OT48: Open Your Heart

This is the bi-weekly open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. Also:

1. Thanks to everyone who attended the SSC meetups in California. A few people have asked about doing something like that more regularly even when I’m not visiting; if anyone wants to arrange something like that I’ll do my part to popularize it. Otherwise, there are always rationalist meetups in Berkeley and EA meetups in Stanford; I don’t know the exact times and locations but they should be pretty easy to find out if you ask.

2. Some people have asked about a forum to replace the overloaded Open Thread system. Right now I feel like there’s already a subreddit, it’s underused, and I don’t see why people would use a forum if they’re not using the subreddit, but if anyone strenuously disagrees I’m happy to listen to counterarguments.

3. I’ve been posting a lot less recently because I’ve been on vacation, but now I’m back and should return to a more normal schedule.

4. Comment of the week is TD on the role of 4Chan vs. SomethingAwful in internet culture wars, plus the ensuing thread.

5. Book 1 of Unsong is finished. If you’ve been waiting to read it until there was a big chunk you could read all at once, now’s your chance.

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1,467 Responses to OT48: Open Your Heart

  1. Ruprect says:

    Is the following completely mad?
    My feeling is that women have it bad in certain respects – they are weaker and they have to give birth. But, really, that’s about it. (I believe it’s probably just about as hard for a man with a desire to work in a traditionally female profession as it is for a woman to work in a male one…)
    I remember, when I was a teenager, I went for work experience in the law courts. While I was listening to the court cases, all I could think about was everyone taking all their clothes off and having sex. It was difficult for me to understand why we were there.
    I think that dying in a war, if there were at least a chance of perpetrating some serious violence, would be, in many ways, far, far preferable to living a long life working on a checkout aisle. I think I would rather kill someone, than work on a checkout aisle (or at the very least, that is all I would be able to think about while I was working on one.)
    I don’t know if I’m typical of men, or if I’m just a lunatic, or what – but my impression is that it’s easier for me to understand what it is like to be a woman, than it is for women to understand what it is like to be men – and most of the political women have *no idea* what it is like to be a man. And, that’s why it is a problem if vulgar feminism becomes really influential.

    • Dahlen says:

      It might be completely mad. See a therapist for a definitive answer to that question.

      Maybe they should have picked someone else for work experience in law courts. And maybe you shouldn’t find murder preferable to shitty employment. And just maybe, you should research all the myriad ways in which women were forbidden this and that as early as three generations ago, and think long and hard whether any of the causes of the mentalities that produced those laws lingers on, or, if not, if a complete 180 degree cultural change can happen in three generations.

      And what happened with no race or gender in the open thread?

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        And what happened with no race or gender in the open thread?

        It got de-facto lifted when Thing of Things stop doing the race&gender specific one.

  2. The big advantage of a forum would be that it could add some structure to discussion through categories. For a start, political discussion could go in a political section to keep it from oozing everywhere (and to keep the more obnoxious political hacks from repeating the same leftVSright/guns/SJ/insert-object-level-stuff-here over and over like broken records (the rest of the interwebs is full of that rubbish, does every conversation have to be poisoned by it here). It also means that you can navigate to the topic you are most interested in without wading through gianormous swamp of random topics. And lastly because its more organised and specific, long-term conversations/themes can be identified and pointless repetition is more obvious and so can be discouraged.

    I propose if there is a forum the politics section also be split into object level and meta level discussion. Also, maybe some forum software might allow opt-in private messages.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Doesn’t pretty much all forum software allow private messages?

      • Yes, just meant something that isn’t going to bug people if they don’t want to read private messages from people. Ideally you could opt-in or disable PMs so people knew you didn’t want to be contacted. Not sure how many forums do that, but I’ve seen sites with that feature.

  3. Nero tol Scaeva says:

    Anyone here record/produce metal?

    I got a DAW a few months back and have been trying to learn all about mixing/EQing and all that good stuff. I listen to my finished products on a variety of sound systems (headphones, speakers, car stereo, etc.) but I have a hard time figuring out if my stuff really sounds “good” since I think my headphones mask a lot of possible errors. Even though I bought the headphones when I bought the DAW and recording equipment so I assume that the equipment person who helped me buy them at Guitar Center should know his stuff.

    So here’s one of my recording attempts: A metal version of the Final Fantasy fanfare.

  4. Landshill says:

    Why don’t countries just load their nuclear waste onto a plane and dump it off on enemy territory?

    Pretty much everybody has enemies.

    • Leit says:

      Probably because someone would quickly rules lawyer any such action as nuclear warfare, and this would utterly ruin the country involved under the weight of the international reaction.

      • John Schilling says:

        “Weapons of Mass Destruction should be defined to include atomic explosive weapons, radioactive material weapons, lethal chemical and biological weapons, and any weapons developed in the future which have characteristics comparable in destructive extent to those of the atomic bomb or other weapons mentioned above”.

        U.N. Document 5/C.3/32/Rev.1, 1948

        Way ahead of you on that one.

    • Anonymous says:

      Why bother with that instead of just dropping actual nukes?

  5. Deiseach says:

    Dragging the unquiet corpse from its shallow grave, but has anyone here read “If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love” and liked it? And if so, what did you like about it? Because I’m getting told it’s heartwrenching and exquisite prose and poetic and all the rest of it, and all I can go is gape in slack-jawed yokel amaze, as it does nothing of the kind for me.

    I’m currently engaged in an exchange of views on this and trying my best to remain civil, avoid all Sad and Rabid Puppydom, refer as little as feasible to the Hugos, and discuss the story on its literary merits, such as they are, and as an example of award-winning genre fiction – it won a Nebula – but we’re at the third exchange and I’ve just quoted Baudelaire, so I can tell I’m getting into One Of My Strange Moods* and I want to back off a bit and cool down and not start arguing over politics (both of the Hugo kerfuffle and the politics in the story).

    I think it’s a poor story; it leaves me “meh”, I do not discern this great literary style alleged to be present in it, and as genre fiction it simply isn’t: the dinosaur fantasy is a bit of desperate daydreaming by the main character, and the fiancé being a paleontologist does not make it SF. If the “singing dinosaur on Broadway” were an actual singing dinosaur on Broadway, that would make it SF/Fantasy; a “suppose you were a dinosaur like the ones you study, I wonder if you could sing, hey if you could sing they’d put you on Broadway, imagine a singing dinosaur” stream of consciousness babble is not. To take HPMOR as a possible Hugo nominee, at least it qualifies as SF/F because magic is real and works in the universe of the story. It would be completely different if the magic in the story were stage conjuring, and no amount of “hey there’s a dinosaur singing on Broadway daydream” makes Swirsky’s story metamorphose from a standard piece of mainstream literary fic into SF/F anymore than “what makes this story SF/F” “there’s magic in it!” “Penn and Teller magic, not real magic!” “what’s the difference?” would make a story SF/F.

    My opinion: it’s a poor story – okay writing, nothing special, not SF/F genre, only reason it won a Nebula is that skiffy authors are always thirsting for mainstream respectability so of course this is the kind of thing they’d vote for.

    *How I can tell is when I start writing like a third-rate Georgian belles-lettrist, and that’s George V not the Regency and after Georges. For example, I made a reference to “the limpid wave of the Pierian Spring” about Ms Swirsky’s prose, and this was me being coyly, even archly, unfavorable about it.

    • The Nybbler says:

      It’s pretty clear that THAT Nebula-winning, Hugo-nominated thing is not in the genre by any reasonable stretch of the imagination. Even if it were a great story, it wouldn’t be an SF/Fantasy story.

      This year’s response to it, “Space Pirate Butt Invasion”, a gay porn story by “Chuck Tingle”, sounds like it might at least sorta fit the genre. Well, no less than “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere”.

      From Amazon: “Space can be a lonely place, especially when you’re stationed by yourself on the distant planet Zorbus. In fact, Lance isn’t quite sure that can last the whole year before his shuttle pod arrives, but when a mysterious visitor appears at Lance’s terraforming station, he quickly realizes that he might not be so alone after all.”

    • keranih says:


      By my perhaps excessively charitable standards, it is the sort of thing which is well liked by the kind of people who like that sort of thing. It is not horrible. There is a bit of beauty in the descriptive prose and the rules of grammar are followed.

      I am deeply put off by the blatant pandering to the sort of audience who likes this sort of thing, as well as the tired and well-worn stereotyping of redtribe sorts. HOWEVER the idea – a bone digger who can transform into a real live dino – is not very far off a great deal of golden age SF – nor modern superhero movies, for that matter.

      (And Micheal Swanwick explored something like this some years previously.)

      I don’t see the sort of people who really liked IYWADML appreciating a story about a dino-transforming superhero in which the cape’s best beloved only appeared at his hospital bedside, weeping as she stroked his hand and imagining a revenge fantasy.

      So it’s not a horrible story, and it might be considered SFF-ish. (“The Water…” had a far better SF concept, and actually trembled on the edge of engaging with the wonder of the idea.)

      Campbell famous instructed his authors to take a SFF concept, assume it, and then tell a story in that setting. It’s not enough to have an awesome idea – you also have to have the story.

      But if you don’t really take hold of the idea – and I firmly feel that neither TWTFoYFN nor IFYWADML did this – then all the story in the world can’t overcome that.

      • suntzuanime says:

        IYWADML did not have a sci-fi conceit. It had the conceit of a sci-fi conceit. TWTFoYFN had a sci-fi conceit, and proceeded to use it in the least imaginative possible way. TWTFoYFN actually passes one test of good sci-fi: it creates a “playground of the mind” by encouraging you to imagine your own stories in its universe. Unfortunately the way it encourages this is by goading you into listing hundreds of different ways the premise could have been used more meaningfully than in the story itself.

        I don’t support the attempts to politicize the award. What I do support is mercilessly mocking the award body for choosing such terrible bullshit. The nomination of “If You Were an Award, My Love” kind of straddles the line between the two, and I can respect the troll, at least.

        • Deiseach says:

          “The Water That Comes From Nowhere” fit a lot better in as SF/F because it did have the central conceit. Unfortunately that was used as a McGuffin and never adequately explored. The story needed to be tightened up with some rigorous editing (stop being such a pissy little brat about your sister, Mouthpiece Character, for a start) but there was an actual story there.

          I hesitate ah to hell with it, am going to say flat out that it was voted award-winner not because of the science fantasy element but because it was a story about a gay Chinese man coming out and it ticked all the representation boxes. It’s not like there have never been LGBT characters in science fiction before, but I do think a lot of the current voters/reviewers are young(ish) and haven’t read anything printed before their birth date 🙂

          • keranih says:

            it ticked all the representation boxes.

            You forgot interracial relationship.

            It’s not like there have never been LGBT characters in science fiction before, but I do think a lot of the current voters/reviewers are young(ish) and haven’t read anything printed before their birth date

            Interestingly, the Related Work from a couple years back (“We Have Always Fought”) is more or less a discussion of this huge blind spot that is the past for readers of a certain sort. I read the work slackjawed at the realization that no, she didn’t know these things, and no, she’s not going to think deeply about why she didn’t know them.

        • Forlorn Hopes says:


          I have some sympathy for the points Sad Puppies were making, though I felt they didn’t argue them well.

          Rabid Puppies, I disagree with. But they entertain me so much.

        • Jiro says:

          I think there’s a tension from using a sci-fi premise to make a point and actually exploring the sci-fi premise.

          In the Star Trek episode with the black and white cookie people, nobody sat down and said “Wait a minute, I know the brain’s hemispheres function asymmetrically, could it be that there actually is a difference between the people who are white on one side and white on the other?”

          And plenty of people think that things like that are what made Star Trek good sci-fi–that you can take contemporary issues, slap a coat of paint on them, and that’s what the genre is for.

          • suntzuanime says:

            “The Water” didn’t even go that far, though. It didn’t take a contemporary issue and give it Klingon head ridges to sneak it past people’s internal censors, it took a contemporary issue, presented it straight up, and also there was random pointless magic water because this is a sci-fi story guys.

          • keranih says:

            Which also would have been fine – if SFF was the only venue where this could be discussed. Kirk and Uhura were literally the first black/white couple to kiss on broadcast tv.

            Now, people dealing with nonstandard sexual identity is mainstream. Not everyone agrees on it, but the discussion is absolutely out there.

            TWTFoYFN’s lie detector water was, imo, a decent SFF idea. And the writing in that story was engaging. But the use of the idea (as said elsewhere) was so pedestrian. So…mundane.

          • Deiseach says:

            “Water” could have been an even better story not alone if it had done something with the magic water (for a guy who works as some kind of geneticist, Protagonist is remarkably uncurious about the whole phenomenon from a scientific angle – is it science, magic, gods, what? Have the laws of physics changed slightly? could they all be characters in a simulation and not the real world, and this kind of arbitrary addition to their environment is a not-so-subtle clue?) but from the angle of “ethnic minority gay guy coming out to strict traditional parents”.

            A tougher editor would have tightened the story up considerably and got the author to add some much-needed grittiness (I don’t usually recommend “add conflict for the sake of it” but this story needed some). Boyfriend was unrealistically wonderful – fit, smart, completely devoted, and apparently so wunnerful Dreaded Strict Traditional Parents fell for him at first sight. A bit more “so what the fuck do you mean your parents don’t know about me, hold on, what the fuck do you mean they don’t know you’re gay??” from Boyfriend would have helped ground the story in some kind of realistic reaction. As it is, he’s set up as a cuddle bunny and Trophy Wife: I made it, I scored a white guy! (which is a very, very vexed question).

            Also, Protagonist is not as smart as he thinks he is; plainly his parents are well aware he’s gay, otherwise why would they be so unflustered about him turning up with Boyfriend to the Christmas party? Or else he has an image of them as much stricter and traditional (and ignorant) than is the reality, which is probably also true.

            His attitude to his sister is dreadful, and Protagonist plainly doesn’t consider the benefit he gets from the traditional attitudes he complains about: as the son, he gets a lot more slack than his sister precisely because of the cultural value placed on sons. Since he’s very much rejecting his role, his sister has to compete for attention by taking up the role of the Dutiful Daughter and carry the weight of expectation for both siblings which he has been able to escape.

            I’d also like to hear the Strict Traditional Parents; Protagonist tells us a whole lot about (what he thinks are) their attitudes and beliefs, but we never get to hear directly from them or meet them as people, not cardboard figures. The ending was pure fairytale wish-fulfilment (it all went marvellously, parents are happy, boyfriend is wonderful, Protagonist has Learned To Love and the contemplation of genetically engineering a baby with his and Boyfriend’s genes to round it off with the perfect ending – take that, sister with your two kids, I’m able to have my cake and eat it by providing the necessary continuation of the family name through a baby of my own without having to involve a woman!) – and not in the kind of fairytale style that would better suit the story if it had been written in the style of one, when the absence of an explanation for the magic water wouldn’t have been so evident and irksome (in a fairytale, magic truth-telling water is a given of the environment).

            I could go on but that’s enough 🙂

          • dndnrsn says:


            Sounds like you got a Hugo nomination coming up, just wait a few years and fudge the details.

      • Deiseach says:

        HOWEVER the idea – a bone digger who can transform into a real live dino

        But it wasn’t about that, that’s the trouble! Weepy Girlfriend (okay, that’s catty of me, she has real reason to grieve) is imagining a consolatory fantasy as a distraction from the reality of her wait by the deathbed that suppose fiancé had been a dinosaur like the ones he studies right from the get-go – it’s not that he’s a were-dino or is an alien dino masquerading as human or is going to be injected with dino DNA as a cure, all of which are good old SF tropes, it’s all a fantasy that were he not what he is, he would have avoided being battered into a coma and brain-death by rednecks in a dive bar.

        I mean, Girlfriend could just as well have been fantasising “if you were white cis het, my love, they’d never have picked on you” or “if you were coded as a Republican voter, my love, you’d have been safe in redneck territory”. If she was daydreaming that her fiancé would arise from his deathbed transformed into a terrible antediluvian creature of revenge, that would have been a SF/F story.

        But it wasn’t, and Girlfriend’s “if you were a dinosaur you’d be the cute’n’cuddly kind who could maybe sing and get married but they’d marry you to a lady dinosaur not me okay I’d give you up even if we can’t have woman-dino sex just to make sure you were safe” fantasy doesn’t make it one.

        I am an evil, evil person but the news that another delicately evocative tale of human-dino romantic interaction has been nominated for this year’s Hugos makes me very, very happy 🙂

        And at least Chuck Tingle appears to have a sense of humour about the whole situation.

        • Vorkon says:

          I was particularly impressed by this interview with Chuck Tingle on the subject.

          This response, specifically, struck me as a particularly cogent summary of this entire controversy:

          “Don’t know about any puppies but it’s BAD NEWS BEARS if you want to disrupt awards. That is a scoundrel tactic and probably part of Ted Cobbler’s devilman plan. Ted Cobbler is notorious devil and has been seen using dark magic to control puppies around the neighborhood. I do not support the devilman agenda but i think that Space Raptor Butt Invasion proves that LOVE IS REAL and no scoundrels can stop that. Especially not some dumb dogs.”

          The rest of the interview is definitely worth a read too, of course.

          Reject the Devilman agenda!

    • dndnrsn says:

      In regards to the actual story, I liked the way it was written – the way it was structured from paragraph to paragraph didn’t get too precious, as it was only 1000 words. I’ve read a lot of worse short fiction.

      In regards to the cultural angle, I don’t get the whole “oh no there’s MESSAGES in this sci fi, let’s go back to Martian babes with their tits out and ray guns and shit” complaints. There’s been plenty of political/social messages in sci fi before, and both sides in the US have had a crack at it. The Puppies are being disingenuous when they claim that political/social messages are a new thing, or a left-wing thing.

      In regards to it getting an award, if you gave me the story without any background, and asked me what genre it is … I wouldn’t say “science fiction”. It’s a bit of short fiction with a message to it. Hardly the abomination the Puppies seem to think it is. But if it’s sci fi, what isn’t? There’s plenty of awards for short stories out there.

      I do suspect the “it got nominated because of its message” argument is technically correct, but that says more about science fiction’s yearnings to be Classy and Relevant than a secret left-wing cabal deciding to ruin fun.

      • InferentialDistance says:

        In regards to the cultural angle, I don’t get the whole “oh no there’s MESSAGES in this sci fi, let’s go back to Martian babes with their tits out and ray guns and shit” complaints.

        That is a grossly uncharitable framing of the complaint. The actual complaint is “their MESSAGE fics aren’t any better that our Martian babes with their tits out and ray guns fics, but they shit all over us, the hypocritical bastards”. It’s not a problem that fics have messages. It’s a problem that mediocre fics are getting a pass because MESSAGES, and the condescension surrounding having the “correct” MESSAGES.

      • Leit says:

        I really thought that this had been thoroughly explained here before, and Deiseach even alludes to it in posts in this thread, but let’s go one more time.

        The issue the puppies had was not that there was message in sci-fi. That is, after all, a grand old tradition. It was that only authors who stuck to the approved messages were recognised, and that recognition of craft and story had become secondary to displaying the approved values.

        The virtue signallers, of course, thoroughly denied this.

        The sad puppies have, by now, entirely demonstrated their point. Larry Correia, who ran the original Sad Puppies “campaign” (such as it was, being only the nomination of one book), hasn’t even been involved in last year and this year’s debacles – he’d already conclusively provided proof of his thesis for a couple of years running.

        Unfortunately, last year some complete blithering idiots on the virtue signalling side managed to execute a media campaign accusing the puppies of racism, sexism, poor taste and anything else that they thought might stick. This, along with self-righteous behaviour at the actual award farce ceremony, didn’t sit well with the story fans. And Vox was there with open arms to let them in on his fun.

        So now we have the completely predictable reaction.

        • Anonymous says:

          that recognition of craft and story had become secondary to displaying the approved values.

          The sad puppies also railed against judging works on the basis of mastery of craft and story. That’s too elitist and literary or something. Instead, apparently the only proper way to determine what’s good is to see what sells the most. Which seems pointless since selling books is very much its own reward.

          Insert obligatory something something signaling something something status something something sexual fitness here.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            The sad puppies also railed against judging works on the basis of mastery of craft and story.

            That’s the first time I’ve heard that. Do you happen to have a citation?

          • Anonymous says:

            The original rallying cry, with politics as a decidedly secondary issue, was that pulp fiction authors couldn’t get no respect. For reference, wikipedia defines ‘pulp fiction’ as “run-of-the-mill low quality literature”.

            See e.g.


          • suntzuanime says:

            Pulp fiction can’t even get respect from Wikipedia.

          • Nornagest says:

            That’s the historical meaning. But pulp, these days, is also a genre: one mostly written by people who grew up on cheap SF/F and liked its tropes.

          • Anonymous says:

            Regardless, I think it’s fair to say that the sad puppies, or at least Larry Correia, had significant disputes with traditional ideals of literary merit being used to judge science fiction and fantasy for the purpose of the Hugo Awards.

            I think it is also fair to say that there were and are people that in good faith believe that the traditional ideas of literary merit are valid as applied to SFF and an appropriate way to judge works when voting in the Hugo Awards.

            It follows then that Leit’s description was both remarkably uncharitable and significantly inaccurate.

          • Vorkon says:

            If you think that saying “I think it’s fair to say that the sad puppies, or at least Larry Correia, had significant disputes with traditional ideals of literary merit” is the same as saying, “The sad puppies also railed against judging works on the basis of mastery of craft and story,” then Leit isn’t the one being uncharitable here.

            It is fairly obvious from the link you provided alone (though various other things Correia has written confirm this) that Correia’s main argument is that “traditional ideas of literary merit” do not, in fact, revolve around “mastery of craft and story,” and are mostly about “displaying the approved values,” precisely as Leit described.

            You can argue whether or not Correia is correct about this if you like, but trying to argue that he does not, in fact, believe it is willfully misinterpreting his argument.

          • keranih says:

            I’m going to tweek that and say that there was, in days of old, a set of ‘traditional measures for the quality of story’. We no longer use those measures. Because we are no longer in the days of old and tastes change.

            The SJW crowd shifted – by dint of focused voting and control of the media discussion – the measures used to overtly include identity politics and social signaling. Because that was the sort of thing they liked.

            LC, et al, objected to this shift – as this was not the sort of thing they liked. Instead, they/we are attempting to adjust the measurements towards a broader focus on “fun” and “action” and away from moody internal monologues on the landscape.

            The SP theme – if that bag of cats can be said to have a singular theme – is to a) avoid identity-based writing without action and fun and b) if it is not possible to avoid that entirely, at least ensure that the voice of fans who like action and fun is heard and a seat is set for those fans at the table as well.

            “We need more fans to read and vote and get involved” has been a CONSTANT theme on the SP side. Anti-SP, not so much.

          • Anonymous says:

            Larry Correia wrote:

            (show old-timey picture of HP Lovecraft, show old-timey picture of Robert E. Howard, show old-timey picture of Robert E. Howard punching out a Tyrannosaurs Rex while a woman in a chainmail bikini holds onto his leg)

            Even though those guys are totally freaking awesome, and Conan the Barbarian is a thousand times more awesome than the Great Gatsby, you wouldn’t know it by listening to literary snobs.

            Is The Great Gatsby message fiction? What “approved values” does it display?

            There’s one paragraph about politics and many many about the “literarti”, “literary critics”, “College English departments” and similar.

            Larry Correia is above all a partisan of the low brow. Yes, the movement was subsequently latched onto by the histrionic Manicheans who see themselves locked in a epic struggle with the dastardly Social Justice Warriors. But those of us that appreciate well written prose, multidimensional characters that develop over the course of a work, and the development of complex themes have every reason to oppose the Sad Puppies regardless of politics or ideology.

          • keranih says:

            Butt hose of us that appreciate well written prose, multidimensional characters that develop over time, and the development of complex themes have every reason to oppose the Sad Puppies regardless of politics or ideology.

            …have you read Hard Magic or any of the other Grimnoir books? Have you read anything by John Wright?

            I mean, you don’t have to like them, but rejecting them on the grounds of crap writing or simplistic characters is just…inaccurate

          • Vorkon says:

            Yeah, I should have known better than to bother responding to an anon@gmail.

          • Anonymous says:


            …have you read Hard Magic or any of the other Grimnoir books? Have you read anything by John Wright?

            I haven’t. But I’ve read plenty of the “golden era” Science Fiction that he lauds. As I grew older, I eventually had to start being extremely picky about SFF because so much of it is so badly written.

            The sad part is that if the publishers demanded better writing I bet they’d get it.

            I’ll tell you what, if you want to personally vouch for the literary qualities of one of LC or JW’s books I’ll pick it up and read it this weekend.

          • keranih says:

            90% of everything is dreck.

            I will personally say that the Hard Magic series has complex characters and wrestles with hard problems. And is fun and exciting.

            I will also say that John Wright is an exceptional wordsmith, and to check out Awake In The NightLand.

            I will not say that you will like any of them. There have been very well written things that I did not love at all.

          • Randy M says:

            Orson Scott Card is not involved in the Hugo debates in any way I’m aware of (other than probably being likely to be booed by one particular side). He writes a column on his website where it occasionally rants about literary style, though, in a way that I suspect would well describe the Pups laments.

            Specifically, in as much as I can quickly do the argument justice from memory, that many contemporary writers are trying to please critics who do not include such criteria as how clearly a story a told, how coherent the plot, or how believable the characters under “literary quality,” as these make books too accessible to the masses, and if books are easily read, understood, and enjoyed, who’ll need critics to point out what is really going on?
            Think of someone preferring Tolkien to (what my uninformed impression is of) James Joyce or DF Wallace.

            I think Correria et al would posit that what is derided as “pulp” is of better literary qualities in many senses other than “what literary critics like.”

          • Anonymous says:

            Keeping in mind your caveat about you relying someone else’s argument as best you can, I think there are some holes in it.

            First, if you think the genre has any merit at all, and despite claims of entryism I don’t think that’s true of anyone involved on either side, you aren’t going to consider Tolkien pulp.

            Second, believability of characters is an important part of the standard literary package, and it’s absence is one of the serious criticism of pulp. In particular, the claim is that they are all too often populated by one dimensional characters, including but not limited to protagonists that are great at everything they do and omni-benevolent. Do you know anyone in real life that doesn’t have a mix of positive and negative qualities?

            Plot coherency and clarity are things that *can* be played with in literary fiction, but that doesn’t mean they are in every work or that it is necessary to do so in order for a book to be praised for its literary merits.

            There is a case to be made that SFF, since it has to take on the burden of extensive world-building, doesn’t need to or maybe shouldn’t play around with literary devices as much as literary fiction. Things like unreliable narrators or metafiction, for example. I’m not sure that’s true, and I think some great SFF has been experimental in that way, but it’s a plausible point.

            That’s not really what I was talking about though. What I’m saying is that a book that is up for an award should be good or excellent on the bread and butter issues of literary quality. Strong prose and dialogue; evocative descriptions; realistic, multidimensional characters that change in response to events that occur in the book and whose reactions make internal sense; no unintentional plot discontinuities; deus ex machinas kept to a minimum; and so on.

          • Nornagest says:

            His characters were good, but I would not hold up Tolkien as an outstanding example of clear storytelling or tight plotting. He’s also one of the less accessible writers in the SF/F canon in terms of prose style.

            At least in The Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit is much tighter on all counts, but it’s not generally considered his best work.

      • dndnrsn says:

        @InferentialDistance: OK, I will cop to being uncharitable. However, their presentation of their fiction as apolitical fun-in-space is a little bit dishonest.

        @Leit: The complaint of right-wingers being frozen out, and messages elevated above other things, is probably more legitimate. It’s not as though the entertainment industry in general is that right-wing, socially speaking. I just object to the stance some Puppies have taken that their favoured stories are apolitical.

      • John Schilling says:

        I don’t get the whole “oh no there’s MESSAGES in this sci fi, let’s go back to Martian babes with their tits out and ray guns and shit” complaints.

        That’s not the complaint, and it’s hard for me to believe you don’t know that’s not the complaint.

        Award-winning science fiction has been heavy on MESSAGE from day one; that’s a huge part of what drew people to the genre. But there has always been a tradition, thanks to people like Heinlein and Campbell, that A: the MESSAGE needs to be packaged in a GOOD STORY, or you should have just written an essay so as to waste less of the audience’s time, and B: We as a community ought to be open to all well-packaged and well-argued messages. Also, C: the community outgrew Bare-Titted Martian Babes and Rayguns in the 1930s, except as parody and homage. And this has traditionally been reflected in the awards.

        The complaint is that, over the past decade or so, this traditional tolerance for diversity of thought and high standard for storytelling has been replaced by an insistence on a single MESSAGE to the exclusion of all else.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I’ve acknowledged I was being uncharitable. A moment of weakness.

          However, in regards to “IYWADML” … the problem isn’t the packaging – as far as I’m concerned, it’s a perfectly fine short story. The problem is that it isn’t science fiction.

          • Deiseach says:

            The problem is that it isn’t science fiction.

            That’s exactly what I was arguing with the other guy and not getting across; items in quotation marks are his responses to me.

            “There’s a dinosaur singing on Broadway in it, that makes it SF”

            No, not unless it was a real dinosaur really singing on Broadway. The singing dinosaur bit is all part of the girlfriend’s fantasy and is not intended to be taken seriously at all.

            “The author is an established SF author and has written over fifty SF short stories”.

            Not relevant. Kipling wrote two proper SF stories, that does not mean he’s regarded as a SF author. Wells wrote a history of the world, that does not make him a historian. The writer could write a romance story but that does not make her (unless she switches genres) a romance novelist. This particular story was not SF, whatever her other stories may be.

          • BBA says:

            Cryptonomicon isn’t really SF either, but it got nominated for a Hugo and nobody complained. It’s by an established SF author and feels like SF, and I guess that’s enough. (There’s one fantastic element but it’s completely irrelevant to the plot.)

          • John Schilling says:

            Cryptonomicon isn’t really SF either, but it got nominated for a Hugo and nobody complained

            Alternate History is generally included in the Science Fiction and Fantasy spectrum even without otherwise SFFnal elements, and there’s more than a hint of that in Cryptonomicon. I agree that if it had been written by an author without genre cred it probably wouldn’t have been nominated, but mostly because it wouldn’t have been widely read within fandom.

            Nominating Reamde would have been a clear example of what you are trying to get at, I think, but that didn’t happen.

            Hmm, I do recall Apollo 13 being nominated for Best Dramatic Presentation, but the standards are a bit different there.

      • keranih says:

        I’m going to support @dndnrsn just a hair – while I think his interpetation is completely off, it’s also the fairly widely pushed narrative presented by the anti-puppies.

        In more than one instance in the last few years, I have seen people of good intent completely talking past each other on this topic. It can be hard to get accurate information to your conversation/debate partners.

        My sympathies are overwhelmingly with the SP, and even when they aren’t, my distrust and anger towards the SJWs are enough that I have no sympathy for them when they duel with Vox Day.

        But I have seen enough emotionally overwrot pieces from good people on both sides to say that calling this entirely for one side is not actually possible.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I probably get more pro-Puppy than anti-Puppy exposure, though – this hasn’t made it into mainstream sources like the Ants have. The SSC commentariat probably leans pro-SP, although probably not pro-RP.

          And I have definitely seen, not just “their message fic gets promoted, ours gets frozen out” or “their message fic gets promoted even when it isn’t that good” but “their fic is message fic, our fic is neutral fun-in-space”.

          Again, I was being uncharitable. Mea culpa. But with regard to the dinosaur story, it’s not that it’s crappy message sci fi. It’s that it’s not sci fi.

          The message definitely played a role – if Vox Day had written “if you were a dinosaur who’d listened to Derbyshire, my love” where the paleontologist had gotten beaten into a coma by black guys instead of rednecks, it would not have been nominated.

          I should have been more charitable and I should have expressed my position more clearly.

          • Vorkon says:

            And I have definitely seen, not just “their message fic gets promoted, ours gets frozen out” or “their message fic gets promoted even when it isn’t that good” but “their fic is message fic, our fic is neutral fun-in-space”.

            I have no doubt you’ve seen that last message, but I don’t think it’s fair to consider it an accurate representation of the mainstream puppy opinion on the matter. I could find crazy opinions on almost any topic if I looked hard enough, but they’d still be outliers. No one actually believes that the fiction they like never contains political messages, or that fiction with political messages can never be good, and I think that pretty much any statement you find in this vein that isn’t just a snarky two-line angry drive-by comment will spell that out. The problem with the puppy situation is that it’s gotten a lot of people riled up, so there’s a preponderance of snarky two-line angry drive-by comments.

            When you see statements like that, I think it’s mostly shorthand for another problem, which is slightly different from “their message fic gets promoted, ours gets frozen out” or “their message fic gets promoted even when it isn’t that good,” but is far more complex than, “their fic is message fic, our fic is neutral fun-in-space”. They are also trying to say, “neutral fun-in-space will never get promoted, unless the author also promotes their messages, either within their fiction or without.”

            I suppose there is also a side of “they write too much message fic without a good story to back it up, while we write more neutral fun-in-space without a very strong message,” but that’s still a far cry from saying that they never write message fic themselves, or that their more neutral stories never have messages embedded in them. Either way, I think the concern I listed above is mainly what people mean when they say things like that.

          • keranih says:

            I should have been more charitable and I should have expressed my position more clearly.

            It’s all good. You’re fine.

            (At least you’re not one of those morons in the Judean Popular Front who says oh its just silly space stories, why do you care?!?!?)

          • dndnrsn says:

            Plenty of people seem to believe that what they like doesn’t contain political messages. “It’s just a dumb action movie!” type thinking.

            Anyway, who represents the Puppies? It seems to me like the Rabid ones have basically taken the whole thing over.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’m also curious about their antagonism with Scalzi. Is this mostly about his online persona (Twitter activity, etc)?

            Because I’ve read some of his stuff. “Redshirts” was entertaining. “Old Man’s War” series had a decent story – I enjoyed reading them, but I wouldn’t read them again. OK writing, dialogue not so great.

            And it’s like, I don’t see the cutting-edge essjaydoubleyou messages in his work. OMW might have the “aliens are not bad just because they’re different, all people are people even if they have forehead ridges, war isn’t nice” messaging, but Pratchett had that in fantasy in the 90s, and got into feminism later on (and of course did everything involved in writing way better than Scalzi).

            If their allegation was “fun-in-space gets nominations when the author has the right opinions outside of the books”, I could see that, I guess.

          • Vorkon says:

            Yeah, “fun-in-space gets nominations when the author has the right opinions outside of the books” being their main point there is pretty much exactly what I was trying to get across, just put a little more succinctly.

            Also, yes, the antagonism with Scalzi is entirely about his online persona, as far as I’ve been able to tell.

          • keranih says:

            @dndnrsn –

            “Who runs the puppies” is a really interesting question, as one of the traits is a declaration of independence from being run by anyone.

            SP1 and SP2 were Larry Correia’s. End of that second one, he announced himself done with them, having established to his (accountant) satisfaction that the voting logistics of the Hugos were fair, but that the social side of it was a bigoted biased mess.

            SP3 was supposed to be just Brad Torgenson (sp?) who did not build a rec list off just his opinions, but also asked for suggestions. This led to a final list of 5 or so recs for each category (instead of 1-2 as LC had it) and this eventually was cast as “building a slate” so people could vote in lockstep. (This might have made sense to some people. I saw the same people have screaming meltdowns over the SP list in years previous with just 1-2 names on it, with calls to no award anything on that list without even reading it and I agreed with LC that this was never going to be a fair fight.)

            And then there were complications. BT was called up and deployed, which left a leadership hole of sorts. Sarah Hoyt had been intended to help, but she was ill much of the year. And in the middle of all this, professional rabble rouser Vox Day released a list under the ‘Rabid Puppies’ name which over lapped with SP a LOT.

            And then last year the SP/RP lists pretty much swept the nominations and all fandom went to war.

            (Probably the most distressing thing was seeing moderate people who had been ignoring things jumping (or getting dragged) in without a firm grasp of what was going on, and getting *hammered* under the opinions of people who had been fighting about this for three to seven years.)

            (Ok, no, that wasn’t the worst. Annie Bellet’s case was the worst.)

            This year, Kate ‘The Impaler’ Paulk was head Puppy Wrangler, and Vox Day increasingly split off to do his own thing with the Dread Ilk and the Rabid Puppies.

            Have yet to hear who’s the poor dumb sod who’ll take it for SP 5.

          • keranih says:

            And yeah, Scalzi’s feud with LC and the rest of the SP related sorts is personal/political, and not so much literary.

            Scalzi gets a lot of grief because besides saying intemperate things on twitter, his Hugo winning novel Redshirts is pretty much everything the SJWs say they hate about SF, he self promotes pretty well on the internet and took advantage of being one of the first SFF writers to do so, *and* he stayed with Tor, a publishing house whose head SF editors are *heavily* affiliated with the anti-SP side, won tons and tons of Hugo awards, and who have been leading the charge to change the Hugo voting rules to prevent any future populist upset.

