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

Open Thread 52.5

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever.

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502 Responses to Open Thread 52.5

  1. Le Maistre Chat says:

    My first first!

    This may no longer be timely with the defeat of Bernie Sanders, but I was wondering about the effects of the “free college” concept.

    No more people take STEM degrees than at present; the new students take the “easy” majors instead?
    Leftist thought becomes even more hegemonic among the young than it already is.
    Curricula dumbed down, as happened to high school curricula as they progressed from prep schools for the university-bound to compulsory for all teenagers?
    Riffing on the above, a slow but inexorable movement from “free for anyone who can do the work” to “daycare for 18-22 year-olds”?

    • Pku says:

      Doesn’t seem to have happened in countries that have free college.

      • Sandy says:

        Leftist thought seems fairly hegemonic in most of those countries, although most of those countries are Western and leftist thought has been hegemonic for a long time.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Do countries that have free college produce more scientists, engineers and mathematicians per capita than the US?
        My prior is that math is hard (thanks, Barbie), so as you expand the % of the population in university, the absolute number getting math-dependent degrees will increase little, with the difference being made up by BAs.
        Curricula being dumbed down is less probable, as the state could simply pay the tuition of anyone smart enough to pass the existing curricula. However, if there’s a temptation to increase the percentage of the population who get BAs, lowering standards is easier than making students smarter (Flynn effect notwithstanding).

        • Once more with feeling: free education is not the same as unlimited education.

        • Skef says:

          Is it clear that someone who gets a history degree but not a job that involves history is all that different from someone who gets a science or mathematics degree but not a job in science or mathematics? Because there are plenty of the latter.

          Degrees don’t seem to be the bottleneck in the “production” of scientists and mathematicians.

          (I leave out engineering because it’s more nebulous what qualifies as an engineer.)

      • Creutzer says:

        The culture surrounding the education system of the various countries with free higher education is very different from that surrounding college in the US. I think it might be more instructive to look at the US directly and try to extrapolate by thinking about what incentives free education would create or change for whom than to look at, say, continental Europe.

        • James Picone says:

          You know how offensively that reads to people with governmentally-supported degrees, right? Which is going to be a significant fraction of the non-US readership.

          I worked for my degree. My dad worked for his PhD in physics. My mother worked for her masters in public health. None of us had to pay anything up-front and got extremely good terms on the governmentally-provided loan (actually my parents might have benefited from the short period when you actually had to pay nothing over here).

          Insulting a large group on the basis of a single anecdote is not a pleasant thing to do; and it’s not really in the spirit of rational debate either.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @James Picone:

          You know how offensively that reads to people with governmentally-supported degrees, right? Which is going to be a significant fraction of the non-US readership.

          I will be interested to see what Mark has to say here.

          Mark likes to couch everything in the language of a sort of beleaguered but bemused superiority.

      • Theo Jones says:

        Because those countries tend to be a lot more restrictive with admissions than the U.S. When those restrictions go away you start seeing the problems described by Le Maistre Chat. See,for instance, Austria before and after the 2008 referendum on colleges.

        • Pku says:

          Got a link to any information about that? I haven’t been able to find it on Google.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            Dutch person, checking in.

            At the end of elementary school, age 12, kids make a test. It measures things like reading ability, arithmetic skill, and the like. The test is multiple choice and the same across the country, meaning there is no fraud or interpretation to speak of. This test’s score, coupled with your teacher’s advice, gets you into one of three tiers of schools.

            The highest tier, translated loosely to preparatory scientific education, accepts the upper 10-15% of students. This is where math is mandatory, schooling is focused on highly theoretical subjects, and kids like me got to slog through Livy and Seneca for six fucking years.

            The middle tier, which I’ll translate to higher general preparatory education, still has theoretical subjects like math, physics, the works, but tries to focus on their practical applications more. Rather than nuclear physicists and the next Gauss, you’ll have people striving to end up becoming accountants or laboratory technicians.

            The lower tier, which is something I’d call preparatory middle profession education, is where you’ll generally be prepared into learning a trade and not much else. People high up in the tier can study some foreign languages, geography, and so on, but this is the kind of tier where nurses, mechanics, and plumbers start out in.

            Higher education follows much the same lines, with institutions existing for all three tiers. Since twelve is a little tender an age to gauge a child’s academic prowess very well, it is very much possible for them to move up and down in the whole tier system if they excel or flunk horribly.

            Is this enough information, or was there more you wanted to know?

          • Pku says:

            How do dutch people feel about it? Are there large populations who are outraged about being judged young (or for other reasons)?

          • Sweeneyrod says:

            The UK had a similar system in the past, with three tiers. It was deemed a failure for various reasons — the top academic tier had a much higher share of funding and prestige than the other two, it wasn’t successful enough at making poor children academically successful, except sometimes when it was too successful and middle-class children ended up in the bad schools.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            There seems not to be some large movement of people trying to end this system, no.

          • JDG1980 says:

            Stefan Drinic: “At the end of elementary school, age 12, kids make a test. It measures things like reading ability, arithmetic skill, and the like. The test is multiple choice and the same across the country, meaning there is no fraud or interpretation to speak of. This test’s score, coupled with your teacher’s advice, gets you into one of three tiers of schools.

            In the U.S., school districts are run locally; until recently, there were few uniform national standards (and these are controversial even now). Many districts in the U.S., though they could not afford to run three different schools, did something similar with a system called “tracking”. This meant that even though students from a given area might go to the same school, they would be put in different educational “tracks” (sets of classes) based on their aptitude.

            The problem is that in the U.S., African Americans and Hispanic Americans have lower IQs and academic achievement than whites and Asians. As a result, tracking was politically embarrassing and ended up being largely ended due to accusations of racism.

          • Uk style grammar schools have seen a slight return in the form of academies, which don’t suffer from the problem of the privileged getting the lion’s share of resources…it’s not intrinsic to multi tiered systems.

      • Anonymous says:

        I’m from Sweden, and yes it did. That’s exactly what happened.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        What are the job markets like in those countries, with regard to how employers assess candidates?

        In the US, essentially everyone uses educational attainment to filter out candidates. IQ tests are considered illegal. [1]

        The effect is that the people of the weakest intellectual fortitude get shamed and shoved into college that they aren’t ready for, and can’t hack it and drop out. Even if “free,” they are wasting years of their lives being humiliated and then have nothing to show for it on the job market.

        Most other countries are fine with IQ tests, which get the same results but without disgracing the lower half of the IQ spectrum.

        [1] According to Duke v Griggs, both methods are illegal, unless the employer proves it is necessary, but the overwhelming meta-game right now is “filters on schooling good, filters on IQ bad,” even though schools filter based on IQ.

        • Stefan Drinic says:

          Credentialism exists, but when people who aren’t very smart can still get an education in a lower tier, there are plenty of tradesmen who try to get people with those skills and degrees rather than invite graduated historians and sociologists over on job interviews.

        • NN says:

          I live in the US, and during the application process for my current job (in the IT field) this year, I took multiple thinly disguised IQ tests. I also took IQ tests with various levels of disguise for several other jobs that I applied for but didn’t get during the same job hunt. Granted, I do have a 4 year degree (from an art school) and multiple years of experience, but apparently that wasn’t enough for some people.

          I suspect that the impact of Griggs has been highly exaggerated.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The employer needs to be prepared to show that the test is required. It would be the employer’s job to prove in court in case an applicant alleges disparate impact, and there is always disparate impact.

          • lemmy caution says:

            In the griggs case, Duke power put in tests to weed out applicants as of the effective date of the civil rights act of 1965:

            “The Company added a further requirement for new employees on July 2, 1965, the date on which Title VII became effective. To qualify for placement in any but the Labor Department, it became necessary to register satisfactory scores on two professionally prepared aptitude tests, as well as to have a high school education.”

            they were straight up trying to be racist.

          • JDG1980 says:

            Griggs v. Duke Power is a good example of the maxim that hard cases make bad law. As Lemmy Caution notes, there was strong evidence that Duke Power did have racist intent. (If I’m not mistaken, the EEOC found that facilities such as breakrooms remained racially segregated at Duke Power even after the Civil Rights Act passed.) The problem was that instead of making a narrow ruling regarding the facts of this specific case, the Court upheld an absurdly broad EEOC standard by which almost any “disparate impact” could be considered a civil rights violation.

        • Sfoil says:

          The American military uses a not-even-really-disguised IQ test to manage enlistment standards for both services overall and for specific career fields.

    • Stefan Drinic says:

      You people just need to tie college to some goddamn academic achievement already.

      College is nigh-on free where I live; tuition is about 1800 euros a year, and loans have extremely soft interest rates. The reason your predictions of doom don’t happen is because the idiots don’t get let into college: there are various tiers of schools, and kids in the lower ones just flat out don’t qualify for an education in computer science or advanced mathematics.

      As long as college is a place any person can waltz into and continue to cry about it being hard, you’re not going to see things improve.

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        Are you German by chance? If so, I think you might be missing that there’s a lot of other infrastructure we’d also need before that became plausible.

        For one thing, Germany has a decent system of trade schools which are well-respected enough to allow those who didn’t get into college to get decent jobs. It also has strict educational tracking, to a degree which is currently unpalatable in the US. Not to mention the high tax rates which pay for the whole thing (your 1800€ is just what’s left after the cost to the taxpayer after all).

        Another is that we have a problem that most European countries have only started to experience, which is highly under-performing minority groups. Racial quotas and affirmative action were so badly handled that the words are practically insults here, taking a Singaporean-style solution off the table. And race-blind testing is in a legal grey area due to disparate impact.

        • Stefan Drinic says:

          Are you German by chance?

          No, I’m Dutch.

          For one thing, Germany has a decent system of trade schools which are well-respected enough to allow those who didn’t get into college to get decent jobs.

          How exactly does the US fix its trade schools not being respected? This is a problem your system causes, not solves.

          It also has strict educational tracking, to a degree which is currently unpalatable in the US.

          You’re the American here, so I can’t comment with absolute certainty, but.. Really..? Schools keeping track of how well their students are doing is unpalatable? Unlikely. In the most basic form of a system like I’m proposing, you’d have universities let prospective students make subject-related exams if they want to head into certain fields, eliminating the need to track high school students’ progression too much. Still, in an ideal world you’d make separate high school tracks anyway, since sticking the bright kids together with the dumber ones doesn’t appear to be working out for you very well, and in practice you end with a schooling system separated by price more than academic skill, anyway.

          Not to mention the high tax rates which pay for the whole thing.

          Two responses to this one:

          1. Setting a price eliminates the uncanny valley you people are in. If you decide to cut all student aid and make everyone pay for their own tuition, a lot of American colleges are suddenly going to find that five figure tuition isn’t feasible any more. Hoooooowever, having a set price also solves this.

          (No arguments about this bit beyond what we’ve written so far, please; there’s plenty of subthreads to this regard already on this blog)

          Reason 2 I’m not convinced by this is that it’s just not at all relevant. Cutting the demand for higher scientific education will reduce the price rather naturally. The price of education doesn’t have that much to do with the general system I’m mentioning at all, so you do about that what you will, I’d say.

          Another is that we have a problem that most European countries have only started to experience, which is highly under-performing minority groups.

          Your system does nothing to solve this. Stamping ‘complete retard’ on someone because they can’t compete doesn’t help them a thing. Giving them a separate tier of education and giving them *a* way of learning something worthwhile seems much better.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            I should probably clarify, I hate our educational system and I’m not defending it.

            What I was pointing out is that it’s not quite so simple as “just need[ing] to tie college to some goddamn academic achievement already.” We’re talking about a total overhaul of the American culture of education, from kindergarten up to graduate and professional schools. It’s a very deep hole we’ve dug ourselves into, and getting out of it will be a lot of work.

            You’re the American here, so I can’t comment with absolute certainty, but.. Really..? Schools keeping track of how well their students are doing is unpalatable? Unlikely.

            You can look into it yourself if you want to. Educational tracking is extremely unpopular here. I wish it wasn’t.

            It ties into the American Dream. Having some bureaucrat tell you flat out “you can’t do that” is un-American, even if as a matter of fact you really can’t do it.

            Your system does nothing to solve this.

            True, but it does partially conceal the issue. Right now there is an unofficial ad-hoc system whereby underperforming minorities like African Americans are aided and overperforming minorities like Asian Americans are penalized in the admissions process.

            Formalizing that into an explicit quota system would piss off the Right, while rationalizing admissions to be genuinely blind would piss off the Left. And in either case we’d have to have another National Conversation About Race, which people have been sick of for a long time.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            You’re the American here, so I can’t comment with absolute certainty, but.. Really..? Schools keeping track of how well their students are doing is unpalatable? Unlikely.

            Tracking gets a lot of pushback because if you segregate kids based on ability, it turns out that a lot of the low ability kids happen to belong to a certain minority, which allows progressives to use their favorite word-beginning-with-“R”.

            …in practice you end with a schooling system separated by price more than academic skill, anyway.

            This is a general problem. See “When Did Healthy Communities Become Illegal?”

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            Oh, well. In that case, we’ve reached the point where we seem to actually agree. Gooooood luck with that, I guess.

          • Free education still doesn’t have to mean unlimited education because institutions can have quotas and entry requirements. If the Ivy leagues can do it, the rest can do it.

          • Julie K says:

            If the government is offering to pay everyone’s tuition, more institutions will be established to take the money.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            That’s why it’s an uncanny valley, Julie. Having the government pay everyone’s tuition no matter the costs means ridiculously high tuition fees will stay a thing. If all universities are public/have the very same tuition fees, that stops being a problem. Ditto for removing student aid altogether.

          • It’s entirely possible for govt to mandate that tuition is only paid conditional on SAT scores or whatever.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            I mean, aren’t state schools already pretty cheap, and with the possibility of getting a Pell grant anyway?

            It seems to me like the problem is that a lot of people that shouldn’t be going to college, decide to go anyway at a massive cost to themselves. Good alternatives would be great, though.

          • John Schilling says:

            It’s entirely possible for govt to mandate that tuition is only paid conditional on SAT scores or whatever.

            It is politically unrealistic to expect this could be done in the United States any time in this generation, because racism.

          • Agronomous says:

            Schools keeping track of how well their students are doing is unpalatable?

            I think something’s getting lost in translation here with regard to “tracking”. In the U.S. context, it means “having separate tracks for students, separated by ability”. For example, one track for the most academically-oriented kids, who will go on to take a bunch of AP courses and apply to Harvard/Princeton/Yale; one track for kids who will probably go to college; and one track for kids who will grow up to actually make the economy function go into trades or other careers college wouldn’t really help with.

            One important aspect of tracking is that it’s harder to switch to a more-academic track the later it gets: you can’t take AP Biology senior year if you didn’t take Biology freshman year because of the track you were on then. There’s also the social angle, where switching tracks puts you with a whole new batch of kids for half the day, and you have to find new people to study with (or compete with). So bad placement early (or just later maturation) can screw a kid over.

            Usually in the U.S. we track kids within an individual school; sometimes for the third, “vocational” track, we have separate physical buildings, but I think that’s becoming rarer. Also, because of the euphemism treadmill, they’ve gone from being “Vocational/Technical Schools” to being “Career Centers”.

            There may be a racial aspect to all this, which I would write about at length, but right now I have to go put on a wet bathing suit and stick a fork in an electrical socket, because safety.

          • Lumifer says:

            Let me throw in an example of a specific US high school.

            There are four levels of classes, let’s call them C, B, A, and AP. So you might have an English-C class, and English-B class, etc. The C classes are for dumb kids, the B classes are for average kids, the A classes are for smart kids, and AP classes (Advanced Placement) are college-level and you have to pass an exam just to get into one.

            There is no tracking per se in the sense of each student being on a particular track. You can switch levels if you do particularly well or particularly poorly in a class. You can also be in classes of different levels for different subjects. However there are prerequisites and some classes (e.g. Calculus) are not offered at lower levels.

            So all in all it’s a complicated system, but it works reasonably well to separate students of different capabilities but at the same time to not lock them in at a particular level.

          • Randy M says:

            In my (USA, CA) experience, there are no exams to get into AP classes (but there are to apply them towards college credit). Often changing levels from year to year will require the approval of the current teacher.
            And the “B” track might just be the “A” track delayed by a year, for example Algebra taken as an eighth grader or ninth grader.

      • Some very necessary snark there.

        • Nornagest says:

          Not really. He’s not wrong; that is the way you implement free or low-cost college education without suffering massive deadweight losses. But it’s not going to happen in the US without substantial changes in educational culture, for basically the reasons Dr Dealgood and Jaime give upthread (though I might not place the emphasis where they do).

          These constraints are well understood on all sides of the free-college debate in the US, which is why the pro- argument is cast in terms of increasing educational attainment in the general population (vs. for example increasing educational opportunity), and also why the anti- argument is usually given in economic terms.

      • 1angelette says:

        By cry about it being hard, do you mean actually failing to understand the material, or failing to manage their time when they have to take like sixteen Written Communication general education classes?

        • Stefan Drinic says:

          I’m talking about the people who dutifully went to college like they were supposed to, found out higher academics are actually difficult, and are very upset when they don’t end up graduating while putting in high school levels of effort because they should never have went to college in the first place. We make sure they do in fact never go to university in the first place; America doesn’t.

    • Sweeneyrod says:

      There is no reason free tuition must mean tuition for all, in fact in the UK we went in precisely the opposite direction, from free tuition for a small proportion of people, to university (and fees) for everyone.

      • Julie K says:

        It would be very difficult for the government to put limits on who qualifies, if as a result whites are more likely than blacks and Hispanics to get free tuition.

      • If the ivies can select without getting into trouble , so can any other institution.

        • BBA says:

          The Ivies are de jure private (even if most of their funding comes from the government via student loans and research grants), and private institutions can get away with many things the government can’t.

          • I’m getting ever more bewildered….are you saying a state run college can’t set admissions standards at all?

          • BBA says:

            The example of the City College of New York in the 1970s suggests that it can’t if tuition is free and a racially representative student body is a priority.

          • Possibly the wrong sort of can’t.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            We just had SCOTUS rulings on this literally last week. Schools are constantly under attack from all sides about their admissions policies. There is no “decide for yourself what is best.”

        • JayT says:

          There are eight Ivy League schools and about 2,500 universities in the country in total (about 600 public). It’s a lot easier for a high end university like Harvard to get a representative sample of students, even if there are large differences between races. A low end university wouldn’t be able to do that.

        • keranih says:

          The Ivies are selecting the top performers in all demographics, and because the percentage of (for example) African Americans who are not college ready is much higher than other groups, when Harvard, et al, accept qualified African-American students at the rate of their portion of the population, those institutions are actually taking more than “their share” of the college-ready African American students.

          As a result, the near-Ivies, as well as the perfectly acceptable State colleges, are sucking wind, trying to catch anywhere near an “acceptable” number of “underrepresented” students.

        • Agronomous says:

          If the ivies can select without getting into trouble , so can any other institution.

          I don’t think they can. If Cornell, say, selected its incoming class of 4,000 freshmen solely on the basis of SAT scores, and for some reason that meant 1,000 Asian-American students and 200 African-American students matriculating….

          I’m going to say they’d get in trouble.

          (I picked Cornell because it’s not as high-status as Harvard/Princeton/Yale, and its classes are much larger, so it can’t vacuum up all the top minority students like they can.)

  2. J Quenff says:

    A while ago I was suspicious that most of /r/the_donald was just people trolling, and the posters didn’t actually hold the views that they claimed to. So I started looking in to their post histories, and it turns out that they’re very much sincere.

    It also turns out that you can sort of track the point when someone becomes susceptible to the message. Most of these people’s post histories start off innocuously, and then gradually move towards posts about the excesses of social justice, media conspiracies in favour of the left, immigrants behaving poorly, that sort of thing.

    So I started to pick random submissions to the_donald, and if the poster was active for more than 6 months or so, I’d go through their history to try and get an idea of what they’re like, and how they came to support Trump. I made some threads where I join up a selection of their posts into a sort of narrative, ordered reverse-chronologically. You can check it out here — https://www.reddit.com/r/the_donaldsuperstars

    • Jiro says:

      Alternative hypothesis: people weren’t “susceptible to the message”; they were just afraid to express their beliefs because the left constantly marginalizes them.

      Claiming these people were “susceptible” may be like claiming that a closeted gay person who comes out was “susceptible” to being converted to the gay by other gays.

      • Anon says:

        Alternate alternative hypothesis: Reddit has become increasingly politicized over the years. If you want evidence of that, just look at what /r/TumblrInAction was like when it first started compared to now. These people are not being “converted”, nor do they think multiple people agreeing with them means it’s safe to express their views. Instead, they’re engaging in the long-held Reddit tradition of bravery debates, except now they’re bravely facing the massive opposition on political issues instead of whether Star Wars or Star Trek is better. They see a wrong being committed, and immediately set out to oppose the wrong through strongly-worded comments on news articles.

        This often leads to massive overcorrection, due to the inherently hivemind/echo-chamber structure of Reddit. If you want evidence for this, just look at the history of /r/atheism before it was removed as a default sub. I think most of the /r/the_donald developments are a result of the bravery debate mechanic, except heavily accelerated due to the high tensions of the election cycle as well as pointed and consistent attacks on them that fuel the fires of the collective “persecution complex”. (I put that in scare quotes because I’m not sure if it counts as a persecution complex if you’re actively being persecuted, but exaggeration of the degree of persecution and disagreement is a fundamental part of the bravery debate structure.)

        Certain actions taken by moderators of large subs (e.g. mass censorship of information on the Cologne attacks, the Rotherham sex trafficking scandal, and the Orlando shooting) as well as many media outlets (e.g. all of the previous as well as lying about online polls that heavily favored Sanders as favoring Clinton) have activated the redditors’ natural reflex of being a persecuted underdog, “on the right side of history”, etc.

        It’s interesting to note that claims of being “on the right side of history” used to be the sole purview of the left, but now both sides of the political spectrum claim the mantle belongs to them. I think this is further evidence of my bravery debate hypothesis.

        • Mary says:

          Except the calling it “bravery debate” explains nothing. It still leaves the question of why they choose to change instead of sticking to Star Wars vs. Star Trek, whatever their motives.

          • Anonymaus says:

            The demographics of reddit (and the internet as a whole) changed. The first subreddits used to be about “nerd” topics like programming and linux; over time, it grew to include pics and funny etc. with a broader appeal and therefore attracted a more diverse group of people.

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          It’s interesting to note that claims of being “on the right side of history” used to be the sole purview of the left, but now both sides of the political spectrum claim the mantle belongs to them.

          Can we make a new spectrum, with the people who say “on the right side of history” on one end, and all the cool, attractive and funny people on the other?

    • God Damn John Jay says:

      This is an great idea and you could probably get a publication out of it, but the way you present the information is very awkward to read.

    • Anonanon says:

      Ooh, ooh, do me next!

  3. Bill says:

    Hi, I could use some recommendations on male psychiatrists (35-60) who specialize in alcoholism and depression (both severe and long term) who are in the Seattle area. Thanks.

  4. The original Mr. X says:

    Further to the discussion of Chesterton’s Fence a few threads back… Would the British government deciding to ignore the result of/re-run the Brexit referendum count as an example of tearing down Chesterton’s Fence? It seems that few if any people are seriously thinking through how negative a precedent is likely to be set by retrospectively changing the rules of a vote you don’t like.

    • J Quenff says:

      That’s funny, I was just thinking today that the decision to leave the EU without a clear plan of what comes next might be an example of Chesterton’s Fence.

      I’m not sure how much of a Fence there is to tear down from the perspective you give — the UK doesn’t have much of a history of referendums and the referendum itself wasn’t legally binding. I don’t think they’ll ignore the result, and I think it’d be a bad idea to ignore the result, but I don’t think it would be some sort of drastic action throwing away years of precedent. When Boris Johnson was asked about holding a second vote (back in February) he said “I don’t think it would be necessary” (the emphasis here being that it also wouldn’t be unheard of), and in May, Nigel Farage came out with “In a 52-48 referendum, this would be unfinished business by a long way.”

      • The original Mr. X says:

        I’m not sure how much of a Fence there is to tear down from the perspective you give — the UK doesn’t have much of a history of referendums

        It’s had a fair few over the past few decades, albeit most of them weren’t nation-wide affairs. In all of them, the government respected the wishes of the majority of voters.

        and the referendum itself wasn’t legally binding

        Technically speaking Acts of Parliament aren’t legally binding, they’re just advice given to the Queen for her to do with as she wishes. That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t unleash constitutional chaos if Her Majesty decided to just ignore the wishes of Parliament, though. Conventions are important, especially in a country with an uncodified constitution, and ignoring conventions because they aren’t technically law often ends really badly.

        When Boris Johnson was asked about holding a second vote (back in February) he said “I don’t think it would be necessary” (the emphasis here being that it also wouldn’t be unheard of),

        Well, I suppose the EU itself has form when it comes to holding repeated referenda until the “right” result is obtained. I can’t think of any precedent in British history for such a thing.

        and in May, Nigel Farage came out with “In a 52-48 referendum, this would be unfinished business by a long way.”

        “Unfinished business” in the sense of “Let’s do some more campaigning, try and convince more people to support us, and maybe have another go in a few years’ time,” not in the sense of “Let’s over-ride the result with an Act of Parliament” or “Let’s hold another referendum immediately, this time gerrymandering the requirements to make sure we win.”

        • Ano says:

          “Technically speaking Acts of Parliament aren’t legally binding, they’re just advice given to the Queen for her to do with as she wishes.”

          That’s untrue. While Royal Assent is needed for any act, Acts of Parliament are supreme once enacted and not even subject to judicial review. Even constitutional changes that might seem quite major (like requiring an election every five years or changing the line of succession) require only an Act to be introduced into law. In addition, the Queen cannot act alone; she can only Assent to a bill once it has been passed by both Houses. And most executive functions are also reserved to the Cabinet.

