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Open Thread 55.75

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

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693 Responses to Open Thread 55.75

  1. Orphan Wilde says:

    Anybody else feel like the unmediated contents of their brains would require a trigger warning the size of Nebraska?

    See, I used to think that manners were a veneer that helped people move along without unnecessary conflict. But the reactions of some of you folk to Unsong’s hell makes me think otherwise. (Actually, it makes me think you’re playing up your innocence in view of what you think the rational response should be, but I also realize that’s just typical mind fallacy.)

    • Andrew says:

      Having not read much of Unsong, can you explain what your second paragraph means a bit more thoroughly?

      • Orphan Wilde says:

        It’s hard to explain without either sounding condescending or conveying exactly what I’m trying to be vague about. The short of it is, I don’t think most of the people here, or indeed anywhere, are equipped to emotionally deal with the universe.

        • Andrew says:

          You’re already coming off a bit condescending- but anyway, I’d agree with you: Most/all people, including myself, aren’t equipped emotionally to deal with anything the universe could potentially throw at them. That is to say, everyone has a breaking point. I’d think that’s relatively uncontroversial?

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Alright, to take an example from something most people are already aware of and thus shouldn’t matter overmuch if I spread:

            Nihilism. [If nihilism horrifies you, stop here] Most people aren’t emotionally equipped to deal with the fact that the universe doesn’t care about them and that their hopes and dreams do not matter in an objective sense and that if we as a species take a serious enough mis-step nothing is going to step in and fix the mistake – not god, not fate, not good intentions – we’re just going to die, and that’ll be it.

          • Andrew says:

            Eh- The only decent argument I know of for that claim is that most people are religious, and thus have publicly committed to an anti-nihilistic worldview. But there’s a lot of signalling and tribal membership dynamics going on there, so I’d consider it weak evidence.

            Most intelligent people I know of have read enough about nihilism to understand it: Some find it unremarkable, some find it depressing but manage just fine, some finding it horrifying to contemplate but have made peace with it over the long term, etc. I can only think of a tiny percentage that were seriously screwed up by it. So anecdotally- people seem equipped to handle *that* particular piece of knowledge well enough.

            Doesn’t change my agreement that there are experiences or knowledge that *would* break people, but again, that’s a bit unremarkable.

          • Fahundo says:

            Most people aren’t emotionally equipped to deal with the fact that the universe doesn’t care about them and that their hopes and dreams do not matter in an objective sense

            Really? That’s the kind of thing that gets referenced in cartoons these days.

            I have to agree with the guy below who said people claim to be more horrified by things than they really are. Whether that’s to score easy moral points or attempt to signal normalcy or something else entirely, I’m not sure.

          • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

            I’m pretty sure Orphan’s claim was not that people can’t deal with hearing about the ideas of nihilism, but that they can’t deal with realizing it on a basic gut level.

            Similar to how everybody knows that there are disasters and famines happening everyday, but when actually witnessing it leaves many people traumatized.

            Or perahps a more pertinent example, people are aware of their mortality but shrug it off until they are diagnosed with cancer.

          • blacktrance says:

            Most people aren’t emotionally equipped to deal with the fact that the universe doesn’t care about them and that their hopes and dreams do not matter in an objective sense and that if we as a species take a serious enough mis-step nothing is going to step in and fix the mistake – not god, not fate, not good intentions – we’re just going to die, and that’ll be it.

            Not only does that sound not horrifying to me, it sounds trivial. But this is just the motte of nihilism, where the bailey is that life has an objective value, and it’s zero or negative.

          • Jill says:

            “Most people aren’t emotionally equipped to deal with the fact that the universe doesn’t care about them and that their hopes and dreams do not matter in an objective sense and that if we as a species take a serious enough mis-step nothing is going to step in and fix the mistake – not god, not fate, not good intentions – we’re just going to die, and that’ll be it.”

            This is far from established as a fact. Some would call it some depressed person’s ruminations and suggest you get some therapy, or medication, or get more exercise and a better diet, or take meditation classes if you find yourself believing this. Some would say that you have no idea how lucky you are, how much life has in store for you, just for the experiencing.

            After all, the universe has done some pretty good things for you so far, hasn’t it? It brought you to the board here of a guy who is bright, interesting and kind, among people, many of whom are also bright, interesting, and kind, some of whom are willing to give you their emails so you can send them your depressed ruminations.

            If you frequent a board like this, you are likely to have read what you think are God’s or Nature’s greatest written gifts to humankind: the works of Libertarian authors, or Ayn Rand, or nihilists or whatever unusual philosophy you enjoy reading about.

            And that is simply the icing on the cake, as you probably live in a 1st world country with a pretty great standard of living and are surrounded by interesting entertainments and nice people. And if you decided to try doing gratitude exercises, you could, if you desired to, fill up your pages of your notebook daily with all kinds of wonderful experiences you are having. Or if you can’t, you can go to this guy’s life and he can give you some ideas.

            http://stophavingaboringlife.com/

            Or you could go to any number of blogs or to your public library, to read about ways to experience life more fully through experiences you can try out to see if they have meaning for you and/or other people. You can volunteer for the Peace Corps, or travel through far away places, or learn to play some strange musical instrument or learn martial arts or meditation. Or any number of things, besides ruminating on ghost stories that frighten you.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Jill –

            Your response pretty much sums up my point. You do realize most of the people here are some variant of nihilist? I chose that example because most people have already dealt with the emotional fallout of grokking it.

          • Jill says:

            “Most people aren’t emotionally equipped to deal with the fact that the universe doesn’t care about them and that their hopes and dreams do not matter in an objective sense and that if we as a species take a serious enough mis-step nothing is going to step in and fix the mistake – not god, not fate, not good intentions – we’re just going to die, and that’ll be it.”

            Challenge here, to anyone who finds this hopelessly depressing. Do this movement meditation below, to the duration or extent you are physically able. (Don’t do it if you’re out of shape or in poor health.) And then read that statement again and see if it still depresses you– or if you think/feel like, “Hey, whether that is true or not, I can find what’s meaningful and/or joyful in life for me.”

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRXcbXnLwvM

            If you don’t like that exercise, then do your favorite sport or martial art for however long you can. And then look at your nihilism statement again.

            This is about how a belief makes you feel. Most people can disconnect that, and feel good, even if they still believe the belief. Or perhaps the good feeling makes them stop having the belief, or stop thinking the belief– or lack of belief– is important.

          • alaska3636 says:

            I tend to disagree about most things with Jill, but not here. There is no more evidence for a meaningless universe than for a meaningful one.

            In my opinion, highly intelligent people tend to grasp at atomism or materialism because they have hindered their understanding of the universe with a strictly empiricist framework. This makes sense if you’re doing physics, but the rest of the human experience is a void of inherent uncertainty. How you fill that void is by choosing some form of faith – in your case, atomism and probabilistic meaninglessness.

            I have a rational explanation for how I derive meaning, but ultimately, it is a choice to find meaning that makes my viewpoint different from a nihilistic one. Ultimate ends can not be known. The machinations of the universe are vast and mysterious and whole planes of existence most likely move unperceived by human instruments.

            Nihilism isn’t even a more rational framework; atomism doesn’t solve problems like how to find joy in life. Therefor, it can be considered more maladaptive than something even more arbitrary like Revelation.

            Humans tend to favor their strengths and intelligent people tend to try and find cause and effect when they lack the instruments to do so. Thus, meaninglessness. Intelligent people should do themselves a favor and embrace a dumber faith.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            alaska3636 –

            This argument lacks a fundamental symmetry, in that I have no desire to convince others of my position on the matter.

          • Ruprect says:

            Question to nihilists:

            If we are a meaningless (non-mental) process, why haven’t we finished yet?

          • alaska3636 says:

            orphan wilde

            My argument is that nihilism is a choice (typically chosen by higher intelligences). Thus, most people don’t need to be “emotionally equipped to deal with the fact that the universe doesn’t care about them” because they do not choose an atomistic viewpoint. Granted that most people inherit their overall viewpoint, but once someone becomes aware that they have a specific viewpoint, they must choose to maintain it.

            In response to your bigger point, the “unmediated contents” of our brains is also a metaphysical hypothesis: it assumes a certain type of human nature – nasty and brutish. That assumption is neither universally held nor, in my opinion, do I think that it bears out empirically (a viewpoint I don’t necessarily share.)

            Manners have a large cultural component and culture itself I see as an economic response to geographical scarcity and probablistic uncertainty. So I guess I’m saying is that you’ve set up a strawman of humankind that makes me think you’re viewpoint is not so much nihilistic as solipsistic. Just because you don’t understand the reasons people do things doesn’t mean they don’t have reasons.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            alaska3636 –

            There is a light beyond nihilism – that our happiness is not dependent upon the universe being a nice place, and that the suffering of the universe is in no way improved by our suffering on account of it.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            @Ruprect
            > If we are a meaningless (non-mental) process, why haven’t we finished yet?

            How could we notice If we had? It is a simple application of anthropics: even if conscious life is a rare or short lived thing, the existence of conscious life will always be noticeable to conscious life.

          • Viliam says:

            There is a difference between (a) accepting the fact that the universe doesn’t care about you, and (b) spending your whole day ruminating about it and getting depressed. I agree that the latter is bad strategy. Doesn’t make the former false, though.

            After all, the universe has done some pretty good things for you so far, hasn’t it?

            I had the privilege of randomly receiving a few good things most people on this planet didn’t. Just the fact that I didn’t live through any war, makes a huge difference. I don’t see this as a proof that universe cares about me, but as an example of how I got lucky.

            If instead of luck I would assume that the universe loves me, I would also need an explanation for why the universe hates so much all those starving children in Africa, etc.

            I do enjoy my luck, but I don’t suppose there was some intelligent luck-giver who loves me. It was a random process, and I got lucky; that’s the whole story.

    • anonbombulus says:

      Just the sex stuff alone would make everyone other than one or two of my closest friends pretty repulsed. I’d imagine that’s pretty typical of the mind of your average non asexual.

      • Orphan Wilde says:

        I suspect you’d be surprised. Most people don’t care about all but a couple of the things, and most of those who do care are more directly interested.

        They might want others to know that they don’t want to know, mind, but that’s mostly because they’re not supposed to want to know; in fact most people are kind of curious in a noncommittal way. Sexual politics are a friggin’ wasteland.

      • Nelshoy says:

        I’m pretty the sure the mind of the Average sexual person by definition can’t be abnormal.

        • Homo Iracundus says:

          But the sample average mind defines normal, and in previous eras the sample average sexual person never thought about sex: just stared at the ceiling and thought of England.

          • Two McMillion says:

            I’m pretty sure that’s a cultural mythology and not something that actually happened.

          • Evan Þ says:

            +1. Victoria really enjoyed sex herself; witness her flabbergasted response when the doctors told her another pregnancy stood a decent chance of killing her.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Homo Iracundus
            in previous eras the sample average sexual person never thought about sex: just stared at the ceiling and thought of England.

            That wasn’t VR talking about sex, it was some other lady talking about something* else.

            One version is that VR was talking to some other woman about childbirth.

            Source for counter-evidence for the average opinion: lots and lots of poems, love-letters, etc signed by women (plus those by women but not signed so).

            * Probably about childbirth

        • anonbombulus says:

          I think there’s probably a difference between experiencing distracting horniness within the confines of ones own mind and witnessing it laid bare in the mind of the other. weird comparison incoming: I know I poop, and it doesn’t really gross me out, but watching someone else poop would be, at the very least, not something I would choose to look at.

          I think this sort of gets at the veneer Orphan was talking about, and I thoroughly agree with Homo Iracundus’ assessment below re where all the faint-hearted “can’t even” reactions come from. or maybe I’m a callous bastard.

      • Ruprect says:

        What sex stuff?

    • Alex Zavoluk says:

      “Anybody else feel like the unmediated contents of their brains would require a trigger warning the size of Nebraska?”

      Not just trigger warnings, I suspect it would disgust and/or infuriate almost everyone I know.

      • Orphan Wilde says:

        So how do trigger warnings make you feel?

        • Alex Zavoluk says:

          For the most part I think I ignore them entirely, since they convey no useful information, and people demanding more of them tend to annoy me greatly.

    • Homo Iracundus says:

      No, Unsong’s hell is incredibly tame compared to a lot of stuff in fiction. But it’s attracted the “get internet hugs by claiming something makes you feel scared/unsafe” crowd, possibly via tumblr reblogs?

      • Orphan Wilde says:

        So you think they’re perfectly capable of confronting it, but their local social norms reward behaving as if they don’t have the emotional bandwidth to do so, so that’s how they behave?

        • Homo Iracundus says:

          Yeah. I suspect it’s an easy trap to fall into on the internet, where you’re one faceless anon in an infinite crowded room, especially for children without a strong self-identity.
          It’s like a cocktail party where you don’t know anyone and can’t come up with any icebreakers, but people will run over and give you attention and *hugs* if you stub your toe on the doorway.

          It could also be where a lot of the “pretending to be a vampire/genderfluid-foxkin/rationalist on Livejournal”-style internet cliques came from.
          One person uses exaggerated behaviour to get attention and establish a self-identity in the void, and the founder effect creates an army of vampire countesses/yiff-piles/”bayesians”.

          Replace with other internet subgroups as you like: nazi frogs, yaoi-fans, etc.
          I didn’t use 4chan-related groups because the lack of a consistent identity doesn’t reward building an entire persona around the behaviour as much.

          • J says:

            “pretending to be a vampire/genderfluid-foxkin/rationalist on Livejournal”-style internet cliques came from.

            I think I can see your point, but there’s a significant difference between pretending to be something you realistically cannot be and trying to be something you aren’t (yet).

            By your argument, literally any group of humans can be waved away as some kind of bizarre attempt to seek personal attention.

          • Nornagest says:

            Where’d I put my Robin Hanson mask?

      • Tekhno says:

        “get internet hugs by claiming something makes you feel scared/unsafe” crowd

        I think this phenomena is behind the coulrophobia trendsters as well, except in that case it seems like pretending to be afraid of clowns is done to seem cool rather than to get sympathy. My only explanation is that the idea that clowns are scary is really ironic, so it makes you seem sophisticated to be scared of them.

        • Murphy says:

          Clowns turn up enough in horror that I’m not sure it’s just fashion. I’m not scared of clowns but I can also see that they’re a particularly easy thing to make scary.

          Lots of very young children genuinely are scared by clowns which may also explain their common use in horror: childhood fears and all that.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            My thinking on clowns is that they weren’t really intended to be seen close-up. Clowns come from the circus tradition and the face painting was intended to allow them to convey emotional queues using expressions to people in the back of the stands around the ring.

            They are supposed to be a short humorous bit in-between the main action.

            That is naturally going to make them seem weird in another context, and we hardly ever see them in their normal context anymore. Circuses are out of fashion.

          • Tekhno says:

            But surely there was a time when clowns weren’t considered scary, whereas now it’s the normal cultural default. I remember clowns getting scarier during my own lifetime, and circuses becoming less popular. If you go back far enough, to before WWII, there was a time when circuses were incredibly popular.

            I think the reason clowns ended up in horror movies is because the idea of a clown, a figure supposed to bring laughs, being some sort of horrible murderer adds nice ironic overtones to the horror that enhances it. There’s also John Wayne Gacey, the serial murderer, giving us some real life background to weave into a cultural mythology. Then by the 80s you had things like Stephen King’s It.

            Children growing up in a culture where clowns are considered scary are probably going to consider clowns scary. I’m not terribly convinced by explanations that clowns are inherently scary. Evil clowns from stories always wear the make-up wrong too. One of the things I remember about John Wayne Gacey and clowns, is that the corners of the mouth are always supposed to be drawn in a rounded way, whereas Gacey always wore his make-up with sharp angles, creating a hideous leering face. I don’t know why he did that, unless his life’s goal was “I’m going to ruin clowns for everyone!”

            @HeelBearClub

            The context does matter, to be sure. In the pale moonlight and all that, but there certainly was a time before being afraid of clowns became a noticeable trend. I think it’s a manufactured meme more than anything, and a lot of the explanations are post hoc.

            Someone needs to write a book on our changing perception of clowns.

          • AG says:

            There are still clown acts in Cirque du Soleil, but the key is that their fashions and makeup have changed to reflect an age where they will be filmed in closeups and broadcasted on large HD screens. That is, makeup is much less exaggerated (closer to the same kinds of effects you might see in purikura), fashions are closer to what is worn by other performers, and since most Cirque shows have a storyline, the clowns are characters within that storyline and dressed appropriately. In their show Ka, the clowns also actually participate in the acrobatic acts proper.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Tekhno:
            I’m giving you a reason for your timeline, not disagreeing with it.

            Clowns close-up are intrinsically weird, especially if you have not seen them from far away. That means putting them on film outside of their context is easy to manipulate. Remove the positive portrayals of clowns in circuses (because no circuses) and children’s shows (that have been replaced by different programming).

            Now you have kids, who have never even seen a clown at a distance, being suddenly presented with one close up at a kid’s party.

            Throw all of that together, and now clowns are creepy.

    • Jill says:

      Why would anyone want to un-mediate the contents of their brain? You mean, so that they would be constantly aware of their blood pressure, heartbeat, stomach acid level, all of their past memories in their brain etc.?

      Of course, no one could handle that. Why would they try? The brain and the rest of the body are structure in a way that allows us, at least in normal circumstances, to take in only as much as we can deal with. Why screw that up?

      • Randy M says:

        I think he means his particular brain’s conscious thoughts, mediated to other people, through intentional filters (or possibly fundamental ones like language).

        Unless he has a nihilism receptor somewhere.

        • Jill says:

          Thanks for your response. What you are describing sounds like “Could someone handle it if they could read other people’s minds?” Like the guy who took the Yellow Pill in Scott’s Rabbit Hole story? As I remember, he had not trouble handling it. But it didn’t turn out to be as useful as he’d hoped.

          Language can be so abstract and nonspecific as to be almost meaningless. A lot of the comments on this site perhaps can’t be understood without knowing a long history of how these abstract terms have been used here in the past.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Language can be so abstract and nonspecific as to be almost meaningless.

            I’d say it’s not so much “can be” as “pretty much is”.

            When I wrote poetry I was convinced I could convey concepts through pure connotation; using words often used in the same context as the concept I was attempting to convey, a sort of literary 20-questions. It was mostly a failure, although I didn’t really figure out why until much later (connotation is way more contextual than I had assumed at the time).

            I probably had a thousand different arguments before I figured out that most arguments come down to language. Which everyone can mostly agree on, but the part where people get stuck up on is this: You’re never NOT arguing with a strawman, the strawman produced by your-interpretation-of-their-attempt-to-explain-their-internal-concepts, which is lossy when they first try to translate what they’re thinking into words, and lossy again when you translate those words into your own internal concepts.

            Once you realize the tribes have their own languages, and the other-tribes’ words all mean bad things and your-tribes words all mean good things, you start to realize – shit. My good-words and their good-words are probably talking about the same things. We agree on almost everything except the language we’re using to attempt to convey concepts.

            And the things we actually disagree about? We ignore, because we know there’s no point discussing them.

          • CatCube says:

            I think the Yellow Pill is exactly what Orphan’s referring to. And no, the Yellow Pill person had a *lot* of trouble. She moved out to the wilderness to become a ranger to avoid encountering others–basically became a hermit that got paid.

    • I’ll probably regret this, but I haven’t been following Unsong. Where does the stuff about Hell start?

      I might as well mention that I’ve decided not to read Scars on the Face of God, a well-reviewed horror novel which has altogether too much about a city’s sewer system.

      • Saint Fiasco says:

        The hell part is in an interlude, so you can read it without spoiling the plot, in case you want to start reading Unsong in the future.

        http://unsongbook.com/interlude-%D7%99-the-broadcast/

        • Mr. Breakfast says:

          I am not a great respector of spoiler warnings, but I do think the Hell interlude would color your appreciation of the initial appearance of Thamiel, as well as reveal an awful lot about the setting which was presented gradually in the book.

          • Saint Fiasco says:

            The first appearance of Thamiel was when he tortured an eight year old girl.

            But I do agree that the Broadcast interlude spoils the setting. I just said it doesn’t spoil the plot.

          • Whistle-blowing Anonymouse says:

            His first semi-appearance was the protag’s narration about Hell’s anthem which played when he met Nixon on TV. Which I suspect was supposed to be a somewhat lighthearted lead-in.

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            I was referring to what WBA was saying; the brief encounter with good-guy Thamiel.

        • anon says:

          TIL the URL encoding for yud.

        • I’ve read it– it did leave me feeling kind of ill for a little while, and was echoing around in my head for somewhat longer than that. My life would have been slightly better if I hadn’t been coming up with ways to improve it.

          My early reaction was that it wasn’t as bad to read as the approximately half of Torture and Democracy that I read. It’s a book about the evolution of no-marks torture, and has a fair amount about the kind that leaves marks, too. It’s worse because it’s about things that really happen.

          Of course, I was braced for it– a one-off torture scene in a book where I wasn’t expecting anything like that was much more upsetting.

          As for the Unsong hell, I’m betting that it’s a fake. The devil is a liar, and there’s no reason to think that a movie camera would work in hell. (Is there?) It might be a utilitarian win to give devils fake people to torture.

          • Ninmesara says:

            Yes, there is a reason. In Unsong things happen because the plot requires them or because they are funny. At one point, the number eight is taken down for maintenance for a while.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Nancy
            As for the Unsong hell, I’m betting that it’s a fake. The devil is a liar, and there’s no reason to think that a movie camera would work in hell. (Is there?) It might be a utilitarian win to give devils fake people to torture.

            Special performances in Omelas, to provide excuse to many readers to believe in Omelas.

      • Adding to Saint Fiasco: The interlude begins with content warning that says that you can skip section II without missing much of the plot. Conversely, if you read only section II then you get all the trigger-happy parts and barely get any plot at all.

      • Zombielicious says:

        So I ended up reading Scars on the Face of God as a result of Nancy’s comment and the positive reviews. Not a bad novel at all, minus the really cheesy ending and basically ripping off The Omen, but I was disappointed in the level of horror offered. With a title like that I was expecting constant grimdark skin-crawling nauseating stomach-churning horror, or at least something similar to Clive Barker’s stuff. I kept hoping the author would kick it up a notch, but by the end it came off as a pretty typical supernatural mystery with a couple of mildly grotesque scenes thrown in.

        Re: sewers, Reliquary by Preston & Child takes the cake for memorable sewer systems, from what I’ve read.

    • Anton on a non-anon, (non "anonanon") ("anon"..and on) account says:

      If your job is providing a warm and comforting environment for others, as it is (partially or wholly) in most customer facing roles, indulging in preparedness for seriously bad scenarios is a luxury. Your job is, almost literally, to think warm happy thoughts.

      That’s pretty backwards, but is that not in fact how things are?

      • Orphan Wilde says:

        Do the people who use lots of trigger warnings, or their audiences, look particularly warmed or comforted?

        Metaphorically, they took away the fireplace because some people were afraid of fire. Then they took away the comfy chairs because some people were afraid of suffocating. Then they lit everything much more brightly because some people were afraid of the shadows.

        You’re left with a group of people who live in constant anxiety of offending one another mixed with people who delight in being offended.

        • Anton on a non-anon, (non "anonanon") ("anon"..and on) account says:

          I meant in terms of the general phenomenon of unpreparedness for the universe. -As in your nihilism example. (I haven’t even read the thing you’re referring to)

        • Anton on a non-anon, (non "anonanon") ("anon"..and on) account says:

          Having now read it, and some of the comments, I think this, at absolute best, a terrible and kind of dumb example of the point you say you’re making.

          Scott, -a doctor, (a profession far more exposed to “horrific” things than the average person), set out to

          ” [write] a chapter specifically designed to disgust and horrify as many people as possible.”

          and did a pretty fucking good job. (-of that, that is.)

          And some people were more horrified, disgusted, or disturbed than others.

           

          I’m actually amazed the reaction was so muted

           

          And what does innocence have to do with it? Are you saying this doesn’t bother you, not because you have- a remotely-near “universe-appropriate” level of toughness, but because it appeals to you in some twisted way? I assume you’re not, but “innocent” isn’t the same word as “sheltered”, or “fragile”

        • metaphorical police says:

          That’s a pretty poor metaphor, imo.

          in those cases, it is a a thing of (potential) danger within a thing of/meant for comfort. you’re not taking away the fireplace, you’re letting them know there is fire in case they should want to avoid it. you’re not taking away the comfy chairs, you’re letting them know that if you put your face in them you can’t breathe. now, there’s something to be said about whether or not you should have to let someone know not to suck a couch cushion lest they risk death, but i think that’s actually the more interesting angle for discussion re trigger warnings.

    • Aegeus says:

      Can you give an example? I’m skimming through the comments for The Broadcast and most people are just saying some variant on “Well, that was horrifying.” Which is what you expect people to say after reading something meant to horrify.

      I’ve found one “I’m going to stop reading now,” and one “That gave me nightmares,” but again, those are in the range of normal responses you get to a horror story. Have you never seen someone look away from the screen during a particularly gory scene in a horror movie?

      The only things that feel outside the norm are a few people saying “You could use a more detailed trigger warning because that was more disturbing than I expected,” which isn’t something you’d see outside some parts of the Internet. But I don’t see anything that makes me think “Gosh, these people are too emotionally fragile for me to talk to them without minding my manners.”

      • Orphan Wilde says:

        If that relatively tame piece causes you to reconsider Pascal’s Wager, I am not going to attempt to relate to you the ideas that make me go weak in the knees.

        Which is annoying, because those are the ideas that, as far as I go, most need deconstructing.

        • Aegeus says:

          A chapter intended to emphasize the hellishness of hell made a person reconsider an argument based on the hellishness of hell. Stop the presses, I need to publish an extra on how SSC readers are emotionally immature.

          Meanwhile, about fifty times as many people read the chapter, said “Well, that was horrifying,” and then went right back to discussing theodicy and finding stuff that’s not a coincidence, same as always.

          (Also, don’t mistake “I wasn’t horrified by this” for “Nobody could ever find this horrifying unless they were emotionally underequipped.” I didn’t find Dead Space horrifying, but the Internet tells me I’m in the minority there.)

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            The issue here is that you think you’re arguing with somebody who is saying “You’re all weak, I am strong”.

            I regret providing ANY examples, because people seem incapable of not taking my examples as the thing that I am talking about, which isn’t Unsong’s hell’s emotional impact, nor is it nihilism, but rather how these things effect people and how that relates to the concept of trigger warnings and the culture of trigger warnings more broadly.

            There’s not a trigger warning I can put on a concept that nobody knows is going to trigger them. Trigger warnings, within a community, require a halt to novelty of emotional difficulty. Scott Alexander has argued that they have some use, in helping people interact with communities more openly; this is the cost. If I came up with nihilism today, and trigger warnings were the norm everywhere as some people think they should be, there is literally nowhere I could share this new philosophic idea responsibly, because it’s a novel type of trigger that nobody knows to avoid.

            And yes, I have concepts that I consider -worse- than nihilism, which I have deliberately chosen not to share. They’re not unique, mind, but so far people have generally successfully avoided the few toxic lunatics attempting to spread them.

          • Anton on a non-anon, (non "anonanon") ("anon"..and on) account says:

            nihilism, as you described it above, is simply a fact. It’s not designed to freak people out. It’s simply how things are.

            This is the difference between a (neutral) news report, and a horror movie. I see no contradiction in favoring the former but punishing the latter (or censoring, or forcing-to-advertise-as-such)

             

             

            (I am also interested in discussing your most horrible ideas. You can email me at forbachewl@gmail.com, if you happen to feel like it. (throwaway email)

            (and there is no good enough way to spoiler tag here or jerry rig a similar functionality ) )

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            If it were evil, it would be something to fight against; Eliezer apparently draws inspiration from his fight against death, which he regards as evil.

            That it’s mere indifference doesn’t make it better, it makes it worse.

            I think I will take you up on that, though. It’s going to take a little while to construct a useful encapsulation of a few of the concepts, and unfortunately I have to go do some realty-related nonsense.

          • Bland says:

            @Aton

            Scott or someone who has access should really add spoiler tags to the style sheet. It would be pretty trivial; just set the background and text to the same color.

            Side question: Do you have a method to make gmail accounts without connecting them to another email account or phone number? Last time I tried to do that I couldn’t.

          • Two McMillion says:

            I am also interested. You can reach me at hewho014@gmail.com (burner email).

          • Two McMillion says:

            Side question: Do you have a method to make gmail accounts without connecting them to another email account or phone number? Last time I tried to do that I couldn’t.

            I’ve always been able to simply leave those fields blank.

          • Anton on a non-anon, (non "anonanon") ("anon"..and on) account says:

            @bland, as well as I recall, which admittedly isn’t all that well, (made it a while ago) my experience matched Two Mcmillion’s.

             

            @orphan wilde. Cool, I will prepare myself. It would be nice if I could deconstruct or (better yet unravel, if there be some fatal flaw -within my reach), -a horrific idea, but if not it should at least be interesting, and -there’s a good chance, testing.

             

            Where I was trying to go with it “just being a fact” is not that it’s not disturbing, but that it hasn’t been dressed up to be any worse than it is, nor created where previously there was no such “hazard”.

            -Like with libel, “truth is a (near-)absolute defense” is an intuitive, if debatable, schelling point, so there shouldn’t, in theory, be any inherent conflict between, e.g. , banning things like this conjured hell, and allowing people to argue for/point out nihilism.

            -A person could resent an attempt to horrify them while accepting a report of facts that happens to horrify them, even if the latter is significantly disturbing for them.

          • Bland says:

            @Two McMillion

            I guess you’re right, thanks. I didn’t think that worked the last time I tried it though.

            @Orphan Wilde
            Like I said below, I’d be interested in discussing your ideas.
            bland4220@gmail.com

          • Aegeus says:

            First, when you don’t give examples, you can hardly blame me for making use of the examples you do give. Your earlier posts, sounded a lot like you were trying to make an indirectly-worded attack on trigger warnings, rather than genuinely asking how to safely discuss a concept you don’t want to put words to. I apologize for being uncharitable.

            Anyway, does this concept you’re worried about sharing have a name? I don’t think even the strongest advocates of trigger warnings would say that you can’t say the name of it.

            If it’s so novel it doesn’t have a name, why do you think it’s dangerous enough to need a trigger warning? I think it’s unlikely that a concept is both so new and unusual that nobody else has thought about it, and common enough that it will resonate emotionally with most of your audience.

            I won’t be so arrogant as to say no such concept exists (Roko’s Basilisk supposedly was such a thing for a small part of the LessWrong community), but it makes me predict that your idea is either not as dangerous or not as uncommon as you fear.

            As an example, do you seriously think that you wouldn’t be able to share nihilism on a philosophy blog? One with a strong atheist contingent? Confronting nihilism is like Step 1 in grounding yourself once you’ve decided that you’re not going to accept traditional answers about the meaning of life. If the word “nihilism” didn’t exist, and you came here and told us you were horrified by the idea that life holds no inherent meaning, people would probably reply “Yep, I had that thought too, my usual way of dealing with it is…”

            If you’re still worried that it’s not safe to share, you could try a really vague trigger warning like “Trigger Warning: New philosophical concept that could be upsetting to most readers.” Or try to describe the emotions you’re worried about evoking – “Trigger Warning: Existential horror at my own insignificance.”

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            Orphan, if you are still willing to share:

            47jo9d+a7270cs2fwux8@sharklasers.com

          • Jill says:

            LOL, what is this, a ghost story like thing that people are signing up with their emails to receive. “Your ghost/vampire/ninhilist story can’t scare me!” says the signer upper.

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            Sure, why not? Who wouldn’t want the chance to hear some brain-melting revelation if such a thing exists?

          • Anton on a non-anon, (non "anonanon") ("anon"..and on) account says:

            @Jill

            I have been disturbed by general ideas about the universe. For some examples: My eventual death, nihilism-for-a-while (though that one I found quite palatable), hell (raised christian, and am and was very literal minded).

            I didn’t enjoy it. It would be nice if I could help someone out with a similar problem.

          • Jill says:

            Okay. I must admit, that does seem like a good reason for delving into whatever ghost/vampire/nihilist story it is.

          • Jill says:

            BTW, if the ghost story is HBD or Moldbug or something like that, it’s already been done by various anonymice and others here.

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            Okay. I must admit, that does seem like a good reason for delving into whatever ghost/vampire/nihilist story it is.

            Well, I had a browser crash and lost the guerillmail that I hadn’t bothered to write down the key for, so maybe Orphan will send it to my new one.

            Otherwise, I will just have to accept disappointment THAT THERE ARE THINGS MAN WAS NOT MEANT TO KNOW!

          • Jill says:

            “THERE ARE THINGS MAN WAS NOT MEANT TO KNOW!”

            Don’t worry. I am sure all of those will be discussed here on this site eventually. I never heard of the Alt-Right and SJWs and HBD and Moldbug and lots of other stuff before I came here.

          • rsaarelm says:

            There’s not a trigger warning I can put on a concept that nobody knows is going to trigger them.

            So put up “trigger warning: unspecified” that says that anybody who avoids reading things given some trigger warning might want to avoid reading your thing?

          • Exit Stage Right says:

            Exitstageright16@gmail.com, if youre still emailing people these horrible ideas

            Jill I think it’s pretty safe to say that whatever’s breaking Orphan’s brain is worse than HBD/Moldbug, which are both topics that regularly come up on this site.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Aegus
            “Trigger Warning: Existential horror at my own insignificance.”

            (CN & apology) Here comes a comment from a person who could not read that sentence without laughing out loud. Even after I stopped reading ‘insignificance’ as ‘nonexistence’.

            Rand said, “To be conscious is to be conscious of something.”
            I’ll say, “Being significant means being significant to someone.”

            @ Jill
            This is about how a belief makes you feel. Most people can disconnect that, and feel good, even if they still believe the belief. Or perhaps the good feeling makes them stop having the belief, or stop thinking the belief– or lack of belief– is important.

            Your comments just above this, sounded like you were missing the point that others were freaking out about. This paragraph sounds like you just jumped a couple of meta levels about that point.

          • Aegeus says:

            @houseboatonstyx:

            I’m fine with you laughing, I thought it was slightly absurd myself. How on earth can you put a content warning on something which nobody has heard of, nobody has a word for, and nobody knows is harmful?

            (And how would you censure someone, as Orphan Wilde fears, for not putting a warning on something you yourself didn’t know needed warnings? “Hey, even though I didn’t know what ‘nihilism’ was before you explained it, you should have put ‘TW: Nihilism’ at the top of the page! That would clearly have given people the warning they needed!”)

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Aegus

            Another problem is that the same content will trigger different emotions in different people. But one weird trick solves it all. Say ‘Content Note’ and link to a Word Cloud.

            Any of the usual sorts of Word Cloud will be helpful, but for more emotional information it would be good to indicate which words tend to cluster together in each chapter of the book.

            For example, the words ‘knife’ ‘cut’ ‘shoot’ and ‘murder’ will give a different impression of a chapter than ‘knife’ ‘cut’ ‘saute’ and ‘bake’.

        • Bland says:

          I am interested in discussing your most horrible ideas.

          Do the comments support spoiler tags so as to not scar the weaker-minded participants?

          Edit: It appears that they do not.

          • Rob K says:

            yo, man, don’t mess with this guy. It sounds like if you give him one hour and no swear filter he can can literally completely destroy anyone psychologically with aim instant messenger.

          • Bland says:

            Well, I have experienced being exposed to new ideas that are a bit freaky. One in particular, that I’m thinking of, came in connection to this website.

            So it is possible Orphan has some really freaky ideas.

          • Jill says:

            Rob K– Or so he believes. I guess those who have signed up with their emails will find out. I hope they will let the rest of us on the board know whether these ideas have destroyed them or not.

            It seems hard for an idea to destroy you unless you believe it. And though propagandists seem to be able to get people to believe almost anything– and have in the U.S. today– they generally have to repeat it a thousand times– and they have to have people be willing to keep listening– before they will believe it.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Jill –

            I’m starting with some lighter fare. But like nihilism, most people will look at the idea, go “Yeah, that’s what reality looks like”, and move on.

        • Winfried says:

          I’ll roll the dice on an interesting idea.

          GenellanBound@Gmail.com

        • Standing in the Shadows says:

          @Orphan Wilde

          I am interested in learning about and discussing the topics that “make you go weak in the knees” as well.

          Email me at zot@pobox.com please

          Maybe you should consider a mailing list. One on the topic of horror beyond nihilism, mind breakers, basilisks, dark futureshock, and so forth is one that needs to exist, I think,

        • holomanga says:

          I’m quite interested in hearing what they are, if you ever decide to post them publicly anywhere.

    • Chalid says:

      Anybody else feel like the unmediated contents of their brains would require a trigger warning the size of Nebraska?

      I’m not sure I understand the question But at any rate, I don’t think anyone would be surprised by what goes on in my head. I pretty much spend my time thinking about topics that would be entirely predictable to those who know me (basically family+job+various nerdy topics), plus of course boring topics like what I’m going to have for lunch and the like. No strong negative feelings toward anyone in particular, no urges to hurt anyone, no great secrets or shames, no fetishes that I’m ashamed of, etc.

    • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

      Anybody else feel like the unmediated contents of their brains would require a trigger warning the size of Nebraska?

      Pretty much everyone hides their powerlevel to a certain extent, it’s how society is allowed to function.

    • BBA says:

      Hell, man, I can barely tolerate a lot of the thoughts that go through my head. I’ve got so many internal contradictions I often have trouble figuring out what I actually believe. No way would I want anyone else to experience this madness.

    • Homo Iracundus says:

      unmediated contents of their brains would require a trigger warning the size of Nebraska?

      There was an ultra-short sci-fi story about a telepath who thinks he’s the only one in the world, which I may be misremembering. When he makes fleeting contact with a telepathic woman on a passing train, he becomes obsessed with trying to find her.
      Seconds after they meet again, they both scream “GET OUT OF MY MIND!!!”

    • Equinimity says:

      Anybody else feel like the unmediated contents of their brains would require a trigger warning the size of Nebraska?
      Well, I have freaked out a psychiatrist by being open and honest with him, as he insisted. Although from something he let slip another time, I suspect he wasn’t so much freaked out by me as such, but by what he imagined me to be, based on his own problems. I’ve been a lot more careful around mental health profesionals since, which is unfortunate since I do have a severe anxiety/panic disorder and probably should be getting more treatment than I am.
      So a trigger warning is only going to work if the person being triggered is aware they can’t handle what’s incoming. If they think they should be able to, things are going to get ugly when they can’t.

