That’s crazy talk! No rational person would advocate for E! Straw man!”

        [Five years later]

        Progressives: “We need E!”

        Conservatives: “Bad things B, C, and D have happened, E will make them worse, and we told you so.”

        Progressives: “Bigots!”

        • FacelessCraven says:

          Speaking as a conservative, the problem with this argument is that a) the liberals really have won quite a lot of political fights, and b) life is actually pretty good right now.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            I think a fairer (and perhaps more idealistic) representation would be:

            Progressives: We want A!

            Conservatives: No, A brings B and C, which are bad.

            Then, some time later

            Progressives: Here’s A+

            Conservatives: But what about B and C?

            Progressives: A+ already accounts for B, and we’re dealing with C by using D.

            Conservatives: OK then.

            Progressives: Also, we want X

            Conservatives: No, fuck X.

        • Bugmaster says:

          Hmm, I don’t know, I feel like some of the progressive causes worked out reasonably well (whereas some others have not). I’m not sure about conservative causes — perhaps you could list some ? Anyway, off the top of my head:

          * Women’s suffrage: I think this worked out fairly well, and was kind of an obvious move, in retrospect.
          * Legalization of contraception: yet another unambiguous win.
          * Legalization of abortion: this one is pretty much a matter of faith; I personally think it worked out well, but I can see why some might disagree
          * Equal Pay Act: worked out pretty well, all things considered
          * Desegregation: another one of those issues which, IMO, should’ve been obvious in retrospect
          * Affirmative action: Mixed results here.
          * Gay rights, anti-discrimination: worked out pretty well, though admittedly this is also a religious issue
          * Gay rights, gay marriage: seems to have no major downsides so far
          * Environmental protection: huge win, just look at China for comparison. Worth it for the non-poisonous tap water alone.
          * FDA: Mixed results, but on the whole positive, I think.
          * Drug legalization: too early to tell, but initial indicators are good
          * Hate speech laws: mostly negative, I think
          * Internet lynch mobs: technically not government policy, but still, a clear loss
          * Trigger warnings, microagressions in colleges: same as above

          I’m not sure what all the major conservative causes are, other than the opposition to some specific progressive cause. I can think of a few, though:

          * The Drug War: a clear loss.
          * Iraq War: a clear loss.
          * Creationism in schools: a clear loss, but this is a religious issue, as above, so YMMV

          Are there any others ?

          • FJ says:

            I assume the conservatives want to take credit for opposing the Soviet Union. Clearly better than before, but not a total victory?

          • I’m not a conservative, but here are some suggestions for their list:

            * Deregulation of airlines belongs on the conservative list (even though it happened under Jimmy Carter), and it was a clear win.

            * Other kinds of deregulation? A mixed bag, depends on the field.

            * I don’t think the drug war can be laid on the conservatives’ doorstep. It dates back too far. And in the early 20th century, alcohol prohibition was advocated as a progressive idea, closely tied to women’s suffrage. (When William Jennings Bryan demanded a “progressive” candidate at the 1924 Democratic National Convention, he meant a supporter of Prohibition. The “wets” were seen as conservatives then.)

            * School choice: high hopes don’t seem to be borne out so far. But the concept has led to greater choices generally, for example, opening the possibility of legally sending a kid to a different public school district, and that seems good.

            * Charter schools: small successes, but also fraud opportunities. I’ll mark this as unsettled yet.

            * Weakening labor unions: here’s one where nobody is going to agree. What I see as a big loss, conservatives see as a big win.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            I’d say opposing international socialism was a pretty big win. But I would, wouldn’t I?

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            I’d say Communism was a pretty big loss, all things considered. Does Colonialism count as progressive? I guess that one’s still divisive, though.

            A problem is that we’re not all that aware of stuff that was proposed but stopped before it gained enough momentum (which would be a conservative victory). One such case that gets thrown around here was eugenics.

          • Nornagest says:

            Does Colonialism count as progressive?

            I’m tempted to say that anything that happened more than a hundred years ago should not be counted toward any modern political tendency, because it’s too easy to make plausible-sounding arguments out of context if you are not a historian and not enough of us are.

          • I’m tempted to say that anything that happened more than a hundred years ago should not be counted toward any modern political tendency, because it’s too easy to make plausible-sounding arguments out of context if you are not a historian and not enough of us are.

            Hear, hear!

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            That’s fair.

          • Alraune says:

            Other than the opposition to some specific progressive cause.

            Duh? Just what do you think “conservative” means? The vast majority of conservative causes and victories will always be about not doing things, because political conservativism is ultimately just a strong default preference for maintaining the status quo.

          • Jaskologist says:

            In America, “conservative” tends toward “classically liberal,” which does have a program beyond “don’t change things.”

          • Alraune says:

            America as a whole leans more classically liberal. America broken down by region has conservative regions that tend to be more classically liberal than the liberal regions. But overall, “conservative” tends towards “endorses whatever was thought in the local environment 15-25 years ago.”

          • Anonymous says:

            “political conservativism is ultimately just a strong default preference for maintaining the status quo.”

            Despite the name, I don’t think it is this as much as it is a preference for maintaining (existing) hierarchies.

          • Anonymous says:

            “I suspect you are looking through the assumptions of your own grinding axes, and mistaking it for other people’s own experience of their own beliefs.”

            @Mark Atwood, You can disagree, but my conclusions are based on my observations, just like yours are. If you attribute a not-so-nice reading of conservatives to “grinding axes,” then the level of discourse on this forum has *really* gone to the dogs.

          • Alraune says:

            Honestly, I’m just confused by the suggestion that “a strong default preference for maintaining the status quo” and “a strong default preference for maintaining existing hierarchies” are different things.

          • Jaskologist says:

            You’re all missing the important issue: who gets credit for the National Raisin Reserve?

          • CJB says:

            http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=29619

            Republican party charter of 1856.