          In a way, this creates a certain amount of silliness. For example, a year ago there was some kerfuffle about a law that would require the government to run balanced budgets except in certain exceptional circumstances, but as many pointed out, such a law could be set aside just as easily as it was enacted, and would not actually restrict the options of any government.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            That’s untrue. While Royal Assent is needed for any act, Acts of Parliament are supreme once enacted and not even subject to judicial review. Even constitutional changes that might seem quite major (like requiring an election every five years or changing the line of succession) require only an Act to be introduced into law. In addition, the Queen cannot act alone; she can only Assent to a bill once it has been passed by both Houses. And most executive functions are also reserved to the Cabinet.

            In practice, yes. In theory, a law is a law because the Queen signs it, not because Parliament wants it, and the executive functions are reserved to the Cabinet because the Queen chooses to delegate them.

          • DavidS says:

            I think you’re missing anon’s point. Royal sent is definitely technically needed for a bill to become an act. But once its an act, it really is legally supreme. And the monarch can’t unilaterally legislate.

            Old theorists would say the supreme legislative body is the ‘ queen in Parliament’. The Parliament bit of that isn’t formally within the queens gift.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I thought the term Act of Parliament was applied to any Bill which has been passed by both Houses, even if it hasn’t received Royal Assent yet. I could be wrong, of course. Regardless, it doesn’t really affect my main point, which is that the British constitution as it works in practice is dependent enough on conventions and gentlemen’s agreements that tearing down the “Govern in accordance with conventions and gentlemen’s agreements” fence is going to be more than usually risky.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      The whole point of Chesterton’s Fence is that it’s about traditions, particularly those old enough that their original function could easily have been forgotten.

      The European Union isn’t traditional, and neither is Brexit from it. You could plausibly make that argument for Scottish independence, since the Acts of Union have been in force for three centuries, but in historical terms the ink isn’t even dry on the Lisbon Treaty.

      That said, having a referendum and then throwing it out because the vote didn’t come out the way you hoped is pretty delegitimizing for a democracy. If the current government went that route, both they and the EU would probably lose a lot of respect in the eyes of the British people. It might still be in their best interests as politicians to do so, but it would undermine their government.

      (I’m using government in the British sense of an administration. Not saying that there’s going to be a literal revolt, just that it would burn them pretty badly in the next election.)

      • Mary says:

        One notes that the age correlation in the vote seems to be that the less of your life you lived in the EU, the more likely you were to vote to leave.

        • J Quenff says:

          Which also correlates with your views on immigrants, which seems to be what really determined how people voted.

          • Mary says:

            How do you know it’s the views on immigrants and not knowledge of life with EU that determined it?

          • Sweeneyrod says:

            The number of posters with “immigrants are bad” on was a lot higher than the number with “life was better before the EU”.

          • J Quenff says:

            @Mary

            That was the conclusion of the focus testing done by Vote Leave and Britain Stronger in Europe. It also appears to be the post-mortem analysis the media are going for, whatever that’s worth to you.

          • Chisel says:

            I heard that the same generation that voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU back in the 70s (when they’d have been 18-24 or thereabouts) now overwhelmingly voted to leave it. That says something, doesn’t it?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            It says to me that the older folk in the midlands and north are still pining over the manufacturing jobs they lost thirty and forty years ago, and erroneously blame the EU for their region’s decline.

          • Indeed. Their problems and concerns are much the same as core Trump voters , and as much the fault of the EU.

            In some ways, they gave jumped into the fire…the toffs who ran the leave campaign have an entirely globalistc vision, and no desire to direct welfare largesse to the provincial unnecessaritat , or anyone else.

          • Tibor says:

            @TheAncientGeek: This is my beef with Nigel Farange. On one hand in many issues he seems to be pretty pro free market and laissez faire. On the other hand he tactically makes concessions to people who wanted to leave the EU for reasons almost opposite to him. Not only is that questionable morally, I am not sure it is a good strategy in the long term. If his goal is to turn the UK economically into a new Hong Kong (which is in a sense going back to the 19th century free market roots in many respects) then these people who helped him now will prove a big obstacle. He is left with a difficult task to find allies on the side of his former opponents because no barriers HK style laissez faire is not going to find any support among the nationalist Brexit supporters. On one hand, it is clear that reaching the goal – i.e. Brexit, was much easier with those people, but now it will be more difficult with them as allies. Since they might push for a more protectionist and isolated Britain, they might prove about as good allies as the Taliban was to the US. In any case, even if we put aside the moral aspects, it is quite a risky gambit.

          • Sweeneyrod says:

            @Tibor

            I might be misunderstanding you, but I think Farage is is quite nationalist (e.g. see the recent letter that popped up from his old teacher describing him as a fascist, back when that meant something). In contrast, Ukip’s only MP, Douglas Carswell, is a generic centre-right libertarian.

          • All he, or rather Johnson., has to do is go back to being an out of touch elite. People can only vote for what they are offered. It’s long been the case that you can vote for more immigration control or better services, but not both. So the right wing populists will be shut out again. Johnson will have plenty of allies to slowly build an alternative global trade platform, since there is no alternative. But shrinking the welfare state could be much harder.

          • Tibor says:

            @Sweeneyrod: I guess you’re right. I don’t observe the UK politics so much. I know that Farange is an opponent of the EU and that his party emphasized economic liberalism. I always thought that the collaboration with the nationalists is seen, at least by the party elite, as a sort of an unholy alliance rather than anything else. Making meaningless concessions to the nationalists while using them to promote their politics, something like that. But like I said, I don’t follow the UK in such detail.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @Sweeneyrod
            Elements of Ukip (e.g. Douglas Carswell) are certainly libertarian, but in the words of its founder Alan Sked: “After I stepped down to return to academic life, however, the party came under control of a preposterous mountebank named Nigel Farage, who reoriented it to the far right. The clause about a lack of prejudices was abolished and all sorts of nasty statements were made against blacks, Muslims and gays. Former members of the National Front were allowed to work for the party or become candidates. The party itself has deliquesced into a cult around Farage, whose electoral failure in 2015 has made him an object of scorn in the media and prompted his financial backers to desert him. Farage has become a convenient figure with which to frighten moderate voters about the consequences of fulfilling my party’s original mission—withdrawal from the European Union.” In terms of its support base and political views it is now populist right. I expect it attracts some libertarian voters, but I think most probably go Tory or Lib Dem.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I don’t know about National Front members, but it’s worth pointing out that UKIP is generally quite vigilant to prevent former BNP members from joining.

        • Jaskologist says:

          I hate to be the one to ask, but do we have a racial breakdown for that age correlation? IE: is this really an age division, or a division between indigenous and nonindigenous Brits?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Support for “remain” was 75% among 18-24 year olds, too high to be explained by inter-cohort differences in race and immigration status alone. Even the youngest age bracket in Britain is still around 80% white (compared to ~90% for the oldest), as you can see from the spreadsheets here.

          • DavidS says:

            The results are of course complicated in other ways too. E.g. Young note likely to be university educated and to live on London – did those things make the young vote remain or did the fact young people vote remain contribute to the fact that uni educated people and Londoners tended to? I’d imagine it’s a combination.

            Telegraph reported that support for remain was higher in high immigration areas with clear implication this was immigrants voting to stay. But of course many immigrants don’t have the vote, and it’s notable that the most strongly Leave area had virtually no immigrants, so not sure voted off immigrants themselves explains it. For ukip as well you often see the concerns about immigration strongest in areas with extremely few immigrants. Don’t know if this is replicated internationally? Again, lots of possible reasons – age, or that immigrants rarely come to address where jobs are in decline but those whose access to jobs is declining are more likely to attribute this to immigrants

          • Sandy says:

            @DavidS: If Britain is anything like the United States, and in this regard I suspect it is, high immigration areas are likely going to be major cities like London. Cities lean left (specifically they tend to follow the ideology of the middle class left) and so such areas would seem to naturally trend toward Remain, perhaps even regardless of immigrant populations.

            It may not be replicated in all cases; I recall many months back some publications were exploring Trump’s support and noted that some of his strongest support was coming from places with large illegal/Mexican populations, the implication being that white people in these places were wary of illegal immigrants in their neighborhoods and rallying to Trump as a result. But it was also noted that a lot of older Latinos in border towns showed strong support for Trump, their reasoning being that the nature of the immigrant population had changed and the current generation of Mexicans illegally immigrating to the United States was worse than the one from the 70’s and 80’s (in terms of crime, education, civic spirit etc).

          • High remain votes in mixed areas could also be explained by more cosmopolitan-mided natives choosing to live on those areas, and/or by natives in !mixed areas realising through direct experience that immigrant’s just aren’t as bad as painted.

            The interesting thing about the vote was the way they were able to get some nice genteel people on board by lying about the NHS.

          • Tibor says:

            I would be really interested in the demography of the Brexit voters in terms of their reasons for Brexit. Obviously a big part of those people are nationalists and social conservatives. But I would like to see how many people voted for Brexit because they see the EU as protectionist, bureaucratic and socialist but who are not opposed to free trade (in fact the EU makes free trade with non-EU countries difficult and even the internal market is highly overregulated, especially in agriculture it is very far from free), free movement of labour etc, in a sense who are exactly the opposite of what the media depict the Brexiters as. I think the majority of liberals and liberal leaning people probably voted for Brexit, even though I have even seen a sensible libertarian argument for the EU – that is that the strongest opponents of the EU right now are people like Marine Le Pen who have no sympathies for the free market and if they have their way, it will be on net even worse than the status quo.

            But if I knew for example that the liberal-ish Brexiters are close to being a half of all Brexiters, then I will be quite optimistic about the future of the UK, less so if they amounted to 10% of Brexiters.

            Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a way to estimate that number from the available data.

          • Sweeneyrod says:

            @Tibor
            I think the liberal leave faction was very small, with fewer members than both the “immigrants are bad” and the “the EU prevents a Glorious Workers’ Paradise” groups. Not to mention the “no strong opinions, but happened to sway to this side” group that I think probably had the largest number of members on both sides.

          • DavidS says:

            @Tibor: if you think nationalists and social conservatives voted for Brexit (most would agree), and the evidence from Labour heartlands is that many of the ‘old left’ anti-establishment poorest hit hardest by austerity voted Brexit, and you think most liberals voted Brexit… who voted for Bremain?

            ‘Liberal’ is quite ambiguous, but I’d also say that the fact that youth correlated with wanting to Remain is evidence against the idea that liberals were largely pro-Remain.

            I agree there were some. Very possibly the more utopian/libertarian types would be opposed to the EU because it’s clearly incompatible with their principles (even if Brexit could lead in practice to greater protectionism).

          • Tibor says:

            @DavidS: I don’t know how it is in Britain, but aren’t young people much more likely to be socialist? Perhaps it is a misunderstanding in the terms – by liberal, I mean classical liberal/libertarian.

            I think that the Bremain voters were those who either genuinely like the EU (a minority probably?) and those who saw it as a lesser evil or at least a certainty instead of an uncharted territory (well, at least from the perspective of the last one or two generations), sort of the “middle of the road” voters who did not want to risk a change.

          • DavidS says:

            Very crudely, the young tend to be socially liberal, economically left wing. ‘Socialist’ is another rather weighted term. All major UK parties advocate both a welfare state, state funded health and education etc. and both also believe in markets (at least as a means), including to some degree in public services.

            True libertarians are rare and somewhat unpredictable in that it’s quite an ideological/intellectual position. But purists would obviously be anti-EU (although they might be more anti- the alternative if they expected it to bring protectionism, closed borders etc.)

            Not sure about what you say about UKIP espousing economic liberalism either. It’s less clear-cut than that. UKIP includes both libertarian types and quite old-school protectionists. Their recent growth seems to have included a lot from working class communities wanting more protection for e.g. the steel industry.

          • Tibor says:

            @DavidS: Yeah, that is what I meant by socialist and you’re right, I might have used clearer and more neutral terms like social democratic (especially since for a libertarian pretty much everyone else is to some degree a socialist).

            As for UKIP, I mostly observed the party and Farange through their interaction with the Czech “Free citizens party” with whom they cooperate in the Europarlament. The Frees are a liberal party which is also eurosceptical. Actually it seems to me that they are in fact also a strange mixture of a conservative wing and a liberal wing (with an odd anarchocapitalist, but those are rare even in that party), so socially you have a range from conservatives to hippies who like laissez faire. It could be that UKIP is something similar and that the conservative wing has gained more importance in the party over time (it seems to me that the opposite is true of the Czech Frees, the conservative wing seems to have split recently to join an anti-immigration party founded by a half-Japanese immigrant :)) ).

            Something similar has happened with the AfD in Germany (of course AfD is a much newer party than UKIP). Its founder wanted to abolish the Euro and move back to the Deutschmark and the party under his leadership supported the free market and was more or less liberal leaning. But then after the change of leadership the party has become much more socially conservative and noticeably less free market oriented (although still more than the social democrats for example).

            If the situation in the UK is about like in the Czech republic, then there are probably no more than 5-10% liberals in the population and probably no more than 30% people with clear inclinations towards liberalism but some reservations. But if they together represented 10% of the votes (assuming some of them would still vote Remain, especially the people who are not liberals outright) in the UK referendum who voted for Brexit then you would have at least 20% of the Brexit votes for reasons other than nationalism. That is not something to ignore, especially since many people seem to imagine that there is no way for the UK other than the EU or isolation and they might find such a third way appealing, eventually perhaps even more than the EU.

            Note that when I write liberal, I mean libertarian/classical liberal.

          • I’m giving a talk at the IEA in a few days, so should be able to get a first hand view of how U.K. libertarians view Brexit.

          • Tibor says:

            @David: Great. Would you mind writing a short blogpost about that? Or you could mention it in one of the following open threads here. Thanks!

            By the way, here in Germany in the media and in what I get as a general view (not of libertarians), people seem to feel “betrayed” by the UK leaving. This seems even stronger on the political level, which explains the hysterical reaction of some politicians. In any case, I am quite sad about that. Leaving a trade bloc should not be an emotional thing any more than when a company changes one if its main suppliers. That it has such emotional consequences should be worrisome, since it indicates that people thing about the EU more on an emotional level and in the worst case see it as a future superstate instead of seeing it as an extensive trade and cooperation agreement and weighing its benefits against its costs.

            On the other hand, given how political the EU is, I can understand some of the German frustration because now France and other southern countries will have much more power and they tend to pursue goals very different from the German ones (even looser fiscal and monetary policy, even more redistribution etc.)

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Leaving a trade bloc should not be an emotional thing any more than when a company changes one if its main suppliers. That it has such emotional consequences should be worrisome, since it indicates that people thing about the EU more on an emotional level and in the worst case see it as a future superstate instead of seeing it as an extensive trade and cooperation agreement and weighing its benefits against its costs.

            I think that’s it, and also that a lot of the friction between Britain and the rest of the EU was because Britain entered the Union because it thought being part of a free-trade bloc would be good for the economy, whereas the central bloc (France, Germany, Benelux, Italy) did have more of a misty-eyed attraction to the ideal of European unity. So Britain looks at things like the European Parliament much like a company might look at one of its suppliers demanding that the company jumps through all sorts of unnecessary hoops before they sell to them, whilst continental Europe looks at Britain much like an awkward family member who gets in a mood every time they’re expected to go on vacation together.

            Incidentally, I’ve also noticed that a lot of non-Europeans seem to underestimate just how much authority the EU now claims. At any rate, a lot of the commentary I’ve read from Americans would make more sense if the EU was just “Let’s not have tariffs against each other’s goods” and not “We have the right to over-rule your national governments, oh and by the way no free trade with anybody outside the EU without our say-so.”

          • Tibor says:

            @The original Mr. X: I think you’re right, at least in the case of France and Germany, not so sure about Italy (it seems to me that Italy also mostly wants economic benefits from the EU, but for Italy these are lower interest rates than it could have otherwise and using mostly German taxpayer’s money to bail out Italian banks). The Netherlands do not seem to be very enthusiastic about an ever closer political union, I don’t know about Belgium or Luxembourg. But France and Germany together represent even more now when Britain is, as far as future EU decision making is considered, no longer an EU member. Still, I don’t think the political integration will continue, or if it does that the EU will keep its current 27 members. Even though Germany and France might want a political union, each of them imagine it very differently.

            And if Le Pen wins the presidential election, which I find unlikely but possible, then France will want out too. In a sense that is a good thing for someone who is not keen on the idea of a political union. Not a good thing for France, because Le Pen’s independent France would be even more protectionist than is now, but at least the rest of the EU would be free of the French protectionist influence and perhaps there could even be a trade agreement with non-EU countries afterwards.

            It also surprised me by the way how many opponents of the TTIP agreement between the EU and the US are here in Germany, even among PhDs with a STEM/maths background (so not people who would be worried about their jobs being relocated to the US in case of workers and who would want the keep the US competition away in case of the industry). I confess that I don’t know the details of the proposed agreement, so perhaps it is also more complicated than just having or not having a tariff-free zone with the world’s first/second biggest economy. I think that the most important reason Obama supported the Remain side of the UK is that it will be much harder now to pass that treaty with the EU than it would have been with the UK still in it.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            I think the liberal leave faction was very small, with fewer members than both the “immigrants are bad” and the “the EU prevents a Glorious Workers’ Paradise” groups.

            If by “liberal ” you mean centrist or LibDem, then that is about the most pro European bloc…if you mean left, then no.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @TheAncientGeek

            Yes, I was talking about Lib Dems and centrist Labour types (I classed the more left-wing members of Labour under the “the EU prevents a Glorious Workers’ Paradise” group).

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Mr. X

            When some of those of us (outside the EU) claim those things about Europe’s authority, we tend to be told either

            1) Oh, no, the EU doesn’t actually have that power, you’ve been listening to propaganda. All those bad things were passed by the UK Parliament using the EU as an excuse

            2) The EU is actually more democratic than the UK

            3) Those things are perfectly normal for a trade agreement.

            So I think it’s not lack of knowledge of the authority the EU claims, it’s a difference in interpretation of those claims.

          • Tibor says:

            @The Nybbler: Told by whom? Especially the claim that the “EU is more democratic than the UK” sounds absolutely indefensible to me and I have never heard it even from the proponents of EU federalization. They often acknowledge the fact that the EU is not very democratic and their solution is “more Europe”, that is more centralization and more power to the EU Parliament instead of the unelected (or elected in the same sense the UN officials are elected) EU Commission.

            The Commision is chosen by a vote among the governments of the member countries and it is the only executive body of the EU and can pass EU-wide laws unless they are blocked by the majority of the EU Parliament which they pretty much never are. The Parliament does not really have much power other than in some cases vetoing the laws declared by the Commission. It is about as democratic as Singapore.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @Tibor

            The claim that the EU is more democratic than the UK is based on the fact that we have an unelected upper house and head of state.

          • John Schilling says:

            The claim that the EU is more democratic than the UK is based on the fact that we have an unelected upper house and head of state.

            Both of which are almost purely ceremonial at this point. Actual power in the UK is vested in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister, and the Permanent Bureaucracy.

            In the EU, you’ve got the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council of the European Union, the European Comission, the Judean People’s Front, the President of the European Council, the European Court of Justice, the Court of Auditors, the European Central Bank, and again the Bureaucracy, all of which I believe wield independent non-ceremonial power and only one of which is popularly elected.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            I didn’t say it was a good claim! (Although the House of Lords isn’t purely ceremonial, it does use its powers to delay and amend bills quite frequently). Also, you missed out the People’s Front of Judea.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            You forgot about the People’s Front of Judea, the Judean Popular People’s Front, and the Popular Front of Judea.

            Splitters, all of them.

            Edit: sweeney is a tricksey ninja, he is.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            You can’t spell ROMANES EUNT DOMUS without the EU.

          • Tibor says:

            Cerebral Paul: this is a common grammatical mistake of the EU supporters. If I thought that I would also naturally support the EU. But the fact is it is Romani ini domum! We don’t need the EU after all! 🙂

          • Tibor says:

            John: the EU Parliament is actually the only EU body which is directly elected. But the name shouldn’t fool you, they have way less power than actual parliaments, most power is in the hands of the Commission which is chosen in closed door deals between heads of the member countries.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        The fence in question is the principle of not changing the rules after the fact. The clear understanding was that Parliament would respect the wishes of the majority of voters, and going back on this would be bad for British politics in much the same way as making a promise to one of your friends and then wiggling out on a technicality would be bad for your friendship.

      • hlynkacg says:

        This was originally posted on the sub by u/FutilitarianAkrasia but I’m going to re-post it here because MP Daniel Hannan’s Speech before the Oxford Union is both excellent and relevant to this discussion.

        • onyomi says:

          This point about how big corporations like regulation seems so important, but no matter how many times it’s repeated, it never really seems to sink in among the sort of people who typically rail against multinational corporations’ undue influence (those people tend to be both anti-big corporation and pro-regulation as if the latter were a way of checking the influence of the former; in reality, it may be their best legal weapon).

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            “The corporations have captured all the old regulation. That’s why we need to have new regulation. And I will be here to guard the new regulation. Well, not me personally. Someone that gets hired. By someone with money. I ain’t paying for that.”

          • hlynkacg says:

            I don’t think that’s a fair reading of either Onyomi or Mr Hannan’s point.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            If regulations are consistently a boon for large corporations, why does the US Chamber of Commerce fight like hell to stop them? Why is Ted Cruz, the tea-party darling who promises to repeal regulations en masse, bankrolled primarily by oil companies and financial firms?

            Who initially led you to believe that regulations principally benefit
            large corporations? Was it someone who works for a think tank funded by large corporations? I’m betting it was. Congratulations, Exxon Mobil has convinced you that we shouldn’t regulate Exxon Mobil because it will be too much of a windfall for Exxon Mobil.

          • Lumifer says:

            @Earthly Knight

            Who initially led you to believe that regulations principally benefit large corporations?

            Observations of empirical reality.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            You observed environmental regulations enriching Exxon Mobil? With your eyes? You must have keener vision than me. Or anyone at Exxon Mobil, given the millions they’ve invested over the years in fighting environmental regulations.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @hlynkacg
            I thought Mr Scizorhands’ was mocking people in favour of regulation, rather than arguing against Hannan’s point.

            @Lumifer
            “Observations of empirical reality” can be used to justify pretty much anything. Not really a helpful answer.

          • JayT says:

            Big corporations fight regulations because not all of them are of a benefit to them, but that doesn’t mean they fight all regulations. There are times where two different corporations fight for two different regulations. An example that comes to mind is Uber vs taxi companies. both are large corporations, both are constantly fighting for new and different regulations. There is a very real possibility that whoever wins the regulation war will end up being the largest corporation in that sector.

            Regulations are heavily influenced by lobbyists, and most lobbies are funded by large corporations.

          • Lumifer says:

            @sweeneyrod

            It wasn’t really intended to be. It is a counterpoint to the “Oh, you think X? How much money did the fat-cat villains pay you to proclaim that you believe X?” which I’m getting a bit tired of.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @Lumifer

            It’s not a very good counterpoint though. What’s wrong with “I first encountered the idea in David Friedman’s The Machinery Of Freedom (and I’m fairly sure he isn’t funded by large businesses)”?

          • John Schilling says:

            If regulations are consistently a boon for large corporations, why does the US Chamber of Commerce fight like hell to stop them

            How do you distinguish between fighting to stop regulations, and working to modify them? In both cases, the initial negotiating position will be “we are opposed to the proposed regulations” and the end result will be a different set of regulations proclaimed by all parties to be a compromise.

          • gbdub says:

            Why is it always ExxonMobil? Big oil companies are probably the worst example, because most regulations on them are going to be negative (given that environmentalism does have strong support and lobbyists in its favor). Also, one of the main benefits of regulatory capture, preventing entryism, isn’t as big a deal since the oil industry is already hard to break into and very capital intensive.

            Taxi companies are a better example, as are most credentialist groups. Also anything with the tax code – bigger companies are better positioned to capture esoteric tax benefits, structure themselves for favorable treatment, etc.

            No, not all regulation is supported by big business. But that doesn’t mean regulatory capture, rent-seeking, and cronyism aren’t real dangers of a powerful regulatory state.

          • onyomi says:

            “Who initially led you to believe that regulations principally benefit
            large corporations? Was it someone who works for a think tank funded by large corporations? I’m betting it was.”

            I don’t think Stigler ever worked for a corporation-funded think tank.

            But speaking of funding, who convinced you that regulation, which enhances the power of government, was a good idea? Was it someone who at some point worked for a university or institution receiving public, i. e. government funds? I’m betting it was.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Lumifer

            I’m accusing you of being a dupe, not of being a shill. There’s a difference.

            @ JayT

            It is certainly true that corporations try to pervert regulations to their own benefit. But most proposed regulations– or, at least, most regulations proposed by leftists– will cut into their profits, which is why they invest hundreds of millions of dollars each year in conservative and libertarian candidates, think tanks, and causes. I mean, of all the presidential candidates in this last election cycle, Bernie Sanders favored the most expansive regulatory state of all. But Sanders’s major donors are unions, not corporations. Onyomi’s claim requires us to believe that all corporations wage a constant campaign of self-sabotage, oblivious to their own best interests.

          • Nornagest says:

            There is also the case where a regulation is a net negative on the balance sheet for a large corporation, yet imposes proportionally lower costs on it relative to smaller corporations or individuals (by imposing compliance costs the latter can’t handle as easily). If the resulting competitive advantage doesn’t outweigh the fundamental costs, it could be opposed by a well-informed corporation, yet consistently be said to favor a top-heavy business ecosystem. Good for Big Business, in other words, without being good for any particular big business.