    • Exit Stage Right says:

      Most people mental maps of the world are aimed at the territory that is civilization/society, not reality. Its a smart adaptive choice, since if you’re winning at civilization you’ll only feel terror on those occasions when reality creeps through your filter. Whereas, make the opposite choice, and what dyou get for your trouble?

      • Mr. Breakfast says:

        …if you’re winning at civilization you’ll only feel terror on those occasions when reality creeps through your filter. Whereas, make the opposite choice, and what dyou get for your trouble?

        I don’t know about this.

        If you choose to orient towards Civilization rather than Reality, you will have to compete against billions of people for relatively few positions of significant agency/power/status. Unless you are extremely talented or well positioned, you will likely wind up in some mediocre position within Civilization rather than “winning at Civilization”.

        If you choose to orient towards Reality rather than Civilization, you have a chance to perceive avenues towards agency/power/status which are not obvious to those who orient towards Civilization. Further, since Civilization is a more fragile and temporary layer built atop the substrate of Reality, in any failure of Civilization those who are practiced in thinking about Reality will have a distinct advantage.

        For both of these advantageous cases, the person who orients towards Reality will have far fewer competitors to deal with. The competitive field is further improved by the fact that the most talented and well positioned potential competitors will likely have followed their incentives and chosen Civilization over Reality.

        As long as Civilization is broadcasting a strong commitment to care for those who are incompetent at Civilization, the worst possible outcome (if you can avoid doing too much damage to your surroundings) if one orients to Reality is that Civilization decides you are crazy and maintains you in modest comfort as a charity case. Non-violent incompetents in the industrialized West don’t do that much worse materially than mediocre participants in Civilization.

        On the other hand, in the event of a failure of Civilization, the likely down side for those who are not equipped to deal with Reality includes genuinely horrible things like death or enslavement. Whereas those with Reality-coping skills may well have “won the lottery” in this case and experience an enormous boost in RELATIVE well-being.

        • Exit Stage Right says:

          I meant to refer exclusively to the mental effects of the choice, and not to optimality. I really should not have used the word “adaptive” since that implied something I’m not sure I’d be able to defend.

          If you orient towards Civilization, then you’ll be at ease with the myths and practices of Civilization. If you happen to be in an economically and militarily secure tribe, then the culture of said tribe might as well be the universe to you. This is basically what I meant by winning at Civ. You don’t necessarily become ultra rich, but you live in step with the people and institutions around you.

          Whereas Reality is a trip and a half when you take it seriously. You might receive some material advantage for doing so; you understand some flaw to be exploited that your competition can’t see, or maybe that economic/military security turns out to be not all it was cracked up to be. But you’re also opening yourself up to some not so pleasant mental experiences, the anguish of which might outweigh whatever benefit the knowledge you acquired confers.

          Your Reality-coping skills are useless if you live sheltered from Reality, which I think more and more people do. They become useful if the layer between Civ and Reality cracks. How fragile is that layer actually is a big part of the calculation.

          My perception is that many of the more affluent peoples in the world are part of a Civilization with institutions/repeaters whose roots are very deep and whose filters are incredibly good. If you could reap all the material benefits of that Civilization while not buying into its culture, and doing so doesn’t cause you any mental distress, then do so. I don’t think thats something many people can pull off, though I may be projecting.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      Yes, I think so. For instance, my brain will sometimes generate extremely hurtful things I could say to someone. It doesn’t require any particular anger; it’s almost a game, or as if I’m screenwriting the maximally dramatic TV-show version of my life.

      I doubt that the above context would help me much if I ever told people some of the words I had generated.

      Is this the sort of thing you mean?

  2. The Biggest Yud says:

    I’ve been dipping my toe into real non-LW decision theory and ran into an interesting semi-review article by Kahneman and Klein, two big names in the field.

    Basically, they outlined a divide between two camps of decision theorists. The Naturalistic Decision Making (NDM) camp focuses on how “fast” judgements work, and why experts consistently outperform novices in certain fields. The Hueristics and Biases (HB) camp focuses on why “fast” judgements fall short of “slow” statistical reasoning, and how so-called experts in certain fields can perform worse than chance. But the two have broad agreement on the basics.

    So what do people here think? Most of us have been exposed to a lot of HB material before, but I for one had only even heard of NDM very recently.

    • Urstoff says:

      I think the differences between the Kahneman and Gigerenzer camps are overblown, as they’re often discussing different contexts of decision making. However, I will say that Kahneman et al. have an outsized mindshare in the public; Gigerenzer’s books (and those affiliated with him) are definitely worth reading.

  3. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Why is terrorism effective? I can think of two theories.
    One is that the structural asymmetry means the target state can’t fight back efficiently, so it’s rational to placate the terrorists rather than spend the amount necessary to fight.
    Two is that is that terrorism is relatively easy to stop and is dependent on a majority of those in power in the target state sympathizing with the terrorists’s goals. This theory predicts that Islamic terrorism will only succeed as long as a majority of the Western political class sympathize with the goal of spreading Islam, and any terrorism in defense of Western culture would be framed as “right-wing” and crushed easily without regard for human rights.

    • Saint Fiasco says:

      Sorry, back up a little.

      Is terrorism even effective? I was under the impression most terrorists fail at their stated goals.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Individual terrorists sacrifice themselves for the cause. Whether terrorism is effective depends on how the target state responds once the individual attacker is dead. Do they arrest members of the social network that led him to see terrorism as a glorious defense of the cause, or do they praise his cause and give it new accommodations in the public sphere?

        • Saint Fiasco says:

          Do they arrest members of the social network that led him to see terrorism as a glorious defense of the cause, or do they praise his cause and give it new accommodations in the public sphere?

          Well, do they? Can you give some examples of what you are talking about?

          Where I live the local terrorist groups are a joke. I suspect most of them worldwide are ineffective, and the ones that show on the news are the ones that are spectacularly unusually successful.

          • Not Particularly Anonymous says:

            Well, according to George Friedman in 2004 at least, the immediate goal of Al Qaeda in 2001 was to provoke the United States into a series of military interventions in the Middle East, where Al Qaeda and their allies could then use their distributed networks, ideological tenacity, and general home-field advantage to hold out until the American public lost their appetite for war, discrediting American military power and empowering militant Islam to resist the West.

            Assuming that reading of their intent is correct and not just a retcon, that particular attack seems to have been a success.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Re: Friedman, I’m always suspicious of “never mind their public statements and actions, these terrorists secretly have Goal X and by an amazing coincidence the only way to frustrate Goal X is to sign on to the political program which I’ve been selling since before the terrorists ever appeared on anyone’s radar.”

            Just to be politically evenhanded: perhaps neoconservatism would be the right-wing version of that.

          • Jiro says:

            Thirteenth: Minus the “secret motivation”, that’s the same reason lots of people are skeptical of global warming.

          • The majority of people aren’t t sceptical of GW since GW scepticism is largely confined to the US. But there is a similarity between GW scepticism and the theory that Western governments are secretly in cahoots with evil terrorists , and that is way they are based on beliefs about the hidden agendas of your political opponents rather than anything that could be called a fact.

          • Jiro says:

            Global warming is really convenient when the way to frustrate it is to sign onto the political program which the left has been selling since before global warming appeared on everyone’s radar. There’s no need to postulate any hidden agendas for this–open agendas work fine.

          • GW skepticism is largely confined to the US

            You know, this comes up all the time and it just isn’t true. The sources on this aren’t obscure and hard to find, either. You can start with Wikipedia and follow it back to the original sources. Wikipedia is convenient because they have a neat, sortable table.

            The US is in the middle of the pack, worldwide, in terms of agreement with the statement that “Global warming is caused by human activity”. It is ahead of such raving right-wing holdouts as the Netherlands, the UK, and Denmark. On the “perceived as a threat” column, it scores higher than Ireland, Germany, and Sweden.

            The narrative that everyone in Europe believes in anthropogenic global warming and skepticism is unique to the US is completely at odds with the facts. The US is entirely typical in the amount of AGW-skeptics that it contains.

        • Aegeus says:

          If you define “people are not punished for agreeing with them” as success, then almost every ideology in history has been successful in the US. The freaking neo-nazis are a success by that standard, despite being synonymous in the public mind with “evil empire.” The fact that they have accomodations in the public sphere doesn’t show that the movement is strong, it shows that the public sphere is so big that literally every ideology gets accommodated by someone.

          How often do terrorists change the policies of a state in a way that benefits them?

          • Sandy says:

            There are people like Peter Hitchens who believe the Good Friday Agreement was essentially a capitulation to terrorists. Juhayman al-Otaybi led the invasion and capture of the Grand Mosque at Mecca in 1979 to protest against what he considered an excessively Westernized Saudi government, and it scared the House of Saud so much that they hardened their Islamic laws and basically gave the terrorists most of what they wanted.

            Plus there was that time the Taliban took control of Afghanistan.

          • Lysenko says:

            Spain’s withdrawal from Iraq in 2004 comes to mind.

            Arguably Irgun and similar Zionist groups contributed greatly to forcing the British to plan for withdrawal from Mandatory Palestine.

            ETA hasn’t achieved total independence for the Basque region, but they forced the government to grant more and more autonomy in an effort to undercut popular support.

            The failures far outnumber the successes, as you’d generally expect when states have far more power and resources than the non-state actors resorting to terrorist tactics, but there are certainly successes.

            It’s probably broadly similar to guerrilla warfare tactics in that sense. Or arguably, a subset of guerrilla tactics. I deliberately omitted cases where success was achieved by a mixed campaign of terrorism and guerrilla warfare, or I could’ve added several others.

      • Oort says:

        Gwern wrote about that. In short, he said it’s not.

        http://www.gwern.net/Terrorism%20is%20not%20Effective

      • Oort says:

        Gwern wrote about that. He said it’s not effective, basically. I tried to post a link, but if I do my comment is marked as spam.

      • Mr. Breakfast says:

        Terrorism seems to be effective at getting your faction’s issue(s) into the awareness of the wider world. Nobody ever thinks about the partition of Central Nowherestan until the CN People’s Liberation Jihad blows up a few hundred civilians, after that, they get attention.

        But no, I don’t think it’s effective in turning public opinion and international consensus to the terrorists’ cause. The various Palestinian insurgents are a possible exception, but sympathy was many years in coming after the terror campaigns started in the ’60s.

      • Murphy says:

        Some terrorist tactics can be extremely effective.

        Though terrorists as a group tend to match the same kind of profile as other politically active groups(college educated, middle class) like activists and motivated voters they’re often… well, while not utterly stupid it’s not uncommon for them to not exactly fit the profile of people who care about stats/numbers/evidence etc.

        So it’s not safe to assume that they’ve got people doing stats on different tactics to pick the ones that best meet their goal.

        Sometimes they do however hit extremely effective tactics almost by accident.

        The example I think was most effective was a tactic the IRA used during the 70’s.
        There was a particular campaign which probably had a lower body count than almost any of their others which was stunningly effective: they planted a real bomb, called in a warning with lots of time and then every single day called in warnings for Major stations but without any real bombs.

        Because of the real bomb it then remained credible and they had to evacuate the station every time.

        But without any more real explosions people didn’t unite behind the government: they just get pissed off that the station’s are closed at rush hour all the time.

        Some argue that it was a major factor in the government at the time losing the following election.

        Terrorists effectiveness isn’t measured by their body count.

      • Alex Zavoluk says:

        Are you comparing them to something in particular? Many terrorist groups are much smaller in terms of manpower, technology, money, etc. than the groups they are attacking. Compared to conventional warfare with the same resources, they are quite successful.

      • Utopn Naxl says:

        Well, the memes that can support terrorism that backfire in today’s world (Blowing up two buildings, ending up with two countries taken out) didn’t backfire hundreds of years ago.

        That all of the 9/11 terrorists were sunni, and ISIS is a sunni sub-group….and that Sunni muslims are the most populist of all branches of the abrahamic religions (more than catholics, protestants) says something.

    • Jill says:

      Your asymmetry theory makes some sense. Although the U.S. spend tons of money to fight terrorism, so the part about placating rather than spending makes no sense. But nations are more equipped to fight conventional wars than terrorism, so asymmetry certainly exists.

      Your second theory sounds like it’s conspiracy theory to me. When has there ever been evidence that the Western political class ever sympathized with the goal of spreading Islam? I see no evidence at all– although there are plenty of fact free conspiracy theories out there, if you enjoy that sort of thing.

      The Right Wing, far from being crushed, dominates both Houses of Congress, most state governorships, and most state legislatures. I am not sure what “terrorism in defense of Western culture would mean.” Terrorism seems by its nature to be offensive rather than defensive.

      • Lysenko says:

        Most terrorists argue that they are fighting to preserve their nation-state/ethnicity/culture/religion from outside attack and/or oppression. I think it is that narrative that LMC is theorizing has some sympathy among the western political class.

        The classic modern example is: “Palestinian terror attacks only occur because terrorism is the only tool of a disempowered and oppressed Palestinian people facing ethnic cleansing and injustice at the hands of their brutal Israeli enemies.”

        The class under discussion may not want to see Al-Qaeda or ISIS achieve their goals of spreading their strains of Islam and breaking the back of Western Civilization, but some portion feels bad that it has come to this and will generally express the sentiment that while the tactics are unacceptable, there are legitimate grievances that need to be addressed and that addressing those grievances are as important or even more important than actually combatting terrorist groups with law enforcement or military power.

        • Sweeneyrod says:

          I am not aware of any halfway respectable source claiming that ISIS have legitimate grievances. The situation with Palestinian (and previously Irish) terrorists is different — they have a lot of sympathy from left-wing groups. They also do have some legitimate grievances.

          • Sandy says:

            There are plenty of respectable sources claiming ISIS foot soldiers in Europe have legitimate grievances. Just look at any of the articles blaming laïcité and the failure of French integration for terrorist attacks in France.

          • Sweeneyrod says:

            Claiming that poor young men are often angry, and with a suitable conduit express that anger through horrific violence, isn’t an endorsement of their stated goals. Neither is claiming that they are angry because of some sort of prejudice against them. No-one I know of is saying anything like “ISIS might be a bit over the top, but they kind of have a point when they say gays should be stoned”.

          • Sandy says:

            No one’s going to defend every line of a terrorist’s manifesto. There are certainly respectable sources claiming that Hamas have legitimate grievances; there are no respectable sources saying anything like, “Hamas might be a bit over the top. but they kind of have a point when they say women should be stoned for dressing immodestly”.

            Laïcité is a particular bugbear of a lot of violent Islamists/Qutbists because they believe secularism in general is a Western imposition designed to undermine Islam and humiliate observant Muslims. ISIS has outright stated that they hate secular societies because they have forced Muslims to abandon Allah’s laws and accept deviancy.

            Additionally, ISIS have also called for the end of Sykes-Picot, and you can’t honestly tell me respectable sources haven’t spend decades claiming Sykes-Picot is a colonialist agreement that has caused all the problems of the Arab world.

          • Sweeneyrod says:

            I think the distinction I’m making is that people support some of Hamas’ goals for a similar to Hamas (they don’t like the way Israel treats Palestinians, and believe in Palestinian nationalism).

            In comparison, Westerners don’t oppose laïcité because they agree with ISIS that the only legitimate government is a Sunni theocracy, but because they think it has various negative effects. They only think that ISIS have legitimate grievances in the same way that Hitler was a Zionist.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I don’t think you see many left-wing westerners defending ISIS or anything like that.

            You do, however, see stuff like people condemning Charlie Hebdo and the murdered staff and those posting “je suis Charlie” far more strongly than they condemned the murderers, usually throwing in a shot at free speech for good measure. I saw people on Facebook posting stuff about France’s history of colonialism and how you can’t expect anything different before the bodies were even cold on the day of the November 2015 attacks. Lots of nice Facebook acquaintances of mine posting stuff that they themselves would consider the rankest victim blaming were it about rape rather than mass murder.

      • “When has there ever been evidence that the Western political class ever sympathized with the goal of spreading Islam?”

        My reaction as well. If Jill and I agree on something it must be true.

    • Homo Iracundus says:

      You could get a lot of insight looking at the history of negotiations with the IRA?
      It would also be harder for agitators to derail discussion with the superweapons used on people who go off-narrative about current Cultural Enrichment Events.

      But to wade into that mess, people were asking yesterday why it’s so unremarkable that Omar Mateen was given the “gold star father” treatment at Hillary’s rally.
      But when you think about, his son was killed by a combination of Police Violence and Republican Hate, so it makes perfect sense.

      • Paul Goodman says:

        people were asking yesterday why it’s so unremarkable that Omar Mateen was given the “gold star father” treatment at Hillary’s rally.

        Do you have a source on that? My understanding was that he went to the rally as a private citizen and the Clinton campaign didn’t even know he was there until afterward.

        • Winfried says:

          I was unable to dig up a primary source for the claim that the section he was in was for VIPs. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, but it wasn’t readily apparent from a quick mobile search.

    • SUT says:

      It’s not so much sympathy as identifying with the terrorists’ enemies – the US military, multinational corporations, colonialism – and identifying with his alleged situation – intractable economic oppression.

      Let’s look at a counter-example: try to imagine Apple making a big public brouhaha over refusing to unlock Dylan Roof’s iphone! Tim Cook going to the media to explain the principle behind the whole refusal to comply with the law. There is something inevitably cool about the Right Kind of terrorist to a sizable faction in most Western democracies. Captured jihadists have noted the Star Wars rebel analogy.

      Consciously, the sympathizers won’t actually justify the jihadi or his action. Subconsciously I believe they actually have pattern matched him to their tribe, and that manifests as unreasonable claims of restraint for security measures that could actually stop the terrorism.

    • Fahundo says:

      a majority of the Western political class sympathize with the goal of spreading Islam

      What?

      • I think we are dealing with an inhabitant of black and white land here. Western nations are not banning Islam and sending Muslims to reeducation camps, so the only possible alternative is that they want to promote Islam in any way possible.

        • Jiro says:

          Try “Western nations frustrate political measures whose targets happen to include Muslims”. That’s not black and white either–just because they don’t want to promote Islam in any way literally possible doesn’t mean they must then be doing nothing at all.

          Islam counts as third world culture oppressed by the West and colonialism, so political establishments that are on the left have reason to favor it.

          • And have you got evidence of a nation literally favouring Islam, rather than including it in overall religious tolerance? (I think we can give up on finding an example of a Western nation that is literally spreading Islam)

          • Jiro says:

            And have you got evidence of a nation literally favouring Islam, rather than including it in overall religious tolerance?

            Rotterham? (I should have said “political establishment” just like the OP rather than trying to rephrase it as “nation”.)

            (I think we can give up on finding an example of a Western nation that is literally spreading Islam)

            He didn’t say the Western political class is spreading Islam, he said the Western political class sympathizes with the goal of spreading Islam. Those are different things.

          • Sweeneyrod says:

            Presuming you mean Rotherham, being afraid of investigating Muslims for fear of appearing racist is completely different to promoting Islam.

    • LPSP says:

      I don’t see why the success (or non-success) of terrorism would need a model of accountance outside that of any other branch of warfare. Terrorism today is characterised by the suicidality of its practitioners, and this one factor accounts for all the other differences between it and guerrilla warfare (eg/ cover is much easier to procure when it’s by-design disposable, so terrorists can operate far deeper into civilised enemy territory than any non-suicidal guerrilla army).

      • Mr. Breakfast says:

        I don’t see why the success (or non-success) of terrorism would need a model of accountance outside that of any other branch of warfare

        You might assume that non-state actors who engage in warfare do so because they perceive an existential need to do so, then use whatever tactics and tools are available.

        • LPSP says:

          Which is another way of saying how a serial killer, spree killer, murderhobo or similar murderous drifter-type operates. However, no matter how independent the origin and sustenance of the op, terrorists are united in their faith. They’re a remote army of sorts, using religion as a pre-built sleeper mechanism. This can be entirely modeled from extreme adaptations of espionage and guerrilla tactics.

    • Viliam says:

      I don’t think many people in the West actively want to spread Islam here. It’s rather the Moloch / coordination problems / etc. at work.

      Essentially, a complicated society will have a lot of internal tensions. There are factions competing with each other, and some of them can be willing to do certain things that benefit their faction even if it harms the whole. Factions not willing to do this risk being outcompeted by factions who do.

      That’s basic Moloch, no conspiracy is even needed. It’s not like someone really wants America to become Islamic; it’s just so tempting to kick your opponent when they are trying to do anything against the Islam-related threats. For example, someone says it’s bad when Muslims kill gays, but this is an opportunity for the other side to say “actually, you just hate brown people, racist!”. Or someone says we should support the moderate Muslims to stop the violent ones, but this is an opportunity for the other side to say “so you actually want to give up, coward!”. It’s like two people on a sinking ship trying to stab each other with swords, so no one can focus on fixing the ship.

      Of course, there can always be a conspiracy which exploits this naturally occuring process, and pushes it even further. This is e.g. the strategy that Putin currently uses: find any troublemakers in other countries, and support them financially and logistically regardless of who they are and what are their goals, as long as they weaken the country they live in. Not trying to win hearts, just to make brains too busy with something else. But here the goal is to take a system apart, and I doubt that who have power inside the existing system do really want to destroy it.

      As a fictional example, see Game of Thrones, where the powerful people are too busy killing each other so that no one has time to worry about the coming existential risk.

  4. Salem says:

    How common is bribery in western countries?

    I have never offered, received or seen a bribe in the West, but it must happen sometimes (see eg the recent Chevron case). When people mutter darkly that Chicago election results are rigged I find it hard to credit – am I just naive?

    • Saint Fiasco says:

      Is Latin America part of the West? Bribes are very common around here.

      From what I know of the USA, it has this reputation that corruption over there is only available for the rich and powerful. Over here we have enough corruption to go around, so that even poor people can afford to bribe, say, the traffic police to get out of a speeding or DIU charge.

      • Agronomous says:

        Bribery inequality is a big problem in the U.S. Recent studies suggest that the higher a country’s bribery inequality, the slower its media household bribery grows.

    • Jill says:

      Bribery is legal in the U.S. We have had laws and rulings, like Citizens United, that say that any person or company is allowed to legally bribe Congress or the president or other public officials. And they are allowed to keep their bribe a secret from the public also.

      • Winfried says:

        If you disagree with CU, what do you make of the collusion between the DNC and media organizations?

        What separates a newspaper taking cues from a campaign from a pamphlet printed by an organization connected to a campaign?

        I would like to see more transparency over who funds what but I’m unwilling to let the government control who can and cannot spread information prior to an election (beyond near immediate priming at the poll booth).

      • Optimates delenda est says:

        Is it just me or is anyone getting déjà vu?

      • Orphan Wilde says:

        Citizens United was a corporation created by a group of people specifically to pool money to create a political message critical of Hillary Clinton – which is to say, people doing exactly what the First Amendment, above all else, is supposed to protect people doing, criticizing politicians for their behavior. The law was struck down, appropriately, since it attempted to forbid people from engaging in free speech.

        And I hope I have sufficiently established my anti-corporate credentials with my long tirade against corporations as special government interests to establish that I’m not just saying that because I think corporations should be allowed to do whatever they want; I don’t think they should exist at all.

        I have yet to see an actual principled reason why the company in Citizens United should have been forbidden from doing what it did, given that everybody involved was involved specifically for the purpose of engaging in free speech. Can you, perhaps, offer a principled reason, without using the word “corporation”, which after all has nothing to do with my reasons for taking the free speech stance in this case?

        • Jill says:

          “Can you, perhaps, offer a principled reason, without using the word “corporation”, which after all has nothing to do with my reasons for taking the free speech stance in this case?”

          I could but I will not. Because I find that giving into unreasonable demands of Internet people that I produce a highly specific kind of statement, does not ever lead to any kind of interesting discussion, but only to participating in a game that is fun for the demanding person. Maybe such a statement would be a good opening for them to prove they are “right” about something meaningful to them, “right” in their own eyes, if in no one else’s. But it’s fairly meaningless to me.

          “Don’t use this word. Make your statement “principled”” etc. is apparently meaningful to you, but to me sounds like a game that I see no point in playing.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            A simple “Yes” would have sufficed to answer my question – because I did not demand you prove something to me.

            You gave me far more information with this response, granted, but probably not information you intended to convey.

          • gbdub says:

            Orphan is somewhat indelicately proposing a “rationalist taboo” or at least something adajacent to it, which is common among the LW community and not an unreasonable demand.

            Basically, unpack your case against Citizens United – to what extent does it rely on implied negativity toward “corporations”? How would you draw a bright line between “individuals”, “corporations”, and “media” (who were allowed to endorse candidates pre-CU without the same restrictions as other organizations). (I’m asking these questions honestly, because they are important questions relating to how you’d handle things were you able to repeal CU).

            You’re also using a motivated, non-central definition of “bribery” that’s taken us well off-topic from Salem’s initial question. Later comments in this thread (see Winfried and Bluto below) are better and more elucidating precisely because they do the sort of “unpacking” that here you are calling an unreasonable request.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            You’re also using a motivated, non-central definition of “bribery”

            Spending a huge sum of money promoting someone’s career with the tacit understanding that she will reciprocate by betraying the public trust staked in her position to advance your private welfare strikes me as a dead-center example of bribery, actually. The reasons folks here have given for why donations to super-PACs don’t count as bribes are pretty flimsy. “It’s protected by the first amendment!”– that may be, but where is it written in stone that nothing protected by the first amendment can qualify as a bribe? “There’s no coordination between the super-PAC and the campaign!”– I am certain you never even entertained the thought that all bribes must involve explicit collusion between briber and bribee before Citizens United. “The evidence connecting campaign spending to electoral success is, at best, equivocal!”– a squandered bribe is still a bribe.

          • gbdub says:

            The central definition of “bribe” is a usually a direct gift with a explicit or at least strongly implied dishonest/illegal quid pro quo. “Betray the public trust” is carrying a lot of weight in your first paragraph. Yeah, if it’s a blatant unfairness that harms the public good for private gain, that may cross the line into something you might call a bribe. But who decides what constitutes “harms the country”? If I lobby and campaign for you because I legitimately believe my preferred policy will help the country, can you accuse me of bribery just because you think the policy is bad?

            The danger of your expansive definition is where do you draw the line? If setting up a PAC to campaign on behalf of a policy or politician you like is a “bribe”, is it a “bribe” to go to a town hall and say “I won’t vote for you, and I’ll tell my friends not to either, unless you pledge to support policy X”? Does it become a bribe if you spent money to get to the town hall? If you and your buddies pooled gas and hotel money to get there? By your definition, what’s the difference between a “bribe” and a regular donation to a campaign? After all, presumably any donation comes with an expectation that the politician will continue to support policies you like.

            Why should some categories (individuals, parties, campaigns themselves, and media companies) but not others (corporations, including private non-profit groups assembled for the purpose, PACs, unions) be allowed to engage in political advocacy for candidates? How can a bright legal line be drawn that doesn’t open you up to corruption regarding who gets to decide who is in the favored category?

            But anyway, the fact that we’re arguing about the definition of “bribe” is exactly why tabooing/unpacking is important. Both of us are opposed to “bribes”, but what we are actually willing to make illegal is different.

          • Jiro says:

            Because I find that giving into unreasonable demands of Internet people that I produce a highly specific kind of statement, does not ever lead to any kind of interesting discussion, but only to participating in a game that is fun for the demanding person.

            I don’t believe you.

            The more likely explanation is that you oppose Citizens United mostly because it’s a left-wing talking point and you can’t actually defend it based on the facts because the facts don’t match the narrative.

            I would also ask why you bother to post on a rationalist blog if you don’t care about being rational.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            If I lobby and campaign for you because I legitimately believe my preferred policy will help the country, can you accuse me of bribery just because you think the policy is bad?

            I don’t know, if I make a donation to the widow’s fund at the patrolmen’s benevolent association to get out of a speeding ticket, does it matter if I legitimately believe that it’s a worthwhile charity? I don’t think any of the supposed definitional constraints you’re placing on bribery actually are definitional constraints. Here are two that might be:

            Counterfactual condition: A bribes B in exchange for some service only if (1) A would have acted differently if not for the service and (2) B would have acted differently if not for the bribe.

            Self-interest condition: A bribes B in exchange for some service only if (1) A’s interest in B’s service is not purely altruistic (or nearly so) and (2) B’s interest in A’s bribe is not purely altruistic (or nearly so).

            The counterfactual condition will take care of cases where a politician’s legislative decisions are independent of her campaign contributions. The self-interest condition will take care of donations made out of sincere political conviction. One of the reasons why corporate donations deserve special scrutiny is that they are almost always self-interested, just because of the nature of corporations.

          • Jill says:

            Earthly Knight, I congratulate you on your patience with people here, which is far greater than mine.

            I hope it results in a discussion that is worthwhile to you.

          • Nornagest says:

            One of the reasons why corporate donations deserve special scrutiny is that they are almost always self-interested, just because of the nature of corporations.

            This is the most interesting thing you’ve said in this thread, since it offers a semi-principled way of balancing free speech and public interest w.r.t. campaign contributions: presume a conflict of interest if your actions are bound by fiduciary duty.

            But (although we’re getting a little outside my wheelhouse now), it seems like that would raise some thorny issues of its own. In particular, it’s incompatible with your criterion of self-interest: following this rule would exclude contributions from a lot of altruistic-looking causes, because it applies equally whether the organization’s goal is “maximize value for the shareholders of $COMPANY” or “maximize the well-being of the poor of $NEIGHBORHOOD” or even “maximize the number of wild breeding pairs of $ENDANGERED_SPECIES”, whether or not we’d call the latter altruistic. We could ban political contributions from all of the above, but do we really want to?

            (By my reading it would also make it legal for private individuals to donate while alive but illegal for them to leave money to political causes after death, since the executor of an estate is bound by the same kind of duties as the officers of a company are. Which isn’t obviously malignant, but strikes me as deeply weird.)

            tl;dr — you need a legal definition of self-interest to get this sort of thing to play, and it’s going to be hard to find one that doesn’t have some seriously wacky side effects.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Nornagest:
            In a civil utopia, what we would want all these groups to do is “lobby”.

            Now, lobbyist has an equally bad connotation, which is why I put it in quotes. But what I am getting at is the idea that we would like our politicians to be convinced by argument, not donation. Of course, what most people really want is for a politician to be convinced by their argument and will be firmly convinced of injustice of this does not happen.

            And what people really, really want is for the politician to be convinced by “rationality”. They don’t actually want “the government” to respond to those who can expect the most profit by getting their preferred policy enacted, but rather to look out across the landscape at all issues and figure out the “best” policy and implement that. They want a government that actually accomplishes what motivates the EA movement.

            This critique of what people think government should be like applies pretty much to everyone, all across the spectrum, by the way.

            There obviously big flaws in expecting that government should, or even could, act in this way, not the least is the question of values. But I think it’s the implicit model people are working off of.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            I will dryly note that it is completely unnecessary for political contributions to be made expecting a change in policy on the part of the recipient; that is, bribery is unnecessary.

            All that is necessary is that money (or electioneering effort) helps people win elections, and that corporations donate money (or electioneering effort) to the people who already agree with them.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Orphan Wilde:
            The fairly regular practice of giving money to both candidates means there is more going on than that.

          • bluto says:

            HBC,
            How much of the money to both candidates effect is explained by the main measure of a group’s donations is actually the donations of employees of a the group. I’ve never worked any where where all the employees agreed politically.

          • gbdub says:

            One of the reasons why corporate donations deserve special scrutiny is that they are almost always self-interested, just because of the nature of corporations

            Basically, I second Nornagest’s opinion here. I think you’re seeing “corporation” and assuming “large profit-seeking entity”. But Citizens United itself, while technically a corporation, is a conservative non-profit. Their “self-interest” is entirely political. Restricting their ability to operate seems to be pretty clearly a restriction on political speech, since political speech is essentially their only output. I don’t see why individuals should not be able to pool their resources for advocacy (especially since they already can, for issues, otherwise neither the Sierra Club nor the NRA would exist. Why does it suddenly become corrupting when they also advocate for/against politicians?)

            Anyway I mostly agree with both of your definitions. The trouble is I think your definitions are still pretty blurry around the edges, and “bribery” has both a strongly negative moral and a legal connotation – I don’t think either of your definitions is strong enough to write a law around without allowing for a lot of potentially corrupt discretion. I’d prefer to avoid it for talking about the category of activity covered by CU vs FEC. t’s sort of like saying “all tax is theft!” – there is certainly a facially reasonable definition of theft for which it’s true, but the statement is more likely to obstruct clear debate than promote it, given the baggage the word carries.

            I think HeelBearCub has the right of it in terms of how people think the government ought to operate. What gets me with the negative association of “lobbyist” is – where do people think politicians are going to get their information from? They don’t have unlimited time or resources to become benevolent experts on everything. Without some motivated “lobbyist” coming along to educate them and make reasoned arguments for/against something, they’ll just be making a completely uninformed decision.

          • BBA says:

            My view of how the politician-lobbyist relationship ought to work comes from California Assembly Speaker Jesse Unruh: “If you can’t eat their food, drink their booze, screw their women, take their money and then vote against them you’ve got no business being up here.”

      • Nornagest says:

        Citizens United does not legalize bribery. It doesn’t even deregulate campaign finance contributions in the traditional sense. What it does do is allow organizations (individuals could do this before the ruling) to use their own money to independently promote candidates or political causes, i.e. to do so without coordinating with the candidate’s campaign.

        Now, that does make it easier for an organization to go up to a politician and say “if you vote for $BILL, we’ll spend $MONEY promoting you next time you’re up for election”. That’s kinda like a bribe if you turn your head and squint. But no money is changing hands, it’s still illegal for the candidate to delegate some chunk of their campaign to a friendly but unaffiliated organization, and there are some pretty sharp limits on how much good it can do for the candidate; just having more money floating around is not necessarily a game-winner, especially if it’s not being used in coordination with their real campaign. Recent experience, in fact, seems to imply that fundraising isn’t even a very good proxy for campaign success.

        And that doesn’t even address the actual reasons for the ruling, which have nothing to do with bribery and everything to do with how difficult it is to draw a principled line between free speech by individuals and by groups. I understand how sketchy it looks, I really do. I opposed CU when it came out; I only adopted my current view after I spent quite a bit of time reading about what it actually says and why.

        • brad says:

          Now, it does make it possible, or at least easier, for an organization to go up to, say, a Senator, and say “if you vote for $BILL, we’ll spend $X promoting you in your next reelection campaign”. That’s kinda like a bribe if you turn your head and squint.

          I think if there was an explicit quid pro quo agreement like that, the independent expenditure would count as a “thing of value” for the purposes of honest services fraud.

          But even if I’m wrong, either way it doesn’t turn on CU.

          • Nornagest says:

            I think you’re right, but that’s what I was trying to get at with “easier”. It’s still not really kosher, but it’s now harder to establish wrongdoing in a case like that, because the organization can now claim that its promotion of the candidate was independent.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          I’ve heard lots of crazy things about CU coming from people who get their news from Huffington Post, but this is a new one even for me.

          • Really? I am curious how this is a new one for you. Nornagest’s comments are very close to what I’ve said on other forums. I’ve heard a lot of crazy things about CU, but Nornagest’s wasn’t one of them. Maybe it’s because most of the crazy comments were by people who didn’t read the case.

          • Nornagest says:

            I am pretty sure Edward was talking about Jill’s post that I was replying to, not about mine.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            Have some civility points for not getting mad at the implication you get your news from the Huff’n-Puff Post.

          • Julie K says:

            Subtract some civility points for sneering at “people who get their news from [source].”

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Because back when CU first happened, I had to fight with all sorts of people who claimed all sorts of crazy things about the ruling, and they universally used Huffington Post articles as citations.

        • Alex Zavoluk says:

          > Recent experience, in fact, seems to imply that fundraising isn’t even a very good proxy for campaign success.

          Indeed, it does not. As I pointed out the last time this topic came up on the open thread, the best strategy is to fund *both* campaigns, to give both parties free rides on your private jet, to take them out to fancy dinners, to overpay them for speeches, so that no matter who wins, you win.

      • Randy M says:

        A few nay-sayers. Does anyone agree with this characterization of citizens united? [edit: anyone here, I meant, willing to argue it on principle]

        Can Jill or anyone else cite other laws that explicitly permit bribery?

        I would likely agree with the argument that there are plentiful signs of corruption, such as congressmen using insider knowledge of impending legislation to profit on the market or moving into and out of high-paying lobbyist or consultant jobs shortly after a legislative stint.

        However, I think framing in-kind campaign finance as bribery is facile at best, given the first amendment protections that are fundamental legal principles.

        • Whistle-blowing Anonymouse says:

          San Juan County v. No New Gas Tax

          The complaint claimed that on-air discussions by two radio talk show hosts urging listeners to support the initiative constituted “in-kind” contributions by the radio station to the No New Gas Tax Committee that should have been disclosed. (An “in-kind” contribution is a non-monetary contribution, like printing services or equipment.) The trial court agreed

          I’m not making vague accusatory generalizations here, because I know the people involved in this case, including the prosecutor and his friends who run the local democratic party. Democrats call political speech they don’t like “bribery”.
          He bragged about that case to me at a dinner party, and it was all I could do to chuckle along with him instead of spit in his face.

          I won’t repeat what conclusions that helped me draw about “liberals”, because I suspect it would get me banned.

          • Mistake Not ... says:

            After the trial court sided with the prosecutors, the campaign appealed, even though the initiative lost at the polls on election day. The Washington Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. On April 26, 2007, it unanimously reversed the trial court, holding that talk radio commentary is not an “in-kind” contribution.

            Were all the members of the Washington Supreme Court Republicans?

          • Whistle-blowing Anonymouse says:

            It’s non-partisan, but they were mostly Gonzaga and Duke graduates, so “yes”.

            Recently one them retired, and the democratic governor replaced him with a guy who went to Pitzer College (lol) for Asian Studies and Berkeley Law. Partly in a response to SCOWA rulings the left didn’t like.

            The supreme court was the last holdout of red Washington.

          • bean says:

            The supreme court was the last holdout of red Washington.

            You mean the last holdout west of the Cascades, right? There are people who live where it doesn’t rain all the time, and many of them don’t vote Democrat.

          • Whistle-blowing Anonymouse says:

            And their victories in recent years amount to… getting the suppressor ban lifted, while the state supreme court is packed with lapsed-catholic lesbian Seattleites?

            King County alone outvotes everyone east of the mountains. Those of us in the occupied territories don’t see much help coming from Walla-Walla onion growers.
            I love you guys, but your best bet at this point is joining up with Idaho and reconquering the coast a hundred years from now.