            Abolition (Still a key plank in the republican platform)

            Traditional Marriage (No polygamy!)

            Support for bill of rights- check. Support for the rights of states- somewhat check?

            Support for gun rights- it comes up quite clearly, check.

            I mean- it’s a lot shorter than today’s party platforms….but it’s not unrecognizable to this conservative, in much the same way that while we aren’t currently dealing with the same issues, I recognize a lot of similarities twixt modern conservatives and Reagan.

          • Jaskologist says:

            @Nornagest,

            Aw, but the 100 year mark slices right into Woodrow Wilson’s presidency. Surely we should get to count him as a progressive.

    • James Picone says:

      Different belief sets. I don’t think a foetus is a person. Presumably the people operating the ‘abortion drone’ have a similar viewpoint.

      • AbuDhabi says:

        This isn’t the only problem here.

        These people are wilfully seeking to violate another nation’s sovereignty. Imagine if someone started sending weapons, on a technicality, to a dissident group in someone else’s country. This kind of behaviour – not respecting other nations’ laws and customs to be what they are in that very nation – is how you get the 30 Years’ War.

        • suntzuanime says:

          Yeah, like all those people telling people how to set up proxies to get around Middle-Eastern nations’ internet censorship. I’m surprised we’re not in the middle of World War 3 already.

          A group of private citizens engaging in a publicity stunt opposed to a foreign nation’s domestic policy is not shocking to human decency in and of itself.

          • Deiseach says:

            So what happens if someone takes one of the abortion drone’s medication and has side effects? Who is legally liable there?

          • creative username #1138 says:

            Or these South Koreans sending anti-Kim-Jong-un propaganda over to the DPRK by balloons.

          • Alraune says:

            So what happens if Someone takes one of the abortion drone’s medication and has side effects? Who is legally liable there?

            Obviously, Someone is liable.

        • Murphy says:

          Ireland used to ban birth control and tampons.

          Yes. Tampons. (that’s what you get when you let the church run things)

          The same sort of groups used to illegally import tampons and birth control/condoms for women in the republic. (oh no, an attack, they might open fire on us with the tampons)

          Normally there’s a lot of citizens of the country involved in such efforts so it’s largely change from within.

          • AbuDhabi says:

            So violating the law is okay if you have local collaborators?

          • anodognosic says:

            @AbuDhabi I have no particular ethical allegiance to the law. I suspect I’m far from the only one in this forum.

          • AbuDhabi says:

            I see.

            I disagree with that stance, on grounds of lawfulness promoting Good Things, even if the laws themselves are sometimes odd, stupid and inefficient. Dura lex, sed lex.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Are you this upset about all violations of law? Or, like, possibly not actually violations of law but it’s a weird gray area? I think some members of this community like to buy nootropics at online pharmacies without FDA approval, are they beyond awful? Can those few of us with any decency allow such a thing?

          • Whatever happened to Anonymous says:

            > I think some members of this community like to buy nootropics at online pharmacies without FDA approval

            You can do that?

          • suntzuanime says:

            Not without violating the sacred bond between government and citizen you can’t.

          • Murphy says:

            @AbuDhabi often the law is simply stupid, often it is genuinely insane, often it is cruel.

            The law has almost zero moral weight on it’s own.

            It’s a not uncommon position that when the law is actually immoral and/or malevolent that there is a moral impertaive to violate it.

            For example if a countries law considers slavery legal many would take the view that rescuing slaves is a moral imperative even if it is theft and against the law in that country.

            In some countries where abortion is legal some people consider that immoral and so set up fake abortion clinics to delay women seeking an abortion until it is too late to get one legally. It’s fraud and illegal to do this but they consider it a moral imperative.

          • Whatever happened to Anonymous says:

            >Not without violating the sacred bond between government and citizen you can’t.

            My question was more oriented to “possible” than to “allowed”.

          • suntzuanime says:

            My answer was more oriented to “making fun of AbuDhabi” than to “helping you break the law”.

          • AbuDhabi says:

            suntzuanime: No. I’m upset about a) foreign support for rebels in my country, b) the rebels explicitly being in favour of killing my countrymen, c) this being spun as something good.

            Murphy: I grant that some laws are evil. But to elevate everyone to be a critic of the laws? In both of the cases you mentioned, stirring up trouble in this fashion is wrong.

          • Whatever happened to Anonymous says:

            >My answer was more oriented to “making fun of AbuDhabi” than to “helping you break the law”.

            Would it help if I told you I wouldn’t be breaking American law?

          • Murphy says:

            @AbuDhabi You’re maintaining that rescuing slaves from a country where they’re considered property is wrong? well I can’t fault you for consistency.

          • AbuDhabi says:

            Murphy: Pretty much. It’s as if we hold consistent, but mutually exclusive ideas about this matter. 🙂

          • The law has almost zero moral weight on it’s own.

            I strongly disagree with this.

            Sure, there are immoral and stupid laws, laws which no one takes seriously, and laws which one might even have a moral duty to break. That doesn’t mean that laws generally have “almost zero” moral weight.

            Is there really “almost zero” moral difference between, say, conducting a stock market trade in a legal way or an illegal way? What about casting a vote legally or illegally? Disposing of waste legally or illegally? Negotiating a contract through legal or illegal means? Getting into a serious auto accident while following traffic laws, or while breaking traffic laws?

            I’d say, even knowing nothing more, there is a significant moral dimension to each of those.

            Of course, with more information about the specific law and circumstance, that moral difference may turn out to be greater or less or even negligible. But (1) that explanation or justification would be unnecessary if both choices were legal, and (2) it’s probably not morally negligible.

          • Nornagest says:

            Is there really “almost zero” moral difference between, say, conducting a stock market trade in a legal way or an illegal way? What about casting a vote legally or illegally? Disposing of waste legally or illegally?

