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.

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. This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. ### 1,287 Responses to Links 6/15: Monsters, Link 1. Kevin says: An article that Scott and others might appreciate: On the problem of normative sociology Incidentally, “normative sociology” doesn’t necessarily have a left-wing bias. There are lots of examples of conservatives doing it as well (e.g. rising divorce rates must be due to tolerance of homosexuality, out-of-wedlock births must be caused by the welfare system etc.) The difference is that people on the left are often more keen on solving various social problems, and so they have a set of pragmatic interests at play that can strongly bias judgement. The latter case is particularly frustrating, because if the plan is to solve some social problem by attacking its causal antecedents, then it is really important to get the causal connections right – otherwise your intervention is going to prove useless, and quite possibly counterproductive. I recall marvelling at how seldom I had heard this idea expressed: that the left consistently gets it right when it comes to identifying problems, but then gets the explanations wrong (and often clings to those explanations long after they have proven problematic), and so is practically ineffective. 2. Shmi Nux says: Lead? What lead? It could have been air conditioning that reduced crime: > When it gets really hot in Baltimore, people in poorer neighborhoods spill out into the streets. This is because they don’t have air conditioning. Because crime goes up when the temperature goes up, the police department sees hot temperatures and people in the streets as a recipe for violence. So they respond by sending scores of cops into these neighbors to clear out the corners. The city ends up spending thousands of dollars on overtime just to basically harass the people in these neighborhoods for trying to keep cool. What if instead of spending all that money on police overtime summer after summer, one year you just bought air conditioners for poor people? Would that work? I don’t know. But it would help relations with the community. And we know that what we’ve been doing doesn’t work. > I’ve had a pet theory that part of the reason for the crime drop of the last 20 years is the proliferation of air conditioning. I’ve yet to see any studies on it. But it makes some sense. • Alraune says: That’d be the absolute risk reduction theory. Never go outside, and you won’t get mugged. • Jiro says: I suspect that giving poor people air conditioners would lead to them losing food stamps and similar benefits because of the increase in “income” from getting the air conditioner. If they make enough money that they pay taxes, they may instead find themselves forced to sell the air conditioners to pay the income taxes on the air conditioners. And even if not, they may have to sell the air conditioners simply because they have a greater need for money than for air conditioners. Also, you’ll find poor people being burglarized for their air conditioners. And you’ll find those who sell things to the poor raising their prices to capture the surplus from the poor people getting sellable air conditioners, same as colleges raise their prices when you make it easy for students to get loans. (For that matter, can the poor people even afford the electricity to run the air conditioners?) • Protagoras says: I think the electricity is probably the biggest issue; AC uses a huge amount of that. But I can’t imagine burglarizing air conditioners becoming big business. They’re too heavy and not valuable enough for that. 3. Shenpen says: >but what makes it for me is the claim that Swedes in the US have the same poverty rate as Swedes in Sweden Is there any use of data that have equally loud left and right wing interpretations? L: because there is no racism against them R: because better culture / genes I mean you can throw this bit of data into the usual political mosh pit and still both sides feel their views reinforced. 4. Our local monthly magazine runs a “fake ad” in each issue for readers to find. In the latest issue, the fake ad is from “The Partnership for a Gender-Free America”. Obviously this is a parody of a real anti-drug organization, which visualizes and works toward a future America in which literally no one uses illegal drugs, openly or secretly. I mean, isn’t that what “drug-free” means? To be really parallel, then, the “gender-free” organization’s goal would be to completely wipe out any expression of gender in America, even in private. As John Lennon might have put it: “Imagine there’s no gender / I wonder if you can.” • Anonymous says: Gender abolitionism is an actual thing some really out-there radical feminists support. I have no idea how they plan to accomplish it or what it would look like, though. • Alraune says: I have no idea how they plan to accomplish it or what it would look like, though. On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog? • Nita says: I have no idea [..] what it would look like, though. Well, I can’t speak for “really out-there radical feminists”, but here are some things I would like to see (as a person without a strong internal sense of gender who’s sick of the forced genderification of literally everyone and everything): – people can wear or refuse to wear skirts, trousers, boots, heels, make-up or jewelry without being berated, mocked or harassed for it; – those who want to perform a particular gender role (i.e., look and act like “a man” or “a woman”) can still do that where appropriate, just like goths, eco-hipsters, butch lesbians or tech geeks dress and act according to their social identity today; – gender of pronouns and names either disappears or is rendered as semantically irrelevant as the grammatical gender of nouns in German or Spanish; – toys and clothes for kids come in orange, yellow, green, purple and red as often as they do in pink or blue. • Alraune says: – people can wear or refuse to wear skirts, trousers, boots, heels, make-up or jewelry without being berated, mocked or harassed for it Certainly a workable plan if the modes of refusal are sufficiently conspicuous and expensive. • Anonymous says: 0/10 • walpolo says: I’ve never understood what the harm of pink/blue is supposed to be. • HeelBearCub says: @walpolo: It strongly enforces a paradigm wherein toys cannot be played with by both genders. In a world where toys are just toys, boys who like playing with trucks are perfectly willing to play with a pink truck. Girls who like trucks are perfectly willing to play with any colored truck. But a pink/blue divided world, toys stop being just toys, they are either girl toys or boy toys. Then the absence of “pink” toys of a certain type, or “blue” toys of a certain type strongly enforces that a child should not play with that particular toy. There are follow-ons to that in terms of what sort of harms come from it, but that is the basic objection. • walpolo says: So if all toys were available in both colors, it would be fine? • HeelBearCub says: @walpolo: No. It still implies that certain toys are only for boys and certain toys are only for girls. I’ll quote myself: “In a world where toys are just toys, boys who like playing with trucks are perfectly willing to play with a pink truck. Girls who like trucks are perfectly willing to play with any colored truck.” The, every toy available in either color seems lik a “separate but equal” argument. • walpolo says: I have a harder time seeing what the harm is supposed to be in that case, though. I can understand how it’s harmful to reinforce a concept like “Trucks are for boys.” But if trucks are equally available in both pink and blue, you don’t get that effect. • Nornagest says: The, every toy available in either color seems lik a “separate but equal” argument. I am given to understand that mid-century civil rights activists were concerned about “separate but equal” because it was often a smokescreen for very unequal differences in the quality or availability of services, not because they preferred a different paint job. • HeelBearCub says: @walpolo: I’m not sure you are actually engaging with “separate but equal” claim I was making. The issue is that it enforces the idea that boys and girls are so different that they can’t even play with each other’s toys. That there is something inherently wrong with a boy touching something that a girl might touch, or vice-versa. The idea that blacks and whites couldn’t drink from the same water fountain can’t be rationalized merely because “they both had water fountains”. Separation implies that there is something wrong with sharing the water fountain. edit: @Nornagest, hopefully that answers your query as well. • Alraune says: The toy example would probably be more persuasive if toy trucks weren’t overwhelming yellow and red. • HeelBearCub says: @Alraune: If a truck was pink, do you think, in our current society, it lowers the probability of boys playing with it? What estimate would you place on the percentage reduction? edit: And I don’t think there is a pink/blue divide, really. It’s more of a “pink badge of girlie”. • Nornagest says: If a truck was pink, do you think, in our current society, it lowers the probability of boys playing with it? What estimate would you place on the percentage reduction? I think I’d be more inclined to frame it in terms of preference. Give a young boy the choice of a pink truck or nothing and he’ll play with the pink truck. But give two boys a pink and a blue truck and they’ll fight over the blue one, and give them a pink, a blue, and a black and the pink one will rarely get used. Unless it has oversized wheels or skulls or something else that boys consider uniquely cool. I’m almost more interested in the converse, though. Can any of the women here tell us about girls’ attitudes toward male-coded toys? I don’t remember much female contempt for my toys during my own boyhood (though girls definitely had a concept of “cooties”), but, of course, the girls that were willing to play with my stuff would have been much more visible to me. • walpolo says: >>I’m not sure you are actually engaging with “separate but equal” claim I was making. The issue is that it enforces the idea that boys and girls are so different that they can’t even play with each other’s toys. That there is something inherently wrong with a boy touching something that a girl might touch, or vice-versa. Ah, I see. I can see where this is coming from now, but I’m not sure I agree that this form of “separateness but equality” is necessarily bad. Here’s a different example. A Jewish person and a Gentile are the same/equal in terms of anything morally relevant. But in our culture, the yarmulke is widely accepted as “for the Jewish person” and not “for the Gentile.” What makes it wrong to have a somewhat similar sort of arbitrary separation between which colors of things are “for boys” and which colors are “for girls”? It certainly does underscore the differences between the two sexes. But it’s the boys and girls choosing to do so. (Of course they are acculturated to want to do so–but the same goes for the Jews.) • Anonymous says: “Can any of the women here tell us about girls’ attitudes toward male-coded toys?” There were a few–Legos, Construx, and similar–that I would have given my left arm for. • HeelBearCub says: @walpolo: “But it’s the boys and girls choosing to do so.” Well, the boys and girls aren’t choosing, the decision is being made for them by the toy industry, and my impression is that it has developed at a rather rapid pace over the last 30 years or so. I don’t recall, the “all pink, all the time” girls toy aisles from my youth or my 8 year young sisters youth. By the the time my kids were born 10-15 years later, it was in full force. I think boys and girls do some intrinsic gender sorting. I don’t think that needs to be signal boosted though. Look, if YOU want to choose only pink toys for your daughters, so be it. But I don’t think that is what is actually happening, broadly. Rather, a significant minority preference for very gendered toys, and a relatively “meh” reaction from the vast bulk of the rest leads to the very gendered toy aisles. As a boy of about 5 or 6, I had a baby doll. It was simply a fairly life-like baby. I loved that doll (Johnny). I fed it the bottles that came with it, carried it around, sang it songs, the sort of things one does with babies. My mom remembers my Dad being relatively apoplectic. When my sister came along a few years later, I carried her in a front pack, read to her, burped her, and generally loved her. I never got a message that I wasn’t supposed to play with dolls, so I had little issue doing so. But in a world where everything is coded boy or girl, it might have been different. • walpolo says: I’m not saying there’s nothing problematic about the sex divisions in toy marketing. I’m just saying that pink vs. blue is a strange place to object when color-coding toys for children of different sexes doesn’t itself seem problematic. What’s problematic is, as you say, the attitude that toy babies are for girls, etc. • Unique Identifier says: Why stop at boys’ toys and girls’ toys? Why do we even classify things as toys and non-toys? What about the girls who want to play with empty beer bottles? What about the boys who want to play with CAT-5 cables? Doesn’t this strongly enforce a paradigm where non-toys cannot be played with? Isn’t this a serious injustice, borne by the unfortunate children with non-traditional play preferences? Now, this might seem facetious, but if you can answer these questions, you are well on your way to solving the red truck problem too. • walpolo says: Ha, point well taken. Any culture is going to consist of some arbitrary norms that push people in one direction or another without actually “forcing” them to conform, and the notion that we might ever be free of such forces is an anarchist pipe dream. On the other hand, the notion that such cultural forces need to be carefully controlled by right-thinking moralists is an authoritarian pipe dream. And although I can recognize a lot of the harm done by our present culture, I tend to think that those who strive for the abolition of gender, or similar goals, are dreaming that authoritarian pipe dream. • Alraune says: If a truck was pink, do you think, in our current society, it lowers the probability of boys playing with it? What estimate would you place on the percentage reduction? The issue is that it enforces the idea that boys and girls are so different that they can’t even play with each other’s toys. That there is something inherently wrong with a boy touching something that a girl might touch, or vice-versa. Rather, a significant minority preference for very gendered toys, and a relatively “meh” reaction from the vast bulk of the rest leads to the very gendered toy aisles. I think you’re completely overlooking the driving factor here. We don’t get His and Hers of every toy because we have a small selection of toys, we get them because toys are cheaper and more varied than ever, and producing a second model of everything is easy. They’re reflecting specific consumer demands, not the lowest common denominator. The main customer for toys, though, isn’t children, it’s their parents. And for the parents, having the ability to selectively mark objects Anathema to certain of their children is a substantial positive benefit because it reduces fights over those objects. Particularly in the standard one son+one daughter household, the more segregated the toys, the better: think how many categories of fights are prevented if Billy and Mary utterly refuse to touch each other’s stuff! Now, there’s obviously there’s going to be some point of diminishing returns here, not all the fights will vanish because sometimes they steal each other’s things to hurt each other rather than because they want the things. And at some point the downstream effects of having created a society where everything must be either floral- or camo-patterned will outweigh the benefits, and so on. But if you can make fights over toys a third less likely (which would be my guess for the pink truck) by buying toys where, if the wrong kid were using it, they’d be hit with some insecurity rather than just a sense of triumph? That’s probably a win for everyone involved. • Nita says: @ Alraune I’m afraid I don’t find your explanation very plausible. 1) “standard one son+one daughter household”? They’re a minority — something like 18% of all households with children. 2) The sheer number of anxious parents asking for advice because their son likes the “wrong” toys or colors (e.g.: one, two), not to mention various articles about it (e.g.: one, two, three, four), contradicts the idea that the ubiquitous color-coding is simply about avoiding conflict between siblings. • Shenpen says: > being berated, mocked or harassed for it Is the idea of traditional politeness or etiquette lost in the US? People berate or mock people i.e. tell their opinion without being asked first? I don’t find women who dress like men attractive, but the idea of walking up to a stranger and telling it entirely horrifies me. It would be so much against social etiquette. • Nita says: So, how would people treat a man dressed “like a woman” in your country, where rich people parade in gold chains and mental issues are treated with vodka? • Shenpen says: With the same kind of depressed indifference as everybody else. Such as person would be strongly “othered”, and “othering” in this context means simply ignore. • Nita says: Really? Including the folks who wanted to punish “popularizing” (whatever that means) homosexuality, sex changes, transvestitism and bisexuality with 3 years in prison, and the people who voted for these fine folks? • Winter Shaker says: Some people I know seem to have taken to using gender-neutral singular ‘they’ to refer to everyone, not just explicitly non-binary people who choose it. This is not noticeably silly – there are languages which do not have to use gendered personal pronouns (either because they don’t need to use pronouns at all, or because they have a gender-neutral singular already), and there is no law of linguistics that would prevent English becoming such a language if enough people drop ‘he’ and ‘she’ in favour of ‘they’. I don’t know if there are any languages that lack both gendered pronouns and a baked-in singular/plural distinction, but I’d be surprised if there weren’t some somewhere. There is already a movement to try to do this in Swedish. Also, you do not need a passport, driving licence etc to specify ‘male’, ‘female’ or other in order to function as proof of identity. I think it’s perfectly possible that one could ‘abolish gender’ in the sense of the government taking no official interest in whether you are male, female or whatever other identity you wish, and with the language you speak containing no structures that assume a priori that you must be either male or female. On the other hand, lots of people do identify strongly as male or female, and I don’t see that facet of human nature going away. Gender may not be fully modeled by a boolean binary, but it does still appear to be a bimodal distribution, with most people belonging very obviously to one cluster or the other. So I don’t think you could ‘abolish gender’ in that sense as long as we remain recognisably human. Perhaps ‘abolish gender essentialism’ is the project that most people could compromise on – or at least agree that it is a non-crazy thing to want to do. • Nita says: Sex does seem to be bimodal: more than 95% of all people belong to the groups {XX, ovaries, vagina, high level of estrogens} and {XY, testes, penis, high level of androgens}. But gender? Do 95% of people really aspire to be “macho lumberjacks” or “nurturing princesses”? lots of people do identify strongly as male or female The most surprising thing I’ve noticed from all the discussions surrounding trans issues is that many people, in fact, don’t strongly identify as either gender, but simply go along with societal expectations for pragmatic reasons. • Alraune says: The most surprising thing I’ve noticed from all the discussions surrounding trans issues is that many people, in fact, don’t strongly identify as either gender, but simply go along with societal expectations for pragmatic reasons. I’ve expressed an identical sentiment myself on this page, but I’ve still gotta sanity check you here: of those discussions surrounding trans- issues, did any of them take place outside of, for want of a better word, Math-Person enclaves? • Shenpen says: Lumberjacks are low-status. But as a better example most men would like to be James Bond i.e. both masculine and high-status because androgens generaly precisely this type of status desire, to the extent that it was shown that androgens even in women influence stereotype threat levels – they directly influence how much one cares about comparing themselves with others. Masculine gender roles are all about power, and androgens are all about desiring that. For women, the princess stuff is pre-capitalist. So not really relevant. The high status woman is more of a Gina Lollobrigida type today. Also it is a bit more difficult because it is hard to tell if lower androgens or higher estrogens are more important. Nurturing is oxytocin. Estrogen has more to do with high socialization, emotional connections, a classic case is the puberty / teenage girl behavior or early pregnancy where the opinion of others becomes very important and moods and emotions matter a lot. Estrogen is clearly not about nurturing – after childbirth it crashes through the floor. I don’t think nurturing is a _ generic_ female gender role as such – do the girls in dance club look like they are being very nurturing? It is a _motherhood_ role which happens after e.g. attractiveness got already reduced by the first birth and normally happens only after marriage. Nurturing is female only as much as working long is male – not very much, just a marriage role. But the core roles are male fighting/dominating and female emotional/social. • Nita says: @ Alraune That’s an interesting hypothesis. I’d like to see a properly sampled study, too. @ Shenpen James Bond and Gina Lollobrigida? I think you might be a little behind the times 😛 More seriously: everyone wants to be respected and admired — or “high status”, as you put it. (Except for people with unhealthy self-loathing issues.) And you do realize that anger is an emotion and status games are a type of social interaction, right? • @Nita: My first instinct was to say ‘…that’s an excellent point’, and then I realised that while it’s incredibly easy for me to imagine that’s true for most people, that’s probably in strong part because I identify as androgynous. Do you have some statistical sources corrected for confounders? I’d be interested, because that sounds like the sort of thing that will shape the way I look at things if true. • Ever An Anon says: It seems like there’s a conflation here between costume and role. For example, if I quantum leapt into the body of a 18th century French Aristocrat then I would suddenly face the expectation of wearing tights wigs and makeup: failing to dress in a properly masculine way would get me mocked almost as badly as my atrocious command of the French language. And if it had been a leap into a German young lord less than a century later I had better insult someone at my academy quickly or I’d be the only chump without a manly dueling scar. Two millenia earlier in Macedon and I’d be cursing my body hair every day while shaving. But the masculine virtues, chiefly L’Amor Fati and self cultivation, would be the same in all three as well as in modern times. The fundamentals of “Being a Man” are human universals, and that is what guys identify with rather than a particular costume. By that standard I would say most guys have a strong sex identity: even if they would prefer nail polish to baseball caps, they still largely aspire to masculine virtues. • Nita says: @ Ever An Anon “L’Amor Fati”? Hmm, let’s see… I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who make things beautiful. That, and self cultivation? This combination of virtues sounds a lot like the ideal of a good Evangelical Christian housewife — joyfully accept your lot in life, tirelessly work to improve yourself… And these ladies take their femininity quite seriously — they might take offense if you go around calling their virtues manly! • Nita says: @ Neike I would be happy to find any statistics on this, of any quality. • Shenpen says: >Also, you do not need a passport, driving licence etc to specify ‘male’, ‘female’ or other in order to function as proof of identity. True but I cannot really imagine how narcissist one must be to really care about this. • Anonymous says: You also can’t imagine a reason, other than narcissism, why someone might care. • Shenpen says: @Anonymous Yes, I cannot. It sounds to me the idea that a person cannot bear that anyone have a different opinion about himself/herself even if that is not really a person but a paper produced by a bureaucratic machine. Not being able to deal with disagreement about ones own self is what narcissism is. It is not being sure and confident about one’ self / identity so every external disagreement reinforces those nagging doubts. • Anonymous says: And my opinion of rationalists (or is it conservatives?) sinks ever lower. • Shenpen says: @Anonymous Conservative (non-American), with a mild interest in rationalism, if you are interested. But quite frankly I have about zero interest in your opinion. Because I am not narcissistic – I can live very well with the fact that some people have a different opinion about me than I do. Say something actually interesting, such as what other alternatives exist. • Anonymous says: Why should I? If you were open to alternatives, you would have gone out into the world (i.e., other places on the internet) and looked for them. You would have maybe come up with some tentative alternatives yourself, which you could have then tested against reality. (You can still do those things. Absolutely no one is stopping you.) (And given how you’ve dug in your heels with the single explanation that occurred to you, why would I think that my providing you with an alternative would be anything but futile?) • Cauê says: Anon, you could at least attempt to argue your case(s). I don’t see what kind of contribution you think you’re making here. • Anonymous says: @Caue, I see many comments making unsupported assertions, in which the commenter is COMPLETELY CONVINCED that there no other explanation is possible. I have no hope that any rational argument or evidence will be considered by someone like that. Therefore, I have zero incentive to argue a case in specific terms. • Cauê says: Meanwhile, when thinking of reasons why you would complain as you’re doing, instead of providing the alternative explanation(s) and see what happens, the only ones I can come up with are… less than generous. • HeelBearCub says: @Anonymous: There is the old saying, “Better to remain silent and appear a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” If you find Shenpen to be foolish, you should incentivize him to speak, not remain silent. @Cauê: I will attemp to steel-man @Anonymous’s argument, at least a little bit. We have all been in arguments where the other side is not merely well-versed in the arguments for their own opinion, but extremely resistant to anything that runs contrary. It’s confirmation bias on steroids (or maybe just confirmation bias). CJB has a point that he concedes somewhere in this thread about Swedish defense spending vs. US defense spending where he makes the point that in many places, merely to admit error is to show weakness. When one finds oneself in argument in this manner, it becomes exhausting, the debate equivalent of trying to talk to a two-year old who merely says “Why?” to every answer. To your point though, I would however, hope that on this blog at least, we wouldn’t be so quick to pattern match to that type of argument. • Cauê says: HBC, I don’t how many times one should have to try to argue in good faith with someone before concluding that’s the case and accusing them of this, but I’m pretty sure it’s at least once. • Anonymous says: @Caue, you’ve seen two separate commenters [there’s no charitable way I can put it], and your issue is . . . with the person who points this out to them? @HBC, the particular quote that comes to my mind is that a lie travels halfway around the globe before the truth has a chance to put on its shoes. No, the situation isn’t quite analogous. However, I think it is perfectly fine to tell someone to go forth into the internets to find the information they’re convinced does not exist. I truly do not have the energy to do more than that. • FacelessCraven says: @Anon – “I truly do not have the energy to do more than that.” And yet you have the energy to keep sniping with rude comments. Argue for the audience. Always. The point of view you are representing deserves better than you are giving it. • Anonymous says: “Argue for the audience. Always. The point of view you are representing deserves better than you are giving it.” Thank you, FC. At least we can agree on that! • HeelBearCub says: Cauê says: “HBC, I don’t how many times one should have to try to argue in good faith with someone before concluding that’s the case and accusing them of this, but I’m pretty sure it’s at least once.” Yes, I completely agree with this. Surely though, one can, after the 4th “Why?” in a row, dismiss the two year old, even if that is all in one conversation? I’m not sure what the polite way to do this is, especially in a manner that does not concede the argument. @Anonymous: “the particular quote that comes to my mind is that a lie travels halfway around the globe before the truth has a chance to put on its shoes” On this blog, in this community, if one makes an assertion, being asked to justify that assertion should generally assumed to be valid and in good faith. If people are making counter-assertions, this does not simply nullify both parties responsibility for justifying their assertions. Do I sympathize with the general idea that the comment community here, having attracted a predominately gray-red cohort, seems to ignore violations of the 2 out of 3 rule that Scott laid out if they coincide with a gray-red worldview? Yes, I sympathize with that. But I don’t think the answer is to then consciously engage in that type of behavior. • Anonymous says: @HBC, I keep silent 99 times out of 100, even when I see people engage in “that type of behavior.” I don’t read the comments very often, but when I do, I see a definite trend in which comments expressing right-wing views are much less likely to be challenged than those from the left. And that’s all I will say about it. • Protagoras says: I feel I should perhaps say, once in a while, that I agree with Anonymous; I have gotten a bit frustrated at the build up of right-wing talking points and abuse of liberals in the comment threads of late. I only rarely respond, because when I do it generally seems that either the inferential distance is too great or there’s too little interest in actual rational discussion on the other side for it to be productive, and I don’t consider making the comment threads a scene of tribal warfare to be a desirable outcome either. But count me as a left winger who still loves Scott’s posts, but is much less thrilled by the comment threads of late. • HeelBearCub says: @Protagaros: Oh, I certainly agree with that. Except, I’m fairly young here, so I don’t think I ever saw the halcyon days you are describing. Several months ago I saw a thread where some seemed to be bemoaning the lack of liberal/left-leaning commentors as detrimental to the back and forth dialogue that was desired. I didn’t comment at the time, but my initial reaction was that the general tenor is not welcoming to liberal commentors, but rather, fairly hostile. I think 3 weeks or so ago, veronica d tried to make that point and ended up having her point attacked either semantically or in a weak-man (depending on how you want to see it). Not many gray or red-tribe members seemed to jump to her defense. This last point is particularly what I am trying to get at. Unless we want to things to devolve to some sort of echo chamber (or dual echo chamber), we have to particularly guard against accepting/not challenging weak arguments from people we broadly agree with. • Ever An Anon says: “The quality of this website’s comments has gone to hell” is probably the most common sentiment I’ve ever seen at any time on any website. I wouldn’t be surprised if those weren’t the first words ever transmitted electronically. It used to be almost exclusively Blue-state “I’ve never met a real-life Creationist” progressives and bleeding heart libertarians here, and there were people complaining about the comments then too. And back then we had actual death threats, albiet all from the same commenter afaik. After that NRx was a big thing and there still weren’t any regular Red-state conservatives but everyone was flipping out over whatever thing Jim had said that milisecond. And 100% of it was more offensive to liberal sensibilities than anything posted in recent memory. Having a half-way mindkilled debate about gun control or global warming isn’t as fun as listening to communists fantasize about putting lower middle class white folks against the wall as class traitors or hearing surprisingly well-sourced race realist arguments that black people not being able to swim is a public health risk, but it’s not anywhere near as disruptive either. Doomsaying now of all times is silly. • notes says: ‘Things used to be better here’ is arguably the oldest human sentiment, and was certainly held as early as we have samples of narrative writing. Earlier, if we trust their recording of oral histories. I’m generally against fantasies of executing kulaks (though perhaps I should not be: sometimes fantasies substitute for action more than they incite it), and I don’t even understand why someone would make a well-sourced argument for… subsidized swimming lessons for black people? Voluntary associations gathering to address the grave threat of lack of swimming technique? Probably this is because I don’t see how it ends up as a public health problem. Anyway, setting aside these examples of a more colorful commentariat which, the vagaries of the internet permitting, may yet return… there’s a positive value to trying rational argument here, even for Anonymous. Perhaps more relevantly, there’s a strong negative value to despairing of rational argument and going straight to sniping. The former helps reinforce the norms of rational discourse here; the latter actively tears them down. Worse, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: perhaps rational argument on a given subject, with a given interlocutor is futile. Certainly it becomes so, if sniping is the standard of discourse. If such despair helps hasten what you dislike about the comments, as I think it would, then consider taking the opposite course — not as a favor to those unwilling to listen, but as your attempt to give the PoV for which you argue the representation it deserves. Or, less rationally: Welcome. Stay awhile. Bring forth the arguments your causes deserve. • Alraune says: I don’t even understand why someone would make a well-sourced argument for… subsidized swimming lessons for black people? Voluntary associations gathering to address the grave threat of lack of swimming technique? Probably this is because I don’t see how it ends up as a public health problem. The public health problem is that it (in conjunction with various amplifying effects?) means there’s a 3x disparity in the rate of drowning. • Samuel Skinner says: Steve Sailor still reads and comments here; I don’t know about the communists. • Nornagest says: Did the commie class murder fantasy people and the anti-black bigots armed with Damned Facts mellow out, wander out, or get chased out? Jim and most of his imitators got permabanned, IMO correctly; I’m basically okay with having neoreactionaries floating around, even the ethno-nationalist kind (whom I find the least politically interesting and the most ethically sketchy), but Jim’s style was way too abusive no matter how good his sourcing. The commie murder fantasy perpetrator received a few temporary bans and largely mellowed out; they’re still around occasionally. I’m not gonna name them here, because they might prefer it that way and they’re actually a pretty good commentator when they’re not fantasizing about having people shot. (Also because I may have dreamed of feeding annoying people to sharks, Blofeld style.) • Alraune says: But gender? Do 95% of people really aspire to be “macho lumberjacks” or “nurturing princesses”? Expanding on my above reply to Nita, I think that, yes, 5% is the right magnitude of exceptions there, but that the number is substantially higher within nerd circles. Partly because there’s a tendency towards identifying primarily as your mind and having far-flung hypothetical interests that makes the question “if you were [other gender, other race, a robot blimp on Jupiter, etc. etc.] what would things be like?” seem more interesting and less repulsive than most people seem to find that class of question, but I think there’s also a more fundamentally gender-specific portion. Being male or female in the social/gender sense is largely about what type of status games you naturally take to and bond by playing, and nerds are quite infamously bad at the normal status games, preferring to play their own. And nerd status games, though not really unisex, are sufficiently outlying that the male and female versions are closer matches to each other than to their corresponding normal games. When all your close friendships are of the nerd-bonding sort rather than the gender-bonding sort, gender identification falls by the wayside. • Shenpen says: On the average, the more intellectual a person is, the more neutered they look. Unfortunately I am not an exception – I would like to be far, far more masculine but it feels like every time I jump into an intellectual interest, my testosterone drops. • onyomi says: A number of religious traditions like Hinduism, Buddhism, and Daoism associate androgyny with enlightenment and completeness, so maybe you just have the best of both worlds? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ardhanarishvara http://www.jstor.org/stable/41298758?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents • stillnotking says: The Left Hand of Darkness, I guess? Which is an indirect way of saying “Not gonna happen without major and fundamental revisions of human nature.” 5. Paul Torek says: As far as Iceland goes, Sumner is at least partly right because monetary effects at least have traction: http://icelandicecon.blogspot.com/2012/07/interest-rates-and-indexation.html And since basically no neo-Keynesians deny that monetary policy matters, and since real interest rates in Iceland quickly went negative, Cowen’s argument is radically incomplete at best. Iceland followed (net) expansionary policies, a Keynesian can argue, and got expansion. But my previous comment wasn’t about the economics argument, I’m just saying nyah nyah and calling Cowen a poopyhead. Because Iceland did its (merely-fiscal) austerity the “wrong” way from his POV. FWIW, I applaud Cowen’s cautiousness about economic generalizations. Oops, this comment was supposed to be threaded under Nathan’s 6/27 10:41pm. 6. Paul Torek says: Iceland did move to a primary government surplus … primarily by raising taxes. Is this the model Tyler Cowen wants to shout from the rooftops? And then there’s Iceland’s treatment of creditors of banks. The Guardian reported (Oct 2013): Nobel prize winner Joeseph Stilitz agreed. “What Iceland did was right. It would have been wrong to burden future generations with the mistakes of the financial system.” For Financial Times economist Martin Wolf too, it was a triumph. “Iceland let the creditors of its banks hang. Ireland did not. Good for Iceland!” Less good, of course, for the foreign creditors. […] “We raised almost every tax there was – and introduced new ones,” recalled the then finance minister, Steingrimur Sigfusson, adding that there were considerable cuts in public spending too as government debt swelled to eye-watering levels. More details from the EC (pdf): a special tax on higher income was abolished in 2006, but reintroduced in 2009. In 2010, the PAYE (pay as you earn) system which had been basically a flat rate system with or without a temporary surcharge, was replaced by a three-rate system. … The total rates for 2014 were set at 37.32% … for yearly incomes of up to ISK 2 897 702 (EUR 18 028), 39.42% … for incomes from ISK 2 897 703 to ISK 8 874 108 (EUR 55 210) and 46.22% for incomes above this value. (Math on federal+regional taxes omitted because formatting) That document also mentions that the corporate tax rate increased from 15% in 2008-9 to 18% in 2010 and 20% in 2013. • Nathan says: I’m not sure that you really understand what the economic argument is about. Fiscal austerity is fiscal austerity in Keynesian economics, regardless of whether it’s done through tax raises or spending cuts. Scott Sumner has made this point quite often in particular. Cowen primarily believes that Europe’s (and America’s) problems are structural and that the Keynesian AS/AD framework is not the relevant one to use. So he highlights an example of a country getting a very different outcome to what the Keynesian framework predicts. Sumner on the other hand is still pretty much on board with AS/AD but thinks that monetary effects render fiscal policy irrelevant. Both are low-tax favouring libertarians, but for both men the argument over the correct economic framework is much bigger and more important than the tax rate. Cowen also makes clear that he doesn’t believe the Icelandic experience is generalizable. He doesn’t believe what worked for them will necessarily work elsewhere. That’s the trouble with Cowen. He tends to reject broad rules so its hard to find contradictions in his thinking. • Shenpen says: Austerity does mean raising taxes, it is known by every European, because it is faster to squeeze both ends (higher tax, lower spending) to repay the debt than just one. This also means that the anti-tax American Right have never really considered austerity. 7. Alraune says: Bad news Scott, the euphemism treadmill caught up to you. You’re gonna need a new word for “content warning.” • Anonymous says: Wow, that’s pretty ridiculous. The article you linked to is 2tribalist4me though. Just because a feminist blogger said something doesn’t mean it’s a universal declaration of the Official Feminist Opinion on the issue. • Protagoras says: The article itself looks more reasonable (to me at least) than the weird editor’s note that precedes it. • Alraune says: I actually consider the terminology change a slight positive development, since ditching “trigger” moves things out of the faux-medicalization gutter and should encourage… I was going to say “better dialogue”, but that’s far too optimistic so I’ll just say “fighting fairly.” Still demonstrates the futility of the supposed principle involved though: there is no circumlocution of sensitive topics sufficient to prevent discomfort, the warnings function entirely as a yellow star marking the speaker out for future assaults. 8. Deiseach says: Esteemed and worshipful readers and commenters of this parish: let me take this opportunity to tell you how much I appreciate the quality of contribution on here (yes, even when we veer dangerously close to “You’re a poopyhead!” territory). Because, although my eyes may glaze over at the mathematics involved when ye start digging into the statistical analysis, by Crom Cruach and his sub-gods twelve, at least ye understand and appreciate nuance and that there are distinctions and subtleties and above all reasons for the holding of positions other than “Are they merely stupid? Or evil as well?” Because ye can make an argument for why “You are a poopyhead!” and the degree, quality and origin of poop involved. This brought to you courtesy of a Tumblr blogging of a sequence from some TV show which ended up with “So go fuck yourself, Aquinas” (not a sentiment calculated to win my heart) where the writers were striving for Deep but only came up with Propaganda. If you don’t understand the difference between “pride as a sin” and “pride which means self-esteem and a true valuation of your worth”, please don’t. Just don’t. • zz says: 4 * 5 = 30 5 * 6 = 32 0.002 + e^{i \pi} + \sum_{i = 1}^\infty \frac{1}{2^n} Deiseach is a poopyhead (-b \pm \sqrt{b^2 – 4sc}) /2 /s • Deiseach says: Why, I’ll….eyelids growing heavy…think I’ll take that lying down?….can’t…stay…awake…mathematics…zzzzzzzz 🙂 • stillnotking says: Any forum that can bring together neoreactionaries and social justice types without immediately degenerating into poopyhead territory is something pretty special. • Brian Donohue says: Yes. As someone who believes in The Usefulness of Dialogue among People of Good Faith Who Disagree, I think Scott is providing an instructive example and an important counterweight to the General Tenor of Internet Dialogue circa 2015, with the help of many commentators. Amen. • Anonymous says: Who would the social justice types be? (I know there used to be a few, but they don’t seem to be commenting much anymore.) • Foo says: +1 veronica d maybe? Anyway, I’m guessing they mostly either got converted to anti-SJ or driven away. • Anonymous says: Or got tired of the echo chamber. • Anonymous says: Mark, what I personally look for is disagreement that is 1) interesting and 2) offers new information. That’s been getting harder to find. (P.S. The comment can be judged on its merits, regardless of what pseudonym I choose.) • Cauê says: Try to engage substantively instead of, well, instead of what you’re doing today, and see what happens. • notes says: I may be in error here, but my own understanding was that Aquinas condemned as sinful any misestimation of one’s proper worth/place (though he did draw a distinction between pride and pusillanimity, considering them related, and sometimes the latter stemming from the former… the one being overestimation and the other underestimation of one’s self). It’s a puzzling confusion: his definition of pride literally opens by defining it as overestimation of what one is, which by definition could not be a true valuation of one’s worth. • Protagoras says: Well, Aquinas of course stole a lot from Aristotle, and Aristotle didn’t have the idea of a “sin” of pride. For Aristotle it was entirely good for someone to be proud if they had something to be actually proud of; misestimation was the only thing that was a problem. This may be a place where Aquinas gets confusing because he is serving two masters, the Christian ideas about pride, and the very not Christian Aristotle. • Deiseach says: I think the modern confusion is because nowadays they very much do believe in the sin of pride, except (a) they don’t have the notion of sin and (b) it only applies to people/causes of which one disapproves. Pride is otherwise considered a healthy self-esteem or reclamation of slurs or the like, a reaction to past mores where thinness/whiteness/maleness/intelligence/being from the West/conservatism/heterosexuality/cis gender/neurotypicalness/abledness etc. were considered desirable and superior, and those not possessing those traits were considered lacking. So White Pride is an awful terrible bad thing because racism (I’m not talking about neo-Nazism or the like, but could anyone imagine going around saying “I’m proud to be white!”). But Gay Pride is a great wonderful thing because LGBT! Any distinction between the two is considered hair-splitting, and any intimation of “pride is sinful” is “Oh, you want me to be ashamed of myself and you’re only trying to put me down and keep me down, yeah?” The idea that anyone, even the persons of superior social causes, can suffer from the poisonous kind of pride is not considered. Oh, well. Times change and we have to change with them, right? And I was more irritated that the writers were trying to be Clever and Edgy but only came off as mouthing the pious platitudes of the day. If they hadn’t felt the need to insult Aquinas, I’d have simply scrolled past it without comment. But you insult the Dumb Ox and I take it personal like 🙂 • Tarrou says: I am most encouraged not by Scott (who does an admirable job here) but by the commentariat taking up the ideal as well. One man being admirable is relatively easy, though rare. His being able to influence so many others to up their internet-commenting game is something else entirely. • HeelBearCub says: @Tarrou: I wish you would enter the commentariat who has taken up the ideal… • Tarrou says: unseriousness begets sarcasm • A Definite Beta Guy says: Ideas interest most of us more than rage. This is not the case for most people, who seek easily digestible feelings much like the 11 year old in that new Pixar movie. My general thought on the matter. • Tarrou says: Indeed, but Scott has gotten some pretty far-reaching coverage, he gets linked on very popular (and some very partisan) sites. This brings a lot of people who aren’t necessarily old LW folks or serious skeptics. I’m impressed that the community self-polices so effectively. • Alraune says: Have we been descending into increasingly impenetrable jargon? That would be one obvious policing method. • Shenpen says: you drunk? for reference, I am very much like this when drunk 9. Tarrou says: Well Scott, The contagion may be limited to academia, but not to California! http://www.uwsp.edu/acadaff/NewFacultyResources/NFSRacialMicroaggressions_Table.pdf This one is even better, it is the considered opinion of the University of Wisconsin that even to deny that one is racist is a microaggression (for whites only of course)! Simply staggering. • HeelBearCub says: @Tarrou: The examples of specific micro-aggressions on race are: “I’m not a racist. I have several Black friends.” “As a woman, I know what you go through as a racial minority.” You may not like the idea of framing things as micro-aggressions. But if I switch the context, I’ll think you’ll see how nonsensical the statements are. “I’m don’t hate Red-Tribe. I have several Red-Tribe friends.” “As a person working in tech support, I know what you go through as a farmer.” • Tarrou says: And the Motte goes up! Perhaps you’d care to justify the rest of them? “There is only one race, the human race.” Asking an Asian American to teach them words in their native language Asking an Asian person to help with a Math or Science problem. “I believe the most qualified person should get the job.” Oh man, I had a Chinese-American maths professor once! I microaggressed the SHIT out of him! I needed so much help! • HeelBearCub says: @Tarrou: Well, of course some of these statements are clearly contextual. But, if you accuse me of hating Red-Tribe, then in context: There is only one race, the human race.–> There is only one tribe, the American Tribe. And in the context of you saying “It’s been shown there is a hiring bias against people with Southern accents” then responding “I believe the most qualified person should get the job” as a counter-argument is, again, ridiculous. For the others: Asking an Asian American to teach them words in their native language –> If all of your great-grand-parents are from Texas (but you live in NYC and so did your parents and grandparents), asking you to speak in a Southern accent or sing The Yellow Rose of Texas. Asking an Asian person to help with a Math or Science problem. –> Oh, you’re from Alabama, how do you cook chitlins? Finally, could I ask if you could be a tad less aggressive in your replies? Whatever dialogue you are trying to have gets a little lost. • DrBeat says: There is nothing malicious or condemnable about “There is only one tribe. The American tribe.” other than that it doesn’t make sense if they are talking about the whole world. It’s a legitimate sentiment that people in America should stop backbiting each other over factional differences. What is wrong with that? “I believe the most qualified person should get the job” was not specified as only bad in a certain context. Asking an Asian person to teach you a word in their native language is not like asking a Texan to speak in a Southern accent or to sing. Asking for someone to convey information is not like asking someone to make a performance for you. It also doesn’t specify “saying Oh, you’re Asian, you are good at math, help me with this.” And this is not an accidental omission. It says “asking an Asian person to help with a math or science problem”. So it’s more like saying “Hey, I am cooking chitlins, can you give me a hand?” to the nearest person, who happens to be from Alabama. “Microaggressions” are clearly “anything that might hurt the feelings of a person who has self-modified their feelings for maximum hurtability.” This is how they are used, again and again and again. That you can invent a context in which some of these “microaggressions” might be regarded as actually bad doesn’t matter, because they have never and WILL never be regarded as microaggressions only in that context — the entire point of codifying microaggressions is to try and make them seen as bad outside of that context. • HeelBearCub says: @DrBeat: For argument, let’s suppose I say something negative about (coded words for people in Red-Tribe), then you call me on it by saying “You are just saying that because you hate Red-Tribe”, and then I counter with “There is only the American tribe.” Would that not be an infuriating response? It’s not the statement itself, it’s the context. It’s simply a distraction from the actual argument. Even in the context of you merely asserting the tribes exist, it’s not a counter-argument, but a statement of desired utopia. The context in which the statement “I believe the most qualified person should get the job” is shown in the theme. Myth of meritocracy Statements which assert that race does not play a role in life successes “Asking an Asian person to teach you a word in their native language” Not an Asian person, an Asian American person (it’s right there in the sentence). The micro-aggression is assuming that someone who looks Asian must not have been born in the US and/or must be a native Chinese/Korean/Japanese speaker. Why do you assume that someone from Alabama must know how to cook chitlins? Can’t you identify with the idea that it grates to have people assume so much about you based only on one piece of knowledge? • onyomi says: I think the “assuming Asian American speaks Chinese/Japanese/Korean” thing is a legit, if minor, offense. But I think it’s pretty Orwellian to say that statements like “I think the job should go to the most qualified person” are inherently offensive, though they could be, depending on the context. This is because it assumes a whole frame of reference which is not shared by everyone, or even close to everyone. A reasonable percentage of Americans, right or wrong, think that race is no longer a major obstacle to success in this country. A reasonable percentage of Americans, right or wrong, think that affirmative action-type programs are unethical and/or ineffective. To say “it is offensive even to express those opinions because they imply a world view that clashes with my own” is just a way of shutting down whole swathes of the population from ever speaking their opinion. “Not all Asians in America grew up in Asia and speak Asian languages” is not a controversial statement. “American meritocracy is a myth” is a very controversial statement. Discourse hygiene that demands that a controversial position be accepted as a prerequisite for polite discussion is intellectually dishonest. • Cauê says: HBC, you can’t make policy that relies on context to the extent you’re defending here. Once these examples become codified as “microagressions”, people will just pattern-match, and defending the “aggressor” on the grounds that the context was different (or whatever grounds, really) will be both draining and dangerous. btw, I’ve seen leftists who hate conservatives – “I don’t, I have many conservative friends” would actually be very informative, especially in certain academic contexts. I also disagree with other of your assessments, even the “ridiculous” one. This is not clear-cut. I can’t imagine how this policy wouldn’t hurt innocent people for innocent thoughts. • HeelBearCub says: @Cauê /@onyomi: First let met start be simply reiterating that the specific comment I was replying to was a complaint that “even to deny that one is racist is a microaggression”. Broadly speaking, I think this is weak-manning the argument about micro-aggressions. I see people here point out that Blue Tribe – Red Tribe interactions are frequently based on bias, and that one, as a member of Blue Tribe, assuredly has biases against Red Tribe which color (see what I did there) their thought patterns. This is the the subject of reams of writing on both Less Wrong, SSC, and other places. If I deny that those biases exist and that they effect Blue Tribe broadly, you would laugh and find this to be complete non-sense. But even if I asserted that I, as a member of Blue Tribe, had no biases against Ref Tribe and therefore my arguments, emotions, thoughts were not affected by them, you would also rate this as highly dubious. I think that Louis CKs monologue on “mild-racism” covers some of this in a much more palatable way when we stop talking about Blue-Red and start talking about racism. Everyone has xenophobic tendencies. @onyomi: “A reasonable percentage of Americans, right or wrong, think that race is no longer a major obstacle to success in this country.” 50 years ago, a reasonable percentage of Americans thought that blacks were inherently inferior to whites. Surely you can see that this is not a sufficient condition for not paying attention to the problem that these types of internal biases cause? Cauê : Can these types of policies be misused and lead to harm? Yes. Does that mean that they assuredly will be misued and lead to harm? Yes. But, a policy of ignoring the problems caused by othering different races also leads to harm. These things are in tension with each other. Using the microagression principle as a cudgel to beat people for innocent statements is wrong. There are certainly people on the left who have been pointing out the excesses, and I think it is right to do so. But that doesn’t invalidate the original argument that microagressions actually exist and are problematic. • stillnotking says: To me, the question is not whether microaggressions are a problem, but whether they’re a problem that can or should be solved with the intervention of official power structures. I feel strongly that they shouldn’t, for a lot of reasons, the most obvious of which is that selective enforcement potential is so high as to be guaranteed. HBC, you as much as admitted this yourself when you said “everyone has xenophobic tendencies”. Applying official sanction to something everyone does is a bad idea. The cure would be worse than the disease. • HeelBearCub says: @Mark Atwood: See Jonathan Chait here and the follow up here In the second article, you can see links to two other left-leaning authors protesting the excesses of the current PC culture. • HeelBearCub says: @stillnotking: If the government was specifically banning microagressions in broad society, I would agree with you. But that isn’t what is happening. What we have are a host of organizations attempting to set policy only within themselves. Certainly that is complicated by the broad requirements under the Civil Rights Act, but I would need some citation to say that the broad excesses of these policies are caused by government. But, if your manager at the drive through says, “Don’t engage in political chit-chat with the customers, it infuriates half of them” this would not be the kind of restriction of speech that is concerning. • stillnotking says: I thought we were specifically discussing campus policies here. I’m not talking about the government at all; I’m quite sure any such law in the US would be struck down on First Amendment grounds. Colleges, OTOH, can get away with deeply illiberal, unfair, and selectively-enforced policies without coming to national attention, and their victims usually have little recourse. • HeelBearCub says: @stillnotking: Sorry, I misunderstood what you meant by – “whether they’re a problem that can or should be solved with the intervention of official power structures” HR exists at almost every business in the country. They almost always have policies that cover this sort of stuff. They almost always go well beyond what the law requires. The kinds of things that are officially verbotten by HR happen fairly routinely, but this is much like the speed limit being 55 but most people driving 65. Colleges and Universities are unique institutions, and they do have some unique challenges. But they will still have HR policies. Saying that HR policies should not deal with these kinds of things seems fairly naive. • stillnotking says: HR has policies about harassment and discrimination, which are very different things from microaggression. Again, as you admitted yourself, everyone says something mildly xenophobic from time to time. Not everyone discriminates or harasses. Huge difference. Give college administrators the power to discipline students or faculty just for making some mildly or inadvertently insulting remark, like assuming an Asian is good at math, and I guarantee you will not like how it turns out. I speak from long and dire experience with the breed. (Administrators, not Asians.) Ironically, the selective enforcement could even be applied in racist ways. • onyomi says: I don’t really think “American meritocracy is a myth” and “blacks are not inferior to whites” are analogous statements for all sorts of reasons. But even if they were, if we were living in a world in which a large percentage of people still believed in white racial superiority, would it be the best strategy to just try to shut down any discussion of that question as inherently offensive? Of course, ostracism, disapproval, shame, etc. can be powerful weapons, but for reasons stated in “In Favor of Niceness…” I’d rather say that “bad argument gets counter argument, not bullet. Always.” Nowadays we rarely need to present arguments against white supremacy because people rarely present arguments in favor of white supremacy outside of scary little corners of the internet where most of us would fear to tread anyway. But if 50% of the population still believed in white supremacy, then we’d need to make the case to them, not just tell them to shut up. “American meritocracy is a myth” may be a case worth making, but those who think it’s correct need to make the case. They shouldn’t just assume they’re correct and proceed to treat disagreement as a social faux pas. I think a better comparison would be if I, as a libertarian said, “free markets and capitalism have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to be the greatest systems for alleviating human suffering of all time; therefore, for anyone to imply otherwise is inherently disrespectful, hurtful, and obscene.” *I* actually think that free markets have proven their value beyond a shadow of a doubt and am baffled by people who think otherwise. But the fact remains that I still live in a society where a decent %age of people would disagree with me on that. Is it more helpful for me to engage with them and keep making the case for free markets, or to just say “well, given that free markets are obviously the best, only rude, mean, stupid people could imply otherwise, so I’ll just ignore them.”? • HeelBearCub says: @stillnotking: Corporations, I believe, generally ban offensive conduct. That includes, but is not limited to harassment or discrimination. In an “at-will” employment state, HR can fire you for literally anything they feel like, but certainly if you offend someone frequently enough, are asked to stop, and don’t, they will fire you. @onyomi: “I don’t really think “American meritocracy is a myth” and “blacks are not inferior to whites” are analogous statements for all sorts of reasons.” I think the proof that they are analogous is within the statements themselves. There once existed a time when blacks were presumed inferior to whites, both as a point of law and as general sentiment. No matter how meritorious the black person was, they would not be afforded the benefits commensurate with that merit. We certainly can’t look at the distribution of benefits across the races and say that blacks are in their position today, broadly, solely based on merit. There are plenty of people still alive who were subject to Jim Crow laws, let alone the accumulated weight of 400 years of slavery. • onyomi says: @Heelbearcub See, but now you’re arguing the case. My point is not that the case can’t be persuasively argued, but that it can’t be assumed. The fact that there exist good arguments for a position does not justify consigning all contrary statements to the realm of “micro-aggression.” They could just be wrong and in need of correction by a better argument. If I say, “racism is not a big barrier to getting ahead in America today,” and you disagree with that idea, it’s perfectly reasonable to say, “but what about the legacy of Jim Crow? What about examples x, y, and z of institutional racism?” I do not think it is reasonable to react by saying “how dare you?! That’s a hurtful opinion! I’m deeply offended and will report this to the student committee on speech and expression.” • HeelBearCub says: @onyomi: I really don’t know what to say. You said they weren’t even analogous, I showed they were equal (actually antithetical, as you framed it). Now you are off arguing something else. It’s feels to me like poor form on your part. • onyomi says: @Heelbearcub I was responding to: “We certainly can’t look at the distribution of benefits across the races and say that blacks are in their position today, broadly, solely based on merit. There are plenty of people still alive who were subject to Jim Crow laws, let alone the accumulated weight of 400 years of slavery.” I probably should have quoted the part I was responding to in the first place. Sorry if it wasn’t clear. I was not responding to your contention that those cases are analogous. I could respond to that, but for me, at least, that would be getting off topic, as it is not the meta issue I’m interested in here. • Tarrou says: That’s some nuanced context you got going on there, but allow me to attempt to elucidate myself. Please correct me if I am misrepresenting your argument, it is the first step to be able to formulate the opponent’s side. -Given that racism exists- -Given that college professors are known to be hotbeds of deep-south conservative racisms, especially in California and Wisconsin- -Given that it is the responsibility of college professors to often engage in wild hypotheticals for the purposes of teaching- -Given that college students and college administrations have Never, not Once overreacted and suppressed speech that was innocuous or merely political- -Given that minorities are so famously delicate in their sensibilities that any bland conversation which accidentally reminds them that they are not white males is so distressing as to deny them equal opportunity to an education!- -Therefore, it should be HR policy that anyone who says any number of anodyne statements which could be wildly misinterpreted out of context by grievance-mongering shitweasels shall henceforth be considered that worst of things: a White Racist Oppressor! And until they get tenure, this will be reason to get them up in front of the hiring committee.- I think, on balance, Socrates would probably counsel against the “shitweasels” part. I hang my head. • Jaskologist says: I think that Louis CKs monologue on “mild-racism” covers some of this in a much more palatable way when we stop talking about Blue-Red and start talking about racism. Everyone has xenophobic tendencies. On a scale of one to ten, how racist are you? • Careless says: it is the considered opinion of the University of Wisconsin Hey, University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. Not that UW Madison isn’t batty, but this isn’t on them • Tarrou says: Oh man! What a terrible oversight on my part! It is not the considered opinion of Wal-Mart that we discovered a hateful plan to exploit the workers of Marysville! It’s only the opinion of Wal-Mart Marysville! Seriously dude, we’re now drawing distinctions between two campuses of the same college? Your criticism is that I didn’t specify down to the franchise level in my short executive summary? Well, I find your criticism meritless, because you quote Tarrou and not Tarrou-Saginaw. • Protagoras says: There are states that have extensive networks of U of State schools, with more than one of them being significant (California being the most extreme example). Some states have no particularly impressive U of State schools at all, of course. Another common pattern is to have exactly one flagship campus in the U of State system that is of real significance, and a number of other small U of State schools scattered about geographically which may have strengths in narrow specialities, but in many respects barely outrank community colleges. University of Wisconsin is of this last type; University of Wisconsin at Madison is a serious institution, and any other school with the University of Wisconsin name is a very minor deal. In pretty much all cases of multiple campuses of the U of State type, when there’s more than one campus, the different campuses have considerable independence and autonomy from one another, a lot more than in your Walmart analogy. To take an example likely to be more familiar to many people, the difference between Berkeley and UC Santa Barbara is a very big deal, even though California is an outlier among such systems in that even the “minor” University of California campuses like UCSB are still fairly substantial schools. • Tarrou says: Still not getting the point mate. The whole UC is propagating this microaggression stuff, and I’m merely noting another data point, far, far away from California, to add to Scott’s “contagion” metaphor. UC is the biggest and most prestigious state school system in the nation. UW isn’t, and I’m certainly not claiming that UW-SP is Harvard. I am claiming that UW-SP is UW, and that this demonstrates something of the reach of this sort of ultra-sensitive whinging. • Samuel Skinner says: His point is factual. If you want the narrative it represents, rather than alarm it is that the SJW stuff tends to be pushed the most by people who aren’t institutionally high status. • @ Tarrou: Well, I find your criticism meritless, because you quote Tarrou and not Tarrou-Saginaw. Saginaw, Michigan? If that’s your town, awesome. • Tarrou says: It is, and it is! Awesome in a hide-your-kids-hide-your-wife kinda way, but nonetheless. 😛 10. onyomi says: 11. SUT says: If you want a cure for the Toxiplasma blues I’d recommend this one minute interview with his the Charlestown shooter’s black friend: I mean what a breath of fresh air! Meanwhile NYT, the New Yorker, are cranking out opinion piece after opinion piece (like Roxanne Gay’s) designed to turn man against man. Preaching resentment, fear, hatred. Meanwhile, you never see anything like this video do you? Something that makes you deeply sad, but filled with hope for the living. But if you find yourself floundering without that Toxiplasma rage, just go straight to the video’s comments. 12. Sylocat says: JRPGs usually only have four Crystals, for Fire, Water, Earth and Air. They are indeed in themed temples, though. (FFIV had 8 crystals, but the other 4 were Dark Crystals that were mirror counterparts of the base 4, so that doesn’t count) Now, Chaos Emeralds, on the other hand… • DrBeat says: What about Secret of Mana? It had water, fire, earth, air, dark, light, moon, and tree elements. And if your theory of temporal mechanics doesn’t account for Secret of Mana, your theory is wrong. • Sylocat says: Huh. You know, I remembered the Mana Spirits (Dryad was my fave), but I forgot they had crystals too. I think Secret of Mana was, and this may sound strange, too much FUN for a Squaresoft game. In more traditional JRPGs where the gameplay is all selecting menu options, you get used to reading the textboxes carefully, so you have an easier time following the story, which is good, since the story is the reward. In more action-focused games, you don’t do as much reading during gameplay, and the gameplay is itself more of a reward in itself, so it’s easier to lose track of the story. Does that make any sense? 13. Random Thought Generator says: Why would anyone ban bottled water, or even want to? And, if the despot in control has the power to ban bottled water, why doesn’t s/he have the power to ban bottled soda pop too? • CJB says: The argument presumably went that as resusable water bottles and free tap water are everywhere, people would just stop drinking bottled water and drink tap water. The flaws in this argument are obvious to anyone who knows anything about how people work. So….not college administrators. • stillnotking says: Power is always subject to legitimacy; I suspect that any school administration (besides BYU’s) that banned bottled soda would find its legitimacy called into immediate question. • Nornagest says: I suspect the “ban” in question consists merely of not selling bottled water in vending machines or campus stores. Still stupid, though. 14. Daniel Burfoot says: I was really excited to take the CSI bet against the AGW position, until I realized the terms of the bet were totally contrived. They are NOT looking at next year’s temperature alone – they are looking at a moving 30-year average. That’s mathematically equivalent to a bet that next year’s temperature will be hotter than the temperature 30 years ago. 15. meh says: The Vance article is more about the moral hazard of need based financial aid than about sketchy collection. She doesn’t really get into collection tactics. Seems more rant than rational. 16. Zykrom says: 17. Ergot4 says: Environmentalists should actually push to repeal bans on plastic bottles. Yes, landfills are ugly. But few realize that recycling plastics hastens global warming. Petroleum that has been converted to plastic bottles can’t be burned as oil, and won’t create harmful greenhouse gasses. So more plastic bottles are better for our atmosphere. • CJB says: You shouldn’t recycle paper, either, if you’re concerned about CO2 Seriously. Paper is nothing but a block of carbon (n’ stuff, but mostly carbon). As for the “they cut down trees!” argument- you think people are cutting old growth oak for fucking paper mills? It’s farmed cheap pulpwood and pure carbon sequestration. Most landfills rapidly become anoxic and decay stops- people that professionally do garbage anthropology say you can still find unrotted stuff from the 50’s in there. Very effective way to sequester carbon. • James Picone says: AFAIK recycling paper is also quite energy-intensive compared to just making more paper from farmed-for-paper trees. I *think* that there’s some local environmental benefit in reducing interesting chemical runoff from bleaching and the like, but I’m not very certain on that. TL;DR: Environmental tradeoffs are hard, just make emitting CO2 more expensive with a tax and make the market figure it out. • houseboatonstyx says: Our local recycling center chops it up and sells it back to me for mulch/composting, kitty litter, animal bedding, packing things for UPS, etc. The recycling center adjoins the landfill transfer point, so my paper rides along with whatever I’m taking to the dump, and rides back home* with me, chopped. So negliable transport cost. * It rides home with me if the workers are very quick , or if they’re an example in a forum post. Otherwise I carry someone else’s shredded paper. • houseboatonstyx says: As an environmentalist, I’ve been saying that for years; better the oil should go back in the ground where it came from, than up in the air as smoke. Bicycling is counter-productive too; the gasoline we don’t buy, makes gasoline cheaper for the bulldozers and chainsaws. • Anonymous says: Bicycling, at least, means the gasoline you would have used can go to other use. But bicycling as an environmental choice doesn’t make much sense, really, given the tradeoffs you make. The other benefits are what make bicycling worth it. • Harald K says: The crude oil you don’t use will be used, that’s true. It might be for something with bad environmental externalities, as you suggest, but it may also be for something good. As James Picone says, put a carbon tax on it and let the market figure it out. But the crude oil you don’t use will reduce aggregate demand ever so slightly, which will reduce price ever so slightly, which will eventually make some extraction unprofitable that would otherwise be profitable, leaving slightly more carbon in the ground. Not much, but I would guess about a tank’s worth. So even absent a carbon tax, bicycling is definitively a good idea. • houseboatonstyx says: Paging David Friedman…. @ Harald K But the crude oil you don’t use will reduce aggregate demand ever so slightly, which will reduce price ever so slightly, which will eventually make some extraction unprofitable that would otherwise be profitable, leaving slightly more carbon in the ground. Not much, but I would guess about a tank’s worth. My TL;DR here is: Oil prices go up and down; trees go down and stay down. The oil industry is big and has many elastic elements: supply, demand, overhead, interest rates, tax rules. The oil industry (or the Market) knows how to handle a small loss in sales, and even the highest amount you could dream of would be small to them. If the price of gasoline did go down, neighbors would fill up their chainsaws and use them this week. Investors would buy low. Some industries that use a lot of fuel would stock up. Some industries that have been using some other fuel would switch to gasoline. Some that were considering switching to clean power will decide to stay with gasoline a while longer. When gasoline prices leveled out, the investors would sell high, but your neighbor’s trees would still be down. Another problem is, the bicycling approach needs a lot of people, but has a low ceiling on recruitment. There are only a limited number of USians (for example) who could feasibly do without cars often enough – there’s your ceiling. But there is a threshold of gas sales lost that you have to reach before the oil market would even register the loss. I’m afraid that threshold is far above the ceiling. • Douglas Knight says: trees go down and stay down Trees are, in fact, a “renewable resource.” We can grow new trees. In particular, the paper industry does grow new trees. It grows trees as fast as possible, taking as much carbon as possible out of the air. It uses young trees, so it quickly reaches equilibrium – it really is harvesting trees that it planted. • houseboatonstyx says: @ Douglas Knight >>trees go down and stay down >Trees are, in fact, a “renewable resource.” We can grow new trees. Unless the land they grew on has been cleared for some other use, in a project made possible by cheaper gasoline.* Even if new trees are planted there, the site will lack comparable trees for a couple of decades. * Or possible without it, of course. • HeelBearCub says: @Houseboatonstyx: I don’t think that is the way to look at it. You really need to look at long term sustainable use. I believe that once a tree matures, it has done most of the carbon capture it will do. So, given a plot of land that is in use by the paper industry and harvested every 35 years, if you then don’t harvest at 35 years, I think the net carbon in the atmosphere goes up over harvest and replant. There are plenty of other environmental costs of timber harvesting, but assuming the land is replanted and can grow the trees naturally sustainably, I don’t see why carbon cost would be one. And the idea that the thing stopping your neighbor from chainsawing their trees is the high price of gas seems a little bizarre to me. If you live on a residential street, its just not true. If you neighbor is a timber grower, then the cost of fuel is almost surely a very small part of the overall cost of production, carry costs on the land and labor would dominate, I think. Edit: And also the idea that construction or development is limited by fuel cost also seems wrong. Broadly, economic growth drives development. If fuel prices are high enough to kill growth, sure. But I don’t think that is the argument you are making. • houseboatonstyx says: @ HeelBearCub, Yes, we seem to be looking at quite different things, and quite different neighborhoods. There are plenty of other environmental costs of timber harvesting, but assuming the land is replanted and can grow the trees naturally sustainably, I don’t see why carbon cost would be one. I was not addressing carbon or tree farm harvesting, but erosion, loss of habitat, of bio-diversity, etc etc – whether in acres or in a single big tree in someone’s yard. @ Harald K But the crude oil you don’t use will reduce aggregate demand ever so slightly, which will reduce price ever so slightly, which will eventually make some extraction unprofitable that would otherwise be profitable, leaving slightly more carbon in the ground. Not much, but I would guess about a tank’s worth. To the alternate universe where US bike riding now might influence* mining practice eventually, I prefer the universe where there are some marginal projects in which fuel cost for bulldozers and chain saws is a non-neglable consideration, and consequences will occur (or hopefully not occur) immediately rather than eventually. Untangling the double+ negatives, I prefer to keep driving my car (to worthwhile destinations) rather than possibly seeing more trees cut now. * Directly, rather than by signaling for other action. • Tarrou says: Environmentalism isn’t about reducing X in the environment, or saving Y. It is purely and totally puritanical self-flagellation and conspicuous consumption for status whoring. Riding a bike sends a signal. “I am better and more moral than all these car-bound clowns, and healthier to boot!” Recycling pretty much anything other than metal is environmentally damaging. The Prius is more carbon-intensive than gasoline powered vehicles, and so are large pets like dogs. None of the totems of the environmental religion actually help the earth in any way, shape or form. They are just a way to signal to one’s co-religionists via tasteless food and expensive-but-shoddily-made-and-itchy clothes that you are one of them. • Anonymous says: >Riding a bike sends a signal. “I am better and more moral than all these car-bound clowns, and healthier to boot!” But someone who rides a bike instead of driving actually is healthier and morally better than you. • John Schilling says: I ride a bike pretty much every day; I reject the claim that it makes me morally superior to anyone else. • zz says: Not only are us bikers healthier (than we would have been driving), we’re richer (than we would have been driving). • Tibor says: Your point with recycling may be valid (but also add glass to the metal), I am not entirely sure though. I believe it almost definitely holds for paper, because the costs of collecting it separately and most importantly chemically cleaning it before further use (which is limited anyway) is something that seems rather expensive, while paper is a renewable resource (true, not all paper is being made from industrial forests but then one could simply switch to those paper products that do and that do not harvest rainforests for example). I am less sure about plastics, since it uses oil in its manufacturing and it is unclear when alternative to plastics which do not use oil will be available. You actually need glass shards to produce more glass today in the usual industrial production, plus the fact that beer bottles come with a deposit even in countries where it is not required by the state is some evidence that this actually pays off. Biological waste also seems relatively sensible to me, you can burn it or use it as fertilizer without any special treatment. Funny thing is, that I actually only sort out paper (mainly out of habit, I guess it does not really help much), because in Germany you usually have to get plastic bags from the city which are for plastics and then you just leave them in front of your house (whereas there is a container for paper…never understood why it is done differently for plastics – in Austria or the Czech republic there are containers for that as well) and I don’t know exactly where to get those bags (although I also have not really made much effort in finding them). Your statement about bike riding is just utter nonsense, sorry to say that. I have both a car and a bike and currently live in a small town (130 000 inhabitants). I can get anywhere in 10-15 minutes by bike, I don’t have to worry about finding a parking place and I save money while doing that. Bikes are simply more practical here (most of the year, winters are not so bad here, but still I tend to go around either by car or by the city bus in January and February). There are also bike tracks around which make it safer (they are not everywhere, but they are along the biggest roads so you don’t risk getting hit by a car). Also gasoline is way more expensive here than in the US (but not prohibitively so…1 liter costs about 1.4€ , so about$1.5.)