      • cassander says:

        Based on what you just said here, Jill, I don’t think you know what Citizens United actually ruled. Could you please explain, in your own words, what you think the state of the law was before and after the ruling?

        • Jiro says:

          My guess: She “could explain” but won’t, again.

          Of course, that’s indistinguishable from being unable to explain.

        • Anonymous says:

          Not an actual response to your question (because I’m not Jill), but I also don’t expect her to respond, anyway… so I’m going to give my favorite short description of the case, because I think more people should hear it. Professor Heather Gerken of Yale Law School said:

          Before Citizens United, a corporation could run an ad saying, “Senator X kicks puppies. You should call Senator X and tell him to stop kicking puppies.” After Citizens United, a corporation could run an ad saying, “Senator X kicks puppies and you shouldn’t vote for him.”

      • Salem says:

        That is not a reasonable description of Citizens United, and you know it, and you know we know you know it.

        You don’t fool me. You aren’t as stupid as your first impression suggests.

        • Jill says:

          I am not at all stupid. I am just on a board where I am far far in the minority in my views, which is seen by many here as equivalent to stupid.

          And it is indeed a reasonable description of Citizens United.

          • Virbie says:

            Oh please. I’m a bit to the left of Scott and I did notice the seemingly sharp rightward swing of the commenter population some time back,and I agree that it can be exhausting when suddenly people don’t share assumptions that you thought were obvious. But it can also occasionally illuminating, as long as you’re not the only person on the board childish enough to think that having underrepresented political views is the reason you “could explain but won’t”

          • Evan Þ says:

            Let me second Jill. I agree with Citizens United and wouldn’t describe it that way myself, but I see how that could be a not-unfair description of the decision as seen from one angle.

            Definitely not the angle I’d take, though – though I agree it could have some bad effects, my preferred description would be “The Supreme Court says that no, the government can’t ban books/pamphlets/movies.”

          • Salem says:

            I agre that you’re not stupid. You’re an agent provocateur. Or, as the kids say, a troll.

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            People here don’t treat others poorly just because they disagree. You came into a semi-political topic and with a single, poorly-explained, sniping comment you turned it into a completely political, controversial one. Then when asked for more details as to why you have this opinion, you refused to answer, or explain your views in any detail. Honestly, it’s a surprise to me that anyone here even bothers responding to you any more.

            A number of other posters have given summaries of the context of CU, the context in which it was passed, the legal and political consequences, its relationship to the first amendment, and other relevant case law, and have made arguments for/against it. You have done none of these things; you just asserted that your original assertion is reasonable. If you want to be taken seriously, you have to actually explain why it is you think what you think. Otherwise, why are you bothering to post here? Victim complex?

      • Subbak says:

        I think Citizens United is the wrongest thing in American Politics but calling it bribery is an exaggeration. The most you can do with a super-PAC (assuming you don’t use it to commit actual illegal bribery) is get your favorite candidate elected. While presumably politicians enjoy being elected, bribery would typically imply that you are giving them actual goods (money, paid holidays, expensive gifts…) that don’t pertain to how well they do their job. It’s hard to distinguish the situation in which you help someone’s campaign because you like their platform, and the situation where the slightly change their platform because you gave them money.

        Now, on the other hand, rich individual giving unlimited money to politicians is definitely an undesirable situation. The obvious solution to that is to both strongly restrict the ability to make donations in politics, to limit harshly the amount of money a campaign may spend (with the candidate being legally responsible), and to enforce equality of speaking time on all media where it is practical (sadly, the internet is not really one of them, so these solutions might be outdated as more and more people get their news from there).
        Yes those are restrictions on free speech, but those are the textbook definitions of restrictions you need if you want to keep living in a free state. If you don’t, the inevitable consequence is that ultimately the richer people accumulate all the power.

        • gbdub says:

          “Yes those are restrictions on free speech, but those are the textbook definitions of restrictions you need if you want to keep living in a free state.”

          Why? Seems like those restrictions mostly just help bolster the already strong incumbent bias. Who must you give “equal time” to (and who decides who makes the cut)? Does Jill Stein deserve equal time to Hillary? What if the KKK decides to run a candidate? Does he get a microphone at the debate?

          If a politician can inspire a ton of loyalty in terms of donations and volunteers – well, they are probably more popular, and that’s what democracy is based on. Is it really “fair” to artificially handicap their campaign to give the appearance that the other side draws equal support?

          And then the cynical side: I sort of assume that if we heavily restrict legal spending, you’ll just end up with more illegal spending, and more jiggery-pokery shell games about where the money flows. Like, maybe letting somebody fund a super-PAC to the tune of millions of dollars is bad. But the guy using the money to launder a traditional quid-pro-quo bribe under the table is worse.

          Probably not a ton of college sports fans on here, but you have a similar problem there. You aren’t allowed to pay college athletes, but pretty much everyone agrees there is rampant flouting of this rule, with private “bagmen” giving hundred dollar handshakes, free cars, etc. This places the schools who want to be honest at a major disadvantage – even if they have a lot of resources, they can’t use them without cheating, but they are losing to teams that are cheating (who might not actually have more resources, just fewer scruples). The “more regulations to enforce honesty” approach actually creates a less fair situation than just letting everyone do what they want; even though the latter approach has its own problems compared to utopia, it might still be an improvement.

        • @Subbak. I disagree with several things is your posting, but the most important is that after claiming CU is terrible, not one of your objections came out of the CU ruling. Maybe you should at least do the Wikipedia and related links thing suggested by Chalid.

          Secondly, rich people giving unlimited money to politicians has been illegal for decades and no case has changed that. Giving equal time to all candidates is a recipe for turning into an unfree state, in my opinion. First of all, with the government enforcing this, you know they will jigger the law to protect incumbents. And even if we somehow get past that barrier, incumbents usually have much more name recognition before the campaign starts, so this gives them an even bigger advantage. I think the power imbalance between incumbents and challengers is much greater than between those with money and those without, so it is a bad idea to favor the incumbents over challengers who have access to money.

          • Subbak says:

            not one of your objections came out of the CU ruling.

            Apparently the Wikipedia article says that it’s debatable whether CU actually created super-PACs or not (they might have sort of been created before), but it seems pretty clear that if CU had gone completely the other way, super-PACs would not exist. Cu at the very least legitimized super-PACs. And for many practical purposes, giving unlimited money to super-PACs and directly to a candidate’s campaign are similar. I conflated the two for ease of argument.

            re: arguments against restricted spending, even with more illegal spending it’s probably still more fair, as illegal spending carries a pretty heavy risk and you can’t spend too much illegally without it being obvious (like if you somehow were running twice as many ads in twice as expensive spots, people would start wondering). And the whole point of controlled speaking time is to give an equal voice to non-incumbents, without it incumbents would get a much, much bigger publicity from the networks as they have bigger name recognition and are obviously better for ratings. Some exceptions exist (see: Trump), but the point remains if you expand “incumbent” to include “candidates with disproportionate name recognition”.
            So yes, I think the upside of having viable third parties is worth the downsides of having Jiill Stein or even Vermin Supreme on debates. The KKK, however, should not be allowed to exist at all, so no.

            But more generally, there is no reason to believe a money power imbalance would somehow compensate the incumbent power imbalance rather than add to it. People already in a position of power have an advantage to seize even more power when it becomes available, unless you specifically design systems to avoid that.

      • “We have had laws and rulings, like Citizens United, that say that any person or company is allowed to legally bribe Congress or the president or other public officials.”

        Insofar as that is true, it was true for persons before Citizens United. All CU did was to overrule legislation restricting the ability of organizations to spend money trying to affect political outcomes.

        Is it bribery if I tell a politician that I will vote for him if he votes for a particular bill? Tell others to vote for him? Write op-eds arguing for the bill and praising him for supporting it?

        Organizations are still restricted in their ability to donate money to a political campaign.

        Is it bribery if an organization pays a large speaking fee to a politician? That’s generally legal but has nothing to do with CU.

    • Winfried says:

      That’s really dependent on your definition of a bribe and how indirect you are allowed to be.

      For example, if I am sued and I meet the judge before the case is heard and give him a few thousand to rule in my favor, that’s pretty blatant.

      If I hire a lawyer who is a major campaign contributor for the judge, that’s a little less blatant.

      If my lawyer and the judge are close friends after working together for decades, that’s even less offensive, but it’s still largely the same effect.

      In my profession, I’ve seen inspectors who were hired away from their agencies and given cushy jobs so that they quit being such an obstruction. This arrangement benefited the agency since they got rid of a subpar employee without having to officially fire anyone, the inspector obviously benefits, and the company gets a more lenient inspector moving forward.

      Would you count that as a bribe?

    • bluto says:

      It depends on what you mean by a bribe.

      It’s quite common in the US for former government officials to end up working for companies their decisions benefited (the famous example is Darleen Druyun who got caught negotiating too early) or former corporate officials to end up working for the government.

      There’s less open payments with a clear quid pro quo arrangement because those are easy to enforce the law against. Though you do have the occasional politician flushing money or caught with a freezer full of cash.

      • gbdub says:

        That does seem to be the most common. Instapundit has frequently mostly-snarkily proposed a “revolving door surtax” that would basically confiscate everything above their previous government salary someone gets for x number of years after leaving office. Which… I’m not sure that’s actually a bad idea?

        The other form of “bribery” that seems relatively common is what’s going on with the Clinton Foundation, alleging that basically Hillary, as Secretary of State, was preferentially granting access / benefits to large donors to the Foundation. Basically “pay-to-play” lobbying.

        • Mr. Breakfast says:

          Instapundit has frequently mostly-snarkily proposed a “revolving door surtax” that would basically confiscate everything above their previous government salary someone gets for x number of years after leaving office. Which… I’m not sure that’s actually a bad idea?

          Except, you know, Involuntary Servitude.

          • Randy M says:

            It’s not Involuntary Servitude, it’s a Tax. Ask John Roberts.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            “Come work for the government! We will confiscate your excess salary after you leave!”

            This is incredibly stupid. It’s stupid to even talk about, because people thinking of going to work for the government are going to wonder if something like this is coming down the road.

            I tend to think government workers are overpaid, but there are certain ones that need more. You could probably argue me into saying that even rank-and-file financial regulators should get 150K early in their careers. (This is for the ones with the specialized knowledge where their alternative is working in industry.)

          • Mistake Not ... says:

            Low and no skill government workers are way overpaid. Mid level skilled workers (e.g. low level adjudicators) are about right. High skill government workers are underpaid.

          • gbdub says:

            “This is incredibly stupid. It’s stupid to even talk about, because people thinking of going to work for the government are going to wonder if something like this is coming down the road.”

            Well, if having a previous government accounting job means you can’t go make more money as a middle manager for HR Block, yeah that’s stupid.

            But if your legislators are angling for cozy sinecures at company X because they know they’ll get a big salary by being particularly good to that company, or if company X is hinting that the guy deciding who wins contract competitions will get a great job if he awards the contract to company X, that starts to get shady and stuff like that really is reducing the efficiency of our government.

            Basically, the argument is that you’re a public servant. Profiting from your position as a public servant by doing things that aren’t necessarily in the public service creates bad incentives, and talking about how to cut out a common source of that profit, at least for high-profile employees immediately after their term of service, could be worthwhile.

            It’s an obvious non-starter yes. But stupid, no.

          • John Schilling says:

            Basically, the argument is that you’re a public servant. Profiting from your position as a public servant…

            …seems almost impossible to establish in any practical way. John Doe works for the DoE for $75k/yr, and then takes a job at General Electric for $150k/yr. Was he profiting from his position as a civil servant by taking a high-paying job he otherwise wouldn’t have been offered? Did he suffer for his position as a civil servant by taking a low-paying job in the public interest when he could have been earning $150k all along? Are the two essentially unrelated, with his having e.g. worked for the DoE as an honest lowly staffer while earning in his spare time the MBA he would need to rise through the ranks of the private sector?

            He oversaw GE regulatory issues while at DoE. Was this a core job function where he had real authority focused on GE’s affairs, or was he the guy who was assigned to rubber-stamp Title I section 2 subsection C paperwork submission under the Goodness Act for every company in a vaguely energy-related field.

            You can of course imagine ways to answer these questions. I do not believe you can write a rule that adequately encompasses the reality of the situation, nor afford the army of investigators and judges you’d need to deal with everyone who will claim that their nice private-sector job offer is on the other side of the line you just drew.

            In practice, any such legislation that isn’t ineffectual will almost certainly amount to a de facto lifetime salary cap for anyone who choses to work in the civil service. Which may be what you want or need, but consider the effect of that incentive on the sort of people you’ll get working in the civil service.

          • It’s kind of sad and maybe kind of cynical, but I think John has it right.

          • Jiro says:

            We have conflict of interest rules. They seem to work. Say “if having the job during your term of office would count as a conflict of interest, having it outside your term of office is subject to the wage cap”.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            You can imagine all sorts of situations in your head about what must be going through the minds of government workers hoping to get a nice private sector job.

            Hey, how about this one: be as aggressive as possible, so private industry will try to hire you on board so you stop being so aggressive. This gives the exact opposite of the other scenario.

            Or write regulations that are really really hard to understand and comply with, so that industry hires you to understand them. That gives incentive to be as mean as possible, again.

            Most people haven’t even considered the opposite scenario from the one they started with.

            Matt Levine lays out six scenarios here: https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2014-06-26/strict-regulation-makes-the-revolving-door-spin-faster I like how he says “Theory 1 is a popular favorite, but it seems so dull and unimaginative.”

          • John Schilling says:

            We have conflict of interest rules. They seem to work.

            Not to me they don’t. How closely have you worked with the civil service in, e.g., major procurement actions?

          • CatCube says:

            We have conflict of interest rules. They seem to work.

            Last week, I spent 4 hours (at $68/hr) writing a construction specification defining engineer properties very precisely to avoid saying “USE [MFR] CAT. NO. [#] OR APPROVED EQUAL” The difference in cost might have been about $30.

            If this is “conflict of interest rules working” I don’t want to imagine what you think screwed up rules would look like.

          • Jiro says:

            Those are the rules working. You’re complaining that trying to circumvent the rules cost a lot of money. That’s a feature, not a bug; the whole point is that you’re not supposed to circumvent the rules, so if doing so is expensive, well, that’s good (although not as good as being so expensive that the cost got your boss to follow the rules instead).

            “Tell me the rules against bank robberies work when I had to spend 5 years in prison just to be able to do even one?”

          • CatCube says:

            @Jiro

            Maybe I wasn’t clear. It cost the taxpayer $272(ish) for me to write a manufacturer-agnostic spec to save at most $30 (and if the contractor had proposed a different alternative that was truly equal, I’d have cheerfully signed off on it, so it might have saved $0).

          • Jiro says:

            That sounded like you were trying to create a spec that was only technically manufacturer-agnostic, but in fact was designed to require something from a single manufacturer.

            Doing that is trying to circumvent the rules and it’s supposed to be expensive–ideally it would be so expensive that you wouldn’t even try.

          • CatCube says:

            @Jiro,

            No, it’s that there’s no manufacturer-agnostic industry standard that I can call out and trust that I’ll get a product that’s equivalent in every important way.

            Actually, upon further thought, what I was working with is general enough that I don’t need to be coy.

            I was working with Unistrut/its competitors (I’ll use “Unistrut” throughout, even though there’s a number of products that are mostly equivalent, since pretty much everybody in construction just uses Unistrut as a genericized trademark). It’s a cold-formed channel system that’s used for installing electrical boxes, among other things. I’m doing something that requires me to design a weldment that will bolt to this system.

            Something like steel W-sections, which are defined by ASTM A6 and AISC, you can just call out, say a W14×30 and there’s a number of manufacturers that roll something that is equivalent in all important respects.

            There’s nothing like that for Unistrut. There’s a general spec from the “Metal Framing Manufacturers Association,” but that mostly points you at AISI S100, which is the general code for cold-formed steel construction, and would require me to do detailed design calculations on sections that are not well-defined in any public source (i.e., a lot of math that has a good chance of being wrong as well as time consuming). What that general spec does not have is a manufacturer-agnostic name for a 1-5/8″ channel, like you do for hot-rolled sections. What you do have is a catalog from each specific manufacturer that will give you allowable loads and section properties for their specific stuff.

            I looked at both Unistrut and Superstrut. The channel sections themselves are mostly equivalent (though my required Sx is close enough to the tabulated values that other vendors might not work.) However, the brackets to make moment connections are just subtly different enough that I can’t trust that cribbing the hole spacings from one catalog will work if the contractor wants to use the other product. So like driving on the left or right side of the road, it doesn’t matter which one is used, but you have to pick one.

            There’s two ways that this gets handled: 1) the rational way, which everybody else uses, is to put a note on the drawings that says “UNISTRUT P-1000HS CONNECTED WITH P1075 BRACKET OR APPROVED EQUAL,” and if the contractor wants to use another system we can just adjust the weldment if necessary. We can’t do that, because it “privileges one manufacturer over another”, so we do 2) an engineer spends 4 hours writing and proofreading “provide a cold-formed steel channel with an elastic section modulus of greater than…”

            This is not a savings to the taxpayer.

        • gbdub says:

          They are free to take any job at a rate that doesn’t trigger the tax. They are also free to turn down the government position that triggers the rule. Didn’t we have a 90% top income tax rate at one point? That’s basically all this is, a very high marginal tax rate (Reynolds may have actually said 50%, I don’t remember) on a certain form of income.

    • RDNinja says:

      I do environmental testing for a major chemical manufacturer. A state inspector recently told me a story of another company that insinuated they’d be open to paying off the inspector to overlook some issues. The testing contractors scattered like saloon patrons before a shoot-out, and the inspector nailed the guy to the wall. This was an old, third-hand story, so presumably this was rare. OTOH, this was in the Bible Belt, so it might be more common outside of God’s Country.

    • Publius Varinius says:

      I have no experience with legislative bribery, but a few bad ones in healthcare. For example,

      Large NHS Scotland facility, halfway between Glasgow and Edinburgh: my son needed a skull, abdomen and hip ultrasound shorty after he was born. The nurse said that they could do one in twelve weeks, and hinted that I should ask the doctor about “private practice” options. When I did, the doctor offered me to do the test right away for a mere £100. I agreed – the scan was done using NHS equipment in the NHS hospital, but billed privately.

      • Homo Iracundus says:

        I wish there was more of that in England. My mother might have gotten the cancer screening results back in time if she could have paid a bribe.

        • Publius Varinius says:

          I am sorry to hear about your mother. That’s horrible.

          I think I would prefer private health care to the NHS. as I think that the current bribery-based system is the worst of both worlds. E.g. corrupt doctors have the incentive to keep “free” NHS waiting lists as long as possible so that they can earn more money, and there’s no insurance company involved that could negotiate with them effectively. To make things worse, I cannot choose to seek treatment in another NHS hospital, so the corrupt doctor has an effective monopoly.

          • Sweeneyrod says:

            Private health care is available in the UK, and not necessarily more expensive. I know someone with medical insurance from their job. When they used NHS treatment for something, their insurance reimbursed them for the amount it would have cost privately.

      • God Damn John Jay says:

        There is something worrying about a doctor breaking the law for a hundred bucks, seems like a stupid risk.

        • Randy M says:

          I’d assume that every use of a piece of equipment like that is easily tracked. It probably isn’t carefully audited if nothing goes wrong. But I’d hate to be the guy who broke the MRI causing everyone using the systems delays in order to make a few bucks under the table.

          • John Schilling says:

            Tracked how? The system was run four times on the days legitimate patients A and B were in the clinic. Doctor X says there was one calibration run, and a glitch the first time he ran B through the system so he had to repeat it. Look, here’s the log sheet signed by Doctor X.

          • Randy M says:

            Tracked like every image taken stored on a hard drive with a date and time stamp and maybe a back-up somewhere? I’m not saying a skilled operator couldn’t delete that, just that I wouldn’t bet my career on being able to do so for a small sum.

          • The Nybbler says:

            My guess is you have a mental model of what’s going on here that’s something like “The doctor sneaks the patient into the MRI machine after hours and surreptitiously does a study”. I’m pretty sure that’s not what’s going on; doctors (even radiologists) don’t run MRI machines in the first place, MRI technologists do.

            I think more likely what’s going on here is the patient is put perfectly openly onto the schedule by the doctor and tech. Maybe the doctor uses a slot normally kept open for urgent cases, maybe the technologist gets a kickback to slip an extra case in, I don’t know. But I don’t think it’s a case of someone sneaking in and using the machine.

          • Randy M says:

            You’re right about my expectation and probably right about the situation.

        • JayT says:

          Admittedly, I know almost nothing of the NHS, but I don’t see why it would be breaking the law to buy an MRI. Here in the states you can wait for an insurance company to agree to the procedure, or if you can just pay for it out of pocket. Obviously, that tends to be cost-prohibitive, but the option is there and not illegal. I would (maybe incorrectly) assume it’s the same in the UK.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Without knowing the specifics of British law, it’s very easy to see that private operation of an MRI could be illegal for any number of reasons.

            A very effective method of cost containment is to maintain a monopsony to stop other people from possibly bidding up the price.

            Only in the past decade did private health insurance become legal in Canada, following a ruling by their supreme court. This wasn’t “the government is taking care of health care so there is just no market for private insurance,” it was “people would try to form private insurance companies to cover things that weren’t otherwise covered or to get better/faster service, and the government tried to make that illegal.”

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            In the United States, it is illegal to “just build” a hospital, equip it with modern certified supplies and equipment, stock it’s pharmacy, and crew it with trained and certified providers, and then accept only desired patients who walk in with cash in hand.

            One has to go to board after board, agency after agency, and regulator after regulator, proving that it is “filling a need” that the existing hospitals and clinics in the area do not already fill. On, and all those boards one has to humbly petition for permission, are staffed with the senior staff of the other hospitals in the area, who are uninterested in someone showing up to peel off their more desired users.

            You can, sometimes, depending on the state, buy a single piece of specialized equipment and then wrap a specialty clinic around it. An MRI machine is actually a good example. The last MRI I had was done for cash in hand at such a clinic.

            In other places, such as the UK and in Canada, one can’t even do that, and if someone was so foolish as to try, the local and national Responsible Government will use every tool to stop it, right down to denying construction permits, overriding the lease, confiscating the finances, and confiscating the equipment and supplies, and arresting the staff and managers.

          • Tekhno says:

            If the issue is safety, then instead of shutting down equipment, doctors, and hospitals that haven’t gone through government approval, shouldn’t the law simply state that all unlicensed medical centers have to display huge billboards everywhere warning about how unlicensed and dangerous they are, meaning that people can choose between the well regulated but costly or wait inducing option, and the fast but unregulated and risky option?

            I think Eliezer once proposed something like this where you’d have unlicensed shops where all the unregulated goods would go. I kind of see Uber the same way when people complain how dangerous it is getting into a car with a stranger. There’s nothing stopping the city from subsidizing cabs at the same time and allowing both options for both kinds of people.

            A lot of people’s issue with full on libertarianism is that it would take away public services, but there’s no reason you can’t have unregulated stuff going on at the same time as well regulated tax funded stuff, and the issue with the danger of deregulation is countered by good signposting, signposting so loud and blaring that it’s your own damn fault if you don’t notice it. The only exceptions are externalities (but that’s another story, for another day…)

            Government services aren’t supposed to be a protected racket that shuts down competitors. They’re supposed to be services that are funded with taxation so that even the poorest can definitely access them under all circumstances. Competition shouldn’t matter, since the purpose of government services is merely to provide a social minimum regardless of the market. Their demonstrated desire to shut down competition makes them look like a profit seeking racket.

          • That’s a great theoretical argument for why BUPA can’t possibly exist. So how come it exists?

          • Jiro says:

            If the issue is safety, then instead of shutting down equipment, doctors, and hospitals that haven’t gone through government approval, shouldn’t the law simply state that all unlicensed medical centers have to display huge billboards everywhere warning about how unlicensed and dangerous they are, meaning that people can choose between the well regulated but costly or wait inducing option, and the fast but unregulated and risky option?

            An unlicensed hospital (or a banned goods shop) is an attractive nuisance. An unlicensed hospital or banned goods shop with a disclaimer attached on it is an attractive nuisance with a disclaimer on it. Medical disclaimers are useless.

            Do you have the concept of “attractive nuisance”?

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Jiro

            I don’t know what you mean by “attractive nuisance”, but the traditional common-law doctrine is specifically about _children_.

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            I don’t know what you mean by “attractive nuisance”, but the traditional common-law doctrine is specifically about _children_.

            IANAL, but IIRC the concept of “child” in terms of “attractive Nuisance” can be pretty broad; like it sometimes includes an adult burgler.

          • Tekhno says:

            The hypothetical disclaimers I’m talking about wouldn’t serve to give people an assessment of the exact level of statistical risk. They would serve as a giant blaring disclaimer giving up legal responsibility for risk incurred (we’re assuming a totally different legal system here; I feel pretty disdainful towards “attractive nuisance”), so it’s assumed to be your fault if something goes wrong. You are either smart enough to navigate this well signposted market providing deregulated products and services, or a foolish risk taker who will get themselves hurt. Either way, by design the law would consider it your fault since there was no way you were unaware that you (a reasonable person) were accessing a “deregulated” service (technically, the substantial regulation revolves around the extensive disclaimer system).

            Possibilities with no probabilities attached to them are not totally useless all the time every time. If someone has a sign up saying DANGER DOG, no one needs to know the exact statistical probability of the dog injuring them if they trespass, in order to know they’d be putting their life into their hands. The sign is useful.

            The bulk of people in the middle of the bell curve, will get on with their normal lives never accessing deregulated services (but benefiting from practices being tried out and then used in regulated services when shown to be safe and effective) for the same reason that it’s not that hard to actually access heroin right now, but since society sends a gigantic disclaimer out about the risks involved (the drug itself, and the response of law enforcement it being illegal), the vast majority of people do not indulge in heroin, leaving only the dregs of society to partake of it.

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            The bulk of people in the middle of the bell curve, will get on with their normal lives never accessing deregulated services

            I doubt this. I think if you consider the compound effects of multiple layers of regulation in the value chain of any given product, the “unregulated” version would often be radically cheaper. Provisioning oneself on the unregulated market could give an advantage equivalent to using your US Dollar denominated American-level income to provision yourself in a developing country.

          • Tekhno says:

            Most people are going to be really frightened of unregulated products though.

          • John Schilling says:

            Most people are going to be really frightened of unregulated products though.

            And yet Uber’s market capitalization is estimated at $70 billion based on ~$10 billion of gross annual revenue, whereas New York taxi medallions have seen their value cut in half.

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            Initially, maybe, but time from early-adopter exploration to general acceptance for any other type of consumption is at most a few years, why would this be different?

            I currently consume gray market produce, meat, firewood, eggs, landscaping, metal fabrication, auto repair, and barber services because this is what is available to me. As more unregulated products are offered in my area, I will probably consume more. I can tell you that there is absolutely nothing weird or scary about buying unregulated and un-inspected goods from unlicensed sellers once you are actually doing it.

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            To amplify what John is saying, Uber has experienced the success it has while circumventing regulation on only one part of the value chain. Cars, fuel, and insurance all have many layers of baked-in regulatory costs.

          • Mistake Not ... says:

            IANAL, but IIRC the concept of “child” in terms of “attractive Nuisance” can be pretty broad; like it sometimes includes an adult burgler.

            No, you’re mixing two separate things. Attractive nuisance is an older doctrine that served as a narrow exception to the common law rule that no duty is owed to a trespasser. The injured burglar story is a consequence of the elimination of that rule entirely.

            Neither one has anything to do with regulations about where and whether hospitals can be built.

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            No, you’re mixing two separate things.

            Thank you for the correction.

          • Sweeneyrod says:

            @standingintheahadows

            You are incorrect regarding private healthcare in the UK. It is widely available, indeed the NHS often finds that the best way to treat someone is to pay for a private hospital to do it.

    • John Schilling says:

      In my experience, bribery generally needs to be camouflaged in the US, a straight cash transfer is too dangerous for both parties.

      The one bribe that was solicited of me during the 4-5 years I was running a small defense contractor was of the form “Gee, looks like there’s no chance of your passing this audit with books like these, there goes that million-dollar contract. Unless maybe you are willing to hire someone to help? I’ve got a friend who specializes in this, charges $200/hr, if you hire her for a week she’ll certainly get your books in order and I’ll certainly pass you after that…”

      Or we could just move the company books to an accountant in a different auditing district, getting us a new and less corrupt auditor, the end. But that was once in five years, which is orders of magnitude better than the usual kleptocracy.

      As others have noted, campaign financing is a channel through which bribes could be channeled with more deniability than a briefcase of cash, but it is not inherently bribery any more than are e.g. consulting contracts.

    • Chicago says:

      What does bribery have to do with rigged elections?

      Rigged elections are related to corruption. Chicago is generally believed to have more of both monetary and electoral corruption than the rest of America. Do you live in Chicago? If not, your lack of experience of bribery is consistent with the claim that Chicago is more corrupt.

      I have lived in Chicago and I never encountered corruption. But why would I? The DMV never asked me for bribes. There are many other inspectors who might solicit or accept bribes and I would never know (eg, the commercial section of the DMV). But I don’t think there was much of that, either.

      The corruption that Chicago is famous for is patronage – the distribution of jobs and money controlled by the state. Maybe this involves bribes, but how would you experience this, unless you were bidding on contracts? There is plenty of money the city controls already. There is no need to hypothesize bribery to make control of the city valuable. And even if it people weren’t extracting money from it, wouldn’t it be worth controlling?

      Chicago is corrupt. Lots of people go to jail for this corruption. The most high profile, and thus easiest to find and read about, are the governors of Illinois. Half of the recent ones have gone to jail, although not all were from Chicago.

      Chicago elections are corrupt, at least historically. This says that 10% of votes in 1983 were fraudulent, either in the name of the dead, or a duplicate name. It also discusses patronage.

      • Zaxlebaxes says:

        IIRC around one third of Chicago aldermen have been convicted of corruption.

        Actually, I just checked. That is correct, and “Over half of elected Chicago aldermen took illegal campaign contributions totalling $282,000 in 2013.” This is a great record.

        Incidentally, do you call it the DMV or the Secretary of State’s office? I see more people refer to it as the DMV though we don’t have one.

        For a time I worked at a nonprofit here which interviewed prominent African-Americans nationwide and locally in several areas including politics. It struck me as telling that in our collection we simultaneously honored 1) the president 2) Roland Burris, the guy Blagojevich appointed to replace him and famously attempted to sell the seat to and 3) Jesse White, the SoS who refused to sign Burris’s credentials to present to the Senate (and who you note at least runs a bribe-free office on the public level). We also had events at schools nationwide where our honorees spoke to students; at our flagship event here we brought along Arne Duncan. Exactly one week later he announced his resignation.

        • Jill says:

          Chicago does have a reputation of being corrupt. And in a corrupt atmosphere, where that’s one of the most common ways to get ahead, it stands to reason that many people who have gotten into political office there are going to be corrupt, no matter what color they are.

          • Kofi Anon says:

            in a corrupt atmosphere, where that’s one of the most common ways to get ahead, it stands to reason that many people who have gotten into political office there are going to be corrupt, no matter what color they are.

            How convenient, given that the Chicago Machine is famously a Democrat operation.

          • Sandy says:

            Like Kofi said, Chicago also has a reputation as a liberal Democrat stronghold. Much like Tammany Hall once was.

    • anonbombulus says:

      Bid rigging for local government contract work is pretty rampant where I live, and it’s an open secret that the county attorney is on the take. corruption and bribery are alive and well, at least in my neck of the woods

  5. Two McMillion says:

    How seriously should we take the Justice Department report about racism in the Baltimore Police Department? Very seriously? Somewhat seriously? Not seriously at all?

    • Mistake Not ... says:

      If you read the report itself it’s pretty clear what claims probably have a factual basis and where the possibly dodgy leaps of logic are. Reading just the executive summary makes that harder. Reading the pres reporting about the report makes it near impossible.

      https://www.justice.gov/opa/file/883366/download

    • Orphan Wilde says:

      Without knowing nothing about what stance they took, not seriously at all.

    • Earthly Knight says:

      Things to keep in mind:

      –The last seven mayors of Baltimore, dating back to the 1960s, have been Democrats.
      –Four out of the last five mayors of Baltimore have been black, with O’Malley the lone exception.
      –Four out of the last five police commissioners have also been black.
      –More than half of Baltimore police officers are minorities.

      Assuming the allegations made in the Justice Department report are accurate, it looks like having a racially-balanced police force run by liberal blacks does not cure biased policing, at least not by itself.

      • gbdub says:

        You would hope that would lead to some soul-searching among the BLM-sympathetic over whether simple racism is a useful way to frame the problem, but this has been going on for awhile so I can’t say I’m confident.

      • Jill says:

        What would help would be if police who killed unarmed black guys were held accountable for this. But they aren’t.

        http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/in-police-violence-cases-time-works-against-justice-20160713

        Regardless of what color or party the police commissioner or mayor is, if police aren’t held accountable for abuse, then they will continue to abuse citizens.

        But that’s not permissible, in our tribal society, to simply hold police accountable for what they do, is it? What people always do instead is to blame things on some racial group– e.g. blacks themselves– or on some political party. Every problem is caused by that evil Other tribe. And instead of solving problems, we believe that we should just point out which tribe is to blame for them. And everything good is caused by MY Tribe, which I can also point out.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Police aren’t held accountable, period. By blaming it on racism, this serious problem has been swept up completely into the culture war, ensuring it cannot be solved.

          • Jill says:

            True. They should be held accountable for abuse toward any citizens, regardless of race.

          • I’m pretty sure racism adds to the problem, but I agree that the major problem is police culture/impunity.

          • Zorgon says:

            This is solid progress!

            Now if only we can convince the thousands of people online who insist the single and only problem is that the police are specifically and uniquely biased against black people and only black people to the point of a genocide campaign, then we might actually get somewhere.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Zorgon How exactly are those thousands of people who hold [wrong opinion] standing in the way of progress? Is their mischaracterization of the problem somehow keeping you or others from taking action?

          • Sandy says:

            If the wrong opinion is that American police are waging a secret race war against black people because white supremacy, then that wrong opinion is standing in the way of progress because the typical solution implemented for the problems such opinions describe is sensitivity training, increased minority hiring, more black representation on law enforcement authority boards and committees, “community relations” and so on and so forth.

            But then you have Baltimore where the power structure is heavily black from top to bottom, and Freddie Gray still gets his spine snapped in the back of a van driven by a black cop.

          • I’ve seen a theory that black vs. black prejudice is a result of the history of white racism. Even if this true, getting white people to be less racist won’t solve it.

          • Anonymous says:

            If the wrong opinion is that American police are waging a secret race war against black people because white supremacy

            Serious question: Is that the actual wrong opinion at play in this situation, or is the wrong opinion something a bit more reasonable and nuanced? [Left as an exercise for the reader.]

          • John Schilling says:

            Ta-Nehisi Coates, who I think can be taken as speaking for at least a significant fraction of #BLM, is fairly explicit on the white-supremacist interpretation.

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            Ta-Nehisi Coates, who I think can be taken as speaking for at least a significant fraction of #BLM

            Not to be argumentative here, but what does it mean for him to “speak for #BLM”?

            I am willing to believe that a large portion of educated liberal whites would look to Mr. Coates if they wanted to learn the positions of #BLM activists, but what fraction of those activists would name him if asked who their spokesman was?

          • I think you can have a white supremicism interpretation which is short of an intentional race war. I’m imagining that the abusive white police frame is as “keeping the n—-rs down” without having any grand plans. For the black people suffering the abuse, this is a distinction without a huge difference.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          What would help would be if police who killed unarmed black guys were held accountable for this. But they aren’t.

          I wonder why all those Democrats, blacks, and Democratic blacks who were running the system at the time and for decades prior aren’t holding the police accountable.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Probably the same reason the Republicans, whites, and Republican whites who were running the system in other places at the time similar things happened aren’t holding the police accountable.

          • What reason do you have in mind? I’m pretty sure white people generally underestimate class divisions between African-Americans.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Evan Þ

            The Republicans are the party of Law-n-Order and unquestioning support for anyone* with a snappy government uniform. So it’s not surprising that they wouldn’t hold police accountable.

            It’s the Democrats who have positioned themselves as anti-racism and who generally oppose harsh policing as a solution to crime… so what’s THEIR excuse?

            *except Nazis, everyone hates those guys.

          • Jiro says:

            Probably the same reason the Republicans, whites, and Republican whites who were running the system in other places at the time similar things happened aren’t holding the police accountable.

            The narrative is that the whites and Republicans don’t hold the police accountable because of racism. If you’re saying that it’s for the same reason that blacks and Democrats don’t hold the police accountable, you’re really contradicting the narrative.

          • Hypothesis: getting the police under control would be really hard work. They have powerful unions, and a good bit of the public believes that the only way to be safe is to give the police a free hand. The latter is a polite interpretation, the nasty one is that people get off on identifying with unaccountable power.

            It’s really hard work, and it means identifying with people whose status is lowered because being attacked by the police means you deserve low status. So controlling the police hasn’t happened.

          • onyomi says:

            It would probably help if the police actually worked for us in reality, rather than simply in theory. But then, so too would everything done by “public servants.”

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            @The Nybbler:

            The Republicans are the party of Law-n-Order and unquestioning support for anyone* with a snappy government uniform. So it’s not surprising that they wouldn’t hold police accountable.

            It’s the Democrats who have positioned themselves as anti-racism and who generally oppose harsh policing as a solution to crime… so what’s THEIR excuse?

            *except Nazis, everyone hates those guys.

            Okay.

            The Democrats are the party in favor of bigger government, less private justice, fewer guns, and for the police force as the chief monopoly of violence rather than for a state with private citizens being armed.

            The Republicans are the party of resisting government authority, wanting to shrink government services down, and of allowing people to own the guns they want. What’s their excuse?

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Stefan Drinic

            Your post is false in as much as the Republicans are not the party of resisting government authority, though they sometimes claim to be the party of reducing government authority. Even if it were true, it is a non sequitur; it does not provide reasons for the Democrats to allow police abuse to slide, nor provide reasons for Republicans to be particularly interested in it.

          • John Schilling says:

            Hypothesis: getting the police under control would be really hard work. They have powerful unions, and a good bit of the public believes that the only way to be safe is to give the police a free hand.

            It certainly doesn’t help that approximately every Good Police Officer in popular fiction is one who chafes under the bureaucratic rules that deny him a free hand and saves the day only by at least bending those rules. Heck, even the Nice Bunny Cop in “Zootopia” resorted early and often to blackmail by abuse of authority and at least one warrantless search through a staged pretense.