            Doing those things illegally is evidence of a moral difference, because things that are made illegal are generally made illegal for a reason. (Not, necessarily, a good one.) But it’s not something that carries moral weight in itself. A specific trading practice, e.g., is not ethical the day before it’s banned and unethical the day after.

            We might regard individual traders, in some situations, as more blameworthy for doing it after it’s banned, but my intuition says that would apply mainly when they’re originally relatively uninformed, say if they were ticking a box on a 401K option sheet without fully understanding what it meant.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Nornagest, trading practices don’t exist in a vacuum. There are many conventions that are equally reasonable. For example, brokers of some financial products are supposed to act for their clients, but for others it is buyer beware. Violating the convention is immoral, not the trading practice by its platonic self. And much of the point of the law is to set the convention.

            Many traffic laws exist for the same reason. Driving on the right side of the street was immoral in Sweden until the government switched it, in a single day. Speed limits exist in part for the same reason, and they do establish conventions, but those conventions have a complicated relationship to the law.

          • Murphy says:

            @Larry Kestenbaum all those examples have moral weight for good reasons that would still apply even if some inept lawmaker struck them off the books tomorrow. There’s a law against murder but it’s not wrong purely because of it being illegal. If it was struck from the lawbooks I’d still consider it wrong. merely being on the statue books isn’t what gives something moral weight.

          • Nornagest says:

            Yes, some laws are intended to cover cases where the existence of a standard is more important than its content. But the relationship of those laws with ethics is a complicated one, and it’s certainly not a matter of “law, therefore ethics” — there are conventional laws that are unenforced and largely unfollowed, and there are conventions that are widely followed but have no legal force, or have legal force only through implication.

            Larry’s comment is ambiguous, but I was aiming more for regulations concerning e.g. Ponzi-like schemes and their relatives, where the law isn’t merely conventional but is trying to address some (real or perceived) harm.

          • CJB says:

            I think the terms y’all are looking for is “malum prohibitum” and “Malum in se”

            Bad because prohibited, bad because it is.

            Smoking pot- Malum prohibitum.
            Murder- Malum in se.

          • A specific trading practice, e.g., is not ethical the day before it’s banned and unethical the day after.

            Sure it is. Let’s say it’s legal and common practice — maybe a bad thing, perhaps misleading to customers, but everybody in the biz does it.

            Then it’s banned, for good reason. After that, it’s illegal.

            Still “almost zero” moral difference between doing it when legal, and doing it when illegal? I would certainly judge someone more negatively for breaking this law.

            Driving on the right side of the street was immoral in Sweden until the government switched it, in a single day.

            Here’s an example of doing something legal and moral, before the law changed, became illegal and immoral.

          • Nornagest says:

            Still “almost zero” moral difference between doing it when legal, and doing it when illegal?

            …yes? As far as I can tell you just restated your position from your first post, which I understood fine the first time.

            If the practice caused actual harm, e.g. by misleading customers, it was unethical in the first place and hasn’t gotten any more unethical afterwards. I’d judge naive offenders more harshly after than before, but that’s because there are now fewer mitigating circumstances, not because the act itself has gotten less ethical.

            If it’s trying to establish a convention, as per the direction-of-traffic example, then the ethics of following it get a lot more complicated and I don’t want to venture a full-fledged opinion, but as a first cut it seems to me that they’d depend both on the harm caused by not having a convention and on how successfully it’s enforced. In a lot of the Third World, for example, there are de jure traffic laws but very few de facto ones, and I don’t consider drivers unethical for not adhering to them. Not so in the US.

          • Randy M says:

            (I wrote this post responding to the thread before reading Nornagest’s second paragraph there, and I think we don’t really disagree on closer inspection).

            There may be the same harm in defrauding customers when it is illegal and legal, but there may be more justification when legal, as when it is illegal one is also taking unfair advantage against one’s competitors, while when it is legal one may not be able to practice the profession profitably while abjuring the questionable but legal act.

            Even if you don’t hold a lot of sympathy for aspiring but tempted stockbrokers, the principle generalizes to, say, labeling laws. Is it more ethical to list every ingredient on the package than have no list unless specifically requested? Probably, but I wouldn’t blame a business for not being the only one to do so, especially if every brand was using safe but suboptimal ingredients (say, gmos or some preservative which were believed by many to be dangerous). However, the one who avoiding labeling the products while there was an uneforced law to do so is gaining an unfair advantage, and thus acting more unethically.

          • There may be the same harm in defrauding customers when it is illegal and legal, but there may be more justification when legal, as when it is illegal one is also taking unfair advantage against one’s competitors, while when it is legal one may not be able to practice the profession profitably while abjuring the questionable but legal act.

            Yes! Thank you for this.

            but that’s because there are now fewer mitigating circumstances, not because the act itself has gotten less ethical.

            Aren’t mitigating circumstances relevant to judging the ethics of an act?

          • Nornagest says:

            Aren’t mitigating circumstances relevant to judging the ethics of an act?

            I think we might be dealing with conflicting ethical models here.

            Me, I’m basically on board with the consequential interpretation of ethics (though I have some issues with full-blown utilitarianism): what makes an act ethical or not is the good or harm it does, full stop.

            But that introduces some problems around information. Intuitively we draw a distinction between accident and deliberate action, and assign ethical consequences only to the latter, but a sharp distinction like that isn’t really well motivated; there are lots of different levels of information you can have about the likely consequences of your actions.

            The way I resolve that is by separating out concepts of guilt and blameworthiness from raw ethics, and admitting different levels of guilt for equally ethical actions according to how available and actionable information about those actions’ harms was. Law still doesn’t occupy a privileged position after that — the source of information doesn’t matter. Law is a source of information about consequences, though, albeit a fallible one. And it can in some circumstances change the harms of an action by changing the social environment.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Because they don’t consider the victims fully human.