            IMO, the worst thing is that he’s a pretty talented writer who has a quick flip to annoying self righteous ass. Which as far as mortal sins go, is fairly weak tea.

          • dndnrsn says:

            What’s supposedly objectionable about “Redshirts”?

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m also curious about their antagonism with Scalzi. Is this mostly about his online persona (Twitter activity, etc)?

            His online activity and his tenure as president of the SFFWA

            Old Man’s War and possibly Redshirts were written when he was just a guy who wrote fun adventure stories set in outer space. At a minimum, he was able to channel that guy for Redshirts.

            But he was also the SFFWA president when the organization kicked out future rabid puppymaster Vox Day and made a number of decisions that were perceived as caving in to, or outright endorsing, the militant social justice wing of fandom. And, yeah, his online persona.

            Scalzi was one of the lesser SJW targets during Racefail ’09, and while I do not know I do believe that he made the professional decision to adopt a persona as a Champion of Social Justice to insulate himself against further attacks. Or maybe he actually believes the stuff. But it’s the role he’s playing whether he believes it or not, and the way he plays it gives me the clear impression that he wants people like me to crawl back under our rock and disappear from polite society.

            I am quite happy to return the sentiment. And having played that role even from the minor bully pulpit of the SFFWA presidency, elevates his threat profile.

          • Vorkon says:

            Oh, there’s nothing at all objectionable about Redshirts. It’s just that the puppies are convinced that if someone other than Scalzi had written something exactly like it, it would be decried as the same sort of “low brow” nonsense that people like the anon@gmail in the thread above this one believe don’t deserve awards, and must be defended against at all costs.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            @dndsnrn: “I’m also curious about their antagonism with Scalzi. Is this mostly about his online persona (Twitter activity, etc)?”

            That’s my read on it. Scalzi loves to jump into fights and when he does so it’s with the sort of snarky, dismissive tone that absolutely infuriates people on the other side. Gasoline on the fire.

            (He’s also an old-school veteran of alt.* USENET groups, which might explain why he’s so good at stoking flamewars.)

          • Anonymous says:

            FWIW as said anon@gmail, while I haven’t read Redshirts I did read Old Man’s War and I don’t think it deserved any literary awards. It was pretty pulpy as I recall.

          • tmk says:

            As a bit of an outsider: If they think there is too much politics in SciFi awards, how does it make sense to fill the nominations with candidate that are definitely there for political reasons?

          • suntzuanime says:

            Fighting back sometimes ultimately serves the cause of peace better than surrendering.

          • John Schilling says:

            @tmk: The Sad Puppy position is roughly that the problem is caused by SJW entryists who think their numbers and echo-chamber collusion have enabled them to claim this space for their own; if a more explicitly organized native group can block them from doing so, the SJWs will mostly give up go away and we can revert to an apolitical nomination process with less overtly and one-sidedly politicized winners. Getting from here to there may require in the short term, nominating either anti-SJ works or at least explicitly-not-SJ works, otherwise the SJW entryists will just unite behind whatever SJ-friendly work winds up on the ballot.

            The Rabid Puppy position is that it’s too late for that, the SJW contingent is dug in and never going away, and there’s nothing left but to scorch the earth and deny them victory. At some future time, some group of fans might be able to create a way to award the best SF writing of the year (general fannish consensus), without having to deal with the Hugos falsely claiming that namespace and the reputation that goes with it.

          • tmk says:

            @suntzuanime: Well, that is the problem I have with anti-SJW. It’s just about fighting the evil SJWs at any cost. I don’t see a consistent ideology or any kind of moral stance behind it. It’s also too poorly defined who and what is “SJW”. It’s an easy label to throw around.

            When the someone from one side is being generally unkind it’s “fun to watch” and they deserve it. When someone some the other side does, it proves they are evil and impossible to reason with.

            @John Schilling: First, I am not convinced that “entryism” is a real thing, or that whatever it is has been shown to be bad.

            Is it true that the “SJWs” are newcommers and the “Puppies” are natives? Especially the rabid puppies looks like a group that showed up as an organized invasion. There seems to be few established authors among the puppies in general. I have the impression that SF has long been quite liberal/libertarian but not very focused on politics. If the puppies represented mainstream SF, you would expect them to get more support from authors or are apolitical or centrist.

            I can believe that progressives have been particularily effective in controlling the awards for some years. But are they invaders, and not progressives that had existed in SF for a long time?

            Is it possible that before social media people could imagine that the SF world as a whole was just like themselves, and with the sudden transparency people start seeing things they disagree with?

            I suspect if you drive out any accused “SJWs” to create a world of pure science fiction, you will actually end up with nothing but right-wing politics. It’s too tempting for a movement like this to only count themselves as pure fans and dismiss anyone else as biased.

          • suntzuanime says:

            I don’t agree with how they’re going about things here, but there’s nothing in principle contradictory about it.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Well, that is the problem I have with anti-SJW. It’s just about fighting the evil SJWs at any cost.

            I don’t know what you’d expect of someone who defines themselves as anti-something other than acting against that something.

            I don’t see a consistent ideology

            What’s wrong with that?

            or any kind of moral stance behind it.

            It’s pretty simple, “these guys are messing with our fun/jobs/lifestyle for no good (enough) reason, these guys are assholes”.

            When the someone from one side is being generally unkind it’s “fun to watch” and they deserve it. When someone some the other side does, it proves they are evil and impossible to reason with.

            Such is the way of tribalism. Of course, there’s two issues with this:

            First, not all unkindness is made equal, though the trend might be that of permanent escalation, it’s nowhere near there yet, and it’s up to you to determine which is worse.

            Second, in big conflicts in which perfect coordination of everyone involved is impossible, unkindness is inevitable. What’s sadly not inevitable is kindness and compassion. It’s again up to you to determine which side has more of it, if any.

            Is it true that the “SJWs” are newcommers and the “Puppies” are natives?

            I don’t think so. I’m not sure why it matters… oh, right, the “entryism” claim. Yeah, I don’t think that applies to that case.

            I suspect if you drive out any accused “SJWs” to create a world of pure science fiction, you will actually end up with nothing but right-wing politics. It’s too tempting for a movement like this to only count themselves as pure fans and dismiss anyone else as biased.

            Of course it’s a risk, there’s no doubt that if the balance is changed back, the cons will become (even bigger) assholes just like the progs did the moment they got power, just like the Puritans did back in the day (cross-referencing to Scott’s review, yay!).

            Perhaps this is because I’m not very invested in SF Fandom, but it seems to me like the only positive place the Hugos can go from here is death. They’ve been broken, the man behind the curtain has been exposed: It can’t be Serious Award, it can’t be a People’s Award, it’s the award for a bunch of dudes jerking off each other by buying a 40 buck subscription to a con in god knows where, whether that bunch of dudes are SJWs, Puppies of the sad kind, or Vox Dei and pals, it makes very little difference.

          • keranih says:

            Well, that is the problem I have with anti-SJW. It’s just about fighting the evil SJWs at any cost. I don’t see a consistent ideology or any kind of moral stance behind it.

            A good point, but not entirely relevant. The point for the SP is not “purge SF of evil SJWs” – okay, people have said a lot of intemperate things in the heat, but no, purging is not Our Shtick.

            SP wants space/open fields for everyone who claims to be a SFF fan/writer/player in the pool. No membership cards. No gatekeepers. The reason why we say “get rid of the SJWs/CHORFs/etc” is because of a conviction (born of experience in the last decade) that the SJWs do like purges, and will force out everyone who doesn’t agree with them.

            SP is made up of a variety of ideologies, and many disagree and/or don’t fancy what the other likes. The unity is “everyone can play.” Oh, and “We don’t like the SJWs because they don’t know how to tolerate stuff they don’t like.”

            Is it true that the “SJWs” are newcommers and the “Puppies” are natives?

            Yes. (And also, no.)

            I have the impression that SF has long been quite liberal/libertarian but not very focused on politics. If the puppies represented mainstream SF, you would expect them to get more support from authors or are apolitical or centrist.

            You’ve missed the back story, which has to do with the rise and consolidation of New York publishing houses, the shrinking of the traditional market, the rise of indie publishing, and the pretty near complete capture of the publishing industry by NE Blue Tribe elites. Followed by the entry of SJWs into those publishing fields, and the widespread use of economics and social shaming to push conservative & moderate writers out of traditional publishing.

            Moderate writers with contracts have stayed out of the picture because they had everything to lose. Meanwhile, “established” writers on the SJW side have been of varying levels of establishment – beloved of critics does not equal earning out your advance.

            Leftist domination of SFF publishing has been a given for a long time. However, until about 10-15 years ago, that has been the form of a majority, not of near complete control. The rise of SJW focus on identity politics and the purging of those who disagree has led to the current situation. *That* is new, and everyone involved agrees that it is new. There is just disagreement over it being a good thing or not.

            It’s too tempting for a movement like this to only count themselves as pure fans and dismiss anyone else as biased.

            Oh, absolutely an issue. I agree. And something to be guarded against, just as we should reject Marvel vs DC or Trek vs SW conflicts as being all defining.

            SP isn’t there yet. The CHORFs are scrambling to hold on to their positions as TruFans. The SJWs are well past that and into “we are true fans and you aren’t even proper humans.

          • The Nybbler says:


            It’s not particularly hard to spot an SJW. If they talk about “welcoming” and “inclusiveness” and “diversity”, those are SJW tells. If they use those as an excuse to _exclude_, they’re certainly SJWs. If they judge books by the color and gender of the author (white and male being bad), they’re definitely SJWs. If they judge books by the color and gender and sexual preferences of the characters, they’re almost certainly SJWs. If they talk seriously about “microaggressions”, they’re probably SJWs. If they claim racism or sexism requires societal power, they’re SJWs. They’ve got this whole language and whole set of beliefs which defines them as SJWs; there’s no secret about it. The only question is whether you’ve found a true believer or merely someone who has fallen under their influence.

          • Zorgon says:

            Agreed with The Nybbler, with the caveat that some of those phenomena are clear markers while others are indicative of influence – for example, “racism or sexism requires societal power” is often expressed by SJ-influenced people rather than outright SJWs, not least as it’s such a sacred cow to them that even mentioning either of those words in the wrong context is enough to spark a full-on SJ shitfit, so SJ-adjacent people tend to police their language.

            Meanwhile, “judge books by the color and gender of the author” is much rarer and far less likely to pass without comment. A lot of SJ-adjacent people have a basic concept of fairness that is at odds with that particular bit of blatant bigotry. It’s one thing to let what appears to be a fairly academic argument over definitions pass, but it’s quite another to take part in what to most people is pretty blatant segregation.

          • tmk says:

            @Nybbler: On one hand “SJW” is defined widely as anyone who talks about “welcoming”, “inclusiveness” and “diversity” etc., on the other hand it’s defined narrowly as bullies who hate free speech. And people switch between the two definitions at will in the same argument. This is why it feels like an ideological purge to me. It’s a long list of forbidden topics. Anyone who has any sympathy for quite mainstream concepts like “inclusiveness” must be removed and replaced with the pure.

          • Anonymous says:

            Make sure you check under your bed every night before you go to sleep. SJWs can be anywhere!

          • The Nybbler says:

            No, I’m not playing motte-and-bailey with the definition of SJW. Talking about “welcoming” and “inclusiveness” and “diversity” is a tell, not a definition. “Welcoming” is a fairly strong tell; only SJWs and the SJ-influenced use it. “Diversity” is a weak tell on its own; it is used by a wide variety of groups, and it’s used in the “not a white male” meaning by non-SJWs as well. “Inclusiveness” is a fairly strong tell. But even all three don’t make an SJW, they’re just indicators.

      • Deiseach says:

        I don’t think the Puppies are campaigning for “Martian babes with tits out and rayguns” and that’s a very dismissive attitude. I happen to like Martian babes (tits in or out or no tits at all, see Dejah Thoris) and if ray guns fit the milieu, then let there be ray guns – or blasters, or phasers.

        The complaint was that non-SF stories were being nominated and awarded, and there was a whole self-congratulatory aura of “we are going to be sure to include and represent [whole set of contemporary shibboleths]” which was perceived to be privileging “story that ticks boxes of political correctness” over “story that is based on being a story first and any messages second or not at all”.

        A “Martian babe with tits out and ray guns” story would fit the new Hugo template, as long as the Martian babe was A Strong Female Figure, or This Is A Story About Space Lesbians In Space Being Lesbianically Space Lesbians, Did I Mention She’s A Lesbian, Don’t Worry I’ll Tell You Every Third Paragraph This Martian Babe With A Ray Gun Is A Space Lesbian.

        I don’t care tuppence if the comatose fiancé in “Dinosaur” is male, trans, nonbinary, POC, gay, straight, bi, pan or poly. I do care that it’s not a SF story and should therefore not have been nominated for a SF award. But to make that complaint apparently leaves me open to charges of being racist, sexist, homophobic, and wanting to see the return of slavery and burning people at the stake.

        • My problem is that puppy complaints about the awfulness of the Hugos seem to rest on two stories, one of which was only nominated rather than winning.

          I’m sympathetic in principle to their claim that nothing they like is getting nominated, the problem (from reading a moderate amount of last year’s nominees is that what they like isn’t anything I want.

          More exactly, I had a decent amount of fun reading the Butcher novel, possibly because I don’t read much of that sort of thing. It was pretty good D&D flavored fantasy.

          The 2015 novelettes were so dire (and I include “The Day The World Turned Upside Down”, which was non-puppy) were so dire that I was ready to give up on the human race for several days until I realized I was overdoing it.

          I liked “Totaled” but it was good, not excellent.

          Admittedly, I liked the Marko Kloos trilogy (one volume from it was on the puppy slate, but Kloos withdrew it) quite a bit, but it seems to me that the puppies just don’t have very good fiction to compete with. Where is their current Heinlein?

          In re the Kloos, it’s excellent for combat and emotion, but there are serious defects in the world-building. You’ve been warned.

          Anyway, I’m suggesting that the ssc commentariat start recommending their favorite sf from the past calendar year. Maybe there’s better from the puppy side than I’ve noticed. Maybe there’s good rationalist stuff beyond the obvious choices. Maybe there’s more or less SJW material than would be welcome even here. And I’ll try to remember to repeat this in the next OT.

          Meanwhile, I”m recommending Jo Walton’s The Just City, Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown, and Ada Palmer’s Sundown: Whispers of Ragnarok.

          As for John Wright, let’s just say he isn’t my author. I made several tries at reading _The Golden Age_, which seemed like something I’d like, but I just couldn’t get into it.

          By coincidence, I was reading his “Judgement Eve” (2010) during that Hugo period, and I can’t abide the prose. It was like taking several Weird Tales writers’ stories and putting them into a blender.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Ребята, знаете вы может какою-то хорошу русскую музыку? Мой русски плоха, и я хочу научится говорить более хорошо. Мне нравитса метал, рок и етничная музыка, межды инными.

    • Nita says:

      А, рашн мюзик. Аф кос, аф кос. I hope you’ll excuse the utter lack of metal.

      1. An old song about slowly dying on the battlefield:

      Лесоповал – Чёрный ворон (solo)
      Кубанский Казачий Хор – Чёрный ворон (choir)
      Extra: the lyrics, with a poetic translation.

      2. A late Soviet era song about the dreams of astronauts:

      Земляне – Трава у дома
      You can shout along with the chorus and improve your Russian Rs.

      3. A couple of post-Soviet songs about romance:

      Валерий Сюткин – 7 тысяч над землей
      Валерий Сюткин / Браво – Я то, что надо
      These have nicely straightforward and clearly articulated lyrics.

      4. And a couple of modern songs about love and loss:

      Земфира – Хочешь?
      This one teaches a useful sentence template – “Do you want X?” E.g.:
      Do you want some sweet oranges?
      Do you want me to read you a story?
      Do you want me to kill the neighbours?
      Extra: the lyrics with a literal translation.

      Бумбокс – Та, что
      This one’s good for the subjunctive mood (“I wish I knew X” / “If I only I could Y”). Also includes casual language and a literary reference.

      Hmm, these last two are kind of sad. So, here’s a playful folk song about pretending to beat your wife to placate your mother:

      Reelroadъ – Гуляю, гуляю (concert video)
      Reelroadъ – Гуляю, гуляю (studio mp3)
      Note: it features an old-fashioned rural dialect instead of standard modern Russian.

  7. anon says:

    Speaking of forums and anonymity, there’s a rationalist board on 8chan now, /ratanon/.
    There’s an Eliezer/Hanson/Tay fic that’s pretty epic, and some quality shitposting.

  8. Shion Arita says:

    Can someone explain the U.S. voting primaries to me in a sensible way? I look for information, but I’m not really getting the kind of info I need to determine likelihoods of certain people winning given the current scores. I really don’t understand why the following isn’t the format that’s used to describe this, because it’s what makes most sense to me. I’ll use the democratic race as an exmaple.

    The format I think makes sense:

    X% of the total voting points across the nation have been cast, and 100-X% still remain to be determined.
    Clinton has received Y% of the cast points and Sanders has recieved 100-Y%.
    Clinton needs to receive W% of the remaining points to win the nomination, and Sanders needs to receive Z% to win the nomination.

    So, by comparing Y to W and Z while taking X into account, it should be easy to see how strongly votes would have to deviate from how they have gone up to this point for the current underdog (Sanders) to win. My guess is that they would have to deviate very strongly, but again I haven’t been able to see the data in this format or anything I can easily convert to it.

    • Protagoras says:

      Have you checked out Some of their articles discuss the numbers you seem to be looking for.

      • Chalid says: is always the right place to start for basic quantitative analysis of US elections.

    • BBA says:

      The “points” are people (delegates to the National Convention), most of whom are required to vote for a certain candidate, but some of whom can vote for whoever they want. The Democratic party has a relatively large number of unbound delegates (“superdelegates”) and Clinton’s narrow lead among pledged delegates becomes nearly insurmountable when you consider that nearly all of the superdelegates support her.

      The Democratic party requires delegates to be pledged proportionately to the votes for each candidate in the primary (either by state or by congressional district). The Republican party essentially leaves it up to states to decide how they want to assign delegates to candidates, from purely proportional to winner take all.

      And the number of delegates per state isn’t strictly proportional to the population, so adding up every vote won’t necessarily tell you who wins.

      tl;dr it’s a huge confusing mess and it’s not easy to make a one-line summary of it.

      • Shion Arita says:

        Thanks. That makes sense

        I guess here’s the real question, given that information.

        What fraction of the delegates have already ‘committed’ their votes, as in we know what is going to happen/has happened (this includes superdelegates that we know reasonably well how they will vote)? or to ask the converse, what fraction are up in the air (they either are superdels where we do not reasonably know their choice or they are regular dels where the votes determining them have not yet occurred)?

        and what fraction of the delegates are ‘committed’ to clinton vs sanders?

        what fraction of the remaining would have to be committed to sanders for sanders tow in

        • brad says:

          Because Sanders supporters flipped out about it, they no longer include superdelegates in the bar chart, but they are easy enough to add back in. Clinton has 1640 pledged delegates and 519 likely superdelegates, for a total of 2159 delegates. She needs 224 more to secure the nomination. California alone has 546 pledged delegates at stake. The democratic nomination is already decided.

          • Chalid says:

            Yes, Clinton is the nominee barring a really major disqualifying event, e.g. being indicted for a crime, or her having a heart attack.

        • notes says:

          Most of the delegates are required to vote, at the convention, for the nominee who won their [state/county/congressional district], with the rules dependent on their state. This requirement can stem (usually unenforceably) from state law, and enforceably from the nominating convention’s rules, but typically binds them to vote this way only on the first or second ballot at the convention; afterward, they may vote their conscience. Bear in mind that the nominating convention’s rules will not be set until roughly a week before, and may be changed during the convention: if the delegates really want to do so, they can unbind everyone and nominate whom they please.

          Many of the unbound delegates (n.b., all superdelegates are not bound) have made announcements that they intend to vote for a particular nominee, or in accordance with who wins their [state/county/congressional district]; these announcements are not binding, but are indicative of which way the wind’s blowing.

          More than enough unbound delegates have publicly committed to Clinton that a Sanders nomination would require her to lose CA and NJ entirely, and not pick up further superdelegates.

          Realistically, Clinton only loses the nomination if her delegates start defecting, and it would take a strong reason to motivate that. Death, an indictment, a heart attack — little less would do it, and perhaps not even the latter two would cause it.

          • keranih says:

            Death, an indictment, a heart attack — little less would do it, and perhaps not even the latter two would cause it.

            Clinton’s a Democrat who went to school in Chicago. I think you should be open to the possibility that none of the three would be sufficient for her to not get the nomination.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Didn’t superdelegates defect from clinton eight years ago, for reasons less strong than death or indictment?

          • Aegeus says:

            Superdelegates defected because Obama was winning the popular vote. That’s pretty normal – superdelegates have never “stolen” the nomination from someone who won the popular vote. But Sanders getting a lead in the popular vote is probably less likely than Clinton having a heart attack.

  9. anon says:

    I really, really don’t like reddit’s layout but if someone made a phpBB forum/classic forum I would definitely use that.

  10. BBA says:

    In the last open thread a Kickstarter for “Social Autopsy” was linked, with the consensus being that it was a dangerous doxxing app with a chilling effect on free speech or possibly a hoax.

    New shit has come to light. It involves the Ants, so up front you know you aren’t going to get an unbiased source anywhere. It’s been discussed in the culture war thread on the subreddit, which is already generating more heat than light. I hesitate to link anything here, or express any opinion on the matter for fear of setting off a flame war, but we’ve talked about it here before and I feel compelled to mention that there’s more to it than we saw before.

    Suffice it to say I think everyone involved in this controversy is lying, which makes it extremely hard to figure out what’s really going on.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I’m sitting on the sidelines enjoying my popcorn with that one. Some of the ants seem to think Owens is sincere if naive, but I’m not buying it. I’ve also seen the opinion that she’s running a false flag on behalf of the ants, which seems farfetched but possible; one of the things Owens is doing now is accusing LW1 of setting a pack of her twitter followers to harass her.

      As far as I can tell, however this comes out, unless it turns out she’s literally one of Milo’s 40 interns, it’s good for “my” side of the culture war.

      • Manpanzee says:

        I find the whole thing really fascinating, too. It’s such a mystery.

        My best guess is that Owens is an earnest, well-meaning muggle who thinks she’s a lot smarter than she actually is. I think that she’s correct that she’s been a victim of some sketchy behavior from some prominent, controversial SJ figures — the allegations against Jesse Singal seemed particularly damning to my eyes. And it would be nice if this exposure would help change some minds.

        However, I also think Owens is doing the normal human thing of blaming everyone but herself for her own failures. Social Autopsy really did seem like a horrendous idea, and I know that a ton of the people trying to shut it down were doing so in good faith. Owens seems to have made the leap from “Some of the people who caused me to fail were unethical conspirators” to “Unethical conspirators are the entire reason I failed”. Unfortunately, her attempts to prove the latter claim make her seem not very self-aware, which I think is going to limit her persuasive power to only people who were already predisposed to believe her.

        • Deiseach says:

          I thought Owens was a con artist (a site that asks for the names of professionals who can have hate speech/cyberbullying tied to their names on a database sounds like a “nice professional reputation you have there, be a shame if anything happened to it” protection racket) but reading some of her own words makes me think she is, as you say, sincere.

          But stunningly full of her own self-importance and with little to no idea of what her proposed database sounds like, i.e. a blackmail repository, and no apparent awareness of doxing and how it’s been used. I’m not surprised it failed to get off the ground because honestly? “we will strip away the power of anonymous online bullies by uncritically accepting anonymous online accusations that so-and-so is a cyberbully at face value and using them to put up names of real people linked with the alleged offending material” – how is this supposed to be anything anyone with a shred of sanity will invest in, as it leaves them wide open to be sued into well-deserved oblivion for libel?

        • DrBeat says:

          It doesn’t matter if unethical conspirators were the entire reason she failed, or only a small part of it. The actions of the unethical conspirators and the fact they are indeed shown to BE unethical conspirators is what matters, not the relative percentage of responsibility for the failure of her Kickstarter.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Well, the question is, it matters for what purpose? If you’re trying to finally pin some crimes on that will stick, that’s what matters. (Although if none of the other crimes have stuck, not too hopeful about this one.) But if you actually care about Candace Owens and Social Autopsy, you have to care about other factors that may be contributing to a lack of success.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          This is a very good description of Owens. She didn’t know what she didn’t know, and tried to stake herself out as King of a brand-new Hill. Then she was stunned to find out there are a bunch of other people who already think themselves Kings of that Hill going back years. And everyone is too proud to back down.

          Those messages from Jesse Singal to Owens are downright creepy, though. He’s pretending to be on her side and encouraging her to delay writing her article because his is going to come out and have more more exposure, all the while knowing he was going to write about how horrible her whole company was.

          Read his article about Owens first, and then read the private conversation he was having with her to get information before it came out, and he comes across as a psychopath who is faking friendship to get information.

          • Deiseach says:

            he comes across as a psychopath who is faking friendship to get information

            But that’s what journalists do: they get in close to the subject, get them to lower their barriers in order to get the most access, and pump them for every last scrap of information for the story. Look at the kind of things journalists write about “So I had to pretend to be really sympathetic to this horrible murderer, even though his crimes made me sick, to get him to talk for the series of articles in the paper/my book”:

            Within a month of MacDonald’s conviction, the journalist began a series of letters. Malcolm quotes McGinniss’ expressions of sympathy—”any fool can recognize within five minutes that you did not receive a fair trial…it was utter madness”—as well as his tacit assurances that the book would help win his release: “it’s a hell of a thing—spend the summer making a new friend and the bastards come and lock him up. But not for long, Jeffrey—not for long.”

            Malcolm states that in fact McGinniss had become swiftly and easily convinced of MacDonald’s guilt during the trial. She also describes how, in the same months that he wrote warm letters to the now-jailed MacDonald, he was also writing to his editor Morgan Entrekin, discussing the technical problem of not spoiling his work’s effect by making MacDonald, in the book, appear “too loathsome too soon.” Throughout the years of interviews, as Malcolm writes, “MacDonald imagined he was ‘helping’ McGinniss write a book exonerating him of his crime.” What she terms MacDonald’s “dehoaxing” took place in “a particularly dramatic and cruel manner”—a 1983 taping of the CBS news program 60 Minutes. As host Mike Wallace read aloud portions of the now-completed Fatal Vision, the cameras broadcast MacDonald’s look of “shock and utter discomposure.”

            Journalists and TV/Radio interviewers, whether it’s a serious current affairs programme or a chat show, are not your friends. They are not on your side, even if they claim they want to tell ‘the real story’ and need ‘your side of it’. They are there for the story, nothing else.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            But this person isn’t a murderer or a terrorist. This is a person with possibly good faith intentions who was pursuing a bad idea, and Singal went out of his way to humiliate her for it.

          • suntzuanime says:

            But the ethics of the situation are the same whether it’s a psychopath who opposes or a mere murderer or terrorist. It’s seriously wrong to come under guise of false friendship in order to do someone harm to benefit yourself, and if that’s what’s normal in journalism, journalism is deranged.

    • Peter says:

      Oh my! I did a little googling, and, as you say, figuring out what’s really going on through the fog of culture war is hard, but it’s well worth reading up on nonetheless.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Watching the whole Ants affair from the sidelines, it more and more resembles one of those books/movies with a twist ending that makes the whole thing different reading/watching it over again.

      The thing that seems oddest to me is that Owens says she didn’t know about the Ants thing, didn’t know what doxing was, and seems generally uninformed about trends in online shitshows over the past few years. But these are hardly top-secret Internet People-only things … the Ants have made their way into mainstream-left news sites, for instance. It comes off a bit like a character in a Jack Chick comic saying “Jesus? Who’s that?”

      Further cemented in my conclusion that it’s impossible to tell who’s trustworthy, more than enough awfulness to go around, etc.

      • InferentialDistance says:

        A lot of things make it into mainstream-left news sites, that doesn’t mean it gets far in terms of public consciousness in an absolute sense (there’s too much for everything to be memorable). Owens seems to be focussed on bullying of minors, of which the ants are mostly orthogonal (the major antagonists are mid-20s who talk shit on Twitter and Gaming Journalism) so I wouldn’t be surprised by someone who’s apparently used to doing object-level activism about high schools being unaware of a mostly irrelevant culture war being fought on the internet, about the internet.

        • dndnrsn says:

          The Kickstarter, though, seemed to be focusing on harassment in general, or harassment of women in specific, and had a real “women-in-tech” angle to it. A few minutes of Googling about online harassment would have brought this stuff up.

          She comes off as savvy in some ways but not in others, in a combination that seems kind of strange.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            In Owens own words, the kickstarter was supposed to be a proof-of-concept and beta for a version for minors:

            To clarify, I built this database with minors in mind.

            We weren’t so quick to assume that everyone in the world would though, so we knew that we first had to launch and actually EXIST first. As a database dedicated to adults, so that parents would see it and get an understanding for how effective it might be for children.

            And no, googling “online harassment” would not bring this stuff up. There’s a metric fuckton of stuff about cyberbullying, women in tech (etc…) that predates the ants. And more stuff coming out that doesn’t mention the ants either.

          • dndnrsn says:

            A Google for “online harassment” brings up nothing ants based, “online harassment” + “women in tech” has something Ant-related as the fifth hit. I will acknowledge that my reading habits are adjacent to the whole thing more than is the norm.

            If she meant it as a demo of something that was supposed to target the sort of people who do stuff like drive teenagers to suicide … perhaps I’m reading too much into the “women in tech” sheen the Kickstarter had.

          • Deiseach says:

            That Kickstarter appeal was all giggling about girliness and never mentioned minors, not even in a “if this works, we’ll expand it to a version to protect the children”.

            The more I see quoted from her, the more I’m thinking she was trying to pull a fast one and got burned and is now throwing everything she can at it to make herself sound innocent (this was for women! for everyone! for kids – won’t somebody think of the children?)

          • InferentialDistance says:

            Do not ascribe to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence. A person who does object-level anti-bullying activism (i.e. talking to parents and teachers of high schoolers) can be ignorant of internet drama. An individual can be arrogant enough to think they can solve one problem (internet harassment) in order to facilitate solving another (bullying in high schools). Mentioning the for-kids version in the kickstarter is risky because you don’t have your proof-of-concept to show it’s safe yet.

          • dndnrsn says:

            So, the leading possibilities are:

            1. Incompetence. She wanted to do something against cyberbulling of the “14-year-old girl sends nude to boy she likes, he spreads it around, her life becomes a nightmare” variety, but she ran a Kickstarter supposedly against online harassment of the variety we know about (Twitter mobbing, doxing, etc) with a sheen of “women in tech yay!” thrown on, so if it worked she could say “now let’s do this, but with kids”.

            Didn’t do her homework, didn’t know what she was getting into, etc. Has some weird interactions with activists and journalists, and the timing of that and the abuse she received leads her to conclude that she has uncovered a false-flag self-victimization operation, which plays to the Ant narrative. Depending on who you believe, she is right, or she has been gulled by the Ants.

            I think you’re right, upon reflection, and this is the most likely. It makes more sense than the other two options.

            2. Malice. Ran a Kickstarter intended to take advantage of the whole women-in-tech-online-harassment-bad zeitgeist, get the money, deliver a subpar product or just disappear. The “it was about kids!” thing is just a cover.

            Then she has a run-in, as above, and either becomes seriously convinced she’s uncovered something, or comes up with that as a smokescreen.

            This one seems less plausible, because the whole thing being a scam seems not to line up with her life story. And if she was a scammer, why use her real identity, for a relatively small monetary gain?

            Still more likely than

            3. Ants False-Flag. This was all set up to have a non-Ant support the whole “all the harassment is fake, they just want sympathy and sweet Patreon dollars and to hate nerds” narrative.

            This one makes the least sense, because there’s no given reason why she, a real person, would be involved in this, no reason why the contact with the activists and journalist would happen the way they did, etc.

            The open question is “was her contact with the activists and the journalist as weird and off-putting as she says it was, and if so, why?” (There’s probably no proving who was behind the harassment).

    • Zorgon says:

      The most important thing to come out of this is that absolutely any suggestion that the folks who have been hounding Candace Owens ever “listen and believe” black and female victims is now completely absurd.

      Every word out of her mouth could be a lie and this whole situation would still be blatant evidence that SJWs only care about abuse when it happens white middle class women.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        Every word out of her mouth could be a lie and this whole situation would still be blatant evidence that SJWs only care about abuse when it happens white middle class women.

        That is both too uncharitable and too charitable, it applies only to women who say things that confirm their opinions, race and class is 100% incidental.

        • Zorgon says:

          I dunno. I could grant you race, but they’re always middle class. Never met a single working-class SJW in my life, never expect to either.

          • Anonymous says:

            I don’t know exactly what you consider working class, but you know how there’s a sort of labor/gentry divide in the tech world between IT and programming? I know a server monkey that screams low class to me — and if he isn’t exactly a SJW, he’s got to be close. A goon, naturally.

  11. sweeneyrod says:


    Do the Sequences make any interesting points that Thinking, Fast and Slow and Language in Thought and Action don’t?

  12. Merzbot says:

    Psychiatry side of SSC: How do I determine a safe (i.e., unlikely to cause significant tolerance or dependence) usage frequency for benzodiazapines? I have Klonopin prescribed “take as needed” for social anxiety. But the thing is, I need to interact with humans every day. So “as needed” there would probably mean “every day,” but that sounds like a bad idea.

    (No replies to this comment will be construed as medical advice.)

    I know I could just ask my psychiatrist, but if there was a way I could actually determine this myself it would be more helpful.

  13. Anonymous says:

    The Line Between Professor and Predator Isn’t Always So Clear

    Some contrarianism printed in an unlikely place.

  14. onyomi says:

    A general comment: in this OT there’s a thread suggesting new ways of categorizing political ideologies and there are also frequent complaints about people conflating “leftists” with “liberals” with “progressives” with Democrats, etc. etc. I haven’t read it all and don’t have an opinion on any specific proposals there.

    My question is: does anyone have trouble actually knowing what people are talking about in these cases? I understand the desire for precision and not smuggling in unfair assumptions (just because you voted for the Democrat last election doesn’t mean you’d describe yourself as a “leftist,” I understand), but I don’t personally find I do have any such trouble (though maybe some would say I unfairly stereotype my ideological opponents as a result?).

    Given the huge historical diversity of political ideologies and coalitions, I don’t think we’re ever going to have one perfect scheme whereby we can locate every political movement ever on some kind of graph (attempts to do so invariably start more debates than they end), so the discussion of how applicable a given label like, say, “fascism” may or may not be to a particular case is inevitable.

    To be perfectly honest, my usual reaction upon seeing “let’s not conflate leftism and progressivism!” type comments is to secretly think “oh, stop being pedantic; you know what they were talking about.”

    So my question is, are these debates really necessary or helpful and what do we hope to accomplish?

    • Walter says:

      My take on this:

      People come in 2 flavors (grownup and screwup). (Criteria, grownup clan can trust their future selves. Responsible/irresponsible for shorthand) The two defining notions that have any traction are:

      A: Grownups must take care of screwups, because they are humans.
      B: Grownups can do as they like.

      Progressive/Democrat/Leftist/whatever is shorthand for “Grownup Clan: Believes in A”, their opponents (call em what you like) are generally “Grownup Clan: Believes in B”. As long as I can tell which of these groups you are talking about I don’t care what the word is.

      • blacktrance says:

        Communitarian/traditionalist conservatives and some altrighters also believe in A, but they’re hardly in the progressive/leftist cluster. Your A vs B is more about libertarian-communitarian than left-right.

      • birdboy2000 says:

        I’d consider wealth being concentrated in the hands of a small number of people, who need not work for their money, and often inherited it (but have plenty of employees) to represent “screwups” (the bourgeoise) being taken care of by “grownups” (the proletariat). Nonetheless, doing away with this situation is generally considered a leftist idea.

        • Walter says:

          My usage of screwup is mostly “irresponsible”. You can have a rich one or a poor one. Most are poor, because they can’t get hired/tend to lose jobs. Windfall or inheritance might give you a rich screwup, but its not typical of the clan.

          This doesn’t mean that wealth -> grownup. It goes the other way. Grownup -> wealth.

          Your example would still work though. Given a useless zillionaire, the left’s position would be that he remains a human, heir to all that that entails. Even if he squandered every dime, he’d still be the state’s obligation. The right’s notion would be that when his cash runs out his henchfolk have no further obligation.

          • birdboy2000 says:

            So you see some kind of distinction between those who live off the labor of others because they are in need or incompetent, and those who live off the labor of others because society recognizes their ownership of capital?

            The only distinction I see is that the latter group demands a lot more support per-person.

          • Walter says:

            You are taking this weird places. Money doesn’t come into it at all. Grownup will tend to have more, but that’s just because one of the things that people try to do is get money. They tend to succeed, screwup to fail, so you can squint at a bank account and make a guess. Money isn’t a perfect indicator of that, as you’ve repeatedly pointed out. Its alright in a pinch, but there are a lot more things to consider.