          • LPSP says:

            You don’t have to remind me John, I watched an episode of Judge John Deed last night. Holy christ, the conflicts of interest in that show.

        • Standing in the Shadows says:

          We do all remember that Scott has already written an article on the topic of race and police shootings, and did a much better job of it than most of you are doing right now? Go back and re-read it. Especially you, Jill. Linking to Rolling Stone? Stick with Vox, their editors are better.

          Sometimes I feel like Tony Stark. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5qJ1Ppqxoc

        • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

          “Regardless of what color or party the police commissioner or mayor is, if police aren’t held accountable for abuse, then they will continue to abuse citizens. ”

          Why are you so anti-cop? They put their lives on the line for us every day. They deserve to come home to their families every night #BlueLivesMatter

    • Sandy says:

      It seems so strange to hear leftists demanding the break-up of unions, even if they are police unions, but these are strange times.

      • I haven’t seen anyone asking police unions to be broken up, just that the police should be overseen by non-police.

        Where have you seen demands for police unions to be ended?

        • hlynkacg says:

          Ending public sector unions in general is a bit of a conservative bugaboo

        • Sandy says:

          Jacobin believes good socialists must work toward the abolition of police unions, because they are “the bad kind of unions” and can never be progressive organizations. “The cop who rallies for collective bargaining today will be protecting Goldman Sachs tomorrow.”

          Left Voice says police unions can never be real unions because “police organize as police, not as workers” and so all workers must push their unions to call for the expulsion of the police from the ranks of other union organizations. Similarly, the California branch of United Auto Workers called for the AFL-CIO to kick out all police unions.

          Will Wilkinson believes police unions should not exist because government employees should not allowed to unionize in the first place. “When public employees collectively bargain, who are they bargaining against? Their public employers, which is to say, the democratic public, which is to say, us. ”

          And of course, there are always the leftists who argue that the police should be abolished entirely because they are minions of the racist capitalist hegemony and some form of “community service” would work better. The Nation further argues that a world without police will be one “with one less institution dedicated to the maintenance of white supremacy and inequality”.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            The best kind of response. Thanks for taking the time.

          • brad says:

            Will Wilkinson believes police unions should not exist because government employees should not allowed to unionize in the first place. “When public employees collectively bargain, who are they bargaining against? Their public employers, which is to say, the democratic public, which is to say, us. ”

            Is this guy a leftist? His bio makes him sound like a libertarian. Maybe a bit of a lapsed or heretical libertarian but still coming from that tradition.

            Speaking for myself, as as ex-libertarian, now left-ish side of the spectrum, I agree with him. I’m not a huge fan of labor unions in general, but in the public sector I think they are entirely inappropriate. Police unions are a particularly acute example of the problem, but I’d love to see all public sector unions abolished and civil service rules scaled back to boot.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Wilkinson is a libertarian who changed into a leftist, so a lot of libertarian thinking still colors his world. “No public unions” is a pretty sound policy, while letting private industry either have them or not as the market shifts.

          • Sandy says:

            He describes himself as a “liberaltarian“, but says he’s more a liberal than a libertarian and believes more libertarians should just come out as liberal. He used to work for the Cato Institute until he left a while back, and the Atlantic published an article speculating that it was because he was too much on the left end of the spectrum for Cato.

          • Nornagest says:

            That’s funny, I think I can make a better argument against police unions with my lefty hat on than my libertarian. From the libertarian-but-not-ancap POV, government is an institution structured to minimize downsides in segments where market failures are predictable, but there’s nothing privileged about it; it follows the same incentives as any other organization, it’s still capable of fraud or abuse, so it makes as much sense for workers in one segment of it or another to unionize in order to safeguard their own interests as it does anywhere else. (How much sense that is, depends on the libertarian. But you can find pro-union ones.)

            From the lefty-but-not-radical POV, government is an institution of/by/for the people, to advance the people’s interests, so there’s an inherent contradiction in organizing to protect government workers’ interests against it. You could still make a case for it to the extent that government’s ideal purpose has been subverted, so from this POV it makes sense to support e.g. teachers’ unions while there’s political pressure to cut teaching salaries, adopt regressive curricula, and so forth. But I don’t think many leftists would agree that police departments are a case where that applies; they’re not exactly suffering under the yoke of institutionalized oppression.

        • Tekhno says:

          “The worker who becomes a policeman in the service of the capitalist state, is a bourgeois cop, not a worker.” ~ Trotsky.

          There’s a history of this sort of rhetoric in the socialist left. Of course, socialist leftists are a radical minority. The vast majority of leftists are left-liberals.

  6. Chalid says:

    It seems like this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for the libertarian party to try to insert itself into national politics. Gary Johnson can poll near 10% in three-way polls (15% is the threshold for inclusion in national debates). The two major party candidates are pretty unpopular. etc. etc. At the very least, this is probably one of the best times to try to get the libertarian message out.

    But Gary Johnson’s fundraising is pathetically small, just $1.4 million as of the last reporting period.

    Why aren’t libertarians donating?

    • Homo Iracundus says:

      Libertarians have more important priorities. Also Johnson’s campaign only takes bitcoin rather than sacks of actual gold coins.

      In all seriousness though, is there much enthusiasm for Johnson among libertarians? It seems like most of the people who’d get excited about him would rather take Hillary.

      • onyomi says:

        One thing that is frustrating to me, as a libertarian, is my sense that libertarians will only get excited about people who are too radical in their self-presentation to attract widespread support.

        I think this may partially be symptom of the kind of politics-as-catharsis which Donald Trump, to some extent, represents: Trump supporters want a guy who will tell all those politically-correct elites where they can stick it. As to whether he actually convinces anyone not already inclined to his sensibility, it’s almost irrelevant. Similarly, libertarians want a candidate like Ron Paul who will tell all the pro-government shills where to stick it, but, again, that probably doesn’t do much more than fire up the choir to whom he’s preaching (though stoking enthusiasm among the base is also, clearly, important, I’d take libertarians’ devotion to the ideas they espouse more seriously if they wouldn’t cool off in response to a candidate who, while far from perfect, would still represent a huge improvement over the alternatives).

        • Mr. Breakfast says:

          As a libertarian of sorts, I agree with this general assessment.

          What used to seem like a practical alignment of smarter-than-average expatriates of other political tendencies has attracted a lot of (vaguely lefty) ideologues. Their’ constant blathering about the NAP and hyperbolic reactions to lifestyle issues (like the nipple thing Homo linked) is drowning out the pragmatists.

          Living in a community of liberty people, I spend a lot of time rolling my eyes and thinking “That thing you are doing, how is it you expect that will lead to less government?”

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            As an occasional libertarian, there is far too much effort at making sure that the person is ideologically pure, with lots of fights about “no true libertarian.”

            A chance at victory ought be exciting enough. Heck, a chance at being the spoiler who gets taken more seriously next election ought.

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            I am just happy when I hear a mainstreamer embrace the liberty position on any one issue. More so when they do it because of cynicism about the ability of “the system” to get it right.

            Ideological purity in liberty always seems forced to me. Does anybody really go through life completely cool with official authority until one day they are told “Government is FORCE!” or “Taxation is Theft!”, or someone explains the NAP and then their whole worldview changes?

        • John Schilling says:

          though stoking enthusiasm among the base is also, clearly, important…

          …to established major parties, yes. The Libertarian base is lost in the noise of anyone’s polls, particularly in this election. The Libertarian party needs to stoke enthusiasm among donors (who are not necessarily the base) and sympathetic independent voters.

          Which is to say I mostly agree with your assessment. And I have donated to Johnson’s campaign, FWIW.

        • Chalid says:

          @onyomi

          With a few word substitutions, your post could have been something that lots of leftists would say about the far left.

          • onyomi says:

            Probably so. Though I think if I were a leftist I wouldn’t have a ton of sympathy for that either.

            The parallel case, I think, would be leftists who not only would not support HRC, they would not even support Bernie. I don’t know any leftists that extreme, and it’s not as if I don’t know any leftists.

            So, yes, I am saying your average radical leftist is more reasonable (at least strategically speaking) than your average libertarian, it seems.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            I would suggest that the average radical leftist is far more reasonable than your average libertarian. After all, the former can quite rationally sit on their thumbs for thirty years yet see the vast majority of their dreams realized by general cultural inertia.

            Whereas libertarians are no closer to Ancap Sea-ciety than when Ken Neumeyer dreamt up the concept.

          • Aapje says:

            After all, the former can quite rationally sit on their thumbs for thirty years yet see the vast majority of their dreams realized by general cultural inertia.

            The wave of deregulation and reductions to the welfare state of the last 30 years seem to me less radical leftist than libertarian.

            I assume that your personal focus is on social issues like gay marriage and the like, not economic issues. That would explain why you think that the left is winning.

          • @Aapje. The Left is definitely winning, although libertarian ideas are much more respectable than they used to be.

            There were some high visibility deregulations a few decades ago, such as airlines, trucking, and telecommunications, but in the meantime regulations continue to increase almost everywhere. IS it news when we add 1000’s of new laws every year? But it is news when one industry is deregulated after a long fight. There has been volumes written on the deregulation of banks in the 2000’s, when actually regulation of banks has continued to accelerate over the last few decades.

            Many of the increasing regulations happen at the local level. There continue to be greatly increasing number of business licenses at the state and city level. Economic development seems to be the central theme of most politicians, and this is based on the belief that government will do better than the free market on running the economy. I think that idea is considered Leftist, even if many Republicans mouth the same thing?

          • Aapje says:

            I disagree, but perhaps this is a matter of perspective, since I’m from a country where liberals are considered (moderate) right wing.

            What I see is a world where multi-nationals pick and choose, they play countries against each other and as a result, regulation gets avoided. Theoretically, there are these regulations. Practically, they often fail to work. Theoretically, Apple is supposed to pay profit tax. Practically, the money is parked off shore and they lend money to pay dividends, just to avoid contributing to society. Theoretically the EU has minimum wage laws. Practically, Eastern European workers can work for less than minimum wage.

            Of course, (very) small companies and citizens tend to be far less mobile, so the end result is that the multinationals experience far different burdens than them. That is actually my greatest criticism of the current system, the rules are not even enforced fairly. So that makes the question of which laws are appropriate for everyone rather moot, since there are no laws ‘for everyone.’

            Anyway, I think that the ‘radical left’ end goal is very different from ‘more regulation’ or ‘big government.’ Their ideals are hardly getting much closer. The ideals of moderate left wing/third way people are getting closer, but they aren’t radicals (and Iracundus made a claim about them, not about ‘the left’).

            PS. You are not really strengthening your argument by complaining about banking regulations. Our current economic model gives banks great privileges and history shows that without strict regulation, the banks just keep abusing those privileges. Of course, one could choose true libertarianism and take away the banking privileges. That would be much more defensible than the deregulation that liberals keep fighting for, aside from the small issue that it would require a massive shift in our economic model (which has already been happening organically to some extent, like with crowd funding, but going all the way will be a painful process).

          • Anon. says:

            Theoretically, Apple is supposed to pay profit tax. Practically, the money is parked off shore and they lend money to pay dividends, just to avoid contributing to society.

            Without looking it up, what do you think Apple’s effective tax rate is?

          • @aapje. Okay I need to reset. I always assume the person I am talking to is in the US, especially when talking about gov’t issues. I shouldn’t do that, since there are many here outside the US.

            I know less how governments work outside the US, but I think similar principles apply. First of all, I am not surprised that multi-nationals don’t seem to follow the rules as you think they should, since most regulations are written as a collaboration between governments and big business. Naturally there are loopholes for the writers. Big business loves regulations, because it gives them advantages over their smaller brethren.

            By the way, I did look up Apple’s profit and loss statements, and they pay about 25% in taxes, which is close to most tax rates of industrialized countries (altho below the top US rate of 35%). So they are paying taxes to SOMEBODY.

            You need to be more specific in your comments. What is it that the radical left isn’t getting? Maybe nationalization of large industries? I would agree that outright nationalization of firms has become less common. And what privileges do banks have?

          • Aapje says:

            Mark, surely that 25% tax rate only includes the taxable income. My complaint was about the income they make untaxable.

            As for ‘what the radical left wants,’ I don’t actually think there is a clear shared agenda, but I’m pretty sure that the current course is not what most radical left people support. In any case, many other choices are possible than just the current course or full nationalization.

            The primary banking privilege is the ability to create money.

            PS. Sorry about taking a break, I got too upset over stuff that happened down below.

        • Zaxlebaxes says:

          Is that really the problem we’re having, though? Is Johnson looking really good and well-polished and sensible and pragmatic and purists are just mad that he’s not Rothbardian enough?

          Forgive the length of this; I’m bad at writing short screeds.

          I noticed that both you (Onyomi) and Mr Breakfast seem to be in rhetorical agreement about the LP ticket, though you are characterizing the problematic purists more as Ron Paul types (so more right leaning or populist or some combination of the two), while Mr Breakfast is complaining about “vaguely lefty ideologues” “constant[ly] blathering about the NAP.”* There are many kinds of libertarians, obviously, but there seems to be a tendency (that I sometimes call Most-Reasonable-Person-In-The-Room Syndrome) to regard oneself as pragmatic and those other libertarians as the purists, even when you are almost obliquely pointing the finger at each other. Perhaps the purists aren’t really the problem?

          From where I am as a somewhat disillusioned libertarian, Johnson isn’t merely imperfectly libertarian or not enough of a pure ancap or whatever; it seems that the LP ticket is not providing much of a libertarian alternative at all, considering the field as a whole. When it comes to the libertarian political movement, the single individual who has done the most to invigorate it has been Ron Paul, who represented the kind of “screw the government shills” attitude that actually drew people in. He was able to avoid compromising on principles and yet to succeed better than Johnson did whenever they were placed side-by-side in the same contest–somehow despite the amazing humility of his figure and despite him vocally upholding principles that should have been politically impossible (like opposing state-provided healthcare even when he was made to look like a callous killer doing so), he led a strongly populist wing of the libertarian movement, and its most politically successful instantiation up to this election. Paul gathered a huge following and introduced more people than anyone else to the movement, yet he also satisfied the die-hards, ran in the most radical ancap circles, spoke econ fluently with the nerds, and made social conservatives and the red tribe feel comfortable–that their personal beliefs were tolerable and legitimate so long as they did not impose them on other people.

          Compare this with Johnson. Johnson shows a worrying lack of even basic familiarity with any of the intellectual figures in the movement he presumes to lead politically. He doesn’t have to agree with them, but it would be nice if he knew anything about the ideas that motivate his base. Where do his positions actually break with the major candidates? He agrees with Hillary on culture war issues, so progressive culture warriors can support her and conservative culture warriors cannot support him.

          He is against foreign interventions in general, true, but his rhetorical commitment is just that–rhetorical–and no stronger than Trump’s rhetorical commitment to nonintervention. Libertarians say we should not trust Trump when talking about his foreign policy, but why should we trust Johnson any more? Johnson was convinced by that ridiculous Kony movie that, well, that’s probably sufficient cause to intervene in central Africa–we’ve got to get him. Remembering that occasion, that should be an embarrassing judgment; I knew nobody for whom “Kony 2012” was not a huge joke. Who would be fooled by that? Well, Gary Johnson would–and knowing that, I have a hard time imagining him seeing through the arguments to invade Iraq or intervene in Libya, Syria, etc.

          When it comes to free trade, as opposed to protectionism, Clinton again seems to be in agreement with him. And guns–well his running mate, Bill “the Original Libertarian” Weld seems to have the exact same position as Her and a history of gun-grabbing schemes. Meanwhile, Trump’s ticket seems like a better bet for that issue, especially given his recent controversial remarks. I don’t actually see a substantive area of policy where Johnson/Weld actually provides an alternative to the major candidates. Maybe the weed thing. Not even the whole drug war; he just likes weed. It is not the purists’ fault that we give the impression of being (blue tribe establishment) Republicans who like weed.

          I honestly do not think that Johnson is doing the pragmatism and good optics thing well, and I cannot understand why he says the things he does from a strategic standpoint. His “pragmatic” concessions do not seem to make him look better to the people he needs to appeal to. Watching the debate at a bar with Chicago libertarians, the gay wedding cake thing made me switch my order from beer to straight rye. First he says that we should sideline the principles of free association and expression because, well, otherwise people might use them to discriminate, which would be bad, because they would be able to discriminate. He didn’t give a very good reason, but at least the logic seemed to be that this was an exception to protect a Special Oppressed Class. But then (and I think this is because he sensed the audience turning against him for consistency) he, against my expectations, bit the bullet on the Nazi cake saying, essentially, that he will consistently oppose people’s rights to free association and expression, even when it means using force to empower a Hateful Oppressor Group and to persecute an oppressed minority. Any hope he had of wooing progressives with that statement went out the window–either they agree with libertarians about the principle, or the reason they want to make an exception is because of the particular group identities of the baker and the customer. They say free speech is problematic because it protects the oppressor and the oppressed equally. Well, that’s what his forced-business answer would do, while also being inherently oppressive in its procedure. We should not dismiss what that answer said about his understanding of the question and, more widely, of what matters to the people he is trying to get to support him. He somehow managed to give an answer that was the worst of both worlds, appealing to neither group–not a compromise widely satisfying to both and only objectionable to a tiny purist minority.

          And he seems to do this with his whole strategy. Who do the major parties have locked down? The aggrieved white working class opposed to globalism and the hard rock alternative to the political right; and complacent moderate progressives, government and corporate shills, aggrieved ethnic minority blocks and a warrior class fanatical about that most ephemeral, vague and challenging concept, social justice. Who have they alienated? Libertarians, religious conservatives and run-of-the-mill economic conservatives; and principled liberals, the non-“regressive left” and Sanders supporters bitterly opposed to corruption, oligarchic rule by bankers and corporate shills, endless war and the security state; respectively.

          Who do Johnson and Weld spend most of their time appealing to? Progressive cultural values, free trade on a global scale, and never-Trump. This seems good at first, but again, he is not providing an alternative to Clinton on any of these issues. Yet when it comes down criticizing his opponents, either he talks about how both major choices suck, or he singles out Trump–the one whose supporters he does not appeal to on issues, and whose supporters he alienates by parroting the same non-substantive accusations of racism leveled by Clinton. When asked about her, he says she’s a “wonderful public servant.” He’s upholding many of her views, but refusing to give people a reason to choose him over her. He shores her up, and converts nobody.

          Johnson cannot beat the major candidates with their base, so he needs to go to the alienated people. The alienated people, together, feel that neither party represents them, that their voice is not heard and that the political system in the U.S. is in some sorry state. They are mad, and want some alternative to the horrible options this broken system gives them. Johnson tells them that, on balance, things are pretty great, materially speaking. What of the individual subgroups alienated by their parties? Libertarians? When asked what a libertarian is, he says he’s been a governor and an entrepreneur, and he evidences no knowledge of the political and intellectual tradition he claims to represent. Religious conservatives? “Bake the cake” and “religious liberty is a black hole” (neither are libertarian positions, despite there being easy answers that satisfy both the personally religious worried about free exercise and free association and libertarians concerned with the wider principles). Business conservatives? Well he appeals to them just fine, even attracting some neocon elites to the party–but all he has over Clinton in that area is that he is not literally her. Anti-war liberals? Probably won’t intervene, unless there’s a good reason to. Like that movie I saw about this guy in Africa do you know they have child soldiers we have to do something about this oneNon-regressives? He shows no more willingness to talk about the threat from Islamic extremists than Clinton does, and he parrots the same accusations of racism that make free discussion of these issues impossible. And Sanders supporters? He refuses to discuss the corruption of the party that colluded to suppress them and calls the figurehead of this corrupt system a wonderful public servant.

          Almost every strategic decision Johnson and Weld make is misguided, and it leads to a situation where this is the impression curious people get of what our ideology and/or movement are. I watched the ninety-second video; and I have absolutely no idea what this ticket is about, except that it is running against two others, one of which is bad and the other of which is pretty alright anyway.

          *Also, if the “nipple thing” mentioned was that “free the nipples” image, I believe that was coming from the camp closer to Johnson, and it was mostly the so-called “purists” that I experienced rolling their eyes at it and wondering where the LP’s priorities were. It was at the LP conference that we got a striptease, not at Mises U or YalCon or something.

          TL:DR he doesn’t represent the libertarian alternative all that well; he barely represents an alternative at all

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            Thanks: I don’t think you could have said everything that needed saying there in a shorter screed, and it’s exactly the impression he intuitively gave me as a total outsider to libertarianism.

            …Kony2012, seriously?!
            WTF kind of total entryism happened to the libertarian party?! I thought you guys constantly mocked the #WeNeedaHashtag types?

          • onyomi says:

            I didn’t read all this because… more paragraph breaks, please.

            I will just say that I am a big Ron Paul fan and I’d be thrilled if he were the LP’s nominee right now, or if his son would stick to principle more like he did. I am also definitely not a lukewarm libertarian. I am an ancap for ethical reasons first and foremost.

            That said, I think it’s a mistake to say “not as good as Ron Paul=not worth supporting.” My litmus test is just “significantly better than the alternatives on the issue that matter to me,” and I think Johnson passes here with flying colors.

            Also, yes he is aiming much more at progressives and other Blue Tribe types much more than Ron Paul did, and is inherently more in their camp (marijuana, gay marriage). But that’s a good thing. Ron Paul, for all his successes, didn’t make many inroads with that crowd. And, sadly, Trump is currently capturing a lot of the alt-rightish vote to whom Paul, for better or worse, tended to appeal, at least this go round. This seems to be the election to try to skim off some Bernie Bros, though hopefully some of the more mainstreamish “never Trump” Republicans will give Johnson a second look, too.

            As for the general question of whether a pragmatic, “reasonable-sounding” approach or a principled, hard-line approach is a better strategy for an LP candidate at this time, I’m not sure. I’d like Johnson to take more unambiguously strong libertarian stances, but keep in mind he’s trying not to scare away the aforementioned progressives, and that may be a good thing.

            Regardless, my point is: Johnson may not be exactly the type of libertarian I am and he may not be running the type of campaign I’d run, but he still is a libertarian with experience as a governor who is running and who is getting national attention right now with the result of people who might not previously have seriously looked at libertarianism doing so. I think, as libertarians, we ought not to undercut him at such a moment, but should rather try to capitalize on it as much as possible by supporting him.

            And if your formerly progressive friend ends up voting Johnson, well then maybe you want to give him some Mises or Huemer to read.

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            On the whole, you are right, Zaxlebaxes. Garry Johnson is not even a remotely good Libertarian candidate.

            But he is a NOT TERRIBLE PERSON who calls himself a Libertarian in a race where he is under no circumstance going to win in any case. He just needs to stay alive and avoid biting the heads off of any small animals long enough to make a respectable showing in November so that “Libertarian” gets firmly anchored in the minds of the American public as the third political tendency along with “Progressive” and “Conservative”.

            This is really all I hope for. I want the idea of NOT USING GOVERNMENT to be one of the options considered when people think about and discuss issues of the day. I don’t believe that a super-empowered Libertarian party could take power and change things, because I don’t regard it as possible for government to be a means to change society in any constructive way without incurring intolerably greater negative secondary effects.

            There is a basic idea of “Progressivism”, basically: “All people in the world are of equal moral worth and so humans should collectively implement whatever social and technological arrangements will result in the greatest equality and comfort for all people impartially.”

            There is a basic idea of “Conservatism”*, basically: “Most problems in human society are not new and have been addressed successfully in the past. Absent affirmative proof that a new practice or value is superior, society should privilege the existing practices and values or restore ones known to have succeeded in the past.”

            I believe that there is a basic idea of “Libertarianism” as well. Not the NAP, not Austrian economics, certainly not Objectivism, these are all related but non-essential. The basic idea is more or less what I stated above: “Human societies are more like an ecosystem than an engineering project; self regulation through naturally arising feedback mechanisms produce far more stable flourishing than can be achieved by consciously applied social structures. Attempts to shape society into some theorized optimum configuration are always a losing proposition from the standpoint of the long term survival and stability of that society.”

            The reason I think that these are the essential concepts of each tendency is because there is a natural progression of attitude towards politics which an intelligent and interested but not strongly aligned person will tend to follow in the process of maturing. In the youngest, earliest stages of thinking about politics, the natural tendency is towards Progressivism: This approach treats society and it’s institutions as objects to be shaped: First decide what the final shape should be, then cut/bend/glue as necessary to make the world fit the desired shape.

            After seeing the above fail miserably enough times, some fraction of people move on the Conservatism: They realize that not all conceivable shapes are necessarily achievable, and so believe the best course is to select a more desirable form from those known to have been successful in the past. Alternatively, just defend against the latest project of the Progressives.

            This of course fails as well, and so some subset of Conservatives then proceed to Libertarianism: Recognizing that what worked in the past did so because it arose with minimal or no intervention from people’s free adaptation to their environment, the wisest course is to allow people the widest range of experimentation with the fewest artificial incentives or safeguards.

            So when I talk about “vaguely lefty ideologues” “constantly blathering about the NAP.”, I am referring to the libertarian activists which I find to be most counterproductive in disseminating the basic mindset of the Libertarian tendency.

            A common belief of one group is that some combination of non-authoritarian parenting, alternative medicine, breastfeeding, un-schooling, polyamory, and new age spiritual practice will raise a generation of inherently non-aggressive people who will be the seed of a society-wide consciouness raising.

            Another overlapping set wants to always discuss the most far-out and potentially off-putting implications of a stateless society like the minutiae of how DROs might hypothetically work or how statutory rape would totally not be forbidden, right guys?

            Yet another set seems to be mostly interested in reenacting late 60’s protest culture by doing whatever “activism” is most visible regardless of whether it makes sense. This might mean harassing meter maids or chalking peace/love type messages in random locations.

            A final set are basically reasonable issue-driven activists who put all of their efforts into proselytizing ideas which have already basically won in the public mind, like gay marriage and pot legalization.

            All these groups seem “vaguely lefty” to me, none of them appear to accomplish much in terms of changing overall attitudes in society, and the members of these libertarian subgroups are mostly opposed to Johnson for ideological purity reasons.

            * I don’t think that Republicans are strictly conservatives, mind you, I think of them more as a grab bag of non-Liberals. But “Republican” and “Democrat” aren’t political tendencies in their own right

          • onyomi says:

            This seems a very good overview, though I’m sure non-libertarians might tend to disagree with the Hegelian sense in which libertarianism seems to be the fusion of the best parts of the other two (though, as Scott says, no rung on the contrarian, meta-contrarian, meta-meta-contrarian ladder is inherently superior).

            It also may explain why Republicans can look at Gary Johnson and see a Democrat, while Democrats look at him and see a Republican. The Democrats say “you seem rather in favor of very basic, traditional institutions and very opposed to discarding them or trying out new ones… you must be… Conservative!”

            The Republicans look and say “you seem to have little respect for hierarchy and family values, and to the extent you respect tradition, you like to pick and choose which ones you want to respect and which to discard… you must be… Liberal!”

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            I think though that you can be indifferent to a position’s place on the “contrarian, meta-contrarian, meta-meta-contrarian ladder” only in so far as these positions are a series of arguments for or against some thing. In the end they evaluate to two positions: For or Against.

            My definitions of political tendencies are directed and acyclic. One does not become an (intelligent) Conservative without first being an (intelligent) Progressive. Likewise an (intelligent) Libertarian must have passed through each in sequence.

            A lot of SV-style libertarians and the lefty liberty fringe I have been complaining about skip the middle step of Conservatism. That’s why they never get beyond espousing some prescriptive ethical formula or hewing libertarian on specific issues to the point that they develop consistently libertarian political instincts.

            This leads to a “Libertarianism” in which actual liberty is merely an instrumental value in achieving some Progressive project like “Reduce regulation in order to speed up technological advancement so as to bring on post-scarcity”. The moment such a person comes to believe that post-scarcity can be brought on more surely by Bernie-style kindly totalitarianism or FAI-Totalitarianism or whatever, they will favor that.

            The mindset is still “cut/bend/glue society into the desired shape”, just with “Free Markets” or “The NAP” as labels for obscure types of scissors or pliers.

          • onyomi says:

            Similarly, I don’t think one becomes a really good leftist without going through libertarianism. Scott, for example, is kind of left wing on my scale, but at least he acknowledges that markets work, central planning has unintended consequences, etc. Some leftists hand wave this away by saying “markets fail,” or “corporations aren’t accountable,” but I think they’d fail the libertarian Turing test.

            That said, I’m kind of rigging the game by saying “you can’t be a good leftist without first admitting capitalism is the greatest generator of wealth and prosperity in human history,” but well, that is just my opinion. Similarly, I’d say you can’t be a good libertarian without admitting some of the premises of conservatism and progressivism, either.

          • Ruprect says:

            Yeah, but um… I mean, my understanding was that Karl Marx was pretty clear on capitalism being a powerful force for increased production – and that he didn’t say very much about market mechanisms (as a means of information exchange) at all.
            The fundamental question with (internet discussions of) markets: are they advantageous because of their ability to communicate information, or because of some fundamental motivation to be a good capitalist?

            Are we conflating markets with capitalism?

            Seems like most leftists have very little to say about markets as information exchange, and most libertarians are keenest on markets for reasons of motivation.
            So the disagreement is about motivation – I don’t think you have to accept the libertarian view on this to be a good leftist.

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            Scott, for example, is kind of left wing on my scale, but at least he acknowledges that markets work, central planning has unintended consequences, etc.

            I guess on my scale, this does not speak to Scott having “gone through” being a Libertarian so much as his being an Intelligent Progressive as opposed to merely a progressive.

            Whatever tendency one sides with, markets do work and central planning does have unintended consequences. The comments I made a couple of days ago about political tribes are just as true about tendencies of thought; people of all levels of sophistication can rally to the same banner. To even participate in adult conversations about politics, a person has to be able to recognize clearly observable facts such as these, and plenty of Progressives pass this test.

            It’s true that there are (not intelligent) Progressives who seem to think that all the goodies they intend to redistribute are just there ex nihilo and so require no explanation of their provenance. Likewise, there are (not intelligent) Libertarians who think that some singular change like a reimplementation of the gold standard will of itself usher in boundless growth and prosperity.

            But in the case of Scott, ideas like “Moloch” seem to indicate that he has an aversion to accepting a future where developments in the macro structure of society and sweep of history are not under conscious, coordinated human guidance.

          • onyomi says:

            Yes, I didn’t mean you have to have, at some point, been a libertarian to be a good leftist, but I think you have to at least understand libertarianism to some degree.

          • onyomi says:

            @Ruprect,

            Capitalism and free markets are sometimes used interchangeably, though, both by their opponents and proponents.

            A problem does arise, however, when most of what opponents of “capitalism” criticize falls under the rubric of what pro-capitalist/free marketeers would call “crony capitalism.” There are both strawman and “no true Scotsman” tendencies, here, I think: strawman in that most of what leftists criticize when they criticize “capitalism” isn’t something most libertarians advocate; “no true Scotsman” in that libertarians may tend to shrug off even legitimate critiques of privatization and free markets as never being “real capitalism.”

      • Chalid says:

        Are libertarians less enthusiastic about Johnson than Democrats are about Clinton or Republicans are about Trump?

        • Randy M says:

          Is there analogous reason why they should have similar reservations? Both parties are rather bitterly divided about the nominee at the moment (to different extents, granted).

          • Chalid says:

            Nah. I just wanted to point out that Democrats and Republicans don’t need their bases to be especially enthusiastic in order to raise hundreds of millions of dollars.

        • I think libertarians (strong sense–people who self-identify as libertarian) are unhappy with how watered down Gary Johnson’s current position is, but many of them can see the tactical reasons behind the watering down and view it as an understandable, perhaps even correct, choice under current circumstances. I don’t think a very large proportion of libertarians have the sort of strong negative view of the candidate that a large number of Republicans have of Trump or Democrats of Clinton.

          • Bruce Beegle says:

            I consider Johnson to be the best of a sad bunch, but I won’t vote for someone running under the Libertarian party who takes anti-libertarian positions on a number of major issues. If I do vote this year, I will do the same thing I did in 2008: leave the presidential slot blank.

    • Muh Roads says:

      Aren’t libertarians supposed to be good at math?

      Buying the political equivalent of a lottery ticket is a very poor purchasing decision.

      • gbdub says:

        Every national-level vote is the equivalent of a lottery ticket. Might as well enter the raffle with the prize you like the most.

      • eh says:

        I’m not sure how it works in the US, but for me, voting in a recent election involved a pleasant 10 minute walk through some parkland, standing in line with friends making jokes about the candidates, ticking a couple of boxes, then eating a reasonably priced sausage in bread and chatting with a lady who was selling knitted hats for charity. It also let said group of friends bond over their shared political tribe.

        That is to say, while the actual vote was irrelevant, the process of voting was so fun that it was probably worth the opportunity cost of half an hour on Saturday.

    • cassander says:

      The tea party accomplished more in 5 years than the libertarian party has in almost 50. Can we please learn from these experiences and abandon the foolishness of a new party?

      • onyomi says:

        What, policy-wise, has the Tea Party accomplished?

        • anon says:

          A valid question. To steelman cassander’s claim, I would point to:

          * removal of Boehner from power
          * that Obamacare needs to be repealed (and “replaced” whatever that means) became and remains a core GOP plank
          * despite everything else that’s happened, GOP control over the House remains solid
          * the sequester

          None of these are much to write home about from a libertarian perspective (at least in terms of substantial, long-term advances of the agenda), but they’re not nothing.

          And it’s noteworthy that since a new Enemy arose, there’s not really a strong leftist backlash against the libertarian/Constitutionalist component of the Tea Party per se. Indeed, even assholes like Cruz are viewed as “respectable” opposition relative to Trump. In the ashes of the Second Civil War, as we attempt to rebuild this great nation, one can hope that kulaks and insufficiently pure progressives who survived their time in the gulag won’t hold pre-war political squabbles against the intelligent, well-armed Tea Party Battalion leaders (Amash, Massie, and Paul) who freed them.

          • cassander says:

            Those are precisely the achievements I’d have claimed. I might also add the second debt ceiling showdown, not because it achieved anything, it didn’t, but because it showed a high degree of influence over the party as a whole.

          • onyomi says:

            But all those things are basically symbolic! Obamacare hasn’t been repealed or replaced, and probably won’t be, at least not by the GOP. All they seem to have done is to make a more intransigent personal style a la Ted Cruz (who lost the nomination) acceptable or even necessary among GOP grandstanders, who still manage not to actually do anything significant, despite now holding Senate and House majorities.

          • hlynkacg says:

            The fact that they didn’t win, doesn’t change the fact that they were able to get their candidates elected, keep their candidates elected, and challenge/influence the established parties at the national level.

            That’s a lot farther than any other would-be third party has gotten in the last 50 years.

          • onyomi says:

            But, as David Friedman points out, the purpose of third parties in America may not be to explicitly win, but to grab enough of the vote that they force the major parties to start adopting their platform.

            This is why I think all the grumpy articles telling the libertarians to come back when they’ve won every statehouse and school board are missing the point: the best likely* outcome for the libertarians isn’t that the LP literally replaces either the GOP or the Dems at the national level, but that the GOP and the Dems, over time, adopt more and more of their planks.

            *That said, a serious crackup of the GOP as an institution, with the conceivable result of them no longer being one of the two major parties, in name, at some time in the not-too-distant future, is looking a lot more likely of late than before.

          • hlynkacg says:

            America may not be to explicitly win, but to grab enough of the vote that they force the major parties to start adopting their platform.

            …and this is exactly what the tea party did.

            I would say that the grumpy article writers have correctly identified the LP’s problem which is that aside from running for president every four years they don’t really do much to build their organization, brand, or stable of candidates.

            The Tea Party on the other hand showed an early focus on local and state level politics that allowed them to build the infrastructure and connections needed to challenge established party candidates at the national level.

          • onyomi says:

            Well, the weird thing about the Tea Party is that I don’t think they can be wholly separated from libertarianism, as they started out kind of libertarian, and drew much of whatever intellectual firepower they may have had from mostly libertarianish (in a John Lockean sort of way) principles. They got kind of brain dead and confused like Occupy Wall Street, and also sort of absorbed by the mainstream GOP, but to some extent, I think any victory the Tea Party has had in shifting the Overton Window, if not actually changing policies much yet, may be partially attributable to libertarianism, as, say, early victories of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party may have owed more than was obvious to socialists, even though the US Socialist Party never won any major elections.

          • cassander says:

            >Well, the weird thing about the Tea Party is that I don’t think they can be wholly separated from libertarianism, as they started out kind of libertarian, and drew much of whatever intellectual firepower they may have had from mostly libertarianish (in a John Lockean sort of way) principles.

            I agree, which is why comparing them to the Libertarian party is instructive. people with vaguely similar desires tried two approaches, and of the two, within the republican party has proved more successful in moving it than trying to play spoiler has.

          • onyomi says:

            I feel like this is sort of the fallacy of: “weightlifting is more effective than running; therefore, any time spent weightlifting would be better spent running.”

            The relevant comparison is not always just doing more of the most effective thing; sometimes it’s nothing. Like, last go-round Gary Johnson ran for the GOP nomination, but achieved little traction, though Ron Paul did gain some. This time, he’s gaining more traction running in the LP than he probably could have running in the GOP, just given the competition and where the GOP is right now.

          • hlynkacg says:

            It seems to me that you are loosing sight of the objective.

            Which goal takes precedence? Electing Garry Johnson as president? Or increasing the influence and visibility of libertarian thought? If the latter, being able to develop and maintain a solid “ground game” is a lot more important that who sits in the oval office.

          • LHN says:

            I agree, which is why comparing them to the Libertarian party is instructive. people with vaguely similar desires tried two approaches, and of the two, within the republican party has proved more successful in moving it than trying to play spoiler has.

            Successful in wielding power, but arguably not in making the GOP more libertarian. That may reflect one difference in the two approaches: one conserves the motivating principle at the expense of gaining much traction, the other gains adherents at the expense of mutating into what’s necessary to be appealing. The latter is, understandably, more attractive to aspiring politicians and political operatives. Less so to people whose primary concern is content.

            Clearly some amount of adaptation and compromise is necessary to accomplish anything and build coalitions, and there’s a pretty strong argument to be made that the LP’s inclination that way is below the necessary threshold. (Given that Johnson’s own heresies make a vocal segment of the party suspicious of him. Though they did nominate him anyway.)

            But if something like the Tea Party, by its nature, can’t be expected to coherently retain libertarianish inclinations, that’s not especially useful for someone who want to use it as a vehicle for systemic reform, rather than a personal career path.