      • AbuDhabi says:

        Given that they’re operating from Germany, are targeting Poland, and apparently consider their victims subhuman, does that make them Nazis?

        /joke

      • Who wouldn't want to be Anonymous says:

        My general feeling is that whenever your solution to a minor problem is to systematically deny rights to sub-humans… you’re prooooobably doing it wrong. The overwhelming preponderance of evidence is that these sorts of programs never come out well in the long run.

        Until someone can come up with a cogent argument for any particular policy that doesn’t rely on dehumanization, I feel no obligation to consider them anything other than despicably motivated reasoners.

        Now, whether my atrocity prevention heuristic shoe fits, and should be worn in this case………

        • maxikov says:

          I believe that, provided a comprehensive ecological analysis and prevention of negative externalities, exterminating mosquitoes is a huge net positive. I base this conclusion on the belief that mosquitoes have literally no ethical value and no rights – no more than trees, mountains, and other inanimate objects. At the same time, they’re massively hurting humans, and, for that matter, other highly sophisticated mammals too. Am I doing it wrong?

          • Who wouldn't want to be Anonymous says:

            “Subhuman” implies membership to the genus Homo. (Or is it the clade Hominina? For the sake of this discussion, the distinction is irrelevant. My point is that, afaik, “everything but Homo sapiens sapiens” is non-standard usage.)

            You are doing it right, insofar as you are not calling for the wholesale denial of rights to hominin in the first place so the sufficient justification standards don’t apply. Arguments based on the dehumanization (dehomininization?) of nonhumans are not automatically invalid.

            If I could I would add quotes to the sub-human in my original post. My point was that all the dehumanizing arguments hitherto have been bullshit, and resulted in denying rights to (/wholesale massacring) full-humans.

            I draw the line at which things get fully instantiated rights at genus/clade level as an inoculation against dehumanization. If someone wants to deny people rights, pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo about, say, negroid morphology wouldn’t cut the mustard. He would have the (hopefully) nigh impossible task of arguing that they are in a completely different clade. The morphological (/genetic) variety among extant humans is significantly less than that between H. sapiens and H. habilis.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Yeah, some things are in fact not fully human. It’s just funny to me because it’s such a common leftist hyperbolic attack on people who disagree with them on like gay marriage or affirmative action or whatever, whereas it’s quite literally true of their position on abortion.

  18. Joshua Fox says:

    I love the solicitations I get from Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences: Your donations are desperately needed: If you don’t give money for fellowships, some promising grad student might choose to attend Princeton instead of Harvard!

    (Oh no!)

    • Eli says:

      That whole post made me bizarrely proud to have attended state-sponsored institutions for my whole education.

    • 27chaos says:

      I worked in my college’s call center for a few months. Callers were given monetized incentives to get people to give as much money as they good. It was a frustrating job to work at because girls did much better than guys at getting money, and the more they flirted the better they did. It reminds me of the sort of people who spend thousands on strippers in order to feel a personal connection with them.

  19. Joe from London says:

    Disagree w/Ozy. Transracial people are fairly well known. Good case in point, Bobby Fischer, who grew irate at references to him as a Jew. Maybe you’d discount him as mentally unstable, but his feelings on his racial identity were real to him.

    • sweeneyrod says:

      I think the distinction between being transgender and mentally ill. People with delusions about for instance their racial identity are usually treated by attempting to persuade them that they are mistaken. Therapy for transgender people doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) involve persuading them that they are the gender they were born as.

      • Anonymous says:

        delusions about for instance their racial identity

        Why do you call racial dysphoria a delusion, but not gender dysphoria?

        (or at least shouldn’t)

        Why not?

        • sweeneyrod says:

          Many people experience gender dysphoria, then alter something physical (their clothing or their body) and are cured. I suspect that for most people with racial dysphoria, magically changing their race wouldn’t cure them – the underlying mental disorder would be expressed in another way.

          If someone with racial dysphoria did magically change their race and become cured, I probably wouldn’t call them delusional.

          There is also the issue that it is possible to change physical things in the case of gender dysphoria, but not in racial dysphoria. To me, this suggests that even if they are the same in terms of whether the person would be cured if they became what they believe/want to be, it still makes sense to call racial dysphoria a delusion, since the cure they desire is impossible (whereas it isn’t in gender dysphoria).

          • Anonymous says:

            If someone with racial dysphoria did magically change their race and become cured, I probably wouldn’t call them delusional.

            …interestingly, this seems to be precisely what happened in the case of Ms. Dolezal until she was outed.

            it still makes sense to call racial dysphoria a delusion, since the cure they desire is impossible

            So now, the legitimacy of a condition is dependent upon how advanced medical science is in “curing” it? This is a fascinating proposition that I don’t think you’re willing to accept in any other setting.

          • Gbdub says:

            Actually, many trans persons experience dysphoria that is more socially oriented, and simply having people refer to them by their preferred pronoun and generally socialize with them as their identified gender is sufficient. Not all trans people get or want physical treatment for their dysphoria.

            Ozy’s response is a bit of a mess. Transracial can’t be a thing because it’s something you choose? “Transracial” people are just doing it for attention? Isn’t that precisely the argument made against homosexuality or being transgender?

            And if race has so few ohysical markers, and those easily changed, then how was Dolezal not “authentic”?

            Ozy makes a good case for race being less “real” than gender. But if that’s true, it proves too much, because it makes even less sense to criticize someone for choosing to live in the culture of another race.

            I suspect what Ozy may be getting at is that the magnitude of dysphoria and the difficulty of transitioning is much greater for being transgendered people, which is probably true, but that has little bearing on whether we should accept Dolezal as black.

          • Alraune says:

            This seems to be precisely what happened in the case of Ms. Dolezal until she was outed.