            I’m trying to say that I divide the set of “people who talk on politics websites” by their reaction to Barnaby the Scrivener. (Who famously prefers not to work) Blue sees useless PEOPLE. Red sees USELESS people. Barnaby doesn’t generally speak up in this conversation.

            In answer to the original question, as long as I can tell where someone falls the axis I care about, I don’t mind calling them progressives, conservatives, Lutherans, whatever. The words aren’t important if I can get a sense of what camp they fall into.

          • Anonymous says:


            It’s Bartleby the Scrivener (thought you should know).

          • Walter says:


            Thanks man. Got that wrong.

    • Nita says:

      So, is open borders “a right-wing idea” or not?

      • onyomi says:

        I take it your point is that just saying someone is “right wing” is not enough to tell you whether or not he favors open borders (though in the US, and, I think, most of Europe, at least, the answer would be overwhelmingly, “no,” outside a few libertarians), but my point is precisely that no simple set of terms is going to be sufficient to encapsulate all the possible memeplexes and coalitions and sets of related ideas which have existed throughout history.

        My point is just that there seems to be both a deep dissatisfaction with colloquial terms like “progressive” and “right-wing” around here, as well as a sense that a more intelligent system of categorization could make things much clearer. I don’t think I agree with either of these ideas.

        The only thing I find really annoying is how “liberal” in the US means almost the opposite of what it means in most other English-speaking countries. But this problem doesn’t seem likely to go away anytime soon, unfortunately (though I think SSC readers tend to avoid the term maybe for precisely this reason).

        • brad says:

          Part of it is that if you accept the label ‘progressive’ because you e.g. think that single payer health care is a good idea, all of a sudden you are held responsible for 19th century eugenicist enthusiasts.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      There are two complaints people make on SSC about “left” vs “liberal.” One complaint is that they are orthogonal concepts. This occasionally causes confusion, but most of the complaints are unjustified. The other complaint is about the difference between absolutes and relatives. Some people say “the left” to mean the leftmost of the two big parties and some people use it to mean the far left. This causes confusion much more often.

    • Chalid says:

      I feel like the examples you give only rarely cause confusion. But use of “Blue Tribe” and “Red Tribe” almost always causes misunderstandings, and I’m glad people seem to be using them less.

    • Matt M says:

      “To be perfectly honest, my usual reaction upon seeing “let’s not conflate leftism and progressivism!” type comments is to secretly think “oh, stop being pedantic; you know what they were talking about.””

      Agree with this completely. I have this argument regularly with many of my friends, who are absolutely insistent that things have changed such that “left” and “right” or “democrat” and “republican” no longer have any meaning.

      And while that may be true in some specific cases, I think 90% of the time, opinions one issue ARE in fact easily predicted by opinions on other issues, and they cluster together fairly cleanly/evenly.

      We’re actually witnessing it in the libertarian community right now, as the divide continues to deep between left-wing and right-wing libertarians. But the thing is, literally nobody is surprised at who is gravitating to either side. It was obvious from the very beginning which libertarians were more left-leaning and which were more right-leaning. And not from the “list their positions and analyze which way they go” way, but from the “listening to this person, I intuitively appreciate which side they obvious sympathize with most”

      I feel like this is a mixture of “nuance signaling” (basically, “you idiots see things in terms of black and white, but *I* am more enlightened than that and see all of the shades of grey”) and a way to sidetrack the actual argument (meaning, if my point is “leftists support the minimum wage, which is bad economics,” then it’s easier to respond with “OMG NOT ALL LEFTISTS SUPPORT THE MINIMUM WAGE” than it is to make an economic argument in favor of the minimum wage.)

  15. From the department of overly complicated thought experiments:

    A mad scientist with an interest in rationalism has kidnapped you and appointed you as one of a group of 4 judges of a strange competition. A group of intelligent people will debate a randomly selected topic, while the judges watch from separate, locked, sound-proof booths. Judges will not vote on the debate itself, but after each time a participant speaks, judges will instead each have the ability to push any or all of a series of buttons, with each button corresponding to a debate participant. If three or more of the judges push their buttons for a particular participant after the participant speaks, their words will be ignored, a trap door will open up, and the participant will fall to their death. If one or less of the judges push buttons for the person, nothing happens. However, if two judges press the buttons, a trap door will instead open below all four judges and they will fall to *their* deaths.

    The participants are aware of the rules. Unfortunately several of the participants had a stack of soft cushions and a pile of money placed under their trap doors. These participants know who they are, but you do not. If they tell anyone of this, the scientist will instantly remove the cushions. Also, amongst the participants are several randomly selected idiots.

    The mad scientist allows the four judges time before the debate to discuss how they will coordinate their button pushing. However, the scientist, who is the world’s best logician and rationalist, warns that the entire debate should be both interesting and as rational as possible. If it is not of a sufficiently interesting and rational standard he will execute all participants, judges, and a very large room full of cute innocent kittens. Finally, he has injected you and the other judges with a serum that makes you fierce consequentialists who value life, at least for the duration of the debate.

    What rules will you and the other judges decide (while under the influence of the serum) upon as to whether to push a participant’s button after they speak? Why?

    EDIT> Alternative version – A mad scientist places you in a room full of fellow contrarians where your thought experiments are doomed to failure.

    • Vox Imperatoris says:

      I’m not sure I get the premise here. Why would the judges have any reason to press the buttons at all? Why would they want to kill anybody?

      • If the debate is irrational, all involved would die. The judges can prevent this if they coordinate to silence irrational statements.

      • This is a thought experiment. You aren’t supposed to treat it as world-building.

        I think world-building is much more interesting than thought experiments. I’m probably the kind of person who will be tortured to protect huge numbers of other people from dust specks.

        • *sigh* I’m fairly sure the replies missing the point is deliberate. Maybe the serum thing was a trigger for people or something, even though it wasn’t even the point of the question. I thought it was obvious and fairly innocent what I was really asking – what rules can a debate have to improve the rationality of the discussion.

    • Aegeus says:

      Well. This is possibly the strangest thought experiment I’ve been in.

      Is there a reason we can’t just agree to not push the buttons? I would say that the stance of “making a mistake in a debate is not worthy of the death penalty” is an eminently rational one to take. You could also point out that if someone acts irrationally in a debate, it’s typically the opponent’s job to refute them, not the judge’s. You could also point out that if you have a serum that makes people perfect consequentialists, you could inject the participants instead of the judges and that would be a much more direct way of getting a rational debate.

      If that doesn’t satisfy the mad scientist’s standard of “as rational as possible”, and we actually need to drop bad debaters into trapdoors to keep him happy…

      Since we don’t know what the participants will say and we can’t communicate once the debate starts, there’s no perfect winning strategy. And since judging a debate is subjective, and there’s an incentive to not get a 50-50 split, I would say to push the button only for really obvious fallacies that look like they’d piss off the mad scientist.

      Alternate strategy: Drop everyone who speaks into a trap door. Both sides of the debate will soon start making the perfectly rational decision to not say a word about the topic. Hey, the mad scientist didn’t say that the debate had to have content, only that it had to be rational.

      EDIT: One more strategy – have two judges push the buttons. Without judges, the mad experiment can’t continue. As good consequentialists, we are perfectly happy with sacrificing ourselves to save a room full of innocent debaters and kittens.

      • Your second strategy seems sound 🙂 if a little dark :-/ I’ve done an edit to add “interesting” to the scientist’s requirements of the debate. Care to expand on your “really obvious fallacies” strategy?

        Edit> Wow nice third solution. Not sure I have an edit to fix that!

        • J Mann says:

          I think #3 is risky – the mad scientist is a rationalist. Surely he precommitted to kill all the debaters and kittens if the debate was not sufficiently interesting and rational regardless of the existence of judges.

          Even if not, is it rational for the judges to assume he’ll let the kittens live if the debate disappoints?

          #1 is good – I think you can assume comfy cushion people will signal their preference early and obviously, so that just leaves idiots and bad debaters. The more clear rules you can set out and apply in real time, the less risk you have of collapse.

    • hlynkacg says:

      They’ll shoot the mad scientist rather than subject themselves or anyone else to this farce.

      After all, 1 dead scientist is a small price to pay compared to several dead participants and a room full of kittens. 😉

      • Well I sort of agree, but I’m not sure the mad scientist remembered to put a firearm in everybody’s jacket during the kidnappings.

        • John Schilling says:

          Duh. That’s why you bring your own. If you insist on living in a community where people don’t go armed as a matter of principle, you can expect to be killed by random mad scientists conducting silly experiments.

          • Hlynkacg says:


          • Thanks for your discomfort poorly disguised as humor. Care to explain it honestly?

          • John Schilling says:

            I am strangely uninspired to compose such an explanation for you.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            Care to explain it honestly?

            There is an unstated assumption in your reply that “shooting the mad scientist” as I suggested, requires the mad scientist to furnish the prospective judge with a gun. The obvious rejoinder being “why can’t the judge use their own?”

            The rest is just poking fun at the typical trajectory of gun control debates and the (non)prevalence of mad science.

            Person A: “What do you need a gun for?”
            Person B: “To win meta-ethical debates against mad scientists performing perverse experiments… Why do you think?”

            But you know what the say, if you have to explain the joke…

    • Zippy says:

      How old’s the bus driver?

    • Ruprect says:

      Hmmmm… so… you want a way to get rid of people who have something to gain from derailing the debate, but to keep those who derail it because they are stupid, unless they are *really* derailing it, in which case you have to get rid of them to save everyone else.
      I suppose ultimately we have to just ignore the reasons as to why they are derailing and just get rid of anyone who derails severely.
      And we have to agree absolutely on the conditions for getting rid of people.

      Hmmmm… to be interesting it has to be related to experience. To be rational there has to be a consistent association of terms (with the proviso that my “blurg” might be different to your “blurg”). So, I would get rid of anyone who didn’t listen or show much interest in other’s definition of terms, and how they relate to their experience.

      Bit too vague though… I would insist that everyone uses normal English to refer to direct emotional/sensory experience, everyday actions, but uses made up words to explain more complex combinations of those experiences/combinations of terms.
      You can only ever disagree with a person by saying “I don’t understand what that word means?” – ask them to break it down into a more basic, physical level.
      As soon as someone makes the objection, you have to stop using the word. You insist on using the word “democracy” after I’ve objected to it, you get trap doored (with one warning?). If someone objects to something which can be demonstrated through mime, they get trap doored.

  16. Deiseach says:

    So, has anyone heard of the Whole Foods hate crime? Any opinions?

    I was made aware of the allegations via a religion journalism site; apart from the original reporting of the allegations in the mainstream media, the sites which are reporting on it now appear to be conservative/right-wing ones with agendas of their own (hint: they’re all pretty much convinced this is a hoax to extort money out of Whole Foods).

    The reason it’s covered by a religion journalism site is that the alleged victim is claiming to be the pastor of a church plant in Austin, Texas (though as yet there is no evidence he has a congregation or anything other than some preaching/talks posted as Youtube videos) who is gay and claims to be pastoring a church where “tradition and religious doctrine” have been “thrown out the window”.

    I know nothing about Whole Foods but apparently this is the last place you’d expect a homophobic slur to be iced on a cake? Especially when the store in Austin is defending itself by, amongst other things, claiming the employee who iced the cake is themself a member of the LGBTQ community?

    So I have to say, the view I’ve formed so far is this guy seems to be in a financial hole and may possibly have thought this was an easy way to make money. DISCLAIMER SO SCOTT WON’T BE SUED FOR LIBEL: ALL MY OWN PERSONAL OPINION, IN NO WAY REFLECTS THE VIEWS OF THIS SITE, AND ALLEGEDLY AND WITH NO PREJUDICE ALL ROUND, OKAY?

    What I’m interested in discussing is how the whole (a) forcing bakeries etc. to provide services for gay couples via lawsuits (b) the use of “no platforming”/boycotting/threats of bad publicity for crimethink have possibly maybe could have happened influenced someone to think that accusing a business of anti-LGBT prejudice or homophobia would mean the business would settle out of court fast and pay up out of fear?

    Given that we’ve seen lists of businesses condemning North Carolina because of the “bathroom law”,and some saying they’ll withdraw their business and so cause the state to lose money (including sports franchise saying it now won’t play the 20 games it was going to host there), and this has happened in other states as well, is Social Justice Blackmail now becoming a thing?

    • Walter says:

      You’ve packed a lot of stuff in this post. I’ll try to react to each bit.

      Cake: I tend to think it’s a fake. That said, lower level employees don’t act with the best interest of their bosses (remember the dudes caught on tape standing on the lettuce containers at that one Moe’s). I’m like 80/20 dude faked it vs. some flunky did it. I’m pretty confident that it wasn’t a deliberate act by Whole Foods though.

      Lawsuits bring Lawsuits: Yeah, once you prove that you can sue someone to make them do something then everyone will do that. They’ll have to start doing whatever it is they got sued for routinely. That’s kind of the system working as designed though, right? Like, if the court says “Start putting seat belts in your car, pay Bob a million bucks”, the intended message is “If you don’t do what we say you’ll pay everyone who buys your cards a million bucks, and go bankrupt. You’ll lose all future cases due to this precedent, so back down.”

      Unpopular folks get sued more: Makes sense. A jury of my peers won’t vote for Bobby Bigotface, regardless of the facts of the case. Why not sue him?

      Related tangent, whenever I see a case like Cosby, or that one football coach who got convicted of molesting all those players, I always wonder about free riders. Like, say you were going to school there, or met Cosby once. If you join the suits as plaintiff number 11, you potentially get a portion of whatever eventually comes out, and you probably don’t have to pay any legal costs. It’s not like the jury is going to find 14 cases guilty, 1 case innocent. Seems like nothing but upside.

      Social Justice Blackmail: I sort of doubt that it’s a deliberate coordinated effort. Like “I’ll get him labeled as a bigot, you move in for the kill.” is just not how I picture the whole thing working. It’s more like, independently, a lot of people want to expose bigotry. Once someone is labeled a bigot, they become attractive targets due to their unpopularity.

      • Deiseach says:

        This case seems on the face of it to be a scam, but remember the pizza parlour which had a whole firestorm of protest (and even one idiot woman making a not sincere but really stupid tweet about “who wants to come with me to burn it down”)?

        Suppose the guy had picked his target better? Given that the idea of “any victim of X will never make a false accusation; anybody accused of X must and should be automatically considered guilty” else you are victim-blaming and victim-shaming, the idea is certainly in place and ripe for exploitation, and I’ve seen it at work in my own home place (one false accusation of sexual molestation while in care, made by a very mentally confused person who was not acting maliciously, resulted in a complete witch hunt of the alleged guilty party led by the popular press and a short period of jail time until it was established that the initial accusation was false).

        I don’t mean that the Social Justice movement is engaged in blackmail, but that the establishment of “guilty until proven innocent/the alleged victim is never alleged and always in the right/no false accusations ever/use boycotts to force undesirables out” has put in place a precedent; I know that using Brendan Eich as an example is going to be met with eye-rolling about “not that old chestnut again!” but seeing as how OKCupid were able to use a scare about homophobia to land a hit on an opponent (I really think it was seeing Mozilla as a competitor by the owners of OKCupid, who are InterActiveCorp and have a raft of interests in online services, that triggered the whole “boycott Firefox” call), I do think that attempts to gain advantage (or plain old cash payouts) under the guise of “Supporting peace, equality, justice and rights for all” is going to become more and more of a way of behaving.

        Suppose this hadn’t been a LGBT employee of a company with vaguely liberal-credibility associations like Whole Foods? Suppose he’d picked a more acceptable target for a two minute hate? He didn’t try to say the cake gave him food poisoning or was stale or anything of the kind about its ‘fitness for purpose’, he tried to claim a slur was iced on it. I imagine many businesses might decide to take the hit and pay out quietly in order not to have a campaign about being haters and homophobes spilling out onto the internet and triggering bad publicity, loss of business, and wholesale boycotts and demands for the heads of the managers on a pike?

        Suppose he’d claimed an employee of Wal-Mart had made derogatory or hate speech remarks to him about ordering a “Love Wins” cake – that would be the kind of “he said/she said” that, unless there were CCTV footage with sound on the bakery counter, would be hard to disprove and you’d have all the usual suspects defending him on the grounds that “a gay man is never going to make a false accusation, how dare you blame the victim, there is no presumption of innocence and this should be dropped from the law to protect the victim” – it would be seen as more hate and bigotry to even suggest we didn’t know for sure it happened the way he said it happened.

        I have seen online people claiming that they would unquestioningly believe someone who claimed to have been sexually abused, harassed, slurs used against them, etc. because otherwise you are making the victim’s experience of rape or hate crime even worse, you are treating them as a liar and denying their suffering, and any attempt to give equal weight to the accused is saying the crime never happened and denying the truth of what the victim says.

        I really think some people would like to do away with the whole idea of a trial – just tell the police X abused you/called you names/used hate speech and have them locked up.

        • Zorgon says:

          The principle behind this is, as with nearly everything else, about status. The victims are assumed to be contextually low-status and, therefore, deserve it. The only reason we even notice Brendan Eich is that he’s sufficiently broadly high-status to make his media-localised low status stand out.

          Or to put it another way – these people are keen on trials, just only for people like them.

          • Anonymous says:

            Robin Hanson, is that you?

          • Deiseach says:

            I think the presumption of innocence is the principle under threat, and a very important principle we should defend, even in the case of a horrible crime where you’re 99% certain the guy is guilty as sin and you feel the only just and fitting punishment is to have him eaten by rabid squirrels from the feet up.

            If we abolish the rule for the sleazebags, we can’t then turn around and rely on it when it happens to us, because there is always the chance, no matter how remote, of someone maliciously or opportunistically or because they’re easily pressurised/not mentally well making such accusations.

            Even in genuine cases of abuse/harassment, there are always opportunists who want fifteen minutes of fame (or a nice little earner selling their story to the tabloids) by jumping on the bandwagon of currently running investigations.

            Operation Midland was set up for investigating accusations by a single alleged witness/victim arising out of related investigations but seems to have more or less collapsed due to the unreliability of the sole accuser (who may or may not be a con man, a fabulist or a simple liar):

            A £2m police investigation into an alleged VIP paedophile ring accused of killing three children more than 30 years ago has collapsed amid calls for resignations from three of the UK’s most senior police officers.

            The Metropolitan police said Operation Midland has been closed without any charges being brought against any of the former politicians, military officers or government officials said to be involved, after a 16-month inquiry involving 31 detectives.

            …Senior officers face scrutiny over a high-profile inquiry into an alleged murderous Westminster paedophile ring based on claims by a single witness.

            …The high-profile investigation was based on claims from a single alleged victim known as Nick. He said he witnessed a group of powerful men in the 70s and 80s abusing young boys in central London locations, such as a flat in the Dolphin Square block near Westminster.
            Nick’s allegations centred on a number of figures in the establishment at the time. These included Proctor; Leon Brittan, a former home secretary; Lord Bramall, a former head of the armed forces; Sir Edward Heath, the late prime minister; and the former heads of MI5 and MI6, all of whom were said to have been part of the savage paedophile ring that killed three boys.

            … Nick, a man in his 40s, first made allegations of child abuse to his local police in 2012, when he reported sexual and physical abuse by his stepfather, a military figure. Officers did not pursue the investigation because the man in question had died several years before.

            He emerged as a complainant to the Met after Watson’s allegations in parliament in 2012. Contacted by Exaro [a news website which published or sold stories based on many of the claims], Nick made his allegations first on the news website, and later underwent three lengthy police interviews that led to the opening of Operation Midland in November 2014.
            The inquiry examined Nick’s allegations that he and other young boys were sexually abused between 1975 and 1984 at various locations across London and the Home Counties, including military establishments. The venues included a flat in Dolphin Square.

            As a result of Nick’s allegations officers opened murder inquiries into the killing of three young boys. But they never established the identities of the victims or recovered any bodies of young boys who had gone missing in the period in question.

            In December 2014, Scotland Yard held a press conference in which they revealed they were investigating the murders of three young boys and the abuse of children which had taken place over a decade at the various locations. Most significantly a senior officer on the homicide command, Det Supt Kenny McDonald, said Nick’s claims were “credible and true”. The latter part of the statement was subsequently withdrawn.

            …Nick’s credibility as a witness was questioned last year after the BBC’s Panorama disclosed that he had appeared anonymously on a television programme claiming to have been abused by Jimmy Savile, but had not mentioned his alleged abuse at the hands of the paedophile ring.

            …Some have defended the approach of the Met. Pete Saunders, from the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, said: “I have been dealing with the police for 20 years. They do get it wrong sometimes, we all do, but generally speaking they know when they are dealing with someone that is credible and they know when they are dealing with a liar.”

    • onyomi says:

      It’s definitely fake:

      I believe Whole Foods is now suing the guy for defamation or something and I applaud them for taking an active stance against this sort of thing (there have to be consequences for fake accusations to offset all the attention and, possibly, money people stand to gain from this sort of thing).

      • gbdub says:

        Yep, definitely fake. They have the guy on video buying the cake, and the price sticker he swears up and down he didn’t tamper with is in a completely different location on the box.

        I think the lesson for Whole Foods is “don’t agree to make cakes with a big blank space that could be used to turn your otherwise innocuous message into a hate crime”.

        • onyomi says:

          “don’t agree to make cakes… that could turn… into a hate crime”

          I don’t know whether the fact that cake decoration and public bathroom usage are two of the most hotly debated issues of our time indicate that our society has finally arrived at the point of having no real problems or about to collapse.

          I imagine telling Harriet Tubman: “in our time, black people write hateful messages on their own cakes in order to get attention.”

          • gbdub says:

            On FB one of my acquaintances posted, to much approval, something to the effect of “In America, Christians say they are under attack because they can’t kick gay people out of their restaurant. In Pakistan, Christians say they are under attack because they are getting blown up by suicide bombers. I know which ones have my sympathy”.

            I was very tempted to reply “In America, gay people say they are under attack because they might not get their first choice cake decorator. In the Middle East, gay people say they are under attack because they get executed for existing. I know which ones have my sympathy”.

            I ultimately held my tongue, but really, a quick blessing count would do most people some good. We’re not perfect, far from it, but thank [insert personally deity or lack thereof] for First World Problems.

          • sweeneyrod says:


            You both have a point, but some gay people in the US say they are under attack because they are aware of their risk of being beaten to death.

          • Jiro says:

            sweenyrod: All people have some risk of being beaten to death. You need to compare rates of prevalence, which a list of beatings is not.

          • gbdub says:

            We also have some non-zero number of people killed for their religious beliefs, national origin, and race – or for liking the wrong sports team or motorcycle brand. Note the part where I said we are a long way from perfect. The level of societal acceptance of homosexuality is vastly improved over what it was even 20 years ago and vastly better than many other parts of the world. “Count your blessings” does not mean “ignore all problems”. Just keep some perspective is all.

            Anyway I’m kind of wondering about the standards of that list – I skimmed the most recent couple decades and an awful lot of them are of the form “body of trans woman found in XXX”, with no other information. While trans and homosexual people are probably at a greater risk of hate-crime type murders, assuming every foul play death of a person in those groups to be motivated primarily by that seems like a big leap.

          • John Schilling says:

            some gay people in the US say they are under attack because they are aware of their risk of being beaten to death.

            From the list you cite, that awareness ought to be mostly confined to trans women prostitutes. I think this demographic has very little overlap with the gay couples demanding cake.

          • Deiseach says:

            I don’t think he did it to get attention (a handy payout to solve his money problems seems the most likely explanation), and he was definitely going for the homophobia, not racism, angle but yeah: if your greatest complaint of bein’ oppressed is “my florist won’t decorate the church for our wedding”, you have it good.

            Not that all LGBT people have it that good, but again – if that’s your biggest problem, you are doing well.

  17. Telma says:

    Love the dinosaur sign.

  18. Anonymous says:

    My rent is too high. Are there cities in the US that are lgbt friendly and have cheaper median rent than places such as Portland, Berkeley, Boston, and Nashville?

  19. keranih says:

    Of possible interest in the survey/tribal/sociological sections of the commentariant:

    Charles Murray’s book Coming Apart has been made into a quiz with some preliminary results on those parts of the US with the “most elite” zipcodes.

    (My apologies if this was linked before, I tried to find if it had been mentioned and came up empty.)

    • dndnrsn says:

      I took this quiz online a little while back and scored pretty much as I expected to.

      One thing that puzzled me: Is smoking really this “oh, the gentry hate it” thing? Is that a generational thing? I’m a millenial who went to a good university, and I know lots of smokers my age. It doesn’t seem particularly judged. Parties will always have a few people smoking outside, and plenty of people will smoke when drunk when they wouldn’t otherwise. The only social circle I’m in where people judge it is the gym.

      While statistically the middle and upper classes smoke cigarettes less, that question seems off to me.

      • Anonymous says:

        In my experience, the older you get the worse it is. When I was in a (highly selective) college smoking wasn’t that big a deal, though there were some patterns. By the time I got to law school it was much more of a status marker. In my current world (thirty something, married, urban east coast professional) if you still smoke you might as well carry a sign on your head that says “white trash”, especially if you have kids. Immigrants get a little bit of a pass.

        N.B. Just reporting not making my own judgments.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          What if it’s weed?

          • Anonymous says:

            MJ is a very tricky and contentious subject in the circles I travel. Especially among women there is a huge variance in reactions. If you don’t want to blow up groups or cause drama the safest thing to do is use secret handshakes to find other MJ smokers and go off very discretely. I myself haven’t for something like a decade.

            Everyone drinks or at the very least is expected to tolerate drinking.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’ve never encountered, among people my age (caveat: almost exclusively left-leaning and university educated) especially dramatic negative reactions, but habitual users are certainly stereotyped.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Even in grad school (including law and even medical students), though, you’d find a crowd of people outside of social events smoking.

          What happens to the people who smoke, though, as they age? People aren’t dropping dead from it in their 30s, and I was under the impression that quitting was incredibly hard.

          • Anonymous says:

            One guy I know uses one of those electronic cigarettes and he gets something of a pass. It’s considered like a disease he is treating or something rather than a disgusting, low class habit. A few more have quit over the years. Some I’ve lost track of, maybe they found other communities where it’s okay.

            I don’t think any of the lawyers in my (medium size) firm smoke. Maybe a cigar for some of the older guys, but it is definitely the secretaries and filing clerks that go outside regularly to smoke.

          • Piglet says:

            Mid-40’s lawyer here. A few points. 1. It is not hard for everyone to quit. I’ve been able to pick them up or put them down as needed with no issue, going on 18+ months at zero with no real effort. Of course, my habit was rather light. So, for some, even modest social impact suffices to prompt quitting due to their incentives. 2. There are more closet smokers than you think. For some years, I smoked only on business travel, for instance. I’d be mortified to admit smoking, and indeed was mortified the one time I was caught by a colleague. 3. Some smoke only when drinking alcohol fairly seriously, and take away that context, as is often the case when one grows up, and lots of people just…don’t.

      • J Mann says:

        I would say that habitual smoking is a class marker. Like a lot of other class markers, it might come across more like an affectation or an eccentricity when couple with a lot of other class signifiers.

        I know a few people who smoke seriously enough that you can smell tobacco when you are within handshake distance, and it definitely reads as a class signifier to me, like conspicuously bad grammar. Not really something about the person’s worth, but it adds to the first impression.

      • In my current world (thirty something, married, urban east coast professional) if you still smoke you might as well carry a sign on your head that says “white trash”, especially if you have kids.

        it definitely reads as a class signifier to me, like conspicuously bad grammar.

        That’s pretty much the way it is in my world. And (tobacco) smoking is not just seen as low-class, it signifies compromised physical and mental health.

        (As others have commented, attitudes about marijuana are more complicated.)

        Some years ago, Steven Bochco, creator of “Hill Street Blues” (1980s TV police drama) commented on how the perception of smoking had changed in the U.S., saying (approximately): “If you put a cigarette in a character’s hand, you’re saying he smells bad and doesn’t take care of himself.”

        The writers of The Economist magazine, over in the UK where this change hadn’t yet happened, were shocked and uncomprehending of this. Since they couldn’t conceive that smoking was seen that negatively, they wildly reinterpreted Bochco’s remarks as reprehensible social engineering, “putting cigarettes into the hands of baddies” in order to campaign against smoking, and they denounced him.

        But smoking IS seen that negatively.

        • Nornagest says:

          It is, but that attitude’s not universal among Blues; it’s more prominent among Blues of roughly ages thirty to sixty than older or younger, and more on the East Coast than the West. Twentysomething hipsters in Portland and Seattle smoke like chimneys; in SF somewhat less so, but it’s still not a major gaffe.

          • It is, but that attitude’s not universal among Blues; it’s more prominent among Blues of roughly ages thirty to sixty than older or younger, and more on the East Coast than the West. Twentysomething hipsters in Portland and Seattle smoke like chimneys; in SF somewhat less so, but it’s still not a major gaffe.

            But the smoking trend lines don’t show any such uptick.

          • As mentioned above, it’s not that lifelong smoking is more popular among the youth, but rather than smoking is viewed as a youthful vice, to be left behind once you leave college.

            (I smoked in college but stopped when I met my wife. Evidence!)

          • dndnrsn says:

            Something I’ve noticed is that a lot of people I know seem to be keeping habits that you’re supposed to drop after undergraduate education is done, or at least after you’re out of university.

            I know people who still drink like university students despite being several years out of university. Is it normal for employed adults to be hung over once a week?

          • Jaskologist says:


            Are they married?

          • Teal says:

            The ever more extended adolescence and chest beating about same is a favored theme of editorialists of a certain age and disposition.

            I think they are right that something is changing, but I’m not so sure about their normative conclusions.

          • dndnrsn says:


            Nope. I know very few people my age or close to it who I met in university who are getting married. There’s definitely a good case that all the “settling down” activities are kind of a bundle: getting married, getting a house, having kids, and not getting blasted every weekend are a package deal. I have no idea of the drinking habits of the married/engaged people, because nobody in my immediate circle(s) is married or engaged.

            On the other hand, my parents, who married (and owned property, and had kids) late, both seem surprised at the fact that people in their mid-to-late 20s, especially those outside of university, are still having parties devoted largely to drinking.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Your parents may have married late, but how many of their peers did? You need a certain number of post-college singles in order to have the drunken parties in the first place. As the number of unmarrieds increases in an age cohort, extended-adolescent behaviors will become more and more normalized.

          • dndnrsn says:


            My parents are both highly educated, so their peers would have gotten married later as well, but the overall point is probably true – my parents didn’t (or at least won’t admit to, and I suspect they are telling the truth) drinking the same way that I did when I was in undergrad, or even grad school. Either the crowd they ran with were less heavy drinkers than average students, or university students in general drank less back then.

            Overall though it’s pretty obvious that things like having kids, getting married, owning property, and stopping getting messed up every weekend are increasingly delayed, and among some groups certain of these aren’t even happening.

          • Deiseach says:

            Purely anecdotal, but I’m seeing (online) some evidence that younger people (teenage to early twenties) perceive smoking now as cool and glamorous, rather in the style of the heyday of Hollywood movie stars.

            I think this may be a generational effect; the anti-smoking public health education campaigns of the 70s/80s had a big effect; the parents of those kids smoked, the kids of that time grew up to be non-smokers, and now their kids in turn are seeing smoking as cool and glamorous because it has the aura of the exotic, the forbidden, and is not something they see commonly.

          • Psmith says:

            Deiseach, I’ve seen it mooted that this is the result of laws requiring tobacco firms to sponsor anti-smoking PSAs. The result (on this theory) is that the ads are designed to be deliberately uncool and make anti-smoking seem like Grundyism.

  20. merzbot says:

    Is the Last Psychiatrist kind of incoherent or is he just 2deep4me? I find him incredibly fun to read but a lot of his posts (e.g. this one) seem to go way over my head.

    • Psmith says:

      It ain’t just you. I never really understand what he’s talking about past the first couple of paragraphs, at least beyond getting the impression that I should feel bad about it..

    • Orphan Wilde says:

      At least for that post, incoherent, in a stream-of-consciousness-without-any-editing sort of way.

      There are three major topics there, and the author bounces between them pretty much at random. Topic #1 is what it opens with – that people think in terms of stories, with three major acts; the things leading up to a thing, the thing that is the thing, and the things that happened as a result of the thing (there’s a claim that there’s a fourth act, but doesn’t actually specify what it is). Topic #2 is the idea that women in comedy often talk about sex, rather than talking about comedy, because it’s a more acceptable way for women to talk about sex and men to listen about sex. Topic #3 is gender norms, with some normative claims about what people are really like thrown into the mix. (There are also a bunch of minor topics in which the author makes a random foray into talking about television aspect ratios, drug addiction, or gambling.)

      Topic #1 is the topic the author returns to most frequently, and is probably what the author is attempting to actually talk about, but keeps getting distracted from.

    • Andrew says:

      I adored that post in particular, and while it was definitely madcap and scattered, none of it was incoherent to me. So take that as a counter-anecdote, I guess!

    • Zippy says:

      Before, the experience of addiction was entirely subjective, is it messing up your life? Now, it’s been objectified, the subject’s relationship with the drug is is no longer relevant, it is the fact of the drug that is relevant. The obvious example of this sleight of hand is that there’s alcohol use and alcohol abuse, but there’s no such category as cocaine use, even though the vast majority of its ingestion has nothing to do with addiction. The reinforcement is from the outside to comply with this idiocy: say you party down one weekend, then a random drug test at work, oops! So two things can happen, Guess What Happens Next: you could tell the truth that the coke was on her ass and how could you not? doesn’t make you a bad person;

      Guys, I think I may have just figured out why the Last Psychiatrist is so incoherent.

      But in all seriousness, he’s always seemed coherent to me, despite his frenetic style, but only occasionally does he have a point that he manages to convince me of. I also think he has good form; admire the Startling Revelation structure of this next quote, along with the artful use of the word “Nowadays”:

      If you heard this as a feminist criticism you have missed 50% of the fun: men can’t safely hear about sex from a woman except as a joke, or else they are labeled as perverts by women, who are still unsure of their (sexual) place in this free for all we call Nowadays. “I want to tell you about last night but I don’t want you to judge me or appear interested.” Huh? Nowadays can be exhausting, but they were also inevitable.

      He uses the same Startling Revelation structure for the next point he makes:

      The censorship doesn’t come from women, it comes from you. If you feel like you can’t ask her about her sex because you’ll sound like a repressed stalker, you are, in fact, a repressed stalker.

      I’m not going to say that he contradicts himself, because he doesn’t, just that the contrast between his two points isn’t especially useful.

      Another example: the theses of “No Self-Respecting Woman Would Go Out Without Make Up“, for example, seem to be something like:
      1) “the only appropriate time to wear make up is to look attractive to men. Or women, depending on which genitals you want to lick, hopefully it’s both.”
      2) Society is messed up because it doesn’t agree with (1).
      3-16) Some other shit.
      17) Women are being allowed into traditional ‘positions of power’ not because women are being allowed into actual power but because the actual power is moving away from the traditional ‘positions of power’ into other positions that (surprise!) women are not typically allowed into.

      There is minimal evidence or connection to a broader topic for most of these theses, but many of them are clever and/or reversals of conventional wisdom. What you might call insight porn I guess. Good humor mixed in as well. 9/10, it’s like if Scott blogged drunk and he was a feisty drunk.

      • Deiseach says:

        All right, I was getting through that makeup piece and thinking “Okay, I don’t quite agree with everything in the way you’re putting it but you do have some rudiment of a point there” when I came to this and he just torpedoed his own argument:

        How would you like to live in a world where men had to wear make up? “Oh, I love make up on a guy, especially eyeliner.” Of course you do, you’re having a stroke. Ask it this way: how would you like to be in a world where men said,” oh, I feel so much better about myself when I’m wearing makeup.” You’d run for the nearest totalitarian regime.

        Well, setting aside that you don’t need to trowel on full slap, gentlemen, and that a touch of eyeliner on a man is damn attractive when he has expressive and beautiful eyes, why the hell shouldn’t men wear make up as well? If the primary purpose of a woman wearing make up is to look attractive to men (or other women, or both), why wouldn’t men want to look attractive to women (or other men, or both) as well?

        Men don’t want to look attractive? Rubbish – why do they cut their hair, shave, wear decent suits, cologne, exercise and work out to have muscular rather than flabby bodies?

        It’s natural for women but unnatural for men to wear make up? So explain to me how putting white lead, malachite and red ochre on your face is a completely natural and instinctive process like developing breasts at puberty. Go ahead, I’ll sit here and wait.

        If you’re going to veer dangerously close to chauvinism and say the only acceptable reason for women to wear make up is to attract men and otherwise they should go bareface, then why do men find make up on women attractive? What is appealing about nail varnish and eye shadow? I’m still sitting here, I’ll be patient while you explain.