            As a toy example, imagine passing a law in a small town to raise the cost of a business license to a million dollars a year. Walmart will be able to pay that, though it probably doesn’t want to. But Al’s Corner Store is hosed.

          • Lumifer says:

            @sweeneyrod

            What’s wrong with “I first encountered the idea in David Friedman’s The Machinery Of Freedom

            It’s not true : -)

            I’m not even sure the question of “when first encountered” makes sense for me. It is rather obvious that under capitalism the business and the government have a symbiotic (or maybe mutually-parasitic) relationship. The big business, being big and consequentially powerful, has bigger influence on the government and uses that influence to adjust policy. The policy that it’s most interested in adjusting is regulations concerning its (and its competitors) business. When that relationship gets out of hand we start to talk about crony capitalism.

            There is a large variety of empirical observations to support this — from the well-known revolving door between the industry and the regulators (look up “regulatory capture”) to just looking at the size of the firms in heavily regulated industries.

          • Lumifer says:

            @Earthly Knight

            I’m accusing you of being a dupe, not of being a shill. There’s a difference.

            Oh, I’m so relieved!

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Earthly Knight
            While I can’t speak for the specific case of “environmental regulations enriching Exxon Mobil”, I have seen the effect first hand in both the Aerospace and Electronics industry. Likewise running a search on “regulatory capture”, as gbdub and others have suggested, will net you a fair number of well documented cases elsewhere.

            In any case, at first glance Mr Hannan’s complaints about fixed costs having a disparate impact on smaller operators, and British agricultural trade deals getting held up by Italian Tomato farmers appear to be valid.

          • onyomi says:

            “There is also the case where a regulation is a net negative on the balance sheet for a large corporation, yet imposes proportionally lower costs on it relative to smaller corporations or individuals (by imposing compliance costs the latter can’t handle as easily).”

            This is the key point. I’d imagine most regulations do, in fact, impose net costs on corporations, but the point is that compliance is relatively less costly, proportionally speaking, for large corporations as compared to small corporations, and for existing, established corporations as compared to new or as-yet wholly theoretical enterprises (this is the real hidden cost–not the jobs lost when the competitor goes out of business, but the jobs never created in the first place because someone looks at the startup costs of breaking into an industry and decides it’s not worth the risk).

          • keranih says:

            @ Earthly Knight –

            I mean, of all the presidential candidates in this last election cycle, Bernie Sanders favored the most expansive regulatory state of all. But Sanders’s major donors are unions, not corporations.

            The largest portion of the union sector is public unions. And who do you think has a vested interest in making sure there are lots of regulations that need to be monitored and enforced?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Really? State licensing requirements for taxis? We’re talking about regulation of multinational corporations, and that’s your poster child?

            Let’s look instead at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. If onyomi’s claim were true, we should expect the US Chamber of Commerce and its surrogates in the media and congress to have supported the CFPB’s creation– a new regulatory body means new opportunities for regulatory capture, after all. But, in fact, they bitterly opposed the CFPB at every turn, denouncing it in editorials in the Wall Street Journal, holding up Obama’s appointments, and so on. So, again, you are left with a dilemma: either corporations routinely act against their own self-interest, or regulation overseen by politicians who aren’t avowed crony capitalists does harm to major corporations.

            I don’t think Stigler ever worked for a corporation-funded think tank.

            Let’s trace the causal history of your belief back a bit further. What induced you to read Stigler’s work?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Nornagest

            Good for Big Business, in other words, without being good for any particular big business.

            Note that onyomi made the stronger claim that corporations positively “like regulation,” not the weaker claim that regulation tends to hurt large businesses less than small ones.

            @ keranih

            The largest portion of the union sector is public unions. And who do you think has a vested interest in making sure there are lots of regulations that need to be monitored and enforced?

            I have no doubt that a Sanders presidency would have been a coup for public-sector unions, and that this partly explains their support for the candidate. But by parity of reasoning, we should also think that corporations will benefit from the political success of the deregulating candidates who they bankroll. This implies that onyomi is mistaken.

          • Nornagest says:

            Note that onyomi made the stronger claim that corporations positively “like regulation,” not the weaker claim that regulation tends to hurt large businesses less than small ones.

            I would expect this to be true in some, but not all, cases: the ones where the competitive advantage to established players does outweigh the compliance costs, or at least where the company’s lobbyists can convincingly argue to its top brass that it does.

            On theoretical grounds I’d probably expect this to happen more often in distributed, capital-light industries or those which are especially worried about technological disruption, but there might be some stuff going on that I haven’t thought of.

          • Skivverus says:

            A particular parable comes to mind here, illustrating perhaps the main pitfall of regulatory attempts.

            The short version: make too many regulations/laws, and people will start to forget why they’re complying with them, leading ultimately to following the letter and ignoring the spirit of them.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Lumifer

            It is rather obvious that under capitalism the business and the government have a symbiotic (or maybe mutually-parasitic) relationship. The big business, being big and consequentially powerful, has bigger influence on the government and uses that influence to adjust policy. The policy that it’s most interested in adjusting is regulations concerning its (and its competitors) business.

            None of your claims here actually force on us the conclusion that regulations benefit major corporations– all are consistent with the hypothesis that most regulations harm large corporations, but, given that there will be regulations whether the corporations want them or no, they pursue the second-best option of trying to corrupt the regulatory bodies (and in some cases succeeding) in order to mitigate the harm. This latter hypothesis is also supported by the evidence I have adduced, while yours is not.

            This is also why it is important to keep straight the distinction between observations and things you take to be obvious– your “observation” was actually an inference that depended on a suppressed, and eminently contestable, auxiliary premise.

          • onyomi says:

            “Note that onyomi made the stronger claim that corporations positively “like regulation,” not the weaker claim that regulation tends to hurt large businesses less than small ones.”

            You’re misconstruing my position. I think they “like” regulation the same way, if you were running a race, you’d “like” getting to wear a 10 lb. backpack if it meant all your competitors had to wear a 50 lb. backpack.

          • keranih says:

            @ Earthly Knight

            But by parity of reasoning, we should also think that corporations will benefit from the political success of the deregulating candidates who they bankroll. This implies that onyomi is mistaken.

            Not if the corps don’t know how the deregulation is going to occur. Small businesses can thrive on the chaos border, but larger corps – especially multinational ones can’t turn the ship that fast. Better the devil they know.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Jesus Christ what is with the all or nothing thinking around here.

            Regulatory capture is real, and a problem.

            Exploitation of the commons is real and also a problem.

            Competitors in a marketplace having coordination problems is also real.

            And plain old incompetence and sub-optimal performance is also real, which leads to harms, which it would be nice if we could minimize.

            Regulations are not unalloyed good. Lack of regulations are not an unalloyed good.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ onyomi

            I think they “like” regulation the same way, if you were running a race, you’d “like” getting to wear a 10 lb. backpack if it meant all your competitors had to wear a 50 lb. backpack.

            This analogy is poorly chosen, so I think you’re still not quite getting it. In your analogy, assuming that all I care about is winning the race, it would be in my self-interest for me to be handicapped but all of my competitors to be handicapped more. But it is not true for large corporations that most proposed regulations are in their self-interest, otherwise they would not fight tooth and nail to stop them from passing. The more plausible claim which you’re retreating to now is that while most regulations are a net loss for major corporations in the industry being regulated (from which it follows that “big corporations” do not “like regulation”), they tend to hurt major corporations less than smaller firms.

            @ keranih

            Not if the corps don’t know how the deregulation is going to occur. Small businesses can thrive on the chaos border, but larger corps – especially multinational ones can’t turn the ship that fast. Better the devil they know.

            I’m not sure what point you’re making. Is it that large corporations are typically harmed by deregulation? If so, why do they consistently bankroll candidates, think thanks, etc. who promote deregulation?

            @ HeelBearCub

            None of those points are really at issue here. This subthread began because onyomi claimed that “big corporations like regulation.” But this claim must be false, for the reasons given repeatedly above.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I know it’s a typo, but I love the idea of “think thanks”.

            Organizations devoted to coming up with novel and complex ways of offering gratitude. How very Japanese.

          • “If so, why do they consistently bankroll candidates, think thanks, etc. who promote deregulation? ”

            Everyone seems to be taking this factoid for gospel. My not very expert impression is that large corporations tend to play both sides of the fence, donate to both Republican and Democratic candidates and to foundations etc. with a wide range of agendas.

            The Koch brothers are a partial exception, since they are ideological libertarians, but my impression is that even they mix ideological donations with political donations designed to buy support from non-libertarian politicians.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Corporation donations flow to republicans over democrats at a ratio of about 2:1, except in democratic wave years. But party affiliation is not the best proxy, both because there’s a strong incentive to curry favor with whoever is in power, and because there are a lot of blue politicians who are not exactly hostile to business concerns. The comparison between arch-deregulator Cruz and socialist Sanders is probably more informative. Or you could just track the lobbying activities of various corporations and their interest groups and see that they do, indeed, fight regulation at every turn. The US Chamber of Commerce website is a good place to start.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Most analyses of “corporate donations,” including OpenSecrets.org, which is the source for Earthly Knight’s 2:1 figure, treat “employee working for company X donates to politician Y” and “company X donates to policy Y.”

          • Nornagest says:

            And the moral of the story is, if a hyper-literal reading of a post looks dumb, it’s probably a better idea to look for a less hyper-literal reading that’s less dumb than to launch straight into rant mode.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Really? I thought the moral was that if you’re going to make smug jibes about how naive and deluded leftists are about [topic], don’t immediately follow that up by saying something profoundly foolish about [topic].

            Apparently several others were also seduced by the specious inference from “regulatory capture happens” to “regulation is the optimal outcome for corporations”. So it’s good we cleared that up.

    • Sandy says:

      Honestly, I figure that if the government disregards the referendum, they’re in for a few more Jo Cox-style assassinations.

      • Luke the CIA Stooge says:

        Not necessarily assassination, but definitely polarization and a extremism death spiral. There is a reason referendums and elections in general ARE NOT IGNORED.

        Referendums exist so that hot button political issues can be solved without politician fiat or violence. That’s the cheterson’s fence of referendums, the worst political issues cam be solved peacefully with a referendum (Quebec being a prime example of a violent separatist issue becoming peaceful with referendums) but once you don’t follow through on the referendum (I can’t think of any case where the political class was dumb enough not to) then all of a sudden the extremist and violent elements are legitimated, and you get a political death spiral.
        And worse now the extremism can’t stop because no one will trust the other side to respect the outcome of a referendum.

        • hlynkacg says:

          This, very much this. ^

        • Tibor says:

          Well, the EU constitution was rejected in France and Netherlands in referendums only to be rebranded as the Lisbon treaty and ratified. So there is your example. It did not cause any violence but it probably helped the Brexit considerably and possibly might lead to other exists as well (in fact, it is exactly France and Netherlands which are most likely to held their own EU referendums).

      • Scott Alexander says:

        I would prefer less casual discussion of assassinations on here.

        • Sandy says:

          Apologies. I don’t think such an outcome would be a good or desirable thing, but tensions seem to be high enough that the government might have to take such an outcome into consideration.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            Yeah, it wasn’t an accusation, I’m just worried about how this sort of thing will look to outsiders.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I think democracy and referendums are a very poor way to decide policy. But once you decide to do it, you gosh-darned better listen to the results.

  5. Dr Dealgood says:

    So this is kind of an odd question for SSC, but whatever.

    Has anyone here ever studied runes, either as an academic discipline or as a form of esoteric magic? If you have, what did you get out of it and would you recommend it?

    I’m curious because the occult is kind of like catnip to me. I don’t ‘believe’ in magic as such, that would make me kind of a crap scientist, but historical mysticism is pretty fascinating. Plus it seems like a cool way to get in touch with that part of my heritage. Sort of like the whole deal with Scott and Kabbalah, translated into a Germanic context.

    • Nornagest says:

      I’ve dabbled a bit.

      Thing is, any source you can find on runes in esoteric practice is basically going to be made up out of whole cloth. We know runes figured in Norse mysticism, but we have very little idea how; there are a handful of Icelandic sigils of runic derivation, a few rune poems and inscriptions on artifacts, and the bit of the Havamal where Odin talks about the potency of the runes he knows (without saying which). That’s it. The practice you sometimes see of casting runes for divinatory purposes, for example, is a 20th century neopagan invention; some primary sources do have the ancient Norse casting signs or lots, but the specific procedure and the significance attached to the individual runes are both fabricated. The latter, in some systems, is loosely based on an 11th century rune poem, but that only gets you so far.

      Depending on what you’re going for, this may not be an obstacle (divination using the Tarot, for example, is a lot more modern in origin than you might think). But if it’s historical mysticism you’re looking for, you’re probably not going to find it here.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Thing is, any source you can find on runes in esoteric practice is basically going to be made up out of whole cloth.

        Basically this. For anything other than heritage reasons, esoteric Hinduism has Western esotericism beat by a margin of… basically all the relevant texts. Have you considered looking into that instead?

    • Anonanon says:

      Don’t curse me bro

    • Jaskologist says:

      Ascending the Tower had a podcast on that sort of thing, mostly as applied to memes. It was very esoteric, but that kind of comes with the territory.

  6. Stefan Drinic says:

    SSC, how do you deal with annoying kids? Any general advice is appreciated.

    • Ruprect says:

      They normally want attention – so give them some very intense attention for a brief time and try to direct them into doing something quiet. “My goodness! What a powerful voice you have! But I fear you may have attracted the attention of the Goblins! Quick now… let us carve a sword to defend ourselves! There should be a magical stick somewhere down at the bottom of the garden – go quickly, and find it, for the fate of the kingdom depends on you brave sir knight.”

    • Pku says:

      In some cases, just being appropriately and openly strict works surprisingly well. In others, responding to annoyance and hostility with hostility (instead of trying to force myself to the obviously-fake niceness everyone hates), but leaving a door open for them to act well. In particular, it’s important to avoid designating a kid as “the problem kid”, since they tend to leave themselves in the role.
      An example: A few years ago I led a weekend hiking trip for a group of 11-year olds. There was one kid that spent the whole first day shouting various insults at me. I pretty much insulted him back to his face. The next morning, we ran into a lake and he was the first one with the balls to jump in, so I went out of my way to go “Oh man, nice going *high five*”. We got along great after that.

    • Chisel says:

      Are they your kids or someone else’s?

      • Stefan Drinic says:

        Not mine.

        • Chisel says:

          In what way are they being annoying?

          Come to think of it, I need a bunch more info:

          -Do you mean other people’s kids in general, or some specific kids?
          -Are they annoying consistently, or were they just annoying once?
          -How old are these kids? (I often find myself think of people in their 20s or younger to be kids, so long as they aren’t married and/or don’t have kids of their own.)
          -Where are they annoying you? Are they on your property?
          -Etc. More info is better.

          I really do think I can give a very helpful answer, but I need more info first.

  7. http://blog.dilbert.com/post/146361457021/the-humiliation-of-the-american-male-in-2016#_=_

    What’s the idea behind this? ESPECIALLY about the sweater he was wearing. Comments are closed and I’m usually ignored whenever I send someone a message so maybe the cool guys at SSC could explain this strange phenomena.

    • Sandy says:

      It strikes me as similar to /pol/ and the alt-right’s conception of the “nu-male”: an effeminate, submissive masochist who tweets about toxic masculinity and the like. Such men reputedly have a uniform that consists of, among other things, scruffy beards, hipster glasses, prematurely receding hairlines, skinny forearms and progressive politics. I’ve never heard about the sweater, though.

    • Anonanon says:

      Here’s a good rabbit hole to go down. Richard Carrier, “intellectual artillery” of Social-justice-atheism.

      • God Damn John Jay says:

        I see that he is currently in exile from Skepticon for sexual harassment. Why am I not at all surprised that his nebulous type is in troublw

          • Jona says:

            Sometimes when I read stuff like this I get cynical and want to say that women/people are placing all these norms around dating to punish men/people who show interest them when that interest isn’t reciprocated so as to filter out all the men but those who are supremely confidant of their attraction.

            Like would anyone had cared if Carrier had admitted to breaking the rule, but the post ended “And now the woman and I are in a wonderful relationship?”

            And I can sympathize with that intention, but I don’t think being around about whether attraction is reciprocated should be some terrible thing.

          • Anonymaus says:

            Its the difference between texting while driving, and texting while driving and then being involved in a crash (sexual harassment complaint).

        • Jaskologist says:

          I told myself I wouldn’t delve in, but I couldn’t resist. Is he really being run out on a rail just for hitting on some girls? I want to feel bad for him, but I strongly suspect he would do the same to others in a heartbeat.

          • Theo Jones says:

            I don’t usually pay that much attention to the FTB world (so, I don’t know much about the circumstances here), but the three incidents as far as can tell are
            1. He wrote a post on his blog (part of the FTB collective) saying that he is single and inviting people to ask him out
            2. He gave a speech, talked to one of the attendees, went to a bar with her, talked with her for two hours (not directly romantically), made a pass at her, and got shot down.
            3. An alleged incident involving him touching a woman’s arm. This one could be serious if true, but I really can’t find any details about what is being alleged, and what the evidence is. It sounds like the initial version of the claim did not include the touching but the accuser added it later (with the initial complaint just saying he flirted with her). This happened after she told him that she was interested in opening her relationship with her boyfriend.
            4. PZ and Greta claim to have additional unpublished accusations of “non-consensual behaviour” but have not provided details.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            @Theo Jones

            So what you’re saying is that these Skepticon people are crazy? Like, completely round the bend nuts?

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Is arm touching serious now? I didn’t think things had gotten that bad yet.

            Edit: Ok, just read the account of his alleged misdeeds linked above. And yeah, I guess things really are that bad now. It’s actually kind of surreal to see such non-offenses treated as damning evidence that he’s a sexual predator.

            Second Edit: Did anyone else read the comments on that one? I misspoke a minute ago, the outraged reactions of the commenters is what is truly surreal.

          • God Damn John Jay says:

            In this Skepticon’s [sigh] defense, they have a very explicit “don’t hit on attendees” policy that he admits he violated.

          • Theo Jones says:

            @God Damn John Jay

            As far as I can tell, though, none of these incidents happened at Skepticon, although some of them happened at other skeptic events.

            Edit: although, the Skepticon announcement alleges “boundary pushing behaviour” that happened at their events. Can’t find details.

          • Theo Jones says:

            @Dealgood 2nd edit

            Some of them are now wanting PZ’s scalp for not acting fast enough to eject him from the FTB community. Even though PZ did suspend his posting privileges on FTB.

          • John Schilling says:

            In this Skepticon’s [sigh] defense, they have a very explicit “don’t hit on attendees” policy that he admits he violated

            I find myself wondering at the demographics of a hypothetical Skepticon in which everyone who violated that policy was banished to the outer darkness.

            Admitting that you violated the policy, yeah, that perhaps wasn’t the smartest move.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I’m none too keen on witch hunts, but let’s try to represent the accusation accurately. The accusation is that, while speaking at ASU, Carrier hit on multiple students, in violation of explicit policy, including touching one on the arm and leg without consent. To me, it seems pretty sleazy to use college speaking engagements as an opportunity to pick up (I assume?) undergraduates, particularly if this involves getting handsy.

          • Theo Jones says:

            @EK

            That would be the arm incident, and that was part of the reason I flagged it as “serious if true”. I agree that his behaviour qualifies as creepy and out of the range of normal behaviour, if you accept the account of the person who made the complaint. I was probably overly dismissive of that part of the story.

            Some of his other behaviour probably qualifies in the yuck category (he seems to like women much younger than him), but don’t quite go to the level of harassment, as he did seem to back off after being told no , and he had no direct power over the people involved (ie. no conflicts of interest). Other than the age of the people, his actions are arguably within norm.

            I think there are plenty of reasons to **hurk** at this guy’s actions, but harassment is a very strong claim. Really, this is one of those internet dumpster fires where both sides are cringe worthy.

          • Theo Jones says:

            @EK

            It is worth noting that Carrier claims that the policy prohibiting speakers from hitting on SSA event attendees is only a national SSA policy, and that local chapters (including the one at that event) have different policies. Sounds a bit dubious to me, but if he is right its not directly against policy.

            This whole incident is a mess.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            The supreme court has held that sexual harassment in a school setting is conduct “that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive, and that so undermines and detracts from the victims’ educational experience, that the victim-students are effectively denied equal access to an institution’s resources and opportunities.” Assuming the allegations against Carrier are true, it still seems pretty clear that his actions fall well short of meeting this standard. I think we also recognize a less stringent colloquial definition of harassment, but I have no idea what it is, whether Carrier’s behavior qualifies, and what repercussions, if any, he should face for so behaving.

            As for age: I’ve known a fair number of twentysomething women who choose to sleep with, or enter into relationships with, older men. Presumably, most of this occurs at the man’s instigation, so a norm prohibiting older men from hitting on young women would greatly restrict the autonomy of a lot people. On the other hand, I’ve also known too many twentysomething women whose lives have been made miserable by old lechers who have trouble taking “no” for an answer. I don’t know if there’s a happy solution to this problem, a policy that rules out all and only the bad kinds of conduct. I suspect that there isn’t.

          • Jona says:

            @EK

            Its not clear to me that Richard’s actions took place in a school setting. From a cursory setting it seemed to be Bars/Parties. Furthermore if Richard is telling the truth, I would not say that a single declaration of romantic interest is sexual harassment.

            The problem with old lechers who have trouble taking “No” for answer is not that they are old. It is that they are lechers who have trouble taking “no” for an answer.

            The demographic being curtailed should not be old people, but lechers who have trouble taking “no” for answer.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I’m not so sure. It seems like one of the factors which enters into our judgments about whether an advance is appropriate is the likelihood that the target of the advance will be receptive. Propositioning women who you know to be faithfully married or lesbians, for instance, seems especially sleazy and disrespectful. So does propositioning women (or men, really) thirty or forty years your junior.

          • Jona says:

            @EK

            Considering Richard Carrier is 46 so I agree that it would be problematic if were propositioning people 30-40 years younger than him.

            I don’t disagree that the idea of an older man displaying interest in a younger (adult) woman years seems sleazy, but I don’t think its wrong. That is just our social conditioning talking. You agreed your self there are women who date older women men, it isn’t comparable to hitting on lesbians.

          • John Schilling says:

            Carrier hit on multiple students, in violation of explicit policy, including touching one on the arm and leg without consent

            Is Carrier a leper or something?

            Because I believe in most societies, “touching on the arm and leg without consent” is one of the usual early courtship behaviors, used to gauge the other party’s response before moving further. And for that matter, touching on the arm or leg without explicit consent is a fairly common non-courtship behavior too. The only exceptions I can think of offhand are deeply repressive religious societies, though perhaps this isn’t so different.

            It is of course possible to go too far in this area, and maybe Carrier did. But if all someone is willing to say about a person’s behavior is that they touched someone’s arm without consent, and that this is a serious incident justifying ostracism and banishment, then I’m going to go with this not being a healthy society.

          • Rob K says:

            @John Schilling

            It appears from quick reading that he was an invited speaker at student events where there’s a policy that “Speakers must refrain from initiating any and all sexual behavior with students with respect to Speakers Bureau events.” That’s the context in which the arm-touching is being described as an offense.

            It seems to me like this isn’t anywhere near as out there as people here are making it sound. He agreed to some ground rules as a speaker, and broke them twice. Not smart!

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            I don’t think the decision to completely remove him is wrong given that, yes, he broke the clearly defined rules. What I think is being objected to here is extrapolating further, and accusing him of harrassment, based on his breaking rules that are very much on the safe side of what one could reasonably consider such. That’s my interpretation of the interpretation, since I don’t actually know a lot about the situation, the skeptics community seems like a massive shitshow and I refuse to inform myself about their workings.

          • John Schilling says:

            @Rob K: The alleged touching is described as happening after, rather than during, a speaking event. More importantly, touching someone in a social setting is so far from being a central example of “sexual behavior” as to render this whole line of argument IMO ludicrous. If you prohibit “sexual behavior” without defining it, and if you then do hair-trigger banishment for simple touching, I reserve the right to laugh at your silly dysfunctional organization and the society it represents.

            And my prior for there being a whole lot of touching going on, leading to unambiguous sexual behavior but among the Right Sort of People, is pretty close to 100%.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            Haven’t we all known the guy who gets in his cups (or doesn’t) and starts actually hitting on people who are clearly letting him know, as politely as possible, “What you are doing is not welcome”. But they do not stop. Or they just go on to the next person?

            And isn’t that, in the vernacular, a major buzzkill, for everyone else, especially if everyone only kind of knows each other?

            Could you actually point to some specific thing that they did which is strictly out of bounds? Or this more like SCOTUS and pornography “You know it when you see it.”

            Now, I understand that this very fuzziness can be abused, but the solution doesn’t seem to me to be to say “Well, sorry, his behavior has to be tolerated because otherwise someone else might abuse the system.”

            It strikes me that this is a very hard problem and is going to look inscrutable to people outside it.

            What happened here? No clue. But I doubt it was a fifth column designed to sabotage the skeptic movement.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @HeelBearCub,

            I don’t think that anyone is disputing that this guy is awkward. You can tell that just from the way he writes. I have no trouble believing that his presence makes people uncomfortable.

            But the objection here isn’t that he’s actually cool and really fun to be around. It’s that:
            I. Being a buzzkill doesn’t make you a sexual predator, harasser, etc.
            II. Touching someone’s arm or leg in conversation is perfectly normal and unobjectionable.
            III. Hitting on someone at a party after a con is, once again, perfectly normal and unobjectionable.

            If I’m at a party, some girl comes up touches my arm without asking permission and then asks me if I’m seeing anyone… I literally won’t even remember it happened in an hour. That’s so completely within modern dating norms that taking exception to it is bizarre and absurd.