            Dolezal is not the equivalent of someone dressing as a woman so they can feel like themselves, Dolezal is the equivalent of someone dressing as a woman so they can catch kidnapping victims off-guard.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Alraune

            …that’s not going to go over well with the transgender community. They spent all those years trying to overcome such stereotypes!

            The biggest question is what justification do you have for the claim

            Dolezal is not the equivalent of someone dressing as a woman so they can feel like themselves

            How, precisely, did you determine that she doesn’t feel like herself when she presents as a black woman?

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @Anonymous
            Donzeal didn’t magically change race, she pretended to be of a different race. This is analogous to a transman who hadn’t had any medical treatment walking round saying “Yes I am a man and I was born male and I have a penis I’m not transgender in any way” in which case he is either lying, or mentally ill in the same way as Donzeal (albeit possibly for more understandable biological reasons).

            I don’t think it’s a particularly outlandish proposition. My point is that desiring things that you can’t have but trying to get them anyway is a sign of mental illness. Saying you’re black and trying desperately to look black probably falls into this category – however hard you try, you won’t magically gain loads of melanin. On the other hand, if you say you’re a man (despite not being biologically male) and wear men’s clothing for long enough you’re quite likely to be able to get a doctor to give you a penis.

          • Alraune says:

            If you’re concerned about offending the transgender community, Anonymous, maybe you should stop trying to analogize their experiences to those of a hatemongering predator in blackface.

          • Anonymous says:

            Donzeal didn’t magically change race, she pretended to be of a different race.

            …so says your essentialism. What precise criteria are you using to distinguish?

            The analogy you’re imagining is if Dolezal had blonde hair, blue eyes, pasty skin, and was walking around saying, “Yes, I am black, I was born black, and I have black skin. I’m not transracial in any way.” That’s simply not the case for Dolezal.

            if you say you’re a man (despite not being biologically male) and wear men’s clothing for long enough you’re quite likely to be able to get a doctor to give you a penis.

            And there’s more essentialism! Once you have a surgically attached/altered penis, it’s a penis, and you’re a real man!

            Saying you’re black and trying desperately to look black probably falls into this category – however hard you try, you won’t magically gain loads of melanin.

            “…saying you’re a man and trying desperately to look like a man (to the point of mutilating your genetals) probably falls into this category – however hard you try, you won’t magically gain a Y chromosome.” Your essentialism isn’t bad just because it’s essentialism… it’s really bad essentialism to boot!

          • Deiseach says:

            Many people experience gender dysphoria, then alter something physical (their clothing or their body) and are cured.

            The Belgian transman who requested and received euthanasia (as instanced in another post on here), on the grounds of feeling the surgeries he had undergone had made him a monster, would presumably have disagreed with you.

            One of the reasons for the “medicalization” of the procedures for identifying and going through gender reassignment, even though many trans people object to having to “jump through hoops for doctors to prove they should be given hormones/surgery”, is for those very reasons: some people think changing their gender will solve their problems, but it turns out that gender dysphoria was not after all at the root of it, and the problems remain in the new identity.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Alraune

            I’m concerned about intellectual integrity, first and foremost. I care not a whit about who hates who. So, if you’d like to provide some calm, rational analysis and answer some of my simple questions, I’m all ears.

          • Deiseach says:

            however hard you try, you won’t magically gain loads of melanin

            And however hard you try, you won’t magically gain loads of testosterone/oestrogen, which is why trans people need prescriptions for their hormones.

            Why not a prescription for your melanin?

          • Alraune says:

            “Intellectual integrity” here meaning the deliberate ignorance that allows your intellectualization of the situation to remain free of all the concrete details that make it farcically wrong.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Alraune

            …please, describe some of those concrete details. Preferably, you’d link to peer-reviewed studies which support each of your assertions, but I won’t demand that all the time. Internal consistency would be appreciated for its own sake.

            You seem to be going out of your way to avoid the issue, preferring instead to ascribe nasty things to me. That’s not necessary, true, or kind.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Why is that every time someone thinks differently than someone else, they have to be “mentally ill”? The majority of the time there is nothing physically wrong with these people. They don’t have a disease in really any sense of the word. Not saying that we have to accept everyone’s belief but I hate how everything that is different is pathologized.

        • ryan says:

          In an ideal world “mentally ill” refers to differences strongly associated to negative health outcomes. People who self-report as transgender have staggeringly high suicide attempt rates for example. I don’t think there’s any solid basis for knowing what particular help they need, but they clearly need help.

      • CJB says:

        “People with delusions about for instance their racial identity are usually treated by attempting to persuade them that they are mistaken. Therapy for transgender people doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) involve persuading them that they are the gender they were born as.”

        Hoooooo boy. I might get eaten alive for this one.

        So, first off- both the data and the experts disagree. Johns Hopkins, (who literally invented sex reassignment) doesn’t do sex reassignment surgery because their long term studies showed that it makes no difference whatsoever to health outcomes.

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6942832

        Simply put- Gender Dysphoria is one of a number of dysphoria diseases, included anorexia, Body integrity identity disorder and Body dysmorphic disorder. The difference is that when someone REQUIRES that we cut off their leg to make them feel happy, we just go “no, you’re crazy” but when people do the same thing with their penis, we go “we have to support your choices.”

        Evidence suggests that gender dysphoria is no different from any other mental disorder, and should be treated the same- lovingly and with kindness, but with a goal on HEALTH, not just coping.

        Now perhaps wearing dresses is just a simple solution to the issue- which is fine. What worries me is people A. giving HORMONES to their CHILDREN to INTERFERE WITH PUBERTY JESUS COCK CHOKING CHRIST, B. pressure on doctors to perform unnecessary surgery that has no impact, and C. the impact that cultural-wide support for mental disorders has on us.