          • cassander says:

            >Successful in wielding power, but arguably not in making the GOP more libertarian.

            The tea party being more libertarian that the gop as a whole, wielding power almost be definition odds doing that. And the sequestration, which actually cut a small bit of public spending, is the most libertarianish thing to pass in years.

            The libertarian party, by contrast, has done what actual results in recent years? I think you have the career own backwards. The party is great of you want a comfortable, irrelevant career, it’s useless if you want actual policy.

          • LPSP says:

            But, as David Friedman points out, the purpose of third parties in America may not be to explicitly win, but to grab enough of the vote that they force the major parties to start adopting their platform.

            Pretty much how UKIP works.

          • anon says:

            LPSP’s example of UKIP is an excellent illustration of D.F.’s theory. But not necessary a strong piece of evidence for generalizing to the American system, of course.

          • John Schilling says:

            LPSP’s example of UKIP is an excellent illustration of D.F.’s theory. But not necessary a strong piece of evidence for generalizing to the American system, of course.

            The evidence that this works in the American system is the Socialist Party. Whose platform of ~100 years ago is now almost wholly incorporated into the platform of the Democratic party and accepted as stuff that can’t be changed and shouldn’t be talked about by the Republican Party.

          • anon says:

            @Schilling, good Moldbuggian point.

            It’s interesting, and maybe tangentially related, to see UK left wingers debating entryism as enthusiastically as the alt-right does.

          • anon says:

            @Schilling, a good observation that has been previously pointed out by Voldemort.

          • Aaron Brown says:

            @anon:

            And people before him, e.g., Milton and Rose Friedman in Free to Choose (1980).

          • anon says:

            +1 @AaronBrown. I read Free to Choose about 13 years ago, but I didn’t recall that passage when I (re)encountered the observation in Voldemort’s writings.

          • I almost certainly got the idea from my father.

  7. onyomi says:

    Does anyone ever feel like major elections act as a kind of misinformation gathering or obfuscating process, on net?

    Like, the standard line about elections is that candidates need to be “vetted”–that voters need to “learn” more about them before they can make an informed decision. But I’m not only not convinced that much of what goes on during elections actually furthers this goal, I even feel like the net result is people having a less clear view of the people in question. In some cases people are genuinely surprised to learn that e. g. Bob Dole and John Kerry are smart, interesting, competent people, after elections destroyed their image.

    A case in point: is Hillary Clinton’s health something we, as voters, should be genuinely concerned about (though to some extent that also depends on what you think of Kaine)? If you listen to mostly left-leaning outlets it would probably never even occur to you: of course she’s totally fine and there’s no reason to even think about it. If you listen to mostly right-leaning outlets you’d think she was at death’s door. My best guess is that the truth is somewhere in between, but really, I have no better idea about this than before the election season began–maybe a less accurate idea.

    Not to go all Malcolm Gladwell, but, given that very few voters conduct in-depth research on policy and candidates’ real positions on policy, might they not be better off just voting for whomever they first thought to vote for before the whole dog and pony show began?

    • Orphan Wilde says:

      Part of the issue is that you think the media is there to educate, rather than entertain.

      We’re electing entertainers. If you think about it, that’s pretty much all that could happen, given Democracy and sufficient time.

    • In some cases people are genuinely surprised to learn that e. g. Bob Dole and John Kerry are smart, interesting, competent people, after elections destroyed their image.

      This isn’t just the national media, it’s part of the psychology of elections, at all levels, right down to the most local.

      If you lose, or are losing, it’s YOUR FAULT. In fact, it reflects badly on your competence and worthiness as a human being. The people (who were) on your side are the most vocal, pinning the blame for the defeat on you personally, your personal weaknesses, your failure to do this or that specific thing (depending on the agenda of the person doing the blaming). Whatever mistakes were made were yours alone; your advisors and campaign people disclaim all responsibility.

      The closer the election, the worse it is, because a narrow margin gives surface credence to the notion that IF ONLY you had been smart enough to actually DO that allegedly critical thing, or avoid making that alleged tactical error, it would have made ALL the difference.

      Of course, on the other side, winning means you’re a genius. Winning means you were right all along. Whatever stupid things you did were just part of the plan. Nobody is ever portrayed as blundering their way to accidental victory, even if they did.

      I’ve been on both sides of this coin, and as Richard Nixon said, winning is better. But there are equal helpings of bullshit on both sides.

      • Jill says:

        Very true. Someone in this election was winning in polls for months on end, perhaps only by calling himself a winner over and over again, so much that some people started believing it.

        In the U.S. culture, we have a worship of winners in career, money, politics. We love the underdog too, but only when he is winning. Until then, he gets no respect.

        Of course everyone would rather win than lose. It’s just that in the U.S. people are seen, by themselves and others, as fundamentally different and of higher quality, at that very moment when they begin winning.

        • Nornagest says:

          If I recall correctly, Trump was only leading in polls against Clinton for a couple days right after the Republican convention. And that only by a point or two. It was big news when they approached parity, in fact!

          He’s always held the biggest share of the Republican vote, but that is not at all the same thing.

          • Jill says:

            You are right. It was the Republican polls he was leading in. Perhaps Republicans, on average, believe more fervently in the Divinity of Winners religion, than many other Americans do.

          • Loquat says:

            Or the other Republican candidates just weren’t very well liked.

          • Perhaps Republicans, on average, believe more fervently in the Divinity of Winners religion, than many other Americans do.

            No, after more than 40 years in politics, and involvement in Democratic campaigns at the local, state, and national level, I am quite sure that the adoration of winners and disdain for losers is omnipartisan.

          • Trump won the Republican nomination. Clinton won the Democratic nomination. Quite a lot of prominent Republicans are refusing, more or less explicitly, to support Trump. I haven’t noticed any prominent Democrats refusing to support Clinton.

            Which you could take as evidence that Democrats are more inclined to worship winners. Not very good evidence, given all the other relevant differences, but at least as good as yours in the other direction.

            A more plausible claim is that Democrats, at least in this election, are more willing to defer to the central authority of their party. Clinton was supported by the party machinery and won, Trump was opposed by the party machinery and won. And when a candidate from outside the party structure gets nominated, it isn’t surprising that a good deal of those in that structure have reservations.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            Or you could take it as evidence that prominent Republicans and prominent Democrats actually agree on an important subset of positions, and that they both judge Trump inadequate based on those positions and they judge Clinton as adequate.

            If Roseanne Barr managed to snag a Democratic nomination, you would see the same kind agreement.

    • Exit Stage Right says:

      The question as I understand it is, do you trust your first impression over the impression you have after being exposed to what you know are a bunch of propaganda/misinformation machines?

      I mean, the machine is still providing you with knowledge you don’t have access to on first impression, its just heavily curating which knowledge you get access to and how its presented/pieced together as a narrative. If you can process the information, without accepting the narrative, and with serious reflection on how imporant the information youre being presented actually is in context, maybe you survive the machine and come out the other side with a better judgment?

      Though yeah, the point of the machine is that its hard for people to do this. Usually, if you stick your head into it, your brain is getting fried.

    • erenold says:

      I think you’re absolutely correct, onyomi.

      I’m working on a semi-coherent shower thought bouncing around my head at the moment – that democracy fails, and necessarily fails, because it applies the adversarial process to a problem which is better solved by an inquisitorial one.

      Who is worse, Clinton or Trump? Corbyn or May? Who really knows, anyway? Has Clinton killed someone in the past? Has Trump paid zero taxes in previous years? Did Benghazi do that one thing which someone something somewhere? The marketplace of ideas fails for the same reason the thirteen-digit-USD world of Coke v Pepsi advertising fails at telling me which is actually better, viz., both parties are so vigorously engaged in shit-flinging that the only person who wins is the person with no paper trail whatsoever. Like 2008’s Obama, who arguably would have voted for the Iraq war if he was in a position to do so.

      Contrast an inquisitorial system whereby you work with a stable of colleagues in a closed system, within which the collective wisdom of people who actually know your character, calibre and quality is pooled together to make leadership decisions. Something like the College of Cardinals, I guess.

      As is probably clear, this is a half-baked thought I need to thrash out more fully, though. And my opinion is probably worth less than it would otherwise be because I’m not a democrat and never have been.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        That sounds a lot like most Communist countries. I’m guessing that isn’t what you were going for?

        This seems like one of those “kick the cans down the road and assume the conclusion” kinds of arguments. You posit that you can solve the potential problem of an unqualified president by assuming into existence a board of qualified investigators.

        • erenold says:

          This seems like one of those “kick the cans down the road and assume the conclusion” kinds of arguments. You posit that you can solve the potential problem of an unqualified president by assuming into existence a board of qualified investigators.

          No, you’re absolutely right, it does – probably because it is indeed shallow and half-formed. But I’m not sure about Communist – the cadre system is certainly not unique to them. Totalitarian, or at least authoritarian, certainly.

          I really do think the Papacy is on to something, though. When you think about it, it’s an institution with remarkable institutional longevity as well as intellectual fidelity to a core mission. Admittedly, there’s been drift over time, but the institution is still recognizably the same as it was even a thousand years ago. That’s a dynamic that I would like to capture in my political utopia.

          • Jiro says:

            The papacy’s system only works in producing popes less corrupt than the President because popes have little power nowadays. Back when popes had power, the same system produced popes more corrupt than any president today.

          • erenold says:

            You don’t think assets of about USD $1b are worth being corrupt for? I get shaken down for USD 1 in many countries.

            No, this can’t be remotely enough of an explanation. They’re doing something right.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            The Papacy has a very good system of making sure the people high up in its ranks are more loyal to the institution than to themselves: to have even a sliver of a chance of one day becoming anything approaching important, you have to renounce your chances of ever having (legally binding) offspring and declare your loyalty to the church. It turns out that those people willing to not have families in return for holding rank will generally turn out to be less self-interested than average.

          • Jill says:

            Either that or their self interest is all about power, not offspring. Historically, many bishops have had “nieces” and “nephews.” So one only must give up admitting you have offspring.

        • “That sounds a lot like most Communist countries.”

          In particular, like China after Mao’s death. Which worked out pretty well. The elite consisted of a bunch of smart people with a wildly wrong theory and generally good intentions. And they blundered their way into policies that produced an enormous improvement in the welfare of those they ruled—possibly the largest increase in total utility that has ever occurred in that short a time period.

          • Jiro says:

            If your own policies are exceptionally bad, it’s much easier for your successors to be an improvement, for obvious reasons.

      • Mr. Breakfast says:

        Contrast an inquisitorial system whereby you work with a stable of colleagues in a closed system, within which the collective wisdom of people who actually know your character, calibre and quality is pooled together to make leadership decisions.

        I think we have something like this in place already. Call it broadly “The Elite Institutions”. This is the network of private schools, universities, “Young X” political societies, dining clubs, greek organizations, law firms, consulting firms, NGOs, large industrial and financial employers, main stream media outlets, political parties, etc. The real services all of these institutions provide are vetting members through the close contact with established members over a long period of time, as well as coordination of the Overton Window.

        This network traditionally got to decide the first cut of candidates to be offered in the election process, which probably made it more feasible to have issues rather than character be the focus of political campaigns. But of course, public trust for the Elite Institutions has been eroding rapidly in the past few years with the results we are currently seeing.

        • erenold says:

          The ‘Cathedral’ will do fine, I think.

          I think you raise a good point – and certainly in the UK one sees something very close to an explicit version of this, whereby you can look at the Oxford’s graduating PPE cohort for any given year and know that you’re seeing more than a few MPs, captains of industry, possibly even a PM, down to the journalists that will report on their doings. Famously, Cameron and Johnson were contemporaries at Eton and Oxford – it was widely agreed by their peers that Johnson was the brainier one, but less reliable and “steady”. And so, indeed, has it proved.

          Which brings me to the point I make below – this way of doing things, whatever its faults, appears to have the advantage of a superior information-gathering process to a purely democratic one.

          (btw: sorry for the substantive edits after the reply!)

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            The problem with “The Cathedral” is the conspiracy-like overtones.

            Everybody has always known that these were THE elite institutions and that this is how they worked. “The Cathedral” invites one to speculate that they are doing something deeper, more coordinated, or more ominous than what they claim to be doing on the surface. Many conclude that, but it is an extra step beyond what is necessary for this comment.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            “doing something deeper, more coordinated”

            I believe the claim is that their behaviour doesn’t need to be any more coordinated than, say, that of a flu virus. That it spontaneously emerges from self-interest without any need for a guiding conspiracy.
            I’ll definitely grant you “ominous” though.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Part of the point of the cathedral is that it isn’t a conspiracy per se. It’s the upper crust of society being trapped in a feed back loop of trying to be more upper crust.

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            @Homo Iracundus @hlynkacg:

            Even so, “The Cathedral” is intentionally pitched to be evocative of secret knowledge revealed by the author. Add to this the original source and history of use of the term, and it carries with it a bunch of connotation that I don’t want or need.

            My point is that if you asked an average middle-class person in 19xx why so many presidents, senators, and heads of big businesses are alumni of the same few educational institutions and belong to the same organizations, I think they would readily tell you some version of “Well that’s how our society figures out who is solid and trustworthy enough to hold power.”

            And anyway, aren’t the Death Eaters circling around to the position that groups of successful, serious-minded individuals ought to consciously shape each other’s character and thereby confer legitimacy on long-term members? If a [federation of responsible clubs] is the natural way for legitimacy to be allocated in a society, then isn’t a flat, generic-sounding term like “The Elite Institutions” more useful than a term that implicitly identifies this federation as an aberration of late-phase democracy?

      • The general problem is chosing your council and keeping it honest.

        • erenold says:

          Very well. Let me concede arguendo that all things being equal, an authoritarian/oligarchical country is more likely to be corrupt than a democracy. That is not my lived experience nor my reading of history (all 5000 years of it, not merely the premodern and modern ages), but let me concede this point for now.

          Even then, I submit that the incentives of a extractive, crooked council are 1) to extract resources and 2) do so indefinitely. Examples of loot-thoroughly-and-run governments are not the norm, and are more indicative of a thoroughly failed state for which democracy would be an equally bad process. Far more common are Marcos-Phillippines/Soeharto-Indonesia types, for whom long-term extraction is the objective, leading to an alignment of incentives with the host nation – as Fnargl observes, after all, if he grows the pie, there’s more to skim off the top in the long run.

          Going back to onyomi’s original, perceptive point, it’s not obvious to me that votes in a democracy necessarily add value to the process. Very few electors have any firsthand experience of the calibre or capability of the people they elect. Which gives ultimate power, eventually, to the shapers of public images – the news media, primarily, but also the Axelrods, Roves, Lynton Crosbys and Alastair Campbells of the world. What is the point of that? Where is the connection between the ability to craft a compelling, attractive public image and the ability to actually govern well?

          Contrast this to a oligarchy where the elite – chosen by meritocracy, ideally – know each other thoroughly, have observed each other working their way up the ranks of the civil service. Which, OK, maybe it takes a tenth of every transaction or something. But there’s nowhere to hide. If you’re incompetent, or more spectacularly bent than is otherwise acceptable, people will know; if you’re likely to be such a disaster that everybody’s 10% is going to be imperilled, you can bet they’d do something about your continued advancement. Their opinions have weight because they’re not based on what carefully crafted PR campaigns tell them, but actual personal observations.

          Does any of this make sense, or am I still flailing in the dark? Probably the latter.

          • Who wouldn't want to be anonymous says:

            The problem is when the leader intends to retool the system for the benefit of a subset of the oligarchy. Civil war can be nasty.

  8. Rock Lobster says:

    I want to read some William Blake but don’t know how to begin. I’d like to start with the more famous stuff and then go on to the lesser-known stuff if I like it, but I’m getting the sense that Blake isn’t really a writer where you can just crack open the book, start reading, and go, “Oh that was a neat poem.” It’s more like, “What on earth is going on here?” So basically:

    1) is there some kind of Blakean mythos that needs to be read in a proper order?

    2) Are there pre-requisite readings that are needed for a modern person to understand Blake’s writing beyond just the usual stuff? (Usual stuff meaning the Bible, Shakespeare, and Greek mythology. I’m talking about more specific explanatory works).

    3) What about all the illuminated books?

    Thanks in advance for any help.

    • Anon. says:

      Songs of Innocence and Experience, and The Marriage of Heaven and Hell are fairly straight-forward and don’t interact with his mythology like his other works. You can jump right in. Basically everything is illuminated.

      “Companion” books are quite helpful with Blake, you might want to check out William Blake: His Philosophy And Symbols or A Blake Dictionary: The Ideas and Symbols of William Blake.

    • Zoop says:

      I agree Songs and Marriage are the best place to start, and a companion book would be helpful, since even in the early mythos books (Thel, Daughters of Albion, America, Europe, etc.) Blake doesn’t really bother to clearly/easily introduce who anybody is; they’re just so of there. Nevertheless, it does help to read those books before reading Milton, Jerusalem, or Vala. For me personally, reading any long Blake poem means agreeing to read it at least a few times before making any sense of it. It’s honestly not that fun starting out. The Norton Critical edition “Blake’s Poetry and Designs” is pretty helpful.

      If you want to look at the illuminated books (as illuminated books), check out http://www.blakearchive.org/blake/. Sometimes the visuals and poetry play off of each other, but most of the time I’d wager you’re not missing that much reading just the text.

      I would also suggest reading his uncollected short poems (like in the Pickering Manuscript), especially “The Crystal Cabinet” and “The Mental Traveler.” Those two sum up quite a few of his ideas pretty succinctly.

    • Rock Lobster says:

      Not sure if either of you will see this since this thread is getting a bit stale, but thanks for your help. I went to the library and picked up a copy of The Complete Poetry and Prose, as well as The Complete Illuminated Books. I also have an e-copy of A Blake Dictionary and am going at it with those. I’m not that into Songs of Innocence and of Experience but I’m enjoying The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. I’m sure there’s a lot of material going over my head, but I don’t mind that.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Agreed with everyone else who recommends starting with Songs and Marriage. The mythology is incredibly chaotic and complicated, and Blake will frequently change his mind about who characters are and what they’re doing at random times and then continue onward as if nothing has happened. I would recommend either just reading them for the “music”, or reading them alongside a Wikipedia summary (or professional commentary) to get what’s going on.

  9. Aapje says:

    I recently stumbled upon this evidence that Hillary has severe medical issues, including seizures and overreactions to stress.

    To my non-medical eye, it does look pretty bad. Do you guys agree?

    • suntzuanime says:

      I do not really have confidence in Mike Cernovich’s intellectual honesty.

      • Aapje says:

        I’m not asking about his commentary, but about the actual videos, which do not seem altered or missing context that would explain it.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          The first video shows, as the title suggests, Hillary being momentarily flustered by protesters who had breached a barrier at a rally.

          The second video is taken out of context; in context it’s clear that she’s making a joke.

          As the Washington Post dryly notes, “The reporters, who had covered Clinton for a year, interpreted her exaggerated head-bobbing as a joke at how she’d been suddenly surrounded — and as a successful attempt at ending the scrum. It did not occur to them that it would become seen as evidence of a “seizure,” as people suffering from seizures do not typically laugh and continue to hold cups of coffee.”

          You should feel ashamed for repeating tabloid filth.

          • Aapje says:

            The first video shows, as the title suggests, Hillary being momentarily flustered by protesters who had breached a barrier at a rally.

            There is a difference between being flustered and freezing up. I’ve seen people who were unsure how to handle a situation, but that’s not what I see happening here, she actually froze up.

            The handler does some very obvious coaching to get her back into gear, including patting her back and telling her to “keep talking”. She repeats the latter and then seems to recover. I think that it is very telling how quickly the handler intervenes, this is clearly not the first time he had to do this. The only thing that is missing is video of the protester(s) so we can assess whether such a reaction could be reasonable, but it seems unlikely. Even then, the fast reaction by the handler strongly suggests that this is not rare behavior for Clinton.

            The second video is taken out of context; in context it’s clear that she’s making a joke.

            Look at the video, she does it twice. Once in an extreme way with her eyes closed, then she laughs and then she does it again more briefly with her eyes open. That is classic ‘turn it into a joke’ behavior.

            I’ve done it myself, first I did something that made me look bad, then I pretended it was a joke and did it again in an obviously intentional way to ‘overwrite’ the initial observation by onlookers.

            In the video, you can see one reporter being really surprised or even scared before she goes along with Clinton and her people laughing it off.

            As the Washington Post dryly notes, “The reporters, who had covered Clinton for a year, interpreted her exaggerated head-bobbing as a joke at how she’d been suddenly surrounded — and as a successful attempt at ending the scrum. It did not occur to them that it would become seen as evidence of a “seizure,” as people suffering from seizures do not typically laugh and continue to hold cups of coffee.”

            As far as I know (not being a medical specialist), seizures can vary greatly in severity & scope and if her (initial) movements were indeed due a seizure, it would be classified as a myoclonic seizure, which “are brief shock-like jerks of a muscle or group of muscles.” This doesn’t seem to preclude retaining muscle control over the rest of the body and people who suffer such seizures generally retain full consciousness. So she could have such a seizure and hold a cup and during the seizure already decide how to downplay it. If she has had these seizures before, it would be logical for her to already have experience playing it off.

            So the Washington Post seems to use arguments against the possibility of a seizure that appear to be medically incorrect, at least according to my quick research.

            You should feel ashamed for repeating tabloid filth.

            So you don’t want to have a rational discussion about something that looks remarkable (at least, to me), because…. tribalism?

            [edit]Or if it was a seizure, it could have been a Jacksonian seizure.[/edit]

          • Earthly Knight says:

            You claimed that Hillary is suffering from “severe medical issues, including seizures and overreactions to stress.” Your evidence for this is:

            –Clinton once spent precisely nine seconds quietly staring at protesters who breached a security barrier.
            –Clinton once playfully bobbled her head around while feigning surprise.

            The evidence you’ve adduced doesn’t even come close to making a prima facie case for the conclusion you’ve drawn. Indeed, if this sufficed to show that someone suffers from “severe medical issues”, it would be possible to prove that every human alive has “severe medical issues”. Who has never been occasionally flustered, or never moved their body around as part of a joke?

            I ask you to consider, as an alternative hypothesis, that your judgment of these matters is seriously impaired.

            So the Washington Post seems to use arguments against the possibility of a seizure that appear to be medically incorrect, at least according to my quick research.

            The probability that an arbitrary person is having a seizure given that she is laughing and holding onto a coffee cup is much lower than the already-quite-low probability that an arbitrary person is having a seizure given that she isn’t doing those things. If you are demanding that the Washington Post provide conclusive evidence that Clinton didn’t have a small absence seizure, they can’t, but that’s because the demand is insane: anyone who is ever silent for any length of time could be having a small absence seizure.

            So you don’t want to have a rational discussion about something that looks remarkable (at least, to me)

            The problem is that no impartial observer would find anything remarkable about either of the incidents. Your starting point is a conspiracy-minded delusion. If you want to have a rational discussion, you’ll have to let go of the delusion first.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Video evidence that Trump has severe medical issues, including seizures and senile dementia.

          • Aapje says:

            You claimed that Hillary is suffering from “severe medical issues, including seizures and overreactions to stress.”

            I didn’t claim this, I said that there was evidence for it. There is a difference. IMO, it’s perfectly valid to discuss the validity of evidence and whether it does suggest what one debater thinks it suggests.

            Dismissing a discussion entirely at the start is something that I consider dogmatic, not ‘less wrong.’

            Your evidence for this is:

            –Clinton once spent precisely nine seconds quietly staring at protesters who breached a security barrier.

            Not just staring, a key part of the evidence is that she has a guy who intervened right away and in a rather extreme way (not just reassuring her, but patting her and telling her what to do), which strongly suggest that her entourage and/or herself believes that she cannot recover from situations like these on her own. I can’t remember ever seeing an intervention like this for any other politician, do you?

            I also interpret her facial expression as something beyond concern and instead as a strong stress response, which seems like a very atypical response, as the protesters would surely be a decent distance away & a politician would be used to heckling.

            But the intervention is the stronger evidence, in my opinion.

            Clinton once playfully bobbled her head around while feigning surprise.

            I’ve already explained that what actually happened is way more suspicious than your straw man summary of my statements. “playfully bobbled” is framing. It’s starting with the conclusion and then ignoring the parts of the video that speak against that framing. You selectively respond to my arguments by ignoring that I claim that she did it twice, the second time quite differently from the first time, which I see as important evidence that it was not a joke.

            I’m afraid that your consistent use of bad faith debating techniques leads me to conclude that you do not honestly want to discuss the evidence with me, but rather that your goal is to defend your beliefs, no matter what.

            These kinds of discussions are very frustrating to me, because I cannot deal with that kind of dishonesty very well. So I won’t respond to you again until you change your approach.

            The evidence you’ve adduced doesn’t even come close to making a prima facie case for the conclusion you’ve drawn.

            I’ve not drawn a conclusion, I’ve made a case. You seem to believe that I’m asking you to come to a conclusion, which I’ve also not done. I asked for people’s opinion about the evidence, because I am interested in explanations for the videos that I haven’t considered.

            Unfortunately, you’ve not done so in any way, instead merely choosing to ignore facts & arguments that didn’t suit you, which makes your case very weak.

            So I hope that people with more rational arguments come along.

            The problem is that no impartial observer would find anything remarkable about either of the incidents.

            Given that you’ve concluded this by stripping my arguments of the most remarkable elements, your statement merely reflects your own straw men, not what I see as the truth.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            she has a guy who intervened right away and in a rather extreme way (not just reassuring her, but patting her and telling her what to do), which strongly suggest that her entourage and/or herself believes that she cannot recover from situations like these on her own.

            Uh, have you considered that when protesters are approaching the stage, the security detail’s job is to rush up to protect Clinton and advise her about how to proceed? Here’s a news report of the incident.

            I also interpret

            There’s your problem. Your interpretations are tainted by paranoia and can’t be trusted.

            I asked for people’s opinion about the evidence, because I am interested in explanations for the videos that I haven’t considered.

            The correct “explanation for the videos” is that there’s nothing to explain, and you were exhibiting astoundingly poor judgment to think there was in the first place. You don’t appear to have considered this explanation previously, so I gave you exactly what you wanted.

            Whether you realize it or not, what you are doing here is uncritically parroting a baseless political smear you heard on some shady partisan website. And it is no defense that you are just asking questions, this being the excuse of conspiracy theorists and hack ideologues everywhere.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            From an epistemic rationality perspective, you also need to include as a prior that these kinds of bullshit “concerns” regularly pop-up about political or other famous figures.

            Aapje, you are buying into bullshit, for no good reason.

          • dndnrsn says:

            On the other hand, there have been cases where health problems have been concealed. JFK is brought up as an example, and with FDR there was staging to not make it obvious the extent to which the polio had affected him.

            I would guess it’s more likely than not that there’s nothing here, however.

          • bluto says:

            Given that she’s already admitted to a concussion that required about 6 months of recovery time, it wouldn’t shock me if there were lingering neurological effects.

          • How serious a problem are occasional minor seizures? It’s plausible that someone who gets stuck for nine seconds shouldn’t drive, but does that also mean they shouldn’t be a politician?

          • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

            “So you don’t want to have a rational discussion about something that looks remarkable (at least, to me), because…. tribalism?”

            Let’s say Bob has a penchant for making up gossip because he finds it entertaining. You hear a story from Bob about how Linda in accounting had a seizure.

            Is this evidence that Linda had a seizure?

            No.

            An untrustworthy source isn’t to be trusted. That is not only rational, but axiomatic.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ bluto

            Clinton suffered a brain thrombosis as a result of her concussion in 2012. The thrombosis was treated with anti-coagulants, and dissolved some time in 2013. Presumably this is the recovery time Bill is referring to. The concussion didn’t keep her out of action for long– her marathon Benghazi hearing took place about a month after.

            Here is what wikipedia has to say about the prognosis for a cerebral venous sinus thrombosis:

            “In 2004 the first adequately large scale study on the natural history and long-term prognosis of this condition was reported; this showed that at 16 months follow-up 57.1% of patients had full recovery, 29.5%/2.9%/2.2% had respectively minor/moderate/severe symptoms or impairments, and 8.3% had died. […] A subsequent systematic review of nineteen studies in 2006 showed that mortality is about 5.6% during hospitalisation and 9.4% in total, while of the survivors 88% make a total or near-total recovery. After several months, two thirds of the cases has resolution (“recanalisation”) of the clot. The rate of recurrence was low (2.8%).

          • Salem says:

            Bob may enjoy making up gossip, but that doesn’t mean it’s not evidence. It just makes it weaker evidence.

            As long as Bob is more likely to tell you that she’s had a seizure if she really had one, than if she hasn’t, it’s evidence.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I hunted down photographs of the animal rights activist rushing the stage during Clinton’s speech. You try sticking to your prepared remarks while secret service agents tackle a possible dangerous lunatic ten feet in front of you.

            For comparison, here is Trump taking nearly a minute and a half to get back to speaking after a similar intrusion. Now, I’m no medical professional, but it seems to me that he does lot of suspicious jerking around (and an equal amount of suspicious not-jerking-around) during that stretch. Clearly Trump must be dying of epilepsy.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            This really reminds me of how the left was convinced Reagan was senile during his second term, using news clips and armchair psychoanalysis to prove that he should have acted some different way to whatever stimulus.

          • Bland says:

            I think most people in this thread are off-base.

            You’re enjoining Aapje to analyze things rationally, but you’re not looking at things rationally yourselves.

            I’m seeing the genetic fallacy left and right in this thread. Yes, the site Aapje linked is a blog run by someone people find questionable (probably with good reason). But Aapje didn’t just link to a site that suggests Hillary is having seizures without any independent evidence. He linked to some videos, which you should analyze independently from their source.

            Doing that, I can’t be sure they’re seizures, but I also can’t be sure they aren’t. So I think the correct thing to do is update your probability that Hillary suffers from minor seizures slightly upward.

            Furthermore, as bluto implies, the prior probability that Hillary suffers from seizures is not that of an average person, but of someone who has suffered from cerebral venous sinus thrombosis.

            From the wikipedia article that Earthly Knight quoted from:

            40% of all patients have seizures, although it is more common still in women who develop sinus thrombosis peripartum (in the period before and after giving birth). These are mostly seizures affecting only one part of the body and unilateral (occurring on one side), but occasionally the seizures are generalised and rarely they lead to status epilepticus (persistent or recurrent seizure activity for a long period of time).

            As Earthly Knight points out, 88% of people make a total or near total recovery. It’s not clear to me whether a patient suffering from minor seizures could be counted as having a near total recovery. So from the wikipedia article itself (we could probably use the medical articles that the wikipedia article links to in order to obtain a more accurate estimate), I think the correct level to set your prior probability of Hillary having seizures is .40*.12 = .048.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            I think Aapje’s article provides pretty good evidence for the claim that Hillary does not have serious neurological issues, since if this is the best that a smear campaign can do in making that case with a figure as public as Hillary, it’s evidence that there’s no smoke, and no smoke is evidence for no fire.

            I also would advise anyone who thought any of the videos were even prima facie good evidence to step back and take a really long, hard look at their epistemic practices.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            I think Aapje’s article provides evidence that Hillary does not suffer from neurological problems, because if this is the best case that people trying very hard to smear her can make, it suggests that there’s no smoke, and no smoke is evidence for no fire. Adjust credences downward.

            Also, I think anyone who thought this was even prima facie strong evidence for Hillary having neurological problems should step back and take a really long, hard look at their epistemic practices.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Doing that, I can’t be sure they’re seizures, but I also can’t be sure they aren’t. So I think the correct thing to do is update your probability that Hillary suffers from minor seizures slightly upward.

            You should probably adjust your confidence slightly downward, actually. This is because the unconditional probability that Hillary experiences seizures is greater than the probability that Hillary experiences seizures given that (a) she lives her life under a microscope and (b) there are legions of partisans looking for any pretext to smear her as enfeebled and this rubbish is the best they could come up with.

            As Earthly Knight points out, 88% of people make a total or near total recovery. It’s not clear to me whether a patient suffering from minor seizures could be counted as having a near total recovery. So from the wikipedia article itself (we could probably use the medical articles that the wikipedia article links to in order to obtain a more accurate estimate), I think the correct level to set your prior probability of Hillary having seizures is .40*.12 = .048.

            This is wrong, on a number of counts. First, the wikipedia article states that 40% of patients who presently have this type of brain thrombosis experience seizures. We have no idea what percentage of patients who have failed to fully recover from the thrombosis experience seizures, but we may assume it is somewhat lower. Second, many (most?) people who fail to fully recover from a thrombosis will be too debilitated to deliver articulate speeches, run a presidential campaign, lie to congress, etc., but we know that this group does not include Hillary. Third, Hillary’s physician publicly claims that she currently suffers from no medical conditions save hypothyroidism and seasonal allergies, and testimony carries at least the presumption of truth. All things considered, I’d guess the probability you assign is about an order of magnitude too high.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            Too slow, Earthly Knight!

          • Bland says:

            @Earthly Knight

            First, the wikipedia article states that 40% of patients who presently have this type of brain thrombosis experience seizures. We have no idea what percentage of patients who have failed to fully recover from the thrombosis experience seizures, but we may assume it is somewhat lower.

            What can failing to fully recover mean other than continue to experience symptoms that the patient experienced while having the brain thrombosis? It’s possible that a patient may be less likely to continue to experience seizures after the resolution of the clot than other symptoms, but there’s nothing in the wikipedia article that I can see to suggest that.

            Second, many (most?) people who fail to fully recover from a thrombosis will be too debilitated to deliver articulate speeches, run a presidential campaign, lie to congress, etc., but we know that this group does not include Hillary.

            You quoted the relevant numbers for this in an earlier post: “57.1% of patients had full recovery, 29.5%/2.9%/2.2% had respectively minor/moderate/severe symptoms or impairments.” So of the patients who did not fully recover, 85% had minor symptoms. I think it’s probably possible for minor symptoms to be undetectable or plausibly deniable in a public campaign, but you’re probably correct that we could lower the prior probability estimate by 15%. So we have 0.4*0.12*0.85 = 0.04.

            Third, Hillary’s physician publicly claims that she currently suffers from no medical conditions save hypothyroidism and seasonal allergies, and testimony carries at least the presumption of truth.

            You may use this information to adjust your probability downward if you want. However, my model of the world does not allow for a politician’s medical doctor to admit during a campaign that the politician is suffering from minor seizures. So I can’t credit his statement. (Do you also think that if elected Trump will be unequivocally the healthiest individual to ever be president? http://nypost.com/2015/12/14/donald-trumps-doctor-says-hes-really-really-healthy/)

            You should probably adjust your confidence slightly downward, actually. This is because the unconditional probability that Hillary experiences seizures is greater than the probability that Hillary experiences seizures given that (a) she lives her life under a microscope and (b) there are legions of partisans looking for any pretext to smear her as enfeebled and this rubbish is the best they could come up with.

            I have a friend who routinely experiences petit mal seizures. I have never noticed him having a seizure, but he’s told me that he has had them in my presence. So it’s pretty clear to me that Hillary could be suffering from minor seizures without anyone noticing or at least without anyone having clear evidence that she is experiencing seizures.

            All things considered, I’d guess the probability you assign is about an order of magnitude too high.

            I’m glad to see we’re nearly in agreement now. I think the position that there is nowhere near enough evidence to prove that Hillary is having seizures is quite reasonable.

            If that were the conclusion of your original post with some of the arguments used in response to my post, I probably wouldn’t even have waded into this argument because I don’t think it has the possibility of producing much light. I was more responding to what I saw as hypocrisy in your and others statements that more or less said, “Be rational! You should never consider videos that are posted on that site/tabloid.”

          • Jiro says:

            I’m seeing the genetic fallacy left and right in this thread.

            Deciding whether to trust a source depending on whether it has been questionable in the past is absolutely the correct thing to do.

            The genetic fallacy only is a fallacy in an ideal world where figuring out whether someone is correct takes no time or effort. Past a certain point, it’s not even worth bothering to pay attention to or refute an argument from an untrustworthy source.

          • Bland says:

            @Jiro

            Again, Aapje didn’t say, “What do you think of Mike Cernovich’s report that he heard from Hillary’s doctor that she’s suffering from seizures.”

            He said, “What do you think of these videos?”

            Choosing not to consider publicly available videos because they happen to appear on a certain site is the very definition of the genetic fallacy.

            From wikipedia:

            The genetic fallacy (also known as the fallacy of origins or fallacy of virtue) is a fallacy of irrelevance where a conclusion is suggested based solely on someone’s or something’s history, origin, or source rather than its current meaning or context.

          • Aapje says:

            @Jiro

            Deciding whether to trust a source depending on whether it has been questionable in the past is absolutely the correct thing to do.

            This is only true if the source consists of testimony or other evidence that can be manipulated by the source. In the case of these video’s, that could only consist of leaving out relevant information, which could easily be proven by giving a full video. I did not find any pro-Clinton or neutral sources that argued that a full video showed something relevant that was not included in these videos.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            What credible testimony do we have that those videos are consistent with someone experiencing a seizure? I submit that Aapje, while providing links to some videos, has not provided any credible source that we should regard those particular videos as evidence of seizure activity.

          • Bland says:

            From “EFNS guideline on the treatment of cerebral venous and sinus thrombosis” (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1468-1331.2006.01398.x/full)

            The risk of residual epilepsy after CVST is low compared with the high rate of patients with early seizures. Reported incidences range from 5% to 10.6%.

            So it looks like the original estimate that I obtained by multiplying percents from the wikipedia article of 4.8% was even a bit low.

          • Bland says:

            @HeelBearCub

            I submit that Aapje, while providing links to some videos, has not provided any credible source that we should regard those particular videos as evidence of seizure activity.

            True, but I don’t think it’s really Aapje’s responsibility to provide that. Aapje was just asking what we thought, probably hoping to get a doctor to provide a professional opinion.

            I’m not a medical doctor, but here’s the gripping video of an adult male suffering a petit mal seizure: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-Pf0Mt9cQk

            Edit: Here’s a young woman talking while suffering a series of seizures: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qAgyms7j5EA

            And here’s a woman suffering myoclonic jerks in her neck while sleeping: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHG3GdvZOps

          • Jiro says:

            This is only true if the source consists of testimony or other evidence that can be manipulated by the source.

            There are plenty of ways a source can mislead using videos without actually producing fake videos, such as by taking things out of context, selectively picking videos that a layman is likely to misinterpret, or by priming the audience to see things in the videos.

            I’ve not drawn a conclusion, I’ve made a case. You seem to believe that I’m asking you to come to a conclusion, which I’ve also not done.