Of course, if you live in a big city without bike tracks and with huge distances (or even live in a suburb and commute to work in the city every day), then riding a bike becomes impractical and those who do either do it because they like biking, they like to save gas money, they want to exercise regularly on their way to work or they actually do it for status signaling (but notice that there are many alternative explanations as well).

• houseboatonstyx says:

Of course, if you live in a big city without bike tracks and with huge distances (or even live in a suburb and commute to work in the city every day), then riding a bike becomes impractical [….]

That describes much of the US, and bicycling replacing auto use is even more impractical in our rural or semi-rural areas. Perhaps I should have shown my US colors earlier in this sub-thread. 😉

As for recycling, and what use is made of the materials, I’d suggest asking one’s own local recycling center what they do. This varies greatly in different areas at different times, and new ways to use the materials (and better ways to process them) are constantly being developed.

• Douglas Knight says:

The deposit on beer bottles is for reusing not recycling. That is, just washing them out and filling them again with beer. In some sense this is very efficient, but no one does it any more.

• Tibor says:

houseboatonstyx: Yeah, the distances in the US are much bigger than in Europe and more people live in the suburbs and commute to work. Also, probably parking is not such a problem there? Most cities in Europe have a lot of parking restrictions in the city centres, so that you either have to pay for parking or it is not possible at all (unless you are a resident in that area). So unless your company has its own parking place or unless you work outside of the centre, driving gets pretty complicated and it is faster to go either by public transport or by bike. In southern countries like Italy or Spain people also use scooters a lot.

Douglas: Nobody? Well, at least in (parts of) Europe it is pretty common (although only for beer or milk if it is in glass bottles, not for wine or hard liquor for some reason). In Germany, even some plastic bottles come with a deposit – this is however something artificially imposed by the government by legislation pushed by the Green Party and did not use to be the case before. You are of course right that this is for reuse, but it is weak evidence for recycling of glass as well since it is worth collecting old glasses and washing them as opposed to making new ones. I doubt chemically treating the bottles and sorting out the damaged ones is much cheaper than making new ones, so that suggest that it is especially the material that makes them worth collecting…I could be wrong of course, which is why I am saying it is a weak evidence.

• Douglas Knight says:

Tibor, do they really reuse the bottles, or just put a deposit on them?

My understanding is that beer bottles all used to be identical, so they got reused between bottlers. But now people want custom bottles, if only a glued-on label, so they don’t reuse them. Milk is a different matter, because people usually only buy milk from a single seller. And if you have a milkman, he can pick up the empties when he drops off the fulls. Even in America, I know people who return fancy milk bottles to the store.

• Nornagest says:

It’s not terribly uncommon to reuse growler- or half-growler-size beer bottles, at least if you frequent brew pubs or craft breweries; IME it seems most common in the Pacific Northwest. I think this is a relatively recent phenomenon, though, and if you try to do it at a grocery store or a corner liquor store they’ll look at you like you’ve grown a second head.

18. TeMPOraL says:

RE intelligence tactics, I’m really surprised the article doesn’t even mention the word “zersetzung”, which is the name of this known and effective method that was favored by the Stasi.

• Doug Muir says:

The “moving stuff around” technique would certainly be one form of Zersetzung. But Zersetzung included a much wider range of techniques, including various forms of harassment, entrapment, and indirect intimidation.

Doug M.

• Matt M says:

Given how things turned out for East Germany, we might dispute the “effective” part…

• Doug Muir says:

Just because these techniques were used by crappy, unpopular regimes that ended up falling doesn’t mean they’re not potentially effective techniques. I’d say the jury’s still out on that one.

Doug M.

• LHN says:

I assumed that the argument was that the techniques didn’t turn out to allow the regime to survive the withdrawal of the outside support that was keeping it in place for any measurable length of time.

(Unlike, e.g., North Korea or Cuba, which while crappy and unpopular proved not to require active Soviet maintenance to endure.)

19. Vermithrx says:

On the robots stealing our jobs: I predict there is a feedback loop hiding the job loss when you compare countries. When productivity increases prices can fall and the companies innovating the fastest in that direction will take a larger share of the manufacturing market and expand their operations, leading to more jobs in the country they are located in but fewer jobs elsewhere as their competitors lose marketshare. I won’t have a chance to look at the study linked in the article until tomorrow, so don’t know whether the study estimated the global productivity increase vs. job loss by combining their country data or not, but that is the direction I would want to look.

20. Bill Walker says:

The hippo article was entertaining… but it says that the colorful protagonist wrote in 1917 “…we were all turning into military robots”.

“Robot” in the sense of “autonomous machine worker” dates from 1920, Karel Capek’s book. So colorful character becomes colorful time traveler (possibly robotic).

• LHN says:

Wikipedia shows his writing running from 1926 to 1945, so it’s not implausible that “robot” would enter his vocabulary on recollection of his Great War experiences, even if at the time he might have thought “automaton” or whatever.

21. SpicyCatholic says:

Obviously, L’affaire Dolezal has had legs because it came on the heels of the Jenner news, and gave those who are skeptical of/hostile to the current Transgender Moment a test case to probe the assumptions and principles of the pro-Transgender (for lack of a better term) crowd. Two things are apparent: (i) even if you conclude that there are important differences between Dolezal and Jenner, it’s not absurd to ask the question and work through the reasoning; (ii) Dolezal/Jenner expose the internal contradictions and incompleteness of the SJW left.

There’s no quick answer to why Transgender & Transracial are meaningfully different. I’ve read smart people explain it, like in Scott’s link. It’s not a short argument. You can’t explain it in an elevator conversation. In order to explain it fully, you need a grounding in what we mean by gender and race, and it’s not as if we’ve got those figured out perfectly. You need some understanding of genetics. The arguments get philosophical quickly. So you can’t just dismiss the proposition that “Transracial” is as legitimate as “Transgender” the way you would dismiss the proposition that the Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks are equally good at hockey.