        • sweeneyrod says:

          Obviously sex reassignment surgery isn’t appropriate in all cases (for instance on young children). However, I don’t think you can use one study to say that it is never a good idea. Apart from anything else, I’d imagine that people who undergo surgery have more severe dysphoria than people who don’t, and therefore are less likely to be successful for that reason, regardless of how effective the surgery is. As far as I know, the difference between gender dysphoria and other forms of dysphoria, is that at least some people who undergo gender reassignment surgery are happy afterwards, whereas no-one who chops their leg off is happy.

          • Anonymous says:

            no-one who chops their leg off is happy.

            The six subjects who had an amputation at their desired site reported that following the amputation they felt better than they ever had and no longer had a desire for an amputation.

            …no matter which side of the various questions you fall on, it’s ridiculous to present them as easy problems.

          • CJB says:

            It’s not one study- it’s a meta study. Which isn’t perfect, but is much better.

            And, while appeal to authority irks me- I don’t think the same people that invented it are going to stop doing it without some pretty solid evidence.

            “is that at least some people who undergo gender reassignment surgery are happy afterwards,”

            Yes. And that number is basically the same as the number of people who were in the control group and were happy.

            In other words, if you want me to believe that GRS is necessary and useful and important, you have to demonstrate that it’s literally better than nothing.

            Dammit-

            At Anon above:

            Your study is interesting- did you see anything about follow up TIME? I’d want to see the data from a year or so.

          • Anonymous says:

            @CJB

            I did not, and I agree that the timescale is an important factor in making general conclusions concerning these interventions. However, it is not necessary to disprove sweeneyrod’s simplistic assertion.

          • CJB says:

            Oh, I agree- I’m just really curious….just not 35 bucks worth of curious.

            The PROBLEM is that the positions aren’t “we need to be sensible!”

            It’s “Deformed freak!” against “Accept me without question!” and people in the middle (like the Hopkins psychologist that wrote about this and is already catching flak) are ascribed to one side or the other.

            I think some people will be happier after surgery, or lifestyle change. I don’t think MOST will be, if for no other reason than happiness levels seem fairly immutable without significant intervention.

            We need to help the happier ones get the surgery, help the helpless get help, and in general, chill the fuck out about the Trans folk.

          • Nathan says:

            “No one who chops their leg off is happy”

            I have literally seen an interview with a man who did exactly this and did indeed claim to feel much happier as a result. (Enough Rope with Andrew Denton, on the off chance anyone cares, no idea if the episode in question can be tracked down).

            Which is enough to convince me both that for at least some people gender dysphoria is an issue not caused by some social influence, and that the problem is clearly with their brains rather than their bodies.

        • J. Quinton says:

          “JESUS COCK CHOKING CHRIST”

          Thread over.

          Pool’s closed.

        • anon says:

          That study is old as hell. We know that HRT and SRS are *significantly* better today than in the 1960s . In fact, I personally know lots of trans people that were suicidal pre hormones and loving life now so my personal experience differs in a large way.

        • Anonymous says:

          “A. giving HORMONES to their CHILDREN to INTERFERE WITH PUBERTY JESUS COCK CHOKING CHRIST”

          Actually, they are hormone “blockers” that delay puberty and have been used for decades for precocious puberty. “JCCC” is not a rational or considered reaction to this.

      • Deiseach says:

        Therapy for people who were obviously male or female but insisted they were female, male, both or neither did exist, on the grounds that such delusions were proof of mental illness.

        How could a married man with children provably his claim that he was really a woman? Obviously this was something needing medical help and not a real thing!

        How can a woman who is undeniably white in appearance claim she is really black? Obviously this is something needing medical help and not a real thing!

    • satanistgoblin says:

      Jews are not a race by any reasonable definition though.

      • Anonymous says:

        …and there’s the essentialism we were looking for!

        • satanistgoblin says:

          I do not think I am being an essentialist here. I just think it’s the wrong category.

          • Anonymous says:

            …what (essential) features would you say determine whether something is a race?

            Remember, we don’t get categories. My queer theory prof quite directly said that the whole idea of categories was just bunk.

          • satanistgoblin says:

            Ok, then what function does is serve to call jews a separate race?
            I haven’t really thought this through, but I think my first objection would be that you usually can’t tell if someone is Jewish from appearance.

          • Anonymous says:

            I’m not sure what function most racial classifications are serving, so I imagine it’d be nice to set some baseline for functionality.

            I think there are certain physical characteristics that are common amongst Jews. Of course, they are not universal or always obvious (no physical characteristics ever are).

      • SFG says:

        Jews are a complicated case because the group most Americans are familiar with (East European Ashkenazis) have enough common ancestry to have a somewhat-recognizable appearance in the way Irish or Italian people do, particularly a few decades ago. But technically, Jews can look like anything, because anyone can convert to Judaism. Additionally, the intermarriage rate is so high in recent years that you can find lots of Jews who don’t look anything like Mel Brooks.

        I think the correct term is ‘ethnoreligious group’, but you look at all the other examples of that and they’re not well known outside the Middle East.

  20. Milton Friedman is said to have replied to a Swede who said our system than the American system is better because there is no poverty in Sweden by quipping there are no poor Swedes in the US either, so that proves nothing.

    • aguycalledjohn says:

      I’d have thought the better group to look at would be immigrants from other countries to Sweden, and see how their stats compare to people in the country of origin

    • Doug Muir says:

      Milton Friedman said all sorts of things. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a cite supporting this one.

      Googling, there are more recent cites to a 2012 paper by the conservative Institute of Economic Affairs claiming that “based on US Census data”, Swedes in the US have a low poverty rate of just 6.7% — but the paper seems to have vanished off the IEA website, and I’m not seeing it mirrored elsewhere. Hm.

      So, (1) I’m very skeptical that Friedman had any firm foundation for making that remark. Mind, that’s assuming that he even made it. I’m not seeing a convincing cite for that, either, so it may be a clever quip that someone else made up later and attributed to him.