            You implicitly draw the conclusion “it is likely enough that this would show something that it is worth taking the time and effort to try to refute it”. Just because you are not saying this is absolute proof doesn’t change that; a conclusion about whether it is good enough is still a conclusion.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Bland

            What can failing to fully recover mean other than continue to experience symptoms that the patient experienced while having the brain thrombosis?

            I assume that’s exactly what that means. But that doesn’t help you at all. For your inference from “40% of CVST patients experience seizures” to “40% of patients who fail to fully recover from CVST experience seizures” to go through, you need the symptoms to occur with the exact same frequency in both populations. It would be remarkable if this were true– it would mean that having a physical clot in the brain broken up didn’t improve the latter group’s health one bit.

            I suspect the underlying error here is that you’re failing to recognize that one way patients can fail to fully recover from a disease is by experiencing some but not all of the symptoms which previously afflicted them. If Fred had seizures and chronic headaches before treatment, having just chronic headaches after treatment will count as an incomplete recovery. Heck, for all we know, it could be that everyone in the incomplete recovery group has headaches and none has seizures. All we can say with any confidence is that the incidence of seizures is probably lower among those who fail to fully recover from CVST than among those still in its throes.

            So of the patients who did not fully recover, 85% had minor symptoms.

            This makes no sense– you’re conflating studies with different classifications in a way that’s led you to a mathematically impossible conclusion. It can’t at once be true that:

            (1) 12% of patients failed to fully recover
            (2) 85% of those who did not fully recover had minor symptoms.
            (3) 5% of patients continued to experience moderate or severe symptoms after treatment.

            To fix the cross-classification, we need to assume that the 12% of patients from the second study who failed to fully recover includes all of the patients designated by the first study as experiencing moderate or severe symptoms and fill out the remainder with those designated by the first study as experiencing minor symptoms. This gives us a split of 7/3/2 for mild/moderate/severe. You think that Hillary, if she failed to fully recover, must be in the first category, and I’m inclined to agree, so we need to reduce our confidence that Hillary failed to recover by 42%, not 15%.

            However, my model of the world does not allow for a politician’s medical doctor to admit during a campaign that the politician is suffering from minor seizures.

            Didn’t Clinton volunteer the information that she had suffered a thrombosis back in 2012? I mean, I guess if you wanted to be a stickler about it you could say she wasn’t running for president at that point, but realistically, she was.

            So it’s pretty clear to me that Hillary could be suffering from minor seizures without anyone noticing or at least without anyone having clear evidence that she is experiencing seizures.

            “Could be”? Earlier you spoke only of chances, but now you are citing bare possibilities? It’s possible, but it’s not highly likely, so the fact that meticulous sifting through her very public life has turned up no seizures is decent evidence that she isn’t having any.

            I was more responding to what I saw as hypocrisy in your and others statements that more or less said, “Be rational! You should never consider videos that are posted on that site/tabloid.”

            Funny, I don’t recall saying anything like that.

            So it looks like the original estimate that I obtained by multiplying percents from the wikipedia article of 4.8% was even a bit low.

            You should not have left out the next line– “In the Portuguese series, all late seizures occurred within the first year.”

            Clinton is now 3.5 years out from the clot.

          • onyomi says:

            I have no opinion on Hillary’s health, since as stated elsewhere, I find news on this issue to be the opposite of informative.

            I will say that if you follow anyone around with cameras long enough, you can get video of them looking like a spazz, like they’re freaking out, like they’re super mean, and probably like they’re experiencing a mild seizure. As you can get a quote of them saying something stupid.

          • Aapje says:

            @Earthly Knight

            I hunted down photographs of the animal rights activist rushing the stage during Clinton’s speech.

            It’s amusing that I’m called out for believing a bad source when yours are so obviously quite bad (both this one and the WaPo one earlier). And unlike me, you are actually believing the statements, rather than just the hard evidence provided. The Daily Mail claims three different incompatible things: “Hillary Clinton was rushed,” “Animal activists tried rushing” and “an animals rights activist trying to jump the barricade.”

            Just the difference between “was rushed” and “tried rushing” is already sufficient to distrust the reporting, beyond the actual pictures.

            The photos make a rush seem very unlikely, one protestor seemed to have just made it over the fence and appears to be stopped before taking a single step (and perhaps even before touching the ground). A rush to the barrier also seems very unlikely given the crowd and the senselessness of doing that when one can just walk to the barrier.

            You try sticking to your prepared remarks while secret service agents tackle a possible dangerous lunatic ten feet in front of you.

            The argument is not that the issue is that she stopped talking. You are weak manning again. It’s a habit that you might want to kick.

            Uh, have you considered that when protesters are approaching the stage, the security detail’s job is to rush up to protect Clinton and advise her about how to proceed?

            Yes, I have considered that. However, I find the man’s behavior very strange in that context. My understanding is that the response to a threat by security normally consists of these two things: eliminating/reducing the threat and/or shielding/removing the secured person. This person did neither and instead started patting Clinton and coaching her what to do. A simple assurance would make sense (like ‘it’s ok’ or ‘there is no danger’), but I find his actions very inconsistent with behavior that I’ve seen from security in the past and have been made to believe is how security would normally behave.

            @Philosophisticat

            I think Aapje’s article provides evidence that Hillary does not suffer from neurological problems, because if this is the best case that people trying very hard to smear her can make, it suggests that there’s no smoke, and no smoke is evidence for no fire. Adjust credences downward.

            It’s not necessarily the best case. There is other evidence that is not on that page and that I don’t particularly want to get into (and derail this). In any case, it appears to be a fallacy to assume that a certain presentation is necessarily the best possible one. That is the opposite of steel manning (assuming that a claim already is steel manned maximally by a source).

            Furthermore, I would suggest that there is a big grey area between ‘false’ and ‘proven without a doubt.’ Watergate also started off with weak evidence and it took hard reporting (and a mole) to find actual hard evidence. If Bernstein and Woodward would have dismissed the initial evidence out of hand, we would never have found out the truth.

            Cernovich is asking a very good question on his site and on Twitter, IMO: ‘Who is this man.’ I would suggest that the answer to that would be extremely revealing. If he turns out to be an actual secret service agent that would be strong evidence that he is not a medical aid for Clinton. If he isn’t, that would suggest that she does need special care.

          • Aapje says:

            @Bland

            True, but I don’t think it’s really Aapje’s responsibility to provide that. Aapje was just asking what we thought, probably hoping to get a doctor to provide a professional opinion.

            The fact that Scott regularly posts stories about neurological issues/research/etc led me to conclude that commenters here are more likely to be knowledgeable on that front and have insight.

            But it appears that I miscalculated.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            And unlike me, you are actually believing the statements, rather than just the hard evidence provided.

            I’m actually just asking you to look at the photographs.

            However, I find the man’s behavior very strange

            That’s great. No one reasonable does. Feel free to compare the video where Trump is rushed by protesters and the secret service agents do exactly the same thing.

            Cernovich is asking a very good question on his site and on Twitter, IMO: ‘Who is this man.’ I would suggest that the answer to that would be extremely revealing. If he turns out to be an actual secret service agent that would be strong evidence that he is not a medical aid for Clinton. If he isn’t, that would suggest that she does need special care.

            Do you realize how much this makes you sound like a paranoid loon?

            The fact that Scott regularly posts stories about neurological issues/research/etc led me to conclude that commenters here are more likely to be knowledgeable on that front and have insight.

            A competent doctor would tell you that you can’t diagnose neurological disorders from short, out-of-context videos. And also that you’re acting like a paranoid loon.

            Edit: Clip of two doctors telling Hannity that you can’t diagnose neurological disorders from short, out-of-context videos. One helpfully adds that Hillary is probably not having a seizure in the bobblehead video.

          • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

            “…genetic fallacy…”

            Logical fallacies as weak Bayesian evidence.

          • Bland says:

            @Earthly Knight
            The reasoning behind my calculation was sound. You’re forgetting the 8.3% who died. I don’t want to keep arguing about whether my calculation is right because I looked at the medical article and my estimate was close (See my post above for the link to the source):

            The risk of residual epilepsy after CVST is low compared with the high rate of patients with early seizures. Reported incidences range from 5% to 10.6%.

            You added:

            You should not have left out the next line– “In the Portuguese series, all late seizures occurred within the first year.”

            You’re right, I should have included that. I just searched for seizure in the paper and stopped reading after finding the information I was looking for. However, there are two other studies that had longer follow-ups that don’t say that, and the study that did (Ref. 26) had a median follow-up of one year. (http://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/67133).

            “Could be”? Earlier you spoke only of chances, but now you are citing bare possibilities? It’s possible, but it’s not highly likely, so the fact that meticulous sifting through her very public life has turned up no seizures is decent evidence that she isn’t having any.

            I guess you’re right I wasn’t very clear on my wording on the part you are talking about here. I think if Hillary were suffering from minor infrequent petit mal seizures then it would be relatively trivial to hide them since they aren’t very noticeable unless you are looking for them. See the videos I posted.

            Funny, I don’t recall saying anything like that.

            You said, “If you want to have a rational discussion, you’ll have to let go of the delusion first,” and “You should feel ashamed for repeating tabloid filth.”
            I paraphrased that as, “Be rational! You should never consider videos that are posted on that site/tabloid.”

            If my interpretation of what you were saying is wrong then I apologize, but I hope you can at least understand how I could interpret it that way. There were certainly others in this thread who were saying more or less that.

            I don’t know how I became the one to argue the position that Hilary is having seizures because I don’t think it is likely she is. I, however, think it is pretty clear there is a small chance that she is having minor seizures.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Bland

            because I looked at the medical article and my estimate was close

            Unfortunately, your original estimate and the article are addressing different questions. We want to know how many CVST patients are still having seizures at a much later follow-up, but the number you cite tells us how many patients experienced seizures at any point after treatment. Given that seizures appear to decline in incidence as time goes by, we should expect the first figure to be smaller.

            I think if Hillary were suffering from minor infrequent petit mal seizures then it would be relatively trivial to hide them since they aren’t very noticeable unless you are looking for them.

            Where have the probabilities gone? If Hillary could hide subset F of seizures but not subset G, and we never see a G, this makes it less likely that she is experiencing seizures than if her life were not exposed to constant, hostile scrutiny.

            If my interpretation of what you were saying is wrong then I apologize

            It was. No worries.

          • Bland says:

            @Earthly Knight

            Given that seizures appear to decline in frequency as time goes by

            You don’t have a lot of evidence for that assertion.

            Where have the probabilities gone?

            The number of people with minor seizures who wouldn’t be able to hide it during a public campaign is not easy to quantify. As the doctors on Hannity suggest, it wouldn’t be possible to diagnose a minor seizure from video. So it might be possible that nearly anyone with minor seizures could hide them.

            Look my estimate for prior probability is 5%. You think it’s off by an order of magnitude. We’re just negotiating now. I’ll meet you more than halfway and say 2%.

            My point is if you know someone has even a 1% chance of suffering from seizures, and you have video of something that looks like it might be a seizure, then that is positive evidence that the person has seizures. It’s not negative evidence. And it’s really silly to attack someone who asking, “What do you guys think of this evidence.”

          • Bland says:

            @Aapje

            But it appears that I miscalculated.

            Guess so.

            I was really surprised at the reaction to your post. It really bothered me, so I felt the need to sort of jump in and defend you.

            At points, when I mentioned my interpretation of what you said, I was concerned that you might feel I was putting words in your mouth. I hope that wasn’t the case.

            Anyway, I guess we were reminded that even on a blog like this, discussions that should be extremely anodyne (that video does/does not look like a seizure) can get pretty heated when there are politics involved.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            You don’t have a lot of evidence for that assertion.

            Well, the Portuguese study found zero seizures after a year had passed (prima facie I would also expect symptomatology to fade with time). But it’s really on you to substantiate the claim that 5% of former CVST patients ever having seizures translates into 5% of CVST patients still having seizures after 3.5 years have elapsed.

            So it might be possible that nearly anyone with minor seizures could hide them.

            Maybe. But it would be pretty difficult for someone having major seizures to hide them if they’re in public several (4? 6?) hours each day. So we have good reason to think that Clinton isn’t among whatever fraction of former CVST patients have major residual seizures, which should reduce our estimate of the probability that she has seizures at all further still.

            My point is if you know someone has even a 1% chance of suffering from seizures, and you have video of something that looks like it might be a seizure, then that is positive evidence that the person has seizures.

            This is false, for the reason philosophisticat and I gave above: if I hire a private investigator to tail someone with instructions to find evidence of ill health, and the best they can produce is the target making a joke and the target looking at protesters, this is strong evidence that the target is healthy.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’d say it’s very unlikely that Clinton has seizures and kinda think the whole debate is stupid, but… doesn’t the toxoplasmosa-of-rage dynamic speak against that? The arguments in the media for a position are not always the best available, because the arguments in the media are not always optimized for convincing the unconvinced — and in fact suboptimal ones are more adaptive in some ways.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            @Aapje

            Of course, this may not be the best case (since it is so bad, it would not be hard for there to be a better case). But very generally, the failure of any given article trying to present good evidence for X to do so (or even gesture towards such evidence) lowers the likelihood that there is good evidence for X, simply because the chance that it would fail if there was good evidence is lower than the chance that it would fail if there wasn’t. If you think there is strong independent evidence that Hillary suffers seizures it’s weird both for you and for the article not to mention it.

            And of course there is a range of degrees to which something can be evidence. I realize this is difficult to appreciate from the inside, but you are misassessing the weight of the evidence by a tremendous margin. Some people here have said that it’s “more likely than not” that this doesn’t indicate anything. I do not know if they are trying to be kind or if they think that the odds are close to 50/50, but that is an incredibly massive understatement for how weak this evidence is.

            I know you will reject this as hyperbole or rhetoric, and you will probably not believe me when I say that I do not say this sort of thing even when I think people are making huge mistakes about things that I care deeply about (and I have no real investment in Hillary), but the evidence here is weaker than the evidence for most conspiracy theories we regularly and correctly respond to with ridicule. I don’t want to shame or attack you, and I don’t know what it would take in terms of other people saying you’re way, way off for you think that maybe you need to reevaluate something about the way you deal with evidence, but you’re way, way off here.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            @Nornagest

            The fact that whether X is true is a matter of controversy or that some people believe X can make it more likely, if you previously had no reason at all to suspect X, that X might have evidence for it. Since running into an article that takes a stand on X is some sign that X is controversial, I can imagine cases where encountering a terrible argument for X (one where, say, you’re absolutely certain that every premise is false) raises your credence in X.

            But if you already know or expect that there is controversy over X (as you should when it comes to the fitness of (especially older) people running for the office of president), and you start looking into the arguments for X, each argument you encounter that sucks should raise your credence that there are no good arguments for X.

            Now, all this sort of meta-level credence raising and lowering is going to be really small, relatively. I pointed it out mostly to emphasize how weak the evidence in the videos is.

          • Nornagest says:

            @Philosophicat — That’s just a restatement of Earthly Knight’s position. I’m going for something different. Scott says this better and at much greater length than I’m going to, in “Toxoplasmosa of Rage”, but by way of summary: arguments are sometimes better modeled as signals of loyalty than as attempts at persuasion. Believing a crappy argument is a better signal of loyalty than believing a good one, so when proving tribal identification is the main motivation for arguing, the dominant arguments for a position can end up all being shitty, for totally rational reasons, even if the position itself is strong.

            The caveat is that this is all equally true if the position is weak. So bad arguments still aren’t positive evidence for a position, but in this situation they aren’t negative evidence either.

            In this case, I think both that the position is wrong (mainly on priors) and that most of the bad arguments for it are motivated by loyalty, i.e. evidentially neutral.

          • Bland says:

            @Earthly Knight

            [I]f I hire a private investigator to tail someone with instructions to find evidence of ill health, and the best they can produce is the target making a joke and the target looking at protesters, this is strong evidence that the target is healthy.

            Is it stronger evidence than if the PI finds absolutely nothing?

            Anway, I don’t know how you can simultaneously think that: 1. doctors cannot diagnose minor seizures from video, and 2. An epileptic patient with infrequent minor seizures under the level of public scrutiny of a presidential candidate would likely show clear evidence of a seizure at some point.

            About the Portuguese study, I found a copy (http://gen.lib.rus.ec/scimag/?s=10.1159%2F000067133&journalid=&v=&i=&p=&redirect=1), and it doesn’t appear to show only seizures before one year. It’s possible I’m looking at the wrong article. Either way take a look at Table 2.

            One patient had her last seizure 28 months after CVDST diagnosis. With the low frequency of seizures, none of the follow-up periods are long enough to rule out seizures post follow up, maybe with the exception of patient 6.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            @Nornagest

            I see. I thought you might be making a stronger claim than you are, and so I tried to come up with the best case I could for it. As for the claim that finding bad arguments in a certain kind of forum (for some topics at least) for a claim does not bear on its likelihood, I agree that it typically does not bear in a substantial way, and doesn’t in this case either (you should start with almost no credence that Hillary suffers seizures and end with basically the same credence). You shouldn’t expect that the arguments for a position that catch fire are the best ones, and I think Scott points to some mechanisms that explain why the worse ones catch fire more often than the better ones. So if that’s all you’re claiming, I’m totally on board.

            Now, we can accept all this, and it would still be a small miracle if the quality of arguments for politically hot claims (in biased fora) has absolutely no correlation with how justified those claims are.
            I find that on average, the quality of arguments you find for positions that are well-justified is a little better than the quality of arguments for positions that are completely unjustified.

            So, I basically agree – the badness of arguments for X is very little evidence against X. But that was kind of my point – the case presented in the article is so bad that it’s outweighed even by weak evidence.

          • Jiro says:

            Anway, I don’t know how you can simultaneously think that: 1. doctors cannot diagnose minor seizures from video, and 2. An epileptic patient with infrequent minor seizures under the level of public scrutiny of a presidential candidate would likely show clear evidence of a seizure at some point.

            Because “diagnose seizures” is not something done with 100% probability. And the probability needed in the two questions is different.

          • Aapje says:

            @Earthly Knight

            I’m actually just asking you to look at the photographs.

            I can read and you actually claimed that she was rushed with no hedging, while I did use hedging for my claims. You’ve been accusing me and have been rude, so in response I feel justified in holding you to strict standards.

            However, I find the man’s behavior very strange

            That’s great. No one reasonable does.

            Since when do you know the opinion of every reasonable person on this earth? That is a manipulative and very biased statement.

            Feel free to compare the video where Trump is rushed by protesters and the secret service agents do exactly the same thing.

            The video shows something substantially different from what happened to Clinton and is more typical of behavior by security. The security guys formed a human shield and put their hand on Trump’s back to ensure that they stayed close to Trump (as they would be looking at the potential threat, not Trump). There is no patting, which would make it harder to feel that the secured person is moving, nor any coaching, which would distract the security agent from his primary task.

            Note that again, I’m the person who is looking at the details and giving an actual analysis with arguments, while you keep providing zero arguments for why my arguments are wrong, beyond high-level arguments that ignore the details which form the core of my argument.

            A competent doctor would tell you that you can’t diagnose neurological disorders from short, out-of-context videos.

            They could declare whether certain behavior is consistent or inconsistent with neurological disorders. For example, I expect that if I show a doctor a Beyonce video clip, they would declare that her dancing is not something that a seizure could cause. So even in the absence of definitive positive claims (X is caused by neurological disorders), I’d argue that there is some value in non-negative claims (X may be caused by neurological disorders).

            Well, the Portuguese study found zero seizures after a year had passed (prima facie I would also expect symptomatology to fade with time). But it’s really on you to substantiate the claim that 5% of former CVST patients ever having seizures translates into 5% of CVST patients still having seizures after 3.5 years have elapsed.

            I suspect that the Portuguese study would limit itself to patients that merely have CVST and would toss out patients that have other medical issues (perhaps resulting from after-effects of the CVST), as to do accurate science for CVST patients, without polluting the results.

            However, we don’t have the medical records for Clinton, nor did she pass the same test for patients that were included in the Portuguese study. So I would argue that if you start calculating probabilities, you have to account for the possibility that she is part of a group with more severe after-effects, which would be eliminated from the study. More specifically, we know that Clinton had has multiple hard falls after her CVST, which by themselves could cause further medical issues.

            Since I’m probably going to be misunderstood here, let me stress that I’m not making any hard claims here to how much one would need to increase the probabilities to account for this. I’m just arguing that you may be underestimating the chance for this reason.

          • Aapje says:

            @Philosophisticat

            I realize this is difficult to appreciate from the inside, but you are misassessing the weight of the evidence by a tremendous margin.

            I haven’t given a probability for this to be true, nor do you know what level of weight I require to find something worth discussing, so I can’t see how you could know how I weigh the evidence beyond: more than zero.

            Some people here have said that it’s “more likely than not” that this doesn’t indicate anything.

            I think that there are a lot of things that are “more likely than not” that still deserve some scrutiny. If a parachutist notices some fairly minor damage to the backpack in which the parachute is packed, it’s more likely than not that the parachute still works. He might not consider that sufficient, though, given the possible consequences. In risk assessment, there is the concept of risk being chance multiplied by the consequences. I’d argue that a presidential election has very big consequences, so relatively small chances are still worth investigating.

            Secondly, there are reasons to discuss things beyond just the risk, something I’ll (partially) address later in this comment.

            but the evidence here is weaker than the evidence for most conspiracy theories we regularly and correctly respond to with ridicule.

            I think that we have a very different assessment how normal the occurrences in the video are. Unfortunately, no one has been willing to actually address my arguments about this, which makes the ridicule look rather weak in my eyes. “You are wrong, but I won’t actually explain why” has never been very convincing to me.

            Now perhaps the commenters think that my arguments are too speculative to address seriously, but in that case, the reasonable thing to do is to point that out, not to ridicule. Ridiculing is by its very nature the use of social pressure to silence someone and thus the opposite of rational discourse.

            Furthermore, you and many commenters are making assumptions about my motivations, primarily that my end goal is some definitive statement. However, an analysis can also result in very interesting information that doesn’t fit this framing.

            For example, people in this thread have shown evidence that the frequency of seizures is typically rare after CVST, which is interesting information both with regard to the significance of the absence of other potential seizure videos, the probability of further evidence becoming available if it actually was a seizure and perhaps most importantly, the consequences to Clinton’s functioning if she actually suffers from seizures.

            I find this information valuable enough to consider this thread useful to me.

            Now, we can accept all this, and it would still be a small miracle if the quality of arguments for politically hot claims (in biased fora) has absolutely no correlation with how justified those claims are.

            I would argue that the contentiousness of a topic severely undermines the ability for good evidence to become available (in general). Both the opponents and proponents will bias their investigations strongly to their side, while impartial people are strongly disincentivized to do a neutral investigation, as any outcome that doesn’t clearly favor a side will be seen as the neutral party being on the other side.

            I’d also expect more sabotage of investigations than for more neutral topics.

            In my experience, the narratives created by the media (and social media) also tend to prejudice people very strongly, which in turn results in overconfidence by commenters in the strength of their arguments.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Bland

            Is it stronger evidence than if the PI finds absolutely nothing?

            No, I’d say it’s about the same. Either way, though, the PI’s failure means we need to reduce our confidence from the unconditional probability.

            Anway, I don’t know how you can simultaneously think that: 1. doctors cannot diagnose minor seizures from video, and 2. An epileptic patient with infrequent minor seizures under the level of public scrutiny of a presidential candidate would likely show clear evidence of a seizure at some point.

            You’re confused. I said that Clinton would have trouble concealing major seizures, and, since we haven’t seen any, this suggests she isn’t experiencing any major seizures. This means we need to reduce our confidence that she’s experiencing seizures at all in proportion to the fraction of former CVST patients who experience major seizures.

            Say that half of CVST patients with residual epilepsy have major seizures while half have only minor seizures, and that if Clinton were having major seizures there’s a 50% chance there’d be video of them. This means that we should reduce our credence that she’s experiencing any sort of seizure by 25%, because we can rule out that proportion of the probability space.

            it doesn’t appear to show only seizures before one year. It’s possible I’m looking at the wrong article. Either way take a look at Table 2.

            “In the series of Preter et al. [8], the majority of late seizures (3 out of 4 cases) appeared in the first year after CVDST, a finding similar to ours. Therefore, the available evidence indicates that the period of higher risk of onset of late seizures are the first 6–12 months following CVDST.”

            Now, this concerns the onset of seizures. But you can see from the table that 3/8 of those with late seizures had stopped experiencing them by the final follow-up.

            @ Aapje

            The video shows something substantially different

            No, it doesn’t. Stop trusting your own judgment, it’s impaired.

            Note that again, I’m the person who is looking at the details and giving an actual analysis with arguments,

            Your analyses are not the least bit plausible. They come off as wild, tendentious, and slightly paranoid speculation. I’m sorry that you’re unable to see this.

            I’d argue that there is some value in non-negative claims (X may be caused by neurological disorders).

            Well, you have your answer from the Hannity clip. The head-bobbling probably wasn’t a seizure.

            I suspect that the Portuguese study would limit itself to patients that merely have CVST and would toss out patients that have other medical issues

            You guess wrong. The study includes patients with:

            Infection (other than intracranial)
            Haematological diseases and prothrombotic conditions
            Puerperium
            Head trauma
            Intracranial infection
            Severe dehydration
            Vasculitis
            Malignancy
            Dural fistulae

          • Philosophisticat says:

            @Aapje

            If you think people can’t tell you think the video is pretty decent evidence from the fact that you brought it up and from what you’ve written in strident defense of it, you’re really fooling yourself. The way it looks is you’re being cagey because you think maintaining deniability gives you some kind of rhetorical edge. You’re not as sly as you think you are and this sort of thing will cost you good will from people you talk to.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Aapje, a normal person who looks at the videos of Trump and Hillary’s encounters with protesters side-by-side will see them as nearly identical and ascribe any differences between the two to noise. But not you. To you, the secret service agent guarding Hillary– you call him her “handler”– is “coaching” her in a way that is “very obvious”; how quickly he intervenes is “very telling”; it is “clearly not the first time he had to do this,” which “strongly suggests that this is not rare behavior for Clinton.” The “intervention” is “extreme” and “very strange”, which, again, “strongly suggest[s]” that “she cannot recover from situations like these on her own.” You see it as imperative that we find out the secret service agent’s real identity and promise that the answer to this question would be “extremely revealing.”

            To me these look like the ramblings of someone in the grips of a small-scale delusion. I mean this literally, and not as a rhetorical flourish: I think you are experiencing a delusion. I ask you to strongly consider the hypothesis that apophenia is clouding your judgment.

          • Fahundo says:

            “handler”– is “coaching” her in a way that is “very obvious”; how quickly he intervenes is “very telling”; it is “clearly not the first time he had to do this,” which “strongly suggests that this is not rare behavior for Clinton.” The “intervention” is “extreme” and “very strange”, which, again, “strongly suggest[s]” that “she cannot recover from situations like these on her own.”

            None of those things seem obvious to me from the video. It strikes me as similar to when ghost hunters play an audio recording, but they tell you beforehand that the ghost is saying something, and what words to listen for specifically. If you just listened without being primed, you hear random noise. If you’re told ahead of time how to interpret it, you interpret it in the way they told you.

          • Aapje says:

            @Earthly Knight

            Cernovich is asking a very good question on his site and on Twitter, IMO: ‘Who is this man.’ I would suggest that the answer to that would be extremely revealing. If he turns out to be an actual secret service agent that would be strong evidence that he is not a medical aid for Clinton. If he isn’t, that would suggest that she does need special care.

            Do you realize how much this makes you sound like a paranoid loon?

            No.

            This was my thinking:
            – In science, one normally chooses between two theories by finding a situation where each theory has a different predicted outcome.
            – The ‘video has no evidence of medical issues’ theory would predict that this person is a secret service agent.
            – The ‘video is evidence of medical issues and a medical intervention’ theory would predict/require that this person is a medical person of some sort.
            – So finding out the identity/status of this man would falsify one of these theories.

            I would argue that automatically believing Cernovich’ story could be seen as evidence of paranoia, but that asking this question isn’t. However, I’m sure that you don’t agree, as you appear to be from the school: asking any questions or allowing for the possibility that something could be true is being a paranoid loon. In that world view, I am guilty.

          • Aapje says:

            @Philosophisticat

            You appear to be assuming bad faith on my part. Why are you accusing me of being sly? I never asked anyone to accept a certain view. All I did was share my interpretation and ask for feedback.

            Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps I am biased. Fine.

            But what I will not accept is that people give their own subjective interpretation, which they back up with less arguments than I backed up my interpretation with; and then accuse me for being biased for not accepting their subjective interpretation as gospel. That is just privileging one form of subjectivity over another, which is not rational.

            If you are serious about that ‘good will’ of yours, why don’t you shift some of that ire to Earthly Knight, who keeps using passive aggressive attacks (‘a normal person who looks at […] will see them as nearly identical’). Why not challenge him when he sarcastically claimed that a video of Trump mocking a person with a disability was evidence that Trump has a disability, which he clearly didn’t actually believe, so which he used as a debating trick. Is it more acceptable to you to have people dismiss arguments with sarcasm like that, than to perhaps over-analyze a video?

            what you’ve written in strident defense of it

            Have you considered the possibility that my strident defense is because the responses are so poor? I was and am absolutely ready to concede that my interpretation was perhaps overzealous, but if people I debate act like total assholes and refuse to engage in a serious way, the debate never gets to a point where I can reasonably concede something. From my point of view my arguments were never seriously addressed, so they weren’t actually challenged in rational way (although they were dismissed many times, but that is not the same). So then I get stuck in a situation where I rephrase my arguments to get a rational response, which is then interpreted as being strident by you. :/

            @Fahundo

            You are quoting a person who has been consistently weakmanning me, so of course his statements are weak. They are designed to be.

            This is getting rather laughable actually. You don’t quote me, but you quote EK’s selective quoting of me and then attack me vicariously.

            Anyway, at this point I don’t think that there is any use in seriously debating what is actually visible on the video’s, as no one is willing to do so in good faith.

          • Bland says:

            @Jiro

            Because “diagnose seizures” is not something done with 100% probability. And the probability needed in the two questions is different.

            I guess you might be able to split that hair if your try really hard.

            I don’t know why you’d want to though.

          • Fahundo says:

            I did scroll up to make sure EK was actually quoting you and not just making shit up and attributing it to you. I guess that wasn’t enough. I don’t think it’s a good sign when you can accuse someone of weakmanning things that you yourself have said, but whatever.

            To my non-medical eye, it does look pretty bad. Do you guys agree?

            No, to me it looks like the kind of thing that I wouldn’t give a second glance unless I had already been told that the videos indicated something was wrong.

            the actual videos, which do not seem altered or missing context that would explain it.

            The first video, maybe. The second video? Let’s ignore the video title here, which is clearly meant to lead me to a particular conclusion. The video starts as soon as the head bobbing does. At the very least, it is missing “context that would explain it,” but on top of that it has the extra dramatic slow motion stuff added, and later some audio about heart conditions or whatever that was. I don’t know how you think you can get away with claiming the second video isn’t altered and isn’t missing context.

            There is a difference between being flustered and freezing up. I’ve seen people who were unsure how to handle a situation, but that’s not what I see happening here, she actually froze up.

            Is this still according to your non-medical eye, or did you start using another one?

            The handler does some very obvious coaching to get her back into gear, including patting her back and telling her to “keep talking”. She repeats the latter and then seems to recover.

            Can you elaborate on this? In what way does being coached or reassured to keep talking indicate a medical issue?

            I think that it is very telling how quickly the handler intervenes, this is clearly not the first time he had to do this.

            I don’t think it’s that clear to everyone. Maybe an elaboration on why this can’t be a security guard quick on his feet is in order.

            The only thing that is missing is video of the protester(s) so we can assess whether such a reaction could be reasonable,

            So the video is missing context. Okay.

            but it seems unlikely.

            Why?

            Even then, the fast reaction by the handler strongly suggests that this is not rare behavior for Clinton.

            Not rare behavior, but somehow never caught on film except the one time. Possible, but I don’t see why I should assume it to be the case.

            Look at the video, she does it twice. Once in an extreme way with her eyes closed, then she laughs and then she does it again more briefly with her eyes open. That is classic ‘turn it into a joke’ behavior.

            I’ve done it myself, first I did something that made me look bad, then I pretended it was a joke and did it again in an obviously intentional way to ‘overwrite’ the initial observation by onlookers.

            One time I did something that was a joke, and then I repeated it again and it was also a joke the second time.

            In the video, you can see one reporter being really surprised or even scared before she goes along with Clinton and her people laughing it off.

            There are two reporters right next to each other, one of whom shows surprise or shock, briefly, and another one who doesn’t seem fazed at all. Do you disagree with this assessment?

            As far as I know (not being a medical specialist), seizures can vary greatly in severity & scope and if her (initial) movements were indeed due a seizure, it would be classified as a myoclonic seizure, which “are brief shock-like jerks of a muscle or group of muscles.” This doesn’t seem to preclude retaining muscle control over the rest of the body and people who suffer such seizures generally retain full consciousness. So she could have such a seizure and hold a cup and during the seizure already decide how to downplay it. If she has had these seizures before, it would be logical for her to already have experience playing it off.

            So it’s physically possible that she had a seizure and held onto a cup of coffee. And there’s a non-zero chance that she had a seizure in public, but was lucid enough to play it off as a joke. But how likely is that? How likely is it that, not only does she suffer from seizures, which to my non-medical brain, don’t seem all that common to begin with, but on top of that, the seizures that she suffers from are of this really specific type that allow her to hold onto a cup of coffee and continue a conversation immediately afterward?

            And how likely is it, that not only is she having seizures of the specific sort that allow her to old onto coffee and go right back to speaking afterward, and play it off as a joke, but also these seizures are occurring at exactly the right frequency so as to have appeared on camera a grand total of one time?

            And how likely is it, that she had two completely different types of seizures, each of which caused only minimal interruption of her speaking in public, and each of which were caught on camera exactly one time?

            And why should that (to my non-medical brain) incredibly uncommon, but physically possible, explanation be seen as anywhere near being significantly likely, when all the evidence in favor of it could also adequately be explained by something quite a bit less exotic?

            So the Washington Post seems to use arguments against the possibility of a seizure that appear to be medically incorrect, at least according to my quick research.

            But we wouldn’t want to resort to a weakman, would we?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Actually, the secret service agent gets to Hillary’s side too fast, about two seconds after she starts looking at the protesters. There’s no way he could have noticed and reacted to a change in her demeanor so quickly– he could only have been responding to the disruption in the crowd.

            But there’s not much point in indulging Aapje’s delusion. It’s going to be like convincing a truther that jet fuel can indeed melt steel beams. When each ridiculous claim is shot down, a host of even less plausible ad hoc hypotheses will sprout up like kudzu to save it.

          • Bland says:

            @Earthly Knight

            I said that Clinton would have trouble concealing major seizures, and, since we haven’t seen any, this suggests she isn’t experiencing any major seizures.

            Yeah, if you’re only talking about major seizures then I agree. We should reduce the probability that Hillary is experiencing major seizures by at least the fraction of the time she is in public view. We certainly don’t have evidence of anything close to resembling a grand mal seizure.

            This means we need to reduce our confidence that she’s experiencing seizures at all in proportion to the fraction of former CVST patients who experience major seizures.

            I also agree with this. This is the 85% that I used to reduce the probability upthread (You pick some random numbers, but we have better numbers that we can use as estimates).

            In the series of Preter et al.

            Okay, Preter et al has long enough follow ups for me to conclude that there seems to be a decreased risk of seizure as recovery time increases. However, Ref 14 seems to have contrary data: “Long term follow-up showed good recovery of neurological function, but epilepsy was a troublesome sequel and needs regular anti-epileptic drug treatment.” (From the abstract. I don’t have access to that paper.)

            Either way, though, the PI’s failure means we need to reduce our confidence from the unconditional probability.

            Look, there are two separate things here that you are considering that you’re not making explicit. The PI can either find or not find conclusive evidence of a seizure, and the PI can either find or not find evidence that is plausibly a seizure, but also plausibly not a seizure. For some combinations of parameters, when you include both of these additional pieces of information the updated probability is lower than the prior probability that you had before including either. This would require it being both quite likely that conclusive evidence of minor seizures would appear and likely that for any given candidate you could find moments that are plausibly seizures.

            I don’t think this is possible given the fact that petit mal seizures are very commonly indistinguishable from the person zoning out. You can disagree if you like, but ask yourself, what evidence would satisfy you that a person who is trying to hide petit mal seizures is actually having them?

            All of the above relates to my attempt to quantify the probability that Hillary is currently suffering from seizures. Like I tried to imply above, reasonable people can disagree on the exact numbers. None of the above is my main point however.

            My main point is twofold: 1. Hillary has an elevated seizure risk relative to the general population. and 2. As a result, videos of what could plausibly be seizures and plausibly not be are relevant because they increase the probability that Hillary is experiencing seizures. It seems like everyone in this thread agrees with point 1. However, there is a lot of disagreement with point 2. People seem to be disagreeing with the fact that a video of a candidate that plausibly shows a seizure, but also plausibly shows something else increases the probability that a candidate is experiencing seizures. However, it is trivially easy to show this using Bayes’ theorem, and apparently I’m going to have to do just that as explicitly as possible.

            As I mentioned above, we should explicitly separate whether we have conclusive evidence (call it E), which we do not have, from whether we have evidence of what could plausibly be a seizure (call it e).

            So before we are informed about e, our probability for a candidate having minor seizures S is
            P(S | not E & not e).

            Once you are informed of e the probability becomes P(S | not E & e).

            One can show (using the definition of conditional probability,
            P(A | B) = P(A & B) / P (B), a few times):
            P(S | not E & e) >
            P(S | not E & not e)

            P (not E & e & S) /
            P(not E & e) >
            P (not E & not e & S) /
            P(not E & not e)

            P (e | not E & S) P(not E & S) /
            P(not E & e) >
            P ( not e | not E & S) P(not E & S) /
            P(not E & not e)

            P(e | not E & S) /
            (P(e | not E) P(not E) ) >
            P (not e | not E & S) /
            (P (not e | not E) P (not E))

            P(e | not E & S) /
            P(e | not E) >
            P (not e | not E & S) /
            P (not e | not E)

            Now, P( e | not E & S) > P(e | not E) because having seizures would increase the chances of seeing evidence of what could plausibly be a seizure.

            Likewise, P(not e | not E & S) <
            P (not e | not E) because having seizures would decrease the chances of not seeing evidence of what could plausibly be a seizure.

            So P(e | not E & S) / P(e | not E) >
            1 >
            P (not e | not E & S) /
            P (not e | not E)
            and the inequality is proven.

            This very clearly shows that evidence of what could plausibly be a seizure must increase the probability that the candidate has seizures. I don’t really see how anyone can think otherwise.

            Furthermore, like I’ve said before, I think it’s silly to attack anyone who wants to know how much this evidence increases the probability we assign to whether the candidate has seizures.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            This is the 85% that I used to reduce the probability upthread (You pick some random numbers, but we have better numbers that we can use as estimates).

            Your calculations were in error, for the reasons given above. The correct reduction in confidence should have been 42%, not 15%. But this only served to adjust the base-rate probability to account for the fact that Hillary is evidently not moderately or severely impaired, leaving open whether she might have mild lingering symptoms which take the form of major seizures.* We still need to update on the evidence against this hypothesis, namely that despite constant scrutiny of Hillary’s life by hostile actors no one can produce video or testimony of her experiencing a major seizure.

            *Note that several patients in the Portuguese study were classified as having only mild impairments (that is, given a 1 on the Rankin scale) despite ongoing full body seizures.

            because having seizures would increase the chances of seeing evidence of what could plausibly be a seizure.

            If “evidence of what could plausibly be a seizure” includes the videos we’re talking about, this is basically false, as every human alive routinely exhibits behavior like that captured in the videos. The decrement in confidence which comes from knowing that Hillary probably isn’t having major seizures will more than cancel out the minuscule difference in likelihoods you’re pointing to.

          • It isn’t clear to me why it much matters whether Hilary has occasional minor seizures. A president is rarely in a situation where he has to act within a few seconds.

            The interesting questions are how likely it is that she has some medical condition that would make her unable to serve and how likely to have some that would seriously reduce her ability to serve, such as early stage Alzheimer’s. I’ve seen no evidence of either, aside from her age.

            If there were evidence that she was likely to drop dead of a heart attack sometime soon, that might be a plus for those who think her VP would make a better president than she would.

            Which gets to the interesting question of what happens if a candidate dies or resigns after being nominated but before being elected, which I will shift to a new thread.

          • I give as little credence to Aapje’s claims as anyone here, but I’m a little bothered by the piling on, telling him he sounds like a paranoid loon, etc.

            No one should rush to conclusions (or even investigations) based on reports in disreputable sources, but neither should those reports be automatically assumed false.

            For example, in the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries. I was a supporter of John Edwards. Starting fairly early on, reports in trashy, low-credibility tabloids claimed evidence of Edwards’ extramarital affair and child.

            This received almost zero attention from news media and pundits, except for Mickey Kaus, a political blogger few liberal Democrats took seriously. Over time, I became convinced there had been a catastrophic breach of trust, and backed away from the Edwards campaign. Later, of course, the rest of the media and politicians caught on.

            @ Earthly Knight

            Third, Hillary’s physician publicly claims that she currently suffers from no medical conditions save hypothyroidism and seasonal allergies, and testimony carries at least the presumption of truth.

            @ Bland

            You may use this information to adjust your probability downward if you want. However, my model of the world does not allow for a politician’s medical doctor to admit during a campaign that the politician is suffering from minor seizures. So I can’t credit his statement.

            I side with Earthly Knight here. I think physicians take their ethics and reputations seriously enough that even a candidate’s paid doctor is unlikely to flagrantly lie, particularly about a major condition that will inevitably become public in the long run.

            So, yeah, rhetorical puffery aside, I do believe the physician’s statement that Donald Trump is a pretty healthy guy for a 69-year-old. I would be very surprised if the specific medical assertions in the doctor’s letter turned out to be fabrications.

    • Nornagest says:

      Pretty sure there’s no content here; we’re just getting to the stage of the campaign where both sides start throwing everything they have at the wall and seeing if it sticks.

    • Chalid says:

      It seems like if Clinton was having seizures, they would strike more-or-less at random, right? It seems vanishingly unlikely that video-worthy events would occur only in the tiny fraction of the time when there were other possible interpretations of the behavior. She’s in the public eye for hours every day, so if she actually had issues, you’d expect to be seeing health events happen in the middle of uneventful speeches, while she was kissing babies or shaking hands, etc.

      • Standing in the Shadows says:

        strike more-or-less at random, right?

        Wrong.

        I have dealt with this sort of thing a bit.

        The time incident of a seizure is not a completely independent random variable.

        My own experience dealing with (in another person, not myself) is that they tend to happen very soon after an abrupt stress or shock. They also are related to how long it’s been since the last one, like there is some sort of potential energy building up, and how much too little or too much sleep one has had, how tired one is, how long since one’s meds were taken, what meds they are on, and did their meds recently change.

        Early evening after a hard day after a long week with irregular dining and travel thus irregular med schedule right after an unpleasant surprise after a month of no seizures, and I would just immediately stand ready for an incident, because experience.

        • Aapje says:

          In the video Clinton was talking to someone and immediately after she stopped, two reported to her side took the chance to simultaneously ask her a question. I would consider such an event somewhat stressful if it happened to me, so I can see how she could potentially have been triggered.

    • Mr. Breakfast says:

      I wonder to what extent the rage following from this topic simply reflects people’s despair at seeing toxic Facebook-style clickbait invading the SSC comments.

      • Aapje says:

        Fair enough, I try to stay away from social media to a large extent and wasn’t aware of how much of a shit-storm this probably is in some social environments.

        Nevertheless, I would suggest that rationalists should be open to discussing things that are discussed in toxic way in society, in a non-toxic way. IMHO, I was not toxic and the response to my comments lacked good faith.

        I have seen discussions here about immigrants that didn’t get the same treatment, despite the discussions about immigrants in society often being very toxic.

        • CatCube says:

          Dude, as somebody who has hated HRC since the 90s let me tell you what I tell my older relatives who bring up Obama’s race: There are so many good reasons to hate this person that you don’t need to make up dumb ones.

          You’re hanging this “seizures” thing on a thin thread that requires reading conspiracy into normal human behavior. Could the videos be evidence of a heretofore unacknowledged seizure-causing disease? Yeah, I guess. They could also be evidence that she’s a little alien driving an android body like from Men in Black, and the little guy’s hands slip from the controls when he’s stressed out. You can’t rule either explanation out from the video, but it takes motivated reasoning to insist that it provides good evidence for either hypothesis.

          Freezing up when cops dogpile somebody who might be trying to kill you is pretty normal human behavior. If video turns up of her flopping around like a beached fish, or staring into space with drool dripping down her chin, I’ll acknowledge you’re right. Until then, I’m not going to waste my time lathering myself up over something that’s probably nothing.

          • hlynkacg says:

            This is essentially my take as well.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Thirded. “Media covers up Clinton’s health problems” would gratify my id unbelievably. But you waste my time with this? C’mon.

          • Untrue Neutral says:

            I will say, the video of her with the reporters does not look like a joke to me. It also doesnt strike me as incredible evidence that she’d be unfit for the presidency, though…I already think she’s unfit for other reasons.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            I’m shocked by how much wordage has been spent here on interpreting these videos, with scarcely a mention of progress in finding out who the key witnesses were (SS and reporter) and what they say actually happened.

            Here’s a statement from the coffee shop reporter.

            http://elections.ap.org/content/video-proves-clinton-suffering-seizures-not-so-i-was-there
            WASHINGTON (AP) — I’ve never been part of a conspiracy theory. Now, video of my surprised facial expression has become Exhibit A in the latest unfounded speculation about Hillary Clinton.

            It starts with Clinton’s visit to a muffin shop in Washington on June 10, five days before the District of Columbia’s Democratic primary. The then-presumptive Democratic nominee popped in for a photo op with Mayor Muriel Bowser and other officials supporting her campaign.

            As an Associated Press reporter who’s spent more than a year covering her candidacy, I was there for her appearance. After she ordered herself a “cold chai,” my colleagues and I shouted some questions, mostly about Clinton’s recent meeting with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

            Perhaps eager to avoid answering or maybe just taken aback by our volume, Clinton responded with an exaggerated motion, shaking her head vigorously for a few seconds. Video of the moment shows me holding out my recorder in front of her, laughing and stepping back in surprise. After the exchange, she took a few more photos, exited the shop and greeted supporters waiting outside.

            Two months later, that innocuous exchange has become the fodder for one of some Trump supporters’ most popular conspiracy theories: her failing health. Where I saw evasiveness, they see seizures.
            […..]
            Fox News never contacted me to ask that question. For the record, I wasn’t scared for a moment.
            Follow Lisa Lerer on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/llerer

          • Aapje says:

            houseboatonstyxb,

            The statement add nothing to the video, as we can see for ourselves with the benefit of being able to replay it.

      • ” toxic Facebook-style clickbait invading the SSC comments.”

        I didn’t think the initial post was FB style clickbait, although the source of the videos might be. Whether purported evidence presented by a partisan is or is not worth anything is an interesting question, and in this case the evidence was available to be looked at and argued over. What felt much more like FB was the incivility of the exchange that followed, due at least as much to Aapje’s critics as to him.

        And I thought Aapje’s suggestion of how to test the question, by identifying the putative Secret Service man, was a sensible one.

        • Aapje says:

          In my opinion, one can debate all topics at a high level or crudely. In hindsight, I might have framed it differently to get a better response.

    • Agronomous says:

      @Aapje:

      I tried to ignore as much of the surrounding web page as I could, and here’s my reaction:

      Clinton giving boring, robot speech. Interesting thing happens! Lots of Secret Service guys rushing some guy. Clinton stops giving speech to figure out how big this disturbance is, and listen to what the Secret Service agents want her to do: get off stage? tell audience to flee? Secret Service Agent gets up on the stage in record time. SSA puts his hand on Clinton’s back, because he might need to shove her to the ground or spin her around behind him.

      Other SSAs tell him via the thingie in his ear that it’s just some animal-rights wacko and the situation is under control. SSA tells Clinton to keep talking, pats her shoulder because his hand’s already there and it reinforces the everything-is-OK message (for all I know this is part of the training). Clinton resumes talking, attempts to incorporate protesters’ issues into her talk, because who doesn’t love animals? (Donald Trump, that’s who!)

      So, basically, nothing strange there. It’s just a pointless distraction from emails, dead ambassadors, and amazing skill at trading cattle futures.

      I’m not sure exactly why you got the reaction you got. I’m not even sure why I should be concerned about minor seizures even if they existed. I do think that, when people respond dismissively toward what you say, pressing the point is frequently a waste of time. (This advice does not apply to warnings about natural disasters, cloning dinosaurs, or bringing giant wooden horses into your city.)

      • HeelBearCub says:

        @Agronomous:
        He got the reaction he did because everything you said is obvious, and he refuses to admit that.

        • Aapje says:

          I got called names before I even got the chance to ‘admit’ something.

          I really think it wasn’t about me, but anger at something happening on social media or elsewhere that was projected on me.

  10. Tekhno says:

    Is it possible to induce intense pain without causing any damage, long term or otherwise?

    • Joaquin Xi says:

      Shallow cuts tend to heal up pretty well. Mine don’t have any visible scarring. Of course, they become addicting and you will eventually want to go deeper.

      That being said, why?

    • Sandy says:

      Certain drugs and vitamin deficiencies can cause painful neuropathies. In terms of damage…..well, it’s not externally visible, but it’s still not great for your body.

      Are you an abusive domestic partner or a pain junkie?

    • Tekhno says:

      I want to find a way to induce controllable non-damaging pain so that I can train myself to withstand pain without impairing my body in any way during the process.

      • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

        You should probably train for a marathon

        While the traditional benefits of vigorous exercise — like prevention and treatment of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, and osteoporosis — are well known and often reported, the most powerful benefit might be the lesson that my coach imparted to me: In a world where comfort is king, arduous physical activity provides a rare opportunity to practice suffering.

        • Urstoff says:

          He said non-damaging. Long-distance running can really mess you up. Train for a 5k or shorter sprints.

      • Anon says:

        Having your showers on the coldest possible setting is probably the safest way to increase pain tolerance.

    • anon says:

      I’d probably look into electric fencing products.

    • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

      Paresthesia?

    • Aapje says:

      AFAIK, intense pain causes neurological changes, so depending on how you define ‘damage,’ it may not be possible to induce intense pain without causing minor permanent damage.

      That said, I agree with Anon that electricity is probably the best bet.

      However, I wonder what the usefulness of your training would be. In situations where the human body needs to ignore severe pain, it generally releases a drug that enables this: adrenaline. If you have a specific reason to push your body in other scenario’s, like sports, you’d be better off to induce the same pain that you want to withstand (by training very hard, so your muscles start to hurt, for example).

    • Orphan Wilde says:

      Look into electrosex toys. A scrotal parachute is probably your best bet there, if you’re a guy, as the pain varies from “Testicle stabbed with a needle” to “Getting kicked in the groin every X seconds”, which should give you a decent idea of the range.

      I don’t believe it does any reproductive harm, but you may want to do your own research there.

    • Tekhno says:

      AFAIK, intense pain causes neurological changes, so depending on how you define ‘damage,’ it may not be possible to induce intense pain without causing minor permanent damage.

      Well, everything causes neurological changes, only the specific neurological changes I want are increased ability to resist pain. I want to avoid nerve damage, which electricity could possibly cause.

      However, I wonder what the usefulness of your training would be.

      I want to be able to withstand being tortured during WW3, by pre-torturing myself.

      • Ralf says:

        > I want to be able to withstand being tortured during WW3, by pre-torturing myself

        Oh my god. I really hope you said that to cover up a weird sexual perversion, instead of that being the real reason…

        In the unlikely event there will be WW3, why do you assume to be tortured? Also, how do I know in WW3 you won’t be the evil torturer, and all the other posters gave you wicked ideas for torturing me?

        • Tekhno says:

          Always with the sex…

          I don’t find WW3 all that unlikely (big wars happen every century), and since extreme torture was pretty common in the last World War to extract information, it might be applied on me. I don’t expect the Geneva Convention to hold up under those conditions.

          Besides I like the idea of becoming too strong to defeat psychologically.

          • Sandy says:

            Are you the kind of person that useful information could be extracted from?

            Because if you’re just a civilian or otherwise unimportant, any hypothetical torture might just be for the amusement of what I’m assuming are your Russo-Sino-Islamic captors.

          • Tekhno says:

            Are you the kind of person that useful information could be extracted from?

            I have no idea, but who knows what I’ll be doing in ten years.

            As you can imagine, I’m not being that serious here, and just like the idea of being too ‘ard to torture.

          • Aapje says:

            being too ‘ard to torture.

            Training yourself to be too hard to torture seems like a fantasy more than reality. If you look at testimony of soldiers, they don’t really break because of the pain, they primarily break because of psychological breakdown due to to continued exposure to maltreatment, without knowing when or if it will end.

            You cannot simulate this yourself without the aid of someone to torture you and no sane person will do this to you (and if people do offer, that would immediately disqualify them).

            You should look into SERE level C training to see how actual torture resistance training is performed and to understand why you can’t just mimic that.

        • Mr. Breakfast says:

          Also, how do I know in WW3 you won’t be the evil torturer, and all the other posters gave you wicked ideas for torturing me?

          How do you know Tekhno isn’t an incredibly clever humanitarian, establishing a “Torturing-Capability-In-Being” so as to disincentivize you and others from actions which might lead to WW3?

      • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

        “I want to be able to withstand being tortured during WW3, by pre-torturing myself.”

        Waterboarding isn’t very painful…

      • Murphy says:

        I doubt you’d be able to get to the point of being torture-proof.

        Also there’s enough inventive non-pain forms of torture. You’d also need to purge yourself of every phobia or else they can just glue you to the floor and dump buckets of spiders and cockroaches on you until you crack. Or go after your bodily integrity with a clippers. Or chinese water torture you into submission. Or just deprive you of sleep until you start to go insane. Or start dragging people you care about in front of you and subject them to all of them above. Or subject you to all of the above again and again.

      • Sfoil says:

        This sounds trivial, but I’ve found that applying concentrated pressure (such as with another fingernail) just below a nailbed is incredibly painful and I can’t imagine it causes any permanent damage. Bastinado — whipping of the bottoms of the feet — is also a classic technique that supposedly causes no permanent damage.

        That being said, I think you’re wasting your time. “Torture” broadly understood involves not just pain but general discomfort, isolation, and of course the threat of permanent mutilation or dismemberment. In fact non-destructive pain-compliance techniques are little more than parlor tricks when it comes to someone torturing you for information, amusement, or punishment. Having your head put into a bench vise hurts but the real fear is that they’ll keep cranking until you die.

        • Tekhno says:

          the real fear is that they’ll keep cranking until you die

          And the trick is knowing that they won’t. You can’t kill information out of someone.

          Besides, if they need information, they are probably going to kill me after they’ve got it anyway.

      • Nornagest says:

        If you’re trying to minimize your lifetime chances of lasting physical or psychological damage from war, I think there’s lots of stuff out there with a better return on investment than trying to increase your pain tolerance.

        But if you’re actually serious about this, it’s possible to take a SERE course as a civilian, and many of them include segments on withstanding torture. I expect a lot of them are marketed toward the tacticool demographic, though, and I have no idea how to figure out which are actually worth taking.

    • How about capsaicin?

      People have hurt themselves in eating contests, so *some* caution is called for, but you can use it to cause quite a bit of pain short of that.

      • Orphan Wilde says:

        Spicy food has some undesirable side-effects, unfortunately. Although the high from sufficiently painful food is very nice.

      • erenold says:

        This is pretty good. It really is extremely hot, but – surprisingly – the noodles themselves aren’t bad, either.

        The spice comes from packets of chilli sauce as well, so the best part is that OP can just calibrate the dosage by putting more and more chilli as required.

    • onyomi says:

      Or take lessons from this guy.

      • When I brought up capsaicin, I didn’t quite have the nerve to mention that your mouth isn’t the only mucous membrane you’ve got. Obviously, I don’t know what nerve means.

        That guy is a weird intersection of values– both toughness is good and safety is good. However, having 911 prepped in case you pass out isn’t what I’d call adequate.

        When I clicked on the link, I was expecting Wim Hof.

    • Utopn Naxl says:

      Probably. Apply some type of drug to the brain that is more specific then alcohol, or perhaps even electric shocks, that has been shown to greatly inhibit memory formation. That is part of the attempt to not have permanent mental damage.

      After that, waterboard.

      I am sure the governments of the world have found ways to create pain without visible or permanent damage.

  11. Ruprect says:

    There is an Ian M Banks book about hell – Surface Detail. Anyone read that?

    Also, following on from last thread about anime/manga – there is very definite pattern with me and anime – I always start off enjoying it, but end up disappointed before the story has completed. They often have interesting ideas and settings, but very rarely have a satisfying conclusion. Perhaps, only exceptions to this are:
    Original Berserk anime (which didn’t conclude, but was left off at a satisfying point (and I agree with the commenter who said that the manga was worthless trash))
    Monster – which I remember being entertained by right up to the end.

    Anime which I enjoyed the start of but thought had terrible endings/mid-parts : Attack on Titan, Parasyte the maxim, death note (this is a rare case where the live-action movie had a FAR better story than the anime), Gantz, Hellsing (lost interest after a few episodes), Samurai Champloo, Claymore…
    – they all drop off terribly and leaves me wondering if it isn’t some structural thing about the way anime are produced.

    • AG says:

      I think the nature of manga publication contributes to this. Unlike with current comic books, where writers/illustrators seem to get a confirmed number of issues for their run, manga artists seem to be flying by the seat of their pants each chapter, not knowing if it will be their last. Very rarely do these stories have a long-term plan in mind from the start. So it’s closer to the format of the older comic books, or Victorian serials.

      The main thing that appears to contribute to how various shows have a great act/arc and then completely different/terrible end or middle acts seems to be based around how, rather than following classic western 3-or-5 act structure, they follow the 4-act structure of kishotenketsu. The ebb-and-flow of tension within kishotenketsu sometimes has rather different priorities than western viewers are accustomed to, and illuminated a lot of shows for me when I finally learned of the concept.

      • Ruprect says:

        That’s interesting, thanks.

        With respect to the chapter-by-chapter structure – makes sense. Personally, I think that kind of structure is more forgivable in a long-running manga series, but it seems less forgivable for an anime, or television show, which presumably has a fixed number of episodes before it is produced.

    • M.C. Escherichia says:

      > Surface Detail. Anyone read that?

      Yes. It’s OK but not one of the best Culture books. It’s been a while now so I don’t remember too well, but some things didn’t make sense: wasn’t there a simulated war to settle the issue? One may as well simply flip a coin. Also, I recall one conservative character who wanted there to be a Hell to deter people’s cruel natures, while this same character was engaged in a cover-up to hide the existence of such a thing.

      As Dr. Strangelove would say, “ze whole point of ze device is lost, if you keep it a secret!”

      • Murphy says:

        I can somewhat get the simulated war. When both sides have the capacity to turn the other into a fine cloud near-c of vapor something like champion warfare seems somewhat reasonable.

        In “real” conflicts where the goal is annihilation it’s not going to happen, indeed Vatueil made some cracks about ultimately war coming down to the physical world.

        but if it’s a more minor ideological conflict within a society I could imagine some exasperated Minds getting the 2 sides to agree to fight it out in virtual.

        I think it was a little more complex than that.

        There were some people who wanted it as a visible public punishment but others who just wanted to make sure that the kind of people they hated most burned in hell for as long as possible.

        Also, of those who wanted it to be a visible public punishment it would be publicly embarrassing if it were revealed that minor offenders were ending up in the lowest circles of hell when they’re supposed to be chilling in the 1st or if it turned out that the people running hell were knowingly torturing people they knew to not be prisoners.

        And some groups wanted there to be a hell for people they didn’t like but couldn’t run one in their own territory for whatever reason so contracted it out and taking such contracts was politically unpopular such that the guys running the server farm wanted to be quiet about it.

        • M.C. Escherichia says:

          I understand the desire not to have a real war, but my point was, if you’re willing to have a simulated war, you may as well reduce it to the point that requires the least amount of effort, and just flip a coin. Maybe a biased coin, if you think one side had a better chance to prevail in the real world.

          • Skivverus says:

            Well, sure, if you know the odds of winning with your simulated armies well enough, you can reduce them to a coinflip. But the act of figuring out the odds of winning pretty much amounts to simulating the war anyway, so why not use the simulation as your decision rather than the coinflip?

          • brad says:

            In the culture universe high accuracy simulations are ethically fraught because they involve creating agents of moral relevance.

      • Ruprect says:

        “Yes. It’s OK but not one of the best Culture books.”

        I feel a real affinity with the idea of the Culture books – I would like to love them – but I, sadly, don’t think there are any that are really worthy of love.

        Actually, quite similar to my complaint about anime above – the first part of the book tends to be far better than the mid-section/ conclusion. Player of Games might be an exception, Use of Weapons maybe? (Though I think that that book uses trickery to give the impression of consistent quality throughout that only really works during your first read.)

        I thought the Wasp Factory was good throughout, but that was Ian “no M” Banks (and a long time since I read it.) I loved the bit where he talked about the father’s large and greasy cock and balls. That expression has never left me.

        Anyway, not Culture, but I think The Algebraist was the clearest example of Ian M Banks mid-book collapse.

        • M.C. Escherichia says:

          My favourite is The State of the Art novella, which I think is usually sold as part of a collection of lesser stories. I seem to recall one dubious conversation in which the ship’s Mind calls the Culture “communist” — which being a post-scarcity society it clearly isn’t — but apart from that it’s really excellent.

          Aside from that, I really liked the appendices of Consider Phlebas, insofar as they spell out the Culture’s raison d’être.

          • Not Particularly Anonymous says:

            I think it’s worth noting that the conversation in question was specifically about what Earth-humans at the height of the Cold War would think of the Culture. If you have to class them as “capitalist” or “communist”, the post-scarcity society with no private property and an economy run entirely by centralized computers clearly falls closer to the latter. On top of that, I think the point of the comment was to point to the irony that the Culture understood that the West were the “good guys”, or at least, the side that wasn’t regularly oppressing millions of people, while also knowing them to be entirely wrong about their most precious economic ideals.

          • M.C. Escherichia says:

            Hmm. I reread it (or rather, an illegal but probably complete online bootleg) today, and didn’t find exactly the paragraph I remembered; I think I was recalling the speech of Linter (the guy who campaigns to be ship captain) who says vaguely positive things about “socialism”.

    • Nornagest says:

      There is an Ian M Banks book about hell – Surface Detail. Anyone read that?

      Yep. It’s strongly reminiscent of the Hell scenes from Unsong, even down to including some fairly clever psychological and ethical traps; I think there’s an attractor here that depictions of Hell written from a certain perspective tend to converge on.

    • wtvb says:

      Madoka Magica pulls this off well in my opinion. I can’t really think of a low point for the anime.

      If you want endless entertainment, there’s always the never-ending ride of Samurai Flamenco. However, the tone is much less serious than any other thing mentioned

      • AG says:

        Yes, an argument can be made that anime-originals (rather than adaptation of manga/LN/VN) can be structured more optimally to the format. Shows that don’t adhere to source material fidelity can also avoid some of the tension issues that come from straight adaptation. Consider Suzumiya Haruhi S1, or Baccano!, which maintains energy by chopping the timeline up, going with patterned structure instead.

        (From the shows Ruprect listed, Samurai Champloo is the exception, but it’s also different from the other shows listed in that it’s more of a vignette format, where the overall season isn’t meant to have an arc connected by the central characters.)

        Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure and Symphogear would be my recommendations for entertainment action anime, as well as aforementioned Baccano.

  12. A history of depression in Japan

    Depression started out being seen as a moral failing or a physical problem caused by lack of rest, then in the 90s, an advertising campaign for Prozac and a court case which gave a big settlement to the family of someone who committed suicide led to depression being seen as a real disease. Now there’s some pushback because there are people resent those with depression getting extra time off.

    There’s a manja about depression by Torisugari, an artist who suffers from it.

  13. Ruprect says:

    Recently started going to psycotherapy sessions. How concerned should I be about talking crap during them?

    My own (deep) internal life is a bit of a mystery to me – I think I tend to make up stories about my motivations based upon my mood/ the image I want to present.

    Whenever I get into it, it doesn’t really seem to lead anywhere, so I’ve just avoided talking or thinking about myself for the past decade or so. Anyway, whenever I go to these sessions and start talking about what I’m feeling, I start crying, and come out with these long winded explanations and theories about why such and such has had this effect etc. but, as soon as I leave, I don’t really feel any of that stuff.

    Now I’m spending my free time trying to think of interesting stories about my mind to tell my therapist. Im not sure that this is healthy.

    I would ask him about this, but then I realised that this is just one more theory about my own mind – and I’m kind of worried that I’m just going to piss him off with my bullshit.

    Um… what does a good therapy subject do?

    • Anonymous says:

      One of the big reasons I stay away from therapists is that (I suspect) I don’t share the same foundational concepts about minds and mental states. So if one were to ask, for example, how I cope with [thing], my brain would simply return a 404 error.

      • jimmy says:

        Interesting. Could you expand on that a bit?

        Do you think you understand the foundational concepts that the therapists use? Do you think it’s reasonably likely that these concepts have some validity and use that isn’t captured by your own concepts?

        What would you tell the therapist after receiving the 404 error? Are you sure that a 404 error isn’t one of the possible responses the therapist is looking for?

        • Anonymous says:

          I can’t really say whether I understand the foundational concepts used by therapists, but neither have I seen therapists say “These are some foundational concepts that may be helpful to you . . . Give them a try!”

          Similarly, I don’t know whether a therapist is looking for a 404 error. However, one thing I have have lately realized that I place a high value on is interacting with people who can mentally model me with sufficient accuracy. To the extent that someone asks me a 404-error-generating question, that is indication that they can’t.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      At least if it’s psychodynamic therapy (sort of free-form, you’re not doing anything in particular), I would recommend losing your filter. This is one reason therapists are so interested in dreams and MDMA and stuff like that – enforced filter loss.

    • Jill says:

      “Anyway, whenever I go to these sessions and start talking about what I’m feeling, I start crying, and come out with these long winded explanations and theories about why such and such has had this effect etc. but, as soon as I leave, I don’t really feel any of that stuff.”

      My own view is that if you are crying, something meaningful is happening. But that doesn’t mean you know what it is immediately. If possible, you might see if you can let go of any need to come out with a theory or explanation quickly. If you feel something and you cry, you could just feel whatever you feel and cry for a while.

      “Now I’m spending my free time trying to think of interesting stories about my mind to tell my therapist. Im not sure that this is healthy.”

      As a psychotherapist, if I had a patient like you, I could be most helpful to you if you would just come out and tell me that you find yourself spending your free time in this way. Sometimes people can try so hard to please or entertain their therapist, that they waste their therapy sessions and don’t get anything out of them. If you have an issue of that type, you and your therapist should address it, so you can work on it, and then notice it if you– or your therapist– sees you wasting your time playing the entertainer

      “I would ask him about this, but then I realized that this is just one more theory about my own mind – and I’m kind of worried that I’m just going to piss him off with my bullshit.”

      If he’s a good therapist, he will be patient with you not understanding yourself well and being mistaken sometimes about what’s going on with you. This is why people come to therapy– for help with issues like this.

  14. Not an SJW, just hear me out says:

    I just did an archive binge of Unsong. I absolutely loved it btw. But one thing stuck out like a sore thumb and reminded me of a Sailer-esque observation:

    What is it with west-coast SWPL or Jewish liberals and Asians? It’s really weird that the most socially progressive demographics in the country are basically at the same level as Breakfast at Tiffanies in terms of tact.

    I mean, you have to have worked with a decent number or dated some of their women just by sheer numbers. Especially in Cali. They aren’t that inscrutable or exotic up close.

    Edit: On a less culture war-y note, looks like the Penny Arcade guys are channeling Uriel.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I know many Asians (and lived in Japan for a few years). What aspect of Asians in the book seemed off to you? Ally? She was very specifically supposed to be a very recent immigrant from a hypertraditionalist version of China.

      • Not an SJW, just hear me out says:

        Yeah definitely Ally, plus everything about the Harmonious Jade Dragon Empire including the name.

        It just seemed a bit off. Even granting Uriel-using-Ruby-on-Rails type humor, it just was a bit distracting and out of place for me. Like the cultural equivalent of TV hacking? FOB-y Chinese girls and inelegantly-translated Chinese names exist, but those in particular seem very off and implied a lack of familiarity.

        Maybe that’s just me being a sinophile or too sensitive, idk.The Kaifeng Jews thing was a really neat touch though: hardly anyone talks about them or the Kobe Jews.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          Ally’s an immigrant so I could make terrible immigration-related puns (see eg Chapter 5). And her name is translated as it is because she corresponds to the Biblical character Elihu, as several commenters have pointed out.

          More broadly, I feel like everywhere in the book has received the “Harmonious Jade Dragon Empire” treatment, ie become an overdone caricature of itself. San Francisco is a cosmic consciousness of universal love. Los Angeles is a giant movie set controlled by a celebrity-obsessed angel. Mexico is ruled by sentient illegal drugs. This is not exactly subtle, and I’m not sure what leads you to only notice the Chinese version.

  15. Ruprect says:

    In his post, Pushing and Pulling Goals, Scott wrote: “Sometimes on Reddit’s /r/writing I see people asking “How do you come up with ideas for things to write about?” and I feel a sort of horror.”

    I like writing fiction as a hobby. I find it quite easy to come up with fun (for me) short stories, but very difficult to write anything long.

    I feel like there is a serious problem with motivations – in that you can’t have both prolonged interesting interactions, and relatable motivations.

    Most people’s (relatable) motivations won’t result in interesting interactions.

    You can get around this; in short stories we don’t have time to really think about, identify with the character. Or it’s relatable for an ordinary character to find themselves in some interesting situation for one scene. Or the antagonist is a force of nature. Or we can suspend our critical thinking for the (short) length of the story.

    If the Man from the South offers me a bet for my thumb in a short story, it’s interesting. If I have to think about his motivations for any prolonged length of time it’ll become unrelatable.

    Also, sci-fi/fantasy settings are a way to make us accept interesting interactions without having to identify with characters’ motivations. An alien or demon does interesting things because we can’t understand them.

    There are interesting novels set in the real world, but they are very rare, and works of great genius, I think.

    Anyway, so that’s what causes the difficulty – you might have an interesting story that you want to tell, or an interesting theme, but unless you have the techniques to combine that story with relatable characters, your story will be unappealing.

    You need that technique.

    • Aegeus says:

      You can get around this; in short stories we don’t have time to really think about, identify with the character. Or it’s relatable for an ordinary character to find themselves in some interesting situation for one scene. Or the antagonist is a force of nature. Or we can suspend our critical thinking for the (short) length of the story.

      I think this is more of a solution than you think: If you can put an ordinary character in an interesting situation for one scene, why not the next scene as well? And so on and so forth until the end of the story? Given the right circumstances, many common emotions can lead to interesting actions. Love is one obvious example – you can set your hero on an exciting murderous rampage with a motivation as simple as “The bad guys killed his wife.”

      The “Hero’s Journey” pattern (or the “Save the Cat” pattern, if you like) is a formula for doing this: You start by establishing the hero in the Ordinary World, where you establish them as a normal, likeable human being with relatable motivations. Then you give them a reason to leave their circumstances and enter the World of Adventure, whereupon those motivations now drive them to do cool stuff like fight giant monsters or fly spaceships or plot bank heists. Then they return to the Ordinary World, having grown as a character, and we see how they’ve changed in a more relatable situation.

      If you’re asking if it’s possible to write an interesting story without some extraordinary circumstances… that’s a lot trickier. I can think of a couple of examples, I’ve seen dramas and romances that don’t involve anything more unusual than a broken family, but even then, “broken family” probably counts as extraordinary for most of your readers. Maybe slice of life animes?

      EDIT: Just thought of another example. The famous “bottle episode” from Community happens because one character loses her pen. That’s it. It ends in complete chaos, but it’s purely character-driven conflict. The characters are all weird enough that you can put them in an empty classroom and they’ll still manage to get up to shenanigans.

  16. Ruprect says:

    Question I asked above: “If we are (fundamentally) non-mental processes, why haven’t we finished yet?”

    AKA – is it possible to have a meaningful theory of time that has no reference to human experience.

    AKA – Isn’t talk of mind-independent events anthropomorphising the universe? (Projecting our experience onto a (supposedly) non-mental entity? (contradiction)

    Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent?

    • Ruprect says:

      If no-one answers, it means that I win.

    • Orphan Wilde says:

      I suspect like there are elements to your epistemology you are mistakenly assuming are common, because your questions read like gibberish to me.

      The answers to your questions, however, are “Yes” and “No”, but I suspect your concept of what “non-mental” means is doing some heavy lifting in your internal representation of the latter question that isn’t translating. You appear to be regarding “event” as an important concept that requires a brain to process, whereas I use it as a symbol to refer to part of my map which refers to part of the territory. Which is to say, what I would call an event, I will call an event, even if my brain is not around in a hypothetical situation to categorize it as such.

      • Ruprect says:

        “You appear to be regarding “event” as an important concept that requires a brain to process, whereas I use it as a symbol to refer to part of my map which refers to part of the territory.”

        Yeah – I actually have serious problems with the Map-Territory part of the sequences. I don’t really understand what is being said about the territory – are we saying that certain experiences are imposed upon us, that we have no conscious control of them?
        Are we saying that those experiences exist independent of our minds?

        “Which is to say, what I would call an event, I will call an event, even if my brain is not around in a hypothetical situation to categorize it as such.”

        OK… so what is the object of this sentence? Is an event a purely abstract concept with no relation to any mental phenomena… if so how is it meaningful?

        Nihilism = “I am talking nonsense, therefore the world has no meaning”?

        (You assert that a term can exist “an event” that has no relation to any experience – and that because you are able to make this assertion, the world is fundamentally not related to experience.)

        • TheAncientGeek says:

          @Ruprect

          > are we saying that certain experiences are imposed upon us, that we have no conscious control of them?
          Are we saying that those experiences exist independent of our minds?

          That’s a rather mentalistic take on the territory. If you want to prove that the territory is mental, you had better not assume it.

          What exists independently from minds is things, not experiences. If you wanted to express that starting from subjectivism you could say that experiences come to us from outside , or that there are experiencable things which are not experienced. But I don’t think a realist would want to start there.

          > OK… so what is the object of this sentence? Is an event a purely abstract concept with no relation to any mental phenomena… if so how is it meaningful?

          Why does it need to be meaningful? Words with non-mental referents, such as “event” or “atom” are meaningful in the ordinary linguistic sense … and anything can be said to be meaningless for some weird, contrived meaning of “meaning”.

          • Rupert says:

            Yes, I don’t think I would really object to the idea of “a mind independent ‘thing'” in the same way that I would object to the idea of “a mind independent ‘event'”. To me, an event assumes a temporal/experiential element, whereas “thing” is sufficiently vague that it could just be a ‘thing’ about which we know nothing.

            I would say that the meaning of a word is the relation it has to other terms, and ultimately, to some kind of sensory experience.
            (Is mathematics meaningful because relations themselves are a form of sensory experience? Not sure, but mathematics is only meaningful because it examines relations – we’re interested in how our terms relate to or represent relations themselves.)

            “Event” and “atom” are meaningful because they ultimately reference some kind of sensory experience. Perhaps referring to a non-mental object is meaningful to the extent that it (like a mathematical term) represents a relation. So I say “a thing caused me to have that experience” – the term “thing” has meaning as a representation of the sensory experience of “cause”.

            So, yeah. Why does it have to be meaningful? Well, it doesn’t – but I think, by definition (?) if we are saying something meaningless, we can’t draw any conclusions from what we are saying. Like, if I say “Blugerkump”. I can’t really base any arguments on that particular combination of letters.

          • Aegeus says:

            That’s definitely a workable philosophical stance, and there isn’t really a way to test that things exist outside of your perception of them (because that would involve perceiving them). But if that’s so, it’s interesting that everyone you talk to seems to perceive mostly the same things, and that things you perceive tend to behave in reliable, consistent ways.

            I think that, even if you can only define words by reference to your experiences, there’s value in drawing a distinction between “the mental experiences that happen in a predictable fashion that seem to correspond to an external reality” and “the mental experiences that happen when you think certain thoughts but don’t appear to directly impact the first type of experience.” I would call the first kind of experiences “reality” or “the territory” and the second “your mind” or “the map.”

            As the saying goes, “Reality is the thing that, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”

          • Ruprect says:

            Yeah, there is certainly something being imposed upon us.

            I guess it really comes down to the question of whether the causes of “imposed” reality are something non-mental, completely unknowable and stop talking about them, or mental in some way.
            For me, when people assert that the cause is non-mental, but still somehow knowable, it’s like they are trying to sneak in idealism by the back door. We are in God’s dream, but there is no God.

            Cheeses me off.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            To me, an event assumes a temporal/experiential element,

            Is the temporal a problem without the experiential.

            “Event” and “atom” are meaningful because they ultimately reference some kind of sensory experience

            Says who? Going by ordinary dictionary definitions, they refer to possible causes of experience, not experiences. “Pain” and “red” are words relating to experiences, “thumbscrew” and “tomato” are not.

            Perhaps referring to a non-mental object is meaningful to the extent that it (like a mathematical term) represents a relation.

            If you can’t talk about non mental objects, how is that sentence comprehensible?

            guess it really comes down to the question of whether the causes of “imposed” reality are something non-mental, completely unknowable and stop talking about them, or mental in some way.

            is the non mentality supposed to imply the unknowability, or are they two independent propositions?

            For me, when people assert that the cause is non-mental, but still somehow knowable, it’s like they are trying to sneak in idealism by the back door.

            That’s almost the opposite of idealism.

            PS I find it ironic that you quote Wittgenstein. He argued against a theory of language in which subjective sensation grounds all meaning.

          • Ruprect says:

            Is the temporal a problem without the experiential.”

            I feel as if the two are inextricably linked.

            Says who? Going by ordinary dictionary definitions, they refer to possible causes of experience, not experiences. “Pain” and “red” are words relating to experiences, “thumbscrew” and “tomato” are not.

            OK – so, the term ‘atom’ or ‘event’ are meaningful to the extent that the ultimately reference some kind of sensory experience. I assumed that “atom”/”event” would be used to describe some observed relation between different phenomena – if not then their only meaning is as “cause”.
            Tomato refers to some particular combination of sensory experiences. You can have abstract terms, like “democracy” that refer to relations between other abstract terms – but this only has real meaning to the extent that it ultimately involves a relation between some sensory experience. Often with words such as “democracy” the sensory experience is imagined (rather than imposed by external reality).

            “Perhaps referring to a non-mental object is meaningful to the extent that it (like a mathematical term) represents a relation.”

            If you can’t talk about non mental objects, how is that sentence comprehensible?

            Yeah, actually, I don’t think that sentence makes much sense. I think what I’m trying to say is that we can talk about abstractions themselves, relations themselves, since relations are a slightly obscure form of sensory experience.

            “guess it really comes down to the question of whether the causes of “imposed” reality are something non-mental, completely unknowable and stop talking about them, or mental in some way.”

            is the non mentality supposed to imply the unknowability, or are they two independent propositions?

            I think that being non-mental implies unknowability. I’m not sure if that’s the case for everyone?

            “For me, when people assert that the cause is non-mental, but still somehow knowable, it’s like they are trying to sneak in idealism by the back door.”

            That’s almost the opposite of idealism.

            Is it? I think there is something very attractive about the idea that “the world” (external – beyond us) is as you see it. But that also implies to me that mental experience can somehow exist outside of us, and is part of the universe. Which reminds me of Berkelen idealism. But of course, Berkley believed in God.

            PS I find it ironic that you quote Wittgenstein. He argued against a theory of language in which subjective sensation grounds all meaning.

            But is that what the Wittgenstein who said that argued? I thought he changed his mind.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            Is the temporal a problem without the experiential.”

            I feel as if the two are inextricably linked.

            The facts seem to be to the contrary. It is possible to unlink the objective features of time from the subjective one, which is what allows us to write history and come up with theories of the early universe. This is taught in classrooms every day. So objective time and subjective time actually have been unlinked even though you feel they cannot be.

            OK – so, the term ‘atom’ or ‘event’ are meaningful to the extent that the ultimately reference some kind of sensory experience. I assumed that “atom”/”event” would be used to describe some observed relation between different phenomena – if not then their only meaning is as “cause”.

            I have already suggested an alternative: possible cause of experience. That gives you your relationship to experience and your tree falling in a forest.

            Tomato refers to some particular combination of sensory experiences.

            Not according to the dictionary. You are making the extraordinary claims here.

            You can have abstract terms, like “democracy” that refer to relations between other abstract terms – but this only has real meaning to the extent that it ultimately involves a relation between some sensory experience.

            You are juggling two differnt theories. One is that every term directly refers to sensations, the other is that abstract terms can have an indirect relationship. But if you admit that words for concrete things like tomatoes, can have a particular kind of indirect relationship , ie “possibly cause”, then all your strange conclusions disappear.

            is the non mentality supposed to imply the unknowability, or are they two independent propositions?

            I think that being non-mental implies unknowability. I’m not sure if that’s the case for everyone?

            Definitely not!

            Is it? I think there is something very attractive about the idea that “the world” (external – beyond us) is as you see it. But that also implies to me that mental experience can somehow exist outside of us, and is part of the universe. Which reminds me of Berkelen idealism. But of course, Berkley believed in God

            .

            I’m not sure what the point is here. Even if idealism gives you some guarantee of knowability, it doesn’t follow that physical realism necessarily gives you unknowability.

            But is that what the Wittgenstein who said that argued? I thought he changed his mind.

            The PLA is late Wittgenstein.

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          Yeah – I actually have serious problems with the Map-Territory part of the sequences. I don’t really understand what is being said about the territory – are we saying that certain experiences are imposed upon us, that we have no conscious control of them?
          Are we saying that those experiences exist independent of our minds?

          The territory is “reality”, that which is experienced, which is common to all minds and thus independent of any single mind. The map is, very roughly, a model of reality, whatever reality is. (Don’t hurry to attach “meaning” to reality. That’s not where meaning belongs.)

          OK… so what is the object of this sentence? Is an event a purely abstract concept with no relation to any mental phenomena… if so how is it meaningful?

          It is a thing that could be related to a mental phenomena, but the mental phenomena isn’t required.

          Nihilism = “I am talking nonsense, therefore the world has no meaning”?

          Perhaps it will help clarify if I finish that thought for you: The world has no objective meaning. It appears from this conversation that the idea of “objective meaning” is nonsense to you, and you have no idea what that could even mean?

          Most people are raised from childhood believing in objective meaning; in order to believe, for example, that good will triumph over evil, it is necessary to believe that “good” and “evil” refer to actual things in reality.

          Because all of these fantasies children are raised with provide a great deal of comfort; they mean that the universe (“God”), rather than them, is responsible for determining right and wrong. Nihilism is little more than the recognition that this responsibility belongs to us. Few people are raised well enough to deal with the responsibility of choosing right and wrong for themselves – they’re raised to defer to authority figures of various flavors – and this responsibility hits them very hard, because it means what they thought was “good” doesn’t actually exist, which feels from the inside like “good” doesn’t exist at all.

          It takes people a lot of time to come to terms with the fact that “good” is something they have to decide for themselves, and people with poor self-esteem will continue to have trouble valuing the “good”, because they assume they’re too flawed to assign it.

          • Ruprect says:

            Fair enough.

            Maybe I am a nihilist.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            Because all of these fantasies children are raised with provide a great deal of comfort; they mean that the universe (“God”), rather than them, is responsible for determining right and wrong. Nihilism is little more than the recognition that this responsibility belongs to us.

            There are at least three alternatives to objective morality: group-level morality, individual level subjective morality, and none whatsoever. Only the last is properly called nihilism.

            The lesswrong philosophy is one of reductionistic physical realism. That’s not the same thing as nihilism.

    • TheAncientGeek says:

      @Ruprect

      > AKA – is it possible to have a meaningful theory of time that has no reference to human experience.

      That depends entirely on what you mean by “meaningful”. We do obviously have a theory of time that has no reference to human experience in physics.

      > Isn’t talk of mind-independent events anthropomorphising the universe?

      Isn’t it exactly the opposite?

      > (Projecting our experience onto a (supposedly) non-mental entity? (contradiction)

      It is hard to see what is going on in that comment. Since when was conceptualising something in a certain way “projecting experience”.? And what does projecting expereince mean anyway? The relevant sense would seem to be *attributing* experientiality, or some other mental concept, to brute physics.

      And how would we be doing that? There is a confused argument to the effect that
      because all concepts are mental (1), in the sense that they are in the mind, or it takes a mind to use them, they are also mental (2), the sense in which they have mentality as part of their content, their intension. If mental(1) really implied mental (2), then it would follow that describing something as nonmental would, paradoxically and inadvertently be attributing mentality to it, just because the concept of nonmentality is a concept!

      • Ruprect says:

        “We do obviously have a theory of time that has no reference to human experience in physics.”

        How does that work?

        “It is hard to see what is going on in that comment.”
        (From your comment above:)
        “How could we notice If we had? It is a simple application of anthropics: even if conscious life is a rare or short lived thing, the existence of conscious life will always be noticeable to conscious life.”

        From the perspective of the non-mental Universe, we must already be dead.
        It makes no sense to try and view things from the perspective of a non-mental universe.

        “There is a confused argument…”

        I don’t think I’m making that argument (could be wrong.) I’m saying that there is no way to describe an event or process without reference to focus. One part of the “event” is different to the others in that it is the one part that has focus (is “happening”). If we didn’t have “focus”, then all parts of the event would be the same – and we lose all sense of temporality.

        I’m not sure how we can have any meaningful term for this “focus” – except to relate it to our own experience of time. So where we are saying that we are somehow currently the focus of the Universe, and the universe is not a mind like us, what on Earth are we saying?

        • TheAncientGeek says:

          > How does that work?

          Treat it as a dimension that you can measure things along.

          From the perspective of the non-mental Universe, we must already be dead.
          It makes no sense to try and view things from the perspective of a non-mental universe.

          A non mental universe has no perspective, so we are not even dead from that perspective.

          I’m saying that there is no way to describe an event or process without reference to focus. One part of the “event” is different to the others in that it is the one part that has focus (is “happening”). If we didn’t have “focus”, then all parts of the event would be the same – and we lose all sense of temporality.

          So you are saying that you need subjective focus to explain which event is happening “now”. Well, physics can still represent time as a static dimension, in the Block Universe theory. And physics notoriously struggles with the flow of time. But going the whole hog in the other direction, insisting that there is no temporality without an observer, leads to other, differently wierd results,….what happenned in the first few billion years of the universe? Did they happen at all?

          • Ruprect says:

            “what happenned in the first few billion years of the universe? Did they happen at all?”

            I don’t really see how they could have?

          • hlynkacg says:

            If this whole thing has been a set up for a “The earth is only 6000 years old” line, I’m mighty impressed.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            You don’t see how they could have given your assumptions, or given other assumptions? I am puzzled why you are so unwilling to accept that the strangeness of your conclusions means a problem with your assumptions, in the style of a reductio ad absurdum.

            Do you not see your opponents as having conclusions that are consistent with their assumptions?

            “An object exists” means “an object exists”, not “an observer sees an object existing”. “An event occurred” means “an event occured” not “an event was witnessed”. If your theory of semantics is correct, those sentences would be synonyms, which they are not. If your theory of semantics is correct, you should be unable to understand terms like “invisible”. So your theory of semantics leads to strange conclusions as well as not describing linguistic practices.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            If a tree falls in the forest, and there is no one around to hear it, does it exist?

    • Who Cares? says:

      So what’s the actual payoff here?

      If there’s no such thing as a “non-mental entity,” then we’re dealing with some weak variety of solipsism. That there may or may not be a concrete reality outside of perception but it is impossible to know anything about it. Including whether or not it exists.

      But that conjecture is totally worthless. It predicts nothing, it cannot be tested empirically or (dis)proved formally, and it provides no useful insights. So why bother with it?

      • Ruprect says:

        Is it possible to have a system where the rules describing the system can be tested in the same way as the system itself?
        Wouldn’t that require the system to be its own rules?

        So, I don’t think metaphysical speculation is necessarily worthless (not for the reasons you’ve given), even with respect to our understanding of reality.

        And I think you’ve probably given too narrow a definition to what constitutes a worthwhile pursuit, anyway.
        Whether it is reasonable to think that God might exist could affect how I feel about living, for example.

        • Who Cares? says:

          I’m not raising a philosophical objection to axioms in general, I’m objecting to this particular axiom on pragmatic grounds.

          Assume the world doesn’t exist, that it’s all in your head. Ok. So what?

          Can we make any predictions with this model? No, we’d expect to see exactly the same things we would if the world existed.

          Is it interesting in itself? No, it’s a pretty pedestrian idea that ends reasoning rather than building a foundation for further thought.

          That’s why I’m asking what the payoff is. Why should anyone care whether or not reality exists if it doesn’t change anything or offer any insights?

          • Ruprect says:

            Well the original statement was that attributing mental properties (thoughts) to a non-mental entity is a contradiction, not that non-mental entities don’t exist.

            But, I think you could argue that saying “non-mental entities don’t exist” is justified on grounds of, well, reducing your entities. Non-mental entities aren’t necessary to explain anything, so why propose them?

            (Though perhaps I’m confusing thought and thinker here, as suggested in the comment above?)

            Is it justifiable to say that my own mind is the cause of reality? Well… maybe? I think you’ve hit the nail on the head where you say it just isn’t a very interesting thought. That’s the number one reason why solipsism isn’t very popular, in my opinion, but also hints at the reason why that kind of speculation might not be a complete waste of time – sometimes they can be interesting.

            If someone claimed that reality didn’t exist – I would find it quite difficult to understand what they were saying. I think it might actually just be a flat contradiction – so yes, I agree, not much point in saying it.

          • Who Cares? says:

            I thought the original question was whether you could have a theory of time indpendent of human experience, with you coming down on the Nay side.

            Which is either an incredibly boring truism (“no, because you can’t have a theory without a human to concieve of it”) or obviously wrong (“yes, because time keeps going even when we aren’t paying attention to it”).

            Of course it’s all made needlessly complex due to your idiosyncratic terms. It seems like you phrase things to very carefully avoid having to concede that reality exists, despite doing so in the context of an argument with what you must surely assume are real people.

          • Ruprect says:

            “or obviously wrong (“yes, because time keeps going even when we aren’t paying attention to it”).”

            Well, I think that is the crux of the matter – when we imagine time continuing without a mind around to pay attention to it, we’re making a category error.

            I am *trying* to be careful with the words I’m using – I think you have to be if you want to have this kind of discussion – but, yes, probably failing. If there are any terms I’m using that seem weird or incomprehensible I’d appreciate it if you could tell me where I’m going wrong.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Ruprect –

            It may help if you treat “time” as the thing or pattern of things which minds perceive as time, rather than the experience they have of that perception.

          • Who Cares? says:

            We don’t have to imagine that time continues. We can measure the passage of time though several different highly reliable methods, and observe the consilience between those measurements.

            As for the language issue, any time you use “non-mental” to refer to something which is alreay generally understood to have an objective existence (e.g. ‘I pulled on my non-mental socks..’) it is very distracting without adding meaning to your statements. See also, saying that observed phenomina are imagined.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Who Cares? –

            You’re arguing from a position that isn’t quite as well-founded as you think: That the universe can be said to be at the present.

            Rather, you are at the present.

            Your conversation is mutual nonsense, because you are arguing from a model of the universe in which you’re just another thing pulling along with the universe as it progresses forward in time, whereas Ruprect appears to believe something along the lines that time is an illusion produced by the limited internal perspective of consciousness and that everything exists simultaneously.

            (That is, the universe is static, and it is you, not the universe, that is “moving”. But even that description isn’t quite right, because the concept of motion is meaningless within this model.)

          • Who Cares? says:

            @Orphan Wilde,

            I’m not a physicist, so yes I’m not being extraordinarily precise about reference frames and the like.

            Nonetheless, I object to characterizing the common sense view of time as nonsense. It’s not 100% correct, but it holds up well enough under ordinary circumstances. Which is more than can be said for the “imaginary time” view.

            “When people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.”

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            No, you miss my point: I’m not telling you you’re wrong.

            I’m telling you your argument, from what I can tell of Ruprect’s beliefs based on what has been said so far, isn’t going to make any sense to Ruprect.

          • Ruprect says:

            @Who Cares

            I’m an evil doctor and I have you in my lab. I have complete control over the inputs to your mind. In essence, my inputs and your mind become the universe.

            I think your position is that it would be possible for me to give you a different idea of what time was by altering the inputs I allowed you to receive.
            I’m kind of agnostic on this point. Maybe on the margin.
            I could change your view of how certain events relate to each other, certainly. If I made a clock tick more frequently when it was near a banana, you’d develop a different understanding of the relations between objects than you would have if I didn’t. (Though I’m not sure that I could necessarily make a consistent system in this way.)
            I don’t think I could change your fundamental experience of time, though.

            So, now I start altering your brain. My view is that if I were to alter your brain, I could change your view of time, both on the margin and fundamentally, and that it is impossible for us to guess (and worthless to speculate) about your experience of time if I turned your brain into a mango, while keeping inputs constant.

            But, anyway, this next thing it what I’m talking about in the previous comments:

            In my example, it’s reasonable for us to talk about the inputs being constant, because I exist outside of your universe and am watching you. We’re talking about the experiment from my perspective (as an evil doctor).
            But, how can it make sense for someone, who may or not be a prisoner, being held in an evil doctors lab, to say, “there is certainly no evil doctor, and nobody is observing my universe, but if my mind was turned into a mango, the inputs would remain the same.”
            When we talk about the inputs, what could that possibly mean? If we’re not talking from some observer’s perspective?

          • Who Cares says:

            I think your position is that it would be possible for me to give you a different idea of what time was by altering the inputs I allowed you to receive.

            Yes.

            Within the physical limits of your brain, obviously. Your brain is an organ, so just as your eyes can’t register microwave radiation there are going to be limits on what sort of things you can conceive. It’s hard to outline specifics here for obvious reasons.

            I don’t think I could change your fundamental experience of time, though.

            Can you unpack what the phrase “fundamental experience” means? Is that like what I was talking about above, the results of the fact that you’re thinking with a brain?

            When we talk about the inputs, what could that possibly mean [i]f we’re not talking from some observer’s perspective?

            It means whatever the efficient cause of the sensation was.

            In your hypothetical, it would be you the evil doctor. In the real world, it would be the visual or auditory readout of a chronometer you were using or your brain’s “mental clock.”

            If you drop a watch into a mineshaft, it will keep recording the ticking away of the seconds until the batteries run out or it winds down. Subject to the precision of the timepiece, it will continue to dutifully measure the passage of time even if no-one observes it. You can easily test this: set an egg timer and put it in your sock drawer, then come check it later and see how much time has passed compared to another independent chronometer and your own sense of time.

            Even if you’re not there to see every second tick away it doesn’t matter a jot. Time continues to pass even if you’re asleep, or in a coma, or even dead. There is no need for an observer.

            TL;DR: Object permanence is the solution to this so-called dilemma.

          • Ruprect says:

            “Can you unpack what the phrase “fundamental experience” means? Is that like what I was talking about above, the results of the fact that you’re thinking with a brain?”

            Yes, pretty much.

            “In your hypothetical, it would be you the evil doctor. In the real world, it would be the visual or auditory readout of a chronometer you were using or your brain’s “mental clock.””

            I don’t think the two are equivalent – I mean, you would have an auditory readout of a chronometer if you were in the evil doctors lab, right. If you are just saying “I have a perception of this clock,” then you’ll get no arguments from me.

            “Object permanence is the solution to this so-called dilemma.”

            I don’t think you’ve really addressed the point. How does object permanance relate to the point I’m making about the mango brain and the mad doctor?

          • Ruprect says:

            “I don’t think you’ve really addressed the point”

            – And, I do mean that.

            For a second, let’s stop thinking about whether there is something external that provides us with (at least the details of ) experience – personally, I think the answer to that is pretty clearly “yes”.

            I’m asking for a clearer definition of terms. How can something be “permanent” except by being observed to exist across different times? How can we define permanence beyond our capacity to observe something? What can we possibly be saying when we do this – what exactly are the relations?

            My view: we can say “cause”, and we have some sensational or fundamental logical impression that we relate to the word “cause”.

            But if we say that the “cause” is actually not only related to that fundamental sense we have of causes, but also that it has other relations, to other sensational impressions, we have to say very clearly what those relations are.

            To me – if I say that an object has permanence it means that it does not change over time. This means that I can view it at different times, and it appears the same.
            If there is no-one to view it, I’m not sure how I can talk about something being permanent, or what that could mean.

            At best, “object permanence” seems to be a bold hypothetical (“if any mind existed capable of accessing the input, that input will always remain the same”) – which is actually, funnily enough, an untestable hypothesis, that predicts nothing of value to us (since it makes assertions about the about the existence of minds and their experience, beyond our own experience.)

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            Well the original statement was that attributing mental properties (thoughts) to a non-mental entity is a contradiction, not that non-mental entities don’t exist.

            Where’s the rest of the argument? What is attributing thought to a non mental entity.

            Non-mental entities aren’t necessary to explain anything, so why propose them?

            Note that physicalism (generally) doesn;’t say there are no mental entities, it says there are no instrinsically mental entities. It holds that a mind is a particular way of arranging atoms, such as a brain. But a brain isn’t intrinisially mental, because its mindedness does not survive being put through a blender.

          • Ruprect says:

            Where’s the rest of the argument? What is attributing thought to a non mental entity.

            Saying that time exists in a non-mental universe.

          • Who Cares says:

            I’m tapping out here. It’s obvious that this isn’t going anywhere.

          • Ruprect says:

            What do you mean by that?

            Like – why isn’t this going anywhere? My feeling is that you’ve kind of not understood what I’m saying.

            Is that unfair?

          • hlynkacg says:

            I think that the problem is that you are using the word “time” in two distinct and incompatible ways.

            If you want to argue that the human perception of time as an arc staring in “the present” and extending into “the future” is a largely mental construct is not reflected in known physical laws and is largely a mental construct, that’s fine. You’re probably correct.

            The problem comes where you use this to conclude that this perception is not reflective of an actual phenomena or pattern of phenomena such as the relationship between the decay of cesium atoms and the position of photons.

            The only way to argue this with any logical consistency is to argue against the existence of reality itself, at which point why bother?

          • Ruprect says:

            I think that the problem is that you are using the word “time” in two distinct and incompatible ways.

            If you want to argue that the human perception of time as an arc staring in “the present” and extending into “the future” is a largely mental construct is not reflected in known physical laws and is largely a mental construct, that’s fine. You’re probably correct.

            The problem comes where you use this to conclude that this perception is not reflective of an actual phenomena or pattern of phenomena such as the relationship between the decay of cesium atoms and the position of photons.

            So, when you say “actual phenomena” what are you saying? Are you talking in terms of empiricism? As in, in terms of sense-data? Or in terms of some fundamental rule of human cognition? Or in terms of some transcendent phenomena beyond human cognition?

            All I’m trying to say is that you shouldn’t be able to say that things defined in terms of sense-data can meaningfully exist where there can not be anyone to sense them.

            Is that so unreasonable?

          • hlynkacg says:

            Your mistake is thinking that time is defined solely in terms of sense data.

            You’re conflating the human perception of time passing, with the “T axis” of a given N dimensional space.

          • Ruprect says:

            OK – so there is some abstract representation of time – so i can say blah blah is related to diddly as thus.
            Surely only has meaning as far as blah blah and diddly are actual experiences that I have?

            (or in someway related to experience?)

            I mean – what are you actually saying here? That your representation of time has no relation to experience?

          • hlynkacg says:

            I mean – what are you actually saying here? That your representation of time has no relation to experience?

            No, I’m saying that they exist independently of each other.

            The advent of microscopes did not change the physical laws governing disease and other biochemical processes. What changed was the human perception/understanding of them.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            @Ruprect

            To me – if I say that an object has permanence it means that it does not change over time. This means that I can view it at different times, and it appears the same.
            If there is no-one to view it, I’m not sure how I can talk about something being permanent, or what that could mean.

            Doesn’t that imply that things literally wink out of existence when you close your eyes? At least Berkeley has God to support object permanence.

            At best, “object permanence” seems to be a bold hypothetical

            Bolder than the opposite? The idea that objects just don’t care about who is observing them leads to simpler laws than those that you would need for disappearing objects. Or maybe you are agnostic.

            Surely only has meaning as far as blah blah and diddly are actual experiences that I have?

            There are many theories of meaning other than the one you keep arguing from, so, not surely.

            Where’s the rest of the argument? What is attributing thought to a non mental entity.

            Saying that time exists in a non-mental universe.

            Consider treating time as having several aspects. Asserting that a chronological sequence of events, absent flow or time or perceived changing present, as part of a nonmental universse raises no problems. Refusing to do that raises the problem that you are denying that any prehuman history occured,

      • TheAncientGeek says:

        If there’s no such thing as a “non-mental entity,” then we’re dealing with some weak variety of solipsism.

        Or idealism , or panpsychism…

  17. Ruprect says:

    Fundamental law of internet commenting:

    If no-one responds to an assertion, it is correct.

    • Anonymous says:

      Or not even wrong.

    • Mr. Blobby says:

      “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

      • Artificirius says:

        “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

        Is a quote discussing people.

        • anonymous says:

          I think it’s meant to imply *specific* people. Discussing people in general probably counts as discussing ideas.

    • Nornagest says:

      Corollary: close comments and the world is yours?

    • LPSP says:

      If no-one responds to an assertion, that community sees no incentive in responding to it.

      Likely culprits:

      – the truth is obvious and non-controversial, and so awards no signalling-for-solidarity points
      – the statement is banale and inoffensive, and so awards no bravery-for-calling-out points
      – the statement is a tired old troll that everyone literally glazes over, like spam adverts
      – No-one cares at all.

      • Rupert says:

        “If no-one responds to an assertion, that community sees no incentive in responding to it.”

        Hmmmm… I don’t agree with your use of the word “sees” here. “has” would be better.

        (“Sees” suggests that we’re operating on some super-rational level above our own motivations)

        When I don’t have the best of an argument, I won’t respond. Why would I respond with a losing argument?

        Shouldn’t that be number 5?

        • LPSP says:

          And here I thought I was investing too much faith in the capacity of the community. The community can still be wrong and misjudge a point as relevant.

          “Sees” suggests that we’re operating on some super-rational level above our own motivations

          What? No, it’s the opposite, it’s drawing the nature of fallible human judgement into focus. You can never truly know if something is valuable or not/worth doing or not, just make as good a judgement as you can based on information.

          When I don’t have the best of an argument, I won’t respond. Why would I respond with a losing argument?

          Are you everyone?

  18. Douglas Knight says:

    Are corporations (including labor unions, etc) taking advantage of Citizens United? Is there any substantial amount of corporate money that was not in politics before that is now?

    As far as I can tell, no. As far as I can tell certain individuals spend a lot of money promoting candidates. Let’s say Sheldon Adelson to be concrete. Before CU, he could have done almost exactly the same thing. CU does not let him spend any more money than before. It does let him obscure his identity, hiding behind a corporate mask, and he does take advantage of that. He spends more than he used to, maybe because of that aspect of CU. But is anyone taking advantage of the famous aspect of CU? Are corporations, groups of people, spending money that they could not have done before that?

    In fact, I have never heard of a single example. Maybe that’s a bias in the news I read. Maybe it’s because people like to point fingers at individuals like Adelson, rather than groups. Or maybe there really isn’t much corporate use of CU.
    (Let’s discount the Koch brothers spending money together, when before they had to spend it apart. A brotherhood is a corporation, but it’s an awfully small one.)

    • bluto says:

      Well, Open Secrets reports about a half billion is spending in 2012 from groups that had a 501(c)4 (the most common type of corporation that takes advantage of Citizen’s United) under their umbrella. As a caveat, many of the largest spenders have a superPAC (which arguably benefitted more from Speachnow.org v FEC more than CU). Most of the largest spending groups were politically active in spending prior to CU, but the vehicle they used to spend money changed.

      Looking at the names of the largest spending groups in 2012, I recognized several from political ads in 2012 and a few from the 2016 primary.

  19. Simon says:

    Could someone who can get behind a paywall see if this is as interesting as it looks in the abstract? http://www.cell.com/abstract/S0092-8674(15)01191-5

    • Vitor says:

      I don’t know what you would deem interesting. There is lots of nitty gritty details I can’t comment on. There’s hand wavy stuff of the type “We approximated the stimulus and the neuron activations in our simulation sort of look plausible if you squint”.

      If you provided an email address maybe you could make up your own mind.

  20. Douglas Knight says:

    Is it true that the commenting system has changed, and now when you delete a comment, it deletes the children, rather than booting them to the end? (2)

  21. Douglas Knight says:

    Is it true that the commenting system has changed, and now when you delete a comment, it deletes the children, rather than booting them to the end? But leaves the children in the RSS feed? Are they visible anywhere else?

  22. A hilarious (not sure if real) class syllabus discussing the many issues in science research. https://hardsci.wordpress.com/2016/08/11/everything-is-fucked-the-syllabus/

    Any opinions on the sources listed in each week and if they are worth a read?

    • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

      What a nice fellow.

    • John Schilling says:

      That article needs a different headline and opening. Because, having skimmed it, I still have no idea whether the woman in question was in fact a deceitful sex trade worker, and the rest I am not willing to take on faith from someone who will open with such a lead and not address the issue. Nor am I willing to read a 167-page report to find out.

      I am more than willing to be persuaded that the prosecutor and policeman in question behaved wrongly due to bigotry. Given my own prejudices on the subject of policemen and prosecutors, I would be positively eager to meet Ms. Paquette halfway on that question. Or on the broader subject of Baltimore police corruption, once we get the first part out of the way.

      That policemen use coarse language, sure, I’ll take that on faith – and not care.

      • Perhaps you should read rather than skim at least the beginning of the article.

        The point was that the prosecutor wasn’t willing to take the case seriously because of a snap impression, and that a great many rape accusations were dismissed for similar reasons. She might be short too, but I wouldn’t count on it.

        Speaking of snap impressions, it’s not clear that she was a sex trade worker– “whore” is used casually of women the speaker dislikes, it doesn’t have to be literal.

        • John Schilling says:

          Speaking of snap impressions, it’s not clear that she was a sex trade worker

          Correct. That’s my point.

          Perhaps you should read rather than skim at least the beginning of the article.

          I have now read the entire article, and the first three pages of each linked article, looking carefully for anything more on this subject. I am no better informed than I was before.

          I do not know whether the woman described in the headline and the opening paragraph is either conniving or a whore. We should both know that by now.

          The point was that the prosecutor wasn’t willing to take the case seriously because of a snap impression

          I also don’t know whether the attitudes of the policeman or prosecutor were the result of a snap impression or a careful investigation – the context of their discussion was a decision to proceed with filing charges against an (unnamed) suspect, which doesn’t happen until some level of investigation has taken place. And for that matter, I don’t know whether they don’t take the case seriously, or do seriously believe that witness-credibility issues make it impossible to effectively prosecute the case before a Baltimore jury.

          I know only that a policeman and a prosecutor used coarse language in discussing their reluctance to prosecute a rape charge involving a woman who investigation may or may not have revealed was a dishonest prostitute. And that because coarse language was used, a journalist who has just lost her credibility with me wants me to believe that the Boston Police Department is riddled with racism, misogyny, and corruption.

          Now, it turns out that other more reputable sources have given me cause to believe that the Boston Police department is a rather corrupt organization. But Danielle Paquette has been worse than useless in furthering my understanding, and I’m not sure why you thought her work was either credible or helpful.

        • The Nybbler says:

          We don’t know why the prosecutor wasn’t willing to take the case seriously. We don’t know if he meant “whore” literally or not, we don’t know why he thought the woman was “conniving”. We don’t even know that it was a “snap judgement”. As John says, I’m perfectly willing to believe all sorts of bad things about the police and prosecutors, but as evidence for it goes, that line out of context is sorely lacking.

          The police asking women who report rape “Why are you messing that guy’s life up?” is considerably more damning; they should have lead with that; it doesn’t raise any questions the article can’t answer.

          • John Schilling says:

            Agreed; that would have been much stronger. I note below that I expect essentially all cops to use coarse language in private, and for that matter I expect them to privately dismiss most reported crimes with some variant of “It would be a waste of my time to even investigate this.” How they speak to (or even in front of) victims would be much more telling.

      • bluto says:

        The report quoted the line without more specific attribution or context as one of a list of examples of “Evidence of Gender Bias in BPD’s Response to Sexual Assault”.

        • John Schilling says:

          Without more specific attribution of context, the line is evidence only of an eagerness to use coarse language. My priors on that are roughly 95% for the average Good Cop using coarse language to discuss sex-crime cases (in private) and 98% for the average Bad Cop.

      • Skef says:

        I don’t understand why John Schilling is ignoring the crucial issue of whether this woman is smaller than average.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I know how this looks, but it’s so similar to what happens in my job – it takes three seconds to have a very good guess whether somebody’s a drug addict trying to exploit us, after which we may behave very politely to them in person, but when talking to colleges it’s like “Another fricking druggie is trying to milk the system for Dilaudid, you’re going to have to put up with his whining when I transfer him to you later tonight.”

      I’m sure if our personal conversations were released as a transcript and combed by hostile reporters it would make us look worse than Hitler, even though I think we’re all pretty caring people who get mad partly because these people take up scarce resources that we should be using to help everyone else.

      • Homo Iracundus says:

        I wonder what will happen to this kind of talk in the face of increasing oversight and constant recording, following the trend of police body cameras and downloadable patient records?
        Knowing you might be sued even for scribbling “TTFO” on a referral doesn’t seem like it would make the job easier.

        Perhaps you could switch to an intricate and constantly evolving system of eyebrow-waggles and blinks?

      • I believe you, but the article was about rape accusations being generally neglected.

        Also, you don’t have any way of checking on what proportion of the people who who assume are just trying to get drugs are actually in pain.

  23. HeelBearCub says:

    On the subject of “First Past the Post” systems and their tendency to promote coalition building in advance of elections, here is an old thing that is new to me.

    The Democratic Farmer Labor Party is a coalition party that was formed in Minnesota in 1944 via a merger of the Democratic Party and the Farmer-Labor Party.

    You could argue that this is “just” the Democratic party in Minnesota, and you would be correct, but it shows how parties tend to go from 3rd party to part of the two party “system”.

    • LHN says:

      New York state uniquely has a separate Conservative Party that manages to elect people to at least local office. (As well as a Liberal Party, though at a glance they seem to be less successful.) I’m not familiar enough with what makes the state unique that has allowed a party like that to function there but not be imitated in other states.

      • John Schilling says:

        New York is one of a handful of states that allow the same candidate to run as a nominee of multiple parties. Usually, the Conservative party candidate is the same person as the Republican party candidate, and voting ‘C’ is a way of signaling that one wants the GOP to nominate a more conservative candidate next time without “wasting their vote” and allowing some Damn Dirty Democrat to win.

        Usually, not always. It would be interesting to know how much of the support for the handful of New York’s pure-C winners is from people who didn’t notice that the candidate wasn’t cross-endorsed that time, or had gotten in the habit of voting straight-ticket Conservative on the grounds that this almost always meant voting for “credible” candidates with an extra dose of signaling.

        And this only applies to state and local elections, so it’s not helpful to Donald Trump.

      • BBA says:

        The Liberal Party fell off the ballot after 2002; the Working Families Party is now the main left-wing equivalent to the Conservative Party. They’ve won a few City Council special elections.

      • New York State’s system is readily abused to shut down legitimate competition (a candidate can run on both the D and R lines simultaneously), and is both a cause and symptom of the corrupt politics there.

        No state has a generally worse election law than New York. It is full of pointless technicalities, specifically geared to prevent anyone not approved by the local party organization from getting on the ballot. There are lawyers and law firms which specialize in getting opposing candidates thrown off the ballot.

        New York voters also have no right of initiative, referendum, or recall, and with little competition on the ballot, turn out to vote in unsurprisingly low numbers. It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that New York is not a democracy.

  24. Tekhno says:

    What would Hitler think of modern neo-nazis?

    • Herr Flick says:

      Interesting question, but who are modern neo-Nazis anyway? Do you know any?

      • Sweeneyrod says:

        Golden Dawn? Stormfront?

      • LPSP says:

        Arguably /pol/, although how much of that is a series of on-running curmudgeonly gags is up for debate. A lot of the posters there are young, and/or just looking for a response; at the same time there are dedicated sorts who think “the Jews” are really bad news.

  25. Ruprect says:

    Delayed gratification – unless you’re an ideological liberal, who delays gratification for cultural reasons, surely you delay gratification to the extent that your imagined improved (far) future is a more powerful motivator than your actual improved present (or near future).

    But if that’s the case, why not just become a total Walter Mitty, and not worry about improving your real life at any stage?

    • Loquat says:

      But delayed gratification isn’t exclusively about the imagined far future; after some time the anticipated rewards become the near future, and then the present. If I am, say, a young person forgoing the immediate pleasures of wild parties and substance abuse in order to work at getting myself entry to a well-paying job, after a few years I will have attained that job and can start enjoying the benefits. Meanwhile, my old buddy from high school who spent the same few years partying, working crappy low-paying jobs, and daydreaming about being a Jedi is… continuing to do that. I keep working hard and get a promotion, meaning more money I can enjoy; he keeps being Walter Mitty and being broke.

      Nobody ever said “delayed gratification” meant delaying all rewards indefinitely.

      • The Nybbler says:

        There’s always another reason to delay. Delay gratification in high school to get into a good college. Delay gratification in college to get into a good job. Delay gratification in your working years to get that next raise/promotion. If you have kids, delay gratification some more to provide for their future. Delay gratification to save for retirement. Delay retirement to be sure you’re never a burden on your kids. Retire, and you’re too old and sick to enjoy much anyway.

  26. What Happens if a Candidate Drops Dead Before the Election?

    There was recently a long thread on whether there was or was not evidence that Hilary Clinton has medical problems. That suggests to me a potentially interesting question. Suppose a candidate who has been nominated dies or withdraws before the election. What happens?

    One obvious solution for the presidential race would be for the VP candidate to replace the presidential candidate, but I don’t think that happens under current law. Another would be for the party to nominate a replacement candidate, but whether that works presumably depends on state laws on ballot access. If it doesn’t, the party could announce their replacement as a write in, but that’s a huge handicap. So one possible conclusion is that if one party’s candidate dies before the election, that’s an almost sure win for the other party.

    One reason the question is of interest is that it affects the incentives of potential assassins–possibly a real issue with candidates as unpopular as the current ones.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Without checking, I believe what would happen is the candidate remains on the ballot. It would be up to the candidates electors to decide how his or her votes were cast.

      (BTW, the person people are claiming is Hillary’s medical aide definitely seems to be wearing a medical lapel pin; there’s pictures of him with two different ones)

      • Eart