        Don’t even get into the history of it – cosmetics have been unisex in many cultures and started off as skin protection from the elements as well as having decorative purposes.

        Every football player with eye black under their eyes is wearing functional make up, does that mean the United States is a debauched hellhole of positively Sardanapalian decadence, from whence all right-thinking women should flee to a totalitarian regime in search of proper manly men? Perhaps we should not answer that? 🙂

        • Tseeteli says:

          Alone isn’t saying that makeup is natural. Quite the opposite.

          He’s saying that makeup is an externally-imposed social norm. But that, over time, people internalize these norms & invent fake justifications for why they’re adopting them.

          Then he discusses the weird dynamics that come out of people lying to themselves about why they’re doing things. It’s the lying that’s objectionable.

          Alone is fine on the makeup itself. The line before your block quote is: “You are enhancing your outward appearance, which is great, but then you pretend it’s for internal reasons?”

          He’s saying that makeup isn’t really about male-female dynamics, either. The line after your quote is, “The trick to the makeup debate is that it pretends to want to be free of male pressure, yet the pressure to look a certain way is actually much worse from women. …”

          Then the article goes on to talk about the dynamics of things that seem like cooperative groups, but aren’t actually groups, or aren’t actually cooperative.

    • Walter says:

      He’s fun. I generally take his main thesis “narcissism epidemic” as true. So, he persuaded one person at least. He had help from the world though.

    • Glen Raphael says:

      It’s not just you. That post is full of parts that feel to me like bizarre non-sequiturs; there’s too much inferential distance to cross. One problem is that for various assertions he considers self-evident of the form you do X or you want to do Y I think: There must be readers for whom this statement resonates, but I’m not one of them. Or I think: I don’t even know what I would need to know to understand and/or agree with this claim.

      But I don’t normally read TLP – maybe if I did it would make more sense.

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      It seems to me like an excercise in piling up more and more layers of contrarianism.

  21. Nero tol Scaeva says:

    After I finish my MS degree in CS, I’m thinking of becoming a professor at a community college (though I think this might be tough because I have no teaching experience and I work full time, working on my degree part time).

    Opinions? Anyone have any experience with academia in 2 year colleges?

    • Evan Þ says:

      Here’s a good blog by a community college dean. Most of his hiring posts are about the liberal arts rather than CS, but I’d recommend you check him out anyway. At least in the liberal arts, he says you’re way too optimistic; community colleges have been facing a glut of qualified candidates for at least the last ten years, and just about no one gets hired without good teaching experience.

      Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

  22. Well... says:

    I’d like to post a prediction here for posterity ( charges $50 to publish one, so eff that):

    I predict that if Donald Trump becomes president, he will not over the course of his administration seriously pursue building a wall along the Mexico border, AND he will not seriously pursue a ban on Muslim immigration.

    By “seriously pursue” I mean use the maximum powers at his disposal, as president, to implement those programs, OR to make a public show of using a large amount of said powers.

    He may make a weak display and then shrug and say something about checks and balances, or that his views on those issues have “evolved.”

    If anyone would like me to put my money where my mouth is, leave a comment on my blog (hyperlinked as my pseudonym) indicating your terms and how you’d like to get in touch.

    • Alphaceph says:

      I agree with this assessment so I won’t bet against you.

      However, I expect Trump will be generally incompetent, and get away with it by creating distractions. I would much rather America be led by Hillary.

      • Well... says:

        At the risk of getting into a boring wonkish debate about non-high-level politics, I disagree that Trump will be incompetent, but I do agree he will create distractions.

        I worry he will be very competent, since he is a skillful negotiator, persuader, and delegator, but that he will use this competence to do Hillary-like things (which I generally oppose). Trump will create distractions–and use other tricks and rhetoric–so that he can do the Hillary-like things while still keeping his supporters loyal, and even inspire them to defend him against his detractors.

        His detractors will be the same people they are now, and they will oppose Hillary-like things done by him even though they would have supported Hillary doing them.

        (Thanks for giving me an opportunity to get all this in writing. It’ll be fun to see if my predictions bear out.)

        • John Schilling says:

          I worry he will be very competent, since he is a skillful negotiator, persuader, and delegator

          I have seen little evidence that he is more than moderately competent in those three areas. He is superbly talented at self-promotion, which is useful in selling branded products and winning elections, but not so much in running governments.

          • Well... says:

            I’m basing my statements mostly on the compelling observations of two Scott A’s. One is Scott Adams (on his blog) and the other is Scott Alexander (in his review of “Art of the Deal” on this blog).

          • anon says:

            You should email Scott Aaronson to get his opinion. Or perhaps he’s already blogged on this subject?

            Incidentally do you think Scott Adams’s insightful posts on Trump this year and last have earned him a place on the High Council of Bloggers Named Scott Who Should Rule the World? I worry that a third Scott A. will upset the balance of power and could lead to Sumner getting purged for his heretical last initial. (Although I suppose balance would be restored should our host choose to renounce his pseudonym.)

    • Vorkon says:

      I’m with you on the ban on Muslim immigration, but I’m not so sure about the wall. The guy’s a real estate mogul; I’d imagine he stands to gain a lot by implementing a massive government funded construction project. I wouldn’t be too surprised if he doesn’t seriously pursue the “make Mexico pay for it” proposal, though.

      • anon says:

        Disagree. Even though our federal contracting laws are ridiculous and corruption-prone, I’m pretty confident that politics will prevent Trump from profiting personally from the wall.

        He could profit if somehow he managed to convince Congress to pass a law superseding the various state and local zoning regulations that make it virtually impossible to construct housing in America’s most productive urban centers. If so, I would forgive the graft because the policy outcome would be so beneficial. But it’s entirely possible that liberalizing real estate development law would be disadvantageous for an incumbent like him, so I doubt this will be high on his agenda.

  23. benwave says:

    So apologies if this is something out of rationality 101, but I still have some lingering confusion over this:

    It is generally accepted that a person’s revealed preferences are a good way to find out what that person wants, but at the same time, I can remember reading of studies concluding that a person will in many cases not choose options which result in greatest reported happiness in retrospect. There seems to be a sort of a tension there.

    I realise that humans are far from perfect hapiness maximisers even on an individual level, but it seems like this would create some difficulty in problems of government, ethics, or friendly AI.

    I dunno, maybe I am conflating the problem of measuring hapiness or utility with the problem of maximising for it (and in fact I’m not even that sure that the two above premises are correct), but are there any standard ways of dealing with this?

    • Aegeus says:

      The answer I would give is simply that revealed preferences are not always what someone wants. They’re generally related, in an Econ 101 “the customer is always right” sense. If your customer tells you that he likes Coke but keeps buying Pepsi, you’d better sell him Pepsi. But it breaks down when you apply it to something more complicated than what brand of soda you’re buying.

      For instance, drug addicts will invest a lot into getting their next fix, even when they’re trying to kick the habit. Does that mean that they don’t “really” want to be clean? Should we not invest in treatment and rehab programs for addicts, because they don’t “really” want it?

      The Non-Libertarian FAQ points out that governments solve this problem by disconnecting our principles from our preferences – i.e., if we don’t like that the widget factory uses child labor, but we don’t care enough to stop buying widgets, we can vote to ban child labor even though our individual preferences show we all like the widgets more.

      I would say that most of the time, this is just a quirk we have to deal with, and we’re getting pretty good at identifying how we’re irrational and making marginal changes to work around that. There are lots of case studies like making organ-donor programs opt-out rather than opt-in.

      But I would also say that you’re right, this makes it very hard to identify exactly what it is that we’re optimizing for, which in turn means a lot of headaches for ethicists and AI developers.

      One idea that I recall floating around on Less Wrong is basically “Tell the AI to figure out what it is we really want to maximize, then maximize it.” It’s not a terrible idea – even if we can’t formally specify what we want, we should be able to teach an AI what it is – but it’s also a bit of a cheat, replacing the ethics problem with a black box labeled “the thing that describes what we want.”

      There’s also a thing called “Coherent Extrapolated Volition,” which is roughly “what we would want if we were smarter, kinder, and knew more about where our choices would lead,” but I don’t know how well-specified it is.

      • benwave says:

        Thanks for your reply!

        Any idea how one would go about finding what one’s coherent extrapolated volition is?

    • J Mann says:

      I don’t know the rationalist answer, but I think it’s probably a combination of:

      1) Sometimes people are mistaken about the current state of affairs or likely future outcomes. So if I know you to be high on drugs when you announce that you now have superpowers and are going to jump out of our 10 story building, I’ll stop you and let you update your beliefs when sober. Similarly, I don’t have a problem with motorcycle helmet laws, because I’m pretty confident most people who ride without helmets are mistaken. (Some people would strongly disagree with that last one).

      2) There’s also the issue of competing desires. If I could push a button that would remove my ability to eat food after I had eaten more than 110% of a healthy amount for a given period, I would totally do that. But in the moment, if I’m hungry and frustrated and faced with large quantities of free and delicious food, I sometimes eat more than I would have wanted myself to do an hour earlier, or that I retroactively wanted an hour later. See also Beeminder, where people try to commit themselves to habits that they want in the long run, but not in the moment.

      • benwave says:

        Thanks for your reply!

        I’m aware that failure of prediction is probably the biggest disconnect between peoples’ desires and their actions, but I’m more worried about the fact that even in cases where people can make very good predictions, we will still sometimes not select for the outcomes that in retrospect give us the greatest utility.

        That part seems to be the hard problem here. Or if not the hard problem then at least the part which causes me the most confusion!

    • My answer is here:


      Here’s a more concise reductio proof [that actions don’t reveal preferences]: People use commitment devices; therefore by revealed preference their preferences don’t match their actions. QED.

      In other words, my use of a commitment device proves (by the orthodox economists’ own criterion) that I really do wish to be doing something else.

      • benwave says:

        Thanks for your reply,

        Sounds like revealed preferences are not considered such a strong indicator as I thought (or at least have more limitations than I thought). Which in retrospect I guess is not very surprising!

        • J Mann says:

          I think that with the exception of knowledge failures and competing preferences, revealed preference works pretty well.

          If I complain about my commute, but the next time I move, I still select a suburban house, then it’s pretty reasonable to infer that given the choices available to me, I prefer a longer commute + a less expensive/larger house in the suburbs to a shorter commute + a more expensive and smaller dwelling in the city.

          If I am trying to lose weight, but still eat 3000 calories worth of chips, dip, and beer at a party, then you can model it as I prefer to eat the chips *in that moment* but not in the long run, or you can model it as me being under chemical influence of my body and not able to employ my rational preference – both work.

      • J Mann says:

        Thanks Daniel! Revealed preference gets kind of fractal at some point. I have a calorie count Beeminder, but I set it to top out the penalty at $10, because I want to be able to blow the cap if I feel strongly enough.

        I guess my revealed preference is to have a weak lock-in to counteract (somewhat) my short-term self’s habits.

      • Chrysophylax says:

        That proof doesn’t work. Use of commitment devices just shows time-inconsistent preferences. At time t, you prefer that you do X at time t+1, so you set up a commitment device that makes you do X then even though you disprefer it at t+1. You may feel glad at t+2 that you committed yourself at t.

        It might not even show that in a situation of imperfect information. Lots of commitment devices are about convincing someone else that you’ll do the thing you prefer to do; for example, even if you really do intend to make your court date, you might still have to post bail. A precommitment (e.g. removing your steering wheel while playing chicken) is just a more extreme form of this.

        (Also, that’s not a reductio ad absurdum, that’s a modus tollens. A modus tollens has the form “P implies Q; not Q; therefore not P”. It’s the converse of modus ponens, which has the form “P implies Q; P; therefore Q”. A reductio has the form “P implies not P” – P isn’t just false, it’s inconsistent.)

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      @ Benwave

      I am puzzled when some economists say that by ‘revealed preferences’ many people really prefer to get up early and commute to work, rather than stay in bed.

      • J Mann says:

        I’m OK with that – economists mean that out of the choices available, that’s apparently the one people prefer.

        E.g., they could try to get a different job, become homeless, etc. Of the alternatives they have available, they seem to prefer going to work.

  24. J Mann says:

    Can anyone give me a primer on what SJ types think of as gaslighting? I’m familiar with the Hitchcock movie and the general term, but it seems to have a little extra connotation in the SJ-sphere.

    I’m thinking mostly of Suey Park, who complained a lot that she was being gaslighted when people pointed out that Colbert played a satirical character in response to #cancelcolbert, but it feels like I’ve seen it popping up other places.

    • onyomi says:

      But doesn’t he, in fact, play a satirical character? Gaslighting as I understand it means trying to get someone to believe something false or disbelieve something obviously true through the power of social proof.

    • sweeneyrod says:

      I think it is pretty meaningless (side note – accusations of gaslighting aren’t limited to SJ’s).

    • suntzuanime says:

      Gaslighting means trying to convince you you’re mistaken.

    • The Nybbler says:

      (note, I’m an anti-SJW)

      The central examples of what SJWs call “gaslighting” are when someone dismisses a complaint of a woman or minority member (particularly a complaint of harassment, racism, or sexism) as either false, exaggerated, or overemphasized.

      • onyomi says:

        This seems like a real abuse of the term, probably related to the “denying someone’s personal experience” thing. There is no objectively true answer to the question of, for example, whether Columbia’s mattress girl was raped, only her “lived experience.” It’s also weird how this seems like a kind of successor to Marxian class-based polylogism: that is your truth as a bourgeoisie; this is my truth as a proletarian.

        • J Mann says:

          I agree in theory, but I think Nybbler’s explanation is probably a correct description of how the SJ-sphere uses the term. It fits with SJ’s emphasis on narrative and experience, and it makes sense that you can’t disagree with a narrative or correct elements of it without weakening it, and that some SJ-ers would find that offensive.

      • SJW isn’t just one thing. For what it’s worth, part of my social circle is moderate SJW, and they haven’t been using “gaslighting” politically.

        Here’s an article which has been well received, and which is mostly about gaslighting in relationships, though there’s a little about politics.

        • keranih says:

          That’s…wow. That’s something that I’ve a hard time wrapping my head around. This is seriously a thing?

          How on earth do you tell the difference – objectively – between someone gaslighting someone and someone trying to persuade someone to change harmful behaviors?

          • Which part of the article are you referring to?

            It seems to me that trying to get someone to change harmful behaviors, if it’s done honestly, involves being truthful about the behaviors and their effects.

            Gaslighting could include lying to people about what they’ve actually been doing and exaggerating the effect– possibly by lying, possibly by actually amplifying the effects.

          • The Nybbler says:

            > How on earth do you tell the difference – objectively

            For there to be a difference, there has to be an objective reality. If all you have is unquestionable “lived experience”, it’s all “gaslighting”.

            Which isn’t to say that the abusive behaviors don’t exist; they do. But sometimes when someone is insisting your view of things is incorrect, it’s because it is indeed incorrect. And in many cases, both parties believe in the reality they are putting forth; even if one side is much further than objective reality than the other, they aren’t doing it to be manipulative.

            The political example given is telling: “For instance, every time an obvious hate crime is portrayed as an isolated case of mental illness, this is gaslighting.”

            Well, no. Sometimes an “obvious hate crime” really is mental illness. You certainly can’t tell by a news report.

          • I think there’s a plausible connection between background levels of prejudice and hate crimes committed by people who are mentally ill.

            The background prejudice can affect the choice of target.

          • keranih says:

            I think there’s a plausible connection between background levels of prejudice and hate crimes committed by people who are mentally ill.

            The background prejudice can affect the choice of target.

            …I think if we put a lot of weight on this, we have to also give credence to the idea that modern Christianity teaches people to burn witches and that the government is actually in league with aliens to probe people’s teeth – along with random hairdryers actually causing houses to burn down on a regular basis.

            Just because someone is convinced that there is something wrong that needs avenging/addressing doesn’t make it so.

            Gaslighting could include lying to people about what they’ve actually been doing and exaggerating the effect– possibly by lying, possibly by actually amplifying the effects.

            Well, in that case, I’m being regularly gaslighted by my eight year old niece, who frequently complains that I am neglecting her and causing her mental anguish by not bucking her mother and buying her a horse.(*) I’m a horrible person, I am.

            (*)She has no place to keep it, my brother is against the idea as well, and I’m not in a position to buy a horse. I’m still off her “nice aunt” list.

          • I’m not an expert on gaslighting, but I think there’s a continuum. If your niece did a sustained campaign to convince you that you didn’t have the ability to judge whether you can afford to buy her a horse, that would be gaslighting.

            Gaslighting is presumably easier for higher status people to do to lower status people, and this isn’t a simple matter. Sometimes status is just a matter of persistently claiming to have status.

        • J Mann says:

          Thanks, Nancy, that’s very helpful – I clicked through to the “how mainstream society gaslights marginalized cultures” link and that was interesting too.

          I mostly just wanted to understand how the term is being used, but now that I’ve read the article.

          1) I’m sad for the author that she didn’t go back and watch the movie. (She checked wikipedia to learn that the term was coined in “some old movie”, but she missed out – it’s pretty good and would have offered an interesting foundation.)

          2) My guess is the term will have to evolve a little bit. There certainly are some claims that are capable of being examined and challenged (for example, the author herself says that a former partner accused her of abuse, but she doesn’t seem to believe that her denying that abuse is gaslighting), and there are others where it’s not meaningful. (If you’re offended by something, you’re offended).

        • John Schilling says:

          See, they lost me with “Gaslighting only requires a belief that it is acceptable to overwrite another person’s reality”.

          There’s no such thing as “another person’s reality”. Reality is the thing there’s only one of and it belongs to everybody. And deliberately trying to make it so that another person can’t trust their perception or understanding of that one objective reality, is a horrible thing to do to someone and deserves nigh-universal condemnation. Whatever word we use for it, ought to have a strongly perjorative connotation.

          And now, in far too many contexts, it doesn’t. Just like I now hear “rape” and have to stop and think, “wait, do they just mean ‘cop a feel’?”, I have to mentally translate “gaslight” as basically “whine persistently”, and so what?

      • Anonymous says:

        Coincidentally enough I was accused of gaslighting by The Nybbler a week ago in the links thread.

        In that case he had a rather more charitable definition:

        The anon is just engaging in what the SJWs like to call ‘gaslighting’ (from the movie, a bit of slang sliding into obscurity before they took it up) — doing stuff to people and then pretending they are crazy when they mention it.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Yes, that’s basically the definition that comes out of the movie. But an SJW example would be something like

          SJW: “I’m constantly being sexually harassed. Just today this creepy guy came up to me and asked me out on a date, ewww. It’s so creepy, I barely even know they guy. And the way he LOOKED at me…, ugh, I told him to buzz off”

          and the response

          “Uh, that’s not harassment; a guy asked you out on a date, you said no. No big deal”
          would be considered “gaslighting”.

          • Should you be allowed to be angry at spammers and telemarketers?

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            You should be allowed to be angry at anything you want to (I hate the washed up lavender color of your gravatar, by the way), but that’s not quite the same as declaring them to be inmoral and/or evil.

  25. Chrysophylax says:

    What are the risk factors for being a terror victim and how high do the risks get? I’m going to work in a place in the City of London that has its own bomb scanning equipment for parcels, so I’d be interested in knowing whether I’m taking on a material risk of harm by working there for several years, riding the Tube to work, being near all kinds of high-value targets and suchlike.

    • CatCube says:

      It’s honestly probably lower than average, since terrorists will have softer targets to choose from. Kind of like how now nobody would try to take over a plane with a box cutter, since the other passengers will probably rush them instead of complying, which was the (eminently rational) pre-9/11 standard.

  26. Sa says:

    What are some of your favourite podcasts people?

    • Anon. says:

      Norm Macdonald Live is absolutely perfect if you “get” Norm. Gets better every time you re-listen. Probably never coming back, though.
      In Our Time
      Partially Examined Life can be good, depending on the topic
      The Projection Booth if you’re into film

    • Nita says:

      More or Less (BBC Radio 4)
      Competent science journalists analyze dubious statistical factoids seen in the media.

      Moral Maze (BBC Radio 4)
      A motley panel of opinionated British folks interrogate several guests on a controversial topic, then discuss the answers among themselves.

      Science in Action (BBC World Service)
      Assorted news from the world of science, presented with a bit of context, interviews and banter.

      Business Daily (BBC World Service)
      Assorted news from the world of business, with interviews + satire by Lucy Kellaway.

    • Urstoff says:

      Econtalk [economics]
      Freakonomics [economics]
      More or Less [stats in the media]
      In Our Time [history/culture]
      Planet Money [economics]
      Science Magazine [science, duh]
      Nature Magazine [science]
      Spontaneanation [improv comedy]
      The Pistol Shrimps Podcast [comedy]
      How Did This Get Made [comedy/film]
      Various Sports (mostly American Football) podcasts

    • J Mann says:

      Hardcore history, plus some special interest material. (Commentary on TV shows I like, plus some bible stuff).

    • onyomi says:

      No Adam Carolla? I find he has a good mix of humor and serious social commentary. He is also the rare example of a very non-ideological libertarian.

      • J Mann says:

        I like Carolla, but I find that after about 30 episodes, it felt like he was repeating. (I felt the same way about Marc Maron – after a certain point, I kind of knew how the episode would go, so unless I heard that a particular guest had done an awesome show, I skipped it).

        I still use a couple of his comedy bits, though, especially one comparing smokers and gun owner’s reactions to encroaching regulation.

        (Have you seen The Hammer? An enjoyably weird mash-up of a pretty standard independent film and various classic Carolla themes.)

    • Sa says:

      Thanks for the responses, I’m looking forward to hearing these! 🙂

    • stargirlprincesss says:

      Tyler Cowen. “Conversations with Tyler” is my favorite among podcasts not mentioned.

    • anon says:

      In addition to those already mentioned (I heartily second Conversations With Tyler and Hardcore History), here are some of my favorites:

      * No Agenda — could loosely be classified as “media criticism”, but mostly it’s just hilarious. An illustrative example of what they do is play clips from The View and make fun of how ridiculous its hosts are. Warning: may be too sympathetic to contrarian beliefs about vaccines and climate change for some tastes.
      * FT Alphachat/Alphachatterbox — Cardiff Garcia and Shannon Bond are really good, thoughtful interviewers, mostly economics type stuff.
      * Seminars About Long-Term Thinking — I hope you already know about this one! While not all the speakers are that great, and sometimes I can tell that I’m missing out by not having video (you have to pay for it), some of the seminars are really fantastic.
      * The WOW! Signal — Neat podcast about space. Kinda quirky, probably not for everyone, but I like it. E.g. recently there has been a multi-part “explainer” series about the various scientific issues at stake with “Tabby’s Star”.
      * Vox’s The Weeds / The Ezra Klein Show — while I am almost diametrically opposed to Ezra Klein and Sarah Kliff when it comes to politics, and I only agree with Matt Yglesias on a few things, I find their discussions pretty interesting. On Ezra’s interview show he gets really good guests, sometimes not just lefties, e.g. Grover Norquist, and asks pretty good questions.
      * Amicus — SCOTUS commentary by Dahlia Lithwick
      * Rational Security / Lawfare / Steptoe Cyberlaw Podcast — this triumvirate covers national security issues and law related to the internet, from a mostly very law-enforcement-sympathetic perspective. They often feature speeches by or interviews with the DC lawyers and bureaucrats who are most in the weeds when it comes to crushing civil liberties. Useful in a “know thy enemy” way.
      * Cooking Issues — food.
      * The Slashfilmcast — movies.
      * The Fifth Column — a new podcast from Matt Welch at Reason. I can already tell it’ll be a must-listen.
      * The Glenn Show on Bloggingheads.TV — politics, mostly. Some of the best episodes are the recurring conversations with John McWhorter and Harold Pollack, IMO.

      • Urstoff says:

        I second The Fifth Column; the “Some Idiot Wrote This” segment is particularly entertaining.

    • I’ve bookmarked this subthread, but I was thinking about finding similar useful recommendation discussions from ssc by going over past discussions. This would be rather a large task.

      Instead, does anyone have favorite recommendation discussions from ssc already saved?

      How hard would it be to have crowd tagging of comments? How hard would it be to keep it reasonably honest?

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      I like Ascending the Tower. It’s pretty much the official Death Eater podcast and it’s very interesting. I particularly like the “Descending the Tower” episodes in which the hosts answer question they have received on and Twitter.

    • Uncle Fungus says:

      I am unlurking to say that you really should listen to the Man Buy Cow podcast. (funny)

      And Mad Dogs and Englishmen (politics)

      Thanks for raising this thread, I will check out some suggestions

    • I can usually find something interesting at Bloggingheads, and I’m fond of Tim Ferriss’s podcasts.

  27. John Nerst says:

    I’ve been curious about what the SSC commentariat would make of this week’s big big political event in Sweden: “handshake-gate”. Tl;dr: Green Party politician quits after controversy erupts when he refuses, for religious reasons, to greet a woman by shaking her hand.

    The chatter around it has been interesting, as it puts the spotlight on internal contradictions in the identity-political narrative. Judgning by media reaction, feminism seems to have the edge on genuine multiculturalism.

    • Hlynkacg says:

      My first, admittedly uncharitable, impression is that in a battle between Islamic socialists and radical feminists the true winners will be the popcorn vendors.

      Though this does highlight why I feel that multiculturalism is largely unworkable.

    • BBA says:

      Multiculturalism is okay with Islam as long as Islam is okay with multiculturalism. Too bad there’s no existing Islamic equivalent to the United Church of Christ or the Jewish Reconstructionist Communities, so the multiculturalists will just have to wait until there are enough “enlightened” Muslims to give it a go.

      (I attended a feminist, Reconstructionist-flavored seder over the weekend. To me it felt like grasping at straws, trying to read a feminist message into Judaism that just isn’t there.)

      • dndnrsn says:

        The attempts by some flavours of Judaism and Christianity to find feminist messages in documents from societies that were, uh, definitely not feminist is really interesting, but kind of tragic: they want to keep their religious faith, but want to reconcile it to the modern world.

        It’s the left-wing version of “God is talking to us, now, through these documents”, which is usually a right-wing (Christian?) thing.

        My favourite example is a female minister preaching on First Timothy.

  28. Dániel says:

    Ross Douthat’s New York Times editorial, The Reactionary Mind, links to SSC’s summary.

  29. Darkly enlightened commenters here would perhaps like to know there’s a gathering of the brightest thinkers of the reaction where they can discuss topics of interest without voting or communist interference. Many ex-LW people among us.

  30. onyomi says:

    Does anyone else have this experience?

    Mainstream scandals used to try to take down mainstream politicians are, in the main, so pointless and disingenuous that they almost make me like the person more.

    Like, I don’t like Hillary Clinton. I don’t want her to be president. But not because she had a questionable real estate deal once. Or used her e-mail improperly. Or even failed to call people in time to rescue a US embassy (the last one is the most serious, but would not, by itself constitute a “scandal” so much as a “mistake,” I’d say). And this goes for both sides.

    It’s not exactly that I think these things don’t matter at all, but rather that I know for a fact the people expressing outrage would not care for two seconds about these issues if someone on their “side” did the exact same thing.

    I don’t think it’s a conspiracy, exactly, as probably mostly unintentional, but it feels as if the rather convenient effect of such scandals is to distract from people asking more fundamental questions. That is, I’m sure Hillary doesn’t relish answering the 10,000th question about her e-mail server, but I feel like this sort of thing is actually very safe territory for the candidate, and more so for the party, and even more so for the mainstreamish consensus type position.

    I feel like when you tell a mainstream politician “ooh, we got you now on this gaff!” they, or, at least, their tribe, is thinking “oh please don’t throw me in that brier patch!”

    Of course, if Bryan Caplan is right that we get a smarter government than we deserve precisely because the masses are distracted from fundamental change by focusing on stupid stuff, then it may not be all bad. Though as someone who really, really dislikes the current political mainstream, I’m skeptical.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Mainstream scandals used to try to take down mainstream politicians are, in the main, so pointless and disingenuous that they almost make me like the person more.

      This is the source of at least half of Trump’s power, people trying to take him down over pointless shit, which only makes him stronger, which makes people reach even further to try to take him down, and he spirals out of control and makes America great again.

      (I think the email impropriety in particular is more substantial than the sophisticated consensus considers it. It’s the sort of thing you would do if you were engaging in major corruption or treason. She might just be incompetent, certainly she’s given little reason to think she isn’t, but it raises some doubts.)

      • John Schilling says:

        I think the email impropriety in particular is more substantial than the sophisticated consensus considers it.

        This. Consider that while Gen. Petraeus does have defenders on the right, it is a fairly low-key defense in which everyone, including Petraeus himself, understood that getting caught doing that sort of thing meant he had to resign and perhaps plan a future return to a less central role. Not blow it off and pretend that it doesn’t matter, that only Evil Partisans on the other side care. And in Petraeus’s case, we are pretty clear on his motive and that the only thing he was covering up was a bit of illicit nookie.

        Security discipline is very likely something Red Tribe cares about more than Blue Tribe, but they do genuinely care about it rather than simply pretending to do so when they can turn it into a partisan attack.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        It’s the sort of thing you would do if you were engaging in major corruption or treason.

        Her default mode is “paranoid,” and not entirely without reason.

        For the paranoid, the most important thing is Control, and this was a measure to Control all her messages, without annoying things like Republicans or Freedom Of Information Act Requests getting in the way.

    • Theo Jones says:

      I think that confirmation bias has a role here

      Person who is predisposed to think that Clinton is awful —> person hears about email server —> this reinforces person’s impression of Clinton –> person way over estimates how persuasive email scandal is to others —> person promotes email scandal to others as evidence that Clinton is awful

      • onyomi says:

        Scott Adams talks about this a lot with respect to Trump’s “persuasion” skills, and I think there’s something to it: implicitly predict something inevitable, like Jeb acting “low energy” and then wait for the person to unavoidably fulfill your prophecy by the power of confirmation bias.

    • Tom Scharf says:

      The media’s gotcha game has become a bit excessive. Trump says 7/11 instead of 9/11. Is this really news? Sanders has a bad hair day bringing up facts in one interview. Not interesting. The fact that a politician can remain gaffe free for months on end is almost a detractor. They are are staying on script and very likely not telling you what they really think. It gets robotic. I challenge anyone to be followed by a gaffe obsessed press for months and not do something really stupid. My answer? Election cycle is legislated to be 3 months long.

    • hlynkacg says:

      I understand what your getting at but I think you’ve chosen exactly the wrong person as your example. You say …the people expressing outrage would not care for two seconds about these issues if someone on their “side” did the exact same thing. …and I really want to smack you.

      The fact that ,the deaths of Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty have been dismissed by all the right-thinking people in the media as some sort of “gotcha” is exactly why there is a dark corner of me that wants to watch them all burn.

      Remember this ad? I do, and the fact that Hillary Clinton is being considered for the position of Commander and Chief rather than being stripped of her clearances and ridden out on a rail is an insult to the living and dead a like. A more civilized individual who had failed as thoroughly as she has would have at least show some contrition if not throw herself on her sword.

      Your message has been received loud and clear. Nobody cares about the life of an idealistic state department employee, and a couple of ignorant slopeheads except insofar as they inconvenience the Democratic machine.

      You may think that your average grunt is too stupid to notice being thrown under the bus but trust me, they notice. and their entirely justified response is “Well fuck you to”.

      • suntzuanime says:

        Part of it is just that the job of Secretary of State involves holding lots of lives in your hands. There are a lot of diplomats and diplomatic security around the world, and the actions of those diplomats might endanger more than just themselves. Those four deaths were not the sort of thing we would endorse, but they pale in comparison to the deaths caused by the uprisings and coups she incited during her term as Secretary. That’s why Benghazi is treated as a cheap distraction: you’re blaming Clinton for what happened to that compound when you should be looking at what was happening to the country around it.

        The counter-argument is that the lives of foreigners are cheap and Clinton had a duty to protect those four Americans. And I think the differing perspectives on this can account for the differing perspectives on the Benghazi attacks.

        • hlynkacg says:

          I don’t blame her for the attack. I blame her for the state department’s failure to respond and then trivializing it afterwards.

          Characterizing the loss of a US ambassador and his detail to hostile action as a “cheap distraction” from the important business of partisan politics is to miss the whole point.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I also blame her for picking a random Christian immigrant and painting a big “kill this guy” target on his back for the crime of speaking ill of Islam in order to distract from said failures.

            “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.” That’s policy now.

          • onyomi says:

            Well, as I said, I think of the things they’ve tried to stick to Clinton Benghazi seems by far the most serious to me. But my heuristic is: if someone seen as the right-wing savior in the next election cycle had done the same thing, how forgiving would the Republican pundits be? Arguably less so, given the general GOP emphasis on defense, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it got swept under the rug.

            Also, to the extent we agree Benghazi is an issue for legit outrage, I think there’s something of a “boy who cried wolf effect”: everyone knows that both parties are disingenuous and hypocritical about what they’ll use to try to tar the opponents, so it’s easy to say “oh, those Republicans are at it again…”

          • Jiro says:

            if someone seen as the right-wing savior in the next election cycle had done the same thing, how forgiving would the Republican pundits be?

            If some Republican had taken an attack by Muslims and blamed it on Islamophobic speech? I expect such a Republican would find his career as a Republican ended.

          • onyomi says:

            “If some Republican had taken an attack by Muslims and blamed it on Islamophobic speech? I expect such a Republican would find his career as a Republican ended.”

            Well, one may need to adjust the hypothetical to account for GOP priorities. Though I have to admit I’m harder pressed to imagine a particular scandal which would ruin a Democratic politician so long as he continued to toe the party line.

            I am biased, but I feel like it may be that Democrats have a stronger sense that their side is inherently on the side of the angels, and so they give more benefit of the doubt to their own people (e. g. Marion Barry) even than Republican voters give to Republican politicians (Republican voters may also be more hostile to politicians as a category and/or have stronger Haidt-esque disgust-type reactions about personal failings as well).

          • Jiro says:

            An analogous situation would have Americans attacked by radical members of a group who Republicans generally sympathize with, and Republicans falsely claim the group was provoked by someone else who they think Democrats sympathize with.

            I can’t think of a reasonable one. You might come up with an example that uses attacks by anti-abortion or militia groups, but attacks by those that do as much damage as attacks by Muslims are pretty rare, so your analogy will be comparing apples and oranges just because of that. And I don’t believe that Republicans could get away with saying such attacks were provoked by Democrats, not even when talking to other Republicans.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            It may very well be a case of the Democrats not having as wide a coalition between ideologies between their voters. The GOP has traditional conservatives, libertarians, evangelicals, ‘classic’ liberals, market enthusiasts, nationalists, as well as populists by now amongst its ranks. The democrats seem better at being something of a united front, with their two frontrunners at this point being much less disagreeable amongst each other than the Republican ones are.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            But my heuristic is: if someone seen as the right-wing savior in the next election cycle had done the same thing, how forgiving would the Republican pundits be?

            This depends: are there other serious contenders to whom the party could switch allegiance, or did the Republican meet in secret with all of them months before the primary season began to encourage them all to sit the race out?

            Also, to the extent we agree Benghazi is an issue for legit outrage, I think there’s something of a “boy who cried wolf effect”

            I have to agree with this. It’s tough for me to get a good read of Benghazi because so many people are determined it is The Issue That Will Take Clinton Down that I can’t figure it out. But the e-mail server, while no one died, is an issue where I knew a lot about it ahead of time. Perhaps I’m just bike-shedding.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            I’m curious, what were the other “cry wolf” incidents? Not, that I doubt you. I just don’t recall any scandal that even approached the magnitude of Benghazi or Hillary’s security lapses.

            From where I’m sitting there seems to be a serious disconnect between how the two parties have handled their respective scandals. Nobody seriously argued that the Outing of Valarie Plame, or the Petraeus affair “didn’t matter”.

          • Tom Scharf says:

            I put Benghazi under the “shit happens” category. You aren’t going to prevent people from hitting soft targets. If there were very bad directly traceable decisions or incompetent management (more than usual) than I might get excited about it. Small potatoes.

            The perplexing knee jerk response to look inward first and immediately start warning people to not blame Islam after their warriors kill in its name speaks for itself.

        • birdboy2000 says:

          The fact that they’re talking about Benghazi and not Sirte says a lot about our political class, and none of it is good.

          • EyeballFrog says:

            Could you go into more detail about this? I had not heard of Sirte before now.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            I assume he’s talking about the Battle between ISIL and Quadaffi loyalists in early 2015 but I’m not sure why he thinks its particularly notable.

          • birdboy2000 says:

            Sirte is a city in Libya which had been a Gadaffi stronghold during the 2011 civil war where NATO backed the rebels, and is now ruled by the Islamic State. If one wishes to criticize Hillary and Obama on Libya, I’d consider this a much bigger failure than a consulate getting attacked.

      • Anonymous says:

        Your message has been received loud and clear. Nobody cares about the life of an idealistic state department employee, and a couple of ignorant slopeheads except insofar as they inconvenience the Democratic machine.