And when you try, you look silly or worse. I saw some Twitter comments that went something like “Gender is how you feel in your brain, race is about your DNA.” Whoa, hold on there: race went from being an unscientific social construct that isn’t real to Hard Science. All it took was someone comparing being Transgender (good!) to Transracial (bad!). Even Scott’s link, while otherwise thoughtful, leads off with a dubious assertion: that “a typical black person cannot just choose to be white.” While it’s true that most people who we think of as black cannot pass for white, the converse is equally true: most white people cannot pass for black – not without tremendous effort. And when even chocolaty black people put in that effort, they can pass for white. See Jackson, Michael. If you’re dismissing the Transracial arguments quickly, you’re doing something wrong.

The way I see it, the SJW left has been forced in advance to reach the “Transracial isn’t a thing” conclusion. All their arguments must lead there. It’s a matter of the history of race in America: You can’t do blackface, ever. You just can’t. That’s one of the big undisputed no-nos. There’s an almost visceral reaction from the SJWs – an involuntary rejection – when someone who is not black does anything that looks like he or she is pretending to be black. Witness the objections to Iggy Azalea and her “blaccent.” So regardless of the independent merits of the “Transracial” arguments, the SJWs absolutely need it not to be a thing. They were ideologically committed to it not being a thing long ago.

And the SJW’s really don’t want to have this conversation, because to do so exposes the contradictions in their positions. They want to sigh loudly and move on. That’s why their arguments have titles, like at the link, such as “About all I have to say on ‘transracialism’.” In other words, here’s my argument, end of discussion. It’s barely a step up from “‘Shut up,’ he explained.”

(1)(a) In order to say that a person with white skin can’t “feel black” the way that someone with a penis can “feel like a woman,” you must accept that there’s a real difference in the way that the brains of men and women generally operate, and that these differences map to stereotypical gender norms.

(1)(b) We’re supposed to take people at their word regarding their gender identity. We don’t get to examine Jenner’s brain to determine whether he or she really feels like a woman. But if someone says they feel black, we can *never* accept that.

(2) If you argue that gender is a mere social construct and our brains are blank slates at birth, upon which the culture tells us how to act, then the same must be true for race.

(3) Race isn’t real except when it is. Contrary to what SJWs insist, “Black Privilege” is as real as White Privilege. White Privilege may be more advantageous generally, but there are some settings where being black confers an advantage. All the talk of racial boundaries being fuzzy and artificial disappear when someone whom our culture doesn’t consider to be black, like Dolezal, attempts to gain the advantages of blackness. At that point we get very clear definitions of race.

(4) If it is possible to “feel like a woman,” and there’s no such thing as “feeling black.” Yet when Jenner went from Bruce to Caitlyn, he began expressing a white woman’s gender. He didn’t express gender in the way that a typical Japanese or Mandinka would. Jenner felt a need to express a racialized gender. If Jenner’s transition resulted in her acting like a sassy black woman, she’d be accused of racial appropriation, and she wouldn’t be able to defend herself by saying that’s how she felt. She MUST feel like a white woman. But that’s not a thing, right?

Much of these contradictions can be resolved by assuming two things:
(i) when we say “race,” we’re really talking about ancestral origin within the past 500 years. By “black,” we generally mean that you have plurality ancestry from sub-Saharan Africa from that period forward. On its face this isn’t that controversial. But the SJWs don’t like to admit that this is how we define “black” because it makes it something that can be objectively measured, and not mere social hand-waving.
(ii) There are actual physical differences between the way men’s and women’s brains operate, and sometimes this can get crossed up. SJWs refuse to move off the blank-slate model of the brain.

• Deiseach says:

When people bring up “you’re born either male or female according to your genitalia and your chromosomes”, people making an apologia for transgender like to bring up intersex people and conditions such as Klinefelter Syndrome and other chromosomal abnormalities to show that there is no such thing as an absolute biologically determined binary gender system.

So what about the argument that you can’t be transracial because there are biologically determined racial characteristics? Such as the amount of melanin in the skin? Or epicanthic folds of the eyelids?

Well, Down’s Syndrome used to be called Mongolism (and persons with it were described as “Mongoloid”) because the slanted eyes of the syndrome were considered similar to the epicanthic folds of Central Asian peoples. XXXX Syndrome people can also have epicanthic folds. So “natural distinctive” racial features can be mimicked by chromosomal disorders in the same way that a person with Klinefelter’s will be perceived as phenotypically male even though they possess two X chromosomes, which is associated with “being female”.

A black mother can give birth to a white-skinned child. White-skinned parents can have a black-skinned child.

If simple biological determinism is not enough to define gender, we may be finding out that neither is it enough to define race. If the existence of intersex people can prop up the arguments for “And even though I have the functional genitalia and the non-aneuploidy chromosomes of one gender, I am actually of a different gender, two genders, genderfluid, agender, or third gender” of transgenderism, then perhaps (as we are now coming to accept transgender people not as mentally ill or fakers looking for attention) in the future we will accept the experiences of transracial people whose genetic profile explains why they have the features of Race A when belonging to Race B (or mixed-race) as supporting the identities of people who say “Although I have the functional phenotype of Race C I am actually and have always been Race D”.

• onyomi says:

I think the interesting implication of the acceptance of Jenner’s identity and the refusal to accept Dolezal’s (which I think is the correct position), is that it actually implies the relative biological *in*significance of race relative to gender.

In centuries past, people probably assumed white women had more in common with white men than with black women. But I think this is actually not the case. Biologically, the difference between the men and women of any given race is bigger than the difference between the men or women of different races. Not just talking about genitalia, of course, but about the average levels of all kinds of hormones, etc.

Some feminists have opposed Jenner’s self-identification as female because, they say, to truly be female, you have to have had the experience of growing up being treated as female.

A comedy, of course, but for Steve Martin’s character in this movie, I think there’s a real sense in which we might say he *is* black (despite his inborn love of twinkies):

Conversely, I think that, even if my parents had, for some reason, raised me as a girl–dressing me as a girl, making me use female pronouns, etc. I would still have *felt* like a boy. If my parents had really wanted me to be a girl maybe they could have made me feel like one by giving my pregnant mother hormone injections of some kind, but by the time I was born, the fact that I had a man’s brain had pretty much been set in stone. And there are weird cases of this–not just transgender, but, for example, a boy whose penis was removed at infancy due to a botched circumcision and the parents decided to raise him as a girl. He had intense gender dysphoria and always felt he was a man.

Another joke, but, isn’t there a real sense in which Barack Obama *isn’t really* the first black president?

Of course, he’s been *treated* as black by those around him, and to the extent that that, or skin pigment, is what it means to be black, then yes, he’s black. But to the extent that it means something cultural, he’s really not very black at all. He was raised in Indonesia and Hawaii by white people. This is the same reason I get annoyed when certain fancy institutions fill their black people quota with the children of powerful, wealthy African families. Other than their skin tone, these students don’t have that much in common with African Americans. Now had Herman Cain been elected, he would have definitely been the first *African American* president (note that Barry Obama started to embrace his blackness once he went into politics and became “Barack”).

Now, of course, if you are a black child raised by white people then you are still going to be treated differently in public even if your parents treat you no differently than their white children. But this only means that you’ve still got half of the equation missing: your parents treated you like a white person (member of their culture), but society is still assuming your culture corresponds to your skin tone (which, in this case, it does not).

In other words, race is relatively cultural, gender biological (though, as with everything, there are elements of both at work in both cases), and to this, all the usual caveats apply. I think this may run counter to a lot of prevailing narratives, even though I think it’s the logical corollary of the acceptance of Jenner and the non-acceptance of Dolezal.

• HeelBearCub says:

@onyomi:

The basic assertion you are making here seems correct to me.

Another way to state this that might be that sex has a bi-modal distribution. There are those who end up being the rare instances that don’t clump around one set of characteristics, but they are rare.

Whereas “race” (whatever that is) is more like a lumpy 3D hill. You can slice it lots of different ways to try and group people into so called races, but the categories ending up being fairly arbitrary.

One of my favorite illustrations of that is that during the Irish immigration wave, they weren’t considered white. In fact, newspapers of the day frequently depicted them as dark-skinned and attributed to them all manner of negative characteristics.

Now, if you isolate a particular set of characteristics and treat them differently, we can then start to see large “racial” differences. The incidence of slavery among whites in 1860 America was essentially 0%, but that doesn’t mean whites were “naturally” not slave and blacks “naturally” slaves.

“Some feminists have opposed Jenner’s self-identification as female because, they say, to truly be female, you have to have had the experience of growing up being treated as female.”

Those are TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists). They exist, their comments will be signal boosted, but they don’t represent the mainstream of current 3rd-Wave Feminism.

As to the Obama not being Black thing, to me that is just a “let me slice this hill a different way”. It’s a no-true-scotsman argument.

I mean nobody ever said Barry White’s name wasn’t black enough. If he was going by Barry and people then “found out” his given name was Barak, they would have had a field day with that. He might be in a slightly difference place on the hill than we would call the “average” black man, but, frankly, that is true of almost all presidents.

• Alraune says:

One of my favorite illustrations of that is that during the Irish immigration wave, they weren’t considered white. In fact, newspapers of the day frequently depicted them as dark-skinned and attributed to them all manner of negative characteristics.

In defense of the newspapers of the day, the Irish of the Irish immigration wave were very noticeably different-looking. Based on the photos I’ve seen, I’d guess the average self-identified Irish-American today looks only a quarter as far from the white mean as the average first-genner did.

• HeelBearCub says:

@Alraune:

That sort-of misses the point, doesn’t it?

Edit to de-snark:

The Irish, both here and back home, have not undergone some radical transfusion of genetic material in the last 100 years.

Edit 2: it’s important to note that it was mostly the previous wave of German immigrants complaining about the current wave of Irish. There was quite a bit of motivated and biased reasoning in the Germans wanting to separate themselves from the Irish.

• The Irish, both here and back home, have not undergone some radical transfusion of genetic material in the last 100 years.

No, but people who grew up in conditions of grinding rural poverty, disease, and malnutrition in the Auld Sod of the 1840s are going to look quite different than their affluent First World great-great-grandchildren.

• CJB says:

The term usually used for people who look like that is “Black Irish”

“The term is commonly used to describe people of Irish origin who have dark features, black hair, a dark complexion and dark eyes.” according to IrishCentral.com

And various pre-20th century brit writers describe various strains of celtic ancestry as “dark”.

• Alraune says:

Point being, HBC, that talk about xenophobia towards the Irish usually comes from an assumption of absurdity: “Arguments over whether the Irish were white should always have been patently ridiculous, because I can barely tell if people are Irish. So this [and it’s often argued by extension, race itself] must be entirely about cultural perception.”

And that’s ahistorical. That the discussion took place in terms of white/non-white demonstrates how firmly committed the American paradigm has always been to collapsing group identity questions into the Race axis, but the Irish immigrants were quite visibly a xenogroup. So the conclusion I take from the situation is more like “when a xenogroup shows up, people notice and react in the same fashion even if their cultural paradigm and vocabulary are horribly ill-suited for expressing what makes the group different.”

• HeelBearCub says:

@Alraune:
“when a xenogroup shows up, people notice and react in the same fashion even if their cultural paradigm and vocabulary are horribly ill-suited for expressing what makes the group different.”

Isn’t this precisely my point? Or, perhaps more accurately, why do you assume that their cultural paradigm and vocabulary do anything else other than identify the xenogroup?

It’s the fact that there is a set of characteristics that mark them as a xenogroup that matters. Nothing else in their attributes does.

@Larry Kestenbaum:
I’m arguing that the Irish immigration (and really, many immigrant waves) disproves the notion that our classification of race has very much to do with some intrinsic property of the genome of the people immigrating. The fact that the immigrating Irish may have had deficits that were environmentally caused boosts this claim, doesn’t it?

@CJB:
Whether Black Irish is really a thing and doesn’t just refer to “foreigners with dark intentions” is ambiguous according to what I assume is the same Irish central article.

But even so, there definitely is no indication that Black Irish dominated the immigration wave. We would see these Black Irish today, wouldn’t we? The Irish were broadly described as “dark” and “not white” at that time, by those who wished to impugn their nature.

And I believe this has been true for most immigration waves.

• onyomi says:

I always thought “black Irish” simply meant “Irish person with dark hair, as distinguished from the large percentage of Irish with red or otherwise light-colored hair.”

I, for example, have blackish-brown hair but very fair skin with freckles. My brother has red hair and even lighter skin. I thought this made me “black Irish,” to the extent I am Irish, as an American with a big proportion of Irish ancestry. The fact is, Irish people are even whiter than most “white” people, as I can attest from days spent at the beach.

I think it’s correct that calling people “swarthy” was just a stock way to describe menacing foreigners. Remember, also, that people had less means of dispelling such notions. If you don’t know any actual Irish people, you can’t just GoogleImage them to see if the description is, technically, accurate.

I think it’s also correct that Irish people, especially if malnourished and wearing different clothes could look weirder than one might imagine. If your standard for “white people” is a well-fed person of even skin tone with straight brownish or blondeish hair, and you encounter a hoard of people with bright red, curly hair, neon white skin, freckles, a weird accent, unusually skinny and small, always hanging out together, then those people are going to seem pretty foreign.

Nowadays, Irish have been largely subsumed within the category of “white,” in the same way people have stopped paying as much attention to finer distinctions within “white,” like Jewish, Italian American, German American, etc. but difference is all relative. If you’re from England and all you’ve ever met is people from England, then people from Ireland probably look weird and foreign, and sound funny when they talk. But if you then meet someone from Asia, Africa, or the Middle East, then perhaps you realize that the difference between you and the Irishman was actually quite small.

Ironically and almost amusingly, I remember reading that very early accounts of Chinese immigrants to California described them as “stupid and lazy.”

• @ HeelBearCub:

I’m arguing that the Irish immigration (and really, many immigrant waves) disproves the notion that our classification of race has very much to do with some intrinsic property of the genome of the people immigrating. The fact that the immigrating Irish may have had deficits that were environmentally caused boosts this claim, doesn’t it?

I would certainly think so!

(If you thought I was making the opposite point, well, one of us is confused.)

• Alraune says:

HBC:

Isn’t this precisely my point? Or, perhaps more accurately, why do you assume that their cultural paradigm and vocabulary do anything else other than identify the xenogroup?

I’ll confess, I wasn’t paying too much attention to what your point was. I expect I was mostly on a tangent. I’ll restate.

The argument that the Irish were non-white is usually used in the following logic chain:
1. Modern Irish-Americans are universally perceived as white.
2. Irish immigrants were not always perceived as white.
3. Modern Irish-Americans look essentially the same as the Irish immigrants did.
4. Therefore, only the internal perception of their race has changed.
5. Therefore, perception of race is culturally arbitrary, and also people in the past were dumbasses.

…but point 3 is false, leaving us with:
1. Modern Irish-Americans are universally perceived as white.
2. Irish immigrants were not always perceived as white.
3. Modern Irish-Americans look substantially less different than Irish immigrants did.
4. Therefore, both the internal perception of their race and what was there to be perceived have changed.
5. Therefore, this example wasn’t particularly informative, which we probably would have predicted if we weren’t all such historical chauvinists.

And I don’t exempt myself from the indictment for historical chauvinism here, it blindsided me as well. The only reason I’m mentioning this is that I recently took a tour through a local history museum, was hit with this nagging “one of these things is not like the other” feeling as I went through the galleries, and was shocked to realize that the category I’d discovered was the Irish.

• onyomi says:

@Alraune

In what ways did the 19th century Irish immigrants look so different from present-day Irish Americans (and indeed, from Irish people living in Ireland currently)?

• Alraune says:

I’ve been looking for a good gallery to demonstrate, and ideally also to get more evidence for it having been dietary, but the internet is really big on publishing drawings of emaciated famine victims and frustratingly uninterested in photos of them a couple decades later.

I did find this impressively terrible graph claiming Ireland contained more people than Europe until 1910 though.

• onyomi says:

That can’t be right… It makes it look like the population of Ireland 200 years ago was almost as large as that of India today! What is the context of that claim?

It is true, however, I believe, that there are more Americans of Irish descent in the US now than there are Irish people in Ireland.

• Alraune says:

It’s supposed to be the population of Ireland (scale on the left, million/dem) vs. the total population of Europe (scale on the right, hundred million/dem).

Yeah.

• HeelBearCub says:

@Alraune:

Regardless of whether #3 is really true, because I think @onyomi has a good point there, do you think the Irish of today are the the genetic descendants of the Irish of 100 years ago?

I can’t imagine 2/3/4 generations is significant enough to allow the kind of genetic drift that would say they are significantly different merely based on random mutation or evolutionary pressure. But do you see some other way that Irish should not be representative, genetically, of The Irish of yesterday?

Assuming that you think they are representative, the the add on to point #3 is simply that judging the capability of people based on how they look and their existing economic circumstance is foolish. This is the main argument, not that the Germans, Irish, Italians, Poles, Greeks, Jews, etc. of yesterday didn’t look “different” from the descendants of the Mayflower, but that judging them based on their external appearance was nonsensical. Time after time, people did this.

Do you think that you can tell, from a person’s external appearance, assuming they are healthy, how capable they are?

• I can’t imagine 2/3/4 generations is significant enough to allow the kind of genetic drift that would say they are significantly different merely based on random mutation or evolutionary pressure. But do you see some other way that Irish should not be representative, genetically, of The Irish of yesterday?

Yes — the fact that ethnic groups in America intermarry at high rates.

My own ancestry is not so unusual: my four grandparents, children of immigrants, came from four different ethnic groups. And I was born six decades ago.

The “ethnic purity” (Jimmy Carter’s awkward expression) of a given immigrant population declines monotonically from generation to generation.

Let’s say there is such a thing as the Irish genome, which is characteristic of almost everybody in the all-Catholic parts of Ireland. Presumably you could use this to develop a DNA test for the extent of a person’s genetic Irishness.

How many babies born in the U.S. today would test as 100% Irish? I’m guessing almost none. Fifty percent Irish? Maybe very low single digits.

Anecdote: on a visit to Boston some years ago, before the Big Dig, on a very slow moving expressway, there was a old guy walking from car to car, raising money for the Knights of Columbus or something.

This man’s face caught my attention. He just looked just so extraordinarily Irish, like a picture from Dorothea Lange’s Ireland.

It’s not a common experience here (perhaps outside Boston) to recognize a person as Irish from physical appearance alone.

• HeelBearCub says:

@Larry Kestenbaum:
Sorry, I thought about spelling out that I meant Irish on both sides of the pond. I guess I should have.

Certainly, if the Irish of yesterday looked so different as to seem “not white”, and it was due to genetics, we would see some population in Ireland today that matched it? If not, how could one explain it?

Even in the US, we would expect to see some remnants of the population, if for no other reason than they would look so different as to reduce intermarriage.

There is an important point about intermarriage to be made though. For whatever reason, when those of African ancestry intermarry with those of different ancestries, the resulting offspring tend to show very clearly the heritage. Of course, this really might say more about the societally imposed costs, than it says about whether the visual markers are particularly noteworthy.

• Sorry, I thought about spelling out that I meant Irish on both sides of the pond. I guess I should have.

But there is no substantial population of people born on this side of the pond who are anything like “as Irish” as typical natives of Ireland.

Certainly, if the Irish of yesterday looked so different as to seem “not white”, and it was due to genetics, we would see some population in Ireland today that matched it? If not, how could one explain it?

How about the fact that “not white” had a different meaning 150 years ago than today? Americans in the 1860s probably had a much narrower idea of what counted as “white”.

But I’m probably just repeating what you and others have said upthread.

Even in the US, we would expect to see some remnants of the population, if for no other reason than they would look so different as to reduce intermarriage.

This assumes that there were Irish immigrants who would be judged “non-white” by an observer today. Absent any evidence, I dismiss that completely out of hand.

• Nornagest says:

I did find this impressively terrible graph claiming Ireland contained more people than Europe until 1910 though.

If you graph two different values on the same field against the same X-axis with different Y-axes, you are going to Science Hell.

• HeelBearCub says:

@Larry:

@Alraune is arguing against the idea that the treatment of the Irish serves as an example of race being socially constructed. The Irish in Ireland of today would be incontrovertibly white. Either the idea of white has been socially constructed to include today’s Irish, or today’s Irish look much different than the Irish back then.

Your point about our view of what is “white” being less narrow today is exactly what I am trying to get at.

• Your point about our view of what is “white” being less narrow today is exactly what I am trying to get at.

Well, then, we agree, and my apologies for missing or misunderstanding the previous context.

• onyomi says:

Ah, I see, I didn’t even look at the left side of the Y axis, because yeah, that’s weird to plot two different values on the same field like that, though I guess the point is just to show the population of Ireland relative to that of Europe. That is, it shows that Ireland went from being about 1/60th of the total population of Europe to being about 1/10th of the population of Europe in a very short time.

A less confusing graph of just the population of Ireland does reveal that same spike:

What’s interesting to me is that the famine is preceded by an unprecedented population explosion which I guess, must have been at least partially predicated on widespread availability of potatoes (+improved medical care? Though that wouldn’t explain the explosion relative to the rest of Europe?). So the famine is in some ways more of a painful regression to the mean rather than a painful net loss of population.

I guess there can be a population bubble, just like an economic bubble. Also makes Malthus’s concerns more understandable.

• Deiseach says:

What’s interesting to me is that the famine is preceded by an unprecedented population explosion which I guess, must have been at least partially predicated on widespread availability of potatoes

The first problem is that we don’t have any accurate data for pre-Famine population of Ireland. Estimates run anywhere from six to ten million, so the eight million is the “splitting the difference” figure.

Secondly, pre-Famine and post-Famine society in Ireland changed dramatically. The European trend was for later and less fertile marriage (England was in line with that); the Irish, on the contrary, married early and had lots of kids, and we appear to have had lots of those kids survive birth and early childhood.

Funnily enough, the diet of potatoes, fish and milk was described as being healthy, since people seemed to thrive on it. Possibly for the same reason the “fasting makes mice live longer” diets work?

What contributes to the complication of the whole picture is the political background; since (for example) the Penal Laws aimed to break the inheriting of large estates or farms by Catholics, the pattern of sub-dividing plots of land between all the sons of a family, so that each was enabled to marry and start a family of their own, as you could grow a sufficient crop of potatoes to feed that family on a small amount of land, was established. High population meant cheap agricultural labour. Landlords were also not adverse to having many tenants on small plots of land, as they could charge higher rents (demand for land meaning that people would pay as much as was feasible).

The Famine disproportionately affected the poorer and lower-class sections of society, which are always the ones with the highest birth-rate, but it also affected the cultural landscape. Marriage was now delayed so people were older when they married; land was concentrated in the eldest son rather than being split between the sons; dowries and fortunes were expected with daughters so again, not all the daughters of a family could marry. Tolerance of childbearing outside marriage dropped drastically (“Victorian values” in action). Emigration was the safety valve for the unmarried men and women to leave, those who had little to no prospect of work or marriage or inheriting land.

One of the ironies of our colonial history is that an increasing population was touted as a good thing for England, but a bad thing for Ireland. As you can see from this graph, the population of Great Britain increased in a nice, steady fashion over a century from 1801-1901. Despite Malthus’ warnings, a growing population was seen as a sign of a rich, prosperous, thriving nation.

• onyomi says:

Thanks for the history, Deiseach.

It’s interesting to think about how drastically material conditions can effect cultural mores, like those surrounding childbirth and sexuality.

I wonder what the percentage in the US that have at least one Irish great-grandparent and 100% catholic great-grandparents.

• houseboatonstyx says:

@ deiseach

Despite Malthus’ warnings, a growing population was seen as a sign of a rich, prosperous, thriving nation.

I thougnt it would be more like, “Despite the fact that a growing population had long been seen as a sign of a rich, prosperous, thriving nation, Malthus warned that [whatever].”

Perhaps it depends on who is doing the seeing. Malthus was agreeing with some old dead philosophers, against then-current popular opinions.

Thomas Robert Malthus’s An Essay on the Principle of Population was an immediate succès de scandale when it appeared in 1798. […] he found himself attacked on all sides–by Romantic poets, utopian thinkers, and the religious establishment.
http://www.amazon.com/Malthus-Life-Legacies-Untimely-Prophet/dp/0674728718

• Good Burning Plastic says:

[Obama] was raised in Indonesia and Hawaii by white people.

On the other hand, as someone once put it “I’ve heard he sleeps with an African-American woman”, so I’d expect him to have some intimate familiarity with African-American culture.

• Alraune says:

I’ve heard the same sentiment expressed less snarkily by Eurasians as “we inherit the race of our children.”

• onyomi says:

That actually sort of proves my point–that race is as much cultural as genetic.

But can you imagine saying “I know all about the struggles of growing up female… I’m married to one!”

• Alraune says:

That actually sort of proves my point–that race is as much cultural as genetic.

I don’t think it was even properly cultural to start with. The Anglo-Franco-Germanic Alliance didn’t have one culture, and certainly didn’t think of itself as having one culture, that came later.

• Alraune says:

I think that, even if my parents had, for some reason, raised me as a girl–dressing me as a girl, making me use female pronouns, etc. I would still have *felt* like a boy.

I’ve always wondered about that, because I have a sister who seems to have the same personality and the same brain as I do in pretty much all relevant senses. When I moved out, the rest of my family claims she started to act even more like me, so the nurture influence seems to have if anything been towards artificial divergence. So I expect you could have raised either of us as the other, and neither of us seems to be gender dysphoric.

• ” Despite Malthus’ warnings, a growing population was seen as a sign of a rich, prosperous, thriving nation.”

I don’t think that is in any way inconsistent with what Malthus wrote–rather the opposite. His argument was that raising the standard of living of the masses would result in population growth, and that raising it by as much as Godwin and Condorcet expected would result in an exponential increase at something close to the biological maximum (since in a society that rich, having children doesn’t deprive the parents of anything that matters, and people enjoy sex), which would eventually outrun any plausible increase due to economic growth and drive standards of living back down.

That, at least, is my memory of what Malthus wrote in the Essay on Population, and consistent with the versions of the iron law that appear in his contemporaries, especially Ricardo.

22. Echo says:

“That is it. That is human sex selection. Everything else is triggered by hormones, including the hormones present as the brain develops.”

That’s just… not true. At all. I sympathize with the people who would love to believe it’s true because it makes hormone therapy appear incredibly powerful, but there are several other known mechanisms responsible for sex differentiation.

23. Not directly relevant to the current thread, but for anyone who wonders about my day job, I’m in the news today.

• CJB says:

Oooooh, look at all that sexy, sexy public affirmation. Your SMV just went up. You are no more a BETA CUCKOLD ORBITER. You have now risen to WEAK ALPHA.

I suggest spending more time on BRUTE STRENGTH and GENERATING MASS. Ladies love MASS and they hate BETA CUCKOLD ORBITERS.

• SFG says:

Only BETA ORBITERS and OMEGA MALES spend their time tearing down BETA ORBITERS and OMEGA MALES on INTERNET FORUMS.

• CJB says:

Hah! But logic is an intellectual tool, and as everyone knows, only OMEGA MALES are NERDS. What good is your logic against BRUTE STRENGTH?

• SFG says:

Pretty good on an INTERNET FORUM where you can’t actually BEAT ME UP.

Besides, this is a bit of a strawman–the whole point of the redpill/PUA/MRA philosophy isn’t that logic is useless, but that it won’t get you laid. And yes, it is useful, but it won’t get you laid.

• Cauê says:

PUA is all about applying brainpower to solving the problem of how to get laid.

• DrBeat says:

Redpill and MRA are not the same thing, not related, not comparable, and not aligned. MRAs are all about how dudes should not have to “get laid” to prove their value as human beings.

Stop lumping them together.

• walpolo says:

Looks like you’ll be hard at work starting today! 🙂

• It’s much quieter than I expected.

So far today, we have processed six marriage license applications, of which five were to opposite-sex couples, one to a same-sex couple. This is in a county with a population around 350,000.

I am hearing similar reports from counties around the state. There has not been a big rush of applicants so far. Of course, the decision was announced only about two hours ago.

By contrast, when Michigan had a one-day window for same-sex marriage on March 22, 2014, we had a long line waiting outside the door when we opened. We issued 75 licenses in four hours.

• LHN says:

Less urgency since it’s a clearly permanent change, plus no impetus to be First due to the previous temporary window?

• Yes, it’s ordinary business now. And perhaps in 2014, we drained the pipeline of people who were really anxious to get married right away.

• Final marriage license total for today: 25, of which 18 were same-sex, and 7 were opposite-sex.

• LHN says:

How do those overall numbers compare with a typical Friday in June?

• Foo says:

Confirms my hunch that gay marriage was more “rah gay people” than anything that had significant impact on the world. Imagine a bully taking the toy of another kid and then not playing with it… that’s what the Blue Tribe did with marriage for the Red Tribe.

• Protagoras says:

Except in your bully analogy, the other kid can’t play with the toy any more. What has the blue tribe deprived the red tribe of?

• Alraune says:

Attention, approval, and points, obviously.

A better analogy would be when the pretty, popular sister takes art lessons because she’s jealous of the attention her mousey sister gets for making drawings. In the simple analysis, it looks like an improvement for the first girl with no loss for the second, but since the motive is overwhelmingly and transparently to win in the zero-sum sibling rivalry, the total outcome will be a protracted and spiteful series of fights that the entire family loses.

• Anonymous says:

@Foo,@Alraune: What these comments prove is that there is simply no point trying to engage in rational discourse with the opposing side. If you wanted to find out what gay marriage was really “about,” you’d have done so.

• Alraune says:

what gay marriage was really “about”

2% personal desire for it, 8% friends with the first group, 90% status play?

• HeelBearCub says:

@Alraune:

I have to think you are just trolling with these comments. Or, conversely, that everyone who gets married mostly does so because of “status play”.

I mean, the low number of cross-racial marriages post Loving v. Virginia doesn’t suggest that those who were supported the proposition that it should be legal because it was a right were simply bullshitting about their reasons for backing it.

• Anonymous says:

If I wasn’t convinced that he is just trolling, I’d ask what kind of evidence would be sufficient to change his mind.

But he’s just trolling.

• Nornagest says:

Or, conversely, that everyone who gets married mostly does so because of “status play”.

As a ballpark figure, I’d buy it if someone said 90% of gay marriage activists weren’t planning such a marriage, nor had any close friends or relations who were.

Now, I might object to collapsing all impersonal motives into “status play”, which is only true under the broadest, most Hansonian view of status. But I don’t think it’s realistic to say that gay marriage activism was driven mainly by people who personally wanted to marry their partners, either. Maybe in 1994, when this was first on my radar, but not now.

(Not trying to grind an axe here — I think this was about the best realistic outcome under the current regulatory regime.)

• Alraune says:

Everyone who gets married mostly does so [as a] “status play”.

“Play” in the sense of a football down, not roleplay. And, yeah, I do think that status is the primary reason people route their relationships through the gigantic expensive year-consuming headache of a public ceremony that we’ve indoctrinated them into prizing for years and years.

I mean, the low number of cross-racial marriages post Loving v. Virginia doesn’t suggest that those who supported the proposition that it should be legal because it was a right were simply bullshitting about their reasons for backing it.

It also doesn’t suggest they were all dedicated and consistent rights theorists. I try to be one of those dedicated and consistent rights theorists myself. The first thing you learn is that for the vast majority of people, “Is X a right?” is an indistinguishable question from “is your general opinion of X positive or negative?” The second thing you learn is that even where your opinions are perfectly logical, the levels of emphasis each has won’t be which means the output isn’t.

So, yes, what drove the majority of interracial marriage supporters is more complex than “simply bullshitting”, but not by that much. They adopted their opinion because someone else held that opinion and they thought agreeing with them was socially advantageous, and they broadcast the opinion along for the same reason. We live in a runaway feedback loop in which apparently strong social consensuses just being the amplified opinions of some remarkably small number of people who would give a damn if it changed is the normal situation, not the exception. (In some cases, that “remarkably small number” is zero, and you have a strong, actionable consensus that consists of nothing but socially amplified noise.)

• So, yes, what drove the majority of interracial marriage supporters is more complex than “simply bullshitting”, but not by that much. They adopted their opinion because someone else held that opinion and they thought agreeing with them was socially advantageous, and they broadcast the opinion along for the same reason. We live in a runaway feedback loop in which apparently strong social consensuses just being the amplified opinions of some remarkably small number of people who would give a damn if it changed is the normal situation, not the exception. (In some cases, that “remarkably small number” is zero, and you have a strong, actionable consensus that consists of nothing but socially amplified noise.)

This is so completely wrong that I’m almost speechless.

I think you don’t realize that the context in which Loving was decided in 1967 was completely different from the context of Obergefell in 2015.

A Gallup poll in 1968 (the year after the Loving decision) showed only 20% approved of interracial marriage; 73% disapproved. Before the ruling, 15 states prohibited marriages between blacks and whites, and those laws had more support than opposition in national polls.

The Lovings, plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case, were prosecuted under the Virginia law, convicted of a felony and sentenced to 25 years in prison. This is not some minor inconvenience.

When the Warren Court took the Loving’s case and struck down the miscegnation laws in 1967, the ruling was quietly celebrated in some places, but it certainly wasn’t a nationally popular decision.

Indeed, a few months after the ruling, the daughter of U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk, a young white woman, married a black man. This was thought to be such an embarrassment to the Johnson Administration that Rusk offered his resignation! (LBJ didn’t accept it.)

In 1967, there was certainly no “runaway feedback loop” expressing support for interracial marriage.

• Anonymous says:

Larry, I do not see how any of that is in any way relevant to Alraune’s claim.
That Loving occurred at a different point in the trajectory of popularity from Obergefell has nothing to do with the question of why there was such a trajectory in the first place.

The Lovings were sentenced to 25 years of exile from Virginia (or 1 year of jail), not 25 years of jail.

• Alraune says:

I think you don’t realize that the context in which Loving was decided in 1967 was completely different from the context of Obergefell in 2015.

I’m certainly discussing events I wasn’t around for here, but I did know what the interracial marriage approval trends looked like, and was incorporating them as best I could when I spoke. My claim that consensus on social issues consists mostly of amplification of an interested minority opinion, with most people being naturally ambivalent and only holding an opinion because they were told it was a good one to have, is quite consistent with the interracial marriage approval numbers.

At the time of the Loving decision, the public stance towards interracial marriage was consensus condemnation. When it stopped being a live issue because the law was decided, it slowly drifted from consensus condemnation towards no opinion for 30 years. There was no feedback loop in ’67, but in the late 90s, you see a sudden new trend in which people start to approve of interracial marriage en masse, and that seems to have happened entirely because “approve” took that final doddering step across the 50% line and became The Majority View. Interracial marriage has now gained consensus approval symmetrical to its original disapproval rate, which is itself evidence that the approval rate primarily reflects factors inherent to the social structure rather than to the issue at hand.

The primary difference between the interracial and gay marriage situations appears to be that the Warren Court was much less sensitive to the wind than the Rhenquist Court was. SCOTUS should have taken up the matter in 2004 after Massachusetts legalized SSM, and we’ve spent a decade paying the price for their hesitance.

• BBA says:

If SCOTUS had considered the question in 2004 it would have gone the other way. (Kennedy is a squish, he’d have bought Scalia’s invective back then. Today it just seems absurd and even Kennedy can see it.) Since they generally won’t consider reversing a decision until about 15-20 years have passed, we’d end up where we are now in 2020 or so.

• @ Anonymous:

The Lovings were sentenced to 25 years of exile from Virginia (or 1 year of jail), not 25 years of jail.

You’re right — the source I relied on got that wrong. But to be (1) convicted of a felony, and (2) expelled from your home state, on threat of imprisonment, is surely no small penalty.

@ Alraune:

There was no feedback loop in ’67

Thank you.

My claim that consensus on social issues consists mostly of amplification of an interested minority opinion, with most people being naturally ambivalent and only holding an opinion because they were told it was a good one to have

Arguably, that describes the formation of public opinion on any issue. Political views are meaningless in isolation, and almost nobody is a “consistent theorist” whose ideology overrides their environment.

in the late 90s, you see a sudden new trend in which people start to approve of interracial marriage en masse, and that seems to have happened entirely because “approve” took that final doddering step across the 50% line and became The Majority View.

There’s a little bump right after 50%, sure, but overall, approval of interracial marriage shows a very gradual increase from the 1950s to the 2010s, consistent with social changes and generational succession. It was a slow process from start to finish.