          • Anonanon says:

            >I doubt it was a fifth column designed to sabotage the skeptic movement.

            Yes, this would have to be a sixth column, given that it’s purging the fifth.
            Either that or the cancer got cancer again.

          • John Schilling says:

            Haven’t we all known the guy who gets in his cups (or doesn’t) and starts actually hitting on people who are clearly letting him know, as politely as possible, “What you are doing is not welcome”. But they do not stop.

            I’m not seeing where you get that last part. Carrier did, from what I’ve read, stop immediately when his supposed victims either declined or did not respond to his advances. Which were well within the normal bounds of “as politely as possible”, by every standard I know of. If that’s not the case, then his failure to stop needs to be a part of the story, and anyone not willing to tell that part of the story needs to stop telling any part of the story.

            Or they just go on to the next person?

            Isn’t that what one is supposed to do after one politely propositions someone and is politely turned down?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Dr Dealgood:
            I’m not sure if you did it intentionally or unintentionally, but you completely (and I mean completely) ignored or missed my actual argument.

            I’m talking about someone who really is beyond the bounds of acceptable behavior.

            @anonanon:
            Your contribution to actual discussion seems to be lacking.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:

            Or they just go on to the next person?

            Isn’t that what one is supposed to do after one politely propositions someone and is politely turned down?

            Mmmmm, I know you didn’t actually mean it this way, but, if one walks down the length of the bar and touches each female present lightly on the arm with a come hither look and then “accepts” no for an answer and moves immediately on to the next person, then you are still outside the bounds.

            The idea that, after being met with a “no” one immediately moves on to the next potential sexual mating opportunity implies a great deal about what it is that you are engaged in.

            Now, of course the typical person who makes themselves unwelcome doesn’t do it quite so brazenly (unless they are really drunk). But they may still do something quite similar.

            And it is one thing if one is engaged in this behavior in a setting that is a “meet market” so to speak. It’s another when it as at a social event loosely associated with Skepticon.

            I’m asking for imagination here. Because “repeated boundary pushing” is exactly what they indicated was the reason for stopping inviting him.

          • The Nybbler says:

            if one walks down the length of the bar and touches each female present lightly on the arm with a come hither look and then “accepts” no for an answer and moves immediately on to the next person, then you are still outside the bounds.

            Which bounds? This is gauche, but not harassment. It’s also rather likely to fail because the second and subsequent women, even if they’d have otherwise been interested, are not going to like not being first.

            The idea that, after being met with a “no” one immediately moves on to the next potential sexual mating opportunity implies a great deal about what it is that you are engaged in.

            Uh, yeah, you’re looking for sex. Is there a problem with this?

          • John Schilling says:

            Mmmmm, I know you didn’t actually mean it this way, but, if one walks down the length of the bar and touches each female present lightly on the arm with a come hither look and then “accepts” no for an answer and moves immediately on to the next person, then you are still outside the bounds.

            If you know I didn’t mean it that way, then why bring it up? Either you understand what I meant, in which case you are being deliberately obtuse, or you didn’t, in which case you should have asked. Either way, you’re being an ass and I’d appreciate it if you stopped.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @HeelBearCub,

            I’m not trying to be obtuse, but what was your point then if I completely missed it?

            You say you’re talking about someone acting completely outside the bounds of acceptable behavior, but nothing that has been alleged and none of your examples actually fit that criterion. It’s not even boundary pushing as far as I can tell, so much as firmly within bounds.

            If that is the standard for sexual misconduct, Skepticon is starting to sound like it has “ban sex standing up because it might lead to dancing” levels of repression. Maybe they should introduce some clearer rules on Skeptical Courtship so that single atheists can remain pure and avoid temptation to problematic behavior.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            There is a reason I ended with “I’m asking for imagination here”. I’m asking us to imagine what a situation that never crosses a hard boundary but is nevertheless not OK* looks like. The speculative “Mmmmmm” at the beginning was also supposed to be a marker for this.

            (Not OK here meaning the organization would be right to disassociate with said person, not “this person should be prosecuted”. )

            I’m trying to help illustrate that, not accuse you of condoning the behavior. I think only under a scenario where I am trying accuse you of condoning something am I being an ass.

            Carrier repeatedly showed that he wasn’t “properly calibrated” in terms of judging whether people were interested in his advances. And Carrier’s behavior actually seems to have crossed a hardline boundary, because the social events themselves seem have prohibited advances. In his own words “At an afterparty at a pub after a sponsored event that had an event policy against making sexual advances“.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Uh, yeah, you’re looking for sex. Is there a problem with this?

            At a Skepticon social event as a Skepticon speaker brought in to speak on Skepticon related things, yeah.

            And that appears to be the specific policy he violated, multiple times, to boot.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Dr Dealgood:

            I’m not trying to be obtuse, but what was your point then if I completely missed it?

            You say you’re talking about someone acting completely outside the bounds of acceptable behavior

            What I actually said was the opposite of this.

            Could you actually point to some specific thing that they did which is strictly out of bounds?

            Which is perhaps why you are misinterpreting what I said?

          • John Schilling says:

            There is a reason I ended with “I’m asking for imagination here”. I’m asking us to imagine what a situation that never crosses a hard boundary but is nevertheless not OK* looks like.

            OK, but why? I can readily imagine a large number of such situations. Or I can look at what Carrier is accused of, which is exactly the opposite – a situation solidly in the center of our society’s generally recognized “OK ways to pursue romance in public” domain.

            If there were any indication that Carrier had done anything broadly recognized as not-OK, we’d be having a different conversation right now. Are you concluding that, because someone complained, he must have done something not-OK even if that wasn’t part of the complaint?

            Carrier repeatedly showed that he wasn’t “properly calibrated” in terms of judging whether people were interested in his advances.

            What do you imagine “properly calibrated” means in this context? That every advance is eagerly accepted, because one never makes an advance at a woman who isn’t going to accept it? That’s an unrealistic standard, and anyone “properly calibrated” in this respect is occasionally going to be rejected nonetheless.

            Hopefully politely, because the whole point of the prolonged courtship dance with steps like flirtatious conversation and brief nonsexual touching is to allow the process to proceed with enough deniability that either side can back away without embarrassment or hostility.

            Carrier’s behavior actually seems to have crossed a hardline boundary, because the social events themselves seem have prohibited advances. In his own words “At an afterparty at a pub after a sponsored event that had an event policy against making sexual advances“.

            Key phrases being “event policy” and “after a sponsored event”. Also “afterparty”, because the essence of an afterparty is that it is an unofficial gathering not part of the official event to facilitate less formal and more intimate interactions among the subset of participants so inclined. And “pub”, because WTF?

            If your organization wants to have policies that prohibit people from fraternizing on their own time, you need to be explicit about that or the presumption is going to be that your rules end at the doorway. Also, you need to not hold afterparties in pubs, because everybody will take that as a signal that any no-fraternization rule is strictly pro forma.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            Do we know exactly what he is accused of?

            Here is a relevant quote from Skepticon’s statement:
            “While he was a featured speaker for many years, we stopped inviting him to speak partly because of his repeated boundary-pushing behavior, including towards someone involved in Skepticon.”

            This is something that is alleged to have been an ongoing, repeated problem, resulting first in his stopping being an invited speaker, and now his being banned. And indeed it looks Carrier has not spoken at the last two Skepticons.

            Can you imagine a scenario where he never crosses all the way over the bright line, but does enough, often enough, that people say “enough”?

          • Lumifer says:

            @HeelBearCub

            You’re strongly pushing the idea that “Since he was accused, he must be guilty of something, not sure what, but there must be.”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Lumifer:
            No, I am not.

            I am asking for people to imagine a) someone who frequently pushes up against the boundary of appropriate behavior, and b) they do it enough that you think “I don’t want to invite this person to my event anymore.”

            What would you say in public about the disinviting? How could you prove that this guy was worthy of being disinvited? Would it look any different than what Skepticon did?

            I’m saying that just because Carrier says they were unwarranted in taking action, it doesn’t mean they were unwarranted. Roughly the mirror to your argument.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Can you imagine a scenario where he never crosses all the way over the bright line, but does enough, often enough, that people say “enough”?

            Well that’s the thing. Skepticon didn’t just say “enough,” they said that “our attendees’ well being and comfort is put at an unacceptable risk by Carrier’s presence[.]

            Now it’s entirely possible that Dick has actually been accused of something more serious than 2nd degree flirting. But if so, someone should tell that to the people pillorying him online! They seem perfectly willing to drag the guy’s name through the mud, call him a predator and a harasser, over what is as far as I can make out polite and reasonable behavior.

          • John Schilling says:

            Do we know exactly what he is accused of?

            We know what he is publicly accused of, and those three vague accusations are cited as the basis for the banishment. Zvan also claims she knows of two unpublished accusations.

            And maybe the unpublished accusations are so horribly worse than the public ones as to justify the banishment, but that can be said of anyone you want to accuse of anything, justify any punishment you want to impose for any reason. If you want to send someone away for arson and murder, you want to show evidence of arson and murder. Evidence of jaywalking plus “…and we all know what jaywalkers are really like”, gets laughter and mockery.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            @HeelBearCub

            Do we know exactly what he is accused of?

            No, we don’t, and since we don’t, why exactly should an outside observer have any confidence that it was something non-laughable?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            Not willing to engage with the hypothetical then. Got it.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Mark Atwood:

            This comment tree is a bit long. I’ve opened one up below.

          • Jiro says:

            Not willing to engage with the hypothetical then. Got it.

            A “hypothetical” which suggests that an actual human being is guilty of something for which no evidence has been provided and no details have been given is neither a hypothetical in the normal sense, nor something that should be engaged with.

            (If Jews were poisoning the wells in secret, is it possible someone could legitimately hate them without, since the actions are in secret, being able to prove to you why?)

      • Jaskologist says:

        When I heard he was dropped from Skepticon, I just assumed they had developed standards. So much for that.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      Well the sweater in particular is because v-necks look kind of fey. I personally like the look, especially with broad shoulders and a thicker neck, but I noticed that if you wear them upstate people mistake you for gay a lot. But I can see why people see it as a bit neutered or emasculated.

      As for the anti-male thing, misandry is overstated in Red Pill circles but the core of the complaint is true. A lot of typical masculine behavior, when done by white men at least, is labeled as pathological or toxic. Examples include:
      *Sitting still and keeping quiet in class as the norm, leading to the whole Ritalin debacle.
      *The characterization of flirting initiated by men as being creepy in private lives, or as constituting sexual harassment in the workplace.
      *The (ironically homophobic) insinuation that any friendship between men or predominantly male activity is homoerotic.

      It does seem like there’s a top-down push for men to be wimpier and more pathetic coming from certain segments of the media.

      • Creutzer says:

        I don’t think it’s the V-neck-ness in itself. V-necks are a staple of men’s traditional wardrobe and are, in particular, the sweater to be worn under any kind of sports coat. What’s off about the one in the video is that it’s very thin, tight-fitting, and being worn over a crew-neck T-shirt.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          V-neck over crew is a style.

          Hell, you can find v-neck shirts with a fake crew under built in.

          • gbdub says:

            V-neck is also the preferred for layering over a collared shirt. It’s pretty much the standard for pullovers for cool-weather golfing or other “classy” outdoor activities. It is (or was) a staple of the “preppy frat boy” wardrobe (particularly in the 80s and 90s) Heck, that weird massive portrait of himself Donald Trump has in one of his mansions features him in a V-neck golf sweater. Calling it emasculating is weird, unless maybe you’re wearing a very tight one with no undershirt over a hairless skinny chest?

      • Lysenko says:

        A case in point, and one that got a predictable amount of pushback from the predictable sources.

        To some extent, it may just be an outgrowth of the cultural divide. Maybe there’s a better and more nuanced explanation than “Traditional Masculine values, interests, and behaviors are Red. Rejecting them is Blue”, but that’s the pattern I’ve been seeing.

        EDIT: I also have to ask a group who seem to A) have better Blue Tribe consciousness than I do and B) more education and experience in the psychological realm:

        Am I just being uncharitable and judgemental when I read that article and come away with the judgement that his response was not just atypical but rising to the level of ‘disorder’?

        I find his desire (expressed pretty explicitly in subsequent articles) to assert that his reaction is what any healthy, normal adult man SHOULD feel in that situation sort of off-putting because it sounds like someone telling me that of COURSE they induce vomiting after 10,000 calorie binges, only crazy self-hating freaks eat 2-3,000 calories a day in nutritionally balanced and reasonably small portions!

        To make it clear, I am not fishing for quick and snarky “Yes, the guy is obviously nuts!!” affirmations. I got enough of that sort of comment from my usual gun blogs and the like. I’m genuinely wondering about the difference in mindset and emotional state that exists between myself, a relatively geeky and not terribly macho man by Red standards (though I’m probably more Grey than Red) and the author and, presumably sympathetic intended audience.

        • Addict says:

          You probably could’ve chosen a better comparison, no offense.

          • Lysenko says:

            None taken, and how so? It’s the most prominent recent example of the phenomenon I’m aware of. Two other examples popped into my head, but I rejected them:

            -That “modern man” list article from the NYT is so scattered and uneven in tone that it came across to me as at least as much about just being funny for funny’s sake as making a serious claim about the nature of what masculinity should be.

            and

            -There was an article in which the author wrote in a somewhat self-congratulatory way about being at home waiting for his girlfriend/wife (can’t remember which) to come home from her date/booty call with a new man. While I think that one-way polyamory (that is, one partner is allowed multiple lovers by the terms of the relationship and the other is not) is often abused, I am aware enough of people who find fulfillment that way that I can get into the other guys head and view it in healthy terms. Also, I don’t remember the author explicitly asserting that his experience was the normal one, and that another response would be sign of -abnormality-. I think he suggested that people should be more open to -experiment-, but that’s exactly the opposite of what the linked article claims.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Allow me to suggest that if you took away the headline, watched the video first and then read the article, your understanding of his mindset might have been different.

          I’ve fired pistols, rifles and shotguns in my life. Air rifles are also a lot of fun. I’m told I’d make a decent skeet-shooter, though I only did it the once. I’ve modified and hand-made Nerf guns for office wars. I made one powerful enough that it really shouldn’t be fired at people. I’m comfortable with the idea that shooting can be fun.

          The few times I fired a semi-auto pistol (bigger than a 22), the amount of kick and the lack of control in repeated firing is disconcerting. Every single time I’ve had any gun in my hand I have been acutely aware that if I make a bad enough mistake with it, I will kill someone. It focuses you, and although I imagine I would get comfortable with it if I did it enough, it has never been a comfortable feeling.

          He apparently was not just uncomfortable but anxious, anxious enough that he was holding the rifle stock away from his shoulder (which I understand is a common mistake if you are anxious or fearful). He was firing in an enclosed range with other people on the range, so it was far louder than it would be on an open air range.

          It seems to me that what you are saying boils down to, roughly, “real men don’t have anxiety”. I don’t think you think you are saying it, but the idea that something like firing a gun would make someone anxious is so far from your conception, that you reject that anyone could experience it unless something is wrong with them.

          • Lysenko says:

            I read the article, then watched the video, and I just went back and rewatched the video, but it doesn’t really change my insight into the mindset. I can see him flinching pretty dramatically while filming the store owner firing, but that doesn’t really help, and there’s no footage of him firing.

            I certainly don’t believe that “real men don’t have anxiety”, though I think it’s fair to say that a certain degree of stoicism or hiding/downplaying even very real emotional distress has been part of the “real men” meme complex for awhile.

            I can totally understand being made nervous by machinery. My go-to personal comparison is a chainsaw, something I’ve used several times, but have never gotten comfortable with.

            The part I’m having trouble wrapping my head around is the combination of that unease rising to the level of persistent anxiety (persisting hours after the stressor is removed), and the claim that being anxious and shaken up for hours afterward should be considered a normal, healthy response.

            There are things (mostly interpersonal hostility or similar intense emotions) that will trigger a rise in my level of general anxiety and leave me ‘shook up’ for some time afterward. But I don’t perceive that as the normal response and see those who don’t have the same response as abnormally callous. I also wouldn’t say these things -terrify- me (his choice of words in the article).

            One of the reasons for the question is determine if my calibration for the ‘normal’ level of emotional resilience with regard to this sort of stressor is off. Since my first serious exposure to firearms was in Army basic training, I am very open to that possibility. Hell, getting on the range was one of the LEAST stressful parts of the experience, and that’s by deliberate design.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Lysenko:
            I was was thinking about making a point about armed service even before you mentioned it.

            You are (were?) surrounded by a volunteer armed force that understood they would be required to perform training in small arms as one of the “prices of admission”. That cohort will not include almost anyone like this guy.

            You also didn’t go fire your first semi-auto rifle immediately after a mass shooting in an attempt to explore one of the contributing factors of the high body count in the event. He is has primed himself for negative emotions about this. In alternate world where he had never heard of a mass-shooting or an AR-15, he has a different reaction.

            You mentioned “interpersonal hostility or similar intense emotions” as potentially leaving you uneasy for a long time afterwards.

            My wife, god bless her, is incapable of apologizing or accepting apology during or immediately after an argument. Whereas I can apologize (or hear an apology) and basically forget about the whole thing a 1/2 hour later.

            People are different from each other is all I am saying.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            As a person who has never handled a gun, I’d say that the follow-up piece where tells us about his hurt feelings because people made fun of him for not being able to handle the gun are a much bigger indictment of his character than not being able to handle a gun.

          • gbdub says:

            You also didn’t go fire your first semi-auto rifle immediately after a mass shooting in an attempt to explore one of the contributing factors of the high body count in the event. He is has primed himself for negative emotions about this. In alternate world where he had never heard of a mass-shooting or an AR-15, he has a different reaction.

            I think that’s the source of the objection – he went into this primed to have an extremely negative reaction, and lo and behold, had an extremely negative reaction. The negative reaction is way out of proportion to any inherent characteristic of the gun, and totally due to his (self-imposed) negative priming. It makes it look less like an honest attempt to “explore” or learn anything, and more like an excuse to write a hit-piece.

            And that’s exactly what the gun culture supporters are upset about, the attempted creation of an exaggerated negative mystique around AR-15 and similar pattern rifles to justify banning them.

          • > [T]he weight never gets lighter, you just get stronger.

            I hope you’ll forgive me if I steal this quote and use it whenever it’s appropriate (which is often).

          • God Damn John Jay says:

            This is the second time I have plugged Bojack Horseman but it’s relevant.

            Said in relation to jogging:

            “Every day it gets a little easier. But you gotta do it every day, That’s the hard part. But it does get easier.”

          • Lysenko says:

            @various
            I get, at least in theory, the priming argument. And at this point I think I get the persistent nature of the disturbance.

            Which still leaves the normative claim and the lack of self-awareness it shows. When I am hit with some stressor that I am particularly weak to, it may well leave me anxious, stressed, depressed, and vulnerable for a period of time afterwards. To be honest, that period may well be DAYs, but that has more to do with trying to decide between VA psychiatric/counseling help and going it alone, and mostly coming down in favor of the latter.

            Anyway, my point is that when this happens, I don’t say “Oh, this is me having a completely normal and rational response and obviously anyone who ISN’T totally freaked out for hours and days is a horrible sociopath!”

            That’s what the author sounds like in the follow-up articles, that’s where it ties back into the original link and v-neck question, the other articles I mentioned, and maybe even Scott’s own musings about inverted/backwards CBT -inducing- fragile and unhealthy states within portions of the SJW population (I didn’t make that up, did I?).

            Ok, fine, plenty of Red Tribe and/or gun-friendly types disagree strongly and said mean things to him. I’m more interested in whether or not there exists a non-trivial portion of the population actually saying “Why yes, just the other day I smelled someone’s CLP rag left in their car from the last time they went to the shooting range, and I was tense and irritable the rest of the afternoon! “

          • JayT says:

            Holding the stock away from his shoulder isn’t that big of a deal with a gun like an AR-15 though. If he did it with a 12 gauge, sure, that will bruise you. An AR-15 though won’t cause any damage. you could hold it out and shoot it like a pistol with little effort.
            His claims of a bruised shoulder pretty much automatically made me think he had written the piece long before he ever fired a shot.

          • Anonanon says:

            Just for reference, people made response videos of them shooting ARs braced against their noses to experience the horror-pounding recoil.
            For comparison, here’s 13 year old Katelyn Francis running a 3-gun match.

            The mockery isn’t because he was anxious. Everyone gets anxious. It was because he took moral pride in exaggerating pants-shitting hysteria to condemn the vast majority of people who don’t feel that way.

            Here’s another good one:

            “I’m a feminist. I’m a dude. And I hate that I love to grill,” Brogan writes how he’s, “Uncomfortable with the pleasure I take in something so conventionally masculine. “At such moments, I get the sense that I’ve fallen into a societal trap, one that reaffirms gender roles I’ve spent years trying to undo. The whole business feels retrograde, a relic of some earlier, less inclusive era.”

            Calling back to Dealgood’s point, BBQ is also bad because it “enable(s) what scholars call homosocial contact”, aka “men having any kind of social interaction that can’t be used to make them ashamed for being men”.

            It’s the sniveling self-hatred and contempt for bettering themselves that makes people dislike nu-males, not the mental and physical weakness.

          • Inc says:

            Mmmm CLP.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Commercials have always shown wives to be the wise person and the husbands a fool, because commercials appeal to the person who buys things, and in most households that is the woman.

      That is the plain explanation. It’s economically rational.

      Note that the plain explanation would be socially unacceptable if, say, I wanted to fire the fat women to replace her with a skinny woman as receptionist, even if it got me more business.

      • Lumifer says:

        Commercials have always shown wives to be the wise person and the husbands a fool

        Wise wife, yes, fool husband, no. The “traditional” commercials show women how to be a wise wife and make her husband and kids happy.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Foolish husband has always been a trope.

          The mistake is to think that contradictory tropes can’t coexist.

        • Sandy says:

          Most commercials I’ve seen show women how to manage life despite idiot husbands and unruly children.

    • JayT says:

      I can’t really explain why a v-neck sweater is considered unmanly, but it definitely is. If I were to wear one when hanging out with my male friends I would definitely get a good amount of ribbing over my wife dressing me.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        I wonder if this is a class issue more than a gender one.

        • JayT says:

          In what way do you mean? I can think of friends from pretty much any background that would have the same response.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Well, the mocking of the outsider as unmanly by members of a small community is pretty much a staple trope in all sorts of settings.

            Think about the song “Turn the Page” by Bob Seger where he relates a story about being mocked (“is that a woman or a man”) for having long hair. Now, dudes with long hair have been scoring with ladies for a long time, so what’s that about?

            But also you see the kid who dresses too well, is “too” concerned with his appearance as being accused of being gay as sort of a standard trope. Especially if it is “different”, like wearing make-up or using hair product (never mind what all the rock stars do.)

            And those tropes tend to pop up the most in relation to either small towns or lower socioeconomic communities.

            That script will get flipped on its head when we see rich characters mock poor characters for failing to dress well, but that isn’t a question of their manhood, but their status.

            So, from a fictional trope perspective, you usually see those who are worldly (or just different) being accused of being gay or unmanly by those who are portrayed as lower class, but upper class people just accuse those who are different of being poor.

            Now, that’s all fiction and not real life, but I think the tropes come from somewhere, and I think the fact that tropes exist reinforce the behavior.

            Not that I’m particular wedded to this particular idea. I’m just musing here.

            Edit:
            And note that, for a variety of reasons, dressing well used to be the exclusive purview of the relatively well-to-do male. The working man got dirty and did not make enough to afford “those dago shoes”.

          • JayT says:

            Well, I live in San Francisco and the vast majority of my peer group are college educated professionals, so I don’t think this is a low-socioeconomic phenomena.

            I also don’t think it’s necessarily a homophobic thing either, because I can think of gay friends that would definitely give me a hard time for this as well. Though, I’m less confident in that, since I have plenty of gay friends that make comments/jokes that would be considered homophobic by most.

            Ultimately though, I think it is a “manliness” issue. There are certain types of clothes that, for whatever reason, are associated with women liking them and men not liking them. And so, if you are a man wearing those clothes then you must have been forced to wear it by your wife/girlfriend.

          • Nornagest says:

            I can think of gay friends that would definitely give me a hard time for this as well.

            Me too, but that may not be too surprising, given that half the people on Castro or (especially) Folsom Street put a lot of effort into looking like middle-aged lumberjacks.

        • Andrew says:

          Odd- not sure if I agree with HBC that it’s class, but it might be geographic or something else. I’m a 6’4″ white guy in sales, and most of my friends are non-or-semi-college-educated guys that do physical combat sports or FPS video-games, happily married, straight, etc., and noone would bat an eye at v-neck sweaters except for the heat!

  8. joelwatsonfish says:

    I don’t know if this is a good place to ask this, but I’m interested in learning about some evolutionary psychology, but I don’t quite know where to start. I’d appreciate suggestions of books, forums, etc. for an educated lay-person.

  9. Chisel says:

    What are some political or technology publications that accept article submissions and pay authors whose submissions are published?

    I’m looking for something a more straight-laced than Cracked, a bit less fiery than VDare.com, but much more casual (and attainable) than The New Yorker.

  10. Scott, do you have any interest in video games? If so, have you played Undertale? Even if you don’t generally like games, you might like this one.

    • God Damn John Jay says:

      I can second this, Undertale is amazing.

      It is one of the few works to do the Anime-Friendship-Is-Literally-Magical plot and have it actually ring true for me.

    • Said Achmiz says:

      Data point: I like video games and I hated Undertale instantly.

      • God Damn John Jay says:

        Do you mind if I ask why?