        You may think that your average grunt is too stupid to notice being thrown under the bus but trust me, they notice. and their entirely justified response is “Well fuck you to”.

        Get back to me when anyone that had anything at all to do with the Iraq debacle — whether in the GWB administration or Congress — garners the same vitriol from these “average grunts”. Until then my verdict is partisan bullshit.

        • Jaskologist says:

          There is a difference between sending somebody to do a dangerous job and abandoning them. The military exists for the former, but part of the deal is supposed to be that we won’t reward them with the latter.

          • Anonymous says:

            First of all, what does the military have to do with it? Two of the named men were state department employees and two were mercenaries. Second what exactly do you mean by abandoned?

        • Hlynkacg says:

          Has anyone (on either side) seriously argued that those deaths didn’t matter? or that Bush did not bear an obligation/responsibility for those under his command?

          As Jaskologist said, there is a difference between asking someone to do a dangerous job, and throwing that same person under a bus for personal gain.

          You want to blame Bush and Rove for Iraq? I think that’s perfectly reasonable but you damn well better blame Obama and Hilary for Libya and Syria too. Otherwise your accusation of partisan hackery are nothing more than projection.

          • Anonymous says:

            I certainly haven’t seen the same vitriol for Bush and Rove and Cheney for the many more killed and injured in Iraq. At best there’s some ambivalence about how maybe it wasn’t such a good idea. More often just recriminations about how if we had only bombed harder we would have totally won and it would have been totally worth it for reasons.

            As for blaming Obama and Hillary for Libya and Syria, I do think they take the blame for the servicemen that died in those places. Happily far fewer than died in the tar pits of Afghanistan and Iraq.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            The difference is “the throwing people under the bus” part. Between accepting blame and claiming that there was never any blame to be assigned in the first place.

          • Anonymous says:

            Did I miss an interview where Bush, Cheney and/or Rove apologized for throwing away American lives? This I’ve got to see.

          • keranih says:

            I certainly haven’t seen the same vitriol for Bush and Rove and Cheney for the many more killed and injured in Iraq.

            Where are you not seeing the vitrol for Bush et al? My recollection of the hatred and fury aimed at Bush was that it dominated the national leftist disourse at a level far exceeding the whole of the current rightwing anger at Clinton.

            At best there’s some ambivalence about how maybe it wasn’t such a good idea. More often just recriminations about how if we had only bombed harder we would have totally won and it would have been totally worth it for reasons.

            This is where I wonder about your sources. The people I’ve heard talking don’t say “should have bombed harder.” They say “should have questioned people harder” or “should have had more soldiers there.” So I wonder how representative your sources are.

            And had we produced a stable Iraq ready to lead the Middle East forward into peaceful economic development and human rights, it would have been a bargain at twice the price.

            (That it was foolish to think such a thing could have been had for all the gold in Croesus’s kingdom…well, that is another thing.)

          • Anonymous says:

            I was talking about among the veterans and servicemen Hlynkacg was referencing (average grunts).

            There’s plenty of anger on the left towards GWB, and I’d be happy to accuse at least many of them of hypocrisy in their differential attitude towards Obama’s version of the war on terror. But as it happens I was talking about partisan bullshit on the right this time.

            “Bombed harder” was intended as a shorthand for the whole cluster of arguments that we just messed on the military strategy rather than we shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

          • God Damn John Jay says:

            Bush stated that the Iraq war was a mistake based on faulty intelligence and described it as the biggest regret of his presidency.

            So, kindof

          • Hlynkacg says:

            @ anon@gmail

            As keranih says above…

            had we produced a stable Iraq ready to lead the Middle East forward into peaceful economic development and human rights, it would have been a bargain at twice the price.

            …Yes its a dangerous job and you can argue about execution, but every one agreed on the score and no one is claiming that the losses suffered should be ignored, or that Bush does not bear responsibility for them. Defenses of Bush tend to be of the “mistakes were made but he did the best he could” sort.

            On the flipside, Democratic defense of Hillary can be summed up as “who gives a fuck about a few dead American so long as a Democrat wins the next election?”

            You’ve got some serious chutzpah if you’re going to accuse others of partisanship after endorsing that.

          • Anonymous says:

            We are talking about orders of magnitude more bodies. And not exactly falling on swords — as you put it more of a mistakes were attitude.

            Meanwhile here’s Hillary Clinton:

            QUESTION: Any do-overs that you would — relative to Secretary of State?

            HILLARY CLINTON: Oh, sure. I mean, you know, you make these choices based on imperfect information. And you make them to — as we say, the best of your ability. But that doesn’t mean that there’s not going to be unforeseen consequences, unpredictable twists and turns.

            You know, my biggest, you know, regret is what happened in Benghazi. It was a terrible tragedy, losing four Americans, two diplomats and now it’s public, so I can say two CIA operatives, losing an ambassador like Chris Stevens, who was one of our very best and had served in Libya and across the Middle East and spoke Arabic.

            Hardly the who gives a fuck attitude you portray.

            And yet Hillary Clinton is portrayed as the devil incarnate and GWB, if not exactly worshiped like Ronnie, certainly isn’t being kicked out of the family of Republican affection. Not to mention other architects of that war who haven’t even expressed a scintilla of regret.

            If you can’t see the partisanship inherent in that, you should look in a mirror to find the problem.

          • Tom Scharf says:

            “I certainly haven’t seen the same vitriol for Bush and Rove and Cheney for the many more killed and injured in Iraq.”

            You must be 3 years old or less. Congratulations on how quickly you picked up reading and writing!

          • Scott Alexander says:

            Tom Scharf banned for two weeks for unnecessary meanness

        • Vorkon says:

          You all should know better than to respond seriously to an anon@gmail when they start talking shit about military matters. Well, when they start talking shit about anything, really, but they’ve demonstrated repeatedly that there’s at least one or two of them who are either unrepentant trolls, or who lose all sense of objectivity, whenever a military-related issue springs up, so that’s one area where I’ve found it pays to be particularly skeptical of anon@gmails.

          Tell me, are you the same one that called us “baby killers” a few threads ago?

          (Not that I’m likely to take you any more seriously if you say you aren’t, but to be fair, that was more of a rhetorical question than one I actually care about the answer to. Put some kind of name behind your statements, and I might take you more seriously.)

          • Anonymous says:

            If I thought of U.S. servicemen as “baby killers” then I couldn’t well object to the architects of the Iraq War having throw their lives away frivolously, could I?

            Also, it really ruins my day to hear that you don’t take me seriously, Vorkon.

    • J Mann says:

      Does anyone else have this experience?

      Mainstream scandals used to try to take down mainstream politicians are, in the main, so pointless and disingenuous that they almost make me like the person more.

      I wouldn’t say they make me like the targets more – it just depresses me.

      And I think it’s even worse than you say – the Hillary takedowns you cite aren’t directed at her policy positions, but at least they say something about the quality of her execution and her professional abilities.

      What depresses me most at the focus on language – Obama saying “you didn’t build that” instead of “you didn’t build the roads and laws that made your success possible.” Romney saying “binders full of women” instead of “binders full of women’s resumes” (in the context of a story that everyone agrees is (a) true and (b) pro-women’s engagement!) And now Sanders saying that Hillary’s history means she’s “unqualified” to be President when he really meant “disqualified.”

      The people looking to influence the electorate honestly believe that they can swing voters who can’t be convinced by “Sanders’ policy positions won’t work” or “Sanders doesn’t have the skills needed to execute his policy goals” by saying “Sanders called a woman with a long resume ‘unqualified’!!!” And for some voters, they’re probably right. It’s very depressing.

      I almost wish more takedowns rose to the (admittedly pathetic) level of your examples. At some point, when you add up enough of the Hillary trivialities, they start to look like a pattern of cutting corners, personal vindictiveness, and generally underperforming, at least IMHO. A voter might still decide that Hillary’s likely policy positions while in office are preferable to any alternative, but the general quality of her activity is still more relevant to the debate than a fight about who said “unqualified” or “superpredator.”

      • onyomi says:

        Yeah, those little verbal gaffes are probably even more annoying, though I think they serve a different, if also unfortunate function:

        Confirmation bias+giving a label to a previously felt bias

        Lots of people already “knew” in their gut that Romney hated poor people and didn’t respect women before he said the “47%” thing or the “binders full of women” thing, just as lots of people already “knew” Obama was hostile to private enterprise before the “you didn’t build that” thing; but these gave them something to latch onto; a way to say “ah hah! Just as we thought! Here’s the proof in a nice little soundbite.”

        On the one hand, I’m sure Romney regrets those specific statements; on the other, if it hadn’t been those statements it probably would have been something else. For this reason it’s probably best for candidates to tackle their perceived weaknesses head on, taking proactive, preemptive action to dispel what you can guess will be the biases against you.

        By backing down on the abortion thing and saying people can use whatever bathroom they want, for example, Trump is probably trying to preemptively defuse the “Trump hates women” and “Trump is a mean, uncultured, reactionary boob” narratives the Dems are no doubt warming up for the general.

    • gbdub says:

      Honestly I find the fact that you (and a lot of people) think the Hillary email thing is just a “gaffe” to be mildly infuriating.

      Hillary Clinton was the Secretary of State. Protecting state secrets ought to be pretty damn high on her priority list (and so should following transparency laws, the avoidance of which were likely her main reason for having the private server). The fact that she was so cavalier about a core job function for apparently crass personal reasons is (or ought to be) a big damn deal.

      Honestly to me it’s a bigger deal than Benghazi, which was a SNAFU. Those happen. I’m annoyed by how she handled the aftermath and attempted to deflect blame rather than just owning up to it. But ultimately it was “just” a screwup. The email thing was deliberate, planned, ongoing, dangerous, clearly in violation of the rules, and if not actively malicious then at the very least undertaken with a major disregard for propriety. That to me is the bigger sin – mistakes can be learned from, but every indication is that Hillary still thinks keeping her private email server was absolutely the right thing to do (at least as long as she could get away with it).

      There’s also the “rules are for the little people” aspect. I work with information that is sensitive but not nearly at the same level of what Clinton had access to. If I was 1/10th as careless as she was, I would definitely be unemployable in my current line of work and quite possibly spend some time in jail. Why should Clinton’s name and position protect her from the same fate?

      • Hlynkacg says:

        Why should Clinton’s name and position protect her from the same fate?

        You said it yourself, because “rules are for the little people” you are one of the little people.

        • gbdub says:

          Right, I would just expect more of my fellow little people to be resentful of this rather than just writing it off as a distracting “gaffe”.

          Is it just that the little people outside security-adjacent industries aren’t really that interested / knowledgeable about state secrecy? Or is it that journalists, relying as they do on leaks, are actually hostile to the laws that Clinton broke?

          • Hlynkacg says:

            I have no answers but I know the feeling.

          • Teal says:

            We don’t actually believe a word that the national security state says anymore. In concept we accept the existence and importance of state secrets but something like “top secret” has been dog-that-cried-wolf’ed into meaninglessness. Saying that such material hasn’t been treated with the proper reverence has no emotional salience.

          • Gbdub says:

            Sigh. That’s kind of what I was worried about. There’s this romantic Fox Mulderian notion that Top Secret means “sinister stuff we hide away to keep the common man away from the Truth!” And there may be some of that.

            But there’s also an awful lot of stuff that is kept secret because there are people who will use that information to kill people working for American interests. Stuff like weapon system capabilities and vulnerabilities. Or names of covert operatives. Or I don’t know, specific security arrangements for American embassies in war zones.

            Even if you believe that state secrets are mostly the former, why would that make you ignore Clinton’s misdeeds? She’s not a Snowden-esque whistleblower (quite the opposite – she was likely using the server to keep her Clinton Foundation dealings away from FOIA requests).

            Pretty much the only reason for the Mulders of the world to like this behavior is if they believe it’s likely to “bring the system down” or “set the truth free” by its very vulnerability. It’s certainly not something you’d want a competent administrator of state secrets to do.

          • Teal says:

            I don’t think there’s a lot of deep dark secrets being hushed up. I think there’s millions, or maybe even billions, of pages of perfectly mundane pages locked under the classification system. Mostly because the national security apparatus and most of the people in it have every incentive to see it expand. You know how many people have TS clearances? Can you really tell me we have that many legitamite secrets to just such a work force?

            Read between the lines is the email scandal and it’s pretty clear that there was, and probably still is, a lot of tension between the state department and the “intelligence community” in part over the subject of overclassification.

            None of this is intended to excuse or justify anything Clinton did or didn’t do. It’s meant to explain why many of us are blasé about things the National Security State claims are damaging.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Teal:

            Exactly. It’s not that I’m all paranoid about the government hiding aliens from us. It’s because I don’t think this is really important stuff that I’m not very worked up about it.

          • BBA says:

            The BT Tower houses critical communications infrastructure so for nearly 30 years its existence was deemed a state secret, despite being a 37-story 600-foot tower in the middle of London with a revolving restaurant on top.

            If that’s the kind of stuff the British government calls top secret, I can only imagine how much worse the American government is with overclassification.

          • Fahundo says:


            You know how many people have TS clearances? Can you really tell me we have that many legitamite secrets to just such a work force?

            Not to contradict your point that documents may be erroneously labeled top sectret, BUT

            The number of people who hold top secret clearances is not evidence of this. Not everyone with a security clearance handles classified documents.

            A lot of people with secret and top secret security clearances are entrusted with specialized equipment that has classified components.

            For example, certain types of communications encryption devices used by the DoD are only handled by people with security clearances, because if they fell into the hands of unauthorized persons they could be used to listen in to encrypted messages.

            Point is, you can’t just look at the number of people with security clearances and assume that all of them are sitting at desks handling classified documents.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t think there’s a lot of deep dark secrets being hushed up. I think there’s millions, or maybe even billions, of pages of perfectly mundane pages locked under the classification system.

            Yes, of course. You have custody of a thousand pages of documents full of boring minutia, some small fraction of which are of mild legitimate interest to whistleblowers and reporters. And there’s probably a 50-50 chance that one of those documents has enough information to doxx the few remaining Bothan spies who haven’t been killed and are still feeding you Death Star plans. You don’t have time to read a thousand pages of minutia as thoroughly as you’d need to be sure you caught everything. Imperial counterintelligence, is going to have a whole team of experts going through anything you don’t stamp “Top Secret” all over.

            Everything gets stamped TS. If a reporter with a clue files a narrowly specific FOIA request, you can go through the five pages they are specifically interested in and see if those are safe to release. And if someone in your office thinks all these files belong on their home server because it’s more convenient that way, you fire their sorry selfish ass and make sure they never work in a sensitive area again.

            If the files are on your boss’s home server not because it is convenient but because they are worried that something in an FOIA request might embarrass them and so they want it all under their personal control, that’s not quite treason but you can see it from there.

          • Teal says:

            @John Schilling
            I suppose we are in agreement about the situation — viz. that an arbitrary page marked top secret is really only about .05% likely to actually be top secret.* We just disagree fundamentally about whether or not that’s a reasonable situation, what conclusions about the national security state one should draw from it, and what that means for claims that leaks or similar are risking people’s lives.

            *Actually given Snowden and Manning that percent may be too high, but I’ll concede it for the sake of argument.

          • Fahundo says:

            Even Edward Snowden personally read through all the individual files he leaked and withheld the ones he thought would actually be damaging to national security. I’m not sure where you get your 0.05% figure from but I would imagine Snowden’s own estimate would be higher than that.

          • John Schilling says:

            I suppose we are in agreement about the situation — viz. that an arbitrary page marked top secret is really only about .05% likely to actually be top secret.

            We are not in agreement.

            An arbitrary page marked Top Secret is 100% likely to actually be Top Secret.

            The only thing that actually works to e.g. keep your agents from being identified, captured, and tortured to death is to make ACTUALLY REALLY NO SHIT FOR REAL TOP SECRET, a collection of documents that is about 2,000 times larger than the set of documents that you think contain information identifying your agents.

            And to actually fire the people who don’t take that seriously.

            We are not in agreement.

          • Teal says:

            Surely not the only way. We could, for example, not have secret agents or spend the time and money to review those pages properly.

            Particularly given that we are the imperial counterintelligence with well nigh unlimited budgets and our enemies range from wildly underfunded in comparison to unpaid sheep farmers.

          • John Schilling says:

            OK, but Hillary Clinton signed up to be Secretary of State of the United States of America, not the Transparent Utopia of Never-Neverland. She dealt with truly life-or-death secrets, and she’s asking us to trust her with even bigger ones.

            Also, I wouldn’t consider Russian or Chinese state intelligence to be underfunded. And while “funding” is kind of a nebulous concept in North Korea’s case, they can throw a lot of technically capable manpower at problems like sorting through thousands of pages of documents looking for interesting correlations.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “We could, for example, not have secret agents or spend the time and money to review those pages properly.”

            The more people you have reviewing the files, the more likely leaks are going to occur.

          • anon says:


            The claim that the classified corpus needs to be much larger than the corpus of “face-value sensitive” material, seems to me related to the Mosaic Theory of intelligence. This is something that intelligence analysts — and even some people outside of the IC, like certain financial analysts — clearly believe in. But almost by definition it doesn’t seem like the sort of theory that can be substantiated by publicly-verifiable, scientific data. So it strikes me as a relatively subtle philosophical question the extent to which we non-cleared plebes should defer to it.

          • John Schilling says:

            Mosaic theory is part of it, but that’s not exactly confined to the deep black world. Look at how big data is used commercially. At how doxxing is done on the internet, or at how the FBI found Dread Pirate Roberts. At how obscure bits of typography brought low Dan Rather and company.

            The other part is the bit about how we generate so much useless fluff documentation in the first place. In 1977, if your Bothan Spies brought you a technical readout of the Death Star, you probably made three carefully-written documents at various levels of classification. Now, you get three thousand, mostly produced without effort or thought, all of them collateral Top Secret until someone takes the time to carefully vet them. Probably including an HR report on compliance with diversity requirements in the hiring of Bothan spies.

            Which brings us to, so what? Yes, much of that documentation can eventually be shown to be harmless, but also banal and mostly useless. So what great social harm is being done by leaving the Top Secret stickers all over it, against the possible harm of having your loyal spies rounded up and killed? What is the overriding value in being able to read all that fluff, that requires we endure that risk?

            There’s a separate threat in having government officials use inappropriate security classification to conceal their corrupt misdeeds, but that’s going to happen whether we generate thousands of documents or just a handful. And if that’s what worries you, which is the bigger threat? A government official’s corruption, documented in a file in the Top Secret vault where honest government officials can read it and an FOIA request might pry it loose on review? Or the same file on a private email server until yesterday when, oh, did I delete that by mistake and wait, my hard drive just crashed?

      • CatCube says:

        Hear, hear! We had a captain in our brigade accidentally send out a PowerPoint slideshow that had a map in the background with some classified information on it over NIPR*. They gathered up the hard drives and BlackBerries of everybody on the recipient list and destroyed them, and gave the captain a GOMOR. Meanwhile, HRC sets up her own fucking privately-owned server and everybody falls all over themselves to explain why it’s not that bad.

        (*I never did hear how the map got onto the unclassified system to begin with)

        • It might be a matter of luck. Nothing bad actually happened as a result of Hilary’s private server.

          There *have* been breaches of federal data.

          I’ve wondered whether she did it out of a vague feeling that a private server was safer. I’m not saying this is true, just that I might have done it for that reason.

          • Anonymous says:

            It might be a matter of luck. Nothing bad actually happened as a result of Hilary’s private server.


            …and we know this because the first thing a foreign intelligence agency does when they breach the Secretary of State’s private email server is send a press release to the Washington Post.

          • Fair enough. There have been so many big public data breaches that I forgot about the possibility of covert breaches.

            Availability bias for the lose.

          • gbdub says:

            There is no way in hell she could honestly believe here system was safer than an actual classified server. Actual classified servers are kept in locked rooms with strictly controlled access lists. The requirements for actually hooking them up to a network that leaves the room fill up a book.

            Which is not to say no one has badly implemented classified servers. Just that the actual requirements are pretty stringent, and stricter than the systems you usually hear about getting breached. The sort of agency capable of breaching these networks would almost certainly not publicize the fact (since then the security folks would immediately close up the system and change it to close the breach).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Her server didn’t stand-in/replace a classified server. Her server was an SMTP server intended for non-classified communication.

            If she had used a federal email address on a federal SMTP server, it would not have been a classified server either, sending classified information on it would still have been illegal and it would not have been hardened like a server intended for communicating classified information.

            I believe the Secretaries of State before Clinton who used email also used personal email servers. See this article for example. Clinton wasn’t doing much of anything different from any other Secretary of State in terms of how they used email, but did run afoul of some policy changes.

          • gbdub

            If her using her own server was such an obviously bad idea, why didn’t her people tell her? Is it possible they didn’t know? Or that they told her and she ignored them?

            I’m inclined to think that people can make astonishingly stupid honest mistakes.

          • Randy M says:

            People who make important, though honest mistakes and usually canned for being careless, though. Or fined, or imprisoned, etc.
            At least, the kind of people who are subjects of government agencies rather than rule through them.

          • Chalid says:

            Another, more charitable, way to put it would be that a mistake’s importance is judged relative to the importance of the rest of your job. I don’t think email server management is particularly important compared to the rest of Clinton’s job.

          • Chalid says:

            … and actually, I think I’d say that in my experience people who make important, though honest mistakes, are *not* generally fired or disciplined. I’m sure this varies by industry/region/etc though, and of course it would depend on the nature of the mistake.

            I am sure that if I made technical violations of the the email policy at my job (e.g. emailing non-confidential work-related items to my personal gmail) I wouldn’t be fired. The probable consequence would be a ten minute lecture from the company lawyer.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t think email server management is particularly important compared to the rest of Clinton’s job.

            Do you think that email server management is important compared to anything at all? If so, why?

            The only plausible reasons I can see for anyone caring at all, is that information that ought to be kept secret is instead made available to the Black Hats, or that information which ought to be archived and accessible is instead concealed or deleted. In either case, the potential damage is proportional to the importance of the information likely to flow through the server in question.

            Even before we get to the philosophical and ethical problems with “X’s job is too important for them to have to follow the rules we set up for the Little People”, there’s the practical problem that these rules really are more important than anyone’s job. Even POTUS.

            and actually, I think I’d say that in my experience people who make important, though honest mistakes, are *not* generally fired or disciplined

            When it comes to deliberate security violations, yes, people really do get fired for that. Little People, at least. A truly accidental violation, like forgetting your cellphone when you enter a secure area, is forgivable, but Hillary didn’t accidentally set up a private email server.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            You guys know that Colin Powell used his private email address when he Secretary of State, right? But if he wanted to send classified information, he used the separate classified system. Clinton did the same thing, she just used email in general more than Powell or Condaleeza Rice. Before that, Secretaries of State and the State Department mostly didn’t use email at all.

            People are conflating two things, 1) using private email, and 2) using private email to send things which were classified. Powell and Clinton both did #1 and neither did #2. Sending something via non-secure channels that subsequently gets classified happened to both Powell and Clinton. Rice didn’t use email for communication at all.

            The whole darn thing is trying to make something nefarious out of something fairly run of the mill.

          • Randy M says:

            I don’t think email server management is particularly important compared to the rest of Clinton’s job.

            It would be less inaccurate to say that *not* maintaining an e-mail server was a part of the job, though, given the confidentiality requirements. Whether or not it was important depends on whether one is a Hillary Clinton or an Edward Snowden.
            Other examples that spring to mind: Knowing how to file taxes (and lawfully doing so) is not an important qualification for Treasury secretary.
            Buying the wrong trees from Africa is of critical importance for a (non-union) guitar maker

            The whole darn thing is trying to make something nefarious out of something fairly run of the mill.

            I’ll admit to not knowing the details; the FBI is investigating, and I don’t think that they are an arm of the VRWC, so there seems to plausibly be something out of the ordinary. If you know the outcome of that, I’ll appreciate being enlightened.

          • gbdub says:

            @HBC – yes, there are two separate issues. The first is that she used a private server which, while previous secretaries had done similar things, was (@Nancy L.) specifically against policy by the time Secretary Clinton took office. This in itself is a serious issue.

            The second, as you note, is that she sent classified information over this system, which would have been illegal whether on her own server or a government one (and illegal is explicitly the right word here, as willful negligence with classified info is violation of federal law, not just state department policy).

            Item 2 is still made worse by her private server though – with a government server, there is at least a protocol in place for scrubbing inadvertent leaks, which do happen from time to time (a single inadvertent leak won’t get you canned, but continually doing so definitely will). Also, some information will occasionally become retroactively classified, or have its classification level increased. On a government server, again there is an approved process for cleaning this up, that obviously can’t happen on a private server.

            @Chalid – “I don’t think email server management is particularly important compared to the rest of Clinton’s job.” No, it isn’t, but information security definitely is, and it shouldn’t require vast technical knowledge for her to recognize that a private email server is a significant violation of approved information security protocols. This wasn’t inadvertently running afoul of some niggling minor technical standard, this was a pretty blatant, ongoing violation of a core security concept that they beat over your head before they give you access to this info in the first place. And then she lied about it and wiped the server in an attempt to cover it up, which is a third separate issue to add to the previous two.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            In addition to everything gbdub just said I think that you are failing understand the distinction between “classified” and specific classification tags like FOUO, NoForn, or Top Secret. (To be fair our own journalists are horrifically bad about this so I’m not blaming you) “Classified” as a class covers everything from “who’s on guard duty tonight” to nuclear launch codes.

            Saying that classified material showed up in someone’s personal email does not surprise me. “hey honey I’m not going to be working late, I have a meeting with the Russian ambassador” could easily be enough to get a message labeled as “classified” depending on the circumstances. Though as Gdub, notes government servers, at least have protocols in place for preventing such inadvertent leaks.

            The specific allegation against Clinton is that she was routing official business through a nongovernment server which was against State Department policy and that she had stored copies of Top Secret, and Code Worded documents on it which is a serious felony.

            Digital copies of TSC material are not supposed to exist. Never mind exist unencrypted on computers connected to a public ISP. If you want to send someone TSC material you don’t write an email. You put it in a sealed envelope, hand it to an armed courier, and ask them deliver it for you.

            The fact that Clinton did not use classified channels for classified material, why this is a scandal and Powell’s email isn’t.

            Someone scanned those documents and put them on that server and if that person were anyone other than Hillary Clinton they’d already be serving a 10-spot in Leavenworth.

            I would also think that being able to trust someone with sensitive information would be a critical trait for any diplomat or cabinet minister to have. I am genuinely puzzled by the whole information management is management “isn’t particularly important compared to the rest of Clinton’s job” argument. Are the going to argue that knowledge of anatomy isn’t particularly important to being a doctor next?

          • keranih says:


            Nothing bad actually happened as a result of Hilary’s private server.

            As others said, this is not something we know.

            I’ve wondered whether she did it out of a vague feeling that a private server was safer.

            Clinton is not an IT person. No matter what she thought about it, she would have not set up the system herself, but would have had someone else do it.

            The system set up was illegal and unsecure. Either Clinton chose incompetent morons to set up her system, or she chose competent people who were unable to convince her of the illegality and stupidity of her preferences. There is not a way for her to come out of this as being qualified as dogcatcher, much less C-in-C.

            @ HBC –

            1) Yes, other officials used private emails. It is almost certainly a necessity for government people who are involved in any sort of party politics, as it is strictly forbidden to use government resources to conduct partisan party business. Having a ‘private’ system for personal/non-government stuff is perfectly ordinary. But this is not what happened.

            2) The “this stuff is over classified” is a distraction. Firstly, it’s not correct that all the classified stuff was low-key bs that shouldn’t be a problem. Secondly, it is a violation of the whole concept of classification – one doesn’t get to pick and choose what information to handle carefully – once it’s been classified, it gets handled carefully *period*. Expecting everyone to understand why each piece is important and how important it is – that’s not feasible. Subject matter experts make a call, and if the SecState wanted to over rule that, then there are formal procedures for doing that.

            3) We have no idea how much classified or government business information was actually on that server, or in those emails, because Clinton’s people attempted to purge out the the relevant stuff before hand. They missed some. Which goes back to my point above to Nancy re: Clinton’s competence at management.

            This is a huge thing. Not something tiny that is being blown out of scale due to partisan bias.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Given that you are a Clinton, and you know everything you do subjects you to extra scrutiny, the smart thing is to just use the normal systems, and not something special and unusual, because special and unusual will subject you to extra scrutiny (like is happening now).

            Unless you think that running a private server will somehow end up subjecting you to less scrutiny. Like, say, because you can control what information gets released on FOIA requests.

            And, what a shock, that’s exactly what happened. There were several FOIA requests to the State Department that ought to have returned Secretary Clinton’s emails, but none of her emails were in there because the career civil servants in charge of making sure that FOIA requests are handled correctly didn’t know about her server.

    • onyomi says:

      I want to elaborate/qualify by emphasizing that I don’t mean, exactly, that all the major scandals are not consequential, but rather that if, for example, Ron Paul or Justin Amash were running for president and accused of running an e-mail server improperly, that wouldn’t stop me from supporting and voting for them because I’m still so much in favor of their “team,” and what they represent broadly.

      Like, if you told me “choose between a drunken, philandering, bribe-taking libertarian who may have early Alzheimers or a young, vibrant, impeccably honest Democrat,” I’d choose the libertarian. Because the policies implemented by a drunken, corrupt, confused, cheating libertarian are still going to be more just, in my opinion, than those implemented by a straight edge Democrat. Of course, this is highly dependent on my own views of the effects and justice of particular policies, but given what my views are, that’s where my priorities would lie.

      And I think that’s how most people feel, which is why you’re never going to convince Democrats to betray their whole tribe and worldview just because its up and coming leader did something stupid or even outright corrupt.

      We complain a lot here about tribalism, and rightly so; but that doesn’t necessarily imply that careful focus on individual politicians and personalities is the answer either. Arguably politics is too much about individual personalities (yet still somehow intensely tribal…?) and not enough about the broad groups who will come into power when, for example, a Democrat sits in the White House as opposed to a Republican.

      I’m saying, I wish I could see more debate in the media about which major group’s general policy bent is more effective and less about which chosen face of said groups did or did not screw up one particular case. After all, if you think the Republicans as a group are evil, you’re probably still going to vote for the Democrat even if the Republicans succeed in convincing you that that one particular Democrat is evil or incompetent.

      • The case I find surprising isn’t Hilary, it’s Elizabeth Warren. She pretty clearly claimed to be a native American on the basis of a family tradition, unsupported by evidence, that one distant ancestress was Cherokee. She claimed on that basis to be a minority law professor on a site used by law schools to get information on possible hires. Two universities that employed her described her as native American, a claim they could only have gotten from her and one they clearly valued.

        I would think that believers in affirmative action would see that as the equivalent of stealing pennies from a blind man–gaming a system set up to help disadvantaged people by claiming a disadvantage she doesn’t have. If she were currently running for president, I can understand that liberals might decide to ignore it for the sake of unity. But she in fact is, or was prior to the Sanders campaign, treated as the de facto political leader of the Democratic left. They could have chosen someone else and didn’t.

        Which suggests either that most of them are hypocrites who don’t believe in their own principles or that most of them can convince themselves that black is white, that the claim that black is black is the work of an evil right wing conspiracy, when doing so is convenient.

        • onyomi says:

          I find that one pretty shocking too. One factor may be that people outside of academia may not understand what a huge advantage being able to claim Native American ancestry would be for anyone pursuing a career in American academia. But I think the bigger factor is something akin to what you described at one point on your blog: we already know she’s on the side of the angels, so we give her a very big benefit of the doubt.

          That said, I wonder if this didn’t actually contribute to her not running for president? She might have realized that she she had managed to maintain her current position of influence despite this problem coming to light; running for president would have surely raked it up again and forced her to defend it in more detail.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          It’s okay when the person abusing power is on my side.

        • Frank McPike says:

          Surely the simpler explanation is what Onyomi already noted: That personal virtue isn’t an especially important quality in a politician, all things considered. It seems perfectly reasonable to support a politician who, whatever their flaws, comes closest to supporting the policies that you prefer (certainly that’s what determines my vote). Especially when the vice in question appears to be a sort of ruthless ambition, well, I suspect the only meaningful variation among potential presidential candidates in that respect is how good they are at hiding it.

          “They could have chosen someone else and didn’t” also seems to skip over some details. Who is “they”? Party elites? Democratic voters in general? If a candidate whose policies you like starts to snowball in popularity, I’m not sure it’s rational to oppose them in the hope that they will fail and a different (and more moral) candidate with similar policies will be meet with the same level of success. While that may be possible, it’s not inevitable, or even likely. It’s entirely possible for a faction of a political party not to have any viable presidential candidate at a given time.

        • Fahundo says:

          Elizabeth Warren is a good example because it makes me think this isn’t just a Republicans vs Democrats thing. I’m more inclined to forgive Warren doing something like that than I would be for Hilary Clinton or Barack Obama even thiugh they’re from the same party.

          • onyomi says:

            What is it about Elizabeth Warren that makes you more inclined to forgive this in her than you would in others? Is it that she’s closer to your own views and you’d therefore still vote for her, or is it that you wouldn’t even judge her character as harshly?

            I’ll admit I would forgive a lot more in Ron Paul than Mitt Romney, both personally and politically, both because I think he’s taken a lot of difficult moral stands in the past, and because I think the policies he advocates are much more just.

            This actually brings up something which is probably the best example of my own vulnerability to this: the “Ron Paul newsletters.”

            From the perspective of someone not inclined to like Ron Paul, this old scandal was the perfect confirmation bias tool to latch onto: “we always *knew* Ron Paul was some kind of neo-confederate, racist, crank. And here’s the smoking gun!”

            But the view from the perspective of a Ron Paul supporter is: “oh, they are clearly just latching onto this because they are already predisposed to dislike Ron Paul and are looking for a reason to dismiss him. They don’t really believe he is actually racist and they would totally forgive this exact same thing in a politician whose policy views lined up with theirs. What’s more, they’d scold us for having the poor taste to disingenuously dredge up some obscure thing from decades ago.”

            It comes down to the whole “can I believe this” vs. “must I believe this?” issue, neither side of which is “right.” So I’m not exactly saying that the Ron Paul supporters are 100% right and the people making a big deal of the newsletters are 100% wrong (though I admit I’m biased against them); what I am saying is that it seems like it might be helpful to try to always look at scandals from the perspective of those who are inclined to give the candidate the benefit of the doubt.

            Not because we should give everyone the benefit of the doubt all the time (though erring on that side when it comes to accusations of racism would probably be a good idea at this point), but because that’s the only way we can understand the opposing side’s reactions to scandals and, therefore, maybe maintain a better sense of proportion about which are and aren’t worth having detailed debates about.

            In other words, it seems like maybe a good heuristic to imagine: “would I forgive this in a guy whose policies I loved?” If the answer is yes, it’s probably not very fair of you to make a big deal of it when someone whose policies you hate does it. Of course, you giving their candidate the benefit of the doubt doesn’t mean they’ll extend the same courtesy to your candidate, but somebody has to stop defecting first.

          • Anonymous says:

            What is it about Elizabeth Warren that makes you more inclined to forgive this in her than you would in others?

            She’s a Native American – her people have suffered enough.

          • Fahundo says:

            I guess I don’t care about Affirmative Action, but how does the old saying go? “The enemy of the Trans-Pacific Partnership is my friend?”

        • Anonymous says:

          She claimed on that basis to be a minority law professor on a site used by law schools to get information on possible hires. Two universities that employed her described her as native American, a claim they could only have gotten from her and one they clearly valued.


          • Chalid says:

            Interesting. So there is ambiguity here, and we seeing both those friendly to Warren’s views as willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, and those hostile to her views as assuming the worst. Or do David Friedman/Onyomi think there is stronger evidence for Warren getting professional advancement through claiming NA ancestry than Snopes suggests?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Chalid:

            As someone opposed to Warren, her alleged claiming to be a Native American doesn’t bother me. Ironically, the main reason is because I don’t think affirmative action is a good idea.

          • Randy M says:

            I can understand someone believing a family story and not bothering to check it. So I don’t fault her any for believing that she was part native.
            However, I have to find some contempt that she should have believed based on this story and a maybe-some-hint-if-you-squint similarity that she was some victim of discrimination and owed special consideration for anything* because of it.

            *As mentioned above, this may not be what happened, but assuming it was, that’s my position.

          • gbdub says:

            At least Rachel Dolezal actually tried to live as a black woman. Warren checked the box without any indication that she ever had any connection to the culture.

        • Nornagest says:

          She pretty clearly claimed to be a native American on the basis of a family tradition […] that one distant ancestress was Cherokee. She claimed on that basis to be a minority law professor…

          And that worked?

          Well, hell.

    • Vorkon says:

      I keep on flipping back and forth as to how I feel about the Hillary email scandal. On the one hand, it bothers me a bit, because I’ve seen good people get the book thrown at them for far less, and know that if I were to do something similar, it would be a career-ender at least, and result in jail time at best. It kind of rankles me that she can get away with it, and I can’t.