• Interesting question which the state of Michigan is struggling with right now: should marriage licenses have blanks for the gender of the parties? I mean, should the gender of the parties be explicitly given on the face of a completed marriage license?

• LHN says:

What’s the argument in favor of having such a blank at this point? (Assuming it’s been articulated.) Is it specified in the legislation or regulations that define the form?

• John Schilling says:

It would probably be useful for statistical purposes. I expect quite a few people would be interested in those statistics, if this isn’t one of those subjects we don’t want federal bureaucrats to be gathering statistics on for fear they will be abused.

• LHN says:

(Nit– state rather than federal bureaucrats for marriage licenses.)

There are a fair number of marriage-related statistics that are (or might be) tracked and of interest that aren’t (presumably) included on the license form. E.g., tracking racial and ethnic disparities in marriage rates, religion, income of the parties, etc.

I’d be leery of turning the marriage license into a survey form on that basis. Given that, I’m inclined to presume against using it that way in this case, unless the state has a persuasive positive reason for doing so. It’s not something I’d go to the wall over or anything, but it seems as if keeping it is more a matter of inertia than something that would be done if starting from scratch.

(And I’d say Chesterton’s Wall doesn’t really apply in this case, since the wall itself has been torn down, for better or worse. We’re trying to decide if some of the landscaping associated with it still makes sense now that it’s gone.)

• Update: yesterday, following a discussion about how awkward it is to deal with people of ambiguous gender (e.g. birth certificate shows one thing, driver’s license shows something different), the committee voted overwhelmingly to omit gender blanks from the marriage license form.

Today, there is some pushback going on, so the discussion continues.

24. Cauê says:

I’d like some help understanding the one about race in Brazil. Also, some thoughts:

First, I’m happy to see a USian study about this. Brazil and the US have large differences in race relations, despite very similar history, and the comparison should teach us interesting things (IMO the most important difference is that we don’t have a “white culture” and a “black culture” around here; cultural differences follow region and class). Also, from all I’ve seen, we’re embarrassingly bad at studying it.

The paper is right in saying that skin tone is the determinant characteristic, and that a history of miscegenation gave us a very large number of people of “ambiguous race”. As a personal anecdote, my 5-year-old stepson recently asked us “what color am I?”, and only then did we find out that my wife thinks he’s white and I think he’s “pardo” (a word that basically means “anything between white and black”).

Anyway. The paper says that people who go from reported non-white on the old job to reported white on the new job are more likely to be going from plants where most people are reported non-white to plants where most people are reported white, and vice versa. They also say that workers that go from non-white to white get a wage “premium”, but at the same time they’re going to plants with lower average wages.
(are the ones getting better wages and the ones going to lower-average-wage firms the same people? are the majority-white firms and the lower-average-wage firms the same places?)

They explain it with workers “manipulating” the perception of their race so they’ll get jobs in places that discriminate against non-whites. Now, from inside the culture, this looks super weird to me, but my stats-fu is weak and I can’t assess how well they supported it (my instinct would be to look at whether there’s a pattern to employers’ different perceptions of where the racial thresholds are on the white-black scale).

25. Dore says:

Very sad to hear an article that I consider to be very poor quality and have very weak arguments to be described as “interesting throughout, but what makes it for me”. The only of those countries sitting on a pile of oil is Norway and whilst it has over 2/3 the GDP/capita of the others its growth rate isn’t any higher, its income inequality is only worse than that of Sweden and its innovation is always ranked top 15 (which shouldn’t be the case if innovation was negatively correlated with equality as the following quote seems to claim).

[Innovation] disproportionately comes from economies where “incentives for workers and entrepreneurs results in greater inequality and greater poverty”.

An even better example would be Sweden which is, according to rankings of choice, 1st in income equality, 3rd in innovation. It makes no sense whatsoever to say that innovation is, thus, the result of a “gap of incomes between successful and unsuccessful entrepreneurs”, as claimed by the original “research” paper.

Even if the discerning factor for innovation was in pure absolute terms, the world has its fair share of both small and large countries and quickly eyeballing the values doesn’t seem to me that there is any significant correlation (yes, eyeballing is not the way to do it and if anyone else is up to the task I bet $10 the correlation won’t be found). In other words, the government can really screw things up, if it wants to, but it can’t likely meaningfully increase the rate of growth above the level of innovation that the global system will support. This is a telling paragraph that shows a lot about where the author is coming from (and the reasons I believe have led to the conclusions, namely ideological). There’s no evidence saying that the Scandinavian governments need a growth rate above any arbitrary level of innovation that the world might or might not be able to support. Their growth rate is far from being high and I think their relative success has more to do with their ability to provide relatively more for relatively less than with them having more to provide with. (In regards to gdp/capita Norway is the only Scandinavian country within top 10, runner up is 17th. In regards to gdp/capita annual growth rate they’re even worse ranking all below 40th. They’re able to provide quality services to their population despite growing relatively slower than other countries (or maybe because of it)) And if you think that Acemoglu, Robinson and Verdier are right, then Scandinavia simply doesn’t need to focus on innovation, as long as the United States is willing to carry that weight. I do have more things to say about this article but it’s getting late and I need to sleep. I fail to see how that article, the one from WP, and the original research are anything but the result of a jingoistic bubble. None of those pieces present any convincing argument for the “theoretical framework” and yet it spreads and gets signaled as if it were even passably accurate. /rant • Doug Muir says: If you look upthread, you’ll notice I opened my comment on the article with “It’s Megan McArdle”. McArdle is — generously — an extremely sloppy writer. The less generous interpretation would be that she doesn’t care about the truth or falsehood of her assertions; she’s a successful conservative columnist who has moved steadily from one high-prestige gig to another. Doug M. • John Schilling says: If you look upthread, you’ll notice I opened my comment on the article with “It’s Megan McArdle”. To what purpose, other than preaching to the converted? I disagree with your characterization of McArdle, btw, having first noticed her in the context of some very well researched and well written essays. But if she were wholly unknown to me, that wouldn’t change the fact that your claim is an unsupported, off-putting ad-hominem. Any claim of the sort, “That’s by X, and all right-thinking people know better than to trust X”, is, well, a big red flag for me. So if you want to do anything more than make noise in an echo chamber, the first thing you need to do is to show why this article is poorly-researched and factually inaccurate. If you do that, it might then be helpful to note that this is a pattern we should watch out for. Until you do that, there is no a priori reason for us to trust you over McArdle, or anyone else, and the fact that you’re here making unsupported accusations and they aren’t, is reason for us to distrust you. • Autonomous says: “There are some cases when it is not (ad hominem) really a fallacy, such as when one needs to evaluate the truth of factual statements (as opposed to lines of argument or statements of value) made by interested parties. If someone has an incentive to lie about something, then it would be naive to accept his statements about that subject without question.” http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/09/project-s-h-a-m-e-on-megan-mcardle-portrait-of-a-taxpayer-subsidized-libertarian.html • Edward Scizorhands says: I often wondered what kind of person would ever post something like what you just did. The essay opens with the fact that her father worked for the government, so she somehow cannot be libertarian . . . no, I’ve never bought that one, but I’ve always been glad to see someone’s opening salvo be “let me tell you about this person’s parents.” It saves a lot of time. • Glen Raphael says: “let me tell you about this person’s parents.” Sure, but my favorite bit of silliness was this claim: “The IHS attempted to hide McArdle’s involvement, scrubbing her name from the dinner announcement page. If you click through there are links to demonstrate that, yes indeed, while they were still selling tickets the IHS events page listed specific details about the expected program alongside the info about cost and time and location. Specifically it said ticket-buyers could expect to encounter all of the following: (a) remarks by Charles Koch (b) a tribute to Walter Williams (c) some stories from “a parade of IHS alumni”, and (d) McArdle as the MC. BUT LATER when somebody updated the page to note “WE ARE CURRENTLY SOLD OUT OF TICKETS” and point people at a waiting-list, they GOT RID OF the no-longer-so-important “program” section of the page. Which means they eliminated ALL of this from the page: (a), (b), (c), and (d). Clearly IHS was ATTEMPTING TO HIDE that their event…had a program? I’m confused. • Edward Scizorhands says: Oh, it’s a brand new user. McArdle has her stalkers that look for any mention of her name and post their same old links. That’s what we’ve got here, nothing more. • Tarrou says: Bahahahahahahahahhahhahahahahaha! Oh man, McMegan’s Internet Stalkers have found SSC! We’ll need to get the exterminator in, those things are hell to get out of the carpet. • Doug Muir says: John, I have two long comments explaining why it is, in fact, badly researched and inaccurate. Noting that someone has an awful track record is not an ad hominem attack. It’s the argument on credibility, which is related but distinct. It’s not “I don’t believe Megan because she’s a bad person”; it’s “I don’t believe Megan because she has a track record of making non-fact statements.” This is why courts since the days of Ethelred and Edgar have admitted evidence about a witness’s past untruths: they’re relevant to judging the witness’ credibility. Now, you can counter by saying “no, actually her track record is quite good, or so ISTM”, and then we could hash that out. Fair enough! But if in fact someone is consistently sloppy, fails to fact-check, repeats tired old tropes without checking, or just seems to flat out lie a lot…? Then they lack credibility, and it’s entirely reasonable for us as readers to take that into account. Doug M. • John Schilling says: That seems like an awfully pedantic distinction, but never mind that. Seeing as how Doug Muir is a known fabulist, why should we pay any attention when he says that Megan McArdle is a known fabulist and not to be trusted? Statements of the form, “[X] is not to be trusted; trust me on this”, do not seem to me to convey any useful information beyond signaling the tribal affiliation of the speaker. That is a poor justification for a defamatory and possibly libelous statement, and I’d rather not see that sort of thing here. • John, how is this case different from the comments others made earlier about Arthur Chu? Public and media figures have track records and reputations, which plainly bear on their credibility. • John Schilling says: No difference at all. Invoking the name “Arthur Chu” to dismiss an argument, merely signals that the speaker and his intended audience are part of the Tribe That Arthur Chu isn’t in. It’s not persuasive, and it is neither kind nor helpful even if it is true. Yes, people have track records and reputations. Unless a person is very exceedingly or very recently famous, specificallyfor being some sort of fabulist, assuming that your audience knows and agrees with that record/reputation is, again, just tribal signaling – we are the tribe that is defined by this bit of objectively-trivial tribal knowledge, boo McArdle and/or Chu, yay us. Otherwise, support the accusation. • Autonomous says: What’s it called in European football when an intemperate competitor transparently feigns an injury? • Alraune says: John, how is this case different from the comments others made earlier about Arthur Chu? Public and media figures have track records and reputations, which plainly bear on their credibility. I never said Arthur Chu’s arguments should be dismissed out of hand, I said his articles shouldn’t be given pageviews. I want running Arthur Chu to be a bad business decision. • Doug Muir says: Okay, question for John. Say someone links to an article saying that MMR vaccines are linked to early-onset Alzheimers. Someone else promptly posts, “Dude — that article is by Andrew Wakefield.” Would that be acceptable discourse? Doug M. • Cerebral Paul Z. says: Surely Andrew Wakefield comes under the “famous specifically for being a fabulist” exception? A better parallel case would be if someone cited a paleoclimate reconstruction and someone else replied “Dude– that article is by Michael Mann.” That would bug me even though I agree to a large extent about Mann’s untrustworthiness: open questions should not be treated as if they were closed. It’s not the ad hominem that people are really balking at here; it’s the ex cathedra. • John Schilling says: In most cases it’s going to be somewhat context-dependent. Mann is less of a fabulist than Wakefield, but probably better known. Either one, a specialist community can reasonably say, “this person generally doesn’t meet our standards, and is locally famous enough that we all know him and known not tor trust them without outside verification”. But if you’ve got people linking uncritically to articles by Mann, Wakefield, or whomever, then it’s pretty clear that you’re not actually in a community where everybody knows them as unreliable. In which case, yes, CPZ has got it about right. • HeelBearCub says: @John Schilling: Generally, I think you are right. Most statements of the variety “Well, that was written by so-and-so” is essentially signalling the belief that so-and-so is believed to be identified with a particular tribe. But, if Keith Olbermann writes an article talking about how horrible and awful and disgraceful [something] is, it is in fact a useful datapoint to know that a) He is very closely associated with Blue Tribe, and b) He is well known for his emotional hyperbole. Just because someone from Red Tribe were saying “Dude, that’s Olbermann” wouldn’t make that fact any less true. In a Bayesian sense, my prior for Olbermann producing a well-reasoned argument that is not full of hyperbolic and emotional argument is low. So, if I see an argument that appears to be restrained and well-reasoned coming from him, I will only give the argument credence after more close examination than I would require for an unknown author. Certainly, citation to back up the assertion of an author’s particular trend is needed if it is not already common knowledge. But I wouldn’t reject out-of-hand an opposite tribe assertion of flaws with a particular author. I would rather see, in this case, some sort of citation or argument to indicate why Doug M. thinks that McArdle is generally sloppy (rather than merely sloppy in this case). 26. sneezus says: He killed himself by attaching guns to helium balloons. Have you looked into the earth being flat yet? 27. baseball says: so did anyone actually respond to the vox article that Vance links to? he makes some good points. i am actually really disappointed with the way the EA community is handling this… seems they are just as tribal as everyone else. “Givewell good, Harvard bad! Screw you and your technicalities about research!” • walpolo says: Thanks for flagging that article. It’s very good. • Murphy says: I was expecting better. He just more-less says “nu uh!” Harvard does research but is it likely that the extra 400 million will actually yield 800,000 dead children worth of research? It’s easy to hand wave and imply that research into anything has infinite payoff because research into how many hookers the board members of harvard can bang might be vital to the earths survival next year but it’s stunningly unlikely that the 400 million will be used even vaguely effectively. • Alraune says: Harvard does research but is it likely that the extra 400 million will actually yield 800,000 dead children worth of research? I know being skeptical of Harvard is trendy around these parts but I’ve never heard them accused of straight-up massacre before. • Nornagest says: Not a direct massacre. Using dead children as a unit of currency is a very old idea of Scott’s that has become a minor meme in EA circles; the idea is that every ~$500 you spend on research could be spent on e.g. malaria bednets, which would save roughly one expected life.

Note that this is an old value and probably a low one; I can’t be bothered to look up where I remember this from, but I seem to recall that more modern values are an order of magnitude higher. And of course it’s vulnerable to the same criticisms that EA in general is.

• CJB says:

If you’re a believer in overpopulation as a problem, is not giving to charity the ultimate charity?

And I like that measure. I use similar measures: “Well, I dunno- this *thing I need* is kind of expensive…no, wait. It’s 20 bucks. That’s *one lunch with colleagues*. Will this provide me with more utility than that?”

On the other hand, makes it hard to justify doing anything at all that isn’t work and charity. “Every dollar I don’t give, a swollen baby dies screaming in it’s sobbing mother’s arms! This is the cappuccino of a MONSTER!”

• Nornagest says:

I used to measure utility in burritos. I make a little too much money for that to work well now, but it’s not a bad approach if you can find something that compares well in price.

• Murphy says:

One Dead Child or DC is the marginal cost of saving the life of one 3rd world child. When the article was written it was about $800. I used an older number. Used for opportunity cost comparisons. • baseball says: I don’t doubt that Harvard’s research money could be better directed. But I’m doubtful that 100 years later, looking back on the most impactful projects of the early 21st century, malaria nets will be among those included. It seems like EAs have a bias towards projects with sure impact so they can feel like they are good people. I would rather the EA movement become “like Harvard, but prioritizing research based on EA principles” than what it’s doing currently. • Samuel Skinner says: Why? People who are healthier are more productive and people who are alive are more useful than corpses. While its unlikely we will get earth changing benefits from the difference, but it isn’t impossible. It certainly would improve the situation in the countries affected when people get the opportunity to think a little more about the long term. Let me give an example. You know gypsies? They aren’t exacted famed for their massive contribution to mainstream society. However they certainly did produce scientists and engineers http://www.imninalu.net/famous-Gypsies.htm#Scientists 4 scientists and 1 Nobel prize winner Not too bad for a population estimated to have less than a million people before WW2. As for optimizing research, I don’t know if we can make any improvements over what is currently done. Scientists and engineers are already motivated to discover the most useful or interesting breakthrough and I don’t see how outsiders could provide anything but marginal improvements in their search. • baseball says: Scientists and engineers are already motivated to discover the most useful or interesting breakthrough and I don’t see how outsiders could provide anything but marginal improvements in their search. So you don’t think Harvard’s research funds could be better directed? • Samuel Skinner says: I do. I don’t think I or other outsiders could easily figure that out. If it was easy, people at Harvard would have already done it- individual scientists are incentivized to research things that pay off. You can improve it, but I’m doubtful it would be in the same difficulty range as “deal with malaria”. • Jaskologist says: Has the EA crew considered the effectiveness of carpet-bombing with DDT instead of mosquito nets? That worked pretty well for eliminating malaria in the US, and if I were African I’d be happy to sacrifice a few birds for the cause. (Quick googling gives one study.) • Protagoras says: Mosquitoes can develop resistance to DDT. In areas where there is a history of DDT use in agriculture, the local mosquitoes may already have had a chance to develop such resistance, and more widespread spraying may also just cause already resistant species to spread out. For various reasons, using DDT residentially doesn’t seem to produce resistance in the way that widespread spraying does, and so it doesn’t have the same danger of becoming self-defeating in the long run (well, probably it would in the extremely long run, as it’s hard to imagine it would have no effect at all in breeding for tolerance, but as I understand it in observed timescales any effect of residential use on mosquito tolerance levels has been too small to detect). • Douglas Knight says: Most places that have wiped out malaria have not wiped out mosquitoes. If it were as simple as carpet-bombing DDT, there would be no more mosquitoes. It is generally more effective to select against malaria than to select against mosquitoes. Putting insecticide in houses selects between mosquitoes. It selects for mosquitoes that do not enter houses and thus do not bite people who are bedridden with malaria. Thus it selects for mosquitoes that do not carry malaria. Also, it puts selection pressure on malaria to be less virulent, to not make people bedridden, the favorite topic of Paul Ewald. Actually wiping out malaria is not something you can contribute to marginally. It is all or nothing. EAs don’t have enough money to consider this option. Bill Gates does and I’m pretty sure that he’s considered it and does not find it viable. I don’t mean not cost-effective, but simply impossible. (Maybe wiping out malaria in a peninsula like Thailand is possible. But Africa is all or nothing.) Carpet bombing with DDT is not a very accurate description of what America did. Mainly it was draining swamps. Environmental DDT played a role, as did administering drugs simultaneously to everyone in a region. Africa did try to wipe out malaria 1950-1970. It failed for a lot of reasons. Mainly the problem was that there were too many places for mosquitoes to hide. This is true on many scales. For one, there are too many individual swamps to drain. Also, they connect regions, making it hard to work one region at a time, which is what was done in America. But also, there was a failure of coordination, to get enough people to take anti-malaria drugs simultaneously. That coordination is not something that money can buy. 28. s3 says: without reading the article my guess is he disposed of the weapon somehow. Tied it to a balloon maybe? 29. Jaskologist says: The failure of studies to replicate bothers me a lot, but I get even more hung up on the meta issue of a study which shows that studies are wrong. If a study find that 66% of studies are wrong, should I then conclude that there is only a 34% chance that most studies are wrong? 30. John Schilling says: OK, there’s probably still reason to ridicule (or worse) Rachel Dolezal specifically. And maybe we’re even going to ridicule the trans-black in general, and maybe we should. But first, what about the trans-white? And for that matter, I think most of the hostility against transgendered people is focused on trans-women, with trans-men getting off relatively lightly. I don’t recall, e.g., Nora Vincent getting any serious hostility when she came out towards the end of her year as a man. Historically, of course, “trans-whites” and “trans-men” were common long before we had the “trans-” prefix to label them; mostly we just referred to them as “passing”. Assumed that the motive was to escape the social, economic, and legal disadvantage of the traditionally inferior race or gender, and maybe disapproved of the practice but didn’t see it as ridiculous in concept. So when we do now ridicule trans-women or especially trans-blacks, is that because: A – It is inherently ridiculous, a sign of mental illness even, to want to be seen as a member of a disadvantaged class, for approximately the same reason it is an understandable ambition to want to be seen as a member of a privileged class, or B – Having accepted that our society has treated women and blacks poorly and maybe owes it to them to make up for some of the damage, trans-women and trans-blacks are seen as signaling “Ha, Ha, Fooled You! We actually have it pretty good, especially now that you all are giving us special privileges out of your guilt!”, or C – Trans-anythingism is seen as an inherently ridiculous denial of objective reality, and we’d generally laugh at them all the way we do the trans-Napoleons in the local asylum, but people who can make a credible attempt at passing for white or male have an obviously rational and somewhat sympathetic motive so we cut them a bit more slack? • Jiro says: Black people who try to pass for white have to say “I am white” as part of the process, but they don’t actually consider themselves to be white; when they call themselves white they are lying. This makes them not an analogy to transwomen. • John Schilling says: I am talking about the way the rest of society reacts to trans-black/white/men/women/small-fuzzy-green-things-from-outer-space. In this context, it does not matter that the antebellum quadroon passing for white is flat-out lying whereas Ms. Dolezal may believe her claims. The rest of the world, mostly doesn’t care about such subtle distinctions. Dolezal is written off as a liar, and ridiculed. The quadroon, if caught, is written off as a liar but mostly gets a “nice try, now get back where you belong”. Same dynamic, I think but with less certainty, w/re transmen and transwomen. There’s a double standard in both cases, and I’d like to understand it better. • HeelBearCub says: “The quadroon is lying” Could a quadroon pass? My sense was that was reserved more for octaroons. And they were lying in a legal sense. But in a real sense? Someone with 7 white great grandparents and one black one? Until we start treating black in the same way we would treat Italian and/or French in that same scenario, I think we have an issue. • John Schilling says: Lying in the only sense that really matters – they know what “black” means to the person they are talking to, they believe themselves to be “black” by that definition, and they say that they are “not-black” with the specific intention of deceiving that person for private gain. That you can phrase a statement in such a way that it is technically correct IFF interpreted using locally-nonstandard definitions of the words in the statement, doesn’t make it any less a lie. • HeelBearCub says: @John Schilling: I was going to start making some arguments about whether someone who passes as “white” will necessarily know that they had a black ancestor, but I realized it doesn’t really matter to your point. The actual lying/not lying is completely beside the point. It’s the assumed motivated reasoning that you are trying to point at. So imagine two people in the old South, [A] who thinks they are an octaroon (but are not), and [B], who thinks they are “white” by the definition of the time (but are actually an octaroon). Neither of these people are liars, they tell people what they believe to be true. Once the actual truth is found out, [B] will be seen as a liar, but [A] will be presumed to have been simply mistaken, as their is no conceivable motivated reasoning that the time could fathom for lying when in [A]’s position. If we then find evidence that [A] is, in fact lying, they will be seen as depraved in some manner, because there is no motivated reasoning that is seen as sufficient. Now, I would also take issue with your assertion that [B] would suffer no extra repercussions for having passed if they, while passing, did things that would have impugned the [presumed] honor of associated whites. For instance, if a black man, while passing, dated a white woman, and then was found out, a lynching might soon follow. • John Schilling says: If a black man was caught dating a white woman in the antebellum south, he’d have been lynched whether he was “passing” or not – there’d have been no extra penalty for passing. Pragmatically, I expect his odds would have improved in the passing case, as the white woman’s reputation could still have been saved by quietly running the black man out of town. But, more generally, yes – it’s the reaction of the community I was getting at. I think the odds of an octoroon not knowing full well where they stood in the antebellum South are pretty small, but that wouldn’t matter in the case of discovery. If recognized as black-passing-for-white, it’s “get back in your place”, and as you note punishment for any specific violations of the social order while passing. White-passing-for-black is either “that can’t be right” or “WTF is the matter with you, you freak!” • Anthony says: A friend of mine has a black father. (In pictures, he’s *very* black, though that may partly be the film. His features all read as black, though.) I did not realize she was part black until she posted pictures with her father on facebook. Some of her physical features could be interpreted as indicating black ancestry, but none unambiguously. Her sister, on the other hand, looks mestizo. • Jaskologist says: I don’t think Nora is equivalent. There’s a difference between spending time walking in someone else’s shoes and just taking their shoes. I would jump at the chance to spend a day as a woman, or even as a random non-sentient animal, but I’m not some kind of trans-otherkin. • DrBeat says: People who don’t believe trans is “a thing” will believe transwomen are men and transmen are women, and as such, they will be far far far far far more hostile and violent and hateful towards the ones they see as men, because that is what happens with literally every gendered distinction. People who pretended they were white were doing so to prove they were worthy and had merit when they did not have a chance to do so; this is a laudable goal. “Trans-blacks” are lying in order to get attention and victimhood, to have other people cater their behavior to their needs. This is not a laudable goal. • John Schilling says: Proving that you are worthy is not considered a laudable goal if you are, in fact, not worthy. Yet people who genuinely considered blacks and/or women to be categorically unworthy, did not generally treat “transmen” and “transwhites” with the same degree of contemptuous ridicule that e.g. Dolezal is getting for her transblackness. But we don’t need “laudable” for your framing to work. “Rational” and “sympathetic” may be enough. However much we may disapprove of them, we don’t generally ridicule bank robbers because, well, that is where the money is, and who ever has enough money? • DrBeat says: Because by the time others found out about a ‘transwhite’ person, they’d got along well enough to prove they were capable of doing things and thus “one of the good ones”. They also tended not to draw lots of attention to themselves; not true for a ‘transblack’ faking hate crimes against herself to get attention. “Transwhites” wanted to be contributing members of society, “transblacks” want to be victims and have other people act on their behalf. We consider wanting to be a contributing member of society laudable, and wanting to be a waited-on victim not to be laudable. • Sylocat says: Because by the time others found out about a ‘transwhite’ person, they’d got along well enough to prove they were capable of doing things and thus “one of the good ones”. You have an enviably optimistic view of human behavior. • suntzuanime says: I think the idea is that blacks are not necessarily non-meritorious, but rather that racist society did not permit them the chance to demonstrate their merit. So blacks masquerading as whites could legitimately demonstrate their worth, which is laudable. They were, in this model, not trying to be deemed worthy just on account of their whiteness; they were trying to get their foot in the door, after which point they would rely on their actual worthiness. • Alraune says: Different people have different concerns, there’s not a single answer and setting those scenarios up as mutually exclusive or exhaustive would be misleading. That said, there is one asymmetry that does generalize, and from which you can derive a lot of the relevant dynamics: When you have two groups, segregation between them protects the positions of the bottom of the “better” group, but the top of the “lesser” one. Integrating the male sports leagues endangers the rankings only of the lowest male players, while opening the female leagues to transwomen endangers their champions. Allowing black labor into white unions displaces only the least productive white workers, while opening black neighborhoods to white businesses displaced many black entrepreneurs. Permitting “vaguely ethnic” actors like Rashida Jones and Ben Kingsley to audition for whatever they please lets them capture only a tiny percentage of all white roles, but a statistically relevant number of those written for minorities. In short, when a member of a low-status group tries to pass as a member of a high-status group, it’s so they can compete on their merits. When a member of a high-status group tries to pass as a member of a low-status group, it’s so they don’t have to. The latter are far more likely to be malefactors. • Jiro says: I don’t think that’s quite right. Consider people who pretend to be military veterans (or to receive militar honors). They are hated because they didn’t sacrifice like actual military veterans, but that’s not really low status in the normal sense. In the case of Dolezal, Blues don’t like her because she claimed high status, just like the fake military veterans. If you think of reds as assigning low status to black people, you could argue that that fits your scheme, but I would say that the reds hate Dozel because they consider her to demonstrate that blues are lying about the status of black people being low. • HeelBearCub says: Do you really think Blues regard black people as higher status? I think what you are actually saying is that Blues afford black people a conscious status boost, in the attempt to override a predicted unconscious status discount. But that’s putting words in your mouth. • DrBeat says: If by “regard as higher status” you mean “believes they have more power in larger society”, then no. If by “regards as higher status” you mean “gives them more power within Blue areas, allows them to do more and get away with more and devotes more attention and resources to them”, the answer’s a pretty obvious yes. • HeelBearCub says: @DrBeat: I find your position lacking in empirical evidence. Can you cite some way in which Blue Tribe members actually treat black people as higher status than white? Do most Blue Tribe white members consciously seek to live in areas of high black concentration? Do Blue Tribe members higher blacks over and above their general population percentage? Do Blue Tribe members primarily want to hang out in gatherings made up mostly of blacks? Do they actually? Do they feel excluded because they cannot? Do Blue Tribe members feel that if only they were black, they could have accomplished [x]? Or do Blue Tribe members act in a manner that is consistent with regarding black association as enhancing their own status? This is different than regarding black tribe members as higher status, yes? • Whatever happened to Anonymous says: >Do most Blue Tribe white members consciously seek to live in areas of high black concentration? >Do Blue Tribe members hire blacks over and above their general population percentage? >Do Blue Tribe members primarily want to hang out in gatherings made up mostly of blacks? Do they actually? Do they feel excluded because they cannot? I don’t know it they actually do or think those, but I’m sure many of them claim they do. >Do Blue Tribe members feel that if only they were black, they could have accomplished [x]? Acheive a high position in the NCAAP? would seem so. More seriously though, is the usage of the term “status” that you object to? Do you not agree that, in blue circles (Like, say, academia) blacks are protected class, and as such one could obtain benefits from passing as one? • Nornagest says: Do you not agree that, in blue circles (Like, say, academia) blacks are protected class, and as such one could obtain benefits from passing as one? “High-status” and “protected class” do not necessarily coincide. For a hopefully uncontroversial example (giggle, snort), consider the situation of women in Victorian-era England or the US. That said, status is a pretty broad brush, and you can paint just about anything as high- or low-status depending on what you choose to emphasize. We’d probably be better off talking about the specific benefits and disadvantages of being black in Blue circles: the first one that comes to mind is the privilege of being listened to more carefully on certain topics. • HeelBearCub says: @Whatever happened to Anonymous: “I don’t know it they actually do or think those, but I’m sure many of them claim they do.” Well, the question is what Blue Tribe actually thinks, not what they say they think. What you don’t see, behaviorally, is Blue Tribe members moving to black neighborhoods where rent is cheap in great numbers. If I could move to a high-status neighborhood where rent was cheap, would I not prefer it over a lower-status neighborhood where rents are higher? Instead we see gentrification, which is a different process altogether. Only after the character of the neighborhood has been changed by gentrification is the neighborhood seen as high-status. “Do you not agree that, in blue circles (Like, say, academia) blacks are protected class, and as such one could obtain benefits from passing as one?” Where Blue Tribe has a great deal of control, blacks are a protected group. Children, the elderly, and any of those who might be classified as infirm are protected groups in, well, pretty much every tribe, but certainly in Red Tribe. Why does Red Tribe protect those groups? Why do they give them more benefits? It might be interesting to look at the Red Tribe – Blue Tribe divide on women to understand how this dynamic plays out in reality. Woman are protected in both tribes, for the same proximate reason, but different ultimate ones. • Nornagest says: Instead we see gentrification, which is a different process altogether. Is it? I spent several years living in Oakland, and while my neighborhood wasn’t one of the affected ones I think I was still close enough to get a good view on the gentrification process. What I saw was a progression that started when white urban hipsters discovered a semi-crunchy (but usually not truly bad) neighborhood with cheap rent, good food, and access to the kind of culture they like. They move in as properties become vacant through normal turnover, and rent slowly creeps up. After a few years, businesses catering directly to the hipster demographic spring up in the area, and after a few more, new housing starts getting built. At that point it’s mainstream enough that the hipsters starts losing interest (although they may hang on for a while if enough art galleries and drip coffee joints move in), but it’s developed a reputation as a cool part of town and there’s more than enough demand among sub-hipsters to replace them. Wait forty years and you have the Haight. • HeelBearCub says: @Nornagest: Did hipsters move in because the neighborhood was high-status in Blue-Tribe generally? If so, why weren’t those properties already occupied by much broader mass of Blue-Tribe that is wealthier than hipsters? For every neighborhood that gentrifies, there are so many others that do not. If gentrification was really a broad, blue-tribe status seeking, then segregation would be a thing of the past. Blacks would generally have trouble keeping their neighborhood as concentrated black, as they generally lack the financial resources to outbid the Blue Tribe whites which would presumably be clamoring to live in their high status neighborhood. If, as a Blue Tribe parent of two children I said I was moving to, say, Compton, from my nice suburban subdivision, the reaction from Blue Tribe would not be “So Lucky!” but “So Brave! Good Luck.” • Nornagest says: Did hipsters move in because the neighborhood was high-status in Blue-Tribe generally? Blue Tribe isn’t a monolith, and different parts of it have different status criteria. Hipsters moved in because the neighborhood was attractive to the segment of Blue Tribe that most valued urban amenities and a certain flavor of authenticity and least valued stability, and they became a spearhead for the rest. This is an incremental process: you don’t get established Blue families moving in right after the hipsters do, but you do get single Blues who want some of the same things hipsters do but would be scared off if the hipsters weren’t already there. Then they open up the door for Blues on the new margin, and so forth. This happened early to the Haight and a few other neighborhoods, but in a broader context it’s a fairly recent phenomenon — I want to put the inflection point in the early 2000s, but that might be off by as much as five years in either direction. I don’t know how it’s going to evolve or what it’s going to do to urban segregation. But I do feel fairly safe in saying that the homogeneous white suburbs of the Eighties and Nineties are increasingly low-status in Blue circles. • HeelBearCub says: “Blue Tribe isn’t a monolith” Wasn’t the debate started by an assertion about black status in Blue Tribe monolithically? You seem to be turning the burden of proof upside down. I’m certainly willing to say that some Blue Tribe members view living in majority ethnic neighborhoods as obtaining a status for themselves, that living there has a certain cachet. This is of course different than viewing the residents as high-status, but I don’t think I particularly need to debate that assertion at the moment. “But I do feel fairly safe in saying that homogeneous white suburbs are increasingly low-status in Blue circles.” Living in a heterogeneous neighborhood is absolutely desirable in Blue Tribe. I’m absolutely willing to concede that given two neighborhoods that have identical amenities, the heterogeneously habitated one is higher status. That still doesn’t mean that the black residents of that neighborhood are seen, generally, as higher status. • Nornagest says: Wasn’t the debate started by an assertion about black status in Blue Tribe monolithically? You seem to be turning the buden of proof upside down. If you’ll kindly scroll up, you’ll find me arguing against that, too. But in this narrow context I don’t particularly care what the debate started as, and I’m not interested in being mistaken for an opposing soldier in whatever war you think you’re fighting. I’m arguing that gentrification provides a mechanism for Blues moving into black (and other poor) neighborhoods en masse, one that starts with a certain shade of Blue moving in in small quantities. It doesn’t demonstrate that those neighborhoods are uniformly high status, because they aren’t, but it wouldn’t work if they didn’t have high-status qualities among Blues. • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says: >Why does Red Tribe protect those groups? Why do they give them more benefits? Because they are seen as both vulnerable and valuable. I’d assume it’s a similar rationale for blacks among blues. I’m not trying to question if this status as protected group is deserved or not. But I’m still not sure where you’re going with all of this. If this black… privilege (ugh) exists, for whatever reason it may, then it stands to reason that, if someone were able to pass as black, they would be able to claim those benefits. Now, I’m not sure this was the case: while the benefits are non-trivial, how hard it must’ve been to pull off and how easy it would be for it fall apart make it weird to me that someone would do this without other involved reasons. However, it seems really likely that it played into it. Hell, going back to your example of children and the elderly, people pretend to be younger or older all the time to claim the benefits conferred by the protected status. • HeelBearCub says: @Mark: Are you contending that those neighborhoods had an influx of residents BECAUSE they were black? If so, why does the influx continue long after they have ceased being majority black? Why doesn’t the trend slow as soon as some certain number of black residents are displaced? And are the blacks being followed to their new neighborhoods, broadly speaking? Or do they just concentrate somewhere else? • HeelBearCub says: @Nornagest: “and I’m not interested in being mistaken for an opposing soldier in whatever war you think you’re fighting.” Sorry, I’m not sure what I said to make you think I was being so belligerent. I wasn’t intending that to be my tone. “It doesn’t demonstrate that those neighborhoods are uniformly high status, because they aren’t, but it wouldn’t work if they didn’t have high-status qualities among Blues.” I completely agree with this statement. Perhaps we are in vehement agreement. Again, my contention is that blacks are given a status boost by blue tribe, rather than being seen, generically, as higher status. This is the original contention by Jiro that I was speaking to. • HeelBearCub says: @Whatever Happened To Anonymous: “it stands to reason that, if someone were able to pass as black, they would be able to claim those benefits.” To the extent that those benefits are better than their current situation, yes. I agree with this. Dolazal clearly derived some benefit from claiming that she was black. She may have even received a status benefit (in Blue Tribe) over poor white evangelical member of red tribe. “make it weird to me that someone would do this without other involved reasons.” Yeah. I completely agree with this. “Hell, going back to your example of children and the elderly, people pretend to be younger or older all the time to claim the benefits conferred by the protected status.” Sure. But broadly speaking, if a child wants a status benefit, they will lie and increase their age. If someone is older (than 29, say) and wants a status benefit, they will lie and decrease their age. To the extent that they lie the other way, they don’t want a status benefit, they want a more tangible benefit. • Nornagest says: If someone is older (than 29, say) and wants a status benefit, they will lie and decrease their age. To the extent that they lie the other way, they don’t want a status benefit, they want a more tangible benefit. I think this is a great example of a situation where status is too broad a concept to make useful predictions. Younger people are seen as cheaper, sexier, more hip, more intellectually agile. Older people are seen as more experienced, more skilled, more cautious, probably more expensive. Depending on the situation you might be inclined to lie in either direction for a situational status boost: if you want to get hired as a mid-level manager at IBM, the optimal age is very different than if you want to get hired as an entry-level Web programmer at MoveFastAndBreakThings.com. And I’d expect to see a hilarious peak in the OKCupid data at age 29. • HeelBearCub says: @Nornagest: Sure, I buy that. But I don’t think are going to go so far as put themselves into the protected class, right? I 55 year old is going to try and pass as a 65 year old for a status bump. They might try and do it so they could claim social security or a retirement benefit, but is there some status bump that you can think of being generally conferred on them? More broadly, the protected classes get benefits precisely because they are generally seen as having to combat some disadvantages. If you fake your way into that protected class, you will inherit the presumption of those disadvantages (regardless of whether you actually have them). I suppose you might benefit from being seen as an exceptional member of the class, but that would probably only confer within the class. So a 55 year old faking being 65 so they would have better luck dating 65 year olds seems plausible, but it doesn’t seem plausible they would do it so they would have better luck with 55 year olds. • Nornagest says: @HBC — No, I can’t think of too many situations where you’d want to claim senior status per se, outside of benefits fraud or one of its private-sector relatives. There are social peaks at 35 and 45 and 55, but 65 is pretty much universally seen as over the hill unless you’re trying to be elected Pope. But in the other direction, I can easily think of situations where adults would want to pass as minors, or minors as adults, for purely social reasons. And that’s just as much a protected class, isn’t it? • DrBeat says: I find your position lacking in empirical evidence. Can you cite some way in which Blue Tribe members actually treat black people as higher status than white? The progressive stack and its ideological descendants? The way they get extremely upset and demand action when a black person is harmed and nothing else is known, the way people in other areas get extremely upset and demand action when a high-status person is harmed and nothing else is known? Constantly excusing their mistakes and blaming all wrongdoing forever on whiteness? Throwing shitfits when black people are punished for wrongdoing? Making people afraid to disagree with black people on any subject? “Do people like moving into their neighborhoods” isn’t the only way we measure status — and Blue Tribers sure as fuck love to surround themselves with black people, use lack of black-people-surrounding as a cudgel against competitors and use black associations as a defense against same. • HeelBearCub says: @Nornagest: The only reason I can think of for someone who is 25 to fake being 17 is the same reason someone who is 55 might fake being 65, so that they could have better luck as they were striking out in their age appropriate cohort. I’m not sure what other reasons you are thinking of? And I definitely can’t see anyone who is fully post-pubescent (who isn’t suffering some kind of trauma) trying to fake being pre-pubescent. Yes, there is the awkward period for some early-pubescent girls, but I don’t think that really counts. • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says: >And I definitely can’t see anyone who is fully post-pubescent (who isn’t suffering some kind of trauma) trying to fake being pre-pubescent. Kid prices, discounts, being able to buy a happy meal for the toy. • HeelBearCub says: @Whatever Happened To Anonymous: Those are examples of tangible benefits, rather than a status boost. I think everyone acknowledges that trying to enter a protected class for the tangible benefits it brings does happen. • Jiro says: Again, my contention is that blacks are given a status boost by blue tribe, rather than being seen, generically, as higher status. This is the original contention by Jiro that I was speaking to. I think that’s an excessively fine distinction. I brought it up in response to Alraune, who claimed that people don’t like whites passing as blacks because blacks are low status. It doesn’t matter if I say “actually, blues don’t like it because blacks are high status” or “actually, blues don’t like it because they give blacks status boosts”; either version counters Alraune’s statement. Also, re: Victorian women, Victorian protection of women was a kind of paternalistic protection that stated that things were good for women, but ignored women’s ability to decide for themselves. I don’t think this plays a big role in modern-day protected classes. (Of course, people still do ignore members of protected classes who disagree with them, but they are generally seen as enemies, not genuinely thought of as targets for protection.) • HeelBearCub says: @Jiro: Upthread @John Schilling and I talked about why, if someone faked being in a low status cohort, this would be generally seen as punishable behavior. I realize that wasn’t your argument, but I think there is some reason to believe this type of reasoning is at work. “I think that’s an excessively fine distinction.” Mmmm. I don’t think it is, just from the standpoint of who gets angry and why. If I am attempting to join a new group consisting of avid golfers, one can reasonably say that low-handicap golfers have higher status and high-handicap golfers have lower status. If I pretend to be a low-handicap golfer, and then I am found out, I will be seen as sad and pathetic, but ultimately the only people who will be angry about it are people whose order in the status I threatened, those who generally feel insecure about their status in the group. But if I fake being a high-handicap golfer, no one will be angry unless we had some sort of handicap tournament. If I took no material advantage of my status I will just be seen as humble. But if I take 18 strokes instead of 2 or 3, EVERYONE will be mad at me. • DrBeat says: Also, re: Victorian women, Victorian protection of women was a kind of paternalistic protection that stated that things were good for women, but ignored women’s ability to decide for themselves. This is not true, and people believe it because contemporary feminists do not want the sort of protection Victorian women had, and so conclude that Victorian women did not want that either, and that men were evil and threatening for inflicting it upon them. Women have always been the only people whose lives have inherent worth. Women have always been the people who others care about making happy. The fact that the things they wanted to make them happy was not the same thing that people today would want to make them happy does not mean their wants were ignored. • Alraune says: Jiro, HeelBearCub, you’re both hairsplitting and missing the point. Dolezal neither “lied about being black –which is secretly actually a marker of high status rather than low– and thereby gained status”, nor “lied about being black –which is given artificially elevated status by the Blue tribe– and thereby gained status.” She lied about being black, which allowed her to steal a specific racially segregated post in the blue tribe’s priest-class. The JOB is what gave her higher status. • HeelBearCub says: @Alraune: That was what I was looking at with my high-handicap golfer example. If Dolezal was someone whose identity as black seemed only extraneously tied to her job, she could say “Look, I’ve felt black ever since I had to protect my black adopted brothers and sisters from my abusive parents”, and we would shrug while she told her story in Dr. Phil. But because she appears to have had her livelihood directly tied to her racial status, it seems more like theft. And unlike a black person trying to pass as white so they could simply do ANY non-menial job, this feels like a different kind of motivated reasoning. Edit: and I don’t think the priest class has to much to do with it. If she was selling herself as a Soul Food chef, she would seem equally as inauthentic. The NAACP thing makes it much more interesting to the tribes, which just raises it’s media profile. • Alraune says: I don’t think the priest class has to much to do with it. If she was selling herself as a Soul Food chef, she would seem equally as inauthentic. The NAACP thing makes it much more interesting to the tribes, which just raises it’s media profile. You’re missing some important implications then. A soul food chef wouldn’t be the same situation (also, stop giving Paula Deen ideas), the priestly status is highly significant to how it’s played out. At the local level (As I’ve mentioned, my emotional pitch on this is as high as it is because I’m personal friends with a couple of her students.) this was taken as Betrayal rather than just misleading marketing or a news of the weird segment (“Local Sushi Chef Actually Squinty Italian!”) because this was someone trusted to shape truth, mentor new agents, and set strategy. If you’re pursuing a tribe war angle, then, well, the most significant aspect is that Dolezal was by all accounts actually pretty good at her jobs. Which means you don’t actually need the “unique lived insights” of blackwomanhood to teach people about it, you can just preach the same lines as everyone else. Which means intersectionality is bullshit. Which means your increasingly budget-constrained and business-oriented college doesn’t need to fund a separate African Studies professor. • HeelBearCub says: @Alraune: People are signal boosting this story because it provides some empirical evidence for their world-view. If Dolezal was a nationally famous Soul Food chef who talked about learning her recipes at her momma’s elbow, her Food Network job would go away right quick and people who watched the show would be angry at being lied to. Her close associates would feel betrayed and hurt. People and US Weekly would cover it with suitable outrage. And then it would go away. But because it can be used as as a cudgel by one side against the other, well now people start fights about it. Maybe that is the point you are getting at? I’m definitely not willing to concede what you are saying about intersectionality. But that serms like a different conversation. • Alraune says: I’m definitely not willing to concede what you are saying about intersectionality. But that seems like a different conversation. It is, but I should probably explain myself in slightly more detail than “bullshit” anyway. Intersectionality is a graft program, not an academic field. Its sole output is jobs for extremely non-oppressed people. • HeelBearCub says: @Alraune: Intersectionality, as I understand it, is an approach or technique, not a program. I’m not even sure what “program” means as you are using it. • John Schilling says: @Alarune: That’s a very good point, and particularly timely given the recent Jenner transformation. And even where, as with black/white, the “inferiority” of the low-status group is purely a social construct, the perceived threat will remain until the perception broadly changes. But Jiro’s not wrong either, which puts Dolezal in exactly the wrong spot – everybody has a reason to despise her, even if they aren’t the same reasons. • Alraune says: Best example of this functioning even with purely social divisions would be the female e-sports leagues that need to cap the number of trans members per participating team. (Unless men are somehow genetically better at Starcraft…) • LHN says: Assuming they aren’t (and I have neither reason to believe they are nor much specific knowledge of e-sports), what’s the reason for having a gender-segregated league? • Held in Escrow says: Two big reasons. First off, sponsors love having attractive female players to front for their goods; it’s way easily to sell product to the nerdy demographics if you have someone who actually is known for playing the game rather than just using a model. Secondly, there just aren’t many if any ciswomen at a truly competitive level. Part of this is probably because e-sports aren’t something that girls get into and thus develop the skills to be pro at, so the idea is that by having female leagues where they can have people to look up to more girls will get into the game and you’ll eventually end up with more female pros (as well as more players of course making the company more money). The only competitive video game I can think of which has a cisfemale top level player is Soul Calibur, but I may be out of date on that • Alraune says: Because there’s an audience to sustain it? I don’t know. Edit: HIE is probably right though. • stillnotking says: I’d be surprised to find that men are “genetically better at Starcraft”. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that men’s larger genetic variability (edit: more accurately, phenotypic variability; a lot of the difference is probably epigenetic) tends to place more of them at the far right of the curve on talents that are relevant to Starcraft. Men are over-represented at the top of almost any competitive endeavor. They’re probably over-represented at the bottom, too, but no one bothers to track that. • Alraune says: That’s certainly a mechanism that shows up in a lot of areas, but I don’t think it’s going to be a primary one here. Higher male variability only becomes a dominant factor when there are enough would-be participants in a field that it can reliably fill its teams with people that have interest, dedication, training, AND freaky mutant powers. The skill level to participate in e-sports has risen over time, but for the moment, and moreso in the past, participation has been primarily based on willingness to dedicate your life to a bizarre and risky new career (which, yes, also skews the demographic towards men, but for different reasons), not by having +3SD reaction time scores. The most relevant mechanisms are likely that hobby participation is extremely prone to preference cascades in which the minority gender leaves, and that girls (whether naturally or due to socialization) are less interested in ordinal status rankings, therefore less interested in becoming Best Of My Friends At Video Games at age 10, therefore much less likely to be within reach of Best In The World At Video Games come age 20. • Edward Scizorhands says: I’d be surprised to find that men are “genetically better at Starcraft”. I haven’t played Starcraft in almost 20 years, but doesn’t a lot of it come down to reaction times? Men consistently have been measured to have better reaction times than women. First google hit: http://www.iosrphr.org/papers/v2i3/R023452454.pdf (Age matters, too. Those women would probably be much better than me.) • SFG says: It’s mostly cultural–few women want to get that into video games–but don’t men usually score better at spatial tasks? And, I just wonder–is there really any social reason to want to get MORE women into video games? Shouldn’t we want to get FEWER men into them? I mean, the fewer people who spend their time on those things the better, IMHO…and I used to play quite a bit… You gain no useful skills playing Starcraft… • stillnotking says: Shouldn’t we want to get FEWER men into [video games]? What’s this “we” shit? 🙂 Some people enjoy playing video games, and/or watching them played competitively. Unless you take a hard-line stance that anything done for pure entertainment should be eliminated from one’s life, the polite attitude is de gustibus non est disputandum. Re: gender imbalances and possible cultural reasons for them, we have the same old chicken-and-egg problem: are women less likely to be top Starcraft pros because fewer of them make the attempt, or vice versa? Culturally “neutral” competitive games, like Scrabble — at which my mom, girlfriend, and grandmother are all better than me — show the same pattern as Starcraft. Every single one of the top 10 Scrabble players in the world is male. • houseboatonstyx says: @ Edward Scizorhands Men consistently have been measured to have better reaction times than women. That would make Just-So sense. A caveman risks a few bruises if he falls down a rocky slope in reacting to an imaginary tiger. A cavewoman with a baby wants to check if there’s a real tiger, and if so, which escape route would be safest for the baby. • Tarrou says: I don’t despise her, she sets a great precedent! For all the flak she’s taken, she got a very sympathetic hearing in the national media (which she squandered, but there it is). NPR ran very sensitive features on her for a week. And I, for one, look forward to the day when we can all claim to be whichever race we like, because that is one step closer to the banishment of race as an issue from our national discourse. If race is purely a social construct, then having rules based on it is useless! Affirmative action grinds to a halt! 31. Anonymous says: Alternate title to Cartel Story: CIA Conquest of Mexico Complete. Already, the Sinaloa cartel is the world’s largest, and Guzman [the leader] last year made Forbes magazine’s list of the world’s top billionaires. [link] 32. Nicholas says: On the topic of drug cartels, my understanding is that before 2011, the united states government provided material aid to the cartels and actively stymied the mexican governments attempts to deal with the problem. Now the us government does this much less, and the newly freed mexican government can respond as they have desired against a weakened cartel force. • John Schilling says: That sounds very much like conspiracy-theory nonsense, of the sort where I’d really like some evidence beyond “my understanding is”. I’d also like to see some evidence that the cartels are actually weakened. Yes, there are now two major cartels where there were once many. The usual reason “many cartels” becomes “two cartels” (and eventually “the cartel”) is that the whole point of a cartel is to establish a monopoly. As cartels become more powerful in a particular market, they necessarily become less numerous, with the weaker cartels being assimilated or destroyed by the stronger. It isn’t necessarily the case that fewer cartels = stronger cartels, but it’s usually the way to bet and I’m not seeing anything in Mexico to suggest otherwise. If the government also destroys cartels, that’s fine. Sianola thanks the Mexican government for breaking its competitors up into more easily digestible chunks, and the current generation of Sianola leaders are fine with some of the last generation languishing in prison. • Brad (the other one) says: While I would like to see support for Nicholas’s claim, I wouldn’t put it over the US government to try such a thing. Don’t they have a track record of supporting dictators, contras, etc? Doesn’t anyone remember Operation Northwoods? While I might want A: evidence and B: a motive before supporting Nick’s claim, to just automatically say “nun-uh, conspiracy theory” is silly. • John Schilling says: So you can randomly pick any bad thing that is caused by any vaguely political group of people, and without evidence or plausible motive say “I think that the United States Government is secretly behind that”, and this isn’t silly? Because the United States Government has done some bad things, has supported a minority of the world’s dictators. Not buying it. The one thing that almost all conspiracy theories in the modern world have in common is the assertion that the rulers of the United States of America are secretly behind whatever unpleasantness the conspiracy theorist is peeved about today, without supporting evidence or a plausible motive. And pretty much everybody who does that sort of thing, either is a conspiracy theorist or is being sloppy and could come up with the evidence if they cared. For example, there is some actual evidence regarding Operation Northwoods, which can be found by a quick google or just hitting Wikipedia. So, not at all silly to point out that this sounds like a conspiracy theory and that the claim needs to be backed up by evidence or dismissed. • Nicholas says: Alright, so the first example of the US government’s interference in how the Mexican government conducts their drug war was when in the second term of the Bush administration, president Felipe Calderón had a bill on his desk to decriminalize certain drugs and create a supply line of those drugs that didn’t go through cartel sources. After steady pressure from the Executive Branch, Felipe Calderón reversed his position and vetoed the bill, citing strained foreign relations. Fast and Furious, the US program to allow the sale of firearms to cartels and then not track what they did with those guns, was a government program to sell guns to cartels, which is about as material aid as you can get. It’s not per say a conspiracy, I don’t believe there’s a grand plan to destabilize Mexico. But the actions of the US government made the situation worse, and the US government only reversed course during the most recent Mexican presidential administration. In a more general sense: Every US administration has eventually been found or disclosed that a conspiracy of personal profit or episode of inexcusable negligence has occurred during that administration. Thus the prior that the government may be, say bugging the Watergate Hotel, or selling Iran guns so that they can fund the Contras, or antagonizing the Empire of Japan, or planning to assassinate FDR and start a Fascist coup, or overthrow the government of Iran, should be very high outside of dissenting evidence. 33. stargirl says: I personally think of Rachel Dolezal as Black. I think people who are Trans-racial should be given support. I would validate their self-identified race. And I would hope that they were given access to whatever medical technologies could improve their transition. Rachel Dolezal however really did terrible things She faked hate crimes. I am not even sure what a suffient punishment for faking hate crimes is but it needs to be severe. she should e put in jail to deter people from faking hate crimes in the future. However I do think she should be able to transition further in jail if she wishes. And even if she was incarcerated I would wish people would treat her as Black. • I personally think of Rachel Dolezal as Black. Me, too. The traditional test of blackness in the U.S. is the “one drop of blood” rule. Under Louisiana law, for example, your birth certificate had to state your blackness if you had as little as 1/64 black ancestry. In other words, if one of your great-great-great-great-grandparents was from Africa, and all the others were from Sweden, you’d be classified as some sort of black person. Your shameful “Negro” ancestry contaminated all the rest, and people were NOT kidding when they said things like that. As a result, there was a substantial number of Americans who (1) were identified and lived as black despite looking completely “white”, or (2) “passed for white” while keeping their black identity secret. Passing for white was a perilous business; read some accounts of those who did. If your blackness was detected, you could lose your job, your home (if it was in an area restricted to whites). If you married a white person, you were breaking the law in many states; you’d be subject to prosecution. You had to cut yourself off from your more Negroid-appearing relatives: your neighbors would take notice if they came to visit. The major biography of Warren G. Harding (president in 1921-23) is titled The Shadow of Blooming Grove. This “shadow” was the scandalous rumor that he might have had a black ancestor. Had this been proven true, he would have been discredited and driven from office. Surveys show that most Americans still believe in the one-drop-of-blood rule for defining blackness, but we don’t enforce it with the same old zeal. To a very large extent, race and ethnicity have become a matter of self-identification. Census data is based on how individuals classify themselves. If self-identification is the standard, nobody has the right to tell Ms. Dolezal she’s not black. • Steve Johnson says: As a result, there was a substantial number of Americans who (1) were identified and lived as black despite looking completely “white”, or (2) “passed for white” while keeping their black identity secret. That’s actually the opposite of what the result was. This is another progressive “would think”. The actual result is that white people in the United States have extremely high amounts of European genes. If passing was widespread then you’d see more gene flow from African descended people into the European descended gene pool. You don’t. • That’s actually the opposite of what the result was. This is another progressive “would think”. That’s kind of insulting, frankly. It’s the result you’d logically expect from the data. The actual result is that white people in the United States have extremely high amounts of European genes. If passing was widespread then you’d see more gene flow from African descended people into the European descended gene pool. That doesn’t follow at all. Most African-Americans could not plausibly pass. The ones passing had as much as 98% white ancestry. They had light skin and European facial features. And back when this was going on, there were ten times as many white people in this country as black people. If a small subset of the black population passed for white, AND somehow all their genes were “black genes”, AND they all got married and had children who identified as white, even then, it would have an infinitesimal impact on the white genome. You probably would have trouble finding it. Moreover, passing was a secret. In some families, it still is. It’s not possible that millions of people did this, but we don’t really know how many. • Anthony says: Some time (decades) ago, I read about a court case which overturned laws in two southern states (MS and AL, I think) which defined “black” as having 1/32 or more sub-Saharan African ancestry. What I remember from then was that meant there was *no* legally enforceable definition of any racial group except American Indians. (And possibly only for specific tribal membership, as opposed to being “American Indian, N.O.S.”) Am I remembering things at all correctly? • You are correct, and it was Louisiana. Indeed, you’re more correct than I was, elsewhere in this thread, where I wrote it was based on 1/64 ancestry. 34. fire ant says: It bounced! It bounced and then it flew off again!! That is so good! (I have just noticed that almost no of my comments go through the ‘necessary’ gate…) • FacelessCraven says: It seems to me that if you’re going to fail a gate, the necessary one is likely a good choice. After that video, Youtube automatically cued up some tests of what appears to be a 3-inch naval gun firing full-auto. We live in an age of beauty. 35. LHN says: I’m not remotely qualified to hold an opinion on time crystals myself. But at first glance, it at least looks as if all the pop science articles about it are from 2012-2013, and predate this phys.org piece, “Physicist proves impossibility of quantum time crystals” “Only future developments (or absence thereof) will allow us to tell whether or not my paper has given a final answer to the question of whether quantum time crystals might exist,” Bruno told Phys.org. “For the time being, what I can say is that my paper shows the impossibility of time crystals for all realistic models or mechanisms that have been proposed so far. So, until further developments occur, I consider the topic as closed. “I cannot exclude that someone will come up with an alternative proposal, outside the scope of my no-go theorem,” he added. “However, considerations based upon the energy conservation objection suggest that time-crystal behavior, i.e., the nonstationary ground state, is generally impossible. 36. birdboy2000 says: Time crystals offer a great explanation of how the computer continues to work in Asimov’s The Last Question. • FacelessCraven says: Time Crystals are a strategy for BETA CUCKOLD ORBITERS. I’m holding out for BRUTE STRENGTH. • Sylocat says: The thing that struck me is that pretty much ANY of those colored pills could negate entropy just as well as the brute strength one. • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says: Blue and Green, sure. Grey too, probably. I don’t see how pink and orange can, and whatever way black and yellow can doesn’t seem to be large enough to be relevant. 37. Jordan D. says: Re: The Popehat story Ken does good work, and that’s a good story about a very important subject. I’m just not sure that the important subject is internet speech laws per se. I mean, as far as I can tell, the gag order and subpeona are already somewhat beyond the scope of the law- or at least the law as you or I would interpert it. Even if we never see restrictive SOPA-style regulation of internet speech, these sorts of scary investigations are a consequence of very basic bans on traditional threats. Not many people are in favor of legalizing all threatening speech, which means that the best we can hope to do is minimize abuse through a review or responsibility-assigning process. …but it seems to me that this is the same sort of thing which has happened in non-virtual history pretty regularly. In fact, it seems like exactly the sort of situation which came up in Watts v. United States in 1969. I might be misunderstanding you. If you mean (as Ken touches upon briefly here) that these kinds of traditional threat laws have problems dealing with the incredible hyperbole common to online comments because of a failure to contextualize well, I’d agree with that. If you mean that it shows that proposed laws targeting internet comments are dangerous, I’d agree that they are, but not that this case demonstrates it very much. In any event, great links post. We need more trucks being flung off things! • CJB says: Yeah- I was all “MY. GOD.” until I read the post and was like….yeah, that’s issuing threats against a federal judge. I’m all for less restricted speech, but the “threats” law seems pretty good and well implemented. • Deiseach says: I would say that this was government over-reaction, but unfortunately it is in America, where some people really do make crazy-sounding, aw c’mon they can’t be serious, threats online and then really do go out and shoot people, make bombs, send anthrax through the post…. goodness’ sake, in the Big Shouty Gun Control comment thread, someone said that yeah, America is a violent society and always has been and that’s why Americans like guns, have guns, and should be permitted to have guns to defend themselves from the other people who have guns. We’ve just seen an idiot kid shoot nine people dead in a church. Anyone who saw the stuff he posted online would have said as well “This is just silly posturing”. But he went out and did it. So yes, it may sound very over-the-top, but it’s an unfortunate fact that there’s a real (if tiny) chance someone might think that a judge needs to be shot pour encourager les autres and won’t content themselves with shooting off their mouth online. Besides which, are we really supposed to just shrug and accept the coarsening of discourse where, when disagreeing with a court judgement, it’s perfectly acceptable to refer to the judge as a “cunt” and talk about feeding her into a woodchipper feet-first? I don’t think the keyboard warriors really mean to do anything of that sort. I do think my mother would have slapped the faces off them for using that kind of language about anyone. • FacelessCraven says: @DeiSeach – “Besides which, are we really supposed to just shrug and accept the coarsening of discourse…” …What’s the alternative? I would sacrifice a chicken in your honor if it resulted in even the worst 1% of offenders encountering the back of your hand, much less all the gentlemen who have expressed malicious carnal intentions on my bum or that of my mother. Unfortunately your hand would be worn to a stump before you made it through even a fraction of the queue. The scale is the problem. I mean, we know “talk is cheap”, but hamburgers are cheap. Coca-cola is cheap. We’re talking about something that requires wiggling your fingers for ten seconds in exchange for a considerable brain-tingle reward. When you’re looking at tens or even hundreds of millions of mean things said to every actual act carried out, I’m not sure you even have a correlation any more. Westboro Baptist Church might possibly be a good control group here, as they’re a group that pretty much everyone agrees deserve a good punch in the nose, and I think they’ve even received a few. [EDIT] – …And also, it occurs to me that this vast explosion of meanness is actually probably a relatively recent development, since most of it requires the relative anonymity and mass audience of the internet. And despite this, violence has still been trending downward for the entirety of the internet’s existence. I’m actually pretty opposed to the idea of catharsis; my prior is that thinking and talking about something repeatedly encourages you to think or talk about it more in the future, and maybe even act on it. I’ve got to admit that this seems like contrary evidence to that position, though. Maybe the coarsening of discourse lets people vent their aggression in the safest way imaginable, and they are less likely to engage in real-world violence as a result? • Nornagest says: I would say that this was government over-reaction, but unfortunately it is in America… Not this again. • FacelessCraven says: Yeah, I kinda feel like maybe someone should elaborate on some of the more likely factors for WHY america is more violent. The “Americans are uniformly barbarians” meme grows… off-putting. • CJB says: Heh. Funny story- gun stats are the first thing that turned me into a fairly right wing conservative (Grey tribe, but a very red grey) from slightly left of Bernie Sanders (or more precisely, what I think he believes but doesn’t say). I was pro-gun control but I liked shooting and hunting once in a while, and I liked cool old guns. So I looked up some gun blogs, saw some stats, said nu-uh! and… Well, honestly, a lot of stats were nu-uh. But some were yah-huh. Basically, to get the “AMERICAN GUNS MURDER MORE PEOPLE THAN HITLER” memes going, you have to present the data carefully. First, you have to include suicides. Which is as may be, and I’ve seen the same studies on “guns correlate to suicide” as you have- but we have the same suicide rate as the UK. We have a pretty LOW suicide rate for developed nations. Undeveloped nations? No suicide rate to speak of (Seriously- look at the world stats on suicide. They’re quite interesting.) (also pointing out that lots of people **PLAN** suicide and thus might, you know. Buy a gun.) Also, you have to correlate “illegal” and “legal” guns because the crime rate among legal gun owners…well, I’ve never gotten good data on ALL gun owners. Concealed Carry Permit holders have a fantastically low rate of revocation, and only a fraction of that fraction are for violent or weapons offense. You’re much safer around a CCP holder than a cop. Nothing really indicates that legal guns correlate with crime. Astonishingly enough, they correlate with gun accidents, in much the same way owning a pool probably correlates to accidental drownings. And it involves a lot of decontexualized numbers. There are TWO HUNDRED PEOPLE A YEAR killing in mass shootings. Over FIFTY CHILDREN DIED of gunshot wounds…..and then you have to eliminate the ones shot in drivebys. If the question you’re ultimate asking is “how likely am I to be shot by someone who isn’t already a criminal on multiple other offenses carrying an illegal weapon” the answer is “not very at all.” I don’t have more than a 30% confidence in this as true, but I’ve suspected the international media drives the “Crazy redneck US” lines to use to drive their own population leftward: “We need more security cameras everywhere!” “But I heard someone say that those who exchange their liberty to gain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety” “Oh ho! Someone’s been listening to the AMERICANS!” *general titter* “but seriously folks, unless we want to get gunned down in malls like the Americans- more cameras! And no knives with points!” • Nornagest says: Undeveloped nations? No suicide rate to speak of Not trying to challenge the bulk of your post, but you gotta be careful about saying stuff like this. A lot of public health data for developing nations is really deficient, and a lot more of it is massaged up or down for murky international politics reasons that you and I generally aren’t privy to. You can kinda trust numbers on stuff like malaria deaths, where there are NGOs specifically working to get an accurate view on the problem. (The World Bank is a good aggregator of this kind of data, though it’s got its own slant.) Stuff like suicide? Not so much. • FacelessCraven says: @CJB – Yeah, we went through that with a buncha people last thread. Showed em the stats and everything. Linking actual data seemed to be a good way to kill a thread stone dead. It doesn’t seem that anyone actually looked at them, just sidled off when the cognitive dissonance kicked in. The general response seems to be that we were loud/rude/overbearing for not letting the usual canards pass without comment. Probably not worth pushing it. • CJB says: But but but…..muh stats. Still, thanks for the tip. I’ll avoid it unless it turns into a thing again. @Nornagest – excellent point! Thanks for pointing that out. (I’d also note that the trend held true for “Shitty places I’d still expect to have decent record keeping”- Jamaica for example….although that’s more complicated than you’d expect as well. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Jamaica-s-low-suicide-rate-no-reason-to-celebrate–warns-counsellor_17513871 • suntzuanime says: That article is short on relevant information and long on non-sequiturs that try to create a feeling that suicide is a big problem without actually advancing an argument. It’s sort of understandable coming from a suicide counselor in a low-suicide nation, he’s trying to justify his existence, but I’m not sure why you thought it was worth linking. • Heh. Funny story­ gun stats are the first thing that turned me into a fairly right wing conservative Funny thing: I had the opposite experience with homicide stats. But I’d rather not get into a long wrangle over some very minor points of disagreement. • Eugene Dawn says: @FacelessCraven As someone who without having given the matter much deep thought is in favour of gun control, I thought you had a number of unanswered good points, and made me much more skeptical of my previous unexamined position; I would at least make a much more serious effort to engage with the anti-gun control side before stating an opinion in the future. “Concession is weakness” applies even in SSC comment threads (though hopefully less so than elsewhere), so judging success by the reaction of the participants in a thread can be misleading. I find my mind is much more likely changed by exchanges that I only observe, rather than participate in. • Jeremy says: @CJB: I’m not sure what stats you’re looking at about mass shootings rarely using legal weapons. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/12/14/nine-facts-about-guns-and-mass-shootings-in-the-united-states That’s really a side-point (I was just curious about the stats you mentioned, so I googled), but I do think you didn’t address the obvious question of whether legal gun ownership correlates with illegal gun ownership. I don’t know the answer. I suppose based on your professed stances you think that there is little to no effect. Can you offer evidence? • FC “Yeah, we went through that with a buncha people last thread. Showed em the stats and everything. Linking actual data seemed to be a good way to kill a thread stone dead. ” My memory is that you announced a precomitment to ignore statistics that don’t suit you on the basis of a theory about cultural differences. That sort of thing will kill a thread. • FacelessCraven says: @TheAncientGeek – “My memory is that you announced a precomitment to ignore statistics that don’t suit you on the basis of a theory about cultural differences. That sort of thing will kill a thread.” If that is the interpretation you were left with after our numerous exchanges, it is certainly your right to retain it. In any case, our conversation remains available for all to view. If you feel my comments were unreasonable enough to cite to your advantage, I invite you to plunder them verbatim. I do however note that your paraphrases often do not sound much like what I remember writing. I do not think that sort of reinterpretation is likely to lead to mutual respect and understanding. You also don’t seem keen on answering questions. I still don’t know your stance on knife prohibition, for instance. • FacelessCraven says: @Jeremy – “I’m not sure what stats you’re looking at about mass shootings rarely using legal weapons.” A “Mass Murder” is defined by the FBI as one where there are more than four victims in a single event. Spree killings I think are similar, but in different locations. Thr problem is that there are two distinct patterns that fit this criteria: crazy people shooting random strangers in public, and career criminals killing rival career criminals and whatever bystanders get caught in the crossfire. The crazy people are very rare, usually have no significant prior criminal history, and usually use legally purchased guns. Murder committed by career criminals is the overwhelming majority of murders committed, and they overwhelmingly use illegally purchased guns. The mother Jones article screened out career-criminal murders to focus on the crazy people, which is why their stats show the majority being legally owned weapons. This makes sense if the modern Amok incidents are what you’re worried about. On the other hand, they are a vanishingly small minority of actual murders, and it is arguable that our best strategy might be to ignore them and stop giving crazy people encouragement to aggrandize themselves via random murder. “but I do think you didn’t address the obvious question of whether legal gun ownership correlates with illegal gun ownership.” Uh, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t. If you can legally purchase guns, why acquire them illegally? If you can’t legally purchase guns, all your firearm acquisitions are by definition illegal. Maybe I’m misunderstanding the question? http://www.guncite.com/journals/gun_control_katesreal.html …Specifically the Massacres and Law Abiding Gun Owner As Domestic and Aquaintance Murderer sections and their citations might be of assistance for a more in-depth look at the statistics. • Deiseach says: Unfortunately, yes, this again. When our native born scumbag criminals started shooting each other in the streets and carrying out “gangland hits”, the first thing most people said was “My God, it’s getting like America here!” • FacelessCraven says: @Deiseach – “Unfortunately, yes, this again. When our native born scumbag criminals started shooting each other in the streets and carrying out “gangland hits”, the first thing most people said was “My God, it’s getting like America here!”” …Well, at least in this case they’re referring to the violent crime problem that actually does exist. If everyone’s going to assume we’re kill-crazy maniacs over here, though, I say we run with it. Hockey masks and football pads with spikes sticking out. cars accessorized with decorative flamethrowers. Elaborate titles declaring our stature as warlords and delineating the extent of our rule. I could handle being the Ayatollah of Rock n’ Rolla. • CJB says: If I inadvertantly claimed that mass shootings are done with illegal weapons, I withdraw it. They’re about the only crime that IS routinely performed with legal weapons. I read through the thread. It was about half people quoting stats back and forth and about half people going “Well, I know very little about the US, guns, gun laws, violence statistics there, or the available literature on violence in America- but I see a lot of it on TV.” “but I do think you didn’t address the obvious question of whether legal gun ownership correlates with illegal gun ownership” I’d be very surprised if there wasn’t. I expect there to be a correlation between the amount of legal drugs and illegal drugs- that doesn’t mean we should forbid law abiding people to get Oxy. Here’s my new gun rights argument: The CDC points out that 2 children a day die of drowning. Dying in swimming pools is the second most common cause of death in children 1-4. Drowning has a disproportionate racial effect. Overall, 3,500 people die of drowning every year, thousands of them in pools. By what right, sir, by what RIGHT do you claim the ownership of a swimming pool? There’s no constitutional right to swimming, no SCOTUS ruling permitting pools. Oh sure, the vast majority of pools will never be involved with a drowning- but the hideous toll on our children cannot be ignored. Being a smart person, I’m presuming you see the obvious flaw with that argument- we don’t restrict reasonable adults activities and ownership of things, even dangerous things, based on the risks they pose to children. Instead, there’s an expectation that the world has unpadded edges. We dont’ deal with sharp edges by padding them all- you deal with it by teaching children to be careful around sharp edges so when they’re old enough they understand the risks well enough to use pools and guns and cars and prescription medication and bathrooms and any of the other thousands of things that cause lots of death every year. Pretending that guns are a carved out exculusion to this understanding requires explaining why we should ban (Things that are involved with thousands of deaths A) and not (Things that are involved with thousands of deaths B) Hippos! 3,000 people die of hippo attacks every year. Is the value of having “Large african mammal” WORTH 3,000 lives? That’s a 9/11 EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR. Explain to me how the oppourtunity cost of “having hippos” being “3,000 dead human beings a year” is in any way functionally different from the oppourtunity costs of “guns” being “thousands of dead people a year”….. And that’s ignoring that no one deserves hippo death, while many of those shootings were plenty justified. • Careless says: Oh, I’m sure at least a few of the people killed by hippos were asking for it • Nornagest says: When our native born scumbag criminals started shooting each other in the streets and carrying out “gangland hits”, the first thing most people said was “My God, it’s getting like America here!” Most people like responding to scope insensitivity, fictional evidence, and a basic need for an Other to aggrandize themselves against. Most people, in other words, don’t know what they’re talking about. I hope for better from these comments. If you think for some reason that SSC needs to hear what the Irish man on the street believes about the violent proclivities of the American public, please think again; I hear more than enough of that shit on Reddit. • Psmith says: ” 3,000 people die of hippo attacks every year” But think of the bounty of hippo meat we get in exchange! • Alraune says: Just keep the hippos in public swimming pools surrounded by people with guns. It’ll work out. • John Schilling says: Deiseach, in her ignorance, believes the United States has too many guns. Therefore, it is appropriate that every American who ever says “go to hell” be the target of a federal investigation, just to be safe. Because, yes, some of the “threats” being investigated are variations on “go to hell”, which no reasonable person would interpret as manifesting a real intent to cause harm or fear. And when Reason’s lawyers proposed complying with the subpoena w/re the (remotely) plausibly threatening comments but stripping away the merely angry rhetoric, the Feds responded with “No, we need to go after all of these people”. And, Deiseach, the bit about how America is some hyper-violent dystopia where any insult can presage a bloody massacre, is not true, not kind, and not necessary. Knock it off already. • CJB says: Funny thing: I had the opposite experience with homicide stats.” I’d be genuinely interested to hear that story, if you feel like telling it. @suntzuanime: Yeah, I dropped the explanatory section while copy/pasting a comment. Essentially the point I wanted to make was one he raised- that a lot of people “commit suicide” though dangerous behavior, that even in a fairly well organized society like Jamaica, they still have problems with underreporting. @FacelessCraven: thanks for point me to that- great discussion. I left a comment on the ammo control idea, if anyone’s interested. • I’d be genuinely interested to hear that story, if you feel like telling it. People who are positive they have all the answers tend to be extraordinarily intolerant of people who express even slight disagreement. Remember what happened to Scott Aaronson when he said he was 97% on board with feminism? Now, look. I’ve read all your recent posts. You’re a great guy, you’re articulate and knowledgeable. I value and take seriously all that you have to say. I look forward to meeting you in person some day. But when it comes to guns, I tend to doubt you’re willing to entertain the possibility that someone else may have even a tiny contrary point about anything. • FacelessCraven says: @CJB – “I’d be genuinely interested to hear that story, if you feel like telling it.” I actually started writing a reply saying the same thing, figured it would be taken as a thinly-veiled attempt to start the argument back up, couldn’t think of a way to say it that didn’t sound like that, and deleted it. @Larry Kestenbaum – “But when it comes to guns, I tend to doubt you’re willing to entertain the possibility that someone else may have even a tiny contrary point about anything.” I can’t help feeling that’s a fairly accurate assessment of my own behavior, at least. I can’t really speak for anyone else, but I know I’d be happy to forgo replies/rebuttals entirely to hear your take, and the OT is pretty well empty by this point. For what it’s worth, you mentioned in one of these threads that you’re trying to be an example of a reasonable liberal to the conservatives around here. I think you’re doing a damn good job of it. • Deiseach says: John, in any other country in the world, I would say “they’re just being idiots”. In America, we see that even if they are only a tiny minority, there are still sufficient angry extremists out there who will, after ranting on the Internet, pick up a gun and go shooting, or make their own bombs, or try and poison people by sending suspect packets through the post. It’s not necessarily that you have too many guns. It’s that you have too many crazy people who apparently have easy access to guns. • For what it’s worth, you mentioned in one of these threads that you’re trying to be an example of a reasonable liberal to the conservatives around here. I think you’re doing a damn good job of it. Thank you for that. It means a lot, seriously. FWIW, I don’t see myself as “trying” to be reasonable, rather, I like to think I am reasonable. • FacelessCraven says: @Deiseach – I guess what I’d try to point out is that I don’t think we have much more of a crazy people problem than you do. We don’t get our murder rate from crazy people, we get it from the massive number of violent criminals emerging from the massive permanent underclass created by the collision of slavery, racism, two horrifying attempts at prohibition, and terminally awful social policies. People saying mean things on the internet has no connection to either in any case. • CJB says: @Larry- “But when it comes to guns, I tend to doubt you’re willing to entertain the possibility that someone else may have even a tiny contrary point about anything.” I suppose I can see what you’re getting at here. If your rationale is “will CJB be converted” the answer is “probably not”….although I would’ve said the same thing before I started playing with stats about guns. If you’re worried about a flame war- I precommit to both not replying with anything more than a “thanks!” nor of allowing your opinion to influence my opinion of you. I’m sucessfully not allowing Deiseach’s comments to influence my high opinion of her, and I react far more strongly to perceived anti-americanism than perceived anti-gunism. @Deiseach You’re a smart woman, so you’ll see the point here. I went to Northern Ireland one time- had some friends in Neury and stayed with them a few days. And the younger brother of my friend was maybe 16 at the time? And this was in 2009, so the Good Friday Accords were, at best, out of his memory if not lifetime. And these were not political people, even by US standards, let alone Norn’ Irn ones. And so we’re sitting around BSing, and the younger brother starts going on about the ‘RA, which, being at the time young, stupid and a Plastic Paddy Republican, I thought was the coolest shit ever- a REAL northern Irishman talking about the glorious struggle! Looking back now, I realize that he was doing nothing more than glorifying murder. Hell, at the time, I had FRIENDS in the British army, and so did the brother I was staying with- several of the people we lived with at college were Scots going into or in the army already. So my point here is first, anecdotal, and second is – motes and beams, man. Motes and beams. • CJB says: I am also, based on FCs comment above, not going to make any more posts on guns in this thread- I put up one in the other thread for those that really want to argue with me about it, but he and Larry have good points about not starting up another flame war. I would, however, be interested to read any comments pointing out why my “pools dont’ kill people, drowning kills people” argument is weak, although I won’t respond. • DrBeat says: In America, we see that even if they are only a tiny minority, there are still sufficient angry extremists out there who will, after ranting on the Internet, pick up a gun and go shooting, or make their own bombs, or try and poison people by sending suspect packets through the post. That is like saying that violent TV is okay in your country, but since our country has some people who watch violent TV and then go kill people, America must ban violent TV. Or that brushing your teeth is okay in your country, but since our country has some people who brush their teeth and then go kill people, we shouldn’t brush our teeth here. If a behavior is engaged in by a very large portion of the population, the fact that one country’s crazy people engage in that behavior as well isn’t significant to an attempt to stop them from doing crazy things. People rant on the Internet. Killers are people. Therefore killers rant on the Internet. • If your rationale is “will CJB be converted” the answer is “probably not”…. That’s not at all what I was talking about. If I could sit for an hour and talk Mitt Romney out of being a Republican, I’d worry about his mental stability. If you suddenly decided that the Second Amendment wasn’t all that important, I’d worry about yours. What I mean is, could you ever admit the possibility that your model of the world is only 95% right, instead of one hundred point zero percent right? Do you do nuance? I precommit to both not replying with anything more than a “thanks!” That is NOT what I want. If I’m wrong, or there is some problem with my facts, I want to know about it. Obviously I don’t want a flame war either. What would please me the most is constructive and mutually respectful engagement on details. You’re a big picture guy; I’m a detail guy. I’m much more interested in getting things to work on the ground than in any kind of consistent overarching philosophy. And damn right, swimming pools kill people. Freakonomics (love that book) has a chapter on how swimming pools are a lot more dangerous than guns. • Careless says: some of the “threats” being investigated are variations on “go to hell”, which no reasonable person would interpret as manifesting a real intent to cause harm or fear. Not even “go to hell,” which is effectively saying “die and go to hell” (to the point where it can be/is translated as “die”), but “I hope there’s a place in hell,” which is saying that he hopes that, after the judge dies, there exists a specific type of afterlife for him @Larry: when I read your initial statement, I was simply confused by it. I just don’t see the connection between homicide stats and turning left-wing. I’m not saying “defend yourself,” just wondering how that happened • CJB says: @Larry- ok. Let me contextualize my response- I was thinking you were saying something more like “Hey, you’re a cool dood but if I challenge your taboos I don’t know if you’ll freak.” Hence precommitting not to freak. I generally operate on the silver rule in internet comments-and this is the least flamey place I’ve ever been. I am, as I pointed out, not super great at the….clinical sounds negative, but i think it’s a good word for the tone here. But I’m also pretty funny, so you know. Tradeoffs. So, circling back to the original point- yes, I’m able to engage with details, and recognize nuance. For example, two things gun nuts aren’t good at engaging with: Illegal guns are, far and away, stolen, legal guns. This is typically caused by people who don’t properly secure, store, or carry their weapons. There have also been cases with CCP holders getting weapons stolen out of cars when they entered a gun free area. If we want to reduce illegal guns- and we do- then we need to work on Joe Gunowner having a better system for control of their weapon. We could also really use a better background check system- the problem is implementation without either side sabotaging it for political reasons. Background checks are good, useful ideas that reduce guns in criminal hands, but need better handling. So if you’re up for it, I’d like to hear about the homicide stats and your nuanced ideas. I do tend to get….deontological about my overarching philosophies, admittedly. @careless et al. Playing devils advocate here- First, some of those threats were actual threats that can, reasonably, within my libertarianish principles, be investigated. Second, from an FBI/Enforcement perspective…. Well, to use an extreme example- if one member of a mosque blows someone up, for damn sure the rest are getting looked at. In this case, several people committed a federal crime (lightly prosecuted, admittedly). That they’re looking at everyone who posted there, seemingly in concurrence with the threats? That doesn’t seem….entirely unreasonable for a police investigation. • John Schilling says: Illegal guns are, far and away, stolen, legal guns. I thought straw purchases edged out stolen guns, but I could be mistaken. In any event, that’s for the contemporary United States. In other countries, illegal guns are police or military guns sold by corrupt officials (e.g. Mexico), or Cold War leftovers thanks to the Great Warsaw Pact Going-Out-Of-Business Sale (e.g. much of Europe), or legacy guns from a time when such were still legal (e.g. modern UK), or manufactured in black-market machine shops (e.g. Brazil, Pakistan), or smuggled from elsewhere (in which case we redo this whole analysis at the point of origin). The United States is going to be stuck with a legacy stockpile of tens of millions of guns and billions of rounds of ammunition, even if we implement absolute prohibition and confiscation tomorrow. But, more generally, black markets work. The last time I checked, the price of a generic black-market handgun in the United States was about$200. Which was also the price in the no-private-handguns-for-anyone United Kingdom, and most of the rest of the world. If the demand exists, it will be met. If there is a local source of supply, it will be tapped out of convenience, but if not, smuggling always works.