      And, (2) I’m mildly skeptical that the IEA or anyone else has managed to come up with a methodologically sound way of making that comparison. I’d be happy to be wrong! But the obstacles to be overcome are large. For instance, the citers claim the IEA used census data. That would be problematic about three different ways, starting with the fact that it would only capture census respondents who are self-identifying as Swedish-American. That’s a group which is almost certainly much smaller than, and significantly different from, Americans of Swedish descent generally.

      I’m guessing that what attracted Scott’s eye to the otherwise pretty worthless McArdle article was that idea of comparing the same ethnic group in two different environments? Alas, I suspect that the rigorous comparison he’s looking for doesn’t exist. Again, I’d be happy to be wrong.

      Doug M.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        The IEA paper moved here.

        • Doug Muir says:

          Holy crap, that’s horrible.

          The paper quotes — and I am not making this up — (1) The 2009 OECD Factbook, which does not give information about Swedish-Americans. (2) the Notten and Neubourg paper already cited downthread, which *does not say what they say it says*. (3) “US Census Database” without giving any further detail; and (3) An unquoted David Brooks column in the New York Times.

          That’s it. Go and look — it’s page 21. That’s all they’ve got. No further details, no methodology, nothing.

          SCOTT. THIS WAS A BULLSHIT ARTICLE CITING A BULLSHIT PAPER. I’M SORRY. I KNOW IT LOOKED INTERESTING, BUT THERE’S NOTHING THERE.

          Doug M.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Notten and Neubourg paper already cited downthread, which *does not say what they say it says*.

            Pray tell, what does it say and what do they say it says?

      • I strongly support your skepticism about the attribution of a nice-sounding quotation. See “Nice guys finish seventh”: False phrases, spurious sayings, and familiar misquotations.

  21. Anon says:

    > This article on whether the US could replicate Scandinavia’s low poverty rate is interesting throughout, but what makes it for me is the claim that Swedes in the US have the same poverty rate as Swedes in Sweden [edit: possibly this is false?]. How much should we make of this?

    On standardized tests, American students perform worse than Europeans, and American performance has been getting worse for some time. But once you control for race, the effect reverses. In other words, white Americans do better than white Europeans, and similarly for other races, but because the US has more of certain races their overall performance is worse. This is an example of Simpson’s paradox. Perhaps a similar effect partially explains the difference in poverty levels.

    • excess_kurtosis says:

      10% of non-hispanic whites in the US live under the poverty line, which is about 0.7X the national poverty rate (source: https://www.census.gov/prod/2013pubs/acsbr11-17.pdf , table 1). The US uses a weird arcane poverty definition, but the OECD has a poverty measure defined as “Makes less than 50% of median income” at http://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?QueryId=47991 , and the US’s poverty rate using that definition is 1.8X higher. And that’s a definition that makes the US look artificially look good due to our low median wage relative to GDP per capita compared to other countries.

      You can fret about impact on growth, but taxes and transfers successfully reduce income inequality.

      • suntzuanime says:

        My understanding is that comparisons like this are often problematic because much of the US’s assistance to the poor is in kind, in the form of food stamps/housing projects etc., whereas most of the European welfare states distribute a lot of cash, and cash transfers get counted when comparing your income to the median income but assistance in kind does not.

        I think assistance in kind is kind of a boneheaded way to go about things, but the cash value of the assistance is surely not zero and the OECD’s measure overstates the degree to which US citizens are impoverished.

        (I also don’t love the use of relative measures of poverty, since what they really measure tends to be inequality, not privation, and it seems perverse to me that increasing everyone’s real income by an order of magnitude would have zero effect on the poverty rate. But AIUI median income for Sweden and the US is pretty comparable, so the use of relative measures is not skewing this comparison.)

        • excess_kurtosis says:

          I’d love to use a cite that US aid is in kind in a way that the OECD doesn’t account for. From what I can tell, food stamps are counted as cash transfers by the OECD, and I’d be surprised if section 8 vouchers and WIC weren’t as well. Almost all aid to the poor at this point is either cash or cash-like vouchers.

          • suntzuanime says:

            I could easily be mistaken. I don’t have specific knowledge, I just know that it’s an easy trap to fall into and US poverty is frequently overstated.

          • chaosmage says:

            suntzuanime:
            > US poverty is frequently overstated

            Compared to what? Europe? Sweden?

            I’m too unfamiliar with economics to trust even GDP calculations. My very personal impressions from visiting the US were that the US has way more poverty. I saw streets I was told to avoid entirely in order not to be robbed; I’ve never seen anything like that anywhere in Europe. There were way more obviously homeless guys. And weirdly, very few older people, especially among the employed. Where do your old people go, and are they happy there?

          • Jiro says:

            My very personal impressions from visiting the US were that the US has way more poverty. I saw streets I was told to avoid entirely in order not to be robbed; I’ve never seen anything like that anywhere in Europe.

            Simpson’s Paradox would lead you to see that without America being any worse than Europe. The absolute amount of poverty would be higher, but only because groups that are higher in poverty are more common, even if the groups themselves do better than similar groups in Europe.

          • Murphy says:

            The US has some weird poverty demographics. Compared to europe the poor in the US are more likely to have tv’s, cars, bigger place to live etc, more material wealth but a much worse social/political/health situation.

          • chaosmage says:

            Murphy, you may be right; especially when I look at the WSJ article The Richer You Are the Older You’ll Get combined with the US ranking in 34th place on Wikipedia’s list of countries by life expectancy, it follows that the poor in the US don’t live as long as the rest of the developed world.

            But my point isn’t poverty statistics, it is that I don’t trust them because I simply had a visceral impression of poverty when I saw Baltimore and New York. The people with eyes darting around. The places nobody seemed to be responsible for cleaning. The stink. Maybe an American visiting Germany would be appalled that poor people here might have nobody in their circle of friends who owns a car, and that would be just as selective as the impression I got.