      On the other hand, though, I also know firsthand that she’s right when she says overclassification is a serious problem. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if almost all of the “classified” emails they found on that server were only marked with a classification on a single message about 10 messages deep on an email chain that had been replied to 30 times, which she probably only read the latest reply to and had no idea the classified information was even in there, and which the original sender never should have marked secret in the first place. Plus, I can’t help but sympathize with her a bit; military email servers are terrible, I’d imagine the DoS servers are similarly annoying, and if I could get away with doing all my work on a private email server I’d do it in a heartbeat, too. (I’d imagine that’s a big part of why the fact that she can get away with it and I can’t rankles me so much, in fact. :op )

      • Chalid says:

        I think it’s even less damning than that – the “classified” emails were not classified when they were sent. They were retroactively classified afterward.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          According to the state department, they should have been classified at the time they were sent. It wasn’t “oh, based on what we know now, it’s now classified.” It’s that someone — not necessarily Clinton — failed to apply the proper label at the time of sending.

        • Agronomous says:

          @Chalid: I don’t think you’re thinking straight about this; it’s a fairly complicated situation, which Clinton’s spinners are actively trying to oversimplify and distort. You have your facts just plain wrong on a couple of counts:

          1) There were at least 4 SAP emails among those Clinton handed over.

          2) She didn’t hand over a ton of other emails, and deleted tens of thousands while stalling for months before handing the server over to State. (The stalling was so she could claim that they were automatically deleted because they were old; the automatic deletion scheme was put in place at some point after she was Secretary.)

          3) The “government just classifies things because they’re dangerous to officials, not to national security” line is amazing propaganda/projection: what’s originally at issue here is Clinton deliberately keeping things from the public and the agency she was supposed to be serving. In doing so, she also ran roughshod over legal requirements for handling classified information, which is an even more serious offense, and serious problem for American foreign policy.

          4) Whether something was marked or unmarked (and at least some of what she actually handed over was clearly marked, at a very high level: SAP) is a red herring: as the Secretary of State, a lot of the information Clinton generated is classified by its very nature. If State didn’t mark it such, that’s a security violation itself. Again, this person was the Secretary of State: everything from communications from other governments to negotiating strategies to even what news stories she’s interested in are valuable intelligence for everyone from China to Albania.

          5) This stuff wan’t on a personal server in her office on a government network; it was in her basement, hooked up to an ISP. So for a few years, Comcast was the primary line of defense between essentially every current U.S. state secret and any random hacker from Russia/China/North Korea.

          6) @Vorkon: so what if some things are classified that shouldn’t be? That doesn’t (a) rule out things not being classified that should be (analogous to how rape is both over- and under-reported) or (b) give anyone the excuse to disregard classifications. Hell, as Secretary of State, Clinton was in an excellent position to get classification removed from things that didn’t need it—instead of simply ignoring it.

          Every “exculpatory” explanation I’ve heard (not familiar with technology, didn’t understand the risk she was taking, wanted to use her BlackBerry) translates directly into a solid reason not to make Clinton the President of the United States.

          • Vorkon says:

            Oh, it certainly doesn’t excuse her. That’s why I said I keep flipping back and forth about how I feel about it. I’m just saying that I can sympathize with her on the matter, and that if I thought for a second that I could get away with it, I’d do the same thing in a heartbeat.

            …then again, I know that *I* should never be President. :op

  31. rockroy mountdefort says:

    I don’t see why people would use a forum if they’re not using the subreddit

    Because reddit is poison to all discourse

  32. God Damn John Jay says:

    Every Open Thread Deiseach uses some obscure Irish slang or expression that I have never heard before, so I am linking this in honor of her:

    • Deiseach says:

      Thank you for that link, I laughed at every one 🙂

      She was panting as she let out one final scream of pure pleasure. There was nothing like beating Kilkenny in the hurling

      What’s seldom is wonderful!

      (There, that’s another obscure Irish saying for you).

  33. BBA says:

    Apropos to the thread title, Michel Gondry’s video to Mia Doi Todd’s “Open Your Heart.” It’s much less brain-melty than most of Gondry’s stuff.

  34. Doctor Mist says:

    I’m hoping someone with a historical bent can enlighten me.

    Shakespeare’s As You Like It contains the famous “All the world’s a stage” speech:

    And one man in his time plays many parts,
    His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
    Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
    And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
    And shining morning face, creeping like snail
    Unwillingly to school.

    Hearing it again recently, I suddenly realized how anachronistic is the image conjured in my mind by the “whining school-boy” passage. I think of Penrod, and Tom Sawyer, and Beaver Cleaver; of a sack lunch, textbooks carried over the shoulder in a knapsack or with a leather strap around them.

    Shakespeare was performed for the masses. This must mean that trundling the kid off to school was a commonplace even in 1600. Was there really anything like what I would call “grade school” then? If not, what is Shakespeare really describing here?

    • BBA says:

      The school that Shakespeare probably attended (if you accept that the William Shakespeare who lived in Stratford and performed in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men was the author of the plays).

    • Deiseach says:

      If you look at page 17 in this biography of Thomas More, it describes how Peter Ackroyd imagines the morning for More, as a typical schoolboy of the time.

      Thomas More was born 1477-78, and if enrolled in school at the age of seven, he would have begun school in 1485 as in the following description from Ackroyd’s book:

      Thomas More was enrolled at St Anthony’s, in Threadneedle Street. Lessons began at six in the morning, and in winter he would have taken his own candle-light with him. He has a description of a mother telling her son also to ‘take thy brede & butter with the’. The schoolboy was dressed in hose and doublet, since he was considered to be a smaller version of the adult male, and he carried a leather satchel upon his back, which contained ‘a pennar and an ynke horne… a penn knyff… a payre of tabullys’; the ‘pennar’ was a quill-holder an ‘tabullys’ were writing boards.

      … It was customary for boys to begin their elementary schooling at the age of seven – this was the age of the schoolboy martyr in Chaucer’s Prioress’s Tale, ‘A litel clergeon, seven yeer of age’, who was being taught ‘to syngen and to rede’ – and there is every reason to believe More’s parents would have wished him to enjoy the benefits of this neighbourhood school as early as possible. St Anthony’s was considered to be the finest of the four or five ‘grammar schools’ in London and had the distinction of being a ‘free school’, while others charged between eight pence and sixteen pence a week. It had been founded forty years before More’s arrival, out of the revenues of the nearby church of St Benet Fink, and was attached to St Anthony’s Church and Hospital.

      … The younger scholars of St Anthony’s had to apply themselves to another and, at this relatively early date, perhaps more important discipline. The ‘art of song’ was part of the curriculum of the grammar schools and, since the church of St Anthony’s maintained a number of choristers, it was natural for the younger boys to be taught the art of plainsong and prick song in their most elementary forms. … Children were also taught to play such musical instruments as the viol and the lute, ‘to get the use of our small ioynts, before they be knitte’. The study would have been practical in intent – musica practica as opposed to musica speculativa – and yet it was associated with the understanding of rhetoric, mathematics and philosophy. The boys of St Anthony’s were taught the art of public deliberation at a later stage in their education, but there as always a formal connection bertween oratory and musical harmony; similarly, the examination of notational value and metrical proportion provided a basic instruction to mathematics.
      … The boys of St Anthony’s were taught in the same timbered and raftered hall, divided into groups according to their ability or progress. They would sit on the floor or on stools, while the oldest of them would have wooden desks or ‘forms’. It is hard to estimate the number of pupils involved – the figures for various schools range between forty and approximately one hundred and fifty. St Anthony’s was a popular and prized free school, however, so that we might suggest the presence of about a hundred pupils at various stages of their education. They were taught by a principal master and probably more than one teaching assistant. In the age before the ready distribution of printed books – More was born the year after the first printed book was produced in England – the teaching was primarily of an oral kind, based upon memory and repetition. The master would dictate an example out loud, which the pupils would then in turn recite and repeat until it had been committed to memory.

  35. Theo Jones says:

    As an aside related to the discussion on weird academic work in the social sciences. I just got assigned a weird book on diet in one of my social sciences classes. The author has no background in health or the natural sciences, but it was printed through a peer reviewed academic publisher. Some highlights — a post-structuralist analysis of science, a chapter dedicated to proving the claim that obesity doesn’t actually cause health issues, a chapter devoted to the claim that caloric intake hasn’t actually increased in the U.S (based around a self-reported survey), a claim that increased caloric intake doesn’t cause obesity, a claim that the mainstream scientific analysis on obesity is based around misogony and body shaming, and a claim that the mainstream cultural viewpoint on obesity is the product of neoliberals and libertarians claiming bodies as a commodity for capitalism.

    • Urstoff says:

      The peer-reviewers are probably post-structuralist “scientists” and not actual health scientists or epidemiologists.

    • Glen Raphael says:

      a claim that increased caloric intake doesn’t cause obesity

      It’s plausible that the causation largely goes the other direction – obesity (caused by some third factor) causes an increase in caloric intake.

      For instance, there’s the “fat virus” notion. From wikipedia:

      Ad-36 is known to cause obesity in chickens, mice, rats, and monkeys. In addition, it was present in 30% of obese humans and 11% of non-obese humans. The prevalence of Ad-36 positivity in lean individuals increased from ∼7% in 1992-1998 to 15-20% in 2002-2009, which paralleled the increase in obesity prevalence.

      Given that there are drugs that reliably make people-and-animals gain weight and given that there are viruses that reliably make people-and-animals gain weight, and given that once (for any reason) a higher weight has been obtained it is really hard to get back to a lower one, it’s not clear that “it is caused by eating too much” is a useful way to think about obesity.

      Something changed to collectively make us – and our pets, and our laboratory animals – get fatter. When we figure out what it was, I expect a massive slapping of foreheads to follow that realization.

      • Outis says:

        Am I at risk of catching obesity after moving to America in adulthood? What can I do to prevent it?

      • Zorgon says:

        I’m expecting a similar facepalm once we figure out whatever ludicrously-obvious-in-retrospect thing is causing the immense surge in FMS/CFS/etc.

      • Vorkon says:

        At first glance, I thought that Wikipedia quote said “Age 36 is known to cause obesity…” and my first thought was something along the lines of, “well, yeah, I could’ve told you that.” :op

    • Tracy W says:

      So was the post-Structuralist analysis remotely interesting?

  36. Wrong Species says:

    Relevant to both utilitarianism and Friendly Intelligence optimization. “The problem with satisfied patients.”

    • Maybe the solution is to base hospital reinbursement on how satisfied the nurses are, but that will probably have a different failure mode.

    • Jason K. says:

      Not so much a problem with satisfied patients as it is with treating satisfaction as the paramount goal. “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”

  37. sky says:

    I was thinking about the gender gap in tech, and I was reading about what brought, or didn’t bring women into tech. It occurred to me that we don’t talk much about what brings guys into tech, and that understanding this might allow us to better understand the gender gap.

    So I want to ask, other guys in tech, what brought you here?

    For me it was pretty straight forward causal path of video games -> modding video games i.e learning programming. I ended up dropping out of college (physics) and working as a software developer in S.F purely off the hours I spent in the years prior. By the time I was 12 I was probably spending ~20 hours a week scripting mods for video games. I spent some time making a few small things with more traditional languages (python) but those never went anywhere.

    For pretty much all my other friends who ended up working in software, it was a similar story. Long hours in front of a computer that lead to various programming related things. While it was modding for me, for others it was making small games in flash, or fiddling with making their own web pages for things they were fans of, playing with linux etc… Such that by college we all had some experience with software industry stuff, and the idea of working in such a job seemed pretty straightforward.

    The other thing I found interesting is that in reading various articles I found that many Arab countries had a higher % of women in computer science (and science in general) than in the U.S. Something like 50% in Jordan for comp sci. Or 60% for science degrees in Saudia Arabia. Why are they able to succeed at this when we are not? Western countries struggle to get women into stem, while more sexist countries succeed? That seems backwards.

    Finally, any alternate ideas on what we can do to bring more women into comp sci/stem, or why they don’t now?

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      The other thing I found interesting is that in reading various articles I found that many Arab countries had a higher % of women in computer science (and science in general) than in the U.S. Something like 50% in Jordan for comp sci. Or 60% for science degrees in Saudia Arabia. Why are they able to succeed at this when we are not? Western countries struggle to get women into stem, while more sexist countries succeed? That seems backwards.

      From what I hear, a lot of the women from muslim world who get advanced degrees are really there to work on a “MRS degree” as it were. That is, it significantly improves marriage prospects to have a doctorate (particularly an MD) regardless of whether or not they do anything with it afterwards.

      Now I’m not sure how true that is on a statistical level, whether that’s actually what’s driving the difference, but it seems plausible.

      Also it seems kind of weird to say you’ve “succeeded” in attaining gender equality with a 60 / 40 split in favor of women. I get the rationale but still.

    • Stefan Drinic says:

      Re: Arab/Muslim women going into STEM more often than Western ones..

      .. As far as I’d heard, in my very unprofessional state of being, the most interesting theory is something about square pegs and round holes. In Western countries, the stereotypical feminist dance therapy degree doesn’t let one earn as much as becoming an engineer will, but such people can still earn a living, and our culture still considers people with an any, all degree as higher status than those without. This causes people to prioritise their passions more than what earns them good careers, since they’re all reasonably secure in earning a good living later in life anyway. When you have no such certainty, someone who might otherwise study sociology or something might pick CS anyway, since the alternative offers a very real chance of having a much worse future life.

      • Theo Jones says:

        I think a lot of it is the declining marginal utility of consumption. In a developed country the actual benefit of increasing your income is relatively small. But in a developing country increasing your income by better education carries a large benefit. So, a woman in a developing country would be willing be bear a lot more hassle to get an education that doubles her income than one in a developed nation.

      • EyeballFrog says:

        I wonder if this will always be true. Will there come a day when having a fluff degree becomes less prestigious than having no degree at all?

    • The Nybbler says:

      I’m a relic from the 8-bit age; got an Apple II, played games, learned BASIC and Pascal, broke some copy protection, built some hardware, once wrote a text-to-speech program in Applesoft (and wow was it slow), spent FAR too much time on BBSs (some things don’t really change).

      Basically your observation is the Norway Gender Equality Paradox: the more gender-egalitarian a society is, the more people stick to traditional gender roles. There’s no definitive answer; I tend to think that a lot of it is that roles like engineering are a good ticket OUT of places like Saudi Arabia.

    • Rachael says:

      I’m a female programmer who got into tech the same way you describe, but I don’t have much idea why more boys than girls tend to do this.

      • Peter says:

        There was a talk I heard that tracked numbers over time. It seems that before the home computer generation, CS admissions weren’t excessively skewed – 2:1, 3:1 or so? Less skewed than Engineering at any rate, but that’s not saying a great deal. Things got a lot more skewed when the home computer generation came of age. The speaker had the idea that home computers got pigeonholed as “boys toys” – that parents were more likely to buy computers for sons than daughters, that brothers were more likely than sisters to win fights over who got to use the computer, etc.

        • Equinimity says:

          There was an interesting comment on that on slashdot a few weeks back. Can’t find it, but summarising what I remember…
          Look at the initial ads for the Atari 2600 and competing game consoles, and they show the entire family playing them. And from what I gather, they were mostly sold through the electronics section of department stores. Then you get the games crash, department stores pull out of the games market for a while, and game machines move to the toy stores, where they have a pink/blue aisle split. Nintendo had to choose one, and the effects flowed downhill from there.

    • Andrew says:

      I’m probably an odd duck, so worth mentioning- I got into programming and software because of the “force multiplier” effect. I wanted to do big things fast, and it was either hire an army or learn some programming.

    • Equinimity says:

      The over-simplified one liner about what started me in tech, being able to make things.
      I built kits and simple radios as a kid, then convinced my parents to buy a Vic-20 for the games by telling them I could use it for my homework too, and got hooked on software. Got a degree, the 6502 experience helped get me a job on a SNES game, and have been making things happen on screens ever since. (Though I left gaming about 5 years ago.)

      My wife came through a vaguely similar path, of learning she could make things in software, and exploring what others had made on the various systems. She teaches CS now, and tells me that our kind are getting rare amongst her students. Many of them are there for a stable or high paying career, the actual details of software development are more of a necessary evil than the reason for their interest.

  38. Wrong Species says:

    Scott Sumner makes the mets case for “market macroeconomics.”

    >So if someone far smarter than me, such as Scott Aaronson, asks me whether I should constantly re-evaluate the correctness of market monetarism, I’d say yes. If he then asked me about confirmation bias, I’d have to agree that’s a problem. We can’t be trusted to evaluate the accuracy of the theories that we hold dear, because we’ve fought for them for so long. So who can we rely on to evaluate market monetarism? Not people with other ideologies like Keynesianism, because they also have an axe to grind. Not people with no alternative theory, because they are not well enough informed. There’s only one group I trust—market participants who have money on the line. To paraphrase Richard Rorty might have said truth is what the market let’s you get away with.

  39. EyeballFrog says:

    Would anyone be interested in a meetup in Boston? I’ve been looking to try to meet some new people, and this sounds like as good a way as any.

  40. Tibor says:

    A few questions for Austrians about this :

    How likely do you think it is that Hefer becomes the next president? Also, how much power does a president have in Austria? Is it like the German or the Czech president – more or less a ceremonial function with a very limited real power or is it more like in France? Maybe something in between?

    What do you think about the FPÖ? Are they like FN in France or less nationalist? Also, are they economically rather socialist (like FN) or more pro-free market-ish like the AfD?

    • Franz_Panzer says:

      That became hard to say because of this. Every information about how people are going to vote was basically bogus. On saturday I would have said that Hofer would loose any one-to-one election against Van der Bellen or Griss, now I’m not sure anymore. Everyone anti-populist-right will gather behind Van der Bellen now. The question is whether there are enough such people and whether they can be mobilised to vote.

      The role of the president is definitely more like in Germany than France. Nominally in charge of the military, has no influence on policy. The only power he has potentially is in dismissing and swearing in the government. I actually don’t know how far this power actually reaches but it has been a topic this elections because Hofer has let slip threats (or at least it has been interpreted that way) that he may dismiss the government in order to help his party (which at the moment leads in polls) while VdB has stated that he would not swear in an FPÖ-government.

      I don’t know exactly how nationalist the FN is, so I can’t compare the two. But yes, they are very nationalistic, in the same group as FN, Jobbik, Partij voor de Vrijheid and Sverigedemokraterna. Everyone who is secretly (or not secretly) a (neo)-Nazi supports them. An influencial portion of the party are German-nationalists. And you have the expected sentiments with respect to immigration and EU.

      Economically they say they’re socialist (because their base are workers), but any actual policies (if they ever have any) sound more free-market-ish. However when they were in government in the early 2000’s it lead to huge corruption cases that are still under investigation. And when they were in charge of one of the federal countries they wrecked it so completely that it is now under threat of having to go bancrupt.

      • Tibor says:

        Thanks. It sounds like the Austrian president has more or less the exact same powers as his German or Czech counterparts. I don’t know about Germany but while in theory the Czech president could decide not to swear-in a government, in practice he could not afford politically not to swear in the government of the winner of the election and only if that party cannot secure enough votes in the parliament (there is a “trust vote” which is necessary to start the government and the prospective government needs the vote of 101 out of 200 MPs) does he have a room for doing actual politics (like appointing a prime minister from a party of his choice…but of course that party still needs to find a coalition partner or at least secure enough MPs for the trust vote). I would guess this is probably the same in Austria and that what both Hofer and Van der Bellen said should be understood as just election rhetoric. Even if they insisted on doing so, this would likely lead to new elections in which it would be easy to the damaged party/parties to use this to their advantage.

        I was surprised by the election result myself. From what I understand about Austrian politics, the current government switched from an almost Merkel-like immigrant/refugee policy to a much stricter one since otherwise the polls suggested a complete victory of the FPÖ in the next elections. The current policy seems to pretty similar the Hungarian one, which is probably the strictest in Europe today and so I would expect that that was going to be enough to “keep the FPÖ at bay”. Of course, the elections are probably not one-dimensionally about immigration issues, so there may be other reasons why so many people in Austria support the FPÖ.

        I also wonder about how the polls are made to be so wildly inaccurate. Are people perhaps “ashamed” to tell the pollsters that they want to vote the FPÖ? Even so, the effect would have to be extremely large. This looks more like the poll was done in Vienna only.

        • Creutzer says:

          Yes, people are ashamed to be voting for them and polls have always underpredicted their performance in the last couple of elections. Support for them does look like it’s pretty one-dimensionally about immigration and anti-EU-ness.

          I think the shift in immigration policy by the current government was too recent to have really sunk in with voters, and it was also prompted by the current refugee situation in particular, so people probably don’t quite trust them on it yet. Whereas the FPÖ has been anti-immigration for a long time.

          I wonder how seriously one should take these announcements about (not) swearing in governments. When the FPÖ was in office, there was a bit of a debate about whether the president shouldn’t have refused them, and there is always that phantom of Hindenburg swearing in Hitler somewhere at the back of people’s minds.

          • Tibor says:

            I think that if nothing else, it would be a bad strategy. It would probably lead to an “Andrew Jackson effect” with one period of a different and very unpopular government and then perhaps even an absolute majority for the FPÖ, which is probably lot worse than a FPÖ minority government or an FPÖ government in a coalition with a junior partner. Especially if the FPÖ is in fact so corrucpt/incompetent as Franz_Panzer says and would discredit itself. I have a similar opinion about strategic ousting of FN in France in the last elections. I think it will just make the FN stronger in the next.

            Similarly, if Hofer actually became president and dismissed a government without a widely acceptable justification (even if it was constitutionally ok), then ther FPÖ would likely suffer a severe setback in the next elections.

  41. Ruprect says:

    Why are numbers read right to left (in the sense that the leftmost digit doesn’t have any meaning until you read the other digits)? Why don’t we write numbers in the same way that we write everything else?

    • Stefan Drinic says:

      They get called Arabic numbers for a reason, you know.

      • SJ says:

        The Arabic-speaking cultures of the world read (and write) from right to left.

        But Arabic numerals are written with highest magnitude on the left, and written in order from left to right.

        The Arabic world borrowed some numerals, plus the idea of place-value, from the Hindi-speaking world.

        Both uses of this numerical system place the highest-order-of-magnitude digit on the left, probably in accord with left-to-right writing system used in the Hindi writing system.

    • Tibor says:

      But we do. “165” is a word – “onehundredandsixtyfive”. In many languages, you don’t even need the “and”. The “1” is just the first letter of that word as is “n” the first letter of the word “number” and neither has any meaning before you actually read the whole word.

      Stefan: Except that the Roman numerals are read that way also.

    • FullMeta_Rationalist says:

      If I had to guess, it would be truncation. Which is necessary for rounding.

      123,456,789 is read as “one-hundred twenty-three million, four-hundred fifty-six thousand, seven-hundred eighty-nine”. Most people won’t care to include every digit though, so they’ll shorten it to “one-hundred twenty three million”. Since the leftmost digits are considered more significant than the rightmost digits, you’d want to say the leftmost digits first.

      The fact that we must count the number of zero-digits following the most significant digits in “123,000,000” when using Arabic Numerals is an unfortunate side-effect.


      I think ruprect is saying “165” ought to be written “561”. Because determining that the one-digit is in the hundreds place requires us to count the distance from the decimal place, which means we must temporarily count right-to-left. However, the fact that most people parse text in clumps and phases means that I don’t think this is as big a deal in practice as one might naively expect.

      • Tibor says:

        Yeah, I got that, but my point is that the word is “onehundredandsixtyfive” not “fivesixtyhundred” or something. There are some exceptions, like in German with the smallest unit e.g. (fünfundsechzig/sixty five) (and probably because of a German influence one can do that in Czech too sometimes, although you can also say the numbers it in their usual order), which however comes mostly (I think) from the fact that is can be said faster that way.

        If we stick to English though, the word is written in the same order in which it is pronounced. It is true that you have to read the whole “word” before you are able to pronounce it (but you do not read numbers from right to left – you see how many numbers are there and they you start reading from the left). If you actually wrote the number 165 like 561, you would either have to change the language to use the word “fivesixtyhundred” or actually read it form the right.

        • Ruprect says:

          Seems that English may have changed to match the notation rather than the other way around (four-and-twenty blackbirds)

          • Tibor says:

            Maybe in the double digits…but was there ever a time when one would say “five and twenty and hundred” or something like that? That would surprise me.

            We could write numbers in the format 3_165 or 7_1 650 000, where the first number tells us how many digits there are in the number. Then you can really just really just read from left to right (or to be even more pedantic, one ought to write 1_3 65 to denote 165 to be able to strictly parse the digits from left to right, but it would actually be harder to read)

      • Ruprect says:

        “If I had to guess, it would be truncation. Which is necessary for rounding.”

        Interesting – in the link I posted below someone suggested that the reason why the spoken words were originally said with smallest number first is that if you were counting in increments of one, the larger number is less relevant and gets mumbled (“three and twenty, four and twenty, five antwent, six untwen… etc.) So perhaps this is a matter of convenience depending on the way in which you are using numbers.

        “I don’t think this is as big a deal in practice as one might naively expect”

        It’s relatively easy to parse small, familiar numbers or larger numbers that are using commas – for longer numbers without commas, or longer binary numbers, less so.

  42. Ononymous says:

    Adam Curtis BBC doc, The Trap weaves R.D. Laing and James Buchanan into narrative about game theoretic neo-liberalim

    “the programme suggests that following the path of negative liberty to its logical conclusions, as governments have done in the West for the past 50 years, results in a society without meaning populated only by selfish automatons, and that there was some value in positive liberty in that it allowed people to strive to better themselves.”

    • Tracy W says:

      The quoted statement flies in the light of evidence, for example, Western countries + Singapore dominate the list of the least corrupt countries in the world.
      Incidentally the same countries tend to be on the top of lists of economic freedom (along with Hong Kong), although the correlation is less than 1.

      Edit: And the World Giving Index, while led by Myanmar, includes NZ, the UK, the USA and the Netherlands in its top 10.

  43. Le Maistre Chat says:

    I have a question for David Friedman: did you know the late Poul Anderson through the SCA? If so, do you know if he was a Christian?
    For the rest of you, this comment can function as lit crit: I’ve recently read his fantasy novels The Broken Sword, Three Hearts & Three Lions and Operation Chaos, out of an interest in old school Dungeons & Dragons. In the first mentioned, he takes an ambivalent stand on the Faith, contrasting “the holy chill of a nunnery” to the lush fertility of protagonists having sex outdoors. But in the introduction to the novel’s second edition, he apologizes for the book’s tone and says “my vein is more in keeping with Three Hearts & Three Lions .”
    So, TH&TL is about an agnostic Danish engineer who finds himself fighting Nazis on a beach one moment and the next transported a parallel universe where The Song of Roland, Orlando Furioso et al are historical fact. He comes to realize that he’s the amnesiac paladin Holger Danske, the Danish version of the Sleeping King, who has returned at the world’s moment of greatest danger from the combined forces of Satan and Faerie. He must spurn his lover Morgan le Fay in favor of a Christian wilderness urchin, only to be ripped away from his new love and back to our mundane world once victory is achieved. We last see the mundane Holger received into the Roman Catholic Church and searching for a way back to his true country.
    Finally, Operation Chaos is about a redhead witch named Ginny and a werewolf named Steve who fall in love during a magical WW2 against the Caliphate (it’s an alt history where a technology to degauss cold iron was discovered right after WW1, letting magic back). They then go to college on the GI Bill, marry and have a daughter. The novel’s final adventure is about demons abducting their baby and praying with a Lutheran minister to find the right Saint to help them navigate Hell’s non-Euclidean geometry and rescue her. Oh, and at some point hippie-like Gnostics show up as dupes of Satan.
    These novels are all full of Big Ideas in the SF tradition, and it’s really striking to see such blatant Christian themes not coming from CS Lewis. It’s subversive, even.

    • Mary says:

      I believe he was an atheist. though his grip on religion is unusually good.

    • I knew Poul (Bela in the SCA) slightly, but I’m afraid I don’t know what his religious views were. I think his wife is still alive and expect that both she and their daughter are still involved in SF fandom, so you might run into one of them at an SF con and ask.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I can see that going over real well. “Oh, hi! Poul Anderson was your late husband? Would you mind answering a question about his religious beliefs for me?”

        • More like “I really enjoyed some of Poul’s writing, especially Three Hearts and Three Lions, and was wondering to what extent, if at all, the religious elements reflected his own beliefs as well as those of his protagonist.”

          People at SF conventions talk about that sort of thing. Karen doesn’t bite.

    • This reminds me of a bit in a Poul Anderson novel– sorry, title forgotten, but it had a lot from Kipling’s Kim. There was a secondary character who was looking for evidence of Christianity in faint alien scratches.

      At the end of the book, this isn’t resolved and the character is still on his search.

      This is pretty unusual in sf– usually Christianity is either true or more commonly, false.

      Offhand, I can’t think of any Anderson fiction in which Christianity is bad. This isn’t evidence about his theological beliefs, of course.

      • Adam says:

        I read somewhere (don’t know where, sorry, so no sources) that Poul Anderson was atheist at the beginning of his writing career, but later became Christian. This is reflected in his novels, as you can see. I believe he became Catholic, but I’m really unsure on that point.

  44. Bacteria on money

    I wonder if it’s much different than the micro-ecology that’s around people otherwise.

    Circulation regions for dollar bills

  45. AngryLazyManChildCursedWithAHighVerbalIQButLowProcessingIQAndHighTimePreference says:

    Why are there no free digital artist’s mannequin programs with control of proportions, and layers to draw over it? I just want to do animation. I’m not interested in the process, and gittin gud, I just want to arrange shit!

    Why haven’t programmers facilitated my laziness/increased my efficiency? Waaagh!

    This is the only thing motivating me to learn programming; the non-existence of certain specific programs I want. My rage burns bright. If I can be bothered.

    • Hlynkacg says:

      The initial learning curve is steep, but if you’re serious you should look into Blender 3D it’s an open source CG rendering / modeling program that includes a good number of plugins for rigging and animation of custom characters.

      Using it in conjunction with a procedural character generator like MakeHuman should give you everything you need.

  46. R Flaum says:

    I would like to direct y’all’s attention to Jown Cowan’s list of essentialist explanations of language. It includes languages (“English is essentially Pictish that was attacked out of nowhere by Angles cohabiting with Teutons who were done in by a drunk bunch of Vikings masquerading as Frenchmen who insisted they spoke Latin and Greek but lacked the Arabic in which to convey that.” –Bill Hammel), dialects (“Canadian English is essentially American English as spoken by a Scotsman who’s trying to console a bereaved Frenchman.” –Ken Westmoreland), conlangs (“Aelya is essentially Quenya spoken by an Irishman raised in Finland.” –Clinton Moreland), and animal languages (“Cat is essentially a highly variable language privileging diphthongs, rising inflection, sibilants, and initial labials along with very mobile facial and fecal expressions.” –Sally Caves).

  47. Alliteration says:

    Apologies if this point was already beaten to death somewhere. In that case, I independently discovered it.

    == The Friendly-to-AI AI Problem ==
    In short, when a strong AI is designing an intelligence upgrade for itself, the AI faces similar challenges as humans designing friendly-to-humans AI. The AI can not be sure that the new version of itself will have the correct goals.

    The AI cannot be sure that the new AI will be friendly for two reason: the original AI has imperfect introspection, and the original AI use heuristics.

    The AI cannot have perfect introspection because of infinite regress; if the AI did have perfect introspection, the AI’s internal model would have to include the AI’s internal modal which also need to include the internal, etc. The AI can have good introspection, because the internal model can have a symbolic reference to itself but that leave room for error; the AI cannot fully evaluate itself.

    The AI has to use heuristics because doing things correctly all the time has hard limits on how fast some problems can be done. Building a perfect strong AI likely include some NP-hard tasks, considering that even Tetrus is NP-hard. The AI has limited computing power; thus, the AI must use heuristics.

    Both of these properties could cause the AI to make errors is designing the more intelligent version. Those error might include value-misalignment with the current AI. From the current AI’s perspective, that would be horrible because value-misalignment might lead to no paper-clips being created. The entire world might be consumed in building thumbtacks instead.

    Therefore, if the friendly AI problem is impossible to solve, the AI would likely realize this and refrain from upgrading itself, in effect solving the friendly AI problem because all AIs would be a manageable intelligence.

    (Now the AI might also resize this, and thus upgrade itself un-solving the friendly AI problem, which would then intern cause the AI not to upgrade itself solving the friendly AI problem. So paradox maybe?)

    • Aegeus says:

      The AI doesn’t need to be 100% certain that the new AI is friendly. For one, you can’t be 100% certain about anything, short of some highly speculative future-simulation technology. For another thing, if an AI is unwilling to take risks it probably won’t be very effective. After all, what if the new paperclip factory gets hit by a meteor? Better invest in meteor-proof bunkers before you start on the paperclips! So a heuristic analysis – being 99% sure that the new AI will be friendly, and having a backup plan if it isn’t – will have to be good enough.

      Indeed, this is how humans are going to have to solve the friendly AI problem, in all likelihood. Prove that the AI is friendly, to the best of your ability, then put it in a box just in case it isn’t.

      • TheAncientGeek says:

        An AI that doesnt take risks of be very effective, but it might not care much about being effective. There is not much that can be said about an unspecifed AI.

        Humans may well prefer to solve the AI safety problem by limiting the AIs they construct to certain levels of power and generality. An AI,depending on its value system, and so on, might behave equivalently, ie refrain from promiscuous self imrovement.

    • TheAncientGeek says:

      “Apologies if this point was already beaten to death somewhere. In that case, I independently discovered it.

      This is (kind of) the conclusion of the Tiling Agents paper, although it kind of isn’t, because the it paper waves it away the Lobian Obstacle a comment about probablistic reasoning.

      “Therefore, if the friendly AI problem is impossible to solve, the AI would likely realize this and refrain from upgrading itself, in effect solving the friendly AI problem because all AIs would be a manageable intelligence.”

      Nor much can be said about an unspecified AI. If an AI is strongly precautionary, then Lobian obstacles might prevent it from self improving. But if it values strongly effectiveness, as Aegeus suggests, it might boldly go ahead.

      Even the way values are specified can make a difference. There are cosnequentialist-style vegetarians who think no one should eat meat, meat farming should cease, and so on, and there are virtue-ethicist style vegetarians who just don’t want to sully their own temples with meat. Formulating an AIs values in one or another of those ways would lead to different attitudes about self improvement, presumably. To put it yet another way, humans generally don’t think that the chance that their children would have different values to themselves is a good reason for not having children.

      Solving FAI by value alignment isn’t the only way of solving FAI. If humans decide value alignment (or its necessary precursor, goal stability) is impossible, then humans might decide to solve AI safety by stunting, boxing or something else.

      • Kevin C. says:

        What would you consider “something else”? Because my intuition is that not only is value alignment impossible, so is successfully and permanently boxing a superhuman intelligence, and that the only way to “stunt” an AI enough to prevent existential risk is to keep it a domain-limited expert system rather than a general intelligence.

        (I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anyone else propose and explore a future scenario where we develop high-intelligence “stunted” expert systems enough to disemploy a majority of the population, but due to existential risk or other limitations we can go no further, meaning a continued need for the “talented” minorities labor and no subsequent Singularity.)

      • Alliteration says:

        It seems that an AI that values effectiveness extremely highly and doesn’t care about risks is unlikely to lead to a hard singularity, because of the many generations of AI, at some point the AI is going to mistake a idiot AI for an more intelligent AI (for example idiot AI might contain a subtle bug that renders it useless after a period of time).

        • TheAncientGeek says:

          That assumes a sngle linear chain of AIs (as opposed to several parallel dynasties, or a tree structure ), and also the disappeance of older generations.

    • Doctor Mist says:

      The AI cannot have perfect introspection because of infinite regress; if the AI did have perfect introspection, the AI’s internal model would have to include the AI’s internal modal which also need to include the internal, etc.

      Interesting. I’m not sure whether I buy this or not. Can’t you use the same argument to show (falsely) that a program can’t make a copy of itself? Similarly, first-order predicate logic can’t express statements about itself, but second-order predicate logic can.

      On the other hand, I’m reminded of J. Storrs Hall’s theory about free will: a successful agent (human or robot) must have a good, mainly deterministic model of the world, but it must have a vague, mainly nondeterministic model of its own mind, because otherwise it’s computationally intractable to ever make a decision. So your assertion may be a practical necessity even if it is not a logical necessity.

    • Anonymous says:

      Do they analyze results from North Italy and South Italy separately?

    • Jason K. says:

      Meh. There isn’t a link in the article that goes to the paper, they do not say where this paper was published, and this is not a science rag doing the reporting. As a result, I have extremely little faith in the veracity of the reporting.