There is probably nothing you can do to the legal supply of firearms in the United States, that will be more than a small and temporary inconvenience to criminals. If it is more than a small and temporary inconvenience to law-abiding gun owners, we are going to be very suspicious of your motives.

• Nornagest says:

The last time I checked, the price of a generic black-market handgun in the United States was about $200. I haven’t ever needed to look up handgun prices on the black market, so I could easily be wrong, but I was given to understand that guns are one of the few items that’s more valuable on the black than the open market? That doesn’t quite jibe with the$200 figure for me.

I mean, you can get a handgun for $200, but it’s going to be an exceedingly cheap one. Generic used semiautomatics, last I checked, were going for around double that. • John Schilling says: Well, yes – the black market deals mostly in cheap, crappy handguns, because most criminals only need to threaten to shoot people. But even if you’re looking for something specific and/or fancy (and by black-market standards a stock Glock would count as “fancy”), there’s still no requirement that it sell for more than the legal, retail price. Aside from straw purchases, none of the usual sources require the black-market supplier to pay retail in the first place. Also, back when ex-WP Makarovs were being legally imported to the United States, the retail price was IIRC in the$120-$150 range. That implies millions of reasonably potent and reliable military handguns being offered for two-digit wholesale prices, by sellers who probably didn’t ask too many questions. Until that supply is exhausted, it puts a cap on what the black market can charge for generic handguns –$100 plus smuggler’s markup,
more or less.

Thanks to the War on Drugs, we’ve got lots of competing smugglers with efficient, proven supply and distribution chains.

• FJ says:

@John Schilling: I’ve never quite understood the notion that we can’t confiscate all (or something close to all) guns if we really wanted. Yes, millions of law-abiding Americans currently possess guns, and seizing them would in many cases require invasive home searches.

But so what? Suspicionless searches of millions of Americans’ homes would be expensive, but expensive is not the same as impossible. And remember that gun confiscation already assumes we are going to repeal, redefine, or ignore the Second Amendment. I’m not sure why we couldn’t equally well repeal, redefine, or ignore the Fourth Amendment at the same time. Heck, the Fourth Amendment is a much easier task: while the Second Amendment says that the right to bear arms “shall not be infringed,” the Fourth Amendment merely forbids “unreasonable” searches and seizures. It would be odd for someone who was pro-gun confiscation to say that the necessary steps for gun confiscation are unreasonable.

(I know that anti-gun people are almost universally in favor of a very strong Fourth Amendment. I just don’t know why.)

• FacelessCraven says:

@FJ – “I’ve never quite understood the notion that we can’t confiscate all (or something close to all) guns if we really wanted.”

This is the part where people usually start talking about prying guns from cold dead hands, La Resistance, etc etc, but really that’s unnecessary. Canada passed a mandatory gun registration law a few years ago. Canadian gun owners saw this for the prelude to confiscation that it likely was, and simply refused to comply with the law as a unified group. The law was repealed within months. No voting from the rooftops necessary. No one went to jail even.

A few more examples:

http://www.guncite.com/journals/gun_control_katesreal.html
“Some anti-gun crusaders have their own, predictably onerous proposal for avoiding the need for any accommodation. Their plan is for Congress to ban handguns and command their confiscation by a law imposing a mandatory minimum prison sentence of a year on every violator. Much the same proposal was made to the New York State Legislature in 1980. It was tabled when the Prison Commissioner testified that the state prison system would collapse if just 1 percent of the illegal handgun owners in New York City (where ordinary citizens cannot get a permit) were caught, tried, and imprisoned.
Likewise, the federal prison system would collapse if it tried to house even a hundredth of one percent of the tens of millions who would not obey a federal handgun ban. Fortunately, violators would not get to prison because the federal court system would collapse under the burden of trying them.”

“…The problems of terminal systemic overload equally doom the anti-gun program. As noted earlier, the most specific proposal for banning and confiscating all guns (or even just handguns) also depends on mandatory sentencing: a mandatory 1-year term for anyone found with a gun, whether good citizen or felon. Forget about felons, either for gun crimes or crimes of any kind. To seriously enforce this law against the often-fanatic owners of 70 million handguns would far exceed the combined capacity of all courts in the United States, even if they stopped processing all other criminal and civil cases to try only gun cases.
Less extreme anti-gun proposals are only less unrealistic. Consider the anti-gun claim that a waiting period, during which criminal records were checked, would have prevented John Hinckley from buying the gun with which he shot President Reagan, and would have prevented Patrick Purdy from buying the gun with which he massacred the children in Stockton. Regrettably, that claim is simply false–though it ought to be true!
During the 1980 campaign, Hinckley, who was then stalking President Carter, was caught committing the state felony of carrying a concealed handgun and the federal one of trying to take it on an airliner. Neither charge was pressed “in the interest of justice” (i.e., the interest of prosecutors in focusing on their current overload of serious violent crime cases rather than on people who have not-yet-committed such a crime). The promise of gun laws is epitomized by the fact that, if he had been convicted and sentenced under those laws, Hinckley would not have been at liberty to shoot Reagan a year later. The frustration of that promise by systemic overload is epitomized by the fact that, even if a law existed to require a waiting period or a felony conviction check, it would not have prevented Hinckley from buying his new gun. He had no felony conviction record to be checked! The same is true of Purdy: he had been arrested for a succession of felonies over several years, but all had been plea bargained down to misdemeanors.”

• @Larry: when I read your initial statement, I was simply confused by it. I just don’t see the connection between homicide stats and turning left-wing. I’m not saying “defend yourself,” just wondering how that appened

I guess I should admit that our situations are not precisely symmetric. I’ve always been somewhat left of center, and the stats I mentioned didn’t change that.

What I found, some thirty years ago, was a seeming statistical anomaly that forced me to rethink my views on certain things. I’ll expand on that some time.

My life project has been to strive for a better understanding of the world, or at least the parts of it that interest me most. Data is (or can be) news from the real world.

Let me contextualize my response- I was thinking you were saying something more like “Hey, you’re a cool dood but if I challenge your taboos I don’t know if you’ll freak.”

Hence precommitting not to freak.

Yes, I got that, and appreciate it. I just really didn’t want you to walk away without responding at all.

So, circling back to the original point- yes, I’m able to engage with details, and recognize nuance.

Noted, and very much appreciated.

• FJ says:

@FacelessCraven: thanks for the thoughtful response, but I’m not sure it’s as fatal as you believe it to be. Sure, we couldn’t incarcerate even a tiny fraction of the 70 million gun owners in the U.S. But that wouldn’t be necessary: the goal is to confiscate guns, not incarcerate recalcitrant gun owners.

In 2011, the NYPD conducted 685,724 frisks. There were about 3.4 million housing units in New York City in 2011. So if the NYPD could search an apartment in the same amount of time it takes them to conduct a Terry frisk, they could search every apartment in the five boroughs in about five years without increasing staffing above 2011 levels.

Now, presumably a home search takes more man-hours than a Terry stop. But presumably New York police officers didn’t spend their whole shifts constantly frisking, either. And if you’re willing to increase staffing for a few years to end the scourge of gun violence, it’s entirely plausible that you could search the majority of Americans’ homes in less than a decade. It would be a big job and you’d never be entirely finished, but you could make a very serious dent in the gun supply without straining the prisons or the courts.

• CJB says:

FJ- if you don’t mind me getting personal….where do you live?

Because that’s…..not the sort of thing someone who is familiar with the American political landscape would say.
One example:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bundy_standoff

Now, you can think what you like about Cliven Bundy (no relation). I’m fond of the man for reasons I frankly don’t care to get into right now.

But here is ultimately what went down:

Court ordered him to move cattle.
He said no.
Shit happens.
Bundy puts out the word.
Days later, heavily armed people from all over the country show up, force a number of federal agencies to back down. To my knowledge, he is still grazing his cattle in the same spot.

You can go for hours over the details, but the simple fact is- this nobody rancher in Arizona summoned hundreds of people hundreds of miles- over cattle grazing rights. Which are a Big Deal in the west, but even so.

Now, consider what happens when the first cop shows up to confiscate the first gun. As in, an actual constitutional right that even non-gun people are pretty willing to defend.

And when you ask “Were they bluffing?”

There’s a very famous picture of a man looking down a rifle at the cops from a sniper perch. People who know what they’re doing (and these were people who know what they’re doing) will never, ever, ever point a gun at something they don’t want destroyed for pretty much the same reason you don’t shit in the office coffee pot.

From a time-management perspective, sure. But that requires that gun owners A. have no access to search warrant law, and B. the armed people way into self defense won’t defend themselves.

The only way to get wide scale disarmament is for everyone to want it at once.

Right now, lets say we got 99.7% of the vote, but that .3% is royally pissed?

That’s over a million armed and really pissed off people. That’s a lot of fucking people. And now no one else has guns.

• FacelessCraven says:

@FJ – ” thanks for the thoughtful response, but I’m not sure it’s as fatal as you believe it to be. Sure, we couldn’t incarcerate even a tiny fraction of the 70 million gun owners in the U.S. But that wouldn’t be necessary: the goal is to confiscate guns, not incarcerate recalcitrant gun owners.”

…Huh. Gotta admit, I didn’t see that coming. Like, you’re saying that there’s no actual attempt to engage the gun owners beyond what’s needed to secure them while you search? Let’s ignore the question of time and cost, and say we have can afford to do this sort of search. Heck, let’s not even make it guns, just anything prohibited. You’re saying we abandon the Fourth Amendment in exchange for zeroing out all legal consequences for being caught with contraband, right?

…At first blush, I would think that losing the threat of law would mean MASSIVE indirect resistance. You’re turning prohibition into a game; the advantages of breaking the law are still there, but the downsides are almost completely removed. Like, this seems like a strictly less effective version of prohibition.

The more I think about it, the more it seems like it actually might be MORE effective, because it removes all the dead weight that makes regular prohibition ineffective. It removes a lot of the hazard from disobedience, but it also a great deal of the cost from the enforcers.

Fascinating!

• FJ says:

@CJB: I live back East, where Clive Bundy-style resistance is met with aerial bombardment. Not that I’m endorsing that!

@FacelessCraven: Precisely right! Glad I could tickle your fancy. I think The Great Contraband Roundup would work best if there were no criminal penalties on possessing contraband, or at most a bearable fine on par with a traffic ticket. Fines make the system self-financing, but they incentivize greater resistance, so I don’t know if they are worth it in this case.

• John Schilling says:

[Proposal to ban guns, search every house in America to confiscate same]

It would be a big job and you’d never be entirely finished, but you could make a very serious dent in the gun supply without straining the prisons or the courts.

How does this not strain the prisons or the courts? What is it you are expecting the police to do, when they find an illegal gun in the possession of a now-criminal gun owner, that doesn’t involve prisons and courts?

For that matter, given that the fourth amendment is A Thing, one that blue tribe values quite highly and red tribe certainly will by the time you get anywhere near this proposal, how do you even conduct these searches without a separate judicial action for each and every one?

If you are imagining that the prospect of having the police certainly search their house will cause every single one of America’s gun owners to quietly turn in all of their guns in advance, without a fuss, then you really, really, don’t understand the United States of America at all. And if even one percent of America’s gun owners pick any of the alternative strategies to “turn in all the guns without a fuss”, then the whole thing collapses into a bigger fiasco than Prohibition ever was, with vastly more guns in the hands of criminals.

American policemen know this, American politicians mostly know this, and so most every gun control law that has or ever will be passed in the United States includes a grandfather clause saying that anyone who already has a gun (and doesn’t commit any other crimes) can keep it.

• Glen Raphael says:

@FJ: given the scenario described, wouldn’t the populace just get a lot better at HIDING their guns? Even WITHOUT assuming any behavior changes it would take at least a hundred times longer to competently and non-destructively search my apartment than it would to search my person – I don’t have THAT many pockets when I’m walking around town. But once I know the government is doing a house-to-house search for guns I’d be inclined to keep a spare hidden somewhere that’s not IN my apartment so the search wouldn’t find it.

(Though on the plus side, such a program would do wonders for the nation’s collective skills at gardening and carpentry if we all have to start keeping our guns under well-tended potted plants and behind well-constructed false windowsills rather than in a traditional gun safe or on a traditional gun rack…)

• keranih says:

@CJB

Illegal guns are, far and away, stolen, legal guns. This is typically caused by people who don’t properly secure, store, or carry their weapons. [snip] If we want to reduce illegal guns- and we do- then we need to work on Joe Gunowner having a better system for control of their weapon.

(Please take this in the most polite, non-aggressive way possible – I am smiling, partner, when I say this.)

I find this highly problematic in two ways – one, because I am a homeowner who had her firearms locked away in a cabinet. Thieves – criminals – broke into my home, stole stuff, and picked up and walked out with the locked cabinet. I am not really sure what else one would have wanted me to do.

Secondly – “well, were your guns locked up?” sounds, to my ear, very much like asking a rape victim, “well, what were you wearing?” THEY BROKE INTO MY HOUSE. THEY TOOK MY STUFF. WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU MAKING THIS OUT TO BE MY FAULT????

*ahem* A highly non-rational response, I give you that. Also a response that could easily have been predicted.

A third, and likely more significant point – while firearms thefts are accounted as felonies in most areas, if no one was hurt, the cops don’t have space to chase it. The assumption is that the weapon went into someone’s trunk and is on the way to a major (gun-free) city for cash sale. It might show up a year from now, or ten years, or thirty, or not at all. And there is nothing any registration in the world is going to do about that.

A final point as I ramble on – firearms are things. Are property. The same technology (fingerprints, interviews, etc) that looks for other stolen stuff looks for stolen firearms. How badly do we want to find stolen stuff? To what lengths will we go?

And I lied – one more point. Anyone who thinks that the owners of firearms in the USA will stand by peacefully while their homes, barns, sheds, and crawlspaces are searched for firearms needs to get out more. Their social circle is much too small.

• Hold it, hold it, this is all my fault. Time out.

A few miles upthread, there was cheerful consensus that we had talked out the gun issue for the time being, and didn’t need to belabor it any more.

If nothing else, I think, we figured Scott would appreciate it if his comment sections weren’t completely flooded with gun arguments. This is a psychiatry blog, after all, not a gun blog.

But in discussing a funny story that I refrained from posting, I happened to ask our Cool Dood CJB if he did nuance. Turns out he did!

Unfortunately, he gave a big pile of specific examples, and the whole war ignited all over again.

Now we’re already into suspending the 4th Amendment, police searching our crawlspaces, and criminals walking off with locked gun cabinets.

Can we just call this off for now and (at least) wait until the next reasonable thread?

• FacelessCraven says:

@John Schilling – you’re missing the point. He’s not talking about a legal regime that attempts to modify or enforce behavior through punishments. He’s talking about a super-pragmatic “we will search every nook and cranny for X, and destroy it when we find it.” No penalties to the person caught with it, beyond the obvious one that they don’t have the contraband they paid for anymore. You lose your privacy, but you also lose the penalties that are a significant part of why that privacy was necessary.

This is obviously not a realistic policy suggestion; it’s so far outside the Overton window as to be laughable.

It’s also unlikely that it would actually work long-term. the biggest choke-point for drugs is probably the border, and we already search for contraband there more or less to the limit of our ability. There’s just too much volume flowing through to practically search, even when you have it all narrowed down to a single port. I’m pretty sure the ability to import and produce, combined with the ability to conceal, is pretty much always going to be orders of magnitude greater than the ability to search, if for no other reason than that there are orders of magnitude more civilians than there are police.

It seems like this logic terminates in “well, make everyone the police”, at which point it starts blending into some sort of weird anarcho-capitalism or something?

• Nornagest says:

Pretty sure this logic terminates in “well, make everyone the police”, at which point it starts blending into some sort of weird anarcho-capitalism or something?

I wish I could be that optimistic. A more likely scenario is something like East Germany’s Stasi, which was a largeish force on its own (about twice the size of the NYPD for a country with twice the population of NYC) but which managed a network of informants that by some estimates made up a tenth of East Germany’s population at its peak.

(Note I’m not trying to invoke some kind of horns effect by bringing up a communist secret police group; it’s just the most widespread informant network I can think of.)

• FacelessCraven says:

@FJ – pretty sure you want no fines. I’m picturing some sort of system where… Hmm.

Let’s say your local police department has a rack of orange vests right in the lobby. The vests have a omnidirectional body camera and microphone system, plus batteries and memory for 48 hours worth of recording. It also contains an RFID card that, when activated with the one-use code, will unlock any lock in the country. All locks are of course required to comply with this technology. The vests and keycards are freely available to the public, but must be checked out like a library book, and must be returned in a timely fashion. Anyone wearing the vest can, from the hours of 9am to 5pm, legally enter any non-government structure in the country and search for items on the contraband list. Any they find may be collected for disposal at the police station. If they find more contraband than can be carried, they can call others to assist them. assaulting or otherwise interfering with the searcher bears penalties as though they were a police officer. Obviously, bad conduct on the part of the searcher is also punished severely, and they lose the right to use the vests ever again.

…And now I’m sliding the other way, because it seems to me that community members have a much clearer idea of what’s going on than the police. The obvious problem would be intimidation against the searchers, to keep them away from lucrative stashes. Maybe they get a mask too?

Damn, this is an amazingly weird idea.

@Nornagest – maybe the bad part there is “secret”? Remove that, and you have citizens cooperating with the police to enforce prohibition. Logically, that’s probably the only way a prohibition is ever going to work, right?

• keranih says:

@Larry Kestenbaum –

Can we just call this off for now and (at least) wait until the next reasonable thread?

However, in good faith, *shrug* okay. I’ll keep a look out for the next thread, and bring up my issues with the “gun nuts ignore their own responsibility for gun thefts” meme then.

In the theme of noting how wonderful SSC is – it’s not a burden at all for me to go *shrug*, okay, we’ll address later. In other places, I’d feel very comfortable assuming that the person who wanted to halt the convo was a person who wasn’t interested in listening in the first place, and that that person thought I was making too much headway. Good on you, SSC.

• keranih says:

@ FacelessCraven –

I like your idea, until I put that police station with the vests in a gang-infested city, or in, oh, Belfast. Or the worst sort of Jim-Crow South.

Then all of a sudden live and let live starts to look a lot more attractive.

• James Picone says:

@general discussion of gun control transitions:

After a spree shooting in Australia, we had some pretty stringent firearm laws get brought in. Part of that involved confiscation of firearms and compensation of the people who had their firearms confiscated. Wiki article seems like a pretty good summary.

I don’t remember hearing about any violent confrontations as a result of that, although something something Australian and American culture is very different, we probably had less guns to begin with.

• John Schilling says:

Australia’s experiment in gun confiscation involved seizing Evil Assault Weapons(tm) from less than 0.1% of the Australian population, and forcing maybe 2% of the Australian population to trade in their hunting or target guns for new models of roughly equal utility but without the Evil-Gun features. That’s not the basis for an effective civil disobedience campaign (or armed revolt); Australia’s police, courts, and prisons could have accommodated the dissenters, who would have had no popular support.

FJ’s proposed Universal American Gun Confiscation would be roughly two orders of magnitude greater in relative scope, and even greater in its unpopularity.

• Nathan says:

I feel like there must be a pretty big difference between Australian and American culture in terms of guns, because when the govt took our guns we got so angry that we went and formed a new “give back our guns” political party that gets 2-3% of the vote in some states… and, like, it’s really hard for me to comprehend a different reaction. You would resolve your political argument by SHOOTING PEOPLE? Really?

• Samuel Skinner says:

“You would resolve your political argument by SHOOTING PEOPLE? Really?”

No, that isn’t what he is implying “looks at civil rights movement” okay, not since the 60s.

Many people view guns are vital to protecting themselves. Eliminating that and making them depend on the government works… poorly.

• Alraune says:

Nathan: I expect Americans feel precisely the same way about America taking their guns away as Australians feel about America taking their guns away.

• Careless says:

until I read the post and was like….yeah, that’s issuing threats against a federal judge.

“I hope there’s a special place in hell” is a threat? As I wrote on Popehat, there’s no way to see it as one, unless you believe that the person who wrote it is, in fact, a god.

• Tarrou says:

No. There’s a well-established legal doctrine of “true threats”. A threat has to not only be explicit, but such that a reasonable person would think that it was meant to be carried out.

If I threaten to “punch” my brother “into orbit”, this is not a true threat. Likewise, saying on the internet that a judge should be fed through a woodchipper isn’t a true threat unless the person also knows where the judge is, has a woodchipper and could conceivably make good on it.

And anyone who disagrees should be beaten to death with unstarted chainsaws!

• houseboatonstyx says:

If I threaten to “punch” my brother “into orbit”, this is not a true threat.

Woops. In so far as punching him into the hospital or onto the ground is feasible, it can be a feasible threat. Hyperbole may signal non-seriousness, or “If you keep doing that, I’m gonna get mad and give you a bloody nose” — which can serve a bully’s purpose just as well.

• Tarrou says:

Well, have a whack at convincing a jury that I legitimately intended to remove my brother from the gravitational pull of the planet via my mighty fists.

In the meantime, don’t open an investigation of Facebook, where I post said “threats” and get a pretty facially unconstitutional gag order on them to keep them from discussing what the government is demanding of them.

• John Schilling says:

If I threaten to “blow your fucking head off” with my .45 automatic, does the fact that a .45 ACP round is not capable of physically decapitating someone mean that I won’t be arrested and convicted?

The law, and reasonable men, operate on the “reasonable man” standard, not the “pedantic technicality” standard. Most of the alleged threats in the Reason piece don’t meet that standard, but punching someone “into orbit” could reasonably be interpreted as a threat to punch them very hard.

38. Noah Siegel says:

“Whose Shining Garden is this?” Tom asked in Scots.

39. fire ant says:

eating fermented food decreases social anxiety?

My first thought when reading this: Uh, do you mean beer? :D

40. Nornagest says:

I don’t think that’s a truck driving off an aircraft carrier. I think that’s a truck being fired off an aircraft carrier, by the catapult normally used to launch planes.

41. Douglas Knight says:

The rape prevention article is here and the editorial, both open access.

42. dlr says:

I was sorry to see that the Nevada law doesn’t allow you to spend the Education Savings Account money for things like college tuition etc, except when it is ‘dual enrollment’ (ie, taking the college class during high school).

They do allow the money to roll over from year to year, but if you’ve been frugal, you lose the money when the kid graduates instead of being allowed to apply it to college costs. What a shame.

People would have a real incentive to spend the money prudently if it could later be used for college costs. I bet it would be a real incentive for someone teetering on the brink of staying home and homeschooling their kids.

43. AnnOminous says:

Before we stop making fun of her entirely: The Original Rachel Dolezal

44. Sigivald says:

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.

As the link says, much like other oxide layers on other metals, the tarnish is protecting the underlying metal.

If it was “fixed” by polishing it all off, you’d have to replace the entire statue’s skin every few decades (or so).

• Brad (the other one) says:

What if you only polished it on special occasions, like, say, the centennial?

45. alexp says:

Are there any studies on whether courses to teach men not to rape work? If the contentions that the vast majority of rapes are committed by a small number of remorseless sociopathic serial rapists, then I’d think not.

• Tarrou says:

Teach men not to rape? How fucking offensive is that? It’s a goddamned felony, second only to murder!

There’s big swathes of the country where if the male relative of a raped female kills her attacker, no jury convicts him. Rapists are the lowest status people in our society, even in prison.

Every man knows not to rape. What all men don’t know or don’t agree with is the radical anti-male definitions of rape that if a woman ingests one drop of alcohol, she is incapable of consent, if a man asks twice, a woman is incapable of consent, if a woman consents enthusiastically but gets caught by her husband, it wasn’t real consent, hell, even if a man has the gall to not, technically exist, he can still from the ether of a woman’s own imagination, gang rape her all on his own (and break bottles on her face!)!

You’re gonna need more than one class to teach men all that. You may want to book the room for the semester.

• stillnotking says:

The offensiveness of this concept needs to be restated as often as possible. No one would propose fighting neonaticide by “teaching women not to kill their children”, even though it’s at least as gendered a crime as rape. Most rapists are men, but most men are not rapists, and it’s unacceptable to treat us as if we are. It would be unacceptable even if these so-called rape-prevention classes actually lowered the incidence of rape.

• Gbdub says:

Actually, when you start including in the definition of rape things like “emotional coercion (i.e asking more than once)”, “sex with someone who’s functional but had a couple drinks”, “touching/kissing without explicit verbal consent” or any of a number of other things that fall afoul of “affirmative consent” but not outside normal sexual behavior… then it’s not clearly true that “most rapists are men”.

• CJB says:

There is a pretty good body of evidence that most rapes, like most crimes in general, tend to be performed by repeat offenders. I think it was Derbyshire that pointed out rape and mugging are not hobbies- you either never do them, or that’s all you do.

Obviously very reductionist, but the point stands. I think there needs to be a “this is rape, this isn’t, this could become rape so heres how to proceed safely” class, but specific “Boys, here’s how to not rape” classes are just going to piss off all the boys taking them.

Also to help boys that get raped, maybe? But that seems like it should be a different thing.

• Tarrou says:

Ok CJB, now go read fifty romance novels and formulate a class for women about their “problematic” expectations of male behavior and sex.