        • Addict says:

          Lots of people in Rationalist Tumblr felt like it was off-putting to have insanely evil antagonists who you were supposed to like. It seemed to be positing skme kind of moral component, “it is worth trying to be friends with everyone and never hurting anyone”, even when some of the in-canon actions of the antagonists demonstrated a strong need for future deterrence.

          Of course, I just recently finished something lkke my fifth nonlethal ghost playthrough of Dishonored, which might be similar, but at least Dishonored doesn’t make you feel bad for assassinating your breathtakingly evil targets.

          • gbdub says:

            I mean, Dishonored is a great game, but frankly some of the “non-lethal” options for dealing with the major targets are more disturbing than simply knifing them.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m playing Metro: Last Light right now, which may belong to the only shooter franchise in history that has literal, warmongering, concentration-camp-having Nazis as (one faction of) your enemies but offers nonlethal options for dealing with them.

            You might want to shoot them in the face anyway, of course, and the game’s fine with that.

          • This objection is strange to me. I can only think of one antagonist who could be described as “insanely evil,” and once you understand his backstory, you realize that he isn’t inherently evil, but has been made that way by his circumstances. Moreover, I’m not sure you’re supposed to like that antagonist, although you might feel pity for him.

            Edit: I can imagine that people who are entrenched in the online culture war might instinctively dislike Undertale because it checks basically every box on the SJW video game wishlist. But if those people gave the game a fair shot, I think most of them would like it, regardless.

          • smocc says:

            I didn’t hear there was fighting about Undertale until after I played it (and loved it) and I still have a hard time imagining what people could be upset about. I mean, I’m not pro-gay-marriage but I’m 100% For Dog Marriage!

            The main thing I loved about Undertale was that it actually surprised me. I find that games can do that for me less and less, and so it was very refreshing.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I don’t play video games and my impression is that Undertale started a Giant Culture War I don’t want to get caught in the middle of.

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        I don’t play video games

        Aren’t you a Civ fan? And didn’t you recently mention playing MoO?

        • Scott Alexander says:

          Those are the only ones I’ve played in practically forever, and I think of them as computer games and not video games according to a distinction I just made up and can’t justify.

          • Lumifer says:

            Traditionally, video games you play on a console using a controller and computer games you play on a PC using a keyboard and a mouse.

            Nowadays that distinction is nowhere as clear as it used to be.

          • I use the terms interchangeably. I would say that “computer game” is a dated term, though. “Video game” is much more common, regardless of what platform the game is played on. (Undertale is currently only on PC.)

          • Tibor says:

            @Mitch Lindgren: Yes, in English. Not in Czech or German for example where you would talk about computer games. Maybe it has something to do with fewer people having consoles and playing games on their computers instead.

            In any case, I always found the dominant English term videogame rather outdated. In Czech it would be used pretty much for those old nintendo consoles you would plug into your TV screen. If someone uses the term videogames in Czech, you can safely assume that that person is probably over 60 years old and has never played any video/computer games.

      • Huh. It’s news to me that it started a “Giant Culture War.” Judging by the Steam reviews, it seems to have been pretty universally praised. [Edit: I just checked and the user ratings are 96.7% positive. I’m not sure any other game ever has received such consistently positive ratings. So to the extent that there was a culture war around Undertale, I suspect it was a very small group of people making a lot of noise.]

        Fair enough, though; with how much you write I don’t imagine you have much time for video games!

        • Zombielicious says:

          the user ratings are 96.7% positive. I’m not sure any other game ever has received such consistently positive ratings.

          To The Moon has similarly universal praise (97% positive last I checked). A personal favorite, I can’t recommend it enough.

          I had to look through the negative reviews for TTM to find out what kind of monster would ever give such a perfect game a bad rating. Aside from the rare troll review, the 3% negative seems to come from considering it more an interactive novel than a ‘game.’ Fair enough, I guess. Still highly, highly recommend it.

      • Vorkon says:

        Yeah, I definitely wouldn’t say that Undertale started a giant culture war, at all. Ants and anti-ants (or whatever you want to call them) love it all the same. It’s one of the very few things they seem to universally agree on.

        There IS a certain number of people, on either side of the culture war, who hate Undertale because it is so popular, and want to engage in some type of signaling showing that it’s beneath them, (and, in those peoples’ defense, some fans of Undertale are particularly in-your-face about it, and I can see how that would get annoying) but that’s the usual sort of argument that you see whenever a thing gets too popular. Who likes it and who doesn’t does not seem to map to any other particular culture war issue I can think of.

        It’s true that I’ve seen the argument Addict described above (that it promotes pacifism in the face of an enemy that should really be fought against) but that is an extremely reductive explanation of the plot. I think you may be reading way too much into some offhand comments about it on rationalist tumblr, and perhaps mistaking some of the general pushback against how popular it became, as I described above, for culture war-based arguments.

        (Hell, I even saw some praise for it in the comments of Vox Day’s blog, when I was trying to get more information on the whole Hugo mess, though, sadly, it wasn’t one of the games he tried to get nominated. It was mixed in with reflexive hatred over the fact that it had some elements that SJWs tend to love, but so is pretty much everything over there. None of the arguments were particularly heated, and there seemed to be about the same number of people for and against it. Either way, that alone should show that liking Undertale or not is not much of a culture war issue. It may be a Hipster issue, but that’s really about it.)

        Give it a try. It’s fairly short for an RPG, and I think you would like it a great deal.

    • Anonymaus says:

      Data point: After noticing how Undertale was getting love from all the wrong kinds of people (the culture war Scott refers to) but still good reviews, I got curious and played it while being prepared to hate it. And I loved it. If anyone is deterred by the more visible part of the game’s fan base, they should still consider trying it. (I also find the objections at the moral system overblown, though I guess this is just not something that would keep me up at night.)

    • anonymous poster says:

      LISA LISA LISA LISA
      LISA LISA LISA LISA
      LISA LISA (is dead)
      LISA LISA LISA LISA

    • James Picone says:

      The Stanley Parable might be a better game to suggest. Short too.

  11. Theo Jones says:

    A lot of the rationalist community seems to be on Tumblr and I just created a Tumblr. Any recommendations on who I should follow (here is my follows list of people I already follow)? General suggestions about rationalist Tumblr?

  12. Kaboom indeed v2 says:

    tqI feel bad for potentially shitting up the open thread (skip to the second question if you’re not interested) but one thing I’m honestly curious about: how good is cold approaching?

    My experience means ‘very bad’ but then I never had a girlfriend so it’s a bad metric. I’m talking strictly about myself here: I get the impression it’s not very popular but I can’t really put that into a number. But I also have a nagging feeling that there is a guy who, in an individual case would make it somewhat popular. That it can work. I remember the post ‘Untitled’ and here’s a copypaste:

    > A couple of studies show that average-attractiveness people who ask random opposite-gender strangers on dates are accepted 50% of the time, regardless of their gender.
    >
    > Grant that everyone involved in this conversation has admitted they consider themselves below average attractiveness (except maybe Marcotte, whose daily tune-ups keep her skin-suit in excellent condition). Fine. Maybe we have a success rate of 10%?
    >
    > That’s still astounding. It would be pretty easy to mock teenage-me for not asking for dates when ten percent of people would have said yes. Asking ten people something takes what, five minutes? And would have saved how many years of misery?
    >
    > This is a pretty impressive market failure – in sheer utility cost, probably bigger than any of the market failures actual economists talk about.

    Then my impression is that it.. needs more research. (There’s no link to the mentioned study too, why?) But in all seriousness I don’t want to be that guy but on the other hand the 10% feels pretty sweet.

    Anyone help me calibrate my senses?

    • Theo Jones says:

      I’m also part of the I never had a girlfriend club, and haven’t tried cold approaching much, but I’m of the opinion that it doesn’t really work much. You want someone such that both of your interests line up, and random selection isn’t really going to accomplish that. I’d say that in my experience about 50% of the random people you try to start a conversation with will actually be willing to talk to you for an extended period of time, but even those people will pretty rarely turn out to be good dating material for both involved.

      Really, meeting people and finding people to date is not a problem I have figured out how to solve……

      • nope says:

        Seconded. Assuming you’re normal for this comment section and +2 or more SD in intelligence, and want to find someone you’re both physically attracted to and who doesn’t completely bore your face off, remember that your kind are only about 2% of the general population, giving any rando you meet a 90+% chance of being completely uninteresting. If you want to approach women, I’d advise you to introduce some selection to make sure they’d actually be someone you got along with first. For that I recommend: OKCupid! That or joining some sort of nerdy club that women are likely to be at as well.

        • Ruprect says:

          How much of an IQ difference does there have to be to make it unenjoyable to deal with someone?
          I think that personality is more important than intelligence – I mean, conversation, natural language, isn’t so informationally dense that people will have a hard time processing what you are talking about for reasons of working memory – it’s more likely that they just aren’t interested in that topic and so have no knowledge of the terms you are using.
          And anyone with an interest in anything has to be used to dealing with that.

          I mean, if you have absolutely *no* shared interests, that might be a problem – but most people like, normal things, and then just go off and do their weird interests by themselves.

          So anyway, I think ya’ll should find some sexy dumb, but friendly, woman, with a large bosom, and have sexual relations with her.

          (Or man!!)

          • Jiro says:

            How much of an IQ difference does there have to be to make it unenjoyable to deal with someone?

            Obviously it would happen at the margin. Someone who would be just barely tolerable if they had higher IQ is just barely intolerable if they have lower IQ. The IQ wouldn’t be the sole cause of them being unenjoyable except in extreme cases.

          • Lumifer says:

            I wouldn’t recommend a dumb man with a large bosom : -/

          • Tibor says:

            I agree with this (except for the man with a large bosom :)) ) completely. I only had one proper relationship and one kind of on and off one (I am not sure whether it still continues). That relationship lasted more than two years and my ex-girlfriend was a shopkeeper at a hair-cosmetics store (a cosmetician by training). I think she is smarter than an average cosmetician but, well, I could sometimes see that there were limits to what I could talk to her about in an interesting way. But her personality matched mine very well, she was fun to talk to about a lot of other things and she was also very pretty.

            Really smart women can be incredibly sexy, but as really smart men, hard to come by, especially when you care about the personality and the looks as well. The personality is the most important thing for a long term relationship, I think, and then the other two.

            I have a friend who is now 45 (which is 18 years older than me) and who had a much more, let’s say adveturous youth than me (including living in a squat and doing meth…now he is an optometrist and has a wife and two kids by the way). He’s had many more relationships and also sexual partners than me. But when I talked to him about relationships, he told me that I am thinking the way he did when he was 15, looking for a “perfect girl”. Well, I think that my problem is rather that I meet a girl, get the idea in my head that she is perfect, then hope for something to happen for a long time while I would spend my time better getting to know other people. And as a matter of fact, my only proper relationship started in an exact opposite way – that is rather quickly (not with a one night stand but still we were together after some 3 weeks of meeting each other). I suspect this might be a problem of other people as well which is why I write it.

            He also said that he never really regreted being with someone but he did regret often being stupid and not realizing that it was an option. I think this happened to me as well a couple of times and I guess that for someone who is not exactly socially skilled (well, specifically skilled in courtship with the opposite sex, I don’t think I have problems with speaking in public for example, in fact I kind of enjoy it) this might be the case as well. The moral of the story is that if you are unsure about whether someone “meets your standards” or not, then it is better to try it than not to. It is not like you have to get married. Obviously, if you are sure you are not attracted to that person then it makes no sense.

            I think that right approach might be – if you like someone, try something, if it looks like it is going somewhere try something more. If it does not or if you are rejected, start looking elsewhere and don’t put that idea into your head that that girl/guy is the most amazing in the world and that you’ll never meet someone like that again because it simply is not true, regardless of who it is. At least for me, the last part is the biggest problem.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          It’s quite possible for a high-IQ person to have repeated and enjoyable conversations with an average-IQ person. It requires both people to not be assholes.

          • Tibor says:

            Exactly. In fact, I prefer average-IQ non-assholes to high-IQ assholes :))

          • Agronomous says:

            The ones I can think of usually involve the average-IQ person knowing a hell of a lot about something, and the higher-IQ person (OK, me) asking genuinely interested questions.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Agronomous
            I agree that describes most such fruitful encounters. But I’d throw wise in there as well as knowledgeable.

          • Tibor says:

            @Anonymous: Yes and you can have a wise person with an average IQ as well as a very unwise person with a very high IQ. Many high IQ people are prone to thinking their opinions are the only right ones and everyone who does not hold them is obviously an idiot.

          • Agronomous says:

            Smart people also have the problem that they can think up way better arguments for wrong positions than other people can think up for correct ones. So they win arguments, which makes them even more certain of their (incorrect) beliefs.

            I never noticed this until college, when some of them (like, uh, a friend of mine) finally ran into people smarter than them.

            For a more accessible example, look at Linus Pauling and Vitamin C megadosing.

            (For those of you using the Less Wrong Decimal System: file under “Common Failure Modes”. I’d be surprised if the Big Yud doesn’t have a post on it somewhere, with the Official LW Trope Name in the title….)

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I was thinking, about 15 minutes before I read your comment, that going to college is a good thing for Smart People because they finally meet Smart People who think differently from them. The self-made genius is just annoying.

          • “Smart people also have the problem that they can think up way better arguments for wrong positions than other people can think up for correct ones.”

            I think this is the explanation for Dan Kahan’s result–that where positions have become linked to group identity, more intellectually able people are more likely to agree with the position of their group, whether that’s believing in evolution or not believing in it.

          • Ruprect says:

            “more intellectually able people are more likely to agree with the position of their group, whether that’s believing in evolution or not believing in it.”

            Was there a typo here? I can’t follow the reasoning.

          • Tibor says:

            @Ruprecht: The smarter you are the more likely you are going to find convincing arguments for your position, whatever it is. When you identify with one position emotionally, you will start coming up with good arguments for that position or against the opposite view. The people who are aware of this (everyone does it to some degree) I would call wise. But not everyone who is smart is wise and smart people, exactly because they can come up with better arguments even for wrong positions are more likely to think they are always right, because most of the people who disagree with them are not as smart and cannot argue so well.

            So if your prior is not believing in evolution and all the arguments for evolution you hear are full of logical holes because you hear them from people less smart than you, then you never have to reconsider your position and in fact each of those weak supporters of the opposite just strengthens your conviction that you have to be “obviously” right. The less smart people find themselves in arguments more often in a position where they have to admit to themselves that the arguments of other people cannot just be dismissed, so they are more humble in their views.

          • Ruprect says:

            Right – so groups bound together by identity – are they self-selected? It makes sense that highly intelligent people are more likely to have consistent systems of justification (agreeing with their group?), whereas us mortals would just be happy to ignore the contradictions.

            If I decide I am a vegetarian and that’s the most important thing to me, and I’m highly intelligent, I don’t think it’s surprising that I would be able to quote the justifications for vegetarianism, chapter and verse.

            I would be quite surprised if highly intelligent people were more likely to agree with the opinions of the cultural group they were born into – I’d be surprised to hear that intelligence is related to conformity.

          • Dan Kahan’s basic argument is:

            Some issues become linked to group identity, such as evolution or global warming. If you are a member of group whose identity is linked to not believing in evolution, it is in your interest not to believe in evolution. Your failure to believe in it has no significant negative effects on you. Your believing in it would have significant negative effects on you–people who matter to you would think less well of you.

            The smarter you are, the more able you are to talk yourself into believing what it is in your interest to believe.

            And Dan has some evidence to support the claim. I no longer remember the detailed measure of intellectual ability he was using.

    • Jaskologist says:

      I’m very skeptical that cold approaching would net better than 2%, especially for somebody who hasn’t had luck with warm approaches. But if nothing else is working, why not try it? The only downside is embarrassment in front of a bunch of people you’ll never see again.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      Cold approaching is actually a great idea for picking up women provided that you have an actual game plan going in.

      I know a lot of people are allergic to PUA but it’s well worth your time to study approaches they’ve come up with, specifically those from so-called Day Game which deals with more everyday settings rather than clubs or bars.

      I personally recommend ‘Day Bang’ by Roosh V, it’s what I started out on and I got pretty good results from that plus a normal fitness regimen. There’s nothing rape-y in there, unlike a lot of his free stuff online, since he didn’t start moving in that direction until well after the publication of that book AFAIK. In particular the “elderly opening,” which is horribly named but a useful concept, seems to me like the core insight of Day Game. Your goal is always to initiate a natural-seeming friendly conversation from which you can easily segue into flirting and then go for the close.

      TL;DR: Go for it, just make sure to know what you’re doing. More specific tips are available online.

    • Shellington says:

      Why not try approaching women in a bar instead before trying to cold open? It seems that it would be more success than cold opening but I’d be surprised if you had a 10% success rate at a bar.

      That being said, I don’t do much approaching at bars though – I really prefer online dating and I like to think I’m pretty successful at that. (Met my last three girlfriends on dating apps)

  13. BBA says:

    John Quiggin of Crooked Timber on Brexit. He discusses it within his three-party framework (neoliberalism/leftism/tribalism) with an introduction explaining why “neoliberal” is such a confusing term.

  14. Anon. says:

    Turns out the Orlando shooter wasn’t gay.

    In seeking to verify the reports, federal agents have culled Mateen’s electronic devices, including a laptop computer and cellphone, as well as electronic communications of those who made the claims, law enforcement officials said.

    So far, they have found no photographs, no text messages, no smartphone apps, no gay pornography and no cell-tower location data to suggest that Mateen — who was twice married to women and had a young son — conducted a secret gay life, the officials said.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/wp/2016/06/24/univision-exclusive-on-omar-mateens-secret-gay-life-comes-under-fire

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Yeah, I saw Snopes saying the same thing. If true, that’s really impressive as a case of something seeming to have overwhelming evidence and getting universally accepted, but not panning out.

      The weird thing is that it doesn’t even seem to be in anyone’s interests – the Left would prefer he be straight to make it clear homophobia, and the Right would prefer he be straight to make it clear Islamic terrorism. It just seems to have happened by honest accident.

      I hope someone does a postmortem on this.

      • Lumifer says:

        the Left would prefer he be straight to make it clear homophobia

        The political elite would much prefer him to have been gay in order to sweep the “radical islam” element under the rug: cf. the clumsy edits of the 911 call transcripts and Obama’s refusal to speak of radical islam.

      • Pku says:

        Wouldn’t the left ideally want him to be *secretly* gay, in order to reinforce the “homophobes are repressed gay people” narrative?

      • John Schilling says:

        Left would prefer he be straight to make it clear homophobia

        “Clear homophobia”, of the sort that is politically useful for the Left, is the sort that comes from the Right. Brown-skinned, non-Christian Omar Mateen is hard to sell as a Right-Wing Villain, what with the Right being able to counter with “Hey, we’ve been trying to keep That Sort of Person out of our country all along, and blowing them up in their own.”

        But a guy who should have been a happy well-adjusted gay person, except that Repressive Right-Wing Culture went and broke him so that he went and ruined things for actual happy well-adjusted gay people, that’s 100% Right-Bad-Left-Good no matter the race, religion, or ethnicity of any of the participants. I can see the appeal of that narrative, even if it appears now to have been inaccurate.

      • Anonymaus says:

        Maybe just a universally human need to attribute low status symbols to villains (cf. 9/11, Hitler). Being homophobic because of repressed homosexuality is probably low status independent of political views.

      • CatCube says:

        It sounds like bog-standard “the first reports are always wrong.” You see this everywhere.

        Remember on the day of 9/11? CNN was reporting that the State Department had been car bombed (with pictures of a smoke column rising in the distance that turned out to be from the Pentagon), and casualty estimates of up to 50,000 at the WTC were being floated.

        I saw this all the time downrange when you had troops in contact. You get real-time reports coming in from two levels down, but when the group gets back and turns in their reports directly, there’s usually significant gaps between what you saw in the Tactical Operations Center and what it turns out happened.

        This phenomenon gives a lot of oxygen to conspiracy theories: they wave around reports from the day of the incident and claim it proves their particular theory, and that later reports lacking the particular events they are using as proof is evidence of a coverup. They don’t quite get to the place where the original reports were just straight up bullshit that got shoved out the door in the chaos.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I think it’s fair to say that there are elements to wrong information that make it more likely to be repeated though. Confirming a preferred narrative is one of them.

          It should be expected and forgiven though. It’s when people insist on repeating it after the correct information comes out that it is a problem.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      When I heard he was on Grinder (or whatever site it was), I just assumed he was casing out people to figure out what the best target was.

      There are always people coming forward claiming to have had a relationship with someone infamous, because it gets them attention. The media usually filters them out because they’ve had a lot of experience with these attention-seekers and can recognize them. Maybe part of the new media is that all that experience has been replaced by 20-something bloggers who think a google search is “investigative reporting.”

    • NN says:

      This just makes the situation more confusing. For a long time, I’ve been confused about the fact that there is no evidence that he ever claimed to be motivated by homophobia, with all of his recorded statements saying that he was motivated by US foreign policy, and one witness reporting that he at one point explicitly told the hostages that the attack was not racially motivated. Plus there are the reports about him scouting out Disney World a few weeks before the attack.

      When reports came out that he had been a regular at the club, I started to think that maybe he only targeted Pulse because he was familiar with the location, and simply didn’t realize the message that it would send. But this seems to put the kibosh on that theory.

      So now I’m starting to wonder: is it possible that Omar didn’t know that Pulse was a gay club? Could he have Googled “popular night club in Orlando” and picked a gay club by complete accident? I know it sounds crazy, but I have a hard time coming up with any other explanation for his concern over the attack being perceived as racially motivated and apparent total lack of concern over it being perceived as motivated by homophobia.

      • gbdub says:

        I’m in the same boat. He seemed to very much want to make his motivations known, why leave out “I hate gay people” if that indeed was his intention in selecting a gay nightclub?

      • Scott Alexander says:

        Wasn’t there some story about him seeing some gay people kissing and getting really angry? Did that ever get confirmed?

  15. Lumifer says:

    By the way, speaking of Brexit, here is an articulate case for leaving the EU. Notice how it doesn’t have anything in common with the “I’m old, poor, and don’t like brown people” portrait of a Leave voter that a lot of media paints.

    Sample:

    My Europhile Greek friend Yanis Varoufakis and I both agree on one central point, that today’s EU is a deformed halfway house that nobody ever wanted. His solution is a great leap forward towards a United States of Europe with a genuine parliament holding an elected president to account. Though even he doubts his dream. “There is a virtue in heroic failure” he said.

    Where we concur is that the EU as constructed is not only corrosive but ultimately dangerous, and that is the phase we have now reached as governing authority crumbles across Europe.

    The Project bleeds the lifeblood of the national institutions, but fails to replace them with anything lovable or legitimate at a European level. It draws away charisma, and destroys it. This is how democracies die.

    • Anonymous says:

      It can be the case that there’s exists a thoughtful, intelligent, reasoned argument for policy X AND the overwhelming majority of people in favor of policy X are doing so because they are “old, poor, and don’t like brown people”.

      This form of argument is like a reverse weakman — a claim that one strong argument can redeem millions of poor ones. We saw something similar with gay marriage — someone would come along and make an argument against gay marriage based on Chesterson, St. Aquinas, and Aristotle — and so you’d have all kinds of people linking to it and saying “see all the anti-gay marriage people aren’t inarticulate homophobic shitbags”. And as far as it goes they’d be correct, but take out “all” and the argument collapses.

      • Lumifer says:

        It depends on whether you want to talk about policy or about people.

        If you find the argument convincing and believe the policy to be the right one, it doesn’t matter much that some people support it for the wrong reasons or that there are lots of bad arguments for it.

        There are inarticulate shitbags on both sides of pretty every major political divide, so what?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          But it does matter where support for “end policy Y” comes from.

          Because there is an implied “replace it with policy X” or “replace it with policy Z”. The colloquial saying is “lie down with dogs and wake up with fleas”.

          • Lumifer says:

            When I say “believe the policy to be the right one” I mean the full chain of consequences including the probable replacements.

            The opposite side to lying down with dogs is being so ideologically pure that your circle of allies is minuscule and you accomplish nothing. Obviously there needs to be some balance.

            In any case, what’s the point of complaining about dumb voters? They have a vote and are not afraid to use it. Do you want to disenfranchise them?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “His solution is a great leap forward towards a United States of Europe with a genuine parliament holding an elected president to account.”

            You think the vote for Brexit is likely to lead to the above? Because I don’t see the likely Brexit voter as wanting this, nor articulating this, nor wanting to be within the span of the English Channel of this.

            That’s different from voting for Brexit on the merits, even though you understand you won’t get what you want. If you think allying with nativist and isolationist Brexiters will get you an England in a United States of Europe, I’ll just say I find that doubtful.

          • John Schilling says:

            “His solution is a great leap forward towards a United States of Europe with a genuine parliament holding an elected president to account.”

            That’s Europhile Yanis Varoufakis, the dissenting friend of the cited Brexit voter (Ambrose Evans-Pritchard). Presumably YV, if he wasn’t inconveniently Greek, would have voted “Remain”. AEP voted “leave” in part because he does not believe that the great leap will be achieved.

          • Lumifer says:

            @John Schilling

            That’s Europhile Yanis Varoufakis

            The funny thing is that Europhile Yanis Varoufakis personally set in motion preparations to take Greece out of Eurozone and managed to annoy the entire Europe so much that he had to be fired from his post before negotiations could proceed further :-/

          • If there wa grassroots support for some terrible idea like a centrally planned economy, would you accept it ? What about the 51% disenfranchising the 49%? Is democracy such an unalloyed good that it can be allowed to destroy the economy or even itself

          • If there was grassroots support for some terrible idea like a centrally planned economy, would you accept it ? What about the 51% disenfranchising the 49%? Is democracy such an unalloyed good that it can be allowed to destroy the economy or even itself?