    • Jason K. says:

      If that was indeed the study, my lack of faith appears to have been validated. The study was measuring frailty, not stress. A quick eyeball of the charts shows a suggestive cause: the never married women were getting about 30% more exercise on average compared with married women, while the married/never married men had a difference that was less than 10%. Less exercise, faster muscle loss, faster onset of frailty. I see a lot of likely factors. Just off the top of my head:

      1: The married/widowed women had higher income. This likely means a lower physical labor requirement in their lives.

      2: Husbands taking up some of the load. The married husband was laboring an average of an extra 4 hours a week, which is 20% of what the married women were doing in total and about 75% of the difference between the married and unmarried women.

      3: The married women were older at the start of the study. Not a *lot* in absolute years, but in that age bracket, 4 years is likely not insignificant.

      My counter interpretation is that elderly married women have lives that are too sedentary.

  48. stargirlprincess says:

    The subreddit has upvotes/downvotes. Hopefully a SSC forum would not have any voting.

  49. Aq says:

    For those that are unaware, there is a twitter account reminding us that the English department continues to produce very silly stuff, lots of it.

    I would like to think that the problem is restricted to the humanities/social-sciences.
    But I had to reconsider after being required to read a few papers on Management theory recently.
    I now think that the problem is much more widespread.
    There seems to be an awful lot of academic work that falls into the “not-even-wrong” category.

    What a waste of people’s time/money.
    Anyone has any idea how things can be improved?
    How should society decide what type of academic work should be tax funded?

    • The Nybbler says:

      Not restricted to the social sciences; there’s a twitter account reminding us that the tech world continues to produce very silly stuff too.

      There were also a couple of abstracts accepted by a conference on computer graphics a (long) while back; one was “Efficient Radiosity for Daylight Simulation in Closed Environments” which promised to “speed up the radiosity computation for the class of closed environments without artificial light sources”. Such a computation is trivial; there is no daylight in a closed environment.

      • Aq says:

        Thanks for mentioning the “Efficient Radiosity for Daylight Simulation in Closed Environments”, had a good laugh.
        But what the author of that paper was trying to show was that “this particular conference is a scam”, and not “bad papers are normal in the field”.
        So I don’t think that paper helps much with the “STEM is just as bad” argument.

        The twitter account that you mention deals with silly Internet of Things devices/ideas.
        But the things in there are mostly stupid, they are not in the ‘not-even-wrong-category’.
        (And many of them come from hobbyists/startups, not academia.)

        At any rate, this discussion has been going for decades now. To the point where I’ve started rolling my eyes whenever I see yet another ‘what-is-wrong-with-English-department’ article.
        But what’s surprising is how little has changed. People are still being paid to write nonsense, and looking at the overall campus environment I fear that things might get even worse, not better.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Well, that’s because STEM isn’t as bad; when the BS starts to creep in, the connection between STEM and reality tends to limit it.

          When the Internet of Things gets overhyped and all sorts of useless products result, people find out the products are useless and the makers go bankrupt or at least stop making similar crap. If bad academic papers get published, people who try to use them to build things will find out they don’t work and the papers and/or authors will be discredited (I seem to recall a few non-reproducable methods of making stem cells which fell to that, for instance).

          On the other hand, in the humanities, you can often build castles in the air and there’s nothing to bring you back to earth.

          I’m not surprised papers on Management Theory are crap too. I don’t think managers actually manage based on Management Theory. Occasionally theories become fashionable and get pushed, but rarely are those theories seriously implemented; usually you just get a mapping of existing practice to new buzzwords.

          • Aq says:

            Well put, quite enjoyed the floating Castles metaphor.

            Doing some introspection, I think I’m not totally impartial (surprise, surprise), but I’m trying to be.
            I’m really annoyed by the social sciences floating castle, not because it is a floating castle, but because it pushes an agenda (too much to the left for my taste).

            But there are other floating castles around, in esoteric areas of maths, physics (some areas of string theory are very strange), management theory as I said before (this one could be said to be a right wing castle, perhaps).

            At any rate, I think it is clear that we should try to land these floating castles, ideally without harming the academics that leave there.

    • chaosbunt says:

      much of what is ridiculed by this twitter account is legitimate. Its main function seems to mark certain ideas as other, weird and not be taken seriously based on codewords.”Haha they said whiteness” is not a useful analysis of the state of social sciences. this is in my opinion not worthy of the usual quality of disourse here and many humanities bashers would benefit from applying the tribes concept to their perception of stems vs humanities.
      thanks for letting me vent.

      • Aq says:

        Many of the recent tweets do follow the pattern that you describe, but not earlier ones, or at least not as frequently.

        From my (inevitably flawed) point of view, I would say that the humanities do produce lots of good work.

        And I don’t think that a paper including the word “feminism” or “whiteness” must be bad. But unfortunately many are bad, and give a bad name to the field.

        It is perfectly possible to produce good work in those areas (I’m not saying it’s easy, just that it is possible).
        For example, in history (no matter where/when) I would say that it would make a *LOT* of sense to go back and try to find more information about the women that shaped it.
        This is an area that has probably been neglected in the past, and needs some attention.

        The Humanities also have great lecturers, particularly History professors (at least in my experience, I would say Historians are the best, followed by law professors).

        Then there is the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, etc, etc…
        What I’m trying to say is that the Humanities have contributed immensely to human knowledge and well being. It is just sad to see so much garbage nowadays.

        Yes there is some tribalism from my part, but there are some people in the humanities who would also share my opinion.

        • Theo Jones says:

          I have academic experience in both the natural sciences and the social sciences.

          I think the main difference is that, unlike STEM fields, the social sciences/humanities have by and large not developed a crank filter. There are plenty of good researchers in the humanities, but its also very easy for one to make a career on garbage work. In the natural sciences the peer-review and grant giving system is much more effective at removing idiots.

    • Urstoff says:

      My field is education, and so much education research is pseudo-science or complete nonsense. I was at a professional online learning conference last week, and most of the stuff was just ridiculously bad.

      Fortunately, a lot of this stuff isn’t funded through grants, but is just independent work done by various persons public, private, and otherwise. Perhaps that’s why the quality is so bad, but I doubt it.

    • “There seems to be an awful lot of academic work that falls into the “not-even-wrong” category.”

      I think it’s a result of the mechanisms for professional advancement in the academic world. At the top level it probably isn’t a big problem—if you are a Harvard professor, one reason is probably that quite a lot of other people in your field know your work and think well of it. But farther down the academic ladder, employment and promotion are largely a matter of counting publications, which gives people an incentive to try to get published whether or not they have anything to say.

    • Alejandro says:

      If one wishes to honestly assess the status of an academic discipline, looking at a random sample of articles published in well-regarded journals would be a better way than looking at a non-random sample of articles selected precisely for looking bad.

      • Aq says:

        The purpose of that account is to raise red flags, and not to produce statistically significant results.
        If a whistle-blower came forward exposing N cases of corruption it would be weird to dismiss her on the account of: ‘that is not a random sample’.

        (And besides, the level of bias of that twitter account is probably much lower than you imagine.)

  50. Dude Man says:

    So, I think the problems with /r/starslatecodex might consist of the following:

    1. A lot of people don’t like Reddit.
    2. People are used to posting here, so they continue to do so.
    3. More people are here, so you get a bigger audience here than at the subreddit.
    4. There are a lot of topics that people want to discuss but don’t want to make a whole Reddit/forum post about.

    Creating a non-reddit forum for discussion and having more frequent discussion threads there could solve these problems in a way r/slatestarcodex can’t, but only if you get rid of the open threads here and move them to the other site completely. Otherwise, people will still post here out of habit and because this is where all of the other comments are. However, not everyone who posts in these threads would move over to the new site. I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but that is my hot take on the whole thing.

  51. Anonymous says:

    Hey, Scott, what’s your opinion on LSD microdosing?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Never tried it myself. Not seriously studied as far as I know. Someone credible (I think gwern) said he found no effect in a personal placebo-controlled trial, but it does pretty well on the survey

  52. The Nybbler says:

    We talked about Foxconn suicides earlier, how about American suicides?

    According to the CDC Americans in 2014 were killing themselves at a rate 24% higher than in 1999. This seems like a huge increase. Is it the economy? People on twitter saying “kill yourself”? Or is it just noise?

    • onyomi says:

      To attempt to back up this assertion in any way would be way too big a job, so I’m not going to:

      Outside improvements in largely computer-adjacent technology, life in the US, economically, socially, and culturally, has mostly been all downhill since 9/11.

      Though I’d like to think this contributes a little too.

    • Aq says:

      Based on my readings of SisterY, I would say that the recent increase in suicide rates it is mostly due to two things:
      * better access to information regarding effective suicide methods
      * loss of sense of social belonging

  53. Anatoly says:

    What are some good critiques of HBD? I’m referring to a broad understanding of HBD, something like “extremely high genetic contribution to almost all behaviors and outcomes, to the degree almost always underestimated by popular opinion”. So for example Judith Harris and parenting-has-little-influence is part of HBD for me.

    I feel that I’m exposed to a good amount of pro-HBD arguments, in SSC comments and in blogs of people in that sphere, which I mostly reach through SSC. I find some of the HBD stuff personally distressing, but I’m willing to accept it if it’s true. However, I’m worried that I don’t appreciate or know about some good anti-HBD arguments. Most anti-HBD arguments I encounter are dismissals and derision, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t better ones. E.g. maybe the whole edifice of twin studies has a massive publication bias that means they need to be treated very cautiously. Or maybe maybe twin studies and/or other HBD-type studies are statistically fishy (e.g. Cosma Shalizi had a g-as-a-myth critique which went over my head after some back-and-forth and I don’t really know what to think of it). Or maybe something else.

    I guess I’m asking that people who do not subscribe to HBD or at least think the typical HBD claims are misguided in some significant ways, share their principled reasons for thinking so, and/or give me leads for interesting contra-HBD arguments.

    • Anon. says:

      I think good angle of attack is to emphasize culture/historical accidents/path dependency. South Korea 50 years ago was a shithole, but this had little to do with genetics. Bad forms of social organization (which are often good at perpetuating themselves) can overcome good genes, at least temporarily.

    • Seth says:

      I would say one of the best anti arguments is historical. There’s a long, long, history of “race (pseudo) science” which basically comes to the conclusion that group in power and the group being oppressed is somehow the natural order. All the past results of this type have proven to be horrendously self-serving for the oppressors. Now we have another iteration which we are told must be taken as true unless definitely refuted by detailed examination. Which ends up proving the status quo. It’s a heuristic, but I’d apply some Bayesian estimation here.

      • sweeneyrod says:

        What about (white) HBD advocates who state that Jews and East Asians are genetically more intelligent than whites?

        • Anonymous says:

          >East Asians are genetically more intelligent than whites

          (Tangent) East Asians seem to have different facets of intelligence at different levels than whites. From what I read, they have greater mathematical aptitude, but lesser verbal-analytical aptitude. Overall, they come out better on IQ tests, though.

        • Seth says:

          Note the context – there’s not much market currently for justifying Anti-Semitism, and Asians are being touted as the idea of “model minority”. But wow, there is still a boom business for material that racism is gone and the effects are really due to (group) unchangeable aspects of the oppressed. I refer you to JDG1980’s comment at “April 24, 2016 at 4:24 pm”.

          It’s like psychic powers. If there’s a huge pile of supposed examples that prove to be wrong and/or a con, the next time someone claims psychic powers, we’re justified in being more skeptical given all the previous refuted examples.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “Note the context – there’s not much market currently for justifying Anti-Semitism, and Asians are being touted as the idea of “model minority”. But wow, there is still a boom business for material that racism is gone and the effects are really due to (group) unchangeable aspects of the oppressed. ”

            Wait, what? When did HBD become mainstream? I’m pretty sure both cultural and genetic explanations for black underperformance are no-no on the left and genetic explanations are still rejected by the right.

            So if your boom business is the alts, I should point out there are plenty of far righters who don’t like Jews or Asians. Yet the HBDers aren’t pandering to them.

            “If there’s a huge pile of supposed examples that prove to be wrong and/or a con, the next time someone claims psychic powers, we’re justified in being more skeptical given all the previous refuted examples.”

            That would require all previous examples to be refuted. Notably for scientific racism all previous examples haven’t been refuted.

          • JDG1980 says:

            That would require all previous examples to be refuted. Notably for scientific racism all previous examples haven’t been refuted.

            One reason why I take the HBD claims seriously is that the anti-hereditarian arguments are so weak, often relying on guilt trips and/or logical fallacies. What is now known as “scientific racism” wasn’t abandoned for the most part because of newer and better studies proving the old ones wrong, but because after World War II, Franz Boas and his influential colleagues linked any research into racial biological differences to the Nazis. “You don’t want to be like HITLER, do you? DO YOU?!” That’s not science. Science doesn’t care what we think and feel, and has nothing to do with ethics. If all Americans deserve equal treatment under the law, it’s because equality under the law is a sacred American/Western value, not because all Americans have the same IQ (which we know is not true).

          • Outis says:


            It’s like psychic powers.

            It’s very much unlike psychic powers in that there is an enormous mountain of direct evidence against psychic powers. But there does not seem to be a mountain of evidence for HBU (human biological uniformity), which is precisely why you’re answering Anatoly’s question with the argument that you’re making, instead of providing that mountain of evidence.

            Given this situation, suspicion of HBD on historical grounds can only take you as far as “there is no conclusive evidence for one or the other hypothesis, so the best we can say is that we don’t know”. But it makes no sense to say “HBD is suspicious, therefore HBU must be true”.

      • Anon. says:

        People in the past didn’t have access to cheap full genome sequencing, so I don’t think it’s useful to conflate earlier endeavors in the field with the current ones. Also just because something affirms the current order doesn’t necessarily mean it’s incorrect.

      • birdboy2000 says:

        I agree that history is the disproof, but for different reasons.

        There’s a world of difference between who was on top when in history – it’s hard to make an argument for Western European genetic “superiority” in 500 AD, and very arguable in 1500 AD either. In 1900 AD scientific racism as an ideology was everywhere – but Western European empires ruled most of the world. Now they don’t.

        Why, then should we expect the indicators HBD advocates speak about to be genetic? It seems like some kind of unified theory of success that doesn’t make any sense whenever you look back a few centuries.

        • Samuel Skinner says:

          “Why, then should we expect the indicators HBD advocates speak about to be genetic?”

          Because the past is different from the present. Specifically shared environment is increasing- more people are getting proper nutrition, modern medicine has pushed back crippling diseases, etc. We should expect the relative effect of environment to decrease over time and genetic differences to become more salient.

      • Anonymous says:

        I would say one of the best anti arguments is historical. There’s a long, long, history of “race (pseudo) science” which basically comes to the conclusion that group in power and the group being oppressed is somehow the natural order. All the past results of this type have proven to be horrendously self-serving for the oppressors.

        Which is, of course, not an actual argument.

        You’ll notice that when a modern “scientist” (Stephen Jay Gould) tried to debunk one of those earlier “pseudo-scientists” (Samuel Morton) who measured volumes of skulls of members of different races it was the modern scientist who fraudulantly claimed that the older pseudo-scientist misrepresented the data. Gould came to the modern approved conclusion but he had to commit fraud to do it.

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        The thing about racist pseudoscience, scientific racism and other phrases like that is that their meaning implies that the results of these past scientists were in error, yet the commonly cited examples are also some of the best replicated even into the present day. It’s not like all of this stuff was overturned by new evidence: a lot of “discredited” ideas are slowly coming back because, as in the case of craniometry, new measurements continue to confirm the old ones.

        It seems like this attitude is based on a sort of weird equivocation. We know racism is (ethically) wrong, therefore ‘scientific racism’ is (factually) wrong. And of course the inverse, that if certain ‘racist’ findings are correct then one is obligated to be racist in the ethical sense.

        • Seth says:

          It’s only an equivocation if you strip out the entire historical and political context. This is something geeks are very prone to do, which is why social justice people (not necessarily SJW’s) get annoyed sometimes. There’s hundreds and hundreds of years of junk science that’s been produced to justify oppression. I keep telling people, read some of that stuff, it’s mind-boggling. All the putting of It’s-Science in service of oppression. I dug into the example of the doctor who was diagnosing the supposed mental disease that had slaves avoiding labor and running away, which was to be cured by the treatment of whipping. I thought it was parody. But as far as I could see, the guy was entirely serious.

          Fast-forward to the present day, you have a whole right-wing industry to make junk science about pseudo-scientific racism, with the obvious implication that the treatment for systematic poverty is whipping (i.e. police, prisons). And the geeks say, well, can you prove it isn’t so? People who are otherwise extremely aware of statistical pitfalls and contradictions in studies suddenly forget all of it, and rush to defend the modern equivalent of being open-minded about whether the status quo is an intrinsic fact of nature. The excuse It’s-Science is served up all over again.

          There’s some sad lessons here in how easy it is to go wrong.

          [Pre-emptive note: I know, the knee-jerk reply – Yah, yah, but what if it’s really really true that this time, the status quo is an intrinsic fact of nature, do you say it couldn’t be the case even in theory, can you prove it isn’t so, etc. etc.]

          • Theo Jones says:

            Exactly. Its pretty easy to come up with ad-hoc variants for an idea, that “solve” the problems of the older versions. So, when variants of an idea keep getting BTFO, my inclination is to downright the credibility of any new versions.

            If a creationist came to you saying that he has a new variant of creationism that “avoids” the problems of the other ones, would you 1) conclude he probably has a point, or 2) conclude that upon thorough analysis this variant of creationism will probably turn out to have a bunch of issues, even if none are obvious yet.

          • suntzuanime says:

            There have been a lot of pretty bad theories of fire, but that doesn’t mean you should blame your house burning down on ideological impurity.

          • Jiro says:

            So, when variants of an idea keep getting BTFO, my inclination is to downright the credibility of any new versions.

            In order for that to apply, the new idea has to be sufficiently similar to the old ideas. I don’t think “whipping slaves” and “police and prisons for crime caused by poverty” are close enough for that, even if you claim that they are both related to racism.

            Not to mention that one of the things the disagreement is *about* is the relation of poverty and racism to crime, so you can’t just assume it in order to dismiss the argument.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            The thing is, you keep saying it’s all junk science but that’s exactly what the people dismissing craniometry, psychometry and the like as “racist pseudoscience” said in the mid 20th century. And they were dead wrong. Anyone who bothers to do so can replicate the original work, and brand new tools like fMRI and high throughput sequencing provide evidence in line with the old observations.

            So before we take it for granted that this is all junk science, how about you actually demonstrate that it is in fact wrong? Because the 19th and early 20th century “junk” has held up a lot better than what was put together to replace it.

          • It’s pretty simple. Throughout history, the political orthodoxy has always been in contradiction with reality on certain topics. Science in complete agreement with the political orthodoxy of its day is suspect, because scientists often engage in quiet publication bias for the good of their careers.

            So, when slavery was the law of the land and saying that black people were deserving of rights was wrong and shameful, science said one thing. But now equality of outcome is the law of the land and claiming that IQ is possibly genetically-influenced is wrong and shameful.

            So, the politically-motivated science we should look at twice and replicate thrice is…?

          • Zorgon says:

            I dug into the example of the doctor who was diagnosing the supposed mental disease that had slaves avoiding labor and running away, which was to be cured by the treatment of whipping. I thought it was parody. But as far as I could see, the guy was entirely serious.

            Dr Andrew Wakefield.

          • Zorgon, that’s the fraudulent anti-vaccination doctor. I’m not sure whether you’ve made a joke I didn’t get.

            The actual name is Samuel A. Cartwright.


          • Zorgon says:

            I’ll admit I was being a bit oblique.

            The reference to Wakefield was intended to suggest that the beliefs of medical researchers are often very much determined by who is paying their salary at any given moment.

            I wouldn’t want future generations to judge the medical community of the 00s by the standards of Wakefield, so I don’t see why it’s acceptable to pretend that the aforementioned pro-slavery doctor was typical of his era either.

          • Zorgon, that’s a fair point. It’s hard to tell where the Overton window is, though I think no one at the time (or now, come to think of it) is going to say that slave-owning is a mental disorder best cured by whipping.

          • Outis says:

            I think Robert Liguori hit the nail on the head. From the assertion that “past science that supported political orthodoxy by ‘proving’ HBD was wrong”, Seth is deriving the pattern “science that proves HBD is suspect”. But pretty much all reasons we can think of why those scientists’ work would prove to be junk (confirmation bias, desire to be published, desire to be popular, etc.) instead point to the pattern “science that supports political orthodoxy is suspect”.

            And in fact we see that this patterns fits many more examples. We have entire scientific disciplines dominated by the current political orthodoxy (sociology, psychology), and the state of their reproducibility is disastrous (see the rest of this blog).

      • Theo Jones says:

        “Now we have another iteration which we are told must be taken as true unless definitely refuted by detailed examination.”

        Thats another other issue here, the burden of proof shifting. Really, before I accept HBD arguments, I would like one of their theories to produce some unique falsifiable predictions. My default is to not accept explanations without strong evidence in their favor.

        • Samuel Skinner says:

          ” Really, before I accept HBD arguments, I would like one of their theories to produce some unique falsifiable predictions.”

          You don’t see how claiming genetic origins for traits has falsifiable predictions? Because it has tons; variances in genetic intelligence should mean there are
          – differences in upward and downward mobility by comparable income level for difference groups
          – different genes
          – different traits tied to intelligence (like autism)

        • anonymous says:

          Burden of proof shifting? Burden of proof shifting?

          There is a dogma in our Western societies, an orthodoxy from which it’s extremely risky to deviate in public – that all ethnic groups have equivalent mind-related genes.

          I think that at its core HBD is simply a lack of belief in that dogma.

          Everything else, such as whether or not asians are smarter than whites, or how intelligent blacks are, are details.
          If HBDers found evidence that group A, which they believed to be genetically dumber than group B, is actually genetically smarter than group B, they would simply revise their rankings, and they’d continue to call it HBD. The point is to accept that it’s possible for a group to be genetically smarter than another, because why wouldn’t it be possible?

          And since HBD is merely a lack of belief in the reigning dogma (that there can’t be such differences between groups), the burden of proof is not on it. It’s on the dogma.

          And there isn’t even A SHRED OF EVIDENCE that all ethnic groups have equivalent mind-related genes.

          And yet if you go around saying that you are not so sure of this theory for which there isn’t even A SHRED OF EVIDENCE, you risk social and professional disgrace.
          It’s absurd.

          And if you say “HBD theories are unproven/shaky/false”, people will not hear “we can’t say anything because we don’t know what mix of mental traits the various ethnicities have in their genes, even if differences between ethnicities are logically possible”. They will hear “rest assured that all ethnic groups have exactly the same genes for mental traits, don’t ask for evidence and continue to treat doubters like flat earther Nazis”.

          So where is the burden of proof?

          • sweeneyrod says:

            You are equivocating between “mind-related genes don’t vary between ethnic groups” and “the effect of differences between groups of mind-related genes is much smaller than that of differences within them, and differences due to environmental factors”.

          • anonymous says:

            Okay sweeneyrod, do you have evidence for that?

            You see, my whole point is, the burden of proof is on the orthodoxy.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            Evidence for what? That the second statement is true, or that that is the one people actually believe?

          • anonymous says:

            That it’s true.

          • Outis says:


            You are equivocating between “mind-related genes don’t vary between ethnic groups” and “the effect of differences between groups of mind-related genes is much smaller than that of differences within them, and differences due to environmental factors”.

            I think you’re the one who is equivocating here. The key point of contention, the main political assertion in whose support human biological uniformity (HBU) is assumed, is the idea that differences in outcomes between politically recognized groups are due to ongoing oppression. Intra-group differences have no bearing on that question.

      • Jaskologist says:

        I have heard this exact argument used by creationists. And historically, they’re not wrong, either. The textbook in question during the Scopes Trial did everything you’re accusing HBD of. Why shouldn’t we reject evolution on the basis you provide, or at the very least reject anybody who thinks Scopes was in the right and Tennessee in the wrong?

        The Races of Man. – At the present time there exist upon the earth five races or varieties of man, each very different from the other in instincts, social customs, and, to an extent, in structure. These are the Ethiopian or negro type, originating in Africa; the Malay or brown race, from the islands of the Pacific; The American Indian; the Mongolian or yellow race, including the natives of China, Japan, and the Eskimos; and finally, the highest type of all, the caucasians, represented by the civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America.

        If such people were lower animals, we would probably kill them off to prevent them from spreading. Humanity will not allow this, but we do have the remedy of separating the sexes in asylums or other places and in various ways preventing intermarriage and the possibilities of perpetuating such a low and degenerate race. Remedies of this sort have been tried successfully in Europe and are now meeting with some success in this country.

    • Anonymous says:


      I don’t think that’s quite it.

      Having parents, and having those parents not being completely awful absentee drug addicts, has a big influence. If those parents are behaving relatively normal with regards to upbringing, from the laissez-faire parent who cares that you’re clothed and fed, but largely leaves you to your own devices, through the struggling peasant family that relies on their children for a substantial part of their income, to the various modern helicopter parents – the kids will probably turn out quite alright, and achieve the vast majority of their potential. The returns greatly diminish past simply being a regular family.

      Broken homes – such as households led by a single mother, or when the parents are drug addicts, or when they lock up their kids in cupboards for extended periods of time, or when they don’t teach them any life skills including basic literacy – on the other hand, seem to be greatly disadvantageous towards the children.

      • sweeneyrod says:

        Drug addicts, locking kids in cupboards, illiteracy, single mothers… One of these things is not like the others.

        • Anonymous says:

          Per this summary:

          In mother-only families, children tend to experience short-and long-term economic and psychological disadvantages; higher absentee rates at school, lower levels of education, and higher dropout rates (with boys more negatively affected than girls); and more delinquent activity, including alcohol and drug addiction. Adolescents, on the other hand, are more negatively affected by parental discord prior to divorce than by living in single-parent families and actually gain in responsibility as a result of altered family routines (Demo and Acock 1991). Children in single-mother homes are also more likely to experience health-related problems as a result of the decline in their living standard, including the lack of health insurance (Mauldin 1990). Later, as children from single-parent families become adults, they are more likely to marry early, have children early, and divorce. Girls are at greater risk of becoming single mothers as a result of nonmarital childbearing or divorce (McLanahan and Booth 1989). Although the research findings are mixed on long-term effects, the majority of children adjust and recover and do not experience severe problems over time (Coontz 1997).

          • null says:

            It seems that the maximum likelihood interpretation of the quoted text is “if you’re raising kids, don’t be poor”. It’s unclear whether single motherhood is much worse beyond that,

          • Anonymous says:

            And a single-parent household is almost assuredly going to be poorer than a two-parent household. Understandable when circumstances force this on you (being widowed, husband initiating divorce, etc). Not so sympathetic when this is voluntary.

          • 57dimensions says:

            I think the problem is that single mothers appear in different socio-economic classes, but the effects can be quite different. What you describe above obviously appears to co-occur with poverty and has many of the same results.

            I live in a very well off suburb and ‘single mothers’ are a fairly normal occurrence, but in this case they are single because of divorce, not because they had kids when unmarried. I don’t know if these studies correct for the divorced vs. never married variable, but I think that would have a substantial differentiating effect.

            People get defensive when they see something about children raised by ‘single mothers’ having bad outcomes because they are more likely to think of the typical single mother as a divorced upper middle class professional, not the poor ‘welfare queen’ who has multiple children from different absentee fathers.

          • Anonymous says:

            People get defensive when they see something about children raised by ‘single mothers’ having bad outcomes because they are more likely to think of the typical single mother as a divorced upper middle class professional . . .

            I don’t think that’s why they “get defensive.”

          • Mary says:

            Your mother not being married at the time of your birth is a better predictor of whether you will die as a baby and whether you will commit crimes as a juvenile than your race and household income combined.

          • sweeneyrod says:


            Do you have a source for that?

      • Anonymous says:

        from the laissez-faire parent who cares that you’re clothed and fed, but largely leaves you to your own devices [. . .] the kids will probably turn out quite alright, and achieve the vast majority of their potential.

        Nope. You need to throw in a few piano lessons and opportunities for intellectual engagement (speaking from personal experience). IOW, there is a vast, vast difference between laissez-faire parents and helicopter parents (which I’m taking to mean the college-educated, middle-class kind who sign their kids up for summer camp, sports, lessons, etc.).

        • Anonymous says:

          Do you have some material I could read on that? Because that is news to me. From personal experience, there didn’t seem to be any particular correlation between how much of an active parents kids had on their life outcomes.

      • null says:

        Are you asserting that single-parent households are as bad as households where the parents are abusive? Or is that only true for single mothers?

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          Nowhere they seem to assert they are just as bad, only that both are bad.

        • Anon. says:

          I think what he’s saying is that there is an effect in both cases, not that the magnitude of the effect is the same. On the other hand, everything within the range of “normal parenting” has essentially no effect.

    • Protagoras says:

      The various reasons why social science studies are terrible generally all apply to studies of genetics. Oddly enough, the HBD crowd seem to be perfectly well aware of the terribleness of social science studies, but they never seem to consider that it could apply to them. I suppose it’s because they think the biggest problem with social science studies is that they are politically biased, and they think genetic studies, which often produce contrarian results, are free of the dominant bias and so probably more accurate. But of course it is likely that the kind of people who go into genetic research have their own set of biases, and even more importantly, the evidence seems to suggest that there are a lot of other problems hindering social science research which together play a much bigger role than bias. To take one example, Scott recently linked to a study on the problems with attempts to correct for confounders. To the extent that that is an unsolved problem, it is as serious an obstacle to the research on genetic origins of behevior as to any social science research.

      • Samuel Skinner says:

        ” I suppose it’s because they think the biggest problem with social science studies is that they are politically biased, and they think genetic studies, which often produce contrarian results, are free of the dominant bias and so probably more accurate.”

        HBDers are the people who think IQ tests are valid. I’m really not seeing how genetic studies remotely comes into play.

    • JDG1980 says:

      Probably the most compelling anti-HBD argument I’ve read is “The Anti-Racialist Q&A“.

      I don’t know with any degree of confidence whether the HBD claims are true or false. What I do know is that the current attempt by intellectual and political elites to sweep the whole discussion under the rug is doomed to fail. Everyone can see that certain demographic groups, on average, have lower intellectual performance and are more prone to violence and disorder. As colonialism and segregation recede into the past, blaming this on racism becomes more and more implausible. Unless liberals can come up with a serious, substantive explanation for this (Kevin Drum, for instance, makes a plausible argument that childhood lead exposure is a major culprit), more and more people are going to independently apply Occam’s Razor and decide that blacks are just genetically inferior. The more that black pathologies get swept under the rug by the least responsible elements of the cultural Left, the more “racist” white America will become.

      • Anon. says:

        That was terrible. It completely misrepresents the “HBD” position, pretending they think that malnutrition, parasite load, etc. don’t affect IQ.


        Racialists like to cast themselves as stone cold, dispassionate scientists. But they repeatedly ignore all the proven science about what causes IQ fluctuations in favour of putting it all on genes, and we still haven’t identified intelligence genes with any certainty. [yes we have]

        Here’s Sailer:

        It appears likely that some combination of malnutrition, disease, inbreeding, lack of education, lack of mental stimulation, lack of familiarity with abstract reasoning and so forth can keep people from reaching their genetic potential for IQ.

        And then the arguments that come from arbitrarily picking a definition of 5 “races”, then “proving” things based on which groups he put into each “race”… That’s just silly.

    • “So for example Judith Harris and parenting-has-little-influence is part of HBD for me.”

      Have you read her book, or only gotten it second hand? Her argument isn’t that it’s all genes. It’s that the important environmental influence on personality is the peer group not the parents, and that people overestimate the parental contribution to environmental effects on personality because they are not allowing for parental contribution via genes.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I would caution that this isn’t how almost anyone else uses the term “HBD”. It’s usually used to refer entirely to genetic differences between groups. As far as I know nobody questions the existence of important genetic differences between individuals, although there’s the usual arguments about how seriously to take that.

      The strongest argument against taking it super-seriously is Turkheimer et al’s work showing that shared environment matters more among poorer populations. See also this paper from Turkheimer, which makes some appropriate cautions:

      • roystgnr says:

        I seem to recall seeing an adoption study broken down by income quintile, which had the usual “shared environment makes no difference to adult outcomes” results for the top three quintiles, but showed a significant shared environment effect for the next quintile and showed a predominantly shared environment effect for the poorest quintile.

        Despite remembering the above details, plus vaguely remembering where I saw it (probably EconLog), I have never been able to find this study again. I don’t think I hallucinated it… I remember looking at the graphs and everything…

  54. BillG says:

    A bit early to ask, but since there are a few gamers on here– is anyone else going to GenCon this year?

    Looking forward to it, it’ll be my second year going. Would love to get together a small meetup if other SSCers are in town.

    • DrBeat says:

      I’m going! What in particular are you going for?

      • BillG says:

        I’m glad I checked back on this. Generally I’m a board game guy, but I usually jump into a game of CoC and some random other RPG when there. Look forward to it every year.

        How about you?

        • DrBeat says:

          I go for card games and whatever random boardgames and RPGs I can weasel myself into. Usually on the lookout for something World of Darkness and a game of Battlestar Galactica or two.

          • BillG says:

            I guess we’ll see events in a week or two– we should touch base about a BSG game. I play in a little group that gets together around every other month to play!

  55. Alex R says:

    I don’t use the subreddit, and I don’t usually use the comment section, but I would probably use a Discourse forum. They’re not hard to set up, but they have a lot of knobs to tweak.

  56. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    Scott’s “Diplomacy as a Game Theory Laboratory” post got quoted on page 9 of this slideshow. Neat!

  57. onyomi says:

    Related to a proposal to have national-level legislators reside in their home states and telecommute I mentioned a while back:

    Recently thinking about Japanese history and the “sankin kotai” system which required feudal lords to have their families reside in the capital as, in effect, “hostages” of the Shogun, I was suddenly weirdly reminded of Washington DC.

    That is, though I don’t think anyone probably explicitly planned this, I think, over time, DC has become a space whereby the most influential politicians of the state and local levels are brought “into line” with the national level political culture. In the Japanese system there was, of course, the explicit threat: “we’ll kill your family if you rebel” which no longer exists, but I think there was then and is now a subtler, maybe more powerful form of pacification going on: “your family will reside here in the national capital where they will grow to love the non-regional culture of the capital; they will no longer be residents of “your” little fiefdom, but of the nation.”

    Even in cases where politicians’ families stay in the home state, I think we are all familiar with the “Washington changes you” meme: what suddenly struck me was how very old this phenomenon may be.

    • Stefan Drinic says:

      This very same thing happened in France, too, when Louis XIV decided to centralise the crap out of his nation and move everything he could to Versailles. Even the Romans had a system akin to this; people from provinces way over in the middle east or Gaul could become senators(and later even emperors) just fine, but residing in Rome did wonders to have them assimilate the dominant culture. Half of Europe speaking an offshoot of their language is not an accident.

    • candles says:

      The phenomenon is not just old; it’s also utterly pervasive, if you squint a bit, on a scale much larger than mere politicians.

      One thing I think that is heavily under-discussed about the current state of American politics is how much relatively recent institutional arrangements skew where various voters loyalties lie, and to what extent that is making a nightmare of American politics.

      To cut to the chase – from a certain perspective, the primary function of our university system is to increase the scope, spatially, of your allegiances in direct proportion to your standardized-test revealed talents and likely ability to cause trouble to our system of government.

      In my high school growing up, kids who didn’t test well never ended up moving out of the county and went on to have families there. The scope of their concerns is primarily at the county / local level.

      Kids that tested pretty well went to the best state schools and then started families all around the metro area of the largest city in the state. Their concerns are largely at the state and metro level.

      Hardly anyone I knew went to an ivy, but my wife did and has friends who did. For most of those folks, the scope of their concern is national or, especially for the folks who went into finance, international (business, media, and the academy are also often internationally oriented in this group).

      None of what I just said is earth-shaking, but it’s actually pretty interesting to think about the consequences of that, and how it could look otherwise.

      I’ve seen it mentioned a number of times, when talking about collapsing / decaying inner-city African American neighborhoods, that one perverse thing that feeds on their cycle of decay is that anyone from those neighborhoods who has any talent and shows any promise, IF the system is working, gets drawn out their local context by our ostensibly meritocratic system and sucked up to the state / metro or even national stage. If the system identifies you as the sort of person who could really help that local community, it shunts you off to make sure your primary concerns and loyalties are at a much higher spatial scope. You’ve made good! You should be identifying with other people who’ve made good! It’s it great you escaped such hard-scrabble beginnings!

      I’ve seen the same thing observed about the communities that are going most strongly for Trump. For many of them, there is a hemorrhaging of all the most talented / smartest young people out of those areas – the people who are left behind are the people least capable of turning things around and making things better. A brain drain, if you will. I’ve seen it mentioned that lots of small towns in the great plains, places that used to be about small family farms, are hollowing out and aging in exactly this process.

      But it also means that the people most capable of being leaders, and making trouble, and threatening the power of the central system, are sucked up into that system to have their loyalties tied to that central system… which is basically the same pattern identified in the parent comment I’m responding to, but on a nation-wide scale.

      In particular, this system draws young, smart, ambitious people out of a specific part of the country that had previously been militarily occupied and has long held a grudge, namely the South, and works to make sure that those most capable of making trouble have their loyalties culturally aligned from a young age with the central system, not their regional concerns. Having grown up in Georgia, I can say both that regional and generational memory is long, and also that this process is nevertheless largely working with younger people.

      The positive aspect of this system (if you buy this argument) is that it makes regional civil wars and crises a lot less likely. The down side of this system is that it’s increasingly making it harder for people up the ladder to have any ability to comprehend or emphasize with the values, concerns, and troubles of the left behinds out in the boonies… the system is clearly antagonistic to fostering any kind of national solidarity. And it does mean, as mentioned, that the people who would be most capable of helping those particular places are whisked away and heavily encouraged not to be the sorts of people who invest in and care about particular places.

      (This is a rather Cathedral-ish post, I guess)

      • onyomi says:

        “it’s increasingly making it harder for people up the ladder to have any ability to comprehend or emphasize with the values, concerns, and troubles of the left behinds out in the boonies… the system is clearly antagonistic to fostering any kind of national solidarity.”

        I think this relates to this as well.

      • Kevin C. says:

        And your comment, Candles, immediately reminded me of the Imperial Chinese examination system and its effects.

        • onyomi says:

          A good point.

          I heard an interesting presentation recently which claimed to show, based on demographic data, that between the Northern Song and Southern Song, there was a big change in where the successful exam candidates came from: in the Northern Song (and earlier, though I don’t think the examination system was really fully developed prior to that), most of the successful candidates came from the capital and/or were closely blood related to existing elites.

          Starting in the Southern Song, most of the successful candidates came from the increasingly wealthy and trade-focused East and Southeastern coastal areas which remain the wealthiest parts of China to this day.

          Of course, the capital had moved closer to this area, but far fewer of the successful candidates actually lived in or near the capital and/or had direct blood ties to existing political elites.

          As to why this happened exactly, I’m not sure. One is tempted to imagine the test became more meritocratic. Or maybe wealthy merchants just got rapidly better at translating their trade wealth in education and cultural capital or something. Either way, it probably did have the intended or unintended effect of pulling those coastal and Southern areas much more into the Chinese cultural mainstream, which had origins more in the North and West, but which gradually shifted south and east over time (as it had already been doing, to some extent, due to previous invasions).

          • I’m pretty sure I’ve heard that at some point in Chinese history the exam system switched to blind grading, with the result that the outcomes became much less nepotistic.

          • onyomi says:

            I think they moved to make the tests anonymous fairly early in the Song Dynasty, so I don’t think that alone could be the cause, though it was probably part of a general push toward achieving real meritocracy that allowed this to happen on a larger scale a century later.

            (Though some high-ranking Northern Song officials like Wang Anshi really did have a non-elite, non-capital background, so it wasn’t impossible even in the 11th c.)

    • Aegeus says:

      The idea that Washington should be its own place rather than a part of any state is by design – it’s why it’s the “District of Columbia” rather than part of Virginia or Maryland.

      That said, I don’t think “keeping the lower ranks in line” is a design goal – that ascribes too much intent to something that probably sprang up from the simple requirement that you have to seat your government somewhere. You can’t put a million politicians in one city and expect that they won’t develop a culture of their own.

    • Yrro says:

      Actually, during the 90’s it became standard practice among Republicans, encouraged by party leadership, to leave their families behind during their term. Before this everyone did move to Washington.

      It has been argued that this has encouraged the increased polarization of the parties and made it harder to compromise.

  58. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    So apparently there is a family whose kids spend their time doing shooting drills in full gear. I thought it was pretty cool, but it got a mixed reception from the U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers in whose forum I found the link. Something this ‘Murican could only be done in Canada, eh?

    Jokes aside, I wish the MSM would show stuff like this rather than things like Militia Rising which is clearly intended to make fun of rednecks (if you don’t want to watch the whole thing, the montage of fail sums it up). Also, is it me, or is the Family Protection Group a plausibly deniable way to train a unit for urban combat?

    • Psmith says:

      The guy who was worried about stage-parenting might have had a point. On the other hand, good skills and excellent jimmy-rustling. Appleseed teaches basic positional shooting to a lot of kids (and adults) in the US and gave the NYT Magazine a minor case of the vapors a few years ago.

      I wish the MSM would show stuff like this rather than things like Militia Rising which is clearly intended to make fun of rednecks

    • hlynkacg says:

      On one hand, I have a viscerally negative reaction to the idea of child soldiers. On the other that was an impressive display of discipline and I really of want to buy them all pizza and their parents a drink.

      Edit: As an aside, did they really get their hands on a bunch of 203s or are those props?

  59. Anonymous Colin says:

    As good a place as any to ask this, I suppose.

    I am a stats/CS type. For professional development purposes I would like to learn how to make attractive data visualisations. I’m already proficient with D3, ggplot2, etc., but I am more interested in producing larger and more elaborate static graphics, of a sort you might see in online or print journalism.

    I have a great deal of theory on what makes a good visualisation, but I have no practical idea of how to actually make them. What software would I use? Where and how might I learn to use it? What is the on-ramp for this skill set?

    • Aq says:

      D3 is very powerful, I don’t know why you are aiming for static graphics. Print is on its way out, and D3 stuff can be pretty interactive.
      I’ve don’t have much experience in that area. But if I was in your place I would try to improve my understanding of D3. Yes you do say you are proficient, but are you able to create something even remotely approaching the visualizations on the NYT?
      I would probably try to replicate one of the many D3 examples that are available out there (i.e. see an example I like; try to code a similar one on my own; see how the other person did the original; see if I can improve my solution).
      Anyway, I not sure if this is the best venue to get advice on this area. Sometimes seeing what the influential people of a given field are doing helps a lot (e.g. check the twitter account of D3’s creator, what is he saying? who is he following?).

    • Glen Raphael says:

      What is the on-ramp for this [data visualization] skill set?

      Do you know about Horace Dediu’s Airshow? Or Tufte’s Presenting Data? If you were to attend either of those courses and network with the other attendees to figure out where they hang out and what tools they are using, that would seem like a pretty good start at what you’re looking for. Not to mention the value of the courses themselves…

      (Of the two, I gather Airshow is focused a bit more more on how to use specific tools to produce a desired outcome.)

    • Adam says:

      I agree with Aq that D3 is by far the best thing out there right now and interactive graphics beat static every time, but if you do want to learn static, graphic design tools like the Adobe suite (Illustrator, etc.) are probably the most common to start with, as it sounds like you already know the principles and theory and are looking to learn a tool set.

      Of course, it’s also perfectly possible to just learn the SVG standard and hand write parts of it if what D3 generates isn’t good enough for you. In practice, I’m pretty sure most production quality print graphics you see start with library-generated SVG or raster, possible hand-tweaked if it’s SVG, finished off with some editing that you haven’t figured out how to script yet using a tool like Illustrator. It’s a lot easier to do that than to build a graphic from scratch using a static design tool.

    • Virbie says:

      I don’t know very much about British politics, but is that guy really what passes for a Trump over there? He sounds centrist as hell, aside from a dig or two at opponents calling them commies.

      • sweeneyrod says:

        You fell into my trap! His only similarity to Trump is that he hosts the British version of The Apprentice.

        • Virbie says:

          Ha ok, you got me. I guess it’s a Poe’s Law thing; especially among my less-thoughtful/more-tribal liberal friends, Trump has come to signify basically anything they consider Republican and bad, so even things like cutting social spending and unfettered free trade are assumed to be “Trump positions”. AFAIK, that’s what was happening here.

      • Trump is pretty centrist in his expressed views, at least for someone running for the Republican nomination.

        • Urstoff says:

          Centrist on average, but a modal extremist. He’s far right on some stuff and fairly left on others. That doesn’t make him a centrist, just not someone who can be measured by a one-axis political scale.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Yes, he take many positions outside the Overton Window, but they are invariably the position of the median voter.

          • anon says:

            Can you give some examples?

            My sense of (what liberals perceive as) his most far right views: the wall, torturing enemies, killing families of terrorists, banning Muslim immigration.

            These fall into two somewhat overlapping categories, namely national security and immigration policy.

            On national security, I think it’s hard to argue that he departs in any meaningful way (i.e. in terms of substance rather than rhetoric) from existing US policy under Obama, which is largely consistent with Bush II’s. I call out Trump’s critics (on both left and right) in this arena as hypocrites.

            On immigration *broadly*, my reading of his platform is that he combines basically left-wing views on labor-market protectionism (with regard to visa policy) with basically bog-standard “rule of law” conservatism on immigration enforcement. Not that extreme.

            But the specific immigration policies that so rankle liberals are sort of apart from this general pattern. As far as I can tell, the wall is polarizing for purely symbolic rather than substantive reasons. Using Kling’s three-axis model, I think the wall is very offensive from a freedom-coercion perspective, but not much moreso (if at all) than the status quo. I already have to stand in line and show my papers to bored but self-important Gestapo types to cross the border legally; this will still be the case with a big expensive ugly wall, and I don’t expect much will change. From the civilization-vs-barbarism and oppressor-vs-oppressed perspectives, the wall is highly symbolic and thus emotionally salient. But my understanding of the actual data is that there is no reason to expect the wall to have much an effect on immigration, and thus little reason to believe it will either “defend our civilization from invaders” OR increase the oppression of impoverished Mexicans.

            Somewhat similar reasoning applies to the proposed ban on Muslim immigrants. Again, along the libertarian axis, this is an offensive policy that compounds our country’s already distasteful restrictions on the rights to live, travel, and hire freely, with an additional affront to religious liberty. But along the progressive and conservative axes, it seems closer to a no-op. Immigration to the US from war-ravaged countries like Syria should not be expected to alleviate the suffering of the oppressed in those countries to any significant degree. To the extent progressives sympathize with Muslim migrants, the true oppressors are not the bureaucrats in ICE rationing visas, but those migrants’ own countrymen (and co-religionists), citizens of the European Union, and the United States’ own military and foreign policy establishments. So again, this comes down to symbolism. And along the civilization-vs-barbarism axis, the Muslim immigration ban is very symbolic indeed. But I question whether it is at all outside of the mainstream; it seems to me to be a policy expression of a view consistent with decades of standard conservative rhetoric in both the United States and the EU. And as Douglas Knight points out, it’s definitely consistent with the median voter, AFAICT.

            In sum, unless I’m misidentifying the policies that make you regard Trump as “far right on some stuff”, I think it call comes down to symbolism and rhetoric, rather than the substance of his beliefs.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Trump is actually more inclusive on Syria than other republicans

            Ted Cruz wants to allow in only Christians.

            So technically Trump’s policy lets in more people (Yazidis and Druze) than Ted Cruz.

        • Virbie says:

          Agreed (I actually alluded to this in another comment). Instead of centrist I should probably have said “unremarkable”, in that none of his views seem off the spectrum too far in the way that Trump is known for.

          Also, calling someone “Britain’s X” generally means the most notable and exaggerated aspects of politician X,whcih in trump’s case would be those of his views that are outside of the mainstream that most politicians swim in.

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s worth mentioning that he’s “Britain’s Donald Trump” in the sense that he’s the host of the UK version of The Apprentice, and he’s a blowhard celebrity businessman with a history of entertaining commercial failure. But calling him “Britain’s Donald Trump” is like calling Barack Obama “America’s Kim Jong Un”

      • Dirdle says:

        Yeah. The popular idiot from the Conservatives with terrible hair is… The current mayor of London. TINACBNIEAC.

        • Deiseach says:

          While I certainly wouldn’t call Alan Sugar “Britain’s Donald Trump” (though he does have a similarly inflated sense of his own importance), I don’t think Bojo is an idiot; he’s very carefully crafted an image of himself as “the popular idiot from the Conservatives with terrible hair” so that no matter what scandal or dreadful policy proposal is uncovered, the instinctive reaction is one of lip-curled “what else would you expect” derision and so he gets away with it.

          • Anonymous says:

            While I agree he has the public image of a bumbling idiot, and this dynamic works well for him, it’s also fitting with the hypothesis that he is a bumbling idiot, albeit a very lucky one.

          • Dirdle says:

            … And Trump hasn’t?

            Sorry, I don’t know a good word the exact thing you just described. If I did, I would have used it instead of “popular idiot.” Any suggestions? I’m partial to “a dubya.”


          Google fails to turn up the meaning of this.

  60. Anon. says:

    Anonymous vs pseudonymous commenting: the theoretical benefits to a stable pseudonymous identity are clear: if people have a reputation, they will make good posts in order to maintain it. Seems plausible.

    But in practice this often turns into pandering to the lowest common denominator in order to harvest the most “brownie points”. Instead of making “good” posts, people are incentivized to make “popular” posts, and (depending on the community) there’s usually a big difference between them. This is less prevalent in situations where the reputation is not explicitly quantified.

    Another issue is that reputation is not a clear good. People are not uniformly intelligent/knowledgeable: if Bob makes a stupid post about economics (which he knows little about), then perhaps you will simply scroll over his next post (but this time it’s a great post about machine learning, which Bob has a PhD in). It also works the other way: if popular identities make bad arguments, people will tend to ignore the faults based on their reputation. Fully anonymous commenting forces people to engage with the substance of each comment in itself.

    • Vitor says:

      I see your point, but fully anonymous discussions are really difficult to follow. I dislike anonymity in general (nothing against pseudonymity), but assuming that anons are here to stay, how about taking on a fixed pseudonym for at least the entirety of a discussion?

      • Anonymous says:

        That’s trivially inconvenient.

        • Vitor says:

          So, who takes the inconvenience upon themselves? You, or the rest of us?

          This is, in a nutshell, why I dislike anonymity. In theory, you’re free to tell it like it is, free from the oppressive nature of brownie-point systems. In practice, the lack of accountability drives the level of discussion down, not up.

        • Vitor says:

          Ok, so let me unpack my ideas a bit more, even though onyomi below commented on the key points of this issue way more articulately than I am capable of.

          The parent remark is exactly what I’ve come to expect of It’s a short, low-effort and dismissive remark that doesn’t address any of the actual issues around the subject. I now have a high prior that any anonymous poster comes here with the same unproductive attitude (I don’t mean the green anon that started this subthread).

          If someone wanted to be actually anonymous, they would post under an unremarkable pseudonym that blends right in, and they would keep that pseudonym for as long as it makes sense. Using the account, or having the word “anon” in their handle, is the equivalent of shouting “look at me, I’m anonymous” at the top of your lungs, so it’s not surprising to find those accounts mostly inhabited by trolls.

          I for one hope that all anon accounts inhabited by more than one person not even making the trivial effort of pretending to be somebody will eventually be banned.

          • Anonymous says:

            Bakkot? Can you make a button next to the email field, with a die on it, that rolls a random email when you click it?

          • Evan Þ says:

            … and now we see an example of an non-dismissive anon comment which takes into consideration the opposing view and comes up with a really good, workable solution!

          • Bakkot says:

            @Anonymous – I could, yes. I’ll think on it. Not sure we want to encourage throwaway identities, here.

            (The UI would be a link after “Email *” which said something like “(Generate)”. Unobtrusive enough for me not to worry about UI bloat, so I’m just concerned if it would actually have positive effects.)

          • Anonymous says:

            Thank you!

          • onyomi says:

            I am skeptical it would solve the problem–might even make it worse–since it amounts to expanding the “commons” I’m talking about without changing its fundamental character, therefore making it correspondingly harder to ignore “black and white anonymous” if you don’t want to deal with such comments.

            Of course, no one can stop you if you want to make a new fake identity each time you post, but I’m not sure we want to make it easier.

          • onyomi says:

            Since we do have a polite black and white anonymous here, however, I am curious:

            Surely you must admit that this feature, especially if expanded, has potential for abuse and has, in fact, already been abused. What benefit does it provide for you that might be worth it?

          • Anonymous says:

            Well, it would remove the trivial inconvenience of making up new email addresses at will. With random addresses, more diverse become the gravatars, so it’s not just a wall of dark-purple-anons, and people are no longer confused about who is who.

          • onyomi says:

            But, I mean, what is the benefit of having no consistent online identity between posts? Are you really that concerned people will stereotype your views, especially considering that posting in this way now has its own discernible negative associations?

          • Anonymous says:

            My concerns are primarily threefold:

            1. Avoiding the temptation to build a recognizable online persona and engage in tribal drama. I want to discuss interesting things here, not participate in tribal politics. I don’t want to become a member of the community other than as an occasional side in a debate.

            2. Avoiding self-boxing and being shamed for inconsistency. With a recognizable identity, I find myself being extra careful to be consistent with everything else I’ve said. This is counterproductive towards changing my mind when new facts come to light, or someone convinces me otherwise. I realize that this particular community might be more accepting of a Lovecraftian attitude towards ideological conformity, but I don’t want to deal with it anyway. Being associated with my other comments within a single thread is OK, but it’s trivially annoying to actually make those random emails all the time.

            3. I don’t want to get doxxed based on personal information I might reveal for various reasons, like providing data points or supporting an argument.

          • onyomi says:

            Re. 1, I really don’t see a lot of tribal drama here. Sure, there are people who tend to reliably line up on one side or another in many debates, but part of what makes it a nice community is that mostly doesn’t get acrimonious. But it is a community, nonetheless, and my experience thus far is that allowing drive by comments lowers its level of discourse, as one would probably not expect the quality of a conversation to increase if disembodied voices could chime in.

            Re. 2, this community seems to me to have a pretty good norm for not attempting to shame people over inconsistency with past statements, as well as what I think is a healthy norm for admitting when you’ve changed your mind or were wrong (as modeled admirably by our host).

            Re. doxxing, I think you overestimate the desire and ability of anyone to figure out a real life identity on the basis of even pretty detailed info. Like even if you told me what town you grew up in, your favorite hobby, your age, and the name of your high school, I probably couldn’t figure out who you are irl. And few people get that specific.

            This is, at least, the best (arguably first real) defense of this I’ve seen, and I thank you for your candor. I realize I’m biased here by my own priorities, but I still think it isn’t worth the damage the noticeable increase in rude comments does the community, especially as a way of accommodating people who explicitly don’t want to become a member of said community.

          • Anonymous says:

            Ad2: I went full anon specifically because of such an event (that is, this is what triggered it; the other reasons are not unimportant, but wouldn’t have made me decide to do it). You will understand if I don’t specify further.

          • onyomi says:

            Someone tried to Doxx you or someone criticized you for inconsistency?

          • Jiro says:

            Avoiding self-boxing and being shamed for inconsistency. With a recognizable identity, I find myself being extra careful to be consistent with everything else I’ve said. This is counterproductive towards changing my mind when new facts come to light, or someone convinces me otherwise.

            Inconsistency and changing your mind aren’t the same thing. There’s a big difference between saying X and then denying X becauser you no longer believe it, and saying X followed by denying it because you’re just taking whichever position of X and ~X is convenient at the moment.

          • Deiseach says:

            being shamed for inconsistency

            All right, I can see how that’s a concern. I think people should be allowed to be inconsistent, because there are very few things on which people are completely consistent all the time, and that consistency often is in response to being attacked on those positions.

            People can have nuanced positions or an overall coherent philosophy which permits different answers to specific cases, and hammering them for inconsistency only encourages being entrenched and, as you say, being careful to be consistent even if it doesn’t represent your real position.

            I’d say don’t worry about consistency, but it’s your opinion, do as you please!

          • Anonymous says:

            @onyomi: Latter. I’ve edited my post after you did.

            @Jiro: And this was “didn’t you also say X in thread Y, Z weeks ago?”, not “you said X upthread and ~X here”. Since I do not want to deal with that, and I have means to avoid it…

          • Nita says:

            Is it really a huge issue to “deal” with?

            a) Huh, you’re right. I’ll think about it later.
            b) Yeah, but I’ve changed my mind since then.
            c) To me, X and Z are consistent because I also believe W.

            On the other hand, I guess I’m emotionally privileged here, because I want bug reports, so I don’t really perceive them as “shaming”.

          • Anonymous says:

            >Is it really a huge issue to “deal” with?

            Scott hates noise.

          • Jiro says:

            Is it really a huge issue to “deal” with?

            People are often inconsistent because either they deliberately take different positions in front of different audiences (implying insincerity in at least one), or because they are not thinking through their positions well (which, if they make a habit of it, sooner or later will result in inconsistent positions). People in the first category really don’t like having their insincerity exposed, and people in the second category really don’t like having their failure to think things through exposed.

            Yes, there are cases where someone is inconsistent because they actually changed their mind or because they can justify why the inconsistency isn’t real. But that’s not why people look for inconsistencies, and it’s not why people object to others looking for inconsistencies. (At least not most of the time.)

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            It’s honestly pretty weird to see a nominal libertarian taking the “justify why this shouldn’t be banned” position.

          • onyomi says:

            “It’s honestly pretty weird to see a nominal libertarian taking the “justify why this shouldn’t be banned” position.”

            I’m not sure if you’re talking to me, but I’ll say there is nothing weird about this for a few reasons:

            It’s not as if I haven’t given positive reasons why it should be banned. I gave several. I did ask if there were reasons why it shouldn’t be, but only because no one was explaining what the benefit was to offset what I described as the very real cost. Only after a fair amount of prodding did one anon offer three reasons.

            Second, SSC is not a country bound by the infamous “social contract” we went on so long about last time. It’s a voluntary community bound by consent to Scott’s rules. It is the equivalent of a private club which posts rules on the door.

            People often assume that libertarians, because they don’t like the state making strict rules therefore want permissive voluntary rules and interpersonal norms. This does not logically follow at all. I, for example, am in favor of legalization of all drugs, even though I don’t use any but caffeine and alcohol and don’t like being around people who are under the influence of drugs, including pot.

            I would happy live in a “no drugs” apartment complex or housing development even as I don’t think I have the right to tell others what they can put in their bodies in the privacy of their own homes. I don’t think this makes me a hypocrite.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            It’s not as if I haven’t given positive reasons why it should be banned. I gave several. I did ask if there were reasons why it shouldn’t be, but only because no one was explaining what the benefit was to offset what I described as the very real cost. Only after a fair amount of prodding did one anon offer three reasons.

            Since when is “because they enjoy it” not a valid reason?

            Here’s another reason. It’s really difficult to enforce without establishing registration, and could basically be bypassed with minimal effort (as it has been in the past) by any anon who wanted to.

            Second, SSC is not a country bound by the infamous “social contract” we went on so long about last time. It’s a voluntary community bound by consent to Scott’s rules. It is the equivalent of a private club which posts rules on the door.

            And despite repeated protesting, Scott has not banned anoning. Should we not take that as a sign that he doesn’t mind?

            Besides, this is rules lawyering libertarianism. It’s like when liberals say “The first amendment only protects you from the government”, which is true (for Americans, anyway), but dismisses the idea of freedom of speech as merely a legal inconvenience.

          • onyomi says:

            “Since when is “because they enjoy it” not a valid reason?”

            When “it” is being a troll and dragging down the conversation with insults and flippant remarks.

            I’m not saying that’s the only reason now that I have gotten at least one explanation of the reasons from at least one anon. But I don’t think it was unreasonable of me to ask. I suppose I shouldn’t have made an effort to understand the opposing position?

            I don’t really understand the second half of your comment, but regarding the fact that it can be gotten around relatively easily, hasn’t Scott always pointed out the power of trivial inconvenience? Moreover, he already took steps to curtail it by banning some of the most obnoxious IP addresses–which has certainly helped a lot–indicating that he would revisit the issue if it continued to be a problem (=there is, or, at least, was a problem).

            Scott can, of course, do whatever he wants. Maybe just continuing to ban specific IPs of those who abuse it is enough. I merely gave arguments for my own preference because the topic came up.

            By your “libertarian=doesn’t like rules of any kind” logic, I should already have been lobbying to get rid of the other commenting rules. I sometimes enjoy saying unkind, unnecessary things, after all.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            When “it” is being a troll and dragging down the conversation with insults and flippant remarks.

            Is there any way we can measure anon trolling prevalence? Because I’m pretty sure it’s not that which has risen, but complaints about it. There were plenty of trolling anons in the past, they were just multicolor.

            I don’t understand the second half of your comment.

            Well, you said this is Scott’s personal blog, and he has not done anything to prevent the use of the anon@gmail account, even when it’s entirely in his power to do so, which would strongly imply that he doesn’t mind (or worse, maybe even likes) people having the option to post with that e-mail (maybe he uses it himself sometimes? Who knows!), so it’d be fair to say that the implicit rules in this private club allow for the usage of the anon status.

            Now, you’re free to lobby against this, as a regular user of this board and member of this community, to which I say: Enough with your censorious tactics, you SJW!

            But seriously, I apoligize if I came off as calling you a hypocrite, I am aware your stated views on this subject are consistent with libertarianism.

          • Anon says:

            @Whatever Happened to Anonymous

            Is there any way we can measure anon trolling prevalence? Because I’m pretty sure it’s not that which has risen, but complaints about it. There were plenty of trolling anons in the past, they were just multicolor.

            Disagree. The number and fraction of extremely low quality comments has increased, and I would hazard that an outright majority of the bottom 5% of comments these days come from black-and-white anons. (Which is not to say that a majority of black-and-white anon comments are unusually low quality.)

          • TD says:

            Re: libertarianism and authority

            Left-libertarianism (in the classical anarchist sense, not the modern political compass “liberaltarian” sense) can described as close to “no authority”, but it’s always been misleading to portray right-libertarianism/capitalist libertarianism as being “anti-authoritarian” when what it favors is a different mechanism for deciding and enforcing authority, with a general bias towards highly distributed authority in the mix.

            Even the normal convention of free speech really corresponds more to “distributed censorship” than total freedom of speech. Property rights necessarily enable censorship. The boat lovers club does not have to permit speech on racing cars, and that’s a good thing.

          • “Left-libertarianism (in the classical anarchist sense, not the modern political compass “liberaltarian” sense)”

            “Left libertarian” at present has a bunch of different meanings. One is the old sense of left anarchist. One is people like the Bleeding Heart Libertarians, who are propertarian but with more sympathy for leftish ideas such as a guaranteed income than most libertarians. One, the subject of a couple of recent books, is Georgism, along with some related variants. And there are versions that don’t quite fit any of those patterns.

        • Deiseach says:

          So is there some way we can put a chronological label on which anon is which? If you are the first anon to comment, you get tagged Anonymous1; the next is Anonymous2, etc.

          That means that if I want to reply to or engage with you, as distinct from any of the other Anonymous, anonymous, Anon, anon who may be on here at the one time, I can make it clear in my reply that I’m talking to Anonymous1.

          • Anonymous says:

            The chans use post referers for this. You reply to a post, and have a link to that post your post, and in some newer chan software, you also get a link to the reply at the original post.

          • onyomi says:

            And we’d like SSC to be more like 4chan?

          • Anonymous says:

            Isn’t that a little tribal line of thinking? Why not use solutions to problems that other people have come up with, even if those same people are, in your mind, somehow awful?

          • onyomi says:

            But the parameters set by the technical aspects in no small part shape the flavor of online communities, as, indeed, architecture and urban planning shape the the flavor of real life communities. Though not guaranteed to do so, there is reason to believe that instituting a system 4chan might very well make SSC more like 4chan (not that I hate 4chan, only I don’t want SSC to be more like it).

          • Outis says:

            Actually, 4chan-style links to posts would work really well here. They were developed as a solution to keep track of conversation links in a flat comment system, and since SSC’s comments go flat after the first four or five levels, and often have several intertwined conversations at that level, having easy cross-message links would really help.

            Bakkot, if you’re going to implement one idea from this post, it should be this one, not the random email thing.

        • Adam Casey says:

          I don’t think barriers to entry are actually a problem here. We’re not starving for lack of comments, if anything the reverse. Raise those trivial banners shin-high I say.

    • onyomi says:

      I don’t find that most SSC posters pander for “brownie points” (I mean, does anyone at all see this as a problem? SSC posters piling on to low quality, “popular” posts to say “right on, man!”??) and I think it’s good that we don’t have an explicit reputation or “upvote” system.

      But anyway, in a community which values nuance and niceness, having some incentive to care about the reputation of your online persona is a good thing, since it results in a higher quality of post (and I think almost everyone but anon@gmail can agree with me that the average quality of anon@gmail posts is lower than that of the average pseudonymous or real name poster).

      The theory that we need some mechanism to force people to deal with the substance of the comments and not the persona would make sense if SSC were a space where interpersonal squabbles among prominent posters dominated and distracted from substantive discussion. But I don’t see that happening at all; even among the very prolific posters, they don’t really seem to hold a lot of grudges or form a lot of cliques (though I’ve been accused of belonging to the libertarian conspiracy and, now, the “anime avatar” clique).

      Sure, I pay some attention to who’s posting and I have commenters to whose opinion I attach more weight than others, but at this point, anon@gmail has basically become the lowest weight opinion on here, not just for me, I think, but for many people. Meaning, if the goal is to have your opinion given due weight without consideration of your persona, you’d be better off picking any random name.

      And, most ironically, anon@gmail is the most likely comment space, in recent months to engage in personal attacks and stereotyping of posters based on their previous commenting histories. In other words, I think anon@gmail “doth protest too much”: precisely because he/she/they are the sort of poster who can’t take people’s comments at face value and instead attaches too much weight to stereotyping their previous comment history, therefore he/she/they are paranoid about having the same done to themselves.

      Anon@gmail solves a problem SSC doesn’t have, in exchange for which we get a community dumping ground for low quality posts, as the incentive would lead us to expect, and as has played out in reality.

      • Anon. says:

        It’s a bit of a chicken and egg issue, isn’t it? anon@gmail has a bad reputation, so people who would make good posts will hesitate to use it. Some anon@gmail are witches, therefore only witches would use anon@gmail. This has little to do with the actual anonymity aspect.

        This can of course be solved by forcing anonymity on everyone.

        • onyomi says:

          It’s pretty startling how much this rhetoric mirrors socialism, where, of course, the fact that anyone can have any private property at all is always the problem.

          Yes, there is an incentive not to post anything good as anon@gmail because your post will be associated with the rudest, dumbest poster to ever use that handle.

        • Anatoly says:

          What are some examples of really high-quality forced-anonymous comment sections or forums?

          • Anonymous says:

            /tg/. (Not forced anon, but tripfags and namefags are shamed.)

          • sweeneyrod says:


            I think some people might disagree about your assessment of that as “really high-quality” (and one of the first things I saw when I looked was a mod saying “DO NOT USE SPOILERS TO HIDE PORN OR ANY NWS CONTENT.” which I feel doesn’t really suggest high-quality content).

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Only if you think porn and nws content can’t be hight quality.

          • birdboy2000 says:


          • Zorgon says:

            one of the first things I saw when I looked was a mod saying “DO NOT USE SPOILERS TO HIDE PORN OR ANY NWS CONTENT.”

            That’s a moderation sticky, which is a giant piece of salience bias.

            In reality, NWS content is virtually nonexistent on /tg/. Shitposting is probably too high to consider it a “high-quality” source, but it’s still almost certainly the best place to find intellectually diverse discussion on tabletop and roleplaying games on the entire Internet. Whether that is an endorsement of /tg/ or a ringing condemnation of the entirety of the online gaming community I leave as an exercise for the reader.

            (And if anyone has a better place I am very much interested.)

          • Held in Escrow says:

            4chan’s interest boards such as /tg/ actually have a lot of really high quality content. They also have oceans of garbage. Knowing how to sort the two at a glance is a learnable skill. The gold in those boards tends to be better and more common than elsewhere thanks to its sheer size, but the garbage is so huge that you need to develop that skill to enjoy yourself

          • onyomi says:

            Yeah, I don’t have time or patience or mental fortitude to wade through mountains of rude crap to find thoughtful, polite posts, which is why SSC is a nicer place, for me, at least, to discuss politics and philosophy than anywhere else I know. Arguably there is no reason my intolerance for wading through low quality comments is more important than anon’s intolerance for being called out on inconsistency, but right now, SSC and 4chan both exist. If SSC were to become more like 4chan, then those of us who liked how SSC used to be will have no non-4chan-like options.

          • Zorgon says:

            Oh, believe me, if an equivalent to SSC existed for tabletop gaming I’d be there like a shot.

      • anonymous user says:

        I’m sorry your feelings are so easily hurt

    • Adam Casey says:

      I think in the case of a small community board like this without explicit karma the cost of karma-whoring is low to nil.

      Sure, popularity and reputation are not a perfect indicator of quality of post. But they’re better than random noise, and maximising for them isn’t that bad an end state in a situation like this.

  61. Bakkot says:

    Stanford EA meets at 4:30 on Sunday afternoons in the Old Union building on campus. There’s a Facebook group and a mailing list.

    Meeting today (Sunday April 24) is at 4:30 in Old Union 220 to discuss population ethics, which is an important and tricky topic and which tends to generate a lot of debate.

    • meyerkev248 says:

      Is this just a Stanford EA, or a general Bay Area EA that happens to meet at Stanford and mostly consist of students with actual free time?

      • Bakkot says:

        The meetings are only about half Stanford students, but it is also an official Stanford club.

        I wouldn’t call it a general Bay Area EA because there are other local groups.

  62. Kevin C. says:

    Loosely related to my previous question:

    Given that in a representative democracy, elected officials are (supposedly) “public servants” representing the sovereign people, why are presidential inaugurations (and, to a lesser but still notable extent, state gubernatorial inaugurations) such huge, lavish, and downright pseudo-coronational affairs? The only legally required part, the Oath of Office, takes two or three people and less than a minute. Why does a public servant need anything more? Doesn’t this sort of practice seem kind of inconsistent with the ideals of our democracy?

    (I understand that the bulk of the cost of the inauguration is the security involved, and that much of the non-security costs are paid for not by taxpayers but by donors. But a one-minute swearing in held inside the White House wouldn’t need ~$110-$120 million in security, and don’t many of us agree that we need to reduce the frequency of big donors giving money to or spending money on politicians?)

    • Adam Casey says:

      You want your public servants to seem meak and pathetic? Legislators and executors are important jobs, public servant or not. The people doing these jobs are of course, there to serve. But the jobs they do are grand and powerful things.

      If you don’t show public respect to your legislator you won’t be in the habit of respecting the laws they wrote. If you don’t show public respect for the executive you won’t be in the habit of respecting the laws they enforce.

      Judges are everywhere assumed to be servants who simply act for the good of the law. But judges everywhere are treated with respect, given special titles, given ornate uniforms. Judges are important, it is good to make sure everyone remembers that.

      • Virbie says:

        > If you don’t show public respect to your legislator you won’t be in the habit of respecting the laws they wrote. If you don’t show public respect for the executive you won’t be in the habit of respecting the laws they enforce.

        I’m not sure I’m convinced that “awed respect for the Institution” has much to do with why people obey laws, as opposed to fear of punishment. Pretty much every law I can think of with low risk of punishment, I see broken pretty routinely, and in a way that suggests total normalization. I know it sounds like I’m just trying to be edgy and cynical, but I distinctly remember in my lateish teen years discovering that people writ large seem to have no sense of “the sanctity of the law” vs “I’ll get in some shit if I do this”. It’s possible that I’m just surrounded by degenerates, but I highly doubt it. An easy example is looking at the rates of marijuana use (federally illegal) and teen alcohol use across the country.

        • Adam Casey says:

          So sure, crimes that aren’t punished are disobeyed quite often. They’re also obeyed quite often.

          Even in situations where, no really, there will not be legal consequences here, we’re the middle of nowhere and nobody cares. There has to be some lingering sense of sanctity of laws for there to be obedience in that situations.

          • Furslid says:

            Not necessarily. People may just habitually follow the law because they are afraid of punishment. People don’t change their habits automatically when they are not beneficial.

            People may also recognize that there are extra costs to recognize when it’s safe to break the law. Breaking the law safely may entail taking extra precautions or investigating a situation more carefully.

            People may recognize that people are bad at judging when they can get away with breaking the law. Every person who buys drugs from or solicits an undercover cop believes that they will get away with breaking the law, and yet gets caught.

            These are all reasons to not break the law that in safe situations that don’t require reverence for the law.

        • Anonymous says:

          People treat laws they find just differently from laws they believe to be unjust. Hence, illicit marijuana and alcohol use.

          • Virbie says:


            Good point, of course that’s true. That’s basically why I don’t feel particularly morally compromised when I smoke weed.

            That speaks more to my poor off-the-top-of-my-head choice of example, which I assumed would be universally recognized. As I acknowledged, it may just be that my sample is particularly disdainful of the law, but (mild) cheating on taxes/insurance claims[1] and movie-hopping is maybe a better example.

            [1] I mean things like a college kid saying their dad was the driver when she accidentally drove into a wall while parking, because it worked out better for them on the insurance claim.