• SFG says:

Whatever. I know lots of ladies have fantasies about this stuff, and feminists like to inflate the number of behaviors counted as rape, but real rape, as in forcing someone to have sex with you or drugging them and taking advantage of them, is very wrong. We didn’t give Armin Meiwes a pass (or rather, the Germans didn’t) because his victim wanted to be killed.

• Cauê says:

That Meiwes analogy would only work if you were talking about statutory rape.

• Tarrou says:

I am certainly not arguing that rape isn’t wrong. You have to read a lot of things that aren’t there into what I wrote to get that.

My point is that sexual interaction that isn’t rape has a lot of uncomfortable situations and the expectations both men and women have can be at cross purposes. Expanding the definitions of rape to cover every awkward encounter is a vile intrusion into the most intimate of private interactions.

46. If time crystals are the only way of doing an infinite amount of complex computing, then with probability 1 we are in a computer simulation run by a time crystal.

What if the crystal is in fact a cube?

• Ever An Anon says:

In that case we really are educated stupid.

• walpolo says:
• Jiro says:

By that reasoning, the computer simulating the time crystal is also inside a higher level simulation inside a time crystal, which is inside, etc.

• Sigivald says:

It’s time crystals all the way down!

47. I’d better use this analogy before the nativists do: Is there any truth to the rumor that Jürgen Hass is planning to change his name to Shub-Niggurath?

• Zykrom says:

I can’t make heads or tails of this.

• James Picone says:

Shub-Niggurath, the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young is her full title.

• SFG says:

Ja! Ja!

48. Murphy says:

There is another element to the schools soliciting donations.

Rankings.

https://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/world-university-rankings/2015/world-ranking/#/

http://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/world-university-rankings/2014#sorting=rank+region=+country=+faculty=+stars=false+search=

http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities?int=9ff208

There’s a small number of influential rankings that make a big difference to universities. Being one of the top 10 vs top 50 or top 100 vs top 300 makes a huge difference to the prestige and influence of the university.

As you’d imagine the ranking system is strongly distorted to favor the dominant institutions and one of the ranking elements is “Alumni giving”, the justification is that if your uni is really awesome then lots of your graduates will be wealthy and also grateful and so will donate a lot. In practice it’s a way of abusing the system to boost the rankings of collages popular with the already rich.

There’s a number of metrics of Alumni giving but some are as simple as the percentage of alumni who’ve ever donated anything at all, even a dollar so they’re strongly incentivized to try to get even poor alumni to donate something.

49. bean says:

The trucks aren’t driving off the carrier. That’s a catapult test. They get something big and heavy, fit it so it rolls well, and fire it off to make sure they’re working.
In fact, that’s the tests of the new electromagnetic aircraft launch system on the USS Gerald R Ford.

• switchnode says:

That is amazingly cool. Thanks for the context.

And for those of you tracking the progression of sci-fi into reality, the “electromagnetic aircraft launch system” is what you might call a “railgun.”

• Alraune says:

You mean we could have been firing trucks this whole time? Quake really dropped the ball.

• HeelBearCub says:

But Half-Life 2 picked it up. Well, not trucks, but big things (violating Newton’s 3rd Law, but still).

50. notes says:

The craziest thing about this comment thread is that we’ve got dozens of comments on Rachel Dolezal – well discussed everywhere – and none on Burnham v. Duquesne, a rivalry that spanned the Boer Wars and the logistics of rare earth metals during WW:I, with a temporary alliance in the great cause of turning the Gulf Coast into a giant hippo-ranch… in significant part, on the theory that bringing in one invasive species to eat another would work just fine.

This is a story that includes more than a dozen jailbreaks, of all kinds, on three continents. It has professional critique of Winston Churchill’s escape from a POW camp. It’s got implications for childhood education. It’s got a description of exactly what the Boy Scouts were designed to produce, and he’s unexpectedly lethal.

For crying out loud, this is the King of Scouts vs. The Black Panther! This is the kind of real-life adventure that pulps tried to emulate (watch for H. Rider Haggard looking to life for his inspiration).

This really shouldn’t need signal-boosting, because it is awesome.

• Alraune says:

I will take the blame for that, but not apologize.

I expect the length is at fault for the lack of hippo reaction though. Give it a day, they’ll read it until after the initial commenting flurry has died down.

• Andy McKenzie says:

It was this comment that got me to read the article, and I loved it, so thanks.

• Anonymous says:

Which I think explains why people are commenting on the Dolezal article instead — it has “inertia”, as a topic, from a lot of pre-existing exposure. When there were no comments up, I doubt a person not exposed to any story in these links would be that much more likely to comment on Dolezal, but more people have been exposed to Dolezal’s story and formed opinions they want to voice. Once the comments get going, they guide views and discussion — here as much as with the golden opportunity to have an argument discussion on race.

• BD Sixsmith says:

Yes, yes, that’s interesting, but what exactly is there in that article that I can use to promote my beliefs and my personal virtues?

• zz says:

Well, if you’re into free markets, you could point out that problems left to the market got solved (molybdenum), and problems left to the government didn’t get solved (hippos). In fact, my reading indicated if Burnham had taken his 50k in venture capital and just started a hippo ranch, either (a) I can have hippo bacon and turkey omelettes for breakfast (and factory farming is less destructive) or (b) hippos wouldn’t have actually worked in America for some reason and the whole venture was doomed from the outset.

(I’m unclear if hippo ranches needed special government authorization because nature preserves or environmental regulations or something, or if they were just waiting for another 250k before starting the hippo ranch. In the former case, you also get to add “government regulation of the free market stopped entrepreneurs from developing hippo ranches, leading to the modern factory farm and the corresponding environmental destruction.”)

• notes says:

Excellent possibilities for arguments on unschooling (Burnham turned out fine), child-labor laws (Burnham, again), and Scouting curriculum.

Hippos haven’t been domesticated. They’re highly aggressive, and kill people. Lots of people. Ranching them implies great pulp adventures; may not actually be efficient.

A more zealous Boy/Girl Scout curriculum would apparently involve badges in bridge demolition, sabotage, escape, and assassination… which would certainly be different.

• Agronomous says:

You’re wrong, at least about the Demolition merit badge: I just sourced some C4 for my Scout son for his proj…

Be right back!

• Held in Escrow says:

51. Wrong Species says:

I am 21 and just got my first date ever and it’s to a girl that is actually very good looking. I always hear that depression is an internal thing and you won’t be cured just by changing your circumstances but I have been miserable for half of my life and have felt ecstatic for the last week.

• notes says:

Also, good luck.

• Murphy says:

Yep.

8 years in while I don’t have the same thrill as the first few months/years I’ve still got a warm glow and contentment where there used to be an endless chasm of fracturing self hate that became my mind before.

Humans are social animals. Sexual/romantic intimacy is good for the mind.

• ddreytes says:

That’s great! I’m happy for you, and I hope it goes well.

But on the topic: from my experience, at least, it’s totally possible to have issues with depression and also be happy. IME depression does not mean being constantly miserable; it means having this recurrent miserableness that follows you around, that can show up as a disproportionate response to negative stimuli or even as a totally inappropriate response when things are going very well.

So be happy and that’s good and that’s great! and like Murphy said, intimacy is good for the brain. But you should probably still be careful about depression generally even so.

• chaosmage says:

There is such a thing as depressing situations and especially if you’re a very romantic person, never having had a date at the age of 21 certainly counts.

MDD “proper” is an internal reaction that’s wildly out of proportion to, and not helping with, one problem or another. It can be useful to emphasize that because fixing the external issue will not usually help; somebody who’s already in a depression loop will just find something else to despair over, so it’s better to focus on the depression loop and ways to get out of it. But of course depression doesn’t happen entirely in a vacuum.

I’m not a doctor, but if you want my opinion anyway, please consider that in the absence of depression symptoms, you have the ability to improve your life in a way that you can’t while you’re miserable. And some possible improvements can indeed help guard against the symptoms coming back. Some of the usual suspects are: increase exercise, eat better, identify a few people who are dragging you down and reduce their impact on your life, actually get around to working through that depression self-help book… or whatever you never had the energy for although you know it’d be good for you.

Take care, and cultivate gratitude.

• Creutzer says:

There is such a thing as depressing situations and especially if you’re a very romantic person, never having had a date at the age of 21 certainly counts.

This. There are kinds of feelings miserable that are not the unchangeable-no-matter-what-happens kind of depression. It seems to be something of a fashion lately (in Western culture, and subject to variation within that) to deny that it’s ever appropriate to feel miserable unless it’s due to a clinical inability to feel happiness, i.e. MDD; but that’s bullshit.

I’m saying this as someone who has also been miserable for most of their life, but whose happiness level can and does vary based on external circumstances, of which my romantic situation is a significant aspect.

• There is a treatment modality called Interpersonal Psychotherapy that treats depression by focusing on improving the quality of one’s close social relationships. The theory is that one’s social needs are important to mental health and that problems in one’s relationships can lead to depression. In this model, depression is not just an internal thing but an interpersonal thing. So from this perspective, starting a warm close romantic relationship could be quite therapeutic. Of course, I am not saying that internal factors do not matter, rather that they are not the whole story.
All the best with the dating 🙂

• chaosmage says:

That’s right, but as far as I understand it, Interpersonal Psychotherapy in practice is usually focused on improving the worst relations you have, because those are the ones that are giving you problems.

And usually it’s the parents. People tolerate behavior from parents that they’d never tolerate from a friend or even a romantic partner. That tolerance is expected in our culture, and with lifespans getting ever longer, there’s a growing incentive to “get along with”, or tolerate, terrible parents since they can be around for most of your adult life. But tolerance is a conscious choide from the “grown up mind”, and there are smaller, simpler, more sensitive parts inside any human mind that can have a much harder time handling the stresses that puts on the whole system.

• Anonymous says:

@Wrong Species, Congratulations!

• Wrong Species says:

Thank you! And same to everyone else who commented.

Note how you’re feeling in six to twelve months. That will give you a better idea whether this young lady at that point has lifted you off the hedonic treadmill.

52. AcidDC says:

Shorter Ozy: Transsexualism is a real thing. Is Transracialism a real thing? Doesn’t seem so.

53. notfbi says:

For the study from Brazil – the employees actually self-report their race and the employers then ‘report’ it in the sense of collecting and forwarding the information. There is a racial wage-gap in Brazil, so if people with ambiguous races adopt the race they observe in their new workplace environment a wage-gap will be observed by the study.

“Thus, our data on race emerges from a process that is primarily based on information provided by the worker, but where the employer’s interpretation of that information may play a role. “

• houseboatonstyx says:

“Thus, our data on race emerges from a process that is primarily based on information provided by the worker, but where the employer’s interpretation of that information may play a role.”

Shouldn’t that be, “where the workers have motive to report their race as whatever race they perceive as on the higher side of a wage-gap, according to their observation on the ground, which ought to count as evidence of something”?

54. bode says:

I don’t think it’s just prescribing pain killers that skews physician ratings. Whenever the topic comes up I always think of Dr. Hodad at Harvard:

“How to Stop Hospitals From Killing Us”

http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10000872396390444620104578008263334441352

Exceptional physician and horrible surgeon.

55. Jos says:

Other than the fact that there’s no way to do it without lieing, is there anything else explicitly wrong about Rachel Dolezal? She assumed blackness in a way that was recognizable, so presumably she got the harms as well as any benefits that blackness confers on a day to day basis, and she seems to have been working for the cause.

I sort of like the idea of a world where we can choose our race. In my opinion, if she’s willing to appear black, she should get to be black.

• DrBeat says:

She faked a bunch of hate crimes against herself in order to get more of that sweet, sweet narcissistic supply.

• Jos says:

Thanks, DrBeat – I didn’t know that.

• houseboatonstyx says:

I still don’t know that…

[she] faked a bunch of hate crimes against herself
… which is a claim of fact, provable by physical evidence etc (though whether it has been proved I don’t know)

in order to get more
… which is an opinion about a motive that would need solid evidence to prove (such as a statement from her, letters or recordings of her admitting this, etc)

narcissistic supply
… which is an opinion about, well, a diagnostic term that is not subject to solid evidence at all (though if several psychiatrists after much testing agreed to it, might be accepted by some court as a defense against libel)

of that sweet, sweet
… which is just nasty talk.

• Edward Scizorhands says:

http://www.people.com/article/rachel-dolezal-black-woman-cover-blown-hate-crimes

This article has a good review of her reported hate crimes. Any one of them, I might give her the benefit of the doubt. (And I might still give her the benefit of the doubt on one or two.) But there’s a big pattern, and for one noose her landlord told her before she called the cops that he had hung it for deer.

• Mary says:

If that’s lying, is Bruce Jenner lying?

• sweeneyrod says:

No. Jenner isn’t trying to cause anyone to believe false things. For instance, he is not claiming that he has female biological features. On the other hand, Donzeal was trying to make people believe that she had considerably more African heritage than she actually did.

• Jenner and his apologists, however, are trying to enforce social stigma against anyone who points out that Jenner is not actually a woman. This isn’t facially the same thing as lying, but it does require people to lie by implicature.

• Randy M says:

Worse, they are trying to enforce saying Bruce Jenner was *always* a woman, even when competing in men’s sports and fathering children, in a way that is every bit as much of being a woman as someone who mothered children. It sure looks like it is less about Jenner’s feelings and “just being nice” and more about asserting control over what people perceive as truth–objective, physical reality be damned.

• Alraune says:

In addition to what DrBeat said –and that is a drum that deserves to be pounded every time anyone thinks of defending her– you’ll notice she faked being black in PNW academia, not the blue-collar south. Blacks are not a homogenous group, some get a lot better benefits:harms package than others.

• Jos says:

In my perfect world, you’ll be able to measure your racial oppression (imperfectly of course) by how many people switch races, and in which directions.

• Alraune says:

That seems like a poor choice of proxy variable, it’s gonna be non-monotonic with the level of oppression.

56. Zakharov says:

I don’t think your weird murder mystery can beat the bizarre and fascinating murder of Rodrigo Rosenberg.

57. Unknowns says:

Scott, I think it’s pretty clear that Rachel Dolezal’s claim to be black is in fact a good analogy for transgender considered in the way you discussed it.

As far as I can tell, you basically said that we should redefine “woman” to mean “a human being who wants to be called a ‘woman’,” and that we should do this to be nice to them. In that case, why not redefine “black” to mean “a human being who wants to be called ‘black'”?

If we can find a reason not to redefine the word ‘black’, we can probably find one not to redefine the word ‘woman’.

• Jiro says:

The problem here is that the way Scott discussed it is different from the way that other people discuss it. Scott’s principle was broad enough that it does cover transracialism (and otherkin). The principles espoused by the Tumblir post are narrower, and don’t. How much does Scott agree with the Tumblir post, and is he aware that agreeing with it means disagreeing with his previous post about transgender?

• anodognosic says:

This is why I generally reject the standard argument for accepting transgenderism. (Or rather, I accept it only on a personal rather than societal basis, essentially out of politeness and not being particular about being a stickler in social situations; I’ll even respect otherkin’s identity preferences, as long as they don’t pee on my carpet.)

A better argument is the one Scott linked via Ozy, which is based on the actual science of gender. Did you read that?

• Anonymous says:

The argument there seems to be, “sex/gender essentialism -> transgenderism good; racial non-essentialism -> transracialism bad.” Strangely, this cuts in the opposite direction of the major thrusts of arguments in the last half-century.

• anodognosic says:

I’m not sure essentialism is exactly the right way to slice this. For instance, this approach can accomodate various axes and degrees of gender, which essentialism would forbid; it is also compatible with a racial essentialism that denies any mechanism that would produce a transracial person as hormones might a transgender person.

• Anonymous says:

this approach can accomodate various axes and degrees of gender, which essentialism would forbid

…only if those axes/degrees are rooted in some essential material feature. So, still essentialism.

it is also compatible with a racial essentialism that denies any mechanism that would produce a transracial person as hormones might a transgender person.

This is less clear to me. I think their perspective does necessarily rest upon a racial essentialism, but they try pretty hard to avoid the appearance of it.

• DrBeat says:

That was because Scott’s defense of transgender was wrong.

Anything that concludes “the only cost is that we are a bit nicer to people” is one hundred percent guaranteed to be absolute bullshit and you should weight it as having no factual relevance. If we were to be obligated to “respect” everyone’s claims about their identity, then the Identity Games would become our national fucking pastime, and personal identity would become exclusively a thing that you manipulate in order to demand other people give you things you want or to be able to abuse people and get away with it.

The actual defense of transgenderism has to do with the empirically verifiable neurological differences between male and female brains and the fact that brain differentiation occurs at a different stage of fetal development than the body’s sex differentiation and there is a small but extant possibility that this process won’t go the way it is supposed to.

• Mary says:

Perhaps we should be less stereotypical and demanding of conformity to gender roles of people’s brains.

• DrBeat says:

What does that have to do with anything?

• Deiseach says:

Because by saying men’s and women’s brains are different, you are reinforcing complementarianism rather than egalitarianism, and since the emphasis has been that men are superior to women in part because of their brains which are built to run on reason and logic and science, while women’s brains are built to run on emotion and fluffy kittens, you are saying that women can’t do maths, can’t read maps, and should stay in the kitchen making buns for tea 🙂

• Nornagest says:

That escalated quickly.

• Alraune says:

Men are superior to women in part because we throw all the ones whose brains aren’t built to run on reason and logic and science in prison.

In America anyway.

That’s just finding the physical mechanism causing it all, though. It doesn’t follow from that that we should accept the self-identification as true. If we found (as I’m sure we have) empirically verifiable neurological differences in the brains of schitzophrenics, it wouldn’t follow that we should declare that the voices they hear really do exist, and deny github commit privileges to anybody who says otherwise.

• DrBeat says:

That’s not even close to comparable?

The brain you have is the person you are. With transgender people, the brain they have is not the same gender as the body they have. The fact that we can see there are differences means that their statement that they are the opposite gender their body appears to be is NOT a delusion. The brain architecture backs this up.

There are empirically verifiable differences in brain structure between schizophrenics and non-schizophrenics. It does not follow — and nobody has suggested — that the voices they hear are real. It follows that they are schizophrenic, and they have the brain of a schizophrenic person. Schizophrenic people may experience delusions. But saying “I am schizophrenic” is not itself a delusion. (Unless we’re talking about like Munchausen’s where they’re lying about schizophrenia to get — fuck, you know what I mean.)

IN CONCLUSION:
“I have the brain of a woman, so I am a woman even though my body is not” != “I am schizophrenic, so the voices I hear are real.”

“I have the brain of a woman, so I am a woman even though my body is not” == “I have the brain of a schizophrenic, so the fact that I hear voices is real.”

• Anonymous says:

The brain you have is the person you are.

That’s a nice assertion you have there. Bonus points for the essentialism.

Schizophrenics don’t actually hear voices. Their brain thinks they hear voices. So, “I have the brain of a schizophrenic, so the fact that my brain thinks I hear voices is real.” == “I have the brain of a m2f transgender, so the fact that my brain thinks that I am a woman is real.”

The biggest unsupported piece of gender essentialism in your post is the claim that “having the brain of a woman” is a thing. There is some research to try to show this, but to my understanding, it’s not ‘good’ yet.

• DrBeat says:

The sensation of hearing is one made entirely by the brain, so I don’t see how “I hear voices” and “my brain thinks I hear voices” are different in any meaningful way. Anyone who actually hears another person actually speak, also has a brain that thinks they hear a voice.

• Anonymous says:

I don’t see how “I hear voices” and “my brain thinks I hear voices” are different in any meaningful way.

In the former, sound waves excite the eardrum, which passes the signal to the cochlea. There, clever arrangements of neurons process this signal and pass it on to the portions of the brain which interpret it as “hearing voices”. Only the final stage (the interpretation of hearing voices) occurs for the latter.

Anyone who actually hears another person actually speak, also has a brain that thinks they hear a voice.

Affirming the consequent is quite out of fashion.

• Deiseach says:

But if brain architecture over-rides bodily structure, so that it is irrelevant if you possess a penis and testicles and have testosterone levels and secondary sexual characteristics comparable to those of males, it’s what your brain thinks that identifies you – why should it be relevant that the voice the brain thinks it hears is not actually caused by the vibration of air against the eardrum passing on the signal?

If the signal is faulty in one instance, why can’t we say it’s faulty in another? Your schizophrenic brain architecture makes you think you hear voices, unlike the brain architecture of a non-schizophrenic person. Your transgender brain architecture makes you think you are a different gender, unlike the brain architecture of a non-transgender person.

The sensation that I am a woman does not arise out of any physical input from my body; the sensation that I hear a voice speaking to me does not arise out of any physical input from my body.

Why validate the brain architecture over the bodily reality in one case but not the other?

(You know, I begin to see the appeal of Least Convenient Universe and things like creating the Trolley Problem; there’s a kind of sadistic enjoyment in forcing people to put their backs to the wall and defend their position to the utmost detail in the teeth of all objections, cutting down those same objections and going “But what if – what if – “)

• DrBeat says:

You are being deliberately obtuse. If you have the brain of a schizophrenic, you are mentally a schizophrenic. This does not cause any changes in external reality. You do not erroneously or delusionally believe you are schizophrenic. If you have the brain of a woman, then you are mentally a woman. It is a statement about the brain. About the brain. Not external reality. The brain. If you compare it to a statement about factual external reality you are lying.

It is not a delusion, quit acting like it is — a delusion would be “I don’t actually have a penis and testicles, these do not exist.” That is a statement about external reality that is analogous to “the voices I hear are real”. Since that is not happening, stop fucking posturing as if it is. It is no more a delusion than phantom limb syndrome is a delusion. People with phantom limb do not claim the arm is really there and was never amputated. They claim they still experience sensation as if it was there, and that is true.

The sensation that you are a woman does not arise from any physical input from your body, whether or not your body is that of a woman. It is from your brain. Your brain has a map of what all its parts are and what they are doing. It’s the sense of proprioception. This is why people get phantom limb syndrome — part of their body is taken off, and not removed from their brain’s map. Transgender people have a brain map that says their body is all wrong. It is not a delusion. It is not a belief. It is a state of their brain. They say it is a state of their brain.

The way we have to solve this is by altering the body so it matches the sens of proprioception, just like if we HAD the ability to regrow limbs, that would be how we treated phantom limb, and why therapy does not treat phantom limb. Because these neurological states are not delusions even though they do not match external reality.

You are not presenting the least convenient world — you are just conflating things.

• Anonymous says:

You are being deliberately obtuse. (…see how easy and unhelpful that was!)

If you have the brain of a m2f transgender, then you are mentally transgender. This does not cause any changes in external reality. You do not erroneously or delusionally believe you are m2f transgender. This is a statement about the brain. About the brain. Not external reality. The brain. If you compare it to a statement about factual external reality you are lying.

It is not a delusion, quit acting like it is. A delusion would be, “I am actually a woman, and you should treat me like one.” That is a statement about external reality that is analogous to, “The voices I hear are real.” Since that is happening, stop fucking posturing as if it isn’t.

The sensation that you are hearing voices does not arise from any physical input from your body, whether or not your body is that of a mentally-well person. It is from your brain. Your brain has a map of what’s happening in the world. Schizophrenic people have a brain map that says the body is all wrong about what they hear.

The way we solve it is to adopt a strongly ideological philosophy that ignores thousands of years of traditional Western philosophy.

You are not presenting any reasonable distinction – you are just conflating things.

(Repeat the above using various other body dysmorphic disorders and demand that we solve them by altering the body so it matches the senses. Just flipping phantom limb for body integrity identity disorder is sufficient (because it forces you to confront the fact that you’re hiding normative value), but cases like anorexia should work, too.)

• DrBeat says:

The words you ever-so-cleverly substituted into my argument caused you to say complete fucking gibberish, because you do not understand the discussion, because you are choosing not to understand the discussion, because you believe strategic incomprehension will allow you to win, and I’m not going to bother with your feigned idiocy any more.

Seriously, if you think ANOREXIA involves PROPRIOCEPTION… No. You don’t think anorexia involves proprioception. You just threw things into a word-pudding that would allow you to keep posturing.

• Anonymous says:

…are you seriously hinging all your claims on some idea that there is a unique relationship between gender dysphoria and PROPRIOCEPTION that is not captured by something like body integrity identity disorder (my main example)? If so, that’s a heck of a new one, and I’d really like you to explain further so that we can rigorize it.

If not, then please stop intentionally going off on irrelevant tangents and instead stick to what we both know is the core of the discussion. And please lay off the insults; they just make you look silly.

• DrBeat says:

Bodily integrity identity disorder and phantom limb syndrome also involve proprioception. That is the brain’s map of the body. Anorexia does not. Making an analogy to anorexia because it involves the brain thinking something, rather than this specific sense that works in this specific way, is just substituting words in at random and acting as if you’re being insightful. Just like you are when you claim that any statement involving the word “should”, as in “you should treat me like a woman”, can be delusional and an inaccurate model of reality. Should statements are not models of reality.

And yes, the treatment for someone who actually has bodily integrity identity disorder is amputation of the affected limb, I don’t know why you acted as if you had driven me into a corner on this. If you have a brain map that says “this limb does not exist, it is not part of your body”, no amount of therapy is going to fix that. People should be screened to see if they actually have BIID as opposed to an amputation fetish or general self-hatred expressing in a way that appears similar to BIID, but people who pass the screening should get the amputation because that is what information suggests makes the best outcome.

What would be the benefit of forcing someone to keep a body part that will always feel repulsive and alien?

• Anonymous says:

Bodily integrity identity disorder and phantom limb syndrome also involve proprioception.

Agreed. Now your challenge is four-fold:

1) Provide evidence that gender identity disorder does as well. (This is not trivial; DSM doesn’t seem to make any feigns in this direction, though it does make analogy to certain forms of schizophrenia.)
2) Give a criteria for why “involves proprioception” is a meaningful distinction for types of psychiatric conditions.
3) Provide evidence that “having the brain of a woman” is a thing rather than “having the brain of a transgender.” (Note the essentialism here.)
4) Provide a test for determining whether individuals “have the brain of a woman”, so that we can make the distinction Deiseach is concerned about below.

If you can’t do the first/second (which you haven’t yet), then anorexia is still relevant (…and it might be even if you’re successful at these items). Thus, I bring it up in order to cause you to actually argue these two points. So do it.

the treatment for someone who actually has bodily integrity identity disorder is amputation of the affected limb

Many medical professionals disagree with you, and there is evidence showing that such treatment is not more effective than a control group. So we can add to your challenge,

5) Explain why proprioception, in particular, is a critical feature for determining that the appropriate treatment is always to do what the individual asks for.

• Hyzenthlay says:

How close is the correlation between brain architecture and feelings of gender identity? Are there any studies about this that include both cis and trans people?

I mean, I’d expect there to be some overlap, in that brain architecture probably has some influence on whether someone “feels” male or female. But I’d also expect there to be some women with spatial/mathematical “male” brains who still identify as women, and vice versa.

Plus, lots of people with mixed or ambiguous brains.

• Anonymous says:

@Hyzenthlay

My understanding is that it’s really quite bad at this point and doesn’t come close to demonstrating the things some people want to claim. They’re just being hopeful; that’s all.

• Ever An Anon says:

Has there been a brain study of transsexual people who weren’t taking hormones? For that matter has the original study been replicated?

• Deiseach says:

What do you do if someone identifies as transsexual, gets the brain scan, and is told “Sorry, your brain architecture and physical gender are congruent”?

Not really transsexual? Only faking? Deluded?

• InferentialDistance says:

Transtransgender. They have dysphoria over not being transgender. Gender dysphoria dysphoria, if you will.

• Deiseach says:

I am admiring the biological essentialism on show here, that is usually the first thing decried in discussions of “what makes a transgender person transgender”.

If we are claiming there are measurable physical differences between male and female brains, and if we are claiming that racial attributes are also physically measurable, are we really going to go so far as to say there are black brains and white brains and Asian brains?

What if you scanned Rachel’s brain and found she had a ‘black’ brain? If the developmental influences in utero on the foetus can alter brain architecture independently of gender chromosomal phenotype, what about environmental developmental influences in utero that can alter brain architecture independent of racial chromosomal phenotype?

• DrBeat says:

What do you do if someone identifies as transsexual, gets the brain scan, and is told “Sorry, your brain architecture and physical gender are congruent”?

Not really transsexual?

Not really transsexual. Since, you know, the entire argument is about how transsexuality is a verifiable neurological state and not merely what someone “identifies” as.

Some people think they are transsexual and are not. Some people will think they have ANY medical issue you can name, but really do not. This is why screening processes for elective surgery are such a good idea.

If the developmental influences in utero on the foetus can alter brain architecture independently of gender chromosomal phenotype, what about environmental developmental influences in utero that can alter brain architecture independent of racial chromosomal phenotype?

Those don’t exist. Gender differentiation in utero was not made up in order to fit a theory and you cannot make up other things that look like it to fit your theory. Every person’s DNA contains information for both male and female development; the gender differentiation is based on hormone levels, and hormone levels are ACTIVATED BY the presence or absence of a Y chromosome, but the information of what the body does in either case is fully present in everyone. There are people with androgen insensitivity syndrome, who are mentally and physically female, but have XY chromosomes. They had the male sex chromosome, but the signal it gave off couldn’t be received, so their bodies and brains developed as female. There are people who are mentally and physically male and have XY chromosomes, because due to transcription error they got an X chromosome with the “Turn On Maleness” gene.

Developing fetuses cannot differentiate as being either white or black, the information for both phenotypes is not present in all white and black people and there is no “Turn On Whiteness” gene. This is why people of mixed racial heritage can inherit some but not all features of a given race in their parentage, but someone who has one male and one female parent does not commonly inherit Mom’s boobs and Dad’s penis.

• Anonymous says:

the entire argument is about how transsexuality is a verifiable neurological state and not merely what someone “identifies” as.

I’m going to repeat one more time. Please cite your sources for this. Peer-reviewed publications are obviously preferred. Show me precisely how strong gender essentialism is and how we can quantify “the brain of a woman”. I know Deiseach wants to know so that she can feel put down by you.

• Hyzenthlay says:

@ Deiseach:

What do you do if someone identifies as transsexual, gets the brain scan, and is told “Sorry, your brain architecture and physical gender are congruent”?

Or…what happens if a person who’s happy with his birth sex gets a brain scan for an unrelated reason and accidentally finds out his brain is actually female?

Should he be told, “Hmm, you’re clearly a woman. You need to start identifying as ‘she’ and get genital reassignment surgery right away.”

“B-but wait…I like being a guy!”

“Sorry, you have a large hippocampus, a high ratio of gray to white matter, and language centers in both hemispheres. No penis for you. TAKE HER TO THE SURGERY ROOM!”

Okay, this would never happen, but it illustrates (for me, anyway) the problem with trying to define gender exclusively by brain structure.

• notes says:

Hyzenthlay:

This happens. Today. In Iran.

Granted, they don’t use MRIs to diagnose, working off of revealed preferences instead.

Also, as the penal code would otherwise require execution, there’s an argument that such surgeries, under various degrees of compulsion, are compassionate.

There are other opinions.

• Hyzenthlay says:

@notes:

I guess I should amend that to, “this would (probably) never happen in America.”

Troubling stuff.

• JDG1980 says:

The actual defense of transgenderism has to do with the empirically verifiable neurological differences between male and female brains and the fact that brain differentiation occurs at a different stage of fetal development than the body’s sex differentiation and there is a small but extant possibility that this process won’t go the way it is supposed to.

Are there actual peer-reviewed studies on this? Because if you’re going to turn society upside down, require people to deny the evidence of their own eyes, and accept a person with their dick swinging out in the women’s locker room, then you better be damn sure you’re right.

And how does this take into account people who decide to “transition” well into middle age? Many of these people were traditionally masculine for most of their lives, married women, fathered children… then one day they suddenly decide they want to be girls? Sorry, but no. Blanchard’s autogynephilia hypothesis makes a hell of a lot more sense here. If that’s the case, then Bruce Jenner is just a pervert, and we have no obligation to play any part in his weird sexual fantasies.

• DrBeat says:

Here’s a study and I am not looking for more because for some fucking reason Google has decided not to function for me, again. Have you searched with Yahoo lately? It’s AGONY.

The link you provide does not appear to be about someone with their dick swinging out in the women’s locker room. It appears to be about a woman who saw someone who looked like a man enter the locker room, and that’s all the information provided about the incident. Unless it’s in the video that I can’t get to work. But if it’s not, you’re saying this is bad based on an egregious behavior that you yourself invented. (Someone who swings their dick around in the women’s locker room is probably not an MtF transsexual. “Hey, gals, everyone look at the genitals I hate and am repulsed by because they shouldn’t be part of my body! Whee!” doesn’t pass the smell test.)

I don’t think Bruce Jenner is a pervert, and not everything usual that involves gender is a “weird sex fantasy” but I don’t think he is transgender, no. He participated in masculinity with enough zeal to make me very, very, very suspicious of a declaration that he has “always been a woman”; having actual dysphoria makes that kind of behavior agonizing to engage in. While people can work through it, calling that much ATTENTION to it, and calling that much attention to the body you are repulsed by because it shouldn’t be yours, just does not match up at all.

Plus, picking the name “Caitlyn”. Caitlyn is a name that is popular recently. If he was always a woman, he would have picked a female name much, much earlier, when “Caitlyn” wasn’t on the radar.

I FULLY support a screening process before sex reassignment surgery, because there are people who believe they are transgender but are not, and should not be given surgery that will be irreversible and not address the problem. This is also why psychological screenings before plastic surgery are such a good idea: there are some people who want nose jobs because they hate their noses, and some people who want nose jobs because they hate themselves. The former should be allowed to get plastic surgery and not the latter.

I think that Bruce Jenner appears, given the information available, to be someone who thinks he is transgender but is not and will end up regretting SRS.

58. randy m says:

“Contain somewhat contained”
Because it’s not like universities influence nearly every single person who good on to any important position in the nation.
Was that an admonition to beware of how their goals can weaken the west, or to adopt these tactics in order to accomplish their noble goals?

59. Jiro says:

Re: Rachel Dolezal. There probably isn’t a chemical that changes the race of someone’s brain. But on the other hand, it’s still plausible that someone with the right childhood experiences and upbringing can identify with a race that they don’t physically match,in a way that they can’t just throw off later in life. She did have black siblings, after all.

(And on the third hand, I suspect people seem to be picking on her because she seemed to have been calling herself black in order to gain benefits, which is not relevant to the Tumblir post, but is relevant to your explanation of why people pick on her. They’re not picking on her because they’re anti-black and found a person that society lets them be anti-black against; they’re picking on her because the fact that she benefits from doing this calls the narrative into question.)

Also it looks like that’s by someone else on Ozy’s Tumblir because of the way Tumblir does quotes, it’s not by Ozy.

• AbuDhabi says:

Isn’t DNA a chemical?

• anodognosic says:

• Jiro says:

DNA is literally a chemical, but that is not the connotation of the word “chemical” in this context.

• randy m says:

Never mind the connotation, DNA doesn’t “change” a person’s race, nor could it unless it was swapped out at the moment of conception.

• stillnotking says:

The outrage against Dolezal seems fairly straightforward: she’s a fraud, which trips our cheater-detection, retributive-anger response. There’s also a bit of cognitive dissonance created, among those with a certain political bent, who may find it hard to articulate exactly how she’s a fraud, whom she is defrauding, and why.

• Anonymous says:

I suspect people seem to be picking on her because she seemed to have been calling herself black in order to gain benefits

How does this make sense? Even Jon Stewart said that passing as black only brings hardship and pain, not benefits.

• DrBeat says:

You may have noticed that when it comes to “SJ” subjects, Jon Stewart never ever ever stops lying.

Similarly, the benefit of being black is, at least in part, that you have a large contingent of the population who are willing to never ever ever stop lying in order to defend you from consequences of your actions, get you things you want, and shower you with attention and victimhood.

Most of the non-benefits… malefits?… of being black apply to actual black people regardless of what race they claim, and do not apply to white people who claim to be black. All of the benefits of being black apply to white people who claim to be black.

• Whatever happened to Anonymous says:

I’m pretty sure that was sarcasm.

• Alraune says:

Since I can’t tell if you’re joking here…

In this case, the hardship and pain were fucking lies that only hurt the other black people of the Pacific Northwest, while the speaking engagements and professorships were real and accrued directly to her.

• Anonymous says:

The lies about hate crimes are separate from the penalties that accrue from being black in America.

the speaking engagements and professorships were real and accrued directly to her

Normally, when these things accrue to black people, we say that they happen in spite of their position of disprivilege, not because of it.