          • One other problem in poverty comparisons is that the calculations are usually done at one instant in time, so a society where individual incomes vary more year to year looks as though it has more poverty. I remember hearing a paper long ago which tried to measure poverty by consumption rather than income, since people tend to average out their consumption over time, and concluded that, by that measure, income inequality in the U.S. was about the same as in Canada or Europe.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            If I went to a foreign country known to contain old people and hardly saw any, it might lead me to suspect that my experiences there were unrepresentative in other ways as well.

          • CJB says:

            ” I saw streets I was told to avoid entirely in order not to be robbed; I’ve never seen anything like that anywhere in Europe. ”

            Where the fuck have you traveled in Europe? Upper class english tea parties?

            In Ireland and the UK, i was warned multiple times about entire groups of people (Pikeys) that you can’t trust for an inch or they’ll rob you blind. In traveling to london, the tour books make it clear that some places are Not Good Ideas.

            Italy- jesus christ have you been to Naples.

            “There were way more obviously homeless guys. ”

            I can’t say that in the big euro cities (IE, places I’d compare to NYC) I noticed any fewer. I used to work with the homeless, so I also have a higher tendency to notice them.

            “And weirdly, very few older people, especially among the employed. Where do your old people go, and are they happy there?”

            Florida. They fucking love it.

            “simply had a visceral impression of poverty when I saw Baltimore and New York.”

            Well, first off, we’re eliminating Baltimore here, primarily because it’s one of the worst places in America. It’s a burnt out feral ghetto that every single sane american leaves the hell alone.

            Ever been to manchester? Like that, but ever so much more so.

            “The people with eyes darting around. The places nobody seemed to be responsible for cleaning. The stink.”

            What major cities have you been too that AREN’T like this? Are you from Singapore?

            Long story short- are you sure that you weren’t just paying more attention being in a new place, and letting confirmation bias get the best of you?

            Also, have you separated out your impressions of NYC and Baltimore.

          • chaosmage says:

            Sorry CJB, but you don’t get to eliminate Baltimore. Because fighting poverty is exactly about raising the lower bound of the conditions your citizens can find themselves in.

            Sure I had some confirmation bias. Walking through Manhattan, I saw lots of places I knew from movies, and was very conscious of the realization that there were no car chases going on and no bullets flying. 🙂 I hadn’t seen The Wire, though.

            Of course I agree my experience is nowhere near representative. But I’ve been to a dozen European countries, including some of the bad parts of London that you mention, and seen nothing like Baltimore.

            Actually I lived in a place in Berlin for six months and at the end of that period I learned that my exact street was considered, at the time, to be the epicenter of Germany’s drug trade – and I had not noticed any of that except the rent was remarkably cheap. So it does seem to me the worst of Germany is far better than the worst of the US.

          • excess_kurtosis says:

            “I remember hearing a paper long ago which tried to measure poverty by consumption rather than income, since people tend to average out their consumption over time, and concluded that, by that measure, income inequality in the U.S. was about the same as in Canada or Europe.”

            These sort of “ACTUALLY, INCOME INEQUALITY IN THE US ISN’T HIGH” thing is usually driven by surveys which both 1) Exclude capital gains, and 2) don’t have the coverage to survey the extremely wealthy 0.1% by which most of our income is concentrated.

            The percentage of wealth held by the top 0.1% of the population is much larger in the US than in Canada or Europe. There is no statistical adjustment that makes that go away.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @excess_kurtosis – “The percentage of wealth held by the top 0.1% of the population is much larger in the US than in Canada or Europe. There is no statistical adjustment that makes that go away.”

            …I might be totally off base here, but don’t the super-wealthy pretty much have free pick of where they want to live? I mean, if you’re worth north of 500 million dollars, I would imagine that immigration to any country on earth is probably a formality at worst.

            And in the complete opposite direction, if the majority of the super-rich are native, how much worse off are our poor versus other countries? Because if the state of the poor is roughly comparable, wouldn’t more super-rich be a good thing?

            I apologize if the above is painfully naive. I used to be fairly sympathetic to leftist economic concerns when I was an illegal alien and long-term unemployed. Then I returned to my native country, got a factory job, worked a bit, went back to community college, dropped out, got a white-collar job anyway, and am now doing very well for myself. Maybe I’m just really lucky?

          • excess_kurtosis says:

            “I might be totally off base here, but don’t the super-wealthy pretty much have free pick of where they want to live? ”

            The US is a bit special in that they tax overseas income. You can renounce your citizenship, but then it makes traveling to and from the US very difficult, which in practice would make it very difficult to actually run a buisness.

          • excess_kurtosis says:

            There’s an entire cottage industry trying to deny this by looking at household surveys that ignore capital gains income, or by using low coverage survey data, or why going into existential dorm-room discussions about inflation adjustment.

            http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/09/charts-income-inequality-middle-class-census is a helpful primer that links to graphs showing income shares from IRS data, which sidesteps most of the methodological isssues.

            For international comparisons, http://www.chartbookofeconomicinequality.com/ is the most comprehensive source I’ve seen out there. They compile a variety of different income inequality measures, and the US is more unequal than Sweden with respect to every one of them.

            I just want to make clear that it really is empirically true that income inequality is 1) Much higher than it is in Europe, and 2) has been increasing. Obviously people can disagree ideologically about whether or not that’s a problem.

          • William Newman says:

            “the epicenter of Germany’s drug trade […] the worst of Germany”

            Does that follow? I don’t know the official estimates and I wouldn’t know how much to trust them even if I did, but invarious spans of years I’ve heard Miami FL, northern CA, and Vancouver BC repeatedly pointed out as hugely important hotspots in the drug trade here in North America, and they don’t seem ever to appear in “worst of North America” in any other ways.