            A balance needs to be struck. Representative democracy is a balance between rule by smart but unrepresentative elites , and rule by people who don’t understand the issues.

          • Jaskologist says:

            If the poor were supporting some monstrosity like a centrally planned economy, I’d like to think I would attack that on the lines of “this will harm you,” and not “You’re poor!”

          • Lumifer says:

            @TheAncientGeek

            If there was grassroots support for some terrible idea like a centrally planned economy, would you accept it ?

            Who is “me” in this scenario and what powers do I have? In particular, if my powers are great enough what does democracy have to do with it?

            Is democracy such an unalloyed good that it can be allowed to destroy the economy or even itself?

            An interesting question, is it not? There is a certain “neo” school of thought that has been thinking about that… : -D

          • John Schilling says:

            If there was grassroots support for some terrible idea like a centrally planned economy, would you accept it?

            If there were grassroots support for such a terrible idea, it would likely happen regardless of my wishes and I would “accept” it in the same way that I accept the laws of thermodynamics.

            But if I were somehow to have any real say in the matter, I would say that we shouldn’t hold popular referendums on such terrible ideas, that we should have an explicit constitution that bars such ideas from becoming law or policy even if they are popular, and we should not create governing institutions with the power to implement such terrible ideas.

            If, having failed to do those things, I were backed into the corner where we were going to hold a referendum, I’d probably abide by the results in order to maintain the legitimacy of the government.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            If there was grassroots support for some terrible idea like a centrally planned economy, would you accept it?

            One thing we can guarantee: if the citizens of the UK had just voted 52-48 by referendum for a centrally planned economy, the exact same people screaming about how illegitimate democracy is right now would be praising it to the rafters instead. There is no principle here.

          • Pku says:

            No, they wouldn’t. The intersection would be non-empty, but you’re falling for outgroup homogeneity bias.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The problem wasn’t that the referendum came to the wrong conclusion. The problem was that something really important was put up for a referendum.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            @Jaskologist

            That’s been tried. If you try to tell people that terrible ideas are terrible (and I class isolationism as another terrible idea), they respond by saying that you are condescending to them , and carry on their own sweet way.

            @JohnSchilling

            If there were grassroots support for such a terrible idea, it would likely happen regardless of my wishes and I would “accept” it in the same way that I accept the laws of thermodynamics.

            What I am saying is that terrible ideas can be excluded indefinitely by never offering them as an option. That’s what Overton windows are *for*.

            But if I were somehow to have any real say in the matter, I would say that we shouldn’t hold popular referendums on such terrible ideas, that we should have an explicit constitution that bars such ideas from becoming law or policy even if they are popular, and we should not create governing institutions with the power to implement such terrible ideas

            I can’t see how that could work. A hundred years ago, central planning had widespread support amongst the world’s inteliligentsia, for instance. Two hundred years ago, it hadn’t been thought of. How does a document that is supposed to be rigid and unchanging track expert opinion, which is neither?

            If, having failed to do those things, I were backed into the corner where we were going to hold a referendum, I’d probably abide by the results in order to maintain the legitimacy of the government.

            How do you have a referendum thrust upon you? The recent one was entirely Cameron’s choice, he miscalculated, but he didn’t have his arm twisted.

            @ThirteenthLetter

            One thing we can guarantee: if the citizens of the UK had just voted 52-48 by referendum for a centrally planned economy, the exact same people screaming about how illegitimate democracy is right now would be praising it to the rafters instead.
            Absolutely not, that is nonsense. Speaking of condescension, USians seem to be very misinformed about what flesh and blood socialists actually believe.


            Who is “me” in this scenario and what powers do I have?

            Say you are the government. Do you act on a referendum that is not legally binding?

            An interesting question, is it not? There is a certain “neo” school of thought that has been thinking about that… : -D

            And to be completely clear , backing representative democracy (and Overton windows and constitutional constraints) over pure democracy is not neo-anything.

          • Agronomous says:

            @TheAncientGeek:

            If you try to tell people that terrible ideas are terrible… they respond by saying that you are condescending to them , and carry on their own sweet way.

            So rational persuasion is impossible?

            That’s completely not a terrible idea.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            What I am saying is that terrible ideas can be excluded indefinitely by never offering them as an option. That’s what Overton windows are *for*.

            It’s not every day that you see someone fighting his own hypothetical.

          • Jaskologist says:

            What I am saying is that terrible ideas can be excluded indefinitely by never offering them as an option. That’s what Overton windows are *for*.

            One of the lessons I’ve been taking from the past few years is that the Overton Window, like a real window, is fragile, and attempts to weaponize it or shove it too hard are just as likely to shatter it.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            I can’t see how that could work. A hundred years ago, central planning had widespread support amongst the world’s inteliligentsia, for instance. Two hundred years ago, it hadn’t been thought of. How does a document that is supposed to be rigid and unchanging track expert opinion, which is neither?

            A well defined right to private property would nicely preclude that, plus fit with the Lockean ideal of the Constitution.

            Life, Liberty and Property might not sound as good as the Pursuit of Happiness formulation but it’s much clearer.

            Anyway, the goal is very much the opposite of tracking expert opinion. The point of a written constitution, or an unwritten tradition, is that it is a stable foundation over historical timescales. If your experts start telling you to tear up the foundation, that’s a great sign that you need to get a second opinion.

          • Lumifer says:

            @TheAncientGeek

            Say you are the government. Do you act on a referendum that is not legally binding?

            If you are a democratic government, yes, you do act on it.

            That’s why it’s called a “referendum” and not a “some opinion poll we decided to run for shits and giggles”.

          • brad says:

            I think a good answer is never hold a non-legally binding referendum. If you are going to have direct democracy do it right, with people voting up or down on legislation or a constitutional amendment or treaty or what have you.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            @Lumifer

            Say you are the government. Do you act on a referendum that is not legally binding?

            If you are a democratic government, yes, you do act on it.

            That’s obvious in the easy cases. How about the difficult cases I put:

            Do you still act on it if it would destroy the economy.

            Do you still act on it if it would destroy democracy?

            Do you still act on it if it would destroy the nation?

            That’s why it’s called a “referendum” and not a “some opinion poll we decided to run for shits and giggles”.

            Well, to preserve the power of one politician and one party.

            If a referendum is held because a government genuinely wants an answer to a question, that is, again, the easy case.

            @Brad

            I think a good answer is never hold a non-legally binding referendum.

            That’s half an answer. If all referenda are to be binding, it becomes particularly pressing to explain how you stop politicians holding unwise, dangerous referenda for temporary tactical advantage.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            @DrDealgood

            A well defined right to private property would nicely preclude that

            I am not seeing how that would preclude every possible terrible idea, when we don’t even know what the full list of Terrible Ideas is.

            Anyway, the goal is very much the opposite of tracking expert opinion. The point of a written constitution, or an unwritten tradition, is that it is a stable foundation over historical timescales.

            I know. I am not saying that constitutions aren’t what they are generally supposed to be, I am questioning whether they are , by themsleves, adequate to exclude terrible ideas, or whether some informal mechanism is needed as well.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            @Jacksologist

            One of the lessons I’ve been taking from the past few years is that the Overton Window, like a real window, is fragile,

            But is it useful? Are there ideas that are both appealing and bad? Should they be excluded? Does it exclude them?

            @Anonymous

            So rational persuasion is impossible?

            More like inadequate. You can’t educate enough people to stop them voting for terrible but appealing ideas.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Should the government enforce a law that it passed that would destroy the economy?

            Same thing with a referendum. The government wanted it. Now it has the results. If it didn’t want the result, it should not have offered the referendum.

            I’m no super big fan of democracy, but once you turn a major policy question over to the democratic system, you’d better be prepared to follow through.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @TheAncientGeek,

            I was specifically talking about precluding central planning, plus a broad swath of odious policies like nationalization of industries eminent domain and civil assets forfeiture which also didn’t exist as such at the time of the founders. No rule or ruleset can forbid all misbehavior, but most of the egregious ones can be folded into a handful of “shall nots.”

            Anyway, I agree with you that we overstate what can be done through purely formal means. There is always a human element which needs to be taken into account, no matter how nice the system looks on paper. And sometimes you need to step outside of the system to fix issues which it is incapable of handling well.

            That said, I think this is a spectacularly poor example of that idea. Using referenda for the purpose of determining independence from a larger entity is well-established in the British system of government. If Parliament had, say, overturned a referendum for Scottish independence people would be crying bloody murder. And even the most pessimistic observers wouldn’t put this on the level of “destroying the economy” or “ending democracy.”

            Internationalism took one on the nose with Brexit, yeah, but that’s not quite enough to justify throwing in the towel on democracy following decade after decade of victory. If nothing else, EU fans can still look forward to strengthening the Commonwealth into an even more internationalist bloc than one defined by European-ness.

        • Anonymous says:

          It’s clear that the media portrayals you object to are talking about people rather than policy. What’s the problem with that exactly? Do you think it isn’t newsworthy to report on who exactly the bulk of the Brexiters are and what motivates them?

          There were and are plenty of op-eds floating around with substantive arguments (of varying quality) on both sides. The media did both, and I don’t see any problem with that.

          • Lumifer says:

            It’s clear that the media portrayals you object to are talking about people rather than policy. What’s the problem with that exactly?

            The problem is that some media make a rather unsubtle link: some voters for Leave were bad/dumb people therefore Leave is bad/dumb policy.

            A slightly different version heavily hints that only bad/dumb people voted to Leave.

            I’m just providing a counterexample.

          • gbdub says:

            The other problem is that the media doesn’t seem to be showing the other side: dumb people who voted Remain (of which I’m sure there were plenty). “Dumb people exist!” is both more truthful and less interesting than “Look at this mess dumb people got us into!” The latter seems more like the current tenor of Brexit reporting.

          • DavidS says:

            I’m not sure there’s a position in the world that only bad or dumb people support. Not one with the support of half the population for sure.

            The main point is the one made above – the policy won’t be carried out by you. If your reason to leave is to implement divine right monarchy, you’re missing the point. So your clarification that you mean the whole likely outcome is helpful. The wrote mostly seems to be ‘ EU bad’ not ‘ I’ve worked out what will replace it and its better’

            As a side note, results like this always give a wider mandate than the narrow question. Or set least people think they do. At the extreme, some people seem to be interpreting the result as ‘ we’re allowed to openly abuse foreigners or people who look like they might be foreigners’. Though that might be reporting bias rather than a real thing

          • Anonymous says:

            The other problem is that the media doesn’t seem to be showing the other side: dumb people who voted Remain (of which I’m sure there were plenty). “Dumb people exist!” is both more truthful and less interesting than “Look at this mess dumb people got us into!” The latter seems more like the current tenor of Brexit reporting.

            The original quote was “I’m old, poor, and don’t like brown people”.

            If in fact the brexit voters aren’t disproportionately old, poor and racist, then I agree the reporting is unfair. But if they are then I don’t think it’s unfair to report that.

            If they then go on to draw the inferences that Lumifer mentions that’s incorrect, but reporting the characteristics itself looks like fair game to me.

          • gbdub says:

            But what if all the Remain voters are young, naïve, rich, and don’t give a damn about working class people? Presenting only one side as dumb gives the impression that the case for Leave was dumb while the case for Remain was enlightened. It could well be that most people on either side cast their vote for silly reasons.

            Unless you think that “only reporting some of the facts” is always unobjectionable so long as the biased set of facts you select are factual?

            EDIT: Note that this is slightly different from the inferences Lumifer mentioned (Leave is dumb because dumb people voted for it / only dumb people voted for Leave). I’m arguing that the reporting suggests “Dumb people only voted for Leave, therefore if you voted Remain you can’t be dumb”

          • Anonymous says:

            I wouldn’t go so far as to say that selective reporting of the facts is always unobjectionable, but there’s always going to be some choice of what to include and what to leave out. Especially in a country with multiple news sources from a variety of points of view, this example doesn’t seem terribly objectionable to me.

            I can see how would be annoying if you were the thoughtful leave supporter, but I don’t think that necessarily means that the press has behaved badly.

          • gbdub says:

            I think we’ll just have to remain in disagreement then – I think you’re going a bit too far with charity here. Yes, you can’t report everything and have to choose your facts, but if you can only be bothered with highlighting negative features of one side – that seems like a motivated choice.

          • Jaskologist says:

            “I’m old, poor, and don’t like brown people”

            More notable to me is how seamlessly the left transitioned to using “poor” to as an insult which implies “should have their views discounted.”

            Most notable is that I thought the above would be a better angle of attack that pointing out the same for “old.”

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            At the extreme, some people seem to be interpreting the result as ‘ we’re allowed to openly abuse foreigners or people who look like they might be foreigners’. Though that might be reporting bias rather than a real thing.

            I’ve heard some of those stories. They all read like those endlessly reblogged posts on Tumblr that end with “and then everyone on the subway car stood up and applauded.”

            That said, I imagine that there were indeed some racist assholes who felt emboldened by the vote. It’s a guarantee, really; after all, there are tens of millions of people in the UK and some of them are going to be assholes. We can balance them against all the people sneering at the stupid old poor whites out in the sticks frantically googling “What is the EU” after voting to leave it, and see how that totals up in the end.

          • Julie K says:

            Jaskologist wrote:

            More notable to me is how seamlessly the left transitioned to using “poor” to as an insult which implies “should have their views discounted.”

            Most notable is that I thought the above would be a better angle of attack that pointing out the same for “old.”

            The “old” thing is less novel – “don’t trust anyone over 30” and so on.

            Yeah, I’ve been noticing the “poor [white] people should have their views discounted” lately.

          • If there wa grassroots support for some terrible idea like a centrally planned economy, would you accept it ? What about the 51% disenfranchising the 49%? Is democracy such an unalloyed good that it can be allowed to destroy the economy or even itself?

          • Ruprect says:

            What kind of model of decision making would you need to have, where people would be likely to democratically vote for something that was entirely bad for them?
            Wouldn’t it make sense to have central planning with such a populace?

            And is this a paradox?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            What kind of model of decision making would you need to have, where people would be likely to democratically vote for something that was entirely bad for them?

            The kind where they are incorrect or misinformed about whether it will be good or bad for them?

            For instance, say they think a vote will increase the budget of the NHS by 20 billion a year …

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            More notable to me is how seamlessly the left transitioned to using “poor” to as an insult which implies “should have their views discounted.”

            This is nothing new. Google “voting against their self-interest.”

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            Is it only the left that ever says that? Is it ever true? Does that matter? Are you not supposed to say that because it is untrue, or because it is rude?

          • keranih says:

            It should not be said because it is so incomplete as to be false, even though it is true enough “from certain points of view.”

            A person who donates money to charity is acting against their best interests, because they could use that money to buy more material goods/shelter/healthcare/etc. But the donor also has an interest in art museums/an earth with whales & tigers/stability of their religious organization/etc.

            “You are voting against your interest” assumes that there is only interest – or only one vital interest – and that is not the one which the observer sees being served by the vote cast. OTOH, the voter could quite easily be convinced that they had multiple interests, and that the vote cast would result in the best desired mix of outcomes.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Anyone ever dealt with the public telephone network?

    Why it is that fraudulent callers can get away with spoofing phone numbers and there’s seemingly nothing anyone can do about it. If there’s a packet switching network, shouldn’t my phone have access at the packet level to whatever the equivalent of an IP address is for the phone system? Googling around it looks like the basic conclusion is if someone calls you and spoofs the from number you are completely out of luck in tracking them down. I don’t understand how that can be compatible with a low latency packet switched network. If the audio can get back then there must be a record of where it is going somewhere.

    • Lumifer says:

      The real reason is that telcos don’t care.

      The technical reason is that contemporary phone networks are less packet-switched and more VOIP every year (e.g. I think that all mobile calls are already VOIP). In particular, there are a lot of gateways between the phone network and some IP fabric — that’s why you can use Skype to call a landline phone, for example. And given this, the telcos’ ability to trace the origin of a phone call beyond such a gateway is very limited — one can use standard ‘net proxy techniques to hide.

      • Anonymous says:

        But something similar happened with spam (open proxies) and we were able to come up with blacklists. Why can’t something similar be done on the telephone? I understand the telcoms don’t care, but why not in software at the mobile device? It could even be a white list instead of a black list. Could I program, say, an android variant to reject any calls that aren’t either: a major mobile phone company (att, tmobile, sprint, verizon) or a landline from a baby bell?

        • Lumifer says:

          …reject any calls that aren’t either: a major mobile phone company (att, tmobile, sprint, verizon) or a landline from a baby bell?

          I doubt it because that would require basically separating phone calls into first-class citizens (what you mentioned) and second-class (everything else). Implementing this would require, basically, a cartel of major telcos and FCC and Congress just wouldn’t allow it. Consider the potential for abuse — by telcos.

          • Anonymous says:

            First, I appreciate your replies. Thank you.

            Why would it require a cartel? My mental model is that there is something like an IP address that my phone has to know because it has to be able to send digital data (packets, frames, whatever) back to whatever device is calling me. As you mention there are all these proxies and so the “IP address” may not actually represent the physical handset that is calling me. But shouldn’t I be able to at least look at it in software and say this one was issued by ATT for its mobile phone network, this one was issued by sprint for landlnes, this one is some shady voip network and then decide based on that whether or not to ring the phone? I understand that no one is going to sell me a handset with that software preinstalled because of the antitrust implications, but android is open source, right? Is there some technical reason I couldn’t patch it to do that? Is my model off in some serious way?

          • Lumifer says:

            @Anonymous

            You need not just an IP address. You need basically a reverse DNS / whois lookup and I suspect that would be a problem because a great deal of these IP addresses are transient in the DHCP sense: some device appears, gets an IP address, does its thing, disappears, and in the next minute the same IP address is given to someone else.

            I’m pretty sure the three-letter agencies can trace whatever they want to trace, but to do it for each and every call would require the telcos to introduce a bunch of authentication at entry points (and this has to happen in real time, this is not email) and at peering. And there is just no reason for them to do it. It’s not like you have a choice of going anywhere else :-/

      • fubarobfusco says:

        The technical reason is that contemporary phone networks are less packet-
        switched and more VOIP every year

        VOIP is packet-switched. It’s POTS that isn’t.

    • Nornagest says:

      I’m not an expert on the actual-telephone side of telephony, but I believe the answer is that the numbers they’re “calling from” don’t map to any device on the regular telephone network. VoIP services work completely differently from plain old telephone service and provide Caller ID as a convenience; at that layer the mapping of addresses to phone numbers is entirely artificial, and there’s no straightforward way to tell the legitimate use cases from the abusive ones.

      • Anonymous says:

        I understand that I can’t get a phone number reliably because there may not be one. What I’m wondering is if there is a different identifier that is more reliable. (Like in email the from field may be totally bogus, but somewhere in the received headers I’m going to find a legit IP address that is at least going to give me the last upstream ISP of the spamming bastard.)

    • onyomi says:

      I don’t understand the technical side, but an Android app called “Mr Number” has helped me cut down significantly on the number of telemarketer and fraud-type calls I get. It allows you to report “spam” numbers, so the more people use it, the better it gets, I assume. Usually it’s set to just block or immediately hang up on all spam calls; a few still get through but are often automatically hung up on after one ring. It’s taken me from roughly ~1/day ~1/week for spam calls.

    • fubarobfusco says:

      The telephone network is composed of many, many different things. The roots of the classic telephone network are not packet-switched (like the Internet): they’re circuit-switched. If you’re a PBX (a “private branch exchange”, a telephone switch that might serve an office building), you don’t necessarily have to put Caller-ID on an outbound call. And a call center might initiate (or receive) way more simultaneous calls than it possesses inbound numbers.

      And modern mobile phone networks have to be backwards-compatible with the clankiest, junkiest POTS device there is. An individual subscriber could in theory direct their device to reject any call that isn’t on a whitelist … but that’s not going to work for the general public.

    • Anonymous says:

      All:
      Thanks for the replies. I’ve done some more reading on SS7. What a clusterfuck! And it seems it only gets worse from there.

      And here I thought BGP was ugly and insufficiently paranoid.

  17. TD says:

    A great amount of political discussion is worthless because no one is laying their risk-reward tolerances on the table.

    If I weigh my right to access and own weapons with no more restrictions than today more than the lives of 10,000 children per year, and you weigh that right only as much as 100 children’s lives per year, then there is no way for us to know who is right through reference to the facts alone. Knowing how much gun ownership contributes to the slaughter o’ the wee ones only helps us each individually decide whether we support restrictions or not. It does not indicate who is morally correct, and we can both agree completely 100% on the facts, but still disagree on what to do about that, bringing us to an impasse.

    People don’t lay out their risk-reward profiles openly (nor do they calculate them in fixed numbers), presumably to avoid this scenario. Instead, people will pretend that we all have the same tolerances and preferred outcomes. This means that we will try to appeal to the tolerances of political opponents and try to warp the facts to fit the preferred narrative of the person we are trying to convince of our ideology.

    For example, if a libertarian is trying to convince a progressive leftist of the merits of the free market, they will frequently argue that progressive outcomes have a high chance of being fulfilled through the market. They will say things like “businesses that discriminate will go out of business” and “private charity is actually better than government welfare and the poor will be richer than today because most inequality is government created”. However, if the libertarian is trying to convince a conservative they will say “businesses will be not be forced to cater to immorality”, and “without welfare all the bums will have to get a job, and all the ones that don’t will die off”. If they are trying to convince a white nationalist, they will say “totalitarianism is not needed, because only whites can truly survive a free market, and without the state Jews will lose their finance power”.

    Because we refuse to lay down our innate tolerances, “facts” become mobile so that they can fit the tolerances of whoever we want to convince on that day.

    Maybe it has to be this way. If instead, we laid out our tolerances, we wouldn’t be able to “debate” things and we’d have to drum each others heads with clubs instead. Politics is a mutually beneficial equilibrium in which we all pretend that reality isn’t zero-sum(!). We all pursue ideologies designed to make society better to live in, but “better” is meaningless in a vacuum, and so we hide the lurking question – “better for whom?” – behind the veil of universal morality.

    • Theo Jones says:

      I’d say that the issue is much more that people are wildly inconsistent with their tolerances, based on their political preferences. Ie. a gun control supporter may, when talking about guns, be very risk adverse (or even deny outright the legitimacy of trading lives for recreation), but when talking about car safety regulation may be a lot less risk adverse.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      If I weigh my right to access and own weapons with no more restrictions than today more than the lives of 10,000 children per year, and you weigh that right only as much as 100 children’s lives per year

      Maybe I’m not quite following you, but is this supposed to be an example of how we “should” be dispassionately evaluating the risk/reward of any given policy? Because simply by defining the tolerance with the metric of “HOW MANY DEAD KIDS” is quite clearly weighting in favor of a particular answer. Why not have the tolerance be on the metric of… oh, say, to pick something completely at random… how many burglaries and rapes no longer prevented because the victims weren’t armed?

      To ask the question is to answer it. Which is fine! But the real answer is that human beings don’t reach their principles by emotionlessly measuring some scientific result against some numeric tolerance.

    • TD says:

      @Theo Jones

      That’s pretty much the point. If you like guns way more than driving, you are willing to carry more risk with regard to guns than with regard to cars, because you think the emotional rewards of guns are greater than cars. I’ve called it “risk-reward tolerances” for that reason, but there’s probably a much better name for this that already exists.

      @ThirteenthLetter

      Maybe I’m not quite following you, but is this supposed to be an example of how we “should” be dispassionately evaluating the risk/reward of any given policy?

      No. There’s no “should” here. Also, there’s nothing dispassionate about it. The entire point is that people have an emotional attachment to a particular societal structure, or outcome, and that they have their own individual tolerance of the risks involved. The numbers are just for illustration purposes. These are not externally derived data driven analyses, but internally generated preferences, and if you tunnel down far enough, you’ll get to ones that are innate enough to remain relatively fixed throughout life. Everything determined by external facts is occurring far above that level, and since the base is dominant, a lot of re-interpretation of facts goes on to fit with what we can tolerate.

      The fact that we don’t lay our tolerances on the table as in the example means that many of us start with the assumption that people have the same tolerances, or we have to guess what the tolerances of the other person are in order to pretend that we share them when trying to sell our ideologies to them.

      Of course, in the end I conclude that this is probably a good thing, since unveiling our innate preferences would reveal the whole zero-sum nature of the game, and we’d have to resort to some mutual head smashing instead. (EDIT: Or possibly EXTREME boundary setting).

      Because simply by defining the tolerance with the metric of “HOW MANY DEAD KIDS” is quite clearly weighting in favor of a particular answer.

      I really don’t believe that if a wave of conclusive data came out over the next year showing that gun ownership caused higher homicide rates that the anti-(more)gun control people would change their minds (I wouldn’t) and agree to further gun control measures.

      If the IQ debate became settled over the next year, and we found that black people have the same average IQ as white people, Neo-Nazis would not suddenly pack it in. For a converse example: I already believe that whites have higher average IQ than blacks, yet I have not adopted National Socialism (or other racial nationalism) as my doctrine; I don’t care if blacks commit more crime if it isn’t civilization ending.

      So, the facts matter (which is why I say most and not all politics seems to be a waste or wheel spinning), but very little, since you may have to convince me of way more than you would have to convince yourself in order to get me approving of the same actions.

  18. grort says:

    I took the survey at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1FTfQr3D8PMkgGztga9d_NuImyNxWEGD1BEjGKU1QVwc/viewform, and I would like to reply in long-form to some of the questions.

    “Would you rather spend the rest of your life working as a McDonalds cashier, or die painlessly right now?” — well, I’d like to try the McDonalds cashier thing first and see if I like it. I guess you get to talk to lots of people, and maybe you sort of get job satisfaction from helping them? It might be fun. At any rate, if I decide I don’t enjoy it, I could just stop and die painlessly at that time.

    “Creating new, happy sentient beings is…” — morally neutral. I support something like prior-existence utilitarianism.

    “What percent certainty of going to Heaven would you need before you would prefer a world with both Heaven and Hell to a world where death ends inevitably in oblivion?” — this is sort of an odd theological question, because it seems to reduce to “how bad do you think Hell would be, compared to how good you think Heaven would be?”. I answered 99%, because I’d just read that chapter of Unsong, and it sounds like Hell would be pretty bad. But the question seems to assume that going to Heaven or Hell is based on a coinflip, which is also theologically questionable.

    • keranih says:

      My initial thought, about halfway through the survey, was so glad I’m Catholic, it saves ever so much time and energy worrying about made up ethical debates.

      (Years back, I had someone respond to an argument that I’d made with, “I guess you’re not a utilitarian, then,” in the same tone as you’d say, oh, I guess you’re the sort of person who picks their nose in public. I am so glad to have found this blog, it has improved my opinion of utilitarians ever so much.)

      On reflection, though, I think that maybe religious types also spend a great deal of time pondering ethics, it’s just different questions.

      When I got to the Hell/Heaven vs Oblivion question, it was very easy, because in my concept, God is in the first universe, and not in the second, and even if I screw up badly enough to take the descending ‘vator, I would have lived in a world where there was a God.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        My initial thought, about halfway through the survey, was so glad I’m Catholic, it saves ever so much time and energy worrying about made up ethical debates.

        Catholic fist bump, ma’am?

    • Come on, people! How many conceptions of Hell exist that don’t also feature stories of rebellions against divinity, tricksters, or mythic sacrifice! Growth mindset! You can work with hell! Much harder to work with oblivion!

      • Dahlen says:

        Allow me to disagree. The planes of Oblivion make for a much interesting mythology and metaphysics than the Christian Hell. In fact, the entire Elder Scrolls mythos blows its real counterparts out of the water. In my uneducated opinion.

        • Hmmm. Have to say that I disagree. I think that the Elder Scrolls mythology is a mess, and it’s also not a place I really want to live in. The Daedra are terrible.

          • Dahlen says:

            Well, that certainly depends on how familiar you are with the lore. There’s an uncanny valley effect at play here, in that casual players don’t bother with understanding it, lore buffs seem to be really enthusiastic about interpreting it, and people who have been superficially exposed to some of the more esoteric stuff just get baffled and give up. I think this reaction was even included in the Sermons of Vivec as a metafictional element.

            The third spirit, At-Hatoor, came down to the netchiman’s wife while she relaxed for a while under an Emperor Parasol. His garments were made from implications of meaning, and the egg looked at them three times. The first time Vivec said:

            ‘Ha, it means nothing!’

            After looking a second time he said:

            ‘Hmm, there might be something there after all.’

            Finally, giving At-Hatoor’s garments a sidelong glance, he said:

            ‘Amazing, the ability to infer significance in something devoid of detail!’

            Truth be told, I don’t know either what Kirkbride was smoking when he wrote his stuff, but for a change, I think I want some of that too.

            Also, I don’t think anyone’s disagreeing that the Daedra are terrible (unless you meant terribly done, i.e. shoddily planned/executed), it’s just that they’re, well, interesting. It really hammers home the idea of nuances of evil, who may contain factions at odds with each other on top of it, and I don’t think you see that too often. As for the planes of Oblivion as such, in their capacity as dimensions of Aurbis — I’m writing a story that features a similar cosmology, and I’ve found that it works better for the narrative I’m trying to construct than whatever influences I receive through my real-life, mainstream, Christian milieu. Not that the TES conception doesn’t draw from e.g. Western esotericism as far as I can tell, but I do like the new spin it puts on those tropes. No pun intended.

            Anyway, what made you arrive to that opinion?

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      Same thought on McDonald’s.

      For the “unhappy but not suicidal” stuff, I believe that humans can have negative utility without becoming suicidal. So in general I accept the repugnant conclusion, but I rejected yours.

      My answer re:hell is definitely influenced by the Broadcast.

    • Chrysophylax says:

      I also want to reply in long form. In future, Scott, you might want to put a box next to each question asking what would cause the respondent to change the answer.

      I’d like to try working at McDonalds before choosing death, but if I’m not allowed to try it and can’t game the system by deliberately making myself unable to work, I choose death. Obviously, my answer would be very different if living longer let me sign up for cryonics / get vitrified when the technology is more advanced.

      I think that a long life that doesn’t make me actively want to die is probably utility-negative, so I’d rather have the short happy life. This is sensitive to the difference between being suicidal and prefering to not exist, because utility has to go a lot lower before a non-depressed human becomes suicidal.

      My answer to the question about the repugnant conclusion depends entirely on whether the many have positive or negative utility. A difference in numbers of 10^20 drowns out the difference in life quality, so all that matters is the sign of the per-person utility. As written, I think the first option gives enormous negative utility, but if it’s meant to be an enormous number of people with mildly positive utility each, I strongly prefer the large dystopia over the small utopia.

      My answer about creating lives versus improving them depends on weird stuff about measure that I don’t understand. It also depends on whether computational duplicates count for utilitarian purposes – I currently think they do. Ask me again when mysterious reality fluid stops feeling mysterious to me.

      I can’t answer the question about Heaven and Hell because I don’t know what either one is like and because my preferences weren’t evolved to handle such extreme values. Infinities mess things up in the usual ways if you intend there to be any here. If we take the standard Christian versions, I’m not sure there is any level of certainty that makes me prefer afterlives, because I’m not sure that the Generic Christian Heaven is better than oblivion.

      I prefer not to be able to suicide without strong safeguards because I can’t trust my brain to accurately assess things like chance of recovery from depression, but I am in favour of a right to suicide for anyone who can pass reasonable tests for having nigh-irreversably negative utility. For example, I would be happy for most residents of retirement homes to suicide (or be euthanised) if they want to. If cryonics is common or mandatory, I’m much more willing to allow suicide. I’m solidly in favour of “death panels” to release people from torture when they can’t give proper consent to euthanasia, especially if resource budgets are taken into account.

      I don’t place much confidence in the conjunction of claimsw needed for cryonics to work out well for me, but I think it’s basically a one-way bet and would appreciate a better commitment mechanism to make me do the paperwork. I would like it to be the default.

      I’m currently something like CEV-utilitarian. When I took the MFQ30, I scored very low on everything but Harm/Care. I also said that whether someone was good at maths is extremely relevant to my moral judgements because many of my most visceral moral feelings are about people who don’t shut up and multiply.

      I’m an atheist. I think the religion has probably been net positive for humanity so far (the first cities were theocracies, for example), but I’m moderately confident it’s now a net negative. (Most of the uncertainty is about how important it is to the social fabric and about how much *marginal* damage it does over the normal human insanity that lets people be religious.) I would like to extract the useful social technologies and then magically abolish religion, given the chance.

    • brad says:

      Just in case anyone else didn’t click through the link and thought wanting to kill yourself rather than work at McDonalds sounded snobby to the point of insanity, the full scenario is:

      Live the rest of your life working 16 hour days, seven days a week, as a McDonalds cashier. You will have no time off except the time you need to eat, sleep, and use the restroom. Your entire life will be spent doing McDonalds cashier related tasks. When you are no longer able to perform your tasks, you will die painlessly.

      which is a much more understandable dilemma.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        What happens if they catch me peeing in the frylator?

      • TD says:

        I wonder what use these sort of hypotheticals have. Under a real scenario, I’m confident in my ability to advance from working at McDonald’s at some point, and in a real scenario the work day would not be 16 hours. In the hypothetical, I might answer that I’d rather die, but it doesn’t tell you much about how I’ll behave in real world situations.

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          Working at McDonalds for 16 hours every day for the rest of your life is a metaphor for an em working at subsistence wages on some boring stuff until he gets deleted.

          • Nornagest says:

            Sounds hideous to me, but the em is probably selected for finding McDonalds cashier work fulfilling, which might change the ethical analysis a bit.

          • LHN says:

            It occurs to me that Larry Niven did a variant of this in meatspace, in the background to his Rammer stories (novelized as A World Out of Time).

            The State (the single worldwide government) punishes capital crimes by mindwiping the criminal and replacing their memories with those of someone from the past who’d chosen to be cryonically preserved. (The memory transfer destroys the corpsicle’s body, so it’s a one-shot process.) They’re then put to work in unpleasant jobs with minimal subsistence and no leisure beyond necessary sleep.

            The State sees this as a criminal who has earned capital punishment instead being made a contributing member of society. The corpsicle is dead by their lights, and treated purely as a disposable source of memory RNA. (And anyway, since they died before the State existed they have no citizenship claims.)

            If the new personality finds the situation intolerable, it can request a wipe and new memory RNA. (They’ll also wipe the personality and start with a new one if it simply turns out not to be good at its assigned task.)

            Naturally, the protagonist, who at least thinks of himself as a twentieth century architect who bet on future revival when dying of cancer, rather than a future criminal with implanted memories, sees this as almost the exact choice posed by Scott.

            (Though because this is a space adventure story, he eventually finds/creates the opportunity to take a third option.)

    • anonymous poster says:

      Would anyone else have chosen the ‘live a great life and die in ten years’ option over what they have now?

  19. M.C. Escherichia says:

    Omega cometh; and behold! It offers you a choice of two things:

    Option 1: Annihilation. That is, permanent lack of consciousness.
    Option 2: A fair dice roll where, if the dice lands 1, you go to eternal Hell, and if it doesn’t, you go to eternal Heaven. Heaven is whatever you want it to be, albeit with a superintelligence making suggestions for how you could do better. You have no control over Hell, of course, but it’s worse than you think.

    How many sides does the dice have to have before you take option 2? (No need to constrain yourself to physically possible dice.) Curiously, I was thinking about this question before seeing grort’s post above. At least, I think I was.

    • fibo says:

      One, under most circumstances. Continuation of consciousness can be considered a positive thing under (nearly) all circumstances. You can build on hell, it’s hard to build on oblivion.

    • anonymous poster says:

      There’s no number of sides that could convince me. Any fraction times infinite dis-utility is still infinity.

  20. Dahlen says:

    So, word goes around that lots of people are up in arms about that new Ghostbusters movie, apparently for culture war reasons. I’m a bit out of the loop with audiovisual media, so I’m asking you — what’s it about, and what’s so bad about it? Is it the sequel to that cringeworthy movie with Nick Cage on a flaming motorcycle?

    • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

      My totally not biased account: basically, the movie is a shameless cashgrab and the trailer looks like absolute shit. A whole bunch of the criticism maps pretty well to what sexists tend to say so now it’s the Moral And Correct thing to do to go watch the movie, no matter how completely awful it seems to be.

    • To be honest, I think it looks just as boring and cheesy as the original, but people have nostalgia glasses on when they look at the original so the new one seems more horrible by comparison. Also, it is different actors that people may not like or know, which was, for many, the reason they enjoyed the first (it’s not like it was a bombshell of excellent storytelling). Finally, it is yet another movie being remade that is probably going to half try to appease old fans and half try to put a new spin on it, and then do neither particularly well.

      The culture war sees one side making both legitimate claims of disliking it (above) and illegitimate claims of disliking it because the characters are gender swapped. The other side has inflated the numbers of the latter category without much evidence that the sexism category is larger than the lizard man constant and ignores some of the former because they agree with the idea of gender swapping the characters. Add in some signaling on both sides, and voila, a new cultural battleground.

      I won’t watch it because I already found the first ghostbusters only moderately enjoyable, and I doubt a remake will do any better and will likely do worse.

    • Jaskologist says:

      It’s Ghostbusters, but this time with women. And they didn’t cast a girl Bill Murray.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      Is it the sequel to that cringeworthy movie with Nick Cage on a flaming motorcycle?

      Huh? Have you never seen Ghostbusters?

      Anyway, yeah, it’s a reboot of the original Ghostbusters that nobody asked for. And the only gimmick they could come up with to justify crapping the thing out is an all-female cast.

      It’s actually a smart move for them, because it lets them dismiss all criticism of the movie and even low box-office numbers as being the result of sexism rather than actually answering the question “why does this film exist?” It’s a pretty good microcosm for everything wrong with the media these days.

    • Lysenko says:

      Geek excitement for this film was extremely high for some time, on the basis that it was going to have the original creators involved on the writing and production end and finally continue the franchise. Excitement began to wane as development went on and it went from “original creators involved in writing/production” to “they will probably cameo, and the new one will feature an all-female team”. Thing is, if you go back and look at the comments from the time that was announced, the dominant reaction was something like “Oh, ok, passing of the torch to a new generation. I guess that could good too, we’ll see…”. There was talk of the idea of the Ghostbusters, now older and wealthier, making the decision to take their brand national, opening Franchises, new teams popping up across the country. I don’t remember if that was from leaks about an earlier draft of the script or an interview, or if it was pure fan speculation.

      In any case, enthusiasm had dimmed some, but hadn’t been extinguished, and the doomsayers were generally in the minority. Then the first trailer came out.

      Turns out, it’s not a sequel or a “handing the torch to a new generation” or a “Franchising the Ghostbusters brand to a new team” concept. It’s a straight up reboot, retelling how the Ghostbusters team originally formed. And rather than being a new generation of ghostbusters, the all female team is the original team, with a hunky guy (Chris Evans? I can’t remember) in the romantic interest lead.

      The beats in the original trailer hit many of the same notes from the original movie, but instead of capturing the “Hey, I loved the original, can’t wait to see this one!” spirit that animated the pre-release Star Wars: Episode VII crowd, the general fan reception was “soulless cash-in/needless reboot” and that it lacked the wit, charm, or character of the original. YMMV whether that is a fair reaction to the trailer (or to any trailer) or not.

      Unfortunately, the other criticism levelled (and initially less centrally) was the classic “Why gender-flip the roles? It seems like you’re just doing it to increase Diversity Points. It’s a stupid gimmick.”

      This had the predictable reaction of immediately drawing in the Culture Warriors on both ends, and of THAT criticism drowning out all the others. Because once somebody made that complaint, obviously all other criticism of the trailers can be interpreted as coded sexism and the people making them attacked on that basis and their criticism dismissed out of hand. The production team doubled down on that because the reaction to the trailer really WAS overwhelmingly negative in the first week or two after its release.

      Their only allies were the ones for whom “Look guys! Gender Swapped reboot! Girl Power!” was the most awesome thing about the movie and for whom the question of it as a successor to the original films was simply not terribly important. So they ran with that support, and now seeing it/refusing to see it is taking a stance in the war against geek misogyny.

      Meanwhile, a second trailer has come out, and among the people who aren’t completely diverted into the Culture War arguments the consensus seems to be “Well, there are some better jokes and moments in this trailer than the last one…dunno if that’s enough to make the movie worth seeing…”

      • JayT says:

        The fact that it’s a reboot and not a sequel was what killed any interest I had in the movie. Well, that and the fact that the trailer made the movie look terribly cookie cutter.

      • gbdub says:

        Their only allies were the ones for whom “Look guys! Gender Swapped reboot! Girl Power!” was the most awesome thing about the movie and for whom the question of it as a successor to the original films was simply not terribly important.

        This honestly bothers me much more than the actual fact of gender-swapped reboot: People who would give exactly zero f***s about this movie if it were just Ghostbusters III suddenly championing it just because it’s a gender swap – and strongly criticizing fans of the original for pointing this out.

    • John Schilling says:

      Is it the sequel to that cringeworthy movie with Nick Cage on a flaming motorcycle?

      You are indeed out of the loop, and Cage already filmed the sequel to that one. You are better off not knowing; some loops you don’t want to be a part of.

      The new “Ghostbusters” is a remake of the classic Murray/Akroyd/Reitner comedy, a surprisingly good funny-once joke of a movie that you probably ought to see once. But a movie which didn’t really need the sequel it got and doesn’t need a remake. The selling point of the remake seems to be, “We’ve replaced all the male characters with women, which makes us edgy and progressive and makes you racist if you don’t see our movie and cheer”. Which, coupled with a movie that is almost guaranteed to be not worth watching on its own merits, is offensive to all the usual suspects.

      • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

        Has there ever been a good sequel to a successful comedy movie?

        • Jiro says:

          I liked Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.

        • Pku says:

          The Back to the Future sequels weren’t bad. Not as good as the original, but still better than most comedies.

        • Anonanon says:

          Critics disagreed, but I thought the sequel to Meet the Parents was good, and it did better at the box office than the first.

          The rest of the Matrix trilogy, maybe?

          • Randy M says:

            You classify them as transitioning (no pun intended) from action to unintentional comedy?

        • Protagoras says:

          How about “A Shot in the Dark,” the first sequel to “The Pink Panther”?

        • fibo says:

          Shriek 2? Depends where you draw the line between comedy and kids.

        • Lysenko says:

          “A Shot In The Dark” definitely qualifies. I’m very fond of Kung-Fu Panda 2. Addams Family Values (“All your life”)…and of course, Army of Darkness, though I’ll grant that one may be a teensy bit subjective.

        • sweeneyrod says:

          Hot Fuzz was better than Shaun of the Dead.

          • Pku says:

            And The World’s End was probably better still. I don’t think either really counts as a sequel, though.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          It’s been a while since I watched it, but at the time I quite enjoyed Shrek 2.

        • JayT says:

          Christmas Vacation is probably my favorite comedy ever, and it is considered a classic today.

    • Vorkon says:

      I still wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if they intentionally made the first trailer as bad as possible, in order to generate positive hype through the toxoplasma of rage. If this is true, it would demonstrate a certain cleverness on the producers’ part, which might mean the movie won’t be too bad. It would still be a soulless cash-grab, mind you, but it still has a slim chance to be a competent soulless cash-grab, at least, which is the best that most movies can hope for.

      • Lysenko says:

        That’s a little too convoluted to be plausible, in my view. That said, they certainly recognize that right now it is their strongest marketing asset. Quoth Tom Rothman, Chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Motion Picture Group (and wow, is that an awkward string, or is it me?):

        It’s the greatest thing that ever happened. Are you kidding me? We’re in the national debate, thank you. Can we please get some more haters to say stupid things?

        “Ain’t no such thing as bad publicity” is not exactly a new concept, and you don’t need to be a marketing genius to capitalize on it.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I think the culture war connection here is mostly a product of the marketing department.

    • Dahlen says:

      Alright, I think I got it by now, thanks y’all for the replies, I guess. Looks like I’ve mixed up the titles in there. Ghost Busters, Ghost Rider, Ghost the Expensive CGI Direwolf, whatever, it’s all the same to me. Okay, not really. I actually like Ghost the direwolf. And I’ve only been forced to suffer through Ghost Rider when I was on a visit and this was the only thing playing on TV. Pretty hard to reach those levels of unintentional hilarity.

      … So, that’s it? Prog signalling and counter-signalling is what made this topic go up in flames? I mean, yeah, now that I’ve seen the trailer I agree that the movie looks pretty awful, but holy bananas, the comments section. It’s like people are competing to see which of them put the most effort into disliking this movie. The badness of the movie might have just gotten it negative reviews, after all, it’s not like the world hasn’t seen a terrible movie before, but it takes prog signalling to make the hatred passionate, conspicuous (and, likely, the fervent defense from the other side unprincipled). Same reason why GamerKerfuffle made it past the original stage of gossip rag material, I guess. Oh, and let me show you, I learned a new abbreviation this week… smh.

      Yeah, John Schilling was right, it’s not a loop I want to be part of. Meh. I’ll go back to ignoring the whole thing, and now that GoT season 6 is over, not watching any more video material for another year.

    • BBA says:

      A couple of weeks ago, I half-considered suggesting that “Ghostbusters” be preemptively added to the list of banned words. I decided against it to avoid creating the very flame war I was trying to warn against.

      The present lack of rancor is a pleasant surprise.

  21. dndnrsn says:

    @Mark Atwood:

    I think this may be an example of how this culture is impoverishing our language for discussing this sort of thing. Similar to how (I think) John Schilling has pointed out that it seems that we are now no longer allowed to “judge” or “shame” people for bad sexual choices, we have warped the concept for “consent” as the only permissible concept to be used for judging sex, we are now no longer allowed to think about “gauche” or “louche”, and are allowed to only talk about “harassment” and “creepy”. (With the unspoken addition that these terms are never to be used by the Right Sort of Cute Young People against other Cute Young People of the Right Sort.)

    Leaving aside the question of whether behaviour by some nu-atheist was bad enough to be banworthy or merely bad enough to make him look bad, and moving from hitting on people and sex and stuff to the more general…

    I think there is an unintended consequence of what Haidt sees as the adoption of the care/harm moral foundation. If things that harm people are bad – the obvious (though incorrect) corollary is that things that are bad harm people: something cannot merely be unpleasant or distasteful, it must be harmful to someone. When our ability to find agency anywhere comes in, that adds another wrinkle: if someone was harmed, someone else must have harmed them.

    Complaints that something is tasteless, ugly, unpleasant, etc are cast in language of harm. Take that minor Oberlin cafeteria dustup: instead of complaining “this food sucks” or “it blows that you said something was one thing and it was a pale imitation, and I was disappointed” or “make pad thai for real or don’t make it at all”, the issue became cultural appropriation – cast as causing harm. In order for something to be deemed bad, and worthy of fixing, it must be seen as causing harm.

    The moral landscape gets flattened out, too: there’s 0 and 1, harmless and harmful. Undergrad chow being crappy, as undergrad chow is, becomes on the same level as some MDMA’d-up raver wearing a feather head dress becomes on the same level as blackface.

    • Pku says:

      I don’t know if that’s the source of the false equivalence- I’d say that it’s caused by people who are primed to see racism looking for whatever the closest match around is and matching it to their classical racism example. Kinda like how kids who watch romancy movies get into nine year old “romance” sometimes.

      • dndnrsn says:

        I picked the cultural appropriation example based on it being significantly different from what Mark Atwood was saying about consent, harassment, etc in relation to this skeptic guy. But I think it stands in general.

        I don’t know if people are looking for harm – it’s that if they have a moral system where harm is the major source of badness, it’s easy to conclude bad means harmful. So when they come across something bad, they conclude it’s harmful.

        • Pku says:

          But isn’t deriving morality from care/harm just utilitarianism? I’m not quite clear on what you consider the source of the problem here – do you mean that you don’t like utilitarianism, or that you consider it significantly different?

        • dndnrsn says:

          The problem I see is that they’re finding harm where there is none. Something can be bad, in whatever way, without being harmful. Some people seem to be operating on multiple moral foundations but only intellectually recognizing care/harm.

          That they’re not considering the other moral foundations mean they’re seeing things that are bad on another scale or bad in a non-moral sense, and mapping it to care/harm.

          I’m not a utilitarian, but with regards to utilitarianism, they’re interpreting things that don’t reduce utility as reducing utility, or vastly overstating the degree to which things reduce utility – creating a self-fulfilling prophecy where they sort of talk themselves into actually being harmed by things that are not especially harmful.

          • Pku says:

            Clarified, thanks. I am a utilitarian, but pretty much agree with you about the rest.

          • dndnrsn says:

            To put it in what are maybe utilitarian terms: they’re turning themselves into some kind of weird inverse utility monsters, where they are more seriously negatively affected than everyone else. To them, the dust speck is torture.

          • Lumifer says:

            That they’re not considering the other moral foundations mean they’re seeing things that are bad on another scale or bad in a non-moral sense, and mapping it to care/harm.

            Isn’t there a simpler explanation? Couching your concerns in terms of harm is just plain more effective in our times. To riff off ReluctantEngineer’s post below, if you say “I don’t like Bob” the response will be a “so what?” shrug. But if you say “Bob makes me feel unsafe”, ooooh, clearly something must be done about that.

            It’s similar to tragedy-of-the-commons word inflation. It used to be that “it is good” meant that it was good. But nowadays “it is good” means “meh” and to convey the “it is good” meaning you need to write something along the lines of “it was absolutely awesome and will become one of my most cherished experiences of my life”. Which translates to “I kinda liked it”.

          • dndnrsn says:

            But if it’s more effective to talk about things in care-harm terms, that would be evidence that society has valued the care-harm axis over the rest.

            And I think it goes beyond a tactical decision. Somebody who just doesn’t like Bob, but claims to feel unsafe, is going to be less convincing than someone who actually feels unsafe. I don’t think a student activist would lie about not being able to sleep for days because Milo Yiannopoulos is coming to town – that’s just such a bizarre claim to make that it’s hard to imagine it being made up. Is there a tactical advantage to appearing that unhinged?

            I do think you’re right that there is “linguistic inflation” going on, with the result that it’s often hard to tell what is being spoken of.

          • Lumifer says:

            @dndnrsn

            society has valued the care-harm axis over the rest.

            Societies tend to do that since the care-harm axis includes things like “We will come and kill you all dead”. Quite literally.

            I agree that it tends to go beyond the tactical decision which is unfortunate. I’ve seen people put on the victim’s mask and then that mask grows in…

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Lumifer

            Care/harm is certainly important. But, relative to its own past, and relative to other societies in the world, modern Western society values care/harm a lot more than, say, loyalty/betrayal, respect/subversion, or purity/degradation.

          • John Schilling says:

            Societies tend to do that since the care-harm axis includes things like “We will come and kill you all dead”. Quite literally.

            “We will literally come and kill you all dead”, has been almost entirely eliminated from the decision space in controversies of interest to Western societies.

            Back when that was a more realistic concern, people were paying much more attention to the loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation axes – in large part because they believed those things were essential to creating a world where we wouldn’t have to actually worry about people coming to kill us all. Which is the world they gave those of us in the West, if we can keep it.

            Everyone else, trying to achieve for themselves the physical security we take for granted, is still doing a lot of thinking about loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation.

    • gbdub says:

      Yes, I have similar feelings. Legitimate harm/trauma is bad, and at some point I think we need to ask ourselves if priming for trauma and in some sense rewarding it is actually creating more trauma.

      Don’t like the food? That’s because your culture was horrifically appropriated! Found that comic kind of offputting? Express your righteous anger at his deep seated privilege and misogyny! Didn’t get that job? You were victimized by institutional racism! Creepy guy hit on you a bit longer than he should have? You’re unavoidably oppressed by rape culture! Regret that hookup? You were traumatically assaulted by a serial victimizer!

      I see why it’s a tough balance, because you want legitimate victims to be unashamed to come forward, and you want to recognize that the serious versions of these things really are very bad and very hurtful. At the same time, I think it’s possible to swing too far the other way and encourage a thin-skinned attitude that actually creates more unnecessary trauma in the world. A world with everyone on a hair-trigger is unlikely to be pleasant.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Good point. You get lots of ridicule when, say, student activists claim they’re traumatized, can’t sleep, etc by, say, a right-wing speaker coming to campus. The implication is often that these people are lying or exaggerating. But what if they’re telling the truth? That’s no way to live.

        I think I saw this in Pinker: supposedly, humans self-deceive because lying is often advantageous, and the hardest lie to get caught in is one you believe yourself. Analogously, if being hurt brings authority, attention, and power (and, these days, it seems to, at least for some people in some places), and lying about being hurt is less effective than actually being hurt, then there’s an incentive for people to be more easily hurt.

        • Agronomous says:

          Living in a hell of their own making seems vaguely like… justice. (Simpliciter.)

          • gbdub says:

            The problem is all the innocent people that get dragged in. Students didn’t come up with “triggering” on their own, they were taught it.

          • Nornagest says:

            Students didn’t come up with “triggering” on their own, they were taught it.

            I’m actually not sure about that. Social Justice (capital S, capital J) and academic activism are different cultures, for all that the former gets a lot of its conceptual ammunition from the latter — and I saw the former first among students on college campuses.

            Students were being taught about patriarchy and male gaze and postcolonial theory when I was in school, but there were no trigger warnings in the syllabi for those classes. If there are now, I don’t think the lecturers put them there of their own accord.

          • Pku says:

            Even if the concept was invented by students, the majority of students who hear it are not the same students as those who invented it.

          • Anonymous says:

            I think the chain of transmission was roughly:

            academic psychologist-> practicing therapists -> online self help groups -> online political sites/forums/blogs (e.g. tumblr) -> students -> universities generally

            Of course as in any giant game of telephone there were errors in transmission. So the definition transformed from a term that referred to things that induced literal flashbacks in people with PTSD, to anything mildly offensive or disturbing to anyone.

            Although maybe you are right and the internal experience of these millennials is horrifically painful whenever they are exposed to something that from the outside looks no more than mildly offensive or disturbing from the outside. Or if not horrifically painful, maybe they feel “unsafe” in the sense that their flight or fight reflexes go off. How would you test that? Pupil dilation, blood pressure, fMRI?

          • So Social Justice is in some ways a negative utility monster, negative experiences weigh that much more heavily on them? Or maybe some sort of reverse P-Zombies that feel things which we cannot in any way prove how strongly negatives affect them? I wonder if there is falsifiability in such a line of thinking but it maps right to another line of thought I always find fascinating to ponder: how can I even comprehend how pain/taste/sight/sound/etc actually feels and appears to other people?

        • Lysenko says:

          @dndnrsn

          This was what I was trying to get at with my questions regarding the Kuntzman article above. I am apparently not terribly effective at communicating in this forum yet. So, if this is the case, what does it imply for figuring out how to help undermine/undo this mindset in others?

          At SOME point, if this goes on, we are all going to have to learn to engage effectively and productively (for some value of effectively and productively) with people who have this degree of sensitivity. If nothing else, as it spreads, the more likely you are to end up in a leadership position -over- or a subordinate position UNDER someone with this mindset.

          • dndnrsn says:

            To undermine it, first, address the actual big issues that the weird little not-actually-harming-anyone things are budded off of. People aren’t complaining about lousy banh mi because racism is over and they have nothing better to complain about. You have to assume that at least some of them are acting in good faith. We can’t let our disdain of college-activist shenanigans turn into a reaction against attempts to fix certain social problems.

            Second, make people aware that there’s more to life than care/harm. People need to know that something can be low quality, disappointing, disgusting, upsetting, etc without actually being actively (or, even, potentially harmful) to anyone.

            As for undoing it, I don’t know. I’ve gotten the definite impression that a lot of the people who fall victim to this were not the most stable to begin with – if it wasn’t this, it would be something else.

            Given that last point, I find myself wondering how much of a worry it is that people with that sort of sensibility will end up in positions of direct power. Too much stress – I doubt someone would last as a CEO who needs to take off 2 days every week to emotionally recuperate from the constant microaggressions they face.

          • Anonymous says:

            I understand that college students were at very least the foot soldiers in movements for (arguably) positive change in the past, but at this point I think it’s best if anyone that can ignore them, does.

            There are real genuine problems out there, but they mostly aren’t on college campuses, and today the people that are directly effected are better able to advocate for themselves than ever.

            Unfortunately that’s no help to college professors who don’t have the option of disengagement. Yet another good reason to separate out research and mass education IMO.

          • gbdub says:

            People aren’t complaining about lousy banh mi because racism is over and they have nothing better to complain about. You have to assume that at least some of them are acting in good faith.

            I actually disagree, at least somewhat. I think part of the issue is that we’ve valorized the civil rights era and heroized the campus activist, and today’s students understandably want to follow that example. But the bigger issues have been beaten down – racism isn’t solved, but basic anti-racism is the default now rather than revolutionary. So if you want to be a revolutionary activist thought-leader, the most handy cause to rally behind might be improved ethnic food.

          • Lysenko says:

            @dndnrsn
            That’s the wierd thing to me, Dndnrsn. I’ve spent the last four years living in the transition zone between the American Midwest and The South. In those four years, I have seen more examples of overt racism than I have in the three decades of my life prior.

            And here’s the funny thing: they are not widely held opinions or examples of ‘systematic/structural racism’. They are individuals, generally middle-aged or older, and the reactions of the people around are stuck in a middle ground between “I am NOT ok with what you just said” and “I don’t want to pick this fight in public right now”, but is very obviously negative. There are a lot more of them than I’d ever have thought, but they’re still very much isolated individuals who don’t get support.

            And I’ve seen it going both directions, black->white and white->black. The white->black gets the reaction described above. Black->white does not. Though I do have examples of a black perception of structural racism…I think.

            That’s the only way I can characterize a black individual casually asserting to a white employee of a casino that everyone knows that the casino is racist and run by whites to exploit blacks, and regularly rigs drawings and jackpots to disproportionately reward white players, while discarding black winners, and that no black player ever has or will win one of the larger prizes…and yet do so without any particular animus. After all, the white employee has always been pleasant and courteous and solicitous, as have all the other face-to-face personnel. The employees aren’t racist, the casino is. It’s a repeated complaint from multiple individuals as well.

            So, while I have adjusted my priors for ‘racism in the form of people who sincerely believe another race/ethnic group is inherently inferior still exists in notable quantities in the US’ upward rather sharply, the reactions of people around them and the consequences applied in the business realm also worked to confirm the other part, which is that it is disorganized individuals. No coordination, no cooperation, and nothing systematic or structural.

            That said, I had a bit of insight I want to offer up regarding college students. The banh mi ones very well might be all making it up because they have nothing better to complain about, or they might have some prior experiences. I don’t know enough about them to judge. But I DO know something about another set of incidents that got a lot of discussion:

            Ferguson? That’s an hour and a half away. Bus groups from Ferguson come down to the local casino. I’m sort of worried that I’m not censoring enough here, but screw it:

            Mizzou and the SJW freakout there? Again, very close, and here’s the realization: I don’t remember anyone commenting on this at the time, but the students at Mizzou are by and large coming from MO, KY, TN, etc and a good portion are probably coming directly from MO itself. That means a good portion of the students there are going to be the kids who grew up Blue Tribe in a VERY Red Tribe area, feeling like they’re trapped in enemy territory, and with what they see as the latest atrocity committed by the enemy fresh in their minds. From that perspective, the freakout actually makes a lot more sense.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Lysenko:

            That is a good point; universities are a bubble, but people come from outside the bubble, spend their summers outside the bubble, etc.

            However, the campus activist line is rarely “the world outside is harsh and unfair and we within this bubble must fix it” – it’s “this bubble is a den of bigotry and we must fix this bubble”.

            Anecdata: I went to a college, with very few students from places where open bigotry like that is common, where I heard someone publicly use “gay” as a pejorative one time, everyone was shocked, and he was nicknamed “Homophobe Frosh” for about a year after. It’s about 2/3 female, minority white, and the student government is probably as strong as student government can actually be. Is it perfect? Of course not, but it is dramatically far ahead of the “real world”. To hear some people tell it, though, it is a homophobic sexist racist hive of scum and villainy – badness is baked into the bricks the place is made of.

            It is a bit much to think that 15% of the population (estimating 45% white, 33% male, and 90% straight – this college is one of the few places where the “10% of men are gay or bisexual” thing actually holds true) is so adept (or, their opponents so inept, or both) that they can control the democratic institutions and culture of a place, without it being obvious – I find it hard to escape the conclusion that the left wing activists there are finding things that frequently aren’t actually there. (EDIT: Unless, of course, someone believes that straight white men are just that much more competent and clever than everyone else, which seems to be an opinion I would associate more with the far right than with left-wing activists).

      • ReluctantEngineer says:

        I have certainly noticed something like this among (a few of) my students, who say things like “Bob makes me feel unsafe” when in the not-too-distant past I’m pretty sure they would have said “I don’t like Bob”.

        ETA: And to be clear, I have no power over Bob, so it’s unlikely that they’re hoping that I’ll punish Bob to protect their safety.

        • gbdub says:

          Here’s an example I was thinking of after I wrote my original post.
          I work at a largish engineering company, and help organize events for summer interns. One of them is an “ask us anything” panel where we encourage interns to ask recently graduated full-time employees about life at the company without managers / HR in the room.

          Every year, we get a young woman asking us something along the lines of “I’ve heard the engineering industry is super sexist. How horribly oppressed am I going to be?”

          Now, the response they usually get from the ladies on the panel (who I assume are being truthful) is basically “you will very occasionally get some sexist / not-quite-appropriate remarks, almost exclusively from people either within 10 years of retirement (hence self solving) or from the non-college educated techs that have a rougher culture in general. This will be mildly annoying but won’t have a real effect on your career”.

          So given that it seems workplace sexism for our engineers isn’t really fake, but is typically a minor irritant at worst, is that female intern really well served by being primed to expect lousy sexist treatment? The potential paranoia that every adverse decision is unavoidable due to your gender, or that today will be the day you’re horribly harassed… can’t that be worse than the actual harm of the intransigent remaining vestiges of professional sexism?

          • Pku says:

            Yeah. I’ve heard this complaint from female friends – that their feminist friends prime them to expect horrible treatment and make them paranoid, in a way that’s both unhealthy and unsupported by reality. The more radical versions of feminism sound a lot like an abusive spouse – they harm you emotionally, but they get you to stick by them by convincing you that the rest of the world is out to get you and you need them to survive.

          • bean says:

            “I’ve heard the engineering industry is super sexist.”
            Are all of the interns in question engineers/STEM? I don’t remember hearing anything like this in engineering school. (I’m a guy, so it’s possible that I just wasn’t paying attention.) If not, then I’m guessing the ‘not’ is what produces that intern, because whatever department she’s from can’t come up with another explanation for engineering’s gender ratio.

          • gbdub says:

            They are all engineers. Engineers do have to take classes in other departments, and are immersed in the general campus culture outside of class.

            But even within engineering there are a preponderance of identity interest groups, special scholarships and programs, etc., which for various reasons tend to emphasize the expected challenges of being an (identity) in (field).

        • Jiro says:

          Memes evolve. It may be that “Bob makes me feel unsafe” has evolved because it is more effective in the cases where you do have the power to punish Bob; the fact that people now use it even when you don’t have the power to punish Bob may just be carryover from that.

          • ReluctantEngineer says:

            At the very least, I don’t think the motivation for such evolution was that complaining about safety is more likely to bring down punishment; I suspect that getting people to listen sympathetically was more important.

      • Lumifer says:

        Some “escapee” accounts that I have read point out that the life of a dedicated SJW warrior is pretty miserable in the psychological sense.

        For example, this (an interesting read by itself):

        The aftermath [of escaping] was wonderful. A world that seemed grey and hopeless filled with colour. I can’t convey to you how bleak my worldview was. An activist friend once said to me, with complete sincerity, “Everything is problematic.” That was the general consensus. Far bleaker was something I said during a phone call to an old friend who lived in another city, far outside my political world. I, like a disproportionate number of radical leftists, was depressed, and spent a lot of time sighing into the receiver. “I’m not worried about you killing yourself,” he said. “I know you want to live forever.” I let out a weak, sad laugh. “When I said that,” I replied, “I was a lot happier than I am now.” Losing my political ideology was extremely liberating. I became a happier person. I also believe that I became a better person.

        • dndnrsn says:

          “Activist burnout” is a real thing, and as much as it has to do with the stress of dealing with what the activism is aimed at in the first place, it is a very ill-kept secret that you find some incredibly toxic and abusive people hiding in plain sight in left-wing activist circles that present themselves as safe from those things.

          Of the three people I have, in person, heard use the phrase “social justice warrior” two were themselves left-wing activist types, referring to people they were, basically, scared of.

          This is hardly a new thing – there’s that old essay on “trashing”, there’s what happened to Shulamith Firestone, etc.

        • Anonanon says:

          Here’s a particularly topical one, about the “By Any Means Necessary” group that stabbed people a few days ago.

          I joined BAMN when I was 14 and remained in the organized until I was nearly 18. When I was sixteen, BAMN convinced me that my family was abusive and crazy and that it was better that I move in with BAMN members. I did so against my family’s will. When my family started to look for me, BAMN advised me that it was best that I move from my hometown (Detroit, MI) to live with BAMN members in another part of the country.

          And it goes downhill from there.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Everybody’s got their preferred flavour of outrage porn. Is wallowing in it worse than it used to be? Maybe thanks to the internet and social media.

    • keranih says:

      If allowed/not allowed decisions for a particular action are based on whether that action will harm someone or not, tremendous power flows from being the one who defines “harm.”

      Do it right, and everything you want to do is allowed, and everything you don’t want to happen is forbidden – and your opponents will nod and agree and help you sort actions into harm/not harm as you prefer.

      Do it wrong, and you’ve just created a raging monster from your opponent, who sees no reason to respect your “logic” and recognizes no utility from respecting the crap laws that you’ve created.

      A better move is to bring your opponents fully into the harm-definition process, attempt to create a reasonable, systemic, predictable formula for measuring harm, and offer a way out for those who stick at accepting the general agreement. You won’t make everyone happy, and you won’t make everyone equally unhappy, and the best you can do is be as fair as possible while you ensure that you aren’t trapped into an agreement with people who violently disagree with your definition of “fair”.

    • Jaskologist says:

      This gets my +1 Insightful comment of the month award.

  22. brad says:

    Re: Corbyn

    His statement refusing to resign mentions that he was “democratically elected” and it’s a line that used by other of his defenders. But it appears to me that the MP’s actually have a better claim to be representative of Labour voters. There were something like 550,000 people eligible to vote in the leadership election Corbyn won, but in the 2015 elections 9.3 million people voted for Labour candidates.

    That’s the system in the use, he didn’t design it, and within the rules of the game as they are set up he doesn’t have to care what the MPs want. But at the end of the day it is the voters that matter, not the party members. He might well find himself secure as the leader of a much diminished party.

    • birdboy2000 says:

      Why should we assume the people who voted for Labour MPs in a general election (against Conservatives and Lib Dems) also support the position of said MPs in an intra-party struggle?

      • brad says:

        We don’t have slam dunk proof either way, but among other things consider that the proximate cause of the revolt is the accusation that Corbyn sandbagged the brexit vote and based on exit polls it looks like roughly 2/3 of self identified Labour voters voted remain.

    • Rob K says:

      Candidates for parliament in the UK aren’t selected in primaries, they’re chosen by the party as its candidate for that position.

      That being the case, you’d expect that a slate of MPs selected by the previous party leadership would be hostile to the insurgent who took over from said previous leadership.

      • brad says:

        True, but it is not a pure party list system either (like in Israel for example). Candidates have to actually win local constituencies.

    • Pku says:

      I’d say he’s probably right – like the brexit vote itself, the system should probably have been designed differently, but changing things after the fact is a bad idea.

  23. Dahlen says:

    While we’re still in the Badlands… Has anyone read the spoilers for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child? What did you think, how hard did you laugh, and how high did it jump the shark? Rot13 for specific spoilers, as is the custom.

    • Earthly Knight says:

      I think it looks pretty good, actually. It seems more in keeping with the spirit of the earlier books, which is nice, because I found the last couple books in the series to be dreary and depressing slogs. I also enjoy plots of the sort that this plot happened to be, although I understand that they’re not for everyone.

  24. Ruprect says:

    So – British government borrowing costs less than 1 percent – Osbourne decides it’s time for austerity.
    I think Labour had a good point when they said that the problems in Britain were more to do with bad government policy than the EU (even the immigration stuff was clearly a matter of Blair government policy in the noughties – “rub the right’s nose in diversity”) – but also, the main reason why Brexit is going to be bad is that we have a bunch of morons in command. In fact, that seemed to be one of the main arguments for voting remain – uh… look at the jokers we have running Britain and imagine if they weren’t constrained by the EU.
    Personally, I thought that the costs of Brexit would be counteracted by the economic benefits of getting rid of the current government – but now I’m thinking that by voting out I’ve just given them an excuse for being shit for the next 10 years.
    In a sense I can understand the hysterical stuff coming from the remaniacs – I felt exactly the same way when Cameron and Osbourne were reelected (the remain people were less interested in what the economists were saying then).

    (Last time I checked there wasn’t really any justification for anything Osbourne did (beyond making poor people wrk harder?) – does that still stand true?)

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      In fact, that seemed to be one of the main arguments for voting remain – uh… look at the jokers we have running Britain and imagine if they weren’t constrained by the EU.

      There’s an obvious counterargument to that…

      Along those lines, at least with the jokers running Britain you can vote them out and replace them with different jokers. The jokers running the EU, you’re stuck with.

      • onyomi says:

        Moreover, don’t know how accurate the claim is, but in a recently-linked debate, a pro-Brexiter commented that getting a bureaucratic job in Brussels is a common plan B for British politicians voted out of office. If true, it means that it’s not just unelected officials governing them, it’s sometimes literally electorally rejected officials governing them.

      • Ruprect says:

        Definitely – problem is, I can see it now. They’ve been blaming Gordon Brown for anything bad that happened for the last 6 years – by voting out we’re going to spend the next decade with governments implementing horrible policies and then blaming it on Brexit.

        People won’t vote them out, because too much of their identity is invested in the party labels – and they will believe whatever shit they tell them. Only hope is for a political breakdown – replace the current meaningless political brands with parties that represent the real political differences in the country.

        (My view is that things would be massively improved if you couldn’t write the party name on the ballot paper – it would undermine the power of the party, increase the electablity of the distinguished individual, and encourage people to be slightly more informed about who they were voting for.)

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Just because borrowing is cheap doesn’t mean you should do it, particularly if you are a very large organization that cannot control how the money is spent.

      1. Maybe rates will significantly increase in the future. You will need to contract, which will slow down the economy. It can be better to never start the rocket ride.

      2. Even borrowing at negative rates of interest can be stupid if the money is going to be wasted.

  25. onyomi says:

    Don’t know if it’s been posted before, but this seems like one of the most reasonable and balanced takes on the gun control debate I’ve seen in some time.

    Also answers a question I was asking in the last gun control debate re. why the focus recently is on “assault rifles” when handguns are so much more frequently used in crime. Apparently handguns were the very strong focus in the 60s and 70s, when there were many calls to outright ban them, but over time they somehow gained a reputation as having more legitimate self defense use than rifles; this, plus mass shootings committed with rifles seem to have shifted the focus, but I think this is bad, since, as the article points out, rifles are actually some of the most responsibly owned guns in the country. That said, as also stated, banning handguns could result in substituting of deadlier rifles, potentially resulting in more gun-related deaths, even if possibly fewer gun-related crimes.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      That is a good article, with lots of good points.

      The only thing I would point to as a weakness is that, whatever the numbers say about mass shootings/spree killings/whatever you want to call it as rounding error, the idea that we should just regard them as sort of par for the course doesn’t really do the issue justice.

      • Vorkon says:

        Where does the article say that we should just accept mass shootings as par for the course?

        It says in multiple places that there is little, if anything, that gun control policies can do to prevent mass shootings, but I didn’t see anything that said we shouldn’t do anything about them.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @Vorkon:
          This:

          If, say, 60% of handgun shooting victims are transformed into long gun shooting victims, then the heightened lethality of long guns could mean that there are actually more total homicides.

          Is immediately followed by this:

          The substitution effect is arguably the most vexing problem in gun control policy. It is also the reason why it seems likely that using the magic button to make “assault weapons” vanish would not eliminate mass shooters. I would argue that it wouldn’t even put a dent in the number of mass shooters because the proximate reason for a mass shooting rampage is never the presence of a so-called assault weapon.

          So, he posits that that we can potentially affect the lethality of an individual gunshot through policy, and then immediately ignores his own conclusion to argue that we can’t do anything about number of mass shooters so gun policy would be useless.

          I probably overstated my case, but be seems to be saying “because gun policy can’t change the underlying psychology of the shooter, gun policy can’t do anything (about how successful they are.)”

          Whether or not you want to argue that it is warranted/advisable, implying that you can’t change lethality, right after you argued that you can is a little odd.

          • The Nybbler says:

            He’s not arguing you can’t change lethality; he’s arguing you can’t do anything about the _number_ of mass shooters with an assault weapons ban. The magic button may indeed reduce lethality of mass shootings (e.g. by resulting in handguns being substituted for long guns); he does not address that. It might also increase lethality by resulting in larger-caliber hunting rifles being substituted for ‘assault weapons’.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The Nybbler:

            He’s not arguing you can’t change lethality

            But he just ignores that argument altogether as it relates to mass shootings, doesn’t he? He also takes what seems to me to be a relatively fatalistic position on mass-shootings/spree-killings/whatever you want to call them.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Maybe (probably) I’ve been in this for too long, but I find some of his criticisms to be attacking straw men.

      The “Over-motivated criminal” argument doesn’t end with “criminals don’t follow gun laws”. It usually goes on to point out that the criminals are _already_ doing the things they’d need to do under the next proposed gun control measure, or that their suppliers of drugs could easily supply them with weapons.

      The related “Criminals will break the laws, so what’s the point?” argument counters the rejoinder of “well why do we have laws then?” by pointing out that laws like prohibition of murder directly outlaw and make punishable the harm we’re trying to avoid, but gun control laws are attempting to make punishable harmless acts committed by people who are already willing to break our primary laws.

      And as for “not knowing how guns work”, I may be uncharitable but I think in many cases this is deliberate and for effect. The gun used by Omar Mateen was not, in fact, an AR-15 or AR-15 workalike. But if someone was to point this out in a discussion of a hypothetical bill banning “AR-15 type weapons”, they risk being dismissed as a “gun-nut” overly concerned with “technical details” when “lives are on the line”

      • FacelessCraven says:

        The Nybbler – “The gun used by Omar Mateen was not, in fact, an AR-15 or AR-15 workalike.”

        I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about guns. How is the SIG MCX not an AR-15 workalike? Because of the piston and folding stock? would the H&K 416 not count as an AR15 then? From a quick glance, it uses STANAG mags, the receiver appears to be set up so that the various switches and levers are in the same place…

        I recognize that calling something an “ar15 workalike” is a bit fraught, given that all rifles appear to be converging on the AR15 pattern, and that for that matter the specifics of the AR-15 are more or less irrelevant except that it was first to what is apparently a very sweet spot in the design space. Also, the entire concept of singling out the AR15 is retarded. Still, the MCX seems closer than, say, a Beryl or an AUG.

        • Inc says:

          I think it’s fair to say that a piston AR is still an AR. The MCX isn’t just a piston AR though, it apparently also has recoil springs attached directly to the bolt carrier instead of in a buffer tube.

          It’s still probably a subjective judgment call on how many things need to be different in order to go from AR to AR-like to not-AR. That being said, when I broke down my piston AR for the first time, I said, “Neat, there’s a piston where the gas tube would be,” and then went on with my life. After looking at pictures of the MCX broken down, my thought was, “Well that’s weird, I wonder how to assemble that properly.” Maybe I’m just dumb though.

          • gbdub says:

            Once it’s assembled though, it works pretty much the same, for the practical purpose of flinging projectiles.

            I think “workalike” is fair. Yeah, it’s a little silly to call everything an AR-15, but only somewhat sillier than calling every facial tissue a Kleenex or every copier a “Xerox machine”. Ford and Chevy both produce “pickups” and they are more or less equally useful for hauling lumber so it’s fair to group them together.

            The best label is probably “modern sporting rifle” but that’s an industry buzzphrase from inside the gun culture.

        • John Schilling says:

          If it uses an AR-15 lower receiver, then it is part of the AR-15 family by any reasonable standard – particularly the legal standard, where the (lower) receiver is the part with the gun-nature. The manufacturer’s web site positively brags that it uses a standard AR-15 lower receiver so you can just use their other parts to upgrade your existing AR.