• randy m says:

That’s not true. They are in part due to their position, which has an unequal and oft changing mix of benefits and drawbacks.

• Anonymous says:

…not according to Jon Stewart (and a suspiciously large contingent of other commenters).

• Careless says:

Yeah, being black is a huge disadvantage for becoming an African Studies professor

• Tom Womack says:

It’s not obvious that it brings exclusively hardship and pain if you personally strongly value the company of black people and the camaraderie of black institutions. It seems the same sort of category of thing as pretending to be Jewish because you enjoy Talmudic argument and the company of yeshivot, or pretending to be an aspiring priest because you value the Oxbridge collegiate environment at a period in time when there was a clerical requirement.

• Anonymous says:

I don’t think those are the types of benefits that Jiro was referring to (this hunch is supported by Alraune’s response).

• Deiseach says:

RE: pretending to be Jewish, what about the arguments over defining who is Jewish?

If the Orthodox (or orthodox) argument is that heritage is through the maternal line, so that only the children of a Jewish mother can be Jewish, what about the children of Jewish fathers or descendants of more remote Jewish ancestry?

Some strands of Jewish thought accept people as Jewish even if they can’t produce the requisite matrilineal proofs. Are they transracial wannabes, only pretending to be Jewish for the benefits?

For example, the Ethiopian Jews who migrated to Israel in the 1980s-90s, risking their lives and losing relatives along the way, have faced persistent doubts as to whether they are properly Jewish in doctrine and descent. “I feel that I’m the Jew I want to be,” protests Fentahun Assefa-Dawit of Tebeka, an advocacy group for the 130,000-strong community. “I don’t want anyone to tell me how to be Jewish.”

• Eugene Dawn says:

This is the example that occurred to me as well. My initial feeling is that anyone with some sort of “meaningful” Jewish ancestry or connection with Jewish tradition or heritage ought to be allowed to identify as Jewish (“meaningful” being left deliberately vague) — thus someone with a Jewish father should count, or someone adopted into a Jewish family and raised Jewish.

I think this intuition is also behind my feeling that race and gender really are different for this sort of “trans” phenomenon–it would be absurd for someone to claim that they just “feel like a Jew”, or that they “should have a Jewish body” — to be Jewish is as much historical and cultural as strictly biological.
With less confidence, I’d say something similar holds for being black, perhaps especially in America — that there’s a culture element and an element of some shared history as well. I think I remember debates about whether Obama should be considered part of the “black community” as his African ancestry was more recent, and for example his ancestors had missed out on slavery.

I think this is what people find most unlikely about Dolezal’s claim, and what separates it from claims to feel like a woman–even if you “feel” your body ought to have more melanin, that would’t make you truly African-American any more than a Ghanaian born with strong, stereotypically Jewish features would be considered Jewish. Whereas, anyone with female features really is considered a woman.

Of course, there are still complications and edge cases, hinted at by the issues raised by others, but I think this sort of idea underlies my intuitions.

• CJB says:

I know Jewish conversions are fairly rare, but do exist.

Presuming the convert is a woman, are her children considered Jewish?

• Brett says:

If the Orthodox (or orthodox) argument is that heritage is through the maternal line, so that only the children of a Jewish mother can be Jewish, what about the children of Jewish fathers or descendants of more remote Jewish ancestry?

No comment on how to make the decision, but I was highly amused by the genetic evidence suggesting that the Ashkenazim are descended from male Jews who picked up Italian wives and then settled in Germany. Basically, their Y chromosomes (the paternal line) look Levantine, while their mitochondria (the maternal line) looks southern European. So very likely by this standard, most European Jews aren’t Jewish!

• Eugene Dawn says:

@CJB

Yes, they would be, with the caveat that different denominations have different standards for what counts as a conversion.

Aaaand, while looking up Jewish conversion, I discovered the existence of the Subbotniks, a Russian Christian sect that adopted Jewish rites and eventually came to regard themselves as Jews, while still holding reverence for Jesus and the Gospels.
Following Wiki, it seems many of them moved into the Pale of Settlement, or became early Zionists and moved to Palestine, intermarrying with ethnic Jews.
It seems Subbotnik communities don’t celebrate Hannukah, as it has no religious significance, and is only significant as a national holiday for ethnic Jews.

Well, that is just fascinating. I have no idea what this means for the possibility of “identifying as Jewish”.

• I know Jewish conversions are fairly rare, but do exist.

Not really so rare. There are more converts to Judaism (“Jews By Choice”) in the world today than ever before.

Presuming the convert is a woman, are her children considered Jewish?

A convert is considered completely Jewish, just as if he or she were born to a Jewish mother, so yes.

Of course, different movements have different standards for what is considered a valid conversion. I have heard of a guy who went through conversion three times, with differently affiliated rabbis, in order to satisfy various conflicting authorities.

• So very likely by this standard, most European Jews aren’t Jewish!

In Biblical times, Jewish descent was patrilineal. The matrilineal thing came along later.

• Brett says:

Jewish settlement in Central Europe was in medieval, not biblical times, though. Definitely post-Rabbinical Judaism.

• Dain says:

Interesting, the way social forces push on some but not others.

My ex-gf is mixed race, half black/white. She said that as a child she was never white enough, and by high school she wasn’t black enough. The latter is what has shaped her self-conception as definitely black, as the perception of the black community is what she considered most authoritative. She’s now with a black husband.

But an old Barnes & Noble coworker of mine, also half black/white, refused to pick one side or the other, and more or less considered her identity to be shaped by her interests (graphic novels and going to Comic Con). Her boyfriend is white.

• SFG says:

I suspect a lot of geeks consider themselves that first and an ethnicity second.

FWIW, I see a lot of black nerd women on OKC making it quite clear they’re fine with interracial dating. 😉

60. Mary says:

“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?”

Appearances can be deceiving.

During the Battle of the Atlantic, you had steadily mounting Allied losses — higher and higher — and then, abruptly, one month, in which the Allies introduced no radical new measures, they collapsed, and the next month (two months?) nothing, followed by one last trivial attempt and no more.

If you analyze it in terms of Allied losses per sub it was in decline a long time. They just managed to reach a tipping point where Allied anti-sub measures — centimetric radar, Leigh light, aircraft carriers — were deployed widely enough to counter increasing fleet size.

61. Brian says:

Great. My wife is pregnant with our first, due in November. November, apparently, is the cruelest month. Like I wasn’t nervous enough. 🙂

• Scott Alexander says:

I was born in November and turned out okay.

• Brian says:

OK, that helps. Plus my dad slapped me in the head at lunch today when I voiced concerns after reading the study. His take: “that’s stupid.” Sage wisdom, probably.

• FJ says:

Especially because kids don’t necessarily arrive when expected. If the kid stays in for nine months, count your blessings.

62. ton says:

The Ozy post seems to be a reblog of someone else?

63. Alex Richard says:

The cartel link is incredibly misleading at best, and probably just plain wrong. (The Mexican government’s official position is that there are 9 cartels left.)

There are two possible steelmen of the cartel article. One is that there are only two national alliances of cartels in conflict with each other. This says absolutely nothing about progress in the war, and contradicts the article, but is true from a certain point of view.

The other is that killing the leaders of cartels leads to the cartels balkanizing/fragmenting into smaller groups, which is true. But this again does nothing to actually reduce violence or the drug trade, and AFAIK it’s flatly false that all but two cartels have fragmented.

(Mexico actually does appear to be making some progress; e.g. homicides have declined from their height. But the article is wrong or misleading.)

64. Error says:

Please tell me this title is a Legend of Zelda reference…

65. Rachael says:

I’m embarrassed to ask this, because I think of myself as good at spotting ambiguity, but: what ambiguity do you mean, in the book subtitle?

I assume the intended meaning of “Intelligence: All That Matters” is that intelligence is the only thing that matters. If I squint a bit I can contort “all that matters” into meaning “all of those things matter” instead, but even then it’s a stretch to make the referent be “things other than intelligence”. Is that what you’re suggesting, or am I missing another interpretation?

• Alraune says:

“All That Matters About Intelligence” vs. “Intelligence is All That Matters”

• Rachael says:

Oh, I see, thanks.
The first one didn’t occur to me, because it seems like such a contentless subtitle that doesn’t add anything to the title. I still think the second one is intended, then, especially given the chapter heading “Why intelligence matters”.

• randy m says:

The first one conveys that v the eponymous time has all one needs to know about intelligence–no other reading required. The second is making a strong case about the role of intelligence, but doesn’t claim to describe everything about intelligence.

• HeelBearCub says:

@Rachael, @rand m:

Another way to put it:

“Hand Crafting Dollhouses: All That Matters” has an entirely different connotation.

• Psmith says:

Shit, I read it as “Intelligence is All That Matters” vs “Intelligence: It Matters!” Go figure.

66. Godzillarissa says:

Re that adoption thing: His last name, “Hass”, is the german word for “hate”.
Now remind me how it’s called when the name describes the person’s character…

Edit: Ah… it was nominative determinism.
Anyway, just felt like pointing that out is a thing around here, so there.

• anodognosic says:

Hah! It’s nominative determinism.

67. Deiseach says:

Re: Tolkien and the amount of work he did on designing his calendar; from a letter to Naomi Mitchison:

I am sorry about my childish amusement with arithmetic; but there it is: the Númenórean calendar was just a bit better than the Gregorian: the latter being on average 26 secs fast p. a., and the N[úmenórean] 17.2 secs slow.

68. Doug M. says:

I note that the article also manages to ignore the fact that many countries have welfare states nearly as large and as generous as Sweden’s. Germany, for instance, has universal health care, large pensions, generous unemployment benefits, a raft of mandatory benefits for employees including high minimum wages and generous maternal and paternal leave, heavily subsidized state-run day care, and absolutely free state-funded higher education.

With 80 million people and the world’s sixth largest economy, Germany is not exactly a small country. Yet somehow Germany has managed not only to survive but to prosper. (Among other accomplishments, it’s the only large economy that’s managed the trick of running a massive trade surplus with China.)

Doug M.

• excess_kurtosis says:

Scandinavia has almost thirty million people. It isn’t really *that* small in the scheme of things.

• Doug M. says:

That’s true, but I actually hesitate to lump “Scandinavia” all together. Although they all have ‘welfare states’ by US standards, if you look closely the details are very different.

To give a single minor example, it’s really really hard to fire someone in Sweden. (Like, unless the employee is caught stealing from you, you almost have to declare bankruptcy to get rid of him or her. That level of hard.) Denmark, on the other hand, makes it easy for employers to fire people — employment is basically at-will, like in the US. But Denmark balances this with very generous unemployment benefits and retraining programs, much more so than Sweden. There are lots of things like that.

Doug M.

• E. Harding says:

Ah. So that’s why the Swedish natural rate of unemployment is so high.

Your inclusion of the minimum wage in that list is somewhat misleading. Until recently, Germany did not have a minimum wage, and still did well economically, so that can’t be an explanation for Germany’s relatively strong economic performance. The minimum wage law is only in effect since the beginning of this year, so it’s still too early to tell what the consequences are.

• Doug Muir says:

Actually, about 90% of Germany’s workers have had minimum wages since the 1970s. That’s because Germany has really strong unions, and the unions in each sector negotiated minimum wages for that sector. So construction workers had one minimum wage, supermarket cashiers had another, and so forth. There were a few sectors that didn’t get covered — most notably food preparation workers in restaurants — but the great majority of workers had minimum wages, and fairly high ones at that.

What Germany didn’t have until quite recently was a national minimum wage set by law instead of bargaining. That was seen as almost unnecessary, since almost all industries already had wages set by bargaining with the unions. So it took them years to get around to it.

Doug M.

• Alraune says:

For the sake of most of the economic arguments around minimum wages, industry/union-negotiated minimums are the same as “no minimum.” Getting a contract where no new worker in your same job can come in and undercut you does have some negative externalities, but they’re substantially different (and according to anti-MW arguments, less harmful) ones from passing a law where no new worker even in a completely different field can undercut you.

You’re talking about *Tarifverträge*, which are quite different from a minimumg wage. Aside from being negotiated between unions and employers, rather than being set by the government, *Tarifverträge* do not establish a uniform minimum wage in a particular sector (to which not even all the employers in that sector are bound), since the wages in question vary by factors such as the type of job and seniority.

I don’t know where you’re getting this 90% figure from. The figures that I found with a little bit of googling are that a little over half of all employees are paid according to a sector-wide *Tarifvertrag*. See for example https://www.destatis.de/Europa/DE/Thema/BevoelkerungSoziales/Arbeitsmarkt/Tarifbindung.html

• Doug Muir says:

90% isn’t how may employees are paid a minimum wage, but rather how many are working in sectors where a minimum wage has been established — since having a minimum wage in an industry is going to affect everyone in the industry, for good or for ill.

Doug M.

The ~50% figure IS the proportion of employees who are working in firms which are bound by a sector wide “minimum wage” (a Branchentarifvertrag). And no, such a Branchentarifvertrag does not affect everyone in that particular industry since not all employers are bound by it.

69. Murphy says:

I was a little disappointed with your “The Cost of Satisfaction” summary. You know when you read an article about something and the article talks about the half of the results they like but ignore the others?

“respondents in the highest patient satisfaction quartile (relative to the lowest patient satisfaction quartile) had lower odds of any emergency department visit (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 0.92; 95% CI, 0.84-1.00), higher odds of any inpatient admission (aOR, 1.12; 95% CI, 1.02-1.23), 8.8% (95% CI, 1.6%-16.6%) greater total expenditures, 9.1% (95% CI, 2.3%-16.4%) greater prescription drug expenditures, and higher mortality”

So patients were more likely to get routine care rather than ending up in the emergency room and were between 5% and 53% more likely to die in that time. (hazard ratio, 1.26; 95% CI, 1.05-1.53)

That’s one hell of a wide confidence interval.
Subjects were followed for between 1 and 6 years.

This reminds me of an analysis which showed that death rates drop when doctors are away.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22530032.100-death-rate-drops-when-top-heart-surgeons-are-away.html#.VYqXJUau_Zc

Because surgeries tend to be put off while the doctors are away so the death rate drops. The patients aren’t getting better care but over the short term the added risk from surgeries increases mortality.

Now imagine 2 groups of people, one who’s doctors ignore their complaints until they end up in the emergency room and the other who’s doctors run tests and refer them for surgery if they find something serious.

Over the short term, just as with the surgeons being away, we’d expect the first group to have lower mortality while the second group are more likely to get needed surgery right now and get their dose of micromorts in the short term from surgeries.

they adjusted for chronic diseases but that will also mess things up if one group of patients are less likely to know they even have the long term health conditions in question, indeed we’d expect people with better doctors to look sicker by that score.

Health care expenditure?

lowest quartile: 4542

highest quartile: 4534

Oh but in that case the ignored the totals and picked out the one sub item in the list where patients in the most satisfied group paid slightly more while ignoring the areas where they paid less. This is also a spot where they stopped doing stats and just compared the numbers without stats because then they would have had to adjust for the other 100 things they were measuring.

They also neglected to mention that patients in the most satisfied group were more likely to rate their health as better and more likely to come out as healthier in the questionaire.

Bullshit alarm is going off (WEE OO WEE OO)

They’ve pretty blatantly scoured the data for anything where the highest quartile looks even vaguely worse than the lowest quartile then only mentioning that as if it’s a primary outcome.

Unfortunately they don’t appear to have preregistered their study design (as is best ethically when running studies involving human participants) so we can’t say for certain whether they changed their primary outcome measures after peeking at the data.

70. aguycalledjohn says:

Are there any practical takeaways from the Glial link to depression? (For non-researchers at least)

71. Doug M. says:

Re the Sweden article.

1) It’s Megan McArdle. That’s a red flag right there.

2) Sweden is not by any stretch a “homogeneous” society. That’s a lazy generalization that’s also about two generations out of date.

Sweden has been very open to immigration for about 50 years now. So, as of 2015, almost 20% of the citizens or permanent residents of Sweden are either recent immigrants or their children — some from Eastern Europe, but most from Africa, Asia, or the Middle East. Add to them about 150,000 refugees (about half of them from Syria) plus an indeterminate but large number of guest workers both legal and otherwise, and the number rises well above 20%. And then, “native” Swedes include several non-Swedish ethnic groups, such as the Finnish Swedes and the Sami. So when you total it all up, about 25% of the people living in Sweden are not ethnic Swedes. That still may not be quite as diverse as the US, but it’s definitely not “homogenous”.

2) The main thrust of the article is that Sweden can afford its welfare state because it’s freeloading off of US innovation. This is, in a word, nonsense. Sweden has been producing a steady drumbeat of world-class innovations for decades now, from the three-point seatbelt, the milk carton and ultrasound in the last century to Skype and AIS in this one.

But never mind past accomplishments — let’s look at objective numbers. In 2012, the United States granted 121,026 patents to persons resident in the United States. (All data here is from the World Intellectual Property Organization, http://www.wipo.int.) Sweden granted 2,434 patents to persons resident in Sweden. Now, Sweden has about 1/33 the population of the US — in 2012, around 9.4 million vs. about 312 million. So, if we calculate “patents granted per million people” the figure is about US 383, Sweden 255. The US is clearly ahead, but Sweden is not exactly slacking.

But wait: what if we correct for GDP? We’d expect countries with bigger GDPs to have more patents, right? And while Sweden is a rich country, the US is even richer. Well, US nominal GDP in 2012 was about $16.3 trillion. Sweden’s was about$404 billion. So if we measure patents granted per billion of GDP… pow, more than half the difference vanishes: it’s now US 7.44 to Sweden 6.02. The US is still ahead — go us! — but not by remotely enough to support the “lazy Nordics mooching off our innovation” model that the article is trying to push.

(Incidentally, the US is not the world’s leader in either patents granted per capita or patents granted per GDP. Just sayin’.)

4) The article does a certain amount of lip-smacking over the fact that the Norwegians are supporting their welfare state on oil. Somehow it manages to ignore the fact that the Swedes have no oil, no gas, and indeed hardly any natural resources at all beyond iron ore, timber, and fish. Most of the country is marginally habitable subarctic wasteland. Most of the population lives on a thin, chilly strip of bleak, flat coastal plain on the wrong side of the Baltic. Yet somehow they’re managing to run one of the world’s most advanced economies. It’s almost as if they’ve managed to organize their society in some strangely efficient way. Go figure.

Doug M.

• excess_kurtosis says:

Sweden also considerably outperforms the US in terms of scientific publications per capita, http://academia.stackexchange.com/posts/18768/revisions . I don’t have the link off hand, but my impression is this lead stays when you restrict to high impact factor articles.

• LTP says:

Ah, but here’s a big difference between the US and Sweden: Sweden is free-loading on the security provided by the US military. If Sweden had to truly pay for its own defense, such a society might be much more difficult to maintain.

• CJB says:

This is the point I always make when I see the “WE SPEND MORE THAN THE NEXT X countries COMBINED on the military!”

Like- yes, I’m aware that we spend too much and have lots of boondoggles.

But we’re also the “Baltic Army”. We’re guaranteeing the borders of a lot of places right now who are incredibly nervous at even a HINT we won’t be coming in like the wrath of god if Russia decides to get all Anschluss-y….again.

Off the top of my head- if the US stopped protecting other places……

Singapore and South Korea would last a week, tops. Most of Eastern Europe would become it’s historically realistic position of “greater Russia”. Japan wouldn’t last too long either- the Chinese have a big ol’ grudge they’ve wanted to settle for 70 years.

Large cartel expansion in Mexico and south America, sudden explosions in the size of terrorist groups. Palestine would cease to exist.

You thought I was gonna say Israel, didn’t you? Israel will be fine. They’re mean, their neighbors are helpless, and their stuff isn’t good enough to interest the big boys.

Palestine only exists because we keep begging the Israelis not to bomb them into atoms every time they perform an act of war against civilians.

The Baltic states would last a very little while.

The Nordic countries would last, I think- but only after Europe gets its shit together. Finland might not make it….they’ve gotten a lot wussier since Simo Hayha.

Ultimately? We’re the only ones actually living up to the NATO treaty and spending 2% of GDP on defense.

• Zykrom says:

I’m surprised you think Japan would fall, or South Korea for that matter. I’d predict both could get a reasonable nuclear deterrent rather quick.

• John Schilling says:

Unfortunately, North Korea has a nuclear deterrent right now, and a historical predilection for an aggressively forward defense posture. That’s a recipe for instability in the interval between “right now” and “rather quick”.

Japan won’t fall; North Korea doesn’t have enough nukes to flatten it, China barely does but has bigger concerns, and neither has the naval or amphibious capability to conquer an incompletely-flattened Japan. But the Japanese kind of hate North Korea, and the North Koreans really, really hate the Japanese, so a few flattened Japanese cities would be a distinct possibility.

• Doug Muir says:

1) It’s an open question whether NK can miniaturize weapons to fit on their current rockets. They say they can; but then they would say that, wouldn’t they.

2) Japan has quietly been “one year from a bomb” for about 40 years now.

3) Really unclear what possible motivation NK could have for an ultimately suicidal attack on a distant country with ~5X the population and an economy over 100 times bigger. “Because they really hate them!” seems a bit of a stretch here.

Note that from the narrow POV of North Korean elites, NK’s foreign policy has actually been both rational and reasonably successful. They have various good reasons to act crazy; this does not mean that they are in fact crazy. Narratives that focus on their various provocations tend to miss the fact that those provocations have consistently stopped well short of actually getting them into a shooting war with anyone.

Doug M.

• CJB says:

I’d say you underestimate the tensions between China and Japan, and the degree to which the chinese political establishment cares about casualties. They’re pretty ideally set up for expansionism, but they don’t really have anywhere to go- although I think they might cut a deal with Russia to move north and possibly west.

One interesting argument I read pointed out that US hegemony prevents nuclear proliferation. If the US is seen as backing off it’s commitments (Like maybe to a nation that signed a treaty securing it’s borders in exchange for it’s nukes, a treaty we supported pretty heavily) then lots of little, rich places are gonna go nuclear, in places we really don’t want having nukes (I’m pretty sure the Gulf states could flat out buy them.)

• John Schilling says:

It’s an open question whether NK can miniaturize weapons to fit on their current rockets. They say they can; but then they would say that, wouldn’t they?

It’s not just the North Koreans saying that.
Claims that North Korea can only build big, clunky Fat Man style atom bombs, are unsupported by evidence, generally devoid of any technical rationale or understanding of nuclear weapons design, and usually come from politicians tasked with the impossible problem of dealing with a nuclear-armed North Korea and desperately trying to kick that can down the road a few more years.

We’re at the end of that road. North Korea almost certainly has 12-20 nuclear warheads that it can mount on medium-range missiles any time Kim wants.

As far as wanting to attack Japan, a major issue for North Korea is ensuring that South Korea stands alone in any conflict. Right now, much of the basing and logistics for US forces earmarked for Korea, flows through Japan, and Japan is perceived as susceptible to nuclear intimidation. “Nice island you’ve got there; be a shame if something happened to it. Oops, did you just lose Hiroshima again?”

If, as hypothesized, the US is no longer part of the equation, that obviously changes.
Most obviously, nuclear attacks by North Korea become less inevitably suicidal, because nobody else would find it safe or easy to destroy the North.

If, beyond that, Japan declares itself a pacifist neutral, then Japan is probably safe but South Korea’s in a bad spot. If Japan and South Korea form a defensive alliance against external threats, then again the DPRK is going to want to make it painful for Japan to remain in that alliance. And China will probably feel the same way, but want somebody Not China to do any necessary dirty work.

If the first thing the new alliance does is to announce that they are going to deploy their own nuclear weapons in a year or so, that makes for a very interesting year.

• Doug Muir says:

1) Who’s going to invade Singapore? There are only two neighbors, and neither one has any reason to bother. Malaysia actively _does not want_ Singapore — they kicked them out back in 1962! Indonesia already had one “confrontasi” with Singapore back in the ’60s, and it was such a fiasco they’ve never moved in that direction since.

2) South Korea has double the population and ~18X the GDP of the North, and they spend about twice as much on their military. They have fewer men under arms (about 650,000 vs. an estimated 1,100,000) but those men are vastly better trained and equipped. It’s very nice for South Korea to have US support, but it’s not an existential necessity.

3) If the US disappeared tomorrow, NATO would still exist. NATO without the US would still be by far the world’s strongest military alliance. And the other NATO members have a fairly strong vested interest in keeping the Russians out of the Baltic States.

(Finns: not sure where you’re getting the “wussy” idea from. Finland has total male conscription — every fit male, and many women, does time in the military — and devotes a higher percentage of its GDP to the military than any other country in the region. The military is very popular. Finland sends troops all over the world, from peackeeping missions in Mali and Lebanon to active deployment in Afghanistan. No, they haven’t had a war in 70 years, but there’s no reason to think they’ve become any less badass than they were in 1940-44.)

4) The PLA Navy has very rough parity with Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force — China has more stuff, Japan’s stuff is better. However, PLAN has basically zero ability to deliver large numbers of troops over blue-water distances. China is not currently capable of invading Taiwan, never mind Japan.

Doug M.

• Doug Muir says:

Sweden is a neutral country. It’s not a member of NATO, nor is it allied with the US in any other way.

Doug M.

• CJB says:

“Sweden is a neutral country. It’s not a member of NATO, nor is it allied with the US in any other way.”

That’s nice. And notably, last time there wasn’t a single worldwide hegemon, they went over like a load of wet bricks in a paper balloon.

Not to mention that, again, Neutrality isn’t a default position where everyone stops wanting your resources. Switzerland, the other notable Euro hold out, maintains it’s neutrality through a heavily armed, well defended position. The swedes maintain it because we won’t let anyone take them over.

I’m sorry, but back when the USSR was really expansionist, you really think the French army was what was keeping them from moving into Sweden?

• birdboy2000 says:

One may fairly note that there was never a land border between Sweden and the Soviet bloc, because Finland provided a buffer.

One may also note that the Soviets tried to conquer Finland, Sweden declared itself non-belligerent (not neutral) in that war and sent more than a few volunteers and arms their way, and that the USSR settled for modest border concessions instead of outright conquest.

(Also, Sweden did maintain a fairly large military deterrent during the Cold War. It’s reduced it since because it has far less to fear in this international situation.)

• John Schilling says:

And I can’t think of any way the socialists can fully accomplish their goals without mountains of skulls, therefore I get to accuse them of being a bunch of Pol Pot wannabes, every last one. Right?

If a person, or a nation, is conspicuously not doing some horrific thing that would benefit them, the charitable assumption is and the default assumption ought to be that they are not horrible people. Claiming that they must secretly desire to unleash horrors but are being somehow restrained, probably ought not be done without real evidence.

• Israel is very dependent on an influx of money from the US,

• John Schilling says:

US foreign aid is just under 1% of Israel’s GDP, and comes with enough strings attached to be less useful than an equivalent sum of domestically-sourced money. It would be quite disruptive if this were to go away unexpectedly and instantly, but “very dependent” is I think understating it.

Or, to link this cross-thread, Israel is maybe as dependent on US money as Sweden is dependent on US military might.

• vV_Vv says:

Or, to link this cross-thread, Israel is maybe as dependent on US money as Sweden is dependent on US military might.

Not really. The US may or may not defend Sweden in case of an attack (there is no open alliance). The US will certainly defend Israel in case of an attack, as historically it did multiple times, and in addition the US subsides Israel and supports it at the UN Security Council.

Think of it, if Israel didn’t depend on the US that much, why haven’t they bombed the hell out of the hated Palestinians already?

• Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

I think you’re misunderstanding their point: Sweden is not very dependant on US’ military might, Israel is not very dependant on US’ money.

They, of course, have strong US military backing, but the US is also one of the things keeping them in check.

• John Schilling says:

Think of it, if Israel didn’t depend on the US that much, why haven’t they bombed the hell out of the hated Palestinians already

According to the Palestinians, the Israelis dropped a Hiroshima’s worth of bombs on them last year alone, with quite hellish results. So I gather you are really asking why the Israelis haven’t bombed the Palestinians into (local) extinction or the like.

Hmm, let’s think about that a bit. Is there any possible reason why the Israelis might be averse to engaging in genocide? Possibly because western democracies in general aren’t keen on genocide, or possibly because of some unique quirk in the Israeli national psyche for some unfathomable reason?

Nope, nope, that can’t be it. Everybody knows the Israelis are secretly genocidal maniacs, restrained only because Bibi is Obama’s bitch.

• Doug Muir says:

What John said.

Also, note that Israel actually has cool-to-okay relations with some of its Arab neighbors, most notably Egypt and Jordan. Israel and Egypt quietly cooperate on a range of issues, they just signed an agreement on Jordan on exploiting the Dead Sea, and trade across the border is exploding — about a thousand trucks a month are crossing the King Hussein Bridge now.

This hardly means that everything is going to be hunky-dory! But Israel is doing rather well by the current status quo, and has little interest in upsetting it.

Doug M.

• Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

>Nope, nope, that can’t be it. Everybody knows the Israelis are secretly genocidal maniacs, restrained only because Bibi is Obama’s bitch.

The thing is that Israel is always in a retaliation position. The idea is not that they’re going to go ahead and just kill all those pesky palestinians, but that their retribution to attacks from Hamas could be much stronger.

When CJB said that Palestine would be gone, I didn’t think he’d mean “Glassed, following by the systematic erradication of Palestinians”, but rather “Completely annexed, with a two-state solution as a distant memory”.

• Doug Muir says:

“Annexed” won’t do it, because then they’ll have to deal with all those Palestinians who actually live there. What are they going to do, let them live in new Greater Israel but without civil rights or the ability to vote?

Annexation plus ethnic cleansing, now.

Doug M.

• CJB says:

What I assume happens is something like this:

Reduced US hegemony leaves Israel on it’s own. Israel is more or less fine, probably raises taxes and increases military spending to compensate. It’s known to have nuclear ballistic subs, so it’s probably safe from open invasion by a major power.

And the duly elected Palestinian government returns to radicalism. And as has happened many times in the past, the duly elected Palestinian government launches an act of war against the Israeli state….except now there’s no reason to listen to US liberals- and they’re the only people on earth willing to actually do anything about the Israeli situation. The big powers that could care (Russia, China, UK) won’t. The other big powers (France, Germany, Japan, etc) are going to be busy probably worrying about the first list of people.

Then you get basically a war of modern weapons against people with RPGs and AK-47s…..except this time they don’t have the advantage of soft power.

I’m presuming between the bombings, the other bombings, the mass attacks, the disease and disruption and eventually the just plain fleeing, Palestine would end up pretty depopulated.

The United States, both civilian and military establishment is the best friends the Palestinian government ever had.

• vV_Vv says:

Given the Israeli policies for the last decades (e.g. this), which culminated with the election of people who say that all the Palestinians are enemies and there will never be a Palestinian state, and the general lack of effort towards a two-state solution, it seems quite clear that the prevailing political position among the Israeli calls for annexing the Palestinian territories.
Since the Israeli aren’t obviously willing to give Israeli citizenship to the Palestinians, the Palestinian territories will have to be depopulated before the annextion by some combination of displacement and genocide (e.g. something like what happened to the Armenians in Turkey).

The question is why they didn’t do this already. The only reasonable explanation I can think of is that the US is holding the leash.

• Ty Myrick says:

That sounds like an excellent reason for the US to reallocate some of its military spending to social security.

• E. Harding says:

Sweden wasn’t even dragged into WW II. It also has good submarines.

• John Schilling says:

…and very good fighter jets, and very good missiles, and light antitank weapons so good that the United States Army buys them.

Sweden is one of the top ten arms exporters in the world, which serves to subsidize a arms industry that gives Sweden an independent defensive capability it would not otherwise be able to afford. Swedish military security is complicated, and not accurately described as ” free-loading on the security provided by the US military”

• excess_kurtosis says:

The US spends 3.8% of GDP on it’s military, Sweden spends 1.3%. US government spending is 34% of GDP, Swedish government spending is 51% of GDP. That is to say, differences in military spending explain only 10% of the difference in government spending between the US and Sweden. This is a really stupid talking point.

• CJB says:

I was getting all geared up for an argument when I realized that I’m not posting on the part of the internet where any incorrect statement forever discolors everything you say, and it’s perfectly acceptable to say “That information is new to me, and while I think my underlying point is still good, I think you’re probably right about this.”

So that information is new to me, you’re probably right, and while I think my general point about US military involvement stands, you’re probably right about this.

That’s such a relief. You know how awful it is to defend terrible talking points because you’re in a fight and concession is weakness?

• Eugene Dawn says:

This comment makes me really happy; I think the fact that people feel this way about the SSC comments is a real credit to Scott.

• I am thrilled to be part of an online community where this is possible, and I will strive to uphold this standard with my own behavior.

• excess_kurtosis says:

Sorry for the tone!

• HeelBearCub says:

@CJB/@Larry Kestenbaum/@Eugene Dawn:

How do we have more of this and less of everyone fighting to defend weak arguments and the associated problem of being incapable of seeing their arguments are weak?

Certainly, modifying one’s own behavior around one’s own weak arguments to the extent that it is possible, is the first step. But that runs smack into the problem of frequently not being able to see that one has a weak argument.

What steps can anyone take to help others to identify/acknowledge their own weak arguments?

One idea that seems reasonable is to be willing to call out arguments which are weak which support a viewpoint or worldview that you believe to be true. It’s easier to accept criticism from your “own” side.

That strikes me as a fundamentally hard thing to do.

• houseboatonstyx says:

@ HeelBearCub

For what it’s worth, while composing a comment on where mass shooters get their guns, I noticed a flaw in my own argument. The Aurora and Tucson guys spent months planning, and Aurora (and Breivik) spent a long time accumulating equipment. With that kind of diligence, they could probably manage to get an illegal one.

The Newtown guy might have been acting on impulse and been deterred by the lack of convenient guns in their house, if his mother’s background check had discovered a son under mental observation living with her.

I’m too lazy to look up more samples, but a key might be ‘murderous crazy + OCD’.

• HeelBearCub says:

@houseboatonstyx:

Certainly, being willing to examine one’s own thinking and identify flaws is what we should be after. Acknowledge the flaw out loud can make for a powerful example to others.

• Eugene Dawn says:

@HBC
Hahaha, as if I know 😛

As a pretty new commenter here, I hardly feel as if I’m qualified to talk about how to raise the standard of discourse, but what I’ve tried to do so far is
1. Refuse to respond to a thread if reading the thread makes me frustrated or angry, since that’s likely to activate the motivated reasoning parts of my brain
2. Try and make my comments as factual as possible, without much argumentation
3. If I say something that is more opinionated, try and distance myself from it — I’ve tried to say things like, “my intuition is”, rather than “I think”, since I feel that it commits me less to the position I’m advancing. Another one that I try and use in real life is not to respond to flaws in arguments with “Oh yeah? Well what about ______”, but rather to try and say something like, “I think a possible response to that is ________”, again putting some distance between me and the counter-argument I’m making. I really find that this lets someone attack my view without me feeling like I have to go on the warpath to defend it.
I’ve also found that this technique helps me keep discussions from turning into arguments, which again are where my motivated reasoning comes out.

As with all sorts of personal virtues, I think the best strategies don’t rely on you being able to muster up the strength to be virtuous once you’re in a difficult spot; rather they prevent you from getting in such a spot in the first place. This implies a certain ability to ignore what you feel are extremely wrong arguments, though, which has its own drawbacks.
But yeah, it’s pretty hard, in general. I think part of it is also to forgive yourself and others for failing to uphold perfect standards of discussion at all times–pretty much anyone in the SSC comments is doing better than the vast majority of the rest of the internet.

• HeelBearCub says:

@Eugene Dawn:

All very salient points for modifying one’s own behavior. My intuition is that #3 is very important.

It seems that even just examining one’s own comment and putting the think/believe/intuit modifier where this is actually what is happening is important. We should strive to differentiate between what we “know” to be true based on citable evidence and what we are less sure of.

I am using the word know here in a fairly weak sense. I’m not asking for the accumulated body of evidence for classical and quantum physics. But I feel that it is all to often easy to unconsciously remove admissions of the limits of our own knowledge in effort to make our arguments appear stronger than they are.

You make a good point that this, also unconsciously, pre-commits us to defending weak arguments

• CJB says:

I’m very tolerant on the tones of others. I tend to write in a fairly obscene, sarcastic, CAPITALS AND EMPHASIS heavy manner, which I hope comes off as jocular and fun to read, but can come off abrasively. Dinna fash yerself lad/lassie, as the Scots.

While I’ve got you all here-

Any shibboleths, taboos, customs of the country I should observe as a noob?

• HeelBearCub says: